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June 15, 2009

Declaring surrender in the War on Drugs

Op-Ed Columnist - Drugs Won the War - NYTimes.com
Here in the United States, four decades of drug war have had three consequences: First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries. Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco. Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1 billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment. (Of people with drug problems in state prisons, only 14 percent get treatment.)

Judge rules it's okay to taser someone to get a sample of their DNA

Ruling allowing Taser use to get DNA may be nation’s first : Home: The Buffalo News This is a pretty huge step forward (or backwards, depending on your point of view). Essentially the judge ruled it was okay to inflict pain on someone to force them to comply with a court order. I'm not comfortable with that.
LOCKPORT — It is legally permissible for police to zap a suspect with a Taser to obtain a DNA sample, as long as it’s not done “maliciously, or to an excessive extent, or with resulting injury,” a county judge has ruled in the first case of its kind in New York State, and possibly the nation. Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza decided that the DNA sample obtained Sept. 29 from Ryan S. Smith of Niagara Falls — which ties him to a shooting and a gas station robbery— is legally valid and can be used at his trial. Smith was handcuffed and sitting on the floor of Niagara Falls Police Headquarters when he was zapped with the 50,000- volt electronic stun gun after he insisted he would not give a DNA sample. He already had given a sample, a swab of the inside of his cheek, without protest the previous month. But police sent it to the wrong lab, where it was opened and spoiled.

June 14, 2009

Strong Bad - Flag Day

YouTube - Strong Bad Email: Flag Day

Garbage truck driver saves American flags

Elgin garbage truck driver saves American flags -- chicagotribune.com
ELGIN, Ill. - Suburban Chicago veterans have honored a garbage truck driver who's credited with saving 250 American flags from being improperly thrown out within the last 18 months. Elgin's American Legion Post 57 and Elks Lodge 737 recognized Waste Management driver Jeff Olsen during a Flag Day ceremony Sunday. Olsen is a 34-year-old native Canadian who says he plucks flags from the refuse in his truck whenever he sees them. Waste Management representatives say that has been a regular practice among their Elgin drivers for some time, but Olsen is the most successful. Olsen is married to a former Army medic who did two tours of duty in Kuwait. He says that throwing flags away is like stomping on them. Federal code says American flags should be discarded in a dignified way.