My contribution this week to our “best of the blogs” feature (which I have taken license to interpret as “best of the blogs and other news read online…”) is even more random than usual.
First, the drug-related story that caught my eye in the relatively recent past. The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet reported on September 27th about a Cato Institute study showing that since Portugal decriminalized drug possession in 2001, drug use among adolescents has fallen, HIV infection rates fell, and addicts have increasingly sought help to overcome their addictions. The full story was in Time, here. An excerpt:
The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.
The article notes that U.S. policymakers are taking notice of Portugal’s experience, especially in view of the spiking violence related to the drug trade in the U.S.-Mexico border region. If you are interested in news and analysis of the situation in Mexico, you may want to read this piece in the New York Times.
It wouldn’t be a Jessica-Slavin-best-of-the-blogs post without some reference to an immigration-related story, would it? The blogosphere took notice (and in some cases, an unfortunate degree of schadenfreude) of the Nation’s report that Lou Dobbs, well known for his concerns about the number of undocumented immigrants working in the United States, himself “has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper.”
The title of the article labels Dobbs a hypocrite, but that kind of name-calling seems distracting and beside the point. The larger and more important consideration that Dobbs’ situation highlights, to me, is how the attempt to brush this segment of our society out of the political picture with the label “illegal” is doomed, eventually, to failure, because it ignores reality: these so-called “illegal” immigrants are deeply integrated into U.S. communities and the U.S. economy, to our mutual benefit.
Now, finally, the promised “death ray” story! Engadget reported about the Vdara hotel on the Las Vegas strip and the unfortunately unforeseen side effect of its distinctive “curved mirror” design in the hot desert sun. ABC News quoted one victim’s experience:
“I’m sitting there in the chair and all of the sudden my hair and the top of my head are burning,” Pintas told ABC News. “I’m rubbing my head and it felt like a chemical burn. I couldn’t imagine what it could be.”
It turns out that what Pintas felt was, as a reporter on a video on the ABC site called it, “laser-like beams” created when the hotel windows focus the sunlight and reflect it into the hotel’s outdoor pool area.
The ABC video includes footage of a plastic cup melted by the heat. I am already dreaming of a legal writing problem focused on the potential legal claims that could arise from the unintended “death ray” effect created by this type of window….