Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category


Sunday Items

April 19, 2009

On a lighter note, the Berlin Wall (what’s left of it) will be repainted. More here.
A piece on Moldova’s failed “Twitter Revolution” in Foreign Policy.
US missile strikes in Pakistan? From the Telegraph.


Sunday Items

April 12, 2009

Bird flu, less virulent, perhaps more contagious. From The Independent.
The intersection of politics and technology in Moldova via Foreign Policy Journal.
Death of an Iranian blogger from Haaretz.


Mayhem in Moldova

April 7, 2009

From the NYT:

The crowd is demanding that President Vladimir Voronin announce his resignation and leave Moldova, Interfax reported. Mr. Voronin is scheduled to step down as president, but the newly elected Communist parliament will almost certainly appoint a Communist to succeed him.

Javier Solana, chief of foreign policy for the European Union, said he was “very concerned” about the situation. He said that election observers had reported that the April 5 polls met many international standards, but that there had still been “undue administrative interference” and a lack of public confidence. The observers have documented complaints that the state dominated television coverage during the campaign, virtually banishing opposition politicians from the airwaves.

More here.


UK report assesses national drug policy

April 7, 2009

While the drug-policy discussion has been limited in the US, the volume has increased over the past couple of weeks. A few weeks ago, President Obama made a flippant comment when replying to a reporter’s question as to whether the legalization of marijuana in some states might bring in much needed revenue. But the press came back at Robert Gibbs, Obama’s White House press secretary, with similar questions, and it was clear that they were somewhat embarassed by their lack of preparation on the issue.

It was this question that rendered Gibbs tongue-tied: “When the president said he doesn’t think that legalizing marijuana would give the economy a boost, was he giving a political answer or an economic answer? Does he have numbers to back (his position) up?”

Today there’s a note-worthy piece in the Guardian about how such a move might benefit Great Britain:

For many years the government has been under pressure to conduct an objective cost-benefit analysis of the current drugs policy, but has failed to do so despite calls from MPs. Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report, examining all aspects of prohibition from the costs of policing and investigating drugs users and dealers to processing them through the courts and their eventual incarceration.

As well as such savings is the likely taxation revenue in a regulated market. However, there are also the potential costs of increased drug treatment, education and public information campaigns about the risks and dangers of drugs, similar to those for tobacco and alcohol, and the costs of running a regulated system.

The report looked at four potential scenarios, ranging from no increase in drugs use to a 100% rise as they become more readily available.

“The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to regulated drugs markets in England and Wales would provide a net saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system and drug users of somewhere within the range of, for the four scenarios, £13.9bn, £10.8bn, £7.7bn, £4.6bn.”

As an aside, one can tell from this piece why The Guardian has long been ridiculed as The Grauniad. As you can read in the first paragraph, this sentence: “Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report …” might be confusing without morning coffee, something a hyphen would help tremendously, as in the “drugs-reform charity.” If you’re interested in the whole piece, go here.


Italy’s earthquake and a myth

April 6, 2009

Over at Crooks and Liars, there’s a dollop of outrage over the allegation that Italian officials were warned by a scientist about the oncoming earthquake and yet did nothing to save the townspeople of L’Aquila. But here’s the rub, there’s no way to effectively predict an earthquake, period.

I’ve been lucky enough to count a few seismologists as friends, and I remember one conversation when I asked about this, whereupon my friend said, yes, scientists could predict temblors from within a few weeks, then she shrugged, to several hundred years.

Here’s the Reuters account. This story shouldn’t have made it onto the wires.