Ten years ago, Portugal became the first Western nation to pass full-scale, nationwide decriminalization. That law, passed Oct. 1, 2000, abolished criminal sanctions for all narcotics — not just marijuana but also “hard drugs” like heroin and cocaine.

This applies only to drugs for personal use; drug trafficking remains a criminal offense. There is now a decade’s worth of empirical data on what actually happens — and does not happen — when criminal sanctions against drug possession are lifted.

Individuals caught with drugs in Portugal are no longer arrested or treated as criminals. Instead, they are sent to a tribunal of health professionals, where they are offered the opportunity, but are not compelled, to seek government-provided treatment.

For those found to be addicts, tribunals have the power to impose noncriminal sanctions. But in practice, the overriding goal is to direct people to treatment.

By any metric, Portugal’s drug-decriminalization scheme has been a resounding success.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43544.html#ixzz12MkzdfNe

Visualizing Food Security

October 4, 2010

The unsurprising fallout? Americans are getting fatter. A survey conducted earlier this year by Gallup found that 63.1 percent if adults in the US were either overweight or obese in 2009 (36.6% overweight and 26.5% obese). Last week, the OECD published its first ever obesity forecast—projecting that 3 out of every 4 Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020. http://www.visualizing.org/stories/visualizing-food-security

The average U.S. household has to pay an exorbitant amount of money for an Internet connection that the rest of the industrial world would find mediocre. According to a recent report by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, broadband Internet service in the U.S. is not just slower and more expensive than it is in tech-savvy nations such as South Korea and Japan; the U.S. has fallen behind infrastructure-challenged countries such as Portugal and Italy as well. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=competition-and-the-internet