UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 1, 2009

BREVITAS


Fair Vote - The Los Angeles County Supervisors voted unanimously to establish a commission to study the use of instant runoff voting for future special elections in the county.

SCIENCE & HEALTH

John Timmer, Arstechnica
- If there were any doubt that open access publishing was setting off a bit of a power struggle, a decision made by the MIT faculty should put it to rest. Although most commercial academic publishers require that the authors of the works they publish sign all copyrights over to the journal, Congress recently mandated that all researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health retain the right to freely distribute their works one year after publication (several foundations have similar requirements). Since then, some publishers started fighting the trend, and a few members of Congress are reconsidering the mandate. Now, in a move that will undoubtedly redraw the battle lines, the faculty of MIT have unanimously voted to make any publications they produce open access.

MID EAST

Angry Arab
- "21% of Israeli exporters have been directly affected by the boycott movement since the beginning of 2009. So reports The Marker, a Hebrew-language economic newspaper. This number is based on a poll of 90 Israeli exporters in fields such as high tech, metals, construction materials, chemistry, textile and foods. The poll was conducted in January-February 2009 by the Israeli Union of Industrialists."

BUSH CRIME WATCH

Craig Crawford, CQ Politics
- Earlier this month the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh claimed that his research for an upcoming book uncovered evidence of a secret special operations unit unmonitored by Congress with authority to assassinate high-value targets in a dozen countries. "They've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving," Hersh said. Enter John Hannah. The former Cheney aide told CNN on Monday that Hersh's claim "is not true." But when asked about possible assassination targets, Hannah seemed to reverse himself, saying that "troops in the field" are given "authority" to "capture or kill certain individuals" who are perceived as a threat. "That's certainly true."

AFGHANISTAN

NPR
- Gen. Petraeus . . . called Afghanistan and Pakistan "a single theater."

DRUG BUSTS

Reason
- Writing in Parade magazine, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) notes that the war on drugs is largely responsible for America's remarkably high incarceration rate: "The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. . . Drug offenders, most of them passive users or minor dealers, are swamping our prisons. According to data supplied to Congress' Joint Economic Committee, those imprisoned for drug offenses rose from 10% of the inmate population to approximately 33% between 1984 and 2002." . . . Justice statistics also show that 47.5% of all the drug arrests in our country in 2007 were for marijuana offenses. Additionally, nearly 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or of any significant selling activity."

LOCAL HEROES

Glenn Greenwald, Salon -
There are few things rarer than a major politician doing something that is genuinely courageous and principled, but Jim Webb's impassioned commitment to fundamental prison reform is exactly that. Webb's interest in the issue was prompted by his work as a journalist in 1984, when he wrote about an American citizen who was locked away in a Japanese prison for two years under extremely harsh conditions for nothing more than marijuana possession. After decades of mindless "tough-on-crime" hysteria, an increasingly irrational "drug war," and a sprawling, privatized prison state as brutal as it is counter-productive, America has easily surpassed Japan -- and virtually every other country in the world -- to become what Brown University Professor Glenn Loury recently described as a "a nation of jailers" whose "prison system has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history." What's most notable about Webb's decision to champion this cause is how honest his advocacy is. He isn't just attempting to chip away at the safe edges of America's oppressive prison state. His critique of what we're doing is fundamental, not incremental. And, most important of all, Webb is addressing head-on one of the principal causes of our insane imprisonment fixation: our aberrational insistence on criminalizing and imprisoning non-violent drug offenders (when we're not doing worse to them).

INDICATORS

Stuff, New Zealand
- Dating culture is dead - instead, young New Zealand women are regularly getting drunk and cruising around in packs looking for men to have sex with. That's one of the findings of a TVNZ Sunday investigation into the sexual behavior of New Zealand women. . . . They are reported to have an average of 20 sexual partners, double that of their Australian and British counterparts and almost three times the global average of seven.. . . In candid interviews about their sexual experiences some of the women who are all in their twenties felt empowered by having sex and wanted to celebrate and enjoy it. McIntyre said all the women who had experienced one-night stands had been affected by alcohol, a term described by at least one expert in a report as "getting pissed and hooking up". Men are also feeling the impact from the new sexual tactics being employed by women. The Sunday Star-Times' Being a Bloke survey last year found that 29% of the 5000 men surveyed felt they had been pressured into having sex or had had sex unwillingly.


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