Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stupid Question Dept.

Anybody else see a pattern here?

Colombia’s Coca Survives U.S. Plan to Uproot It

The latest chapter in America’s long war on drugs — a six-year, $4.7 billion effort to slash Colombia’s coca crop — has left the price, quality and availability of cocaine on American streets virtually unchanged.

The effort, begun in 2000 and known as Plan Colombia, had a specific goal of halving this country’s coca crop in five years. That has not happened. Instead, drug policy experts say, coca, the essential ingredient for cocaine, has been redistributed to smaller and harder-to-reach plots, adding to the cost and difficulty of the drug war.

Bush administration officials say that coca farmers are on the run, and that the leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries who feed on drug profits are weaker than ever. That has made Colombia, Washington’s closest ally in a tumultuous region, more stable, they say. They argue that the plan has scored important successes, like a spike in the price of cocaine last year.

But that claim was disputed by a wide range of drug policy experts, and some politicians are questioning the drug war’s results as well as its assumptions.
Is abstinence policy failing to fight HIV? (subscription only, so once again I'm indebted to the Mad Priest):

Talk about a policy backfiring. The US government's emphasis on abstinence and faithfulness to prevent the spread of HIV may be leading to an upsurge in infection rates, delegates were told on Monday at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.

In 2003, the US government pledged $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. Of the 20 per cent earmarked for prevention, it ruled that at least a third must be spent on promoting abstinence outside marriage. Abstinence is the key element of the "ABC" programme - Abstain, Be faithful and use Condoms - but for many at high risk, the A and B parts don't help. Instead, they siphon funds away from provision of condoms, the one element that might work. Jodi Jacobson at the Center for Health and Gender Equity, a non-profit organisation based in Takoma Park, Maryland, says that in some countries as much as 70% of the prevention budget is spent on encouraging people to abstain from sex or be faithful. In Uganda, she says, where such policies account for 60% of prevention dollars, there are hints that the strategy is failing and the number of infections is growing.
Israeli Troops Criticize War Handling

Israeli soldiers returning from the war in Lebanon say the army was slow to rescue wounded comrades and suffered from a lack of supplies so dire that they had to drink water from the canteens of dead Hezbollah guerrillas.

"We fought for nothing. We cleared houses that will be reoccupied in no time," said Ilia Marshak, a 22-year-old infantryman who spent a week in Lebanon.

Marshak said his unit was hindered by a lack of information, poor training and untested equipment. In one instance, Israeli troops occupying two houses inadvertently fired at each other because of poor communication between their commanders.

"We almost killed each other,” he said. "We shot like blind people. ... We shot sheep and goats."
And not to forget the Gulf Coast:

But a funny thing happened on the road to economic renaissance. A key feature of the legislation allows Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to issue up to almost $15 billion of tax-free "GO Zone" bonds on behalf of companies seeking to build or renovate. So far, however, many of the firms seeking to take advantage of the cheap loans are pursuing ventures at best loosely connected to the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In Louisiana, for example, a furor quickly erupted after the first projects to get a preliminary go-ahead included several in Baton Rouge, well upriver from New Orleans. Among them were a four-star hotel as well as a new office building and parking garage for The Shaw Group, a politically connected engineering firm that has so far received close to $400 million in hurricane-related federal business, according to the latest Federal Emergency Management Agency tally.

In Alabama, where Republican Gov. Bob Riley is running for re-election, applicants for GO Zone financing don’t have to show any link to hurricane recovery. Simply improving the quality of life or stimulating economic development may be enough. Of the 19 new projects greenlighted thus far, only two are directly tied to Katrina, the Mobile Press-Register recently reported. Others include an aircraft assembly plant in the works before the storm and a Mexican restaurant to be built in Tuscaloosa, a drive of several hours from the coast.

And as of the end of last month, the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation had granted preliminary approval to some 90 projects, although only one had actually gone forward. Fewer than half of the proposed ventures are in the three waterfront counties raked hardest by Katrina. The single biggest chunk -- $400 million -- is set aside for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, whose three Gulf Coast shipyards are already in line for hundreds of millions of dollars in direct federal aid.
The common denominator? The policies of George W. Bush. Even failing upward isn't working for him anymore.

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