Private Prisons: The Injustice League

Check out the interesting article, “Private Prisons: The Injustice League,” by Online private-prison-profitParalegal Programs at www.online-paralegal-programs.com , providing some interesting information on what’s happening with our private prisons systems in line with our recent blog, “The Exceptional World of US Prisons.”

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Is Hell Freezing Over?

cannabis_2423701bIn 2012 Border Crossings ran a series of posts (“The War on Drugs”) reviewing the history of our drug laws, the long term consequences of those laws, and recommendations to decriminalize and legalize recreational use of marijuana and other drugs.  In November of that year, Colorado and Washington state voters approved referendums legalizing the recreational use of marijuana; and this January, the two states began to implement regulation and taxation of marijuana sales despite grumblings from the Justice Department and DEA.  Sale of pot in Colorado netted tax revenue of $2 million in just this first month.  While only a drop in the bucket of the state’s $20 billion plus annual budget, other states have taken notice and additional referendums to legalize marijuana are being advanced for consideration of the voters during the next election cycle.  Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (51% plus) now believe that marijuana should be legalized.  Even the President has weighed in, recently downplaying the hazard posed by marijuana, declaring the drug no more dangerous than alcohol, pointing to the graver risk presented by other recreational drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.  Have we turned a corner on the War on Drugs? Continue reading

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Where Have All The Rivers Gone?

shutterstock_107999030 The US The US southwest and west are experiencing severe drought – in some cases, perhaps, the worst ever recorded.  For example, in California experts have characterized it as a 500-year drought.   Over 40,000 people in California will have no water supplies in the next few months, and state officials acknowledge the figure will rise.  While this is a drought-driven problem failure to anticipate and prepare for drought is also playing a role . This is a major threat to the farming industry of the state – and to the agricultural production of the US as a whole given that California’s output is a substantial portion of US total output.   Winter-based industries such as ski resorts are also facing a declining future as snowpack falls – only 15% of normal in the Sierra Nevada, to take one US example.   (This is happening worldwide, highlighted this year by the Winter Olympics in Russia, made possible only by saving snow from last year and by massive snow-making.) Continue reading

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The Ugly American

 

Poster from "The Ugly American" movie starring Marlon Brando

Poster from “The Ugly American” movie starring Marlon Brando

In the book The Ugly American (1958), the authors Eugene Burdick and William Lederer describe Americans living in a fictional, Southeast Asian country that was a thinly disguised Vietnam.  Popularized by a movie starring Marlon Brando, the book’s title came to symbolize the view of Americans as often seen from abroad—arrogant, loud and ostentatious.  The title actually alludes to an American government worker who, while physically unattractive, lives and works closely with Southeast Asians in improving their daily lives by bringing small scale, innovative technology into their local villages (a bicycle-powered water pump, improved chicken coops, etc).  The fictional hero of the book was actually a real person, Homer Atkins, who worked in Vietnam with the International Cooperation Agency—now the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)— in the 1950s.  Our efforts of civilian aid to Vietnam then were obviously overwhelmed by the ensuing military conflict of the Vietnam War of the sixties and seventies, leaving scars and tragic memories still felt by many Americans to this day.  Arriving at Hanoi International Airport recently I was curious, if not somewhat apprehensive, as to how an “ugly American” might be met.  The following describes my own personal experience and thoughts about going forward in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Continue reading

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The World is Not Flat

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

Thomas Friedman, author of the best seller The World Is Flat, argues that information technology has leveled the world’s competitive markets and made access to finance and products more dependent on understanding that technology and its opportunities. Technology had made the world “flat.” However, anyone who has traveled twelve time zones away from home elsewhere in the world knows that the world is not flat, not even in the sense that Friedman suggests. Among other things infrastructure, policies (public and private) and cultural differences ensure that while we may indeed be globally connected, the world is definitely not flat. Though my experience in traveling over the past six months may only provide anecdotal evidence, I think I can illustrate that using information technology—your smart phone, your iPad and/or your laptop—while abroad may not be as simple or as inexpensive as one would hope. That is staying “connected,” essential in the type of travel I was doing, was challenging to say the least. Continue reading

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The Exceptional World of U.S. Prisons

Guest Contributor, Dr. Marshall Carter-Tripp provides some interesting perspective and important information considering our current prison system as it compares to such countries as Russia and Iran.  You may be surprised.

 America4796934n “Exceptionalism” is being celebrated by American politicians, who express amazement that the rest of the world doesn’t understand how exceptional we are.  Sadly, the rest of the world may well understand this, but from a different perspective than the one adopted by our politicians, and most of the news media. Continue reading

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The Secrets of Florence—Or Following in the Steps of Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

I apologize in advance to my good friends and scholars of Florence for any mistakes I have inadvertently made in describing their wonderful city and history—PM

 

9780385537858_p0_v11_s260x420I am just wrapping up nine weeks in Florence, Italy where I tried to see if my grey cells could accept the idea of learning a new language (Italian) and maybe unleash some long dormant art skills.  In the process of wandering the streets and checking out the sights of the city while not otherwise occupied conjugating verbs like “essere” (to be) or splashing paint on canvas (and my clothes—I finally got smart and bought one of those tourist aprons) I learned a bit about Florence and it’s “secrets.”  For those of you who are aficionados of Dan Brown you know his latest book “Inferno” mostly takes place in Florence where his main character, Dr. Robert Langdon, races through various secret passages among some of the more famous landmarks of the city.  The Italian tourist industry being very astute has developed an entire new series of tours which retrace Langdon’s fictional steps through the city.  I managed to get on some of those tours as well as a few private ones that I describe here and where I also try to add a little “fact” to the “fiction” of “Inferno.” Continue reading

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Running with the Bulls—Trying to Understand the Culture

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

The small town of Pamplona, Spain is famous for its annual Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as the “Running with the Bulls” festival. Ernest Hemingway first brought international attention to Pamplona and the running of the bulls festival in his book “The Sun Also Rises.”   The plot of the book is not about the festival itself but he does describe it in great detail. Since I was in the neighborhood (nearby France) during the week long festival I decided to take time and spend a few days observing it and see if fiction fit with fact.  I stayed in the nearby town of Puente la Reina, close enough to check out the action but far enough away to have some peace and quiet. The following describes my own experience at the festival—what I saw, what I felt and, maybe, what can be concluded in a broader cultural sense or not. Continue reading

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Good Fences Make for Good Neighbors–Cultural Challenges in a Microcosm

 

 

Newly finished homes and back yards in housing development outside of Frankfurt, Germany

Newly finished homes and back yards in housing development outside of Frankfurt, Germany

In Frankfort I spent time with a young friend and his wife.  They had recently bought a brand new home in a new development just northeast of the city center.  Only a year ago the area had been made up of rolling hills, farm houses and luscious crops. The development is so new that many of the small yards associated with the new homes are still unplanted and construction of new homes is ongoing all around their home. In my friends’ house they are part of a eight unit row of attached homes (similar to our row or town houses) with shared walls and contiguous yards.  To date no fences have been built between the back yards still in the process of development.  Therein lies the rub. Continue reading

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Life in the Fast Lane—the German Autobahn

Jawohl Herr Muscle Car!

Jawohl Herr Muscle Car!

You haven’t lived until you’ve tried your hand at driving on the autobahn in Germany—at least you haven’t had the heart stopping thrill of watching a big, black Mercedes approaching you in the rear-view mirror at a hundred plus miles per hour as you are poking along at what you think is a respectable 75 to 80 mph.  The autobahn like all things German is very ordered with strict rules written and unwritten that you should obey or not, the later at your own peril. Continue reading

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