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Ten Years Ago Portugal Legalized All Drugs -- What Happened Next?

portugal map
© thinkstockphotos
Drug related deaths fell by 50%

The government in Portugal has no plans to back down. Although the Netherlands is the European country most associated with liberal drug laws, it has already been ten years since Portugal became the first European nation to take the brave step of decriminalizing possession of all drugs within its borders - from marijuana to heroin, and everything in between. This controversial move went into effect in June of 2001, in response to the country's spiraling HIV/AIDS statistics. While many critics in the poor and largely conservative country attacked the sea change in drug policy, fearing it would lead to drug tourism while simultaneously worsening the country's already shockingly high rate of hard drug use, a report published in 2009 by the Cato Institute tells a different story. Glenn Greenwald, the attorney and author who conducted the research, told Time: "Judging by every metric, drug decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success. It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country."

Back in 2001, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV among injecting drug users in the European Union - an incredible 2,000 new cases a year, in a country with a population of just 10 million. Despite the predictable controversy the move stirred up at home and abroad, the Portuguese government felt there was no other way they could effectively quell this ballooning problem. While here in the U.S. calls for full drug decriminalization are still dismissed as something of a fringe concern, the Portuguese decided to do it, and have been quietly getting on with it now for a decade. Surprisingly, most credible reports appear to show that decriminalization has been a staggering success.

The DEA sees it a bit differently. Portugal, they say, was a disaster, with heroin and HIV rates out of control. "Portugal's addict population and the problems that go along with addiction continue to increase," the DEA maintains. "In an effort to reduce the number of addicts in the prison system, the Portuguese government has an enacted some radical policies in the last few years with the eventual decriminalization of all illicit drugs in July of 2001."

Camcorder

US, Florida: Two women Bulgarian students find hidden cameras in apartment near Westchase

Image
© Bay News 9
Vanya Samokovareva, 22, left, and roommate Ralitsa Dzhambazova, 23, stand in front of a shower in their apartment where a camera was aimed.
The tiny cameras were hidden in smoke detectors and motion sensors, placed in the bedrooms and bathrooms of a west Hillsborough apartment.

Late Monday, two Bulgarian women discovered the covert cameras in their apartment. And now the Bulgarian students are afraid their every move - from sleeping to showering - may have been broadcast on the Internet.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating and says detectives have recovered some equipment and are following several leads.

However, between Tuesday night - when a report about the episode appeared on Bay News 9 - and Wednesday morning when detectives returned, some of the electronic equipment was removed, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

The women didn't answer their door Wednesday, but in an interview Tuesday with Bay News 9 said their landlord has a key to the apartment.

The Sheriff's Office declined to name any suspects.

Hourglass

Splendour in the Grassange as Julian rallies festival crowd

Image
© Michelle Smith
The Chaser's Julian Morrow MCs a forum featuring Julian Assange via video link at Splendour in the Grass
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange delivered a rallying cry to Splendour in the Grass attendees today as his mother called on festivalgoers to pressure Australian politicians into preventing her son's extradition to the US.

Mr Assange delivered a pre-recorded video message to the Big Brother v Little Brother: Who Controls our Only Secrets? forum, which featured his mother Christine as well as his Australian lawyer as part of an unusually political addition to this year's music festival line-up.

Hosted by The Chaser's Julian Morrow, the forum went on to debate whether Mr Assange's group was the leader of a growing trend of leaking classified information on the internet or had developed into a prominent brand driven by a cult of personality.

It was Assange's appearance that stole the show, with the Australian, currently under house arrest in London, proclaiming that the current generation was "burning the mass media to the ground".

Arrow Down

At Least 17 Killed, 11 Injured in 2 Mine Accidents in Ukraine

A blast at one coal mine in eastern Ukraine and an elevator collapse at another killed at least 17 people and injured 11 on Friday, officials said. Nine miners are still missing following the blast.

The twin accidents in eastern mining regions shocked the country and highlighted the persistent dangers of the local mining industry, believed to be one of the world's most dangerous because of outdated equipment and widespread disregard for safety regulations.

Rescuers were looking for nine miners missing after a powerful pre-dawn blast at the Suhodilska-Eastern mine in the Luhansk region that killed 16 workers and injured three others. Regional authorities suspect the accident was caused by a powerful explosion of methane, the Luhansk regional administration said in a statement.

The blast hit the mine shortly before 2 a.m. Friday at a depth of 915 meters (3,000 feet) when miners were working the night shift.

Mykhailo Volynets, the head of the Independent Trade Union of Miners, called that mine "one of the most dangerous in Ukraine" due to buildups of methane and coal dust.

Bizarro Earth

US: 'This is too crazy!' DJ orders ravers to end spontaneous party as police struggle to control riot mob on Hollywood Boulevard

A huge protest party organised by a DJ descended into chaos last night as riot police fired rubber bullets at a huge crowd of young ravers.

The rioting youths sparked mayhem on Hollywood Boulevard after the youngsters threw bottles and set fire to cars because they had been denied entry to a Hollywood film première.

The unruly crowd began partying on the streets in protest and the gathering gained momentum when DJ Kaskade organised a 'block party' on Twitter and they refused to disperse.

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© Getty Images
Over-zealous revellers jump up and down on a police car after crowds got out of hand outside a Hollywood film première

Sheriff

US, Connecticut: Off-duty TSA agent accused of intimidation


An off-duty TSA agent is accused of using his status as a federal employee to intimidate a driver in Connecticut, where police said the man waved his badge at a woman for driving too slowly.

The agent, Donald Eichler, said it's way overblown.

"This is terrible. Way overblown. She over-reacted. I may not have a job tomorrow," he said.

He is a transportation security administration employee at Bradley Airport, who South Windsor police said misused his badge when he followed and harassed a woman in his vehicle.

"The ticket says I was following too close and she was doing like 30 in a 40 mile an hour speed one, so I tapped my horn a few times and said come on let's go. They said I flashed my TSA badge and I had my ID badge," Eichler said.

Ambulance

Boston, US: A Rising Hunger Among Children

Janell Goode, a single Lowell mother w/kids
© Globe Staff / Wendy Maeda
Janell Goode, a single Lowell mother who is now unemployed, has struggled to feed her young sons a healthy diet.
Boston Medical Center sees more who are dangerously thin and facing lasting problems

Doctors at a major Boston hospital report they are seeing more hungry and dangerously thin young children in the emergency room than at any time in more than a decade of surveying families.

Many families are unable to afford enough healthy food to feed their children, say the Boston Medical Center doctors. The resulting chronic hunger threatens to leave scores of infants and toddlers with lasting learning and developmental problems.

Before the economy soured in 2007, 12 percent of youngsters age 3 and under whose families were randomly surveyed in the hospital's emergency department were significantly underweight. In 2010, that percentage jumped to 18 percent, and the tide does not appear to be abating, said Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC.

Family

Rural US disappearing? Population share hits low

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© Associated Press/Ed Andrieski
Washington -- Rural America now accounts for just 16 percent of the nation's population, the lowest ever.

The latest 2010 census numbers hint at an emerging America where, by midcentury, city boundaries become indistinct and rural areas grow ever less relevant. Many communities could shrink to virtual ghost towns as they shutter businesses and close down schools, demographers say.

More metro areas are booming into sprawling megalopolises. Barring fresh investment that could bring jobs, however, large swaths of the Great Plains and Appalachia, along with parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and North Texas, could face significant population declines.

These places posted some of the biggest losses over the past decade as young adults left and the people who stayed got older, moving past childbearing years.

For instance in West Virginia, now with a median age of 41.3, the share of Americans 65 and older is now nearly double that of young adults 18-24 - 16 percent compared to 9 percent, according to census figures released Thursday. In 1970, the shares of the two groups were roughly equal at 12 percent.

Mr. Potato

Clueless GOP lawmaker advises poor to 'drop out of the country club'

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) may have won the contest for the worst analogy of the entire debt ceiling debate.

The tea party favorite told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that he wanted to lower the debt ceiling because when you're broke, you have to cut back on certain luxuries.

"Well, Andrea, the thing is, when someone is overextended and broke, they don't continue paying for expensive automobiles; they sell the expensive automobiles and buy a cheaper one," Broun explained. "They don't continue paying for country club dues, they drop out of the country club."

Attention

The Horn of Africa: Skeletal, frail and hours from death: The haunting face of baby Mihag given 50% chance of survival after mother walks for a week to refugee camp

Cradled in his mother's arms, this is the face of a skeletal seven-month-old baby starving to death in the Horn of Africa.

Weighing just seven pounds - as much as a newborn - Mihag Gedi Farah stares wide-eyed, his skin pulled taut over his ribs and tiny arms.

Mihag is just one of 800,000 children who officials warn could die across the region in the worst drought for decades.

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© Associated Press
Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya