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Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Jue, 26/03/2015 - 13:27

“AS LONG as I am governor of New Jersey, there won’t be legalised marijuana in this state,” vowed Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, on March 25th. A potential Republican contender in the 2016 presidential race, Mr Christie explained that “every bit of objective data tells us that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs”. Is he right?

The gateway theory seems reasonable enough at first. Most people who take hard drugs start with soft ones. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that among people who have tried illicit drugs, about two-thirds began with marijuana. Hardly anyone jumps straight in at the deep end: less than 1% of drug users reported that their first-ever outing was with heroin or cocaine.

But then, it’s also a fact that most heroin addicts had previously tried chocolate. The trouble is that marijuana is so common—about four out of ten Americans, including the president, admit to having tried it—that any abuser of hard drugs is likely to have encountered it along the way....Continue reading

Flag waiving

Mar, 24/03/2015 - 16:06

AMERICANS love their cars, and they adore personalising them. Trail a Yankee’s sedan and you’ll see family stick-figure decals, bumper stickers and, occasionally, idiosyncratic licence plates. Motorists may compose their own seven-character messages (that’s a “vanity” plate), or they may opt for a “specialty” plate of a design that an organisation has persuaded the state to adopt. On Monday the Supreme Court grappled with whether states have any say in deciding what the parameters of these tags can be.

The question arose in 2009 when the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an association of male descendants of soldiers who fought on the losing side of the civil war, asked the state of Texas to issue a licence plate featuring its logo, which includes a Confederate battle flag. After critics of the design lined up to argue that the Confederate flag connotes racism and violence, the board charged with reviewing applications voted unanimously to reject the Sons’ plate. The board's rules specify...Continue reading

All-you-can-eat politics

Mar, 24/03/2015 - 00:06

CHOPPED up into five-second clips to be replayed on cable news, it will look impressive: close to 10,000 students at Liberty University sat in the college’s basketball stadium to listen to Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, launch his presidential bid this morning. Inside the hall a tuneful Christian rock group and an address from Jerry Falwell junior warmed up the crowd. This was hardly needed: Senator Cruz, with his wife and two cherubic daughters in tow, went down a storm. Dissenting voices were heard only on Yik Yak, an app that lets people sitting near each other share anonymous messages, where some students grumbled that their attendance had been compulsory. The crowd also included some irreverent folks in Stand with Rand T-shirts, in support of another first-term senator who is also likely to run for president.

Senator Cruz is a bundle of paradoxes: a populist with degrees from Princeton and Harvard; a politician suspicious of establishment elites, who also clerked for a Supreme Court judge and whose wife works at Goldman Sachs. He is also a talented speaker and campaigner who plays by his own rules. On arrival in the Senate...Continue reading

Cruz control

Lun, 23/03/2015 - 18:52

TODAY Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, took to a stage in Lynchburg, Virginia to announce he is running for president in 2016. Though plenty of candidates appear to be jockeying for position in the race to win the Republican nomination, Mr Cruz is the first to declare himself an official candidate. This is a fine way to ensure a nice boomlet of media coverage: political journalists who have grown tired of speculating about a Bush-Clinton showdown are now hungrily feeding on Mr Cruz’s grand pronouncements about everything he can't wait to overturn (Obamacare, Common Core, the president’s executive action on immigration, etc). But perhaps it would be best for Mr Cruz to not grow too attached to the limelight. As our data team shows in Continue reading

#Fail

Vie, 20/03/2015 - 18:27

HOWARD SCHULTZ, the head of Starbucks, thinks the gourmet coffee chain has a responsibility to address America’s vexed race relations. After a series of internal meetings at the company, he decided to launch “Race Together”, a co-venture with USA Today, a newspaper, to “stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.” “Race is an unorthodox and even uncomfortable topic for an annual meeting,” Mr Schultz conceded at the company’s annual gathering for shareholders on Wednesday. “Where others see costs, risks, excuses and hopelessness, we see and create pathways of opportunity—that is the role and responsibility of a for-profit, public company.”

Though seemingly well-intentioned, the campaign has elicited a backlash. Starbucks baristas,...Continue reading

Want to make me?

Vie, 20/03/2015 - 14:08

ON WEDNESDAY, while Barack Obama was suggesting to an audience in Cleveland that it might be a good idea to make voting mandatory, my wife was being prevented from voting. My wife, a Dutch citizen, is away on a business trip, so for Wednesday's elections to the Netherlands' provincial assemblies she had filled out a proxy voting form. The proxy form states that a voter can designate "another voter" to cast their ballot. Without giving the matter much thought, she indicated that the "other voter" who would cast her ballot would be me.

That, as I discovered at the polling station, was not allowed. I could cast my wife's proxy ballot in the waterschapsverkiezingen, which choose the boards that run the country's dikes and canals, but not in the provincial-assembly elections, because I was not eligible to vote in them myself. The distinction had not occurred to...Continue reading

A looming threat

Jue, 19/03/2015 - 23:32

UNMANNED aircraft, otherwise known as drones, are becoming common. Many are familiar with America’s use of armed drones in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, but drones are increasingly being used by other parts of the government, as well as by companies and individuals. Drones can be far cheaper to operate than anything that requires an on-board pilot, and they are handy for making maps and taking pictures and videos. The FBI uses a small fleet of drones for law-enforcement surveillance. Customs and Border Patrol uses them to monitor the American border with Mexico (though the programme was recently found to be ineffective and expensive). Commercial drones are now regularly used for real-estate photography and to Continue reading

Lean in, push out

Mar, 17/03/2015 - 17:17

KLEINER Perkins Caulfield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious venture-capital firms, had promoted only one woman to the position of senior partner by 2011, nearly 40 years after the firm was founded. This isn’t unusual in the world of venture capital, which has long maintained a reputation for being an old boys’ club. Indeed, these firms tend to be even less diverse than the technology companies they fund. The number of female partners in VC firms has actually decreased from 10% in 1999 to 6% in 2014, according to a recent report from Babson College.

Ellen Pao, a Harvard-trained lawyer with a background in business development, joined Kleiner Perkins in 2005. By 2012 she had seen three of her male peers promoted to senior partner while she was passed over. Ms Pao filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in May 2012, citing multiple complaints: men were promoted before women; men were allowed to serve on multiple boards while women were only allowed to serve on one;...Continue reading

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