Greg Palast, America's Last Journalist, tells us how two "vulture funds" gave up on extorting the government of Liberia. You may remember vulture funds (which pay for the right to extract government debt for pennies on the dollar of said debt) from a February Palast report. But after, ahem, some news coverage of their activities, the vulture funds settled on an alleged $43 million debt owed by Liberia for only $1.3 million. One is tempted to say they should have gotten nothing, but they won the judgment before the British Parliament voted to stop vulture funds from collecting in British Courts. As I said before, the "vulture" fund is a good thing in theory (governments used to default on loans with impunity), but in practice, vulture funds seem only to go after the poorest nations.
Meanwhile, Steve Heilig tells us about the flaws of the failed Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California. Long story short: the state's medical marijuana law already makes it grotesquely easy to get legal pot in California; Prop 19 would have done nothing about the corrupt for-profit "pot clubs" that act as middlemen between growers and users; growers feared legalization would subject the industry to corporate control while also reducing prices and subjecting them to taxes; and Prop 19 would have provoked a federal response whereas state laws largely decriminalizing possession in small amounts have not provoked that response thus far. Mr. Heilig also suggests other ways to ameliorate the harm caused by strict anti-pot laws -- like making the "pot clubs" non-profit, reducing sentencing disparities, and taking marijuana off Schedule I (where it absolutely does not belong, since it does have medicinal uses).
Finally, just in time for the holidays, USPIRG provides its guide to buying safe toys. Tips cover the usual -- choking, strangulation, magnets, toxic chemical exposure -- but the page also helps you send complaints directly to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And you can also get a far more expansive and specific list of toys-to-avoid that you can put right on your cellphone while you're shopping. It is nice to have all this good information in one place. Why, it almost makes me think kindly of technology.