The Drug Policy Foundation
This independent nonprofit, which researches and publicizes alternatives to current drug strategies -- including decriminalization, medicalization, and legalization of presently banned drugs -- has an unofficial dress code among its 18,000 active members that runs more toward ties and jackets than tie-dyed T-shirts and hemp sandals. Its board of directors includes an analyst from the ultra-conservative Hoover Institution as well as the head of the ultraliberal ACLU. The mayor of Baltimore and the New Haven chief of police are also board members.
DPF believes that America's war on drugs isn't working, and the numbers back them up: A 1993 study ordered by Attorney General Janet Reno showed that 16,316 federal prisoners -- one in five -- were low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no major criminal history. Yet as prisons burst at the seams, the illegal U.S. drug business, estimated at over $40 billion a year, continues to boom. America isn't becoming drug free, according to DPF, just less free.
DPF argues in its newsletters and conferences that we should just say no to the current drug prohibition because it enriches criminals, fails to prevent the spread of diseases, and disregards human rights. The organization wants an open national debate about this most contentious issue -- as a first step in the search for a rational system of drug control. Sounds like a very sober suggestion.
For more information: 4455 Connecticut Av. NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008-2302; 202/537-5005; fax 202/537-3007.
Weekend TV, a joint project of the Fund for Innovative TV and WYCC/Channel 20 in Chicago, produces original television programming that combines community participation and independent vision. In professionally done and often extremely witty 10-minute pieces, local producers and commentators explore community issues. A double murder involving two black preteens in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood that received the typical network news coverage -- cursory and simplistic -- was reinvestigated by Weekend TV. A local resident talked to both the victims' and the perpetrators' families and discovered that the children involved were basically good kids who needed some direction, not the monsters that the networks portrayed. The viewer is shown these families coming together to grieve and to learn from this horrible experience. Other segments have focused on tobacco pipe?smoking contests, street artists in lower Manhattan, and the culture of malls.
Weekend TV and its cohorts like the 90's Channel, an alternative cable channel that reaches more than 600,000 cable subscribers across the nation, face an uncertain future in today's political climate. Those conservative politicians who fall all over themselves in their attempts to crush 'alternative arts' and the nontraditional values they supposedly promote would do well to tune in to Weekend TV.
For more information: Weekend TV, 400 N. Michigan Av., #1608, Chicago, IL 60611; 312/321-9321; fax 312/321-9323. The 90's Channel, Box 6060, Boulder, CO 80306; 303/442-8445.
Student Action with Farmworkers
There's a lot of talk these days about the growing gap between cities and suburbs, but the nonprofit organization Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) seeks to build bridges across an even wider chasm: the one between rural and urban areas.
Every summer, SAF's Into the Fields service-learning program sends college students to farms and rural community organizations in North and South Carolina, where the interns give much needed help with child care, education, ministry, social services, legal problems, and farm work and receive in exchange valuable life experiences and new skills. Back on campus, SAF seeks to build a network of campus organizations focusing on farmworker issues and has created the Intern Referral Service, a nationwide database linking college students with farmworker organizations seeking assistance. SAF actively recruits students from farmworker backgrounds, but they are by no means the majority of the interns.
Anyone interested in learning more about current events and programs relating to SAF, farmworker issues, and other service-learning projects is encouraged to write for a free copy of SAF's newsletter From the Ground Up. In an issue devoted to migrant education, for instance, we hear from students and activists about the plight of migrant farmworkers and the many steps SAF and others are taking to help migrant families get their children educated (including SAF's fledgling Migrant Scholarship Fund).
For more information: Box 90803, Durham, NC, 27708; 919/660-3652; fax 919/681-7600.
The Risk Report
Let's say you're a high-technology entrepreneur and you're approached by representatives of another country's government who want you to export a few hundred oscilloscopes or ceramic chip capacitors: Should you do it? It's perfectly legal.
The Risk Report, which is published ten times a year by the nonprofit Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, is your guide to more than a thousand U.S. companies and projects connected to the worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons, chemical/biological weapons, and missiles. In addition, each issue of the Risk Report profiles a particular country's weapon-making industries, reports which countries sold what to whom, lists suspect buyers and what they're attempting to buy, offers tips on how to divert suspicious customers, and covers international legislative and regulatory news to keep exporters abreast of 'proliferation risks.' This is an extremely practical, no-nonsense approach to keeping the peace, one designed for the use of those who -- although perhaps they're not arms dealers as such -- export the component parts of weapons of mass destruction. So the next time you get a suspicious long-distance phone call for a dozen slewing ring bearings, phone the number below and the Risk Report will help you just say no!
For more information: 1701 K St.. NW, Suite 805, Washington, DC 20006; 202/223-8299.