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Reason Alert: Study Ranks Congestion, Highway Systems

June 28, 2007

Study Ranks State Highway Systems
Nearly 52 percent of U.S. urban Interstates are now congested and traffic fatality rates rose slightly, but road surface conditions and bridge conditions improved according to the Reason Foundation’s latest annual highway performance report released today. "Gridlock isn't going away," said David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., the study's lead author. "States are going to have to prioritize and direct their transportation money to projects specifically designed to reduce congestion if we are going to reverse this troubling trend." Drivers in California, Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina are stuck in the worst traffic, with over 70 percent of urban Interstates in those states qualifying as congested. The full report and maps showing complete, state-by-state data are here.
» AP: Study Ranks States By Road Condition
» Reuters: California Has Worst US Traffic
» Reason's Transportation Research and Commentary

Endangered Species Act Didn't Save the Eagle
The bald eagle was officially removed from the endangered species list today, but don't give credit to the federal government. In a set of new Reason Foundation policy briefs, Brian Seasholes finds the bald eagle was never really facing extinction, with over 100,000 eagles thriving in Alaska and Canada. Seasholes says the eagle was put on - and stayed on - the list because it was a great "public relations tool." Seasholes also shows that the Endangered Species Act often does more harm than good by pitting landowners against the very animals the Act is trying to save, adding, "It's time for a new, more effective environmentalism based on cooperation and positive incentives, not conflict and punishment."
» Facts & Figures: The Bald Eagle and Endangered Species Act (.pdf)
» Policy Brief: The Bald Eagle, DDT, and the Endangered Species Act (.pdf)
» Policy Brief: The Bald Eagle's Worst Enemy—How Federal Law Pits Landowners Against Eagles (.pdf)
» Reason's Environment Research and Commentary

Justice System Continues to Fail Genarlow Wilson
Genarlow Wilson has been in jail for more than two years for receiving consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. A judge has ordered that he be freed, but state Attorney General Thurbert Baker wants Wilson to serve his 10-year sentence and has appealed the ruling. Reason magazine's Radley Balko writes that Baker's actions demonstrate that our justice system has lost all sense of fairness, and well, justice, "Police officers typically are rewarded for arrests, not for preventing crimes. Prosecutors tend to be promoted or re-elected based on their ability to win convictions, not their fairness or sense of justice. Appeals courts, meanwhile, generally focus on constitutional and procedural issues. Only in extreme cases will an appellate court review the appropriateness of a verdict. From the writing of laws to their enforcement and prosecution, our system has evolved to the point where justice, mercy and fairness often go overlooked. It's no surprise that the U.S. leads the world in its rate of incarceration, and by a wide margin. Polls show that most Americans think our criminal justice system usually gets things right. Yet we're finding through the use of DNA evidence just how alarmingly often it doesn't. Sometimes the culprit is incompetence. Sometimes it's malfeasance or corruption among forensics experts, police officers, DNA lab technicians and other criminal justice gatekeepers. But as the [Genarlow] Wilson case shows, even when there is no corruption, no lying and no shortcuts taken-even when everything is done by the book-you can still get a result that's far from just."

Romney, Torture, and Teens
"When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he'd support doubling the size of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, he was trying to show voters that he’d be tough on terror. Two of his top fundraisers, however, have long supported using tactics that have been likened to torture for troubled teenagers. As The Hill noted last week, 133 plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Romney’s Utah finance co-chair, Robert Lichfield, and his various business entities involved in residential treatment programs for adolescents. The umbrella group for his organization is the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS, sometimes known as WWASP) and Lichfield is its founder and is on its board of directors. The suit alleges that teens were locked in outdoor dog cages, exercised to exhaustion, deprived of food and sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing or water, severely beaten, emotionally brutalized, and sexually abused and humiliated. Some were even made to eat their own vomit. But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney's national finance co-chair is a man named Mel Sembler. A long time friend of the Bushes, Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father...The Romney campaign is aware of the WWASP suits, and should be familiar with the Straight suits. If not, it's worth asking: Does Romney support these types of tactics for at-risk youth? Or does he take the line the organizations founded by his fundraisers take—that these dozens of lawsuits are merely from bad kids who make up lies? Coming from the man who wants to double the size of Guantanamo, these aren't insignificant questions. If Romney doesn't believe the aggressive tactics he supports for use against enemy combatants ought to be used against troubled teens and youth drug users, he should say so, and show he means it by removing these men from his campaign." - Maia Szalavitz, author of the book Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, examines presidential candidate Mitt Romney's connection to tough-love camps.

Michael Moore's Shticko
Reason magazine's Michael C. Moynihan review's Michael Moore's new film "Sicko" and finds "Moore's specific policy prescriptions are impossible to find. Without them, he ends up urging viewers to just let the government run the damn thing." Moynihan concludes, "...the [Bush] administration needn't worry about Sicko. As with much of his previous work, Moore's latest film is, by turns, touching, naïve and maddeningly mendacious, a clumsy piece of agitprop that will likely have little lasting effect on the health care debate. Moore is right that the American system is sick—on this, there is bipartisan and public consensus. The United States has the highest per capita health care spending in the world, with comparatively disappointing results. But his radical prescriptions, which include a call for a British-style, single-payer system, will likely have little resonance with viewers. Indeed, according to a recent ABC News/Kaiser Family Health study, insured Americans are overwhelmingly (89 percent) satisfied with their own care, while broadly concerned about rising costs of prescription drugs and critical of the care others receive."

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