Argentina to decriminalize personal marijuana use

Argentina became the second Latin American country this week, after Mexico, to make a major step toward drug legalization after a decision by the country's supreme court:

The judges say the government should go after major traffickers and provide treatment to consumers, not jail.

The court struck down a law providing for up to two years in prison for possession of small amounts of narcotics.

The case involved several young men caught with marijuana cigarettes in their pockets.

The decision doesn't legalize drug possession outright. But Argentina's Cabinet chief favors decriminalizing drug consumption, and was waiting for Tuesday's ruling before forwarding a proposed law to Congress.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has called for decriminalization as well. With Brazil and Ecuardor considering similar measures, Latin America seems to be going through a major rethink on drug policy. This year's report by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which was chaired by three former regional presidents and included my boss, may have been a big factor as well.

What effect this will have on the drug debate north of the border remains to be seen. U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has taken a "wait-and-see attitude" toward Mexico's decriminalization. Despite the developments in Latin America, the Obama adminsitration probably isn't going to touch drug policy right now given everything else on the agenda, (not that this has stopped Barney Frank.) but it does feel like there's a shift going on in the global debate.


China declares war on "Chinglish"

For years, tourists in China have been showing friends back home amusingly bad translation of Chinese into English. The Internet has only accelerated this trend, with more and more hilarious examples being chronicled by the day

But with next year's World Expo fast approaching, the host city Shanghai--which is spending more money than Beijing did for the 2008 Summer Olympics--is cracking down on these silly translations:

The Shanghai government, along with neighbouring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, published a 20-page guide book this week to standardise signs and eliminate notoriously bad, and sometimes amusing, English translations.

"A number of the English translations are quite baffling, others are simply awkward," Xue Mingyang, director of the Shanghai Education Commission, was quoted as telling the China Daily.

As the AP article notes, Beijing also tried this in 2008, but had to give up, as the task was too big. Interestingly, while poor translations will always be incorrect, Asian phonetic differences, such as the non-distinction between Ls and Rs, could be the next big changes in the English language: last year, researchers suggested that the next century will see English be replaced in many countries by "Panglish," combining English with phonetic and grammatical structures from languages such as Tamil, Singaporean Malay, and Mandarin.