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Dispatches Quick Takes

One toke is over the line

Is marijuana a harmless high? Of course not, argues White House drug czar John P. Walters in The Washington Post. He reports that today's potheads inhale smoke that is 10 to 20 times stronger that what earlier generations used, making it addictive enough that 60 percent of "teens in drug treatment have a primary marijuana diagnosis." He also cites University of Michigan statistics showing that almost half of high-school seniors have tried marijuana. Among those, 22 percent smoke it at least monthly. "After years of giggling at quaintly outdated marijuana scare stories ... we've become almost conditioned to think that any warnings about the true dangers of marijuana are overblown," Mr. Walters points out. He maintains that the drug contains carcinogens, can hurt a user's concentration and memory, and is linked to tens of thousands of car accidents.

Socialism's death throes?

May Day means little in America, but the left loves it in Europe. Anti-globalization protesters use the day to threaten shopkeepers, clash with police, and just get rowdy. This year, hundreds of thousands of activists turned out as merchants boarded up stores and riot police turned out in force. Pete du Pont takes a contrarian view in The Wall Street Journal, marking it as a reminder of discredited socialism, a "day best remembered for massive military parades in Red Square with Stalin or Khrushchev gray and grim above Lenin's tomb."

Fewer guns, more crime in Europe

Even though Western Europe "seems like a gun-control utopia," some terrible crimes have shocked the continent. Los Angeles Times reporter Sebastian Rotella writes that "the number of guns and violent crimes has risen in France, Germany, Britain, and elsewhere" in defiance of restrictive laws. The most notable tragedy was the German school shootings last month. Also in April, eight Parisian city council members were gunned down and 14 regional legislators were killed in Switzerland last September. Such tragedies challenge both social-democracy and gun-control orthodoxies that claim fewer guns mean fewer crimes. Mr. Rotella notes the growth of Europe's criminal underworld, the rise in smuggling thanks to declining border controls, and increased incidents with young and/or ethnic criminals. "As crime has dropped in the United States in recent years, it has worsened in much of Europe, despite generous welfare states designed to prevent U.S.-style inequality and social conflict," he explains. "Nihilistic rage flares in classroom violence in Germany, car-arson rampages in France, brutal muggings in Britain."

Joyful "noise"

Christian schools are sprouting up across America's cities as churches anticipate a flood of vouchers if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Cleveland's school-choice program this year, reports USA Today's Tamara Henry. She notes that "congregations and ministers are convinced that public schools neglect local children and [that] students are more likely to succeed academically if they receive religious training." The reporter points out that the city of Milwaukee, the state of Florida, and other areas have voucher programs already, and President Bush is promoting tuition tax credits. "There's a revolution afoot," the Rev. Kenneth Sullivan, pastor of Indianapolis's Charity Christian Center, told Ms. Henry. "It's quiet now, but it's going to get noisy."

From riots to quiet

Ten years after the Rodney King riots, the Los Angeles neighborhood that once served as Ground Zero isn't the urban abyss many expect. UPI's Steve Sailer calls the area a "surprisingly quiet bedroom community" packed with homeowners who commute to downtown jobs. The commercial areas are still depressed, but church buildings now outnumber liquor stores. The correspondent describes an area of modest single-family dwellings just 10 miles south of Beverly Hills' swank tackiness. "Near Florence and Normandie, you can see long rows of small but attractive Spanish style stucco homes painted vivid colors-purples, greens, blues-more redolent of San Francisco than of Los Angeles," he reports. "The landscaping of the compact yards ... isn't as baroquely lush as in the wealthy white districts. Yet, lawns are kept neat, and here and there fuchsia bougainvilleas bloom in tropical profusion." Blacks today make up 62 percent of the area, but the rest is largely a growing Hispanic population. "Around Florence and Normandie, blacks and Hispanics often live side by side, but language and cultural gaps keep them from talking much," Mr. Salier writes. "The census found very few inter-ethnic couples."