Justice watch: Keeping an eye on the law

Effective Taliban drug control

The Taliban's attack on Afghan heroin production was the "most effective" drug control policy of modern times, but production soared again after the regime was ousted, researchers said Monday.

A study showed that a Taliban crackdown in 2001 led to global heroin production falling by two-thirds, said criminologist Prof. Graham Farrow of Loughborough University, with production in Taliban-controlled areas falling 99 percent.

"The threat of punishment was the main thing," says Professor Farrow, who analyzed UN figures. "There were rumors that the suppression was brutal, although we found it difficult to get firsthand evidence."

After the Taliban were ousted by US forces in late 2001, farmers returned to growing opium poppies because they were a more lucrative crop, Farrow told Reuters. Afghanistan once again became the world's largest exporter of heroin, manufactured from the poppies, he said.

In November, US figures showed that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2003 was 36 times as high as in the year before the Taliban fell.

"This is speculation, but it may be because a crackdown would be too unpopular for the new Afghan government," says Farrow.

Court weighs 'Got Milk?'

PHILADELPHIA - A federal appeals court considered Monday whether a dairy- promotion program known for putting milk mustaches on celebrities is unconstitutional because it forces all farmers to pay for the ads, even if they disagree with them.

The case, brought by a couple who operate a small farm in Pennsylvania, is one of a number of challenges to government marketing programs that produce ads for agricultural products.

A federal appeals court in St. Louis ruled in July that ranchers could not be forced to pay a $1 per head of cattle fee to support the marketing campaign that spawned the slogan "Beef: It's what's for dinner." An appeals court in Cincinnati struck down a similar fee in October that supported ads calling pork, "the other white meat."

In both cases the judges said federal regulations requiring farmers to pay for the marketing efforts violated their right to free speech.

Lawyers defending the law on behalf of the US Department of Agriculture said it is necessary because of the collective nature of dairy production.

"No man is an island ... no cow is an island either," said Richard Rossier, a lawyer for dairy farmers who support the marketing program.

Donor wants church gift back

CLOQUET, MINN. - A Minnesota man is suing a local church because it won't give back a $126,000 donation he gave five years ago, at time when he says he was deeply depressed.

Marcel Mager, of Cloquet, said he made the anonymous donation during a time of emotional distress and thought giving the church money would ease his pain. His wife had left him two weeks prior to the January 1999 donation. It was nearly their entire life savings.

After five months of antidepressants and counseling, Mr. Mager said he asked for the money back. But leaders at the Cloquet Gospel Tabernacle church said no. They had already used the money for new family ministry space.

Mager told the head pastor, the Rev. Richard Doebler, he was not of sound mind when he made the donation.

"I was really confused at the time, really depressed," said Mager, an unemployed optometrist.

The church pointed out that Mager gave them the money, and churches nationwide have historically not given donations back - no matter what the circumstances.

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