Week in Review

by by David Adler, Sam Levison & Anna Matejcek

In Putin’s Russia, Alcohol Drinks You!

Russia’s parliament is currently grappling with a question that could force us all to re-examine the premise upon which we live our lives: does beer count as alcohol? A new bill may finally subject beer to the same regulations as vodka and other beverages formally acknowledged as containing the ethanol we all know and love.

In Russia it is not unusual to witness the well-heeled Muscovite or gruff Siberian factory worker casually swigging a beer as he navigates morning rush hour. The less culturally sensitive foreigner might assume he’s observing alcoholism in action—but in Russia, beer isn’t considered alcohol. Beer is a “foodstuff,” and thus a perfectly acceptable component of any balanced breakfast.

Beer may hold the status of a soda in the country’s popular imagination, but if Putin gives the nod, Russians will find beer aggravatingly unavailable in subway stations, fast food joints, and street kiosks between the hours of 11pm and 8am. The bill would also ban the sale of beer in school neighborhoods and cap container sizes at 11 fluid ounces, outlawing the extra-large, more-bang-for-your-buck cans popular among Russian teenagers.

The anti-beer bill is not an attempt to frustrate Russian fans of the beverage; it simply seeks to raise the life expectancy of Russian males, which is currently a sobering fifty-eight years. According to a recent Oxford study, half of all premature deaths in Russia are alcohol-related, whether they involve liver failure, overzealous bar brawls, or a fleeting belief in the possibility of human flight.

Regulating the sale and advertising of beer may prevent a handful of alcohol-related deaths, but no bill will change the fact that Russians living under Putin’s regime feel the need to consume three times as much alcohol as they did under the Evil Empire. Despite increasingly strict regulations on the sale and advertisement of both beer and vodka, the average Russian now drinks 4.57 gallons of pure alcohol every year, which is equivalent to twelve shots of vodka every other night for the rest of your life—i.e., a permanent hangover. –AM

Republicans French Kiss Democrats (In Public!)

To the surprise of protestors, the absent Democratic representatives, and the nation at large, Wisconsin Republicans maneuvered their way around the law to pass Governor Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” on Thursday, March 10. The following day, Walker officially signed the bill into law as protestors’ chants of “shame, shame” spilled in from the Capitol hallways. The bill will restrict the collective bargaining rights of government workers’ unions to wage disputes; discussions of issues such as pension benefits, health care, and medical leave are prohibited.

But Wisconsin Democrats aren’t packing up and heading home. Tens of thousands of protestors have stormed the Capitol, directing their collective middle finger at the governor. The bill may be enough to tip the politically precarious state back to blue. Despite the Republican victory, the bill has had an extremely counterproductive effect: recalls for Republican representatives—and the governor himself—appear imminent, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin reported that in the 24 hours after the bill was passed they received over $360,000 in donations.

It’s beginning to sound like the Republican shot-in-the-foot heard round the world. With collective bargaining debates heating up in many neighboring states, the rallying cries of frustrated Wisconsin workers may not be in vain. The precedent set could spark equally loud protests when states like Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio face similar bills. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who has long sought to revitalize the labor movement, said it best: “Thank You.” –DA

National Survey Reports Surge in Virgins

Bye-bye American Pie, hello chastity belt. A half-century of horny teenage culture may finally be on the outs. According to the U.S. Department of Health’s recently released National Survey of Family Growth, 27 percent of males and 29 percent of females between ages 15 and 24 have not had any sexual relations with another person—that means no heavy petting or penetration of any sort. Randomly sampling 13,495 Americans aged 15 to 44, the survey marks significant jumps in abstinence for both sexes since 2002 study, when 22 percent of men and women claimed to refrain from carnal contact.

So what’s been keeping the nation’s most hormonal demographic away from sex? Bill Albert, head of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, believes that the rise is a result of teens’ positive response to a prominent message for delayed sexual activity. Where exactly does this message come through in American culture? Maybe MTV’s hit adolescploitation series 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have shocked America’s youth into chastity. Or, since the Department of Health conducted the survey in 2008, perhaps the then-relevant Jonas Brothers and their purity rings were striking a chord with American teenagers. Real Clear Politics columnist Maggie Gallagher, however, proposes a more likely cause: George W. Bush’s push for abstinence education—he always did prefer screwing nations instead of other people. –SL