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The Sheriff, the Chief, and the Census Honcho

... no, it's not the setup for a joke. It's the first half of a boffo program launching the new year -- LAPD chief Charlie Beck and LA County sheriff Lee Baca talking about gangs in LA. Gang violence is lower than it's been since the Gerald Ford administration -- what are gangs up to? Are they joining forces against law enforcement, as a Wall Street Journal article suggested? Or are they still warring mostly against one another? They've also begun using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and Chief Beck says he's got tech-savvy officers to keep track of all that.

Don't forget, it's an ''Ask the Chief'' broadcast next Wednesday evening, January 13, at the new police headquarters in downtown LA, so be sure to RSVP via the Patt Morrison Facebook page, or to

As for the census, the Constitution has mandated it every decade since 1790, and every decade, people get all twitchy about what it asks and what it doesn't. Robert Groves is director of the Census Bureau, and laid it all out: the seven-questions-in-ten-minutes form, the 28-page long form American Household Survey that's sent to far fewer households, and the privacy oaths that census people must take to protect your info. Now, where else are you going to hear a 20-minute interview with the guy who heads up one of the first things the Founding Fathers thought the federal government should do?

And next time? Barry Glassner's ''Culture of Fear'' made a huge impact when it was first published ten years ago -- how we are terrified of the unlikely and remote instead of the immediate and possible. Now he's updated it for the post 9/11 world. What are you afraid of? We'll be waiting to hear from you, too. Was FDR right, that we have nothing to fear but fear itself?

-- Patt Morrison