The Madeleine Brand Show for December 27, 2011

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Congress 2011 - A look back

A look at what changed in Washington - for one thing, the approval rating for Congress. This time last year it was around 20 percent. Now it's an all-time low of 11 percent, according to Gallup. Russell Berman, congressional reporter at The Hill, is here to talk about what, exactly, Congress accomplished this year.
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A deadline for California prisons

Today is the deadline federal courts have set for California to reduce its prison population to 167 percent of capacity. Officials say the state will likely be within a few hundred inmates of the benchmark. The reductions have been made possible largely because of Gov. Jerry Brown's realignment policy, which has moved low-level criminals and parole violators from state facilities to county facilities. But, as The California Report's Scott Shafer find out, many are worried that counties will soon face the same problems that have plagued state detention centers.
West Covina's 2010 Rose Float
Pasadena Rose Parade volunteers are working long hours this week to put finishing touches on their elaborate floats. Forty-five floats will make their way down Colorado Boulevard January 2. Many of the float sponsors have been with the parade for years, but there's a handful of newcomers in the rosebud-studded crowd and a few float sponsors that won't be returning in 2012. This is the story of a new arrival to the parade and one that will be sitting out this year's Tournament of Roses because of the economy.
Ants at war

Wars under our feet - Ant battles explained

Human's closest relative may be the chimpanzee. But when it comes to how we set up our society, we look a lot more like ants. Ants and humans both deal with complex issues like traffic management, public safety, crop domestication and even prolonged warfare. Mark Moffett details some of these similarities in an article in this month's Scientific American.

2012 in California means new laws to live by

As with every new year, a number of new laws are soon to go into effect here in California. We know our listeners to be law-abiding, upright citizens. And so that you can remain that way, we've brought together two of our staffers, Meghan McCarty and Steve Proffitt, to give us a summary of some of the new laws of 2012.

A year in music: Album picks from Powers and Tewksbury

What would the end of the year be like without a few best-of lists? Our favorite music critics, NPR's Ann Powers and Drew Tewksbury, talk about their favorite albums of 2011.
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