Patt Morrison for April 5, 2010

Mercer 7026
This weekend’s 7.2 earthquake in Baja California was the most recent in a string of strong shakers in the western hemisphere. First the devastation in Haiti, then the quake in Japan, next came Chile and more – is there a connection? Is Los Angeles truly destined to drop off and into the ocean? Patt figures out the fault with Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey.
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They are the true independents, the ideal of California’s cowboy voters, the picture of nonpartisan alignment and unpredictability—“decline to state” voters, those people who are unaffiliated with any political party, now make up 20% of California’s electorate and according to a new L.A. Times/USC poll, they are the fastest growing segment of voters. The poll finds that these voters occupy the middle ground that you’d expect, socially moderate and fiscally conservative, and their demographics reflect California’s future: decline to state voters are whiter than the Democratic Party and more Latino than the Republicans, and more Asian than either party. The true wild cards in California politics, what drives someone to register as “decline to state” and how will their influence grow in future elections?
Mercer 7018
It’s one of many disconcerting things that passengers could hear as they’re stepping onto an airplane: unfortunately your pilot is feeling a little depressed today. Under old Federal Aviation Administration regulations pilots that were taking antidepressants were not allowed to fly, but on Monday some pilots on Prozac will be back behind the controls under a new policy. The initial concern was that older versions of antidepressants caused drowsiness—usually not a desirable condition in pilots—but that modern drugs don’t inflict sleepiness on many of its users. Regardless it was thought that many pilots lied about their use of antidepressants to avoid being grounded. All of which begs the question: would you rather be in a plane flown by a sleepy pilot or a depressed pilot?
Mercer 7019
Homosexuality has long been a taboo around the world. Some say it’s a natural occurrence, and some insist it’s a choice. Recent studies on animals have revealed same-sex sexual activity in more than 450 species, from fish to birds to mammals. Is it homosexuality as we define it, and what does this phenomenon say about human homosexuality, if anything? The question is explored in the cover article of yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, in which a new study on homosexual behavior among albatrosses in Hawaii frames the issue.
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Stuff. We’ve got a lot of it, we don’t share it well, and some of it is even toxic. Annie Leonard first tackled the story of stuff in her online “Story of Stuff” video, which went viral a few years ago. The simple cartoon explained the processes our stuff goes through on its journey from natural resource, to product, to waste. Now, for those who care to dig deeper, she’s adding a book component. “The Story of Stuff,” the book, is a fast-paced exposé on the hidden environmental and social costs of our current systems of production and consumption and further explores the negative impact that our current “take, make, waste” philosophy has on our lives and our planet.
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