Patt Morrison for April 15, 2010

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A city audit released this week faults the Los Angeles Fire Department for its disciplinary process, which, the report says, has allowed cultural and racial tensions to persist. Among cases cited in the latest audit, a firefighter told two Jewish firefighters he would “stick them in the oven,” and later pushed a bench toward one of the men after he filed a discrimination complaint. A station captain failed to take action and department investigators didn’t follow through with their investigation. In another incident, a firefighter should have received time off for using a racial epithet, but was only issued a written reprimand. The department says they embrace the report and acknowledge changes need to be made, but these problems mirror repeated complaints in the department going back to audits from 1994.
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After Consumer Reports warned of roll over problems with the Lexus GX, Toyota announced that they will halt sales of the vehicle. Now, they’ve asked to use the magazine’s test track so their own team of engineers can attempt to duplicate the test. Consumer Reports declined—undaunted, Toyota will recreate the track at a test facility in Japan. When a driver experiences a sudden acceleration problem, Toyota ushers in their SMART “swift market analysis and research team” to investigate and in some cases (like the case involving the Prius driver in San Diego) discredit them. When a professor of automotive technology testified before Congress about possible electrical problems with Toyota’s electronic engine control system, Toyota hired Exponent Inc. to refute the professor’s findings, point-by-point. Is this a concerted effort to defend an automaker from unfair claims or a PR campaign to protect its image and reputation? Are there legitimate concerns (beyond the pedal) about what’s causing Toyotas to accelerate out of control?
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Health care reform is in the books, and yet doubts remain about one of the most sweeping pieces of social legislation in a generation. Sen. Bernie Sanders was an early proponent of universal coverage, so the final health care bill is probably a disappointment to him—but there’s an element of the bill that is near and dear to his heart, and that’s the increased funding for community health centers. Serving the most vulnerable segments of our population, community health clinics in California should be able to serve an additional 1.3 million people as $9.5 billion becomes available nationwide for these clinics. But is there a chance that these clinics could become overwhelmed with a flood of newly insured patients under the reform bill; and what will keep medical costs from continuing to rise, even as more money becomes available to community health organizations? The Senate’s true maverick, Bernie Sanders, is here to answer your questions.
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Governor Schwarzenegger is in the process of selling off two dozen state office buildings to help close the budget gap. Sounds reasonable, right? Well the Associated Press analyzed financial documents and found the plan would actually cost taxpayers billions of dollars in rent over the years. In the face of these facts, should the real estate sell-off go forward?
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Growing Greener Schools

Going green has become a trend as 21st century society begins to grow an environmental conscience. Now schools, public and private, have stepped into the “going green” arena. The new documentary “Growing Greener Schools” premiering April 18th on KCET, goes inside the new movement at several schools in both affluent and inner-city areas. Could greening schools mean rising grades and test scores? The film explores the academic outcomes that green initiatives and programs had on the children, schools and communities. *“Growing Greener Schools” airs on PBS, KCET in L.A., this Sunday at 10:30 pm.
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