Patt Morrison for May 17, 2010

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Iran and the “return of plan B”

After months of precarious balance and rebuffs by Iran to offers from the West, President Ahmadenijad announced today that Iran has struck a deal with Turkey and Brazil to swap over 2,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium in exchange for 20% enriched uranium. It’s a small, incremental step, but it could signal what some are referring to as “the return of plan B,”—a shift away from the polarized sides of Iran vs. the U.S. + the rest of the world and such black-and-white options as sanctions vs. bombing. It certainly marks the debut for emerging superpowers Turkey and Brazil in a deal that at least publicly left out the U.S. entirely, although it closely mirrored a plan drafted by the Obama administration and rejected by Iran last Fall. The agreement seems unlikely to actually stop Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities but could be it the first step in repositioning the stale mate? And how will the U.S. figure into that newly rebalanced picture?
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The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that the federal government does have the authority to hold federal inmates determined to be “sexually dangerous” beyond their prison terms. The ruling gives the federal government the power to keep sexual predators in jail longer than their sentence, or indefinitely, if there sufficient reason to suspect that they pose a threat to children. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion that nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government the power to enact such a law. Does this case pit one of our basic fundamental rights afforded by the Constitution against the right to keep our public safe from sexual predators?
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President Obama’s United We Serve initiative is led by a man who thinks community service can make a significant dent in the needs of a region that are not being met by institutions because of severe budget cuts, help prevent high school students from dropping out, and help address the problem of homelessness. Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service brings his ideas to Los Angeles this week, where he’s meeting with community leaders and delivering the keynote speech at the City Year Summit. *Tomorrow at 1:30, Patrick Corvington will deliver the keynote address at City Year and the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Education Summit at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Ballroom
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As Americans, we are instilled with a sense that it’s unpatriotic to question the troops who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms. It’s accurate to say that unless you’ve served, you really can’t relate to the transformation that one goes through to be able perform their duty, or to rationalize the sum of their actions. On March 12, 2006, after nearly 18 hours on-guard in the extreme dangers of Iraq’s “Triangle of Death," with minuscule amounts of sleep, the members of the U.S. Army unit known as the “Black Hearts” were about to succumb to those pressures. While drinking Iraqi whiskey mixed with energy drinks and playing cards, the men planned the rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the murder of her and her family. In a drunken, hate-fueled rage, the men committed one of the most heinous war crimes in recent history. Patt talks with author Jim Frederick about the disturbing picture of life “outside the wire” in one of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.
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Google’s unofficial mantra is “Don’t Be Evil” and up to this point they’ve been largely viewed as a benevolent company—but as more charges are made about Google’s voracious appetite for personal information, to how your search the internet to what you write in your emails, their “evil” mantra might come into question. The latest accusation, admitted by Google on Friday, is that the company sucked up 600 gigabytes of data off the Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries as Google vehicles cruised streets for its “Street View” mapping feature. Google vehicles were armed with cameras and an antenna so they could crease a database with the names of Wi-Fi networks, and in the process picked up views of your emails, your bank statements and anything else you happened to be doing over a wireless network when Google cars drove through your neighborhoods. Google says they’re destroying all personal information—can you trust them?
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The Los Angeles County child abuse hotline has the implied promise of a prompt investigation and response to the always serious charges of abuse against a child, but it seems there’s nothing prompt about the hotline. Tips involving more than 18,000 children have not been thoroughly investigated within the state’s mandated time. Due to the backlog, the state extended the county’s deadline for investigations from 30 to 60 days,. Even so, Department of Children and Family Services officials and social workers have been unable to complete the work on deadline. Close to four thousand cases, some involving multiple children, have been open for months without any abuse determination. So what’s the issue? Too few staff? Too many responsibilities? Flaws in the investigations? Whatever the issue, children could be left in danger until social workers can complete their work.
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Peter Carey's "Parrot and Olivier in America"

Two-time Booker Prize winning author, Peter Carey is back with a new novel set in early-nineteenth-century America. The book follows Olivier, a character based loosely on Alexis de Tocqueville, and Parrot, the motherless son of an English engraver, as they make their way to and through America. An unlikely friendship is forged between the two characters as Carey explores the founding of America through their experiences. Peter Carey dishes to Patt about the new novel and his vision of early America.
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