Patt Morrison for May 24, 2010

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First it was the sudden acceleration incidents in Prius and other Toyota models; then internal memos revealed that Toyota had known about problems in the Prius much earlier on in the process and argued against recalls; and now, internal memos once again have Toyota in trouble, this time over transmission problems in the Lexus ES line. The L.A. Times reported that five months before the new 2002 Lexus ES was to go on sale in the U.S., Toyota engineers sounded the alarm about concerns with the car’s transmission. The sedan shifted gears so roughly that it was “not acceptable for production.” Did Toyota executives consider delaying the roll out of the ES or making repairs to already manufactured models? No-- "The objective will be to limit the number of vehicles to be serviced to those owners who complain, and to limit the per-vehicle cost," a Toyota staff attorney wrote in an Aug. 15, 2005, memo explaining the automaker's legal defense strategy. In light of yet another damaging revelation, is Toyota a trustworthy company?
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Maternal mortality on the rise

The rising rate of maternal mortality, which has nearly doubled in the last decade, has experts scratching their heads. Some speculate that an increase in cesarean sections may be contributing or that women who are waiting until they are in their 30’s or 40’s to have a child is increasing the risk for complications. The human rights organization Amnesty International is pushing the federal government to overhaul maternal health care and create an Office of Maternal Health within the Department of Health and Human Services to focus more attention on the issue. The U.S. spends more per birth than any other industrialized nation, but has a higher rate of maternal mortality than 40 other countries including Croatia. The U.S.’s rate of maternal mortality is twice as high as Canada and much of Western Europe. California’s rate tripled between 1996 and 2006. Is enough being done to combat the problem? Patt finds out.
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A new Green Products Innovation Institute has just been launched in California, and will be the nation’s first non-profit dedicated to developing strong standards for safer, greener consumer products. The Institute is backed by people from the public and private sectors including politicians, actors and educators. Green plastics, green clothes, green this, green that. How environmentally friendly is it all really? The institute hopes to standardize and promote sustainable products and share the information with the public.
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Who needs college?!

Not very long ago, the very idea that someone should skip straight out of high school and into a job was ill-advised. In today’s economic climate though, skipping college could be the way to go. But considering the amount of loans and the number of years it takes many students to get that degree, these days, some experts are coming out and saying what was once unspeakable: maybe college isn’t the best investment. In an attempt to dampen the financial issues for some young people and for the economy, many young people are now considering going directly from high school to the workforce. How will this change the landscape of higher learning in America? Do students prefer to be debt-free rather than be college graduates?
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On Monday, Britain’s General Medical Council revoked the medical license of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the main scientist and proponent of studies linking vaccines to autism, banning him from practicing medicine in Britain. Wakefield’s research published in 1998 in the medical journal Lancet, sparked widespread debate and prompted parents across Britain and the U.S. to refuse childhood vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella. Though subsequent studies and even some of the study’s authors rejected Wakefield’s findings, vaccination rates dropped significantly in many countries. But why do these parents continue to believe the words of one scientist over the countless studies showing no connection between vaccines and autism? How does this one man’s voice influence the masses to believe in something that’s wrong and might not even be real?
San Gabriel mountains

Saving the San Gabriel Mountains

A group of environmentalists, scientists, and nine cities, including Claremont and La Canada-Flintridge, are pushing Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) to protect a large section of Angeles National Forest. Conservationists fear that encroaching development, fires, the dwindling budget of the U.S. Forest Service, and millions of yearly visitors are threatening the integrity of the mountains. They want to protect 30,000 acres and 44 miles of rivers and creeks under the national Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the toughest environmental protections available under federal law. Not everyone is completely behind the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works supports their efforts, but is concerned about possible impacts to its flood control and reservoir system nestled in what would become a protected zone. Congressman Dreier says he is, “committed to seeing it through”, but has some concerns. Will Congress support the preservation of the San Gabriel Mountains?
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