Patt Morrison for July 13, 2010

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In a case rooted in a 2004 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to step up its enforcement of indecency on the airwaves, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled against the indecency policy, calling it a violation of the First Amendment. In unequivocal language the Court says that the FCC’s indecency standards were “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.” The biggest issue the Court had with the FCC was the changing definitions of indecency, saying that broadcasters were forced to effectively guess what the FCC will find offensive. The case, brought primarily by Fox Broadcasting but supported by other networks and advocacy groups, is just the first test in what is sure to be an ongoing fight over what is determined to be indecent content. Did the FCC go to far in its quest protect against offensive materials?
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As if asking someone to pay you back repeatedly wasn't unpleasant enough, some debt collectors have taken the art to a new level. Harassing phone calls, abusive language and even physical violence have made their way into the world of debt collection as collectors fight (all to literally) to pry money out of the hands of many Americans who simply don't have it anymore. The comforting fact in all of this is that actions such as these are illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1977. But is that only “cold comfort” to Americans unable to pay their bills?
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Countdown to Zero

Are you ready for a REALLY scary movie? Countdown to Zero, produced by Lawrence Bender (An Inconvenient Truth and Inglourious Basterds) illuminates just how close we could be to witnessing a massive nuclear catastrophe that could launch us into the next ice age. And no, it doesn’t star Bruce Willis or Will Smith. The documentary shines a light on the three of the biggest nuclear threats we face including an act of terrorism, failed diplomacy, and human error. The doc includes interviews with President Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Tony Blair as well as former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Hey, it even gets a thumbs up from UN Secretary Bann Ki-moon.
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The first round came over proposed power rate hikes from the DWP to justify its expansion of alternative energy sources, only to be shot down by the L.A. City Council. The second round came in the form of a planned revenue transfer of $75 million from the coffers of the DWP into the City’s general fund, which was withheld over suspected political payback. Now in the aftermath of those two previous fights comes round three when DWP and the Council square off over the idea of an independent ratepayer watchdog, something that the Council has long promised to impose as a check on DWP’s authority. Just as Council president Eric Garcetti is set to announce a motion that will put the idea of a ratepayer watchdog on the ballot for L.A. voters to approve, the DWP has said that it will create its own in-house watchdog. As L.A.’s political boxing match continues, what does this all mean for the average DWP customer?
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After nine years of war in Afghanistan, the U.S. appears to have hit the reset button. General David Petraeus is in, not only to replace a back-talking general but also to jump start a stalled counterinsurgency effort that has failed to defeat the Taliban or win over more converts. The Obama Administration is asking for more patience from Congress and more troops from increasingly wary NATO allies. While there is talk of a new beginning the realities of Afghanistan are far gloomier: there are no real alternatives to dealing with a universally acknowledged corrupt government run by the troubled Hamid Karzai; European allies are indeed heading for the exits; and the American public is restless, with an unofficial 2011 withdrawal date looming. Can the U.S. escape the graveyard of empires with its pride intact; never mind leaving a functioning Afghan state behind?
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The Pentagon issued survey about gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces has received some outcry from gay veterans groups for being biased. The groups opposed to the survey say they think the wording of many of the questions in the survey will produce negative results and could be used as reason for discriminatory actions toward gay service members even if the policy is overturned. The survey was ordered by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after President Obama expressed his support for repealing the policy this year. In any case, the battle for the right to serve in the United States military as an openly gay soldier is still waging.
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