Patt Morrison for August 18, 2010

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Since first proposed in early May, Park51—also known as the “ground zero mosque”— has stirred up controversy and a national debate over its plan to build a Muslim community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. The debate isn’t going away. President Obama came out this week expressing his support for the plan and his belief that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. Underpinning all of this is a commitment to religious tolerance as a paramount value, something which religious scholar and atheist Sam Harris says we should re-examine. Harris and religious scholar Reza Aslan join Patt for a conversation about America’s pluralistic values and what this debate says about the state of religion and religious tolerance in our nation today. *According to a recent Siena College poll, 63% of New Yorkers oppose the construction of the mosque and 64% of New Yorkers believe that they have a constitutional right to build there.
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Members of Congress are preparing to go back to DC after their recess ends in early September, and are preparing to face a number of hot-button issues. Among them is the unprecedented rate of unemployment, the continuing economic downturn, and challenges in international relations with countries like Iran and Afghanistan. To top it all, mid-term elections are rapidly approaching, elections which could make or break the Democrats’ House majority. In the next few days, Patt talks with House representatives in a short series. Up first, Representative Brad Sherman discusses his plans for economic reform, mid-terms, and dealing with Iran.
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The "mornings" after pill: is 5 better than 3?

As it stands now, if a woman has unprotected sex and doesn’t want to get pregnant she has to rush to the pharmacy and get the “morning after” pill into her system as soon as possible. The effectiveness of the pill is reduced each day she waits and is least effective after three days. But now there is “ella”. The FDA just unanimously approved the new emergency form of contraception for sale in the U.S. Ella, unlike Levonorgestrel (the morning after pill), is equally effective for preventing pregnancy five days after intercourse. So a woman could take the pill on day 1 or day 5 and it’s just as likely to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. The only hitch is it’s available only by prescription. That leaves one to wonder, if the three day pill is available without a prescription why isn’t the five day version? The retail price of the morning after pill is about $50.00. Will the five day version be substantially more, is it as safe, and will it be available at free clinics?

Should juvenile criminals get another chance?

Under current laws and procedures, there isn’t much in the way of sympathy for juvenile defendants convicted of violent crimes—in most cases they are treated and tried as adults and the sentences that come down on them do not take their age into consideration. State Sen. Leland Yee has opposed the blanket practice of treating juvenile offenders the same as adults, and originally proposed a bill that would have barred life imprisonment for all juveniles. Recognizing that his proposal was politically untenable, Sen. Yee is trying again with SB399, a bill that would allow juvenile offenders to ask a court to review their case after 10 years in prison that could lead to dramatically reduced sentences. It could potentially lead to dozens of prisoners, who were juveniles when they committed their crimes, to get out of jail in their adult years. Sen. Yee argues that kids convicted at such young ages deserve second chances while opponents say the system is working fine the way it is. Should juvenile offenders be treated differently?
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Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

Americans like their zoos. In fact, they like them more than their NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball Games, combined. More than 175 million Americans flock to zoos and aquariums every year, for a close-up look at Sumatran tigers, South African elephants, and chimpanzees. But are zoos adequately equipped to care for these animals and is the spectacle—for some humans who may never travel to see these animals in their natural habitat—worth the money and effort it takes to keep the animals captive? Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas French takes a microscope behind the scenes of some of the country’s major zoos to examine the morally complex and seemingly intractable dilemmas behind extinction, conservation, and our notions of freedom and captivity.
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