Patt Morrison for December 14, 2010

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has removed Trish Ploehn from her post as the director of Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services. While Ploehn had her fans and her critics, one thing is clear – anyone who takes over the agency will have an uphill battle to fight. Piles of child abuse cases, a history of poor communication between county departments, and the fact that very few social workers actually have access to important family history information are just some examples. So after Ploehn’s firing, what will happen to DCFS? Is changing the director for the fifth time in 20 years really the answer, or are the problems more deeply seated?
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On January 9th there will be a vote in an African country that will have ramifications across the continent and the entire globe. Sudan, a country that has fought two bloody civil wars over the course of almost 50 years and has another long-simmering battle raging in its Darfur province, could soon split into two different countries. Southern Sudan, the Christian half of the country that has fought the North almost since Sudan itself gained independence in 1956, will hold a referendum next month on its own independence that could touch off a new war, a wave of similar secession movements in other African countries or a continent-wide ethnic/religious battle; there’s also a distinct possibility that the referendum won’t happen, if the North feels that the Southern Sudanese are serious about being independent, taking with them several lucrative oil fields. At the heart of the matter is the split between the North’s Arab, Muslim-leaning population and the South’s African Christian people. Patt gives a primer on an election that could go down in history as far more important than what happened in the U.S. in November.
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Can your bank take your home? Yes, if they own it, but increasingly that ownership is being challenged in court as evidence of “robo-signings” and other careless documentation problems come to the fore. Recently a New York state judge, law professor and consumer attorneys testified before a Congressional panel that, in many cases, banks in fact have no legal standing to foreclose on borrowers due to a complicated electronic system known as MERS, which a majority of lenders use to document mortgage assignments. The confusion lies in the fact that MERS allows 20,000 people who work for lenders, not MERS, to sign mortgage paperwork in MERS’ name, obfuscating who actually owns the mortgage and with whom a homeowner can negotiate. Critics argue the judiciary system has actually exacerbated the current foreclosure crisis by too often accepting submissions without question from foreclosure-seeking lending institutions. Is this the first step in a massive overhaul of the MERS system and how can you trace your mortgage?
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She started as a Teach for America recruit and has since become one of the most prominent public education officials in the country. Michelle Rhee has made it her life’s mission to reform the public education system, and her resume proves it. After Teach for America, Rhee founded and ran the New Teacher Project for 10 years before finally being appointed the Chancellor of D.C. public schools where she served for close to three and a half years. Now she’s moving a little south to run Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott’s education task force (there’s speculation that she’ll become his Commissioner of education), and she’s started a new program called Students First aimed at transforming public education across the country. She’s a busy woman, but she’s here to talk to Patt about reforming the nation’s public education system, whether we like it or not.
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