Patt Morrison for January 28, 2011

Mercer 14326

Can chaos in Cairo lead to democracy in Egypt, and beyond?

Pitched battles between protesters and security forces raged in the streets of Cairo on Friday; the ruling party headquarters was set on fire; policemen stripped off their uniforms and badges to join protesters; at one point waves of demonstrators chased hundreds of riot police away from their positions, and ultimately tens of thousands converged on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square; similar scenes of protest and clashes with police played out in several other cities across Egypt. Frustrated by 30 years of autocratic rule, poverty that is estimated to grip half of Egypt’s 80 million people and buoyed by successful anti-government demonstrations in Tunisia, average Egyptians in the streets presented the biggest threat to President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. There are many more questions than answers now, about whether Mubarak can hang on for much longer, about whether a democratic government can take hold in Egypt and whether this grassroots movement can spread to other Middle Eastern countries ruled by authoritarian governments. We take a shot at answering some of those unknowns as a restive Egypt prepares for what should be a pivotal weekend.
Mercer 14332
The Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission, the official government investigation of the root causes of the financial meltdown that started in 2007, issued its final report this week that spreads the blame around. “The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire,” the FCIC report states. “To paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies not in the stars but in us.” Us, according to the FCIC, also includes homeowners and American consumers for their part in inflating the housing and credit bubbles that eventually burst and dragged down the entire economy with them. While banks over extended themselves and at one point in 2008 12 of the 13 largest financial institutions had been at risk of failure, the report doesn’t spare average Americans who feasted on cheap credit and unrealistic home mortgages. Of course the final report comes six months after Congress passed a financial regulation overhaul bill and as business has largely returned to normal—while the housing market is still slumping, Wall Street firms are profitable and handing out big bonuses and consumers are starting to spend again. Without specific action is the FCIC final report anything more than an academic exercise?
Mercer 14323
It’s 2011 – the age of smart phones, text messaging, Facebook and Twitter. Sure, you can communicate in the blink of an eye with these electronic avenues, but it seems that as communication technology increases, actual physical interaction between human beings decreases. Just a few years ago, talking on the phone was the preferred form of communication, and while it isn’t person to person, at least there’s a real human voice involved. But now even a phone call can be considered too clunky – text messaging, instant messaging, and social media sites take the cake for communication now. So while it’s quicker and easier, is this technology dependence (and for many addiction) really giving us the lives we want to lead? How connected are you really if your main form of communication is over the internet? Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist from MIT, is here to talk about this phenomenon and her forecast for the future of human interaction and intimacy.
Mercer 14333
With over 40,000 homeless living on its streets, Los Angeles is the homeless capital of the country. Over the past decade, cities like Denver, New York and San Francisco have all dramatically reduced their homeless populations by building permanent housing. But here, homelessness has grown faster than the national rate and not enough housing has been built, in part because of discordant county and city governments. Why is it so difficult for disparate systems to work together in Los Angeles County and how can that stalemate be overcome? Patt asks those questions and more to city and county officials, service providers, residents and homeless in the Skid Row community. Together, they a look at new proposals such as the Home for Good plan, which combines the social service knowledge of nonprofit sector with the private business and aims to end homelessness with permanent housing by 2016. With so many plans proposed and failed, what if anything sets this ambitious model apart from the rest? And why has homelessness proven to be such a singularly intractable issue for Los Angeles while it has motivated so many other regions to act?
Find an archived Episode: