Patt Morrison for February 9, 2011

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A huge debate was sparked last year after a 15-year-old girl overdosed on Ecstasy and died at Electric Daisy Carnival, an annual music festival and party that many would classify as a rave. Since then, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has taken a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, though, issued fliers and postcards at two recent parties with information on Ecstasy use. The flier includes information on the drug itself, potential side effects and harms, and ways to minimize such risks when taking the drug. When the Board of Supervisors caught wind of this, Chairman Michael Antonovich issued a directive to the Department of Public Health stating that the fliers be immediately revised to explicitly state that illegal drug use is not condoned, permitted, nor promoted by the county. The DPH is complying with the request and will issue new information cards soon. But the question (very similar to the one raised in the abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education debate) remains: when taking a zero-tolerance policy, should the county withhold information about Ecstasy that could save lives? When it comes down to it, is there harm in educating the public on ways to more safely participate in recreational drug use?
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What is the deal with these renewable energy projects in the desert? First, a federal appellate panel ruled last week that the Department of Energy failed to adequately consult with states or conduct public reviews before establishing high-voltage electric transmission corridors through the Mojave Desert. Then, this week federal officials from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy began holding meetings throughout California and five other western states to better inform the public about the kinds of activities that solar plants create on public lands. That’s because private solar energy enterprises want to build big plants on public lands, and they want the federal government to “fast-track” those renewable energy zones. But would fast-tracking some zones, like the ones up for consideration in Imperial County, bring jobs to those areas where unemployment hovers at a stubborn 29-30%? And are there environmental considerations to be made about the potential damage caused by solar construction to its surrounding ecosystem and animals like the desert tortoise? The Secretary of the Interior throws the switch here and Patt hears from some people on all sides of the debate.
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Borders bookstore: a not-so-happily ever after story

Remember the day when the big-red-and-white Borders bookstore popped up on a commercial business corner near you? They had their avid book-loving followers and their loyal independent-bookstore-going boycotters. But a bookstore with music, movies, and a built-in coffee shop was a new concept—Borders has something for everyone. Now, the monster store demonized for crushing independent bookstores has now been crushed itself. By 2000, the rise of online book sellers like Amazon.com and discount retailers like WalMart and Target had caused a dramatic reduction in people visiting Borders. In addition to forces beyond its control, Borders may have accelerated its own demise by moving too slowly into the digital age, with a clunky website to purchase books from and without its own kindle (Amazon) or Nook (Barnes & Noble) equivalent until recently. With the Westwood/UCLA Borders closed and the Glendale Borders in trouble, what will be the fate of brick-and-mortar bookstores as we know them?
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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has been in the job for just over a year, and he can point to a decline in crime, with a homicide rate for 2010 that has dropped to the level of 1967, as a validation of his policing methods. But gang units being dismantled, diminishing budgets, charges of racial profiling on the part of LAPD officers and controversies over the use of deadly force continue to dog his efforts to raise morale and keep crime rates low. You can ask the hard questions about these issues and more as the chief joins Patt for our regular Q&A.
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What could be better than enjoying wine and cheese (and maybe some fried chicken) while listening to music under the stars with 17,000 of your closest friends? The first season of the Hollywood Bowl began in 1922 with conductor Alfred Hertz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Many great performers have graced its stage over the years since including Billie Holiday, Elton John and Andrea Bocelli. What’s in store for 2011? Gustavo Dudamel returns, Dolly Parton and Sarah McLachlan grace the stage for the first time and there is a special guest who may make you say, “I wish” I had a seat. Summer in Los Angeles isn’t complete without at least one night at the Bowl, tune in and you’ll almost feel the wooden benches underneath and the stars overhead.
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