Patt Morrison for February 18, 2011

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It was a “tombstone” regulation, made by President George W. Bush on his way out of the White House in December of 2008—a regulation that would have prohibited recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers who refuse to perform or assist in care they felt violated their personal, moral or religious beliefs. The biggest issue was abortion and sterilization but the regulation was broad in its scope, potentially affecting the distribution of contraceptives, birth control pills and especially the controversial “morning after” pill. Today the Obama administration fulfilled an early promise to scrap the Bush regulation, rescinding most of the rules and replacing them with a much narrower version that leaves in place only the long-standing federal protections for workers who object to performing abortions or sterilizations. Religious groups were immediately critical of President Obama and abortion rights groups were equally critical because the president didn’t go far enough. How much leeway should be given to the moral objections of health care workers?
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Then Attorney General Jerry Brown caused quite a chasm when he declined to defend in court the majority voter-approved Proposition 8 that amended the California constitution to explicitly define marriage as existing between a man and woman. Gay marriage supporters hailed what they saw as Brown’s moral decency, while Prop 8 supporters cried political foul—how was it that a publicly elected official could absent himself from defending the “will of the people” by popular vote? Now, the former Attorney General candidate and current state Senator Tom Harkin (R-CA’s 35th District) is introducing Senate Bill 5, which would require the state attorney general to defend all voter-approved laws from legal challenges or authorize their sponsors to step in. If the political tables were turned—on gay marriage, healthcare or any number on equally-contentious issues—would those who cried foul in the prop 8 debate still support the AG to take that stand? What does the Attorney General’s office obligate its occupant to defend and should personal discretion enter into the equation?
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You’ve heard of Los Doyers – what about Los Lakers?

In what seems like an effort to court Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of the United States, the Los Angeles Lakers have just signed a 20-year contract with Timer Warner Cable to create a Spanish-language sports network heavily featuring the Lakers. The first of its kind network, set to launch at the start of the 2012-13 season, is the most recent attempt in a series of efforts by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Lakers to reach out to Latinos – the NBA launched éne-bé-a, an initiative including Spanish-language websites, ad campaigns, and specially branded merchandise. So does targeting a specific ethnic or racial group really do the trick in terms of marketing? Or could it come off as offensive to said group (or others)?
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It’s an idea that’s been kicked around for decades but one that has increasing relevance in the American economy of 2011, when families are still struggling with their finances and income inequality continues to grow at a rapid clip: the idea of providing free, universal access to childcare and early childhood education. Sen. Bernie Sanders has just introduced the “Foundations for Success Act” that would provide childcare and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten. Through a national competition among states, modeled closely after the “Race for the Top” competition for education funds, states would apply for federal grants and establish high standards for early child care and education. Sen. Sanders argues that giving this kind of access to care and education is essential for keeping the United States economically competitive to other countries and helping to speed along the economic recovery. Critics would content that, while the idea of universal childcare is nice, there is simply no way the country can afford it right now. Would the hefty investment in free childcare and early education pay off in the end for American families?
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For the last few years, the state of Michigan – like many other states around the country - has offered lucrative tax credits to film companies in order to lure business; in fact those incentives have been among the most generous in the nation. But in the midst of a budget crunch, Governor Rick Snyder’s new fiscal plan would eliminate the uncapped business credits for film and instead allocate $25 million in general fund dollars for film incentives, beginning in fiscal 2012. Economists and politicians differ on the benefits of these subsidies to state coffers, depending on how the numbers are tweaked and interpreted, while the real issue is – do these subsidies create permanent jobs or just temporary employment. And to the home town interest, will this be a boon for the movie business here in California, where it all began?
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Actor Charlie Sheen goes off the rails time after time, then goes back on TV, and the ratings go up. His ex-wife, Denise Richards, told Barbara Walters in a pre-taped episode of The View that will air today [Friday], “…this is Charlie's lifestyle. He makes no bones about it... and it is what it is." Viewers don’t seem to care that the popular star of Two and a Half Men has been lying low in his mansion since being rushed to the hospital after a 36-hour episode filled with alcohol, cocaine and porn stars, and that his absence left his hit CBS show on production hiatus, putting his crew out of work. Is this more mutually exploitive Hollywood and just another in a long string of similar episodes where studios and the public overlook the problems of major stars in trouble? Or does reality mirror fiction so closely that we all just go along with it?
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