Patt Morrison for March 10, 2011

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Failing to find common ground, the Democratic members of Wisconsin’s state senate fled the state rather than be forced into voting for a budget, that included sharp cuts to state services and eliminated collective bargaining for public workers unions. The logic was that without their participation the state senate could not find a quorum and therefore could not vote on a controversial bill—Republicans in Wisconsin worked around that logic yesterday, separating out the ban on collective bargaining and passing the bill without Democrats present. Suffice it to say Democrats, union members and critics of Wisconsin’s embattled Republican Gov. Scott Walker have gone ballistic, ensuring that an ugly scene played out over the past several weeks in Madison was only going to get worse. The GOP-run state assembly is scheduled to vote on the collective bargaining bill this afternoon, which is assured of success and of being signed by Gov. Walker, ending the ability of public sector unions to negotiate contracts with the state. Why couldn’t the two sides come together and is Wisconsin a bellwether for union battles to come in other states?
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The man in charge of construction, facilities planning & development for Los Angeles Community Colleges is out. The LACCD Board of Trustees announced the decision to terminate Larry Eisenberg’s contract yesterday, a little over a week after the LA Times published an exhaustive, damning series about the waste, shoddy workmanship and shady financial dealings in taxpayer-financed construction projects for LA’s community colleges. That alleged wheeling and dealing was made possible by a series of voter-approved bond measures that sent $5.7 billion from tax payers to the Community College District. Yesterday, in a letter to faculty and staff, LACCD Chancellor Daniel LaVista admitted to some of the district’s failings and promised to recoup some of the lost money and revamp broken systems. How deep did the problems run, and how much of the total cost to taxpayers can be recouped? And was Eisenberg the root of the problem or just a scapegoat?
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In high school we took a history class, a science class (biology, physiology, or chemistry), a geography class and perhaps some kind of religious or cultural anthropology class. Four different disciplines, four different classes, four different teachers, four different sets of curriculum. But what happens when elements of all of those classes overlap, and instead of getting one big, comprehensive view of how the world works, students are left with fractured lessons and materials? There is an experiment that is about to launch in a few 9th grade classrooms across the country, in schools that will come from rich and poor school districts and include private schools and magnets, that might radically change the way high school curriculum is shaped. Called the Big History Project, with the backing of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it’s an introduction to the big ideas of methods of science and history, packaging the big ideas of the cosmos and the history of the human race into one lesson plan. It could revolutionize the way we teach high school…will it work?
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Sharkfin soup bill bites back

Conservationists and some Chinese American leaders are clashing over California Assembly Bill 376, which would ban the possession and distribution of shark fins throughout California. The bill, introduced last month by Assemblymen Jared Huffman and Paul Fong, would prevent hundreds of restaurants from serving shark-fin soup, a 1,800-year-old Chinese delicacy that can cost up to $100 a bowl and is a mark of prestige at traditional weddings and banquets. Supporters of the bill say that increasing demand for the dish is a major cause of declining shark populations, and also promotes the illegal fishing practice known as “finning,” which involves cutting off the fins and tail of living sharks and tossing them back into the sea, where they ultimately starve to death. Opponents of the ban, which is also supported by a number of Asian American chefs and activists, say it tramples hundreds of years of Chinese tradition.
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Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York and chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, made the direction of his hearings on the potential radicalization of American Muslims clear from the onset: "Homegrown radicalization is part of al-Qaida's strategy to continue attacking the United States," King said as he opened the hearings. And so began a morning of emotional testimony during a hearing that has been characterized as modern McCarthyism by critics and as asking hard but necessary questions about American security from supporters. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, told the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old Muslim who rushed to the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 to help out, only to be killed when the buildings collapsed. James Clapper, the country’s National Intelligence Director, said that 2010 saw more plots involving homegrown terror plots involving Sunni extremists than in the previous year. Is it fair or accurate to label American Muslims a threat to national security, or to even suggest that the community needs watching—and will these hearings be constructive to finding common ground?
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Thirteen year old Patrick Minassians and his eighth grade class were challenged by their teacher to ‘pay it forward’ by finding a concrete way to help their community. Patrick, who loves soccer and math, also has a passion for cooking. As his mother Mary puts it, “He is simply obsessed with good food, good recipes and healthy eating. He is my little nutritionist.” And so Patrick put the two together – the challenge and his skills in the kitchen - and collected 50 family recipes into a cookbook which he sells online, with the proceeds going to Union Station Homeless Services in the San Gabriel Valley. A budding entrepreneur or philanthropist? Patrick tells his story as he joins Patt in studio.
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