Patt Morrison for July 14, 2011

Mercer 19447
The UC Regents today are expected to approve an increase in student tuitions by 9.6%, on top of a previously approved 8% boost, both of which are scheduled to go into effect for the fall. Combined the average increase will mean $1,818 more out of students’ pockets in the coming years, pushing the cost of UC education over $13,000 a year. The Cal State Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted to raise tuition by 12%, also the second increase in a year, that will make the average price for a year at a CSU campus about $6,400—twice the cost of what it was in 2007. While tuitions are going up, again, at both CSU and UC the programs, classes and staffs are all being cut, meaning that students are paying more for less. This is the culmination of an unfortunate perfect storm for California’s higher education students: at a time when a college diploma and training is more valuable than ever before, and an affordable four year university is key during a slumping economy, the state’s public education institutions are pulling back. The aforementioned bad economy and state budget deficits that are annual occurrences has added up to severe cutbacks at California’s once-prized universities. We hear directly from the students to see how they’ll cope with another year of higher tuitions.
Mercer 19443
The hand-held facial-recognition device can snap a picture of a face from up to five feet away, or scan a person's irises from up to six inches away, and immediately search for a match in a database of people with criminal records. No, it’s not a scene from the movie “Minority Report” or Facebook’s latest tagging technology, but the product description of a Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, which can attach to the back of an iPhone. Until recently, such a device was only found in military operations, but it could soon be coming to a sheriff’s department near you. Law enforcement groups are split on the matter; police in Arizona are eager to use the gadget to identify people who aren't carrying their ID when stopped, while the National Association of Police Organizations is concerned that, because of its close range, iris scanning could be considered a "search." A search requires a warrant, so without one, facial scanning faces a host of civil liberties challenges, not to mention a bunch of significant questions about privacy in public places. It’s generally legal for anyone with a camera to take pictures of people in public space but once a law-enforcement officer stops someone, a different standard applies. Would you submit to facial scanning? And is the technology up to par after years of jumpstarts, like the attempt at Logan airport, where the system couldn’t even detect the images of employees whose photos were in the database?
Mercer 19430
Within three days of the January 12, 2010 earthquake that claimed thousands of lives and laid waste to much of Haiti’s infrastructure, Harvard physician Paul Farmer traveled to Haiti and offered his aid to the injured. In the months afterward, he witnessed widespread human suffering and disease, as well as misdirected, ineffective relief efforts by the international community. Farmer’s new book, Haiti: After the Earthquake, recounts his experience of the event’s consequences and how they exacerbated larger societal problems in Haiti that he has identified over 30 years of living there. Join Patt for an illuminating discussion with Dr. Farmer, now the UN Special Deputy Envoy to Haiti, and weigh in with your humanitarian questions and comments.
Mercer 19446
With negotiations on a “grand bargain” that would dramatically reduce the federal budget deficit, through some combination of spending cuts and tax increases, breaking down in an ugly fashion—and with an August 2nd deadline looming to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. starts to default—the blame game is on. Congressional Republicans blame President Obama, and not just for the failure to reach a compromise, but on the lousy overall state of the economy, the huge $14 trillion deficit and for playing class warfare politics. President Obama blames Republicans for refusing to consider new tax increase on the wealthy even as he is offering up broad cuts in entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, that Democrats hold sacred. Who do you blame? According to a new Quinnipiac poll, you blame just about everyone and a political ghost from our not too distant past. The country is in a recession, 71% of American voters say in the poll, but by 54 – 27% they blame former President George W. Bush more than President Obama. President Obama’s approval ratings are still languishing at 47% but Congress fares much worse. Voters say by 67 – 25% that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts. In Washington, not surprisingly, each group is blaming the other. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid called House Majority leader Eric Cantor, who reportedly had a blow up with the president during negotiations yesterday, “childish.” Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell declared that no real solution to the deficit was possible as long as President Obama was in office. These criticisms are predictable, but what remains unpredictable is the ultimate outcome of this showdown and which side voters will punish in 2012. Who do you blame?
Mercer 19442

Making city roads a driver’s nightmare

Inching along surface streets in bumper-to-bumper traffic can be hellish, but imagine driving in a city with structures and regulations specifically designed to torture car users—with large portions of blocked road, fees for traveling in congested areas, popular biking programs authorized to hog car lanes, closely spaced red lights, and reduced parking. Oh, the horror! But many European cities, like Vienna, Paris, Barcelona, London and Stockholm, are taking exactly these measures to meet their Kyoto Protocol emission obligations and make their urban environments more livable for humans. It seems that Americans often change their cities to make them better for their cars—the upcoming 405 closure and toll lanes come to mind—and not necessarily for their inhabitants, as the Europeans do. Some have pointed out that such transportation changes are easier for them than for us, since cars are so deeply entrenched in American culture, and because many European cities have old, narrow avenues that can’t easily handle automobile congestion. But others attribute the “improvements” to strong policy and a conscious shift in European public attitudes. Though New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg “pedestrianized” Times Square, there haven’t been similar large-scale changes yet. Will Americans ever be able to put the environment ahead of their cars? And if so, will we do it differently from the Europeans? Weigh in with your transit questions and comments.
Find an archived Episode: