Patt Morrison for July 27, 2011

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We’ve been hearing of the pain and slow demise of the U.S. Postal Service for several years now. E-mail and text messages, tablets and smart phones, all on top of private express delivery services have meant a loss of revenue for the postal service. Price of stamps has increased and the idea of ending Saturday delivery has been kicked around, but nobody had seriously discussed the end of mail as we know it, until now. Yesterday, the postal service released a list of 3,700 post offices it has slated for closure, over 100 of which are in California. Wherever you live in the Southland, chances are a post office near you will close before the end of this year. According to the list, which is open for public comment for the next 60 days, Compton and Beverly Hills will each lose at least one post office; so will Laguna Woods, San Bernardino and the cities of Ontario and Orange. Inglewood will lose four; at least 10 are on the chopping block in Los Angeles. In total, it only amounts to about 1% of the 32,000 post offices across the country. Still, with those closures comes a loss of jobs as well as access to mail service in poor and rural communities where private services can’t turn a profit and residents may not have access to the newest technology.
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Redistricting – the complicated but hugely significant task of redrawing voting district lines – will come to a close this Friday. That's when the California Citizens Redistricting Commission releases its final district maps.
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Trying to demonstrate the catastrophic magnitude of a possible government default and shutdown after August 2nd, the deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise the debt ceiling and the point at which the federal government will run out of cash, President Obama yesterday said that the government sends out “70 million” checks every month. According to the Washington Post that figure is closer to 80 million checks and runs the gambit from Social Security checks to Medicare payments, salaries for members of the military to rail road pensioners, all of which could be impacted if the debt ceiling is not raised next week. The massive size and scope of government services could be fuel for either side of the deficit debate—it either demonstrates the bloated size of a federal structure that desperately needs to be shrunken or it represents the vital services that the government provides to hundreds of millions of Americans. Either way, the truth is that the affects of a default on American loans after August 2nd are still largely unknown and hard to predict. Some analysts believe the government has enough cash on hand to continue bare-bone services until about August 15, but at the same time the credit rating of American bonds is sure to sink, havoc could break out on trading markets in the U.S. and beyond and interest rates could soar. We try to imagine life under the debt ceiling if Congress and the president fail to raise the roof by next Tuesday.
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has just approved a new measure that grants animal control officers a greater amount of freedom when determining if a dog is vicious. K9 prisons, rehab and therapy ruled out as options – dogs, more often than not, face one punishment: euthanasia. Among other new qualifiers, “vicious dogs” now encompass those that inflict “serious illness or injury.” This is in contrast to the typical definition of vicious – the causing of fractures, lacerations or muscle tears. Some are concerned that innocent dogs will face unnecessary deaths. Others believe that this will give dog owners more incentive to keep their rowdier pets in line. What do you think about the changes?
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Computer-brain: biology inspires binary

The most powerful computer on the planet would need 8 ½ minutes to simulate less than ten seconds of normal human brain activity. That same computer will consume 1.4 million watts of energy, while the brain will consume about ten. These are the numbers researchers at Stanford were facing when they decided to design a nanoscale computational device that would attempt to emulate synapses of the brain. With the rapid expansion of computational technology and terms like "the singularity" and "quantum computing" becoming more a part of the pop-culture lexicon - we are left to wonder... What does a more “brain-like” computer mean for the future of technology? What implications could this have for artificial intelligence and where could we find ourselves in the future? Come with questions.
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