AirTalk for May 18, 2010

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Some retired employees say the Forest Service’s own inquiry into the Station Fire glossed over problems. They’re calling for an independent investigation of events that led to the deaths of two fire fighters. What were the original investigators' conclusions? What might a new inquiry uncover?
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City Council approves cuts to Los Angeles budget

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a plan to cut city services and eliminate 761 jobs. The $6.7 billion budget would cut child-care positions, reduce library hours, increase the cost of parking tickets, and allow for up to 26 furlough days for city employees during the next fiscal year, starting July 1. The City Council also called for unions to offer about $100 million in pay cuts and medical and pension contributions. Are these measures too drastic, and are there other options?
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The California Fair Elections Act, Proposition 15, would repeal the ban on public funding of political campaigns in California. It would also create a voluntary system for candidates for Secretary of State to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to limitations on spending and private contributions. This measure would also charge lobbyists, lobby firms and lobbyist employers a fee of $700 every two years to pay for publicly funded elections. If the proposition passes in the June 8 election, it’s estimated that revenues from these fees would generate $6 million every four-year election cycle. Larry moderates a debate between proponents and opponents of Proposition 15.
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In the last five days some 37 people have been killed and others injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and the army in Thailand. The protestors—called Red Shirts—want the prime minister to resign and call immediate elections. Yesterday, a new round of violence occurred after the government told red shirts to disperse or face two years in prison. What’s behind all the violence? Who wants what? And what impact does the unrest have in Southern California, home to the largest Thai community of outside of Thailand?
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Primary races in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas have election watchers nationwide on the edge of their seat. Party-switching five-time incumbent Senator Arlen Specter is facing an unexpected challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning’s pick to succeed him, Trey Grayson may be upset by Tea Party favorite Rand Paul in Kentucky. And, Arkansas incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s numbers are slipping as national unions pump money into the state to fund her Democratic opponent. Will an anti-incumbent mood prevail?
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CalPERS asks state for $600 million

The Board of Directors of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as CalPERS, is asking the state for $600 million to help provide benefits to its members. CalPERS is seeking the increase to make up for steep investment losses. With California going through it's own budget problems, Larry Mantle discusses this breaking story and what it means for the state.
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Some Girls: a memoir of life in a harem

As an eighteen year-old NYU theater school dropout, Jillian Lauren got a tip for an audition seeking pretty girls to spice up the parties of a wealthy businessman. Soon after, she was on a plane to Brunei, finding herself in the harem of the Sultan's youngest brother, Prince Jefri Bolkiah. While her days were filled with opulent luxury, she came to realize that she was a near-slave competing with 40 other women for the affections of the prince. In her memoir Some Girls, Lauren frankly recounts the 18 months she spent in the prince's palace, her decision to return home, and her later pursuit of a healthy life. What lessons - if any - did Jillian Lauren learn from her surreal experiences?
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