AirTalk for April 18, 2011

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U.S. sovereign debt goes from "stable" to "negative"

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service has downgraded its long-term outlook on the nation’s debt, signaling its doubts that Washington can stem its flood of red ink. The S&P outlook mirrors the feeling of many in the country that the White House and Congress will be unable to agree on a debt-reduction plan in the next two years. This morning the Dow Jones Industrial average plunged 200 points. Is this market dip a sign of things to come? What does this new rating foretell for the future? What about the reputation of the rating agency itself? Are these predictors to be trusted? What does any of this mean for your personal investments?
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Check it out: Porn in our public libraries?

The passage of Measure L last month is proof positive that we still place a great value on our libraries as bastions of learning and information. So can such a trusted resource be allowed to put any kind of limits on the information it disseminates? What if that information is pornographic? These are the thorny issues raised when constituents complained to City Councilman Ed Reyes about their children seeing porn on the public computers at the Chinatown branch of the LA Public library. What is the library’s current policy on filtering websites? Is it the library’s job to “shield” the public from porn? If websites are to be filtered who will establish the parameters?
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Sacramento Kings may travel… to Anaheim

Sacramento basketball fans are up in arms about their beloved team’s contemplated exit. The Kings have until May 2nd to formally apply to the NBA for permission to move to Anaheim, where they would become the Anaheim Royals. The decision to bring a third NBA team to Southern California could have big consequences for the Lakers and the Clippers, as it would dilute both their fan base and lucrative TV deals. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has rallied the business community to commit $7 million in sponsorships and ticket sales to keep the Kings at home, but the city may also have to throw in a new stadium to sweeten the pot. Billionaire Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL team the Pittsburgh Penguins, has offered to step in and buy the team in a bid to block the move. But owners Joe and Gavin Maloof insist the Kings are not for sale. All of this leaves fans wondering: when basketball season starts up next October, will they be rooting for the Kings, or the Royals?
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Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle, which went into excruciating detail of the grotesque conditions and practices at a meatpacking plant, played a seminal role in federal regulation of the agricultural industry. It is in this same vein that animal rights groups such as The Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been using surreptitious methods to document unsanitary conditions and abusive behavior at agricultural facilities on video. In Iowa, a state which leads the U.S. in pork and egg production, a bill outlawing undercover videos in agricultural facilities has passed through the House and the Senate Agriculture Committee, but hit a snag as the attorney general cited the issue of free speech in regards to prohibiting the use of imagery. Will the bill’s language be compromised to ensure passage? Is this another example of business using the government to protect and serve its own interests? Do the videos serve a positive societal purpose worth safeguarding?
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New LAUSD Superintendent discusses future plans

John Deasy, the new Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District lays out his agenda for the district’s ailing schools. Deasy wants to increase graduation rates from 55% to 70% by 2015, increase attendance, raise standardized test scores, improve English comprehension, and lower suspension rates. He also intends to double the rates of students in middle and high school who test proficient in math and triple the percentage of students that pass university prep courses. As an incentive he will receive a $10,000 bonus if he can raise graduation rates by 8% in any given year. Can the new Superintendent achieve such ambitious goals given the district’s budget crisis and the other serious problems LAUSD faces?
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Expert predictions are next to worthless

Everyday on television, on the radio, in newspapers, experts are offering predictions for the future. They tell us how much oil will be per gallon, what the political climate will be in a particular region of the world or who will win the Superbowl. But according to the author of a new book, all those experts may as well be reading tea leaves. Dan Gardner is a journalist and the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Science of Fear. His latest effort, Future Babble, pulls back the curtain on the industry of expert prediction and shows it for the shell game it is. We’ll find out the role our brain chemistry plays in avoiding uncertainty, how the media is complicit in the expert predictor ruse, and if there are any experts out there you can trust!
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