AirTalk for September 12, 2011

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Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 9/11

Rituals of remembrance took place across the country yesterday. From Manhattan Beach to Ground Zero, from Culver City to D.C., Americans marked ten years since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. There were honor guard ceremonies, community breakfasts for first responders, prayer services and concerts. President Barack Obama travelled to New York City then Shanksville, Pennsylvania to meet with survivors. In the evening, he spoke at the Washington National Cathedral – where, earlier in the day, the cathedral tolled its 12-ton funeral bell at the four moments when airplanes struck the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, hit the Pentagon, and crashed in Pennsylvania. The solemnity in Washington and New York had a backdrop of heightened security in response to last week's terrorism warning. On AirTalk last Thursday and Friday, we spoke with individuals closest to the tragedy and the aftermath of 9/11. Now we want to hear from listeners. How do you feel ten years on? Does it still affect you? What do you think of how it changed the country and the world? New investigations over the last several days revealed more about what happened on the morning of 9/11 and about counterterrorism operations in the U.S. What struck you? Finally, how did you mark the anniversary yesterday, and what have the memorials meant to you?
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Six Democrats, six Republicans – and a $1.2 trillion dollar mountain of debt. President Obama’s so-called “Super Committee,” appointed last month by House and Senate leaders, met for the first time last week. Their mission: find enough savings in the federal budget to wipe out the deficit, and do it by November 23rd. If they fail, automatic budget cuts will kick in, split between defense and domestic programs, to take effect over the next 10 years. How will they accomplish this super-human feat of mathematical, political and diplomatic skill? And will it be enough? According to the Congressional Budget Office, Washington is poised to outspend its projected tax revenues by $4.6 trillion during the next ten years – four times the committee’s mandate. And, Republicans complain, the president isn’t making their job easier with his proposed $447 billion jobs plan, which calls for further tax cuts, hiring incentives, infrastructure spending and assistance for the unemployed. Democrats, on the other hand, have pointed out that if passed, the American Jobs Act could do its job and stimulate economic growth up to three percentage points, translating into $30 to $90 billion in potential debt reduction. Is the Super Committee our last and only hope? Can they use their superpowers to get us out of this mess? Will they be able to put partisanship aside to come up with a solution that will please all the people, all the time? And most importantly – will it work?
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Last Friday, September 9th, was the last day of the legislative year and the last chance for California’s congress to send legislation to the governor’s desk. The democratic controlled congress pushed through a number of controversial bills, angering their republican counterparts. In the 11th hour lawmaking flurry, some bills were gutted and amended, other’s brought back from the dead and some were written late in the day and came before both houses after midnight. That’s the case with one of the most polarizing of the last minute bills, a measure that would push all ballot initiatives from the June ballot to the November general election. The bill’s author, democratic Senator Loni Hancock of Berkley, says it gives more of the electorate a chance to vote on important measures. Republicans, however, see it as a cynical power grab. Another bill that will soon cross Governor Brown’s desk is one that would ban alcohol sales in self-checkout lines. The goal is to control youth access to alcohol and the bill was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and several law enforcement groups. Critics contend it’s nothing more than a nod to powerful grocery unions. Governor Brown hasn’t given any hints about how he’s leaning on that one or on another bill that gives online retailer Amazon another year before it’s forced to collect California sales tax. That measure is being called a “classic compromise” by lawmakers, but it would deprive California coffers of about $200 million dollars in revenue. So, what will actually receive the governor’s signature? Did democrats overstep in trying to curtail the initiative process? And how will California’s bottom line be affected by last week’s legislative whirlwind?
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Rolling the dice on America

From colonial horse racing to dog fighting, football pools and online poker, America has always been a nation of gamblers. But as states have come to rely more and more on gaming as a revenue source, we’ve seen a corresponding increase in casinos, slot machines and video poker – accompanied by a nationwide rise in gambling addiction. In 2007, Americans lost more than $92 billion gambling – about nine times what they lost in 1982. In its 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association will reclassify pathological gambling as a “behavioral addiction” akin to alcohol and drug addiction. If you or someone you know is hooked on gambling, you may already be aware of the havoc it can wreak on your family, your work, your finances and your life. But what about the larger picture – the destructive effect it has on society? In his new book, Sam Skolnik asks: what is the cost of our nation’s gambling sickness? What are the roots of this self-destructive behavior, and what is being done in the way of treatment? If you or someone you know needs treatment for problem gambling, the government-sponsored treatment hotline is 1-800-522-4700. The California government's treatment program can be found at problemgambling.ca.gov .
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