Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Patt Morrison for Thursday, August 25, 2011


Thursday, August 25, 2011

1-3 p.m.





1:06 – 1:19





1:21:30 – 1:39

Are highway emergency call boxes obsolete & should your tax $’s keep funding them?

They are ubiquitous on the highways around California, so reliable in their presence every couple of miles that they’re almost forgettable.  In the age of cell phones they have become almost forgettable, relics of an earlier era when pay phones were on every street corner and cheap cell phones weren’t in everyone’s pockets.  They are the emergency call boxes that line the state’s highway systems and even as they have arguably become obsolete you continue to fund them with your taxpayer dollars.  In 1990, 170,511 calls were made from those bright-yellow emergency call boxes that line San Diego County highways. By 2010, that number had dropped to 11,625. But during those same two decades, the special tax revenue that funds them has grown from $1.9 million to $2.6 million. So now, a Republican Assemblyman from San Diego wants to slash the service and cut the fees that fund call boxes, which are mostly taken from a $1 surcharge on your car registration.  As funds for the call boxes have grown they’ve been used for other services, like firefighting helicopters and quick response tow trucks, but not for their original intention, the call boxes. Do we still need to be funding the emergency call boxes on the side of every major highway in California? Is it worth keeping them around for the small percentage of motorists who don’t have cell phones?



State Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego), preparing legislation that could force reforms, including a possible phasing out of the program statewide



Los Angeles County is one of 29 of 58 California counties with a highway call box program. It has the largest system with more than 4,000 call boxes. All costs associated with the call box program are paid for by a $1 annual fee assessed on vehicles registered in the county. Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and regional "SAFE" agencies (Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways) jointly operate the program.




1:41:30 – 1:58:30

Yelp reviews: fake reviews vs. reviewer’s free speech vs. business’s right to protect against slander—where’s the line?
Business was steady for Dancing Deer Mountain, a mom and pop wedding venue in the small town of Junction City, Oregon—until one wedding went terribly wrong. Several rules of the venue contract were broken: outside alcohol was brought on the premises; combative behavior took place when owners warned of rules; a man exposed himself while urinating on the premises. Afterwards, five reviewers wrote scathing online reviews of Dancing Deer, including “These people are insane!,” “The owner… is absolutely crazy and in my opinion is in need professional help!,” and “DO NOT USE THIS VENUE!!!.” The aftermath: Dancing Deer Mountain’s business nearly halted, costing the venue a supposed $20,000 in lost revenue. The owners, Carol Neumann and Tim Benton, hired a company to write fake positive reviews to boost business, but that didn’t work as the disgruntled wedding party followed suit by adding more negative reviews. Against recommendations but with nothing else to do, the owners sued the reviewers; as expected, they lost under the Anti-SLAPP law, which protects the “little guy’s” free speech against a big corporation that can bankrupt him. The only problem, Carol Neumann says, is she’s not a big corporation; she’s a small business trying to protect its reputation—and livelihood.


These days, online reviews are widespread: restaurant and business reviews on Yelp and Citysearch; book, film, and product reviews on Amazon; doctor and lawyer reviews on Avvo; travel and hotel reviews on TripAdvisor; service reviews on Angie’s List. And businesses paying people to write fake positive reviews is on the rise—the going rate is $5 per fake positive review. Are you someone who reads reviews, someone who writes reviews, or a business owner or employee who’s concerned with the reviews? Are the sites still useful to you as a consumer looking for recommendations for businesses and services? Are the sites useful to you as a business—both in boosting reputation and in responding to negative feedback? Are consumer review sites important so that consumers can hold businesses accountable? Or, without a foolproof method of detecting fake reviews, defamation, or slander, are the sites inaccurate—or even deceptive and harmful?


Vince Sollitto, vice president of corporate communications, Yelp, Inc.



Josh King, vice president of business development & general counsel, Avvo, Inc., a site with ratings and reviews on doctors and lawyers





2:06 – 2:30

Novel ideas to old public policy problems: New York City Mayor Bloomberg ponies up to help disadvantaged youth

With incarceration rates high and educational and job opportunities low, the mayor of New York has decided to use his own fortune to do something about it, with a little help from billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros.  Mayor Bloomberg and Soros will each pledge $30 million of their own money toward implementing some innovative ideas to combat unemployment, high recidivism rates and low high school graduation rates.  This fall, the Bloomberg administration wants to place job-recruitment centers in public housing complexes, retrain probation officers to tackle the issue of high recidivism rates, provide fatherhood classes and establish criteria for assessing schools based on the performance of black and Latino students. Creative ideas for sure, but will they work and can they be implemented in Los Angeles without financing from billionaires?



Shawn Dove, the Manager of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Society Foundations


·        Investor and philanthropist George Soros established the Open Society Foundations, starting in 1984, to help countries make the transition from communism. Our activities have grown to encompass the United States and more than 70 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each foundation relies on the expertise of boards composed of eminent citizens who determine individual agendas based on local priorities.

·        The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. At the same time, we build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. The Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.

Robert Sainz, assistant general manager, Community Development Department for the City of Los Angeles



Elijah Anderson, professor of sociology at Yale University





2:30 – 2:58:30

Co-workers can be dangerous to your health

A study done over 20 years by researchers at Tel Aviv University reinforces what we all secretly knew: your co-workers are responsible for your health and happiness in the workplace. But did you know they could be responsible for your early death, too? Although a small, longitudinal study – scientists followed 820 adults in several occupations over 20 years – the research faces us with the fact that our workplace has a huge impact on our health, revealing that employees who claim no “peer social support” were 2.4 times more likely to die during the course of the study, especially if they started employment between the ages of 38 and 43. Longer hours at your job or a mean boss didn’t affect longevity, however – just the quality of and relationship with co-workers. Other research has found that control matters as well; a study which analyzed 28,000 English civil service workers starting in 1967 revealed that men and women who had the most control over their workplace were the healthiest and happiest. Indeed, workers at the bottom of the hierarchy were four times more likely to die than the people at the top. The Israeli study, however, found that only men with control were healthiest and that women fared better who had little or no control over what they did in their jobs. So, take a look around you – like what you see? Is it time to smile at the person in the next cubicle instead of growling a hello in the morning?



Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor at Wired; author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist; contributor to the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine and WNYC’s Radiolab.



Jonathan Serviss
Senior Producer, Patt Morrison
Southern California Public Radio
NPR Affiliate for Los Angeles
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