as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

South Dakotans Again Consider An Abortion Ban

Its deja vu all over again in South Dakota, where voters are being asked for the second election in a row to approve or reject a ban on abortion. Two years ago, voters just said no to a ban so sweeping it allowed almost no exceptions. This year, the proposed ban is a little less rigid. But opponents say it's still too extreme. And partisans on both sides know it's not just abortions in South Dakota at stake: If the ban is passed, it could be used to mount a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the right to abortion nationwide.

Limiting Exceptions

Initiated Measure 11 is the formal name of the abortion referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. It would ban virtually all abortions in the state, with limited exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or health of the woman. At this house, Moss scores a hit, as Flanagan says he'll be voting against the ban. "I don't believe in government telling people what to do," he says.But while a strong libertarian streak among South Dakota voters like Flanagan helped defeat the ban two years ago, South Dakota is still a very conservative state when it comes to abortion.

That's apparent around the corner, at the home of ZoAnn Trumbull. "I believe abortion is wrong, it's murder," she tells Moss' canvassing colleague, Hassan Ali. "And according to the Bible, thou shall not murder. … And there are a lot of people out there who need to adopt those babies that need to be adopted, and that's the way we stand," she says politely, but firmly.

"Countless people said, 'If you'd had an exception for rape and incest, then we'd have voted with you,' " he says. So in version 2.0, he explains, "we're giving the people of South Dakota what they wanted. This bill, this initiative, basically has exceptions for rape, incest and health and life of the mother."

Unruh says he recognized that some compromise was necessary. "Ideally, I'd like to save every child possible, but we don't live in that type of world right now. So to me, it's kind of like if the Titanic is sinking, would you say, 'Let's not lower the lifeboats because you can't save them all?' Let's save every person we can."

Across town, at the current Planned Parenthood clinic, CEO Sarah Stoesz says all the talk of limits on the ban is nothing but a smoke screen.

"If this ban is passed, it means that there will be no abortions performed in South Dakota," she says.

-excerpt from NPR

Friday, October 24, 2008

Survey: U.S. Doctors Regularly Prescribe Placebos

Placebos are common in medical research testing. One group of volunteers gets a test drug, while another group gets a look-alike sugar pill. Everybody is told upfront that they could get one or the other.

But a new survey finds that many U.S. doctors regularly prescribe placebos even in everyday patient care — for conditions that haven't responded to treatment, such as chronic pain or fatigue. Patients are almost never aware that they are getting a placebo. The idea is that if a patient thinks the pill will help, it just might.

Of nearly 700 U.S. internal medicine doctors and arthritis specialists surveyed, almost half said they prescribe placebos regularly — two to three times a month. Only 1 in 20 doctors told patients they were getting a placebo.Doctors say they most often will prescribe a vitamin pill or over-the-counter painkiller, though some prescribe an antibiotic or sedative, which the authors of the study say could be harmful. Typically, doctors tell patients the placebo is "potentially helpful, but not designed for your specific illness."

"Half of all American internists and rheumatologists using placebos was a real surprise to me," says Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, head of ethics at the National Institutes of Health and an author of the study, which appears in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.

-excerpt from NPR

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Walter Reed' for combat dogs opens at Texas bas

A new $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs. Dogs working for all branches of the military and the Transportation Safety Administration are trained at the base to find explosive devices, drugs and land mines. Some 2,500 dogs are working with military units.

Like soldiers and Marines in combat, military dogs suffer from war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working. Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown to Germany for care. If necessary, they'll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.

"We act as the Walter Reed of the veterinary world," said Army Col. Bob Vogelsang, hospital director, referring to the Washington military medical center that treats troops returning severely wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan. The dogs can usually return to combat areas if they recover at the Military Working Dog Center, he said.

-excerpt from AP, NPR

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Campaigns Take Flak For Using Robocalls

One of the least glamorous devices in politics has landed in the headlines: Republican John McCain is taking criticism for using robocalls, or automated phone calls, to spread negative messages about Democrat Barack Obama. Campaigns like robocalls because they are incredibly cheap and cost a small fraction of a piece of direct mail.

The most recent robocall is a McCain message that accuses Obama of being a radical dupe for terrorists. "Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC, because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers…" begins one robocall.

This call has caused an uproar — partly for its method and partly for its message. McCain and the Republican National Committee also have a robocall about Obama and abortion. Those who object include Republican senators fighting for re-election. But Sunday on Fox News, McCain said he's not stopping his phone campaign against Obama. "Of course not. These are legitimate and truthful," he said on the program.

Economics Of Robocalls

Studies show that robocalls usually aren't that effective. Dakin says it's their economics that keep them going. "Essentially, all you need to do is buy a computer server with the right software on it, and you have a robocall system. So if they're relatively low quality done over the Internet — called voice over IP — those can be as low as a quarter of a cent a call," he said.

David Magleby is a political scientist at Brigham Young University who studies political communication strategies. He has two possible interpretations of McCain's big push with robocalls. It could be that McCain's campaign is using them instead of far more costly TV ads. Or it could be "that they may not have the volunteer base that the Bush campaign had in 2000 or 2004, and so they're going to robocalls rather than having volunteers call," he added. Either way, McCain's phone operations are so intense, they may set a new standard for robocall saturation and, perhaps, for their impact.

-excerpt from NPR

Monday, October 20, 2008

God Wins In Nebraska Court.

Nebraska state Sen. Ernie Chambers sought an injunction against God last year for widespread death and destruction. Judge Marlon Polk threw out the suit, saying there's no way to properly notify the defendant. You can't serve papers on a suspect with no address. Chambers says he may appeal. He says God is aware of the charges because he is all-knowing.

-excerpt from NPR

the link to hear the story:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Is Joe The Plumber?

Joe Wurzelbacher, an Ohio man looking to buy a plumbing business, came to symbolize the notion of spreading the wealth in Wednesday night's third and final presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Earlier this week, when Wurzelbacher got a chance to speak with Obama during a campaign appearance in Toledo, he told Obama that his tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him. Sensing an opportunity during the debate, McCain cited that exchange when the candidates were asked to explain why their economic plans are better than their opponent's. McCain said Obama's plan would stop entrepreneurs from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

"Joe wants to buy the business that he has been in for all of these years, worked 10, 12 hours a day. And he wanted to buy the business but he looked at your tax plan and he saw that he was going to pay much higher taxes," McCain challenged Obama.

"You were going to put him in a higher tax bracket which was going to increase his taxes, which was going to cause him not to be able to employ people, which Joe was trying to realize the American dream," McCain said. McCain then looked directly into the television camera and said: "Joe, I want to tell you, I'll not only help you buy that business that you worked your whole life for and I'll keep your taxes low and I'll provide available and affordable health care for you and your employees. And I will not stand for a tax increase on small business income."

Obama denied that was true. "Not only do 98 percent of small businesses make less than $250,000, but I also want to give them additional tax breaks, because they are the drivers of the economy," Obama said. "They produce the most jobs."

-excerpt from NPR