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!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flu Worries Pump Up Sales Of Hand Sanitizer

Concern over the H1N1, or swine flu, virus has been a big boost for companies that make hand sanitizer.

More than $117 million worth of the clear gels were sold in the United States last year, according to Information Resources Inc. of Chicago. The company's figures don't include retail giant Walmart, but they show that overall there was a 17 percent increase in hand sanitizer sales in the year ending Sept. 6. For August, IRI reported a 50 percent jump in sales over the same month in 2008.

Ohio-based Gojo Industries invented Purell, the best-selling hand sanitizer. The company still makes the Purell that goes into dispensers in hospitals and schools. (Johnson & Johnson distributes the Purell you buy in the grocery store.)

Recently, Gojo issued a statement saying the company was experiencing high demand, and it asked customers not to hoard its product.

"There is absolutely no need to stockpile product," said President and CEO Mark Lerner. "In fact, stockpiling could cause an actual shortage which, in turn, could threaten public health."

Gojo says it's ramping up production — keeping factories open around the clock and hiring more workers.

Look around the campus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and you can see why the folks at Gojo are so busy. There are hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere. The school has been hit with more than 565 cases of flu since classes started in August.

One administrator at the school took a lot of ribbing because he brought sanitizer with him to graduation ceremonies in May.

"We had hand sanitizer placed at two different positions as you were about to ascend the stairs to the stage and two different positions as you descended," says Paul Voakes, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

After shaking 15 to 20 hands, Voakes says he'd rub a little sanitizer on his hands to make sure any bugs he picked up didn't get passed on.

"To my knowledge, nobody got swine flu as a result of our commencement," Voakes says.

Lest you think buying a bottle of hand sanitizer is all you need to ward off swine flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says washing your hands is just the start. The agency suggests that you get a flu vaccination and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. If you do get sick, stay home. And when you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, then throw it away.

-excerpt from NPR

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fighter Jet's Noise Worries Some Potential Neighbors

The Air Force says within a few weeks it will release a list of preferred bases for the next generation fighter aircraft, which is now being flight-tested. As many as 200 bases around the country are candidates for the F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

Too Loud?
Hear recordings of F-35 landings in Valpraiso
But while many of the communities near those bases would welcome the economic benefits of the new mission, they would not be as welcoming to the noise the aircraft bring.

Air Force data suggests that, depending on altitude, the F-35 is three to 12 times louder than the A-10 attack aircraft. For some, it's the sound of freedom.

"This is our nation's defense," says Bruce Dusenberry, a member of the DM-50, a civic group that promotes the Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, Ariz. "This is the security of our freedoms. So that's equally important that we support our military for those reasons."

The group says it supports any new mission the Air Force plans in Tucson because of the importance to the local economy.

But some residents hear a different tune.

"If they love the sound of freedom so much, I'll be happy to sell them my house," says Gail Cordy, who sits on a community relations committee set up to work with the military over noise issues.

Each day, dozens of A-10's fly over Cordy's home in midtown. She figures about half her neighbors oppose louder flights, but are afraid to speak out.

"They don't want to be seen as unpatriotic," she says. "And that label has been leveled at us more than once."

It really is a sticky issue for any community leader.

"We'd be proud to be known as Fighter Town U.S.A.," says John Arnold, mayor of Valparaiso, Fla. The city is next to Eglin Air Force Base, another candidate for the F-35s.

Yet, Valparaiso is suing the Air Force over noise from the aircraft. The lawsuit claims the Air Force didn't adequately disclose its noise measurements in its environmental impact statement.

"We just take exception to the final [environmental impact statement], which put lots of noise over the city of Valparaiso," he says. According to Air Force data, he continues, the noise would make the city almost uninhabitable.

One part of the lawsuit was settled. Valparaiso is still asking for a more thorough environmental impact statement, which Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, says it will get.

The decision on where to base the F-35 includes a lot of factors, she says, and noise is just one of them. It won't be the deciding factor, she warns.

"There is not a specific point in time where we eliminate a base from contention because of noise," Ferguson says.

Proximity to training areas will probably weigh more heavily — several bases in Arizona, for instance, are near the Barry Goldwater Air Force bombing range. And to some extent, she says, jet noise can be mitigated based on how and when the pilots fly.

The military could also soundproof homes under flight paths. But that won't help if you're in your backyard having a barbecue — which people in Arizona and Florida do a lot.

So community leaders in both places suggest they'd welcome a different mission for their hometown bases — like, perhaps, a smaller, quieter Predator drone.

-excerpt from NPR