In Central Washington, two public radio stations, Northwest Public Radio (NWPR) and KDNA, have started a new initiative to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps between communities. The motivation is straightforward: public radio station NWPR has partnered with Spanish-language radio station KDNA to create and share content for broadcast. Combining reporting and digital services teams between stations, this partnership is tackling the issues of their respective communities, bilingually.
John Paxson, the news director for NWPR, describes the project as "a new kind of journalism that involves two radio stations and two bilingual reporters that will effortlessly transition between languages and communities to bring attention to local news in the communities they serve." The Washington-based stations anticipate this project will give public radio listeners and policymakers alike the opportunity to cross-culturally understand issues that affect all communities across the state. As our nation continues to expand with non-English speaking populations, bilingual reporting is becoming more important to reach these new audiences. By adding diverse perspectives in dialogue, the local reporting initiative will help to build community and celebrate identity among public radio audiences.
The bilingual reporting project began last year with a generous grant from the Knight Foundation followed by a matching grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation. The two foundations set out to bring community issues into focus through public broadcasting.
Michael Morales, Director of Community Engagement for the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, hopes the new initiative will "improve overall civic engagement and community awareness between monolingual Spanish and English speakers in the region." At the center of the project is strengthening connections and forging new ones, as these interest groups utilize traditional media reporting to provide a bilingual perspective to issues of local and national significance. In an effort to share stories across intergenerational communities, the partnership will also develop a mobile-ready application to make the bilingual reporting digitally accessible.
KDNA is the only full-time educational Spanish language radio station that focuses its efforts on minority communities in the agricultural community of the Yakima Valley. NWPR is a multi-station network serving Washington and portions of Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. Primarily broadcasting NPR news and classical programming in English, NWPR's extensive signal coverage can be heard by more than 3.6 million residents in the region.
With the diversity of their audiences, Morales points out how both stations will benefit: "the lack of resources should not prevent the Spanish speaking communities from benefiting from traditional media reporting on issues of contention to their community. On the other hand, NWPR lacks the capacity to engage and develop stories within the Latino community that are important for all audiences to benefit from." A previous void of opportunity has prevented non-English speaking communities from accessing information critical to their daily lives presented by media reporting in English. This project is significant for the fact that it presents both digital and traditional broadcast platforms for all audiences to access local news programming in their language of choice.
The bilingual reporting project between KDNA and NWPR was established to create a strong multilingual voice that both empowers and engages communities in Washington through local news coverage. At the cornerstone of the reporting project is the need to protect and honor all forms of cultural diversity. In a society where residents of the same state can be so drastically separated by communal identity, the bilingual reporting project will help to tighten gaps in understanding what we do not know about languages and cultures different from our own.
As a young scientist in Belgium, Peter Piot was part of a team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976.
He took his first trip to Africa to investigate this mysterious disease. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, he met people who had contracted it. "I'll never forget the glazed eyes, the staring and the pain ... this type of expression in the eyes ... telling me I'm going to die," says Piot. "That I'll never forget."
Piot went on to study AIDs in the 1980s and became founding executive director of the Jointed United nations Program on HIV/AIDS. He is now director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In an interview with NPR's Melissa Block, Piot tells the story of Ebola's discovery: He and his colleagues were looking at samples from a Belgian nun who had died of a disease in Congo. The question he thought he was trying to answer: Was it yellow fever?
Instead it was a new disease. "I was excited," he recalls, "because one of the dreams of any microbiologists is to discover a new pathogen. That was very excited. But I certainly didn't think it would develop into such a human tragedy as we're seeing now in West Africa."
"This is absolutely unexpected and unprecedented," he says. "We have here a situation where Ebola finds an enormously fertile ground in very poor countries with very dysfunctional health systems," he says. "A country like Liberia in 2010 only 51 doctors for the whole country."
He hopes there will never be another outbreak like this one. "I hope that this is the last epidemic where all we have [as treatment] is isolation of patients and quarantines and some supportive care, and we don't have stockpiles of vaccines and therapies."
There is potential for Ebola to spread to neighboring African countries, he says, but he is not worried about "high-income countries."
"Our basic hospital hygiene is such that it is highly unlikely it would give rise to epidemics," he says.
But he does warn that we are moving into a future where health risks will increase: "We'll have to be prepared that in a globalized world, these viruses will spread much faster than ever before."
Note: Quotes in this story have been edited for length and clarity.
Some good news heading into the long weekend: Labor Day gas prices are at their lowest level in four years.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the nationwide average for retail regular was $3.45/gallon on Aug. 25, that's the lowest average price for a Monday ahead of Labor Day since 2010 and it's about $0.25/gal less than at the end of June this year. The current price is down from the record average of $3.83 for the 2012 holiday.
EIA says the recent decline in prices is mainly due to changes in the price of crude: "In June of this year, the Brent spot price reached its year-to-date high of $115/barrel (bbl), then fell to $102/bbl on August 22. Current Brent prices are below their August average level over the past three years, which ranged between $110/bbl and $113/bbl. Crude oil prices were lower in 2010, as the global economy was just beginning to recover from the 2008-09 recession that reduced oil demand."
USA Today writes:
"The energy markets have shrugged off tensions in the Middle East, the Ukraine-Russia conflict and minor supply disruptions during normal peak summer driving season.
"But with demand now at seven-year lows and daily North American oil production at five-decade highs, geopolitical risks are having less impact on oil prices.
"Even news of a larger-than-expected drop in oil supplies is having little impact."
But as EIA reports, regional prices vary significantly:
"Prices are lowest on the Gulf Coast ($3.24/gal) and highest on the West Coast ($3.83/gal) as of August 25. Gulf Coast prices are often low compared with prices in other regions because of the Gulf Coast's proximity to half the nation's refining capacity—its gasoline production is greater than the region's consumption—and because it does not rely on supply transferred from other U.S. regions or imported from the global market. West Coast prices are often higher than those in other areas of the country because of the more restrictive gasoline specifications in California, the region's dominant market. As of August 25, prices in the Rocky Mountains region and East Coast averaged $3.65/gal and $3.40/gal, respectively."
Earlier this month, an Edmunds survey noted that nearly three-quarters of all Americans were either definitely planning a road trip for the holiday or considering it.
People who abuse alcohol sometimes try to fake the hand tremors caused by withdrawal to get a prescription for sedatives.
But the Valium used to treat withdrawal is often abused and can be dangerous. "If you give large doses of Valium to people who are intoxicated, bad things happen," says Dr. Bjug Borgundvaag, an emergency room doctor and researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. "They stop breathing."
Borgundvaag has been working the ER for 19 years, and he's gotten pretty good at knowing when someone's really in alcohol withdrawal. But less experienced colleagues often struggle to assess a collection of subjective symptoms that include headache, nausea and anxiety. So a fast, objective way to measure tremor would help. And what could be simpler or faster than the accelerometer in a smartphone?
It took almost two years, but Borgundvaag and compadres have created an app that measures the amount of tremor in a person who appears to be in withdrawal. They simply hand the person a smartphone and wait 20 seconds.
"We enrolled another patient in our study this morning," Borgundvaag says. "They guy came in and said he was trying to stop drinking, he'd had his last drink tremulous and anxious and feeling sick."
The app tracked that man's tremors at a 1.8, relatively mild on a scale of 0 to 7; the doctor took a quick look at a video of the test and said that looked about right.
The app should also help figure out if a tremor is real or pretend.
It turns out that an involuntary tremor has a peak frequency of more than seven cycles a second. When nurses tried to fake a withdrawal tremor, they had a hard time hitting that frequency. They also couldn't maintain the tremor; their hands got tired.
The Toronto doctor and his colleagues have joined the growing ranks of medical professionals inventing smartphone apps. Those apps increasingly are morphing from ones focused on taming vast amount of information to tools that can be used to diagnose and treat patients.
So far the tremor app has been tested in about 80 patients; it needs more testing and validation before it can be used for diagnosis in patients who haven't agreed to be part of a research project. The preliminary results were presented Friday at the International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Chicago.
The project has a nice startup vibe, with Simon Bromberg, an engineering student who is the son of one of Borgundvaag's colleagues, building the app for free; a computer science professor and a grad student at the University of Toronto designing the system that analyzes the signals; and staff at emergency rooms in hospitals around Toronto helping with the testing.
Parham Aarabi, the professor of electrical and computer engineering who worked on the app, says there as sensors and algorithms improve, they'll become increasingly useful for medical diagnostics like this. He's already working on another smartphone tool - an app that would let dermatologists objectively measure the redness of a patient's face, and calculate if a rash has grown or faded since the last visit.
"Please, sir, I want some more," Oliver Twist famously asked in the food line at an orphanage.
Instead he got a blow to the head with a ladle.
In the real world, conditions at orphanages can be even bleaker. Back in the 1990s, media coverage of the Romanian orphanages showed dozens of children, sitting unclothed in crowded rooms. Most were neglected and many were suffering from debilitating diseases like polio. Those with mental disabilities were confined to cribs or straitjackets.
So the call has always been: Take the world's estimated 2 to 8 million orphaned and abandoned children living in institutions and place them with foster families.
A study out of Duke University offers a different perspective.
Some kids in institutions can do just as well as those in a foster home, says Kathryn Whetten, the study's lead author and a population health researcher at Duke who focuses on children.
As you might expect, it's an arguable conclusion.
The study, published this week in PLoS One, looked at kids aged 6 to 12 in five low- and middle-income countries: Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The goal was to work with a culturally diverse sample.
For three years, researchers tracked the well-being of more than 1,300 children in orphanages, where care is provided by shift workers, and 1,400 who were cared for by a foster family. Every six months, they compared the physical and mental health of the subjects, along with their learning ability and memory.
If the policymakers' assumptions were true, Whetten says, children in the institutions should have fared much worse than their counterparts in foster care.
That wasn't what she found.
Both groups improved on most measures. And while children in family-based care improved more over time, the difference was statistically insignificant. Children in institutions scored higher on physical health, which may mean the institutions were more likely to meet the children's basic needs.
Whetten is quick to point out that she is not arguing that institutions are better than foster care — a statement she calls "absurd." Rather, she says policies that call for the complete deinstitutionalization of orphanages around the globe is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
In both settings, "there are kids that are doing terribly, and there are kids that are doing pretty well," she says. "So if you were to magically take away all of the institutions today, we wouldn't see an improvement in the health of the kids."
If that were to happen, some kids might move from good institutions into families that aren't able to provide quality care because of poverty, violence and other struggles in lower-income countries.
Charles Nelson doesn't agree. He's a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, and he studies how social interaction — or the lack of— affects children's brain development.
"Work that goes back 50 years show that kids in institution early in life don't do as well as those in a family, regardless of how good those institutions are," he says.
His own research shows that children deprived of parental bonding at an early age tended to have smaller brains with abnormal wiring in certain areas. When he looked at orphanages in Romania, he also found that the longer it took for a child to transfer to foster care, the lower they scored on cognitive tests.
Nelson cautions that Whetten's study may be misleading because it doesn't describe the environment that the kids in foster families grew up in, nor does it compare the two groups to children who were raised in stable homes. If the foster families in the sample were prone to violence, drugs or abuse, he says, the data doesn't reveal much.
"Without telling us how old the kids were when they went into the institution and what the families are like," he says, "I don't know if I can believe the findings."
Whetten says the study is part of an ongoing project, and it isn't arguing that one setting is better than the other. "It's the quality of care and the history of the individual children that makes the difference," she says. And policymakers need to recognize that, she says, rather than looking for an easy solution to a complex problem.
Critics like Nelson definitely want some more evidence before they're convinced.