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Be Well

Be Well: Digging into Nuclear Waste Lands, Obamacare & Deep-Fried Twinkies

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 7:35 AM

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A deep-fried Twinkie burger featured on the Facebook homepage of Philly's PYT restaurant.

From what to eat to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the daily barrage of health-related news can seem overwhelming and it's easy to miss what's important. Health reporter Sarah Jane Tribble joins WCPN Morning Edition Host Rick Jackson to recommend a handful of compelling stories that dig deeper than the headlines. Her first pick is a year-long investigation by the Wall Street Journal.

Taking the long-view on America’s nuclear legacy: Waste Lands

Two reporters at the Wall Street Journal - one a senior national correspondent and the other a younger reporter who is also a computer programmer - analyzed thousands of federal documents, put together an interactive database and then did feet-on-the-ground reporting. They found many sites where government documents say the nuclear material left behind residual radioactive contamination that required cleanups, some of which are still ongoing.

Ohio’s many sites are included in the research, including links to documents that detail why, where and when clean-ups occurred.There are 500 sites across the country. New York state has the most sites and Ohio is second.

As for health concerns, the Journal states there is an ongoing debate about and “lingering questions” around the clean-up efforts at many of the 500 sites across the country, including some in Ohio. For example, the Journal story highlights a former nuclear production site in Miamisburg, Ohio. It has been approved to be a technology-business park but the government won’t allow a day care or elementary school there. Research has indicated that children’s bodies are more sensitive to radiation.

Readers can go to the interactive map and type in a zip code, see what sites are near them and pull up a collection of federal records on each site. It’s brilliant. A reader can, essentially, explore the documents themselves and draw their own conclusions.

What really caused healthcare.gov to fail and what’s next?

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has said that the exchanges will be working by Nov. 30. but to dig into why the site healthcare.gov really failed, read an Associated Press story that used internal interviews and access to what the reporters call “internal architectural diagrams” of the Web site design.

The story paints a pretty grim picture of harried programmers working late into the night with energy drinks in hand in the weeks before healthcare.gov’s launch. And there is nice detail on what the story calls a “mind-numbingly complex system” and how it was designed.

Also, the New Yorker, had a short piece highlighting the views of Jonathan Gruber, an M.I.T. economist and he was one of the architect’s Obamacare as well as the Massachusetts health plan that preceded it.  According to Gruber, only 3 percent of Americans will actually end up paying more for health insurance under the exchanges. That’s gotten lost in some of the coverage. 

And, I would also recommend listeners read the New York Times magazine piece out this weekend titled “The President Wants You To Get Rich On Obamacare.” It’s a profile on Tom Scully. Scully, as you might recall, was a health adviser under President H.W. Bush and then ran the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare under the younger Bush. Since then, he’s worked at a private equity firm and has done some lobbying. And, according to the article, is hoping to make a killing off of health reform. The article is written by Adam Davidson, a founder of NPR’s Planet Money.

American’s are eating healthier, even with the launch of a deep-fried Twinkie burger. Really.

Some have called it a heart-attack on a plate. Others, say it’s sweet and savory at the same time. The deep-fried Twinkie burger introduced by Philadelphia restaurant PYT hit the national stage last week, appearing on morning talk shows and television broadcasts across the country. On its Facebook page, the company said “We’re really sorry about this, but somebody had to do it.”

At the same time, USA Today reported a new market study that shows fruit is now the second most popular food consumed in the U.S., up from No. 5 a decade ago.

Sandwiches, including hamburgers, are No. 1. 

Additional Information

“Waste Lands: America’s Forgotten Nuclear Legacy,” by John R. Emshwiller and Jeremy Singer-Vine of The Wall Street Journal

“Builders of Obama’s Health Web Site Saw Red Flags,” by Jack Gillum and Julie Pace, The Associated Press.

“Obamacare’s Three Per Cent,” by Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker.

“The President Wants You To Get Rich On Obamacare,” by Adam Davidson, New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Want to know more about the deep-fried Twinkie burger? PYT’s Facebook page has the scoop.

“Americans Are Making Healthier Food Choices,” by Nancy Hellmich, USA Today

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Health, Be Well, Be Well Podcast

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