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Thursday
Apr232015

No Place Like Home - Part One

NOTE: This blog originally appeared in August of 2010

by producers Geoffrey Redick and Chad Campbell

BP has begun pumping mud and cement into its broken well in the Gulf of Mexico. Hopefully, in a few days, the well will be sealed forever. But even if the flow is snuffed out, the environmental and economic effects of the spill are still being calculated. Crews are trying to measure how much oil has washed ashore on beaches and wetlands, tallying costs to present to BP for reimbursement. Of course, that’s only the oil we can see. No one knows how much might be under the surface, dispersed in small globs throughout the gulf. 

Those are the news pegs right now, and the tendency of the media is to move on to the next big event, now that this one is winding down. But we’re going to linger for a few weeks, delving into the innerworkings of a society that has been repeatedly pushed to the breaking point in the past five years. Four months ago, people in southern Louisiana were thinking about blighted neighborhoods and hurricane forecasts. Those issues still exist, but now there’s a whole pile of unanswerable questions about oil contamination.

Geoffrey and Times Picayune reporter Mark SchleifsteinWe’re beginning our series No Place Like Home with a reporter and a professor. Mark Schleifstein covers the environment for the Times Picayune in New Orleans. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting during and after Hurricane Katrina. He also co-authored a 2002 series of articles for the paper called “Washing Away: How South Louisiana is Growing More Vulnerable to a Catastrophic Hurricane.” You can click here to read that series. Schleifstein is also the co-author of the 2006 book Path of Destruction. After Katrina, his house was flooded with 12 feet of water.

Shirley Laska shows Geoffrey and Bob a flood chartShirley Laska is a sociology professor at the University of New Orleans, where she founded and directs CHART, the Center for Hazards, Assessment, Response and Technology. In 2005, before Katrina hit, Laska predicted in a scholarly paper and in Congressional testimony much of the damage and flooding caused by the storm. Laska also co-authored a book last year called “Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow.”

 

These two guests provide the big picture, weaving the story of post-Katrina reconstruction into wetlands recovery, which is now hampered by millions of gallons of oil. They talk about the causes and effects of these man-made disasters, and if anything can be done to avoid similar events in the future. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear from people in the field — wildlife researchers, fishermen, frustrated residents, entreprenuers, public health advocates, and urban gardeners. We hope that taking the time to tell this story — spending hours with people in the midst of their lives, instead of a few sound bites from a typical news story — will provide a more complete picture of southern Louisiana.

Click here to see more pictures from our latest trip to southern Louisiana

And finally, a word about the title of our series, which might conjure up thoughts of a certain Kansas farm girl. During our two trips to New Orleans and southern Louisiana, everyone we talked with — natives and transplants alike — displayed a deep and almost viseral love for the region. Louisiana is home for these folks, and they’re not giving up on it without a fight.

Next week we’ll cover how hurricanes and the oil spill have affected the culture and business of seafood. We’ll tour the Houma processing plant of Motivatit Seafoods and talk with Mike Voisin about the oyster harvest. We visit with fifth generation shrimper Charlie Robin in Yscloskey who replaced his shrimp nets with oil boom in an effort to save his future. And we’ll discuss duck hunting and conservation with John Serigny in Larose. 

Here’s a map showing the locations where we conducted our interviews and other points of interest.


View BES in New Orleans (7/2010) in a larger map

Friday
Apr172015

Bob Edwards Weekend (April 18-19, 2015)

 

HOUR ONE:

Twenty years ago this weekend, Timothy McVeigh set off a truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were killed in that shocking and tragic event, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Bob visits the site and talks with Bud Welch who lost his daughter in the blast.  We also hear from Amy Petty who survived the explosion and was rescued from the rubble that day.  Petty worked for the Federal Employees Credit Union, which lost nearly two-thirds of its employees in the bombing.

 

HOUR TWO:

On April 18, 1906, an earthquake and the resulting fires nearly destroyed San Francisco. To mark the anniversary, Bob talks with Simon Winchester, author of A Crack in the Edge of the World. Winchester is a former journalist and an Oxford trained geologist. He uses both disciplines to good effect in explaining plate tectonics and fault lines and painting a picture of early 20th century California.

Then we move to the other end of the United States to talk about another book by Simon Winchester. He’s made a career of unearthing the fascinating stories of things many of us take for granted. For example, Winchester’s book about the Earth’s second largest body of water. It’s titled Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories.

Friday
Apr172015

The Bob Edwards Show Schedule (April 20-24, 2015)

 

Monday, April 20, 2015: Twenty years ago, Timothy McVeigh set off a truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were killed in that shocking and tragic event, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Bob visits the site and talks with Bud Welch who lost his daughter in the blast.  We also hear from Amy Petty who survived the explosion and was rescued from the rubble that day.  Petty worked for the Federal Employees Credit Union, which lost 18 of its 33 employees in the bombing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015:  Five years ago was the first full day of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and would release roughly 200 million gallons of oil over the next three months. The spill caused billions of dollars in damage to the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – killing sea life and impacting fisheries in the region. Bob talks with environmentalists Richard Charter and Jacqueline Savitz about the rules and regulations for maintaining an offshore oil rig, the recovery effort, and the impact of the leak on the environment.  Patrick Jeffries is a superintendant for EPIC Divers & Marine, which provides commercial diving and marine services world-wide, including gas and oil platform and pipeline service, well repair, and underwater inspection and construction.  Jeffries discusses life as a commercial diver just after the 2010 spill. Then, Bob talks with Abrahm Lustgarten covered the spill for Pro Publica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning web-based newsroom for investigative journalism.  He wrote a book based on his reporting titled Run to Failure: BP and the Making of The Deepwater Horizon Disaster.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015: For the rest of the week, we’ll revisit our reporting trips to southeastern Louisiana in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010. Bob talks with Mark Schleifstein, a reporter for the Times Picayune, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his post-Katrina coverage, and who has been writing about the effects of the oil and gas industry on the Louisiana marshland. Next, Bob visits with Emily Guidry Schatzel of the National Wildlife Federation about how her group is worked alongside the government in the clean-up effort. Bob also talks with state and federal wildlife biologists Todd Baker and Sharon Taylor about the efforts to rescue, clean and relocate the animals affected by the spill. Then, we’ll visit the bird rehabilitation center at Fort Jackson, where we saw dozens of brown pelicans that had been cleaned and nursed back to health.

Thursday, April 23, 2015: Today we head back to the bayou to get a firsthand look at the marshes and swamps that are so important to coastal Louisiana’s culture and ecology. Denise Reed is a professor at the University of New Orleans, and she’s been studying the wetlands for decades, monitoring loss and imagining ways to grow new land. Tab Benoit is concerned about wetlands loss, but you won’t find him lecturing about it in a classroom. Benoit is a blues singer from Houma and a founder of the group Voice of the Wetlands. He’ll take Bob on a boat ride through the swamps — both healthy and depleted.

Friday, April 24, 2015: Today we explore how the 2010 BP oil spill affected the culture and the seafood industry of the Gulf Coast. Bob talks with Mike Voisin of Motavatit Seafoods in Houma and tours his plant as workers process the much smaller than usual harvest of oysters.  Then we visit with Charlie Robin on his boat. At this time in 2010, the fifth generation shrimper from Yscloskey, Louisiana had traded his shrimp nets for oil boom and was working for BP to skim the oil and save his future. In Larose, Bob talks with John Serigny who’s been hunting ducks in the area for almost five decades. But as their wetland habitat disappears, so do the ducks.

 

Thursday
Apr162015

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

NOTE: This blog entry first appeared in February 2010

by Geoffrey Redick, producer

I met Rebecca Skloot almost a year ago. It didn’t take long before she was telling me this incredible story about immortal cells growing in laboratories, the woman they came from, how she died, and the family members she left behind. She said it was all in a book she was writing, but she didn’t talk about Henrietta Lacks in a cold, repertorial way. It was clear from the first moment how energized she was by the story. And I knew right away that she had to talk to Bob.

Skloot spent more than 10 years on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She interviewed dozens of medical researchers and relatives of Lacks, and the result is a fascinating and fast read — biography, medical ethics, racial politics — that pays homage to someone who unknowingly made one of the most important contributions to science, and who has largely been lost to history.

Skloot is also doing some good for the descendents of Henrietta Lacks, with a foundation that will provide college scholarships.

 

Friday
Apr102015

Bob Edwards Weekend (April 11-12, 2015)

 

HOUR ONE:

Kurt Vonnegut is gone but not forgotten. He died eight years ago now, but his works still are celebrated for their satirical humor and a startling creativity that experimented with traditional narratives. Mark Vonnegut is a pediatrician working in the suburbs of Boston. He also happens to be the only son of the late writer Kurt Vonnegut. And, he used to be insane. Vonnegut has suffered four psychotic breaks in his life, but it’s been 25 years since the last one. He shares stories about growing up, and cracking up, in his memoir Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So.

Next, Bob talks with Vonnegut’s longtime friend Sidney Offit.  He wrote the forward for a collection of some of Vonnegut’s previously unpublished short stories. It’s called, Look at the Birdie. Offit joins Bob to reminisce about Vonnegut’s early career and the heyday of magazine fiction, when works by the best writers appeared at newsstands and not just the bookstore. 

Then, when an author dies, often our only way to peek into his personal life is by parsing lines of prose. Then there’s Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote enough personal letters, when he wasn’t writing novels and short stories, to fill decades.  They also fill more than 400 pages in the book, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. The volume is edited by Dan Wakefield, a friend of Vonnegut, and fellow writer and native Hoosier.

 

HOUR TWO:

No one has a voice like Ken Nordine, and there’s nothing quite like Word Jazz, the audio art he created. It mixes atmospheric sound effects, free-form jazz and Nordine’s unique rumbling bass voice, pondering philosophical questions, plumbing the depths of his id, or simply wondering what’s in the fridge. Bob visited the soon-to-be 95-year-old at his house in Chicago. Nordine has lived in that spot for more than half a century. We’ll tour his home studio and hear about his early days in radio, collaborations with The Grateful Dead and Tom Waits, and how Nordine created Word Jazz.