Friday, March 31, 2006
Kansas family beats back fire
It was a twister with a twist.
We came to Kansas to cover tornadoes. And at least one tornado touched down in the state.
But in Hutchinson, a town of 40,000 about 50 miles northwest of Wichita, a twister touched off as many as 18 fires. Authorities aren't completely sure if the fires were caused by downed power lines or lightning strikes, but at least 5 homes were heavily damaged.
An estimated 5,000 acres in Reno County, Kansas, were scorched, and hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes.
We spent the late-night and early-morning hours with lifelong Hutchinson residents Marty and Linda Morgan. They used hoses to try to protect their home from flames.
Marty and Linda's storage shed right next to their house was burned to the ground and the flames continued to burn after the sun came up. But they succeeded in keeping the flames away from their house.
The fires in Reno County were frightening, but one cannot overlook the good news that nobody was hurt.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
A true medical miracle
As doctors, we don't like to use the term "miracle" too much.
Truth is if you look hard enough you will find a reasonable explanation as to why one person survives, when so many others die. When Randy McCloy was pulled out of the Sago Mine and subsequently examined at the hospital, I could tell the doctors weren't too optimistic.
I traveled to West Virginia and they told me that too much carbon monoxide had invaded his blood stream, and for too long. That carbon monoxide had stripped away precious oxygen from his brain and caused what could best be described as a stroke of his whole brain. The fact that he was alive was remarkable and perhaps best attributed to his young age and associated resilience.
Then, over the last three months, there were incremental rays of hope. In what seemed a last ditch effort, Randy was transported to another hospital and was placed in a hyperbaric chamber, the same kind used to treat scuba divers when they get the Bends.
The idea was to force the oxygen into his blood stream and knock some of the lingering carbon monoxide out. He was also given DHA, a fatty acid, with the idea that it could rebuild the coating around some of his severely damaged nerve connections. Slowly, Randy started to awaken. A move here and there, a slight utterance that might be a word. And then today, I sat reveling with all of you as I watched him walk out under his own power, smile, and hold a news conference.
Sure, he didn't say much and his right arm and leg still seem weak, but he is very much alive and is very much Randy. The miracle of Randy's recovery may lie deep in a hyperbaric chamber somewhere or in the thoughtfulness of a doctor who thought fatty acids could help repair the brain. Perhaps it was his own desire to fight for his life or it could just be that his wife Anna never left his bedside, not once, in the entire time he was ill. So, as doctors, just like anybody else, we enjoy the good stories and we are happy from time to time to call them miracles.
Good luck Randy.
Beware of mom's home cooking
For years, restaurant kitchens have been the target of health inspectors, but now the Los Angeles Health Department is targeting your kitchen. They have designed an online food safety test
, just like the one used to rate restaurant kitchens. But this time you can test your own kitchen.
We recently put three Los Angeles area kitchens to the test.
L.A. Health Inspector Hector De La Cruz came along as we raided refrigerators and poked through people's cabinets. We took samples along the way of lots of stuff: homemade chicken barley soup, dish towels, sponges, rare steak, even a fly swatter one guy hung with his clean pots and pans (yuck!).
A lab in New Jersey put our samples under the microscope and you won't believe what showed up. One pot of mom's homemade soup had 50 times more bacteria than is expected in prepared foods. Working this story made me want to go home and scrub my kitchen from top to bottom.
When was the last time you looked closely at what may be lurking in your kitchen? And what do you think a real health inspection may turn up??
Mexican boom town.. in Wyoming?
How many people would have guessed that a small county in Wyoming would have one of the fastest growing populations of Mexican immigrants?
We were surprised and that's why we traveled to Teton County, Wyoming, to check it out.
Between 1990 and 2005, there was a 1,700 percent increase in the number of Mexicans who live here. Why? Jobs, lots of jobs.
Teton County is the home of the posh Jackson Hole ski resort, and as the resort has grown, so has the need for workers. Many of the more menial jobs -- some like housekeeping that can pay up to $15 an hour -- are not attracting any interest from the locals, so word of mouth keeps bringing Mexicans here.
Mexicans were 1 percent of the population in 1990. Now, they are nearing 20 percent. Even in springtime, it is cold and snowy here, but many of the Mexicans tell us they have learned to enjoy the climate and especially, the people.
Although there is occasional grumbling from old timers here, relations between the natives and the Mexicans appear to be quite good. There are certainly many illegal immigrants here, but there are also those who are here legally, including some who have become U.S. citizens.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The real battle of the border
Tonight we are broadcasting the show live from Nogales, Arizona, what some call ground zero in the battle to stop illegal immigration.
Right now I'm out on patrol with the U.S. border patrol south of Tucson. This is the most active sector for illegals crossing over. Just a few hours before we arrived a horse trailer carrying 42 illegals crashed. About a dozen were injured, the smuggler escaped.
Sixty-thousand illegals have already been apprehended in this sector this month. Next month the border patrol expects to catch more than 70,000.
It's fascinating to see the border patrol in action up close. For all the talk in Washington, this is where the rhetoric meets reality.
Tonight we go from Arizona to lesser known battlegrounds like New York's Chinatown and Jackson, Wyoming, all the angles on the battle of the border.
Can the U.S. do any good in Iraq?
There was a time when Iraqis told you some crazy theory about who was behind the latest bombing and you'd just shrug and pass it off. Now, when most Iraqis' theories circle back to the United States as the root of their ills, you can't just ignore them.
There were a couple of conversations I had recently that made me think I needed to find a way to tell this story.
On my way to cover Iraq this time around, I stopped off in Jordan, which about a million Iraqi refugees have made their new home. Many are the reasonably rich who could afford to get out, and many are Sunnis from western Iraq.
One in particular has become a valuable source of insight into the tribes of western Iraq, exactly the sort of people it's almost impossible to meet in Baghdad because their region is so hostile to westerners. He is an important tribal sheik, and until a few months ago, he was optimistic the United States could bring stability to Iraq. But now he thinks that window of opportunity has closed.
He says the Sunnis in the west of Iraq are angry, not just about the continued U.S. presence but that the United States is allowing Shia's, with their ties to Iran, to become dominant. This sheik was once a close ally of the United States, but now when he talks it seems the United States can do nothing right.
My young Iraqi friends in Baghdad tell me they hear the same thing from their buddies -- that the United States is getting it all wrong.
Just over a week ago, I went to interview a middle-class Baghdad family about life three years after the invasion. They had more questions than I did and most came back to one fundamental subject: What is the U.S. doing here? What did the Americans really come for?
Answers that point to democracy or a better life without Saddam just don't cut it with them. They measure their lives in their daily safety, and they don't feel safe. The simple answer for them is to blame is the Unites States. Nothing I could say could get them to believe the United States is here as an honest broker to help fix a bad situation.
It's hard to say what's deep down in people's hearts. Do they really believe life would be better if U.S. troops leave? I guess they know things could get uglier. It's not that they don't hope their lives will improve. They do. They hope for it desperately every day. But each morning bring no respite.
On Sunday events took a turn for the worse. U.S. Special Operations Force advisers mentoring an Iraqi Special Operations force raid on a band of hostage takers and killers got in a gunfight with the men they came to capture.
Before U.S. military spokesmen could release details of the clash in which 16 people were killed, the Al Iraqia television station here, which was set up with U.S. taxpayer dollars, began broadcasting accusations that U.S. troops had killed worshipers inside a mosque. Worse, even after the U.S. military issued a statement to explain what happened, the TV station kept up the accusations.
It was the first time this station turned on the very people who helped get it on the air. If this station is so openly hostile to the United States, it begs the question: What can Americans do?
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Shock therapy for kids
At first glance, the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, looks like something out of Disneyland. It's a kind of magical place, with plush rooms and lots of games and adventures for the students. But it is also the only place in the country that uses aversion shock therapy on its students -- some of whom are as young as six years old.
The center was founded by Dr. Matthew Israel, who designed a shock device called a GED, or gradual electronic decelerator. The students, who have few options when it comes to schooling due to behavioral issues or mental disabilities, wear up to five electrodes at a time strapped to their arms and legs. The gadget itself is housed in a fanny pack worn by the student. If a student acts out or becomes violent with staff members, the student gets a two second shock to the skin.
But now, a Long Island, New York, woman is suing the state of New York because her son was shocked at the center. New York sent him to the center in Massachusetts after nobody in New York could treat him properly. Aversion shock therapy is illegal in New York but legal in Massachusetts.
She wants her son, Antwone Nicholson, who has severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), removed from the center. But Dr. Israel says the shock therapy was helping Antwone, just as it has thousands of others before him. Dr. Israel says Antwone's violent episodes dropped from 5,000 a week to none after he was placed on the GED device. Antwone's mom says she didn't think his behavior was too bad. But she signed the paperwork for him to get the treatment. She says she didn't think it would hurt so much.
When I went to the center to interview Dr. Israel, I tried the aversion shock device to gauge its power. I put one electrode on my arm and shocked myself using a remote control. I had been told by the center's employees that it feels like a bee sting or a pin prick. Let me tell you, it hurt far worse than that. Two seconds felt like two minutes. It was like a parade of pins stabbing me in the arm. I could see why students would alter their behavior after feeling that sensation.
What do you think? Should shocks be used as a way of controlling behavior in children? Or is it, as critics call it, inhumane?
Drinking with the 'devil'
When I think of an alcoholic, I typically envision a middle-aged guy with a bright red nose, telling stories a little too loudly at a bar. So, when I recently heard 50 percent of alcohol dependence starts before age 21 and 75 percent starts before age 25, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), I was shocked. Alcoholism, it seems, has become a disorder of young people, far too young.
In some ways, it is not surprising, given that your risk of alcoholism is 60 percent genetically determined and only about 40 percent environmentally determined, according to NIAAA. While it is not guaranteed the child of an alcoholic will become one, it certainly is more likely. If you have a history of alcohol abuse in a parent or sibling, you have a fourfold greater risk than someone without that family history.
What is also amazing is the earlier you start drinking, the more likely you will continue to drink your entire life. Your brain actually adapts in some ways to the alcohol. Think of it like this -- you have two counteracting forces in the brain. One is the devil on your shoulder telling you take a sip -- that is called the amygdala. The other is the angel, warning you of the dangers -- that is the frontal lobes. In children who start drinking, the frontal lobes throw in the towel early and let the amygdala, or devil, control their actions.
That may have been what happened to Richard Preston, a 61-year-old you will meet on tonight's show. He only drinks ice tea now, after ten whiskies a day for much of his life. It seems the liver transplant finally scared him enough to stop. He tells us first hand, however, what his life was like as someone who was completely dependent on alcohol. The ravaging headaches, remarkable weight gain, and dulled senses.
Have you ever wondered what alcohol really does to your body and to your liver? I will show you tonight, and I warn you -- it is not pretty. For many doctors, treating alcoholism is not about blame or circumstance, it is understanding the science of alcoholism. Yes, there is a science to it, and if you learn it, it may just keep you away from another drink.
From terrorism to trash collection
You would think that after more than 50 years of one of the most intimately chronicled conflicts in human history -- Israelis vs. Palestinians -- there would be nothing new to say, no surprises. You would be wrong.
Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that has launched suicide attacks in Israel, won the Palestinian elections
in January, thereby creating two firsts:
1. The first time a regime has changed in the Arab world democratically through elections;
2. The first time an Islamist group has come to power through elections.
Hamas gained support among Palestinians through two decades of building an effective and affordable social welfare system in Gaza. It runs most of the kindergartens, funds health clinics, provides welfare checks to widows and orphans, and yes, even stages mass weddings to help unemployed young men get married.
During this year's election, Palestinians fed up with the rampant corruption and lawlessness of the late Yasser Arafat's government turned to the only alternative, Hamas.
So when people ask: "Why did the Palestinian people elect a terrorist group?" The answer is because they see them as a lifeline.
Each time I go to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, I am shocked by the reality on the ground. On a recent visit, I passed through a short tunnel from the First World in Israel and emerged into the Third World that is Gaza. The poverty there is among the worst in the world.
Hamas officials told me they did not expect to win the election as overwhelmingly as they did. They say their main priority now is to meet the demands of the people for a better life.
But that may be impossible, because Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas and have already cut funding
to the new Palestinian government.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Woman accused of poisoning neighbor
Brian Hausler met us in a park about a mile from his house. He was friendly, but I could sense he was enormously stressed. We put a microphone on him, and began to roll tape, as we walked on a cold spring day.
"People keep asking questions," he said. "Did we have an affair? Did I lead her on? There was no affair. I did not lead her on."
Brian is talking about his neighbor, 33-year-old Tina Vazquez. Vazquez is now behind bars, charged with first degree assault for poisoning Brian's wife Angie.
Brian said he and Angie and their two young children moved to Bonne Terre, Missouri, a small town south of St. Louis, about a year-and-a-half ago. Last summer, they became friends with Vazquez, a neighbor. At first, Brian said, she came over with her husband; then they separated. Vazquez soon became a regular visitor, and did some babysitting for Brian and his wife.
At some point last fall, Brian's wife Angie started to have ongoing flu symptoms. Then, earlier this month, Angie got very sick and called 911.
Doctors said she'd been poisoned -- that she must have ingested a toxic substance recently. Angie told her husband that Tina Vazquez had given her an antibiotic capsule about a half hour before the worst symptoms came on. Brian became suspicious, and confronted his neighbor.
"I said, 'What's going on Tina?' And she said, 'I did something bad. I put something bad in Angie's medicine,'" Brian told me.
Police said that "something" was sodium nitrite, a substance used for curing meat. Investigators said Vazquez worked at a meatpacking company, and substituted a toxic dose of the chemical in the antibiotic capsule she gave to Angie Hausler.
"And I asked her why," said Brian. "She just said she thought she could make me happier."
Detectives told us that Tina Vazquez claimed she and Brian Hausler were having an affair, but Brian says that's not true. He says his wife is now home, and recovering.
Brian suspects his neighbor was slowly poisoning her over the course of several months. So far, police allege only one poisoning attempt. But prosecutors say that if she's convicted, Tina Vazquez could face up to life in prison.
Neither Angela Hausler nor Tina Vasquez would speak to us for this story. Tina Vasquez hasn't yet made a plea in this case, and tomorrow (Tuesday morning), she'll make her first court appearance to face formal charges.
Teen's discovery could save millions of lives
E. coli poisoning is a huge problem in Third World countries, mostly due to poor sanitation. Millions of kids die every year from the severe diarrhea it causes. There is no quick cure, because most available shots require refrigeration.
For years, scientists have been working to find what can kill E. coli. Well, finally, someone found it. It turns out there is a good bacteria in yogurt that secretes a protein that kills E. coli. We know this now because a very smart, hard-working researcher discovered it...at the ripe old age of 13.
Serena Fasano, now 16 years old, earned a patent recently on her discovery, so we thought we'd interview her on "360." We learned Serena has spent countless hours of her free time in a lab and that she's very, very bright. She's also a normal high school kid with lots of friends. Yet, this "normal" kid's after-school activities could soon save the lives of millions of children.
What were you doing during your teen years? Actually, don't answer that. Better question is -- were you in a lab every day after school and on weekends looking for medical discoveries? Exactly.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Exorcist casting the devil out of Tulsa
When Sherri roared like a bull, rolled her eyes into her skull, and lunged against the three men who were holding her, Bob Larson says he saw the devil. He should know. Larson is one of the leading practitioners of modern, Christian exorcisms, and here I was in a hotel conference room in Tulsa, Oklahoma, right across from Oral Roberts University, watching him wrestle with demons.
Larson performs his exorcisms in rooms full of people -- sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands. One religious scholar says 600 Protestant churches have established what they call Redemption Ministries in recent years, which feature exorcisms or something like them.
At the heart of all this is a basic belief that demons are real and move among us, inhabiting people's bodies and driving them to all manner of bad behavior.On this night, as Larson stood with his Bible in hand and called out demons, a half-dozen people howled, cried, and bellowed in strange voices, while he ordered their possessors back into the pit of hell.
I am naturally skeptical of things that cannot be proven, so I had to ask: Is all this just a show?
Larson and the folks he confronted say absolutely not. Larson freely admits he has been called a charlatan, a flimflam man, and a snake-oil salesman. But he clearly has legions of followers -- people who believe exorcism can help them in the eternal battle between heaven and hell. Sherri says she feels a great weight was lifted from her through the experience.
So what do you think: Are modern exorcisms a legitimate religious practice or spiritual vaudeville?