WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/news/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Teaching hospitals hit hardest by medicare fines for patient safety http://www.wbez.org/news/teaching-hospitals-hit-hardest-medicare-fines-patient-safety-111272 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/er.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Medicare has begun punishing 721 hospitals with high rates of infections and other medical errors, cutting payments to half the nation&#39;s major teaching hospitals and many institutions that are marquee names.</p><p>Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania,&nbsp;Brigham and Women&#39;s Hospital in Boston, NYU Langone Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago are all being docked 1 percent of their Medicare payments through next September,&nbsp;<a href="http://cdn.kaiserhealthnews.org/attachments/HACPenaltyChart.pdf">federal records show</a>.</p><p>In total, hospitals will forfeit $373 million, Medicare estimates.</p><p>The federal health law required Medicare to lower payments for the quarter of hospitals with the highest rates of hospital-acquired conditions, or HACs.</p><p>These&nbsp;<a href="https://www.qualitynet.org/dcs/ContentServer?c=Page&amp;pagename=QnetPublic%2FPage%2FQnetTier3&amp;cid=1228774294977">avoidable complications</a>&nbsp;include infections from central line catheters, blood clots and bed sores.</p><p>The penalties come as hospitals are showing some success in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/quality-patient-safety/pfp/interimhacrate2013.html">reducing harmful errors</a>. A recent federal report found the frequency of mistakes dropped by 17 percent between 2010 and 2013, an improvement Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell called &quot;a big deal, but it&#39;s only a start.&quot; Even with the reduction, one in eight hospital admissions in 2013 included a patient injury.</p><p>Dr. Eric Schneider, a Boston health researcher, said studies have shown that medical errors can be reduced through a number of techniques, such as entering physician orders into computers rather than scrawling them on paper, better hand washing and checklists on procedures to follow during surgeries. &quot;Too many clinicians fail to use those techniques consistently,&quot; he said.</p><p>The quality penalties have &quot;put attention to the issue of complications and that attention wasn&#39;t everywhere,&quot; said Dr. John Bulger, chief quality officer at Geisinger Health System, based in Danville, Pa. However, he said hospitals like Geisinger&#39;s now must spend more time reviewing their Medicare billing records as the government uses those to evaluate patient safety. The penalty program, he said, &quot;has the potential to take the time that could be spent on improvement and [spend it instead] making sure the coding is accurate.&quot;</p><p>Hospitals complain there may be almost no difference between hospitals that are penalized and those that narrowly escape fines. &quot;Hospitals may be penalized on things they are getting safer on, and that sends a fairly mixed message,&quot; said Nancy Foster, a quality expert at the American Hospital Association.</p><p>The penalties come on top of other fines Medicare&nbsp;<a href="http://kaiserhealthnews.org/news/medicare-readmissions-penalties-2015/">has been levying</a>. With the HAC penalties now in place, the worst-performing hospitals this year risk losing more than 5 percent of their regular Medicare reimbursements.</p><p>About 1,400 hospitals are exempt from penalties because they provide specialized treatments such as psychiatry and rehabilitation or because they cater to a particular type of patient such as children and veterans. Small &quot;critical access hospitals&quot; that are mostly located in rural areas are also exempt, as are hospitals in Maryland, which have a special payment arrangement with the federal government.</p><p>In evaluating hospitals for the HAC penalties, the government adjusted infection rates by the type of hospital. When judging complications, it took into account the differing levels of sickness of each hospital&#39;s patients, their ages and other factors that might make the patients more fragile. Still, academic medical centers have been complaining that those&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=323998618">adjustments are insufficient</a>&nbsp;given the especially complicated cases they handle, such as organ transplants.</p><p>&quot;To lump in all of those things that are very complex procedures with simple things like pneumonia or hip replacements may not be giving an accurate result,&quot; said Dr. Atul Grover, the chief public policy officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges.</p><p>Medicare levied penalties against a third or more of the hospitals it assessed in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and the District of Columbia, a Kaiser Health News analysis found.</p><p>A separate analysis of the penalties that Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted for Kaiser Health News found that penalties were assessed against 32 percent of the hospitals with the sickest patients. Only 12 percent of hospitals with the least complex cases were punished.</p><p>Hospitals with the poorest patients were also more likely to be penalized, Jha found. A fourth of the nation&#39;s publicly owned hospitals, which often are the safety net for poor, sick people, are being punished.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve worked in community hospitals. I&#39;ve worked in teaching hospitals. My personal experience is teaching hospitals are at least as safe if not safer,&quot; Jha said. &quot;But they take care of sicker populations and more complex cases that are going to have more complications. The HAC penalty program is really a teaching hospital penalty program.&quot;</p><p>You can download the full list of hospital penalties&nbsp;<a href="http://cdn.kaiserhealthnews.org/attachments/HACPenaltyChart.pdf">here</a>.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/12/19/371862146/teaching-hospitals-hit-hardest-by-medicare-fines-for-patient-safety"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/teaching-hospitals-hit-hardest-medicare-fines-patient-safety-111272 With Sony hack, nation-state attacks go from quiet to overt http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/sony-hack-nation-state-attacks-go-quiet-overt-111264 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP809914660283.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NPR has confirmed from U.S. intelligence officials that North Korea was centrally involved with the recent attacks against Sony Pictures. And the company says it is pulling its comedy film The Interview from the box office. It was supposed to debut on Christmas. These are major developments in what we may now call cyberwarfare.</p><p>The White House hasn&#39;t come out and said it yet, but intelligence officials tell us that the North Korean government was in fact involved in this hack against Sony, where everything from social security numbers to executive salaries and celebrity gossip got leaked.</p><p>Yes, it&#39;s the confirmation that many people have been waiting for. Though it&#39;s also really important to note that we don&#39;t exactly know what that means &mdash; and I&#39;ve spoken with security experts who remain skeptical.</p><p>That said, if it&#39;s true, it really is extraordinary. North Korea is one of the poorest countries on Earth. Its people don&#39;t go online &mdash; they&#39;re cut off from the Internet. But its government has allegedly launched an overt cyberattack &mdash; and even secured a decisive victory &mdash; against one of the biggest companies on Earth.</p><p>Repeat: overt.</p><p>That&#39;s a key part here &mdash; the fact that you and I and everyone else knows about it.</p><p>I want to compare this with another cyberattack &mdash; one that was carried out by nation-state actors: Stuxnet in 2010. That&#39;s when the U.S. and Israel used some very sophisticated code to dig their way into nuclear facilities in Iran and damage the actual physical centrifuges.</p><p>In that case, the hackers caused physical damage in the real world &mdash; but they did it covertly. While the news eventually broke, it&#39;s not like the U.S. was sending out press releases.</p><p>In this case, the hackers &mdash; who might be North Korean officials or backed by the regime &mdash; have been very vocal from the get. Using the name &quot;Guardians of Peace,&quot; they&#39;ve even threatened to hurt people who go to see the movie in theaters.</p><p>Theater chains that were supposed to screen The Interview decided not to, and Sony canceled the Christmas Day release.</p><p>So, effectively, the hackers grabbed a ton of attention through an online attack &mdash; one that was nowhere near as sophisticated as Stuxnet. And they leveraged all that attention, that power, to pivot &mdash; and make a physical threat that people suddenly felt was credible.</p><p>This whole chain of events has experts inside the cybersecurity industry really concerned. I talked to a few people whose job it is to ward off these kinds of attacks. And they have different takes on whether Sony, by caving, made the right decision for itself.</p><p>But across the board, they&#39;re worried that the company is sending the wrong message by handing off a huge win to a disgruntled state with very limited resources.</p><p>So the concern is that we&#39;re going to see copycats or a new trend on the horizon.</p><p>Cyberattacks happen every day. At this point, they&#39;re nothing new.</p><p>I was talking to this one security expert in Moscow, who pointed out that during the height of tensions between Russia and Ukraine, there were plenty of cyberattacks &mdash; online skirmishes with one side taking down the other side&#39;s media outlet or defacing websites.</p><p>Now this Sony episode is showing what a disproportionate impact a small, angry entity can have &mdash; and how an attack online can spill over to physical-world consequences.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/12/18/371581401/with-sony-hack-nation-state-attacks-go-from-quiet-to-overt" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/sony-hack-nation-state-attacks-go-quiet-overt-111264 Cook County to join cameras-in-court program http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illinois_Supreme_Court wikimedia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has allowed the use of cameras and audio recording devices in Cook County courts on an experimental basis starting next month.</p><p>Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans made the announcement Tuesday morning. Cook County is the largest and latest of dozens of counties in Illinois that have joined a state high court camera pilot program that launched in 2012.</p><p>Court officials say the program will begin Jan. 5 in the felony courtrooms at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. It&#39;s been the site of many high-profile trials. Bond hearings are excluded from the pilot project.</p><p>Illinois has allowed cameras to be present during Supreme Court and Appellate Court hearings since 1983.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-join-cameras-court-program-111240 Some homeless get a permanent residence in Lake Zurich http://www.wbez.org/news/some-homeless-get-permanent-residence-lake-zurich-111220 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Lake-Zurich1.png" alt="" /><p><p>The suburbs of Chicago have had trouble serving the homeless. Despite a need to house a growing population, residents have often said &quot;not in my backyard.&quot; A new permanent residence in Lake Zurich, Illinois is facing that debate.</p><p>Midlothian Manor has wall-to-wall berber carpet in the living room. The large space will have soon have a big screen TV and seating for several people. A few steps away, there&rsquo;s a big communal kitchen. Even though the 14 apartments have their own kitchenettes, there&rsquo;s space where people can make their meals with large sinks and long countertops.</p><p>The building is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority. It&rsquo;ll lease the space to PADS, the organization that runs various temporary homeless sites throughout the suburbs. This building used to be a senior living residence and many of the built-in amenities will remain, like wheel chair accessible ramps and surveillance cameras.</p><p>&ldquo;We have a camera system so management can watch, it&rsquo;s called WatchNet, to make sure what&rsquo;s going on and see who&rsquo;s at the door and it tapes,&quot; said David Northern, executive director of the LCHA.</p><p>Joel Williams is the executive director of PADS Lake County. He says the housing isn&#39;t free. Occupants will have to sign a lease and use at least 30% of their income to live there. The 14 single room occupancy unit are only for the mentally ill.</p><p>&ldquo;That could be mild schizophrenia. That could be a physical disability,&rdquo; said Williams.</p><p>He says as the homeless population continues to grow, so does the need to find alternative housing for people, especially those who need chronic care.</p><p>&ldquo;Research has shown that even though those with mental illness are a segment of the overall homeless population, about 10 to 15 percent, they tend to consume over half of the resources,&rdquo; said Williams. &ldquo;By getting them out of the general homeless service system, you&rsquo;re actually freeing up the services for people who are episodically homeless.&rdquo;</p><p>Williams estimates that on any given night, 500-700 people make their way to around 15 church shelters throughout the county. And because some homeless stay with family and friends, they&rsquo;re not counted.</p><p>Mike will live at Midlothian Manor.</p><p>&ldquo;I got diagnosed with what I was going through,&rdquo; said Mike. &ldquo;Psychotic disorder caused by polysubstance dependence and antisocial paranoia.&rdquo;</p><p>Mike has lived in and out of shelters and mental institutions for years. He was in a relationship with a woman whose son was developmentally disabled. After the boy died, she committed suicide. Mike found out while in jail for allegedly assaulting her last year.</p><p>The charges were dismissed, which makes Mike eligible to live in these residences. PADS wants occupants to have clean records and may install a privacy fence to try and quell neighbors&#39; concerns.</p><p>A few yards from the back of the Manor, Tim Gorey is blowing leaves off his lawn. He&rsquo;s got mixed feelings about his new neighbors.</p><p>&ldquo;There really is nothing to stop somebody who&rsquo;s dealing with issues, walk out their back door and cause issues for other people,&rdquo; said Gorey. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not saying I&rsquo;m against it. But on the other hand, it would be concerning.&rdquo;</p><p>His neighbor Melissa agrees. She asked we not use her last name.</p><p>&ldquo;I believe that people should have help and I think there should be places for homeless people. I&rsquo;m all for it,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s the right location.&rdquo;</p><p>Melissa can see the building from her home. She says the arrival of homeless residents in her neighborhood was approved without public input. The Manor is in unincorporated Lake Zurich, so the village had no say on the project. The village president won&#39;t comment on the issue.</p><p>Melissa worries about how how the residents will be able to manage their illnesses.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know where their mind is at. What medication they&rsquo;re at or how it&rsquo;s going to be supervised,&rdquo; said Melissa. &ldquo;My concern is that I do have a young child. I just can&rsquo;t take a chance.&rdquo;</p><p>Mike and Melissa have one thing in common. They both want to live in a quiet town. Mike says living in Lake Zurich will keep him from returning to his former life in shelters and jail.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not going to wander around a rich town that I just moved into trying to peddle a bag of pot off somebody,&rdquo; said Mike. &ldquo;Everybody&rsquo;s due a chance. And people really need to recognize mental illness as a disease and not just a copout.&rdquo;</p><p>In an effort to try to reach out to the community, the organization plans a meeting before residents move in to answer any question or concerns people may have. PADS hopes to have Mike and the others moved in before Christmas.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a> &amp; <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 09:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-homeless-get-permanent-residence-lake-zurich-111220 CPS students take on 'Hour of Code' http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/code.PNG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-40f3cbe1-30f9-957f-253b-6b17f3cdf0d5">Some students in Chicago Public Schools started learning a new language today: The language of computers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS students took part in a global event, called the <a href="http://hourofcode.com/us">Hour of Code</a>, which gets teenagers, and this year even <a href="http://www.cnet.com/news/obama-jumps-in-to-hour-of-code-event-with-a-little-javascript/">President Barack Obama</a>, taking a crack at computer coding.</p><p dir="ltr">At <a href="http://wellshs.cps.k12.il.us/">Wells Community Academy High School</a> in West Town, about 40 teenagers filled the library. Each one of the kids huddled around a computer.</p><p dir="ltr">Music Teacher Martha Ciurla kicked things off.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to get started,&rdquo; Ciurla says. &ldquo;Now remember, all over the world, at this very hour, at this very moment, there are other kids doing the same exact thing; they are also learning to code because it&rsquo;s a pretty important thing, especially nowadays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most people can&rsquo;t go a whole day without using technology,&rdquo; says Angel Sanchez, a sophomore at Wells. &ldquo;Everything revolves around technology and so many careers revolve around knowing this stuff.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Sanchez is hunched over a computer with Traeshaun Norwood, who tells me he already knows he wants to be a video game engineer someday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I actually think it&rsquo;s fun because the career I&rsquo;m trying to get into now is going to involve a lot of coding,&rdquo; Norwood says.</p><p dir="ltr">Lucky for him, Wells is going to have a new program next year to help him do that.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to start a new computer science academy, starting next year, so it&rsquo;s an entire sequence using the gaming platform,&rdquo; says Wells Principal Rita Raichoudhuri. &ldquo;So students are going to learn how to code the program, but using video games. They&rsquo;re going to create their own video games.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Raichoudhuri says the program is a series of four courses; the final one&rsquo;s an Advanced Placement Computer Science class.</p><p dir="ltr">And it isn&rsquo;t just the library that&rsquo;s filled today. Every student &nbsp;at Wells is logged on to code.org &ndash; trying out different sequences on popular games, like <a href="https://www.angrybirds.com/">Angry Birds</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">For example, if you want to move the bird forward four spaces and then have it turn right, you would drag the block labeled &ldquo;repeat five times,&rdquo; change the five to a four and then underneath that, drop the block labeled &ldquo;move forward&rdquo;. And then you can give it a test run.</p><p dir="ltr">So it&rsquo;s not exactly the complex coding you might be thinking of.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What these Hour of Code exercises do, it takes out the complexity of the language itself and it puts everything in a block, sort of what we call pseudo-code,&rdquo; says Emmanuel San Miguel. &ldquo;It just shows you how easy it is to pass commands into a computer and see it do something.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">San Miguel is a volunteer and a developer with the company <a href="http://www.8thlight.com/">8th Light</a> downtown. He says he&rsquo;s entirely self-taught and actually got his degree in marketing.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If I had the opportunity to try out code before I went in to college, I probably would&rsquo;ve gone into computer science,&rdquo; San Miguel says.</p><p dir="ltr">For kids not interested in coding or computer science careers, there was still a pretty simple teenage reason for taking on the Hour of Code.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Whoever gets through the programs first, wins lunch,&rdquo; Ciurla announced halfway through the hour.</p><p dir="ltr">Fifteen minutes later, &nbsp;sophomores Sanchez and Norwood finished their final problem. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ms. Ciurla! We completed the Hour of Code,&rdquo; they shouted in unison.</p><p dir="ltr">But 45 minutes was not fast enough.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You guys came in second place, because they finished a minute ago, but I&rsquo;ll put your names down; if not, I&rsquo;ll bring you guys donuts on Monday,&rdquo; Ciurla tells them. &ldquo;Good job! You guys can start the other one if you want.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-students-take-hour-code-111210 Chicago museum lifts lid on Egyptian mummy coffin http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP479914621551.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Not until the lid was off the wood coffin &mdash; exposing the 2,500-year-old mummified remains of a 14-year-old Egyptian boy &mdash; could J.P. Brown relax.</p><p>The conservator at Chicago&#39;s Field Museum and three other scientists had just employed specially created clamps as a cradle to raise the fragile coffin lid. Wearing blue surgical gloves, they lifted the contraption and delicately walked it to safe spot on a table in a humidity-controlled lab.</p><p>&quot;Sweet!&quot; Brown said after helping set the lid down, before later acknowledging the stress. &quot;Oh yeah, god, I was nervous.&quot;</p><p>The much-planned procedure Friday at the museum, revealing the burial mask and blackened toes of Minirdis, the son of a priest, will allow museum conservators to stabilize the mummy so it can travel in an upcoming exhibit.</p><p>&quot;Mummies: Images of the Afterlife&quot; is expected to premier in September at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, then travel to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in fall 2016.</p><p>The Field Museum has had the mummy since the 1920s, when the institution received it from the Chicago Historical Society. It&#39;s part of the museum&#39;s collection of 30 complete human mummies from Egypt.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s always a risk of damage,&quot; said Brown, who works in a lab filled with plastic-covered examination tables behind a large window that allows schoolchildren to watch him work. &quot;So we like to handle these things as little as possible.&quot;</p><p>Even before opening the coffin, the conservators knew some of what to expect. CT scans, which make X-ray images allowing scientists to see inside, showed the boy&#39;s feet were detached and partially unwrapped with his toes sticking out. His shroud and mask were torn and twisted sideways. Those also will be repaired.</p><p>Pieces of the coffin had previously gone missing, so the mummy had been exposed to the elements before. For that reason, Brown wasn&#39;t worried about the mummy scattering to dust when the lid came off &mdash; a notion familiar to moviegoers.</p><p>&quot;The last bit of &#39;Indiana Jones&#39; and all that &mdash; that&#39;s not going to happen,&quot; he reassured before the lid-raising began.</p><p>Walking around the opened coffin, Brown pointed and explained the significance of a particular marking, the colored resin on linen wrappings and the gilded gold on the mask. If Minirdis had lived, he would have been a priest like his father, Brown said.</p><p>Scientists don&#39;t know why he died so young.</p><p>&quot;The fascinating thing about any mummy is that it&#39;s survived as long as it has,&quot; Brown said. &quot;They&#39;re actually amazingly fragile.&quot;</p><p>This kind of work is always painstaking, with lots of pre-planning and tests to prevent the unexpected, said Molly Gleeson, who works with mummies as project conservator at Penn Museum&#39;s &quot;In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies&quot; exhibition in Philadelphia.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s nothing else like them,&quot; she said, noting that if something goes wrong, &quot;We can&#39;t put things back together exactly the way they were before.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-museum-lifts-lid-egyptian-mummy-coffin-111204 As Keystone XL stalls, another pipeline network moves quietly forward http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-work/keystone-xl-stalls-another-pipeline-network-moves-quietly-forward <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flanagan 1.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>The Keystone XL has been in the news a lot lately. The controversial pipeline would carry tar sands oil, a form of crude that is booming in North America. The southern section of the pipeline is already built, but protests have raged over the northern section and the State Department has been hesitant to approve it.</p><p>The Keystone XL&rsquo;s fans say tar sands oil can make us a more energy independent country. But environmentalists oppose it, saying tar sands oil is especially dirty and will <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline-impact-on-global-warming/" target="_blank">accelerate climate change</a>.</p><p>But while Keystone XL has stalled, another tar sands project are happening under the radar.</p><p>&ldquo;While all the focus has been on Keystone XL, Enbridge has used existing pipelines and new pipelines next to existing pipelines to create the same system,&rdquo; says Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the <a href="http://pstrust.org/" target="_blank">Pipeline Safety Trust</a>.</p><p>One piece in that pipeline network expects to begin full operations soon. It is called Flanagan South and it starts about two hours south of Chicago at the Flanagan South pump station.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Flanagan South</span><br />The pump station is by a road in the middle of a big field. A few pipes come up above ground and there is a building about the size of a small warehouse. It is all pretty simple-looking for how much will happen here.</p><p>In early December, the oil transport company Enbridge plans to start full operations on the Flanagan South pipeline, pumping 600,000 barrels of oil a day through a pipe about as wide as a hula hoop. The pipeline goes from Illinois to Oklahoma, but is part of a network that stretches up to the Canadian tar sands and down to the Gulf Coast (just like the Keystone.)</p><p>The number of pipelines is the United States is growing because of a booming oil industry in the tar sands of Canada and North Dakota.&nbsp; Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Smith says that is not only good news for Enbridge&rsquo;s business, it is also good news for states like Illinois. &ldquo;Once Flanagan South [and a number of other Illinois pipelines] are in service for a full year, it will be over an additional 4 million in taxes that Enbridge will contribute to the Illinois economy,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>Enbridge hired around 1,000 people during construction of the Illinois section of the pipeline (it estimates about half of those jobs went to Illinois residents). And crude oil imports to the midwest recently hit an all-time high.</p><p>&ldquo;Outside of just the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel, by-products of crude oil are made for plastics, and are made in manufacturing. Our true quality of life depends on crude oil,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>In total, Enbridge expects to hire only five permanent position because of the Flanagan pipeline. And Doug Hayes with the Sierra Club say those jobs are just not worth it.</p><p>&ldquo;The 600,000 barrels a day is equal to about 130 million tons of carbon emissions, which is the same as putting 27 million more cars on the road each year,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Escaping public attention</span></p><p>Enbridge used existing pipes to build its new network, reversing some lines and expanding others. One of those existing lines already crossed a Canadian border, so unlike Keystone XL, it did not need state department approval (<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/2014/12/05/all-eyes-keystone-another-tar-sands-pipeline-just-crossed-border-286685.html" target="_blank">though this process has also been controversial</a>).</p><p>The Sierra club&rsquo;s Doug Hayes says the company also used something called a Nationwide 12 permit to build the new Flanagan section. It basically fast-tracks the permitting process. The southern section of the Keystone XL (which is already complete) also used one.</p><p>The permit allowed Enbridge to skip long public comment periods and avoid an environmental review of the Flanagan pipeline in its entirety.</p><p>&ldquo;So the problem is, there was no opportunity for the communities along the pipeline to learn about the dangers of oil spills, the climate impacts, and so forth,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p>Hayes represented the Sierra Club in a lawsuit over this permit. The Sierra Club lost, but is appealing.</p><p>Hayes says the case is a big deal because he expects more companies to follow a similar strategy. &ldquo;The tar sands industry is looking at what is happening with Keystone XL and they understand that the more the public learns about these projects, the more opposition grows. So, there has been a concerted effort to permit these pipelines behind closed doors,&rdquo; said Hayes.</p><p>Smith, the Enbridge spokesperson says the company never tried to keep the pipeline quiet and that she helped host open houses and presentations. &ldquo;Everyone is welcome to come and learn about the projects and get their questions answered,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>But when pressed on if Enbridge escaped the more comprehensive environmental review, she is more elusive. She responded to multiple rephrased variations of the question by repeating that the company followed the permitting route that the government laid out for them.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The risk of oil spills</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179517057&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_user=true" width="100%"></iframe>The new Flanagan South pipeline passes through roughly 2,000 waterways or wetlands. The Environmental Protection Agency says tar sands oil presents a different spill risk than conventional oil, because it can sink to the bottom of waterways and does not appreciably biodegrade.</p><p>About four years ago, an Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands oil ruptured in Michigan.<br />The accident cost just over a billion dollars and still is not cleaned up. A report from National Wildlife Federation says the spill contaminated 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River and provoked evacuations.</p><p>Smith concedes there will always be a risk of spills. But she says if oil is going to move, the safest way to do it is through pipelines. &ldquo;Even according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, pipelines are the safest way to transport oil,&rdquo; said Smith.</p><p>Enbridge says the Michigan spill was quote, &ldquo;The company&rsquo;s darkest time.&rdquo; It says it&rsquo;s updated safety procedures and equipment since then. But pipeline activists say it is difficult to evaluate if that is true. Because of lax government oversight, they say they are left to take the company at its word.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Government Oversight</span></p><p>The National Wildlife Federation&rsquo;s report on the Michigan spill holds Enbridge accountable. But it also blames government agencies.</p><p>&ldquo;The first responders were very ill-prepared to deal with the spill. And a lot of that was the fact that they simply didn&rsquo;t have the information and tools that they needed. That is largely the fault of a federal regulatory agency that did not prepare them properly,&rdquo; said Jim Murphy, lawyer for The National Wildlife Federation.</p><p>Carl Weimer, Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, says the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) does not have the resources to deal with all the new pipelines.</p><p>&ldquo;So, if there are problems, the regulators may be missing it. So, to a grand degree we are trusting that the pipeline industry is going to do things correctly,&rdquo; said Weimer.</p><p>In a testimony before congress, PHMSA officials said the agency must grow to meet added demands and evolving changes. They also requested additional funding and said the &ldquo;potential to do more remains.&rdquo;</p><p>But Weimer says we can not lay all the blame on the federal government. States can apply to do their own additional monitoring. &ldquo;They can really provide better and more inspections of the pipeline,&rdquo; said Weimer.</p><p>Only a few states have done that, and Illinois is not one of them. But with the growing number of new pipelines in the state, Weimer says maybe it is time to consider it.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @<a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">shannon_h</a></em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-work/keystone-xl-stalls-another-pipeline-network-moves-quietly-forward Recent returnees from West Africa monitored by Chicago health officials http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-returnees-west-africa-monitored-chicago-health-officials-111032 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ebolaphotog1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Wednesday afternoon, Marcus DiPaola was in shorts, a t-shirt and puffy shark slippers, bouncing around his West Loop apartment.</p><p>The freelance journalist zinged from his bed to his computer table displaying souvenirs of his recent journey from Liberia, to Morocco, to New York, then Chicago, where he lives. There are brochures from the airport about Ebola symptoms, a digital thermometer (that he uses about 40 times a day) and pills.</p><p>&quot;This is Tylenol just in case I get dehydrated or a headache of some kind,&quot; said the journalist who works for the Chinese government news service, among others. &quot;These are malaria pills. You gotta take these because if you don&#39;t you might get a (malarial) fever which is commonly mistaken for Ebola so you&rsquo;re going to be stuck at an Ebola treatment center and actually get Ebola which would be bad.&rdquo;</p><p>DiPaola returned from Liberia 10 days ago. He filled out his questionnaire at JFK airport in New York and was found to be in the zero-risk category under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. &nbsp;</p><p>&quot;This was because I never had any patient contact of any kind or even contact with anybody,&quot; DiPaolo said. &quot;No one is shaking hands, no one&rsquo;s hugging. No one&rsquo;s touching each other at all.&rdquo;</p><p>But a day after touching down in New York, Di Paola flew to Chicago. And five days later, he got a call from the New York Department of Public Health. He explained that he was already in Chicago and he was told to expect a call from Illinois officials within 24 hours.</p><p>DiPaola never heard from the Illinois Department of Public Health. But Wednesday, three hours after he finished<a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/morning-shift-reporter"> an interview with WBEZ</a>, the 23-year-old journalist did get a call from the Chicago Department of Public Health.</p><p>&quot;They wanted to know what my temperature was and they wanted to know if they could come over and give me a quick check over,&quot; he said.</p><p>New protocols from the CDC now require even zero-risk returnees to be reclassified as low-risk and monitored for at least 21 days. DiPaola supports the measures but can be frustrated by some of the fear generated by public ignorance on incubation periods and transmission routes. Some scrutiny has come from friends and the parents of his girlfriend&rsquo;s roommate who believe that his current freedom could spread the virus.</p><p>&quot;They thought that if I woke up with a fever, that somehow I would end up giving it to my girlfriend, and then she would give it to her roommate,&quot; DiPaola recalled. &quot;But the problem with that is that even if you do wake up with a fever, you&rsquo;ve still got between four and seven days before you start vomiting and having a lot of fecal matter leave you. And that&rsquo;s the only way to spread it.&quot;</p><p>Despite these fear-driven concerns from the public, DiPaolo welcomes the public health nurses who arrived at his door for the first time Wednesday afternoon.</p><p>&quot;Hey guys, come on in,&quot; he says to the ladies who seem a little startled by his ebullient manner. &quot;Welcome to the party!&quot;</p><p>In lieu of shaking hands, DiPaola invites them to touch shoes, &quot;like we do it in Liberia,&quot; he says. &nbsp;</p><p>One nurse explains: &quot;Our purpose of being here today is to just look at you and make sure everything is fine with you and that you have no symptoms. And we&rsquo;d like you take your temperature and we will look at it to see what it is.&quot;</p><p>DiPaolo pulls out his digital thermometer and shows the nurses a reading of 98.5 degrees.</p><p>&quot;OK this is my previous temperature from 30 minutes ago,&quot; he says. &quot;I&#39;m going to warm it up here and it is 98.5 again.&quot;</p><p>The nurses scheduled future visits with DiPaola through November 10. Each time, they will monitor him for symptoms and check his temperature. He&rsquo;s also told to call 311 immediately if he starts to run a fever.</p><p>Once the nurses are gone, DiPaola settles back into his quiet apartment with his girlfriend, Emily. She arrived in the middle of the screening to find three strange women in her boyfriend&rsquo;s home.</p><p>&quot;Well, that was a surprise,&quot; she says.</p><p>&quot;I probably should have warned you,&quot; he says.</p><p>&quot;Yeah, you should have,&quot; she responds.</p><p>In coming weeks, DiPaola&#39;s schedule should become more predictable. His employers don&#39;t want him to work for 25 days after his return. But he does have regular apppointments planned with nurses. The journalist says he thinks these visits are probably best for public health, but he&#39;s also looking forward to November 10.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and the co-host of &nbsp;the food podcast &quot;Chewing the Fat.&quot;&nbsp; Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-returnees-west-africa-monitored-chicago-health-officials-111032 As Infrastructure Crumbles, Trillions Of Gallons Of Water Lost http://www.wbez.org/news/infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-gallons-water-lost-111019 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/water.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="A water maintenance crew works on leaky infrastructure in Skokie, a Chicago suburb. The area loses almost 22 billion gallons of water a year because of ailing infrastructure. (David Schaper /NPR)" /></div><p>Imagine Manhattan under almost 300 feet of water. Not water from a hurricane or a tsunami, but purified drinking water &mdash; 2.1 trillion gallons of it.</p><p>That&#39;s the amount of water that researchers estimate is lost each year in this country because of aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.</p><p>Fixing that infrastructure won&#39;t be cheap, which is something every water consumer is likely to discover.</p><p>In Chicago, fresh water is drawn into water intake cribs in Lake Michigan and piped to the enormous Jardine Water Filtration Plant on the lakefront, adjacent to Navy Pier.</p><p>Jardine is the largest water filtration plant in the world by volume, pumping about 1 billion gallons of purified drinking water out through hundreds of thousands of miles of pipes to 5 million people in Chicago and 125 surrounding communities.</p><p>But not all of that treated, potable water makes it through the system to homes and businesses. In fact, quite a bit of it is lost.</p><p>The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainability, recently put out a report that estimates &quot;about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cnt.org/2013/11/18/the-case-for-fixing-the-leaks-release/" target="_blank">6 billion gallons of water per day</a>&nbsp;may be wasted in the U.S.,&quot; says Danielle Gallet, the group&#39;s water supply program manager.</p><p>Where does it go? Much of it just leaks out of aging pipes and water mains that crack and break.</p><p>&quot;We do have a crumbling infrastructure issue,&quot; Gallet says. &quot;It is old.&quot;</p><p>Last winter&#39;s extremely bitter cold in the Midwest and Northeast was especially tough on the aging water infrastructure in those parts of the country.</p><p>But water main breaks are becoming increasingly common in warmer months too. &quot;We replaced 6 feet of main here [of a] 10-inch main,&quot; that burst open 5 feet beneath a busy thoroughfare in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, says Perry Gabuzzi, a maintenance worker for that city&#39;s water department, one recent warm morning.</p><p>&quot;See the golf-ball-sized holes in it?&quot; he asked, pointing to the section of pipe his crew removed.</p><p>The rusted pipe broke open just because of old age. Gabuzzi and his colleagues estimated the section to be at least 70 years old.</p><p>In Los Angeles in July, a water main estimated to be 93 years old broke wide open, causing severe flooding on the campus of UCLA.</p><p>And these kinds of incidents are happening all over the country, as much of the nation&#39;s water infrastructure is now a century old.</p><p>&quot;The infrastructure and the massive investment that our grandparents, great-grandparents, some of us our great-great-grandparents put in, is coming to the end of its useful life, and the bill has come due on our watch,&quot; Gallet says.</p><p>A recent study by Gallet&#39;s group and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning found the Chicago area alone is losing&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/10180/296743/FY14-0071+IDNR+WATER+LOSS+REPORT/bfda6186-8c79-42b5-80b8-9d97c7c2300d" target="_blank">22 billion gallons of treated water per year</a>&nbsp;through leaky pipes.</p><p>&quot;We figured that that could fill the residential needs of about 700,000 people in a year,&quot; says Tim Loftus, water resource planner for the agency.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a big city,&quot; he says. &quot;That&#39;s a year&#39;s worth of residential water use.&quot;</p><p>Nationwide, the amount of water that is lost each year is estimated to top 2 trillion gallons, according to the American Water Works Association. That&#39;s about 14 to 18 percent (or one-sixth) of the water the nation treats.</p><p>And it&#39;s not just water that&#39;s going down the drain, but billions of dollars in revenue too because utilities can&#39;t charge customers for water that is lost before it gets to them.</p><p>But fixing the nation&#39;s water systems isn&#39;t going to be cheap.</p><p>&quot;Our estimates are that this is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.awwa.org/Portals/0/files/legreg/documents/BuriedNoLonger.pdf" target="_blank">a trillion-dollar program</a>,&quot; says David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association. &quot;About half of that trillion dollars will be to replace existing infrastructure. The other half will be putting into the ground new infrastructure to serve population growth and areas that currently aren&#39;t receiving water.&quot;</p><p>Across the country, many communities are raising water rates &mdash; some in the double and triple digits &mdash; to begin addressing the problem. California and Maine, as well as several individual communities, are asking voters next week to approve massive bond initiatives to fund water infrastructure improvements.</p><p>But some government spending watchdogs are skeptical.</p><p>&quot;Anytime somebody tells me that we have to spend more money, I&#39;m going to look at who is telling me that and do they have an interest in it,&quot; says Steve Ellis of the Washington-based group Taxpayers for Common Sense.</p><p>He says water utilities stand to gain from massive water infrastructure spending, as does the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives the nation&#39;s water infrastructure a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/drinking-water/" target="_blank">barely passing grade of &quot;D.&quot;</a></p><p>Ellis says that doesn&#39;t mean big spending on water infrastructure isn&#39;t needed. Voters just need to make sure there&#39;s proper oversight, as well as investments in better technologies and conservation.</p><p>The American Water Works Association is meeting in Atlanta this week in its first conference focused on water infrastructure.</p><p>LaFrance says the first priority is to get water utilities to audit their systems and install and upgrade meters where needed. Then they can get a better handle on just how much water is being lost because too many, he says, just don&#39;t know.</p><p>And in the meantime, the old and crumbling pipes keep leaking.</p><p>-<a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/10/29/359875321/as-infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-of-gallons-of-water-lost"><em>Via NPR News</em></a></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/infrastructure-crumbles-trillions-gallons-water-lost-111019 Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977