His jockey describes him this way: "He's like a big baby. He's like the pony of the barn and yet he's an explosive powerful beast in the afternoon." Kent Desormeaux is the jockey that rode Big Brown to victory at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He feels confident he can ride Big Brown into the history books as the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years.
But I was taken by the dynamic charisma that Kent possesses. When I asked my first question, "what is it like when you are on a thoroughbred in a race?" His whole demeanor transformed. He closed his eyes and said, "It's the wind howling through your ears, and the fence posts going shoop, shoop, shoop and the thundering hooves." While he spoke, he used his hands to demonstrate fence posts zooming by. It was as if he transported us to that moment. There is no doubt Desormeaux is at the top of his game because of his love of horses and racing.
One of the most common ingredients in the food we eat isn't even a food. It's food dye.
Food dyes are synthetic chemicals and you've seen them on many an ingredient list. They've got names like "Red 40" and "Blue 2." Without them, your cheesy macaroni might not be yellow and your fruit punch might not be red. Thousands of grocery store items contain artificial food dyes. We even spotted a package of "100% Real" potato au gratin today that gets its golden hue from 100 percent real "Yellow 5 Lake" and "Yellow 6 Lake."
There have been a lot of studies on the effects of artificial food dyes on children, dating back to the 1970s. Some showed that food dyes could cause behavioral problems in children, and others didn't. But a few years ago, an analysis of 21 of the most conclusive studies found compelling evidence that, indeed, artificial dyes could contribute to hyperactivity, restlessness, and attention problems in some children – particularly those with ADHD. What's more, the studies suggested that removing dyes from those children's diet was a quarter to half as effective in reducing those symptoms as giving the kids Ritalin or other stimulants. In other words, certain kids with ADHD might not need drugs if the artificial dyes were removed from their diets.
A few months ago my boss asked me to start traveling around the country to look at the "Other America," an America that we weren't always paying attention to. The series was born and now that four pieces have aired on the Evening News, I think it's starting to develop its own feel.
I see "Other America" as a look at hard-working Americans that are struggling to get by. As the economy gets tough for so many of us – with higher prices to pay at the pump and grocery store – our paychecks (for those of us lucky enough to have work) seem to be shrinking. What is so frightening is that there are so many stories out there to cover in this series.
For this week's "Other America," we headed to Dover, Tenn. My producer, Linda Karas, a long-time CBS-er, and Emily Rand (who's also been helping with these stories), heard that America's Second Harvest would be setting up a mobile pantry in this rural town in the middle of Tennessee.
I can only imagine that they tell themselves the cheap, illegally imported chemotherapy drugs are safe – that they're just as good as any of the more expensive versions that are sold legally in the United States.
That's the only thing that makes it even slightly comprehensible as to why trusted oncologists – cancer doctors – would opt to buy delicate, lifesaving I.V. chemotherapy drugs on-the-cheap from a source in which there's no way to know whether the medicine has been produced properly, transported properly or stored properly. Even if the drugs somehow could be guaranteed safe, the story is still shocking: Doctors aren't passing along the savings (for buying the cheap, imported drugs) to their ill patients. Instead, they're pocketing the profits.
How? By charging Medicare and Medicaid full price and keeping the change: As much as $1,000 per patient per treatment. There's no way to know just how many American oncologists have been taking advantage of this system. But of all the ones who have been solicited by the foreign Canadian pharmacy that sells the drugs, only one was upset enough to blow the whistle.
Dr. Suby Rao works in a busy Chicago-area practice. He knew better than to order illegally imported drugs, no matter how "cheap" they may be. He never considered ordering such medicine even for a moment. But when he struck up a conversation with a colleague and discovered that colleague was actually using the questionable medicine, it "kept him up at night." Rao says the drugs from unknown sources could be impotent, toxic, fake or contaminated. He says there's no way to know how many cancer patients may have been hurt or killed by the medicine, since casualties would likely be blamed on their cancer.
After laying awake enough nights, Dr. Rao found a way to get the government interested (through the Medicare fraud angle). He helped play detective and exposed dozens of doctors. Will their patients ever know? The FBI and HHS, who are investigating the cases, apparently are having offending doctors reimburse Medicare for their fraudulent billing. But the first doctor to pay up has been allowed to keep his medical license, promising never to repeat the offense. Rao finds that a frightening prospect: that physicians who – he believes – put their patients at risk for profit would simply be allowed to pay a fee, and not have to tell their patients that their health may have been compromised. That they will now be "trusted" to behave honestly in the future. It's something to think about if you or a family member has the misfortune of having to go through the trauma and heartache of chemotherapy in an oncologist's office.
The cancer is bad enough. But how do you know whether the drugs are really safe?
As I was getting ready to leave my apartment on 88th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan this morning, I heard the helicopter circling above. I didn't think much of it until I turned on the news and saw that a crane had collapsed three blocks away.
I grabbed the small digital video camera that I had used when I was an off-air reporter covering a presidential campaign and dashed off to the scene. I thought I'd be able to get some of the first on-the-ground video of the aftermath, but in this era of citizen journalism, I was already way behind. There were already dozens of journalists—mostly the kind who don't receive paychecks for their work—wielding home movie cameras, tape recorders and cell phones. Being first on the scene of breaking news seems almost impossible now, unless, of course you are the news.
One local resident handed me a videotape he had shot from his nearby window less than five minutes after the collapse. Even though the tape was filled with home video of a family vacation, he was willing to give it up to a stranger in the hopes that CBS News might use the few moments of video he shot. In the YouTube era, it seems that almost everyone wants to help document our times.
Think the White House and its defenders are up in arms now about Scott McClellan?
Just imagine the uproar if he's called to give sworn testimony to Congress about what he knows and heard during his White House years.
A democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee is already calling for McClellan to be summoned to testify under oath about such matters as the firings of those nine U.S. attorneys a couple years ago and the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative.
Sharon Romano and her husband, Angelo, certainly aren't winning these days; in fact they're dangerously close to losing everything they've worked to build. As the owners of "Romano & Son Trucking," a business that has been in the family for nearly 40 years, they've been squeezed by the high price of fuel.
They have to pay a daily diesel bill that runs in the thousands of dollars in order to keep their 12 trucks on the road hauling asphalt for their clients. In the Phoenix area, where the Romanos live, diesel prices have jumped nearly 60 percent in just a year. It has wiped out their profits. Sharon remembers, "It seemed like overnight for me… I woke up one day and thought 'oh my God, how can we do this?'"
A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a producer in New York who said, "We'd like you to do a story on trickle-down economics." I was kind of perplexed as to why we would be revisiting Ronald Reagan and the 1980's.
I was quickly corrected. The story idea was actually about the effect someone at the top of the economic food chain (well-off person) cutting back their spending has on those of us further down (middle class and below).
It's actually reverse trickle down economics.
The question many are asking, though, has to do with the massive relief plan that aims to help ... and the way it was snuck into the Farm Bill without congressional debate. The $170 million salmon bail-out was added to the Farm Bill by California's own congresswoman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That's on top of $60 million provided by Congress to the Pacific salmon industry last year. Consider that the "lost catch" for the $60 million in relief was $16 million.
This year, the "lost catch" is estimated at $22 million, but they'll be getting a whopping $170 million in relief. Some digging around revealed there aren't all that many folks who fish for salmon, even in a good year. So where is all that money going? It turns out it does a lot more than just put emergency food in the mouths of fishermen who are living on the edge.
It was a first in my more than 22 years on the White House beat: coverage of a presidential latrine inspection.
It happened yesterday at Fort Bragg, N.C., where President Bush checked out military "facilities" at the home of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. The unusual visit was provoked after an Army paratrooper's dad shot a video that revealed shoddy conditions at a Fort Bragg barracks. The images posted on You Tube showed peeling paint, mold and sewage on a bathroom floor.
An Army statement said all repairs were completed within 72 hours of the posting of the April 24 video. But once on the Web, the disgusting images triggered a broad inspection of conditions at Army barracks. A Fort Bragg spokesman called the incident "embarrassing and shocking." He admitted it was "awful and never should have happened." The White House obviously couldn't agree more. The army made sure the latrine was squeaky clean when the president arrived for what obviously was NOT a surprise inspection as he visited the base to salute troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Pool reporter Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times described a restroom that was "as shiny as a new dime" when the commander-in-chief stepped on to the tile floor. Referring to the Army's plan to renovate and replace old barracks, Mr. Bush said, "these old buildings are coming down."
The administration clearly wants to avoid a repeat of the outrage that followed last year's revelations of dilapidated buildings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. The Fort Bragg and Walter Reed stories are vivid contradictions of President Bush's frequent promises that the government will do everything possible for the nation's veterans and active duty forces.