Stories From Fall 2011
As a growing number of American women delay childbearing into their thirties and forties, the use of assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization, sperm banks, and egg donation has gone through the roof. In the growing world of egg donation, there’s a lucrative market for healthy young ovaries – not to mention the emotional value to infertile couples.
To young women looking to do good – and make a few thousand dollars – egg donation is an attractive idea. But not much is known about the procedure’s long-term health effects. With this intimate look, reporter Teresa Chin takes us inside the American egg trade.
Last January, an alternative custody program was made law in California. So far 10 women have been released early and by the end of the next year, the California Department of Corrections expects 500 women to be back in their communities. The goal? To thin out the state’s overcrowded prisons and to help reunite families. KALW’s Nicole Jones reports on how this early release program is rolling out one year later.
With gold continuing to sell at historically high prices, the hunt for the shiny mineral is alive and well. Mostly.
In 2009, California outlawed a technique known as suction dredge mining, which makes finding gold a bit easier than shaking a pan. Officials wanted to study potential damage to the Klamath River, an area where there was lots of dredging. KALW’S Hadley Robinson has the story about a struggle for power along the river.
After a series of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio last week, some observers are pointing to an unusual culprit. Yesterday seismologist John Armbruster told NPR that he thinks the quakes were related to an oil and gas extraction process called fracking.
JOHN ARMBRUSTER: Yongstown is an area which doesn’t have a history of earthquakes. This disposal well began operating in December of 2010. Three months later, the earthquakes begin.
Industry and government experts estimate there are hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas in various shale formations across the country. Some people think there’s enough to meet the country’s natural gas needs for the next few centuries – assuming we can actually get to it. Which is where fracking comes in.
Here’s how it works: companies drill deep into the ground, a mile or two down, into shale – a hard but porous rock with little pockets of gas or oil speckled throughout. Then they inject highly pressurized frack fluid – a combination of water, sand and chemicals – to break up the rock and release the oil and gas.
Fracking has touched off something of an energy boom in this country. But it’s controversial. Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency found chemicals commonly used in frack fluid in a Wyoming town’s water supply.
Environmentalist Bill Allayaud says the biggest problem with fracking is that we just don’t know that much about its long-term effects – but it’s happening right now in California. KALW’s Christopher Connelly reports.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the public debut of a man called Ishi. Ishi was Native American, a Yana from the Deer Creek area, about 150 miles northeast of Berkeley. And for the past century he’s been known as “the last wild Indian in North America.”
In some ways, he’s famous: The anthropology department building at UC Berkeley is named for Alfred Kroeber, the scholar who worked closely with Ishi, and Dwinelle Hall’s outdoor enclosure is named Ishi Court. UC Berkeley’s anthropology community held a conference in September dedicated to Ishi’s memory, and the California Museum in Sacramento has a yearlong exhibit featuring some of his possessions.
So, who was Ishi? And how could Ishi have been the so-called “last Indian” when close to a million Native Americans live in California today? Reporter Terria Smith – who is also California Native American – tells us Ishi’s story.
Technology has done great things for medicine: Machines can help keep hearts beating and lungs breathing. Electronic medical records help doctors keep track of their patients’ treatment and prevent mistakes. But all that technology needs a lot of monitoring – and that can be frustrating for nurses who want to be tending people, not machines.
To combat this problem, healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente is implementing a new program to help nurses relax a bit, and shift their focus back to what’s really important. KALW’S Christopher Connelly has more on what they’re doing.
The education of young people is increasingly, if not exclusively, coming from the internet. And a big part of it is from the website Wikipedia. The English-language version alone has more than three million entries. It’s consistently ranked as one of the most visited websites in the world, after Facebook and before Twitter. And in the last few years, Wikipedia has started spreading to college classrooms, but not without its share of controversies and concerns.
Academics have accused the site of being full of inaccuracies. Even Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, says college students shouldn’t use it for class projects or serious research.
But, as KALW’s Nicole Jones reports, professors at top universities think students are inevitable contributors to Wikipedia’s evolution.
You don’t have to be outside for long to realize that here in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by wildlife. Long before houses and roads and cities popped up, wild animals reigned supreme. As we negotiate our relationship to the remaining members of that wildlife, there’s bound to be some tension.
One particularly sneaky animal is on the prowl in almost every neighborhood – digging up garden beds, living in attics, scavenging through garbage…
They’re raccoons, one of the most common urban animals in America. But just because they’re everywhere doesn’t mean our relationships with them are peaceful. KALW’s Hadley Robinson has more.
As realignment is becoming a reality in California, counties are scrambling to put together plans to deal with thousands of new offenders who will become their responsibility. Fundamentally, counties face a choice: Invest in more jail space to lock people up, or figure out other ways to handle those who commit crimes.
KALW’s Nicole Jones went to San Mateo county to see how it’s dealing with this difficult choice.
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