Letters: Falwell's Death, Pets, and Dourness

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Michele Norris and Andrea Seabrook read from listeners' letters and e-mails. We hear feedback about our coverage of Jerry Falwell's death, about a story on pets and their owners escaping abusive relationships, and about our "dourness" index.


Thursday is the day we read from your email. And this week, we got a number of comments about our coverage of the death of TV evangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell.


Michael Farrell(ph) of Richmond, Virginia, felt we focused too much on the controversies that surrounded Falwell, specifically his remark attributing the 9/11 attacks to what Falwell called the secularization of America. Mr. Farrell writes, wouldn't it have been more responsible and accurate to mention that he founded a large thriving university, that he was a pastor at one of the largest congregations in Virginia, that he was incredibly influential. He was controversial to be sure, but it's unfair to label his whole life with a single controversial remark for which he later apologized.

NORRIS: Our profile of Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel irked Steven Matthews(ph) of Bedford, Texas. As I listened to your interview with Rahm Emanuel, my blood started to boil, he says. This is exactly the kind of Rove-esque politics that has created such gridlock in Washington and polarized our country.

SEABROOK: We got some praise this week, too, including this note from Ellen McKevoy(ph) of Saint Paul, Minnesota. She liked Anne Garrels' report on the state of the Iraqi army's medical care. Thank you for covering a story I've been wondering about, she writes. We get very exercised about shortcomings at Walter Reed, as we should, but I'm sure that the worst treatment for the U.S. military is far better than the best treatment Iraq is able to provide for its own.

NORRIS: Last week, we aired a story about one humane society's efforts to protect the pets owned by women escaping abusive relationships. Our piece brought back a flood of memories for Amanda(ph), a listener in Virginia who asked that her last name be withheld.

SEABROOK: This story sent me unexpectedly into gasping, breathless sobs on my drive home as I recalled the fears I had about leaving a dangerous relationship and how I would do it with or without my dog. Amanda continues, we left and my dog and I celebrated our ninth anniversary earlier this month. Your story reminds me that I need to thank the three friends who harbored us while we were between homes. They saved our lives.

NORRIS: Also last week, we ran a profile of Chuck Brown, the godfather of Washington, D.C.'s signature sound, go-go.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHUCK BROWN (Singer): (Singing) Just rock your body from side to side.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Oh woo, oh woo.

NORRIS: Our story and that sound prompted Lisa Dukes(ph) of Richland, Washington, to write this.

SEABROOK: Wow. Chuck Brown is my new musical hero. I'm just a boring, gray-haired, middle-aged engineer. But when I heard Chuck while driving home on Thursday, I nearly ran my car off the road, grooving with the music. I've never heard anything quite like it.

NORRIS: Finally, we noted this week that the man who will succeed Tony Blair as the prime minister of Britain, Gordon Brown, is almost always described as a dour Scotsman. So using a Google search for dour, we attempted to figure out whether dourness was a quality peculiar to Scots.

Our unscientific result: Scots were 10 times more likely to be described as dour, than were the French and thousands of times more likely than Albanians.

SEABROOK: If truth be told, we Scots can be a bit dour. But let outward appearance fool no one, writes Nick Simpson(ph) of Vero Beach, Florida. Go to a soccer match over there and you will see the true Scotsman in full flow.

NORRIS: But Google engineer Steve Baker took issue with our methodology. He points out that of the 10,400 hits we got when searching dour Scot, more than 9,000 of them were in reference to Gordon Brown.

So he ran a much more scientific test and gave us what we will call our Baker-Weighted Dourness Index, and that results in a score of 1.33 for Scots and 2.77 for the French.

SEABROOK: My conclusion, Mr. Baker writes, the French are clearly more dour. But we knew that without using Google.

NORRIS: Hmm. If you've got a comment on what you hear on our program, please visit our Web site, npr.org and click on Contact Us at the top of the page.

(Soundbite of music)

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