Listener: Youth Violence Is Everyone's Problem

The program's audience sounds off on youth violence in response to host Michel Martin's commentary. A Texas listener says it's really everyone's issue, not just the federal government. Also, a New York woman explains why her family knows all too well about a recent study reporting that the number of bankruptcies related to medical expenses has skyrocketed.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me, as always. Hey Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, you took to the mic this week to ask why the country's leaders are not doing more to address the alarming increase in murders of young people, and especially young men of color. As you put it, why does the government seem to be more worried about the flu than about a known killer of young people?

W: parents, government, community leaders. Whose is it? But blogger Matthew(ph), a teacher at an alternative school in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says it really should be everyone's concern.

MATTHEW: We do the best we can at our campus to help our students break the cycle of violence, let them know that we care about them and that we hold them accountable. That said, we need help. We need help from families, from the community, from local government, state government, federal government. Honestly, it doesn't matter where it comes from. We can't do this on our own. We really need help.

MARTIN: Thank you, Matthew. Now on to another disturbing reality. We talked about a recent study by the American Journal of Medicine that shows a dramatic increase in personal bankruptcy filings related to medical expenses. In 2007, according to the report, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies were linked to medical bills. We heard stories from listeners who know all too well about how medical expenses can lead to financial ruin. Here's blogger Christine(ph), who's a psychologist.

CHRISTINE: Our 25-year-old son could not afford health insurance, and it wasn't provided at the restaurant where he works. He had a serious accident, which resulted in extensive, third-degree burns. He ran up over $50,000 of medical bills but did not declare bankruptcy because of the embarrassment and stigma of this. Now he is crippled by the medical bills. I don't know how he is going to be able to recover from this financially and ever afford to have his own family.

HILL: Thank you, Christine, and our thoughts are with you and your family. Michel, we also discussed the Bonnie Sweeten case this week. She's the white woman from Pennsylvania who made up a story about two black men kidnapping her and her daughter.

There was a lot of outrage about this when folks later learned Sweeten lied about the whole thing. And these racial hoaxes have happened several times before. Our guest talked about how authorities should handle people like Sweeten, who launched these false crime charges against men of color. The story sparked a remarkable level of response from our listeners, and a vast majority of them believe Sweeten owes not only the police but also the black community an apology.

MARTIN: Thanks, Lee, any updates before we go?

HILL: Yeah, well we recently reported on the death of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions, who was gunned down at a church last month, allegedly by a pro-life extremist. Tiller's clinic was one of only a handful that performed later abortions, and there was a question about whether Tiller's clinic would reopen. Well this week, the late doctor's family announced their decision to close the clinic and asserted that they would not operate any similar clinic.

And finally on a much lighter note, congratulations to actor Roger Robinson. He's one of the performers in the Broadway play "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." Now last week, we spoke with Robinson, and with the play's director, Bartlett Sher, leading up the Tony Awards. And on Sunday, Roger walked away with the prize for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play.

MARTIN: Well, cheers to Roger, and cheers to you, Lee.

HILL: And to you, as well, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our Web page. Go to npr.org. Click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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