From Our Listeners

Letters: Baseball, Vioxx and Haikus

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Melissa Block and Robert Siegel read from our listener's letters from the past week. Letters they read comment on our coverage of last week's epochal Boston Red Sox - Chicago Cubs baseball game, Snigdha Prakash's investigative report into Merck and its pain-killing drug Vioxx, the Harvard class-day speech Bingo game, and our segment on elemental Haikus.


On Thursdays, we read from your letters.


And today we begin with a correction to our story on the historic Boston Red Sox-Chicago Cubs interleague showdown this past weekend. We said that the last time the Red Sox played in the Windy City was 1918 in the Cubs-Red Sox World Series. Well, several of you wrote to point out our oversight. The Red Sox have, of course, played in Chicago many times since 1918 against the Chicago White Sox.

BLOCK: Apologies to the South Siders.

Now to letters written about Snigdha Prakash's story on Merck's painkilling drug Vioxx. She reported that long before Vioxx was pulled from the market last fall, Merck had moved to suppress criticism of the drug and its possible dangers for the heart.

SIEGEL: We received many positive letters. Listener John Schneider of Atlanta, Georgia, wrote: `I listened with great interest to your story on Merck and Vioxx and have to say that it was one of the best stories I have ever heard on the radio. The story is fascinating. Thank you and well done.'

BLOCK: John Werner of Bloomington, Indiana, sent this praise. `Thank you so much for your piece on Vioxx. It was well-researched and done and it was eye-opening. I really appreciate your shedding some light on this issue. Perhaps keeping the public informed is the best and only avenue we can follow for now.'

SIEGEL: There was also some criticism. Listener Sam Smith(ph) wrote: `I was dismayed to find such an unbalanced report on NPR. There are valid arguments put forth by the company regarding what they knew and why they took certain actions. However, rather than examining the company's claims, the reporter opted instead to use inflammatory language to present her one-sided arguments. Merck's position was given, at best, cursory coverage.'

BLOCK: We interviewed two Harvard students about the game they called Tim Russert Bingo. The host of NBC's "Meet the Press" gave a pre-graduation speech at Harvard, and the students knew that Russert has recycled much the same text many times over. The students created a game card with Russert's stock phrases in the boxes; they marked them off as he spoke and called out bingo when they got five in a row. Well, several of you scolded us to failing to mention that other schools have long played graduation bingo.

SIEGEL: Listener Edward M. Bowe(ph) of Palo Alto was one. He writes: `Just need to let you know that the Stanford band has been researching, writing, producing and playing commencement speaker bingo for years: since before Al Gore invented the Internet, since before television, since before radio, even. Well, still, that was pretty creative for those Harvard boys to do. We can see why they call themselves the Stanford of the East.'

BLOCK: We conclude now with the undisputed creativity of another Harvard grad. Last week, we read haiku from the Periodic Table of Haiku, poetic renderings of the chemical elements, and afterward we played an instrumental version of "The Major General" song from Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance." There were many listeners who got the reference. They knew the work of Harvard mathematician and satirist Tom Lehrer.

SIEGEL: Jim Pyburn(ph) of Arlington, Virginia, wrote: `A tip of the hat to the producer of this segment--obviously a fan of Tom Lehrer--who cleverly ended the piece with the most appropriate music possible.'

(Soundbite of "The Elements")

BLOCK: You can e-mail us at Don't forget to tell us where you live and how to pronounce your name.

(Soundbite of "The Elements")

Mr. TOM LEHRER: (Singing) There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium and hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium. And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium. And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium, europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium. And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium and gold, protactinium and indium and gallium. And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium. There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium, and boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium and strontium and silicon and silver and samarium and bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.

SIEGEL: This is NPR, National Public Radium.

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