Letters: Silicosis, Social Conservatives, Cheek's Gift

Michele Norris and Melissa Block read from listeners' letters and emails. This week, listeners comment on Wade Goodwyn's story about silicosis claims, Linda Wertheimer's report on social conservatives in Plant City, Florida, and Olympic medalist Joey Cheek's contribution.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Thursday is the day we read from your emails.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And we'll begin with response to Wade Goodwyn's report on silicosis lawsuits.

Silicosis is a deadly lung disease contracted by some industrial workers. Over the past few years, lawyers and doctors have been aggressively screening for potential victims. But a federal judge has stopped thousands of court cases, ruling that they'd been manufactured for money.

In Wade's story, we heard from workers who filed claims, lawyers, the federal judge, and doctors who look at x-rays for signs of silicosis. Those doctors, called B-readers, often testify in silicosis cases.

BLOCK: Douglas Bergman (ph) of Sacramento was impressed by the story. He writes, "Wade Goodwin provided one of the most interesting investigative reports I've heard on NPR in years. It highlights one of the key ethical practices for those of us who provide expert witness services. We do not or should not get paid contingent on our expert opinions or on the outcome of a case. Any doctor who agrees to be paid $750 per positive diagnosis, rather than a fee per patient regardless of diagnosis, is lacking in ethics on several levels."

NORRIS: Brett Bymaster (ph) of Iowa City sent kudos as well. He writes, "The investigative reporting in this story was truly superb. Thanks for doing a well-researched, in-depth story. This is what the network news sources are missing."

BLOCK: Our Linda Wertheimer traveled to Plant City, Florida, as part of her examination of voter groups, or typologies. She spoke with social conservatives there, and her report caught the ears of quite a few listeners.

NORRIS: Most wrote in to express their dismay at the views expressed in the story. Listener James Shelby's letter is typical. He writes, "I enjoyed this story, admiring the faith of the women you interviewed. However, the danger of mixing religion with politics for political gain needs to be seen for what it is. President Bush is a politician, not a husband. Critical thinking is more appropriate when dealing with politicians."

BLOCK: Peter Delessio (ph) is a resident of Plant City himself, and he was happy to hear his town, and its Strawberry Festival, featured in our story. But like James Shelby he does not share the reviews of the conservatives in the report. He writes, "Many of us here in Plant City do not support President Bush or his policies. His disregard for the constitution, his dishonesty, and his disrespect of our privacy are only a few of the issues that anger us. Even though many of us have differences politically, we do treat each other with respect in Plant City. Several of the voices featured are those of people I tremendously respect, but please, don't think all of us are on the Bush bandwagon. Being a Christian doesn't automatically make everyone a conservative."

NORRIS: And finally, praise for Melissa's interview with Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek.

BLOCK: I spoke with him about his speed skating career and his decision to donate the $40 thousand dollars he received for winning in Turin to a charity called Right to Play. Listener Larry Bowen writes, "In our time, where the Olympic Games seem more like the corporate games and athletic achievement is far too often equated with athletic excess, it was refreshing to hear that the opposite is still possible." Mr. Bowen concludes, "Someone should advise him to go into politics. I'd vote for him."

NORRIS: We want to know what you think of our show, so write to us. Go to NPR.org and click on Contact Us at the top of the screen.

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