Creator of the Egg McMuffin Dies at 89
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Hey, welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We're online all the time at npr.org/bryantpark. This is the time in the show where we welcome our friends, our producers, our editor, anyone else, really, who wants to be on the show.
ALISON STEWART, host:
Into the studio.
MARTIN: The doorman downstairs.
STEWART: To talk about what you all have been emailing to your friends, talking about, and passing along on the interwebs. We call it The Most. Dan Pashman, what do you got?
DAN PASHMAN: Hey, guys. How are you?
PASHMAN: We've got a most-emailed here from the New York Times art section. "Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison." Up to now, Thomas Edison was credited as the first guy ever to record sound in a way that it could be played back, but then we appear to have found an audio recording made 17 years before Edison received a patent for the phonograph, and 28 years before an Edison associate captured a snippet of a Handel oratorio. We actually have the audio of this. It's posted up on the Times' website, and this is - we need to turn down the background music. It's not exactly the prettiest audio recording you ever heard.
PASHMAN: But this is - it comes from France, it's in Paris, and it is a folksinger singing the song "Au Clair de la Lune."
MARTIN: The clear moon?
PASHMAN: Uh, no. "The light of the moon."
MARTIN: What? Oh, the light of the moon. Yeah.
PASHMAN: And let's see how it sounds
(Soundbite of song "Au Clair de la Lune")
Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot...
MARTIN: Sounds old.
PASHMAN: Sounds kind of like the recording of the...
STEWART: Oh, catchy!
PASHMAN: Yeah! I can't get that out of my head! But it's pretty interesting that it was recorded on a phonoautograph, which was a precursor to the phonograph. It was a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. This is the part of the article I found the most amazing, is that the recordings were not intended for listening because the idea of audio playback had not been conceived.
STEWART: Oh, my goodness.
PASHMAN: I mean, this was so long ago that the idea that you could record sound and play it back had not been conceived.
MARTIN: They just wanted to capture it, just because, and never play it back.
PASHMAN: In visual form, and so they took - it's basically a writing of music, of sound, and these scientists figured out how to use a stylist and various technology to extract sound off this paper.
MARTIN: It just makes you wonder what we haven't thought of yet that we're going to be doing later.
PASHMAN: Right. What can't we conceive of now?
MARTIN: Lots of things.
STEWART: So many things. My Most is a most-popular at CNN. The inventor of the Egg McMuffin has died at 89 years old. His name was Herb Peterson, and apparently Herb was very partial to eggs benedict and wanted to create something like that for McDonald's. He'd been with the company for...
MARTIN: Kind of like it.
STEWART: Kind of like it. Hey, can anybody actually name what's in an Egg McMuffin?
PASHMAN: Canadian bacon, fried egg, English muffin, cheese.
STEWART: Close. I'll give you exact description. "The egg sandwich consisted of an egg that had been formed in a Teflon circle with the yolk broken, topped with a slice of cheese and grilled Canadian bacon. It was served open-faced on a toasted and buttered English muffin."
IAN CHILLAG: It's so funny to think about somebody inventing that.
CHILLAG: Like, I think of it just as an essence, like the circle.
STEWART: Kind of like the wheel. It's just has. He also had McDonald's first national advertising slogan. He created it, "where quality starts fresh every day." So, rest in peace, Herb Peterson.
MARTIN: OK, my Most is about a notorious bear from Europe. This guy kind of haunted my dreams for awhile when I was living in Germany because he was all over the headlines.
MARTIN: Bruno was his name, and Bruno was part of this program to - that was started by the Italians to bring back bears to the Alps, they had kind of become endangered in that area, so they put him down near Austria and Germany, and he just started wreaking all kinds of havoc. He was only two years old. He was like an adolescent, like a teenager, and he was just getting into all kinds of trouble. He was roaming villages and taunting farmers, breaking into beehives, eating sheep, and there was this big manhunt for him. I mean, really.
PASHMAN: It sounds just like my adolescence.
PATRICIA MCKINNEY: That's not funny to the sheep.
STEWART: I was going to say!
MARTIN: That's not funny, that's not funny.
MCKINNEY: That's baaaad.
MCKINNEY: Oh, I did it.
MARTIN: But he was all over the headlines.
STEWART: Yeah, you did.
MARTIN: He was all over the headlines for a long time. They eventually shot him. It was really sad when it happened - everyone was really...
MCKINNEY: Oh, this has taken a terrible turn.
MARTIN: Now he has been honored, and made into a stuffed - well, it's not actually him. A replica of Bruno has been made and put up in a Munich museum so people can go and pay homage. There you go.
STEWART: All right. Ian, I think we have a little bit of time. Hit it fast.
CHILLAG: OK. Mine's a little complicated, but I'll try to make it quick. This is a most-popular from National Geographic News. There's a provision in the Endangered Species Act that allows the government to classify groups of a species into what are called distinct population segments, and it's meant to preserve parts of species, certain populations in areas that are markedly different from the rest of their species, either physical differences, behavioral factors, geographical differences, and it's meant to kind allow for special protections of those separate parts of the species.
There's a kind of a battle brewing between conservationists and the government. Conservationists are saying that the government is actually misusing this provision, and what they are doing is separating out parts, certain populations of endangered species, and saying, we'll, this part - say there's a wolf, there's a wolf that's endangered, and a third of the wolf population is in a forest somewhere, and that part of the population is doing really well, so they separate that out, call that a distinct part of the species, and say we don't have to protect this anymore. And the conservationists are saying they are misusing this separation. All right, you guys don't...
STEWART: I'm thinking that Ian needs to go on a trip with the slow traveler.
CHILLAG: Yeah, yeah.
STEWART: To explain that story.
MATT MARTINEZ: Well, actually this is a really interesting story that we want to break out. We want to talk more about this.
STEWART: It's a good story.
CHILLAG: I'm turning off my light.
STEWART: Sorry, what do you think, Matt? Do we have time for Caitlin?
MARTINEZ: Yeah, we have time for Caitlin.
STEWART: Caitlin, go for it.
CAITLIN KENNEY: OK, I'll make it quick.
STEWART: I've heard that before.
KENNEY: Most-emailed at USA Today. It's about Petra the swan, who is going to be reunited with her beloved swan shaped paddleboat. Yes, Petra, a real black swan, has become so attached to the paddleboat that when they moved her to the zoo they had to move the paddleboat with her. But apparently, they decided they wanted her to get a real mate, so they tried to settle her down with a black swan. They didn't get along. He left, sought off other women. So now they are putting her back to the lake so she can be reunited with her beloved paddleboat.
MARTIN: It's like "Lars and the Real Girl."
STEWART: It is!
MCKINNEY: I was going to say.
KENNEY: And I just have to dish that out to Summer Ash, who tipped us off about this story a little while ago. So thanks, Summer.
STEWART: And finally, Tricia McKinney. Well, not finally, Matt's last, but Tricia, you've got a good one.
MCKINNEY: Yeah, I checked out the Google Trends this morning and there was something called "cheesing" on it, and I was like, what is that? And I clicked on it, and you know how you click on it and it tells you the related searches? They were things like cat urine, high, huffing cat urine, and I thought, all right, what's this? And the searches spiked at about ten p.m. eastern, which is when "South Park" was on the air last night. They had a new episode of "South Park," and let's find out what cheesing is.
Mr. TREY PARKER: (As Eric Cartman) You can't get high off of cat urine, can you?
Mr. PARKER: (As Mr. Mackey): Well, it's not actually cat urine, but male cats, when they are marking their territory spread concentrated urine to fend off other male cats, and that can get you really high, OK, really, really high, OK? Probably shouldn't have told you that just now, OK? That was probably bad.
MCKINNEY: Thanks, Mr. Mackey. So, you know, of course, the kids go off and try to get high on this method, but it actually is a satire of the news media kind of making much of the new drugs that the kids are into these days. So anyways, I guess people went out to see if "cheesing" was real. I don't think it's real.
MARTINEZ: I have to say that it brings me to my most-emailed story from npr.org. It's number two right now. I'm not kidding. "Cheese Heroin Hooking Young Users in Dallas." This is serious.
STEWART: He made that up.
MARTINEZ: This is really serious.
MARTIN: But that one's real.
MARTINEZ: It's not "South Park," though, stories like this provide plenty of inspiration for the "South Park" guys, and it is indeed a type of heroin called "cheese," and people are snorting it, and the people who are snorting it are young kids.
STEWART: Oh, it's horrible.
MARTINEZ: Mostly young Hispanics, and when I say young, I mean like nine years old.
MARTIN: Oh, no.
MARTINEZ: Yeah, and so some drug abuse experts are calling it a mini-epidemic. NPR's John Burnett did this story, and here is his report on that from Dallas.
JOHN BURNETT: Cheese heroin is Mexican black-tar heroin diluted with over-the-counter sleep medication such as Tylenol PM. Sniffing heroin is not particularly new, but addiction experts say this outbreak in Dallas is unprecedented. Typically, people who inhale heroin are older and they're white. In Dallas, however, users are mostly Latino, and they're young. Really young.
Dr. CARLOS TIRADO (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center): The reports that we were seeing were pretty striking. Kids as young as nine or ten years of age coming to the hospital emergency rooms or detox facilities in acute heroin withdrawal.
BURNETT: Dr. Carlos Tirado is a psychiatry professor and medical director of a drug treatment center in Dallas. He says substance abuse clinics began seeing younger and younger cheese heroin addicts.
Dr. TIRADO: We really didn't know what to do with a nine-year-old in opiate withdrawal, what the treatment ramifications of that are. Do you send a nine-year-old to an AA meeting? What do you do with a nine-year-old in terms of keeping them sober once they've developed this problem with chronic drug use?
BURNETT: A more typical user is 17-year-old Lizbeth. She is the daughter of immigrants from Juarez, Mexico, who moved to Dallas to get away from the border's violent drug culture. She attends a public school in North Dallas that has a large Hispanic population, within which, she says, sniffing cheese is commonplace. Wearing a gray hoodie and hoop earrings, she sits on a couch at Phoenix House, a residential treatment center in Dallas. Lizbeth says she started snorting heroin at 14.
LIZBETH (Heroin User): I thought that since it was like used as sniffing I would, like, try to deny it. This is just cheese, or whatever. It's not as bad as shooting it up.
BURNETT: She says she entered treatment, now for the second time, because she came to hate withdrawal symptoms.
LIZBETH: I was tired of feeling my bones hurting. I was tired of my headaches, cold sweats and all that. So, I told my mom to bring me because I'm already going to be 18 and I don't want to look at myself like being a junkie like some people I see in the streets. I don't want to be like them. I want to have a better life.
BURNETT: No one had ever heard of cheese heroin anywhere in the nation before the first case was discovered in Thomas Jefferson High School in August 2005. Since then, Detective Jeremy Liebbe with the Dallas Independent School District Police Department has arrested and interviewed more than 300 users. Liebbe learned that cheese is only one or two dollars a line, cheap enough for a middle-schooler's lunch budget. And because cheese heroin is low-grade, only one to three percent pure heroin, it wears off quickly. Withdrawal sets in and heavy users require frequent hits.
Detective JEREMY LIEBBE (Dallas Independent School District Police Department): They say, I'll wake up in the morning and I'm already hurting, so I use some cheese. If I don't use by second period, withdrawal will kick in by third period. Then lunch, then sixth period, then immediately after school, then after dinner, then before bed. And the ones that are really bad off are winding up being woken up in the middle of the night by withdrawal sickness.
BURNETT: Though there is some data that heroin inhaling is growing more popular among young Hispanics in a handful of other Texas cities, it's too early to call it a trend. Still, Robert Lubran, an official with the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says they are closely watching the situation in Dallas.
Mr. ROBERT LUBRAN (Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): The concern is that the people who market these drugs are very savvy, and if there's profit to be made by moving to another community, we know they'll do that. This is a product that it easily transportable, it is low cost, and it is highly addictive.
BURNETT: In Dallas, things have improved in the past two and a half years. The county medical examiner reported eight overdose deaths from cheese heroin alone or in combination with other drugs, but there has not been a death since last July. Police arrests of heroin dealers in schools and neighborhoods are up. Dallas County formed a cheese heroin task force, and now there's an aggressive education program in the schools, which includes this video.
(Soundbite of drug education video)
Unidentified Man #1: This is a very, very serious thing.
Unidentified Woman #1: But we need to talk about it or it will only get worse.
Unidentified Woman #2: And more of our friends will die.
Unidentified Woman #3: People who are snorting cheese are risking their lives.
BURNETT: Cheese heroin is not as prevalent in the schools as it once was, but parents say it is still rampant in Hispanic immigrant neighborhoods. Directors of local drug treatment centers report steady admissions of young addicts. Said the school district detective, this is not a problem we can arrest our way out of.
STEWART: That was NPR's John Burnett reporting. You can link to all of the stories you heard on The Most today by going to our website, npr.org/bryantpark.
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