Daily Archives: October 4, 2010

When Shaking A Baby Is Murder

Published October 4, 2010

More than a decade ago, a Boston jury convicted British au pair Louise Woodward of second-degree murder, after an eight-month-old child died in her care. The case put shaken baby syndrome in the international spotlight.

British au pair Louise Woodward in Middlesex Superior Court as a jury finds her guilty of second-degree murder in the death of infant Matthew Eappen, who died in her care in February 1997.  In foreground is defense attorney Andrew Good, and in background Elaine Whitfield-Sharp, a member of the defense team. (Pool photo by Ted Fitzgerald via AP)

British au pair Louise Woodward as she is sentenced in 1997 (Via AP)

Today it’s a diagnosis “rooted in the public consciousness,” writes the attorney Deborah Tuerkheimer. But has conventional science changed since then?

In her provocative op-ed for the New York Times last month, Tuerkheimer said yes:

Experts are questioning the scientific basis for shaken baby syndrome. Increasingly, it appears that a good number of the people charged with and convicted of homicide may be innocent. … Scientists are now willing to accept that the symptoms once equated with shaking can be caused in other ways.

The story ignited a firestorm of comments on WBUR’s CommonHealth blog. That got the attention of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker (which called the post “an interesting way of doing journalism in the blog era”) as well as the op-ed author herself, who said: “I am not able to comment on blog comments.”

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Why Did Susan Reverby Wait So Long?

Published October 4, 2010

When Susan Reverby discovered that American scientists in the 1940s had injected Guatemalan prisoners with syphilis, she was “horrified.” But the Wellesley College professor and Cantabrigian waited months to publicize her finding — and even then, hardly anyone noticed.

“I did some research on this a little while ago, and then I went back to the (University of) Pittsburgh archives in June of ’09. I didn’t get to write this up until … March of 2010,” Reverby told me by phone today.

Wellesley College Prof. Susan Reverby

Wellesley College Prof. Susan Reverby

Reverby was doing research for her book about the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study — she helped persuade President Clinton to apologize for it in 1997 — when she stumbled upon unpublished notes about this other horrible experiment.

“I was just completely blown away by this, really horrified,” she said.

“I thought about putting it in my book, but it just didn’t fit. It seemed like it needed its own story, so I held on to try and write it up appropriately.”

As a blogger, I’m almost as blown away that Reverby held on to this news for so long. It’s a scoop any journalist would salivate over.

But Reverby is a historian, not a journalist.

“The context matters. I just don’t work like that. It never would have even occurred to me to do that, never in a million years,” she said. “I’m not a gotcha journalist. I’m not a blogger.”

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Photo Of The Day: Bucolic New England

Published October 4, 2010

View from the top of Wildcat Mountain (Phish Phood/Flickr)

View from the top of Wildcat Mountain (Phish Phood/Flickr)

Phlickr photographer Phish Phood brought back extraordinary images from a leaf-peeping expedition in Jackson, N.H., yesterday. The photographer describes the shot:

We took a gondola ride to the top of Wild Cat mountain and the scenery was simply breathtaking (figuratively and literally as it was cold and windy on top) We love the Fall in New England

New England is a photographer’s dream in fall, as I discovered en route to Pittsfield two weeks ago. If you missed it, we put out the call for your best fall foliage fotos in the “Assignments” section of WBUR’s iPhone app.

Monday Night Football To Include Football

Published October 4, 2010

You might have heard the New England Patriots play the Miami Dolphins in Monday Night Football. Commentator Jeremy Bernfeld laments that MNF is not really about F anymore:

Hank Williams Jr. and Gloria Estefan tape the opening for the new Monday Night Football opening in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, June 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Hank Williams Jr., Gloria Estefan, face off in Monday Night Football (AP)

As viewers, we’re “treated” to a full 90-minute pregame show and a game that’s supposed to last two-and-a-half hours, though it always seems to last longer. The broadcast itself is as bloated as the game time, with three men in the announcer’s booth and two sideline reporters.

According to its theme song, the game is a “Monday Night party.” Monday nights don’t bring to mind parties, at least not fun ones. As in, “come on over, me and my tax returns made nachos!”

I’m excited for the game, especially when the Pats play, but it can be hard to see the game through the forest of “extras” that I rarely want. Each February, we’re all treated to the spectacle that is the Super Bowl. I don’t need a mini-Super Bowl every Monday, just a plain old football game.

How are you taking in the game tonight?