Monthly Archives: January 2000

The Placebo Effect

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Medical research shows a spoonful of sugar not only helps the medicine go down, it may be all the medicine you need.

Placebos, medically useless pills, potions and tonics, have been part of doctoring forever and now hard science is backing up the idea that nothing may be good for you. Study after study proves that placebos can help depression, treat ulcers and relieve pain just as well as the authentic prescription.

Researchers found asthmatics dilated their own airways when told they were inhaling asthma medicine. In another study, half of the colitis patients’ intestines showed improvement after taking a placebo.

‘Placebo surgery’ has helped arthritis sufferers, Parkinson Disease victims, even cardiac patients. As long as the patient doesn’t know it’s a placebo, the placebo works as well as real medicine. If nothing does something, then why not use the fake for real?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Dr. Walter Brown, professor of psychiatry at Brown University, and Ted Kaptchuk, professor of alternative medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The Shape of the Campaign

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After several days of presidential primary debates, Campaign 2000 is shaping up around four stalwart candidates and a handful of issues. But there are some issues developing in some of the campaigns now too.

Senator John McCain’s Straight Talk Express has been sidelined by reports he intervened with federal regulators on behalf of some donors, and Vice President Al Gore has being doing damage control since he was criticized by the professionals for his gays in the military views and after his campaign manager said Republicans don’t have any real race programs or policies apart from poster boys like Colin Powell and J.C. Watts in the Congress.

There are some choices emerging now around tax policy and health care; around God, gay rights, farms and financing campaigns; but do we know enough yet to make any real decisions?
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Ralph Nader, head of Public Citizen.

Doctoring in the New Medical Machine

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It takes more than perfect medical boards and an ability to operate without sleep to be a successful young doctor these days.

Medical students in America are graduating into the wold and woolly world of floundering managed care companies, and they need a healthy dose of composure to deal with it. This week’s demise of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, one of America’s model HMOs, is just the latest in a series of managed care disasters.

The world didn’t get the Y2K bug, but Harvard Pilgrim seems to have caught a full-blown $177 million flu. This problem echo trends all over the country that older doctors have been complaining about for years.

But the real question is what they do to the idealism and enthusiasm that brings students to medicine in the first place.

Life as a young doctor in Managed Care America, in the second hour of the Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Josh Sharfstein, pediatrician at the Boston Medical Center, Perry Class, pediatrician at Dorchester House and Dr. Jerry Avorn.

The Music of Bright Sheng

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The Great Silk Road was the overland route between Imperial Rome and Han-Dynasty China 2000 years ago-a thousand years before Marco Polo first started taking detailed East-West notes.

The Great Silk Road is a main avenue again for Yo-Yo Ma’s musical roots exploration, and for the composer Bright Sheng’s assimilation of the sounds of many nations: Turkey, Persia, Mongolia, Tibet, not to mention China and the many music of Italy, France and Germany.

“Red Silk Dance” is Bright Sheng’s new piece for Emmanuel Ax at the piano with the Boston Symphony Orchestra: it’s music that makes a Silk Road metaphor of his own pilgrim’s life: He was a doctor’s child born in Shanghai into the shattering Cultural Revolution of the 60s, but then he was a prodigious exile who got to New York in the 80s to study composition and show biz with Leonard Bernstein.

The hatching of a new global music in the first hour of The Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Bright Sheng, composer, Robert Spano conductor and Emmanuel Ax, pianist.

Darwin's God

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Kenneth Miller teaches the hard biological science of evolution to university students at Brown. Invariably someone lingers after class and asks if he believes in God.

“Yes,” says Professor Miller, a Catholic Christian.
“What kind of God,” the student pursues.
“Darwin’s God,” he answers. Meaning the Creator that Darwin thought had breathed the power of
adaptation into a few life forms from which endless variations “most wonderful and most beautiful have been, and are being evolved.”

At a moment when school boards in Kansas and elsewhere want to get evolution out of the curriculum and would love to get God back in, Kenneth Miller makes no bones about having it both ways: biology gives a much fuller account of God’s methods and means than the Book of Genesis did, he says; yet the God behind his Science, Ken Miller says, is every bit as creative in the present as He was in the past.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution” in the second hour of The Connection.

The New Hampshire Debate

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The democratic primary fight got ever so slightly nastier last night, and both candidates coughed up a couple of memorable sound bites.

To call Al Gore the bunker candidate and Bill Bradley the professor might just sum up this match. On policy matters — health care, gun control, campaign finance reform, gay rights in the military, real differences between the two are hard to come by.

Is there real battle here over the liberal agenda at a prosperous time in America or is it more of a dustup between management consultants over who’s got a bigger idea and a better approach? After dozens and dozens of town meetings and coffee clatches, are New Hampshire voters seeing anything more than one guy with a connection to Bill Clinton’s Washington and an aloof outsider?

Scoring the first debate of 2000 in the first hour of The Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Michael Kelly, editor of The Atlantic Monthly

Mike Curry, former counsel to the President ’92-’94, and a Democratic candidate for governor of Connecticut in ’92.

Making Good Streetscape

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Streets are the circulation system of the body civic. They feed our communities and take us places, but what matters most is how we enjoy the ride.

Alleys, lanes, cul de sacs, rows, dead ends, one ways, trails, corners, strips, front stoops, and back roads are the stuff of great neighborhoods, not to mention great songs.

The yellow brick road, the long and winding road, the road paved with good intentions, the boulevard of broken dreams are some memorable paths. So are Piccadilly Circus, Route 66, Red Square, the Grand Canal, Beekman Place, Tianneman Square, Savile Row, the Strand, the Boardwalk.

Unter den Linden, Rodeo Drive, Park Avenue, Lakeshore Drive, Sunset Boulevard, Broadway, 42nd Street, Beale Street, Easy Street.

And what about Elm Street, Main Street, Wall Street and all those Pleasant Streets out there. The Streets where we live – in the second hour of the Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Robert Campbell, architecture critic for The Boston Globe.

New Hampshire Politics

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It’s forty years now that the New Hampshire primary has been one of the inescapable sporting events of our politics-a superbowl to start the season, in any of three ways.

It’s been a friendly launch for ambitious New England Democrats named Kennedy, or Dukakis or Tsongas. Especially in Vietnam time, New Hampshire set up a village-level forum around an irreconcilable national argument.

And then from time to time it’s been the perfect out-of-the-way scene for a political mugging – the sort of surprise that Pat Buchanan pulled on front-runner Bob Dole four years ago, or Gary Hart on Walter Mondale in 1984.

It’s none of those three things in the millennial year 2000: no locals, no issues, no surprises are in the deck this year: it’s advertising up against apathy; it’s centrists in both parties looking for an underdog’s edge.

It’s the best fight of the century, for sure, so far, but what is it all about? The New Hampshire primary – in the first hour of the Connection
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Rick Berke, political correspondent for The New York Times, Bill Bradley, candidate for the Democratic nomination, Guy MacMillin, editorial page editor of The Keene Sentinel and David Broder of The Washington Post.

Poet Robert Creeley

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Robert Creeley is a poet of short lines that have the sound of speech, a certain wisdom of the lonely road, and a wry way with Americanisms of every kind, as in a signature poem,

“I Know a Man: As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,–John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddam big car,
drive, he said, for
christs’s sake, look
out where yr going.”

Robert Creeley has been a friendly eminence among American poets for more than 50 years, favored by the beats and William Carlos Williams: Creeley was a doctor’s son from West of Boston who lost his left eye in a freak accident, who got to Harvard but didn’t graduate, whose privileged life has been acquainted with suffering.

All his life he has been a poet, the way his New England ancestors were farmers, with a job to be done every day of the year. The poet Robert Creeley, in this hour of the Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Robert Creeley, poet.

Yeltsin's Russia

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Boris Yeltsin, the apparachik turned outsider, turned democrat, turned – some would say – despot, proved unpredictable to the last.

Even former aides in Russia didn’t expect the ailing and enigmatic President’s step off the political scene. Yeltsin’s presidency was always marked by contradiction and controversy. He picked up and put down Prime Ministers and cabinet members the way a gin player rejiggers his hand – sometimes picking up an old card only to discard it again, always playing to the politics of the moment.

In the end, he ran through seven prime ministers, and even more cabinet members, survived and sometimes thrived through six national elections, withstood quintuple by-pass surgery and countless questions about his health, bluffed and bargained his way through four IMF loans and three ruble crises, sent troops to Chechnya twice and stood up to Communist tanks once.

He left behind one of the most befuddling nations on earth. Boris Nikolayevich’s Russia, in this hour of the Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)