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‘Mama grizzlies,’ unemployment and the Serengeti

We’ve been ecstatic to see that our initial call for submissions has brought in a flurry of news pitches and story ideas from readers! The environment (especially food and agriculture-related stories) and unemployment seem to be at the forefront of topics that concern our audience, and we received some interesting suggestions outside those areas. We’ve rounded up some of the pitches we found particularly interesting below. Which of these would you most like to hear more about on Need to Know? Leave your vote in the comments!

Political rhetoric around the world:

With the recent introduction of “Mama Grizzlies,” I am curious about the rhetoric used in other cultures. Around the world, when people want to be taken seriously as leaders of their countries, what allusions, references, or metaphors do they apply? Do other countries pay attention to these kinds of descriptions — do they impact the perception of that leader across cultures? How personal do campaigns become in other countries? For example, when a woman wants to be a political leader in Australia would she want to be considered separate from her role within her family, would she make that demand at the same time she makes direct allusions to her role within her family, and what are the expectations of the people? – Jessica Curall

Artifical sweeteners and the food industry:

My idea is to interview Professor Carolyn de La Pena, UCDavis, PhD, regarding her new book about how the chemical industry took over the food industry; Americans’ love affair with artificial sweetners. I read the galleys, and it is a fascinating read and important information.

- Catherine Vade Bon Coeur

Long-term self-employed:

I would like to see a story on long-term self-employed who are now struggling in the new economy, but are not reflected in any of the unemployment numbers. When they don’t work, they don’t get unemployment. But they are not counted anywhere.

What are the actual unemployment numbers when this group are counted? Is there any process for tracking them? How do they affect the economy?  – Karen Laukkonen

Several wrote in to ask us to cover the potential threat of a newly proposed highway on wildlife in the Serengeti:

The President of Tanzania is determined to move forward with a plan to build a Serengeti Highway that will cut right through the migration corridor used now used by millions of wildebeest and zebra to search for water and green pasture land. This Great Migration is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a natural wonder of the world. Conservation groups and scientists have argued strongly against this proposed highway which will likely destroy the migration, the tourist livelihood on which the villages depend as well as the entire ecosystem of the Serengeti. We can only imagine the butterfly impact on the rest of the world, resulting from the loss of this vital ecosystem. – Sheila Wasserman

End-of-life care:

You need to do a show regarding healthcare and specifically the cost incurred by people in the last two months of their lives. Often times patients and families are totally unrealistic and afraid of death. Therefore huge costs are incurred to keep an 88 year old dad with end stage lung and heart disease alive. – Jana Bruenjes Gaffney


  • Martha

    I think we all need to know more and publicize more the role of the chemical industry in “creating” the “food” that most Americans eat. It’s a complete disgrace and a chief reason for our “food” addictions and our awful health statistics.

    I would also like to know more about the Serengeti highway and what we can do about it, if possible.

  • Beam me up Scotty

    The stories you chose are not of particular interest to me.
    The potential for famine, especially in light of the floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia are.

  • Al

    Serengeti, please.

  • Larry Ames

    You have all good topics, but I think another look at the relationship of the developed world and the un-developed worlds with regard to natural and man-made diasters.

  • Shelley

    In Virginia, the “Scopes Trial” of the 21st century has begun, pitting the Attorney General, a climate skeptic against the University of Virginia’s protection of scientists (Mann) researching climate change. If Need to Know wants to tackle the most important issue ever, this could be an entree. (Plus the Serenghetti!)

  • DawnieRotten

    I am beside myself whenever there is a “news” story about unemployment. I just want to bang my head against the wall and scream bloody murder!! WHY is it that NO ONE, and that includes PBS, wants to talk about the HUGE elephant in the room????

    Before I get to the “elephant”, let me ask….

    Does everyone agree that now, since the economy “tanked”, (most) people are living more financially responsible? Watching what they spend; saving more; paying down their debt; spending their money on NEED vs WANT?? You know, they way things are SUPPOSED to be?
    And would you agree that one can walk into any store (food, clothing, electronics, ect) and they find it well stocked? And if one needs the services of the service industry (plumber, roofer, electrician, beautician, ect), that they, too, are readily available?

    The answer is, YES! OK, then. Since most of us are now living the way we’re SUPPOSED to be living, being financially responsible, and there is no shortage of food, clothing, and anything else we might NEED in the stores…..lets get to the HUGE elephant in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about…….


    WHY don’t people “get it”??? There just aren’t enough jobs for every able-bodied persons in this Country, and every other Country for that matter, who wants/needs to work!! It isn’t the Governments fault that the US and other Countries are OVERPOPULATED; so STOP blaming them for the unemployment problem! It’s YOU who are at fault! (But I DO think that Governments should start taxing the crap out of people who have kids! Why should I, being single with NO KIDS, have to pay MORE TAXES than a family of FIVE?!?!?! STOP giving people TAX BREAKS just because they have kids!! If you can’t AFFORD to have kids….then don’t! Simple!!).

    How many vehicles should we crank out on the assembly line a year?? We don’t NEED a bazillion cars and trucks produced year after year. People should not be purchasing NEW vehicles every 3 to 5 to 10 years “just because”. Buy the vehicle of your choice, maintain it, and it will last you 20 or more years (my Mother just bought a new car last year after driving her Mercury Cougar for the previous 26 years). We also do not NEED 1000 car dealerships in every State! I live in a town of just over 30,000 people and we have approx 10, small to large, car dealers. A bit excessive??? YES!! And it’s like this all over the Country….STOP IT!! We don’t NEED these dealerships (nor the vehicles that they are selling).

    Do we not have enough lawyers? (TOO MANY!!)
    Do we not have enough beauticians? (TOO MANY!)
    Do we not have enough people working in our local/State/Fed Government? (WAY too many, if you ask me!!)
    Do we not have enough retail (food, clothes, ect) workers?
    Do we not have enough gas stations? (TOO MANY!!)
    Do we not have enough fast food joints?? (TOO MANY)
    Do we not have enough bankers/finance people? (TOO MANY!)
    Do we not have enough reporters/journalists? (TOO MANY!)

    And I can go on…..and on! But the answer is YES; we DO have enough positions (jobs) that are ALREADY filled to keep this Country “moving”. With the exception of Health Care workers; we do NEED a lot more of those. And, NO, we do not NEED more Teachers! People need to STOP spitting out kids, for christsakes!! For every one new school that “needs” to be built to accommodate these kids, two prisons “need” to be built for all of those kids that grow up and become part of the Criminal Justice System.

    OVERPOPULATION!! It’s just THAT simple!! So; why doesn’t anyone “get it” yet?? WHY is no one addressing this?? And we can’t go back to “living in excess”, or the next “Depression” will end it all. Living in excess is UNSUSTAINABLE. OVERPOPULATION is UNSUSTAINABLE!!

    And I can go a step further…..All of this OVERPOPULATION across the planet is using up what LITTLE Natural Resources we have left; OVERPOPULATION is killing our Planet!

    The Planets “refugees” (people displaced by floods, earthquakes, drought, war, ect), what are we to do with them? Where do we put them? Who’s going to pay for them? And Mother Nature isn’t done yet; she’s only just begun!! The Natural Disasters around the planet are just going to get worse, and more frequent (and that INCLUDES the US of A). Where are we going to re-locate all of these MILLIONS and MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people?? All of the farm land across the planet that IS and will continue to be lost….what little food will be available will be sky-high in cost.

    Mother Nature needs to turn her “wrath” up to 100 and start purging the Earth of the parasites (we humans) a lot faster!! And, yes, that INCLUDES the US!!

    Overpopulation + Greed + Selfishness = The Extinction of the Human Race!
    We really don’t DESERVE to live on this Planet; we truly don’t! And I really don’t understand why it is that humans think so highly of themselves, why it is that we think that we are the “Superior Species”?! Just look at what we have done to this Planet and the life on it. Humans are truly PARASITES; greedy, selfish PARASITES!! We’ve poisoned (literally) every living thing, including ourselves, on this planet. Game over!!

  • P. Barrett

    A follow up on a discussion from the series on Charlie Rose about The Brain and mental illness. Specificaly what is happening to the people with mental illness that need early intervention, medication and talk therapy when medicare and most insurance companies don’t want to treat people with long term illness. We need to replace profitability with compassion.

  • DawnieRotten

    I would have to agree with the above poster, Catherine Vade Bon Coeur, about artificial sweeteners. Aspritame is pure poison. Few people know that it was none other than Dick Cheney who pushed that posion through for FDA approval. I would highly recommend watching the documentary entitled “Sweet Misery”. (Google it)

    And you could also go a step further, in another story. On how soft drink (soda) companies, especially Coke, have their plants in parts of the world where water is already scarce, and yet they are using it all up. I forget the name of the documentary that I saw a few years ago on this subject, But there was a family living about a 1/2 a mile from the Coke plant who had no water. They had to go miles and miles just to get water from another source. This family could tap into the same water source as the Coke plant, but they were too poor to afford the pipes needed and then would hve to pay Coke a monthly fee for their water use.

    With the planets clean water sources dwindling, it should be illegal for companies to use our water supply for such things as SODA! And then they (soda companies) go and put poison (aspratame) in it to boot!