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Need to Know, March 11, 2011: Public unions and state budgets, blood transfusions

The ongoing conflict between public unions and state governments in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Ohio revolves around a central question: Are public unions in part responsible for states’ budget problems? This week, Need to Know explores the facts to provide an answer.

Also: A growing number of people in the medical community are questioning how blood transfusions are used in the United States. They are concluding that, for many patients, the risks can outweigh the benefits. We take a look at the practice of blood transfusions and some alternatives that have been developed to avoid the potential risks that transfusions may pose.

And: Editorial illustrator Steve Brodner conducts an “illustrated interview” with author Eduardo Porter about income inequality in America.

The episode airs Friday, March 11 — check your local listings for details.

Watch the individual segments:

Union salaries and state budgets

Are public unions to blame for states’ budget woes? Governors from a number of states — not just in Wisconsin — say that public union workers’ salaries and benefits are wreaking havoc on their state budgets. But are state workers really to blame for the economic plight of states? Need to Know examines the facts behind one of the most contentious arguments in the news today.

Blood test: What you don’t know about blood

Since World War ll, blood has been considered “the gift of life.” But today a growing number of experts are questioning whether blood transfusions should be so widely used. For more about transfusions, watch these First Look videos on the Centers for Disease Control’s new “hemovigilance” program, and the more than 100 blood management initiatives at hospitals across the country. (Original air date: August 20, 2010)

For high speed rail, a tale of two governors

President Obama’s vision for high speed rail has been rejected by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, and embraced by Illinois governor Patrick Quinn, a Democrat. For more reports from our partner at Blueprint America, check out Need to Know’s Transportation Desk. (Original air date: January 14, 2011)

Interview with Stacy Schiff

Jon Meacham speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff about her best-selling book about Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. (Original air date: December 24, 2010).

A Steve Brodner editorial cartoon

Editorial cartoonist Steve Brodner conducts an “illustrated interview” with author Eduardo Porter about income inequality in America.

Living large: The tiny house movement

Need to Know visited one of the proponents of the “tiny house” movement, Dee Williams, who lives in a simple but stylish 84-square-foot home in Olympia, Wash. (Original air date: July 30, 2010)

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  • Bob in Ohio

    I wonder why WOSU thinks people in central Ohio don’t need to watch this program. Suze Orman’s ‘ Money Class’ is apparently much more relevant to the folks in my neighborhood. We need to know how to manage money in case we find some on the ground or something. Hey, it could happen.

  • Barack Obama

    Need to know is really liberal! As the picture above depicts, “Unions made America” and now are destroying America just like Obama!

  • Gti98summer

    Fear is a dangerous think, especially when couple with ignorance. I would like to know what research you have done to support you accusations. I would say that it is more likely that organized labor has directly or indirectly enhanced you ability to earn a decent wage and benefits. Please get informed; organized labor can help all Americans attain the salary and benefits that they deserve.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been wrong. Or at least I became wrong. I used to really dislike unions – and I had my reasons – but now the pendulum has swung too far in corporations and the super rich favor. Between the increasing income disparity (400 people owning 20% of all wealth) and Citizens United it is clear to me that we need to push back hard – for the good of our country. Unions are necessary. Corporations are necessary. There needs to be balance again.

  • Anonymous

    What happened to this video? Why is it “unavailable”?

  • Danny

    What’s with all the repeated segments? In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten the feeling we are going to start getting one new story plus filler from the past. That would be a shame.

  • PJPOK_Sr

    .I looked forward to the promise of Need to Know but the show has been a disappointment. As a watched two repeated segments this weekend, I feel that they represent both shallow and tendentious journalism.
    To Wit:
    Union salaries and state budgets
    The set-up for the segment was replete with telltale coda, strip, rights, maneuvers, earned benefits, etc. Rather lost in the collage of statements of conservative pundits and politicians, you allowed that Gov. Daniels rescinded collective bargaining several years ago but neglected to report its unmitigated success. You chose rather to quote him as referring to union workers as “the privileged elite.” Now as if the sound clips exhaustively represented the governors’ cases, you introduced NYT columnist David Leonhadt to “validate” their positions. Through a cacophony of straw man arguments and decades of regressions produced by “experts,” this Applied Mathematics ‘Yalie’, cum columnist, you would have us believe, disabused their mean-spirited accusations.
    For high-speed rail, a tale of two governors
    The tease for this piece was “Who turns down 800 million dollars and why?”
    Aside from Chris Karr’s annoyance that newly elected Governor Walker was “too busy” to be interviewed, I thought his designate, the State Financial Officer, gave a clear definitive answer. Obviously the voters concurred.

    On the other hand the case for the high-speed rail was confusing and remarkably unconvincing. These are questions that did not seem to be answered:
    John Thomas
    • Why does he choose to live in Normal, a 100 miles away from his “university job” that he inexplicably only needs to be present “[a] couple of times” a week?”
    • Why was there no one else either on the station platform or in the train car during the commute?
    • The 1 bln. that would be spent to improve the tracks would only shorten his 2 1/2 hr. commute by a 1/2 hour.
    • Quite aside from that 190 mil. shortfall (1 bln – 810 mil), who’s committed for the new equipment?
    Kevin Conroy
    • Presently there exists both rail and bus connections to Milwaukee albeit not high speed.
    • Internet technology has already obviated the need for most face-to-face meetings and I can only assume biotech applications are available.
    Mayor Chris Cooze (sp?)
    • Can we really believe that the 1/2 hr commuting saving is going to make the difference in Normal? (see John Thomas)
    Governor Pat Quinn
    • I’m sure the governor and the president have dreams of making Chicago a high-speed rail hub but other states may not share their parochial interests.
    • There was a reason the auto frame manufacturer moved out of Illinois and I bet it relocated in a more business friendly southern state. Spanish manufacturer Talgo’s promise of 125 jobs of indeterminate permanence is hardly compelling.
    In the oft chance someone still reading this I’ll end by saying I’m disappointed that Need to Know morphed into Need to Proselytize.

  • Sue from New York

    Why didn’t Need to Know mention the influence of the Koch brothers on all this union bashing their financing the Republican governtorial campaignes in northern states the last bastions of progressive power in this country and not to mention the Kochs’ goal of privating everything that belongs to the people of the state of Wisconsin.

  • Shelley Lewis

    Danny–I’m glad you asked that question. The fact is, this is a month when most public television stations are doing their pledge programming, which means Need to Know is preempted completely, or moved to time slots out of prime time. We spend much time, much effort, and many resources on our stories, and we hate to have them go unseen by most of the country. So during pledge periods, we try to stay on the news but yes, we do include re-run segments. Now, the segments we choose to repeat are usually chosen because we have new developments and can provide updates, such as in the case of the fracking story we updated and ran earlier this month, and information we’ve learned about the government’s still unfulfilled promise to provide federal aid to families who care for veterans with severe traumatic brain injuries. And a few of the stories we’ve repeated were among the most watched and most commented on, as will be the case when we again present stories from our education special.
    BUT…we’ll be back to our regular programming with new stories soon, and they include some of the most important investigative reports we’ve done to date.
    Thanks for your comment.

    Shelley Lewis
    Executive Producer

  • David in NYC

    I am a PBS member and fan of “Need To Know.” However, as a former Blood Bank Supervisor, in a major NYC hospital, I found the segment on 3/11/11 (originally aired on 8/20/10) “What You Don’t Know About Blood” somewhat lacking.

    From my years of experience, what was missing was a discussion of “autologous” transfusions – a simple procedure that can allow most elective surgical patients to store up to 3 units of their own blood, should a “bloodless” surgery go awry.

    The debate over “old” blood, the use of surgical perfusion, immunological problems and artificial blood may all be interesting, but simply no where as important as explaining that a patient should know they have the option, prior to surgery, to store their own blood. This is the single most important way to guarantee that their own blood is used, should the need for a transfusion(s) be required during surgery . The Centers for Disease Control’s new “hemovigilance” program, and the more than 100 blood management initiatives at hospitals across the country are fine. But a patient’s safety is also in their own hands.

    This point should have been spelled out because not all surgeons present this option in a straightforward way. Perhaps because it may make the patient feel that the doctor is not competent or perhaps the physician is “to distracted” to admit to the possibility of an unexpected, (much less an expected), blood loss during surgery.

    Most importantly, this critical “blood management” initiative should not be just left up to the doctor to explain. And that’s really what the patient most “needs to know.”

  • Dsklfkp

    One thing you forgot to mention was the illustrated interview. What they illustrated was exactly what happens in a socialist country when the wealth is taken from the people and centralized in the government. All they proved is that we are moving toward communism. This sounded like a meeting Mao and Stalin might have had, it is exactly what they said, destroy the wealthy class and centralize the wealth in government. And you’re right I don’t think hardly anybody watches this show. I watch it for comic relief.

  • rural American

    The pendulum swings; unions, once a force for fairness, have become so powerful and polarized that they, with premeditation, destroyed the auto industry, hence jobs, in Michigan.