Tag Archives: washington post

ALS patients are using AI to preserve their natural voices. Here’s how one reporter covered it

screenshot of washington post story

Screenshot of an April 2023 Washington Post article written by disability reporter Amanda Morris about AI helping ALS patients save their natural voice. Image taken on June 16, 2023

As a disability reporter for the Washington Post, Amanda Morris has covered hearing loss, long COVID and the spread of fake sign language on TikTok, among other subjects.

 One of her recent stories showed how some patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are turning to artificial intelligence to bank their natural voices for use with assistive technology as the disease progresses. 

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Investigative reports lead to Senate investigation into painkiller promotion

Following up on reporting efforts from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today and ProPublica, a Senate committee has launched investigation into the pharmaceutical industry’s conflict-of-interest-laden promotion of pain management drugs, one of which may or may not be related to one pharma-tied patient organization’s Tuesday announcement that is was closing up shop “due to irreparable economic circumstances.”

screen-shot-2012-05-09-at-73727-pmThus far, the investigation has consisted of strongly worded rebukes and requests for further disclosure to the abovementioned American Pain Foundation, among others, in the form of letters from Sens. Max Baucus and Charles Grassley. PDFs of the relevant letters can be found in this press release from Baucus’ Senate finance committee.

In the letters, the senators directly cite the investigative efforts of AHCJ members Charles Ornstein, Tracy Weber and John Fauber.

Sen. Max Baucus

Sen. Max Baucus

Ornstein, AHCJ’s board president, and Tracy Weber, his fellow ProPublica senior reporter, published their investigation into the American Pain Foundation in ProPublica and The Washington Post in December. As they write in their post on the foundation’s demise, “The group received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry, ProPublica found, and its guides for patients, journalists and policymakers had played down the risks associated with opioid painkillers while exaggerating the benefits.”

Fauber’s reporting, the result of a partnership between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today, focused on the tangled web of money, organizations and influence through which the pharmaceutical industry helped propel the runaway growth of painkiller prescriptions over the past decade and a half.

Sen. Charles Grassley

Sen. Charles Grassley

In his report on the senate investigation he helped inspire, Fauber writes that the finance committee is “seeking financial and marketing records from three companies that make opioid drugs, including Oxycontin and Vicodin, and seven national organizations.” The legislators are seeking records of financial transactions between pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient groups from as far back as 1997, as well as details on any federal funding provided to the groups.

Health stories win at ONA for investigations, multimedia

The Online News Association has honored two of this year’s bumper crop of excellent health pieces with top honors in their respective categories at the 2011 Online Journalism Awards, with nods going to pioneering work by both ProPublica and The Washington Post.

For ProPublica, AHCJ member Robin Field’s examination of the nation’s Medicare-funded dialysis system and what this oft-overlooked federal budget item tells us about the implementation of “socialized medicine” in America earned the Gannett Foundation Award for Innovative Investigative Journalism in the Small Site category. Since its publication, Fields’ award-winning piece has continued to evolve, adding data and updates as they become available.

Also nominated in the category were ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs and Investigative West’s Livesaving Drugs, Deadly Consequences.

The other prominent health winner was The Washington Post‘s video-heavy “Traumatic Brain Injury: Coming home a different person,” which beat out another multimedia piece, the Los Angeles TimesDylan’s Brain, in the large site category of the Multimedia Feature Presentation award.

Earlier: Health journalists poised for strong showing at 2011 ONA Awards

Food safety law boosts tracking technology sector

In The Washington Post, reporter Lyndsey Layton digs into the industry spawned by a requirement in last year’s food safety law that producers and processors be able to track food at every step of its journey from farm to supermarket. It applies to everything but meat, poultry and egg products.

Under the law, each business will need to know where the food came from and where it’s going, creating a chain of provenance that the FDA can use to more rapidly trace outbreaks of food-borne illness.

As the September deadline for the launch of the FDA’s first pilot projects looms, Layton writes, no single tracking technology yet predominates. After the pilots, the FDA will report to congress and issue specific rules by 2013.

According to Layton, some food industry segments (not farms or restaurants) have been required to track this data since 2005, “but according to a 2009 investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, most food facilities surveyed did not meet those requirements and 25 percent didn’t even know about the law.”

Layton’s story includes a profile of HarvestMark, a company whose barcode sticker is already catching on in some places (Kroger foods has adopted it for store-brand produce, for example). HarvestMark not only allows end consumers to scan their food with a smartphone and figure out where it came from, it also allows them to deliver their feedback to the farmer who produced it.

CDC used flawed data on lead in drinking water

The Washington Post‘s Carol Leonnig reports that an investigation by the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight has confirmed what The Washington Post first reported last year, namely:

leadPhoto by blandm via Flickr

The nation’s premier public health agency knowingly used flawed data to claim that high lead levels in the District’s drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public… And, investigators determined, the agency has not publicized more thorough internal research showing that the problem harmed children across the city and continues to endanger thousands of D.C. residents.” Those who need a refresher on the issue can refer to the Post‘s timeline and story archive.

The larger issue here is that the committee and the Government Accountability Office are looking into how the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluates public health issues.

Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) had some harsh words for the department:

“We need more honesty and transparency and less attitude from these offices. When you work at a public health science agency and the words most frequently used are ‘haphazard,’ ‘hit-or-miss’ and ‘ad hoc,’ maybe you should pause and reflect.”