Writer Marc Gerstein was joined by co-author Michael Ellsberg and his father Daniel Ellsberg to discuss their book on major accidents and catastrophes, and how they often could be prevented. For example, the death of students from the recent China quake might have been averted if their schools weren't so badly constructed, and there was a stronger motivation to protect children, said Gerstein.
In the case of the Challenger disaster, NASA's top brass didn't listen to the warnings of engineers about the safety of O-rings. Additionally, the timing of the launch was kept even though the weather was too cold because Pres. Reagan wanted to have a link up with Christa McAuliffe during his State of the Union speech, Daniel Ellsberg detailed. Leaders, across political systems, often gamble with risks, and other people's lives, when the alternative is a possible loss to their status, he added.
Michael Ellsberg talked about "bystander behavior" in which psychological factors such as peer pressure, and wanting to fit in, deter people from speaking out and becoming whistle blowers. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 that revealed faulty decision-making in the Viet Nam War, argued that the act of whistle blowing can be of vital importance, even if it comes at personal costs to oneself. During the last hour, Gerstein fielded calls from listeners.
Tomatoes & Salmonella
First hour guest, Dr. Douglas Powell of the Intl. Food Safety Network spoke about the Salmonella outbreak in tomatoes. As of yet, the origin of the outbreak hasn't been determined, but food safety has to start at the farm, he commented, adding that fresh food and vegetables were the most significant source of food borne illness.