Semaglutide (Ozempic/Wegovy)  is part of a class of drugs that mimic the action of the peptide GLP-1, a hormone that’s secreted from the small intestine in response to food.

GLP-1 and drugs that mimic it’s actions like the ‘glutides’ have many actions throughout the body, but the most important direct effects are thought to be on the brain, pancreas and stomach.

The ‘glutides’ were originally developed as treatments for Type II diabetes. By decreasing appetite and slowing digestion they attenuate the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream. And by increasing insulin secretion and decreasing glucagon, they help get excess glucose out of the bloodstream.

In 2014, the FDA approved Liraglutide (Saxenda/Victoza) to treat obesity in adults. In 2021, Semaglutide was similarly approved. Semaglutide is preferable to some patients, because it only requires weekly injections compared with liraglutide’s daily ones.

Recently, these drugs are in the news, in part, because in January of this year (2023) semaglutide joined liraglutide as FDA-approved for treating obesity in children 12 and older. A week later, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a Clinical Practice Guideline to the Evaluation and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Obesity, which includes a section on pharmacotherapy (drugs) for treating obesity:

The AAP didn’t single out the glutted drugs, but of those listed, the glottides and orlistat are the only that have ben approved for long-term use in children with typical obesity, and the AAP points out that patients don’t like taking orlistat because it causes fatty stools, flatulence, and the runs.

So who is the AAP recommending doctors offer glottides to? The same group studied in clinical trials, kids 12+ with a BMI above the 95th percentile. But confusingly, this doesn’t mean the fattest 5% of kids, but rather the top 20%.

What is considered a obese is determined differently for children and adults. Whereas the threshold for obesity is defined as 30kg/m2 in adults, in children it’s set at the 95% percentile — according to historical data of children’s weights from 1963 to the early 1990s (a period when overall children were less likely to be overweight).

Today around 20% of children are considered obese by this metric. Another way of saying that is children are 4x as likely to be obese today, than they were in 1980.

And so when we say that semaglutide is approved for children with a BMI at the 95 percentile, we really mean 20% of children today. And while pediatricians are being recommended to offer that drug, that doesn’t mean that it is recommended for 20% of children, but rather the AAP is recommending that doctors initiate a conversation about the drug with their patients and let the patients and their families decide if the benefits outweigh the risks and unknowns.

Semaglutide does appear effective at helping certain children lose weight. The clinical trial that led to its approval, used children with a mean age of 15 and a mean BMI of 37 that had failed at least one attempt to lose weight in the past. (So the average child in that study is literally of the chart shown above.)

Those patients lost −16.7% of their BMI compared to controls. While that’s huge, it’s important to note that weightless appears to plateau around 44 weeks and even after this treatment, that on average these patients would still be considered obese, with a BMI of around 31. How effective the drugs will be for patients with lower BMI remains to be seen.

The main side effects for the ‘glutides’ are gastrointestinal, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but also generally mild. 

However, the FDA has placed a black box warning on the drugs for risk of certain cancers, because rats treated with the drugs had higher rates of thyroid and pancreatic cancers.

he FDA recommends against using them in patients with a personal or family history of medullary thyroid cell cancer or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2a or 2b.

Overall, these drugs seem useful for treating extreme obesity but they are far from magic bullets. The truth about obesity is that once pathological processes start, they are very hard to permanently reverse through lifestyle modification, psychotherapy, or even bariatric surgery.

The best bet for solving the obesity crisis is preventing obesity from occurring in the first place. Obesity emerged as a crisis in the 20th century, alongside changes to our environment like the widespread availability of cheap healthy food, and changes to our culture around food and exercise. Solving the crisis will require us to reverse these changes, as messaging and education around healthy lifestyles have proved ineffective.

But perhaps drugs like the ‘glutides’ can ameliorate some negative health effects in children and adults who’re already obese.

Recently, KSL paid for me to attend the 2022 Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Denver.

The conference was held at the Gaylord Rocky Convention Center Hotel, essentially a giant corporate version of the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks.

IRE has a lot of workshops on data journalism, beat-specific seminars, and career advice, but I chose mainly to primarily attend lectures on finding government records through FOIA and its state law equivalents.

Working in true crime podcasts, public police records and court documents are crucial to researching a story, and archival audio can really bring a story to life, but I really think these tips and tricks are useful to anyone doing investigative journalism.

Does it exist in open records?

Some states or agencies, automatically collect certain records and publish them online. For example, here are the open records from Utah’s department of public safety.

Do you know what you’re looking for and who has it?

If so, make a public records request. It can be helpful to look up the particular public records act for the place you’re requesting from and try to find a template specific to their statutes:

To continue reading this post, go to my new podcast and journalism-specific blog at

As I lay on my couch, shirtless and cold but sweating from my first Covid booster shot, I got a push notification about a Wired article: New Covid Drugs Are Here — and They Could Change the Pandemic

The article highlights the benefits these drugs could bring to the third world, where the logistics of delivering fussy mRNA vaccines that have to be kept frozen has been difficult. But what does these drugs mean, for countries like the US. Where the risk of breakthrough infections, have even the vaccinated feeling hesitant to return fully to normal.

Continue reading ‘Will new antivirals bring us into a new phase of covid risk-mitigation and effectively end the pandemic?’

On Tuesday I launched a new podcast, Algorithm!

Algorithm is about a journalist who created an algorithm to use homicide data to try to identify serial killers. His algorithm flagged a suspicious number of unsolved strangulations in Gary, IN and he reached out to them to warn them they might have a serial killer on their hands. But they ignored him, until four years they arrested a serial killer who confessed to a string of nearly identical crimes.

It’s a wild and twisting story and one that I think really combines my skillset as researcher from working in science and working as a reporter, with the skillset I’ve learned as a true crime producer of doling out a story with cliffhangers and surprises.

Two episodes are out now, with new episodes released each Tuesday. You can click this link to go to the podcast, then click on Episode 1 “Afrikka Didn’t Need to Die.” And hit the follow/subscribe button. If there’s another podcatcher you prefer to use, here’s the link to the RSS.

It’s the first podcast like this that I’ve ever fully written and hosted, and I’m also the lead producer. Not sure who still follows this blog, but would love for you to listen and would love to know what you think!

I’m momentarily fascinated by the notion of copyrights and the public domain. The freedom of information and availabilty of it.

A quick google search brought me to The Robesonian from October 29th, 1920. It’s a small, sparse paper from Lumberton, North Carolina. Just four pages, the only images are in the ads.

1920 was an election year, and many of the headlines reflect this: Wilson Makes Appeal for League, Do The People Want a Change?, Vote for Income Tax ammendment.

But the lead story is a local tragedy:

Shot in Head with Air Rifle.

Thomas Johnson, Jr., Accidentally Shot himself Yesterday When He and Other Small Boys Were Playing–town Board Proposes to Prohibit Children Under 15 Shooting Air Rifles in Town

Thomas Jr., 9-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Johnson, accidentally shot himself in the top of the head with an air rifle late yesterday afternoon. The shot–a large buckshot–entered the top of his head and lodged in his skull. The Johnson boy and a number of other boys about the same age were playing with air rifles near the fair ground when the rifle was discharged. Dr. H. M. Baker rendered medical attention and it is not thought the wound will prove serious.

As a result of the accident the town commissioners are planning to pass an ordinance prohibiting children under 15 years old from shooting air rifles in the town of Lumberton.

I was hoping to follow up and see if there was a later article written about such an ordinance being written, but even this article failed to show up in my search using the terms: robensonian and rifle.

Time travel has it’s limits.

This post is a follow-up to the post Gimlet’s unofficial reading list for making good podcasts

Just got finished Make Noise by Eric Nuzum, the podcast developer who helped guide shows like Invisibilia and Where Should We Begin. Make Noise was a super-quick read. I tore through it in two days.


81pP1VTSa7L (1)

The book advises creatives on how to think about a show and make it a hit. It delves into the actual craft of producing an audio story, but also advising on how to pitch a story, market a show and build an audience. And it gives advice that will apply to seasoned audio-makers and novices, those working for large networks and independents. There’s a lot of history of public radio and podcasting thrown in as well.

Anyways it was a good and quick read — definitely some stuff to think about and a new perspectives compared to the podcasting books I’d previously read and written about.

The book also had a “recommended reading” section, some of which piqued my interest, so I’ll include here. It’s a combination of books on making podcast/radio stories and once more broadly about storytelling and story structure.

To be clear, I haven’t read these, so I’m going on faith from Nuzum’s recommendation, but I just ordered all of them so ‾\_(ツ)_/‾

(Also, did you guys know that shrugging guys face is the character for “Tsu” in the Japanese katakana alphabet?)
51hjqqgteqL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_ Radio Diaries: DIY Handbook (2017)

By Joel Richman (of Radiodiaries fame) and Jay Allison (the Moth, Transom)
They say, “The Radio Diaries DIY Handbook is a storytelling guide to making great radio with chapters on interviewing, editing, technical advice, and journalistic principles.”

51F3TA5hhDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ The Writer’s Journey (2007)

by Christopher Vogler (USC film school, worked on the Lion King?)
Looks like a lighter, modernized take on Campbell’s concept of The Hero’s Journey aimed at filmmakers. Nuzum says, “Should be used by more audio makers as a source of inspiration.”

51Z6EjgF96L Making Waves (2008)

By Mark Ramsey (Inside Jaws)
They say, “This book can help any broadcaster navigate a digital wonderland of infinite choice and endless competition. Dive in. The water’s fine. Let’s make some waves.”

Nuzum says, “Ramsey has been a provocative thinker about radio and podcasting for many years.”

My question: Do you think Ramsey drew the cover art himself?

41WFCsNwpmL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Story Craft (2011)

By Jack Hart (The Oregonian newspaper)
Nuzm says, “I find myself applying the lessons in this book to almost every audio project I create.”

51PGXH7dDtL._SX377_BO1,204,203,200_ You Can Write a Novel Kit (2008)

By James V. Smith Jr.
Made for fiction, but Nuzum says, “useful to writers of any medium.”
Not just a book, but a kit with five guided notepads designed to help you with: Scene Development, Major Character Development, Minor Character Development, Revision, Progress Monitoring. 

41w3u+MqhRL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_ Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (2006)

By Blake Snyder
Another screenwriting book Nuzum recommends for podcasters, evidently the last one you’ll ever need, and the last on this list.
This book has come up on This American Life, in a discussion of making Sleepwalk with Me. Have always been curious to read it and think now I will!

Also, apologies for not posting for a year and a half! think I was inspired by the book and the history of how podcasting emerged from blogging. These days I’m working on a true crime documentary show Monster: DC Sniper I’m really into the puzzle of figuring out how to structure a long multi-part series, so if you have any recommendations on story-structure kind of stuff, please let me know!


As I’m now working at an NPR station, but I was never formally trained in journalism, I decided to look up what I missed out on. Here are the introductory textbook’s used by 5 of America’s top journalism programs:

Textbook / Book

Program New Used
  Who, What, When, Where, Why by James Glen Stovall Emmerson College $121


Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel UT Austin $12 $8 ( Free audiobook with audible trial )
Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower  Northwestern $100 $71
Writing and Reporting the News by Carole Rich NYU $130 $60
The News Media: What Everyone Needs to Know by C.W. Anderson, Leonard Downie Jr., Michael Schudson.


$13 $6.64

Other texts that showed up in syllabi: The Associated Press Stylebook and America’s Best Newspaper Writing by Roy Peter Clark

Anyways, if you’re interested in teaching yourself journalism, this might be a place to start. This probably also doubles as a list of books to give as a gift to a journalism major or a young aspiring journalist.

Also of interest, might be the unofficial recommended reading list from Gimlet Media, which pertains specifically to making narrative audio documentaries and NPR-style pieces.

And if there’s a good book for young journalists that you want to recommend that wasn’t on this list, please mention it in a comment!

JAMA podcasts

The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, is launching a podcast app designed to help doctors to listen to educational content and take quizzes on what they learn.

By listening to these podcasts and taking the accompanying quizzes, medical professionals could earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits, which are needed for licensing requirements.

JAMA is advertising podcasts as a way for busy people to earn these credits: “Morning time. Commute time. Lunchtime. Workout time. Your time.”

Potentially this app will work on one of podcasting’s biggest strengths as an educational tool, allowing listeners to multitask and learn on the go. And, by incorporating quizzes the app may compensate for one of its weaknesses — the ease with which one can space out and miss important details from a piece of audio.

Likely the popularity of this tool will depend on the quality of the podcasts produced. I’ve heard a fair share of medical podcasts where people just read out articles and listing facts in monotone voices. However, the most widely shared and popular learning tool when I was a medical student was Dr. Goljan’s audio lecture series. (I’d wager Goljan has had more impact on medical education than any other doctor in his generation.)

A successful podcast, that can hold a tired person’s attention as they work out or commute will require an effective host like Goljan that can use some humour and flair to regain listener’s attention before key points and transitions and make points stick in their mind.


I strongly believe that the university system and medical education are sorely outdated. At hundreds of schools across the nation, similar lectures are given year after year, often by professors only lecturing out of an obligation to their department. The majority of schools now record these lectures, and at many schools, the majority of students, don’t attend class, they just watch the lectures so they can pause, repeat, slow down or speed up the content.

It’s time we decide these subjects are important enough that we devote the resources to make high-quality courses that can be shared between schools and across the world. Courses that not only incorporate the experience of top medical lecturers but also storytellers and documentarians. They should be founded in psychological theory, and variants could be tested using A-B testing and quizzing to optimize medical education. They should be accompanied by a comment section where the top questions and resources could be posted, voted upon, discussed.

Unfortunately, medical education, especially pre-clinical education, is often an after-thought — an obligation, not a priority. Schools are unlikely to take on a project like this, but perhaps a new generation of supplementary educational materials, like Goljan’s lectures, or the Pathoma video series could emerge — if they did, whoever made them would do the world a lot of good and make a lot of money off of the tens of thousands of allied health students looking for any advantage on their high-stakes exams.


A little over two months ago, I drove all the way from Northern Virginia to Garden City Kansas to start a job as a reporter at High Plains Public Radio.

Today, I’m psyched to have finished my first four-minute radio feature: ‘What Are We Gonna Do With Them?’ Livestock Hauling Industry Concerned About New Federal Rules. If you have a second give it a listen!

I got to hang out with truckers and cowboys and saw an old-school cattle auction while making it!


I made a podcasts about podcasts, but it’s not like those other podcasts about podcasts.

Selects, is a show for people looking to listen to something new that actually want to hear the podcast not an interview with the host. I asked independent and up-and-coming producers to “show me what you got.” Hosts cut down trailers or picked the best 10 minute segments that best represent their own shows, and Selects is a collection of the favorite submissions I received.

Listen now and then vote on which pieces you liked the most!


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