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NEWSWEEK: Media Lead Sheet/April 20, 2009 Issue

(on newsstands Monday, April 13)

COVER: "The Mystery of Epilepsy" (p. 38). Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham writes that we need more of a cancerlike sensibility around epilepsy. We cannot usually see our friends' cancer, but we do not hesitate to invest the search for a cure for different cancers with the utmost cultural and political importance. We must now do the same with epilepsy. The toll of epilepsy has been overlooked -- and the research underfunded -- for too long. Public and private funding for research lag far behind other neurological afflictions. Epilepsy in America is as common as breast cancer, and takes as many lives. A mysterious and widely misunderstood affliction, epilepsy is a disorder in which the brain produces sudden bursts of electrical energy that can interfere with a person's consciousness, movements or sensations. By some estimates, the mortality rate for people with epilepsy is two to three times higher -- and the risk of sudden death is 24 times greater -- than that of the general population. Yet epilepsy still receives too little attention, either from the medical community or the public at large.

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"In The Grip of the Unknown" (p. 43). Senior Editor Jerry Adler and Contributor Eliza Gray profile a doctor on the front lines of the epilepsy wars, Orrin Devinsky of NYU. Adler and Gray write, "There are, at this time, only a few ways to treat epilepsy, and applying them is still an art as much as it is a science. What works for one patient often has no benefit for another with identical symptoms."

"Agony, Hope & Resolve" (p. 49). Susan Axelrod, who is married to David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser, and is a founding board member and president of CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy; contributes an essay on her family's experience with epilepsy -- and what it has led her to believe must be done. The Axelrods' daughter, Lauren, had her first seizure when she was just 7 months old. "Epilepsy entered our lives more than 25 years ago and yet, far too often, I have no confidence that outcomes today will be any better than they were for Lauren," she writes.

"Obama Gets Gun Shy" (p. 20). Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and National Correspondent Suzanne Smalley write that despite a recent spate of killings, the president and fellow Democrats choose not to wage war on assault weapons. Running for president in last year's Democratic primaries, Barack Obama promised to restore a federal ban on certain semiautomatic assault guns -- a position that's still on the White House Web site. The ban was originally passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1994 and lapsed five years ago. But Obama and top White House aides have all but abandoned the issue. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other White House strategists have decided they can't afford to tangle with the National Rifle Association at a time when they're pushing other priorities, like economic renewal and health-care reform.

"Faith, Fear and the Wages of Columbine (p. 24). Contributor Matthew Phillips and Religion Editor Lisa Miller write about two pastors from the opposite ends of the theological spectrum who are still haunted by the Columbine High School massacre. The Rev. Don Marxhausen presided over the funeral of 17-year-old Dylan Klebold ten years ago after Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people. This decision has haunted him ever since. Two days later, another Littleton, Colo., pastor presided over another funeral. Cassie Bernall, a Columbine junior, had been shot in cold blood as she crouched under a library table, and word was that in her final seconds she answered her murderer's question and affirmed her belief in God. During his sermon, George Kirsten proclaimed Cassie a martyr. Over the next 10 years, Kirsten's persistent evangelicalism would make him the target of accusations that he was exploiting a tragedy.

"We Are Not in This Together" (p. 30). Zachary Karabell, president of River Twice Research, writes that young, minority men who didn't earn much to begin with are hit the hardest by unemployment. We may feel united by a common anxiety about losing our jobs, but we are not all in this together. Young, minority men are suffering more than their white-collar counterparts. The unemployment rate for those over 25 with a college degree was 4.3 percent -- half the national rate, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. For those college-educated and white, the number was 2.3 percent at the end of 2008, the most recent available for that demographic. On the other end of the spectrum, the unemployment rate for African-Americans over the age of 16 was 13.3 percent, and for Hispanics, 11.4 percent. For anyone without a high-school diploma, the rate was 13.3 percent. Minorities and the less educated have always suffered more during downturns, but the disparity has become more stark.

JONATHAN ALTER: "Let's Get Ready to Reconcile" (p. 33). Senior Editor Jonathan Alter writes that we're going to have to get used to the idea that transformational change in health, education and energy policy is more important than whether Republicans cry foul over being railroaded. Reconciliation on Capitol Hill is the process by which the House and Senate "reconcile" their differing versions of the federal budget and deal with the devilish details. Passing budgets requires only 51 votes in the Senate. But for the last several years, senators in the minority have somehow convinced themselves that democracy demands that nothing serious passes their chamber without 60 votes. Because the Democrats have only 58 (59 when Al Franken shows up) and might face some Democratic defectors, they're examining their options.

"A Serious Cup of Joe (Scarborough)" (p. 36). Reporter Seth Colter Walls writes that for the first time since it launched in 2007, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" defeated CNN's "American Morning" among younger viewers -- the demographic advertisers prize most. That show is hosted by Joe Scarborough, a former Florida congressman -- and a registered Republican. One reason for the success of "Morning Joe" is that Scarborough and his team generate an ideologically unpredictable vibe.

"A Racial Divide" (p. 50). Contributor Jesse Ellison writes that blacks experience heart failure earlier and at a greater rate than whites. A study last month in The New England Journal of Medicine found that blacks under age 50 experience heart failure at 20 times the rate of whites. "To see this among people in their 30s and 40s was really quite striking to us," says Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, codirector of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at San Francisco General Hospital, and the study's lead author. Because their weakened heart muscles can't pump enough blood, people with heart failure are often too weak to work. Exactly why these rates are so skewed is unclear, but high rates of hypertension among young African-Americans is a major culprit. Genetics, higher sensitivity to salty diets and environmental factors are also believed to play a role.

/PRNewswire -- April 12/

SOURCE Newsweek
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