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Saving Abby Sunderland, and Re-casting the U.S. Space Program at NASA

There's rejoicing far and wide over the rescue of 16-year-old Abby Sunderland, the Thousand Oaks teen trying to sail around the world.

But. But. Beyond the questions of judgment about letting, or encouraging, a 16-year-old, however accomplished, to undertake this effort are the questions we asked on Friday's program, and want you to keep talking about here.

Should taxpayers have to foot the bill when such adventures go awry? One of my guests, who took part in an Interior Department panel about these rescues, said absolutely yes. He worries that if people think they'll be charged for the cost of rescue, they won't call for help until it poses even greater dangers for both rescuers and rescuees.

A lot of you called to say you felt otherwise. People who take extreme-sports risks in the wilderness often don't want any interference with their fun, but when they get into trouble, they want the cavalry -- government agencies -- to ride to the rescue. And that, some of you thought, is not what taxpayers should do.

Sometimes rescue is impossible, and the adventurers know the risk and accept it -- like the man who recently ascended Mt. Everest only to be stricken blind, and who was left behind to die by his comrades because saving him would have risked their lives.

But usually, even in the Indian Ocean, where Abby Sunderland found herself, there's someone close enough to assist.

One idea a number of you mentioned is "wilderness insurance" to cover the costs of rescue if adventurers need it, the premiums cost to go to a rescue fund if they're not used. But in Switzerland, people who buy such insurance often call in for a ''hangnail rescue'' -- wanting to be helicoptered out of trouble for some slight problem, which can once again put rescuers at risk.

A Los Angeles Times story on this predicament back in 1993 anonymously quoted a term that local rescuers use for plucking the foolhardy out of trouble: INS, Interfering with Natural Selection -- meaning that people who are dumb enough to risk themselves and others in these life-threatening situations shouldn't be contributing to the gene pool anyway.

What's your take? That's what the Patt Morrison page is for -- have at it with your comments!

And if you didn't hear it, be sure to listen to my interview with NASA administrator Charles Bolden. It was fascinating through and through, but I was particularly touched when I asked him about the end of the space shuttle. He was on four shuttle missions, and he got choked up thinking about the last of these shuttle trips, probably next year.

I know we've talked a lot about the economic meltdown, but on Monday, you've got to hear what Raghuam G. Rajan has to say. He's one of those once-derided voices that saw this mess coming, and his book is one of the smartest takes I've read, because it is about a lot more than Wall Street; it's about the underlying fault lines of the economy, decades in the making -- the deepening divisions of class, of haves and have-nots, of stagnated income and stagnated education, and these are problems that a few rosy quarterly reports are not going to begin to fix.

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