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Not Yet This Swan's Swan Song

Aug 18, 2017

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From the thirteenth floor of a glass tower at the Oregon Health & Science University, you get a panoramic view of downtown Portland and the majestic mountains in the distance. But it's what's happening inside the building that's brought me here.

"Should we go do this thing?" lab manager Amy Koski asks.

Spectators around the country are gearing up, eclipse glasses at the ready, for the solar eclipse on Monday. But another group — perhaps more anxious than eager — is preparing as well: the people who run California's electric grid.

California is home to almost half of all the solar power in the country. So even a partial loss of the sun will mean a major dip in the energy supply.

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Worried about Internet companies snooping on your online browsing? You might turn to something called a virtual private network to protect your privacy. But researchers say these networks can themselves be insecure.

Earlier this year, the federal government rolled back rules that would have prevented Internet service providers from tracking your activity online.

On Aug. 21, a 70-mile-wide ribbon from Oregon to South Carolina called the "path of totality" will experience a total solar eclipse. Large swaths of farmland in the Great Plains and Midwest will be plunged into darkness for 2 1/2 minutes, and temperatures will drop about 10 degrees in the middle of the day.

But as millions of people look up at the sky, many Midwest scientists will turn their eyes and cameras toward the plants and animals on the ground. And they're not sure what will happen.

In the aftermath of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., many civil rights activists took to Twitter and shared photos of people who allegedly were at the march. The idea was to identify who they were and shame them. But identifying someone from a photo can be tricky — and the activists managed to make at least one mistake.

Sierra Leone, a country that has been battered by Ebola, civil war and massive floods, suffered yet another tragedy this week. Government and international aid workers are racing the clock to find survivors after a mudslide struck capital city Freetown early Monday morning.

Some 600 people are still missing, and there are reports that some people are still alive, trapped in their homes underneath the mud.

All this summer, bears have been on my mind.

Last month, Undark Magazine published an essay I wrote about the time I thought I was a bear.

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET

It's a common refrain among whiskey enthusiasts: Add a few drops of water to a glass to open up the flavors and aroma of the drink.

For example, hard-liquor expert Alice Lascelles said in a demonstration for The Sunday Times that "if you're tasting with a master blender, they will always add some water at some stage."

During the full moon in my small border town in Arizona, my mom and I would pack into her car, drive up towards the mountains, and hike to a boulder she called Full Moon Rock. We'd set out jars and create moon water, drink wine, eat snacks and watch the moon cast an evening shadow over our quiet two-person picnic.

My mom and I were following centuries of tradition by devoting time and energy towards capturing the powers of the full moon. This week, I'll be practicing rituals focused on the solar eclipse, along with astrologer Sarolta DeFaltay and author Jaya Saxena.

Where Will You Be Watching The Eclipse?

Aug 17, 2017

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I spent two years dreaming of sun-warmed tomatoes, towering sunflowers and home-grown salad greens before a spot opened in my community garden in Washington, D.C.

When I first met plot 56 in September of 2015, it was a mound of grasses, vines, and cilantro gone to seed.

I had no experience with a vegetable garden of my own, but I knew I was just the person to tame this 4-by-8 foot raised bed. I grew up watching my dad grow veggies. I worked on a flower farm in high school. And I trained as a plant biologist. So I know something about encouraging a seed to grow.

Hundreds of years before solar viewing glasses were readily available, scientists and casual spectators could still enjoy these rare celestial events without frying their eyeballs. They'd use a combination of pinholes and mirrors to redirect the sun's rays onto a screen.

In recent months, mothers who nearly died in the hours and days after giving birth have repeatedly told ProPublica and NPR that their doctors and nurses were often slow to recognize the warning signs that their bodies weren't healing properly.

A federal appeals court has sided with the state of Arkansas against Planned Parenthood, saying it can block Medicaid payments to the medical provider. It reversed earlier injunctions that forbade the state from suspending the money in the wake of a controversial leaked video of Planned Parenthood staff.

If one glass of wine takes the edge off, why not drink a few more?

This thinking may help explain the findings of a new study that points to an increase in drinking among adults in the U.S., especially women.

If you're in desperate need for some good news, look no further.

Scientists in the U.S. and India have found an inexpensive treatment that could possibly save hundreds of thousands of newborns each year.

And it turns out, the secret weapon was sitting in Asian kitchens all along: probiotic bacteria that are common in kimchi, pickles and other fermented vegetables.

A SpaceX craft docked at the International Space Station on Wednesday carrying more than 6,400 pounds of lab equipment and supplies for crew members living there.

But perhaps the most eagerly awaited cargo on the resupply mission may also be its most perishable: ice cream.

We all remember astronaut ice cream, those little dehydrated bricks of neopolitan.

President Trump's astonishing press conference on Tuesday was, ostensibly, an announcement about infrastructure. But his brief remarks on the permitting process were entirely overshadowed by his defense of attendees at a white supremacist rally, among other remarks.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Women have a lot at stake in the fight over the future of health care.

"Nature loves to hide."

This is how, more than 25 centuries back, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus expressed the sense of mystery we all feel when we start pondering how the world works.

There seem to be hidden mechanisms, secret pacts between the things that make the world the world, from the smallest building blocks of matter to the neurons in our brains to the way the whole universe is stretching out in its inexorable expansion.

The events that unfolded in Charlottesville last weekend are a stark reminder of how far we haven't come as a nation. Like so many Americans, I am horrified that white supremacist and neo-Nazi adherents have recently found sanction to put hateful ideologies more overtly on display.

Seeing images of torch-bearers one day and heavily-armed men as would-be militias the next, it's unsurprising that violence erupted, leading to injuries and death.

A few years ago in Zambia, hippos were dropping dead by the dozens. Soon after the hippos fell ill, people started getting sick, too.

Between August and September of 2011, at least 85 hippos died in a game management area along the South Luangwa River near the border with Malawi. It turns out the hippos were the victims of anthrax, the same bacteria used in a series of letter attacks that killed five people in the weeks after Sept. 11. The anthrax outbreaks in hippos and humans in Zambia however, weren't part of some sinister terrorist plot. Instead, they were driven by hunger.

The former president's message after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., was brief, but it hit the right note for many.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion ... ," Barack Obama tweeted, accompanied by a photo of himself, jacket slung over his shoulder, smiling at four young children gathered at a windowsill.

On Monday, the moon will completely eclipse the sun, and people all over the U.S. will watch.

For those who have been boning up on eclipse trivia for weeks, congratulations. For everyone else, here are the things you need to know about the phenomenon.

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