Health & Science

Ways to Connect

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It's in the name Old Faithful, the geyser in Yellowstone National Park that blows over a hundred feet in the air every 90 minutes or so. It's enchanted millions of visitors for generations.

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Now we turn to Sabrina Corlette. She used to be a staffer with the Senate Health Committee. She now studies the health insurance industry at Georgetown University. Welcome to the program.

SABRINA CORLETTE: Thank you.

India has made a significant change to its laws about rape. The Supreme Court has ruled that if a husband has sex with his wife and she is under 18, he is committing an act of rape.

Up until now rape was illegal, but there was one glaring exception. A wife could not bring charges of rape against her husband unless she was under age 15 — an age set in a 1940 law.

An outbreak of the plague is growing in Madagascar.

A nation's flag embodies a defining aspect of its identity. It could be related to geography (the rising sun in Japan), nature (the maple leaf of Canada or the cedar of Lebanon), religion (the Christian cross or the Islamic crescent and star), political ideology (the hammer and sickle) or mythology (the Welsh dragon).

In a new book on flags, A Flag Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of National Symbols, Tim Marshall explores how a "piece of colored cloth" can arouse profound emotions of loyalty, love and pride in the breasts of its citizens.

Gene therapy, which has had a roller-coaster history of high hopes and devastating disappointments, took an important step forward Thursday.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee endorsed the first gene therapy for an inherited disorder — a rare condition that causes a progressive form of blindness that usually starts in childhood.

The recommendation came in a unanimous 16-0 vote after a daylong hearing that included emotional testimonials by doctors, parents of children blinded by the disease and from children and young adults helped by the treatment.

As a Brazilian-born scientist, it pains me to witness the devastating cuts — and proposal of future additional reductions — to the country's science funding.

The cut of 44 percent in March brought the 2017 budget for Brazil's Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications the lowest level in 12 years. Additional cuts of about 16 percent have been proposed for the 2018 budget.

When Hahna Alexander set out to create a shoe that could charge a battery, she had no idea what challenges lay ahead of her.

The inventing part went smoothly enough. Like many first-time inventors, she had a good idea and a passion for her work. She successfully invented a shoe that harnesses energy from each step the wearer takes. That energy can be used to charge a battery.

In director Wes Anderson's film "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the ever-fussy, high-class hotel concierge Gustave H. takes viewers on a rollicking journey around the world. To real-life concierge Jack Nargil of the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., the film was important for rekindling interest in an old-timey profession that is increasingly under threat by automation and apps. Many millennial hotel guests, he says, still need reminders about what exactly a concierge does, and the film served as a romantic representation of what they can provide.

Rob Gimpel is usually thinking about getting tulip bulbs in the ground this time of year, but right now he's ready to harvest pumpkins.

It's an unusual activity for Gimpel, the lead gardener of the areas around the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., but one that he's been thoroughly enjoying as part of this year's War Garden project. The project commemorates the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I in 1917 — when such veggie plots — also referred to as "victory" or "liberty" gardens — were first conceived as part of the war effort on the homefront.

The Coming Sewer Gold Rush

Oct 12, 2017

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So Republicans couldn't quite pull off repeal and replace.

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Abstinence may have found its most impressive poster child yet: Diploscapter pachys. The tiny worm is transparent, smaller than a poppy seed and hasn't had sex in 18 million years.

It has basically just been cloning itself this whole time. Usually, that is a solid strategy for going extinct, fast. What is its secret?

Shortly before Election Day last year, some helpful-looking posts began popping up on Twitter: No need to stand in line or even leave home, they said — just vote by text!

The messages, some of which appeared to come from Hillary Clinton's campaign, had versions in Spanish, with gay pride flags and other permutations. They were also 100 percent false.

Where did they come from?

Supposedly solitary pumas actually hang out with their fellow big cats quite often, frequently coming together and hissing and snarling before settling down to share a delicious elk carcass.

That's the startling discovery made by scientists who recently tracked 13 pumas — also called mountain lions or cougars — and set up cameras at kill sites. They recorded dozens of peaceful social interactions between these elusive felines.

Apple is about to close a deal with director Steven Spielberg to revive his Emmy award-winning series Amazing Stories for Apple TV. With it, Apple is entering a world in which Netflix has been a leader. But now, new competitors to Netflix are emerging at a surprising speed.

In just over four decades, obesity levels in children and teenagers have risen dramatically worldwide, though that rise has been far from uniform. In a new study published online Tuesday, British researchers and the World Health Organization say those levels have plateaued lately in high-income countries, "albeit at high levels," while the rise in obesity rates has only accelerated in regions such as East Asia and Latin America.

For years, doctors have been warning us that high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, illegal drug use and diabetes increase our chances of having a potentially fatal stroke.

And yet, most of the stroke patients showing up at hospitals from 2004 to 2014 had one or more of these risk factors. And the numbers of people at risk in this way tended to grow among all age groups and ethnicities in that time period.

Rethinking Rx

Oct 11, 2017

One thing often gets left out of the continued debate over healthcare: the care part.

As Congress weighs how best to insure Americans, some doctors are placing renewed focus on better medical treatment by connecting the dots between what happens in the exam room and America’s growing problem with addiction to prescription pain medicine.

A panel of physicians join us to discuss inefficient exams, malpractice and why pain can be a good thing.

GUESTS

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Just a few months after a controversial tax on sugary drinks took effect in Cook County, Ill. - that's where Chicago is - commissioners have voted to repeal it. As NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, it is a big win for big soda companies.

Days before there was any sign of fire, Nicole and Ben Veum, who live in Santa Rosa, Calif., had already been waiting and waiting for their baby to arrive.

Nicole's due date came and went. Her doctor called her in to the hospital — Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital — to induce labor. That was Friday.

"So we were very excited at that point," she says. "And then day after day after day, with not a whole lot of progress."

The doctors and nurses tried three different ways of inducing labor. Then, on Sunday, the third day, with the third attempt, it started working.

In Ticino, Switzerland, the streets aren't paved with gold. But the sewage pipes are packed with it.

And across the country as a whole, some $3 million worth of gold and silver is thrown out in wastewater every year.

Reuters

This year's Nobel Prize winners were announced the first week of October. In September, slightly less prestigious awards honored the funny side of scientific discovery. The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually since 1991 to honor achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”

Oct. 11 is the "International Day of the Girl" – proclaimed by the U.N. as a time to look at the challenges girls face and to promote their "empowerment" and human rights.

What kind of year has it been for girls? We looked at the stories we've done over the past year, and the headlines alone captured both the tragedies and the triumphs. In many ways a horrible year for girls. But even at the bleakest moments, there are stories of hope and triumph.

Here is a sampling of our stories about the world's girls:

A proposal to simplify cervical cancer screening could end up missing some cancers, researchers and patient advocates say. And that could be especially true for minority women.

Latina and black women already have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the U.S., and more than half of women with the disease were not screened in the five years before their diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"It won't happen to me." Maybe that sentiment explains the attitude of many employees toward long-term-disability insurance, which pays a portion of your income if you are suddenly unable to work for an extended period because of illness, injury or accident.

Nicole and Ben Veum had been waiting and waiting for their baby to arrive. Nicole's due date came and went. Her doctor called her in to the hospital — Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital — to induce labor. That was Friday.

"So we were very excited at that point," she said. "And then day after day after day, with not a whole lot of progress."

They tried three different ways of inducing labor. Then, on the third day, with the third attempt, it started working.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is vowing to speed the cleanup of toxic Superfund sites, part of a shift away from climate change and toward what he calls the "basics" of clean air and water. The EPA's Superfund program manages the cleanup of some of the most toxic waste sites. Pruitt says the EPA will soon name a top 10 list of sites to focus on.

One potential site for that list is the Tar Creek Superfund site in far northeast Oklahoma, where a team of agency officials recently visited.

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