Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday where she sought to use the symbolism of a historic landmark to draw parallels to a present-day America that is in need of repairing deepening racial and cultural divides.

The Old State Capitol — where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "A house divided" speech in 1858 warning against the ills of slavery and where Barack Obama launched his presidential bid in 2007 — served as the backdrop for Clinton as she spoke of how "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

Episode 711: Hooked on Heroin

53 minutes ago

When we meet the heroin dealer called Bone, he has just shot up. He has a lot to say anyway. He tells us about his career--it pretty much tracks the evolution of drug use in America these past ten years or so. He tells us about his rough past. And he tells us about how he died a week ago. He overdosed on his own supply and his friend took his body to the emergency room, then left.

New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

4 hours ago
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages

Microbe Transplants Treat Some Diseases That Drugs Can't Fix

Sep 9, 2013
Originally published on September 10, 2013 5:20 pm

Billie Iverson may be getting up there, but for an 86-year-old, she's still plenty active.

"I take trips, and I go do my own shopping, and I take myself to the doctor," Iverson says. "I do everything. I don't let anything stop me."

But one day, she got hit with something she'd never experienced — the worst case of the runs ever.

For days at a time, off and on for weeks, the problem kept coming back. Iverson eventually got so weak, she ended up in a nursing home.

"I just thought maybe I wasn't going to make it," she says. "I thought I was going to die."

Finally, Iverson's daughter took her to see Colleen Kelly, a doctor at Brown University and the Women's Medicine Collaborative. Kelly knew right away what was going on.

"It's very classic, this pattern," Kelly says. "We've seen hundreds of cases over the last couple of years at our program."

Kelly's program specializes in the microbes that live in our digestive systems — trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other mostly helpful microbes whose genes scientists collectively call the human microbiome.

The problem, she told Iverson, started when antibiotics prescribed for another health problem disrupted the community of benign organisms in her intestines, leaving her vulnerable to a really bad bug — a bacterium called Clostridium difficile.

"You can almost look at C. diff as ... the prototypical example," Kelly says, of how a disruption in the human microbiome can result in disease.

Kelly is among a growing number of doctors who are starting to use what scientists are learning about our microbiomes to help prevent, diagnose, and treat many illnesses. For Iverson, she proposed something that may sound pretty radical — what doctors call a fecal transplant.

"It's really almost like an organ transplant," Kelly says. "You're taking this whole community of microorganisms from one person, [and] transplanting them into another person. Then these things ... take root, colonize and kind of restore that balance."

Iverson says she initially found the idea repulsive. But she felt so desperate that she agreed to try it.

"I was scared to death, honey," Iverson says. "I'm an old lady. I've got one foot in the grave and the other on the banana peel."

The procedure turned out to be really easy. And it worked — virtually overnight. "It stopped," Iverson says. "Right away. I'm feeling good now. I'm feeling great."

What happened to Iverson is the most dramatic example of how doctors are manipulating the microbiome in lots of ways to help lots of different kinds of patients.

For one thing, Kelly says doctors are testing the use of the transplants in other illnesses, such as colitis, Crohn's disease and diabetes. And there's even talk of trying the treatment for obesity.

"We're at a really interesting point in medicine where we've come to appreciate the microbiome and that [these organisms] have really integral roles in ... energy metabolism, and immune function, and all of these other things," Kelly says.

At the same time, researchers are looking for more subtle ways to fix our microbiomes. For starters, they're trying to remove the "yuk" factor from microbiome transplants by figuring out exactly which microorganisms patients really need and giving them just those.

And there's tons of research involving so-called probiotics — live cultures of supposedly beneficial microbes, typically included in yogurt or other foods or supplements. Probiotics are meant to be swallowed, in hopes that they'll outcompete pathogenic bacteria and restore a healthy balance.

"The evidence is really mounting to the point where I think it's undeniable that the ingestion of live bacteria — safe bacteria in high numbers — has an overall beneficial effect on human health," says Colin Hill of the University College Cork in Ireland.

Scientists are testing a long list of probiotics for a variety of health problems, including vaginal infections, colic in babies and weakened immune systems in the elderly. They're also studying so-called prebiotics — nondigestible carbohydrates meant as food for the good microbes.

Now, anyone who walks into a grocery store these days knows that hundreds of prebiotic and probiotic products are already on the market. You can't watch TV or go on the Internet without hearing the kinds of claims the manufacturers of these products make.

The companies point to studies supporting their claims. But many experts say there are still huge questions about how safe such products are, how pure they are, and whether they really do what their makers say they do.

"All of those things together open up the opportunity for ... the equivalent of snake oil salesmen related to probiotics or microbial treatments, or fecal transplants or whatever," says Jonathan Eisen of the University of California, Davis.

And Eisen is not alone in his criticism. The Food and Drug Administration has big concerns. Those concerns include whether microbiome transplants might spread infections, or are being promoted for unproven uses, or whether they might actually increase the risk for some health problems.

"The gut microbiome can affect obesity, diabetes [and] a number of other disorders," says Jay Slater, director of the FDA's Division of Bacterial, Parasitic and Allergenic Products. "These are the kinds of concerns that would indicate that good long-term studies really should be done."

So the FDA requires that doctors who want to do microbiome transplants for anything other than C. diff treatment get FDA approval first. And physicians must warn patients that, even for C. diff, the treatment is still experimental. Scientists studying probiotics have to put them through the same careful testing that regular drugs go through.

All this is really frustrating for many scientists. They argue that these regulatory roadblocks are holding up research and making it too hard for patients to get microbiome transplants.

"People are dying of C. diff," says Kelly. "And people are living in this really terrible state. I see people who've lost their jobs, people who've become depressed because of just the feeling of utter hopelessness. And I think it's really unethical to withhold the treatment from patients who need it."

As for Iverson, she agrees that anyone who needs such a transplant should be able to get one.

"I think it's terrific," she says. "I think it's the best thing that ever happened. This is like a step to heaven having this done."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.