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Health Headlines

    The World Health Organization says Ebola has spiked in Congo in recent days because of 'increased security challenges,' a week after its director-general predicted the outbreak might be contained within six months. The U.N. health agency said late Thursday the recent attacks on Ebola clinics slowed response efforts for days. Congolese officials reported dozens of new suspected and confirmed cases in recent days. Last week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared that Ebola was 'contracting.' Doctors Without Borders has said that conditions at the outbreak's epicenter are 'toxic' and that international responders have failed to convince local communities to accept their help. WHO acknowledged that many people with Ebola are refusing to seek care at health centers and are dying at home, increasing the chances of the virus' spread.
  • About 4 percent of women incarcerated in state prisons across the U.S. were pregnant when they were jailed, according to a new study released Thursday that researchers hope will help lawmakers and prisons better consider the health of women behind bars. The number of imprisoned women has risen dramatically over the past decades, growing even as the overall prison rates decline. But there had been a lack of data on women's health and no system for tracking how frequently incarcerated women were pregnant, or what happened to the pregnancies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, collects data on deaths in custody but not on births. Dr. Carolyn Sufrin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine attempted to fill the void by collecting data from 22 state prison systems and 26 federal prisons during a yearlong period in 2016 and 2017. She released her results in the American Journal of Public Health . 'The fact that nobody had collected this data before signals just how much this population is neglected,' Sufrin said. There were 753 live births among the 56,262 women included in the study, with about 10,000 in federal prisons but the majority in state prison systems. There were 46 miscarriages, 11 abortions, four stillbirths and three newborn deaths, according to the study. No women died during childbirth. Among women who were already in state prisons, five new pregnancies were diagnosed during a six-month period — three women became pregnant during work release and the other two were not reported. Researchers found there were 1,396 women who reported being pregnant while incarcerated — 1,224 from state prisons and 172 in federal prisons. The researchers found differences by state. Texas and Ohio, large states with large prison populations, had some months when there were more than 50 pregnant women jailed. Other states had months with no pregnant women. Overall, about 6 percent of pregnancies resulted in miscarriage, but in some states that was as high as 20 percent, according to the study. March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies nationwide, estimates that between 15 and 25 percent of recognized pregnancies overall end in miscarriage. Brenda Baker, a professor and researcher at Emory University School of Nursing who teaches prenatal care to pregnant women who are incarcerated in Georgia, said the research was much needed. 'We are so starved for data. The fact that someone can get something like this and share it excites us,' she said. 'Those of us who do research in this area will use it far and wide.' She said pregnant women have been a virtually unknown population in the criminal justice system. 'But women are the fastest growing sector of the prison population — women of childbearing age. If you can't measure it, you can't fix it,' Baker said. Most incarcerated women have to give up their babies within days of having them, especially if they are serving long sentences. In rare cases, like at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, some women are allowed to keep their newborns in a separate nursery inside the prison run by a nonprofit. The study included about 57 percent of all women in prison — 53 percent from state prisons and 86 percent in federal prisons. There are about 112,000 women behind bars nationwide. The data was collected in states with large female prison populations, such as Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arizona and Georgia, and in states with smaller populations like Vermont and Wisconsin. But some large states declined to participate, including California, Florida and New York. Designated reporters, which included prison employees as well as health care personnel, reported monthly. They did not collect data on the women's health, socio-economic status or prior pregnancy history — factors that could influence a pregnancy outcome.
  • Scientists are closing in on a way to help young boys undergoing cancer treatment preserve their future fertility — and the proof is the first monkey born from the experimental technology. More and more people are surviving childhood cancer, but nearly 1 in 3 will be left infertile from the chemotherapy or radiation that helped save their life. When young adults are diagnosed with cancer, they can freeze sperm, eggs or embryos ahead of treatment. But children diagnosed before puberty can't do that because they're not yet producing mature eggs or sperm. 'Fertility issues for kids with cancer were ignored' for years, said University of Pittsburgh reproductive scientist Kyle Orwig. 'Many of us dream of growing up and having our own families. We hope our research will help these young patients to do that.' Orwig's team reported a key advance Thursday: First, they froze a bit of testicular tissue from a monkey that hadn't yet reached puberty. Later, they used it to produce sperm that, through a monkey version of IVF, led to the birth of a healthy female monkey named Grady. The technique worked well enough that human testing should begin in the next few years, Orwig said. 'It's a huge step forward' that should give hope to families, said Susan Taymans of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which helped fund the research published in the journal Science. 'It's not like science fiction. It's something that seems pretty attainable.' University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a handful of other hospitals already freeze immature testicular tissue from young cancer patients, in hopes of knowing how to use it once they're grown and ready to have their own children. Boys are born with stem cells inside little tubes in the testes, cells that start producing sperm after puberty's testosterone jolt. Orwig's goal: Keep sperm-producing stem cells safe from cancer treatment by freezing small pieces of testicular tissue, and using them to restore fertility later in life. How? Enter the monkey research. Orwig's team froze tissue from young male monkeys, and then sterilized them. Once the monkeys approached puberty, the researchers thawed those tissue samples and gave them back to the original animal — implanting them just under the skin. 'We're not hooking it up to the normal plumbing,' Orwig cautioned. Boosted by hormones, the little pieces of tissue grew. Months later, the researchers removed them. Sure enough, inside was sperm they could collect and freeze. Colleagues at the Oregon National Primate Research Center injected some of that sperm into eggs from female monkeys and implanted the resulting embryos. Last April, Grady was born, and 'she plays and behaves just like every other monkey that was grown the normal way,' Orwig said. If the technique sounds a little bizarre, it's similar to a female option. Girls' eggs are in an immature state before puberty. Researchers have removed and frozen strips of ovarian tissue harboring egg follicles from young women before cancer treatment, in hopes that when transplanted back later the immature eggs would resume development. It's considered experimental even for young adults but some births have been reported. Now some hospitals bank ovarian tissue from girls, too. Surgery involving the boys' testicular tissue is less invasive, noted Orwig, who also is researching ways to reinsert sperm-producing stem cells where they belong rather than the more roundabout technique. The new research shows 'immature testicular tissue may become an option' to preserve boys' fertility, Nina Neuhaus and Stefan Schlatt of the Center of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology in Muenster, Germany, wrote in an accompanying editorial. Meanwhile, 'it's important for parents to know about this,' said Christine Hanlon of Holiday, Florida, who took her son Dylan to Pittsburgh to have his tissue stored when he was newly diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma at age 9. Today Dylan is a healthy teen, and no one knows if he'll ever need the stored tissue, one of more than 200 samples Orwig's study has preserved. But Hanlon was thrilled to learn the research is moving along, just in case. 'You lose part of your childhood in cancer treatment,' Hanlon said. 'If there was a chance I could help him have normalcy in his future, with the potential of having a family if that's what he decided to do, I wanted to be able to.' ___ Online: University of Pittsburgh fertility preservation program: www.fertilitypreservationpittsburgh.org ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • A growing majority of Americans want greater government spending on health care, and the increase is being driven by both Democrats and Republicans. That's according to new data from the General Social Survey, a widely respected trend survey that has been measuring views of government spending since the 1970s. An analysis by The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and General Social Survey staff reveals that Americans want to spend more money on a wide range of government functions. About three-quarters of Americans say the government is spending too little on education, and roughly 7 in 10 say the government is spending too little on assistance to the poor and dealing with drug addiction. By comparison, nearly half of Americans say the government is spending too much on foreign aid. The findings come as President Donald Trump's latest budget plan proposes to cut many programs that are popular with the public, including alternative energy, the safety net for the poor, and health care. Support for more government spending on health care has been on the rise since 2014. Seven in 10 consider the government's spending on improving national health to be too low, up from 62 percent in 2016 and 56 percent in 2014. While Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say spending on health is too little, there has been a sharp increase across party lines. The poll finds 80 percent of Democrats say there is too little spending, up from 66 percent in 2014, and 59 percent of Republicans say the same, up from 42 percent four years ago. The government is on track this year to borrow more than 20 cents for every dollar it spends, running a deficit in the $1 trillion range. Few lawmakers have displayed much real appetite for cutting spending and the survey data seems to help explain why. There's only one policy area — foreign aid — for which more Americans say the government is spending too much than say it's spending too little or the right amount. And while the public appears generally satisfied with spending on parks and recreation and space exploration, which take up a relatively small portion of the federal budget, Americans think most other policy areas are underfunded. On most issues, the partisan divide reflects broad attitudes toward government spending; Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the government is spending too little. One area stands out: Comparable shares of Democrats and Republicans think infrastructure is underfunded. In 2018, 53 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans say the government is spending too little on highways and bridges. While infrastructure has been a stated priority for the White House, the latest budget plan disappointed some lawmakers who hoped for more. Across party lines, drug addiction also has seen increased attention as a policy priority in recent years. Nearly 7 in 10 say government is spending too little fighting drug addiction, up from 54 percent a decade ago and about as high as it was in the late 1980s. Wide shares of both Democrats (72 percent) and Republicans (67 percent) consider drug addiction a spending priority. In recent years, attitudes toward defense also have been shifting. In 2018, 40 percent of Americans think the defense budget is about right, up from 34 percent in 2016. Fewer — 29 percent — say too little is being spent on defense, down eight percentage points from two years ago. Among Republicans, 43 percent now say spending on defense is about right, up from 29 percent in 2016. The results correspond with a successful effort by Trump and his GOP allies to power through significant Pentagon increases over the past year. They are eying a record defense budget of $750 billion and Democrats may largely go along, in part to justify more spending on domestic programs. Support for more spending among Democrats stands out on several issues. For example, following steps by the Trump administration to curb environmental protections, there has been an uptick in the share saying too little is spent on the environment. About 8 in 10 Democrats say this now, up from 74 percent two years ago and 67 percent in 2014. While views of spending to improve the condition of blacks had been largely stable for decades, Americans are far more likely to say the government is spending too little in 2018 than they were just four years ago, 52 percent versus 30 percent. __ The General Social Survey has been conducted since 1972 by NORC at the University of Chicago, primarily using in-person interviewing. Sample sizes for each year's survey vary from about 1,500 to about 3,000 adults, with margins of error falling between plus or minus 2.2 percentage points and plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The most recent survey was conducted April 12 through Nov. 10, 2018, and includes interviews with 2,348 American adults.
  • Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday signed one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation — a measure that bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy. Bryant's action came despite a federal judge's ruling last year that struck down a less-restrictive law limiting abortions in the state. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights called the new measure 'cruel and clearly unconstitutional' and said it would sue Mississippi to try to block the law from taking effect on July 1. After a bill signing ceremony at the state Capitol, Bryant told reporters that he's not worried about lawsuits. 'They don't have to sue us. It's up to them,' Bryant said. 'If they do not believe in the sanctity of life, these that are in organizations like Planned Parenthood, we will have to fight that fight. But it is worth it.' Mississippi is one of several states that have considered bills this year to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is found. Abortion opponents are emboldened by new conservatives on the Supreme Court and are seeking cases to challenge Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. A federal judge in 2018 struck down a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying it is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi. 'Lawmakers didn't get the message,' Hillary Schneller, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Thursday. 'They are determined to rob Mississippians of the right to abortion, and they are doing it at the expense of women's health and taxpayer money. This ban — just like the 15-week ban the governor signed a year ago — is cruel and clearly unconstitutional.' The law that Bryant signed Thursday says a physician who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could face revocation of his or her Mississippi medical license. It also says abortions could be allowed after a fetal heartbeat is found if a pregnancy endangers a woman's life or one of her major bodily functions. The House and Senate both rejected efforts to allow exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Georgia and Tennessee are among the states considering similar bills. Kentucky's law banning abortion after the detection of a heartbeat was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union when Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it on March 14, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it. A federal judge on Wednesday also blocked another Kentucky law that would ban abortion for women seeking to end their pregnancies because of the gender, race or disability of the fetus. Dr. Leana Wen, a physician who is president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Thursday that the new Mississippi law 'is a dangerous policy that criminalizes a safe, standard medical procedure and will endanger women's lives.' 'Patients must be empowered to make their own health care decisions, in consultation with their doctor and their family, and doctors must be able to provide health care to our patients without the threat of prison time,' Wen said. 'We cannot accept a world where the right to abortion care depends on where you live or how much money you make.' Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy at the conservative Mississippi Center for Public Policy, praised Bryant for signing the bill. 'The heartbeat bill is popular because everyone knows a heartbeat is a sign of life,' Taylor said in a statement. 'Intellectual and scientific honesty demands a reconsideration of Roe, a 50-year-old decision based on old science. 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds are showing women that their unborn child is alive.' ____ Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .
  • The Trump administration and coal industry allies are insisting that a federal black lung trust fund will continue to pay benefits to sick miners despite a drastic cut in funding. But the expected shortfalls will be covered by taxpayers instead of coal companies, adding more debt to the already struggling fund. And at least one Republican congressman from the coalfields has added his voice to the chorus of miners and advocates worried that the fund's promise to sick workers and their families ultimately might not be kept. Longtime U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican from Kentucky's Appalachian region, said a government report shows the trust fund 'is on an unsustainable path, potentially putting the benefits on which many families in my region rely in jeopardy.' The cut potentially means hundreds of millions in savings for coal companies, though Trump's Labor Department acknowledges that the trust fund's purpose was for the industry to pay for the health of workers who got sick mining coal. In January, the tax rate coal companies pay to support the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut in half, leaving sick miners and their advocates fearing future benefit cuts from a fund that is already about some $4 billion in debt. 'The trust fund is billions of dollars in debt and we just cut the revenue stream that funds it in half, in the face of the most serious outbreak of black lung disease that we've seen in the U.S.,' said Wes Addington, a Kentucky lawyer who helps coal miners seek black lung benefits. 'They're not explaining how the math works on that, and at what point it becomes a problem, and what's the solution to that problem in a year or two years?' The Department of Labor said in a statement Wednesday that it is obligated to continue paying benefits to sick miners, so a shortfall would be covered by borrowing from taxpayers. 'The U.S. Treasury is required by statute to make repayable advances to the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund so that it can meet its obligations,' the statement said. With cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, federal budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won't be enough money to fully cover the fund's benefit payments. The 1977 law establishing the trust fund was designed to 'shift fiscal responsibility for black lung benefit payments from the federal government to the coal industry,' according to a congressional budget justification document created by the Department of Labor this year. Miners say coal operators want to foist their obligations back on the government. 'It only seems fair that since this is an industry-caused problem, the industry should be paying for these benefits instead of shifting the burden onto taxpayers, as they have done,' United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said in a statement Wednesday. Roberts said miners are concerned that the mounting deficit in future years will force lawmakers to cut benefits. Lawmakers could restore the tax rate to its 2018 level, but that hasn't happened. Some Democratic senators, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, have sponsored a bill to extend the 2018 tax rate for another 10 years. The rate of $1.10 per ton of underground mined coal was cut by more than half to about 50 cents in the new year. The fund took in about $450 million in revenue in fiscal year 2017. The mining industry supported the higher tax rate's expiration. 'We must provide peace of mind to American miners and their families by restoring the excise tax on coal,' Sen. Warner said in a statement. 'Anything else is an empty promise.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had pledged last year to not let the tax rate expire, but that didn't happen. McConnell has maintained that benefits would continue to be paid despite the cuts. In a statement, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said Wednesday that an increase in the tax 'would require a bipartisan and bicameral effort that can pass both chambers.' Steurer noted that that effort would have to begin with a bill in the House of Representatives. Carl Shoupe, an ex-miner in Harlan County, said he believes lawmakers and the industry 'are just kicking the bucket down the road.' 'I honestly believe they'll start cutting benefits, if people don't start speaking up and standing up for them,' Shoupe said. Addington, executive director of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Whitesburg, Kentucky, said he has seen a spike in miners seeking black lung claims, and the CDC has reported on the proliferation of a serious strain of black lung that is sickening miners at younger ages. 'We're not only seeing more claims, most of the claims we're getting are much more severe cases of black lung than ever came into this office a decade ago,' Addington said. 'And it's not even close.
  • A New Orleans woman is accused of overdosing her 4-year-old daughter and herself on narcotic pain medication in an attempted murder-suicide, and her family claims she tried multiple times in vain to get mental health care before the incident.  Debbie P. Johnson, 41, is charged with attempted murder in the incident, according to Orleans Parish Jail records. She is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond.  Court documents obtained by NOLA.com allege that Johnson was arguing with family members March 10 about the living arrangements at their home. At some point after the argument, she walked into a relative’s bedroom and said she and her daughter had taken several hydrocodone pills.  She said “she was killing herself and taking her 4-year-old daughter with her,” the court documents allege.  >> Read more trending news A relative called 911, and both Johnson and her daughter were taken to a hospital for treatment. According to WDSU in New Orleans, Johnson swallowed six of the pills and she forced her daughter to take four pills. Police officers wrote in the arrest warrant that Johnson’s daughter told detectives her mother “told her she was going to die with her and gave her some nasty stuff to take,” NOLA.com reported. The pills were not enough to kill the girl, but investigators allege that was Johnson’s intent, WDSU said.  “The child cried (in the hospital) and stated she did not want to die,” the arrest warrant says.   If released from jail, Johnson has been ordered to stay away from the girl, court records show. Johnson’s mother told WDSU her daughter has tried in vain since the beginning of the year to get treatment for severe depression. She was denied treatment at two different facilities because of a lack of an opening, the news station said.  “I asked them that she wanted to have psych treatment, and they said that they didn’t have any beds,” said Johnson’s mother, who asked not to be shown on camera or identified.  “She knew she was suffering from depression and tried to get help?” the reporter asked.  “She was,” her mother responded.  Johnson’s mother said it wasn’t her daughter trying to kill her granddaughter. “That wasn’t her that was doing that, that night. It wasn’t her,” the woman said. “She loved her more than she loved herself.” The mother and grandmother said she hopes her daughter can get help while she is being held in jail, WDSU reported.  If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. Both provide free, 24/7 confidential support to people in distress and provide them, or their loved ones, with support, information and local resources.
  • Medicines proven to treat opioid addiction remain vastly underused in the U.S., the nation's top medical advisers said Wednesday. Only a fraction of the estimated 2 million people addicted to opioids are getting the medications, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The influential group, which advises the federal government, called for increased prescribing of the drugs and other changes to reduce barriers to their use. In 2017, opioids were involved in nearly 48,000 deaths — a record. In recent years, there have been more deaths involving illicit opioids, including heroin and fentanyl, than the prescription forms of the drugs, which include oxycodone and codeine. Government-approved medications, which include methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, help control cravings and withdrawal symptoms like nausea, muscle aches and pain. Their use is backed by most doctors and medical groups. Yet they still have skeptics, especially among supporters of 12-step programs that favor abstinence-only approaches. The report concludes that patients taking the medicines fare better over the long term and are 50 percent less likely to die than if they weren't on them. An 'all hands on deck' response is needed — including doctors, law enforcement and family members — to expand access to treatment, it said. The group's conclusions echo similar reports from the U.S. Surgeon General and a presidential commission appointed to President Donald Trump to make recommendations for curbing the opioid epidemic. The 14-member panel, which included addiction and rehabilitation specialists, summed up several reasons behind the low use: STIGMA Stigma and misunderstanding about the nature of addiction remains one of the biggest barriers to treatment in part because two of the medications used to treat opioid addiction — methadone and buprenorphine — are themselves opioids. The panel said this contributes to the mistaken belief that it's 'just substituting one drug for another.' Experts said the medications are given at doses big enough to fend off withdrawal, but too small to produce a euphoric high. Patients can drive, rebuild relationships and get back to work. RULES The medicines are subject to restrictions that limit their use. For example, methadone can only be given at government-regulated clinics, which can require patients to commute. Buprenorphine can only be prescribed by certified health professionals who must complete eight hours of training. Federal rules also cap the number of patients that these physicians can treat to 275. The authors also note that medications are often not available to prison inmates. The report concludes there's no scientific basis for such limitations. LACK OF TRAINING Addiction treatment has long been separate from mainstream medical training, the report notes, which means many doctors, nurses and social workers don't receive training on treating drug addiction. The report calls for combining addiction programs into standard medical education. ___ The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • Earth's ultimate survivors can weather extreme heat, cold, radiation and even the vacuum of space. Now the U.S. military hopes these tiny critters called tardigrades can teach us about true toughness. These animals are pipsqueaks, only about the size of a period. Under a microscope they look like some combination of chubby bear and single-eyed alien. And they are the closest life gets to indestructible. No water? No worries. Tardigrades survive. Antarctic cold, 300-degree heat (150 degrees Celsius), a lack of oxygen, even punishing radiation doesn't stop these animals. They are so resilient in the face of so many dangers that scientists think their unique biology may hold clues to how we can make crops more resistant to drought, better preserve blood and medicines, and even make more effective sunscreen. When the going gets tough for tardigrades, they curl up, dry out and wait. Then, when the environment gets better and they get water, they spring back to life. Scientists say they can stay dormant for decades before reanimating. In 2007, scientists put two species of tardigrades in containers, launched them into orbit and opened them up to cold, airless space full of punishing radiation from the sun and stars. 'If you were put into that same thing, you would explode,' said tardigrade expert Randy Miller, a biologist at Baker University in Kansas. They lived and later multiplied, and the offspring from those tardigrade astronauts are still alive, Miller said. There are as many as 1,200 species of tardigrades, and they live all over Earth, from mountain tops to ocean depths to driveways. Not all have the ability to go dormant and come back to life. Speaking from McMurdo Station in Antarctica, Brigham Young University biologist Byron Adams said he can walk a few hundred yards outside and find tardigrades. He called them the tigers of inland Antarctica, near the top of the limited food chain, eating algae and aquatic plants. Miller said tardigrades seem to be the first animals on Earth to have evolved legs, and, sure enough, they look like a first draft: The rear two legs face backward while the front six face forward. If they are hurt when they are in an active phase and can't go into survival mode, they die like other creatures. But they don't have a circulatory system or a skeleton, so that allows them to curl up in a hyper-survival mode called 'cryptobiosis.' Not all the critters come back from suspended animation, Miller said. But overall, they survive, even living through Earth's five mass extinctions. University of North Carolina biologist Thomas Boothby wanted to know how they manage to survive in 'environments we think of as being impossible to live in.' So he isolated the genes that activate when tardigrades need to go into cryptobiosis. Boothby engineered those genes into yeast and says their tolerance to drought increased 100-fold. He hopes the genes could also help crops better survive drought. In December, the Defense Department's long-term research arm gave Boothby a nearly $5 million grant to figure out what in tardigrade genes might help human health. The idea is to see if the tricks that tardigrades use to protect themselves when they dry can be used to protect vaccines and human blood, Boothby said. Boothby hopes to make bags of blood last longer than the current six weeks and allow them to be stored in a dried state so soldiers can take their own blood supply to battle or ambulances can carry more. Tardigrade tricks could possibly also help with preserving vaccines to help reduce the enormous cost and complexity of trying to keep vaccines cold. They could also potentially help preserve organs or damaged tissue. Japanese scientists are studying whether tardigrade proteins could help them come up with a better sunscreen to protect against ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer. A 2016 study showed that human cells augmented with a DNA protein unique to tardigrades reduced radiation damage in preliminary lab tests. Tardigrades are so otherworldly that some theorize that they could easily exist on planets outside the solar system. Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said 'they could survive an impact by a rock and they could potentially be brought from another planet' to Earth. Loeb and colleagues decided to see if life on Earth could survive some of the worst cosmic calamities. So they looked look at the hearty tardigrades, concluding that the water bears could survive most end-of-the-world scenarios, like a giant asteroid crash, cosmic ray burst or nearby supernova — everything short of our sun blinking out. 'It's good to know that at least one creature on Earth has a chance of surviving no matter what,' Loeb said. ___ Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . ___ This Associated Press series was produced in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. ___ This story has been corrected to show that Thomas Boothby is at University of North Carolina, not Duke University.
  • Unsafe drinking water, not climate change, is the world's most immediate public health issue, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler contended Wednesday. Environmental groups responded by saying the Trump administration was neglecting — or worsening — both health threats. Wheeler made his case for a shift in public focus in a CBS News interview that aired Wednesday, and in a speech later in the day in Washington on global water issues. Wheeler told CBS News that climate change is 'an important issue' but that most of the threats it poses are '50 to 75 years out.' He said it was 'unreasonable' for 2020 Democratic candidates to pay so much attention to it. The Natural Resource Defense Council responded by citing the damage and deaths from hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017, and from back-to-back years of record wildfires in California. 'Wheeler's claim is off by about 50 to 75 years,' NRDC spokesman Jake Thompson said in an email. 'Climate change and its impacts are here today, and getting worse soon.' Wheeler's low-key assessment of any immediate danger from climate change is in line with that of the Trump administration overall, which is working to open more public lands for oil and gas development and to prop up the flagging domestic coal industry. President Donald Trump at times belittles the warnings on climate change coming from scientists in and out of his government. 'Wouldn't be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!' Trump tweeted during a cold snap in January. The federal government's own climate assessment last year concluded climate change caused by oil, gas and coal emissions already is hitting the United States. Weather extremes such as flooding, hurricanes and drought 'have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration,' the report, compiled by scientists at EPA and other federal agencies, said. Climate scientists say the world needs to act quickly and sweepingly to curb emissions and stave off the worst extremes of climate change. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who has moved to roll back environmental regulations on coal since coming to EPA, said in his speech later in the day that water problems claim lives daily around the world. They 'are the largest and most immediate environmental and public health issues affecting the world right now,' he said. Wheeler listed EPA water initiatives underway, including his agency's new emphasis on reducing litter in water and a water recycling effort that would include wastewater from oil and gas fields. That idea is controversial. Environmental groups and some academics say not enough is known about the chemicals and other additives in the water that drillers pump in and out of the ground to extract oil and gas. Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the NRDC, said the Trump administration's budget proposal earlier this month would cut funding for water systems, including for Alaska Native villages and in the Southwestern U.S. 'It's ironic that Wheeler would highlight the need to improve access to safe drinking water worldwide, while here at home he's working to reduce safeguards for drinking water sources,' Devine said.

Local News

  • The 2019 Alumni Weekend is underway at UGA: activities that began Thursday continue today and tomorrow at the University of Georgia. From the University of Georgia master calendar… The UGA Alumni Association wants to welcome alumni back to Athens and make them feel like students again. Come back to campus, relive the glory days with friends and loved ones, and experience what it's like to be a student in Athens today.Registration covers: * Thursday: Orientation Dinner with President Jere W. Morehead * Friday: Classes, meals, reception at Wall & Broad and TEDxUGA * Saturday: Commencement Brunch The University of Georgia’s curriculum committee meets today: it’s a 3:30 session at New College on Herty Drive in Athens. 
  • Georgia track and field’s Elija Godwin has been named the Southeastern Conference Men’s Freshman of the Week following his performance at the Yellow Jacket Invitational, according to a league announcement.   Godwin, a native of Covington, Ga., and graduate of Newton High School, is the Bulldogs’ first outdoor weekly award winner following the first collegiate outdoor meet of his career.   Godwin clocked a career best 10.47 into -0.4 wind to be the top 100-meter dash finisher in the 33-man field. This finish ranks No. 13 nationally (No. 8 nationally for wind-legal times under 2.0 meters/second), makes him the No. 4 freshman nationally and the No. 3 SEC performer in 2019. He returned to win the 200m with a 20.90, which is his fastest time of 2019 and second best of his career, to move to No. 3 nationally (No. 2 for wind-legal times) as the country’s top freshman and No. 2 competitor from the SEC.   Georgia trains through the coming weekend before splitting squads to the Florida Relays (March 28-30) and Raleigh Relays (March 29-30).
  • Barrow County Commissioners meet in a special session today: they’re scheduled to vote on a proposal that would place an ambulance station at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder. It’s a plan to end a dispute between the Barrow County government and the city of Winder over who provides ambulance service inside the Winder city limits. This morning’s Commission meeting is set for 8:15 in Winder.  The Franklin County School Board is sending to the Georgia School Superintendent’s Association the list of 32 candidates who have applied to be the next school superintendent in Carnesville. The Board is looking to replace Wayne Randall, who will retire at the end of the current school year. Randall was told by the Board that his contract would not be renewed.  The Hall County city of Oakwood is getting a new top cop: Tim Hatch is now the police chief in St. Mary’s; he’ll take over in Oakwood, replacing former Chief Randall Moon, who retired last month. Hatch’s resume’ includes time on the force with the University of Georgia campus police department and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. 
  • The Georgia football team held its second practice of spring drills on Thursday on the Woodruff Practice Fields.   The Bulldogs practiced for approximately two hours in helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. The practice was No. 2 of what is expected to be 15 during the spring, which will culminate with the annual G-Day Game on Saturday, April 20. The Bulldogs will return to the practice fields on Saturday.   Senior Charlie Woerner was asked how the transition is going for the tight ends with him as the elder statesman following the departures of Isaac Nauta and Jackson Harris and with the addition of new tight ends coach Todd Hartley.   “Things have started well,” Woerner said. “Day 2 is done, and we’re looking as good as we can two days in. I think we’re pretty far ahead on our installs. It’s a lot different (in the tight ends room), but it’s fine. We have a really good group, a lot of good guys in the room. It feels like it’s my time and I’m ready to have a big year, but I don’t feel any pressure. All I can do is my best for this team.”   Junior Jeremiah Holloman also finds himself in a potential leadership role on and off the field among the receivers since the Bulldogs said goodbye to the likes of Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Ahkil Crumpton.   “I feel like our whole room can step in and contribute,” Holloman said. “We have guys just waiting for a chance. I stepped in last year and made an impact (with 24 catches for 418 yards and five touchdowns), and we have plenty of guys like that. We have a load of guys capable of going out there and competing and making plays.”   On Wednesday, all 32 NFL teams were in attendance as the Bulldogs eligible for next month’s draft participated in Pro Day drills.   The G-Day Game is slated for Saturday, April 20, at 2 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
  • From the Athens-Clarke County government website... The Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services Department will celebrate the arrival of their new Engine 25 with a traditional “push-in” ceremony to place the equipment into service at Fire Station #5 at 1090 Whit Davis Road on Friday, March 22 at 3:00 p.m. Engine 25 will replace a 19-year old model that will move into reserve status for the community. The 2018 E-One Cyclone Engine cost approximately $650,000 fully equipped. Some of its features include a modern thermal imaging for search and rescue, a 1250 gallon per minute pump and a 780 gallon water tank, an emission system that meets current regulations, and wireless headsets with an intercom system for Fire and Emergency Services personnel with connectivity to the 911 radio system. Due to this station’s location that serves rural portions of the territory with fewer streetlights, Engine 25 also has LED headlight technology and lights in the front and above the side doors to supplement the two telescoping scene lights. The public is invited to attend the 'push-in' ceremony, which will feature brief remarks, the 'push-in' of Engine 25, and refreshments. For more information, contact the ACC Fire and Emergency Services Department at 706-613-3360.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia football practice No. 2 is in the books, the Bulldogs still working to establish a new identity and new leaders. There weren’t many clues in the open portion of practice on Thursday, but Kirby Smart will talk on Saturday and provide more insight into how he sees the Bulldogs developing. The early sentiment is this UGA team could throw the ball more, but it won’t come at the expense of being able to run the football. DawgNation reporters give their early takes on how Georgia is evolving in what will be Smart’s fourth season at the helm. Mike Griffith & Chip Towers   Georgia football practice headlines Kirby Smart sheds light on James Coley’s ‘balanced’ philosophy J.R. Reed puts NFL dreams on hold for title run Georgia football injury updates, Zamir White status James Coley ‘likes to throw more’ than Jim Chaney Offensive line, Brian Herrien look the part Complete Georgia early enrollee roster numbers   The post WATCH: DawgNation observations from Georgia football spring practice No. 2 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The qualifier remains that “Georgia is going to be Georgia,” but it’s starting to sound more and like the Bulldogs are going to throw the football more in 2019. The Georgia players are all excited about James Coley taking over the offense from Jim Chaney. The consensus is that more of the playbook will be used, and more balls will fly through the air. The Bulldogs had the heaviest run ratio of any non-option team in 2017, and last season Georgia lead the SEC in rushing. But Coley could be a game-changer calling plays. “His first instinct would be to throw,” Bulldogs senior tight end Charlie Woerner said Thursday. “Just knowing him, every G-Day game (Coley) is the offensive coordinator on one team, and Chaney is the other, and you look at the stats and it’s a lot more pass-heavy on Coach Coley’s team than Chaney’s. “Chaney is just a little more old-school running the ball, which I didn’t mind that either, but (Coley) likes to throw more than Chaney.” Junior receiver J.J. Holloman agreed following Thursday’s practice. “I’m confident that he will throw the ball a lot more, and we’ll have more explosive plays to look forward to,” said Holloman, UGA’s leading returning receiver. Junior tailback D’Andre Swift is a returning 1,000-yard rusher and the Georgia offensive line is a powerful group capable or road-grading most any opponent. But Swift is also adept at catching the football out of the backfield, and that offensive line is talented in pass protection. Perhaps most importantly, Jake Fromm is a third-year starting quarterback, and Holloman said that factors in as much as Coley. “It’s a mix of both, (Fromm) having all the experience he has,’ Holloman said, “and Coley opening the playbook and making a lot of things happen.” Mecole Hardman is headed to the NFL, but the speedy junior receiver said he, too, expects more passing in the UGA offense. RELATED: NFL WR steal could be Georgia’s biggest loss “Probably a little more passing, I think Coley will bring a title bit more of that,” Hardman said after his pro day workout on Wednesday. “But they definitely are going to run the ball. “You got Swift back, Zamir (White) coming back from injury , (James) Cook here, and they just signed another running back, so it’s going to be a similar offense, we’ll play our brand of football, but probably a little bit more finesse, a little bit more passing there was well. I’m excited for Coley, I know he’s gong to do big things.” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday the updated definition of “balance” has less to do with run-pass ratio and more to do with the ability to do both effectively. “People think balance means 50/50 — balance is not 50/50,” Smart said. “Balance is being able to run the ball when you have to run the ball and being able to throw the ball when you have to throw the ball. “So can you do both? Yes, you can be successful at both. That might be 70-30 one game and then 30-70 the other way the next game.” Georgia TE Charlie Woerner   The post Georgia TE Charlie Woerner: James Coley ‘likes to throw more than (Jim) Chaney’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia has updated its roster to include all of the early enrollees football numbers with the Bulldogs this spring. The numbers are as follows: 2 QB D’Wan Mathis 4 LB Nolan Smith 7 DB Tyrique Stevenson 11 LB Jermaine Johnson 12 LB Rian Davis 13 QB Stetson Bennett 14 DB DJ Daniel 15 LB Trezmen Marshall 16 DB Lewis Cine 17 LB Nakobe Dean 60 OL Clay Webb 70 OL Warren McClendon 88 TE Ryland Goede 90 DL Tramel Walthour To recap, there were also number changes since last season: RB James Cook: No. 4, previously No. 6 WR Matt Landers: No. 5, previously No. 15 S Otis Reese: No. 6, previously No. 17 CB Divaad Wilson: No. 8, previously No. 16 OLB Azeez Ojulari: No. 13, previously No. 38 OLB Adam Anderson: No. 19. previously was No. 56 The post Complete Georgia football early enrollee roster numbers appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia redshirt junior Ben Cleveland was back running with the first team at right guard during Thursday’s limited media window of observation. The Bulldogs’ offensive linemen looked to have noticeably better body builds than their counterparts on defense, more than one of which appeared to have a weighty issue. Indeed, there’s a reason why some believe Georgia has the best O-Line in the country. As expected, the players working first team were: LT Andrew Thomas, LG Solomon Kindley, C Trey Hill, RG Cleveland, RT Isaiah Wilson. If there was a surprise in the depth chart, it was seeing Jamaree Salyer working as the backup right tackle with Cade Mays tucked inside at right guard. Offensive line coach is likely doing that to build depth at tackle, as Mays would surely be the first man in at either of the offensive tackle positions should a starter go down. Clay Webb appeared to be the No. 2 center, while Justin Shaffer was No. 2 at left guard and D’Marcus Hayes was No. 2 at left tackle for the purposes of drills. RB observations The most impressive physical transformation appeared to be Brian Herrien, who looked every bit the part of the power back Georgia will need him to be. Herrien, the most impressive UGA back in the Sugar Bowl, is listed at 6-foot, 210 pounds but looked bigger. D’Andre Swift was running at the front of all the drills, while James Cook was No. 3 behind Herrien. DB observations New Georgia secondary coach Charlton Warren very loud and frenetic, chastising cornerbacks for “wasting too much time” when the next ups weren’t ready to go in drills. “We’ve got 8 minutes to get better, men!” he yelled. “Eight minutes. Now quit wasting time!” Junior Ameer Speed continues to work with cornerbacks. He had a cast on his left hand but it did not seem limit him at all. Former UGA QB in attendance Former Georgia QB Faton Bauta, now an assistant at Monmouth, was among coaches observing Thursday’s practice. The post Georgia offensive line looks the part, Brian Herrien built for power game appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has said before he doesn’t think there are many secrets in college football. That’s probably why Smart opened up Tuesday practice to the Oregon coaching staff, according to OregonLive.com. The Ducks’ staff, led by former Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, was in Tuscaloosa on Monday and Athens, Ga., on Tuesday to watch practice and visit with staff members. Smart was at Alabama as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator for three seasons while Cristobal was there serving as the line coach. Georgia places heavy restrictions on the media presence at practice, even while opening up practice for the well-trained eyes of staff members they might ultimately face in the College Football Playoff or in a bowl game. That’s what happened in the Sugar Bowl, as Smart allowed Texas coach Tom Herman and his staff to attend the Bulldogs’ spring practices last year. “We took a trip out there this spring just to pick brains and talk shop a little bit,” Herman said leading up to the Longhorns’ 28-21 victory. Herman said when the Sugar Bowl matchup was announced that he didn’t see the Georgia run game as “anything too formidable.” The confident Texas coach proved correct against what was the SEC’s top rushing offense. The Bulldogs rushed for just   72 yards on 30 attempts after averaging 259.8 yards per game. Smart said his new offensive coordinator, James Coley, has been working to improve the offense and talked with other coaches. Chances are, Coley spoke with Cristobal about what the Ducks do on offense in addition to visiting other programs that Smart chose not to name. “We’ve been working on us and saying, okay, what can we do better, and I think James brings a lot of that to the table,” Smart said on Tuesday. “They’ve gone and visited with a lot of people to get new ideas.” The post One year after opening practice to Texas, Georgia allows Oregon to observe appeared first on DawgNation.