Health & Science

Donald Trump's campaign was frenzied and frantic, people at the top have said — descriptions that could be highly consequential for the White House and to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

For former campaign officials who've come into the administration, the descriptions of their work last year are meant not only to strengthen their denials regarding collusion with the Russian government in attacking the election, but also to emphasize how much of a miracle it was they made it through.

In the political world, conservatives often accuse liberals of being soft on crime. At the U.S. court, that's not how it goes. Case in point, at the high court on Wednesday, a majority of the justices across ideological lines indicated they may be willing to impose new limits on the government's ability to gain access to large amounts of information retained by private companies in the digital age.

Arkansas prosecutors have dropped their case against James Bates, whom they had charged with first-degree murder partly with the help of evidence collected by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. On Wednesday, a circuit court judge granted their request to have the charges of murder and tampering with evidence dismissed.

The prosecutors declared nolle prosequi, stating that the evidence could support more than one reasonable explanation.

Fake birth control pills. Cough syrup for children that contained a powerful opioid. Antimalarial pills that were actually just made of potato and cornstarch.

These are, according to the World Health Organization, just a few examples of poor-quality or fake medicines identified in recent years.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET

A glitch in American Airlines' pilot scheduling system means that thousands of flights during the holiday season currently do not have pilots assigned to fly them.

The shortage was caused by an error in the system pilots use to bid for time off, the Allied Pilots Association told NPR. The union represents the airline's 15,000 pilots.

As President Trump talked tax overhaul on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Arkansas patient advocate Andrea Taylor was also meeting with lawmakers and asking them to save a corporate tax credit for companies that develop drugs for rare diseases.

Taking the credit away, Taylor said, "eliminates the possibility for my child to have a bright and happy future."

A doctor offers a surgical add-on that leads to a $1,877 bill for a young girl's ear piercing. A patient protests unnecessary scans to identify and treat her breast cysts. A study shows intensive care-level treatment is overused.

ProPublica has been documenting the myriad ways the health system wastes money on unnecessary services, often shifting the costs to consumers. But there are ways patients can protect themselves.

Last week, my 13.7 co-blogger Tania Lombrozo reported on a study she developed with graduate student Sara Gottlieb on whether science can explain the human mind.

As Tania wrote, this was a survey-based study asking the participants "whether they thought it was possible for science to one day fully explain various aspects of the human mind, from depth perception and memory loss to spirituality and romantic love."

Scientists say they have created a partly man-made bacterium that can produce proteins not found in nature. This new life form, the latest development in a field called "synthetic biology," could eventually be used to produce novel drugs.

These days, Charles Watmon shares his bed — a few sheets of thin, white foam on the concrete floor of his thatched-roof hut — with his dog.

It's not much. But to Watmon, 44, and his caramel-colored mutt, it's more than enough for a good night's sleep — and a welcome change from his past.

During the course of nearly a decade, Watmon fought on both sides of Uganda's brutal civil wars — first with the rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), then with the government.

Eli Wheatley and Christian Guardino are among a growing number of patients whose lives are apparently being saved or radically improved by gene therapy.

Wheatley, 3, of Lebanon, Ky., and Guardino, 17, of Patchogue, N.Y., were both diagnosed with what were long thought to be incurable genetic disorders. In the past, Wheatley's condition would have probably killed him before his first birthday. Guardino's would have blinded him early in life.

But after receiving experimental gene therapies, both seem to be doing fine.

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Scientists appear to be self-censoring by omitting the term "climate change" in public grant summaries.

An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steadily decreasing number with the phrase "climate change" in the title or summary, resulting in a sharp drop in the term's use in 2017. At the same time, the use of alternative terms such as "extreme weather" appears to be rising slightly.

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