Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

Fuel economy is at record highs and carmakers have surpassed strict greenhouse gas emissions standards for the third straight year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which released a pair of annual reports about the U.S. fleet of cars and trucks Wednesday.

Overall, fuel economy for vehicles in the U.S. did not budge from last year's record high of 24.3 miles per gallon, the EPA says. The figure includes a new high of 20.4 mpg for trucks, vans and SUVs from model year 2014.

Congress is getting closer to lifting a 40-year-old ban on oil exports, a move that could be a boon for U.S. oil producers hoping to expand into the global market.

President Obama and environmentalists oppose ending the ban, but Congressional leaders made it part of a $1.14 trillion spending bill, unveiled Tuesday, greatly increasing its chance of passage.

About 40 percent of Americans belong to a racial or ethnic minority, but the people who participate in clinical trials tend to be more homogeneous. Clinical trials are the studies that test whether drugs work, and inform doctors' decisions about how to treat their patients. When subjects in those studies don't look like the patients who could end up taking the treatments, that can be problematic. In short: Clinical trials are too white.

Southern California Gas Co. says it detected a gas leak on Oct. 23 in its Aliso Canyon storage facility. A month and a half later, it still hasn't been able to stop it.

The company said in a statement on its website that they are drilling a relief well to plug the flow of gas — which they expect will take three to four months to complete.

Cows' 'Night Milk' May Help You Fall Asleep

Dec 15, 2015
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hey, Audie.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Hey there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What's better for falling asleep than a glass of warm milk?

CORNISH: Hmm.

SHAPIRO: A glass of warm night milk...

CORNISH: Night milk?

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Growing up as the son of a pathologist, Thomas Laqueur says, his father would leave the dinner table to conduct autopsies. Sometimes Laqueur would watch his father prepare pathological samples that he had taken from the bodies.

"I lived in a family in which the dead were present," Laqueur explains to Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "My father regarded the dead very routinely, in a way a mortician might regard them. He was interested in them scientifically."

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The United Nations climate summit is over, the weary diplomats have gone home, and now the historic deal is being dissected by scientists.

Editor's update: Kevin Counihan, CEO of the federal health insurance marketplaces, announced late Tuesday that the deadline for signing up for a health plan under the Affordable Care Act has been extended by two days — until 11:59 PST December 17. "Unprecedented demand and volume" of consumers contacting HealthCare.gov and the exchange's call center forced the extension, he says.

In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing American journalist James Foley kneeling in a barren desert. Foley wears a bright orange jumpsuit. An ISIS fighter stands behind him, a black scarf masking his face. The fighter wields a long dagger. When Foley speaks, his voice is matter of fact, but resigned. He says he knows he will never see his family again.

The ISIS fighter speaks in a British accent. He addresses the American government. He tells them they are no longer fighting an insurgency. They are fighting an army. He then kills Foley.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Ford has just announced a $4-and-a-half billion investment in electric vehicles. And the company wants to be known for more than making cars, so Ford is also moving into ridesharing services, trying to compete with companies like Uber.

Alberta, Canada, has the third largest oil reserves in the world, but the potentially lucrative oil sands business faces serious economic challenges, including low oil prices and a lack of pipelines to move the crude to market. Some people are concerned about the future of the business, and environmental critics are looking for ways to keep the oil in the ground.

For anyone paying attention, it's no secret there's a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We've got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights.

As anyone with diabetes can tell you, managing the disease with insulin usually means regular checkups at the doctor's office to fine-tune the dosage, monitor blood-sugar levels and check for complications.

But here's a little known fact: Some forms of insulin can be bought without a prescription.

Carmen Smith did that for six years when she didn't have health insurance and didn't have a primary care doctor. She bought her insulin without a prescription at Wal-Mart.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Movie screens are thundering with futuristic stories this year, from the final installment of The Hunger Games to The Martian. Both films started as books — The Martian originally self-published — but it's The Martian that taps into an intriguing trend toward realism. Space travel has been a sci-fi staple for more than a century, and now some of the biggest names in the genre are trying to imagine what it would actually take to send humans to another planet.

Russian investigators have opened the tomb of 19th century Czar Alexander III in search of evidence that may help confirm the remains of his grandchildren, who were executed shortly after the Russian Revolution.

Alexander III, who went by the title "Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias," died in 1894. His reign was conservative and repressive, and may have spurred the discontent that eventually engulfed his son, Czar Nicholas II, in revolution.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

In what supporters are calling a historic achievement, 196 nations attending the COP21 climate meetings outside Paris voted to adopt an agreement Saturday that covers both developed and developing countries. Their respective governments will now need to adopt the deal.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today was supposed to be the last day of the U.N. Climate Summit. Representatives from nearly 200 countries are continuing their negotiations now in overtime. Our ALL THINGS CONSIDERED co-host, Ari Shapiro, is in Paris covering the summit.

Climate change can affect everything from air and ocean temperatures to weather and disease. In Senegal, one man has made it his mission to connect communities with information that might affect their distant future but also their immediate reality.

To Go Green, Bars Try To Reuse Their Booze

Dec 11, 2015

You probably don't waste a whole lot of wine or booze in your own home. But bars and restaurants throw out alcohol all the time.

The booze, wine and beer left behind in customers' drinks have to be discarded per food safety law, of course.

But what about the wine bottles designated for serving by the glass? Those dregs often go right down the drain.

If you go by their declarations and promises, meat producers are drastically cutting back on the use of antibiotics to treat their poultry, pigs and cattle. Over the past year, one big food company after another has announced plans to stop using these drugs.

But if you go by the government's data on drugs sold to livestock producers, it's a different story.

There are a number of options for women when they learn they have breast cancer in its earliest stages, when the tumor is relatively small and has not yet spread.

Each option is similarly effective when it comes to killing cancer cells and preventing the disease from returning.

Medical advisers to the Food and Drug Administration say that prescription drugs containing codeine should not be used to treat children or the majority of teens suffering from pain or a cough.

In their meeting Thursday, the advisers also voted overwhelmingly against the over-the-counter sales of codeine-containing cough syrup for children. Selling such products without a prescription is currently permitted in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

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