Science

painkillers and addiction
6:01 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Drug abuse trends: Deaths down, with an insidious twist

Ashley Rose Flickr

You've probably heard the under-world of drug abuse has taken on a new face over the past decade, with the rise of prescription pill addicts.

The story is more nuanced than that. But before looking at the nuance, here are a few surprising facts and a disturbing trend.

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addiction and abuse
2:48 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Prescription drug abuse deaths take a surprising drop

There’s a glimmer of hope in the struggle against prescription drug abuse.  For the first time, the number of overdose deaths from painkillers has gone down in King County. It’s also fallen statewide.

Unfortunately, people hooked on painkillers may be turning to heroin. Heroin abuse used to be confined to Washington's cities -- primarily Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Everett. Now, it's appearing for the first time in small towns and rural areas.

KPLU's complete report.

Humanosphere
12:28 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Is cancer care too expensive for poor countries?

No doctor, no medicine at clinic in rural Nigeria.
Tom Paulson Humanosphere

There’s a big push going on right now to expand the scope of the global health agenda, to include many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer.

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Climate Change
6:30 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

"Here on Earth" author shares optimism about global warming

One of the world's best-known thinkers about global climate change is Australian writer Tim Flannery. He's not only a best-selling author, he's also his country's first Chief Commissioner for Climate Change.

His latest book, Here on Earth: a Natural History of the Planet, paints a hopeful picture of the future of human life on earth. He recently gave a talk in Seattle, where he said his message of optimism seemed to have trouble getting through to his audience.

KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp caught up with him for an interview.

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Rare flower
3:30 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

UW's corpse flower about to bloom

Corpse in the process of blooming.
University of Washington U of W

Its scientific name is Amorphophallus Titanum, but its most commonly known as a corpse flower.  And it could bloom any day now in the University of Washington's botany green house.

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Science
12:01 am
Fri June 3, 2011

Thirty years of AIDS in Washington, USA

Thirty years ago this month, the first cases of AIDS were identified by the medical community. It was still a mystery disease. A strange form of pneumonia was striking young men in Los Angeles. Since then, the epidemic has been a dramatic roller-coaster of death, disease, politics and what some people call the greatest medical success story of the past half century. 

(This interactive timeline is from the federal AIDS.gov website. Click and scroll for dates and highlights.)

I sat down with Dr. Bob Wood, one of the most prominent local faces of AIDS and the fight to contain it, to discuss the highlights and low points. You can listen to the interview by clicking on "Audio."

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Designer molecules
4:44 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Engineering a new way to block the flu virus

A bright-green engineered protein molecule is binding to a portion of the influenza virus (in yellow and gray), showing the complicated surface, with its crevices and bulges.
Sarel Fleishman U.W.

Seattle researchers have created a new way to fight the flu virus, and potentially pave the way for a new class of medicines.

You probably remember how the flu pandemic two years ago eventually included such a scramble to get the vaccine that people stood in long lines -- and even lied about the ages of their children to get it earlier. It takes months to make influenza vaccine, which has to be grown in chicken eggs. And every year the whole process has to start over, as the virus keeps mutating and evolving. 

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Science
2:10 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Mt. St. Helens observatory reopens Saturday with $1.6M upgrade

The Johnston Ridge Observatory near Mount St. Helens opens for the season Saturday with $1.6 million worth of new displays.
woodleywonderworks Flickr

The Johnston Ridge Observatory opens Saturday at Mount St. Helens with some new displays to tell visitors the story of the volcano's big 1980 eruption.

The Daily News of Longview reports $1.6 million worth of improvements and enhancements have been made. When the Forest Service and Mount St. Helens Institute discussed them Tuesday, the center of attention was a touch-screen kiosk.

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governor's veto
7:28 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Fears of crackdown on medical marijuana stores

Robert Mangum, right, assists member Nate Murray in purchasing medical marijuana products at the Green Hope Patient Network, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010, in Shoreline, Wash.
AP

Marijuana dispensaries say their legal situation is actually getting worse now that Governor Chris Gregoire has vetoed most of the medical marijuana bill.  The legal gray area they’ve been using since 1999 as a justification for opening co-ops and storefront shops will be eliminated when the law takes effect in July. 

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Global Health
9:33 am
Mon May 2, 2011

Seattle still wants to save the world

"Can Seattle Save the World?" panel at Town Hall Seattle, featuring Tom Paulson, of KPLU's Humanosphere, and panelists Bill Foege, Chris Elias, Wendy Johnson, and Joe Whinney
Justin Steyer KPLU

We hope you figured out long ago that the title of KPLU's "Can Seattle Save the World? (Poverty, Health and Chocolate)" event was tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but also meant to raise some important questions. There's a serious debate about the meaning and priority of "health" in "global health."

The event itself, last Tuesday, proved so popular that we moved it to a room three times larger than originally planned -- and nearly packed the room. Not to toot our horn too much, but immediate feedback was enthusiastic. "Do it again," was the most common response.

We'd love to. In the meantime, we are belatedly offering a replay -- video from the event.

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alcohol
5:59 am
Mon May 2, 2011

Parents drinking with teens could make matters worse

Should parents share a drink with their teenagers?
angelocesare Flickr

Maybe you had your first sip of wine or beer at home, with your parents. Or maybe it was with friends, in shadowy circumstances. Either way, did it matter in the long run?   

The latest research suggests parents drinking with their teens leads to problems. Teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol and hurt themselves if their parents introduce them to alcohol than if parents have a zero-tolerance policy at home. 

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obesity
5:51 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Setting aside sugary drinks, at least on Sundays

Chris Shook, a driver with Harbor Pacific Bottling Inc., stocks a cooler with soda, in Elma, Washington last fall.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The effort to reduce obesity is taking aim once again at sugary drinks.  A coalition of health groups is asking the public to try-out “Soda-Free Sundays.”

There’s pretty solid evidence Americans, on average, are drinking a lot more soft drinks and other sweetened beverages than they did a generation ago.  Back in the 1990’s, for example, soft drink sales surpassed milk.

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SPACE EXpLORATION
12:00 pm
Mon April 18, 2011

Boeing engineer practices Mars trip in Utah desert

Kavya Manyapu lived and conducted experiments as an astronaut would on Mars at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
Mars Desert Research Station

Despite having to endure a broken toilet, lousy food and fifteen days in a cramped research station in the Utah desert, a Boeing engineer says she's still enthusiastic about one day making a trip to Mars.

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budget whiplash
10:26 pm
Sun April 17, 2011

Health clinics expanding, but also cutting services

Clinics that serve low-income patients (like this HealthPoint facility in Auburn) have been sprouting up across the country at a time when the federal funds that subsidize them are drying up.
Photo courtesy of HealthPoint

Health clinics that cater to low-income people have been expanding.

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japanese nuclear disaster
8:42 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Health officials proud of radiation monitors, say radiation is dropping

In this March 11 photo released April 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the access road at the compound of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is flooded as tsunami hit the facility following a massive earthquake.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. AP

Even though the damaged nuclear reactors continue to cause problems in Japan, the amount of radiation reaching the Pacific coast is dropping.

Public health officials say the radiation threat has been more psychological than physical. They're proud of how they've responded to the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan. 

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