Tracing The Migrant Journey From Central Africa To Maine

In August, KJZZ’s Fronteras Desk dispatched reporters to Central America, Mexico and parts of the U.S. for their series “Tracing The Migrant Journey.”

They chronicled the journey of more than 400 people from Central Africa who sought asylum in Portland, Maine, this summer.

The small, coastal city had no more vacancies but newcomers discovered a wealth of hospitality. From member station KJZZ, Laurel Morales (@laurelgwyn) reports.

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Deadly Brain Cancers Act Like ‘Vampires’ By Hijacking Normal Cells To Grow

A computerized tomography scan shows part of the brain of a 59-year-old patient with a malignant glioblastoma brain tumor. Researchers say certain brain cancers tap electrical signals from healthy cells to fuel their growth.



Science Photo Library/Science Source


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Science Photo Library/Science Source

Researchers are beginning to understand why certain brain cancers are so hard to stop.

Three studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that these deadly tumors integrate themselves into the brain’s electrical network and then hijack signals from healthy nerve cells to fuel their own growth.

“They are like vampires” feeding on brain activity, says Dr. Frank Winkler, a neurologist at Heidelberg University in Germany and an author of one of the studies.

But the research offers hope as well. Scientists say the findings suggest that some brain tumors could be slowed with drugs that inhibit the activity of certain brain cells or that interrupt connections between tumor cells and healthy cells.

Two of the three studies, including Winkler’s, looked at high-grade gliomas, which include glioblastoma, the cancer that killed Sen. John McCain in 2018.

“High-grade gliomas are really an intractable set of diseases, and we’ve made very little progress clinically in effectively treating these terrible brain cancers,” says Dr. Michelle Monje, an associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University and an author of a second study.

In 2015, Monje was part of a team that found high-grade gliomas grew faster when the brain cells around them became more active.

Monje’s team suspected that was because active neurons produce a substance that acts like fuel for gliomas. So the team placed human glioma tumors in the brains of mice that had been genetically altered so they couldn’t produce this substance.

“There wasn’t just a slowing in the tumor growth — there was a complete stagnation,” Monje says. The study was published in 2017.

In people, though, Monje was pretty sure that high-grade gliomas were somehow causing healthy brain cells to become more active and produce more fuel. And she thought the cancer cells might be doing this by forming connections with healthy neurons and hijacking the electrical signals they produce

The new studies appear to confirm this, and even show how.

Monje’s team found that some cancer cells were forming synapses — the connections between neurons — that could be seen with an electron microscope. They also found evidence of a more primitive direct connection between cancer cells and healthy brain cells.

Tumor cells “are integrating into neural circuits in the brain,” Monje says, then using these connections to affect the behavior of neurons. “The cancer cells themselves are promoting the neuronal activity that then feeds back to drive the growth of the cancer.”

Winkler and his team found virtually the same thing with a different set of glioma cells. “There’s a massive amount of networking going on,” he says.

A third study, led by researchers in Switzerland, found that when breast cancer cells move to the brain, they also can form connections with neurons.

The research is likely to have a seismic impact on brain cancer research, says Andres Barria, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington who studies synapses and wrote an editorial accompanying the three studies.

“My reaction was, wow,” he says. “To show that [a tumor cell] actually makes real connections just like normal neurons will do is very amazing.”

And that discovery could lead to new and better treatments for high-grade gliomas, which now typically kill a patient within two years.

“Our hope is that by decreasing the electrical signals that the tumors are receiving from the normal brain, that we might be able to complement existing therapies and extend survival and improve quality of life,” Monje says.

Her team showed that an anti-epilepsy drug called perampanel reduced the growth rate of one type of glioma by 50% in mice.

But Barria advises caution when it comes to drugs that affect the connections between brain cells.

“Synapses are everywhere in the brain,” he says. “So to target only the synapses between cancer cells and neurons, that’s what’s going to be tricky.”

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Storm Updates: Imelda Drenches Texas As Humberto Menaces Bermuda

Parts of Texas and Louisiana are under flash flood warnings from Tropical Depression Imelda Wednesday. Out in the Atlantic, Hurricane Humberto is forecast to pass close to Bermuda.

NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/ GOES-East


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NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/ GOES-East

Tropical Depression Imelda’s heavy rains are triggering flash floods in eastern Texas — one of several large storms that forecasters are watching closely Wednesday. In the Atlantic, Bermuda is under a hurricane warning as Hurricane Humberto nears the island as a Category 3 storm.

Imelda was briefly a tropical storm after forming in the Gulf of Mexico. But despite weakening into a tropical depression Tuesday night, Imelda is still expected to bring an additional 5-10 inches of rainfall to Houston, Galveston and other parts of eastern Texas through Friday, with isolated totals of 20-25 inches possible.

Here are the preliminary rainfall totals we have observed so far from 7AM Tuesday through 7AM this morning. Most of the highest totals have been concentrated in Matagorda, Brazoria, Galveston, and Chambers counties. #txwx #houwx #glswx pic.twitter.com/gtCFqMrg4r

— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) September 18, 2019

Imelda is bringing “heavy rains and significant flash flooding” that is expected to spread inland over the next couple of days, according to the National Weather Service. The center of the storm is currently some 65 miles north of Houston — but it’s creeping along at 5 mph, raising the chances for dangerous floods.

Flash flood watches are currently in place for southeast Texas and the far southwestern corner of Louisiana, the NWS says.

Sections of Louisiana will see from 4-8 inches of rain, with isolated totals of up to 10 inches possible.In the Atlantic Ocean, Humberto’s core “is expected to pass just to the northwest and north of Bermuda later tonight,” the National Hurricane Center says.

The storm grew larger and more powerful Wednesday morning, with maximum sustained winds of nearly 120 mph, with higher gusts. Humberto is projecting hurricane-force winds for up to 105 miles from its center, with tropical storm-force winds extending for nearly 200 miles.

The Bermuda Weather Service is warning residents to prepare for squalls, gale-force winds and heavy rain, along with powerful thunderstorms. Humberto is moving east-northeast at nearly 16 mph, the NHC says.

Far to the east in the open Atlantic, Tropical Storm Jerry is predicted to become a hurricane Thursday night, the NHC says. Jerry would then approach the northern Leeward Islands sometime Friday — but forecasters say it’s too early to tell if any islands might face dangerous conditions. The storm’s current 5-day cone predicts it will stay on a track to the north of Antigua and Barbuda.

As of 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, Jerry’s maximum sustained winds had risen to nearly 50 mph. The NHC forecast predicts its winds will remain at the Category 1 level over the next five days.

In the Pacific Ocean, the NHC is monitoring Tropical Storm Lorena — which it predicts will become a hurricane as it nears the coast of southwestern Mexico late Wednesday and overnight. Mexican authorities have issued a hurricane warning for coastal areas from Punta San Telmo to Cabo Corrientes.

The storm had 65 mph maximum sustained winds as of 11 a.m. ET.

“Lorena is forecast to cause heavy rain over portions of the Mexican states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima, and Jalisco during the next few days,” the NHC says. “This rainfall may produce life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides.”

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The Impact Of The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project

This year marks 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on America’s shores.

Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks Nikole Hannah-Jones (@nhannahjones), an award-winning investigative journalist for The New York Times, who spearheaded the 1619 Project, a collection of essays published in New York Times Magazine.

The 1619 Project is dedicated to chronicling slavery and revealing its ties to the U.S.’s modern systems and cultural norms.

Reactions To The 1619 Project

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Pennsylvania State Senator Arrested On Charges Of Possessing Child Porn

Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer was arrested on Tuesday on child pornography charges filed by the state Attorney General’s Office. According to charging documents, Folmer told police he had been “dealing with some personal problems.”

Marc Levy/AP


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Marc Levy/AP

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged a state senator with possession of child pornography after authorities traced an explicit image involving a minor to the senator’s personal computer.

Police arrested state Sen. Mike Folmer on Tuesday at his home about an hour outside of Harrisburg. During a search of Folmer’s cellphone, investigators say they found two other suspected images of child pornography.

Folmer, 63, who is married and has seven grandchildren, told police that he “had been dealing with some personal problems,” according to a criminal complaint filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Folmer told investigators that he had received the initial image, apparently showing a sex act involving a young girl, through his Tumblr blog, according to court documents. But prosecutors say it was Folmer who uploaded the image to the social media site in December 2017 under the screen name hoser44.

Tumblr flagged the image to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in February, court documents state. Authorities issued subpoenas earlier this year to Yahoo, AT&T Wireless and Comcast to recover account details provided by Tumblr.

Folmer has been charged with three counts of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that “no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable.”

Calls and emails sent to Folmer by NPR were not immediately returned.

Gov. Tom Wolf has called on Folmer to step down.

“The charges against Senator Folmer are disgusting and beyond comprehension, and show he has taken advantage of the trust and privilege afforded by the people of Pennsylvania. He should immediately resign,” Wolf said Wednesday.

Republican leadership in the state Senate released a statement saying they were shocked to learn of Folmer’s arrest and that he was being removed as chair of the Senate State Government Committee.

“Further action in response to these charges will be taken by Senate Leadership in the coming days,” the lawmakers said.

Folmer has been a member of the state Senate since 2007 and was reelected to a fourth term last year. He is considered one of the more conservative members of the Legislature. Last year, he opposed a bill that would have made it easier for survivors of child sex abuse to sue their perpetrators by extending the statute of limitations. Folmer opposed the effort to allow victims to sue predators decades after alleged abuse on constitutional grounds.

He was an instrumental voice in building Republican support for legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, an effort that became law in 2016. His advocacy made some in the state capital dub him Marijuana Mike.

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One Small Hop on the Magic School Bus, One Giant Leap for STEM Education

When ‘The Magic School Bus’ premiered on PBS (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1995/07/09/magic-school-bus/b3f5f8a0-5622-4f43-9bd6-19c66ab8ecab/) in September 1994, Mrs. Frizzle — the fire-haired teacher with a penchant for matching her wardrobe to her lesson plans — was a game-changer. With her frequent field trips to destinations like the digestive system and other planets, Mrs. Frizzle inspired generations of kids to love science.

In addition to helping fund The Magic School Bus, the National Science Foundation (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/btyb/afterschool.jsp) has been a big supporter of PBS’ STEM-related media for children, dating back to the days of ‘3-2-1 Contact,’ ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy,’ and ‘Reading Rainbow.’

We’ll talk to the National Science Foundation and others about the enduring legacy of The Magic School Bus and other early multimedia science initiatives. And we’ll look forward at what shows are inspiring today’s children to develop a passion for investigation and exploration.

Produced by Stacia Brown

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Brittany Howard Makes Her Declaration As A Solo Star

“Making this record definitely was just a declaration of who I find myself being,” Brittany Howard says.

Danny Clinch /Courtesy of the artist


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Danny Clinch /Courtesy of the artist

As lead singer and guitarist of Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has earned her accolades and then some. Since 2009, the band has won four Grammys, performed at the White House and heralded some of roots rock’s biggest hits this decade. Still, Howard feels the urge to try something new every few years.

In 2012, Howard formed the band Thunderbitch with Nashville’s Clear Plastic Masks and Fly Golden Eagle. Then, in 2017, she led a new band, Bermuda Triangle, with Jesse Lafser and Becca Mancari. But before she plotted her next artistic move, Howard did a lot of thinking.

“‘Do I want to do this solo record that I’ve always wanted to do since I was, like, 11 years old when I first picked up the guitar? Or am I going to keep trying to make more Shakes records?,'” Howard remembers thinking. “At the time, when I was rehearsing with the Shakes, it was really not coming to us… The music wasn’t really coming through. So, when I stepped away from that, that’s when things started coming through.”

Now, Howard strikes out on her own. The musician’s debut solo album, Jaime, due out Sept. 20, is named for the older sister Howard adored — the sister who taught her how to play the piano and write poems.

“She was a creative person all around,” Howard remembers. “And when I came into the world, my sister kind of took me by my hand and was like, ‘OK, you know, our family doesn’t have a lot of money but this is how you have fun,’ and just showed me how to use my imagination; how to be creative.”

Jaime died of cancer when the girls were still kids and Howard uses her solo debut to explore how her earliest relationships and the loss of her sister shaped who she is as an artist and a person.

On the album, she sings about what it meant to grow up as a biracial child in Athens, Ala. in the 1990s. The album’s lead single, “History Repeats,” strikes a funky, sweltering groove while “Stay High,” and its accompanying video, channels the spirit Howard’s hardworking father.

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But it’s not all happy memories. On one song called “Goat Head,” Howard recounts an act of racism her parents experienced.

“[My mother] told me the story about how my dad got off work and came to the apartment complex where she lived,” the artist says. “He goes, stays the night, wakes up the next morning, and someone had taken a goat from the co-op — you know, where they raise animals and cattle and stuff — and they had dismembered this animal and put it in my dad’s car. Slashed his tires, broke his windows out of his car and wrote on it, basically, like, ‘Don’t come back here no more.’ And that’s something that really stuck with me.”

As Howard explains, her parents worked hard to shield her from racism as much as possible while she was growing up, but she still picked up on subtle acts of prejudice every now and then: “Growing up, I was just an oddity no matter where I went, you feel me?”

Now, as she steps out on her own, Howard is sure of the solo star she’s presenting to the world.

“I’m a 30 year old woman now. My identity is very clear to me and I don’t have to make it clear to anyone else, because I don’t think that’s important — what anyone else thinks about me, or what box they want to put me in,” she affirms. “But I will say, for myself, making this record definitely was just a declaration of who I find myself being.”

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