Elite Runners’ Gut Microbe Makes Mice More Athletic — Could It Help The Rest Of Us?

Researchers studied the gut microbes of runners from the Boston Marathon, isolating one strain of bacteria that may boost athletic performance.

Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald via Getty Images

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Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald via Getty Images

Competitive runners (myself included, once upon a time) will try almost anything that could give them a natural edge in their next 5k or 10k.

Down concentrated beet juice before a race? I’ve done it.

Eat chia seeds by the handful? Yep.

Altitude tents that mimic life at 10,000 feet? If only I had the money.

But new research hints that, perhaps, someday I may add consuming bacteria to that list.

A new study out Monday in the journal Nature Medicine identified a group of bacteria that are more common in athletes, especially after exercise, and may play a role in enhancing athletic performance. The researchers isolated this bacterial strain from elite runners, put it into the colons of lab mice, and found that these human-derived bacteria boosted the mouse’s performance on a treadmill exertion test by 13%.

“This is a really impressive study,” says Morgan Langille, a microbiome researcher at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who was not involved in the research. “It’s the first study I’m aware of that goes beyond correlation to show that certain microbes that increase with exercise actually have an effect [on performance].”

Scientists already knew that exercise subtly changes the make-up of our microbiome. Certain strains flourish in the post-workout gut. But scientists hadn’t demonstrated whether any of these exercise-loving microbes actually affect our health or performance.

“If we could identify microbes that do contribute to the health and performance of super healthy people, then maybe we could develop a probiotic to help everyday people perform better,” says Jonathan Scheiman, currently the co-founder and CEO of FitBiomics who led this study while he was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School.

For the research, Scheiman would need a good data set of the gut microbes of athletes. So he solicited Boston Marathon runners for their poop.

“A good two weeks of my life was spent driving around Boston in a Zipcar collecting fecal samples from runners,” says Scheiman. He wanted to compare their microbes before and after running the marathon, and weigh them against the microbiomes of non-runners.

Scheiman handed off the stool samples to his colleague Aleksandar Kostic, a microbiologist at Harvard Medical School affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center (Kostic is also a co-founder and science advisor for FitBiomics). Kostic sequenced the bacterial DNA in the stool samples and looked for differences — either in the kinds of bacteria present or their relative numbers — between the groups.

The differences were subtle. “It’s not as though that the microbiome of runners looks completely different from non-runners,” he says. “But one group of bacteria stood out in runners. Veillonella.

Veillonella bacteria seemed to be a bit more common in runners than non-runners, and it became much more common in the guts of runners after they’d run the marathon.

“We were intrigued, but I didn’t know anything about Veillonella,” says Scheiman. “So I googled it.”

Wyss Institute at Harvard University

He learned that Veillonella has a fairly unusual way of making a living — it eats lactate, a chemical by-product of intense exercise that’s associated with fatigue (though, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t actually cause your muscles to hurt).

Scheiman’s intrigue grew. “Isn’t it interesting that after running a race you have an increase in a kind of bacteria that eats a metabolic by-product of running a race…that was a big light bulb moment,” he says.

At this point, all the researchers had was an interesting correlation. It was a good start, but not enough according to Kostic: “We wanted to understand exactly what Veillonella is doing.” Specifically, the researchers wondered if the bacteria might be boosting endurance performance.

So they did an experiment.

Scheiman isolated Veillonella from the stool of one of the marathoners and transferred it into the guts of normal laboratory mice. As a control, he inoculated another group of mice with a different strain of non-lactate eating bacteria.

Then, the two groups faced off in a series of races to exhaustion run on a mouse treadmill.

The Veillonella-treated mice won. On average, they lasted 13% longer (~18 minutes vs. ~16 minutes across all trials) than the control mice.

“We were pretty surprised to see that big of an effect from a [human-derived] bacteria,” says Scheiman. “Imagine telling a marathon runner that you could improve their performance by 13%. It’d be huge.”

Of course, a 13% boost in one measure of performance in mice does not directly apply to humans. But the researchers wanted to know how a bacteria living in the gut (not in muscles or lungs, tissues directly involved in exercise) improved performance in mice so significantly?

The research team thought it might have something to do with how Veillonella breaks down lactate.

Our liver processes excess lactate by converting it to glucose, but Veillonella does something different. It gobbles up lactate and converts it into a molecule called propionate, a short-chain fatty acid that’s been shown to affect heart rate and oxygen absorption in mice.

With this in mind, the researchers transferred pure propionate to the guts of mice and ran the same treadmill test. “Lo and behold, propionate produced the same endurance boost as Veillonella,” says Scheiman. The researchers found the mechanism. Veillonella enhances the performance of its host by converting lactate to propionate.

But why the bacteria do this is a harder question to answer.

“Athletes that exercise often may simply be creating a gut with higher levels of lactate that allow Veillonella to flourish,” says Scheiman. Veillonella might even be pumping out propionate in order to boost the performance of its host in a symbiotic tit-for-tat, according to Scheiman, though that’s far from clear. Either way, Scheiman is hoping athletes may some day be able to benefit from its relationship with our guts.

Since conducting this research, Scheiman has left academia to run the company FitBiomics. “Our mission is to mine the biology of the most fit and healthy people in the world and then aim to translate that data into… next generation probiotics,” he says. He hopes to start testing Veillonella in human subjects with the ultimate goal of creating an endurance-boosting probiotic.

Langille is a bit more skeptical that someday soon you’ll be able to pop Veillonella pill to get a fitness boost. “This research certainly opens the door to that possibility, but often it’s harder to replicate an effect you see in mice in human studies,” he says.

Langille also suggests that since Veillonella already seems to be more common in athletes, further supplementation may not translate into better performance.

Additionally, while scientists agree there is some evidence that certain probiotics can help people with digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome, many scientists argue that there’s not yet convincing evidence that they help healthy people.

“Still, before this study I don’t think anyone would’ve said that the microbiome could boost athletic performance,” says Langille. “It’s an intriguing concept.”

Jonathan Lambert is a freelance science journalist based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter: @evolambert

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How The Chow Mein Sandwich Claimed A Small Slice Of New England History

Regina Mark, co-owner of Mee Sum Restaurant in Fall River, Mass., holds a chow mein sandwich, which the restaurant has served for more than 50 years.

Sarah Mizes-Tan/WCAI

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Sarah Mizes-Tan/WCAI

Imagine a sandwich that isn’t so much a sandwich as it is a noodle dish, and you’d have what locals in Fall River, Mass., call the chow mein sandwich, a hybrid Chinese-American dish with roots in the city’s factory worker past.

The chow mein sandwich is in some ways exactly how you would imagine it: a portion of fried chow mein noodles with brown gravy poured over it, served on a no-frills hamburger bun. The dish has been a specialty of Chinese restaurants in the area for decades.

“We have people come from New York or Chicago, and it’s so funny. They will whisper to the server, ‘Do you have those burger sandwiches?’ I say ‘You mean the chow mein sandwich? Yes, we do,'” says Regina Mark, co-owner of Fall River’s Mee Sum restaurant, a place that’s been making chow mein sandwiches for more than 50 years.

But the sandwich is more than just a local oddity. It’s a piece of history that points to the city’s patterns of immigration. The main reason for the sandwich’s rise to popularity in the early 1900s was spurred by Fall River’s factory worker population.

“Fall River [was] booming with factories, the textile industry, and mostly a lot of workers, that’s why the chow mein sandwich sold,” she says.

According to anthropology professor Imogene Lim, the sandwich originated from earlier waves of Chinese immigration to Fall River. Lim studied the sandwich for her dissertation at Brown University.

“Well let’s put it this way, I consider myself the expert on the chow mein sandwich, and when I was studying it, my friends dubbed me ‘the chow mein sandwich chick,’ ” she says.

Chinese immigrants first started arriving in Fall River in the late 1800s. Many were coming from the West Coast after having worked on the country’s Transcontinental Railroad, but they were being pushed out by hostility surrounding the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited the immigration of all Chinese laborers. They came to cities on the East Coast like Fall River, looking for business opportunities.

“Many Chinese ended up opening up laundries. Laundries did not require a lot of language expertise,” Lim says. “And then there were tea shops in the back of laundries, and after a certain amount of time, you started getting restaurants.”

But of course, the success of any restaurant was dependent on its ability to sell food. At the time, Fall River was a textile mill town mostly staffed by factory workers who had immigrated from Poland, Ireland and French Canada, and so Chinese restaurants tried to adapt.

“So again, if you’re thinking [European] immigrant groups, what do they know about Chinese food? But they know something called a sandwich,” Lim says. “A sandwich becomes something accessible to them as a way to ease in that notion of Chinese cuisine.”

Chinese restaurant owners realized that if they put a hamburger bun on top, they could make an unfamiliar dish more approachable to the region’s European immigrants. At the peak of its popularity, the chow mein sandwich’s main draw was its accessibility. In a working-class city, the sandwich was filling, quickly made and cheap, costing just a nickel. In the end, Fall River’s immigration created something that was neither Chinese, nor Irish, nor Polish nor French Canadian.

“The identity is American, but uniquely Fall River because of the mixture of populations in that locale,” Lim says.

Back at Mee Sum, Mark demonstrates how a proper chow mein sandwich is made today. She dips Fall River’s specialty chow mein noodles into a fryer, then tops them with the restaurant’s special gravy and a healthy heaping of chicken, and finally pops the hamburger bun on top. This method ensures that the sandwich’s noodles absorb just a little of the gravy, but not so much that it’ll get soggy.

Dave Lussier grew up in Fall River and spent his childhood eating chow mein sandwiches with his family. He said it’s the noodles in the sandwich that sets it apart. Ho-Mee noodles are bought specifically from Fall River’s Oriental Chow Mein company, which was founded by Frederick Wong, a Chinese immigrant from Canton, China, in 1938. The Oriental Chow Mein company still exists today, and Lussier and other locals say it’s those crispy, deep-fried noodles that are a large part of what makes a classic chow mein sandwich.

“So you get the special noodles, they give you a lot of chicken, it’s delicious,” Lussier says. “You know, it’s kind of a joke that it’s a sandwich because you can’t pick it up.” For a true Fall River touch, he says to top the sandwich with vinegar.

The dish is such a classic Fall River food that back in the 1970s, a band called Alika and the Happy Samoans even wrote a tribute song to the chow mein sandwich.

In the end, Mark says the sandwich may seem an odd creation by today’s standards.

“Now we’re laughing about the chow mein sandwich, right? But I mean that’s our business. It put a lot of kids through college so they can find better jobs now, get themselves a better education,” she says.

In many ways, it’s the classic story of any immigrant reaching for the American dream.

This story comes to us from member station WCAI.

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Supreme Court Orders Documents Unsealed In Death-Penalty Case

The Supreme Court in Washington as the justices prepared to hand down decisions.

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The Supreme Court ordered documents unsealed Monday in a death-penalty case out of Alabama after a motion was filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and NPR.

The blacked-out information, a rarity for the Supreme Court, involves the drugs and protocol Alabama uses for executions.

The filings were redacted after the execution of convicted murderer Christopher Price earlier this month.

Price had wanted to be executed with nitrogen gas, which he contended would be less painful than death by legal injection with the drug midazolam. Alabama ultimately used midazolam in his death.

The deletions were done at the insistence of the state of Alabama, the reporters committee noted. The Supreme Court has found itself mired in bitter debates about the death penalty, but it previously hasn’t hidden those disputes from the public.

“The state did not provide any explanation for its asserted need for secrecy,” the reporters committee noted. It added that Alabama only cited its need “to reference certain material … designated ‘confidential.’ Alabama has no legitimate interest that justifies sealing either its lethal injection protocol or expert evidence regarding the effects of midazolam.”

The reporters committee further noted that in even in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971 — a case in which the government claimed a national security interest in barring publication — the briefs were not redacted. They were available to the press and public, and oral arguments were conducted publicly, with only parts of the court appendix sealed.

Chief Justice John Roberts has touted the judiciary’s transparency previously. In 2018, for example, he called it, in fact, “the most transparent branch in government.”

The Supreme Court has long upheld the right of access to a wide range of judicial proceedings and records. The court has said the constitutional right of access “enhances the quality and safeguards the integrity of the fact-finding process” and allows “the public to participate in and serve as a check upon the judicial process — an essential component in our structure of self-government.”

The court has also said that court proceedings cannot be closed “unless specific, on-the-record findings are made demonstrating that closure is essential to preserve higher values” and that the closure is “narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

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U.S. Border Patrol Finds 4 Bodies, Including 3 Children, Near Rio Grande In Texas

U.S. Border Patrol agents found four bodies near the Rio Grande river along Anzalduas Park, close to McAllen, Texas. In this file photo, a Border Patrol boat is seen on the river along Anzalduas Park.

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U.S. Border Patrol agents have located four bodies by the Rio Grande in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, near the U.S. border with Mexico. Three of the deceased were children — one toddler and two infants — and the other was a 20-year-old woman.

“It’s an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often,” said Special Agent in Charge Michelle Lee of the San Antonio FBI office.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said in a tweet Sunday night that his office’s deputies were on the scene where the bodies were found southeast of the Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas. The sheriff also said the FBI would be leading the investigation because the bodies were located on federal land.

It appears the four were undocumented immigrants, the FBI says. While cautioning that it’s still early in the investigation, the agency says that so far, there are no signs of foul play.

BREAKING NEWS: Deputies are on scene by the river SE of the Anzalduas Park in Las Paloma Wildlife Management Area where Border Patrol agents located 4 deceased bodies. Bodies appear to be 2 infants, a toddler and 20yoa female. Deputies are awaiting FBI agents who will be leading. pic.twitter.com/2qPCYDjZBu

— Sheriff Eddie Guerra (@SheriffGuerra) June 24, 2019

Officials say it appears the woman and children died from dehydration and heat exposure, but that the next step will be to determine the precise cause and manner of their deaths.

The bodies have not been identified yet, and their country of origin isn’t known. Their names won’t be publicly released until authorities have informed their families.

In the 2018 fiscal year, the Border Patrol says, there were 283 deaths across the southern border — with nearly 100 of those deaths reported in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector.

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They Thought This HIV Strategy Couldn’t Work. But It Did

Drawing blood to test for HIV.

Kim Cloete/PopArt Study

In high-income countries like the U.S., the standard of care for people infected by HIV is to provide antiretroviral pills when the virus is found, even when there are no symptoms of AIDS. The strategy staves off the disease and has a second – big – benefit. It’s been shown to prevent the spread of HIV in sexual encounters. It’s called “treatment as prevention” (TasP in medical jargon), or “test and treat.”

But in low-income countries, “test and treat” is not the typical approach to prevention. There’s been no research to support it.

When they started, they said, there was some doubt in the AIDS research community if the effort would be successful. “People didn’t think we could provide antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa at all,” says study co-leader Richard Hayes of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “There was a lot of skepticism.” Helen Ayles, from the same institution and a Zambian research organization called Zambart, hit the same resistance. “People said you’ll never get communities to test, and you’ll never get communities to want to start treatment early and if you do they’ll never stay on the treatment.” That attitude sprang partly from past struggles to get people to follow a regimen of daily drugs, in both developed and developing countries – and from local mistrust in low-income countries when foreigners arrive to carry out a health mission.

So ten years ago, researchers began planning a massive study of treatment as prevention in South Africa and Zambia. The team came from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College and from several other institutions in the U.S., Zambia and South Africa.

The study provided “test and treat” to communities containing a total of about 1 million people in South Africa and Zambia from 2013 to 2018. The $130 million project is called PopART (Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmission).

The findings show that the practice could play a crucial role in controlling the AIDS epidemic.

“The results are fantastic,” says Ayles. “We managed to demonstrate you can reduce HIV incidence by 30 percent. That’s an amazing thing.”

“This is a landmark study,” says Judith Wasserheit, a longtime AIDS researcher and head of the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the research. “Getting communities to adopt an intervention and sustain it is one of the great challenges of global health.”

Details of the new trial were revealed at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle this spring and will be published soon. The findings are likely to be a big source of discussion at the global AIDS and HIV conference in Mexico City in July.

The scale of the trial was immense. Researchers began annual HIV testing in 14 communities of 50,000 or so people each in urban neighborhoods and towns in South Africa and Zambia. Community health workers went to people’s homes, talked to them about HIV and HIV prevention, distributed condoms and offered on-the spot testing. Those who tested positive were offered free antiretroviral therapy. Another 300,000 or so were in the control group, which did not offer “test and treat.”

The study was funded by the U.S. government and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which is also a funder of NPR and this blog).

In half of the 14 communities where “test and treat” was the protocol, anyone found to be HIV-positive was offered treatment immediately. The results from these communities were not that impressive: a 7 percent drop in new HIV infections compared to communities in the control arm, where testing and treatment were sometimes available but not with the concerted, door-to-door outreach of the PopART approach..

In the other half of communities where “test and treat” took place, for the first few years treatment didn’t begin until an individual’s white blood cell counts fell below a certain level. (Partway through the study, those communities were switched to immediate treatment when national guidelines changed.)

In those seven “test and treat” communities, whose combined population was about 330,000, the incidence of new infections was 30 percent lower than in the control group communities.

“We showed it’s feasible and acceptable to deliver this kind of intervention in towns in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Hayes.

A key element in the study was sending local health workers door-to-door to talk about — and test for — HIV.

Kim Cloete/PopART Study

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Kim Cloete/PopART Study

The new study does leave one major question– why was the drop only 7 percent in the group in which HIV-positive people received treatment right away as opposed to 30 percent in the other treated communities where treatment was initially delayed?

“My first reaction was that the statisticians had got it the wrong way around,” says Hayes. But four different statisticians repeated the analysis and got the same results. The PopART researchers are mining the data to try and understand the difference.

There are other findings to consider from the study. Its designers believed that community buy-in would be key to getting people to accept testing and treatment. So at the start of PopART, the researchers solicited community leaders to serve on advisory boards to oversee the project and help the researchers find and train 700-plus community members to serve as health care workers. The process, says Hayes, “was like mobilizing an army.”

The idea was that these community health workers, who understood their patients’ lives and languages, could make a difference. “What PopART has shown is how important local health workers can be,” says Maryam Shahmanesh, an associate professor at University College London and an HIV prevention and sexual health expert.

Rosemary Phiri, now 34 years old, a Zambian with no medical training, found a listing for health workers while looking for a job in her local newspaper. She wound up overseeing 112 workers in the program and went out on community visits.

“It was an amazing experience for me,” she says. “At first people were not sure what was going on.” Testing centers existed in some of the towns already, but this was a door-to-door effort. “When people realized we were there to help them stop this terrible infection, they became so receptive,” she says. “They saw we were there for their own good.”

Myron Cohen, a professor at the University of North Carolina, calls the new study “a road map.” Cohen is a principal investigator in a worldwide collaboration of researchers who run clinical trials on AIDS interventions, including this one. Cohen had headed the study that in 2011 showed that intensive attention — regular visits to the health center, counseling on risk reduction and the use of condoms — and antiretroviral drugs can stop transmission between partners when one is known to be HIV-positive.

PopART builds on Cohen’s findings and other efforts, including a major study in South Africa. That study showed that HIV transmission is less frequent in communities where treatment is available compared to similar communities where it is not, suggesting that HIV transmission could be controlled on a population level.

And in early June, a study of a single community in KwaZulu-Natal done by Doctors Without Borders showed that engaging patient groups, local health workers and political leaders encourages people to be tested and treated. The study provided preliminary evidence that widespread outreach could decrease the spread of HIV in a poor area.

The U.N. has set eliminating the public health threat of HIV as a goal for the year 2030. Is that possible? Cohen quickly says yes, if an adequate effort is made – if every HIV infected person can be found, started on treatment and convinced to stay on treatment. PopART co-leader Richard Hayes hesitates before answering. “I think it can be done,” he finally says. “But I think it will be a real challenge.”

Joanne Silberner, a former health policy correspondent for NPR, is a freelance journalist living in London.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban On Trademarking ‘Immoral,’ ‘Scandalous’ Words, Symbols

Los Angeles artist Erik Brunetti, the founder of the streetwear clothing company “FUCT,” leaves the Supreme Court after his trademark case was argued on April 15.

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Updated 11:01 a.m. ET

In a win for advocates of free speech, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on trademarking words and symbols that are “immoral” or “scandalous.”

The case was brought by clothing designer Erik Brunetti, who sought to trademark the phrase “F-U-C-T.” The decision paves the way for him to get his brand trademarked.

The court, like others, struggled with how to deal with the word, in particular, its pronunciation. Here’s how Justice Kagan described it in her majority opinion: The clothing brand “is pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T. … But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone. … (describing the brand name as ‘the equivalent of [the] past participle form of a well-known word of profanity’).”

Five justices joined Kagan’s majority opinion: Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Neil Kavanaugh.

Justice Alito, in a concurring opinion noted: “Our decision is not based on moral relativism but on the recognition that a law banning speech deemed by government officials to be ‘immoral’ or ‘scandalous’ can easily be exploited for illegitimate ends. Our decision does not prevent Congress from adopting a more carefully focused statute that precludes the registration of marks containing vulgar terms that play no real part in the expression of ideas.”

The justices struggled with what line to draw on which words they would find to be the most vulgar and profane. That’s why, in part, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned opinions that partially agreed and partially dissented.

Brunetti’s clothing line is mainly hoodies, loose pants, shorts and T-shirts, all with the letters F-U-C-T prominently displayed. Brunetti opened the line in 1990 aimed at 20-somethings. He’s been trying since then to get his FUCT brand name trademarked so that he can go after copycats.

These counterfeits, he says, are costing him real money.

The U.S. government Patent and Trademark Office, however, has consistently turned him down for trademark protection, contending that those letters violate a federal statute which bars trademark protection for immoral, shocking, offensive and scandalous words.

Brunetti’s case got a boost two years ago when the Supreme Court ruled that an Asian American band called “The Slants” could not be denied trademark protection just because the name used a term viewed as racially disparaging.

The FUCT case seemed considerably more daunting when the high court heard the case argued in April, and the justices went to great lengths not to use the FUCT name out loud.

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Shannon Rhoades Will Be NPR’s Senior Editor for Interviews

In a note to newsroom staff, VP for News Programming Sarah Gilbert announced the following staffing update.

Hi everyone,

I am delighted to announce that Shannon Rhoades has been appointed NPR’s Senior Editor for Interviews, a new role for the network.

A longtime veteran of Morning Edition, where she worked her way up from Editorial Assistant to management, Shannon has a finely-honed instinct for the kind of thoughtful and thought-provoking host conversations that only NPR can produce. She understands the ‘special sauce’ that sets us apart from our competitors, and is delighted to now have the time and space to put all of her energies into thinking much more ambitiously in this arena for the whole organization.

As Shannon shapes this new role for NPR, she will work closely with news leadership and colleagues across desks, shows, digital and programming to set priorities for impactful interviews that will complement our original field reporting, and create engagement across all of our platforms. Her focus on interviews will rest in three key areas: leading the pursuit and production of marquee newsmaker interviews, directing and coordinating efforts to secure key voices in breaking news scenarios, and engendering better coordination and training across the network.

She says, “NPR was my home for years, and I’m excited to return to work with so many talented, dedicated journalists and storytellers. It’s a privilege to take on this new role, collaborating so closely with colleagues across the network. I want to carve out even more space for us to land smart, agenda-setting interviews so that we continue to stand apart in a media environment that gets noisier by the day.”

Shannon will be based in DC, and starts August 19.

Please join me in congratulating Shannon on her new role at NPR!


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Watch The Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour Celebrate 60 Years

How do you distill the spirit of the Monterey Jazz Festival into a single band? Considering the ethos of the annual event, the band was designed to be a celebration of diverse international talent, forward-thinking sensibilities and just plain killin’ performances. For artistic director Tim Jackson, that was the task at hand in 2018, marking the festival’s 60th anniversary.

The end result is The Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour. It’s a band of six individually acclaimed performers from the next generation of stars: Cécile McLorin Salvant, vocals; Bria Skonberg, trumpet, vocals; Melissa Aldana, tenor saxophone; Christian Sands, piano and musical director; Yasushi Nakamura, bass, and Jamison Ross, drums, vocals. The band toured through North America in March and April of 2019 and Jazz Night in America captured the band’s stop at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which features original tunes from different members of the band with new accents from project collaborators.


Cécile McLorin Salvant: voice; Melissa Aldana: tenor saxophone; Bria Skonberg: trumpet and voice; Christian Sands: piano and musical director; Yasushi Nakamura: bass; Jamison Ross: drums and voice


Producers: Justin Bias, Colin Marshall; Concert Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Concert Video Director: Joe Lucarro; Videographers: Hiram Becker, Andrew Trost, Brandon Smith; Editor: Jeremiah Rhodes; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producers: Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Supervising Editors: Keith Jenkins, Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman, Amy Niles; Funded in Part By: The Argus Fund, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, Wyncote Foundation

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Eldorado Resorts Buys Caesars For $17.3 Billion

Caesars Palace and other famous casinos will now be owned by Eldorado Resorts, in a deal the two companies announced on Monday. Here, Caesars Palace is seen hosting a food tasting event in Las Vegas last month.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork’d

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork’d

Eldorado Resorts is buying Caesars Entertainment for $17.3 billion, in a cash-and-stock deal that the companies say will create the largest gambling company in the U.S.

To acquire the venerable Caesars name and properties, Eldorado will part with $7.2 billion in cash and around 77 million in stock shares. It will also take on Caesars’ outstanding debt. Its shareholders will wind up with 51 percent of the combined company.

The new casino giant will use the Caesars name. But all of its top leadership will come from Eldorado, from Chairman Gary Carano and CEO Tom Reeg to other top spots.

Eldorado operates 26 gambling properties in the U.S., extending from Nevada eastward to states such as Colorado, Missouri, Louisiana and New Jersey. It will now also take control of a portfolio that includes Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, and Bally’s, giving it a total of some 60 properties in 16 states.

“Together, we will have an extremely powerful suite of iconic gaming and entertainment brands,” Reeg said of the deal, “as well as valuable strategic alliances with industry leaders in sports betting and online gaming.”

The merger comes after “a lengthy courtship and months of speculation” about the merger, reports industry news site Casino.org. For months, Caesars shareholder Carl Icahn has been urging the casino company to work out a purchase. The merger comes just two months after Caesars installed a new CEO — Anthony Rodio — whom Icahn backed, as Reuters reported.

With an agreement finally reached, Caesars Entertainment Corporation abruptly announced on Monday that it will “adjourn, without conducting any business, its 2019 Annual Meeting of Shareholders” — a meeting that had been slated to begin Monday morning in Las Vegas. It rescheduled the session for July 2, to give shareholders time to learn about the deal.

For Caesars stockholders, Reno-based Eldorado is pricing their shares at $12.75 each. On Friday, the stock had closed at just under $10. Of that amount, Eldorado will pay $8.40 per share in cash; the rest of the payment will be in the form of stock in Eldorado.

The merger is subject to the approval of the two gaming companies’ shareholders, as well as gaming and trade regulators. It’s expected to become final in the first half of 2020.

The merger also includes a $3.2 billion side deal with VICI Properties. As part of that arrangement, Eldorado said in a news release, the VICI real estate company will acquire property “associated with Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Harrah’s Laughlin Hotel & Casino, and Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel & Casino” for about $1.8 billion.

VICI will then collect rent on those properties, with the first year slated to bring in some $154 million.

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