Browsing articles from "January, 2018"

What Happens When CHIP Funds Run Out

Jan 21, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on What Happens When CHIP Funds Run Out

One of the central issues of the shutdown battle is the Children’s Health Insurance Program. NPR’s Michel Martin talks with Alabama CHIP Director Cathy Caldwell about the program, which covers 9 million low-income kids across the U.S.

Barbershop: Trump’s First Year In Office

Jan 21, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Barbershop: Trump’s First Year In Office

Virginia Republican Puneet Ahluwalia, conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, and Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews are in the Barbershop this week with NPR’s Michel Martin, discussing President Trump’s leadership.

Democrats Doubt Shutdown Chaos Will Hurt Them In Midterm Elections

Jan 21, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Democrats Doubt Shutdown Chaos Will Hurt Them In Midterm Elections

The Democrats are betting that voters will blame President Trump for the government shutdown. NPR’s Scott Simon talks to Democratic pollster Geoff Garin about his party’s strategy.

Immigration Deal Remains Sticking Point In Negotiations To Reopen Government

Jan 21, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Immigration Deal Remains Sticking Point In Negotiations To Reopen Government

Congress is in session, hours after government funding lapsed and a partial shutdown was triggered. An unreachable compromise on immigration continues to be the main hurdle as talks resume.

Facebook Moves To Decide What Is Real News

Jan 20, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Facebook Moves To Decide What Is Real News

Facebook says it will ask its users decide which news organizations they think are high quality and it will favor news from the most trusted sources.

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Facebook says it will ask its users decide which news organizations they think are high quality and it will favor news from the most trusted sources.

Noah Berger/AP

Facebook is rolling out a major change to its News Feed: pushing up news articles that come from “high quality” sources, and pushing down the others. The move signals that, in an effort to combat the problem of fake news, the social media giant is willing to play a kind of editorial role — making decisions based on substance, not just how viral a headline may be.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post to his Facebook page:

“There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today. Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don’t specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them. That’s why it’s important that News Feed promotes high quality news that helps build a sense of common ground.”

The company asserts that its own executives will not pick and choose favorites. Rather, they’ll let the users decide what counts as a trusted source.

Spokesman Todd Breasseale says in an email: “As part of our ongoing quality surveys, we asked a diverse and representative sample of Facebook users across the US to gauge their familiarity with, and trust in, sources of news. A source’s broad trust is one of many signals that determine stories’ ranking in News Feed. We boost links from sources with high trust scores and demote links from sources with low trust scores.”

The Internet has plenty to say in response to the announcement. On Twitter:

Facebook recently announced other reforms that, the company estimates, will result in less news in the News Feed overall — from the current 5 percent down to an estimated 4 percent.

Before ‘Roe v. Wade,’ The Women of ‘Jane’ Provided Abortions For The Women Of Chicago

Jan 20, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Before ‘Roe v. Wade,’ The Women of ‘Jane’ Provided Abortions For The Women Of Chicago

Formed in 1965, Jane was an underground network in Chicago that counseled and helped women who wanted to have abortions. (From left) Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Parisers, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk were among the seven members of Jane arrested in 1972.

Courtesy of Martha Scott


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Courtesy of Martha Scott

Formed in 1965, Jane was an underground network in Chicago that counseled and helped women who wanted to have abortions. (From left) Martha Scott, Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Abby Parisers, Sheila Smith and Madeline Schwenk were among the seven members of Jane arrested in 1972.

Courtesy of Martha Scott

In 1971, Winnette Willis was a 23-year-old single mom in Chicago when she became pregnant again. “I was terrified of having another child,” she tells Radio Diaries.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade 45 years ago, abortion was illegal in most of the United States, including in Illinois.

Women like Willis who wanted to terminate their pregnancies had limited and often frightening options. She wasn’t sure what to do. And then one day, while she was waiting on an L train platform, she saw a sign.

“The sign said, ‘Pregnant? Don’t Want to Be? Call Jane.’ And a phone number,” Willis remembers. “So, I called.”

“If you really care about something, you have to act on it”

“Jane” was an underground network in Chicago that counseled and helped women who wanted to have abortions. The service was launched in 1965 by Heather Booth, then a 19-year-old student at the University of Chicago. Her friend’s sister was pregnant and desperately wanted an abortion. Booth found a doctor who was willing to perform the procedure secretly.

More calls started coming in.

“By the third call, I realized I couldn’t manage it on my own,” Booth says. “So I set up a system. We called it ‘Jane.’ ”

At first, Jane connected women with doctors. But eventually, the group’s members started performing abortions themselves. With time, Jane grew into an all-women network with dozens of members, ranging from students to housewives.

Martha Scott was 28 at the time and a stay-at-home mom with four children under the age of 5. She was motivated to join Jane because she felt women who wanted an abortion deserved to have a safe and inexpensive option. The fact that it was illegal did not deter her.

“I just thought, if you really care about something, you have to act on it,” Scott says.

Martha Scott, a stay-at-home mom, joined Jane and learned to perform abortions. “It wasn’t perfect, by any means,” she says. “But we were dealing with women who really didn’t have other options.”

Courtesy of Martha Scott


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Courtesy of Martha Scott

Martha Scott, a stay-at-home mom, joined Jane and learned to perform abortions. “It wasn’t perfect, by any means,” she says. “But we were dealing with women who really didn’t have other options.”

Courtesy of Martha Scott

The dangers faced by women seeking abortions in the pre-Roe v. Wade era are well-documented. In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women in the United States, though there were likely many more unrecorded mortalities. After antibiotics were introduced in the 1940s, the number of women dying from illegal abortions dropped dramatically. However, every year, thousands of women continued to be admitted to hospitals nationwide for complications of illegal abortions.

How Jane worked

The women of Jane ran a finely tuned operation. “It was very clandestine and secretive,” according to Leslie J. Reagan, a professor of history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the author of When Abortion Was a Crime.

When women called Jane, they would hear an answering machine message asking for their phone number, name and the date of their last period. A member of Jane would then call them back and set up a meeting to discuss the procedure.

“There were lots of points along the way where they could have said, ‘No, I change my mind,’ ” says Scott. “I don’t think anyone chooses to have an abortion lightly.”

Jeanne Galatzer-Levy was 20 when she joined Jane.

“I hadn’t had so much as a speeding ticket. But abortion really was the front line, it was where women were dying,” she says.

Jeanne Galatzer-Levy was a member of Jane. The group charged women $100 for an abortion; doctors would often charge $500.

Courtesy of Jeanne Galatzer-Levy


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Courtesy of Jeanne Galatzer-Levy

Jane rented apartments all over Chicago, two at a time. One was called “The Front.” That was the address given to women such as Willis, where they would await the procedure. At the appointed time, the women were driven to a second location, where the abortion was performed.

“It felt very underground,” Willis says. “But I remember looking at the people who performed the surgery, and I felt relief, that somebody was going to help me.”

Jane wasn’t the only abortion counseling service that existed in the United States. “The thing that made Jane so unique was that they decided they were going to take the practice of abortion into their own hands,” says Reagan. “That was a stunning decision.”

The women of Jane were transparent with their clients.

“We told them up front we were not doctors,” says Galatzer-Levy.

When the women of Jane got trained to perform abortions themselves, it meant they could reduce the price of the procedure and reach a larger, and more diverse, population. Doctors often charged $500 to perform the procedure. Jane charged $100 but took whatever the clients could pay, Galatzer-Levy says. They used the money they got from their clients to pay for supplies, rent and other expenses.

At their peak, Jane was performing abortions four days a week and typically serving 10 women a day. Galatzer-Levy says that to the best of her knowledge, the group never turned anyone away.

Usually, they gave their clients a muscle contractor and an antibiotic before performing a dilation and curettage surgical procedure, in which the cervix is dilated and a medical instrument is inserted to remove tissue from the uterus.

“By and large, we were dealing with healthy women pregnancies,” says Galatzer-Levy. “We were not qualified to deal with somebody with real medical problems.”

Scott says she performed hundreds of abortions. It’s a relatively simple procedure, but she acknowledges that there were risks to what they were doing. Some clients ended up in the emergency room; some had to undergo hysterectomies.

“You’re messing around inside somebody else’s body. It’s not necessarily given that you won’t do harm,” Scott says. “It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But we were dealing with women who really didn’t have other options.”

In the seven years Jane was active, the group performed approximately 11,000 first- and second-trimester abortions. No deaths were ever reported of women who had abortions through Jane.

Busted by the police

For years, Jane operated under the radar of the Chicago police. But in 1972, two Catholic women walked into a police station, reporting that their sister-in-law was planning to have an abortion.

“To them, 1) it was a sin, and 2) they didn’t want a child killed. That’s how they felt,” says Ted O’Connor, the then-31-year-old homicide detective who was put on the case.

O’Connor and his partner tracked Jane to an apartment in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. Scott vividly remembers when the police arrived.

“They came in and looked around and said, ‘Where’s the doctor?’ Looking for the guy, but there wasn’t any guy, there was just us,” she says.

The policemen took all the women into custody, and they were charged with 11 counts of abortion and conspiracy to commit abortion.

Ted O’Connor was a young homicide detective in Chicago sent to investigate Jane in 1972. He followed a client to an elegant apartment building in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, near Lake Michigan, and ended up arresting seven members of Jane that day.

Courtesy of Ted O’Connor


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Courtesy of Ted O’Connor

Looking back, O’Connor has no qualms about arresting the women, who were breaking the law. But he says he can see both sides of the issue.

“My side is I don’t want to see a life destroyed. That life is helpless, it has no choice in this. And that angers me,” he says. “On the other hand, I’ve never been pregnant. And never will be. It’s a tough issue.”

The Supreme Court decides Roe v. Wade

The arrests occurred while abortion laws were being debated on the national stage. Beginning in 1970, Alaska, Hawaii, New York and Washington repealed their anti-abortion laws.

Six months after Jane was busted, on Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States with their decision in Roe v. Wade. The charges against Jane were dropped.

Ultimately, Roe vs. Wade brought an end to Jane because women then had access to legal abortion providers.

For Many Women, The Nearest Abortion Provider Is Hundreds Of Miles Away

Roe v. Wade made such an enormous difference. It was a very important victory. At that point, we all sort of scattered, moved onto other things,” says Scott, who went on to work at a women’s health clinic and remained an activist.

Abortion continues to be one of the most divisive issues in American life and politics.

“I mean, we really thought, the fact that it was legal, it wouldn’t be as political anymore, that it would fade a lot as any kind of a social issue,” she says. “But we were wrong. We were wrong.”

Nellie Gilles of Radio Diaries, with Joe Richman and Sarah Kate Kramer, produced this story for broadcast. It was edited by Deborah George and Ben Shapiro. Thanks to Laura Kaplan, author of “The Story of Jane.” You can hear more Radio Diaries stories on their podcast.

Supreme Court To Hear Latest Challenge To Trump’s Travel Ban

Jan 20, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Supreme Court To Hear Latest Challenge To Trump’s Travel Ban

Protesters outside the courthouse where 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges were hearing Hawaii’s challenge last month to the Trump administration’s latest travel ban.

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Protesters outside the courthouse where 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges were hearing Hawaii’s challenge last month to the Trump administration’s latest travel ban.

Ted S. Warren/AP

Almost a year after President Trump tried to bar travelers from some predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, the Supreme Court announced Friday that it will consider a legal challenge to the third version of that ban.

Lower courts have blocked every attempt by the administration to keep out travelers from a list of countries in the name of national security, starting with the first version of the ban issued in an executive order in January 2017.

The justices agreed to hear the case of Hawaii v. Trump, which argues that the president exceeded his authority in attempting to ban, through proclamation, “over 150 million aliens from this country based on nationality alone. The immigration laws do not grant the President this power.”

The brief adds:

“No prior president has attempted to implement a policy that so baldly exceeds the statutory limits on the president’s power to exclude, or so nakedly violates Congress’s bar on nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas.”

In the Justice Department’s petition to the high court, Solicitor General Francisco J. Noel argued that the president does have the power to bar travelers from certain countries.

“The Constitution and Acts of Congress confer on the President broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens outside the United States when he deems it in the Nation’s interest. … Exercising that authority after an extensive, worldwide review by multiple government agencies of whether foreign governments provide sufficient information and have adequate practices to allow the United States to properly screen aliens seeking entry from abroad—and after receiving the recommendation of the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security—the President suspended entry (subject to exceptions and case-by-case waivers) of certain foreign nationals from eight countries.”

Six of the eight countries subject to the travel ban — Syria, Libya, Yemen, Chad, Somalia — are all predominantly Muslim. Travelers from two other countries — North Korea and Venezuela — are not part of the lawsuit challenging the ban.

In late December, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling finding that the president had exceeded his authority in implementing the third version of his travel ban. However, earlier in that month, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to implement the travel ban while legal challenges were pending in the appeals process.

With only two justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — dissenting, that ruling was widely viewed as an indicator of how the high court ultimately might decide when it hears the case.

The Hawaii lawsuit isn’t the only case still pending. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia has yet to rule on a decision by a federal judge in Maryland who found that the travel ban violates constitutional protections under the First Amendment.

Justice Department To Retry Sen. Robert Menendez And Friend In Corruption Case

Jan 20, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   World News  //  Comments Off on Justice Department To Retry Sen. Robert Menendez And Friend In Corruption Case

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in front of the courthouse in Newark, N.J., after the judge in the case declared a mistrial.

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Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in front of the courthouse in Newark, N.J., after the judge in the case declared a mistrial.

Seth Wenig/AP

The Department of Justice intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Salomon Melgen, after a federal judge declared a mistrial in the bribery and fraud case.

The notice, filed Friday, was brief and requested a retrial “at the earliest possible date.”

Judge Declares A Mistrial In Sen. Robert Menendez Corruption Trial

“The decision to retry this case was made based on the facts and the law, following a careful review,” the department explained in a statement. “The conduct alleged in the indictment is serious and warrants retrial before a jury of citizens in the District of New Jersey.”

Justice Department prosecutors had accused Menendez and Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, of engaging in a bribery scheme that lasted seven years, trading gifts and trips for government favors.

As Joseph Hernandez of member station WHYY has reported:

“Melgen flew Menendez around on his private jet, paid for the senator to travel to Paris and the Dominican Republic, and gave handsome political contributions to groups that benefited Menendez.

“In return, the government alleged, Menendez helped Melgen secure travel visas for his foreign girlfriends, intervened on the doctor’s behalf in an $8.9 million Medicare overbilling case and tried to sort out a contract dispute at one of Melgen’s companies in the Dominican Republic.”

But in November a 12-person jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the bribery, conspiracy, fraud or false statements charges facing the two men.

At the time, Menendez issued a statement to his detractors: “To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you,” he said.

Menendez is the son of Cuban immigrants and has long been held up as a hero within the Cuban community in northern Jersey where he grew up. Union City, where the senator served as mayor, is home to so many Cubans its nickname is “Havana on the Hudson.”

A retrial now could jeopardize Menendez’s bid for reelection this year.

Both defendants have denied committing any crimes, saying instead that the exchanges between them are explained by their close friendship.

What’s The Best Way To Help Refugees Land A Job?

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on What’s The Best Way To Help Refugees Land A Job?

Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

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Syrian Kurds take cover from the rain after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey.

Bulent Kilic /AFP/Getty Images

It wouldn’t make any sense to send a French-speaking refugee to a German-speaking town in Switzerland.

But under Switzerland’s current system of placing refugees, that’s a situation that can easily happen. This problem isn’t unique to Switzerland, and it’s not the only kind of mismatch that might happen.

The solution, says a new study from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab and ETH Zurich, is the creation of an “algorithm” — in layman’s terms, the set of rules given to a computer that will enable it to reach a specific goal. The algorithm described in the study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, uses data to predict where a refugee — or one person in a family of refugees — has the best chance of getting a job.

It’s especially important to improve the placement process now, during the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, says Jens Hainmueller, a Stanford professor and one of the study’s lead authors.

“There are big questions about how you can facilitate the integration of refugees into host countries, set them up for success and make sure they become productive contributors to the host country’s economy and society,” he says. “It’s a significant challenge for governments that are facing these increasing numbers of refugees.”

Using the algorithm in the U.S. would have improved the employment rates of about 900 refugees by an expected 40 percent, the authors found. Their sample of refugees were those who arrived to the U.S. in the third quarter of 2016 (the most recent data available) who were free to be assigned to any location. They also did a separate test using data from refugees in Switzerland, finding that it would have improved refugee employment rates there by about 70 percent.

To create the algorithm, researchers entered data about refugees who had already been resettled, including their country of origin, language skills, age, resettlement location and employment status. They used that data to create a model that can predict the place within the host country where a refugee (or one person in a family of refugees) awaiting resettlement has the best chance of getting a job. Using those insights, the algorithm then makes recommendations for refugee placements that take into account limitations such as the number of available spots at each location.

“What we focus on is the probability that at least one person in the family finds a job, which makes sense from a family self-sufficiency standpoint,” Hainmueller says.

And the researchers say their inability to point to any one variable as the key to determining refugees’ success in finding a job seems to show that the algorithm is taking advantage of sometimes subtle interactions between variables that humans might not be able to pinpoint.

“There are some places that are just better for refugees in general. They might have stronger labor markets that make it more likely for any refugees to find employment,” he says. “We also found that certain places ended up being a better fit for certain types of refugees depending on their characteristics, things like their age, their gender, their language skills or the ethnic network,” says Kirk Bansak, one of the study’s lead authors. He’s a doctoral candidate at Stanford and a data scientist at the Immigration Policy Lab.

The idea for the algorithm came from workshops the authors had with refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S. and the Department of State about potentially improving the process of deciding where refugees are placed. (They collaborated with one agency on the study but declined to name it.)

“We had heard about all these other potential interventions, like cash assistance or training programs, but our attention very much focused initially on these [resettlement] allocations because we figured out pretty quickly that where you send refugees is a really important driver of their potential integration success,” Hainmueller says.

At the end of 2016, there were 22.5 million refugees around the world, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency. This year, the U.S. will resettle up to 45,000 refugees (in fiscal year 2018) — about half as many as it admitted in 2016.

The way the system works now is that placement officers consider factors such as medical conditions, the availability of interpreters and the location of other family members in the U.S. to help determine where a refugee will live in the U.S.

For refugees who don’t have existing ties in the U.S., placement officers at the International Rescue Committee, one of nine resettlement agencies in the U.S., look at factors such as employment rates and public transportation systems within cities, explains Robin Dunn Marcos. She’s the senior director of resettlement and processing at the International Rescue Committee.

Marcos sees this algorithm as a potential complement to the agency’s placement process.

“Many of the variables that would feed into the algorithm are things that we’ve been using for placement decisions,” she says. “The algorithm definitely seems like a valuable addition to our current approach.”

And as new data is added to the algorithm, it adapts to changing conditions, the researchers say. For example, if an agency adds data that shows newly-resettled refugees aren’t getting jobs in a certain city, the algorithm will be less likely to recommend they be placed there.

Cindy Huang, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who wasn’t involved in the study, says this algorithm is an example of how innovation can help vulnerable people. (One of the study’s co-authors, Jeremy Weinstein, is a non-resident fellow at CGD.) And it’s an improvement on other ideas she’s seen that involve attempts to use existing technology, like e-learning platforms, to help refugees — but that aren’t cost-effective because they weren’t designed with refugees in mind.

“What the study shows is that you can improve employment outcomes, which are critical to longer-term integration,” she says. “More refugees should be resettled, but this is a way to do more with the number that have already been accepted into a country.”

But since the findings from the algorithm are based on historical data, she cautions that it’s still unproven in a practical setting.

“To validate the findings and see how it works in the messy world, the next step is a trial to see how it performs in the field,” Huang says.

Bansak and his colleagues hope to create user-friendly software and data integration that would allow resettlement agencies to use the algorithm. They’ll need about $100,000 to make that happen, Bansak says.

Marcos sees a potential wrinkle in putting this algorithm into practice in the U.S.: current policies on refugee resettlement.

“When they first started looking at this, it was in the last administration when we were bringing in a much higher number of refugees,” she says. “Not only has the ceiling been slashed in half, but the additional bureaucratic steps that have been put in place have slowed everything down.”

Courtney Columbus is a multimedia journalist based in the Washington, D.C. area. She covers science, global health and consumer health. Her past work has appeared in the Arizona Republic and on Arizona PBS. Contact her @cmcolumbus11.

Scientists Peek Inside The ‘Black Box’ Of Soil Microbes To Learn Their Secrets

Jan 19, 2018   //   by Administrator   //   News from US  //  Comments Off on Scientists Peek Inside The ‘Black Box’ Of Soil Microbes To Learn Their Secrets

Microorganisms play a vital role in growing food and sustaining the planet, but they do it anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most soil microbes, but they are learning which are most common.

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Microorganisms play a vital role in growing food and sustaining the planet, but they do it anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most soil microbes, but they are learning which are most common.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

A tablespoon of soil contains billions of microscopic organisms. Life on Earth, especially the growing of food, depends on these microbes, but scientists don’t even have names for most of them, much less a description.

That’s changing, slowly, thanks to researchers like Noah Fierer, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Fierer think microbes have lived in obscurity for too long. “They do a lot of important things for us, directly or indirectly, and I hope they get the respect they deserve,” he says.

These microbes create fertile soils, help plants grow, consume and release carbon dioxide, oxygen and other vital elements. But they do it all anonymously. Scientists haven’t identified most of these species and don’t know much else about them, either, such as “what they’re doing in soil, how they’re surviving, what they look like,” Fierer says.

According to Fierer, they’ve been extremely difficult to study, in part, because most of them refuse to grow anywhere but in the dirt, “so we can’t take them out of soil and study them in the lab.”

Some scientists call the community of soil microbes a “black box.” You can’t see inside.

Fierer and other scientists, however, have come up with new ways to open up that box just a little. They collect samples of soil and extract all the DNA contained in that sample, from all the organisms living there. That’s a lot of diversity, even in a small sample. “Thousands of bacterial species can be found in a given teaspoon of soil,” Fierer says.

They study the DNA in each sample. They look, specifically, at a particular region of DNA that’s common to all living organisms. And by making a catalog of all the different versions of that region, they can tell how many different kinds of microbes live in that sample. They also can tell how common each type of microbe is. There’s a huge consortium of scientists, called the Earth Microbiome Project, using this approach to study soil microbes.

Fierer, who’s a member of that collaboration, discovered that even though there may be millions of soil microbes, there’s a relatively small group that seems to dominate. The microbes show up in large numbers in soil samples from deserts, grassy prairies and forests. Fierer’s report appears this week in the journal Science.

Fierer made a list of 500 bacteria that often account for almost half of all soil bacteria. In the quest to understand the soil ecosystem, he says, it makes sense to start by focusing on these dominant species. He calls it a “most-wanted list,” but it’s also a list of question marks.

“Most of the microorganisms that made our most-wanted list — they don’t have a species name,” he says. “They’re un-described.”

Janet Jansson, a top scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., is helping to lead the Earth Microbiome Project. She says scientists will be looking closely at these commonly found microbes.

“They probably play an important role, because they are dominant and ubiquitous, so I think that’s what the next step has to be: Characterizing what they do, and how they are impacted by change — climate change, for example,” she says.

Jansson also says it may be possible to piece together the entire genetic sequence of these microbes, so that even if you can’t grow the microbes in a lab, scientists may be able to figure out what they’re doing just from looking at their genes.

These soil microbes, whether they’re common or rare, could also be the source of important new discoveries, she says, including biotechnologies like “new enzymes that remain to be discovered. Novel antibiotics that remain to be discovered.”

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  • NPT: 2019-05-24 11:45 AM
  • EDT: 2019-05-24 02:00 AM
  • PDT: 2019-05-23 11:00 PM