Police Help Defeat California Bill On Removing Problem Cops, How Effective Is Plasma To Treat COVID-19?, San Diego Police Have Released All But One Video Of Officers Shooting People This Year
Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Newsome addressed renter's fears of eviction. Speaker 2: 00:03 So no evictions for rent nonpayment related to COVID-19 through February, 2021. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Alison st. John, along with Mark sour, this is KPBS midday, California lawmakers pass very few of us, slew of police reform bills. The Republicans were being forced Speaker 2: 00:33 Remotely. They ran out of time. There were technology problems, tempers flared, Speaker 1: 00:39 And just how effective is plasma from a COVID patient to us survived the virus, plus a new series of personal stories from black scientists in San Diego on a rad scientist podcast. That's ahead on mid day edition, California, governor Gavin used today acknowledged the anxiety being experienced by both renters and landlords facing financial hardships. During the pandemic, he said, studies show renters have seen a 50 to 60% drop in income since the pandemic began. The governor toted legislation that he signed this week, Speaker 2: 01:19 We've extended our protections through February 1st of next year. So no evictions for rent nonpayment related to COVID-19, uh, through February, 2021, Speaker 1: 01:33 Under the measure of tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent will be protected from eviction. Newsome said the state law goes beyond the federal legislation, which bans evictions till the end of the year. The governor also announced the creation of a new website with resources for both renters and landlords. It's housing is key.com. Addressing homelessness. Newsome said the state has poured close to a billion dollars into addressing the problem budgeting more this year than last in spite of pandemic related constraints. The governor said since April California has procured 16,000 hotel rooms and over a thousand trailers to house people experiencing homelessness Speaker 1: 02:19 In spite of unprecedented public support for police reform measures. After the death of George Floyd, California legislators failed to pass a majority of the police reform bills up for a vote this week here to explain what happened and why is Anita sharp at EA who covers California state politics and policy for the Los Angeles times. Anita, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me on Alison. So you've watched the debate over these bills over the months since police killed George Floyd. Were you surprised at how few reform measures passed this week? I was actually not surprised because for the past few weeks, we've really seen a falloff in attention around place reforms at the, and we Speaker 3: 03:00 Knew a lot of these bills were struggling to get the votes that they needed. Speaker 1: 03:03 So a measure to ban the use of the controversial carotid chokehold by police did pass. And that was something that the San Diego law enforcement agencies agreed to very shortly after George Floyd's death. But beyond that, what new measures did California lawmakers pass? Speaker 3: 03:18 That was one of the major ones. Quite honestly, there was also a measure passed that will allow the AIG to be involved in more police investigations though. It does not require that oversight. And there was a measure that passed that provides some accountability for sheriffs that sets up a clarity around what kinds of citizens commissions can be set up to oversee Sheriff's office with subpoena power. Those were some of the bigger ones that passed, but again, they're really modest reforms that aren't as far reaching as some of the ones that did not make it. Speaker 1: 03:53 One of the bills that failed was a bill by San Diego assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, that would have limited the use of rubber bullets and other less than lethal weapons. But what other proposed reforms failed? Speaker 3: 04:04 There were really two major proposed reforms that failed at the last minute. The first was a measure that would have helped take badges away from cops who engage in misconduct. That was SB seven 31. And the other was an expansion of what personnel records are available to the public for officers who engage in misconduct that was SB seven, seven, six, and it also didn't make it out on the last day. Speaker 1: 04:27 So there's a range of opinions on what caused those bills to fail. So talk to me about, about what happened, Speaker 3: 04:33 You know, I think it was more than one thing. Those two measures in particular about decertification and the expansion of access to records were opposed by many of the police unions and that absolutely played into it. They have spent weeks and weeks working, especially on some of the more moderate legislators saying, you know, this is a crazy session. It's already shortened, we're rushing this legislation through. Let's just wait until next year and be more thoughtful about it. And I think that message really resonated with a lot of legislators, but then we also got to this crazy last day where the Republicans were being forced to, uh, vote remotely. They ran out of time. There were technology problems, tempers flared, and there simply wasn't enough time to vote on all of the things that they wanted to vote on. So I think a couple of different things played into why these bills Speaker 1: 05:31 And what would you say would be the next step? I mean, which measures look like the King closest to parsing and which have the most opposition. Speaker 3: 05:38 I think you're going to see all of these reforms come back up next year. I don't think that there is going to be a loss of appetite by the legislators who carry them to do that or by the public. I think that, especially when it comes to decertification, the police unions understand that it's likely going happen and they are on board with it. They were very unhappy with the bill that was up this year because it included a commission that would have put on that commission, families of victims, of police violence and opened the door to put on organizations like black lives matter. And other activists who have worked in the police reform area. And they felt that that was biased against them. So I think that they will be open to decertification next year, but that's where they'll try to hold. The line is on, on who gets to decide when a badge is taken away. Speaker 3: 06:31 So I think that will be the fight next year. And I think you'll see Nancy Skinner the author of the records bill, come back again with something very similar and unlikely. We will address rep rubber bullets again as well. Well, it's worth noting that San Diego voters will have a chance to weigh in before then on the November ballot, because there's a significant reform proposal that would form an independent police oversight board that would be required to investigate all deaths where police officers were involved in all shootings by officers. And it would have the power to subpoena witnesses. It could also perform additional investigations into complaints against officers. So that's going to be on the San Diego November ballot, and we will keep an eye on what happens in Sacramento. We've been speaking with Anita [inaudible], who covers California state politics for the LA times. And Anita, thank you so much. Thank you for having me on Speaker 4: 07:29 The San Diego police department has for the most part, followed a new state law in publicly released videos. Soon after officers shoot people. But one video from may still hasn't been released and it's not clear why KPBS investigative reporter Claire Tresor looks into that case. The following story contains graphic content Speaker 3: 07:49 Just before 10:00 PM. On Saturday May 23rd, San Diego police officers went to the apartment of a woman who was throwing bottles into the street. Here's a media briefing from that night, Speaker 4: 08:00 Numerous phone calls from different reporting parties stating that a female at the 1200 block of market street was throwing, uh, objects out of the window, striking some folks on the, on the street as a, uh, went into the, uh, the apartment complex, where she was at, uh, gave her numerous commands to come out. She refused to come out. Speaker 3: 08:22 Officers used a police dog to force her out, according to the San Diego police department report on the incident, the woman attacked the dog with a knife. And so police officers shot her. The report said the woman who is not being named survived the shooting under AB seven 48, a new state law that went into effect a year ago. The department had 45 days to release video of the shooting. The department has complied with that requirement in the seven other instances where officer shot someone since last July, but not Speaker 5: 08:56 This one Speaker 2: 08:57 Investigative reason as to why you're not released a video that exemption can be made Speaker 5: 09:02 San Diego police spokesman, Lieutenant Shawn tech Yuchi. Speaker 2: 09:05 So on the shooting officer involved shooting that her card on May 23rd, there was an investigatory reason. I don't know what that reason is. I'm not, I'm not in the homicide unit, but there's a reason why that hasn't been released. Speaker 5: 09:17 If the department doesn't release video, they're supposed to cite a specific reason why the video quote would substantially interfere with an active investigation, the San Diego police department. Hasn't done that in this case. Speaker 2: 09:31 It's a little hard for me to understand how the disclosure of a video, a body worn camera video would disclose information in a way that would prepare an investigation. Speaker 5: 09:43 Chadwick is a first amendment lawyer for Sheppard Mullin who has represented KPBS in public records case Speaker 2: 09:49 They should be providing an explanation of what it is that that is. You know, what it is about this particular situation, this investigation that is going to be compromised potentially by the disclosure of the video. Speaker 5: 10:07 There may be a temptation among police departments to quickly release the videos where they look good and the shooting appears justified and then delay release of more problematic videos. But that strategy likely won't work. So it says Rachel Lang who helps local police departments with crisis communication Speaker 2: 10:27 Problem is that some, you know, in a time when it's not cut and dried and the video doesn't exonerate anybody or, or really, um, display what actually happened, um, there there's going to be trouble then. And people will obviously think that there's, they're trying to hide something. So there's, there's a little bit of a give and take there, but I mean, I would err toward releasing information more quickly, Speaker 5: 10:50 Lang added that the Memorial day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has permanently raised the stakes for law enforcement agencies when it comes to transparency regarding use of force incidents. I don't think we're ever going to Speaker 2: 11:03 Back to a time when the public will forget, you know, uh, you know, it's not like you can just ride it out and hope that the new cycle moves on. I think that if they do, it's wishful thinking, I don't, I just don't think we're ever going back to that time. It's like suddenly we finally reached a point and I think a lot of people said, you know, we've been seeing this for years. People have been releasing these videos for years and years and years and something finally just, you know, I think the George Floyd video finally just broke through and made people rethink how they've, you know, approach giving the benefit of the doubt to police officers. Speaker 5: 11:40 That's certainly true for Tasha Williamson, a San Diego activist. She says about the San Diego police. They're releasing things that, uh, are in their favor. So they think, quote unquote, the anything that's not in their favor, they need more time. The lawyer James Chadwick says it's possible, but highly unlikely that the San Diego police department is holding back the video because the officer is going to be charged. It's more likely that the woman who was shot or someone else involved will face prosecution. Most of the other subjects who are shot by police have died. So they wouldn't be prosecuted. Assemblyman filtering who wrote the law, requiring the videos to be released, says he included the investigation exemption as a compromise, but hopes to refine the law in the future. Speaker 6: 12:29 Whenever you start with, with no law, it's very difficult to build on, you know, build on something. And you also don't know where the starting point is. So I think we want to see how it's working. Um, and obviously has as laws go into effect, you see whether there are loopholes or DS, you see definitely whether there are areas of which, um, you know, are, are areas of concern. And so based on that, we would obviously make changes. Joining me now is KPBS investigative reporter Claire Traeger, sir. Hi Claire. Hi. Well, in part, one of your story, you spoke with activists who say police are exploiting a loophole in AB seven, four eight, that's the law requiring police to release videos. What's their argument Speaker 5: 13:10 Law says that you need to release audio and video. Um, any time an officer fires his or her weapon, or, uh, uses force that causes great bodily injury. And I don't think that a lot of attention has really been paid to this law. So it wasn't really clear at least for local activists, that what police are releasing is not all the video and audio it's it's these produced packages, as I said in my story. Um, so I don't know if it's really exploiting a loophole because they are following the law, but, uh, but the activists are saying, you know, we, we as taxpayers pay for, um, for the body camera for the collection of all this footage. So why don't you just release all of it, um, right away instead of, uh, releasing a produce package first and then, you know, only releasing everything, uh, uh, a year or two later, um, once the entire, once the entire investigation is complete. Speaker 6: 14:13 And as your story points out, the police responses, they're simply trying to put out this video narrative of a shooting that makes sense to the public because the raw images can be confusing, et cetera. But if they were to issue a misleading video, wouldn't they be exposed eventually by say the attorney for the suspect who was shot or within the city be perhaps liable if the police back to false narrative. Speaker 5: 14:37 Yeah, I think that they would, the issue is that it would be, you know, a year or two from now. And so maybe people wouldn't remember, uh, there's there was a story in the LA times, uh, just this weekend about, about a up in LA where the Sheriff's department released a video, an image of the shooting, and it showed a man holding a gun, um, back in 2015 and there were protests and the protests died down. Um, and then, uh, two years later, more video came out and it showed that that wasn't really the full picture, but at that point, you know, people have moved on the protests have moved on. So I think that that is the concern, um, you know, to be fair to the San Diego police department, they say, absolutely, that's not their intention. That's not what they're doing. They're showing what really happened with these produced packages. It's not about trying to spin it and make the shooting look justified or, you know, make, make what happened, appear in the best light possible. Speaker 6: 15:38 Right. So yeah, timing could be everything well since this law requiring police to release videos of shootings within 45 days since that took effect, what seems to be the criteria for our quick release versus a delayed release of footage? Speaker 5: 15:53 Well, it's, it's not really clear. Um, the last three shootings that have happened, uh, since June. So after the, um, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, um, there have been, you know, anytime there's been a shooting in San Diego, there have been quick, uh, action on protests. And then the police department has released video very quickly within 72 to 72 hours each time, and one time within 24 hours. Um, but the police say that they can't commit to that. Um, but they also don't say, you know, how they would make a decision of whether it would be a quick release or not. And then as I said, in the, in the second part of the story, um, there's this one shooting from May 23rd, uh, where they haven't released any video. And we really don't know the reason why, you know, you could maybe speculate that, Oh, in that case, the officer who shot the woman, um, is going to be charged, but, uh, lawyers, uh, first amendment experts say they don't really think that's the case. So it's really, it's really not clear what it is about that one. That's, that's so different from the other videos that they have released. Speaker 6: 17:07 And that's obviously outside the 45 day window, how can police legally withhold that video? Speaker 5: 17:14 Right. Well, so written into the law, there's this exemption that says, you know, if, if releasing the video would interfere with an investigation or a criminal proceeding in some way, then, um, police departments can, uh, hold on to the video and not release anything, but they really need to explain and justify why specifically releasing the video would interfere with an investigation or, or a criminal proceeding. Um, and, and, you know, this is a new law, so it's still kind of being worked out. Um, the lawyer that I spoke with says that the explanation that the city has given isn't really enough of an explanation, um, they need to say more and then it's just, they need to say every 30 days, we're still needing to hold onto this video. Here's why we're still needing to hold on to this video. Here's why, um, but they are supposed to give it, uh, an estimated end date to that. And they haven't, haven't done that as well. Speaker 6: 18:16 Yeah. And of course, as we noted a moment ago, the, uh, the news stories may not catch up with that 30 day explanation. And then I guess they'd be vulnerable to accusations. They violated the law. They acted in bad faith by holding onto that video. But again, it's a timing thing, Speaker 5: 18:32 Right? Exactly. Maybe a trial comes in a year or something like that at that point. People have moved on, may not remember about this. Although at the same time I did interview, um, Rachel Lang who's a crisis communications strategist. And she says, you know, if, if police departments in this current time think that they can just ride out a bad news cycle and wait for people to forget, she doesn't think that the activists and the public are really going to go for that anymore, um, that they, that they have longer memories and they're committed to, to this activism. And so, you know, that that strategy may not work if, if a department is trying that Speaker 6: 19:18 Well, finally, San Diego voters are going to be deciding in November on whether to install a police review board with subpoena power and real teeth. Um, might such a board have a more objective say on the issue of public release of police videos. Speaker 5: 19:32 Well, I think that they would have access to those videos because they will have more investigatory power and, um, and subpoena power. I don't know if you know, they will make it then that, that they're going to be releasing videos to the public, or if they will just be using those videos for their own investigations. Um, so I think, you know, we would have to wait and see first of all, if it, if it gets passed and then kind of how, how it plays out once, once that board is, is set up Speaker 6: 20:03 Right. Still another interesting development as our election moves closer here in November. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir. Thanks Claire. Thank you. I'm Mark Sauer with Alison st. John you're listening to KPBS midday edition. It's a promising treatment for COVID-19. That's worked before inject plasma from a patient who has survived the virus into someone suffering now to ward off the worst symptoms or even death. Asthma is being used to treat coronavirus patients here and across the country with fresh encouragement, the FDA, but do plasma treatments work joining me to discuss this as reporter Jonathan Wilson, who covers the biotech industry for the San Diego union Tribune, and recently wrote about the use of convalescent plasma. Welcome to the show. Speaker 7: 21:02 Thanks for having me Mark Speaker 6: 21:04 Start by telling us about the idea behind convalescent place. Speaker 7: 21:08 Yeah, so convalescent plasma is a very old and pretty simple treatment to understand. So the idea is that if you've recovered from some sort of infection, your body made an immune response to it. And part of that immune response involves these proteins called antibodies. So these are little light shape proteins that are essentially floating around in your blood and can grab onto the surface of a virus. And if an antibody grabs tightly enough, and if it grabs the right spot on that virus, they can prevent it from infecting yourselves. And so the idea behind convalescent plasma to say, well, can we take those antibodies from someone who's recovered and essentially give them to somebody who's battling the disease to help them sort of turn the tide against a infection. And this is something that's been done going back at least to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. And they've, there's some reports of people benefiting from that in terms of surviving from that disease. Yeah. Speaker 6: 22:11 And as you note, in your story in San Diego, doctors have used plasma to treat hundreds of COVID-19 patients and general a treatment is safe, but what have you learned about its effectiveness against this virus? Speaker 7: 22:23 Yeah, so, you know, we know, for example, with Scripps health has treated about 300 COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma, uh, and the San Diego blood bank has, has told out a lot of plasma bags, uh, to the local hospitals in terms of, of success. I, I did have a chance to talk with, uh, Maya bras. Who's a young woman who started developing COVID symptoms back in late March, and basically she was experiencing really bad stomach pain. So it wasn't the typical sort of flu like symptoms, but that sort of spiral to the point where essentially she was in the emergency room, had pneumonia really bad fever. They kept escalating and ended up in the ICU in the intensive care unit. And so her doctors who were sort of communicating back and forth with her mother about treatment options, and there weren't many at that time mentioned that there's this ongoing program to administer plasma to patients with COVID-19. Speaker 7: 23:27 So they went with that option, got a plasma sample from the San Diego blood bank. And in her case, she was treated on April 18th and within about six days, uh, was able to be taken off the ventilator and sort of slowly, uh, make a recovery to the point where one month later she was able to go home. And actually since then, I spoke with her last Friday and she's feeling really healthy and really good. What we don't know is how likely, how many other people in that position would really benefit in the same way from, from convalescent plasma. So based on a study that the Mayo clinic put out back in mid August, looking at 35,000 COVID-19 patients who were treated depending on whether they were treated sort of earlier in disease or later, you can see that those retreated earlier about only eight point something percent of those people died of COVID-19 versus 11 point close to 12% to they were treated later after diagnosis. So we have a sense that being treated earlier is better being treated with plasma that has high doses of antibody is better than being treated with plasma that has moderate or low doses. But you can see in all cases that the plasma isn't necessarily a sort of panacea. It's not really a cure all, not that there is such a thing at this point, but that's what we can tell from the existing data. Speaker 6: 24:53 Now, last month, the food and drug administration issued emergency use authorization to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients with plasma, president Trump, but characterize that treatment as quote historic. But what are some of the drawbacks of fast-tracking plasma treatment through this process? Speaker 7: 25:09 So the main drawback, and this is something that a lot of researchers I've interviewed spoke about is the fact that the existing data doesn't conclusively tell you whether getting convalescent plasma is better than not getting convalescent plasma. And in terms of helping you recover from COVID-19 and that's because the existing large scale study that the Mayo clinic did compared groups that got convalescent plasma early or late, or with low or medium or high dose antibody, but there wasn't what researchers call it sort of placebo control group. There wasn't a randomly assigned group of patients who got essentially plasma that doesn't have COVID-19 or coronavirus antibodies, or who got some other sort of standard of care. And so that makes it hard to say that there's a significant benefit here compared to a what's the existing way that patients are being treated for it. And one of the drawbacks, and, you know, the FDA notes, this in their emergency youth use authorization letter, they say, you still need to do these types of controlled trials, but now that the treatment has been authorized, you're not going to have an easy time getting patients to sign up for a study where there's potentially a one in two chance that they get a placebo. Speaker 7: 26:27 So it's going to be harder now to ever get to a point where we have that sort of really rigorous data showing good plasma is beneficial, Speaker 6: 26:37 Right? And along those lines, uh, this week, the national Institute of health said, there's no evidence that supports the use of this for COVID-19. So how significant is this statement? Cause it comes less than two weeks after the FDA announced the emergency authorization. It's kind of confuses the public, does it? Huh? Speaker 7: 26:54 It does. Yeah. There's, there's been a lot of mixed messaging. Uh, you know, I think the FDA's emergency use authorization itself was a bit of a surprise because they had sort of indicated that they wouldn't be going that route, but then it happened. And then the sort of NIH statement that you're referring to. So it does create some confusion. I think part of the issue here is that we have a fairly clear picture of safety for convalescent plasma. So there, there was a study of about 20,000 patients with severe or critical COVID-19 where they looked at safety and all of those people to get plasma and is a pretty diverse group in terms of having representation of different minorities and, and, uh, as well as gender diversity. And in that study, less than 1% of participants had a severe adverse reaction that was likely a direct result of plasma. So we're talking about things like, uh, issues with blood clotting or a sort of allergic reaction to the administration of plasma. So we have a pretty good sense of safety, but efficacy is really where it's, because we don't have that properly controlled study, uh, in a large group of patients where it's hard to reliably say that if you give this type of patient plasma at this point in disease, uh, that, that you've got a good shot of, um, of helping him. So I, I think there is some confusion. I'm not sure. Speaker 6: 28:21 Wait, so what happens now? Do you think the treatments will continue since the safety isn't really a big concern? Speaker 7: 28:28 Well, I think they'll definitely continue. And, uh, at frankly, 77,000 plus COVID patients who have already gotten convalescent plasma to date, so that was through the emergency access program that the FDA had started earlier this year, that program's wrapping up now that the drug that the treatment has been authorized. So I expect that there's going to be more demand for plasma treatments. I spoke with the CEO of the San Diego blood bank, who said that they've, um, they already have a sense that there's going to be more demand going forward. And so they're going to need more San Diego ones who believe that they've had COVID-19 and have since recovered to come in, donate blood at the same time, get tested for antibodies to this virus, because then they could be a good donor for plasma. So the treatments will continue. Uh, the demand will continue. It may be difficult to ever definitively say. I think that convalescent plasma is, is benefiting patients significantly compared to if they had not received it. Uh, but I think we are going to see more of these treatments going forward. Speaker 6: 29:35 I've been speaking with Jonathan Wilson who covers the biotech industry for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks very much. Speaker 1: 29:42 Thank you. Speaker 1: 29:48 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Alison st. John with Mark Sauer rooting out. Racism includes so much more than reforming police practices, those subtle and not so subtle barriers exist everywhere from the streets to the schools, to the ivory towers of academia, a new season of personal stories launches today from the KPBS podcast, rad scientist stories from black scientists, who've made some cool scientific discoveries and overcome racial barriers to follow their passion. The host and producer of the red scientist podcast is Margot Wohl and she has a cohost this season. It grant Abraham is a raising biochemistry senior at UC San Diego and assistant producer of red scientist podcast. They both join us now to give us a glimpse into their stories they've discovered and Margo, thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me it grant. Thanks. Also, welcome to the show. Thank you. So Margo let's start off. Why did you choose to focus this season of red scientist on black scientists? Speaker 3: 30:50 So when I, uh, started production, I just come off of finishing my PhD and I had this pin hold focus on my project really for the past seven years. And after my defense, I could kind of lift my blinders and start thinking about the world at large. And what was happening at the time was the outcry over the police murders of multiple black people. And it felt like a time to take a hard look at the systems and attitudes in place that perpetuate racism in all spheres of life. And I come from the scientific community. So I wanted to kind of dive into what that means for scientists and especially black scientists. And just to give you an idea of kind of some of the voices and some of the stories that you'll hear in this podcast, I think, um, we have a clip from the trailer that we're gonna play that kind of weaves a lot of their voices in together. Speaker 8: 31:48 Academia is not necessarily safe space for black, right? Speaker 3: 31:51 The road to academia is extremely difficult Speaker 8: 31:55 For people that look like me. And I am hyper aware of that. There's hurdle after hurdle, after hurdle. You're not even just getting, you're not even getting to the science part yet. How did you get in here? Why is my voice to voice it's keeps being disregarded here, you know, Speaker 1: 32:14 And those were clips from the new season of KPBS has rad scientist podcast. So it cran as a black woman yourself, have you experienced some of these hurdles to your progress through the academic world? Speaker 3: 32:27 Absolutely. I've gotten a decent amount of doubt for my own capabilities and understandings as well as disability of trying to have to prove myself, uh, whether comes to research, whether it becomes a knowledge sense, whether it comes into my own classes of especially like lab based classes here at UCS D. So this is something that I'm pretty accustomed to, even from elementary school till now. Speaker 1: 32:52 So you would have been able to relate very well to the stories that you heard. Talk a bit about some of the hurdles that the scientists you spoke to described that that made it much harder for them to achieve their goals. Speaker 3: 33:04 One that kind of comes to mind a lot is this ability of fitting in and feeling like you belong. So in Daryl story talks about how he is working in this area, and this lab has wallet. There's a photo of him on the wall, and he's still being questioned on whether he fits there or belongs there. So that's something that I can very much relate to Speaker 1: 33:25 It crying. Would you say that any of the scientists that you spoke with had to in some way, you know, suppress their identity or their culture in order to succeed? Speaker 3: 33:35 Oh, absolutely. There's the whole topic of code switching. The idea that African American vernacular isn't necessarily considered professional and individuals have to be able to speak in this eloquent and professional manner that is much more white. So there's that idea of suppressing your culture. There, there is the negative tropes and stereotypes that often get associated with black men and women, black men and women being considered much more aggressive, so directness and efficient communication, which is usually celebrated in fields, such as this might be looked at from a different perspective. If it were to come from a black man or woman, it might be more aggressive, might be a little bit more intimidating and might be something that they especially I have been known to do in the past of trying to be a little bit more sugar Cody and a little bit more fluffy niceness, even though that's not my natural personality, I like being direct. I like being in the moment and trying to be as with others as possible. But I do know that because of how others can perceive me, I need to be aware of that and trim some aspects of myself so that I don't get shut out or misunderstood. Speaker 1: 34:48 No, the black scientists that you spoke with have made some pretty significant contributions to our understanding of, you know, how things work. Give us, give us some examples. Speaker 3: 34:58 Sure. So, um, I mean, we spoke to someone who studies, how proteins get sent to basically the molecular trash can. So some proteins in your body, they exist on the order of seconds, which is crazy. Your body makes them and immediately is like, okay, you're going to the compactor. You're going to be scrapped for parts. Um, some of the other scientists they're they're earlier in their careers, so they're just kind of getting started, but the things that they're studying are really important. So, um, there's someone who studies the microbiome of kissing bugs, which it's a friendly sounding bug, but it carries a not so friendly parasite that causes, um, Chagas disease, which primarily affects people in, in Latin America. Speaker 8: 35:38 Um, another scientist who studies drought affects, um, how they, how they affect the growth of native versus exotic plant species in Southern California and what that might mean for forest fires. Um, and someone who studies neuro prosthesis specifically for speech. So, so much cool science in this season. Speaker 1: 35:58 Well, I'm sure there's going to be some great stories on the next podcast series, and we're going to hear an XR coming up next, but first I would just like to thank both of you very much for joining us. We've been with Margo wall Margo. Thank you. Thank you so much. And Margot's cohost econ, Abraham. Thank you. Thank you for having me. So econ, go ahead and introduce the expert that we're just about to hear. Speaker 8: 36:23 Okay. Um, what y'all are going to hear is an excerpt from our first episode, focusing on rad scientists, Melanie Vaughn, she is an Afro Panamanian who is currently a rising second year here at UCLA, getting her PhD in the neuroscience department. Uh, she's hopes to better understand psychiatric illnesses and developmental disorders, but I think she could explain it better than I can. Melanie Vaughn's journey as a scientist begins, as many of ours does with the question why I just always really wanted to understand why do some people struggle with certain aspects of their behavior, whether it's like compulsive behaviors or intrusive thoughts and obsessions, or just depressive behaviors. Those were behaviors that she observed in her family. I think growing up, it was a lot of just, you know, Oh, my mom is like tired all the time and doesn't want to leave her room and doesn't want to eat. Speaker 8: 37:21 Or, you know, my dad like has these bursts of, you know, like aggression or anxiety. And I don't really understand, like, what is triggering him or what's wrong with him? Her dad was diagnosed with PTSD from his time in the military. Her mom was experiencing bouts of depression, which Melanie would later experience firsthand. And her brother was having trouble as well. I always knew my brother was sensitive to certain things like loud sounds, my brother didn't like going places. He didn't really like change. And she had some difficulties in school that I just didn't really understand, but my parents always told me that I had to look out for my brother because there were just certain things that I was better at. Like I just kind of grasp things easier. He was diagnosed with autism in elementary school. It only added to Melanie's curiosity about the brain and behavior. Like why things are so much more difficult for him or why we were so different, even though we were siblings and I experienced the world one way and he experiences the world in a very different way, but she didn't really know what to do with her curiosity until she got to college at Harvard, I didn't even really know that doing research was possible. Someone like me, Speaker 3: 38:39 She landed in internship sophomore year to go to Spain and do research on anxiety disorders. And it was a watershed moment for her. It was unlike any work she had done before. Speaker 8: 38:51 I've worked a couple of different kinds of jobs in my life. I've been a bartender. I've worked in retail. I even worked as a janitor for the school for a bit, but I never was excited to get out of bed and go to work the way that I was when I was living in Spain and knew that when I got to my job, I would be doing actual scientific research that might one day help somebody. Speaker 3: 39:14 She returned from her magical summer abroad. She immediately joined a lab at Harvard that was studying the very thing her brother was diagnosed with. And she was studying a strange phenomenon that had been reported in autistic people, the fever effect. Speaker 8: 39:30 So it's been self reported by parents and by people with autism for many, many years, people on the autism spectrum when they developed a fever about 20% of the time, they saw a reduction in their autism related symptoms. So no matter how high the fever was, or whether the children were sick with bacteria or viral infections, you saw this same kind of symptom reduction, which is crazy and not very well understood. Speaker 3: 40:00 Melanie wanted to understand why this might be happening. And a lot of times when you want to get to the nitty gritty of a disease and look inside the brain, you can't really use human brains. You have to use animal models like mice, but how do you even go about studying something like autism in a mouse? Speaker 8: 40:20 Obviously you can't really give a mouse autism in the way that a human has autism per se. But what we try to do is imitate autism, linked genes in these minds. And then we look for behaviors that are similar to, or may impart, replicate what we observe. And the human population, Speaker 3: 40:40 Melanie worked with three different kinds of mutated mice. And so similar things between them, things that are reminiscent of autism symptoms, Speaker 8: 40:48 They just did not prefer to be around other mice, even if in terms of fighting or just like interacting at all, they just didn't touch each other. Whereas in normal wild type mice, you usually see that when you put two of them in the cage, especially two males, the first thing they want to do is sniff each other, check, check the other mouse out, and then sometimes they do attack, obviously. Speaker 3: 41:11 So yes, the mice seem to display some autism like behaviors and that's a good first step. The next question was would the autism like behaviors go away with a fever just like had been observed in some humans. And to answer that Melanie would induce fevers in the mice by injecting a non-lethal foreign aid. Speaker 8: 41:31 What you get is robust immune response fever, lethargic. So you have these mice before fever hanging out on opposite sides of the cages, avoiding other mice, give them an injection, wait till a fever, develops and see what happens. Speaker 2: 41:54 [inaudible] Speaker 8: 41:54 And what Melanie saw was a dramatic shift in behavior like sniffing, chasing each other around, and some cases they would actually cuddle together and like sleep next to each other. And this was while they had a fever. So they're also sick. We were pretty excited about the social behavior changes, because this is obviously, this is one of the main components of autism, especially disorder. So we then turned to try and see what's really going on in the brain during these fevers. And what we found was really cool. It has to do with a part of the brain called the hypothalamus that is known to be important for regulating all sorts of bodily functions, including immunity. The weird part was that some of the brain cells located in the hypothalamus responsible for kicking off the immune response. We're also releasing a special chemical substance that is sometimes reductively referred to as the love molecule oxytocin. Speaker 8: 42:55 It kinda doesn't make sense. So we decided to look into that. Yeah, it turned out that this oxytocin released in the hypothalamus could explain the increase in sociability. They saw in those autism mouse models when they gave them fevers. Obviously we can't just go around giving children with autism fevers all the time, but potentially as you're able to activate these oxytocin cells without actually needing a robust immune response, that could be one way that some of these findings might be able to be used and humans, because as of right now, there is no FDA approved medication to treat autism apart from being a super interesting research finding that has translational potential and for a disease. So close to Melanie's heart, it really solidified Melanie's identity. As a scientist, I realized that I really could do this and I could be a scientist. And I was a good one. Speaker 1: 43:59 That was an excerpt from the new series on the KPBS podcast, rad scientists, the new series begins today and you can find it on the KPBS website or in your podcast app.