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FDA reviews MDMA for PTSD treatment; Biden to issue executive order on border policy

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

A panel of FDA experts starts reviewing clinical trial data today to decide whether to approve the drug MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Some trial participants described the treatment as transformational. But the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a nonprofit that evaluates clinical trials, found "substantial concerns" about the validity of the study's results.

Research on MDMA has shown it can be effective for PTSD, but approval of the treatment isn't yet guaranteed.
/ The Washington Post via Getty Images
The Washington Post via Getty Images
Research on MDMA has shown it can be effective for PTSD, but approval of the treatment isn't yet guaranteed.

  • 🎧 NPR's Will Stone tells Up First that there are claims some therapists and investigators may have pushed patients to report good results and overlooked adverse events. Another big concern is that participants could tell whether they were given MDMA or a placebo. Lykos Therapeutics, the drugmaker that funded the research, says it stands by the results.

President Biden is expected to issue an executive order outlining actions his administration will take to address the high number of asylum seekers at the southern U.S. border. He's invited several mayors of border cities to join him at the White House.

  • 🎧 The president is expected to invoke a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that grants him the authority to restrict immigration and prevent non-immigrant visitors from entering the U.S. to protect the country's interests, NPR's Sergio Martínez-Beltrán reports. This provision would allow Biden to suspend entries once the number of unauthorized crossings hits a certain threshold. "This could be the most impactful border management policy to come out of this administration so far," Martínez-Beltrán says.

The ballot count is underway after six weeks of voting among India's nearly one billion eligible voters. Initial results suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP party will win a third term. If he's confirmed, he would be the only prime minister after the founder of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to win three terms.

  • 🎧 But NPR's Diaa Hadid says the mood is somber outside BJP campaign headquarters in New Delhi. That's because the party has fallen short of the super majority Modi promised, according to the tally so far. Hadid says this will make it "harder for Modi and his party to continue their vast recasting of India as a country that elevates its Hindu majority above other citizens."

From our hosts

Scenes from the Medical center of Elberton, in Elberton, Georgia, a clinic that serves a rural population.
Claire Harbage / NPR
Scenes from the Medical center of Elberton, in Elberton, Georgia a clinic that serves a ruraly population.

This essay was written by A Martínez, Morning Edition and Up First host

What does it mean to want quality health care in America?

For many people, it means worrying whether they can afford the care they need. I recently traveled to Georgia to hear about three key issues: cost, access and Medicaid expansion.

In Elberton, a town of just under 5,000 residents a couple of hours east of Atlanta, a rural health clinic is one of the only local options for basic care. But when a patient has needs beyond what the clinic can provide, they usually have to travel at least 45 minutes away to find care.

Georgia has not expanded Medicaid. So Amy Wilson, who had a brain tumor and cancer, is struggling to afford the care she needs because her income is $30 over the threshold to qualify for Medicaid. I watched the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra’s artistic director strap her baton to the palm of her hand before a rehearsal because she can no longer hold it for long periods of time.

Co-pays, prescriptions, surgeries, physical therapy, time off work for appointments and transportation to doctor visits are all parts of getting health care that worries patients and their providers in Georgia.

The upcoming presidential election will likely involve two people: Joe Biden and Donald Trump. They have very different visions of what health care should look like. The added layer of worry for people I spoke with is how election results will change the care they already have. Almost every doctor and patient I spoke with said they would have all that in mind when they cast their ballot in November.

Today's listen

Artist Scott Kildall waves his microcontroller over a Joshua tree, recording wavelengths of light that are not perceptible by humans.
Carlos Jaramillo for NPR /
Artist Scott Kildall waves his small microcontroller over a Joshua tree at Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park in Fairmont, Calif. The device records wavelengths of light that are not perceivable by humans and transforms it into otherworldly music.

Plants are green because they absorb red and blue light and reflect green light back to our eyes. They also reflect other wavelengths, like near-infrared light. Although humans can't see it, artist Scott Kildall uses an infrared sensor to translate near-infrared light into sound. He uses his device to turn California's Joshua trees into an instrument.

🎧 Listen to the shimmering, otherworldly music of the Joshua tree and read about how scientists analyze near-infrared light to assess plant health.

3 things to know before you go

Customers wait in line at a Costco food court in Hawthorne, California.
Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Customers wait in line at a Costco food court in Hawthorne, California.

  1. Costco hot dog fans rejoice! The $1.50 dog-and-soda combo isn't rising any time soon. The price tag has held steady since the combo first hit menus in the mid-1980s, despite inflation. Here's how Costco does it.
  2. It's commonly understood that rat fleas transmitted the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, from rodents to people. A new study reveals human lice may have helped the disease spread.
  3. An AI-generated "All eyes on Rafah" graphic has been shared about 50 million times on Instagram and other platforms. Two artists are claiming credit for creating the image.

This newsletter was edited by Olivia Hampton.

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