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News Brief: Primary Results, Facebook In China, '3-Parent Babies'

Jun 6, 2018
Originally published on June 6, 2018 6:07 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Yesterday's primary election results in eight states helped to set the stage for November.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Right. And that is especially true in the state of California. Remember, this is the state that President Trump lost by more than 4 million votes even though he won the White House. It also has a number of Republican members of Congress, and Democrats are hoping to defeat those members of Congress. Just one small order of business, though. First, they had to get Democrats onto the ballots, which is why yesterday's voting was so important.

INSKEEP: Yeah. NPR's congressional reporter, Kelsey Snell, has been covering this story. She's in our studios once again. Good morning.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK. Let's just remember, Democrats have this - or rather, California has this unusual primary. It's not partisan. And so you could end up with two Republicans on the ballot or two Democrats on the ballot. How did everybody do?

SNELL: Yeah. We've been talking about this a lot. It's this big, open primary, and you've got everybody pitted against each other. And Democrats were really worried, or at least they were saying they were worried that their Democrats wouldn't get onto the ballot. They actually, so far, seem to be succeeding, though it's important to point out that it's after 2 a.m. out on the West Coast when we are talking right now. And they are still counting votes, and they could be counting votes for the rest of the day and into several days from now. This is all kind of really interesting because Democrats focus so much of their energy on these districts between San Diego and Los Angeles.

INSKEEP: Like three or four districts that could really...

SNELL: Yeah. It's actually closer to seven in the entire state, and the idea being that California is part of their path to victory to retaking the House. They even opened a special field office there. But I just got back from California, and things were really testy because there were so many Democrats in these races. But so far, it looks like they are going to have a Democrat on the ballot in almost every one of these districts.

INSKEEP: Surviving this danger of too much energy leading to too many candidates dividing the Democratic vote. So you have some idea, maybe not the perfect picture but an idea of what kind of candidates are emerging. What are you seeing?

SNELL: Yeah. We are seeing those trends that we have been talking about week after week coming back again. The voters seemed to really want new faces and women. And in Iowa, we saw a really good example of that coming together. This woman, Abby Finkenauer, she's a 28-year-old, and she is running against incumbent Rod Blum. And it looks like it's going to be one of the most competitive districts.

INSKEEP: You know, you can only be 25 and run for the House. That's almost as young as you can be.

SNELL: I know. She is emerging as a really competitive candidate. But, you know, Republican women seem to be getting in on this, too. Kristi Noem is going to be running for governor. And we've got - you know, it's a big movement, particularly, Martha Roby in Alabama seemed to pull it out, too.

INSKEEP: Well, let me follow through this line of thinking. One of many, many reasons that women seem to be energized this year is because of opposition to President Trump, questions about President Trump.

SNELL: Right.

INSKEEP: How are Republicans dealing with President Trump if they're members of the House and they're in a district where President Trump is not necessarily popular now?

SNELL: Now, remember, I mentioned Martha Roby. She is one of those really interesting examples because she is in Alabama, and she did not originally endorse the president. Now, she didn't even get to 50 percent of the vote running against a former Democrat who had been in the House and voted for Nancy Pelosi. Now, that is a tough situation for her. She'll be in a runoff against him. And this puts her in a situation where she's basically fighting for her political life.

INSKEEP: Now, this is - we should remember, in Alabama, they have a partisan primary.

SNELL: They do.

INSKEEP: You had to get 50 percent.

SNELL: You had to get 50 percent or you go to a runoff. And this goes to the greater trend that we're seeing, that it doesn't help Republicans to not be with the president, particularly in these very red states where voters are very much with the president.

INSKEEP: Good political reality to keep in mind as we follow all sorts of stories. Kelsey, thanks very much.

SNELL: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: OK. Facebook is in the news again. Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the company had data-sharing partnerships - sharing people's personal information - with at least 60 manufacturers of devices like smartphones, companies including Apple and Samsung.

MARTIN: Sharing, it sounds so innocuous, so good, really. There's news now that at least four of those manufacturers are Chinese companies, and one of them is the smartphone maker Huawei. And this company is known for its ties to the Chinese government. Facebook is defending the partnerships, but now U.S. lawmakers want to know more.

INSKEEP: NPR's Laura Sydell covers the tech world, and she's on the line from California. Hey there, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hey there. Sharing is caring.

INSKEEP: Sharing is caring, but what kind of sharing are we talking about here that Facebook did without people's knowledge, apparently, of their personal data with Chinese companies?

SYDELL: All right. So in this instance, what Facebook did was essentially try and set up to make it easy to use their app on every phone. And that includes phones made by Huawei. And it would allow the handset manufacturer, the phone manufacturer to get information about not only the user but their friends, their religious and political leanings, work and education history. So - now, I should add, though, that Facebook says that information never left the phone itself. It was never on Chinese servers.

INSKEEP: OK. But in these Chinese phones made by a company that is, well, what? What is it about this company that concerns U.S. officials?

SYDELL: Well, actually, yeah, it was - Huawei was the subject of a 2012 report by congressional investigators. And essentially, one of the things they discovered is that the company received billions of dollars in lines of credit from China's state-owned policy banks, and that enabled the company to expand overseas - Africa, Europe, Latin America. And its founder just also happens to be a former engineer with the People's Liberation Army.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK, as can happen in China from time to time. So what is Facebook saying as it faces yet another spreading story about just how widely shared it shared people's information?

SYDELL: Well, first off, they're saying that in the early days of mobile, they didn't quite know what they were doing. They had to partner with hardware makers of all sorts if they wanted their app and their presence on a mobile device. And they were winding this program down starting in April. And in terms of Huawei, they're the No. 3 device manufacturer in the world. And so, of course, you want to be present there. Google and Twitter are present there. And they said they felt very confident that they were working extremely closely with these companies. They had engineers on their side. So they don't feel that the information went past the phone itself or on to Chinese servers.

INSKEEP: OK, maybe just the beginning of the story though. Laura, thanks very much.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Laura Sydell.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Next, we have an extraordinary look at some pioneering and controversial science.

MARTIN: Right. So there is a fertility clinic in Ukraine that is making babies from the DNA of three different people. It's a way, obviously, for women who can't get pregnant to have kids. It's very contentious, as you'd imagine, because the work involves manipulating human DNA.

INSKEEP: NPR's Rob Stein just returned from Ukraine. He is the first foreign reporter to be allowed inside the clinic that's doing this work. Hey there, Rob.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Oh, hey there, Steve.

INSKEEP: Three-parent baby, how's that work?

STEIN: Well, so this is how it works. They take an egg from the woman who is trying to have a baby. They fertilize it in their lab with her male partner's sperm. Then they get an egg from another woman who's been paid for eggs. They fertilize that egg with the same man's sperm. Next, they remove most of the DNA from both of these eggs and put most of the DNA from the couple trying to have the baby into the other woman's egg. That creates a new - it's an embryo, really, at this point with DNA from three different people - the woman trying to have the baby, her husband a tiny bit of DNA left over from the other woman.

INSKEEP: OK. So it's like there's two mothers. And what is the benefit here compared to more conventional procedures? The woman who's trying to have the baby can say that some of her DNA - it's her biological child or a little closer to that. Is that it?

STEIN: Oh, yeah. So most of the DNA that ends up in these embryos and any babies produced this way comes from the mother who's trying to have the baby and her male partner. The overwhelming majority of the DNA comes from that. Only about 37 genes are left over from the woman who donated the egg. So it's an infinitesimal number of genes compared to the - most of the DNA in these embryos and babies.

MARTIN: But just enough to make an embryo?

STEIN: Yes. And the idea is that is - might be the key that enables these women who had been infertile to have babies. There might be something about that leftover DNA that makes the difference, enables the cells to develop properly.

INSKEEP: This raises so many questions. Let's try to get at least one on the table. Is this safe for everyone involved? And are there any potential side effects that are hard to even anticipate here?

STEIN: Yeah, so that's really one of the big questions. This is all so new that critics say it's just way too early to be trying this. You know, we just don't know if babies made this way will be healthy. You know, the procedure - this was invented to help couples who are carrying terrible genetic disorders have healthy babies, but it's just starting to be tested for that. So no one really knows how safe it is for anything, including treating infertility.

INSKEEP: But just to be clear, children have been born this way. I mean, you can go if you know where to look and find a child who's got three parents.

STEIN: Yeah. The doctors at this clinic say they've produced four babies this way. And so far, they all seem perfectly healthy. And there are three more pregnant - at least three more women who are pregnant right now, including a woman who came to this clinic from Sweden. And they've now formed a company to basically market this service to women from other countries, including the United States.

INSKEEP: And they've sorted parental rights in advance here?

STEIN: Well, you know, so far, that hasn't been an issue. But, you know, there really hasn't been that many babies born this way. There's only a handful in the world.

INSKEEP: OK, dramatic story. Rob, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

STEIN: Oh, sure. No problem. Nice to be here.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Rob Stein, freshly back from Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE OF NYTE'S "SEARCHING FOR A LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.