Health & Science

The speed and ferocity of the wildfires raging through Northern California's wine country have caught many residents off guard and left state officials scrambling to contain the flames.

But for fire researchers, these devastating blazes are part of a much larger pattern unfolding across the Western United States. So far this year, fires in the U.S. have consumed more than 8.5 million acres — an area bigger than the state of Maryland.

Updated at 11:29 a.m. ET

President Trump's decision Thursday to end subsidy payments to health insurance companies is expected to raise premiums for middle-class families and cost the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars.

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Tristan Harris's TED Talk

When Tristan Harris worked in Silicon Valley, his job was to direct users online to a particular website or service. Now, he speaks out against tech companies who manipulate their users' attention.

About Tristan Harris

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Steve Ramirez's TED Talk

Neuroscientist Steve Ramirez used lasers to enter the brains of mice and edit their memories. He imagines a future where this technology might be possible in humans as well.

About Steve Ramirez

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Elizabeth Loftus's TED Talk

Years of research have taught Elizabeth Loftus just how unreliable our memories are. From tweaking a real memory to planting a completely fabricated one, tampering with our minds is surprisingly easy.

About Elizabeth Loftus

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Ali Velshi's TED Talk

Journalist Ali Velshi began his career to "speak truth to power." Now he worries that fake news has subverted the meaning of truth.

About Ali Velshi

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The embattled company Equifax is having even more trouble with hackers. Now the company has had to take down one of its web pages after it was reported to be prompting people to download malicious software. NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

Visitors to the Equifax website might have encountered something a little odd Thursday afternoon. For some consumers seeking a credit report from the agency, the page that loaded was likely to disappoint them.

Air pollution in counties of the San Francisco Bay Area this week has been the worst since 1999 when officials began collecting data.

"The pollution is so high it's comparable to high pollution days in China," says Lisa Fasano at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The worst hour so far was measured on Tuesday in Napa, Calif., with an Air Quality Index of 404 for small particulate matter — so high it's off the chart, as you can see below.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry defended a controversial proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants. "There's no such thing as a free market in energy," he said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Governments are picking winners and losers every day."

It was a remarkable statement, coming days after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt derided such tipping of the scales as he moved to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

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Now we turn to Sabrina Corlette. She used to be a staffer with the Senate Health Committee. She now studies the health insurance industry at Georgetown University. Welcome to the program.

SABRINA CORLETTE: Thank you.

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It's in the name Old Faithful, the geyser in Yellowstone National Park that blows over a hundred feet in the air every 90 minutes or so. It's enchanted millions of visitors for generations.

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An outbreak of the plague is growing in Madagascar.

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