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July 11, 2014
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The next time someone at your office lets out a "silent but deadly" emission, maybe you should thank them. A new study at the University of Exeter in England suggests that exposure to hydrogen sulfide — a.k.a. what your body produces as bacteria breaks down food, causing gas — could prevent mitochondria damage. Yep, the implication is what you're thinking: People are taking the research to mean that smelling farts could prevent disease and even cancer.

The study, published in the Medicinal Chemistry Communications journal, found that hydrogen sulfide gas in rotten eggs and flatulence could be a key factor in treating diseases.

"Although hydrogen sulfide gas is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases," Dr. Mark Wood, a professor at the University of Exeter, said in a statement.

While hydrogen sulfide gas is harmful in large doses, the study suggests that "a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria," Time reports.

Dr. Matt Whiteman, a University of Exeter professor who worked on the study, said in a statement that researchers are even replicating the natural gas in a new compound, AP39, to reap its health benefits. The scientists are delivering "very small amounts" of AP39 directly into mitochondrial cells to repair damage, which "could hold the key to future therapies," the university's statement reveals.

You'll have to decide for yourself, though, whether exposure to hydrogen sulfide in flatulence is worth the potential health benefits. Meghan DeMaria

7:36 a.m. ET

U.S.-backed forces seized complete control of the Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday, a commander told The Associated Press. Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo deemed the victory "the fall of the capital of terrorism."

Fighting with ISIS militants had been pushed back to a stadium in Raqqa, the terrorist group's last stronghold in the city, and on Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces at last raised their flag over the base, Reuters reports. The Kurdish YPG flag was planted in the stadium grounds.

ISIS has lost massive swaths of territory this year, including the city of Mosul, Iraq, and its forces have been pushed back into the Euphrates River Valley, where experts expect the militants to make their "final stand." Jeva Lange

7:35 a.m. ET
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On Monday, the Senate confirmed President Trump's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich, 70 to 23. Gingrich, who is Catholic, is the third wife of prominent Trump supporter and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who converted when he married her. "She realizes how big a challenge it's going to be," Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. "If you are the communications bridge between Pope Francis and President Trump, you're going to have a really big job, and she knows she's going to have to work hard." Peter Weber

7:01 a.m. ET
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Nobody loves talking about Hillary Clinton more than the nighttime pundits on Fox News. But during a press conference on Monday, it was a Fox News reporter, John Roberts, who asked President Trump about the woman who beat him by nearly 3 million votes and still managed to lose the election. Specifically, Roberts asked Trump about Clinton's comments Sunday that the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem are assuming "a reverent position ... to demonstrate in a peaceful way against racism and injustice in our criminal system," not protesting "our anthem or our flag."

Trump was happy to answer at length. "I mean, honestly, it's that thinking," he began, "that is the reason she lost the election." On Twitter, Tommy Vietor, a former spokesman for President Barack Obama and current cohost of the Pod Save America podcast, said "asking Trump to comment on what Hillary said about the NFL is a stupid, clickbait question and a wasted opportunity to push him on real issues. Do better." Roberts pushed back, leading to a fight about Fox News doing "free PR" for Trump and treating Clinton as a "permanent Fox News boogieman" (Vietor), versus Clinton remaining "relevant to the discourse" because she "has not yet left the stage" (Roberts). Then Roberts tried to end things:

That caused some confusion — and a cascade of wistful tweets — so Roberts jumped back on Twitter Monday night to explain that he does not believe Clinton "has created some sort of shadowy presidency," but was merely employing a "British parliamentary term used to designate the opposition critic as a metaphor." He did not say if in this shadow parliamentary America, Prime Minister Trump might call snap elections, or if Lady Clinton might challenge him. Peter Weber

6:07 a.m. ET

The USNS Comfort, a floating state-of-the-art hospital, is anchored off the coast of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, with 250 hospital beds for patients in the U.S. territory unable be served by overcrowded hospitals and clinics lacking supplies and reliable electricity. Only 33 of those beds, or 13 percent, are filled, CNN reports, two week after the Comfort's arrival. The problem, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told CNN, is "the communication flow" between clinics, doctors, and Puerto Rico's Department of Health. "I asked for a complete revision of that so that we can now start sending more patients over there," he said.

"I know that we have capacity," Capt. Kevin Robinson, the Comfort's mission commander, tells CNN. "I know that we have the capability to help. What the situation on the ground is ... that's not in my lane to make a decision."

Almost a month after Hurricane Maria crawled across Puerto Rico, 86 percent of the island has no electricity, 28 percent have no drinking water, most cell towers and antennas are down, and the official death toll stands at 48. President Trump's approval rating on hurricane response has dropped 20 points from mid-September, according to a CNN poll conducted Oct. 12-15, to 44 percent from 64 percent after Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. A 47 percent plurality now disapprove of Trump's hurricane response, the poll found, and his hurricane approval number among Hispanics is 22 percent. The national poll of 1,010 adults has a margin of sampling error of ±3.5 points. Peter Weber

5:00 a.m. ET
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By the end of Monday, Iraqi government forces and allied Shiite militias had taken control of Kirkuk, a city of 1 million in northern Iraq, and oil fields around it from the Kurdish authorities who have controlled it since 2014, when Iraqi troops fled and Kurdish peshmerga fighters stepped in amid an assault by the Islamic State. After an early morning skirmish south of Kirkuk, the Iraqi troops faced little resistance under a deal secretly negotiated with Kurdish forces aligned with an opposition party to Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. The peshmerga and Iraqi troops, both sides trained and armed by the U.S., had fought ISIS together as recently as two weeks ago.

The Kurdish governor of Kirkuk fled to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Monday along with thousands of Kurdish residents, while Arab and Turkmen residents celebrated the arrival of Iraqi troops. Kurdish troops also withdrew from Sinjar early Tuesday, leaving the town to Shiite militias. Iraq mounted its assault after Kurds voted for independence last month in a referendum called by Barzani and opposed by Baghdad, the U.S., Iran, and Turkey. Analysts now call that referendum a mistake that led to lost territory and oil revenue. "They may have made a miscalculation of historic proportions by proceeding with the referendum over the objections of just about everyone who counts," said Joost Hiltermann at the International Crisis Group. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m. ET
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Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are fighting to make breast cancer diagnosis more efficient — and they've turned to artificial intelligence to do so.

Traditionally, women undergo regular mammograms, which provide images of the breasts that doctors use to identify any lesions. But while mammograms can categorize lesions as "high risk," they cannot do so with foolproof accuracy, and a needle biopsy must be performed to determine whether the tissue is in fact cancerous. Ninety percent of these lesions are determined to be non-cancerous, MIT notes, but only after the invasive procedure has been performed.

That's where the AI comes in. Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), together with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, developed a groundbreaking new model that uses machine learning to evaluate high-risk lesions before surgery. The model, known as a "random-forest classifier," is armed with information about more than 600 existing cases, and it uses that information to identify patterns across different data points, including demographics and medical history, to more accurately predict whether lesions will become cancerous without performing the biopsy.

Additionally, some doctors perform surgery in all cases of high-risk lesions, while others look only for specific types of lesions that are known to have a higher chance of becoming cancerous before operating. The team's model yielded more accurate diagnoses despite screening for more cancers, correctly diagnosing 97 percent of cancers, MIT said, as opposed to just 79 percent via surgery on traditional high-risk lesions.

Because the traditional diagnostic tools, like mammograms, are "so inexact," doctors tend to over-screen for breast cancer, said MIT CSAIL professor Regina Barzilay, a lead author on the study and recent MacArthur "genius grant" winner. That leads to the unnecessary, expensive surgeries that find legions to be benign. "A model like this ... hopefully will enable us to start to go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to medical diagnosis," Barzilay said. Kimberly Alters

3:40 a.m. ET

There are new developments in the "war on Trump," Jordan Klepper said Monday on The Opposition, his faux alt-right Daily Show spinoff. He began with the opposition to President Trump's move to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. "That's right, certification is for suckers," Klepper said, "a belief I hold to this day in spite of how many lifeguard jobs it cost me." But the pushback against Trump was coming from within, including from his top generals and Cabinet officials. "Now it's clear who Trump's biggest enemy is — friends," Klepper said. "Friends who are the enemies — let's call them 'frenemies,' a word I just made up."

Trump's frenemies treat him like a "chump," Klepper said, running through the Rex Tillerson "moron" flap, and "I'm sick of this. Trump has done everything for these people. He picked them, seemingly at random, for positions of great importance, and now they're calling Trump a moron? Then I'm calling moron a compliment! What, you think 'nasty women' are the only ones who can turn insults into a rallying cry?" Apparently not — and Klepper brought T-shirts to prove it. You can watch his impassioned rallying cry below. Peter Weber

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