your health
July 2, 2014
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As if we needed another reason to love chocolate: Researchers who studied 20 patients with peripheral artery disease found that the polyphenols in cocoa could increase blood flow, thus improving vascular health.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects 20 percent of adults 70 and older in the U.S. and other Western countries, and makes it difficult for people to exercise and walk because of impaired blood flow. For this study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers gave half of the participants 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate with at least 85 percent cocoa, and gave the other half 1.5 ounces of milk chocolate with less than 30 percent cocoa. The goal was to see if dark chocolate made it easier for patients to walk on a treadmill.

"After eating the dark chocolate, [the participants] walked an average 11 percent farther," study author Lorenzo Loffredo of Rome's Sapienza University told NPR's The Salt blog. An improvement in blood flow was seen in these patients, but "conversely, we did not observe effects on blood flow and on walking autonomy in PAD patients after milk chocolate consumption."

Researchers said the polyphenols in dark chocolate — which are already known to help fight inflammation — are able to reduce oxidative stress and help the body form more nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to dilate.

Don't run down to the nearest grocery store and stock up on dark chocolate just yet. Dr. Mark Creager of Brigham and Women's Hospital said that the "overall effect [of the dark chocolate] was relatively modest," and the 11 percent increase in walking only adds up to 40 more feet. "To put this in context, with other forms of treatment, such as supervised exercise training, maximal walking distance increases by approximately 100 percent." Catherine Garcia

Legal battles
4:38 p.m. ET

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed a bill Monday permitting doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who request them, The Los Angeles Times reports. California will join Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Vermont in legalizing the practice.

To obtain the prescriptions, terminally ill patients must be mentally competent and expected to die within six months. The law will be enforced 90 days after state legislature adjourns its special session on healthcare, which likely won't happen until at least January, the Times reports.

California resident Brittany Maynard, who had a brain tumor, raised nationwide awareness of the issue in 2014, but state legislators didn't pass a previous version of the bill. Ultimately, the 29-year-old moved to Oregon, where she died from legally taking a fatal dose of barbiturates.

Brown, who once studied to become a priest, faced criticism from religious advocates — including the Catholic Church — for his decision to sign the bill.

"In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death," the governor said. "I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn't deny that right to others." Julie Kliegman

some personal news
3:49 p.m. ET

Top conservative blogger Erick Erickson is leaving his role as RedState editor-in-chief at the end of December, he announced in a blog post Monday. The departure had been rumored since August, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution alluded to a possible "re-ordering of Erick Erickson's life."

Leon Wolf, a longtime RedState writer, will become the site's managing editor. Erickson, who has served as editor-in-chief for 10 years, wrote that he'll still contribute to the site and attend 2016's RedState Gathering. He cited his growing radio career as the reason for the shift.

"Right now, RedState is me and I am RedState. It's time for Erick to be Erick and it is time for RedState to have its own identity," Erickson wrote. "I think Leon is the best person to run that transition and make that happen." Julie Kliegman

Presidential polling
3:33 p.m. ET
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If Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina were to face off in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in Iowa right now, Fiorina would crush Clinton by double digits. A new The Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll has Fiorina beating Clinton 52-38 — a margin of 14 points. And while Fiorina was the Republican who beat Clinton by the widest margin in Iowa, she wasn't the only Republican to lead Clinton in a matchup. Clinton also trailed Jeb Bush by 10 points and Donald Trump by 7 points in Iowa.

While Clinton is still the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, her biggest competition, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), fared better than she did against Fiorina, Bush, and Trump in Iowa. Sanders only lags behind Fiorina by 3 points and behind Bush by 2 points; in a Trump matchup, Sanders leads by 5 points.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points. Becca Stanek

3:11 p.m. ET
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed President Obama's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year, calling it "nothing short of crazy," The Associated Press reports.

"There is a reason the director of national intelligence said among those refugees are no doubt a significant number of ISIS terrorists," he told a crowd at a Michigan campaign stop Monday. "It would be the height of foolishness to bring in tens of thousands of people, including jihadists, that are coming here to murder innocent Americans."

But James Clapper, who Cruz refers to, has not said that. Rather, he's mentioned he's aware of the risk.

The Obama administration has also announced its plan to up its total refugee acceptance to 100,000 per fiscal year by 2017, a target designed to accommodate people fleeing Syria. As part of the September announcement, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed background checks would be a part of the process in an effort to keep ISIS fighters from infiltrating refugee pools. Julie Kliegman

This just in
2:54 p.m. ET
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House Speaker John Boehner announced Monday that the floor vote for his replacement will take place on Oct. 29, just one day before he is set to step down as speaker and resign from Congress. However, Boehner announced, the vote for the other two GOP leadership positions — majority leader and majority whip — will be delayed until after a new speaker is selected, changing the original plan for House Republicans to vote for all leadership positions on the same day.

Boehner's announcement comes just a day after two members requested a delay in the voting process, saying that it would "be presumptive to schedule elections without a vacancy for those posts," The Washington Post reports. As Politico explains, this delay "gives more time for conservatives to find a candidate to run against [Louisiana Rep. Steve] Scalise and Georgia Rep. Tom Price."

The new speaker will be left with the decision of when to hold the votes for lower-level leadership posts. Becca Stanek

This just in
2:34 p.m. ET

Russia warned Monday that it could not stop "volunteer" forces from fighting in Syria, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's assurances that the use of ground troops was off the table. However, according to a statement from the former commander of the Black Sea fleet, Vladimir Komoyedov, "A unit of Russian volunteers, conflict veterans, will probably appear in the ranks of the Syrian army." Sending in unmarked ground troops has become a familiar Russian tactic, after unidentified Russian forces seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and were later caught fighting the Ukrainian army in the ongoing conflict there; Admiral Komoyedov suggests that it would be those very veterans who would be appearing to fight in Syria.

Last week, Russia began air strikes that supposedly target the Islamic State and Syrian al Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra Front. Many sources, however, have reported that the strikes instead hit Western-backed rebels. Jeva Lange

drill baby drill
2:20 p.m. ET
Justin E. Stumberg/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

BP will pay $20.8 billion in penalties for the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill, marking the U.S.'s largest ever settlement with a single entity, the Justice Department announced Monday. The number is up from the $18.7 billion figure originally announced in July.

The settlement includes payments for claims from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, along with local governments and the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, NPR reports.

"BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

On April 10, 2010, a BP drilling rig blew out, leaking 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over the next three months. After 60 days of public comment on the settlement, the deal will go before a federal judge for final approval. Julie Kliegman

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