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

1:17 p.m. ET

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Friday that she's "leaning against" voting for the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill. Collins said that as she's "reading the fine print" of the GOP's latest effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, she's realizing that insurers "could charge sky-high rates to people with pre-existing conditions," The Portland Press Herald reported. "The premiums would be so high they would be unaffordable," Collins said.

Still, Collins said she'll wait on an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office before she makes her final call. However, the CBO has said its complete analysis likely won't be complete until after Sept. 30, Republicans' deadline to pass the bill by a majority vote.

Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced his opposition, and three 'no' votes would kill the bill. Republicans are angling for a vote next week. Becca Stanek

12:13 p.m. ET

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci appeared Friday on The View to dish about his fleeting tenure at the White House — and he didn't hold back. When Scaramucci was asked who he thinks is the "most annoying, horrible person in the Oval Office, the most unlikeable," he named not one person, but two. "How do you think I got along with Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon? You thought that was a good relationship?" Scaramucci said, describing the experience of working with them as "rough."

"What was Bannon's worst quality, in your opinion?" The View's Joy Behar asked. After naming a couple of Bannon's redeeming qualities, Scaramucci revealed that he thinks the former chief strategist "had a little bit of a messianic complex." "You know, people that have messianic complexes, they think they're the answer, they think they're the solution. And what we know about our country and we know about our government — thank God — it's set up as a system of checks and balances where it has to be a collaboration," Scaramucci said.

And then one of the hosts brought up the fact that some people think Bannon is a "white nationalist." "I would say that he has those tendencies," Scaramucci said.

Watch it below. Becca Stanek

12:11 p.m. ET

Bill Clinton's former lead pollster, Stanley Greenberg, published a blistering dissection of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign on Friday in which he skewers her "malpractice and arrogance" for contributing "mightily to the election of Donald Trump and its profound threat to our democracy."

Greenberg acknowledges criticism of Clinton's "handling of the email server, paid Wall Street speeches, and [her] 'deplorables' comment," but in his takedown he offers up his own opinion on what happened:

The Trump presidency concentrates the mind on the malpractice that helped put him in office. For me, the most glaring examples include the Clinton campaign's over-dependence on technical analytics; its failure to run campaigns to win the battleground states; the decision to focus on the rainbow base and identity politics at the expense of the working class; and the failure to address the candidate's growing 'trust problem,' to learn from events and reposition. [Greenberg Research]

Greenberg, who also contributed periodic counsel to the campaign, details the decision making processes of Clinton's top aides and his shock that "the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election." Greenberg additionally expresses frustration that "the fatal conclusion the Clinton team made after the Michigan primary debacle was that she could not win white working-class voters, and that the 'rising electorate' would make up the difference."

"Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency, the debate around these stark questions would probably have been put off," Greenberg concludes, "but they can't be put off now." Read his full report here.

Jeva Lange

11:44 a.m. ET

Though the Trump administration is totally behind the Graham-Cassidy bill in public, a White House official admitted to Politico that they "really aren't sure what the impact will be" if the bill gets passed. And that's apparently not the only uncertainty within the White House:

They also fear that the bill could bring political blowback from the left and right.

Trump has publicly expressed enthusiasm about the bill, tweeting about it repeatedly. But in conversations with aides, he has turned back to one topic: What can the White House do that is seen as "repeal and replace?" a phrase he likes to repeat. [Politico]

On top of that, there are doubts about whether the bill can actually even pass the House and Senate. Administration officials and congressional sources told Politico that Trump and his team "have little sway" over wavering GOP senators who are key to the success of the vote, slated for next week.

But even if he did, Trump has reportedly "refrained from making as many calls this go-round."

Read more about the White House's lingering doubts over the bill Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass by a majority vote at Politico. Becca Stanek

11:23 a.m. ET
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President Trump is set to replace his ban on travel from six majority-Muslim countries with new, more specific restrictions as soon as this weekend, The New York Times reports. The new regulations will vary by country, and come at the conclusion of a 90-day review period that the administration used to assess security threats from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. "In the end, officials said that some of those countries added measures to improve security for passports and to better identify potential terrorist threats," the Times writes. "Those countries will not be included in the new restrictions."

Trump's travel ban also restricted refugees anywhere in the world from entering the U.S. The forthcoming restrictions will not alter that policy. The Supreme Court could still make a decision about America's policy on refugees when they hear the case next month.

Overall, though, "the changes to be announced this weekend could have a profound impact on the court case," the Times writes, "complicating the review by the justices and potentially making parts of the case moot even before the oral arguments, which are scheduled for Oct. 10." Read more about the new restrictions at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

10:48 a.m. ET

The Russian government denied buying $100,000 worth of Facebook ads during the 2016 presidential election on the grounds that they don't even know how, The Hill reports. "We do not know … how to place an advert on Facebook," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday. "We have never done this, and the Russian side has never been involved in it."

On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is already in possession of the ads. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump dismissed the Facebook ads as being a part of "the Russia hoax."

The Russian ads were reportedly "directed at people on Facebook who had expressed interest in subjects ... such as LGBT community, black social issues, the Second Amendment, and immigration," a Facebook official told The Washington Post. The ads specifically "spread inflammatory messages about immigration, guns, and other topics" and "derided [Hillary] Clinton and supported [Donald] Trump," The New York Times writes. Jeva Lange

10:32 a.m. ET
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Public Policy Polling released the first survey on the Graham-Cassidy bill on Thursday, and the results don't bode well for Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The poll revealed that a majority of voters — 54 percent — approve of the Affordable Care Act. A whopping 63 percent said they want to keep the parts of ObamaCare that work and fix the parts that don't.

Just 32 percent are interested in the prospect of totally starting over with a new health-care law, and a mere 24 percent approve of the Graham-Cassidy bill. Fifty percent disapprove of the bill sponsored by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while 27 percent said they were unsure.

Meanwhile, Republicans are rallying to get 51 votes before Sept. 30, the deadline for passing an ObamaCare repeal with a simple majority vote. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced he's a definite 'no,' and other GOP senators are wavering. Three 'no' votes would kill the bill.

The Public Policy Polling survey was taken Sept. 20-21 among 638 registered voters. Becca Stanek

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