May 8, 2014

A new study shows that a drug usually used to treat erectile dysfunction could help boys with the fatal disorder Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, states that doses of Cialis appeared to improve blood flow to the boys' muscles, USA Today reports. The sample size was very small, with just 10 boys taking part, and the drug likely won't change the course of the disease, but the doctors involved believe the promising findings merit further research.

"We had really striking results," says Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the leader of the study. After the muscle cells were studied, "it looked like a complete correction of the blood flow abnormality."

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is most often discovered in boys between the ages of 4 and 8. Their muscles begin to grow weak because the body is unable to produce a protein called dystrophin, which gives muscles their structure and sends out signals to the cells (including to repair damage done by exercising). People with the disorder usually die in their 20s, or even earlier, when their heart or diaphragm (both muscles) gives out.

There were some side effects during the trial, as to be expected; many of the subjects had prolonged erections while on the drug, although the boys told researchers they were not painful. When a lower dose was taken, the Cialis seemed to normalize blood flow to the skeletal muscles, USA Today reports, and a higher dose allowed the muscles to recover after exercise. Another erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra, was also tested, but it had to be taken as much as three times a day — more often than the Cialis — and could not be taken with food. Catherine Garcia

6:43 a.m. ET
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On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and her top Conservative Party deputies signed a pact with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in which the DUP will support May's minority government in most key votes, starting with the Queen's Speech later this week. There will be no formal coalition government, and the DUP will be free to vote against May's government on issues that don't threaten her government. May fell nine votes short of a majority in the House of Commons in a snap election, and the main opposition Labour Party is demanding to know what financial benefits the DUP is getting out of supporting the Tories; according to reports, the Democratic Unionists had sought $2.5 billion in extra funding for Northern Ireland, plus better treatment for military veterans. Peter Weber

6:05 a.m. ET
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The Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Ajit Pai, agree with everyone that robocalls are a nuisance, and last week the FCC proposed a record $120 million fine for a Miami telemarketer whose company made nearly 97 million "spoofed" robocalls over a three-month period. But on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had asked Pai and his FCC colleagues to protect America's cellphone inboxes from a new threat, the "ringless voicemail."

Telemarketers, backed by groups including the Republican National Committee, are proposing that the FCC allow them to send voicemails directly to the inboxes of cellphone customers, without the phone ringing at all, skirting do-not-call registries and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act​. In a March filing, a lawyer for voicemail company All About the Message argued that the FCC did not have the legal authority to regulate voicemail, and the RNC said denying the telemarketing industry's request would amount to a violation of the companies' First Amendment right to political communications.

Allowing ringless voicemail would "throw gas on a robocall wildfire," Schumer said. "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse with these robocalls, the telemarketing industry had gone behind the scenes to deliver us the last straw​," he added. ​"​They would give you a voicemail, your phone wouldn't ring, but you'd have tons of these darned messages piling up on your voicemail, ruining your voicemail​," with potentially serious consequences. ​"G​od​​ forbid you got a serious message​ — someone sick​,​ you need to pick up your kid at school, there's an accident​ — you wouldn't be able to get to it because there'd be so many of these darned useless solicitations on the phone​,​" Schumer said.​

Telemarketers made 2.6 billion robocalls in May, robocall blocking service YouMail says, and New York City area codes 917 and 646 were major targets, The Wall Street Journal reports. Schumer said he felt it necessary to write Pai because the FCC chairman is vocally anti-regulation, most famously regarding net neutrality. Peter Weber

4:49 a.m. ET

Last week, President Trump insisted that, contrary to his earlier suggestion, he did not tape his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. And his elaboration on the topic, in an interview on Fox News, was a word-salad masterpiece, John Oliver marveled on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Whenever Trump talks, it's like cross between a lottery machine that spits outs words and a Speak-and-Spell that just fell into a toilet." In just a few sentences, Trump somehow managed to validate Comey's damaging testimony, suggest he tampered with a witness, and coin the awkward phrase "not very stupid," Oliver noted.

That said, Trump's "extraordinarily stupid" comments on Comey and secret recordings "served to distract from the really important business going down in Washington this week concerning the Senate's new ObamaCare replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act," Oliver said. Democrats immediately denounced the bill, some skillfully (Barack Obama) and some quite the opposite — here, Oliver played Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's "prop comedy," or attempt thereof. "If political theater were actual theater, that was the equivalent of someone falling to their death in Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark," Oliver sighed. "Now, as for the content of the bill, it is set to hurt a lot of people," he added, briefly explaining how.

"You may have heard some Republicans have come out against this bill in its current form, some because it's too harsh, others because it is not harsh enough — and of course Ted Cruz is in that group," Oliver said. "He's the only man in history whose personality somehow contracted bedbugs. But here's the thing: I would be very careful relying on those politicians to hold out." He noted that GOP senators are being pretty squirrelly with their language, and advised caution at news coverage that presupposes the bill is actually in trouble. "Oh, that's great — it's 'dead on arrival,'" Oliver deadpanned. "Then kick back and relax, everyone, because I haven't felt this confident about an outcome since Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016." The BCRA very well may pass, especially without momentous pushback from the public, he warned, "so resisting complacency would be, to borrow a truly moronic phrase, 'not very stupid, I can tell you that.'" There is some NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:38 a.m. ET

There used to be a time when American parents would line up to vaccinate their kids like vaccines were the latest iPhone, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But despite vaccines saving millions of lives, "small groups are both skeptical and vocal about vaccines, which is nothing new, but these days their voice has been amplified by the human megaphone that is the president of the United States." He showed some of President Trump's comments on the campaign trail, and subsequent tweets.

"This atmosphere of confusion about vaccines has caused real problems," Oliver said, pointing to the measles outbreak in Minnesota's Somali community. "So tonight, we are going to look at why these fears persist and what the consequences of succumbing to them can be. And before we start, I kind of get why vaccines can creep people out," he said, "although pretty much every medical practice sounds terrifying when you break it down," including the non-medical practice of basic exercise.

Oliver started with the elephant in the waiting room, the debunked link between autism and the MMR vaccine, started by the disgraced "Lance Armstrong of doctors," Andrew Wakefield. Despite losing his medical license, Wakefield still gives talks about vaccines and autism — including to Minnesota's Somali community, in 2011 — and he's joined by a motley crew that spans the political spectrum. "Now the good news is, these days, very few people will say they are completely anti-vaccine," Oliver said. "Instead, like the president, they'll say, 'I'm not anti-vaccine, but...' — and it's what comes after that 'but' that [we] need to look at tonight."

Oliver's main topic here was the idea that parents should space out vaccines, so young children don't get so many at once. He sided with the CDC on that one, and ridiculed Dr. Robert Sears, a famous pediatrician's less-famous son, noting that spreading out vaccinations for years leaves kids vulnerable to diseases like measles, which killed 134,200 kids worldwide in 2015 alone. "I honestly know for some people this is still hard, but what can help is to try and anchor yourself to what we know to be true about the risks of vaccines," he said. Oliver suggested that parents focus on the immense good vaccines have done rather than the scary Facebook anecdotes and memes, and he ended on a personal note. Watch below, but be warned: There is decidedly NSFW content spread throughout. Peter Weber

2:27 a.m. ET
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants the Senate to pass his health-care bill this week, before the July 4 break, and the next couple of days will be a test of his strategy to craft a major overhaul of the U.S. health-care system in secret and spring it on the Senate with no public hearings. He can afford to lose only two Republicans, and five have said they won't vote yes on the current version of the bill, with at least three others expressing strong reservations. Republican senators began listing their demands over the weekend.

McConnell's former chief of staff Josh Holmes compared his former boss' week to "a 747 landing on a suburban driveway," but one current McConnell staffer tells Jonathan Swan at Axios that McConnell has a 60 percent shot of passing the bill. Still, "most folks I've talked to in McConnell's orbit say it's more like a jump ball," Swan says, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is in that camp, telling ABC News This Week on Sunday that Republicans "have, at best, a 50-50 chance of passing this bill," odds he attributed to the "devastating" effects of the proposed legislation.

McConnell has some levers he will pull, however, and "Senate leaders have been trying to lock down Republican votes by funneling money to red states, engineering a special deal for Alaska, and arguing that they could insure more people at a lower cost than the House, which passed a repeal bill last month," The New York Times reports. The Chamber of Commerce supports the bill, but opposing it is a motley group that includes the Koch brothers organization Americans for Prosperity, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, medical groups, some Republican governors, and most of the health-care industry.

Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Sunday that the bill is on track for a Wednesday procedural vote, and possible passage late Thursday or early Friday, "but it's going to be close." Speaking at a Colorado retreat hosted by Charles Koch, Cornyn said that even if McConnell doesn't get a vote this week, the legislation is hardly dead. "I think August is the drop-dead line, about Aug. 1," he said. Axios' Swan said McConnell actually does need to pass the bill before the July 4 break, because "no senator I've spoken to thinks a bit of extra time spent with angry voters will make them more likely to support this bill." Peter Weber

2:02 a.m. ET
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On Monday, President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet in Washington, D.C., with the pair engaging in one-on-one talks, followed by remarks to the media — without taking any questions — and a working dinner.

Trump and Modi do not agree on major issues like trade or the Paris climate agreement — Trump has said India negotiated in an unsavory way to ensure the country receives billions of dollars in aid — but a Trump administration official told Reuters they both have more than 30 million Twitter followers and that will help them form a bond. Another senior White House official said the administration is "very interested in making this a special visit. We're really seeking to roll out the red carpet."

An Indian official told Reuters "if the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted. The only way is up." In 2014, Modi visited former President Barack Obama, who took him to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m. ET

Toting a backpack with scissors, a razor, clips, a comb, and a styling cape, Joshua Coombes is traveling around the world, giving free haircuts to homeless men and women.

The 30-year-old London hairdresser gets to know his homeless clientele as he works, and he shares their stories on his Instagram stream, tagging them with #DoSomethingForNothing. "When you cut someone's hair, it is about trust," Coombes told The Washington Post. He's found that clients get comfortable and "tell us everything. And that role translates to the street really well." He has cut the hair of hundreds of people, and earlier this year he gave haircuts to the homeless in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Coombes says he believes in the power of forging connections between people, and his aim is to make a positive impact through conversation and haircuts. On Instagram, he shared what it was like cutting the hair of Thomas, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran who has been homeless for 10 years. Thomas stared at the mirror for a long time, and asked Coombes why he chose to do this for him. "I told him the truth — I loved hearing his story," Coombes wrote. "I never want to stop learning. Every time I go out and do this, I get so much also. ... Fulfillment is different for everyone, but for me, connecting with others is what makes me tick." Catherine Garcia

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