Strange Bedfellows
March 17, 2014

At this point, every chocolate lover with access to the internet or a newspaper knows that dark chocolate is good for you. Now, medical researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are looking to see if science can give you all the benefits of eating chocolate — specifically, preventing heart attacks and strokes — without any of the joy.

A new study will enroll 18,000 people to test out a pill containing cocoa flavanols, which smaller studies have shown to be beneficial in preventing a host of cardiovascular problems. The capsules will contain many, many more times the flavanols than you'd find in a candy bar.

While it may seem odd that the study is being sponsored not only by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, but also Mars Inc., the maker of such confectionary delights as Snickers, Dove bars, M&Ms, and Twix, Mars and other chocolate companies have undoubtedly benefitted from chocolate's new status as a health food. And "you're not going to get these protective flavanols in most of the candy on the market," says Brigham's Dr. JoAnn Manson, who's leading the study. "Cocoa flavanols are often destroyed by the processing."

Here's the secret ingredient: Mars has patented a method to extract high concentrations of flavanols from cocoa pods and put them in capsules. So this is a win-win for Mars. Just maybe not for chocoholics. Peter Weber

AirAsia Flight 8501
8:05 a.m. ET
Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

A 2014 AirAsia plane crash resulted from a pilot resetting a circuit breaker connected to the aircraft's computer system, according to Indonesian investigators who announced their findings on Tuesday. "Someone" in the cockpit pulled out and reinserted the circuit breaker in an apparent attempt to reset the flight augmentation computer, which regulated the plane's rudder functions. The attempt caused a series of electronic failures, including disengaging autopilot and the auto-thrust of the plane, and left the pilots without control of the aircraft, The New York Times reports. Investigators discovered the cause by analyzing the plane's recovered flight data.

Flight 8501 crashed on December 28, 2014, en route to Singapore, less than an hour after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia. The pilots were alerted by four separate alarms in the cockpit that a system controlling the airplane's rudder movement had failed. Removing and reinserting the circuit breaker is thought to have been an attempt to fix the problem. All 162 people onboard died in the crash.

The year 2014 was among the deadliest in recent aviation history. In addition to the AirAsia incident, small commercial and private plane crashes, two Malaysian Airlines crashes, an Air Algerie crash, and a TransAsia crash resulted in the loss of over 1,000 lives. Jeva Lange

7:57 a.m. ET
Thibault Camus/AFP/Getty Images

World leaders arrived in Paris on Monday promising to come up with an accord to stem greenhouse-gas emissions and rescue the planet from climate change. On Tuesday, they got down to brass tacks, beginning negotiations over who will bear the financial and logistical costs of helping developing nations adopt renewable energy sources and protecting them from the worst effects of climate change. French President Francois Hollande, after meeting with 12 African leaders, pledged billions of euros to help Africa adapt, while President Obama is scheduled to hear from island nations facing rising sea levels and increasingly destructive storms.

"You have now started the fundamental work," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "I implore you to advance on the substance in a way that allows us to respect the strong mandate given by the diverse heads of state and government yesterday." Peter Weber

To your health
7:01 a.m. ET

After 25 years of rising steadily, the number of new U.S. diabetes cases dropped by about 20 percent over six years, from 1.7 million new cases in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2014, according to a new analysis by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It seems pretty clear that incidence rates have now actually started to drop," CDC diabetes expert Edward Gregg tells The New York Times. "Initially it was a little surprising because I had become so used to seeing increases everywhere we looked."

Health officials aren't sure if the drop in new cases is the result of programs aimed at fighting diabetes — which still afflicts about 10 percent of U.S. adults — or if the diabetes epidemic has naturally peaked, or if people are changing their diets and exercising after watching friends and relatives go blind or have limbs amputated because of the disease. Whatever the cause, the success isn't evenly spread among Americas. The new diabetes rate is still flat among the less-educated as well as black and Latino populations, while it is dropping among whites and those with more education. Read more about the diabetes findings at The New York Times. Peter Weber

5:58 a.m. ET

Stephen "Greg" Fisk, 70, was elected mayor of Juneau, Alaska, in October, easily beating incumbent Merrill Sanford. On Monday afternoon, the Juneau Police Department said, Fisk's adult son, Ian Fisk, called 911 to report that he had found his father dead at his home. Mayor Fisk was pronounced dead at the scene. The Juneau Police Department "is aware of rumors that an assault occurred in connection with Fisk's death," the department said Monday night. "Those rumors are speculation." Fisk's body will be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy.

City Assemblywoman and Deputy Mayor Mary Becker will step in as mayor on at least a temporary basis, she told KTVA CBS 11 News, and she's working with the city attorney to figure out what happens next. The autopsy results "are expected within several days and will be used to determine the cause of death," according to the Juneau Police Department. Peter Weber

Anything goes well with Vince Guaraldi
3:54 a.m. ET

Monday night was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live, calling it "probably the greatest Christmas special of all-time." But you don't have to take Kimmel's word for it. "We asked a person who knows a lot about the greatest things of all time, we asked him: 'What is the greatest Christmas special of all-time?'" Kimmel said, and in case you didn't get the joke from the headline, Kimmel Live rolled a supercut of Donald Trump saying "peanuts." It's a little silly, but Kimmel is right: Trump does like to say "peanuts. Watch below, or go watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. It really is a classic. Peter Weber

2:46 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

At a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, on Monday night, Donald Trump toyed with demanding a $5 million payment to appear at the next Republican presidential debate. The reason? CNN, which is hosting the debate on Dec. 15, "doesn't treat me properly," Trump said. During the last GOP debate the news network hosted, he added, "CNN had 23 million people. It was the biggest show in the history of CNN." That gives the master negotiator the upper hand, at least in his estimation.

"How about I tell CNN that I'm not gonna do the next debate?" Trump proposed to the crowd. That got "tepid applause" from the crowd of about 6,000, NBC News says, so Trump elaborated, to cheers: "I won’t do the debate unless they pay me $5 million, all of which money goes to the Wounded Warriors or go to vets." He went on to say that people who are "really, really, really smart like I am" don't need teleprompter and that he doesn't listen to "talking heads, who are not smart people at all."

It's an interesting idea, that CNN needs Trump more than Trump needs CNN, and there are probably at least nine rival campaigns who hope Trump carries through with his threat to boycott the event. If he does, Trump told the crowd, "they'll say 'Trump is chicken.'... One thing I'm not is chicken, okay?" Okay. You can watch Trump's comments at RealClearPolitics. Peter Weber

2:07 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

There was just one female Democratic senator not on stage with Hillary Clinton during a Washington, D.C., fundraiser and endorsement event Monday: Elizabeth Warren.

The Massachusetts senator signed a letter in 2014 that called on Clinton to run for president, but she has not endorsed anyone in the primary yet, and is one of just six Democratic senators who has not backed Clinton, ABC News reports. Clinton's campaign said all of the senators who endorsed her were invited to the event at the Hyatt Regency, but did not reveal if an invitation had been extended to Warren. "We're honored to have 13 women senators coming together to endorse and support Hillary Clinton," spokeswoman Christina Reynolds said in a statement. "This is a sign of the broad support Clinton is receiving from women across the country who know she'll fight for us."

When asked where Warren was, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski told ABC News she wasn't sure, adding: "Maybe she has a cold." Warren's office did not comment. Clinton, a former senator from New York, had nothing but praise for her former colleagues, telling the crowd the women "have so much courage and smarts, the combination of grit and grace. It was the honor and privilege of my life to serve with them." Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads