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Protesters confront Sen. Cardin at town hall

ROCKVILLE – Protesters assembled outside a town hall to voice their opposition to legislation sponsored by Sen. Ben Cardin.

"There's a long track record of Cardin, among other people in Congress, of supporting policies that don't recognize the humanity of Palestine," said Benjamin Douglas, 33, who led the protest.

The protest was part of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement which aims to change Israel's West Bank settlement and embargo policies through international pressure. They gathered Thursday at a town hall focused on health care with Sen. Cardin at the Johns Hopkins Rockville campus.

Douglas, who works as a lawyer, said he was there to specifically protest a bill primarily sponsored by Maryland's senior U.S. Senator.

"The specific catalyst is Senator Cardin's role as a primary introducer and primary sponsor of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act which actually seeks to criminalize certain forms of boycott, divest, sanctions movement," Douglas said. "The intent is to intimidate civil society and promote investment even in things the U.S. government considers illegal like settlement in the West Bank," he added.

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Hogan offers expansion plans and toll roads to ease traffic congestion in Capital corridor

GAITHERSBURG – Gov. Larry Hogan announced three separate projects totaling $9 billion to widen Interstate Highway 270, Interstate Highway 495 and State Route 295 Sept. 21.

Hogan, along with Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, announced officials in his administration began the process of soliciting potential companies with which to form a public-private partnership (P3) to add four toll lanes each to Interstate Highway 270, to Interstate Highway 495 and to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

“The daily backups on the Capital Beltway, I-270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway have made the Baltimore-Washington corridor one of the most congested regions in the nation,” Hogan said. “This problem has been marring the quality of life of Maryland citizens for decades. Today we are finally going to do something about it.”

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NIH finds health risks can lead to early dementia

NIH LogoA new NIH-funded study indicates that midlife vascular health risks may increase chances of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"We know how to treat vascular disease and we know how to prevent vascular disease but we don't know how to treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease, so it's particularly important to evaluate the side of the equation we do know in terms of treatment," said Dr. Rebecca Gottesman, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University and lead researcher of the study.

Gottesman and her research team examined 15,744 individuals, aged 45 to 64, and found that 1,556 participants suffered from dementia or experienced significant cognitive impairments.

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NIH study reveals social interaction helps patients during chemotherapy

A study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health suggests positive social interaction may help chemotherapy patients survive longer.

“People model behavior based on what’s around them,” said Jeff Lienert, the lead author of the study. “For example, you will often eat more when you’re dining with friends, even if you can’t see what they’re eating. When you’re bicycling, you will often perform better when you’re cycling with others, regardless of their performance.”

Lienert, who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oxford and a fellow at NIH, explained the results showed that chemotherapy patients were likely to live five years longer following the end of their regimens if they interacted with other patients who also survived five years.

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Republicans pass bill making pipelines easier

CAPITOL HILL – The House is making it easier for companies to build natural gas pipelines. Two measures approved last Wednesday were touted by Republicans as means to streamline the approval process for oil and natural gas pipelines. The Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act, which passed by a 248-179 vote, codifies that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) act as the lead environmental review agency for projects and sets deadlines for other state and local agencies to ask FERC to become participating agencies, as well as deadlines for FERC to issue permit decisions. The Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act undoes an executive order saying a presidential permit is needed to build an oil or gas pipeline or electric transmission facility that crosses border with Mexico or Canada. That bill passed with a 254-175 vote.

“These are commonsense reforms that reduce interagency bureaucracy, and I think that we can all agree that permitting should be more transparent and more accountable,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas-17), the sponsor of the first bill mentioned.

Republicans also spoke of the need for the U.S. to become energy independent and to foster economic growth, which they argue the bills help achieve.

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Defense bill passes House

CAPITOL HILL – One of the most consequential bills on the House of Representatives calendar each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), got a thorough hearing over three days last week before ultimately passing 344- 81 on Friday.

“This bill is the vehicle by which we usually, for 55 years at least, fulfill our responsibilities under the Constitution that I mentioned, to provide for the common defense. I believe that’s the first job of the federal government,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas-13), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “It is fundamentally wrong to send men and women out on dangerous missions without providing them the best equipment, in the best shape, with the best training that our country can possibly provide.”

The NDAA for fiscal year (FY) 2018 authorizes $696 billion in defense spending, $28.5 billion more than the amount requested by President Donald Trump. Among the added expenditures are $7.9 billion in aviation readiness funds and $5.9 billion for the U.S. naval presence, as well as $2.5 billion for missile defense efforts. The bill increases funding for cyber operations by $1.7 billion and for U.S. Cyber Command by 16 percent.

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Democrats hold rallies as GOP health care bill crashes and burns on the Hill

CAPITOL HILL – Healthcare is the hot topic of the moment in the U.S. Senate, and last Wednesday, Democrats brought out their heavy hitters to rally opposition to the Republican plan. Several prominent senators made appearances at a rally in front of the Senate chambers held June 21, attended by several left-wing groups, including Ultraviolet and Progressive Maryland, the day before Republican leaders in the chamber unveiled their proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Although details of the bill were not known at the time, senators said the House version offered a good idea of what it would contain – and they did not like it.

“President (Donald) Trump may have actually said it best. He said that Trumpcare is ‘mean,’” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.). “President Trump may not know much about healthcare – he sort of admitted it – and he’s certainly not the person I’d go to for policy on women’s care, but let me tell you, President Trump is our country’s top expert on mean.”

The bill text, released the next day, includes and even strengthens many portions of the House bill. It cuts Medicaid beginning in 2021 and lowers taxes for corporations and higher-earning individuals. It retains the House repeal of an ACA provision that keeps costs lower for seniors and allows them to be charged up to five times more than younger patients for insurance. Mental health coverage would no longer be required under Medicaid and states could apply for a waiver from essential health benefits, the minimum coverage standards under the ACA.

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Drinking diet soda no safer than regular soda during pregnancy

Tumbler of cola with iceConsuming diet soda during pregnancy can increase a child's risk of obesity, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health.

"Our findings suggest that artificially-sweetened beverages during pregnancy are not likely to be any better at reducing the risk for later childhood obesity than sugar-sweetened beverages," said Chilin Zhang, an epidemiologist at NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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"...To Curry Favor.."

Maryland and D.C. file suit against Trump claiming emoluments clause violation

Brian FroshMd. Attorney General Brian Frosh. PHOTO BY NEAL EARLEY WASHINGTON D.C. – Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia announced Monday that they are suing President Donald J, Trump for violating one of the U.S. Constitutions antcorruption clauses.

At a press conference Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine filed a lawsuit against the president, citing his real estate properties – including the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. – and alleged business deals between foreign governments at the Trump Organization as evidence the president violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

The Emoluments Clause is a portion of the Constitution the states the president cannot receive a title of nobility from a foreign government or a salary other than the one Congress pays the president.

“I can tell as I look that as I look out the window and see the tower of the Trump International Hotel, we know exactly what’s going on every single day,” Racine said. “We know that foreign governments are spending money there in order to curry favor with the President of the United States.”

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Study shows binge drinking is up among Americans

Binge DrinkingBinge drinking rates have increased across the country, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health.

"This important study reveals that a large number of people in the United States drink at very high levels and underscores the dangers associated with such ‘extreme' binge drinking," said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"The motivation was to better understand just how much people in the U.S. actually drink," said Aaron White, Ph.D., a researcher at NIH who co-authored the study. "A percentage of that [drinking] population goes to great extremes at least once a year," he added.

Using previously compiled data, the study found that binge drinking increased overall since 2001.

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