Donald Trump’s unrelenting war with the NFL

(CNN)George Popson, a Republican from El Paso, Texas, has always been a football fan. He enjoyed watching NFL games and rooting for the Houston Texans and the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I stopped watching football this current NFL season after President Trump made his remark about team owners kicking out and firing any player who kneeled during the National Anthem,” the 56-year-old told CNN. “… I will continue to boycott NFL games and if I happen to be found in front of the TV during the Super Bowl, it will only be because I am at a Super Bowl party with food and drink and more importantly, friends and family. I won’t be focused on the game. Patriotism factors into this decision one hundred percent.”
Popson said that although he agrees “that people of color are targeted more and unjustly by law enforcement,” the football field is not the place to make this statement.

    Trump opens the floodgates

    This may very well go down in history as the season that changed football. The President of the United States declared a political war on some of the most visible players. And he wouldn’t let it go.
    In an off-the-cuff speech at a rally in Alabama in September, the President unleashed a highly public crusade against black players who took a knee during the National Anthem to protest institutionalized racism and police brutality.
    Trump lambasted team owners for allowing the protests to take place, urged fans to walk out of games and told owners they should respond to the protesting players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
    The President’s comments launched the National Football League, which has generally managed to keep politics at bay, into a heated and highly public debate on racism and patriotism in America.
    That weekend, owners, coaches and players of various teams joined hands and collectively took a knee in a remarkable and unprecedented show of defiance.
    And there’s no sign that Trump — who kept coming back to the issue on Twitter throughout the football season and even, obliquely, during his State of the Union address Tuesday — is letting up. He made a spectacular patriotic show of going down on the field for the NCAA championship game in January, standing there for the National Anthem. But he’s opting out of the traditional presidential pre-Super Bowl interview this year. Last year he sat down with Bill O’Reilly, then of Fox News. This year NBC is broadcasting the game.
    “Because (Trump) is this polarizing figure who chose to draw a line in the sand, it just shone a spotlight on the debate and gave it a kind of national profile that it might not have had if he hadn’t actually entered the fray,” Dr. Theresa Runstedtler, a history professor at American University who studies the intersection of sports, race and politics, told CNN.
    Trump forced coaches and owners to pick sides.
    New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch expressed disappointment over the President’s comments. Meanwhile, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, after an early show of support, taking a knee with players before the National Anthem during a game, later sparked boycotts when he said he would bench players for “being disrespectful to the flag.”
    Amid the upheaval, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to have it both ways.
    He said the league wants players to stand for the anthem but stopped short of saying the NFL would institute an NBA-like policy that would force them to stand or penalize them if they don’t. However, it’s important to note that despite the fact that NBA players did not participate in protests on the court, coaches and players — from stars like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry to coaches like Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr — have been more outspoken and public in their criticism of Trump.
    “(Trump) created a situation where that veneer of the invisibility of politics and the invisibility of race in the Super Bowl has been shattered in a lot of ways,” Runstedtler said. “Regardless of which side you’re on, you kind of have to actually confront the fact that the event is laden with racial politics.”
    A group against the protests called “Standing for America” has nearly 300,000 followers on Facebook, and so far 26,000 people indicated they will participate in their event, “NFL Boycott — 2018 Super Bowl,” to voice their support for veterans.
    And as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to take on the New England Patriots — Trump’s favorite team, given his friendly relationship with owner Robert Kraft, his golfing relationship with Tom Brady and the notes he’s exchanged with Bill Belichick — at the Super Bowl this weekend, Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who raised his fist on the field to express solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” movement, has already indicated that he will refuse an invitation to the White House if his team wins.

    Bigger than football

    Even before Trump got into a fight with the NFL, sparking a boycott by conservatives, a boycott of the league among progressive and black activists was already in full swing.
    In Greensboro, North Carolina, a group of young activists started a “Kickball for Kaepernick” league to protest the perceived shunning by league owners and coaches of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
    “I was an avid football watcher before I began my boycott against the NFL and its repression of Kaepernick and the league’s contempt for those who demand justice and an end to state violence against working class communities of color,” Demetrius Noble, a 38-year-old professor, told CNN.
    “I have been and am boycotting the NFL because of the structural racism that apparently permeates throughout a league that is majority black and because of the lack of attention paid to state sanctioned violence on the part of the NFL,” LaKeisha Williams, a Philadelphia Eagles fan who is part of the league, told CNN.
    When Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem in September 2016 to protest racism, he quickly became one of the most controversial figures in sports, like several others before him, and sparked a wave of protests on the field that spread from professional football to college and high school and even to other sports.
    But according to Runstedtler, Trump elevated Kaepernick’s national profile.
    “If nobody had made a big deal out of it and turned it into a spectacle the protests would have been meaningless,” she said. “It was actually the backlash against (Kaepernick) not standing for the anthem that ironically rained more awareness about (why he was protesting).”
    One month before he picked a fight with the NFL over the protests, Trump had stoked racial tensions deeply when he repeatedly appeared to suggest there’s a moral equivalency between white supremacists and those who oppose them while responding to violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
    “His commentary just provided additional talking points and reinforcement concerning how the highest office of the USA is out to repress and castigate those who dare to stand for justice and the most vulnerable,” Noble said, adding that Trump’s rhetoric “reinforces why Kaepernick chose to kneel” in the first place.
    The President’s comments — upon which he doubled and tripled down — prompted an onslaught of bipartisan criticism and fueled a barrage of new protests on the field.
    “Athletes, especially black athletes, realize that no matter how much money you make and how famous you are, when we have a president who constantly diminishes you and your people, it’s time to step up and do something,” NBA legend and civil rights activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told CNN’s #GetPolitical at the time.
    Amid bipartisan outrage over Trump’s response to the violence that transpired at the rally, about a dozen members of the Cleveland Browns, including Seth DeValve — the first white player to join the protest — took a knee and prayed before a preseason game against the New York Giants on August 21.

    Trump’s relationship with the Patriots looms large

    It doesn’t help at all that Trump’s all-time favorite team — the New England Patriots — has been so dominant.
    Last year, football fans compared the Patriots’ historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl to Trump’s unexpected win against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election.
    At the time, the President congratulated the Patriots and his “friend” quarterback Tom Brady, tweeting, “What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and coach B are total winners. Wow! #SuperBowl.”
    But Brady, who had received backlash in 2015 when a “Make America Great Again” hat was spotted in his locker, has been evasive when asked about his relationship with the President.
    And in a highly publicized move that likely embarrassed Trump — although the President chose not to address it publicly — the five-time Super Bowl champion surprised many when he skipped his team’s visit to the White House last year, citing “family matters.”
    At the time, the Boston Herald reported that Brady was spending time with his mother, who was battling an illness later revealed to be breast cancer.
    Several of Brady’s teammates had refused to go for the White House visit, citing their opposition to Trump. The smaller attendance by the Patriots for Trump than for former President Barack Obama, when he had hosted the team, drew scrutiny and an excuse from the team.
    And two days after Trump urged owners to fire players who won’t stand for the anthem, the Patriots took a stand against Trump. Three dozen players took a knee, while the rest locked arms on the field.
    Trump put the Patriots in the political spotlight repeatedly over the past two year, announcing a day before the general election that Brady and coach Belichick were supporting his campaign for president.
    The President also said at a pre-inaugural dinner that Brady and Patriots owner Kraft called to congratulate him.
    While he did not deny it, Brady played down the claim during an interview, saying, “I call a lot of people.”
    “I have called him, yes, in the past,” Brady said. “Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call him. But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”
    A lot of people still watch the NFL, but viewership is down. And while various factors could be in play, thousands of Americans from the left and the right have expressed that they stopped watching to make a statement about the debate on race and patriotism in America, which was intensified and elevated by the President’s unrelenting war with the NFL.

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    History of Obama / Biden bromance

    Former VP Joe Biden presenting the 2017 Liberty Medal to Sen. John McCain.
    Image: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

    Joe Biden is moving forward after the death of his son Beau, but it doesn’t sound like he’s ready to put the White House behind him just yet.

    The former vice president caught up with Vanity Fair’s David Kamp to chat about his upcoming book,  Promise Me, Dad, in which he writes about his family and life after the White House. Perhaps most notably, Obama’s BFF straight up said he’s not ruling out a 2020 presidential run.

    “I haven’t decided to run, but I’ve decided I’m not going to decide not to run,” Biden said when Kamp asked about 2020. “We’ll see what happens.”

    Earlier in the interview Biden revealed that though he had fully planned to run for president in 2016, the heartbreaking death of his 46-year-old son Beau left him reeling, and he ultimately withdrew himself from the race.

    Had his son not been battling brain cancer, Biden would have run without question, he told Vanity Fair. “I had planned on running, and I wasn’t running against Hillary or Bernie or anybody else. Honest to God, I thought that I was the best suited for the moment to be president.” 

    Biden also said Beau had been the biggest supporter of his potential candidacy. “At one point he said it was my obligation to run, my duty,” he wrote in his book. “Duty was a word Beau Biden did not use lightly.”

    “At one point he said it was my obligation to run, my duty.”

    But, after learning Beau had Stage IV glioblastoma, the VP felt it’d be best to put the campaign planning on hold. 

    Biden explained to Vanity Fair that he’d been unable to commit to the necessary rigorous speech schedule. In addition, President Obama hinted that he should sit the 2016 election out because he felt Clinton’s organization was ready.

    Now that Biden has had some time to himself and a chance to see Trump running the White House, things could be different. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have a few factors working against him.

    Some fiercely talented candidates are being considered for 2020, like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker — not to mention there’s still a chance Oprah Winfrey could run. Biden will also be 78 years old not long after the 2020 election, so age may be a deterrent.

    There are plenty of things to seriously consider, but we’ll be able to gain more insight into Biden’s life when Promise Me, Dad is published on Nov. 14. 

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    White House glows pink for breast cancer

    (CNN)The White House glowed pink overnight to mark the start National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States.

      Breast cancer: Know the facts

    “I encourage all women to talk to their health care providers about mammograms and other methods of early detection and what can be done to reduce that risk,” it quoted her as saying.
    The White House said that more than 250,000 US women and 2,000 men would likely be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
      “To encourage women to take steps in detecting breast cancer early and to express solidarity with those who have been affected by the disease, the White House will be lit pink this evening,” the statement said.
      First Lady Melania Trump later tweeted a photo of the illuminated White House portico taken from within the residence, saying: “In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month we lit the @WhiteHouse pink!”
      “Oct is Natl Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Please talk to your doctor about early detection & reducing your risk. #BreastCancerAwareness,” Trump said in an earlier post.
      The American Cancer Society says breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States.
      On average, American women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing the disease, the society says, estimating that more than 40,000 women will die from breast cancer in 2017 alone.
      The White House was first turned pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on October 7, 2008. First Lady Laura Bush turned on the lights.

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      Dems call for action following report on drug lobby’s influence on opioid distribution

      Washington (CNN)Several Hill Democrats are calling for action in the wake of a bombshell report that found the pharmaceutical industry successfully lobbied Congress to make it easier to distribute opioids across American communities and thwart the Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to halt the addiction crisis.

      In a statement issued on Monday, PhRMA, which represents biopharmaceutical research companies, said it had not been contacted by the news organizations regarding the story.
      “With regards to the recent Washington Post & 60 Minutes stories, we want to be clear that PhRMA did not support or lobby in favor of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act and reports that PhRMA spent $40 million lobbying this bill are unequivocally false,” a statement read. “Had we been contacted by these news outlets in advance of their stories running, we would have explained our longstanding support for enhanced law enforcement efforts to fight the opioid epidemic.”
        A DEA whistleblower told “60 Minutes” the US government slowed down enforcement against large pharmaceutical companies just as the opioid epidemic was taking hold. He said the companies turned a blind eye as the pills flooded US communities while lawmakers passed a law to help the industry at the same time.
        The sponsor of the bill was Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, the man President Donald Trump has named to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The bill was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama in April 2016.
        West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who serves a state heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic, called for the White House to remove Marino from consideration for the position Monday morning.
        “His advocacy for this legislation demonstrates that Congressman Marino either does not fully understand the scope and devastation of this epidemic or ties to industry overrode those concerns,” Manchin said in a statement. “Either option leaves him unfit to serve as the head of the ONDCP.”
        After the report was published on Sunday, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called for the 2016 bill to be repealed.
        “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities,” McCaskill said in a statement released by her office. “I’ll be introducing legislation that repeals this law and continue my work investigating the role pharmaceutical distributors played in fueling this public health crisis.”
        Both Manchin and McCaskill, however, were among the senators who allowed the bill to pass by unanimous consent in the Senate without even a vote. McCaskill’s office initially told CNN later Monday that the senator had taken a leave of absence at the time to undergo breast cancer treatment, though it later clarified that the Missouri Democrat had returned to Congress at the time of the vote.
        At a Rose Garden news conference on Monday, Trump said he was going to look into the report and spoke warmly of Marino.
        “He was a very early supporter of mine, the great state of Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “He is a great guy. I did see the report. We are going to look into the report. We are going to take it very seriously.”
        Trump added that he will speak to Marino and “if I think it is 1% negative to doing what we want to do, I will make a change.”
        A spokesman for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Marino’s questionnaire has not been received yet and, therefore, a confirmation hearing hasn’t been scheduled.
        The bill Marino pushed called the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, gained supporters from the left and right. Some of the bill’s sponsors — including Marino, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn — all work for constituencies heavily affected by the opioid epidemic, the report said. The investigation said each raised at least six figures in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry: Marino got nearly $100,000, Blackburn got $120,000, and Hatch got $177,000.
        CNN has not verified the details of the investigation, which was based on interviews with former DEA agents and lawyers suing the opioid industry, Federal Election Committee filings, a review of a yet-to-be-published Marquette Law Review article, and Department of Justice documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post are suing for more documents, some of which have been pending for 18 months.
        Asked by CNN to comment on the article, the DEA said it was working on “preventing reckless doctors and rogue businesses from making an already troubling problem worse. Increasingly, more and more individuals are facing criminal charges. During the same timeframe, our investigators initiated more than 10,000 cases and averaged more than 2,000 arrests per year. We will continue fighting the opioid crisis and continue to use all the tools at our disposal to combat this epidemic.”
        In a statement to CNN, Matt Whitlock, a spokesperson for Hatch, said that while the investigation “seeks to establish a narrative that, while perhaps fitting for a Netflix original series, simply does not reflect the actual events surrounding the drafting, negotiation, and passage” of the law. Whitlock argued that DEA and DOJ “allowed the bill to pass by unanimous consent,” suggesting that the organizations agreed with the legislation. However, as the Post reported, then-Attorney General Eric Holder publicly opposed the bill.
        CNN has reached out to the offices of Marino and Blackburn for comment.
        Aside from campaign contributions, the Post report suggests that Marino’s staff reaped benefits of a cozy relationship with the drug industry, too. Seven months after the bill’s passage, his chief of staff left Capitol Hill to work for National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
        The law, which was supposed to further define “imminent danger,” raised the bar for evidence on the suspension orders on drug shipments.
        Former DEA lawyer Jonathan Novak said the result of the bill was fewer busts, and more DEA staff “auditioning” for the pharmaceutical industry as opioid deaths and overdoses continued to climb.
        “There’s no denying the numbers. At the height of the opioid epidemic, inexplicably, [suspensions] slowed down. … Some of the best and brightest, DEA attorneys, are on the other side and know all the weak points,” he told “60 Minutes.” “Their fingerprints are all on the memos, and the policy and emails going out where you see this concoction of what they might argue in the future.”
        According to internal emails obtained by “60 Minutes” and the Post under the Freedom of Information Act, Justice ,Department officials said the bill was written by Liden Barber, a former DEA associate chief counsel who left to work for the drug industry in 2011. Barber declined requests to be interviewed for the article.
        The whistleblower, former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi, said he was forced out of the agency in 2015 after being outspoken about the threat of the pharmaceutical industry during his tenure heading the office of diversion control. Marino and Blackburn demanded an investigation into Rannazzisi after he allegedly said the bill’s sponsors were aiding criminals, a claim Rannazzisi denied in the report.
        This story has been updated to reflect additional comment from McCaskill’s office.

        Read more:

        Trump Officials Dispute the Benefits of Birth Control to Justify Rules

        When the Trump administration elected to stop requiring many employers to offer birth-control coverage in their health plans, it devoted nine of its new rule’s 163 pages to questioning the links between contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancies.

        In the rule released Friday, officials attacked a 2011 report that recommended mandatory birth-control coverage to help women avoid unintended pregnancies. That report, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — then the Institute of Medicine — an expert group that serves as the nation’s scientific adviser.

        “The rates of, and reasons for, unintended pregnancy are notoriously difficult to measure,” according to the Trump administration’s interim final rule. “In particular, association and causality can be hard to disentangle.”

        Multiple studies have found that access or use of contraception reduced unintended pregnancies. 

        Claims in the report that link increased contraceptive use by unmarried women and teens to decreases in unintended pregnancies “rely on association rather than causation,” according to the rule. The rule references another study that found increased access to contraception decreased teen pregnancies short-term but led to an increase in the long run.

        “We know that safe contraception — and contraception is incredibly safe — leads to a reduction in pregnancies,” said Michele Bratcher Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. “This has been data that we’ve had for decades.”

        Riskier Behavior

        The rules were released as part of a broader package of protections for religious freedom that the administration announced Friday.

        The government also said imposing a coverage mandate could “affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way” though it didn’t point to any particular studies to support its point. A 2014 study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found providing no-cost contraception did not lead to riskier sexual behavior.

        The rule asserts that positive health effects associated with birth control “might also be partially offset by an association with negative health effects.” The rule connects the claim of negative health effects to a call by the National Institutes of Health in 2013 for the development of new contraceptives that stated current options can have “many undesirable side effects.” 

        The rule also describes an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality review that found oral contraceptives increased users’ risk of breast cancer and vascular events, making the drugs’ use in preventing ovarian cancer uncertain.

        Federal officials used all of these assertions to determine the government “need not take a position on these empirical questions.”

        “Our review is sufficient to lead us to conclude that significantly more uncertainty and ambiguity exists in the record than the Departments previously acknowledged.”

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          Political chemistry: Scientists running for office in age of Trump

          (CNN)Geologist Jess Phoenix says she doesn’t mind being an underdog.

          “The work I do, working on volcanoes, you’re always an underdog when you’re in a dangerous situation like that. You’re working with and sometimes against a force of nature,” Phoenix said. “I don’t mind long odds.”
          But the force of nature Phoenix is currently up against is unlike her past scientific endeavors. She’s facing a new kind of unpredictability: voters.
            Phoenix is running to represent California’s 25th district, and she’s just one of several people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds who have raised their hands looking to get more involved in politics.
            President Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House has galvanized many in the scientific community who oppose his administration’s policies on health care, climate change and research funding. The sentiment was on display on April 22, when people in more than 600 cities around the world gathered for The March for Science.
            “We can’t rely on Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Regular, everyday scientists have to get excited about their work in a public facing way,” Phoenix said.
            Trump’s win was what sparked Harvard-educated pediatrician Mai-Khahn Tran to run.
            “As a mother, as a daughter, as a woman, I didn’t want to get up the next morning,” Tran said about the day following Trump’s victory.
            “But, you know, I did.”
            Tran said the first patient she met on the day following Trump’s victory was a child who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
            While meeting with the patient, Tran said she and the child’s mother cried in her office together, knowing her patient’s health care was most likely going to be affected under the policies of the new administration.
            “We just didn’t know how quickly or how much,” Tran recalled.
            Congress’ handling of health care reform is ultimately why Tran said she decided to change course — she’s now challenging Republican Rep. Ed Royce for California’s 39th Congressional District.
            314 Action — “314” after pi — is apolitical action committee aimed at recruiting and assisting scientists to run for office as Democrats.
            Naughton, the founder of 314 Action, was a “chemist by training,” and she worked in breast cancer research and drug discovery before changing course to work for her family’s business. In 2013, she decided to run for Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District. However, Naughton said she found it difficult to tap into traditional political resources and party funding coming from a non-traditional political background.
            In need of outside funding, Naughton looked to the STEM community for support.
            The 314 Action network now consists of more than 225,000 people, including STEM professionals, grassroots supporters and political activists, according to the group.
            “I think voters are hungry for authenticity and are hungry for real people,” said Joshua Morrow, the executive director of 314 Action.
            The organization launched a training program in January, and since the start of the program, 314 Action said it has had more than 6,000 individuals show interest. The group said it initially expected around 1,000 by April.
            One of those 6,000 was Hans Keirstead, a neuroscientist who most recently has been working on stem cell research and is now looking to unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th Congressional District.
            “I think scientists are extremely well-suited because we work in a very complex problem in very complex dynamic systems … and that’s what you do in Congress,” Keirstead said.
            Health care and defunding of the Environmental Protection Agency are two issues Kierstad said he thinks are at risk under the current administration and Congress.
            314 Action has now endorsed Kierstad for Congress, as well as Chrissy Houlahan, who is running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th District against Rep. Ryan Costello.
            Houlahan’s background includes an engineering degree from Stanford and a master’s degree in Technology and Policy from MIT. A retired Air Force captain, she was also a high school science teacher, among other things.
            “Politicians are unashamed to meddle in science and I think the way we push against that is to get more scientists into public office and claim a seat at the table,” Naughton said.

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            Cancer research emerges as potential bipartisan cause amid budget fight

            (CNN)Nadine Takai-Day’s brother, Hawaii Democratic Congressman Mark Takai, was the politician in the family. She didn’t expect to return to Capitol Hill after her last visit for Takai’s memorial service after he succumbed to pancreatic cancer to lobby her brother’s former colleagues.

            But the more Takai-Day learned the dismal statistics about the disease — pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer with a five-year survival rate of just 9% — she decided it was her turn to become an advocate.
            “I found if I came I would have an impact because a lot of his colleagues are still here. They knew Mark, there’s a personal touch to this,” she told CNN in between visits with lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol, including those from her family’s home state of Hawaii, and her current home state of Illinois.
              In the current political climate cancer research may be one of the few issues that unites Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill against President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts. Earlier this year when the Trump administration included a roughly 20% budget cut to the National Institutes for Health it was ignored by the GOP-controlled Congress and the eventual budget deal that the President signed included a $2 billion boost for the agency in the final deal for part of 2017.
              A former colleague of Takai’s, retired Ohio Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette, also died from pancreatic cancer last year, and members from both parties told advocates visiting from all 50 states that they all had a personal connection with some form of the disease and are committed to continuing the effort to inject more federal resources into medical research.
              Leaders of both parties celebrated the passage last year of the “21st Century Cures Act,” a measure signed by then President Barack Obama and championed by his vice president, Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer.

              Budget cut concerns

              Even conservatives on the right making a major push now in next year’s budget to implement wide ranging cuts tell CNN that cancer research is one area they don’t think should be on the chopping block.
              “As you look at those numbers, even in my conversations with the President, he wants to make sure we have adequate types of money for that type of research,” Rep Mark Meadows, who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus Meadow, told CNN about direct talks with Trump.
              But the Trump administration’s budget proposal delivered to Congress in May proposed a $5.8 billion cut for NIH, and top administration officials say there is room to trim medical research programs.
              “Cancer research is for cancer research and should not go to building facilities, which is why the budget limits administrative costs ensuring that more money goes directly to helping patients,” an official from the Office of Management and Budget told CNN in a written statement.
              Julie Fleshman, the president and CEO of “PanCAN,” the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network that sponsored an advocacy day on Tuesday, told CNN they are determined to head off any reductions, and after hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, “there is a lot of opposition to the administration’s budget cuts.”
              She stressed that a combination of private and public money is critical for the pancreatic cancer community that is desperate to launch more studies to turn around the poor outcomes patients have because of few treatment options and difficulty detecting the disease. “We will fill in the gaps but there is a role for the federal government.”

              Keeping the pressure on Congress

              PanCAN recently launched a privately funded clinical trial platform called “Precision Promise,” investing $35 million with the goal of starting to enroll patients in trials by 2017. Currently only 4% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer participate in experimental drug trials, a statistic that is in line with other types of cancers where these types of research are often the key to finding new treatments that can improve the quality of life, or even extend it for some.
              But as more than 650 family members and pancreatic cancer survivors blanketed offices of lawmakers from all 50 states, the goal was to keep pressure on Congress, which is struggling to come to consensus on a budget deal, to keep the budget knives away from medical research.
              Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a senior member of both the House budget and appropriations panels opposed the administration’s efforts earlier this year, told CNN he was confident the next budget won’t slash agencies like NIH.
              “It’s not going to happen,” Cole said. He pushed back on the argument that administrative costs could be cut and predicted there will actually be some type of increase in a final budget deal.

              Disheartening statistics

              For advocates like Takai-Day the statistics can be very disheartening. Pancreatic cancer is on track to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths by 2020. Despite its low survival rates relative to other types of cancer, it received $121 million in 2017 from the National Cancer Institute, compared with $529 million for breast cancer, a disease that has significantly increased survival rates in recent years.

                Jimmy Carter has a family history of pancreatic cancer

              “We shouldn’t be telling somebody, especially with a disease, that you have this much time and that’s it — you have no hope,” Takai-Day stressed, saying “that’s unacceptable, that’s totally unacceptable.”
              Takai-Day works as a physical therapist, and other than occasionally volunteering on her brother’s campaign doesn’t have much political experience.
              But with so few who survive the disease, Takai-Day carried a binder with her brother’s official congressional photo on it to remind lawmakers and staff of his story, saying she was glad she traveled back to Washington. She avoided criticizing the Trump administration and instead remarked that it was a little surprising that after watching groups of advocates coming through his office when she visited him during his tenure she had become a lobbyist herself.
              “I’m just one person, but Mark was one person,” and referring to members of Congress who appear, at least for now to come together on this one issue, said, “they have to do something — that’s the bottom line.”

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              Georgia race: Republicans jittery about health care breathe sigh of relief

              (CNN)Karen Handel’s victory in the Georgia special House election Tuesday night has House Republicans who recently voted for a deeply unpopular bill to repeal Obamacare breathing a sigh of relief.

              And it will now offer some cover — even political reassurance — to Senate Republicans who are gearing up to cast similar votes next week.
              The Democrat in the Georgia race, Jon Ossoff, was unsuccessful in flipping a traditionally Republican district in the Atlanta suburbs previously represented by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Had the 30-year-old first-time political candidate pulled off an upset, it would have dealt a major blow to the Republican Party’s already complicated efforts to gut Obamacare.
                Democrats were prepared to cast the results of the closely watched special election as a referendum on President Donald Trump and the GOP’s legislative priorities — chief among them the quest to repeal former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law.
                Former Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Handel’s win provides the party with “huge relief and somewhat of a political sedative” heading into 2018, when Democrats are eager to try to win back control of the House.
                “It kind of calms the waters in terms of people looking for predictors or harbingers and what it means for 2018,” Pawlenty told CNN. “It says: Perhaps the approach that’s being taken in Congress and by the President are more acceptable to a swing district or swing-voting parts of the country than people are predicting.”
                Since House Republicans narrowly passed a bill to repeal Obamacare in May, Ossoff was increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the legislation.

                  GOP did not mention Trump after Georgia win

                The House bill would dismantle the main pillars of the current health care system, eliminating Obamacare taxes on the wealthy and insurers; getting rid of the individual mandate; significantly curtailing federal support for Medicaid; and allowing states to loosen key Obamacare protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
                The controversial proposal, which Handel said she would have voted for, would “gut the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions — hundreds of thousands of them,” Ossoff argued at a debate earlier this month.
                Handel pushed back forcefully, pointing out that her sister was born without an esophagus — a pre-existing condition.
                “For you to suggest that I would do anything to negatively effect her is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable,” Handel said.
                A recent Ossoff campaign ad featuring several breast cancer survivors accused Handel of having “cut off funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screening” when she was a senior executive at Susan G. Komen (Handel has long since denied such accusations, calling the fight against breast cancer her “No. 1 priority”).

                  Jon Ossoff concedes Georgia race

                With health care so much of the focus in the Georgia special election, Democrats were ready to liken an Ossoff victory to that of former GOP Sen. Scott Brown in the 2010 special election in Massachusetts.
                At the time, Brown’s unlikely triumph over Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley was viewed as voters’ sharp rejection of Obamacare, which Democratic lawmakers were in the middle of crafting. When Brown decisively won the office long occupied by the late-Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, Democrats were forced to act quickly to pass Obamacare, despite deep reservations and divisions across the party about the legislation.
                Now, with Handel keeping Price’s old seat in GOP hands, Democratic strategists insist that health care will still be powerful ammunition against Republicans in next year’s congressional elections.
                “I don’t think that very many Republicans will take much comfort on the health care issue even if Handel does win,” said veteran Democratic pollster Geoff Garin in advance of Tuesday’s result. “I think Republicans will continue to recognize that taking away coverage from millions of Americans and raising costs for millions more is a politically unpopular and dangerous enterprise.”
                A draft of Republicans’ plans in the Senate is expected to be released this Thursday, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wants to put health care in the rear-view mirror before lawmakers leave Washington ahead of the July 4 recess.
                Senate Republicans have already been facing mounting pressure — including from the President himself — to address serious concerns that have been raised about the House GOP bill. Despite having celebrated the House passage of an Obamacare repeal bill last month, Trump privately told lawmakers recently that the House proposal was “mean,” and that the final product plan must be more “generous.”
                White House spokesman Sean Spicer reiterated that sentiment in the briefing room Tuesday.
                “The President clearly wants a bill that has heart in it,” Spicer said. “He believes that health care is something that is near and dear to so many families and individuals.”

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                House-passed GOP health care plan is ‘unconstitutional,’ NY attorney general says

                (CNN)One day after President Donald Trump celebrated the first successful phase of his quest to rewrite American health care policy, opposing forces have begun to formulate their resistance plans.

                New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a longtime critic of his fellow Empire State resident, tells Erin Burnett he’s planning a lawsuit should the legislation be signed into law.
                “If they pass the bill in the form the House passed it, it is unconstitutional,” he said on Friday’s edition CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
                  Calling it “bad public policy” that will ultimately “cost millions of people health care,” Schneiderman takes particular issue with the impact the bill will have on women.
                  “This is an effort to cut off funding for breast cancer screenings, education on sexual-transmitted disease,” he noted, adding that “it imposes an undue burden on women’s constitutional rights.”
                  Health care, meanwhile, is hardly Schneiderman’s only concern with the president.
                  He also takes issue with Donald Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, a sign, he feels, of the man’s dangerous overall lack of transparency.
                  “The failure to divest and failure to disclose is going to be a problem for this president as long as he keeps this up… sooner or later this is going to come to a head.”
                  On Thursday the House passed the health care bill by a count of 217-213. It now heads to the Senate where a challenge is expected.

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                  Sen. Pat Roberts apologizes for ‘mammogram’ line

                  (CNN)Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, apologized Thursday afternoon for making an apparent joke about mammograms related to what features are or are not included in Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

                  “I deeply regret my comments on such an important topic,” Roberts said in a statement. “I know several individuals whose lives have been saved by mammograms, and I recognize how essential they are to women’s health. I never intended to indicate otherwise, and I apologize for my comments.”
                  Roberts, who’s known for employing a dry sense of humor, told a Talking Points Memo reporter earlier in the day: “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms.”
                    He was referring to a potential change in the Republican health care plan that would gut a measure requiring insurers to cover “essential health benefits,” including mammograms for breast cancer screening.
                    “Cancer is no joke,” Rep. Judy Chu, D-California said on Twitter. “Mammograms save lives. Same reason we pay for prostate exams. Government shouldn’t decide what care women can access.”
                    Roberts, in an interview with CNN Thursday before he issued the apology, argued that not all of the benefits declared essential are “really needed,” and suggested individuals should be able to choose plans that let them decide what’s essential.

                    “I don’t think it’s the end of the world in terms of coverage by any means,” he said. “That would be by the decision of the individual and the doctor of their choice. That’s the whole point. “
                    Asked whether mammograms should be covered, Roberts suggested he wouldn’t need them because he’s a male.
                    “Not for me,” he said.
                    And while he said it was up “for the House to decide,” he said mammogram coverage is a “reasonable topic of discussion” and argued that it would help premiums go down.

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