July 7, 2015

A gaining global boycott against Israel has many world leaders worried — including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

The movement, called BDS or "boycotts, divestment, and sanctions" against Israel, was begun by a group of Palestinian activists in 2005, as inspired by peaceful anti-apartheid movements in South Africa. The group has since gained an enormous global following, to the point that Israel has now identified it as a threat akin to Palestinian militant groups or the Iranian nuclear program, The Associated Press reports.

“Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival,” Hillary Clinton recently wrote to donor Haim Saban and other leaders in a letter dated July 2. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world — especially in Europe — we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.” She called on both Democrats and Republicans to "make countering B.D.S. a priority."

However, organizers and supporters of BDS deny accusations of anti-Semitism; rather, their goals include ending Israel's occupation of territories captured in 1967, ending discrimination against Arabs, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees by returning family properties lost in the war of 1948.  Jeva Lange

4:08 p.m.

Washington has become the first state to legalize human composting as an alternative to burial or cremation after Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law on Tuesday.

The law also legalizes alkaline hydrolysis, "a process that breaks down bodies using lye and heat," HuffPost explained. Alkaline hydrolysis is legal in some other states, including California, Idaho, and Maine. Both processes will be legal in Washington starting on May 1, 2020.

These alternative methods have been touted by advocates as being more eco-friendly than traditional burial or cremation. As much as "a metric ton of CO2" could be saved by choosing the process of human composting instead of traditional methods, says Seattle company Recompose.

After the human composting process is complete — which would take about a month — the deceased's loved ones can take the remains home "to grow a tree or a garden," Recompose's website states.

It's possible that Recompose will be the first of many Washington companies to offer this service, though it's unclear exactly how many Washingtonians will decide to avail themselves of this new opportunity.

Read more at HuffPost. Shivani Ishwar

3:58 p.m.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson is desperately trying to explain that stunning "Oreo" gaffe.

Carson while testifying before Congress on Tuesday was asked by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) about REOs, a real-estate term, but responded, "An Oreo?" Porter proceeded to explain to Carson what an REO is as he appeared to not know what the last letter stood for.

Carson in two interviews on Wednesday discussed this viral moment, first on Fox Business, where he claimed he "was having difficulty hearing" Porter. "Of course, I'm very familiar with foreclosed properties and with REOs, have read extensively about them," he said.

In fact, Carson suggested he knows much more about the topic than the Democratic lawmaker because "I suspect when Katie Porter was an expert in this area, things were very different," saying he invited her to speak with his staff so "she would then be able to understand what's going on."

That doesn't explain why Carson struggled to recall what the 'O' in 'REO' stands for, though. To address that point, Carson said in another interview with The Hill, "We throw around acronyms all the time, particularly in government. And you don't really even think about, 'what do the letters mean?' But you know what the thing is. Of course you know what an REO is."

Carson after the gaffe on Tuesday tried to make light of the mistake by posting a photo of himself with a box of Oreos and sending some to Porter's office. She didn't find that very funny, though, telling MSNBC that Carson should not be in his position and that "we're all losing by not having competent, strong, effective, intelligent leadership at HUD." Brendan Morrow

3:43 p.m.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) has an unusual — and somewhat graphic — way of telling Democrats to get a move on.

House Democrats have spent months in a will-they, won't-they relationship with impeaching President Trump. So in a floor speech on Wednesday, Kennedy made it revoltingly clear that they should impeach the president now or quit talking about it.

"Again I say this gently and I say this hopefully constructively," Kennedy said on Wednesday before very not gently continuing: "The House leadership needs to urinate or get off the pot." Kennedy then broke down his metaphor into more explicit terms, saying House leaders should either "impeach" Trump "and let us hold a trial — he won't be convicted — or they need to go ahead and hold in contempt every single member of the Trump administration." If the latter happens and the issue goes to the court, either Trump will win, or the House will win and "no American with a brain above a single-celled organism is going to want to run for president," Kennedy finished.

The number of House Democrats — along with one Republican — calling for Trump's impeachment continues to mount. Yet despite reported prodding from her staff and even House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won't let it happen.

3:39 p.m.

The European parliamentary elections will begin on Thursday, carrying on through Sunday. All 28 European Union member states will elect a certain number of Members of Parliament to the bench. EU elections are normally, as The Washington Post describes, "tepid" affairs, but this year they've come to the forefront across the continent. Here are four lingering questions to consider before the polls open.

Will the skeptics prevail? — Several EU-skeptic party leaders, like Italy's Matteo Salvini, France's Marine Le Pen, and Hungary's Viktor Orban, have forged a united front in an attempt to gain control of the parliament. But where they once called for Brexit-like referendums in their respective countries, most of the EU-skeptic leaders now believe the answer is to reform the system of government to favor individual nations. The skeptics are expected to gain a fair number of seats, but it's unclear if they'll procure enough to make a difference going forward.

What about Brexit? — Brexit is a disaster, that much is clear. But because the U.K. Parliament can't come to terms on a deal, British citizens will participate in this round of elections. The election itself doesn't have much to do with domestic politics in the U.K., but many see the vote as emblematic of where the country now stands on leaving the EU. As The Guardian's Gaby Hinsliff writes, "This may be the closest we ever get to a second referendum." Currently, Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, which as its name suggests, wants the U.K. to leave, is currently leading the polls.

Will people actually show up? - In 2014, the last election cycle, voter turnout slumped to 42.4 percent. The truth is, in the past, Europeans have cared little about their Parliamentary elections. But with the rise of populist parties (and the possible consequences of their victories), and the Brexit-induced fragility of the EU on people's minds, it's likely turnout will surge. Tim O'Donnell

3:10 p.m.

Eating foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been touted as a great way to stay healthy. It's said to help prevent everything from diabetes to the common cold to visiting the doctor at all. But a new study has found that your diet can have a real impact on your likelihood of getting cancer, too.

The study, published on Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute: Cancer Spectrum, found that about 5.2 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States in 2015 were linked with a poor diet. That figure is "comparable to the proportion of cancer burden attributable to alcohol," said Fang Fang Zhang, a cancer epidemiologist at Tufts University and the study's lead author.

The "poor diet" that correlated with cancer cases was defined with seven factors: "a low intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products and a high intake of processed meats, red meats and sugary beverages," CNN explained. While 5.2 percent of all cancer cases might not seem like a lot, certain types of cancers had a much more tangible link: Colorectal cancers were linked to a poor diet more than 38 percent of the time.

Diet, Zhang explained, is one of the few risk factors for cancer you can actually control. While further research will be required to determine exactly how the diet risk changes with age and other factors, focusing on an improved diet can reduce "cancer burden and disparities in the U.S.," Zhang said.

Learn more about the study at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

3:03 p.m.

Michael Avenatti has just been hit with even more federal charges.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York on Wednesday announced that Avenatti has been indicted on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges related to his time representing Stormy Daniels, the porn star who claims she had an affair with President Trump in 2006.

Avenatti is accused of using a fraudulent document "purporting to bear his client's name and signature" to convince her literary agent to divert money she was owed to his own account. He then allegedly used this money for "personal and business purposes." Although Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is not mentioned by name in the indictment, ABC and NBC both report she is the client prosecutors are referring to.

“Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney – the duty to his client," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said on Wednesday, going on to say Avenatti "blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle."

Prosecutors also said that Avenatti falsely told his client that her publisher was refusing to pay her, even though he had himself received the money. Avenatti has denied the charges, saying in a statement to ABC News, "No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled."

Avenatti has also now been officially indicted with previously-announced charges over an alleged attempt to extort millions of dollars from Nike. This comes after he had additionally been hit with charges from the Central District of California over alleged wire and bank-fraud in a separate case, with prosecutors accusing him of stealing millions of dollars from clients and using it for his own expenses; with these charges, he was already looking at a potential prison sentence of up to 335 years. Brendan Morrow

2:37 p.m.

Cell division is a process that scientists have been fascinated with since we first learned about cells. Through decades of study, scientists have come up with a basic narrative on how cells divide: Each phase of division, broadly called "mitosis," has been catalogued and analyzed up close. Now, the Allen Institute for Cell Science has come up with a better way to take a good look at the way all organisms form: a 3-D model that visualizes, in color-coded detail, the way a healthy human cell divides.

Announced in a press release on Wednesday, the Allen Institute's model of the Integrated Mitotic Stem Cell will enable "a deeper understanding" of the process of mitosis in human cells. In addition to helping us with "basic biology research," it will also be instrumental in cancer-related research.

Cancer is caused by the improper division and replication of cells — in the search for treatments and cures, scientists are often looking at why the specific cells that make up a cancerous growth are behaving that way. So having a full model of how a normal, healthy cell divides provides "a much-needed baseline" for comparison to cancerous cells, said Rick Horwitz, the executive director of the Allen Institute's Cell Science division.

Further studies into the mitosis process will be able to use the Allen Insitute's tool "to connect the dots between different parts of the cell," instead of studying just the chromosomes in isolation, said Tom Misteli, the director of the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research.

Take a look at the Integrated Mitotic Stem Cell here, or watch the Allen Institute's video about it below. Shivani Ishwar

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