Johns Hopkins approved to perform HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants

— It could mean the difference between life and death for more than 1,000 people in the United States each year.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have been given the okay to become the first hospital in the country to perform HIV-positive to HIV-positive organ transplants.

“This is an unbelievably exciting day for our hospital and our team, but more importantly for patients living with HIV and end-stage organ disease,” said Dorry Segev, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “For these individuals, this means a new chance at life.”

Until the HOPE Act — HIV Organ Policy Equity Act — passed in 2013, doctors were prevented from using organs from HIV-positive donors, even if they were intended for an HIV-positive patient.

Now that’s no longer an issue.

Segev estimates the number of HIV-positive would-be organ donors in the United States at 500-600 annually. Their organs could save more than 1,000 people.

A study by the University of Pennsylvania put the number of potential HIV-positive donors at nearly 400.

“The findings are significant because there are not enough organ donors in the United States to meet the needs of all of the patients who might benefit from life-saving organ transplants,” said Emily Blumberg, a professor at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Some of the patients waiting for organs are infected with HIV but never make it to transplant because they either die while waiting or become too sick to be transplanted.”

The waiting list

In 2014, there were some 121,000 people in the United States on the waiting list for an organ transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health. Only one in four received a transplant, so there’s a real shortfall in donor organs available.

The HOPE Act was inspired by an organ transplant program in South Africa that showed positive outcomes for non-HIV transplants in HIV-positive recipients and the proven results of HIV-positive to HIV-positive kidney transplants.

With its recent approval by the United Network for Organ Sharing, Johns Hopkins will become the first hospital in the nation to do an HIV-positive kidney transplant and the first in the world to perform an HIV-positive liver transplant.

The timing will depend on organ availability and patient match.

“Organ transplantation is actually even more important for patients with HIV, since they die on the waiting list even faster than their HIV-negative counterparts,” Segev said. “We are very thankful to … use organs from HIV-positive patients to save lives, instead of throwing them away, as we had to do for so many years.”


™ & © 2016 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Prince announces Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore

— First there was the song, then the concert.

Days after recording a protest song in the aftermath of the Freddie Gray protests, Prince has announced a Mother’s Day Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore. The show will take place at Royal Farms Arena.

“In a spirit of healing, the event is meant to be a catalyst for pause and reflection following the outpouring of violence that has gripped Baltimore and areas throughout the U.S.,” organizers said.

Tickets go on sale Wednesday.

“As a symbolic message of our shared humanity and love for one another, attendees are invited to wear something gray in tribute to all those recently lost in the violence,” organizers said.

Moved by the unrest in Baltimore, Prince recorded a song critical of the killing of young African-American men, a publicist for the artist said last week.

It is a tribute to the people of Baltimore but will also address political and social issues throughout the country.

Prince’s Paisley Park Studios has not yet announced a release date.

Prince released two new albums last year for a career total of 34. He has sold about 40 million albums during his career, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

CNN’s Steve Forrest and Ben Brumfield contributed to this report

The death of Freddie Gray: Baltimore protests grow

The emotions are raw and protests are growing in Baltimore, where a community wants answers in the death of Freddie Gray.

Tuesday evening, as protesters chanted “No justice! No Peace!,” Gray’s distraught mother, Gloria Darden, collapsed in tears at the spot her son was arrested this month. She was whisked away.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died of a spinal injury Sunday, exactly one week after he was taken into custody.

The demonstrations are only gaining momentum. The crowd will be back on Wednesday in front of the Western District police station where Gray was taken after his arrest.

On Thursday, they will rally in front of city hall.

“We won’t stop,” one man said Tuesday. “We have the power and, of course, today shows we have the numbers.”

Feds getting involved

The increasing public pressure comes as the Department of Justice announced it was opening an investigation into the case

A spokesman said the agency is investigating whether the civil rights of Gray were violated during a struggle on April 12.

An autopsy found that Gray died from a severe spinal cord injury, but Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez told reporters Monday that there is no indication of how the injury occurred.

“We welcome outside review,” Police Captain Eric Kowalczky said. “We want to be open, we want to be transparent. We owe it to the city and we owe it to the Gray family to find out exactly what happened.”

Police plan to conclude their own investigation by Friday, May 1. From there, the case will go to the state’s attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file charges.

Officers involved

Earlier in the day Tuesday, the Baltimore Police Department released the names of six police officers involved in the case. All have been suspended with pay.

They are: Lt. Brian Rice, 41, who joined the department in 1997; Officer Caesar Goodson, 45, who joined in 1999; Sgt. Alicia White, 30, who joined in 2010; Officer William Porter, 25, who joined in 2012; Officer Garrett Miller, 26, who joined in 2012; and Officer Edward Nero, 29, who joined in 2012.

After an “in-custody death,” it’s standard procedure to release the names of officers involved, said Kowalczyk.

It doesn’t mean the officers did anything wrong, nor does it mean that these were the only officers involved, he said.

Of the six officers, three were on bikes and initially approached Gray, another made eye contact with Gray, another officer joined in the arrest after it was initiated and one drove the police van, Kowalczyk said.

Mayor’s pledge

Speaking to CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she understands where the protesters are coming from. She understands their frustration.

“Mr. Gray’s family deserves justice, and our community deserves an opportunity to heal, to get better, and to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Adding to the frustration is an autopsy that hasn’t yielded many answers in Gray’s death. In fact, some feel it’s prompted more questions.

“I’m going to make sure that as we get information that we can confirm, we’re going to put that information out in the public,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I want people to understand that I have no interest in hiding information, holding back information.”

She’s angry, she said, and among the questions she wants answered are: Why did police stop Gray in the first place? And why did arresting officers make what she called the mistake of not immediately requesting medical attention when Gray asked for it?

“We will get to the bottom of it, and we will go where the facts lead us,” she said. “We will hold people accountable if we find there was wrongdoing.”

Family attorney William Murphy urged patience in the case and called for a careful investigation.

“Now am I skeptical of the police investigation? You bet. Do I have reason to be skeptical? Yes, I am a normal human being who understands the history of the relationship between white police and black people in this country,” he said. “That’s enough to make me skeptical.”

What we know

According to documents obtained Monday, the April 12 incident began when Gray ran from police.

While the court documents allege that one of the arresting officers, Garrett Miller, took Gray into custody after finding a switchblade in his pocket, the Gray family attorney called the allegation a “sideshow.” Gray was carrying a “pocket knife of legal size,” Murphy said.

Police never saw the knife and chased Gray only after he took off running, the attorney said.

Court documents said Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.”

“The officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of (Gray’s) front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident,” the documents say. “The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring assisted, one-hand-operated knife.”

The mayor has questioned whether police should have pursued Gray in the first place.

“It is not necessarily probable cause to chase someone. So, we still have questions,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Gray was in perfect health until police chased and tackled him, Murphy said. Less than an hour later, he was on his way to a trauma clinic with a spinal injury, where he fell into a coma.

The family has not seen the autopsy report yet, Murphy said, and relatives are still waiting to take possession of Gray’s body. The family intends to have a second, private autopsy conducted once Baltimore police turn over the body, the attorney said.

What the police say

Police, according to their own timeline, spotted Gray, gave chase, caught him, cuffed him and requested a paddy wagon in fewer than four minutes.

The transport van left with Gray about 11 minutes after that, police said, and another 30 minutes passed before “units request paramedics to the Western District to transport the suspect to an area hospital.”

Murphy and angry residents of Baltimore want to know what happened in those 30 minutes in between.

When cell phones began recording, Gray was already on the ground with three officers kneeling over him. He let out long screams.

Police said Gray requested medical attention, including an inhaler, and an ambulance took him to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center.

“He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life,” Murphy said. “He clung to life for seven days.”

CNN’s John Verhovek, Suzanne Malveaux, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Evan Perez, Shawn Nottingham, AnneClaire Stapleton, Julian Cummings, Chris Cuomo, Ben Brumfield and Dana Ford contributed to this report.


™ & © 2015 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Indiana backlash: What you need to know about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

— Gov. Mike Pence unleashed a firestorm on Indiana last week when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Critics of the law contend it could be used by individuals and businesses to discriminate — particularly against the LGBT community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals — on the basis of religion.

Those for and against Indiana's controversial

(Photo courtesy/WXIN)

Those for and against Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” bill gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, the day before Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law.

The ramifications for the Hoosier State are just starting to be felt in the form of boycotts, petitions and travel bans.

As the controversy mushrooms, here’s what got us to where we are. And where things are headed.

The act is signed

Last week, Pence put his signature on the RFRA — a law that allows Indiana businesses to cite their religious freedom as a legal defense.

The law states that the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be “substantially burdened” can lean on this law to fend off lawsuits.

In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, Pence says the RFRA “ensures that Indiana law will respect religious freedom and apply the highest level of scrutiny to any state or local governmental action that infringes on people’s religious liberty.”

Pence notes that there is no reference to sexual orientation in the law.

The backlash is immediate

Civil liberties and gay rights groups hold to their stance that the law could be used by businesses to deny service to people based on their sexual orientation and justify that discrimination based on their religious belief.

“Silence is consent!” tweets Laurel Davilia, a commentator on Brass Knuckles Progressives Radio.

Boycotts begin

From sports teams to musicians to other cities and states, they fell like dominoes.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and set to host its men’s basketball Final Four in the city this week, said the law could lead it to move events elsewhere in future years. The NBA, WNBA and NFL issued critical statements too.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says fans of all stripes are welcome.

“The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base,” Irsay tweets. “We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation. ONE FAMILY!”

A petition posted on hopes to get the Big Ten Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.

“I think that Indiana needs to be told that it must respect all persons regardless of sex, age, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation,” Sean Burke of Madison, Wisconsin, says in the petition. “As a football fan, I think we can send a message by calling on the NCAA and Big Ten Conference to take a stand.”

Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is scheduled to host the league’s championship game through the 2021 season.

At last check, the petition had more than 11,000 supporters.

The mayors of San Francisco and Seattle have barred spending on travel to Indiana. The governors of Connecticut and Washington state did the same thing.

And you can add Wilco to the boycott bandwagon. The group is canceling its May 7 show in Indianapolis, it says on Facebook.

“The ‘Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination to us,” Wilco says. “Hope to get back to the Hoosier State someday soon, when this odious measure is repealed.”

Cher is among the artists speaking out. Her son Chaz Bono is a transgender man.


State walks back … sort of

Indiana’s top two state lawmakers pledged Monday to amend the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law to clarify that it cannot be used to discriminate against gay people.

“This law does not discriminate, and it will not be allowed to do so,” David Long, the Indiana Senate president pro tem, said during a news conference with state House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Pence had said earlier that he was working with lawmakers to clarify the law.

Critics don’t buy it

Critics still weren’t on board with the anti-discrimination claims. Opponents of RFRA marched around the state capitol.

Someone even created a satire ad: “Indiana. It’s a great place to be a bigot.”.

They demand change

The rhetoric has reached such a fever pitch that a front page editorial in Tuesday’s edition of the Indianapolis Star blares the headline: “Fix. This. Now.”

The editorial suggests the RFRA and protections for gays and lesbians can co-exist.

The state is at a crossroads it says.

“(N)o matter its original intent (the law) already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future,” according to the editorial. “Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage.”

The editorial closes with:

“Governor, Indiana is in a state of crisis. It is worse than you seem to understand.

“You must act with courage and wisdom. You must lead us forward now. You must ensure that all Hoosiers have strong protections against discrimination.

“The laws can co-exist. And so can we.”

Some presidential hopefuls offer support

Some of the GOP’s top figures are backing Pence despite the controversy. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have voiced their support. Both are considered likely Republican candidates for the White House.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy last week, is also on board.

“I’m proud to stand with Gov. @mike_pence for religious liberty, and I urge Americans to do the same,” Cruz tweets.

Indy is not the only state

Indiana is the 20th state to adopt a “religious freedom restoration” law, most of which are modeled after the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.

But that law passed with the backing of a broad-based coalition and wasn’t set against the backdrop of gay rights or the wave of marriage equality laws that have swept the country in recent years.

Adam Talbot, a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, stresses that those 20 laws are “dramatically different in their scope and effect.”

“Calling them similar in this way risks being misleading. Indiana is the broadest and most dangerous law of its kind in the country,” Talbot says.

Arkansas’ legislature passed an Indiana-style law on Friday, which now heads to the state’s governor for approval.

Governor hard pressed to explain

Despite the countroversy, the Indiana governor says concerns that his state’s new “religious freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away LGBT customers is the result of a “tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.”

Still, he was hard pressed to explain why that wasn’t the case.

Given a chance on Sunday to add some clarity, Pence refused to answer at least six yes-or-no questions from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about whether the measure legalizes discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Jeremy Diamond and Eric Bradner contributed to this report.

Vikings: Adrian Peterson won’t play until legal issues are resolved

— Running back Adrian Peterson will not play for the Minnesota Vikings until his legal issues are resolved, the team said early Wednesday.

Read More: To spank or not to spank

It’s a reversal of course for the Vikings. The team had earlier said that Peterson, who is facing a child abuse charge, would practice this week and could play in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints

In a statement early Wednesday, the team said Peterson has been placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require him to “remain away from all team activities.”

“While we were trying to make a balanced decision (Monday), after further reflection we have concluded that this resolution is best for the Vikings and for Adrian,” said a statement from owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. “We want to be clear: we have a strong stance regarding the protection and welfare of children, and we want to be sure we get this right.”

Peterson is considered one of the best running backs in the NFL — if not the best. His absence was probably felt during the Vikings’ 30-7 loss to the Patriots last Sunday.

In 2011, he agreed to a lucrative contract, which reported would be worth $100 million over a 7-year period.

Turn for the worse

But his fortunes have taken a turn for the worse since his indictment last week on a felony charge of causing bodily injury to his son.

On Tuesday, he lost one of his most significant endorsement deals when Castrol, a major producer of motor oil, pulled out.

Castrol used Peterson in commercials for its Edge performance oil product and on social media. Many recent social media posts of his likeness had been pulled down, and the commercials were no longer available on YouTube. (His other major sponsor, Nike, said late last week it would stand by its athlete for the time being.)

Also, the website for his All Day Foundation was taken off line after the charities represented on the site were getting “harassing” calls from gossip sites, his philanthropic adviser, Bruce Richmond, said.

“We took the website off line because the charities that Adrian supports were getting calls from the media and were getting harassed by the media,” Richmond told CNN. “I spoke to one communication director saying she had received about a dozen calls today from the same gossip site.”

Legal process

Following his indictment, Peterson turned himself in to East Texas authorities Saturday and was released on a $15,000 bond.

The next step is a preliminary court hearing on October 8.

According to Texas law, people can be convicted of injury to a child if they cause bodily or mental injury “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence” or cause such harm by omission. The crime is punishable by up to two years in a state jail and a $1,000 fine.


™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

2014 Emmy Awards: 5 buzzworthy moments

— The Emmy Awards will never be confused for the MTV Video Music Awards — especially when they air on consecutive nights.

It’s status quo versus cutting-edge cool. Even when Hollywood lets its hair down, it’s on the tame side.

Still, host Seth Meyers did his best to liven up the proceedings. And the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards that aired Monday night did offer up some memorable moments.

1. Seth and Billy’s crazy quiz

Meyers teamed up with “Billy on the Street star” Billy Eichner to dash around the streets of New York and bombard pedestrians with random pop culture questions.

During a frenetic five minutes, the twosome tackled Emmy snubs, challenged people to name an Emmy nominee and generally terrorized unsuspecting New Yorkers. Then there’s the collection they took up for the cast of the “Big Bang Theory.”

“Why is the Emmys not just @billyeichner doing that for three hours?” tweeted actress Anna Kendrick.

2. ‘Weird Al”s plot parody parade

Remember when TV theme songs meant something? “The Brady Bunch.” “Gilligan’s Island.” You got a catchy tune and the plot, all in 30 seconds.

Nobody does that anymore. Nobody, except “Weird Al” Yankovic, who skewered everything from “Mad Men” to “Game of Thrones” in a medley with choice lines like, “Jon Hamm’s never won an Emmy/ Oh who cares? He’s still Jon freaking Hamm.”

3. Gwen’s ‘Adele Dazeem’ moment

Remember when John Travolta, for some inexplicable reason, mangled Idina Menzel’s name as ‘Adele Dazeem’? Gwen Stefani had one of those while presenting the Emmy for Outstanding Variety/Music/Comedy Series to “The Colbert Report.” Or, as she put it, “The Colbort Report.” Fortunately, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine was there to quickly correct her.

4. Crystal’s fond remembrance

Your heart had to break for Billy Crystal, the sometimes Oscar host who delivered a heartfelt tribute to his buddy, Robin Williams. “It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in our lives,” he said of the actor, who was found dead of an apparent suicide earlier this month. Crystal spoke fondly, touchingly for nearly five minutes. The night before, the VMAs paused to remember Williams … for a mere 23 seconds.

5. Bryan breaking bad with the Veep

The gag that paid off big time last night was when “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston planted a long, wet one on Julia Louis-Dreyfus as she headed to the stage to accept her Emmy award?

When the stars were presenting an earlier award, they had a running gag that Louis-Dreyfus couldn’t remember that Cranston was a guest star on “Seinfeld,” and that the pair even made out on camera.

Not to be brushed aside, Cranston blocked her as she walked toward the stage to accept her trophy for best actress in a comedy series for “Veep.” He swept Louis-Dreyfus into a passionate embrace until Jimmy Fallon forced them to separate.

“Yeah, yeah, he was on ‘Seinfeld,'” she quipped, while the camera panned to Cranston wiping the lipstick off his lips.

CNN’s Saeed Ahmed and Dorrine Mendoza contributed to this report.

Sterling asked: What has Magic Johnson done? Answer: Quite a lot

— Perhaps the oddest part of Donald Sterling’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper was the way he unloaded on Magic Johnson.

It was the second time in about a month that the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers launched into tirade against the NBA Hall of Fame point guard, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

In the recorded conversation that earned Sterling a lifetime ban from the NBA, he was caught telling friend V. Stiviano that he doesn’t want her posting pictures with African-Americans, including Johnson.

In Monday night’s CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, he went farther — much farther.

“What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?” he said, turning the question on the CNN host. “He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business, did he help anybody in South LA?

“What kind of a guy goes to every city, has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV? Is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. But what does he do for the black people? He doesn’t do anything.”

So, let’s ask the question: What has Magic Johnson ever done?

As it turns out, quite a bit — and he’s been doing them for a long time.

He won championships

For more than three decades, Earvin Johnson has had the “Magic” touch.

He led Michigan State to a national title in 1979 before going first in the NBA draft and winning the championship with the Los Angeles Lakers during his very first year in the league.

The paycheck was nice too. Johnson signed a 25-year deal for $25 million. It was the longest and highest-paying gig in sports at the time.

In 13 seasons with the Lakers, he racked up five NBA championships and three MVP awards. And don’t forget the Olympic gold medal in 1992 as a part of the “Dream Team” — the first year pro players could take part.

Nine months earlier, Olympic gold seemed like anything but a dream.

He helped change attitudes about HIV/AIDS

When Johnson announced he was HIV positive and retiring from the Lakers in November 1991, it sounded more like a death sentence — so little was known about the disease at the time.

But he helped change America’s attitude toward the disease.

In an interview with Cooper in November, he described himself as “the blessing and the curse of HIV.”

“I’m the blessing because people were talking about it, they ran out and got tested at that time,” he said.

“Then I’m the curse because…people now say, oh well, HIV is nothing because if I get it I can be like Magic. He’s doing good, and I can do the same thing he’s doing or take the same medicine he’s taking and I’ll be okay.”

“But what they don’t understand,” he added, “in 22 years, millions of people have died.”

And so, he says, his work isn’t done.

He’s raised millions for charity

The same month he tested positive for HIV, he formed the Magic Johnson Foundation which “works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities.”

In the two-plus decades since the world gasped at his HIV announcement, the foundation has raised more than $20 million for charity and given out almost $4 million in scholarships.

He’s brought business to minority communities

As it turns out, Johnson was a pretty good businessman too. He founded MJ Enterprises in 1987.

The focus again was on serving diverse communities, bringing high-quality businesses to minority areas typically under served by larger corporations.

And Johnson seemed to invest in nearly everything — theaters, restaurants, fitness centers, sports teams and a TV network.

A partnership with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made him millions. So did a share of the Lakers he bought and sold.

All together, Johnson’s business empire is estimated at $500 million.

He’s taken the high road

With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Johson’s longtime agent and friend Lon Rosen came to his defense Monday night, saying Magic was “the exact opposite” of the way Sterling portrayed him in the CNN interview.

“I’ve known Earvin since 1979 and his whole mission in life has been to create business opportunities in urban America and to be charitable,” Rosen said in a Los Angeles Times interview on Monday. “He has literally donated tens of millions of dollars of his own money to organizations and individuals forever and ever and ever.”

For his part, Johnson didn’t dignify Sterling’s contentions with a remark.

Johnson posted a series of tweets after the interview aired, but he didn’t respond to the specific allegations.

“I’d rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview,” he said in one.

“After this week, no more Sterling talk. Just the NBA Playoffs,” he said in another.

CNN’s Christine Romans contributed to this report


™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Possible Syria strike: 5 things to pay attention to today

— President Barack Obama’s war drums continue to beat, but an offhand comment from Secretary of State John Kerry has set in motion a diplomatic effort by Russia — seized on at the United Nations — to ward off a U.S. strike on Syria in favor of mediation.

What Kerry said was that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could prevent a strike if he “could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.” Kerry added that Syria would not be willing to do this.

Russia has latched on to the proposal, and Syria says it is taking the idea seriously.

The view is that Kerry’s comment is either an accidental out for a president hemmed in by his own red line, or a momentum-sucking goof that may have erased any chance Obama had to engage in a military strike without broader international approval.

Will Russia’s proposal delay an Obama strike? And how can Obama sway Americans to support military action? With his approval ratings on all fronts tanking, his prime-time televised address Tuesday night will be crucial. It’ll be the administration’s closing argument after a week of courting lawmakers.

Here are five things to look for today.

1. What Obama says in his speech

The president will still make the case that Congress must authorize military force in Syria, a senior administration official told CNN. This, despite the fact that Obama believes Kerry’s offhand offer for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons could bear fruit now that Russia and the United Nations have jumped aboard.

The link between the two? The administration argues that the offer to turn over chemical weapons wouldn’t be on the table if not for the threat of force.

A senior administration official told CNN that Kerry’s not in trouble with the president for the comment, but does admit that it was off the cuff while restating administration policy. Bottom line: It wasn’t inconsistent with what was happening behind the scenes, according to the official.

To make his case for a military strike, the president will lay out what happened in the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21, and why it’s in America’s interest to act. He’ll argue that the United States can’t let this kind of attack go unanswered, and he’ll tell us how he sees it affecting the safety of U.S. troops.

And perhaps the toughest one of all, he’ll tell a nation weary from more than a decade of war why Syria isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan.

2. Whether Russia’s diplomatic volley has knocked the steam out of a strike

The White House isn’t acting like it has. If anything, the lobbying on Capitol Hill is intensifying ahead of the president’s address.

It all starts with Obama, who will go to the Hill on Tuesday to make his case to Senate Democrats, a Senate leadership aide told CNN. Making sure to hit both sides of the aisle, the president also will attend the Senate GOP lunch, a Senate Republican aide said.

The House Armed Services Committee hosts three of the administration’s big guns beginning Tuesday morning: Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All of them will get important face time with the influential committee.

Although no longer a member of the administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak on Syria at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday evening, just ahead of the president’s national address.

3. Whether the lobbying efforts pay off in votes

For the time being, the tide is against the White House. On Monday, six senators notched their votes in the “no” column, with just one, Democrat Barbara Mikulski, saying she would favor military intervention against Syria. In the House, chalk up 13 new “no” votes.

That brings the total of “no” votes to 29 in the Senate and 161 in the House.

Still, there are a lot of undecided members — 46 in the Senate and at least 229 in the House. The numbers could still work out for the president.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a procedural vote that had been scheduled for Wednesday. The Senate’s in no hurry to vote on Syria.

4. If Obama fares better in the court of public opinion

The president’s approval rating on foreign policy is at an all-time low of 40%, a steady slide from 54% in January, according to a CNN/ORC International survey.

Just three in 10 approve of how he’s handling Syria.

The public is split right down the middle on whether Obama is a strong leader, whether he is honest and trustworthy, and whether he inspires confidence.

Then there’s the whole “war weariness” issue in play. Six in 10 say the war in Iraq was a mistake, and 50% say the same thing about Afghanistan. Three-quarters say the United States doesn’t need to be the “world policeman.”

Also hurting the president’s cause, more than seven in 10 say a strike would not achieve significant goals for the United States, and a similar amount say it’s not in the national interest for the country to get involved in Syria’s civil war, a separate CNN/ORC International poll shows.

The sentiments come despite survey results that show 80% of Americans believe al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people.

5. How the international community reacts

The next move appears to be Russia’s in this diplomatic chess match. Can Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov deliver on the offer to have Syria hand its chemical arsenal over to international control, or is it just an effort to buy time for the Assad regime?

Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia’s working on a “workable, clear, specific plan” that it’ll present soon.

The White House is willing to listen and, perhaps, wait a bit — but not too long.

“It’s certainly a positive development when the Russians and Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemical weapons,” Obama told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday. But he said the threat of American force would remain.

“We don’t want just a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have on there right now.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is listening, too. He’s considering asking the U.N. Security Council to demand the Syrian government immediately hand over its chemical weapons to be destroyed.

France and Germany also say they like what they’re hearing about a diplomatic solution. But, the French foreign minister said, the Security Council needs to oversee the process, which should start immediately, and the plan shouldn’t let anyone off the hook for ordering a chemical attack.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday that France is proceeding with caution.

“We take note of this new position with interest but also precaution,” he said. “We do not want it to be used as a maneuver for diversion.”

What the French want to see is for Syria to be transparent about its chemical weapons program and to put it under international control.

France also wants the perpetrators of the deadly chemical weapons attack tried before the international justice system, Fabius said.

Iran, a longtime Syria ally, welcomes the Russian initiative “to stop militarism in the region.”

China, also an ally of Syria, says it welcomes and supports the proposal.

The opposition Free Syria Army says Russia’s proposal is nothing more than a stalling tactic.

“Here we go again with the regime trying to buy more time in order to keep on the daily slaughter against our innocent civilians and to fool the world,” said Louay al-Mokdad, a spokesman for the group.


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Angelina Jolie undergoes double mastectomy

(CNN) — Actress Angelina Jolie announced in a New York Times op-ed article on Tuesday that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

“My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman,” Jolie wrote. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.”

Jolie’s mother, actress and producer Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56. Jolie is 37 years old.

In the Times op-ed, titled “My Medical Choice,” Jolie said she finished three months of medical procedures at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in California on April 27 that included the mastectomies and reconstruction.

A mastectomy is an operation that removes all or part of the breast.

She wrote that her experience involved a three-step process. On February 2, the actress had a procedure that increases the chance that the nipple can be saved. Two weeks later, she had major surgery where the breast tissue was removed and temporary fillers were put in place. Nine weeks later she described undergoing “reconstruction of the breasts with an implant.”

“There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years,” she said, “and the results can be beautiful.”

“I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made,” Jolie wrote. “My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent.”

BRCA stands for breast cancer susceptibility genes — a class of genes known as tumor suppressors, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. A blood test can determine if a woman is “highly susceptible” to the cancers.

Fellow actress Christina Applegate had a similar procedure in 2008. She also had a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.

Oscar-winning film star

Jolie may be best known for title role in the “Lara Croft” series of films, but she also won an Academy Award for best supporting actress in “Girl, Interrupted.” She also received a Golden Globe Award and SAG Award for the same role.

Jolie serves as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and has visited refugee camps around the world.

The actress has been in a relationship with actor Brad Pitt since the mid-2000s, and they are engaged. The couple has three biological and three adopted children.

In telling her story, Jolie acknowledged that surgery might not be the right choice for every woman.

“For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options,” Jolie wrote. “I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”

But for Jolie, the decision ultimately came down to her kids.

“I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,” she said.