White House adviser Jared Kushner to speak with Senate Intel Committee

A senior administration official confirmed to ABC News that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has volunteered to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russia.

“Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials,” a senior administration official told ABC News. “Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman [Richard] Burr’s committee but has not yet received confirmation.”

The news was first reported by The New York Times.

As ABC News has reported, Kushner and now-former national security adviser Mike Flynn met with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in Trump Tower in New York in December.

“They generally discussed the relationship, and it made sense to establish a line of communication,” White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement earlier this month about the meeting. “Jared has had meetings with many other foreign countries and representatives — as many as two dozen other foreign countries’ leaders and representatives.”

ABC News also confirmed that a meeting occurred, at Kislyak’s request, between Kushner and Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, one of the Russian businesses affected by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

There’s Finally Good News for People With Nut Allergies

If you have an allergic reaction to one type of nut, you might be tempted to avoid eating all others. After all, symptoms like itchy lips, hives and face swelling aren’t pleasant, and food allergies can be life threatening in the worst-case scenarios.

But now, a new study finds that just because you’re diagnosed with a nut allergy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to it. In the research published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, at least half of people with a diagnosed nut allergy do not show allergic symptoms to other types of nuts—even when tests show that they are allergic. And nearly all of the people with allergies to peanuts—which are technically legumes—were able to safely eat tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts, even though tests had suggested they might be problematic.

Researchers looked at data from 109 people who had tested positive for a tree nut allergy, according to blood and skin tests done in the past eight years. For example, if a person knew they were allergic to almonds and also tested positive for a cashew allergy—but had never eaten a cashew in her life—researchers fed her small amounts of cashews every 15 to 20 minutes to see if there was a reaction. (Don’t try this at home: doctors were standing by with life-saving medication, if necessary.) They looked for serious reactions, like hives or trouble breathing, but found that 50% of people displayed no allergic reaction, even though blood tests suggested otherwise.

That may be because some people have antibodies that react in blood or skin-prick tests, but they don’t necessarily have any symptoms when they eat the food. In other words, they’re sensitized to the allergen.

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While most people with peanut allergies were able to eat tree nuts, that wasn’t true for everyone. “Some of the individuals tested in the study had peanut allergies but never tried tree nuts, and when they tried them, they turned out to be allergic,” says Dr. Christopher Couch, an allergist-immunologist and lead author of the study.

“If a person thinks they have a nut allergy, I suggest they speak to their doctor about the symptoms and why they are suspicious,” says Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine. An allergist-immunologist can use a person’s medical history and blood tests to decide if a nut allergy is really the problem, he says.

Researchers Turn Spinach Leaf into Beating Heart Tissue

A team of scientists has transformed spinach leaves into beating human heart tissue after first coming up with the idea during their lunch.

The researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts wanted to engineer a solution for widespread organ donor shortage. Knowing it’s difficult to reproduce veins, the group decided to use the system already in place on a spinach leaf by replacing spinach cells with human heart cells, the Washington Post reports.

“To be able to just take something as simple as a spinach leaf, which is an abundant plant, and actually turn that into a tissue that has the potential for blood to flow through it, is really very very exciting,” said researcher Glenn Gaudette, the head of the WPI lab, in a video about the work.

The team published its initial findings in the journal Biomaterials. Once engineers used soap to leave only the structural leaf supports, the report states, they replaced the spinach with the heart tissue that “colonized the inner surfaces of the plant vasculature.” After five days, the cells began to beat.

“It was definitely a double take,” bioengineer Joshua Gershlak told the Post. “All of a sudden you see cells moving.”

The researchers injected the leaves with little beads the size of red blood cells to confirm that the spinach veins could transport materials. Gershlak told the Post the researchers envision converting spinach to heart cells and grafting it onto damaged heart tissue in the future.

Watch the researchers discuss their work in the video above.

[Washington Post]

Breastfeeding Is Beneficial For Babies, But It May Not Make Them Smarter

A new study casts doubt on whether breastfed-kids are smarter than their formula-fed peers, though it does note there are benefits to breastfeeding babies including reduced hyperactivity.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, finds that while kids between 3 and 5 years old who were breastfed as babies scored higher on cognitive tests than their counterparts, the difference was not that significant.”We weren’t able to find a direct causal link between breastfeeding and children’s cognitive outcomes,” Lisa-Christine Girard, an Irish researcher who authored the study, told NPR.

Socioeconomic factors and the overall behavior and environment of a child contribute to a higher cognitive ability, the study found. When the researchers accounted for those factors, it was harder to link breastfeeding by itself to smarter children, NPR reports.

The researchers did, however, note that the breastfed kids were less hyperactive by age three if they had been breastfed for six months as a baby. But by age five, the impact on hyperactivity appeared to fade.

The study maintains that there are health benefits for both mothers and their children when it comes to breastfeeding, including immune system boosts for babies and a decreased risk of breast cancer for moms.

[NPR]

United responds to criticism over leggings policy

United Airlines responded to criticism it received on Sunday after it barred two teenage girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings.

The incident sent several social media users into an angry uproar, with some calling the policy sexist and discriminatory against women.

The story came to light after Shannon Watts, an activist who witnessed the exchange at an airport in Denver, tweeted about it early Sunday.

“A @united gate agent isn’t letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?” Watts tweeted.

1) A @united gate agent isn’t letting girls in leggings get on flight from Denver to Minneapolis because spandex is not allowed?

— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017

“A 10-year-old girl in gray leggings. She looked normal and appropriate. Apparently @united is policing the clothing of women and girls,” she added in a later tweet.

A 10-year-old girl in gray leggings. She looked normal and appropriate. Apparently @united is policing the clothing of women and girls. https://t.co/RKsIFoE8pq

— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) March 26, 2017

The two girls, who were not identified, looked “very panicked,” according to Watts.“We heard the gate agent say, ‘You know these aren’t my rules, I just enforce them,’” Watts told ABC News. “And that was when they looked very panicked.”

Watts, a mother of five and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said of the rules she saw enforced, “To me that seems like a pretty sexist policy.”

A spokesman for United confirmed that two teenage passengers were told they could not board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis because their leggings “were not in compliance with dress code policy for company benefit travel,” a program that lets United workers and their families travel for free on a standby basis.

“There are different rules for these privileges because people are flying for free,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement Sunday.

United Airlines also issued a dozen or so tweets in response to users who were upset about the exchange.

In one tweet, the company said it reserves the right to deny service to “passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage.”

@baddestmamajama United shall have the right to refuse passengers who are not properly clothed via our Contract of Carriage. ^FS

— United (@united) March 26, 2017

United said the teenagers waited for the next flight and eventually got to fly using their benefits. The airline also reassured its “regular customers” in a statement that “leggings are welcome.”

ABC News’ Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

200 more US troops headed to Iraq to assist Mosul offensive

The U.S. military is sending an additional two companies of soldiers to Iraq to help Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS, defense officials confirmed to ABC News.

Two companies of soldiers is equal to between 200 to 300 soldiers.

Additional members of the 82nd Airborne Division’s second combat brigade are deploying to Iraq on a temporary mission to provide additional “advise and assist” support to Iraqi forces, Colonel Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told ABC News.

“This is not a new capability,” said Scrocca. “It provides more advise and assist assets to our Iraqi partners.”

This unit of the 82nd Airborne already has 1,700 soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait helping with the advise and assist mission for Iraqi troops.

“The number of soldiers does not equate to the remainder of the brigade as had previously been surmised,” said Scrocca. News reports in recent weeks had said the Pentagon was considering sending possibly as many as 1,000 additional members from the brigade for the advise and assist mission in Mosul.

The authorized troop cap for Iraq is 5,262 though the real number is probably 6,000 with the presence of additional troops on temporary assignment. These new troops won’t count towards the cap because they’re on temporary assignment.

In mid-February the Iraqi military began a final push to retake western Mosul from ISIS after having seized the eastern half of the city in a fierce 100-day battle that began in October. Iraqi troops are now facing stiff resistance from ISIS fighters as they fight through the tight quarters of the older western half of the city.

In Syria there are currently about 900 U.S. forces advising and assisting the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting ISIS, even though the authorized troop level is 503.

The higher number is due to the recent addition of a Marine artillery unit helping with the SDF’s offensive outside of Raqqa and a small complement of Army Rangers sent to the city of Manbij to ensure that Turkish-backed forces and SDF forces do not fight each other.

33 reptiles found dead at Knoxville zoo; cause is unknown

Thirty-three reptiles were found dead last week at the Knoxville zoo, and officials there say they have no clues yet about how it happened.

Zoo Knoxville told local news outlets that nearly all of the dead animals were snakes. They were all found dead in the reptile area. Surviving animals were removed and given oxygen.

Zoo officials have stopped using the reptile area for animals while the deaths are investigated.

Zoo Knoxville President and CEO Lisa New calls the deaths a “devastating and catastrophic loss.”

Director of animal collections Phil Colclough says tests being conducted include checking for harmful gases in the building and for mechanical errors on thermostats.

Severe storms bring golf ball-sized hail to Texas

A severe storm brought gigantic hail to parts of Oklahoma and Texas on Sunday.

The storm also delivered heavy rain and winds as high as 65 miles per hour in some areas in the Southern Plains.

Several cars with severe hail damage in the Kroger parking lot in Bartonville on FM 407 ?? #wfaaweatherpic.twitter.com/gqoLxfa1wB

— Lauren Zakalik (@wfaalauren) March 27, 2017

Social media users posted images of shattered car windows and comparisons of the hail next to oranges and golf balls.

The largest hail report was from Denton, Texas, where residents reported softball-sized hail of about 4.25 inches in diameter.

In Lewisville! #wfaaweatherpic.twitter.com/bsAojjUJZM

— Andrea (@OfficialAnnieB) March 27, 2017

There were 70 reports of severe weather on Sunday, with about 57 hail reports across the Southern Plains.

Everybody after the storm: “oh no let’s go check for hail damage!”

Little bro: “nah imma work on my short game with these free golf balls” pic.twitter.com/8HS4PoxB50

— Tanner (@TannerDio) March 27, 2017

The storm is now moving east toward to the Mississippi River valley, spanning from Mississippi to Indiana. That area will be at an enhanced risk for severe storms on Monday, with very large hail and damaging winds possible.

ABC News’ Daniel Manzo contributed to this report.

New York City sanitation workers retrieve a woman’s wedding rings against the odds

A New York City woman said she felt “helpless” after losing her wedding ring and band in the trash, but thanks to the city’s sanitation department, the items were returned to her.

“I had just cleaned them and I had them in a paper towel. I think I got distracted with the kids, it’s hard to figure out, and I think I just crumpled it up, and I didn’t feel the weight of them and I threw them out,” Shannon Lombardo told ABC station WABC-TV about her missing rings.

The crisis was put to rest when New York City sanitation workers went above and beyond the call of duty to locate Lombardo’s rings, sorting through the unimaginable horrors of a massive garbage heap to get it back to her.

New York City generates more than 14 million tons of trash per year, according to the city, putting it among the largest trash producers in the world.

PHOTO: A Manhattan woman who accidentally trashed her wedding and engagement rings recovered them days later with the help of the New York City Sanitation Department.WABC
A Manhattan woman who accidentally trashed her wedding and engagement rings recovered them days later with the help of the New York City Sanitation Department.

Still, however, the workers are trained to locate small items in emergencies, and succeeded in getting Lombardo’s rings back to her safe and sound.

“Seeing the happiness on their face, and I said that it’s a great time for them to renew their vows and stuff. As long as they felt good, I felt good,” said Sekou Callender, a Sanitation worker who helped find the ring, told WABC-TV.

Powerful winds, large hail hit Southern Plains

Large hail and strong winds hit parts of Texas and Oklahoma as a storm system rolled through the Southern Plains.

Heavy rains also occurred during Sunday’s storms, and video from KWTV showed a funnel cloud near Ada, Oklahoma, about 70 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Denton, Texas, police told the Dallas Morning News that hail up to the size of softballs fell on the area.

The National Weather Service issued multiple storm advisories throughout the day Sunday.

The severe weather happened as residents in the Deep South cleared branches and worked to restore power from earlier weekend storms.

A tornado destroyed four mobile homes and damaged others near Cato, Arkansas, late Friday night. In northwest Louisiana, sheriff’s officials said a church was destroyed by an apparent tornado, though no injuries were reported.