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Obama proposes $100m for brain-mapping project

President Obama says his proposal could lead to better ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

JASON REED/REUTERS

President Obama says his proposal could lead to better ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday proposed an effort to map the brain’s activity in unprecedented detail, as a step toward finding better ways to treat such conditions as Alzheimer’s, autism, stroke, and traumatic brain injuries.

He asked Congress to spend $100 million next year to start a project that will explore details of the brain, which contains 100 billion cells and trillions of connections.

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That’s a relatively small investment for the federal government — less than a fifth of what NASA spends every year just to study the sun — but it’s too early to determine how Congress will react.

Obama said the so-called BRAIN Initiative could create jobs, and told scientists gathered in the White House’s East Room that the research has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide.

‘‘As humans we can identify galaxies light-years away,’’ Obama said. ‘‘We can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.’’

BRAIN stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies. The idea, which Obama first proposed in his State of the Union address, would require the development of new technology that can record the electrical activity of individual cells and complex neural circuits in the brain ‘‘at the speed of thought,’’ the White House said.

Obama wants the initial $100 million investment to support research at the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation. He also wants private companies, universities, and philanthropists to partner with the federal agencies in support of the research.

Sanford wins GOP runoff, and will face Colbert Busch

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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford cleared another hurdle Tuesday in his bid for political redemption, defeating a former Charleston County council member to win the GOP nomination for the US House seat he held for three terms.

‘‘It’s been a very long journey. And in that journey I am humbled to find ourselves where we find ourselves tonight,’’ said Sanford, whose political career was derailed four years ago when, as sitting governor, he disappeared from the state only to return to acknowledge an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman.

That woman, Maria Belen Chapur, and Sanford are now engaged. She appeared at Sanford’s side during his speech.

‘‘I want to thank my God,’’ Sanford said. ‘‘I used to cringe when somebody would say I want to thank my God because at that point I would think this is getting uncomfortable. But once you really receive God’s grace and [have] seen it reflected in others you stop and acknowledge that grace and the difference he has made in my life and in so many lives across this state and across this nation.’’

With all of the precincts reporting Sanford had about 57 percent of the vote in the First District to 43 percent for Curtis Bostic. The candidates were vying in the GOP runoff after they finished as the top two vote-getters in a 16-way GOP primary last month.

Sanford will face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, and Green Party candidate Eugene Platt in a May special election.

Another Republican senator backs gay marriage rights

CHICAGO — Senator Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, said Tuesday that he supports gay marriage, becoming the second sitting Republican senator to make such an announcement in recent weeks.

Kirk, who has opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, said in a post on his blog that ‘‘same-sex couples should have the right to civil marriage.’’

‘‘Our time on this Earth is limited, I know that better than most,’’ said Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January 2012. ‘‘Life comes down to who you love and who loves you back — government has no place in the middle.’’

Kirk went through months of rehabilitation before returning to work in Washington this January. He said in his blog post that when he went back to the Senate he promised himself he would return ‘‘with an open mind and greater respect for others.’’

Kirk is the ranking Republican lawmaker in Illinois. His announcement brings to 50 the number of senators who are on record in support of gay marriage, according to Freedom to Marry, a group that supports gay marriage.

The Illinois Legislature is giving final consideration to a measure that would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.

The Illinois Senate voted in February to lift a state ban on such marriage. The legislation also was approved by a House committee, but has yet to be called for a floor vote. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan said recently that he believes supporters are a dozen votes short of what they need.

Governor Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he would sign the measure.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio last month became the first Republican senator to announce his support for gay marriage in states that choose to allow such unions, and GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska says her position is ‘‘evolving.’’

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