Researchers have found that scans that look for signs of metabolic activity in specific areas of the brain could help doctors predict whether a person in a vegetative state will regain consciousness.
The findings were published Tuesday in the journal The Lancet. Researchers in Belgium tracked about 120 subjects — diagnosed as either minimally conscious, locked in, or unresponsively wakeful (vegetative) — for at least one year. When images of the brain were taken with a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the researchers accurately predicted 74 percent of the time if a patient would show signs of consciousness a year later, and 92 percent of the time if they would remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.
In the 41 patients deemed in a vegetative state using normal tests, the PET scan found previously undetected minimal consciousness in 13. A year later, nine of the 13 had progressed into at least a minimally conscious state, three had died, and one was still in a vegetative state.
The metabolic patterns of a brain in a vegetative state look different from those of a brain with intermittent consciousness, the researchers found. The prognosis was best for those who had survived traumatic brain injury, as opposed to someone whose brain was damaged due to hypoxia, a prolonged interruption of oxygenated blood to the brain.
The findings show that PET scans paint a clearer picture of the patient's outcome than the more widely available functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. The difference between the two is that PET scans detect signs of metabolic activity, while an fMRI detects activity in certain brain regions by looking for oxygenation.
The new research could provide hope, or at least guidance, for the families of vegetative patients. But not all patients with hopeful PET scans will recover. "We shouldn't give these families false hope," report author Steven Laureys tells The New York Times. "This is very difficult. But it's just a very complex medical reality. Quantifying consciousness is tricky." Catherine Garcia
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's criticism of ObamaCare on Wednesday fell flat after it was held up against the facts. In a tweet, Spicer demanded "relief" for the 28.2 million Americans who are "still waiting under ObamaCare and remain uninsured":
— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) June 28, 2017
Twitter, being Twitter, was quick to point out that this was in fact a far better rate of uninsured Americans than if Republicans' health-care plan were to become law. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that an additional 22 million people would be uninsured by 2026 under Senate Republicans' proposed plan than if ObamaCare were to remain the law of the land.
Moreover, the statistic Spicer just blasted actually marks the lowest number ever of uninsured Americans, Washington University health economist Timothy McBride pointed out. Before ObamaCare, 50 million Americans were uninsured. Becca Stanek
Fox News has hired Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) as a contributor, with the soon-to-be former congressman to start at the network on July 1. "In this role, [Chaffetz] will offer political analysis across [Fox News] and Fox Business Network's daytime and primetime programming," Fox News said in a statement.
— Ben Pershing (@benpershing) June 28, 2017
Chaffetz, the former House Oversight Committee chairman, has made his eagerness to leave D.C. abundantly clear, with his plans to join Fox rumored since May. "Let's just say that when Jason told us he was headed to Fox, no one was surprised," one senior Republican aide told The Washingtonian last spring.
"He's probably one of the most media-capable members in the House," said another, "just based on total time spent on a television camera."
Chaffetz's last day in Congress is June 30. Jeva Lange
Only 12 percent of Americans support the Republican health-care proposal, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll has found. It is the second damning poll of the day for the GOP, with a separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll reaching a similar conclusion, that just 17 percent of Americans backed the ObamaCare replacement known as the "Better Care Reconciliation Act."
The USA Today/Suffolk University poll also found that the majority of Americans, 53 percent, think Congress should leave ObamaCare in place, or make less significant changes to it. While most Republicans do want a full repeal of ObamaCare, a third of conservative voters don't want just anything rushed into its place. Only 26 percent of Republicans support the Senate's proposed bill, and 17 percent oppose it. Most — 52 percent — said they need to know more about it.
Republicans have pushed off a vote on the bill until after the July 4th recess. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his lieutenants are trying to find changes that will bring at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans in line, and are considering channeling funds to health savings accounts to win over conservative holdouts, or to Medicaid and opioid treatment to win over more moderate Republicans.
It's official: President Trump is headed to France for Bastille Day. The White House on Wednesday announced that Trump has accepted French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation to attend celebrations in France commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, a decisive moment in the French Revolution. This year's Bastille Day also marks the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.
Aside from attending the annual military parade in Paris on the national French holiday, Trump will also talk economic and terrorism-related issues with Macron. "President Trump looks forward to reaffirming America's strong ties of friendship with France, to celebrating this important day with the French people," the White House said in a statement.
That reaffirmation might be needed, given Macron and Trump's recent interactions. The two shared an uncomfortably long, white-knuckled handshake in Brussels last month. Shortly after that, Macron issued a brutal rebuttal to Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, during which Macron repurposed Trump's campaign slogan by calling on the world to "make our planet great again." Becca Stanek
Google News has a new look. On Tuesday evening, Google rolled out a redesign of its page that aggregates news stories.
Gone is the search engine-like results page, replaced by a sleeker card-based interface that boxes off stories with related coverage. Users can more easily click around to different topics, thanks to a customizable sections sidebar.
Alongside the increased focus on customizability is a greater emphasis on facts, a relevant addition in the era of "fake news." The newest version of Google News makes fact-checking more readily accessible, with a Fact Check block now planted in the right rail, featuring the latest investigations from sites like PolitiFact and Snopes.
The goal of the redesign was to make the News feature more streamlined and more user-friendly. "Right now, Google News shows too much, and in that it shows too little," Google product manager Anand Paka told Poynter. "Users are not able to connect with the journalism that they come to Google News to see. Our goal here was to make readability a prime focus and pick out elements that are the most important."
CNN's Chris Cuomo fires back after GOP senator cries fake news: 'You tell me what I'm getting wrong'
CNN's Chris Cuomo has had just about enough of Republicans crying "fake news," and he let GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) know it during an interview Wednesday morning. The confrontation was sparked by Johnson claiming that the debate over Senate Republicans' plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare is "completely distorted using incorrect information."
Cuomo, who had been discussing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's recently released cost estimate of the Senate bill, demanded to know whether Johnson was suggesting he was "using misleading information" by citing the CBO's estimates. "You let me know what I'm saying that is inaccurate," Cuomo said. "Because this whole 'fake' thing needs to end, and it needs to end right now. You tell me what I'm getting wrong, or we'll deal with the numbers as the CBO puts them out."
Johnson insisted he wasn't referring specifically to Cuomo's statements. "I'm talking about the fact that people don't understand the 22 million, and it was a wrong baseline," Johnson said, pointing to the CBO's estimate that 22 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP health-care plan than under ObamaCare. The CBO, Johnson claimed, had used an outdated baseline assumption to make that comparison.
Watch it below. Becca Stanek
It's a good weekend to get out of town — and not just because of the holiday. American drivers will be treated to the lowest seasonal gas prices in more than a decade, Bloomberg reports, with a national average of $2.21 a gallon, the cheapest Fourth of July fill-up since 2005. This weekend will also mark the first time in 17 years that gas prices are expected to be lower for Independence Day than they were on New Year's Day, Bloomberg adds.
— Bloomberg (@business) June 28, 2017
The national average has been as much as $1.04 a gallon more expensive in the past decade than it will be in 2017. And the low prices may be inspiring Americans to get on the road: A record 44.2 million people plan to travel at least 50 miles away from home this weekend, AAA reports.
"It's thrilling to see gas prices falling just in time for the most-traveled summer holiday," said GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan. "Perhaps we can finally get rid of the myth that gas prices go up for the holiday." Jeva Lange