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
Jared Kushner really doesn't want to give up his high-level security clearance, White House officials say
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, stung by the Rob Porter scandal, moved Friday to revoke high-level access to classified information for White House employees whose background checks have been pending since before June 2017. Chief among the numerous White House officials with interim security clearances is Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Kusher "is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information," The New York Times reports.
Kushner is the elephant in the room when it comes to security clearance, The Washington Post reports, with White House Counsel Don McGahn's office feeling "they cannot take action on other people whose background checks have dragged on because they did not take similar steps with Kushner." Kushner is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but his several amendments to his background application means he is actually safe from Kelly's directive, for now. Still, Kelly's push to tighten the loose White House security situation has put him at loggerheads with Kushner, the Times reports:
Mr. Kushner, frustrated about the security clearance issue and concerned that Mr. Kelly has targeted him personally with the directive, has told colleagues at the White House that he is reluctant to give up his high-level access, the officials said. In the talks, the officials say, Mr. Kushner has insisted that he maintain his current level of access, including the ability to review the [president's] daily intelligence briefing when he sees fit. But Mr. Kelly, who has been privately dismissive of Mr. Kushner since taking the post of chief of staff but has rarely taken him on directly, has made no guarantees. [The New York Times]
You can read more about Kushner-Kelly tensions at The New York Times, and watch reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis discuss her report on CNN. Peter Weber
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 21, 2018
Activists say at least 250 people, including 50 children, have been killed over the last few days in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, and another were 1,200 injured.
Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations' Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, told the BBC the situation there is "beyond imagination," with countless people experiencing "extreme suffering." The government of President Bashar al-Assad has been dropping bomb after bomb in Eastern Ghouta, the last major opposition stronghold near Damascus, for several days; the military says it is trying to free the area from terrorists.
The bombing went into overdrive on Sunday and Monday. Resident Firas Abdullah told the BBC that "the missiles and the mortars are dropping on us like rain. There is nowhere to hide from this nightmare and it isn't over." A U.N. spokesperson said at least six hospitals in the region were hit by bombs on Monday and Tuesday, and there are shortages of food, since only one humanitarian convoy has been let into Eastern Ghouta by the government since November. Activists say this is the worst violence in Syria since a chemical attack in 2013. Catherine Garcia
How's this for some customer service? After a United Airlines gate agent discovered a passenger's missing wedding/engagement ring, she gave the ring to a pilot, who personally dropped it off at the passenger's home in San Francisco.
Brit Morin tweeted that her ring disappeared somewhere between New York City and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last week. After a gate agent discovered it, the agent put the ring away in a safe, then gave it to the pilot for a very special delivery. The captain dropped the ring off on Monday along with a note, which read: "I take pride in getting passengers from Point A to Point B safely and on time. Today, I'm happy to be part of a team focused on making just one individual happy (you!)." Morin tweeted that she now has "a newfound faith in humanity and airlines. Thanks United." Catherine Garcia
Stephen Colbert sees hope in the post-Parkland gun fight because of the Parkland students, #MeToo revolution
Stephen Colbert believes the children are our future, and not in some ironic way. After last week's mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he said on Tuesday's Late Show, he was "sickened and heartbroken, not only by the attack and the loss of innocent life, but by what I feared would be the complete lack of action by our leaders." He singled out Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who quickly took to the Senate floor to argue that gun laws won't work. "Okay, as long as we're being clear and honest, senator, your position as a lawmaker is: 'The laws are useless — everyone into the Thunderdome!'?" he asked. "Then why do we need you? It seems a house plant would do a better job, and it would probably need a little less water."
"But there is one group that does give me hope that we can do something to protect the children, and sadly, it's the children," Colbert said. The students from Parkland "saw their leaders doing nothing and said, 'Hold my root beer.'" He played some clips. Student David Hogg is right, "the adults aren't cutting it anymore," he said. "I think we need to change the voting age — until we do something about guns, you can't vote if you're over 18."
Parkland students, who have organized a nationwide march and class walkout, bussed down to Tallahassee to beg lawmakers to reinstate an assault weapons ban, only to watch those lawmakers vote no. "Well, I hope these kids don't give up," Colbert said. "Because this is their lives, and their future. Someone else may be in power, but this country belongs to them. And there is reason for hope. Look at the #MeToo movement — a lot of men in power did not see that coming, but it proved that change can happen overnight." Watch below. Peter Weber
Lindsey Vonn took home a bronze medal Wednesday in Pyeongchang, coming in behind Italy's Sofia Goggia and Norway's Ragnhild Mowinckel in the downhill race.
Vonn finished in 1:39.69, 0.47 seconds behind Goggia. "I skied a great race today," Vonn told NBC. "Sofia just skied better than I did." Vonn said she had "no regrets" about the event, but it was "tough to contemplate this being my last Olympic downhill race. I struggled to keep the emotions together. But I'm proud of my performance."
Vonn has competed in four Winter Olympics and won three medals. She won the gold in the downhill race at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, but a knee injury prevented her from participating in the 2014 Games in Sochi. She has one more individual event coming up: the combined on Thursday. Vonn told NBC she's "99.9 percent sure" she won't compete in the 2022 Games in Beijing, "but who knows? Maybe something will come out and they'll fix my knee up and I'll be like Robo-knee and I'll ski for like 10 more years. That'd be ideal." Catherine Garcia
Alix and Brett Epps are the perfect match, in more ways than one.
They've been through a lot since their first date in 2014 — that night, Brett started having chest pain, and was later diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare form of kidney disease. His friends, family, and even strangers volunteered to donate a kidney, but only one person who was tested ended up being a perfect match: Alix. Brett needed to have dialysis every night and spent a lot of time in the hospital, and during one visit with Alix, Brett popped the question. Just a few weeks later, he received Alix's kidney during a transplant, and in 2017, they married. "It's this extra bond," Alix told ABC News. "I always felt so close."
The Epps' entered a contest to renew their vows on Valentine's Day atop the Empire State Building, and ended up winning. They flew in from North Carolina, and along with 10 other couples, said their "I Do's" again, this time high over New York City. "I'd marry her every day of the week if I could," Brett said. Catherine Garcia
Democrat Linda Belcher won a special election in Kentucky's Bullitt County on Tuesday, defeating Republican Rebecca Johnson with 68.45 percent of the vote.
Belcher is replacing state Rep. Dan Johnson (R), Rebecca Johnson's late husband, in House District 49. Dan Johnson died by suicide last year after a report came out accusing him of molesting a 17-year-old girl at the church where he was pastor. Belcher said she ran a "very positive campaign," which was all about "trying to reach out and touch the people of Bullitt County, and we did. I have to thank them for listening to our message."
Belcher's husband, Larry Belcher, held the seat at the time of his death in October 2008; she replaced him on the ballot and served in the legislature from 2008 to 2012 and 2014 to 2016, when Johnson won the election. In 2016, the district overwhelmingly went for President Trump, who won with a 72-23 percent margin. Catherine Garcia