November 18th, 2013
09:58 AM ET

Long-term Pill Use May Double Glaucoma Risk

Women who used birth control pills for three years or more have twice the risk of developing glaucoma later in life, according to new research.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and is a leading cause of blindness in the United States.

It’s been well documented that low-estrogen levels following menopause contribute to glaucoma in women. Scientists don’t know exactly why this happens.  But years of using birth control pills, which can also lower estrogen levels, may add to the problem.

The study, conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, China, did not differentiate between women who took low-estrogen or regular birth control pills. Investigators theorize that when women are not on the pill, their natural estrogen levels go up and down, which seems to prevent the eye from developing glaucoma.  When women go on the pill, their estrogen levels are consistent, and in some cases consistently low, which could cause them to develop the condition.

This research project is the first to suggest an increased risk of glaucoma in women who have used oral contraceptives for three or more years. The researchers looked at data on more than 3,400 women aged 40 and older from across the United States, who answered questionnaires about their reproductive health and eye exams.

“We believe at this point, by analyzing the data, there is an association between long-term birth control use and glaucoma,"  said Elaine Wang, of Duke University and an author of the study.

“Why?  We’re not sure. The next step is to examine the eyes carefully and look at exactly what is happening to a woman’s vision when she’s on birth control pills.  We need to verify these findings.”

Although study authors say more research needs to be done, they do stress that gynecologists and ophthalmologists need to be aware of the fact that oral contraceptives may play a role in glaucomatous diseases.  They believe doctors should make sure their female patients have their eyes screened for glaucoma, especially if they also have other risk factors, such as race, (African-Americans are at highest risk) family history of glaucoma or a history of increased eye pressure problems.

"This study should be an impetus for future research to prove the cause and effect of oral contraceptives and glaucoma," said Dr. Shan Lin, lead researcher and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco. "At this point, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist, especially if they have any other existing risk factors."

Because glaucoma affects 60 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of bilateral blindness, second only to cataracts, screening for the condition is encouraged for all people, especially over the age of 50. Although it can be treated, doctors say any new information on glaucoma is important.

“This supports the importance of getting screened, especially if you fall into the high risk category,” noted Dr. Thomas Yau, an ophthalmologist from Silver Spring, Maryland, and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology .  “It brings to the equation a possible new risk factor for glaucoma. Should we be raising the red flag?  Not yet, but birth control use should be looked at as a possible risk when talking to patients.”

The research was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

November 18th, 2013
09:38 AM ET

GOP Rep: Benghazi Not A 'Complete Cover-Up'

 A Republican member of Congress in charge of investigating the Benghazi attacks in which four Americans were killed said Monday that questions remain about what happened that night but he does not think the Obama administration formulated a "complete cover-up."

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Georgia, chair of a House Intelligence subcommittee, said incompetence is the likely culprit. "I don't think they knew what they were doing," he said.

He said the various arms of government involved - the State Department and intelligence agencies - "got their communications mixed up."

"I think what ended up happening, you had the State Department trying to tell one story and you had the security, the intelligence community that may have been trying to sell another story," Westmoreland said on CNN's "New Day."

Westmoreland's subcommittee interviewed five CIA contractors who were at the compound that night. It was the first time Congress had spoken to people present at the compound.

More than a year after the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, questions still linger as to what led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The House Intelligence Committee has held 15 hearings on the attacks.

In the days following the September 11, 2012, attacks, the Obama administration said the incident was not a planned attack but was a protest turned violent. That story quickly unraveled and the administration has been accused of a cover-up.

"I don't think there was any doubt that they knew it was a coordinated attack," Westmoreland said, pointing to the "accuracy of the mortar fire that came."

More questions about a cover-up arose recently when members of Congress found out that Americans present that night were asked to sign an updated nondisclosure agreement.

CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin reported last week that a source told him that "there is not a person in Washington, D.C., who doesn't understand why the forms were put in front of these people."

Westmoreland said it's "not that unusual" to sign updated security agreements and that the forms specifically stated that signatories have the right to speak to House and Senate Intelligence committees.

Westmoreland also said that reports of "an ongoing gun battle" throughout the night are "just not true." He said the CIA operatives told his subcommittee there was random fire throughout the night, which was commonplace in Benghazi.

He said questions do remain, however, including if there was a lull in activity between the sparse gunfire.

In addition, Westmoreland said that when the CIA arrived at the compound that night, regional security forces were unarmed and one officer didn't have his shoes on.

"I think they were totally unprepared for any type of attack," he said.

Westmoreland said the committee is looking into why a directive was released on August 11 telling the personnel in Benghazi that "you are on your own."

The compound itself is not set up for protection," Westmoreland said, adding that the CIA operatives said "they couldn't believe those guys were over there as unprepared and unequipped as they were."

"We have been chasing every rabbit that's popped its head out of the rabbit hole and we're going to continue to do that," he said.

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November 18th, 2013
09:35 AM ET

Cops Pull Over Car With Mom and 5 Kids Inside, Open Fire After Fight

A routine stop turns hairy when cops in pull over a minivan and open fire when the driver speeds away.

In that minivan, Orianna Ferrell was driving with her five kids, one as young as 6 years old, from Memphis, Tennessee, on vacation in northern New Mexico, reports CNN’s Miguel Marquez.

Video of the incident show a shocking series of events.

Cops pull Ferrell over for doing 71 in a 55 zone. Ferrell and the state police officer argue over the ticket, but then she speeds away. The police chase and catch up with her and the altercation escalates.

“Ferrell gets out of the van, they argue…when the officer tries to arrest her she heads for the door,” Marquez reports. “That's when Ferrell's 14 year old son Hezekiah jumps out of the van. He struggles with and distracts the police as his mother jumps back into the van; then he does too.”

Police attempt to extract the family members, taking a baton to the window, but Ferrell drives off again and three shots are fired into the minivan.

“Ferrell in full-on flee mode, breaking seemingly every rule in the traffic book. Finally she stops at a hotel in Taos, New Mexico,” Marquez says.

Both she and her son were arrested, and are now out on bond, her remaining four kids in state custody.

Among other things, Ferrell has been booked for fleeing, child abuse, and battery.

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November 18th, 2013
08:12 AM ET

Tornado Outbreak Slams Midwest

Much of the country is waking up to a new reality after the most late season tornadoes in 20 years hit yesterday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo reports.

They sifted through the darkness, hoping their flashlights would shine on something - anything - salvageable.

Instead, they found their life's belongings strewn in pieces among heaps of rubble where their homes once stood.

But they were the fortunate ones - the ones who survived after 81 reported tornadoes tore through the Midwest on Sunday. The storms killed six people and destroyed at least 70 homes in Illinois alone.

"These storms having been moving so fast today, it's been hard to keep up," storm chaser Tony Laubach told CNN as he watched a tornado touch down outside Lebanon, Indiana.

In their aftermath, the storms left impassable roads, widespread outages and blocks and blocks of homes stripped bare. Hundreds of thousands were affected; the economic impact in the millions.

"A lot of people have a pile of rubble still, and I don't have anything," said Michelle Crumrine. "It's gone. I don't know where it went."

Crumrine was out of town when her neighborhood in Washington, Illinois, was hit. She returned to a wasteland.

Of all the cities ravaged by the storms, this city of 10,000 people in central Illinois was perhaps the hardest hit.

"It was complete destruction," said resident Anthony Khoury. "There are people in the streets crying."

As the dark twister churned toward his home, Khoury kept his camera glued to the window - and prayed. "Our father, thou art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name."

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