Robert Durst denied bail in New Orleans, called flight risk by judge

A New Orleans magistrate judge denied Robert Durst bail Monday, saying the accused killer is a flight risk and danger to others. The deranged 71-year-old heir of the wealthy New York real estate family will be held on weapons charges as authorities arrange his extradition to Los Angeles. On March 14 he was arrested in the Big Easy for the murder of his confidante, Susan Berman, in California in 2000. He has been held in a prison’s mental health unit for nearly a week because he is a suicide risk, officials say. During the bail hearing before Magistrate Harry Cantrell, Durst sat beside his lawyers with his hands shackled to his sides in padded handcuffs. Durst’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said the hearing had gone as he expected. “We will not contest bail until we get to California. That’s where we want to be,” he said. DeGuerin signaled he plans to argue his client was railroaded due to media attention surrounding the HBO miniseries, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” The attorney singled out prosecutor-turned-TV-host Jeanine Pirro, who featured prominently in the show.  “She's here because she's been participating in the dogging of Mr. Durst for years,” DeGuerin said, asking a judge to remove her from the courtroom because she is a potential witness. DeGuerin said he wanted to question Pirro. But after a brief recess Cantrell ruled that Pirro would not testify. The documentary series revisited the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Durst’s first wife in 1982, Berman’s murder and Durst’s dismemberment of his 71-year-old neighbor in 2011. Durst was acquitted of murdering the neighbor, whose body parts were found floating in Galveston Bay. Durst’s March 14 arrest in New Orleans Berman’s shooting death came one day before the show’s finale. The jaw-dropping conclusion featured Durst mumbling to himself Continue Reading

Study: Breathing polluted New York air can increase risk of stroke

It’s enough to take your breath away. A new study reveals that inhaling New York air can block arteries to the brain — raising the risk of such constriction by nearly 25% in the dirtiest areas. “We need to worry about the air now?” asked Virginia Fogle, 60, a former corrections officer from Jamaica. Yes, Virginia, we do. Air pollution can narrow the arteries in the head and neck, cutting off oxygen to the brain and triggering strokes, according to the research by NYU Langone Medical Center, which studied 300,000 area residents. The constriction — a condition known as carotid artery stenosis that’s responsible for half the strokes in the country — is especially troubling for people with health problems. "Pollution could be that extra little push that could lead to a cardiovascular event," said study author Dr. Jonathan Newman, who published his findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Wednesday — one day after other scholars warned of the danger of that other unavoidable fact of New York life: subway rats. The feds say that humans can safely tolerate 12 micrograms of pollution per cubic meter of air. But the worst parts of the tri-state area register 12.9-14.7 micrograms — raising those residents’ risk by 8.1-24.3%. “For every 1 microgram increase in air pollution, your risk of carotid artery stenosis goes up by 9%,” Newman told The News. New York’s air has gotten cleaner since federal standards were tightened in the 1970s — but the city still doesn't meet federal standards for two dangerous pollutants, fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone. Surprisingly, areas like the South Bronx, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Flushing have cleaner air than tony Gramercy and Chelsea, where pollution is 18% and 9.5% above federal standards. Those neighborhoods have the dirtiest air in the five boroughs. But at least Continue Reading

Angelina Jolie has ovaries, fallopian tubes removed over cancer risk: ‘You know what you live for and what matters’

Actress Angelina Jolie has taken the drastic step of having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed so her children will never have to say, “Mom died of ovarian cancer.” The 39-year-old Oscar-winning star revealed Monday night that she underwent the surgery last week, and that the doctor who performed the operation treated her mother — who died of ovarian cancer at age 56. The operation came two years after Jolie underwent a double mastectomy because she carried a mutation in the BRACA1 gene, giving her an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. “It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer,” she wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. “I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer.’” She revealed she learned she was at risk for ovarian cancer two weeks ago from a simple test she has annually that measures the protein CA-125 in her blood. Jolie wrote that her doctor informed her the test came back normal. “I breathed a sigh of relief,” she wrote. “But that wasn’t all. He went on. ‘There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.’” She said she learned the CA-125 test has a 50% to 75% chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages. Her physician recommended she see a surgeon immediately to check her ovaries. “I went through what I imagine thousands of women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and meet my grandchildren,” she wrote. Her husband, actor Brad Pitt, was in France when her Continue Reading

Like Angelina Jolie, growing number of women opting to have ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed to lower cancer risk, New York doctors say

A growing number of women are making the same choice as Angelina Jolie and having their ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed to lower cancer risk, New York doctors say. “We do these every week. This is standard of care,” said Dr. Stephanie Blank, a gynecologic oncologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It sounds like it is excessive, but it is not,” she said. In the past decade, cancer science has changed dramatically. Tests for mutations in the BRCA gene allow women who have a family history of cancer to see whether they carry mutations that dramatically increase cancer risk. Jolie, whose mother, grandmother and aunt died of cancer, has said her test results showed an 87% risk of breast cancer and 50% risk for ovarian cancer. Those who test positive have several options — including getting regular blood tests and sonograms and taking birth control pills to improve their survival odds. Screening options for ovarian cancer are not as effective as for other cancers, however. Preventive surgery — which is generally covered by insurance for those who have the faulty BRCA gene — offers the best protection, experts say. “The problem with ovarian cancer is that we don’t have great prevention strategies other than prophylactic surgery,” said Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a gynecologic oncologist and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. The decision is personal and can be anguishing, as removing the ovaries prompts early menopause, doctors said. Some women elect initially to remove their Fallopian tubes only, because science has shown that is where ovarian cancer usually begins, said Dr. Mitchell Maiman, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Staten Island University Hospital. Maiman praised Jolie for speaking out — and said her story will encourage others to look into their family cancer history and talk to their doctors. "When a celebrity is so Continue Reading

Low risk of humans getting current strain of bird flu: Centers for Disease Control

The strain of avian flu that has been identified in 12 U.S. states and led to the extermination of more than 7 million birds is different from the H5N1 bird flu virus that has spread from birds to humans in the past, an official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. An analysis of the genetic composition of avian viruses circulating in North America, including the H5N2 strain, showed they do not contain genetic markers which in the past have been linked to more severe outbreaks in birds and transmission to humans, Alicia Fry, a medical officer in the CDC's influenza branch, said on a conference call with reporters. There have been nearly 650 cases of H5N1 human infections, reported from 15 different countries, since 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Two different strains have been discovered in the United States this year. The H5N2 strain is in Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. It has also been identified on farms in Ontario, Canada. The H5N8 strain has been identified in California and also in Idaho, U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows. There have been no cases of the highly infectious disease in humans since the outbreak started in the United States at the beginning of the year. This is the most widespread bird flu outbreak in North America in more than three decades. In the cases involving human infection outside the United States, illness from the H5N1 virus occurred only among people who had direct contact with infected birds. A principal concern with any new flu virus in birds, however, is that it will mutate to become easily transmissible from human to human. "At this point we don't know very much about these viruses," said the CDC's Fry. "They have only recently been identified." At present, she said, "it seems the risk for human infection is very low." But she Continue Reading

Newer versions of birth control pill may raise blood clot risk: study

Newer versions of the Pill may raise a woman’s risk of dangerous blood clots even more than older versions, a large U.K. study suggests. Women taking any combined oral contraceptive pills — containing both estrogen and progestin — were three times as likely to develop a blood clot in a deep vein in the leg or pelvis, compared to women not on the Pill. The risk was higher still with all the newer Pill versions except one, researchers found. “This association is between 1.5 and 1.8 times higher for the newer formulations,” said lead author Yana Vinogradova, a research fellow in medical statistics at the University of Nottingham. The blood clots, known as venous thromboembolisms (VTEs), are common and can be deadly if the clot dislodges and travels to the heart, brain or lungs. They are more common among women taking estrogen medicines, and the risk is even higher if the woman smokes, according to the National Library of Medicine. But the overall risk of a blood clot for women on any combined oral contraceptives is still relatively low: between six and 14 extra cases per year per 10,000 women taking the drugs, Vinogradova told Reuters Health by email. Newer combined pills, including the progestins drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene or cyproterone acetate, have been suspected of carrying an even higher clot risk compared to older versions that include levonorgestrel and norethisterone. But most past studies have been small or flawed by not taking into account certain other risk factors for clots, the study team writes in BMJ. To assess VTE risk in women on both older and newer-generation pills, the researchers analyzed U.K. general practice databases covering the period between 2001 and 2013. They found 5,062 cases of VTE among women ages 15 to 49, and matched each of these women with up to five women who did not have a blood clot in the same year, but were of similar age and treated at a similar medical practice. Continue Reading

Kelly Osbourne reveals she has same high cancer risk as Angelina Jolie

Kelly Osbourne says she plans to remove her ovaries like Angelina Jolie one day - and the two celebrities share more than just the gene mutation that put them at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The Beverly Hills surgeon who performed Jolie's preventative double mastectomy in 2013 and counseled the Oscar winner about the timing of her oophorectomy is Dr. Kristi Funk, the same surgeon who treated Osbourne's mom Sharon Osbourne. Dr. Funk of the Pink Lotus Breast Center is a vocal advocate for genetic testing in families where generation after generation of women have died from cancer. The goal, she has said, is to identify women with the so-called BRCA gene mutation because it carries an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. "Until recently, no one really understood it," she said on CNN after Jolie detailed her recent ovary removal in a Tuesday op-ed piece in the New York Times. "Now we get it. There's a gene. It's called BRCA. You can test for it pretty easily. And you can save your life." It was Tuesday that Kelly Osbourne, 30, revealed on the CBS morning chatfest "The Talk" that she plans to get her ovaries removed when the time is right. "I actually do have the cancer gene. My mom made all of us go and get tested after she found out that she had it and got her double mastectomy," the former "Fashion Police" host said. "I agree with this 100 percent," she continued, referring to Jolie's decision to have her ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure. "I know that one day I will eventually have to do it too because if I have children, I want to be there to bring them up. I want to be there to support them in every way I can." She said that as the child of a cancer survivor, she knows the stakes. "Being on that end of it as well, it is really, really, really hard to deal Continue Reading

Most doctors comply with parents’ requests for later vaccinations, despite risks: study

Many parents ask doctors to spread out toddlers' vaccines instead of following the recommended immunization schedule, according to a new study. Most doctors comply with the request, even though they believe the delays put the children at risk for preventable diseases and make the experience more painful, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. Only about 2 to 3% of parents actually refuse vaccines, said study leader Dr. Allison Kempe. But, she added, "there is an increasing number of parents asking to deviate from the schedule in other ways.” Kempe, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado, had expected that most doctors would get such requests from parents, but not this often. “I was surprised by over 20% of doctors saying 10% or more of their families (had asked) to spread out vaccines,” she said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends several shots during the first years of life to protect against diseases (PDF link: The schedule is backed by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which publishes Pediatrics. The AAP says the vaccine schedule is designed to work best with children’s immune systems while protecting them from diseases as soon as possible. The new report comes as the U.S. battles a large measles outbreak that had infected 154 people from 17 states and Washington, D.C. as of February 20, according to the CDC. The outbreak is tied to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. For the study, Kempe and colleagues, in collaboration with the CDC, sent surveys to 815 pediatricians and family doctors across the U.S. in 2012. They received 534 completed surveys. Overall, 93% of doctors reported at least one parental request to space out the immunizations of a child younger than two years old. And 21% of those doctors said at least 10% of families made the Continue Reading

Bird flu poses low risk to humans, scientists say

CHICAGO — Three highly pathogenic avian flu viruses that have infected poultry and wild birds in the Midwest appear unlikely to present a significant risk to humans. No humans have yet become infected, but scientists say it’s possible that someone in direct contact with sick birds might catch the virus. They said it’s extremely unlikely that an infected human could pass the disease on to another human. Avian flu, which infects poultry, is caused by an influenza A type virus and is often spread by free-flying waterfowl, such as ducks, geese and shorebirds. Because much is still unknown about these new viruses, the USDA and the CDC are conducting detailed analyses that include sequencing the viruses’ genomes. A key question they hope to answer is whether the viruses might mutate and become human viruses. Continue Reading

Risk of Ebola spreading internationally seems to be dropping: World Health Organization

West Africa's Ebola epidemic still poses a threat to other countries but the risk of it spreading internationally appears to be diminishing as the areas affected shrink, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. The U.N. agency declared in August 2014 that the world's worst Ebola outbreak, which began in December 2013, represented a "public health emergency of international concern" that forced health officials worldwide to shore up defenses. The WHO's Emergency Committee, comprising independent experts who conferred on Thursday, was "absolutely firm" in maintaining that view, said Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO Special Representative for the Ebola Response. In a statement, the Committee said that due to better prevention and control activities across West Africa, "the overall risk of international spread appears to have further reduced since January with a decline in case incidence and geographic distribution in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea." But there was "no place for complacency" and the goal remained eliminating the deadly hemorrhagic fever. Thirty confirmed cases of the virus were reported in the past week, the smallest number in nearly a year, the WHO said on Wednesday. Liberia reported no cases in the week to April 5, Sierra Leone reported nine and Guinea 21. The virus has killed 10,587 people out of 25,556 known infections, according to the WHO. The outbreak's epicenter, in Guinea Forestiere, has "gone quiet" and foreign medical experts and laboratories are being shifted to coastal areas with more intensive spread, Aylward said. "There are still substantive risks, they are not at zero (cases) by any stretch, but they may be now on track to achieve their goal of really being down to only disease in that coastal area by the time the rainy season hits in about a month. The experts urged all countries to "avoid any unnecessary interference with international trade and transport". These included border closures, flight Continue Reading