LINCOLN, Neb. -- A doctor testifying in favor of a federal ban on a type of abortion acknowledged Thursday that a main part of the procedure -- crushing the skull of a fetus -- may be necessary in other, more common types of abortion. Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Michigan, made the acknowledgment to the judge after she finished testifying in a trial challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Judges in Lincoln, New York and San Francisco are hearing evidence in three simultaneous non-jury trials on whether the ban violates the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf asked Shadigian what would happen if complications arose during a more common abortion procedure called "dilation and evacuation," or D&E, which is not covered by the ban. Shadigian acknowledged that collapsing the skull might be necessary during D&Es in some cases, such as when the woman is hemorrhaging.
Feds: States don't spend first responders funding
WASHINGTON -- States and localities have been slow to spend federal funding earmarked for police, firefighters and other emergency first responders, according to a report released Thursday by federal investigators. But in many cases, the federal government's failure to provide spending guidelines contributed to the delays, the report concluded. The report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general -- who serves as the agency's watchdog -- described bureaucratic logjams over the money at every level of government. Among the reasons cited by states and localities for the delays were too-tight deadlines to consider federal grant programs and a dearth of clear federal guidelines to help first responders determine their highest priority needs.
CDC: Flu season fairly typical despite deaths
ATLANTA -- The flu season turned out to be fairly typical, despite an alarmingly severe start that killed dozens of children and flooded emergency rooms with sick kids, the government said Thursday. The percentage of doctor visits and deaths related to the flu were above average, but other recent flu seasons appear to have been worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. For example, a potent flu strain made the 1999-2000 season worse than this year. Health officials do not keep a tally of flu cases because of the difficulty in tracking the virus. But an average of 36,000 people die each year in the United States from the flu, according to the agency.
USDA rejects plan to test for mad cow
WASHINGTON -- The Agriculture Department has rebuffed a meatpacker's plan to test every animal at its Kansas slaughterhouse for mad cow disease. The refusal quiets a firestorm in the cattle industry sparked by Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, a small Kentucky-based meatpacking company that was seeking to privately test each animal at its Arkansas City, Kan., plant. The department is under pressure from some lawmakers and consumer advocates to expand its testing program. Japan, the biggest market for U.S. beef, is demanding that the United States test all 35 million cattle that are slaughtered each year.
-- From wire reports