Infant mortality rate rises unexpectedly

ATLANTA – U.S. infant mortality has climbed for the first time
in more than four decades, mainly because of complications
associated with older women putting off motherhood and then having
multiple babies via fertility drugs, the government said

At the same time, U.S. life expectancy reached an all-time high
of 77.4 years in 2002, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said. Life expectancy in 2001 was 77.2 years.

The nation’s infant mortality rate climbed from 6.8 deaths
per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 7.0 deaths per 1,000 in 2002.

CDC analysts had expected another year of decline — the
last time the rate rose was in 1958.

“We were surprised because it has been declining fairly
steadily for more than four decades,” said Joyce Martin, lead
statistician for the CDC. “You’re always concerned when
an important indicator in public health increases.”

The 2002 rise may be a one-time blip, since the U.S. rate for
2003 is expected to drop, a preliminary review by the CDC

The rise in infant mortality may reflect the long trend among
American women toward delaying motherhood, Martin said.

Israeli troops kill 15 Palestinians in Gaza raids

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli troops rode tanks into the Gaza
Strip yesterday searching for Islamic militants firing rockets at
nearby Jewish settlements, and the ensuing battle left at least 15
Palestinians dead and more than 50 wounded.

The fiercest fighting occurred in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood of
Gaza City. Twelve people were killed and more than 40 were wounded,
Palestinian doctors said.

Later yesterday, Hamas vowed retaliation. The group’s
militant wing called on all of its cells to carry out “huge
martyrdom operations,” saying “all options are

In a separate raid in the Rafah area along the Gaza-Egypt
border, troops killed three Palestinians as they searched for
arms-smuggling tunnels.

The forces demolished three houses and razed citrus and olive

The fighting in Gaza City erupted before dawn and continued for
several hours. The army and Palestinian residents said the troops
pulled out by early afternoon.

Later in the day, the army blew up the house of a Hamas militant
who was killed and sent tanks into the neighborhood.

Lawmakers reject gay marriage compromise

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature narrowly rejected a
compromise proposal yesterday that sought to legalize civil unions
but ban same-sex marriages, delivering a setback to lawmakers who
wanted to avoid taking the divisive issue head-on.

The defeat of the compromise means that lawmakers will return to
the Statehouse on today to consider either an outright ban on gay
marriage or letting the state’s constitution remain

The joint House and Senate session adjourned for the evening
about 8:30 p.m. after about six hours of debate. The bipartisan
proposal was crafted by Senate leaders who wished to overturn a
high court decision legalizing gay marriage while still extending
equal benefits to gay couples. It was rejected 104-94.

Fed warns of risk of high budget deficit

WASHINGTON – Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said
yesterday “impressive gains” in the U.S. economy since
last summer should lead to improvements in the lagging jobs market,
but warned that soaring budget deficits pose a risk to longer-term
business prospects.

In delivering the Fed’s monetary report to Congress,
Greenspan repeated the central bank’s recent pledge to be
“patient” in keeping interest rates at a 45-year low to
ensure that the economic rebound takes hold.

He cautioned that such low interest rates “will not be
compatible indefinitely” with the Fed’s primary job of
fighting inflation.

O’Reilly apologizes over WMD analysis

NEW YORK – Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly says he
was wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and
that’s made him more skeptical of the Bush administration as
a result.

O’Reilly, who has the top-rated political talk show on
cable news, was confronted on ABC’s “Good Morning
America” about his statement before the Iraq war that if
Saddam Hussein is overthrown and there were no such weapons found,
he’d apologize to the nation.

“Well, my analysis was wrong and I’m sorry,”
O’Reilly told Charles Gibson on Tuesday.

“I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now
than I was at the time,” O’Reilly said.

— Compiled from Daily wire reports.

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