Infected Cow From Texas

The second case of mad cow disease reported in the United States was in a cow born, raised and slaughtered in Texas, Agriculture Department officials said yesterday.

The department's chief veterinarian, John Clifford, said the cow was killed in November at a pet-food plant after it was found unfit for human consumption.

The 12-year-old cow could have contracted the disease by eating animal feed that included cow parts. The United States has banned using cattle parts in feed since 1997 after an outbreak of mad cow disease in Britain. Eating the brain and other nervous tissue of an animal with the brain-wasting ailment is the only confirmed way the disease is transmitted.

The Agriculture Department confirmed the case last Friday but had to wait for DNA analysis to determine the cow's origin. Tracing the cow proved difficult because the animal's breed was mislabeled and its tissues were mixed with parts from other cows.

The department had decided after conflicting results on several earlier tests that the animal did not have the disease, but a final round of definitive testing in England came back positive last week.

Investigator: NASA Ready

The chief investigator of the Columbia disaster said yesterday that he is fine with NASA resuming shuttle launches in two weeks, even though the space agency fell short of making three safety improvements he called for in 2003.

"It sounds to me like they're ready to go," retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr. said in an interview with the Associated Press. "As far as what I know, they have taken all the steps necessary to be ready to fly in July."

Gehman said the accident investigators never intended NASA to carry out to the letter the recommended changes. "We didn't want it to be a poison pill," he said.

Like the astronauts and others at NASA, Gehman seems to accept that not all risk can be removed. It was the first public comment on the subject by the chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board since an advisory group concluded Monday that NASA had not fulfilled three of the board's most critical recommendations.

More U.S. Children Insured

More than 9 percent of U.S. children and 14 percent of all Americans lacked health insurance in 2004, the government reported yesterday.

The report, from the National Center for Health Statistics, shows that slightly more children have coverage but that the number of adults covered has not increased.

"In 2004, over 90 percent of America's children had health insurance at the time of the interview -- a steady rise from the first report in 1997," the center said.

The report says nearly 70 percent of poor children in the United States rely on health insurance from state and federal sources, most of them through the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

-- From News Services