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Nation in brief: Microphone in mine yields no response

Sun., Aug. 19, 2007

Rescuers found no signs of life Saturday after drilling a fourth hole into a collapsed mine where six workers have been trapped nearly two weeks, a disheartening blow in a rescue effort that has killed three other people.

A microphone lowered into the new hole revealed nothing to indicate that anyone was in the cavern, and attempts to communicate with the miners by tapping on a drill bit yielded no response, a federal official said. A video camera was being lowered into the hole overnight.

Underground tunneling has been halted since a mountain “bump” Thursday killed three rescuers and injured six others. Officials had hoped a fourth hole drilled into the mine would finally offer clues to whether the men were alive 1,500 feet below ground. Instead, the results were the same as the three previous tries.

Richard Stickler, head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said a fifth hole was planned.


Medicare halts pay for hospital flubs

Medicare will stop paying the costs of treating infections, falls, objects left in surgical patients and other things that happen in hospitals that could have been prevented.

The rule change announced this month is among several initiatives that the administration says are intended to improve the accuracy of Medicare’s payment for hospital patients who receive acute care and to encourage hospitals to improve the quality of their services.

The rule identifies eight conditions – including three serious types of preventable incidents sometimes called “never events” – that Medicare no longer will pay for.

Those conditions are: objects left in a patient during surgery; blood incompatibility; air embolism; falls; mediastinitis, which is an infection after heart surgery; urinary tract infections from using catheters; pressure ulcers, or bedsores; and vascular infections from using catheters.

Marion, Iowa

Obama to cut back on debate schedule

Tired of trudging from one debate to the next, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign is saying “Enough.”

A memo issued by Obama’s campaign manager said the unceasing schedule of presidential debates and candidate forums was proving a distraction. Beginning next week, the Illinois senator will cut back on his attendance in Democratic debates, which have been a growing source of frustration for some top-tier candidates.

The campaign will say no to new debate requests until mid-December. After that, Obama will consider requests case-by-case.

Meanwhile, he is committed to six more debates in coming months.


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