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AROUND THE NATION

Nine states ask court to back health reform

WASHINGTON -- (Bloomberg News) -- Attorneys general of nine states, including New York, will ask a U.S. appeals court to uphold a federal judge's finding that President Obama's health care reform legislation is constitutional.

The attorneys general said they will file an appellate brief backing U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh's Oct. 7 ruling in a lawsuit filed in Detroit by the Thomas More Law Center, based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"We will be working to defend the Constitution and the administration's position," Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires all citizens to obtain coverage beginning in 2014 or face a tax penalty. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Va., ruled Dec. 13 that the coverage mandate exceeds Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. Steeh's ruling upheld the individual mandate portion of the act.

The other states represent California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, Maryland and Delaware.

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Rendell shocked clinics were not inspected

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Former Gov. Ed Rendell said Friday he was "flabbergasted" when he found out last year that the state Health Department didn't think its authority extended to abortion clinics such as the one in Philadelphia where prosecutors say a doctor used scissors to kill viable babies.

Rendell, a Democrat whose second term as governor ended last week, said that he ordered increased inspections after a clinic raid early last year yielded gruesome accounts of bloody floors and baby parts in jars. Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who ran the clinic, was charged this week with murdering seven babies and one woman who went to him for an abortion.

The grand jury probing the case said politics played a role in the abortion-oversight issues. Health Department lawyers changed their opinions and advice "to suit the policy preferences of different governors," the report said. The department dropped its policy of annual inspections in the mid-1990s under Gov. Tom Ridge, who supported abortion rights, the report said.

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Sanctuary owner moves in with lions

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The owner of a Florida wildlife rescue center is living in a cage with two lions, a fundraising stunt that has riled other animal rescue groups and underscores how difficult it is to keep such sanctuaries afloat.

James Jablon with Wildlife Rehabilitation of Hernando County, a semi-rural area about an hour north of Tampa, is halfway through his month of eating, sleeping and otherwise hanging out with the carnivorous cats. Wearing a microphone, he talks with people who watch streaming video of his "captivity" online and post comments.

He maintains his unusual idea is a harmless way to raise $150,000 to keep the center running.

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