Congress to flag gun buyers' mental issues




WASHINGTON &

Congress passed a long-stalled bill inspired by the Virginia Tech shootings that would more easily flag prospective gun buyers who have documented mental health problems. The measure also would help states with the cost.




Passage by voice votes in the House and Senate Wednesday came after months of negotiations between Senate Democrats and the lone Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who had objected and delayed passage.




It was not immediately clear whether President Bush intended to sign, veto or ignore the bill. If Congress does not technically go out of session, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has threatened, the bill would become law if Bush does not act within 10 days.




"This bill will make America safer without affecting the rights of a single law-abiding citizen," said the Senate's chief sponsor, New York Democrat Chuck Schumer.




One of the House's chief sponsors, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, spoke in the full House about her husband, who was killed by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad in New York. "To me, this is the best Christmas present I could ever receive," said McCarthy, D-N.Y.




"" The Associated Press




Kerrey apologizes to Obama for any insult in raising his Muslim heritage




DES MOINES, Iowa &

Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has apologized to Barack Obama for any unintentional insult he committed by raising the Democratic presidential candidate's Muslim heritage while endorsing rival candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.




Kerrey sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday, lauding the Illinois senator's qualifications to be president and saying that he never meant to harm his candidacy. Kerrey told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he sent the letter on his own and had not spoken to Clinton or her campaign about the comments he made Sunday in Iowa.




"What I found myself getting into in Iowa &

and it was my own fault &

it was the wrong moment to do it and it was insulting," Kerrey told the AP. "I meant no disrespect at all."




Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the senator accepted Kerrey's apology, sent to the campaign in the mail and via e-mail.




While announcing his support for Clinton on Sunday, Kerrey told The Washington Post in an interview that while he hopes Clinton is the nominee, he would like Obama to have a role &

especially because of his ability to reach out to black youth and Muslims around the world.




Study: Uninsured cancer patients nearly twice as likely to die within 5 years as insured




ATLANTA &

Uninsured cancer patients are nearly twice as likely to die within five years as those with private coverage, according to the first national study of its kind and one that sheds light on troubling health care obstacles.




People without health insurance are less likely to get recommended cancer screening tests, the study also found, confirming earlier research. And when these patients finally do get diagnosed, their cancer is likely to have spread.




The research by scientists with the American Cancer Society offers important context for the national discussion about health care reform, experts say &

even though the uninsured are believed to account for just a fraction of U.S. cancer deaths. An Associated Press analysis suggests it is around 4 percent.




Those dealing with cancer and inadequate insurance weren't surprised by the findings.




"I would just like for something to be done to help someone else, so they don't have to go through what we went through," said Peggy Hicks, a Florida woman whose husband died in August from colon cancer.