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  |   Jan. 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Flu slowing in the South, rising elsewhere

ATLANTA, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The South, which usually gets influenza first and most seriously, reports the flu has slowed, but it is still increasing in other areas, a U.S. official says.

The spread of the flu across the United States appears to have slowed in portions of five states in the South and Southeast, a federal official told CNN early Friday, even as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned of the onset of "a classic flu epidemic."

"We are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic," Fauci told CNN Thursday.

"It's still on the uptick. That uptick that started early -- which was right at the very beginning of December, end of November, and is continuing to go way up -- has led now to widespread flu activity through virtually, essentially the entire country with few exceptions."

New York said Thursday it had confirmed more than 19,000 cases of influenza compared to last year's 4,404 cases for the entire flu season.

In Pennsylvania, flu-related hospital emergency department visits remained elevated in all regions of the state. Flu-related illnesses accounted for 3 percent to 40 percent -- median 4.7 percent -- of all emergency department visits reported by sentinel hospitals.


Panetta: Cuts, freezes possible in March

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he ordered the agency to prepare for the possible triple threat of spending cuts, no operating budget and debt default.

Panetta said the "perfect storm" could force the U.S. military into the worst possible scenario, a "hollow force," Politico reported.

He said the Pentagon would ratchet back on non-critical military maintenance, freeze civilian hiring along with furloughing civilian employees, stop issuing certain contracts and take "other steps" to counter the possibility of a roughly $45 billion in spending cuts that could go into effect in March unless Congress acts.

Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said March's potential across-the-board budget cuts, the expiration of the continuing spending resolution that keeps government operating and the possibility the country could breach its debt limit required such preparation.

"[Looking] at all three of those, we have no idea what the hell's going to happen," said Panetta, who's leaving as soon as his successor is confirmed. "All told this uncertainty, if left unresolved by the Congress, will seriously harm our military readiness."


FAA to review Dreamliner systems

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. aviation officials said Friday they will order a full review of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner following a rash of incidents.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it would examine the aircraft's design, electrical systems, manufacture and assembly, The New York Times reported.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was expected to provide more details about the review Friday during a news conference with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Ray Conner, head of Boeing's commercial airplane division.

The announcement of the review came as the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating why a battery pack caught fire in a parked 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport Monday. The fire occurred in a Japan Airlines plane from Tokyo after the passengers and crew deplaned.

More trouble arose for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in Japan after All Nippon Airlines reported problems involving planes on two domestic flights, the airline said.

Officials reported cracks appeared Friday in the cockpit window of a Dreamliner heading to Matsuyama from Tokyo and oil was discovered leaking from an engine in a plane flying from Haneda to Miyazaki, The New York Times reported.


Russia conducts drills off Syria's coast

MOSCOW, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Ships of Russia's Black Sea and Baltic fleets began military exercises off the coast of Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday.

The ministry said the ships would practice supply transfers at sea during daylight and darkness and perform anti-submarine warfare drills, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia has a naval facility at Tartus on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, which is locked in a civil war that began in March 2011.

The Defense Ministry said the frigate Severomorsk will dock at the Greek port of Suda during an anti-piracy mission to the Gulf of Aden Jan. 14-18.

In Suda, Russian Naval Infantry soldiers will visit a NATO training center "to get additional training," the ministry said.


Pfc. Manning court-martial moved to June

FORT MEADE, Md., Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The court-martial of an Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of leaking government documents to WikiLeaks, has been delayed until June, officials said.

The judge in the case, Army Col. Denise Lind, decided to change the original March start date of the court-martial so she could assess how classified information should be used in the trial, Tribune Newspapers reported Friday.

Manning is charged with sending WikiLeaks more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic memos and field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prosecutors say they plan to introduce evidence that some of the documents benefited al-Qaida.

Manning's lawyers have said he is willing to plead guilty to sending WikiLeaks the classified documents in exchange for a maximum sentence of 20 years on the condition he would not plead to aiding the enemy or other espionage charges.

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