ATLANTA

Research: Life expectancy falls in hundreds of counties

Americans are living longer, but not in every corner of the country. A new study shows that in hundreds of U.S. counties – mostly in the South – life expectancy has fallen.

The researchers believe problems like smoking and obesity are partly to blame.

“There are enormous variations within the country,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, a University of Washington researcher. He’s a study author and an editor of the online journal, Population Health Metrics, which released the study today.

Overall, life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that a baby born in 2009 could expect to live 78 years and 2 months.

The CDC doesn’t calculate estimates by county; Murray’s research covers 2000 through 2007 when U.S. life expectancy grew a year to nearly 78.

A federal expert in these kinds of statistics said Murray’s methods were sound, but the findings aren’t terribly surprising.

The U.S. estimate actually dropped from 2004 to 2005, noted Bob Anderson of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Given that downward blip — and the fact that statistics fluctuate more when you’re dealing with smaller populations – it’s not unexpected to see some declines at the local level, he said.

WASHINGTON

Boehner presses Obama to explain grounds for Libya

House Speaker John Boehner urged President Obama on Tuesday to explain the legal grounds for the continued U.S. military involvement in Libya and set a Friday deadline for the commander in chief’s response.

Ratcheting up the pressure, Boehner said in a letter to the White House that the administration clearly will be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act this weekend.

Obama did not seek congressional consent for the operation within 60 days of the March 19 U.S. airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

“Either you have concluded the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the mission in Libya or you have determined the War Powers Resolution is contrary to the Constitution,” Boehner wrote. “The House and the American people whom we represent deserve to know the determination you have made.”

Boehner, R-Ohio, complained that the administration has provided briefings for lawmakers but has not sought formal authorization.

COLUMBIA, S.C.

Army makes hot topper optional for everyday wear

It’s hot, it doesn’t keep the sun out of your eyes, and you need two hands and a mirror to make sure it’s on straight. After 10 years of complaints, the Army is all but ditching the black wool beret and allowing soldiers to go back to the old brimmed patrol cap for their everyday duties.

“It’s the military equivalent of being able to wear a baseball cap to work,” said Col. Pete Brooks of the South Carolina Army National Guard. “Wearing the beret in 100-degree South Carolina heat was like wearing a wet piece of black wool on your head.”

Army Secretary John McHugh ordered the change to take effect Tuesday, the service’s 236th birthday.

Elite units in the 1.1-million-member Army will continue to wear their colored berets as a mark of honor – green for Special Forces, tan for Rangers, maroon for airborne troops. But from now on, other soldiers will have to pull out the black beret only for special events, such as change-of-command ceremonies. Soldiers, of course, will still wear their helmets in combat.

“This just makes things a little bit easier for us,” said Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau, who works with the 3rd Army at nearby Shaw Air Force Base.