USA

The dairy cow diagnosed with mad-cow disease may have been a Canadian import, US Agriculture Department officials said Saturday. But Canadian officials cautioned that it's too early to determine the exact origin of the infected animal, which was discovered at a Yakima, Wash., farm last week. Ron DeHaven, chief USDA veterinarian, said the cow was probably among 74 cattle imported through a border crossing at Eastport, Idaho, from Alberta in August 2001. The Canadian cattle industry was hit with its first case of mad-cow disease in May, with a single animal found in Alberta. In the US, the discovery of mad-cow disease has sent shock waves through the $27 billion beef industry, prompted a drop in food-company stocks, and led 27 countries to shut their doors to US beef imports.

Rescue crews in California continued to search for seven people missing from a Christmas Day mudslide that crashed through the Old Waterman Canyon in San Bernardino. At least nine people, among them four children, were confirmed dead in the disaster. The slide started after heavy rains loosened the vegetation-stripped soil on the hillsides above the canyon, ravaged by summertime wildfires. The slide buried a campground in waist-deep mud, destroying mobile homes. The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that officials may evacuate areas below the San Bernardino Mountains because another storm is approaching.

Americans eager for post-Christmas bargains flooded stores and shopping malls, giving many retailers hope they may rebound from a lackluster sales season. While high-end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Sharper Image have reported robust sales, discounters such as Wal-Mart reported sluggish holiday sales. Week-after-Christmas shopping has become increasingly important for retailers and popular with shoppers, according to industry analysts. During the same period last year, post-Christmas shopping accounted for 11.8 percent of holiday sales. That number is expected to climb this year. Analysts said giving gift cards as Christmas presents has fueled the post-holiday shopping rush.

Presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts blasted rival Howard Dean over comments about Osama bin Laden that the ex-governor of Vermont made Saturday. Regarding the capture and possible trial of bin Laden, Dean said he would not "prejudge" the terrorist leader if he were ever captured. Kerry said Dean's foreign policy stance "represents muddle thinking" and said Democrats won't defeat President Bush by "being light on national security." The criticism comes just one month before the New Hampshire primary and was made while Kerry, who trails Dean in the polls, talked to supporters in Manchester, N.H.

Police in Sacramento, Calif., are looking for possible links between three deadly highway shootings that occurred Dec. 24, 25, and 26. The victims appear to have crashed after being shot while driving. police said. Two of the victims were found in Sacramento; one was discovered off Highway 120 in nearby San Joaquin County.

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