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False radar images are popping up at O'Hare

False radar images have been popping up on the screens of O'Hare International Airport's air traffic controllers, forcing pilots to take sudden turns unnecessarily, the Chicago Sun-Times reported today.

At least a dozen "ghost planes" have been reported during the last few weeks, the newspaper said, citing documents from the Terminal Radar Approach Control center in Elgin, Ill., and interviews with controllers.

Controllers said that at least a few times, they have ordered pilots to take sudden turns to avoid what appeared to be planes on their radar, potentially putting passengers at risk.

"The ghosting is a complete terror for the air traffic controllers," said Charles Bunting, president of the Elgin local of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

False radar images can appear when a crane or construction tower is put up, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro. Planes from nearby airports also have appeared much closer to O'Hare than they were in recent weeks, controllers said.

Molinaro said there have been 13 ghost images in the past five weeks, rather than the eight or nine the FAA would usually expect in that time period, "meaning we still need to look into them."

But Mike Egan, vice president of the controllers union at Elgin, accused the FAA of playing down the problem. "Maybe 130, but not 13," Egan said Friday. "We had a couple of them today, as a matter of fact. ... They know there's a problem."

Terminally ill newborns

kept alive against wishes

COLUMBIA, Mo. _ Four terminally ill newborns were kept on life support at a state-run hospital against their parents' wishes out of fears doctors could be charged with murder under Missouri's new law banning a type of late-term abortion, the babies' attending physician said.

"We are in legal straitjackets with our hands tied behind our backs," said Dr. John Pardalos, a specialist in neonatal intensive care at University Hospital and Clinics in Columbia.

All four infants, born since passage of the 1999 law, eventually died while on ventilators to assist their breathing, Pardalos said.

The new law, meant to ban what opponents call "partial-birth" abortion, makes doctors guilty of "infanticide" if they purposely cause a living infant's death "by an overt act performed when the infant is partially born or born."

The abortion foe who wrote the law said hospital lawyers were wrong to advise the doctors that the law may apply to them.

Louis DeFeo, chief lawyer lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Conference, said the law specifically excuses doctors practicing "usual and customary standards of medical practice."

Elsewhere . . .

FIRE IN PHILADELPHIA: A 10-alarm fire in a Northeast Philadelphia warehouse forced the closure of Interstate 95 and Amtrak's line between New York and Philadelphia for several hours. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

CANCER NEWS: Terminally ill cancer patients rarely get a straight answer when they ask doctors how long they have to live, suggests a survey presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology in New Orleans. Researchers found doctors are likely to be overly optimistic about their patients' outlooks or simply refuse to say. Only about one-third are willing to give patients their best guess. Also at the meeting, it was announced that doctors are examining the possibility of setting up a nationwide system to monitor the quality of cancer care.

SHELL SUIT: An Edwardsville, Ill., jury awarded $34.1-million to James "Butch" Hutcheson, 64, who claimed he got cancer after working with asbestos at a Shell Oil refinery in the late 1950s and 1960s. Shell plans to appeal, a company spokeswoman said.

COLUMBINE GRADUATION: Nine students wounded in the worst school shooting in U.S. history, including two left partially paralyzed, graduated in Columbine High School's class of 2000.