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ATLANTA (AP) -- There's more evidence that U.S. births may be leveling off after years of decline.

The number of babies born last year only slipped a little, and preliminary government figures released Friday indicate that trend continued through the first six months of this year.

U.S. births rose after the late 1990s and hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007. But then they started dropping each year, and in 2011 the number was as low as it had been in the 1990s.

The decline was widely attributed to the nation's economy. Experts believed that many women or couples who were out of work or had other money problems felt they couldn't afford to start or add to their family.

Last year, the number of babies born - a little shy of 4 million - was only a few hundred less than in 2011, which some saw as a signal that the decline may be bottoming out.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest figures show the number of births from July 2012 through last June were essentially the same as the previous 12 months, suggesting the trend is continuing.

"Perhaps it's because the economy - knock wood - has bottomed out" and improved, said Gretchen Livingston of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Livingston researches birth trends.

Earlier this week, another CDC report showed a decline not only in women giving birth but in getting pregnant. In 2009, the pregnancy rate dropped to its lowest level in 12 years. Of the nearly 6.4 million estimated pregnancies, about 4.1 million resulted in births, more than 1.1 million ended in abortions and about 1 million were miscarriages. Abortions accounted for 18 percent of pregnancies, down from 24 percent in 2009, said that report's lead author, CDC statistician Sally Curtin.

The highest pregnancy rates have shifted from women in their early 20s to those in their late 20s. That parallels a shift in the average age that women first get married.

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Online:

CDC report: HTTP://WWW.CDC.GOV/NCHS

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Missouri TB Josey is game-breaker again

Thursday, 05 December 2013 22:54 Published in Sports

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A little more than two years ago, Henry Josey ripped his left knee to shreds making a cut. He tore the ACL, MCL and patellar tendon on a 2-yard gain against Texas at home, an injury so extensive Missouri coach Gary Pinkel thought it looked like his star tailback had been in an automobile accident.

It was serious enough that Texas coach Mack Brown crossed the field at a hushed Faurot Field to have a look.

In the SEC championship game on Saturday, No. 3 Auburn will see a player who's made it all the way back.

Coaches and teammates couldn't have been more pleased that the 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior got a chance to really stretch his legs on the go-ahead touchdown late in the victory over Texas A&M that wrapped up the SEC East.

"You saw Henry, when he got that one hole how fast he took off," center Evan Boehm said. "And that's something special to see. What better person to get that than Henry?"

Josey is a cinch for a second 1,000-yard season in as many years starting for the fifth-ranked Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC), needing just 50 yards with two games remaining. He's busted four 50-yard-plus gains this season, serving notice with a 68-yard TD in the opener and scoring on an 86-yard run at Kentucky.

He has eight carries of 20 yards or longer and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Though it's down from a scintillating 8.1-yard average in 2011, Josey believes he's a better back now.

"I hope I'm better than I used to be," Josey said.

Faster, too?

"I think so," he said.

There's no doubt he's an inspirational presence, what Pinkel refers to as "untouchable."

"You don't say a bad word about Henry Josey," Pinkel adds, "no matter what."

Josey was all-Big 12 as a sophomore with 1,168 yards despite missing the last three games with an injury that required multiple operations. He spent all of 2012 rehabbing.

"We saw it every day, just tirelessly working, and coming back mentally, too," guard Max Copeland said. "You've got to be a special dude to come back from something like that mentally."

Missouri has been careful not to overload Josey his first season back, plus there's plenty of depth. Sophomore Russell Hansbrough (624 yards, 6.3-yard average, 4 TDs) and junior Marcus Murphy (561, 6.9, nine TDs) are speedsters, and quarterback James Franklin (412, 4.5, three TDs) is a shifty threat.

"Sometimes we don't even block the right guys and he still scores," right guard Conner McGovern said of Murphy. "That's why we call him 'Magic Murph.' But we definitely take a little extra pride with Henry, with what he's been through and how he's sacrificed."

That balance definitely has Auburn's attention.

"You can pull out the sheets and look," Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "They're right up at the top in total offense, rushing and passing."

Running backs coach Brian Jones said he's made it a point to keep Josey fresh for "crunch time" like the third-and-1 play that produced the winning score against Texas A&M.

"He's sitting on the bench; at times he's all by himself," Jones said. "He's very aware of what's going on, very aware of the situation."

On the deciding play, McGovern and center Mitch Morse opened big holes. Wide receiver Jimmie Hunt contributed, too.

"All three of those guys had great blocks on that play, and Henry finished it off," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "It's always great when you see a guy return from an injury like he had and have the success he's had. It just makes you feel good."

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