NEW YORK

Publisher defends decision

The publisher Scholastic is rejecting criticism by two leading advocates for free expression that it committed self-censorship in halting distribution of a picture book about slavery. The National Coalition Against Censorship and the PEN American Center last week chided the publisher for pulling A Birthday Cake for George Washington, which had been widely attacked for its depiction of smiling slaves. NCAC executive director Joan Bertin called the decision “a shocking and unprecedented case of self-censorship.” Scholastic released a statement Monday saying that the book was pulled for failing to meet company standards “for appropriate presentation of complex subject matter,” not criticism.

Child abuse cases rise

The number of U.S. children victimized by abuse and neglect increased by nearly 3 percent in the latest annual reporting period, according to new federal data. According to the report released Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the estimated number of victimized children in the 2014 fiscal year was 702,208 — up from 682,307 in 2013. The report estimated fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect at 1,580 — up from 1,530 in 2013.

INDIANAPOLIS

Law costs state millions

Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue and other economic benefits when a dozen groups decided against hosting conventions in Indianapolis last year due at least in part to the controversy surrounding the state’s religious objections law. A document prepared by the tourism group Visit Indy shows that the 12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere. The document was obtained by the Associated Press ahead of its formal release Thursday.

WASHINGTON

Senator blocks Obama pick

A Democratic senator said Monday he is blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration as he pressures the agency to be tougher on abuse of opioid painkillers. Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey said in a statement that he has put a hold on the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf, the No. 2 official at the agency, who was a prominent cardiologist and medical researcher at Duke University for more than 30 years.

Compiled from wire reports.