US & Canada

Gabrielle Giffords making good progress, husband says

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Media captionMark Kelly: "She spent 10 minutes giving me a neck massage and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do that for someone else"

The husband of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an attack in Tucson, Arizona, has said she is making good progress.

Mark Kelly told US network ABC his wife had insisted on giving him a neck massage from her hospital bed.

On Sunday, hospital officials upgraded Ms Giffords' condition from "critical" to "serious" after she was successfully taken off a ventilator.

Six people died and more than a dozen were injured in the 8 January shooting.

College dropout Jared Lee Loughner, 22, is charged over the shooting which took place as Ms Giffords and was holding a constituency meeting at a Tucson supermarket.

Mr Loughner could face the death penalty if found guilty.

In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer to be broadcast on Tuesday, Mr Kelly also said he would be willing to meet with the parents of the alleged gunman.

"I don't think it's their fault. It's not the parents' fault," he said of the couple, who released a statement expressing their deep regret about the attack last week.

"You know, I'd like to think I'm a person that's, you know, somewhat forgiving. And, I mean, they've got to be hurting in this situation as much as anybody," he added.

Intensive care

Mr Kelly, a Nasa astronaut, told ABC his wife had given him a 10-minute neck massage.

Image caption A makeshift memorial for those killed has been placed at the scene of the shooting in Tucson

He said Ms Giffords determination to care for others was emblematic of her spirit.

"It's so typical of her that no matter how bad the situation might be for her, you know, she's looking out for other people," he said.

He added that he had reminded her that she was still in intensive care and needed to rest.

Ms Giffords - who has had brain surgery - had been breathing on her own since the shooting in Tucson, but the breathing tube had been left as a precaution.

Hospital officials replaced it on Saturday with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe to protect her airways.

In a hospital briefing on Monday, surgeon Michael Lemole said Ms Giffords was also recovering well from an operation to remove bone fragments from her eye socket.

Meanwhile, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on Monday defended herself against criticism for using the term "blood libel" during a video she released earlier this month about the incident in Tucson.

Ms Palin said on Fox News' Sean Hannity Show that the term referred to those "falsely accused of having blood on their hands".

"I think the critics again were using anything that they could gather out of that statement," she said of the term some Jewish groups claim was historically used to accuse Jews of using the blood of Christians in religious rituals.

Angry outburst

In other developments, one of those injured in the shooting issued an apology for an angry outburst he made at a televised "town hall" meeting held on Saturday by Tucson Tea Party leader Trent Humphries.

James Eric Fuller, a military veteran, became distraught and yelled "you're dead" at Mr Humphries, after taking his photograph.

In a statement on Monday, he apologised for what he called his "misplaced outrage".

"It was not in the spirit of our allegiance and warm feelings of each other as citizens of this great country," he said.

Mr Fuller was involuntarily committed for a mental health evaluation after the outburst.

On Sunday, Mr Kelly spoke at the funeral of Gabe Zimmerman, one of Ms Giffords' aides who was killed in the attack.