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Briefs

Train plows into parade, kills 4

Float was carrying wounded veterans; 17 others injured

– A freight train slammed into a parade float carrying wounded veterans on Thursday, killing four people and injuring 17 others as the float drove through a West Texas railroad crossing on its way to an honorary banquet, authorities said.

The eastbound train was sounding its horn before it hit the float around 4:40 p.m. in Midland, Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said. A preliminary investigation indicates the crossing gate and lights were working at the time, Lange said, though he didn’t know if the train crew saw the float approaching.

Two people died at the scene of the crash, while two others died at Midland Memorial Hospital, city of Midland spokesman Ryan Stout said. Seven of those injured are in critical condition, while the 10 others are in stable condition, he said.

The float was among two flat-bed trucks carrying veterans and their spouses, police said. The first truck safely crossed the railroad tracks, but the second truck’s trailer was hit by the train. Police said some of the people on the second trailer were able to evacuate before the crash.

Postal Service loses record $15.9 billion

The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday reported a record annual loss of $15.9 billion in the past fiscal year, prompting renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation to help.

“It’s critical that Congress do its part and pass comprehensive legislation before they adjourn this year,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement.

The fiscal year’s loss is more than three times the $5.1 billion loss reported last year, USPS said.

Diabetes problem worsening in US

The nation’s diabetes problem is getting worse, and the biggest jump over 15 years was in Oklahoma, according to a new federal report issued Thursday. The diabetes rate in Oklahoma more than tripled, and Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama also saw dramatic increases since 1995, the study showed.

In 1958, fewer than 1 in 100 Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes. In 2010, it was about 1 in 14.

Army says suicides up from 2011 total

Ten months into 2012, the number of suspected suicides by active-duty soldiers has surpassed last year’s total, even as the Pentagon struggles to stem the persistent problem.

According to the Army, there were 20 possible suicides in October, bringing the total for the year to 166 – one more than the total for 2011.

Affirmative action ban struck down

Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions was declared unconstitutional Thursday by a deeply divided federal appeals court, six years after state voters said race could not be an issue in choosing students.

In an 8-7 decision, the court said the 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution is illegal because it presents an extraordinary burden to opponents who would have to mount their own long, expensive campaign through the ballot box to protect affirmative action.

Pilot OK after fighter jet crash

An Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet crashed near a Florida Panhandle highway Thursday, but the pilot was able to eject safely and there were no injuries on the ground, the military said.

The single-seat stealth fighter went down Thursday near Tyndall Air Force Base, just south of Panama City on the Gulf of Mexico.

The cause of the crash isn’t clear.

Twist in old case of missing NYC boy

The man charged with killing a 6-year-old boy in 1979 made a false confession and will plead not guilty in a case that catalyzed the missing-children’s movement, his lawyer said Thursday.

Pedro Hernandez’s admission in May to suffocating Etan Patz was a stunning turn in one of the most notorious and vexing cases in New York City history, prompting the first arrest ever in the case. But he is mentally ill, and his statements “are not reliable,” his lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, said after Hernandez made a brief court appearance.

Prosecutors say an exhaustive post-arrest investigation has found enough evidence to seek an indictment and proceed to trial.

Etan’s disappearance is legend. It led to an intensive search and spawned a movement to publicize cases of missing children. His photo was among the first put on milk cartons, and his case turned May 25 into National Missing Children’s Day.

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