National briefs: Deficit smaller in fiscal 2014

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WASHINGTON -- Across-the-board spending cuts, a better economy and the partial shutdown combined to help the U.S. government kick off the 2014 budget year with a smaller deficit. A steadily shrinking deficit, however, has done little to jump-start tense budget negotiations in Washington to keep the government open past January.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit in October was $91.6 billion. That's 24 percent lower than the $120 billion imbalance recorded in October 2012. The deficit is the gap between the government's tax revenue and spending.

The decline comes after the government reported last month that it ran an annual deficit of $680 billion in the budget year that ended on Sept. 30. That was the lowest in five years and the first in that period below $1 trillion. It's also half the record $1.4 trillion gap reported in 2009.

2012 traffic fatalities

WASHINGTON -- Could the warmer winter of 2012 have contributed to an increase in traffic deaths, particularly among motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians? Final data released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that might be the case.

The agency reported a 3.3 percent increase in U.S. traffic fatalities for the year, the first increase since 2005. For the year, 33,561 people were killed, an increase of 1,082 from 2011.

Seventy-two percent of the increase -- 778 of the 1,082 deaths -- came in the first quarter of the year, and over half of those deaths were motorcyclists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other non-occupants of vehicles. The agency report noted that the first quarter was also the warmest on record.

Vets charity fraud conviction

CLEVELAND -- A onetime fugitive in a $100 million, cross-country Navy veterans charity fraud case was convicted Thursday of racketeering, theft, money laundering and other charges.

The defendant identifies himself as Bobby Thompson, 67, but authorities say he's Harvard-trained attorney John D. Cody. He was indicted in 2010, disappeared for nearly two years and was arrested last year in Portland, Ore.

Also in the nation ...

A drilling crew punctured a gas pipeline Thursday in North Texas and triggered an explosion that led emergency personnel to evacuate the nearby town of Milford. ... A federal judge in new York City handed Google Inc. a victory in a long-running legal battle Thursday, tossing out a lawsuit claiming the Internet giant was violating copyright laws by scanning books without the writers' permission to create the world's largest digital library. ... The New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices, ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge, who was subsequently removed from the case, have led to convictions just 3 percent of the time, the state attorney general's office found.


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