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In brief: USDA’s ‘My Plate’ replaces pyramid

WASHINGTON – There’s a new U.S. symbol for healthful eating: The Agriculture Department unveiled “My Plate” on Thursday, abandoning the food pyramid.

The new guide is divided into four slightly different-sized quadrants, with fruits and vegetables taking up half the space and grains and protein making up the other half. The vegetables and grains portions are the largest of the four.

Some critics have accused the Obama administration of reaching too far in trying to make Americans eat healthier, especially when it comes to new rules that tell schools what children can eat on campus.

The new plate is simply guidance for those looking to improve their diet, however. It’s supposed to be a suggestion, not a direction, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“We are not telling people what to eat, we are giving them a guide,” he said. He showed off the new plate with first lady Michelle Obama, who has made healthful diets for children a priority through her “Let’s Move” campaign.

The graphic is based on new department dietary guidelines released in January.

“We know Americans want to be healthy, but making those healthy choices is not easy, it’s hard,” said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, who joined Obama and Vilsack to unveil the plate. “We’re trying to make it easier.”

Gunman kills five, then himself

YUMA, Ariz. – A 73-year-old man’s shooting rampage in towns near the Arizona border left six people dead Thursday, including the suspect and the attorney who represented his ex-wife in their divorce.

The suspect, identified by police as Carey Hal Dyess, also wounded one person before he was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound nearly six hours after the first shots were fired outside of Yuma, a city of about 200,000.

“This is not a random act,” Yuma police Chief Jerry Geier said. “These victims were targeted.”

Yuma County Sheriff Ralph Ogden said police found Dyess’ body at 10:47 a.m. in a vehicle near Wellton, about 25 miles east of Yuma.

A man and woman were found dead in a small farmhouse outside the nearby town of Wellton, said Yuma police Sgt. John Otero.

Court records show the 2006 divorce was Dyess’ fifth, with the previous four divorces all in Washington state.

Two teenagers drown in cesspool

NEW YORK – The lives of two teenagers ended tragically Thursday, hours after one fell into a Farmingville cesspool half-filled with waste and the other jumped in to save his friend. As they struggled to stay afloat in the 16-foot-deep backyard pit, they soon lost consciousness.

Eduardo Vanegas-Fuentes, 16, of Holtsville, and Edgar Calderon-Castro, 19, of Farmingville, were pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Medical Center the day after Wednesday night’s accident, police said. The accident happened in the backyard of a third teenager, Samuel Suarez, 16, police said.

Suarez said neither he nor his two friends knew they were above a cesspool as they tried to use its 25-inch cement cover as the base for a campfire. The accident happened, Suarez said, as the three tried to haul the slab to another part of the yard for the fire, he said.

Rescuers pulled the two teenagers unconscious from the cesspool and pronounced dead at the hospital Thursday morning.

Police said detectives deemed the deaths an accident with no apparent criminality.


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Early exit polls show strong support to lift Ireland ban on abortion

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.