Infant mortality
on the decline

Infant mortality in the United States has declined 12 percent since 2005 after holding steady for many years, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The infant mortality rate in 2011 was 6.05 deaths per every 1,000 live births, down from 6.87 in 2005, according to the report.

Some of the biggest gains were seen in Southern states, though the region still has the highest infant mortality rates overall. The highest rates are in Mississippi and Alabama.

Infant mortality also declined for all major racial and ethnic groups, but dropped the most among African Americans, who continue to have double the infant death rate of whites.

— Los Angeles Times

IRS workers charged with stealing benefits

Twenty-four current and former Internal Revenue Service employees have been charged with stealing government benefits, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The IRS employees were indicted on charges that they illegally received more than $250,000 in benefits including unemployment insurance payments, food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Memphis said.

Prosecutors say 13 of the IRS employees face federal charges. The remaining 11 face state charges of theft of property over $1,000, a felony.

— Associated Press

Funeral held
for slain diplomat

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, the American diplomat who was killed while delivering textbooks to a school in Afghanistan, was remembered by family and friends at a funeral service Wednesday in the Chicago suburb of River Forest, where she grew up.

The April 6 attack also killed three U.S. service members, a U.S. civilian Defense Department worker and an Afghan doctor.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry stopped in Chicago on Monday to visit Smedinghoff’s parents. Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks before she died.

— Associated Press

Rare diamond sold for $39 million: A rare pink diamond once owned by Indian royalty has sold for $39.3 million at auction in New York City. The price for the 34.65-carat diamond that sold at Christie’s on Tuesday was the second-highest ever for a jewel sold at auction. The seller and buyer were anonymous. The gem nicknamed the Princie Diamond was discovered 300 years ago in the Golconda mines in India. It once belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad, an Indian prince.