- - Thursday, November 15, 2012

MICHIGAN

DETROIT | 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.

That burden “undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change,” said Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., writing for the majority at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

OHIO

Judge: Bridge bomb plot equal to terrorism

CLEVELAND — Three men who pleaded guilty in a plot to bomb a highway bridge should be sentenced as terrorists, making them subject to harsher prison terms, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd’s ruling upheld a government request to impose stricter sentences based on a “terrorist enhancement” for the trio. The ruling that the three were trying to intimidate the government expands their possible sentences from five or six years to 15 to 30 years or more.

The judge will sentence Connor Stevens, 20, of Berea; Brandon Baxter, 20, of Lakewood; and Douglas Wright, 26, of Indianapolis, on Tuesday.

REGION

Diabetes rates rocket in Oklahoma, South

NEW YORK — 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.

The South’s growing weight problem is the main explanation, said Linda Geiss, lead author of the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bolstering the numbers is the fact that more people with diabetes are living longer because better treatments are available.

NEW YORK

‘Star Wars’ figures, dominoes in Hall of Fame

ROCHESTER — Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia outmuscled little green army men for a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame. “Star Wars” action figures join centuries-old dominoes in the class of 2012, which was announced by the Rochester hall Thursday.

A national selection committee chose them from among 12 finalists, plucking the most ancient and most modern toys from the list.

“Star Wars” action figures went on the market in 1978, following the 1977 release of the 20th Century Fox movie. The 33/4-inch figures of Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and company were sold until 1985 and again from the mid-1990s to today.

Museum officials say their phenomenal popularity inspired other toy makers to tie their products to movies and television series, and they note that the toys’ appeal extends to adults, who continue to collect them.

Dominoes originated in China in the 1300s and appeared later in Europe in a slightly different form.

NEW JERSEY

WWII-era love letters wash ashore in post Sandy

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — World War II-era love letters written by a New Jersey woman to her boyfriend washed ashore during Superstorm Sandy.

A 14-year-old found the 57 letters inside a box while walking along a beach in Atlantic Highlands the day after Sandy struck. They chronicled life for Dorothy Fallon and Lynn Farnham from 1942 until the week before they married in 1948. The Vermont native served in the Pacific during the war.

Katheleen Chaney told WNBC-TV in New York she started playing amateur detective as her son dried the letters.

She left a message on a website where she learned Mr. Farnham had died in 1991. A niece contacted her to say Dorothy Fallon Farnham, 91, is in frail health in Asbury Park.

It’s thought the letters floated from the Rumson area, down a river and into Sandy Hook Bay.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports