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Associated Press
A policeman inspects the damage inside a train after an accident at Kothacheruvu, about 96 miles north of Bangalore, India. A fire engulfed two coaches killing at least two dozen.

Indian train fire kills at least 26

– A fire engulfed a coach of an express train in southern India on Saturday, killing at least 26 passengers, many of whom became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open, officials said.

As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the car at about 3:45 a.m., panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.

Sixty-seven passengers were in the carriage when the fire broke out about 1 mile from the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, said railways spokesman C.S. Gupta.

The train was brought to a halt and the burning coach was delinked from the rest of the cars to prevent the fire from spreading, Gupta said.

Ex-state legislator Jacobs dies at 81

Andrew Jacobs Jr., a former longtime Indiana congressman, has died at age 81, according to a family spokesman. Gary Taylor, a family friend and former campaign manager for Jacobs, said Saturday evening that the former Democratic lawmaker had died earlier in the day at his Indianapolis home.

According to his congressional biography, Jacobs was a Marine who served in the Korean War as a combat infantryman from 1950-52.

He served in the state House in 1959-60, and then the U.S. House from 1965-73, and again representing a different Indiana district from 1975-97.

Kerry to travel to Middle East

Secretary of State John Kerry will travel this coming week to the Middle East for meetings to push the ongoing final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the State Department said Saturday.

Kerry is slated to leave Wednesday, New Year’s Day, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. In Jerusalem, Kerry is to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A later meeting in Ramallah is planned with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The meetings come with a looming confrontation over a prisoner release scheduled for Sunday, a date set by both sides after restarting peace talks in July.

The Palestinian Authority warned Friday of “consequences” if Israel delays what would be the third round of releases of Palestinian prisoners.

Refusing flu shot gets woman fired

A pregnant woman who refused to get a flu shot due out of fear of miscarrying has been fired from her job with a health care company.

Dreonna Breton worked as a registered nurse for Horizons Healthcare Services in central Pennsylvania. The company requires all workers to get the influenza vaccine.

Breton contends the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women. She suffered two miscarriages earlier this year, and doesn’t want to risk a third.

Company spokesman Alan Peterson says it’s unconscionable for a health care worker not to be immunized. He also says pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu. Breton offered to wear a mask during flu season. But the 29-year-old was fired Dec. 17.

Katrina lawsuits dismissed by judge

Dozens of lawsuits seeking damages from the federal government for Hurricane Katrina-related levee failures and flooding in the New Orleans area are over.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. has dismissed the cases. The move comes more than a year after a federal appeals court overturned his ruling that held the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liable for flooding caused by lax maintenance of a shipping channel.

Duval has also dismissed a parallel lawsuit against a contractor.