WASHINGTON -

Deaths behind the wheel of an automobile fell last year to the lowest level since the Truman administration, but there was an increase in fatalities among bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders and big-rig truck drivers, according to federal figures released Monday.

Overall, traffic deaths dropped to 32,367, almost 2 percent lower than the 2010 total, and a 26 percent decline since a peak in 2005.

The downward national trend began before the recession took some drivers off the roads, and it accelerated last year. It has been attributed to several factors, including increased use of air bags, seat belts and other vehicle safety features, improved roadway designs and increasing awareness of the perils of driving drunk.

But there already have been indications that the downward trend has ended. Preliminary data for this year indicated that fatalities increased 13.4 percent in the first three months of this year, and the total for April, May and June was 5.3 percent higher than in 2011.

The number of bicyclists killed increased by 8.7 percent, and pedestrian deaths were up 3 percent.

Merck: No merit badge for Scouts

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. - Merck's charitable foundation has stopped giving money to the Boy Scouts of America.

The Merck Foundation said that the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays from its ranks and leadership positions conflicts with giving guidelines and the company's nondiscrimination policy. The foundation said that it will reconsider giving money to the Boy Scouts if they change their policy on sexual orientation.

Merck chief executive Kenneth C. Frazier was a scout in his youth. He received the "Good Scout" Award from the Philadelphia Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council in June.

Records show that the foundation gave $30,000 to The Boy Scouts of America in 2011 and $10,000 to the Cradle of Liberty Council.

Apple, Google share a Kodak moment

NEW YORK - Apple and Google, bitter rivals in smartphone technology, have joined up to make a combined bid for a bundle of patents offered by photography pioneer Kodak, according to a published report.

Bloomberg News reported Saturday that Apple Inc. and Google Inc. have abandoned competing bids for the portfolio to offer a combined $500 million. The sum is the minimum that Kodak can sell the patents for and still get an $830 million loan that's crucial to getting the company out of bankruptcy.

Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January after struggling to adapt to the world of digital photography.

Settlement: Maid in America

NEW YORK - Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a hotel maid settled her lawsuit Monday over sexual assault allegations that sank his political career and spurred scrutiny of his dealings with women on two continents.

The housekeeper, Nafissatou Diallo, looked composed and resolute as state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon announced the confidential deal. Strauss-Kahn stayed in Paris and was mum when asked about the settlement, which came after prosecutors abandoned a related criminal case because they said Diallo had credibility problems.

The lawsuit stemmed from an encounter in Strauss-Kahn's luxury Manhattan hotel suite. Diallo, a 33-year-old housekeeper from Guinea, told police that Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, tried to rape her and tore a ligament in her shoulder after she arrived to clean his suite. The 63-year-old Strauss-Kahn, who has since separated from his wife, has said what happened was "a moral failing" but was consensual.

On Wall Street:

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.75 points to 13,169.88. The Standard and Poor's 500 finished 0.48 point higher at 1,418.55. The Nasdaq composite ended up 8.92 points at 2,986.96.

- Daily News wire services