USA

Consumer prices, which had been surging earlier in the year, edged up a tiny 0.1 percent last month, the smallest advance since prices were flat last November, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food, was also well behaved, rising by just 0.2 percent, the same as in June. Meanwhile, sales of existing homes fell in 41 states during the April-June quarter while home prices were down in one-third of the metropolitan areas surveyed, a real estate trade group said.

The National Weather Service predicted that temperatures in Memphis, Tenn., which sits at the heart of a South/Central US heat wave, will reach triple digits through Friday, which would make it eight straight days of 100 degrees F. or more.

Hurricane Flossie, which appeared on course to lash Hawaii's Big Island, spent most of its fury at sea and was downgraded to a tropical storm after buffeting the Aloha State Tuesday.

Rescue crews continued to work around the clock Thursday at Utah's Crandall Canyon mine and still are about a week's worth of digging away from reaching the presumed location of an Aug. 6 collapse, where six miners with whom there's been no communication are trapped.

The recent pattern of slight improvements in ACT college entrance exam test scores continued this year, with high school graduates averaging 21.2 on the test, compared with 21.1 in 2006, ACT, Inc., said. Only 23 percent of test-takers, however, met a benchmark score that indicates a readiness for core college courses.

Farm Rescue, a three-year-old nonprofit group that offers help in the fields, not cash, to injured and ill farmers, said it plans to harvest more than 5,000 acres for farmers in the Dakotas this fall.

Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who was the longest-serving Republican speaker of the House until swept aside last November by a new Democratic majority, will announce his retirement Friday, GOP officials said. His speakership lasted eight years.

Hall of Fame player Phil Rizzuto, who died Tuesday in Orange, N.J., came to symbolize the New York Yankees during 13 seasons as the team's shortstop and more than four decades as its colorful broadcaster known as "The Scooter" and for his catchphrase, "Holy cow!"

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