USA

Consumer confidence slumped in August as volatile financial markets and problems in the housing sector took a toll, the New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday. The Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 105 from a revised 111.9 in July. While the index was down, it was slightly stronger than the 104.5 that Wall Street analysts expected.

New York City ordered fire inspectors to examine hundreds of buildings under construction or demolition after an investigation found numerous planning and safety failures at the abandoned Deutsche Bank skyscraper at ground zero, where two firefighters recently died. Three senior fire officials said to be responsible for the lapses were reassigned, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that more action could follow.

Average math and reading SAT scores fell four points for the high school class of 2007 to their lowest point since 1999. Last year's graduating seniors scored on average 502 out of a possible 800 points on the critical reading section, down from 503 for the class of 2006. Math scores dropped three points from 518 to 515.

Children detained with their parents at a Texas center for illegal immigrants will receive better meals, better healthcare, increased freedom to move around, and the right to wear pajamas, under a legal settlement announced Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal government.

Eleven playgrounds are being built in Kiryat Shmona, Israel, thanks in part to donations from American children of Jewish descent who have donated money they've received as gifts at their bar and bat mitzvahs, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel. One of the contributors is 12-year-old Rachel Hibner of New York, who donated all of the $11,000 she received for her bat mitzva. "I attached a card to my bat mitzvah invitation asking for money instead of a gift," she said.

President Bush continues to get low marks from the American people on his handling of the Iraq war, according to the Harris Poll. Sixty-seven percent believe his job performance on Iraq is negative, with 48 percent saying it is poor. Just 28 percent give the president's handling of Iraq positive marks.

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