USA

The most comprehensive gauge of the US trade deficit fell 5.5 percent during the third quarter, its lowest level in two years, the Commerce Department said Monday. The current-account trade deficit, which stood at $178.5 billion at the close of the July-September quarter, measures not only trade in products and services but also investment flows between countries.

Online sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 14 were 18 percent higher this year than last, but that's less than the 26 percent growth rate during the same holiday period a year ago, ComScore Inc., an Internet research company, reported Sunday. Things have slowed down after a fast start as cautious consumers "pick their spots," a company spokesman reported.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is a member of the United Church of Christ, helped dispel e-mailed rumors that he is a Muslim by letting the press follow him to a UCC service in Iowa Sunday.

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, urged President Bush and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters Monday not to cap the number of flights to the New York/Newark area. Limiting flights in an effort to relieve delays, Stempler said, will lead to significantly higher airfares.

Developing video games that address social issues is the stated goal of new research lab at the Parsons The New School of Design in New York. The lab said it plans to create games similar to those by a nonprofit group in which players manage the lives of poor Haitians.

The Hollywood sci-fi thriller, "I Am Legend," starring Will Smith, set a record for a December opener by taking in $76.5 million over the weekend, Warner Bros. said.

A 24-hour online pledge drive Sunday raised more than $6 million for Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who has a large online following.

Playing in his hometown of Cary, N.C., Zack Schilawski scored the winning soccer goal Sunday in the NCAA College Cup championship, propelling Wake Forest to the school's first national title in the sport with a 2-1 victory over Ohio State. Above, Wake Forest players battle Ohio State's Roger Espinoza for the ball.

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