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US factory orders fell 2.5 percent in January, the largest drop in five months, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Meanwhile, a composite index of service-sector activity, which dipped below 50 in January for nearly the first time in five years, registered 49.3 in February. Readings above 50 in the trade group index indicate expansion.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board sent violation notices to Santa Monica and 19 other southern California cities Tuesday, warning of fines of $10,000 a day if runoff from their communities continues to pollute Santa Monica Bay. Tests have revealed high bacteria levels in water that flows into storm drains and on to the ocean. Santa Monica's beach is one of the most popular in the area.

In decades-old civil rights cases, the FBI will "move forward" when it can, agency director Robert Mueller said of 26 ongoing investigations referenced in remarks prepared for a congressional testimony Wednesday. More than 100 unsolved cases were referred to the FBI last year, when a reputed Ku Klux Klansman was convicted for his role in the 1964 murder of two black teenagers.

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Car crashes annually cost US motorists $164.2 billion, or about $1,051 per person, according to a AAA research report released Wednesday. Costs stemming from traffic congestion are far less – $67.6 billion for the country or $430 per person.

The city council of Cape May, N.J., adopted a compromise Tuesday, ending a nearly year-long conflict that pitted cat lovers against bird lovers in one of North America's premier bird-watching spots. The council will require that feral cat colonies move 1,000 feet away from the beach to prevent them from preying on endangered shore birds. Despite the compromise, some cat lovers (above) picketed outside city hall.

California-based utility PG&E Corp. began Tuesday to transform liquid cow manure covering an area as large as five football fields into renewable natural gas. The innovative "biogas" project is expected to produce enough alternative energy through treatment of methane to power 1,200 homes a day.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (above), a 17-year National Football League veteran and three-time MVP, told the team Tuesday that he's retiring. During his career, Favre was known for his verve and toughness, setting a record by starting in 275 consecutive games while also compiling records for most career touchdown passes and passing yards. He led Green Bay to a Super Bowl win during the 1996 season.

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