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Factory orders for durable goods, fell 1.7 percent in February, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. disappointing analysts anticipating a small rebound from a 4.7 percent dip in January. Demand for manufacturing equipment plunged 13.3 percent. Meanwhile, sales of new homes fell to a seasonally adjusted 590,000, the lowest level in 13 years.

Investigators continued their probe of what caused part of a construction crane in Miami to plummet 30 floors Tuesday, killing two workers at a high-rise condominium. The crane section fell during efforts to extend the equipment's reach. The incident occurred little more than a week after a construction crane in New York collapsed, killing seven people.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, presidential candidate Barack Obama's controversial former Chicago pastor, canceled plans to speak at three church services in Houston and to appear at a Tampa, Fla., area church because of security concerns. Video clips of past sermons showing the preacher (now retired) making racially charged remarks have made Obama's association with him a campaign issue. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that if Wright had been her pastor, she would have parted company with him.

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Contrary to an earlier report, no Mars rover operations "will be suspended or shut down," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a statement Tuesday. Budget reductions of $4 million to the popular program hadn't been cleared when the report surfaced this week.

New Jersey did a good environmental turn Tuesday by passing a law to protect a valuable food source for red knots, a rare shore bird that annually stops over in New Jersey on its 10,000-mile annual migration. The law bans harvesting horseshoe crabs, whose eggs are an essential nutrient for the red knot, until the crab and red knot populations have returned to sustainable levels.

Georgia-born novelist/poet and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker presented a reading Tuesday at Atlanta's Emory University, where she is placing her archive, including her teenage journals. In 1983, she became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer for fiction for "The Color Purple."

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