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By Compiled from wire service reports by Ross Atkin / November 26, 2008



Consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in November, from 38.8 to 44.9 on an index kept by the New York-based Conference Board. Even so, the incremental improvement brought the reading to about half what it was a year ago.

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Two shuttle Endeavour astronauts completed the last of four spacewalks used to repair and maintain the International Space Station Monday. The crews also managed to get a urine processor working after five days of trying. The equipment is part of a water recycling system needed to provide drinking water for the station when its crew is doubled to six members next year. Samples will be tested on Earth before astronauts begin drinking water the processor yields.

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver, will be transferred from the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to his home country of Yemen, a senior defense official said. Hamdan was sentenced to 5-1/2 years in August for aiding Al Qaeda but is eligible for release soon because of time previously served.

New Orleans ranks as the most violent US city, based on a study released Monday that uses FBI crime statistics. The findings, compiled by CQ Press, the book publishing arm of the Congressional Quarterly, show that New Orleans easily had the most homicides per capita in 2007 (94.7 per 100,000 population). Cities ranked after New Orleans, in order, were Camden, N.J.; Detroit; St. Louis; and Oakland, Calif.

In high-poverty schools, 2 in 5 math classes have teachers without a college major or certification in math, twice the national average, according to a report by the Education Trust, a children's advocacy group. Math is considered a "gateway" course that leads to greater success in the workplace and college.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for a broad review of military readiness, with close attention to whether the National Guard and Reserve have the training and equipment needed to defend the homeland. The order follows an independent commission report that concluded the military is unprepared for a catastrophic attack on the country.

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed two pitching prospects from India who came to the US six months ago after being top finishers on an Indian reality TV show called the "Million Dollar Arm." Neither has ever left his home village before. Both have since received instruction from an American college coach. Above, Dinesh Patel, one of the prospects, threw for major-league scouts in Tempe, Ariz., during a tryout this month.

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