After struggling with disappointing sales throughout the holiday, many retailers have turned to slashing prices to entice shoppers back into stores, especially in hopes of getting them to quickly use increasingly popular gift cards. Confident that postholiday discounts will do the trick, the National Retail Federation said it is sticking with its forecast of a 4.5 percent gain in total sales for November and December. Online shopping and sales at luxury stores have produced some of the season's best results. The full sales picture won't be known until Jan. 6, when merchants are slated to report their December figures.

Staff at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu frantically tried to contact countries in the path of Saturday's deadly wall of water triggered by a huge earthquake in the Indian Ocean, said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility. US officials were unable to reach the countries most severely affected because there is no alert system in the region. A warning center such as those used around the Pacific could have saved thousands of lives, a spokesman for the US Geological Survey said. President Bush expressed condolences over the "terrible loss of life and suffering" in the impacted area, as his administration vowed "all appropriate assistance" to those nations most affected, including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia. No details were shared.

While vacationing at his Crawford, Texas, ranch this week, President Bush will work on his inauguration speech and State of the Union address, said a White House spokesman. Also on the agenda: time for formulating second-term goals, which include tax and Social Security reforms, dealing with an increasingly expensive war in Iraq, possible Supreme Court nominations, an Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, and defusing nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea.

The National Football League hailed a new passing record Sunday, but also saluted a former great, Reggie White, who died in Cornelius, N.C. White was known as a ferocious defensive lineman with Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Carolina, as well as a devoted humanitarian. Before retiring in 2000, he was twice named the league's defensive player of the year. Quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts was the record breaker, completing his 49th touchdown of the season in a win over San Diego to surpass Dan Marino's old mark.

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