Orders with US factories rose 2.3 percent in December, the largest amount in five months, the Commerce Department reported Monday. For all of last year, however, total orders went up by just 1.4 percent, the worst annual performance since 2002.

US Park Police staffing was at a lower level last summer than it was in 2001, contributing to a poor review of its protection of national landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, The Washington Post said of a report by the Interior Department's inspector general. Although special barriers and other security measures have been introduced since 9/11, Park Police operations are marked by low morale, poor leadership, and bad organization, according to the government's assessment.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a group of analysts Monday in New York that the company's proposed $42 billion purchase of Yahoo Inc. would raise competition (primarily with Google), rather than eliminate it, in the Web search and advertising market. Yahoo so far has had little to say except that its board will carefully examine Microsoft's bid.

A huge natural-gas field about 6,000 feet underground could swell US reserves with as much as 50 trillion cubic feet of the recoverable resource, according to a study by researchers at Penn State University and the State University of New York at Fredonia. Only recently, geologists have figured out a possible, though expensive, way to extract the gas from the thick, black shale that covers about 54,000 square miles, from upstate New York, across Pennsylvania into eastern Ohio and across most of West Virginia.

General Motors Corp., which is struggling to regroup financially, will unveil a new full-size hybrid pickup truck this week at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2009 Sierra is 25 percent more fuel efficient than the standard 2008 model.

The amount of water that flows in the Mississippi River has increased 9 percent since 1950 and carbon levels have risen 40 percent, according to a research article in the journal Nature. The authors cite farming practices, including irrigation and soil treatments, and new crop types, as the probable reasons why a greater percentage of rainfall makes it into the river instead of evaporating into the atmosphere.

Jason Taylor, a Miami Dolphins defensive lineman, was presented with the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award before Sunday's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. The honor recognizes outstanding community service. Taylor's foundation promotes education and improved healthcare for children. Above, Taylor holds the award as Connie Payton, Walter Payton's widow, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell look on.

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