The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 56.9, up from a revised 51.9 in July, in its largest gain since August 2006, the private research group said Tuesday. It's also the second month in a row that consumer optimism improved. Meanwhile, US home prices fell 4.8 in the second quarter compared with a year ago, a 17-year record, according to a government report.

Security is being heightened along the southern US border because of a threat that warring Mexican cartels may send hit men into the United States, authorities said. Law enforcement officials year in Texas and New Mexico have purportedly received a cartel hit list this year identifying 15 to 20 potential targets in the US.

Federal agents rounded up 350 suspected illegal immigrants Monday during a raid at Howard Industries, a factory in Laurel, Miss., that makes electrical transformers and medical supplies. Most of the suspects have been detained until their status is checked.

Six of eight inmates who escaped from a county jail in Clovis, N.M., remained at large Monday. The men apparently used handmade instruments to cut a hole in the roof near a skylight, then went different ways once they were out. One of the escapees is a convicted murderer; another is charged with murder.

Spending on fighting wildfires could reach $1.6 billion this year, US Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell said in a memo this month that calls for transferring about $400 million budgeted for other purposes, such as restoration projects, land acquisition, and building maintenance.

An Islamic civil rights group has asked Warner Bros. to change the title of its upcoming movie "Towelhead" because, it says, "the word is commonly used in a derogatory manner against people of the Muslim faith of Arab origin." The studio apologized for "any offense," but said it is sticking with the title from the novel of the same name to point out racial stereotypes. The story is about a 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl.

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