Factory orders for goods other than autos and aircraft fell 3.7 percent in September, their sharpest drop since 1992, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. Business cutbacks in purchases of steel, computers, and other equipment were keys to the slide.

US auto sales in October dropped 32 percent to their lowest level (838,156) in more than 17 years, according to figures released Monday by Autodata Corp. and Ward's AutoInfoBank. One executive of General Motors, which suffered a 45 percent falloff, the industry's steepest, urged the government to thaw out frozen credit to spur sales.

Gov. Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska was absolved by the state's personnel board of any wrongdoing in firing Alaska's public safety commissioner. Earlier, a separate investigation by the state legislature concluded she'd abused her powers by forcing Walt Monegan to accept reassignment after he failed to dismiss Palin's ex-brother-in-law from serving as a state trooper.

The remains of millionaire aviator Steve Fossett, found by a hiker last month in California's Sierra Nevada, have been positively identified using DNA tests, state officials said Monday. Until the hiker found Fossett's pilot's license, searches had failed to find his small plane after it disappeared following takeoff from a Nevada ranch in 2007. What caused the crash of his solo flight is under investigation.

In a racially divided vote, school board members in Jacksonville, Fla., decided Monday to retain the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School after some people linked the school's namesake, a Confederate general, to the Ku Klux Klan. One board member said it's difficult to know "who the real Forrest is." Blacks are now in majority at the formerly all-white school.

The grandmother instrumental in shaping Barack Obama's life died Monday in Honolulu, where for eight years Madelyn Payne Dunham and her husband shared an apartment with Obama. Before retiring, she rose from a bank secretary to one of the state's first female bank vice presidents.

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