FBI efforts to investigate 2,500 fraud cases growing out of the current financial crisis are straining agency resources, Director Robert Mueller told Congress Wednesday. Such cases have increased more than 50 percent since 2003 and are considered the FBI's No. 1 criminal priority.

Orders placed with US factories for durable goods rose 3.4 percent last month, snapping six straight months of declines, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. An unexpected surge (of 4.7 percent) was also registered in sales of new homes. Even so, sales still hovered at the second-worst rate on record.

A range of pharmaceutical residues showed up in fish caught near wastewater treatment plants in five major cities, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday of findings in Chicago; Dallas; Phoenix; Philadelphia; and Orlando, Fla. The results have prompted the EPA to expand its research to 150 different locations.

Without an economic recovery, the US Postal Service estimates that mail volume will drop from 15 billion to 12 billion pieces this year. USPS officials went before Congress Wednesday to elaborate on struggles that saw the service operate $2.8 billion in the red last year.

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Tuesday for four slain police officers in Oakland, Calif. Several dozen people later gathered at a makeshift memorial for Lovelle Mixon, the parolee accused of killing the officers before he was shot dead by police. The violence followed a routine traffic stop and has prompted the state's attorney general to call for better monitoring of parole violators.

The White House has nominated Harold Hongju Koh, dean of Yale Law School, to serve as the State Department's top lawyer. If confirmed, he's expected to play a key role in dismantling Bush administration policies regarding the detention and trial of terrorism suspects, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The jobless rate in California is expected to reach 11.9 percent in mid-2010 and remain in double digits until 2012, according to a UCLA forecast.

To ease flooding in Bismarck, N.D., state officials said they might use explosives to break apart Missouri River ice jams and cut water releases from a nearby hydroelectric dam for the first time ever. President Obama has declared the state a federal disaster area.

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