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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.

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