Sales fall in Aug., but drops easing

NEW YORK - Shoppers limited their back-to-school purchases and stayed focused on necessities in August, resulting in the 12th straight month of declining sales for retailers, but there were signs the holiday season could be less dismal than feared.

Despite the weakness many reported, retailers overall did better in August than analysts expected. Some lower-priced chains, such as TJMaxx and Old Navy, even saw sales rise compared with a year earlier, though upscale stores' sales slipped.

There have been encouraging reports from the housing and manufacturing sectors that the economy is stabilizing, but any recovery will have to include an uptick in consumer spending because it accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

Aunt: Missing girl remembers family

LOS ANGELES - Jaycee Dugard remembers her family and is enjoying getting to know her younger sister, who was a baby when Dugard was kidnapped 18 years ago, her aunt said Thursday.

Tina Dugard spoke to reporters at the FBI's Los Angeles office, describing her niece's reunion with her mother and sister.

Phillip and Nancy Garrido have pleaded not guilty to kidnap, rape and imprisonment charges related to Dugard's 1991 abduction from South Lake Tahoe. Police say Garrido fathered Dugard's two daughters and lived with them in a backyard encampment of tents and sheds in Antioch.

1.3M unemployed to lose benefits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Unemployment benefits are expected to run out by the end of the year for more than 1.3 million Americans unless Congress or individual states authorize another extension.

The National Employment Law Project says more than 402,000 Americans will exhaust their unemployment benefits by the end of this month. That figure will more than triple by the end of December.

The government does not track how many jobless Americans have exhausted both their standard and extended benefits, but experts say the figure is nearly 100,000 and rising.

Mass. AG wants Kennedy's seat

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Thursday she will run as a Democratic candidate in the special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The 20-year prosecutor said she can continue to be 'an effective voice for the people of Massachusetts.'

Coakley said at a news conference the state has had a 'crisis of confidence' following Kennedy's death and she wants to pick up his mantle.

Woman breaks long fingernails

SALT LAKE CITY - A Salt Lake City woman who held a Guinness World Record for her long fingernails before they broke off in a car crash says it was the most dramatic event of her life.

But Lee Redmond, who lost the fingernails in February, said it's now much easier to do things and her hands seem to fly with the weight of the nails gone.

The Guinness Web site says her nails measured a total of more than 28 feet long in 2008.

Athlete disarms girl on school bus

YAZOO CITY, Miss. - Authorities say a high school football player in Mississippi tackled a girl who pulled out a gun on a school bus and took the weapon away from her.

Sheriff Tommy Vaughan said the 14-year-old girl pulled a semiautomatic handgun out of her flower-print bag after boarding the bus Tuesday in Yazoo County in Mississippi.

Vaughan told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper the girl began shouting about someone on the bus picking on her.

Football player Kaleb Eulls said he was sleeping when one of his sisters on the bus shook him awake. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior approached the girl, tackled her and wrestled the gun out of her hand.

2 crashes claim boy's grandfathers

JONESTOWN, Pa. - A 3-year-old boy lost both of his grandfathers on the same day in separate Pennsylvania car crashes, one of which the boy himself survived.

The boy was with his 67-year-old paternal grandfather, John Kroh Sr., on Tuesday when their SUV was hit head-on by another vehicle.

Kroh and another man died at the scene near Jonestown, but the boy survived.

Fourteen hours later, the boy's maternal grandfather died in a single-car crash about 12 miles away in Rush Township.