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  • NEW YORK-- U.S. births fell for the fourth year in a row, the government reported Wednesday, with experts calling it more proof that the weak economy has continued to dampen enthusiasm for having children. But there may be a silver lining: The decline in 2011 was just 1 percent _ not as sharp a fall-off as the 2 to 3 percent drop seen in other recent years.

  • NEW YORK-- Best-selling novelist Sylvia Day says sales of her "Crossfire" series and other erotic romance novels are on the rise in part because of maturing fans of the "Twilight Saga" young adult romance books.

  • LONDON-- Pearson PLC, the U.K. publisher and education company, said Wednesday that chief executive Marjorie Scardino has decided to step down.

  • MINNEAPOLIS-- The Minnesota Orchestra was called the world's greatest not long ago, welcome recognition for musicians based outside a top cultural center. In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Orchestra has already cancelled concerts through Nov. 25 as negotiators argue over a proposal to trim the performers' average salary by $46,000 a year.

  • WASHINGTON-- The Carlyle Group said Wednesday that it has agreed to buy a 55 percent stake in Vermillion Asset Management. The units will be exchangeable one-for-one on a private placement basis for Carlyle Group common units, the company said. Carlyle Group shares closed at $25.64 per share on Tuesday.

  • JOHANNESBURG-- South Africa will host the second richest tournament in golf in 2013, but it won't have the World Golf Championship status initially promised by the country's national tour. Organizers say the Tournament of Hope, with total prize money of $8.5 million, will be staged in South Africa for 10 years.

  • NEW YORK-- Best Buy Co.' s shares ticked higher in premarket trading after a report said its founder and former chairman Richard Schulze is making some headway with his potential buyout offer of the electronics retailer.

  • TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-- A Florida man's bid to become the first illegal immigrant to obtain a law license in the United States met skepticism Tuesday from most of the state's Supreme Court justices. He graduated from New College in Florida, earned a law degree from Florida State University and passed the state bar exam last year.

  • BOULDER CITY, Nev.-- Taking a break from debate prep, President Barack Obama made an unexpected stop Tuesday at the Hoover Dam, his first visit to a tourist spot considered one of the world's great engineering feats. The president has retreated to a desert resort in Nevada for three days of preparation for his debate Wednesday against Republican rival Mitt Romney.

  • MADRID-- Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos says a `bad bank' being set up to allow lenders to offload bad investments will be 55 percent privately owned. De Guindos defended Spain's banks, saying an audit last week showed "70 percent of the financial sector is in condition to handle a severely stressed situation."

  • WASHINGTON-- A private survey shows that U.S. businesses added fewer workers in September than August, a sign that slow growth may be holding back hiring. Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 162,000 jobs last month.

  • BRISBANE, Calif.-- Women's clothing company Bebe says revenue at stores open at least a year fell 8.7 percent in its most recent quarter, which included the key back-to-school shopping season.

  • BEIRUT-- A senior Lebanese security official says at least three explosions have ripped through a house in a Hezbollah stronghold in eastern Lebanon. The official says the cause of Wednesday's blasts near the city of Baalbek was not immediately clear, and that there were no reports of any casualties. Baalbek is located in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.

  • NEW YORK-- A Baird analyst on Wednesday reaffirmed his "Buy" rating for Titan Machinery Inc., saying that while the third quarter could prove to be tough, he's confident that the company is on track to meet its long-term profit expectations.

  • LONDON-- The British government's rail policy was thrown into chaos Wednesday after it canceled a disputed contract to run one of the country's busiest lines following the discovery of "unacceptable mistakes" in the way it awarded the franchise.

  • TEHRAN, Iran-- Police threatened merchants who closed their shops in Tehran's main bazaar and launched crackdowns on sidewalk money changers on Wednesday as part of a push to halt the plunge of Iran's currency, which has shed more than a third its value in less than a week.