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Michael Sam joins Dallas Cowboys practice squad – National

WATCH: Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett discusses what Michael Sam can bring to the team and how the decision to sign him was solely football based.

IRVING, Texas – Michael Sam’s second chance will be with the Dallas Cowboys.

Coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday that the league’s first openly gay player will be added to the practice roster.

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  • St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, 1st openly gay player drafted in the NFL

“We just want to give him a chance to come in and help our football team,” Garrett said. “That’s where our attention is (football). What people say outside the organization is up to them.”

The Cowboys, who are seeking help with their pass rush because of injuries and the off-season release of franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware, added Sam four days after he was released by St. Louis when teams had to cut rosters to 53 players.

Sam isn’t likely to be on the active roster for Sunday’s opener against San Francisco.

Any team can sign Sam off the Cowboys’ practice squad, but would have to put him on the 53-man roster for a minimum of four weeks.

Being on the Dallas roster means Sam is returning to his home state. He was a lightly regarded recruit out of Hitchcock, Texas, a town of about 7,000 along the Gulf Coast about 40 miles southeast of Houston. His first two years at Missouri, Sam backed up Aldon Smith and Jacquies Smith, both of whom are in the NFL.

The Cowboys didn’t have Sam on their draft board, with owner Jerry Jones saying his size and skill set had him caught between defensive end and outside linebacker. Dallas passed on him with three of five seventh-round picks before the Rams got him at No. 249 out of 256 selections.

But Dallas heads into the opener with serious questions about its defensive line after giving up the most yards in the NFL last year – and third-most in league history.

Defensive end George Selvie, who might miss the opener with a shoulder injury, is the only Dallas lineman who had more than two sacks last year.

Tackle Terrell McClain, one of the key free agent signings, is likely out with a sprained ankle. The other major free agent pickup, tackle Henry Melton, missed all the preseason games with a groin injury. He hasn’t played since tearing a knee ligament with Chicago in Week 3 last year.

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who was drafted in the second round with the hope that he could at least partially fill Ware’s void, can’t play until after the eighth game. He’s on short-term injured reserve with a broken right foot.

Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year with 11 1/2 sacks at Missouri last season, couldn’t crack a St. Louis roster that was stocked with proven pass rushers. But he also lost out to Ethan Westbrooks, the Rams’ top target among undrafted rookies.

Sam had three sacks, one more than Westbrook. But most of the preseason, he was playing with the second- and third-stringers. Westbrooks was the Division II defensive player of the year when he had 19 1-2 sacks for West Texas A&M.

After coming out as gay to his Missouri teammates before his senior season, Sam told the rest of the world about three months before the May draft.

©2014The Canadian Press

No back to school for Red River College president – Winnipeg

WINNIPEG – The head of Manitoba’s largest college won’t be headed back to school this fall.

Red River College’s president, Stephanie Forsyth, is leaving the school according to a statement Wednesday from the college’s Board of Governors.

“Ms. Forsyth will not be continuing in her role as President of Red River College for personal and family reasons,” said board chair Richard Lennon.

Stephanie Forsyth has been president of RRC since 2010, and her tenure was often marked by controversy.

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She was criticized for her personal expenses and an alleged hostile atmosphere. There was also a $2 million projected budget shortfall under her leadership this spring. The projected deficit prompted the province to review the college’s financial and human resources issues.

The province’s education minister ordered a review of financial and human resources issues at RRC. Minister James Allum won’t say if Forsyth may have caught wind of the findings, only that it should be finished soon and released early this fall.

“We expect that recommendations will be made to improve transparency, accountability, financial responsibility,” said Education Minister James Allum.

Red River says it will take whatever the findings are seriously.

“Certainly as a board we’ve been happy to cooperate throughout the process and if there are any recommendations that come out of it we are happy to embrace them and look at them and move forward,” said Lennon.

Global News reported in March 2013 that Forsyth is paid $261,005 a year, about a $100,000 more than the province’s premier. The huge salary added fuel the controversy over Forsyth’s expense claims, and an exodus of senior staff at the school during her tenure.

Forsyth responded to the 2013 controversy by saying she welcomes a review of her business expenses from the college’s board of governors. She promised to repay two of the questionable items revealed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation: a pair of $200 golf shoes and a driver’s license fee.

In a statement sent to Global News Forsyth says “I acknowledge that golf shoes are an unusual item to submit but they were and are ONLY used for the College business. However, I understand some people may find the expense questionable, so I will re-pay this expense.”

The statement acknowledges also that her $50 driver’s license expense made in 2011 was paid in error and said she would pay that back immediately. The statement does not acknowledge any other specific expenses.

The college is a publicly funded institution, with Manitoba’s NDP government footing much of the bill.

How to wear ’90s fashion trends without looking clueless

TORONTO – Crop tops, slip dresses, overalls and fanny packs were just some of the ’90s mainstays that have managed to creep beyond musical festivals and into mainstream fashion.

“We’ve seen the ’90s come back in the last few years, but this summer I felt like I really saw it in full force,” Flare’s fashion director Tiyana Grulovic said by phone.

And the trend is being carried into fall, so don’t pack away your strappy sundress just yet.

“I remember in Clueless, (the character) Cher was wearing a strappy dress with a T-shirt underneath,” said Grulovic, referencing the iconic film marking its 20th anniversary next year. “For a younger girl, a simple T-shirt under a spaghetti strap dress is beautiful.”

And for those who just can’t let their crop tops go, Grulovic provides hope.

“If you have a crop top that you love, you can still wear it with something more high-waisted, like a high-waisted jean or trouser,” said Grulovic. “I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’m really into the ’90s mom jeans.”

Natalya Yakimchick attends the Valentino show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2014-2015 on March 4, 2014 in Paris, France.

Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Grulovic credits the French label Celine for bringing back minimalism, with its trademark muted colour palette and clean lines. “The concept of ’90s minimalism, which is still going strong for fall, lends itself to more layering and wintry pieces,” she said.

A model walks the runway during the Celine Ready to Wear show as part of the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011 at Tennis Club de Paris on March 7, 2010 in Paris, France.

Getty Images

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  • Fall fashion trends: ‘Santa Fe’ look, straight trousers and combat boots

  • Louboutin red and flip-side manis: 5 trends for nails

Head-to-toe knits were big on runways for fall 2014, with Celine, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney all doing versions of the look. While it doesn’t translate well to the street, knits work well to propel summer pieces into fall.

“If you’re looking for something a little bit more sophisticated, you might opt for pairing a turtleneck for fall with a really sleek column dress,” said Sarah Smithers, fashion expert at Winners.

And if you’re looking for an edgier look, adding tough-looking accessories to softer pieces will do the trick.

“Combat boots are a great complement to baby-doll dresses if you’re trying to channel that grunge look,” Smithers said. “Definitely ’90s grunge is a great younger look that you can have a lot of fun with – with back to school that’s a trend that always pops up in September.”

Model Cara Delevingne poses backstage before the H&M Fall/Winter 2013 Ready-to-Wear show as part of Paris Fashion Week on February 27, 2013 in Paris, France.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Caitlan Moneta, fashion market editor at Fashion Magazine, credits Saint Laurent for the revival of grunge.

“There was a huge moment where he not only moved his head office to L.A. but changed the whole esthetic of the brand,” said Moneta. “He went in a radical, younger, edgier direction – he was mixing plaid and fur and made high street look high end.”

This Feb. 13, 2014 file photo shows an item from the Fall 2014 Calvin Klein collection during Fashion Week in New York. Lucky magazine style editor Laurel Pantin says trends for cooler weather include baby blue outerwear, shearling coats, oversized sweaters, plaids, black-and-white prints, straight trouser pants, hiking boots, blanket coats and Pendleton prints.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Grunge was the early 1990s musical reaction to 1980s hair metal, centred in Seattle and associated with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The look that became associated with the music was unassuming – flannel shirts and ripped jeans topped with unkempt hair. Twenty years on, it’s been taken mainstream again by celebrities like pop singer Miley Cyrus and reality TV star Kylie Jenner.

“The good thing about grunge is that it’s a lot about layering, so it’s easy,” said Moneta. “Like using a plaid shirt to your advantage – throw it over a slip dress or tie it around your waist and it’s still in keeping with a grunge feeling, but it’s adding extra layers and a little extra warmth.”

To add polish, Moneta suggests completing your look with a biker jacket or adding heft to a slip dress with leather.

“Throw a pair of leather pants or leather leggings under something a little flimsier and it will add a little weight and a more modern, clean finish,” she said.

As for any ’90s trends she isn’t ready to take on, Moneta is cautious.

“I never say never. I work in fashion and it’s not in my vocabulary,” said Moneta. “I said I would never wear crop tops – they’re back; overalls – they’re back. So never say never.”

©2014The Canadian Press

N.B. Greens vow to ban shale gas development, cancel forestry contracts – New Brunswick

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s Green party is promising to ban shale gas development, cancel all contracts signed under the province’s forestry plan and make access to abortion easier.

The measures are among a suite of promises in the party’s platform released Wednesday that the Greens say will improve sustainability and ensure equal access to health care services.

Green party Leader David Coon said he would also end subsidies and tax credits for the resource sector and legislate stronger greenhouse gas reduction targets.

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The NDP, Liberals and governing Progressive Conservatives have not yet released their platforms.

The People’s Alliance of New Brunswick released its platform in the first week of the campaign for the Sept. 22 election, which included a promise to balance the budget by 2017-18.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the New Democrats said they would eliminate the small business tax within six months of taking office.

The party said that would cost about $32 million.

In Moncton, Progressive Conservative leader David Alward said his party would promote resource development, which would stop the exodus of people heading west for work — he said 13 charter flights depart the city weekly carrying skilled workers to jobs elsewhere.

He said shale gas and natural resource development will generate about $10 billion in private sector investment, bringing those workers back home.

©2014The Canadian Press

Design of Arctic patrol vessels on time, under budget by $20 to $30M

HALIFAX – The president of Irving Shipbuilding says the design phase of the Arctic offshore patrol ships is under budget and on time in Halifax.

Kevin McCoy says costs on the $250-million design phase of the ships is between $20 million and $30 million under budget.

The final numbers are expected at the end of 2015.

McCoy says most of the design is complete and construction of the vessels is still scheduled to begin next September.

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  • Budget watchdog goes through access to information for arctic patrol ship data

  • Irving Shipyard gets go-ahead from feds to prepare shipbuilding plan

“We’ve got a lot of work to accomplish next fall and we’re definitely on schedule to get there,” he said.

“For the next year we’ll finish up the final design…so we’re at the 95 per cent point.”

The federal government has said it plans to build six to eight of the ships, but the auditor general has warned the navy may not get the type or number of vessels it needs because of cost restrictions.

Shipbuilding facility construction on schedule

On Wednesday morning, federal, provincial and municipal officials signed the last piece of structural steel for the production building where the ships are to be built., and watched as it was installed.

“Now with this final piece of steel, what once seemed an impossible dream is being realized right here in Halifax,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

The production facility is made up of more than 8,000 tons of structural steel, and is about 1,200 feet long. Once completed, Peter MacKay says it will be the biggest and most sophisticated facility of its kind.

“It certainly doesn’t stop with the completion of this facility, this building this monstrosity that is going to be home to the next generation of Canada’s navy ships,” said MacKay.

A contract to build the patrol ships is expected to be signed in January.

With files from Mayya Assouad, Global News

WATCH: Joe Biden says he’ll follow terrorists to the ‘gates of hell’ – National

KITTERY, Maine – Vice-President Joe Biden says America will follow the terrorists who have killed two American journalists “to the gates of hell.”

Speaking at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, Biden said Wednesday that the Islamic State militant group responsible for beheading Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff won’t intimidate the United States.

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  • Obama says U.S. won’t be intimidated after ‘horrific’ beheading video

  • Islamic State militants kill up to 770 Iraq soldiers: report

Biden said the American people “are so much stronger, so much more resolved” than any enemy can understand. He says the U.S. won’t stop until the militants are brought to justice.

Biden said:

“Hell is where they’ll reside.”

A videotape showing Sotloff’s slaying was broadcast Tuesday, two weeks after the same group released a video showing Foley’s slaying.

The militants said the killings were in response to U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq.

READ MORE: How the feds plan to stop Canadians from joining extremist groups

©2014The Canadian Press

Judge overturns convictions of two men after 30 years on death row – National

LUMBERTON, N.C. – A death-row inmate and his half brother are being freed after three decades in prison after another man’s DNA was discovered on a cigarette butt left near the body of a girl the siblings were convicted of killing.

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On Tuesday, a judge overturned the convictions of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, in the 1983 rape and murder of Sabrina Buie, citing the new evidence that they didn’t commit the crime. The ruling is the latest twist in a notorious legal case that began with what defence attorneys said were coerced confessions from two scared teenagers with low IQs. McCollum was 19 at the time and Brown was 15.

Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser said the new DNA results contradicted the case prosecutors put forward.

He said he was vacating their convictions and ordering their release “based on significant new evidence that they are, in fact, innocent.”

The DNA from the cigarette butts doesn’t match Brown or McCollum, and fingerprints taken from a beer can at the scene aren’t theirs either, attorneys say. No physical evidence connects them to the crime.

READ MORE: U.S. inmate was injected 15 times during nearly 2-hour execution

Both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was again sent to death row, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.

Family members of the men gasped and some sobbed as the judge announced his decision to the packed courtroom. Brown smiled and shook a defence lawyer’s hand and McCollum looked spent and relieved

“We waited years and years,” said James McCollum, Henry McCollum’s father. “We kept the faith.”

Defence lawyers petitioned for their release after a recent analysis from the butt pointed to another man who lived near the soybean field where Buie’s body was found in Robeson County. That man is already serving a life sentence for a similar rape and murder that happened less than a month later.

Because of paperwork, it will likely take until Wednesday for the men to walk free, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the state prison system. They are required to return to the prisons where they have been serving time before they can be processed out.

The men’s freedom hinged largely on the local prosecutor’s acknowledgement of the strong evidence of their innocence.

“The evidence you heard today in my opinion negates the evidence presented at trial,” Johnson Britt, the Robeson County district attorney, said during a closing statement before the judge announced his decision. Britt was not the prosecutor of the men.

Even if the men were granted a new trial, Britt said: “Based upon this new evidence, the state does not have a case to prosecute.”

Minutes later, Sasser made his ruling.

READ MORE: Justice delayed: Forensic evidence left in limbo

The day-long evidence hearing included testimony from Sharon Stellato. The associate director of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission discussed three interviews she had over the summer with the 74-year-old inmate, who was convicted of assaulting three other women and now suspected of killing Buie. The Associated Press does not generally disclose the names of criminal suspects unless they are charged.

According to Stellato, the inmate said at first he didn’t know Buie. But in later interviews, he said the girl would come to his house and buy cigarettes for him.

The man also told them he saw the girl the night she went missing and gave her a coat and hat because it was raining, Stellato said. He told the commission that’s why his DNA may have been at the scene. Stellato said weather records show it didn’t rain the night Buie went missing or the next day.

Stellato also said the man repeatedly told her McCollum and Brown are innocent.

Still, he denied involvement in the killing, Stellato said. He said the girl was alive when she left his house and that he didn’t see her again. Buie was found in a rural soybean field, naked except for a bra pushed up against her neck. A short distance away, police found two bloody sticks and cigarette butts.

Lawyers for the two men said the new testing leaves no doubt about their clients’ innocence.

“We were very hopeful that it would come out this way. We knew the strength of it,” said James Payne, an attorney for Brown.

Ken Rose, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, has represented Henry McCollum for 20 years.

“It’s terrifying that our justice system allowed two intellectually disabled children to go to prison for a crime they had nothing to do with, and then to suffer there for 30 years,” Rose said.

©2014The Associated Press

U.S. missionary who recovered from Ebola makes first public comments – National

ABOVE: Hear what Nancy Writebol had to say about her harrowing battle with the Ebola virus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The doctor who oversaw treatment of two American missionaries who contracted the Ebola virus in west Africa said he doesn’t know if a third sick American will be coming to his Atlanta hospital.

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“I know there have been discussions that this person will be coming back to the United States, Dr. Bruce Ribner, head of the infectious disease unit at Emory University, told NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday. “I don’t believe the actual site where they’re coming back has been decided yet.”

The North Carolina-based group Serving In Mission said Tuesday that the obstetrician has developed the Ebola virus and is now in isolation in Liberia.

READ MORE: Calls for military help in West Africa for Ebola outbreak shows its severity

The virus that has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, not through casual contact.

One of Ribner’s patients, Dr. Kent Brantly, said he knew the sick doctor quite well and has prayed for him and his family, whom he said were “holding up “pretty well.”

Brantly said he’s not worried about the stigma of having had Ebola.

“I’ve been recognized a few times out in public, but the only people who come and speak to me are the ones who grab my arm and say ‘I am so glad to meet you.”‘

Brantly said he knew what to expect when he developed diarrhea, vomiting and a rash.

“I was looking at it through a different lens than a lot of people because I had taken care of so many patients and I had to watch their progression,” he said.

SIM was expected to discuss more about the second infected doctor’s condition later Wednesday.

After weeks of battling Ebola, a second SIM missionary from North Carolina who also was treated at Emory planned to talk publicly Wednesday for the first time about her fight to survive the deadly virus.

READ MORE: Doctors group says world is ‘losing’ Ebola fight

Nancy Writebol and her husband, David, planned to hold a news conference Wednesday at the SIM USA charity’s sprawling campus south of Charlotte. The news conference comes one day after the charity announced that an American doctor treating obstetrics patients at its hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, has tested positive for Ebola.

The Writebols left their home last year for missionary work at a clinic in Liberia, where Nancy Writebol’s duties included disinfecting staff entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area. After she was infected, Nancy Writebol, 59, was flown to the United States and kept in isolation at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

She was released Aug. 19 and has been spending time with her husband at an undisclosed location. Her husband was quarantined for a week at the SIM campus before being released.

Earlier, David Writebol said he and his wife expected to enter a world of poverty, pain and suffering when they left for missionary work in Liberia. They accepted the risks, having faith God would ensure their safety.

So when a doctor told Writebol his wife was infected with the virus, he said he turned to God for strength.

Brantly was released last month after spending three weeks in an isolation unit at the same hospital.

After Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol were infected, their charity organizations, Samaritan’s Purse and SIM, reached out to top infectious disease experts for help.

©2014The Canadian Press

See what happens when a newborn baby photo shoot takes a smelly turn – National

TORONTO – You might have the exact same black-and-white baby photo framed somewhere in your home: you, a proud parent, cradling your naked, newborn baby in your arms.

The only difference in British dad Al Ferguson’s shot is his days-old son decided this was the perfect time for a diaper-less No. 2 – all over papa’s arms and the family’s carpet.

The photos – going viral now – could make a funny flipbook. They start with Ferguson beaming, tiny Ted in his arms, snoozing with his little limbs hanging onto his dad.

Just a few shots in, the Kent, U.K. dad tells Global News he knew poop was about to hit the fan, er, carpet.

“Everything happened in a split second. His tummy tensed up, my brain processing what was about to happen and what was happening, and what had happened,” Ferguson said.

That’s when Baby Ted exploded all over his dad’s arm and right onto the carpet in the family’s living room. (“It was a shaggy rug, a nightmare to clean!”)

The photographer, Kirsty Grant, caught it all on camera, too.

Photo courtesy Kirsty Grant and Al Ferguson

Photo courtesy Kirsty Grant and Al Ferguson

Photo courtesy Kirsty Grant and Al Ferguson

Photo courtesy Kirsty Grant and Al Ferguson

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“Al just stood and looked quite shocked as Jen [his wife] and I fell about laughing,” Grant said.

When the trio saw the photos, they knew they’d captured a magical moment.

“I realized the funny side. The fact that Ted was still blissfully unaware of what chaos he’d caused and was still very much peacefully asleep,” Ferguson said. He even shared the experience on his own blog, the Dad Network and parenting website BabyCentre UK.

The photos have since made their rounds on mommy blogs and news outlets.

“We examined the ‘perfectness’ on the shot. The fact it’s one continuous stream of poo and realised that this shot is one-of-a-kind. There wouldn’t be anything else like it,” he told Global News.

Grant says it’s normal for “some sort of mess” to happen during a shoot, but it’s the first time it’s ever happened mid-shot and in such a dramatic fashion.

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Booming crossover SUV sales trigger car discounts – National

DETROIT – The seismic shift in American car-buying toward trucks and crossover SUVs is creating great deals on compact and midsize cars.

The shift, which has been going on for more than a year, is hurting car sales so much that automakers are offering bigger discounts to keep moving metal.

The change became even more pronounced in August, with companies such as General Motors and Chrysler reporting that truck sales, including crossover SUVS, were up while car sales fell.

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The increasing SUV and truck popularity, and discount-fueled sales of some midsize cars, helped U.S. auto industry to its best August in 11 years last month, with sales rising 5.4 per cent from a year ago to 1.58 million, according to Ward’s Automotive. While prices remain high for trucks and SUVs, they’re either falling or rising only slightly on cars, and that means good deals for consumers.

“It’s definitely a good time to buy a midsize car,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at the Edmunds杭州夜网 automotive website. Every midsize sedan is comfortable, looks good and performs well, so price is nearly the only differentiator, she says.

Automakers spent an average of $1,841 per car to discount compacts last month, up 7 per cent from a year ago, while prices fell 1.2 per cent, according to estimates from Edmunds. On midsize cars, companies spent an average of $2,344 on discounts, up 4 per cent. Average sales price rose slightly as buyers added features.

Yet for some brands, deals brought out car buyers. Honda reported record sales of its Accord midsize car in August, up 33 per cent to more than 51,000. Nissan reported an August record for its Altima midsize car, with sales up 4 per cent. And Ford’s Fusion also did well, with sales up nearly 20 per cent. Accord sales were so high that it again unseated Toyota’s midsize Camry as the top-selling car in the U.S. for the month. Camry sales fell 1.5 per cent to just over 44,000.

Caldwell theorized that Accord, Fusion and Altima sales were aided by discounts that brought owners with older versions of the cars off the sidelines. “All of those vehicles have pretty large customer bases,” she said. “They see some of the deals that are out there.”

Edmunds estimates that Honda spent $2,013 per car on discounts for the Accord in August, more than three times what it spent a year ago. Altima discounts were $2,293, up 5 per cent, while Ford discounted the Fusion by $2,774, up 42 per cent.

Crossovers, which are built on car underpinnings, making them more efficient and manoeuvrable than the old truck-based SUV. They also get gas mileage that’s similar to cars. Buyers, especially empty-nest baby boomers who are downsizing, like the storage space and utility, said Erich Merkle, Ford’s top sales analyst.

Small crossovers such as Honda’s CR-V accounted for 17.3 per cent of the market last month, two points higher than a year ago. But small-cars were just under 22 per cent of the market in August, down from just over 22 per cent last year. Midsize car market share fell 0.2 percentage points to 16 per cent, Merkle said.

The shift, he predicted, will continue for the foreseeable future, although it may slow next year.

Jeff Schuster, executive vice-president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, expects the shift to continue beyond next year, but he says eventually crossover SUV buyers will find the deals on cars too good to pass up.

Of all major automakers, only General Motors and Volkswagen reported sales declines last month. GM was down 1.2 per cent, and struggling VW was off nearly 13 per cent. Truck sales at GM were up 18 per cent.

Chrysler and Nissan led the sales gains with Chrysler rising 20 per cent and Nissan up nearly 12 per cent. Toyota sales rose 6 per cent, while Ford and Honda each eked out a 0.4 per cent gain.

Sales last month ran at an annual rate of 17.5 million, the highest annual rate since January of 2006.