USA

Leading a spate of similar announcements, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D) both said they will be among the candidates to replace Gov. Gray Davis (D) if an Oct. 7 recall election succeeds. Breaking ranks with prominent Democrats who vowed not to oppose Davis, Bustamante made his decision known hours after the action-movie star, a moderate Republican, disclosed his political plans at a taping of NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Saturday is the filing deadline for recall candidates.

A Portland, Ore., software engineer who tried to reach Afghanistan to fight US troops in late 2001 pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid the country's former Taliban rulers. Maher "Mike" Hawash will serve at least seven years in federal prison under a deal approved by Attorney General Ashcroft. After Hawash agreed to testify against six alleged fellow conspirators, prosecutors dropped charges of conspiring to levy war against the US and conspiring to provide material support for terrorism.

In a double boost for the economy, business productivity soared in the second quarter and unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, the Labor Department said. Productivity - the amount an employee produces per hour of work - grew at an annual rate of 5.7 percent for the three months ending in June. In a second report, the department said new applications for jobless benefits fell by a seasonally adjusted 3,000 to 390,000 for the workweek ended Aug. 2.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed a bill authorizing a $6.6 billion expansion of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Wednesday. The measure gives the city more power to seize land in neighboring towns and limits the state's ability to block the project, which requires moving about 600 homes and businesses and two cemeteries. Chicago mayor Richard Daley said the plan will create "an airport for the 21st century" that will be paid for by users of O'Hare rather than by taxpayers. The Federal Aviation Administration still needs to approve the project.

A federal judge ordered online auction house eBay to pay $29.5 million to a Virginia inventor who accused the company of stealing his ideas. But US District Judge Jerome Friedman said he would not require the Internet giant to abandon the disputed technology, ruling that lawyers for plaintiff Thomas Wookston failed to show he would suffer irreparable harm if the court did not issue an injunction. Both sides said they would appeal.

The Congressional Black Caucus wants to add one more televised debate to the six already scheduled for the nine Democratic presidential candidates. The caucus and Fox News were expected to announce Thursday that they've invited the candidates to a Sept. 9 debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore. But it was unclear if all the candidates would be able to participate. Their campaigns worked closely with the Democratic National Committee to settle on six debates during the late summer and fall.

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