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US gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the April-to-June period, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That was an improvement over the feeble 0.9 percent growth logged in the first quarter, but wasn't as robust as the 2.4 percent pace economists had forecast.

A layoff of about 22,000 California state workers loomed Thursday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was expected to sign an executive order partly designed to pressure lawmakers to strike a budget deal quickly. Lawmakers have failed to agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1, arguing over whether they should enact tax increases or steep cuts to close a $15.2 billion deficit.

Environmentalists concerned with a growing Gulf of Mexico dead zone called on the federal government Wednesday to set and enforce pollution standards in the Mississippi River basin and the Gulf of Mexico. Groups in nine states said the dead zone, an area of oxygen-depleted water that stifles marine life, has grown to 8,000 square miles, largely because of fertilizer runoff from farms upriver.

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Former astronaut and retired Ohio Sen. John Glenn returned to Capitol Hill this week to help celebrate NASA's 50th anniversary and to urge Congress to extend the shuttle program and make a long-term commitment to the International Space Station. In 1962 Glenn became the first astronaut to orbit Earth.

Problems with crane collapses nationwide continued Wednesday, when a crane dismantling a bridge in Smithville, Texas, overloaded and toppled, killing one worker.

Hundreds of California residents near fires burning outside Yosemite National Park returned to their homes as firefighters made critical gains and reported having the blaze 40 percent contained. Still, one of the state's most popular destinations was left shrouded in smoke at the height of Yosemite's busiest season.

American Airlines' baggage handling system at a John F. Kennedy Airport terminal was up and running again Thursday in New York, a day after a software glitch caused dozens of delays, cancellations, and a luggage pileup.

New Mexico this week became the first state to adopt a Navajo textbook for use in public schools. The complex Navajo language has long been taught as an oral language, but the new textbook should help 5,000 students to read and write the endangered language.

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