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Applications filed for unemployment insurance rose a seasonally adjusted 7,000 to 455,000 last week, their highest level since March 2002, the Labor Department said Thursday. At the same time, retailers said that with the benefits of stimulus checks drying up, a challenging back-to-school season is expected.

The crash of a helicopter in California carrying a firefighting crew presumably killed as many as eight of the 11 people on board Wednesday, a forestry official said. The cause of the crash, which occurred after the chopper lifted off from a clearing in a remote region of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 215 miles northwest of Sacramento, was not immediately known.

This week's shipment of California strawberries to China is a "historic" breakthrough, an industry source said Wednesday. US growers have long tried to get their strawberries into China, which has a short growing season. When China's Olympic athletes said they wanted strawberries during the Beijing Games, the call went out to California, which sent its first 450-pound, pick-of-the crop shipment from farms in Watsonville.

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A majority of 75,000 tickets for Barack Obama's acceptance speech, which wraps up the Democratic National Convention in Denver (Aug. 25-28), will go to Coloradans, party officials said Wednesday. Colorado is a battleground state considered critical in winning the White House. The speech will be held at Invesco Field.

Quarterback Brett Favre landed with the New York Jets Wednesday, ending a month of indecision about whether the Green Bay Packers would take the franchise's beloved signal caller back from an off-season retirement. Details of the trade were thought to involve draft choices.

Border patrol agents are spread unevenly along the 2,000-mile US boundary with Mexico, an Associated Press staffing analysis shows, raising questions about whether politics influence staffing decisions. The shortest sector in San Diego has three times as many agents per mile (37) as most of Arizona, where the busiest crossing is near Tucson.

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