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Boeing aircraft assembly workers voted overwhelmingly to strike for the second time in three years, but union leaders agreed late Wednesday to hold off on a walkout for 48 hours at the request of Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and a federal mediator. The two sides were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a new contract for 27,000 workers.

A hurricane watch was issued from Edisto Beach, S.C., north to Surf City, N.C., as tropical storm Hanna headed northwest from the Bahamas early Thursday with wind speeds increasing to 70 m.p.h. Hanna has plowed through the Atlantic on a shifting course and is expected to hit the US coast sometime Saturday.

US business productivity surged during the second quarter at a revised 4.3 percent annual rate, nearly double the 2.2 percent gain previously reported and well ahead of forecasts for a 3.5 percent increase, the Labor Department said Thursday. Analysts said the higher productivity keeps inflation in check and could help support business profits at a time of soaring coasts.

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What was supposed to be a four-day boycott by some Chicago public school students to protest unequal education funding was called off late Wednesday after two days. State Sen. James Meeks, who led the boycott, said the decision was made because Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) refused to meet with protesters while the boycott was still in effect.

The nation's airlines were on time more often in July compared with a year ago. The 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 75.7 percent in July, higher than both July 2007's 69.8 percent and June 2008's 70.8 percent.

About 20 million Americans age 12 or older reported using illegal drugs within the past month, according to the government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health released Thursday. Overall, the use of illicit drugs showed little change in 2007. Marijuana easily is the most popular drug, with 14.4 million recent users.

In Major League Baseball's first use of instant replay, the head umpire reviewed a home run Wednesday by the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez that bounced off a catwalk at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, and upheld the call. The new system is limited to determining if home runs are fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, of if there was fan interference.

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