The Commerce Department made a modest downward revision of its second-quarter, gross domestic product estimate Thursday, lowering it from 4 to 3.8 percent. Growth is expected to slow because of credit problems that originated in the subprime mortgage markets, but economists are encouraged by a dip below 300,000 in jobless claims.

US District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Wednesday in Portland, Ore., that provisions in the USA Patriot Act for secret searches and wiretapping to gather criminal evidence, instead of intelligence gathering, are unconstitutional. The decision follows the exoneration of Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, whose office was bugged in a mistaken effort to link him to the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Anticipating that President Bush would sign legislation Thursday to alter the college loans landscape, the investors group that earlier in the year negotiated a $25 billion buyout of student lender Sallie Mae said it now wants to renegotiate the deal. The new law will cut about $20 billion in government subsidies to companies like Sallie Mae and halve the interest on government-backed student loans.

Silicon Valley engineers Lan Lee of Palo Alto, Calif., and Chinese national Yuefei Ge were indicted Wednesday in San Jose of economic espionage. The two already faced charges of stealing computer chip designs from NetLogic Microsystems Inc. and a Taiwan-based company. The new, more serious charge accuses the men of conspiring with the Chinese military.

Roughly three times as many blacks and Hispanics live in prison cells as in college dorms, according to the Census Bureau's first in-depth look at people in "group quarters" since 1980.

The 2,900-year-old giant sequoia thought to be dying in central California is making a comeback, according to rangers at Sequoia National Park. New shoots and branches appear on the Washington Tree, named after George Washington, which once stood 254 feet tall and was touted as the world's second- tallest living tree. In recent years, fire and storm damage reduced it to a 115-foot hulk.

Michigan's Genesee County Land Bank is among seven programs to receive 2007 Innovations in American Government Awards. Using revenue from delinquent property fees, the land bank supports cleanup and reinvestment in abandoned properties, more than 800 of which have been demolished and replaced with new affordable rentals and single-family homes.

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