Despite continuing problems with housing and credit markets, fewer people signed up for jobless benefits last week, according to the Labor Department, which said the total dropped by a seasonally adjusted 11,000, to 330,000. The White House hailed the economy's "ability to withstand shocks."

A third round of high-level economic talks between the US and China will be held Dec. 12 and 13 in Grand Epoch City, a conference center near Beijing, the US Treasury Department announced. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a number of other administration officials are expected to press for safer Chinese imports and for economic reforms needed to deal with a huge trade gap that favors China.

The conviction of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs for forcing two Utah teens into arranged marriages resulted in a judge's preliminary sentence of five years to life in prison. The Utah parole board must now decide his actual stay behind bars.

To cut down on noise and air pollution, snowmobile trips in Yellowstone National Park will be capped at 540 daily beginning in the winter of 2008-09, the National Park Service announced this week. The current limit is 720 commercially guided trips, which is down from 1,400 in the 1990s.

A new San Francisco ordinance went into effect this week banning the use of traditional plastic bags by large grocery stores. Above, Austin Richardson bags groceries in new reusable plastic bags at a Lucky store. The city is concerned about litter from 180 million bags used each year.

Following meetings this week in New York, a North Korean delegation said it will continue discussions with the US aimed at bringing the reclusive Communist state into the global financial community. Since Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear arms program, US officials have worked with the North Koreans on compliance with international standards relating to money-laundering, counterfeiting, and transparency.

By a 10-to-1 vote of its Board of Supervisors, San Francisco became the largest US city to approve giving all residents, including illegal immigrants, identification cards.

New York Mayor Michael Bloom-berg praised Rockefeller Center for its "green leadership." The center will replace 30,000 old-fashioned bulbs on the center's Christmas tree with energy-saving LED lights. It also unveiled a new 365-panel solar energy array on one of the complex's buildings, which the mayor inspected.

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