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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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