hOfficial visits victimsafter deadly train collision
PANNU AQIL, Pakistan -- Above, Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, left, comforts a child who was injured when three trains collided in southern Pakistan. Musharraf visited the victims at a military hospital in Pannu Aqil on Wednesday. Three trains crashed in a deadly chain reaction after a train driver misread a signal in southern Pakistan early Wednesday, killing at least 128 people and injuring hundreds more in the country's worst crash in more than a decade, police and railway officials said.
Budget report predicts a drop in U.S. deficit
WASHINGTON -- After three years of steadily climbing budget shortfalls, President Bush finally had some good fiscal news Wednesday: Surging revenues and a steady economy have led to a steep drop in the expected deficit for this year. The annual White House midyear budget report projects that this year's deficit will drop to $333 billion, $79 billion below last year's record red ink and almost $100 billion less than earlier estimates. Bush said the improving deficit picture vindicated his stewardship of the economy and budget. "It's a sign that our tax relief plan, our pro-growth policies, are working," Bush said after a Cabinet meeting. "These numbers indicate that we're going to cut the deficit in half faster than the year 2009 -- so long as Congress holds the line on spending." Democrats on Capitol Hill countered that the deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30 would still be the third largest ever and that the use of $173 billion in surplus Social Security taxes hides the true deficit.
Investigators: No evidenceagainst senior leaders
WASHINGTON -- Military investigators examining reported abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say they found treatment such as leashing a terror suspect and forcing him to behave like a dog. But they say they found no evidence that there was torture or that senior leaders imposed faulty interrogation policies. A few individual interrogators and military personnel are facing punishment, but a recommendation by investigators to admonish the former prison commander because of the treatment of one prisoner was overruled by a senior general. In all, the findings track what the Bush administration has said, and what subsequent military self-investigations have found: The excesses with prisoners were the work of a few mid- or low-level personnel acting beyond their authority. Investigators assigned to look into FBI agents' allegations of abuse at Guantanamo presented their findings to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Judge gives life sentencein scholar's treason case
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A prominent Islamic scholar who exhorted his followers after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to join the Taliban and fight U.S. troops was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison. Ali al-Timimi was convicted in April of soliciting treason, inducing others to aid the Taliban and others to use firearms in violation of federal law. Attorneys Edward MacMahon and Alan Yamamoto argued al-Timimi was unfairly prejudiced at trial by inflammatory evidence of his religious beliefs -- and accused prosecutors of misconduct for unfairly linking al-Timimi to Osama bin Laden. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said al-Timimi "hates the United States" and has called for its destruction. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said the evidence supported the mandatory life sentence.
Israel seals settlements
KISSUFIM JUNCTION, Gaza Strip -- Israeli troops sealed off a cluster of Gaza Strip settlements Wednesday that were marked for evacuation to stop the influx of hard-line opponents, the government's most sweeping measure yet to prepare for next month's pullout. Settlers responded defiantly, threatening to block roads throughout Israel and to step up other protests. After nightfall, Gaza settlers and protesters blocked the Kissufim crossing point into Gush Katif, the main settlement bloc, from both sides and scuffled with police, witnesses said. No one was hurt. Also Wednesday, Israeli troops reoccupied the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem in response to a suicide bombing that killed four Israeli women in the resort town of Netanya a day earlier.