USA

Flag-waving crowds welcomed seven freed US prisoners of war back to Fort Bliss, Texas, Saturday night. Five of the soldiers are based there. Following a victory lap around the airfield via golf cart and a private dinner, two helicopter pilots among the group flew on their own home base, Fort Hood, Texas, and more cheers from well-wishers. President Bush, who spent the holiday weekend at his Texas ranch, attended Easter services at Fort Hood and was scheduled to meet with the pilots. In his Saturday radio address, Bush said "America mourns" those killed in the Iraq conflict and offered a prayer for their families.

The US budget deficit grew to $252.6 billion during the first six months of fiscal 2003, the Treasury Department reported Friday. That's nearly twice the size of the $131.9 billion shortfall recorded between October and March of last year. Tax revenues, meanwhile, were down 6.1 percent from the previous year, at $825.2 billion.

The husband of Laci Peterson was to be charged as early as today with two counts of murder, after authorities in California identified her remains and those of the unborn child she was carrying when she disappeared Christmas Eve. Scott Peterson was detained Friday near San Diego by police, who were concerned he might flee to Mexico. Mexico does not extradite criminal suspects who could face the death penalty. Prosecutors haven't said whether they'll seek that in Peterson's case. He reportedly was carrying $10,000 when he was arrested.

The first 44 airline pilots completed federal training to carry guns in the cockpit Saturday. Their unions lobbied heavily for that right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A pilot with American Airlines who helped to implement the new program said as many as 30,000 pilots - or one in three - may be trained within five years, although they wouldn't all necessarily carry weapons on every flight.

Rescue workers were trying to save seven pilot whales, from a group of 28 that became stranded off the Florida Keys Friday. Eleven of the whales died, and veterinarians said two of them had had their jaws removed, perhaps by trophy hunters. It's believed the other 10 may have escaped into deeper water.

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