USA

With Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at his side Thursday at the White House, President Bush announced that the US would channel $50 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority in order to support the Palestinians' first democratically elected president and "help ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success."

An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public Wednesday that a detainee held at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet. The Pentagon said the allegation was not credible. The declassified document's release came the week after the Bush administration denounced as wrong a News-week article that stated US interrogators at Guantánamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk. The magazine retracted the article, which had triggered deadly protests in Afghanistan.

President Bush will pick judges who have a "conservative judicial philosophy," the White House said Wednesday, in a sign that a bitter fight in the Senate over judicial appointments may erupt again over the selection of new members of the Supreme Court. Bush has yet to pick anyone for the Supreme Court, but may have an opening as early as next month if ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist decides to resign.

The $491 billion defense measure passed by the House Wednesday leaves the issue of where women can serve in the military in the Pentagon's hands - as long as Congress gets notice of any changes beforehand. The Senate is to vote next month on its own defense bill. The House killed a proposed restriction that would have made law a 1994 Pentagon policy barring women from serving in direct ground combat positions.

The Senate planned a procedural vote Thursday during the latest hearing for John Bolton, President Bush's controversial pick to be UN ambassador. Democrats, angered by the White House's decision to withhold classified information about Bolton, said the Senate should put off a vote until next month. Republicans were poised to approve Bolton if they prevailed.

A wildflower long thought to be extinct was rediscovered in a California state park - more than six decades after it was last seen, scientists said Wednesday. The pink Eriogonom truncatum, or Mount Diablo buckwheat, was found in a remote section of a Contra Costa County park, 30 miles east of San Francisco.

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