USA

The Bush administration said Tuesday that detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and all others held in US military custody around the world are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions. The policy, outlined in a new Defense Department memo, reflects the recent 5-3 Supreme Court decision blocking military tribunals set up by President Bush, said White House spokesman Tony Snow. The policy, appears to reverse the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus subject to the Geneva protections.

President Bush touted new deficit figures Tuesday, which show considerable improvement from earlier administration predictions, as validation of his tax cuts.The deficit for the budget year ending Sept. 30 will be $296 billion, as opposed to the $423 billion that Bush predicted in February. Bush said the improvement is due to tax cuts he pushed for in 2001 and 2003and his clampdown on domestic agencies funded by Congress.

The House is debating a bill to ban Internet gambling. The measure would forbid use of credit cards and other forms of payment to settle online wagers and would allow authorities to work with Internet providers to block access to gambling sites. Critics saypolicing the Internet is impossible and argue that it would be better to regulate the $12 billion industry and collect taxes on it.

Despite devastating flooding from last year's hurricanes, Louisiana is on the verge of exceptional drought conditions, climatologists say. Because of the drought that began in April of last year marshes threaded by bayous are burning, and upland rivers look as sandy as New Mexico. Experts say sugar cane, dairy and beef farmers could be adversely affected. A farmer drives down a dusty road north of Kaplan, La. Ever since records were first kept a century ago, south Louisiana has never been this dry.

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