USA

The Congressional Budget Office cited a weakening economy Wednesday in projecting that the budget deficit for the current year will reach $250 billion, the first increase in four years. The figure does not include at least $100 billion in additional red ink from an economic stimulus package.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff unveiled a new emergency-response blueprint Tuesday that addresses criticisms of the last plan, which proved problematic in dealing with hurricane Katrina. The revised plan restores authority to state and local officials.

Gov. Matt Blunt (R) of Missouri said Tuesday he had accomplished virtually everything he set out to do and would not seek a second term. The surprise development left Republicans without a candidate for November's election.

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Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson (below), whose campaign initially met with enthusiasm, said he was quitting the race on Tuesday after a string of poor primary-season results. Most recently, the actor and former US senator from Tennessee finished third in the South Carolina primary.

More than 70 legal claims on behalf of people injured in last summer's bridge collapse in Minneapolis have been filed preliminarily. A clearer picture of the legal battles ahead is expected by Sunday, the first deadline for suing the state over the bridge failure that killed 13 and injured 145.

The launch of a digital-coupon program by Kroger Co., the largest traditional US grocery chain, could help transform consumer shopping habits, industry watchers believe.

The online innovation, already introduced by other grocers, allows customers to load discounts onto their store loyalty cards, eliminating the need for paper coupons.

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