The federal deficit for the current year will be $172 billion, compared with $248 billion for the 2006 budget year, according to preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates disclosed Wednesday. The difference is attributed to faster-than-expected growth in tax receipts.

Former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, who died Tuesday in Miami, was best known as a Watergate conspirator in the 1972 break-in at the Washington hotel headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The fallout from the episode led to President Nixon's resignation and resulted in Hunt spending 33 months in prison.

A Texas appeals court heard prosecution arguments Wednesday to reinstate a dismissed conspiracy charge brought in the criminal case against former US House majority leader Tom DeLay. If it is reinstated, DeLay's trial could be stalled for weeks or even months. DeLay, who resigned from Congress last summer, has been accused of funneling corporate contributions to GOP politicians in Texas.

In a landmark settlement of a hurricane Katrina-related lawsuit, State Farm Fire & Casualty agreed Tuesday to pay 639 policyholders about $125,000 each for damage to their Mississippi homes from the wind-driven storm surge. Part of the settlement requires State Farm to reopen and review claims filed by 35,000 other Gulf Coast policyholders who didn't file lawsuits. The company already has paid roughly $1.1 billion in Katrina wind-related claims.

In one of the biggest roundups of its kind, 761 illegal immigrants were arrested last week during a series of raids in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, federal authorities said Tuesday. More than 450 already have been deported.

Guilford College, which is still governed by its founding Quaker principles, announced Tuesday that it would allow three football players to remain on the Greensboro, N.C., campus while the school investigates charges that they attacked Palestinian students. According to reports, the Palestinians were beaten and called "terrorists."

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