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Wednesday, January 18

Editor's Note: CNN News Update is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents, producers and Wires.CNN editors.

Investigation into Internet company continues; executive found dead

TOKYO (CNN) -- A Japanese Internet company said Thursday it will continue operating normally despite being the target of an ongoing government fraud investigation that sparked a massive stock selloff on Wednesday, forcing the early closure of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

In a statement, Livedoor.com said an internal investigation had found no illegal conduct. Prosecutors are investigating allegations of security trading violations involving the company.

Meanwhile, an executive of a company involved in a Livedoor takeover bid was found dead on Okinawa Wednesday.

Hideaki Noguchi was vice president of HS Securities. His company confirmed Noguchi had been called in for questioning Monday regarding the Livedoor matter.

Okinawa police said they suspect Noguchi committed suicide, but an autopsy was being conducted. (posted 1 a.m.)

Report: Bush should have consulted more lawmakers on warrantless wiretaps

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration should have consulted the full membership of the House and Senate intelligence committees before launching the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping program, congressional aides said Wednesday.

A memorandum from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that the eavesdropping program was an intelligence-collection program, which would require the administration to brief all 35 members of the intelligence committees.

Instead, the administration consulted only eight lawmakers -- the chairmen and ranking Democrats on those committees, along with the majority and minority leaders of each chamber.

Posted: 8 p.m.

U.N. nuclear agency agrees to discuss Iran's recent nuclear activity

(CNN) -- Responding to a request from European negotiators, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency will hold an emergency meeting next month to discuss Iran's resumption of nuclear activities, an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN Wednesday. The IAEA board of governors will meet on Feb. 2 to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

European negotiators requested the IAEA take up the issue after reaching a stalemate with Iran, which recently broke the seals on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to resume what it says is nuclear research.

Iran insists it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The United States and the three European nations that conducted failed negotiations with Iran -- Britain, France and Germany, known as the EU3 -- want Iran to halt all nuclear activity, fearing it may try to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of a nuclear energy program.

Posted: 7:22 p.m.

Rice announces overhaul of US diplomacy

From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will redirect its diplomatic priorities abroad to place more emphasis on regional issues and threats, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Rice said the United States must reposition its personnel just as the country did to rebuild Japan and Germany after World War II and Eastern Europe after the Cold War.

Rice dubbed the overhauled effort "transformational diplomacy," and said it would focus more on fighting terrorism, spreading democracy and curbing drug and human trafficking and fighting pandemics through regional partnerships.

Posted: 7:22 p.m.

Justice Dept. seeks to have detainee cases dismissed

From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department Wednesday asked a federal appeals court to dismiss lawsuits by Guantanamo Bay detainees, arguing a law passed in December takes away the prisoners' right to bring their cases before the court.

The government filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia is the third--and presumably final--such argument made by the Justice lawyers following similar documents filed in detainee cases at the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court.

Thus, the government has now stated its case at all levels of the federal judiciary, insisting that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 is clear in its language that "no court, justice or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider" cases filed by the alien detainees held by the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

At issue are about 200 cases in which about 300 detainees are challenging the U.S. government's right to continue holding them. Attorneys for the detainees insist the cases were in the judicial pipeline when the law was passed, and it does not apply retroactively. One of the principal lawmakers involved in its passage, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has supported their contention.

Posted: 7:22 p.m.

Peres: Iran is 'greatest danger in our time'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Wednesday called Iran "the greatest danger" to the entire world and said the international community must be united in stopping it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Peres spoke to reporters at the State Department after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Noting that Iran's president has said that Israel should be wiped off the map, Peres said there is no reason for Iran to have missiles that have a range of more than 2,000 km and could reach Israel.

"There is nobody in the world that is threatening Iran. But you cannot have a situation where Iran is threatening everybody in the world," he said. "Iran (is) the greatest danger in our time and unless there is a united policy to stop the Iranians from developing not only nuclear capacity but also long-range missiles, the danger of Iran will grow in size and scope and in time." --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 6:15 p.m.)

U.S. counterterrorism officials say al Qaeda chemical weapons expert was 'in the vicinity' of Pakistan strike

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. counterterrorism officials said Wednesday that al Qaeda's chemical weapons expert, Midhat Mursi, was "in the vicinity" when CIA airstrikes last week hit a dinner gathering believed to include terrorists in a Pakistani mountain village.

They said he could have been killed in the attack, but stressed they cannot confirm that he was.

"Abu Khabab" as he is commonly known, ran a chemical and explosives training camp for terrorists in Derunta, Afghanistan, before the fall of the Taliban, officials said. The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his death or capture.

A counterterrorism official said Abu Khabab, a 52-year-old Egyptian, "was thought to have been in the vicinity" when the missiles struck a compound in Damadola, Pakistan, Friday. Two officials said, however, that they "absolutely cannot confirm" that he was killed. --From National Security Correspondent David Ensor (Posted 5:46 p.m.)

Hearing on NSA surveillance program set for Feb. 6

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Feb. 6 on a controversial domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency, authorized by President Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the committee announced Wednesday.

The committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., ordered the hearing, titling it "Wartime Executive Power and the NSA's Surveillance Authority." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is so far the only announced witness, will be on the first panel questioned by senators.

Monday, Gonzales told CNN's "Larry King Live" that he was "looking forward" to testifying.

"I'm anxious to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I'm anxious to talk to the American people about the importance of this program and the legal authorities that support this program," he said. (Posted 4:52 p.m.)

Democrats push 'Honest Leadership' act amid ethics probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Democrats Wednesday made a sweeping election-year promise to clean up Capitol Hill amid an influence-peddling scandal that has spurred Republicans to propose a reform package of their own.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosiof California and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada introduced what they dubbed the "Honest Leadership and Open Government Act," promising to curtail the influence of lobbyists and big contributors. They argued that GOP coziness with lobbyists has led to bad laws and a raw deal for the public.

Like the Republican plan laid out Tuesday, the Democrats would stiffen disclosure requirements for lobbyists, ban privately funded trips and extend the "cooling-off period" that prevents lawmakers and senior staff from lobbying their old colleagues from one year to two. Their plan would bar lobbyists from giving anything to members of Congress, including meals, where the GOP proposal would lower an existing $50 limit to $20.

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., labeled the latter change "outrageous."

"I mean, now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks," he said. "Where you going to -- to McDonalds?" (Posted 4:45 p.m.)

Damaged cruise ship to continue voyage, minus some power

(CNN) -- The Queen Mary 2 sat at berth Wednesday in Port Everglades as cruise-line officials assessed how much damage was done Tuesday when the world's largest cruise ship bumped into the side of a channel as it was departing the port, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Lines, said efforts were being made to get the ship underway Wednesday night, but no firm departure time had been set.

A pod containing propulsion motors and propeller blades was damaged in the mishap, which occurred shortly after 1 p.m., and led the captain to return the vessel to port.

Fort Lauderdale was the second stop on the ship's planned 38-day trip around South America. (Posted 4:37 p.m.)

Army continues to increase bonuses to attract more troops to its ranks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army officials are trying avoid a repeat of last year's missed recruitment goals by doubling bonuses to attract potential recruits and keep more soldiers from leaving the Army. In the first three months of this recruiting year, the targets have been hit, they said.

While a number of plans to bring in and keep troops are still in the works, Army officials said Wednesday they are putting in place financial bonuses that in some cases double last year's incentives.

Army officials said they will offer $40,000 to new active-duty recruits, up from $20,000 last year. The Army also is authorized to boost maximum bonuses for re-enlisting reservists and soldiers, from $10,000 to $20,000 for reservists and from $60,000 to $90,000 for active duty personnel.

But while it has the option of handing out up to $90,000, Army officials said they would stick with $60,000 unless they need to move to $90,000 later to draw in more recruits. --From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 4:23 p.m.)

Chertoff envisions multifunction card, says it would not be national ID

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The nation's top homeland security official Wednesday said he envisions a day when U.S. residents might carry an identification card that would fulfill several purposes -- simultaneously serving as a state driver's license as well as a means to enter federal buildings, bypass long airport security lines, and even cross into Mexico and Canada.

But he rejected suggestions that it would be a de facto national ID card, which is opposed by many privacy advocates.

"It seems to me we ought to try to be building towards an architecture where one card can do a number of different things for somebody so you don't need to carry 10 cards," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters.

Such a card, he said, would be a "sort of one-stop ability to do a whole lot of things that will make life convenient, easy for people in this country." --From CNN Homeland Security Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 3:42 p.m.)

Ford sitting on his own, expected to be released Thursday

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (CNN) -- Four days after he was admitted to a southern California hospital for pneumonia, former President Gerald Ford on Wednesday continued to improve and is expected to be released Thursday, according to a statement from his spokeswoman.

Ford, 92, was admitted to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage on Saturday and "is responding to treatment and shows improvement every day," according to the statement from Penny Circle.

"He is sitting in a chair reading his newspapers and we continue to anticipate a Thursday discharge," she said. (Posted 2:49 p.m.)

As threat of bird flu advances, makers of down products appear unruffled

(CNN) -- The emerging threat of bird flu has stirred concern among public health experts around the world, but has had no discernible impact on sales in the United States of products containing down and feathers, which have long been covered by safety precautions, experts say.

"Market conditions appear to be the same this year as they were last year," said Wilford Lieber, president of the International Down and Feather Laboratory and Institute, an independent testing laboratory and support system for the feather and down industry.

For him, business is always down: IDFL facilities outside Zurich, Switzerland, near Shanghai, China, and in Salt Lake City, Utah, test about 7,000 feather and down samples per year, grading the products for down-versus-feather content, insulating powers and cleanliness.

All down and feathers sold in the United States must have been sterilized at 130 degrees C for about 30 minutes, more than sufficient to kill any virus the material may have harbored, Lieber said. (Posted 2:33 p.m.)

Chertoff calls most Mexican military, police incursions into U.S. 'innocent'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Mexican military and Mexican police make incursions into United States territory approximately 20 times a year, but the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security characterizes most of the incidents as "innocent."

"I don't think we have a serious problem with official incursions," Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

He said reporting on the issue has been "overblown" and "not helpful."

"I think to create an image that somehow there is a deliberate effort by the Mexican military to cross the border would be really to traffic in kind of scare tactics," he said. --From Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve (Posted 2:26 p.m.)

Roadside bombing kills 2 in Basra convoy

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two people were killed and another was seriously wounded in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Wednesday when a roadside bomb struck a convoy "carrying U.S. civilian security personnel," the U.S. Embassy said. The incident took place at 2 p.m. (6 a.m. ET) (Posted 1:36 p.m.)

India, Pakistan discuss Kashmir

(CNN) -- India and Pakistan on Wednesday kicked off a third round of peace talks, described as "cordial" and "constructive" in a joint statement issued by the countries' foreign secretaries.

At the heart of the discussions is the disputed Kashmir region -- officially known as Jammu and Kashmir -- which is divided between the two countries.

A devastating earthquake that struck the region in October, killing more than 73,000 people in Pakistan, helped thaw tensions between the two nations. They agreed to open five crossing points along the Line of Control, which separates the Indian-controlled and Pakistan-controlled areas of Kashmir, to expedite earthquake relief.

In the joint statement, the ministers stated a commitment to starting a cross-border bus and truck service as soon as the roads damaged by the earthquake are repaired. (Posted 1:22 p.m.)

U.N. nuclear agency agrees to discuss Iran's recent nuclear activity

(CNN) -- The United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency will hold an emergency meeting next month to discuss Iran's resumption of nuclear activities, an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN Wednesday.

Acting on a request from European negotiators who have reached a stalemate with Iran, the IAEA board of governors will meet on Feb. 2 to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

The Islamic Republic recently announced that it broke the seals on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant to resume nuclear research. Iran insists it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. (Posted 12:46 p.m.)

New senator sworn in

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate has sworn in its newest member, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, replacing fellow Democrat Jon Corzine, who was elected governor of the state in November. Menendez took the oath of office Wednesday morning. (posted 12:28 p.m.)

Human Rights Watch: 'Situation in Iraq deteriorated significantly' last year

(CNN) -- After a year of arduous political spadework by Iraqis trying to establish a democracy, a major humanitarian watchdog group said Wednesday "the human rights situation in Iraq deteriorated significantly in 2005."

Human Rights Watch made the assessment in a report titled "Human Rights Watch World Report 2006," a global survey of the state of human rights.

The U.S.-led coalition has touted a year of political progress in Iraq, as Iraqis numbering in the millions went to the polls to vote for a transitional parliament, a four-year parliament and a constitution. The United States has also touted its efforts to fight and arrest insurgents and train competent Iraqi security forces.

One of the realities stemming from the report is that violence -- deadly, dramatic suicide bombings and daily insurgent ambushes and roadside bombings -- has taken a toll on living conditions, as well as claiming many lives. (Posted 12:21 p.m.)

Mine survivor beginning to emerge from coma

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (CNN) -- Randal McCloy Jr., the sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster earlier this month, has begun the slow process of awakening from his coma, progressively opening his eyes and responding to his family with slight movements, his doctors said Wednesday.

"These are all very positive signs for us, although we must emphasize that he still has quite a ways to go," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

He said McCloy's long-term prognosis remains unknown due to brain damage he suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped in the mine for more than 41 hours. McCloy, 26, is believed to be the longest known survivor of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"We remain cautiously optimistic," Bailes said. (Posted 11:45 a.m.)

Pluto mission launch scrubbed again

(CNN) -- NASA scrubbed Wednesday's planned launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying a spacecraft bound for Pluto after a power outage in Maryland knocked out mission management, according to the space agency's Web site.

Bad weather killed the power at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission.

Strong wind gusts at the Cape Canaveral launch site forced NASA to delay the launch Tuesday.

The launch is now set for Thursday between 1:08 p.m. and 3:07 p.m. (Posted 10:48 p.m.)

Media reports: Plot to kidnap Blair son 'foiled'

LONDON -- Fathers' rights campaigners planned to kidnap British Prime Minister Tony Blair's youngest son for a publicity stunt, according to reports in the British media.

Citing an unnamed security source, The Sun newspaper Wednesday said people on the fringe of the Fathers 4 Justice (F4J) group aimed to snatch 5-year-old Leo Blair and hold him for a short period.

After the report, the group -- which campaigns for the rights of divorced fathers -- suspended its activities and confirmed that police had questioned some of its former members before Christmas.

According to media reports, police foiled the plan at an early stage, and it was unclear whether the people involved had the capability to carry it out or how far the scheme had progressed. (Posted 10:30 a.m.)

High court sends abortion notification case back to lower court

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a temporary victory to officials in New Hampshire over the state's abortion notification law, ordering a lower court to reconsider its rejection of the law.

In a unanimous ruling written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, possibly the last she will author, the court concluded that a federal appeals court went too far by striking down down the law requiring minors to notify their parents before receiving an abortion. The law has never gone into effect as the case was appealed.

The ruling from the high court essentially bypassed the larger question of whether such laws are an unconstitutional "burden" on women's access to the procedure.

O'Connor said the lower court "chose the most blunt remedy -- permanently enjoining the act's enforcement and thereby invalidating it entirely." (Posted 10:23 a.m.)

U.N. concerned about child combatants in Iraq

(CNN) -- In its latest human rights report about Iraq, the United Nations says it has noticed a disturbing trend that has been found in conflicts in other parts of the globe -- the presence of child combatants.

"Of particular concern are reports of attacks involving children acting as combatants," according to the bimonthly report covering the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. It was released by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq.

"A boy said to be aged between 10 and 13 years allegedly carried out a suicide bombing targeting the police commander in the city of Kirkuk. Later that month, two boys aged 12 and 13 years reportedly carried out attacks against (Multi-National Forces-Iraq) patrols in Fallujah and Hweeja, respectively."

The report is apparently referring to the town Hawija, which is southeast of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. Falluja is in western Iraq. Human rights groups have highlighted the problem of child soldiers in many African conflicts, especially in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Uganda in the 1990s. (Posted 9:44 a.m.)

Sister of Iraqi official seized by gunmen earlier in month is freed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The abducted sister of Iraq's interior minister has been freed, the ministry said Wednesday.

The sister of Bayan Jabr was kidnapped on Jan. 3. The Arabic language network Al-Jazeera released a video from a militant group showing the sister and issued demands.

They included the release of all female prisoners charged with resistance acts against the occupation; a halt to all raids by Iraq's ministries of interior and defense; a retraction of higher oil prices proposed by Jabr; and an official apology from Jabr for one particular raid.

Police said gunmen ambushed her vehicle in western Baghdad, killing one bodyguard and wounding another. (Posted 9:34 a.m.)

6th death in China attributed to bird flu

(CNN) -- China has recorded its sixth death from the avian flu virus, according to a report on the Chinese Health Ministry's Web site.

The victim was a 35-year old woman from Jianyang in Sichuan province who slaughtered poultry. She was the ninth person in the country to contract bird flu. The woman fell ill on Jan. 3, the report said, was hospitalized on Jan. 10 and died the next day. (Posted 9:19 a.m.)

Acting Israeli PM announces new Cabinet line-up

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday announced a new Cabinet lineup, replacing four ministers who resigned last week under Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu's orders.Israel politics

Olmert appointed three new ministers and reshuffled three other positions among existing ministers, all from his Kadima Party. The goal of the reshuffling is to "efficiently continue the work of the government in all ministers," Olmert said.

Netanyahu had announced last month after his election as party chairman that he would take Likud ministers out of the Israel's ruling coalition government, but the action was delayed when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke. (Posted 8:53 a.m.)

Iraq demands Iran release detained Iraqis

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's foreign minister told Iran's charge d'affaires in Baghdad that Iran must release the people and property seized recently on the Shatt Al-Arab waterway, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Iranian Charge d'Affaires Hassan Kazemi Qummi discussed "the latest border incident" at a meeting Tuesday. The Shatt Al-Arab -- in southern Iraq and western Iran -- separates both countries at one juncture and the waterway's control has been disputed in the past.

It was first reported Tuesday that nine members of Iraq's coast guard were being held prisoner by Iran, taken in an incident in the waters off the coast of Basra in southern Iraq.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Wednesday that Iran is investigating a "clash" involving the "crew of a cargo ship of Iran with Iraqi coastguards." (Posted 7:28 a.m.)

11 bodies of Iraqi police, troops found in mass grave north of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Eleven bodies of Iraqi troops and Iraqi police were found Wednesday by Iraqi and U.S. soldiers in a mass grave west of Attarmiya, Iraq, the U.S. military said.

The discovery was made by soldiers of the 1st Brigade, 9th Iraqi Division, and soldiers from the Multi-National Division-Baghdad's 1st Brigade, 66th Armored Regiment. All of the bodies were bound and blindfolded, the military said. The incident was under investigation by Iraqi authorities. Attarmiya is just north of Baghdad in Salaheddin province.

The mass grave is the second reported within a week. On Tuesday, Najaf police told CNN a mass grave had been found three days before near Najaf, in the village of Thi al-Kafel. A police spokesman would not say how many bodies it contained, when the grave was dug or whose remains were found there. The grave is believed to date back to the Shiite uprising in 1991, police said. Najaf is 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad. --CNN Producer Terence Burke contributed to this report. (Posted 6:44 a.m.)

EU president calls for Iran to freeze nuclear activity

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- The new president of the European Union added his voice Wednesday to the growing chorus of international leaders calling for Iran to come away from its current nuclear development path and back to the negotiating table.

The Islamic Republic lifted its voluntary cessation of nuclear activity, which it says is for "peaceful purposes" only, most recently to resume nuclear research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant. The United States and the three European nations that conducted failed negotiations with Iran -- Britain, France and Germany, known as the EU3 -- want Iran to halt all nuclear activity, fearing Iran may try to build a nuclear weapon under the guise of a nuclear energy program.

"Iran is an issue of great concern," said Chancellor Wolfgang Schlussel of Austria, which recently assumed the rotating EU presidency. "Now it is time to go back to the moratorium, and Iran should not do anything to endanger stability in the international community." (Posted 6:43 a.m.)

Kidnappers threaten to kill American journalist

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The kidnappers who abducted American journalist Jill Carroll on Tuesday threatened to kill her unless the United States releases all female Iraqi prisoners within 72 hours, according to the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera.

That network aired a video showing Carroll on Tuesday. Al-Jazeera released no details on how it obtained the video, which it said is from her kidnappers. On its English-language Web site, the Qatar-based network said the abductors identified themselves as members of a previously unknown armed group called the "Brigades of Vengeance." Previously, no one had claimed responsibility for the abduction.

An Iraqi Justice Ministry spokeman said 10 female detainees had been arrested by the U.S. miitary and six of those were due for release in the days ahead, a development unrelated to kidnappers' demands.

Carroll, 28, a freelance writer on assignment for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped Jan. 7 in western Baghdad. Her Iraqi interpreter was killed, but her Iraqi driver escaped unharmed. (Posted 6:42 a.m.)

Two engineers kidnapped in Iraq; 10 Iraqis killed in attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two African engineers were kidnapped and 10 Iraqis were killed Wednesday when gunmen attacked three vehicles in western Baghdad, police said.

The vehicles belonged to a safety firm in charge of protecting employees of the Iraqna telecommunications company. They were driving in the al-Jamia neighborhood when the ambush occurred about 9:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. ET) Seven bodyguards and three drivers were killed, and the engineers, who are from Malawi and Madagascar, were kidnapped, police said.

About 30 minutes earlier, three Iraqi police and one civilian were killed in a roadside bomb attack on a police patrol in al-Sa'diya, about 45 miles (70 km) east of Baquba. And gunmen killed three people in a flat Wednesday in southwestern Baghdad's al-Bayaa neighborhood, police said. --From CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 6:39 a.m.)

U.S. soldier dies from non-combat injuries in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier died Tuesday from non-combat related injuries, a military statement said.

The servicemember was a part of the Army's Multi-National Division - Baghdad.

The cause of death is being investigated, according to the statement, and the name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2,220 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. (posted 5:31 a.m.)

Kim Jong Il visits China, pledges to continue six-party talks

(CNN) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has paid an "unofficial" visit to China, the country's KCNA news agency reported Wednesday.

There had been speculation about Kim's whereabouts and whether he had made the trip. Kim returned to North Korea Wednesday, according the the Chinese new agency Xinghua.

Kim and Chinese president Hu Jintao "had an in-depth exchange of views on international and regional issues of common concern," KCNA reported.

"Both sides fully appreciated the positive results made in several rounds of the six-party talks in Beijing, and unanimously agreed to consistently maintain the stand of seeking a negotiated peaceful solution to the issue and push forward through sustained joint efforts the process of the six-party talks so as to contribute to the eventual and peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula." (posted 5:47 a.m.)

Iraqi, U.S. troops conducting operation in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi Army soldiers and about 1,000 U.S. troops were conducting counterterrorism operations targeting insurgents in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, which has been a hotbed for insurgency.

Operation Wadi Aljundi, or Koa Canyon, began Sunday, the military said in a statement released Wednesday. It is aimed at capturing or killing insurgents and locating or destroying their weapons caches in the Western Euphrates River Valley between the Jubbah and Baghdadi regions and the city of Hit.

The U.S. troops are from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Division. (posted 4:48 a.m. )

33 arrested across Spain for allegedly acquiring, distributing child porn

MADRID (CNN) -- Spanish police have arrested 33 people for allegedly acquiring child pornography, in an investigation that started with information provided by U.S. law enforcement authorities, a national police statement said Wednesday.

Police made the arrests last week across Spain but only disclosed them publicly Wednesday, because they did not want to tip off other potential suspects, a police spokesman told CNN.

The suspects allegedly paid, with credit cards, to acquire and view "horrifying" child pornography, including "real life scenes of minors being raped," that came from web pages controlled by companies in Florida in the United States and in Belarus, the police statement said.

The 33 suspects include teachers, business executives, a doctor, sports monitors of children, bankers and one suspect described as a "priest," although authorities were unsure from what religion, according to the police statement and the police spokesman, who asked not to be identified. (posted 5:30 a.m.)

Military source: Jan. 7 Black Hawk crash determined to be accident

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The Jan. 7 crash of a U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which killed eight soldiers and four civilian contractors, has been determined to be an accident caused by deteriorating weather conditions, a U.S. military source told CNN Wednesday.

The soldiers were from the 101st Airborne Division, also known as Task Force Band of Brothers.

The helicopter was flying as part of a two-craft flight between bases in northern Iraq when communications were lost just before midnight when the helicopters were about nine miles short of their destination.

A search and rescue operation found the crash site about noon the following day. (posted 4:08 a.m.)

Sharon's breathing tube replaced

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Doctors at Hadassah Hospital replaced the breathing tube of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon early Wednesday, in a procedure a hospital spokesman called "successful."

According to the spokesman, the tube was changed due to a technical problem. He said the prime minister's condition remains "serious and stable."

On Sunday, Sharon underwent a tracheotomy to help wean him off a respirator. A tracheotomy is a surgical incision of the trachea through the neck to make an opening for breathing. (Posted 2:17 a.m.)

New Orleans residents to receive notification before homes demolished

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Hurricane Katrina survivors whose homes previously were targeted for demolition will receive notification from the city of New Orleans before the homes are destroyed or any property removed, according to a settlement reached between the residents and the city, the survivors' attorneys said.

Residents of the city's flood-ravaged lower 9th Ward and public interest groups had filed suit to halt the city's plan to tear down at least 120 homes.

City officials had said the homes needed to be demolished immediately because they were in roadways, on sidewalks or on other property.

But the suit charged the city would violate due process by failing to locate and inform property owners of the planned demolitions and get their permission. (posted 1:30 a.m.)

Tokyo stock market closes 20 minutes early

TOKYO (CNN) -- On a day of unusually high trading volumes, the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed 20 minutes early Wednesday, fearing the system might crash under the load, exchange Pres. Taizo Nishimuro told reporters.

The run of sell orders came on the heels of a government fraud investigation into the Japanese Internet company Livedoor.com, which was raided over the weekend.

The number of transactions totaled about 3.5 million ahead of the close. The system's limit is 4.5 million. A stock exchange official told CNN's Atika Shubert that the trading system software is being upgraded to handle up to 9 million transactions a day. The update is supposed to be in place by the end of January.

Tokyo's trading software crashed in November during an earlier upgrade and again ground to a halt in December when an improper trading code was entered. (Posted 1:21 a.m.)

Italy closes probe of intelligence agent's killing in Iraq

ROME (CNN) -- Italian authorities have closed their investigation into the killing of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops in Iraq, the probe's investigative judge said Tuesday.

The judge, Franco Ionta, would not say whether investigators recommended charges against the U.S. soldier who fired the shots that killed Nicola Calipari and wounded a newly freed Italian hostage, journalist Giuliana Sgrena, in Baghdad on March 4, 2005.

American troops opened fire at the vehicle carrying Calipari, 50, and Sgrena as it approached a checkpoint en route to Baghdad International Airport. Calipari was escorting Sgrena to the airport after helping negotiate her release by Iraqi insurgents, who had held her captive for a month.

A U.S. investigation into the incident found the vehicle was traveling at about 50 mph and failed to stop at a checkpoint when ordered to do so. The report recommended no disciplinary action against the U.S. troops involved. But an Italian investigation concluded stress and inexperience of the soldiers played a role in the incident. (Posted 10:04 p.m.)

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