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Friday, January 27

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

FEMA: Deadline approaching for evacuees to lengthen hotel stays

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita who are still living in hotels paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have until Monday to request an authorization code that will lengthen their stays for at least one week, the agency said.

"Evacuees in hotels and motels must contact FEMA by Jan. 30, 2006, at 1-800-621-FEMA to receive a unique authorization code that must be presented to a hotel or motel to extend the federal subsidy for their hotel stay beyond Feb. 7, 2006," said a FEMA statement issued Friday.

If a code is received by an evacuee by Monday, FEMA will continue to fund their hotel room until at least Feb. 13. Evacuees who have applied for temporary housing, but have not received an eligibility decision by Jan. 30, will be allowed to stay in hotel rooms until March 1, FEMA said. (Posted 4:04 a.m.)

9 killed in gun battle between militants and Indian security forces

(CNN) -- Nine people were killed early Saturday in a gun battle that erupted after Indian security forces caught a group of militants sneaking across the line of control into Indian-controlled Kashmir, a senior Indian army official told CNN.

The dead included seven militants, an Indian army major and an army soldier, he said. The incident occurred about 3 a.m. local time at Krishnaghat in the border district of Poonch, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Jammu, the winter capital of the Indian-controlled Jammu-Kashmir state.

The officer told CNN the militants "were spotted and were immediately surrounded by the Indian security forces. The militants opened heavy fire on the surrounding troops, which was returned. In the heavy gun battle, seven intruders have been killed." He said the operation was ongoing in the area. --From Journalist Mukhtar Ahmed (Posted: 12:15 a.m.)

Pinochet's daughter withdraws asylum request

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The oldest daughter of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has withdrawn her request for political asylum in the United States, just two days after she arrived in an attempt to avoid tax charges back home, U.S. Homeland Security officials said.

A guard at the Arlington County detention facility where Lucia Pinochet has been staying told CNN that Pinochet was leaving Friday night for Buenos Aires, Argentina. There was no word on when, or if, the 60-year-old woman planned to return to Chile.

Her son met with her Friday evening at the detention facility. Lucia Pinochet and other family members are wanted in Chile for allegedly evading hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. (Posted 7:23 p.m.)

Jury awards $29.5 million in blown tire case

(CNN) -- A jury in Corpus Christi, Texas, awarded $29.5 million Friday to a 22-year-old woman who was partially paralyzed when a tire that had been used as a spare blew apart on the SUV she was riding in, sending the vehicle out of control.

In its verdict, the 117th District Court jury agreed that Rose Marie Munoz's injuries were the result of defects in the Mazda Navajo and left rear Firestone radial ATX tire that suffered a tread separation. Both were "defective and unreasonably dangerous as designed," according to a statement from the defense lawyers at Sico, White & Braugh.

The jury deliberated for one-and-a-half days before reaching its verdict. The Mazda Navajo is a Ford-designed replica of its signature SUV, the Ford Explorer.

Ford said it will appeal the verdict. (Posted 7:16 p.m.)

Michelle Kwan will skate at Olympics in Torino

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Five-time world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan will get another shot at Olympic glory.

After evaluating Kwan's physical readiness to compete, the U.S. Figure Skating Association announced Friday that she will be allowed to keep her spot on the American team that will compete next month at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Because of a groin injury she suffered in December, the 25-year-old Kwan was unable to compete at last month's national championships, where the three U.S. Olympic competitors are normally selected. However, the USFSA granted her request for a waiver to let her on the team, if a committee appointed by the association determined she was capable of competing in Torino.

Members of the committee watched Kwan skate Friday in Los Angeles and decided she was performing well enough to be competitive at the Olympics. Their decision means that the third-place finisher at the national championship, Emily Hughes, the younger sister of 2002 Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes, will not make the trip to Italy. (Posted 7:06 p.m.)

Gang of 14 holds together, likely dooming Alito filibuster

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the fight over Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito heads toward a Monday climax, the Gang of 14 agreement that ended Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominations last year is holding together, apparently dooming an effort by some Senate Democrats to talk his nomination to death.

Five of the seven Democrats who signed on to the agreement have announced they either support the nomination outright or would, at the very least, oppose a filibuster to stop it.

In addition, a Democrat who is not part of the Gang of 14, Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, has announced he will vote for Alito and against any filibuster. Also Friday, after a private meeting with Alito arranged by the White House, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who is not part of the Gang of 14, announced he would oppose any filibuster and was "leaning in favor" of voting to confirm Alito.

So, with the chamber's 55 Republicans all expected to oppose a filibuster, Alito's supporters appear to have at least 62 votes in favor on a GOP motion to cut off debate and proceed to a final vote -- two more than the 60 needed under Senate rules for the motion to carry.

The vote to cut off debate is scheduled for Monday afternoon, with a final confirmation vote Tuesday morning. (Posted 6:17 p.m.)

Two FEMA contract employees accused of soliciting bribes

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Two temporary employees working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in New Orleans were arrested Friday after allegedly seeking and receiving bribes from a businessman providing food for displaced residents, the U.S. attorney's office and FBI announced at a news conference.

The two men, Andrew Rose and Lloyd Holleman, ran a FEMA camp in the New Orleans area and had supervisory authority. According to Justice Department officials in Washington, Rose and Holleman allegedly asked a businessman providing catering for a $20,000 bribe that they would split. The bribe was allegedly in exchange for offering to inflate the contract for the catering.

The businessman then came to authorities to alert them, the FBI's Matt Chapman said. (Posted 6:14 p.m.)

Katrina death toll rises by one in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Another victim of Hurricane Katrina was found Friday under the debris of a house in storm-ravaged St. Bernard Parish, bringing Louisiana's death toll from the storm to 1,104, the parish's medical examiner said.

The body was to be sent for identification to a location near St. Gabriel set up by the state medical team coordinating that effort. No further details were immediately available.

Dr. Louis Cataldie, Louisiana medical examiner, asked recently that cadaver dogs and recovery crews search for more bodies from Katrina, which overwhelmed levies and swamped the Gulf Coast Aug. 29. Close to 2,700 people are on a missing persons list kept by the state, Cataldie said.

He has urged relatives who fled the hurricane to return to their homes to search for anyone missing. (Posted 5:02 p.m.)

U.S. to review 'full spectrum' of aid to Palestinians in wake of Hamas victory

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration said Friday it will review "all aspects" of U.S. aid to the Palestinians if, as expected, Hamas leads a new government after its landslide victory in this week's elections.

"To be very clear, we do not provide money to terrorist organizations," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, referring to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States.

"We will take a look at the full spectrum of our aid programs." Since 1993 the Palestinians have received more than $1.5 billion in U.S. financial aid through the U.S. Agency for International Agency, which provides humanitarian and development aid abroad.

Most of that is funneled through nongovernmental organizations and international aid groups for specific projects in Palestinian territories. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 3:46 p.m.)

Wolfowitz, at World Economic Forum, says 'Africa is moving'

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- While poverty is still rampant on the continent of Africa, World Bank Chief Paul Wolfowitz said Friday that sub-Saharan countries are moving in the right direction, fueled by a spirit of optimism.

"There was a new poll by Gallup, the results of which is when you ask people whether 2006 will be better than 2005, the best results were found in Africa," said Wolfowitz, speaking to CNN on the sidelines of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"People know there is poverty. And let me remind you that while we sit here and enjoy pretty comfortable lives, 300 million in the subcontinent will get by on one dollar for this day -- that is the grim news.

"What is less well known is Africa is moving." (Posted 3:23 p.m.)

Sago mine survivor standing up, making sounds

(CNN) -- Twenty-three days after he was rescued unconscious from the Sago mine, Randy McCloy can move all his limbs, is making sounds and has even been able to stand up with assistance, his doctors said Friday.

However, he is still not able to speak, said Dr. Larry Roberts of the Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown. "He has some purposeful movements and responds to his wife especially well" and "to others additionally," Roberts said in a news conference.

McCloy, 26, has shown improvement throughout his hospitalization, and doctors remain cautiously optimistic about his progress.(Posted 2:39 p.m.)

4 wounded in fresh clash between Palestinian factions

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Fresh clashes broke out Friday evening between members of Fatah and members of Hamas, and four people were wounded, Palestinian security sources said.

An earlier battle wounded three. (Posted 2:33 p.m.)

Israel reaches out to neighbors as world leaders call for peace

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel reached out to its two moderate Arab neighbors Friday, pushing for support in its confrontation with the new, Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert phoned Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, telling each that Israel is very concerned about the results of the parliamentary elections that revolutionized Palestinian politics by thrusting the militant group Hamas into power.

Around the world, leaders pushed the new government to commit to peace. Among them was the foreign minister of the world's most populous Muslim nation. "Whoever wins this election has to continue the peace process between Palestinians and Israel," said Indonesia's Hassan Wirajuda.

But Iran had only praise for Hamas. Iran's president, like Hamas, calls for the destruction of Israel. (Posted 1:42 p.m.)

White House on Hamas: 'Can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terror'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House spokesman Friday addressed the ascent of Hamas in Palestinian politics, saying, "You can't have one foot in politics and one foot in terror."

Scott McClellan said such a "contradiction" must be "resolved" as the political process in the territories unfolds.

The White House position on Hamas has remained unchanging, he said: "We do not and will not deal" with the Islamic militant group that won a landslide victory in the Palestinian elections.

"Our views are very clear when it comes to Hamas," he said. "We don't deal with Hamas because Hamas is a terrorist organization." (Posted 1:34 p.m.)

Bush meets with son of slain Lebanese leader; vows to follow through on investigation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After meeting with the son of Lebanon's former prime minister who was assassinated last year, President Bush on Friday promised a "full and firm investigation" into Rafik Hariri's death.

"It's very important for the investigation into your dad's death to go forward," said Bush, with Saad Hariri seated at his side. "The people who were responsible for your dad's death need to be held to account."

The ongoing U.N. investigation into Hariri's death has so far found evidence it believes indicates top-ranked Syrian and Lebanese officials were involved in the killing of Hariri, who died in a massive explosion when his motorcade was bombed in Beirut last February. (Posted 1:09 p.m.)

NTSB urges change as a result of December runway overrun in Chicago

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The National Transportation Safety Board is urging that commercial airplane pilots change the way they calculate stopping distances on slippery runways to avoid accidents such as one last month in Chicago that led to the death of a child.

Specifically, the NTSB wants the Federal Aviation Administration to prohibit airlines from including the expected effect of using thrust reversers when calculating stopping distances on "contaminated" runways -- ones made slick by rain, slush, ice or other factors.

The urgent recommendation is a direct result of the NTSB investigation into the Chicago incident, in which a Southwest Airlines flight, landing at Midway Airport in a snowstorm on Dec. 8, rolled off the end of the runway, tore through two fences and came to rest in a highway intersection, where it hit two cars. A 6-year-old boy in one of the cars was killed. (Posted 1:08 p.m.)

Enron attorney says he doubts former chief accountant will testify for the government

HOUSTON (CNN) -- A defense attorney in the Enron case told CNN Friday he would be surprised if the company's former chief accountant testified for the government, although Richard Causey accepted a plea deal last month.

"I think we're going to have a case that's largely about accounting allegations ... where the government is going to refuse to call either David Duncan, who was the chief engagement partner for Arthur Andersen, or Rick Causey," said attorney Michael Ramsey, who is representing Enron founder Ken Lay.

Duncan, Arthur Anderson's lead partner on the Enron account, was fired after the shredding of documents related to collapse of the energy giant came to light. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and cooperated with the government's case against his former employer. Causey changed his plea on charges of securities fraud to guilty in late December.

Jury selection for the trial is set to begin Monday. (Posted 12:06 p.m.)

British police arrest man in connection with last year's failed London bombings

LONDON (CNN) -- British police Friday arrested a 27-year-old man suspected of helping one of the key suspects in last year's failed London bombings evade authorities.

Muhedin Ali will appear in federal court Saturday. Ali is charged with knowing about the alleged role of Hussain Osman -- also known as Hamdi Isaac -- in the July 21 attempted bombings and helping him avoid arrest.

Osman was arrested in Rome shortly after the attacks and was extradited to Britain in September. (Posted 11:44 a.m.)

Protesters try to take over government building following Hamas 'revolution'

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hundreds of armed protesters formed a mob Friday outside a government building in Gaza, protesting Fatah's devastating loss to the militant group Hamas in the first Palestinian parliamentary elections in a decade.

The protesters -- supporters of Fatah, numbering as many as 2,000 -- first collected outside the home of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, demanding he resign. They accused him of allowing a Hamas "revolution" that overthrew decades of Fatah rule. Some accused Abbas of being a "collaborator" with Israel.

Abbas was not there, and uniformed police outside the home worked to bring order. But the unruly crowd soon moved to the nearby government building, where they lit a van on fire and scaled walls, trying to force their way into the building.

Uniformed police on the scene were far outnumbered by the unruly crowd. (Posted 11:25 a.m.)

Ford Dearborn plant workers must drive Ford vehicles or face longer walk

( -- Employees at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich., will have to drive Ford Motor Co. vehicles to work or park across the street, the plant manager announced earlier this week.

A Ford spokesman told the company supports the move, although it had not been extended to the other North American manufacturing facilities.

The Dearborn Truck Plant, which is a part of the Rouge facility, has 2,600 union employees and makes the F-150 pickup truck, the best-selling vehicle in the United States. (Posted 11:22 a.m.)

U.S. home sales show unexpected strength, but slowdown still a concern

NEW YORK ( -- Sales of new homes rose a bigger-than-expected 2.9 percent in December, a government report showed Friday, but economists said there are still several signs of a housing slowdown.

The Census Bureau reported that the annual pace of new home sales increased to 1.27 million in December from 1.23 million in November, which was revised slightly lower. Economists surveyed by had forecast December sales would slow to a 1.23 million annual rate.

While the reading came in above estimates, there are still signs suggesting a cooldown in the real estate market, said Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's

"I don't think month-to-month fluctuations are that important. I think we are still going to see a gradual slowing in the housing market over the rest of this year and into 2007," he said. --By Staff Writer Grace Wong (Posted 11:04 a.m.)

Kerry returns to Washington after overseas push for Alito filibuster

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry returned to Washington Friday after launching an overseas effort to rally his Democratic colleagues behind a filibuster of Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

The effort appears to be futile because Alito's supporters say they have the 60 votes they need to block any filibuster, which is a maneuver allowed under Senate rules to block a vote by extending debate indefinitely.

The vote is scheduled to take place Monday.

Massachusetts' other senator , Ted Kennedy, also announced that he will support a filibuster, although he described it as "an uphill climb." (Posted 10:34 a.m.)

Candelight vigil, church service set for 7 children killed in Fla. traffic accident

LAKE BUTLER, Fla. (CNN) -- A candlelight vigil and a church service is scheduled Friday night for the seven children killed in the Wednesday traffic accident involving a school bus, a tractor-trailer rig and a car, according to officials from the Union County sheriff's office.

The vigil will be held at the Lake Butler elementary-middle school school complex and the service will take place at the Fellowship Baptist Church. Funerals for the seven are to be Monday.

Adding to the family's grief, the children's grandfather suffered a massive heart attack and died when he learned of the crash. He is to be buried on Saturday. (Posted 10:28 a.m.)

Abbas calls on Hamas to form government

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday called on Hamas to form a new government after the militant group's landslide victory in the first parliamentary elections in a decade.

"I would ask the party that won the most votes in parliamentary elections to form the next government. Until now, we haven't asked anyone to form the government. We are carrying on with contact with all factions, and of course we will ask the party that won the majority to form the government," Abbas said. (Posted 9:58 a.m.)

German legislator, at ceremony, takes shot at Iranian leader's stance on Holocaust

(CNN) -- A top German parliament member took a jab at the Iranian president's provocative and hostile remarks about Jews, Israel and the Holocaust during a memorial ceremony remembering the mass killing of 6 million Jews and others in Europe last century by the German Nazi regime.

Ceremonies remembering the event were being held across the world at a time when the Holocaust has emerged center-stage in the tensions between Iran and the West. In recent weeks, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has created worldwide controversy by issuing doubts that the Holocaust took place and saying Israel should be "wiped off the map."

Making a reference to Ahmadinejad and his remarks, Norbert Lammert, president of the Bundestag, the German parliament, said the "last weeks have shown how much we are in need of this commemoration day, and not only us Germans.

"With dismay we have had to note that today, even presidents insist on describing the Holocaust as a 'fairy tale' and go so far as to make anti-Semitic remarks." (Posted 9:30 a.m.)

U.S. economy experiences slowest growth in three years

NEW YORK ( -- The nation's economy grew at its slowest pace in three years in the fourth quarter of 2005, according to the government's gross domestic product report Friday, which came in far weaker than economists' forecasts.

The broad measure of the nation's economic activity showed an annual growth rate of 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter, down from the 4.1 percent growth rate in the final reading of third-quarter growth.

Economists surveyed by had forecast a 2.8 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter. (Posted 8:42 a.m.)

1 wounded in Iraq mosque raid

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An insurgent was wounded Friday when police in Mosul raided a mosque in search of armed men who took shelter in the holy complex, according to the U.S. military.

"Soldiers assigned to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team shot at a group of three armed terrorists outside the mosque. One of the terrorists was wounded, as the terrorists returned fire.

"The gunmen then fled inside the mosque compound. The Iraqi police entered the mosque and detained seven suspected terrorists after they tested positive for explosive residue," a military statement said.

A pistol and two AK-47 rifles were found. Mosul is in Nineveh province in northern Iraq. (Posted 8:37 a.m.)

3 wounded in gun battle between Fatah, Hamas groups

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Three people were wounded in a gun battle between the Fatah and Hamas groups that erupted in Gaza after Friday prayers, Palestinian security authorities said.

The short-lived battle in Khan Younis was over the results of this week's Palestinian election, in which Hamas won a landslide victory over Fatah, which has been the ruling Palestinian party for years. (Posted 7:57 a.m.)

Al-Jazeera broadcasts video showing German hostages

(CNN) -- Arabic television network Al-Jazeera television broadcast a video Friday showing a pair of German hostages who were kidnapped in Baiji earlier in the week.

The kidnappers identified themselves as the "Supporters of God's Unity and Sunna Brigades." There were no demands by the kidnappers for the release of the men.

In the video, the engineers asked the German government to intervene for their release. The kidnapped men have been widely identified in the German media as Rene Braunlich and Thomas Nitzschke.

The engineers were headed to work on Tuesday when gunmen dressed like members of the Iraqi army abducted them as they were headed to work at a detergent factory on the grounds of the Baiji refinery. At the time, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that a special crisis team had been set up to deal with the matter. (Updated: 2:53 a.m.)

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