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Tuesday, February 21

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.

Explosion heavily damages Shiite holy shrine

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An explosion ripped through a Shiite holy site in Samarra Wednesday, destroying the al Askariya "Golden Mosque," a U.S. military statement and a local security official said.

A photograph provided by the U.S. Army showed the dome on the mosque had been destroyed, with debris littering the area.

An official with the Salahuldin Joint Coordination Center said a group of men dressed as Iraqi Police commandos entered the shrine around 7 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Tuesday) and detonated explosives under the dome, collapsing it and damaging the entire mosque.

The site is sacred to Shia, because they believe Iman al Mehdi will appear at the mosque, bringing them salvation. (posted 2:50 a.m.)

Weapons cache found in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers have discovered a weapons cache in Iraq's restive Anbar province, a military statement said Wednesday.

The munitions were found Monday during a reconnaissance patrol near Al Quratiyah, about 215 miles (350 km) northwest of Baghdad and, according to the U.S. military, is one of the largest uncovered in the province.

"This find means a serious reduction in the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) available for anti-Iraqi forces to use in cowardly attacks," said Army Maj. Doug W. Merritt, an operations officer with the 4th Squadron of the 14th U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

The military statement said the weapons included mortars and other projectile-type munitions -- the type often used in roadside bombs. (posted 2:50 a.m.)

2 firefighers die in Alabama blaze

(CNN) -- Two firefighters were killed Tuesday night in Moulton, Ala., when the wall of a lawn mower shop collapsed on them, the Lawrence County Emergency Management director told CNN.

According to Hillard Frost, the wall fell on the volunteer firefighters around 10 p.m., about four hours after the blaze began in the city's downtown.

Moulton is a community of about 3,200 in northwestern Alabama, about 35 miles southwest of Huntsville. (posted 1:05 a.m.)

Advisory committee recommends childhood vaccination against rotavirus

ATLANTA (CNN) -- An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend a newly licensed vaccine to protect children against rotavirus, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and dehydration.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation is for infants to be given three doses of the oral vaccine at two, four and six months of age.

The first dose of the vaccine, which was approved Feb. 3 by the FDA, should be given by 3 months and all doses should be given by 8 months, it said.

The vaccine, called RotaTeq, is marketed by Merck and Company and is the only vaccine approved in the United States for prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis. (posted 1:05 a.m.)

Powerful Senate panel to be briefed Thursday on port deal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee will be briefed by Bush administration officials Thursday on a deal that would let a Dubai-based company run six U.S. seaports, the panel's chairman told CNN Tuesday.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said the meeting will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. to "get an initial record for Congress" about the deal.

Warner said Congress should be "fair and objective with this business proposal offered by the Arabs" because the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, has given "such tremendous support to our military."

Under the deal, Dubai Ports World would become the new managers of facilities in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Newark, N.J. -- CNN Correspondent Andrea Koppel contributed to this report. (Posted 9:58 p.m.)

Schwarzenegger blasts court for intervening in execution

(CNN) -- Shortly after a federal court blocked the planned execution of Michael Morales, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a tersely worded statement, saying he stood by his decision to deny clemency to a "convicted murderer and rapist."

"The federal court has interjected itself into the details of the state's execution process," Schwarzenegger said. "I am confident that the convictions and sentence were appropriate in this case. I will continue to fight to uphold California's laws." (Posted 9:47 p.m.)

Execution of California killer delayed 2nd time

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Tuesday night's planned execution of condemned killer Michael Morales was delayed indefinitely, a spokeswoman at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco told CNN.

The execution at San Question State Prison was initially scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, but was postponed until 7:30 p.m. PST (10:30 ET) because two anesthesiologists refused to participate, citing ethical concerns.

The obstacle Tuesday night was not immediately clear.

"California Deputy Attorney General Dane Gillette just informed me that the defense cannot comply with Judge Fogel's order of today," said Cathy Catterson, referring to U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel.

Morales, 46, was convicted for the 1983 rape and murder of 17-year-old Terry Winchell who was left to die in a remote vineyard in central California. (Posted 9:31 p.m.)

FEMA moving 300 trailers from Arkansas to Baton Rouge

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- About 300 of the nearly 10,800 mobile homes that have been sitting unoccupied at a Federal Emergency Management Agency storage facility in Hope, Arkansas, are now on their way south to Louisiana, FEMA said Tuesday.

Those 300 trailers will be taken to a staging area in Baton Rouge to replace a similar number of trailers that have been moved into hurricane-damaged areas, FEMA said.

The transfer marks the first time since mid-October that any of the mobile homes stationed in Hope have been moved toward the hurricane zone. From CNN Correspondent Susan Roesgen (Posted 9:27 p.m.)

Indonesia reports another death from bird flu

(CNN) -- An Indonesian woman has died from the deadly bird flu, raising the number of deaths in the country to nine this year, a senior health ministry official said.

Authorities believe the woman was in contact with chickens before she fell ill, Indonesian health official Hariadi Wibisono said. The woman died Monday in Jakarta, he said.

He said samples have been sent to the World Health Organization for official confirmation of the H5N1 virus.

Health officials across the globe have feared a pandemic could break out as the virus learns to mutate and adapt. Of 170 confirmed cases across the globe, 92 people have died, according to the WHO. (Posted 8:55 p.m.)

UAE not offended by U.S. lawmakers' reaction to port deal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commercial attache for the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday said her country is not offended by the probing questions of U.S. lawmakers over a deal that would let a Dubai-based company run six U.S. seaports.

Reem Al-Hashimy said the UAE respects the democratic process at work in the United States.

"We recognize that people want to ask questions and we are fully respectful of that," Al-Hashimy told CNN in a phone interview. "We definitely understand and respect the process that's in place."

Asked if the UAE was surprised by the reaction of U.S. lawmakers, Al-Hashimy said, "This was not something that was expected." (Posted 7:59 p.m.)

Governors raise concerns about Dubai port deal

(CNN) -- A Miami lawsuit is challenging the federal government's controversial decision to allow a Dubai-based company to take over the management of six U.S. seaports, while officials in other states affected by the deal raised their own concerns Tuesday.

The governors of New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania have raised questions about the sale, which the Bush administration has approved. And the Republican leaders of both houses of Congress have urged the administration to block the deal until a more thorough investigation has been conducted into whether letting the United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World run those facilities would pose a security risk.

Under the deal, DPW would become the new managers of facilities in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Newark, N.J., as part of its purchase of British-owned Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation. P&O currently manages operations at those ports. (Posted 7:55 p.m.)

Israeli ambassador: Iran, Syria, Hamas forming 'axis of terror'

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Iran, Syria and Hamas are forming a dangerous "axis of terror" that poses a major threat to world stability and peace efforts in the Middle East, Israel's representative to the United Nations warned Tuesday.

"This new axis of terror ... is a recipe for the world's worst pandemic. Should we neglect this imminent threat, the axis of terror may be a seed of the first world war of the 21st century, Ambassador Dan Gillerman said in a briefing to the Security Council on terrorism.

His comments are a throwback to President Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, when he dubbed Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil" that is "arming to threaten the peace of the world."

The ambassador said U.N. efforts against terrorism should include holding accountable states that provide safe harbor to terrorists and that promote a "culture of hatred and incitement," and blocking the finances that support terrorist cells. (Posted 6:19 p.m.)

Firefighter who awoke after decade-long coma dies of pneumonia

(CNN) -- A brain-injured firefighter from Buffalo, New York, has died less than a year after he awakened from a decade-long coma, fire officials told CNN. Don Herbert, 44, died of pneumonia early Tuesday morning.

He was injured in 1995 when the roof of a burning home collapsed on him and his air pack ran out of oxygen, depriving him of air for 12 minutes. He fell into a coma that lasted nearly 10 years.

His family and the community were stunned last April when he awoke from his coma, after doctors made changes to his medication. He spoke with his family for 14 hours before retreating into a more quiet state. --From CNN Producer Laura Dolan in New York (Posted 6:01 p.m.)

Rice, Egyptian counterpart say nations remain friends despite differences

CAIRO (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amhed Ali Aboul Gheit insisted Tuesday that relations between their two nations are friendly despite somewhat differing stances on issues such as the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

"Yes, Egypt and the United States are friends," Rice told reporters after meeting with Egyptian officials on issues such as Hamas and Iran's nuclear program. "But friends also speak candidly to one another."

In her first trip since Hamas' landslide victory in last month's Palestinian elections, Rice planned to ask officials in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to increase pressure on Hamas by using their considerable influence to moderate the organization's politics. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 5:55 p.m.)

New York governor undergoes surgery, again

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Governor George Pataki, recovering from an emergency appendectomy and subsequent intestinal problems, underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon "to alleviate blockage in his digestive system," his office announced.

The operation lasted over and hour and was without complications, said Pataki's communications director, David Catalfamo, in a written statement.

"Governor Pataki is recovering in his room and he is awake, alert and resting comfortably," Catalfamo said.

Earlier Tuesday, Pataki was transferred to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, one of New York City's best-known hospitals. (Posted 4:51 p.m.)

Bush defends Dubai port deal amid criticism from Congress

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush strongly defended a deal that would let a Dubai-based company run six major U.S. ports Tuesday, telling reporters aboard Air Force One that he would veto any bill to hold up the agreement.

Bush warned that the United States is sending "mixed signals" by attacking a Middle Eastern company after the American ports had been run by a British firm for several years.

Lawmakers who have called for the deal to be blocked need to "step up and explain why a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard," he said. The administration has faced a wave of criticism this week over its decision to let a subsidiary of Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates-based maritime management firm, run ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. The company recently acquired the British firm that currently manages those ports, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation.

"I don't understand why it's OK for a British company to operate our ports, but not a company from the Middle East when we've already determined security is not an issue," Bush said. (Posted 3:45 p.m.)

Old National Archives documents once public are made secret again

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Historians and other researchers are expressing concern about an effort to again make secret some old, declassified documents held by the National Archives, questioning whether the reclassifications are warranted.

Archives officials confirmed Tuesday that there is a "significant re-review under way" concerning some 9,500 documents once considered secret, that may have been mistakenly declassified and made available on "open shelves" at the Archives.

The unpublicized effort is a second look at a large volume of classified documents that dated back more than 25 years -- a time span designated for declassification in a 1995 executive order from the Clinton administration.

But even William Leonard, the head of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives, said not all the reclassifications make sense. "I was shown a list of about 15 examples that, frankly, are just plain silly," he said Tuesday. He has initiated an audit of the re-review to test whether good judgment has been applied during the process. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 2:56 p.m.)

Frist wants Dubai port deal halted for review

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urged the Bush administration Tuesday to freeze an agreement to let a Dubai-based company run six U.S. seaports and said he would ask Congress stop the deal if necessary.

Frist, R-Tenn., said the agreement should be put on hold until the administration and Congress conduct "a more extensive review of this matter." And he called on the review committee that approved the deal to open up its deliberations to congressional scrutiny.

"If the administration cannot delay the process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review," he said in a written statement Tuesday.

Lawmakers from both parties and some officials in the states where the ports are located have criticized the decision to let a subsidiary of Dubai Ports World, a United Arab Emirates-based maritime management firm, run ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. The company recently acquired the British firm that currently manages those ports, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation. (Posted 2:31 p.m.)

Harvard's Summers to step down as president

BOSTON (CNN) -- Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, who caused a firestorm of controversy last year when he suggested in a speech that innate differences between women and men may be one reason fewer women succeed in math and science careers, will step down at the end of the current academic year, the university said Tuesday on its Web site.

His resignation ends a five-year tenure that critics say was marked by conflict with faculty members. But, the university statement said, he plans to rejoin the Harvard faculty after an expected-year long sabbatical "to pursue his distinguished academic career in economics, public policy and international affairs." (Posted 2:25 p.m.)

Louisiana lieutenant governor set to enter New Orleans mayoral race

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu will announce his candidacy for mayor of New Orleans on Wednesday, senior campaign staff members told CNN.

Though he will enter an already crowded field of challengers to the city's current mayor, C. Ray Nagin, Landrieu will almost certainly emerge as a front-runner. His sister is Mary Landrieu, a U.S. senator from Louisiana, and of perhaps more significance, his father, Moon Landrieu was the mayor of New Orleans for most of the 1970s. --From CNN Producer Carey Bodenheimer (Posted 1:46 p.m.)

High court refuses to drop pending case over accused terrorists facing military tribunals

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected efforts by the Bush administration to drop a pending case testing the constitutionality of planned military tribunals for suspected terrorists.

The justices in November accepted the appeal of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Hamdan, a Yemeni native, is being held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has challenged the government's power to detain and prosecute him.

Tuesday's unsigned order from the justices means oral arguments in the case will go on as scheduled March 28. In a signal of its importance, the court said that oral arguments will be extended to 90 minutes, beyond the hour normal for most cases. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 12:48 p.m.)

Abbas asks Hamas leader Haniyeh to form government

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas handed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a letter Tuesday asking him to form a new government.

Hamas leaders have said they want to include other parties in the government. The process of forming a government could take from three to five weeks. Haniyeh is the Hamas choice for the job of prime minister.

Hamas won 74 seats in the 132-member Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian parliament, in January's elections. Abbas' Fatah Party, which had dominated Palestinian life for four decades, won only 45, and has refused invitations, so far, to join Hamas in a national unity government. -- From CNN Correspondent Guy Raz (Posted 12:42 p.m.)

Three arrested, charged for alleged support of terrorism

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three men have been indicted in Ohio with supporting terrorism, including plans to kill U.S. armed forces personnel serving in Iraq and elsewhere.

The indictment, unsealed in Cleveland and Toledo, says the men planned to recruit and train others to join them in "violent jihad against the U.S. and its allies" abroad. All three men have been arrested and are scheduled to appear in federal courts in Ohio later Tuesday.

One of the men, identified as Mohammad Zaki Amawi, a dual citizen of the United States and Jordan, unsuccessfully attempted to enter Iraq in 2003 and was turned back in Jordan, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege he returned to Jordan again in 2005, where he was was arrested. He has been flown back to the United States, where he is scheduled to appear in court in Cleveland. --From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 12:39 p.m.)

Aristide says he wants to return to Haiti but would refuse political post

PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Tuesday he wants to return to Haiti as soon as possible, although he said he would not take any kind of political post.

"I'm going to be back as soon as possible to keep investing in education," Aristide told CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh in an interview from his office at South Africa University in Pretoria.

The former leader, who's been living in South Africa since his ouster from power in 2004, is now teaching courses on African renaissance at that university. When asked exactly when he planned to return to his homeland, Aristide did not give a date. (Posted 12:33 p.m.)

High court sides with church over use of hallucinogenic drug in sacraments

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously sided with a New Mexico church's efforts to use a hallucinogenic tea, containing a banned substance, in its religious services.

The 7-0 ruling is a blow to the federal government's aggressive anti-drug stance. "Congress has determined that courts should strike sensible balances," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court.

"The government failed to demonstrate, at the preliminary injunction stage, a compelling interest in barring the (church's) sacramental use of hoasca," (pronounced: WAS-kuh) the tea central to this case. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 10:49 a.m.)

Supreme Court will hear case banning 'partial birth' procedure

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court wasted little time jumping back into the contentious issue of abortion access, agreeing Tuesday to review the constitutionality of a federal law banning a controversial late-term procedure critics call "partial birth."

The case could provide a judicial sea change with new Justice Samuel Alito, who has replaced Sandra Day O'Connor. The first woman on the high court was a key swing vote for a quarter century upholding the basic right to abortion. The views of Alito, a more conservative jurist, could prove crucial in the new debate.

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency. The outcome of this latest challenge before the court's new ideological makeup could turn on the legal weight given past rulings on the "health exception." --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 10:19 a.m.)

Afternoon car bomb attack kills 20 people in southern Baghdad suburb of Dora, police say

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb detonated in a marketplace in the southern Baghdad suburb of Dora Tuesday afternoon, killing 20 people and wounding another 25, Baghdad emergency police said.

The attack, which took place around 5:30 p.m. local time, took place after a pair of roadside bombs exploded in central Baghdad Tuesday morning, killing one policeman and wounding two civilians. The first attack took place around 8 a.m. (midnight ET) and targeted a police patrol, taking the life of an officer.

The second bombing occurred in Tahrir square as a U.S. convoy passed, wounding two civilians. No one in the convoy was injured. (Posted 10:17 a.m.)

Culling of chickens continues in India

NEW DELHI (CNN) -- Mass culling of chickens continued Tuesday in India, with officials widening to 10 km (6.2 miles) the radius of the zone in which all poultry is being killed to stop the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Anees Ahmed, minister of India's Department of Animal Husbandry, told CNN that officials will begin to hold meetings in the small towns and villages of remote areas in the western state of Maharashtra to inform people about bird flu and the steps they can take to stop its spread.

Ahmed said residents in those areas do not have easy access to television or newspapers and are largely uninformed about the malady.

So far, only three cases of bird flu have been confirmed among chickens in India. No human cases have been found, officials said, although several people with flu-like symptoms are under observation. (Posted 10:02 a.m.)

Tower of London shelters its ravens against bird flu

LONDON (CNN) -- The Tower of London is keeping its famous ravens indoors to protect them from the threat of bird flu, a spokesman for the tower said Tuesday.

Legend has it that if there are fewer than six ravens the Tower will collapse and the kingdom will fall.

The six birds -- Branwen, Hugine, Munin, Gwyllum, Thor and Baldrick -- already have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying away.

The tower's raven master has created indoor aviaries for the birds and says they are getting used to their new surroundings. --From CNN's Jonathan Wald (Posted 9:19 a.m.)

Rice to lobby Arab nations to increase pressure on Hamas, isolate Iran

CAIRO (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived here Tuesday on a mission to lobby Arab allies to increase pressure on Hamas and isolate Iran.

In her first trip to the region since Hamas' landslide victory in last month's Palestinian elections, Rice will ask Egyptian and Saudi leaders to use their considerable influence with Hamas to moderate its policies.

She also wants those countries to withhold financial aid to Hamas if the group refuses to accept Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and abide by agreements made by the previous Palestinian leadership .

Rice will meet with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and top Egyptian officials who have been holding talks with Hamas in an effort to moderate between Hamas and the international community. She said the only reason for any country to meet with Hamas was to deliver the message that it needed to meet the demands of the international community. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 9:17 a.m.)

Red Cross goes into relief mode four days after mudslide

GUINSAUGON, Philippines (CNN) -- Four days after a mountain collapsed, entombing a southern Philippine village, the Red Cross is beginning to shift its focus to caring for the living as search teams look for survivors and bodies buried in the muck and rock, the head of the Philippine National Red Cross told CNN Tuesday.

At least 16 villages in the area have been evacuated as officials fear other mountainsides could collapse. More than 2,700 people are in Red Cross evacuation centers, but at least 4,000 are believed to have left the area.

There are 1,037 people confirmed missing in Guinsaugon, following Friday's mudslide, but Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said he expects that number to go up. Authorities believe about 1,875 people lived in the village on the island of Leyte before the disaster. According to Gordon, only 85 bodies have been officially recovered.

Hopes were buoyed for a time on Monday as search teams thought they may have heard tapping noises, but later U.S. Marines involved in the search said they had found no evidence of signs of life. (Posted 5:30 a.m.)

Funding restored on eve of Bush visit to renewable energy lab

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the eve of a presidential visit to a renewable energy lab in Colorado, the Department of Energy has transferred $5 million to reopen the operation that had its funding cut and employees laid off earlier this month due to budget shortfalls, a statement from the DOE said Monday.

According to the statement, Energy Sec. Samuel Bodman transferred the money over the weekend to restore jobs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo.

"The programs at NREL are critically important to realizing the President's vision to diversify and strengthen our nation's energy mix," Secretary Bodman said.

The president is scheduled to visit the NREL at 10:55 a.m. (8:55 a.m. MT) Tuesday. The sudden restoration of funding made NREL employees and renewable energy proponents wonder about the motivation behind the decision.

"I'm still questioning why the budget cuts even happened or why the layoffs had to happen in the first place -- like how it can happen two or three weeks later they restore the money to the budget," said Tina Larney, an NREL employee who is being rehired and works with state and local governments on energy initiatives. (posted 1:35 a.m.)

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