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Tuesday, May 23

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. "Posted" times are Eastern Daylight.

Military: 7 insurgents killed by coalition forces in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three alleged "al Qaeda associates" were among seven insurgents killed by coalition forces in operations north and south of Baghdad on Tuesday evening, the U.S. military said in statements released on Wednesday.

Four insurgents were killed and two others were detained during an operation east of Lake Tharthar, which is northwest of Baghdad.

One detainee is Sudanese.

"The other detainee, of unknown citizenship, was wounded in the initial raid, treated on site, and medically evacuated to the 10th Combat Support Hospital. The forces found Yemeni, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Sudanese and several Iraqi passports."

The incident took place at 5:30 p.m.

South of Baghdad, three people described as "al Qaeda associates" were "located and killed" by coalition forces, the statement said.

The killings occurred in the Yusufiya area around 7:30 p.m. while troops were hunting down a "wanted al Qaeda terrorist."

"The terrorists had been driving a vehicle containing grenades and small arms. One of the terrorists was wearing a suicide vest," the statement said.

Yusufiya is located in northern Babil province, an stretch that has been called the Triangle of Death because of the violence there. (posted 2 a.m.)

S.C. lieutenant governor in small plane crash

(CNN) -- A small airplane carrying South Carolina's lieutenant governor crashed on take-off in Blacksburg, S.C., Tuesday night, the sheriff of Cherokee County said.

Sheriff Bill Blanton said Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer was airlifted to a hospital in Greenville, and the other person in the plane was airlifted to Spartanburg.

Blanton said he didn't know the condition of the two men, or which one was piloting the plane. But both men had spoken to emergency personnel who responded to the crash, and Bauer does have a pilot's license, he said.

The plane crashed on take-off, Blanton said, as the two men were leaving the area following a visit to a friend.

The four-passenger, single-engine plane, he said, was "burnt up." (Posted 9:35 p.m.)

New Orleans tests evacuation plan

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- City, state and federal officials launched a two-day test of New Orleans' new evacuation plan Tuesday, demonstrating the city's response to a mock Category 3 storm.

Last fall's Hurricane Katrina exposed numerous problems with the city's response to a major hurricane, leaving thousands of people stranded on rooftops and in "shelters of last resort" -- the Superdome, which has still not been returned to action, and the city's downtown convention center.

Katrina killed more than 1,500 people along the Gulf Coast -- nearly 1,300 of them in Louisiana alone.

If another Katrina-like storm strikes this year, officials hope to get everyone out of the city safely, estimating that a smaller base of residents -- perhaps as few as 15,000 -- will need help.

In the drill, "Hurricane Alicia" barreled toward the Gulf Coast, 42 hours from landfall. The exercise began with a meeting of first responders, followed by a media briefing , according to a news release from the city.

At the end of day one, exercise coordinator Jerry Sneed said everything went smoothly with no major glitches. The drill continues Wednesday with a test of the city's emergency communications system. (Posted 7:10 p.m.)

Pentagon notes continued Chinese military build-up, increased threat to Taiwan for 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- China's rapid military build-up could throw off the balance of power in Asia and threaten other countries in the region, according to a Pentagon report on China's military power.

The Pentagon's annual report to Congress says the country's consistent defense spending on aircraft, missiles and ships means China is ever closer to a longer-range military reach.

While the country has been expanding its reach with conventional weapons, China has also improved its nuclear capability with more and improved ballistic missiles.

The report stresses that the country's intention to use them for defensive purposes only has not changed, but it is both "qualitatively and quantitatively" improving its long-range nuclear missile force." (Posted 6:52 p.m.)

Environmental group warns of potential disaster from N.J. chemical plants

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Weak safety and security standards at 120 chemical facilities throughout New Jersey could threaten the safety of millions of New York and New Jersey residents if a terrorist attack or other disaster were to occur, according to a report released Tuesday by a New Jersey labor and environmental group.

Six of the plants listed in the report by the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) pose the most serious threat to the states' residents, according to a statement released by the group. It said each of these facilities is capable of "causing serious injury or death" to up to 1 million residents in the surrounding area if toxic chemicals were released.

WEC has urged New Jersey Gov. John Corzine to adopt a number of stringent safety and security measures for the state's chemical facilities.

Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Corzine, told CNN, "New Jersey has led the way on the regulation of chemical plants, and will continue to do so." --From CNN's Zak Sos (Posted 6:23 p.m.)

Bush: U.S. would come to Israel's aid if Iran attacked

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In remarks aimed at Iran's nuclear ambitions, President Bush said Tuesday that if Israel were attacked by Iran, the United States would come to its aid.

He made the comment at the White House during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. (Posted 5:22 p.m.)

Bin Laden: Moussaoui not connected with 9/11

(CNN) -- An audiotaped Web site message, purportedly from Osama bin Laden, says that neither Zacarias Moussaoui nor any of the prisoners held at the U.S. Navy detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had anything to do with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.

The message, addressed to the American people in Arabic with English subtitles, was posted on a Web site that typically hosts such messages.

"His (Moussaoui's) confession that he was assigned to participate in those raids is a false confession which no intelligent person doubts is a result of the pressure put upon him for the past four and a half years," the tape says.

Moussaoui was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. He was caught two weeks before the attacks when he aroused the suspicions of a flight instructor from whom he was taking flying lessons. (Posted 5 p.m.)

Senate Intel Committee recommends Hayden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to send the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden for director of Central Intelligence to the floor of the Senate.

After an hour-long closed-door session, the committee voted 12 to 3 in favor of Hayden, said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the chairman of the committee.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he voted for Hayden in the closed-door session.

"The character that I most looked for in Gen. Hayden is whether he would stand up to the president or anybody else ... and speak truth to power," Levin said. "We saw significant evidence of independence in General Hayden." (Posted 3:50 p.m.)

Mexico's Fox begins U.S. trip in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox arrived Tuesday in Utah for a visit that might not make a lot of sense at first glance. But the reason is demographics -- the state's Hispanic population, made up mostly of Mexicans, has tripled since 1990.

With immigration in high profile in the conservative state -- and in the United States as a whole -- Fox will be talking about his ideas on the controversial issue.

But he's walking a fine line, especially among critics who say a Mexican president should not interfere in American politics. "U.S. economy needs this energy, needs this working force," Fox has said. "At the same time, we know that we have to do the part of our responsibility that has to do with building up opportunities in Mexico." --From CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera (Posted 3:16 p.m.)

U.N. Report: Criminal gangs, revenge killings bring 'new brand' of misery to Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- "A new brand of violence" involving criminal gangs and sectarian militias has emerged to "severely undermine" human rights in Iraq over the past several months, according to a human rights report compiled by the U.N. mission in Iraq.

Along with the ongoing terrorism of the insurgency, thousands of Iraqi civilians died from sectarian violence, revenge killings and attacks by criminal gangs and militias during March and April, according to the U.N. study.

The report also cites infiltration of the new Iraqi security forces by militias and their involvement in sectarian violence.

"The enjoyment of human rights in Iraq continued to be severely undermined by growing insecurity, high levels of violence and a breakdown in law and order resulting from the action of militias and criminal gangs," it said. (Posted 3:07 a.m.)

Search of Democrat's Capitol Hill office draws complaints from GOP leaders

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department and Congress are having "private discussions" about concerns members of Congress have over the weekend raid of the Capitol Hill office of a Democratic congressman caught up in a bribery probe, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.

The raid of Rep. William Jefferson's office prompted complaints from the Republicans in charge of Congress, who say the search tread on the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.

"It is true it's never been done before and the reason isn't because there's never been corruption in Congress ... but because before, we were able to reach accommodation or agreement to get the information, the evidence we needed through subpoena," Gonzales said. "And through variety of reasons, that could not occur here."

"At the end of day, the decision was made that this was essential to move forward with that investigation," he said. (Posted 2:53 p.m.)

30 dead, 52 wounded in latest round of Iraq violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The latest round of violence across Iraq Tuesday has left at least 30 people dead and 52 wounded. Of those killed, 20 were victims of vehicle-borne bombs that detonated in three Baghdad neighborhoods.

Here are the most deadly attacks:

-- A motorcycle rigged with a bomb exploded near a food stand in the Tunis neighborhood of northern Baghdad about 9:30 p.m. Eleven people were killed and seven were wounded.

-- A bomb exploded in a crowded area in southeastern Baghdad's Zafaraniya neighborhood about 10 p.m., killing one civilian and wounding 11.

-- In Sadr City -- a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad -- a car bomb detonated around 5:45 p.m. in the crowded Jamila market, killing at least five and wounding 15, according to a Baghdad emergency police official.

-- In the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of Jadida, a car bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol detonated around 11 a.m., killing at least five and wounded five, emergency police said. (Posted 2:51 p.m.)

Barn at Hoffa search site to be demolished Wednesday, company says

(CNN) -- A demolition company will begin Wednesday to tear down a barn at the Hidden Dreams Farm in Milford, Mich., where the FBI has been searching for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa, representatives from the company said Tuesday.

Crews from Able Demolition of Shelby Township will arrive at 7:30 a.m. and use an excavator to tear down the 140- by 34-foot structure, said the demolition coordinator for the company, Wendy Sitek. Demolition is expected to be complete by Thursday, she said.

Once the barn is torn down the FBI will decide how to conduct a search, with Able's help, of the foundation of the building, Sitek said. Digging up and searching the foundation will take a significant amount of time, she added. --From CNN's Julian Cummings (Posted 2:38 p.m.)

Muhammad wanted sniper attacks to 'terrorize' D.C., Malvo testifies

ROCKVILLE, Md. (CNN) -- Lee Boyd Malvo outlined the meticulous detail behind the 2002 Washington-area sniper killings for a Maryland jury Tuesday, testifying that John Allen Muhammad wanted to "terrorize" the nation's capital.

Malvo, now 21, testified as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of the man who still calls him his son. He recounted how Muhammad "took me under his wing" as a teenager in Tacoma, Wash., taught him about the Nation of Islam -- and trained him to fire a rifle.

Malvo said Muhammad, a onetime Army sergeant who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, "hates this country" and wanted to sow terror across the Washington area. He quoted Muhammad as saying, "'The chickens come home to roost."

Muhammad's plan was to use the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice he had modified as a sniper's nest as a platform to kill six people a day for a month. A second phase would involve even more killing, this time using improvised explosive devices loaded with ball bearings, Malvo said. (Posted 2:25 p.m.)

Khalilzad: Terrorists, insurgents control parts of Iraq's vast Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad acknowledged Tuesday that Iraq faces "a big challenge" from sectarian violence and the ongoing insurgency, noting that "terrorists and insurgents" have control of parts of Iraq's largest province, Anbar.

"But as far as the country as a whole is concerned, it is the coalition forces along with Iraqi forces who are in control," Khalilzad told CNN.

The ambassador also acknowledged that "there is a challenge in getting the right ministers for defense, interior, and the national security department" -- the three remaining Cabinet positions that Khalilzad said will be chosen "in the coming three, four days" by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (Posted 1:54 p.m.)

McCloy wife: News of Kentucky mine blast 'touched me personally'

(CNN) -- Anna McCloy, the wife of the lone survivor of January's Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia, issued a statement Tuesday saying the recent Kentucky mining explosion in which one miner survived "touched me personally."

"Like so many of you, I was sad to learn about the deaths of five miners in Kentucky," her statement said. "The news about the problems with the rescuers for three of the miners and the lone survivor touched me personally for many reasons."

The "rescuers" are the self-contained oxygen packs that are supposed to help keep miners alive while awaiting rescue. Problems with the packs occurred in both incidents.

"We can't continue to send miners into the mines with a false promise that these rescuers are going to work when they need them the most," McCloy said.(Posted 12:48 p.m.)

Israeli PM to meet with Bush on first official visit to Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran's nuclear program and the Hamas-led Palestinian government are expected to be at the top of the agenda Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets with U.S. President George Bush on his first official visit to the United States.

Olmert took part in "a preparatory session" with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday night, according to acting State Department spokesman Tom Casey. The Israeli premier arrived Tuesday morning at the Pentagon for talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin told CNN that Bush is "a good friend in the White House, the best we ever had."

When he returns from Washington, Gissin said, Olmert will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas -- the first official visit between the two leaders. (Posted 12:03 p.m.)

Greek, Turkish fighter jets collide in mock dogfight; 1 pilot rescued, 1 dead

ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- The body of a Greek pilot was found Tuesday, hours after his fighter jet collided with a Turkish F-16 during a mock dogfight over the southern Aegean Sea, according to Turkey's foreign ministry.

The Turkish pilot ejected safely and was rescued.

The Greek F-16 had been dispatched to intercept the Turkish F-16 because it had violated Greek airspace, according to the Greek Defense Ministry.

The two fighter jets were maneuvering around each other in a mock dogfight when the crash happened around 1 p.m. (6 a.m. ET) about 12 miles east of the Greek island of Karpathos, the ministry said. (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

Lloyd Bentsen dead

(CNN) -- Lloyd Bentsen is dead, his family told CNN Tuesday.

The 85-year-old former congressman and senator from Texas died of natural causes at 8:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m. ET) at his home in Houston surrounded by family, son Lan Bentsen said.

Bentsen had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in 1999, his son said.

Bentsen served as President Clinton's first treasury secretary.

As the Democratic 1988 vice presidential nominee, Bentsen was perhaps best known for his curt dismissal during a debate against Republican candidate Dan Quayle, who had compared himself to former President John Kennedy.

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy," Bentsen said. "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." (Posted 11:19 a.m.)

Karzai calls for investigation into reports of civilian deaths

(CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday ordered an investigation into reports of the deaths of 16 civilians killed while apparently being used as human shields during fighting in Kandahar province, according to a news release from the Afghanistan government.

The reports indicate that while Taliban fighters were on the run from coalition forces in the Panjwayi district, they took refuge in civilian homes, which then were bombed by coalition forces, the release stated.

"While expressing concern at the Coalition Forces' decision to bomb civilian areas, the president strongly condemned the terrorists' act of cowardice to hide behind civilians and use them as human shields," the release said.

The incident happened Monday, according to the Coalition Press Information Center, which reported as many as 80 deaths in the operation. (Posted 10:17 a.m.)

Stricken Derby winner Barbaro recovering

(CNN) -- Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner who underwent surgery for multiple fractures to his right hind leg incurred during Sunday's run of the Preakness, is improving, his veterinarian said Tuesday.

"Barbaro's doing very well," chief of surgery Dr. Dean Richardson told reporters at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, where the animal was being treated. "Better today than he was even yesterday, and he was pretty good yesterday."

He described the horse as "pretty agile," and said his patient was walking on the supported broken leg and that his vital signs -- temperature, pulse, respiration, attitude and appetite -- were normal. (Posted 10:15 a.m.)

Gibson to be sole anchor of ABC World News Tonight

(CNN) -- ABC News announced Tuesday it has named Charles Gibson to be sole anchor of "World News Tonight" and that Elizabeth Vargas will step down to take maternity leave.

"Charlie Gibson is one of the most distinguished journalists on television. He is a superb broadcaster, the consummate professional, and a very familiar presence to the audience and everyone at 'World News Tonight,'" said ABC News President David Westin in a posting on the network's Web site.

Gibson's assignment will take effect May 29; he will continue as a co-anchor of "Good Morning America" until June 30.

After anchor Peter Jennings died last August, ABC named Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff as co-anchors in December 2005.

Woodruff is recovering from injuries sustained while on assignment in Iraq in January. (Posted, 10 a.m.)

Dodd considering 2008 presidential bid

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Chris Dodd announced Tuesday he is eyeing a presidential bid in 2008, joining a field of at least 11 other Democrats considering running for the White House.

The Democrat from Connecticut outlined his decision in Tuesday editions of The Hartford Courant, his state's largest newspaper.

"This is the right time for me," Dodd told the paper. "This is the right thing to do."

This is not the first time that Dodd, a five-term senator who first won a House seat in 1974, has flirted with the idea. He briefly considered a bid in 2004, but chose instead to back Sen. Joseph Lieberman, his fellow senator from Connecticut, in his ultimately unsuccessful quest for the Democratic nomination. -- By CNN's Mark Preston and Ed Henry (Posted, 9:18 a.m.)

Source: Feds withheld info on stolen records for weeks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A government source said Tuesday that the burglary of personal data on more than 26 million U.S. veterans took place on May 3, but authorities did not alert the general public for more than two weeks.

A laptop and external drive -- where the information had been stored -- were stolen in an apparent random burglary from the Montgomery County, Md. home of a Department of Veterans Affairs computer analyst, said the government source, who has been briefed on the issue.

The government did not immediately announce the loss because officials had hoped to catch the thieves and did not want to tip them to what they had stolen for fear they would sell it, the government source said.

After more than two weeks passed, they abandoned that plan and alerted the general public on Monday.

The computer disc contained the names, Social Security numbers and birth dates of every living veteran from 1975 to present, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said Monday. (Posted, 8:55 a.m.)

Attorney's office: Suspect in Holloway case released

(CNN) -- A man indicted in the Netherlands on charges of murder and manslaughter in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba was released Tuesday, according to his attorney's office.

Guido Wever, 18, was to appear in court Tuesday in the Netherlands, an assistant to attorney Gerard Spong said, but an agreement reached between Spong and Aruban prosecutor Karen Janssen negated that hearing.

Under the conditions of the deal, Wever remains a suspect in the case.

Wever, a casino worker, is an acquaintance of Joran van der Sloot, who was once a focus of the investigation into Holloway's 2005 disappearance, a source close to the case told CNN. (Posted, 8:06 a.m.)

Greek, Turkish fighter jets collide after mock dogfight; 1 pilot rescued, 1 missing

ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- The pilot of a Turkish fighter jet was rescued Tuesday, hours after colliding with a Greek F-16 following a mock dogfight over the southern Aegean Sea, according to the Greek and Turkish government officials.

Greek Coast Guard ships and helicopters are still searching for the Greek pilot.

The Greek fighter jet had been dispatched to intercept the Turkish F-16 because it had violated Greek airspace, according to the Greek Defense Ministry.

The ministry said the crash happened just east of the Greek island of Karpathos over international waters.

The collision highlights an ongoing dispute between Greece and Turkey, both members of NATO, over the boundaries between their airspace and territorial waters.

Such mock dogfights are reportedly a daily occurrence. (Updated, 8:15 a.m.)

Israel arrests top Hamas militant in West Bank

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli security forces early Tuesday arrested a top Hamas militant in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a statement from Israel Defense Forces said.

According to the IDF statement, Ibrahim Hamed, 41, has been wanted by Israeli security forces for the past eight years for his alleged role in terror attacks that have killed more 60 Israelis and wounded hundreds of others.

Hamed is "known within the Hamas as head of its 'military wing' in the West Bank," IDF said.

Israel accuses Hamed of being the mastermind behind car bombings, suicide attacks and an attack on a fuel depot, as well as attempting to carry out assaults against "buildings, railway infrastructure and gas depots." (posted 3:30 a.m.)

Colombian military accidentally kills 11 undercover police officers

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Members of the Colombian military accidentally shot and killed 11 undercover police officers Monday night, the Colombian Defense Minister's press office said.

The police officers were carrying out an anti-narcotics operation in the southern town of Jamundi when the incident took place.

The government is opening an investigation, and there are no other details available at this time. (Posted 9:52 p.m.)

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