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Friday, August 4

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.

One Israeli soldier killed in fighting on the Israeli border

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- One Israeli soldier died in Hezbollah shelling in southeast Lebanon near the Israeli border early Saturday during ongoing clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah militants, Israel Defense Forces said.

Since July 12 at least 75 Israelis have been killed -- including 45 soldiers -- and more than 600 have been wounded, IDF reported. (Posted 2:51 a.m.)

Israel hits Tyre with airstrikes and small arms fire

BEIRUT (CNN) -- The southern Lebanese city of Tyre came under attack early Saturday from Israeli jets and helicopters, which fired cannons and launched missiles, in what appeared to be a significant military operation.

Small-arms fire was also heard.

According to witnesses at the scene Israeli soldiers jumped out of two Israeli helicopters and went inside a five-story building in the northern edge of Tyre after landing. They saw smoke billowing out of the building and later saw firefighters on the scene.

A woman living in an apartment nearby said she saw Israeli soldiers carrying away four bodies.

Hezbollah-run Al Manar television reported one Israeli soldier was killed and several were wounded in the attack.

Israeli Defense Forces did not immediately comment on the operation.

In the wake of a three-week old conflict between Hezbollah and Israel more than 50 percent of the population in southern Lebanon has evacuated, according to CNN's Karl Penhaul in Tyre.

--CNN's Ben Weideman and Karl Penhaul contributed to this report (Posted 2:36 a.m.)

Attacks continue in Lebanon

(CNN) -- Even as the diplomatic wrangling continued, the Lebanese city of Tyre came under attack early Saturday from jets and at least two Apache helicopters, which fired cannons and launched missiles in what appeared to be a significant military operation. Small arms fire was also heard.

Explosions were also heard in Beirut's southern suburbs, Hezbollah strongholds that have come under repeated Israeli attack.

Lebanese Internal Security Forces told CNN at least six airstrikes hit Beirut's southern suburbs, including an area where Hezbollah's headquarters are located. Most of the inhabitants had fled the area because of repeated Israeli bombing. (Updated 10:15 p.m.)

East Coast heat wave eases; 10 dead in NYC

NEW YORK (CNN) -- As lower temperatures provided substantial relief for East Coast residents who suffered through a brutal heat wave this week, the death toll continued to climb Friday as 10 people in New York City died from heat-related causes, the New York Medical Examiner's Office said.

More autopsies are expected to conducted over the weekend, but so far four deaths in Manhattan and six in Brooklyn were certified as being heat related.

A National Weather Service heat advisory was in effect from the Washington area south to middle Georgia, and an excessive heat warning was in place for southeast Virginia and eastern North Carolina. (Posted 9:29 p.m.)

Sources: U.S., France near agreement on Mideast resolution

(CNN) -- As Israel kept up its military campaign in Lebanon and Hezbollah fired rockets ever deeper into Israel, world diplomats Friday appeared to be moving closer to reaching agreement on a plan to end the fighting and deploy an international force to maintain order.

The United States and France have made progress on a U.N. Security Council resolution and may present a draft this weekend, with a vote coming early next week, senior State Department officials and diplomatic sources told CNN.

As the negotiations intensified, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke by phone Friday with both President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch was also sent to the Middle East to secure agreement on the resolution from the Israeli and Lebanese governments. (Posted 7:37 p.m.)

Article 32 hearing to begin for 4 soldiers charged in rape, killings

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four soldiers charged in connection with the rape and slaying of an Iraqi female and the killings of her family will begin an Article 32 hearing Sunday at Camp Victory near Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday.

An Article 32 hearing is the military equivalent of a probable cause or preliminary hearing.

Sgt. Paul E. Cortez, Spec. James P. Barker, Pfc. Jesse V. Spielman, and Pfc. Bryan L. Howard were all charged with conspiring with former Pfc. Steven D. Green to commit the crimes, the military said.

The four could face the death penalty, the military has said. (Posted 6:03 p.m.)

ICRC continues effort to visit kidnapped soldiers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The International Committee for the Red Cross has still not been able to gain access to two Israeli soldiers being held hostage by Hezbollah, three weeks after they were kidnapped in a cross-border raid.

ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno said Friday that the ICRC has requested a visit with the soldiers -- Ehud Goldwasser, 31, and Eldad Regev, 26 -- but has not been able to gain access. He said the organization continues attempt to intervene with Hezbollah in Lebanon, with no "tangible" result thus far.

Schorno would not characterize discussions with Hezbollah but said that "typically, we intervene with authorities at various levels," appealing on grounds of "humanitarian law, to respect values of international humanitarian law."

He said he could not characterize Hezbollah's answer as a "categorical no." He said that the ICRC was told the soldiers "were treated humanely." (Posted 5:34 p.m.)

Government changes way it will grade airport screeners

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For airport screeners, failure truly is not an option.

The Transportation Security Administration is changing the way it grades airport screeners when it tests them on the finer aspects of their jobs. According to an announcement to airport screeners, it is replacing the "pass/fail" grades with three alternative scores: achieves standards, exceeds standards, or role model of excellence.

The announcement does not mention any failing grade, although a TSA spokeswoman told CNN those who don't measure up will be scored as "does not meet standards."

But the scoring system signals a significant change in the way airport screeners will be evaluated. While the TSA will still give annual tests to screeners, as required by Congress, it will not fire screeners for failing. --From CNN Homeland Security Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 4:57 p.m.)

Chris now tropical depression, heading for Gulf of Mexico

MIAMI (CNN) -- Tropical Depression Chris, with winds that dropped below tropical-storm strength Friday morning, was moving through the Turks and Caicos Islands toward the southeastern Bahamas later Friday, and was expected to brush northern Cuba and the Florida Keys before heading into the Gulf of Mexico early next week, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.

Chris was downgraded from a tropical storm as of 8 a.m. Friday, they said. It was moving through the Turks and Caicos Friday afternoon, the NHC said in its 2 p.m. advisory.

In its 5 p.m. advisory, the NHC said tropical storm warnings for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas had been discontinued. (Posted 4:44 p.m.)

Poll: Americans' approval of Bush creeps upward, but lags approval of Rice

(CNN) -- President Bush's job approval rating continues a slow climb, according to poll results released Friday, but the majority of Americans still disapprove, even as they approve of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's performance.

Fifty-nine percent of 1,047 Americans participating in the telephone poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, said they disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president. Forty percent said they approved.

The approval numbers are a jump from previous polls. In April, only 32 percent said they approved of the way Bush was handling his job, and 60 percent disapproved, and his approval numbers has been creeping upward since then.

But 62 percent of poll respondents said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq -- tying May poll results for the most respondents who disapprove. Another 59 percent said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the economy.

Poll respondents were nearly evenly split, however, on Bush's handling of the current conflict in the Middle East. Forty-six percent said they disapproved, and 43 percent said they approved. Ten percent had no opinion.

Asked about Rice, 62 percent said they approved of her job performance, and 59 percent said they were "confident" or "somewhat confident" about her ability to handle the Middle East situation. The Rice questions were asked of only half the respondents, or about 524 people. (Posted 4:03 p.m.)

Cuban minister: Castro will return to rule Cuba

(CNN) -- Fidel Castro is recuperating and will return to his position as president of Cuba, the country's health minister, Jose Ramon Balaguer, said Friday, according to the state-run Prensa Latina news agency.

Balaguer made the comments while attending the opening of a hospital, partly funded by Cuba, in Guatemala. (Posted 4:02 p.m.)

Israel says bridges targeted to stop arms flow to Hezbollah

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Facing international criticism for launching airstrikes against bridges in and out of Beirut, Israel said Friday the move was aimed at stopping the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

"Syria is determined to continue rearming Hezbollah and supply it with weaponry used to attack Israel," the Israel Defense Forces said in a written statement.

"This Syrian effort continues despite warnings given to Syria to stop rearming Hezbollah. The IDF is determined to stop this flow of arms to the Hezbollah. The attacks on the bridges last night, which connect Syria and Lebanon, were to this end." (Posted 4:01 p.m.)

Canada arrests terror suspect

(CNN) -- Canadian authorities Friday announced the arrest of a suspect they say is connected to 17 people who were charged in Canada with terrorism-related offenses earlier this year.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified the suspect as Mohammed Aboud, 19, of Mississauga, Ont. His first court appearance was scheduled for later Friday.

Twelve men, ages 19 to 43, were charged June 2 with participating in a terrorist group. Six of them are accused of taking part in a plan to "cause an explosion" that could have caused death, injuries and property damage. The remaining five suspects are juveniles. Their names and charges have not been disclosed.

The entire case is under a "publication ban," and no further details can be released. (Posted 3:27 p.m.)

Rockets hit Hadera

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Two or three rockets hit the area of Hadera, Israel, on Friday, marking the farthest rocket attacks into Israel in three weeks of battles with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israeli police said there were no reports of deaths of injuries.

Hadera is approximately 25 miles (40 km) north of Tel Aviv, and approximately 50 miles (80 km) south of the Lebanese border. (Posted 2:49 p.m.)

U.S. sanctions 7 companies for arms transfers to Iran

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has imposed sanctions against seven companies from Russia, North Korea, India and Cuba for arms deals with Iran, State Department officials said Friday.

The sanctions, which took effect on July 28 and were listed Friday in the Federal Register, fall under the Iran-Syria Non-proliferation Act, which prohibits transfer of sensitive technology to Tehran or Damascus that could be used for their weapons of mass destruction programs.

Officials said two Russian companies, two North Korean companies, two Indian companies and one Cuban company were sanctioned because there was "credible information" they had transferred to Iran equipment and/or technology that was on export control lists.

Such transfers had the "potential of making material contribution to cruise or ballistic missile systems and weapons of mass destruction programs," one official said. --From CNN State Department producer Elise Labott (Posted 1:55 p.m.)

2 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq's Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed Friday as a result of "enemy action" in Iraq's Anbar province, the U.S. military said.

They were assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

The number of U.S. military fatalities in the Iraq war is now 2,585. (Posted 1:48 p.m.)

Phoenix police announce arrests in 'Serial Shooter' case

PHOENIX, Ariz. (CNN) -- Authorities Friday announced two arrests in the "Serial Shooter" case that has terrorized Phoenix for more than a year.

The suspects are believed responsible for the killings of six people and the wounding of 18 others.

Still at large in a second serial killing spree is the "Baseline Killer," who has been blamed for 23 crimes, including robbery, sexual assault and eight murders.

Police said they are certain the two men they arrested late Thursday at a suburban Mesa apartment complex are behind the Serial Shooter killings. (Posted 1:39 p.m.)

Pentagon devising program to help Lebanese army

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is developing a plan to help the Lebanese army extend its power in southern Lebanon, and has informed Congress that it wants to spend nearly $11 million for spare parts, ammunition and other equipment.

The effort would help the Lebanese Army establish control of areas of southern Lebanon now controlled by Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that has been engaged in battle with Israel for more than three weeks.

"This program will assist the Lebanese Army in countering militias and terrorist organizations within their territorial boundaries, as well as help improve border security," the Pentagon said. "The program will provide vehicle and helicopter repair parts, personal protective equipment, and small-arms ammunition and repair parts."

The idea is that gear will be purchased but won't be shipped to Lebanon until the hostilities end, and there will be conditions on how the equipment will be used, such as a commitment from the government to keep Hezbollah in check. (Posted 12:37 p.m.)

Tankers sit off shore as gasoline demand grows in Lebanon

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Two tankers carrying much-needed fuel sat anchored just off Lebanon's coast Friday after Israel reversed the approval to dock in two key ports, said Mohammed Safadi, the minister of Transportation and Public Works.

But the Israel Defense Forces said it did give approval to the two tankers.

The government-contracted ships, originally given the OK to land in Tripoli and Jounieh, could supply Lebanese power stations with much-needed fuel.

Resources in the area, like gasoline and electrical power, have been slim amid the Israeli blockade of Lebanon. (Posted 12:30 p.m.)

Sources: Masked gunmen kill 6 prisoners in Jericho

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Gunmen dressed as police entered a prison Friday in Jericho, the West Bank, and killed six people, Palestinian security sources said.

The gunmen targeted four people who were being held for allegedly killing a senior Fatah official in Nablus, the sources said. Those four were being held in a cell with two other people, whom the gunmen also killed, the security sources said.

The prison is being used by Palestinian intelligence services and police, and the inmates are accused of various crimes. (Posted 11:40 a.m.)

More than 20 reported killed in Israeli airstrike

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- An Israeli airstrike Friday killed more than 20 people in Qaa, a town in northeastern Lebanon, Lebanese officials said, but reports on the death toll varied.

Israel struck a parking lot outside a building in which fruits and vegetables are stored, Lebanese officials said. Qaa is in the northern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border. Israel said it targeted two Hezbollah weapons sites.

Darweesh Hobeika, general manager of Lebanon's civil defense, said 24 people were killed -- 18 men and six women, all of them adults over the age of 20.

That report came after SANA, the Syrian government-run news agency, said it learned from "sources" that 33 people were killed, including Syrian and Lebanese workers, in a "brutal massacre."

Dr. Rami Ammoun of Universal Hospital in Baalbeck, Lebanon, said 23 people were killed and 17 were wounded in the attack. And Qaa's mayor, Saade Toum, told Al Jazeera 32 agricultural workers were killed and 10 were wounded, and were taken to a hospital in Homs, Syria. (Posted 10:50 a.m.)

Phoenix police report 'some major developments' in 'Serial Shooter' case

PHOENIX, Ariz. (CNN) -- Authorities in Phoenix on Friday announced "some major developments" in the attempt to catch the "Serial Shooter," blamed for at least six killings.

Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said authorities would hold a news conference to announce the developments. The announcement comes after Mesa police detained two "suspects" in Mesa, east of downtown Phoenix.

The Serial Shooter's crimes include 36 shootings since May 2005, police have said. At least six people have been killed and 18 wounded. Horses and dogs also have been shot. (Posted 9:50 a.m.)

Job growth weak, unemployment up

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Job growth came in weak for the fourth straight month in July while the unemployment rate jumped, according to a government report released Friday that could give the Federal Reserve reason to pause when it meets next week.

The U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs in July, down from an upwardly revised gain of 124,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by were looking for a gain of 145,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 4.8 percent, up from 4.6 percent in June, the report also showed. Economists were expecting the unemployment rate to hold steady. As job growth weakened, wages rose.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.4 percent to $16.76 in July, the Labor Department said. That was slightly below the 0.5 percent gain in June, but above analysts' expectations for a 0.3 percent rise. (Posted 9:27 a.m.)

Bomb blast in Colombia kills 5, including 4 police

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded outside a police station in the Colombian city of Cali, killing five and injuring others, authorities said. Four of the dead were police officers and the fifth was the driver of the car. (Posted 9:10 a.m.)

Coalition forces conduct anti-terror raids in Baghdad, Baquba, Anbar

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces staged operations in Baquba and near Baghdad over the last 24 hours that led to the killings and arrests of insurgents, the U.S. military said in press releases.

Coalition forces wounded "one suspected terrorist and captured eight other suspects during simultaneous raids" near the Diyala province city of Baquba early Friday.

The U.S. military said those targeted were "associated with a senior leader within the al Qaeda in Iraq group "captured southwest of Baquba in June."

On Thursday, coalition forces killed at least three insurgents in an air strike and raids southeast of Baghdad. The people targeted were believed to have links to al Qaeda in Iraq suicide-car bomb cell leaders.

Other raids targeting insurgents were staged on Thursday near Ramadi and Falluja, both located in Anbar province. Nineteen people in all were detained. (Posted 8:22 a.m.)

IDF: Two soldiers dead in attack

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Two Israeli soldiers were killed and one officer seriously wounded when Hezbollah launched an anti-tank missile at them in southern Lebanon Friday, Israel Defense Forces said.

Another officer sustained minor wounds in the strike, IDF said. (Posted 8:06 a.m.)

Blasts outside bank in southern Turkey injures 10 people

(CNN) -- Two blasts detonated outside a bank in the southern Turkish city of Adana on Friday, injuring 10 people, police and eyewitnesses said.

The incident took place outside Oyak Bank in Adana -- in the south-central section of the country. The cause of the blasts -- which occurred about 10 minutes apart -- is unknown, and police are investigating the possibility of a remote controlled bomb.

A CNN Turk-affiliated reporter, Murat Kibritoglu, responded after the report of the first blast and was slightly injured in the second. His ears were damaged by the noise of the blast. (Posted 8 a.m.)

Fighting in Mosul leads to police and insurgent deaths

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents and police slugged it out across the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday morning, leaving three police officers and an unknown number of insurgents dead and forcing city officials to enforce a city-wide curfew to dawn on Saturday.

This violence erupted as 3,500 U.S. troops were being moved from the Mosul area to Baghdad to help bolster security in the capital. A high-ranking police official in Mosul, the largest city in Iraq's northern tier, told CNN that fighting raged in at least eight neighborhoods between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Police said at least 80 insurgents drove their vehicles into several neighborhoods and attacked police patrols and checkpoints.

Around 8 p.m., about 55 miles of south of Mosul in Hadhar, a suicide bomber in a pick-up truck struck a police patrol near a sports field, killing 10 people, according to a high-ranking Mosul police official. Three police were among the dead, and 12 others, including seven police, were wounded. (Posted 7:36 a.m.)

TS Chris hangs on to tropical storm status

MIAMI (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Chris was on the verge of shifting down to a tropical depression classification Friday as its sustained winds hovered at 40 mph with no further strengthening expected, National Hurricane Center forecasters in Miami said.

In the NHC's 5 a.m. advisory, Chris' maximum sustained winds remained at 40 mph and was moving west at about 15 mph. The storm's center was about 45 miles south-southeast of Grand Turk Island.

If Chris' wind speeds drop below 39 mph, it will be reclassified as a tropical depression. (Posted 6:46 a.m.)

Israeli airstrikes again target southern Beirut

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Israeli airstrikes pounded Beirut's southern suburbs early Friday, while warplanes bombed major routes out of the capital to the north.

Israeli strikes in southern Beirut early Friday again focused on Hezbollah's base of power -- this time hitting the Oozaee section of the city. The neighborhood is also the location of several Palestinian refugee camps.

For the first time in the conflict, Israel further isolated the capital by targeting major routes north of Beirut, knocking out four bridges.

Traffic was paralyzed in and out of northern Beirut when Israeli airstrikes took out the Madfoun, Fidar-Halat, Casino and Maameltain bridges, according to Arab networks. (Posted 6:29 a.m.)

Pro-Hezbollah march staged in Baghdad's Sadr City

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Thousands of pro-Hezbollah marchers on Friday trooped through the hot streets of Baghdad's densely populated Shiite enclave, Sadr City, and demonstrated angrily and enthusiastically for that Lebanese militia.

Marchers chanted slogans, carried flags of Lebanon and placards showing the portrait of Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that has been fighting Israel in the fierce cross-border war that has already claimed the lives of 644 Lebanese and 68 Israelis in just over three-weeks time.

Eyewitnesses estimated tens of thousands attended. The U.S. military, in a news release, said the crowd totaled 14,000 and the demonstration was peaceful.

Iraq itself has been plagued by Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife in recent months, but the community lately has been incensed over the fighting and Israel's assault against Lebanon. (Posted 6:29 a.m.)

Lebanon death toll at 644; Israeli deaths stand at 68

BEIRUT (CNN) -- As of midday Thursday, 644 Lebanese civilians and soldiers have died and 2,315 have been wounded in the three-week-old Israeli military offensive against the Hezbollah militia, according to Lebanon's Internal Security Forces.

An estimated 880,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the Lebanese government's Higher Relief Committee.

In addition, Israeli attacks on the Lebanese infrastructure have caused $2 billion worth of damage, according to a spokesman for the Lebanese Ministry of Transportation and Public Works. The figure does not include financial losses in tourism and damage to buildings. (Posted 6:28 a.m.)

Afghan, coalition forces kill 25 Taliban in southern Afghanistan

(CNN) -- Afghan and coalition forces killed 25 "Taliban extremists" during a firefight Thursday in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, a coalition press center statement said.

The troops were conducting a sweep through the village of De Adam Khan when they came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

"This engagement shows that Coalition forces, working in concert with Afghan security forces, will counter the Taliban in all regions of the country," said Col. Thomas Collins, spokesman for Combined Forces Command -- Afghanistan.

"The Coalition's enduring counter-terrorism mission continues unabated. The Coalition, working with Afghan security forces, will continue to go into areas and relentlessly pursue Taliban extremists, al Qaeda and their associated movements," he said.

There were no civilian or coalition casualties. (Posted 5:19 a.m.)

Car bomb kills Mosul police commander, two other officers

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb in the northern city of Mosul killed an Iraqi police official along with two other police officers Friday morning, Nineveh Governor Duraid Kashmoula told CNN. A number of police and civilians were wounded also in the explosion.

According to Kashmoula, Col. Jassim Mohammed Bilal, a police battalion commander, died when his convoy was targeted in the 9 a.m. attack, which was immediately followed by a gun battle between insurgents and police. -- CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report (Posted 4:43 a.m.)

Arab networks: 3 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Lebanon

(CNN) -- Arab-language television networks Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera reported Friday that three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in southern Lebanon. (Posted 3:36 a.m.)

Government troops, rebels fight for control of Mutur

COLOMBO (CNN) -- Sri Lanka troops were engaged in a fierce firefight with Tamil Tiger rebels for control of the eastern town of Mutur Friday, just two days after rebel forces took control, a high-ranking local government official said.

"Troops are fighting to seize control, but are meeting with resistance," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the military offensive involved commandos, artillery and mortar barrages.

The fighting has prompted a refugee crisis.

"This has led to a mass exodus of civilians from the Mutur town area," the official said. "At least 20,000 men, women and children are walking southwards holding in their hands whatever belongings they could carry." The government was making arrangements for camps to handle the refugees. --From Journalist Iqbal Athas (Posted 2:33 a.m.)

White House talking to Congress on legal Cuban migration policy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Against the backdrop of speculation about the health of Cuban President Fidel Castro, a Bush administration official Thursday night acknowledged the White House is talking to Congress about policy changes for legal migration from Cuba, but denied reports it was considering changing its policy on illegal Cuban immigrants.

"There are no considerations of relaxing policy on migrants interdicted at sea or other illegal migration," the official said, but added that the administration has had meetings with members of Congress to discuss "potential adjustments to our migration policy."

The official said the possible adjustments are "focused on making the safe, orderly, legal process by which people apply for immigration at our mission in Havana more family-friendly." -- From CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano (Posted 10:42 p.m.)

Bill to boost minimum wage, cut estate taxes stalls in Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Republicans Thursday night failed to advance a bill coupling a 40-percent increase in the minimum wage with a cut in estate taxes, which Democratic leaders had denounced as an election-year ploy.

A move by GOP leaders to cut off debate and move to a final vote on the bill failed to get the 60 votes it needed under Senate rules. The vote, which fell mostly along party lines, was 56 to 42.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pulled the measure from the Senate floor. However, he switched his vote on the motion to cut off debate from 'yes' to 'no,' a procedural maneuver which allows him to try to advance the bill again when lawmakers return from their August recess.

"I hope that the Democratic senators will rethink, long and hard, over the weeks to come before we return for business in September," Frist said. (Posted 10:28 p.m.)

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