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Friday, September 22

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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.

26 dead after car bomb detonates in gas station

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded at a gas station on Saturday morning, killing 26 people and wounding 21 more in Sadr City, Baghdad's Shiite district, Iraqi emergency police said.

Saturday was also the day Sunnis began observing Ramadan, a religious holy month.

Shiites begin observing Ramadan on Sunday. (Posted 2:59 a.m.)

Spinach-linked illnesses continue appearing; FDA says non-Calif. spinach safe

(CNN) -- As the number cases of spinach-borne E.coli illnesses grew Friday, the Food and Drug Administration said testing has shown that spinach grown outside of three California counties is safe to consume, and the agency is working with the food industry to get the safe spinach back on grocery shelves.

As of Friday, 166 cases had been reported in 25 states, said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Affected states and number of cases include Arizona (4), California (1), Colorado (1), Connecticut (3), Idaho (4), Illinois (1), Indiana (8), Kentucky (8), Maine (3), Maryland (3), Michigan (4), Minnesota (2), Nebraska (8), Nevada (1), New Mexico (5), New York (11), Ohio (20), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (8), Tennessee (1), Utah (17), Virginia (2), Washington (3), Wisconsin (42) and Wyoming (1). (Posted 7:47 p.m.)

Veteran Sen. Akaka faces challenge in Saturday's Hawaii primary

(CNN) -- At age 82, Sen. Daniel Akaka is asking Hawaii voters for another six years in Washington, touting his seniority and experience after three decades on Capitol Hill.

Saturday, in the Aloha State's Democratic primary, he will find out if voters respond to that call, or opt instead for an intra-party challenger calling for "a new energy."

Rep. Ed Case, 53, who has served alongside Akaka in the state's congressional delegation for the past four years, stunned Hawaii's political establishment in January when he announced that instead of running for re-election to his House seat, he would challenge Akaka in the Senate primary, on a platform of "change and transition." (Posted 7:47 p.m.)

CEO takes over as Hewlett Packard chairman amid leak investigation

PALO ALTO, Calif. ( -- Hewlett Packard chief executive Mark Hurd said Friday that he is taking over as the company's chairman effective immediately, replacing Patricia Dunn, who is at the center of the company's spying scandal.

Last week HP said Hurd would succeed Dunn as chairman after the company's Jan. 18 board meeting, and that she would remain on the company's board. But now Dunn will leave the board completely.

"The unauthorized disclosure of confidential information was a serious violation of our code of conduct," Dunn said in prepared remarks. She said she was stepping down at the request of the board.

HP shares jumped more than 1 percent in after-hours trading on the announcement, which was made after the market close. (Posted 7:48 p.m.)

U.S. holds emergency meeting to push for U.N. force in Darfur

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The United States hosted an emergency meeting Friday to push for a U.N. peacekeeping force for the country's troubled Darfur region amid stiff resistance from Sudan's central government.

The session, led by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, took place on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the goal of the session is "to talk about where we stand right now and to coordinate diplomatic efforts, with the goal being to get a U.N. force in there."

U.S. officials say sanctions against members of the regime, such as a travel ban or asset freezes, and a no-fly zone are being considered if Sudan refuses to allow the United Nations to assume control of the African Union force. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 4:50 p.m.)

Stunt pilot dies at South African air show

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- A pilot flying as part of a team formation was killed Friday when his aerobatics aircraft crashed into the Atlantic near the coast of Cape Town, African Aerospace and Defense show spokeswoman Kanthan Pilley said.

The aircraft, a privately owned Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfin jet trainer, took off from Air Force Base Ysterplaat and crashed near Milnerton about 3:50 p.m. (9:50 a.m. ET), she said. The pilot was the only person on board. --From Johannesburg Correspondent Alphonso Van Marsh (Posted 3:57 p.m.)

23 killed in German train crash

BERLIN (CNN) -- A high-speed magnetic levitation train taking a test run collided Friday with a repair vehicle on tracks in northwestern Germany, killing at least 23 people and leaving 10 in critical condition, police said.

It was unclear where all the deaths occurred. Ewald Tennen, spokesman for Lingen police, said there were 29 people on the train and two men on the maintenance wagon it collided with while going 125 mph (200 km/hr).

The repair vehicle was accidentally parked on the tracks, said Emsland County spokesman Dieter Sturm. Part of the train derailed.

Most of the people on the train were engineers testing the unit, which can travel up to 280 mph. Heavy smoke and dust hampered the recovery effort, said Sturm, adding that hopes of finding anyone else alive were fading. (Posted 3:32 p.m.)

NASA: Astronaut collapses, still adjusting after zero gravity

(CNN) -- Atlantis astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, apparently trying to adjust to Earth's gravity after 12 days in space, collapsed twice Friday during a welcome-home ceremony in Houston.

Doctors who examined her said she merely was suffering from the after-effects of space travel. Symptoms such as dizziness and fainting can linger for up to a week after returning, and are most often suffered by first-time astronauts, such as Piper, NASA officials said.

Piper, 43, and her five companion astronauts were taking turns speaking at Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Houston when the incidents happened. Piper was not taken to a hospital. (Posted 2:47 p.m.)

3 lawsuits filed against manufacturers of recalled spinach

NEW YORK (CNN) -- In three lawsuits filed this week, plaintiffs claim they became ill after consuming spinach distributed by Natural Selection Foods, Natural Selection Foods Manufacturing and Dole Food, which announced a massive recall of the greens last week.

The Federal Drug Administration has linked the infection of 157 people with a strain of E. coli to spinach manufactured by the three companies. All three are defendants named in the lawsuits filed in Wisconsin and Oregon. The complaint filed in Utah does not name Dole Food as a defendant.

Each of the lawsuits charges the defendants with "liability, breach of warranty and negligence." --From CNN's Katy Byron and Lia Araujo (Posted 1:02 p.m.)

Death sentence for sex offender who murdered N.D. college student

FARGO, N.D. (CNN) -- A federal jury in North Dakota on Friday opted for a death sentence for the man convicted of kidnapping and killing a Grand Forks, N.D., college student in November 2003.

Alfonso Rodriguez, a convicted sex offender, had been found guilty late last month in the slaying of Dru Sjodin (prono: shuh-DEEN).

Consideration of the death penalty is a rarity in a North Dakota courtroom, since the state has no capital offenses on the books.

Sjodin, 22, disappeared after leaving her job at a Victoria's Secret store in a Grand Forks mall. Her body was found five months later near Rodriguez' hometown of Crookston, Minn., about 25 miles away.

Rodriguez, 53, had been released from a Minnesota state prison in May 2003 after serving 23 years for the rapes of two women and attempted rape of a third. (Posted 12:31 p.m.)

Former Bush official denies threatening to bomb Pakistan after 9/11

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage denies an allegation from Pakistan's president that the United States threatened to bomb his country in 2001 unless it helped find those responsible for the attacks of 9/11.

"Never did I threaten to use military force. I was not authorized to," Armitage told CNN Friday.

Armitage acknowledged he was part of a group who met with Pakistan's intelligence chief to convey strong U.S. determination, and said the message was that "we absolutely need their help if we were going to prosecute the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

"We wanted to make sure they understood both the opportunities and the downside, but there was no threat," he said. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 11:14 a.m.)

Hezbollah leader says group won't disarm, is stronger than ever

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Thousands of enthusiastic supporters of Hezbollah gathered in Beirut Friday in what organizers were calling a "victory rally" following the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah battle that ended last month.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made his first public appearance since before the conflict, telling the crowd that Hezbollah will not disarm as called for in a U.N. resolution, and in fact has rearmed.

"No army in the world will force us to drop our weapons, force us to surrender our arms, as long as people believe in this resistance," he said.

"Those who say the resistance is weak, I want to say it's stronger than ever," he warned. "Today the resistance owns more than 25,000 missiles. ... The resistance has been able to regroup and rearm and regain its capability."

He also vowed that the militants will never give up their claim to Shebaa Farms, a disputed area near the Israeli-Lebanese border. (Posted 11:07 a.m.)

Militants kill 19 construction workers in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Nineteen Afghan construction workers were killed Friday when militants ambushed their bus in southern Afghanistan, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The bus exploded after driving over a mine, said Marai Bashirai. Wounded workers who managed to escape were attacked.

"A mine was planted in the road by the enemies of Afghanistan. The injured were then killed as well. Only three men managed to escape, 19 were killed. We condemn this act which is the work of the enemies of Afghanistan," Bashirai said. The attack occurred about 11:30 a.m. in the Shurabak district. (Posted 9:34 a.m.)

Thai coup leaders finish setting up anti-corruption commission

BANGKOK (CNN) -- The leaders of a coup that overthrew Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra this week said Friday they have completed setting up a nine-member commission to review accusations made against him.

Tens of thousands of Thais rallied in front of Bangkok's Grand Palace in February, demanding Thaksin's resignation, after accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.

As a result of the increasing political pressure, Thaksin offered to set up a nonpartisan commission as an olive branch to opposition parties who demanded strong political reforms and threatened to boycott elections called by the government three years early.

Thaksin, who denied any wrongdoing, eventually agreed to delay the balloting.

He was ousted in a bloodless coup Tuesday night. (Posted 9:05 a.m.)

Hamas nixes national unity government that recognizes Israel

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Just a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly that a planned Palestinian national unity government will recognize Israel, a spokesman for the ruling Hamas Party said not so fast.

"There will not be a national unity government if Hamas needs to recognize Israel," said Ahmed Youssef, a political adviser to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, according to Hamas sources.

The revelation was in stark contrast to pronouncements made by Abbas in New York on Thursday.

"I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit and abide with all the agreements that the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO, and the Palestinian National Authority have committed to in the past, particularly the letters of mutual recognition and dated Sept. 9, 1993, between the two great late leaders, Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin," Abbas said. (Posted 8:07 a.m.)

Pope invites ambassadors from Muslim countries to summer residence

ROME (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI has invited ambassadors from Muslim nations to meet with him on Monday, the Vatican press office said.

The pontiff has opened the doors of his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, to the ambassadors and members of the Italian Islam Consulta, according to ANSA, an Italian news agency. The Islam Cosulta is a council of the various muslim community leaders in Italy who meet periodically with Italian government officials.

Since making a controversial speech last week in Germany, quoting a 14th century emperor's thoughts about Islam, Benedict has made a series of increasingly apologetic statements. (Posted 6:22 a.m.)

Indonesia suffers 50th fatality from bird flu

JAKARTA (CNN) -- An 11-year-old Indonesian boy has died from bird flu, bringing the nation's death toll from the virus to 50.

According to Runizar Roesin, the head of Indonesia's bird flu information center, the boy died on Sept. 18 after having had contact with dead poultry.

The boy was from Tulungagung in East Java where there was another bird flu fatality earlier in the year. (Posted 5:17 a.m.)

U.S. soldier killed in eastern Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed Thursday after a roadside bomb struck his vehicle in eastern Baghdad, a military statement said.

Since the start of the Iraq war, 2,693 members of the U.S. military have been killed. (Posted 5:03 a.m.)

Gunmen in Baghdad set 2 houses on fire; shoot at police

BAGHDAD (CNN) --Gunmen set fire to two deserted homes in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Hurriye in northern Baghdad Friday morning, Iraqi emergency police said.

When firefighters arrived on the scene they were fired upon by the gunmen and one police officer was wounded.

Separately, police said they found 10 bodies throughout the capital Friday, bringing the total number of dead found in the last 24 hours to 48.

Four of the dead were women and all had been shot to death and showed signs of torture. (Posted 4:23 a.m.)

Israeli forces attacked in Nablus, 7 wounded

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded Friday in the West Bank city of Nablus when they came under attack, according to Israeli military sources.

"Explosive devices were thrown at the force that was on operational duty in the city and as a result one Israeli was moderately wounded and six lightly wounded," the sources said.

At the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, Israeli forces shot an armed "militant." (Posted 3:24 a.m.)

Christian militants executed by Indonesia

JAKARTA (CNN) -- Indonesian police early Friday executed three Christian militants who had been convicted of leading attacks that killed dozens of Muslims in 2000, a defense lawyer said.

Fabianus Tibo, 60, Marinus Riwu, 48, and Dominggus Silva, 42, were taken before a firing squad and shot to death shortly after midnight in Palu, Indonesia, according to attorney Roy Rening.

He said services and prayers were held in the a cathedral for the three Catholic men, who were convicted on charges of leading attacks on Muslims at the height of sectarian riots in Central Sulawesi six years ago.

Rening called the executions "a gross human rights violation," calling them illegal. (Posted 2:24 a.m.)

Doctors investigating link between 2-year-old boy's death and E.coli outbreak

(CNN) -- Testing was under way Friday to determine if the death of a 2-year-old Idaho boy earlier this week from kidney complications is linked to the recent outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria in fresh spinach, Idaho state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn told CNN affiliate KBCI in Boise.

Only one death has been officially linked to the the tainted spinach, but health officials Friday said 166 cases of the strain had been reported in 25 states.

The boy, Kyle Allgood, "may have consumed spinach in the days prior to becoming ill," and Hahn said. Results of the tests are expected sometime next week, he said.

"At this point we don't have any cultures finished yet ... but apparently he had bloody diarrhea and then developed kidney complications that are known to be associated with this type of E. coli," she said. (Posted 7:49 p.m.)

Judge supports use of classified documents in trial of ex-Cheney aide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense attorneys for a former top aide to Vice President Cheney do not need to meet a three-part test prosecutors had wanted in the use of classified White House documents in the trial set for January, the judge in the case ruled Thursday.

Lewis "Scooter" Libby is fighting charges he lied to investigators and a grand jury regarding his knowledge of onetime CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose husband, a former ambassador, had published an essay in 2003 critical of the pre-war justification to invade Iraq. He is not charged with leaking any classified material in the case.

Thursday, Judge Reggie Walton set the standards of admissibility at trial for any classified information remaining in dispute. He came out against the government's proposed three-step inquiry involving relevance, whether it would help the defense and to strike a balance with the government's need to protect information. Instead, Walton determined that the balancing of the defendant's interests and national security concerns properly takes place during the discovery phase, as the two sides negotiate the review of such documents in closed-door preparations for trial. (Posted 10:55 p.m.)



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