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Thursday, November 30

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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.

U.S.-led coalition forces kill 2 insurgents and net 27 others in multiple Iraq raids

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military said coalition forces killed two insurgents and arrested 27 others Friday in multiple raids throughout Iraq, targeting al Qaeda in Iraq members.

North of the Iraqi capital in Taji, troops killed one insurgent and arrested 14 others, including a man known for supplying foreign fighters.

The military said during the fray one "female local national" being used as a human shield by insurgents was wounded. She was airlifted to a nearby military hospital and was in stable condition Friday.

North of the capital in Tarmiya, coalition forces arrested four insurgents during two raids.

"These and other foreign terrorist facilitators are killing innocent Iraqis daily and preventing the peace and stability Iraqi citizens deserve" the military said in a statement. (Posted 2:55 a.m.)

Sri Lanka's defense secretary target of bombing

COLOMBO (CNN) -- A suicide bomber attacked the convoy of Sri Lankan defense secretary and brother to the president, Gothabaya Rajapaksa Friday, wounding 14 people, police said. Rajapaksa escaped unhurt.

Rajapaksa was heading to a meeting of the National Security Council when it's believed the bomber, traveling in a taxi, pulled up along side the convoy and detonated, setting fire to a number of vehicles.

According to police, Sri Lankan forces have stepped up security in the entire area and reportedly exchanged gunfire with suspected Tamil Tiger rebels.

--From Journalist Iqbal Athas (Posted 2:17 a.m.)

Small plane crashes north of Charlotte, N.C. airport; 1 dead

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNN) -- A small fixed-wing aircraft crashed Thursday while making a final approach into Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, killing one person, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The Cirrus SR-22 departed Peachtree-Dekalb Airport outside of Atlanta, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said. It crashed about seven miles north of the Charlotte airport about 7:45 p.m.

The person killed was thought to be the only one on the four-seater plane, Bergen said. (Posted 10:07 p.m.)

Coup fears rattle Fiji as deadline passes

SUVA, Fiji (CNN) -- Nervous residents of the South Pacific island nation of Fiji braced for a possible military coup Friday, after a deadline set by the country's military commander to reach a compromise with its prime minister passed without any agreement.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced Thursday that if Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase did not scuttle disputed legislation and fire Fiji's police chief by noon Friday (7 p.m. Thursday ET), the military would proceed with a "cleaning up campaign."

After the deadline passed, shops began to close down in the capital, Suva, and people waited in lines at cash machines, according to Mike Amor, a correspondent with Australia's Seven Network. The university in Suva also closed.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, foreign ministers from neighboring countries met for talks on the crisis in Fiji. (Posted 9:37 p.m.)

DHS: Advisory on al Qaeda cyber threat issued out of caution

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Department of Homeland Security advisory cautioning that al Qaeda may be planning cyber attacks on banking and financial institution Web sites was issued out of an abundance of caution, although there is no corroboration, a DHS spokesman told CNN Thursday.

The threat apparently was posted on a jihadist Web site, the spokesman said. It was discovered Nov. 27 by DHS and translated. The department decided to send an advisory out to financial institutions out of caution.

The Web site warned that denial-of-service attacks would be launched against stock and banking sites during the month of December through what the Web site called the "infidel New Year's." (Posted 7:55 p.m.)

NYPD announces formation of undercover police review committee

From CNN's Ronni Berke and Brian Vitagliano

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced Thursday the establishment of a committee to review undercover procedures in the New York City Police department, following public outcry surrounding the shooting death by police of an apparently unarmed man.

Two of the man's friends were wounded in the incident, which took place early Saturday morning outside a nightclub in Queens.

Kelly said he wanted to make certain that the newly formed committee "will not investigate the Jamaica shooting, but it may make recommendations based on any lessons learned that arise from it."

Sean Bell, 23, was killed early Saturday and two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benfield, were wounded in the incident that took place after Bell's bachelor party. The police officers involved fired more than 50 rounds at the apparently unarmed men. (Posted 6:48 p.m.)

Personal info on 11,000 people stolen from Pennsylvania driver's license center

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (CNN) -- Computers containing identifying information on more than 11,000 people were stolen Tuesday from a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation driver's license center in Wilkes-Barre, the agency said.

Thieves broke into the center around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and stole two computers containing personal information on 11,384 people whose photos had been taken at the location between Aug. 30 and Nov. 28, it said in a written statement.

The computers contained complete Social Security numbers for 5,348 people, it said, and the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of another 6,000 people. They also included individuals' names, addresses, dates of birth and driver's license numbers.

The thieves also stole equipment that could be used to make fraudulent driver's licenses and identification cards. --From CNN's Stacey Francisco in New York (Posted 6:30 p.m.)

DHS: Advisory on al Qaeda cyber threat issued out of caution

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Department of Homeland Security advisory cautioning that al Qaeda may be planning cyber attacks on banking and financial institution Web sites was issued out of an abundance of caution, although there is no corroboration, a DHS official told CNN Thursday.

The threat apparently was posted on a jihadist Web site, the official said. (Posted 6:29 p.m.)

State Dept. employee says British-U.S. relationship favors Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department Thursday dismissed as "just plain wrong" comments by a department research analyst that the relationship between Britain and the United States is "one-sided," favoring the Americans.

State Department research analyst Kendall Myers made the comments Tuesday while speaking at Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater where he has also taught for 30 years.

Myers added that he was "a little ashamed" at the U.S. government's treatment of its ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that Blair had never received any "payback" for his staunch support of the U.S. war in Iraq.

The State Department said it is investigating Myers' comments and will decide if any action is to be taken against him. It emphasized that Myers is a a low-level official is not authorized to speak for the department, and who believed he was speaking at a closed academic forum when he made his remarks.

The British media has played up Myers' comments. The Guardian headlined a "not-so-special relationship" and said, "It's hard to quarrel with Mr. Myers' assessment." --From CNN State Department Correspondent Zain Verjee (Posted 5:50 p.m.)

Sources: Group will not set timetable for Iraq troop withdrawal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The nonpartisan Iraq Study Group next week will present President Bush with a report recommending gradual reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, but will not call for a specific timetable, sources close to the study group told CNN Thursday.

Still, the study group, chaired by former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, will suggest Bush needs to insist that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meet certain benchmarks to improve the situation on the ground and communicate to him there will soon be substantial troop reductions.

One official noted that a time frame was just "such a thorny issue" for the commissioners to sort through. But an adviser to the study group said the panel's report will make it clear that U.S. troops "can't be there forever."

A second group adviser said that five basic options were on the table, ranging from a conservative stay-the-course approach to a more liberal plan offering a timetable for troop withdrawal -- and that commissioners seem to have settled on what insiders jokingly referred to as the "2.5 option," a blend of the various proposals.

"It was a mix-and-match, a little used from different options," the adviser said. (Posted 3:38 p.m.)

25 bodies found in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Baghdad police found 25 bodies across the capital on Thursday.

The people, all shot, are believed to be victims of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian warfare rocking the capital over the past year.

The discovery of such bodies has been a daily occurrence in Baghdad for months. (Posted 2:39 p.m.)

Lebanon's prime minster tries to blunt planned Hezbollah protests, says there will be no coup

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora -- attempting to blunt the impact of a mass rally planned Friday by Hezbollah -- vowed in an address to the nation Thursday that there will be no coup in Lebanon nor the establishment of a "mini-state within a state."

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, whose pro-Syrian ministers have resigned from the Lebanese Cabinet, has called for a mass demonstration Friday aimed at toppling Siniora's government.

Siniora charged that those who protest want "to transform Lebanon as a playground for international conflicts."

He said the only way to keep the peace is national unity, saying he and his government have extended a hand to the opposition and will continue to do so.

Nasrallah contends that Hezbollah cannot stay in the current government because it represents only one camp and said his group wants to create a true unity government. (Posted 2:35 p.m.)

Immigration officials to begin test run with new citizenship exam

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Immigration officials hope revising the test for prospective citizens will encourage a better understanding of America. Early next year they will offer questions that are more relevant, asking, for example, why there are three branches in the U.S government instead of simply naming those branches.

"We wanted to have a test that not only reflects the values and the history and the civics of the United States, but a test that will allow the applicant to internalize those values when they raise their hand and become an American citizen," said Emilio Gonzalez, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency.

To try to achieve that goal, early next year people who are scheduled to interview to become U.S. citizens will be asked if they would volunteer to answer a handful of questions from the new test to help officials weigh the revisions. A candidate who fails the questions can immediately proceed to questions from the current citizenship exam.

Gonzalez briefed reporters Thursday as he released the pool of 144 revised questions in the pilot test. The failure rate recorded among 5,000 applicants in 10 cities will help determine any further refinement needed, he said. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 1:56 p.m.)

Rockwell painting sells for $15.4 million

NEW YORK (CNN) -- One of Norman Rockwell's most famous paintings, "Breaking Home Ties," broke a record for the artist when it sold for $15.4 million at auction Wednesday.

The buyer chose to remain anonymous.

The painting depicts a father -- with a weather-beaten face and blue jeans -- waiting with his son, who eagerly looks for the train that is to take him off to college. It first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on Sept. 25, 1954.

Also fetching a record price was Edward Hopper's "Hotel Window," which sold for $26.8 million to an anonymous buyer. The 1955 large-scale canvas broke a 1990 record of $2.4 million for a Hopper's "South Truro Church." --From CNN's Chris Kokenes (Posted 1:55 p.m.)

DEA dismantles 9 N.Y. meth labs

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Demonstrating how homemade labs have been built in all types of places to make the drug methamphetamine, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it had dismantled labs this week in such locations as a penthouse apartment, a garage bay at a car dealership in New York City, and a single-family residence and apartments on Long Island.

DEA officials Thursday announced the taking down of the labs and the arrests of seven people Wednesday as part of Operation Red Fusion, which targeted people in the New York area who allegedly imported red phosphorus and other restricted chemicals known to be used in producing meth.

In all, authorities said, 10 defendants are in custody as part of the operation, including a corporate executive, a college teaching assistant and an automobile mechanic. --From CNN's Kevin Bohn (Posted 12:58 p.m.)

British officials looking at 4 planes in connection with spy's death

LONDON (CNN) -- Security and health officials in Britain are investigating whether as many as four planes may contain traces of radioactive material in connection with the death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

British Home Secretary John Reid told members of parliament Thursday that three planes at Heathrow -- including two British Airways jets and one aircraft belonging to a private Russian airline -- and one British Airways plane grounded in Moscow are of concern.

"Early results show low levels of a radioactive substance" on the two British Airways jets at Heathrow, Reid said, although one of those jets is expected to be cleared of all risk later in the day.

The risk to public health is extremely low because the rare radioactive element believed to have been responsible for Litvinenko's death, polonium-210, must be ingested to be dangerous, Reid said.

Although Reid originally mentioned five aircraft in his comments to the House of Commons, his office later told CNN there were only four planes in question.(Posted 11:38 a.m.)

Iowa's Vilsack embarks on 2008 bid for presidency

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa (CNN) -- Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack on Thursday became the first prominent Democrat to formally announce a 2008 presidential bid. He is kicking off a five-state tour of several early voting states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Vilsack, who turns 56 in December, will end his second term as Iowa's governor in January. He spoke at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant before leaving on his "Courage to Create Change" campaign swing.

"We are committed to this campaign and this effort," Vilsack told his supporters. "Our work is just beginning." (Posted 11:20 a.m.)

Rice meets with Palestinian, Israeli leaders to cement recent Mideast progress

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Thursday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to capitalize on recent steps taken to achieve peace, including a cease-fire in Gaza.

"Indeed it has been a week of progress, a week that we hope can be consolidated," Rice said at a joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"The cease-fire now needs to be consolidated by action to make certain that it is enforced. I also appreciate the statements of restraint that the Israeli government has issued concerning the cease-fire, because it is of course quite fragile but we would like to see it consolidated and then extended."

Earlier in the day, she met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho, West Bank.

"We want to do everything that we can to ease movement and access" for the Palestinian people, she said. "The daily difficulties, the daily humiliations that are associated with life for the Palestinian people simply must be eased ... I will work with you, Mr. President, and the Israelis to do precisely that." (Posted 9:54 a.m.)

Al-Sadr politicians talking of 'national front' with Sunnis, Christians

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The political ferment in Iraq this week could result in a new political coalition made up of Sunnis, Christians and backers of the fiery and politically powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Falah Hassan Shanshel, the head of the al-Sadr bloc in parliament, told CNN that this grouping, which he is calling a "national front," is targeting the recently approved U.N. mandate for another year of multi-national troops in Iraq.

The bloc loyal to the anti-American al-Sadr -- 30 parliament members and six Cabinet ministers -- suspended their activities in the government Wednesday because Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's meeting with President Bush on Thursday in Jordan.

The group says it will resume its participation when al-Maliki comes up with a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. This boycott had been threatened since last week, when the meeting was announced.

"That's what we wanted from the beginning -- for Maliki not to meet with Bush," said Shanshel. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Arwa Damon (Posted 7:58 a.m.)

India says Pakistani man is prime suspect in Mumbai blasts

NEW DELHI (CNN) -- Indian authorities asserted Thursday that the mastermind behind the deadly July train bombings in Mumbai is a Pakistani man who is hiding out in neighboring Pakistan.

Mumbai's anti-terrorism squad chief, K.P. Raghuvanshi said the Pakistani man, Azam Cheema, is a prime suspect who "planned and executed the operation from across the border" in southeast Pakistan.

Cheema is about 55 years old, Raghuvanshi said, and responsible for the death of 209 people who were killed when seven bombs tore through packed Mumbai commuter trains and platforms during rush hour. (Posted 7:37 a.m.)

Red Cross condemns attacks against civilians in Iraq

GENEVA (CNN) -- A Red Cross official on Thursday reminded the warring factions in war-weary Iraq of their duties under international law -- don't target non-combatants or the "civilian infrastructure" and respect international law.

"Regardless of the complexity of the issues at stake in the Iraqi conflict, it is unacceptable and contrary to the most basic principles of humanity and law to target persons not participating in the hostilities," said Georges Comninos, International Committee of the Red Cross' head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa.

He was speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, and his comments were included in a statement issued by the ICRC. (Posted 6:33 a.m.)

Shuttle a go for first night launch in 4 years

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (CNN) -- NASA flight managers gave the green light Wednesday to Space Shuttle Discovery to launch as planned at 9:36 p.m. ET on Dec. 7, according to NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier.

The launch will be the first at night in four years. NASA had barred night launches in the wake of the Columbia disaster in order to better monitor any foam-strike incidents like the one that doomed the Columbia and its seven-person crew in 2003.

Commanded by astronaut Mark Polansky, Discovery will dock with the International Space Station. While there, spacewalkers will do extensive electrical rewiring of the station to accommodate new solar arrays and pave the way for additional laboratories on the orbiting outpost. (Posted 6:30 a.m.)

Atlantic hurricane season closes quietly, well below predictions

MIAMI (CNN) -- After two years in which the United States was battered and bruised by nearly a dozen hurricanes, the 2006 Atlantic season draws to a close Thursday without a single hurricane -- and only three tropical storms -- making U.S. landfall.

The sense of quiet, though, is relative. While 2006 might have seemed tame compared to the carnage of 2004 and 2005, the season's total of nine named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes was actually right at the historical average for the last 150 years, according to data from the National Hurricane Center.

However, this year's tropical activity fell well short of predictions made the beginning of the season, which called for an above-average number of storms, though not as many as last year's record-shattering season.

Weather experts say the formation of the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean in mid-summer -- which even the most sophisticated computer models couldn't see coming -- dampened tropical activity in the Atlantic. (Posted 6:30 a.m.)

Bush: U.S. wants to help Iraqi PM 'get the job done'

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- President Bush said he wants to help Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki take the reins in war-torn Iraq and "get the job done" instead of setting a strict timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal.

"We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done," Bush said Thursday while speaking at a joint news conference with al-Maliki in Jordan. "The prime minister doesn't have the capacity to respond (to violence in the region) so we want to accelerate that capacity and help him take the lead."

"The success of Prime Minister al-Maliki's government is critical to the success in Iraq," Bush added.

Earlier in the day both leaders discussed the importance of accelerating the transfer of security responsibly from the United States to Iraq. Al-Mailki said "we have agreed together" on those issues. (Posted 5:09 a.m.)

Iraq Study Group recommends U.S. troop reduction in Iraq starting in January

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After an intense assessment of U.S. policies in the war in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group will recommend that a "gradual but meaningful" reduction of U.S. troops begin "relatively early in the New Year" and that the plan be immediately communicated to Iraq's prime minister, a source familiar with the group's deliberations told CNN.

The language in the report -- which was done at the urging of Congress -- is being fine-tuned before it is presented to President Bush next week, but according to the source the work on the findings is basically done.

In the bipartisan panel's view, Bush needs to insist on implementing strict timetables for Iraqi improvements and communicate to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that there will be substantial troop reductions beginning in January. (Posted 3:14 a.m.)

'Mass grave' with 28 bodies found near Baquba

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi soldiers found 28 bodies in a "mass grave" south of Baquba Wednesday, a U.S. military statement released Thursday said.

The site was identified by members of the Iraqi army and coalition forces.

According to the U.S. military, the bodies were first moved to the Narwan area for identification by family members and were then transported to an Iraqi Police station in Baghdad.

Iraqi authorities are investigating the incident. (Posted 2:22 a.m.)

U.S. soldier dies in Iraqi capital

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier has been killed during combat operations in Baghdad, a U.S. military statement released Thursday said.

The soldier was a member of Multi-National Division - Baghdad and died around 3:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) Wednesday.

Since the start of the war, the U.S. military has suffered 2,885 fatalities in Iraq. (Posted 1:52 a.m.)

Trainer in good condition after being held underwater by killer whale

SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- A SeaWorld trainer was in good condition Wednesday after a killer whale grabbed his foot and held him underwater while performing a show, park officials said.

Mike Scarpuzzi, head trainer at SeaWorld, said Kasatka, a 30-year-old killer whale who is a veteran of many performances, grabbed the trainer and pulled him underwater. Other trainers were able to convince the whale to surface, allowing the trainer a breath of air, but enacted emergency procedures in place for such instances, Scarpuzzi said.

The other trainers got a net in the pool, and the trainer, who also had years of experience, was able to calm the whale, swim to the other side of the net and get out of the pool, he said. (Posted 10:25 p.m.)



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