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Monday, December 4

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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.

Santa Ana gusts whip California blaze to more than 13,000 acres; containment expected Tuesday

MOORPARK, Calif. (CNN) -- Firefighters were expected to have a wildfire north of Los Angeles contained by Tuesday evening after the blaze scorched thousands of acres and destroyed five homes and two businesses a day earlier, local authorities said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Ventura County on Monday, where hot, dry Santa Ana winds complicated firefighting efforts with gusts up to 50 mph. Schwarzenegger's declaration allows state authorities to assist the county in battling the blaze, which has scorched 13,600 acres.

But Ventura County authorities said the fire was 70 percent contained on Monday evening, and they expected full containment a day later. About 1,700 firefighters are working to bring the blaze under control. (Posted 2:40 a.m.)

Fiji's military takes over government

SUVA, Fiji (CNN) -- Urging calm and saying the country has reached a crossroads, the chief of Fiji's armed forces announced the military had taken control of the government Tuesday.

"As of six o'clock this evening, the military has taken over the government -- has executive authority -- and the running of this country," Commodore Frank Bainimarama said during a televised news conference.

"I urge all citizens to remain calm and maintain the peace that currently prevails." (Posted 1:30 a.m.)

Iraqi, U.S. forces detain at least 18 suspected insurgents

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi security and coalition forces detained at least 18 suspected insurgents -- some with ties in al Qaeda in Iraq -- in a series of raids across Baghdad and in eastern Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

Members of the Iraqi army, working with coalition advisers, captured 10 suspected insurgents Monday during a raid near Karma, east of Falluja.

In the capital's northern Adhamiya district, coalition forces captured another 6 suspected insurgents, including a local tribal leader.

In southern Baghdad, Iraqi and coalition forces captured two more suspected insurgents in the Jihad neighborhood. Both are believed to be members of a terrorist cell, according to the U.S. military. (Posted 12:50 a.m.)

U.S. 'not satisfied' with Iraq progress, Bush tells Iraqi Shiite leader

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush met Monday with a top Iraqi political leader with close ties to Iran, urging him to step up Iraqi efforts to take control of the country's security and fight extremist violence.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, leads the largest political party in Iraq's parliament. The Shiite Muslim leader's visit to the White House comes just days before a bipartisan U.S. commission is scheduled to release its recommendations for the future of American involvement in Iraq.

Bush said he and al-Hakim discussed "the need to give the government of Iraq more capability, as quickly as possible, so that the elected government of Iraq can do that which the Iraqi people want, which is to secure their country from the extremists and murderers."

"I told him that we're not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq, and that we want to continue to work with the sovereign government of Iraq to accomplish our mutual objectives, which is a free country that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself," he said.

Bush said Iraq's leaders need "to reject the extremists that are trying to stop the advance of this young democracy." (Posted 6:07 p.m.)

Bush 'not happy' Bolton leaving U.N. post amid Senate opposition

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An unhappy President Bush said Monday that he had regretfully accepted John Bolton's decision to leave his post as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the face of opposition in the Senate that doomed his confirmation to serve permanently in the job.

"I'm not happy about it," Bush said during a farewell appearance at the White House by Bolton and his wife, Gretchen. "I think he deserved to be confirmed. The reason I think he deserved to be confirmed is that I think he did a fabulous job for the country."

Turning to Bolton, Bush said, "We're going to miss you in this administration. You've been a stalwart defender of freedom and peace. You've been strong in your advocacy for human rights and human dignity. You've done everything that can be expected for an ambassador."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino earlier said President Bush was "surprised" when Bolton' submitted his letter of resignation Friday. (Posted 4:47 p.m.)

More cases of E. coli infection confirmed in New Jersey

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Twenty-five cases of E. coli have now been confirmed by the Middlesex County Health Department in New Jersey, and health officials say more are under investigation.

The bacteria was first reported in New Jersey on Wednesday, with outbreaks in Somerset, Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

Twenty of the victims fell ill after eating at Taco Bell restaurants in New Jersey, according to Stephanie Brown, assistant epidemiologist at the Middlesex County Health Department. The restaurants are in South Plainfield, Edison and Easton, she said.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, New Jersey Department of Health officials announced they had linked the E. coli outbreak to the Taco Bell franchises after conducting food history studies on 22 of the victims, 20 of whom were confirmed to have eaten at one of those three locations. (Posted 4:42 p.m.)

Santa Ana gusts whip California blaze to 10,000 acres

MOORPARK, Calif. (CNN) -- Firefighters reported progress battling a wildfire north of Los Angeles on Monday after the blaze scorched thousands of acres and destroyed five homes and two businesses, local authorities said.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Ventura County, where hot, dry Santa Ana winds complicated firefighting efforts with gusts up to 50 mph. Schwarzenegger's declaration allows state authorities to assist the county in battling the blaze, which had scorched 10,000 acres by early afternoon.

But Ventura County authorities said the fire had been 35 percent contained after Monday morning, and they expected full containment by Tuesday evening. About 1,500 firefighters are working to bring the blaze under control.

The fire started in an area surrounded primarily by ranches and spread rapidly, fanned by desert winds that gusted up to 70 mph, fire Capt. Barry Parker told CNN. (Posted 4:23 p.m.)

NASA proposes permanent moon base as step to Mars

HOUSTON (CNN) -- NASA Monday said its plan for returning people to the moon -- an objective called for by President Bush in 2004 -- includes establishing a permanent outpost there that would be used to prepare for a manned trip to Mars.

The moon base would be at either the north or south pole of the moon, NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said during a news conference at the Johnson Space Center. The increased sunlight at the poles would allow better use of solar energy to power the outpost, she said.

NASA's Lunar Architecture Team decided it would be better to establish a base than to conduct individual missions to the moon, as in the Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s, she said. Team scientists believe that astronauts could use the moon's natural resources to maintain the outpost, and could use the base to prepare for the trip to Mars, an objective also set forth by Bush.

NASA Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz said the goal is to conduct the first manned missions to the moon by 2020, starting with short stays by four-person crews that would establish the outpost. He estimated that perhaps by 2024 there might be a continual presence on the surface, with crews rotating in and out, as is done with the International Space Station. (Posted 4:21 p.m.)

Use of race in school-choice plans argued at high court

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than a half century after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools, the justices Monday struggled over one controversial outgrowth of that decision, seemingly divided over what role race should play, if any, in assigning students to competitive spots in elementary and secondary schools.

Some justices highlighted the benefits of racial diversity in the classroom, while others on the bench worried about whether the voluntary integration programs were in fact, illegal racial quotas.

The cases from Kentucky and Washington state revisit past disputes over race and education, stemming from the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board decision ending racial separation in public facilities. Louisville and Seattle have embraced their school-choice plans in many quarters, but while local officials say a key goal is diversity, some families call it discrimination.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer seemed more sympathetic toward the school districts.

But judging by the questioning in two hours of spirited oral arguments, a conservative bloc led by Chief Justice John Roberts may have the five votes needed to overturn these particular diversity plans. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 4:08 p.m.)

Two more London buildings checked for polonium-210 contamination

LONDON (CNN) -- British investigators are checking two more locations, including a London hotel, for possible radiation contamination in their probe of the fatal polonium-210 poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Britain's Health Protection Agency said Monday it was monitoring the Parkes Hotel in Chelsea and 1 Cavendish Place in central London after being informed by the Metropolitan Police that those addresses had become part of their investigation.

Radiation testing at the Best Western Hotel on London's Shaftesbury Avenue found no reason for health concerns, according to the Health Protection Agency. (Posted 2 p.m.)

Truck driver convicted in immigrant deaths; could be sentenced to death

HOUSTON (CNN) -- A federal jury Monday convicted a truck driver on 58 counts of transporting a group of illegal immigrants over the Texas border in an unventilated tractor-trailer, a trip that killed 19 of them in 2003, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Houston.

The jury will return Wednesday to begin the sentencing phase, in which they will decide whether Tyrone Williams will receive the death penalty or life in prison.

Last year, a jury convicted Williams on 38 of the counts, but because of a legal technicality a federal appeals court ordered a new trial. Six others involved have already been convicted. The ring leader was sentenced to 17 years in prison. (Posted 1:57 p.m.)

GOP's Brownback to explore 2008 presidential bid

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Sam Brownback took a major step toward a possible run for the White House Monday when he opened a presidential exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission.

"Senator Brownback filed his exploratory papers today, and he looks forward to traveling around the country to spread a conservative message," a Brownback strategist told CNN. The Kansas senator follows Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the third Republican to open such a committee following the midterm elections.

Brownback, who often speaks about Ronald Reagan ideals, is expected to try to appeal to social conservatives in his party if he fully commits to a White House run. Brownback is an anti-abortion rights lawmaker, who has also led the fight against human cloning. The Kansas Republican has also been a leading voice against the genocide in Sudan.

A CNN poll last month showed that Brownback ranked in the lower third of registered Republicans' choice for presidential nominee. (Posted 12:58 p.m.)

American, Europeans arrested in Egyptian terror probe

CAIRO (CNN) -- A group of people -- including one American, 11 Europeans and several Arabs -- have been arrested in Egypt on suspicion of planning terror attacks in the Middle East, including in Iraq, according to a source in Egypt's Interior Ministry.

The suspects were members of a "secret organization" with a "Jihadi idealogy" but they were in the country under the pretext of studying Arabic and Islamic law, the ministry source said.

Of the Europeans, nine are from France and two from Belgium, the ministry said. The Arabs included Syrians and Tunisians, the source said. The ministry source said the group, which had links to international terror organizations, was attempting to recruit others to join in their plot. (Posted 12:57 p.m.)

Strong winds prevent firefighters from getting control of 9,700-acre blaze north of L.A.

MOORPARK, Calif. (CNN) -- Firefighters are facing wind gusts of up to 50 mph as they try to protect homes from a wildfire that has more than doubled in size in a day and has destroyed five homes, according to Ventura County fire officials.

The fierce Santa Ana winds are blowing at 20 to 25 mph, with higher gusts, preventing firefighters from even trying to contain the 9,700-acre blaze, the officials said. Instead, they are working in a defensive posture to make sure homes are protected from the fire.

No residences are immediately threatened by the fire, but that could change if the winds shift.

In addition to the five homes, five other buildings have also been destroyed by the fire. The fire has also damaged five other buildings. (Posted 11:58 a.m.)

December's military death toll at 14

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Fourteen U.S. troops have died in Iraq since Friday -- the first day of December -- including four killed when a Marine helicopter made an emergency landing in a body of water in Iraq's Anbar province, the military said.

The other 10 soldiers and Marines were killed in combat.

Two soldiers were killed and two wounded Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in northern Iraq, U.S. commanders in the northern city of Tikrit announced.

Two U.S. soldiers and a Marine died due to unspecified "enemy action" in western Iraq's volatile Anbar province Saturday, the American command in Baghdad reported, while two U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.

Two American soldiers were reported killed in Baghdad -- one slain by a roadside bomb Saturday, another killed in fighting Sunday. And on Friday, a soldier assigned to the U.S. Army's 1st Battalion, 1st Armored Division died from wounds suffered "due to enemy action" in Anbar.

With the deaths, 2,904 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war. (Posted 11:52 a.m.)

Bodies of 3 missing troops from Sunday's chopper crash found

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military Monday said it has located the bodies of three service members who went missing after their Marine helicopter made an emergency landing Sunday in Iraq's volatile Anbar province.

A U.S. Marine was also killed in the landing. Twelve people survived the crash, the military said. (Posted 11:50 a.m.)

Insurgents raid hospital outside Baghdad, abduct 2 doctors

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen raided a hospital outside Baghdad Monday and abducted two doctors, an Iraqi interior ministry official said.

The kidnapping happened around 5:30 p.m. in Salman Pak, a Sunni-Shiite town about 20 miles (30 km) southeast of Baghdad, the official said.

In the Iraqi capital, police said they have recovered 106 bodies in the past two days, all shot to death and scattered across Baghdad. Some were blindfolded with bound hands, and showed signs of torture.

The discovery of such bodies has been a daily occurrence in Baghdad for months. They are believed to be victims of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian warfare rocking the capital over the past year. (Posted 10:18 a.m.)

Critically ill Pinochet gets bailed from house arrest

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- Fomer dictor Augusto Pinoches was released on bail from house arrest Monday, a court official said.

The release will have no immediate effect because Pinochet is in a hospital after suffering a massive heart attack over the weekend.

Pinochet was arrested last week in connection with the murder of two opponents in 1973.(Posted 10 a.m.)

British PM to visit White House Thursday

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet with President Bush at the White House on Thursday, the White House announced Monday.

The Iraq war, the Darfur crisis and free trade issues are expected to top the agenda when the two leaders meet, the White House said. (Posted 9:58 a.m.)

Insurgent attacks in Baghdad, Baquba kill 7 Monday

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen shot and killed an Iraqi journalist Monday morning as he left for work, according to the founder of Radio Dijla, where he worked.

Nabil Ibrahim al-Dulaimi, 36, had worked for the station as a news editor for about six months, Ahmed al-Rikabi told CNN.

He is the radio station's fourth employee to have been killed in insurgent attacks in the past two years, al-Rikabi said.

Meanwhile the U.S. military said its forces put a dent in the al Qaeda in Iraq network after it raided several buildings in northern Baghdad Monday morning.

U.S. forces killed "two terrorists," detained six and destroyed a car bomb, a military statement said. According to the U.S. military, intelligence information on a suspected al Qaeda member involved in making car bombs led them to the site.

North of the Iraqi capital, gunmen shot and killed four Agriculture Ministry employees as they were driving in Baquba around 8:45 a.m. Monday, a Diyala joint coordination center official said. Gunmen also opened fire at a car in the town of Khalis, north of Baquba, killing two people, the official said. --CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report .(Posted 9:35 a.m.)

3 troops missing in western Iraq after a Marine helicopter makes emergency landing; 1 dead

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military Monday is searching for three troops who went missing after their Marine helicopter made an emergency water landing Sunday in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, the U.S. military announced Monday.

Rescuers were unable to resuscitate one Marine who was recovered from the water shortly after the incident.

The CH-46 "Sea Knight" was carrying 16 passengers when it went down in western Anbar. The 12 passengers known to have survived the crash have been accounted for, the military said.

It is not clear if the Marine chopper went down in a lake or a river. The military said it does not believe the emergency landing was the result of enemy action, although an investigation is underway.

"Every available resource is being utilized to find the missing service members," the U.S. military said in its news release.

With the Marine's death, 2,901 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war. (Posted 7:46 a.m.)

Red Cross official believes at least 1,000 dead

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- The head of the Philippine Red Cross said he believes the death toll from Typhoon Durian is at least 1,000, following the storm's rampage through the island chain Friday.

According to Richard Gordon, the official figures were a bit lower with 430 people confirmed dead and another 492 missing -- hundreds more have been injured in the natural disaster and bodies continue to be pulled from the mud.

"The problem also is exacerbated by the fact that many of those who are dead remain unidentified," Gordon said Monday. "That means their relatives have also been consumed by the mud flows."

In the aftermath of the natural disaster, the Canadian government and the Netherlands Red Cross have pledged money to help residents in the Philippines recover from the storm, the local Red Cross said. (Posted 12:05 a.m.)

Chavez claims victory in Venezuela election

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Outspoken leftist Hugo Chavez claimed victory in his bid for a new term as Venezuela's president Sunday after the bulk of returns showed him leading challenger Manuel Rosales by a wide margin.

With 78 percent of the votes counted, the National Electoral Council reported Chavez leading Rosales by a margin of 61 percent to 38 percent. There was no immediate statement from Rosales' campaign.

Chavez, an outspoken opponent of U.S. policies in Latin America, is seeking a second full term as leader of oil-rich Venezuela. He has used the country's oil wealth to improve services for the country's poor majority, but opponents accuse him of trying to turn Venezuela into a Cuban-style dictatorship.

In September, Chavez rankled U.S. officials by telling the U.N. General Assembly -- a day after President Bush addressed the session -- that "The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still today." (Posted 10:20 p.m.)

Witnesses: Coup under way in Fiji

SUVA, Fiji (CNN) -- Fijian troops took over armories and disarmed police Monday in what appeared to be the opening steps of a coup d'etat in the Pacific island nation, witnesses said.

Mike Amor, a journalist for Australia's Seven News, said troops disarmed officers from the country's only armed police unit, seized the country's police academy and patrolled the streets of the capital early Monday. No casualties were reported.

The chief of Fiji's armed forces, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, had threatened to launch a "cleanup campaign" against Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's government, which he accuses of corruption. If successful, it would be the fourth coup since Fiji's independence from Britain in 1970. (Posted 10:20 p.m.)


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