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Monday, December 11

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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.

45 dead, 148 hurt in Baghdad suicide bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Many of the 45 killed and 148 wounded by a suicide truck bomb blast in central Baghdad Tuesday morning were unemployed Iraqis lured toward the explosion by an offer of work, according to an official with the Iraqi interior ministry.

A pick-up truck, loaded with about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives, pulled into Tayaran Square at 7 a.m., a time when hundreds of unemployed Iraqis were gathered with their picks and shovels seeking a day's work.

The driver signalled to the would-be workers that he had jobs for them -- causing a crush of people around the truck -- and he detonated his bomb, the official said. (Posted 1:24 a.m.)

S.C. couple, missing from N.Y. trip, found dead

CONWAY, S.C. (CNN) -- A South Carolina couple missing since last week were found dead Monday in their car in a body of water off Interstate 95 in North Carolina, the Horry County (S.C.) Police Department said.

Wayne and Diane Guay left their Myrtle Beach home early Thursday morning and had planned to drive straight through to Queens, in New York City, to visit their daughter, Jessica Guay, the daughter told CNN.

Horry County police said that the North Carolina Highway Patrol found the couple's car off the interstate between mile markers 139 and 140 near Rocky Mount, N.C. An engineer from the North Carolina Department of Transportation had called in the sighting after spotting evidence that a vehicle may have gone off the road, the police said.

Further information was not immediately available. (Posted 8:15 p.m.)

New House intelligence chair flubs questions on al Qaeda, Hezbollah

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite flubbing basic questions about the terrorist groups al Qaeda and Hezbollah during a recent interview, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee insisted Monday that he is "acutely aware" of al Qaeda's "desire to harm Americans."

Congressional Quarterly reported that Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, did not know that al Qaeda was made up of Sunni Muslims, rather than Shiites, and did not have an answer when asked to describe Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group linked to Iran and Syria that fought a month-long war with Israel last summer.

In response to the CQ story, Reyes issued a statement Monday saying CQ's interview "covered a wide range of topics other than the selected points published in the story."

"As a member of the Intelligence Committee since before 9/11, I'm acutely aware of al Qaeda's desire to harm Americans," Reyes said. "The Intelligence Committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us." (Posted 7:18 p.m.)

House ethics panel criticizes McDermott over Gingrich phone leak

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House ethics committee Monday criticized, but did not punish, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., for leaking a taped phone conversation involving then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the media a decade ago.

The complaint against McDermott stemmed from a 1996 recording of a conference call between GOP leaders in which Gingrich is heard praising a Republican staffer who was formulating a rebuttal to charges made by the Democrats that Gingrich had violated ethics rules. Gingrich had earlier promised the committee he wouldn't orchestrate a rebuttal. He was later fined and reprimanded by the House.

The call was illegally taped by a Florida couple who had picked up the conversation, via the cell phone of Rep. John Boehner, now the House majority leader, over a police scanner. They gave the recording to McDermott, who leaked the recording to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The New York Times. McDermott was, at the time, the ranking Democrat on the House ethics committee. (Posted 7:17 p.m.)

Imams seek settlement with US Airways over removal from flight

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Muslim group representing five of six imams removed from a US Airways flight in Minneapolis last month said Monday that it is seeking a settlement with the airline over the incident.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told CNN that the organization had sent a letter to the airline last week seeking some settlement agreement. Otherwise, he said, the group is prepared to go to court.

"This is very important," Awad said. "Otherwise we have no guarantees such incidents with US Airways and other airlines would not happen again."

Awad would not comment on the amount of damages the organization is seeking.

"This affects thousands of Muslims who fly every day," he said. "... We want to resolve this issue and put it behind us." (Posted 6:11 p.m.)

No progress in search for couple missing during S.C.-N.Y. trip

CONWAY, S.C. (CNN) -- Police in South Carolina on Monday continued to search for a missing couple who disappeared after leaving their Myrtle Beach home last week en route to New York to visit family members, said Horry County Police Deputy Chief David Beaty.

Wayne and Diane Guay left South Carolina early Thursday morning and planned to drive straight through to Queens, in New York City, to visit their daughter, Jessica Guay, the daughter told CNN.

Guay said she last spoke to her parents Wednesday before they left and that she became concerned when they failed to arrive at her home the following evening.

Beaty said a helicopter search along the route the couple is likely to have taken turned up no evidence. (Posted 6:07 p.m.)

Time for retailers to worry about Christmas shoppers?

NEW YORK ( -- With just two weeks to go until Christmas, the nation's retailers should be getting worried that consumers have been slow to rev up the pace of their holiday shopping, industry experts said Monday.

The trend to procrastinate doesn't bode well for merchants. The November-December shopping season fuels as much as 50 percent of sales and profits at many chains.

"What we know from our consumer survey this past weekend is that people said they have completed 36 percent of their holiday shopping so far. Last year they had completed 50 percent or more of their holiday shopping at this time," said Michael Niemira, retail economist with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

On the other hand, online holiday shopping this year is on track to hit a record, according to ComScore Networks. During the first 38 days of the season this year, total online retail spending, excluding travel-related purchases, reached $15.6 billion, up 25 percent from a year earlier. --From's Parija B. Kavilanz (Posted 4:55 p.m.)

Kucinich to seek 2008 Democratic nomination

CLEVELAND (CNN) -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will announce his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday at Cleveland's City Hall, the five-term congressman's spokesman, Andy Juniewicz, said Monday.

Kucinich, a candidate for the nomination in 2004, began his political career as a Cleveland city councilman and later as the youngest person ever elected mayor of the Midwestern city.

The congressman made his decision to run, according to a written statement, because he felt his own party's leadership was not aggressive enough in opposing the Iraq war.

Kucinich, 60, is a staunch opponent of the Iraq war. He has advocated cutting off funds for the war, saying that voting for money to maintain or expand the war is incompatible with a position of opposition to it. (Posted 4:44 p.m.)

Sago Mine report delayed after victim's families object

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CNN) -- Release of a report by West Virginia state investigators that concludes lightning caused the explosion that killed 12 miners at the Sago Mine last January has been delayed after family members of the victims expressed dissatisfaction with the results.

Unhappiness with the report surfaced last week after people who had gotten an early look at it revealed that it focused on lightning.

The report, a result of an 11-month investigation, was shown to victims' family members Monday morning, and was to be made public in a news conference Monday afternoon. But after hearing the family members' comments, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who was at the meeting, said the report will be reworked "in deference to the requests and needs of the family members for additional information."

The new version is expected to be released next week. (Posted 4:36 p.m.)

61 confirmed cases of E. coli tied to Taco Bell

NEW YORK (CNN) -- There are now 61 confirmed cases of E. coli related to the outbreak that hit several Taco Bell restaurants in the Northeast in the past two weeks, including the first confirmed case in New York City, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and New York State health officials.

Meanwhile, Taco Bell said its restaurants are now completely safe for consumers and it will no longer serve green onions, thought to be the most likely culprit in the spread of the bacteria.

According to New York City Health Department spokesman Jeff Cowley, a Staten Island woman who became sick after eating at a Taco Bell was hospitalized Nov. 24 , but wasn't tested for E. coli until the outbreak became widely publicized. Tests results revealed that she contracted the same strain of E. coli found in the other cases. The woman has since made a full recovery.

And a new outbreak of E. coli -- apparently connected to a different taco chain -- has shown up in Iowa. Kevin Teale of the Iowa Department of Health told CNN that approximately 40 people have reported symptoms consistent with E. coli, and 11 to 15 people have been hospitalized. The first illness was reported to the Black Hawk County Health Department on Nov. 28, and the department has not seen any new cases since last week. The Associated Press is reporting that those people became ill after eating at a Taco Johns restaurant in Cedar Falls. --From CNN's David Miller and Sarvi Batmanghelidj (Posted 3:21 p.m.)

Annan's farewell address invokes Truman's words

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (CNN) -- Kofi Annan had some strong words for the United States in his farewell speech as secretary-general of the United Nations. Throughout the speech, given at the Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence on Monday, Annan invoked America's 33rd president to tell the United Nations' host country how he thought it ought to behave.

"As (Harry) Truman said, 'We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that right has might.' That's why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement," Annan said. "But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideas and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused."

Admonishing the United States to use its global supremacy judiciously, he said, "The U.S. has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, 'We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.'

"States need to play by the rules toward each other as well as toward their own citizens. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose, for broadly shared aims, in accordance with broadly accepted norms.

"No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little and the international community is among them. This we must change." (Posted 1:18 p.m.)

White House: 6-party talks on North Korea to resume next Monday

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Six party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program will resume on Dec. 18, White House spokesman Tony Snow announced Monday.

"We do not know the exact location or details of that but we are pleased about it," Snow said.

Pyongyang walked away from the negotiating table last year.

Christopher Hill, the U.S. envoy to the talks, has made several trips to China, where he met with his counterparts, including the North Koreans, to prepare for the talks. The United States has said it wants a successful round of discussions and not just talk.

Between the talks with the North Koreans and discussions with the Chinese, the United States feels there is a "better than fair chance we can move the process along in this round," a senior administration official told CNN on Friday. However, the official noted, the upcoming round will not be the last round. (Posted 1:13 p.m.)

Bush briefed by State Dept. officials on Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior State Department advisers Monday briefed President Bush on how to shape U.S. policy in Iraq as part of Bush's mission to come up with a new strategy.

He has said that he intends to communicate that strategy to the nation before Christmas.

"There is no question we've got to make sure that the State Department and the Defense Department -- the efforts and their recommendations are closely coordinated, so that when I do speak to the American people, they will know that I've listened to all aspects of government and that the way forward is the way forward to achieve our objective: to succeed in Iraq," Bush said shortly after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other State Department advisers.

Later in the day, Bush will meet with a group of Iraqi experts, including historians and former generals, in the Oval Office. (Posted 12:42 p.m.)

Justices rule on family members wearing victim buttons at murder trial

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that there was nothing under federal law to prevent family members from wearing buttons of an alleged murder victim in front of jurors at a criminal trial. The opinion does not go so far as to establish an automatic right to such a display, but could boost efforts by victims' rights groups to allow greater expressions of grief and remembrance in courtrooms.

Justice Clarence Thomas led a six-justice majority that decided the high court had never addressed the question of whether spectator conduct -- as opposed to government conduct -- in court was so "inherently prejudicial that it deprived a defendant of a fair trial." Because of that, Thomas said, a federal appeals court was wrong to conclude there was a violation "of clearly established federal law."

Three other justices agreed, but went further to raise general concerns about allowing spectators to engage in activity that might affect the jury. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 12:10 p.m.)

Haniya says Iran pledging $250 million in aid to the Palestinians

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said Monday that Iran has pledged $250 million to aid the Palestinians.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has pledged $250 million in "development aid" to the Palestinian people, according to a posting on a Hamas-affiliated Web site.

Haniya has been in Iran for the past four days as part of larger regional tour aimed, in part, at bolstering support for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. -- From CNN's Kevin Flower in Jerusalem (Posted 11:52 a.m.)

Military: 18 injured when Marine chopper makes emergency landing in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A Marine CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopter Monday made an emergency landing in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, injuring 18 of the 21 people aboard, the U.S. military said.

Of those injured, nine were treated for minor injuries and returned to duty, the military said.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. It is not believed to be the result of enemy action, according to the military. (Posted 11:15 a.m.)

German police probe polonium poisoning of Russian ex-spy family

HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- Police are investigating traces of polonium-210 found on four more people. The ex-wife, her partner and the two children of Russian businessman Dmitri Kovtun were taken to a hospital Monday after testing positive for traces of the deadly radioactive substance.

At a press conference Monday, police said it could take up to two days to discover if their exposure was threatening.

Kovtun arrived from Russia on Oct. 28 and visited his ex-wife and children, who are 1 and 3 years old. He is believed to have slept on the couch at her Hamburg apartment where traces of polonium were found.

He then flew to London on Nov. 1 where he met with Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko became ill that day and was admitted to the hospital. Three weeks later he died of radiation poisoning linked to polonium-210.

Kovtun reportedly is being treated in Moscow for radiation poisoning. Hamburg police said they investigating Kovtun to determine if he is a "perpetrator" or a victim in Litvinenko's mysterious death, which is being treated as a murder inquiry by British authorities. (Posted 11:14 a.m.)

Tehran downplays reports of rare student protest against Iranian president

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Iran's government is downplaying reports of a rare student protest against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a speech at a Tehran university.

Iran's semi-official FARS news agency and a student news Web site reported that a group of students Monday briefly interrupted Ahmadinejad's speech at Amir Kabir University by booing, chanting "Death to the dictator," setting off firecrackers and burning pictures of Ahmadinejad.

A student who attended the speech but did not want to be named confirmed those reports to CNN.

But Iran's official state-run news agency, IRNA, said the students "expressed their views in a cordial atmosphere," and chanted "Down with dictators," which was met with agreement by Ahmadinejad, who denounced the "dictatorships" in the United States and Britain.

A spokesman for Ahmadinejad's office downplayed the incident, saying that the students burned some papers, set off some firecrackers and shouted "Death to the dictator" or "dictatorship" but said they could have been referring to London or Washington.

However, an Amir Kabir University student, who witnessed the incident and did not want to be identified, told CNN that the protesting students interrupted Ahmadinejad's speech with slogans, including "Death to the dictator," "Get lost Basijis" -- a reference to right-wing students who support the government -- "Get lost liars" -- referring to the state-run press -- and "Political prisoners must be freed."

The student also said he witnessed the protesters burning pictures of Ahmadinejad and fighting with the pro-Tehran students. (Posted 10:35 a.m.)

Report: Despite peace agreement with Islamabad, Taliban rearming in Pakistan's tribal regions

BRUSSELS (CNN) -- Taliban militants sheltered in Pakistan's western tribal areas have been given "a free hand to recruit, train and arm" along Afghanistan's border despite an recent agreement between tribal leaders and Pakistan's government, according to a report released Monday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

The ICG report -- titled "Pakistan's Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants" -- blames Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's "ambivalent approach and failure to take effective action" in the western tribal areas for "destabilizing Afghanistan."

CNN is seeking reaction from the Pakistani government on the report.

After a month-long cease-fire, Musharraf's government signed a peace agreement in September with tribal leaders in North Waziristan where the majority of the militants are concentrated.

Three months after the agreement, the ICG states, "It appears that the local militants are using this period of peace to recoup their losses, rearm, reorganize and expand their influence." (Posted 9:12 a.m.)

Iraq gunmen take $1 million

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 20 gunmen ambushed a security vehicle Monday afternoon in central Baghdad and took $1 million in cash, an Iraq Interior Ministry official told CNN.

Wearing Iraqi army-like uniforms and driving in three vehicles, the gunmen kidnapped the driver and three private security guards, put the cash in sacks and left the security vehicle behind, the official said.

The vehicle was transporting the money from al-Warkaa Private Bank to the Central Bank in Sadoun Street in the Iraqi capital around 2 p.m. local time, according to the official. (Posted 8:32 a.m.)

Iraq vice president to visit Bush

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashmi heads to the United States on Monday, leading a government delegation.

The Sunni official was officially invited to meet with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. He is also scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Tuesday. (Posted 8:32 a.m.)

Weekend sectarian violence kills dozens, sends many families seeking refuge

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Sunni versus Shiite sectarian violence claimed at least 78 lives throughout Iraq as homes were stormed, families fled, and rival militias clashed over the weekend, according to Iraqi security officials.

The violence continued Monday morning with at least three bombings killing three Iraqis, an official with Iraq's interior ministry said.

On Sunday, five members of a Sunni family were killed and five were wounded when Shiite militiamen attacked their minibus as they drove away from their home in the Shiite town of Abu Saydah in a bid to find refuge with relatives in Wajihiya, a Sunni town, Baquba police said. (Posted 5:11 a.m.)

Four U.S. soldiers killed, 3 wounded by roadside bombs

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four U.S. soldiers were killed and three were wounded by two roadside bombs in Baghdad Sunday, the U.S. military said.

A roadside bomb exploded near a late night combat patrol in northern Baghdad Sunday, killing three U.S. soldiers and wounding two, the military said

Earlier Sunday, a roadside bomb exploded as a U.S. Army patrol was completed an morning security mission west of the city, killing one soldier and wounding another, the military said.

The number of U.S. military personnel killed in the Iraq war now stands at 2,932, and the number killed in December has reached 42. (Posted 3:05 a.m.)

Police find 51 bodies in Baghdad; Chalabi security officer killed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Fifty-one bullet-riddled bodies were collected across the Iraqi capital Sunday, victims of what an official with Iraq's Interior Ministry said was sectarian retribution between Sunnis and Shiites.

The official also said gunmen killed Iraqi Army Colonel Yaarub Khazaal, who worked on the security detail for Ahmed Chalabi. The killing happened Sunday in western Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, the official said.

Chalabi is a former Iraqi exile who was instrumental in building the U.S. case during the lead-up to the war, and who later fell out of favor with the Bush administration. (Posted 2:44 a.m.)

Drive-by shooter kills 3 children of Fatah intelligence officer

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Four people, including three children of a senior Palestinian intelligence officer, were shot to death outside a Gaza City school Monday morning, Palestinian police said. Three other children were wounded in the drive-by attack, police said.

The children who were killed -- ages six to nine -- were the children of Baha Balousheh, an intelligence officer loyal to Abu Mazen's Fatah movement, police said. The fourth person killed was the children's driver, police said.

The children were getting out of a car in front of their school when gunmen opened fire from a passing car, police said. (Posted 2:30 a.m.)



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