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Thursday, March 1

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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 Standard.

U.S. Marine killed in Iraq combat

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine assigned to Multi National Force-West was killed Wednesday while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, the U.S. military said.

Since the start of the war the U.S. military has suffered 3,164 fatalities in Iraq. (Posted 1:40 a.m.)

Coalition, Afghan forces arrest 8 terror suspects in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Coalition and Afghan forces arrested a "known terrorist" and seven other terror suspects during an operation in eastern Afghanistan early Friday, a military statement said.

The raid in the Gorwek Valley of Paktika province took place without a shot being fire.

"Reliable information led the combined force to the compound, where the inhabitants complied with a request for peaceful surrender," the military said.

The region is along the border with Pakistan. (Posted 1:3 5 a.m.)

3 dead as storms roar through south Georgia

AMERICUS, Ga. (CNN) -- At least two people were killed and several people injured when a tornado slammed into a hospital in the south Georgia town of Americus Thursday evening, according to a Georgia Emergency Management spokesman.

A third person was killed and four were hurt when a tornado touched down in rural Taylor County near the southwest Georgia city of Albany, the spokesman said.

The city of Americus lost its fleet of ambulances when the tornado touched down at the Sumter Regional Medical Center, said Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Ambulances from Albany, about 35 miles away, have been sent to Americus to help, according Weiss.

It was not immediately known if those killed in Americus were patients at the hospital, he said.

The National Weather Service said the report of the Americus tornado came at 9:22 p.m. ET, 20 minutes after it issued a tornado warning for the area.

Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith said at least seven people were critically injured.

In all, 50 patients were evacuated from the hospital to other medical facilities in nearby towns, he said.

Video shot in Americus late Thursday showed heavy damage to a shopping center, including a Winn-Dixie grocery store. (Posted 12:55 a.m.)

Alabama storm death toll lowered to 7, including 5 at high school

ENTERPRISE, Ala. (CNN) -- The death toll from Thursday afternoon's storms in southeast Alabama was lowered to seven from the 18 previously reported by emergency officials, according to a spokeswoman at the Alabama Emergency Operations Center.

Five of the deaths were at Enterprise High School, said spokeswoman Tasamie Richardson.

Another death happened elsewhere in Enterprise and one fatality was reported in Wilcox County, she said. (Posted 9:51 p.m.)

More NYC restaurants close in wake of rodent infestation

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Under pressure from their parent company, the owner of a New York City KFC/Taco Bell franchise will close "a handful" of restaurant locations in the city after their Greenwich Village location was overrun by dozens of rats last week.

On Wednesday night, Yum Brands announced its decision to temporarily close all restaurants in New York owned by ADF Fifth Operating Corp. -- a franchisee of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut -- that have not yet been inspected.

-- By CNN's Deborah Brunswick (Posted 9:26 p.m.)

New Orleans files $77 billion damage claim against Corps of Engineers

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- The city of New Orleans on Thursday filed a whopping $77 billion damage claim against the Army Corps of Engineers over flooding that inundated the city when levees failed after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

Thursday was the last day for residents to file claims against the Corps under the Federal Tort Act, a step that is required before any lawsuit can be brought to recover damages.

City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields said that given uncertainty over which federal statute might govern the city's damage claims against the Corps, it was "prudent" to file under the tort act "to preserve the city's claim."

The Corps has six months to either accept, settle or reject claims, after which claimants will be free to sue the federal government to recover damages. (Posted 7:24 p.m.)

House panel subpoenas sacked prosecutors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A House committee subpoenaed four federal prosecutors sacked during a recent Justice Department shake-up that has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, a spokesman for the panel said Thursday.

The four are among eight U.S. attorneys replaced with interim appointees who do not require Senate confirmation, under a provision added to the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act during its 2006 reauthorization. The subpoenas call for them to appear before the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on administrative law March 6.

All were appointed by President Bush, who has the power to dismiss them at any time. In January, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the shake-up was "a sign of good management," while Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said in February that the firings were "performance-related."

But congressional Democrats have raised questions about the dismissal of prosecutors who received solid reviews for their performance and accused the Justice Department of replacing them for political reasons -- a claim Gonzales denied. (Posted 7:21 p.m.)

Alleged trafficker charged with transporting 200 tons of cocaine

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Mexican man was extradited to New York Wednesday night to face charges of transporting at least 200 tons of cocaine to the United States from Mexico.

According to an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, Gilberto Salinas Doria received at least 200 tons of cocaine from co-defendants in Mexico between 1994 and 1999. Salinas Doria arranged for the transportation and distribution of the cocaine in Manhattan and other cities in the United States.

-- From CNN's Amy Sahba (Posted 6:58 p.m.)

Bush acknowledges frustration but touts progress on Gulf Coast

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday he sees signs of progress in the reconstruction of the battered Gulf Coast, but acknowledged the "frustrations" of residents still struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Sometimes it's hard to see progress when you're living close to the scene," he said after a meeting with officials in southeastern Louisiana. But he said the New Orleans Saints' 2006 season, which saw them make the NFL playoffs, "represents to me what's happening in this part of the state."

"There's a renewal," he said. "Even though there's a lot of work to do, the spirit of the people down here is strong."

Earlier, Bush told reporters in Long Beach, Miss., another town devastated by Katrina, that "times are changing for the better." Although more work has to be done, he said, "people's lives are improving, and there is hope." (Posted 6:02 p.m.)

8 dead as tornadoes hit southern Alabama

ENTERPRISE, Ala. (CNN) -- Tornadoes Thursday tore through southern Alabama, damaging buildings and causing injuries and at least nine deaths, eight of them in Enterprise.

They were confirmed by an Emergency Operations Center official for the state.

Weather officials told CNN that at least one person was dead in Wilcox County, where a number of homes were destroyed.

Enterprise High School was heavily damaged, said Laren Allgood, a reporter for the Enterprise Ledger.

"It looked like a bomb dropped on the high school," she said. "All the school buses are demolished." (Posted 5:44 p.m.)

Libby judge: No verdict likely this week

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- No verdict is likely this week in the criminal trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff as the judge granted the jury's request that it be allowed to leave early Friday.

Judge Reggie Walton called an open hearing Thursday afternoon with prosecutors, the defense, and the jury to air concerns about a juror's request for a dictionary, saying any questions about wording have to come through him so they can get any intended legal connotations.

The word in question was not revealed in open court.

Separately, he granted the jury's request for a 2 p.m. dismissal Friday, and said, "so I assume they will not have a verdict tomorrow either." . --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 5:13 p.m.)

Suspect in Missouri kidnapping case charged with child pornography

ST. LOUIS (CNN) -- Pizzeria manager Michael Devlin has been indicted in federal court on child pornography charges related to the kidnapping of a Missouri boy, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway announced the charges -- four counts of child pornography and two counts of transferring a minor across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity. Hanaway said Devlin would face up to 170 years in prison if convicted on the six charges.

Devlin, 41, has already pleaded not guilty to charges in Franklin and Washington counties that he kidnapped a 13-year-old boy in January and an 11-year-old boy in 2002. He would face life in prison on those charges. He has also been charged in St. Louis County with 71 counts relating to the kidnappings.

The new charges allege that Devlin produced polaroid photographs and videos of Hornbeck and took him to Illinois and Arizona. (Posted 3:52 p.m.)

McCain backs away from saying troops' lives 'wasted' in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain on Thursday became the second presidential contender to back away from saying the war in Iraq had "wasted" the lives of U.S. troops, but said the nation had paid a "grievous price" for mistakes made in the conflict's first years.

In a TV appearance Wednesday night, he said Americans "are very frustrated" with the nearly 4-year-old war, "and they have every right to be. We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives, over there."

The Democratic National Committee called for an apology, but in a written statement, McCain said only that "I should have used the word sacrificed, as I have in the past." He added, "We have made many mistakes in the past, and we have paid a grievous price for those mistakes in the lives of the men and women who have died to protect our interests in Iraq."

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential contender, was criticized by Republicans after he told an Iowa audience in February that "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted." He called that "a slip of the tongue."

Obama came to McCain's defense Thursday, saying,"We have a duty -- a sacred duty -- to make sure we are honoring (the troops') sacrifice by giving them missions in which they can succeed. I'm positive that was the intent in which he meant it. It was the same intent that I had when I made my statement." (Posted 3:23 p.m.)

One dead as tornadoes, heavy rain, high winds batter the central United States

WEST PLAINS, Mo. (CNN) -- A huge swath of severe weather pushed across the nation's midsection Thursday, spawning tornadoes, hail and heavy rain on its south side and blizzards on its north side.

A suspected tornado spiked across southern Missouri early Thursday, touching down in at least two areas and leaving one person dead and four injured, according to Susie Stonner of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency.

Dennis Crider, a journalist for the West Plains Quill, told CNN the fatality was a 7-year-old girl in the small community of Caulfield. Three of the injured were her father, mother and one brother, Crider quoted the Howell County sheriff as saying.

Wednesday night, suspected tornadoes tore through eastern Kansas, south of Kansas City. Heavy damage was reported in Linn County, on the Missouri border.

On the north side of the storm, blizzard-like conditions and heavy snow were hitting the states in its path. In Omaha, Neb., near-whiteout conditions were blanketing the city. (Posted 2:29 p.m.)

General who oversees Walter Reed hospital relieved of duties

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commanding general at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was removed from the post Thursday by Secretary of the Army Dr. Francis Harvey, the Army announced.

The action against Maj. Gen. George Weightman followed revelations of poor conditions in parts of the medical complex. Weightman also was commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command. Walter Reed is the Army's top medical facility.

Harvey said the Army is working quickly to address the poor conditions revealed inside Building 18, a former hotel used for soldiers recovering from wounds they received in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have been there for more than a year and a half.

"The commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, will be acting temporarily as Walter Reed commander until a general officer is selected for this important leadership position," the Army said in a written statement. (Posted 2:27 p.m.)

U.S. advisers asked about Pakistan's inability to control Taliban in border areas

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two top U.S. military advisers fielded some tough questions on Capitol Hill Thursday on Pakistan's perceived lack of action in stemming the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan.

Defense Undersecretary for Policy Eric Edelman and Director for Operations for the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for a hearing on Afghanistan.

The senators' questions dealt with a wide range of issues, including ways to control opium cultivation and staffing the 12 U.S.-led provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.

While Sen. John Warner, R-Va., expressed his concern over the "fragility" of Pakistan's political system, he noted that Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, should be given "the benefit of the doubt when he says he's doing the very best he can to meet our requirements."

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., was not as sympathetic as Warner to the Musharraf government, a key U.S. ally. "My question is, what did we learn from 9/11?" Bayh asked Edelman. "If they (Pakistan) simply cannot control that area, what do we do? I mean, it seems to me this is fairly analogous to the situation in Afghanistan pre-9/11." (Posted 1:21 p.m.)

1 dead, 1 injured in roadside bombing targeting police in Mosul

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A roadside bomb in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul targeted a police official's convoy on Thursday and killed one of his guards, Mosul police said.

The bomb targeted the convoy of Nineveh Police Chief Gen. Wathiq al-Hamadani. Along with the slain guard, another was wounded. Al-Hamadani escaped injury.

The incident took place in eastern Mosul's Somer neighborhood. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 12:06 p.m.)

Iraq government: 80 militants killed, 50 captured in fighting near Falluja

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Eighty militants were killed and 50 were captured in fighting between security forces and militants Wednesday near the Iraqi city of Falluja, the Interior Ministry told CNN.

Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf said Thursday that Iraqi police and soldiers, along with tribal leaders, battled al Qaeda in Iraq fighters in the Amriyat al-Falluja village, about 12 miles south of Falluja -- located in the violent Sunni Arab-dominated province of Anbar.

Three foreign fighters were among those captured in the fighting, which began in the early afternoon and lasted through the evening.

The fighting started when dozens of militants attacked the village, where local tribes have taken an anti-al Qaeda stance. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 12:03 p.m.)

Iraq could be close to meeting Iraq's growing electricity demands by 2013, U.S. Army general says

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq, whose infrastructure has been wracked by decades of conflict and neglect, could be close to providing power almost around the clock six years from now, a U.S. Army commander said Thursday.

Army Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh -- appearing before reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference -- was asked when Iraq will be able to provide electrical power 24 hours a day.

Walsh -- who said post-war demand is steadily rising -- said the country's electricity minister has said "he thinks we can catch up with demand somewhere around 2013."

"We weren't talking specifically about 24 hours" -- but "somewhere in around that area about 2013," said Walsh, commander of Gulf Region Division for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and director of the project contracting office in Baghdad. (Posted 11:05 a.m.)

Survey shows U.S. manufacturing growing again

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The nation's manufacturing is growing again, according to the latest survey of executives in that sector by the Institute of Supply Management.

The ISM manufacturing index, released Thursday, came in at 52.3, up from the 49.3 rating in January. A reading above 50 indicates growth in the sector, while a reading below 50 points to contraction. It was the best reading in the report since September.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a rebound in the index only back to 50. (Posted 10:37 a.m.)

4 Shiite students shot, killed north of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four Shiite students were shot and killed by gunmen north of Baghdad, police in the Iraqi city of Tikrit said.

The incident occurred while the four were Ishaqi, a village.

They were in a private car leaving Tikrit University and had been heading to Balad, officials said. (Posted 10:21 a.m.)

Iran's president to visit Saudi Arabia

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Iran's Shiite president soon will be visiting Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and one of the world's most important Sunni nations, media in Saudi Arabia and Iran are reporting.

The reports say Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will meet with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Ahmadinejad is to arrive on Saturday.

Both countries are neighbors of war-torn Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the United States. Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, is arguably America's top adversary. (Posted 9:18 a.m.)

5 killed, 10 wounded in Falluja car bomb

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A parked car bomb on Thursday targeted a convoy of guests traveling to a wedding party for an Iraqi police officer in Falluja, killing five people and wounding 10, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

Falluja is in Iraq's Anbar province, and the incident occurred in the city's Jamhouriya district. (Posted 9:20 a.m.)

New computer virus attacks biz networks

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Technology experts are warning about new strains of the insidious RINBOT computer virus that could potentially hijack network systems of businesses worldwide.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with Boston-based IT security firm Sophos, said his company has been aware of "a number" of new versions of the RINBOT or DELBOT virus produced since Feb. 15.

We believe this latest strain is the 7th version of RINBOT which first emerged in March 2005," Cluley said. He said this version is designed to exploit security vulnerabilities embedded in anti-virus software.

"Traditionally hackers always went after Microsoft's anti-virus programs. But now they're increasingly targeting other commonly used programs such as Symantec programs and others," he said. --From CNNMoney.com's Parija B. Kavilanz (Posted 9:20 a.m.)

U.S. income, spending up; so are prices

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. consumers' income and spending rose more than expected in January, according to a government report Thursday that also showed an unwanted rise in a closely watched inflation measure.

Personal income was up 1 percent in the month, according to the Commerce Department report, compared to the 0.5 percent rise in December. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast only a 0.3 percent rise.

But spending by consumers, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the nation's economy, rose by only 0.5 percent, according to the report, slower than the 0.7 percent gain in December during the holiday shopping period. Still spending was slightly better than economists' forecast of a 0.4 percent gain.

The report also shows that prices paid by consumers for goods other than food an energy, a closely watched inflation measure known as the core PCE deflator, came in at an annual increase of 2.3 percent, compared to the 2.2 percent rise in December. (Posted 9:05 a.m.)

Britain to withdraw troop contingent from Bosnia

LONDON (CNN) -- Britain is withdrawing more than 600 troops from Bosnia, a move that basically ends 15 years of a "continuous UK military presence" in the Balkan country, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram -- who made the announcement on Thursday -- said the country "is becoming increasingly safe" and that there are "increasing indications of a security situation approaching normality."

Bosnia, which became independent with the breakup of Yugoslavia, endured years of interethnic civil war in the 1990s. The country is populated by Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. (Posted 8:32 a.m.)

Taliban military commander outlines plans to target NATO, U.S. forces in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Taliban's top military commander said his forces are poised for a spring offensive against NATO-led coalition troops in Afghanistan, promising to get revenge against the Americans, while claiming to maintain regular line of communication with wanted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The bold statement came in a wide-ranging recent interview with Mullah Dadullah, the man in charge of day-to-day military operations for the Taliban, obtained by Britain's Channel Four.

"The Americans have sown a seed. They will reap the crop for quite a long time," Dadullah said. "We will get our revenge on them, whether in Afghanistan or outside." (Posted 8:26 a.m.)

Low-speed crash test show fender benders can dent wallets

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A new series of low-speed crash test shows that fender benders can be wallet busters.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released cost estimates for the kind of low-speed accident that can happen in a parking lot or commuter traffic, when cars are traveling 6 miles per hour.

It found only three midsize cars -- the Mitsubishi Galant,Toyota Camry, and Mazda 6 -- came away with damage of $1,500 or less from each of the four crash tests that checked for damage from front, rear, front corner and rear corner collisions. The Institute tested 17 midsize cars in the low-speed test.

Meanwhile, four vehicles saw damage of $4,000 or more from a low-speed front-end collision. The Volkswagen Passat had the most expensive repair bill at $4,594, followed by the Pontiac G6 from General Motors, which cost $4,588 to fix. Next was the Nissan Maxima with $4,535 in damage, and the Hyundai Sonata, which ended up with a $4,312 repair bill. (Posted 7:31 a.m.)

U.S. military: 3 insurgents killed, 16 detained in operations

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three insurgents were killed and 16 others were detained on Thursday in coalition operations in Iraq "targeting al Qaeda in Iraq," the U.S. military said.

The operations took place in Baiji, in Salaheddin province in northern Iraq, in and around Ramadi in Anbar province, and south of Baghdad.(Posted 6:58 a.m.)

U.S. Army helicopter makes hard landing south of Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Iraq (CNN) -- A U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopter made a hard landing south of Kirkuk Thursday morning, injuring two pilots, a U.S. military statement said.

According to the military, the cause of accident is under investigation, but is believed to be mechanical in nature, and not the result of hostile fire.

The pilots were evacuated to a military treatment facility in Kirkuk, which is located in northern Iraq, about 150 miles north of Baghdad. (Posted 4:55 a.m.)

Bomb hits minibus carrying Baghdad City Council officials

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A roadside bomb exploded near a minibus filled with Baghdad City Council officials in eastern Baghdad Thursday, killing one official and wounding four others, an Interior Ministry official said.

The attack took place along Palestine Street, near Beirut Square, around 8 a.m.

There were no markings on the minibus, indicating it was carrying government officials. (Posted 4:55 a.m.)

U.S. Marine dies in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine died Wednesday during combat operations in Anbar province, west of Baghdad, a U.S. military statement released Thursday said.

The Marine was assigned to Multi National Force-West.

Since the start of the war the U.S. military has suffered 3,163 fatalities in Iraq. (Posted 4:55 a.m.)


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