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Wednesday, March 28

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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 Time.

Tornado hits southwestern Colorado town, 9 hospitalized

HOLLY, Colo. (CNN) -- A tornado roared through the heart of the small southwestern Colorado town of Holly Wednesday evening, sending at least nine people to the hospital, a county official told CNN.

According to Prowers County Administrator Linda Fairbairn in nearby Lamar, the twister touched down around 8 p.m. (10 p.m. ET) just a block off the main business district, severely damaging 60 homes -- five homes were destroyed -- and knocking out power to the community.

Fairbairn said authorities have cut off outside access to the town of about 1,000, while search and rescue teams go door to door.

Holly is about 150 miles east of Pueblo, near the Colorado-Kansas border.

--CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report (Posted 2:44 a.m.)

Two NATO soldiers die in traffic accident

KABUL (CNN) -- Two NATO soldiers stationed in Kabul died Wednesday from injuries sustained in a traffic accident, a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said.

There was no "enemy action involved," NATO said, adding an investigation into the accident has been launched.

The nationalities of the soldiers were not immediately available. (Posted 1:16 a.m.)

DNA testing exonerates inmate in rape cases

NEW YORK (CNN) -- After spending 22 years in prison, a mentally ill man likely will soon be freed after being exonerated by DNA testing -- conducted on genetic material that had languished for years inside a drawer at a hospital, authorities said Wednesday.

Anthony Capozzi, 49, was arrested in September 1985 and was convicted of two sexual assaults, in 1983 and 1984, in a park, part of a series of attacks thought to be the work of the so-called "Bike Path Rapist." Capozzi, who suffers from schizophrenia, has always maintained his innocence, as has his attorney, Tom D'Agostino.

D'Agostino said he inquired "many, many, many" times whether DNA evidence existed in the cases, but was repeatedly told by Erie County Medical Center officials that it did not. It was only when Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark called the county's chief medical examiner directly that the material was found.

The DNA was discovered among "maybe thousands" of medical slides, some dating back to 1973, inside a large metal drawer at the hospital pathology department, Clark said. ECMC officials did not respond to calls from CNN. -- From CNN's Brian Blank (Posted 11:10 p.m.)

3 dead in fire at Houston office building

HOUSTON (CNN) -- Three people were killed and at least seven were injured Wednesday in a four-alarm fire at an office building in northeast Houston, authorities said.

The blaze broke out at 5:16 p.m. on the top two floors of the six-story building, according to the Houston Fire Department. The three people were found dead at the scene, said HFD Assistant Chief Tommy Dowdy. As of 7:45 p.m., their bodies remained in the building, he said.

It was not known how many people were in the building at the time the fire began, officials said. Firefighters were conducting floor-to-floor searches. The building was believed to house up to 21 businesses. (Posted 8:48 p.m.)

Democrats tout 'remarkable record' at helm of House so far

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In January, when they regained power after 12 years in the political wilderness, House Democrats vowed to change the work ethic of lawmakers and make good on ambitious promises they made during the mid-term campaign.

And now, as they head into a two-week Easter break and approach 100 days in power, Democratic leaders are tooting their own horn about a record that, in the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "leaves Republican congresses in the dust."

"We're proud of our record. We're proud to report it to the American people," Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. "But we've only just begun." -- From CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel (Posted 7:34 p.m.)

Prosecutor purge proper but 'poorly explained,' says former Gonzales aide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The decision to fire eight U.S. attorneys in December was "properly made but poorly explained," a former top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will tell a Senate committee Thursday.

In a written statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyle Sampson said none of the prosecutors were sacked "for an improper reason," such as to influence an ongoing investigation. But he said the process -- which has led to a firestorm on Capitol Hill and a standoff over the testimony of White House aides -- was "badly mishandled."

"The decisions to seek the resignations of a handful of U.S. attorneys were properly made, but poorly explained," he states. "This is a benign rather than sinister story, and I know that some may be indisposed to accept it. But it is the truth as I observed and experienced it." (Posted 7:32 p.m.)

War funding bill puts Bush, Democrats in high-stakes game of chicken

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and his Democratic opponents in Congress are squaring off in a high-decibel, high-stakes game of chicken over a bill to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, with both sides insisting the other needs to relent in order to get troops the supplies and equipment they need.

The impending collision is over a deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq next year, which Democrats have put into both House and Senate versions of the military spending measure -- something Bush said Wednesday he simply cannot, and will not, accept, no matter how much the money is needed.

"Some (lawmakers) believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely," the president said. "That's not going to happen." -- From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash

Shark necropsy results point to peritonitis as killer

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Ralph, the whale shark that died in January at the Georgia Aquarium, was killed by peritonitis, the result of a ruptured stomach, said Tim Binder, director of husbandry at the facility.

Nearly 30 people were involved in the necropsy, which was carried out at the aquarium, he said. "The science we're learning will help us understand whale sharks in their native environment," Binder said.

Ralph stopped eating early last year after an antiparasitic treatment was added to the water to kill leeches, Binder said, but added there is no evidence the failure to eat was linked to the subsequent death. (Posted 6:46 p.m.)

Justice says documents contradict earlier letter on U.S. attorneys

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department admitted Wednesday that previous statements to Congress about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys "are contradicted" by documents released in the past two weeks regarding the role of White House aide Karl Rove.

The admission came in a letter to House and Senate Judiciary committees from Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling. More than 200 pages of additional documents related to the firings accompanied the letter.

Justice Department sources confirmed the statements in question came in a Feb. 23rd reply to four Democratic senators who had written to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales concerning the appointment of Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark. The reply stated that the Justice Department "is not aware of anyone lobbying for Mr. Griffin's appointment" and "is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin." -- From CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn (Posted 6:43 p.m.)

Investigators pore over Jamaica hotel images in cricket coach's death

KINGSTON, Jamaica (CNN) -- Investigators trying to determine who killed Pakistan's cricket coach have nearly finished poring over enhanced video taken from closed-circuit television cameras from stairwells and corridors in the hotel where he was found, Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields said Wednesday.

The images are clear enough to recognize faces, and investigators are closing in on coach Bob Woolmer's time of death, Shields told CNN in an interview.

On March 18, Woolmer was found unconscious in his 12th-floor room at the Pegasus Hotel and was taken to the University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The pathologist's report said he had been strangled. Shields said that, though he could not rule out the possibility that the report was wrong, he had "great confidence" in that conclusion. He added that he had "very specific evidence" that Woolmer was murdered. (Posted 4:55 p.m.)

Town residents battle Martha Stewart over furniture-line name

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some of Martha Stewart's neighbors in the town of Katonah, in tony Westchester County, don't want her to trademark the town's name for one of her furniture collections.

Members of the Katonah Village Improvement Society voted Monday to file papers with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to stop the media mogul from trademarking "Katonah." The Katonah Chamber of Commerce has until April 11 to file the papers. The improvement society will meet again next week to finalize their plans.

Society President Lydia Landesberg told CNN that members don't want their town associated with any big corporation. "There is not much we can do about the naming of the line; the only place we really have legs to stand on is the trademark issue," she said. -- From CNN's Amy Sahba (Posted 4:43 p.m.)

Bush tells Putin he is eager to discuss missile-defense plans

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush told Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday that he is eager to discuss U.S. plans for a missile-defense shield in Europe, an official said.

"They discussed the importance of continuing their dialogue on Iran, missile-defense cooperation, Kosovo and other issues of mutual concern," Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters about the morning telephone conversation between the two leaders.

"President Bush emphasized that missile defenses in Europe are intended to protect against the evolving ballistic-missile threat from the Middle East -- a threat that we share in common with Europe and Russia. The presidents discussed the importance of continuing consultations at NATO on missile threats and defenses against them, and exploring options for further missile defense cooperation," he added. The Kremlin has opposed U.S. plans for such a missile-defense shield. (Posted 4:32 p.m.)

British sailor says her crew 'trespassed' into Iranian waters

TEHRAN (CNN) -- The female British sailor detained with 14 male sailors and marines in the Persian Gulf by Iran last week said her crew "trespassed" into Iranian waters, in comments broadcast Wednesday by an Iranian television network.

"Obviously we trespassed into their waters," Faye Turney said in video broadcast by Alalam, an Iranian Arabic language network.

"They were very friendly, very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we'd been arrested. There was no aggression, no hurt, no harm. They were very, very compassionate," Turney said.

It was not known when the videotape was shot, or if Turney, 26, was able to speak freely. She and the male captives shown on film appeared to be in good physical condition.

Iran also released a letter it said was written by Turney to her parents. In it, she assures them that she is being treated well. CNN cannot confirm that Turney wrote the letter or if she was forced to write it under duress. (Posted 2:55 p.m.)

Spain arrests 8 Basque ETA suspects

MADRID (CNN) -- Police arrested eight suspected members or collaborators of the Basque separatist group ETA in northern Spain on Wednesday, a Spanish Interior Ministry spokesman told CNN.

The arrests were aimed at disrupting ETA's "infrastructure" in Spain's Basque provinces, and was the largest roundup this year of suspects.

The arrests come nearly three months after an ETA car bomb at Madrid's airport last December 30 killed two people and blew apart a fledgling peace process.

March 22 marked the first anniversary of ETA's announcement of a unilateral, "permanent" cease-fire, which had raised hopes for an end to nearly 40 years of ETA violence blamed for more than 800 deaths. (Posted 2:50 p.m.)

White House withdraws nomination of Sam Fox

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House announced Wednesday it has withdrawn its nomination of Sam Fox to be U.S. ambassador to Belgium.

"The president believes that Mr. Fox is qualified to serve as ambassador to Belgium," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "Unfortunately, we received word that, because of politics, some members of the Senate would have voted against his nomination."

Fox's nomination, submitted in January, became controversial when several Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry, criticized Fox's donations to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group attacked the decorated Vietnam War veteran's war record during his bid for the presidency in 2004.

Paul Wagman, a spokesman for Fox, said he had no comment beyond what the White House was saying. (Posted 1:38 p.m.)

Iraqis thrilled over singer's fortune in TV competition

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Shada Hassoon, a pretty and talented 26-year-old singer, is doing for Iraq what weary politicians in that strife-torn country have tried but failed to do: Unite the fractious nation.

Hassoon is a contestant representing Iraq on LBC's Star Academy, a televised entertainment competition from Lebanon akin to the United States' American Idol.

She has advanced all the way to the finals -- one of four contestants left. (Posted 12:20 p.m.)

Iran disputes U.S. assertion on Persian Gulf exercises

TEHRAN (CNN) -- An Iranian admiral said Wednesday that the U.S. assertion that its military forces are conducting maneuvers in the Persian Gulf is false.

"Our naval forces are on full alert in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman," said Adm. Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' 1st Naval Sector, in a fax to CNN. "They are closely monitoring all the movements of foreign ships.

"Based on their observations, U.S. forces have not conducted any military maneuvers in recent days. The statement of the commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, which said U.S. forces had conducted the biggest U.S. military maneuvers in the last four years in the Persian Gulf with the participation of 100 fighter planes, is false."

Tangsiri said the report was part of a U.S. psychological war against Iran. -- From CNN's Shirzad Borzorgmehr (Posted 11:58 a.m.)

Fire at chemical warehouse forces up to 600 people to evacuate

HUMBOLDT, Tenn. (CNN) -- A fire at a chemical warehouse in this western Tennessee city Wednesday prompted officials to order as many as 600 people to evacuate their homes and businesses, a fire official said.

Charlie Carter of the Humboldt Fire Department told CNN the first call about the fire at the Helena Chemical Company warehouse came in about 6 a.m. CT (7 a.m. ET).

When firefighters arrived, the entire facility was erupting in flames, Carter said. The company said no one was in the building at the time. -- CNN's Deanna Proeller contributed to this report (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

At least 45 shot dead in apparent Tal Afar reprisal shootings, day after truck bombs killed 70 in Shiite districts

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar on Wednesday shot dead at least 45 people in a Sunni neighborhood -- attacks thought by police to be reprisals for deadly truck bombings the day before.

An official at Tal Afar's hospital confirmed that 45 bodies were taken to the hospital, and that all of the victims were shot in the head. They all were males, between 20 and 50 years old.

This comes a day after two truck bombs detonated at two marketplaces in northern and central Tal Afar, killing 70 people and wounding 108 others, according to an Iraqi army official in Tal Afar. The strikes took place in Shiite districts. There were about 40 houses and many cars damaged in the bombings.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist group linked to al Qaeda, in a statement posted on an Islamist web site Wednesday, claimed responsibility for the truck bombings. -- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Basim Mahdi (Updated 6:36 p.m.)

Gunmen target Hamas militant commander and family; Israeli forces target militants in Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- A senior Hamas militant commander and his family were shot and wounded while traveling in Gaza City on Wednesday, Palestinian security sources said.

Gunmen opened fire on a car carrying the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades commander, his wife and two children, the sources said.

Gaza has been the scene of intense fighting between Hamas and Fatah militant groups. -- From CNN's Michal Zippori (Posted 11:50 a.m.)

Bush stands firm on threat to veto war-spending bills with troop deadlines

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush repeated his threat Wednesday to veto any war-spending legislation which contains deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq that comes to his desk for his signature.

"If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible," he told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The White House released some of Bush's comments ahead of his talk.

Picking first on the House, which passed its measure last Friday, Bush said the bill imposes arbitrary deadlines and restrictions that would be followed "regardless of conditions on the ground." (Posted 11:28 a.m.)

Bush calls stepped-up security in Baghdad 'encouraging'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The early results of a U.S.-Iraq stepped-up security plan in Iraq are "encouraging," and more than half of the American reinforcement troops have arrived there, President Bush told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The rest of the some 21,000 U.S. troops should be there by June, he said. Gen. David Petraeus has been leading the U.S. effort for two months.(Posted 10:50 a.m.)

Zimbabwe forces raid opposition party headquarters

Zimbabwe government forces Wednesday raided the headquarters of the country's main opposition group in Harare, and detained its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai (pronounced: CHANG-err-rye), for the second time this month, British and Movement for Democratic Change officials said.

Police, however, disputed that, saying Tsvangiriai was not among those arrested and the raid was part of an operation to find those suspected of throwing petrol bombs in the capital.

The incident comes as Mugabe and other regional leaders head to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for an emergency summit, called for by the Southern Africa Development Community, "on the prevailing political and security situation in the SADC region." -- By The CNN Wire in Atlanta (Posted 4:26 p.m.)

Tony Snow's cancer is on liver, not in it

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The recurrence of cancer found in White House spokesman Tony Snow was attached to his liver, not in the organ itself, his deputy Dana Perino explained Wednesday.

Tuesday, Perino announced that Snow's cancer had returned and had spread to his liver.

But she said Wednesday that it was not inside the liver, an important distinction in medical terms.

Perino said she spoke to Snow Tuesday afternoon and he was "feeling good, feeling no pain." (Posted 10:42 a.m.)

Britain freezes all official business with Iran until Britons released

LONDON (CNN) -- As Iran indicated it would soon free a British servicemember, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett announced Wednesday that Britain would freeze all official diplomatic business with Tehran until the 15 British sailors and marines seized by Iran last week are released.

"We are now in a new phase of diplomatic activity," Beckett told members of parliament.

"We need to focus all our bilateral efforts during this phase to resolution of this issue," she added. "We will therefore be imposing a freeze on all other official bilateral business with Iran until this situation is resolved." (Posted 9:34 a.m.)

Iraqi security forces in Falluja counter insurgent attack that included suicide truck bombs with chlorine

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi security forces in Falluja Wednesday "repelled a complex attack" that included "two suicide truck bombs containing chlorine," the U.S. military said.

The attack -- which occurred in the Anbar province city's government center -- started with mortar fire and then was "followed by two truck bombs and small arms fire."

The chlorine escaped during during the attack and sickened many people who came in contact with it. (Posted 9:11 a.m.)

Children, teachers released after bizarre hostage drama in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- More than 30 preschool children and their teachers were released Wednesday after being held on a bus for several hours -- an effort by apparent hostage-taker Jun Ducat to call attention to education and housing issues in the Philippines.

After the children and teachers walked off the bus, Ducat was immediately taken into police custody. Crowds of people packed the streets, many cheering.

Ducat told authorities he would release hostages at 7 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), which is when they were released.

Ducat is the owner of the daycare center where the children attend, and has staged similar stunts in the past. (Posted 7:36 a.m.)

British Ministry of Defense: Iran wrong, Britons were in Iraqi waters

LONDON (CNN) -- The British Ministry of Defense Wednesday showed the satellite tracking of a British ship carrying 15 British sailors and marines that Iran seized last Friday saying it never strayed into Iranian waters.

British Vice Adm. Charles Style said that the global positioning system proves the boat carrying the Britons was "clearly" 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters and that they were "ambushed" by the Iranian forces.

Britain says Iran's detention of the 14 men and 1 woman who were conducting a routine inspection of a merchant vessel at the northern end of the Persian Gulf is illegal and is demanding their release.

Iran insists they were inside its territorial waters and, according to Style, provided a map with coordinates that prove the Brits were out of bound on Saturday.

However, those points provided were still within Iraqi territorial waters, Style said. (Posted 6:56 a.m.)

Pat Tillman's mother rejects latest explanation of probe of son's death

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CNN) -- The mother of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004, rejected Tuesday the latest explanation from the U.S. military about the circumstances surrounding her son's death.

"It became very obvious, early on, that they were lying to us," Mary Tillman said on ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick Show. "They were only telling one side of the story. They weren't telling the other side."

The military reported Monday that nine military officers, including four generals, will face "corrective action" for making critical mistakes in the aftermath of the Army Ranger's death.

An investigation by the Army's inspector general and Criminal Investigation Command concluded officers in Tillman's chain of command knew almost immediately after his death that he had been killed by fire from his own platoon, but that information was withheld from his family for more than a month, in violation of Army regulations. (Posted 6:55 a.m.)

Day after truck bombings in Tal Afar, least 30 shot dead in apparent reprisal killings

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar on Wednesday shot dead at least 30 people in a Sunni neighborhood -- attacks thought to be reprisals for deadly truck bombings the day before.

Two truck bombs on Tuesday detonated at two marketplaces in northern and central Tal Afar, killing 55 people and wounding 105 others. The strikes took place in Shiite districts.

The strikes drew condemnation from the coalition and the Iraqi government.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office condemned the "Takfiri terrorist groups and Saddamists" who "targeted innocent civilians" because they were unable to confront Iraqi security forces. That statement was issued Tuesday.

The U.S. military issued a statement on Wednesday "condemning the barbaric bombing" and called on "all national, provincial and local Iraqi leaders and citizens to join hands in condemning this attack."

The apparent retaliatory attacks occurred in the early morning hours, around 2 a.m. -- From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 6:54 a.m.)

Turkish diplomats may be allowed to visit British troops held in Iran

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Iran may allow Turkish diplomats to see 15 British sailors and marines who were captured last Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said, according to CNN Turk. Erdogan is attending a meeting of the Arab League in the Saudi capital.

The development came a day after British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Iran that negotiations to secure their release would "move into a different phase" if diplomacy fails.

"But at the moment, what we are trying to do is to make sure that that diplomatic initiative works," Blair said on ITV's "Good Morning TV."

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is scheduled to address the House of Commons Wednesday morning after delivering a "robust" message to her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on Tuesday, the British Foreign Office said. (Posted 5:26 a.m.)

Marine dies while fighting in Anbar province

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

The Marine was assigned to Multi National Force-West.

Since the start of the war, the U.S. military has suffered 3,244 fatalities in Iraq. (Posted 5:11 a.m.)

Chicago police move to implement new department policy after police beating videos surface

CHICAGO (CNN) -- In the wake of a dual investigation on Chicago police officers videotaped allegedly beating up citizens, the Windy City's top brass announced a new policy Tuesday that will take potentially dangerous officers off the streets sooner.

Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline said the policy stipulates officials must meet with the state attorney's office within 48 hours after an incident involving an on- or off-duty officer is reported to police.

"If the attorney says allegations are likely to lead to criminal charges the officer will be taken off the street and stripped of police powers immediately," Cline told reporters.

The superintendent's announcement follows the release of two surveillance videos that allegedly show Chicago police officers roughing up people in area bars. (Posted 4:34 a.m.)



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