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Tuesday, April 24

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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.

Six dead, 81 hurt as storm slams Texas border community

(CNN) -- At least six people were killed and 81 injured when a severe storm damaged homes near the southwest Texas border town Eagle Pass Tuesday evening, according to a Maverick County official.

"We have a feeling there's going to be more bodies found," said Maverick County Judge Jose Aranda. He described the damage as "very devastating."

Video shot early Wednesday showed police officers searching through a medical clinic and an elementary school that suffered major damage.

National Guard troops were called out to help sort through what the Maverick County Sheriff's Department chief dispatcher called the "havoc" left behind as intense winds, quarter-size hail, flash flooding and at least one tornado swept through this community near the Mexico border.

Emergency shelters housed at least 300 residents, he said.

The six deaths were in several locations spread out in a well-populated area south of Eagle Pass, not far from a popular casino, according to the dispatcher.

While straight-line winds may have been the cause of the deaths, at least one tornadic funnel cloud was spotted, the dispatcher said. (Posted 3:05 a.m.)

Roadside bomb kills 1, hurts 3 in northern Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A roadside bomb explosion near a northern Baghdad fuel station killed an Iraqi woman and wounded three other people Wednesday morning, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.

The blast happened at a 7:45 a.m. in the Sha'ab section of the Iraqi capital, the official said. (Posted 2:25 a.m.)

Police so far find no connection between Cho, victims

BLACKSBURG, Va. (CNN) -- Police investigating last week's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech have so far been unable to find any evidence of a link between shooter Seung-Hui Cho and any of his 32 victims, including Emily Hilscher, who was the first to be fatally shot, a state police spokeswoman told CNN Tuesday.

Investigators have been examining computer, cell phone and e-mail records of both Cho and Hilscher, trying to determine if there was any link, but they have found nothing so far, police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said.

In 2005, two women at Virginia Tech had complained that Cho had harassed them, although they did not press charges.

Since the shootings, police have been looking at a possible connection to Hilscher, 19, who was shot in a dormitory about two hours before Cho gunned down 45 people in an engineering building, killing 30 of them, then turned the gun on himself.

Police have also not been able to find any connection between Cho and two bomb threats on the Virginia Tech campus in the days before the massacre, Geller said.

Virginia State Police have scheduled a news conference for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, where they are expected to reveal more information about the timeline of events before the shootings. (Posted 11 p.m.)

House Speaker won't attend Iraq general's briefing, spoke with him by phone instead

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not plan to attend Gen. David Petraeus' briefing for lawmakers Wednesday and instead had a one-on-one phone briefing with the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq Tuesday night, according to an aide.

Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami told CNN the speaker realized "first thing this morning" she had a scheduling conflict and could not attend the all-House members briefing Wednesday, so her office tried to set up a special, face-to-face meeting with the general.

Petraeus was unable to meet in person, so the two talked by phone for about 30 minutes on Tuesday.

Elshami insisted it was not meant as a slight, and that it turned out to be even more beneficial for Pelosi to have the chance to hear from Petraeus and ask questions independently.

-- From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash (Posted 9:46 p.m.)

Second GITMO detainee charged, heading for military trial

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A 20-year-old Canadian held by the United States at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a suspected terrorist has been charged by the U.S. military with murder and other crimes, allowing his case to go before the war crimes tribunal, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

Omar Ahmed Khadr, captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he was 15, was formally charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying, according to an announcement released by the Pentagon.

The charge of murder stems from a gunfight as he was captured when U.S. troops said he killed a U.S. soldier by throwing a grenade.

-- From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 9:08 p.m.)

Kucinich introduces Cheney impeachment resolution

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ohio congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich introduced an impeachment resolution Tuesday targeting Vice President Dick Cheney, accusing him of manipulating the intelligence underpinning the invasion of Iraq.

Kucinich said the 4-year-old war was sold on "false pretenses" and accused Cheney of pushing the Bush administration toward a new war with Iran.

Cheney was on Capitol Hill for meetings with Republican lawmakers Tuesday, but left without taking questions from reporters. Democratic leaders have said they have no interest in pursuing impeachment, despite widespread criticism of the administration's handling of the buildup to war. (Posted 6:45 p.m.)

FDA to begin testing human food supply for melamine

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration says it will, for the first time, test ingredients imported for use in the human food supply in connection with the nationwide pet food recall that has killed, by some estimates, thousands of pets.

In addition, the FDA on Tuesday announced plans to expand testing of the animal food supply after hogs on farms in three states were quarantined after testing positive for the substance at the center of the recall, the toxic agent melamine.

A poultry farm in Missouri is also being investigated, federal officials said.

Wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, rice bran and rice protein are among the imported products being tested in both the animal and human food supply. --From CNN's Richard Davis (Posted 5:58 p.m.)

Obscure federal agency to probe Rove's political operation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A tiny, obscure federal agency charged with safeguarding federal employees from political coercion has launched a wide-ranging investigation into the activities of the White House's political operation and its architect, Karl Rove.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is looking into whether Rove or other White House aides violated federal law by making political presentations to government employees in the run-up to the midterm elections last year. The agency is also probing use of Republican Party e-mail accounts by administration officials and the controversial firing of a U.S. attorney in New Mexico, which is now at the center of a congressional investigation.

"We will do a thorough job. We will not leave any stone unturned," said Scott Bloch, a Kansas lawyer appointed by President Bush to head the agency in 2003. "We will be fair, we will be impartial, and we will be thorough." --From CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry (Posted 5:53 p.m.)

Va. governor seeks to close gun purchase loophole with executive order

ANNANDALE, Va. (CNN) -- Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said Tuesday that he may be able to close a loophole that allowed Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho to buy the guns used in the shootings even though he had been found by mental health professionals to be a danger to himself.

The governor told CNN that he has asked the state attorney general to review the impact of an executive order to close the loophole.

A state court ordered Cho to receive psychiatric counseling after declaring him a danger to himself in 2005. But, since he was never committed to a hospital, the order was never entered into the background check database.

Kaine said an executive order may allow him to close that loophole, and added that he hopes that might lead other states to follow his steps. (Posted 5:30 p.m.)

Former House committee staffer pleads guilty in Abramoff probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former staffer for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with the probe into the activities of longtime Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Mark D. Zachares, 48, entered his plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud in U.S. District Court, the department said in a written statement. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"As part of a plea agreement, Zachares has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the activities of former Washington, D.C., lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others," the department said. (Posted 4:48 p.m.)

Democrats in Senate ponder confidence vote on Gonzales

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday they are considering holding a vote to measure the level of confidence in embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales but are weighing whether it's necessary because, in the words of Democratic Whip Richard Durbin, "I think people know where it is."

"The only person who watched Attorney General Gonzales' testimony on Thursday and was impressed was the president," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. about Gonzales explanation to the Senate Judiciary Committee about why a group of U.S. attorneys were fired last year. "Democrats, Republicans, and the public at large said this is a man who says, 'I don't know' 50 times, is not in charge of his department."

But Republican Whip Trent Lott warned Republicans not to go through with the vote.

"We don't want to go down the road of having non-binding no-confidence resolutions," he said. "That sword can cut both ways." He suggested Republican could orchestrate a no-confidence vote in Majority Leader Harry Reid because of his comment that the Iraq war is "lost."

"We won't let that stand without an appropriate answer," Lott warned. --From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 4:16 p.m.)

Food safety system under fire at congressional hearing

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) -- A pet food maker's CEO and the father of a girl who may need a kidney transplant after being sickened by tainted spinach were just two of those who came to Washington Tuesday to call for much tougher oversight of the nation's food supply.

The witnesses, appearing before a House subcommittee investigating food safety, presented harsh testimony about the Food and Drug Administration, an agency described as hamstrung by insufficient staffing and funding, and hampered by an inability to force companies that distribute bad food to get it off store shelves.

Government food supervision labors under a system so scattered and inconsistent that cheese pizzas fall under the FDA's jurisdiction while pepperoni pizzas are under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lisa Shames, an official at the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said at the hearing. --From CNNMoney.com's Jeff Cox (Posted 3:46 p.m.)

Witness to Tillman death says he was told not to reveal it was fratricide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A soldier who was with Pat Tillman when he was mistakenly killed by his own comrades said Tuesday that his commander ordered him not to tell Tillman's brother, Kevin, a fellow Army Ranger, how the football star had died.

"I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what happened, especially Kevin," U.S. Army Specialist Bryan O'Neal told a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform looking into why the circumstances of Tillman's death were not made public more quickly. "I was quite appalled that, when I was actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell him what happened" by the battalion commander, then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey.

Asked whether he asked Bailey why, O'Neal said, "He just basically said, sir, that do not let Kevin know. He's probably in a bad place knowing his brother's dead. He made it known that I would get in trouble, sir," if he disobeyed orders.

Kevin Tillman was in a convoy of vehicles that was traveling behind his brother at the time of the friendly fire incident, but had not seen it. (Posted 2:22 p.m.)

Iraqi politicians say government is failing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi politicians -- frustrated by the never-ending violence across Iraq and the bloody sectarian rivalries that feed it -- along with the glacial pace of parliamentary lawmaking -- say Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his nearly one-year-old government are failing.

After months of dissatisfaction, the scorn on the street over the government's ineffectiveness has emerged front and center in the halls of the country's Council of Representatives -- Iraq's parliament.

Those interviewed by CNN said the government's impotence and its failure to implant peace in the chaotic environment is basically structural, not the product of al-Maliki himself.

Mahmoud Othman was quoted in USA Today as describing al-Maliki as weak, but when asked by CNN, he said, "It's not Maliki, it's the whole government." That government, he said, is failing on many fronts, such as providing security, fostering reconciliation, and offering public services.

Along with al-Maliki, he said, "political forces," and their leaders also must be held accountable. (Posted 2:14 p.m.)

At least 15 killed in Ramadi truck bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 15 people were killed and 25 were wounded on Tuesday in a suicide truck bombing north of Ramadi, police in the Anbar provincial capital said.

The bomber struck a police patrol in a town north of Ramadi about 5:45 p.m.

At least nine civilians and four police officers were killed, and 25 people were wounded, including women and children, police said. --From CNN's Jomana Karadsheh (Posted noon)

Bush expresses disappointment in Dems; vows to veto war spending bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said he is "disappointed" in the Democratic leadership for refusing to drop a provision in an emergency war spending bill that calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, despite his promise to veto the measure.

"Yesterday Democratic leaders announced that they plan to send me a bill that will fund our troops only if we agree to handcuff our generals, add billions of dollars in unrelated spending and begin to pull out of Iraq by an arbitrary date," Bush said.

"I'm disappointed that the Democratic leadership has chosen this course."

The Senate and the House of Representatives had attached different timelines for withdrawing American combat troops. But congressional negotiators agreed Monday to back the Senate version, which sets a March 2008 goal for the pullout, in a compromise bill they hope will go to the White House. (Posted 11:58 a.m.)

Source: World Bank directors refuse to hear Wolfowitz's explanation

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The World Bank's executive directors have rejected a request by their embattled president, Paul Wolfowitz, to explain his role in a deal that sent his girlfriend to a new job at the State Department with a hefty pay raise, a source close to the probe told CNN Tuesday.

Asked about the report, Wolfowitz's attorney, Robert Bennet, told CNN's Zain Verjee, "I am very disappointed that there is a rush to judgment. This will be harmful to Mr. Wolfowitz and to the image of the bank."

Last week, the 24 directors asked a review panel "to consider immediately the arrangements" made to send Shaha Riza to the State Department, including whether there were any violations of staff rules, the bank's code of conduct or Wolfowitz's employment contract. Riza was a bank staffer.

Bennett, who has represented such notables as President Clinton in the Paula Jones case, said he is asking the bank to defer a decision this week on his client, saying Wolfowitz must be given a chance to provide documentary support for his case. (Posted 11:16 a.m.)

U.S. commander in Afghanistan reports steady progress against Taliban

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan said Tuesday he doesn't believe insurgents have begun their expected spring offensive, and credits closer cooperation between soldiers and Afghan citizens as one deterrent.

"I hope this is their spring offensive, because it's not very effective," Army Col. Mark Schweitzer told Washington reporters via teleconference from the Forward Operating Base in Khowst.

Schweitzer commands the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, which is carrying out Task Force Fury in five provinces -- Paktika, Paktia, Khowst, Ghazni and Logar. (Posted 10:44 a.m.)

Sales of existing U.S. homes show worst drop in 18 years

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Existing home sales in the United States posted their sharpest drop in 18 years in March, a real estate group said Tuesday, as the latest reading on the troubled housing sector came in much weaker than economists had forecast.

Sales slowed to an annual pace of 6.12 million homes in March, according to the National Association of Realtors, down 8.4 percent from the 6.68 million rate in February. It was the biggest one-month drop since January 1989.

The group reported sharp drops in every region of the country that brought the annual pace of sales to the weakest level since June 2003, before the record home sales and building boom that started that year.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast sales would fall to an annual rate of 6.45 million in March

The median home price slipped 0.3 percent to $217,000 from a year earlier. That marked the eighth straight month that key price comparison has shown a decline. (Posted 10:33 a.m.)

Cheney has leg checked out

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney had his leg checked out by his doctor at George Washington University Medical Center on Tuesday morning, his office told CNN.

The appointment was put on the schedule early in the day, spokeswoman Megan McGinn said. She would not elaborate any further.

Cheney was seen returning to the White House around 10:15 a.m.

He first complained of discomfort in his leg after an overseas flight in early March. Doctors performed an ultrasound at that time and found a deep venous thrombosis, or DVT, in his lower left leg, she said. He was put on blood-thinning medication and returned to work soon after. (Posted 10:24 a.m.)

Attacks in Baghdad, Hilla kill 8 people

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Attackers in Baghdad on Tuesday killed six people, and a parked car bomb killed two people late Monday in the Babil provincial capital of Hilla, police said.

A bomb detonated on board a minibus on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, killing four passengers and wounding eight. Two of the wounded passengers were in a nearby car.

One person was killed and three were injured in a mortar attack in the capital's Bag al-Mudham district around 8 a.m. Two hours later, a pair of car bombs exploded in a parking lot across the street from the Iranian embassy, making them the third and fourth such bombs to detonate near the embassy since Monday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

An official with Baghdad police told CNN that a bomb was detonated inside a student's locker in the Dental College of Baghdad University, killing a student and wounding two. One of those injured was the son of the electricity minister.

Police said a car bomb in Hilla exploded near a restaurant around 9:30 p.m. Monday. Police said the two people killed were civilians and seven other people were wounded. Babil province borders Baghdad on the south. (Posted 8:45 p.m.)

Hamas attack ends relative calm on Israel/Gaza border for kidnap attempt

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- For the first time in five months, the armed wing of Hamas has fired mortars and rockets into Israel from Gaza, breaking an unofficial truce and a period of relative calm along the border.

Hamas' militant wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Web site. The group's spokesman, Abu Obeida, promised "a cruel and painful response to any aggression in the Strip (Gaza)."

Obeida added: "We want to remind Zionist forces that we still hold Gilad Shalit and we are still prepared to kidnap others."

Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped from an Israeli border post near Gaza June 25. Israeli defense sources told CNN they believed Tuesday's attack may have been part of a larger operation to abduct another soldier. But the Israel Defense Forces made no mention of an attempted kidnapping in its official statement, saying, "The Hamas terrorist organization attempted to execute yet another terrorist attack by means of a large-scale operation." --From CNN's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Kevin Flower (Posted 8:41 a.m.)

Insurgent umbrella group claims responsibility for 9 soldiers killed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The Islamic State of Iraq, the insurgent umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, said it is responsible for the suicide car bomb attack Monday that killed nine American paratroopers in Diyala province.

The claim, posted on an Islamist Web site, is the latest from the group, which claimed responsibility for the recent suicide attack at Iraq's parliament complex in the Green Zone and the executions of 20 Iraqi security officers "northeast" of Baghdad, which is, in essence, Diyala province.

The strike reflects urgent concerns among the U.S. military about the rise in deadly car bombings this year and the ability of insurgents to breach tight U.S. and/or Iraqi security. (Posted 7:55 a.m.)

Protests continue across Pakistan over judicial hearing

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- More than 10,000 pro-government demonstrators and opposition protesters squared off Tuesday outside Pakistan's Supreme Court, where the country's top judge is challenging his removal from the bench.

Carrying black flags and banners, lawyers and opposition workers chanted slogans against the government, demanding President Pervez Musharraf restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to his post. The protests were repeated in provincial capitals across the country.

Authorities kept government supporters from reaching the Supreme Court complex on Tuesday and have stepped up security in the capital. (Posted 6:21 a.m.)

British anti-terror raids net 6 people

LONDON (CNN) -- British anti-terror police backed by local authorities arrested six people Tuesday morning in a series of raids, a statement from Metropolitan Police said.

"The men were arrested this morning ... at five addresses in London and one in Luton," the statement said, "... in connection with inciting others to commit acts of terrorism overseas and terrorist fund raising." Luton is north of London.

Police said searches were being carried out at number of locations.

"The arrests form part of a long-term pro-active and complex investigation into alleged incitement and radicalization for the purposes of terrorism, as well as alleged provision of financial support for international terrorism," Scotland Yard said. (Posted 5:05 a.m.)

9 U.S. soldiers killed in suicide car bomb; 1 killed by roadside bomb

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide car bomb attack on a patrol base in Diyala province Monday killed nine American soldiers and wounded 20 others, the U.S. military said in a statement.

All of the casualties were members of the Army's 82nd Airborne, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

"Today represents single greatest loss of life for soldiers from Fort Bragg in more than five years of simultaneous deployment," media affairs officer Maj. Tom Earnhardt told CNN.

In a 1994 training accident, 23 base personnel died in a crash at neighboring Pope Air Force Base.

Earlier, in a separate incident, the military said that a U.S. soldier was killed in Muqtadya, northeast of Baghdad, by a roadside bomb.

Muqtadya is a city in Diyala province located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of the provincial capital of Baquba.

With the deaths, 3,331 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the Iraq war. (Posted 12:20 a.m.)


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