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The CNN Wire: Friday, Nov. 16

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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.

U.S. diplomat to deliver message of impatience, frustration to Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte was expected to deliver a strong message of growing impatience from the United States to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Saturday, urging him to end his emergency decree and prepare for free elections, but Musharraf showed no indication he was prepared to take the American advice.

Musharraf, who issued the emergency order on Nov. 3, swore in seven hand-picked allies into a caretaker government on Friday despite an earlier pledge to include "people of a neutral band."

Negroponte is expected to warn Musharraf his base is rapidly eroding and unless he lifts the state of emergency, takes off the uniform and sets a date for elections, there will be little the United States can do to help. Negroponte will push for a specific date for elections and a commitment to lift the emergency before then, officials said. (Posted 12:27 a.m.)

Scribes and producers agree to talk again

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has agreed to resume talks with producers after the Thanksgiving holiday in an effort to differences over formulas for future residual payments which stand in the way of a new work agreement.

Statements issued by the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) Friday evening announced that formal negotiations will resume on Monday, Nov. 26. The short statements gave no indication of movement in the positions of either side.

Scriptwriters put down their pens and hit the picket lines on Nov. 5 after failing to reach agreement on a new work agreement to replace the contract that expired days earlier. The two sides have been deadlocked over the writers' share of residuals from new media distribution of shows and movies, including over the Internet and on DVD. (Posted 11:35 p.m.)

Police find two infants with dead woman in suburban Kansas City

(CNN) -- Police found two three-week old infants and the body of a dead woman Friday afternoon in an apartment in suburban Kansas City, and one of the infants later died at a hospital.

Police went to an apartment in Olathe, Kan., to check on a tenant who had not been seen in several days. Inside, officers found the body of a 36-year-old woman and the two babies, according to a statement from the Olathe Police Department.

The children were transported to a local hospital and then to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where one of the babies later died, police said.

The cause of death for the woman and the child are undetermined pending autopsies, and police are investigating the circumstances around their deaths. (Posted 10:51 p.m.)

U.S. diplomat arrives in Pakistan to urge Musharraf to lift emergency

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A top U.S. diplomat was expected to deliver a strong message from the United States to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Saturday, urging him to end his emergency decree and prepare for free elections, but Musharraf showed no indication he was prepared to take the American advice.

Musharraf, who issued the emergency order on Nov. 3, swore in seven hand-picked allies into a caretaker government on Friday despite an earlier pledge to include "people of a neutral band."

Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who spoke by phone with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte after his arrival in Pakistan on Friday, reiterated her call for Musharraf to step down as president, pledging to "mount public pressure" against him.

State Department spokesman Scott McCormack said that Negroponte discussed with Bhutto "the importance of moderate forces working together in Pakistan for a better future for Pakistan, and also to get Pakistan back on the pathway to constitutional and democratic rule."

Bhutto, speaking to PBS' "New Hour with Jim Lehrer" prior to her conversation with Negroponte, said that a request from the American diplomat to "get back on track with Musharraf" would not be granted. (Posted 9:52 p.m.)

Officials say threat to New York schools and malls not credible

From CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve and Senior Producer Kevin Bohn

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A threat sent to a U.S. government computer in mid-November against Jewish schools and shopping malls in New York has been deemed not credible, counter-terrorism officials said Friday.

A homeland security official said the government's analysis is that this is likely a person who made the threat "for the purposes of creating additional hysteria." Officials believe the threat was likely made to play off media reports of an unsubstantiated threat earlier this month against malls in two other cities.

The homeland security official told CNN the uncorroborated threat involved fragmentary information regarding an individual reportedly residing in France allegedly teaching young Muslims how to target the malls and Jewish schools.

The threat was deemed not credible after an analysis traced the author to Argentina and follow up investigation found nothing to substantiate the threat, the homeland security official and a law enforcement official said. Both officials declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the information. (Posted 7:50 p.m.)

Senate subcommittee issues subpoena for Utah mine owner

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Senate subcommittee investigating a Utah mine disaster last summer in which a total of nine people died, three during a rescue attempt, has subpoenaed the mine's co-owner, ranking member Sen. Arlen Specter said Friday.

The subpoena for Bob Murray, CEO and president of Murray Energy Group, to appear before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services was issued Friday, Specter, R-Pa., said in a written statement.

Murray Energy operates the Crandall Canyon mine, where six miners were entombed in an Aug. 6 collapse. Underground efforts to reach them were suspended 10 days later, when two rescuers and a federal mining official died and six others were injured in second collapse as they attempted to tunnel toward the area where the miners were working.

"Despite indications to the contrary," Murray failed to appear at a Sept. 5 subcommittee hearing on the incident, Specter said. At the time, Specter and committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, "stressed the importance of Murray's testimony to preventing future mine disasters and indicated they would subpoena the mine owner if necessary." (Posted 6:25 p.m.)

Reid blocks Bush recess appointments by keeping Senate in session

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As senators prepared to leave town Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid launched a pre-emptive strike against any move by President Bush to use his constitutional power to make appointments while lawmakers are in recess.

Reid said he would schedule "pro forma" sessions during the Thanksgiving break, which will technically keep the Senate in session even though lawmakers will be absent and no business will be conducted.

The move will prevent Bush from sidestepping the Senate's confirmation process and filling vacant positions with appointees who would be able to serve out the rest of his term. "My hope is that this will prompt the president to see that it is in our mutual interests for the nominations process to get back on track," Reid said in a written statement.

Reid said he had been informed by the Bush administration that several recess appointments would be made during the coming Thanksgiving break. At the same time, according to Reid, the White House has been unwilling to confirm nominations Democratic leaders have made to agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (Posted 5:52 p.m.)

Saudi rape victim sentenced to 6 months in jail, 200 lashes

(CNN) -- A Saudi court has increased the punishment it initially ordered for a gang-rape victim and her rapists after her lawyer successfully won an appeal of the original sentence for the rapists, the victim's lawyer told CNN Friday.

The 19-year-old victim was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for meeting with an unrelated male, a former friend from whom she was retrieving photographs. The seven rapists, who abducted the pair and raped both, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in jail.

The victim's attorney, Abdulrahman al-Lahim, contested that ruling "because there is a fatwa that considers these type of crimes as Hiraba (sinful violent crime) and the punishment should be the death sentence."

"After a year, the preliminary court changed the punishment and made it two to nine years for the defendants," al-Lahim said of the new decision handed down Wednesday. "However, we were shocked that they also changed the victim's sentence to be six months in prison and 200 lashes."

Arab News, an English-language Middle Eastern daily newspaper, quoted a source at the court saying the judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media." (Posted 5:04 p.m.)

Final U.N. global warming report due Saturday

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The far-reaching Kyoto Protocol, reached in 1997 with the aim of to reducing global carbon emissions, is nothing compared to what could be coming next as the world's governments confront the ecological damage from global warming and debate what needs to be done to fix it.

The fourth and final UN report on climate change, due Saturday, is expected to emphasize that the warming of the planet is "unequivocal" and that humans are the main cause. That report will act as a blueprint for the next crucial round of climate talks starting next month in Bali, Indonesia.

The Bali talks will set the groundwork for the successor to the Kyoto treaty, which expires in 2012. They will also guide global climate policy for at least the next decade, and dictate the types of long-term investment decisions made by big industries and utilities.

Scientists say up to an 85 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions is needed to head off potential catastrophic changes that could lead to more floods and famine. How to best achieve those cuts is where the fight begins. --By CNNMoney's Steve Hargreaves (Posted 4:11 p.m.)

Dubai orders Pakistani television networks to shut down

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- On the request of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, authorities in Dubai have ordered two Pakistani television networks that transmit from the emirate off the air, officials from the networks told CNN.

GEO-TV and ARY Digital network both offer a variety of programming, including news, entertainment, sports and music.

Both networks had been banned from Pakistan's cable television system, along with other networks, including CNN and BBC, since Musharraf's Nov. 3 emergency order, but this latest action prevents the two Pakistani networks from broadcasting worldwide via satellite.

"This was basically our window to the world, GEO President Imran Aslan told CNN. "In Pakistan, we've been shut down since the third." (Posted 3:55 p.m.)

Biologists: Drought plan won't jeopardize endangered species

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Federal biologists said Friday they had signed off on a plan aimed at providing relief to the drought-parched Southeast, under which more water will be retained in Georgia instead of being released into Florida.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expedited its study of an interim drought plan submitted two weeks ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and concluded freshwater mussels and sturgeon -- kept alive by water from Georgia's Chattahoochee watershed under federal law -- will not be placed in jeopardy under the plan.

However, there will be some effects, and some members of the species likely will die, Sam Hamilton, Southeast regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters.

Under the plan, the amount of water released from the Jim Woodruff Dam in Chattahoochee, Fla., will be gradually decreased. That process had already begun Friday, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, South Atlantic Division commander for the Corps of Engineers. A similar plan will be put into effect on the Alabama River, at a point south of Montgomery, Ala., officials said.

Cutting the outflow from Woodruff Dam will mean less water will need to be released upstream from Lake Lanier, Atlanta's main source of water. (Posted 3:31 p.m.)

IRNA: Ahmadinejad hails IAEA report on Iran as 'fairly realistic'

(CNN) -- Iran's president welcomed the International Atomic Energy Agency's assessment of his country's current nuclear program, and urged the United States and other Western countries to apologize for their policies toward Iran, the state-run news agency IRNA reported Friday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the IAEA report, released Thursday, as "fairly realistic and almost free from some super power's pressures," IRNA said.

"Since the first days, we declared Iran's nuclear activities are lawful and in the framework of its legal rights, but the Western countries' propagation networks and political pressures did not allow the Iranians' voice be heard in the world."

The report, from IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, said Iran has cooperated in several areas -- by providing access to declared nuclear material, documents and facilities. However, the report also stated that Iran is withholding in other areas, and as a result, the agency's "knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program is diminishing." Ahmadinejad did not address these findings in his statement on the report. (Posted 3:24 p.m.)

Dubai orders Pakistani television networks to shut down

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- On the request of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, authorities in Dubai have ordered two Pakistani television networks that transmit from the emirate off the air, officials from the networks told CNN.

GEO-TV and ARY Digital network both offer a variety of programming, including news, entertainment, sports and music. (Posted 2:46 p.m.)

Bangladesh media says cyclone death toll at least 1,100

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Bangladesh faced a logistical nightmare Friday in the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, and local media said the death toll in the south was at least 1,100 -- more than twice the government estimate.

In the capital, Dhaka -- about 200 miles north of the worst-hit region -- there were power outages, massive traffic jams and spotty phone service, CNN's Cal Perry said from the city.

"From an infrastructure perspective, the country absolutely has been brought to its knees," he said.

The cyclone, with sustained winds of at least 131 mph, made landfall Thursday night along the western coast of Bangladesh, near its border with India. Aid workers trying to reach the area faced debris-blocked roads, no electricity and almost nonexistent communications. (Posted 2:45 p.m.)

Congress leaves for 2-week recess with bills unpassed

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lawmakers bolted for their two-week Thanksgiving recess Friday despite not passing any of the major bills they were trying to get done before the break.

An effort to pass a temporary funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stalled on procedural votes. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate -- who want to condition the money on dates for bringing troops home -- strongly indicated they don't expect to return to the issue until early next year, although the White House and congressional Republicans -- who want the money without strings attached -- are pushing for votes in December.

The Defense Department has said it might raid other accounts and possibly lay off civilian employees to pay for the wars if it doesn't get the funding soon.

The long-sought $286 billion farm bill, which sets the nation's agriculture policies and provides for billions in subsidies to the nation's farmers, also stalled on a procedural vote Friday after senators wasted two weeks of floor time unable to agree on a set of amendments to the otherwise popular bill.

Competing proposals to stave off the costly impact of the alternative minimum tax from millions of middle-class voters this tax season is stuck in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who all agree the AMT should be abolished but who can't agree on how, or whether, to pay for it. --By CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 1:23 p.m.)

Rally outside Justice Dept. to push hate crimes prosecutions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After more than a year of highly publicized incidents involving nooses -- including one hung from the office door of an Ivy League professor, another from in basement locker room of a Long Island police station, and most notoriously, one dangling from a schoolyard tree in Louisiana -- thousands of people gathered Friday with civil rights leaders to protest what they feel is the government's inaction in prosecuting hate crimes.

"We knew that if we would stand up ... that our people would come," the Rev. Al Sharpton told the cheering crowd at Washington's Freedom Plaza. "And look behind you from all the way to the end of this plaza, from all over this country, we're here."

Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and members of Sharpton's National Action Network have planned a midday Friday "March on Hate Crimes," which will take the group from Freedom Plaza to the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, where newly sworn-in Attorney General Michael Mukasey was working.

Once the group has completed the five-block walk, the demonstrators will then march around the building seven times, in an apparent reference to the Biblical story of the fall of Jericho. (Posted 12:51 p.m.)

NATO probes fatal shooting by its troops in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- NATO says it is investigating the shooting of two men in a taxi by its troops in southern Afghanistan, an incident that resulted in one death.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Friday that the incident occurred in Kandahar on Thursday. One man in the taxi was injured and the other died.

"The taxi had approached an ISAF patrol convoy, and had ignored visual signs to stop. Warning shots were fired and the ISAF troops then carried on with their patrol. The occupants of the taxi were subsequently treated at a hospital where one later died of gunshot wounds," ISAF said.

Such confrontations -- which have occurred at checkpoints in the past -- have raised the ire of Afghans. (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

War funding bills blocked in Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate on Friday blocked two funding bills for the Iraq war, bringing to an end on procedural grounds both a Republican proposal and a Democratic proposal.

The GOP plan would have provided $70 billion in supplemental funding to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- mostly Iraq -- with no restrictions. The procedural vote was 45-53, 15 votes under the number needed to advance the bill to a vote.

The Democratic plan would have provided $50 billion in supplemental funding for the wars, with the condition that troops start being pulled from Iraq within 30 days.

That procedural vote came in at 53-45, seven votes shy of advancing to a vote on the bill. (Posted 11:23 a.m.)

Allegations against home-run king rattle sports world

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Controversy surrounding baseball home-run king Barry Bonds' indictment on charges he lied about his use of steroids to a grand jury investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports reached fever pitch Friday, with headlines calling Bonds a liar as his attorneys said they were pleased the public would get "the whole truth."

On Thursday, the seven-time National League MVP was charged in a federal indictment with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. The charges stem from Bonds' December 2003 appearance before the grand jury, in which he repeatedly denied knowingly taking banned substances.

The grand jury was investigating the distribution of steroids by Balco, a San Francisco-area laboratory. Bonds is set to appear Dec. 7 in federal court. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to five years in prison for the perjury charges, and up to 10 years in prison for obstruction of justice.

Citing a source familiar with the case, the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday reported that Balco founder Victor Conte arranged for repeated private steroid tests for Bonds to track the effects of his regimen. Those test reports were seized when authorities raided Balco in September 2003, the source told the newspaper. Also seized in the raid were doping calendars allegedly showing Bonds' regimen and payment records for drug purchases, the Chronicle said. (Posted 11:01 a.m.)

War funding bills blocked in Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate on Friday blocked two funding bills for the Iraq war, bringing to an end on procedural grounds both a Republican proposal and a Democratic proposal. (Posted 10:38 a.m.)

Deadly tropical cyclone that ravaged Bangladesh dissipating

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) -- A tropical cyclone that killed at least 500 people in coastal Bangladesh had weakened significantly by the time it reached eastern India Friday night -- but the hard-hit areas could flood again late in the weekend, a forecaster said.

Cyclone Sidr, with sustained winds of at least 131 mph, made landfall Thursday night along the western coast of Bangladesh, near its border with India.

"It's now a rainmaker, snowmaker," as it moves to higher elevations, and winds have dropped to 35 mph to 50 mph -- below hurricane strength -- according to CNN meteorologist Kevin Corriveau. The storm is moving northeast, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

But Bangladesh isn't entirely safe, Corriveau added. It's possible, he said, that rainfall from mountains will swell rivers, and by Sunday night or Monday the surge could reach locations in Bangladesh that are already flooded. (Posted 10:37 a.m.)

Troops launch assault against al Qaeda in Iraq militants south of Baghdad; 2 killed, 12 detained in other raids

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Troops launched an early Friday morning raid targeting al Qaeda in Iraq militants who are thought to have links to a May ambush of American soldiers, the U.S. military said.

Lt. Col. Randy Martin, Multi-National Division Center spokesman, confirmed U.S. helicopters delivered around 600 soldiers into two villages south of Baghdad -- Owesap and Betra -- to take on militants.

He said the military believes al Qaeda in Iraq has been staging attacks from the area and has links to the May 12 ambush near Mahmoudiya, which is south of Baghdad.

Four American troops and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in that attack, and three soldiers were kidnapped. The body of one was found later and two other soldiers are still missing. (Posted 10:10 a.m.)

Doomsday cult members staying put for the apocalypse

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Members of a doomsday cult are refusing leave their hideout in a cave in southern Russia in spite of the intervention of their leader, a government official said Friday, adding pressure to a stand-off with the authorities that one side believes will only end with the apocalypse.

The cult members - including four children - holed up in a ravine in Russia's Penza region, around 400 miles southeast of Moscow, have threatened mass suicide if the authorities try to intervene, the official said.

The 29 members of the cult, which calls itself the "True Russian Orthodox Church", claim they will ignite gasoline canisters if authorities try to force them out, regional administration spokesman Yevgeny Guseynov told CNN.

The cult excavated the cave system themselves after their leader, Father Pyotr Kuznetsov, told his followers to hide themselves away to await the end of the world, which he predicted will take place next May, according to Russian media reports.

With efforts to persuade the cult members to leave the cave so far proving futile, authorities have enlisted the 43-year-old leader to try to get them out. (Posted 9:16 p.m.)

Gates to OK plans for warships to help in cyclone relief

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected Friday to approve plans to send up to three Marine Corps amphibious warships with up to 3,500 Marines to locations off the coast of Bangladesh to assist in cyclone relief efforts.

Two U.S. military officials have confirmed details of the plan to CNN but would not let their names be used because there is no formal approval yet.

The government of Bangladesh has not formally requested aid from the United States. But commanders want to move the ships closer to the scene so they are ready and in place if that request is made.

It may take several days to move the Marines into place. (Posted 8:28 a.m.)

Rally outside Justice Dept. to push hate crimes prosecutions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a year that has seen numerous incidents of nooses hung at various sites around the country, civil rights leaders plan a rally Friday with a message to the Bush administration: it's time to intervene.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and members of Jackson's National Action Network plan a "March on Hate Crimes" from Freedom Plaza to the Justice Department.

"We either need stronger laws or we need a more aggressive commitment from the Department of Justice," said Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. He and the others complain that the department charged only 22 people with hate crimes last year, compared with 76 people 10 years ago.

Justice officials say there are several hate crimes investigations under way, including probes into noose hangings at Columbia University and in Alexandria, La. (Posted 8:19 a.m.)

British military notes 'dramatic' drop in Basra attacks after Brits redeploy

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- British military authorities in Iraq are reporting a "dramatic" drop in violence in Basra and the province of the same name since British troops redeployed to the outskirts of the key southeastern city a couple of months ago.

Lt. Col. Derek Plews, spokesman for Maj. Gen. Graham Binns, repeated Binns' comments to reporters Thursday in Baghdad that "overall violence in Basra province has fallen by 90 percent" since British forces withdrew from the center of the province's Basra city, to an airport base outside the city in early September.

"Most of the violence was being perpetuated against British forces. Once we repositioned to the contingency operating base at the airport, we were no longer a target, so the level of overall violence dropped by 90 percent," Plews told CNN on Friday. (Posted 8:10 a.m.)

U.S. deputy secretary arrives in Islamabad for talks with Musharraf

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte arrived in the Pakistani capital Friday for scheduled meeting with Pakistan's embattled president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the U.S. Embassy told CNN.

Negroponte is expected to meet Musharraf and other Pakistani officials over the weekend to convey how seriously the United States views his imposition of emergency rule and will suggest he rescind it, Senior State Department officials told CNN.

The developments come shortly after Musharraf swore seven of his hand-picked allies into a caretaker government despite a pledge to include "people of a neutral band." (Posted 7:37 a.m.)

Musharraf's hand-picked caretaker government sworn in

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swore seven of his hand-picked allies into a caretaker government on Friday, despite a pledge to include "people of a neutral band."

"An old cabinet is gone and a new cabinet -- a caretaker government -- has been sworn in," Musharraf said of the body that will oversee the parliamentary process until national elections can be held no later than Jan. 9.

Hours after the military leader ushered in the new leaders, Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto rejected the caretaker government Friday, deeming it "not acceptable."

Speaking shortly after being freed from house arrest, Bhutto, in an interview with SKY news, said Musharraf has shown he is an "obstacle to democracy." (Posted 6:37 a.m.)

Tropical cyclone slams into Bangladesh, kills 500

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Local government officials said Friday at least 500 people were killed after a powerful tropical cyclone packing winds of at least 131 mph slammed into the southern coastal region of Bangladesh late Thursday.

Local government officials across the region told CNN the death toll was expected to rise.

Hours earlier Nabiha Chowdhury with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the number was at 169 but said more reports were due to be issued.

Cyclone Sidr's powerful winds and lashing rains uprooted trees, leveled homes and even damaged buildings where residents sought shelter from the storm. Video from the height of the storm showed high, rolling waves along the coastal areas and winds blowing so hard palm trees. (Posted 6:15 a.m.)

Bhutto rejects new Pakistani caretaker government

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto rejected President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's new interim government Friday, deeming it "not acceptable" hours after the military leader swore in seven of his hand-picked allies.

Speaking shortly after being freed from house arrest, Bhutto, in an interview with SKY news, said Musharraf has shown he is an "obstacle to democracy."

In a press conference outside her home in Lahore, Bhutto said "the West's interests lie in a democratic Pakistan" and "in supporting the Pakistan's people."

"Please don't be deceived because I've seen the game played. PPP is the only national party with a popular base," Bhutto said, referring to her own Pakistan People's Party. (Posted 6:13 a.m.)

2 children killed in Thursday Kirkuk attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military said two children were among six people killed in a deadly suicide bombing targeting security forces in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday.

A school was damaged in the attack, which apparently targeted the Emergency Services Unit of the Kirkuk Police Department, the military said in a statement on Friday.

Two children under 12, a teacher, two police officers and another Iraqi citizen were killed in the attack, which also wounded 11 children under age 12, eight police and 11 other citizens, the military said.

The six-person death toll jibes with an initial police report on Thursday about the incident, reported by CNN. Brig. Gen. Khattab Omar, commander of the unit, was wounded in the blast. (Posted 6:01 a.m.)

House passes bill in response to subprime mortgage crisis

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Both houses of Congress are moving forward with legislation to address the subprime mortgage crisis. Thursday, the House passed a bill 291-127 that would put new regulations on lenders, reform the Federal Housing Authority and offer counseling to people at risk of losing their homes.

As many as 2 million Americans could lose their homes to foreclosure in the next two to three years, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

Backers of the bill say the mortgage crisis is a result of under-regulation and a secondary mortgage market making loans available to people who couldn't afford them. But opponents counter that more government regulation of the lending industry would make the problem worse.

At the same time, Senate Democrats are moving forward with their own bill that would make similar changes to the mortgage industry. (Posted 1:50 a.m.)

Tropical cyclone slams into Bangladesh, kills more than 150

(CNN) -- Local government officials said Friday at least 169 people were killed after a powerful tropical cyclone packing winds of at least 131 mph slammed into the southern coastal region of Bangladesh late Thursday.

"The death toll is 169 and there will be further reports ... we don't know if it's going to increase, we're still getting reports continuously," Nabiha Chowdhury with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told CNN on Friday, citing local government officials across the region.

Cyclone Sidr's powerful winds and lashing rains uprooted trees, leveled homes and even damaged buildings where residents sought shelter from the storm. Video from the height of the storm showed high, rolling waves along the coastal areas and winds blowing so hard palm trees. (Posted 1:20 a.m.)

Strong earthquake shakes border of Ecuador, Peru

(CNN) -- A strong earthquake rattled the remote Ecuador-Peru border region late Thursday, the U.S. Geologicial Survey said.

The 6.7 magnitude quake hit around 10:13 p.m. was centered about 150 miles (245 km) south-southeast Quito, Ecuador, near the town of Macas, Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Geological Institute seismologist Alexandra Alvarado in Quito said she did not expect any damage, because the temblor was so deep. The epicenter of the quake was about 75 miles (120 km) underground.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. (Posted 12:40 a.m.)

Clinton punches back against criticism from rivals at CNN debate

LAS VEGAS (CNN) -- Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton elbowed back at criticism from some of her presidential rivals Thursday night, decrying what she termed mud-slinging and defending her record against the charge she avoids taking firm positions on controversial issues.

"I am aware that some people say that, but I think that the American people know where I've stood for 35 years," Clinton said during a CNN-sponsored debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "This is going to be one of the most important elections we've ever had in our country's history, and it is important that we have a candidate who is tested as a president who is ready to lead from day one."

The New York senator, running far ahead in the national polls, has come under sharper attack in recent weeks from her opponents, a fact she acknowledged at the beginning of Thursday's debate by saying she had worn an "asbestos" pantsuit.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, running second to Clinton in the polls, went on the offensive near the beginning of the debate, saying that "what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues." (Posted 10:40 p.m.) E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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