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Wednesday, February 22

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.

3 Al Arabiya journalists kidnapped, killed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three journalists for Al Arabiya television who had been kidnapped Wednesday during sectarian violence in Samarra were found dead Thursday near the city, an official with the Salaheddin Joint Coordination Center told CNN.

In all, four of the network's employees were abducted Wednesday evening, including reporter Atwar Bahjat.

One of the employees escaped, informing police about their kidnappings. Al Arabiya's Baghdad bureau chief confirmed the deaths. (posted 1:50 a.m.)

Thaksin son convicted in securities deals

BANGKOK (CNN) -- A Thai regulator ruled Thursday that the son of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra violated stock-reporting rules prior to the sale of family's company for $1.9 billion.

In a nationally televised news conference, Theerachai Phuvanartnaranubal, the chief of of Thailand's Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), announced that Panthongtae Shinawatra broke stock-disclosure rules and violated tender-offer rules in the purchase and transfer of Shin Corp. stock to offshore investment companies.

Thaksin's daughter, who was also charged, was found not guilty.

Thai laws call for a prison term of up to two years and a fine of up to $12,500 (500,000 baht) for the crimes, but none of 72 previous convictions resulted in a jail sentence, Theerachai said. (posted 1:50 a.m.)

Ugandans vote in first multi-party elections in quarter century

KAMPALA (CNN) -- Ugandans turned out Thursday to vote in the nation's first multi-party presidential elections in 25 years.

The biggest challenger to incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power for 20 years, is Kiiza Besigye, 49, of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Though polls had Museveni in the lead, it was not clear he would get the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Thousands of international observers are on hand to monitor the voting. Nearly 50,000 forces oversaw security at polling places around the country, where 10.5 million people are registered to vote.

Observers said voters waited patiently in long lines before they got their chance to vote. Afterward, their thumbs were dipped in indelible ink to ensure they did not try to vote again. (posted 1:49 a.m.)

West Alabama warehouse fire ruled accidental

(CNN) -- A fire in a west Alabama warehouse that stored merchandise for a Christian-oriented business has been ruled accidental, the state fire marshal's office said Wednesday.

The warehouse fire, which broke out late Friday, was one of two fires in Tuscaloosa being investigated by local, state and federal authorities to determine whether they were set intentionally and, if so, whether they are related to a series of fires set at churches in several counties in that portion of the state.

The cause of the second blaze, at the Wesley Foundation Methodist student center on the University of Alabama campus, remained undetermined Wednesday pending test results, said Ragan Ingram, assistant commissioner for the state Department of Insurance, which includes the state fire marshal's office.

The warehouse fire was caused by heaters placed too close to flammable materials, the fire marshal's office said in a statement. (Posted 9:43 p.m.)

Well-known environmental, animal rights activist charged in California

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An environmental and animal rights activist who has previously served time for what authorities call ecoterrorism is back in federal custody, charged in San Diego with teaching others how to set an arson fire.

Rodney Coronado, a self-proclaimed member of the Earth Liberation Front, was arrested Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., and indicted in San Diego, said Justice Department officials in Washington and San Diego.

Coronado was indicted on a single count of teaching and demonstrating how to make and use a device with the intent of committing arson. But U.S. Attorney Carol Lam in San Diego pointed out that Coronado's training session came only hours after a massive fire destroyed a large apartment complex being built in San Diego in August 2003. The indictment, however, does not link Coronado to the fire, which caused an estimated $50 million in damage. -- From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 8:53 p.m.)

DP World executive says U.S. ports will be safe on its watch

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Dubai-based company the Bush administration has cleared to manage six U.S. seaports will take whatever security measures are needed to ensure the controversial deal goes through, a top executive said Wednesday.

Ted Bilkey, the company's chief operating officer, said Dubai Ports World "will fully cooperate in putting into place whatever is necessary to protect the terminals." "

We're going to do anything possible to be sure that this deal goes through," Bilkey told CNN.

Senior Homeland Security officials said late Wednesday that DP World was being held to a higher standard than other international companies that operate in U.S. ports.

Critics have raised concerns about the company's status as a state-owned venture of the United Arab Emirates, accusing the Persian Gulf state of having ties to terrorism. Two of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington came from the UAE, and most of the money for the plot was funneled through the banking center of Dubai. (Posted 1:50 a.m.)

Bill targeting Roe v. Wade passes South Dakota Senate

(CNN) -- Legislation that would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota and likely will prompt a national legal battle over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, was approved Wednesday by the South Dakota Senate.

The bill now returns to the House, which must approve changes made by senators.

House Bill 1215 only allows abortion as a life-saving measure for the mother, and any doctor performing an abortion under other circumstances would be charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. The Senate vote was 23-12. (Posted 7:57 p.m.)

Florida man sentenced to 8 years in data theft

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former officer of an Internet company was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison in a massive theft of personal data from Acxiom Corporation, which manages personal, financial and corporate data, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

A jury in Little Rock, Ark., convicted 46-year-old Scott Levine in August of 120 counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer, two counts of access device fraud and one count of obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Levine, of Boca Raton, Fla., was the controlling owner of Snipermail, Inc., a corporation which engaged in distributing advertisements over the Internet to e-mail addresses. From January through July 2003, prosecutors said, he stole more than a billion records containing personal information such as names, mailing and e-mail addresses and phone numbers of Acxiom Corporation clients. (Posted 7:56 p.m.)

Major earthquake hits Mozambique; no immediate report of injuries

(CNN) -- A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the south African country of Mozambique early Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center reported.

The quake's epicenter was about 140 miles southwest of Beira, Mozambique, the USGS said, and about 330 miles north of the country's capital, Maputo. It was about 10 km, or 6.2 miles, below the Earth's surface. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The quake is believed to be the largest on record for the area, the USGS said. It considers earthquakes of 7.0 magnitude "major." It struck about 12:19 a.m. Thursday (5:19 p.m. Wednesday ET). The temblor initially was classified as a 6.9 magnitude, but the USGS later revised that figure." (Posted 6:46 p.m.)

Retired priest convicted on child molestation charges

(CNN) -- A retired Roman Catholic priest was convicted in Los Angeles on Wednesday of sexually molesting a child, three years after charges were dropped against him in five other cases.

Michael Wempe, 66, could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe declared a mistrial on four other charges against Wempe when the jury became deadlocked. Deputy Los Angeles District Attorney Todd Hicks said in a written statement that prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek a retrial on those other charges.

A sentencing date will be determined after that decision is made on March 10, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. (Posted 6:27 p.m.)

U.S. Arab allies stand firm on aid for Hamas-led Palestinian government

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Saudi Arabia will continue its support for the Palestinian Authority despite the election of a government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas, the kingdom's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Saudi officials told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that while they would encourage Hamas to accept the principle of a two-state solution with Israel, they would not punish the group at the expense of the Palestinian people.

"We think it would be the ultimate of irony that, at the time when we need to take care of these people who are seeking peace, that we shall fall short of doing so," Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told reporters. "How do we distinguish between humanitarian and nonhumanitarian aid? Infrastructure project or a humanitarian aid projects? They need both, infrastructure and humanitarian aid."

Saud's comments marked the second time in two days that an Arab ally of the United States faced off with Rice over continued support for a Palestinian government led by Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. Tuesday, Egyptian officials said they would continue their financial backing despite January's election victory by Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel in its charter. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 6:10 p.m.)

Woman sentenced for attempting to sell military vests

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A California woman has been sentenced to six months in jail for her role in attempting to sell stolen military ballistic vests designated for shipment to Iraq from the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Officials said eight people have been arrested at Camp Pendleton dating back to 2005, including some Marines and at least one civilian; officials could not offer a specific breakdown.

Erika Jardine of Vista, Calif., was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to charges she was part of a group that stole ballistic vests and other military items and tried to sell them online. --From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr (Posted 6:03 p.m.)

New Yorker hospitalized in Pennsylvania with 'naturally transmitted' anthrax

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York drum maker who imports raw animal hides to make his drums has been hospitalized in Pennsylvania with a case of inhalation anthrax that likely came from those hides, health and city officials said Wednesday.

In an afternoon news conference, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with a host of New York City officials, said he believes this to be an isolated incident posing no public health threat, and added there is no evidence it is in any way terror related.

"At this time we have every reason to believe that this infection is an an isolated, accidentally, and naturally transmitted case. No other illnesses have been reported whatsoever," he said.

The 44-year-old man, who is a drummer for the Kotchengna Dance Company, first became ill last Thursday while playing a show in northern Pennsylvania. He is hospitalized at Robert Packard Hospital in Sayre, Pa., where where he's listed in stable condition. (Posted 5:58 p.m.)

Gunmen kidnap 12 inmates from Basra prison

(CNN) -- Gunmen with Iraqi government identification cards and vehicles entered the main prison in Basra, in southern Iraq, late Wednesday and kidnapped 12 inmates, said a member of the Basra provisional council.

About an hour later, around midnight, 10 bodies were found and taken to a hospital where officials were trying to determine whether they were among the 12 prisoners. Another inmate was found wounded, he said.

The inmates were described as four Egyptians, two Tunisians, one Libyan, one Turk, one Saudi and three Iraqis.

The kidnappings followed a day of sectarian violence and protests that began when an explosion shattered the golden dome of the sacred Shiite Al-Askariya mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad, prompting attacks on 27 Sunni mosques in the capital. Six people, including three Sunni imams, died in the Baghdad attacks. (Posted 5:16 p.m.)

Louisiana lieutenant governor announces his candidacy for New Orleans mayor

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- The scion of one of New Orleans' most prominent political families, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, officially announced his bid for mayor Wednesday, saying the city needs a new leader who can repair the city's image in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Today, what we need is leadership that can restore our credibility nationally and internationally," he said. "I ask you to give me the great honor of being your next mayor of the city of New Orleans."

Landrieu, 45, enters an already crowded field of challengers to Nagin for the April 22 election. The election was postponed once in the aftermath of Katrina.(Posted 4:21 p.m.)

Sharon has procedure to drain fluid from stomach

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon underwent a procedure Wednesday to remove extra liquid from his stomach, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman for Hadassah Medical Center said the liquid was found during a routine CT scan on the prime minister, who has been in a coma since suffering a massive stroke Jan. 4.

Doctors drained the fluid, the spokeswoman said, but gave no further details. (Posted 3:25 p.m.)

British authorities appeal for help in solving brazen kidnapping, robbery

LONDON (CNN) -- Authorities in Kent, England, appealed to the public Wednesday for help in solving the armed robbery of a security company, which involved the kidnapping of a manager and resulted in the theft of 25 million pounds, or about $43.5 million U.S.

The manager was kidnapped on his way home from work Tuesday evening, and his wife and son were lured from their home by men impersonating police officers who said the manager had been in an accident.

The manager was then told if he did not cooperate his family would be at risk. About 1 a.m. Wednesday he was taken to the depot, where the staff was tied up and the money stolen. (Posted 2:59 p.m.)

Bush to release administration report on lessons the government learned after Katrina

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Thursday will brief Cabinet members on his administration's report about the lessons learned by the federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States.

According to senior administration officials, the report -- "The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned" -- includes 125 recommendations for improving communications, evacuation, search and rescue, and community awareness, among other categories.

"As you will recall, the president was not satisfied with the response from the federal government" after Katrina, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Wednesday.

He said the president's "most solemn obligation is the safety and security of the American people," and to that end, the report's recommendations will "improve the federal government's capability to respond to a catastrophic event like Hurricane Katrina or a future terrorist attack." (Posted 2:45 p.m.)

Dubai company hires Bob Dole to lobby for port deal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Dubai-based company at the center of a controversy over the management of six U.S. seaports has hired former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to lobby on its behalf against bipartisan criticism of the deal, a Dole aide said Wednesday.

The 1996 Republican presidential candidate was "engaged" by Dubai Ports World shortly after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began expressing their strong opposition to the deal, said Mike Galloway, an aide to the retired senator.

He is considered a GOP elder statesman, and his wife, Elizabeth, now represents North Carolina in the Senate.

Dole is a special counsel in the Washington office of the law firm Alston & Bird. DP World hired the firm in 2005 to help shepherd its purchase of the British-based firm Peninsular and Oriental, which currently manages the U.S. ports, Galloway said. --From CNN Correspondent Andrea Koppel (Posted 2:43 p.m.)

White House says it should have told Congress about Dubai deal earlier

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House said Wednesday that critics of a deal that would let a Dubai-based company manage six U.S. seaports are "misinformed," but conceded it should have consulted members of Congress about the deal earlier.

The administration's blessing of the purchase of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation, which currently runs those ports, by the state-owned Dubai Ports World has sparked a firestorm of opposition on Capitol Hill. President Bush has defended the deal and threatened to veto any congressional attempt to block it.

An administration committee that oversees international investment approved the deal, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan repeated Bush's reassurances that the security of those ports would remain in the hands of the U.S. government. (Posted 2:23 p.m.)

8 meat processing workers share record Powerball jackpot

LINCOLN, Neb. (CNN) -- "I've been retired for about four days now." Those were the words of Eric Zornes, who was one of eight meat processing workers to share the $365 million Powerball jackpot, the largest lottery prize in the history of the nation.

The eight workers came forward Wednesday to accept their prize after days of trying to sort out a legal agreement to split the millions. The eight chose to receive the lump sum total of $124.1 million after taxes, or $15.5 million apiece. (Posted 1:24 p.m.)

Sunni mosques attacked, Sunni imams killed in Baghdad hours after Shiite shrine hit in Samarra

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Attackers in Baghdad angered over the bombing of the sacred Shiite shrine in the north-central Iraqi city of Samarra went on a rampage Wednesday, attacking 27 Sunni mosques and killing six people, including three Sunni imams.

U.S. and Iraqi leaders tried to calm the tension between Shiite and Sunni Arabs in Iraq, escalated by the brazen early morning strike at the mosque dear to the Shiites and by the angry reaction to it. But fighting and demonstrations erupted throughout the country.

Emergency police in Baghdad told CNN the retaliatory strikes occurred between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Attackers used small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds. Three of the mosques were burned down. Three Sunni imams and three guards at mosques were killed. Another imam was kidnapped. (Posted 12:01 p.m.)

EU panel approves vaccination plan against bird flu

(CNN) -- A European Union panel Wednesday approved a plan to vaccinate poultry in France and the Netherlands against bird flu, in an effort to stop the spread of the disease in Europe.

"The vaccination programs are authorized only for specific birds in specified regions, and will be subject to rigorous surveillance and control requirements," said a statement on the EU Web site.

So far, the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain has been found in wild birds in five EU countries. None has been detected in domestic poultry, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. (Posted 10:57 a.m.)

Bombing of Shiite shrine in Samarra sparks demonstrations, attacks, pleas for calm

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Attackers dressed as Iraqi police commandos bombed and heavily damaged a beloved Shiite shrine in the north-central Iraqi city of Samarra on Wednesday, a strike that shattered large sections of the holy site with deep roots in early Islam and served to inflame the already percolating Shiite-Sunni Arab tensions across the country.

The attack on the Al-Askariya Mosque -- also known as the Golden Mosque and famed for its towering golden dome -- triggered attacks on Sunni mosques and protests across the country, and raised fears of full-blown sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

Leaders sought to keep the peace and remain united.

The strike, which took place at 7 a.m., bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda in Iraq, said Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.

There were no immediate reports of injuries at the historic holy place, and authorities said 10 people, all wearing uniforms patterned after police commandos, have been arrested. (Posted 10:50 a.m.)

3 teens plead not guilty in murder, beatings of homeless victims

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNN) -- Three teenagers pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of first degree murder and attempted murder in connection with the beating death of a homeless man in January and in the beatings of two other homeless victims the same night in what authorities say was a string of attacks.

William Ammons, 18; Brian Hooks, 18 and Thomas Daugherty, 17, all appeared in Broward County Court wearing orange jail jumpsuits. Their lawyers entered the pleas on behalf of their clients.

Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek the death penalty for Ammons and Hooks, but Daugherty faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted because of his age.

In early January, authorities say, the three beat to death a 45-year-old homeless man in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., park. That same night, a beating attack on another man was captured on surveillance camera videotape near the Florida Atlantic University.

The airing of the video on local television stations prompted calls from "scores of people" who identified the two attackers seen in the tape, according to a police report shortly after the incident. -- CNN Correspondent John Zarrella contributed to this report (Posted 9:45 a.m.)

Prosecutor at Hague: Ratko Mladic still at large

THE HAGUE (CNN) -- War crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte said Wednesday that Ratko Mladic has not been arrested, despite rumors Tuesday to the contrary.

"Mladic is in Serbia, there's no doubt about it," she told reporters. "He's been there since 1998 and, during all this time, he has been and he remains within reach of the Serbian authorities. He can and must be arrested immediately. And I expect all Serbian authorities to work much more intensively toward that objective."

Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 war.

The July 11, 1995 massacre is regarded as the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

That Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb Army commander, remains at-large is seen as an embarrassment, a major failure of efforts to bring war criminals to justice. Mladic was indicted by the war crime tribunal at The Hague in connection with the slaughter. (Posted 8:53 a.m.)

Pope names 15 new cardinals

ROME (CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI named 15 new cardinals Wednesday at the end of his weekly audience.

Of the group, 12 are under 80 years of age and will be eligible to vote in a conclave to elect Benedict's successor. They will be elevated and receive their red cardinal's hats at a Vatican ceremony March 24.

Cardinals are the prelates, or "princes of the church," who help the pope run the Roman Catholic Church and act as his top advisers. Pope Benedict may follow his predecessor John Paul II and rely on the cardinals individually as his most trusted advisers on regional and universal issues.

Cardinals from around the world are, more and more, frequent visitors at the Vatican, where they help manage the business of Vatican congregations and other agencies, take a leading role in synods and, when necessary, meet with the pope in private audiences.

The number of college of cardinals is now of 193, of whom 122 are eligible are to vote in a conclave. -- From CNN Producer Hada Messia (Posted 8:51 a.m.)

Marines bring in 2-ton drill in effort to reach elementary school

SOUTHERN LEYTE, Philippines (CNN) -- U.S. Marines hauled a 2-ton drill across a field of mud Wednesday in hopes that it will pierce the dozens of feet of rock, mud and boulders that separate them from hundreds of children and teachers buried in an elementary school last week when a mudslide struck their village.

The drill can dig to a depth of 60 feet, enough to reach the building, which is believed to have held 246 students and seven teachers, officials said.

Five days after the mudslide buried then and most of the other 1,875 residents of Suinsahugon on the southern Philippines island of Leyte, the official death toll Saturday was 107, but officials predicted it could exceed 1,000. (posted 5 a.m.)

Weapons cache found in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. soldiers have discovered a weapons cache in Iraq's restive Anbar province, a military statement said Wednesday.

The munitions were found Monday during a reconnaissance patrol near Al Quratiyah, about 215 miles (350 km) northwest of Baghdad and, according to the U.S. military, is one of the largest uncovered in the province.

"This find means a serious reduction in the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) available for anti-Iraqi forces to use in cowardly attacks," said Army Maj. Doug W. Merritt, an operations officer with the 4th Squadron of the 14th U.S. Cavalry Regiment.

The military statement said the weapons included mortars and other projectile-type munitions -- the type often used in roadside bombs. (posted 2:50 a.m.)

2 firefighers die in Alabama blaze

(CNN) -- Two firefighters were killed Tuesday night in Moulton, Ala., when the wall of a lawn mower shop collapsed on them, the Lawrence County Emergency Management director told CNN.

According to Hillard Frost, the wall fell on the volunteer firefighters around 10 p.m., about four hours after the blaze began in the city's downtown.

Moulton is a community of about 3,200 in northwestern Alabama, about 35 miles southwest of Huntsville. (posted 1:05 a.m.)

Advisory committee recommends childhood vaccination against rotavirus

ATLANTA (CNN) -- An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend a newly licensed vaccine to protect children against rotavirus, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and dehydration.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation is for infants to be given three doses of the oral vaccine at two, four and six months of age.

The first dose of the vaccine, which was approved Feb. 3 by the FDA, should be given by 3 months and all doses should be given by 8 months, it said.

The vaccine, called RotaTeq, is marketed by Merck and Company and is the only vaccine approved in the United States for prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis. (posted 1:05 a.m.)

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