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Wednesday, January 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 Standard.

Livni, Abbas to meet at economic forum

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Davos will meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, said Mark Regev, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman. (Posted 2:37 a.m.)

Khalilzad: U.S. condemns helicopter attack

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The United States on Wednesday condemned an attack that killed five American civilians contracted by the U.S. military to provide security in eastern Baghdad and vowed to bring those responsible to justice, a statement from U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad said.

All five men were employees for private security company Blackwater and were providing air security for two U.S. embassy officials Tuesday when their helicopters came under heavy fire and crashed in a residential area.

"One individual was shot while flying in a helicopter," the embassy statement said. "The other four were in a second helicopter which crashed under heavy gunfire."

Two other people were wounded in the attack but were treated and released Tuesday. The embassy did not specify if those individuals were Blackwater employees. (Posted 2:23 a.m.)

Latest on Haifa Street fighting: 30 insurgents killed, 35 detained

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi and U.S. troops battling militants along Baghdad's volatile Haifa Street on Wednesday killed at least 30 insurgents and detained 35, according to an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman.

"The situation is calm now on Haifa street and Iraqi and U.S. forces are in control of the situation," he said.

This was part of Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, described by the U.S. military as "a series of targeted raids to disrupt illegal militia activity and help restore Iraqi security force control in the area."

It began early in the day, and the military provided an update about the operation Wednesday afternoon, local time. (Posted 2:20 a.m.)

Ecuadorean defense minister killed in helicopter crash

QUITO, Ecuador (CNN) -- Ecuadorean Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva died late Wednesday in a helicopter collision, government officials told CNN.

Larriva's daughter was in critical condition, according to the office of Vice President Lenin Moreno. The number of fatalities in the second helicopter was not known.

Larriva, the first woman appointed to Ecuador's defense minister position, was appointed to the post last month by new Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. She had only been in office nine days, as she, Correa and other appointees took office Jan. 15.

Larriva, president of the Socialist Party, was also the first armed forces chief who had never served in the military. She was one of seven women appointed by Correa, who said he wanted to promote gender equality. (Posted 10:06 p.m.)

Official: Russian man caught trying to sell bomb-grade uranium

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Russian man was arrested last summer by authorities in the Republic of Georgia for trying to sell a small amount of weapons-grade uranium, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration said Wednesday.

Spokesman Bryan Wilkes said the Georgian government asked for U.S. assistance, and the CIA and FBI participated in the action.

The man was caught in a sting operation, Wilkes said, and the uranium was brought to the United States for analysis, where it remains.

A U.S. official also told CNN that the man was tried and found guilty and is in prison in Georgia.

Wilkes said the amount of uranium the man tried to sell was not large enough to use in a nuclear bomb.

Wilkes added that officials don't believe the incident was terror-related, but, he said, "nobody knows for sure." (Posted 10:04 p.m.)

U.S. officials confirm two "Most Wanted Terrorists" dead

From Justice Producer Terry Frieden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has officially trimmed its Most Wanted Terrorist list, declaring two members of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group wanted for the kidnapping and murder of U.S. citizens have been confirmed dead in the Philippines.

Without fanfare, officials at FBI headquarters slapped the word "DECEASED" on two of the 26 photos of their "Most Wanted Terrorists" -- Abu Sayyaf's leader Khadaffy Janjalani and his potential successor, Jainal Antel Sali, Jr.

Janjalani and Sali were among Abu Sayyaf members indicted in Washington in connection with the kidnapping and beheading of California tourist Giullermo Sobero and killing of Kansas missionary Martin Burnham. Burnham was killed during a rescue attempt, but his wife Gracia Burnham survived. (Posted 7:01 p.m.)

Minimum wage hike stalls in Senate on procedural vote

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Supporters of a bill to increase the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade ran into a hurdle Wednesday in the Senate, where an attempt to move the legislation forward failed to get enough votes to succeed.

While the minimum wage increase -- already approved by the House -- remains alive, Wednesday's vote was an indication that Democratic leaders will likely have to include tax breaks for small businesses to draw enough Republican support to pass the measure.

Also Wednesday, senators killed a GOP-sponsored amendment to the minimum wage bill which would have created a process for presidents to eliminate some objectionable items in spending measures. (Posted 6:54 p.m.)

Shooting survivor says police murdered groom

From CNN's Julian Cummings

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A survivor of a November police shooting outside a Queens nightclub that killed a man just hours before he was to be married was released from the hospital Wednesday, and hours later told CNN he believes the incident constitutes a murder.

"They murdered Sean Bell, there is no doubt in my mind," Joseph Guzman told CNN.

Four police officers have been placed on paid leave while Queens prosecutors investigate the shootings of Bell, 23; Guzman, 31; and Trent Benefield. The three were leaving Club Kalua Nov. 25 following Bell's bachelor party when the shooting occurred. The officers involved fired more than 50 shots at the apparently unarmed men. Bell died at a nearby hospital.

Police have said Bell's car hit an undercover police officer and then rammed an unmarked police minivan before the officers opened fire.

The incident has stoked tensions between the New York Police Department and residents of Queens' Jamaica neighborhood, and has prompted calls for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's resignation. (Posted 6:53 p.m.)

Report: More needs to be done on homeland security

From CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government has patched up holes in security that were exploited by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists, but much work remains, Congressional watchdogs said Wednesday.

The 112-page Government Accountability Office report is a sanitized, public version of a report given to Congress in December. The original report contained more information on specific vulnerabilities, which were purged for security reasons.

Both reports focus on security holes exploited by the Sept. 11 terrorists, many of whom traveled to the United States illegally on student visas, were undeterred by border points of entry, and were able to legally carry small knives or boxcutters onto aircraft. (Posted 6:47 p.m.)

Al Qaeda operating from safe havens along Pakistan-Afghanistan border, analysts say

From Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States increasingly believes Pakistan's tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan have become an accepted safe haven for senior al Qaeda members, a senior U.S. intelligence official told CNN Wednesday.

That's not a formal assessment, the official said, but a growing view by U.S. intelligence analysts in the months since the Pakistani government reached an agreement with tribal authorities that it would not threaten the region's autonomy as long as the tribes agreed not to harbor foreigners.

The official told CNN that "the training camps are full" in the region, something that is an indicator of al Qaeda activity. (Posted 6:40 p.m.)

CDC director to beef up ombudsman's office

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday she is beefing up the ombudsman's office in an effort to improve the quality of work life at the agency.

Dr. Julie Gerberding made the announcement in an e-mail to the agency's 7,000 employees.

The move comes in the face of complaints that her efforts to reorganize the agency over the past four years have resulted in an exodus of top talent from the Atlanta-based organization.

She said the Ombudsman Office will be independent and a full-time ombudsman will be hired "ASAP."

Until permanent personnel are hired, two part-time, temporary ombudsmen "will continue to serve and develop the program," she said. (Posted 6:29 p.m.)

Feds indict former sheriff's deputy for 1960s killings of 2 black teens

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former Mississippi sheriff's deputy has been charged in a 43-year-old unsolved crime from the civil rights era -- the 1964 killings of two black teenagers, law enforcement officials confirmed Wednesday.

The former deputy, James Ford Seale of Roxie, Miss., was named in a federal indictment charging him in connection with the disappearance and deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the document is under court seal. --From CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena (Posted 6:02 p.m.)

Top military doctor among 12 killed in Black Hawk crash

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One of the military's top surgeons in Iraq was among 12 soldiers who died over the weekend in the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

Col. Brian D. Algood, 46, of Oklahoma was assigned to the 30th Medical Brigade out of Heidelberg, Germany. An orthopedic surgeon, he was with Multi-National Forces - Iraq and previously had been assigned to Fort Bragg and the United States Military Academy, among other places.

Algood was one of two full colonels killed in the crash Saturday of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq's Diyala province. The other, Col. Paul Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Va., was assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters of the Virginia Army National Guard in Blackstone, Va.

Eight passengers and four crew members were killed, the military said. (Posted 5:54 p.m.)

Senate committee approves Petraeus as Iraq military chief

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday to approve Lt. Gen. David Petraeus as coalition commander in Iraq, according to Sen. John McCain, who said the vote was unanimous.

The nomination now goes to the full Senate for approval.

The committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing Tuesday for Adm. William Fallon to be the commander of the U.S. Central Command and a confirmation hearing Feb. 1 for Gen. George Casey to become the Army chief of staff. --From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 5:48 p.m.)

Byrd says Bush needs congressional OK for widening war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Robert Byrd introduced a Senate resolution Wednesday to keep the president from launching military action against Syria or Iran, which the Bush administration accuses of meddling in the war in Iraq, without the approval of Congress.

Byrd, D-W.Va., was an early opponent of the invasion of Iraq. He said Thursday that he feared "the machinery may have already been set in motion which may ultimately lead to a military attack inside Iran or perhaps Syria."

"This resolution, which I hold in my hand, is a rejection of the bankrupt, dangerous and unconstitutional doctrine of pre-emption, which proposes that the president -- any president -- may strike any country before that country threatens us," he said.

President Bush raised alarms with his Jan. 10 speech announcing the deployment of another 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq, when he blamed Iraq's neighbors for stoking the violence there and singled out Iran for "providing material support for attacks on American troops."

The White House dismissed fears that the administration is preparing for a wider war, with Bush spokesman Tony Snow calling it an "urban legend." (Posted 5:43 p.m.)

Kerry skipping 2008 race to focus on ending Iraq war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, announced Wednesday that he will skip a second run for the White House to concentrate on bringing the war in Iraq to an end.

"As someone who made the mistake of voting for the resolution that gave the president the authority to go to war, I feel the weight of personal responsibility to act to devote time and energy to the national dialogue and an effort to limit this war and bring our participation to a conclusion," he said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Kerry voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but later turned against the war and was mocked as a "flip-flopper" during his 2004 challenge to President Bush. He lost the popular vote by a 51-48 margin and fell 18 electoral votes short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

A source close to Kerry said the four-term Massachusetts senator made his decision within the past day. The 2008 race has already drawn more than a dozen contenders from both parties, and a Democratic operative who worked for him in 2004 told CNN that Kerry "came to the realization a lot of people want something new." (Posted 3:53 p.m.)

Cheney goes to bat for Bush's war plan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday dismissed as "hogwash" the suggestion that blunders may have hurt the administration's credibility on Iraq and led members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to question President Bush's plan to send more troops to Baghdad.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, conducted a day after President Bush delivered his State of the Union address, the vice president was asked to respond to some Republicans in Congress who "are now seriously questioning your credibility, because of the blunders and the failures."

To that, Cheney responded, "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash."

Cheney said the administration is committed to moving ahead with its plan to send more troops to Baghdad, even if Congress passes a resolution in opposition.

"It won't stop us," he said. "And it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops." (Posted 3:34 p.m.)

Blanco 'very disappointed' at omission of Katrina and Gulf Coast in Bush's State of the Union speech

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Wednesday said she was "surprised and very disappointed" that President Bush made no mention of the recovery effort on the Gulf Coast more than a year after Hurricane Katrina in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

"He didn't have anything to say about the massive recovery effort that we are all struggling to effect," she told reporters in New Orleans. "It certainly is a disappointment.

"I guess the pains of the hurricane are yesterday's news in Washington, but for us they are still very real and they are something that we live every single day." (Posted 2:57 p.m.)

Greek terror group claims responsibility for embassy attack

ATHENS (CNN) -- A militant group called the Revolutionary Struggle has claimed responsibility for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Athens two weeks ago, a senior Greek government official told CNN Wednesday.

No one was injured in the attack and the only visible damage was a shattered window.

The claim of responsibility is found in a five-page proclamation sent to the weekly newspaper Pondiki to be published Thursday, the official said. The proclamation purportedly lays out the reasons for the Jan. 12 attack and warns of others to come, including another heavily guarded building, possibly another foreign mission.

Details of the proclamation's content are unavailable until the newspaper's publication. (Posted 2:49 p.m.)

Senate committee OKs resolution opposing Iraq buildup

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Senate committee Wednesday launched a contentious debate over president Bush's plan to send more than 21,000 additional troops to Iraq, approving a non-binding resolution opposing the move after a minor change in phrasing.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-9 to approve a statement of opposition backed by its chairman, Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden, a 2008 presidential hopeful. Biden said the resolution "is an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."

The resolution declares Bush's plan to send another 21,500 U.S. troops to Baghdad and Iraq's volatile western province of Anbar is "not in the national interest of the United States." Supporters agreed to drop the politically charged term "escalation" from the measure, referring instead to an increase in U.S. troops.

Sen. Richard Lugar, the committee's ranking Republican, opposed the measure even though he is skeptical about Bush's new strategy.

"We are laying open our disunity without the prospect that it will bring meaningful changes in our policy," said Lugar, R-Ind., the committee's former chairman. "This vote will force nothing on the president, but it will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray." (Posted 1:55 p.m.)

Bush takes his energy plan on the road

WILMINGTON, Del. (CNN) -- Flush with what his administration called a "positive reaction" to his State of the Union address, President Bush took his message on the road Wednesday and explained in detail his plan to reduce gasoline consumption and greenhouse gases in the United States.

After touring the DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, where researchers are working on alternative fuel sources, Bush also announced that he had signed an executive order to cut back on the federal government's energy consumption.

The U.S. government is the "single largest purchaser and user of energy in the world," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Wilmington.

The order requires the government to increase its use of alternative fuels -- including using more hybrid vehicles; to reduce federal petroleum consumption in fleet vehicles by 2 percent a year through 2015; and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy intensity by 3 percent each year, or 30 percent by 2015. (Posted 1:04 p.m.)

Katsav: 'I shall fight to the bitter end'

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Lashing out at the Israeli media for "letting my blood" and "brainwashing" the Israeli public, Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Wednesday vehemently denied impending sex crimes charges and refused to resign from his position.

"I shall fight to the very bitter end even if it means fighting everybody to prove my innocence," Katsav said at a news conference.

He restated his pledge to "immediately" resign if he is formally indicted.

In the meantime, Katsav has asked the Israeli parliament's speaker to temporarily remove him from power, according to a Knesset spokeswoman. However, many Knesset ministers may reject the request in an effort to push for Katsav's permanent resignation. (Posted 12:42 p.m.)

Latest on Haifa Street fighting: 30 insurgents killed, 35 detained

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi and U.S. troops battling militants along Baghdad's volatile Haifa Street on Wednesday killed at least 30 insurgents and detained 35, according to an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman.

Most of those killed and detained were Arab nationals, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Shaker said.

"The situation is calm now on Haifa street and Iraqi and U.S. forces are in control of the situation," he said.

This was part of Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, described by the U.S. military as "a series of targeted raids to disrupt illegal militia activity and help restore Iraqi security force control in the area." (Posted 12:19 p.m.)

U.S. soldier killed in Baghdad security operation

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents fired on a Multi-National Division-Baghdad patrol Wednesday, killing a U.S. soldier near central Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

"The unit was participating in a combined security operation in the area, aimed at disrupting and isolating militia activity, when they came under small arms fire," it said in a written statement.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack. (Posted 11:28 a.m.)

North Carolina Bar files new ethics complaints against prosecutor in Duke lacrosse case

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNN) -- The North Carolina State Bar announced Wednesday it is filing additional ethics complaints against Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong for his handling of the sexual assault case against three Duke lacrosse players.

The bar accuses Nifong of withholding DNA evidence from the players' defense attorneys and of "making misrepresentations to the presiding judge."

The charges come on top of claims made last month that Nifong violated ethics rules during media interviews he gave shortly after a dancer accused the Duke players of raping her at a team party in March of last year. (Posted 10:18 a.m.)

Spanish police arrest alleged Islamic radical

MADRID (CNN) -- Spanish police arrested a Moroccan man near Barcelona Wednesday on suspicion of Islamic terrorist activities, a Spanish Interior Ministry spokesman told CNN.

The suspect, Abdellatif Nekkavi, was under investigation for allegedly raising funds to support anti-Western Islamic militants in Iraq and for allegedly obtaining forged documents for Islamic radicals traveling to Iraq, the spokesman said.

Police arrested Nekkavi at his home in Badalona, a suburb of Barcelona, at 6:40 a.m., and he was to be taken to Madrid to appear before a magistrate at the National Court, which investigates terrorism.

Spanish media quoted a sister of Nekkavi as saying he had lived in Spain for five years and was a "normal person" who worked and spent time with family and friends. --From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman (Posted 9:29 a.m.)

U.S., Iraqi forces launch battle operations on Haifa Street, 2 other Baghdad neighborhoods

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi forces battled militants along volatile Haifa Street and two other Baghdad neighborhoods Wednesday as the sounds of gunfire, explosions and helicopter rotors echoed through the center of the capital.

An Iraqi Interior Ministry official told CNN that most of the fighting was taking place on Haifa Street. There was other fighting as well in Fadhel and Adhamiya neighborhoods. All three areas are predominantly Sunni districts.

The U.S. military has dubbed the fighting on Haifa Street "Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, describing it as a "pre-planned security operation" launched to disrupt "illegal militia activity" and restore control to the Iraqi security forces.

The operation "is aimed at rapidly isolating all active insurgents and gaining control of this key central Baghdad location," the military said in a statement. --From CNN's Arwa Damon, Sam Dagher and Terence Burke (Posted 9:25 a.m.)

Knesset spokeswoman: Israeli president asks to step down

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Facing numerous sex crimes charges, including rape, Israeli President Moshe Katsav Wednesday has asked to be temporarily removed from power, according to a Knesset spokeswoman.

Dalia Itzik -- the speaker of Israel's parliament, the Knesset -- received a letter from Katsav informing her of his decision, the spokeswoman said. Under Israeli procedure, Itzik will temporarily take over as president.

Katsav has been under increased pressure to step down after Israel's attorney general announced on Tuesday that he had enough evidence to indict the president on numerous sex crimes charges which stem from allegations from four of Katsav's former female employees.

Katsav will have a chance to refute the charges in a hearing with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before Mazuz can proceed with the indictments. --CNN's Michal Zippori and Shira Medding contributed to this report (Posted 9:09 a.m.)

Hijacking of Sudanese airliner ends

N'DJAMENA, Chad (CNN) -- The hijacking of Sudanese passenger plane with 103 people aboard ended with the passengers and crew unharmed less than an hour after the jetliner landed in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, Wednesday, the director of the country's aviation security agency said.

According the the official, the armed hijacker surrendered to Chadian authorities after requesting asylum in Great Britain. The Sudanese man claimed he was being persecuted in his homeland.

Sayyaf al-Din Marzouk, the general manager of Air West, said the incident began about a half hour after the plane took off when a first-class passenger went to the bathroom and then walked into the cockpit with a gun.

"He held the gun against the captain's head and he told him to redivert the flight," Marzouk said. (Posted 8:01 a.m.)

4 police officers killed in suicide bomb attack as U.S., Iraqi forces battle in capital

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four police officers in western Baghdad were killed and three civilians were wounded Wednesday when a suicide car bomber targeting a police patrol detonated explosives, an Interior Ministry official said.

The blast occurred as the police vehicles crossed an intersection near a gas station. (Posted 6:37 a.m.)

2 Marines die from wounds sustained during operations in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two U.S. Marines died Tuesday from "wounds sustained due to enemy action" while serving in Iraq's Anbar province, a U.S. military statement said Wednesday.

One of the Marines was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and the second was assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, according to the statement.

The latest deaths bring the total number of Americans killed in Iraq to 3,061. (Posted 6:21 a.m.)

Three Iraqi insurgent groups claim responsibility for downing a private U.S. helicopter

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three Iraqi insurgent groups had claimed responsibility by Wednesday for shooting down a helicopter occupied by five American civilians working for private security company Blackwater.

All five aboard were found dead after their helicopter crashed in a residential section of north-central Baghdad on Tuesday. U.S. officials said their bodies had sustained gunshots but could not confirm if they died from the shooting or the crash.

It also was not clear whether the helicopter was shot down or crashed for some other reason, they said. Initial reports detailed small-arms fire in the area, a senior U.S. official said. (Posted 5:30 a.m.)

Gunmen ambush Iraqi minister's convoy in southern Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Gunmen launched an attack on the convoy of Iraq's Higher Education minister Wednesday morning as it passed through southern Baghdad, a minister's aide told CNN, killing a bodyguard and wounding another.

According to the aide, militants launched mortars and fired machine gun rounds at the 10-car convoy of Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Abed Dhiyab al-Ajili, a Sunni Arab member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government. Al-Ajili was not harmed in the attack.

The aide said the motorcade was traveling through the capital's Dora neighborhood, when it came under fire around 9 a.m. (1 a.m. ET). --From CNN's Sam Dagher (Posted 2:40 a.m.)

Obama and Clinton do the TV two-step

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With President Bush's State of the Union address as a backdrop, the players in the 2008 White House race have begun to crowd the stage.

Nowhere was that more clear than in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda Tuesday night.

Halfway through the Democratic response to the address by Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, two of the party's top hopefuls were standing nearly side by side for separate network interviews.

While Sen. Barack Obama donned a microphone at the CNN camera position on one side of a column, on the other side was Sen. Hillary Clinton getting ready for an interview with NBC News. --From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash (Posted 1:08 a.m.)

Poll: Watchers have positive reaction to speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Americans who watched President Bush's State of the Union address had a positive reaction to it, although the reaction was muted from that in past years, according to results of a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday just after the speech.

Forty-one percent of 370 adults who watched the speech said they had a "very positive" reaction to it. Another 37 percent said their response was "somewhat positive." In 2006, however, the "very positive" number was 48 percent; in 2005, it was 60 percent.

The poll was conducted by telephone just after the speech. The sampling error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Of those responding to the poll, 32 percent identified themselves as Republican, 31 percent as Democrats and 36 percent as independent. (Posted 11:25 a.m.)

Authorities arrest man suspected of L.A. mercury spill

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- California authorities on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of spilling mercury in a Los Angeles subway station before Christmas, according to an FBI spokeswoman.

Armando Bustamante Miranda, 27, was being held on parole violation charges and was being questioned, said Laura Eimiller. He was arrested by the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force. Eimiller could not say whether Miranda is a U.S. citizen.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Miranda is homeless. He would not comment on why he allegedly had mercury in his possession. (Posted 10:55 p.m.)

State of the Union: Bush pledges cooperation, seeks patience on Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Faced with a widely unpopular war in Iraq and an opposition-led Congress, President Bush urged Democrats in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening to work with him to "achieve big things for the American people."

Bush announced a variety of plans he said would extend health insurance coverage, reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years and limit greenhouse gas emissions in his sixth State of the Union speech. And he urged Congress to work with him to shore up the finances of Social Security and other entitlement programs.

He congratulated the Democrats, who won control of both houses in November's elections, and noted that he was the first president to begin the State of the Union message with the words "Madam Speaker" -- a nod toward House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the first woman to hold that post. (Posted 10:23 p.m.)

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