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Tuesday, February 6

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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.

Jakarta flooding leaves 430,000 homeless, 38 dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Severe flooding fueled by torrential rains has displaced more than 430,000 people in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and left at least 38 people dead, the city's flood crisis center reported early Wednesday.

Many residents forced to flee their homes have taken refuge in hundreds of refugee camps that have opened around the the low-lying coastal city of 8.8. million people. Others were still sitting on top of their inundated residences.

Peter Cameron with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said he is "very concerned" about outbreaks of water-borne illnesses.(Posted 1:23 a.m.)

Raid nets two suspected al-Qaeda members in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL (CNN) -- Coalition forces took a pair of suspected al Qaeda members into custody early Wednesday during a raid in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, a military statement said.

The operation took place near the town of Hakimabad in Nangarhar province and was "based on information provided about an al-Qaeda member known to pass correspondence for al Qaeda senior leaders."

According to the coalition, the Afghan men will be questioned to determine their association with al Qaeda. (Posted 12:29 a.m.)

3 American missionaries dead in Honduran bus crash

SAN ESTEBAN, Honduras (CNN) -- A bus carrying Baptist missionaries from Newnan, Ga., went off the road near the Honduran community of Rio San Jose in the city of San Esteban, killing three, according to television station Televicentro.

According to the station, the bus was crossing a bridge, but the driver apparently miscalculated and went off the road.

A helicopter transported 12 passengers to the military hospital in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.

San Esteban is about 300 miles east of Tegucigalpa. (Posted 9:27 p.m.)

'America's Most Wanted' dismisses claims of Dahmer involvement in Adam Walsh death

(CNN) -- "No credible information" connects infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer with the 1981 murder of Adam Walsh, son of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, the television show said Tuesday.

Televised reports, based on a recent article in a Florida newspaper, put forth an author's theory that Dahmer may have been responsible for Adam's death. Dahmer lived in Florida at the time and, according to the reports, was allegedly seen by two witnesses at the mall where Adam disappeared.

Arthur Jay Harris said he believed he had uncovered new evidence implicating Dahmer in the death of 6-year-old Adam. But "America's Most Wanted" said all such evidence had been investigated and discounted. (Posted 8:05 p.m.)

Astronaut grounded after attempted murder arrest, accused of stalking rival

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNN) -- Astronaut Lisa Nowak was grounded and faced an additional charge of attempted murder Tuesday after her arrest on charges that she tried to pepper-spray and kidnap a romantic rival from an airport parking lot.

Nowak was arrested early Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and attempted auto burglary after police said she accosted Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman over a mutual relationship with another astronaut, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein (prono: OAF-line).

Nowak had already posted a $15,500 bond on charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and attempted burglary of a car with battery and was ordered to wear a satellite-tracking device while awaiting trial. But just before her release, Orlando Police brought an additional attempted murder charge, which kept her jailed.

A judge ordered Nowak freed on an additional $10,000 bond Tuesday afternoon. Shortly afterward, NASA announced that it was grounding her and placing her on 30-day leave. (Posted 7:34 p.m.)

Poll: Clinton holds double-digit lead in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CNN) -- A new poll of New Hampshire voters planning to cast ballots in next year's Democratic presidential primary showed Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York with a double-digit lead over her nearest opponents, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards, the party's 2004 vice presidential standard-bearer.

The CNN/WMUR presidential primary poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, put Clinton's support at 35 percent, compared to 21 percent for Obama and 16 percent for Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina. The poll's sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The only other candidates drawing more than 1 percent support among likely Democratic voters in the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary were former Vice President Al Gore, at 8 percent, and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, at 3 percent. Even though the campaign is in its early stages, just 14 percent described themselves as undecided. (Posted 7:10 p.m.)

British vet service worker tested for bird flu after working on outbreak

LONDON (CNN) -- A worker for Britain's state veterinary agency has been hospitalized for a "mild respiratory illness" after working on a weekend outbreak of avian flu and is being tested for the deadly strain of the virus, authorities said Tuesday.

Test results were expected Wednesday, said Dr. John Watson, the chief of respiratory illnesses for Britain's Health Protection Agency. He said safety precautions taken by workers leave a low risk that the worker was exposed to the H5N1 virus found on a turkey farm northeast of London, and there was no risk to those treating the employee.

The patient works for Britain's State Veterinary Service, part of the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Department spokesman Aled Williams said the tests were being conducted "purely as a precautionary measure." (Posted 6:59 p.m.)

Libby's grand jury testimony sheds light on the handling of a controversy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The jury in the criminal trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Tuesday heard him tell investigators that he felt he was authorized by President Bush to tell a reporter information that everyone else at the White House thought was still classified.

"If the president tells you to talk about a document, it's declassified," Libby told Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on March 24, 2003, during testimony before a grand jury that would eventually indict Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Libby is charged with lying to investigators trying to find out who leaked the name and identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband, Joseph Wilson, was a harsh critic of the Bush administration.

The audio recordings made nearly four years ago shed light on how Libby handled a controversy over allegations from Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, that the Bush administration twisted facts to support an invasion of Iraq. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 6:23 p.m.)

Poll: Giuliani picks up ground, draws even with McCain in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CNN) -- Nearly a year out from New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are neck-and-neck at the front of the GOP pack in the Granite State, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The CNN/WMUR presidential primary poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, found McCain the choice of 28 percent of voters who plan to vote in the state's Republican presidential primary next January, compared with 27 percent for Giuliani. The results were a statistical dead heat, given the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

However, the latest poll showed an increase in support for Giuliani since a similar survey in September, when McCain -- who won the New Hampshire presidential primary over President Bush in 2000 -- was the choice of 32 percent and Giuliani just 19 percent. (Posted 6:10 p.m.)

Former occupation chief in Iraq defends handling of money

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The man who oversaw the running of Iraq after the U.S. invasion testified Tuesday that the mess he found there left him no choice but to cut corners on the oversight of billions of dollars sent to Iraqi ministries, which has resulted in nearly $9 billion being unaccounted for.

"The country was in chaos socially, economically and politically," former Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

He blamed the crisis not on the war or on sanctions but on "decades of incompetence" by the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq, reported in January 2005 that he could not tell where $8.8 billion of $12 billion shipped to Iraq went. (Posted 6:05 p.m.)

Justice official denies U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top Justice Department official Tuesday testified one U.S. attorney was asked to resign without cause last year but insisted performance-related reasons were behind several others being told to resign.

Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told the Senate Judiciary Committee that former U.S. Attorney H. E. "Bud" Cummins of Arkansas was asked to hand in his resignation because the Justice Department wanted to replace him with a former military prosecutor who had also worked for White House political chief Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee.

McNulty said he would inform the committee privately why the Justice Department asked "less than 10" others to resign, but refused to discuss individual cases publicly.

At the hearing called by angry Democratic senators, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted the Justice Department over allegations several top federal prosecutors had been removed for political reasons. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 5:50 p.m.)

House Democrats to move ahead with Iraq resolution next week

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With debate over President Bush's planned increase in troop levels in Iraq stymied by a procedural dispute in the Senate, House Democratic leaders said Tuesday they will move ahead next week with their own resolution opposing the deployment.

"The reason we're going ahead is not because we don't think the Senate will ever act, but we're not sure when the Senate is going to act," said House Majority Leader Steney Hoyer, D-Md., who told reporters that next week's "extended" debate could last as long as three days.

The exact language of the resolution, which would be non-binding, is being worked out by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Hoyer said.

A Democratic leadership aide told CNN that the language would be along the lines of a bipartisan Senate resolution, sponsored by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., that expresses disapproval of the troop increase but also opposes the idea of Congress cutting off funding to stop it. (Posted 5:08 p.m.)

Bush budget restates call for private Social Security accounts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's proposed budget for 2008 repeats his call for establishing private accounts to shore up Social Security's finances, an issue that flopped when the president pushed it in 2005 and is unlikely to take off in a Democratic-led Congress.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday that the inclusion of private accounts should surprise no one, since Bush "has been very clear" about his goals. But he said the administration is willing to consider any idea to keep the nearly 72-year-old system solvent.

"That's his idea, and a lot of people share that idea, and there are different views on that and on taxes," Paulson said. "But everything's on the table."

But the committee's chairman, Rep. Charles Rangel, quickly dismissed the idea, calling it "pre-campaign talk" that would hinder a bipartisan budget agreement. (Posted 3:35 p.m.)

Controversial Snickers ad pulled

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- After a number of groups objected, Masterfoods USA, the maker of Snickers candy bars, has pulled the plug on a controversial Super Bowl commercial that showed two men accidentally kissing.

The 30-second commercial featured two mechanics who end up sharing both a Snickers bar and an inadvertent kiss, and then react by pulling out a clump of chest hair to "do something manly."

On its Web site, the candy maker posted three alternate endings to the commercial -- giving people the opportunity to vote for their favorite -- along with reactions from NFL players.

Groups such as the Human Right Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) condemned the ad, saying it promoted anti-gay prejudice and condoned violence against gay Americans.

Masterfoods, which has discontinued the ad campaign, said the intent of the ad was not to offend, and noted that feedback from its target audience had been positive. (Posted 3:19 p.m.)

Pentagon releases pilot's friendly fire video

LONDON (CNN) -- The U.S. Central Command judge advocate general has authorized the release of the cockpit video from a U.S. fighter jet involved in a friendly fire incident in Iraq nearly four years ago, Pentagon officials told CNN Monday.

The tape will be released to the British coroner who requested it and to the family of the British soldier who was killed in the incident.

Earlier, Pentagon sources told CNN the video would not be released.

The U.S. military concluded its investigation into the incident some time ago, and found that the crew obeyed rules of engagement and did not engage in reckless action, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The incident was ruled a tragic accident, the spokesman said. (Posted 2:47 p.m.)

Rice to meet with Abbas, Olmert

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will participate in talks later this month with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli and U.S. officials said Monday.

The meeting will take place Feb. 19 in Jerusalem, Olmert's office said.

Rice will shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah in advance of the talks, the State Department said. (Posted 2:47 p.m.)

Iraqi government checking whether Iranian diplomat was kidnapped or arrested

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's government spokesman on Tuesday said his country has been informed by the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad that the Iranian diplomat believed to have been kidnapped a couple of days ago had instead been arrested.

Ali al-Dabbagh, interviewed on CNN, said Iraqi authorities are checking whether he's been arrested or kidnapped.

"We've been informed by the Iranian ambassador here in Baghdad that one of their diplomats has been arrested," al-Dabbagh said. He wouldn't provide more details until an Iraqi security forces investigation is completed.

Iraqi sources and official Iranian news reports had been saying all day Tuesday that the man -- identified as Jalal Sharafi, second secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad -- was abducted on Sunday night. (Posted 2:21 p.m.)

Libby 'surprised' that former ambassador's wife was CIA operative

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In audio recordings from secret grand jury testimony played Tuesday at his perjury trial, Lewis "Scooter" Libby said he was "surprised" to hear from NBC "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert that a former ambassador's wife worked for the CIA.

"Is it your testimony under oath, you don't recall (Joseph) Wilson's wife working for the CIA -- between the sixth (of July, 2003) and your conversation with Russert?" asked Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

"That's correct, sir, I don't recall discussing it. I do recall being surprised when I talked to Russert on the 10th or 11th," Libby told Fitzgerald. Russert has denied he told Libby about Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 1:21 p.m.)

Suicide bomber detonates outside Islamabad airport

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a parking area outside Islamabad's airport Tuesday after he was stopped by security as he tried to enter the airport, police sources told CNN.

Ambulances took five injured people to hospitals. Police said they had made one arrest.

The airport was closed and the area was cordoned off. -- From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi in Lahore, Pakistan (Posted 12:11 p.m.)

Gates says surge plan not 'last chance'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said the troop increase plan in Iraq that the Bush administration calls a "surge" is "not the last chance" in Iraq.

Gates, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to remarks from Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who cited quotes from people calling the surge operation "the last chance," or, "the last, best chance," and asked whether the administration is "thinking beyond the Baghdad operation" to develop other ways to help the Iraqi government in case the plan doesn't meet its goals.

Gates said he is thinking about "alternatives."

"I think that if this operation were not to succeed -- and we clearly are hoping it will succeed, planning for it to succeed, allocating the resources for it to succeed -- but I would tell you that I think I would be irresponsible if I weren't thinking about what the alternatives might be if that didn't happen. But we, at this point, are planning for its success," he said. (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

Pace: Roadside bomb placement doubled over past year in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday that the number of roadside bombs placed in Iraq "has doubled over the course of the last year" and the levels of casualties from them hasn't dropped despite strides in countering them.

Gen. Peter Pace, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked about the status of the insurgents' weaponry, given the Saturday market attack in Iraq, which killed 128 people and wounded nearly three times as many.

Pace -- who was questioned by Sen. John Warner, R-Va. -- said the military has responded well to number of improvised explosive devices, using new equipment and procedures.

However, he said, "the increase in the number, despite the decrease in their effectiveness" has led to "a sustained level of casualties from IEDs." (Posted 11:40 a.m.)

U.S. troop drawdown could begin later this year 'if circumstances on the ground permit'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday said that the United States could start withdrawing troops from Iraq "later this year" -- "if circumstances on the ground permit."

Gates made the remark in answer to questioning from Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Asked how much longer troops would remain deployed in Iraq before the United States begins to draw them down, Gates said, "It's hard to make any kind of a real prediction, especially where our adversaries have a vote."

However, he said, "I would hope we would be able to begin drawing down our troops later this year" -- if a "plan to quiet Baghdad is successful," if Iraqis accept "their responsibilities" and assume "leadership," and if Iraqis carry out "political reconciliation." (Posted 10:55 a.m.)

Senate panel backs Casey as Army chief of staff

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday voted to approve the nomination of Gen. George Casey to be Army chief of staff. The vote was 14 to 3.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had been critical of Casey's judgment as the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, was among the three who voted no. The other no votes were cast by Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia -- both Republicans.

The nomination of Adm. William Fallon to be the new head of Central Command was approved by 16-0 vote.

The record will be kept open for others on the committee who weren't at the hearing to cast votes. The nominations now go to the full Senate. (Posted 10:33 a.m.)

Bush administration plans to create Africa Command

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration plans to create a new military command for the continent of Africa, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

Gates was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the recent military budget requests.

"The president has decided to stand up a new unified combatant command -- Africa Command."

It would "oversee security cooperation" build "partnership capability," support non-military missions, and -- if directed -- conduct military operations. (Posted 10:24 a.m.)

Train carrying hazardous chemicals derails, forcing evacuations

HANDLEY, W.Va. (CNN) -- A train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed early Tuesday near here, about 25 miles from Charleston, the State's capitol.

The derailment prompted mass evacuations, although no injuries have been reported at this time. More than 500 people were evacuated in Handley when the 99 car train, operated by rail cargo company CSX, derailed around 4 a.m. ET.

CSX Spokesman Gary Sease said 11 of the 22 cars that derailed were carrying or had carried hazardous materials. Among the chemicals being transported by the train were propane, chlorine gas and chlorobenzene, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told CNN.

While no leaks have been reported by CSX, the potential for a breach is of great concern to emergency officials. --From CNN's Zak Sos in New York (Posted 9:37 a.m.)

Al-Maliki, military commanders meet; PM urges quicker implementation of security plan

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister Tuesday sat down with military commanders and urged a quicker implementation of the modified Baghdad security plan, a crucial push to secure the war-torn capital.

The meeting was held amid grass-roots criticism of the military efforts in Iraq after Saturday's bombing at a Baghdad market and the Thursday bombing at a Hilla market -- which together amounted to more than 200 deaths.

Many Iraqis were upset that the modified plan -- which had been been in its initial stages in the past month -- hadn't developed faster. At least 128 people were killed in the Baghdad incident and 73 died in Hilla.

The Baghdad security plan -- led by Iraqi forces -- will address two key aspects that failed under the previous attempt to secure the Iraqi capital: adding more forces and setting up a unified command and control structure. --CNN's Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report (Posted 9:31 a.m.)

Nearly 1 million Easy-Bake ovens recalled due to burn risk

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toymaker Hasbro and the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday recalled 985,000 Easy-Bake toy ovens after finding that kids' hands and fingers can get caught in the oven's opening, thereby posing serious risk of burns.

The CPSC said it has received 29 reports of children getting their hands or fingers caught in the oven's opening, including five reports of burns.

The Easy-Bake Ovens that are being recalled are made of purple and pink plastic and resemble a kitchen range with four burners on top and a front-loading oven. (Posted 7:53 a.m.)

Roadside bomb kills Iraqi police officer, wounds 3

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An Iraqi police officer was killed and three others were wounded when a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol along al-Rashid Road in southern Baghdad about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Iraqi police said. (Posted 2:55 a.m.)

Iraqi lawmaker blamed in Kuwait bombings now aids Iran, militias, U.S. says

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A man sentenced to death in Kuwait for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. and French embassies now sits in Iraq's parliament as a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition, according to U.S. military intelligence,

Jamal Jafaar Mohammed's seat in parliament gives him immunity from prosecution, but Washington now says he supports Shiite insurgents and acts as an Iranian agent in Iraq.

Repeated efforts to reach Jamal Jafaar Mohammed for comment through the parliament, through the ruling Shiite Muslim coalition and the Badr Organization -- the Iranian-backed paramilitary organization he once led -- have been unsuccessful.

A Kuwaiti court sentenced Jamal Jafaar Mohammed to death in 1984 in the car bombings of the U.S. and French embassies the previous December, which killed five people and wounded 86. He had fled the country by then, but Western intelligence agencies also accuse him of involvement in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti airliner in 1984 and the attempted assassination of a Kuwaiti prince. -- From CNN Correspondent Michael Ware (Posted 10:01 p.m.)


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