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News update

Thursday, June 14

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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.

Bomb wounds 5 in southeastern Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- A bomb exploded near a minibus stop in southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir Friday morning, wounding five people, officials said, according to the Anatolian state news agency.

The attack took place in the city's Ofis business district and is the latest in a string of bombings across the country -- many in Turkey's separatist Kurdish region.

On Sunday, six people were injured when an explosion ripped through Istanbul's crowded Bakirkoy district -- a mixed shopping and residential area located on the European side of the Turkish city, which straddles both Europe and Asia.

Three weeks earlier, a suicide bomber detonated at an Ankara shopping district, killing five people and wounding dozens of others.

Turkish authorities blamed the May 22 attack on the radical, separatist Kurdistan Workers Party -- known by its acronym PKK. Its fighters have been staging attacks against Turkey in the country's southeast and from the Kurdish region of neighboring Iraq.

A market in Turkey's port city of Izmir was also the scene of a deadly bombing on May 12. At least one person died in that attack.

-- Journalist Andrew Finkel contributed to this report (Posted 2:55 a.m.)

Open Wyoming Senate seat draws 31 applications

(CNN) -- After U.S. Senator Craig Thomas died of leukemia earlier this month, Republican leaders in his home state of Wyoming decided to employ a wide-open application process to find potential candidates for his vacant seat. Any registered Republican who was a resident of Wyoming and met the age limit for a senator (at least 30) could throw his or her cowboy hat into the ring by filling out a two-page job application and submitting it to state party headquarters.

By Thursday's deadline, 31 people applied, including a host of current and former state legislators, two doctors, seven ranchers, a minister, a radio announcer and the manager of a truck stop company.

"Grassroots democracy is alive and well in Wyoming," said Fred Parady, the chairman of the state GOP, in a statement. "We have an energized citizenry and an eager group of applicants."

Sunday, the entire herd of candidates will be invited to take the stage at Casper College for a candidates' forum, which will be broadcast statewide. Parady said party leaders were still "finalizing procedures" for handling the large field of Senate hopefuls. After Sunday's forum, the GOP central committee will meet Tuesday to pick the three finalists to send to Gov. David Freudenthal, who will pick a new senator from the list. -- By Richard Shumate, The CNN Wire (Posted 11:22 p.m.)

Alleged former Klansman convicted in 1964 murders

(CNN) -- An alleged former member of the Ku Klux Klan was convicted Thursday in the 1964 deaths of two black teenagers in Mississippi, authorities said.

James Ford Seale was convicted by a federal jury in connection with the abductions and killings of Charles Eddie More and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, the Justice Department said in a statement. Seale, now 71, was charged in the case in January.

"Seale and other Klansmen conspired to abduct, interrogate, beat and eventually murder" the two, the statement said. "According to evidence presented at trial, Seale and his co-conspirators believed that Dee might have knowledge about African-Americans importing firearms to Franklin County."

Seale, a former sheriff's deputy, was convicted of two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy. At his sentencing on Aug. 24, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison. (Posted 10:14 p.m.)

Future of Israeli-Palestinian talks a puzzle after Gaza battle

CAIRO (CNN) -- The declaration by Hamas that it is in control of Gaza left many nations in the Middle East and beyond scrambling to determine what to do next -- and wondering how the recent crisis will affect plans for a permanent peace in the region.

Hamas claimed control of Gaza late Thursday after routing Palestinian security forces controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. Abbas issued an emergency decree dissolving the Hamas-led government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, but Haniya rejected the decree and vowed to remain in office.

The Arab League plans to meet in Cairo on Friday to discuss the issue, as well as the situation in Lebanon after Wednesday's assassination of an anti-Syrian member of parliament.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Palestinians risk losing ground in their quest for statehood amid the fighting between Hamas, the Islamic militant movement that won power in 2006 elections, and Fatah, which has dominated Palestinian politics for decades. "What are they quarreling for? A government, or a state, or a ministerial post?" he asked Thursday on CNN. "They are under occupation, and they have their cause." (Posted 9:31 p.m.)

Massachusetts legislators reject measure to ban same-sex marriage

(CNN) -- Opponents of same-sex marriage who were hoping to stamp out the practice in the only U.S. jurisdiction where it is now legal were dealt a stunning defeat Thursday, when Massachusetts lawmakers torpedoed a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The vote means that gay men and lesbians are likely to continue to legally marry in the Bay State for years to come, to the chagrin of opponents of same-sex marriage who gathered 170,000 petition signatures to try to get the amendment on the 2008 election ballot.

"The politicians have spoken, but the people have not," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute and spokesman for VoteOnMarriage.org, which helped organize the petition drive. "Nothing has changed in the citizenry of Massachusetts -- the people still want to be involved in the definition of marriage."

But Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, a group that supports same-sex marriage, called Thursday a "proud day in Massachusetts."

"We know in our hearts that not only are we and our families safer and more secure today, but all the loving couples and families that follow us," he said in a statement. -- CNN's Vidya Singh contributed to this report. (Posted 9:26 p.m.)

U.S. soldier killed in Iraq's Diyala province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier died Thursday from small arms fire while conducting operations in Iraq's Diyala province, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The soldier, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives, was assigned to Task Force Lightning. The death brings to 3,515 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the Iraq war began. (Posted 8:41 p.m.)

Haniyeh rejects emergency decree, Hamas claims control of Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Fighters from the Islamic party Hamas claimed full control of Palestinian Authority security agencies in Gaza late Thursday as its leader rejected an emergency decree from President Mahmoud Abbas dissolving the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

The emergency decree dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and announced the creation of an interim government staffed by Abbas' Fatah allies. The president vowed to hold new elections "as soon as the situation on the ground permits," Abbas adviser Tayeb Abdel Rahim said.

But Haniya, whose militant Islamic party won control of the Palestinian parliament in 2006, rejected the "hasty" decree and said his government would remain in office.

"Our presence in the government came about from democratic and popular will and through the ballot boxes," he announced in a late-night speech. "We restate that we will continue to follow democratic conduct and respect the political system and all of its components which came through the elections." (Posted 8:23 p.m.)

Senate leaders reach deal to revive immigration bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just a week after supporters of an immigration reform bill saw their delicately crafted handiwork put on life support, Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal Thursday evening to revive the controversial measure and bring it back to the floor as early as the end of next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a joint statement announcing that debate on the immigration will resume after the Senate finishes work on an energy bill now on the floor, which is expected to take up most or all of next week.

Details of the agreement have so far not been disclosed. However, senators and aides familiar with the deal said it will allow for consideration of about 20 amendments once debate resumes.

Reid pulled the bill from the floor last week after most Republicans balked at cutting off further amendments and moving forward toward a vote. The Democratic leader has said he was willing to revive the bill if it was clear that there was enough Republican support to move the bill forward. A tentative agreement was reached after a full day of negotiations in an office near the Senate floor. Reid, McConnell and key architects of the bill then met to reach final agreement on the deal's details. -- From CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett (Posted 8:02 p.m.)

Anchor's mistakenly broadcast comments on Eido assassination cause furor

BEIRUT (CNN) -- A Lebanese television anchor's comments and laughter regarding the assassination of Lebanese anti-Syrian parliamentarian Walid Eido -- broadcast mistakenly because she did not realize her microphone was on -- have caused a furor and resulted in her firing.

"So, why did it take them so long to kill him?" the anchor, who has not been identified, asked a colleague on live television Wednesday, the same day as Eido's death. She begins laughing, and the colleague joins in.

Then, she says, referring to anti-Syrian parliament member Ahmad Fatfat, "Fatfat should be next. I'm counting them down." "We don't glee in someone else's misfortune," the colleague replies. "It's not gloating," the anchor replied, "but we've had enough of them."

NBN is owned by Nabih Berry, a pro-Syrian political who is speaker of Lebanon's parliament. In a statement, the station said it had fired the anchor and colleague and apologized for "an unintentional mistake." The statement said, "the comments made do not represent the station in any way." (Posted 8:02 p.m.)

Six accused of plotting to attack Fort Dix plead not guilty

(CNN) -- The six men accused of plotting to attack U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J., pleaded not guilty Thursday when they appeared before a federal judge in Camden.

Each of the defendants came before the judge individually as their lawyers entered the pleas. Afterward, they appeared jointly before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler, who will preside over the case, said Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, District of New Jersey. A preliminary trial date was set for Aug. 13, but the judge said that he expected the trial to actually start in October, said Reinert. "We're probably looking at a four-week trial," said Reinert.

Five of the men -- Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Serdar Tatar, Dritan Duka, Shain Duka and Eljvir "Elvis" Duka -- have been charged with conspiring to kill uniformed military personnel, an offense punishable by life in prison. The sixth suspect, Agron Abdullahu, is charged with helping illegal immigrants obtain weapons, and could face 10 years in prison if convicted. -- From CNN's Kelly Marshall (Posted 7:38 p.m.)

Haniya says Hamas won't cede power

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' decree dissolving his Hamas-led government, telling Palestinians his authority stems from "democratic and popular will."

"The current government will carry out its tasks and will not give up its national responsibilities towards its people," said Haniya, whose militant Islamic party won control of the Palestinian parliament in 2006.

He called Abbas' Thursday night declaration of a state of emergency and the dissolution of the government "hasty," and said Hamas would not try to separate the Gaza Strip -- which it claimed full control over Thursday night -- from the Palestinian territory in the West Bank. "We refuse the existence of a Palestinian state in the strip alone," he said. "The country is one and cannot be divided." (Posted 7:28 p.m.)

8 Pakistani soldiers, policeman killed in ambush

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Eight Pakistan Army soldiers and a policeman were killed late Thursday when their vehicle was ambushed by unidentified gunmen in the city of Quetta, police officials told CNN. Six others were wounded in the incident.

The gunmen's car intercepted the vehicle carrying the soldiers, who had returned from vacation, outside a train station, police said.

In a separate incident, one person was killed and four others injured in a gunfight between rival tribal groups in Quetta.

The violence came a few hours after Richard Boucher, assistant U.S. secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, left Quetta. On Friday, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will be in Islamabad to meet with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. -- From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi (Posted 7:04 p.m.)

Wife of evangelist Billy Graham dead at 87

(CNN) -- Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of the Rev. Billy Graham, died Thursday, said Larry Ross, the Grahams' spokesman. She was 87.

Graham died at her home in Montreat, N.C. at 5:05 p.m., surrounded by her husband and her five children, according to her obituary posted on the Billy Graham Evangelical Association's (BGEA) Web site.

For several months, she had been frail and confined to bed, according to Graham spokeswoman Melanie Etheridge. Two weeks ago she was treated for pneumonia. Although she initially improved, because of her weakened condition she declined rapidly and slipped into a coma Wednesday.

"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Billy Graham said in the obituary. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support." (Posted 6:49 p.m.)

Senators reach agreement to revive immigration bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate supporters of a comprehensive immigration reform bill reached a tentative agreement Thursday to revive the measure, which stalled last week, senators involved in the negotiations told CNN.

Senate leaders from both parties were meeting Thursday evening to discuss the agreement, which could clear the way for the bill to come back to the Senate floor.

The breakthrough came just hours after President Bush threw his support behind an amendment that would provide an additional $4.4 billion for border security and work site immigration enforcement, in a bid to answer concerns from some GOP critics that the security aspects of the bill weren't tough enough. --From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash (Posted 6:31 p.m.)

Wife of evangelist Billy Graham dead at 87

(CNN) -- Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of the Rev. Billy Graham, died Thursday, said Larry Ross, the Grahams' spokesman. She was 87.

Graham died at her home in Montreat, N.C. For several months, she had been frail and confined to bed, according to Graham spokeswoman Melanie Etheridge. Two weeks ago she was treated for pneumonia. Although she initially improved, because of her weakened condition she declined rapidly and slipped into a coma Wednesday.

Etheridge said Wednesday that Graham was surrounded by her husband and four of her children, with the fifth set to arrive Wednesday night.

Throughout her life, Graham defied the image of a proverbial "preacher's wife," and her frequent presence at her husband's evangelical crusades earned her a following of her own. (Posted 6:17 p.m.)

Dangerous 2004 pipeline rupture traced to long-standing damage

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Damage to a pipeline -- possibly dating back to its construction in 1973 or to subsequent excavations -- was responsible for an October 2004 rupture that released dangerous anhydrous ammonia, federal safety investigators said Thursday.

The pipe broke six miles east of Kingman, Kansas, leaking 204,000 gallons of ammonia and creating a highly toxic vapor cloud and could have been "catastrophic" if it had been near a town or city, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said.

But there were no human deaths or injuries in the Oct. 27, 2004, incident. Chemicals from the pipeline did enter a nearby stream, killing more than 25,000 fish, the NTSB said. --From CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 6:12 p.m.)

Reid under fire over report he questioned generals' competence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come under withering fire from the White House and other Republicans over a report that he questioned the competence of U.S. military leaders in Iraq during an interview Tuesday with a group of antiwar bloggers.

Politico.com, citing sources familiar with the interview, reported Thursday that the Nevada Democrat called outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace "incompetent" and made similar remarks about Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Asked about the comments at a news conference Thursday, Reid denied questioning the competence of Petraeus -- saying he had "high regard" for the general -- but he would neither confirm nor deny the remarks about Pace attributed to him.

Tony Snow blasted Reid from the podium at Thursday's White House briefing. "We certainly hope it's not true, because in a time of war, for a leader of a party that says it supports the military, it seems outrageous to be issuing slanders toward the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and also the man who is responsible for the bulk of military operations in Iraq," Snow said. "I don't know if it's true or not. If it is true, I certainly hope he does apologize." (Posted 5:58 p.m.)

TB globetrotter to undergo surgery

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Andrew Speaker and his physicians have decided that the 31-year-old lawyer who is infected with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis should undergo surgery to remove infected and damaged lung tissue.

"I'm really motivated for the surgery," Speaker told CNN's Amy Burkholder in a telephone interview from National Jewish Medical and Research Center, where he is confined to a room with special ventilation to ensure he does not infect others. "Doctors say this is the best chance to save my life."

Speaker said the doctors told him their goal is to figure out -- prior to the surgery -- which drugs are effective "so anything they can't take out, the drugs will be able to go after."

Asked about the risks, he said, "You know, you see a Viagra commercial -- even that has risks. You can look up the risks. All I know is, my life's in the best hands." --From CNN's Tom Watkins (Posted 5:50 p.m.)

Massachusetts legislature votes against 'one man, one woman' marriage amendment

(CNN) -- The Massachusetts legislature Thursday blocked a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that would have defined marriage "only as the union of one man and one woman."

The proposal needed the approval of only 50 of 200 Massachusetts lawmakers in order to become a referendum on the 2008 ballot. It received just 45.

The proposed amendment had been approved in early January, but failed in this required second vote. --From CNN's Vidya Singh in New York (Posted 5:40 p.m.)

Hamas sweeps through Gaza as Abbas declares emergency

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Fighters from the Islamic party Hamas claimed full control of Palestinian Authority security agencies in Gaza late Thursday as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sacked his Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency.

Fighters loyal to Hamas, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, waved their green banners from atop the headquarters of the Preventive Security Service in Gaza City and took numerous prisoners from Abbas' Fatah party.

"In Gaza, a military coup attempt has taken place against the Palestinian Authority," Abbas adviser Tayeb Abdel Rahim said.

By late Thursday, Hamas had seized control of all Palestinian Authority security installations in the territory, leaving only Gaza City's presidential compound outside its grasp, Palestinian security sources said. The presidential compound fell shortly before midnight (5 p.m. ET), Hamas sources told CNN. (Posted 5:07 p.m.)

FBI officials acknowledge more errors in terror probes, plan more corrective action

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI officials Thursday acknowledged their internal audit shows more than 1,000 procedural errors occurred while collecting information in terrorism investigations, but stressed top officials have moved swiftly to address the problem and vowed more changes will be announced in coming days.

The moves come amid renewed criticism in the wake of disclosures that a nearly completed internal review of FBI agents' handling of national security letters seeking information on citizens in terror investigations will show more mistakes than revealed by a Justice Department inspector general's report in March.

"We were a little surprised there were more third-party mistakes than previously known, but generally the results are along the lines of the I.G. report," said one FBI official familiar with the audit.

A Justice Department official acknowledged the "raw numbers of errors identified by the FBI's internal audit differed from the I.G. report." The official said the greater number of errors found should have been expected because the FBI's internal audit examined a much larger sample than the inspector general's earlier report. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 5:01 p.m.)

Missing Haitian teen soccer players now accounted for

NEW YORK (CNN) -- All 13 Haitian soccer players on the country's youth team who went missing in New York City's JFK airport late Tuesday night are now accounted for, the Haitian consulate general told CNN Thursday.

Eleven of the missing teens have returned to New York while two of them are on their way back from Boston, said Felix Augustin, the Haitian consulate general in New York. Most of them apparently were staying with friends or relatives in New York City and its surrounding boroughs, said Augustin, but details of their excursions are still unclear.

The under-17 Haitian soccer team was traveling from Haiti to Seoul, South Korea, to play in the U-17 World Cup soccer tournament and had stopped at JFK International Airport for an overnight layover. Upon arrival, chaperones took the players to a McDonald's inside the airport, said Augustin, and that's when they disappeared -- allegedly in a van.

Augustin told CNN he is presuming that certain Haitian adults with "their own vested interest" manipulated the children as a way of "trying to embarrass the Haitian government." (Posted 4:49 p.m.)

Diana's sons to honor her with benefit concert July 1

LONDON (CNN) -- Princes William and Harry, sons of the late Princess Diana, plan to honor her life next month on what would have been her 46th birthday by hosting a concert benefiting charity.

This year marks 10 years since Diana died in a car accident in Paris, Prince William told the British Broadcasting Corporation in an interview. "We didn't want this year to go by ... without something really significant happening."

But instead of marking their mother's death, the princes chose to celebrate her life. A memorial service, William said, "wouldn't be quite fitting enough. We wanted something that would really bring her whole spirit and her joy of life -- everything she stood for -- to a point."

The princes told the BBC their mother loved music and loved to dance, so a concert was an easy choice. (Posted 4:40 p.m.)

Audubon survey finds common U.S. backyard birds becoming less common

(CNN) -- Some of the most common birds seen and heard in American back yards are becoming a less frequent sight and sound in much of the United States, according to a study released by the National Audubon Society.

Twenty common birds -- including the northern bobwhite, the field sparrow and the boreal chickadee -- have lost more than half their populations in the past 40 years, according to the society's research.

"These populations are not yet on the endangered species list, but it is noteworthy, and we need to take steps to protect their habitat," said Carol Browner, Audubon chair and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

And like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, the health of a region's bird population is often a harbinger of the health of other wildlife and of human populations as well. "The focus isn't really on what's happening to these 20 birds, but what's happening to their environment," said Greg Butcher, the society's conservation director. --From CNN's Marsha Walton (Posted 4:29 p.m.)

Abbas declares emergency as Hamas sweeps through Gaza

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sacked his Hamas-led government and declared a state of emergency Thursday after the Islamic movement wrested control of most of Gaza from security forces controlled by Abbas.

Fighters loyal to Hamas, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, declared the territory under Islamic rule, waving their green banners atop the headquarters of the Preventive Security Service in Gaza City and taking numerous prisoners from Abbas' Fatah party.

By late Thursday, the group had seized control of all Palestinian Authority security installations in the territory, leaving only the Palestinian presidential compound outside its grasp, Palestinian security sources said.

"In Gaza, a military coup attempt has taken place against the Palestinian Authority," Abbas adviser Tayeb Abdel Rahim said. (Posted 4:16 p.m.)

TB globetrotter to undergo surgery

(CNN) -- Andrew Speaker and his physicians have decided that the 31-year-old lawyer who is infected with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis should undergo surgery to remove infected and damaged tissue in his lungs, National Jewish Medical and Research Center announced Thursday.

The operation is expected to take place next month, though a date has not been set, the Denver hospital said in a written statement.

Surgery is intended to complement the antibiotic therapy Speaker is receiving, and is expected to improve his odds of recovery.

"Andrew Speaker is an excellent candidate for surgery," said Dr. Charles Daley, head of the Infectious Disease Division at National Jewish, and Speaker's physician. "The infected area of his lung is relatively small and well contained. He is also young and otherwise healthy." (Posted 3:55 p.m.)

No fix yet on space station computer problem

(CNN) -- Efforts to fix the computer problems aboard the International Space Station are continuing, NASA's associate administrator, Bill Gerstenmaier, said Thursday.

The computers were online briefly in the morning but are back offline now.

"At this point we are still in the middle of troubleshooting. You are going to see computers come up and down throughout the day," he said. "The Russian team is trying to understand, along with the U.S. team, what the root cause is, or why we are having the problems we are with the computers."

For unknown reasons, three navigational/command-and-control computers in the Russian Zarya module crashed Tuesday, and Russian crew members spent the day Wednesday trying to reboot them, without success.

Overnight, Russian Space Agency personnel made headway in fixing the problem, and briefly had the central computer and at least one of the navigation computers up and running. During a seven-minute interval when the computers were online Thursday morning, they were able to execute a series of commands that put the station in a stable electrical configuration. --From CNN Science & Technology Senior Producer Kate Tobin

Justices reject appeal of convicted killer despite deadline mistake by trial court

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A convicted killer who pleaded for a measure of fairness after confusion over a deadline to file an appeal received no help Thursday from conservative members of the Supreme Court. One dissenting member called the ruling "intolerable."

The justices split 5-4, with the majority concluding Keith Bowles deserved no legal relief after a federal judge wrongly gave the prisoner an extra three days to submit a notice of appeal. Federal laws permit a 14-day filing period, which should have ended Feb. 24, 2004. But the judge "inexplicably" gave Bowles 17 days, until Feb. 27, noted the high court. His attorney filed the appeal on the 26th. Later courts labeled the mistake "excusable neglect" and the judge was not sanctioned. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 3:35 p.m.)

Judge orders Libby imprisoned during his appeal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Thursday rejected a defense motion and ordered Lewis "Scooter" Libby to report to prison to serve his sentence while his attorneys appeal his case.

Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, showed little emotion when U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton announced his decision during a hearing. Libby and his wife, Harriet Grant, quickly left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

No one else involved in the case would comment, either. It is expected that Libby's attorneys will appeal Walton's ruling.

In trying to delay the sentence, defense lawyers sought to convince Walton that there was a good chance they could overturn their client's conviction on appeal. --From CNN's Paul Courson and Debra Krajnak (Posted 3"25 p.m.)

Abbas dismisses Palestinian government, declares emergency

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government and declared a state of emergency Thursday after four days of fighting that has left Hamas in control of much of Gaza, an aide to the Palestinian leader said.

Hamas declared Gaza under Islamic rule, the first step toward establishing an Islamic state in the territory, after routing Palestinian security forces under the control of Abbas' Fatah movement.

Abbas adviser Tayeb Abdel Rahim said Abbas' declaration also covered the establishment of an interim government.

The declaration gives him the authority to replace the current government with a cabinet staffed by his Fatah allies. The government would have to be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council after 30 days. (Posted 2:39 p.m.)

Justice confirms its probe includes Goodling 'uncomfortable' meeting with attorney general

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Justice Department officials investigating the controversy over the firing of several U.S. attorneys told Congress Thursday their probe will include a private meeting in which former White House liaison Monica Goodling testified she felt "uncomfortable" discussing the issue with her then-boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Goodling testified before a House committee on May 23 that she had been asked privately by Gonzales what she recalled about plans to fire the prosecutors, and that she felt uncomfortable discussing it because they were likely to be asked about it in sworn testimony.

Goodling's claimed discomfort in discussing the case with Gonzales prompted charges from some congressional Democrats that the attorney general may have been trying to steer or shape anticipated congressional testimony.

Those assertions were strongly rejected by Gonzales, who issued a written statement saying he was merely trying to comfort Goodling. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 2:36 p.m.)

Boy band backer behind bars

(CNN) -- Lou Pearlman, the music mogul behind such boy bands as the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync, is being held by the FBI in Guam after he was charged with bank fraud.

He was arrested Tuesday on the island of Bali in Indonesia, turned over to the FBI, and taken to Guam, where he is awaiting an initial court appearance.

The charge -- in a sealed indictment on one count of bank fraud -- comes amid several state and federal investigations into Pearlman's businesses based in Orlando, Fla. (Posted 2:29 p.m.)

Abbas dismisses Palestinian government, declares emergency

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government and declared a state of emergency Thursday after four days of fighting that has left Hamas in control of much of Gaza, an aide to the Palestinian leader said. (Posted 2:16 p.m.)

Abbas to dissolve government as Hamas declares Gaza under its Islamic rule

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- In an attempt to establish some kind of government foothold in Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas militants, Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will dissolve the Palestinian government, allowing him to form an emergency government, a source close to Abbas told CNN.

The move comes after Hamas announced Thursday that Gaza is now under its Islamic rule, the first step to becoming an Islamic state.

After he declares a state of emergency, Abbas will have the authority replace the current Hamas cabinet with his Fatah allies. The temporary cabinet would have to be approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council after 30 days.

Currently, there is no government control in Gaza, according to Palestinian legislator Saeb Erakat. (Posted 1:53 p.m.)

Missing Haitian teen soccer players now accounted for

NEW YORK (CNN) -- All 13 Haitian soccer players on the country's youth team who went missing in New York City's JFK airport late Tuesday night are now accounted for, the Haitian consulate general told CNN Thursday.

The missing teens all were found in metropolitan areas on the East Coast -- Miami, Boston and New York -- according to Felix Augustin, the Haitian consulate general in New York, and the last two players are on their way from Boston.

The under-17 Haitian soccer team was traveling from Haiti to Seoul, South Korea, and had stopped at JFK International Airport en route.

Augustin told CNN he is presuming that certain Haitian adults with "their own vested interest" manipulated the children as a way of "trying to embarrass the Haitian government." --From CNN's Catherine Clifford (Posted 1:46 p.m.)

Gates: Hard to believe Iranian government isn't aware of weapons flow from Iran to Afghanistan

(CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said he has a hard time believing that the Iranian government is not aware of weapons flowing from Iran to Afghanistan, even though there's no confirmation directly tying that activity to the Iranian government itself.

Gates was speaking at a press conference in Brussels, where he is attending a NATO meeting.

He was asked to clarify a U.S. diplomat's contention that weapons from Iran are ending up in the hands of Taliban militants in Afghanistan and the fact that the Afghan defense minister discounted the report.

"I have seen analysis suggesting a considerable flow of weapons and support from Iran. And I have not seen information that would directly tie it to approval by the government of Iran," Gates said.

But the quantity of weapons "we're seeing," he said, "makes it difficult to believe that the Iranian government doesn't have some indication or some knowledge" of the activity. (Posted 1:41 p.m.)

Judge orders Libby imprisoned during his appeal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered Lewis "Scooter" Libby to report to prison to serve his sentence while his attorneys appeal his case.

In trying to delay the sentence, defense lawyers tried to convince U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that there was a good chance they could overturn Libby's conviction on appeal. --From Paul Courson and Debra Krajnak (Posted 1:33 p.m.)

New York wins important legal round over tax dispute with two nations

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Efforts by New York City to collect delinquent property taxes against two nations who claimed diplomatic immunity can move forward, following a Supreme Court ruling Thursday.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, said federal law does not grant immunity to foreign governments on tax liens, and that U.S. courts are authorized to hear such disputes.

"We agree with the city," concluded Justice Clarence Thomas.

The United Nations missions of India and Mongolia said they should not have to pay taxes on property they own that has both diplomatic offices and housing for its employees. The city claimed otherwise, and said they had a right to sue over taxes from the housing portion of the buildings. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 1:30 p.m.)

American lawmakers call on Rice to help Gaza students

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two U.S. congressmen with personal ties to the Middle East are calling on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to help thousands of students in Gaza who have not been able to complete their education because of the ongoing fighting.

"We are calling on you to help find a safe place for students in Gaza to complete their final exams," reads a letter penned by Reps. Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, and Ray LaHood, a Republican -- both of Illinois.

Emanuel is Jewish and LaHood is of Lebanese descent.

The fighting between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza has prevented more than 75,000 Palestinian high school and college students from starting an 18-day final exam period, which had been scheduled to begin Monday. (Posted 1:12 p.m.)

U.S. mortgage rates spike higher

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Mortgage rates in the United States made their largest upward movement in nearly 4 years in the past week, and the 30-year fixed-rate reached its highest level since July 2006, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans climbed to 6.74 percent for the week ending June 14, from 6.53 percent the previous week. That marked the biggest one-week increase since July 2003.

Last year at this time, 30-year mortgage rates averaged 6.63 percent. The rate is the highest since July 20, 2006, when it averaged 6.8 percent.

The 30-year rate stood at 6.15 percent on May 10, just before it turned sharply up. (Posted 12:07 p.m.)

Hariri: Lebanese lawmaker killed because of opposition to Syria

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanese lawmakers opposed to Syria's role in their country used Thursday's funeral for a slain colleague to push their case against Damascus, who they blame for the assassination of Walid Eido and other anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon.

"Walid Eido and his son were martyred because they were on the path of Rafik Hariri," said lawmaker Saad Hariri, the son of the slain former prime minister. "They were killed because they believed in the 14th of March."

Hariri was referring to the widespread protests in March 2005 following his father's assassination that led to the ouster of Syrian forces from Lebanon.

"We'd like to say to those criminals that we fear only God almighty," Hariri said. "We will continue with our path, with justice and with determination. (Posted 12:01 p.m.)

Libby judge says he has received threatening calls, letters

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal judge who will decide whether to order Lewis "Scooter" Libby to prison or allow him to remain free pending the results of an appeal of his March conviction said Thursday he has received threatening phone calls and letters.

"In the interest of full disclosure, I have received a number of harassing, angry and mean-spirited phone calls and messages," U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton told the court at the start of the proceeding. "Some wishing bad things on me and my family."

"Those types of things will have no impact," Walton said. "I initially threw them away, but then there were more, some that were more hateful. They are being kept."

Lawyers for the convicted former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney are trying to keep their client out of prison while they appeal the case.

Walton has said he will hear arguments from the defense and prosecution before he makes his decision. --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

To push immigration bill, Bush supports additional billions for border

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In hopes of jump-starting action over the immigration bill in the Senate, President Bush announced Thursday he is supporting an amendment that would toss billions of additional dollars immediately into border security.

Noting a "common concern" that the government may not provide adequate resources to meet the goals laid out in the bill, Bush said, "To answer these concerns, I support an amendment that will provide $4.4 billion in immediate, additional funding for securing our borders and enforcing our laws at the work site."

The funding would come from fines and penalties from people illegally in the country, Bush said during a speech to the Associated Builders and Contractors.

He vowed to "show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept." (Posted 11:31 a.m.)

4 Iraqi soldiers killed in roadside bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four Iraqi soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing attack Thursday in Mussayib, a city in Babil province south of Baghdad, Hilla police said. Another soldier was wounded, police said. The incident occurred at 3:30 p.m. (Posted 11:25 a.m.)

Israelis deny reports its forces killed 5 children in southern Gaza

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military denied reports that its forces were responsible for tank shelling in southern Gaza on Thursday that reportedly killed five Palestinian children.

Hamas sources said the incident happened in the Shoka neighborhood east of Rafah, where Hamas forces recently took control of Fatah-affiliated positions.

Palestinian medical and Hamas sources said five children were killed by Israeli shelling.

The Israel Defense Forces denied its units were shelling in the area. (Posted 11:16 a.m.)

In aftermath of shrine bombing, 4 killed in fighting, at least 9 Sunni mosques hit

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four people died in sectarian fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and attackers struck at least nine Sunni mosques south of Baghdad in the aftermath of Wednesday's bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque, a major Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, police said Thursday.

Thousands of people in cities across Iraq staged angry but peaceful demonstrations protesting the second bombing at the shrine, which also was struck and badly damaged in February 2006 -- a major event that spawned the ongoing widespread Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence and population displacement in Iraq

The latest attack, which destroyed two minarets at the already badly damaged location, sparked calls for unity and calm from worried officials across the globe and in the Salaheddin province city of Samarra. Officials believe angry Shiites probably attacked the Sunni mosques but they don't discount the role of Sunni militants, such as al Qaeda in Iraq, in trying to fan sectarian discord.

"You are sons and grandsons of the two greatest imams who ever lived," said Salaheddin Gov. Hamed Hamoud Shekti, in a public announcement to the citizenry from the Askariya Mosque on Thursday morning. "Please stop the sabotage and destruction, and work on the aims and goals of the city." (Posted 10:51 a.m.)

Erakat: 'Gaza is now officially out of our control as the Palestinian Authority'

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hamas fighters continue to seize control of key Fatah security installations across Gaza as the Palestinian government teeters on the brink of collapse.

Neither Fatah nor Hamas legislators have any control in the territory, Palestinian legislator Saeb Erakat told CNN Thursday.

"Gaza is now officially out of our control as the Palestinian Authority," said Erakat, who is aligned with the Fatah party.

He blamed a "renegade force" in Gaza for staging a "major coup d'etat."

"I believe a state of emergency must be declared immediately," Erakat said. "This is a coup against the president, against the Palestinian people, and against the Palestinian cause." (Posted 10:44 a.m.)

State law restricting use of union dues for politics found constitutional

WASHINGTON (CNN) --A Washington state law restricting use of union dues for political purposes was upheld Thursday by the Supreme Court, in a pair of cases that melded free speech, election advocacy and workplace rights.

A key provision has since been amended by state lawmakers, diluting the broader impact of the ruling.

At issue was whether states could force labor unions to obtain direct permission from workers before having their mandatory "shop fees" spent on partisan politics, including candidates and issues many of them may not support.

"No suppression of ideas is afoot," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, "since the union remains free as any other entity to participate in the electoral process with all available funds other than the state-coerced agency fees lacking affirmative permission."

State officials were among those who brought the high court appeal, on behalf of a few thousand public school teachers who refused to join their union. Under a voter-approved ballot initiative, those non-union workers can still be charged an annual service fee -- equal in amount to union dues -- but only to help pay for traditional labor negotiations. Those fees cannot be spent on most types of political activities, under the 1992 law, "unless affirmatively authorized by the individual." --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 10:27 a.m.)

Negroponte, in Iraq, stresses 'urgency of making political progress'

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The second-ranking official in the U.S. State Department said Thursday that he has stressed the vital need for Iraqi leaders to promote the kind of unity that would help lessen the widespread instability in the Iraq.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, spoke to reporters about his current trip to Iraq, where he met with a range of Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and U.S. officials as well.

"I encouraged the efforts that he and other members of the government have made toward national reconciliation and stressed the urgency of making political progress that will reinforce efforts by coalition and Iraqi security forces to restore stability," Negroponte said.

Success in Iraq, he said, will depend on the actions of Iraqi leaders, all of whom have made clear their commitment to promoting a peaceful environment. (Posted 10:22 a.m.)

5 rockets land in Baghdad's Green Zone

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Rockets landed inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Thursday, and military authorities suspect the projectiles were fired by Shiite militias, the U.S. military said.

"Five rockets were observed by radar that landed in the International Zone today," a U.S. military spokesman told CNN. There was no immediate word on casualties and damage. (Posted 10:05 a.m.)

Repairs under way on computers in Russian portion of space station

(CNN)--Russian crew members worked Wednesday night into Thursday morning and reported progress in trying to re-establish communication with computers in the Russian Zarya module of the international space station.

On Tuesday, three navigational/command-and-control computers crashed, temporarily cutting off communication between Russian flight controllers and the station. So far, the Russian Space Agency has fixed the central computer and at least one of the navigational computers.

Experts say the crew and the station were never in any immediate danger. (Posted 10 a.m.)

Video shows execution of 14 Iraqi security force members

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A video showing the execution of 14 Iraqi security force members has appeared on the Internet.

The Islamic State of Iraq, a militant coalition that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, shows the execution of people who appeared in a hostage video earlier this week.

The militants promised to execute the men in three days if their demands to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki weren't met. Those demands included releasing Sunni women from Iraqi Interior Ministry prisons and handing over inmates involved in various rapes and killings.

The men are shown blindfolded and kneeling, and a single masked gunman executes them one at a time at point-blank range with a pistol. At the end of the clip, the gunman is shown reloading and beginning to make a second pass to ensure all are dead.

The video appears to be produced by Al Farqan Production Company, the entity that usually handles such tasks for militants. (Posted 9:50 a.m.)

Portuguese police to search scrubland after tip on missing 4-year-old

(CNN) -- Portuguese police are to begin searching scrubland close to the Mediterranean coast Thursday, after receiving an anonymous tip that a 4-year-old British girl missing for more than a month is buried there.

Detectives visited the area Wednesday, were expected to begin a more intense search -- possibly using sniffer dogs -- Thursday. However, rain in the area may make that more difficult.

A letter accompanied by a map was sent to the Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf in Amsterdam, claiming that Madeleine McCann's body was buried "under trees and rocks, five or six meters from the road."

The map includes a cross and two question marks with the comment: "Possible place where Madeleine could be found." The location is close to the village of Odiaxere, about 10 miles east of Praia da Luz, where Madeleine's family was staying at the time of her abduction on the evening of May 3. (Posted 9:40 a.m.)

Iraq Interior Ministry: 25 bodies found in Baghdad streets Wednesday

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry on Thursday said 25 slain, unidentified bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad Wednesday.

These killings -- which have been a daily occurrence since the first Al-Askariya Mosque attack in Samarra last year -- are thought to be the result of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence that flared up after that attack. That Shiite mosque was attacked again on Wednesday.

The slain bodies, found dumped across the capital, are usually bound, peppered with bullets, and tortured.

There have been 314 such killings in Baghdad this month. (Posted 9:20 a.m.)

'Scooter' Libby tries again to avoid jail, pending appeal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lawyers for convicted ex-White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby will again try to keep Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff out of prison Thursday as they prepare to file an appeal.

Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison after he was convicted in March on four counts involving perjury and obstruction of justice for hindering an investigation into how a CIA operative's name was leaked to the media. The judge also fined him $250,000.

After the June 5 sentencing, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he was inclined to jail Libby after the defense laid out its proposed appeal, but Walton provided Thursday's hearing to try to convince him otherwise. (Posted 9:14 a.m.)

Hamas moving to cement its control of Gaza, seizes key security installation

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hamas forces Thursday seized control of a key Fatah security installation in Gaza City, further cementing their control of Gaza as a whole and raising questions as to the fate of Fatah's future role, if any, in Gaza.

Hamas forces control areas north and south of Gaza's largest city and are working to remove the remaining Fatah strongholds in Gaza City. Hamas fighters surrounded Fatah bases in the city, ordering those inside them to surrender, according to CNN's Talal Abu-Rahman.

Video from Hamas' al-Aqsa TV showed that the green flag of the Hamas organization had been placed on the rooftop of Preventive Security headquarters as a gunman stood nearby shooting his weapon into the air. Other Hamas fighters, wearing black masks, patrolled outside the compound.

Hamas video also showed a group of shirtless men with their hands in the air being marched down the street at gunpoint -- one man donned only in his underwear. There are unconfirmed reports that some of the men were executed. That report was denied by a Hamas representative in Beirut. (Posted 8:30 a.m.)

In aftermath of Samarra shrine bombing, 10 Sunni mosques attacked

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Four people died in sectarian fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, and attackers struck 10 Sunni mosques in and south of Baghdad in the aftermath of Wednesday's bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque -- a major Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, police said Thursday.

Thousands in cities across Iraq staged angry but peaceful demonstrations protesting the second bombing at the shrine, which also was struck and badly damaged in a February 2006 attack -- a major event that spawned widespread sectarian violence and population displacement in Iraq.

Much of the violence since the Wednesday morning strike came despite a curfew imposed in Baghdad and other regions. (Posted 8:20 a.m.)

Mortars land in Baghdad's Green Zone

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A few mortar rounds landed inside Baghdad's Green Zone on Thursday, a U.S. military source told CNN.

There was no immediate word on casualties and damage, but dark smoke could be seen rising in the heavily-fortified district -- a four-square-mile area in central Baghdad that houses U.S. military and diplomatic agencies.

Also called the International Zone, it is the site of the Iraqi government and parliament and is frequently the target of mortar and rocket attacks, although many do not result in casualties. (Posted 7:47 a.m.)

Coalition raids net 25 suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces have detained 25 suspected terrorists during raids this week on al Qaeda in Iraq operations across the country, the military said in a statement released Thursday.

The military operations took place Wednesday and Thursday in Tarmiya, Amiriya, Mosul and Baghdad.

"Coalition Forces will continue deliberate and methodical operations in order to hunt down and capture or kill those terrorists who are trying to prevent a peaceful and stable Iraq," said Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. (Posted 5:50 a.m.)

Funeral under way for anti-Syrian Lebanese MP

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanon prepared to bury anti-Syrian parliament member Walid Eido on Thursday, a day after a bomb killed him and nine others in Beirut.

His funeral procession, joined by thousands of mourners, began in western Beirut around midday and was to wind its way to Martyr's Square in the city center.

His son Khalid and two bodyguards were among the dead in Wednesday's attack, Lebanese media reports said.

Eleven others were wounded in the explosion, believed to be from a car bomb, in the seaside neighborhood of Manara, according to Lebanese security sources.

Businesses, banks and schools were shut in Beirut and many parts of the country, as Lebanon observed a national day of mourning, the Reuters news service reported. (Posted 5:30 a.m.)

Aftermath of Shiite shrine bombing leaves 6 Sunni mosques badly damaged

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Apparent retaliatory attacks in the aftermath of the bombing of Al-Askariya Mosque -- a major Shiite shrine in Samarra -- have left six Sunni mosques badly damaged, police said Thursday.

Much of the violence has been directed at Sunni mosques in Babil province, south of Baghdad, where Hilla police said militia members staged bombings at three mosques -- two in Iskandariya and one in Khan al-Mahawil.

On Wednesday, Police reported the torching of a Sunni mosque in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, gunfire in Shiite neighborhoods in the capital, and the bombings of two Sunni mosques in Iskandariya.

The Askariya Mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque, is a major Shiite Muslim shrine, the same holy site that was targeted in February 2006 by attackers dressed as Iraqi police commandos in a seminal event that sparked widespread sectarian civil warfare and population displacement. That attack collapsed the top of the mosque's dome. (Posted 4:40 a.m.)

'Decisive' statement due from Abbas; Hamas tries to consolidate control in Gaza City

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to make a "decisive" statement Thursday on the escalating factional fighting in Gaza, Fatah sources told CNN.

The announcement came as Hamas militia members kept intense pressure on Fatah bases throughout the territory, especially in Gaza City. Hamas forces were in control to the north and south of Gaza's largest city and were working to remove the remaining Fatah strongholds there.

According to CNN's Talal Abu-Rahman, Hamas fighters are surrounding Fatah bases in Gaza City, ordering those inside them to surrender and using mortars and rockets overnight to batter other Fatah targets.

Hamas declared northern Gaza a "closed military area" Wednesday and launched new attacks on Palestinian Authority security forces in the south as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned that the territory faced "collapse." (Posted 4:35 a.m.)

U.S., Afghan forces kill suspected militant, confiscate 'martyr' videos

(CNN) -- U.S. and Afghan forces killed a suspected militant and detained three others, during a raid early Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military statement said.

According to the military, "credible intelligence" led the forces to a suspected Taliban safe house in Patika province's Mata Khan district believed to be used in housing local Taliban and foreign fighters.

"The forces killed the adult male when he attempted to engage them during a search of the location," the statement said.

"A search of the buildings revealed a video camera and various tapes of 'martyr' operations in addition to an AK-47, a shotgun and two pistols." Insurgent groups often videotape suicide attacks for propaganda purposes. (Posted 2:10 a.m.)

FBI issues 'clearer guidance' in Patriot Act probes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI has issued "clearer guidance" to its agents to prevent "lapses" in a controversial program used to secretly gather private information under the Patriot Act, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said in a statement late Wednesday.

A government audit released in March by the Justice Department's inspector general said the FBI was guilty of "serious misuse" of power in its use of national security letters, which agents send to third parties demanding personal and business information about individuals -- such as financial, phone, and Internet records -- without court orders.

"These were not new guidelines," Miller said. "They were, instead clearer guidance that more fully explain the rules and law. The improved guidance was in response to lapses in procedure identified by the Inspector General's report issued in March." (Posted 12:25 a.m.)

Take from Bush fund-raising dinner down sharply from 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Standing in front of a sea of heavyweight Republican contributors Wednesday evening, President Bush called the annual President's Dinner to raise money to support GOP congressional candidates an "unqualified success" and predicted his party "will retake the House and retake the Senate and hold the White House in 2008."

But the dinner's take -- $15.4 million -- was a stark illustration of the changed political circumstances for Bush, who broke all known fund-raising records in getting and keeping the White House.

Last year, when Bush headlined the same dinner, the event raised $27 million, making this year's take less than 60 cents for every dollar raised in 2006. And it came on the day that a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Bush's approval rating dipping below 30 percent overall and down to just 62 percent among his fellow Republicans. (Posted 10:33 p.m.)


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