Bush says Iraq war is center of anti-terror fight, citing declassified intelligence

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — President Bush portrayed the Iraq war as a battle between the U.S. and al-Qaida on Wednesday and shared nuggets of intelligence to contend Osama bin Laden was setting up a terrorist cell in Iraq to strike targets in America.

Bush, who faces a public weary of war and is at odds with Democrats in Congress over funding troops, said that while the Sept. 11 attacks occurred in 2001, Americans still face a major threat from terrorists.

“In the minds of al-Qaida leaders, 9/11 was just a down payment on violence yet to come,” Bush said during a commencement speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in which he defended his decision to order a troop buildup in Iraq. “It is tempting to believe that the calm here at home after 9/11 means that the danger to our country has passed.”

“Here in America, we are living in the eye of a storm,” he said. “All around us, dangerous winds are swirling and these winds could reach our shores at any moment.”

Critics of the war insist that U.S. troops are in the middle of fights among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.


Iraqis say they found body of U.S. soldier held by al-Qaida, but no American confirmation

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi police dragged a body from the Euphrates River on Wednesday and said it was one of three American soldiers abducted in an ambush claimed by al-Qaida. The U.S. military has yet to identify the victim and pressed ahead with its search through sweltering flatlands south of Baghdad.

According to a U.S. military official, a second body was found in the area near where the first body was discovered. The official, who requested anonymity because the information has not yet been released, said there was no indication yet whether the body was another of the three missing soldiers.

American forces also disclosed nine more deaths, raising to 20 the number of U.S. troops killed in four days.

The spike in American deaths and the discovery of the bodies come at a difficult moment for Washington, where the Bush administration and Congress are struggling to agree on funding for the unpopular war. The search for the captured soldiers has also taken thousands of troops out of the pool of forces for the Baghdad security crackdown.

Nationwide at least 104 people were killed in sectarian violence or found dead Wednesday, including 32 who perished in suicide bombings. One bombing took place 60 miles west of the capital, the other in a city to the east near the Iranian border.


Senate votes to reduce number of foreign workers who could come to U.S. on temporary visas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted Wednesday to slash the number of foreign workers who could come to the U.S. on temporary visas as part of a broad bipartisan immigration bill.

A new guest worker program would be capped at 200,000 a year under the proposal, which passed 74-24 over strong opposition by the Bush administration.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the change, proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., would interfere with a “central component” of the White House-backed immigration measure. That plan provided for 400,000 worker visas annually, plus an option to increase that number to 600,000 if market conditions demand it.

“The Bingaman amendment would eliminate this critical flexibility and cut the size of the temporary worker program in half,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

His comments came as the administration urged the Senate to approve the immigration legislation despite fresh criticism from presidential hopefuls and lawmakers in both parties.


Ex-liaison for Justice Dept. says official knew more about attorneys’ firings than he let on

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alberto Gonzales’ deputy knew more about the firings of U.S. attorneys than he let on to congressional investigators, Gonzales’ former White House liaison said Wednesday in an extraordinary House hearing. She also said she herself had crossed legal lines.

Testifying under court-approved immunity, 33-year-old Monica Goodling acknowledged that she had given too much consideration to whether candidates for jobs as career prosecutors were Republicans or Democrats.

“You crossed the line on civil service laws, is that right?” asked Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

“I believe I crossed the lines,” Goodling replied. “But I didn’t mean to.”

Goodling, 33, testified at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee in a room packed with so many photographers that panel chairman John Conyers spent several minutes shooing them away from her witness table.


Clinton campaign memo argues against competing in Iowa Democratic caucus

NEW YORK (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton’s deputy campaign manager wrote a memo this week urging the Democratic front-runner to bypass next year’s Iowa caucuses to focus time and money on New Hampshire, South Carolina and several large states hosting primaries next Feb. 5.

The memo from deputy campaign manager Mike Henry emerged days after a Des Moines Sunday Register poll of likely caucus goers showed Clinton trailing rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama in Iowa, which is to hold the first voting contests Jan. 14, 2008.

“I believe we need a new approach to winning the Democratic nomination,” Henry wrote. “This approach involves shifting the focus away from Iowa and running a campaign that is more focused on other early primary states and winning this new national primary.”

All the major presidential campaigns have been struggling to adapt to next year’s vastly accelerated campaign calendar, which such states as California and New York holding primaries within weeks of traditional early powerhouses Iowa and New Hampshire. In his memo, Henry argued that winning Iowa would require a huge cash investment that could cripple the campaign as it moved into the big states.

Even so, there was no indication Wednesday that Henry’s advice would be heeded. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said the candidate and her top advisers were committed to campaigning in Iowa and Henry’s views were not shared by others in the campaign.


Abortion foes criticize one of their own; claim Dobson misrepresented Supreme Court decision

DENVER (AP) — Anti-abortion leaders are accusing one of their own, Focus on Family founder James Dobson, of misrepresenting a Supreme Court decision that upheld a ban on late-term abortions.

In a full-page ad in Wednesday’s editions of The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, the heads of four anti-abortion groups said Dobson wrongly characterized the court’s April ruling as a victory for abortion foes.

The ad said the ruling will actually encourage medical professionals to find “less shocking” methods than late-term abortions, which abortion opponents call “partial-birth abortion.”

“Dr. Dobson, you mislead Christians claiming this ruling will ’protect children.’ The court granted no authority to save the life of even a single child,” the ad said. It concluded by asking Dobson to “please repent.”

Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Dobson’s Colorado Springs-based ministry, said the group has no plans to change its position on the Supreme Court ruling.


Study suggests larger hospitals are better able to treat sickly newborns

UNDATED (AP) — Thousands of sickly newborns could be saved each year if officials closed some of the nation’s smaller neonatal intensive care units, according to a new study that suggests larger hospitals are better able to treat the infants.

Extremely premature babies were up to twice as likely to survive when treated at a busy, advanced-care center instead of one of the many community hospitals that have opened ICUs in recent years.

Even among the most advanced centers, those that handled the most babies had the best survival records, said Ciaran Phibbs, lead author of the study appearing in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

“Size really matters,” said Phibbs, a Stanford University health economist.

Earlier studies found conflicting results when reviewing the relationship between neonatal deaths and number of infants treated by a hospital. But Phibbs’ study is the largest and best of its kind, experts said.


Political discussion turns personal for Rosie and Elisabeth on ABC’s ’The View’

NEW YORK (AP) — Watching Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck squabble on ABC’s “The View” is nothing new, but Wednesday’s dustup seemed particularly nasty with the co-hosts trading accusations and personal digs.

A political discussion over the war in Iraq became heated when an angry O’Donnell decried Hasselbeck for not standing up for her when media outlets suggested that she’d called U.S. troops “terrorists” during a previous debate.

“What you did was not defend me. ... I asked you if you believed what the Republican pundits were saying — you said nothing, and that’s cowardly,” O’Donnell said.

Responded a stern Hasselbeck: “Do not call me a coward, because No. 1, I sit here every single day, open my heart and tell people what I believe.”

O’Donnell and Hasselbeck were shown on a split screen as the argument progressed without commercial interruption.


Stocks end lower after Greenspan remarks spur investors to cash in gains

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks wilted Wednesday as comments from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and worries about upcoming economic data deflated a rally fed by takeover activity.

Stocks initially rose, lifting the Dow Jones industrials briefly above 13,600 for the first time, after the market got a fresh load of deal-related news that included a possible bidding battle over aluminum producer Alcan Inc. But the excitement waned after a media report that Greenspan expressed concern that China’s stock market — which has recently been hitting record highs — could eventually see a sharp decline.

Wall Street’s mood also dampened when energy prices failed to ease despite a rebound in U.S. crude and gasoline inventories last week. And with key reports on durable goods and new home sales due for release Thursday and the long Memorial Day weekend looming, investors adopted a defensive stance.

Strong merger and acquisition activity has for weeks been the primary force lifting the Dow, which crossed over the 13,000 milestone less than a month ago. So after some cautionary comments from Greenspan, analysts were not surprised to see investors take a breather.

“He still carries a lot of clout,” said Steven DeSanctis, small cap strategist with Prudential Equity Group, noting that U.S. investors are also very focused on the Chinese economy. “You get a data point like that and people start to take profits, get a little nervous.”


Official: Brian Hill out as Magic coach after 2 consecutive losing seasons and playoff ouster

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Brian Hill is out as the Orlando Magic’s coach after two consecutive losing seasons and a first-round sweep in this year’s playoffs, an official in the NBA said Wednesday.

Hill and the club were still negotiating his exit, and it was not clear whether he resigned or was fired, said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the situation was not entirely resolved. The Magic were prepared to offer Hill another job with the team, the official said.

In two stints with the Magic, Hill became the winningest coach in team history. He took Orlando to its first playoff appearance in four years this season. Team president Bob Vander Weide said earlier this month he was re-evaluating Hill’s status after the quick playoff exit.

The team finished 40-42 before being swept by the Detroit Pistons in the first round.

Some fans have been upset the 59-year-old Hill didn’t give rookie J.J. Redick and 7-footer Darko Milicic more prominent roles.

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