May 21st, 2007

Israel Continues Gaza Airstrikes Against Hamas

Palestinian rockets slammed into southern Israel on Monday morning after an Israeli airstrike hit a Hamas lawmaker's house and killed eight people in the deadliest attack of a renewed Israeli campaign against incessant rocket fire.

The Israeli airstrike Sunday night, which followed a government decision to step up operations against Islamic militants, hit the house of lawmaker Khalil al-Haya, who was not at home and was unharmed.

Dozens Killed As Lebanese Army Battles Islamic Militants For Second Day

Lebanese tanks shelled Islamist militants in a Palestinian refugee camp on Monday and at least nine civilians were killed, raising the death toll in two days of fighting to 66, security sources said.

Tanks battered the coastal camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon, home to some 40,000 refugees, as fighters of the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group fired grenades and machineguns at army posts on the perimeter, witnesses said.

Lebanese Army Shells Refugee Camp In Clash With Islamic Militants

Lebanese tanks shelled Islamist militants in a Palestinian refugee camp on Monday and at least nine civilians were killed, raising the death toll in two days of fighting to 66, security sources said.

Tanks battered the coastal camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon, home to some 40,000 refugees, as fighters of the al Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group fired grenades and machineguns at army posts on the perimeter, witnesses said.

Giuliani Slips To Third In Iowa Poll

Mitt Romney has sprinted ahead of presidential competitors John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in a new Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucus participants.

The Des Moines Register poll shows Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the top choice of 30 percent of those who say they definitely or probably will attend the leadoff Iowa caucuses in January.

Economists Predict Sluggish '07 Growth Due To Housing Slump

Weighed down by a housing slump, the economy in 2007 will log its most sluggish growth in five years. But that showing should not cause businesses to really clamp down on hiring, economic forecasters say.

A forecast released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics puts the growth of the gross domestic product at 2.2 percent for this year. The rate was 2.7 percent in the group's previous survey, in February.

Jolie Promotes "A Mighty Heart" Premiere At Cannes

Angelina Jolie, who plays the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in "A Mighty Heart," said she was overwhelmed by Mariane Pearl's inner strength and her ability to let go of hatred.

Jolie, Pearl and Brad Pitt, the movie's co-producer, were at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday for the premiere of the movie about Pearl's abduction and murder in Pakistan in 2002 while researching a story on Islamic militants.

NY Post Scandal Threatens Murdoch's Bid For Dow Jones

If you were a member of the Bancroft family in the midst of deciding whether to sell Dow Jones & Company to Rupert Murdoch, reading Friday's New York Post might have made you choke on your bagel.

Page Six ran an extraordinarily long item -- at around 680 words, it's the gossip column equivalent of "Remembrance of Things Past" -- describing an affidavit from Ian Spiegelman, a former writer for Page Six who was fired three years ago.

New Gore Book Slams Bush: "[He} Has Repeatedly Violated The Law For Six Years"

When former Vice President Al Gore hosted "Saturday Night Live" in December 2002 he appeared in a skit that compared his vice presidential selection process from two years before to the dating reality TV show "The Bachelor." In one scene Gore appeared in a hot tub with a faux Joe Lieberman, both of them shirtless, drinking champagne, arms locked, romance in the air. Anyone then looking for clues to see if Gore would run for president in 2004 probably had no trouble discerning that an exploratory committee was not in the cards.

Almost five years later, Gore still says he has no plans to run for president, but his latest book, "The Assault On Reason," is so searingly critical of the Bush administration it's hard to discern what his plans may be.

Fla Jumps Ahead Of 12 States With Jan 28 Presidential Primary

Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill Monday moving Florida's 2008 presidential primary to Jan. 29 and shaking up the race by bypassing a dozen other states set for Feb. 5.
The move puts Florida's primary, which had been scheduled for March, behind only the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and on the same day as South Carolina's Democratic primary.

Widely-Prescribed Diabetes Drug Linked To Heart Attack Risks

A new analysis Monday reported the widely prescribed diabetes drug Avandia is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and possibly death.

More than 6 million people worldwide have taken the drug sold by London-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC since it came on the market eight years ago. Pooled results of dozens of studies revealed a 45 percent higher risk of heart attack, according to the analysis published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

House Introduces No-Confidence Resolution On Gonzales

Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Artur Davis (D-Ala.) introduced a resolution Monday urging President Bush to fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The two lawmakers, both of whom are former federal prosecutors, are highly critical of Gonzales's handling of the firing of several U.S. attorneys. Their resolution also states that the attorney general has failed to "assure the public that the laws of the nation are being enforced in an independent, nonpartisan and judicious manner."

McCain Unplugged: "Maybe [Romney] Should Get Out His Small Varmint Gun And Chase Those Guatemalans O

On a blogger conference call just now, McCain fired the first shot in what is sure to be a series of ongoing frontal assaults on Mitt Romney. According to someone on the call, in response to a question about Romney's immigration position, McCain said he'd "wait a couple of weeks and see if the winds change and Mitt comes back around" to his side, and, he said, musing about why Romney seems so touchy on the issue, "Maybe Mitt should get out his small varmint gun and chase those Guatemalans off his yard."

UK To Issue Series Of "Harry Potter" Stamps

Britain's Royal Mail is issuing a series of seven stamps depicting the covers of the best-selling ``Harry Potter'' books just before the final volume goes on sale.

Millions of the stamps will be issued on July 17 as part of the post office's tradition of celebrating ``social themes and important occasions central to our way of life,'' said Julietta Edgar, who is in charge of special stamps at Royal Mail.

China Set To Buy "Huge" Stake In Blackstone Group Equity Firm

Stephen A. Schwarzman of Blackstone called China's $3 billion stake "huge."

The deal, which is set to coincide with Blackstone's $4 billion initial public offering this year, will give China a roughly 8 percent stake in Blackstone, which owns companies that have 375,000 employees and $83 billion in annual sales.

Lost Humpbacks Halfway Back To Pacific Ocean

A wayward mother whale and her calf were nearly halfway back to the Pacific Ocean with several obstacles still to overcome Monday, a week after taking a wrong turn and swimming inland to the state capital.

The humpbacks, nicknamed Delta and Dawn, were stalled briefly overnight when they began heading upstream in the Sacramento River on their 90-mile homeward journey, forcing scientists and the Coast Guard to position boats in front of them to turn them around.

Cease-Fire Agreement Ends Fighting Between Lebanon, Militants

A ceasefire to end battles between Lebanese troops and al Qaeda-inspired militants in northern Lebanon was agreed on Monday, the representative of a Palestinian faction in Lebanon told Reuters.

"There is an agreement for a ceasefire which has already gone into effect and we hope that this is a permanent ceasefire," Abu Emad al-Refaie, Islamic Jihad's representative in Lebanon, told Reuters.

Study: Men's Minds Decline More Than Women's With Age

Everyone becomes a little more forgetful as they get older, but men's minds decline more than women's, according to the results of a worldwide survey.

Certain differences seem to be inherent in male and female brains: Men are better at maintaining and manipulating mental images (useful in mathematical reasoning and spatial skills), while women tend to excel at retrieving information from their brain's files (helpful with language skills and remembering the locations of objects).

Dems To Draft Iraq Legislation Without Withdrawal Timetable

In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.

The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase inmore than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.

House Gives Rove "One Last" Chance To Testify Before Subpoena

The House Judiciary Committee is prepared to use subpoenas to compel the testimony of Karl Rove and other White House officials, Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and subcomittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA) warned White House counsel Fred Fielding today.

"We are today writing to express our extreme disappointment in the White House's rebuff of efforts by the Judiciary Committee to obtain voluntary cooperation with our investigation concerning the firing of at least nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and related matters," they wrote. "We write to make one last appeal for such voluntary cooperation." You can read the letter here.

Disney CEO Tries To Justify Company's Silence On "Hamas Mickey Mouse"

The Walt Disney Co. didn't speak out when Hamas militants used a Mickey Mouse look-alike to preach Islamic domination because the company felt it would be ineffective, Disney's chief executive said Monday.

Disney CEO Robert Iger said he and other executives considered ways to react to the recent Hamas show for children that featured someone dressed in what appeared to be a Mickey Mouse costume, railing against Israel and the United States in a high-pitched cartoonish voice.

Researchers Say Viagra May Treat Jet-Lag

The male impotence drug Viagra may be useful for treating jet lag as well, according to Argentine researchers who gave it to hamsters made to feel like rodent globe-trotters.

The researchers manipulated the schedule of turning lights on and off to induce jet lag in the laboratory animals, they reported on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

US Warns Iraq "The Clock Is Ticking" To Show Progress

The official said the concerns of U.S. lawmakers and the American public were turning up the heat on the Iraqi government to show quickly that it has a national vision for the country that would result in a dramatic reduction in violence.

"The Iraqis have heard a blunt and increasingly sharp message: 'You have to move ... you have to show us there is an Iraq willing to take the actions necessary to save itself and justify the sacrifice of our money and our young men and young women," the official said while speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

Sharpton Dines With Mormon Elder To Smooth Over Controversial Comments

The Rev. Al Sharpton toured Mormon facilities Monday and dined privately with a church elder after drawing criticism two weeks ago for remarks about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"He's simply here to learn more about us," church spokesman Mike Otterson said of Sharpton's visit. "We want him to know what the church does, what its work is."

David Hasselhoff Wins Custody Of Two Children

After the famous hamburger incident, David Hasselhoff has emerged victorious in court! He has won temporary custody of his two kids.

The court hearing today was closed -- secret. Hasselhoff went into court stripped of his right to visit with his children in the wake of the burger video. But we're told the judge was stunned by the evidence presented by the court-appointed expert who performed psychological evaluations on the family.

Senate To Debate Immigration "For At Least A Couple Of Weeks"

The debate over immigration policy is likely to tie up the Senate for a while, a leading Republican says.

"It's got to go on for at least a couple of weeks to give everybody the opportunity in the Senate to feel like they've had their chance to offer amendments that they think would improve the bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record), R-Ky., said Sunday.

Former Official Says Smithsonian Altered Global Warming Exhibit For Fear Of Angering Bush Admin

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year's exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans, said Robert Sullivan, who was associate director in charge of exhibitions at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Also, officials omitted scientists' interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered "to show that global warming could go either way," Sullivan said.

Charges Expected In Murder Of Russian Spy

Great Britain's Crown Prosecution Service is expected to announce charges in the case of poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko tomorrow, according to a source close to the investigation.

That source says that, as recommended by the police, the service is expected to charge Andrei Lugovoi, and possibly also Dimitri Kovtun, in the poisoning of the former Russian spy.

Ex-KGB Agent Charged With Murder Of Ex-Russian Spy

British prosecutors are to ask Russia to extradite businessman and former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi to face murder charges in the radioactive poisoning death of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Tuesday they had evidence to charge Lugovoi and seek his extradition over "this extraordinarily grave crime." Litvinenko died in a London hospital last November, several weeks after he was poisoned with polonium-210.

Web Sites Expose Identities Of Government Informants

There are three "rats of the week" on the home page of, a Web site devoted to exposing the identities of witnesses cooperating with the government. The site posts their names and mug shots, along with court documents detailing what they have agreed to do in exchange for lenient sentences.

Last week, for instance, the site featured a Florida man who agreed in September to plead guilty to cocaine possession but not gun charges in exchange for his commitment to work "in an undercover role to contact and negotiate with sources of controlled substances." The site says it has identified 4,300 informers and 400 undercover agents, many of them from documents obtained from court files available on the Internet.

Giuliani's 9/11 Stories Contradicted By His Emergency Management Chief

As Rudolph W. Giuliani runs for president, his image as a chief executive who steered New York through the disaster of Sept. 11 has become a pillar of his campaign. But one former member of his inner circle keeps surfacing to revisit that history in ways that are unflattering to Mr. Giuliani: Jerome M. Hauer, New York City's first emergency management director.

In recent days, Mr. Hauer has challenged Mr. Giuliani's recollection that he had little role as mayor in placing the city's emergency command center at the ill-fated World Trade Center.

Paris And Nicole "Make Up" In New Season Of "Simple Life"

Here is your first look at season five of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's reality show, "The Simple Life." After spending season four apart, the pair met up for the first time on camera and Extra has your first glimpse.

For this and more of Paris and Nicole, watch the Simple Life when it premieres this Memorial Day on E!