May 22nd, 2007

Lebanese Army Continues Battle With Islamic Militants Into Third Day

Islamist guerrillas who have been locked in three days of ferocious gunbattles with Lebanese troops announced a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday amid mounting concern over civilians caught up in the conflict.

The move came amid a lull in fighting at Nahr al-Bared, a squalid Palestinian refugee camp transformed into a war zone by a barrage of Lebanese tank and artillery fire aimed at wiping out the Al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni group Fatah al-Islam.

Former Beauty Queen, "Fear Factor" Contestant Confirms Relationship With FL Governor

She's blond. She's tan. She's a mother of two, a former beauty queen who auditioned for NBC's Fear Factor by eating a live earthworm and hiding four lizards in her mouth.

And now, it's official: She's the governor's girl.

Kelly Crosby Heyniger, 36, confirmed her relationship with Gov. Charlie Crist, 50, in an interview on WPBF-Ch. 25, the ABC affiliate in Palm Beach County where she lives.

Bush Plans 'Second Surge' To Double Iraq Combat Troops

The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

Giuliani May Skip Iowa Due To Sluggish Campaign Start, Lack Of Organization

Some Iowa Republicans are questioning whether presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani intends to largely skip the state's leadoff caucuses.

A sluggish start to campaign organizing and indecision about whether to compete in a high-profile straw poll in August has prompted speculation that Giuliani will pay only cursory attention to Iowa and instead focus on other early election states where his high name recognition would pay off.

Michelle Obama: "I've Got A Loud Mouth"

No shrinking violet, Michelle Obama, the 43-year-old wife of presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told "Good Morning America" that she is a strong, professional woman and that her husband's ability to deal with her is one of the reasons Americans should elect him president.

Called Obama's closest adviser and his daily reality check, Michelle was raised on the south side of Chicago and is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law school. Today she juggles a career, duties as a wife and mother of two little girls and the role of campaigner.

Gay Flamingo Parents Adopt Abandoned Chick

A pair of gay flamingos have adopted an abandoned chick, becoming parents after being together for six years, a British conservation organisation said Monday.

Carlos and Fernando had been desperate to start a family, even chasing other flamingos from their nests to take over their eggs at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge near Bristol.

NewsCorp "Increasingly Frustrated" By Bancrofts' Lack Of Interest In Murdoch Offer

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. may be preparing to walk away from a $5 billion bid for Dow Jones & Co. after trying without success to win support from the controlling Bancroft family, Pali Research analysts said.

News Corp. ``is increasingly frustrated'' with the failure of family members to respond to overtures by Murdoch, Pali's Richard Greenfield and Mark Smaldon wrote today in a note to investors. Directors of New York-based Dow Jones took no action on the bid after Bancroft family members said a majority of their shareholder votes would reject the offer of $60 a share.

Oprah "Stunned" That Her Father Is Writing Tell-All Book

If there's one book that will likely never make Oprah's book club, chances are, this is it.

According to the New York Daily News , Oprah Winfrey's 74-year-old father, Vernon, is in the process of writing a tell-all book about his daughter. Oprah, who claims she has a "good relationship" with her father, is not pleased at all.

GOP Candidate Boycotts Carter

Republican presidential candidate and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee said Tuesday he will skip a Baptist conference organized by Jimmy Carter after the former president called the Bush administration the "worst in history."

The former Arkansas governor said he would not participate in the Baptist Covenant Program Celebration in Atlanta in January, scheduled to feature Carter and former President Clinton

NBC Drops Anchor Stone Phillips To Cut Costs

NBC News is dropping "Dateline NBC" anchor Stone Phillips in a cost-cutting move when his contract expires at the end of June.

Phillips won't formally be replaced. His co-anchor, Ann Curry, will continue and other "Dateline NBC" reporters will serve as on-air hosts when the newsmagazine presents stories they're working on, the network said Tuesday.

Leak Forces BP To Shut Down 10,000 Oil Barrels For A "Few Days"

BP said Tuesday it will shut down 100,000 barrels, or one quarter, of its Alaskan oil production for a "few days" after discovering a water pipeline leak.

Analysts said the temporary loss of output at Prudhoe Bay should not have a dramatic impact on world oil markets, but with supplies already tight and crude futures trading near $66 a barrel, any snag in the industry tends to make energy traders jittery.

Democrats To Drop Withdrawal Deadlines In Latest Iraq Bill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (news, bio, voting record) confirmed Tuesday a final
Iraq spending bill will not include a deadline for troop withdrawals, but promised that Democrats would try to end the war using next year's spending bills.

"We can't pass something without the president's signature and the president can't pass something without our agreement," Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. "So we can be at a standoff and go back and forth at each other, or we can come to an agreement."

Military Waited Year To Fulfill "Priority 1 Urgent" Request For Bomb Proof Iraq Vehicles

The Marine Corps waited over a year before acting on an "priority 1 urgent" request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, DANGER ROOM has learned.

According to a Marine Corps document provided to DANGER ROOM, the request for over 1,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles came in February, 2005. A formal call to fulfill that order did not emerge until November, 2006. "There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," the 2005 "universal need statement" notes.

GOP Candidates Skip Falwell Funeral

Some Republican figures were expected for the funeral, but none of the party's presidential candidates said they could attend. The White House was sending a midlevel aide. Among the Virginia Republican leaders attending was Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Falwell, 73, died a week ago after collapsing in his office at Liberty University. His physician said Falwell had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality.

Falwell Funeral: GOP Candidates Stay Away

Some Republican figures were expected for the funeral, but none of the party's presidential candidates said they could attend. The White House was sending a midlevel aide. Among the Virginia Republican leaders attending was Attorney General Bob McDonnell.

Falwell, 73, died a week ago after collapsing in his office at Liberty University. His physician said Falwell had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality.

Read entire story here.

Former Rove Aide Pleads Fifth On Administration Contacts With Abramoff

Susan Ralston, the former executive assistant to top White House adviser Karl Rove, invoked her rights against self-incrimination while she was being asked to answer questions by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee's Chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, announced in a memo Tuesday. The deposition for which she sat concerned contacts between convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rove, as well as the White House more broadly.

"The subjects this morning that she will be unable to testify to...are the subjects of the relationship between Jack Abramoff and his associates and White House officials, including Ms. Ralston, and the subject of the use by White House officials of political e-mail accounts at the RNC," Ralston's lawyer, Bradford Berenson said, during the May 10 deposition. "She has material, useful information about both of those subjects."

Former Rove Aide Seeks Immunity For Information About Bush Admin Ties To Abramoff

The former executive assistant to White House political adviser Karl Rove is seeking immunity from prosecution before testifying about administration ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a House investigative committee revealed Tuesday.

Susan Ralston, the aide who resigned last fall, told lawyers for the committee this month she would provide information if protected from prosecution.

Plague Strikes Denver Zoo

An 8-year-old hooded capuchin monkey at the Denver Zoo was a victim of the bubonic- plague outbreak moving through the City Park neighborhood near the zoo.

Twenty-three animals - mostly tree squirrels - have tested positive for the disease out of 144 examined, said John Pape, epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Russia Refuses To Extradite Man Accused Of Murdering Spy

Russian prosecutors say they will refuse to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, charged by Britain in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko, to London because of a constitutional ban.

Earlier Tuesday British officials said they wanted to bring Lugovoi before a British court and charge him with the "extraordinarily grave crime" of murdering Litvinenko in London last November.

Alabama Restarts Nuclear Reactor Closed Over Safety Concerns 22 Years Ago

Utility officials restarted a long-dormant nuclear reactor Tuesday, 22 years after it was shut down because of safety concerns at what was once the nation's largest nuclear power plant.

The restart capped a five-year, $1.8 billion renovation at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

Gore: "Unlike The President's State Of The Union, [My] Book Was Actually Fact-Checked"

Q This is not asking you for a book review, but Al Gore's new book is out, and he says that Saddam Hussein posed no threat and that President Bush, "forged evidence that Hussein was seeking to develop atomic bombs."

MR. SNOW: Well, the second is false, and the first is in contradiction to Senator Gore -- then Vice President Gore's prior statements. So I'll let him rectify those differences.

Return Of McCain's Outbursts Has Republicans Worried

An angry, profane exchange between Sen. John McCain and another Republican senator last week prompted a new round of questions Monday about whether McCain's legendary temper is becoming a liability to his campaign for the presidency.

In a private meeting just off the Senate floor, McCain (R-Ariz.) got into a shouting match Thursday with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) over details of a compromise on immigration legislation. Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy with his campaign to take part in the negotiations, prompting McCain to utter "F... you."

Read the full story here.

Attorney Firing Testimony Left Gonzales Aide In Tears

Monica Goodling, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former White House liaison, broke down in tears in a colleague's office as a furor rose about her department's firings of eight federal prosecutors, according to interview excerpts released Tuesday.

"'All I ever wanted to do was serve this president and this administration and this department,'" Goodling said during a March 8 conversation, according to Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis.

The GOP's Monica

After taking the Fifth Amendment to avoid detailing her role in the Justice Department ouster of eight U.S. attorneys, Monica Goodling finally appears ready to talk.

Goodling, who resigned last month as the department's White House liaison, is set to testify Wednesday about the firings that have resulted in lawmakers' demands for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' own resignation.

Third Roadside Bomb Kills, Wounds Soldiers On Search For Missing Comrades

The ground exploded under an ashen sky at dawn. Dust, dirt, blood and military equipment filled the air, clearing after several seconds to reveal a frenzied scene of horror.

Where Sgt. Justin D. Wisniewski, 22, had just been standing there was now a crater five feet wide and three feet deep. His body lay nearby. The wounded were scattered around him.

Sanjaya Says "Idol" Persona Was Really Just A Human Art Project

Is Sanjaya Malakar really who he says he is ... or is he really an art school student pretending to be an "Idol" wannabe?

TMZ received a hilarious video of Sanjaya explaining that his "real" name is Bill Vendall, and that he is an art student at the Rhode Island School of Design. He "created" Sanjaya as part of his thesis, explaining, "The character was part of a larger art installation." That still doesn't justify the hair!

Democrats' New Spending Package Abandons Iraq Pull-Out Plan

The spending package, expected to total $120 billion when the final version is released today, would require Bush to surrender virtually none of his war authority. Democrats were working to secure two other priorities that the president had previously resisted -- an increase in the minimum wage and funding for domestic programs, including veterans' benefits, Hurricane Katrina relief and agricultural aid.

Instead of sticking with troop-withdrawal dates, Democrats accepted a GOP plan to establish 18 political and legislative benchmarks for the Iraqi government, with periodic reports from Bush on its progress, starting in late July. If the Iraqis fall short, they could forfeit U.S. reconstruction aid.

Dems Split As New Spending Package Abandons Iraq Pull-Out Plan

A decision by Democratic leaders in Congress to drop a troop-withdrawal timeline from Iraq war- funding legislation outraged anti-war Democrats and will force the party to depend on Republican support to pass the measure.

Democratic leaders said that they didn't have the votes to overcome a threatened veto of the troop-withdrawal plan and instead will compel President George W. Bush to report on whether Iraq is reaching benchmarks toward ending the war.

Gas Price Hikes Have Cost US Drivers $146 Per Car So Far This Year

The jump in U.S. gasoline prices this year has so far drained consumers of an extra $20 billion, or about $146 for each passenger car in the country, the Government Accountability Office told Congress on Tuesday.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline hit a record $3.22 a gallon this week, and is up $1.05 since the beginning of February, according to the Energy Department.

ABC: Bush Authorizes Covert Effort To Destabilize Iran

The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.

Bicker, Bicker: McCain-Romney Spat Continues Into Second Day

Rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, kept up his criticism of the proposal, which could allow the legalization of most of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants while increasing border security.

"I think it's a matter of national security," McCain said, "and to do nothing -- to leave the status quo -- would be an abrogation of our responsibilities to the American people."