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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:50 p.m., Tuesday, July 24, 2007

National & world news highlights

Associated Press

Bush warns that al-Qaida threat persists, sees link with al-Qaida in Iraq

CHARLESTON, S.C. — President Bush, trying to justify the Iraq war, cited intelligence reports Tuesday he said showed a link between al-Qaida's operation in Iraq and the terror group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Democrats dismissed Bush's argument.

"The merger between al-Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail," Bush said at Charleston Air Force Base, a launching point for cargo and military personnel headed to Iraq.

Citing security details he declassified for his speech, Bush described al-Qaida's burgeoning operation in Iraq as a direct threat to the United States. Bush accused critics in Congress of misleading the American public by suggesting otherwise.

"That's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun and saying, 'He's probably just there to cash a check,"' Bush told troops at Charleston Air Force Base.

Bush is up against highly skeptical audiences with 18 months left in office. The public has largely lost faith in the war, Congress is weighing ways to end it, and international partners have fading memories of the 2001 attacks against the U.S. Six years later, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden remains at large.


Senators question Gonzales' honesty in hearing over legal disputes

WASHINGTON — Angry senators suggested a special prosecutor should investigate misconduct at the Justice Department, accusing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday of deceit on the prosecutor firings and President Bush's eavesdropping program.

Democrats and Republicans alike hammered Gonzales in four hours of testimony as he denied trying, in 2004, to push a hospitalized former attorney general into approving a counterterror program that the Justice Department then viewed as illegal.

Gonzales, alternately appearing wearied and seething, vowed anew to remain in his job even as senators told him outright they believe he is unqualified to stay.

He would not answer numerous questions, including whether the Bush administration would bar its U.S. attorneys from pursuing contempt charges against former White House officials who have defied congressional subpoenas for their testimony.

"It's hard to see anything but a pattern of intentionally misleading Congress again and again," Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., told Gonzales during the often-bitter Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. "Shouldn't the attorney general of the United States meet a higher standard?"


U.S. envoy blasts Iran but agrees to security subcommittee on stability

BAGHDAD — The American ambassador scolded his Iranian counterpart in a groundbreaking meeting Tuesday for Tehran's alleged arming and training of Shiite militias. But he agreed to set up a subcommittee with Iran and Iraq to work on stabilizing the country.

South of Baghdad, a suicide tow truck driver killed at least 24 people with a huge bomb in the Shiite city of Hillah. Police and morgue officials said a total of 58 people, including the Hillah victims, were killed or found dead nationwide.

Speaking to reporters after a second session in two months with the Iranian envoy, Ambassador Ryan Crocker called the seven-hour meeting "full and frank," diplomatic language for difficult.

The Bush administration does not appear to expect much if anything from the talks but seems willing to go forward with them because the high-powered and bipartisan Iraq Study Group, in a report late last year, recommended contacts with both Iran and Syria in a bid to end or ameliorate outside influences in Iraq as part of a plan to end the conflict.

For its part, Iran appears to be enjoying the spectacle and prestige of negotiating with the world's only superpower after more than a quarter-century freeze in open diplomatic contact.


No indictment against doctor accused in patient deaths in Katrina aftermath

NEW ORLEANS — A grand jury refused on Tuesday to indict a doctor accused of murdering four seriously ill hospital patients with drug injections during the desperate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, closing the books on the only mercy-killing case to emerge from the storm.

Dr. Anna Pou acknowledged administering medication to the patients but insisted she did so only to relieve pain.

Pou (pronounced "Poe") and two nurses were arrested last summer after Attorney General Charles Foti concluded they gave "lethal cocktails" to four patients at the flooded-out, sweltering Memorial Medical Center after the August 2005 storm.

The decision was a defeat for Foti, who accused the doctor and the nurses, but it was the New Orleans district attorney who presented the case to the grand jury, asking it to bring murder and conspiracy charges.

"I feel the grand jury did the right thing," said District Attorney Eddie Jordan.


Obama offer to meet rogue leaders touches off firestorm with Clinton

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama's offer to meet without precondition with leaders of renegade nations such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran touched off a war of words, with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton calling him naive and Obama linking her to President Bush's diplomacy.

Older politicians in both parties questioned the wisdom of such a course, while Obama's supporters characterized it as a repudiation of Bush policies of refusing to engage with certain adversaries.

It triggered a round of competing memos and statements Tuesday between the chief Democratic presidential rivals. Obama's team portrayed it as a bold stroke; Clinton supporters saw it as a gaffe that underscored the freshman senator's lack of foreign policy experience.

"I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive," Clinton was quoted in an interview with the Quad-City Times that was posted on the Iowa newspaper's Web site on Tuesday.

In response, Obama told the newspaper that her stand puts her in line with the Bush administration.


Study finds HIV-infected babies given antiretroviral drugs in first weeks of life can be saved

SYDNEY, Australia — HIV-infected babies given antiretroviral drugs in the first weeks of life were four times more likely to survive than those left untreated, raising hopes that more young lives can be saved, new research suggests.

Drugs given to infected infants in South Africa — even though they appeared healthy — helped them live longer than babies who started therapy after showing signs of disease, according to early results of a study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

World Health Organization guidelines now call for medicines to be administered only after signs of disease or a weakening immune system are observed. But the South African study was so promising that its findings were being released to the WHO and other health officials so they could consider modifying the recommendations.

"It's very good news for young patients and parents," co-author Dr. Avy Violari of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg told The Associated Press on Tuesday. She was to present the findings Wednesday at an International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney.

"We were not expecting such short-term benefits," she said.