Israel lifts air blockade ofLebanon after two months
BEIRUT, Lebanon-- Israel said it lifted its nearly two-month-long air blockade of Lebanon on Thursday but kept its naval blockade in place until international forces can take over. The lifting of the aerial blockade will bring a measure of relief to the war-stricken country and sets the first test for a U.N. peacekeeping force charged with keeping arms shipments from reaching Hezbollah. Signaling the resumption of normal air traffic, a commercial flight by the national carrier Middle East Airlines circled downtown Beirut three times at 6:04 p.m., four minutes after the embargo was over, in a ceremonial show. The flight, from Paris, then landed at Beirut's airport. "The aerial blockade has been removed. In coordination with the United Nations, the naval blockade will continue until the international naval force is in place," said Miri Eisin, spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
House bans slaughterof horses for meat
WASHINGTON -- The House voted Thursday to ban the slaughter of horses for meat, a practice that lawmakers thought they already had ended. Instead of banning it outright, Congress last year yanked the salaries and expenses of federal inspectors. But the Bush administration simply started charging plants for inspections, and the slaughter has continued. The House vote was 263-146 to outlaw the killing of horses for human consumption.
Ex-official apologizesfor outing CIA agent
WASHINGTON -- The former No. 2 State Department official said Thursday that he inadvertently told two reporters about CIA employee Valerie Plame in 2003, confirming that he was the source of a leak that triggered a federal investigation. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage apologized for his conversations with syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Armitage said he never intended to reveal Plame's identity. For almost three years, an investigation led by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has tried to determine whether Bush administration officials intentionally revealed Plame's identity as covert operative as a way to punish her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing the administration's march to war with Iraq. "I made a terrible mistake, not maliciously, but I made a terrible mistake," Armitage said in a telephone interview from his home Thursday night. He said he did not realize Plame's job was covert.
19 arrested in schemeinvolving phony marriages
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Authorities arrested 19 people Thursday after uncovering a scheme that arranged as many as 1,000 phony marriages in northern Virginia between U.S. citizens seeking cash and illegal immigrants seeking green cards. Many of those who were married never met until they showed up at the courthouse to apply for their marriage license, said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg. The arrests came after a three-year investigation. In all, 22 people were charged, and 19 have so far been arrested, authorities said.
County would be haven toundocumented immigrants
CHICAGO -- A resolution introduced Thursday would make Cook County a "sanctuary" for undocumented immigrants, meaning authorities could not inquire about their immigration status in routine interactions. Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, the measure's sponsor, said he wants to prevent the county from joining a growing group of local jurisdictions that are cooperating with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce immigration laws. If the measure passes, Maldonado said, sheriff's deputies could not ask for immigration papers during traffic stops and county employees could not report suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities. Maldonado said he has no evidence that county officials are currently doing that. The measure offers illegal immigrants no protection from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who are free to make arrests in the county.
NASA tries againfor shuttle launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Caught in a scheduling squeeze, NASA decided to try to launch space shuttle Atlantis today without replacing a troublesome electrical component. Today had been the last launch day available before the U.S. space agency ran into a scheduling conflict with the Russian space agency. But NASA managers now believe they can try Saturday, if needed, and they were finalizing negotiations with the Russians. There was a 30 percent chance bad weather would interfere today at the 11:40 a.m. EDT launch time.