Saudis ban cat, dog sales
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia's religious police, normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque prayers, are turning to a new target: cats and dogs. The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence. The prohibition on dogs may be less of a surprise, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as unclean. But the cat ban befuddled many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats -- and even let a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers.
Air Force major is found
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- A U.S. Air Force officer who disappeared earlier this week in Kyrgyzstan was found alive late Friday, reportedly telling people who helped her that she had been kidnapped, Kyrgyz and U.S. officials said. Maj. Jill Metzger, 33, was located by Kyrgyz law enforcement agents, who informed authorities at the U.S. air base at the airport in Bishkek, the Central Asian nation's capital, base spokeswoman Capt. Anna Carpenter said. Kyrgyz Deputy Interior Minister Omurbek Suvanaliyev said Metzger, 33, knocked on the door of a house on the outskirts of the capital shortly before midnight and told its residents that she had been kidnapped. Metzger said she had been abducted by three young men and a woman in a minibus and held in a rural area 30 miles from Bishkek, Suvanaliyev told The Associated Press, citing local police in Kant, where he said she approached the first house she came to.
Easy come, easy go
MIAMI -- The name of the game is the Swipe and Win progressive jackpot, but to Freddy Howard, it feels more like the win and swipe. Officials at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood paraded Howard around after telling him he had won nearly $260,000, even presenting him a giant cardboard check, but told him nearly 15 hours later he had won nothing. Howard said he was showered with attention Aug. 29 after he swiped his Players Club card and was told he had won the free promotional game. But he spent hours waiting anxiously for the $259,945.75 before managers called him into an empty room. "They just said, 'You know the jackpot that you won? We're not going to pay it,"' said Howard, 53, of Sunny Isles Beach. The casino acknowledges the mistake but said Howard did not actually win.
U.N.'s anti-terror plan
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly adopted a long-awaited strategy to combat terrorism Friday, though many nations lamented that it does not include a definition or say anything about states that commit terrorist acts. The document, adopted by consensus, is the result of a year of often bitter work to meet world leaders' demands that the United Nations help its 192 members fight the scourge. Much of the strategy, distributed Thursday, repeats previous commitments. Yet there are nuggets that could prove useful, including a suggestion that the U.N. and member nations develop a database on "biological incidents" to counter the threat of bio-terror and take measures to combat terrorism on the Internet.
Naval blockade ends
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Israel lifted its eight-week-old maritime blockade of Lebanon on Friday, the United Nations announced, and within hours, a gleaming white ship pulled into Beirut harbor carrying a load of appliances. The reopening of sea lanes to Lebanon, which the United Nations said took place in the early afternoon, came one day after Israel lifted its blockade of air traffic, completing the end to suffocating restrictions imposed when war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah militia July 12.
Calif. governor apologizes
SANTA MONICA, Calif.-- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apologized Friday for saying in a closed-door meeting that the mixture of Hispanic and black blood gives Puerto Ricans and Cubans "very hot" personalities. The Republican governor said he cringed when he read his own words in the Los Angeles Times story Friday. Some critics were outraged, but even some Democrats said his remarks appeared to be more playful than disparaging. "Anyone out there that feels offended by those comments, I just want to say I'm sorry, I apologize," Schwarzenegger told reporters outside a seaside hotel in Santa Monica. The statements about Hispanics and blacks were captured on a six-minute tape made during a March 3 speech-writing session between Schwarzenegger and his advisers. On it, Schwarzenegger and chief of staff Susan Kennedy speak affectionately of state Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia and speculate about her nationality. "I mean Cuban, Puerto-Rican, they are all very hot," the governor says on the recording. "They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it."