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FTC opens drive against telemarketing

WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission opened a long-awaited nationwide registry Friday for those who want to block unwanted telemarketing calls.

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Companies or marketers have until Oct. 1 to remove any registered phone numbers from their calling lists. Once the enforcement begins, telemarketers who disregard the registry could face fines as high as $11,000 for each call.

Under rules announced by FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris Thursday, residents can list their numbers on the do-not-call registry free, the Washington Post reported.

Consumers can join the list via the Internet (donotcall.gov) or by calling 888-382-1222 after July 7.

Commercial telemarketing is covered by the rule except for polling, surveys and calls from political or charitable organizations. The rules also allow calls from firms with existing business relationships with consumers.


Both sides report progress in talks

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TEL AVIV, Israel, June 27 (UPI) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators made "significant progress" in cease-fire and security talks Friday, Ha'aretz reported.

Palestinian Minister of Security Mohammed Dahlan said he expected security control of the Gaza Strip to be transferred to the Palestinians in a day or two.

Dahlan met with Major General Amos Gilad along with U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer Thursday. According to Palestinian sources, negotiators reached agreement on Israeli withdrawal from the northern Gaza Strip and on a significant easing of travel restrictions on Palestinians.

Friday's meeting, the fourth this week, was expected to culminate in a breakthrough enabling the Palestinians to take security control of the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reported.

As part of a U.S.-backed peace plan, Israel is to withdraw to positions it held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.


'Comical Ali' says he was set up

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, June 27 (UPI) -- Iraq's former information minister, variously known as "Comical Ali" or "Baghdad Bob," says he made absurd remarks based on bad information.

On April 7, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf claimed there were no U.S. troops in Baghdad even though tanks could clearly be seen on television. Baghdad fell April 9.

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Al-Sahhaf became a cult figure in the West during the war for statements like "God will roast their stomachs in hell" and "My feeling -- as usual -- is we will slaughter them."

In an interview with Abu Dhabi Television, al-Sahhaf said he was always convinced of what he said, although he also claimed to be just doing a job and was never part of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's inner circle.

Reports after Baghdad's fall claimed al-Sahhaf tried to surrender to the United States but he wasn't wanted because he wasn't on their "deck of cards" list of top 55 suspects.

He told the network his future plans include working on a book.


3 held for Albuquerque wildfires

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., June 27 (UPI) -- Three people are in custody in Albuquerque in connection with wildfires that raged for two days, a report said Friday.

Mayor Martin Chávez stopped short of calling the suspects' apprehension arrests but he said charges were expected to follow soon.

Soldiers and airmen in Humvees and on foot began patrolling the 19 miles of wooded areas Thursday.

Troops from a multi-agency task force began their tours as firefighters continued to battle flare-ups from the second blaze in two days.

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Nick Bakas, Albuquerque's chief public safety officer, described this week's fires as "The greatest catastrophe Albuquerque has ever faced." The fires that forced hundreds of people from their homes Tuesday and Wednesday.

An aerial flyover Thursday by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety estimated the scorch to cover 165 acres

Fireworks are the suspected cause of the first fire and arson is being blamed for the second.


Hawaii wants cruise passengers screened

HONOLULU, June 27 (UPI) -- Hawaiian officials are pressing the federal government to screen cruise ship passengers as airlines do, a report said Friday.

In a teleconference, Brig. Gen. Robert Lee, the state's adjutant general, told Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, and other officials in Washington he is concerned with "the disparity in the checkout or the security of passengers for cruise lines as opposed to passengers for aircraft."

The concern comes as Hawaii's cruise ship industry is experiencing its highest visitor numbers ever, the Honolulu StarBulletin reported.

The number of cruise ship passengers coming to Hawaii is up 12 percent for the first five months of the year, from the same period in 2002.

Harley Carter, of the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in Hawaii, said cruise passengers are not screened individually before they leave or arrive in the islands.

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However, cruise line manifests are monitored by security officials.

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