■ Ivory Coast
Weapons amnesty ditched
A disarmament program for militias in the west of Ivory Coast was suspended on Friday because too few weapons were being handed over, the UN mission said. Militias fought alongside government troops in some of the fiercest combat of the West African state's brief 2002-2003 civil war in which rebels seized its northern half. "[The national disarmament program] has suspended the operation because the number of weapons has not increased," Jean-Luc Stalon, head of the UN peacekeeping mission's disarmament section, said in a statement. About half the 2,000 militiamen supposed to disarm as part of a faltering UN-backed peace plan have completed the scheme.
■ United Kingdom
Street march planned
Activists, claiming a groundswell of anti-war sentiment not seen since the US-led invasion of Iraq, prepared to stage a mass protest in London yesterday against the conflict in Lebanon, demanding a ceasefire. The rally organized by the Stop the War Coalition is to start at 12 noon at London's Hyde Park, pass the US embassy and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office before ending up at the Houses of Parliament. "Leave children's shoes on Tony Blair's doorstep," the coalition urged protesters on its website ahead of the demonstration. "Almost half of those killed so far in Lebanon are children."
■ United States
Kill a bird for Castro
The white dove looks warily at shopkeeper Oscar Osorio as he pulls it from a cage and holds it in his hands. "I don't think he trusts me," Osorio says. "I think he knows what's coming." The bird has reason to be nervous, because the illness of Cuban leader Fidel Castro has moved adherents of Santeria to appeal for divine help in hastening either Castro's demise or his recovery, depending on which side of the Florida Straits they live. Santeria is the voodooish Afro-Cuban religion that uses animal sacrifice to communicate with the gods, which makes these tough times for favorite sacrificial creatures such as chickens, goats and, in this case, doves.
■ United States
Killer painter disciplined
A convicted killer in Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, who sold postcard-sized paintings he created with dye from M&Ms chocolate candies, was disciplined on Friday for running an unauthorized business out of his cell. While Donny Johnson has not profited from his art -- all the money is being used to start a program for children of inmates -- prison officials said he was wrongfully engaged in a business without the warden's permission. Johnson, 46, has been locked up since 1980 for second-degree murder in a drug-related killing. In 1989, he was convicted of assaulting one guard and slashing the throat of another.
■ United States
Oscar declared fake
An Internet auction for a 1944 film Oscar was canceled on Friday after the Academy Award institute declared it a first-class fake. The auction agency, Mastro Auctions, had asked the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to authenticate the statue, which allegedly was given to US director Leo McCarey for his 1944 Going My Way starring Bing Crosby. While the copy looks similar, the academy found it was a pound too heavy and carried a faked plaque. The auction was planned for next thursday. McCarey also won Oscars for directing The Awful Truth in 1937 and as script author for Love Affair in 1939.