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In brief

Pets are out of this world Meatball lets out a big yawn while awaiting the start of the 2009 UFO Festival Alien Pet Costume Contest Friday morning at the Roswell Convention Center in Roswell, N.M. Meatball took second place in the contest.

BAGHDAD Biden wants Iraqi progress

Vice President Joe Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Friday to do more to foster national reconciliation and offered U.S. assistance in achieving that, as concerns grow that a lack of political progress is fueling violence in Iraq.

Protesters, meanwhile, burned an American flag and chanted anti-U.S. slogans in Baghdad’s main Shiite district of Sadr City.

Followers of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hold such demonstrations weekly after Friday prayers, but the rally underscored the challenges facing the United States as it begins drawing down its military forces and losing its dominance in Iraq.

Biden, who was making his first visit to Baghdad since being appointed to oversee the administration’s Iraq policy, said he came with a message of continuing support for the country even as the U.S. military pulls back.

WICHITA, Kan. Suspect advocates killings

A man charged with shooting a prominent Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions has been advocating through mailings from his jail cell that such killings are justifiable and communicating with individuals on the fringes of the anti-abortion movement, weeks after suggesting others might be planning similar attacks.

Scott Roeder, 51, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the May 31 death of Dr. George Tiller — an attack that reignited the national debate over late-term abortion and gave Roeder icon status among extremists in the anti-abortion movement.

From his cell in Sedgwick County jail, Roeder has been sending anti-abortion pamphlets that laud Paul Hill, who was convicted of murdering an abortion provider in 1994, as an “American hero,” and include examples of Hill’s writings about how the killing of abortion providers is justifiable.

PARIS Protesters stop flight

Protesters linked arms across an entrance at Paris’ main airport on Friday to keep passengers off a Yemeni flight to Comoros — a route that saw a deadly crash this week, after years of complaints about dangerous conditions on the flight path to the Indian Ocean island nation.

The airline that operated the crashed jet, Yemenia, suspended its service to Comoros in response to the Paris protest and other demonstrations this week.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 3 and blocked passengers entering the terminal, shouting at passengers not to take the Yemenia flight.

DENVER Ecoffins have ap-peel

Casket makers catering to natural burials have offered biodegradable coffins made of such materials as recycled newspapers or cardboard. Ecoffins USA, based in Montrose, Colo., is selling caskets made of banana sheaves.

They take six months to two years to biodegrade.

Marketing director Joanna Passarelli says the company sold $40,000 worth of banana-sheaf or bamboo coffins to funeral homes last year. At least 14 funeral homes around the country offer them.

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