USA

Continuing a so-far disappointing diplomatic offensive on Iraq, President Bush opens two days of talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin Friday at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md. Bush appeared to mend strained ties with Germany's leader, but he has yet to attract substantial pledges of troops or financial aid for the postwar effort. A new opinion poll, meanwhile, found Bush's approval rating dropped to 49 percent, the lowest since he took office. Sixty percent of respondents to the NBC-Wall Street Journal survey backed Bush's handling of the counterterrorism war, while 52 percent disapproved of his stance on the US economy.

The top five candidates in California's gubernatorial recall effort traded personal barbs and argued over issues such as the state's budget crisis during a televised debate Wednesday night, probably their last before the Oct. 7 vote. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly clashed with independent Arianna Huffington, at one point joking, "I have a perfect part for you in 'Terminator 4,'" a reference to his popular film series. Huffington later said she was offended by the remark.

A federal judge in Oklahoma City blocked the national do-not-call list for telemarketers, ruling that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) exceeded its authority by establishing the registry. Some 50 million people have signed up for the list, set to take effect Oct. 1. House and Senate lawmakers planned to take up immediate legislation on the matter, and the FTC signaled it would appeal the court ruling. The telemarketing industry vehemently opposes the list, saying it violates free speech.

An Iranian national has been charged with trying to buy F-14 fighter jet parts for his government, US immigration officials revealed Wednesday. A criminal complaint against Serzhik Avasappian claims he began negotiating with undercover customs agents in 2002 to illegally ship the components and helicopters to Iran via Italy. He was arrested last week in Miami after agreeing to request a $15,000 bank transfer from his government.

A teenager is in custody after fatally shooting one fellow student and critically wounding another at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minn., Wednesday. A popular gym teacher was hailed as a hero for talking the freshman suspect into giving up his small-caliber weapon.

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