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News briefs for Nov. 20

Al-Qaida No. 2 insults Obama

CAIRO, Egypt — Al-Qaida’s No. 2 slurred Barack Obama with a demeaning racial term for a black American who does the bidding of whites in a new Web message Wednesday intended to dent the president-elect’s popularity among Arabs and Muslims and claim he will not change U.S. policy.

Ayman al-Zawahri’s speech was al-Qaida’s first reaction to Obama’s election victory — and it suggested the terror network is worried the new American leader could undermine its rallying cry that the United States is an enemy oppressor.

Court agrees to hear challenges to gay marriage ban

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s highest court agreed Wednesday to hear several legal challenges to the state’s new ban on same-sex marriage but refused to allow gay couples to resume marrying before it rules.

The California Supreme Court accepted three lawsuits seeking to nullify Proposition 8, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that overruled the court’s decision in May that legalized gay marriage.

All three cases claim the measure abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group.

30-day age limit in Neb. safe-haven law close to approval

LINCOLN, Neb. — A 30-day age limit in the Nebraska safe-haven law appears headed for final approval. The state Legislature voted 41-6 Wednesday to give second-round approval to the limit. A final vote is expected Friday and then the bill will go to Gov. Dave Heineman, who has said he would support a 30-day age limit.

If Heineman signs the bill, it would become effective immediately.

Herod’s possible tomb had lavish paintings

HERODIUM, West Bank — King Herod may have been buried in a crypt with lavish Roman-style wall paintings of a kind previously unseen in the Middle East, Israeli archaeologists said Wednesday.

The scientists found such paintings and signs of a regal two-story mausoleum, bolstering their conviction that the ancient Jewish monarch was buried there.

Mad pet lover wields bat after shelter fee spat

DALLAS — Police are looking for an irate pet lover so intent on liberating his lost cat that he wielded a bat to fend off animal shelter employees.

Dallas Animal Shelter manager Kent Robertson says the man found his missing gray and blue short-haired cat at the shelter, where it had been brought by someone who thought it was a stray.

He blew his stack when told he had to pay a $132 fee to take his cat.