New Miss World is from Gibraltar

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Kaiane Aldorino from Gibraltar was named the new Miss World yesterday at a glittering two-hour pageant that put South Africa in the spotlight and featured traditional dancers and drummers.

The brunette, dressed in a white-lace evening gown, was crowned as silver confetti rained around her. "I have no words," she said when asked to describe how she felt. "I am really happy."

Aldorino, 23, an administrative clerk from the British territory on the tip of the Iberian peninsula, was a crowd favorite after winning the swimsuit competition.

She joined seven other contestants in the final round of the show. The loudest cheers were reserved for Miss South Africa, Tatum Keshwar, who was the second runner-up. First runner-up was Miss Mexico, Perla Beltran Acosta.

- AP

American citizen arrested in Cuba

WASHINGTON - The Cuban government has arrested an American citizen and U.S. diplomats in Havana are trying to learn more about the case, the State Department said yesterday.

The American was detained on Dec. 5, State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said. She would not release any more details, including the American's identity. The American was working as a subcontractor for a Maryland-based economic development organization, Development Alternatives Inc.

Jim Boomgard, DAI's president and chief executive, said the person arrested is part of a new USAID program intended to "strengthen civil society in support of just and democratic governance in Cuba."

- AP

700 Swiss protest ban on minarets

BERN, Switzerland - Around 700 Swiss Muslims peacefully protested against their country's minaret ban yesterday, with speakers denouncing what they called a hate campaign against Islam. The protest in the capital, Bern, was not supported by the country's main Muslim organizations.

It came two weeks after Swiss voters decided to ban the construction of minarets, drawing criticism from Muslim and other European nations. Nicolas Blancho, who organized the protest, said he did not believe that the country's voters hate Islam but that they had been scared by right-wing propaganda.

The main guest speaker, a controversial Muslim preacher and former German professional boxer, was absent because Swiss authorities refused him entry, saying he poses a public security risk.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A pod of sperm whales beached on Italy's southern coast, and at least five died in what experts said yesterday was a rare and puzzling mass beaching for such a large species. Nine whales measuring up to 40 feet were stranded Thursday on a beach in Puglia, and only two managed to swim back to deeper waters.