US, Chinese work together
The US and Chinese militaries are finishing up a modest disaster-relief exercise meant to build trust between armed forces that often view each other as adversaries. Not a full-fledged operation, the two-day exercise that ended yesterday saw officers from the US and Chinese militaries sitting around a table discussing how they would respond to an earthquake in a fictional third country. US Major General Stephen Lyons said the exercise is a step toward the day when the two militaries will operate side-by-side in a humanitarian operation. Though Washington and Beijing have talked about improving military cooperation for more than a decade, distrust runs high and disagreements over Taiwan, North Korea and China’s claims to disputed territories in the East and South China seas remain potential flashpoints.
Sex slaver gets death
A man who imprisoned six women as sex slaves underground and killed one of them was sentenced to death yesterday in central China, Xinhua news agency said. Li Hao (李浩) was convicted of abducting the six women in August 2009, holding them in his basement and raping them “many times,” Xinhua said. He killed one of them in 2010 and had three of the women kill another last year, it reported.
Talking robot going to space
A small humanoid robot that can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut on a six-month mission, according to new plans. The miniature robot is to arrive at the International Space Station next summer, a few months ahead of astronaut Koichi Wakata, Japan’s Kibo Robot Project office said on Thursday. At 0.34m tall and weighing about 1kg, the little android is programmed to recognize Wakata’s face and to communicate in Japanese, the project office said. A cartoon sketch of the space buddy was released on Thursday and showed a black-and-silver figure with bright red boots. Mission organizers are asking for suggestions from the public for a name for the robot, which is also to have a twin brother on Earth doing public relations.
City awaits ‘Broken Tooth’
The Asian gambling mecca of Macau is bracing for the release of a notorious organized crime boss who was at the center of the gangland violence that plagued the city in the late 1990s. Wan Kuok-koi (尹國駒), also known as “Broken Tooth Koi,” is scheduled to be released from prison today after serving most of a 15-year sentence. Wan was convicted in 1999 of loan sharking, money laundering and being a gang leader. As head of Macau’s 14K triad, Wan waged a brutal war with rival gangs.
Suspect signs cards
George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watchman charged with murdering black teenager Trayvon Martin, will mail signed thank-you cards to people who send donations to his defense fund, his defense team said on Thursday. Zimmerman’s defense fund, which opened in May, has received US$140,000 in seven months, but is now running lower than ever “and new funds must be raised to support George’s living expenses and legal costs,” reads a statement on the George Zimmerman Defense Fund Web site. The site, managed by Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara, said that it “will begin sending Thank You Cards to people who have contributed to the Defense Fund. Each card will be personally signed by George.” The Web site promises that donations “will be used for George Zimmerman’s ongoing living expenses, legal costs, and fees,” and the funds “are being administered by a third-party administrator.”
Bush senior hospitalized
Former US president George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized in Texas because of complications from bronchitis, a hospital spokeswoman said on Thursday. Bush, who is 88, was in stable condition at Methodist Hospital in Houston and was expected to be released within 72 hours, the spokeswoman, Stephanie Asin, said. She declined to say exactly when Bush had been hospitalized, saying only that he has been “in and out” of the facility for treatment of complications related to his bronchitis.
Airline cleared over crash
Continental Airlines was cleared on Thursday of criminal responsibility for the Concorde crash in Paris in 2000 that killed 113 people, with a French court also absolving a mechanic at the US airline of involuntary manslaughter. The appeals court ruling, over a decade after the accident that helped to spell the end of the supersonic airliner, found Continental civilly responsible, opening the door to compensation payments to the families of those killed and to the Concorde’s operator, Air France. Rejecting an alternative scenario presented by the airline’s lawyer, the court confirmed that the crash was caused by a metal strip that fell from a Continental DC-10 aircraft onto the runway just before the Concorde took off. The court found that Continental welder John Taylor had flouted industry norms and used titanium to forge the piece, which shredded the Concorde’s tire, causing bits of rubber to damage the plane’s propulsion system and spark the fatal fire. However, it ruled that this was not criminal — as neither Taylor nor Continental could have predicted the devastating result.
FBI tip-off led to arrest
Canadian police were tipped off by the FBI to a possible security breach by a Canadian navy intelligence officer who later pleaded guilty to espionage, documents made public say. Redacted versions of three search warrants were released on Thursday after the prosecution consented to their release. The warrants were used to obtain evidence against Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who pleaded guilty last month to passing classified information to Russia. Delisle worked at a naval intelligence center in Halifax, Nova Scotia and had access to secret data. One document said police opened an investigation into Delisle’s activities after it received a letter late last year from FBI assistant director Frank Figliuzzi alerting them of a possible security breach involving a Canadian military officer.