Ex-government scientist gets 13 years in espionage case

Posted March 21, 2012, at 9:49 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A former government space scientist was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in prison after admitting he tried to sell space and defense secrets to Israel in what turned out to be an FBI sting operation.

Appearing in federal court in a prison jumpsuit, Stewart Nozette said he is “paying for a fatal lack of judgment.”

“I accept full responsibility,” Nozette told U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman.

Prosecutors and Nozette’s lawyers agreed to the 13-year sentence, with credit for the two years that Nozette has spent behind bars since his arrest.

Nozette had high-level security clearances during decades of government work on science and space projects at NASA, the Energy Department and the National Space Council in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Nozette pleaded guilty to one count of attempted espionage, admitting he tried to provide Israel with top secret information about satellites, early warning systems, methods for retaliating against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information and major elements of defense strategy.

Tobacco kills 6 million globally as China adds to smoking’s toll

BEIJING — Tobacco use killed almost 6 million people last year and was the top cause of death in China, the world’s biggest cigarette market, a report by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation said Wednesday.

Four of every five deaths were in low- and middle-income countries, and 1 billion people may die from tobacco use and exposure this century if current trends continue, according to the report, released in Singapore.

Tobacco-related deaths almost tripled in the past decade amid a 17 percent jump in cigarette production and increased affordability of the cancer-causing products in low-income nations. The tobacco industry generates about $500 billion in annual sales, with the six biggest companies making a combined profit of $35.1 billion in 2010, said Judith Mackay, who co- wrote the report.

“The tobacco industry is among the top-10 most influential industries in the world because of its sheer magnitude of wealth and sales,” Mackay, a physician and adviser to the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Governments have been trying to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty endorsed by more than 174 countries and recommended by the Geneva-based United Nations agency, to curb smoking.

Producers have been increasing efforts to combat those measures with legal challenges in every region of the world, according to the World Lung Foundation.

These include objections to smoke-free legislation, and opposition to advertising bans and graphic warnings of disease on cigarette packs.

French police press besieged gunman to surrender

TOULOUSE, France — Riot police set off explosions outside an apartment building early Thursday in an effort to force the surrender of a gunman who boasted of bringing France “to its knees” with an al-Qaida-linked terror spree that killed seven people.

As the standoff dragged into a second day, hundreds of heavily armed police, some in body armor, cordoned off the five-story building in Toulouse where the 24-year-old suspect, Mohamed Merah, had been holed up.

As midnight approached, three explosions were heard and orange flashes lit up the night sky near the building. An Interior Ministry official said the suspect had gone back on a previous pledge to turn himself in — and that police blew up the shutters outside the apartment window to pressure him to surrender.

About two hours later new blasts and a burst of gunfire were heard, though officials said no full-out assault was under way. “It’s not as simple as that. We are waiting,” the Toulouse prosecutor, Michel Valet, told The Associated Press.

Authorities said the shooter, a French citizen of Algerian descent, had been to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he claimed to have received training from al-Qaida.

No deaths reported in Mexico’s 7.4 quake

MEXICO CITY — A powerful earthquake that shook Mexico from its massive capital to its resort-studded southern coast damaged hundreds of homes and sent thousands of panicked people fleeing from swaying office buildings, yet apparently didn’t cause a single death.

As of early Wednesday, there were still no reports of deaths from Tuesday’s magnitude-7.4 quake centered near the border between the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, even after 10 aftershocks.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday about 300,000 people in the south side of the capital were without water after the quake damaged two aqueducts. He said two people were reported injured, including the driver of an empty bus crashed under a collapsed pedestrian bridge.

Nine other people were injured in Oaxaca state, according to the federal government.

Seismologists and civil protection officials said where the earthquake hit and how it hit appear to have limited the damage, along with improved construction in the capital following a massive 1985 quake.

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