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News Briefs II

GIs Accused of Raping Girl Are Portrayed as Good Soldiers

Los Angeles Times

Three U.S. servicemen accused of raping an Okinawa schoolgirl were painted as stellar soldiers and a loving husband Monday as defense attorneys sought to soften their violent image in a case that has outraged Japan.

Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, buried his head in his hands and wept as his wife, Denitrease, apologized for the crime and told the court her husband is a gentle, intelligent man who "adored" his two children.

"I'm very sorry," she said, before breaking down in sobs. "I'd like to apologize to the Japanese girl, to her mother and father, to the people of Japan and the United States."

In the second hearing in the high-profile case, U.S. military officers testified on behalf of the other two suspects, Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, 22, and Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet, 20, saying they were good soldiers who performed their duties well.

The three men are accused of abducting a 12-year-old girl off the streets of Naha city on Okinawa's southern island and taking her to a remote sugar cane field. There, prosecutors allege, they brutally beat and raped her after tying her up with duct tape and rope.

Gill has pleaded guilty to rape; Harp and Ledet have denied raping the girl but have admitted assisting in the Sept. 4 crime. The men face sentences ranging from three years to life imprisonment.

Scientists Discover Third, Thumbnail Size' Black Hole

The Baltimore Sun

Take 1.2 billion stars the size of our sun, and crush them down to a volume the size of your thumbnail, and you'll have something like the black hole just discovered by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University using the Hubble Space Telescope.

"These are clearly remarkable creatures," said Holland Ford, the Hopkins astronomer whose team found the new black hole.

They spotted it in a galaxy labeled NGC 4261, about 100 light years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

It is only the third black hole ever found, and Ford's second. The first, discovered by Ford in 1994 in the galaxy M87, lifted the black hole from theory into reality.

By finding and studying as many black holes as possible, astronomers can begin to catalog their different manifestations and understand the ways in which they can form. "We really need a lot of examples before we are able to say something about it," said Laura Ferrarese, the graduate student on Ford's team at Hopkins who is credited with the discovery.

The team's observations with Hubble revealed gas and dust orbiting in a disk 800 light years across - about 200 times the distance from the sun to the nearest star.

Focusing to within 50 light years of the galaxy's center, they detected dust and gas circling at speeds up to 1 million mph.. That kind of speed in so small a space indicated a central mass equal to 1.2 billion suns.

And that much mass in so small a space generating so little light could only be explained by the presence of a black hole, Ferrarese said.