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News Briefs

China, U.S. Agree on Return of Plane

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BEIJING

China and the United States have wrapped up an agreement on the return of a U.S. spy plane stuck for more than two months on southern Hainan island, bringing to an end one of the worst confrontations to bedevil the two countries in recent years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi told reporters Thursday that negotiations had concluded on dismantling the U.S. Navy EP-3 and sending it home. Four technicians from the United States have spent the past week in the Chinese capital hashing out the details of how to disassemble and transport the damaged $80-million aircraft.

The agreement lays to rest the outstanding issue in the diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Washington, D.C., that ensued when the EP-3 and a Chinese fighter jet collided in the air Apr. 1 off the southern Chinese coast. The American craft made an emergency landing on Hainan, where its 24-member crew was detained for 11 days. The pilot of the Chinese fighter was lost at sea and declared dead.

“China and the United States have basically solved the matter of the plane, both the crew and the aircraft,” Sun said, adding that, “We hope bilateral relations can come back to the normal track.”

Russian Court Reduces Sentence For Imprisoned U.S. Student

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

A Russian court on Thursday reduced the drug sentence of American student John Tobin to a year in prison in a case that has drawn the interest of high-level U.S. officials concerned that the Fulbright scholar was targeted as part of Russia’s fixation with espionage.

Tobin, 24, who goes by the nickname Jack and was studying at Voronezh State University about 300 miles south of Moscow, was originally given a 37-month prison term for charges stemming from possessing a tiny amount of marijuana. The Russian security service publicly branded Tobin a U.S. spy in training, although it brought no charges connected to espionage.

Tobin, a Connecticut native, has said he was set up and prosecuted because he rebuffed a request to become a Russian agent. He has already spent four months behind bars, but his lawyer said he hopes he might be freed later this month as part of a broader amnesty program.

Extinction of Large Mammals Linked to Humans

NEWSDAY

Mass extinctions of large animals in Australia and North America thousands of years before the advent of industrialized societies may be linked to overhunting or environmental destruction by expanding human populations, according to two independent studies to be published Friday in the journal Science.

Richard Roberts, an Australian researcher, and his collaborators used two methods to determine the burial dates for giant marsupials and other animals at all known sites throughout Australia and the island of New Guinea, once connected to the continent by a land bridge. From a statistical analysis of the latest burial dates for relatively complete fossils, the scientists dated the extinctions to about 46,400 years ago, give or take 5,000 years, which is after the arrival of humans on Australia. Roberts said that date rules out the possibility that the animals perished in hyper-arid conditions during the peak of the last global ice age.

In a separate study, University of California, Santa Barbara, research biologist John Alroy used a computer simulation to correctly predict the extinction or survival of 32 animals in prehistoric North America.