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Tiny panda, big debut

N. Korea punishes Canadian pastor

North Korea's Supreme Court sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labor on Wednesday for what it called crimes against the state. Hyeon Soo Lim, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a 90-minute trial. He has been in detention since February. Lim kept his head bowed most of the time and answered questions in a subdued tone. The crimes he was charged with included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the North to the overseas Koreans, and helping U.S. and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens, along with aiding their programs to assist defectors from the North.

Suspect's escape aided by law?

Authorities in Belgium said Wednesday that one of the Paris attackers may have been holed up in a house in Brussels two nights after 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured — but that he could have escaped because of a law banning police raids on private homes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., according to the country's justice minister. The revelation by the justice minister, Koen Geens, that the suspect, France's most wanted man — Salah Abdeslam — might have gotten away because of an arcane law intended to safeguard family privacy only adds to the picture of a severely dysfunctional and ineffective government in Belgium. The minister said in an interview broadcast Wednesday night by the Dutch-language television station VTM that Abdeslam would have been caught if he were there, and a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office acknowledged in a telephone interview that "the immediate surroundings and the streets surrounding the property were not sealed off during the night."

'Affluenza' teen sought by police

Authorities are investigating whether a teenager who killed four people in a 2013 drunken-driving wreck — and claimed as part of his defense that he suffered from "affluenza" — has fled with his mother to avoid a potential violation of his probation. Prosecutors said Wednesday they're trying to determine whether Ethan Couch, 18, was one of the people drinking at a party in a video posted on social media earlier this month. Lawyers for Couch issued a statement saying his probation officer hasn't been able to reach him for several days, prompting authorities to issue the juvenile equivalent of an arrest warrant for the teen. They're also seeking the boy's mother, Tonya Couch, with whom he had been living. When Couch was prosecuted in juvenile court, his lawyers invoked the affluenza defense that claimed his irresponsible lifestyle was due to wealthy parents who coddled him. He was later sentenced by a judge to probation and time in a rehabilitation center.

Times wires

Washington, d.c. Tiny panda, big debut Animal keeper Stacey Tabellario holds Bei Bei, the National Zoo’s newest panda and offspring of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as he is presented to members of the media at the National Zoo in Washington. The youngest giant panda cub at the National Zoo is ready for his close-up. Bei Bei, who is nearly 4 months old, will make his public debut Jan. 16.

Associated Press

Washington, d.c. Tiny panda, big debut Animal keeper Stacey Tabellario holds Bei Bei, the National Zoo’s newest panda and offspring of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as he is presented to members of the media at the National Zoo in Washington. The youngest giant panda cub at the National Zoo is ready for his close-up. Bei Bei, who is nearly 4 months old, will make his public debut Jan. 16.

Tiny panda, big debut 12/16/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 10:18pm]
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  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]