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'TITANIC' SALVAGE TRIP IN PLANS FOR 2010

The company that has exclusive rights to salvage the Titanic is planning a possible expedition to the world's most famous shipwreck in 2010.

The first expedition to the North Atlantic wreck site since 2004 is revealed in a filing by RMS Titanic Inc. in U.S. District Court, where company is making a claim for a salvage award.

Lawyers for RMS Titanic confirmed the expedition plans but declined to discuss them in detail.

"That is something that is being looked at right now, but it's not in any way a done deal," attorney Robert W. McFarland said. He said the company would have more to say at this week's hearing.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, a maritime jurist who considers the wreck an "international treasure," is presiding over the hearings. They are intended to determine a salvage award and establish legal guarantees that thousands of Titanic artifacts remain intact as a collection and forever accessible to the public. Some pieces have ended up in London auction houses.

The 5,900 pieces of china, ship fittings and personal belongings are valued in excess of $110 million and are displayed around the world by Premier Exhibitions Inc., an Atlanta company. RMS Titanic is a subsidiary of Premier.

The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in international waters on April 15, 1912.

Courts have declared it salvor-in-possession - meaning it has exclusive rights to salvage the Titanic - but have explicitly stated it does not own the 5,900 artifacts or the wreck itself.

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Disgraced cloning expert convicted

Hwang Woo Suk, the South Korean stem cell scientist once hailed as a hero for bringing hope to people with incurable diseases and creating the world's first cloned dog, was convicted Monday on criminal charges related to faked research. He avoided jail. The court sentenced Hwang to two years in prison for embezzling research funds and illegally buying human eggs. However, it suspended the penalty, allowing him to stay free if he breaks no laws for three years. Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison.

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Police: Employee gambled $2.8M

Swiss police say a bank employee has admitted stealing millions from the bank's safe to fund a gambling habit that cost her as much as $80,000 a week. Police in the northern canton of Schaffhausen say the 41-year-old woman confessed to embezzling $2.8 million over five years. Swiss banking giant UBS AG has confirmed that it alerted police in September after discovering funds were missing at its branch in Neuhausen near the German border. The bank said clients' accounts weren't affected by the alleged fraud.

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By the numbers

26 percent increase in the number of parking meter violations in Chicago since the meters were privatized in February.

$7M increase in revenue as a result of the violations.

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Latvian crater causes excitement, but it's just a hoax

Scientists investigating a large crater initially believed to have been caused by a meteorite said a closer analysis Monday revealed it was a hoax.

Experts in the Baltic country rushed to the site after reports that a metorite-like object had crashed late Sunday in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border.

"This is not a real crater. It is artificial," Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said after inspecting the site on Monday.

Nulle and other experts who examined the 27-foot-wide hole in daylight on Monday said it was too tidy to have been caused by a meteorite.

"It's artificial, dug by shovel," said Girts Stinkulis, a geologist at the University of Latvia.

Dainis Ozols, a nature conservationist, said he believes someone dug the hole and tried to make it look like a meteorite crater by burning some pyrotechnic compound at the bottom. He added he would analyze some samples taken from the site.

Inga Vetere of the Fire and Rescue Service said they received a call about the alleged meteorite on Sunday evening.

She said a military unit was dispatched to the site and found that radiation levels were normal.

Experts outside Latvia said it would be unusual for such a large meteorite to hit the Earth.

The planet is constantly bombarded with objects from outer space, but most burn up in the atmosphere and never reach the surface.

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