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The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Mayor shot dead at Manila airport

Posted: 20 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

MANILA: Gunmen opened fire outside the Manila international airport, killing four people including the mayor of a town in the southern Philippines, where political violence is endemic.

Terrified men and women screamed and cried while a man, apparently fatally wounded, lay face down on the pavement outside the passenger terminal in a video clip uploaded to the local GMA television network's website.

The dead included Mayor Ukol Talumpa (pic) of the southern town of Labangan, his wife, his 18-month-old grandson and a male aide, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

"I understand that was the third attempt on the life of the mayor and this time the culprits succeeded," de Lima said.

"It's extremely deplorable that even the wife, grandson and a staff (assistant) were also killed."

An airport policeman, who asked not to be named, said he was on duty about 10m away when the mayor and his party were attacked yesterday.

"I heard gunshots, so I whipped out my pistol and ran to the area. But the gunman had fled. He had an accomplice on a motorcycle," said the officer.

"People were shocked and just stood there so I could not shoot," he added.

"We tried to chase them in a police van but got caught up in the traffic," he said, adding that the gunman was wearing a police cap and a blue jacket.

Talumpa, an opposition leader who was the town's former vice mayor, had defeated in the May 2013 elections the incumbent mayor who is a political ally of President Benigno Aquino.

He had earlier survived a grenade attack that injured a police bodyguard on the troubled southern region of Mindanao in September last year, and also escaped an assassination attempt in Manila in 2010, provincial officials said.

The Philippines is infamous for a brutal brand of democracy where politicians – particularly at local and provincial levels – are willing to bribe, intimidate or kill to ensure they win.

More than 60 people were killed in last May's elections, when 18,000 posts from provincial governor to town and city mayors as well as city and town executive councils were contested.

Talumpa and his party were attacked as they stepped out of the passenger terminal shortly after getting off a flight from southern Philippines, said Manila airport general Angel Honrado.

Four people were killed and four others wounded in the broad daylight shooting, he added.

Honrado said the authorities did not know the identity of the gunmen nor the motive for the attack.

In the footage obtained by GMA, which it said was taken by a bystander, spilled luggage and trolleys lay scattered on the curb on both sides of the gunned down man.

Two other people were shown crouching on the curb, while the voices of screaming men and women could be heard.

A taxi cab and four vans, all their doors open, were stopped on the driveway, with the hazard lights of one van still blinking on and off.

"This is a very unfortunate incident that did happen at Terminal 3," Honrado said.

"Government agencies are trying their best to determine the perpetrators and bring them to justice."

He appealed to other passengers who witnessed the shooting to help the police identify the suspects. — AFP

Japan’s robot astronaut begins chatting

Posted: 20 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

TOKYO: The world's first robot astronaut has begun chatting to the Japanese commander of the International Space Station, in what was being billed as the first conversation of its kind.

Kirobo, a pint-sized android equipped with artificial intelligence and capable of learning how to respond appropriately to humans, even put a marker down for Christmas, telling Koichi Wakata he expected a visit from a certain man bearing gifts.

"Santa Claus will come to space," Kirobo, wearing a Santa hat, told Wakata as they drifted in zero gravity hundreds of kilometres above the Earth.

"What will you ask for from Santa Claus, Kirobo?" asked the Japanese astronaut.

"I want a toy rocket ... let's ask Santa Claus."

The wide-eyed and bootie-wearing Kirobo – roughly the size of a chihuahua – left Earth on a cargo-carrying rocket and reached the space station on Aug 10.

Wakata along with Mikhail Tyurin of Russia and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio joined him at the ISS in November.

"We've had some trouble before having the robot carry on the conversation smoothly," said developer Tomotaka Takahashi.

"When people develop a relationship, it is an accumulation of small bits of communication.

"Small things make it work or not work," he said.

"We've learnt important tips to develop a robot that can communicate with people more." — AFP


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