October 11th, 2011
01:02 AM ET

'Merchant of death' trial to open in New York

After evading international authorities for nearly two decades, alleged international arms and drug smuggler Viktor Bout, widely dubbed the "merchant of death" by his accusers, will go on trial in New York Tuesday.

The Russian businessman is charged with a wide range of counts, including conspiracy to kill Americans, attempting to sell arms to undercover federal agents, wire fraud and violating U.N. Security Council sanctions. Bout pleaded not guilty to all charges last year.

"I'm very confident that the trial will make it transparent that Viktor Bout did not intend to sell arms to anyone," Bout's lawyer, Albert Y. Dayan, said during pretrial hearings.

International security experts say that the charges encompass only a small fraction of what they believe Bout is responsible for.

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice • U.S. • Viktor Bout • World
June 16th, 2011
01:56 PM ET

Taekwondo tour a chance to show the 'real North Korean'

Queens, New York, is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the world. But one nation’s visitors still managed to raise a few eyebrows: North Koreans were in town.

An elite taekwondo team came for a three-city tour, the second of its kind organized by an American taekwondo magazine. The 11 performers were accompanied by several coaches and government minders, each with Kim Jong Il lapel pins affixed to their ill-fitting suits.

“I think whenever we share things with other people, it's a good thing. Especially when we share something that we love,” said Tina Pagano, an organizer of the event.

The primary motivation of the trip was to give an elite team the chance to perform for a new audience. The United States is home to the most practitioners of taekwondo in the world, according to George Vitale, who helped organize the event.

But for two countries that have no diplomatic relations, this visit was clearly about more than just sports. In what must certainly be a rare occurrence, American and North Korean flags hung side-by-side above the gym where the team performed.

Woojin Jung, the publisher of Taekwondo Times and a driving force behind the tour, wrote on the website for the tour that he hoped “to establish a peaceful relationship between the U.S. and North Korea through a nonpolitical exchange.”

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Filed under: New York • North Korea