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 miles (kilometres) above the Earth. "What will you ask for from Santa Claus, Kirobo?" asked the Japanese astronaut.
A sweeping defense bill that authorizes Pentagon spending passed Congress, assuring funding through 2014 while easing detainee transfers from Guantanamo and cracking down on sexual assault in the military. The compromise legislation, which passed 84-15 with broad bipartisan support, allocates some $552.1 billion for military spending on bases and equipment as well as troop training and resources, and allows for a one percent raise in military salaries. The National Defense Authorization Act also provides $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations, namely the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held tryouts Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong Un's birthday next month — though he hasn't convinced all the players on the American team that it's safe to come to Pyongyang.