Did Chinese copy U.S. laptop files?

WASHINGTON - U.S. authorities are investigating whether Chinese officials secretly copied the contents of a government laptop during a visit to China by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and used the information to try to hack into Commerce computers, officials and industry experts said.

Surreptitious copying is believed to have occurred when a laptop was left unattended during Gutierrez's December trip to Beijing for trade talks, people familiar with the incident told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Gutierrez said that because of the investigation, he could not discuss whether or how the laptop's contents might have been copied. It was not immediately clear what information on the laptop might have been compromised.

- AP

Rezko accused of owing casinos

LAS VEGAS - Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a prominent political fund-raiser on trial in a corruption case in Chicago, is wanted in Las Vegas on allegations that he rang up hundreds of thousands of dollars in casino debts.

Rezko is sought on a felony arrest warrant alleging that he failed to repay 10 casino loans totaling $472,275 and dating to 2006 at Caesars Palace and Bally's, said Clark County court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.

Rezko, 52, also is named in a lawsuit alleging that he owes $331,000 plus interest to the Bellagio for loans he received in February 2006.

He has raised thousands of dollars for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich; neither is accused of wrongdoing. Rezko has pleaded not guilty in Chicago. His lawyer, Joseph J. Duffy, declined to comment on the Las Vegas cases.

- AP

Phoenix frees its robotic arm

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Phoenix lander is getting ready to flex its muscles on Mars.

The spacecraft successfully freed its 8-foot robotic arm from the restraints that kept it folded up and protected from vibrations during launch and landing, scientists said yesterday. Preparations were under way to partly flex the arm.

After scientists test the arm's joints at different temperatures over several days, they will tell Phoenix to use the camera on the arm to look at the lander's underbelly and photograph the terrain beneath it.

Researchers want to make sure the lander is stable so it won't tilt once the arm is fully extended, said Matt Robinson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Outside experts

will review work at a canal where one of the New Orleans area's worst levee breaks occurred during Hurricane Katrina, and where water is seeping through the ground despite $22 million in repairs, the Army Corps of Engineers said yesterday.

Colorado election officials

said a proposed state constitutional amendment defining a fertilized human egg as a person has enough petition signatures to get on the state's November ballot. Some supporters hope the amendment, if passed, would restrict or limit abortions in Colorado.