- - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

LONDON — Transformable robots and weight-distribution rucksacks are among the cutting-edge products on display at a London showcase for defense science and technology.

The Ministry of Defense’s Center for Defense Enterprise on Tuesday unveiled the latest gadgets and gizmos being developed by small- and medium-sized enterprises for use in supporting Britain’s troops.

Companies with research contracts from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory presented their designs at the showcase, from fabric keyboards for military uniforms to gunshot-detection systems for helmets.

Prospective buyers also tried on weight-distribution backpacks fitted with special cooling panels and looked at masks designed to maximize the efficiency of oxygen delivery.


GE engine faulted for crash that killed 9

PORTLAND — An Oregon jury ruled Tuesday a problem with an engine was responsible for the 2008 crash of a helicopter that killed nine firefighters during a wildfire in Northern California.

The jury in Portland reached its verdict after a pilot who survived and the widow of one who was killed sued General Electric for $177 million.

The plaintiffs argued the company knew the engines it made for the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter had a design flaw making them unsafe.

GE countered that the helicopter crashed because it was carrying too much weight when it took off after picking up a firefighting crew at the Iron 44 wildfire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Weaverville, Calif.

“They’re heroes,” said plaintiff’s attorney Greg Anderson of the pilots, William Coultas and Roark Schwanenberg. “They saved as many people as they could. They have been pilloried before this.”

The chopper was airborne less than a minute when it clipped a tree and fell from the sky, bursting into flames.

Four people survived, including Mr. Coultas, of Cave Junction.

The plaintiffs and their families in court Tuesday dabbed their eyes and exchanged stiff handshakes with GE’s attorneys. They declined to speak with reporters after the verdict was read.

After a two-year investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2010 that too much weight and a lack of oversight caused the crash.


Princeton Review to sell test prep business

FRAMINGHAM — Princeton Review Inc. is selling its test preparation business for $33 million in cash to a private equity firm and plans to change its name as it focuses on its online education division.

The Massachusetts-based company is best known for the test preparation materials that it sells under the Princeton Review brand, which is also being sold as part of the deal to an affiliate of the private equity firm Charlesbank Capital Partners.

The company’s test prep business has struggled as customers are opting for less expensive SAT-preparation programs.

Princeton Review said the sale will help it expand its Penn Foster division, which provides online degrees and vocational programs in fields like health care, technology and education. It will adopt a new name, as yet undetermined.


FBI: Man stole Microsoft co-founder’s identity

PHILADELPHIA — An AWOL soldier’s simple scheme to defraud one of the richest men in the world has landed him in federal custody, according to a criminal complaint.

In the complaint unsealed Monday, federal investigators allege Brandon Lee Price changed the address on a bank account held by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, then had a debit card sent to his Pittsburgh home so he could use it for payments on a delinquent Armed Forces Bank account and personal expenses.

Mr. Price called Citibank in January and changed the address on an account held by Mr. Allen from Seattle to Pittsburgh, then called back three days later to say he had lost his debit card and asked for a new one to be sent to him, an FBI investigator wrote in a criminal complaint filed in February.

The card was used to attempt a $15,000 Western Union transaction and make a $658.81 payment on the Armed Forces Bank loan account the day it was activated, according to the complaint. Surveillance footage also captured him attempting purchases at a video game store and a dollar store, authorities charged.

Investigators found Mr. Price was listed as absent without official leave from the Army and wanted as a deserter, authorities said in the complaint. He was arrested March 2 and ordered detained until Monday unless the Army takes him into custody.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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