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Yates’ second trial goes to jury

Jurors in Andrea Yates’ second murder trial in her children’s bathtub drowning deaths deliberated for nearly three hours Monday before being sequestered for the night.

After four hours of closing arguments, the jury began to sort through almost a month of evidence and testimony from 40 witnesses, trying to determine whether Yates knew killing the children was wrong.


Indians’ lawsuit may be nearing end

American Indians suing the government over billions of dollars in lost royalties say they are contemplating an offer by members of Congress to resolve their lawsuit for $8 billion.

The offer is considerably lower than the $27.5 billion plaintiffs offered to settle for a year ago. But plaintiffs say they are considering it seriously, bringing them closer than ever to ending the lawsuit, which has bogged down the Interior and Justice departments for 10 years.

“Eight billion dollars is something I wish was higher, but I’m glad they were able to bring something forward that was equitable,” the lead plaintiff, Blackfeet Indian Elouise Cobell, said. “Can we ever get near the total fair amount that should be given to individual Indians? I don’t think so. I think individual Indian account holders would support $8 billion.”

Distractions affect learning, study finds

Your parents were right: Don’t study with the TV on. Multitasking may be a necessity in today’s fast-paced world, but new research shows distractions affect the way people learn, making the knowledge they gain harder to use later on.

The study, in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also provides a clue as to why it happens.

The brain learns in two ways, said Russell A. Poldrack, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. One, called declarative learning, involves the medial temporal lobe and deals with learning active facts that can be recalled and used with great flexibility. The second, involving the striatum, is called habit learning. For instance, in learning a phone number you can simply memorize it, using declarative learning, and can then recall it whenever needed, Poldrack explained. A second way to learn it is by habit, “punch it in 1,000 times, then even if you don’t remember it consciously, you can go to the phone and punch it in,” he said.

The problem, Poldrack said, is that the two types of learning seem to be competing with each other, and when someone is distracted, habit learning seems to take over from declarative learning.


Handler’s death ruled an accident

The death of a handler who was knocked down and crushed by an elephant has been ruled an accident, and the animal will not be destroyed.

Joanna Burke, 36, was killed Friday at the nonprofit Elephant Sanctuary.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and a sheriff’s department investigated, found the sanctuary in compliance with regulations, and called Burke’s death an accident.

– Compiled from wire reports


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Early exit polls show strong support to lift Ireland ban on abortion

UPDATED: 3:05 p.m.

Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.