In brief: Custody hearing for sect chaotic

A court hearing to decide the fate of the 416 children swept up in a raid on a West Texas polygamist sect descended into farce Thursday, with hundreds of lawyers in two packed buildings shouting objections and the judge struggling to maintain order.

The case – clearly one of the biggest, most convoluted child-custody hearings in U.S. history – presented an extraordinary spectacle: big-city lawyers in suits and mothers in 19th-century, pioneer-style dresses, all packed into a courtroom and a nearby auditorium connected by video.

At issue was an attempt by the state of Texas to strip the parents of custody and place the children in foster homes because of evidence they were being physically and sexually abused by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group suspected of forcing underage girls into marriage with older men.

As many feared, the proceedings turned into something of a circus – and a painfully slow one.

As the afternoon dragged on, no decisions had been made on the fate of any of the youngsters.

Johannesburg, South Africa

Zimbabwe pressed to release results

South Africa called Zimbabwe’s political stalemate “dire” on Thursday and urged election officials to immediately release results from the March 29 presidential election.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is widely believed to have outpolled President Robert Mugabe in the election, meanwhile rejected accusations of treason from the Zimbabwean government and suggested that Mugabe may face popular retribution if he continues clinging to power.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also called for the release of the election results and said it was time for Zimbabwe’s neighbors to “step up.”

The South African statement, from top government spokesman Themba Maseko, was the nation’s clearest and most forceful yet about the heightening political drama in Zimbabwe, its northern neighbor.

Mugabe got fewer votes than Tsvangirai, according to independent observers, but an electoral commission controlled by Mugabe cronies has refused to release the official tallies.


Incontinence meds tied to memory loss

Commonly used incontinence drugs may cause memory problems in some older people, a study has found.

“Our message is to be careful when using these medicines,” said U.S. Navy neurologist Dr. Jack Tsao, who led the study. “It may be better to use diapers and be able to think clearly than the other way around.”

The findings, released Thursday at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, come from an analysis of the medication use and cognitive test scores of 870 older Catholic priests, nuns and brothers who participated in the Religious Orders Study at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

The average age was 75.

The people who took the drugs had a 50 percent faster rate of cognitive decline compared to those who didn’t take any. The researchers found no increased risk for the memory-robbing disorder Alzheimer’s in people taking the drugs.

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