Nation digest 11/10/05

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Texas mom who drowned children to get new trial

HOUSTON -- The state's highest criminal court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that threw out Andrea Yates' murder convictions for drowning her children in a bathtub in 2001. Harris County assistant district attorney Alan Curry said the case will be retried or a plea bargain considered. Jurors rejected Yates' insanity defense in 2002 and found her guilty of two capital murder charges for the deaths of three of her five children. A lower court ruling in January had thrown out the convictions because of erroneous testimony that prosecutors used to suggest that Yates had gotten the idea for the killings from an episode of the television show "Law & Order." The episode was found later not to exist. Yates' attorney, George Parnham, said that although he wants to avoid another trial for his client, he doubts he and prosecutors can reach a plea agreement that addresses Yates' mental health needs.

TV shows average five sex scenes per hour

WASHINGTON -- "The OC," "Desperate Housewives" and other TV shows popular with teenagers generally have more sex than other programs, a study says. TV executives say they're not pushing sex on children and that if parents don't want their children to see certain shows then they have all the tools they need, including the "off" button. According to the study released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the vast majority of TV shows -- 70 percent -- include some sexual content, with an average of five sex scenes per hour. On the top teen shows, the number is higher -- 6.7 scenes an hour. The study examined programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, PBS, Lifetime, TNT, USA Network and HBO. Sexual content could be anything from discussions about sex to scenes involving intercourse. The number of scenes involving sex has nearly doubled since 1998, the study said, from 1,930 to 3,783.

Amtrak board fires president David Gunn

WASHINGTON -- Amtrak's president was fired Wednesday by the company's board of directors, who said David Gunn did not drive the debt-laden rail service fast enough toward major changes. Democrats criticized Gunn's ouster and questioned whether the firing was legal, contending it was part of a Bush administration effort to kill national rail service. As Amtrak's president and chief executive, Gunn struggled to maintain service amid a sinking financial picture and a push by the White House and some in Congress to transform the railroad into a group of companies offering regional service. Gunn was offered the chance to resign; he refused. Amtrak's board chairman, David Laney, praised Gunn's effort to put Amtrak in good working order, but said the company's needs went further. He said it was a gradually worsening relationship between Gunn and the board, not any single disagreement, that led to his ouster.

Reporter who was jailed in CIA leak case retires

NEW YORK -- Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who was first lionized, then vilified by her own newspaper for her role in the CIA leak case, has retired from the Times, the paper announced Wednesday. Miller, 57, joined the Times in 1977 and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for reporting on global terrorism. She said in a letter to readers that she left because she had "become the news." She had been negotiating a severance deal with the paper for several weeks. Miller spent 85 days in jail over the summer for refusing to testify about her conversations with a confidential source. But after her release, she was criticized harshly and publicly by Times editors and writers for her actions in the CIA leak case and for her reporting during the run-up to the Iraq war, later discredited, indicating that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

NRA sues to overturn new San Francisco gun ban

SAN FRANCISCO -- The National Rifle Association sued Wednesday to overturn an ordinance voters here overwhelmingly approved a day earlier that bans handgun possession and sales of firearms in the city. A state appeals court in 1982 nullified a similar gun ban largely on grounds that the city cannot enact an ordinance that conflicts with state law, which allows for the sale and possession of handguns and ammunition. The NRA filed its lawsuit Wednesday asking the same court, the 1st District Court of Appeal, to nullify the ordinance, which demands that city residents surrender their handguns by April. The NRA also contends the new ordinance unfairly puts San Francisco residents at a disadvantage by denying them the means to protect themselves. The measure does not bar nonresidents from possessing handguns within city limits. City attorney Dennis Herrera said his office will vigorously defend the ordinance, which was approved by 58 percent of voters.

Man who killed hunters gets six life sentences

HAYWARD, Wis. -- The judge who sentenced a deer hunter to life in prison for killing six other hunters said he was a "time bomb ready to go off" at the slightest provocation. Judge Norman Yackel ordered Chai Soua Vang, 37, to serve six consecutive life sentences, guaranteeing he would never be freed from prison. Wisconsin does not have a death penalty. Vang, an ethnic Hmong who came to this country from a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980, was convicted on six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of attempted homicide in the Nov. 21 slayings. Vang addressed the victims' families in court Tuesday but did not apologize. He called Tuesday the happiest day of his life, saying he would no longer have to deal with child support and mortgage payments.

-- From wire reports

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