Nation briefs 4/20/06

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Study: Mediterranean diet cuts Alzheimer's risk

NEW YORK -- A Mediterranean-style diet that appears to cut the risk of heart disease also helps protect against Alzheimer's disease, a new study concludes. People who followed the diet were up to 40 percent less likely than those who largely avoided it to develop Alzheimer's during the course of the research, scientists reported. Still, more research must be done before the diet can be recommended to ward off Alzheimer's, said Dr. Nikolaos Scarmeas of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, lead author of the research. The work was recently published online by the Annals of Neurology. The diet he tested includes lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and fish, while limiting meat and dairy products, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and emphasizing monounsaturated fats.

High court considers test of insanity defense

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court struggled Wednesday with whether Arizona gave a fair trial to a schizophrenic teenager who killed a police officer nearly six years ago, in a case that could be a major test of state insanity laws. Eric Clark was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer argued that the then-17-year-old was "guilty except insane" and should instead be sent to a psychiatric facility. "In his mind, he believed that the police officer was an alien," Clark's lawyer, David Goldberg, told justices. All but four states -- Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Utah -- allow insanity defenses, but the ruling in Clark's case could force legislatures to change their laws. Arizona allows defendants to claim they were insane at the time of a crime, but Goldberg said the standard to prove it is almost impossible, violating the rights of mentally ill defendants.

Suspicious device found at Atlanta airport

ATLANTA -- Officials shut down all security checkpoints at the nation's busiest airport for about two hours after a "suspicious image" was detected in a screening machine. After a hand-search of bags, nothing matching the image was found, said Willie Williams, Transportation Security Administration director at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He declined to say what the image appeared to be. The airport also grounded departing flights. Checkpoints reopened at 3:40 p.m., while airport officials still "couldn't say for certain we had a threat," Williams said.

-- From wire reports

Airport general manager Ben DeCosta said he supported Williams' decision.

By the time checkpoints reopened, there had been no departures for more than an hour, and all arrivals were delayed at least 90 minutes, said Kathleen Bergen of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The shutdown came at peak travel time, and at least 120 flights were affected, Bergen said.

"It will take most of the evening for operations to return to normal," said Delta Air Lines spokesman John Kennedy.

-- From wire reports

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