Jury selection to beginin Yates drowning trial
HOUSTON -- There is little debate over what happened in Andrea Yates' home on June 20: The mother of five told police that she drowned her children. What is under dispute is her state of mind that day. Defense attorneys and prosecutors were expected to begin questioning dozens of potential jurors today in order to seat a panel that will hear the capital murder trial and determine what responsibility Yates should bear.
Yates, 37, who has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, could get the death penalty if jurors decide she was sane when she drowned three children ranging in age from 6 months to 7 years. In September, a different set of jurors determined Yates was competent to stand trial, meaning she understands the charges against her and can assist with her defense.
Yates faces two capital murder charges: for drowning Noah, 7, and John, 5; and for drowning Mary, 6 months. In Texas, those convicted of a multiple murder or killing an infant are eligible for the death penalty.
Firestorm forces 1,500to evacuate in Australia
SYDNEY, Australia -- A massive firestorm threatened three coastal villages south of Sydney today, forcing authorities to evacuate more than 1,500 people from their homes and putting weary firefighters on the defensive. The evacuation order came hours after heavy rain doused several wildfires north and west of the city, prompting firefighters to sing and dance, and raising hopes of an end to the dozens of blazes that have burned across Australia's most populous state since Christmas Eve.
But no rain fell on the huge fire burning in the Shoalhaven area, 120 miles south of Sydney. Authorities ordered the villages of Cudmirrah, Berrara and Fisherman's Paradise evacuated after high temperatures and strong winds fanned flames within about half a mile of homes. "The fire is moving in such a dramatic way that it's unsafe for firefighters to attempt back-burning or anything like that," said Rural Fire Services spokesman John Winter.
Dollar-peso rate devalued
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- His hands tied by an economy near collapse, Argentina's finance minister deeply devalued its currency as the country braced for an era of uncertainty in which one peso will no longer buy $1. Overriding the worries of foreign investors and citizens alike, Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov broke the news late Sunday that "one-to-one" -- as the dollar-peso rate was known -- is history.
"We are devaluing. We are in collapse. Argentina is bankrupt," Remes Lenicov said bluntly, announcing the erosion of a currency long the most stable in Latin America -- until a run on the banks last Nov. 30 saw Argentines yank $2 billion in a day. The rioting and looting that followed forced President Fernando de la Rua from office and brought on a series of interim leaders.
Pilot in crash identifiedas an FAA consultant
BUENA PARK, Calif. -- A pilot killed when his twin-engine airplane crashed into a vacant lot three blocks from an airport has been identified as an engineering consultant for the Federal Aviation Administration. Donald Dirian, 69, of Whittier, advised businesses on how to make their aircraft safe enough to pass inspections.
Dirian was the only person aboard the Cessna 337 Skymaster. It was nearly vertical when it hit the ground shortly before 1 p.m. Saturday, bursting into flames between a strip mall and a residential area. Observers said he guided the aircraft to the only area where he could avoid hitting people or densely packed buildings. "If he'd been in the military, he'd have received a medal for what he did," said business colleague George Crowe. "To do that requires a great deal of skill and courage."
U.S. influence in S. Korea
SEOUL, South Korea -- In a move expected to alter South Korea's political landscape, the ruling party today decided to select its presidential candidate through a system similar to that used in the United States. After months of debate, the New Millennium Party unveiled a new political timetable, including plans to hold its national convention on April 20 to nominate its presidential candidate through U.S.-style primaries starting in early March.
South Korean presidential elections are scheduled for December. President Kim Dae-jung's single five-year term ends in February next year, and by law, he cannot seek re-election. "The consensus reached today shows how eager our party is to change and accommodate the wishes of our people," said party chief Han Kwang-ock.