BROCKTON, Mass. - A 300-year-old sycamore that served as a marker on the Underground Railroad and a meeting place for abolitionists including Frederick Douglass has been cut down after city officials said it was too badly damaged to save.The remains of "The Liberty Tree" were fed into a chipper Monday despite the efforts of residents who had tried to win National Historic Register status for the tree and build a park and museum around it.

"I am just so disappointed that this tree, an object that referenced, revered and celebrated runaway slaves and freedom seekers, has to come to this ignoble end," said resident Dwight Miller.

Brockton Mayor John Yunits said he had to put public safety ahead of sentiment. A 2,000-pound branch crashed into an adjacent parking lot two weeks ago during a wind storm, and three arborists had determined it was rotting from the inside.

It would have cost $500,000 to restore the tree, so officials chose to remove it. The city plans to build a small commemorative park in its place, Yunits said, and will try to help pay for it by auctioning off branches as artifacts.


SAN FRANCISCO - Nearly three months after it rumbled back to life, Mount St. Helens is growing a new lava dome taller than the one that appeared after the volcano's deadly 1980 eruption.

The greatest danger now is that the new dome could collapse, spewing ash clouds that could blanket nearby communities or interfere with airplane routes, geologists said Tuesday.

There have been small collapses along the dome's western side, sending rock landslides tumbling to the crater floor, said Cynthia Gardner, a researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey's Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash.

So far, the eruption has been "incredibly benign," she said. Since early October, when small steam and ash emissions rose from the volcano, Mount St. Helens has appeared relatively quiet from the outside, and public interest has faded since the initial frenzy after earthquakes began on Sept. 23.

"But we have to remember that volcanoes are hazardous," Gardner said.


HOUSTON - Andrea Yates' murder convictions for drowning her children should be overturned because the state's expert witness gave false testimony about working on a nonexistent episode of "Law and Order," her attorneys told a state appeals court Tuesday.

Yates was sentenced to life in prison in the 2001 deaths of three of her children after jurors rejected her insanity defense. She was not tried in the deaths of the other two. Psychiatrists testified that Yates suffered from schizophrenia and postpartum depression.

Her attorneys told a three-judge panel of the appeals court that she deserves a new trial because of 19 errors that were committed in her 2002 trial.

Yates' attorney Troy McKinney focused on expert witness Park Dietz, who McKinney said "told a whopper of a falsehood" when he said he consulted on an episode of the TV show "Law and Order" involving a woman found innocent by reason of insanity for drowning her children.

Dietz testified the episode aired shortly before the drownings, and testimony during the trial indicated Yates was a viewer of the series.

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