Pieces Indicate Faster

Sinking of Titanic

FALMOUTH, Mass. -- The discovery of two large pieces of the Titanic's hull on the ocean floor indicates that the fabled luxury liner sank faster than previously thought, researchers said Monday.

The hull pieces were a crucial part of the ship's structure and make up a bottom section of the vessel that was missing when the wreck was first located in 1985, the researchers said.

After the bottom section of the hull broke free, the bow and stern split, said Roger Long, a naval architect who analyzed the find. The stern, which was still buoyant and filled with survivors, probably plunged toward the ocean floor about five minutes later.

"It would have been immediately terrifying," he said.

Previous researchers believed the ship broke in just two major pieces, the bow and stern, which was how the sinking was depicted in the 1997 film version of the catastrophe. David G. Brown, a Titanic historian, estimated before the latest find that the stern took 20 minutes to slide into the water.

"It turns out the Titanic was more merciful. It was over more quickly," Brown said.

The newly found hull sections, about a third of a mile from the stern of the wreck, were examined during an expedition in August sponsored by the History Channel. On Monday, Titanic experts met at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to discuss their analysis of the find for a documentary to be aired on the cable channel on Feb. 26.

The sections, both about 40 feet by 90 feet, were once a single section and were found in good condition, with red bottom paint still visible.

Officer Will Not Face

Army Murder Charges

* TOPEKA, Kan. -- The Army dropped murder charges against an officer accused of giving two soldiers in his platoon permission to kill Iraqi civilians. Second Lt. Erick J. Anderson, 26, of Twinsburg, Ohio, could have been imprisoned for life if convicted.

Anderson was a platoon leader in an infantry regiment in August 2004. Four men in his 36-member platoon were convicted of murdering unarmed Iraqis during operations near Sadr City.

In statements to Army investigators, two soldiers said Anderson gave them the go-ahead to kill civilians, including one incident described as a "mercy killing."

Later, one of Anderson's accusers changed his story. Pvt. Michael Williams of Memphis said he only implicated Anderson to get prosecutors to reduce his own life sentence to 25 years.

* YAZOO CITY, Miss. -- A jury decided that Earnest Lee Hargon, 45, who killed a couple and their child in anger over a lost inheritance, should get the death penalty. Hargon, 45, was convicted Saturday in the Valentine's Day 2004 murders of his cousin Michael Hargon, 27; Michael's wife, Rebecca, 29; and the couple's son, James Patrick, 4.

* TAMPA -- Jurors in the terrorism conspiracy trial of former University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian told the judge they cannot reach verdicts on charges against two of the four defendants. U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. did not say which two defendants were in question. He told jurors to return to deliberations for a 12th day to decide if al-Arian, 47, a former computer engineering professor, and three others raised money and conspired to support Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

* OKLAHOMA CITY -- A Christmas tree that elementary school students decorated with discarded lottery tickets was removed from the state Capitol over the weekend after a lawmaker who opposes the lottery complained it was inappropriate.

-- From News Services