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Nation in brief

What's this? Video games may be good for your brain?

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 29, 2003

All those hours spent playing video games may not be wasted time after all: A new study suggests action-packed video games like Grand Theft Auto III and Counter-Strike might sharpen your mind.

Researchers at the University of Rochester found young adults who regularly played video games full of high-speed car chases and blazing gunbattles showed better visual skills than those who did not. In a second experiment, researchers found that people who do not normally play video games but were trained to play them developed enhanced visual perception.

Exactly why video games have this effect is not clear. The researchers said more study is needed, but they said the findings suggest video games could be used to help visually impaired patients see better or to train soldiers for combat.

The study, involving one group of 16 men and one of 17 men, was published in today's issue of the journal Nature and was led by Daphne Bavelier, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

84 remain as national spelling bee finishes today

WASHINGTON - One by one they strolled to the microphone, all 251 youngsters in the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Each got a word in the one-and-done mistake format; 175 got them right.

The rest drew a single clang of the bell, signifying it was time to be escorted to a comfort room of snacks and consolation.

By noon, survivors got a group test of 25 words, which cut the field to 84.

The pressure might well rise today, with national coverage of the final round planned by ESPN, the cable sports network. All spellers win some cash depending upon performance. The winner gets $12,000 and other prizes.

Nation's new seat-belt effort targets Hispanics

PHILADELPHIA - Law enforcement officers taking part in a nationwide campaign to get drivers to wear their seat belts are setting up checkpoints aimed at Hispanics and handing out tickets, a tactic the ACLU says smacks of racial profiling.

Federal officials defend the checkpoints, saying Hispanics are less likely to buckle up because wearing seat belts is often not the law or custom in their countries of origin.

"Click It or Ticket" campaigns aimed at the general population began nationwide last week and run through Sunday.

Suspended reporter from New York Times resigns

NEW YORK - Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg resigned from the New York Times Wednesday after the newspaper suspended him over a story that carried his byline but was reported largely by a freelancer.

Bragg, a St. Petersburg Times reporter from 1989 to 1993, had blamed his suspension on what he called a "torturous atmosphere" at the newspaper since the May 1 resignation of a reporter who wrote fraudulent articles.

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