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No mental-health plea in 8 kids' slaying

CAIRNS, Australia - A judge today rejected a plea by lawyers for an Australian woman charged with killing eight children to have the next hearing held in a mental-health court.

CAIRNS, Australia - A judge today rejected a plea by lawyers for an Australian woman charged with killing eight children to have the next hearing held in a mental-health court.

Mersane Warria, 37, is facing eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven of her children and her niece, whose bodies were found inside her northern Australia home last week.

Police were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When they got to the house, they found the bodies, along with Warria, who was suffering from stab wounds to the chest.

Police haven't said how the children died, but Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said they're examining several knives in the home that may have been the weapon used to kill them. Suffocation was also a possible cause of death, he said.

Retaliation fires up Mideast tension

JERUSALEM - The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip remained tense yesterday after attacks over the weekend that showed how fragile the cease-fire is since the summer's war between Israeli troops and Hamas.

A rocket launched into Israel on Friday drew an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, the first since an August cease-fire, and the two sides traded strong rhetoric even as efforts were made to avoid an escalation.

During a visit to Israel's south yesterday, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that the rocket, the third fired into Israel since the cease-fire, was launched by a rogue Palestinian organization but that that factor was irrelevant. "It is clear that Hamas is responsible for what happens in Gaza," he said of the militant group that rules the coastal enclave.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the Israeli bombing of a cement factory a "dangerous escalation" and a "foolish act." At the same time, senior official Mousa Abu Marzook stressed that Hamas would remain "committed to the cease-fire" as long as Israel is.

Sony hacks sharpen ax

LOS ANGELES - Fallout from the crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment has called into question exactly what the future holds for one of Hollywood's biggest names.

A paralyzed computer system has hampered the studio's ability to make deals, promote upcoming movie releases and conduct business. Some employees at the Culver City film and television studio still were having trouble accessing their email this weekend.

But, beyond the day-to-day running of a studio, there's a sense in Hollywood that big changes are ahead.

"Major upheaval will occur at Sony," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School. "This will reset the studio's relationship with Japan."

Emails released on the Internet by hackers show that Sony Corp. chief executive Kazuo Hirai had been concerned for months that "The Interview" could be trouble, given that the comedy depicted the fictional, gruesome assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Hirai ultimately agreed to the film's release, but analysts say that may not be enough to save the jobs of Sony Pictures' top two executives, Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal. They canceled the Christmas Day release of "The Interview" in the wake of terror threats on cinemas.

Oz and evens

CHITTENANGO, N.Y. - The Oneida Indian Nation plans to open a $20 million casino with a "Wizard of Oz" theme in the village where author L. Frank Baum was born, the Oneidas confirmed yesterday.

Ray Halbritter, chief executive of the Oneida Nation, said in a news release that the 67,000-square-foot casino will open in the spring in Chittenango, 14 miles east of Syracuse. The plans call for renovating a vacant building in a shopping plaza.

The Oneidas announced plans for the Yellow Brick Road Casino four days after a state panel recommended licensing three non-Indian casinos, including a $425 million casino and hotel 42 miles west of Syracuse in Seneca County. Halbritter said because the Chittenango casino will be on Oneida reservation land, no permission is needed from federal, state or local governments under terms of a 1993 gaming compact with the state.

Brokaw beating cancer

NEW YORK - Tom Brokaw says his cancer is in remission.

The veteran NBC newsman announced yesterday that he will soon begin a drug-maintenance program after months of chemotherapy.

Sharing with colleagues what he called "very encouraging news," Brokaw's memo noted that a year ago his future was "more uncertain than I cared to acknowledge."

Last February, he revealed that six months earlier he had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer affecting blood cells in the blood marrow, and was undergoing treatment.

Brokaw, 74, called the past year "a challenge," but added, gratefully, that he met it in "world-class hospitals with brilliant physicians."

- Daily News wire services