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Judge strikes key parts of Texas sonogram law

AUSTIN, TEXASA federal judge on Tuesday blocked key provisions of Texas’ new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed but struck down provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions.

The law made exceptions for women who were willing to sign statements saying they were pregnant as a result of rape or incest or that their fetus had an irreversible abnormality. Sparks questioned whether the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature was trying to “permanently brand” women who are victims of sexual assault.

Supporters argued that the law ensures women fully understand what an abortion entails. They said the law would lead to fewer abortions in Texas.

The state plans to appeal. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Repub­lican running for president, was critical of the ruling. He had made the law one of his top priorities for the 2011 legislative session.

3 replaced over ATF’s flawed gun operation

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department replaced three officials Tuesday who played critical roles in a flawed law enforcement operation aimed at major gun-trafficking networks on the Southwest border.

The department announced that the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. attorney in Arizona had resigned, and an administration official said a prosecutor who worked on the operation was reassigned to civil cases.

The operation, known as Fast and Furious, was designed to track small-time gun buyers at several Phoenix-area gun shops up the chain to make cases against major arms traffickers.

A congressional investigation turned up evidence that ATF lost track of many of the more than 2,000 guns linked to the operation. The Justice Department inspector general also is looking into the operation.

WikiLeaks revealing U.S. overseas sources

WASHINGTON — The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks in recent days has dramatically accelerated the pace at which it posts confidential State Department cables, exposing the names of people who spoke to American diplomats in confidence.

The development has alarmed U.S. officials and human rights groups, who say it will endanger foreign nationals who helped the U.S. and make it less likely that others will do so in the future.

“We are deeply concerned that WikiLeaks decided to make public the names of diplomatic sources who may face reprisals by oppressive governments,” said Elisa Massimino, the president of Human Rights First, an independent nonprofit organization.

In a statement on its site, WikiLeaks said it had published 133,877 cables in the past week. Previously, it had been releasing small numbers of documents at a time. The decision to speed up disclosures was made “in accordance with WikiLeaks’ commitment to maximizing impact, and making information available to all,” the statement said.

The site crashed Tuesday in an apparent cyberattack.

Romney, in Texas, hits at ‘career politicians’

SAN ANTONIO — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney castigated “career politicians” Tuesday as he tried to distinguish himself from chief rival Rick Perry while on the governor’s home turf in Texas.

“I am a conservative businessman. I spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ convention in San Antonio. “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.”

Romney didn’t mention Perry by name. National polls show Perry with more support. For months, Romney has led the pack seeking the GOP presidential nomination and largely ignored his would-be rivals.

Perry is Texas’ longest-serving governor and has been an elected public official for 27 years, having served as lieutenant governor, agricultural commissioner and a state representative before becoming governor in 2000.

A Perry spokesman dismissed Romney’s jab: “Gov. Perry was a farmer and served in the military for a combined 19 years,” Mark Miner said. “Mitt Romney must have been talking about someone else in his remarks today.”

Man describes shears impaling eye socket

PHOENIX — An 86-year-old Arizona man had just finished trimming plants in his backyard when he fell face-first into his pruning shears, sending one of the handles through his right eye socket and halfway into his head.

Unsure what had happened, Leroy Luetscher reached up and felt the shears jutting out. He was covered in blood and in more pain than he’d ever felt before

“I didn’t know if my eyeball was still there or what,” Luetscher said Tuesday. “The pain was so bad that I guess I wasn’t afraid to die.”

He managed to put his T-shirt over the wound to stanch the bleeding. He said the pain kept him conscious, and he was able to walk to the laundry room of his house to beckon his longtime live-in girlfriend, who called 911.

Luetscher has made a remarkable recovery since the July 30 accident. He still has slight swelling in his eyelids and minor double vision, but is otherwise OK.

Doctors who removed the shears and rebuilt a bone in his eye socket say it could have been much worse. “He’s was very lucky that it missed all vital structures and we were basically able to put him back together,” Dr. Lynn Polonski said.

– Edited from wire reports


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Property tax increase OK'd

Augusta commissioners broke a seven-year trend Wednesday and agreed 7-0 to raise property taxes by 1.75 mills to cover a deficit and provide employees a small bonus.
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