Judge blocks parts of Texas abortion law #cmm457

A federal judge struck down key portions of a new Texas abortion bill, set to take effect today (29 October) as unconstitutional, says CNN. The abortion bill has been called one of the most restrictive in the United States.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Austin by Planed Parenthood on behalf of more than 12 women’s healthcare providers in Texas, the lawsuit claims that the new bill violates the constitutional rights of Texas women and puts unreasonable demands on doctors who perform abortions.

The suit specifically targets requirements that doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic and usage controls on the drug used to induce abortions.

The law prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy took effect Tuesday as scheduled.

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White House Under Fire Again for NSA Leaks #cmm457

The White House is under fire again for new revelations about the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs. According to CNN, the latest documents allegedly leaked by Edward Snowden show that the NSA was not only monitoring U.S. phone calls and emails, but also those of foreign leaders – including some European allies. According to The Guardian, German chancellor Angela Merkel accused the US of tapping her phone on Wednesday.

The Guardian references a leaked NSA memo encouraging officials to turn over their personal “rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of top foreign officials to their surveillance system. It is said that one official turned over 200 names, including 35 world leaders.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney believes that Snowden’s leaks have hurt America’s ability to defend itself and calls him a traitor.

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Shooting at Tennessee Guard office wounds 2 #cmm457

Two people were wounded in a shooting at a military installation north of Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday, a Navy spokesman said.

According to CNN, both of the wounded were taken to nearby hospitals. The accused shooter is in custody.

Mass Communications Spc. 1st Class William Jamieson said the shooting took place at a Tennessee National Guard office.

Millington is home to the Navy’s personnel and recruiting commands. The facility there was on lockdown after the shooting.

Government Is Officially Re-Opened #cmm457

As of October 16th, the US Government is officially reopened. Here’s the rundown of what happened and why:

>According to CNN, the fiscal year ended on October 1st, and since Congress failed to pass a spending bill, all of the “non-essential” functions of the federal government (like the National Parks Service) stopped, because no one could pay the employees.

>House Republicans insisted that any spending bill include a provision to shut down Obamacare. Now, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act isn’t directly tied to funding the government, but it was used as a bargaining chip. A group of Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, disliked the Affordable Care Act so much, they decided it was worth disrupting government funding to try to get rid of it.

>Senate Democrats kept killing the bills drafted by the House and continued to do so until the House Republicans stopped trying to derail Obamacare.

>They eventually came to a compromise on October 16th, mere hours before the US was set to hit the debt ceiling and default on its loans.

>A new CNN/ORC Poll says that 54% of Americans think that the Republicans controlling the House is a bad thing, and more than 60% of Americans believe House Speaker John Boehner should be replaced. This is the first time since 2010 that a majority of Americans believe the GOP’s control is a bad thing for the country.

For a laugh, check out Her Campus’ list of 20 things that cost less than the government shutdown.

Cheshire Invasion Survivor Considers Congressional Bid #cmm457

Dr. William A. Petit Jr. told reporters on Friday that he is considering running next year as a Republican for the state’s 5th Congressional District, challenging Democrat Elizabeth Esty.

Petit is the sole survivor of a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, where his wife and two daughters were murdered. He has been a vocal advocate against abolishing the death penalty and often is credited with convincing lawmakers not to pass a repeal in 2011, however, the legislature repealed the law in 2012.

According to CTNewsJunkie.com, Petit spoke to reporters at a Simsbury event on domestic violence awareness, said he is undecided, and there is about a 50/50 chance that he will run. He said he has to weigh family concerns. Petit recently remarried and he and his wife are expecting a child within the next few months.

A Congressional run “is something I’m thinking about, taking counsel with a number of people and I’m trying to make a decision about which way to head,” he said. “Whether it’s to go forward in my life with my wife and a new baby and pursue other interests or, potentially get into the political field.”

Petit said he has been contacted by Republicans, both in Connecticut and from across the country who have encouraged him to run over the past few years.

“At a low level, it’s been going on for three or four years. I guess this year is the first time I listened at all,” he said.

Asked about the job performance of Esty, who is serving her first term as the 5th district’s representative, Petit paused and said “I think she’s a freshman in Congress. That’s a tough position to be in,” adding that it is even tougher to be a freshman lawmaker in the House’s minority party.

As a one-term state representative, Esty represented the town of Cheshire where Petit lived. She often blames her 2010 defeat on her vote in favor of repealing the death penalty.

If he decided to run, Petit would likely face a primary battle with Mark Greenberg, a Litchfield Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination last year. Both would be seeking to join the current Republican majority in the House, which has been engaged for weeks in a standoff with the president and Congressional Democrats over the Affordable Care Act and budget negotiations.

Gridlock between the two parties in Washington has caused an ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government and could cause the country to default on its debt if a deal is not worked out to raise the national borrowing limit. Asked about the apparent impasse, Petit said Republicans have to stand their ground in negotiations.

“I think if you believe in smaller government and less spending you have to stand your ground and try to do what you can to try to have a position to negotiate from,” Petit said. “Unfortunately, that’s been the only negotiating position they have been able to have to be able to slow down spending.”

Asked his position on the Affordable Care Act as a doctor, Petit said there are “a lot of problems with it. I think it’s a complex issue that probably needs a little more thought.”

Petit said it has been his interactions with parts of the government since the murders of his family that has him considering seeking elected office. That includes testifying at the state Capitol and participating the trials of the two men now convicted of the crimes, he said. If he were elected, Petit said he would seek to advocate on judicial issues like truth in sentencing and domestic violence.

He said he considers the Connecticut legislature’s decision to repeal capital punishment a mistake. Petit said calling it a disappointment would be an understatement.

“I’d probably use something stronger than that. Politicians clearly make egregious errors at times when they make decisions,” he said. “. . . That’s clearly one.”

Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Public Meeting Law #cmm457

The Connecticut Supreme Court on Monday upheld decisions by both a lower court and the Freedom of Information Commission that the Medical Examining Board had held an illegal closed-door meeting.

According to CTNewsJunkie.com, the board held a non-public meeting in 2009 to obtain legal advice about a letter it received from Public Defender Michael Courtney. The letter sought information about whether a physician could be punished for administering a lethal injection during an execution.

The public defender also sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ring, warning that there may be a conflict of interest if he represents the board while it weighs the request for a ruling on the lethal injection issue.

In response to that letter, the board conducted an executive session on February 17, 2009. During their five-minute session, the board sought legal advice regarding it.

The question before the court was whether the executive session should have been public.

The Medical Examining Board maintained that it was justified in its private meeting because the session discussed confidential legal information that would normally be subject to attorney-client confidentiality.

The Freedom of Information Law allows for private meetings between government agencies and attorneys if the meeting is in direct response to impending legal action.

The Freedom of Information Committee, however, found that Courtney’s letter did not imply impending legal action and the Supreme Court agreed. The court maintained that the letter was noting a potential conflict of interest and suggesting a course of action.

The court ruled that the board violated the Freedom of Information law, and ordered the board to comply with it in the future.

The board never actually ruled on the request to determine whether physicians should be punished for assisting in lethal injections.