USA

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns resigned Thursday, a move that's expected to lead to a run for the US Senate seat being vacated by Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Johanns was Nebraska's governor from 1998-2005. Democrats criticized the resignation because Johanns, a Republican, will be leaving his post before Congress reauthorizes the farm bill, a goal he said he hoped to reach by year's end.

Execution of convicted murderers by lethal injection in Tennessee was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal court on grounds that it poses "substantial risk of unnecessary pain." The decision has the immediate effect of stopping an execution that was scheduled for next week. Tennessee already was among 11 states that have blocked or postponed executions for that reason. Tennessee's attorney general has not yet indicated whether the ruling will be appealed.

CBS-TV shrugged off a $70 million lawsuit filed by former "Evening News" anchor Dan Rather, saying it is "without merit." Rather was forced to apologize and later lost his job over an on-air report based on discredited documents that President Bush had shirked his duties as a member of the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. The suit contends that the network made Rather a "scapegoat" to placate the administration.

Almost $1.3 billion worth of stock in companies that do business with Iran and Sudan will be divested by Florida's public employees retirement fund, it said Wednesday. Both are on the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism. At least six other states have similar bans, but each applies only to Sudan.

A "Foundations of American Law and Government" exhibit that includes the Ten Command-ments may remain on display in a Kentucky courthouse, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued for its removal from Rowan County Fiscal Court on grounds that it endorses religion in violation of the Constitution.

Stung by the rape charges against its own lacrosse players, Duke University announced it will establish a center that trains lawyers to contest wrongful convictions. President Richard Brodhead said Wednesday that the school will invest $1.25 million in the center over the next five years for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Three Georgia teenagers led the list of honorees Thursday as the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission presented 19 medals and $5,000 awards for acts such as rescuing others from drowning or house fires. Kyle DeLapp, Steven Gartner, and Hooman Nourpavar swam 300 yards off Miramar Beach, Fla., on April 1, 2006, to pull to safety three small boys who'd been swept into deep water by a strong current.

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