Federal judge declares pledge unconstitutional
SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge declared the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools unconstitutional Wednesday, a decision that could potentially put the divisive issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was brought by the same atheist whose previous battle against the words "under God" was rejected last year by the Supreme Court on procedural grounds. U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton said he would sign a restraining order preventing the recitation of the pledge in three school districts in Sacramento County, where the plaintiffs' children attend. The order would not extend beyond those districts unless it is affirmed by the 9th Circuit, in which case it could apply to nine western states, or the Supreme Court, which would apply to all states.
INVERNESS, Fla. -- A couple accused of starving and torturing five of their seven adopted children, including yanking out toenails with pliers, pleaded no contest to aggravated child abuse Wednesday. John and Linda Dollar were sentenced to 15 years each in prison. While the plea is not an admission of guilt, it means the Dollars would accept the court's punishment. The five children were so severely underfed that twin 14-year-old brothers weighed just 36 and 38 pounds each -- about 80 pounds below normal.
BOSTON -- The Massachusetts Legislature rejected a proposed change to the state constitution Wednesday aimed at banning gay marriage, a striking reversal that preserves the state's status as the only place in the nation where same-sex couples can wed. A year after Massachusetts politicians appeared destined to undo a court order that has allowed thousands of same-sex couples to marry since May 17, 2004, the legislature voted 157-39 against the proposal. Lawmakers were required to approve it in two consecutive sessions before the proposal could move to a statewide ballot.
TRENTON, N.J. -- Use of prescription drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is growing at a faster rate among adults than children, new research shows. Between 2000 and 2004, use of the drugs doubled among adults aged 20 to 44, but rose only 56 percent among children, according to data compiled by Medco Health Solutions, one of the country's largest prescription benefit managers. Nearly 1.5 million Americans 20 and older are using the drugs, Medco said.
-- From wire reports