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A federal judge has struck down a Texas law requiring age verification and health warnings to view pornographic websites and blocked the state attorney general’s office from enforcing it.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Ezra agreed with claims that House Bill 1181, which was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in June, violates free speech rights and is overbroad and vague.

The state attorney general’s office, which is defending the law, immediately filed notice of appeal to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 4 by the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry and a person identified as Jane Doe and described as an adult entertainer on various adult sites, including Pornhub.

Judge Ezra also said the law, which was to take effect Friday, raises privacy concerns because a permissible age verification is using a traceable government-issued identification and the government has access to and is not required to delete the data.

“People will be particularly concerned about accessing controversial speech when the state government can log and track that access,” Ezra wrote. “By verifying information through government identification, the law will allow the government to peer into the most intimate and personal aspects of people’s lives.”

Ezra said Texas has a legitimate goal of protecting children from online sexual material, but noted other measures, including blocking and filtering software, exist.

“These methods are more effective and less restrictive in terms of protecting minors from adult content,” Ezra wrote. The judge also found the law unconstitutionally compels speech by requiring adult sites to post health warnings they dispute — that pornography is addictive, impairs mental development and increases the demand for prostitution, child exploitation and child sexual abuse images.

“The disclosures state scientific findings as a matter of fact, when in reality, they range from heavily contested to unsupported by the evidence,” Ezra wrote.

The Texas law is one of several similar age verification laws passed in other states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, Utah and Louisiana.



The once-powerful Roman Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick will not stand trial on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage boy decades ago, as a Massachusetts judge dismissed the case against the 93-year-old on Wednesday because both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree he is experiencing dementia.

McCarrick, the ex-archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after an internal Vatican investigation determined he sexually molested adults as well as children. The McCarrick scandal created a crisis of credibility for the church, primarily because there was evidence Vatican and U.S. church leaders knew he slept with seminarians but turned a blind eye as McCarrick rose to the top of the U.S. church as an adept fundraiser who advised three popes.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Dr. Kerry Nelligan, a psychologist hired by the prosecution, said she found significant deficits in McCarrick’s memory during two interviews in June, and he was often unable to recall what they had discussed from one hour to the next. As with any form of dementia, she said there are no medications that could improve the symptoms.

“It’s not just that he currently has these deficits,” Nelligan said. “There is no way they are going to get better.” Without being able to remember discussions, he could not participate with his lawyers in his defense, she said.

McCarrick appeared via a video link during the hearing. He was slightly slumped in his chair wearing a light green shirt and what appeared to be a grey sweater vest or sweater around his shoulders. He did not speak during the hearing.

The once-powerful American prelate faced charges that he abused the teenage boy at a wedding reception at Wellesley College in 1974.

McCarrick has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty in September 2021. He was also charged in April with sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Wisconsin more than 45 years ago.

In February, McCarrick’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss the case, saying a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine had examined him and concluded that he has dementia, likely Alzheimer’s disease.

At that time, lawyers said McCarrick had a “limited understanding” of the criminal proceedings against him.



Hawaii’s electric utility acknowledged its power lines started a wildfire on Maui but faulted county firefighters for declaring the blaze contained and leaving the scene, only to have a second wildfire break out nearby and become the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century.

Hawaiian Electric Company released a statement Sunday night in response to Maui County’s lawsuit blaming the utility for failing to shut off power despite exceptionally high winds and dry conditions. Hawaiian Electric called that complaint “factually and legally irresponsible,” and said its power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for more than six hours before the second blaze started.

In its statement, the utility addressed the cause for the first time. It said the fire on the morning of Aug. 8 “appears to have been caused by power lines that fell in high winds.” The Associated Press reported Saturday that bare electrical wire that could spark on contact and leaning poles on Maui were the possible cause.

But Hawaiian Electric appeared to blame Maui County for most of the devastation — the fact that the fire appeared to reignite that afternoon and tore through downtown Lahaina, killing at least 115 people and destroying 2,000 structures.

Neither a county spokesperson and nor its lawyers immediately responded to a request for comment early Monday about Hawaiian Electric’s statement.

The Maui County Fire Department responded to the morning fire, reported it was “100% contained,” left the scene and later declared it had been “extinguished,” Hawaiian Electric said.

Hawaiian Electric said its crews then went to the scene to make repairs and did not see fire, smoke or embers. The power to the area was off. Around 3 p.m., those crews saw a small fire in a nearby field and called 911.

Hawaiian Electric rejected the basis of the Maui County lawsuit, saying its power lines had been de-energized for more than six hours by that time, and the cause of the afternoon fire has not been determined.



As the Biden administration makes billions of dollars available to remove millions of dangerous lead pipes that can contaminate drinking water and damage brain development in children, some states are turning down funds.

Washington, Oregon, Maine and Alaska declined all or most of their federal funds in the first of five years that the mix of grants and loans is available, The Associated Press found. Some states are less prepared to pay for lead removal projects because, in many cases, the lead must first be found, experts said. And communities are hesitant to take out loans to search for their lead pipes.

States shouldn’t “shrug their shoulders” and pass up funds, said Erik Olson, a health and food expert at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s troubling that a state would decide to take a complete pass on the funding because part of the reason for the funding is to figure out whether you even have lead,” Olson said.

The Biden administration wants to remove all 9.2 million lead pipes carrying water to U.S. homes. Lead can lower IQ and create behavioral problems in children. The 2021 infrastructure law provides $15 billion to find and replace them. That money will help a lot, but it isn’t enough to get all the toxic pipes out of the ground. State programs distribute the federal funds to utilities.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it is reviewing state requests to decline funds but did not provide a full list of states that have said no so far. That information will be available in October, officials said. States that declined first-year funds can still accept them during the remaining four years.

“EPA has been working closely with our state partners on utilizing Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding that is available,” the agency said.

Lead pipes are far more common in some states such as Michigan and Illinois, which each have hundreds of thousands. The harm there is clear. Flint’s lead crisis elevated lead in tap water to a national health issue. Residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, drank water with too much lead for years until all their lead pipes were replaced. In response, however, Michigan is clamoring for as much money as it can get to remove lead.

The states that declined funds have fewer problematic pipes, but that doesn’t mean lead isn’t an issue. There’s concern about lead in some Maine schools. Portland, Oregon, has struggled with high lead levels for years, although recent tests have been better and officials say the issue isn’t lead pipes, but household plumbing.

Washington accepted $85,000 of $63 million it could have taken and said the decision was based on the limited number of water systems that wanted loans. The EPA estimates the state has 22,000 lead pipes. Oregon, which could have accepted $37 million, said inventories are going to be done with existing staff and resources, adding that utilities have no known lead lines. The EPA projected that the state has 3,530 lead pipes — a relatively small number — based in part on information collected from utilities.



The initial online search of a state website that led a central Kansas police chief to raid a local weekly newspaper was legal, a spokesperson for the agency that maintains the site said Monday, as the newspaper remains under investigation.

Earlier this month, after a local restaurant owner accused the Marion County Record of illegally accessing information about her, the Marion police chief obtained warrants to search the newspaper’s offices and the home of its publisher, as well as the home of a City Council member who also accessed the driver’s license database.

The police chief led the Aug. 11 raids and said in the affidavits used to obtain the warrants that he had probable cause to believe that the newspaper and the City Council member had violated state laws against identity theft or computer crimes.

Both the City Council member and the newspaper have said they received a copy of the document about the status of the restaurant owner’s license without soliciting it. The document disclosed the restaurant’s license number and her date of birth, information required to check the status of a person’s license online and gain access to a more complete driving record. The police chief maintains they broke state laws to do that, while the newspaper and Herbel’s attorneys say they didn’t.

The raid on the Record put it and its hometown of about 1,900 residents in the center of a debate about press freedoms protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Kansas’ Bill of Rights. It also exposed divisions in the town over local politics and the newspaper’s coverage of the community and put an intense spotlight on Police Chief Gideon Cody.

Department of Revenue spokesperson Zack Denney said it’s legal to access the driver’s license database online using information obtained independently. The department’s Division of Vehicles issues licenses.

“That’s legal,” he said. “The website is public facing, and anyone can use it.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation continues to probe the newspaper’s actions. The KBI reports to state Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, while the Department of Revenue is under Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s authority.



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