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Nation in brief: Execution protocol deemed cruel

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Tennessee’s new lethal injection procedures are cruel and unusual punishment, interrupting plans to execute a killer next week.

The protocol “presents a substantial risk of unnecessary pain” and violates death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison’s constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said.

The new protocol, released in April, does not ensure that inmates are properly anesthetized before the lethal injection is administered, Trauger said.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office said officials are reviewing the ruling and haven’t decided whether to appeal.

Harbison was scheduled to be executed Sept. 26 for beating an elderly woman to death during a burglary in 1983.

Trauger did not issue a stay or throw out the death sentence for Harbison, who has lost all his appeals. He can be legally executed once the state adopts a valid method of execution, she said.

Geneva, N.Y.

Book of Mormon sells for $105,600

A rare first edition of the Book of Mormon found in a home near Palmyra, the birthplace of the Mormon religion, fetched $105,600 at auction Wednesday.

The 177-year-old book was sold at an upstate New York estate auction to an undisclosed buyer who paid a 10 percent commission on top of a winning bid of $96,000, said Joseph Hessney of the Hessney Auction Co.

Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture on par with the Bible. Church founder Joseph Smith said he translated the book from gold plates delivered to him by an angel.

The first editions were printed and published by E. B. Grandin in Palmyra in 1830. While there were roughly 5,000 copies printed, only a few hundred still exist.

The copy auctioned was discovered at the bottom of a box of books by workers cleaning out a house.

There are about 250 first editions held in private collections, perhaps an equal number yet undiscovered, and research libraries and museums hold about 50 copies, collectors say.

St. Paul, Minn.

Seattle firm to join bridge rebuilding

The state announced Wednesday that a team of construction firms from Colorado and Washington has been selected to build a replacement for a collapsed interstate bridge, with a bid of $233.8 million.

The contract to Flatiron Constructors Inc., of Longmont, Colo., and Manson Construction Co., of Seattle, could be worth millions more if the Interstate 35W bridge is finished ahead of schedule.

Transportation officials at a public ceremony announced the team’s winning bid, even though it was the most expensive and tied for the longest construction timetable – 437 days – among the four bids.

Officials had said before the opening that cost alone would not be the deciding factor. They chose the winner based on a formula that balanced speed and construction cost with other factors, including quality and aesthetics.

The bridge that collapsed Aug. 1 was one of Minnesota’s busiest, carrying more than 100,000 vehicles over the Mississippi River every day, and the state wants it replaced by the end of 2008.

The builder will face more than time pressure, though. Many people have argued that the bridge should have a singular design and should memorialize the 13 people who died.