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Case against INS agent opens

A U.S. immigration official passed a government secret to a friend with ties to Cuba for money and to prove his value as a business associate, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

Mariano Faget, 54, a veteran Immigration and Naturalization Service official, is charged with violating the U.S. Espionage Act by revealing classified information and lying about contacts with Cuban officials. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Also . . .

ATHEIST'S DISAPPEARANCE: The man suspected of masterminding the disappearance of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair left bloody sneakers in his girlfriend's apartment and asked her to rent storage space to keep $500,000 in gold coins, the woman testified Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

LAUNCH DELAYED: A rash of last-minute technical problems prevented Lockheed Martin Corp.'s new rocket from lifting off Wednesday from Cape Canaveral.

Lockheed Martin must now give way to NASA and space shuttle Atlantis, scheduled to lift off at 6:12 a.m. Friday on a mission to repair the international space station. The company put off announcing a new launch date.

SCRIPTURE TAKEN DOWN: A poster of the Ten Commandments was removed from a county courthouse Wednesday in Whitley City, Ky. A federal judge last week reiterated an order that the display be removed until a lawsuit is resolved.

S.C. FLAG: Five feet of flagpole separate House and Senate versions of a plan to lower the Confederate flag from atop the State House. On Wednesday the Senate approved most of the changes in a bill that would move the banner to a monument on State House grounds, but the House wanted a 30-foot pole and the Senate a 20-footer, so the Senate voted for a 25-foot pole. If the House rebuffs the changes, the bill could be dead for the year.