Category: State News

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Federal Trial Starts over Tough Texas Voter ID Law

Nelva Gonzales RamosCORPUS CHRISTI (AP) — The Justice Department goes to federal court in South Texas to seek the dismantling of the Texas voter ID law, which ranks among the most stringent in the nation. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos today will hear opening arguments in Corpus Christi in a lawsuit led by minority rights groups and the office of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Similar voter ID laws passed in other conservative states also have been challenged in federal court. Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation in 2011 that requires more than 13 million registered voters in Texas to show a photo ID before casting a ballot. Opponents say the law is designed to suppress minority turnout and young people who typically vote Democratic. A ruling isn’t expected before the November elections.

New Bar for Texas Education Deadline Postponed

Michael Wiliams2AUSTIN (AP) — The rollout of more rigorous standards in Texas schools has been postponed. The Dallas Morning News reports that Texas education officials have pushed back the 2016 deadline to meet standards of “postsecondary readiness.” Now, the deadline is 2021, meaning today’s first-graders won’t be subject to State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standards until reaching the eighth grade. Texas Senate education committee members questioned the Texas Education Agency’s lack of progress. Commissioner Michael Williams said they are “charging districts and their staff” to meet the bar of the revised STAAR exams. If 2014 students needed to meet the top standards, more than half would have failed every test.

Some Texas Students Pay More for Online Courses

Dell ComputersAUSTIN (AP) — Some online higher education courses are costing Texans more money than brick-and-mortar classes. The Dallas Morning News reports state leaders have hailed online education as one fix for ballooning college prices, but that tuition for those classes can be more than 20% higher. The newspaper analyzed 18 universities and found that only the University of North Texas and the University of Texas had lower costs for online classes. Many of the online courses include extra fees or additional costs per credit hour. University officials say higher tuition rates for online courses are the result of expensive infrastructure and the costs for designing the courses.

Man Dead after Hanging at Texas Jail

FORT WORTH (AP) — Fort Worth police say a man found hanging in a city jail cell has died. Police Sgt. William Hix tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Gregory Hooper, 23, of Cleburne died Sunday at an area hospital. City police arrested Hooper on Aug. 18 over allegations he choked his girlfriend and interfered with an emergency call. Hix says Hooper used the drawstring from his athletic shorts to hang himself later that morning. He says jail personnel found Hooper during normal rounds. Medical personnel resuscitated Hooper and took him to John Peter Smith Hospital in serious condition.

Houston Man Killed Trying to Strike Cars

Houston Police patchHOUSTON (AP) — Houston police say a man swinging a crutch at passing cars on the interstate was fatally struck by a car. The Houston Chronicle reports the 53-year-old was hit Monday along Interstate 45. Police aren’t releasing his identity until relatives are notified. Police say the man was using the crutch to try to hit moving vehicles when one struck him. He died at the scene. They say the driver didn’t stop but contacted police. The driver was released without charges. Police say the investigation is ongoing.

Body of Missing Kayaker Believed Found

HOUSTON (AP) — Authorities believe the body of a kayaker who went missing over Labor Day weekend has been found. Harris County spokesman Mark Herman said Brian Conner, 42, disappeared Saturday during a kayaking trip with his wife. A body was found early Monday in Cypress Creek near Houston but has not yet been positively identified by medical examiners. Texas Equusearch volunteers used SONAR equipment to locate the body. Equusearch founder Tim Miller described the 49-mile creek as “unforgiving and treacherous.” The Houston Chronicle reports that during the trip Conner’s wife turned to find that her husband was not behind her. She found his kayak overturned and her husband clinging to a branch. She was not able to assist him to shore. Volunteers began searching for Conner late Saturday.

6 Cuban Men Land in Texas after Boat Engine Breaks

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND (AP) — Authorities say six Cuban men have landed on South Padre Island after drifting across the Gulf of Mexico because their boat engine failed. Cameron County Parks Chief Horacio Zamora says the men aged 28-65 years old arrived Monday from Nueva Gerona, Cuba. He says they set off for Mexico 21 days ago on a 14-foot wooden boat. The men say the boat’s engine malfunctioned two days into the trip and they tried to sail with a small shower curtain. They say storms in the Gulf of Mexico blew them off course. A beachgoer found the mean and alerted authorities. Zamora says one man required medical assistance and the group had nothing to eat or drink in days. The men were released to the U.S. Border Patrol. Their conditions are unclear.

Houston Fire Union President Resigns over Threats

houston fire truck doorHOUSTON (AP) — The president of Houston’s fire department union has resigned in the middle of contract negotiations with the city after he says fellow firefighters threatened his family. Bryan Sky-Eagle resigned Monday. He says firefighters made threats on Facebook and in email against him and his wife, children, home and truck. Sky-Eagle was elected as president of the union in 2013 and has been a Houston firefighter for 15 years. He was 11 months into his three-year term. The union chapter says it supports Sky-Eagle’s decision and its 3,800 members increasingly lacked confidence in him. About 93 percent of its voters rejected in June a proposed contract he negotiated with Mayor Annise Parker. He says local authorities are investigating the threats.

University of Texas Campaign Tops $3 billion

U T TowerAUSTIN (AP) — The University of Texas says it has topped its $3 billion goal in an eight-year fundraising campaign. The Campaign for Texas ended August 31. School officials say it raised $856 million in the final year, bringing the total to $3.1 billion in gifts, pledges and donations. Gifts ranged from loose change collected by a kindergarten class to large scale donations of $1 million or more. Of those, almost 90% supported academic efforts and the rest supported athletic projects. The donations also helped fund 830 new student scholarship and support endowments.

Two Tasty Creations Win State Fair of Texas Honors

fried Gulf shrimp boil-State FairDALLAS (AP) — A Cajun creation and funnel cake flavored beer have won the culinary competition ahead of this year’s State Fair of Texas. Fair officials in Dallas on Monday announced the winners for the Best Tasting and Most Creative new foods at the expo. The Best Tasting Award was won by a fried Gulf shrimp boil — baby Gulf shrimp, diced red potatoes, onion, lemon, and seasoning formed around a cocktail shrimp, dusted, fried and served with a remoulade sauce. (pictured) The award for Most Creative went to Funnel Cake Ale, a beer that reminds drinkers of one of the telltale flavors of the fair. The winners were among eight finalists that will be for sale during the State Fair of Texas, which runs from September 26 to October 19.

Two Teens Injured after Falling Out of Carnival Ride

Sidewinder carnival  rideEL PASO (AP) — Two teenagers are recovering after being injured when they fell out of a carnival ride at a West Texas church bazaar. Police in El Paso say the “Sidewinder,” a swinging pendulum ride with two gondolas at each end, was in motion Sunday night at the Saint Anthony’s Bazaar when a door came open and the teenagers fell to the ground. The male and female, both 13 years old, were taken to University Medical Center in El Paso. Police say their injuries are not believed to be life threatening. Authorities say no charges have been filed and the incident remains under investigation.

Visible Tattoo Ban for San Antonio Police Officers

tattoo on police officerSAN ANTONIO (AP) — Beginning this month, the San Antonio Police department is banning officers from having visible tattoos. Officials tell the San Antonio Express-News that it is part of an effort for them to appear more professional. Officials say officers with tattoos on their arms will be allowed to wear sleeves, but those with tattoos on their hands or necks that cannot be covered will have to have them medically removed at their own expense. Officials say the policy is expected to affect about 200 of the department’s 2,300 officers. A year ago, San Antonio police stopped accepting cadets with visible tattoos to the academy. Police departments in Dallas and Houston also ban visible tattoos. In Austin, police with tattoos that are deemed offensive have to cover them up.

Man Dies in Fall from Austin’s Mount Bonnell

Mount BonnellAUSTIN (AP) – Emergency officials say a man has died after falling off a cliff on Austin’s Mount Bonnell. Austin-Travis County EMS spokesman Mike Benavides tells the Austin American-Statesman that a witness said the man was holding onto a branch Sunday afternoon when he slipped and fell off the cliff. Benavides says first responders had to rappel down the cliff to reach the man, who was pronounced dead on scene. Mount Bonnell is about 775 feet above sea level. It overlooks the city and is a popular tourist attraction.

Cousin Arrested in Dallas Girl’s Death

Angel Lizandro Sanches-ZentenoDALLAS (AP) — The 17-year-old cousin of a 5-year-old Dallas girl found dead in vacant apartment has been arrested in her death. Dallas police said Monday that Angel Lizandro Sanches-Zenteno has been arrested and charged with capital murder in the death of Kathrine Alejandra Gonzalez, whose body was found Sunday afternoon. The medical examiner ruled the initial cause of death as strangulation. Sanches-Zenteno was being held in Dallas jail Monday on no bond. Gonzalez had been reported missing by her aunt, who last saw her around 11:30 Sunday morning playing outside with her siblings. They were being watched by her uncle at the apartment complex while their parents worked. Sanches-Zenteno’s apartment was next door to the one where her body was found.

Six Dead after Speeding Car Slams into Tree in Dallas

police-car-lights2DALLAS (AP) — Police say a speeding car slammed into a tree after losing control along a Dallas roadway, killing all six people inside. Dallas police officer Monica Cordova says the crash occurred Sunday night in a residential area in southeast Dallas. The victims were two teenage boys, two men and two women ranging in age from 15 to 23. Cordova says the 20-year-old driver lost control as the road curved when the back passenger-side tire of the Chevrolet Impala hit a curb. The vehicle slid across three lanes before hitting a tree in the median. Investigators say four people died at the scene, while two others died at a hospital. Cordova says speed was a factor in the crash, but not alcohol.

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