Category: State News

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Cruz Ends Hold on Nominees Over FAA Flight Ban

Ted Cruz3WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is no longer blocking confirmation of a series of ambassadorial and other diplomatic nominees over the Federal Aviation Administration’s 36-hour ban on U.S. airline flights to Israel. Cruz said in a statement Monday that he received a briefing from FAA officials, who responded to his questions about the prohibition. The FAA banned flights after a rocket landed about a mile from the Tel Aviv airport. Cruz accused President Barack Obama of imposing an economic boycott of Israel while it is fighting the militant group Hamas in Gaza. The State Department had described Cruz’ comments as offensive and ridiculous. Cruz said he hoped the administration would not repeat its actions.

Obama Considers Large-Scale Move on Immigration

white houseWASHINGTON (AP) — White House officials are making plans to act before November’s midterm elections to grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants in this country illegally. The move could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama. Advocates and lawmakers who’ve been in touch with the administration say officials are weighing a range of options including changes in the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country. That might include parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children, which could be around 3.8 million people, or parents of immigrants brought here illegally as kids who’ve already received executive relief from Obama. That could be an additional 500,000 to 1 million people.

Lawmakers Scrutinize Costs of Beefed up Border

State Capitol4AUSTIN (AP) — A legislative committee is scrutinizing the more-than-$5 million a week Texas spends on beefed-up security along the Mexican border amid a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children. The special Texas House committee on border operations meets today after the state announced it was spending an extra $1.2 million per week on border security. That “operational surge” means more helicopters, armed boats and police troopers, but exactly how it’s being spent hasn’t been made public. Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border at a weekly cost of $4 million. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have poured into the U.S. illegally since October. Perry says crime has spiked as federal immigration authorities have been overwhelmed. Critics, though, say that claim is dubious.

Texas Doctor’s Family Under 21-Day Fever Watch

Kent BrantlyFORT WORTH (AP) — State health officials say the family of an American doctor infected with the Ebola virus is under a 21-day fever watch, but it’s believed they had no contact with anyone with the deadly disease. A spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services said Monday the agency interviewed Amber Brantly and her two children, ages 3 and 5, in the past couple of days and determined they hadn’t been exposed to an infected person. Carrie Williams said “there is no need for isolation at this point” for them. Amber Brantly’s husband, Dr. Kent Brantly, is in a Liberian hospital receiving treatment. Williams stressed that people aren’t contagious until they show symptoms, and the doctor’s family left Liberia days before he got sick.

Texas Regents Meet to Pick Chancellor Finalist

U-T SystemAUSTIN (AP) — University of Texas System regents are scheduled to meet Tuesday night to possibly name a finalist in their search for a new chancellor to oversee the 15-campus system. If the regents name a finalist, the candidate must wait 21 days before being officially confirmed for the job. The chancellor oversees the system’s nine academic and six health campuses. Current Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced in February he would step down to return full time to his job as a transplant surgeon. Cigarroa’s tenure was notable for the creation of the new Rio Grande Valley university and the creation of two new medical schools. But it was also marked by clashes with Austin campus President Bill Powers and efforts by some regents to fire Powers, who is stepping down next year.

FBI: Man Sent Hundreds of Hoax Letters with Powder

FBI SealDALLAS (AP) — Federal authorities have arrested a Texas man accused of sending more than 500 hoax letters that contained a white powder to schools, U.S. government offices and other locations around the world. Hong Minh Truong made his initial appearance in Dallas federal court on Monday following his arrest earlier in the day. The 66-year-old is charged with false information and hoaxes. Federal authorities say none of the letters Truong is accused of sending since 2008 contained toxins or poisons. A judge ordered that Truong be held in custody until a detention hearing on August 4. Diego Rodriguez, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office, says dealing with the letters cost taxpayer dollars and diverted first responder resources.

Texas Teen Convicted of Killing Police Officer

Juan Antonio Gonzalez-El PasoEL PASO (AP) — A Texas jury has convicted a teenager in the beating death of an El Paso police officer. The jury deliberated for about five hours Monday before finding Juan Antonio Gonzalez, 19, guilty of murder in the 2012 death of Officer Jonathan Molina. He faces between five and 99 years in prison. Molina was off duty when he confronted Gonzales and two others who were vandalizing his personal car and told them he was an officer. Prosecutors say Gonzalez punched him and pulled his legs out from under him. They say Gonzalez punched Molina again after he fell. Molina died nine days later of a severe brain injury. Gonzalez’s attorney says the teenager was acting in self-defense because he thought his friend was in danger.

Jurors Resumes Deliberation in Officer’s Killing

Harlem Harold Lewis IIIHOUSTON (AP) — Jurors deliberate for a second day between death by lethal injection and life imprisonment without parole in the slaying of a Houston-area police officer and an auto body shop owner. Deliberations resume today after jurors deliberated about six hours Monday on the sentence for Harlem Lewis III, 23. Then, the Harris County jury was sequestered. The jury found Lewis guilty last week of capital murder in the Christmas Eve killings two years ago of Bellaire police Officer Jimmie Norman and auto body shop owner Terry Taylor. Prosecutors appealed Monday for the death penalty, but defense attorneys warned jurors that, as attorney Tyronne Moncriffe said, “killing puts a stain on you.” He told jurors, “You don’t have to put that stain on yourself.”

2 Women Found Dead in San Antonio Home

crimescene-2SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio police say two women have been found shot to death at a house in an apparent murder-suicide. Police spokeswoman Romana Lopez on Monday did not immediately release names of the women, ages 37 and 61, or further details on them. Autopsies were ordered. Police were called Sunday by a man who had not heard from or seen the women for several days, noticed their vehicles in the driveway and became concerned. Officials discovered the front door was boarded shut from the inside. A window air conditioner was removed so a firefighter could crawl into the residence. Investigators believe the older woman fatally shot the younger woman, and then killed herself. Both bodies were in a bedroom. A pistol was nearby. Police are investigating a possible motive for the shootings.

Fort Hood Soldier from Wisconsin Dies in Texas

FORT HOOD (AP) — A Fort Hood soldier from Wisconsin has died from an illness suffered during his deployment to Afghanistan. The Defense Department says Pfc. Donnell Antwain Hamilton Jr., 20, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, died at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. DOD officials say Hamilton died of an illness suffered while he was in the Ghazni Province. Military officials did not release further details on the illness. Hamilton joined the Army in October 2012. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood. Hamilton was deployed July 2013 to March 2014.

School Board Orders $2M in Repairs on $60M Stadium

Allen Football Stadium2ALLEN (AP) — A suburban Dallas school board has approved $2 million in funding for repairs to flaws that closed its $60 million high school football stadium. The Allen school board approved two resolutions that allocate the money and authorize the school district superintendent to pursue a repair contract. The board says it doesn’t expect to use the money but allocated it in case the stadium architects and builders can’t settle who is liable for the flaws. Structural cracks and other problems prompted district officials last month to close Eagle Stadium less than two years after it opened. Forensic engineers reported finding extensive design flaws, which Superintendent Lance Hindt called “engineering failures.” The major concerns were in the concourse framing, retaining walls, press box, single-story structures, main scoreboard and durability of the stadium.

National Medal of Arts Awarded to Houston Favorite

James TurrellHOUSTON (AP) — James Turrell, whose art works have become a familiar part of Houston’s visual arts scene, has received the 2013 National Medical of Arts. President Barack Obama presented Turrell with one of the 12 arts awards bestowed in a ceremony Monday in the East Room of the White House. Ten National Humanities Medals also were awarded. The Houston Chronicle reports the Flagstaff, Arizona artist has more public installations in Houston than in any other U.S. city. His “The Light Inside,” a neon-lit underground passage, is a signature feature of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Chronicle reports the award presented to Turrell on Monday recognizes his visual art, which manipulates light and space in ways that force viewers to question the reality.

Odessa Getting $400K Horseman, Cattle Sculpture

Terrell O'BrienODESSA (AP) — A West Texas city’s tribute to the ranching way of life will feature a $400,000 sculpture of a cowboy on horseback and five steers. Crews on Monday began installing the piece called “The Stragglers” in a project by the Odessa Council for the Arts & Humanities. The work by artist Terrell O’Brien is 70 feet long and about 13 feet tall. Council executive director Randy Ham says the sculpture should be set up by Thursday at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus. Ham says the official unveiling will come in early August. The Odessa American reports the arts council was eligible to receive some funds from Odessa’s hotel/motel tax. The Odessa City Council provided $262,000. Private donations made up the rest.

Texas Agencies to Crack Down on Illegal Water Use

AUSTIN (AP) — Increased enforcement efforts will soon begin to prevent people from illegally drawing water from Central Texas lakes and the lower Colorado River. Law enforcement officers for the Lower Colorado River Authority and other agencies will increase patrols beginning Friday. They’ll look for property owners along the chain of lakes that include Buchanan and Travis who are illegally drawing water for domestic uses such as watering lawns. LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma said Monday the authority has spent the last few years reminding lakeside property owners that they must have a contract to pump lake water for their use. There were fewer than 60 contracts with the authority in 2009 and now there’s more than 3,700. Increased patrols also will be conducted along the Colorado River between Lake Travis and Matagorda Bay.

Former CPS Supervisor Arrested on Tampering Charge

ABILENE (AP) — West Texas police say a former supervisor for state Child Protective Services has been arrested for tampering with evidence as police investigated the 2012 starvation death of a 22-month-old girl. Abilene police Chief Stan Standridge said Monday that Martha Kiel Whitaker, 58, turned herself in on the felony charge. She posted $1,000 bond and was released. Standridge says detectives had “grave concerns” about a lack of cooperation by CPS supervisors as police investigated the death of Tamryn Klapheke. The child was found dead in her crib inside a squalid home while her father was on an Air Force deployment. Tamryn’s mother, Tiffany Klapheke, was convicted of her death and sentenced in February to 30 years in prison.

Woman Dead at Houston Warehouse Was Assaulted

Houston Police patchHOUSTON (AP) — Houston police say a 35-year-old woman whose body was found at an abandoned warehouse was assaulted and died of her injuries. Police on Monday identified the victim as Lakeisha Perkins. Nobody has been arrested. The woman’s body was discovered last Tuesday after police received a tip. Investigators did not immediately say how Perkins was assaulted. Police are asking anyone with information on the slaying to contact authorities.

West Texas Teenager Arrested in Fatal Stabbing

ABILENE (AP) — West Texas police say an 18-year-old man has been arrested in a stabbing death near Abilene Christian University. D’Angelo Bell is charged with capital murder in the death of Kaleb Cory, 19, on Sunday at a housing complex near the university. He’s also been charged with assault of a public servant. Bell was arrested and placed in a patrol car, where police say he kicked out a window and injured an officer. Bell is being held in jail on bonds totaling $290,000. The Taylor County jail says records don’t show an attorney for him. Police say Bell fought with Cory after the victim confronted him about stealing several items from the apartment’s owner. Authorities say Cory was stabbed several times and was taken to a hospital where he later died.

FAA Proposes to Fine Southwest Airlines $12M

thumb_southwest-airlines-logo-2WASHINGTON (AP) – The government is proposing a $12 million civil fine against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply in three separate cases with safety regulations related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners. The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that beginning in 2006 Southwest made “extreme makeover” alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA said an investigation determined that Southwest’s contractor, Aviation Technical Services Inc. of Everett, Washington, failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage as well as other work on the planes. The agency said all of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines. The statement said Southwest returned the planes to service when they were not in compliance with regulations. Southwest has 30 days to reply to the proposed fine.

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