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Texas’ Abbott Will Visit Cuba

Gregg Abbott2AUSTIN (AP) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott is heading to Cuba in the wake of a relaxed U.S. trade embargo with the country. The Republican said Tuesday that Texas can economically “capitalize” on a new relationship between the two nations. He is scheduled to arrive in Havana on Monday and stay for three days. Abbott is not the first U.S. governor to make the trip since the former Cold War foes reopened embassies in their respective countries in July. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson went in September, joined by officials from Tyson Foods and other private companies. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also visited Cuba earlier this year. Abbott will be joined by Texas business and economic leaders. It will be his second international trip after visiting Mexico in September.

Man Gets Life Sentence in Texas ‘Stand Your Ground’ Retrial

Raul RodriguezHOUSTON (AP) – A jury has sentenced a Houston-area man to life in prison for killing his neighbor during an argument over loud music. The Harris County jury sentenced Raul Rodriguez Tuesday in state district court in Houston. The jurors previously rejected Raul Rodriguez’s self-defense claim under Texas’ “stand your ground” law, finding him guilty of murder Friday in the death of 36-year-old elementary school teacher Kelly Danaher. Rodriguez’s attorney argued that he feared for his life. Prosecutors alleged Rodriguez provoked Danaher, lured him outside and shot him while recording the incident on his cellphone. That video was shown to the jury. It was second time Rodriguez was convicted of murder for the 2010 slaying. He served two years of a 40-year term when a Texas appeals court overturned his 2012 conviction.

Texas Teacher’s Aide Accused of Hitting Student With Bat

Kenneth Justin LattimoreBRENHAM (AP) – A 61-year-old Central Texas junior high teacher’s aide is jailed on an aggravated-assault charge accused of hitting a student with a small bat. Kenneth Justin Lattimore was in the Washington County Jail in Brenham on Tuesday with bond set at $50,000. A police affidavit says the incident happened about 10:00 Monday morning at the in-school suspension building at Brenham Junior High School. According to the affidavit, students reported Lattimore, after starting a confrontation with the student by shoving him, escalated the altercation to the point that he hit the student with a baseball bat. Police spokeswoman Angela Hawn said the bat was a small, promotional-type bat. The student returned to class Tuesday. School officials haven’t responded to messages seeking comment.

Muslim Teen in Clock Incident Says He Misses Texas Home

Ahmed MohamedDALLAS (AP) – The Muslim teenager arrested after bringing his clock to a suburban Dallas school says he hopes to return to Texas one day. Ahmed Mohamed told Dallas television station KTVT Tuesday that he feels safe in Qatar, the Middle Eastern country where he now lives. Mohamed received worldwide attention after Irving police arrested him for bringing what he said was a homemade clock to school. While he was invited to the White House, Mohamed’s family said they received threats and no longer felt comfortable in Irving. Attorneys for his family are demanding $15 million from the school district and the city. Mohamed told KTVT he wants to come back to Irving eventually and see “people I grew up with,” not just people who know him due to the clock controversy.

Blue Bell Resuming Ice Cream Sales in Louisiana, Mississippi

Blue Bell TruckBRENHAM (AP) – Blue Bell ice cream will be available in Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi, on Dec. 21 after listeria contamination halted sales and prompted cleanup of production plants. Blue Bell on Tuesday also announced the return of 115 workers put on paid furlough after the April voluntary recall of all products. The company will have about 1,000 employees, including at plants in Alabama and Oklahoma now supplying consumers in those states, plus Texas. The company this month resumed production in its hometown of Brenham, 70 miles northwest of Houston. Sales from that plant have not yet resumed amid continued regulatory scrutiny. Blue Bell was linked to 10 listeria cases, including three deaths in Kansas. Listeria bacteria can cause serious illness, especially in older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Texas Solar Panel Company to Pay $8.5M in Fraud Case

solar panelsAUSTIN (AP) – A Texas solar company must pay $8.5 million for importing unsafe panels from China and falsely labeling the items as U.S. made. The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Monday announced the penalties and permanent injunction against 1 SolTech Inc. of Richardson. The Dallas-area company filed for bankruptcy last year amid the 2013 lawsuit. The company and three executives agreed to stop misrepresentations on origin and certification of solar panels labeled “Made in the USA.” Investigators determined the China-made panels, including some installed at American military bases and airports, represent a fire hazard for not conforming to U.S. safety standards. American-made materials were required to be used for the taxpayer-funded projects. The AG’s office says 1 SolTech will pay $5.8 million in penalties and legal fees, plus $2.7 million to customers

North Texas Tax Preparer Gets 11 Years for Fraud, ID Theft

dept-justice-sealDALLAS (AP) – A North Texas tax preparer with a history of submitting bogus returns must serve 11 years in prison and repay nearly $2.3 million in an identity theft scam. Yolanda Lavell Kaiser of Mesquite was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Dallas. Kaiser in April pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Her criminal history includes a 2004 conviction for aiding or assisting in preparation of false tax returns. Prosecutors say the latest case involves more than 1,300 people whose identities were stolen by Kaiser to submit U.S. tax returns and get refunds on prepaid debit cards. The victims, in a scam from September 2013 through August 2014, were not aware that Kaiser used their personal information. Kaiser, who worked for tax preparation firms in Dallas and Mesquite, must repay the U.S. government.

Mother, Boyfriend Charged in Death of Toddler Burned in Oven

Racqual ThompsonHOUSTON (AP) – A Houston mother and her boyfriend have been charged in the death of her 19-month-old daughter who was severely burned in an oven when left home alone with her three siblings. Racqual Thompson and Cornell Malone were arrested Tuesday. Each has been charged with four counts of endangering a child. KTRK-TV reported last week that according to court records, J’zyra Thompson’s two 3-year-old siblings told Child Protective Services that one of them put J’zyra inside the oven. Thompson and Malone told authorities they left the four children alone in their apartment for about two hours on November 16 to get pizza and visit Malone’s brother.

Corpus Christi Police Shoot Knife-Wielding Man Who Later Dies

Corpus Christi police patchCORPUS CHRISTI (AP) – Corpus Christi police responding to a call about a possible overdose shot the knife-wielding suspect who later died at a hospital. No cause of death was immediately released for the man shot early Monday. His name hasn’t been released. An officer’s body camera captured part of the incident at a house. The video was played for the media later Monday but not publicly released amid the investigation. Corpus Christi police say a woman called for help, saying her husband overdosed on medication. She was safely removed from the home. Police ordered the man to drop the knife and used a Taser on him, but it was ineffective. Police say the man was shot when he “came at” officers. No officers were hurt. Both were put on paid administrative leave.

Technician at Fort Worth Dealer Found $50K in Trade-in Car

Park Place Motorcars Fort WorthFORT WORTH (AP) – A service technician at a Texas dealership has turned in $50,000 he found in the trunk of a trade-in luxury car to return the cash to a grateful bail bondsman. Juan Ibarra was later rewarded for his honesty with a thank-you card and some cash from the bondsman. Ibarra a few weeks ago was working on a Mercedes-Benz SL-550 at Park Place Motorcars Fort Worth. Ibarra says he opened the trunk and found a bag stuffed with $100 bills. Ibarra says he suspected the cash might be “dirty money” and immediately contacted one of his bosses. Dealership officials managed to track down the owner, who had received the money from a client. All $50,000 was returned to the bail bondsman, whose name wasn’t immediately released.

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