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   HOUSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court on Wednesday threw out a ruling requiring the Texas prison system to disclose more information about where it gets lethal-injection drugs, reversing a judge who had halted an upcoming execution.
   Only hours before the appellate decision, a lower-court judge issued a temporary injunction halting the execution of Tommy Lynn Sells, a convicted serial killer who was set to die Thursday.
   The case originally included Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas, another inmate scheduled to be put to death next week. But the appellate ruling affected only Sells. The appeals court said it would take up Hernandez-Llanas' case at a later date.
   Texas officials have insisted the identity of the drug supplier must be kept secret to protect the company from threats of violence and that the stock of the sedative pentobarbital falls within the acceptable ranges of potency.
   Defense attorneys say they must have the name of the supplier so they can verify the quality of the drug and spare condemned inmates from unconstitutional pain and suffering.
   In the lower-court ruling, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to provide defense attorneys with details about the supplier and how the drug was tested.
   Lawyers for the state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, saying the arguments from the inmates' attorneys "are nothing more than a calculated attempt to postpone their executions."
   Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected similar arguments about execution secrecy in a Missouri case, and the condemned prisoner was put to death.
   Gilmore's ruling "honors the importance of transparency in the execution process," said Maurie Levin, an attorney for the inmates. "And the order makes it clear this last-minute litigation and stays of execution would not be necessary if (the prison agency) had not ignored the rule of law and tried to shield this information from the public and the light of day."
   Texas prisons spokesman Robert Hurst said the agency had no comment because the matter was still in court.
   Since obtaining a new supply of pentobarbital two weeks ago, the Department of Criminal Justice had cited unspecified security concerns in refusing to disclose the source and other details about the drug.
   "As a result, the state's secrecy regarding the product to be used for lethal injection has precluded (the inmates and their attorneys) from evaluating or challenging the constitutionality of the method of execution," Gilmore wrote in a five-page opinion.
   Questions about the source of drugs have arisen in several states in recent months as numerous drugmakers - particularly in Europe, where opposition to capital punishment is strongest - have refused to sell their products if they will be used in executions.
   That has led several state prison systems to compounding pharmacies, which are not as heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as more conventional pharmacies.
   A batch of pentobarbital Texas purchased from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston expired at the end of March. The pharmacy refused to sell the state any more drugs, citing threats it received after its name was made public. That led Texas to its new, undisclosed suppler.
   The inmates "are entitled to discover how the state plans to put them to death," said Levin and Jonathan Ross, another attorney in the case.
   Levin filed an open-records request on March 11 seeking the name of the supplier from the Department of Criminal Justice.
   Last week, defense attorneys won an order from a state court that directed prison officials to identify the new provider of pentobarbital, but only to them. The Texas Supreme Court put that order on hold on Friday and set a deadline for briefs to arrive after Sells and Hernandez-Llanas' scheduled execution dates.
   The defense turned next to the federal courts, which resulted in Wednesday's ruling.
   Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor, said Gilmore's decision showed courts "are skeptical of explanations" offered by prison agencies.
   "I think Texas always draws attention," Denno said, explaining that the state accounts for a third of all executions and has typically resisted oversight of its execution methods.
   Texas appeared to be attempting to match efforts of other states to keep execution details secret, she said.
   "They don't seem to be operating in a vacuum," she said.
   In three previous opinions, the attorney general's office has directed the Texas prison agency to release records about its lethal injection drugs.
   Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott, said the office had 45 business days to reply.
   Sells, 49, was convicted of killing a 13 year old South Texas girl asleep at her home in 1999. Kaylene Harris was stabbed nearly two dozen times and had her throat slashed. A 10 year old friend also was attacked but survived. Sells confessed to the slaying and has been tied to more than 20 others around the nation. He has claimed responsibility for as many as 70 murders.
   Hernandez-Llanas, 44, a Mexican national, was convicted of killing a Kerrville-area rancher, Glen Lich, 48, who had employed him.
 
Published in National News
   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Police say two people have died after a car drove through temporary barricades set up for the South By Southwest festival and struck a crowd of pedestrians.
   Lt. Brian Moon says the two victims were confirmed dead at the scene in downtown Austin, along a block where several clubs are located. Moon says 21 others were transported to various hospitals, most with minor injuries. He says five to seven had more serious injuries.
   The fatal crash happened around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
   Police say the driver has been taken into custody.
 
Published in National News
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal judge has struck down Texas' ban on gay marriage, but is leaving it in place pending a ruling by an appeals court later this year.
 
Judge Orlando Garcia issued a preliminary injunction on the ban Wednesday, then suspended his ruling. Two gay couples had challenged the state's constitutional amendment and a longstanding law banning gay marriage.
 
Under federal court rules, a judge may suspend a law if he or she believes the plaintiffs have a strong case and will suffer if the law is enforced.
 
Garcia said his injunction against Texas enforcing its ban will take effect once an appeals court has a chance to rule on the issue.
 
The ruling is the latest in a recent series of victories for gay rights activists.
Published in National News
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal appeals court is set to review a Texas law that led to the closing of many abortion clinics in the state.
 
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is scheduled to hear arguments Monday over a ruling declaring parts of the 2013 law unconstitutional.
 
Planned Parenthood sued to block two provisions. One requires doctors to have admitting privileges near where the abortion is performed. The other restricts how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs.
 
Planned Parenthood says U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel correctly ruled in October that the provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women's access to abortion.
 
The 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the law while the decision is appealed. At least a dozen abortion clinics closed after the law took effect.
Published in National News

   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education used a late-night meeting to preliminarily approve new science textbooks for classrooms across the state Thursday, but it blocked signing off on a major new biology text until alleged "errors" in lessons over the theory of evolution are checked by outside experts.

   The vote just before midnight did not reject the biology book by Pearson, one of the country's largest publishers. But it delayed approval until three board members appoint a trio of outside experts to check concerns.

   Textbook and classroom curriculum battles have long raged in Texas pitting creationists — those who see God's hand in the creation of the universe — against academics who worry about religious and political ideology trumping scientific fact. At issue this time are proposed high school biology books that could be used across the state at least through 2022.

   State law approved two years ago means school districts can now choose their own books and don't have to adhere to a list recommended by the Board of Education — but most have continued to use approved books.

   The issue is important nationally since Texas is so large that many books prepared for publication in the state also are marketed elsewhere around the country.

   Publishers from around the country submitted proposed textbooks this summer, but committees of Texas volunteer reviewers — some nominated by socially conservative current and former Board of Education members — raised objections. One argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes, while others objected that climate change wasn't as settled a scientific matter as some of the proposed books said.

   Pearson and many other major publishers weren't willing to make suggested major edits and changes, however.

   That promoted some of the board's socially conservative members to call for delaying approval of the book because of concerns including how long it took Earth to cool and objection to lessons about natural selection because "selection operates as a selective but not a creative force."

   Members outside the socially conservative bloc claimed their colleagues waited until the dead of night to try and impose ideological edits.

   "To ask me — a business degree major from Texas Tech University — to distinguish whether the Earth cooled 4 billion years ago or 4.2 billion years ago for purposes of approving a textbook at 10:15 on a Thursday night is laughable," said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant.

   He added: "I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes."

Published in National News

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas National Guard is refusing to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits, and Mississippi won't issue applications from state-owned offices, because of the states' gay-marriage bans.

Tuesday is the first working day that gays in the military may apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages.

In Texas, gay and lesbian couples are being told to go to federal military bases to get ID cards and apply for health coverage. Mississippi officials say same-sex couples can apply on federally owned National Guard bases, but not on state property.

Both states cited their bans on gay marriage. But numerous other states that also ban gay marriage are following the Pentagon's directive.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry says the National Guard must follow the state's constitutional ban.

Published in National News
Friday, 23 August 2013 11:49

KTRS Rejects Gov. Rick Perry's Commercial

Hi, I'm Mark Dorsey, General Manager of KTRS Radio.

It has come to the attention of KTRS management that a commercial running on KTRS Radio, voiced by Texas Governor Rick Perry, is asking Missouri business to move to Texas. When the order was placed, KTRS was under the assumption these commercials were going to promote tourism to Texas. Once we, the Management of KTRS realized these commercials were instead focused on stealing locally owned companies away from St Louis, we suspended airing these commercials immediately. We understand people have different viewpoints on public policy and we welcome that debate everyday on our airways. But as one of the few remaining locally owned radio stations in the country, we feel the need to stand strong with other small locally owned business and defend our region. Governor Rick Perry, Don't Mess with Missouri, and don't mess with St Louis.

Published in Around Town
Friday, 23 August 2013 11:40

KTRS Rejects Gov. Rick Perry's Commercial

Hi, I'm Mark Dorsey, General Manager of KTRS Radio.

It has come to the attention of KTRS management that a commercial running on KTRS Radio, voiced by Texas Governor Rick Perry, is asking Missouri business to move to Texas. When the order was placed, KTRS was under the assumption these commercials were going to promote tourism to Texas. Once we, the Management of KTRS realized these commercials were instead focused on stealing locally owned companies away from St Louis, we suspended airing these commercials immediately. We understand people have different viewpoints on public policy and we welcome that debate everyday on our airways. But as one of the few remaining locally owned radio stations in the country, we feel the need to stand strong with other small locally owned business and defend our region. Governor Rick Perry, Don't Mess with Missouri, and don't mess with St Louis.

Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry is wading into Missouri's political battle over tax cuts.

Perry told The Associated Press on Thursday that he believes Missouri lawmakers should override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation cutting state income taxes.

A Texas economic development group began airing a radio ad Thursday in Missouri criticizing Nixon's veto and encouraging Missouri businesses to consider moving to Texas. The group also is running a Missouri TV ad touting Texas' low taxes and regulations on businesses.

Perry is to visit Missouri on Aug. 29. He plans to meet with business leaders, speak at a Missouri Chamber of Commerce luncheon and attend an evening event hosted by groups backing a veto override of the tax-cut bill.

Missouri lawmakers are to convene Sept. 11 to consider veto overrides.

 

Published in Local News

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has sent an email to friends and top fundraisers promising to reveal "exciting future plans" during an event next week in San Antonio.

 

   The message doesn't provide further details or even a location for the planned Monday midday event, saying simply that more details will be forthcoming. But Perry has said he will soon announce if he plans to seek a fourth full term as governor next year.

 

   The Republican is already the longest-serving governor in Texas history and America's longest-sitting governor.

 

   He also hasn't ruled out a second run for president in 2016, after his previous bid for the GOP White House nomination fizzled in 2011. But Perry has also said he won't decide on that matter until later this year.

Published in National News
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