Icy Friday, weekend expected for North, West Texas
DALLAS (AP) - A blast of arctic air is headed for Texas, promising at least days of subfreezing temperatures and wintry precipitation in much of northern and western Texas.
The National Weather Service said intense arctic cold front was expected to enter the Texas Panhandle on Wednesday and move over West Texas and North Texas on Thursday. Friday and Saturday temperatures were expected to reach only the teens in the Panhandle and 20s in much of West and parts of North Texas.
A winter storm watch has been issued for the South Plains and the rolling plains of West Texas through Friday. Freezing rain was expected northwest of a Sulphur Springs-to-Waxahachie-to-Goldthwaite line Friday, with temperatures remaining below freezing in North and West Texas until Sunday.
Drought that has plagued Texas has eased
HOUSTON (AP) - The browning of Texas has slowed over the past few months as near normal spring and summer rainfall has eased the grip of a persistent drought, especially in the eastern half of the state.
State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon tells the Houston Chronicle that drought conditions have actually ended in most of East and Southeast Texas. The western half of the state remains in drought, however.
The drought peaked in early October 2011, when the U.S. Drought Monitor showed 99 percent of the state in severe drought or worse. Nielsen-Gammon says the 2011 drought was the most intense one-year drought Texas had experienced since at least 1895.
Today, about 20 percent of the state is in severe drought or worse, while 47 percent is in at least a "moderate" drought.
Texas reports record monthly oil production rate
HOUSTON (AP) - Texas has reported it produced oil at a record rate in September, more than doubling the rate of less than three years ago.
Totals compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows Texas produced crude oil at the rate of 2.7 million barrels per day during September. The Houston Chronicle reports that's the highest average since federal officials began keeping monthly records in January 1981. It also marked a 30 percent increase over September 2012.
That still falls short of the record rate of 3.4 million barrels per day reported to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1972, when the state's oil production peaked.
The Texas oil boom started in 2008, when new technology reversed decades of decline. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling renewed old fields and opened new ones.
TEXAS BORDER SECURITY
DPS: Disputed roadblocks won't return to Valley
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The top law enforcement officer in Texas says state troopers won't relaunch disputed traffic checkpoints along the border despite praising the effectiveness of a recent three-week operation.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said Tuesday that criticism surrounding trooper roadblocks in the Rio Grande Valley in October and September led him to discontinue the operation.
McCraw said his agency now won't attempt to use checkpoints again without legislative support.
Civil rights groups accused DPS of trying to target immigrants who are in the country without legal documentation. McCraw firmly disputes those allegations and says the intent was safety.
Republican Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst says efforts are now under way to reallocate $60 million in the state budget and put those funds toward a new border security surge.
Texas executes man for corrections officer's death
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A Texas inmate has been executed for the death of a corrections officer during a short-lived escape from prison six years ago.
Jerry Martin had requested that no additional appeals be filed on his behalf, clearing the way for his lethal injection Tuesday evening.
Martin was serving 50 years for attempted capital murder when he and another inmate bolted from a work detail outside a Huntsville-area prison in September 2007.
In the ensuing chaos and gunfire, a 59-year-old prison officer on horseback, Susan Canfield, suffered fatal head injuries. Both Martin and his partner, John Falk, were captured within hours after fleeing in a stolen pickup.
Martin's execution was the 16th and last scheduled for this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.
Wealthy Democrat challenging Cornyn for US Senate
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A wealthy Dallas Dentist who spent lavishly while running unsuccessfully for Congress last year is challenging longtime incumbent U.S. Senator John Cornyn.
David Alameel spent millions while competing in a crowded 2012 Democratic primary race for the seat in a new congressional district eventually won by U.S. Representative Marc Veasey, a Democrat from Fort Worth. He's also a former Cornyn donor.
The Democratic Party of Texas said it received Alameel's paperwork Wednesday. He had been promising to enter the race for several days.
Elected in 2002, Cornyn is now the Senate's Number 2 Republican.
He has been endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry and though Alameel joins a small group of Democratic and Republican challengers, Cornyn is expected to cruise to his party's nomination in March. He's also heavily favored in November's general election.
Dallas police write 37K fewer traffic tickets
DALLAS (AP) - Police in Dallas have issued 37,000 fewer traffic tickets as the force puts more resources toward fighting property crimes and violent offenses.
Officers wrote more than 211,800 tickets in the fiscal year ending September 30th, compared with some 248,800 in the prior year. The number of tickets has been decreasing since at least 2006-2007, when officers issued more than 495,000.
The Dallas Morning News reports the drop in citations over time could cost the city millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Staffing in the police motorcycle unit, which primarily writes tickets, has been reduced in recent years from more than 40 officers to nearly half that.
Dallas Police Association president Ron Pinkston says more officers are working in specialized task forces that focus on crimes other than traffic violations.
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS-ABUSE CLAIMS
Attorney says Houston principal will be vindicated
HOUSTON (AP) - An attorney for a Houston high school principal charged with failing to report student allegations of sexual abuse by a teacher says the administrator will be vindicated.
Principal Rob Gasparello, who works at Sharpstown High School, made a brief court appearance Wednesday after being charged last month with three counts of failure to report child abuse.
The case stems from a teacher charged with having an improper relationship with a student and indecency with a child.
Gasparello attorney Rusty Hardin said Wednesday that evidence will show his client did everything "to protect children." The principal's next court appearance is set for January 6th.
Two assistant principals are also charged with failure to report child abuse. One of them, Silvio Leiva, was in court Wednesday. His attorney declined comment.
TEXAS TAX FRAUD
Dallas man sentenced in Idaho in tax fraud cause
DALLAS (AP) - A federal judge in Idaho has sentenced a Texan to almost two years in prison and ordered him to repay nearly $1.5 million in a fraud case involving false tax claims.
Lawrence Sikutwa (SIH'-koo-twa) of Dallas in August pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false claims for a refund. He was sentenced Tuesday in Pocatello, Idaho to 21 months behind bars.
Investigators say Sikutwa operated a tax preparation business in Dallas and enlisted people in Idaho to solicit clients for him. Prosecutors say Sikutwa made false entries in order to boost the amount of refunds and returned just a portion of the money to clients.
The case involved tax returns filed since 2005.
BUSH-LBJ LIBRARY AWARD
George H.W. Bush given LBJ Foundation award
HOUSTON (AP) - The Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation has given former President George H.W. Bush an award for his public service and government career.
Bush was given the LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award Tuesday at his Houston office. The foundation said in a written statement that Bush personifies his fellow Texan president's vision for America.
Johnson's two daughters, Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb, attended the presentation of the award to Bush and his wife, Barbara.
This is the second time the foundation has given the award. The first recipient was U.S. Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader.
GULF OIL SPILL-INDICTMENT
Trial opens for ex-BP engineer who deleted texts
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal prosecutor has vowed to prove that a former BP drilling engineer destroyed evidence when he deleted hundreds of text messages from a mobile phone after the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But a defense attorney told jurors Tuesday that Kurt Mix deleted the texts "for the most innocent of reasons" and didn't hide anything from a grand jury probing the nation's worst offshore oil spill.
Mix is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for deleting messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor.
At the start of Mix's trial, a prosecutor said BP repeatedly warned the Texas resident about the consequences of deleting messages. Mix's lawyer, however, said he preserved documents containing the same information he allegedly tried to conceal.
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