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Texas Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Changes to State’s Special Education System

By Anna Wiernicki

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, wrote a letter to the Texas Education Agency this week over concerns that Texas is denying tens of thousands of kids from special education programs they need as a cost cutting measure.

The shocking numbers were first revealed last month by a Houston Chronicle investigation. The investigation found that the state adopted a policy in 2004 that set an 8.5 percent target for Texas school children receiving special-ed services. That’s the lowest percentage in the country.

“The Members of the Texas House continue to be concerned that school districts are excluding students from needed special education services,” Straus said in his letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, “because those districts are trying to comply with the Texas Education Agency’s monitoring system.”

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Texas Republicans want to narrow scope of same-sex marriage ruling

BY ALEXA URA

After coming out on the losing end of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Texas Republican leaders are now looking to the Texas Supreme Court to narrow the scope of that landmark ruling.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief Thursday with the Texas Supreme Court urging the all-Republican court to reconsider a Houston case challenging the city’s benefits policy for married same-sex couples. It appears they’ve set their eyes on the Houston case as a way to limit the effect of the high court’s ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court has already had a say in the case challenging Houston’s benefits policy, which was extended to same-sex spouses of city employees. In a 8-1 ruling, the court in September declined to take up the case, letting stand a lower court decision that upheld the benefits for same-sex couples.

In asking the Texas Supreme Court to reopen the Houston case, state leaders in their brief also urged the court to clarify that the case that legalized same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, does not “bind state courts to resolve all other claims in favor of the right to same-sex marriage.”

 

Cruz, Patrick: Texas can’t alone win struggle for life; Congress must cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding

By Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the organization that we know today as Planned Parenthood. Please excuse us for not celebrating the occasion. Planned Parenthood, after all, is the largest abortion provider in America, accounting for one out of every three abortions. Over the course of its existence, Planned Parenthood has been responsible for the deaths of almost 7 million unborn children. And let’s not forget that, just recently, employees of Planned Parenthood were caught on video discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies – a potential crime for which Planned Parenthood has yet to be held to account.

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Don’t assume black voters are “with her”: Contempt for Trump doesn’t mean we love Hillary

Donald Trump slander is being slung by every black writer I know from every inch of the Internet, as it should be. How can a person with so many obvious flaws become the nominee of a major political party? No, really — I’m still confused. Everything from his overtly racist rallies and the way he trashes women to his gross generalizations about immigrants — and his hair — offends us. But collectively, I’m worried that we African-Americans are sending the wrong message to the general public. Contempt for Trump doesn’t equal love for Hillary Clinton and her husband, or even basic support.

I was in one of those comfy Acela chairs on my way back to Baltimore from a recent New York trip. A middle-aged white dude in non-stylish frames took the chair directly across from me. We had barely pulled out of Penn Station before he asked me, “Did you watch the debate? What did you think of the debate?”

“It was everything I thought it would be,” I said. “She prepared, he didn’t. She came off as sharp, he didn’t.”

He sat up straight in his chair, closed his ears and opened his mouth.

“I’m so over this election,” he said with exhausted eyebrows, “It’s a joke.” He then took off his jacket and went on an “I hate Hillary” rant all the way from Manhattan to his stop in Philly — nonstop, everything from her days as a toddler up to our current conversation. It was the emails, it was Benghazi, it was Monica Lewinsky, it was her pantsuits, and on and on and on. I tuned him out, drifted off in my head — and came back for this: “America can’t take another four years of the Clintons! Sorry I trashed your candidate, man, but she’s so bad. Anyway, have a safe trip!”

I chucked a peace sign in his direction, put my earphones on, turned Coltrane up and gazed out the window. It really didn’t dawn on me until I passed Delaware: I never said anything to the dude about being a Clinton fan. I couldn’t be a Clinton fan if I wanted to — that racist crime bill from 1994 locked my whole family up. Not just my blood relatives, but all of the brothers and sisters in my community­­ — the mentors, the role models, the coaches. The people responsible for grandfathering us into successful lives are gone, and we are bitter. So bitter — an impenetrable bitterness that’s harder than cold steel and so toxic, so acidic that if liquefied it’ll easily melt flesh and dissolve elephant bones. It’s 2016, and Hillary and Bill are still calling us super-predators.

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Texas SOS implored UTRGV students to head to polls

By DANIEL A. FLORES

Texas voters who are discouraged by the choice between historically unfavorable presidential candidates are not alone, Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos said.

While traveling to Texas universities with bilingual voter-education initiative Vote Texas, Cascos said he’s heard a familiar refrain.

“‘We’re not going to vote in this election … we don’t like each one of them,’” Cascos said during his talk. “I understand, and I share your pain.

“If you’re not totally happy or you just can’t make up your mind in terms of Hillary or Donald, don’t sweat it. But don’t throw out the whole ballot simply because you’re not happy with it.”

The former CameronCounty judge and commissioner brought Vote Texas to students Thursday at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s PlainsCapital Student Union Theater in Edinburg.

Cascos insisted students focus on the importance of voicing support for down-ballot elections if their heart isn’t in voting for a presidential candidate.

“Those local races are, if not more so, equally important than the presidential race, because you’re electing local leadership that has a direct impact on our community, whether it’s a sheriff or congressional race,” Cascos said.

Before bringing Cascos to the stage, UTRGV President Guy Bailey called the official “one of our own” because he grew up in Brownsville. “It’s great to be back home — and when I say home, I mean South Texas (and) the Valley,” Cascos said.

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More optimism for recovery of oil and gas

Alex Mills

Even though the oil and gas industry remains in a tough economic climate, some leading companies believe that better days are ahead.

One of those companies is the world’s largest oil field service company, Schlumberger. Just last week Schlumberger said it sees recovery in many regions of the world.

“The only place where we don’t see any signs of recovery at this stage is in Asia,” Chief Executive Paal Kibsgaard said.

Schlumberger said it expects “solid growth” in 2017 in the Middle East, Russia and North America.

In Texas, some economic signs of stability were insufficient to halt the decline in the Texas Petro Index, a composite index of economic indicators in Texas. The TPI declined for the 22nd consecutive month to 149.0, two-thirds of its value in September 2015.

“I was hoping the TPI was going to post its first monthly increase in September,” economist Karr Ingham, the author of TPI, said. “But the upstream recovery remains a slow process.”

Ingham said that absent a rapid expansion of demand that would help absorb the current crude oil oversupply, any solution to market imbalance must come from the supply side of the ledger. With OPEC members and Russia apparently unable to agree on a plan to curtail oil output, U.S. production needs to continue declining to provide upside support to crude oil prices, he said.

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San Antonio-area county sued for providing misleading voter ID information

By Sam Stecklow

A lawsuit filed Friday afternoon by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) accuses Bexar County, Texas, which contains America’s seventh-largest city, San Antonio, of not following a federal court order to provide accurate information on the state’s voter ID laws to voters.

In previous elections, due to a discriminatory voter ID law, voters had to show a state-issued photo ID when voting. That ended when a federal judge struck down the voter ID law in August, ruling that it discriminated against black and Latino Texans. The judge ruled that Texans who did not have an ID and couldn’t “reasonably obtain” one in time could bring a document such as a paycheck or utility bill.

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Combating Corruption: U.S. Customs And Border Protection Seeks Deep Reform

John Burnett / NPR

U.S. Customs and Border Protection—the nation’s largest law enforcement agency—is attempting to reform itself. Washington spends $13 billion on border control and immigration enforcement, more than every other federal law enforcement force combined. Yet the huge agency—with 56,000 gun-toting agents—is dogged by complaints that too many of them will take a bribe or use excessive force and avoid consequences.

An independent review panel named by the Homeland Security secretary faulted CBP for its “broken disciplinary process.”

Under the leadership of Customs Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who was confirmed in March 2014, the agency is trying to bring about more transparency and accountability, and train its personnel to de-escalate violent encounters.Agents who work on the border every day contend that it’s unlike any environment in American law enforcement.

Controlling A Culture With Deadly Use-Of-Force

On a hot October day, a patrol boat speeds along the Rio Grande between curtains of thick Carrizo cane. Mullet fish flop in the muddy water and white egrets fly ahead.

“All kinds of people throw rocks at us, even little kids still in Pampers, they see us and lob rocks at us,” boat captain Agent Omar Puente says. “There’s been areas in Weslaco [Texas] where we were parked and 10 guys show up at the banks and throw rocks at you. It’s a thing to do I guess.”

While Puente steers, agent Guillermo Mata scans the riverbank, shouldering an M-4 assault rifle. He’s asked, how does the agency’s new emphasis on avoiding use of force affect his job?

“I guess the main goal would be to try to remove yourself from the [rock-throwing] area first,” he says. “That’s personally the change that I’ve seen.”

CBP knew it had a use-of-force problem. It asked the respected Police Executive Research Forum, a best-practices policy group, to look at 67 fatal shootings by border agents between January 2010 and October 2012.

The forum concluded that some agents were firing at moving vehicles and rock throwers even though they posed no lethal threat. In an attempt to reduce shootings, CBP has handed down stricter rules on use of force in 2014. What’s more, the agency has created interactive training scenarios that mimic confrontations with rock-throwers that every sworn officer must undergo.

At the CBP National Training Center in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, Supervisory Agent Aaron Mims stands inside a surround green-screen, facing the image of a group of immigrants walking through a desert landscape. The leader picks up a rock and shouts tauntingly. Mims points his taser at the man.

“Hands up! Don’t move! Drop the rock!” he shouts before pulling the trigger on the taser. In the interactive scene, the immigrant falls to the ground and moans. “As an agency, lethal force is always the last resort,” Mims says after the training scenario is over.

Silence On Agent-Involved Shootings

This type of training is an attempt to avoid incidents like the death of Sergio Hernandez Guereca.

On June 7, 2010, the unarmed Mexican teenager was standing on the Juarez side of the international river when he was shot and killed by Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa, who was on the U.S. side in El Paso, Texas. The agent maintained the boy was throwing rocks, though cellphone video contradicts this account. Neither CBP nor the Justice Department decided to take action against the officer.

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Police: 5 shot at Texas Halloween party by man dressed as Freddy Krueger

CBS/AP

SAN ANTONIO — A Halloween party in San Antonio, Texas, turned violent overnight when a man dressed as Freddy Krueger pulled a gun from his costume and opened fire on the crowd, shooting five people, CBS affiliate KENS reported

According to police, around 5 a.m. Sunday morning, a group of males showed up to a Halloween party and started causing trouble. One of the men, dressed as Freddy Krueger, then opened fire, shooting five people.

Freddy Kruger is the horrifically-scarred, homicidal villain of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.

Officials said that three of the victims were taken to the hospital, KENS reported. According to police, one of the victims tried to drive her car to the hospital, but crashed it on the way.

Violence also broke out at a Halloween party in New York over the weekend.

Authorities said gunfire at a Halloween party killed two women and also left five people injured.

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