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Lead Stories

The Hill - April 23, 2014

Ted Cruz's big show

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz hasn't even completed two years in the United States Senate, which makes his accomplishments of the past few days all the more remarkable. The best way to gauge his stature is by the harsh treatment he routinely receives from the establishment media. A profile in the Wall Street Journal began and ended with accounts of Cruz getting snubbed by his Senate colleagues, the first time on the Capitol subway, the second on an elevator in his office building. According to the Journal's account, on the short rides none of his colleagues even acknowledged his presence. The implication--made explicit with other anecdotes and quotes--was that Cruz might be making a lot of noise, but he wasn't making much of an impression on other senators.

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Huffington Post - April 23, 2014

Rand Paul says GOP 'May Have Over-Emphasized' Voter Fraud Fears

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speculated that the Republican Party may be exaggerating the extent of voter fraud, as more GOP-controlled states pass new voter identification laws to combat what the party claims is a widespread problem. Paul sat down for a wide-ranging conversation Tuesday with David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. Here's a portion of their conversation, according to a transcript from The Washington Post:

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

Does the Rick Perry grand jury lean Democratic?

Democrats appear to outnumber Republicans on the grand jury that will consider criminal charges against Gov. Rick Perry. But four members of the 12-member panel have no party primary voting history and two others don’t appear to be registered voters. Travis County voting records examined by the American-Statesman show that three, and possibly four, members of the racially diverse grand jury have voted in Democratic primaries. Only one — or maybe two — of the grand jurors have voted in Republican primaries.

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Texas Tribune - April 23, 2014

Abbott Calls for More Local Control of School Options

Unveiling his latest education policy plan, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott on Wednesday proposed giving school districts and parents more control of students' education by tossing out state mandates and regulations that promote “one-size-fits-all solutions.” Abbott’s plan, which he presented at Northbrook High School in Houston, proposes letting parents more easily petition the state’s education commissioner to change campus management of poorly rated schools, increasing parents’ access to school performance data, and offering school districts the ability to opt out of state mandates of day-to-day operations, including calendars, food and beverage services, and transportation.

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State Stories

Texas Observer - April 23, 2014

Rick Perry’s New Scandal Grows Legs—What’s Next?

Last night brought new developments in the investigation into Rick Perry’s meddling in the affairs of the Travis County district attorney’s office. County officials revealed that Perry’s office was trying to dislodge Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg even after his veto stripped her office of funding. That seemingly strengthens the case against the governor currently being considered by a grand jury. We know that Perry last spring had threatened to (and later did) veto funding for the Travis County DA’s anti-corruption unit unless Lehmberg resigned following a DWI arrest. But now we know that wasn’t the end of it.

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Texas Observer - April 23, 2014

To Kill? Or Not to Kill?

One morning in August 2011, Matagorda County District Attorney Steven Reis drove out to a crime scene at a remote, secluded farmhouse. A 78-year-old man named Glen Sam Prinzing had been found dead at his property on the edge of Markham, a town of a thousand residents 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and about 90 miles southwest of Houston. The barn was several hundred yards off the main road. Reis drove with sheriff’s deputies over a bumpy dirt path, across an empty field, and past where yellow police tape cut through thick brush. It was a hot, sticky day, and Reis saw that the vegetation had tangled over all manner of rusting old junk: cars, a tractor, a refrigerator. They crossed a plank of wood placed as a makeshift walkway over a pool of muddy water. Reis, wandering into the farmhouse, saw several vintage motorcycles, some dating to World War II. They had mostly fallen into disrepair. The word “hoarder” came to mind.

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

First Reading: Chutzpah! Rick Perry challenges Andrew Cuomo to debate

What a brilliant, if not thoughtful, move. Paint Creek's own Rick "Oops" Perry, challenging Andrew Cuomo of New York City (see vintage Pace Picante Sauce ad for proper inflection) to a debate. What confidence, what bravado, what chutzpah. Taking his greatest perceived weakness and jutting that glass jaw right out in front of the son of the most gifted orator in modern American politics and daring him to take a shot at him. If Cuomo passes on the opportunity, Perry has at least impressed with his daring and self-assurance. And if somehow it should come to pass, he has a relatively low threshold of expectations to surpass. Unless he really flubs it, it's win-win, and more free national press.

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Texas Observer - April 23, 2014

Greg Abbott Proposes Statewide District for Struggling Schools

One of the Texas Legislature’s more entertaining moments in 2013—before, well, you know—was the late-session fight in the House over a bill creating the “Texas Achievement School District,” to centralize school turnaround efforts across Texas under a single superintendent. Sen. Royce West and Rep. Harold Dutton, both Democrats, authored the bill, which would create a sort of intervention program for struggling elementary schools. Elementary schools with a track record of low performance would be temporarily removed from their local districts, and placed under a state superintendent, who’d have broad authority to replace staff, begin new programs or hand control over to someone else. Or, as Dutton explained on the House floor in late May, “We let a school get so sick we basically take it to the cemetery. … Let’s take it to the emergency room, where we can diagnose it and then fix it.”

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Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2014

By the numbers: Dewhurst attack ad

A statewide television blitz launched by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst attacking state Sen. Dan Patrick over bankruptcy debts wrapped up its run Tuesday — and public records detail the extent to which the campaign shelled out to launch its first offensive against Patrick. Those records show Dewhurst spent about $1 million to air his ad more than 1,800 times in at least 10 cities across the state (Patrick’s top consultant, Allen Blakemore, using intelligence from the campaign’s media trackers, had already said that Dewhurst spent around $1 million to attack his candidate). We actually put the figure at right around $980,000. That includes all Dewhurst TV ad buys in the state’s four major metro areas and all ads purchased on Time Warner Cable (the figure does not include any cable buys in Houston on Comcast).

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El Paso Times - April 24, 2014

Lawyer: Cuts to family planning clinics in Texas unjust

By refusing to fund family planning clinics in Texas, the state legislature is preventing Hispanic women from accessing affordable reproductive health care and treatment for preventable diseases, according to activists and advocates for women's reproductive rights. "These cuts have destroyed the Texas reproductive health safety net for many Latina women, violated their human rights and made it impossible for them to take care of their own health," said Katrina Anderson, a human rights lawyer from the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal advocacy organization.

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Austin American Statesman - April 19, 2014

Politifact Texas: David Dewhurst's U.S. Senate campaign of 2012 owed more than $1 million to vendors at end of 2013

Reacting to a TV ad poking at his personal bankruptcy in the 1980s, state Sen. Dan Patrick said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst owes more than $1 million to creditors from his losing 2012 run for the U.S. Senate. Dewhurst and Patrick, both of Houston, are in a May 27, 2014, runoff for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination after Patrick led the four-way March primary. In a document posted online after Dewhurst’s ad debuted April 16, 2014, Patrick’s campaign mentioned a one-time Dewhurst business debt. "In addition to these debts," Patrick said, Dewhurst "currently owes more than $1 million to vendors for services provided to his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign."

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

Select driver license offices open Saturday to issue election ID certificates

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) in advance of the upcoming primary runoff election will be offering Saturday hours at select driver license offices throughout the state to issue Election Identification Certificates (EIC) only. DPS will also be deploying mobile stations to various locations across Texas in an ongoing effort to ensure Texans have access to EICs. Additionally, select county locations will be issuing EICs at the local level. The 2014 primary runoff election in Texas is May 27, with early voting from May 19 - 23.

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Texas Tribune - April 23, 2014

U.S. Border Patrol Agents Ramp Up Efforts in Valley

PEƑITAS, Texas — On a recent afternoon in this Rio Grande Valley town, Juan Longoria stood in his driveway, talking on his cellphone while enjoying a longneck. The only thing that blocked his view of the clear Texas sky was a tethered blimp floating thousands of feet in the air. The blimp — which contains video and radar equipment for detecting human smugglers, illegal crossers and drug and human traffickers — was formerly used by the U.S. Department of Defense and is now controlled by the U.S. Border Patrol. It can be seen miles away by drivers on State Highway 83.

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Ragland: Playing field is uneven for minority kids

In the midst of the furor about who best can lead Dallas’ maligned public school system, a telling study was released. We can all learn from it. Within its pages lie the hard-core reasons so many kids of color are lagging behind their white classmates, not just in Texas, but across the nation. In every corner of the country, but particularly here in the South, white and Asian children are in much better positions to succeed than Latino, black and American Indian kids, according to the recent study, “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children.”

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

Abbott: Pay teachers bonuses for high exam scores

Republican Greg Abbott says that as Texas governor he would seek bonuses for high school teachers whose students perform well on college readiness exams. Abbott on Wednesday called for paying teachers up to $2,000 a year extra if their students perform well on advanced placement tests. Texas consistently ranks near the bottom nationally in average teacher pay, according to many groups that track classroom salaries. Abbott unveiled the second part of his education platform at a Houston high school. He's also calling for individual school campuses to receive A through F ratings so that parents can better judge school performance.

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Texas Tribune - April 24, 2014

Voters Could Approve Billions in Debt in May Elections

Early voting begins Monday for dozens of May 10 bond elections across Texas. All told, local voters are being asked to approve more than $6.6 billion in new debt, nearly all of it for school districts. Borrowing from school districts accounts for 92 percent of the $6.65 billion in proposals, according to an analysis of data collected by the comptroller. The majority of the bond propositions are intended for districts to build new facilities and upgrade old ones to handle more students.

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Texas Tribune - April 23, 2014

Third Chief in a Month to Be Named at Juvenile Justice Department

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department on Thursday is set to name its third leader in a month at a meeting of the board that oversees the agency. Linda Brooke, the current interim executive director, is leaving TJJD for a job in Fort Worth, Jim Hurley, the agency's spokesman, said Wednesday. "It's simply a timing issue," Hurley said, indicating the departures had little to do with the agency itself, but rather with opportunities elsewhere.

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

DMN: A case to rattle anyone's confidence in Texas' criminal-justice system

Call it the case of the forgotten inmate. Or call it “one of those one-in-a-million deals,” to use the words of a former lawyer for the inmate. Either way, if this one doesn’t rattle confidence in Texas’ criminal justice system, maybe nothing does. Jerry Hartfield, 57, with an IQ in the 50s, has been an inmate in state prisons for more than three decades, even though there has been no lawful conviction on the books to hold him there. But there he’ll stay for now, after a judge in Matagorda County denied a petition for his immediate release last week. The string of lapses is all the more outrageous considering the delayed justice for a murder victim, Eunice Job Lowe, 55, of Bay City. A ticket agent at a bus terminal, she was robbed and fatally beaten with a pickaxe in 1976.

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

18 protesters arrested in demonstration against UT’s job-cutting plan

Eighteen students were arrested on Wednesday afternoon after they refused to leave the office area of the University of Texas president. Several students started the sit-in outside of Bill Powers’ office about 3:30 p.m. and were warned three times by the dean of students’ office to leave by 5 p.m. or face criminal trespass charges, UT officials said. Those that refused were arrested and transported to Travis County Jail. The students were protesting a shared-services plan that would eliminate 500 staff positions, mostly through attrition, by consolidating finance, personnel, information technology and purchasing functions. It is estimated to save the university up to $40 million per year.

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San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2014

Texas drops in college attainment rankings

While the percentage of adult Texans with at least a two-year college degree has increased a smidge, the state hasn't kept pace with improvement in other states and still lags behind the national average, according to rankings released this week by the Lumina Foundation. Texas' ranking fell from No. 37 to No. 40 among the 50 states. The Indianapolis-based foundation, a private endowment focused on higher education issues, produced the rankings from 2012 U.S. Census data. Among Texas' 13.6 million residents between the ages of 25 and 64, some 34.6 percent had earned a two- or four-year degree by 2012. That was a small increase over Texas' 2011 rate of 34.5 percent, but still well below the national average of 39.4 percent.

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San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2014

Judge: Texas can't bar gay marriage — or divorce

In a move that follows suit with a federal ruling issued in February, a state district judge has deemed Texas' restrictions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional — paving the way for a San Antonio couple's divorce proceedings and subsequent child custody battle to continue. Judge Barbara Nellermoe, in a ruling released Tuesday, pinpointed three portions of the Texas Family Code as unconstitutional, as well as Section 32 of the Texas Constitution. Nellermoe wrote that “in a well-reasoned opinion by Judge Orlando Garcia, the federal district court found that a state cannot do what the federal government cannot — that is, it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.”

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Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2014

Abbott proposes state takeover of low-performing schools

Education again took center stage in the Texas governor's race Wednesday as Republican candidate Greg Abbott unveiled a second round of proposals to reform the state's public-school system - including a state takeover of Texas' 15 lowest-performing elementary schools, to be run as an "achievement school district" similar to school-turnaround efforts already underway in New Orleans, Tennessee and Michigan. With a chemistry-classroom periodic table as a backdrop, Abbott released his latest round of proposals at Northbrook High School in west Houston.

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Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2014

Chairman of sex-offender board quits amid controversy

The chairman of the embattled state agency that supervises hundreds of sex offenders deemed too dangerous to live in society has submitted his resignation, amid a growing controversy and a criminal investigation into the secretive placement of those offenders in the Houston area, officials confirmed Wednesday. In a letter dated Tuesday to Gov. Rick Perry, Dan Powers, a child advocacy official in Collin County, said his workload at the little-known agency has become overwhelming in recent months for a volunteer position.

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Texas Monthly - April 23, 2014

Who Will Watch the Watchers?

The video begins with an establishing shot of sorts: A Mexican flag dangles from a flimsy pole—a fishing rod, maybe—that somebody has stuck in the dirt in the foreground. Beyond we see the back of a man in a yellow shirt standing on the gently sloping bank of a river that is just catching the last of the late-afternoon light. He is standing perfectly still, watching a boat perhaps 150 feet away from him, near the steep, carrizo-covered opposite bank. It’s an eighteen-foot aluminum airboat with a low deck and an enormous motorized fan on the rear that emits a deafening roar. The camera zooms in on the boat, which is pointed upstream, holding its position against the considerable current. The light is not great, and neither is the focus, but we can just make out the white shirtsleeves of the driver, and perhaps the outline of another man seated on a small bench in the front of the boat, along with the familiar green stripe of the U.S. Border Patrol on the boat’s silver profile.

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Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2014

Lawmakers, prison agency defend lack of AC in Texas prisons

Lawmakers expressed reluctance to endorse climate-controlled prisons Tuesday despite acknowledging that Texas lockups have become a growing repository for the mentally ill, many of them on heat-sensitive drugs. "We need to have a grown-up discussion of what's practical and reasonable and what's politically acceptable," said Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, whose panel oversees the prison system. "But I can tell you, the people of Texas don't want air-conditioned prisons, and there's a lot of other things on my list above the heat. It's hot in Texas, and a lot of Texans who are not in prison don't have air conditioning." House Corrections Committee Chairman Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, whose committee was one of two that held a public hearing Tuesday about the growing mental illness numbers in prisons and jails, said the issue of inmates on heat-sensitive drugs needs to be examined further.

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Houston Press - April 23, 2014

Hucksters and Texas Tent Revival Politics

Religious liberty is at the very heart of what it means to be an American, yet Texas conservatives and our state's activist pastors have conveniently forgotten that. Lately, it feels as if Texas is waging some sort of religious war on a number of different fronts. Throughout history, politicians have embedded a few religious references in their speeches, but nothing close to what we're seeing lately. Beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan's nomination in 1980 and continued by Bill Clinton, "Religispeak" has evolved into a must-have tool for every conservative's campaign rhetoric and policy effort.

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GazetteXtra - April 24, 2014

Stanford: The dawn of new age in political lies

Politicians should have as many words for lying as Inuits have for snow. To tell the truth in politics requires only the inverse of the courtroom oath: I promise to tell some of the truth at least some of the time, so help me Fox News. Now a right-wing political group has asked the Supreme Court to make lying in politics a First Amendment Right. And you thought nothing got done in Washington. Politicians are already entitled to taxpayer-funded cars, junkets, pensions, and full-time salaries for part-time jobs. Now the Supreme Court is weighing whether politicians are entitled to their own truth, as well. No wonder a recent Rasmussen poll measured a puny 6 percent approval rating for Congress.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - April 23, 2014

Regent gives $1 million to Texas A&M School of Law

Tony Buzbee wants to see the Texas A&M University School of Law become a top Texas law school in the next five years — so he wrote a $1 million check to the school this week and is urging other Aggies to do the same. Because the Texas A&M University School of Law in downtown Fort Worth is not yet a year old, the founding partner of The Buzbee Law Firm and Texas A&M System regent said he stepped up and created an endowment for the incoming dean and hopes others will follow his lead. “What I’m hoping to do is encourage other Aggies to give money to the law school because we are going to need a healthy endowment for all the things we want to do,” Buzbee said.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - April 23, 2014

Wise County pair wins $3 million jury award in drilling lawsuit

A Wise County couple who sued Plano-based Aruba Petroleum, claiming that natural gas operations near their 40-acre ranch made them sick, have won a $2.9 million award from a Dallas jury. Plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr had sought more than $9 million in the lawsuit, filed in 2011, alleging that Aruba’s drilling operations at one point forced them to move from their Decatur property. In a 5-1 verdict Tuesday, the jury found that the company created a nuisance that substantially interfered with the Parrs’ use of their land.

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Patrick airs TV ad rebutting Dewhurst’s, slamming his budget

Dan Patrick is hitting back. On Wednesday, Patrick began airing a TV ad that partially rebuts an attack spot by his opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Patrick’s ad then tries to put Dewhurst on the defensive for the current two-year state budget, though Patrick cites a widely debunked study as his evidence that the budget was profligate. His ad closes with a thinly veiled appeal to older voters, promising he will cut property taxes “for all Texans.”

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Conservative activist David Barton endorses Ralph Hall

David Barton, a conservative activist and former Texas GOP vice chair, today endorsed Rep. Ralph Hall in his runoff primary fight with lawyer John Ratcliffe. “As an activist, I call to the attention of voters that Congressman Hall has been steadfast in his support of conservative values,” Barton said in a statement. “Congressman Hall is a role model in every aspect. He wore this country’s uniform to defend us in a time of war; he is recognized as one of the most knowledgeable Members on science and technology, which the country needs desperately, and he is a humble person, a trait sadly lacking in too many of our leaders.”

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Slater: New Ann Richards film holds lessons for Greg Abbott-Wendy Davis race

A new documentary about Ann Richards arrives this political season just as another woman is facing long odds and slaughterhouse politics in her bid to become the next governor of Texas. For all the differences between then and now, the film offers some fresh reminders — and striking parallels for today — about how a woman got elected. And how four years later, she didn’t. Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis’ Republican opponent, should take notes. The HBO film, All About Ann, opened this month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and premieres on the cable network at 8 p.m. Dallas time Monday.

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Ft. Worth Weekly - April 23, 2014

McNeeley: A lighter “Lite Guv”?

The lieutenant governor — the “lite guv” — is the second most powerful state official in Texas. Here’s what’s going on in the race for the job, why it’s so powerful, and why that could change. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst might never have held statewide office if he wasn’t rich. And despite his being an elected official for almost 16 years, a fat wallet may not keep him there. He got 28.3 percent of the vote to State Sen. Dan Patrick’s 41.5 percent in the March 4 Republican primary. He has the uphill chore of getting more than 50 percent in the May 27 runoff to hang onto his party’s nomination for the job.

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Lubbock Avalanche Journal - April 23, 2014

Lubbock one of many Texas cities considering regulations for payday loans

The week before Christmas the Houston City Council voted overwhelmingly to regulate the so-called payday and auto title lenders, the largely unregulated industry critics call predatory because it often charges interest rates of 500 percent or more if borrowers don’t repay their short-term loans on time. Lubbock’s city leaders are now hoping to find a way to do the same. The resolution to create a task force addressing payday lending has been delayed for several weeks, but Lubbock City Councilman Todd Klein hopes the council will take action on it at its meeting Thursday.

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Legal Newsline - April 23, 2014

Texas Rep. Martinez Fischer joins Husch Blackwell

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is the newest partner at the multipurpose firm Husch Blackwell. According to a Tuesday press release, Martinez Fischer, a litigator practicing since 1998 in state and federal courts throughout Texas, is the second member of the Texas Legislature within the firm, joining Austin partner and Texas Sen. Kirk Watson. Dubbed a “heavy hitter” by the New York Times, Martinez Fischer has been described as a passionate public servant who crusades vigorously for matters of importance to his constituents, the press release states.

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SE Texas Record - April 23, 2014

CALA: Time for Texas to rein in ‘lawsuit lending’

Imagine borrowing $250,000 and two years later owing more than $500,000. That’s lawsuit lending. money scales of justice Traditional loan sharks and pawnbrokers aren’t the only organizations that lure the cash-strapped into a loan with astronomical interest rates and unfair repayment terms. Lawsuit loan sharks offer money upfront to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits, based on a potential settlement or award from their lawsuit. “Quick and easy” cash — often within 24 to 48 hours — may sound attractive to a plaintiff with an anticipated awarded judgment, but look closer.

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The Wire - April 23, 2014

Texas' Republican Candidate for Governor Is Ginning Up a Bundy-Style Land Fight

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who is running for governor in November — wrote a letter to the Bureau of Land Management blasting a (possible) move to make (up to) 90,000 acres of Texas federal property. It's a situation that is tangentially similar to the politically potent dispute between the government and rancher Cliven Bundy in Nevada, so it bears repeating: Abbott is running for governor in November. Bundy has become an evocative symbol for conservatives, an actual cowboy who insists that he has the right to let his cattle graze on land that, he claims, his family has used for generations. The government — in the form of the BLM — has fined Bundy about $1 million over the years for his refusal to accept grazing limits established for environmental protection. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller called Bundy and those who came to back him up (some of them armed) "patriots." (Sen. Harry Reid called them "domestic terrorists.")

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Washington Post - April 23, 2014

Former AP reporter Robert Heard dies at age 84

Robert Heard, who reported on Texas state government, politics and sports for The Associated Press, including the 1966 University of Texas tower shootings and a groundbreaking series on race and integration of Longhorns football, has died. He was 84. Heard died April 15 in Austin from complications after surgery to repair a broken hip, said widow Betsy Heard. Heard was one of the people shot by Charles Whitman on Aug. 1, 1966, while covering rampage for the AP. Whitman killed 17 and wounded 32 more in one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.

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Fox News - April 23, 2014

Perry rips ‘out-of-control’ federal government over Texas land dispute

Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined his state’s top attorney on Wednesday in blasting the federal Bureau of Land Management over concerns that it may be looking at laying claim to thousands of acres of property in northern Texas. “The federal government already owns too much land,” Perry told Fox News. At issue are thousands of acres of land on the Texas side of the Red River, along the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Officials recently have raised concern that the BLM might be looking at claiming 90,000 acres of land as part of the public domain.

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Western Journalism - April 23, 2014

Report: BLM Now Setting Sights On Texas

While the Bundy Ranch standoff is still fresh in the minds of millions of Americans, the Bureau of Land Management is now reportedly focused on its next target: 90,000 acres of land along the Texas’ northern border. According to former State Representative Sid Miller, the potential federal land grab is rooted in a 1986 lawsuit filed when the BLM wanted to take a substantial amount of property from a Texan named Tommy Henderson. Henderson ultimately lost in court despite the fact that his family had owned the land for decades. “The Bureau of Land Management took 140 acres of his property and didn’t pay him one cent,” Miller explained. That court case, he explained, will likely serve as the basis for the BLM’s expected claim to an area hundreds of times larger than Henderson’s. Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/report-blm-now-setting-sights-texas/#VTqBH2p0wAC7Va5u.99

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247 Wall St - April 23, 2014

States Where the Most Kids Go Hungry

Feeding America — the largest hunger relief charity and network of food banks in the U.S. — created Map the Meal Gap, a study measuring food-insecurity among the general population and children at the state and county levels. While hunger remains a problem nationally, some areas of the country had nearly double the national rate. Food-insecurity rates among children were as high as 41% in Zavala County, Texas. At the state level, New Mexico led the nation with 29.2% of children living in food-insecure households.

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Insurance Journal - April 23, 2014

Workers’ Comp Commissioner Says Claims on Decline in Texas

Declining workplace injuries and fewer claims for workers’ compensation benefits are leading to lower costs for employers, Texas Commissioner of Workers’ Compensation Rod Bordelon told lawmakers in testimony before the House Business & Industry Committee. Bordelon also told committee members the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), a part of the Texas Department of Insurance, has reduced a maintenance tax on insurers which pays for DWC operations.

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Texas Public Radio - April 23, 2014

Lawmakers Weighing Options With Mental Illness In Texas Prison Population

According to state officials, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice counts a large number of inmates with mental illness and drug addiction because the state lacks funding for their treatment. On Tuesday members of the House Corrections and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee held a special joint committee hearing to discuss the huge influx of mentally ill people who are being sent to prison. "In 2008 approximately 17 percent of Texas county jail populations were on psychotropic medications," said state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, the chair of the House Corrections Committee.

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Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2014

Lindsay: UT regent case muddies right to transparency

Mark this as the day transparency in government died in Texas. Amid the cacophony over whether University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall will be impeached or even jailed, let's take a moment to remember what this is all about. The Texas House Special Committee on Transparency, which meets today, is investigating Hall for exercising his right and duty to request information of one of the universities he is entrusted with overseeing.

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San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2014

Kinky Friedman: Put wild hog on a plate

Grass-fed beef, cage-free chickens, and … feral hogs? As meat prices rise, a candidate for agriculture commissioner is proposing beefing up the state's program to harvest and market wild hog meat in a way he says will create jobs and revenue for Texas. Kinky Friedman, a Democrat running for the statewide office, said feral hogs are a largely untapped industry that could be a lucrative endeavor for the state rather than a waste of life.

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County Stories

Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

Appraiser: Williamson County home values soar 10.6 percent

Home values for 2014 shot up 10.6 percent in Williamson County, reflecting a sizzling residential market where demand continues to outpace supply, chief appraiser Alvin Lankford said Wednesday. The Williamson Central Appraisal District mailed more than 175,500 appraisal notices to property owners in the county, which saw the average market value of homes increase to $214,682 from $194,072, Lankford said. In 2013, market values for homes went up 2 percent on average.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - April 23, 2014

Court says Tarrant water district doesn’t have to call election

In the latest round of legal wrangling involving the Tarrant Regional Water District, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the raw water provider isn’t required to hold a board election this year. A lawsuit filed by the Rev. Kyev Tatum, his brother, Archie, and their wives, Tonya and Hershey Ann, had argued that the water district violated the Texas and U.S. constitutions by moving the election from May 2014 to May 2015. But the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals sided with a federal district judge’s earlier ruling by saying the district doesn’t have to call an election.

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El Paso Times - April 23, 2014

Texas commission to select contractor for $800 million Border Highway West extension

The Texas Transportation Commission will select a contractor for the $800 million completion of Loop 375 today, officials said. The selection will be made during the commission's meeting, which begins at 8 a.m. today in Lubbock. Blanca Del Valle, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said four bids were submitted for the project. "The project closes the gap on Loop 375 that exists from Santa Fe Street Downtown to U.S. 85," Del Valle said.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Floyd: Garland ISD's H-1B teacher scandal highlights latest trend in exploiting foreign workers

The Garland school district’s former human resources director didn’t invent the time-honored practice of swindling vulnerable foreign workers. According to investigators, though, he gave the scam a personal and very lucrative twist. Victor Leos, who retired in January, was accused this week by an outside investigator of using the promise of jobs and permanent U.S. residency to squeeze illegal fees out of foreign teachers hired through an international recruitment program.

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was considered for top ICE job, sources say

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo was recently considered to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency tasked with helping protect the nation’s borders, the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV have learned. Speculation had traveled through the Police Department that Acevedo could be considering the ICE position, and, on Wednesday, he acknowledged for the first time that he met with federal officials about the job.

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Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2014

Foundation, HISD tackling 'literacy crisis' in Houston

In Houston, a city known for its brilliant doctors and energy executives, adults are waiting in line for classes that teach basic literacy skills - reading, writing and speaking clearly. They can't land jobs or promotions, can't help their kids with homework. At the same time, tens of thousands of students in local public school districts are failing to meet the state's minimum academic standards, fighting to comprehend texts and straining to write essays.

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Texas Tribune - April 23, 2014

El Paso Struggles With Lack of English-Speaking Foster Homes

Nearly a quarter of the young children who came to the Child Crisis Center in El Paso in 2013 were from military families. Many ended up in the emergency shelter after state officials could not find English-speaking foster care families in the heavily Hispanic community who could effectively communicate with them. “Repeatedly, we’re seeing placements break down, a lot in relation to the military family," said Alfonso Velarde, executive director of the Child Crisis Center of El Paso. "It’s difficult to find placement for a non-Spanish-speaking child in a foster home in El Paso."

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Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2014

Dallas sexual-assault reports rise after definition is broadened

Through the last decade, Dallas police officials have tried to drive down major crime statistics. But in one category, the department is working to increase numbers. Chief David Brown has called sexual assaults the most underreported crime, and the department has long pushed to get victims to come forward. But this year the department got some semantic help, too, when the state adopted the FBI’s new, broader definition of sexual assaults.

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National Stories

Washington Post - April 23, 2014

The rich are dominating campaigns. Here’s why that’s about to get worse.

In McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court struck down limits on the total amount individuals can donate to candidates and committees in federal elections. The key question is how this decision will reshape political fundraising. By looking at how a small group of wealthy donors has behaved in the past, we can get a sense of why the ruling matters, how much it matters, and who stands to benefit the most. Most observers have predicted that the McCutcheon ruling will increase money in politics. And it will. But this isn’t in itself a concern. Much of the growth in campaign donations over the past three decades derives from a massive expansion in the number of individuals contributing to campaigns. This is arguably a positive development. What really is at stake is McCutcheon’s effect on political inequality.

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Associated Press - April 24, 2014

Justice Department expands prisoner clemency push

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced a plan to canvass the entire federal prison population for the first time to find inmates who committed low-level crimes and could be released early. The move, which expands a plan announced in January, is expected to generate thousands, if not tens of thousands, of applications for clemency. It represents the Obama administration’s latest break from the criminal justice policies created to fight drugs. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Wednesday that the department would consider recommending clemency for nonviolent felons who have served at least 10 years in prison and who would have received a significantly lower prison term if convicted under today’s more lenient sentencing laws.

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This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle


Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2014

Democrats eye 15 cities for 2016 convention

President Barack Obama's hometown and Hillary Rodham Clinton's home base as a senator are among the 15 cities the Democratic National Committee is considering to host the party's presidential nominating convention in 2016, officials said Tuesday. The DNC is inviting cities from Miami to Las Vegas to bid to host the party faithful for the made-for-TV festivities. Local officials have until June 6 to submit their proposals — or not, if a city declines — about how the city would partner with the DNC to stage the massive and costly event. The cities under consideration are: Atlanta; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Miami; Nashville; New York; Orlando; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - April 23, 2014

Allen: Equal pay debate smart politics, not smart math

In an election year, it’s inevitable that both political parties will select bumper-sticker-friendly wedge issues upon which to build their campaigns. That’s just smart politics. For Democrats in 2014, that means amplifying their effective “war on women” mantra from 2012 with their latest weapon of choice: the wage gap. The White House is leading the charge with its recurrent claim that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man — purportedly the result of systematic workplace discrimination across industries that the president calls an “embarrassment.”

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San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2014

Rep. Jackson Lee speaks out against Georgia gun law

A bill expanding gun rights signed into law Wednesday in Georgia drew criticism from a lawmaker in Texas, heating the debate over carrying in public once more. Known as the Safe Carry Protection Act, the bill is geared towards reducing restrictions on gun owners. Among the provisions of the law would be lessening requirements for renewals of weapons carry licenses (WCL), allow people with WCL’s to carry in certain areas of airports and in bars and ‘create an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack’.

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Daily Caller - April 23, 2014

America’s power grid at the limit: The road to electrical blackouts

Americans take electricity for granted. It powers our lights, our computers, our offices, and our industries. But misguided environmental policies are eroding the reliability of our power system. Last winter, bitterly cold weather placed massive stress on the US electrical system ? and the system almost broke. On January 7 in the midst of the polar vortex, PJM Interconnection, the Regional Transmission Organization serving the heart of America from New Jersey to Illinois, experienced a new all-time peak winter load of almost 142,000 megawatts. Eight of the top ten of PJM’s all-time winter peaks occurred in January 2014. Heroic efforts by grid operators saved large parts of the nation’s heartland from blackouts during record-cold temperature days. Nicholas Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, stated in Congressional testimony, “This country did not just dodge a bullet ? we dodged a cannon ball.”

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Austin American Statesman - April 23, 2014

AAS: It’s time for the U.S. to revitalize NATO

In the month and a half since “unmarked” Russian military personnel infiltrated Ukraine and seized control of the Crimean peninsula, the U.S. and its NATO allies have struggled for a cohesive response. With Crimea securely under Russian control, the West, paralyzed by indecision, continues to hang back, vainly attempting to predict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next move. And, while the West watches, Russia continues to amass tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border. NATO’s chief commander, Gen. Phillip Breedlove, fears Russian ambition could extend beyond Crimea and warns of further incursions, noting, “This is a very large and very capable and very ready force.”

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San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2014

Pimentel: Well-deserved title of 'deporter in chief'

Among the worst calculations ever by President Barack Obama has been the one in which he imagined that increased deportations and border security would impress enough key Republicans. And then, the theory went, they'd skip hand in hand to immigration reform. It was a fool's errand. Years in, it should have become clear that the opposition was playing him like a fiddle — and not just on this issue. On the budget, he finally refused to knuckle under — because the price was repeal of his signature Affordable Care Act.

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New York Times - April 24, 2014

Blow: Lions to the Ballot Box

The time for complaining is at an end. Action must be taken. Accountability must be demanded. Muscle must be flexed. Power must be exercised. Ballots must be cast. It’s important to vote in presidential election years, to make sure that the leader of the free world is truly representative of the country. But presidential politics is only part of the political apparatus — the part furthest from most individuals. Much of the rest of the political power has a much lower center of gravity, playing itself out on the state and local level. In fact, the more local an election or ballot measure, the more powerful the individual votes, because the universe of all voters shrinks.

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New York Times - April 24, 2014

Justices Rule Child Pornography Restitution Is Too High

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside a $3.4 million award to a victim of child pornography who had sought restitution from a man convicted of viewing images of her. That figure was too much, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for a five-justice majority, returning the case to the lower courts to apply a new and vague legal standard to find a lower amount that is neither nominal nor too severe. The victim in the case said the majority’s approach was confusing and meant that she might never be compensated for her losses. The two dissents to the majority opinion would have taken more categorical approaches. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said that restitution was a worthy goal, but that the federal law at issue did not allow awards when many people had viewed the images.

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New York Times - April 24, 2014

Southerners Don’t Like Obamacare. They Also Don’t Want to Repeal It.

Despite strong dislike of President Obama’s handling of health care, a majority of people in three Southern states – Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina – would rather that Congress improve his signature health care law than repeal and replace it, according to a New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll. The poll also found that a majority of Kentucky residents – and a plurality in a fourth state, Arkansas — said they thought the health care marketplace in their state was working well, even as they expressed strong disapproval of the health care law. More than twice as many Kentuckians say their state exchange is working well than say it is not.

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The Hill - April 23, 2014

FEC backs bitcoins for campaigns

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Wednesday indicated support for a request to allow campaigns to accept bitcoins ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. The commission delayed a formal vote on a petition to be able to accept up to $100 worth of the money, but commissioners seemed optimistic that they could draft a compromise to allow a limited amount of contributions in the virtual currency. “I have serious concerns about allowing unlimited bitcoin political contributions,” said Vice Chairwoman Ann Ravel. The money, she added, “allows for anonymous and untraceable transactions, which would clearly undermine what is the most important, in my mind, purpose of campaign finance laws, and that is transparency and the disclosure of political spending. I am definitely unwilling to go that far.”

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The Hill - April 23, 2014

Study: Sales taxes took bite out of Amazon's sales

The online giant Amazon has seen its sales take a slide after states started charging sales tax on purchases from the company, according to a new study. The study, from three Ohio State researchers, found that Amazon got around 10 percent less business in five states – California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia – that installed a new sales tax on online purchases. That drop was even starker when it came to bigger purchases. Sales dropped roughly $16 percent on purchases over $150, and 24 percent on purchases over $300.

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CBS News - April 23, 2014

Gov. Cuomo Chooses Not To Take Texas Gov. Perry’s Bait On Job Outlook

Call it the Texas economic challenge. Governor Rick Perry is in New York to lure corporations to the “Lone Star State,” and decided to invite Gov. Andrew Cuomo to defend what he calls our unfriendly business climate. As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday, the showdown pits two presidential wannabes against each other. According to a recent Perry campaign ad, “New York is the most unfriendly state for business.” That’s Perry doing a Texas two-step, dancing into the city with a personal appeal and a slick ad campaign to wrangle New York businesses into relocating to Texas.

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Politico - April 23, 2014

Tom Steyer: I’m not the Koch brothers

Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer insisted Tuesday that he’s not the left’s version of the Koch brothers. “That is not something I embrace. I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us,” Steyer said in an interview with POLITICO and The Washington Post taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air on Sunday.

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Salon - April 23, 2014

Noam Chomsky was right: Why the Koch brothers are obscuring the real enemy

As the most reprehensible legacy in all of human history, slavery is a vital analogy for reasons beyond its explanatory force; we live in a world today where the corruption of our institutions is largely taken as axiomatic. (While the absence of real consequences for those most responsible for the Great Recession helped spark the Tea Party movement and the short-lived Occupy protests, it’s notable that these popular movements didn’t lead to any actual convictions.) And the complete absence of punishment for corruption and illegality tends to grow with time. Last week on “Democracy Now,” host Amy Goodman asked Matt Taibbi, perhaps the greatest reporter on Wall Street’s crimes in the modern era, which president was tougher on the denizens of Lower Manhattan, Bush Jr. or Obama. His answer was unequivocal: “Oh, Bush, hands down. And this is an important point to make, because if you go back to the early 2000s, think about all these high-profile cases: Adelphia, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen. All of these companies were swept up by the Bush Justice Department. [...] Fast-forward again to the next big crisis, and how many people have we got — have we actually put in jail? Zero.”

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KSAT - April 23, 2014

Army chief of staff issues warning on military draw down

He was there to award the purple heart to one of his soldiers, but it was clear that Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, was concerned about every soldier under his command. Speaking with reporters following ceremonies during which he presented the purple heart to Staff Sgt. Robert Drebenstedt, Odierno said that at the current rate of the military draw down the Army’s active duty ranks could shrink to 490,000 soldiers by the end of next year. And if the draw down goes beyond that to what some say could be as low as 420,000 he said the country could be in serious trouble.

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Huffington Post - April 23, 2014

After Record $5 Billion Pollution Settlement, Oil Company Still Has Friends On Capitol Hill

A joint fundraising committee controlled by Republican Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) received contributions exclusively from executives of the independent oil and gas company Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission. The McConnell Cornyn Victory Committee took in $49,600 from Anadarko executives and the company's political action committee from January through March of this year. The committee raised an additional $8,000 from Anadarko executives in October. Anadarko did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Copyright April 24, 2014, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved