Fire Marshal's Office: Panel had blast site access
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The State Fire Marshal's Office says a federal safety panel's investigators had access to the site of a Texas fertilizer plant blast that killed 15 people and injured about 200 others.
The chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board had asked for congressional help in obtaining evidence under the control of the state agency and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
However, in a statement issued Wednesday, the state agency said the CSB was given access to the scene, worked with other agencies during excavations and neighborhood surveys, and collected its own chemical samples with ATF assistance.
The statement says no evidence was destroyed or compromised.
In a statement Wednesday, CSB spokeswoman Hillary Cohen said the board has been denied access to the site since May 13.
Boy Scout leaders to vote on lifting gay ban
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) - The Boy Scouts of America has started its meeting in which members of its national council are to decide whether to change the group's long-standing ban on openly gay boys.
BSA is holding its annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, near its suburban Dallas headquarters. About 1,400 voting members on the council are expected to vote Thursday on a proposed resolution that would allow gay Scouts, while leaving in place a ban on gay leaders.
Discussion of the policy has split conservatives who denounce the proposal and gay-rights supporters who say they welcome the possible change but want the ban on adult leaders to be lifted as well.
About two dozen people calling on members to vote "no" stood outside the resort, while supporters of the change met across the street.
FORT HOOD SHOOTING
Fort Hood suspect seeks to fire Army attorneys
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - The Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage says he wants to represent himself at his upcoming trial.
Fort Hood officials said Wednesday that Maj. Nidal Hasan is seeking to sever ties with his three Army attorneys.
The judge, Col. Tara Osborn, is to consider his request at a hearing next week. She also delayed jury selection to June 5, about a week after it was scheduled to start.
Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted in the attack on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.
In 2011, Hasan cut ties with his previous lead attorney, John Galligan, a civilian who's a retired Army colonel. Galligan has never said why he stopped representing Hasan.
VETERANS PARADE-TRAIN CRASH
Float driver says train seemed still before crash
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) - The driver of a parade float struck by a train in a Texas crash that killed four military veterans told federal investigators that the oncoming train appeared to be stationary.
Documents released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board show that Dale Hayden told investigators he was focused on his left-side rearview mirror, looking for a bump in the intersection, as he crossed the tracks on Nov. 15.
As he looked through his right window, the oncoming train appeared to have stopped. He also said another parade truck had a loud train-like horn that made it difficult to tell if the train was blowing its horn.
NTSB said in a preliminary report days after the accident that the train was travelling about 62 mph at the time of the crash.
BABY DIES-LEFT IN CAR
Warrant: Mother thought she left baby at day care
DALLAS (AP) - A North Texas woman whose year-old daughter died after being left for hours in a car has told authorities she thought she dropped off the child earlier at a day care.
An arrest warrant reveals details of an interview police conducted with 42-year-old Vibha Marks. The Dallas Morning News reports (http://bit.ly/184I9NO) Wednesday that Marks told police she was certain she had left her daughter at the day care before driving to her teaching job at a Dallas elementary school.
A passer-by noticed the child in the vehicle Friday afternoon. Temperatures were in the upper 80s that day.
Marks has been charged with child abandonment. She posted a $50,000 bond and was released from the Dallas County jail Saturday.
An attorney for Marks was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Senate approves new Rio Grande university
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - State lawmakers have approved creating a new university in South Texas that is projected to serve more than 28,000 students and include a medical school.
The bill sent to Gov. Rick Perry on a unanimous Senate vote Wednesday night is the latest move on a plan that has enjoyed broad support. The University of Texas System approved the plan in December and pledged $100 million to the project.
The new university would merge Texas-Pan American in Edinburg and Texas-Brownsville. It has been informally dubbed the University for the Americas in the Rio Grande Valley.
Supporters say the new university, and most notably the medical school, are critically needed to serve the education and health care needs in the region along the Texas-Mexico border.
JUDICIAL BRIBERY SCANDAL
Ex-DA testifies in own defense in bribery trial
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - A former South Texas district attorney charged with helping a crooked judge has testified in his own defense.
Former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos (vee-yah-LOH'-bohs) was called to testify after federal prosecutors rested in his corruption trial. He told a federal jury in Brownsville that he didn't have the close relationship with Abel Limas that the former state district judge testified that they had.
Villalobos is the highest-profile target to stand trial in a FBI investigation into legal corruption involving Limas, who failed in his 2008 re-election bid. Limas has pleaded guilty to racketeering and awaits sentencing.
Villalobos is to continue his testimony Thursday.
Pastor sentenced to 2 years for online soliciting
MARSHALL, Texas (AP) - An East Texas pastor has been sentenced to two years in prison for an online chat from church with an alleged 14-year-old girl who turned out to be a Louisiana trooper.
Raymond Earl Cooper also received 10 years' probation during his sentencing Wednesday. He's the former minister for First Church of the Nazarene in Marshall. Cooper pleaded guilty Tuesday to online solicitation of a minor.
Prosecutors say Cooper used a church computer to solicit a person he thought was a girl from Lafayette, La.
The Marshall News Messenger (http://bit.ly/14SjIim) reports the indictment says Cooper in April 2012 sexted a person believed to be a minor and sexually exposed himself via webcam.
The married father of 4 portrayed himself as a 42-year-old man from Shreveport, La., and asked about the girl's sexual history.
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