PLANT EXPLOSION-STATE FUNDING
State awards $4.8M to West recovery efforts
WEST, Texas (AP) - State officials say an additional $4.8 million in disaster assistance will be provided to the Central Texas community of West as it continues to rebuild from the devastating fertilizer plant explosion last year that killed 15.
The office of Governor Rick Perry announced Wednesday that the funding comes at the request last week by West officials for additional state money.
It will be used for work on water treatment and storage facilities, infrastructure repairs and other needs.
The state now has given West about $8 million in total recovery aid. The Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier this year gave $20 million to help rebuild two schools destroyed in the April 17th, 2013 blast.
The explosion that was so intense it registered as a small earthquake and left a 93-foot crater.
Davis has successful neck surgery, campaign says
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis' campaign says she has undergone successful neck surgery to relieve pain in her shoulder and right arm.
Spokesman Zac Petkanas said Wednesday that doctors in Davis' hometown of Fort Worth removed bone spurs and degenerative discs that were creating compression on the nerves in her neck.
Petkanas called the surgery routine and said the state senator is "resting comfortably and will be spending the night at home."
He said Davis will return to a normal campaign schedule following the Easter holiday.
Davis campaigned Tuesday in Dallas, where she criticized Republican opponent and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and his pre-kindergarten plan at a meeting of retired Texas teachers.
Shannon touts Cruz endorsement in US Senate race
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon is touting the endorsement of Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in Shannon's race for the Republican nomination for Oklahoma's open U.S. Senate seat.
Shannon campaign consultant Trebor Worthen told The Associated Press Wednesday that Cruz has endorsed Shannon and is set to appear at a rally in Tulsa along with former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah.
Palin and Lee endorsed Shannon previously.
Shannon is a Republican from Lawton and is among seven GOP candidates in the race to replace Senator Tom Coburn for the last two years of his term. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and former state Senator Randy Brogdon are also in the race as are three Democrats and an independent.
Condemned Dallas killer gets go-ahead for appeal
HOUSTON (AP) - A federal appeals court is allowing the convicted killer of an off-duty Dallas police officer to move forward with an appeal that contends his trial attorneys failed to provide evidence of a troubled childhood that could have swayed jurors from sending him to death row.
Lawyers for Licho Escamilla argued to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that details of his abusive upbringing weren't disclosed until after his trial. If successful, the appeal could result in a new punishment trial for the 31-year-old Escamilla. He was condemned for the 2001 fatal shooting of Christopher James, who was working security at a Dallas club.
Escamilla's 2002 trial was marked by him throwing a pitcher of water toward the jury and hitting and kicking people as the judge read his sentence.
Houston health care enrollment exceeds forecast
HOUSTON (AP) - More than 177,000 Houston residents have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace, far exceeding expectations for the city.
According to an email obtained by The Associated Press, as of April 5th 177,825 Houston residents enrolled for insurance under President Barack Obama's signature law. The email was written by Marjorie McColl Petty, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Dallas.
The expectation had been that 138,000 Houston residents would sign up. Petty told Houston officials the numbers reflect a successful 13-county regional effort.
These are the first enrollment figures for Texas, where one in four are uninsured, the highest rate in the nation. The state is considered crucial to the Affordable Care Act's overall success, but enrollment had lagged in February.
Houston moves toward innovative recycling plan
HOUSTON (AP) - A woeful recycling rate is prompting Houston officials to consider building an innovative $100 million plant that would sort and separate mixed residential trash.
The city this week requested proposals from firms for its One Bin For All initiative. The project would allow people to mix recyclables, discarded food, yard clippings and other waste in a single container.
The processing plant, run by a private company, would then sort the contents. The Houston Chronicle reports officials hope to nearly quadruple the city's recycling rate. They aim to have taxpayers spend no more on waste disposal than they already do.
Houston now sends 81 percent of its waste to landfills, leading to significant disposal costs. Officials want to cut that amount to 45 percent and then eventually to 25 percent.
Once-conjoined twins leave Texas hospital
DALLAS (AP) - Conjoined twins separated last summer have been released from the Dallas hospital that's been their home since birth.
The 9-month-old boys born joined at the abdomen were released Wednesday morning from Medical City Children's Hospital. They will now go to a local inpatient rehabilitation center.
Owen and Emmett Ezell were separated at the hospital last August. The babies shared a liver and intestines.
Their mother, Jenni Ezell, says the boys are doing "really well." She says they're sitting up on their own and "flirt with all the girls that come in."
Officials say the boys are no longer being fed intravenously but continue to be fed through tubes in their abdomens. They are also breathing on their own with the help of a trachea breathing tube.
Paul McCartney plans June performance in Lubbock
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Lubbock and Texas Tech University officials have announced that Paul McCartney will perform in the West Texas city June 14th.
Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson said at a news conference Wednesday announcing the concert that McCartney reached out to ask to play in Buddy Holly's hometown.
It will be McCartney's first appearance in Lubbock. He has said Holly influenced the music of The Beatles and McCartney's own solo work.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter's concert will be held at United Spirit Arena on the university's campus.
A news release from the university says the Lubbock show will open the U.S. leg of McCartney's "Out There" world tour. He'll play the American Airlines Center in Dallas two nights later.
Officials say Lubbock and the university worked together to bring the show to the city.
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