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Texas Supreme Court hears abortion ban challenge


The Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week in a case that could decide whether medical exceptions to the state’s abortion ban are written clearly enough to protect pregnant women who face serious health risks, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The 22 plaintiffs include women who contracted sepsis while waiting to terminate a nonviable pregnancy, and women who traveled hundreds of miles for abortions of a nonviable twin in order to protect the healthy fetus. An attorney for the plaintiffs argued the vague language in the law has left doctors unable or unwilling to perform abortions.

An attorney for the state argued the law is clear and that doctors are responsible for denying abortions allowed during medical emergencies.

“Some of these women appear to have fallen within the exception but their doctors still said no. That’s not the fault of the law, that’s a decision of the doctor,” Beth Klusmann, assistant solicitor general, said.

An opinion in the case is likely to take several months.

Border car chases led to 74 deaths in two years

At least 74 people have been killed and 189 injured during high-speed car chases near the U.S.-Mexico border since Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a multi-billion dollar border security initiative, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit agency.

The group analyzed data obtained from the Texas Department of Public Safety from March 2021, when Operation Lone Star began, through July 2023. It indicates more than two-thirds of vehicle pursuits conducted in the state during that period occurred in the 60 counties involved in Operation Lone Star.

“Operation Lone Star puts undue pressure on law enforcement to chase cars, sometimes with very little basis, resulting in deaths of drivers, passengers, and even bystanders,” said Norma Herrera, a Texas-based consultant to Human Rights Watch. “Our review of the cases over 29 months identified at least 7 bystanders killed in these car crashes, including a 7-year-old girl out to get ice cream with her grandmother.”

Col. Steve McCraw, DPS director, in an interview with The New York Times, said the department relies on its own troopers to decide when it is appropriate to give chase, and that a trooper who did not use appropriate caution would be held accountable.

Food banks under extreme pressure

A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that 15.5% of Texas households are “food insecure,” meaning they lack consistent access to health and affordable food – the second-highest rate in the nation. Food banks across the state are warning those challenges could get worse, the Texas Tribune reported.

About 3.3 million Texans receive assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, with the number of older Texans getting SNAP benefits rising. From January 2020 through October 2023, the number of Texans aged 65 and older rose 28%, while the increase was 19% for those aged 60-64.

Operators of food banks, which are nonprofit organizations, blame rising housing costs during the pandemic for the increase in demand for its services.

“The rising cost of housing is the problem,” said Teresa Jackson, founder and CEO of Sharing Life, a Mesquite charity that offers food, clothing, medicine, and educational programs. Sharing Life distributes food to more than 100 food pantries around southeast Dallas.

Adding to the distress is that thousands of Texans are waiting for months to receive new food stamp benefits, according to the Statesman. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is supposed to process applications within 30 days but is only hitting that target about 75% of the time. That leaves about 138,000 unprocessed applicants who must wait longer for benefits.

Food stamp recipients are required to work unless they are elderly, disabled or caring for children. Nearly 80% of Texas food stamp recipients are in families with children.

Real Christmas trees boost state economy

More than four million real Christmas trees are sold in Texas each year, providing nearly $400 million in direct contributions to the state’s economy, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. The Texas Christmas tree industry employs nearly 4,000 people with a payroll of more than $97 million.

“The process of going as a family to pick out a tree is a fun activity that supports rural economies across the state,” Aaron Stottlemeyer, with the service, said.

Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, with the first recorded tree planting in Texas occurring in Jasper in 1935. Texas ranks second in the South in Christmas tree production.

First-ever sighting in Texas of rare bird

Bird watchers recently flocked to a state park in hopes of seeing a little bird only rarely seen in the United States and for the first time in Texas. The gray-collared becard is a tropical bird that lives in Central America. Texas State Parks posted a “Rare Bird Alert” that alerted bird watchers of the sighting at Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, The News reported.

The bird has only been seen in the United States twice before, both times in Arizona.

Meanwhile, scorpions are in strong supply

Texans are reporting an invasion of scorpions in their homes, according to numerous online reports. Wizzie Brown with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service told the Houston Chronicle that these distant cousins to spiders often move indoors with changing weather conditions, such as rainfall or dropping temperatures.

The striped bark scorpion is the most common and one of the most venomous in Texas. They measure about 3/8 inches in length and are yellowish tan in color. While venomous, scorpions found in Texas are not considered lethal.

Brown advises sealing cracks and crevices on the outside of homes, not stacking firewood or other items against the house, and trimming trees and shrubs so they don’t touch or hang over the roofline.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com


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