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Jul 132013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DALLAS) Late Friday night, the Texas Senate gave final passage to a strict new law that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, require doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions take place in “surgical centers.”

Democrats call the law a backdoor ban on abortions and have vowed to take it to court. Republicans contend that the measure protects the health of women and babies.

A 19-11 vote in favor of the new abortion restrictions sends the measure to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, who has already said that he would sign the proposal into law.

Two weeks ago, Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis managed to delay the proposal with a 13-hour fillibuster. Planned Parenthood helped to organize a post-vote protest march and rally.

According to the Washington Post, just six of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics meet the new requirements, which means dozens will likely be closed. Clinics must meet the new standards by September 2014.

Texas Democrats say that they will continue to fight the legislation both in the courts as well as through public voting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 062013
 

Amina Munster/Getty Images(MARFA, Texas) — A 40-foot tall neon Playboy bunny erected just outside  the high desert town of  Marfa, Texas, has stirred controversy among West Texas residents, with some calling the sign a work of art and others declaring  it an eyesore and a marketing ploy.

The Texas Department of Transportation has ordered that Playboy’s roadside artwork, called “Playboy Marfa,” be removed on the grounds that Playboy did not have a Texas license for outdoor advertising, never submitted a specific permit application for the sign, and that, furthermore,  the location did not qualify for a permit,  according to a statement the agency released to ABC News.

Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap said it was not surprising that Playboy would try to promote its brand in a town long known as an art mecca, adding that perhaps Playboy’s was trying to create a new image for itself. Playboy’s website does refer to the company trying to “reimagine the iconic brand.”

“The exploitation of Playboy to try to tag on to Marfa seems to irritate a lot of people,” said Dunlap. “The Texas Department of Transportation is treading a thin line here. They decided it’s advertising, versus artwork, therefore, it falls into the category of signage.”

Playboy could not be reached for comment over the July 4 holiday weekend, but company representatives told the El Paso Times that Playboy had not violated any laws and would try to work with the Texas Department of Transportation to resolve its concerns. PR Consulting, which represents Playboy Enterprises, told the paper its legal counsel “was looking into the matter and hoped to resolve the issue satisfactorily and as quickly as possible.”

“Playboy Marfa” doesn’t stand alone in the pasture along Highway 90. Designed by New York artist Richard Phillips and Playboy’s creative director of special projects Neville Wakefield, it is part of a roadside installation that also includes a 1972 Dodge Charger, another American icon.

Dunlap said he suspected Playboy would fight against removing the sign.

“This is not the first time something like this happened,” Dunlap said. “Prada Marfa,” erected in 2005 on the same stretch of highway as “Playboy Marfa,” spoofed the luxury fashion house.

“Other artists come into town to set up shop. There is other artwork that’s outside city limits that is not permitted either. Personally, I don’t find the sign to be offensive.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 292013
 

ABC News(FORT WORTH, Texas) — The Democratic state senator who is leading the fight against significant new restrictions on abortions in Texas said Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans were hypocritical, claiming to support smaller government but actually trying to increase state intrusion in people’s lives.

Wendy Davis, the lawmaker who almost single-handedly overcame and outlasted the Republican majority in the state senate last week, is preparing for another battle on Monday. Armed with her new-found fame in Democratic circles in Texas and across the nation, Davis vowed to fight even harder.

“He’s awfully fond of talking the talk of small government,” Davis told ABC’s This Week, escalating an intense quarrel with Perry. “But this [anti-abortion legislation] is big government intrusion, there is no question about it.”

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday, Davis sat down with This Week inside the Stage West Theatre in Fort Worth, where she worked her way from being a waitress to a Harvard-educated lawyer to a heroine in the eyes of many Democrats.

She offered a window into the secrets of standing and talking for more than 11 straight hours during a legislative filibuster: her dusty running shoes (size 7 Mizuno, narrow); a catheter that allowed her to avoid bathroom breaks (“I came prepared,” she explained); and how she felt the spirit of her hero, the late Gov. Ann Richards, during her marathon session in the Capitol in Austin.

“I was going to wear just some little flat dress shoes. At the last minute, I was running out of my apartment and I thought maybe I might need something with a little more support, so I grabbed these on the way out the door,” Davis said, pointing to her sneakers that have gained Internet fame. “These are actually my running shoes. They’re dusty from the trail around Ladybird Lake.”

In an expansive interview about her life, the state of Texas politics and her future, Davis said she was heartened by the outpouring of support from women and Democrats, which catapulted her from local legislator to one of her party’s prospective rising stars. Asked if she planned to run for governor in 2014, she smiled.

Perry, who has singled out Davis for sharp criticism for her efforts to stop legislation to make Texas one of the most restrictive states in the country to get an abortion, is calling the state senate back Monday for another 30-day special session to try passing the bill.

The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion clinics to match the requirements of surgical centers. Critics of the legislation say it could force the closure of all but five of the state’s 42 abortion clinics.

“I just refuse to say I believe it will happen. I’m an eternal optimist,” Davis said. “I believe in the power of democracy and I’m going to fight with every fiber I have to keep it from passing.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jun 162013
 

ABC News(BAYTOWN, Texas) — A Texas mother’s determination to keep her family out of danger drove her to battle an alleged carjacker until he fled from her minivan — only to be struck by her vehicle as she tried to “stop him so he didn’t hurt anybody else,” the woman said.

While Dorothy Baker and her 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons were shopping Friday at a CVS in Baytown, Texas, a man identified as Ismael Martinez allegedly hid out in her unlocked van, police said.

When the family got back into the car, Baker said Martinez “popped up out of the backseat and said that if I didn’t want my kids to get hurt, that I would do exactly what he said.”

Martinez, 54, allegedly pulled a knife on Baker while she was driving and demanded she stop at an ATM for money, she said.

When she refused, Martinez allegedly became violent, she said.

Baker said she fought back, refusing to compromise the safety of her children.

“She’s got a cut that goes across her chest, and she grabbed the knife and he bit her hand,” Baker’s husband, Charles Flugence said.

“I took my fist and I hit him in the face, and I told him to get out of my car,” Baker said.

Baker intentionally drove her van into a telephone pole in hopes of sending Martinez through the front windshield, according to the Baytown Police Department crime report.

Police said she managed to dial 911 while she grappled with the suspect in hopes that a dispatcher might hear what was going on in the car and find a way to help, ABC station KTRK-TV in Houston reported.

“I thought, ‘If you swerve and hit the pole, he’s not wearing a seatbelt, he’ll go through the windshield or at least hit his head, and you can stop him. You can do something to make sure that he doesn’t hurt your kids,’” Baker told KTRK-TV. “That’s all I was thinking of really, was just to get him away from my kids.”

Police said Martinez eventually jumped out of the van and tried to flee. But before Baker knew it, she had run her car into him.

“I didn’t mean to run him over,” she said. “I was just trying to stop him so he didn’t hurt anybody else.”
Martinez was airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston with serious injuries after the alleged attack. He is expected to face felony charges once he is discharged.

Meanwhile, Baytown residents have rallied around Baker’s bravery.

“She was trying to protect herself and her kids. I would do the same thing,” resident Joyce Sparks said.
But Baker said she is just glad her family is safe.

“You don’t come after people with kids,” she said. “I told him he messed with the wrong witch.”

 

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 292013
 

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — Texas prosecutors say one Houston neighborhood that’s been ravaged by drug dealing and violence will be a bit safer after a judge’s ruling barred 16 members of the Bloods, Crips and Most Wanted gangs from entering the area.

Prosecutors in Houston’s Harris County decided to take a civil approach to the criminal problem under Texas’s public nuisance laws. They had to prove to a judge that the individuals were gang members, who had criminal records showing that they were nuisances, according to the Harris County Attorney’s office.

The judge ruled in their favor Tuesday, granting an injunction against the 16 gang members.

“This enables us to get injunctions against gang members who are causing nuisances,” said Laura Cahill, senior assistant county attorney, who handled the case.

“This is a way to clean up certain areas where there has been a lot of gang activity, particularly drug activity. It has gotten so bad the area was called no-man’s land because of the drug dealers out there dealing all the time,” Cahill said.

The county attorney’s office presented testimony and evidence in a civil trial Tuesday, including testimony from five Houston police officers.

None of the 16 defendants showed up to court or were represented by attorneys. They have not actively participated in the suit, and four are currently in jail, Cahill said.

Filing civil actions against gang members proved difficult because they are often transient, she said.

“We had an original list of 28 (gang members), and there are probably more than that, but we had hard a time tracking them down to serve them with a lawsuit,” she said.

The judge’s ruling Wednesday means that the 16 individuals are prohibited from entering the “Safety Zone,” created in the Brays Oaks neighborhood of Houston, about a mile-square area in the southwest part of the city. The neighborhood, which has two daycare centers and an elementary school, is heavily populated and has been inundated by gang violence, Cahill said.

The county also used public nuisance laws in order to sue two Brays Oaks convenience stores where gang members were hanging out during the day, Cahill said. The county then worked with the landowners of the properties to put in place more stringent security measures.

Cahill said that a civil injunction banning gang members has happened only once before in Harris County.

Lead county attorney Vince Ryan told ABC News station KTRK-TV in Houston that the injunction would help the community become a safer place for residents.

“These gangs are committing numerous criminal offenses in this area, close to a school, in residential areas and close to residential areas,” Ryan told KTRK. “This is to create a safety zone so that people in the neighborhood can feel more comfortable and also give officers probable cause for stopping these gang members.”

Following the judge’s ruling, any of the 16 gang members found in the Brays Oaks Safety Zone could face one year of jail time and a $4,000 fine.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio