News around the world
Texas wildfire destroys 800 homes
BASTROP, Texas — Firefighting crews started Wednesday to gain control of a wind-stoked blaze that has raged unchecked across parched Central Texas for days, leaving hundreds of charred properties in its wake and causing thousands of people to flee.
As the crisis unfolded, Gov. Rick Perry was faced with the decision to leave the state and participate in a GOP presidential debate or stay home and command operations to fight the disaster.
At least two people have died in the wildfire, which destroyed nearly 800 homes and blackened about 45 square miles in and around the city of Bastrop, near Austin.
Big oil: Boost in energy could create 1M jobs
WASHINGTON — Government policies to increase domestic energy production could create up to a million jobs over the next seven years, the oil industry said in a report issued a day before President Barack Obama delivers a major speech on jobs.
The American Petroleum Institute said that proposals to expand offshore oil drilling, boost production of natural gas in New York and other states and build a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline could boost the U.S. economy.
Taken together, the proposals could generate billions in new government revenue and help make the U.S. less dependent on foreign energy sources, said API president Jack Gerard.
The API, the oil industry’s largest lobbying group, is looking to influence the jobs debate amid a bleak employment report last week that showed no net job growth in August. President Barack Obama is set to deliver his speech on jobs Thursday to a joint session of Congress.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a clean-water advocacy group, called the API report misleading.
“It’s shameful that the oil and gas industry is seeking to horse-trade environmental regulations on the false premise that it will create jobs,” she said.
Deregulating oil and gas drilling won’t necessarily create jobs, Hauter said, but would increase oil industry profits and pose what she called an unacceptable risk for drinking water in New York and other states.
Debt panel members rake in money
WASHINGTON — The powerful new congressional panel assigned to tame the deficit will have to squeeze Medicare and Medicaid for any chance of success. But health care industries that depend on those programs have invested millions over the years to woo its members.
Doctors, drug makers, hospitals and health insurers have contributed $17 million since 1989 to the individual campaigns of lawmakers now on the debt supercommittee, a new analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics finds.
Health professionals — an industry category dominated by doctors — rank among the top 10 sources of campaign dollars for all but two of the 12 lawmakers.
The findings reinforce expectations that the panel may tinker with the government’s giant health care programs, but not revamp them.
2 Texans trade barbs in GOP presidential race
WASHINGTON — A Texas-sized rivalry is brewing in the Republican presidential contest.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul is calling Texas Gov. Rick Perry “Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader” for once worki
ng to help elect the Democrat. Perry’s team, in turn, is branding Paul a turncoat for once leaving the GOP.
The back-and-forth between two Texans, who never have been particularly close, could spill over into Wednesday’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., a memorial to the conservative who counseled fellow Republicans not to speak ill about one another.
So far, neither Paul nor Perry is heeding that advice.
ACLU files suit over mail ban
TOPEKA, Kan. — The American Civil Liberties Union and a Vermont publisher of a prison magazine are suing the Shawnee County Commission over a policy that bans inmates from receiving books and publications in the mail.
The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Topeka, also names Richard Kline, director of the county’s corrections department. It contends that the ban violates the inmates’ constitutional rights to free speech and other civil rights, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Shawnee County counselor Rich Eckert said the ACLU and Prison Legal News of Brattleboro, Vt., didn’t notify the county or seek permission to distribute the publication before the lawsuit was filed. “I don’t have a problem with their publication in the jail,” Eckert said.
The Shawnee County Jail’s website says no packages, newspapers, magazines, books or other personal property are to be mailed to the jail.
Doctors ask Kansas to back off abortion rules
TOPEKA, Kan. — Two physicians who sued over new state regulations targeting abortion providers asked Kansas health officials to scrap some of the requirements, which they argue are “medically unnecessary” and designed to put operations like theirs out of business.
Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Traci Nauser, a fellow suburban Kansas City doctor, submitted a statement ahead of a public hearing by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The regulations tell providers what drugs and equipment they must stock and set minimum temperature and sizes for procedure and recovery rooms.
Hodes and Nauser filed a federal lawsuit against the rules in June, just before the health department said their Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park would not be licensed to continue performing abortions. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the rules.
Kansas makes payment to Planned Parenthood
TOPEKA, Kan. — A Planned Parenthood official says Kansas has forwarded about $58,000 in federal funds, part of a larger amount that’s the subject of a lawsuit.
CEO Peter Brownlie told The Associated Press that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri received the money late last week, three days after a federal judge ordered the state to continue paying the group.
The funds help Planned Parenthood provide non-abortion services to low-income patients.
Legislators added a provision to this year’s state budget designed to prevent any of the funds from going to Planned Parenthood. The group sued, arguing it was being punished for advocating abortion rights.
A judge agreed and blocked the provision’s enforcement. The state appealed his ruling and had sought to avoid making payments while the appeal was pending.