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Texas asks Appeals Court to uphold Voter Id law

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Supporters and opponents of a Texas law requiring specific forms of photo identification for voters faced close questioning in a federal appeals court on whether the law was meant to discriminate against minorities.


Questions Tuesday from a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also raised issues of how best to remedy any flaws in the law. One panel member noted that the Texas Legislature is in session and has several bills that could broaden the available types of voter ID.


Texas officials asked the court to undo a federal judge's ruling striking the law.


The U.S. Justice Department and others want the judge's decision upheld. Texas says the law does not cause an unconstitutional burden on minorities.


The panel gave no indication when it would rule.

Jasper Sheriff releases top-ten-most-wanted list
JASPER (from our media partnership with KJAS.com and Rayburn Broadcasting) --  By Steve Stewart -- 

Jasper County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Matt Ortego has released the department’s list of their top 10 most wanted suspects. Those named in the list are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but currently they have warrants for their arrest in connection to alleged crimes:

Dustin Wayne Ross, 30, white male, wanted for theft of property.

Kimberlee Annett Blankenship, 54, white female, wanted for burglary of a habitation

Matthew Joseph Lout, 31, white male, wanted for evading arrest or detention with a vehicle

Lonnie B. Burns, 27, white male, wanted for interference with an emergency call

Korbin Tomas Killen, 18, white male, wanted for theft of a firearm

Lasonta Leshan Wafer, 20, black female, wanted for possession of a controlled substance

Shanterra Rawls, 25, black female, wanted for possession of a controlled substance

Thomas Taylor Ernst, 37, white male, wanted for possession of a controlled substance

Carlton James Myer, 41, black male, wanted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon

Brett Tyler Hall, 26, white male, wanted for forgery of a financial instrument

If you have any information about the location of any of those named in the list, you're asked to call the Jasper County Sheriff's Department at 409-384-5417, or your local law enforcement agency.

Texas teacher is National Teacher of the Year

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- A high school English teacher in Texas who works with students facing poverty and traumas related to their immigration to the United States on Monday was named the 2015 National Teacher of the Year.


Shanna Peeples from Amarillo was selected for the honor by the Council of Chief State School Officers. She is the first Texas teacher to win the award since 1957.


Peeples works at Palo Duro High, where about 85 percent of students live below the poverty line and where more refugee children are enrolled than in any other high school in the 31,000-student district.


She will be recognized by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday.


Peeples said a childhood that exposed her to alcoholism and domestic violence has provided her with empathy for students from Burma, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq and Cuba, many of whom are survivors of emotional or physical trauma in their war-torn homelands. That can make trust difficult, she said.


"That's what helped me as a teacher probably more than anything, that I have that connection with them, unfortunately," Peeples said. "You can't really learn when you're scared."


Texas has led the U.S. in refugee resettlements for the last four years. Most are settled in large cities, but immigrant populations also are thriving in more remote areas, including Amarillo.


The 50-year-old mother of three grown children, whose teachers when she was young urged her to write to find a way out of her pain and isolation, began teaching after working as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist at the Amarillo Globe-News, where she covered education. She's taught for 12 years, the past seven at Palo Duro.


Peeples, who was nominated by a Palo Duro colleague and won campus, district, region and state teacher of the year honors, teaches AP English and serves as the English department chair as well as an instructional coach for other teachers.


One former student knows there are plenty of selfless teachers in Texas and across the country. But Peeples has something intangible, said Viet Tran, a college junior who believes he wouldn't be at Harvard studying neurobiology on a scholarship without Peeples' help.


"The reason for her being a special teacher is she is able to bridge a very wide gap of both student achievement and student experience," said the 21-year-old junior who came to the U.S. in 1998 from Vietnam. "She teaches kids who have never been in a classroom before and students who want to go to Ivy League schools."


On occasion, she has spoken with refugee parents who wanted their children to get jobs so they could contribute financially to the family, rather than attend school.


"She tries to help the parents in families understand that their (child's) future is really in education," Tran said.


Peeples is a "brilliant" teacher who is animated and captivating, Palo Duro principal Sandy Whitlow said.


"She continually tries to improve herself as a teacher," Whitlow said. "She is like an onion - there are so many layers to her."


Peeples was selected from among four finalists named in January. The other three teachers hail from Alabama, Hawaii and Indiana. Peeples will spend a year traveling the nation to represent educators and advocate on behalf of teachers.


"I hope to remind people that public school teachers are amazing, dedicated, hard-working, smart and gifted people," she said. "There are great things (at schools across the country) that happen every day. It's not flashy or dramatic."

Texas professor fails his entire class

GALVESTON  -- A Texas professor finally reaches his boiling point. After his class spent the semester being rude and cheating, he failed them.

All of them. 

Professor Irwin Horwitz at Texas A&M Galveston sent a fiery email to his strategic management students - calling them a disgrace to the school.

He calls it a semester of disrespect, backstabbing, lying and cheating. He even recalls students telling him to "chill out."

Horwitz says he has “never failed a class, it is very rare that I fail students, sometimes learning incorporates tough love." The University is not backing the professor's actions. The department head will take over the class until the end of the semester.r. 

Officers douse fires, assess damage following Baltimore rioting

BALTIMORE (AP) — National Guard troops fanned out through the city, shield-bearing police officers blocked the streets and firefighters doused still-simmering blazes early Tuesday as a growing area of Baltimore shuddered from riots following the funeral of a black man who died in police custody.

The violence that started in West Baltimore on Monday afternoon — within a mile of where Freddie Gray, 25, was arrested and placed into a police van earlier this month — had by midnight spread to East Baltimore and neighborhoods close to downtown and near the baseball stadium. The streets were calm Tuesday morning.

Monday's rioting was one of the most volatile outbreaks of violence prompted by a police-involved death since the days of protests that followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.

At least 15 officers were hurt, including six who were hospitalized, police said. There were 144 vehicle fires, 15 structure fires and nearly 200 arrests, according to numbers provided Tuesday morning by Howard Libit, a spokesman for the mayor's office.

Aerial footage Tuesday morning from Baltimore station WJZ-TV showed a firefighter spraying the burnt out shell of a large building as an American flag fluttered nearby on an untouched building.

State and local authorities pledged to restore order and calm to Baltimore, but quickly found themselves responding to questions about whether their initial responses had been adequate.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was asked why she waited hours to ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, while the governor himself hinted she should have come to him earlier.

"We were all in the command center in the second floor of the State House in constant communication, and we were trying to get in touch with the mayor for quite some time," Gov. Larry Hogan told a Monday evening news conference. "She finally made that call, and we immediately took action."

Asked if the mayor should have called for help sooner, however, Hogan replied that he didn't want to question what Baltimore officials were doing: "They're all under tremendous stress. We're all on one team."

Rawlings-Blake said officials believed they had gotten the unrest that had erupted over the weekend under control "and I think it would have been inappropriate to bring in the National Guard when we had it under control."

But later on, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts made it clear events had become unmanageable. "They just outnumbered us and outflanked us," Batts said. "We needed to have more resources out there."

Batts said authorities had had a "very trying and disappointing day."

Police certainly had their work cut out for them: The rioters set police cars and buildings on fire in several neighborhoods, looted a mall and liquor stores and threw rocks at police with riot gear who responded occasionally with pepper spray.

"I understand anger, but what we're seeing isn't anger," Rawlings-Blake said. "It's disruption of a community. The same community they say they care about, they're destroying. You can't have it both ways."

Gov. Hogan was temporarily moving his office to Baltimore on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the governor said Hogan would be visiting sites around the city and planned to work out of state offices in downtown Baltimore with cabinet members and senior staffers.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in her first day on the job, said she would send Justice Department officials to the city in coming days. A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said, and Baltimore public schools announced they would be closed Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, said up to 5,000 troops would be available for Baltimore's streets.

"We are going to be out in massive force, and that just means basically that we are going to be patrolling the streets and out to ensure that we are protecting property," Singh said at a news conference Monday night.

Singh said they will be acting at the direction of Baltimore police.

Col. William Pallozzi, the superintendent of the state police, said a request for up to 500 additional law enforcement personnel in Maryland had been sent. Pallozzi added that the state is putting out a request for up to 5,000 more law enforcement personnel from around the mid-Atlantic region.

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and about 200 others, including ministers, tried unsuccessfully to quell the violence at one point Monday night, marching arm-in-arm through a neighborhood littered with broken glass, flattened aluminum cans and other debris. As they got close to a line of police officers, the marchers went down on their knees. They then rose to their feet and walked until they were face-to-face with the police officers in a tight formation and wearing riot gear.

But the violence continued, with looters later setting a liquor store on fire and throwing cinder blocks at fire trucks as firefighters labored to put out the blazes.

Monday's riot was the latest flare-up over the death of Gray and came amid a national debate over police use of force following the high-profile deaths of several black men in encounters with police — from the Brown death in Ferguson to the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Gray was black. Police have declined to specify the races of the six officers involved in his arrest, all of whom have been suspended with pay while they are under investigation.

While they are angry about what happened to Gray, his family said riots are not the answer.

"I think the violence is wrong," Gray's twin sister, Fredericka Gray, said late Monday. "I don't like it at all."

The attorney for Gray's family, Billy Murphy, said the family had hoped to organize a peace march later in the week.

Gray was arrested on April 12 after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride. Police have acknowledged he should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, but they have not said how he suffered a serious spine injury. He died April 19.

___

Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.

Rioting prompts state of emergency in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — Rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos Monday, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers hours after thousands mourned the man who died from a severe spinal injury he suffered in police custody.

Stay with KFDM and click here for the latest on the rioting from Sinclair station WBFF IN Baltimore.

The governor declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to restore order. A weeklong, daily curfew was imposed beginning Tuesday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the mayor said. At least 15 officers were hurt, and some two dozen people were arrested. Two officers remained hospitalized, police said.

Officers wearing helmets and wielding shields occasionally used pepper spray to keep the rioters back. For the most part, though, they relied on line formations to keep protesters at bay.

Monday's riot was the latest flare-up over the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, whose fatal encounter with officers came amid the national debate over police use of force, especially when black suspects are involved. Gray was African-American. Police have declined to specify the races of the six officers involved in his arrest, all of whom have been suspended with pay while they are under investigation.

Emergency officials were constantly thwarted as they tried to restore calm. Firefighters trying to put out a blaze at a CVS store were hindered by someone who sliced holes in a hose connected to a fire hydrant, spraying water all over the street and nearby buildings.

The smell of burned rubber wafted in the air in one neighborhood where youths were looting a liquor store. Police stood still nearby as people drank looted alcohol. Glass and trash littered the streets, and small fires were scattered about. One person from a church tried to shout something from a megaphone as two cars burned.

 "Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs, who in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for, tearing down businesses, tearing down and destroying property, things that we know will impact our community for years," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a lifelong resident of the city.

Gray's family was shocked by the violence and was lying low; instead, they hoped to organize a peace march later in the week, said family attorney Billy Murphy. He said they did not know the riot was going to happen and urged calm.

"They don't want this movement nationally to be marred by violence," he said. "It makes no sense."

Police urged parents to locate their children and bring them home. Many of those on the streets appeared to be African-American youths, wearing backpacks and khaki pants that are a part of many public school uniforms.

The riot broke out just as high school let out, and at a key city bus depot for student commuters around Mondawmin Mall, a shopping area northwest of downtown Baltimore. It shifted about a mile away later to the heart of an older shopping district and near where Gray first encountered police. Both commercial areas are in African-American neighborhoods.

Later in the day, people began looting clothing and other items from stores at the mall, which became unprotected as police moved away from the area. About three dozen officers returned, trying to arrest looters but driving many away by firing pellet guns and rubber bullets.

Downtown Baltimore, the Inner Harbor tourist attractions and the city's baseball and football stadiums are nearly 4 miles away. While the violence had not yet reached City Hall and the Camden Yards area, the Orioles canceled Monday's game for safety precautions.

Many who had never met Gray gathered earlier in the day in a Baltimore church to bid him farewell and press for more accountability among law enforcement.

The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners. But even the funeral could not ease mounting tensions.

Police said in a news release sent while the funeral was underway that the department had received a "credible threat" that three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to "take out" law enforcement officers.

A small group of mourners started lining up about two hours ahead of Monday's funeral. Placed atop Gray's body was a white pillow with a screened picture of him. A projector aimed at two screens on the walls showed the words "Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter."

The service lasted nearly two hours, with dignitaries in attendance including former Maryland representative and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume and current Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes.

Erica Garner, 24, the daughter of Eric Garner, attended Gray's funeral. She said she came after seeing video of Gray's arrest, which she said reminded her of her father's shouts that he could not breathe when he was being arrested on a New York City street. Garner died during the confrontation.

"It's like there is no accountability, no justice," she said. "It's like we're back in the '50s, back in the Martin Luther King days. When is our day to be free going to come?"

With the Rev. Jesse Jackson sitting behind him, the Rev. Jamal Bryant gave a rousing and spirited eulogy for Freddie Gray, a message that received a standing ovation from the crowded church.

Bryant said Gray's death would spur further protests, and he urged those in the audience to join.

"Freddie's death is not in vain," Bryant said. "After this day, we're going to keep on marching. After this day, we're going to keep demanding justice."

Gray was arrested after making eye contact with officers and then running away, police said. He was held down, handcuffed and loaded into a van without a seat belt. Leg cuffs were put on him when he became irate inside.

He asked for medical help several times even before being put in the van, but paramedics were not called until after a 30-minute ride. Police have acknowledged he should have received medical attention on the spot where he was arrested, but they have not said how his spine was injured.

___ Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.

Daredevil to walk on top of 400-foot-high, spinning Ferris wheel

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — In the days leading up to one of his craziest stunts ever, tightrope walker Nik Wallenda has done the following: drop his kid off at school. Paint windowsills. Mow the lawn.


"It's not like I'm preparing for the end of my life," laughs the 36-year-old Sarasota, Florida, resident. "I'm a father, a husband and a homeowner."


One with a highly unusual, risky job. Born into a famous family of daredevils, Wallenda has traversed a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and in between skyscrapers in Chicago.


On Wednesday, Wallenda will walk — untethered — atop the 400-foot high Orlando Eye, the city's new, flashy observation Ferris wheel.


As it spins.


He won't use a balancing pole and won't have a safety net. The walk will be broadcast live on NBC's "Today."


"As far as events for me, fairly stressful and demanding. I guess there's more of a comfort zone on a wire," he said.


Wallenda will board the giant Ferris wheel like any normal spectator, taking a passenger capsule to the top. He'll then have to climb out of the capsule and down a ladder, he said, then walk on the outer rim as it spins. Wallenda estimated that the rim is about six inches wide. The walk could take 3 to 5 minutes and he said he must avoid parts of the Ferris wheel as it rotates.


He said that unless there's a "torrential downpour" he will perform the stunt as planned.


"I'm prepared to walk on it, expecting it to be damp or moist, it's just something I'm gonna have to face," Wallenda said during a news conference Monday. "My actual concern with the dampness is not the actual walking part. It's actually getting to the point where walking it, because my hands have to grab onto those ladders and work my way there. I don't want to slip on the way there."


Wallenda, who is married with three children, doesn't take his events lightly. He prays, thinks about death and practices rigorously while coldly calculating risks.


His great-grandfather, family patriarch Karl Wallenda, died in a fall during a stunt in 1978 in Puerto Rico. Two other family members also died decades ago while performing.


Being a daredevil performance artist is in Wallenda's blood. Wire walking is his specialty, and in recent years, his talents and scary stunts have been televised.


Last year, Wallenda walked on two wires between Chicago skyscrapers, at one point blindfolded. He didn't use a safety harness or net.


In 2013, Wallenda successfully walked a tightrope stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. That walk was televised by the Discovery Channel. There was no safety net and Wallenda didn't use a tether.


In June 2012, Wallenda was the first person to walk over the brink of Niagara Falls. Other daredevils have crossed the water farther downstream but no one had walked a wire of the river since 1896. He did that walk with a tether because a TV network requested it for safety.


Wallenda said last week that he hopes he is an inspiration for others. People don't need to risk their lives, he said, but they should push themselves to do better, be greater.


"I think people become very complacent these days," he said. "I've always been a strong believer in pushing myself in everything I can do. Be a better husband, father and person in general. I hope that what I do inspires people to step out of their comfort zone and do greater things."

____

Tamara Lush reported from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Power is restored to Jasper through Lake Rayburn Dam station

JASPER ( via our media partnership with KJAS.com and Rayburn Broadcasting Company) --  After about 12 hours without electricity, power was restored in Jasper at about 6:00 Monday evening. City of Jasper electrical superintendent Danny Wade says the energy is coming from the Sam Rayburn Dam.

The lights went out across the entire area at about 6:00 Monday morning after powerful thunderstorms passed across Deep East Texas. According to Wade, the wind blew a tree down on top of the 138,000 volt power line owned and operated by Entergy Inc. between Jasper and Newton.

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