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NEW AND UPDATED THIS DIGEST:
— Gulf Oil Spill-Indictment.
— Cancer Funding-Texas.
— Student Shoots Self-Arrest.
— Homeland Security Spending.
— NASA Adrift.
— Fort Hood Shooting.
— Texas Execution-Appeal.
— Texas-School Finance Trial.
— Houston Police-Federal Probe.
— Teen Slaying-Escape.
— Obit-Longest-Serving Mayor.
— Mexico-Deportee Flights.
APNEWSBREAK: GULF OIL SPILL-RESTORATION
HOUSTON — Days before a newly formed council focuses on long-term Gulf of Mexico cleanup, a report released to The Associated Press shows that one federal agency has committed more than a half-billion dollars to the region in the past two years, nearly one-fifth of it on projects directly linked to recovery from the 2010 oil spill. By Ramit Plushnick Masti
— GULF OIL SPILL-WITNESS — A BP PLC employee has asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge's ruling that he must submit to a medical exam to determine whether he is fit to be questioned under oath in civil litigation spawned by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. By Michael Kunzelman.
— GULF OIL SPILL-INDICTMENT — A new judge was assigned Wednesday to the case against two BP supervisors charged in the deaths of 11 workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in 2010, after the previous judge disclosed his wife owns stock in one of the contractors. By Michael Kunzelman.
AUSTIN, Texas — The chief executive of Texas' embattled $3 billion cancer-fighting agency on Wednesday defended his job while explaining to a state board how a private company improperly received $11 million in the second questionable award to embarrass the agency this year. Bill Gimson, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas' first and only executive director, took blame for Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics receiving the lucrative taxpayer-funded grant even though the company's proposal was never scrutinized. He chalked it up as an honest mistake and said there was no evidence that agency staff stood to personally benefit financially from Peloton. But one member of the agency's governing board — made up entirely of political appointees of Gov. Rick Perry and others — requested that Gimson face a job review. By Paul J. Weber.
STUDENT SHOOTS SELF-ARREST
HOUSTON — A student taken into custody for his own protection Wednesday at his Houston-area high school shot himself with a hidden gun while handcuffed inside a patrol car, authorities said. The student, a senior whose name was not released, was conscious when taken to a hospital and was in critical but stable condition Wednesday evening. Police say deputies searched the 17-year-old before placing him in the back of the patrol car and are investigating how the gun was not discovered. By Juan A. Lozano.
HOUSTON — Jack Brooks hounded government bureaucrats, drafted President Richard Nixon's articles of impeachment and supported civil rights bills in a congressional career spanning 42 years. But for most of the country the Southeast Texas politician is frozen in a photograph, standing over the left shoulder of Jacqueline Kennedy as Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president. Brooks, who died Tuesday at age 89, was in the Dallas motorcade Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Hours later he stood behind the grief-stricken widow in the cabin of Air Force One as Johnson took the oath of office. By Michael Graczyk.
HOMELAND SECURITY SPENDING
WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department paid for an underwater robot in a Midwest city with no major rivers or lakes nearby, a hog catcher in rural Texas and a fish tank in a small Texas town, according to a new congressional report highlighting what it described as wasteful spending of tax money intended for counterterrorism purposes. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said in his 54-page report that while much of the spending for the department's Urban Area Security Initiative appeared to be allowed under the program's rules, it was still inappropriate in an age of budget austerity and as the federal government faces a $16 trillion national debt. By Alicia A. Caldwell.
WASHINGTON — NASA, the agency that epitomized the "Right Stuff," seems lost in space and doesn't have a clear sense of where it is going, an independent panel of science and engineering experts said in a stinging report Wednesday. The one place the White House wants to send astronauts — an asteroid — doesn't seem to be getting the engines firing at NASA, they said. By Seth Borenstein.
YEAR IN SPACE
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The two men who will spend an entire year together aboard the International Space Station are already bracing for a challenging mission. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said Wednesday it will be like spending a whole year at the office. And you never get to leave. By Marcia Dunn.
FORT HOOD SHOOTING
DALLAS — The new judge taking over the Fort Hood shooting case will likely confront many of the questions that faced her predecessor, including one that helped lead to his removal: Should the suspect be allowed to keep his beard in court? The shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than two dozen wounded happened more than three years ago, but the case has had numerous delays, including over the beard issue. The previous judge, Col. Gregory Gross, was ousted Monday by the military appeals court, which raised questions about whether Gross appeared impartial. By Nomaan Merchant.
LIVINGSTON, Texas — A woman on Texas death row won a new trial Wednesday from a divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the slaying of a 3-month-old suburban Austin boy she was baby-sitting 18 years ago. Five judges on the court joined in the ruling ordering a new trial for Cathy Lynn Henderson, three dissented and one didn't participate. Henderson, who turns 56 later this month, got within days of lethal injection in 2007 before the same court halted the punishment for the early 1994 death of Brandon Baugh. The child's skull was bashed in and he was found buried in a wine cooler box miles from home as Henderson fled the state. By Michael Graczyk.
TEXAS-SCHOOL FINANCE TRIAL
AUSTIN, Texas — The more than 600 Texas school districts suing the state over funding wrapped up their case Wednesday, with a pair of witnesses saying that low-income students and those requiring additional English-language instruction are the most likely to fall through the cracks amid deep budget cuts. The case has hinged on the fact that Texas has seen a major spike in the number of minority students and those from poor families over the past decade. A booming Hispanic population has meant a dramatic rise in the number of students who need extra instruction in English. Districts say such students cost more to educate, but the state Legislature voted in 2011 to cut $5.4 billion in funding to public schools. That prompted a series of lawsuits from districts educating about three-fourths of the state's more than 5 million students.
HOUSTON POLICE-FEDERAL PROBE
HOUSTON — The U.S. Justice Department is investigating six cases over the last two years in which Houston police officers fatally shot or allegedly used excessive force against unarmed individuals, police officials said Wednesday. One case involves the September shooting death of Brian Claunch, 45, a mentally ill one-armed, one-legged man in a wheelchair. Officers responding to a disturbance at the group home where Claunch lived said he threatened them with what turned out to be a ballpoint pen. By Juan A. Lozano.
DALLAS — Law enforcement officers failed to follow standard procedures for escorting prisoners when a capital murder suspect grabbed a deputy's service revolver and escaped from a North Texas hospital, the sheriff said Wednesday. Franklin B. Davis stole the deputy's gun and fled Tuesday night while at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. He was tracked to a van nearby and surrendered peacefully after a two-hour standoff, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said. The deputy was not injured in the incident. By Terry Wallace.
RICHMOND, Texas — Hilmar Moore, who has been mayor of the Southeast Texas town of Richmond since 1949, has died at age 92. Moore died Tuesday night after a lengthy illness, his wife, Evelyn Moore, said Wednesday. Hilmar Moore was the nation's longest-serving mayor of uninterrupted tenure, according to the website for the city of Richmond, which is about 25 miles southwest of Houston.
Breast cancer patients taking the drug tamoxifen can cut their chances of having the disease come back or kill them if they stay on the pills for 10 years instead of five years as doctors recommend now, a major study finds. The results could change treatment, especially for younger women. The findings are a surprise because earlier research suggested that taking the hormone-blocking drug for longer than five years didn't help and might even be harmful. By Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione.
PHILADELPHIA — Seven school districts committed to working with charter schools to improve student achievement will split about $25 million in grants from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, officials announced Wednesday. The funding is designed to deepen the collaborations among educators in Philadelphia; Boston; Denver; New Orleans; New York; Hartford, Conn.; and Houston. By Kathy Matheson.
— BUSH HOSPITALIZED — Former President George H.W. Bush is undergoing more physical therapy as part of treatment for a painful cough that has forced him to stay in a Houston hospital for almost two weeks. AP Photos.
— MEXICO-DEPORTEE FLIGHTS — The U.S. and Mexican governments have completed a two-month program to fly deportees deep into Mexico, and the U.S. is looking to the new administration of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on whether to continue the effort aimed at relieving overwhelmed Mexican border cities.
— TEACHER-STUDENTS-BULLY — A former South Texas kindergarten teacher who allegedly encouraged students to hit a boy accused of being a bully has been indicted.
— LONGVIEW-ROOMMATE BURNED — Police say an East Texas man has been charged with using lighter fluid to set his sleeping roommate on fire after an argument.
— FACE TRANSPLANT — A North Texas man who in 2011 became the nation's first full face transplant recipient has thanked a service group for helping him get a guide dog.
— DONKEYS-BOW AND ARROW — Police say a third donkey in a North Texas pasture has died after being found shot with an arrow.
— POLICE OFFICER ARRESTED — An officer who was chief of staff to Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead has been demoted following his arrest on a driving while intoxicated charge.
— CHILD PREDATOR-LAREDO — A South Texas man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for being an online child predator and meeting his victim in Laredo.
— SMUGGLED MONEY-DETERGENT — Border agents in Texas are trying to determine whether $52,000 in undeclared cash hidden in a detergent box was laundered money.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel could become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy when the award is presented on Saturday night. He certainly has the statistics, plays in a tough enough conference and has a signature win — all things Heisman voters typically look for when picking a winner. The only question is whether Johnny Football's first-year status will keep the redshirt freshman quarterback from taking home the hardware. One person who hopes it doesn't is Adrian Peterson, the only freshman to finish second in voting. By Kristie Rieken.