BC-TX--Texas News Digest, TX

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Associated Press

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Texas news at 4:30 a.m. CST.

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TEXAS COURTHOUSE SHOOTING

KAUFMAN, Texas — Mark Hasse was a top-notch prosecutor, taking home boxes of documents to work on cases at night and on weekends, his former colleagues say. But he was gunned down while walking to his office, to the Kaufman County courthouse where he had prosecuted many cases the past three years — from a justice of the peace who stole county computers to those involved in organized crime. "He had an absolute passion for putting away bad guys. He enjoyed nothing better," Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland said, adding that Hasse knew the dangers of his job but readily accepted them. "You know, there is the potential for somebody bad to do something to you because they've done something bad to somebody else," McLelland said. By Danny Robbins.

AP photos, video, interactive.

COLUMBIA ANNIVERSARY-DON'T GIVE UP

WASHINGTON — A NASA top official wrestled with what he thought was a hypothetical question: What do you tell the astronauts of a doomed space shuttle Columbia? When the NASA official raised the question in 2003 just days before a re-entry accident over Texas killed seven astronauts, managers thought — wrongly — that Columbia's heat shield was fine. They told astronauts they weren't worried about launch damage. But after a managers meeting, mission operations chief Jon Harpold told flight director Wayne Hale that if something was wrong it was hopeless and maybe they shouldn't tell the crew. Hale wrote about the conversation 10 years later. He said NASA would have tried to save the crew had engineers realized the problem's true severity. Hale said the lesson from Columbia is: Don't give up. By Science Writer Seth Borenstein.

With glance and COLUMBIA ANNIVERSARY-BALLOONS — The North Texas university where Kalpana Chawla earned her master's degree in aerospace engineering will mark the 10th anniversary of her death as part of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew

TEXAS-PERRY-EDUCATION

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry is set to address the State Board of Education, which features eight new members after November's election. He will speak to the board's 15 members Friday morning. Discussing his priorities for the new legislative session this week, Perry said lawmakers should increase the number of public charter schools statewide. Current law caps licenses to operate charters in Texas at 215. Perry also said Texas should offer scholarships "that give students a choice, especially those who are locked into low-performing schools." Critics say that's code for a voucher system, which would allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools. Expanding "school choice" with vouchers has been championed by many leading Republicans in the Legislature, including Dan Patrick, head of the Senate Education Committee. By Will Weissert.

Eds: Will be updated after Perry's 10 a.m. CST appearance.

TEXAS-EDUCATION

AUSTIN, Texas — Top education leaders in the Texas Senate slammed a curriculum system used in 875 school districts across the state designed to aid teachers but which conservative activists say promotes anti-American lesson plans. Also, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick unveils a plan to better promote vocational and technical training in high school. By Will Weissert.

In other legislative news:

— TEXAS HOUSE-COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has announced committee assignments, clearing the way for hearings to begin.

— TEXAS-STANDARDIZED TESTING — The Education Committee has referred to the full Texas Senate a measure allowing local school districts to decide how much they want STAAR exam results to count toward high school students' grades.

— CAPITOL ALMANAC — Highlights from around the Texas Capitol.

PEOPLE-RANDY TRAVIS

SHERMAN, Texas — Randy Travis has pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in a case that began last summer when the naked country music star crashed his Pontiac Trans Am. Travis received a 180-day suspended jail sentence, 24 months of probation and a $2,000 fine. He was ordered to spend at least 30 days at an alcohol treatment facility, complete 100 hours of community service and have an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he operates while on probation. Travis, 53, entered the plea in a court in the North Texas city of Sherman. The misdemeanor was punishable by up to two years in jail and a $4,000 fine. By Jamie Stengle.

AP photos.

TEXAS EXECUTION-FAMILY ANGER

HOUSTON — Relatives of a slain Dallas County woman were en route to Huntsville this week to attend the execution of the convicted killer of their loved one when they were stunned to learn a judge halted the punishment. "This is outrageous," Randall Browning told The Associated Press. "Nobody is considering the victims in this." Kimberly McCarthy, 51, received a reprieve Tuesday about five hours before she was scheduled to become the first woman executed in the U.S. since 2010.

AP Photo.

BOY SCOUTS-GAYS

NEW YORK — The Irving, Texas-based Boy Scouts of America faces intensifying criticism from the left and right over a proposal to move away from a mandatory no-gays membership policy and allow troop sponsors to decide the matter for themselves. By National Writer David Crary.

Also:

— AIR FORCE SEX SCANDAL — An Air Force instructor at a San Antonio base has been sentenced to three months of hard labor, reduced rank and a bad-conduct discharge for his guilty plea to sexual impropriety with a trainee.

— TEXAS-FAMILY TERRORIZED — Investigators seek clues leading to at least four masked men who abducted a Houston-area man and took him to his home, where they terrorized his family during an attempted robbery.

— SOLDIER SLAIN-HICCUPS — A Fort Hood soldier has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, saying he shot his friend accidentally while trying to scare away his hiccups.

— VAN EXEL SON-TRIAL — A North Texas jury has found the 22-year-old son of former NBA player Nick Van Exel guilty of murder in the shooting death of a longtime friend.

— GIRL-BALLOON CHOKING — Authorities in South Texas say a 7-year-old girl who collapsed at her elementary school choked to death on a balloon.

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