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AUSTIN, Texas — Call it much ado about Algebra II. The math class of exponents and imaginary numbers — and a potential predictor of a student's success in college and in life — has become a key point of contention as the Texas Legislature grapples with overhauling high school graduation requirements statewide. Several bills before lawmakers would tweak graduation rules to give students more options in career training and vocational skills, thus aiming to help them land well-paying technical jobs that don't necessarily require college degrees. But that could mean no longer requiring Algebra II for all students, something opponents say will ultimately produce future Texans who are less prepared for the workforce of the future — not more so. By Will Weissert.
AUSTIN, Texas — A group promoting legislation to legalize casino gambling as dialing down its ambitions for this session of the Texas Legislature. The Austin American-Statesman reports Let Texans Decide had cast its lot with efforts for full-blown legalization of casino gambling of Texas.
TEMPERATURE RECORDS-WEST TEXAS
LUBBOCK, Texas — Record heat has visited West Texas as three cities posted new highs for the Ides of March, weather forecasters said Saturday. Dalhart, Amarillo and Lubbock all notched new highs Friday. Just less than three weeks ago, parts of West Texas were digging out from record snowfalls after a blizzard howled across the region. By Betsy Blaney.
WASHINGTON — Where will President Barack Obama put his presidential library? Four years from the end of the Obama presidency, Chicago and Honolulu are ramping up major campaigns to build the center that will house the records of America's 44th president. In Illinois and Hawaii, the states Obama calls home, universities and community groups are drafting plans and using a mix of public and private efforts to persuade Obama to choose their site for what will be a monument to his historic presidency and an instrument to continue his legacy. In December, top officials from the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, traveled to Dallas and met with archivists at The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University. By Josh Lederman.
OXON HILL, Md. — Only months after President Barack Obama's re-election, an annual gathering of conservatives served as an audition for Republicans looking to court conservative activists and raise their profile, all with an eye toward greater political ambitions. It may seem early, but the activists who attended the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference are already picking favorites in what could be a crowded Republican presidential primary in 2016. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush held out the prospect of the nation's greatest century if the GOP were to evolve into the party of "inclusion and acceptance." Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who excited many conservatives before withdrawing from the 2012 presidential contest, questioned the conservative credentials of the GOP's last two presidential nominees. By Ken Thomas and Steve Peoples.
AP photos, video.
Eds: Straw poll results expected 4 p.m. CDT.
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — The first female Marine Corps general in charge of Parris Island's basic training says she's confident women in the Corps will be able to handle combat. Brig. Gen. Loretta Reynolds says the Pentagon's lifting of the combat exclusion against women means commanders will be able to use the talents of both men and women, wherever they may need them. Reynolds was the first female Marine to command one of the Corps' bases in a combat zone. She was in charge of Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan which supported about 20,000 Marines. Now, the Marine Corps has entrusted her with training all its women and nearly half its men. One trainee is Jennifer Martinez of Greenville, Texas. The 18-year-old Marine recruit says boot camp tests everyone's combat worthiness. By Susanne M. Schafer.
MOSCOW — A Soyuz space capsule carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts has landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan, returning the three men to Earth after a 144-day mission to the International Space Station. NASA's Kevin Ford and Russians Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin were scheduled to return on Friday, but bad weather delayed the landing until Saturday. Space officials said Ford would return to Houston, while the Russians head back to the space training center near Moscow. By Lynn Berry.
— TEXAS-TESTING SCANDAL — A third El Paso-area school district has acknowledged wrongdoing in a scandal over cheating to meet federal accountability measures.
— MEDICAL FRAUD-IRAN — A federal grand jury has accused a South Texas physician and his lawyer wife of conspiring to commit health care fraud and illegally sending more than a $1 million of proceeds to Iran.
AUSTIN, Texas — Natalie Maines is starting out nervous on stage, almost 10 years to the day that the Dixie Chicks spitfire slammed then-President George W. Bush and forever changed the fate and fortunes of the country superstars. On this night at the South by Southwest music festival Maines, now 38 and a solo artist for the first time in her career, is candid about the past and guarded about the future. Ask whether the Dixie Chicks will ever record new music again, she curls in her chair with tense energy and declines to predict. By Paul J. Weber.
AUSTIN, Texas — Green Day isn't talking about the recent rocky past, but they're playing like the old days. An upbeat Billie Joe Armstrong whipped the Grammy-winning punk trio through an ear-splitting two-hour show Friday night at the South by Southwest Music Festival, returning to the stage for only the second time since Armstrong emerged from a rehab stint that caused the band to postpone an arena tour. By Paul J. Weber.
AUSTIN, Texas — Former University of Texas women's track coach Bev Kearney has filed race and gender discrimination complaints against the school with federal and state officials, the first step toward her pursuing a lawsuit. Kearney, who is black, filed complaints Tuesday with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission. By law, those agencies must have the case for 180 days before she can sue. By Jim Vertuno.