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Dan Patrick via YouTube

AUSTIN — Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has never been shy about buttonholing elected officials, but it’s seldom been easier since Texas’ new lieutenant governor set up regular conference calls for select business leaders and donors to advise him on issues before the Legislature.

In Texas, where the wall between big money and government is like the low cattle fencing that pens the state’s ranchland, new Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s new invitation-only calls have provided an especially direct connection between the state’s business elite and the Legislature’s agenda.

“Why wouldn’t I want to learn from and communicate with the job creators? Why would we want to pass legislation that might impact our economy in a negative way?” said Patrick, who schedules bills for action, explaining the calls.

NEW ORLEANS — Federal prosecutors say a Texas shrimping company has pleaded guilty to relabeling 35,000 pounds of hard-to-sell Mexican shrimp as wild-caught American crustaceans.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s office said in a news release that Garcia Shrimp Co., of Brownsville, Texas, admitted Thursday to a violation of the century-old federal Lacey Act.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators learned several hours before a provocative cartoon contest in Texas that a man under investigation for extremist activities might show up and alerted local authorities there, but had no indication that he planned to attack the event, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.

The information about Elton Simpson was developed about three hours before the contest, which the FBI had already identified as a potential target for violence because it involved cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Simpson and his roommate were shot dead before they were able to kill anyone.

Simpson, previously convicted as part of a terrorism-related investigation, had come under new federal scrutiny in recent months related to alarming online statements about the Islamic State. When the FBI learned that he could be heading toward the event, the agency sent an intelligence bulletin to police in Garland, including a picture and other information, “even though we didn't have reason to believe that he was going to attack the event. In fact, we didn’t have reason to believe that he had left Phoenix,” Comey said.

Whole Foods, the upscale grocery store chain famous for its bright displays of produce and emphasis on organic foods, plans to launch a new chain of lower-priced stores aimed at millennial shoppers.

The yet-to-be-named stores will "feature a modern streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection," the company says in a statement.

Hankswiki / CC

AUSTIN — The Texas Senate has approved letting pro sport franchises conduct charitable raffles that include cash prizes. Half of the proceeds from the raffles would go to charity and the rest awarded to the winners.

The bill now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott for his consideration.

But even if Abbott signs it into law, the question must still go before Texas voters statewide to amend the state Constitution.

Twitter

AUSTIN — Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is publicly getting behind a religious objections bill that is moving fast after the U.S. Supreme Court heard historic arguments over gay marriage.

Abbott tweeted Wednesday that he hopes to receive a Republican-backed measure that would allow clergy members to refuse officiating marriages that violate their beliefs. That Abbott supports the bill isn’t surprising. But it marks the first time he has publicly backed one of a number of proposals that opponents consider anti-gay.

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DALLAS — When an outspoken opponent of radical Islam sought to mock Muhammad in Texas, home to one of the nation’s largest Islamic communities, local Muslims were encouraged to ignore her, and they did.

No one protested when Pamela Geller’s cartoon contest attracted about 200 people to suburban Dallas Sunday, even though some Muslims in Texas were already feeling aggrieved and fearful over growing anti-Islamic sentiment in the state.

Then, two men with attack rifles drove in from Arizona and opened fire on officers guarding the conference center in Garland. Both were shot dead, an officer was shot in the leg, and from the other side of the world, the Islamic State group made an unproven claim of responsibility.

Former House Speaker Jim Wright Dies At Age 92

May 6, 2015
U.S. House of Representatives

DALLAS — Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, the longtime Texas Democrat who became the first House speaker in history to be driven out of office in midterm, has died. He was 92.

The World War II veteran and author, often praised for his eloquence and oratorical skills, was living in a nursing home when he died early Wednesday morning, according to the Harveson and Cole funeral home in Fort Worth. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Wright represented a Fort Worth-area congressional district for 34 years, beginning with his election in 1954. He was the Democratic majority leader in the House for a decade, rising to the speakership in January 1987, to replace Tip O’Neill.

Although three House speakers had resigned before Wright stepped down in 1989, they all served during the 19th century — and none before him had been under fire and facing judgment in the House for breaking its ethics rules.

The first thing you notice when you get on Willie Nelson's tour bus is a pungent aroma. Parked outside a gigantic casino and performance venue in Thackerville, Okla., Nelson offers NPR's David Greene a joint, which Greene declines. Nelson says he understands.

The self-declared Islamic State is taking credit for a thwarted attack on a contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad in Garland, Texas.

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