A&M refuses to share records for animals in lab testing




San Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle

Associated Press

AUSTIN – Backed by a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas A&M University is refusing to divulge information about dozens of animals used in lab testing.

At least 40 people have requested daily care logs and health records of cats and dogs used in research. But a recent attorney general’s opinion maintains veterinarian-patient privilege and allows the university to withhold the records, presenting a unique roadblock and a “terrible precedent” that other Texas universities might follow, animal rights activists said.

“Almost every other state that has a veterinarian-patient statute says it does not apply to those working with the state,” said Jeremy Beckham, head of the Beagle Freedom Project, a campaign attempting to acquire animal research records at universities across the country.

Without individual care logs, it is impossible to know how invasive procedures are, said Beckham, who added that he is considering a lawsuit to attempt to overturn the AG opinion.
“The fact that they’re being so secretive doesn’t bode well,” Beckham said.

A&M officials last week declined to comment on the testing.

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Prized lands await public


San Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle

Superintendent James Rice spends each day maintaining 3,757 acres of Hill Country land northwest of San Antonio in hopes that it will eventually be open to the public.

He is the only employee at the Albert and Bessie Kronkosky State Natural Area, so that means an average day includes everything from filing paperwork to stomping through brush to catch a glimpse of the rare birds and plants that fill the property near Pipe Creek in Bandera County.

“I’m the superintendent here, and that sounds all big and grandiose, but I’m the only employee,” he said with a laugh.

In 2011, the property was donated by the Kronkosky Family Estate to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but it remains closed because of the lack of funding needed to build the roads and other infrastructure necessary to open it for public use.

But all that could change in 2017, when Parks and Wildlife asks the Legislature for additional funding to begin the design process for the area.1024x1024

Rice, 59, and a group of volunteers — mostly retired nature lovers — spend hours each day surveying and cataloging the various species of salamanders, plants and birds that call the area home.

There have been at least 100 birds cataloged, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the tiny black-capped vireo.

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Jefferson Davis statue vandalized at UT

UntitledUntitledSan Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle 

AUSTIN — Hours after University of Texas crews removed red spray paint reading “Black Lives Matter” from a Jefferson Davis monument, the school’s president commissioned a task force to make recommendations about whether to remove the controversial statue.
The prominently displayed monument of the Confederate president has been under renewed scrutiny after a gunman killed nine members of a historic black church in South Carolina last week, prompting a national bipartisan push to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of that state’s capitol.

“We do understand that diversity is one of the key parts of our university culture,” Gregory Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at UT, said at a press conference in front of the Davis statue on Tuesday. “We want to make sure that we strike the right balance and do the right things the right way.”

So far, the university’s Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly have both passed resolutions supporting the removal of the statue.

The statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston were also defaced on the campus just after a vigil held Monday night in honor of the nine people who died in the South Carolina shooting.

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Alamo board to run the shrine of Texas liberty

UntitledUntitledSan Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN – A high-profile plan to outsource operations of Texas’ most famous landmark has fallen apart after only two bidders applied.

Both of the submitted proposals were deemed not viable.

Alamo Director Becky Dinnin told the San Antonio Express-News on Friday that the General Land Office was instead charging the four-year-old Alamo Endowment Board to run the shrine beginning July 11.

“We always had a backup plan of the endowment board as management,” Dinnin said.

The board was revamped by Land Commissioner George P. Bush in March to raise money for the preservation of the mission. The board includes six big names, including business billionaire Red McCombs and University of Texas Regent Gene Powell, both of San Antonio.

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Foster care deaths prompt legislative changes

UntitledSan Antonio Express-News & Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — An alarming number of deaths of children in foster care last year sparked legislative change this session, but watchdogs argue that those measures didn’t go far enough.

There are 17,000 children in foster care in the state.

An interim House committee met this year over the cases of 10 children who died from abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2013, up from two deaths the previous year. In 2014, three died in foster care.

The committee offered recommendations to the Legislature after it found that inadequate resources and a limited number of workers were affecting how much time each worker could spend with a child.

But lawmakers fell short when it came to finding ways to reduce caseloads for Child Protective Services caseworkers that could give them necessary one-on-one time with children.

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Taylor’s Triumph

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 11.32.19 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 11.31.50 PMSan Antonio Express-News (w/ Josh Baugh and Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje)

Ivy Taylor secured a spot Saturday in the annals of San Antonio history, becoming the first African-American elected mayor here.

Appointed interim mayor last summer, Taylor defeated former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the runoff election. The former lawmaker couldn’t overcome Taylor, despite raising more than twice the campaign contributions of her opponent in one of the most vitriolic local elections this city has witnessed.

“Do you realize we have defeated a political machine?” Taylor said in her victory speech. “The work starts on Monday at City Hall. We come together now as a city.”

Taylor said, “I thank the lord” for her victory as supporters could be heard saying, “praise God, praise God.”

Despite entering the mayoral race late and trailing in fundraising efforts, Taylor leveraged strong North Side support and the power of incumbency — albeit appointed — and sailed to victory on the conservative vote. Her supporters appear to have looked past a public record that shows Taylor’s Democratic leanings.

The mayor hired a Republican strategy company to manage her campaign. But she appealed to conservative voters, in part, because of her 2013 opposition of the city’s controversial bolstered nondiscrimination ordinance, which gave basic protections to the LGBT community.

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