13-Year-Old Boy Kills Nine While Driving Truck In Texas

In this file photo, a Bryan Police Department officer maintains a perimeter near the scene of a shooting at Kent Moore Cabinets on April 8, 2021, in Bryan. Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images/AFP

 

A 13-year-old boy was driving a pickup truck that collided with a van carrying a college golf team in west Texas, killing nine people, officials said Thursday.

Six members of the New Mexico-based University of the Southwest golf team were killed in Tuesday night’s crash along with their coach, according to police.

The 13-year-old boy and his 38-year-old father who was riding in the pickup truck also died in the accident, which occurred near Andrews, Texas.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Dodge 2500 pickup veered into the oncoming lane, colliding head-on with the van.
Both vehicles caught fire.

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Bruce Landsberg, the vice-chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, was quoted by KWES TV in Odessa, Texas as saying the minor was behind the wheel of the pickup truck at the time of the accident.

The 13-year-old was violating Texas law. A resident may obtain a learner’s permit in the state beginning at the age of 15 which allows them to drive with a licensed adult over 21.

Landsberg was also quoted by KWES TV as saying the pickup’s left front tire appears to have blown out before the crash, which occurred with both vehicles traveling at high speed.

Two University of the Southwest students, both Canadians, are in hospital in critical condition.

AFP

Eight Killed As Crowd Rushes Stage At Texas Rap Concert

Houston police chief Troy Finner speaks as Chief of the Houston Fire Department Sam Peña (2r), Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner (L) and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (R) listen, at a press conference outside of the Wyndham Houston Hotel near NRG Park in Houston, Texas on November 6, 2021, the day after a concert accident killed 8 people. François Picard / AFP

 

Authorities in Texas opened a criminal investigation Saturday into a tragedy in which the crowd at a huge Travis Scott rap concert surged toward the stage in a crush that killed eight people and sent dozens to the hospital.

Around 50,000 people were in the audience at Houston’s NRG Park Friday night when the crowd started pushing toward the stage as Scott was performing, triggering chaotic scenes.

“People were being pushed, people were being trampled, and then as I fought my way out of there, I saw people on the ground,” Logan Morris, a Dallas native who was at the show, told AFP.

Raul Marquez, 24, said he saw a lot of drinking and drug use in the crowd.

“And they got hot and just dancing and it all caved in and just, they couldn’t breathe, and passed out left and right,” he said.

“Some people didn’t care and just stomped on them or ignored them. It was intense,” Marquez said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters Saturday afternoon that the crush left eight people dead, from ages 14 to 27, with one person’s age unknown. The chaos also resulted in 25 people being transported to the hospital, including 13 who were still there.

Turner said that authorities are looking at video footage, talking to witnesses, concert organizers and people who were hospitalized.

“This is a very, very active investigation, and we will probably be at it for quite some time to determine what exactly happened,” he said.

The criminal investigation will involve both homicide and narcotics detectives, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner told reporters.

Houston is known for staging high-profile events, but the city had never experienced anything “of this magnitude that any of us can recall,” Turner added.

More than 300 people were treated on the scene for minor injuries in the first night of the two-day Astroworld Festival, which Scott helped organize, authorities said.

Scott halted his act several times when he saw fans in distress near the stage.

Scott ‘Absolutely Devastated’

Survivors described chaotic scenes of people squeezed up against one another with many struggling to breathe.

Gavyn Flores, 18, said he was standing on the edge of the crowd near a barricade and could not move, for hours on end. He said he tried to hoist people over that wall.

“People were trying to get out, but you can’t move. So there kind of wasn’t a point of trying to get out, because they couldn’t. But if they could, we were trying to help them get thrown over,” Flores told AFP.

“I am absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” Scott tweeted Saturday. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival.”

More than 520 police officers and 750 security guards were on hand for the festival.

Finner discouraged speculation about rumors that a concertgoer had injected other attendees with drugs. However, he confirmed that one security officer who was restraining an individual felt a prick in his neck before passing out. He was administered NARCAN, used to treat opioid overdoses, and medical staff noted a mark similar to an injection site on his neck.

‘Some Type of Cardiac Arrest’

Houston police said the tragedy, which began escalating around 9:30 pm local time (0230 GMT Saturday), unfolded quickly.

“Over the course of just a few minutes, suddenly we had several people down on the ground experience some type of cardiac arrest,” assistant police chief Larry Satterwhite said.

Videos shared on social media showed paramedics resuscitating unconscious fans in the audience as the concert continued.

Astroworld organizers canceled the rest of the festival, which had been scheduled to continue on Saturday.

Other footage on social media showed scores of people rushing the gates at NRG park, with security unable to contain the flow.

Several people could be seen falling over, bringing down the metal detectors at the arena entrance.

Scott launched the Astroworld music festival in 2018.

The 29-year-old rapper, a Houston native who has a child with celebrity socialite Kylie Jenner, made his breakthrough in 2013 and has had six Grammy nominations.

Other performers scheduled to play at the festival over the weekend included the rappers Chief Keef and 21 Savage, as well as the Australian rock band Tame Impala.

During Scott’s headline set late Friday, he was joined onstage by Canadian rap superstar Drake.

US Justice Dept Asks Supreme Court To Block Texas Abortion Law

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.  AFP

 

US President Joe Biden’s administration, in the latest move in the battle over reproductive rights, asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a Texas law that bans most abortions in the state.

The Texas law is “clearly unconstitutional” and violates the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which enshrined a woman’s legal right to an abortion, the Justice Department said.

Allowing the Texas law to remain in force would “perpetuate the ongoing irreparable injury to the thousands of Texas women who are being denied their constitutional rights,” the department said in its request to the nation’s highest court.

The Justice Department filing is the latest legal maneuver in the fight over the controversial Texas law known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which bans abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Calling it “flagrantly unconstitutional,” US District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction earlier this month halting enforcement of the Texas law, which took effect on September 1.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Pitman said in a blistering decision.

Days later, however, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Texas law pending a full hearing in December.

In its filing on Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to vacate the appeals court decision.

The conservative-leaning Supreme Court last month cited procedural issues when it decided by a 5-4 vote against intervening to block the Texas law, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

It did not rule on the merits of the case brought by abortion providers.

 ‘Texas Heartbeat Act’ 

The “Texas Heartbeat Act” allows members of the public to sue doctors who perform abortions, or anyone who helps facilitate them, once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, which usually occurs at around six weeks.

They can be rewarded with $10,000 for initiating cases that lead to prosecution, prompting charges that the law encourages people to act as vigilantes.

The Texas law is part of a broader conservative drive to restrict abortions across the United States that has prompted a public backlash.

Laws restricting abortion have been passed in other Republican-led states but were struck down by the courts because they violated Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is typically around 22 to 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court is to hear a challenge on December 1 to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

It will be the first abortion case argued before the court since the nomination of three justices by former Republican President Donald Trump, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority on the panel.

Advocates of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy have called on Congress to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law to protect it from any possible reversal by the Supreme Court.

A bill to that effect was adopted recently in the Democratic majority House of Representatives but has no chance of passing the Senate, where Republicans have enough votes to block it.

 

450,000 Homes In Texas Without Power As Storm Nicholas Weakens

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 14: Debris and damaged road construction are left after Tropical Storm Nicholas moved through the area on September 14, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP

 

Tropical storm Nicholas weakened as it moved inland Tuesday, lashing Texas after flooding coastal towns with dangerous storm surges in the southern US state and leaving nearly half a million homes without power.

Nicholas barreled ashore overnight and raked the coastline as a Category One hurricane, and then quickly set its sights on Houston, Texas’s largest city.

Electricity provider CenterPoint reported more than 450,000 customers in the area were without power early Tuesday, although that number had dropped below 380,000 by late morning.

Other than widespread outages, the city of 2.3 million people largely dodged a bullet.

“This storm could have been a lot worse for the city of Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at an emergency operations meeting, noting there were no recorded storm-related deaths in the area.

“I think we fared fairly well,” he added.

Parts of Houston were devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Perhaps mindful of the damage four years earlier, Turner put the city on high alert Monday, erecting barricades, activating an emergency management office, closing the Houston ship channel at its busy port, and warning residents to take extra safety precautions.

Some 400 flights in and out of Houston were cancelled, but the city’s airports were set to resume full service later Tuesday, Turner said.

As of 10:00 am (1500 GMT), the storm’s maximum sustained winds had dipped to 45 miles (75 kilometers) per hour, with higher gusts, and was expected to dump five to 10 inches (125-250 millimeters) of rain over the Texas coast and Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said.

However, the NHC warned that even as Nicholas was forecast to downgrade to a tropical depression by Tuesday night, there could be isolated instances of 20 inches of rainfall in parts of southern Louisiana.

“Life-threatening flash floods (are) expected across portions of the Deep South during the next couple of days,” the NHC reported, adding that urbanized metropolitan areas were also at risk.

At Surfside Beach south of Houston, Nicholas blew off roofs and sent a storm surge through town, knocking out power to the community.

“We took a pretty strong hit,” Mayor Gregg Bisso told AFP.

“We are cleaning up in order to reopen closed roads,” he said, adding: “We don’t let anyone in unless you are a resident.”

Videos shared on social media showed vicious winds — in one clip, a Citgo gas station roof tips over — and lashing rain as the storm moved up the coast towards Houston and beyond.

The NHC also issued a storm surge warning for much of the Gulf coast, meaning “there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline.”

State Of Emergency

Late Monday, President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.

Texas is no stranger to hurricanes, but scientists warn that climate change is making the storms more powerful, posing an increasing risk to coastal communities.

Coastlines are already suffering from flooding, which has been amplified by rising sea levels.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott had urged residents to take precautions and “remain vigilant” in the face of the severe weather.

On Tuesday, he said emergency shelters had been set up for residents who might be displaced by Nicholas.

AFP

US Supreme Court Refuses To Block Texas Law Banning Most Abortions

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 01: A view of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. A new Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday. (Photo by Drew Angerer via AFP)

 

 

 

The US Supreme Court handed a major victory to abortion opponents late Wednesday, denying an emergency request to block a new law effectively banning most abortions in the southern state of Texas.

The court, which had received the emergency request from abortion rights advocates on Monday, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, which went into effect 24 hours earlier, but cited “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” for leaving it in place while the court battle continues.

The decision was reached with a narrow majority of five justices in favor, three of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump, who cemented a conservative-leaning 6-3 majority on the nine-member panel during his time in office.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a moderate conservative, like the three liberal justices, indicated that he would have blocked the “unprecedented” law, pending a substantive review.

More bluntly, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court’s order “stunning,” saying her colleagues had “opted to bury their head in the sand” over a “flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

Senate Bill 8, or SB8, signed in May by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually in the sixth week of pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant — and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

The only exemption is if there is a danger to the woman’s health.

While similar laws have passed in a dozen Republican-led conservative states, all had been stymied in the courts.

The Supreme Court declined to rule on the request from rights groups and abortion providers to block the law by midnight September 1.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: People make signs as they join others for a reproductive rights rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 01, 2021 in Downtown Brooklyn in New York City. NOW-NYC and Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund organized a rally for reproductive rights after a Texas law that has been dubbed the “Heartbeat Bill” went into effect.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago  via AFP)

 

The other states that have sought to enact restrictions on abortion in the early stages of pregnancy have been barred from doing so by rulings that cited protections granted in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legally enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.

That decision guaranteed the right to an abortion in the US so long as the fetus is not viable outside the womb, which is usually the case until the 22nd to 24th week of pregnancy.

But Texas’ law is different from those of other states because it allows the public — rather than state officials such as prosecutors or health departments — to bring private civil suits to enforce the ban.

For procedural reasons, this provision makes it more difficult for federal courts to intervene, and they have so far refused to take up appeals against the law.

The Supreme Court has now followed suit, while noting that other challenges to the law could be filed, including in state courts.

Judge Dismisses Vaccine Lawsuit From Texas Hospital Workers

Logo of a court gavel

 

 

A US judge has thrown out a lawsuit by more than 100 employees of one of Texas’s largest hospitals, who sued after being required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

They argued Houston Methodist Hospital’s demand was illegal so long as the available shots have received only emergency use authorization from US health authorities — though that authorization has cleared the way for millions of Americans to be vaccinated.

The hospital set a June 7 deadline for workers to prove they had received at least one dose or face termination.

Federal court Judge Lynn Hughes ruled against Jennifer Bridges and 116 other workers on Saturday, saying the vaccines’ safety was not at issue and Texas law only protects employees from refusing to commit a crime.

“Receiving a Covid-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties,” Hughes wrote.

She also reprimanded Bridges for the analogy that the threat of being fired for not getting vaccinated was like “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.”

“Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote.

Houston houses the largest medical complex in the world, the Texas Medical Center, a sprawling district that includes hospitals and research universities. The center employs more than 106,000 healthcare workers in all and sees some 10 million patients a year.

Across the United States, more than 173 million people — over 50 percent of the population — have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine so far.

And yet, surveys show that healthcare workers have been among the greatest vaccine skeptics.

Downtown Shooting in Austin, Texas Injures 14

An ATF K9 unit surveys the area near the scene of a shooting on June 12, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images/AFP
An ATF K9 unit surveys the area near the scene of a shooting on June 12, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images/AFP

 

Gunfire erupted in a busy entertainment district in the Texas city of Austin early Saturday, injuring 14 people, according to authorities who were still searching for a suspect.

Police said they responded to multiple shots fired just before 1:30 am in bustling downtown Austin, where a large crowd began to disperse.

“Our officers responded very quickly,” Austin’s interim police chief Joseph Chacon told a news conference.

“They were able to immediately begin life saving measures for many of these patients,” he added.

Police said they had received a description of a suspect, a Black male, but that it was still unclear whether one or multiple suspects were involved.

They added that the shooting appeared to be an isolated incident, although an investigation was ongoing.

“I don’t have any information right now that the victims were intentionally targeted,” a police spokesman said.

 

AFP

Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Abortion At Six Weeks

 

 

The governor of Texas on Wednesday signed a bill banning abortion at six weeks, joining a conservative push to change the rules on one of the United States’ most divisive issues.

The law — dubbed the “heartbeat bill” by proponents — makes no exception for rape or incest and will make Texas one of the hardest states in the United States to get an abortion.

It comes just days after the nation’s highest court agreed to hear a case that could challenge a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining abortion as a legal right.

“This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

At least 10 other Republican-led states have passed similar legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

All of the bills have been struck down by the courts because they violate Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court ruling which authorized abortion as long as the fetus is not yet able to survive outside of the womb, which happens at 22 to 24 weeks.

But the Supreme Court is due to hear a case that could challenge that decision, involving a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of a medical emergency or a severe fetal abnormality.

It will be the first abortion case considered by the Supreme Court since former president Donald Trump cemented a conservative majority on the nine-member panel.

Abortion is a divisive issue in the United States, with strong opposition especially among evangelical Christians.

– ‘Chilling effect’ –
The new Texas law authorizes a private citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone helping someone undergo the procedure.

It has faced opposition from the state’s medical community, with 200 doctors signing an open letter earlier this month urging legislators to reconsider.

“These bills create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued,” the letter read.

“The Texas legislature has no right to cause this type of grievous harm to Texas physicians or the people we serve.”

Reproductive rights activists warn that the six-week cut-off point would ban abortion before many women even know they are pregnant.

“For a person with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only two weeks after a missed period,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, describing it as one of the most “extreme in the country”.

“When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”

US Daily Covid-19 Cases Hit New Record, Topping 99,000

AUSTIN, TEXAS – AUGUST 03: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Medics with Austin-Travis County EMS transport a nursing home resident with coronavirus symptoms on August 03, 2020 in Austin, Texas.  John Moore/Getty Images/AFP

 

More than 99,000 novel coronavirus cases were recorded in the United States in the past 24 hours, a new daily record, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The country reported 99,660 new infections between 8:30 pm Tuesday and 8:30 pm Wednesday (0130 GMT), and 1,112 deaths, the tally by the Baltimore-based school showed one day after Americans voted to choose their next president.

More than 9.4 million people have been infected and 233,000 have died in the United States so far during the pandemic, by far the worst tolls in absolute terms globally.

Cases have been surging to record highs across the country since mid-October, especially in the north and the Midwest.

Health officials in some states have already sounded warnings about their ability to handle an influx in hospitalizations as the winter flu season looms.

The pandemic has also slammed the US economy, fueling a historic contraction in growth and tens of millions of job losses.

It also impacted the US election, with more than 100 million voters casting their ballot by mail or in person before Election Day on Tuesday — the highest number of early voters ever.

The final election results are not yet known, with the count partly delayed by the high number of mail-in ballots as many Americans sought to avoid crowded polling booths.

US President Donald Trump — who was briefly hospitalized for Covid-19 in October — has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, insisting that the virus will eventually just “disappear.”

His Democratic election rival Joe Biden has sought to turn the vote into a referendum on Trump’s handling of the crisis, and vowed to listen to scientific recommendations on handling the pandemic should he take the White House.

AFP

Coronavirus-Hit Texas Braces Hurricane Hanna

EL PASO, TX – JULY 21: A nurse beckons to people in a car at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at El Paso Community College Valle Verde campus on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. Cengiz Yar/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Texas, already struggling with a surge in coronavirus cases, was bracing  Saturday after storm Hanna strengthened into the first Atlantic hurricane of 2020, with meteorologists warning of heavy rain, storm surge and potentially life-threatening flash flooding.

The Category 1 storm, with wind speeds of around 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), strengthened to a hurricane overnight and is expected to make landfall by afternoon or early evening, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

It could bring storm surge of up to five feet and as many as 18 inches of rain to parts of south Texas, the NHC said, warning of dangerous flash flooding.

Hanna was about 100 miles east south-east of Corpus Christi, Texas, at 7:00 am local time (1200 GMT), and was moving west at about nine miles per hour, an NHC advisory said.

Expected to make a slight turn later in the day, it “should make landfall along the Texas coast within the hurricane warning area this afternoon or early this evening,” the advisory continued.

Storm warnings were already in effect along Texas’s Gulf Coast early Saturday. In Corpus Christi officials closed libraries and museums as the city braced for the storm, local media reported.

Hanna will roar ashore as Texas is already facing a huge surge in coronavirus infections, with officials instituting a state-wide mask mandate to try to curb the spread of the disease.

 

-AFP

Texas Halts Re-Opening As US COVID-19 Cases Soar

 

Texas on Thursday halted steps to reopen its economy after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases that threatens to undo earlier efforts to quell the disease.

The number of new coronavirus infections is approaching record daily levels in the US, with more than 35,900 cases recorded in the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June after months of lockdown.

“The State of Texas will pause any further phases to open Texas as the state responds to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Governor Greg Abbott’s office announced in a statement.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread,” Abbott said, asking residents to wear masks and respect social distancing guidelines.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

Abbott is an ally of Donald Trump, but his latest announcement was in stark contrast to the president, who has tried to signal that the virus crisis is largely over.

The US death toll is over 121,000, by far the world’s highest.

Three northeastern states that made significant progress beating back the pandemic — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — on Wednesday urged visitors arriving from US hotspots such as Texas, Florida and Alabama to quarantine themselves.

Several states in the South and West are suffering what White House advisor and top scientist Anthony Fauci described as “disturbing” new surges in infections.

AFP

Two Killed In Texas Shooting

 

 

A shooting killed two people and wounded at least seven while they were filming a music video in the US state of Texas, authorities said Saturday.

“We are now at 9 total gunshot wound victims: 2 were confirmed deceased at scene, 1 was critical, the others remain hospitalized,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted.

The attack on a group of Hispanic men in their 20s occurred around 9:30 pm Friday (0330 GMT Saturday) at a parking lot in a residential Houston neighborhood, Gonzalez said at a media briefing that night.

A video posted on Twitter Saturday morning by a Houston Chronicle reporter showed bloodstains on the ground in the parking lot and cars dotted with bullet holes.

READ ALSO: Five Wounded In Stabbing At New York Rabbi’s House

“There were other vehicles that were staged there, and they were filming some type of music video when, all of a sudden, basically they were ambushed, we believe by individuals in cars and/or foot that fired shots into the parking lot,” Gonzalez said in the media briefing.

Police do not yet know the motive for the shooting, he added.

According to government figures, around 40,000 people died from gunfire in 2017 in the US, a country that is plagued by frequent gun violence.