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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Briefly

August 16, 2003

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Texas

Hurricane Erika expected to make landfall today

One month after Hurricane Claudette pounded Texas, hurricane warnings were posted Friday along parts of the coast as fast-moving Tropical Storm Erika churned across the gulf.

The race westward by Erika, which reached tropical storm strength only Thursday, caught Gulf Coast residents by surprise, sending farmers, fishermen and some residents scrambling Friday.

National Weather Service forecaster Jim Campbell said Erika was expected to make landfall early today near the mouth of the Rio Grande, just east of Brownsville.

The storm was expected to come ashore as a hurricane, with 75 mph wind, the minimal strength for hurricanes.

Denver

Judge blocks Colorado Pledge of Allegiance law

A federal judge Friday blocked a Colorado law requiring public school students and teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, calling the law discriminatory and divisive.

In issuing a temporary injunction, U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock said the law discriminated against teachers by allowing students to opt out with a note from their parents. Teachers cannot opt out.

The judge also said the law pitted students who chose to say the pledge against those who did not, and students against teachers.

Babcock said failing to recite the pledge conceivably could lead to suspensions for students and firings for teachers, although supporters of the law said there were no penalties.

Montana

Power company says fires could lead to blackouts

Montana, far removed from the epic blackouts in the Northeast, faced electricity problems of its own Friday as wildfires threatened power lines.

NorthWestern Energy, the state's major electricity supplier with about 300,000 customers, warned that blackouts were possible in several areas this weekend.

NorthWestern said its crews were working with firefighters to prevent damage to power lines.

Dozens of fires continued to burn across much of Montana. Forecasts of strong wind and the possibility of more lightning storms this weekend have crews across the state on edge.

Texas

Republicans suspend exiled Democrats' privileges

With a band of Democratic lawmakers refusing to end their walkout, Republicans on Friday approved a new piece of arm-twisting: yanking the rebels' parking spaces, cell phones and other privileges.

Eleven Democratic senators have stayed at an Albuquerque, N.M., hotel since July 28, denying the Texas Senate's Republican majority the quorum it needs to consider a GOP congressional redistricting plan.

Republicans in Austin responded earlier this week by imposing fines on the traveling Democrats, starting at $1,000 for Thursday and doubling for each day missed, to a maximum of $5,000 a day, with the parking and cell phone sanctions as punishment if the fines go unpaid.

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