THE BIG CONVERSATION:

A clearer picture of Thursday afternoon’s events is beginning to take shape. 

Currently, the situation is this: At around 1:30 in the afternoon, one gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire in the Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others in one of the worst mass shootings ever at a U.S. military base.

Already, early reports indicating a coordinated three-person attack have had to be corrected.  Sadly, the total fatalities have increased slightly overnight. But, news of one death — that of the shooter, Maj. Hasan — turned out to be erroneous.  He is reported to be in stable condition.

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A portrait of the gunman has begun to form. Nader Hasan, a cousin of Maj. Hasan’s, told The New York Times that, in his job as a psychiatrist, Nidal Hasan had people telling him of the horrors of war on a daily basis, causing him to be “mortified at the idea of having to deploy.” His aunt told The Washington Post that he had endured harassment for his Muslim faith and repeatedly asked for a discharge.

Muslim and Arab groups have condemned the shootings, and are bracing themselves for an expected backlash. According to the Associated Press, witnesses are saying that Maj. Hasan shouted “Allah Akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great!” — before opening fire. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had reportedly investigated online postings by a person identifying themselves as “NidalHasan” that were approving of suicide bombings. Officials had been unable to determine if it was, in fact, Maj. Hasan.

Political leaders from across the state and country issued their shock and sympathy.

Hundreds of people lined up to donate blood once news of the tragedy broke. Blood drives will continue in the region today and through the weekend.

CULLED:

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• The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on major healthcare reform legislation on Saturday.  Despite protests outside the Capitol by opponents of the bill, the second-ranking Democratic member of the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, predicts that it will pass, but it will be close.

• The Texas office of the Environmental Protection Agency has a new chief. Al Armendariz, a professor of environmental and civil engineering at Southern Methodist University, has been a frequent critic of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its failure to adequately regulate pollution. Of the candidates for the top spot, Armendariz was a favorite among environmentalists. 

• Guilty. That’s the verdict in the sexual assault trial of Raymond Merril Jessop, a member of the FLDS sect raided by state authorities last year. Prosecutors used genetic evidence to show that Jessop had fathered the child of a 16-year-old girl, who was one of his nine wives. The Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw wrote: “The verdict represents a big win for the state, which suffered a black eye after a state court ruled child welfare workers had overstepped their authority by removing the children from home.”  Sentencing will begin Monday.

“This is my copy of the Constitution — and I’m going to stand here with our Founding Fathers, who wrote in the preamble: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident…’” — U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, confusing his founding documents at a Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

MUST READ:

Shooting suspect on ventilator, wounded in stable condition, police officer identified Killeen Daily Herald

Massacre On postKilleen Daily Herald

Suspect Was ‘Mortified’ About Deployment to WarThe New York Times

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Military family worries together, grieves togetherThe Dallas Morning News

Texas state senators travel in style; taxpayer money used for luxury hotels, private planesTexas Watchdog

Dan Rather: Texas a leader in prescription drug abuseHouston Chronicle

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