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The Brief: March 19, 2010

Forget black helicopters. It looks like some red and blue ones might be coming to the border.

UH-72 Lakota helicopter


Forget black helicopters. It looks like some red and blue ones might be coming to the border.

After the recent American deaths in Juárez, Gov. Rick Perry sent two choppers to the border for bird's-eye surveillance in what looked like a slap at the federal government for not doing it themselves. According to the governor's office, this is the next step in the previously unannounced “spillover violence contingency plan” unveiled on Tuesday.

His Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Bill White, has criticized the plan for being “secret.” In a press release, he didn’t mince words: "Our approach to the tragic violence in Mexico should be firm, alert, and targeted to the precise threat. Competition among drug cartels for territories south of the border has led to escalating violence by groups competing for those territories. The absence of territorial wars on our side of the border and effective local law enforcement has resulted in violent crime rates along the border that are significantly less than in many other parts of the United States." 

White emphasized the need for working with local and federal authorities in the effort.

But according to The Dallas Morning News, White and Perry have actually made almost identical requests.  Both have spoken with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and both have emphasized the need for airborne surveillance, as well as just more resources in general.

Perry's office is adamant that local officials have been updated with all of the governor’s plans, and that the contingency plan was not simply created out of thin air.

"The fact is,” said Perry's spokeswoman Allison Castle to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “The spillover contingency plan was created last year with input from our local and federal law enforcement partners and we continue to coordinate closely with them."


• A DNA testing lab in Arizona has offered to test evidence in the Hank Skinner case free of charge. Skinner was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her sons in 1995 and is scheduled to be executed March 24 despite claims of innocence. DNA from the case has yet to be tested and Skinner insists the results would prove a wrongful conviction. As the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reports, the process for commuting a sentence in Texas is fraught with secrecy and roadblocks. Skinner must wait to hear whether the state will allow the lab to perform the tests, as the clock keeps ticking.

• Watch out for potholes! The Texas Department of Transportation will give residents a chance to discuss planned transportation systems from now until April 19. The Transportation Planning and Project Development Rulemaking Advisory Committee, aside from having a catchy name, is comprised of 11 representatives from various transportation groups like metropolitan planning organizations, toll authorities and the Federal Highway Administration. The committee, along with TxDOT, is working to created comprehensive planning and project development programs. Public comments will assist in the effort.

• Early bird catches the seat? Eric Johnson, the Democratic candidate for HD-100, announced his candidacy for the May 8 special election on the day the election was called. Johnson won the nomination after former state Rep. Terri Hodge withdrew her bid and pled guilty in a corruption scandal.  Since he doesn't have a Republican opponent, he almost undoubtedly will take office next season, and with Hodge having resigned her seat and no other competitors in sight, Johnson get a little early practice as a state rep before the legislative session begins.

University of Texas McCombs School of Business professor Jim Nolen, on Texas’ economic vulnerability from recession: "We're real cocky here in Texas, saying, 'Hey, we're Texas, it doesn't affect us.’ We got clobbered less than some other people ... but we couldn't be immune from it. Once the banking system goes down and credit gets tight, it's tight on everybody." 


Austin wind company in center of storm over stimulus jobsAustin American-Statesman

Texas company giving its ERs support to run more efficientlyThe Dallas Morning News

Fear muzzles Mexican journalistsSan Antonio Express-News

'Virtual fence' on border develops bugs faster than they can be fixed, new report saysFort Worth Star-Telegram

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