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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Aguilar and Miller on the immigration rally in Dallas; E. Smith interviews T. Boone Pickens and, in a two-on-one matchup, Jerry Patterson and Hector Uribe; Ramsey on how to make $2 billion disappear from the budget shortfall with creative accounting and on the $1.5 billion problem with health insurance for state employees; Kreighbaum on money bombs; Hamilton and Stiles on the remarkably similar policies for policing immigration in Texas and its largest city; Ramshaw on doctors ducking government health care programs; Kraft on the ups and downs of base closures; Grissom interviews Pulitzer-Pize wine David Oshinsky on the death penalty; M. Smith on the three Texans who want to run the state GOP; and Philpott on the lawsuits already in motion over the oil spill that's still underway in the Gulf of Mexico. The best of our best from May 3 to 7, 2010.

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To the sound of drums and the sight of American flags, more than 25,000 people marched on Dallas City Hall Saturday in the latest episode in Texas' never-ending immigration saga. They pleaded, as did tens of thousands of other marchers at similar rallies across the country, for federal reform — on the heels of an Arizona law that many called a “police state” bill, in the midst of a turf war between Mexican narcotraficantes, and against the backdrop of a reeling economy in which state services could face the ax.

As part of the Tribune's inaugural College Tour stop, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and his Democratic opponent Hector Uribe sat down side by side on the Texas Tech University campus to talk about the fate of the Christmas Mountains, coastal erosion, long-term care for veterans and the portfolio of issues that each of them wants to manage for the next four years. And energy magnate T. Boone Pickens was there, too, and talked about wind and other renewables, how high the price of oil will go, how he'd grade Barack Obama's performance in office so far, and what it's like to lose $2 billion in a single year.

Legal battle ahead: Lawsuits have already been filed over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with a range of plaintiffs, from shrimpers to resort owners, seeking damages from BP and other companies.

The health insurance plan for state employees will have a $140.4 million shortfall next year — and that's the least of its problems. The projected shortfall for the two years after that is $880 million, and it will take another $476 million to replenish the legally required contingency fund. Steady and large increases in costs threaten to erode the program, leaving policymakers to consider cuts in benefits, to negotiate lower prices or to find vast amounts of new money.

If history is any guide, the Legislature will turn to accounting illusions to mask large portions of a budget shortfall of at least $11 billion. Trouble is, such trickery is a bet on the economy roaring back to life — and that's no sure thing.

If you're wondering about the economic impact of the federal military base realignment and closure effort, look only as far as Texas, where two cities with shuttered bases are struggling to keep residents employed and spirits up, while one city with an expanded base is booming.

David Oshinsky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and University of Texas professor, whose latest book is a modern history of capital punishment in America, says he doesn't oppose the death penalty — but he believes it's scandalously implemented in Texas.

With health care reform expected to place up to 1 million more Texans on the state rolls in the next several years, experts predict a surge in the number of doctors who opt out of accepting Medicaid and Medicare patients, thanks to reimbursements well below private-payer rates.

Bill White, the Democratic nominee for governor, watched Rick Perry make mincemeat of Kay Bailey Hutchison in the GOP primary by painting a devastating picture of her before she could introduce herself to prospective voters. How to avoid the same fate? By travelling incessantly, trying to make himself known everywhere in Texas. By dismissing snippy press releases as interesting only to Austin insiders and pundits. By running bio ads on TV. In other words, by working the problem.

Two candidates hope to unseat Republican Party of Texas chair Cathie Adams at next month's state convention in Dallas. The biggest issue isn't their ideological differences — there are none. It's the effectiveness of the party in organizing voter support, and, to a lesser degree, how willing the GOP should be to reach across the aisle and seek common ground.

Aides to Gov. Rick Perry's re-election campaign have accused his Democratic challenger, Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, of running a “sanctuary city," where officers don't inquire about immigration status during routine patrols and investigations. But a comparison of Houston's policy under White and that of Texas DPS under Perry reveals little difference between the two — and their rationales are almost identical. If Houston is a sanctuary city, why isn't Texas a sanctuary state?

In November 2007, when the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, raised more than $4.2 million in a single day, the grassroots-fueled "money bomb" became part of the national political conversation. But while the tactic was in greater use this cycle, the underwhelming showing of candidates who employed it reveals its limitations.

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