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The Brief: May 28, 2010

The Dallas DA's mea culpa, a hurricane season like no other, 10 more years of border violence and a possible goodbye to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins came clean on Thursday and admitted his office received a tip concerning two Democratic constables and their alleged criminal activity in 2008. The Dallas Morning News reports that Watkins initially denied he received the memo from the county auditor in February 2008, when she said she passed on the information. He said instead his office did not get word of it until late 2009. The report says Watkins took full responsibility for the oversight.

“What happens in my office is my full responsibility,” he was quoted.

The issue has been a years-long controversy as some of Watkins’ critics allege his office has stalled the investigation into the alleged criminal activity for political purposes. In a series of interviews with Texas Tribune reporter Emily Ramshaw Watkins defended rejecting an offer from Texas Attorney Greg Abbott when he offered assistance.

“When Abbott offered to help, in August and again in February, Watkins refused, suggesting Abbott, a Republican, might be playing politics,” reported Ramshaw. Watkins also sought a restraining order against Republican county commissioners who attempted a separate investigation into the matter.

“He accuses the Republican county commissioners of using the allegations against the Democratic constables to unfairly discredit him before an election,” she reported in April. “And he says there’s no way he could trust their handpicked investigator anyway (‘He’s a hired gun, hired to get a certain result’).”

Watkins said then his office's public integrity unit has limited staff and if they were investigating the constables it would be a time-consuming process.

"What I want the citizens to know is that I’m not dragging my feet, and I would never do that in any case,” Watkins said in April.

CULLED: 

  • Not all weather experts agree on just how many hurricanes the warm waters that border the U.S. will give birth to this season. But they all know to expect more than normal. The Houston Chronicle reports today the tropical waters are warmer this year than they were in 2005 when 28 named storms, including Katrina and Ike, ravaged the Gulf coast. Scientists must analyze wind behavior to gain a better perspective on hurricane season, which begins on Tuesday, but experts are bracing for as many as 23 named storms, 14 of which could build to hurricane strength.
  • Tired of the border drug war, the talk of spillover violence and reading about the daily carnage just south of the border? Well one expert recommends we toughen up and get used to it – for at least 10 more years. That’s how long former U.S Ambassador to Mexico John Negroponte told two federal subcommittee members it’s going to take for Mexico to quell its violence and for the U.S. to secure its borders with the troubled country, according to a report in the El Paso Times. Negroponte urged patience and lauded Mexico’s current efforts as progress, and came to his estimate by comparing the situation to Colombia a decade ago. With a U.S. aid package dubbed “Plan Colombia” the country was able to shed its violent past, and the U.S. is providing Mexico similar aid through its Merida Initiative, which is supposed to funnel $1.3 billion in training, equipment and intelligence to Mexico.
  • The current “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that prevents gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military inched closer toward elimination. The Associated Press reports the Senate Armed Services Committee and U.S. House voted to abolish the rule, a move hailed by President Obama. The Senate will debate the measure next month but at least one ranking member, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, publicly stated his opposition. "I think it's really going to be very harmful to the morale and effectiveness of our military," he was quoted.

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