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Report: Fire at Texas facility caused by equipment failure

HOUSTON (AP) — Local and federal investigators say a fire at a Houston-area petrochemical storage facility that burned for days in March was accidental and caused by equipment failure at a storage tank. The report by the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concludes the failure took place within a piece of equipment that holds an electric motor and a pump next to the tank. The report says forensic testing would need to be done to determine what caused the equipment to fail. Intercontinental Terminals Company, which owns the facility, says it continues to work to understand the fire's cause.


Lawsuit challenges speedy reviews of asylum claims

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A lawsuit claims a new effort to speed up initial reviews of asylum claims to within three days denies asylum-seekers rights to consult attorneys. It is the latest challenge to the Trump administration's efforts to change asylum policies and practices since the U.S. became the world's top destination for asylum-seekers in 2017.  Fast-track procedures introduced in El Paso, Texas, in early October may be expanded to other parts of the U.S. border with Mexico after a trial period.


Mexicans fleeing violence form new encampment on border

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — An exodus of migrants fleeing drug cartel violence and corruption in Mexico has mired hundreds of immigrants in ramshackle tent camps across the border from El Paso, Texas. Tent encampments filled with immigrants have been growing in size at several border crossings in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, driven by a surge in asylum seekers from southern Mexico.One camp in Juarez is entirely populated by about 250 Mexican asylum seekers, who are living in increasingly dangerous and cold conditions as they wait for U.S. border authorities to let them in to the country to request asylum.


Texas IDs cancer cluster in polluted Houston neighborhood

HOUSTON (AP) — Texas health officials have identified a cancer cluster in a north Houston neighborhood polluted by the wood preservative creosote from a nearby railroad operation. The Department of State Health Services says it didn't try to determine what caused the lung and bronchus, esophagus and larynx cancers in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens. But residents believe it proves their long-held suspicions about pollution from the Union Pacific site. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requested the assessment because of residents'health concerns. Union Pacific tells the Houston Chronicle that it is reviewing the study.


Three indicted in Dallas cop trial witness' slaying

DALLAS (AP) — Three Louisiana men have been charged with capital murder in the killing of a witness who testified at the murder trial of a Dallas police officer who shot her unarmed neighbor in his home. WFAA-TV reports that a grand jury returned indictments Thursday against 32-year-old Michael Mitchell, 22-year-old Thaddeous Charles Green and 20-year-old Jacquerious Mitchell in the Oct. 4 killing of Joshua Brown. There was speculation after Brown's death that he may have been killed for testifying for the prosecution at the trial of the officer, Amber Guyger. But police say he was killed during a drug deal gone bad. Michael and Jacquerious are in jail but police are still searching for Green.


Singer Harris was impaired, speeding when killed in crash

TAOS, N.M. (AP) — A northern New Mexico sheriff says Texas country singer Kylie Rae Harris was legally impaired by alcohol and driving 95 miles per hour when she and another driver were killed in a three-vehicle crash in September. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe says in a statement Thursday that toxicology testing showed Harris had a blood-alcohol level of .28 percent. That is more than three times the legal limit for impaired driving. Holgrefe says on-board computer data also indicated  Harris was driving 102 mph (164 mph) before the crash. Hogrefe says the other driver killed in the wreck had no alcohol in her system.


Woman fights to keep name from suit alleging sexual assault

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas woman is fighting for anonymity in a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by a co-worker, but a federal judge who plans to dismiss the case has ordered that her name be made public first. While an appeals court put the order on hold, legal experts say such actions are not unprecedented as judges have wide discretion in deciding whether to make a name public. Her lawyers say they were shocked by the judge's order to release her name and advocates for sexual assault survivors say such rulings can have a chilling effect on whether victims come forward.


Asylum-seekers who crossed in Arizona returned to Mexico

PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. government says nine Venezuelan asylum-seekers who drove up to an Arizona border crossing have been sent to Juarez, Mexico, to await their pending cases. The Venezuelans were sent back under the Remain in Mexico policy, which requires them to wait south of the U.S. border while their asylum cases wind through the American courts. The Venezuelans were trying to avoid another Trump administration policy requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico on a list until they’re called up to make a credible threat of fear of returning to their home country.


OPEC countries, Russia to cut oil output, pushing up prices

The OPEC oil-producing countries and ally Russia have agreed to cut crude production by an extra 500,000 barrels a day. Their goal is to to support the price of fuel and energy around the world. But at the same time they do not want to lose global market share to the United States, which keeps pumping more oil. Friday's decision came after long talks at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Russia is not part of OPEC but has been coordinating production levels with the cartel in recent years.


Transgender women fight law blocking inmates' name change

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Three transgender women have filed a lawsuit challenging a Texas law that bars federal prison inmates from legally changing their names while in custody and within two years after serving their sentence. Donna Langan and Teresa De Barbarac are still serving time, but Alexandra Carson has been recently released. They argue that their inability to legally change their names is a cruel and unusual punishment. Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed Wednesday. Their offices declined to comment. Texas is among 10 states that use conviction history to restrict name changes, according to Trans Pride Initiative.