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Roundup: Possum Kingdom On Fire Again

Wildfire, propelled by high winds, can burn the length of a football field in a single minute.
Wildfire, propelled by high winds, can burn the length of a football field in a single minute.

By BJ Austin, KERA News & Wire Services

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-984172.mp3

Dallas, TX – Possum Kingdom is burning again. A wildfire in April blackened thousands of acres. The fire that began this afternoon quickly escalated to more than 3,000 acres.

April Saginor, with the Texas Forest Service says it's the most urgent wildfire in the state at the moment. It's forcing evacuations and threatening homes in the upscale Cliffs Subdivision - as well as a couple of other neighborhoods along the river below.

Saginor: We've got a bunch of people on the ground working on structure protection. That's a priority for us. We've got 8 single engine air tankers committed to that fire, and they're dropping water on that just as fast at they can. We've got two heavy air tankers that have been ordered for it. We're moving folks from other fires to this one.

Buses are evacuating children from the Dallas YMCA's Camp Grady Spruce at Possum Kingdom Lake. Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer says a couple of neighborhoods are being evacuated by boat because the fire has cut off road access.

In April, 160 homes were destroyed by the massive P-K Complex fire.

Judge strikes down key provisions of sonogram law

A federal judge in Austin has struck down key provisions of Texas' new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled late Tuesday that the law violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients.

The law was set to take effect Thursday.

A New York-based reproductive rights group had sued to block the law from taking effect.

Parkland Board Talks CEO Contract

The Parkland Hospital Board met in a special, closed-door session Tuesday afternoon to talk about hospital CEO Ron Anderson's contract.

It was the second specially-called meeting in as many weeks to discuss Dr. Anderson's future.

State inspectors were at Parkland again Tuesday - assessing the hospital's progress in correcting a list of 9 health and safety infractions reported earlier this month.

If Parkland fails the "exam:" in two areas classified as immediate and serious health threats, Medicare and Medicaid funding could be cut-off as early as Friday.

Dr. Anderson's contract expires at the end of the year. He has acknowledged his job may be on the line after the highly critical inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Methodist Dallas: 2nd Hospital With Violations

A second Dallas hospital is the recipient of a critical inspection by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Methodist Dallas Medical Center was notified Friday of 10 violations. The letter from CMS says some of the deficiencies represent an "immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety."

Parkland Hospital received the same sort of letter earlier this month.

Methodist Dallas says the majority of the issues are related to overcrowded conditions in the Emergency Department. Last week, Methodist announced a 135 million dollar expansion of the hospital's trauma center.

A special task force of Methodist doctors and administrators has until September 6th to submit a plan to correct the problems.

Left uncorrected, Methodist would lose Medicare and Medicaid funding on September 19th.

Jeffs moved to prison hospital; condition improved

The condition of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been upgraded from critical to serious following his move to a prison hospital for additional treatment after he became sick while fasting.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons says Jeffs was flown Tuesday 215 miles to the Texas prison hospital at Galveston. On Sunday, he was admitted to the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler.

The 55-year-old Jeffs last week was assigned to the Powledge Unit, about 100 miles southeast of Dallas, to serve his life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls. On Sunday, he told corrections officers he'd been fasting since his conviction and had become ill.

Texas agency changes process on funds for braces

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission says it's changing the process that allows Medicaid funds to pay for children to get braces.

The commission announced a series of corrective measures Tuesday in the wake of reports from Dallas television station WFAA that Texas spent more last year on orthodontic treatment for children than the other 49 states combined.

The changes include requiring the contractor responsible for approving requests for orthodontic services to develop an action plan to ensure that policies are followed.

The agency also said it will begin requiring full-cast dental molds with all requests for braces.

Texas health officials have acknowledged a federal investigation into the state's use of Medicaid funds for braces. The money isn't supposed to pay for children to get braces for cosmetic reasons.

Texas drought could threaten endangered species

Eight animal and plant species found nowhere but Texas may need rescuing from the state's largest springs if the blistering drought continues to diminish stream flows.

The state's second worst drought has wildlife officials readying plans to evacuate some endangered fish, amphibians, invertebrates and a plant species from San Marcos Springs and Comal Springs in south central Texas.

San Marcos Springs has never gone dry but Comal Springs did in 1956, during the state's worst drought.

Samples of the tiny creatures might have to be netted up and taken to a hatchery for preservation if water levels drop by more than another 50 percent, after similar reductions in recent months.

Only 9.6 inches of rain has fallen on average across Texas this year, slightly more than half the normal amount.

Rosneft teams up with Exxon Mobil in Arctic deal

State-owned Rosneft has teamed up with Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. to develop Russian offshore Arctic oil fields, a deal that had eluded BP earlier this year.

Rosneft spokesman Rustam Kazharov told The Associated Press the deal was signed Tuesday in the presence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying that Rosneft will also be able to develop oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.

Rosneft struck a deal with British BP in January to jointly develop Russia's Arctic but the deal fell through after BP's Russian shareholders managed to block the deal.

Exxon Mobil is based in the Dallas suburb of Irving.