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Roundup: Perry Says Texas Wildfire 'Mean' As He's Ever Seen

Phil Ostroff (cc) flickr

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Texas Gov. Rick Perry says the wildfire burning in the central part of the state is "as mean looking" as he's ever seen.

Perry left his presidential campaign Monday in South Carolina to return to Texas and deal with the fire, which covers 25,000 acres near Bastrop and has already destroyed nearly 500 homes.

Perry said at a news conference that wildfires have claimed 3.5 million acres in Texas since December.

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency likely would arrive Wednesday and that Texas would seek federal disaster relief. He also said officials were considering seeking military resources from nearby Fort Hood.

Perry said it's too soon to tell whether he'll miss Wednesday's GOP debate in California. He added that he's "not paying attention to politics right now."

Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald said 250 firefighters are working around the clock, using bulldozers to cut along the side of the fire and pumper trucks to drench the ground.

At least 5,000 people were forced from their homes in the county about 25 miles east of Austin, many of them fearing the worst while spending the night in emergency shelters.

The county's emergency management director, Mike Fischer, said the fire is "nowhere near controlled" and that a separate, smaller blaze to the south of the city is growing larger.

Texas voting district maps head to court

Opponents of a new Republican congressional redistricting plan in Texas are hoping to prove in federal court the plan illegally dilutes minority voting strength.

A trial to determine the legality of the redrawn congressional and state House districts is set to begin Tuesday before a three-judge panel in San Antonio. Several lawsuits filed against the plans have been consolidated into one and will be considered during the nine-day trial.

The new congressional map was designed by the GOP-led Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. It was drawn with the goal of protecting and possibly expanding the GOP's 23-9 majority in Texas' delegation in Washington.

Democrats argue the Republican plan splits Hispanic and black communities so that conservative white residents would be more likely to win seats in Congress.

Top fair fare: chicken flapjack, fried bubblegum

Buffalo chicken in a flapjack and fried bubblegum are the judges' top picks for the best and most creative foods that will be available this year at the State Fair of Texas.

The buffalo chicken flapjack is a chicken strip coated in flapjack batter and jalapeno bread crumbs and then fried. It was voted Best Taste in the Big Tex Choice Awards competition Monday.

Fried bubblegum is described by fair officials as a bubblegum-flavored marshmallow dipped in batter and "lightly fried to perfection." It was voted Most Creative.

Other deep-fried concoctions in the competition were pineapple upside down cake, salsa and chips, a banana rolled in a flour tortilla, a sausage and sauerkraut ball and a pastry filled with pumpkin and cream cheese. The fair starts Sept. 30.

Texas heat eases, lessens load on power grid

The threat of rolling blackouts and constant strain on Texas' electric grid may soon be a sweaty memory as the state's vicious heat wave appears to be letting up.

Officials say a cool front rolled across the state Sunday, dropping temperatures to the 90s and 80s in its wake and easing electricity demands this Labor Day weekend.

Theresa Gage is a spokeswoman for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state's power grid. She says "we're out of the woods" if the lower temperatures hold.

The state's electric grid operator took numerous steps to avoid rolling blackouts this summer, including calling on Texans to conserve power.

Gage says "it took us all to get through this difficult summer."

DEA: Dallas doctor got cash for prescriptions

Federal drug enforcement agents allege that a longtime Dallas doctor received cash payments in exchange for prescribing highly-abused medications for patients without examining them.

The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in June raided clinics operated by Habiboola Niamatali as well as his home. The newspaper cited court records as well as the doctor himself, who says the agents took charts, prescription pads and cars and seized four bank accounts.

A search warrant affidavit says that, out of 6,000 Dallas-area practitioners licensed to write prescriptions for controlled substances in 2010, Niamatali ranked second in the number of hydrocodone prescriptions.

The 70-year-old doctor told the newspaper he's done nothing wrong.

The DEA declined to discuss the case because it's an active investigation.