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Updated: Drought's Texas Death Toll Includes 301 Million Trees

Texas AgriLife
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Five stories that have North Texas talking: Drought-stricken trees, National Voter Registration Day, Josh Hamilton's caffeine jones and more.

An updated ground and aerial survey indicates about 301 million trees have died in rural Texas because of the 2011 drought.

The Texas A&M Forest Service says the figure comes from an examination of hundreds of forested plots statewide.

The 301 million figure does not include trees that died in cities and towns. Experts earlier this year determined another 5.6 million trees in urban areas died as a result of the devastating drought.

-- Justin Martin

Joltin' Josh Hamilton?

Doctors have finally figured out the mysterious ailment that felled Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton for the better part of a week.

The prescription? Cut down on the caffeine.

Seems Hamilton has something called ocular keratitis -- a condition that causes drying of the corneas and dizziness. And things like too much coffee and the stimulants in sports drinks can make it worse.

Yahoo Sports points out that a number of other major leaguers have had similar problems -- including the Atlanta Braves’ Brian McCann and the Johnny Damon when he played for the New York Yankees.

So Hamilton was finally back in the lineup last night, less than two weeks before the playoffs. And he hit a home run -- a decaf Venti homer.

-- Rick Holter

No Joke: It’s Time To Prep For Election Day

With just six weeks until the general election, the League of Women Voters is making sure high school seniors at 60 Dallas County schools are clued in to the registration process as part of National Voter Registration Day.

So what if you’re a mature, registered adult who plans to vote but just isn’t sure for whom? Try NPR’s political comedy litmus test-- it’ll help you line up on the political spectrum based on what you find funny.

-- Lyndsay Knecht

Whole Genome Sequencing Could Provide Long-Sought Answers

If you have a child who’s ever come down with severe, puzzling symptoms that seem unrelated - or if you know anyone who who’s struggled through that labyrinth of misery - take a look at NPR’s “$1000 Genome” series. Today, a piece looks at how breakthroughs in whole genome sequencing finally let a 6-year-old and his parents find a diagnosis after years of close calls and uncertainty.

The new DNA mapping gives particular hope to those with a genetic predisposition to cancer. Courtney Collins, who reports for us occasionally, recently went through a cache of similar tests. We’ll have more on her experience soon.

-- Lyndsay Knecht

Sandra Fluke: Contraception Debate Is About More Than Sex

Our own Krys Boyd talked to women’s health advocate Sandra Fluke yesterday about whether the idea that “sexuality is optional like skydiving” hinders the case for open access to birth control. On KERA’s “Think,” Fluke said the flap she was involved in this summer was more about women who needed contraception for other types of health reasons, like ovarian cysts.

Fluke’s efforts made national news when Rush Limbaugh reacted to her testimony by calling her a “prostitute” and a “slut,” words for which he later apologized. The podcast of her hour on ‘Think’ is up.

-- Lyndsay Knecht

And today, a special High Five bonus pick:

Rawlings Psyched For Dallas' Business, Schools, Arts

Dallas is hot! That's the assessment Mayor Mike Rawlings gave in his State of the City address before the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.  

The mayor says Dallas is the # 2 easiest city to do business in the nation; the #4 best city for new college graduates; and # 8 for careers in business. He did not attribute those numbers. But, he says, there's still work to be done. 

Rawlings urged the audience to get involved in Dallas schools, and to get excited about business growth opportunities in south Dallas. And he announced a new tenant for the Inland Port: L'Oreal is building a new $50 million distribution center.

Rawlings also challenged business executives to get involved in the arts. The mayor says arts and culture is a huge economic engine.

-- BJ Austin