The Associated Press

The gurney in the death chamber is shown in this May 27, 2008 file photo from Huntsville, Texas. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, responding to a Freedom of Information request from The Associated Press, released documents Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 showing the purchase of eight vials of pentobarbital last month from a compounding pharmacy in suburban Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Texas executes more people than any other state by a wide margin — more than the next five states on that list put together. On Wednesday, Texas will add another name to the list of inmates executed, that of Michael Yowell, 43, who will be put to death for murdering his parents and grandmother.

Yowell’s execution is significant because, as The Associated Press reported last week, the drug used to kill him will come from a controversial new supply provided not by a major pharmaceutical company but by a small compounding pharmacy outside of Houston, raising ethical questions about the drug’s quality and effectiveness. The drug, a widely-used sedative called pentobarbital, causes fatal respiratory arrest in high doses. Pentobarbital is used by several states in executions, usually as part of a three-drug cocktail.

The shortage that forced Texas to move to a compounding factory supplier has been a long time coming. In 2011, the Danish pharmaceutical company that had supplied Texas with pentobarbital announced that it would no longer sell it to anyone who used it to kill. 

Then, the same thing happened with sodium thiopental, another part of the three-drug cocktail, and Texas and several other states abandoned the three-drug protocol in favor of a straight dose of pentobarbital.

But before long Texas had exhausted its supplies of pentobarbital. The last inmate to be executed in Texas with pentobarbital from a known supplier was Robert Garza, on Sept.  19 of this year. Suddenly, Texas no longer had access to its preferred method of execution. 

Texas, and other American death penalty states, have scrambled to find a solution to the impending shortage. At least two states, South Dakota and Georgia, obtained pentobarbital from compounding pharmacies, which custom-manufacture drugs and are not subject to federal regulations, before Texas did. After the news broke that Georgia had done so, that state passed a new law — not to prevent the state from making such purchases, but to ensure that they wouldn’t have to disclose it when they did. Georgia’s first inmate scheduled to be executed with the new pentobarbital supply challenged this law in July, resulting in his execution being put on hold. 

When, on Oct. 2, the The Associated Press obtained documents from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice showing that Texas, too, had bought additional pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy, Yowell attempted in vain to delay his execution by requesting an injunction from a federal district judge, on the grounds that the new drugs were not federally regulated and could constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Two other death row inmates have made the same appeal.

On Friday, two days before Yowell’s scheduled execution, the case took an even more startling turn: Jasper Lovoi, the owner of The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy which supplied the drug, sent a letter to the TDCJ demanding that they return the pentobarbital he had sold them in exchange for a refund after he attracted a “firestorm” of negative attention when the AP broke the story. Lovoi wrote that he had been assured that the transaction would be “kept on the ‘down low’ and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that [his] pharmacy provided these drugs.”

The TDCJ refused to return the pentobarbital, and barring new developments, it will execute Yowell on schedule Wednesday evening.

This case shows two things to great effect.

Firstly, compounding pharmacies must be brought under greater regulation. This isn’t just for the benefit of death row prisoners; in 2012, a deadly 20-state meningitis outbreak was traced to a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts that produced drugs under unsanitary conditions. Fortunately, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would bring compounding pharmacies, and the 4 billion prescriptions they make every year, under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration. 

Secondly, greater transparency must be applied to Texas’ application of the death penalty. The secrecy with which the TDCJ made this shady back-door deal shows that Texas is willing to go to any length to continue with its scheduled executions. It should go without saying that out of all the things the government should never keep on the “down low,” buying drugs to kill people with should be near the top of the list.

Right now, our state is first in the nation in executing prisoners. We’d rather be first in the nation in protecting their basic human rights.

Men’s head athletic director DeLoss Dodds plans to announce his decision to step down next August on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Dodds, 76, took over as athletic director at the University in 1981. Earlier this month, he denied reports that he planned to step down before the end of the year.

According to the report by the AP, Dodds plans to remain athletic director until Aug. 31, 2014, when he will move into a consultant’s role.

Dodds played an instrumental role in turning around the Longhorns’ football program by hiring Mack Brown as head coach in 1998. Under Brown, the Longhorns won a national championship in 2005 and made another trip to the BCS title game in 2009.

The success of the football team has slipped over the past four seasons, and the Longhorns possess just a 24-18 record since the start of 2010. 

Dodds told The Dallas Morning News two weeks ago that he hoped to lead the football program back to prominence before retiring.

“My goal would be to leave things in good shape,” Dodds said. “We need to win some football games. I’m responsible for that.”

In addition to football, Dodds revitalized the Texas baseball program by hiring head coach Augie Garrido in 1997. Garrido has posted a 720-347-2 record with the Longhorns and led them to a pair of national championships.

In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the Longhorns athletic department earned $163.3 million in revenue under Dodds, most among all university athletic departments in the country. The football team alone earned $103.8 million, marking the first time a single sport in the NCAA generated over $100 million in a season.

Dodds remains under contract through 2015, and he earns $700,000 each year, according to the AP. The Austin American-Statesman first broke the story.

Emergency workers evacuate elderly from a damaged nursing home following an explosion at a fertilizer plant Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in West, Texas. An explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco caused numerous injuries and sent flames shooting high into the night sky on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WACO, Texas (AP) — An explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant near Waco sent flames shooting high into the night sky, leaving the factory a smoldering ruin, causing major damage to nearby buildings and injuring numerous people.

KWTX News reported that Dr. George Smith, Director of West Emergency Medical Services, said 60 to 70 people were dead.

The blast at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, happened shortly before 8 p.m. and could be heard as far away as Waxahachie, 45 miles north of West.

Debby Marak told The Associated Press that when she finished teaching her religion class Wednesday night, she noticed a lot of smoke coming from the area across town near the plant, which is near a nursing home. She said she drove over to see what was happening, and that when she got out of her car two boys ran toward her screaming that the authorities told them to leave because the plant was going to explode. She said she drove about a block before the blast happened.

"It was like being in a tornado," the 58-year-old said by phone. "Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield."

"It was like the whole earth shook."

She drove 10 blocks and called her husband and asked him to come get her. When they got to their home about 2 miles south of town, her husband told her what he'd seen: a huge fireball that rose like "a mushroom cloud."

More than two hours after the blast, there were still fires smoldering in what was left of the plant and others burning in nearby buildings. In aerial footage from Dallas' NBC affiliate, WDFW, dozens of emergency vehicles could be seen amassed at the scene. Entry into West was slow-going, as the roads were jammed with emergency vehicles rushing in to help out.

Authorities set up a staging area on the local high school's football field, which was lit up with floodlights. Ambulances and several dozen injured people could be seen being taken away or seated in wheelchairs as they are treated and await transport.

Department of Public Safety troopers were using their squad cars to transport those injured by the blast and fire at the plant in West, a community north of Waco, Gayle Scarbrough, a spokeswoman for the department's Waco office, told television station KWTX. She said six helicopters were also en route to help out.

Glenn A. Robinson, the chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN that his hospital had received more 40 more people for treatment, both by ambulance and private vehicle. He said the injuries included blast injuries, orthopedic injuries, large wounds and a lot of lacerations and cuts. The hospital has set up a hotline for families of the victims to get information, he said.

Robinson did not immediately return messages from The Associated Press.

American Red Cross crews from across Texas were being sent to the site, the organization said. Red Cross spokeswoman Anita Foster said the group was working with emergency management officials in West to find a safe shelter for residents displaced from their homes. She said teams from Austin to Dallas and elsewhere are being sent to the community north of Waco.

A West Fire Department dispatcher said any casualties would be transported to hospitals in Waco, which is about 90 miles north of Austin.

The explosion knocked out power to many area customers and could be heard and felt for miles around.

Brad Smith, who lives 45 miles north of West in Waxahachie, told the station that he and his wife heard what sounded like a thunderclap.

Lydia Zimmerman, told KWTX that she, her husband and daughter were in their garden in Bynum, 13 miles from West, when they heard multiple blasts.

"It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us," she said.

In 2001, an explosion at a chemical plant killed 31 people and injured more than 2,000 in Toulouse, France. The blast occurred in a hangar containing 300 tons of ammonium nitrate, which can be used for both fertilizer and explosives. The explosion came 10 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., and raised fears at the time it was linked. A 2006 report blamed the blast on negligence.


 

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on what would be the first U.N. treaty regulating the multibillion-dollar international arms trade after Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked its adoption by consensus.

Assembly spokesman Nikola Jovanovic told the Associated Press on Monday that the resolution to adopt the treaty requires support from a majority of the 193 U.N. member states.

Since the treaty had strong support when it was brought before U.N. members last Thursday its approval is virtually certain — unless there are attempts to amend it.

For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to regulate the estimated $60 billion global arms trade and try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.

—Compiled from Associated Press reports

NEW YORK — Police questioned a suspect Tuesday in the death of a subway rider pushed onto the tracks and photographed while he was still alive — an image of desperation that drew virulent criticism after it appeared on the front page of the New York Post.

A day after Ki-Suck Han was hit by an oncoming train, emotional questions arose over the photograph of the helpless man standing before an oncoming train at the Times Square station.

The moral issue among professional photojournalists in such situations is “to document or to assist,” said Kenny Irby, an expert in the ethics of visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit journalism school.

He said that’s the choice professional photographers often face in the seconds before a fatality.

Irby spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday, a day after the newspaper published the photo of Han desperately looking at the train, unable to climb off the tracks in time. It was shot for the Post by freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi.
“I’m sorry. Somebody’s on the tracks. That’s not going to help,” said Al Roker on NBC’s “Today” show as the photo was displayed.

Larry King reached out to followers on Twitter to ask: “Did the (at)nypost go too far?”

Commentary posted on social media and in news broadcasts came down to one unanswered question: Why didn’t Abbasi help Han?

But Irby said it’s not that simple.

“What was done was not necessarily unethical,” Irby said. “It depends on the individual at the time of action.”

It depends, he said, on whether the photographer was strong enough to lift the man, or close enough. Abbasi said he got the shot while running to the scene and firing off his camera in hopes the flash would attract the attention of the train conductor, the Post reported.

“So there was an attempt to help,” said Irby, who blames Post editors “for the outcry” because they made the decision to publish the image.

The Post didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press and didn’t immediately make Abbasi available. His number isn’t listed in New York area telephone directories.

Another professional reluctant to reach conclusions was veteran photographer John Long of the National Press Photographers Association, where he is chairman of the ethics committee.

“I cannot judge the man,” he said. “I don’t know how far away he was; I don’t know if he could’ve done anything.”
However, both Long and Irby said that as a photographer, “you are morally obliged to help” — if possible, rather than take a picture.

Added Irby, “I would argue that you’re a human being before you’re a journalist.”

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said investigators recovered security video showing a man fitting the description of the assailant working with street vendors near Rockefeller Center.

Witnesses told investigators that they saw the suspect talking to himself before approaching Han, getting into an altercation with him and pushing him into the train’s path.

Police took the man into custody Tuesday, but he hasn’t yet been charged.

Han, 58, of Queens, died shortly after being hit on the tracks. Police said he tried to climb a few feet to safety but got trapped between the train and the platform’s edge.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Photo of man on tracks raises ethical questions

Congolese policeman in riot gear keeps an eye on Goma residents including street children who gathered for an anti Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, eastern Congo, Wednesday Nov. 28, 2012. Rebels holding Congo’s main eastern city on Wednesday gave mixed signals on whether they would abandon Goma but one thing was clear: For now, the insurgents still hold the strategic locale and no military force seemed strong enough or possessed the will to quickly push them out.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

GOMA, Congo — Rebels believed to be backed by Rwanda began retreating from the territory they seized last week and pulled out of the region of Masisi, their military leader said Wednesday, in the first concrete sign that international pressure has stemmed the advance of the fighters.


Gen. Sultani Makenga, the military chief for the eight-month-old rebellion known as M23, said that his fighters intend to abide by an ultimatum issued by neighboring nations that called for their withdrawal from Goma by Friday. He said he had ordered his fighters to retreat along the southeastern axis from Masisi to Goma, and they will then leave Goma via the northern route to Rutshuru.
 

“My soldiers began to retreat from Masisi yesterday. We will go via Goma and then after that we will retreat to 20 kilometers (12 miles) past Goma toward Rutshuru,” Makenga told The Associated Press on Friday. “I think that by Friday we will be able to complete this.”

The M23 rebel group is made up of hundreds of soldiers who deserted the Congolese army in April. Since then they have occupied numerous villages and towns in mineral-rich eastern Congo, culminating in the seizing of the crucial, provincial capital of Goma last week. Although they claim to be fighting because the Congolese government has not upheld their end of a March 23, 2009 peace deal, an in-depth report by the United Nations Group of Experts says that M23 is a Rwandan proxy fighting in order to control eastern Congo’s lucrative mines.


Congo’s government spokesman Lambert Mende, who is based in the country’s capital over 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) to the west, confirmed that they had received reports of troops pulling out of Masisi.

“Yes, there are reports of movements (of their fighters out of Masisi) but we won’t label it a retreat until it’s over. They have played this game with us before, where they say they are moving and then find a reason not to,” Mende said. “There will be no negotiations with Congo until they are 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside the Goma city limit.”


A regional bloc representing nations in the Great Lakes region of Africa had issued a deadline calling for M23 to retreat no later than Friday to 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Goma.

In Goma, there was skepticism over the rebels’ claim and confusion, after the leader of M23’s political wing insisted that the fighters were not leaving the city of 1 million that is the economic heart of one of Congo’s mineral-rich regions.


M23 Vice-Minister of the Interior Theophile Ruremesha told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s government needs to meet their wide-ranging demands for them to leave the city.

“Kabila has to meet our demands if we are to pull out,” he said. “For humanitarian reasons we cannot leave the town in the hands of just anybody,” he said. “Creating the neutral force will take some time.”


While some fear M23, which in only eight months has a record of carrying out executions and of forcing children into its ranks, other residents of this lakeside city are afraid of the undisciplined Congolese army that was pushed out of Goma by the rebels on Nov. 20. Dozens of people came out for an anti-Kabila rally, holding placards and pieces of cardboard decrying the distant government’s inept handling of the conflict.

“I want Kabila to leave because he hasn’t helped the people and our country hasn’t moved forward since he came to power,” said one of the marchers, Augustin Katombo. “I think M23 should stay because we don’t want the army to come back.”


About 1,500 U.N. peacekeepers were in Goma when M23 attacked on Nov. 20 and government forces fled, but the well-armed U.N. peacekeepers did not intervene, saying they lacked the mandate to do so. One of their main missions is to protect civilians.

Many people expressed anxiety about a possible attack by the Congo army, which lies in wait several dozen miles (kilometers) to the south of Goma.


“This is a nerve-wracking situation. It fluctuates every hour and we cannot even plan for tomorrow,” said Goma resident Ernest Mugisho. “The M23 needs to give a clear message because for us, the population, this is not good.”

The rebel group has a large new cache of 1,000 tons of weapons, including heavy artillery, that were abandoned by the fleeing Congo army last week, according to M23 president Jean-Marie Runiga. Six flatbed trucks carrying crates of ammunition were seen Tuesday being driven by M23 soldiers north from Goma.
 

A U.N. group of experts said in a detailed report last week that M23 is backed by neighboring Rwanda, which has provided them with battalions of fighters and sophisticated arms, like night vision goggles.

___

Callimachi contributed from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press photographer Jerome Delay contributed to this report from Goma, Congo.

The Associated Press article published in the Daily Texan on Nov. 19 titled “Gazan Civilians Killed in Deadliest Day” was an incomplete splicing of two different articles, which failed to provide context or present Israel’s measures to protect innocent lives as fact.

First, the article provided zero context for Israel’s actions, never acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself from the ongoing brutality of Hamas, a U.S. State Department-recognized terrorist organization.

Second, Israel takes incredible measures to protect and aid innocent civilians. In stark contrast, Hamas hides among civilian populations in Gaza, firing rockets near schools, mosques, and homes. Israel sends text messages and pamphlets to the people of Gaza warning them before taking any targeted action. On Nov. 18th alone, Israel sent 80 trucks carrying medical supplies and food to Gaza, and injured civilians have been leaving Gaza for medical treatment in Israel. Despite facing an enemy willing to put its own people on the firing line, Israel is taking every effort to deny Hamas the capacity to kill.

— Tracy Frydberg, Middle Eastern Studies sophomore

Federal court strikes down Voter ID law

According to the Associated Press, a federal court has ruled against Texas’s voter I.D. law today. The law would have required voters to show a government-issued photo I.D. before casting their ballots in the November 6 election.

The decision comes after striking down the state’s redrawn districting maps earlier this week. Opponents of both the voter I.D. law and the redistricting maps have argued the laws violate the Voting Rights Act by imposing barriers on minorities from voting.

“It’s great news for students,” said University Democrats President Leslie Tisdale. “It’s our job to back this decision by the courts because it really shows them that students are right here, we’re ready to vote and we want the opportunity to vote. This has helped us incredibly.”