Communist China? No. Russia? No. North Korea? No. It’s Texas! The Texas prison system is refusing to disclose the size of its stock of a key pharmaceutical used in executions, saying doing so would endanger its drug makers and suppliers. The charge comes in a brief filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Officein response to a December query by an British newspaper concerning the contents of state’s death house medicine chest. The agency said releasing such information would provide ammunition for Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty group that successfully has pressured drug makers to stop selling to executioners.
Likening Reprieve’s campaigns to those of violent prison gangs, the brief written by TDCJ Assistant General Counsel Patricia Flemingasserts that releasing information “creates a substantial risk of physical harm to our supplier. … It is not a question of if, but when, Reprieve’s unrestrained harassment will escalate into violence…” TDCJ is seeking authorization not to answer questions posed in a December public information request by Ed Pinklington, the New York correspondent for The Guardian, a national British newspaper. An attorney general’s response is expected this month.
Pilkington sought to determine how much pentobarbital, one of three drugs used in executions, the death house had in stock. He also asked how the agency met requirements that a second “back up” dose of lethal drugs be available at executions. “I was very surprised by the language they chose to use, which was pretty inflammatory, really,” Pilkington said. “Obviously, there is an international disagreement over the death penalty. … Usually that discourse is conducted in a civilized manner.” He called the claim that the prison system’s drug suppliers were in jeopardy, “pretty far-fetched.”
Joseph Larsen, a lawyer for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said Pilkington’s questions go to the “heart of how effectively TDCJ performs its official functions.” “The whole idea behind the Texas Public Information Act is that the governmental bodies do not get to control the information that underlies political discussion,” he said. “Specifically, the governmental body does not even get to ask why a requestor wants certain information. How then can a governmental body base its argument for withholding on what use it anticipates will be made of the information if released?”
In a 2008 case, the Attorney General’s Office sided with TDCJ in denying Forbes magazine the names of companies that supplied execution drugs, noting that “releasing the names of the companies would place the employees of those companies in imminent threat of physical danger.” An appeals court rejected that ruling the following year. Pentobarbital was added to the state’s lethal cocktail in May 2011, replacing sodium thiopental after that drug’s maker stopped production, in part because of Reprieve’s anti-drug agitation. Reprieve followed by directing international pressure on Lundbeck, pentobarbital’s Danish maker, obtaining a July 2011 agreement that the company no longer would sell to prisons in death penalty states. The production plant later was sold, but the new owner abided by the agreement. Reprieve also targeted a pharmaceutical company that had supplied sodium thiopental to Arizona. On its website, Reprieve posted photos of the supplier’s office along with its tax returns and the name, phone number and address of its owner. Reprieve investigator Maya Foa said the group posted no information that was not already in the public domain. I wish I could say this is surprising but it’s more of the status quo in the Lone Star where public access is largely a dream.
DALLAS, Texas — (DMN) – The Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex area of North Texas was hit by 6-12 tornadoes in an uncharacteristic massive outbreak this afternoon according to National Weather Service forecasters. Arlington Police Department spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard says the city has received reports of seven storm-related injuries, with one person in critical condition. An estimated 150 homes suffered damage ranging from debris in yards to significant destruction.
A disaster area has been declared by local officials in Lancaster, where approximately 300 homes and businesses were damaged by Tuesday’s tornado. Almost every home along Pepperidge Drive lost its roof. A 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew has been enacted in the stricken area. “This is just unreal,” one neighbor said. “You see it and you hear about it, but when you’re actually in it, it’s just unbelieveable.” Lancaster’s recreation center was being opened as a shelter for displaced residents on Tuesday evening.
Dallas police Chief David Brown said looting is one of the concerns in southern parts of the city that received storm damage on Tuesday. “There’s not much lighting since the power’s out, so the street lights won’t come on tonight,” he said. “We’re looking for portable lighting that we’re trying to get here really quickly before it gets dark so that we can also keep things safe.” Brown said the city is not considering a curfew because of the damage was limited to two or three streets. “We think we can secure that with extra patrols on a 24/7 basis for this area,” the chief said.
Senior Meteorologist Eric Martello of the weather service office in Fort Worth says preliminary estimates were that six to 12 tornadoes were reported in North Texas. However, he says some of those reports may be duplicates. Martello says the tornado count was expected to top six, but no firm count number will be available until survey teams check out damage on Wednesday. Martello said two or three survey teams will spread out across the region to assess the damage. Severe detached thunderstorms swept through the Metroplex Tuesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue several Tornado Emergencies before multiple tornadoes damaged homes and tossed vehicles hundreds of feet into the air.
Tornado Emergencies are rare and are only issued when a tornado is on the ground and headed into a highly populated area with widespread damage expected. There were simultaneous Tornado Emergencies in both Dallas and Tarrant counties for an extended period of time Tuesday afternoon. Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck declared a state of disaster due to the tornado damage. A significant number of homes have been damaged on the southwest side, including a nursing home. The Salvation Army has set up disaster shelter at a community center at 712 W. Abram Street in Arlington. Officials said gas lines have been ruptured in the city and if anyone smells gas they should call 911. In Lancaster, cars were overturned and roofs ripped from homes near Wintergreen and Roan.
Initial estimates indicate 40 homes damaged and more than a dozen destroyed. Near Bonnie View Road and Interstate 20, trailers from big-rigs were spotted by an NBC TV news helicopter being tossed end-over-end, hundreds of feet into the air as the tornado continued its push through Dallas County. Baseball-sized hail was reported in nearby Euless with ping pong ball-sized hail reported at locations throughout North Texas. The tornado that passed through Arlington eventually made its way to the east side of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport where passengers and employees were sheltered inside terminals. More than 225 outbound flights have been canceled and the airport is closed to all inbound traffic until 9 p.m. Officials with the airport said airlines have reported more than 110 aircraft with varying degrees of hail damage.
For a short time Tuesday afternoon, controllers in the tower at Love Field spotted a tornado headed their way. Passengers and employees were sheltered in place. The city of Forney has confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in the Kaufman County town and that most of the damage is north of U.S. 80 near the Diamond Creek subdivision. There were reports of only minor injuries, though one of the injured is an infant. According to Oncor, at about 5:35 p.m. there are approximately 47,000 customers in DFW without power.
DALLAS, Texas — (DMN/CBS News) – Tornadoes tore through the Dallas area on Tuesday, tearing roofs off homes, tossing trucks into the air and leaving flattened tractor trailers strewn along highways and parking lots. The National Weather Service reported at least two separate “large and extremely dangerous” tornadoes south of Dallas and Fort Worth. Several other developing twisters were reported as a band of violent storms moved north through the metropolitan area. Officials had no immediate information about injuries.
Footage from highway video cameras showed a large, dark funnel cloud moving on the ground not far from a major interstate early Tuesday afternoon. Crumpled orange tractor trailers were later visible in a Dallas County parking lot, as well as flattened trailers along the sides of highways and access roads. In one Dallas County neighborhood, local television footage showed homes without roofs while other buildings were flattened. Plywood was strewn on the grass and on top of buildings. Residents could be seen walking down the street with firefighters and peering into homes, looking at the damage after the storm passed.
The storm pushed cars into fences and toppled trees over. Branches and limbs were scattered across lawns and in the streets. A tow-behind RV was torn apart and crumpled in a driveway where part of a roof of the home was torn off. “Obviously we’re going to have a lot of assessments to make when this is done,” Dallas County spokeswoman Maria Arita told The Associated Press. Dallas Police spokeswoman Sherri Jeffrey said an apparent twister also touched down and caused damage within the city’s southern limits, though the extent was not immediately known.
The weather service said “considerable damage” was reported near Cleburne, south of Fort Worth, and Lancaster, south of Dallas. A spokeswoman for the Lancaster school district spokeswoman said officials did not immediately know of any damage to schools. Leslie Johnston, spokeswoman for Arlington Independent School District, in between Dallas and Forth Worth, said all schools there had students take sheltering and several schools reported power outages.
Executive director of Johnson County Emergency Services, Mike Johnson, reported that he could see a funnel cloud close to the Joshua, Cleburne border, according to KTVT-TV. “”If anybody’s driving they should probably not head into that storm,” he said, “because I was coming back from one location and it [rain] was so heavy that cars were stopping on the side of the road because they couldn’t even see from just shear, heavy rain.”