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Posted: Feb 17, 2013 2:51 AM

Updated: Feb 17, 2013 2:52 AM

TEXAS FIREFIGHTER DEATHS

2 firefighters dead, 2 hurt in Texas lodge fire

BRYAN, Texas (AP) Two Texas fire lieutenants have died of burns after battling a lodge hall fire.

A spokeswoman for the Central Texas city of Bryan confirmed the deaths of 54-year-old Greg Pickard and 36-year-old Eric Wallace. Mary Stratta says Pickard died Saturday in a Galveston hospital and Wallace at the scene.

Stratta says the firefighters entered the burning Knights of Columbus hall in Bryan about midnight Friday, but didn't emerge when ordered to evacuate.

She says two firefighters taken to the Galveston hospital for burns, Ricky Mantey Junior and Mitchel Moran, are both in serious but stable condition.

Bryan is 90 miles northwest of Houston.

The Texas State Fire Marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

City officials say nothing was occurring at the hall at the time.

PRISONER ESCAPE-TEXAS

Cop hospitalized after prisoner escape is released

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) A Dallas hospital spokeswoman says a Florida detective wounded by a prisoner who was escaping has been released by doctors.

April Foran with Parkland Memorial Hospital says Miami-Dade Detective Jaime Pardinas was released Saturday morning. She would not comment on Pardinas' health status.

Police say Pardinas suffered deep stab wounds to the neck, shoulder and back and a collapsed lung Monday when prisoner Alberto Morales stabbed him using a sharp piece from a pair of eyeglasses.

Pardinas and another detective were transporting Morales from Miami to Nevada to serve a 30-year-to-life sentence for sexual assault.

They had stopped near a Wal-Mart store in Grapevine, Texas to wait for a third officer to join them.

Morales escaped and was fatally shot early Saturday when he resisted arrest after a five-day manhunt.

TEXAS MEDICAID-EXPLAINER

Most in Texas Medicaid are children or elderly

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Every odd-numbered year, the Texas health and human services commissioner appears before state lawmakers hungry to cut spending on Medicaid.

And at every meeting he or she shows them a chart of whose health services would suffer: impoverished children, senior citizens and the disabled.

That's the moment when even the most hard-hearted lawmaker realizes that cutting the program, which accounts for a quarter of state spending, will be tougher than they thought.

But the number of poor children and impoverished elderly continues to grow, and federal law requires the state to provide a basic level of services.

Texas lawmakers have promised to maintain support for the poor, but Medicaid has reached a quarter of state spending.

Republicans are looking for ways to reduce those costs without cutting services.

OBIT-EXPRESS-NEWS EDITOR

Jim Moss, ex-San Antonio Express-News editor, dies

(Information in the following story is from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Jim Moss, former San Antonio Express-News executive editor, has died at the age of 77.

Adele Moss told the newspaper that her husband died Friday.

Moss had just obtained a teaching certificate and a minor in journalism from Southwest Texas State University, which is now Texas State University, when he began his journalism career. Starting with the Galveston News-Tribune, which is now the Galveston County Daily News, he went on to work for the Beaumont Enterprise and was the editor of the Seguin Enterprise.

In 1968, he joined the Express-News to help launch the West Side Sun, the first of the paper's five neighborhood weeklies. After holding several positions, Moss was named executive editor and vice president-news in 1987. He retired in 1997 after 28 years with the paper.

DISABLED CRUISE SHIP-OVERSIGHT

No central agency oversees, inspects cruise ships

MIAMI (AP) A maze of maritime regulations and fragmented oversight of the cruise industry make it tough for consumers to assess the health and safety record of ships they're about to board for vacation.

No one entity or country oversees or regulates the industry. There's no central database for passengers seeking ship information.

The Coast Guard and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some ship safety and health information online.

In the case of the Carnival Triumph ship that spent days disabled at sea after an engine fire, vacationers could have gone to those agencies' websites before boarding, but they would have found mostly clean marks and few red flags.

And when something goes wrong, as it did on Triumph, there are limits to how much the Coast Guard can investigate.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-STATES' CHOICE

States' choices set up national health experiment

WASHINGTON (AP) President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is unfolding as a national experiment with American consumers as the guinea pigs: Who will do a better job getting uninsured people covered, the states or the feds?

The nation is about evenly split between states that want a say in running new insurance markets and those, like Texas, that are defaulting to federal control because they don't want to participate in "Obamacare."

A recent AP poll found that Americans prefer to have states run the new markets by 63 percent to 32 percent. Among conservatives the margin was nearly 4 to 1 in favor of state control. But they're not budging in Austin. In the words of a spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry, "Texas is not interested in being a subcontractor to Obamacare."

MEN-OF-WAR INVASION

Portuguese men-of-war invade South Texas beaches

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) The warnings are out Portuguese men-of-war have invaded South Padre Island beaches.

The gas-filled, jellyfish-like marine creatures look harmless enough translucent pinkish or purplish balloons lying on the sand. But they drag with them venomous tentacles that can leave fiery welts on the skin of hapless bathers and beachcombers with whom they come in contact. In rare cases, allergic reactions can prove fatal.

Cameron County officials say the men-of-war have floated in with the tide onto the Boca Chica Beach and the beaches at Isla Blanca park, Andy Bowie Park and Beach Access Nos. 5 and 6 on South Padre Island.

Officials say to avoid contact with the animals, even if they seem to be dead.

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