Tag Archives: ap

WHY IT MATTERS: All will be touched by choice in November

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump offer voters distinct choices this fall on issues that shape everyday lives. Actual ideas are in play, as difficult as it can be to see them through the surreal layers of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Washington, even in normal times, may feel like a foreign capital far removed from the places politicians love to talk about — the proverbial kitchen table, Main Street, your wallet.

But decisions to be made by President Trump or President Clinton are going to matter to home and hearth. The tax bite, the social safety net, the social fabric, potholes, prices, jobs, war, the air we breathe, personal debt and national debt — all that and more are touched in some way by the ballots of Nov. 8.

America’s place in the world is in the balance, too. So is the direction of the Supreme Court, tied between Republican and Democratic appointees. In a sense, a vote for president is also a vote to break the court’s left-right divide. Which side are you on?

Whichever side, voters are in the driver’s seat, not the cheap seats, for this election spectacle.

Clinton brings some predictability. She has a public-service record and an economic agenda rooted in the traditions of the Democratic Party.

Trump at the core is a party of one. The Republican nominee serves up ideas in improvised explosive tweets and broad brushstrokes from the stage.

That contrast is a guide to what to expect, not the whole story. Both are known to have shifted with the political winds. And their plans require the approval of that famously ornery place, Congress, to become real.

Even so, they point to divergent paths for the country on immigration, the economy, health care, global warming and any number of other topics. They present, in short, discernible choices.

In Why It matters series, Associated Press writers who cover subjects at stake in the election illuminate the economic, social and foreign policy landscape, summarize the positions of the candidates and look at why those choices matter.

Trump suggests ‘2nd Amendment people’ might shoot Clinton

Donald Trump suggested on Aug. 9 that “Second Amendment people” might shoot Hillary Clinton if she becomes president.

The GOP nominee was speaking at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, and falsely claimed that Clinton, the Democratic nominee, wants to “essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Trump said, “By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Clinton’s campaign quickly responded.

“This is simple — what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

The Trump campaign said the candidate was simply celebrating the “amazing spirit” of Second Amendment supporters and not making any threats.

But the AP reported that Catherine Milhoan, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said, “We are aware of his comments.”

A few weeks ago, a Trump campaign adviser on veterans’ issues said, “Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

That comment also caught the attention of the Secret Service, which is investigating.

Twitter lighted up even as Trump was still speaking at the North Carolina rally.

The NRA tweeted: “.@RealDonaldTrump is right. If @HillaryClinton gets to pick her anti-#2A #SCOTUS judges, there’s nothing we can do. #NeverHillary. But there IS something we will do on #ElectionDay: Show up and vote for the #2A! #DefendtheSecond #NeverHillary.”

Bernie King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., tweeted: “As the daughter of a leader who was assassinated, I find #Trump‘s comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous. His words don’t #LiveUp. #MLK.”

On the web …

An interesting read at The New York Times about the hostility and threats of violence at Trump rallies.

Times Square Poll: Shootings weighed on Americans in 2015

Mass shootings and attacks weighed heavily on the minds of Americans in 2015, according to a new poll that found most believe this year was worse for the world than last year.

A look at the key findings of The Associated Press-Times Square Alliance poll:

FOCUSED ON MASS SHOOTINGS

Americans say the most important events of 2015 were a string of mass shootings, including the attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, plus Islamic State group atrocities.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled say this year was worse than the last year for the world as a whole, up from the 38 percent asked that question a year ago. Only 10 percent believe 2015 was a better year than 2014, while 32 percent think there wasn’t much difference.

Americans also are much less likely than they were a year ago to believe that the current year was better for the United States — only 17 percent compared with 30 percent a year ago. Thirty-seven percent think this year was worse for the country than last year, while 44 percent don’t think there was much difference.

On a personal level, fewer than a third (29 percent) believe 2015 was better for them than 2014, while 21 percent feel it was worse, compared with 15 percent in 2014.

Interviewed separately from the poll, Jason Pruitt, a 43-year-old corporate pilot from the Detroit area, said security concerns were a factor in deciding whether to take his wife and daughter along on a Christmas trip to New York.

“We were thinking about not coming this year, because of everything that’s going on,” Pruitt said. But they went ahead “because when you change your life, the terrorists win.”

THREE EVENTS SHARE THE TOP SPOT

Of those polled, 68 percent listed mass shootings in the U.S. as very or extremely important news events this year, including the one in San Bernardino that heightened fears of domestic terrorism, plus shootings in Charleston, South Carolina; Roseburg, Oregon; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Close behind, at 64 percent, were the Paris attacks that ushered in 2015, targeting Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish market, then the Bataclan concert hall and other city sites in November. 

And third, at 63 percent, came the Islamic State group’s various far-flung atrocities.

Commenting on the completed poll was 32-year-old J.P. Fury, working in a food truck in Times Square.

“At this point, I’m numb to all of it,” he said. “This is nothing new. Every week there’s a new shooting somewhere in America, and there’s a new terrorist attack somewhere around the world.”

Mass shootings and attacks weighed heavily on the minds of Americans in 2015, according to a new poll that found most believe this year was worse for the world than last year.

Domestically, 44 percent of those polled rate as extremely or very important the deaths of blacks in encounters with police that sparked “Black Lives Matter” protests in Baltimore and Chicago. 

Another 44 percent rate the deal reached to curtail Iran’s nuclear program as important, and nearly as many (42 percent) Europe’s migrant crisis.

Only 40 percent said the presidential race was important to them, with the Paris climate change conference right behind (at 38 percent), followed by the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage (36 percent) and the Cuban-U.S. thaw (30 percent).

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

Most Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve either at home (48 percent) or at the home of a friend or family member (20 percent). Nine percent plan to be at a bar, restaurant or organized event, while just under a quarter (22 percent) don’t plan to celebrate at all.

A majority of Americans (56 percent) will watch the New Year’s Eve events in Times Square, and 95 percent of those will see it on TV.

Those findings were similar to those of the past two years.

THE YEAR IN POP CULTURE

No single pop culture event of 2015 stands out, with fewer than four in 10 Americans rating any as memorable. 

The eagerly awaited “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was memorable only to 37 percent of those polled, and forgettable to 34 percent.

Bill Cosby’s legal woes were memorable to 36 percent; forgettable to 33 percent.

Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner, with a highly orchestrated publicity campaign, was forgettable to 52 percent, and Taylor Swift’s world tour to 55 percent.

Man starts fire at gas pump by putting lighter to spider on his fuel tank

 A man with an apparent case of arachnophobia caused a fire at a suburban Detroit gas pump by putting a lighter to what he says was a spider near his fuel door.

WJBK-TV reported  Saturday that he escaped injury and his vehicle suffered little damage, but the gas pump was destroyed. A clerk shut off the pump from indoors and called the fire department.

The motorist can be heard on the surveillance video at the Center Line station asking: “Is that a spider in there?” The video then shows flames erupting along the car’s side, the pump and the pavement.

The man darts to safety and later uses a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. A spider is not seen.

The clerk says he apologized the next day.

PETA exposes abuse at monkey breeding facility in Florida

An undercover investigation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at a monkey breeding facility has led to a federal review at the southwest Florida business.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating a Primate Products Inc. in Hendry County, where an undercover worker found sick and injured monkeys living in inhumane and unsanitary conditions.

PETA released a video on June 1 showing conditions at the facility. PETA spokesman Dan Paden said the video was taken by a PETA employee who was hired to work undercover at the facility. PETA first gave the video exclusively to The Associated Press.

After meeting with PETA, inspectors from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service went to Primate Products Inc.

Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the USDA, said in an email to the AP that Primate Products Inc. has three weeks to appeal the USDA inspectors’ report, which won’t be made public until that process is complete.

Espinosa said that the USDA does “currently have an open investigation into this facility.”

The seven-minute video showed workers holding rhesus macaque monkeys with protruding rectal tissue by the tails. The video also purports to show monkeys in feces-covered cages, monkeys without working water dispensers, and primates with broken bones and exposed wounds. A monkey also allegedly died from hypothermia because of cold temperatures and another was injured by a bear. The monkeys are kept in outdoor cages.

“Primate Products has been awarded federal contracts worth more than $13 million of taxpayers’ money and ships monkeys to massive testing laboratories and universities,” said Dan Paden, a PETA spokesman. “Its customers, like our own National Institutes of Health, need to watch this footage and decide whether they want to continue to bankroll this cruelty and these animals’ violent capturing, pain, terror and deaths.”

Hendry County, in the southwestern part of the state near Naples and Fort Myers, is something of a mecca for primate breeding facilities. Three monkey breeding farms containing thousands of primates operate in the small, rural county and a fourth is in the works.

The companies say they’re doing nothing wrong, they’re properly permitted agricultural facilities and they’re in the area with the blessing of authorities.

In November, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against Hendry County officials who approved that Primate Products Inc. could hold as many as 3,200 long-tailed macaques, a species linked to outbreaks of infectious disease. The lawsuit said Hendry County approved the controversial project behind closed doors with only the facility’s supporters present and failed to hold the public hearing required by the state’s Sunshine Law. Last week, the lawsuit was expanded to include a second farm that rents space on the property.

Thomas J. Rowell, a veterinarian and president of Primate Products Inc., told The Associated Press that “the inspection was thorough.”

“This is part of the process in which we fully cooperated,” Rowell wrote in an email. “I’m not aware of who provided the video. We welcomed the USDA’s visit. It’s good when you get the opportunity to review your operation through the eyes of others. We are always looking for opportunities to improve upon our program and appreciate the corrective actions and timelines provided by the USDA. Staff looks forward to working together with the aim of improving upon our animal welfare program.”

Primate Products uses two species of macaques from China, Cambodia, Mauritius or Vietnam. The animals are quarantined upon arriving in the United States.

Primate Products then breeds the monkeys for resale and distribution to research institutions, pharmaceutical companies and the federal government, according to a company spokesman. The monkeys sell for about $3,200 each.

Activists and residents say that the facilities shouldn’t be covered under the county’s agricultural zoning regulations. Monkeys, they say, are very different from cows or horses.

“As seen in the video, the company takes spinal fluid and blood from these wild animals, which can in no way be considered the ‘agriculture’ use that the company’s land is zoned for,” Paden said. “Hendry County can and should put an end to this cruelty and shut Primate Products down immediately.”

PETA filed a formal complaint with the USDA, asking the agency to look into alleged violations of animal welfare and protection laws.

With rescue near, Boko Haram stoned girls to death

Even with the crackle of gunfire signaling rescuers were near, the horrors did not end: Boko Haram fighters stoned captives to death, some girls and women were crushed by an armored car and three died when a land mine exploded as they walked to freedom.

Through tears, smiles and eyes filled with pain, the survivors of months in the hands of the Islamic extremists told their tragic stories to The Associated Press on May 3, their first day out of the war zone.

“We just have to give praise to God that we are alive, those of us who have survived,” said 27-year-old Lami Musa as she cradled her 5-day-old baby girl.

She was among 275 girls, women and their young children, many bewildered and traumatized, who were getting medical care and being registered a day after making it to safety.

Nigeria’s military said it has freed nearly 700 Boko Haram captives in the past week. It is still unclear if any of them were among the so-called “Chibok girls,” whose mass abduction from their school a year ago sparked outrage worldwide and a campaign for their freedom under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

Musa was in the first group of rescued women and girls to be transported by road over three days to the safety of the Malkohi refugee camp, a dust-blown deserted school set among baobab trees opposite a military barracks on the outskirts of Yola, the capital of northeastern Adamawa state.

Last week’s rescue saved her from a forced marriage to one of the killers of her husband, she said.

“They took me so I can marry one of their commanders,” she said of the militants who carried her away from her village after slaughtering her husband and forcing her to abandon their three young children, whose fates remain unknown. That was five months ago in Lassa village.

“When they realized I was pregnant, they said I was impregnated by an infidel, and we have killed him. Once you deliver, within a week we will marry you to our commander,” she said, tears running down her cheeks as she recalled her husband and lost children.

Musa gave birth to a curly-haired daughter the night before last week’s rescue.

As gunshots rang out, “Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and that we should run away with them. But we said no,” she said from a bed in the camp clinic, a blanket wrapped around ankles so swollen that each step had been agony.

“Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her,” she said, bending reflexively at the waist as though she still had to shield her newborn.

She and another survivor of the stoning, 20-year-old Salamatu Bulama, said several girls and women were killed, but they did not know how many.

The horrors did not end once the military arrived.

A group of women were hiding under some bushes, where they could not be seen by soldiers riding in an armored personnel carrier, who drove right over them.

“I think those killed there were about 10,” Bulama said.

Other women died from stray bullets, she said, identifying three by name.

There were not enough vehicles to transport all of the freed captives and some women had to walk, Musa said. Those on foot were told to walk in the tire tracks made by the convoy because Boko Haram militants had mined much of the forest. But some of the women must have strayed because a land mine exploded, killing three, she said.

Bulama shielded her face with her veil and cried when she thought about another death: Her only son, a 2-year-old toddler who died two months ago of an illness she said was aggravated by malnutrition.

“What will I tell my husband?” she sobbed after learning from other survivors who used borrowed cell phones to try to trace relatives that her husband was alive and in the northern town of Kaduna.

Musa, who had been in pain and withdrawn after her arrival the night before, greeted a reporter with smiles on Sunday – and the news that her breasts were finally giving milk and nourishment to her yet-to-be-named daughter.

Another survivor, Binta Ibrahim, was 16 years old and accompanying her sister-in-law to the dressmaker when Boko Haram insurgents rode into their village of Izghe, firing randomly at civilians. On that day in February 2014, the AP reported at least 109 people were killed and almost every hut destroyed as the militants lobbed firebombs onto their thatch roofs.

Ibrahim, her sister-in-law and two of Ibrahim’s sisters were among scores of young women abducted.

Her two sisters escaped in the pandemonium that surrounded an air raid, but Ibrahim, who was caring for three children she found abandoned after the insurgents moved into the neighboring village of Nbitha, did not go with them.

“I had these three kids to care for and I couldn’t abandon them a second time,” she explained.

She described trekking for two days from Nbitha to Boko Haram’s hideout in the Sambisa Forest with 2-year-old Matthew and 4-year-old Elija Yohanna strapped to her back and 4-year-old Maryam Samaila clinging to her waist.

“They were so weak from lack of food that they couldn’t walk. There was nothing to do but rest when I couldn’t take another step, and then press ahead when I had recovered,” she said.

The children are Christian and Ibrahim is a Muslim. While Nigeria’s northeastern Islamic insurgency has polarized many of Nigeria’s people on religious lines, that was the last thing in Ibrahim’s big heart.

“I love them as if they are my own,” she said, striking her breast with both fists to show the depth of her love for the children, who were rescued with her and still remain in her care.

Bruce Jenner’s mom opens up about the celebrity’s gender journey

With speculation flying, Bruce Jenner’s mother opened up this week about the celebrity’s gender journey.

Esther Jenner, 88, has been besieged by calls from the media in recent days, but the widow in Lewiston, Idaho, isn’t interested in fueling gossip. Instead, in a wide-ranging, nearly hour-long phone interview, she praised the former Olympian son for courage, stopping short of some details that have been floated by unnamed sources online and in tabloids.

Bruce Jenner, who won gold as a decathlete in the 1976 Summer Games, has not publicly spoken about gender transitioning. Jenner’s appearance has gradually become more traditionally feminine. A publicist for the 65-year-old Jenner would not comment about Esther Jenner’s remarks. Nor would E! Entertainment on word that Jenner will appear in a reality series.

Highlights from Esther Jenner’s conversation with The Associated Press:

AP: Have you spoken to Bruce recently about his transition?

Jenner: It was brief and I said I was proud of him and that I’ll always love him. I never thought I could be more proud of Bruce when he reached his goal in 1976, but I’m more proud of him now. It takes a lot of courage to do what he’s doing.

AP: He has opened up in terms of his gender identity, which he is now owning, as opposed to hiding like so many transgender people have to do? Is that right?

Jenner: That’s absolutely right. He said, `Mom, I’m still the same person.’ He said, `I’m still going to race cars, I’m still going to fly airplanes and I’m going to get my helicopter license.’

AP: How did it feel for him to come to you and explain?

Jenner: When I first learned about it, yes, of course it was a surprise.

AP: In a lot of cases, families really suffer from that kind of announcement.

Jenner: The family is close and very supportive of Bruce and we’re supportive of each other.

AP: Was it a shock?

Jenner: It was a shock. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it.

AP How did he explain it to you?

Jenner: He said, `I want to be honest about my identity and I know this is coming out in the press.’ He started by saying, `We need to have a long, serious talk.’ I am at peace with what he is and what he’s doing.

Editor’s note: The gender specific pronouns are part of the interview and are quotes.




5 hints for November elections

Nearly half of Americans don’t care very much which party wins control of Congress after the elections this fall, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. But even though most eligible Americans opt out of voting in a typical midterm election, there still will be winners and losers come Election Day. Here’s a look at five findings from the poll that could be meaningful come Nov. 4.

SO WHO DOES CARE?

Those who say they care a good deal which party wins control of Congress in November are evenly divided on which party they want to see win; 45 percent prefer Republicans, 44 percent Democrats. These engaged adults are nearly twice as likely as others to describe themselves as Republicans (45 percent call themselves Republicans vs. 23 percent among those who don’t care very much about party control). They lean more conservative generally, across social issues as well as economic ones.

Just over half describe themselves as middle class (55 percent), 7 in 10 are white and 53 percent are female.

INDEPENDENTS FEELING ESPECIALLY DETACHED

Turnout among each party’s ideological core may lead one or the other to victory, with independents increasingly disenchanted with both parties. In the new poll, 78 percent of independents said it doesn’t matter which party wins control of Congress, and 79 percent wanted their incumbent voted out. Both figures have increased since March.

But that disaffection isn’t translating into action. Independents aren’t as enthusiastic about the election as are Republicans or Democrats, particularly those at the ideological core in either party.

Six in 10 liberal Democrats say it matters a good deal who wins in November, as do 77 percent of conservative Republicans. Among independents, just 20 percent say the same.

TARGETED GROUPS NOT HIT YET

Both Democrats and Republicans are vying for support from women and Hispanics in their 2014 campaigns, yet the poll suggests that outreach may not yet have sold either group on the importance of this election. Democrats have an overall advantage among both groups as the preferred party to wind up in control of Congress next year. Among Hispanics, however, just 41 percent say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress. And less than half of unmarried or younger women say they care a great deal who wins.

TOP ISSUES

Nearly 9 in 10 call the economy an important problem (86 percent) and it’s the only issue in the poll which a majority considers “extremely important.” The economy tops the list of issues among those who care deeply about the election’s outcome as well as those who don’t. From there, priorities diverge.

To the disengaged, health care is more vital than the federal budget. Those two issues are about even in importance among people who care deeply about the election.

Regardless of interest in the outcome of the election, about 7 in 10 call gas prices a top issue. Among the disengaged, that makes it the third most important issue, while it ranks lower among those invested in the outcome.

Immigration is far more important for those who care deeply about the elections’ outcome (60 percent) than those who do not (43 percent), but the environment merits a top rating from majorities in both groups (56 percent among those who care, 55 percent among those who don’t).

ON OBAMA, LITTLE CHANGE

President Barack Obama’s approval rating holds steady in the new poll, with 43 percent approving and 56 percent disapproving of how he’s handling the presidency. Obama’s approval is about the same among those invested in the election as it is among those who don’t care much about the outcome.

But two issues the White House has recently touted are also the only two issues tested in the poll on which the president’s approval ratings fell. On handling the environment, less than half now approve of the president’s performance – 48 percent in the new poll compared with 56 percent in a December AP-GfK poll, and positive ratings for his handling of unemployment have dipped to 40 percent from 45 percent in January.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted May 16-19 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,354 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for all respondents.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.

Deadly side effect to fracking boom

Booming production of oil and natural gas has exacted a little-known price on some of the nation’s roads, contributing to a spike in traffic fatalities in states where many streets and highways are choked with large trucks and heavy drilling equipment.

An Associated Press analysis of traffic deaths and U.S. census data in six drilling states shows that in some places, fatalities have more than quadrupled since 2004 – a period when most American roads have become much safer even as the population has grown.

“We are just so swamped,” said Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva of Karnes County, Texas, where authorities have been overwhelmed by the surge in serious accidents.

The industry acknowledges the problem, and traffic agencies and oil companies say they are taking steps to improve safety. But no one imagines that the risks will be eliminated quickly or easily.

“I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon,” Villanueva said.

The traffic accidents have devastated families: two young boys crushed to death last year by a tanker truck in West Virginia; a Pennsylvania father killed by another tanker in 2011; a 19-year old Texas man fatally injured in 2012 after colliding with a drilling truck on his way to work. A month later, on the same road, three retired teachers died in another collision with a truck.

Not all of the crashes involved trucks from drilling projects, and the accidents have been blamed on both heavy equipment drivers and ordinary motorists. But the frenzy of drilling activity contributes heavily to the flood of traffic of all kinds that has overwhelmed many communities.

Deadly crashes are “recognized as one of the key risk areas of the business,” said Marvin Odum, who runs Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration operations in the Americas.

Crashes often increase when the volume of traffic goes up, whether because of an improving economy, a new shopping mall or more people moving into the area. Still, the number of traffic fatalities in some regions has soared far faster than the population or the number of miles driven.

In North Dakota drilling counties, the population has soared 43 percent over the last decade, while traffic fatalities increased 350 percent. Roads in those counties were nearly twice as deadly per mile driven than the rest of the state. In one Texas drilling district, drivers were 2.5 times more likely to die in a fatal crash per mile driven compared with the statewide average.

This boom is different from those of the past because of the hydraulic-fracturing process, which extracts oil and gas by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals. It requires 2,300 to 4,000 truck trips per well to deliver those fluids. Older drilling techniques needed one-third to one-half as many trips.

Another factor is the speed of development. Drilling activity often ramps up too fast for communities to build better roads, install more traffic signals or hire extra police officers to help direct the flow of cars and trucks.

Last year, a truck carrying drilling water in Clarksburg, West Virginia, overturned onto a car carrying a mother and her two boys. Both children, 7-year-old Nicholas Mazzei-Saum and 8-year-old Alexander, were killed.

“We buried them in the same casket,” recalled their father, William Saum. He said his wife, Lucretia Mazzei, has been hospitalized four times over the last year for depression.

Traffic fatalities in West Virginia’s most heavily drilled counties, including where the Mazzei-Saum boys were killed, rose 42 percent in 2013. Traffic deaths in the rest of the state declined 8 percent.

The average rate of deaths per 100,000 people – a key mortality measurement that accounts for population growth – in North Dakota drilling areas climbed 148 percent on average from 2009 to 2013, compared with the average of the previous five years, the AP found. In the rest of the state, deaths per 100,000 people fell 1 percent over the same period.

Traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania drilling counties rose 4 percent over that time frame, while in the rest of the state they fell 19 percent. New Mexico’s traffic fatalities fell 29 percent, except in drilling counties, where they only fell 5 percent.

In 21 Texas counties where drilling has recently expanded, deaths per 100,000 people are up an average of 18 percent. In the rest of Texas, they are down by 20 percent.

For Villanueva, that means there are now accidents serious enough to require air transport of victims three or four times each week, compared with only a few times a month before drilling operations took off.

Some experts say regulatory loopholes contribute to the problem. Federal rules governing how long truckers can stay on the road are less stringent for drivers in the oil and gas industry.

Every truck accident “is a tragedy,” said Steve Everley of the industry group Energy in Depth. He said oil and gas drillers and their suppliers have been working to reduce traffic and accidents by adopting safety programs, recycling more drilling water and building more pipelines for water.

Vehicle crashes are the single biggest cause of fatalities to oil and gas workers, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Some states are working to reverse the trend by widening roads or promoting safer driving.

On the day his sons were killed, William Saum’s wife had taken the boys to the YMCA to register for swimming and karate classes. The truck didn’t stop at the stop sign, tried to make a turn and flipped onto the family car. Police issued two traffic tickets but filed no criminal charges.

Asked what he thinks of the drilling boom, he paused.

“I guess,” Saum said, “it’s good for the people who are making the money.”

Scott Walker campaign fires aide for racist tweets

UPDATED: Voces de la Frontera responds to firing of Walker campaign aide

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign has fired a campaign aide for making racist comments about Hispanics on her Twitter account.

Walker, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, dismissed Taylor Palmisano as his campaign’s deputy finance director  on Dec. 3.

The campaign fired Palmisano after the Journal Sentinel contacted the office about her Twitter posts. The Milwaukee paper broke the story.

In a March 2011 tweet, Palmisano said she wanted to choke a noisy library custodian. She tweeted from @itstaytime: “I will choke that illegal mex cleaning in the library. Stop banging … chairs around and turn off your Walkman,” according to the Journal Sentinel.

In another tweet, she complained about passengers on a bus: “This bus is my worst … nightmare Nobody speaks English & these ppl dont know how 2 control their kids #only3morehours #illegalaliens.”

Palmisano, 23, in a statement, apologized and said she regrets making the “offensive and irresponsible remarks.”

Jonathan Wetzel in a statement for the campaign, said “Both the governor, and the campaign, condemn these insulting remarks which do not reflect our views in any way.”

Responding on Dec. 4, Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera, the state’s leading immigrant rights group, said, “While it is commendable that the Walker administration did the right thing by not allowing their representatives to get away with publicly disparaging and racist comments, those remarks pale in comparison to the devastating anti-immigrant agenda Scott Walker has assumed since taking office.”

Voces said Walker’s 2011-12 budget stripped Wisconsin immigrant students of the right to tuition equality at our state’s public universities. The governor also has run on a record of promising to veto access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants and those who are in the process of adjusting their status.

And, according to Voces de la Frontera, Walker fought to disenfranchise undocumented pregnant women by denying them critical pre-natal medical care and codified new forms of legal discrimination by eliminating Food Share benefits for lawful permanent resident immigrants.

“If Gov. Walker wants to win back the trust of Latino voters, he can start by reversing his dismal record and working to make Wisconsin an immigrant-friendly state that values all families, and recognizes the important economic contributions that all immigrants make to our state,” Neumann-Ortiz’ statement said.

Walker is running for re-election in 2014. He’s also making a number of appearances around the country that have led some to suspect he’ll run for president in 2016.

Palmisano’s Twitter account is no longer active.

Her profile on LinkedIn.com says she went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has worked at JPMorgan Chase, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and Friends of Scott Walker.