Would you let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration take a blood sample from you for $50? Or swab your cheek for ten bucks? What about just blowing into a breathalyzer as a freebie, if the goal is to complete a comprehensive survey to determine the number of drink- and drug-impaired drivers on the road?
Some probably would, while others would probably choose to keep their saliva, blood, and breath to themselves. But if you were in your car, ushered off of a busy road by police, and asked by a federal subcontractor for the samples in question, you might not really feel like you had a choice.
That's something that motorists in Fort Worth found themselves encountering last week, as off-duty police officers hired by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation—a subcontractor with the NHTSA—set up roadblocks to assist the company in acquiring the samples. The federal agency is spending $7.9 million on the survey, which is being conducted in 30 cities over three years. According to an NBC 5 investigation, the administration claims that "participation was '100 percent voluntary' and anonymous."
No one knows what happened to Alfred Wright, the 28-year-old married father of three from Jasper who disappeared in Sabine County on Thursday night. What we do know is that his truck broke down in Hemphill, where the home health physical therapist may have been visiting a patient; that a witness reported seeing him walk away from his truck after talking on his cellphone; and that his clothing, his watch, his keys, and his credit cards were found in a pasture that was the opposite direction from the one the witness says she saw him walk.
Without any more evidence than that, it's impossible to claim to know the nature of Wright's disappearance. But Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox, who called off the search for the missing man on Monday night, told KTRE News that "there is no evidence in this investigation that leads authorities to believe that there is foul play involved," and "Alfred Wright is just a missing person," whose case will be treated as such.
It's election day! Have you voted? Did you bring your ID? A pen to sign an affidavit affirming that you're the person you say you are, in case your ID features a different name than the one you registered to vote under? Because that's been a part of the experience for some prominent Texans—and, presumably, a lot more whose names don't make headlines.
Last night, the ongoing saga of abortion rights in Texas made national—and, indeed, international—news when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit granted the state's motion for an emergency stay of the injunction ordered by the U.S. District Court in Austin earlier in the week.
The ruling from the district judge, Lee Yeakel (a 2003 appointee of President Bush), found part of the contentious abortion bill to be unconstitutional. Specifically, on Monday afternoon, Judge Yeakel struck down the provision that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and ordered an injunction, which would prevent that part of the law from going into effect on Tuesday, as scheduled.
Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately filed an appeal of the district court's ruling, which was expected. Less expected was that he'd file an emergency motion to stay the injunction, in an attempt to allow the law to go into effect immediately. The 5th Circuit has jurisdiction over both the appeal and the motion—and the court's response to the latter offers a pretty strong indication of how they'll rule on the former.
Emergency Stay Granted
A panel of three judges from the 5th Circuit (not, it should be noted, the court in its entirety) issued an opinion last night that granted the emergency stay of the injunction. This is not a ruling on the bill itself; this just allows the law to go into effect until that ruling is made, which will happen in January. (The judges, Priscilla R. Owen, Jennifer Walker Elrod, and Catharina Haynes, are all George W. Bush appointees.)