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News-Telegram: State News

RECALL ALERT: Some EpiPen, EpiPen Jr. Devices recalled

Some EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. Devices, an epinephrine preoduct used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions, are beIng recalled in the United States.

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Payless files Chapter 11; local store not among closures

NEW YORK — Shoe chain Payless ShoeSource has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest retailer to succumb to increasing competition from online rivals like Amazon.

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State parks are approaching peak wildflower time

From the Gulf Coast to the Big Bend each spring, wildflowers brighten the Texas landscape. State parks offer some of the best places to enjoy spectacular displays of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and other native flowering plants.

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From Russia with love: April Fool’s Day joke offers election hacking

MOSCOW (AP) — Need some election interference? The Russian Foreign Ministry is ready to help — or so it says on April Fools' Day.

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O’Rourke officially throws hat in ring against Cruz

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke has begun his longshot 2018 Senate run by praising immigrants, saying America draws strength from refugees and suggesting it's time to "end this failed war on drugs."

The 44-year-old, third-term congressman told supporters Friday on a rooftop in his hometown of El Paso that he will support policies embracing people coming to the U.S. as immigrants or refugees.

He promised to halt the "paranoia coming out of the White House."

O'Rourke has been a longtime critic of U.S. drug policy. On Friday he also criticized Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, saying the state needs a "senator working full-time for Texas" rather than "serving his own interests" running for president.

O'Rourke spoke about "comprehensive immigration reform" than repeated the words in fluent Spanish.

That campaign had a bit of a rocky start. O'Rourke's own website unveiled a "Beto for Senate" logo hours before his speech.

The third-term congressman is nonetheless the kind of rising political star Democrats hope can help begin turning deep red Texas blue, aided by a booming Hispanic population and state politics pushed even farther right by Trump and Cruz. O'Rourke first made a name for himself playing guitar for Foss, an El Paso punk rock band that included drummer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, who went on to play for the Grammy Award-winning act The Mars Volta.

He'll still have to emerge, though, from a Democratic primary field that could include another up-and-comer, fellow Rep. Joaquin Castro from San Antonio.

"The Trump factor. He's the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats in Texas," said the state's Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. "It's energizing the base and changing the whole dynamics of electoral politics here, and that's what these two guys see."

It's hard to imagine any Democrat taking Texas by storm, much less toppling Cruz, who added to his national stature running for president while remaining popular in most GOP circles back home. A Democrat hasn't won statewide office in Texas in 23 years, the nation's longest losing streak by a political party.

Still, O'Rourke insists Cruz is beatable and there are some positive signs for Democrats, who in November swept down-ballot races in Harris County, which includes Houston, and made notable gains in other fast-growing areas. Trump still beat Hillary Clinton in Texas by 9 percentage points — but that was the first time a Republican didn't carry the state by double digits since 1996.

Castro hasn't tamped down speculation he too will run for Senate and would be favored over O'Rourke. Hinojosa says he's assuming Castro will run with help from his twin brother, Julian, the former San Antonio mayor who was President Barack Obama's Housing and Urban Development Secretary.

O'Rourke was elected to the El Paso City Council at age 32 but remained virtually unknown outside his hometown until the 2012 Democratic primary, when he ousted eight-term Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a former House Intelligence chairman.

His El Paso district is strongly Democratic, making general elections since then an afterthought. But even if O'Rourke survives a dogfight primary this time, beating Cruz would be far tougher.

"I think his history indicates if he decides to do this, he will spend all his energy, time and resources on getting elected," said Jose Rodriguez, a state senator from El Paso who has hosted past O'Rourke congressional fundraisers.

O'Rourke has long been a supporter of legalizing pot to slow the drug war that for years turned Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, into one of the world's deadliest places. He authored the 2011 book, "Dealing Death and Drugs," which argued that America's war on drugs had failed.

O'Rourke was arrested in 1995 for breaking and entering after jumping a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso during what he now says was a prank, but prosecutors declined the case. Three years later, O'Rourke was arrested for drunken driving and received deferred adjudication to avoid conviction, an incident he has called a mistake.

The son of a former El Paso County judge who was a longtime Democrat but switched parties, O'Rourke is an outspoken advocate for bipartisanship, which he says can foment trade and cultural exchange on the border.

When a snowstorm canceled flights into Washington this month, O'Rourke and Republican Rep. Will Hurd, from a sprawling Texas district next to his, spent 36 hours driving a rented Chevy Impala from San Antonio to the nation's capital, livestreaming much of the way. The pair became an internet sensation during hours of listening to Johnny Cash, hitting Whataburger and jointly opposing Trump's border wall.

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Dallas/Ft. Worth News

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