Austin EMS blames synthetic drug for sickening 200 people

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services officials say more than 200 people have been sickened in the last three weeks after taking a synthetic drug known as K2.

The Austin American-Statesman reports ( ) that overnight on Saturday, authorities handled 13 calls for 14 patients.

Authorities say the recent spate of cases has lasted nearly three weeks. In the past, several spikes in calls related to the drug only lasted up to four days.

The synthetic drug is designed to mimic the effects of marijuana.

But it also can cause violent behavior, paranoia, seizures, low heart rates and low blood pressure.

Although the synthetic drug is still legal under Texas state law until Sept. 1, Austin police are working to tamp down street-level dealers.


Dallas hopes residents will shift to reusable bags

DALLAS (AP) — While a Dallas city ordinance charging for carryout bags has been repealed, some residents and supermarkets remained hopeful that the short-lived rule will prompt people in the long run to shift to reusable bags.

The Dallas City Council was prompted to repeal the nickel-a-bag fee in part by a lawsuit from bag manufacturers and an opinion on the ordinance from the Texas attorney general’s office, The Dallas Morning News reported ( ) Saturday.

The ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1, was repealed on June 3.

The short-lived program’s primary aim was to reduce litter from flyaway plastic bags. But it also brought the city more than $580,000 in fees.

Kris Sweckard, director of code compliance for the city, said there’s no way to tell whether the ordinance had any lasting effect on plastic bag use or litter.

Inspectors checked on more than 2,300 possible violations, according to city records, and issued hundreds of violation notices — in effect, warnings. No one got a formal citation carrying the prospect of a fine.

The bag ordinance had its share of problems when it was first implemented. Stores had to change cashiering systems to tally the 5-cent city fee and they had to produce signs — in both English and Spanish — about the fee requirement.

Phil Rozenski, director of sustainability for Novolex, a bag manufacturing firm that sued over the fee, called the ordinance one of the worst he’s seen, from the perspective of affected businesses.

Kroger spokesman Gary Huddleston said bag use at the supermarket chain’s Dallas stores declined about 25 to 30 percent while the fee was in effect.

“Customers have gotten used to using reusable bags in the city of Dallas,” Huddleston said, “and we hope that will continue.”

The bag fee prompted resident Edgar Edwards, 28, to start using reusable bags and he would probably keep using them.

Tara Hafertepe, 25, never switched to reusable. But Hafertepe said she made sure items were consolidated into fewer plastic bags.



Electrician dies in Baylor University construction accident

WACO, Texas (AP) — An electrician from Waco has been identified as the worker who died in an elevator shaft accident at a construction site at Baylor University.

A school statement Saturday said 51-year-old Jeffrey Thaemert was an independent electrician working for Rosendin Electric of Dallas.

Thaemert died in the accident late Friday morning at the new business building under construction on the campus in Waco.

Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman says Thaemert died at the scene. Officials have not released further details on how the man died.

Authorities continue to investigate the cause of the accident.


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