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Fireworks all around at GOP debate, but Trump presence resounded

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So much for the notion that Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump might tone down his reality show bombast for his first-ever political debate Thursday night.

Trump wouldn’t rule out a third-party White House bid if he doesn’t win the GOP nomination, shrugged off past bankruptcies by his businesses, said he made political contributions to buy influence and refused to back down from harsh comments about Mexican immigrants.

“If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration,” Trump said of the issue that has generated Hispanic outrage and catapulted him to the top of Republican polls.

>> Trump’s presence dominated the 10-candidate debate televised by Fox News

There were also fireworks between Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over data gathering by the National Security Agency, and a more low-key effort by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to separate himself from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Rubio, 44, cast himself as a candidate of the future and a product of middle class upbringing, drawing a distinction from the 62-year-old Bush, the scion of a wealthy political dynasty.

“This election better be about the future, not the past,” Rubio said.

“If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she going to lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago. If I’m our nominee, we’ll be the party of the future,” Rubio said.

Rubio also took issue with the Common Core education standards favored by Bush. While Bush insisted local governments should set education standards, Rubio claimed the U.S. Department of Education “will not stop with it being a suggestion” and would turn Common Core into a federal mandate.

Before the main event, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dominated a debate of seven GOP candidates excluded from the main debate by Fox News because of their low polling numbers. Fiorina skewered Republican front runner Trump over his ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and shifts on abortion, immigration and health care.

Fiorina didn’t name Bush but said the GOP nominee “cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring.” She confirmed after the debate that she was talking about Bush’s recent remark that “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Bush’s comment angered many conservatives because it conflated the debate over Planned Parenthood and its use of aborted fetal tissue with the broader question of women’s health and allowed defensive Democrats to go back on offense.

Asked specifically about Bush in a post-debate interview, Fiorina said: “It’s disappointing. I spent all of last year with a lot of other conservatives pushing back effectively against the ‘War on Women’…It’s really disappointing when a front-runner gives the Democrats an ad and a talking point before he’s even in the ring.”

4 takeaways from Thursday's GOP Debate

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The Donald goes Full Trump

So much for the notion that Donald Trump might tone it down a little and act presidential in his first political debate. He wouldn’t rule out a third-party bid for president if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination. “I don’t have time to be politically correct,” he said when asked about harsh comments about women. On his remarks about Mexico sending criminals to the U.S., he said, “If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration.”

Rubio separates himself from Bush

Differentiating himself from 62-year-old former Gov. Jeb Bush and his wealthy family, 44-year-old Sen. Marco Rubio said: “This election better be about the future, not the past. … If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she going to lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago. If I’m our nominee, we’ll be the party of the future.”

Paul and Christie mix it up on data gathering

Libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul said “I want to collect more records from terrorists but less records from innocent Americans.” Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, called that answer “ridiculous.” Paul noted that Christie once gave President Obama “a big hug.”

Fiorina steals early show

In a seven-candidate debate before the main event, Carly Fiorina skewered Trump over his ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton and shifts on abortion, immigration and health care without insulting the Trump followers Republicans need. Clearly referring to Bush and his recent women’s health gaffe, she said the GOP nominee “cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring.”

Austin snake attack: 5 things to know about monocled cobras

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Ever since police found Grant James Thompson unresponsive in a North Austin parking lot from an apparent snake bite on Tuesday, what remained missing was the prime suspect: a monocled cobra.

Authorities said the 18-year-old man, who worked at a pet store, had suffered cardiac arrest before he was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Thompson had puncture wounds on his wrist, police said, but an autopsy report on his death is pending. A cobra has been found dead on a service road near where Thompson was found.

One non-venomous snake, six tarantulas and a bullfrog were found in the vehicle. But when authorities searched Thompson’s home in Temple, a monocled cobra was missing from its cage.

Here are five things to know about the animal:

1. The “monocle” in the snake’s name refers to the O-shaped pattern on its hood that looks like the old-fashioned eyewear. It’s the most obvious way to distinguish it from its more famous cousin, the Indian cobra, which has a V-shaped pattern.

2. The monocled cobra is native to Southeast Asia. It prefers swampy habitats, but the snake can be found in grassy places and tree holes. In urban areas, the snakes prefer hiding under houses and other covered places during the day.

3. Its neurotoxic venom makes this cobra so deadly that a bite can kill an adult human within an hour if a vein is hit. The venom affects the central nervous system, leading to respiratory failure or heart failure.

4. It can grow to nearly 5 feet long and typically eats small mammals, frogs and sometimes other snakes and fish.

5. You can legally keep a monocled cobra in Texas. State law does not require a license for having one, but it does require a controlled exotic animal permit that you can get with a $30 fee.

4 things to know about the Supreme Court's pro-gay marriage ruling

1. In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Constitution requires states to license same-sex marriage and to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed elsewhere. [Read more]

2. The court's majority includes Justices Anthony Kennedy (the conventional "swing vote") joining the bench's liberal wing: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. The opinion appears to hinge on the dual Consitutional reasoning of fundamental rights and equal protection. [Read the complete opinion]

3. Justice Kennedy, a Republican appointee, has become the court's most prominent defender of same-sex relationships -- authoring its majority opinions in the three major gay rights decisions: Lawrence v. Texas, United States v. Windsor and now Obergefell v. Hodges. Observers say this reflects Kennedy's deeply-held beliefs about individual privacy and liberty. [Read more]

4. Some opponents of same-sex marraige say they are being "bullied" for their beliefs, and now fear speaking out publicly. Beyond the verbal backlash that many say they are receiving, these opponents assert that speaking their minds could hurt their businesses, their employment or their chances for advancement at work. [Read more]

Arrests from biker gang shooting in Waco

University sends 450 mistaken acceptance brochures

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More than 450 students received acceptance brochures to Texas State University last month only to be told it was a mistake.

University spokesman Jayme Blaschke said that on March 27, an outside vendor accidentally mailed acceptance brochures to hundreds of students with incomplete admissions applications. Some of those students have completed their applications and received formal acceptance letters, but many applications are still incomplete.

The brochure contained orientation and residence hall information.

The university plans on mailing out a letter today to brochure recipients acknowledging the error and clarifying their status.

Blaschke said that a mistake of this nature has not happened before at the university in San Marcos.

“Texas State is reviewing the process to understand how this happened and to ensure it does not happen again,” he said.

In December, John Hopkins University accidentally sent 294 applicants a welcome message even though most of them were denied admission or had been deferred.

In February, Carnegie Mellon University accidentally accepted about 800 applicants into its computer science graduate program. They all had been rejected.

Police: Trucker kidnapped, raped women over 7-year period

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A Georgia truck driver has been charged with rape, kidnapping and making terroristic threats for alleged attacks on women that police said took place over a seven-year period.

According to a news release from Floyd County police, Lester Owensby Pauley, 58, of Cave Spring, was initially arrested Nov. 25 following a fight in Rome, Georgia.

“Allegations made to patrol officers at that time spurred officers to look into Pauley’s past, where police discovered allegations by women who say they were raped and held against their will,” police said in the release.

Police said Pauley is a truck driver with routes that may have taken him as far away as Mississippi, and investigators are seeking the public’s help in locating other potential victims.

Anyone with information should call Floyd County police at 706-235-7766.

Pauley is being held without bond in the Floyd County Jail.

Report: Man files bill to legalize killing gays via 'bullets to the head'

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A California lawyer has proposed a law people are calling "ridiculous" and "offensive."

For $200, Matt McLaughlin, of Huntington Beach, filed a ballot measure that would legalize killing gays and lesbians, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The measure also defines how gays could be killed: via "bullets to the head" or "any other convenient method," according to the bill's text.

The measure, called the Sodomite Suppression Act, is stirring controversy not just for its text but also for matters of free speech.

In California, when a ballot measure is filed, the state's attorney general is charged with writing and presenting a title and summary. Experts told the Sacramento Bee that Attorney General Kamala Harris "has little choice but to let the process continue and that McLaughlin is unlikely to face professional repercussions."

Backlash to the measure was swift. The California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus has written to the state's bar asking for McLaughlin to be investigated, and a petition to disbar McLaughlin has 3,800 signatures, the Bee reports.

Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

Photos: 50 years after Bloody Sunday in Selma

Cuba ferry from Florida Keys could become reality

Want to take a ferry from the Florida Keys to Cuba?

That's the goal of Fort Lauderdale-based company KonaCat, which hopes to carry travelers from Marathon to Havana by the end of the year, reports keysnet.com.

The service is just one of many now possible since President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba earlier this year.

A one-way trip would cost $169, or $338 for a round trip ticket, keysnet.com reports.

"The trips are going to be for religious groups, educational trips and for Cuban-Americans to see their families again," KonaCat owner Brian Hall told keysnet.com.

Read the full report from keysnet.com.

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