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In One Texas Town, Guns Are OK in the Classroom

Students in this tiny town of grain silos and ranch-style houses spent much of the first couple of days in school this week trying to guess which of their teachers were carrying pistols under their clothes.

“We made fun of them,” said Eric Howard, a 16-year-old high school junior. “Everybody knows everybody here. We will find out.”

The school board in this impoverished rural hamlet in North Texas has drawn national attention with its decision to let some teachers carry concealed weapons, a policy no other school in the country has followed. The idea is to ward off a massacre along the lines of what happened at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

“Our people just don’t want their children to be fish in a bowl,” said David Thweatt, the schools superintendent and driving force behind the policy. “Country people are take-care-of-yourself people. They are not under the illusion that the police are there to protect them.”

Russia Deal May Fall, A Casualty of Conflict

Just three months ago, President Bush reached a long-sought agreement with Russia intended to open a new era of civilian nuclear cooperation and sent it to Congress for review.

Now, according to administration officials, Bush is preparing to scrap his own deal.

The imminent collapse of the nuclear deal, once a top Bush priority, represents the most tangible casualty so far of the deteriorating relations with Russia after its brief war with neighboring Georgia. With Vice President Dick Cheney heading to Georgia next week, Bush is also poised to announce about $1 billion in economic aid to the country, the officials said.

Unlike more symbolic actions being discussed in Washington, like throwing Russia out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations, canceling the nuclear pact would involve concrete consequences potentially worth billions of dollars to Russia. Yet it also would mean unraveling an initiative that was critical to Bush’s vision of safely spreading civilian nuclear energy around the world, a program that relied in part on Russian involvement.

As Biomass Power Rises, a Wood-Fired Plant Is Planned in Texas

The city of Austin, Texas, approved plans on Thursday for a huge plant that will burn waste wood to make electricity, the latest sign of rising interest in a long-dormant form of renewable energy.

When completed in 2012, the East Texas plant will be able to generate 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 75,000 homes. That is small by the standards of coal-fired power plants, but plants fueled by wood chips, straw and the like — organic materials collectively known as biomass — have rarely achieved such scale.

Austin Energy, a city-owned utility, has struck a $2.3 billion, 20-year deal to be the sole purchaser of electricity from Nacogdoches Power, the company that will build the plant for an undisclosed sum. On Thursday, Austin’s City Council unanimously approved the deal, which would bring the Austin utility closer to its goal of getting 30 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

“We saw this plant as very important because it gives us a diversity of fuels,” said Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy. “Unlike solar and wind, we can run this plant night or day, summer or winter.”