Wade Goodwyn

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Incoming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott created a stir last week during a speech to the conservative and influential think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he accused Texas cities of contributing to the "California-ization" of Texas.

"The truth is, Texas is being California-ized with bag bans, fracking bans, tree-cutting bans," Abbott said. "We're forming a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations that is eroding the Texas model."

This past year, the number of inmates executed in America was the lowest in two decades at 35, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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The legal process is scheduled to end in Texas today for Scott Panetti. He's a convicted killer set for execution. He's drawn worldwide attention because he has a 36-year history of chronic schizophrenia. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

On Dec. 3, Texas is scheduled to execute Scott Panetti for murdering his in-laws in 1992. There is no doubt he committed the crime, and there is also no doubt that Panetti is mentally ill. But he was deemed fit to stand trial, and he was allowed to defend himself, dressing in a cowboy costume in court, insisting he was a character from a John Wayne movie.

Over the course of the last two decades — and many appeals — his case has gained national attention, and it has shone a spotlight on capital punishment and mental illness.

A Diagnosis

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Texas politics is about to take another big step to the right. While nobody outside Texas would describe Gov. Rick Perry or Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as moderate Republicans, their likely replacements are considerably more conservative — especially in the powerful lieutenant governor's office.

The eyes watching Texas have mostly focused on the governor's race between Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott. But the contest between former conservative radio talk show host Dan Patrick and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte from San Antonio will very likely be of more political consequence.

Dallas nurse Nina Pham was discharged from a National Institutes of Health hospital in Maryland Friday, where doctors confirmed she was free of the Ebola virus.

Pham's colleague Amber Vinson is also said to be free of Ebola, though she remains in a hospital in Atlanta.

While their progress is being cheered, many nurses around the country still feel their profession unfairly received blame for the errors in treating Ebola in Dallas.

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Dr. Daniel Varga is chief clinical officer for Texas Health Resources, a network of 25 hospitals that includes Presbyterian in Dallas, which treated the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

I spoke with Varga today about the lessons the hospital learned in its battle with Ebola. Here are a few highlights:

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We have some news and an advisory. The news is this, the Texas Department of Health says a second health care worker tested positive for Ebola. The advisory is what we don't know. Dr. Daniel Varga is with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

The Ebola virus, which killed a patient at a Dallas hospital Wednesday, has become part of the conversation among politicians and pundits — in particular, conservative politicians and pundits. The virus has added heat to conversations about immigration and border control, as well as ongoing criticisms of the Obama administration and the government in general.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

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At the White House today, President Obama said his administration is taking aggressive action, in West Africa and in the U.S., to stop Ebola. And he said the federal government is working on additional steps to enhance passenger screening.

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This month brought two more exonerations based on new DNA evidence. Henry Lee McCollum was 19 years old and his half-brother, Leon Brown, was 15 when they were arrested. The two black, intellectually disabled half brothers were convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old Sabrina Buie and spent 30 years on death row.

In a Brownsville family clinic, a powerfully built, bald doctor treats a never-ending line of sick and injured patients. He has been practicing for nearly four decades, but family medicine is not his calling.

"For 35 years I had a clinic where I saw women and took care of their reproductive needs, but mostly terminating pregnancies," Dr. Lester Minto says.

The day he was booked, Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave a big smile for his mug shot — which was then printed up on t-shirts to demonstrate just what a farce he thought the indictment was. In a press conference, the scorn dripped from Perry's voice as he took up the sword — defender, not of himself, but of the state's constitution.

"We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country," he said. "It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution."

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We're taking up the classic theme of the lone cowboy or rancher out West. American men have been embracing that ideal for generations. NPR's Wade Goodwyn introduces us to one Texas rancher who still lives a life of unencumbered freedom on the open range.

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