5 things to watch for Wednesday

5 things to watch for Wednesday

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TX state senator, Lubbock businessman both indicted on felony charges

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal grand jury in San Antonio has issued multiple felony fraud charges against a Texas state senator from a border district.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, was charged Tuesday with bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and securities fraud. If convicted, Uresti could face up to 20 years in prison on several of the charges.

Federal officials say Uresti is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in a San Antonio court.

The indictments accuse Uresti of engaging in an investment Ponzi scheme to market hydraulic fracturing sand for oil production. He's also charged with aiding a bribery scheme to secure a prison medical services contract.

According to the San Antonio Experess, Uresti, 53, and Lubbock businessman Vernon C. Farthing III, 44, are accused in a separate indictment of conspiring with others from January 2006 through September 2016 to pay and accept bribes to secure a Reeves County Correctional Center medical services contract for Farthing’s company.

Uresti's office did not immediately comment. Uresti is one of 11 Democrats in the 31-member Texas Senate.

Trump and Nixon: a new Watergate?

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. John McCain says the latest revelations out of the Trump White House are "at a point where it's of Watergate size and scale."

The Arizona Republican says, "We've seen this movie before." He spoke Tuesday night at a dinner where he was receiving the International Republican Institute's Freedom Award.

"The shoes continue to drop, and every couple days there's a new aspect," McCain said in comments reported by the Daily Beast.

McCain says Trump needs to "get it all out ... and the longer you delay, the longer it's going to last."

McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, also calls it "unacceptable" for Trump to invite Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov into the Oval Office last week, calling him a "stooge." Trump disclosed classified information in that meeting.

LUBBOCK, Texas - A new scandal, a new allegation comes to light seemingly everyday.

Because of the recent trends in headlines, political pundits are starting dub the current situation the start of another Watergate era.

Seth McKee, Texas Tech political science professor, said it is the combination of the endless allegations followed by the missteps of the administration that are fueling the fire of the comparisons to Nixon's undoing.

"Watergate was all about a Republican operation that was interfering with a Democratic presidential campaign," McKee said. "Now what makes this different is we don't know if those, including Donald Trump and his campaign were really involved with Russian interference of an American presidential election."

Adding to the list of similarities, McKee said the firing of FBI Director James Comey is eerily similar to the Saturday Night Massacre which resulted in the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.

"When Comey was fired, immediately the pundits would make the comparison to what was known as the Saturday Night Massacre and it's a fair comparison and the reason why is because what is the justification for firing Comey?" he said. "It was done because he had either personal or professional reasons for letting him go."

Sean Cunningham, associate professor and chair of Texas Tech's Department of History, said what we have seen in the firing of Comey does not necessarily compare to that night and drawing comparisons between Trump and Nixon could be dangerous. 

"I do think that it's not necessarily healthy to make those comparisons," Cunningham said. "Every person is unique, circumstances are always unique, contexts change, history does not always neatly repeat itself. So I would hesitate to embrace comparisons especially with radical individuals in order to discredit someone today."

Still, comparisons dominate headlines asking the question, is Trump trying a Nixon-esque cover up?

"If Trump is guilty of something he is the sloppiest president we have ever seen in terms of a cover up," McKee said. "Nixon was very methodical and careful but with a moment like the Saturday Night Massacre, it's one of those things where you go, OK, it's over because the only justification for doing that is obstructing justice."

In a Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday, the president's approval numbers continue to drop. Only 40 percent approve of the job President Trump is doing while more Americans are in favor of impeachment with a majority thinking he will not complete his term in office.

Pvt. Chelsea Manning set for release after 7 years in prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Pvt. Chelsea Manning is due to be released from a Kansas military prison after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence for leaking classified government materials to WikiLeaks.

The transgender soldier is scheduled to be freed from Fort Leavenworth on Wednesday in accordance with former President Barack Obama's decision to grant her clemency in his final days in office.

The Oklahoma native's attorneys and the Army have refused to say precisely when and how she will be released, citing potential safety concerns.

The former intelligence analyst in Iraq acknowledged leaking the materials, saying she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard of the effects of war on civilians.

She was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison.

Tornadoes in Wisconsin, Oklahoma leave 2 dead

CHICAGO (AP) - Two people have died and dozens are injured after tornadoes flattened a mobile home park in Wisconsin and a housing subdivision in Oklahoma during powerful spring storms that battered an area from the South Plains of Texas to the Great Lakes.

The storms hit late in the afternoon Tuesday and into the evening, leveling the Prairie Lake Estate Mobile Park near Chetek, Wisconsin. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald told KMSP-TV that when first responders arrived at the scene, they could hear the people crying for help in the rubble.

In Oklahoma, another tornado damaged much of a subdivision on the southern fringe of Elk City. Fire Chaplain Danny Ringer told reporters at the scene late Tuesday that one person was known dead from the twister, although details were lacking.

Study: Islam will soon be the most practiced religion in the world

LUBBOCK - For more than 2,000 years, Christianity has been the world's most practiced religion with billions of followers. But according to a Pew Research Center study, between 2010 and 2060 another faith will grow at an unprecedented rate.

Jeremy Herrera's new found faith was difficult for his mother to accept. She raised him Catholic.

"I grew up Roman Catholic," Jeremy said. "I was baptized in the Catholic church, my entire family is Catholic."

Growing up, Jeremy said he was very enthusiastic about his faith. He went to mass every week, sacrificed something for Lent each year, fasted on Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday.

"When I got into college, like most people probably around my age, they get into college and they start questioning their faith," he said. "As you get into college, you begin to get exposed into many different ways of life, ideologies, different philosophies"

He says with those questions came resistance to what the Catholic faith taught him.

"They say you have to love Jesus with all your heart, you have to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior, and this is all part of the Christian theology," he said. "And I had a really hard time with that, because really, the main thing for me was how do I, how can I accept a stranger like that."

Trying to make sense of it all, he looked for answers in the New Testament, but that just lead to more questions.

"I felt that Christianity in terms of its belief, its creed, it was very complicated," he said. "I could never explain God in one sentence, when it comes to Christianity, I don't think any Christian for that matter can explain who God is, and have it make sense. Because for me, the whole idea of the Trinity just threw me off."

Eventually, Jeremy abandoned the family faith and belief in a higher authority.

"I lived a life where I didn't believe in God, I didn't care about God, didn't want to know God, and questioned myself with these ideas if God really existed or not," he said. "And I just felt like, 'well, I'll live my life however I want,' you know? Live a good, moral, upright life."

But as time passed by, Jeremy says he felt a hole in his heart, and even though his childhood faith wasn't going to work for him, he started searching for God again.

"I decided that I would start with Judaism or Islam, and a long time ago I seen somewhere somehow Muslims praying," he said. "I don't know where, but that image always stuck in my head, the way they prayed."

So his research took him to Islam.

"I called the Imam here at this mosque, and I asked him where I could purchase one (Quran), and he said, 'you know, you don't have to purchase one, you just come out to the mosque, join one of the nightly prayers and I'll give you one for free.' So I said, 'OK,' so I came, picked up my Quran, I left and I started reading it, and from there on that's where my journey toward Islam started."

Jeremy's journey is not that uncommon, those who study religious conversions report many younger people are attracted to Islam because of simplicity.

"I think in many ways Islam is very simple," said LCU professor of religion Stacy Patty. "It's attractive because it's simple. There is one god, we pray, we take care of people, and we live our lives, we love our family, etc."

"They find Islam to be a complete package and complete way of life," Imam Samer Altabaa said. "They find all the answers in Islam that makes sense, there is no contradictions, and is so simple."

According to the Pew Research, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 and while Islam is the world's second largest religion -- it's the fastest-growing major religion.

"Actually I can hear, and see, and feel even Islam is really the fastest-growing religion in the world, and a lot of people convert to Islam, I can see it here in Lubbock, I could see it when I was in Denver, I could see it even when I was in Cleveland, Ohio," Altabaa said. "We always have people who come to Islam and convert to our faith."

But professor Patty thinks otherwise.

"I don't think there is more conversions, in terms of percentages," Patty said. "It's a combination of factors in my mind. On one hand some Christian and Jewish groups certainly have secularized overtime, there is less emphasis in traditional Christian doctrine, less emphasis upon purity of a marriage, those sorts of things, and then that leads to some people longing for that again. And I think it's pretty clear that in many cases conversions come because they are looking that."

Regardless of conversions, Pew Research predicts adherents to Islam will increase by 70 percent by 2060. The number of Christians is expected to rise by 34 percent. So by the turn of the century there will be 3.1 billion Muslims in the world.

According to Pew, there are two main factors. The first one is Muslim women on average have three children, compared to women from other religious groups that have two. The second factor is Muslims are on average seven years younger than non-Muslims, which means they are or they will start having children.

But with that growth comes apprehension about Islamic extremists. Even though Jeremy was full of conviction, there was also fear fueled by the Muslim backlash and misconceptions about the religion's true belief.

"Of course I was scared, I was terrified of Muslims, 'what are they going to do to me?' But I came, I saw, I sat in the back, and I saw them praying," Jeremy said. "After the prayer I met with the Imam, he talked to me, gave me the Quran and that was it."

"Unfortunately our religion was hijacked by extremist radical people. These people are radical extremists and criminals," Altabaa said. "This is the religion of peace. This is the religion that came to stop violence and killing."

"Horrible misconceptions," Patty said. "I always tell people, 'you need to meet some Muslims, you need to go to Friday prayer and understand who they are. They are our neighbors, they are Americans. Muslims were here before there was an America, And they've always been here."

Three years after adopting a new way of life and trying to learn a new language, Jeremy says it's the best decision he has ever made.

"I feel now that i actually have a purpose to live," Jeremy said. "I didn't find it anywhere else. But through reading the Quran I found my real reason for even existing." 

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