Wade Goodwyn

To walk into Ted Cruz's holding room at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday afternoon was to walk into quite the group of happy campers.

With a friendly motion and a quick smile, the Republican Senator from Texas, looking relaxed in short sleeves, his foot up on the coffee table, waves you over to the chair beside him. It's just the tiniest bit unnerving, the notion flashes across your mind, "He knows I'm with NPR, right?"

When you don't know the facts of a given incident, it's human nature to attempt to fill them in yourself. But in the case of Bowe Bergdahl, there's no way you could concoct the narrative the Army's two-month investigation uncovered.

According to the testimony of Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who led the 22-member team during the investigation, Bergdahl, who was a private first class at the time, quietly slipped away from his bunk and sneaked out of Forward Operating Post Mest in eastern Afghanistan on the night of June 30, 2009.

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Army Sgt. Robert "Bowe" Bergdahl will be in a military courtroom in Texas Thursday, for the start of a hearing that will determine if he will face a court-martial on desertion and other charges. He could face a sentence of life in prison.

Whether the military proceeds with a court-martial will hinge, in part, on the events of the night of June 30, 2009. That's when Bergdahl went missing from his unit's outpost in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

Donald Trump's rallies tend to feel more like a playoff game or music concert than electoral politics. There's an expectation of entertainment — older couples are dressed up, and people are friendly and excited. Monday night's large rally at a basketball arena in Dallas was no exception.

"He's telling me everything I want to hear. I'm for change; I'm fed up with the 30 years of empty suits in Washington," said Brian Markum, an energy consultant who came to the rally with his wife.

The seeds of calamity for Rick Perry were sown years ago in the fertile political ground that Texas became for the Republican Party.

Perry suspended his campaign for president Friday evening, becoming the first candidate this year to get out of the crowded race for president. It was his second failed bid for the White House after leaving as Texas' longest-serving governor.

In Texas, fewer high school boys are playing football. And while there may be some concern about head injuries, one young athlete says the trend has more to do with demands on his time and the push for players to specialize in one sport.

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Tuesday, Rick Perry's campaign announced it could no longer pay his staffers around the country and released them to find other work. His fundraising had dried up. It's potentially an ignominious end to a noteworthy political career that spanned more than 30 years.

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What do you think of when you think of Dallas?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DALLAS THEME SONG")

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The executive board of the Boy Scouts of America has ended its outright ban on gay scout leaders today, but there's a caveat. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports that the resolution allows each scout unit to decide for itself whether to accept gay adult leaders.

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At the hands of the Texas Legislature, the last four years have been long for supporters of abortion rights.

The next blow lands on July 1, when a new law will go into effect in Texas and drastically reduce access to abortion services — likely leaving just nine clinics that perform abortions open in the entire state.

The controversial law, passed in 2013, requires clinics to meet tougher building standards and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

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Dallas's Parkland Hospital treats a lot of people without health insurance. On a November day in 1963, emergency room doctors at this county hospital frantically tried to save an American president who could not be saved. These days, emergency room doctors frantically try to treat 240,000 patients every year.

"So you can see we have every treatment area filled up. Beds are in the hallways and the rooms are all full," says Dr. John Pease, chief of emergency services.

Legislation was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott after the city of Denton voted to restrict fracking. Denton officials say oil companies should not wield more power than citizens.

Editor's Note: Sharon Wilson, an organizer interviewed in this story, began advocating for fracking reform in Denton in 2009 as an unpaid citizen leader. In 2011, she was hired as a full-time organizer by the environmental group Earthworks to continue her anti-fracking work in Denton.

The Texas Legislature is sending a message this week on the subject of same-sex marriage. And that message is: Hell no — again.

The bill that just got initial approval in the Texas Senate would protect clergy from having to conduct any marriage ceremony or perform any service that would violate their sacred beliefs.

"We want to make sure they are not ever coerced into performing a marriage ceremony that would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs," State Sen. Craig Estes told NPR. Estes sponsored the bill.

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In murder mystery novels, when the hero, a private detective or homicide cop, drops by a late-night Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to stave off a sudden craving for a beer or two or 20, it's usually in some dingy church basement or dilapidated storefront on the seedier side of town. There's a pot of burnt coffee and a few stale doughnuts on a back table.

The Center for Students in Recovery at the University of Texas could not be more different.

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

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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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.

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