Bikers, Skateboarders Tug of War Over Skate Park

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Despite 78,000 square feet of ramps, rails, pipes and pyramids, Houston skateboarders believe the city's newest skatepark still isn't big enough to share with BMXers.

Spring Skate Park currently stands at Kuykendahl and Rankin as America's largest statepark. Opening day last week drew huge crowds of eager skateboarders, many of whom have traveled from out of state just to careen and crash over the park's beautiful concrete slopes.

Yet as skateboarders made use of the free facilities, bikers loudly protested their exclusion. Spring Skate Park won't allow cyclists to share the space, citing safety concerns over mixing four-wheelers and two-wheelers even though skateparks the world over have traditionally allowed both groups.

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Sheriff's Deputy Sues Over New HCSO Social Media Policy

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If you're a Harris County Sheriff's Office employee, good luck sticking to the new restrictions put in place by the HCSO higher-ups that dictate what you can and can't post on social media.

Under the new policy, HCSO employees risk disciplinary action if their Facebook or Twitter posts "cause undue embarrassment or damage the reputation of and/or erode the public's confidence" in the sheriff's office. Posts containing any HCSO logos, badges, or personal photographs that show employees in HCSO garb or uniform are prohibited without prior approval from a chief. Also: "speech containing crude, blasphemy (sic), negative, or untrue claims about the HCSO and/or any HCSO personnel is forbidden and therefore will be grounds for disciplinary action."

Similarly, HCSO employees now face disciplinary action for any comments on social media that "negatively affect the public perception of the HCSO."

Sound overly broad to you? It does to Harris County sheriff's deputy Carl Pittman, who sued Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia in federal court Monday over the 15-page policy implemented by HCSO last month. Pittman argues in his lawsuit that HCSO's new policy is chock-full of language that unlawfully curtails employees' First Amendment rights to free speech.

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Open Carry Texas Says it Still Wants to March in the Fifth Ward

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Photo by Teknorat
This weekend marked the second time Open Carry Texas planned to march in one of Houston's historically African American neighborhoods. And, for the second time, the Open Carry Texas folks called it off.

Why? Well, things got pretty ugly last week when representatives of the Fifth Ward, led by Quanell X, head of the New Black Panther Party in Houston, and representatives of the Houston branch of Open Carry Texas, led by David Amad, sat down to hash things out. The original plan was to hold a rally to encourage people in the historically African American neighborhood to get armed and do some of that gun-toting stuff that is so near and dear to the hearts of those in the Open Carry movement. Amad says he sees the rallies a way of encouraging African Americans to exercise their Second-Amendment rights to carry guns. The problem is many representatives of the Fifth Ward don't exactly see things from that angle.

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Equal Rights Law Bound for Trial After Pointless Hearing

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Photo by Susan Du
Anti-HERO lawyer Andy Taylor called Friday's hearing a great success. Nothing changes in Houston.

Legal jargon, heated accusations and random baseball metaphors aside, Friday's Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) hearing accomplished nothing. The law is suspended until its supporters and opponents duke it out at trial, set for January 2015.

HERO is Mayor Annise Parker's anti-discrimination law that gives legal protection to citizens who are maltreated because of their age, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Private businesses and government are subject to comply, but religious institutions are exempt.

Nevertheless, representatives of the religious right have banded together in an effort to repeal HERO ever since it became law in late May. Anti-HERO activists circulated a petition to put the ordinance on the November ballot for a referendum vote and gathered more than 50,000 signatures - well more than the 17,269 required for the measure. After review, the city found that only 15,249 were valid, trashing the petition.

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Local Pickup Artist is At War With Women

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Photo by Susan Du
I don't get drunk I get me.

A boys' football coach by day, after hours Russell Carter coaches hardened men in an entirely different game. The playing field is Saint Dane's on a Tuesday night. The ball is in the court of the first beautiful woman who catches his eye -- anyone who rates a nine or 10.

Carter introduces himself. He's 25, tall and muscular with a winning smile. He's a natural comedian, so conversation is easy-flowing. Suddenly he leans in, squinting at the woman's nose. "Wow, you've got a bit of a schnoozle there don't you?" At that point, she recoils, reaching up to cover her face. Carter laughs and apologizes for acting like a kid on a playground. He explains that he likes her but doesn't know how to tell her yet. She relaxes a bit.

In the pickup-artist world, it's a technique called "negging," uplifting a woman's self-esteem, razing it to the ground, and then building her back up again. The thinking goes, if you can control a woman's emotions, you pretty much have her in the "battle for the pussy," says Carter, a newly established dating coach with a handful of clients throughout Houston.

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The Whole World is Tweeting: Social Media and Social Justice

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Twitter and other forms of social media are now legitimate tools in the fight for social justice.
In 1968 outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, all hell broke loose. Antiwar protesters had gathered outside the Hilton Hotel, but what was a peaceful demonstration turned violent when police arrested and even beat some of those being arrested, all while TV cameras were trained on the scene. As they were being loaded into police vans, protesters chanted "the whole world is watching."

Sound familiar?

With the dawn of live TV in the 1960s and the advent of better, more portable videocameras and recording technology, the average American was, for the first time, able to put moving pictures with words. From Chicago to the south where police unleashed dogs and fire hoses on blacks to images of body bags brought home from Asian battlefields, these powerful visual images shocked a nation, helped bring an end to the war and even altered the state of race relations in the country.

Today, we have Twitter...and Facebook...and YouTube...and Instagram. And, in Ferguson, home to the the most recent and disturbing social unrest in America, the world is once again watching.

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Other City of Houston Tweet-Along Opportunities

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Oh the hijinks that are possible.
The Houston Police Department has held a couple of "Tweet Alongs" where officers report on their activities on the beat, tagging them #HPDTweetAlong. The most recent was a rather uneventful night shift. It got us to thinking that there are plenty of opportunities for the city to better engage the world of social media via Twitter hashtags.

We don't just mean tweets from the Mayor of members of City Council, or the fire department -- those guys have far more important things to do than tweet. We're talking about the folks with boots on the ground handling the thankless jobs involved in running the fourth largest city in America. Here are some suggestions.

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HSPVA Student's #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tweet Draws National Attention

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Contributed photos

Tyler Atkins, 17, was still fuming about the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri over the weekend, when he saw the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown as he scrolled through his Twitter feed. The hashtag was a response to the photo being circulated of Brown, a blurry image that showed Brown throwing what could have been a gang sign, versus a clearer photo from Brown's high school graduation. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the choice of photo to depict Brown has been worth thousands of Twitter posts.

On Monday evening Atkins, an incoming senior at Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, grabbed a couple photos of his own - one of himself dressed all in black and posing during a rap video he made with some friends for a math project (on polynomials), the other of him dressed in a tuxedo and holding his saxophone after a school jazz concert - and posted the images with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. From there, things got interesting as his post went all over the Internet.


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Houston Police Provide Glimpse Into Night Shift With #HPDTweetAlong

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Not quite the same level of action, but interesting nevertheless.
Overnight on Thursday, the Houston Police Department conducted a kind of ride along, which is an actual thing (who knew?), not just something done for comic relief in a movie. But instead of taking a potential son-in-law candidate who is scared shitless by the officer's insane antics on the beat, HPD took along the Twitterverse via its Twitter feed and the hashtag #HPDTweetAlong.

Fortunately for the officers involved in the social media experiment, but unfortunately for those expecting high-speed chases and gunplay, it was a rather quiet night. Nevertheless, it was a glimpse into a world most of us never see, complete with photos and video.

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App of the Week: Anonymously Rant to Your Heart's Content With Speakle

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Or rant...whichever.
App: Speakle
Platform: iPhone, Android
Website: Speakleapp.com
Cost: Free (requires registration)

There was a time when the Internet was almost entirely anonymous. If you wanted to keep yourself hidden from the masses, you could. You can still do that, but with social networking it is increasingly more difficult to do so. With that comes the burden of having your friends and family members see nearly everything you post.

Former University of Houston grads Saika Momin and Sadiq Momin think they have the answer with Speakle, a kind of social media for the anonymous app that promises to keep your identity hidden, but still allowing you to participate in discussions with others. It's like an old school chat room or online forum before Facebook and Twitter took over.


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