Chron Kills Inmate. Twice.

Categories: Courts, Crime

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Correction: Terry Goodwin didn't die in lockup...though, given HSCO's history, he might have had guards stormed his cell.
For those of you that read the Houston Chronicle in print, you likely awoke to this headline across the front page of the city/state section this morning: "Garcia Urged to step down over death of inmate: Quanell X says sheriff hasn't faced discipline since mentally ill man died."

The article recounts how Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia brought the hammer down last week, disciplining nearly 40 jailers upon concluding the department's internal investigation into why inmate Terry Goodwin was locked in a trash- and shit-covered cell for weeks back in 2013. Not one to let a controversy slide without getting some air time, community provocateur activist Quanell X held a short news conference outside the Harris County Jail Sunday. Flanked by Goodwin's parents, Quanell demanded that Garcia, who's widely-expected to announce his run for mayor of Houston any day now, resign as sheriff over the incident.

A couple things. Goodwin isn't dead; he's currently being held in TDCJ's Hutchins Unit after being convicted of punching a Harris County jailer while in lockup -- the incident apparently led to the squalid conditions in which Goodwin was held, with Garcia telling reporters last week that Goodwin was isolated in his cell due to a "poor attempt not to engage in a physical confrontation" with the inmate.

And Goodwin's treatment -- which everyone, including Garcia himself, admits was deplorable -- is hardly the most troubling thing to have happened to an inmate under the sheriff's watch.

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USW Accuses LyondellBasell of Refusing to Negotiate

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Max Burkhalter
The USW oil refinery strike is still on at LyondellBasell's Pasadena refinery.

Anyone who thought the United Steelworkers oil refinery strike was over has another thing coming. Even though the national USW strike technically ended for most of the more than 6,000 striking union workers about a month ago, the local members of USW Distrct 13-227, the union at LyondellBasell's Pasadena refinery, are still on strike and without a contract. Now the national arm of USW is calling the company out.

On Monday, the national arm of the USW issued a release stating that LyondellBasell officials are claiming they're at an impasse with USW negotiators but the company reps are really just refusing to negotiate. LyondellBasell and local USW negotiators have been in talks ever since the national strike formally ended in March. They've had a federal mediator involved from the start of these talks, but have failed to get anywhere, with both sides implying -- and sometimes stating outright -- that it's because the other side is unwilling to negotiate and compromise enough to make a deal.


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NBA Playoffs 2015: Dallas Is Still Screwed, But Cracks in the Rockets Are Evident

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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Monica Fuentes
The Houston Rockets are still going to beat the Dallas Mavericks in this opening round NBA Playoff series, let's get that out of the way right now. They'll probably do it at home on Tuesday night, and they'll probably do it fairly resoundingly, perhaps just as resoundingly as the Mavericks thrashed them on Sunday night in Dallas.

A sweep would have been nice, only because it would've been symbolically at least a sign of dominance over a team that, let's face it, is really fun to dominate and embarrass in every conceivable way. Mark Cuban, Midget Barea, Dirk's Count Chocula face -- there's a lot to "sports hate" about the Dallas Mavericks.

However, one of the benefits of playing a seven game series each round is that the truth generally bubbles to the surface over a best-of-seven, and honestly, this was a Rockets team that was probably feeling a little too good about itself up 3-0 on a wounded, dysfunctional Mavericks squad.

If the Rockets make a deep playoff run, we will likely look back at Sunday night's 121-109 as a necessary reminder of their flaws, a loss for the greater good.

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Give It Up, Hockey's Not Returning to Houston

Categories: Sports

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John Royal
The Aeros celebrate a goal during the last game ever played in Houston
It's been two years since professional hockey was last played in Houston. The game, played April 28, 2013, was a 3-2 Aeros loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in game two of the first round of the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs. The Aeros, not able to come to terms with Toyota Center for a new lease, relocated to Des Moines the following season.

Many of the Aeros on that last squad to play in Houston played key roles as the Minnesota Wild, the NHL team that owned the Aeros, won it's first round Stanley Cup playoff series over the St. Louis Blues yesterday. While happy for the players, and the Wild, it undoubtedly brought about some bittersweet feelings for those Aeros fans now deprived of a team. And it also, as always, brings up talk as to whether there will ever be another AHL team in Houston, or whether Houston could support an NHL franchise.

Houston could support another AHL team, and it could definitely support an NHL team. The Wild was happy with Houston as a home for the Aeros. Attendance was good, the fans were passionate, and players and staff liked playing in Houston. The proximity of two major airports allowed the Wild to easily call up players and get them to any location needed. The league liked having a team in Houston for these same reasons. And Toyota Center was built with housing a hockey team in mind, which would make it easy to accommodate an NHL team.

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NFL Draft 2015: Six Questions That Will Impact the Houston Texans' Draft

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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We are down to the final three days before the first round of the NFL Draft, and we are just now beginning to drift into the part of the draft calendar where guys begin inexplicably rising up draft boards (Todd Gurley) or plummeting (Vic Beasley's somehow not being a first round pick in Mel Kiper's latest mock draft) based on merely existing and little else.

It just makes me think back to last year when, for some reason, the NFL thought it would be a good idea to have the draft in the second weekend of May. This meant we had an entire extra week of baseless speculation and faux chess moves. If the 2014 NFL Draft were a piece of toast, it would've been black, burnt, and charred.

I am thankful those days are gone. By the time Thursday rolls around, the 2015 NFL Draft should be ready to pull out of the proverbial toaster perfectly browned and ready to go. And when the Texans pick at 16th (assuming no trades), and again at 50th and 82nd on Friday, their decision making process will likely be regulated by the following key questions:

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Nearly 40 Detention Officers Disciplined in the Case of Man Trapped in Feces-Covered Cell For Weeks

Categories: Crime

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KTRK/screenshot
Last fall Channel 13 published photos from a whistleblower showing the squalid conditions in Terry Goodwin's jail cell.
More than six months ago, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia told reporters he was "damn mad" upon learning that a mentally ill inmate at his jail had been confined in a squalid, feces-covered cell for weeks on end. Today, heads rolled at the sheriff's office.

Garcia announced on Friday that he's fired six jail supervisors, including two jail sergeants who have already been indicted on felony charges of tampering with government records. Garcia says he's also suspended 29 employees, ranging from detention officers to sergeants and deputies, without pay from anywhere between one and ten days. One other jail commander has been relieved of duty and demoted, while Chief Deputy Fred Brown, who oversees jail operations, has agreed to resign, Garcia announced.

Ultimately, Garcia said guards isolated Terry Goodwin in a bug-infested cell with mounds of trash and feces clogging the sink, toilet and shower drain in a "poor attempt not to engage in a physical confrontation" with the inmate.

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Texas Republicans Are Still Trying to Chip Away at Abortion Rights

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Photo by Francisco Montes
Last session, the GOP-dominated Legislature successfully decimated abortion access across the state. We're still waiting on the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to make a decision on the legal challenge to HB 2, which Wendy Davis famously filibustered before Rick Perry called a second special session to pass the bill, ushering in sweeping restrictions that have already closed more than half of abortion clinics in Texas.

Depending on how things shake out at the Fifth Circuit, there could soon be as few as eight abortion clinics for a state of 27 million people. About one million Texas women would live at least 150 miles away from the nearest abortion provider, effectively cutting off access for poor women who don't live in one of the state's urban areas.

Poor women who want an abortion? Check. Next on the list for Texas Republicans: Cutting off access to vulnerable teenagers and women who seek an abortion under incredibly dire circumstances.

Twice this month committees have heard bills drafted by Republican lawmakers to greatly restrict the process known as judicial bypass, in which minors can petition a judge to get an abortion if either their parents won't consent or if the girls have reason to fear for their safety. Then, in an unexpected move on the House floor Thursday, a Republican lawmaker successfully crammed language into an unrelated bill that would end the exception to the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks if it's discovered a fetus has severe abnormalities -- medical conditions that aren't typically detected until later in a pregnancy.

For pro-choice advocates, the hits just keep on coming at the Lege. "HB 2 devastated access to safe and legal abortion across the state, but that wasn't enough for the anti-choice zealots in the Texas Legislature," Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement earlier this month. "Now they're trying to pile on even more regulations and restrictions that would make access to a safe and legal medical procedure almost impossible for many Texans to obtain."

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Obama Cracks "Deflate-Gate" Joke on Patriots During White House Visit (w/ VIDEO)

Categories: Game Time, Sports

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YouTube
Jokester-in-Chief
There was a time for the New England Patriots, back during the dawning of this new millennium from the 2001 through 2004 football seasons, when visits to the White House became old hat.

My radio cohost Ted Johnson was a starting inside linebacker on those first three Patriots Super Bowl champion teams back then, and he jokes about how he became fast friends with then President George W. Bush, working his way to not just a first name basis but a nickname basis.

Back then, the Patriots thought these visits would become a regular thing. However, it turns out they needed another decade (not to mention a miracle interception from cornerback Malcolm Butler) to get back onto the White House lawn.

The most recent trip for the Patriots happened yesterday, and who knew that in a decade the champions' visit to meet the commander in chief had evolved (devolved?) from a cordial round of coffee and pie (figuratively) to a Hollywood roast?

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The Astros (and Evan Gattis) Are Out to Redefine the Meaning of the Designated Hitter

Categories: Sports

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Evan Gattis is just a pawn in the Astros attempt to change baseball as we know it
The Houston Astros front office is comprised of geniuses, including a former rocket scientist. Billy Beane's "Moneyball" strategy is all well and good, but what the Astros are doing puts Beane to shame.

Take this past offseason when the Astros traded highly touted minor league prospects Rio Ruiz and Mike Foltynewicz to the Atlanta Braves for Evan Gattis. Ruiz was a third baseman who some felt had yet to live up to his potential while Foltynewicz was a fireballing reliever who often hit 100-plus on the radar gun but had a few issues with control. Gattis meanwhile was a strikeout prone, mediocre catcher/outfielder who hit home runs. It made no sense to many observers that the Astros, a rebuilding team, would trade highly regarded prospects for a guy who was essentially just another version of Chris Carter and Jon Singleton.

But three weeks into the season, the genius of the Astros should now be obvious to every person possessing even the slightest knowledge of baseball. The Astros brass is redefining the meaning of the "designated hitter," obviously with the hopes that the rest of organized baseball will follow in lockstep, thus forcing baseball to do away with the position forever and ever and restoring the pitcher to the batting order for the rest of time, doomed to flail away at-bat after at-bat after at-bat.

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HISD Threatens Kids Who Opt Out of STAAR Testing With Summer School

Categories: Education

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Photo courtesy of HISD
Daniel Gohl, defender of the faith
Parents of children in the Houston ISD were told by letter Thursday that there will be "negative consequences" (HISD's emphasis) for any student who doesn't show for next week's state of Texas standardized tests for grades 3-8 next week.

A letter signed by Daniel Gohl, HISD's special assistant, academics, says that anyone planning on joining the opt-out test movement -- by, say, not showing up for school during testing -- would do well to think again.

"There is no 'option' to permit your child to opt-out of STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) Testing," he wrote (again, boldfaced parts are Gohl's) before going on to threaten kids who don't test with weeks of summer school.

Across the country these days, an increasing number of parents are rejecting the interminable standardized testing going on in most public schools. The notion that enough is enough has gained sufficient traction that even school board members and legislators are taking up the too-much-testing cause.

But HISD, which uses results from STAAR testing as part of its teacher evaluations, is standing firm. Gohl says students who don't take the test are subject to the following"

-- They'll get a zero score and be deemed non-proficient.

-- Those who are absent will take a make-up test. If the parents put a request in writing that the student be allowed to opt out of the test or the make-up test, the Texas Education Agency will be notified and the score will be reported as zero.

-- Students who don't take the test will not automatically be promoted to the next grade. They will have to attend summer school and be re-evaluated by a committee at the end of the summer for promotion or retention, his letter threatens promises.

Response was equally swift from Ruth Kravetz of Community Voices for Public Education who sent out her own emailed letter detailing tactics parents can employ to skip the tests as well as "a quick summary of errors in the opt out letter HISD sent HISD parents today as an intimidation tactic."


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