Man Douses Clothes in Lighter Fluid, Lights Himself on Fire Outside Houston Courthouse

Categories: Whatever

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Bill Bishop Twitter

A man was rushed to the hospital after dousing himself in lighter fluid and setting himself on fire outside a downtown Houston courthouse Tuesday afternoon, according to county employees.

The man, who has not been identified, set himself on fire outside of the historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse at about 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, while yelling "God bless America," and "Justice!" according to KHOU.

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Valero Refinery Wants Another Sweet Tax Deal

Categories: Sole of Houston

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The Houston City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on whether to allow the only refinery still in Houston city limits to pretend that it's somewhere else entirely, tax-wise. Specifically, Valero Energy wants to remove 168 acres of the refinery's roughly 190-acre site to an industrial district (the refinery can't remove the other acres because that's more than 2,500 feet from the Houston Ship Channel so the acres have to be counted as part of Houston by state law.)

This may all sound like a bunch of pointless property line limbo but of course it's all about the money behind it. The San Antonio-based Valero has never shied away from doing what's necessary to save a few (or a few million) dollars, even though that has meant suing HISD and other school districts to be allowed to use a tax break loophole that would have cut the districts off from millions in funds.


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Islamic Militants Are Using a Houston Plumbing Truck to Gun Down Aircraft in Syria, According to Twitter

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Ansar al-Deen Front Twitter

It appears that a truck once owned by a Houston-area plumbing company has somehow turned up in the hands of Islamic militants who are now using the converted vehicle to shoot at aircraft as they fight in Syria's civil war.

A photo of the Texas-born Ford F-250, complete with the former owner's plumbing company logo, was posted to Twitter by the Ansar al-Deen Front Monday, and shows a militant fighter shooting an anti-aircraft gun from the bed of the truck.

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NFLPA Sues NFL on Behalf of Suspended Adrian Peterson

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Mike Morbeck via Flickr Creative Commons
On the heels of a summer where he came across, at best, as completely tone deaf and, at worst, as an incompetent boob, followed by a trouncing in Ray Rice's appeal of his indefinite suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needed a win.

How bad were things for the embattled commish? Well, his botching of the Rice discipline actually made America somewhat sympathetic toward a guy who blasted his wife in the face with a clenched fist in a casino elevator. Roger Goodell actually made Ray Rice a victim. That's all you need to know about the necessity for Goodell to win something.

So it's no surprise that when it came time for a third party to hear the appeal of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's suspension (until April 15, 2015) on child abuse charges, Goodell planted one of his goons, former NFL exec Harold Henderson, as the arbiter.

And it was even less surprising that Henderson upheld the league's discipline of Peterson last Friday. Same random Price Is Right discipline wheel, just a different guy spinning it.

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UPDATED Seattle Woman Wages Online War Against Wharton Dog Sanctuary

Categories: Whatever

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Courtesy Maggie McDowell/Sanctuary Watch
Do Maggie McDowell's photos of Smiling Dog Farms tell the whole story?
Update, December 16, 1:30 p.m.: McDowell has posted an open letter to me on her Sanctuary Watch page. I first contacted McDowell December 11, requesting an interview. She never accepted, but kept sending material, so I followed up with more requests for an interview, which were ignored. McDowell also sent me the content of her open letter directly, early Tuesday morning, well after my deadline.

A Seattle-based activist has launched a social media campaign against a Wharton County dog sanctuary, accusing the owners of cruelty and neglect, despite the fact that investigators have called the claims unfounded.

Maggie McDowell, an Amazon employee who gained notoriety in Washington state for helping shut down a dog sanctuary in that state, released photos that appear to show some of the Wharton sanctuary's 300-plus dogs living in cramped pens and suffering from eye and skin conditions. However, Wharton County Sheriff's Officials told the Houston Press that the claims are unsubstantiated, and Smiling Dog Farms has rebutted McDowell's accusations on its Facebook page.

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City Fails to Redefine Attorney-Client Privilege In Spat With Fire Union

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Christopher Ebdon via Flickr Creative Commons

The state Attorney General's Office has shot down an argument from the Parker administration that twisted, in pretzel-like fashion, any common-sense understanding of the term "attorney-client privilege."

At issue is the city's refusal to turn over emails between former Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association president Bryan Sky-Eagle, who abruptly resigned from the post in September, and Mayor Annise Parker, City Attorney David Feldman, or Chief Policy Officer Janice Evans during Sky-Eagle's time leading the union. The union insists it's trying to rebuild after a year of failed contract negotiations and discord within its own ranks, but that it's still in the dark about much of what transpired during talks between Sky-Eagle and city officials.


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Single People Need to Make at Least $29 an Hour to Afford Rent in Houston, According to Zillow

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Zillow interactive map

If you're single and renting in Houston, you better be gettin' those dolla dolla bills, yo. About $29 an hour, in fact.

According to a new interactive map and study from the real estate gurus at Zillow, single-earners need to make about $29.56 per hour in order to afford the median rental price in Houston.

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Oil Prices Are Dropping: Here's What Could Be Coming

Categories: Texas

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Even Spindletop went bust.

Once upon a time a whole bunch of Texas oil people started telling themselves stories about the latest shale boom. This one, they assured each other, would never go bust. The price of oil would stay high forever and we would all live here in the city at the center of the land of milk and honey and Texas tea in wealth and plenty.

Well, that was a fun story, but in the last few weeks reality has sunk in as the price of oil has dropped like a stone. On Monday oil sank to $55 a barrel, the lowest the price has been since May 2009. Texas just hit over a billion barrels of production for this year and the state alone is the sixth largest oil producer in the world. Texas has been the black beating heart of all this plenty, and now Texas and the other states are bracing themselves to suffer from the fallout. By all accounts, we could be in for quite a jolt.

So how did this happen? Well the surface answer is that the Saudis did it to teach the U.S. shale operators a lesson, Bill Gilmer, Director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting in the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business, says. "The Saudis haven't announced any sort of public policy here, but it's increasingly clear that they're helping their friends and punishing their enemies, probably at a substantial price to themselves," Gilmer says. "Low oil prices punishes Iran, ISIS, punishes what could be regarded as enemies. Texas and North Dakota probably go on the list of adversaries. This may very well be sort of a run at U.S. shale production."


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Case Keenum Possibly Starting for Texans on Sunday

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Photo by Groovehouse
"Case (Keenum) is going to be the quarterback. We're going to give him a chance to see how he can perform. I think the jury is still out. He's got a lot of ability. He's shown some flashes of brilliance and then he's shown some rookie mistakes. We've got to see if we can improve, eliminate those mistakes, minimize those mistakes and continue some of the outstanding play that (we've) seen and see whether we think that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. At this point, we really don't know." -- Bob McNair, 12/6/13

That was Bob McNair a little over a year ago, meeting with the media to discuss the firing of former head coach Gary Kubiak, a termination that was caused in large part by 11 consecutive losses but also fueled by McNair's frustration with Kubiak's yo-yo act at the quarterback position and his seeming inability to totally quit Matt Schaub altogether.

Case Keenum would wind up starting eight games in all, winning exactly none, before watching his season end with an injury sustained in a Week 15 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Through a coaching change, the hiring of Bill O'Brien and an entire offseason and preseason, eventually we learned what McNair insisted we didn't know back on December 6, 2013 -- that Keenum indeed is not a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. He would eventually get cut just before the start of the 2014 season.

So naturally, as the Texans continue to withstand a two-year karmic kick in the collective nuts at the quarterback position, not only is Case Keenum back with the Texans to close out 2014, but there's a good chance he will start on Sunday against the Ravens at NRG Stadium.

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Victoria Officer Under Investigation After Tasing 76-Year-Old Man During Traffic Stop

Categories: Crime, Texas

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Victoria Police Department dash cam footage

Perhaps it's not the greatest idea to use a taser on an elderly person during a traffic stop. That's what a rookie cop in Victoria is finding out, anyway.

Victoria police officer Nathanial Robinson has been placed on administrative duty for accusations of excessive force stemming from a traffic stop where he tased a 76-year-old man twice as he lay on the ground.

The 23-year old officer tased elderly Victoria resident Pete Vasquez during a routine traffic stop last week, and the entire incident -- minus the tasing part, which happens just out of sight of the camera -- was caught on dash-cam video.

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