Charity that Builds Custom Homes for Wounded Veterans Once Again Facing Fraud Allegations

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Helping A Hero Gala Invite 2014

When Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Lathan returned home from his second tour in Iraq, finances were tight. Lathan had been severely injured in Balad, Iraq in 2006 when 155mm rounds blew apart the Humvee he was riding in, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury, cognitive disorders, PTSD, and knee, back, and hip problems. The young soldier, who had a wife and young child, could no longer work.

The family struggled without Lathan's income, and money became an even bigger problem when Lathan's wife Sarah, who became breadwinner after his injuries, had to resign from her job to have heart surgery. Saddled with car and mortgage payments, the Lathans worried constantly about how to make ends meet.

But everything changed in September 2012, when Helping a Hero, a local nonprofit group that builds custom homes for veterans that have suffered severe injuries in war, contacted Sgt. Lathan. The charity's director, Meredith Iler, offered to build the Lathans a 2,400 square foot home with four bedrooms in exchange for a small mortgage, $50,000 over 10 years at 3.5 percent. It was a home they could better afford, and it seemed like the answer to their problems.

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College Football Playoff Rankings v 5.0: Cut, Paste, Repeat

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We are on the cusp of a massive weekend of college football, a weekend where traditional rivalries shape the months of December and January, and they do so with the added bonus of massive amounts of food consumed over a 72 hour period.

It truly is glorious.

One price that we pay, though, for Rivalry/Thanksgiving Weekend football is the snoozefest the week before, where relevant teams are playing tune up games, including half the SEC staging a de facto jamboree with FCS schools. The only good things about the Snoozefest Appetizer Weekend are:

1. I can actually attend a wedding on a Saturday night and not feel any "I'm missing football!" animosity toward the bride and groom. (NOTE: I had a wedding to go to Saturday, and had a fine evening. Thank you, Jessica and Gabriel!)

2. I can basically cut and paste the top half of the rankings from last week, so...time saver!!

Here are the fifth iteration of the College Football Playoff rankings, along with thoughts.

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Rep. Steve Stockman Gets His Own Climate Change Denial "Theory"

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Rep. Steve Stockman, the guy who named a climate denial movement after himself.

Retiring Texas Congressman Steve Stockman is on his way out, but it looks like he's making one last swat at cementing a little Congressional recognition for himself with a climate denial bill.

Stockman, a Republican, has been a fairly ardent denier of all things climate change for a while now. Just last month he made a bit of a splash when he started questioning John Holdren, presidential science and space adviser, about why global wobbling wasn't included in models on climate change. "I mean think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass it doesn't overflow, it's displacement," Stockman said. "This is the thing, some of the things they're talking about, mathematically and scientifically don't make sense." The Daily Show had a lot of fun with that one.

And now Stockman is trying to get a little Congressional recognition for one of his own theories about climate change, namely that actual climate change is a myth and whatever is going on with the weather these days might be caused by magnets. (To be fair, messing with climate denial stuff probably beats pondering how longtime Sen. John Cornyn trounced him in the primaries a while back, or worrying over how he and three aides were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury for some sort of criminal investigation, according to the Associated Press.)


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Evangelist Sued by Disabled Woman Who Claims He Tricked Her Out of Settlement Money

Categories: Crime, Religion

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Tim & Selena Middleton via Flickr Creative Commons
Nothing screams "proper evangelist" quite like a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle, right? Right.

According to a report by the Courthouse News Service, Marilyn Rupard's lawsuit against John David Crow, filed in Brazoria County earlier this month, claims that Crow, a Texas evangelist-slash-investment-advisor, tricked her out of hundreds of thousands of dollars she got due to a faulty hip replacement, and spent some of that money on -- you guessed it -- a Harley.

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Worker Sues BP Over Handling of Algerian Terrorist Attack

Categories: Courts

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Did BP endanger its workers?
An American worker who survived a 2013 terrorist attack at an Algerian BP plant is suing the oil giant in Harris County District Court for $100 million, saying BP did not disclose security threats to employees or increase security at the plant.

Steve Wysocki's suit is the third Houston complaint filed against BP over the attack, which killed 40 people at the plant in In Amenas, near the Libyan border.

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Stray Horses Wander Onto Busy Houston Highway During Rush Hour, One Killed

Categories: Ridin' Dirty

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It's pretty common, albeit terribly unfortunate, to see stray animals -- usually dogs or the occasional cat -- make their way across busy Houston highways, stranded in the middle of traffic as terrified onlookers whiz past. Rarely are those stray animals horses, though.

But that's exactly what drivers in Northwest Houston came across during rush hour Monday morning, when a pair of horses wandered onto the highway at 249 and West Montgomery, and right into oncoming traffic.

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Houston Non-Profits Get Windfall from Millionaire's Will

Categories: Spaced City

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Big day for Houston non-profits.
A bevvy of local organizations, including the Houston Parks Board and Trees for Houston, will receive $308,000 each, after a state probate judge approved the settlement of businessman James Martin Hill Jr.'s estate.

Hill, who "established a successful home building company," died in 2010, but an agreement over the distribution of $6.9 million left for 19 local and national non-profits was only reached Monday, according to a press release from Houston attorney Richard Mithoff, who represented a majority of the beneficiaries.

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Embarrassing Emails Filed in Legal Battle Between Galveston County Commissioners and Judges

Categories: Courts, Whatever

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Galveston County Judge Mark Henry sure knows how to spice up dull legal dispute over the hiring and firing of court staff. Mix in some backroom sniping, a bit of rumor-mongering, and just a hint of public sex and you've got the awkward mess that's now before the state's First Court of Appeals.

At issue in the case that's pitted Henry and Galveston County commissioners against local district court judges is Henry's July firing of Bonita "Bonnie" Quiroga as director of the county's Justice Administration Department, a title she'd held for more than a decade. The local judges, already peeved with commissioners for supposedly meddling with their budget, were furious about the firing. In an order blocking Quiroga's termination in September, Administrative Judge Lonnie Cox wrote, "The authority to appoint and terminate court personnel lies with the courts, not the county judge nor the commissioners court."

So the county appealed to the First Court last month, asking that Cox's order barring commissioners from firing or replacing Quiroga be overturned. And late last month Henry filed an affidavit in the case that includes a number of email exchanges that, as far as Henry's concerned, prove Quiroga reported to commissioners court and not local judges. (H/T to local attorney Greg Enos, who first noted the emails in his awesomely-titled newsletter "The Mongoose" earlier this month.) "The tone and content of Ms. Quiroga's communications to me about the judges are wholly inconsistent with a supervisory relationship between them," Henry wrote in the affidavit.

That's quite an understatement. Notwithstanding that Quiroga regularly wrote to Henry with all the tact and professionalism of a tween slumber party gossip circle, the emails Henry filed in court show that, at the very least, Quiroga had quite the strained, unhealthy relationship with the very judges who are now fighting to save her job.

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Rockets Recap: Team Defense Keeping Rockets on Winning Track Despite Injuries

Categories: Basketball, Sports

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Holding it together while short handed.
Record Since Last Recap: 2-1
MVP Since Last Recap: James Harden
Best Win Last Week: Mavericks
Toughest Loss Last Week: Lakers
Current Record: 11-3

On Saturday night, there was a sequence of plays that represented the antithesis of what people thought about James Harden's defense last season. Not only was he effective, it was his tenaciousness on the opponent's end of the floor that won them the game. Before the season started, Harden and the Rockets were adamant they were going to be better defensively. Certainly the addition of Trevor Ariza helped, but no one expected a renewed commitment to defense would take them from one of the worst in the NBA to one of the best in one year. Yet, that's what happened and much of it is owed to the change in Harden.

No, his defense alone is not enough to elevate the entire team, but his added hustle combined with his readily apparent leadership on the court is. On Monday night before their win over the New York Knicks, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander presented Harden with the gold medal he earned as a member of Team USA in the offseason, which he led in scoring. Harden has frequently cited being around that team as his reason for an invigorated defense and desire to lead his team. Whatever they told him worked because he has rapidly become one of the best guards in the game.

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Setting New Standards in Stupid: The 2014 Turkeys of the Year

Categories: Cover Story

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John Ueland
Albert Einstein once said that the only difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. Obviously Einstein didn't factor the Turkey of the Year, a creature with a seemingly infinite capacity for senseless, ludicrous and ill-advised decisions, into the equation.

This has been a remarkable year for turkeyism and we had to make some truly tough choices in determining which turkeys had outrun, outflapped and out-dumbed all the competition. It was the best of times -- because there were so many turkeys to choose from -- and it was the worst of times -- because seriously, there were so many viable befeathered options.

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