Texas Muslim Capitol Day Went About as Well as Expected

Screengrab from Facebook
State Congresswoman Molly White set a low bar for handling Texas Muslim Capitol Day.

An elected official and a clutch of protesters shared their views about this year's Texas Muslim Capitol Day. Take a wild guess how things went. (Hint: it's possible there was even a pair of jeggings involved.)

The event, organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was meant to be a chance for Muslim community members to learn about the democratic process and how to advocate for important issues. Well, those who showed up certainly got a bit of education on the current state of democratic process from at least one lawmaker and some motivated protesters.

Republican state Rep. Molly White got the ball rolling with a Facebook post outlining how she planned to approach the incoming Muslim constituency. With the House not in session until next Monday, the freshman congresswoman was back in her home district in Bell County doing home district-type things. However, she didn't want to miss an opportunity to let everyone know where she stands on the question of Texas Capitol Muslim Day, so she instructed her staff to greet anyone from Texas Muslim Capitol Day who swung by her office with warmth and enthusiasm, and to take notes on any concerns Muslim community members of her district might raise.

Ha. Just kidding.

White started off by leaving an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her office. In case that was a little too subtle for any Muslims running around the building, she also left her staff with very special and oh-so-tolerant instructions for any Muslim individuals who might stop by. Or in White's words, because, honestly, paraphrasing can't do this particular set of instructions justice:

"I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office. "

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UPDATED Texas Uses Of Mice and Men Standards to Execute Mentally Disabled Man

Photo courtesy of the ACLU
Robert Ladd

Update 1/30/15 at 8:00 a.m.: Last night, Texas prison officials executed Robert Ladd for the brutal murder of Vicki Ann Garner. Ladd's time of death was 7:02 p.m., 27 minutes after officials administered lethal-injection drugs.


Original Story

Barring a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas will execute a man with an IQ score of 67 tonight.

Robert Ladd is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally disabled person for murder is unconstitutional. Stranger still, Texas has once again used standards derived from John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men, to justify executing a man that meets the clinical definition of intellectually disabled.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, Ladd's attorney, said in a statement. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

And yet.

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Texas's New First Lady Is Heading Up a Pro-Life Rally. Because of Course She Is.

First Lady Cecilia Abbott is getting down to business right quick.

We admit we've been curious about what it would be like. While everybody and their dog could see that newly anointed Gov. Greg Abbott would essentially be like a grumpier Rick Perry with worse hair, things were really up in the air about our new first lady, Cecilia Abbott. What would the first Latina to hold the spot of governor's wife in the great state of Texas choose to do with her power? The options seemed limitless and anything seemed possible.

Well, that ended fast. While her husband is pretty much living up to expectations since taking office this week, Cecilia Abbott has already gone and surprised us by signing on to headline a massive pro-life (aka anti-abortion) rally in Austin on Saturday. The rally is supposedly being held to "commemorate" the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which made access to abortions a constitutional right, although we're betting this rally isn't exactly about celebrating a woman's right to choose.

Anyway, at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow thousands of people (according to a press release) will gather and then the whole group is going to march through the streets of Austin to wind up at the steps of the Capitol Building. And once there, Cecilia Abbott will be the headliner.

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The Fifth Circuit Oral Arguments Look Good for Gay Marriage

Photo by Max Burkhalter

Those who have been hoping to see gay marriage recognized in the Lone Star State had a very good day in court on Friday. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on gay marriage cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and the responses of the two judges who are most likely going to vote to strike down gay marriage bans were nothing less than awesome.

Most experts are betting that the U.S. Supreme Court will still ultimately be forced to take up the issue and make a clear-cut decision one way or another. But in the meantime, on Friday morning a panel of Fifth Circuit judges, comprised of Judge James Graves Jr., a President Barack Obama appointee, Judge Jerry E. Smith and Judge Patrick Higginbotham, both appointed by President Ronald Reagan, dug into the issue and spent more than three hours -- with each case getting about an hour of time -- tearing into the legalese behind these bans.

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Gay Marriage Case Goes to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals This Week

Photo by Max Burkhalter

After months percolating in the court system, the Lone Star State's gay marriage ban is finally getting reviewed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week. And the crazy part is, we actually aren't fairly certain of how they're going to rule based on the selected judges.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled in De Leon v. Perry -- a suit brought by a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts and then found they couldn't have both of their names on their first child's birth certificate in Texas -- that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional as it violates our rights under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Garcia promptly stayed his ruling striking down the ban until the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals could make a decision on the issue. In keeping with everyone's expectations, state officials, including Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, promptly raged against the ruling and filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit. Because that's what they always do. And now, the time has finally come.

This Friday the a panel of Fifth Circuit judges are scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case. The panel includes Judge James Graves Jr., a President Barack Obama appointee, and Judges Jerry E. Smith and Patrick Higgenbotham, both appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

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Things That Made Us Laugh at Houston in 2014

YouTube screenshot of "I Stand Sunday" video

Oh, Houston. You guys never cease to amaze us.

From Mayor Parker's ill-fated religious subpoenas to a robot-sounding robber, this city gave us bucket after bucket of delightful anecdotes in 2014.

It'll be hard to top the accidental (and often inappropriate) hilarity in 2015, but we're sure the City of Sizzurp will give it that good ol' college try. Until next year, y'all.

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Lawsuit Blames DA's Office for Failing to Supervise Investigators Accused of Stealing High-Priced Comic Books

Photo by Enokson via Flickr Creative Commons

The Harris County investigators accused of stealing some high-priced comic books earlier this year are once again on the receiving end of some unwanted attention, thanks to a new lawsuit filed in the case.

In a lawsuit filed December 18, Houston-based industrial crane company Tadano American Corp accuses the Harris County District Attorney's Office of failing to properly supervise two veteran investigators, 39-year-old Lonnie Blevins and 41-year-old Dustin Deutsch, who have been charged with stealing expensive collectibles from the company that were being held as evidence in a criminal investigation.

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Man Says He Shouldn't Be Charged in the United States for Having Sex With a Teenager in Honduras

"Soto Cano" via Wikipedia Fair Use

Apparently a grown man having sex with a 13-year-old girl -- obviously illegal under U.S. law -- should not be considered a crime here, in the United States, if said sexual activity happened overseas.

That's according to one Texas man, anyway, who's fighting federal charges of illicit sexual conduct based on just that reasoning.

In late October, federal prosecutors in Houston charged 54-year-old William McGrath, a former army contractor, with the crime of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places for an alleged sexual relationship he had with a 13-year-old girl while working at an Army base in Honduras.

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How to Celebrate the Holidays When You're Homeless

It may not be the actual Polar Express, but the construction paper train that adorns Lori Stevenson's door at the Salvation Army Family Residence is good enough. It is, after all, award-winning.

Decorated by her 15-year-old daughter, Lori's door won this year's decorating contest at the homeless shelter, a big accomplishment for the mother-daughter duo. The award is a big deal among the shelter's 75 residents, who -- without individual trees -- decorate their dorm room doors instead.

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Why Does Quanell X Support Some Rape Victims But Shame Others?

MSNBC Video Screenshot

Quanell X, community leader and head of the New Black Panthers, is probably a good ally to have on your side if you're a crime victim. After all, the man quite obviously knows how to grab headlines. His innate showmanship -- that keen ability to lure in the media -- is what helps him bring attention to cases that aren't as visible in the first place.

But Quanell's ability to draw national attention isn't always a good thing. Not when it comes to his handling of rape victims, anyway.

You see, in recent years, there have been two nationally reported rape cases in which Quanell has spoken out. In both cases, the victims were very young girls. Both girls were minorities -- one black, the other Hispanic -- and unfortunately, both rapes were very brutal.

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