'American Insurgent Movement' Leader Pleads Guilty to Plot to Overthrow Government, Rob Banks and Blow Up Mosques

Screenshot from the Southern Poverty Law Center
Robert James Talbot Jr.
A Katy man who the FBI says tried to form an "American Insurgent Movement" to rob banks, blow up mosques and overthrow the government with "blood and bullets" has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Court records show Robert Talbot Jr., 38, admitted to plotting his revolution in a hearing before federal district court Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. on Friday. The charges, including attempted interference with commerce by robbery and solicitation to commit a crime of violence, could put him in prison for 20 years.

The FBI opened its investigation into Talbot in August 2013, apparently after finding Talbot's Facebook posts searching for "like-minded" recruits to join his cause. Unbeknownst to him, his three "like-minded" recruits ended up being undercover FBI agents.

What's truly remarkable about the case is the amount of crazy Talbot let spill out into the open, on his Facebook page, for everyone (including federal law enforcement) to see. Here are some of the more stunning posts, culled from court records:

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Sheriff Launches Investigation After Inmate Found in Cell With Bugs, Garbage and Feces

Categories: Crime, Spaced City

Screenshot from KTRK
A whistleblower leaked photos of Goodwin's cell to KTRK
It's not necessarily that Harris County Jail officials didn't know about the squalid conditions inmate Terry Goodwin was forced to live in for weeks. It's just that nobody told Sheriff Adrian Garcia about it, his office insists.

Garcia would have immediately taken corrective action, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Christina Garza, but he didn't know about the incident -- how Goodwin was trapped in a cell with mounds of trash, swarms of bugs, and piles of his own feces -- until three weeks ago, right around the time someone sent an anonymous tip to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and a whistleblower shared photos of the gnarly-looking cell with KTRK. On Tuesday, the same day KTRK posted its story with photos showing Goodwin's cell, TCJS sent Garcia a letter temporarily putting the jail back in "at risk" status until his office sends the jail commission a plan to make sure something like this never happens again.

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Widmeyer's Anti-Pit Bull Piece Is an Embarrassment

Categories: Spaced City

Photo by Matthew Roth
If there's one thing a pit -- or any other dog -- needs, it's a competent owner.
There's a real problem when the communications director for the controller's office in the fourth-largest city writes an ill-informed opinion piece, and the city's daily newspaper publishes it without question.

I'm talking about Roger Widmeyer's September 20 piece for the Houston Chronicle's Outlook section, which describes his decision to euthanize one of his dogs after it attacked his wife. Widmeyer was no doubt shocked and scared by what's described as a terrifying, unprovoked attack. Anyone would be emotional after any dog, let alone a pet, turned on a loved one in his own home. And I can understand saying something dumb in the heat of the moment. But Widmeyer didn't do that. Instead, after several months he could have spent reflecting and researching, he carefully and deliberately crammed more stupid into 1,083 words than we ever imagined was possible. Relying on one personal experience and a mythical statistic, Widmeyer proclaims that pit bulls "probably do not belong in our world."

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SpaceX, Boeing to Launch Humans Under NASA's Watch

Categories: Spaced City

Photo from SpaceX

For the first time in American history, commercial spaceflight companies will send astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX and Boeing have been awarded NASA contracts to pursue the technology necessary for sustaining human life in space. Pending certification by NASA, American astronauts will again travel to and from the space station via commercial American rockets, which hasn't been possible since the federal shuttle program shut down in 2011.

Over the past few years, NASA has had to pay exorbitant prices to seat their astronauts on Russian rockets. The SpaceX and Boeing contracts will allow the U.S. to end its sole reliance on Russia by 2017, according to a NASA news release. Tasking commercial companies with sending astronauts to the International Space Station will hopefully free up NASA to focus on outer space missions, such as eventually landing people on Mars.

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Juvenile Probation Takes on Child Trafficking in Houston

Imagens Evangélicas
On September 4th, the Harris County Sheriff's Office gave the Juvenile Probation Department a check for $300,000 in an effort to help victims of child trafficking. Houston is often called a hub for trafficking victims, both domestic and international, but to no one's surprise, these numbers are far more complicated, and so are the victims' experiences.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 20% of nationwide child trafficking victims come through Houston alone and consistently, year after year, more than 30% of the calls received by the National Trafficking Resource Center hotline come from Texas. But according to Edward Chapuseaux, an investigator for and founder of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (sheriff's office) task force, these statistics aren't an incredibly accurate assessment of the trafficking problem here.

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HISD Officers Pin Student to the Ground Because She Was on Her Cell Phone

A brief cell phone video of Houston school district cops pinning down a screaming high school student caught fire on social media Wednesday.

Students and parents alike have taken to Twitter and Facebook, airing concerns of overhanded policing in schools. The eight-second video, reportedly taken at Sam Houston High School Tuesday, shows a student lying on a hallway floor, pinned down by officers at her head and feet. The video shows one officer reaching for something from his belt shortly before cutting out - it's unclear what the officer was grabbing.

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Houston Oilman Hal Kuntz Commits Suicide in Penthouse

Categories: Spaced City

A screen grab showing the Royalton at River Oaks
A prominent Houston oilman committed suicide in his River Oaks penthouse last month, officials confirmed this week.

The Harris County Medical Examiner's Office confirms that Hal G. Kuntz died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on August 18. Houston police officers who responded to a call for shots fired at Kuntz's Royalton at River Oaks penthouse, located off Allen Parkway, at around 3:30 p.m. found the 76 year old on his patio with a pistol nearby, according to a department spokesman.

"Witnesses told us that he apparently had been in some pain, some chronic pain, and was also having medical issues," said HPD spokesman John Cannon.

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Fire Chief: Radio Problems Played Role in Southwest Inn Tragedy

Categories: Spaced City

Photo by Dianna Wray
Four firefighters died while battling the Southwest Inn fire.

Radio communications hampered rescue efforts in the May 2013 fire of a hotel that took the lives of four Houston firefighters, Houston Fire Department Executive Assistant Chief Richard Mann said Tuesday.

Mann said at a press conference that the department had just upgraded to a new radio communications and was still working out kinks shortly before the Southwest Inn fire, at 6855 Southwest Freeway, which remains the deadliest day in the department's history.

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Happy Labor Day! Houston Has More Workplace Fatalities Than Other Texas Cities

Categories: Spaced City

Jens Schott Knudsen
Friday marked the end of the national Labor Rights Week, which takes place every year during the last week of August leading up to Labor Day. But Houston as a city isn't in the best position when it comes to worker safety.

Labor Rights Week -- organized by the U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with various embassies, consulates, worker rights groups, community and faith-based organizations, and local unions -- aims to "increase awareness and inform workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities under U.S. labor laws."

Houston itself has the worst record in Texas, and Texas the worst in the country, when it comes to workplace fatalities or catastrophes. According to a recent Dallas Morning News investigation, Texans are significantly more likely to die on the job than workers in other states. "More workers die here than in any other state," according to the report. "On average, a Texas worker is 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job than someone doing the same job elsewhere...That translates to about 580 excess workplace deaths over a decade."

So far this year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Houston has seen more than 3 times the amount worker fatalities than Dallas, the second most fatal city for workers in Texas.

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Latest Astrodome Proposal: World's Largest Indoor Park

Categories: Spaced City

Ballpark to actual park.
After the seemingly endless string of ideas for what to do with the rotting corpse we used to call the Astrodome, ranging from novel (leaving just the roof and putting a park under it) to the downright ridiculous (indoor snow skiing?), that latest from County Commissioners Court is said to harken back to what Judge Roy Hofheinz intended when he dreamed up the world's first indoor stadium: keeping things inside.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who called the most recent concept from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans to build an expansive green space surrounded by buttresses from the Dome "a silly plan," decided to bring his own vision before the people on Tuesday, unveiling the concept of an indoor park complete with green space, a pavilion, areas for music and exercise, as well as educational activities for kids, something being touted by Commissioner El Franco Lee who presides over the Astrodome's district.

For once, I can't use this space to level heavy-handed criticism at an actual idea regarding the Dome because, quite frankly, from the perspective of Houston, this might actually make sense.

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