SpaceX, Boeing to Launch Humans Under NASA's Watch

Categories: Spaced City

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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

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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

Facebook
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

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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

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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

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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

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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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SpaceX Rocket Explosion Keeps Space Community on Edge

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo from SpaceX

A SpaceX rocket exploded in the skies above McGregor, Texas, during a test flight on Saturday. Though a nonchalant Elon Musk waved the mishap with a short tweet acknowledging that "Rockets are tricky," the fact remains that explosions are scary and tend not to reflect well on companies.

SpaceX is a leading commercial spaceflight company with plans to shift business to Texas with the ultimate goal of launching humans to the International Space Station. Its successes are hailed as steps toward the next generation of aeronautics. Its failures, such as Saturday's destruction of a new version of the Falcon 9, routinely generate outcry from industry workers questioning whether SpaceX should ever stake human lives on its drive to work "faster, cheaper, better."

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BARC Is Bursting at the Seams and Needs Your Help

Categories: Spaced City

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Courtesy BARC/PetHarbor.com
Charles asks, "What are you waiting for?"
If you've ever considered adopting or fostering an animal, listen up: Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care has taken in nearly 600 dogs and cats in the last week, busting the shelter's capacity. These furry dudes and dudettes need your help, stat.

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Real Life The Purge Hoaxes Hit The Woodlands Social Media

Categories: Spaced City

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Going viral.
The day before Halloween in 1938, a rather young Orson Welles took to the radio airwaves and scared the living hell out of people. The broadcast was part of a re-enactment of the H.G. Wells book War of the Worlds, but innocent, unsuspecting listeners were duped into believing aliens had landed on Earth. This was during a time when America was ramping up for World War II in a post-depression economy.

Today, people tend to be a bit more savvy about the potential for hoaxes, particularly on social media, though people have even been fooled by the video of a monkey shooting at African soldiers who had taunted it that was a promotion for the new Planet of the Apes joint. Sometimes fakes can be pretty convincing, which is why a recent spate of hoaxes surrounding the latest installment in The Purge films have led to worries in cities across America and even investigations by police and the FBI.

Those include posts to Facebook regarding similar purge-like conditions predicted for, of all places, The Woodlands. Personally, the only thing I imagine residents there purging is the Olive Garden, but someone seems to think it was worth the threat and authorities have taken it seriously.

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