5 Texas Murderabilia Items: Charles Whitman's Gun Isn't Even the Creepiest Thing on the List

Categories: Crime, Texas

A listing for the Remington 700 rifle wielded by Charles Whitman during the 1966 UT shooting
People are oddly fascinated with horrible happenings. We get it. Some want to see the evidence and make contact with people who perpetrated the crimes. But it's still stunning to see the gun Charles Whitman used at the University of Texas Tower shootings up for auction. That is, until we saw all of the other strange, ghoulish bits of Texas murderabilia that have been sold over time.

A number of items connected in one way or another to brutal and gruesome doings in the Lone Star State have made their way from sellers to buyers. Odd (and a trifle sickening) but true. We've put together a list of five of the more disturbing Texas murderabilia items that have ended up on the market:

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Texas Will Rake in the Green if It Legalizes Marijuana

Categories: Texas

Photo by Mike Bagby

To legalize or not to legalize? That is the question voters in Alaska, Florida, Oregon and Washington D.C. will be deciding come November. Meanwhile, Texas is a long way off from getting into the whole recreational marijuana game. However, all hope is not lost (if you're one of those in favor of it), because one of the best arguments in favor of letting everybody light up all nice and legal in the Lone Star State was just quantified and released in a study.

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8 Surprising Crimes on the Books in Texas

Mary Harrsch
That better be your cow, or else you're lookin at hard time, dude..
We've all heard about the arcane laws that somehow still survive on the books. Hell, the fifth graph of the Texas Constitution says you can't hold office unless you "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

This isn't a post about those types of strange-yet-unenforced laws. Under Supreme Court precedent, atheist politicians can hold office, even though they'd probably still have a tough time getting elected in many pockets of the state. While it should embarrass state lawmakers that they still haven't stripped "homosexual conduct" from the Texas Penal Code, the "offense" has been unenforceable since the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, which invalidated so-called sodomy laws across the country in 2003. Texas' "obscene device" law made it a crime to own six or more dildos until it was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2008 (reminder: Attorney General Greg Abbot, the frontrunner for governor, totally fought to reinstate the six-dildo ban).

No, these are crimes lifted from the Texas Department of Public Safety's most recent offense list that we had no idea carried possible jail time in the Lone Star State. Some we totally get (anyone who commits number No. 4 is a real scumbag). Others we found a bit more surprising.

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Houston Cop Tells Senate Committee, "We Are Not the NSA," Argues Against Cell-Phone Privacy Protections

Categories: Tech, Texas

flickr user ario
Houston police officer James Taylor really wants you to know one thing about local cops: HPD is not the National Security Agency, "nor are we the federal government."

Taylor repeated the mantra several times in testimony before the Texas Senate's State Affairs Committee this week, insisting efforts to limit cops' access to cell-phone location data will - and, in fact, already has - fatally hamstrung the efforts of local police. Whether you believe that depends on how you read a dizzying, hatchet-job law that lawmakers updated last session and whether you think such "metadata" - call log information, location data, and other records - is inherently sensitive and deserving of strict safeguards against police snooping.

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UPDATED Texas Oil and Gas Regulators Warn of Russian Conspiracy to Fund Anti-Frackers

Categories: Texas, Whatever

On repeat at the Texas Railroad Commission
We've updated the end of this post to include a statement from Gasland writer/director Josh Fox.

The drilling revolution brought on by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" - the process of shooting millions of gallons of chemical- and sand-laden water underground to coax oil and gas out of massive shale formations - has led to a long, serious debate in Texas. What that debate has largely been about: faucets that catch fire; methods for disposing of drilling waste that seem to cause earthquakes; a process that sucks up vast amounts of water in drought-stricken areas; and air-fouling pollutants that have accompanied the drilling boom.

What that debate hasn't been about: Russia. That is, unless you're Texas Railroad commissioners David Porter and Barry Smitherman.

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Does the Wendy Davis Book Tour Count As Campaigning? Does It Matter?

Photo by Allison Hess
She'll be doing less of this while she promotes that book.

State Sen. Wendy Davis stopped campaigning for governor this week. You'd think that her Republican opponent, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, would be thrilled, but Abbott is thoroughly unenthusiastic about the move. Why? Well, Davis is taking a break from her campaign to promote her new book, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

And since she called a timeout and everything, she has been utterly focused on making sure people want to buy her book. Totally. She definitely was not trying to persuade Texas voters to consider her when she popped up on Good Morning America on Monday. She is not reminding the general population of the Lone Star State about her stance on abortion -- and those famous neon pink running shoes -- when she talks openly and honestly about the two abortions she chose to have (for medical reasons).

The fact that this book has made Davis's campaign front-page news, and given her some of the best coverage she's had since the filibuster that rocketed her to political stardom last year, is just a big old coincidence, not a clever bit of political maneuvering. Nope, she's just promoting her book, y'all. Nothing to see here.

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The Tea Party Does Not Love Rick Perry


Gov. Rick Perry has been a bit of a conservative darling of late. Yep, the Republicans have rallied round the man after he was indicted for corruption charges a few weeks back. It was a touching moment of unity in a party that has been remarkably divided in recent years.

Well, that's all over or now. It turns out the guy with the most presidential hair in politics still - unsurprisingly, in a bit of stunning optimism - wants to be president. He's gunning for a 2016 White House run and he is duly putting together a team to turn those Commander-in-chief dreams into reality (with fewer "oops" moments this time, we assume.)

To do so he has hired three, shall we say, controversial figures. It doesn't seem to take much to anger ye olde Tea Party people these days, but Perry couldn't have done a better job if he'd tried. He hired former President Bill Clinton aide Mark Fabiani for his legal team. He also hired former McCain-Palin campaign consultant Steve Schmidt (who has sounded off his thoughts on Sarah Palin, and said thoughts aren't exactly positive.) And then, for the piece de resistance (or coup de grace depending on your viewpoint) he hired Henry Barbour.

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Texas Among the Worst for Gender Equality


Let's talk about gender (in)equality, shall we?

In 2013, the U.S. failed to make the top 10 -- or even the top 20 -- of the World Economic Forum's list of the most gender-equal countries. And we're guessing that little issue is, at least in part, because of the big ol' state of Texas.

A recent study from WalletHub ranked Texas 47 out of all 50 states for gender equity because, according to the data, Texas is near the bottom when it comes to how states treat women.

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UPDATED: Most Texas Abortion Clinics Will NOT Close Next Week

Photo by Francisco Montes
Texas is working on it.

UPDATE: Yeakel issued his ruling on Friday afternoon, and to the surprise of pretty much no one he struck down the requirement that all abortion clinics be certified ambulatory surgical centers, according to the Texas Tribune. The lawsuit also asked that Yeakel suspend the admitting privileges requirement for two clinics -- Whole Woman's Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso -- which were forced to close because of said requirement. Yeakel granted that request, meaning there might just be an abortion clinic option west of San Antonio within the Lone Star State again.

In his ruling, Yeakel said HB 2's ambulatory-surgical-center requirement "burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade."

Here's another choice line from Yeakel's decision:

When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas -- including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, and the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting-privilege requirement -- the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of a woman's ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to "chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe," Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 952 (2000) (Ginsburg, J., concurring), and effectively reduce or eliminate meaningful access to safe abortion care for a significant, but ultimately unknowable, number of women throughout Texas.

The decision is pretty much gilt-edge guaranteed to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, so this is not, most likely, the final word on the matter of HB2. You can read Yeakel's entire ruling at the end of this post.

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Numbers of Texas Natives Shrinking as Population Booms

Categories: Texas

For more and more residents, this is becoming true.
As the population of Texas has swelled since the mid 1970s, the number of native Texans has shrunk, according to a fascinating chart from the New York Times blog The Upshot. In their "Where We Came From, State by State" story, charts for every state in the country show the number of people moving in and where they are from. While better than 60 percent of Texas residents were born here -- quite a bit more than states like Arizona and Wyoming -- there has been a steady upswing of non-native Texans for the last 40 years.

Where they come from is even more interesting.

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