Islamic Militants Are Using a Houston Plumbing Truck to Gun Down Aircraft in Syria, According to Twitter

Ansar al-Deen Front Twitter

It appears that a truck once owned by a Houston-area plumbing company has somehow turned up in the hands of Islamic militants who are now using the converted vehicle to shoot at aircraft as they fight in Syria's civil war.

A photo of the Texas-born Ford F-250, complete with the former owner's plumbing company logo, was posted to Twitter by the Ansar al-Deen Front Monday, and shows a militant fighter shooting an anti-aircraft gun from the bed of the truck.

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Oil Prices Are Dropping: Here's What Could Be Coming

Categories: Texas

Even Spindletop went bust.

Once upon a time a whole bunch of Texas oil people started telling themselves stories about the latest shale boom. This one, they assured each other, would never go bust. The price of oil would stay high forever and we would all live here in the city at the center of the land of milk and honey and Texas tea in wealth and plenty.

Well, that was a fun story, but in the last few weeks reality has sunk in as the price of oil has dropped like a stone. On Monday oil sank to $55 a barrel, the lowest the price has been since May 2009. Texas just hit over a billion barrels of production for this year and the state alone is the sixth largest oil producer in the world. Texas has been the black beating heart of all this plenty, and now Texas and the other states are bracing themselves to suffer from the fallout. By all accounts, we could be in for quite a jolt.

So how did this happen? Well the surface answer is that the Saudis did it to teach the U.S. shale operators a lesson, Bill Gilmer, Director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting in the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business, says. "The Saudis haven't announced any sort of public policy here, but it's increasingly clear that they're helping their friends and punishing their enemies, probably at a substantial price to themselves," Gilmer says. "Low oil prices punishes Iran, ISIS, punishes what could be regarded as enemies. Texas and North Dakota probably go on the list of adversaries. This may very well be sort of a run at U.S. shale production."

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Victoria Officer Under Investigation After Tasing 76-Year-Old Man During Traffic Stop

Categories: Crime, Texas

Victoria Police Department dash cam footage

Perhaps it's not the greatest idea to use a taser on an elderly person during a traffic stop. That's what a rookie cop in Victoria is finding out, anyway.

Victoria police officer Nathanial Robinson has been placed on administrative duty for accusations of excessive force stemming from a traffic stop where he tased a 76-year-old man twice as he lay on the ground.

The 23-year old officer tased elderly Victoria resident Pete Vasquez during a routine traffic stop last week, and the entire incident -- minus the tasing part, which happens just out of sight of the camera -- was caught on dash-cam video.

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Federal Ruling Legalizes Marijuana on Native American Reservations in Texas (and the Rest of the Nation)

Dank Depot via Flickr Creative Commons

Oh happy day. Texas now has a legal marijuana market, in which marijuana can be grown and sold without the feds swooping in all stealth-like.

But unfortunately -- at least for most of you Texas' potheads -- that Lone Star legal weed will only be permitted on Native American reservations. (It's okay -- still we're secretly hopeful, too.)

In one of the coolest marijuana moves by the feds to date, the U.S. Department of Justice announced last week that Native Americans can grow and sell marijuana on reservations.

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Calm Down, Texas; Selena's Killer Will Not Be Released From Prison Early

Categories: Crime, Texas

"Amor Prohibido" screenshot

If you happened upon those recent reports stating that Selena Quintanilla's killer would be getting an early release from prison and freaked, please get those panties out of a bunch. The rumors are not true.

The fake article, first posted on the satirical news site National Report, stated that Yolanda Saldivar, the former nurse turned fan club president who shot and killed the singer back in 1995, would be getting an early release from prison, which could happen as soon as January 1, 2015.

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Supremes Are Looking at Texas Confederate License Plates

Categories: Courts, Texas

The Sons of Confederate Veterans argue that having the Confederate flag on their vanity plates is a freedom of speech.

You'd think that the concept of Confederate license plates would go over wonderfully in Texas, but surprisingly that's not exactly the case. When the Sons of Confederate Veterans state branch (think mostly guys who like to dress up in gray wool and who really love all things Confederate) applied for a specialty license plate, the state decidedly didn't go for it. This led to some legal wrangling and now the issue has bounced all the way to the home of the Nine itself.

Yep, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., looking at whether Texas had the right to reject a specialty license plate application from the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

This all started about five years ago when the Sons of Confederate Veterans applied for a specialty license plate showing the Confederate flag along with the name of the group and the year it was established, 1896. After several votes, the board for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which handles the state license plate stuff, denied the application, saying that some people would interpret the Confederate symbol in negative and offensive ways (i.e. they might just conflate the Stars and Bars with slavery, the Old South, racism and the KKK, for starters.)

A district court agreed with the board but the case got kicked up to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel of three judges issued their ruling in July. In a 2-1 ruling, the Fifth Circuit sided with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, finding that the state was wrong not to approve the license plate. "By rejecting the plate because it was offensive, the board discriminated against Texas SCV's view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage," the majority said.

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Local Pit Bull Owner Drops Lawsuit Against Victims of Dog Attack

Screenshot, First Coast News

After nearly a month of public scrutiny over her million dollar lawsuit, the Texas City woman who was suing her neighbors for injuries she says she sustained after her four pit bulls broke through a shared fence and killed her neighbor's beagle has dropped her lawsuit.

Emerald White, a Texas City woman with four pit bulls, filed the lawsuit against her neighbor, Steve Baker, in mid-November, stating that she was "seriously injured" while trying to retrieve her four pit bulls, which had broken through a shared fence and were attacking Baker's dog on his property.

White said she suffered "multiple serious bite and scratch-type injuries," during the incident due to Baker "failing to properly train the animal in question to prevent the vicious behavior of the animal," and "failing to securely confine and restrict" Bailey, a 10-year-old Beagle. Bailey was killed in the attack.

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Texas Gay Marriage Campaign Gets Personal

Categories: Texas

Photo by Max Burkhalter

A few years ago the thought of a Texas campaign to garner support for gay marriage would have been both depressingly pointless and just-this-side-of-the-Marx-brothers laughable. But now, with gay marriage legal in 35 states and a Texas case set to be heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in January, the idea doesn't seem so ludicrous.

Freedom to Marry launched the campaign Texas for Marriage earlier this month and has announced plans to invest about $200,000 in the campaign before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments for the case in January. (Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take up the issue before then.)

It's an interesting campaign, because the players involved obviously seem to have a good handle on Texas, Texans and the best way to approach them. In addition to a website, there will be state-wide TV ads, town hall meetings and young pro-gay marriage Republicans out voicing their support. That's right. Even the young Republicans are getting in on this, which is impressive considering the Grand Canyon-like divide that is apparent with so much of U.S politics these days.

However, despite the old school politicking approach, the focus won't be on the politics, campaign director Ward Curtin says. "It's been a political issue for so long that the debate has been devoid of the human story," he says. "This campaign is all personal story telling. It's about loving committed couples who want to marry the person they love. This is focused on communicating to the public that they want to get married for the same reasons everyone else does."

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The Galveston Plague of 1920

Courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library
Galveston officials fought the 1920 plague by declaring war on rats and poisoning thousands of them.

While Ebola is the most recent incredibly unexpected disease to show up in Texas, it isn't anywhere near the most deadly. Long before anyone even knew Ebola existed, the city of Galveston grappled with an outbreak of bubonic plague.

When the first few patients started getting sick in June 1920, bubonic plague was such a foreign possibility that most doctors in the town didn't even consider it, according to reports from the time. It was only after the first patient, a 17-year-old boy, died that tests confirmed he'd had plague.

The disease sprang up in four different Gulf ports at almost the same time, including Galveston, according to a report published in 1921 by Dr. Mark Boyd and Dr. T.W. Kemmerer, the doctors who ran Galveston's plague laboratories. The timing indicated that there was a common source for the disease, but they were never able to figure out what the source was.

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Texas Companies are Pretty Awesome About LGBT Equality, According to Report

Even if politicians in our deep red state are lagging behind, it seems Texas businesses know a thing or two about good, old fashioned equality, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Each year, the HRC looks at Fortune 500 companies and top law firms around the nation and ranks them according to their LGBT equality on the Corporate Equality Index using five categories: Non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBT diversity and inclusion, public commitment to equality, and responsible citizenship.

This year's index included 44 Texas businesses, and what they found is pretty darn astounding. According to the new rankings, Texas private sector businesses now lead the nation in workplace equality.

Yep, we were surprised too.

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