Jockey Indicted for Shocking Horse at Sam Houston Race Park

Categories: Sports, Texas

Via the Paulick Report
Roman Chapa aboard Quiet Acceleration during the $50,000 Richard King Stakes on January 17, 2015.

A jockey was indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury on Wednesday for allegedly shocking a horse to fix a race at Sam Houston Race Park on January 17.

When Quiet Acceleration galloped across the finish line with 43-year-old jockey Roman Chapa aboard to win the $50,000 Richard King Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park on January 17, the photos of the moment captured the victory, but they also showed that Chapa was clutching a small nude-colored object in his left palm. The object, a buzzer, is an electric shocking device that can be used to shock a horse and get it to move faster. Buzzers are banned from racing.

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Daughter of Man Killed at Texas City Refinery Watches USW Strike

Categories: Texas

Photo by Max Burkhalter
Katherine Rodriguez has been following the USW strike, .
Since the start of the United Steelworkers strike at the oil refineries, Katherine Rodriguez has been watching the developments and thinking of her father, Ray Gonzalez. "He would have loved this. He would have been out there on the picket line with them if he was still here," she says.

USW members have been on strike since February 1. Union reps have rejected at least seven contract offers from Shell and pulled more than 6,500 workers at 15 plants -- with about 5,000 coming from 12 oil refineries -- since the strike started. Locally, the strike began when the union pulled union workers out of LyondellBasell, Shell Deer Park and the Texas City refinery where Rodriguez's father was fatally injured more than a decade ago. While the two sides are reportedly butting heads over a variety of things -- including contractors and rules that make sure fatigued workers aren't stuck on the job -- it's the safety issues that hit closest to home for Rodriguez.

Her father was killed by burns sustained in an accident at the then-British Petroleum Texas City refinery in September 2004. Gonzalez lived in the hospital for weeks after the accident and for a long time, Rodriguez and her two sisters and their mother hoped that Gonzalez would pull through. But eventually his body began to fail and his organs started shutting down. The family was together with him at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston when they turned off all the machines.

After that, Rodriguez couldn't even stand to talk about what had happened to her father, but she started researching the industry that employed him for most of his adult life. Only then did she begin to understand what it was really like behind the refinery fence. While he never said a word in front of his daughters about the dangers and the near-misses that were a part of life at the Texas City refinery, Gonzalez would tell his wife about the burns and how careful workers had to be at the refinery, her mother later told her. "He kept that from us because he didn't want us to worry. If we had known we would have worried all the time," Rodriguez says now.

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Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller Voted to Cut Ag Funding But Now He Wants it Back

Photo from the Texas Agriculture Commission
Texas Ag Commissioner thought cutting funding to the Texas Agriculture Commission was a good idea until he actually became head of it.
The Cupcake Crusader has a new cause! And surprisingly it has nothing to do with cupcakes!

That's right, Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner, easily won his office last November, and now it looks like he's actually trying to improve the agriculture department. There's just one tiny problem: funding.

"I need a little help. I sure do," Miller said on Friday. "We had some deep cuts in 2011 and I'm simply asking the legislature to restore those cuts."

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Complaints Over Medical Care Presaged South Texas Prison Riot

Categories: Texas

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Willacy County's CAR tent prison
In 2007, border patrol officers caught Jesus Manuel Galindo swimming across the Rio Grande to visit family in New Mexico. Charged with and convicted of illegal re-entry to the country, Galindo was ordered to serve 30 months at the Reeves County Detention Center, a sprawling prison complex in Pecos, Texas. In prison, he told officials he had a long history of epileptic seizures. He routinely complained he wasn't being given the right medication, that his seizures had worsened. For some reason he was placed in solitary confinement.

"I already told them (warden and doctor) that I have been here for one month alone and I have gotten sick twice," Galindo wrote his mother two days before his death, according to a lawsuit later filed against the prison. "I've already asked if they can place me with someone else so I won't be by myself anymore."

In December 2008, Galindo suffered a grand mal seizure while he was alone inside his isolation cell. His body was already cold to the touch and showed signs of rigor mortis when staff found him in the morning. Fellow prisoners were outraged when they saw Galindo's body being carted out of his cell. Two inmates set a mattress on fire using wires and an electrical outlet. In the ensuing riot, inmates took some prison workers hostage, set fires across the facility, and caused over $1 million in damage.

The prisoners' demands: adequate medical care.

That same complaint appears to have sparked a riot at another of Texas' so-called Criminal Alien Requirement prisons -- privately-run facilities that contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons to house low-risk non-U.S. citizen inmates. On Friday, inmates at the Willacy County Correctional Center, a South Texas prison operated by private-prison company Management & Training Corp., refused to do their routine chores or eat breakfast, according to the McAllen Monitor. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for the company, told the paper that inmates were complaining about medical care.

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Gov. Greg Abbott's Perfectly Adequate First State of the State

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Gov. Greg Abbott's first State of the State on Tuesday was pretty much the dog and pony show everyone expected it to be, but we couldn't help thinking that something was missing. He sat up there in his first address to the Texas Legislature and we couldn't help pondering how his hair was a little less than perfect and how his rhetoric simply wasn't the inflammatory swaggering we'd grown accustomed to during the past decade.

Abbott kicked things off by painting an aggressively sunny picture of the state of the Lone Star State. "As the sun arises on 2015 the state of Texas is strong and together we are about to make it even stronger," Abbott said, mentioning all of the job creation and the January sales tax numbers without ever acknowledging the potential mess that is the current low oil prices.

He followed that up with a little gloating about the federal judge in Brownsville that halted President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration just hours before Abbott's big speech. "In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the President ignores the law and fails to secure the border," Abbott said. He went on to outline his plans for Texas in the next two years.Specifically, Abbott had five emergency items that he highlighted during the speech - early education, higher education research initiatives, transportation, border security and ethics.

While a lot of this is the same sort of stuff Abbott campaigned on last year, his support of improvements to education was encouraging. Abbott told a joint session of the Lege that he wants to both bolster the state's pre-kindergarten program and to start pulling Nobel laureate-types into Texas universities. (We were hoping he'd cackle and rub his hands together in an evil looking manner when he mentioned this plan, but alas, no such luck). "Our journey begins with striving to create the best education system in America," he said. From his tone of voice -- and the proposed budget that accompanied the speech -- it's just possible that he meant it.

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Couples Ask Fifth Circuit to Lift Stay on Same-Sex Marriages

Categories: Courts, Texas

Photo by Max Burkhalter
Attorneys for two gay couples at the heart of De Leon v. Perry have asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a stay that will allow same-sex marriages to start happening immediately.

A motion filed on Thursday asks the Fifth Circuit judges to lift a stay a federal district judge placed on his own 2014 decision that struck down the Lone Star State's gay marriage ban. If the Fifth should lift the stay same-sex marriages could start happening in the state right away. If, however, the Fifth declines to lift the stay, the attorneys have asked that Cleopatra DeLeon and her wife, Nicole Dimetman, is expecting their second child, be allowed to marry so that they can establish parental rights before the baby is born. "In the eyes of the State of Texas, Nicole is an unwed mother. That is a particularly noxious lie, and the record should be corrected," attorney Neel Lane told us via email.

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Sen. John Cornyn Wants All of the Guns Everywhere

Categories: Texas, Whatever

Sometimes we think that nothing will ever surprise us again, and then Sen. John Cornyn turns around and proves us wrong by filing a bill so comically "Texas" that at first we thought it was a joke.

Specifically, on Thursday Cornyn filed what is described in a press release from his office as a "bipartisan Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2015, which would allow individuals with concealed carry privileges in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state that also has concealed carry laws, while abiding by that state's concealed carry laws."

We know you all must be wondering how exactly such an act -- one that would make a Texas concealed handgun license a sort of carte blanche in all other concealed handgun license states -- is being touted as "bipartisan"? Well, that's because they have exactly one Democrat -- Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia --along with Senators John Thune, of South Dakota, and David Vitter, of Louisiana, cosponsoring the bill.

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Dan Patrick's Lonely Border Surge

Photo from Gov. Greg Abbott's office

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is still intent on fighting the good fight to keep the borders secure with expensive National Guard troops, it looks like Patrick might have to wage this particular battle alone.

Patrick held a press conference on Tuesday declaring his unwavering determination to keep National Guard troops camped out at motels along the Texas border in perpetuity (or at least until 2017). However, Patrick seems to be lacking in support on this one from pretty much everyone, including, at least for now, the guy holding the top office, Gov. Greg Abbott.

For those with short memories, last year then-Gov. Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to secure the border as a way of dealing with waves of minors from Central America that were arriving in Texas. At the height of the border surge about 1,000 troops were camped out along our admittedly porous border. They were armed and everything, despite the fact that they were basically only there to watch the border and that was it.

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The Road to 2030: Self-driving Cars, Big Data and the Future of Texas

Categories: Tech, Texas

Matt Chase
A healthy human lung lives in a bottle at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. It's the rather extraordinary brainchild of Dr. Joan Nichols, who accomplished the bioengineering feat without any grants because everyone doubted it could be done.

Nichols is the associate director of research at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where she leads a 15-person team experimenting on a living lung created from human tissue. They used lungs that were from a pair of children who died of trauma and so were unsuitable for transplant. Nichols's team stripped cells from one lung, leaving behind a scaffolding of the lung's collagen and elastin. Then they reseeded it with cells salvaged from the other lung and immersed it in a nutrient solution.

It was a particularly painstaking effort until med student Dr. Michael Riddle managed to MacGyver together their first apparatus using a pet-store fish tank. (The things you do when you don't have large NIH grants.) He would ultimately cut the stripping process from months to days.

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Donna Campbell is Saving the Alamo!

Categories: Religion, Texas

Image by Monica Fuentes
Don't worry about the Alamo y'all. State Sen. Donna Campbell has got this.

She's finally done it. After spending countless hours and plenty of oxygen politicking for patently ridiculous things, state Sen. Donna Campbell has finally come up with a bill we can actually support. She's saving the Alamo, y'all!

Well, sort of.

See, last summer the Alamo, the site of the 13 Days of Glory, that quintessential symbol of all that is Texas -- a certain disregard for orders and the ability to fight against a much larger and better equipped army and hang on for longer than anyone would have bet -- became a World Heritage Site through the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (yeah, we're talking UNESCO.)

The process, which encompassed all of San Antonio's ancient missions and took six years to complete, was overseen by Jerry Patterson, then-Texas General Land Commissioner. The deal is supposed to bring in more money (more than $100 million) and more jobs (more than 1,000) by 2025, according to a report from the Harbinger Consulting Group. Otherwise, the official word goes that nothing is supposed to change.

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