UPDATED America Family Law Center's "Legal Aid" for Low-Income Folks Is Sorta Expensive

Categories: Whatever

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Screenshot from Texasvolunteerattorneys.org
There are different ways to interpret "volunteer"....
Update: We were awaiting comment from attorney Peter Bergman, who is the lawyer mentioned in McDermott's letter, but not named in the original post. Bergman told us Tuesday morning that he could not recall if he ever met with the woman from McDermott's letter, but would get back to us once he checked his records. We have not heard back.

We've been at it for a little while, and we still can't figure out what kind of business is being run out of suite 609 at 1314 Texas Street and what services their low-income clientele are getting for the hundreds they fork over. And we think that's the idea.

The office contains multitudes: Organizations operating there include "America Family Law Center," "Texas Volunteer Attorneys," "Fathers For Equal Rights," and "Children First Always." Ostensibly, they all offer access to family court attorneys and ill-defined "resources." But first, you must buy a membership, which isn't disclosed in any of the advertisements we've seen. And things just get weirder from there.

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Trouble in Galveston's Version of Paradise

Categories: Crime, Whatever

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Google streetview
The front of Bobby Wasylik's Galveston home, where the assault took place.
Bobby Wasylik didn't think he'd ever seen the guy before. Cue-ball bald, standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 225 pounds, the man towered over 68-year-old Wasylik in the front yard of his Galveston home. "Are you Bobby?" the man asked.

Like most assault cases, exactly what happened next depends on whom you ask. This much, however, is clear: The attack from James Ruby, 42, fractured Wasylik's right shoulder. The blows to Wasylik's neck and chest landed so hard they dislodged plaque from his arteries, triggering multiple strokes, according to medical records and the doctor who treated Wasylik. When police arrived at the home, the right side of Wasylik's face had already begun to droop. Ruby, meanwhile, had taken off on a bicycle unscathed.

The March 14, 2014 attack didn't rouse Wasylik's friends, neighbors, and other Galveston residents because it was unusually brutal or heinous - after about a week in the hospital and time in physical therapy, Wasylik has for the most part bounced back, though he says he still suffers from nagging shoulder pain and "equilibrium" problems. What's made them write letters to the editor and pen lengthy complaints to Galveston police and prosecutors, however, is this: Galveston is apparently the kind of place where someone can beat a stroke into you -- in your front yard, in broad daylight, in front of a witness -- and skate by a grand jury without consequence.


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You Can Now Text 9-1-1 in Harris and Fort Bend Counties

Categories: Tech, Whatever

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Kenny Louie
What's the emoji for "HELP!"
We still suggest picking up the phone and calling 9-1-1 if you've got a dire emergency. But as of this week, Verizon and T-Mobile customers in Harris and Fort Bend counties can text 9-1-1.

According to the Greater Harris County 9-1-1 Emergency Network, text-to-9-1-1 can be a lifeline in cases where it's too dangerous to talk, for people with disabilities who can't make a voice call, or for "a medical emergency that renders a person incapable of speech." Time to break out that choking-on-smoke-while-my-house-burns-down emoji.

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Undercover Investigation Reveals Alleged Mistreatment at Monkey Lab

Categories: Whatever

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Courtesy Humane Society of the United States
An undercover investigation of a major primate research lab in San Antonio revealed a pattern of mistreatment of its monkeys, including death, injury, overcrowding, and lack of medical care, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

The organization claims that a five-week investigation of the Southwest National Primate Research Center, which houses 3,000 primates, led to citations by federal inspectors for the death of an emaciated baboon suffering from an infection, and a rhesus monkey whose tail was partially severed in a fight.

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Depressing Photos From Northwest Mall

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Monica Fuentes
Where did they film Dawn of the Dead again?
Northwest Mall, the 800,000 square-foot shopping center situated right behind the U.S. 290 and 610 Loop construction project, is up for sale, according to the Chron.

The listing company says the site is ideally suited for a hotel, multifamily housing, office, and retail development. The listing company, HFF, also told the Chron that most of the tenants could easily be moved as soon as the property sells for an expected $86 million.

That shouldn't be too hard, we think. We poked around the shopping-center ghost town yesterday and found it looking more like the outskirts of Chernobyl than a mall. Take a look.


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8 Surprising Crimes on the Books in Texas

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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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Newly Discovered Jonestown Remains Include Texas Women

Categories: Whatever

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Officials are seeking relatives of two Texas women whose ashes were among cremains discovered in a Delaware funeral home last month and identified as victims of the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, South America.

The victims were identified as Victoria native and former Houston resident Katherine Martha Domineck, who died at age 83; and Ruth Atkins, birth city unknown, who died at age 74.

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Meridian Sale Disrupts Houston Food Park

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Photo by Susan Du
Miguel Villegas and Tirzo Ponce are looking beyond East Downtown to possibly relocate the Houston Food Park.

With the recent sale of the former Meridian nightclub - and by extension its parking lot - the Houston Food Park is prepared to pack up and roll out of East Downtown.

In 2013, the abandoned warehouse at 1503 Chartres St. seemed like the perfect place to open the city's first food truck park. The Meridian's last year in business was rife with management disputes, and owner Gary Katz couldn't find anyone to lease the 50,000 square feet property. Foodie partners Tirzo Ponce and Miguel Villegas offered to take the parking lot off his hands.

As trucks clustered outside, Ponce and Villegas cleaned up the Meridian. They rewired the electricity and fixed damaged water pipes, hoping to build an air-conditioned dining area on the first floor. In return for their investment on the building, Katz offered Ponce and Villegas below market-value rent on the parking lot.

So it came as a shock to the food park partners when Katz, who could no longer afford the building, gave it up in a bankruptcy sale. It went up for auction, top bidder Ecclesia church signed a contract to purchase it for $3.75 million, and by September the food park was sitting on some pretty shaky ground.

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Red Collar Dog Rescue Calls Out a Pair of Owners for Alleged Douchebaggery

Categories: Whatever

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Facebook screenshot, Red Collar Rescue.
Victims of a cruel campaign?
Hell hath no fury like an animal rescue scorned. Such groups are unfortunately used to dealing with dogs mistreated by a-hole owners, but Red Collar Rescue recently took the unusual step of Facebook-shaming a Houston couple it says abandoned a dog they adopted seven years ago.

The couple, Gustaf and Jenny Johansson, were not thrilled to discover their photo and names on Red Collar's Facebook page, along with these allegations: the couple's husky, Arthur, was discovered roaming the streets of Magnolia in July, near-blind and riddled with infections and a tumor. The dog was micro-chipped, which led to Red Collar, which led to the Johanssons. But when a volunteer called the Johanssons, Red Collar claims, the couple said "it was not a good time for them to have a dog and they did not want him back. They also said they did not want their children to know he was found." Yikes.

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

Categories: Texas, Whatever

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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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