QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Believe it or not, man, when we were in the prime of our careers, I used to always talk about it: [Romo] could have easily been a professional basketball player. And a lot of people were like, ‘Man, you’re crazy for saying that,’ but Tony could shoot. He could handle the ball. He had a knack for scoring, man, he really did.”
—Former NBA player Caron Butler, to ESPN. Butler and recently retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo know each other from their high school days in Wisconsin, when they were both star basketball players for their respective teams. We’ll get a peek at what Romo would have looked like as a pro basketball player tonight, when he suits up for the Dallas Mavericks at the invitation of team owner Mark Cuban.
Rex In Russia—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to visit Moscow today, according to CNN, and, uh, there is a lot going on. The visit comes as the U.S. attempts to sort out its diplomatic relationship with Russia while Congress investigates whether the country meddled in our election and has (or had) dubious ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign and administration. Of course, Trump’s decision to fire a bunch of missiles at a Syrian airbase last week further complicates the Moscow visit (Russia is a backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad). This is easily the biggest moment yet in Tillerson’s tenure as Secretary of State. The Wichita Falls native and former Exxon CEO has had a rough first few months on the job and has faced criticism for isolating himself from his staffers, his lack of transparency, and for overseeing a department that seems to have been left listless and weakened under Trump. But Tillerson sort of snapped back to life in the last week or so, taking a hard line against Russia. According to the New York Times, this past weekend he called Russia “incompetent” for letting Syria keep chemical weapons and accused the country of trying to mess with elections in the U.S. and Europe, saying such action “undermines any hope of improving relations” with the United States. This is far harsher language than anything we’ve heard from Trump on Russia so far, and it’s unclear whether Tillerson’s statements reflect the Trump administration’s position on Russia. Tillerson is expected to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, but it’s uncertain if he’ll see President Vladimir Putin, who once gave Tillerson Russia’s “Order of Friendship” prize while he was still at Exxon. However this trip goes, it could set the tone for future relations between the U.S. and Russia during Trump’s presidency.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Losing Streak—A federal judge ruled on Monday that Texas’s Voter ID law was passed with the intent to discriminate against black and Latino voters, according to the Texas Tribune. This is the second time in a year that the Voter ID law suffered such a defeat in federal court—U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled last July that the law discriminated against minorities, and on Monday she again ruled against Texas, finding that the state “has not met its burden” in proving that the law was passed without knowingly targeting minorities. The second-straight loss puts the Voter ID law on the ropes, and according to the Dallas Morning News it could put Texas back on the list of states that require prior approval from the feds before making any statewide changes to their election laws. While Texas lost this particular battle in court, the six-year legal war over the Voter ID law is expected to wage on, as Attorney General Ken Paxton will almost certainly appeal Ramos’s ruling.
Ganging Up—Governor Greg Abbott unveiled on Monday a massive initiative to combat gang violence in Houston, providing a $500,000 grant in state and federal funds to go toward a new 24/7 tactical center, according to the Houston Chronicle. During a press conference announcing the grant, Abbott talked a lot about the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, an El Salvadoran gang that has spread to Houston and elsewhere in Texas. As the Chronicle notes, two men believed to me MS-13 members were charged with the murder of teenage girl in Houston a few months ago. “These are just the headlines,” Abbott said after reading a list of some of the most notable gang-related violent crimes in Houston over the past few months, before adding that there are many more gang-related crimes that don’t make the papers. The new anti-gang center will be inside the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Houston headquarters, and it’ll be staffed by Texas Rangers and DPS special agents. The FBI also announced it will reassign at least ten more agents to Houston.
Arrivederci—A former Mexican Governor who has been on the run for five years was caught in Italy on Sunday, according to the New York Times. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, who used to be in charge of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, was indicted in Brownsville in 2013 on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, and bank fraud, stemming from allegations that Yarrington used Tamaulipas police to collect bribes from drug traffickers, accepted kickbacks from contractors, and laundered millions of dollars through real estate buys in Texas, according to the San Antonio Express-News. He’s also wanted in Mexico. It had long been thought that Yarrington was living in hiding in Mexico, but a few months ago the U.S. Homeland Security Department and Interpol tipped off Italian authorities that he was in the town of Paola on the Tyrrhenian Sea, where he’d apparently been living for a few months under a fake name. He was arrested near the historic Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Now it’s a matter of who gets to prosecute the guy first. Mexico issued a statement after the arrest was announced on Monday, taking credit for the arrest and saying that it intends to extradite Yarrington. The U.S. has asked for his extradition, too.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
Legendary Texas Tech football coach Spike Dykes passed away Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
A mysterious man known only as “Mr. Gary” bought customers $1,000 worth of ice cream at a Fort Worth shop Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Lubbock County Democratic Party headquarters was defaced by white supremacist graffiti KLBK
A massive tire fire is wreaking havoc in Odessa Odessa American
In Texas, you can get pecan pies from a vending machine Atlas Obscura