The State of Texas: Houston Hosts Historic Super Bowl
Plus: A judge appointed by George W. Bush halts Trump’s immigration ban, the casualties of Greg Abbott’s war on sanctuary cities, and a puzzling West Texas missing person case might have broken wide open.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Great sporting events like today’s Super Bowl are highly symbolic, showing that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace. By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest and in a healthy way we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules.”
—Pope Francis in a recorded video statement before the Super Bowl, according to the Associated Press. This papal first was a far more saintly take on the game compared to the exclamations of “holy shit,” which were inevitably uttered by many of his followers during the truly thrilling game.
Showdown In H-Town
Houston hosted Super Bowl LI on Sunday, and the big game certainly lived up to the hype. For objective observers and fans of the victorious New England Patriots, it was a great game, maybe even the best ever. But if you happen to be an Atlanta Falcons fan, then it was like getting repeatedly punched in the kidneys by the ghost of Paul Revere. Here’s what you need to know about Super Bowl LI, without the kidney punching: the Patriots pulled off the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history to erase a 25-point deficit and win, 34-28; it was the first Super Bowl to ever go into overtime; there were a few protests leading up to the game; George H.W. and Barbara Bush did the pre-game coin toss; parking near NRG Stadium was expensive; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson were announced before the game as members of this year’s pro football Hall of Fame class; Tom Brady had a difficult first half; the Falcons’ Julio Jones made this incredible catch and the Patriots’ Julian Edelman made this equally incredible catch; Lady Gaga jumped off the roof of NRG Stadium during her halftime performance; and a man from Michigan named Tim Ruffini unforgivably left the game with ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, thinking it was over, but Guy Fieri was in attendance through the exciting conclusion. According to the Houston Chronicle, 140,000 people came through H-Town for the Super Bowl festivities, including big names like Shaquille O’Neal, Simone Biles, Elton John, Vice President Mike Pence, and John Travolta. Oh, and did we mention Guy Fieri? Because Guy Fieri was there too.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
On Friday, a federal judge in Seattle halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that put a travel ban on refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries, according to the Seattle Times. While U.S. District Judge James Robart’s decision will be felt nationwide, the ban had a particularly big impact here in Texas, where many folks were detained at the state’s major airports and separated from their families. The decision certainly didn’t win Robart any friends in the White House. Trump took to Twitter to react to the decision, personally attacking Robart and questioning his authority, calling him a “so-called judge” and saying he should be blamed “if something bad happens.” Robart is a “mainstream conservative” judge with bipartisan appeal, according to the New York Times, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2004 and confirmed in the Senate by a 99-0 vote. This is just the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a fierce court battle, as the White House has promised it will appeal the ruling.
Governor Greg Abbott ramped up his war on immigrant “sanctuaries” this week when he slashed more than $1.5 million in state grant funding from Travis County. The move targeted Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez for her jail policy that is moderately friendly to undocumented immigrants, but the cuts have a much wider reach. The Austin American-Statesman profiled one of the casualties of Abbott’s attack: a court that helps veterans accused of crimes that may have been tied to war trauma. The Travis County Veterans Court connects veterans to services that can help them get their life back on track. Since the court began six years ago, 83 percent of participants have avoided re-arrest, an incredible statistic for a particularly vulnerable population. But Abbott’s cuts will take away 90 percent of the court’s budget. One of the court’s participants, Ronnie Bennett, a 37-year-old former Army sergeant who suffers from PTSD after serving two tours in Iraq—including in Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit—had harsh words for Abbott, calling his cuts “beyond disgusting.” Bennett told the Statesman that “it’s life and death, not a political game. [For] a lot of these folks, it is the only access they have to assistance. It is just unacceptable for it to go away for them because of all this.”
On Friday morning, months after 22-year-old Sul Ross State University student Zuzu Verk went missing in Alpine, police found human remains in a shallow grave outside the small West Texas town that they believe belong to Verk, then arrested Verk’s former boyfriend, according to KOSA. The uncertainty surrounding Verk’s disappearance in October has weighed heavy on the residents of little Alpine for quite some time, and the discovery of what could be her body plus the arrest of her ex-boyfriend, Robert Fabian, appears to be a major break in the case. “It’s a relief, I know for us and the family,” Brewster County Sheriff Ronnie Dodson told KOSA. “We knew if we ever found her that there would be evidence at that scene that would really help us and sure enough it is.” It’s unclear what specific evidence police found at the scene, but Fabian was charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence by concealing a human corpse.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Some links are paywalled or subscription-only.
An African-American family in Dallas lives what should be the American dream, but still faces racism Dallas Morning News
Here’s why so many Texas teachers go unpunished for alleged misconduct Austin American-Statesman
It seems like ICE is holding more families in detention on the border McAllen Monitor
BoarZilla and HogGate grips Comanche County The Flash Today
An Amarillo High School cheerleader made a video of herself doing a cheer of the n-word Amarillo Globe-News