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The State of Texas: Charges Dropped Against Undercover Activists In Planned Parenthood Sting

Plus: Texas Democrats get rowdy at breakfast in Philadelphia, Joaquín Castro takes a hard look at Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, and someone might have set fire to Enchanted Rock.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“If the millennials have to drink at everything, I think that’s a sad statement of where we’re going as a society.”

—Midland City Councilman Jeff Sparks to KOSA. Sparks and other Midlanders have their feathers very ruffled over a local Chuck E. Cheese’s attempt to acquire an alcohol permit. According to Sparks, the entertainment center says it hopes to attract “millennials.” Chuck E. Cheese’s has been selling alcohol at various locations of this Screaming Child wildlife preserve for a while. 


BIG NEWS


David Daleiden, a defendant in a Planned Parenthood video, speaks to media Thursday Feb. 4, 2016 in Houston outside the Harris County Courthouse.
David Daleiden, a defendant in the case of an undercover Planned Parenthood video, speaks to media Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, outside the Harris County Courthouse in Houston.

Eric Kayne/Getty

Charges Dropped
Two anti-abortion activists who used fake identification to gain access to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast officials and secretly record their meetings won’t face criminal punishment. On Tuesday, a Harris County judge dropped the last remaining charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, according to the Texas Tribune. Last year, the duo circulated a video that they claimed showed Planned Parenthood employees engaging in talks to sell fetal tissue. Daleiden and Merritt had posed as representatives of a medical company, and offered Planned Parenthood money for fetal tissue, an offer the organization later said that it refused. The viral videos caused national public outcry over concerns Planned Parenthood may be selling fetal tissue, prompting Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to call on Harris County to investigate Planned Parenthood. But a grand jury tasked with investigating the clinic instead indicted Daleiden and Merritt in January. Daleiden’s misdemeanor charge related to buying human organs was dropped in June, and the charges dropped Tuesday were for tampering with a governmental record. The case seems to have been dismissed on a technicality. According to the New York Times, attorneys for the defendants argued that the grand jury didn’t have the legal authority to indict Daleiden and Merritt because the indictments came after the grand jury’s term was extended. As the Times notes, the entire case was politically charged from day one. Anti-abortion advocates claimed the duo’s indictment was basically a liberal witch hunt, while Planned Parenthood supporters felt that there was a conflict of interest because Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is an outspoken anti-abortion advocate.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


Breakfast Beef
There’s just something about morning meals that makes Texas’s political delegates act up. First, Texas Republicans chewed out Ted Cruz during the most important meal of the day last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. On Tuesday, Texas’s Democratic delegation duked it out among themselves over bacon and eggs after a Bernie Sanders-supporting speaker made some unfortunate remarks about Hillary Clinton. According to Politico, delegate Russell Lytle, speaking on behalf of Texas’s Bernie supporters, was expected to push for party unity. Somehow, the words that actually came out of his mouth informed the crowd that Texas’s Sanders supporters were “condemning our presumptive nominee.” The majority of the room took issue with that, and many delegates stood up and started yelling at the guy, chanting “Hillary! Hillary!” It seems like Lytle went a bit rogue. Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, told Politico that after the chaos settled, Sanders supporters came up to him and apologized. Lytle later walked back his statement, calling it a “poor choice of words.”

Year of Joaquín
With his twin brother Julián Castro momentarily receding from the spotlight after having lost out on Hillary Clinton’s veepstakes, it might be Joaquín’s time now. The U.S. Representative from San Antonio told CBS News on Tuesday that he’s considering taking a crack at Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in 2018. In the interview with the twins, Julián said that the brothers weren’t really thinking about running for Senate, before Joaquín added his own two cents. “Well, he’s speaking for himself,” Joaquín said. “I’m going to take a look at it in 2018. I’ll take a look at that and other opportunities. I’ve never been somebody who’s said in two years, I absolutely need to run for Senate or governor.” Joaquín also didn’t rule out taking over the Democratic National Committee in place of the ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “You never say never,” he said, “but it hasn’t been on my radar.” Cruz is apparently taking Castro’s comments very seriously. According to the Texas Tribune, the senator sent out an email to supporters asking for money, warning that “the Castro brothers have the full support of the mainstream media and Washington establishment willing to do everything in their power to turn Texas blue.”

Enchanted Char Pit
A fire on Enchanted Rock burned out an environmentally significant vernal pool last week, and state park officials now believe the fire was probably set intentionally, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Officials indicated that they don’t really have much to work with in terms of witnesses who were on the natural landmark when the blaze broke out, but the preliminary investigation seems to point toward arson. It’s unclear why anyone would want to destroy a vernal pool, which is a collection of water usually covered by plants that fosters a “precious and delicate ecosystem,” according to the Express-News. The park’s website calls Enchanted Rock’s vernal pools “very fragile” and warns visitors to “enjoy them from a distance,” which definitely doesn’t translate to “go ahead and set them on fire.” Enchanted Rock has had a rough run lately. In March, graffiti vandals marred the south face of the summit by spray painting their nicknames on the rock, a defacement that could have ended up costing thousands of dollars to correct.


WHAT WE’RE READING


More law enforcement officers have died in Texas this year than anywhere else Associated Press

A waitress at a Houston diner is retiring after 50 years on the job Houston Chronicle

Austin to San Antonio in fifteen minutes: pipe dream or possibility? KVUE

An Austin man says he killed a turtle with a hammer in self-defense KXAN

And in Houston, a guy said he was assaulted by a dude wearing a clown mask KHOU

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  • biff

    I regret having to say this, but I perhaps some state parks need to be shut off from the public. I was at Dinosaur Valley last weekend, and there was trash everywhere along the trails. Not just water bottles, I found a propane bottle and a foam cooler among other things.

    • Jed

      lack of funds for basic cleaning is a casualty of Texas GOP rule.

      i have had the recent opportunity to compare our own state’s parks to those over other places (even places run by republicans) like Indiana and Ontario, and the condition of ours is an embarrassment.