The State of Texas: Return of the Clock Boy
Plus: New developments in two controversial police shootings, Texas preps for Zika, and most Texas prisons still won’t have air conditioning this summer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s making for great cocktail conversation, but I’m ready for the hawk to calm down and its babies to leave so we can enjoy our backyard.”
—Allyson Cunius, of Houston, to KTRK. A pair of hawks are terrorizing Cunius and her West University Place neighborhood, dive-bombing her every time she enters her backyard. Cunius says it’s so bad that she has to wear a bike helmet for protection, and her neighbors have fortified their yard by putting up a net. Even the poor pool guy has felt the wrath of the hawks. Experts say the birds of prey are just protecting their young during breeding season.
Guess Who’s Back
It was only a matter of, uh, time before Ahmed Mohamed, better known as “Clock Boy,” returned to Texas. After he was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school in September, which was mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed left his home in Irving and spent nine months in Qatar. Ahmed’s story went viral and caused national public outcry over the way Muslims are treated in the U.S. Although he had plenty of support from his family, powerful figures like President Barack Obama, and countless strangers on social media, Ahmed also received some negative comments and threats, so he left the country to put some space between his personal life and his newfound fame. But he apparently missed Texas (who wouldn’t?), so he’s back in Irving for the summer. He sounds pretty moved by the whole ordeal. “I want to help change Texas for a better state, and I hope that not just for Texas, but the entire world,” Ahmed told the Dallas Morning News. “People sometimes don’t want to admit their mistakes, and sometimes the best thing to do is to help them change.” So, what’s next for Clock Boy? According to the Morning News, Ahmed will take up invitations to visit the headquarters of Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which offered him an internship. Beyond that, Ahmed plans to finish his schooling in Qatar, and then he hopes to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’d like to major in both physics and electrical engineering. Meanwhile, according to the Morning News, Ahmed will continue tinkering with his gadgets, and he even wants to patent some of his electrical inventions.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
On the same day the family of an unarmed teen gunned down by police filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Austin, disturbing new details also emerged in the incident of a San Antonio man fatally shot by police while both of his hands were up in the air. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the family of David Joseph—a seventeen-year-old shot and killed by police despite being both unarmed and naked—announced the lawsuit on Wednesday, blaming the Austin Police Department for Joseph’s death. The officer who killed Joseph, Geoffrey Freeman, was fired shortly after the shooting but was later no-billed by a grand jury. And in San Antonio, the two Bexar County deputies who fatally shot Gilbert Flores last year were also no-billed by a grand jury. Now, according to the San Antonio Express-News, it appears as though they left out key information in the statements they gave to investigators following the shooting—most notably, the important fact that Flores had raised his hands above his head in what looked like an attempt to surrender, as video of the incident later showed.
Ready for Zika
It seems a foregone conclusion that Zika will soon arrive in Texas. According to the Associated Press, some cities and counties are far more prepared than others. Houston’s Harris County, for example, already has its own testing machines, a pair of labs updated to handle only Zika tests, and mosquito traps set up in more than 250 “designated areas.” That’s good, because Houston, with its humid climate and highly concentrated pockets of poverty, is prime breeding ground for the virus. As one expert put it, some parts of Houston are like “Zika heaven.” Since January, the state health department has also spent $400,000 on lab upgrades and mosquito traps, and $2 million on a “Zika awareness campaign,” according to the Associated Press. But federal funding hasn’t arrived yet, as Congress can’t seem to agree on a spending plan for the virus. According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn blamed the Democrats for not wanting to pass a Zika-focused spending bill that also always seems to have a bunch of weird riders that have nothing to do with Zika, like language that would limit access to birth control and allow the Confederate flag to be on display at VA cemeteries.
Temperature is Rising
According to the Dallas Morning News a whopping 70 percent of Texas prisons don’t have air conditioning, and that figure will likely remain unchanged for at least a few more years while the courts sort out whether AC is a constitutional right or not. Cell temperatures can surpass 100 degrees during the summer, and prisoner advocates are arguing in court that keeping people in those conditions is unconstitutional. A handful of court cases are currently ongoing against the state, filed on behalf of everyone from current inmates, prisoners who died as a result of heat-related illness, and even correctional officers who say it’s too hot to work. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice told the Morning News that prisons offer inmates ice, water, shorts, and the opportunity for extra showers. The spokesman also noted that corrections officers are trained to notice signs of heat-related illness. But according to prisoner advocate groups, at least 20 inmates have died from the heat since 1998.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texit? The New York Times is ON IT! New York Times
Texas’s legal battle against abortion cost the state a cool $1 million Texas Tribune
The faces and stories of Dallas’s murder victims WFAA
A Texan claims he lost 140 pounds on a Chick-fil-A diet KPRC
There’s a petition to save Browser, the White Settlement library cat, from being evicted Change.org