The State of Texas: Rick Perry Goes Dancing
Plus: New data on Texas’s police shootings, the feds are reviewing the use of private immigration detention centers, and researchers at UT crack a 3.2 million-year old cold case.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m Nico LaHood. I’m the criminal district attorney in San Antonio, Texas. I’m here to tell you that vaccines can and do cause autism.”
—Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood, in a videotaped statement played before a screening of an anti-vaccine documentary on Sunday in San Antonio, according to the San Antonio Express-News. LaHood told the Express-News that this was “just my opinions as a daddy…who happens to be the DA.” The U.S. Center for Disease Control, meanwhile, says that there is literally no scientific evidence that links vaccinations with autism. Perhaps that’s what LaHood meant when he also told the Express-News that “this is not a politically correct opinion.”
Dancing with the Lone Star
Following two failed presidential campaigns and the more recent attempt to slide into Donald Trump’s ticket, ex-governor Rick Perry desperately needs to get his groove back. What better place to do that than on the dance floor, in front of a national TV audience? On Monday, Entertainment Tonight reported that Perry is set to join season 23 of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, a reality TV dance competition in which celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers, with one duo eliminated each week (sort of like the early days of the 2016 Republican presidential race, no?). Some of Perry’s co-contestants: Vanilla Ice, Amber Rose, the actress who played Marcia Brady, and Ryan Lochte. Quite the cast of characters. While we’re pretty much trained to expect the unexpected when it comes to Perry, this is still definitely a shocking development, and it comes amid chatter that he could challenge Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in 2018. It’s unclear what this means for his political career. Just last year, he was making repeated digs at Donald Trump’s background in reality TV. “Being president of the United States is serious business, not a reality TV show,” he wrote in the National Review in July 2015. A week later, Perry told CNBC: “I’m a governor, I don’t live in a reality TV show. I have to deal with reality.” It seems like he’s done dealing with reality. Can’t really blame him after all he’s been through, from the “oops” gaffe that doomed his first presidential bid to the Trump buzz-saw that sliced apart his 2016 campaign. It’s unclear what dance moves Perry will bust out on TV, but it’s hard to see him doing anything other than the Texas two-step, considering the likelihood that he’d forget the third.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Badge and Gun
Data on police shootings across Texas has long been insufficient, and the Texas Tribune is making an effort to fix that. On Monday, the Tribune released a massive new project compiling data on the 656 police shootings that occurred between 2010 and 2015 in Texas’s 36 largest cities, including all shooting incidents, not just the high-profile cases or the ones which ended fatally. “Officers shot at someone an average of about once every three days killing more than a third of them and injuring almost the same amount,” writes the Tribune. “People of color were more likely to be shot at, whether they were armed or not.” In at least 109 incidents, police shot at an unarmed person. About 38 percent of the shootings ended fatally. Of the shootings, 26 began with police responding to a mental crisis call involving a person threatening suicide, and police killed that person 19 of those times. The Tribune also found that 41 percent of the individuals shot at by police were black, which is disproportionate to the 14 percent representing the black population of the cities from which the data is derived. Overall, 881 officers were involved in the shootings—only 25 were disciplined by their departments, only seven were indicted, and none have been convicted. Eight law enforcement officers were killed on the job during that time frame.
A Second Look
Not long after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would be ending the use of private prisons, the Department of Homeland Security said on Monday that it would be reviewing its use of privately-operated detention centers for immigrants, according to the Washington Post. The review could signal a big shift in immigration policy, and it could also have major implications specifically for Texas. Texas’s private immigration detention centers don’t have a great track record. Privately-run facilities here have come under intense scrutiny for holding women and children in sub-standard, prison-like conditions, and face disturbing allegations of abuse. Texas’s highest-profile private immigration detention centers are in Karnes City and Dilley, but, according to the Texas Tribune, there are private facilities in Houston, Pearsall, Webb County, and elsewhere across the state. According to the Post, the federal review will determine whether privately-owned detention facilities should be “eliminated.” The review is expected to be completed in three months.
Researchers at the University of Texas may have uncovered how the most famous humanoid fossil in the world came to be a fossil. By studying scans of the 3.2 million-year old skeleton of Lucy—an early australopithecine discovered in Ethiopia more than forty years ago—UT researchers were able to determine that Lucy died from a fall out of a tree, according to a study published Monday in the Nature journal. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the researchers examined Lucy during her remains’ “secret” visit to Austin in 2008, when they found that “the upper end of Lucy’s right arm, or humerus, was broken in a way not normally seen in fossils, with sharp, clean fracture edges and tiny bone slivers that would have been dispersed into the soil had the breaks occurred later from normal weathering.” The damage was likely done by a fall of more than 40 feet, and since there were no cliffs in the area where Lucy died, it was probably a tree that did it.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Texas colleges aren’t so great for LGBT students Dallas Morning News
Waco ISD hired a teacher who indicated she favored segregated schools Waco Tribune
Iran finally released a UT grad student who had been held in jail for five years Associated Press
Cartel violence is consuming Nuevo Laredo again Laredo Morning-Times
Prisoners in Beaumont were forced to make a ton of dangerously low-quality combat helmets to sell to the U.S. military Beaumont Enterprise