The State of Texas: April 10, 2015
Image of the Day
Just in case you somehow missed the news that Blue Bell products were being recalled thanks to the listeria outbreak, this unidentified Walmart made sure to give you a true sense of panic. Unfortunately, some of that panic is justified as three Texans have indeed been sickened by one of our own state’s greatest products.
Local Heroes – More than forty victims of the Fort Hood massacre were finally awarded Purple Hearts during a ceremony this morning, a more positive footnote to the 2009 tragedy. As the Texas Tribune writes, “Federal authorities initially classified the incident as workplace violence, and victims and their supporters spent years trying to convince the government to call the act terrorism so they could qualify for the Purple Heart and benefits that come with it. [Major Nidal Hasan] has said he planned the attack as a way of protecting Muslim insurgents abroad.” The Dallas Morning News explains how “Army Secretary John McHugh announced earlier this year that the honor would be awarded after Congress expanded eligibility for the Purple Heart through a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015.” The Tribune has a list of those being honored and also in attendance will be some of Texas’s top officials, including Governor Greg Abbott, Senator Ted Cruz, and Representative Louie Gohmert.
The New Defenders – With the Daughters of the Republic of Texas finally out as Alamo caretakers after years of turmoil, the state is one step closer to developing a long-term plan to oversee the state shrine. Details of an arrangement will be announced today, but San Antonio “and the Texas General Land Office are consolidating efforts to enhance the Alamo, in hopes of having recommendations to improve the mission-era structures and surrounding area next year,” according to the Express-News. The “joint master plan” could be the start of something beautiful as millions in local, state and private funding may soon be available for preservation. “The city will spend up to $1 million from a 2012 bond issue on the process, with the land office contributing any additional costs.” Apart from the facelift, other proposed beautification efforts include ”more gardens and greenery; new public art; closure to traffic; reconstruction of mission-era and 1836 structures; and use of eminent domain to replace amusement businesses in the plaza with a visitor center.” The joint effort was “long overdue,” said Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and “reflective of a need for all Texans to unite to preserve the area, a Native American burial ground and site of the famed siege and battle for Texas independence.”
Ranger Danger – It’s mostly coincidental, but the push by lawmakers to have the Texas Rangers take over the investigations previously headed by Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit may soon get its first real test—and with a case concerning one of Texas’s highest officials, no less. Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis has asked the Rangers to investigate Attorney General Ken Paxton’s possibly felonious state securities violations, a “surprise statement” since “Willis’ office said it had taken no action on a referral from the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office two months earlier,” according to the Houston Chronicle. The original criminal complaint was indeed filed with the PIU, but “District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said her office wasn’t the proper venue, referring the complaint to her peers in Collin and Dallas counties.” The case is something of a hot potato, since Willis is a longtime friend and occasional business partner of Paxton. Texans for Public Justice, which filed the original complaint, has said Willis needs to recuse himself, for all the obvious reasons, “in favor of a special prosecutor,” writes the Dallas Morning News. Willis, for his part “said he believed the allegations should go to the proper state agency, ‘professionals whose job is investigating crimes.’”
Mad Man – It is a terrible time to be associated with fraternities, whether the accusations are disgustingly true or completely fabricated. Even long-ago involvement will get you some undue attention, as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is learning. For those who haven’t seen the juicy and jaw-dropping story, Hamm “helped brutally initiate a male student in 1990 and was charged with hazing while he was a member of the subsequently-disbanded Sigma Nu fraternity at the University of Texas at Austin,” according to an Express News write-up. The details are rather graphic and include such words and phrases as “claw of a hammer,” “genitals,” and “pants on fire.” So far “Efforts on Thursday by the San Antonio Express-News to immediately obtain the court documents were unsuccessful.” But “Ronald Morgan, chief deputy county clerk for the Travis County Clerk’s Office, said his office is researching a series of requests related to the incident and ensuing court cases.” So rest assured this story is not going away.