The State of Texas: December 10, 2014
Map of the Day
Non-discrimination ordinances are a real hip topic these days, and it’s hard to keep up with which city council is doing what. Thankfully, Texas Tribune has a solution for that: a great interactive map showing exactly where such ordinances exists, are being discussed, or aren’t being discussed at all.
Texas By The Numbers
Needs Improvement — The state’s obesity rate: 30.9 percent. In 2012: 30.4 percent. Nationwide obesity: 29.4 percent. Incidences of smoking: 15.9 percent. Last year: 18.2 percent. Current ranking among states: Sixth-lowest.
Road Warrior — Amount Greg Abbott wants to spend on Texas roads: $4 billion. Amount needed to keep up with traffic: $5 billion. Yearly amount used for the state’s highways: $10.9 billion. Portion that goes toward TxDOT: 83 percent. Amount DPS spends: $812 million.
Witch Trial — Satanism is back on trial in Texas. This time, however, the case doesn’t seem as questionable as the Fran and Dan Keller debacle. The trial of an eighteen-year-old accused of a killing a fifteen-year-old began Monday and is garnering national headlines for the brutal, sadistic nature of the girl’s death. Jurors apparently wept upon hearing the prosecutor’s opening arguments describing how “The girl begged for mercy as her attackers gouged out an eye, sexually assaulted her, stabbed her multiple times with a screwdriver and bashed her head and face in with the lid of toilet tank,” according to the New York Daily News. The San Antonio Express-News has a more even-handed account of the day, although it still describes the supposed (and bizarre) motive for the killing, a “bid to sell their souls to the devil.” A “bombshell” was dropped yesterday when the former girlfriend of the accused (and mother of his child) said she “feared for her life after hearing him talk about killing a girl in a satanic ritual in an apparent effort to sell their souls to the devil.” Thankfully, the prosecutor doesn’t appear to be too hung up on religious hysteria. “Whether or not the devil was involved, what happened in that apartment was sadistic and inhumane,” said the district attorney.
Rick, Rolling — Determining whether Rick Perry is running for president of the United States again is more perplexing than trying to discern what that odd-shaped Christmas present under the tree is. Perry “said Tuesday he won’t make up his mind about running for president until the middle of next year,” according to the Associated Press, which had an exit interview with the soon-to-be-former governor. Subtlety, however, is not Perry’s strong suit: “People think we’re going to run, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. …I think people are going to make a decision based on what they see over the next couple of years, not what they saw four years ago.” Among those who are pretty sure Perry will run again is the Washington Post, which all but declares Perry’s candidacy, with the help of Perry himself. “We are a substantially different, versed candidate,” said Perry in another exit interview. A follow-up piece reports, in extreme detail, that Perry “is undergoing exhaustive preparations to run for president in 2016, with dozens of think tank experts flying into Austin this month for daylong briefings and tutorial sessions with the governor.” In this round of rumors, Perry appears to have had one major victory: fellow Texan and possible Republican contender, Ted Cruz, is never mentioned.
Bargain or Cheap? — The Japanese are apparently “bargain-hunting” the state’s oil, according to Bloomberg News. “Japan’s second-biggest trader has doubled employees relocated to Houston to 50 over the past two years while Tokyo-based Cosmo Oil Co. opened an office in the oil hub in April and South Korea’s SK Innovation Co. is bolstering its presence in the region, [all of whom] are positioning themselves to purchase more if Congress ends export restrictions.” Those restrictions have been in place since 1975, but lawmakers, including our own U.S. Representative Joe Barton, are pushing for change. What probably won’t ever change is the state’s deference to the oil and gas industry. A former engineering specialist with the Texas Railroad Commission “claims he was fired because he complained about the lax enforcement of rules meant to protect the environment,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. “[Frederick] Wright, who served as an engineering specialist with the state agency, ‘complained repeatedly about the pressure he felt he was under to make exceptions’ to state rules designed to protect the water supply from pollution related to oil and gas exploration before he was fired in June 2013.” Naturally, the agency denies the allegations.
Como el Fraude — People in South Texas reportedly freaked out upon hearing the news that Selena’s super-fan/killer Yolanda Saldivar was being released from prison early. A fake story from the “satirical” National Report saying Saldivar would be released because of kidney-related health issues has been debunked by, well, everyone. Gossip experts TMZ cut down the piece with real efficiency, while Perez Hilton had the good sense not to doodle on Selena’s picture. Buzzfeed had the best piece on the hoax, noting that a real petition on Change.org about the fake release “received nearly 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.” You may now all go back to ”Dreaming of Her”.
Team Effort — Talk about including everyone in school spirit. USA Today has a wonderfully detailed story on Valentine High School, whose basketball team is comprised of the entire student body: all eight of’em. “Enrollment in the entire district, kindergarten through 12th grade, is 39. That’s up 10 over last year, bolstered by some transfers, and the average is around 50.” Valentine High is “the smallest of 1,463 member schools this academic year in Texas’ University Interscholastic League.” Apart from the distance needed to travel to other schools–it’s at least 30 miles to Marfa–there’s also the mixed team. The school/team is 42 percent female. The team even has a sibling matchup. “Elvis [Tarango] admitted it’s a little odd playing high school basketball with his sister. ‘But she’s pretty good,’ he quickly added.” Said [player ]Latham Garnsey ‘It’s kind of weird for the opponents.’” It’s worth reading this piece about life and sports in far West Texas.