The State of Texas: Feb. 21, 2014
The country is currently seeing the effects of a weather system known “affectionately” (sayeth the Houston Chronicle) as a “Texas Hooker.” The name might induce a little giggle, but it’s called that because it’s a “simple way to describe the shape of the weather system” that moves leftward, east-to-northeast. It also happens to bring with it both snowstorms and tornadoes. And, yet, despite its attempts in recent years to seem cool, the National Weather Service “doesn’t use the term.”
Photo of the Day
There is an entire 47-image (!!!) gallery of San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, who made good on his promise to dye his hair blonde if the Lanier High School basketball team made it to the playoffs. The eyebrow, smile, dye-job combo is truly frightening.
Terminating Choices — The new abortion legislation isn’t just talking the talk; the state has penalized the first hospital and doctor for violating the new law. “The Department of State Health Services revoked the license of A Affordable Women’s Medical Center in Houston after finding that the clinic’s only provider of abortions … did not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital,” according to the Dallas Morning News. “In addition, the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended [the doctor’s] medical license, pending further action.” The investigation into the matter took place after a complaint was made. For some in the Texas Legislature, the crackdown was probably a nice way to further highlight the “achievements” made in “women’s access to preventative health care, pregnancy services, and postpartum care.” At least that’s how a Thursday public hearing in the senate was advertised. If by “achievements” they mean the more than seventy family planning programs shut down in the past few years due to funding cuts, along with a general and noticeable decline in services for poor and minority women, then yes, it certainly is something worth examining. Though the public may want a second opinion.
This Is Farm Country — Drought? What drought? The lack of rain hasn’t stopped Texans from wrasslin’ a living from the land. That’s the takeaway from a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s preliminary 2012 Census of Agriculture. “Texas leads the nation with 248,810 farms, up from 247,437 operations in 2007,” despite losing about 200,000 acres of farmland, reports the AP. “Texas also led the U.S. in livestock sales with $18 billion. It was also in the top 10 in total agriculture sales — third with $25.4 billion — and in crop sales, $7.4 billion, good for eighth place.” Perhaps another surprising detail from the report: 3,440 more women joined in farming since 2007, while the number of men dropped by 2,067.
Disaster Prone — Speaking of problems like hookers and droughts, Texas had the second-highest insurance payouts related to natural disasters. At $1.51 billion in insured losses, we came in just behind Oklahoma with about $2 billion. Although we enjoy being number one at most things, this is one mantle we’re happy to give up (and a spot we held for the previous thirteen years). “Over the past 30 years, Texas has had the second-highest catastrophic losses, at nearly $49 billion,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Unsurprisingly, its Texas Twisters that helped to really rack up the bill.
Texas Ingenuity — Researchers at UT Dallas decided to get a little MacGuyver on science, and it worked. A group of scientists trying to replicate the strength and movement of muscles had been twisting expensive nanotubes, but they were too bulky and heavy to be an effective exoskeleton. Then they “began wondering whether twisting more commonplace materials would have similar, interesting properties.” It would seem that “by twisting the fishing line to the point that it turns into a coil, the scientists effectively created ‘muscles’ that can contract and lift loads 100 times heavier than human muscles of the same length and weight.” Even better, the applications for this redneck discovery in robotics, prosthetics and exoskeletons could be put to use as early as the next two years.