The State of Texas: February 12, 2015
Playback of the Day
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’re aware that Jon Stewart is ending his reign as the Daily Show’s ringmaster. In his sixteen years, it’s no surprise that Texas has been the butt of jokes on more than a couple of occasions. For those wanting to relive our those moments, the Houston Chronicle has just the slideshow for you.
No-Bola – It’s been less than six months since Dallas was the epicenter of America’s Ebola outbreak and it appears we’ve got it under control, both here and abroad. President Obama announced yesterday at the White House that all but 100 of the 1,300 soldiers sent to West Africa to aid in the Ebola outbreak would be heading home. The announcement had a heavy Texas feel to it, as Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings and county judge Clay Jenkins were in attendance, along with Ebola survivors Amber Vinson, Nina Pham, and Dr. Kent Brantly, according to WFAA. (The Dallas Morning News caught up with Presby nurses Pham and Vinson, who contracted the virus while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan.) Here in Texas, officials looked to further contain any future outbreaks. A bill introduced yesterday would, among other things, “allow the governor to declare a state of infectious disease emergency … allow cremation of remains without authorization; and allow state authorities to quarantine people at risk of contracting or spreading a serious disease,” reports the Austin American-Statesman.
Chris Kyle Trial – Taya Kyle took the stand during the first day of testimony in her husband’s murder trial yesterday. The most significant issue of the trial, however, was the mental state of the shooter, Eddie Routh. The defense is focused on a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. “During opening statements, defense attorney Tim Moore said that Routh had been drinking whiskey and had smoked marijuana laced with other drugs before meeting Kyle and [Chad] Littlefield Feb. 2, 2013. He was also in a state of psychosis when they went to the gun range that day, Moore said,” according to the Dallas Morning News. Other details include the fact that Kyle had apparently sent a text to Littlefield that day as they drove to the gun range stating that “This dude [Routh] is straight-up nuts,” which is not a clinical term, according to the Associated Press.
A Different Border Story – WFAA’s investigative reporter Brett Ship has a heartbreaking story about immigration and adoption. Two missionaries from Los Fresnos, Larry and Nancy Cox, are still struggling to find out why the U.S. government detained the physically and mentally handicapped girl, Keyla, whom they had helped to raise for five years in Matamoros, at Casa Bugambilia, “a homeless refuge, hospital, and school” they had built in the city. But in the summer of 2011, the drug war forced the Coxes to leave Matamoros. “With the permission of her relatives, they fled with Keyla to the border, where, Larry said, government officials assured him he would be able to apply for humanitarian parole and later, adoption,” Ship reported. But Keyla was “taken into custody by the Office of Refugee Resettlement,” has since bounced from state to state, and is now in a psychiatric hospital. “The Coxes applied to gain custody of Keyla, but an immigration judge ruled they had no legal standing. That decision was made despite a 2012 Texas state court order awarding Larry and Nancy ‘joint sole managing conservatorship’ of Keyla and support of the girl’s family.”
Jailbreak – Prison overcrowding has long been an issue in the United States (we really like locking people up). But thankfully, it appears as if Texas’s own Senator John Cornyn is coming to the rescue with a “fresh shot at reducing the country’s imprisoned population with a bipartisan bill [that] he introduced today with Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.),” the Houston Chronicle reports. “It aims to shorten sentences for low-risk prisoners and reduce the number of prisoners who return to incarceration.” As the story notes, “in 1989 there were about 58,000 prisoners in federal custody. In 2014 there were 220,000. About half of federal prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders.” It’s exactly that group that Cornyn’s bill targets for release. “The reform also proposes assessments for all incoming prisoners that would determine high, medium, or low levels of risk for repeat offense and affect eligibility for a shortened sentence.”