The State of Texas: July 20, 2015
Hundreds march following the death of Sandra Bland, and no one is really monitoring listeria.
Quote of the Day
– State representative Joe Pickett declining to have a highway named after him. Apparently, you have to be dead for that honor.
You can take the man out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the man. Or the fans! Observers at the British Open in Scotland serenaded Jordan Spieth, our state’s golf wunderkind and former UT player, with “The Eyes of Texas”:
(Iowa) Bum Steer
He’s not even running for president, but Iowa’s Representative Steve King made what is perhaps the most ridiculous statement any old white man has made in the past seventy-two hours. Attempting to start a Twitter war with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, King tweeted: “What does Julian Castro know? Does he know that I’m as Hispanic and Latino as he?” The real question: Does King know how to say “face palm” in Spanish?
Investigation Continues – Like the numerous publicized deaths of black Americans in the past year, the Sandra Bland case is not going away any time soon. Or, in the words of the Waller County district attorney, it “will not be swept under the rug,” according to the Texas Tribune. Bland was found dead in a jail cell, having reportedly hanged herself following an altercation with police that saw her arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer. Both the FBI and the Texas Rangers have started their own investigation. And according to the Dallas Morning News, Bland’s family in Chicago “is ordering an independent autopsy.” There are still serious doubts about what happened to Bland. As the story notes, her family says she was coming to Texas to interview for a job and “gave no indication she was in such an emotional state that she would kill herself.” But Bland also mentioned suffering from depression in videos posted online, and authorities say “videos from cameras monitoring the hall outside her cell show no one entered or left it between the time she last spoke with deputies through an intercom system and when her body was discovered.” Over the weekend, an estimated hundreds of people marched in Hempstead, and about a dozen held a vigil outside the Waller County jail.
Grave Concerns – In Texas, even the dead can’t rest in peace. “A proposal to bring a Muslim cemetery to Farmersville has stoked fears among residents who are vehemently trying to convince community leaders to block the project,” according to the Associated Press. “The issue is flaring up as Farmersville leaders consider a 35-acre development request from the Islamic Association of Collin County, which faces a shortage of space to bury members of its faith. Although the area already has a Buddhist center and Mormon church, residents showed up in force at a recent town meeting to oppose allowing a Muslim cemetery, which would include an open-air pavilion and small retail component that would run along a busy highway through town.” One Baptist pastor said people are concerned about the “radical element of Islam,” though there’s nothing radical about death (it’s pretty common!). As long as all the normal city regulations are met, however, Mayor Joe Helmberger said the cemetery will proceed as planned.
Listeria Hysteria – From recent reports, it would seem that Blue Bell’s listeria outbreak was bound to happen. The Houston Chronicle takes an unappetizing look at how well (or not, as the case may be) listeria is actually monitored and contained. Focusing on Phil Shockley, who contracted listeriosis and is now suing Blue Bell, the Chronicle reports that though Texas does require “laboratories to submit confirmed listeria samples, or ‘isolates,’ to state health officials,” the state “has never enforced its law requiring laboratories to send bacteria samples to the Department of State Health Services—and records obtained from the department show that the bacteria isolated from [Shockley’s] body was never submitted.” What’s more, “over the past five years, Texas health officials have never received isolates from laboratories, critical to tracking outbreaks, in about 25 percent of all listeria cases.” The story, which is definitely worth a read, is an extensive look at Shockley’s long journey through sickness, as well as a detailed explanation of how public health officials attempt to track such outbreaks and the various hurdles in containing such a problem.
Strange Tail – The story of Austin’s killer cobra, which garnered state and national attention, has taken an odd twist. Police said Friday, “We have spoken with the decedent’s family and people who knew him, we’ve spoken with experts on venomous snakes and we’ve examined the scene and made observations of the decedent. Based on everything, we are investigating this case as a possible suicide,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. “The final determination will be made by the Williamson County justice of the peace, based on the Travis County medical examiner’s report,” they added. It’s certainly not the conclusion anyone expected. The cobra had gone missing for two days after the young man, an employee at a pet shop in Temple, was found in a Lowe’s parking lot with a snake bite. He later died of cardiac arrest. As KXAN notes, “Authorities say one of [the man’s] Cobra snakes was missing from its cage in his Temple home.”