The State of Texas: June 23, 2014
Slideshow of the day
The estate sale of Michael Brown is the weird treasure chest of gifts that just keeps on giving. The latest installment includes full suits of armor and an antelope antler candelabra among the numerous items.
Curious as to how megachurch pastor Joel Osteen built his empire but lack any inclination for a major investigation? Then you’re in luck! There is now a beautiful infographic to explain Osteen’s reach:
Mass Horrors — As if the surge of the undocumented migrants and the subsequent problems like detainment overcrowding weren’t bad enough. Researchers in Falfurrias have uncovered mass graves of those who attempted to cross the border, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which broke the terrible story that’s since gone national. Fifty-two bodies have been exhumed and it is a heartbreaking mess. “In one burial, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another instance, at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other, Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker said.” The bodies “are believed to have been buried by a local funeral home since 2005 in the Sacred Heart Burial Park in Brooks County” and “researchers expect to return next year to exhume more remains.” At least two lawmakers, state Representative Terry Canales and state Senator Chuy Hinojosa have called for a criminal investigation.
Easy Breezy — Just in time for summer, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has purchased about 700 cooling devices. The move also happens to be just in time for a new lawsuit currently making its way through the courts. Officials, however, say the move is entirely coincidental and in no-way-whatsoever in “response to numerous lawsuits alleging triple-digit temperature readings inside prison buildings are improperly cruel punishment and have led to inmates’ deaths,” reports the Associated Press. It’s “just something we thought we would try,” according to one prison official. The cooling devices, like those at sports events, will be placed in the metal dormitories of seven prisons. It’s unlikely, however, the effort will cool the pending “eight wrongful death lawsuits … and a class action lawsuit.”
Unintended Consequences — The Eagle Ford Shale has seen a boom thanks to oil and gas operations. What no one expected, however, was that a booming drug market would follow it. “In La Salle County, where some of the heaviest drilling activity has taken place, 24 people were arrested on drug charges in 2008. That figure more than tripled in 2013, when 73 people were arrested for drugs,” reports the Austin American-Statesman in a long and beautifully designed feature. “The percentage increase in drug arrests outpaced population growth over that time. Drug-related arrests doubled in nearby Dimmit County over the past five years and have increased fivefold in Frio County since 2011. At the same time, hospital officials report they are seeing an influx of drug-related overdoses and vehicle accidents, as well as injuries stemming from drug-related violence.” The whole piece, which traces the impact of drugs on the local population, oil field workers, and police, is definitely worth a read.
Stage II Cancer Fight — Following its scandal last year, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is back. Along with new leadership and a fail-safe system to ensure the money stays honest, CPRIT appears to also be redirecting its efforts. “By law, 10 percent of CPRIT’s grant money must be spent on prevention. Over the life of the agency, 70 percent of the money has gone to academic research, with the rest to product development,” according to the Statesman. “Since the moratorium was lifted, however, almost 60 percent of the grants have gone to companies trying to move cancer therapies from university labs to patients’ bedsides.” Part of the reason for the shift is due to cancer treatments becoming more customer-accessible. But should any of this customer vs. patient talk make you nervous, fret not. The “debate over whether funding should go to basic research or to commercialization of that research is nothing new at the agency.” Everything will be fine, so long as no CPRIT official attempts any kind of deception.
Texas in New York — The hot new trend in NYC’s magazine world is … Texas. For evidence, look no further than elitest of elite publications, the New Yorker, which has two Texas-centric stories this month. Given the option of multiple choice, you could probably guess the two topics. Regardless, it is indeed Ted Cruz who gets a nine-page spread. And while his political efforts and future ambitions may be the most relevant parts of the discussion, it’s the line that Cruz “dresses like an I.B.M. salesman circa 1975,” which deserves praise for originality. The other great Texas appearance is Richard Linklater, releasing his latest movie Boyhood this summer, in a pleasantly paced profile that moves as gentle as Hill Country itself. It’s nice to have some Yankee attention not focused on capital punishment or immigration.