The State of Texas: November 23, 2015
Citizens on both sides of debate continue to protest Syrian refugees, and Texas prepares high schoolers for oil careers.
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Our state’s latest (and best-dressed) superstar Leon Bridges made an appearance at the American Music Awards, where he debuted a new song with rapper Macklemore. One suggestion for next time: less Mack, more Leon.
Refugees — There might be a cold front in Texas, but that hasn’t cooled down tensions over Syrian refugees. As part of your standard weekend in Austin, “Hundreds of protesters marched on the Governor’s Mansion on Sunday, calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse his decision to oppose the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, in Irving, armed citizens protested the area’s main Muslim center, roughly a dozen of which were wearing masks. “It was a strange protest, held at a strange time in a suburb strangely relevant to America’s brand of anti-Islamic politics,” writes the Dallas Morning News. One protestor said the guns were partly because it “would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.” This “sounded a bit ridiculous to David Palmer, a City Council member who wandered down to the protest in sweatpants after a concerned mosque member told him about it.” As if all these weren’t enough, more Syrians seeking asylum have arrived at the Texas-Mexico border, hoping for refugee status. Two men and a family consisting of a man, woman, and a child presented themselves in Laredo. With their backgrounds checked (and cleared),”the men will go to one detention center and the woman and child will go to another,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
There Will Be Oil Schoolin’ — Oil slump, shmoil shlump. The Texas economy has always depended on black gold, so why stop educating our future roughnecks about the best ways to survive booms and busts? “Education officials are preparing more young people for the oil patch, showing the state’s unshakeable commitment to the energy sector despite the employment uncertainties,” according to an interesting look by the Associated Press. “The Houston school district is planning to expand its Energy Institute High School to around 1,000 students by 2017 and inaugurate a new 110,000 square-foot, $37 million facility. The three-year-old institute is the nation’s only high school fully specializing in oil and energy careers.” All of this is in spite of layoffs in the oil industry, which began last year and don’t appear to be reversing any time in the near future. Officials argue, essentially, that oil will come around again, and there’s no reason not to keep kids in tip-top shape for the next big boom. At Energy High, the atmosphere is comically oil based. “There are no sports teams, so the hallways are lined with artwork featuring pump jacks and oil platforms. Industry veterans appear as guest lecturers and the school’s advisory board includes executives from firms like Exxon-Mobile and Shell.” Elsewhere in the state, “two Midland high schools have begun ‘petroleum academies.’ And state officials have approved vocational classes in oil production, authorizing all schools districts across Texas to teach them.”
Mr. Smith Rows in Washington — If you dislike all those tree-hugging climate change hacks, the answer is as clear as an ozone-free day: Representative Lamar Smith. The San Antonio Express-News takes a moment to look at Smith, “a main climate change skeptic in Congress,” and his latest efforts, which include holding a “respected scientists and former astronaut” in contempt of Congress for “failing to turn over internal emails related to climate change under a subpoena.” The super smart person he’s currently fighting with is Kathryn Sullivan, the Under Secretary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “In a Nov. 4 letter to Sullivan … Smith threatened her with ‘civil and/or criminal enforcement mechanisms’ if her agency didn’t turn over the emails and internal communications he wants.” According to Smith, the agency cooked up some numbers in an effort to support President Barrack Obama’s climate “agenda.” As the story notes, Smith has been cranking the heat in his climate fights. “Last week, [he] also took aim at Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, threatening additional subpoenas if NOAA — part of the Commerce Department — does not comply.