Texas Is Flooded Because Our Democracy Is, Too

Port Arthur, Texas underwater (SC National Guard / Flickr)

By Basav Sen for Other Words – Our culture of legalized bribery makes climate disasters more likely, but there’s an alternative. “It’s flooding down in Texas,” goes the old song. “All of the telephone lines are down.” With apologies to Stevie Ray Vaughan, there’s a lot more down in Texas than telephone lines now. Power lines are down, homes are destroyed, and cities sit underwater. Dozens have died. For me, this is personal. I worried intensely about friends and family in Houston and Corpus Christi. Thankfully all are safe, but it’s been jarring to see photos of places I know underwater. Every time I check the news I recognize familiar places from the long drive from Houston to Corpus I’ve made numerous times. There’s another unforgettable sight I often recall from that drive. In Taft, Texas, as you’re nearing Corpus — a major refinery town — over the horizon comes a huge wind farm. What does this juxtaposition of refineries and wind farms have to do with the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey?

Why Are The Crucial Questions About Hurricane Harvey Not Being Asked?

‘Hurricane Harvey offers a glimpse of a likely global future; a future whose average temperatures are as different from ours as ours are from those of the last ice age.’ Photograph: ddp USA/Rex/Shutterstock

By George Monbiot for The Guardian – This is a manmade climate-related disaster. To ignore this ensures our greatest challenge goes unanswered and helps push the world towards catastrophe. It is not only Donald Trump’s government that censors the discussion of climate change; it is the entire body of polite opinion. This is why, though the links are clear and obvious, most reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution to it. In 2016 the US elected a president who believes that human-driven global warming is a hoax. It was the hottest year on record, in which the US was hammered by a series of climate-related disasters. Yet the total combined coverage for the entire year on the evening and Sunday news programmes on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News amounted to 50 minutes. Our greatest predicament, the issue that will define our lives, has been blotted from the public’s mind. This is not an accident. But nor (with the exception of Fox News) is it likely to be a matter of policy. It reflects a deeply ingrained and scarcely conscious self-censorship. Reporters and editors ignore the subject because they have an instinct for avoiding trouble.

Texas Republicans Helped Chemical Plant That Exploded Lobby Against Safety Rules

One of five banners entitled The Worker in the New World Order, painted for the founding convention of ICEM (International Confederation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions–now merged into INDUSTRIALL). Dedicated to then-imprisoned Nigerian oil workers. Copyright © 1995.  Mike Alewitz

By David Sirota, Alex Kotch, Jay Cassano, and Josh Keefe for IBT – The French company that says its Houston-area chemical plant is spewing “noxious” smoke — and may explode — successfully pressed federal regulators to delay new regulations designed to improve safety procedures at chemical plants, according to federal records reviewed by International Business Times. The rules, which were set to go into effect this year, were halted by the Trump administration after a furious lobbying campaign by plant owner Arkema and its affiliated trade association, the American Chemistry Council, which represents a chemical industry that has poured tens of millions of dollars into federal elections. The effort to stop the chemical plant safety rules was backed by top Texas Republican lawmakers, who have received big campaign donations from chemical industry donors. Representatives from Arkema Americas and the American Chemistry Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In 2013, a West, Texas, chemical plant explosion killed 15 people, prompting the Obama administration to try to raise chemical plant safety standards (investigators later found the explosion was caused deliberately).

Louisiana’s “Cajun Navy” Just Arrived In Texas To Rescue People From Floods

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By Carey Wedler for Activist Post – Though FEMA plans to play a large role in disaster relief efforts as Hurricane Harvey continues to inundate Texas, a volunteer group is stepping in to help their fellow humans — and it’s not the first time they’ve taken action. The Cajun Navy first came into existence with 30 people and 23 rescue vessels during Hurricane Katrina and grew even larger amid severe flooding in Louisiana in 2016. The Guardian reported that last year — using social media — the group of hunters and fishermen were able to locate stranded residents and rescue them with their boats. Their missions were all the more vital amid the government’s failure to adequately take care of victims and provide housing and relief. For example, Julie Ralph of St. Francisville, Louisiana, turned to Amazon, creating a page to accept donations of basic supplies. Ralph said that as the floodwaters cleared and rescue operations turned into recovery operations, the Cajun Navy became the Cajun Army. As she said last September: As it stands, the boots on the ground are the Cajun Army, and anyone who can be summoned through Facebook or Twitter by people sharing how bad things are to get people to come over and help.

Texas Senators Want Hurricane Harvey Disaster Declaration – Despite Opposing Superstorm Sandy Relief Funding

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn want relief funding for Hurricane Harvey expedited, despite voting down Hurricane Sandy assistance in 2012. (PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP)

By Larry McShane for Daily News – In the House, all but one Republican representative from the Lone Star State opposed the aid bills for Sandy. Republican leaders in the House actually delayed a vote on the multi-billion dollar aid program in early 2013, adjourning a January session for weeks as storm victims twisted in the wind. Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.) at the time described the behavior of his GOP colleagues as “disgraceful,” noting most of the opponents came from states that had previously received disaster aid. Cornyn and Cruz were among the 39 Republican senators to oppose the package, along with 179 GOP members of the house. Republican senators further delayed the vote by trying to offset the aid with budget cuts.

White Texas Cop Caught On Video Harassing Black Man For Mowing Grass

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By D.L. Chandler for HIp Hip Wired – There have been conflicting reports about Gipson’s age and name, with some outlets reporting as both 18 and 19. The Houston Chronicle piece referenced above states Gipson is 21. Gipson’s video was published to YouTube Tuesday (July 25) and has since gone viral. The outlet did further digging and discovered that Gipson, who resides in Houston, had an outstanding charge from 2015, and two pending charges dating back to April related to offering false information to police. An attorney from Philadelphia flew into Houston this week to meet with Gipson and the family. In a YouCaring fundraising page description, Gipson explained the situation from his perspective. The crowdfunding campaign is aimed to help expand his lawn mowing business and has raised $6,500 thus far. The page also features images of Gipson and his brothers, along with bite marks from a K-9 unit he claimed was set to attack him inside his home.

Incredible Quinceañera Protest At Texas Capitol Against Vile Anti-Immigrant Law

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By Rafi Schwartz for Fusion – On Wednesday, a group of 15 teenage girls, dressed in brightly colored gowns, stood in front of the Texas State Capitol to participate in one of Latin American culture’s most cherished traditions: the quinceañera. But this quinceañera was more than simply a coming-of-age celebration. Instead, it was a public protest against one of the most viciously anti-immigrant pieces of legislation in Texas’ recent history: SB4, the so-called “sanctuary cities bill.” SB4—which essentially forces Texas cities to comply with federal immigration law enforcement actions—has been one of the state’s most hotly contested pieces of legislation all year, drawing comparisons to Arizona’s infamous “papers please” law, and prompting massive protests. Dubbed “Quinceañera at the Capitol,” the protest was organized by Latino advocacy group Jolt, which describes itself on Facebook as a “Texas-based multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in our democracy.”

Fight Toxic Prison 2017 Convergence Ends With Rowdy #CloseCarswell Noise Demo

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By Staff of The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons – After 3 days of networking, movement building and organizing at the Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) Convergence in Denton, TX, approximately 50 organizers and revolutionaries from across the country gathered outside the Carswell federal prison. The protest marched to the remote back gates of the facility, which is located on a massive military base that has a long history of environmental contamination and contains a repressive, secretive Administrative Unit. Today’s demonstration kicked-off of an international effort to demand the immediate closure of Carswell’s Administrative Unit, a unit similar to draconian Communication Management Units. The Carswell Admin Unit has been used to isolate female and trans political prisoners as well as prisoners with serious mental health needs. Armed with a mobile sound system and bullhorn, the demonstration was able to create a loud disruption for guards and establish contact with prisoners across the razor wire fences with amplified chants of “You are not forgotten, you are not alone, we will fight to bring you home!”

Exxon Fights Back Against Legal Actions On Climate

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By David Hasemyer for Inside Climate News – Ted Wells, one of the nation’s most prominent litigators for big corporations, was about to win again as he sat with his team in a Dallas courtroom last fall, representing ExxonMobil. U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade looked their way and joked, “Y’all have 300 lawyers on your side.” Wells, 66, had come before Kinkeade to thwart fraud investigations launched by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, who are looking into whether the mammoth oil company has misled investors and the public for years about the dangers of climate change. Kinkeade, with his folksy joshing and pointed comments, made little secret of his sympathies. He kidded that his horse was tied up outside and he might need an interpreter to pierce the Boston accent of the Massachusetts counsel. He wondered aloud if those Northern officials would be as worried about the climate if their states had as much oil as his native Texas. “I’m just saying, think about it.” A little more than three weeks later, he handed Exxon a major victory, ruling that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey may have acted in “bad faith.”

Texas Lawmaker Calls ICE To Report Immigration Protesters

On the last day of the 85th legislative session, protesters opposed to Senate Bill 4 — the "sanctuary cities" law, fill up the rotunda of the state Capitol in Austin on May 29, 2017.
 Julian Aguilar/The Texas Tribune

By Matthew Watkins, Alexi Ura And Julian Aguilar for The Texas Tribune – The normally ceremonial last day of the legislative session briefly descended into chaos on Monday, as proceedings in the House were disrupted by large protests and at least one Republican lawmaker called immigration authorities on the protesters. State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he called U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement while hundreds of people dressed in red T-shirts unfurled banners and chanted in opposition to the state’s new sanctuary cities law. His action enraged Hispanic legislators nearby, leading to a tussle in which each side accused the other of threats and violence. In a statement, Rinaldi said state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, “threatened my life on the House floor,” and that Rinaldi is currently under the protection of the Department of Public Safety as a result. The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one. “I was pushed, jostled and someone threatened to kill me,” Rinaldi said. “It was basically just bullying.” Nevárez said in an interview with the Tribune that he put his hands on Rinaldi and told him to take his argument outside the House chamber. “But was I going to shoot the guy? No,” he said.

Texas House Votes To Stop Jailing Those Too Poor To Pay Fines

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By Johnathan Silver for Mint Press News – Legislation that would make it easier for poor people to satisfy traffic tickets with alternatives to payment cleared the Texas House on Tuesday on a vote of 75-70. The bill needs to be approved by the Senate again before moving to Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk. Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for traffic tickets; fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses; or court costs. After making that determination, courts would be allowed to reduce or waive fines and costs and offer community service as an alternative. “They’re not getting off scot-free. We’re getting something for something,” the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told members Monday. “We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there.” For fine-only offenses, jail time only comes into the picture when someone doesn’t pay their fine — a risk borne by thousands of Texans, according to a recently released report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project. Those who can’t afford to pay often find themselves hit with additional fines or other restrictions, such as being blocked from renewing their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. Critics call it debtors’ prison.

Infamous Phoenix Tent Prison Closed After 23 Years

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By Megan Cassidy and Laura Gómez for The Republic – Penzone made the announcement Tuesday based on the recommendation of an advisory committee that he appointed after taking office in January. The tents served as a prominent symbol of Penzone’s predecessor, Joe Arpaio, who erected the facility in 1993, his first year in office, and held it up as an inexpensive solution to overcrowded jails. Penzone defeated Arpaio in last year’s general election, ending his 24-year span as sheriff. At an afternoon press conference Tuesday, Penzone said Tent City has become the preferred location for inmates and a liability for understaffed detention officers. Shuttering the facility will save the county approximately $4.5 million a year, he said.

Indigenous-Led Direct Action Campaign Continues In West Texas

An Indigenous Water Protector with the Frontera Water Protection Alliance locks to a track hoe, a machine being used to construct Energy Transfer Partner's Comanche Trail pipeline in El Paso County, on Friday, January 13, 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Frontera Water Protection Alliance)

By Candice Bernd for Truthout – Marfa, Texas—A new Indigenous-led direct action campaign is gaining momentum with two more lockdown actions targeting Energy Transfer Partners’ (ETP) twin pipeline projects in far West Texas. An Indigenous Water Protector and an Alpine resident were arrested Saturday, January 14, after locking themselves to pipe-laying equipment at an ETP easement and work site in Presidio County, Texas. The lockdown disrupted construction on the company’s 148-mile Trans-Pecos pipeline that, if completed, would carry 1.4 billion cubic feet of fracked gas from West Texas to Mexico every day.

Texas Water Protector Locks Herself To Construction Equipment

A water protector who has chosen to remain unnamed locks herself to a piece of construction equipment on January 12, 2017. She was not arrested. Courtesy of Clavo P. Martinez / Facebook

By Yessenia Funes for Colorlines – Her action was in direct opposition to the Comanche Trail Pipeline, a 195-mile long natural gas pipeline in the Texas town of San Elizario. Local opponents to the Comanche Trail Pipeline in San Elizario, Texas, took direct action against the 195-mile long natural gas pipeline today (January 12). The pipeline is a project of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. One water protector who has chosen to go unnamed locked herself to an excavator around 7 a.m. MST on a construction site for the pipeline, a tactic also used during the #NoDAPL battle in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

Lockdown At Trans-Pecos Pipeline Site In West Texas

Frankie Orona with the Society of Native Nations speaks with Truthout as an Indigenous Water Protector and an Alpine, Texas, resident lock themselves to pipe-laying equipment, temporarily shutting the site down, Saturday, January 7, 2017. (Photo: Garrett Graham)

By Candice Bernd for Truth Out – An Indigenous Water Protector and an Alpine, Texas, resident were arrested Saturday morning after locking themselves to pipe-laying equipment at an Energy Transfer Partner (ETP) easement and work site in Presidio County, Texas. The lockdown temporarily halted construction on the company’s 143-mile Trans-Pecos pipeline that, if completed, would carry 1.4 billion cubic feet of fracked gas from West Texas to Mexico every day. The action was the first to be organized by a new Indigenous-led prayer and resistance camp on private land in far west Texas’ pristine Big Bend region.