Texas’s Harsh Sanctuary-City Ban Blocked – by Federal Judge Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Kartikay Mehrotra August 30, 2017, 5:42 PM PDT August 30, 2017, 7:25 PM PDT

Texas can’t punish so-called sanctuary cities, after a federal judge temporarily blocked a measure that would have let Texas’s Republican leadership jail sheriffs and fine towns for failing to fully cooperate with U.S. immigration policies.

The state is expected to appeal to try to reinstate the law, which was set to take effect Friday.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio refused on Wednesday to approve provisions that threaten local officials with firing or up to a year in jail and municipalities with fines of up to $25,500 a day for failing to fall in line with Texas Republican lawmakers’ goal to step up immigration enforcement.

QuickTake Why ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Are a Target for Trump

The judge also questioned provisions of the law, called Senate Bill 4, that could lead officials to illegally detaining U.S. citizens or seizing lawful immigrants who aren’t accused of any crimes.

“There is overwhelming evidence by local officials, including local law enforcement, that SB 4 will erode public trust and make many communities and neighborhoods less safe,” Garcia said in a 94-page decision. “There is also ample evidence that localities will suffer adverse economic consequences which, in turn, harm the state of Texas.”

Many Texas mayors, county officials and police chiefs warned the law would worsen public safety by frightening immigrants into not reporting crimes or seeking medical care. They also complained it punished public officials for expressing their opinions or adopting policies that discourage local officers from acting as immigration agents without supervision.

The ban, which also applies to university officials and campus police, lacked concrete standards for measuring compliance, opponents complained. That left it up to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — a Tea Party Republican — to decide whether a city or official should be charged with a violation.

‘Draconian Penalties’

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Why Those Floating Fire Ant Colonies in Texas Are Such Bad News – MATT SIMON SCIENCE 08.28.17 07:27 PM

Robin Treadwell/Science Source

Ants didn’t take over the world by being stupid and cowardly. Case in point: Rafts of fire ants have been spotted floating around floodwaters in Houston, Texas, colonies banding together to weather super-storm Harvey.

If your first thought was Please, no, you’re human, and that’s fine. Fire ants are an invasive species―they arrived in Texas in the 1950s to menace crops and native species alike. And floods like this have a habit of spreading the ants around even faster than their legs can carry them. But if you can, put aside for a moment your terror at the prospect of self-assembling arks of stinging ants and dive into this fascinating manifestation of problem solving in social insects.

Fire ants make their home in the ground, which makes the insects extremely vulnerable to flooding. But should they detect something awry, the workers start linking together using hooks on their limbs. They form into a ball with the vulnerable members of the colony—eggs and larvae and the queen—bundled up in the center.

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Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds – Molly Redden Saturday 20 August 2016 07.00 EDT

As the Republican-led state legislature has slashed funding to reproductive healthcare clinics, the maternal mortality rate doubled over just a two-year period

texas health clinic

About half of Texas lacks ready access to OB-GYN care, making it difficult for women to obtain contraception or for pregnant women to confirm the health of their babies. | Photograph: Delcia Lopez/Reuters

The rate of Texas women who died from complications related to their pregnancy doubled from 2010 to 2014, a new study has found, for an estimated maternal mortality rate that is unmatched in any other state and the rest of the developed world.

The finding comes from a report, appearing in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, that the maternal mortality rate in the United States increased between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate. Excluding California, where maternal mortality declined, and Texas, where it surged, the estimated number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births rose to 23.8 in 2014 from 18.8 in 2000 – or about 27%.

But the report singled out Texas for special concern, saying the doubling of mortality rates in a two-year period was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.

From 2000 to the end of 2010, Texas’s estimated maternal mortality rate hovered between 17.7 and 18.6 per 100,000 births. But after 2010, that rate had leaped to 33 deaths per 100,000, and in 2014 it was 35.8. Between 2010-2014, more than 600 women died for reasons related to their pregnancies.

No other state saw a comparable increase.

In the wake of the report, reproductive health advocates are blaming the increase on Republican-led budget cuts that decimated the ranks of Texas’s reproductive healthcare clinics. In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

At the same time, Texas eliminated all Planned Parenthood clinics – whether or not they provided abortion services – from the state program that provides poor women with preventative healthcare. Previously, Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas offered cancer screenings and contraception to more than 130,000 women.

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‘Why not Texit?’: Texas nationalists look to the Brexit vote for inspiration – Tom Dart Sunday 19 June 2016 07.00 EDT

Texas secession

How closely is Daniel Miller tracking the news ahead of the referendum about whether Britain should leave the European Union? “Hourly!” he grins. The Sun’s recent editorial calling for the UK’s departure got him quite excited.

Miller, though, is not from London or Liverpool. He hails from Longview, Texas, and we are talking in a cafe in the bleakly industrial Gulf coast town of Port Arthur, some 5,000 miles from Westminster.

Culturally, too, we are a long way from Europe. Heck, we are even a long way from Dallas. But the referendum matters deeply to Miller and like-minded Texans. As the president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, which wants Texas to secede from the United States, he is hoping for a Leave vote that he believes will ripple all the way from Austria to Austin.

“There are a lot of people asking, if Brexit why not Texit?” he says. “I do talk with some folks over there on a pretty regular basis that are involved in Ukip and the Conservative party.”

The night before we met, Miller addressed a local Tea Party group, drawing parallels between Brexit and Texit, which the TNM is pushing as a hashtag. In Miller’s telling, Britain’s relationship with Europe was a marriage of convenience between ill-suited partners that has become stormy and ripe for divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences, with too much sovereignty ceded to an ineffective central bureaucracy and too much hard-earned money sent elsewhere.

Daniel Miller wants to take off the shackles he says the federal government has placed on Texas,

Texas abortion case goes before shorthanded U.S. Supreme Court – WASHINGTON | BY LAWRENCE HURLEY Wed Mar 2, 2016 12:34am EST

An anti-abortion protester with a group celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down a Massachusetts law that mandated a protective buffer zone around abortion clinics, holds up a sign outside the Court in Washington, in this June 26, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Files

An anti-abortion protester with a group celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a Massachusetts law that mandated a protective buffer zone around abortion clinics, holds up a sign outside the Court in Washington, in this June 26, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Files

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up a major abortion case on Wednesday focusing on whether a Texas law that imposes strict regulations on abortion doctors and clinic buildings interferes with the constitutional right of a woman to end her pregnancy.

Eight justices will hear the case, not the usual nine. The Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who opposed abortion and backed restrictions on it, means the court no longer has five conservatives who might support more restrictive abortion regulations nationwide.

The court potentially could split 4-4, with its four liberal justices opposing the abortion restrictions and its four conservatives backing the regulations, an action that would let stand a lower-court ruling that affirmed the Texas law but would not set a nationwide legal precedent.

The state contends the Republican-backed 2013 law protects women’s health. The abortion providers who have challenged it assert that it is aimed at shutting down their clinics.

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Rick Perry just rolled out a surprisingly progressive agenda on Wall Street regulation – Updated by Matthew Yglesias on July 30, 2015, 7:00 a.m. ET

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Rick Perry has a plan to change the way the federal government regulates Wall Street and it is … kind of left-wing. Almost shockingly so for the very conservative governor of Texas.

He laid out his plan in a Wednesday speech. He hits on many familiar conservative themes, but also some not so familiar ones. For example, he credited Texas’ relatively strong weathering of the Great Recession in part to strict financial regulation. “But there’s another thing we have in Texas that the rest of the country could learn from,” he said “we regulate, in an intelligent way, the use of a type of mortgage called ‘cash-out refinancing.'”

The Perry campaign does not have a ton of specific details to offer about his ideas, and financial regulation is certainly an area in which the devil is frequently in the details. But in broad strokes, Perry has some pretty good ideas combined with a standard Republican aversion to any kind of consumer financial protection. His proposals are aimed, overwhelmingly, at reducing the amount of debt in the financial system both by regulating big banks but also by reducing the tendency of federal programs to encourage middle class households to borrow heavily to buy houses. The total impact would be a financial system that is considerably less fragile, albeit one in which it is also easier for financial firms to make a quick buck by pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes.

Rick Perry calls for something like Glass-Steagall

The headline here is that Perry comes close to calling for a breakup of big multi-line financial conglomerates, with his fact sheet saying that “requiring banks to separate their commercial lending and investment banking practices should be considered.” This is something liberals have made a lot of noise about since the financial crisis, and that Hillary Clinton has declined to endorse even as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have. But Perry’s backup idea “alternatively, require these banks to hold a significant additional capital cushion for their trading activities” is probably a better idea.

What this means is that Perry would make a more complicated bank be more cautious about borrowing money than a similarly-sized by less-complicated entity would have to be.

This would make complexity less profitable and create a financial incentive to shrink and simplify unless you’re really reaping massive efficiency gains. At the same time, it would ensure that a complicated bank is especially unlikely to go bust — and thus that difficult questions about how to deal with the failure of such a bank are unlikely to arise.

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Chattanooga shooting: Pentagon discourages civilian guards – BBC News July 25 2015

Terry Jackson, left, and Jonathan McCroskey, members of Operation Hero Guard, outside military recruiting station in Cleburne, Texas. 21 July 2015

Armed civilians, calling themselves Operation Hero Guard, gathered outside a military recruiting station in Cleburne, Texas

The Pentagon has urged US citizens not to carry out armed patrols outside military recruitment centres.

Civilians acting as unofficial guards have appeared outside some centres since five service personnel were shot dead last week in Tennessee.

Military personnel are generally barred from carrying firearms at recruitment centres and bases.

The Pentagon says it appreciates the support but armed civilians could pose an unintended security risk.

“While we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support for our recruiters from the American public, we ask that individuals not stand guard at recruiting offices as it could adversely impact our mission, and potentially create unintended security risks,” said spokesman Peter Cook in a statement.

“We continue to partner with and rely on first responders for the safety of the communities where our service members live and work.”

US authorities say 24-year-old gunman Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez acted alone when he attacked two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing five US service members.

Abdulazeez was shot and killed by police during the attack. His motive was unclear.

Since then, armed civilians – some of them members of private militias – have turned up outside recruitment centres saying they are supporting those inside.

One group appeared in Cleburne, Texas, armed with assault rifles and calling themselves Operation Hero Guard.

In Lancaster, Ohio, armed civilians were ordered off the property after one accidentally discharged his rifle into the pavement.

US officials say there is no indication of further danger to recruitment centres and the government does not intend to change the way they are staffed.


‘It’s Shameful’: Scientists Slam Ted Cruz For Dodging Climate Question After Texas Floods by Emily Atkin Posted on May 31, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

After literally 35 trillion gallons of water fell on Texas this month, washing away homes and killing at least 28 people, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still would not talk about climate change. “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” the 2016 Republican presidential candidate said last week when asked about the role of climate change in the floods.

In a way, the “let’s not politicize this” response is similar to the familiar “I’m not a scientist” dodge — a way to avoid talking about the science that says human-made carbon emissions are warming the earth and screwing with natural weather patterns. Cruz, for his part, says he does not accept that science.

In the meantime, climate scientists across the country have been speaking outabout the climate implications of the Texas floods. And on Friday, ThinkProgress asked several of those scientists to weigh in on Cruz’s comments.

The overwhelming response: Talking about climate change after a weather tragedy is not political. In fact, it’s necessary.

“As a scientist, I think it is essential to connect the dots between climate change and the increasing risk it poses to our families and communities,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University. “Keeping our mouths shut on what the data is telling us, even if it’s in fear of vicious reprisals, is like a physician not telling a patient they have a dangerous condition just because they’re afraid of the patient’s reaction.”

What the data is telling us, Hayhoe said, is that climate change is altering the risk of many weather extremes, flooding chief among them. These extremes “have always occurred naturally,” she said, but today’s warming caused by carbon emissions is making those extremes more likely and more severe than they were in the past. (Hayhoe just recently did a TEDx Talk about how this works. It’s worth watching).

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Texas and Oklahoma flooding: Three dead and several missing – BBC News May 26 2015

Media caption Footage showed cars being washed away and the aftermath of flooding in the US

Media caption Footage showed cars being washed away and the aftermath of flooding in the US

At least five people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed in flash flooding in the southern US.

Two people were killed in weather-related accidents in Oklahoma and three lost their lives in San Marcos, Texas.

Some areas saw up to 10 inches (25cm) of rain over a 24-hour period, with more predicted across the region.

Twelve people, including two children, were reported missing along the Blanco river in Texas, local media report.

Texas governor Greg Abbott said it was the worst flooding the state had seen, and that he had observed the devastation from the air.

“You cannot candy coat it, it’s absolutely massive and I think it sends a powerful message to anyone who is in harm’s way over the entire state of Texas over the coming days as we see ongoing rain, and that is the relentless tsunami-type power that this wave of water can pose for people,” he said.

‘Praying for the best’

Jonathan McComb was staying at a house in Wimberley with his wife and their young son and daughter when they were swept away.

Mr McComb was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but his family has not yet been found. Five others were also reportedly dragged away by the floodwaters.

His father, former county commissioner Joe McComb told Kiii TV: “It is in the Lord’s hands… we’re praying for the best.”

Three deaths have been linked to the flooding in Texas since Saturday, the latest being a 14-year-old boy who was found with his dog in a storm drain in Dallas.

There were numerous rescues on Sunday after banks burst, and hundreds of homes were destroyed across the region.

Warnings and alerts stretch from Colorado through to Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and eastern Kansas.

The Blanco is one of the worst hit rivers in Texas. At one point it crested at 43ft (13m) – some 30ft above the designated flood stage and 7ft higher than the 1929 record.

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Florida Democrat calls Texas ‘crazy’ – Published on Feb 3, 2015

Pot calling kettle black? Florida congressman tells Texas colleague his state is crazy and he ‘wouldn’t live there for all the tea in China’

Florida Democrat Rep. Alcee L. Hastings argued with Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess during House Rules Committee hearing Monday

Burgess asked for an apology and Hastings told him he’d have to ‘wait until hell freezes over’ and that he stood by his comments

Hearing surrounded a bill to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act

Argument arose during discussion about insurance exchanges

A Florida congressman got into a heated argument with a colleague during a House of Rules Committee hearing after claiming that Texas was ‘a crazy state’ and refusing to apologize.

During the Monday meeting on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Florida Democrat Rep. Alcee L. Hastings got into a dispute with Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess.

In the midst of the discussion, Hastings said to Burgess: ‘Had governors worked with the administration, we might not be in this position. I don’t know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with – and I mean that just as I said it.’

North Carolina Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, who was filling in for Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions as the panel’s chairman, tried to step in by cutting off Hastings for interrupting Burgess.

Burgess said: ‘The gentleman made a very defamatory statement about my state and I will not stand here and listen to it.’

Hastings told Burgess he didn’t have to listen, and replied: ‘I told you what I think about Texas – I wouldn’t live there for all the tea in China.’