Puppy attacked by pet store owner’s dog

When Rena Wilensky walked into the Magic Pet store in her Baldwin Park neighborhood on the early afternoon of August 9, she says she never expected to see her 8-week-old golden labradoodle, Buddah, attacked by the pet store owner’s mixed breed, Jax.

The owner’s dog “came out slowly from the back and up to us,” a visibly shaken Wilensky told News 6,” I mean within a flash.”

Wilensky said she looked over at the store’s owner before it happened and “asked if it would be alright,” and said he nodded yes.

But when the puppy jumped up at the big white dog’s face, Jax bit the puppy, cracking his skull and causing the brain to swell. The pup had to be put down.

Under existing Orange County law, the owner’s dog didn’t have to be on a leash because it was on pet store property.

Florida does not have a statute setting guidelines for pet leash protocol.

A spokesperson for Orange County Animal Control told News 6 there will be a citation for “Failure to control an animal, resulting in severe injury to a human being or another animal.”

The penalty carries a fine of $265 for the first offense.

Late Monday afternoon, the Pet shop owner met with Wilensky and agreed to keep his dog out of his shops.
In a statement to News 6, Samir Obeid and Janaein Rabah told News 6:

“We are heartbroken over this incident. “As small business owners whose life, passion, and business is caring for animals, we are deeply saddened and troubled by the incident involving Ms. Wilensky’s puppy and our larger mixed breed dog. Contrary to reports to the otherwise, our dog is neither a pit-bull or a bull terrier.” Although we wish more than anything to be able to bring Buddha back, we remain committed to doing everything we can to rectify this situation.’We have revised our policy regarding how pets are kept at the store and have covered all costs associated with Buddha’s veterinary care.’

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Mother left kids in hot car while she drank at bar, police say

A Kissimmee woman is accused of leaving her two children in a car without air conditioning while she drank at a bar on International Drive, according to the Orlando Police Department.

A woman called 911 at 10:14 p.m. Sunday and said she was concerned for the two small children, who had been in a silver Ford Focus for about an hour while their mother Larissa Rivera, 28, drank at Butikin Orlando.

“She is drunk, the mother is drunk,” the woman told the 911 operator.

When an officer arrived minutes later, she found the Ford Focus in the parking lot with two children in the back seat, according to the affidavit.

“I opened the driver side rear passenger door and was greeted with a little girl (approximately 5 years of age) crying hysterically. She quickly calmed down once fresh air came upon her,” the officer wrote in her report.

A boy, approximately 3 years old, was also in the vehicle, the affidavit said. Both children were sweating and hot to the touch, according to police. The air conditioning was not on and the children didn’t have any food or water.

Rivera told News 6 over the phone that the children were very comfortable in the car at 10 o’clock at night. She said she took them to Butikin to have dinner, put them in her car when they became tired, and left the A/C on. She turned off the A/C when they complained they were cold, Rivera said.

Rivera said she left the children alone for only half an hour and the whole time she and friends at the bar were able to see the children in the car from inside the bar through the windows of the bar.

Rivera claimed she and friends checked on the children every few minutes.

While police were on the scene, Rivera came outside and said the children, both dressed in long-sleeved pajamas, were hers. She said bar patrons had been checking on the children while she drank, the report said.

The officer said that Rivera smelled of alcohol, her eyes were glassy and she was repeating herself.

Rivera admitted to News 6 she had been drinking, but said she asked the children’s godmother to come pick them up. Rivera also admitted a friend urged her to take the children home, but countered that the children were fine.

She was charged with two counts of leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle.

 

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Angela Paxton, Texas attorney general’s wife, eyes Texas Senate run

Angela Paxton, wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, sings "Pistol Packin' Mama" at a NE Tarrant Tea Party gathering in 2016. 

Angela Paxton, the wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, is considering a run for state Senate, according to people familiar with her thinking.

Paxton has her sights set on Senate District 8, which is currently held by Van Taylor, R-Plano. He’s expected to give up the seat to run for Congress in 2018.

Paxton is a guidance counselor at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco. She’s also active in Collin County Republican politics.

A Paxton candidacy would shake up the current race to replace Taylor. Phillip Huffines, the chairman of the Dallas County GOP, has emerged as a frontrunner after two Republican state representatives from Plano, Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen, considered running but ultimately took a pass.

“I’m excited to hear that she’s prayerfully considering it and think she would make an incredible state senator for our district,” Leach said. “She already has my support.”

Shaheen, who announced Friday he would instead seek re-election to the House, said Paxton running is a “great idea” and she would “absolutely” have his support. She’s a “needed voice to replace Van,” Shaheen said.

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, also said Paxton would have her support.

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US imposes sanctions on Russian, Chinese firms over North Korea

The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs.

The penalties are intended to complement new U.N. Security Council sanctions and further isolate North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests amid heightened tensions that have led to threats from both sides, the Treasury Department said in a statement. The 16 affected entities either do business with previously sanctioned companies and people, work with the North Korean energy sector, help it place workers abroad or facilitate its evasion of international financial curbs.

The measures block any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from transactions with them.

“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. “We are taking actions consistent with U.N. sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”

Among those sanctioned are six Chinese companies, including three coal companies; two Singapore-based companies that sell oil to North Korea and three Russians that work with them; a Russian company that deals in North Korean metals and its Russian director; a construction company based in Namibia; a second Namibia-based company, and its North Korean director, that supplies North Korean workers to build statues overseas to generate income for the North.

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Parents’ plea for help in finding teenage couple missing for 48 hours

The last time anyone saw 13-year-old Jeremy Ogden, of Humble, was 3 a.m. on Sunday.

His family said he kept going into his older sister’s bedroom.

By Sunday morning, his sister’s keys and car were gone, and so was Jeremy.

His 13-year-old girlfriend, Halie Journet, is missing, too.

Their families are worried.

“They don’t have any money,” said Toni Ogden, Jeremy’s mother. “I don’t know how they’re eating.”

“When we went to her bedroom, her mother said she wasn’t there,” said Andre Journet, Halie’s father.

“You’re not in trouble,” said Mary Journet, Halie’s grandmother. “We just want you to come home.”

The two are believed to be in a gray Nissan Altima SL with paper tags and a cheetah print license plate cover.

The families are afraid that the 13-year-olds could be driving through the busy streets of the greater Houston area.

“We’ve been driving around, searching the streets, searching the neighborhoods, searching anywhere he might go,” said Toni Ogden.

Ogden said this out of character for her son, but wonders if he’s being driven by grief.

“His oldest brother was his best friend and his idol,” said Ogden. “He was active-service military. He passed away on July 11. That’s been really hard on him.”

Both mothers had messages for their children, who have been gone for nearly 48 hours.

“I’m just really scared and worried,” said Ogden. “I just want him to come back home.”

“I just want her to know that we love her,” said Journet. “There’s nothing you can do that would erase the love that we have. We want her to just come home. We can work anything out.”

Their parents are asking the public to be on the lookout for a gray 2015 Nissan Altima SL with paper tag number 47P5505.

Jeremy is believed to have a phone that only workes on Wi-Fi.

His parents have turned the service on, but they have not had any pings that would find the teens’ location. The phone seems to be out of power.

If you have any information, you are asked to call Harris County Precinct 4 at 281-376-3472.

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2 women claim they were groped by local massage therapist

Houston police are investigating after two women said they were inappropriately touched at a local massage parlor.

The women, who do not know each other, said the incidents took place during sessions with a male massage therapist at Lucky Feet on Bellaire Boulevard in June and early August.

Both asked that their identities be protected.

“Before you knew it, his hand slipped in between my underwear and he touched me. He did it again. I said, ‘Hey, you are touching my private part you’re not supposed to be touching my private part,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, sorry sorry,'” one woman told KPRC.

She said she quickly got dressed and ran out of the room to tell someone what happened.

“They were all looking at me speaking their language, like they didn’t understand what I was saying,” she said.

A similar story of unwanted touching came from another woman during her visit two weeks ago.

“At one point he jiggled one of my breasts and went, ‘Wow.’ He dried me off with the towel and then he slid the towel between my butt crack,” the woman said.

Both women filed reports with the Houston Police Department in the days after their appointments.

“What he did was a criminal act,” one woman said.

We spoke to the manager of Lucky Feet, who denied the women’s allegations, calling them liars and saying they were only out for money.

The women have not filed a lawsuit and say they do not plan to.

“My intention is for the man who sexually assaulted me to be arrested; that’s my only intention. I’m not looking for money. We aren’t lying. Why would two different people make this up?” one of the women said.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services says Lucky Feet is fully licensed to operate and there are no records of complaints against the business.

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Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller criticizes Six Flags’ removal of Confederate flag

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in his office in Austin, Sept. 14, 2016.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — the cowboy-hat wearing Republican known for wading deep into partisan and cultural divides — is furious with the Six Flags amusement park chain, calling its decision to take down the Confederate flag and four others that had flown over the park part of a “militant, anarchist movement sweeping our country, destroying and attempting to sanitize our nation’s history.”

Miller took aim at the iconic amusement park in a lengthy statement he circulated Monday that also criticized nationwide efforts to remove larger monuments to the Confederacy in the wake of a deadly Nazi and white supremacist rally around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The monuments honoring our southern soldiers are but a first step in a trend that very well could eventually bring down the American flag at some point if this trend is allowed to continue,” Miller said. “I was extremely disappointed to hear that Six Flags over Texas in Arlington had succumb to this scourge of race baiting, liberal activism and that the company had decided to bring down the six historic flags that flew over Texas.”

On Friday, Six Flags announced that it would only fly American flags over its parks, reversing its decades-long tradition of displaying banners of the four other nations that have governed Texas: Spain, France, Mexico and the Republic of Texas.

“We always choose to focus on celebrating the things that unite us versus those that divide us,” Sharon Parker, a spokeswoman for Six Flags Entertainment Corp, said in a statement reported by several media outlets. “As such, we have changed the flag displays in our park to feature American flags.”

In his statement, Miller suggested the park was “implying that one should look upon them with shame and dismay,” and appeasing a  “band of socialistic fear mongers.”

Miller, in his first term in office, has gained notoriety for polarizing statements, often posted to social media. Those have included as a tweet that called Hillary Clinton the C-word, a Facebook post that endorsed the atomic bombing of the “Muslim world” and a Facebook post that compared refugees to rattlesnakes.

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El Paso City Council votes down city ID program

The Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.

The El Paso City Council narrowly voted against creating a municipal identification card program amid concerns that the measure would lead to the border city being perceived as the kind of “sanctuary” jurisdiction that has been the target of President Donald Trump and Texas’ Republican leaders.

In a 5-4 vote, the council voted down funding the program, which immigrant rights groups and advocates for the poor have called for since 2014 as a way for those unable to obtain a driver’s license or other state-issued identification sign up for bank accounts and access city services such as libraries. Applicants would have had to prove they reside in the city to obtain the card.

Mayor Dee Margo cast the deciding vote against the measure, explaining that he didn’t want El Paso to be perceived as “sanctuary” city – the common term for a jurisdiction that doesn’t enforce state or federal immigration laws.

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, which punishes elected and appointed officials for enacting policies that ignore federal immigration laws. The punishment for doing so could be jail time and the denial of grant funds from the entity in violation. Opponents of the measure have filed a lawsuit to halt the law, which takes effect Sept. 1. A federal judge has yet to rule on that case.

The Trump administration has also spoken in recent months about cutting off some federal funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

“I do not want to give the inference that we are a sanctuary city, as we are not,” Margo, a former Republican state representative, said in a statement. “Redevelopment grants are critical to the economic development of our community, and we cannot afford to put those funding opportunities in jeopardy.”

Margo added that the cost of the program was too high when he considered the city’s other pressing needs like public safety. The city was debating a potential match of $320,000 with the county for the identification program, according to the city council agenda.

In a statement, the Border Network for Human Rights, which launched the petition in support of creating the program in 2014, said the city gave in to political pressure.

“Fear mongering ran deep in today’s discussion. SB 4 was invoked — even though it does nothing to prohibit a Community ID program,” BNHR spokesperson Gabriela Castaneda said. “The Council was threatened, intimidated, and bullied by racists, and, ultimately, it worked. This bodes ill for our city.”

The vote shouldn’t be a complete surprise after the council expressed concerns as early as April 2016 over how the ID card would be viewed by state leaders, according to a city report issued then.

“In the past year, there has been legislation filed at both the state and federal level regarding ‘sanctuary cities.’ These bills seek to prohibit local government entities from having policies, ordinances, and rules that prohibit or interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws,” the city’s report states.

Proponents of the measure cited similar projects in Oakland and San Francisco as examples of where the municipal ID program has worked. They also made clear that the card wouldn’t have the same benefits as a Texas driver’s license and couldn’t be used for travel or to get through a TSA checkpoint.

El Paso County is still considering an ID card for its residents.

Disclosure: Dee Margo has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

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League City Man Sentenced to 6 Years for Online Solicitation of a non-existent Minor

Niallson Dorsey Price, 31, has been sentenced in a Galveston County courtroom to serve 6 years in prison for Online Solicitation of a Minor who didn’t actually exist.
Witness testimony during the trial revealed that the Galveston Police Department was conducting an undercover sting operation focused on identifying and arresting individuals engaged in exploiting children. On April 23, 2016, Price replied to a posting on Craigslist and then began an illicit conversation over a messaging application, Kik, with a person he believed was 14 years old. The person was actually a police officer.
Price was arrested and charged after traveling to Galveston with the intent to commit sexual acts with what he thought was a minor. The State entered into evidence copies of the messages sent by Price, including a photo of himself sent to the officer. Law Enforcement were also able to tie the account the messages were sent from to Price.
After a day of testimony, the jury retired to deliberate on Tuesday afternoon. The jury returned with a guilty verdict on the Wednesday morning. The punishment phase immediately followed. During punishment, the State presented evidence of Price’s prior conviction for felony possession of cocaine from earlier this year. The State also told the jury to protect the children of this community with its sentence and ensure that, at least for a while, Price would not be able to prey upon children.
The jury took a few hours to deliberate and returned yesterday shortly before noon with its punishment verdict.
Price faced a sentence range of 2 years to 10 years in prison. The jury set Price’s punishment at 6 years. Price will have to serve at least one-fourth of his sentence before being eligible for parole. Price will also be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years, annually, once released from prison or parole.

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UT-Austin removing Confederate statues in the middle of the night

A look at the sun setting over the University of Texas at Austin Tower in 2011.

Late Sunday night, 10 days before classes were scheduled to start, workers at the University of Texas at Austin began removing multiple Confederate statues from a prominent grass mall on campus.

The statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan were being removed because they depict parts of American history that “run counter to the university’s core values,” university President Greg Fenves wrote in an e-mail to the campus community just before 11 p.m. Sunday. A statue of former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg was also removed.

“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus,” he wrote. “As UT students return in the coming week, I look forward to welcoming them here for a new academic year with a recommitment to an open, positive and inclusive learning environment for all.”

The removal of the statues comes about a week after unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia surrounding the removal of Confederate statues in that college town. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists protested those statues’ removal, and clashed violently with counter-protesters. One person died in the violence.

“These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” he said.

A UT-Austin spokesman said in a text message that the university deliberately chose to remove the statues in the middle of the night “for public safety and to minimize disruption to the community.”

The three Confederate statues will be relocated to the Briscoe Center for American History. The statue of Hogg “will be considered for re-installation at another campus site,” Fenves said.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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Galveston County Deputies Prevent Jumper on Bridge at 646 & I-45

Loitering on an overpass is a felony offense in Texas...

On Thursday August 17, 2017 at approximately 2120 (that’s 9:20PM civilian time) deputies were flagged down by several frantic citizens. They reported seeing a woman on the Hwy 646 overpass, she appeared to be ready to jump from the overpass into the traffic below. The overpass goes across Highway 45 in the Dickinson – League City area.

Deputies responded with emergency equipment activated and arrived on location within a minute. When Deputies Fred Boas and Daniel Banda arrived they found a female dangling over the side of a over pass. She was holding on to the railing with both hands. While another officer already on scene drew her attention towards him, Deputy Boas was approaching from the opposite direction. As soon as Deputy Boas was within the reach of the female Deputy Banda ran to her aid as well. Deputy Boas was able to grab her torso just as she was letting go of the railing. Assisted by Deputy Banda, and other officers on scene, she was pulled back over the railing to safety. She was transported by E.M.S. to UTMB Victory Lakes for treatment. By their heroic efforts, deputies were able to save this young person’s life.

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Dickinson Cops use Facebook to Catch a Burglar Named Jesus

Dickinson Police have charged 20 year old, Jesus Ortega-Torres, with burglary of a building, in connection with several burglaries of local businesses in Dickinson.

Several businesses near the 4400 block of State Highway 3 were burglarized during the night time hours between August 12 and August 16.  Video surveillance of one of the burglaries showed a male with numerous tattoos inside the business.   The video was shared on social media by the business owner and detectives began receving information identifying a possible suspect by nickname.   Detectives developed a possible social media account for the suspect.  Information continued to be shared through social media and police received a call of a person matching the description of the suspect.   Patrol officers located Ortega-Torres in the 3400 block of IH-45 on August 16, and he was arrested for possession of marijuana.    Detectives continued to follow up with information and interviewing Ortega-Torres.

After reviewing the cases with the Galveston County District Attorney Office, detectives secured a warrant and charged Ortega-Torres with one count of burglary of a building.  Bond was set at $20,000.00.  The investigation will continue and additional charges are possible in the future.

Burglary of a building is a state jail felony is punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and a possible $10,000.00 fine.

Dickinson PD would like to thank the public for sharing information that contributed to the identification of the suspect and solving of several burglary investigations.

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Evading Theft Suspects Taken Into Custody After Causing Accident in League City

Suspects captured after fender-bender...

On Thursday, August 17, 2017 at approximately 5:25PM, a League City Police Officer was on routine patrol in the Home Depot parking lot located at 3200 Gulf Freeway S. As the officer neared a loading dock, he observed a male and female running to a car parked near the loading dock.
When the subjects saw the officer, they quickly entered the vehicle and traveled west through the parking lot at a high rate of speed. The officer activated his patrol unit’s emergency lights and siren in an attempt to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop. The vehicle exited the parking lot, entered onto the northbound freeway access road and then entered onto the main, northbound lane of I-45 S. Traveling at a high rate of speed attempting to evade the officer, the suspect vehicle continued to travel northbound on the outside shoulder, passed over Highway 96 W., and hit a barrier when the shoulder ended. After hitting the barrier, the suspect vehicle hit an uninvolved vehicle that had stopped for traffic on the freeway. During the vehicle crash, the male suspect was ejected through the front windshield and then attempted to run from the scene before being taken into custody by the pursuing officer. The female suspect, who had been driving the suspect vehicle, was also taken into custody. Both suspects were transported to an area hospital for treatment. The male and female passenger of the vehicle that was struck by the suspect vehicle refused treatment at the scene.

Charges against the evading suspects are pending.

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Father faces charges after he and missing boy found at hotel, authorities say

A father is facing charges after he and his 4-year-old son, who was reported missing, were found Saturday afternoon at a motel on the Northeast Side.

Multiple agencies worked since Friday afternoon to find Caleb Tondre and his father, Christopher Tondre. Authorities said the two were found at 6:43 p.m. Saturday at the motel.

Authorities said Tondre took his son after he assaulted his wife in a domestic disturbance.

RELATED: Midland child reported missing found in San Antonio, FBI official says

Caleb is unharmed and in the custody of the San Antonio Police Department, officials said. Tondre is in jail, charged with aggravated kidnapping and child endangerment.

Officials said the apprehension was made after a relative was followed and talked to after numerous hours of surveillance.

Tondre will be arraigned before a magistrate in San Antonio, officials said. Deputies from the Midland County Sheriff’s Office will take him back to Midland, where he will be arraigned and await trial in the Midland County Jail.

The Sheriff’s Office said the boy’s mother is trying to make arrangements to pick up her son in San Antonio.

President Trump commented on the story, saying on Twitter that “there is plenty of blame to go around, on both sides.”

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Confederate Monument Protest Draws Hundreds in Houston

 

Several hundred protesters (and a couple dozen counter-protesters) are attending the “Destroy the Confederacy!” protest in Sam Houston Park in Houston.

Posted by The Texas Observer on Saturday, August 19, 2017

A week after a ferocious and fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, about 300 people gathered for a “Destroy the Confederacy” protest in downtown Houston.

“These statues remind black people of all the horrible things racist white folks have done,” Houston Black Lives Matter organizer Ashton Woods told the Observer Saturday afternoon near Sam Houston Park. “Their existence only encourages racist white people to keep doing crazy crap.”

The Spirit of the Confederacy statue in downtown Houston.  Iván Abrego/flickr

The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the “Spirit of the Confederacy” monument in a leafy corner of the park in 1908. Confederate memorials often feature rifle-welding sentinels, but the Houston memorial depicts a 12-foot-tall nude male angel holding a sword and palm leaf.

“To all the heroes of the South who fought for the principles of states rights,” reads an inscription.

Prior to the demonstration, Woods warned that the event could turn violent — on Facebook he advised attendees “NOT to bring children” — but the protest stayed relatively calm and no arrests were reported.

In an effort to pre-empt violence and protect the statue, dozens of Houston Police Department officers closed the park to protesters, who gathered on a nearby street. A few dozen pro-Confederate demonstrators, several donning body armor and brandishing semi-automatic rifles, were kept about 100 feet away from anti-Confederate protesters by officers on horseback. 

“This monument has been around since 1908 and never hurt nobody,” said Vince Powers, a 56-year-old counter-protester from New Waverly, about 60 miles north of downtown Houston. Powers wore a Confederate flag T-shirt and waved a Confederate flag during the protest.

“The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. Southerners just wanted to be left alone,” Powers insisted.

Academic consensus holds that slavery was precisely the cause of the war, and Texas’ Ordinance of Secession, the document that officially separated Texas from the Union in 1861, states that Texas seceded because non-slave-holding states “demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy.”

Asked about black Texans who might find the monument offensive, Powers replied: “Too bad.”

Since the fatal Charlottesville protest, the debate over memorials that glorify the Confederacy has reached a fever pitch. City officials in Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso and San Antonio reacted quickly and took steps toward removing or renaming Confederate memorials. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered a study of Houston’s Confederate monuments. There are at least two such memorials in the Bayou City and at least 178 throughout Texas. A large rally is expected Saturday night in Dallas.

Houston Black Lives Matter organizer Ashton Woods  John Savage

“I do think it’s important for us to review our inventory and then to make the most appropriate decision that’s in the best interest of our city and that does not glorify those things that we shouldn’t be glorifying,” Turner said Tuesday during a city council meeting.

Woods, the Black Lives Matter activist, said he thinks Turner will remove the statues.

“There’s no reason that Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, a city with a black mayor, should have Confederate statues on display in 2017,” Woods said.

The post Confederate Monument Protest Draws Hundreds in Houston appeared first on The Texas Observer.

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Former HPD officer among those arrested in prostitution sting

A former Houston police officer and more than 250 sex buyers and traffickers were arrested on prostitution charges during a monthlong sting by the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

A national coalition of law enforcement agencies called the National Johns Suppression Initiative made over 1,000 arrests between June 28 and July 31. Law enforcement agencies in 17 states took part in the operation.

According to court documents, Darrin Thomas, a former HPD officer, was charged with prostitution. Thomas has been charged in the past for theft in 2010, according to court records.

Harris County deputies arrested 161 sex buyers and HPD officers arrested 88 sex buyers and nine sex traffickers.

“Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America’s sex trafficking capital,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “By focusing our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims, we are putting these predators on notice that our community won’t tolerate their behavior.”

The annual operation is coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois.

PHOTOS: 250+ sex buyers, traffickers arrested on prostitution charges during sting

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit operated the sting with the cooperation of eight area hotels.

They made a handful of significant arrests:

A man in possession of 60 grams of hydrocodone and $4,360 cash, which was submitted for possible seizure.

A man who was previously arrested for prostitution by the Vice Unit in January.

A convicted sex offender.

A man in possession of $6,722, which was submitted for possible seizure.

Two suspects with handguns in their vehicles.

“I want to commend the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit for their tireless work to make our community safer for our most vulnerable residents,” Gonzalez said. “We will continue to vigorously pursue sex buyers so that they never feel comfortable paying for sex in Harris County.”

The Houston Area Women’s Center is deep in the trenches in the fight to stop sex trafficking in Houston. The center provides support services to victims and survivors.

“It’s happening right in our backyard. It’s so important to address this issue. Those numbers are astonishing and it’s so important that we still come together to try and help reduce those numbers. It is our responsibility as a community to respond as well,” said Celinda Guerra of the Houston Area Women’s Center.

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Mother charged with murder after child ejected during drunken driving crash

A 29-year-old woman is facing murder charges after authorities said she was intoxicated when her child was ejected from her vehicle during a drunken driving crash early last month.

Her 7-year-old child was ejected from a vehicle and killed, and two other children were injured in the single-vehicle crash in northeast Houston on July 7.

According to police, Edith Abrego was speeding along the 400 block of Maxey Road just before 1 a.m. when she lost control of a Nissan Rogue, went into a grassy area, hit a speed limit sign, continued into the grassy area, hit a manhole cover and went airborne before the SUV landed on its side on the road and ended up resting in the parking lot of a party supply store.

The 7-year-old who was thrown from the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Two other children, a boy and girl ages 6 and 4, were taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Abrego was also taken to Memorial Hermann with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police said investigators found several closed bottles and an opened bottle of alcohol in the SUV.

The owner of the party supply store lit a candle and placed it in the parking lot where the boy died.

“Mainly, it was respect. And it was for him, for like, to be able to find rest,” Guilibaldo Villarreal said. “For him to rest in peace, find his way to heaven, for his soul to be able to rest and for him to be able to continue.”

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Over 250 sex buyers, traffickers arrested on prostitution charges during sting

More than 250 sex buyers and traffickers were arrested on prostitution charges during a month-long sting by the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

A national coalition of law enforcement agencies called the National Johns Suppression Initiative made over 1,000 arrests between June 28 and July 31. Law enforcement agencies in 17 states took part in the operation.

Harris County deputies arrested 161 sex buyers and HPD officers arrested 88 sex buyers and nine sex traffickers.

“Our aim is for Harris County and Houston to shed the dubious distinction as America’s sex trafficking capital,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. “By focusing our efforts on sex buyers who are seeking to take advantage of sex trafficking victims, we are putting these predators on notice that our community won’t tolerate their behavior.”

The annual operation is coordinated by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois.

PHOTOS: 250+ sex buyers, traffickers arrested on prostitution charges during sting

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit operated the sting with the cooperation of eight area hotels.

They made a handful of significant arrests:

A man in possession of 60 grams of hydrocodone and $4,360 cash, which was submitted for possible seizure.

A man who was previously arrested for prostitution by the Vice Unit in January.

A convicted sex offender.

A man in possession of $6,722, which was submitted for possible seizure.

Two suspects with handguns in their vehicles.

“I want to commend the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit for their tireless work to make our community safer for our most vulnerable residents,” Gonzalez said. “We will continue to vigorously pursue sex buyers so that they never feel comfortable paying for sex in Harris County.”

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Remember the Alamo (Differently)

Gun-rights advocates rally at the Alamo.  Jen Reel

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, the big question everyone is asking is how do we stop white supremacy? I think not teaching it would be a good place to start. And in the wake of the removals or planned removals of Confederate monuments in Texas and across the country this month, it’s high time we start rethinking other racist American monuments and the narratives that surround them. The Alamo should be in that conversation, too.

The Alamo is, after all, dedicated to the American fear of the Mexican body, of Mexican invasion, of Mexican agency that firmly and directly contested agendas of white supremacy in early 19th-century Texas.

The Battle of the Alamo, as we’ve internalized it in the American psyche, is almost never considered in the full context of facts surrounding the event. This is especially true of the fact that race had everything to do with Texas independence and with how we remember the Alamo.

As historian H.W. Brands has written, the Battle of the Alamo’s “contribution to the strategy of the Texas Revolution was nil or negative.” At best, it was “a military mistake of mythic proportions.” But it’s often taught as a watershed moment in Texas history — a parable about white heroes pushed to their limits by a tyrannical Mexican federal government.

Tropes of honor, pride and liberty are explored through anecdotes like William Travis’ line in the sand or Davy Crockett’s brave death (it’s debated whether he was killed in battle or executed for surrendering in a cowardly manner), or the brazen sabotage of Mexican cannons by stealthy Texian defenders against sleeping (read: “lazy”) Mexican soldiers. White martyrdom in the fight against tyranny is often central to these anecdotes, and this is supposed to be the basis for Texan identity. One of my favorite mistakes from an illustration in a seventh-grade textbook was the Gadsden flag flying over the Alamo. (“Don’t Tread On Me” was a slogan used during the American Revolution).  

But the hard facts are almost never given for context: that race had everything to do with Texas independence; that before the supposed “tyranny” that spurred the Texas Revolution due to the Anglo population’s fallout with the 1824 Mexican constitution, future Alamo hero James Bowie was already conspiring to overthrow the then-Spanish government in Texas as part of the Long Expedition in 1819; that private white supremacist armies regularly attempted to declare independent republics within Spanish (and subsequently Mexican) Texas to take land away from the “lesser peoples”; that after the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 there was literally a secret society dedicated to destabilizing and financing wars in Latin America to then incorporate those acquired lands as slave states to hedge power against free states in the North; that Sam Houston, the man who transitioned the Republic of Texas into the United States, subsequently introduced a resolution into the U.S. Senate for the “United States to declare and maintain an efficient protectorate over the States of Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and San Salvador.”

What ensued from decades of interventionist policy was the supposed great battle of the Alamo: Thirteen days of resistance from 182 antifederalist Texians against 1,800 Mexican troops, resulting in the complete massacre of Anglo Texians by Mexican forces who eventually scaled the walls in an invasion of the former mission to restore order. As it’s taught, the battle supposedly turned the tide in the movement for Texas independence.

But as a native Texan of Mexican descent (and citizenship), the story always struck me as odd. Of course, there was a racial element to it, but beyond that I also wondered why any of us would study a battle that was so strategically insignificant, that was one of the most thorough military defeats ever, and that bore no small resemblance to the 1993 Waco siege, in which more than 100 Branch Davidian members staged a standoff with the federal government for 51 days. In an eerie parallel, just as William Travis gave soldiers unwilling to die beside him an out with his famous line in the sand, Koresh allowed certain members to leave the compound before more than 900 law enforcement officials descended on it and a fire killed everyone inside.

Clive Doyle, former spokesperson for members of the Waco Branch Davidians and one of the survivors of the compound fire, has said himself: “People have likened Waco to the Alamo and said it was a wake-up call for Americans about their government, but wise people don’t go out and rectify that with terrorist acts.”

It didn’t occur to me at the time that the ideas celebrated in the curated narrative of the Alamo (anti-tyranny, anti-federalism, pro-guns, religious freedoms) were undeniably echoed in the rhetoric surrounding the Waco massacre itself and, indeed, in the reaction of white supremacists and white terrorists who were deeply moved and felt compelled to act in reaction to the Waco siege.

Anti-tyranny, anti-federalism and a general anxiety about the erosion of freedoms were part of Timothy McVeigh’s radicalized patriot movement ideology that led to his desire for martyrdom. Most recently, we’ve heard these echoes again in events such as the Cliven Bundy standoff and the rhetoric of the various militia groups that have multiplied in recent years and in places like Charlottesville.

We hear echoes of the Alamo, too, in Trump’s call for a border wall not unlike that behind which the Alamo defenders fought. It’s no secret that demographic and cultural change is a major concern for Trump voters, white supremacists, various militia groups and even Trump himself. Rhetoric referring to a perceived brown invasion was central to his campaign and is now integral to policy being adopted by the Republican Party today.

Deportation cases have increased as ICE agents have been deployed to increasingly and indiscriminately deport brown bodies from American streets. The Trump administration has curtailed immigration from certain predominantly Muslim countries. And my native Texas has passed a “show-me-your-papers” law that will allow police to ask people who’ve been detained — not just arrested — to prove citizenship.

Beyond the expulsion and exclusion of brown bodies via a wall, or the outright destruction of them via terrorist acts like what happened in Charlottesville or Charleston, it’s not a stretch to say, too, that “Make America Great Again” and the movement it represents are part and parcel of the same ideologies that drove the early land grab efforts in Texas. The “lesser peoples” now have this land and a voice in it; now we must take it back (even if by lethal force).

Already, conversations in Texas are turning violent on the matter of the value and place of brown bodies in our society, though this is nothing new to those of us who studied the Alamo in Texas schools. It wasn’t uncommon, year after year, in my early Texas public education to watch hours of John Wayne in The Alamo killing people who looked like me, who looked like my family. It took me about seven years until I realized, Oh, that’s the point.

None of this is to say that the Alamo itself should be dismantled; no one is disputing the significance of the historic Spanish mission. But it should be noted that the mythology we’ve built around the Alamo isn’t only widely skewed by omission of historical facts largely unexamined or untaught. It’s also designed to celebrate and revere some of the darkest ideologies that have shaped our American fabric: anti-federalism as linked to white terrorism, white supremacy, and the destruction of brown bodies at all costs.

We think of those ideologies as relegated to history, but they’re still very much alive in the American psyche. They resonate with the contemporary anxieties that have roots in the way we’re taught to remember the Alamo. If we want to move forward as a country, we have to rethink the false narratives we’ve built around monuments like the Alamo and honestly ask where they came from. The complexities of history are so much larger and more interesting than our prejudices. We have to critically think about our learned versions of history and examine why we feel the need to celebrate them. Dismantling our adulation for the mythology of the Alamo is a good place to start.

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Your phone’s Bluetooth can locate illegal skimmer devices

As more and more skimmers are discovered at ATMs and gas stations, police say a simple way to beat crooks from taking your money is in the palm of your hand.

Skimmers are devices criminals attach to debit or credit card readers that allow others to steal your personal information.

Millions have been stolen from unsuspecting customers who use ATM’s or card readers at gas stations.

However, officials say the Bluetooth on your phone can uncover the nefarious devices looking to steal from your wallet.

Simply go to the settings on your smartphone and click on Bluetooth. If a skimmer is present, a long string of numbers and/or letters will appear, attempting to connect you to the device.

Now that the illegal device has been located, make sure you do not connect your phone.

The Federal Trade Commission has additional tips to help consumers avoid skimmers:

Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void,” which means the machine has been tampered with.

Take a good look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached; the reader on the right doesn’t.

If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering a PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account. If that’s not an option, cover your hand when entering your PIN. Scammers sometimes use tiny pinhole cameras, situated above the keypad area, to record PIN entries.

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If you’re really concerned about skimmers, you can pay inside rather than at the pump. Another option is to use a gas pump near the front of the store. Thieves may target gas pumps that are harder for the attendant to see.

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