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Posts under ‘The great state of Texas’

Fire ant-killing robots

Let’s just luxuriate in the glory of that headline for a moment, shall we? Harley Myler is working on a “war of the worlds.” That’s what the Lamar Electrical Engineering Department chair calls his latest project: a walking robot that incinerates red fire ants. The idea is to use a camera to identify the species […]

The history of the Chicken Ranch

Chron columnist and Texas historian Joe Holley writes about an attempt to put a marker by the site of the infamous Chicken Ranch. It’s been 43 years since KTRK-TV’s crusading consumer affairs reporter (“Slime in the ice machine!!”) rolled into town with a cameraman to bust the unassuming, little country brothel that had flourished just […]

Galveston wants a bag ban

Good luck. Reacting to a groundswell of concern about the effect of plastic bags on the environment, Galveston is on the forefront of a statewide controversy over cities’ ability to ban plastic bags that are killing turtles, birds and fouling beaches. A proposed ordinance with unanimous City Council support and strong community backing faces fierce […]

It’s Santa season

Ho, ho, ho, y’all. For two months of the year, Houston aircraft mechanic Lance McLean trades in his coveralls at the end of the day for a red Santa suit. This year, McLean will don the suit 49 times, beginning Saturday. Twenty-nine of those events will be held at Houston public libraries. “My ex-wife thought […]

The coming measles outbreak

I hope we’re wrong about this. Peter Hotez used to worry mostly about vaccines for children in far-away places. An infectious diseases researcher at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, Hotez is developing shots against diseases in poorer countries such as hookworm and schistosomiasis. But now, Hotez is anxious about children much closer to […]

An awful lot of Texans could lose health insurance

It sure will suck to be them. New public-health studies warn that hasty congressional action toward repealing the Affordable Care Act could have dire consequences for the poor and uninsured both in Texas and nationwide. The dismantlement of portions of the law, known as Obamacare, without a comparable substitute could mean 2.6 million more Texans […]

MUDs and debt

Another story about the least-understood form of debt and taxation in Texas. In Houston’s conservative suburbs, where local governments are loath to raise taxes, the thankless task of hiking revenues has fallen to hundreds of so-called municipal utility districts created for developers to finance water and sewage systems, roads and other amenities. These MUDs, as […]

Ostriching

Hey, remember when ostrich farms were the next big thing? Over the last few years, there’s been renewed interest in ostrich farming in the United States, particularly in Texas. The industry peaked in the 1990s, before inflated prices for birds and eggs exposed it to corruption and market instability. By the end of the decade, […]

Stuck in the MUD

Tricky things, these municipal utility districts. MUD 187 came to be when a Houston developer arranged for two people to move their trailer onto a 519-acre site on the edge of Richmond in Fort Bend County, which at the time was an empty field. As the only “residents” within the municipal utility district’s boundaries, the […]

Black women face much higher risk of pregnancy-related death in Texas

Any time you’re being compared to a third world country, it’s not a good thing. Black women bear the greatest risk for pregnancy-related death in Texas by far, according to a much-awaited new report, commissioned because the state rate resembles that of many Third World countries. The report, which follows the publication of a national […]

Getting the (wind and solar) power to the people

It’s all about the transmission lines. The Lone Star state is by far the largest state for wind power, with nearly 18,000 megawatts of wind generation capacity already built and another 5,500 megawatts—nearly equal to California’s total installed capacity—planned. The biggest driver of that wind boom was an $8 billion transmission system that was built […]

Why are so many pregnant women dying in Texas?

Better yet, what are we going to do about it? The rate of Texas women dying of pregnancy-related causes nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014, with the state seeing more than 600 such deaths in the four-year span. In a new study, set to be published in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers […]

“Just Like Every Other Kid”

From the Observer: Texas’ child welfare apparatus is in a shambles. Zika virus threatens to put some of our most vulnerable in danger. Low oil prices have fiscal leaders worried about the future of the state’s budget. State lawmakers are facing accusations of rampant abuse of taxpayer funds in the form of unsanctioned “emergency leave” […]

Behind The Tower

Fifty years have passed since Charles Whitman went on an infamous killing spree at the University of Texas. Now a group of historians at UT have taken an in depth look at Whitman and his actions, and tried to answer questions we still don’t fully understand today. What happens to events that historians ignore, events […]

The Latino health insurance enrollment gap in Texas

We have made great strides in reducing the uninsured rate in Texas thanks to the Affordable Care Act, but there’s still a lot of work to do. The percentage of Hispanics in Texas without health insurance has dropped by 30 percent since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, but almost one-third of Hispanic […]

Will we ever learn what caused Greg Abbott’s burns?

Not sure what to make of this. Gov. Greg Abbott was released Friday from a San Antonio military hospital, but he has yet to give details of the accident that put him there with second- and third-degree burns. Abbott’s office has said his lower legs and feet were severely burned when he came into contact […]

Guardianship

An eye-opening story in the Observer on a subject many of us probably never think about. Guardianship is the state’s last-ditch tool to protect people from neglect or abuse, and although it saves lives, it can be a blunt instrument. More than 53,000 Texans, most of them elderly or intellectually disabled, are under a guardianship […]

Hexit?

The Chron’s Ken Hoffman asks a burning question. Just for fun, how would the vote go if Houstonians had a crack at “Hexit” – leaving Texas? I don’t mean another “Brexit” – in which British voters elected to leave the European Union, but apparently many didn’t know what they were voting for or against or […]

Abbott hospitalized after suffering burns

Ouch. [Gov. Greg] Abbott is recuperating from burns on both legs below the knees. On Tuesday, the governor [underwent] skin grafts to repair damage on both feet. He is expected to be discharged and will return to Austin. His office revealed on Sunday that he had suffered “second- and third-degree burns” when he was accidentally […]

The zebra mussels keep invading

Can anything stop them? When zebra mussels exploded in the Great Lakes region during the early 1990s, fisheries managers in Texas and many other southern states certainly noticed, but most weren’t overly alarmed. Yes, the alien freshwater mollusks, native to northern Eurasia and introduced to North America through the ballast water of commercial ships, had […]

Colleges and bathrooms

Texas’ colleges and universities have not yet been affected by Dan Patrick’s potty obsession. At the University of Houston, transgender students can enroll in voice feminization or masculinization clinics. At the University of Texas at Austin, students can write a simple letter to change how their gender is listed in school records. And many colleges […]

Where’s the abortion data?

The ACLU would like to know. With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to decide the biggest abortion case in nearly a decade, the ACLU of Texas is demanding that the Department of State Health Services “stop concealing” abortion statistics for 2014 and make the information public. In a letter sent Wednesday to department Commissioner John […]

Let’s please get the children covered

Surely that’s not too much to ask. Five nonprofit organizations and community groups in Texas, including three in the Houston area, have been awarded a combined $4.78 million by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to boost efforts to enroll the state’s nearly three-quarters of a million uninsured children, the federal agency announced on […]

What do you get when you cut off funds for HIV testing?

You get no HIV testing, of course. When Texas abruptly ended its $600,000 HIV prevention contract with Planned Parenthood’s Houston affiliate in late December, state health officials promisedthat there would be no interruption in services. The Department of State Health Services parceled the money out to three county health departments in the Houston area and […]

Benjamin Elder

Meet Benjamin Elder, a better and braver person than Dan Patrick will ever be. Spend a few hours in Benjamin Elder’s company and you’ll realize he’s an average, bubbly 10-year-old kid. All lanky limbs and wavy chestnut-colored hair, he’s easy to pick out of a room by his infectious laughter and toothy grin. His favorite […]

Another story on how Texas’ uninsured rate has fallen under Obamacare

Same book, next chapter. A study released Tuesday shows that the rate of Texans without insurance has dropped to its lowest point since the late 1990s because of the Affordable Care Act, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation reported. Prior to the implementation of the ACA in September 2013, […]

Texans say they favor Medicaid expansion

This comes with a huge “but” attached to it. More than 60 percent of Texans support an expansion of Medicaid here and plan to take those views into the voting booth in November, a new survey commissioned by the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute finds. The survey results, unveiled Wednesday at the annual Medical […]

The latest good news/bad news on Texas uninsured numbers

Good news: Texas’ percentage of uninsured residents continues to drop. Bad news: It’s still higher than what the national average was in 2010, the year before the Affordable Care Act was passed. The percentage of Texans without insurance has dropped dramatically since the launch of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control […]

Texas tobacco litigation, 20 years later

Interesting look at something I don’t think about very much. Twenty years ago, then-Texas Attorney General Dan Morales filed a federal lawsuit accusing the tobacco industry of racketeering and fraud. He said the case would make Big Tobacco change how it did business, force the cigarette companies to make less dangerous products and stop the […]

We’re going to get more big rain storms

Better get used to it. The weather is getting worse, says one expert. Torrential rains fall in the Houston area more often than they used to, according to an unpublished analysis from state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. Heavy precipitation of any particular magnitude are twice as likely to fall in the Bayou City today as they […]

Feds grant 15 month Medicaid waiver extension

I sure hope they keep the pressure on to expand Medicaid during this time. The Obama administration has agreed to temporarily keep some federal Medicaid money flowing into Texas to help hospitals treat uninsured patients, a relief to health care providers that feared losing the funds over state leaders’ refusal to provide health insurance to […]

A personal story of CPS’ failure to protect children

I can’t begin to tell you how angry this makes me. The new foster parents opened the door last September to a child they can only describe as feral. At 3, he was obese, his brown saucer eyes shell-shocked, his chocolate skin pocked with a rash the CPS caseworker dismissed as eczema but a doctor […]

Two Medicaid stories

From the Trib: State health officials confirmed Tuesday they have asked the Obama administration to keep a 15-month lifeline of federal Medicaid money flowing into Texas to help hospitals treat uninsured patients. That money would offer temporary relief to health care providers who face losing the funds — some $3.1 billion annually — over state leaders’ refusal to provide government-subsidized health coverage […]

Pity the poor utilities

Sorry, but low electricity prices, especially when they are aided by record amounts of wind power generation, are good news. Texas’ national lead in cheap wind power, combined with near historically low natural gas prices, mild weather, an abundant power supply and slower growth in electricity demand, can work to the detriment of power companies. […]