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February 2nd, 2013:

Saturday video break: Killing Me Softly

Song #33 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Killing Me Softly”, originally by Lori Lieberman and covered by The Fugees. Here’s the original:

This one I have heard before, on an episode of Coverville. For some reason, I was under the belief that this song was written as a reaction to Don McLean’s “American Pie”, but according to Wikipedia at least that isn’t quite true. Be that as it may, you can see why this song has been covered as often as it has. Here’s the Fugees version:

It’s probably a sign of my age that I’m way more familiar with the Roberta Flack version than I am with this one. Lauryn Hill does have the chops for it, though, that’s for sure. What’s your favorite version of this one?

Sports Authority gets sued

MBIA, the company that insures the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority’s bonds, has filed a lawsuit to force the Sports Authority to collect more money to pay its obligations.

If MBIA must cover payment shortfalls and cannot reimburse itself from the authority’s reserves, the amount owed to the insurer will accumulate with interest. In such a scenario, MBIA officials have said, hotel and car rental taxes would be tied up for years paying off MBIA when those dollars could have been put toward local projects had the bonds been paid off on time.

Authority Chairman Kenny Friedman said MBIA’s urgency is driven by a desire to skirt its obligation to pay the bonds, an accusation the insurer denies. The authority bought bond insurance for a reason, Friedman said, and added that neither the stadium homes of the Texans, Rockets and Astros – which the authority was created to finance – nor the land under them are at risk.

“It’s a frivolous lawsuit. I think it’s designed to get them some perceived PR advantage,” the agency’s chairman said. “We’re the third-largest county in the country and we’re not going to be bullied by a second-rate insurance company. What MBIA is looking for is a bailout, and it’s just not something we’re going to do.”

It was MBIA’s 2009 downgrade that strained the authority’s reserves in the first place, Friedman said.

After MBIA’s downgrade, $125 million in variable-rate bonds the authority sold to help build Reliant Stadium were converted into a loan due in 2014 rather than the original 2030. The authority since has struggled to make much larger payments under this “term-out,” and MBIA has had to cover shortfalls seven times, including last November, reimbursing itself each time from the authority’s reserves. Three term-out payments remain.

Again with the “Kenny Friedman” stuff. Did I miss a memo or something? Is there a new style guide out that says the name “J. Kent Friedman” is, like, so 2012? First this and then David Ward – where will it end?

Ahem. See here for the background. I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but I do know that if MBIA prevails, the price of tickets and parking at Reliant will go up, because the current tax levied on tickets and parking, which is where the revenue to pay off these obligations comes from, are lower than the law allows them to be. You Texans and Rodeo season ticket holders might want to keep an eye on this.

Wolverines!

This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

While advocates of Texas secession may have stalled with their online petition efforts, state lawmakers have filed numerous bills objecting to major White House initiatives and suggesting the state doesn’t have to abide them.

Newly elected Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, has filed a constitutional amendment that bars state agencies from enforcing penalties incurred by not purchasing health insurance, as mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act. Similar legislation by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, would give a state tax break to businesses that face federal penalties for failing to cover contraception in their health plans, as required by the federal law. And numerous legislators have filed legislation prohibiting enforcement of any new federal regulations that might be imposed on gun ownership.

All told, the legislation indicates that a major theme of the overwhelmingly Republican Texas Legislature will be signaling its disapproval of the Obama administration.

“I am very concerned about the federal government’s rapid expansion and attempts to impose its will on the states,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said in a statement supporting Campbell’s constitutional amendment. “Here in Texas we will never concede our freedom to Washington.”

But to South Texas College of Law constitutional law professor Charles Rhodes, the anti-federal-government proposals amount to “political grandstanding.”

“It is eminently clear that, under the Supremacy Clause that was part of our Constitution when the states ratified it, that the federal government is supreme,” he said. “It’s been our constitutional basis for 200 years.”

For people who claim to revere the Constitution, they sure are ignorant of it. All they’re doing is creating future lawsuits for Greg Abbott to lose. Of course, given all the other things they could be doing this session, that’s about as productive a use of their time I can think of. Keep up the good work, y’all.

County settles with Treasures

It’s over, at least for now.

When city of Houston lawyers settled a public nuisance lawsuit against Treasures last December, Harris County attorneys continued to pursue the jointly filed case, saying they needed more assurances from the strip club that it would operate above board.

Under a late-Monday settlement with the club, however, county attorneys all but pointed to the city settlement and added, “What they said.”

The agreement comes even as the plaintiffs acknowledge Treasures has violated its agreement with the city four times since December.

[…]

Just as club owner Ali Davari will pay the city $100,000 to assist the Houston Police Department in efforts to combat human trafficking, the latest agreement also will see Davari pay $100,000 to cover the county attorney’s costs. The settlement achieves enforcement beyond the city’s stipulations, First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said, noting Treasures must add an additional manager for weekday day shifts and for night shifts every day.

The settlement also requires Treasures managers to attend a class on human trafficking, and the club must amend the paperwork it gives independent contractors – typically, dancers – by adding language about trafficking, including a hot line victims can call.

“Yet again, they put all the responsibility on the victims, an impossible situation if they are being exploited,” said Dottie Laster, a New Braunfels-based human trafficking expert who said she is frustrated by both settlements. “It sounds like a fairy tale agreement, that the signatories are choosing to believe people aren’t being exploited, that it’s more likely everyone in there is willing.”

I don’t really know what to say to that, so let me point you to Dottie Laster’s website for more information. Look around a little and you’ll find a link to this story about the time Ann Johnson, Democratic candidate for HD134 last year, successfully argued before the State Supreme Court that minors should not be prosecuted for prostitution. Worth your time to look around Ms. Laster’s website and see what resources she has.