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White guy, computer programmer.

Journal Archives

Thousands of Low-Income Women Aren't Getting Cancer Screenings or Birth Control

Photo: Francisco Montes
Note: That isn't a longhorn on the sign.

A new state report confirms what basically everyone who wasn't a die-hard anti-abortion activist or politician predicted a couple of years ago when Texas lawmakers kicked Planned Parenthood out of its widely successful program for giving uninsured, low-income women cancer screenings and birth control.

According to new numbers out of the state Health and Human Services Commission, critics that said the program would serve a lot less women if it shunned Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics (meaning even more women across the state won't get life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings or birth control) were dead-on right.

HHCS's numbers show that in 2011 more than 200,000 women were enrolled in the state's original Women's Health Program, a Medicaid waiver program that was 90 percent paid for by the feds. But the program got caught in the crossfire as the ideological battle over abortion rights raged in the Lege. Conservatives, indignant that Planned Parenthood's family planning clinics (which don't provide abortions) got state money under WHP, changed the law so that "affiliates" of abortion providers (re: Planned Parenthood) would be banned from the program.

A couple problems with that. First, Planned Parenthood was in fact the dominant provider in the program at the time, serving somewhere around 40 percent of WHP clients. Women's health advocates across the state urged lawmakers to reconsider, fearing existing healthcare providers wouldn't be able to absorb the clients orphaned by the state's Planned Parenthood ban.

Read more: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2015/03/fewer_low-income_women_are_getting_cancer_screenings_and_birth_control_since_texas_gave_planned_pare.php

Texas Finds a New Drug Dealer

Texas prison officials said Wednesday they've acquired a new "small supply" of pentobarbital, the barbiturate Texas uses to execute prisoners by lethal injection, according to the AP. That means Texas has at least enough lethal-injection drugs on hand to kill all four prisoners slated for execution in April.

And, as is becoming standard practice in death penalty states across the country, Texas won't disclose the supplier of its new batch of death drugs.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice earlier this month revealed that it only had only enough pentobarbital on hand to get through two scheduled executions. The drug crunch faced by Texas and other death-penalty states is due in large part to drug manufacturers that years ago stopped selling states drugs for use in lethal injections. Texas and other death-penalty states were left scrambling to find drugs that could be used to carry out executions.

Around 2011, Texas ditched an until-then commonly used three-drug execution cocktail because manufacturers of a critical component, the sedative sodium thiopental, refused to sell the drug to prison officials. TDCJ eventually switched to its current drug of choice, pentobarbital, but even that soon became difficult to acquire, so Texas had to turn to so-called compounding pharmacies, which aren't regulated by the FDA.

Read more: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2015/03/texas_finds_a_new_drug_dealer.php

A Cow, a Car Crash and the Absurdity of Tort Reform in Texas

Tobias Akerboom via Flicker

One night in August 2011, a half dozen cows escaped their pasture and wandered onto a semi-rural stretch of road in Amarillo. The driver of an approaching pickup slamed on the brakes, but not quite soon enough to keep the truck from entering a terrifying barrel roll. Bobby Tunnell, the front-seat passenger and the driver's father, suffered gruesome injuries to his head, spine and torso. He was pulled from the truck shortly before it exploded.

Almost five years and $700,000 in medical bills later, Tunnell is in the midst of a legal fight with the cows' owner, which is taking place in Dallas County for various reasons but mainly because his attorney worries about the average Amarilloan's bias against trial lawyers. Tunnell claims the cows' owner, Richard K. Archer, negligently allowed his cattle to wander into the road and thus is liable for damages. Archer disagrees, partially because he says he took reasonable precautions (i.e. building and maintaining an electrified fence) to keep his cows on his property but mostly because he's a retired doctor, and Texas' 2003 tort reform law makes it damn near impossible to successfully sue doctors. Specifically, Archer argues that the case should be dismissed because Tunnell didn't present an expert report with the case within 120 days of filing the lawsuit, as is required in medical malpractice claims.

From the perspective of the fair and decent administration of justice, the latter argument put forth by Archer is absurd. Even the architect of Archer's legal strategy, Amarillo attorney Philip Russ, agrees. "I think it's a stretch to get to that point." But while he acknowledges that such an argument "may not be fair," Russ contends that he's merely applying the law as the Texas Supreme Court has decreed it should be applied.

Russ leans on handful of decisions handed down by the high court in recent years. Two involve slip-and-fall claims that, because they occurred at health care facilities and not say, a Jack in the Box, were deemed "health care liability claims" and not simple negligence cases. A lawsuit against a nursing home suffered a similar fate on almost identical grounds. More recently, in a 2012 decision centered on a psychiatric technician who sued the Houston mental hospital where he worked after being injured during a patient outburst, the court ruled that a claim "need not be directly related to the provision of health care" for it to fall under the 2003 tort reform law.

Read more: http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2015/03/a_cow_a_car_crash_and_the_absurdity_of_tort_reform_in_texas.php

Texas Democrats File Bills to Protect Voting Rights

Voter Identification

Several Democrats in the House and Senate filed over twenty bills this session to allow additional forms of photo ID that you could use to vote. Here’s a sample:

HB 295/SB 170 - These bills would allow for students to use their school IDs to identify themselves for voting purposes. Introduced by Rep. Canales and Senator Uresti.

HB 303 – Also filed by Rep. Canales, this bill would place a picture of the voter on the Voter Registration card, and this card could be used as ID for voting purposes.

HB 536 – Filed by Rep. Nevarez, this bill would allow the elderly (people above the age of 65) the ability to vote with an expired ID.

HB 733 – Filed by Rep. Israel, this bill allows for student and veteran IDs to be accepted for voting purposes.

Voter Registration

Registering to vote is a burdensome process, but especially if you don’t know any registrars. Texas currently has some of the worst voter turnout in America. We can change that trend if the laws regarding registering to vote are simplified.

HB 444 – Filed by Rep. Johnson, would implement a statewide online voter registration system.

HB 3267/SB 1449 – Rep. Herrero and Sen. Ellis each introduced bills that would allow anyone who renews their driver’s license, or other form of ID, to automatically be registered to vote.

HB 448 – Filed by Rep. Alonzo, this bill would implement a same day voter registration system in Texas. Same day voter registration has been shown to increase turnout in the states that have put these types of laws in place.

HB258/SB 143 – Another issue Texans have while registering is that if they are denied, they have to go to the County Registrar to figure out why. Sen. Garcia and Rep. Miles have introduced legislation where the registrar’s office would send a letter to the address provided to let the applicant now why their voter registration was denied.

More at http://progresstexas.org/blog/texas-democrats-file-bills-protect-voting-rights .

Top 10 Weird Facts About Ted Cruz

Dear America,

We here in Texas want to let you know a little bit about the people that a very small fraction of our voters have elected - because it ain't all yellow roses.

With that in mind, here are some things you probably don’t know about Ted Cruz...

10. Ted Cruz Was Born in Canada

Born in Canada (to a Cuban-American father), he officially renounced his citizenship in 2014.

9. Ted Cruz Hates Avocados

There are many offensive things that he has said, but in a state where guacamole is a national treasure, this could be the most offensive. The Dallas Observer said "this is what happens when we elect a Canadian."


6. Thinks the United Nations Wants to Destroy Golf Courses

Ted Cruz thinks the United Nations is trying to eliminate golf. Seriously.

The complete list at http://progresstexas.org/blog/top-10-weird-facts-about-ted-cruz

Dark matter even darker than once thought

Dark matter is a giant question mark looming over our knowledge of the Universe. There is more dark matter in the Universe than visible matter, but it is extremely elusive; it does not reflect, absorb or emit light, making it invisible. Because of this, it is only known to exist via its gravitational effects on the visible Universe (see e.g. heic1215a).

To learn more about this mysterious substance, researchers can study it in a way similar to experiments on visible matter — by watching what happens when it bumps into things . For this reason, researchers look at vast collections of galaxies, called galaxy clusters, where collisions involving dark matter happen naturally and where it exists in vast enough quantities to see the effects of collisions .

Galaxies are made of three main ingredients: stars, clouds of gas and dark matter. During collisions, the clouds of gas spread throughout the galaxies crash into each other and slow down or stop. The stars are much less affected by the drag from the gas and, because of the huge gaps between them, do not have a slowing effect on each other — though if two stars did collide the frictional forces would be huge.

"We know how gas and stars react to these cosmic crashes and where they emerge from the wreckage. Comparing how dark matter behaves can help us to narrow down what it actually is," explains David Harvey of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, lead author of a new study.

Read more: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1506/

Central Banks Warn: Liquidity May Evaporate When Investors Finally Remove Blindfolds

Companies are selling bonds like madmen. This year through Tuesday, investment-grade and junk-rated companies have sold $438 billion in new bonds, up 14% from the prior record for this time of the year, set in 2013, according to Dealogic. This quarter is already in second place, nudging up against the all-time quarterly record of $455 billion of Q2 2014.

About $87 billion of these bonds funded takeovers, a record for this time of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The four biggest bond sales in that batch were for healthcare takeovers, including the Actavis deal whose $21 billion bond sale was the second largest in history, behind Verizon’s $49 billion bond sale in 2013.

Actavis had received orders for more than four times the bonds available, according to CFO Tessa Hilado. “You don’t really know what the demand is until people start placing their orders,” she said. “I would say we were pleasantly surprised.”

Brandon Swensen, co-head of U.S. fixed income at RBC Global Asset Management, couldn’t “see anything on the radar that’s going to slow things down materially,” he told the Wall Street Journal. His firm expects rates to “remain low.”

Read more: http://wolfstreet.com/2015/03/27/bond-market-liquidity-risk-central-bank-warnings/

American men move up ranks in free skate

Rank Name Nation Total SP FS
1 Javier Fernández Spain 273.90 2 92.74 2 181.16
2 Yuzuru Hanyu Japan 271.08 1 95.20 3 175.88
3 Denis Ten Kazakhstan 267.72 3 85.89 1 181.83
4 Jason Brown United States 248.29 6 84.32 5 163.97
5 Nam Nguyen Canada 242.59 9 77.73 4 164.86
6 Misha Ge Uzbekistan 234.89 8 78.52 7 156.37
7 Maxim Kovtun Russia 242.59 16 70.82 6 159.88
8 Adam Rippon United States 229.71 11 75.14 8 154.57
9 Florent Amodio France 229.62 7 80.84 11 148.78
10 Han Yan China 229.15 5 84.45 13 144.70
11 Joshua Farris United States 223.04 13 73.52 10 149.52
12 Takahito Kozuka Japan 222.69 19 70.15 9 146.81
13 Sergei Voronov Russia 218.41 4 84.70 17 133.71
14 Ronald Lam Hong Kong 214.36 14 72.66 14 141.70
15 Michal Brezina Czech Republic 213.83 10 76.84 15 136.99
16 Takahito Mura Japan 211.74 23 64.93 12 146.81
17 Alexei Bychenko Israel 209.26 12 74.98 16 137.28
18 Chafik Besseghier France 199.86 18 70.27 19 129.59
19 June Hyoung Lee South Korea 197.52 24 64.51 18 133.01
20 Brendan Kerry Australia 194.57 17 70.36 21 124.21
21 Michael Christian Martinez Philippines 192.38 22 67.03 20 125.35
22 Jeremy Ten Canada 183.79 15 72.28 22 111.51
23 Alaxander Majorov Sweden 176.55 21 67.53 23 109.02
24 Yaroslav Paniot Ukraine 174.52 20 69.09 24 105.43


American women find redemption in free skate

Gracie Gold had a seasons best performance and all three American women managed to avoid any deductions in their long programs with Gold taking second in the free skate and Wagner taking third in the free skate. Unfortunately, they gave up too much ground in the short program in order to medal. However, they will retain three positions next year in the world championships.

Pl. Name Nation Points SP FS
RUS 210.36 1 1
JPN 193.60 3 4
RUS 191.47 2 6
4 Gracie GOLD
USA 188.96 8 2
5 Ashley WAGNER
USA 185.01 11 3

6 Rika HONGO
JPN 184.58 5 5
JPN 179.66 4 8
8 Polina EDMUNDS
USA 177.83 7 7

9 Zijun LI
CHN 165.22 6 11
10 Mae Berenice MEITE
FRA 162.75 12 10
CAN 161.18 10 12
12 So Youn PARK
KOR 160.75 15 9
RUS 160.31 9 13
SWE 155.35 13 14
15 Nicole RAJICOVA
SVK 152.61 14 15
16 Angelina KUCHVALSKA
LAT 141.54 23 16
17 Anne Line GJERSEM
NOR 139.75 20 17
18 Dasa GRM
SLO 137.45 22 18
19 Hae Jin KIM
KOR 136.24 18 19
ITA 134.74 17 21
21 Gabrielle DALEMAN
CAN 133.57 21 20
GEO 132.25 16 22
23 Nicole SCHOTT
GER 127.56 19 23
24 Giada RUSSO
ITA 120.11 24 24


Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki now belongs to a 'weird' one-member club

Dirk Nowitzki on being the founding member of the 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,000 blocks, 1,000 3-pointers club:

“That’s a weird club, obviously. With one weirdo in it. That usually means that big guys like that are not shot-blockers like me.”

Turning serious, he added: “I don’t know what that means. A big guy doesn’t usually shoot 1,000 3s, so there are some with 25,000 points and 10,000 rebounds, but those big guys don’t usually step out. That’s been my strength my whole career.”

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