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Name: herb morehead
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Hometown: marble falls, tx
Member since: Thu Feb 23, 2012, 03:49 AM
Number of posts: 6,954

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Death of 2-year-old points to lack of accountability


Another civil function that should not be privatized.

By Andrea Ball - American-Statesman Staff

Sherill Small was headed to criminal court for passing a bad check when a state-hired company approved her to care for foster children.

Her husband has two convictions for delivery of marijuana, court records show. Her two adult daughters, who live in the area and visit the Small house, had legal problems of their own. One served prison time for robbery. Court records show the other has an unresolved drug charge.

Still, Texas Mentor, the child placing agency, approved the Smalls as foster parents, and it continued to send them children even when the home showed more signs of trouble.

Now Small is charged with murder in the death of Alexandria Hill, a 2-year-old girl in her care. Police say the 54-year-old Rockdale woman slammed Alex’s head on the floor, causing a traumatic brain injury that killed the toddler two days later.

It is unclear how many warning signs Texas Mentor saw when it licensed the Smalls as foster parents last fall, but the case illustrates the kind of judgment calls that child placing agencies have to make when choosing caretakers. And it underscores weaknesses in a fragmented system that spreads the responsibility for 11,500 children among more than 200 private vendors.

The state takes custody of children. Private organizations find them homes. Subcontractors often study homes for eligibility. That splintered process makes it much more complicated to deconstruct why warning signs were missed, parent advocates say.

Officials with Child Protective Services say the state shoulders the blame for Alex’s death. But the current system makes it nearly impossible for the state to know what’s going on with the children, said Johana Scot with the Parent Guidance Center, which advocates for parents of minors in the foster system.

“They’re trusting that people like Texas Mentor do what they’re supposed to do,” Scot said. “But do they really have capacity to monitor those contracts? Probably not.”


In October 2012, the Smalls started taking in foster children. Over the next 10 months, they would house seven children, all between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years old.

Because Texas Mentor is refusing to release any details about its decision, it’s unclear what the company knew about the Smalls before licensing them.

Court records show that Sherill Small was accused of theft by passing a hot check in February 2012 for $41.81 at a Speedy Stop in Southeast Austin. A judge signed a warrant for her arrest in August 2012, two months before she was approved as a foster parent.

Small’s husband, Clemon, had at least four misdemeanor convictions, all of which had occurred more than a decade earlier. Two of them were for delivery of marijuana, two for driving with a suspended license.

Court records show that one of Sherill Small’s adult daughters, Tracy Forester, had an unresolved misdemeanor drug possession charge at the time the Smalls were approved for foster care.

A second daughter, Amber Forester, was convicted in 2002 of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery, according to court documents. Police said she and a man staged a robbery at a gas station where she worked, taking one of her co-workers hostage before letting her go and making off with cash, lottery tickets and money orders.

Forester pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison.


On July 29th, Sherill Small was upset that Alex woke up too early, and she made the toddler stand in time-out for two hours, Newlin said.

At 7:06 p.m., Sherill Small called 911 and said Alex wasn’t breathing, Newlin said. The child was flown to McLane Children’s Hospital at Scott & White in Temple, where she was put on life support. Doctors said the toddler had sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“I stood looking at her and knew in my heart she wasn’t going to make it,” Sweeney said.

On July 31, Alex’s parents took her off life support.

Small was arrested Aug. 1 after telling police that Alex’s injury was an accident that occurred while she was swinging the child over her head as they played, an affidavit says. The police say they charged her based on inconsistent details in her statement, interviews with family members and a medical examiner’s report that ruled Alex’s death a homicide.

A grand jury indicted Small on a capital murder charge last week, meaning Small could face life in prison or the death penalty if she is convicted.

“Texas Mentor should never have allowed her anywhere near that child,” Cirkiel said.

Since Alex’s death, Sweeney has created a little memorial to her daughter at home, a purple shelf decorated with Alex’s stuffed animals, pictures, sneakers and other personal items.

In the center of the display, in a box made of wood and stained glass, rest Alex’s ashes.


Andrea Ball has covered social services for the American-Statesman since 2002. Recently, her work prompted a federal investigation that concluded poor health care killed a patient at Terrell State Hospital. She has also reported about sluggish efforts to find affordable housing for homeless people and complaints about adult guardianship services in Texas.

As convicts, staff swelter, prison system buys ‘climate-controlled’ pig barns

As convicts, staff swelter, prison system buys ‘climate-controlled’ pig barns
Officials defend purchase for swine-breeding program; critics call $750,000 deal ‘outrageous.’


By Mike Ward - American-Statesman Staff

At a time when Texas convicts and guards complain they are sweltering in prisons without air conditioning, the prison system is getting six new pig barns with a “climate-controlled environment” to ensure the hogs don’t overheat.

Prison officials on Friday defended the construction of the modular pig barns that feature water misters and large fans that can reduce temperatures by 20 degrees or more. They also have heating in the winter.

Art’s Way Scientific, a Monona, Iowa-based firm that’s building the $750,000 worth of barns, touts them on its website as featuring “continuous air movement through controlled exhaust fans,” a ventilation system that continually circulates air with exhaust fans and systems in which “outside air is preheated in winter and cooled in the summer.”

Bryan Collier, deputy director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said the barns “are consistent with the industry standard for swine operations.”

“This isn’t air conditioning,” he said. “It’s a climate-controlled environment for our swine breeder operation.”

The agency uses convict labor to raise pigs for consumption inside prisons and for sale.

Asked about comparisons to the overheated conditions inside many of Texas’ 111 state prisons — corrections officers have complained that the heat regularly tops 120 degrees in some spots, even with fans — Collier said, “That’s ridiculous and outrageous. … You can’t compare the two.”

Scott Medlock, an Austin civil rights attorney who is suing the prison system over several heat-related deaths, and Lance Lowry, president of a Huntsville local of a union that represents correctional officers, disagreed.

“It is outrageous that TDCJ would prioritize the safety of pigs raised for slaughter over the lives of human beings,” said Medlock, with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “TDCJ has literally made the decision that protecting its bacon is more important than protecting human lives.”

Lowry called for Texas prisons to get the same “climate-controlled environment” as the hog barns.

“Right now, there’s just fans blowing around very hot air — if there’s fans at all,” he said. “There’s no misters. There’s no exhaust air systems. It’s incredibly hot and dangerous, especially when you consider the officers and inmates who are on heat-sensitive medication.

“There’s no constitutional right to air conditioning in prisons, but the state of Texas can certainly do better than it is right now,” he added.

Collier said the new barns are replacing older buildings that also had misters. They house breeding sows for a limited time while they deliver their piglets “and then they all go back outdoors.”

But while they’re there, the builder’s website notes, “air quality is key to a successful swine program. Excess heat or cold will cause stress and can impact health.”

In the past six years, sweltering heat in Texas prisons has been blamed for at least 14 deaths, and at least five lawsuits are pending against prison officials, including one involving the Aug. 3, 2012, death of drunken-driving offender Rodney Adams at the Gurney Unit near Palestine, in East Texas.

His body temperature was 109.9 when he was found. As in many of the other deaths, Adams was on psychotropic medications at the time of his death that made him more sensitive to heat, according to Medlock.

“Most inmate living areas in (Texas) prisons are not ‘climate controlled,’” Medlock said. “The indoor heat index can regularly reach 130 degrees – temperatures the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises are ‘extremely dangerous.’ TDCJ’s own policies recognize such extreme heat makes heat stroke ‘imminent.’”

Despite the complaints, prison officials have insisted the prisons are safe and are cooled as much as possible without air-conditioning them — a move that could cost tens of millions of dollars and would be sure to spur public debate.

Collier insisted there’s no correlation between the pig barns and prisons: “Those are two very different subjects. One is not related to the other.”

Different only in that Pigs run one and pigs are confined in the other.

Texas cops raid farm commune when mistaking tomato plants for marijuana

Texas cops raid farm commune when mistaking tomato plants for marijuana
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, August 14, 2013 10:32 EDT
Texas cops criticized for botched drug raid on 'Garden of Eden'


Police in Arlington, Texas are being criticized for their tactics during a drug raid on a local farm that came up empty while allegedly damaging both the property and the crops.

“They can’t even tell the difference between tomato plants and a marijuana drug cartel,” farm resident Quinn Eaker told KXAS-TV. “That’s just really bad intel.”

Eaker said to KXAS that he and several residents at the “Garden of Eden” sustainability garden were handcuffed at gunpoint by officers during the Aug. 2 raid, which also involved a SWAT team, after an undercover officer and helicopter surveillance allegedly gave authorities probable cause to believe there was marijuana being grown on the premises.

“They came here under the guise that we were doing a drug trafficking, marijuana-growing operation,” owner Shellie Smith told WFAA-TV. “They destroyed everything.”

The Dallas Morning News reported that the farm’s account of the raid, which accuses police of destroying plants and removing needed materials from the farm, has spread online, while police counter that they conducted themselves professionally during the action.

“Yes, they were initially handcuffed,” police spokesperson Christopher Cook told the Morning News. “However, once it was determined it was secure they were taken out of handcuffs. Typically we wouldn’t do that, but they were compliant.”


Bright Explosion on the Moon

Bright Explosion on the Moon
May 18, 2013

NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for meteoroid impacts have detected the brightest explosion in the history of their program.

credit: NASA


Pretty darn cool.

Nuclear Weapons Plant To Be Home To Largest Federally Funded Wind Farm

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — America’s only plant for disassembling and assembling nuclear weapons will soon be home to the largest federally owned wind farm.

Ground will be broken Tuesday for a wind farm that will have five turbines located on 1,500 acres east of the Pantex Plant, about 18 miles northeast of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle.

A news release from the plant says the turbines will generate about 47 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, or enough to power nearly 3,500 homes, and supply more than 60 percent of the plant’s yearly electricity need.

The wind farm will help the plant achieve President Barack Obama’s directive that the federal government get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The project is expected to be completed by July 2014.

Teacher Accused Of Calling Students ‘N’ Word On First Day Of School

Source: CBS Houston

DONALDSONVILLE, La. (CBS Houston) — A teacher is accused of calling students the “N” word during class on the first day of school.

CBS affiliate WAFB-TV reports that Lois Polite, a social studies teacher at Lowery Middle School in Donaldsonville, La., is under investigation by the Ascension Parish School System after a parent of a student filed a complaint.

“My son came home very upset,” Shemika Landry told WAFB-TV. “She frequently called the kids the ‘N’ word in the classroom, belittling them, calling them stupid.”

Landry claims that the teacher threatened the students if they complained.

“She told them they can call their ‘maw’ and sent them to the school with their booty shorts on and their high heels but it wasn’t going to change anything because she was the only social studies teacher there and they needed her,” Landry told WAFB.

The school system, who is allowing Polite to continue to teach during the investigation, offered an apology.

“e can’t say a whole lot about the allegations other than we received a complaint and we did an investigation internally and we are handling it as a personnel issue,” Johnnie Balfantz, spokesman for the Ascension Parish School System, told WAFB.

Landry believes Polite should be fired.

“She should be terminated,” Landry said. “If I would go on my job and use that type of language I would be immediately terminated.”

Balfantz says that Polite is currently the only social studies teacher at the school but that substitutes are being lined up in case the teacher is suspended or fired.

Read more: http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/08/12/teacher-accused-of-calling-students-n-word-on-first-day-of-school/

Hey, racism is dead, right? She was just teaching them 'bout them good ol' days.

Awesomely TimedPhotos


How much water goes into your latte?


I don't want to waste water, but I want caffeine. Lots of caffeine. Lots.

Can You Pass This 8th Grade Exam From 1912?


A museum in Kentucky has unearthed a rare find: an 8th grade exam given to students 100 years ago.

"For us, this is just fascinating," David Lee Strange, a volunteer at the Bullitt County History Museum, told ABC News. "It puts us in the mindset of 1912."

The exam spans eight subjects: spelling, reading, arithmetic, grammar, geography, physiology, civil government and history.

"Some people say that the questions are trivial, but the questions relate to what the children at the time would have been familiar with," Strange said.

For example, there's a geography query: "Locate the following countries which border each other: Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania."

An 8th grader today may have trouble with that one but "the students back then would have to be familiar with that part of the world," according to Strange.

Strange explained, "1912 was right around the corner from what would become World War I. Eighteen students in Bullitt County would go on to die in that war."

The exam also asks students to define the cerebrum and cerebellum, differentiate between copyright and patent rights, and define each part of speech in the English language.

Think you have what it takes to pass the 8th grade? Take a shot at these final exam questions:

How long of a rope is required to reach from the top of a building 40 feet high to the ground 30 feet from the base of a building?

What is a personal pronoun?

Through which waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal to Manila?

Compare arteries and veins as to function. Where is the blood carried to be purified?

During which wars were the following battles fought: Brandywine, Great Meadows, Lundy's Lane, Antietam, Buena Vista?

Sketch briefly Sir Walter Raleigh, Peter Stuyvesant.

Answers to the exam can be found on the Bullitt County History Museum's website.


US judge orders NYPD stop-and-frisk monitor

Source: Yahoo News

Associated Press
COLLEEN LONG 11 minutes ago

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge has appointed an independent monitor to oversee changes to the New York Police Department's contentious stop-and-frisk policy.

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled Monday in the case of four men who say New York City police unfairly targeted them because of their race. There have been about 5 million stops during the past decade, mostly of black and Hispanic men.

Scheindlin ruled after a 10-week bench trial that included testimony from top NYPD brass and a dozen people who said they were wrongly stopped by police.

City lawyers argued the department does a good job policing itself with an internal affairs bureau, a civilian complaint board and quality assurance divisions.

Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/us-judge-orders-nypd-stop-frisk-monitor-133351273.html
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