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TexasTowelie

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Gender: Male
Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
Home country: United States
Current location: Bryan, Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 78,425

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Tuition vouchers program puts kids in private schools, some costs on taxpayers dime

Louisiana spent more than $40 million this year on private school tuition vouchers for low-income children, yet still turned away 4,000 applicants.

Despite the demand — and the fact that vouchers are a policy priority for Gov. Bobby Jindal — the program isn’t expected to grow for the next school year.

In response, the state Department of Education is quietly switching gears to expand another small program that helps poor children attend private schools.

That means working with nonprofits this spring and summer to recruit private donors — whether individuals or businesses — to pay for tuition under a rebate program created by the Legislature in 2012.

Read more: http://theadvocate.com/news/12363765-123/rebate-program-puts-kids-in

Rain could spell trouble for Conroe dam

Heavy showers and thunderstorms are expected to roll through the Houston area early Sunday morning, prompting a flash flood watch for the southeast part of the state that is expected to last through Memorial Day weekend.

Moving in from the west, the storms are likely in the area anytime early Sunday morning with a second system lasting through Monday. Forecasters predict the region could see anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rain through Monday, with some areas potentially experiencing up to 10 inches.

"The problem is that if the rain occurs in the same areas, that's where the greatest risk for flash flooding is going to be," said Josh Lichter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "Right now, we're not certain where that's going to be."

The storms could be particularly problematic for crews working to make repairs on parts of a Montgomery County dam damaged by heavy rain. While it continues to hold with no seepage or breaches, persistent heavy rains caused the soil on the Lewis Creek Dam near Lake Conroe to become saturated to the point of sloughing off, Montgomery County officials said.

The continued rainfall is the greatest threat to completing repairs to the dam on Lewis Creek near Lake Conroe, officials said.

Read more: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Rain-could-spell-trouble-for-Conroe-dam-6283460.php

U.S. State Department issues travel warning to Phillipines

Note to forum hosts: The four paragraph limit does not apply since this is not copyright material.

May 20, 2015

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago, certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao, and the southern Sulu Sea area. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated November 20, 2014, and reflects continuing threats in those areas due to terrorist and insurgent activities.

U.S. citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there.

Based on a history of kidnappings and attempted kidnappings of foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago, U.S. citizens should continue to exercise extreme caution if considering travel in the southern Sulu Sea region from the southern tip of Palawan, along the coast of Sabah, Malaysia and the islands of the Sulu Archipelago, up to Zamboanga City, Mindanao.

U.S. citizens should also continue to exercise extreme caution if traveling to certain regions and cities of the island of Mindanao. Separatist and terrorist groups continue to conduct bombings, kidnappings and attacks against civilians, political leaders, and Philippine security forces. In particular, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) remain active in the Cotabato City area, and in the Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat provinces, where the government maintains a state of emergency and a greater police presence. There have been no recent reported terrorist threats or incidents within the Davao City or Surigao city limits. There have been no reports of U.S. citizens in Mindanao targeted specifically for their nationality; however, general threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners throughout Mindanao remain a concern.

Although U.S. government officials in the Philippines travel to Mindanao for official business without incident, the Embassy has imposed a strict restriction on all but the most essential travel to the area, and Embassy employees must receive special authorization from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Regularly monitor the State Department's website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for the Philippines. For additional information, refer to the Traveler's Checklist on the State Department’s website.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.

The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at ACSinfoManila@state.gov. The ACS Section's website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the U.S. citizen community in the Philippines.

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings/philippines-travel-warning.html

Tea Party Thought Leaders Lament Once-Promising Session

The 2014 election cycle was the most rousing success the conservative wing of the Republican party has ever had in Texas, and the 84th Legislature is that election’s child. How do the people who made that victory happen feel about their session?

They are not pleased:

As sine die approaches, we recall the hours spent knocking on doors and making calls for candidates who promised government reforms that would make Texas a national leader in limited government and a true champion of liberty.

We remember every single rhetorical flourish that promised Texas would have a secure border, restored Second Amendment Rights, a ban on sanctuary cities, lasting property tax relief, an end to the franchise tax, an end to tolling, protections for life and traditional Texas values, and educational freedom through school choice. It’s beginning to look as if some of those campaign promises are “all hat and no cattle.”

With the condition our country is in, we’re in no mood for any stalling, slow walking, or backtracking from Texas leaders. We need Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick to make good on their campaign promises.


That’s from a letter signed by some 28 members of state’s tea party cognoscenti, to the extent such a thing exists. Several of them serve on the lite guv’s Grassroots Advisory Board—those are the guys who called Abbott’s pre-K plan, now passed by both chambers, “godless” and “socialistic.”

They charge that Abbott, Patrick and Straus are on the cusp of “failure,” and the session has been a waste. These people have always loathed Straus, and Abbott was never really one of them, though some of the signers here have been slow to realize that. But it’s significant that Patrick is being charged with crimes against the revolution here too. After all, some of these people have been empanelled as his “advisors.”

Read more: http://www.texasobserver.org/tea-party-thought-leaders-lament-once-promising-session/

Nigerian airlines cancel flights amid fuel crisis

Source: AP

Nigerian airlines have grounded flights and radio stations were silenced as a months-long fuel shortage aggravated by striking oil tanker drivers worsened in Africa's biggest oil producer.

Vehicles also were grounded. Normally bustling roads in Lagos, a metropolis of 20 million, were half-empty and gas stations closed on Saturday.

One station owner said he had fuel but strikers are threatening to set fire to any stations selling it. He insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Police were arresting black marketers selling fuel at roadsides at four times the regulated 87 naira (40 dollar cents) a liter.

Read more: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/nigerian-airlines-cancel-flights-fuel-crisis-150523230344294.html

Senate Approves State Employee Pension Funding Plan (Texas)

The Texas Senate on Friday voted to beef up the state’s underfunded retirement system for state employees by adding about $440 million to the program.

The Employees Retirement System pension fund is about $7 billion short — it holds 76 cents for every dollar it promises to state retirees. The Senate approved House Bill 9 by Dan Flynn, chairman of the House Pensions Committee, which targets the shortfall by raising state employee contributions to the fund to 9.5 percent of their payroll by 2017 — a 2 percent increase. The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Joan Huffman, R-Houston.

HB 9 passed the House last month. If the lower chamber approves minor changes added in the Senate, the measure will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The retirement system benefits about 230,000 active and retired state employees, elected officials, police officers and judges. Flynn’s measure has received mixed reviews from state employee advocacy groups.

“It’s not nearly enough,” Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, told The Texas Tribune in March. “State employees can’t afford to work for the state anymore.”

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/22/senate-approves-state-employee-pensions-funding-pl/

Cross-posted in the Texas Group.

Senate Approves State Employee Pension Funding Plan

The Texas Senate on Friday voted to beef up the state’s underfunded retirement system for state employees by adding about $440 million to the program.

The Employees Retirement System pension fund is about $7 billion short — it holds 76 cents for every dollar it promises to state retirees. The Senate approved House Bill 9 by Dan Flynn, chairman of the House Pensions Committee, which targets the shortfall by raising state employee contributions to the fund to 9.5 percent of their payroll by 2017 — a 2 percent increase. The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Joan Huffman, R-Houston.

HB 9 passed the House last month. If the lower chamber approves minor changes added in the Senate, the measure will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The retirement system benefits about 230,000 active and retired state employees, elected officials, police officers and judges. Flynn’s measure has received mixed reviews from state employee advocacy groups.

“It’s not nearly enough,” Seth Hutchinson, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, told The Texas Tribune in March. “State employees can’t afford to work for the state anymore.”

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/22/senate-approves-state-employee-pensions-funding-pl/

Cross-posted in the Labor Movement Group.

Suffer the Children--New target for anti-abortion Lege

Jane's parents ran an East Dallas meth ring. The dangerous environment and prospect of being sold into sex work by her negligent parents prompted 16-year-old Jane, who soon became pregnant, to escape and find refuge at her boyfriend's house. Shuffled from high school to high school (and in and out of Child Protective Ser­vices), Jane managed to earn strong grades and hoped to go to college – and knew she wasn't ready to be a parent. Without dependable parents of her own, she turned to a legal process known as "judicial bypass" – an order from a judge, without parental involvement – to permit an abortion and enable an independent future.

Abandonment, neglect, death, or domestic violence underlie many of the roughly 200 annual Texas judicial bypass cases, and Jane's experience represents about a third of those accepted by Jane's Due Process, an organization that assists minor girls in acquiring a judicial bypass. "So, mom's dead, dad's in prison – legally no one can consent to her abortion. Maybe she never knew her parents, or they are abusive and she faces a threat," said Susan Hays, legal director of Jane's Due Process. "The point of bypass is to make sure she's safe."

Nevertheless, anti-abortion Texas lawmakers are determined to chip away at this safety net for minors. Having largely dismantled the health care system for women through sustained attacks on reproductive rights, anti-choice Republicans have found a new, especially vulnerable target.

Last week, House Bill 3994 by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, secured final House approval following nearly four hours of floor debate. The omnibus legislation – a wish list for anti-choice activists hoping to eradicate abortion – was made even more restrictive with the addition of a late-hour amendment from Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth. And having cleared a vote by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Tuesday, the bill, sponsored in the upper chamber by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, moves to the full Senate as of press time.

Read more: http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2015-05-22/suffer-the-children/

Anti-Sharia Bill Dead, but Sentiment Alive

The 84th session of the Texas Legislature, which wraps up at the end of this month, has not lacked for anti-Muslim sentiment. Anti-Sharia law House Bill 562, filed by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, passed out of committee in April (but didn't see a House floor vote), while Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, generated national headlines in January for her unwelcoming attitude toward Muslim visitors at the Capitol (see "Rep. Molly White Not Quite Sure Who's an American," Jan. 29).

White's notorious Facebook post – instructing her staff to "ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws" – was in response to Texas Muslim Capitol Day, which had been organized by Texan Muslims and their allies to educate legislators about Islam.

White is not alone among public officials in using social media to inveigh against Muslims. Reacting to what had been described by media as "the first Sharia tribunal in Texas and the U.S.," Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne wrote on Facebook, "Sharia Law Court was NOT approved or enacted by the City of Irving. Recently, there have been rumors suggesting that the City of Irving has somehow condoned, approved or enacted the implementation of a Sharia Law Court in our City ... I will not stand idle and will fight with every fiber of my being against this action. Our nation cannot be so overly sensitive in defending other cultures that we stop protecting our own. The American Constitution and our guaranteed rights reign supreme in our nation and may that ever be the case."

The Sharia tribunal in Irving is led by four imams who use Sharia to mediate disputes in family and business matters. "The misconception about what they see through the media is that Sharia means cut the head, chop the heads, cut the hands – and we are not doing that," Tribunal Judge Imam Moujahed Bakhach said. "We are not here to invade the White House or invade Austin," CBS 11 News reported.

Read more: http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2015-05-22/anti-sharia-bill-dead-but-sentiment-alive/

McLennan County seeks help with shortage of attorneys in Twin Peaks case

McLennan County officials have reached out to other communities after an influx of more than 170 inmates from Sunday’s deadly shooting at Twin Peaks left the county without enough attorneys to represent those jailed.

Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court said McLennan County has 29 attorneys who are approved to handle first-degree felony cases for those who cannot afford lawyers.

He said so far 75 to 80 suspects in the Twin Peaks shooting have filled out financial affidavits to request indigent defense. Johnson noted that number may go up or down based on how many more apply and how many are approved for indigent defense.

Johnson said he has requested appointment lists for attorneys who handle first-degree felonies from surrounding communities, including Bell, Williamson, Travis, Dallas, Hill, Coryell, Limestone and Johnson counties. He said he has never needed to request this kind of assistance before.

Read more: http://www.wacotrib.com/news/twin-peaks-biker-shooting/county-seeks-help-with-shortage-of-attorneys-in-twin-peaks/article_81c1eb45-5518-5af6-87fb-c1308420dec5.html
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