Tag Archives: texas

Shenanigans Trump Politics In Texas Redistricting Fight

17 Aug

Supreme Court Steps In to Review Texas RedistrictingFive districts here, five districts over there – what does it matter?

Lawmakers made relatively small changes to the House maps that were used in the 2012 elections, but left the Senate and congressional maps just as they were. If the courts go along, that would mean incumbents seeking re-election would run next year in the same or essentially the same districts that elected them last year.

It has been a long, detailed and contentious process, and it is probably far from over. The short form of our story so far:

The 2010 census resulted in shifts in the distribution of congressional seats from states that lost population to states that grew. Texas gained four seats, for a total of 36.

Minority groups noted the state’s growth was fueled by their populations; 89 percent of the population growth in Texas from 2000 to 2010 came in minority groups, and 66 percent was in the Hispanic population.

The 2011 Legislature, with a Republican supermajority in the House and a near supermajority in the Senate, drew new maps for congressional and legislative elections that were immediately challenged by minority and Democratic plaintiffs as unrepresentative of the state’s population. Their cases were consolidated and sent to a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio.

At the same time, the state asked a different panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., to pre-clear the maps — a requirement under the federal Voting Rights Act.

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The West Texas Bomb

20 Apr

Hellscape At West, TexasYesterday, Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman reported, that OSHA hadn’t inspected the West, Texas fertilizer plant that exploded on the 17th since 2006. Casualty counts are disputed, but the Texas Department of Public Safety has confirmed it has recovered 14 bodies in the remains of the plant. Members of the local firefighting company were also killed fighting the conflagration, perhaps two that have been confirmed. According to The Guardian, in 2006, EPA fined the plant, but OSHA had not inspected the plant since 1985.

Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), assisted by the US Chemical Safety Board, have begun their inquiry into the cause of the blast, which sent a fireball almost 100 metres into the air and left a giant crater where the plant had once been. The inquiry could take six months, an ATF spokeswoman said. Investigators will focus on which chemicals were stored at the plant. The West Fertilizer Company was licensed for 54,000lbs of anhydrous ammonia, a liquid nitrogen agricultural fertilizer that is stored in large reinforced steel tanks.

Officials at first suggested the explosion was caused by the anhydrous ammonia igniting, but it was revealed Thursday through Texas state records that the plant also possessed 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, a much more volatile, dry solid, at the end of 2012. Records also suggested that in 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a $2,300 fine for deficiencies in the plant’s risk management plan.

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Reconsider GM Crops And Anti-Reg

19 Apr

West, Texas Fertilizer Plant ExplosionIn the aftermath of the explosion at a fertilizer plant in “West-Comma-Texas”, life resumes.

On Thursday, the catastrophic impact of Wednesday’s explosion at West’s fertilizer plant was not easily visible from most parts of town. Police had shut roads, to prevent anyone getting within half a mile of the blast site. On an overcast, cold and windy day, there was no sign of a massive smoke cloud mushrooming into the sky, as there was the night before; no flames raging far into the air and turning the twilight from dull gray to hellish hues of orange, red and yellow.

Instead, American Red Cross and news media vehicles cruised the streets among the usual steady stream of pick-up trucks. Around a quarter of the stores bore the scars of disaster, their windows boarded up, many closed. The crunch beneath your shoes was the shattered glass that lined the sidewalks. When the wind blew a certain way, the acrid air scraped the back of your throat.

Criss-crossed by three rail tracks, West exudes the kind of decrepit frontier charm typical in small Texas towns that have a little history. Half the businesses in West seem to nod towards to the place’s past as a haven for Czech settlers. Westfest, a Czech festival, is held each Labor Day weekend; the town claims to be the “Czech heritage capital of Texas” and even, referring to a kind of pastry, “home of the official Kolache of the Texas legislature”. The town’s affectionate nickname came about to avoid geographical confusion – when spoken, no-one ever heard the comma in West, Texas.

The U.S. Geological Survey are calling the explosion the equivalent of 2.1 magnitude earthquake! Some of the photographs of the remains of the fertilizer plant look like something out of a post-nuclear apocalypse. Ironically, ammonium nitrate is a “safe” way to make fertilizer – but was it ammonium nitrate or anhydrous ammonia in that deathtrap? All this for what – artificial excrement? Can we grow food without needing an artificial substance that explodes? I’m much more afraid of earthquakes and explosions than I am of Monsanto. Ask yourself:

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