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From The Houston Chronicle

Let it never be said that Texas A&M students and alumni don’t get to see the world.

A Houston man on honeymoon with his wife recently discovered some Aggie-friendly etchings at Rome’s Colosseum.

Eric Cohn and his new bride had been in Europe for weeks celebrating their new marriage when they visited the ancient Roman ruins and saw a piece of home, etched on a support column near the exit.

A visitor had carved the Texas A&M logo into the stone.

It’s obviously not the first time that someone has carved something onto the structure to show that they were there. Back in 2015 two American women in their ’20s were actually arrested for carving their initials into a wall outside the Colosseum.

Relax, they were from California.

About a year before this incident authorities in Rome fined a Russian visitor nearly $24,000 for doing the same thing. He was one of five tourists accused of carving things into the structure, which began construction back in 70 A.D.

People from all over the world seem to have a penchant for making their mark on the timeless structure from just after the time of Christ.

Cohn sent along three photos of the etchings to the Houston Chronicle. Upon closer inspection you can also see what looks to be “TSU” carved into the support column. To be fair, that could either be Texas Southern University or Tennessee State University, or any number of things.

Our traveling Texan reminds us that he went to the University of Oklahoma.

The Colosseum, a World Heritage Site, could hold an estimated 50,000 people when constructed 80 years after the birth of Jesus Christ.

Gladiator fights, wild animal fights and other public shows packed the venue. It’s been reduced greatly due to centuries of earthquakes, scavenging and lightning strikes.

At one point it was even a quarry site.

1466706441738From Fox news

A Houston VA hospital altered records to hide lengthy patient waiting lists even as a national scandal regarding treatment of veterans was unfolding, a federal watchdog charged in a scathing report released this week.

Officials at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and its associated clinics altered records to make it appear that hundreds of appointments canceled by staff were really called off by patients, according to the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

The federal audit determined the changes were made to hide unacceptable wait times as VA hospitals around the country were under fire for neglecting patients.

“As a result, VHA’s recorded wait times did not reflect the actual wait experienced by the veterans and the wait time remained unreliable and understated,” the report noted.

The center has an annual budge of $912 million and cares for more than 109,000 veterans. (HoustonVA.gov)

The audit was performed after the IG received an anonymous tip saying officials instructed staff to incorrectly record cancellations. Records showed 223 appointments were incorrectly recorded as patient cancellations between July 2014 and June 2015.

The report did not point the finger at the facility’s top leadership. It determined that two previous scheduling supervisors and a current director of two affiliated clinics “instructed staff to incorrectly record cancellations as canceled by the patient.”

Of the 223 cancellations, 94 appointments were put off an average of 81 days. But because the cancellations were improperly attributed to patients, no delays or backlog was evident in the center’s electronic scheduling system, according to the review.

Most damning about the report is that the improper behavior followed a stunning national review that revealed widespread corruption at VA facilities across the nation — from rejected medical claims to delays in treatment and cover-ups by high-level officials. In May 2014, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned from office amid the fallout from the controversy.

“These issues have continued despite the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) having identified similar issues during a May and June 2014 system-wide review of access,” the report stated. “These conditions persisted because of a lack of effective training and oversight.”

Officials at the center took issue with the findings in a statement to FoxNews.com Thursday.

“The … report did not substantiate any case of Houston VA Medical Center senior leaders intentionally manipulating scheduling data,” said Maureen Dyman, the center’s communications director.

Supervisers and staff have undergone extensive training in scheduling practices in the last two years, Dyman said. Supervisors now conduct monthly audits of appointments scheduled, and officials at the center regularly meet with schedulers to make sure their practices are properly understood, she added.

David Maulsby, executive director of the Houston-based group, PTSD Foundation of America, told FoxNews.com that his organization maintains strong relationships with a number of people within the Houston-area VA, like social workers. But, Maulsby noted, the latest government audit reflects a system that is “clearly still broken.”

“We have seen on many occasions these types of things happening — appointments getting lost or wait times extended for very important things,” Maulsby said. “Until Congress is willing to give the ability to fire the people who need to be fired, this will perpetually be the problem.”

“The greater problem is that our veterans, who have already borne the cost of war, are now required to bear the cost of not receiving the care they deserve,” he said.

VIA | Scientists were surprised to discover a rare eyeless catfish species in Texas, heretofore only known to exist in Mexico.

A pair of the unusual pink fish were collected inside a “deep limestone cave at Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, Texas” by a team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, Zara Environmental LLC, and Texas Parks and Wildlife in May.

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They were moved to a “special facility designed to accommodate cave and aquifer species” at the San Antonio Zoo .

Dean Hendrickson, curator of UT Austin’s ichthyology department, determined the animal was the elusive Mexican Blindcat.

“Since the 1960s there have been rumors of sightings of blind, white catfishes in that area, but this is the first confirmation,” Hendrickson said in a press release. “I’ve seen more of these things than anybody, and these specimens look just like the ones from Mexico.”

Continue reading here

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VIA | MCKINNEY, Texas — A grand jury decided Thursday not to indict a former Texas police officer who was seen on video throwing a bikini-clad teenage girl to the ground and pointing his gun at others at a pool party last summer.

The decision not to charge Eric Casebolt ends the investigation into his handling of the pool party melee, CBS Dallas/Fort Worth station KTVT reported.

Casebolt, who is white, was widely criticized for his treatment of the young, black teenager, with teens and parents saying he was overzealous and too aggressive. The incident was captured on cellphone video.

He pushed the girl to the ground following a party last June at a community pool in suburban Dallas that drew a crowd of teenagers. Officers responded to the pool after neighbors complained about the gathering.

Continue reading here

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VIA |

OVER the past few months, the Brexit vote has inspired passionate global debate.

From politicians across the globe to high-profile celebrities and internet trolls, everybody has something to say about whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union.

But on the other side of the world, one surprising movement has expressed a strong interest in the Brexit vote.

This growing group is on a mission for independence, and says it’s not going to stop until its right to that is recognised and enforced.

No, we’re not talking about Britain, or anywhere else in Europe. Head straight across the Atlantic Ocean — until you reach southern America.

IS ‘TEXIT’ THE NEW ‘BREXIT’?

Welcome to the Texas Nationalist Movement. Its motto is “Texas First, Texas Forever”, and its ultimate goal is self-government.

Basically, its members want to politically, culturally and economically separate themselves from the rest of America. Recently, they’ve even called the movement ‘Texit’, in honour of the EU referendum.

The group is building a support network, hoping to get enough numbers to eventually make this dream a reality. They claim to have more than 260,000 members, which would make it the largest single group pushing for the Texas independence.

 

Cowboys in The Big Bend, 1916, by W.D. Smithers

Cowboys in The Big Bend, 1916, by W.D. Smithers

On June 24th, 1981, photographer W. D. Smithers died in Albuquerque at the age of eighty-five.

Smithers was born in Mexico, where his father was the bookkeeper for an American mining company. The family moved to San Antonio in 1905. Smithers dropped out of high school and learned photography through a volunteer apprenticeship at a local studio.

In the course of his career, most of which he spent in West Texas, Smithers took more than 9,000 photographs of a wide range of subjects, including such notables as Katherine Stinson, Pancho Villa, and Will Rogers; mining in Terlingua; border skirmishes between the United States cavalry and Mexican raiders; the attempts of the Texas Rangers to control smuggling; and the wildlife and landscape of the Big Bend. 9780876112618

His best work documents Mexican-American culture in the Big Bend region.

Smithers viewed his camera not as a creative tool, but as an instrument to document the events he witnessed and the people he met.

He summarized his goals as a photographer in his 1976 autobiography, Chronicles of the Big Bend: A Photographic Memoir of Life on the Border.

Most of his original negatives and prints are in the Photography Collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

b01c1f969bdfc5ba1ed167a059a1282f_MAUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – There’s a new Texas license plate that remembers the Alamo.

With each $30 plate sold, $22 will go directly to the Alamo to pay for preservation efforts and historical educational programs according to the Texas General Land Office.

“The creation of this new license plate coincides with a new and exciting chapter in the Alamo’s history as we continue to make great strides in the historic master plan process,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said. “Not only will this license plate enable Texans across the state to show their pride for the Alamo, the Shrine of Texas Liberty, but it will also provide valuable funds for continuing preservation work and valuable educational resources so that we can continue to teach visitors about the historic events that occurred on this sacred site.”

“There are a lot of folks who take pride in Texas’ heritage, and the Alamo is the cradle of Texas independence,” said Rep. Lyle Larson who created the design for the plate. “This will give folks the opportunity to embrace that concept when they purchase their license plates and support the restoration of the Alamo for future generations.”

The license plate was designed by the Texas General Land Office in coordination with Representative Lyle Larson and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

by Julián Aguilar and Madlin Mekelburg , The Texas Tribune

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court hears oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA.

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court heard oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA.

Dealing a major blow to President Obama’s controversial executive immigration order, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Thursday it had deadlocked on a lower court’s decision to block the plan, which would’ve provided relief from deportation and work permits to millions of people.

The program was blocked in February 2015 by a Brownsville-based federal judge, Andrew Hanen, days before it was scheduled to begin. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction in November.

In a one-sentence opinion on the 4-4 split, the Supreme Court declared the 5th Circuit’s “judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.”

“By going around Congress to grant legal status to millions of people here illegally, the president abused the power of his office and ignored the will of the American people,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said in a statement. “The president can’t circumvent the legislative process simply because he doesn’t get what he wants, and I’m glad the rule of law was affirmed.”

The case now returns to Hanen’s district court, where litigation on the merits of the plan could continue.

“The government can request rehearing [from the Supreme Court], but otherwise the case will now go back to the district court for further proceedings,” Kayleigh Lovvorn, spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general’s office, said in a statement. “We will now seek a permanent injunction.”

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, called the ruling “a setback,” but said it’s “not the end of the road for these much-needed programs or for the millions of people eligible for them.”

“I am confident that this case will come before the Supreme Court again,” he added.

Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was announced in November 2014 and could have granted deportation relief to more than 4 million people living in the country illegally — including more than 1 million undocumented immigrants in Texas. The program would also have allowed the immigrants to apply for renewable work permits if they have lived in the country for more than five years, pass background checks and pay fines.

As of 2015, about 533,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas — roughly 40 percent of the state’s undocumented-immigrant population — had children legally in the country, according to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute.

About 1.17 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas have been in the country for at least five years, including about 222,000 who have lived here for more than 20 years.

Texas and 16 other states initially sued the Obama administration in early December 2014 after the executive action was announced; eight others eventually signed on. Hanen’s decision was upheld twice by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.”

In arguments before the Supreme Court in April, attorneys for the state of Texas accused the president of circumventing Congress with the unilateral action on immigration. They added in court documents that the state would be “irreparably harmed” by having to pay to process driver’s licenses for the applicants and give them benefits.

But the Obama administration countered by saying Texas does not have standing to sue the government and that the president isn’t granting people in the country illegally a free pass. Instead, he’s telling immigration agents to use their limited resources to deport criminals and felons, while simultaneously allowing immigrants deemed low-priority to work and stay with their families.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post

maincampus_heroThe Supreme Court on Thursday said University of Texas admission officials may consider the race of student applicants in a limited way to build a diverse student body.

The 4-to-3 decision was a surprising win for advocates of affirmative action, who say the benefits of diversity at the nation’s colleges and universities are worth the intrusion on the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection that generally forbids the government from making decisions based on racial classifications.

“The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach” others about how to achieve diversity, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

Kennedy had never before voted to uphold a race-conscious plan, but he also had been reluctant to say race may never be used. He was joined by three of the courts liberal justices: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a 51-page dissent and summarized it by saying the majority’s conclusion is “remarkable — and remarkably wrong.” Alito was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas.

The specific case was brought in 2008 by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the university. Her suit was organized and funded by a conservative legal organization that opposes racial preferences in government and brought the challenge that resulted in the justices striking a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to the Univ. of Texas can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action,” Fisher said in a statement.

Edward Blum, president of the Project on Fair Representation, which supports Fisher, said: “Racial classifications and preferences are one of the most polarizing policies in America today. As long as universities like the Univ. of Texas continue to treat applicants differently by race and ethnicity, the social fabric that holds us together as a nation will be weakened. Today’s decision is a sad step backward for the original, colorblind principles to our civil rights laws.”

The University of Texas has a unique admissions system. The top students in each Texas high school are guaranteed admission to the flagship campus in Austin. Because many high schools are made up overwhelmingly of Hispanic or African American students, that assures a certain amount of diversity in the freshman class.

But university administrators said it was important to be able to at least consider race in admitting the rest of the freshman class to ensure the kind of diversity that they said was crucial to creating a learning environment that would benefit all students.

Several states — including large ones such as California, Florida and Michigan — already forbid the use of race in admitting students to their universities.

A Texas man is clinging to life after getting a flesh-eating infection while swimming at the beach with his grandchildren, family said.
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