You can’t make this stuff up. It’s too bizarre and too Texas!

 Judge George Gallagher listens during a criminal trial in Fort Worth in 2014. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram/AP)

Judge George Gallagher listens during a criminal trial in Fort Worth in 2014. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram/AP)

From Meagan Flynn at The Washington Post:  

‘Barbarism’: Texas judge ordered electric shocks to silence man on trial. Conviction thrown out.

"In Tarrant County, Tex., defendants are sometimes strapped with a stun belt around their legs. The devices are used to deliver a shock in the event the person gets violent or attempts to escape.

But in the case of Terry Lee Morris, the device was used as punishment for refusing to answer a judge’s questions properly during his 2016 trial on charges of soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl, according to an appeals court. In fact, the judge shocked Morris three times, sending thousands of volts coursing through his body. It scared him so much that Morris never returned for the remainder of his trial and almost all of his sentencing hearing.

The action stunned the Texas Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso, too. It has now thrown out Morris’s conviction on the grounds that the shocks ordered by State District Judge George Gallagher, and Morris’s subsequent removal from the courtroom, violated his constitutional rights. Since he was too scared to come back to the courtroom, the court held that the shocks effectively barred him from attending his own trial, in violation of the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a defendant’s right to be present and confront witnesses during a trial." Continue reading

‘I’m constantly asking: Why?’ When mass shootings end, the painful wait for answers begins.

 Image thanks to the LA Times

Image thanks to the LA Times

Article from William Wan and Mark Berman at The Washington Post:

Long after the sirens, vigils and cable news debates, the question remains.

It nags at survivors and their families. It haunts investigators as they comb through the gunman’s belongings, text messages and the scattered pieces of his life.

Even as our attention as a society fades, the mystery of motive lingers like an open, forgotten wound until the next shooting, the next cycle of grief, outrage and desperate search for answers. 

In Parkland, Fla., investigators have an unusual opportunity to answer that question after a high school massacre left 17 dead, because the suspected shooter remains alive — a rarity in these kinds of mass shootings.

This week, prosecutors said they would seek a death sentence for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, saying the rampage “was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner.”

In coming months, Cruz — who police say confessed to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — will be scrutinized in granular detail by detectives, lawyers and forensic psychiatrists. All of them will try to answer some form of this question: Why? Continue reading


Important Facts You Need to Know About Existing Walls and Fences Along Our Border

 Stretches of secondary fencing are topped with spirals of concertina wire along the U.S.-Mexico border between the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, in San Diego on Aug. 16, 2017. Border Patrol agents use the frontage road between this and primary fencing to patrol for immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.  (Brandon Quester/inewsource)

Stretches of secondary fencing are topped with spirals of concertina wire along the U.S.-Mexico border between the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry, in San Diego on Aug. 16, 2017. Border Patrol agents use the frontage road between this and primary fencing to patrol for immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)

From independent nonprofit news source, and written by Brandon Quester:

"KPBS and inewsource partnered last year to do an in-depth look at the U.S.-Mexico border wall that already exists from California to Texas. We wanted to provide context for President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build out and fortify the fencing that separates the two nations.

Since Trump will be in San Diego Tuesday to look at the wall prototypes his administration paid contractors $20 million to build in Otay Mesa, we wanted to share what we uncovered about the current wall.

Using previously undisclosed data from the federal government, we were able to build a map that shows every piece of fencing along the border and when it was constructed. We layered that data with illegal immigration patterns over several decades and enforcement initiatives under previous presidents."  Continue reading

A new super PAC is already working to protect Republicans’ hold on Texas

 Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman

Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman

From Patrick Svitek at The Texas Tribune:  "The leader of #ProjectRedTX is a former Gov. Greg Abbott campaign manager who has been involved in GOP politics through three previous redistricting cycles. The PAC has already raised $500,000 — from a single donor." Continue reading

March Forum: Law Enforcement in El Paso: The Use of Lethal Force by the Police

Join us on Sunday, March 25 at 2:30 in the El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon.

Enrique Moreno, well known El Paso civil rights attorney and community leader will speak about an important subject--the over zealous use of lethal force by police.

In recent years the recurring use of excessive force by the police has become a national concern.  Most of the media coverage has been concentrated on African American communities, but Mexican Americans and other Hispanic groups in the Southwest, including in El Paso, have also been impacted by police misconduct, as have individuals suffering from mental illness episodes.  Mr. Moreno will highlight local cases that bring El Paso into the national conversation.

The words used by the Trump and the NRA to describe mentally ill are disgusting--and they are used for effect

 Image from The Christian Post

Image from The Christian Post

(CNN)In a tweet Thursday, President Donald Trump described someone who would shoot up a school as a "savage sicko." At CNN's town hall on the Parkland, Florida, school shootings on Wednesday, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch described the gunman as "an insane monster" who is "nuts" and crazy." And at a White House briefing Thursday, the President again used the term "sicko."

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, struggled with depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, according to a 2016 Florida Department of Children and Families report. But having a mental health diagnosis does not mean he would become violent, many experts say. And although Trump has said he wants to focus on mental health to stop school shootings, calling Cruz a "sicko" doesn't help, those experts claim.  Continue reading

Foreign-owned beer companies threaten Mexico's scarce water resources

 Photo thanks to Washington

Photo thanks to Washington

By David Agren in The Guardian:  

"A deal between a state government and the US’s third biggest brewer could put beer for Americans before water for Mexicans

Carmelo Gallegos used to sow wheat in the cool winters and cotton in scorching-hot summers of the Mexicali valley. These days, water is so scarce he can only plant one crop a year.

But on top of drought and a sinking water table, the 61-year old farmer now has another preoccupation. A huge brewery is being built in the nearby city of Mexicali, and Gallegos – like many others – fears it will suck up what little water remains to make beer for export to the US.

Gallegos and other farmers see themselves as the victims of an unhealthy deal between the state government of Baja California and Constellation Brands, the third biggest brewer in the US.

“They’re managing the water as if it were loot to be divvied up among them,” he said. “The government’s intention is to leave us with nothing, without land and without water.”

The new plant is projected to start production in 2019, churning out nearly 4m bottles a day of beers including Corona, Modelo and Pacífico."  Continue reading

Trump: "NO chain migration--except for my in-laws."

 Photo thanks to Town and Country Magazine

Photo thanks to Town and Country Magazine

From the Washington Post Editorial Board: 

"CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order for the parents of first lady Melania Trump, who, The Post reports, will soon be sworn in as citizens of the United States. Like tens of millions of immigrants before them, the first lady’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, left their homeland (in their case, Slovenia) and made a fresh start in America despite the obstacles of an unfamiliar culture, customs and language.

As it happens, the Knavs are probably the beneficiaries of a policy their son-in-law, President Trump, has disparaged as “chain migration,” otherwise known as family reunification. A bedrock of the legal immigration system in this country for more than half a century, family reunification has accounted for tens of millions of immigrants, and nearly three-quarters of all legal immigrants who have entered the United States since the mid-1960s."   Read more

Trump’s quiet campaign to bring back preexisting conditions

 The administration is waging a quiet regulatory war against Obamacare. Photo thanks to Get Holistic Health. 

The administration is waging a quiet regulatory war against Obamacare. Photo thanks to Get Holistic Health. 

From Vox, written by Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott:  

"The Trump administration is quietly dismantling the Affordable Care Act, taking a series of regulatory steps that will make it easier for insurance companies to sell plans that exclude patients with preexisting conditions or don’t cover basic services like maternity care, mental health treatment, and prescription drugs.

Republicans weren’t able to repeal Obamacare in Congress. Now the Trump administration appears to be settling for the second-best thing: weakening Obamacare’s insurance regulations, changes that will hurt Americans who are older and sicker while benefiting the young and the healthy.

The Health and Human Services Department published new rules Tuesday that widen access to “short-term” health plans, a small subset of insurance products that are meant to cover short gaps in insurance coverage. The Obama administration aggressively regulated these plans, allowing insurance companies to sell them only as 90-day options.

The Trump changes allow insurance companies to sell the skimpier plans for a year, encouraging many more people to buy them and use them as a more regular source of coverage. Officials are also considering allowing insurance companies to extend them further."  Continue reading

The only no vote to begin debate on immigration was from a man with immigrant roots, Ted Cruz

From the Houston Chronicle:  WASHINGTON – Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stood alone Monday in voting against a GOP motion to start debate on a new immigration proposal that could resolve the standoff over "Dreamers."

The 97-1 vote dramatized the Texas Republican's hardline stance against President Donald Trump's proposal to grant a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

"I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally," Cruz said at the Capitol last month shortly after Trump broached the idea of offering a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for border wall funding. "Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us."

Cruz, facing a reelection challenge this year from U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, immediately came under fire from Texas Democratic leaders.

"The only no vote to begin debate on immigration was the Cuban that was born in Canada," said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, making a reference to Cruz's birth in Canada to a Cuban immigrant father.

"Sinvergüenza," Hinojosa added, using a Spanish phrase that translates as "shameless."

"This isn't the first time Ted Cruz has betrayed Texans. It won't be the last," Hinojosa said. "Senator, lives are literally at stake. It's time to fix a broken immigration system, not grandstand for the next election."  continue reading


 Photo thanks to Susan Walsh, STF

Photo thanks to Susan Walsh, STF

Border wall threatens wildlife of the region

 Photo thanks to The Week Magazine

Photo thanks to The Week Magazine

From the El Paso Times:  

... "The wall won’t stop determined people from crossing the border, but it will prevent wild creatures from moving across the landscape to find water, food, mates and all the other essentials they and their kind need to survive.

Perhaps surprisingly, the border region is one of the most biologically rich areas of our country, a place with a great diversity of natural habitats, where temperate and tropical species mix. Mexican wolves, jaguars, black bears, mule deer, pronghorn, javelin, ocelots and even low-flying birds like pygmy owls are just some of the hundreds of borderland species for which the wall will be a barrier.

Wild animals don’t read maps. We share space with them on this planet, but they live in their own universes, mostly unnoticed by us, with their own realities. For wild creatures, the border wall is an existential threat. In the culture wars that produced the wall as political symbol, wildlife are collateral damage. Animals will die in the fulfillment of Trump’s campaign promise, and Congress needs to understand this before capitulating to this blackmail."  Continue reading

Up the road in Las Cruces, a Franciscan retreat center that has a new mission

 Jorge Taborda, an undocumented immigrant, has been living at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, since his wife was deported last June. (J.D. Long-Garcia) 

Jorge Taborda, an undocumented immigrant, has been living at Holy Cross Retreat Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, since his wife was deported last June. (J.D. Long-Garcia) 

From "America: The Jesuit Review" by J.D. Long-Garcia:  

"In many ways, it was a typical 15th birthday party for Stephen Taborda. He celebrated with family and friends, ate pizza and cake and opened presents. But Stephen’s mother was not there. She was deported in June.

Stephen’s father, Jorge Taborda, came to the United States from Colombia 19 years ago. That was before Stephen was born. Mr. Taborda, a Spanish professor, was involved in human rights efforts there. As ongoing conflicts between the Colombian government and guerilla groups beset the nation, Mr. Taborda began to receive death threats.

“I told my wife we had to leave,” he said in an interview with America. He and his wife came to the United States with their firstborn son, Jefferson. For a time, they had permission to work in the United States."  Continue reading

Aerial photos of Anarctica reveal devastating toll of climate change

 Photo thanks to

Photo thanks to

From Time Magazine:  

"It’s hard to wreck a continent you can barely get your hands on. Human beings typically do our worst environmental damage in the places we live and work—clear-cutting forests, strip-mining mountains. Antarctica, however, was more or less out of reach. No more.

Climate change has become our species’ great destructive equalizer, leaving no part of the planet safe from the harm we do. In March 2017, the sea ice around both poles reached a record low for that time of year. In July, a 1 trillion–ton iceberg, roughly the size of Delaware, calved off of the Larsen C ice shelf in western Antarctica. The damage to the ice is being done not just from above, as the planet’s air warms, but from below, as its oceans do too."  Continue reading

Let's start the week with a smile.

 Image from Consequence of Sound

Image from Consequence of Sound

This true nugget is from "The Week: The Best of the US and International Media" magazine, 2/2/17 edition.,,, can anyone identify?

"Bad week for...

David Ige, Hawaii’s governor, 61, who confessed he was unable to correct the state’s erroneous warning of an imminent missile attack for 17 minutes because he’d forgotten his Twitter password."

Copy of Fighting for the Rights of Immigrants: At Risk Dreamers, Refugees, Families

Photos thanks to Luis Hernández, Photojournalist

Sunday, February 4, 1:30-3:30 pm  (We'll get you home in time for the Super Bowl!)

Maud Sullivan Room of the El Paso Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon

Free street parking around the library on Sundays

You will hear from  these well-known experts and activists

who will discuss the critical issues in detail:

  • Fernado Garcia, Executive Dirctor of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights
  • Carlos Spector, a prominent immigration attorney with a long history of representing asylum cases
  • A DACA Dreamer

Over the last year, the Trump administration has enacted harsh measures against immigrants in the United States. Increased deportations are splitting more families than ever before, the DACA program is in limbo, and few refugees are receiving asylum.

The Dream of DACA Dreamers--in Their Own Words

You will hear from a Dreamer at our forum this Sunday, February 4th from 1:30-3:30 at the El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Mesa.  Free street parking on Sundays with more slots available between Mesa and Oregon.  We promise to have you home in time for the Super Bowl!

Speakers are seasoned, knowledgeable El Pasoans:

Fernando Garcia, executive Director of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights

Carlos Spector, immigration attorney with long history of representing asylum case 

DACA Dreamer