Tag Archives: texas

SXSW: 4 bands headed to music fest denied entry into US

Organizers of the South by Southwest music festival say at least four international bands have been denied entry into the U.S. and that other performers have had their visa waivers revoked.

SXSW officials said this week that every year there are some issues with bands entering the U.S. for various reasons.

But the latest travel problems come amid tensions over President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.

The band Massive Scar Era, whose members are from both Canada and Egypt, posted on Facebook it wasn’t going to “jump to conclusions” about why they were denied entry.

But they noted they have gotten to SXSW twice before with the same documents.

SXSW officials say they’re trying to ensure customs officials treat artist visa waivers as valid.

Rick Perry tapped to head agency he would eliminate if he could remember the name

Donald Trump wants Rick Perry to run an agency the former Texas governor would eliminate if he could only remember its name.

Trump’s latest appointment is an insult to our functioning democracy.

Putting Perry in charge of the Department of Energy is the perfect way to ensure the agency fails at everything it is charged to do, so Trump might as well just lock the doors for four years.

This isn’t leadership by Trump, it’s a reckless, dangerous decision that proves he has little interest in a functioning government and every interest in propping up his fossil fuel billionaire buddies.

Perry’s clear financial interests in major energy projects like the Dakota Access pipeline make it obvious that there’s no way he could manage the agency’s activities impartially.

His ideological obsession with promoting dirty fossil fuels and ignoring the climate crisis means he is just as unfit for this position as the other climate deniers Trump is promoting for key posts.

Americans didn’t vote for more fossil fuels, more drilling and fracking, and more pollution, but that’s what we’re getting with Perry and Trump. We strongly urge Senators, who are elected to represent and protect the American people, to stand up for communities across the nation and oppose this nomination.

‘High threat’ Texas border busts aren’t always

Drivers in Texas busted for drunken driving, not paying child support or low-level drug offenses are among thousands of “high-threat” criminal arrests being counted as part of a nearly $1 billion mission to secure the border with Mexico, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Having once claimed that conventional crime data doesn’t fully capture the dangers to public safety and homeland security, the Texas Department of Public Safety classified more than 1,800 offenders arrested near the border by highway troopers in 2015 as “high threat criminals.”

But not all live up to that menacing label or were anywhere close to the border — and they weren’t caught entering the country illegally, as Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is Texas’ chairman for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, has suggested.

In response to the AP’s findings, the Department of Public Safety said it will recommend removing child support evaders from the list and signaled a willingness to stop classifying other arrests as “high threat.”

However, it defended the data overall, saying it isn’t intended to measure border security, even though the figures are included in briefings to lawmakers.

“It’s deceptive to say the least,” Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales, from the border city of Edinburg, said of the data. “I would say it’s shocking that a person arrested with a small amount of cocaine in Odessa is used to show supposedly high-threat criminal arrests on the Texas-Mexico border.”

The AP used open records laws to obtain a list of 2015 Texas Highway Patrol arrests classified as “high threat” in a broad 60-county area that the DPS has defined as the border region, then reviewed online court and jail records for cases in Hidalgo and El Paso counties, which had the most such arrests.

Among the “high threat” incidents was a trailer that unlatched from an RV and rolled into oncoming traffic, killing another driver in a town more than 150 miles from the border. Other crimes lumped in with suspected killers and human traffickers were speeding teenagers and hit-and-runs that caused no serious injuries.

Republican leaders have used crime, smuggling and immigration data to justify an intensified deployment of troopers, armored boats and spy planes to the border since 2014. And Trump’s promises to wall off the border with Mexico resonate with many in Texas, where Republican lawmakers tripled border security spending last year, and in 2017 will consider approving another $1 billion.

A threat overview published by DPS in 2013 defined high-threat criminals as “individuals whose criminal activity poses a serious public safety or homeland security threat.” But about 40 “high threat” offenses can be overly broad. For instance, nearly half the 2015 arrests were for possession of a controlled substance, but DPS doesn’t distinguish between a gram of cocaine and a drug smuggler’s 50 pounds of marijuana. And failure to pay child support is included with sex crimes under offenses against the family.

High-threat arrests, which are tracked statewide, are among nearly three dozen “border security related” metrics collected by DPS, according to agency briefings given to lawmakers.

But DPS Director Steve McCraw told the AP that high-threat data isn’t used to assess border security but rather is included in briefings for the sake of transparency. McCraw said the term “high threat” was never meant to suggest only the worst of the worst, but rather to distinguish more serious crimes.

“I don’t care, we can change the name,” McCraw said. “Just so long as, internally, we have a way of differentiating.”

Hidalgo County, in the Rio Grande Valley, is one of the busiest corridors for drug and human trafficking in the U.S., and where Texas deployed an influx of troopers, National Guard patrols and camera surveillance. While dozens of 161 high-threat arrests for drug possession were alleged pot smugglers, about 1 in 5 were charged with having less than a gram or other low-level drug charges. Drunken drivers who didn’t pull over are also counted the same as fleeing traffickers.

In El Paso County, more than half of 190 high-threat arrests last year were for drug offenses. Of those, about three in 10 were arrests for less than a gram of drugs such as cocaine or small amounts of marijuana.

Some lawmakers, including members of Texas’ House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, said they didn’t pay attention to high-threat arrests and that the data isn’t included in high-level briefings.

But following a border visit in March, Patrick incorrectly tweeted that DPS had arrested about 14,000 high-threat criminals in the previous year. Patrick senior adviser Sherry Sylvester said the lieutenant governor had been “unintentionally unclear,” but then herself falsely described the arrests as “criminal illegal aliens” who she said pose a “serious threat to public safety in Texas.”

Obama tries to recreate SXSW at White House’s SXSL

President Barack Obama liked his March trip to Austin’s South by Southwest festival of technology and music so much that he decided to try to re-create the SXSW vibe from Texas on the South Lawn. On Oct. 3, he rolled out “South by South Lawn,” or SXSL, bringing together artists, innovators, musicians and entrepreneurs for the equivalent of a giant White House block party for tech nerds.

The president made a midday visit to the South Lawn to check out booths and vendors promoting everything from virtual reality technology to fake tattoos. He spoke to the crowd about climate change later in the day in a joint appearance with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

In an email promoting the event, Obama wrote that SXSL was “at its heart, a call to action. The folks out on the lawn today are artists, creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators who will share how they’ve used their unique skills to engage their communities in making the change they want to see — whether it’s curing cancer, fighting poverty, empowering women, and so much more.”

DiCaprio’s documentary film on climate change, Before the Flood, got its domestic premier on the lawn later in the day.

Tech blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash said the South Lawn event was a way to connect the dots between SXSW, with its ideas for changing the world, and the people who are “doing the actual work” to use technology to improve worker rights, civil rights and more. Panel discussions included topics such as “feeding the future” and “fixing real problems.”

The White House tech fest also featured a student film festival, a wall of art made of Post-Its, Lego statues, demonstrations on the science of food and using technology to help the disabled and lots of music. Among those performing: the Lumineers, Gallant, Black Alley, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and DJ Bev Bond.

 

Judge rules against federal guidance to schools about protecting transgender students

A U.S. District Court judge on Aug. 22 issued a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s guidance to public school districts regarding their legal responsibility to allow transgender students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The ruling came in the multi-state lawsuit, Texas v. United States.

Five civil rights organizations who had submitted a joint amicus brief in the lawsuit – Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders – issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling:

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination.

“This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students. So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly.

“The scope of this injunction has no effect on the ability of other courts or lawyers representing transgender people to continue to rely on the federal government’s interpretations of Title IX or on prior decisions that have reached similar conclusions about the scope of federal sex discrimination laws.

“The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.

Texas v. United States was brought by Texas and 10 other states — subsequently joined by two additional states — against the United States, the Departments of Justice, Education and Labor and numerous federal officials.

The plaintiffs include the states of Wisconsin, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky (through its governor), Louisiana, Mississippi (through its governor), Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, the Arizona Department of Education, the Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona, Harrold Independent School District in Texas, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Several of these plaintiffs lie in the 4th, 6th, 9th and 11th Circuits, which had issued binding appellate decisions consistent with the guidance of the federal agencies.

In May, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released the guidance because schools and districts requested clarification on their obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination in education programs based on sex.

Clarifying how schools can safeguard transgender students’ rights to privacy and safety, the guidance says transgender students have the right to be free from discrimination, including the ability to use gender-separated facilities (such as restrooms and locker rooms) that match their gender identity.

The guidance follows similar policies in states and school districts across the country, including many that have been treating transgender students with dignity and respect for more than a decade.

The lawsuit targets various federal letters, guides, memos and statements regarding Title IX of the Education Amendments that conclude that federal bans on sex discrimination encompass gender identity discrimination and that transgender individuals should be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The lawsuit claims that that guidance is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution.

Another lawsuit was filed recently by the state of Nebraska, joined by Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan (through its attorney general), Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, said in a statement, “As lawsuits on the scope of Title IX proceed, we believe that justice will prevail as courts continue to recognize that discrimination against transgender students is a form of sex discrimination.”

HRC pointed out that the judge who issued the preliminary injunction also also sought to block Family and Medical Leave Act rights for legally married same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in United States v. Windsor.

On the Web

The court’s order can be read here.

Border Patrol erecting 18-foot fence in unwalled New Mexico area

Amid a debate over erecting a new border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. Border Patrol says it is finishing an 18-foot-tall steel fence in the last stretch of unwalled, urban borderline in New Mexico.

Officials say the new fencing will run a mile from the bottom of a mesa to the base of tourist attraction of Mount Cristo Rey, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Currently, a run-down, 10-foot-high chain-link fence sits in the area and border patrol agents say it can be easily climbed and offers little protection in the city of Sunland Park.

The city sits just west of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,

The new fence will be made of rust-colored steel columns and is part of an $11 million project authorized by the Bush administration under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

It will supplant the chain-link fencing erected in the 1980s.

The new barrier will be reinforced 5 feet underground with steel panels to prevent smugglers from building underground tunnels.

“It’s a fence that is replacing another fence,” said Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero. “It doesn’t hold anymore.”

Construction is expected to finish early in 2017.

But the new project is drawing scrutiny from some immigrant rights advocates.

Activists hold rallies here and reunions where undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. can meet.

For example, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead, Nov. 2, advocates hold a binational Mass to honor the migrants who have died trying to cross into the U.S. through the arid desert.

“In our opinion, the fencing has not necessarily been a good deterrence for immigration,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the El Paso-based immigrant advocacy group Border Network for Human Rights. “But it does represent a symbolic response, a very aggressive response, to immigrants and the border community.”

A Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News border poll released last month found a majority of residents surveyed on both sides of the border are against the building of a wall between the two countries and believe the campaign’s tone is damaging relations.

According to the poll, 86 percent of border residents in Mexico and 72 percent of those questioned in the U.S. were against building a wall.

The poll surveyed 1,427 residents in 14 border sister cities to assess attitudes and opinions on the local economy, immigration and border security.

The issue of the border wall has garnered national attention since GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S.-Mexico border is already lined with intermittent miles of barriers.

In some places, a tall fence ascends desert hills.

In others, sturdy wire mesh or metal pillars end suddenly.

PETA: Fine too low for death of primates at research facility

The federal government fined a private research facility after 13 primates died of hyperthermia in overheated rooms.

Covance Research Products in Alice was fined $31,500 for four violations of the U.S. Animal Welfare Act following the 2014 deaths of the cynomolgus monkeys, said Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

Espinosa said the maximum penalty for a single violation of the law is $10,000, so the maximum fine Covance faced was $40,000.

Two animals died in September 2014, when a thermostat malfunctioned at the facility.

The other deaths were caused by a similar incident about a month later, when a thermostat override switch failed.

The USDA issued a citation to Covance saying that it “failed to protect the health and well-being” of the animals.

The citation also found other primates suffered in July 2014, when they weren’t given water or proper care after being flown into Texas for Covance experiments.

“Covance directed transporters to travel without stopping to the Covance facility, despite being aware that the airline had not provided water as required, that the transport trailers’ air conditioning units were malfunctioning and that at least five nonhuman primates were weak and in distress,” the citation said.

Animal rights activists said the fines were too low.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said Covance was a “brazen violator” of animal welfare laws and that fines “could and should be substantially higher if they are going to deter violations.”

Covance didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The company has said the Alice facility would be manually monitored until it added electronic temperature monitoring and alerts.

The company has headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, and provides animal testing to aid in the development of drugs for an array of ailments, from heart disease to diabetes.

“Covance takes very seriously our ethical and regulatory responsibilities to treat research animals with the utmost care and respect,” the company said in a statement following the primate deaths.

Research and other facilities face unannounced USDA inspections each year, Espinosa said.

“We make sure they have fixed those areas of noncompliance, absolutely,” she said.

Transcript: Biden commemorates lives of Dallas officers killed

In this week’s address from the White House, Vice President Joe Biden commemorates the lives of the five police officers who were killed and the seven people who were wounded in Dallas.

The police officers were providing safety to those who were peacefully marching against racial injustices in the criminal justice system — and the shocking images of the lives lost in St. Paul and Baton Rouge.

Echoing the remarks of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown, the vice president called on the American people to act with unity and to stop the violence. He emphasized that it is the responsibility of everyone to speak out against disparities within the criminal justice system, just as much as it is the responsibility of everyone to stand up for the police who protect us every day.

The audio of the address and video of the address is online at www.whitehouse.gov.

The following is a transcript of Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks, as prepared for delivery in the weekly address on July 9:

Although I didn’t know the five police officers who were killed, or the seven who were wounded in Dallas this week – I knew them.

They were the folks I grew up with: The boy with the most courage and the most compassion; the man with a brave heart and a generous soul, whose words were always encouraging; the son who made his mother proud every time he turned and smiled at her; and the friend who you could always count on. Being a cop wasn’t just what they did. It was who they were-like every officer who joined for essentially the same reason. There was something about them that made them think they could help, that they should serve, that they had a duty.

So when an assassin’s bullet targeted the police force in Dallas, it touched the soul of the nation. Those killed and wounded were protecting the safety of those who were peacefully protesting against racial injustices in the criminal justice system. Those who were marching against the kind of shocking images we saw in St. Paul and Baton Rouge-and have seen too often elsewhere-of too many black lives lost.

I believe the Dallas Police Department is one of the finest in the nation-and this incredibly diverse city can bridge any divide. To paraphrase Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, let us use our words carefully. Let us act with unity, not division. As Dallas Police Chief David Brown-one of the leading chiefs in America-said, “There are no words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city, all I know is that this must stop, this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.”

As Americans, we are wounded by all of these deaths. It’s on all of us to stand up, to speak out about disparities in our criminal justice system-just as it’s on all of us to stand up for the police who protect us in our communities every day. In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue offering our thoughts and prayers to provide comfort to the broken-hearted families. But they will only be redeemed by the courage of our actions that honor their memories.

So while we’re being tested, we can’t be pulled apart. We are America, with bonds that hold us together. We endure, we persevere, we overcome, we stand together.

President, Dallas mayor talk about ‘tremendous tragedy’

President Barack Obama said on July 8 he had spoken with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to extend his condolences and offer support after snipers killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack in the city.

Obama said he told Rawlings that the federal government would provide the city with any assistance it may need as it deals with this “tremendous tragedy”.

“We still don’t know all the facts, what we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” Obama after a meeting with European Union leaders ahead of a NATO summit in Poland.

“We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. In the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Obama said his team is keeping him updated on the investigation and that he would have more to say as more details about the attack are learned.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

 

5 Dallas police officers killed, 6 wounded

Snipers operating from rooftops in Dallas killed five police officers and wounded six more in a coordinated attack during one of several protests across the United States against the killing of two black men by police this week.

Police described the July 7 ambush as carefully planned and executed and said they had taken three people into custody before a fourth died. Dallas-based media said the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a standoff that extended into July 8.

The fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with police during the standoff at a downtown garage and warned of placing bombs throughout the city. Police have not yet confirmed his death but said no explosives have been found.

The attack came in a week that two black men were fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and outside Minneapolis. The killings, both now the subject of official investigations, inflamed tensions about race and justice in the United States.

The shots rang out as a protest in Dallas was winding down, sending marchers screaming and running in panic through the city’s streets.

It was the deadliest day for police in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

A total of 12 police officers and two civilians were shot during the attack, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told CBS News. Three of the officers who were shot were women, he said.

Rawlings said the people in custody, including one woman, were “not being cooperative” with police investigators. He said the assailant who was dead was being fingerprinted and his identity checked with federal authorities.

Police were still not certain they knew all of the individuals involved in the attack, Rawlings said.

No motive has been given for the shootings at the downtown protest, one of many held in major cities across the United States on July 7. New York police made more than a dozen arrests on July 7, while protesters briefly shut down one of Chicago’s main arteries.

One of the dead officers was identified as Brent Thompson, 43. He was the first officer killed in the line of duty since Dallas Area Rapid Transit formed a police department in 1989, DART said on its website. Thompson joined DART in 2009.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the shooters, some in elevated positions, used rifles to fire at the officers in what appeared to be a coordinated attack.

“(They were) working together with rifles, triangulating at elevated positions in different points in the downtown area where the march ended up going,” Brown told a news conference, adding a civilian was also wounded.

“It has been a devastating night. We are sad to report a fifth officer has died,” Dallas police said on Twitter.

A video taken by a witness shows a man with a rifle crouching at ground level and shooting a person who appeared to be wearing a uniform at close range. That person then collapsed to the ground.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the video.

‘DESPICABLE ATTACK’

President Barack Obama, who was traveling in Poland, expressed his “deepest condolences” to Rawlings on behalf of the American people.

“I believe I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events and we are united with the people and police department in Dallas,” he said.

Obama said the FBI was in contact with Dallas police and that the federal government would provide assistance.

“We still don’t know all of the facts. What we do know is that there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement,” he said.

The shooting, which erupted shortly before 9 p.m. CDT, occurred near a busy area of downtown Dallas filled with restaurants, hotels and government buildings.

Mayor Rawlings advised people to stay away on July 8 as police combed the area. Transportation was halted and federal authorities stopped commercial air traffic over the area as police helicopters hovered.

Large sections of downtown remained closed to the public on July 8.

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is one of the nation’s most populous and is home to more than 7 million people.

The Dallas shooting happened as otherwise largely peaceful protests unfolded around the United States after the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, by police near St. Paul, Minnesota, late Wednesday. His girlfriend posted live video on the internet of the bloody scene minutes afterward, which was widely viewed.

Over the last two years, there have been periodic and sometimes violent protests over the use of police force against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York. Anger has intensified when the officers were acquitted in trials or not charged at all.

‘THE END IS COMING’

The suspect in the Dallas standoff had told police “the end is coming” and that more police were going to be hurt and killed. Police chief Brown said the suspect also told police “there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown”.

Police said they were questioning two occupants of a Mercedes they had pulled over after the vehicle sped off on a downtown street with a man who threw a camouflaged bag inside the back of the car. A woman was also taken into custody near the garage where the standoff was taking place.

“We are leaving every motive on the table on why this happened and how this happened,” Brown said.

Mayor Rawlings visited the wounded at Parkland hospital, the same hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after he was shot in Dallas in November 1963.

“(The attack) does have a very strange feel to it,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN. “There is something missing here. Obviously there is a lot of information we don’t have.”

Outside the hospital, officers stood in formation and saluted as bodies of the officers were about to be transported.