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Search results for "The Texas Observer" ...

  • The Texas Observer with The Investigative Fund: The Surge

    If Texas’s border counties have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation, why are they so heavily policed? As Melissa del Bosque shows, the State of Texas has gone all in on border security spending, devoting $2.6 billion to special-ops teams, armored gunboats, high-tech spy planes, and a surge of law enforcement personnel in the past several years — on top of a multibillion-dollar federal border security operation. For her piece for The Texas Observer, in partnership with The Investigative Fund, del Bosque interviewed residents and elected officials in these border counties, now among the most profiled and surveilled communities in America, who described how this two-fisted border security buildup has taken a toll on their civil liberties. In a separate analysis, Del Bosque joins with reporter G.W. Schulz to uncover how Texas's $15 million high-altitude spy planes have surveilled one border town at least 357 times and may have traveled multiple times into Mexican territory.
  • The Texas Observer and Grist with The Investigative Fund: Too Big to Fine, Too Small to Fight Back

    Citgo refineries spew thousands of tons of chemicals into the air, degrading air quality and putting human health at risk. Despite Citgo's revenues hitting north of $40 billion, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lets the company off easy. For her investigation in The Texas Observer, in partnership with Grist and The Investigative Fund, Naveena Sadasivam dug into how the TCEQ has fined corporate polluters $30 million for air violations, not much more than the $24 million imposed on gas stations, a significant percentage of which are owned by immigrants, just for record-keeping errors. The disparity between TCEQ's treatment of mom-and-pop operations versus large corporations favors those with money and power. The agency rarely punishes big polluters, often because of a legal loophole, and when it does levy a fine, lawyers negotiate big reductions in penalties. As a result, environmental advocates and small business owners say there's a fundamental unfairness at work with the way TCEQ treats the businesses it regulates.
  • Graves of Shame

    In the summer of 2014, a team of forensic anthropologists gathered in Brooks County, Texas, to unearth mass graves containing the remains of hundreds of migrants who had died on their journey north. Reports emerged of bodies buried in kitchen trash bags and skulls wedged between coffins. Within days, the Texas Rangers were asked to investigate. But the probe found no wrongdoing. Investigative Fund reporting fellow John Carlos Frey finds that the Rangers investigator spent all of two days compiling the report and missed massive criminal wrongdoing. In a story for the Texas Observer, Frey uncovers an illegal failure to collect DNA samples and properly label remains. He finds bodies buried less than a foot underground, in violation of Texas law, and other graves containing commingled remains. These violations have made it nearly impossible for families to identify and properly bury their missing loved ones. As a result of the piece the cursory investigation performed by Texas Rangers was nullified, organizations protested, and state representatives vowed to strengthen existing law.
  • Snubbin' the Public

    "The Texas Observer has been fight through the courts" to have video surveillance of Texas House hallways to verify whether a James Leininger was privately lobbing legislators. "At issue is whether all video surveillance by state agencies will be held as secret under the justification of homeland security."
  • A Death in McAllen

    This investigation by the Texas Observer looks into nursing home abuse and state legislation protecting owners from non-economic damages in civil suits. What they found was a 2003 Texas law placed a $250,000 cap on damages, heavily lobbied by nursing home companies, directly affected the number of nursing home inspections and leaves little punishment for nursing homes who abuse, or even kill, their patients. The story also tells the tale of Noe Martinez Jr., a patient who died in McAllen Nursing Center due to gross negligence in July 2004. The state only fined the center $1,300 for his death. Because caring for Medicaid patients like Martinez costs nursing homes up to $1,800 per year, the center more than likely saved money because of his death.
  • City to Union-Busters: "Welcome to El Paso!"

    The Texas Observer reports on how Mediacopy, a California-based business with tainted reputation, Mediacopy, moves to Texas and receives a $1.9 million break in local property taxes. The story reveals that "charges flew on the West Coast that the firm was mistreating its workers, encouraging INS raids, and even manipulating employees trying to organize a union ... Mediacopy Inc. might not have gotten as far as it did, if the El Paso Times had not slept through the abatement story."
  • Every Man A Kingpin

    The Texas Observer reports on the meth epidemic. "Nazi meth" is easy to cook in rural areas. The only component you can't get at Wal-Mart is anhydrous ammonia, which can be found in fertilizer tanks that dot the rural landscape. Meth cooks face high sentences in rural courts. "Unlike guns, drugs are not viewed as agents of harm. They are harm itself, measurable in grams," the Observer reports.
  • Zero Tolerance

    The Texas Observer reports on the death of a Texas man at the hands of police on a drug raid gone wrong. There are conflicting reports as to whether officers announced themselves when they surrounded the house and knocked on Rusty Windle's door at 5 a.m. He came to the door with a gun. Seconds later he was dead. In Windle's home they found two baggies of marijuana totally less than one ounce.
  • Nuclear Waste Is Good for You

    The Texas Observer looks at a paradoxical effort of the state of Texas to sell a nuclear dump to the public school students of Sierra Blanca. The story details how the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority has led students on tours of nuclear plants and dumps in order to convince them that "a nuclear waste dump in their town will be safe and beneficial." The report points to financial benefits received by various entities in Sierra Blanca as part of the promotional process for the projected waste dumpsite.
  • Huntsman's Odessa Syndrome

    The Texas Observer investigates claims that gas odors from the Huntsman Polymers' plastics plant is affecting the health of citizens living in nearby Odessa, Texas. The Observer reveals that the Huntsman plant has had a number of "flares" -- or brief periods of unexpected and unavoidable plant emissions that are not regulated -- in recent years that could be making residents sick. Many residents of Odessa have breathing problems.