AP Photo/Eric Gay, FileFILE – In this Sept. 10, 2014, file photo, detained immigrant children play kickball at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border in Karnes City, Texas. The GEO Group, a private prison company, announced Thursday, April 13, 2017, it has won a $110-million federal contract to build in Texas the first new immigrant detention center under the Trump administration. The company said that the 1,000-bed detention facility will be in Conroe, Texas, north of Houston. It’s scheduled to open by December 2018.Texas lawmakers are advancing a proposal to license family immigrant detention centers as child care providers.The state Senate voted 20-11 Tuesday to give preliminary approval to a bill that would allow Texas to license two family lockdowns, despite a past state court ruling that such facilities do not meet minimum requirements to care for kids. The measure would enable detention facilities to hold families for prolonged stays, which advocates say could physically and psychologically harm children.The bill needs a final Senate vote that could come as early as Wednesday before heading to the state House. Texas’ legislative session ends May 29, so time is running short.The private prison company GEO Group, which operates an 830-bed family facility south of San Antonio, lobbied Texas politicians to introduce the licensing bill, which could help its Karnes Residential Center remain open. That lockup, which mainly holds women and children seeking asylum from Central America, earns GEO $55 million annually.A lobbyist from GEO was “where the legislation came from,” State Rep. John Raney, a Republican from Bryan, previously told the Associated Press. A GEO Group spokesman said the company “supports any effort to provide appropriate levels of government oversight” and that Karnes “provides high-quality care in a safe, humane, family-friendly environment.”Senators opposed to the proposal Tuesday called it a “vendor bill” that could seriously harm children seeking asylum.“We’re doing something in favor of one company instead of in the interests of the children,” said Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Houston. “They’re not coming here for fun…They’re coming because they’ve been abused, neglected, and now to add insult to injury we’re putting them in baby jails.”Democratic Sen. Jose Menendez noted on the Senate floor that a slew of children’s and immigrant’s rights groups testified in opposition to the bill and that the only supporter was the private prison operator that stands to benefit. Sen. Jose Rodriguez, an El Paso Democrat, cited concerns about sexual assaults, lengthy wait times for medical care and children being held “in prison-like” conditions.But sponsor Bryan Hughes said the measure “is about keeping these folks safe and in place until their hearing.”Hughes, a Mineola Republican, said that the alternative is they can be released and end up “maybe in some other state” or “the feds can choose to separate parents from their children.”The Trump administration pledged in April not to separate immigrant families arriving at the border, after Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested he was considering doing so.But Karnes and Texas’ other family detention center — the 2,400-bed South Texas Residential Facility operated by the U.S.’s largest private prison company CoreCivic — are both operating far below capacity.That’s because the flow of women and children fleeing gangs and violence in Central America to seek asylum in the U.S. has slowed dramatically.Immigrant advocates attribute the drop to more frequent turnarounds at the border by customs agents and immigrants’ fears of enforcement under the Trump administration.Karnes opened as a family detention center in 2014 and used to hold detainees for months, until a federal judge ruled that children held longer than 20 days must be housed in “non-secure” facilities with child care licenses. After the Texas Department of Family Protective Services granted Karnes a license, advocates sued.A state judge ruled last year that family detention centers did not qualify for licenses — prompting the Texas bill. Share
Share ___ 11:20 a.m. An attorney for former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma is denying the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s assertion that he had faced legal restrictions on his ability to speak with the media while under house arrest. Omar Estacio tells news outlet VivoPlay that the high court’s claims that Ledezma violated the terms of his house arrest by talking to the press and allegedly being part of an “escape plan” are false. State security agents removed Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from his their homes early Tuesday. The court says they violated terms of their house arrest. Ledezma was detained in 2015 and had been serving his sentence from home. Both men had recently posted videos online denouncing President Nicolas Maduro’s election for a special assembly given essentially unlimited powers and tasked with rewriting the constitution. ___ 11:15 a.m. The United Nations’ human rights chief says he is “deeply concerned” by the re-arrest of two leading Venezuelan opposition figures and is calling for the release of all people held for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Venezuelan authorities in a statement released in Geneva Tuesday “not to make an already extremely volatile situation even worse through the use of excessive force.” Zeid also called for “prompt, effective and independent” investigations into 10 deaths in clashes between protesters and police over the weekend. He appealed to all sides to refrain from violence. Opposition figures Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma, were taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Venezuela’s Supreme Court said they had violated the terms of their house arrest. #Líderes opositores de #Venezuela detenidos pic.twitter.com/j7ugrk76V6— Reuters Latam (@ReutersLatam) August 1, 2017___ 10:45 a.m. The U.S. State Department says it’s “deeply concerned with the Venezuelan government’s decision to re-arrest opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.” It says the midnight detentions are further evidence that President Nicolas Maduro “is an authoritarian ruler who is not willing to respect fundamental human rights.” Venezuela’s Supreme Court says the two were detained early Tuesday because they violated terms of their house arrest. Both had been held for allegedly stirring up violence in earlier protests. Washington on Monday added Maduro to a steadily growing list of high-ranking Venezuelan officials targeted by financial sanctions. So far, the Trump administration has not delivered on threats to sanction Venezuela’s oil industry, which could undermine Maduro’s government but raise U.S. gas prices and deepen Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis. The moves follow Sunday’s election of a pro-government assembly with almost absolute power to reshape the country’s political system. ___ 10:15 a.m. Venezuela’s Supreme Court says two leading opposition figures have been jailed because they violated the terms of their house arrest. The nation’s highest court says Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma were removed from their homes early Tuesday after “official intelligence sources” determined there was a “escape plan” involving both men. The court added that Lopez isn’t permitted to engage in any sort of political activism and former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma is prohibited from speaking to media outlets. Lopez was detained three years ago after protests against Maduro’s government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison. He was released last month to serve out his term on house arrest. The president of Venezuela’s opposition-dominated legislature says the allegations are “ridiculous” and the jailings “absolutely arbitrary.” ___ 9 a.m. An attorney says that Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has been returned to the military prison from which he had been recently released. Lopez’s attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez tells the Exitos radio station that the 46-year-old Lopez was pulled from his home and was taken to the Ramo Verde prison at about 3 a.m. He says the government’s decision to return Lopez to prison is “completely arbitrary” and says Lopez had obeyed the conditions imposed on his house arrest. Lopez had been released from Ramo Verde on July 8 after serving three years of a 13-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies. Many human rights groups considered him a political prisoner. It’s not clear if former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma also was taken to prison. Allies posted video online of him being taken from his home by security agents. ___ 4:05 a.m. Allies of two Venezuelan opposition leaders say Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have been taken by authorities from the homes where they were under house arrest. Video posted on the Twitter account of Lopez’s wife early Tuesday shows a man being taken away from a Caracas home by state security agents. Wife Lilian Tintori says in a tweet that “they’ve just taken Leopoldo from the house. We don’t know where he is.” Lopez was detained three years after protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government and sentenced to more than a decade in prison on charges that include inciting protesters to violence. He was released last month to serve the rest of his term under house arrest. Ledezma, a former Caracas mayor, was also detained in 2015 and has been under house arrest. ___ 12 a.m. President Nicolas Maduro brushed off new U.S. sanctions on him and condemnation at home and abroad of the newly chosen constitutional assembly, saying the vote has given him a popular mandate to radically overhaul Venezuela’s political system. Maduro said Monday evening he had no intention of deviating from his plans to rewrite the constitution and go after a string of enemies, from independent Venezuelan news channels to gunmen he claimed were sent by neighboring Colombia to disrupt the vote as part of an international conspiracy led by the man he calls “Emperor Donald Trump.” “They don’t intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don’t intimidate me for a moment,” Maduro said on national television. “I don’t listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever … Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump.” The 6-minute long video shared Tuesday shows Lopez rubbing his wife’s belly and saying he has “one more reason to fight for Venezuela.”The Latest on the political situation in Venezuela (all times local):2:05 p.m.Supporters of Leopoldo Lopez have a released a video he taped a week before state security agents whisked him back to a military prison. It shows the opposition leader calling on Venezuelans to be firm in resisting President Nicolas Maduro.Les pedimos que sigamos con fuerza y esperanza por Venezuela. Mensaje de Leopoldo. RT/ LT https://t.co/WKA88wFjjA— Leopoldo López (@leopoldolopez) August 1, 2017He also announces that his wife is pregnant. The 6-minute long video shared Tuesday shows Lopez rubbing his wife’s belly and saying he has “one more reason to fight for Venezuela.” He calls the pregnancy “the best news I’ve received in the last 3 1/2 years” — a reference to the time he spent behind bars.Lopez was released from the Ramo Verde prison in June and granted house arrest to serve out the remainder of his 13-year sentence for inciting violence at opposition rallies. The couple has at times been allowed conjugal visits.Lopez says he recorded the video knowing he might be imprisoned again — as he was early Thursday.___1:35 p.m.Three legislators in Venezuela say they are breaking with the pro-government Great Patriotic Pole party and forming a new faction in opposition to President Nicolas Maduro’s rewrite of the nation’s constitution.Lawmaker Eustoquio Contreras told legislators at the opposition-controlled National Assembly Tuesday that the nation is in crisis and headed toward a civil war that must be avoided.The Great Patriotic Pole is a coalition of 17 parties formed in 2012 to support the re-election of the late President Hugo Chavez, who bequeathed power to Maduro.The legislators say their new faction will be called the “Parliamentary Socialist Bloc.”The dissentions are among the highest-profile to emerge recently from among pro-government leaders. 11:30 a.m. Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis is rejecting the idea of EU sanctions against Venezuela, saying they could hurt the population. He said Tuesday that Spain instead favors individual measures such as travel restrictions against those responsible for the situation. Dastis said there is “great concern over the arrests of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Dastis ruled out recalling the Spanish ambassador, saying he was more effective in Venezuela helping Spaniards living there. The U.S. government on Monday imposed sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro over Sunday’s disputed election of a pro-government assembly with almost unlimited political powers. Repudio y condeno a Maduro por tener secuestrado a Venezuela.Leopoldo López y Antonio Ledezma su lucha no será en vano #VenezuelaEnDictadura pic.twitter.com/JlRGijfOIx— pamela cortez (@pamelac1661) August 1, 2017
Apartments like those along Buffalo Bayou Park are suddenly in high demand. 00:00 /00:57 X Listen Remember the apartment glut Houston was suffering?Well, not so much anymore.Residents displaced by the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Harvey are storming apartments across the region.Before Harvey hit Houston on Saturday night, landlords had been making concessions to fill their apartments.“You could usually get at least one free month of rent if you signed a 13-month lease, things like that,” Ed Wolff, president of Beth Wolff Realtors, said.But those times are over for now.Wolff’s house in Meyerland got flooded too, and so he went to look for a new place as soon as he could. “We went and looked at three apartments,” he said. “When we got back to the desk, two of them had been leased online.”Right now, he said, Houston’s apartment market is going from an oversupply to a shortage.“And that shortage will prop up values and escalate values in areas that did not flood,” Wolff said. “And the question will be, are those values valid or is it, ‘I don’t care if I pay $20,000 more, I just need a place to live’?”He said it could be that after six months or a year the market goes back to a glut because people return to their homes. To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Share
Twitter via @KHOUAstros take 2-1 series lead after 5-3 win at Minute Maid ParkThe Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series. The victory was the Astros first ever Series win in Houston. However, it did come with some controversy. Share After Game Two of the Word Series took 11 thrilling innings to decide, Game Three was essentially decided after two innings. Houston jumped on LA starting pitcher Yu Darvish for four runs in the second inning, and cruised to victory.With three games in three days, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t want to go to his bullpen so early in the game.“It’s the matter of, using your pen, exhausting your pen when you’re down four-zero, to then having guys ready for the next couple of days as well,” Roberts says. Unfortunately for the Astros, the second inning came with some controversy. Following a home run, Astros first-baseman Yuli Gurriel made a slant-eyed gesture aimed at the Dodgers Asian pitcher. Darvish says the gesture was disrespectful. Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the post-game press he’s not sure how Major League Baseball will respond.“The game just ended, I’ve barely been briefed on it, so I think he’s going to have a statement, I know he’s remorseful,” said Hinch.Gurriel, who joined the Astros last season after a dozen seasons in Cuba, issued an apology after the game.
Share Photo via Max PixelTwitter and Snapchat are taking on new looks as the services seek wider audiences.Struggling social-media darlings Twitter and Snapchat are taking on new looks as the services seek wider audiences in the shadow of Facebook.Twitter is rolling out a 280-character limit for nearly all its users, abandoning its iconic 140-character limit for tweets. And Snapchat, long popular with young people, will undergo a revamp in hopes of becoming easier to use for everyone else.Both services announced the moves Tuesday as they look for ways to expand beyond their passionate but slow-growing fan bases.Twitter has said that 9 percent of tweets written in English hit the 140-character limit. People ended up spending more time editing tweets or didn’t send them out at all. By removing that hurdle, Twitter is hoping people will tweet more, drawing more users in.German bureaucrats — notorious for their ability to create lengthy tongue twisters consisting of one single word — celebrated Wednesday.Germany’s justice ministry wrote that it can now tweet about legislation concerning the transfer of oversight responsibilities for beef labeling.The law is known in German as the Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz.Munich police, meanwhile, said that “at last” they won’t need abbreviations to tweet about accidents involving forklift drivers, or Niederflurfoerderfahrzeugfuehrer.In Rome, student Marina Verdicchio said the change “will give us the possibility to express ourselves in a totally different way and to avoid canceling important words when we use Twitter.”Others were not impressed, including at least one who quoted Shakespeare: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”And, as Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel noted, change does not come without risk.“We don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” he said. “We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial long-term benefits to our business.”Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, did not provide details on the upcoming changes.During the third quarter, Twitter averaged 330 million monthly users, up just 1 percent from the previous quarter. Snapchat added 4.5 million daily users in the quarter to 178 million, which amounts to a 3 percent growth. The company does not report monthly user figures.Those numbers pale next to social media behemoth Facebook, which reported that its monthly users rose 16 percent to 2.07 billion.“The one thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback,” Spiegel said. “As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use.”His comments came on a conference call with industry analysts after the company posted the lackluster user-growth numbers and revenue that fell well short of Wall Street expectations. Snap’s stock was bludgeoned Wednesday, falling 15 percent to $12.83 in midday trading. The Venice, California, company went public in March at $17 a share.Snapchat needs to grow its user base beyond 13 to 34 year olds in the U.S., France the U.K. and Australia, Spiegel said. This, he said, includes Android users, people older than 34 and what he called “rest of world” markets.Meanwhile, Snap said Wednesday that Chinese internet company Tencent has acquired a 10 percent stake in the company. Tencent runs the WeChat messaging app, as well as online payment platforms and games. Earlier this year, Tencent bought a 5 percent stake in Tesla Inc.As for Twitter, the move to 280 characters was first started as a test in September.“People in the experiment told us that a higher character limit made them feel more satisfied with how they expressed themselves on Twitter, their ability to find good content, and Twitter overall,” said project manager Aliza Rosen in a blog post.The expansion to 280-character tweets will be extended to all users except those tweeting in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, who will still have the original limit. That’s because writing in those languages uses fewer characters.The company has been slowly easing restrictions to let people cram more characters into a tweet. It stopped counting polls, photos, videos and other things toward the limit. Even before it did so, users found creative ways to get around the limit. This includes multi-part tweets and screenshots of blocks of text.Twitter’s character limit was created so that tweets could fit into a single text message, back when many people were using texts to receive tweets. But now, most people use Twitter through its mobile app; the 140-character limit is no longer a technical constraint but nostalgia.___Barbara Ortutay reported from New York. Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin and AP Videojournalist Paolo Santalucia in Rome contributed to this story.
Share COURTESY / MCMAHAN FAMILYFive-year-old Ryland Ward was shot five times in Sutherland Springs.Ryland Ward, the last hospitalized victim of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, will leave University Hospital in San Antonio today.Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Duncan of Stockdale will drive the 6-year-old boy home in a fire truck.Stockdale Fire Chief Edwin Baker said Duncan was the first responder who rescued Ryland from the church following the shooting Nov. 5.“Ryland actually reached and grabbed Rusty’s pants leg, and Rusty reached down and pulled him out,” he said.Ryland was shot five times, and he underwent multiple surgeries. He lost his step-mother and two sisters in the shooting.“Rusty went to the hospital to see how he was doing, and as his recovery progressed they grew a bond between each other,” Baker said.
Men are about twice as likely than women to own guns, according to the survey. From the report: Nearly 40 percent of men surveyed said they personally own a gun versus 22 percent of women. Thirty-six percent of gun owners surveyed were white; 24 percent were black and 15 percent were Hispanic. 44 percent of adults surveyed personally know somebody who’s been shot — either accidentally or intentionally.Horowitz: Many gun owners themselves say that they know people who have been shot. We did a series of focus groups and one of the things that we heard about was accidental shootings, and of course, not all of them result in serious injuries. But the experiences with guns really varied. Many Americans have very positive experiences, and many have had very negatives experiences, including about a quarter of Americans who say that they themselves or someone in their family has been threatened with a gun at some point in their lives. Half of all gun owners surveyed said guns are somewhat important to their identity.Horowitz: Those who say this is the case are more likely to be engaged in activities related to guns. In addition to saying they own guns for protection, they’re more likely to say they read magazines related to guns and they watch TV shows related to sports shooting and hunting. Male gun owners are more likely to be participating in those activities and be immersed in that culture, which is mostly tied to sports shooting.We asked people whether their friends own guns, and we found that male gun owners are more likely to have a social network of people who also own guns. This could be tied to the idea that a lot of the activities that they do with their guns are hunting and sports shooting and are things that can be done socially, whereas female gun owners are not participating in those social activities as much. 67 percent of gun owners surveyed said there were guns in their household growing up.Horowitz: This is something that is very much part of American culture. One of the things that we see is that a lot of Americans have exposure to guns whether they currently own one or not, or grew up with a gun in the household. A majority of Americans say that they have fired a gun at some point, including many who’ve never owned one, because people go shooting or hunting with friends and family members. So exposure to guns goes beyond owning one or having lived in a household with one. But those who grew up with one are more likely to be current owners. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)National Rifle Association members listen to a speech at the NRA convention Friday, May 20, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Registration begins Thursday for the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, which is at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.It’s open to NRA members and their families. The association will host appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.The annual meeting will be a weekend-long demonstration of the NRA’s advocacy of gun rights. Hundreds of exhibitors will show off guns and gear at the exhibit hall. And there are events focused on women and youth. However, fewer than one in five American gun owners surveyed by the Pew Research Center say they actually belong to the organization. The report published last year details Americans’ attitudes about guns, firearm regulation and the influence of the NRA.On KERA’s “Think,” Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Pew’s associate director of research, talked with host Krys Boyd about who actually owns guns in America, why they have them and how gun ownership tracks with attitudes about crime, politics and freedom. Men surveyed who grew up with guns in their household on average first shot a gun at age 12. For women surveyed who grew up with guns, the average age was 17.Horowitz: Men and women are equally likely to say they grew up with guns in their household, but their experiences growing up with guns are very different. Men who grew up with guns are more likely to say that when they were children that they went hunting or shooting than women are. Some of it might be related to interest; it’s possible that boys who grew up with guns in the household are more interested in doing these activities. We heard comments from women who currently own guns who said that growing up, there were guns in their household, but their fathers or their grandfathers wouldn’t take them hunting or shooting but would take their brothers or their male cousins. 57 percent of adults surveyed said they did not have a gun in their household. But 36 percent who didn’t own guns said they might consider getting one in the future.Horowitz: The main reason that gun owners give for owning a gun is for protection. But other reasons include things like sports shooting and hunting and for collection. This really varies depending on the type of gun owner, particularly between men and women. Men and women who own guns are equally likely to say that protection is a major reason for owning, but women are more likely to say that’s the only reason why they own guns. So female gun owners are less likely to be participating in sports related to guns, like hunting and shooting than male owners are. Share
This is an early attempt to better define when and how much rain to expect this weekend into early next week. Keep in mind that there will be small scale interactions that could lead to higher rainfall amounts and rain rates. Rainfall amounts could vary greatly. #houwx #txwx pic.twitter.com/Hkp73w39Mq— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) June 15, 2018 Share Officials in Harris County are monitoring the potential for heavy rainfall and street flooding this Father’s Day weekend.Emergency officials want to make sure residents are prepared for the worst case.There’s a tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico that may or may not develop into a storm and it could dump rain on Texas for several days this weekend or early next week.“Right now, the most likely scenario is some areas on our roadways will see high water,” said Francisco Sanchez with the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “But certainly a worst-case scenario for us is anything that impacts the bayous in a way that would cause them to go out of their banks. Right now, that’s not expected.”Locally heavy rainfall still looks possible mainly Sunday afternoon through Monday evening as deep tropical moisture moves across Southeast Texas. The heaviest rainfall should occur along and south of the Interstate 10 corridor. #txwx #houwx #bcswx #glswx pic.twitter.com/h4VgQiK90V— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) June 15, 2018
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas TribuneImmigrant families released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) take respite at Catholic Charities in McAllen while waiting on disposition of their deportation cases.The federal government’s recent “zero tolerance” policy for undocumented immigrants crossing the border has led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents or guardians. The Texas Tribune has interviewed a number of those parents at local shelters, immigration detention centers, international bridges and bus stations.Although the government says it has a plan to reunify these families, its most recent figures say roughly 2,000 kids remain separated from their parents, with adults and children housed in shelters and detention centers scattered across the country. Members of Congress, immigration lawyers and advocates say they’ve seen little detail about the reunification plan and little evidence that it’s been deployed.The Texas Tribune and ProPublica are partnering with media organizations in the U.S. and Latin America to gather vital information about the children and immigrants who have become the focus of an international controversy.The map below identifies facilities where children may be held. We are asking anyone who has direct knowledge about a separated family or a facility where children are being held to reach out to us. Information can be submitted anonymously or with names. It will not be made public without the permission of those involved. Share
More than 63,000 in-person ballots were cast in Harris County on Monday, a reportedly record-setting turnout for the first day of early voting in the midterm elections. With mail-in ballots, 115,601 votes have been cast in Harris County so far. The Metropolitan Multi-Service Center near River Oaks saw 3,741 voters, followed by Juergen’s Hall Community Center in Cypress with 2,640 voters and the Champion Forest Baptist Church with 2,500. The polling location in Harris County with the least voters was the Galena Park Library with 392 voters.In the below map, polling locations are color-coded with their turnout totals. Make sure “Total Votes” is selected in the drop-down menu to the left of the map key.View First Day of Early Voting in Harris County in a full screen map.While polls in northwestern suburbs and the west side of Houston saw the highest numbers of voters, the first-day turnout increased for nearly all locations compared to the 2014 midterms, says Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.“When you look at the far west side and the north side, what you’re seeing are voters getting up in the morning on a Monday and anticipating that there might be long lines on election day and before they go to work and drive in on Katy Freeway, they go to their early voting location,” Stein said.While voters in those locations outnumbered voters on the east side of Houston, Stein says, turnout still increased. “What you’re seeing is much higher voter turnout for early voting than what you’ve seen before.”Stein said turnout numbers typically fall towards the middle of early voting, but increase again in the last few days. Share
Ngozi Ukazu I’m so proud of my teammates and can’t wait to celebrate their accomplishments this weekend. <3 Congrats Samwell 2016!— Eric Bittle (@omgcheckplease) May 22, 2016 X Listen Share When Ngozi Ukazu was growing up in Houston, she loved making her own comics. She even worked as the comics editor for the newspaper at Bellaire High School, The Three Penny Press, But she never thought she could make a career out of it.“I didn’t even take any art classes in high school,” she said. “I never went to HSPVA. I never thought that art would be a thing.”So, she went to Yale and majored in computer science. But somewhere along the way she realized her true passion was in storytelling.Eventually she started the web comic Check, Please! It tells the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a former junior figure skating champion from Georgia who ends up playing college hockey at the fictional Samwell University. He loves to bake and video blog about his life — he’s also deathly afraid of getting checked on the ice.Ngozi UkazuA scene from the web comic Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, who grew up in Houston.Why a Story About Hockey?Houston isn’t exactly a hockey town. The city has been without a professional team since the Aeros left. So, how did Ukazu end up making the sport the backbone of her story?During her senior year in college, Yale’s hockey team won the national championship, and simultaneously she was working on a screenplay about college hockey. So, she watched a lot of hockey for research and became obsessed.“It was all very coincidental and wonderful that I fell deep, deep, deep into this hockey hole,” she said.ngoziu.comArtist Ngozi Ukazu is the creator of the popular web comic Check Please, about a gay college hockey player who loves to bake.Ukazu incorporates elements she found in that deep hole into her story — such as slang players use and the practice of giving teammates nicknames. But she also worked in a few elements of Bittle’s character in response to an experience she had in school. She knew a Yale hockey player who remarked that none of the players on the hockey team were gay. So, she took that as a challenge and made her main character gay.“Check, Please! is all about kind of answering that question, ‘What if?’” she said. “What if there was a kid from the South — a place I’m so familiar with — what if he went into this totally foreign environment and we got to see what would happen if there was a gay kid on the hockey team?”Plenty of Things to Connect With Between the hockey story line, Bittle’s love of baking, and the LGBTQ elements, there’s plenty of things for an audience to connect with — including a love story as he gets involved with a fellow player.“There are so many ways that I could just drag people into the story,” she said. “I’m telling a happy LGBTQ love story, which audiences never get that — it’s [often] just doom and gloom or a sad story.” Audiences connected so much that Kickstarter campaigns have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the print publication of installments of Check, Please! Between the online updates to the web comic, Ukazu built her following by actively maintaining Twitter accounts for some of the characters. 00:00 /13:07 To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: “I had no life for two years — I still don’t have a life — but it was a very different way of not having a life when I was tweeting as this 19-year-old boy on a fictional college campus.” she said.A New Model for Getting PublishedIn the past, authors and artists would try to find success in print first. But Ukazu finds this new means of finding an audience extremely validating.“When you put something online and you see that immediate response it makes it feel as though what you’re doing really matters, and it gives you confidence — even though I’m still scared with every comic that I post,” she said.The first installment of the Check, Please! graphic novel, which chronicles Bittle’s freshman and sophomore years, was published in September.Ngozi UkazuEric “Bitty” Bittle, the main character in the web comic Check, Please!, is an avid baker — in addition to playing college hockey.What Happens When Bitty Graduates?Ukazu says she plans to end the series when Bittle graduates from college. “My dad, especially — he thinks it’s like quitting my job, like ‘Why would you do that?’” Ukazu said. So, what’s next? She says she’s exploring some potential story lines surrounding superheroes and another that’s more personal. “Last week I just got hit with this idea for a story that might work that’s not superheroes that’s more personal about me growing up,” she said, “So we’ll see what happens with that.”In the audio above, you can hear Ngozi Ukazu’s full conversation with Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty.
To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: X Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune 00:00 /17:50 Listen Texans don’t vote. That’s the knock on the Lone Star State that year after year — especially in non-presidential elections — we lag behind the rest of the country in voter participation. But, is that reputation deserved?It turns out, yes — very much so.The United States Elections Project tracks such numbers, and let’s just look at the last two midterm elections as examples.In 2014, just 28.3 percent of eligible Texas voters turned out. That number did jump quite a bit four years later, in the 2018 midterm election, to 46.3 percent. That raised some hopes that future turnout will be even higher. But even that number was less than 50 percent of eligible voters — and still well below the national average.So, why don’t more Texans vote?Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University, says there are a lot of reasons Texas often ranks near the bottom of voter turnout rates. In particular, he says, like so many behaviors, it’s about practice – or the lack thereof.In the audio above, Stein talks about recent voter trends in Texas and where he sees things headed in the future with Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty.Bob Daemmrich for The Texas TribuneVoters lined up at a polling place in Austin in 2016. Share