WBEZ | Texas http://www.wbez.org/tags/texas Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chinese firm plans $1.3 billion purchase of Texas oil lands http://www.wbez.org/news/chinese-firm-plans-13-billion-purchase-texas-oil-lands-113506 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/The Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. filed a security filing over the weekend announcing it would purchase Texas oil properties for 8.3 billion yuan..jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res451676806" previewtitle="The Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. filed a security filing over the weekend announcing it would purchase Texas oil properties for 8.3 billion yuan."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. filed a security filing over the weekend announcing it would purchase Texas oil properties for 8.3 billion yuan." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/25/gettyimages-81705896-b08e798a6e2f7b29da60a7bf1968a0df07c9b50b-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 540px;" title="The Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co. filed a security filing over the weekend announcing it would purchase Texas oil properties for 8.3 billion yuan. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>A Chinese investment holding company intends to put down stakes in the United States after signing a letter of intent to purchase oil properties in western Texas for $1.3 billion through a limited liability partnership.</p></div></div></div><p>The Shanghai-listed Yantai Xinchao Industry Co., said in a&nbsp;<a href="http://static.sse.com.cn/disclosure/listedinfo/announcement/c/2015-10-23/600777_20151023_1.pdf">securities filing over the weekend</a>, it was a purchasing oil lands in the Texas counties of Howard and Borden as part of the proposed acquisition of Ningbo Dingliang Huitong Equity Investment Center, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5bb7e009075c487b9c74de17dd0c4827/chinese-investment-company-buy-texas-oil-fields-13b">Associated Press</a>.</p><p>The news service also reports Yantai Xinchao said in its letter of intent, the transaction, worth 8.3 billion yuan, has been &quot;approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States&quot; which is part of the Treasury Department.</p><p>The oil properties are being purchased from Tall City Exploration LLC and Plymouth Petroleum LLC, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinese-property-developer-snaps-up-texas-oil-fields-1445773022">Wall Street Journal</a>.</p><p>Neither Tall City Exploration or ArcLight Capital Partners LLC, the parent company of Plymouth Petroleum, returned requests for comment by the time of this posting. We will update if things change.</p><p>The Wall Street Journal&nbsp;also reports Chinese energy companies have been longing to do business in the U.S. because of &quot;stable laws governing oil exploration and production.&quot; The publication adds:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;But U.S. restrictions on Chinese investment in potentially sensitive areas means investment in the U.S. energy patch by Chinese companies is, to date, limited. Yantai Xinchao said it had already received permission from the U.S. government for the deal.</em></p><p><em>...</em></p><p><em>&quot;Chinese companies are looking abroad for oil deals partly because of tight restrictions at home, making investment in oil-and-gas exploration and production next to impossible in many cases. State-owned oil behemoths dominate China&#39;s energy landscape, leaving little space for independent companies to invest. China&#39;s government says it aims to bring more private capital into the oil sector as part of ongoing reforms.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/10/25/451675784/chinese-firm-plans-1-3-billion-purchase-of-texas-oil-lands?ft=nprml&amp;f=451675784" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 26 Oct 2015 14:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chinese-firm-plans-13-billion-purchase-texas-oil-lands-113506 Publisher will revise textbook that called enslaved Africans 'workers' http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-15/publisher-will-revise-textbook-called-enslaved-africans-workers <p><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1015_texas-textbook.jpg" style="text-align: center; width: 350px; height: 427px;" title="High school freshman Coby Burren texted his mom this image of his world geography book that calls slaves “workers.” (Courtesy of Roni Dean-Burren via Houston Public Media)" /></div><div>Texas has long been a battleground over school textbooks. During the last year, experts have criticized them for <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/11/21/365686593/texas-hits-the-books" target="_blank">naming Moses as a founding father</a> and also<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/13/421744763/how-textbooks-can-teach-different-versions-of-history" target="_blank"> downplaying slavery as a cause of the Civil War</a>.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The latest controversy comes after a family near Houston pointed out&nbsp;how a&nbsp;geography book described slaves.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><a href="https://twitter.com/lauraisensee" target="_blank">Laura Isensee</a>&nbsp;from&nbsp;<em>Here &amp; Now&nbsp;</em>contributor Houston Public Media takes a closer look at what happened and what&rsquo;s next.</div><div><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Mxawf6Ktyeo?rel=0" width="560"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/how-texas-board-publisher-want-to-prevent-mistakes-after-mom-calls-out-reference/" target="_blank">Read more on this story via Houston Public Media</a></em></p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/15/textbook-calls-slaves-workers" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 15:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-15/publisher-will-revise-textbook-called-enslaved-africans-workers Texas prof: I'm quitting now that state lets kids carry guns to class http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-10-12/texas-prof-im-quitting-now-state-lets-kids-carry-guns-class-113302 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_821697735255.jpg" style="height: 385px; width: 610px;" title="In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, file photo, professor Ann Cvetkovich waits to speak during a public forum as a special committee studies how to implement a new law allowing students with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms into class and other campus buildings, which will take effect in August 2016, in Austin, Texas. Despite a federal law requiring them to have detailed emergency plans, colleges across the country vary widely in how they prepare for campus shootings and inform their staffs and students. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Daniel Hamermesh is an economics professor emeritus who has taught at the University of Texas at Austin&nbsp;since 1993. This week, he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailytexanonline.com/2015/10/07/citing-concerns-with-campus-carry-professor-emeritus-to-withdraw" target="_blank">announced</a>&nbsp;that he would withdraw from his position next fall after the state passed a &ldquo;campus carry&rdquo; law, which will allow concealed handguns in classrooms, dorms, and other campus buildings.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to bear the increased risk of facing a student in my office that gets disgruntled and pulls a gun out on me,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Hamermesh, 72, says he will pursue teaching and academic opportunities at other institutions because his fear of being the target of on-campus gun violence has been &ldquo;enhanced&rdquo; with the new law, which goes&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=84R&amp;Bill=SB11" target="_blank">into effect in August 2016</a>&nbsp;&mdash; the 50th anniversary of a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/an-ex-marine-goes-on-a-killing-spree-at-the-university-of-texas" target="_blank">mass shooting at UT Austin</a>&nbsp;that left 14 dead and 31 wounded.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I worry about the feeling of tension this would engender because somebody might do something, and you&rsquo;re always going to be on alert,&rdquo; says Hamermesh. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t need to put up with that. Life is short, I don&rsquo;t need the money that much, so I&rsquo;d rather do other things.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">UT Austin currently educates about 51,000 students and boasts a teaching staff of about 3,000. Hamermesh says that the campus carry policy may deter both groups from pursuing educational and academic opportunities at the school, which was founded in 1881.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why take even a slight risk with an opportunity at UT when you can go elsewhere?&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s going to cost the university.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_907794901423.jpg" style="height: 417px; width: 600px;" title="Professor Ann Cvetkovich speaks during a public forum as a special committee studies how to implement a new law allowing students with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms into class and other campus buildings, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, in Austin, Texas. The law takes effect in August 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Hamermesh isn&rsquo;t the only member of the University of Texas college system that is against this law. UT Chancellor Bill McRaven, a former Navy admiral, spoke out against the law before it was adopted last spring. And the president of UT Austin, Gregory L. Fenves, is also against the measure.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Right now, the [UT Austin] president is holding a bunch of forums and has a committee designed to decide what they can limit in terms of the places where you can&rsquo;t carry guns,&rdquo; says Hamermesh. &ldquo;But a general limit saying no guns in offices, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s going to happen, and similarly, no guns in classes, I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s going to happen. You can&rsquo;t do that politically given what the legislation was passed as. I&rsquo;m sure that President Fenves would like to do more limitations than what is in fact politically feasible.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Faculty members are concerned that the new campus carry law may have an impact on course curriculum and learning environment, says Hamermesh.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;A lot of people, especially in the Humanities department, are terribly concerned &mdash; why express something that might be controversial [and may make] a student really, really upset when there&rsquo;s an increased of having a student pull a gun on you?&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It makes it a less desirable place for learning and it makes it less of a learning environment.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Furthermore, Hamermesh argues that professors should be able to set the terms of their classrooms &mdash; not lawmakers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It impinges upon my freedom to operate my classroom exactly as I want,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I view my classroom and my office as my castle, and I don&rsquo;t like the legislature telling me what can go on in my castle.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">While some faculty members and students are &ldquo;pro-gun,&rdquo; Hamermesh dismisses those who argue that the campus carry law will empower educators.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to have a gun,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to be involved in shooting at someone who happens to draw first. I&rsquo;m probably too old to draw fast anyway &mdash; my reactions are slow &mdash; and having a gun would just make my life worse in so many ways.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Others in the community have similar feelings. A Takeaway listener named Victoria from Austin called in with this message:</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&#39;m very much against young men having guns on a college campus. The overwhelming perpetrators of gun violence is young men ages 18 to 30. Putting guns in the hands of immature, emotional, stressed out young men is just a bunch of bad decisions waiting to happen.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&mdash; <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-10-12/texas-prof-im-quitting-now-state-lets-kids-carry-guns-class" target="_blank"><em>via The Takeaway</em></a></p></p> Mon, 12 Oct 2015 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2015-10-12/texas-prof-im-quitting-now-state-lets-kids-carry-guns-class-113302 A design team tries to create a new symbol for the American South http://www.wbez.org/news/design-team-tries-create-new-symbol-american-south-113176 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/NPR2207_photo3_S6QmOeZ.png" alt="" /><p><div><p style="text-align: justify;">South Carolina removed the Confederate Battle Flag from its Capitol grounds earlier this year, and much of the rest of the South is following suit.&nbsp;</p></div><p style="text-align: justify;">In light of these changes, Studio 360 asked Dallas design firm&nbsp;<a href="http://70kft.com/" target="_blank">70&nbsp;KFT</a>&nbsp;has spent the summer coming up with ideas for a new icon to replace the flag.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not so much about redesigning a flag, but reintroducing a new idea,&rdquo; says design director Alexander Flores.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The designers came up with two big ideas they wanted to pursue, so they split into two smaller groups: One working on a design inspired by quilting as the main concept, and another team designing a treatment around the word &ldquo;rebel.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Designer Michael Feavel started the discussion about the word &#39;rebel.&#39; He was thinking about stereotypes of the South: &ldquo;We can be labelled very negatively &mdash; slow, or simple.&rdquo; He says. &ldquo;And the word &lsquo;rebel&rsquo; came to mind. And that&rsquo;s not something that can just be labelled as negative.&rdquo; The word&rsquo;s ambiguity appealed to Feavel: it can be positive or negative, noun or verb.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The team has&nbsp;been working with an image of the word &lsquo;rebel&rsquo; in Martin Luther King&rsquo;s handwriting.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;[We have] these other southern rebels that we, you know, have falling into this category. We&#39;ve got Truman Capote, we&rsquo;ve got Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Mark Twain,&rdquo; says Gus Granger, the co-founder and head designer of the firm.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The second team was attracted to the layered aspects of quilting.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;We are starting to explore what the togetherness aspect means. I mean we started exploring tapestries, we started exploring stained glass &mdash; different elements that have been deconstructed in some way and reconstructed in some way,&rdquo; says creative director Stefan Reddick.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;We&#39;re kind of getting away from a flag in general and we&#39;re looking for a symbol that embodies&nbsp;the modern South. Flags are for battles and quilts are for homes and so this quilt concept, it&#39;s pretty powerful because it&rsquo;s used in all types of cultures and also just the symbolism of multiple pieces all brought together, taking pieces of the past and pieces of the present,&rdquo; says Billy Parkerson, a team member from Birmingham, Alabama.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The team is enthusiastic about their work, but Alexander Flores who&#39;s from south Texas, knows that trying to impose a symbol from the top down is a not going to be easy.&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;I think it&#39;s something that should be more organic,&rdquo; Flores says, &ldquo;If we can start a dialogue, we&rsquo;ll be happy that we&#39;ve contributed something more than just a logo.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The design firm&#39;s proposal will be revealed on PRI.org next&nbsp;week.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-10-03/design-team-tries-create-new-symbol-american-south" target="_blank"><em> via Studio 360</em></a></p></p> Sun, 04 Oct 2015 11:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/design-team-tries-create-new-symbol-american-south-113176 Whole Foods says it will stop selling foods made with prison labor http://www.wbez.org/news/whole-foods-says-it-will-stop-selling-foods-made-prison-labor-113135 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/wholefoodsartisancheeses.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res444814042" previewtitle="Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, a Colorado goat cheese producer, says it will begin to source more milk from dairies that don't rely on inmate labor — so that they can continue to sell some cheeses to Whole Foods."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, a Colorado goat cheese producer, says it will begin to source more milk from dairies that don't rely on inmate labor — so that they can continue to sell some cheeses to Whole Foods." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/30/4725990938_fbf10d4966_o_wide-c19fb687c4fc4c8393343cebec504ee726b29da7-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 600px;" title="Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, a Colorado goat cheese producer, says it will begin to source more milk from dairies that don't rely on inmate labor — so that they can continue to sell some cheeses to Whole Foods. (ilovebutter/Flickr)" /></div><div data-crop-type="">Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor.</div></div><p>The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs.</p><p>Michael Allen, founder of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/endmassincarceration.houston">End Mass Incarceration Houston</a>, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages.</p><p>&quot;People are incarcerated and then forced to work for pennies on the dollar &mdash; compare that to what the products are sold for,&quot; Allen tells The Salt.</p><p>Currently, Whole Foods sells a goat cheese produced by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.haystackgoatcheese.com/">Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy</a>&nbsp;in Longmont, Colo., and a tilapia from&nbsp;<a href="http://www.quixoticfarming.com/about/">Quixotic Farming</a>, which bills itself as a family-owned sustainable seafood company.</p><p>These companies partner with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.coloradoci.com/bin-pdf/2014_who.pdf">Colorado Correctional Industries</a>, a division of the Colorado Department of Corrections, to employ prisoners to milk goats and raise the fish.</p><p>CCI&#39;s mission is to provide inmates with employment and training. The intent is to give them skills that could help them find employment once they&#39;re released. CCI employs about 1,600 inmates, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.leg.state.co.us/OSA/coauditor1.nsf/All/908C1FE0217F7E0487257DCE00701378/$FILE/1350P%20Colorado%20Correctional%20Industries,%20Department%20of%20Corrections,%20January%202015.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;by the Colorado state auditor.</p><p>In an email, Whole Food&#39;s spokesperson Michael Silverman tells The Salt that the company liked the idea of employing inmates. &quot;We felt that supporting supplier partners who found a way to be part of paid, rehabilitative work being done by inmates would help people get back on their feet,&quot; he writes.</p><p>But Silverman says, &quot;we have heard from some shoppers and members of the community that they were uncomfortable with Whole Foods Market&#39;s sourcing products produced with inmate labor.&quot;</p><p>And in order to stay &quot;in-tune&quot; with customers&#39; wishes, the company came to its decision to stop selling the goat cheese and tilapia.</p><p>As reporter Graeme Wood&nbsp;<a href="http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/from-our-prison-to-your-dinner-table">wrote</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;<em>Pacific Standard</em>, these in-state prison-work systems face no federal regulation.</p><p>And there are also questions about the justness of prison-work programs. Allen and other protesters in Houston hung signs that said: &quot;End Whole Foods Market&#39;s Profiting From Prison Slave Labor.&quot;</p><p>By some accounts, though, they&#39;re progressive. For instance, CCI supporters point to a lower recidivism rate among inmates who are employed while they&#39;re incarcerated.</p><p>Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy&#39;s John Scaggs says the farm will begin to source more milk from dairies that don&#39;t rely on inmate labor &mdash; so that it can continue to sell some cheeses to Whole Foods.</p><p>But Scaggs says he&#39;s still a supporter of the prison labor program that CCI has created in Colorado.</p><p>&quot;This is a model example of a prison-work program,&quot; Scaggs says. &quot;By purchasing goat&#39;s milk from the facility [that uses prison labor], we&#39;re supporting ... rehabilitative incarceration.&quot; He says prisoners are taught teamwork and getting job training.</p><p>Scaggs says the inmates make about $1,500 to $2,500 a year, but he isn&#39;t sure what the hourly rate of pay is.</p><p>&quot;If an inmate is serving a sentence for a few years, they can come out with a few thousand bucks [in savings] and a whole new skill set,&quot; he says.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/30/444797169/whole-foods-says-it-will-stop-selling-foods-made-by-prisoners?ft=nprml&amp;f=444797169" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 10:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/whole-foods-says-it-will-stop-selling-foods-made-prison-labor-113135 U.S. Attorney General: 'this violence against all of us' must end http://www.wbez.org/news/us-attorney-general-violence-against-all-us-must-end-112801 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Lynch and East Haven Police Chief Brent.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.</p><p>&quot;We have had four more guardians slain, and frankly our hearts are broken,&quot; the attorney general said Wednesday in remarks to a fair housing conference in Washington, D.C. &quot;I offer the families of these officers my condolences, and I ask that all of us come together and keep them in our prayers.&quot;</p><p>Lynch, the first black woman to serve as the nation&#39;s top federal law enforcement officer, pointed out that she spent &quot;virtually my entire career&quot; working closely with agents, officers and investigators.</p><p>&quot;I know these men and women have volunteered to take on the most challenging and important jobs that we have here,&quot; she said. &quot;They do this for us, they move us aside and they run into danger for us. And so please again keep them in your prayers.&quot;</p><p>Earlier this week, President Obama called the widow of a Harris County, Texas, sheriff&#39;s deputy killed while he was pumping gas. The president said targeting of police officers is &quot;totally unacceptable,&quot; according to White House officials who provided a read-out of the call.</p><p>In recent days, current and former law enforcement officials had pressed top administration officials to speak out on violence against police. And some advocacy groups have called on the executive branch and Congress to make murder of law enforcement officers a hate crime.</p><p>Lynch used her remarks at the housing conference to decry a wider spate of violence in recent months, from the slaying of two Virginia reporters on live television to the deaths of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the killing of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.</p><p>&quot;This violence against all of us, regardless of what uniform any of us wear, has to end,&quot; Lynch said.</p><p>She said federal and local law enforcement officials would meet in Detroit later this month to discuss ways to reduce violence.</p><p>&quot;The Department of Justice stands ready to support law enforcement around this country as they continue to fight every day to protect the communities that they serve and of which they are a vital part,&quot; Lynch added. &quot;And we also stand with every community member police and civilian alike as they all work towards a safer community for us all.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>&mdash;</em><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/09/02/436895339/u-s-attorney-general-this-violence-against-all-of-us-must-end" target="_blank"><em>The Two-Way</em></a></p></p> Wed, 02 Sep 2015 10:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-attorney-general-violence-against-all-us-must-end-112801 Death of woman found hanged in Texas jail cell will be investigated as murder http://www.wbez.org/news/death-woman-found-hanged-texas-jail-cell-will-be-investigated-murder-112432 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ap_693517467808_custom-0131284e245064229792712e842a618790758626-s1500-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The death of a woman, who was found hanged in a Texas jail, will be investigated as a murder, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said during a press conference on Monday.</p><p>As NPR&#39;s Martin Kaste reported, this all started when an officer stopped Sandra Bland for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. The traffic stop escalated and after a struggle,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1199642/New-video-Sandra-Blands-arrest-later-died-jail.html">which was filmed</a>, Bland was arrested and charged with assaulting a public servant.</p><p>That happened on a Friday. Bland spent a weekend in jail and on Monday she was found hanged in her jail cell.</p><p>According to police, an ambulance was called to the scene on Friday, but Bland refused medical attention. On that Monday, a jailer checked on her shortly after 7 a.m.<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/us/new-details-released-in-sandra-blands-death-in-texas-jail.html?_r=0">According to The New York Times</a>, Bland allegedly told the jailer that she was &quot;fine.&quot; But when a second jailer checked on her at 9 a.m., she saw Bland hanging in her cell.</p><p>The Harris County medical examiner ruled Bland&#39;s death a suicide, but her family has been disputing that finding from the beginning.</p><p><a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/21/us-usa-texas-death-idUSKCN0PV0KQ20150721">Reuters reports</a>&nbsp;that Mathis said there were &quot;too many questions that need to be resolved.&quot; The wire service adds:</p><blockquote>&quot;This is being treated like a murder investigation,&#39; Mathis said. He added that officials would examine fingerprints and run DNA tests on the plastic trash bag used in her hanging.</blockquote><blockquote>&quot;Bland&#39;s family has called for an independent autopsy and for the U.S. Justice Department to open an investigation, saying the young woman had moved to Texas from Chicago to start a new job and would not have taken her own life.</blockquote><blockquote>&quot;They also told Chicago local media that Bland, a black woman, was outspoken about allegations of bias and excessive force by U.S. law enforcement in a year that saw protests across the country following the killings of unarmed black men by white officers in New York, Missouri and South Carolina.&quot;</blockquote><p><a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/sandra-bland-supporters-call-independent-investigation/story?id=32572897">ABC News reports</a>&nbsp;the case is being investigated by the Texas Rangers, but is being supervised by the FBI.</p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/21/424909760/death-of-woman-found-hanged-in-texas-jail-cell-will-be-investigated-as-murder">NPR&#39;s The Two Way</a></em></p></p> Tue, 21 Jul 2015 06:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/death-woman-found-hanged-texas-jail-cell-will-be-investigated-murder-112432 What was it like raising three biracial children? http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/what-was-it-raising-three-biracial-children-111666 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/StoryCorps 150306 Judy and Rosa Ramirez bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Rosa Ramirez was in basic training in the Army, when she came across a girl in her barracks with red hair and blue eyes. &ldquo;What kind of blood do you have?&rdquo; Ramirez asked her. &ldquo;Do you see the world blue?&rdquo;<br /><br />Ramirez had gone to high school in Texas and spent time picking fruit in the fields of California. But when it came to race, she was clueless.<br /><br />Ramirez tells her daughter, Judy, in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps, &ldquo;In my hometown, it was Mexicans and whites. We didn&rsquo;t have any idea about blacks or Germans or Italians.&rdquo;<br /><br />Rosa Ramirez served four years in the military before moving to Virginia, where she met her future husband. Her daughter asked what it was like when Rosa told her parents she wanted to marry a black man?<br /><br />Rosa says her father was going to disown her. But then Rosa&rsquo;s mom stepped in and changed his mind. By the time the wedding day arrived, he agreed to walk Rosa down the aisle.<br /><br />Rosa and her husband lived with their kids in Richmond, Virginia, in a mostly black neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t realize how prejudiced it was towards biracial children until I started hearing it from you guys in middle school&rdquo; Rosa recalled, &ldquo;It was either you&rsquo;re going to be black or you&rsquo;re going to be white. If you were hanging with your white girlfriends they wanted your hair straight. If you were hanging with your black sisters, they wanted you to have curly hair.&rdquo;<br /><br />Rosa says she never stopped to think about the repercussions of marrying outside of her race. But she was able to teach her kids about both sides of their family&rsquo;s cultural heritage.</p><p>The message she wants Judy to pass down to her own son now is: &ldquo;You can have degrees and money, but without love and familia, you&rsquo;re nothing.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alicia Williams helped produce this story.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/what-was-it-raising-three-biracial-children-111666 Husband and wife battle Alzheimer's together http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/husband-and-wife-battle-alzheimers-together-110260 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Capture_10.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Ben Ferguson, 66, and his wife of more than four decades, Robyn, 64, grew up in Texas. It&rsquo;s where they met and fell in love. About a year ago, Ben was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer&rsquo;s disease. And so the couple moved to Chicago to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. They recently came to the StoryCorps booth in the Chicago Cultural Center to relive Ben&rsquo;s earliest memories, and to describe what the disease has meant for their family.</p><p>Alzheimer&rsquo;s disease, which negatively impacts the brain&rsquo;s ability to remember things, may affect more than five million Americans, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet" target="_blank">National Institute on Aging.</a> That number is growing, however, and could reach as many as 16 million by the year 2050, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alz.org/documents/greaterillinois/statesheet_illinois(1).pdf" target="_blank">Alzheimer&rsquo;s Association of Greater Illinois.</a></p><p>&ldquo;These memories are going to fade,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve already begun to,&rdquo; Ben said.</p><p>In the booth, the couple talked about how Ben got into all kinds of trouble in elementary and high school. He once wrecked two of the family cars in one day. He was kicked out of several universities, before finding his footing and eventually earning a PhD in Psychology.</p><p>&ldquo;There have always been two sides to you,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re a bad boy. But you&rsquo;re a good boy too. I liked the bad boy first and now I like the good boy better.&rdquo; &ldquo;Yeah, but the bad boy got you,&rdquo; Ben said, laughing.</p><p>When Ben met Robyn, he said it was love at first sight. She thinks the attraction might have been more physical at first. &ldquo;I was pretty sure I wasn&rsquo;t gonna be able to run over you,&rdquo; Ben said. &ldquo;I was definitely sure that you were one of the prettiest women I have ever seen and I had tender feelings toward you.&rdquo; They married two months after meeting. They had two kids, one of whom moved to Chicago.</p><p>Then about a year ago, Ben started showing signs of Alzheimer&rsquo;s. &ldquo;It was the worst thing that&rsquo;s ever happened to me,&rdquo; Ben said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m still trying to figure out how to deal with it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now, Ben and Robyn live in Chicago and enjoy spending time with their grandkids. Ben participates in some long-term research programs at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.brain.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank">Northwestern University&rsquo;s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer&rsquo;s Disease Center (CNADC)</a>. He also takes classes there to help build memory through improvisation and takes part in a buddy program.&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/workshop-offers-new-form-of" target="_blank">He and Robyn are part of a storytelling group for Alzheimer&rsquo;s patients and their families.</a></p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll just keep working on things,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re doing really good,&rdquo; he added.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 30 May 2014 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/husband-and-wife-battle-alzheimers-together-110260 From Mexico to the Midwest, a heroin supply chain delivers http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-midwest-heroin-supply-chain-delivers-109320 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/two-cities_1.jpg" style="border-width: 0px; border-style: solid;" title="El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/123570504&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If you try to picture a drug trafficker, you will never think of someone like Juan Carlos González.</p><p>He is tall but dumpy. He is 31 years old but his face is so smooth I find myself wondering whether he ever has had to shave. He can puff up and put on a street voice but comes off like a school kid who has been bullied.</p><p>González agreed to meet me in El Paso, Texas, at his lawyer&rsquo;s office, less than a mile from the Mexican border. González, by the way, is not his real name. He spoke on condition we not use it.</p><p>He said he had lived in the El Paso area since age 3, when his mother moved the family from Odessa, his father&rsquo;s hometown, four hours west. &ldquo;My dad was never around,&rdquo; he said. His mom, who was a nurse then a gym teacher, raised him.</p><p>His route into the drug trade is well-traveled. He dropped out of school in 11th grade and started smoking marijuana, he said. Stuck in a fast-food job at a mall, González gravitated toward a certain co-worker.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to smoke with him and I used to always see him in fancy cars &mdash; a BMW, a big old truck, lifted up,&rdquo; he said. It was obvious his friend was working in narcotics. &ldquo;Get a car at that age? I wanted into that life,&rdquo; González told me.</p><p>He turned to his uncle, a marijuana dealer, who helped him into the business. &ldquo;I would bag it up and sell it to my friends,&rdquo; González&nbsp;said.</p><p>Over time, the amounts got bigger and the drugs got harder. As González kept getting in deeper, he knew he was betraying his mother. &ldquo;She&rsquo;s been there for me through all my troubles,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Here is where his story becomes less familiar to anyone who did not grow up along the border. El Paso has four bridges to Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city where kids such as González would go to party. &ldquo;You would be able to drink until 7 or 8 the next morning,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>He found out it was much cheaper in Juárez to buy the drugs he was dealing. And it wasn&rsquo;t hard to cross back into the United States with the products. &ldquo;Coke and all that, with a girl or anybody, and just stash it in your pocket or anything, like you were drunk, and get it over,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Every time, every weekend, that&rsquo;s what we would do.&rdquo;</p><p>The Mexican city was also a great place to network. &ldquo;Say you and I are partying in Juárez at a club and we&rsquo;re cool and we see each other every time,&rdquo; González said. &ldquo;And then we start talking and, if we end up smoking, then it comes out that you have a cousin up in Atlanta, Dallas or Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>González was on his way to building a freight network that fed Chicago a range of drugs, including heroin.</p><p><strong>MOST OF CHICAGO&rsquo;S HEROIN</strong> comes from Mexico, according to narcotics authorities,&nbsp;and the crucial entry point is El Paso.</p><p>&ldquo;The reason I&rsquo;m telling you that is our cases still go back and forth&rdquo; between Chicago and El Paso, said Jack Riley, special agent in charge of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration division that covers most of Illinois and four other Midwest states. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s how we know.&rdquo;</p><p>When I visited El Paso and Ciudad Juárez myself, I kept hearing a similar line but from the supplier perspective: If you want to sell drugs throughout the Midwest, you need Chicago.</p><p>I also saw that the drug demand up north had brought a flood of cheap heroin to Juárez, the last Mexican city along Chicago&rsquo;s supply chain. Signs of the heroin trade were all around Juárez&rsquo;s central area.</p><p>In a busy market district, I saw a dozen addicts pacing near a dark shop, waiting for a heroin retailer to come out with their midday fix. When she finally emerged, the addicts converged on her like zombies.</p><p>Within a couple miles were several shooting galleries &mdash; what Mexicans call <em>picaderos</em>. I visited one, a dusty outdoor space between two cinder-block homes. There was no ceiling except for a few wood planks and old blankets. There was no place to sit except for a filthy cushion and an old couch covered by a dirty blanket.</p><p>The gallery did have two &ldquo;doctors,&rdquo; themselves heroin addicts. They lacked medical training but worked around-the-clock to help customers with injections. (A jones can bring trembling that makes it hard to shoot up.)</p><p>Within 10 minutes of my arrival, a 24-year-old woman in an orange baseball cap entered the gallery and handed one of the doctors her dose, roughly a quarter gram wrapped in foil. The heroin was dark and gummy, the size of a pea. The doctor mixed it with water over a match flame to melt it down. Then he filled a syringe &mdash; a clean one provided by a local health promoter.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JuarezShootingGallery-big.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left;" title="A ‘doctor’ at a Ciudad Juárez shooting gallery charges customers 10 pesos — or the equivalent in heroin — for help injecting the drug. (WBEZ/Luis Perea)" /></div><p>The customer directed the doctor to a vein on the back of her hand. First he drew blood into the syringe, confirming the needle had hit the target. Then he pressed the syringe&rsquo;s plunger, sending the heroin on its way.</p><p>The doctors helped three customers in a half hour. They charged each 10 pesos (about $0.75) or the equivalent in heroin. They told me a standard dose cost 50 pesos (less than $4) from any of several retailers within a couple blocks.</p><p>A street gang supplied by a drug cartel controls the sales in that part of Juárez. The gang also earns money by smuggling drugs to El Paso for distribution elsewhere in the United States.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JuarezGangMember1.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 240px; width: 250px;" title="A gang member in central Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican border city, says he uses a backpack to smuggle heroin into El Paso, Texas. (WBEZ/Luis Perea)" />I tracked down a mid-level member of the gang. We met in his kitchen. As I fumbled with my equipment, he stood still and silent in the corner. At least, I assumed that was him. He was wearing a hood and cloth mask.</p><p>I showed him I was just recording sound &mdash; no pictures or names. He agreed to sit down and take the mask off. He told me he was 34 and that he quit school in 4th grade.</p><p>&ldquo;My father was the one who started selling drugs,&rdquo; he said, adding that the man was killed as cartels swept away independent operators in Juárez.</p><p>The young man&rsquo;s gang aligned with one of the cartels. Now, he said, he spends a lot of time around a safe house &ldquo;packing drugs in backpacks and hiding them in cars.&rdquo;</p><p>Once in a while, he said, he had served as a mule himself. He said he had carried backpacks loaded with heroin to an El Paso stash house.</p><p><strong>THAT JOB IS NOT AS HARD</strong> as you may think. Heroin is not bulky like marijuana. By weight, it sells for more than twice the price of cocaine. An amount worth thousands of dollars fits in a pocket, shoe or bra. Multimillion-dollar loads turn up in suitcases, dashboards, bumpers, even drive shafts.</p><p>&ldquo;There is some sneaky stuff,&rdquo; said González, back in his attorney&rsquo;s office in El Paso, describing cars and trucks rigged with hidden compartments that open using magnets and secret levers. &ldquo;There is some Inspector Gadget stuff there.&rdquo;</p><p>With millions of pedestrian and vehicle crossings from Juárez every year, U.S. authorities find just a small fraction of the drugs.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/PasoDelNorte-square1.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Cars and trucks wait in a two-hour line to reach the U.S. checkpoint on Paso del Norte, one of four bridges linking El Paso, Texas, to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Millions of vehicles enter the United States on those bridges each year, making it difficult for authorities to find hidden narcotics. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div></div></div><p>González found opportunities. &ldquo;You meet truckers, party, drink and you just ask them right there: &lsquo;Hey, you know what? Would you like to take a load? I&rsquo;ll pay you this much money.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>He worked up to bigger loads. That brought him closer to the leaders of a cartel. He says he worked mainly in cocaine and marijuana.</p><p>González&nbsp;moved other products too: &ldquo;They would call me and tell me, &lsquo;Hey, I have 10 keys of heroin going to Chicago. Can you get them for me?&rsquo; I would be like, &lsquo;Yes.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>The retail price for that much smack, if pure, could exceed $4 million, according to data from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.</p><p>González&rsquo;s truckers would carry legal cargo as well, so sometimes could not bring the heroin all the way to where the cartel bosses had ordered it. &ldquo;Say they wanted it in Maywood, but the trucker&rsquo;s route went to Kankakee,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>González would have to line up more personnel. &ldquo;You got to worry about who is going to hold it for you and who is going transport it for you,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>González directed one busy driver to acquire an 18-wheeler with a phony load so it would be ready to roll anywhere. &ldquo;I told him, &lsquo;Buy your own truck and buy your own trailer and buy yourself a whole trailer of some bullshit-ass fenders,&rsquo; &rdquo; he said.</p><p>González&rsquo;s business flourished, but there was no way to eliminate risks. &ldquo;You got to know who you are dealing with,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If the person gets caught, he can rat you out.&rdquo;</p><p>For truckers who got arrested, González said he would arrange the defense lawyer and pay the tab if he &ldquo;liked the person and he was really going to keep his mouth shut.&rdquo;</p><p>Snitches were not the biggest hazards. If a load went missing and González could not convince the cartel that cops had seized it, he would have to pay for it himself, he said. And if he did not have the money, he said, &ldquo;I would get killed.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>THE SUPPLY CHAIN WAS NOT</strong> always so dangerous. &ldquo;The chain dates back to the 1920s at least,&rdquo; University of Texas at El Paso anthropologist Howard Campbell pointed out.</p><p>For decades, the main product was heroin. Family-run businesses cultivated and processed the opium poppy a few hundred miles south in a mountainous region spanning the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa.</p><p>Many heroin loads converged on Torreón, a city on the main highway north. From there, Campbell said, &ldquo;the drugs would be trucked up, or driven up in a car, to Ciudad Juárez.&rdquo;</p><p>Until the mid-1970s, the Juárez heroin trade was controlled by one person &mdash; a woman named Ignacia Jasso la Viuda de González, better known as La Nacha.</p><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ignacia%20jasso%20vdaCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 294px; width: 250px;" title="Ignacia Jasso la Viuda de González, photographed during a Ciudad Juárez booking in 1942, controlled Mexico's main heroin corridor for decades. (Photo courtesy of Bob Chessey)" /></div><p>&ldquo;She would obtain supplies of opium and heroin and sell them locally in Juárez and to American and other traffickers that would bring them into the United States &mdash; to Albuquerque, Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago,&rdquo; Campbell said. &ldquo;She ran this business for almost 50 years with very little violence.&rdquo;</p><p>Things have changed. &ldquo;The supplies have increased over time as the number of heroin addicts has increased,&rdquo; Campbell pointed out. The product line, meanwhile, has expanded to include drugs from South America and Asia.</p><p>&ldquo;These businesses that were formerly run by families or individuals are now run by quasi-corporate entities called drug cartels,&rdquo; Campbell said. &ldquo;The violence in Mexico has skyrocketed in the last 10-12 years as the businesses have become more competitive and new cartels have emerged.&rdquo;</p><p>The most powerful cartel in Juárez these days is Sinaloa, whose name comes from one of those heroin-producing states. U.S. authorities say the Sinaloa Cartel supplies most of the heroin consumed in Chicago.</p><p>The people in charge of hauling the product &mdash; folks like González &mdash; don&rsquo;t typically have to line up the buyers on the Chicago end. That is the cartel&rsquo;s job.</p><p>And if you think the big buyers are street gangs, think again. An El Paso man who helped manage U.S. logistics for the Sinaloa Cartel told me the top Chicago wholesalers are middle-class business people.</p><p>He recalled signing some on: &ldquo;My cartel associate told me that he needed to meet them in person before we sent the dope up to Chicago. So they flew over, stayed at a hotel. After they were there a few hours in El Paso, I drove them to Juárez, to a nice restaurant to talk to my cartel associate. I translated for them &mdash; how many pounds of this or pounds of that they can move.&rdquo;</p><p>The former logistics manager said the meeting went without a hitch. &ldquo;My cartel associate liked these guys from Chicago and he had a friend that owned a strip club,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So they took them out to the club, and got them four girls and they went to hotels and everybody got laid there.&rdquo;</p><p>There were benefits, yes, and there were commissions. González said he rarely managed more than three loads a month and still earned as much as $360,000 a year. &ldquo;I thought I was bad-ass,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><strong>THEN GONZALEZ GOT BUSTED</strong> and all the money seemed trivial, he said. I agreed not to report specifics about his legal situation except that he served most of a three-year sentence in a federal prison more than a thousand miles from El Paso.</p><p>González told his mother &mdash; the gym teacher who always stood by him &mdash; that she could not visit. He said he did not want her hard-earned money spent on the airfare.</p><p>Once he got out, though, he had to face her. &ldquo;When I saw her from the time I was in, she had aged,&rdquo; he said, burying his face in his jacket and weeping. &ldquo;I felt bad. That&rsquo;s what did it.&rdquo;</p><p>If he went to prison again, he said, &ldquo;she would lose it.&rdquo;</p><p>González told me he is starting a trucking company that is above-board. But it could be almost impossible for him to stay at the border and work in the freight business legally.</p><p>He has the logistics experience but also the felony-narcotics record. And his cartel contacts will not forget about him anytime soon. He may have no way out&nbsp;of the drug-supply chain.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1" target="_blank">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me" target="_blank">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Dec 2013 09:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-midwest-heroin-supply-chain-delivers-109320