Tagged: Texas

Summertime – visit your favorite swimming hole, be attacked by brain-eating amoebas

Kansas health officials are urging swimmers to take extra care in warm freshwater, which could be home to millions of microscopic killers.

A 9-year-old Johnson County girl is the latest victim of Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba that lurks in warm, standing water. The girl died July 9 from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, an extremely rare but almost invariably fatal brain infection…

Naegleria fowleri enters the body through the nose, causing a severe frontal headache, fever, nausea and vomiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early symptoms give way to seizures, confusion and hallucinations as the amoeba migrates through the nasal cavity to the brain.

“After the start of symptoms, the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days,” the CDC website reads.

Of 132 people infected with Naegleria fowleri in the United States between 1962 and 2013, only three have survived, according to the CDC. One survivor, a 12-year-old girl infected in 2013, was diagnosed early and treated with “therapeutic hypothermia” and the experimental drug miltefosine.

“Her recovery has been attributed to early diagnosis and treatment,” the CDC website reads.

But spotting the signs of the infection is tricky, because tests to detect the rare infection are “available in only a few laboratories in the United States,” according to the CDC…

The infection is most common in 15 southern-tier states, “with more than half of all infections occurring in Texas and Florida,” the CDC’s website reads. Three-quarters of all U.S. cases have been linked to swimming in freshwater lakes and rivers, but infections have also been associated with slip-n-slides, bathtubs and neti pots, according to the agency.

The infection is not contagious and can’t be contracted from a properly chlorinated pool or saltwater, according to the CDC.

Eeoough!

Thanks, Mike

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Mortuary moves – leaves eight bodies behind in the vacant building

Police shut down an East Fort Worth funeral home Tuesday where they discovered eight bodies in “varying stages of decay,” but the owners of Johnson Family Mortuary said the episode is simply a “miscommunication” between them and their landlord.

“We’ve done nothing wrong,” said Dondre Johnson, who runs the business with his wife, Rachel. “This is a funeral home. This is where dead bodies belong.”

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office removed the bodies of six adults, one child and an infant from the mortuary on South Handley Drive. The owner of the building asked the Johnsons to vacate two weeks ago. Officers received a call around 8 a.m. Tuesday after the owner went to check on the property and found bodies inside, authorities said.

Police said in a statement Tuesday that officers entered the building “to conduct a protective sweep” and determine if anything had happened to the Johnsons, who were not there at the time.

Though some of the bodies had identification tags, officials were working Tuesday night to identify the rest and notify family members, said Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

No criminal charges had been filed Tuesday in connection with the incident.

Police said the bodies were not stored in refrigerated rooms. A foul odor came from the building while officers worked.

Dondre Johnson, who eventually showed up at the scene along with his wife, said the bodies inside the mortuary had been properly stored, and one was embalmed and in a coffin bound for Nairobi, Kenya. He said the rest were kept in black trash bags…

Records show Johnson Family Mortuary has had an active funeral director’s license with the state since July 2011. The license is current through the end of this month but cannot be renewed because there are five open complaints against the business filed with the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Officials said they can’t talk about the details of the complaints until they are closed. Two of three previous complaints were closed without findings of wrongdoing. The third, filed over a late death certificate, resulted in a six-month probationary penalty…

According to the company website, Dondre Johnson and his twin brother, Derrick Johnson, began working in the funeral business when they were 11. They were later mentored by noted Fort Worth pastor and funeral director Gregory Spencer, who was found strangled at an Arlington motel in June 2003.

No doubt there are an abundance of regulations in the mortuary business. There are additional concerns given the clients you’re working with – in the depths of despair and sadness. From what’s made it to the press, so far – I’d be worried that this particular enterprise ain’t exactly up to par on either.

Child badly sunburned — Texas school district won’t allow sunscreen — WTF?

A mother claims that her child wasn’™t allowed to bring sunscreen to campus and was badly sunburned as a result…

Christy Riggs explained that her 10-year-old daughter went on a school field trip and came home sun-burned because the North East Independent School District wouldn’t allow her daughter to bring sunscreen to reapply…

The mother shared that skin cancer runs in her family and that her father recently died from it.

A spokeswoman for the North East Independent School District explained that sunscreen is considered a medication and that children need to provide a doctor’s note to bring it on campus.

“Typically, sunscreen is a toxic substance, and we can’t allow toxic things in to be in our schools,” said Aubrey Chancellor…

“Where do you draw the line?” Riggs asked…“Do we say no hand sanitizer? Do we not allow school glue? When you have several hundred children on field day being burnt, then we have to ask ourselves, ‘Do you want them to be safe or not?’”

Chancellor explained that the school district may revisit this policy, since they review school policies every year.

You don’t need a year to review stupid!

It’s easy to understand why so many parents question the rules and regulations, style and content of the education their children are receiving. When you have petty bureaucrats like this – people whose brain cells are so clogged with lawyerese and timidity – how can you expect anyone to pay attention to the essential tasks of schooling?

Texas Republicans embrace homophobia – replace outright bigotry with stupidity!

The Republican party of Texas has toned down anti-LGBT rhetoric in the party platform, replacing outright condemnation with a softer endorsement of the “value” of reparative therapy.

The “reparative therapy,” alluded to in the newly-unveiled party platform, is the controversial process of subjecting a homosexual to clinical and psychological treatment with the goal of “turning” the patient heterosexual.

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

It is illegal to subject children to so-called “reparative” therapy in New Jersey and California, as those states say it constitutes child abuse.

While still extreme by traditional standards, the new language is significantly less incendiary than the previous platform, which condemned the LGBT community on both historic and religious grounds.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of our society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders and shared by the majority …”

Like I said in the headline – Texas Republicans think they’re appealing to reason by invoking the kind of junk science so beloved of dorks like Michelle Bachmann and her hubby.

Frankly, even a state like Texas – full of folks who vote the way they do because that’s the way they did it in the Confederacy – has to absorb enough watered-down good sense over time into their black-and-white standard-definition minds to understand crap science fixes nothing, nada, nuttin’ honey.

Texas Forest Service watches for wildfires before they burn

Texas wildfires
Click to enlargeDoD/Eric Harris
A C-130H Hercules drops a line of fire retardant in West Texas on April 27, 2011

It’s around 5 p.m. on a warm Sunday in April 2014, and there is a 1,000-acre wildfire burning in Northwest Texas. The area is under a “Red Flag” warning, meaning that high winds and low humidity are likely to make the fire extremely difficult to fight. By 10 p.m. the fire is just 60 percent contained.

April is near the peak of the region’s winter-spring fire season, and the Texas A&M Forest Service is working hard to stay one step ahead of its wildfires. Using NOAA’s monitoring tools, the agency’s Predictive Services team watches for environmental patterns that signal rough days ahead.

The 14-member Predictive Services department commands about $1.2 million, less than 2 percent of the Forest Service’s total budget, but it’s a key part of the agency’s wildfire response. Its findings underlie many of the preventive and proactive measures the state takes to defend against its sometimes cataclysmic fire seasons…

Predictive Service head Tom Spencer checks in routinely with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, making note of shorter-term weather predictions, longer-term climate models, droughts and other data. NOAA’s Fire Weather monitoring tool provides him with detailed forecasts for regions across the United States, including a 7-day forecast and hourly updates on conditions that may influence fire activity. Spencer also relies on NOAA’s drought monitors, which track drought outbreaks and provide perspective on drought scope and severity around the country…

On that particular April Sunday the agency was helping tackle at least six infernos, but this fire season has been a fairly moderate one for Texas. Around this time three years ago there were 1.5 million acres burning every day for about three weeks straight.

RTFA for the story of the systems brought to play on Texas wildfires. Understand what fire-forecasting has on offer especially for local and rural fire departments with nothing like the resources needed to fight a major wildfire.

Interesting stuff. Useful – like most real science. So far, most Texas politicians seem to be staying out of the way.

Texas politicians say they’re not getting enough — Pass a pole tax!

Texas wants strip-club owners to pay millions of dollars owed on a $5-per-patron tax imposed in 2007 that they have left unpaid amid court challenges, according to a letter from Comptroller Susan Combs.

Combs said in the April 11 letter that the clubs have to cough up the so-called pole tax even as the legal case continues, because courts have ruled it valid…

Under the Sexually Oriented Business Fee Act passed seven years ago, a business that offers live nude entertainment and alcohol must remit $5 to the comptroller for each patron. After lawmakers passed the legislation, owners of businesses led by the Texas Entertainment Association filed a lawsuit claiming the tax violated the First Amendment.

The state Supreme Court ruled in August 2011 that the tax didn’t harm the clubs’ freedom of speech. Clubs continued to fight the case in lower and appellate courts, but there has been no activity since April 2013, according to dockets.

Yes, nothing seems to drive politics and profits in this land more than sex. The all-time top traffic-getter in this, my personal blog, goes back to practically the first day I moved this blog over to wordpress.com.

Bush family values still greased by the Oil Patch Boys


“Can I have a hug, too, Uncle George?”

When the latest member of the Bush family decided to foray into politics, he went with an understated entrance, attracting more headlines for his famous last name than for the relatively low-profile statewide position he was seeking.

George P. Bush — a son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush — is expected to handily win his race for Texas land commissioner in November after easily shaking off a primary opponent in March.

If he does, he will be responsible for managing the state’s vast public lands and extracting royalty fees from the oil and gas companies that drill on them.

A distinguishing feature of George P. Bush’s quest for public office: a campaign war chest totaling $2.2 million — a significant portion of that money furnished by the same industry he will go on to regulate if he wins…

Anne Marion, heiress to the fortune of Fort Worth–based Burnett Oil Co., gave $50,000, according to reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission and compiled by The Texas Tribune. Jan Rees Jones, wife of Trevor Jones, president and CEO of Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas provided another $50,000. James Henry, a longtime veteran of the oil industry and chair of Henry Resources LLC, another oil and gas exploration firm, lent $40,000 to the effort. Syed Javaid Anwar, president of Midland Energy, kicked in $40,000.

In all, Al Jazeera tabulated that individuals tied to energy companies contributed at least $450,000 to Bush’s first political effort…

Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance advocacy group, pointed out that Bush’s donor Rolodex is nothing if not predictable, given that the Bush family made its first millions in oil. Bush founded St. Augustine, an investment firm specializing in oil and gas extractions.

McDonald said that Texas’ notoriously loose campaign finance regulations are partly to blame for the state of affairs. There are no caps on contributions.

Sometimes the things that are most scandalous are things that are legal, and we find that situation in Texas a lot,” he said. “We do think it is a cause for concern, but it’s not unusual in the context of Texas politics.”

Give the Roberts Supreme Court sufficient time, maintain the majority of conservative justices on the bench, and the United States will end up looking like Texas, the old Confederacy, poll taxes and all.

3-year-old kicked out of daycare for saying “shit”

A Texas pre-schooler was expelled from her San Antonio school for swearing — even though she’s probably not old enough to realize what she said.

Three-year-old Arianna got the boot from going to daycare at the Jubilee Child Development Center for saying the “s-word.”

Her mother, Cassandra Wright, doesn’t know where her daughter first heard the curse.

“I don’t condone her saying it but for that to be a faith based daycare I would think that they would reinforce and let her know that’s not a word to say,” Wright told News 4 San Antonio. “I asked her what word did you say, and she told me animal.”

According to the development center’s director, there is a zero-tolerance policy for swearing. “I didn’t think that this would be an isolated incident either,” Alissa Blankenship said.

Another student was already expelled for swearing a few months ago.

I’m beginning to acquire zero tolerance for intolerant zero-tolerance fanatics. Doesn’t our nation already have an excess of rigid, conformist 19th Century stiffs.

Doesn’t seem beyond the limits of communications for a school admin, parents and child to sit down and sort something like this out. Or is that too much like work?

Uncle Ben’s infused rice recalled after school lunch sickens kids

The Food and Drug Administration and Texas Department of State Health Services have alerted consumers to a recall of Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products distributed in Texas, after children and staff at three schools in Katy became ill on Friday.

About 50 people who ate Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor at lunch on Friday complained of burning, itching, rashes, headaches and nausea, symptoms that subsided after 30 to 90 minutes.

After the incident, Mars Foodservices said that it decided to recall all of the Infused Rice products produced since Jan. 1, 2013…

Mars also said that a small amount of the rice could be purchased online and urged anyone with the product to return it.

The recall includes Infused Rice products that were sold in 5 and 25-pound bags to institutions, like schools, hospitals and prisons.

First reporting after the Katy schools sickness declared that this Uncle Ben’s preparation had already been recalled – and that schools should have known about it. Dunno if that changed, if the reports filtering through our stellar network TV news mavens were incorrect or if the correction and recall happened afterwards.

Regardless, you have to wonder what passes for risk management in large economy-size corporations. Mass poisonings even when not fatal are likely to end up in class action suits requiring a lot more cash being dispensed than in standardized insurance settlements.

Brain dead, forced to stay on life support by the state of Texas


Erick and Marlise Munoz with their oldest son

The diagnosis was crushing and irrevocable. At 33, Marlise Munoz was brain-dead after collapsing on her kitchen floor in November from what appeared to be a blood clot in her lungs.

But as her parents and her husband prepared to say their final goodbyes in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital here and to honor her wish not to be left on life support, they were stunned when a doctor told them the hospital was not going to comply with their instructions. Mrs. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctor said, and Texas is one of more than two dozen states that prohibit, with varying degrees of strictness, medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient…

“It’s not a matter of pro-choice and pro-life,” said Mrs. Munoz’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60. “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honored by the state of Texas.”

Mrs. Munoz’s father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer and an Air Force veteran, put it even more bluntly. “All she is is a host for a fetus,” he said on Tuesday. “I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?”

At least 31 states have adopted laws restricting the ability of doctors to end life support for terminally ill pregnant women, regardless of the wishes of the patient or the family, according to a 2012 report from the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington. Texas is among 12 of those states with the most restrictive such laws, which require that life-support measures continue no matter how far along the pregnancy is…

The restrictive measures were largely adopted in the 1980s, with the spread of laws authorizing patients to make advance directives about end-of-life care like living wills and health care proxies, said Katherine A. Taylor, a lawyer and bioethicist at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The provisions to protect fetuses, she said, helped ease the qualms of the Roman Catholic Church and others about such directives.

These laws essentially deny women rights that are given others to direct their health care in advance and determine how they want to die,” Ms. Taylor said. “The law can make a woman stay alive to gestate the fetus.”

The question comes down to the hypocrisy of elected officials who swear above all else to honor the Constitution of the United States and then turn centuries backwards and accept the superstitions of one or another religion to guide their decisions. Pandering is the word that comes to mind. Pandering to the 14th Century beliefs of some voters to stay in power.

There have been times, there have been individuals in politics who lived up to the premise of providing guidance and leadership to the electorate. That’s why we speak of public service. Making a career of studying circumstances, acquiring the latest and most complete knowledge of subjects aiding the public interest, committing to the greater good is what public service is supposed to be about.

Lip service is paid by campaigners; but, so often, the immediate after-effect of even the least appearance of a mandate is opportunism, paybacks to the money boys, divvying up the spoils of political power among the most unproductive and uncompetitive elements of the power-hungry.

We end up with one more example of religious ideology ruled as mandatory for life and death in the medical-industrial complex. Fundamentalists rejoice as a family is forced by law and lawyers to let the decaying body of their loved one serve as an incubator. Freedom of choice, dignity, personal worth mean nothing in the eyes of what passes for law under the thumb of opportunist politicians.