As VIA officials shop their own streetcar vision to City Council today, they’re headed for a clash with Mayor Julián Castro and at least one councilman, District 8’s Reed Williams, who dropped their own very different streetcar plan to the Express-News last week. While VIA’s current five-year plan, board-approved in July, calls for an east-west streetcar line running through the heart of downtown, Castro wants a north-south line that moves along Broadway, turning east at HemisFair and ending at the Robert Thompson Transit Center on the East Side. Bexar County commissioners already bought into the east-west plan in August, voting to funnel $55 million toward the project — on the condition that City Hall match the contribution. Spokeswoman Priscilla Ingle said VIA intends to give Council its current plan “as is, then field questions and any concerns.” (2pm Wednesday, Sept 28, Municipal Plaza Building, “B” Room, 114 W Commerce)
Have you saddled up on Rick Perry? Do you know anyone, gay or straight, who has? Well, Larry Flynt, of Hustler and many a First-Amendment skirmish, is willing to pay out $1 million for your story. In full-page ads in the Austin Chronicle and the Onion last week, Flint became the second person in as many months looking to publicly probe the GOP presidential contender’s sex life. Some readers may remember the Austin-based hard-right GOP activist who last month placed his own full-page Chronicle ad, looking for any stripper, escort, or “young hottie” who has knocked boots with Guv Goodhair. Flynt, however, is another animal. Back when Repubs had President Clinton up for impeachment, Flynt took out then-incoming U.S. House Speaker Robert Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana, who resigned, admitting past affairs. The Washington Post later dubbed Flynt an “Investigative Pornographer.”
Climatologists want to correct data twisters
A small but determined group gathered at the Pearl Brewery Complex on Saturday — not for the locally made jams and jellies sold at the weekly farmer’s market, but to decry the world’s ongoing addiction to fossil fuels, an addiction driving most of the global warming on the planet. With the shock of the hottest summer on record fresh on their minds, folks from a variety of local organizations representing mass transit, energy-efficient building, and electronics recycling tabled the corridor of the Full Good Building. But the gathering — part of a global Moving Planet protest taking part in more than 150 countries urging the world to take action on climate change — culminated with the SUV-shaped piñata bash. But inside the offices of the San Antonio chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a couple of climatologists were making clear (for these guys, it’s becoming something of a full-time job) that Governor Perry does not speak for Texas scientists on the subject of global warming.
“Contrary to popular denial, yes, global warming is happening,” said Gunnar Schade of Texas A&M by way of Germany. Consider Schade one of those scientists who doesn’t like seeing data misused and misrepresented. “You have to address the people who are in denial,” Schade said. “They’re very vocal, and they have big voices, and they are in high positions — and I don’t need to say much more in this state — and they need to be opposed. … We scientists have exactly done this thing wrong in my opinion. We have not gone out and opposed those who twist and turn the science that we produce.”
Fellow Aggie researcher Gerald North said: “Here we are in the state of Texas and I cannot name a single scientist who is a climate-change denier. There is not one. I’ve been in two big forum debates in the last year and they had to go way, way out of state to find somebody who would debate on the other side. There simply isn’t anyone in Texas.” Well, Perry, perhaps, but he’s just ig’nant.
The pair briefed the 20-odd in attendance on climate basics and the path ahead. Prognosis holds for more warm spells and heat waves, a doubling of dramatic heat events by 2050, longer summers, more wildfires... and even when our current drought breaks (in a couple years, perhaps), it will be with a flood, Schade said.
State Dept paves way for Keystone XL pipeline to East Texas
Has TransCanada been greasing the wheels at the State Department for easy approval of its proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline to ship tar-sands-derived crude from Alberta, Canada, down to Texas refineries (with a big purchase order from Valero)? Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks had already left environmental activists and pipeline opponents with the sneaking suspicion that behind-the-scenes schmoozing had turned TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline into a done deal. But recently released emails between the oil company and State officials have pipeline opponents warning of a far-too-cozy, and possibly unethical, relationship. The emails, released in a FOIA lawsuit filed by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, shows dozens of exchanges between staff with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and TransCanada lobbyist Paul Elliott, who in 2008 helped run Clinton’s presidential campaign. Friends of the Earth claims the exchanges show State officials coaching TransCanada through the process, particularly prior to the drafting of State’s environmental impact statement, which, when released last month, declared the proposed pipeline would cause minimal environmental harm, despite a litany of cases and concerns continually cited by both activists and the EPA.
“The most troubling documents indicate that State Department officials sought to help TransCanada by providing information about State’s internal thinking and by coaching TransCanada on what to say,” Friends of the Earth wrote in a statement.
The pipeline is now at a critical stage in the approval process, heading into public hearings over the next month to determine whether the project is in the national interest. State officials will hear from the public in Austin today at UT’s Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium (noon-3:30pm, 4pm-8pm, 2313 Red River Street). Watch Newsmonger (blogs.sacurrent.com) for coverage of today’s hearing.
Border Patrol represents a ‘culture of cruelty?’
No More Deaths, an Arizona-based immigrant-rights group, has released a lengthy report detailing years of interviews with migrants across the Southwest border, documenting what they call an “institutional culture of abuse” within the U.S. Border Patrol.
The report, titled “A Culture of Cruelty,” is based on three and a half years worth of interviews the group conducted with immigrants deported to Mexico by Border Patrol, uncovering what they claim are some 30,000 documented cases of abuse. The allegations range from immigrants being denied food and water to money, cell phones, and other personal property being stolen from them prior to deportation. Some of the more alarming stories detail instances supposed physical and psychological abuse, and the group claims immigrants are sometimes denied much-needed medical care. The report contains stories of families separated in Border Patrol custody, some deported to Mexican cities reeling from drug violence in the dark of night. The group, which leaves food and water along the punishing desert trails frequented by migrants, also insists that Border Patrol routinely slashes the water bottles and dumps the food left for immigrants along the trails.
“It is clear that instances of mistreatment and abuse in Border Patrol custody are not aberrational. Rather, they reflect common practice for an agency that is part of the largest federal law enforcement body in the country,” the report authors wrote. “By this point, the overwhelming weight of the corroborated evidence should eliminate any doubt that Border Patrol abuse is widespread.” •