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Reports: Conservative-Bashers Steve Schmidt, Henry Barbour Advising Rick Perry

by Tony Lee

Texas Governor Rick Perry has reportedly aligned himself with two of the most infamous Republican establishment operatives known for trashing conservatives.

Perry is working with Henry Barbour, whom conservatives want the Republican National Committee to censure for his group’s smearing of conservatives in the Mississippi Senate runoff, and Steve Schmidt, who has elevated his profile by maligning conservatives, especially former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Politico’s Maggie Haberman reported on Tuesday that Schmidt, the infamous hack from Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign whose gamble to go “all-in” and suspend the campaign during the financial crisis turned up snake eyes, “has joined the team” helping Perry “with the strategy around his indictment.” After McCain’s poll numbers plummeted after Schmidt’s reckless gamble, Schmidt attempted to re-write history and try to smear former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the mainstream press and blame the 2008 loss on her.

Though that gambit did not work, Schmidt did endear himself to the permanent political class and media, and he soon joined the likes of Meghan McCain in gleefully bashing conservatives on mainstream and even liberal outlets like MSNBC. He also hid in the woods before inviting the New York Times to find him. Conservative scholar and talk radio host Mark Levin simply wondered, “Why would Perry hire this conservative-attacker and Palin-hater?”

As Perry seriously considers a presidential run after his 2012 attempt failed due to campaign and debate mishaps, crony capitalism concerns, and his infamous statement in Florida in which he said conservatives opposed to in-state tuition for illegal immigrants did not have “a heart,” the Associated Press recently reported that Perry, “with the help of veteran Republican operative Henry Barbour,” has “begun hiring staff in key states to help prepare for a possible run.”

If policy is personnel, as Reagan said and those like Morton Blackwell always emphasize, Perry should be concerned. As Breitbart News reported, top conservatives have called on the Republican National Committee to censure Barbour for his “role in racially incendiary appeals to Democratic voters that voting for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) was a means of helping stop the Tea Party.” They have asked RNC Chair Reince Priebus “to create a special RNC committee to investigate the matter and eventually issue a formal RNC repudiation of the actions taken in Mississippi.”

The coalition “includes TPPCF Chair Jenny Beth Martin, ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell, Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, ConservativeHQ Chairman Richard Viguerie, former RNC grassroots director Drew Ryun, Family Research Council Action PAC Chairman Tony Perkins, and SOS4SOS PAC Chairman Ken Blackwell.”

Perry should be aware of scorpions like Messrs. Barbour and Schmidt, especially if he has dirty laundry. And even if he doesn’t, he should be no less worried, because those like Schmidt have proven that they may just make things up if things sour.

The NRSC’s Remarkable Immigration Statement

by Jonathan Strong

Capitol Hill insiders widely consider President Obama’s rumored plan to unilaterally extend amnesty to as many as five million of illegal aliens to be political suicide, essentially ceding control of the Senate in a single act. But a key question has been whether elite Republicans are willing to deploy the issue in weaponized form.

A statement from Brad Dayspring, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, suggests the answer is yes.

“Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all – including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class. Workers are hurting,” Dayspring said.

Bits of the statement appeared in a spate of stories about the GOP’s recently increased willingness to seize on immigration in close Senate races, the chief example being New Hampshire candidate and former Sen. Scott Brown.

But the full ideological import of Dayspring’s words seem to have passed by largely unnoticed.

The remarks are notable because while the law-and-order side of border security has always been a staple GOP talking point, the economic impact of increased immigration on wages is a secondary and disputed aspect.

Led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), immigration hawks have spent years arguing that increasing immigration depresses wages for American workers.

Others, like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) argue increasing immigration will increase the size of the economy, creating a “rising tide that lifts all boats.”

The effect of millions of people living and working in the country illegally on the rule of law may be its most important one, but the economic impact is more likely to resonate with the white, blue collar “Perot voters” that Mitt Romney did poorly with.

If the big-money GOP campaign machinery embraces the line, it could pay serious dividends in November. But the rhetoric also carries a cost: its logic makes it more difficult to back away from next year, when many Republicans had hoped to return to immigration reform.

With the border crisis having significantly changed the political landscape on immigration, maybe the embrace is recognition that any “Gang of Eight”-type bill is doomed for the next few years. Or perhaps the effectiveness of such attacks are just too tempting for the GOP operative class. Whatever the explanation, it’s a truly remarkable shift.

Here’s Dayspring’s full statement:

From a political perspective, the President was first elected by promising to be a consensus builder. Today, Obama’s approval on the immigration issue is at record lows (worse than almost every other issue). In short, he has no legal authority to grant “executive amnesty” and little public support to do it. The only conceivable explanation for the President to take such an unprecedented and drastic action would be that he has already conceded the Democrats’ Senate Majority and wants to get ahead of 2015. Executive Amnesty would be the political equivalent of nuclear explosion for Democratic candidates like Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen. Democrats are terrified of this issue. President Obama’s Executive Amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval.

The “Economy” means different things to voters (affordability, security) & immigration is viewed by many as part of the overall economic equation. Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all – including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class. Workers are hurting. The share of Americans in the workforce is at its lowest level in nearly 4 decades. There are 58 million working-age Americans who aren’t working. Median household income has dropped $2,000 since 2009. Wages are lower today than in 1999.

The House passed bills to block President Obama’s planned executive amnesty and to provide emergency funding to deal with the crisis and reduce wait times for children caught in the system, yet Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen, and Kay Hagan voted with Harry Reid to block it from coming to a vote. Bruce Braley and Gary Peters opposed the House bill and are therefore complicit in any Executive Amnesty President Obama attempts. In short, these Democratic candidates will be responsible for President Obama’s Executive Amnesty. They will be complicit in slashing wages and making it even more difficult for unemployed Americans trying to get a job to find one. For years, Americans have begged for the laws to be enforced and for a just and fair system of immigration that serves everyone’s best interests. We need to grow our middle class, but Democrats’ complicity in Obama’s Executive Amnesty – an extreme position if there ever was one – will permanently hollow it out.


  • Just 31 percent of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the immigration issue, according to a June 20 Gallup poll.
  • An August CBS News poll found the same thing, only 31% approve of the job Obama is doing on immigration.
  • Polling from Fox News, which has trend data going back to 2010 on this issue, shows that Obama’s approval on this issue is at the lowest point of his Presidency.
  • According to a late July poll by the Associated Press and GfK Public Affairs, President Obama’s approval/disapproval rating on the issue has slipped from 38 percent in May, to 31 percent in July. 67 percent of voters consider the issue “extremely” or “very” serious. Currently President Obama is underwater by 37 points. Republicans are now more trusted on handling immigration policy, a 10-point swing since mid-May.
  • Majorities in the NBC-WSJ Poll from August say that we do not have the resources and these children should be sent home, while 55 percent in the AP-Gfk Poll from July say that the U.S. does not have an obligation to offer asylum.

Bipartisan Poison Pill

by Christopher Paxton

What do the House Republican leadership and the liberal Democrat candidate for Lt. Governor have in common? Both take positions opposite that of the Texas Republican Party platform regarding Obamacare.

Late last week, State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte called for a “Texas Solution” to Medicaid expansion. This misleading phrase, “Texas Solution” has been a popular misnomer among liberal-leaning Republicans and Democrats who want to expand the size of the broken state-federal healthcare financing system.

According to the state’s Legislative Budget Board, nearly two-thirds of the roughly $70 billion of federal money received by the state last biennium goes to Health and Human Services—of which Medicaid is the largest program. Enticed by the prospect of even more of your tax-dollars, many liberal Republicans have displayed their budgetary myopia jonesing for the federal funds that would return a diminishing match with each budget cycle.

Currently, the federal government matches nearly $60 for every $40 Texas spends on most Medicaid services. Under Obamacare, the feds would chip-in 100% for expansion-eligible populations, but only for three years. After that, Texans would largely be at the mercy of the federal government in terms of paying for this massive new population of beneficiaries.

Under current funding rules for Medicaid, states are incentivized to spend as much as possible on the program, as there is no limit on the amount of federal funds a state can receive if it spends money to draw them down. No spending limits and the prospect of “free” federal money is a recipe for complete fiscal recklessness. It is no wonder that big-spending Speaker Joe Straus was quoted during the 83rd session that Texas “can’t just say ‘no’” to Medicaid expansion, only to be repudiated by nearly the entire House Republican caucus and Governor Perry.

Politicians favoring expansion with “conditions” or state rules dictating how the program would be expanded have floated their “Texas Solution”—meaning that the state would later opt-out if it found the expansion unfavorable to the state.

There is a reason this idea never received serious consideration during the 83rd Legislature.

This position ignores the plain reality of the Medicaid program. A March 2013 Wall Street Journal article explains why states that seek to opt-in to expanding medicaid will likely never opt-out, “[…] there’s no evidence in the original law [Obamacare] or the Supreme Court opinion [in NFIB v. Sebelius] that states can join or leave at their own whim.”

Just as Obamacare has proved a disaster for the federal government and many state governments that opted to expand Medicaid, there can be no doubt that Texas’ economic progress would be severely hindered by expanding this broken system.

Despite all of the repeated rejections of Obamacare by conservative leaders, liberal leaning Republican House members are still pushing for expansion. Ignoring the manifold fiscal and political dangers of this position, Straus Committee chair John Zerwas is in lock-step with liberal Democrats.

Texas taxpayers should ask their House members if they will support the conservative position on Obamacare or if they will side with Speaker Straus, his lieutenants, and liberal Democrats against the Republican Party platform.

Drones will fill the sky

by Peter Bergen

Drones are everywhere.

Consider that just in the past few days, a Federal Aviation Administration official revealed that in March a US Airways passenger jet nearly collided with a small-unmanned aircraft that looked similar to an F-4 Phantom jet and was flying above 2,000 feet over Florida. These details and the fact that the drone was described as “camouflaged” suggest that it was not a civilian drone.

Then Sunday the Iranians announced that they had engineered a copy of a highly sophisticated U.S. surveillance drone that they had captured in 2011. Iran’s state television showed footage of what they claimed was a replica of the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone. A photograph showed Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sitting next to the drone.

The same day that the Iranians showed off their new drone, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times arguing against the appointment of David Barron as a federal judge. Barron was a White House lawyer who was involved in drafting the legal opinions used to justify the 2011 drone strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who had taken a leadership role in al Qaeda.

Paul wrote, “Killing an American citizen without a trial is an extraordinary concept and deserves serious debate. I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. … I believe that all senators should have access to all of these opinions. Furthermore, the American people deserve to see redacted versions of these memos so that they can understand the Obama administration’s legal justification for this extraordinary exercise of executive power.”

Not so long ago, killing an American citizen on the other side of the world with an armed drone would have been in the realm of science fiction. Before 9/11, the United States had only a handful of experimental drones that had never been used to kill anyone. Today, there are at least 7,000 drones in the U.S. arsenal, more than 200 of which are armed drones that have killed thousands of people.

Nine facts about armed drones

This large American fleet of drones is a harbinger of an important trend. Armed drones will likely prove as important to the future of warfare as tanks were during World War II. We can expect to see them used not only by the United States, but also by other countries such as China and Russia that are jumping into the production of armed drones.

Impact of U.S. drones in Yemen

Airliner’s near miss with drone

Photos: Military drones Photos: Military drones

But armed drones raise a number of moral and political issues that are unresolved. In Pakistan, the CIA drone campaign is deeply unpopular because Pakistanis ask themselves: What gives the United States the right to invade the sovereign airspace of our nation and sometimes kill our civilians, even in the service of the laudable goal of killing al Qaeda militants?

For American readers, do a thought experiment in which armed Mexican drones were routinely killing members of drug cartels living in Texas, but they were also sometimes killing a number of ordinary Texans and you get a sense of how the average Pakistani thinks about this issue.

In Yemen, the U.S. drone campaign has also become increasingly controversial because drones continue to kill Yemeni civilians — as they did last month in a strike that targeted members of al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate.In that strike on April 19, at least nine militants were killed but so were three civilians.

Even with these issues, drones present features that make them appealing to political and military leaders. Drones are not simply pieces of artillery that happen to fly. They have four characteristics that mean they are likely to reshape warfare at a tactical level.

First, armed drones are different from any previous form of artillery because they can linger over and assess a target for many hours. That capability can quite dramatically lower the civilian casualty rates that have been typical of earlier eras of warfare.

The smallest bomb dropped by the U.S. Air Force is typically 500 pounds. Such a bomb cannot, of course, distinguish between a civilian and a combatant. A drone can do so. And it can also shoot much smaller missiles, such as the 100-pound Hellfire missile.

In that sense there is a case to be made that armed drones presage a more ethical form of warfare that kills fewer civilians. But that doesn’t mean of course that drones and the people who operate them won’t kill civilians in the future. The U.S. drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen have killed hundreds of civilians over the past half decade.

Second, armed drones also make it possible to wage war against particular individuals. In a sense drones are flying assassins that target particular people.

It is not an accident that the rise of drone warfare has coincided with America’s unconventional war against al Qaeda and its allies. In conventional wars, armies wearing uniforms attack each other. But in the kind of drone warfare that the United States has conducted since 9/11 outside of conventional war zones in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, drone strikes are not directed at someone because of his status as a uniformed member of another military force, but rather because of the individual’s suspected connection to al Qaeda or an allied group.

Third, there is a lower threshold for the use of force when armed drones are an option. In many ways the use of armed drones is akin to the use of cyberwarfare. Both tactics greatly reduce or eliminate the number of deaths that would result from a conventional armed conflict. And whoever launches a drone attack or a cyberattack pays no costs of the kind that would typically take place on a conventional battlefield.

You can’t shoot down a drone pilot or kill a computer technician launching some kind of cyberattack thousands of miles from the intended target. For this reason, drones and cyber capabilities can make conflict more likely as the barriers to engage in either drone warfare or cyberconflict are so low. (Until, of course, the opponent has the resources to retaliate in kind.)

Fourth, drone warfare is taking place in an unprecedented information environment in which the U.S. government collects ever-vaster amounts of data. This data collection is so extensive that the National Security Agency, for instance, can record every phone call that is made in a particular country.

It is this merger of “big data” and drone technology, which is also complemented by human intelligence about suspected terrorists provided by CIA assets on the ground in places such as Pakistan’s tribal regions, that has made drone warfare against al Qaeda and its allies so effective.

The CIA drone campaign in Pakistan has killed 58 militant leaders, according to a count by the New America Foundation. Thirty-five militant leaders have also been killed in Yemen. Meanwhile, at least 339 civilians have been killed as well as at least 2,200 foot soldiers in militant groups in Pakistan and Yemen. At least 230 other people were reported killed, though it was not clear from reliable news accounts if they were militants or civilians.

Indeed, using the most conservative estimates from a database of drone attacks maintained by the New America Foundation, the Obama administration authorized the killing of more than 2,400 people in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen from the time it first assumed office until the end of March 2014. (Using the least conservative estimates from that database, the total number of people killed was almost 4,000.)

Put another way, using the most conservative estimates of the numbers of people killed in drone strikes by the Obama administration, they amount to three times the total number of the some 800 prisoners at the Guantanamo prison camp placed there by the Bush administration. As President Barack Obama reportedly told some of his aides, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was going to be a strong suit of mine.”

Osama bin Laden recognized the devastation that such drone strikes were inflicting on his organization, writing a lengthy memo about the issue that was later recovered in the compound in Pakistan where he was killed three years ago.

In the October 2010 memo to a lieutenant, bin Laden advised his men to leave the Pakistani tribal regions where the drone strikes have been overwhelmingly concentrated. Bin Laden wrote, “I am leaning toward getting most of our brothers out of the area” and urged his followers to depart for the remote Afghan province of Kunar, explaining that “due to its rough terrain and many mountains, rivers, trees, it can accommodate hundreds of the brothers without them being spotted by the enemy.”

The civilian casualty rate from drone strikes has been dropping dramatically in recent years. According to New America Foundation data, the casualty rate in Pakistan for civilians and also for “unknowns” — those who were not identified in news reports definitively as either militants or civilians — was around 40% under President George W. Bush when the drone program was in its infancy. It has come down to about 7% under Obama.

In 2013 in Pakistan and Yemen, the numbers of civilians killed by drones in both countries combined was the lowest ever, in the single digits, according to the New America Foundation’s data.

This shift has been accomplished because of the combined effects of smaller munitions, improved drone flight technology, better intelligence on the ground, stricter White House guidelines regarding the use of drones, increased congressional oversight of the drone program and greater public scrutiny of the issue.

It will be many years before other countries are able to build up the capacity that the United States has to carry out lethal drone strikes. As of 2013, the United States had drone bases in countries such as Afghanistan, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. And it isn’t as easy as some might think for other nations to arm unarmed drones.

Such weapons systems require specific electrical engineering; the wings must be reinforced for the aircraft to sustain the force of launching a missile; the drone must be equipped with fire control systems, and built-in mounting brackets are needed to attach munitions to the vehicle.

But even with these inherent limitations, the drone industry thrives, and more companies and nations continue to jump on board the drone bandwagon. And the U.S. aggressive and secretive drone campaign against al Qaeda and its affiliates is setting a powerful international precedent about the use of armed drones.

It is these kinds of drone strikes that are controversial since the use of armed drones in a conventional war is not much different, legally, than a manned aircraft that drops bombs or fires missiles.

There has been virtually no substantive public discussion about what an international legal framework governing such drone attacks should be among policymakers at the international level. It’s long past due for that conversation to happen.

Texas isn’t just leading the nation in job growth—it’s doing it more equitably, too

Underestimate Texas at your own peril.

You might be inclined to think that the Lone Star state is bad at creating good jobs. It is, after all, second only to Idaho in the proportion of its population earning the federal minimum wage or less, according to the Labor Department. And it has the ninth-highest Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality. So it’s only natural to assume that the state is bad at adding good jobs, right? Wrong.

Texas experienced stronger job growth than the rest of the nation from 2000 to 2013, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Not only that, a pair of researchers note in a Thursday research publication, but Texas leads the nation in creation of jobs at all pay levels, too.

“Texas has also created more ‘good’ than ‘bad’ jobs,” they write. “Jobs in the top half of the wage distribution experienced disproportionate growth. The two upper wage quartiles were responsible for 55 percent of net new jobs. A similar pie chart cannot be made for the rest of the U.S., which lost jobs in the lower-middle quartile over the period.”

We’ve written plenty about how the income gap has continued to grow in recent years and decades, and the same is true with jobs. Nationally, all the jobs created since 2000 were concentrated at the highest- or lowest-paying quartiles. In Texas, however, job creation was more broad-based.

As we noted above, Texas does have a larger share of its population earning the federal minimum wage or less  than any state but Idaho, but it helps that things are cheap.

“A low minimum wage and plenty of low-skilled workers ensure that Texas will have a high share of minimum wage jobs,” the researchers write. “On the other hand, a relatively low cost of living in Texas ensures that workers’ earnings here will go further than in other large states.”

Plus, as in the rest of the nation, those earning the least tend to be young, suggesting that their wages will only rise as their costs of living do.

Most sectors in the state contributed to the growth of so-called “good jobs,” they found, though education and health services were the runaway leaders for high-wage job creation (see chart below).

“Texas has produced hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs across most industries since 2000, making Texas the top destination for domestic migrants since 2006,” the researchers note. But broad trends, such as globalization, technological change and slowing educational attainment threaten its success. If the state wants to maintain the economic climate that enabled such (relatively) equitable job growth, it would be wise to institute policies now, such as investing in higher education, that boost economic opportunities, the authors argue.

Roads alone won’t drive Texas’ future, new TxDOT chief says

by Brandon Formby

The Texas Department of Transportation’s new executive director says it’s going to take more than new roads to keep Texans traveling smoothly if population growth estimates prove true.

The way Joe Weber sees it, the state transportation agency needs to increase financing for commuter and freight projects if it is to build the infrastructure that Texans are going to want and need in the decades ahead.

“That’s going to be hard to do,” Weber said. “That’s a cultural change.”

Some estimates project the state could double its population to more than 55 million residents in less than 40 years. TxDOT faces inadequate funding to maintain current state roads and build new highways to keep pace.

But one of Weber’s biggest priorities in the short term is going to be reducing the number of traffic fatalities. More than 1,100 people have died in vehicle accidents so far this year.

“That’s embarrassing to me,” Weber said.

The Texas Transportation Commission tapped Weber last month to replace former executive director Phil Wilson, who left to run a Texas water authority. Weber, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, last week spoke with The Dallas Morning News about his philosophies on the future of Texas transportation.

Weber was most recently the vice president of student affairs at Texas A&M, his alma mater. Like Wilson, Weber is not an engineer and doesn’t have a transportation-focused background.

But, he said, his 36-year tenure in the Marines included overseeing a host of construction work, military base installations and infrastructure projects.

“So it’s not new to me,” he said.

Weber said that meeting transportation needs isn’t just about making sure Texans get to work. He said the future stability of the state’s economy will rely on businesses, workers and consumers being able to connect through all modes of transport.

“It’s about economic development,” he said. “It’s not just moving around, it’s not just solely congestion.”

Putting more emphasis on transportation modes other than roads isn’t just predicated on a shift in thinking — it’s going to require a change in how the agency spends its money. TxDOT, like most of its counterparts across the country, was born out of a former state highway department. And when it comes to legislative funding and agency spending, those roots are still apparent.

“Funding still primarily revolves around highway construction,” said agency spokesman Bob Kaufman.

Weber said the agency needs to work closely with local authorities — including other transportation agencies — to better plan for future needs and projects. He said the agency will have to continue to explore new ways to finance projects. And emerging technologies such as automated cars could also lead to innovations that relieve congestion in less costly ways to the agency.

“We’re really in a window of opportunity,” Weber said.

Elementary school teacher arrested on public intoxication charge

An Arlington ISD teacher was arrested Friday after her co-workers suspected that she was drunk at work.

Megan Updegraff, 28, a first-grade teacher at West Elementary in Grand Prairie, has been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates, spokeswoman Leslie Johnston said.

No children were around when she was arrested​ on a public intoxication charge​.

Updegraff has been a teacher at West Elementary since 2012.

State and Local Leaders Ask You to be ‘Texas Water Smart’


by Caroline Flores

If you’re conserving water now, it’s not enough. State and local leaders want you to save even more.

We’re all under stage 2 water restrictions. That’s helping save water, “but our water reservoirs are at a historically low levels and we need all Texans to do our part,” said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

So, Commissioner Staples and city leaders are challenging you to do even more.

“Texans have never backed down from a challenge,” said Commissioner Staples.

“I am very very concerned about Texas and water. But the key is conservation. That’s your first step,” said Representative Todd Hunter.

They’re asking all of us to join Texas Water Smart, a coalition that’s come up with many new ways to conserve water.

“This is that knock on the door today. To ask you to be apart of that. And you’re joining hundreds of thousands of Texans that are making a difference and ensuring that we have the water we need not only for today but for future generations,” said Commissioner Staples.

City leaders say the more we conserve now, the longer it’ll be before we fall under stiffer water restrictions.

Texas Water Smart has a laundry list of suggestions to conserve water. Nearly all of them won’t cost you a dime.

Some of those ideas include watering only in the mornings or evenings. Adjust lawn mowers to cut higher because a taller lawn retains water better. Checking for leaks and adjust sprinklers so they only water the grass… not streets or sidewalks.

If you would like to see all of their tips, check out the Texas Water Smart website

See video here.

Police: Store clerk shoots would-be robber

by Robert Arnold

Houston police said an armed convenience store clerk not only foiled an attempted robbery, but wound up putting the would-be robber in the hospital. Police said the man was shot in the neck while trying to rob a convenience store at the intersection of Almeda-Genoa and Rowlett.

“When I saw the gun I felt like I was going to die. For my safety I had to pull my trigger,” said store clerk Kiran Giri.

Giri is known in his southeast Houston neighborhood as Alex and said he’s worked at the Almeda Discount Food Store for 14 years. In that time, Giri said he’s seen crime getting worse.

Giri said a fear of being attacked is why he obtained a Texas concealed-handgun license 18 months ago. Giri said after obtaining his license he started carrying a pistol to work.

“You got to be prepared, you never know when you’re behind the counter,” said Giri.

Giri said his worst fears were realized Monday evening when an armed robber confronted him while was working behind the counter.

“As soon as he walked in, he just pointed the gun at my face (and said), ‘Give me the money, give me the money, give me the money,'” said Giri. “(It was) like you’re watching a movie.”

Giri said without hesitation he pulled his gun from its holster and fired one time, hitting the man in the neck. The man collapsed at the front of the store.

“I have seen that many times — you give the money that they want and they still come back and they shoot you and they leave,” said Giri.

Police said the would-be robber was rushed to Ben Taub Hospital and is in serious condition. Police said a second man was waiting in a white, older-model Lincoln Town Car around the corner from the store, but he took off when the shot was fired.

See video here.

Heat Seeking Traffic Cameras

Alexandra McClung

Wichita Falls Officials unveiled a new traffic safety technology system on Thursday, called TrafiSense.  It’s the first time it’s being used in the state of Texas.

Mark Beauchamp, Traffic Superintendent for Wichita Falls said, “One of the things as a city as a whole is trying to do is become a bicycle friendly city.  Right now there is only five in the state and we should would like to be number six.”

With the current cameras that are being used across Wichita Falls, there are a lot of flaws.  For example, Sarah King with FLIR Technologies said the glaring sun can block the cameras from detecting anything.  This can cause drivers, motorcyclists, and cyclists to be stuck at a red light for a long period of time.

King said, “Currently cyclists will have to come up to a light and more than likely run the red light because they are not being detected by the optical cameras right now.  So, this camera will actually detect them, call a green light for them.”

She also explained the green light will be extended.  Since people on bikes don’t reach the same speed as cars, this ensures they make it across the intersection in a timely manner and safely.  The cameras also detect someone approaching the intersection 90 feet away. 

Safety is a priority for Beauchamp.  Although no accidents have been reported, he said they wanted to find a better solution before an accident does happen.

“It obviously does pose a safety problem.  Especially now that a lot of people are riding a carbon frame bike.  The old fashioned loop detection just will not see that at all,” he said.

The city looked into the camera system and noticed it provided a dual solution.  It was able to accurately detect motorcyclist, drivers, and cyclists on the road.  That’s when they decided they wanted to test the system out.  They started the testing a few months ago and have seen success in the data they have received.

“We will keep testing up until October.  In fact, we’re talking about an additional test site in the city that has a lot of bicycle activity so we’ll be putting that online pretty soon,” Beauchamp said.

That additional site it at Jefferson and Highway 240.  It’s another popular place for cyclists to ride.

Beauchamp said, “A lot of group rides go through there in the evenings a lot of MSU rides so it’s a good opportunity to see if we can detect some bicycles.”

With Hotter’N Hell Hundred being an annual event, the new cameras would also make it safer when people are training.

Once the trial period is over, they will bring it up to City Council members for approval.  The new cameras would cost $18,000 to $20,000 per intersection.  Right now the city spend between $12,000 and $25,000 at each intersection.  Beauchamp said the new cameras would provide them with more accuracy for the same price or less.  He said it would be worth the money.