A little accountability journalism goes a long way

Six months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Texas has launched a public tracking tool for spending on recovery efforts, which Governor Greg Abbott calls "a good start in achieving transparency." The tracker gives a look at how counties are spending the over $13 billion in flood insurance payouts, hotel vouchers, and other federal aid that has been disbursed, using data from FEMA and the Texas General Land Office. The tracker, launched on Monday, came two months after the Associated Press highlighted the lack of transparency in how the state was spending money in Harvey recovery efforts, which experts said could undermine the rebuilding process and possibility of mitigating risks from future storms.

The pig in the rear-view mirror

This was taken during a recent reporting trip to Hill County, Texas, tracking the Texas life of the Turpin family. David and Louise Turpin were recently arrested and held on felony charges after some of their 13 children were found chained and padlocked to furniture in their California home. Before moving west, they lived in unincorporated Hill County, a couple of miles down an unpaved road amid a clutch of ranch-style homes with rusted farm equipment, cars and other debris cluttering the yards, and where farm animals including cows, geese and pigs soaked up the weak winter rays.

Pennies on the Dollar

Hurricane victims are waiting months for trailers that cost taxpayers $150,000 each. Online, FEMA's auctioning off perfectly good ones at one-tenth the price. What gives? The AP investigates.

The so-called truthteller

Project Veritas head mocks Washington Post handling of hoax By Emily Schmall
Published 2:00 pm, Thursday, November 30, 2017
DALLAS — The founder of a conservative nonprofit caught attempting to entice The Washington Post to report a false sex assault allegation against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore mocked the newspaper’s handling of the hoax and said his group was aiming to expose media bias. Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe spoke Wednesday night on the Southern Methodist University campus in University Park, Texas, sponsored by the conservative Young Students for Freedom, a national nonprofit co-founded in the 1960s by William F. Buckley. Answering audience questions after the speech, O’Keefe was dismissive of the significance of a Post story chronicling the attempted hoax. “I don’t have an opinion on it honestly. I can’t speak intelligently about it. The Washington Post seems to want a Nobel Prize for vetting a source correctly. Our work is sort of changing hum…

Billie Jean

LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — An East Texas woman found incompetent to stand trial in the death of her nephew has remained in county jail eight months after she was committed to a mental health facility. The Lufkin Daily News reports that Billie Jean Cuttler, charged with capital murder after the body of 3-year-old Mason Cuttler was found in a pond, was ordered to a state hospital to undergo a program to better understand court proceedings.                                         Afterward, she would stand trial or charges would be dismissed. During a competency trial, an expert testified that Cuttler intellectually functioned below 99.8 percent of the population.            The boy's father and Cuttler's then-boyfriend Bobby Woods Jr. is also charged with capital murder in the 3-year-old's death. He has spent more than two years in the county jail awaiting trial. Woods was 17 and Cuttler was 19 at the time of the 2015 death.

Sutherland Springs, Texas

This place has a zip code and a post office but it is not actually incorporated. No government reigns here, but it is part of Wilson County, among the poorest per capita in Texas. There are probably more cows than people, possibly more guns than cows. The trope: evil descended upon this place, heroes with their rifles handy took it out. Austin's public radio station is intermittent; Bible preaching and right-wing radio are constant. Like much of south Texas, the Mexican influence is omnipresent but sublimated. At the H-E-B in Floresville, a country singer croons over his drinking problem with mud-black guajillo peppers for sale. A local steakhouse is decorated with high school cheerleading uniforms from the Grease era encased in glass frames over more recent portraits of softball teams. The steaks and baked potatoes are Texas size: Texas, the land of superlatives. It is actually that big.

Twenty-five people died here Sunday, 26 including the shooter, an Air Force vet with a histo…

My cat is a terrorist

My cat is a terrorist. She is 12 and on a diet, and wants to make me pay for it. When she wakes up, she behaves as someone famished. She watches me as I sleep from the perch of a tall dresser peering at me imperiously. Her paw sweeps cellphones, pill bottles, glasses cases to the ground in successive thuds. She turns the exposed sides of the box spring into confetti and runs underneath it at full speed. She drags her claws down the bedroom wall. She approaches my semiconscious body turned in a loose fetal position, points her tiny mouth toward my much larger ear, and says, "MEOW!" And when I capitulate, and measure out an 1/8 cup of grain-free meaty pellets, she devours it in seconds. So much sound and fury for such little gain.