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An Award-Winning Vision of Environmental Innovation and Pollinator Preservation | Deborah Terrell

Nestled amidst the picturesque prairies of Aurora, Texas, lies a hidden gem of agricultural innovation and environmental stewardship – Nature’s Circle Farm, where farmer Deborah Terell tends to a cornucopia of nature’s bounty. Here, Deborah has woven a tapestry of sustainable agriculture that celebrates the Earth’s gifts and honors its fragile balance.

fire truck

At Least 39 Killed in Fire at Migrant Detention Center Near Mexico-US Border

A fire at a migration center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico left at least 39 people dead and 29 others injured after migrants facing deportation set their mattresses ablaze, authorities said on Tuesday. The facility lies near the United States and Mexico border, across El Paso, Texas, a major crossing point for migrants seeking asylum.

The fire broke out late Monday at the National Migration Institute (INM) after authorities picked up a group of migrants from the city streets and detained them. Tensions had been high between authorities and migrants in the area.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said authorities “do not know exactly the names and nationalities of those who unfortunately lost their lives,” but believes “migrants from Central America and same from Venezuela were in that shelter.”

“This had to do with a protest that they started after, we assume, they found out that they were going to be deported, and as a protest, they put mattresses from the shelter at the door of the shelter, and they set fire to them. They did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible accident.”

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On March 9th, an open letter protesting the criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers was published by more than 30 migrant shelters and advocacy organizations in Ciudad Juarez. The groups stated that police were improperly asking people about their immigration status on the street.

The city’s federal deputy, Andrea Chavez, tweeted about the incident on Tuesday, expressing her condolences.

“It is with deep sadness and grief that we learned of the fire that occurred inside the INM in Ciudad Juárez. We will wait for the official information and, from this moment on, we send our condolences to the families of the migrants. FGR initiated the investigation.”

Reuters reported a grim scene of several body bags lined up outside the facility. The incident is one of the worst fires of recent years in Mexico.

Venezuelan national Viangly Infante told Reuters about her experience witnessing the fire and its aftermath. Her husband was inside the detention center in a holding cell during the fire but survived it by dousing himself in water and pressing up against a door.

“I was here since one in the afternoon waiting for the father of my children, and when 10 p.m. rolled around, smoke started coming out from everywhere.”

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White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called the tragedy “heartbreaking” in a tweet.

“The tragic loss of life in Ciudad Juárez is heartbreaking. Our prayers are with those who lost their lives, their loved ones, and those still fighting for their lives. The United States has been in touch with Mexican officials and stands ready to provide any needed support.”

Mexico is the world’s third most popular destination for asylum seekers, after the United States and Germany. However, it mainly serves as a transit point for those aiming to enter the U.S.

The Biden administration has heightened efforts to curb the number of migrants crossing the border after seeing a record level of crossings in recent years. Mexico has also stepped up its efforts to stem the flow of migration into the U.S., causing it to struggle with overcrowding in its facilities, which house tens of thousands of migrants.

In February, the administration proposed a new rule that would broadly prohibit migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. without first applying for asylum in the countries they transit through on their way to the shared border.

There are more than 2,200 people in Ciudad Juarez’s shelters and more migrants outside shelters from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, and El Salvador, according to The Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

build

Elon Musk Buying Small Texas Town For Employees To Live And Work From

Elon Musk has been quietly purchasing properties in a small Texas neighborhood within the past few years with the ultimate goal of building his own village where his employees can live and work from.

google

Texas Sues Google Over Facial Data Collection

The state of Texas is suing Google for illegally collecting Texans’ facial and voice recognition information without their consent, according to a statement issued by the state attorney general’s office on Thursday.

For over a decade, a Texas consumer protection law has barred companies from collecting data on Texans’ faces, voices or other biometric identifiers without receiving prior informed consent. Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, said Google violated this law by recording identifiers such as “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry.

“In blatant defiance of that law, Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends. Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits.”

The law imposes a $25,000 fine for every violation. According to reports, millions of users in Texas had their information stored. The complaint explicitly references the Google Photos app, Google’s Nest camera, and Google Assistant as means of collection.

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A spokesman for Google, José Castañeda, accused Paxton of “mischaracterizing” products in “another breathless lawsuit.”

“For example, Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you, and you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes. The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information. We will set the record straight in court.”

This lawsuit is the latest in a string of major cases brought against the company. Earlier this month, Arizona settled a privacy suit against Google for $85 million. Indiana, Washington and the District of Columbia also sued Google in January over privacy invasions related to location tracking.

In a much larger antitrust case, 36 states filed a lawsuit against Google in July over its control of the Android app store.

Paxton has gone after large technology corporations in the past for their privacy and monopolizing practices. In 2020, his office joined nine other states in filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, which accused it of “working with Facebook Inc. in an unlawful manner that violated antitrust law to boost its already-dominant online advertising business.”

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After the Jan. 6 insurrection, Paxton demanded Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to be transparent about their content moderation procedures. This year, he also opened an investigation into Twitter over its reported percentage of fake accounts, saying that the company may be disingenuous about its numbers to inflate its value and raise its revenue.

In February, Paxton sued Meta for facial recognition software it provided users to help tag photos. The lawsuit is ongoing. However, Instagram is now required to ask for permission to analyze Texans’ facial features to properly use facial filters.

“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated. I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”

In 2009, Texas revealed its privacy law, which covered biometric identifiers. Other states were implementing similar laws around the country during this same time. Texas was unique in that in the case of violations, the state of Texas would have to sue on behalf of the consumers.

migrants

Death Toll In San Antonio Migrant Tragedy Continues To Rise

Efforts to identify the dozens of migrants found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio has proven to be a slow effort for officials, as many of the fatalities carry no — or in some cases, stolen — identification. Efforts to contact victims’ family members has also been difficult due to their remoteness.

Meanwhile, the number of total deaths has now reached 53, up from the initial 46 Monday. Originally, 16 people were hospitalized, with at least 13 in critical condition. 40 of the victims were male, while 13 were female.

According to officials, 37 of the victims had been potentially identified Wednesday morning. The victims’ suspected origins vary, with some from Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. The tragedy is now being called the deadliest U.S. smuggling incident in history.

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Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores explained the stage of identification is a “tedious, sad, difficult process.” Meanwhile, mourning the deaths, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg stated that the victims had families “who were likely trying to find a better life.”

“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy. This is a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before.”

President Joe Biden was equally horrified at the deaths, saying the situation underscores “the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.”

Stepping into the non-air conditioned trailer was sadly a fatal decision for the migrants, who were forced to endure the Texas weather that can reach up to highs of 100 degrees. The total group of 67, covered in steak seasoning to avoid authorities, was abandoned in the vehicle, where they proceeded to suffer from heat strokes and heat exhaustion.

While the truck has been registered in Alamo, Texas, it possessed fake numbers and plates. The road it was discovered on is referred to by locals as “lo boca del lobo,” which in English translates to “the mouth of the wolf” due to its remoteness.

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According to Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, the driver of the vehicle was apprehended after pretending to be one of the migrants, while two other men have been arrested. The road is located around 150 miles North of the U.S.-Mexico border.

CBP commissioner Chris Magnus previously warned that smugglers like those apprehended will continue to take advantage of desperate migrants for financial gain. Typically, migrants pay around $8,000 to $10,000 for transportation in tractor trailers and smaller vehicles.

“The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving,” Magnus explained.

“Our message to those who would try and gain illegal entry to the United States remains the same – don’t make the dangerous journey only to be sent back.”

At the end of 2021, over 1.5 million migrants had arrived at and crossed the border, the highest total in 20 years. It forced the U.S. border control to make 1.6 million apprehensions, a figure not seen since 1986. According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report, 239,416 migrants crossed over in May, a 2% increase from April. 25% of that group has attempted to cross more than once.

The risks that migrants take crossing the desert through scorching heat have costed heavy tolls. So far in 2022, 290 migrants have died attempting to secure access into the U.S. 2021 saw 650 deaths at the border, the highest number since the International Organization of Migration began tracking in 2014.

Gun Control Laws

Following Uvalde Shooting That Left 19 Children Dead, Calls For Stricter Gun Laws Intensify

For the over 16,000 citizens of Uvalde, Texas, waking up every day since Tuesday has been an unending nightmare after 19 children and two teachers were shot dead at Robb Elementary School by Salvador Ramos, who had shot his grandmother earlier that morning. 17 others were injured.

Ramos — who has been referred to by residents as a loner who dropped out of high school — was armed with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle, which he purchased two of for his 18th birthday. While his past and personality clearly pointed to a disturbed individual, investigators have yet to find any sort of motive for the attack.

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The attack is the deadliest school shooting since 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. It also comes just 13 days after a shooter killed 10 in a Buffalo grocery store.

Since January, there have now been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. These countless tragedies have sparked outrage and emotional displays across the country, with gun laws coming into intense spotlight.

On Wednesday, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke interrupted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference, telling him the time to stop the next shooting is now and he is “doing nothing.” After being escorted out by law enforcement, O’Rourke slammed Abbott, stating the children died because of Abbot’s inaction.

“Because if we do nothing, we will continue to see this. Year after year, school after school, kid after kid. This is on all of us, every single one of us to do something.”

Texas gun laws have been particularly criticized. In the state, there have been eight mass shootings the last 13 years, with 102 deaths since 2017. In June of 2021, Abbott — declaring to keep Texas a “bastion of freedom” — signed several laws that eased weapon restrictions, including one that legally allows law-abiding Texans, who are 21 or over, to carry handguns without a license.

Fellow politicians have echoed O’Rourke’s concerns, with President Joe Biden saying now is the time to “turn this pain into action.” “As a nation we have to ask, ‘When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?” Biden questioned.

Biden — who expressed his condolences and prayers at the beginning of his speech — focused on the purchasing of assault rifles and claimed when those styles of rifles were banned in 1994, mass shootings went down. When the ban expired 10 years later, Biden said shootings tripled.

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Studies on the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban have shown that criminal use of banned guns declined temporarily, while evidence suggested that the ban contributed to a reduction in gun murder rates. However, the ban failed to bring down the total number of victims per gun murder incident.

It remains to be seen how the long-heated debate will play out, with Republican stances making it difficult for gun reform, like expanded background checks for gun purchases, to gain traction in Congress.

Regardless, the cries for change won’t die silently. Protests are expected to take place at the the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston from May 27-29, where a number of high-profile Republican speakers — including Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former President Donald Trump — will be in attendance.

Astroworld Victims’ Families Reject Travis Scott’s Offer To Cover Funeral Costs 

Travis Scott’s offer to pay for the funeral costs of Astroworld victims has been rejected by half of the bereaved families. One of them is the family of nine-year-old Ezra Blount, who was the youngest of the 10 victims who lost their lives from the Texas music festival. 

Scott made the offer last week after multiple lawsuits against him, his team, livenation, and others involved in the festival were filed. A lawyer for the family of 14-year-old John Hilgert responded to the offer recently to the media: 

“The gesture is demeaning and inappropriate. Of all the things this case is about, the cost of the funeral is the least of any concern. This family is set on making change, and ensuring this never happens at a concert again.” 

On Friday November 5th, a crowd surge occurred during Scott’s set at Astroworld. There were around 50,000 people attending the festival in Houston’s NRG Park Complex. 

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Ten individuals have now lost their lives due to the surging that occurred at the event, the oldest of which was just 27-years-old. Blount died nine days after the concert after being placed in a medically induced coma due to the severity of his injuries. 

Scott’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, wrote to the nine-year-old’s family the day after the funeral, offering to pay for the entire service. 

“Travis is devastated by the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival and grieves for the families whose loved ones died or were injured. Travis is committed to doing his part to help the families who have suffered and begin the long process of healing in the Houston community. Toward that end, Travis would like to pay for the funeral expenses for Mr Blount’s son,” the letter read.

The family’s lawyer, Bob Hilliard, immediately declined the offer on behalf of the Blount family with a letter:

“I have no doubt Mr. Scott feels remorse. His journey ahead will be painful. He must face and hopefully see that he bears some of the responsibility of this tragedy.” 

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Other families have called out Scott, and claimed that the rapper’s offer was simply to repair his public image, and if he actually cared about his fans, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. 

Philip Corboy, the lawyer for the families of Jacob Jurinek and Franco Patino, 21-year-old best friends who were at the concert together, said Scott’s approach to make amends through his legal team leaves the impression “that all he’s trying to do is lessen the public outcry against him.”

“If he’s trying to impress upon the families that he’s sincere and has concern for them and realize that funerals can be expensive, what Soctt’s team did is not the way to do it,” Corboy continued.

“You don’t get a piece of paper in the mail from a lawyer in Beverly Hills who says he represents Travis Scott. These families are raw right now; that lacks any personal touch.”

Tony Buzbee, who represents the family of Axel Acosta (21), also publicly questioned Scott’s motives in choosing to make the announcement that he would pay for the funeral costs through a “press release that everyone could see.” 

“He says he feels sorry for them but he’s quick to say it wasn’t his fault. He’s no different than any defendant pointing fingers to someone else. They don’t want funeral expenses from him. Whatever we get from him we’re going to get through the court system,” Buzbee exclaimed. 

‘The Wire’ Creator, David Simon, Pulls Upcoming HBO Series From Texas Following Abortion Ban

David Simon, mainly known for being the creator of popular series “The Wire,” announced that he will not be filming his newest upcoming series for HBO in Texas as originally planned because of the state’s abortion ban that passed earlier this month. 

The specific project that was set to film in Texas has not been announced, however, Simon claimed the restrictive abortion law passed in the state motivated him to film in other locations. The ban currently in place means abortions can’t be performed after six weeks, and allows citizens to sue doctors and other citizens who attempt to access safe abortion procedures after the six week point in their pregnancy. 

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“[As] an employer, this is beyond politics. I’m turning in scripts next month on an HBO non-fiction miniseries based on events in Texas, but I can’t and won’t ask female cast/crew to forgo civil liberties to film there. What else looks like Dallas/Ft. Worth?”

Simon took to Twitter to make his announcement, which was met with mixed reactions based on the individuals in Texas who don’t support the law but don’t have the means or desire to leave. Critics argue that the refusal to film in the state hurts working professionals in Texas and also diverts critical resources. 

The Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office in response to Simon’s announcement tweeted: “Laws of a state are not reflective of its entire population. Not bringing a production to Dallas (a big ‘D’) only serves to further disenfranchise those that live here. We need talent/crew/creatives to stay & vote, not get driven out by inability to make a living.”

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Simon then responded to the tweet, defending his decision and claiming that his intentions were being completely misunderstood by critics. 

“You misunderstand completely. My response is NOT rooted in any debate about political efficacy or the utility of any boycott. My singular responsibility is to securing and maintaining the civil liberties of all those we employ during the course of a production.”

After Texas officially passed the abortion ban, several other film industry professionals called for a “boycott” of using the state for any sort of Hollywood production. Oscar winner Patricia Arquette called for a boycott of the Lone Star state while Salesforce CEO, Mark Benioff, offered his Texas employees the option of relocating with support of the company in response to the ban.

The overall goal of these “boycotts” when state’s pass laws that attack civil liberties is to show them that human rights are more important than the revenue that can be brought in by being the setting of a Hollywood production.

US Mexico Border

Texas Governor Orders National Guard To Assist With Arrests At US-Mexico Border

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state’s national guard members to help assist the Department of Public Safety in arresting undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border. 

Abbott’s order was a part of a letter sent to Major General Tracy R. Norris of the Texas Military Department. The order itself expands upon Abbott’s June declaration which directed the DPS to enforce all federal and state criminal laws. These laws include anything involving criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. 

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“That declaration had allowed the use of all available state resources to assist state and local law enforcement in protecting Texans from criminal activity and property damage,” according to news reports. 

“To respond to this disaster and secure the rule of law at our Southern border, more manpower is needed,” Abbott wrote in the letter

“DPS needs help in arresting those who are violating state law. … I hereby order that the Texas National Guard assist DPS in enforcing Texas law by arresting lawbreakers at the border.”

The order comes after the Biden Administration announced its plans to tackle the surge of migration and illegal contraband coming into the country through the border. 

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“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said in a statement.

In June, border authorities stopped around 188,800 crossings, which was the highest for the entire year. The previous high of about 180,000 was set in May of this year. 

“People think that this is a border-related issue and it is, but this is also an issue that affects counties across the entire state of Texas.”

Abbott held a security briefing at the Texas state house in Austin this month, where sheriffs from local communities have expressed concern over a lack of manpower, jail space, and judges on the local level. So while the governor is focusing on combating illegal activity at the border, local authorities are struggling to protect their own communities.

Texas State Capitol

Texas Lawmakers Present Permit-Free Gun Carrying Law To Governor 

Texas legislators approved the final version of a bill that will allow residents to openly carry a handgun without a permit. Now, the bill is making its way to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his review and signature. 

House Bill 1927 would allow any individual who is legally allowed to possess a firearm in the state to carry a handgun in public spaces without a permit. Texas isn’t the first conservative state to pass measures such as this this year either. Meanwhile President Joe Biden has been taking action to strengthen gun restrictions in wake of the multiple mass shootings that have occurred this year. 

Once signed, the bill will go into effect in September, making Texas the largest state to allow its gun owners to carry weapons in public without a license. Abbott already claimed that he would be signing the bill once it made it through the legislature. 

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“I’ll be signing it. I support it and I believe it should reach my desk and we should have ‘constitutional carry’ in Texas.”

The bill itself passed through Texas legislative chambers earlier this month but was later sent to a separate conference committee to negotiate changes from both parties. The committee reached a final agreement on the bill this past Friday, and the Texas Senate approved the bill on Monday after the Texas House passed it on Sunday. 

Texas already allows citizens to carry rifles openly without a license, but the current law states that residents must have a license in order to carry an open or concealed handgun. Part of the licensing process includes residents submitting a fingerprint, undergoing a background check, participating in a training course, and passing a shooting proficiency test. 

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The Texas Department of Public Safety will now be required to also post a free online course on firearm safety and handling on its website as a part of the new bill. 

Many republican supporters of the bill refer to it as a “constitutional carry,” and have always argued that the licensing requirement to carry a gun should be removed as it represents an “artificial barrier” to residents’ second amendment right to bear arms. 

Democrats and law enforcement officials, however, have been adamant about the fact that the bill also eliminates mandatory firearms training that works to help protect the public. Additionally, law enforcement are worried about how much more difficult it’s going to be to determine who’s unlawfully carrying a weapon. 

Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming have all passed legislation this year that allows residents to carry without a permit. Nineteen states currently allow permitless carry as well.