Search Results for: Texas Observer

The Unseen in a Pandemic without Technology

Getty Images

Zoom has become a lifeline for many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if you’re not allowed to use it? Michael Barajas explains in The Texas Observer that the majority of Texas state lockups still don’t have video visitation, and, with in-person visitation suspended, thousands of people have spent nine months in near-total isolation from their families. For the children of inmates, this can be particularly difficult — at a young age not seeing a parent for a long time can render them a stranger: “Justin still tries to communicate by phone with his son but months without seeing each other has made him painfully distant.” Visitation is a lifeline even for those without children, with the social ties it creates vitally important to rehabilitation, especially during frightening times —  more people incarcerated in Texas are dying “from COVID-19 than in any other prison system.” Without the comfort of family, even via video, mental health in prisons has faced an inevitable decline. 

Even before the pandemic hit, suicides and suicide attempts inside the Texas prison system were already the highest they’d been since the 1990s. By September of this year, more people incarcerated by TDCJ had taken their own lives than in all of 2019. One of them was Ricky Hernandez, 26, who struggled with mental illness throughout his life, according to his family. Treatment records show Ricky was hospitalized for a major depressive disorder and put on multiple psychiatric medications before he entered prison in 2017 on charges of harassment and violating a protective order. Henry, his older brother, says that Ricky struggled in prison because of his illness. To try and cheer him up, a big group of family members used to visit him every other week at the Coffield Unit, the East Texas prison where he lived in solitary confinement

“It was always me, my mom, some aunts, our brother and sisters, just as many as could make it because we knew he liked seeing us,” Henry says. At the start of most visits, his brother seemed on edge, eyes darting around the room, but usually seemed to relax somewhere in the middle, he says. “I think we helped settle him down.” 

Henry says his brother stopped writing as frequently after visitation stopped in March. Prison officials called the family in early May to say Ricky had tried to take his own life. Then, on May 22, Ricky was “discovered unresponsive and hanging in his cell,” according to a report the prison filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. After his death, someone housed near Ricky wrote to the family claiming that officers hadn’t checked on him for hours before his death. For months, Henry has called the prison system’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which investigates deaths in custody, asking whether his brother was treated for mental illness or checked on by guards the day he died. They have yet to give him any answers. OIG did not respond to the Observer’s questions about Ricky’s death.

 

Read the story

How We Got Here

Longreads Pick

“Texas’ health system has been underfunded, understaffed, and unprepared for years. Here, COVID-19 found the perfect place to spread.”

Source: Texas Observer
Published: Nov 9, 2020
Length: 20 minutes (5,065 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

May 31, 1977 —Cambridge, MA — Photographs of American slaves, possibly the oldest known in the country, have been discovered in the basement of a Harvard University museum. Among the previously unpublished daguerreotypes discovered are these (L-R): a Congo slave named Renty, who lived on B.F. Taylor's plantation, "Edgehill"; Jack, a slave from the Guinea Coast (ritual scars decorate his cheek); and an unidentified man.

This week, we’re sharing stories from Clint Smith, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lise Olsen, Jaya Saxena, and Emma Carmichael.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

1. Stories of Slavery, From Those Who Survived It

Clint Smith | The Atlantic | February 9, 2021 | 29 minutes (7,250 words)

“The Federal Writers’ Project narratives provide an all-too-rare link to our past.”

2. Grief’s Anatomy

Hanif Abdurraqib | The Baffler | January 4, 2021 | 8 minutes (2,074 words)

“Hope awaits organizers like a trap.”

3. Undetected

Lise Olsen | Texas Observer | February 8, 2021 | 15 minutes (3,762 words)

“Prior to his arrest, local authorities had dismissed nearly all of those incidents as an unusual spike in natural deaths—a run of bad luck. But public records and interviews reveal that, time after time, investigators in Dallas made critical mistakes and overlooked or ignored signs of foul play.”

4. The Limits of the Lunchbox Moment

Jaya Saxena | Eater | Febuary 8, 2021 | 13 minutes (3,400 words)

“The story of being bullied in the cafeteria for one’s lunch is so ubiquitous that it’s attained a gloss of fictionality.”

5. Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird Are Goals

Emma Carmichael | GQ | February 9, 2021 | 21 minutes (5,324 words)

“Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe both had Hall of Fame–worthy careers before they met. But to reach new, boundary-obliterating levels of achievement on and off the field, they needed each other. And, as they tell Emma Carmichael, their work is just getting started.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Jessica Schulberg, Patrick Strickland, Shanna B. Tiayon, Sarah Berns, and Madeleine Aggeler.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

1. Kip Kinkel Is Ready to Talk

Jessica Schulberg | HuffPost | June 13, 2021 | 15,200 words

“At 15, he shot and killed his parents, two classmates at his school, and wounded 25 others. He’s been used as the reason to lock kids up for life ever since.”

2. ‘The Foot Soldiers’: A Neo-Nazi Skinhead Gang Terrorized Dallas in the Late 1980s

Patrick Strickland | Dallas Observer | June 9, 2021 | 6,624

“The racist white nationalist movement has deep roots. Some run directly back to Dallas and the violent Confederate Hammerskins.”

3. If We Can Soar: What Birmingham Roller Pigeons Offer the Men of South Central

Shanna B. Tiayon | Pipe Wrench | June 15, 2021 | 6,574 words

“But there’s a deeper story behind what the birds offered them then and still offer today, with men entering their fifth and sixth decade raising Birmingham Rollers. A why shaped by race, place, and gender. A why that traces the plight of Black men in the U.S., landing us squarely in the prevailing systems of inequality that still exist today.”

4. Love and the Burning West

Sarah Berns | Shondaland | June 9, 2021 | 1,667 words

“She nearly died while fighting a fire. All she could think about was the tragedy of dying while still a virgin.”

5. Benji Is One Down Dog

Madeleine Aggeler | Texas Monthly | June 2, 2021 | 1,900 words

The blue heeler “is one of the most famous canines in America, but he hasn’t let it go to his sweet, soft little head.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Michael Barajas, Evan Ratliff, Andrew Mckirdy, Raffi Khatchadourian, and Agnes Callard.

Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.

* * *

Love and look forward to the weekly Top 5? We’ve been hand-picking the week’s best reading for over 10 years and we need your help to continue to curate the best of the web and to publish new original investigative journalism, essays, and commentary.

Please chip in with a one-time or — even better — a monthly or annual contribution. We’re grateful for your support!

Contribute

* * *

1. The Prison Inside Prison

Michael Barajas | Texas Observer | January 21, 2020 | 25 minutes (6,335 words)

Decades with no personal contact, no way back into the general prison population, cut off from the possibility of parole — solitary confinement is an ongoing experiment in cruelty on human subjects.

2. The Mysterious Lawyer X

Evan Ratliff | The California Sunday Magazine | January 16, 2020 | 48 minutes (12,100 words)

Nicola Gobbo defended Melbourne’s most notorious criminals at the height of a gangland war. They didn’t know she had a secret.

3. Throwaway Society: Rejecting a Life Consumed by Plastic

Andrew McMirdy | The Japan Times | January 10, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,465 words)

Japan is the second-biggest producer of plastic waste per capita, after the US. One journalist tries to spend a week without using single-use plastic and discovers how dependent Japan’s food system has become on disposable plastic.

4. N.K. Jemisin’s Dream Worlds

Raffi Khatchadourian | The New Yorker | January 20, 2020 | 26 minutes (6,746 words)

In Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker profile, N.K. Jemisin recounts the racism she witnessed as a child in Alabama in the ’80s, as well as racism — editorial and otherwise — that she has lived through in her career.

5. Who Wants to Play the Status Game?

Agnes Callard | The Point | January 16, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,549 words)

Hi, nice to meet you, are we playing the Importance Game or the Leveling Game? With a skilled player, it’s hard to tell one from the other.

How the Border Patrol Threatens Civil Liberties Far from the Border

AP Photo/Elliot Spagat

Thanks to a Justice Department mandate from 1953, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can now detain and search people within 100 air miles from the actual border. With over 40,000 agents, it’s now the largest federal law enforcement agency. Every year, its agents interact with 27 million people at both permanent and temporary checkpoints.

For the Texas Observer, Melissa del Bosque writes about the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s expansion, its overreach, and current attempts to reign it in. Bosque details the way the agency routinely detains American citizens without having to explain why, searches our cars with no warrants, and operates with little oversight. Yet its reach keeps expanding. If you drive within 100 miles of the border on a road that leads to an official border crossing, you better watch out, because if the patrol barks at you the wrong way, you could be detained for a while. And for what?

During CBP’s rapid expansion, the agency ramped up its use of interior checkpoints, subjecting ever more Americans to warrantless searches, seizures and detentions near their schools, in their neighborhoods and on public roads. CBP’s own data suggests that its interior checkpoints do little to catch what it calls “unauthorized entrants” and instead ensnare U.S. citizens on minor drug charges. (Forty percent of its seizures were 1 ounce or less of marijuana taken from citizens.) From 2013 to 2016, interior checkpoints accounted for only 2 percent of CBP apprehensions of undocumented immigrants. In May, a circuit court judge in New Hampshire threw out charges against 16 people who were arrested for possessing small quantities of drugs at a checkpoint manned by local police and Border Patrol agents, about 90 miles south of the Canadian border. “While the stated purpose of the checkpoints in this matter was screening for immigration violations,” the judge wrote, “the primary purpose of the action was detection and seizure of drugs,” which he ruled unconstitutional.

The Trump administration has been aggressively promoting further cooperation between immigration agencies and police departments. Border Patrol agents often accompany officers during routine traffic stops and serve as backup or sometimes as interpreters, but their involvement in domestic policing has had lethal consequences. In 2011, a man in Washington state called 911 because his son, 30-year-old Alex Martinez, who had a history of mental illness, was smashing the windows of their home. Border Patrol accompanied local sheriff’s deputies to the residence, likely because the call was made in Spanish. When they arrived, Martinez stepped out of his house holding something in his hand. Law enforcement say it was a hammer; the family alleges it was a flashlight. A local deputy and a Border Patrol agent, who said they felt threatened, shot Martinez 13 times. Since 2010, watchdog groups have counted 77 CBP-related fatalities—at least one-fifth of them U.S. citizens.

CBP operates with less oversight than your local police department despite having one of the largest federal budgets in Washington. The agency doesn’t reveal the names of agents or details of its internal proceedings in fatality or misconduct investigations. Until four years ago, CBP even kept its use-of-force policies secret; they were made public only after a congressional inquiry into a wrongful death resulted in an independent review. CBP hasn’t widely adopted dashboard or body cameras, although it began a six-month pilot project in May. In 2015, the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a panel of law enforcement experts formed by DHS, warned that CBP had no effective process to root out corruption and that its internal affairs office was woefully understaffed. “The true levels of corruption within CBP are not known,” the council warned. “Pockets of corruption could fester within CBP, potentially for years.”

Read the story

All the Stories Nominated for the 2022 National Magazine Awards

A man unpacking boxes of magazines to stock a newsstand
Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Creative awards aren’t limited to that entertainment tetrad known as the EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). Advertising professionals dream of Clios; the off-Broadway theater world, Obies. And in the world of magazines and longform journalism, there’s the National Magazine Awards, commonly known as the Ellies.

While the winners of the NMAs are announced in an April ceremony each year, the American Society of Magazine Editors announced this year’s finalists yesterday — and honestly, around here this is the day we wait for. Not only does the larger slate represent more of the stories we read and loved last year, but they tend to encompass a wider breadth of publications, from city magazines (5280) to smaller literary outlets (Catapult) to brand-new upstarts (Pipe Wrench). This year brought an even nicer surprise: The Atavist, our sister publication, was named a finalist in two categories (Profile Writing and Video)!

We’ve rounded up all the relevant categories below, including those for fiction, photography, and illustration, all of whom announced their winners as well as their finalists. Consider it a reminder of some of last year’s best reads … and a guide to some you may have missed. Once you’ve combed through Longreads‘ own Best of 2021 package, of course.


Public Interest

Finalists
• The Atlantic: Ed Yong, “Delta Is Driving a Wedge Through Missouri”; “How the Pandemic Ends”; “We’re Already Barreling Toward the Next Pandemic”
• Bloomberg Green: Zachary R. Mider, “The Methane Hunters”; Zachary R. Mider and Rachel Adams-Heard, “An Empire of Dying Wells”; Aaron Clark and Matt Campbell, “Turkmenistan’s Dirty Secret”
• BuzzFeed News: Heidi Blake and Katie J.M. Baker, “Beyond Britney: Abuse, Exploitation, and Death Inside America’s Guardianship Industry”; “They Both Fought to Break Free From Guardianship. Only One Escaped”; “‘My Human Rights Are Being Violated’: Fighting A Family Conservatorship”
• New York Times Magazine: Azmat Khan, “Hidden Files Bare Military Failures in Deadly Strikes”; “The Human Toll of America’s Air Wars”
• New Yorker: Sarah Stillman, “Storm Chasers”
• ProPublica: Lylla Younes, Ava Kofman, Al Shaw and Lisa Song, “Poison in the Air”; Al Shaw and Lylla Younes, “The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.”; Max Blau and Lylla Younes, “The Dirty Secret of America’s Clean Dishes”
• Virginia Quarterly Review: Lois Parshley, “Cold War, Hot Mess”

Essays and Criticism

Finalists
• Audobon: J. Drew Lanham, “What Do We Do About John James Audubon?”
• Bloomberg Businessweek: Esmé E. Deprez, “How I Helped My Dad Die”
• Harper’s: Vivan Gornick, “Put on the Diamonds”
• New York: Angelica Jade Bastién, Them Is Pure Degradation Porn”; The Underground Railroad Is the Cinematic Event of the Year”; Cruella Is the Girl-Bossification of the Madwoman”
• New York Times Magazine: Carina del Valle Schorske, “Bodies on the Line”
• Yale Review: Jeremy Atherton Lin, “The Wrong Daddy”

Profile Writing

Finalists
• The Atavist: Maddy Crowell, “Invisible Kid”
• Bicycling: Carvell Wallace, “Justin Williams Can See the Future”
• ESPN: Dotun Akintoye, “Is Jake Paul bad for boxing? Next question”
• New York: E. Alex Jung, “Infinite Self”
• New Yorker: Rachel Aviv, “Past Imperfect”
• Pipe Wrench: Shanna B. Tiayon, “If We Can Soar: What Birmingham Roller Pigeons Offer the Men of South Central”
• ProPublica: Lizzie Presser, “The Child Care Industry Was Collapsing. Mrs. Jackie Bet Everything on an Impossible Dream to Save It.”

Feature Writing

Finalists
• Harper’s: Ann Patchett, “These Precious Days”
• New York: Kerry Howley, “Gina. Rosanne. Guy.”
• New York Times Magazine: Susan Dominus, “‘I Feel Like I’m Just Drowning'”; Imani Perry, “Searching for Gayl Jones”
New Yorker: Rachel Aviv, “The Kentler Experiment”
• ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio: Meribah Knight and Ken Armstrong, “Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge.”
Texas Monthly: Christian Wallace, “The Resurrection of Bass Reeves”

Reporting

Finalists
• Harper’s: Caroline Lester, “The Lightning Farm”
The Hollywood Reporter: Tatiana Siegel, “Scott Rudin: ‘Unhinged'”; “Shielding Scott Rudin”
• New York Times Magazine: Matthieu Aikins, “The Collapse”
New Yorker with The Outlaw Ocean Project: Ian Urbina, “The Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe”
Quanta: Natalie Wolchover, “The Webb Space Telescope Will Rewrite Cosmic History. If It Works”
Texas Observer: Michael Barajas and Sophie Novack, “Locked Up and Left to Die”
Undark: James Dinneen and Alexander Kennedy, “Below Aging U.S. Dams, a Potential Toxic Calamity”

Lifestyle Journalism

Finalists
• 5280: Lindsay B. King, “The Beginner’s Guide to Winter Camping”
AARP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “The Games We Play”; as told to Jon Saraceno, “The Barrier Breakers”
Eater: “Filling Up”
Insider: “259 LGBTQ characters in cartoons that bust the myth that kids can’t handle inclusion”
New York: Stella Bugbee, “Thank You, Dr. Zizmor”
New Yorker: Helen Rosner, “How to Cook With Your Microwave”; “The Timeless Fantasy of Stanley Tucci Eating Italian Food”; “How to Get a Table at Carbone”
Texas Highways: Katie Gutierrez, “The Original Cowboys”; Sarah Hepola, “The Evolution of the Texas Cowgirl”; W.K. Stratton, “Fight or Flight”

Service Journalism

Finalists
• 5280: Lindsay B. King, “Shattered Minds”
AARP: Mike Zimmerman, “The Back-to-Normal Health Plan” (print only)
New York: “Natural Hair, Now” (print only)
Self: “Black Women and Breast Cancer”
Women’s Health: Kristin Canning, “We Need to Change How We Talk About Abortion”

Photography

Finalists
Essence: Lorna Simpson, “Of Earth & Sky” (print only)
• National Geographic: Charlie Hamilton James, “Swam” (print only)
Poetry: Sandro Miller, “From ‘Crowns'” (poems by Patricia Smith)
Stranger’s Guide: Kike Arnal, “El Chocó” (print only); Nicolò Filippo Rosso, “Exodus”; David Estrada Larrañeta, “Reggaeton”
Time: “The Cost”

Design

Finalists
Emergence: “They Carry Us With Them: The Great Tree Migration”
• Fast Company: “The Most Creative People in Business 2021”
McSweeney’s: McSweeney’s 64: The Audio Issue”
National Geographic: “Solar System in Action”; “Small Wonder” (print only)
New York: “All Work, No Pay”; “Before, During, After January 6”; “Reckoning With a Reckoning”

Video

Finalists
The Atavist: Three videos from “A Feast For Lost Souls” — “Manqui,” “Juana,” and “Blanca” — directed by Zahara Gómez Lucini
• Epicurious: “How to Serve Every Cheese”
New Yorker: Luke Mogelson, “A Reporter’s Video from Inside the Capitol Siege”
ProPublica with Time, Truly CA, and Univision: Mauricio Rodríguez Pons and Liz Weil, “Unlivable Oasis”
Time: “Milk Factory,” directed by Corinne May Botz; “My Name is Mookie,” directed by Francesca Trianni

Best Fiction

Winner
Georgia Review: Nishanth Injam, “Come With Me”; Aryn Kyle, “Copper Queen”; Eloghosa Osunde, “After God, Fear Women” 

Finalists
Harper’s: Hermione Hoby, “Greensleeves”; Tony Earley, “Place of Safety”; Rebecca Makkai, “Women Corinne Does Not Actually Know”
• McSweeney’s: Kevin Moffett, “Bears Among the Living”; Mikkel Rosengaard, “The Mating Call”; Samanta Schweblin (translated by Megan McDowell), “An Unlucky Man” (print only)
• The New Yorker: Souvankham Thammavongsa, “Good-Looking”; Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, “Featherweight”; hurmat kazmi, “Selection Week”
• Strangers Guide: Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, “A Beginner’s Guide to Estrangement”; Kjell Askildsen (translated by Seán Kinsella), “A Sudden Liberating Thought”; Malerie Willens, “King of the Tyrant Lizards” (print only)

Best News and Entertainment Photograph

Winner
The New Yorker: Balazs Gardi, from “The Long Prologue to the Capitol Hill Riot”

Finalists
1843 Magazine (The Economist): Wolfgang Schwan, from “They stormed the Capitol, then posed for selfies”
• National Geographic: Kris Graves, from “2020: 71 Photographs From an Unforgettable Year”
• The New Yorker: Mark Peterson, from “Knicks Fans Are Together Again, for Better and Worse”
• Time: Ruddy Roye, from “George Floyd’s Family Reacted to the Verdict With an Uncontrollable Cry. That Sound Echoes Through Black America”

Best Service and Lifestyle Photograph

Winner
National Geographic: Nichole Sobecki, from “Cheetahs for Sale”

Finalists
• New York: Joe Lingeman, from “55 Truly Surprising, Strange and Immensely Pleasing Gifts Over $200”
• New York: Rob Frogoso, from “Best Bets: Sweat”

Best Profile Photograph

Winner
InStyle: Camila Falquez, from “The First”

Finalists
• New York: Ashley Peña, from “I Should Have Quit Way Before Tokyo”
• Rolling Stone: Dario Calmese, from “John David Washington Does the Right Thing”
• Time: Wynne Neilly, from “Elliot Page Is Ready for This Moment”
• Vanity Fair: Bruce Gilden, from “Postcards From the Edge”

Best Conceptual Photograph

Winner
New York: Bobby Doherty, from “New Yawk Style”

Finalists
National Geographic: Elliot Ross, from “L.A.’s Tree Canopy Reflects Urban Inequity” (print only)
• New Yorker: Kyoko Hamada, from “Acorn”

Best News and Entertainment Story (Photo)

Winner
New York: Daniel Arnold and Daniel Galicia, from “What’s Going On in Washington Square Park?”

Finalists
National Geographic: Lynsey Addario, from “A War on Itself”
• New Yorker: Piczo, from “Height of Glamour”
• Time: Ruddy Roye, from “George Floyd’s Family Reacted to the Verdict With an Uncontrollable Cry. That Sound Echoes Through Black America”
• Wall Street Journal: Dario Catellani, from “Why Sesame Street Is More Vital Than Ever”

Best Service and Lifestyle Story (Photo)

Winner
Southern Living: Antonis Achilleos, from “The Magic of Meringue” (print only)

Finalists
• New York: Delphine Diallo, from “Natural Hair, Now” (print only)
• Saveur: Paola + Murray, from “Meet Manhattan’s New Guard of Wine Pros”
Stat: Bethany Mollenkof, from “Distanced”
• Time: Nina Riggio, from “A Year in a School Bus”

Best Photo Portfolio

Winner
New Yorker: Brendan George Ko, from “Saving the Butterfly Forest”

Finalists
• Noema: Emily Garthwaite, from “The Last of the Marsh Arabs”
• Texas Monthly: Richard Sharum, from “The Unsheltered”
• Time: Adam Ferguson, from “An American Emergency”
• Virginia Quarterly Review: Dina Litovsky, from “Dark City”

Best Print Illustration

Winner
Rolling Stone: Brian Stauffer, from “The Enemy Within”

Finalists
• Grow by Ginkgo: Debora Cheyenne Cruchon, from “A Feeling for the Organism”
• New York: Pablo Rochat, from “The Lunacy of Text-Based Therapy”
• New Yorker: Javier Jaén, from “My Gentle Region”
• Texas Monthly: Mercedes deBellard, from “Why Selena Still Matters” (print only)

Best Digital Illustration

Winner
The Verge: Micha Huigen, from “Verge 10”

Finalists
• New York: Pedro Nekoi, from “‘I Got Ghosted. Big Time'”
• New Yorker: Debora Cheyenne, from “Medicine’s Wellness Conundrum”
• Noema: Noah Campeau, from “Making Common Sense”
• Politico: Arn0, from “Caitlyn Jenner Wants to Turn Celebrity Into Power. But Why?”

Best Illustrated Story

Winner
Catapult: Shing Yin Khor, “I Do Not Want to Write Today: A Comic”

Finalists
• The Believer: Kathy Macleod, “The Places We Lost”
Kazoo: MariNaomi, “Spirit of the Arts” (print only)
• Marshall Project: Danica Novgorodoff, Kayla Salisbury, Hannah Buckman and Acacio Ortas, “How We Survived COVID-19 in Prison”
• The Verge: Kristen Radtke, “What The Verge Covered in Our First 10,000 Stories”

Hurricane Harvey Made Strange Bedfellows in Texas

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Outside of Houston, Cambodian immigrants built a small community in the unincorporated town of Rosharon, growing water spinach, called trakuon, for the Cambodian community. Then Hurricane Harvey hit and flooded the town’s homes and its farms.

For the Texas Observer, Michael Hardy reports on a surprising, uneasy alliance in the rebuilding efforts: Volunteer assistance from white far-right groups wearing Confederate flag jackets and camouflage. These anti-government neo-Confederates arrived to help Rosharon before the local government or the Red Cross arrived, and they took over the rebuilding effort so firmly that they initially refused to let in FEMA. Who were these people, and did they really just want to help?

The groups are affiliated with the so-called Patriot movement, which emerged in the early ’90s from the ashes of Ruby Ridge and Waco’s Branch Davidian compound, and whose ranks expanded dramatically during the Obama administration. The Freedom Keepers are an Oregon-based group whose members appeared at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer brandishing assault rifles and wearing body armor. (Marion, the Freedom Keepers and the New York Light Foot Militia are among the defendants currently being sued by Charlottesville and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection to prevent them from returning. They’re also being sued by two women injured in the car attack that killed Heather Heyer.) The Confederate Riders, a Missouri-based group, travel the country protesting the removal of Confederate monuments. The two groups share information and coordinate protests mainly through their Facebook pages, which each have 10,000-plus followers.

Both groups harbor extreme anti-government views and believe the Constitution is under siege by a range of nefarious forces. On the Freedom Keepers’ weekly Facebook Live broadcast, “The American Radio Show,” Marion rails against Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Muslims and undocumented immigrants. He portrays the Patriot movement as America’s last line of defense. “This country will fall if we don’t get into the middle of it and change it from within,” he said on the show in December. “We have to become a disease. Some bacteria and some infections are beneficial. And we need to become an infection inside the body.”

Having infected Little Cambodia, the far-right groups were not eager to give it up. They didn’t see an impoverished community that had been shamefully underserved for decades and abandoned by the government in its time of greatest need; they saw a proudly self-reliant people who had built a libertarian paradise. “It’s been a really awakening experience to see what it means for people to live on their own, live their way, make their choices,” Marion said in a Facebook Live video from Rosharon. “It really is the American dream.”

Read the story

Diabetes in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley: ‘The Inevitable Inheritance’

Getty Images

Residents of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas lose limbs and appendages to diabetes-related amputation at a rate 50 percent higher than anywhere else in the United States. So many people there have diabetes, that “In the Valley, there’s a fatalism associated with the disease, often considered an inevitable inheritance.” While losing a limb is horrible under any circumstances, as Sophie Novack reports at Texas Observer, the greatest tragedy is that because the vast majority of diabetes-related amputations are preventable with education and early intervention, it doesn’t have to be this way.

So he waited. Maybe it would pass.

Finally, the smell got unbearable. Like road kill in the hot South Texas sun. A couple of months after the blister appeared, Zamora drove 2 miles to Valley Baptist Medical Center, where doctors quickly diagnosed him: His diabetes, uncontrolled for years, had blocked blood flow to his toe, preventing it from healing. What began as a minor blister was now a life-threatening emergency. Zamora says the doctors sent him home with medication to treat the wound, but a few weeks later he went back to the ER, where he had two toes on his left foot amputated to prevent gangrene from spreading up his leg.

It’s a story told over and over again in the Valley: You don’t know you have diabetes until it’s severe, because you rarely see a doctor. You get a cut or blister but ignore it, because diabetes-related nerve damage means you can’t feel it, or you’re too busy working or taking care of your family to go to the doctor. The wound gets infected. By the time you get help, the infection is so bad that amputation is necessary. You can’t afford proper care, so sometimes the wound gets infected again. You get another amputation.

…amputations are important indicators that something went wrong with diabetes management, because they’re generally preventable in patients who can access diabetes education and primary care.

Read the story