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KUT Afternoon Newscast for May 23, 2024

Central Texas top stories for May 23, 2024. Children at Risk has found nearly 50 zip codes in the Austin area qualify as childcare subsidy deserts for low-income families. Travis County’s Medical Examiner’s report into the impacts of the opioid epidemic in Central Texas. FBI probe into Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Waymo being investigated by NHTSA. Gas prices are trending downward heading into memorial day weekend. Stormy weather helps drought conditions.

Texas Standard: October 4, 2022

A former warden at a private immigration detention center and his brother accused in connection with a shooting of migrants in the west Texas borderlands. We’ll have more. Also the passing of a once powerful force in Texas politics: the complicated story of Ramiro Ramsey Muniz. Plus an award winning writer turns to ghost stories just in time for you know what. And horny toads, horned frogs, call em what you will… the efforts underway in San Antonio to protect a beloved Texas symbol. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: August 10, 2022

There’s more fallout from the FBI’s raid at the home of former president Donald Trump. What are Texas republicans saying? We’ll explore. Plus having a baby in west Texas is getting more dangerous. We’ll take a look at maternal care west of the Pecos. All that plus our weekly fact check, the latest headlines, and Tom Landry. Today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 25, 2022

It is the worst school shooting in Texas history. The people of Uvalde, their fellow Texans and people across the nation are searching for answers. Coming up we’ll hear from people in Uvalde, struggling to comprehend the killing of at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary yesterday. We’ll be joined by reporters from Texas Public Radio and the Associated Press to hear what is known so far about the incident. We’ll also be checking with experts in the field of school safety, the ripple effects, the psychological trauma of this tragedy, how to talk with kids who may be frightened by the news and the lingering questions of how to move forward.

Texas Standard: February 22, 2022

He’s been called Trump’s favorite cowboy; why Sid Miller’s attempt to hang on to his job as Texas Agriculture Commissioner is drawing a lot of national attention. And, a longtime democratic congressman in South Texas faces a repeat challenge from the left–a former intern. Also, why biorefineries could be the next big thing in Texas. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: January 24, 2022

Austin has ’em, so does San Antonio–now, almost five years after Hurricane Harvey, Harris County officials are looking into massive underground tunnels to help with flooding. Also, why Texas is one of only four states where employment numbers have bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. And, Austin-based author on her new book exploring the Mexican American experience in Texas. Those stories and more, today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: January 23, 2020

Got your attention yet? We’ll take a look at just how closely Texans are tracking the impeachment story and whether it’ll move the political needle in the Lone Star State. Among the other stories we’re following, the state of solitary confinement in Texas, where more than 1300 prisoners have been held for 6 years or more. We’ll take a closer look. Also a new fight over phone encryption and consumer privacy. Plus, the rediscovery of a Texas baseball team whose story was nearly lost with the end of the era of sports segregation. All of those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:

The Mystery Of The Osage Murders

One of the best books I’ve read this year is “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.” I was late to this literary party. This nonfiction work has been a super-bestseller for well over a year now. It has been on the Paperback Nonfiction bestseller list for 49 weeks. Dave Eggers writes in his New York Times Book Review that author “[David] Grann has proved himself a master of spinning delicious, many-layered mysteries that also happen to be true. … It will sear your soul.”

I won’t spoil this book for you by revealing any part of the whodunit. I’m more interested in the who pursued ‘em.

You have three levels of tension here. First, there is the Osage tribe – the richest people per capita on Earth at the time, around 1920. They were the only tribe that owned mineral rights to the worthless land they got from the federal government as their very own reservation in Oklahoma. Why not? It was worthless scrub-brush land that was mostly sandy and rocky with random clumps of grass. When oil was discovered, though, they became, collectively, unfathomably rich. J. Paul Getty, for instance, was in a bidding war Harry Sinclair for Osage oil leases. Soon after the money started piling up, the Osage started dying, mysteriously, and in large numbers.

The second level of tension is that they were being murdered, seemingly randomly. “Serial killer” was not yet a term in the crime lexicon, but as a reader, you arrive at that conclusion quickly. You feel it must be a serial killer. But not one singular method was used. Some Osage were shot, some poisoned, some blown up in their homes with dynamite. Sixty had died by the time that J. Edgar Hoover took the case for the feds. It was up to him to find the killer or killers.

Here’s the third level of tension. Hoover was just acting director of what was called the Bureau of Investigation at the time. He was only 29 years old. The case was a blessing and a curse. If Hoover could solve it he could elevate the this new agency to a formidable and powerful national police bureau. If he failed, he would be pushed out; his career hung in the balance. Hoover was wanting to create an FBI that was modern, full of smart college graduates skilled in the use of the latest scientific techniques like fingerprinting, but the last agents sent to solve the mystery either made no headway, or were themselves killed. To solve this case, Hoover needed to send to Oklahoma the kind of agent he wanted the agency to shed.

Now, at this point you might be saying, as my dear sister-in-law said to me when I told her this story, “Why are you, Mr. Texas, talking about Oklahoma?” I’ll answer you as I did her: “Hold your horses, I’m fixin’ to get there.”

Hoover had to bite the bullet and bring in the cowboys. He sent for Tom White, his bureau chief in Houston, who was an ex-Texas Ranger, to take charge of the case. As Hoover said, “He needed a man who could handle men.”

It wasn’t exactly a “one riot, one ranger” situation, but it had elements of it.

Grann describes him this way: “Tom White was an old-style lawman. He had served in the Texas Rangers near the turn of the century, and he had spent much of his life wandering on horseback across the Southwestern frontier, a Winchester rifle or a pearl-handled six-shooter in hand. He was 6 feet, 4 inches and had the sinewy arms and eerie composure of a gunslinger.

Years later, a bureau agent wrote that he was as “God-fearing as the mighty defenders of the Alamo. He was an impressive sight in his large, suede Stetson. … He commanded the utmost in respect and scared the daylights out of Easterners like me.”

Of course, it was a white Stetson he wore.

Hoover explained to White that he needed him to direct the investigation without a hint of scandal, and as quietly as possible. He told him there could be “no excuse for failure.” Hoover told him to call in as many agents as he needed, and so White called in those men that Hoover considered the cowboys (two were ex-Texas Rangers) – men who were good at “infiltrating wild country, dealing with outlawry, shadowy suspects, going days without sleep, maintaining cover under duress, and handling deadly weapons if necessary.”

So there you go. The plot is set. The characters are in place. A great Texas story awaits, even though it’s set in Oklahoma. If you don’t care to read the book just now, you can wait for the movie, which, rumor has it, will be directed by Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio. De Niro is said to be in talks for a role as well.

I’m W.F. Strong. These are Stories from Texas, by way of Oklahoma. Some of them are true.

Texas Standard: October 2, 2018

The White House tells the FBI it can interview anyone in its Kavanaugh investigation. But does the FBI need the President’s permission? A Texas-based veteran on the FBI on questions of scope and independence in the investigation of the Supreme Court nominee. Also we’ll hear from the Texas scientist who can now call himself Nobel prize winner for his work advancing cancer research. And Mexico City 1968: new answers about a massacre before the Olympics 50 years ago. Plus LBJ brought Mission control to Houston, but the Texas space industry may owe more to Richard Nixon than you might think. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: March 20, 2018

North of San Antonio, an explosion at a federal express facility raises new challenges in the investigation of Austin’s serial bomber. Also joining us, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee Texas congressman Michael McCaul on the federal response to the bomb attacks in the Texas capitol city. Also, is Mexico finally getting the upper hand on the drug cartels? We’ll explore some new developments that have put the question back on the table. And a pedestrian in Arizona killed by a self driving car: should we tap the brakes on the development of autonomous vehicles? Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Show ‘Em Your Badge

As told by W. F. Strong

 

This story comes under the heading of a Texas classic.  It is folklore. I don’t know for sure that its origin is in Texas, but from the oldest versions I know of, going back 30 plus years, they have Texas linguistic markers.  So I believe there’s a good chance that the story originated here. In any case the story has migrated around the world.  I’ve heard Australian versions and Irish versions and I suppose if I ever go to China I’ll hear a version translated from Mandarin.  Story goes like this:

 

A West Texas rancher was stackin’ some hay in his barn when he heard a truck rumble across his cattle guard, half a mile away. He looked up to see what looked like a Government Suburban – dark windows – leaving a dust cloud of caliche boiling up behind it as it raced his way. He walked out to the clearing to meet it and it came to a quick halt right in front of him, sliding the last five feet.

 

A guy hopped out. Nice lookin’ young man. Slacks, pressed shirt. Glock on his hip. Badge on his belt.

 

“Can I help you?” Rancher asks.

 

“Sir, I’m with the Government,” he said, pointing to his badge. “Just making a courtesy stop. We have word of drug activity in this area. I’m going to be looking around your ranch for a couple of hours to either confirm or invalidate these reports.”

 

“Well,” said the rancher, lookin’ mystified. He pushed his salt stained hat back off his forehead. “Aint’ no drugs around here except the big ole horse pills my doctor gives me for my rheumatism.”

 

He laughed a little.  

 

“This is not a laughing matter, sir. I assure you this is serious government business.”

 

The rancher said, “I’m sure it is. Go ahead. Help yourself, son. Just don’t go in that twenty acres behind the barn.”  

 

The agent got visibly angry for a second.

 

“Sir,” he said, “You see this badge? This badge gives me unimpeded authority, granted by the U.S. Constitution, to go where I please, when I please – no questions asked. I will decide where I will and won’t go. Do you understand me, sir?”

 

The Rancher said, “Yes, I do. I’ll guess I’ll just back to stackin’ my hay.”   

 

The agent said, “Good choice. That would be best.”

 

The rancher was stackin’ hay for about five minutes when he heard a blood-curdling scream from the pasture behind the barn.

 

He said to himself, “What the hell?” as he rushed out that way.

 

Even he was shocked at what he saw. That agent was running for his life  – staying only five yards ahead of the rancher’s big ole long-horn bull that was seconds away from goring him good. He couldn’t tell who would arrive first, the agent at the fence or the bull at the agent.

 

Just then the agent yelled at the rancher: “Help me! Call him off!”

 

The rancher cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled, “Show him your badge! Show him your badge!”

Texas Standard: March 22, 2017

Is this the end of what’s been known as Obamacare? The Texas delegation split as a vote comes down to the wire. Plus, they say no one’s above the law, but is the FBI above politics? Not if history is any indicator. Why James Comey’s command performance at the capitol this week may be seen as part of a larger pattern. And an unexpected partnership between a pipeline and police as both sides celebrate a payoff. Plus a bill with a distinctly Texan accent and our commentator reckons there are some words we Texans use more than they do anywhere else…think of any? Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: June 28, 2016

The decision’s come down, but now what? As Texas abortion rights advocates celebrate opponents recalibrate. We’ll explore. Also though crime remains down in general, in Texas cities and across the us, what some are calling a nearly unprecedented wave of homicides. We’ll explore why. Plus an invitation to the rest of the nation: West Texas wants your nuclear waste? We’ll hear what’s up…and why it might not be a solution for the ages. And not just preaching to the choir, how messages from the pulpit may be changing foster care. And just how long should a baseball stadium last? Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: November 6, 2015

An investigation of more than 16 million traffic citations reveal something very fishy going on with Texas Department of Public Safety stops. Hispanic people being labeled as White? Are Texas Troopers ‘playing games’ with racial profiling data, or is it a computer glitch? And, the FBI’s wants to help teachers identify American students vulnerable to extremism. Also on today’s show – the father of Texas landscapes brings us Bluebonnets, in November. And the University of Texas system taking over 300 acres in Houston. All coming up in today’s Texas Standard: