A couple of weeks ago, Texas Standard commentator WF Strong shared some news with a few members of our staff. Now, he’s ready to share it with all of you.
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two challenges to student loan forgiveness. With Texas having the second highest number of student loans in the nation, a University of Houston legal scholar offers analysis and what comes next.
There’s a push in the Texas Legislature to ban polling places on college campuses – but some students see it as voter suppression.
Once upon a time in the not-so-distant past there was a planned mega-merger in the publishing biz. Today: the postscript.
As the investigation continues in a migrant smuggling tragedy, border officials in El Paso sound an alarm over migrant deaths due to water. Coming up: a Texas pre-Roe abortion ban blocked by a Harris county judge. We’ll have the latest. Plus a conversation with the eldest daughter of Norma McCorvey, the Texan better known as Jane Roe in the landmark Roe v Wade case. And a first of its kind in Texas, diplomas for newly minted podiatrists. We’ll talk with the inaugural dean of Texas’ first school of podiatry and why its location is so critical. And the GOP platform call for Texas to secede: could Texas do that? A Politifact check and more today on the Texas Standard:
Early voting starts today in the primary runoff elections. What you need to know about what’s on the ballot, and voting by mail. Also, one of the highest-profile races on the Republican ballot is for Attorney General. Incumbent Ken Paxton was considered vulnerable, but will current Land Commissioner George P. Bush be able to defeat him? And language in Texas’ recent abortion legislation has some doctors and pharmacists concerned about providing care for miscarriages. We’ll take a look at why. Also take a closer look at the Texas electric grid and why hot temperatures have so far been a challenge. Plus a conversation with a Texas researcher involved in that new photo of a black hole. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
After earnest promises to fix the grid after last winters statewide blackouts, is Texas better prepared for the next winter storm? A new report offers answers, we’ll explore. Also Dallas and Houston among the top destinations in the U.S. for holiday travelers who are hitting the road this week despite a spike in gasoline prices. But but there may be some good news on the horizon. We’ll have the latest. Plus if you’re planning on taking the plane, how concerned are you about air rage? We’ll meet a scholar who says buckle up, there may be more turbulence in the passenger section. And a Thanksgiving feast stuffed into a single bag of candy corn? All that and more today on the Texas Standard:
A primary care doctor in rural Texas sounds an alarm amid an ongoing pandemic: where are all the other doctors? We’ll explore. Also, after outrageous and false claims about the Sandy Hook school massacre, a decision in a defamation case brought by parents against Texas provocateur Alex Jones. We’ll have details. Plus billions coming to Texas to boost infrastructure, including broadband. How could it change Texas? One expert says it could be as big as rural electrification. We’ll hear the how and why. And an exhibit that aims to correct the historical record when it comes to cowboy legend. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
With the sun out and about and temperatures hitting nearly triple digits this week, it might not be a bad idea to just simmer in the sweat and embrace the Dayglow. Austin multi-instrumentalist Sloan Struble blew us away in 2019 with Dayglow‘s debut album, Fuzzybrain, and invited us to get a little more intimate with his indie pop project even more recently through his sophomore LP, Harmony House.
Dayglow plays this Friday at Stubb’s but if you’re still iffy on going out, the Studio 1A veteran was kind enough to let our multi-media team stop by for a four-song video set, featuring two tracks from Fuzzybrain and Harmony House. Either way, you’re going to want a Dayglow-prescribed dose of “Medicine”…
A new abortion law takes effect in Texas. Not only does it effectively prohibit abortions after five or six weeks, it deputizes private citizens to enforce it. We’ll hear about the implications. Also a look at some of the less well known provisions taking effect as Texas law today ranging from homelessness to the Star Spangled Banner. Plus Boca Chica we have a problem… friction between SpaceX and the folks who live near the south Texas launch site. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
Despite resistance from Republicans at the capitol, pressure mounts on Texas to expand medicaid. Bob Garret of the Dallas Morning News with an update on a push that could provide Medicaid coverage to more than 1.4 million additional Texans. Also, whatever happened to the George Floyd Act introduced in the Texas Legislature earlier this year? More on police reform efforts at the capitol. And the west Texas county leading the state in a major metric in the pandemic fight. Plus are the priorities shifting for a top Texas sports and tourism destination? Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
As Texas’s Governor takes steps to lift pandemic restrictions on businesses, worries grow for a Texas hotspot nearing critical levels, we’ll have details. Plus, 2020 has left tens of thousands in the oil and gas industry unemployed. Now many in the energy capitol of the world looking to Thursday nights debate and what the candidate will have to say about changes in policies. Also, reports of involuntary sterilizations among women in immigration detention. We’ll have a talk with the Texas representative calling for a congressional investigation. And as voters try to limit contact with others due to COVID-19, a method of casting a ballot less talked about than the mail in option. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:
As many Texans struggle to make ends meet in a pandemic, politicians debate what sort of relief to offer. We’ll talk with Senator John Cornyn. Also, among the biggest cities in the US, residents of Houston appear to be facing the toughest challenges when it comes to personal finance and health. We’ll have details from a new survey by NPR and Harvard. Plus the politics of medicine amid a pandemic, how college campuses are trying to curb the spread amid rising COVID-19 numbers, the Fed changes its position on curbing inflation, what that might mean from most everyday folks and more today on the Texas Standard:
By W. F. Strong
A couple of years ago, there was a photograph published on Twitter of a group of radiation oncologists in the radiation treatment room at MD Anderson, all women, under the hashtag, “Women Who Curie.” They were celebrating the legacy of Madame Marie Curie and her pioneering work in radiology that daily inspires their mission.
As I looked at the photograph of the nine doctors at MD Anderson, I realized that Madame Curie’s legacy was far greater than Nobel Prizes and scientific advancement. She added the benefit of opening previously closed doors in science and medicine to women. Madame Curie was not just perceived as a female interloper seeking equality in disciplines generally reserved for men, but she was also an immigrant, a double minority at the Sorbonne. She was ignored and pushed aside and denied lab space and vital equipment. She succeeded by virtue of an iron will and unrelenting genius.
Few people realize she passed up Bill Gates-type wealth by not seeking a would-be priceless patent for radium, the element she and her husband Pierre discovered. She said the element “belongs to the people.” That act of philanthropy paved the way for institutes like M.D. Anderson, and her pioneering work for women served to staff them with brilliant professionals, too. Sometimes I wonder how much further along the human race would be now had we not denied education to half of us for most of recorded time.
One little known story about Madame Curie is that she feared at one point that she would not be able to complete her degree at the Sorbonne for lack of funds. She had resigned herself to the idea that she would have to remain in Poland and live a life as a tutor or a governess.
Then came the miracle. She received, unexpectedly, the Alexandrovitch Scholarship of 600 rubles – about $300. She calculated that it was enough, if she lived meagerly, with little heat and less food, to complete her master’s degree. She did, graduating first in her class. And that was just the beginning. She would graduate a little over a year later with another degree in Mathematics. As soon as she took her first job, from her first paychecks, she pulled out 600 rubles and paid back the Alexandrovitch Foundation for the scholarship they had given her. This had never happened before. The foundation was shocked, but as Madame Curie’s daughter said of her mother: “In her uncompromising soul she would have judged herself dishonest if she had kept, for one unnecessary moment the money which now could serve as life buoy to another young girl.” Now, that’s paying back AND forward.
Madame Curie went on to be the first female Ph.D. at the Sorbonne and the first female professor as well. In addition, she was awarded not one, but two Nobel Prizes, in different sciences – the first person, male or female, ever to achieve that distinction.
So as I looked at the photograph of the women she inspired at MD Anderson, I thought of Madame Curie’s influential reach across a century, across vast oceans. MD Anderson doctors have received the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award from the American Association for Women in Radiology four times in twenty years. MD Anderson also maintains a sister institutional relationship with the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Cancer Center in Warsaw. Marie is still enlightening minds, inspiring the academically marginalized and healing the sick, even here in Texas.
After an executive order from the Trump administration, Texas becomes the first state to opt out of future refugee resettlement. We’ll have the latest. Also, a New York billionaire tours Texas by bus trying to make inroads in his presidential campaign. For Michael Bloomberg, the stakes are high. And a disturbing affair in the world of romance novels. Plus the biography of a Texan who fought his way out of tough times and so much more today on the Texas Standard:
By W. F. Strong
I’m walking on the veranda of the Gorgas Building at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. It’s named for the famous Army physician, William Gorgas, who was sent here to Fort Brown in 1882. This building was already here when he was. It was the hospital he ran. What he would learn here, and what would happen to him, would change the world.
Gorgas was just 27 years old when arrived at Fort Brown. There was a full-blown yellow fever epidemic raging at the time. It was so named because it turned eyes and skin yellow. About half the people who came down with it, died. Yellow fever was not only deadly, it was quick. You could feel fine on Wednesday morning, have symptoms kick-in that afternoon, and be dead by Saturday.
Gorgas fought yellow fever head on. He didn’t yet know that mosquitoes spread it, but he did know that good sanitation and quarantining patients was useful. He launched public health measures that helped cut short the epidemic. Perhaps the best thing that happened to him during this time, and it will seem a strange thing to say, is that he came down with yellow fever himself, but it gave him life long immunity. He vowed to make fighting the disease his life’s work.
His next significant posting in his war on yellow fever was to Cuba. It was there that the research of the Cuban doctor, Carlos Finlay, had laid out a convincing case for mosquitoes being responsible for transmitting the illness. Walter Reed, a name you likely recognize, tested Finlay’s theories and proved without a doubt that mosquitoes were responsible. Then Gorgas put the knowledge to practical use with fumigation, screening, and outlawing open cisterns and standing water. Astoundingly, those efforts virtually wiped out yellow fever in Havana in a couple of years, reducing cases from thousands a year to fewer than 20.
Then Dr. Gorgas made his big leap onto the world stage. You will remember the French had tried to dig the Panama Canal but failed miserably because they lost thousands of workers to yellow fever. Disease drove them out and silenced the steam shovels. The Americans, in a cannot-fail bid to do what the French couldn’t, resumed the dig. But in the first years, yellow fever and malaria threatened to drive the Americans out, too. Some said it would have taken 50 years and 80 thousand lives to finish the canal under those conditions.
Gorgas was brought in to solve the problem. But the political leaders in charge didn’t want to hear anything about his mosquito theory. They told him to keep that crazy theory to himself because “everyone knew that those tropical illnesses came from miasma, bad air.” Hell, the word Malaria itself came from Italian, translating verbatim “mal” “aria” – bad air. Gorgas learned as Galileo did that getting the world, even scientists, to ditch a centuries old belief system in favor of a new one, has always been unfathomably difficult.
Gorgas wanted to take what he had learned in Brownsville and Cuba and put it to work on a grand scale in Panama. He applied for a million dollars to protect Panama. The U.S. gave him 50 thousand. But with such poor funding, hundreds of workers were dying each month and the Americans risked being embarrassed by failure, just like the French. Teddy Roosevelt himself intervened and more or less said “give Gorgas what he wants.”
So it was then that Gorgas screened all the houses, buildings and particularly the hospitals in the Canal Zone. This was essential because a patient could only get yellow fever from a mosquito that had bitten someone with yellow fever. Gorgas also had an army of fumigators at work across the isthmus every day.
As he had in Cuba, Gorgas got rid of standing water and required covers on cisterns. He also drained swamps and treated undrainable waters with oil to keep larvae from forming. Within two years yellow fever had been completely eradicated from Panama.
Gorgas was considered the medical hero of the canal because, without his work, the engineers and diggers and construction workers could never have done their work. Gorgas without question, made the canal a reality.
After Panama, Gorgas eventually became Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and was knighted by the King of England for his work in tropical diseases, from which the British greatly benefited.
So here I sit on the veranda of his old hospital at Fort Brown in Texas. The building still bears Gorgas’ name. I also admire the fact that his name has a place of honor 8 thousand miles away on the side of the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Here at Texas Southmost College, funded from this very building, are many fine programs in nursing and health professions active today. I think Gorgas would be pleased.
Deadline for getting on the ballot in Texas comes and goes. We’ll take a look at what the list of candidates may or may not tell us about an evolution in Texas politics. Also, years ago alarm bells sounded over a high rate of maternal mortality in Texas. Then the data was found to be problematic. A new investigation suggests it was right to be concerned after all. And a booming business in craft distilling in Texas. But spirits are low over a coming change. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
A fact finding process in an era of fake news: do the facts still matter? We’ll look at some Texas takeaways from the impeachment hearing so far. Also, new guidelines for how the state tabulates ballots. Are we getting early warning signals about problems for 2020? We’ll take a look. Plus, what can dogs tell humans about aging? And our tech expert Omar gallaga on winners and losers in the early volleys of the new streaming wars. All of that and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:
He’s been one of the longest-serving members of President Trump’s cabinet, but sources say Rick Perry will soon step down, we’ll explore. Also, did you get a census in the mail? No, not that census. We’ll explore some confusing fundraising tactics to keep an eye out of for. Plus, it was a personal moment between the brother of a victim and his brother’s killer. But it’s sparked intense debate. We’ll explore. And a new documentary brings to light a long overlooked piece of Texas history. Those stories and then some today on the Friday edition of the Texas Standard:
Russian election interference and ties to the Trump campaign. We’re tracking the release of the Mueller report. We’ll have the latest. Other stories we’re following: what may be a preview of the upcoming Texas senate race unfolding at the Texas capitol…results of the census are in. Though it’s probably not the one you’re thinking about, it could nonetheless have a big impact on the Lone Star State. Also, we’ll explain the car of the future will be self driving they tell us. What’s taking so long? Plus, this weekend’s Trip Tip and more today on the Texas Standard:
Will Texans vote to return Donald Trump to the White House? The 2020 contest might be closer than you think. We’ll hear from the head of the Texas Politics Project about the finding of a new poll of 12 hundred Texans and what they’re telling us about the early state of the 2020 presidential contest. Also: hemp. Illegal to grow in Texas, but the times are a changin and the republican ag commissioner is pushing the change. Plus how a forgotten story of hispanic North America tells us something about our politics and our American identity. All those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard: