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Newsmonger: Congress' newest science-denying Science Committee chair, Incarceration nation, Teacher suspended over supposed murder memoir

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Triathlete Monica Caban, 39, was biking with a friend in October when a driver crashed into her from behind, paralyzing her from the waist down. At least 11 cyclists have died from collisions with drivers in and around the San Antonio area since 2009. Six of those deaths have been in the past year, including a North Side accident last week. Fellow triathlete Mack Williams started an online petition last week calling for cyclist safety on the roadways and for the City of San Antonio to better enforce its safe-passing ordinance.


Congress' newest science-denying Science Committee chair

House GOP leaders last week picked man-made climate-change skeptic Lamar Smith to lead the House Science Committee, reportedly after the congressman made his pitch for the new post wearing a "tie decorated with planets and spaceships," according to The Hill. Smith will now head the congressional body overseeing energy research, NASA, the National Weather Service, and the National Science Foundation, among others. Smith's official House website boasts a simple statement acknowledging how "climate change has the potential to impact agriculture, ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns, and human health." But Smith has previously chided the big, bad liberal media for failing to provide adequate room for dissenting voices on human-induced climate change, opining scientists haven't yet reached consensus on the causes.

In 2009, Smith railed against the media in a floor speech after the widely overblown "Climategate" scandal, wherein emails were hacked from East Anglia University. "The [television] networks have shown a steady pattern of bias on climate change," he said. "During a six-month period, four out of five network reports failed to acknowledge any dissenting opinions about global warming." Oberlin College professor and former National Science Board member (appointed under both Reagan and George H.W. Bush admins) James Lawrence Powell this month wrote how out of 13,950 peer-reviewed scientific articles published from 1991 to 2012, only 24 have rejected the notion of man-made global warming.

Perhaps most importantly, Smith, like most in the GOP wing, has come out hard against proposals to curb carbon emissions, like cap-and-trade policies. He slammed the EPA when the agency announced in 2009 its so-called "endangerment finding," which holds that heat-trapping greenhouse gases from industry and vehicles endanger public health. "The world has failed to reach consensus on climate change," Smith wrote on his House website, saying, "Forcing Americans to curb our CO-2 emissions unilaterally puts us at a competitive disadvantage with other countries and will result in American jobs being sent overseas."

Still, Smith's public climate talk pales in comparison to that of his predecessor, fellow Texas GOP congressman and former Science Committee chair Ralph Hall, who when it comes to climate change is fond of saying: "I don't think we can control what God controls."

Incarceration nation

Here in the U.S., home to five percent of the world's population, we house a quarter of the planet's inmates. With incarceration skyrocketing over the past three decades — quadrupling since the 1980s — bloated corrections costs have weighed on state corrections systems and county governments managing crowded jails.

Ana Yáñez-Correa with the nonprofit Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has worked closely with Bexar County in recent years, particularly with Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, to fight the trend locally, pushing programs to shrink the incarcerated population of Bexar County through pre-trial diversion (think drug-abuse, mental health, and veterans courts). And while the average daily jail population in Bexar County shot to 4,600 in mid-2009, the jail saw about 3,850 inmates last month. Eyeing the fast-approaching legislative session, TCJC and Bexar County officials have penned a wish list of legislative fixes they say would keep non-violent offenders out of lockup while also helping convicts successfully re-enter society and avoid re-arrest.

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