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The QueQue

The QueQue: State murder? Nothing to see here, High jail suicide rate continues, Sleepy shale watchdogs, Cost of healthy aquifer going up

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So far this year, three Bexar County Detention Center inmates have died in suicide attempts at the jail, the same number of jail suicides in all of 2010. Along with Sanchez, guards found Adrian Rodriguez, 31, hanging from a sheet during a routine 30-minute cell check on June 23. Still, Rodriguez, pronounced dead at a hospital two days later, wasn’t considered an in-custody death, Texas Commission of Jail Standards’ executive director Adan Munoz said, since Rodriguez was given a personal recognizance bond the day after his suicide attempt at the jail.

A total of four inmates have died at the Bexar County jail this year, including Pamela Anguiano, 25, who died in the jail’s detox unit on July 20.

The frequency of inmate suicides at the Bexar County lockup started to raise eyebrows after 2009, when all six of the jail’s in-custody deaths were ruled suicides, three times the national average. Last year, acknowledging the problem, Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz requested a report from nationally recognized suicide-prevention expert Lindsay Hayes to identify problems and fixes for the jail.

In his report, Hayes called the jail’s suicide prevention system a “misnomer” and remarked, “It would appear that the jail system has an unexplained tolerance for potentially suicidal behavior.”

Munoz said the commission has looked into each of the jail’s four deaths this year, and that none have raised any red flags. None of the three inmates who committed suicide this year were labeled at-risk or were on suicide watch, he said, and all received a psychological evaluation at the jail. “For these latest cases, we’ve looked into them and they’re OK. Everything checks out,” Munoz said.

Sleepy shale watchdogs

How does one shatter dense oil shale thousands of feet below the ground with a toxic slurry and suck up the oil and gas in an environmentally responsible manner? Is safe “fracking” even possible? Among those that aren’t so sure, count the EPA, France, and the states of New York, West Virginia, and Arkansas.

Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter set up an Eagle Ford Task Force last week, charged with … well … doing something. He announced the task force in the same breath as he blamed a contentious relationship with residents in North Texas’ Barnett Shale area on poor communications by the RRC and industry — as opposed to the appearance of arsenic, barium, selenium, and lead in drinking water in Dish, or Fort Worth-based Range Resources suing a family that brought complaints of water contamination to the EPA.

While the American Natural Gas Alliance lauded Porter for the “diversity of interests” present on the new panel, the Laredo-based Safe Fracking Coalition has slammed the body’s makeup, saying, “Commissioner Porter’s misguided decision to load the Eagle Ford Task Force with oil and gas company insiders and cheerleaders is unsettling from a public health and environmental standpoint.”

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