Tag Archives: National News

Justice Department Releases Report on Law Enforcement Requests for Information from News Media


The Justice Department today released its first annual report following former Attorney General Eric Holder’s pledge in February 2014 to make public information related to law enforcement requests for information from, or records of, members of the news media.

The report exemplifies the department’s continuing commitment to increased transparency in its interactions with the media and to ensure that newsgathering activities by members of the news media are not unreasonably impaired by law enforcement activities.  The report covers authorizations made during the 2014 calendar year and includes information provided by department divisions, including the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.

“Today’s report is an important step in the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to promote the freedom of the press, to keep the American people informed and to improve transparency and accountability regarding media-related process,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “In addition to the statistical data former Attorney General Holder pledged to disclose, I have asked the department to provide information about each case or matter listed so that the public can better understand how the department is striking the proper balance among several vital interests: protecting national security, ensuring public safety, promoting effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice and safeguarding the essential role of the free press in fostering government accountability and an open society.”

A copy of the report can be found here.

Shooter has Ties to Houston, Pearland

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 7.06.36 PM

Rest in Peace.

Authorities say 24-year-old Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed four U.S. Marines and wounded three others in Thursday’s attack. Abdulazeez spent a lot of time with close relatives in the Pearland area.

Local representatives react to nuclear deal with Iran

President Obama announced Tuesday (July 14) that a deal had been made with Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not — a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama announced.

The Commander-In-Chief said that every possible pathway for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons has been cut off and that the U.S. has a team in place to make sure that, “Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.”

The deal outlines specifics for Iran: that it will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, which are necessary to produce the uranium needed for a bomb, and will store the centrifuges under constant international supervision.

“Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium,” President Obama added.

“Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments. That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification. Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

“Inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities. This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones. Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

“Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary. That arrangement is permanent. And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

“Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran,” President Obama said.

Obama indicated that this deal will be added in a new United Nations Security Council resolution. If Iran were to violate the deal, all of the previous sanctions would be put back in place immediately.

Reaction from Senators and Congressmen representing the local area has been primarily negative toward the deal.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) released a statement soon after Obama’s announcement stating that, “From the beginning there has been bipartisan concern with how the Obama Administration has approached these negotiations. Iran has done nothing to demonstrate to the American people that we should trust them. Unfortunately, this deal abandons longstanding U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in favor of one that merely delays it.”

District 22 Representative Pete Olson’s (R-Sugar Land) statement read, “This agreement is far from a done deal. President Obama and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have agreed that Iran will keep the key to a nuclear weapon with a promise not to turn it on for a decade. It doesn’t prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or stop a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It merely delays it for 10 years IF we presume that Iran can be trusted. The world is a much more dangerous place if this deal is approved.”

Congressman Brian Babin (R-Cleveland), who represents District 36, said, “President Obama has made a ‘deal’ with the Islamic Republic of Iran – a terrorist regime that regularly leads chants of ‘Death to America’, burns our flag, and has killed hundreds of American soldiers.

“In April, Energy Secretary Moniz said inspectors would have ‘anywhere, anytime access’ to Iran’s civil and military sites. Unfortunately, this deal sets forth no such requirement.

“Decisions about access will be left to Iran’s leaders, who have said that inspectors will not be permitted to inspect military sites, even ‘in their dreams.’”

Congressman Randy Weber (R-Friendswood), representing District 14, released a statement saying, “This Administration has put our allies and this nation into harm’s way – plain and simple. A nuclear Iran has gone from a distant possibility to now an unavoidable future. The Iranian regime has made no attempts to mask their discontent for the United States of America. It is incomprehensible that this Administration would make a deal with a terrorist regime whose own President leads ‘Death to America’ chants. Fortunately, this deal must come to a vote on the floor of the House and Senate. One thing is for sure –I will vehemently oppose it, work towards securing a veto-proof majority vote, and fight to ensure this deal does not happen.”

Congressman Gene Green (D-Houston), representing District 29, provided support, saying, “I commend all the parties involved for the hard work and countless hours it took to reach an agreement. It is now Congress’ turn to put in the same type of work. We have a responsibility to review the intricate details of the plan and decide whether or not to authorize the Administration to proceed. Congress asked for a place at the table and now we must ensure the deal passes muster. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the Administration.”

The fate of Obama’s deal with Iran now rests with the House and Senate.

National Public Works Week May 17-23


National Public Works Week May 17-23 has officially begun! If you see a Public Works employee out working, you are encouraged to stop and thank them for all of the hard work and hours they put in to keep Pearland residents safe. #iheartpearland

No Bond in New Orleans for Durst

(Photo By Gerald Herbert/AP)  FILE - In this Tuesday, March 17, 2015 file, Millionaire Robert Durst is escorted from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans. Durst is going back to court in New Orleans after nearly a week in a prison mental ward 70 miles away. At a preliminary hearing on weapons charges on Monday, March 23, his lawyers planned to argue that the 71-year-old Houston man should be released because he was illegally arrested on those charges and a Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murdering a female friend.

(Photo By Gerald Herbert/AP) FILE – In this Tuesday, March 17, 2015 photo, Millionaire Robert Durst is escorted from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans. 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A magistrate on Monday ordered millionaire Robert Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana and said the man accused of killing his friend 15 years ago in California was both a flight risk and a danger to others.

Durst, 71, was seated beside his lawyers, his hands shackled to his sides in padded cuffs. He has been in a prison’s mental health unit for nearly a week. Jail officials have called him a suicide risk.

Magistrate Harry Cantrell set a preliminary hearing in the weapons case for April 2.

Durst is accused of killing Susan Berman in 2000, but his lawyers say his arrest was illegal and orchestrated to coincide with the finale of an HBO series about his links to three killings.

He was arrested March 14 at a New Orleans hotel on both the weapons charges and on the Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murder.

On Monday, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said he never expected the magistrate to set bond.

“We were able to get a lot of information we didn’t have before,” DeGuerin said after the hearing. “… I think all in all we had a very good day.”

One of the weapons charges alleges that Durst had a .38-caliber revolver; previous felony convictions make that illegal. The other charge alleges he had the weapon and illegal drugs: more than 5 ounces of marijuana.

Prosecutors have not said whether they will bring those charges before a grand jury.

None of Durst’s previous convictions was serious enough to merit the felon in possession charge, his attorneys say.

Durst had registered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel under the name Everette Ward, and a search of his hotel room turned up his passport, nearly $43,000 in cash, a gun, and a rubber or latex mask that could cover his head and neck, according to a search warrant for his Houston condo.

Durst, a member of a wealthy New York real estate family, was charged with murder in California for the December 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman.

His arrest came one day before the finale of “The Jinx,” the show about his links to his first wife’s disappearance in 1982; the death of Berman, a mobster’s daughter who acted as his spokeswoman after his wife went missing; and a 71-year-old neighbor in Texas whose dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst has been tried only for the Texas killing, and he was acquitted of murder.

Durst waived extradition in New Orleans but is being held on the weapons charges.

During Monday’s hearing, DeGuerin asked that prosecutor-turned-TV-host Jeanine Pirro be removed from the courtroom as a potential witness. He said he wanted to question her.

“She’s here because she’s been participating in the dogging of Mr. Durst for years,” he said.

But Cantrell ruled that Pirro would not testify.

Pirro — a Fox News Channel host and former district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, where she investigated the still-unsolved disappearance of Durst’s first wife — returned to the courtroom with a small smile.

After court, Pirro said requests for comment would have to go through her employer.

Oil Markets, Strong Production Lead U.S. Gas Prices Lower

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that falling oil prices and strong production at U.S. refineries led to lower numbers at the pump. The drop during the two-week period ended Friday comes despite labor strikes at some refineries.

Los Angeles had the most expensive gas among cities surveyed in the Lower 48 states at $3.29. Charleston, South Carolina, had the cheapest at $2.11.

The average national price for midgrade gas was $2.71 and $2.87 for premium. Diesel stands at $2.97, down 5 cents.

Move Clocks Ahead Sunday March 8


It’s that time again!

Editor’s Corner: The Evolution of Evil: A Theoretical Explanation of Don Collins*

I recently covered several days of the capital murder trial of Don Willburn Collins, 29, who stood accused of tying Robert Middleton to a tree and setting him on fire in 1998 when Collins was 13 and Middleton was 8. Middleton miraculously survived the third degree burns over 99% of his body for 12 years, but died of skin cancer allegedly caused by the burns in 2011 when he was 20.

The trial concluded yesterday (Tuesday, 2/10/15) with the jury finding Collins guilty and sentencing him to the maximum of 40 years (since he was a minor at the time of the burning, he could not be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty).

The trial was moved from Montgomery County to Galveston County because the case had been in the news on and off for 17 years and the concern about finding unbiased jurors was well-founded.

I kept hearing the same thing over and over from random people: How could a person do this to someone else? How does a person get to be so evil?

I pondered those questions as I watched the trial, paying special attention to Collins’ reactions (or really lack of reactions) and trying to piece together a timeline of his childhood that might explain how he became an obvious sociopath.

For every “evil” or “monstrous” person, there’s a story. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, or even explain it, but it does give one insight into how these people evolve.

Collins lost his mother around age 8 and his father had never been around. For a young boy, the absence of a father is especially damaging. I won’t go in depth here, but if you’re interested, make sure to watch the documentary Absent, which is available on Netflix.

Collins became an orphan at a young age. He was then passed around from relative to relative, basically sleeping on floors and couches, as his family was lower middle-class. He ended up at an uncle’s house in the small town of Splendora, TX in a neighborhood that was very rural.

This uncle – actually, many of Collins’ relatives – had a history of criminal behavior. It was never mentioned in the trial, but I am convinced that Collins was sexually abused as a child based on several factors that are “red flags” to me as a trained mental health professional. I don’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this uncle had participated in that abuse.

The rest of this article is purely my opinion, based on facts and observations I took from the case*. No one has been charged with abusing Collins and I am drawing conclusions based on statistical probabilities. As always, all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.


Yearbook photo

Yearbook photo

Picture if you can, an 8 year-old boy with ginger hair and freckles. He’s just lost his mother, the only person in the world who ever really showed him love. He has no contact with his father. In the midst of his grief, he is placed with a relative who lives in the woods in a mobile home, which really isn’t big enough for the whole family. This young orphan is told to sleep on the couch or the floor. No one is particularly kind to the boy; he feels like a burden and is very angry at the loss of his mom and the absence of his dad. He pushes people away because he doesn’t want to be abandoned yet again.

He’s in that home for 5 years. During that time, his uncle rapes him several times. The young man’s anger builds, and he blames everyone. He feels powerless, helpless and trapped. The people that surround him drink heavily and do drugs, and they openly share their substances with the boy. He uses and drinks. He finds that it helps him feel like he fits in somewhere and sometimes dulls his anger.

He is especially angry toward families that appear complete and happy. This is because he is jealous and feels like these people don’t deserve what he can’t have. He wants to take it away from them somehow.

He starts touching the neighborhood children, both boys and girls. This builds up to actual molestation and rape, for which he will be prosecuted in the future. This is one way to hurt happy people. He knows this because he’s experienced it.

When someone he considers to be part of the “enemy” group, which gets larger every day, commits the slightest perceived infraction against him, he feels that he must punish them. He does this in various ways, ranging from scaring kids to stomping on the head of a neighbor girl’s 10-week old kitten, killing it.

By the time this boy reaches puberty, he’s primed for more violence. No one has shown him love or compassion for years. He’s been abused emotionally, physically and sexually by the very people who give him food and shelter. He’s learned that the entire world is against him and he must defend himself, sometimes making the first move to prevent perceived pain later.

By age 13, the boy is regularly molesting and raping neighborhood children. The trial showed that there were at least 4 victims of his sexual violence in the span of a year, and there may be more who haven’t come forward.

Rape makes the boy feel powerful and in control, something that he doesn’t ever feel in any other situation. He likes it when kids are scared of him. Some of his family members even encourage him to keep hurting people.

When he rapes 7 year-old Robert Middleton, it’s suddenly not enough. He knows that Robert is part of a complete, happy family. He tells Middleton that he better not tell anyone, or he will get killed. Middleton tells no one.

Middleton’s mom, however, notices a change in her son’s behavior. She feels like this “creepy kid” in the neighborhood is stalking him. It was only a few years ago that she had pulled Collins off of her daughter because he was trying to pull down the daughter’s underwear. Moms know when something is wrong with their kids. She asks Robert about it. Robert assures her that Collins “is being nice.”

About 2 weeks after the rape, Robert is tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and set on fire by Collins, who points the finger at another kid who hadn’t even been in the neighborhood when the incident happened.

Collins spends some time in Juvenile Detention. He drifts around after that, doing more time for theft, sexual assault and failing to register as a sex offender in two counties.

Collins in 2015 (Photo: NY Daily News)

Collins in 2015 (Photo: NY Daily News)

When Robert Middleton dies in 2011, Collins officially becomes accused of murder. He is remanded into County Jail in 2013, where he gets tattoos of demonic figures, a revolver pointed into the open mouth of a skull and a swastika on his scalp and arms.

He is now fully evolved. He shows no emotion except an occasional smirk as the witnesses recount the horrors they have experienced. He is all-powerful now. No one can hurt him anymore.


*I am NOT condoning the actions of Collins in ANY way. This piece was meant as a theoretical explanation of how a person becomes sociopathic. This piece is entirely my opinion and does not reflect the views of The Silvercreek Tribune or Houston Community Newspapers.

NASA Remembers Those Lost in Space Programs


Today we commemorate the men and women lost in the space exploration program by celebrating their lives, their bravery and advancements in human spaceflight.

T-38 aircraft will flyover our center at about 10:40a.m. as tribute to the heroes who lost their lives in Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. These astronauts and their families will always be a part of the NASA family, and we will continue to honor their contributions.


Keystone XL Pipeline Act Heads to Senate

By Stacey Glaesmann

The House of Representatives voted 266-153 to approve the Keystone XL pipeline Friday (Jan. 9) but President Obama has threatened to veto it should it pass the Senate.

The Keystone XL Pipeline Act authorizes a $7 billion project to extend TransCanada’s 4,000-mile pipeline another 1,661 miles through Oklahoma to a delivery point near existing terminals in Texas at Nederland and Port Arthur. It would later be linked to refineries in the Houston area.

The existing pipeline begins in Hardisty, Alberta, Canada and extends southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas to serve markets at Cushing, Oklahoma.

The project has been hotly debated has since TransCanada submitted its application in September of 2008.

Proponents of the plan cite the creation of much-needed jobs, the economic advantages and the ability to buy oil from a country more stable than some of the other options, such as Venezuela, Nigeria or the Middle East.

Opponents, however, claim the pipeline would threaten the environment. There have even been sit-ins in Washington D.C. to protest the pipeline. Opponents also claim the “tar sands” that would be sent through the 36-inch pipeline are corrosive.

On Aug. 26 the government’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline reaffirmed the environmental integrity of the project.

It was the third Environmental Impact Statement that the U.S. Department of State has issued on Keystone XL since the review process began in 2008.

“The Final Environmental Impact Statement reaffirms the findings of the two previous environmental impact statements that the Keystone XL pipeline will have no significant impact on the environment,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer, said Friday.

Just hours after supporters of the bipartisan bill introduced it on Tuesday (Jan. 6), the White House announced that President Barack Obama would veto it.

“If this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday, explaining that legislation shouldn’t undermine the review process currently underway at the State Department or serve as a loophole for a pending lawsuit in Nebraska over its route.

The Nebraska State Supreme Court ruled Friday that the three landowners who had pending legal action in opposition to the pipeline failed to prove any legal standing to their case. That decision cleared the way for the vote to take place.

Voting “yes” were 28 Democrats, including Texas Representatives Henry Cuellar, Al Green, Gene Green, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Marc Veasey and Filemon Vela; and 238 Republicans, including all of Texas’ Republican Representatives. Voting “no” were 153 Democrats and no Republicans.

District 14 Representative Randy Weber (R-Friendswood) issued a statement after the vote.

“It has been 2,303 days since the submission of the Presidential permit application for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Within two days, the House is proving their willingness to take action,” Weber said. “An overwhelming majority of Americans support the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline because it is a win-win for our economy. It will help our nation become more energy independent and secure. It will create more good-paying jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this swiftly so it can be sent to the President’s desk. The President must sign this legislation into law, rather than hinder this project by veto.”

Similarly, District 36 Representative Brian Babin (R-Woodville) said: “For far too long, President Obama has impeded construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – costing the American people thousands of good-paying jobs and blocking an affordable source of energy. In the face of his continued obstruction, I proudly joined a strong bipartisan group of my colleagues voting to put an end to Obama’s obstruction and approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

“This legislation is not only good for America, but it is also uniquely important to the 36th District of Texas. The pipeline will bring an economic boost to our area through its construction and new energy supply. For six years President Obama has put politics above what is good for the American people and our local and national economy. This is an important step in putting more Americans back to work, creating opportunity to good jobs and growing our national economy.”

District 22 Representative Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) also issued a statement in support of the project.

“Americans and our strong friend and ally Canada have been waiting for six years for President Obama to listen to his own State Department by approving the Keystone XL pipeline,” Olson said. “The House has now voted to approve it 10 times and I expect the Senate to pass it as well. There are no more excuses. The Obama Administration is the only one blocking this pipeline. Is President Obama prepared to deny shovel-ready jobs to tens of thousands of Americans and stall on an opportunity to increase North American energy security? It’s time for the president to say yes to the Keystone XL pipeline.”

The bill will now be passed to the Senate, where it will undergo similar consideration.

If passed, proponents say the Keystone XL Pipeline project could impact the Houston area in a big way.

“Pipelines are very efficient, they don’t require a huge labor force,” Prescott said. “What it will do though is because this is a steady source of oil from a reliable trading partner, it will mean a steady supply of oil for the refineries on the gulf coast. That will help keep the thousands of worker here employed on a steady basis and reduce the risk of supply interruptions like when (Hurricanes) Rita and Katrina hit and the refineries were idled because the tankers were stuck out in the eastern gulf. That’s the kind of thing this pipeline would mitigate.”

The Keystone Pipeline System has been constructed in phases. Phase one was put in service in 2010. The second phase, from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma, was placed in service in 2011.

The next stop, pending Senate approval and barring a Presidential veto, is Port Arthur.