U.S. Coast Guard Pilot Jason Brownlee Rescued More People in Hurricane Harvey than in Rest of His Career Combined

Coast Guard pilot Jason Brownlee, at right, is seen with commander John Egan, left, and flight mechanic Eric Cybulski, center. (MELISSA JELTSEN/HUFFPOST)

by Melissa Jeltsen, Andy Campbell via huffingtonpost.com

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas ― At 3 a.m. on Sunday, Jason Brownlee, a pilot with the U.S. Coast Guard, woke with a start. His phone was ringing. While he was asleep, Hurricane Harvey had slammed into the greater Houston area, bringing extreme winds and heavy rainfall. His bosses wanted him back at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston ― ASAP. There was one problem, though. Brownlee, 34, was already flooded in.

“Every road that I could take to get in was impassable,” he said. So his team pulled the maneuver they knew best: They scrambled a rescue aircraft and picked him up in an elementary school parking lot near his house.“I came in, put my uniform on, grabbed my gear, a crew, a helicopter,” and took off, he said, flying the first of what would be many rescue missions in the days to come.

Flying over Port Arthur and Beaumont revealed widespread flooding and devastation from Hurricane Harvey. (MELISSA JELTSEN/HUFFPOST)

Coast Guard rescue workers had been working nonstop since the hurricane made landfall. Many of them left families behind. One serviceman’s wife was in labor as he worked to aid his community. Several Guardsmen at Ellington Field lost homes and vehicles of their own, while others, such as Eric Cybulski, were initially unable to get to the air base to help because of severe flooding.

“This one caught a lot of people off guard,” Cybulski said. “I don’t think the Houston area was expecting something of this magnitude ― this much rain.”

Brownlee said he was humbled after flying over Houston early on in the storm. He didn’t see any damage, and although he was ready to act at a moment’s notice, he figured the worst was over. Hours later, he’d wake up to a call demanding that he get back to his chopper.

“My famous last words were, ‘Hurricane Harvey is going to be nothing,’” he said.

He would save 20 lives over the course of the next few days ― three times as many people as he’d rescued since he became a pilot three years ago.

To read full article, go to: This Pilot Rescued More People In Harvey Than In The Rest Of His Career Combined | HuffPost

Texas Native Jamie Foxx Announces Sept. 12 Telethon for Hurricane Harvey

Jamie Foxx (photo via etonline.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

According to Entertainment Tonight, Texas native Jamie Foxx announced on Instagram that there will be a telethon on Sept. 12 to raise money for those in need from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. “Just wanted to let everyone in Texas know, we got you,” Foxx says, adding that he’s donated $25,000 to GlobalGiving, a non-profit organization that provides a global crowdfunding platform for grassroots charitable projects.

“From a fellow Texan, my heart goes out. My prayers go out. September 12 we have a telethon that we’re doing. We’ll give you more details, so we can raise as much money as we can for everybody down there.”

Top talents Blake Shelton and Reese Witherspoon will reportedly also be part of the upcoming televised money-raising effort.

Source: Jamie Foxx Announces Telethon for Hurricane Harvey, Reportedly Featuring Reese Witherspoon and Blake Shelton | Entertainment Tonight

Anheuser-Busch Cans Water to Send to Victims of Hurricane Harvey

(image via ktla.com)

via ktla.com

Over 100,000 cans of water will soon be arriving in Texas for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The much-needed water is being donated by Anheuser-Busch, which periodically halts beer production at its Cartersville, Georgia factory to produce canned drinking water for emergencies, according to the company. The water should arrive in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday.

About 50,000 cans have already arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in anticipation of the heavy rainfall the area may receive as the tropical storm moves east. In the Houston area, the storm has already dropped more than 2 feet of rain and caused widespread and life-threatening flooding. The donation is being made in response to the American Red Cross’ call for emergency drinking water.

Anheuser-Busch Vice President of Community Affairs Bill Bradley said the decision to halt beer production at the Georgia brewery allows them to help communities in times of crisis. The company has been able to help during other emergencies, such as Hurricane Matthew, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and wildfires in the west.

To read more, go to: Anheuser-Busch Cans Water to Send to Victims of Harvey | KTLA

Here’s a List of Ways to Help Victims of Hurricane Harvey

(photo via huffingtonpost.com)

by Lee Moran, Hilary Hanson, Nick Robins-Early via huffingtonpost.com

The devastation from Hurricane Harvey continues to be felt throughout Texas, as heavy rains and catastrophic flooding are expecting to continue for days.Although the extent of the damage and death toll is not yet clear, the National Weather Service is already calling the storm “unprecedented.” Major highways are submerged in floodwaters, emergency services have received thousands of calls and authorities are urging residents to stay in place.

Recovering from the disaster could take years, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There are an untold number of homes and people affected, and the additional flooding and rainfall is set to make the situation even worse.As emergency services, charities and aid groups gear up to address the massive need from Harvey, here are some ways that you can help.

1. Donate Or Volunteer

A plethora of organizations are appealing for donations to help them as they send volunteers and supplies to the hardest-hit areas.These include the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, Save The Children, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and Heart to Heart International. Food banks throughout Texas are also accepting donations for people affected by the storm. You can donate money to Feeding Texas, a network of the state’s food banks, here. Additionally, the Elgin Courier has compiled a list of food bank locations throughout the region that may need donations of food or supplies. The local Texas Diaper Bank is putting together disaster relief kits for families with young children. You can donate here. There is also the Coalition For The Homeless, which helps coordinate shelters and outreach for the city’s vulnerable homeless population. Portlight is a local organization that offers relief to the disabled and older adults.

The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce is raising funds to assist in recovery efforts in those two communities, which were especially hard hit when the hurricane first made landfall. You can donate here. Crowdfunding site GlobalGiving has launched a hurricane relief fund aimed at gathering funds for local nonprofits in the storm-stricken region.Animal shelters and rescue groups are taking in numerous pets displaced by the storm ― ones that got lost in the chaos, were left behind, or simply need temporary housing while their owners stay in evacuation shelters. Those groups include the SPCA of Texas, Austin Pets Alive!, Dallas Animal Services and the San Antonio Humane Society. A number of online fundraising sites have also been set up through GoFundMe, with donations benefiting everything from hurricane and disaster relief groups to animals and families in need. The full list of fundraisers can be viewed on GoFundMe’s Hurricane Harvey Relief page.

2. Donate Blood

Blood centers expect a supply shortage because of the closure of some blood banks along the Texas coast and the likely demand stemming from injuries sustained in the storm. Centers have put out calls for extra donors to help deal with the aftermath. You can find donation centers or blood drives for the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center here, or for Texas organization Carter BloodCare here. And even if you’re not in Texas, you can search online for blood drives local to you or book an appointment via the Red Cross website.

3. Provide Accommodation For Evacuees

Airbnb has launched a portal so that the people who have been displaced by the hurricane can find a place to stay. It’s also waiving fees for people affected by the disaster. More details are available on the Airbnb website here.

Source: Here’s How To Help The Victims Of Hurricane Harvey | HuffPost

Confederate Statues Come Down at University Of Texas at Austin

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is removed from the University of Texas campus early Monday morning in Austin. (Eric Gay/AP)

The president of the University of Texas at Austin has ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and three other Confederate-era figures — Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg — from a main area of campus.

President Greg Fenves announced the statues’ fate Sunday night, and the removals should be complete by mid-morning Monday. A university spokesman says the area has been blocked off. Lee and Johnston were Confederate generals, Reagan was a Confederate postmaster and Hogg was the first native-born governor of Texas and the son of a Confederate general.

In a letter to the university community, Fenves connected the events with the decision to remove the statues now: “[T]he horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.” …”The University of Texas at Austin has a duty to preserve and study history. But our duty also compels us to acknowledge that those parts of our history that run counter to the university’s core values, the values of our state and the enduring values of our nation do not belong on pedestals in the heart of the Forty Acres.”

“We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus.”The statues of Lee, Johnston and Reagan will be added to the collection at the university’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History for “scholarly study,” Fenves wrote. The Hogg statue will be considered for relocation elsewhere on campus. In 2015, the university removed a statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis.

On Saturday, Duke University announced that it had removed a statue of Gen. Lee that was in the entry to the large chapel on its campus.

To read full article, go to: Confederate Statues Come Down At The University Of Texas : The Two-Way : NPR

Federal Court Invalidates Part of Texas Congressional Map for Violating Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution

Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman via texastribune.org

by Alexa Ura AND Jim Malewitz via texastribune.org

Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts Tuesday, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court. A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.

The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections. The court ruled only on the current congressional map, leaving legal challenges to the state House map unanswered. The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations — although Republicans in Austin had previously expressed no appetite to undertake a special session devoted to redistricting.

Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map. That could shake up other congressional races when the boundaries are changed, though the court has asked the parties to consult with experts to “minimize the effect on adjoining districts.” Before Tuesday’s decision, the judges had already ruled that the Texas Legislature sought to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while drawing state House and congressional districts in 2011, immediately following the 2010 U.S. Census.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed mixed emotions about Tuesday’s outcome. “We appreciate that the panel ruled in favor of Texas on many issues in the case. But the portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012,” the Republican said in a written statement. “We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court.”

Minority and civil rights groups suing the state celebrated the ruling as a win for voters who they say were forced to cast votes under unconstitutional maps.

To read full article, go to: Federal court invalidates part of Texas congressional map | The Texas Tribune

Black Santa, For the First Time Ever, Comes to Mall of America in Minnesota

Larry Jefferson is the first black Santa in the 24-year history of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. (STAR TRIBUNE SCREENSHOT)

article by Monique Judge via theroot.com

For the first time in its 24-year history, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., had a black Santa on hand to help spread holiday cheer Thursday.

“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience, which has run the intimate photo studio at the mall for years, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”

Customers at the Mall of America have two Santa options to choose from: They can wait in line with everyone else at the mall for the free Santa, or they can book an appointment with the Santa Experience. The Star Tribune reports that Luther conducted a national search last spring for a Santa to whom children of color would be able to relate. Santa Sid, who has worked at the Mall of America for 20 years, met Larry Jefferson of Irving, Texas, at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo. Of the 1,000 Santa impersonators in attendance, Jefferson was the only black one.

“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Luther said.

Jefferson, dressed as Santa Larry, will greet children, pass out candy and pose for photographs by appointment only from Thursday to Sunday.

To read more, got to: For 1st Time Ever, a Black Santa Comes to Mall of America in Minn.