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Gary Borders

Texas Press Association

Robertson County News

Agencies blasted over wildfire oversight

State agencies and regulators were heavily criticized at a Texas legislative hearing for failing to communicate during the deadly Panhandle wildfires, the Texas Tribune reported. The three-day hearing, held in Pampa, investigated the Smokehouse Creek fire and others that burned more than a million acres, destroyed hundreds of homes, killed up to 10,000 cattle and resulted in two deaths. State Rep. Ben King, R-Canadian, chaired the committee and said the hearing was difficult but necessary. “You may not like the line of questions or the tone of questions, but we are here for answers,” King told representatives of the state’s regulatory agencies last week. “It’s not a personal attack on you or your agencies, but it’s time for answers.” Xcel Energy has acknowledged that a fallen power line ignited the Smokehouse Creek fire. The company hired by Xcel to perform safety inspections – Osmose Utilities Services – declined to participate in last week’s hearings. Mike Hoke, with the Public Utilities Commission, said the agency doesn’t conduct inspections. Instead, it relies on the utility companies to hire its own inspectors. He said utility companies can hire whoever they wish to inspect utility poles with any oversight from the PUC. The legislative committee is expected to publish its results and recommendations for any legislative changes by May 1. First human case of bird flu in Texas detected The first human case of avian influenza in Texas was reported last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. It came after contact with infected dairy cattle and is only the second case of a human being infected with bird flu in the United States. “The risk to the general public is believed to be low; however, people with close contact with affected animals suspected of having avian influenza A(H5N1) have a higher risk of infection,” the alert from DSHS said. Symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, eye redness, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures. The alert urged health care providers who see someone who may have the virus to immediately contact their local health department. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the commercial milk supply is considered safe and that milk from infected cattle is being dumped. State’s lawyer says immigration law maybe ‘went too far’ An attorney defending a new state law allowing law enforcement officials to arrest people who cross the border illegally told a panel of federal judges the law possibly “went too far,” The Dallas Morning News reported. The 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals previously halted enforcement of the law and is now hearing arguments over its legality. “What Texas has done here is they have looked at the Supreme Court’s precedent and they have tried to develop a statute that goes up to the line of Supreme Court precedent but no further,” Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson said. “Now to be fair, maybe Texas went too far, and that is the question this court is going to have to decide.” The U.S. Justice Department is arguing that Texas is trying to usurp the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration laws, while the state says it wants to work with the federal government. State economy again expands faster than nation The state’s economy continues to grow faster than the nation as a whole. Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates gross domestic product for Texas grew in 2023 at an annual rate of 5.7%, more than double the national average of 2.5%. The state also continues to lead the nation in job creation, adding almost 50,000 new jobs in February. “Texas is again outpacing the nation in economic expansion and job growth thanks to the best business climate and the strongest workforce in America,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. While Texas outpaced the national average for GDP growth, a few states posted higher percentage increases – Nevada, Utah and Idaho. Distracted driving is deadly driving, TxDOT reminds Driving the vast highways of Texas can become a bit tiresome, often with hundreds of miles before reaching one’s destination. But the Texas Department of Transportation is urging drivers to resist the urge to check that ping of the phone to read a text message or watch the latest social media video a friend sent. TxDOT reported nearly 400 people died on Texas roadways last year because of distracted driving, and nearly 2,800 suffered serious injuries. “Any loss of life is tragic, but imagine killing or seriously injuring someone else because you thought you could text and drive at the same time,” said TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams. “When you’re behind the wheel, you need to be focused on only one thing: driving. Looking at your phone, eating or adjusting your music can wait until you’re safely parked. Texting while driving is not only dangerous; it’s a crime to be caught reading, writing or sending a text while driving, and can cost a driver a $200 fine. Many cities also outlaw the use of a handheld device while driving. Internet subsidy fund is going broke A federal subsidy that provided $30 monthly for internet service is about to run out of money, the Tribune reported. The subsidy was part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and helped 1.7 million Texas households save money on their internet bills. South Texas households had a higher-than-average rate of participation. Th subsidy funding is scheduled to run out in May. Congress has failed to act despite calls for the program to receive additional funding. Some broadband advocates worry terminating the program could jeopardize future broadband investments. “If we build the infrastructure but then all these people lose internet access, we are going to be taking one step forward and two steps back,” Kelty Garbee, executive director of Texas Rural Funders, a nonprofit focused on rural philanthropy, told the Tribune. “It is important to take a long view.”

Don Forrester

Minister

Robertson County News

Worries from staring into the Eclipse... Or...

As yesterday progressed, I found myself engulfed with a sense of anxiety that eventually manifested itself into a full-blown panic attack. Honestly, sometimes I can be dumber than dirt, and it occurred to me mid-day that I could be in a world of hurt. I know that damage can occur to one’s eyes if they view an eclipse without the proper eye wear. My problem rested in the fact that I could see nothing through my eclipse glasses. Looking through them the view was totally black. I could not see the sun through the cloud cover. Consequently, on Monday I discarded the eclipse glasses to see what I could see. My field of vision was very limited because of the clouds, but I did see well enough for a second or two to snap a picture of the eclipse, though it was a distorted view. Yesterday, my blurry vision was a source of anxiety. Had I permanently damaged my eyes? I did a Google search that didn’t lessen my anxiety. Reportedly, “damage from the eclipse is unlikely to cause pain or discomfort in your eyes because the retina does not have any pain nerves. Instead, you will notice visual symptoms withing 4-6 hours.” I should have left well enough alone. I also read: “Once retina tissue is destroyed, it cannot regenerate, resulting in permanent central vision. I know something about that. Several years ago, I had surgery by a retina specialist to smooth out the wrinkles in retina in my left eye that was distorting my vision. I go for a checkup once a year. I’m always told that I’m doing just fine even though I can’t read any of the letters I am asked to read from an eye chart with my left eye. Thankfully, until yesterday I managed just fine with the vision in my right eye. I complained about my eyes off and on all day yesterday. The General assured me that it was allergies. She was having the same issue. Last night, I experienced a full-blown panic attack. We sat down to watch a movie and I could not read the closed captioning. Honestly, I thought maybe we had selected a foreign language. From my field of vision, it looked like Greek letters to me. I questioned the General and she was having no difficulty with the script. She assured me that it was written in English. That’s when it undeniably hit me like a ton of bricks. I had damaged my eyes! To say that I was heart sick is an understatement. I was amid a full-blown panic attack. The General told me I needed to call my eye doctor the first thing this morning. I stood up and walked to the other side of the room, I still couldn’t read the script, but the letters seemed a little clearer. The General and I changed sides of the sofa. I could see the movie just fine, but I could not read the closed captioning. In addition, due to a hearing loss, I also wasn’t clearly processing what I was hearing. I reminded myself not to forget to breath. I was not in a good place. Heart sick is probably the word that best describes my condition. For whatever reason, at some point I removed my glasses and experienced the sense of jubilation that blind Bartimaeus must have experienced after Christ restored his sight. I could read everything on the screen clearly without my glasses. I was both thrilled and at a loss. It was then that the General noticed the glasses I had been wearing were not my glasses. They were her readers. Yesterday morning I placed my glasses on the nightstand on her side of the bed while I did exercises for my leg. I obviously picked up her glasses instead of mine. All My Best!

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