Day: April 14, 2010

Thirsty Texas

Mark Twain allegedly once said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” While Mark Twain was a Missourian, his words also ring true for Texans. And boy, do we fight over water. Water makes frequent appearances in Texas Supreme Court trials about rights to pump groundwater and flooding due to construction and the operation of water reservoirs. Fighting over water reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 when Texas and New Mexico could not agree on flow in the Pecos River. And just this past February the City of Dallas went to court over its plans to construct a new reservoir in the same area of a planned wildlife refuge. Why all this fighting over water? We need water. We are water – well, about 60 percent of the human body is water anyway. And with more bodies than ever before (that is, population), we’re bound to need more water if we don’t start conserving. Water might be for fighting over, but maybe it’s time to start fighting for more efficient water use. Texas Water Rights Water rights in Texas are confusing to those of us who do not live and breathe water allocation law. First, Texas water rights are allocated based on the type of resource (surface water versus groundwater). Surface water resources are the property of the state of Texas, requiring a permit to withdraw...

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Snake, Mad Dog and Susie: Transgender Women in Men’s Prisons

When you ask average Americans what they feel are the most important amendments, you will probably receive the same responses. Freedom of speech, due process and protection from illegal searches are usually the first mentioned since we see issues regarding these amendments every day. The 8th amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishments, is hardly a breaking news topic nowadays. Occasionally, you will hear of prison officials abusing powers and wielding excessive force, but for the most part this amendment is well-enforced in modern society and law. That being said, I was surprised to learn of the conditions that the transgender population of prison inmates must survive every day. Transgender inmates are forced to give up more rights and are placed in harsher conditions in prison than other inmates in order to protect themselves from physical, mental, and sexual violence. Not only are these conditions a violation of the 8th amendment, but they reveal a deep dilemma within the United States criminal justice system. I was drawn to this topic after I watched a documentary titled “Cruel and Unusual,” following the lives of five transgender women who had been incarcerated in men’s state prisons. I had never given this topic much thought before, and probably few people have. Yet it really got me thinking about the predicament that these individuals faced. I decided to investigate more and was...

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