February 11, 2022
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Welcome to the Texas Observer community! As a newsletter subscriber, you’re signed up to receive our three flagship emails: a weekly digest, an alert for when our longform stories publish (2-3 times per month), and our culture newsletter (once every other month).
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In the meantime, get to know us. Take a look at some of our favorite stories—the ones that affected change, won awards, shifted our view of the world—below.
The Road Home
[Image: Overhead shot of a major highway busy with traffic crossing a body of water]
For decades, transportation departments across the country have built ever bigger highways to “fix” traffic—despite the reams of evidence that it doesn’t work. Though it is much more efficient, sustainable, and safe to move people through crowded cities by other modes—like buses and trains—the Texas Department of Transportation spends essentially all of its funding on enabling seamless car travel. Since 2015, TxDOT has committed more than $25 billion to “congestion relief” projects across the state and has plans to expand highways in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, and El Paso. What if we tore down Texas highways instead?
[Image: A black & white family photo, with a vintage wedding photo layered over the edge]
What if a beloved grandma and eight of her neighbors were murdered by one of America’s most prolific serial killers, but for years the crimes went undetected? It happened in Texas. In “Undetected,” we look at how homicide cases in Texas are going unsolved, leaving serial killers free to murder again.
[Image: An Indigenous person quietly mourning in a cemetery]
The Texas Observer is committed to reporting accurately on the Indigenous communities across the state. Along with our Indigenous land recognition, we are home to one of the only Indigenous Affairs desks in Texas. In “Bloodlines,” Indigenous Affairs reporter Pauly Denetclaw looks into the case of 16-year-old Emily Grace Spydell, who died in adoptive care. Her biological family says the Indian Child Welfare Act could have saved her—but her tribe’s legal code prevented it.
The Prison Inside Prison
[Image: A photograph of a prison guard tower, shot through the gaps in a chain link fence]
Texas has banished hundreds of prisoners to more than a decade of solitary confinement, an extreme form of a controversial punishment likened to torture. Many of these prisoners aren’t sure how—or, in some cases, if—they will ever get out.
[Image: A giraffe]
As more landowners than ever stock mammals from all over the world, they’re running a massive unplanned and unregulated experiment on Texas soil. In West Texas, aoudad from Africa are a common sight in desert canyons; in the flood plains of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, herds of enormous Indian antelope called nilgai bound across roads at dusk. As these creatures breed on ranches and in the wild, they’re altering the landscape in complex ways—dispersing seeds, digging wells, turning over the soil—blurring the line between exotic and native.
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