Five stories that have North Texas talking: A double dose of amphibian fun hatches at the San Antonio Zoo, a reporter who’s witnessed countless Texas executions traces most memorable moments, College Station and Austin get nods for brain power and more.
The iconic early 90s movie characters who famously drove their car off a cliff to escape the law were re-born… actually, re-hatched… at the San Antonio Zoo earlier this month. Thelma and Louise was the name given to a baby turtle that just happens to have two, fully formed heads. The Texas Cooter hatched at the zoo on June 18 and Thelma and Louise made their public debut this week.
Bicephalic animals are actually twins that did not separate, resulting in two heads on one animal. Bicephaly occurs most commonly with snakes and turtles. “At this time, Thelma and Louise are doing well on exhibit and eating with both heads,” says Craig Pelke, curator of Reptiles, Amphibians and Aquatics.
- Final Minute Witness: Texas carried out its 500th modern execution last night, putting Kimberly McCarthy to death for the 1997 murder of a Lancaster woman. And since arriving in the Lone Star State in 1984, Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk has watched proceedings from the death chamber more times than he can count. In his own words, “About once every three weeks, I watch someone die.” Graczyk has heard last minute confessions, witnessed inmates trying to wiggle out of restraints and listened as Jonathan Nobles sang “Silent Night” while he was receiving lethal injection. To this day, Graczyk still remembers how deep into the song Nobles made it before losing consciousness. Read more of Graczyk’s execution recollections here.
- West Hearing To Question Chemical Storage, Zoning: The Dallas Morning News has obtained testimony in advance of today’s U.S. Senate hearing on the West fertilizer plant explosion. The blast killed 15 and leveled homes across town back in April. In the testimony, the chairman of the Chemical Safety Board and other experts call for changes to the storage process for hazardous chemicals as well as a review of zoning rules. “The fact that a nursing home, schools, residential neighborhoods and other public facilities were so near the blast zone in the West Fertilizer incident raises questions about zoning and land-use planning,” says witness Dr. M. Sam Mannan, director of the Process Safety Center at Texas A&M University.
- Texas Roots, Tennessee Address, French Art Obsession: A Nashville couple with Texas ties is so stacked with French art, they’ve benevolently agreed to loan some out to the Musee d'Orsay. Spencer and Marlene Hays are worth millions now, but came from humble beginnings. "When Marlene and I grew up in a little old town in Texas, even visiting France was far beyond our expectations," Hays says. "But in 1971, we made our first trip to Paris, and our love affair with this wonderful country began.” Beyond collecting art, the Hays home in Tennessee reflects the joie de vivre they feel when visiting France. To that end, their house is an exact replica of a French palace built in 1724. NPR’s Susan Stamberg has more on the Hays’ collection and Francophilic lifestyle.
- Charting Smarts City By City: While some metro areas have a reputation for being intellectual, have you ever wondered where the highest concentration of brain power actually is? Richard Florida with the Atlantic Cities mapped the following cognitive skills: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving, and compiled the results geographically. The top 25 metro areas were mostly college towns and Texas A&M’s College Station-Bryan scored the number 11 spot on the list. Austin was the only Texas city on the top 20 large metro list; it ranked 10th.