The Darsch Report: April 1 – 7

San Antonio Baby With No Skin

A San Antonio baby that was born without any skin from the neck down will begin to receive treatment sometime next week at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

The child, Ja’bari Gray, was born to 25-year-old Priscilla Maldonado on Jan 1, 2019, after what seemed to be a normal and healthy pregnancy. That was until the baby was born and doctors realized that something was seriously wrong

“It was just completely silent. You know, you expect people to be happy after you have a baby and I had no idea until they put me in a room and explained what was going on,” said Maldonado describing the moments after she gave birth to her son.

While speaking to the doctors she was told that her son has a rare disease known as Aplasia Cutis and that it is the third known case in the US. Because of the rarity of this disease doctors don’t currently know how to properly treat it so the doctors were treating it as burns.

He remains on life support and Maldonado says doctors have told her there is nothing more they can do.

The family is planning funeral arrangements and trying to pay for medical bills. If you would like to donate then please click here.

Wendy Davis and CD-21

Wendy Davis, a former Democratic member of the Texas State Senate for District 10 in the Fort Worth area, says that she is not running for the US Senate in 2020 but instead is looking at a bid at Congressional District 21, which is Trinity University’s district.

Though she has mulled a Senate run in the past, in the podcast, “The Rabble: TX Politics for the Unruly Mob,” Davis made clear she is no longer weighing a Senate campaign and reiterated her call for U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio to enter the race.

“There’s a reason I made a decision not to run for this Senate seat against John Cornyn,” Davis said on the show, which was taped Thursday. “I’ve been very candid about the fact that my dear friend Joaquin Castro is someone that I’d like to see run.”

Congressional District 21 is currently held by Republican Chip Roy who won the district in 2018 against Democrat Joseph Kopser 50.2%-47.6%. Kopser has considered running for the district again but recently announced that he will not be seeking office in 2020.

TX-21 is one of six GOP-held districts in Texas that national Democrats are now targeting for next year. It stretches from Austin to San Antonio and out to the Hill Country.

“Joseph Kopser gave a valiant effort [in 2018] — worked so, so hard and came very, very close,” Davis said on the podcast. “Can we do it for 2020? I want to make sure that we have the ability to win it, and I believe we do. And, I want to believe I’m the right person to help us do that.”

Pro-Life Bill Passed Out of Senate

On Tuesday, April 2, a bill targeting the transfer of taxpayer dollars from state and local governments seeking to help fund the operations of abortion providers passed out of the Texas Senate.

Senate Bill 22 by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) passed with 20 ayes and 11 nays. State Sen. Eddie Lucio (Brownville) was the lone Democrat to cross party lines in support of the legislation.

The bill would prevent local governments from contracting with or providing tax dollars to abortion providers.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick included SB 22 among three pro-life bills in his 30 legislative priorities for the chamber early last month. Patrick issued the following statement after the passage of the bill Tuesday:

“There is nothing more important than defending the defenseless. Senate Bill 22, authored by Sen. Campbell, will continue Texas’ commitment to defend the most vulnerable in our society and preserve the sanctity of life. Senate Bill 22 protects Texas taxpayers and affirms Texas’ commitment to protecting life. I strongly support this legislation and congratulate Sen. Campbell for carrying this important bill.”

The bill now heads to the Texas House, where pro-life bills have largely languished so far in the 86th Legislative Session.

US Economy

The stock market this week has done great and is reapproaching record highs. The Dow Jones increased to 26,424.99 on Friday, increasing by +496.31 points, or +1.91 percent over its March 29 close of 25,928.68. The S&P 500 increased by +58.34 points or +2.06 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Friday by +2.71 percent. The Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq are each 403.4, 21.3, and 171 points from topping their respective record highs.

A favorable jobs report also came out this week showing that about 196,000 jobs were added to the US, more than the 175,000 jobs estimated by experts. The unemployment rate holds steady at 3.8 percent with wages increasing 3.2 % year over year however this came at the same time that the labor force participation rate decreased by 0.2% to its lowest level since November.

The Atlanta FED is also giving some favorable numbers in its GDPNow forecast showing that the US economy in the first quarter of 2019 will increase by 2.1%.

It appears that the US economy isn’t stalling yet, something that worried investors in February, but instead continues to grow strong. With the US and China coming closer to a trade deal within the next month or two, one can expect the US economy to remain strong for the rest of the year.

USDA and Testing on Kittens

On Tuesday, April 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it’s putting an end to a controversial research program that led scientists to kill thousands of cats over decades.

Since 1982 the USDA’s Agricultural Research Services division had been conducting experiments that involved infecting cats with toxoplasmosis — a disease usually caused by eating undercooked contaminated meat — in order to study the foodborne illness. Once the cats were infected and the parasite harvested, the felines were put down.

In a statement announcing the decision, the agency said: “toxoplasmosis research has been redirected and the use of cats as part of any research protocol in any ARS laboratory has been discontinued and will not be reinstated.”

Additionally, the USDA said it is in the process of putting the 14 remaining uninfected cats up for adoption by agency employees.

The USDA has been facing increasing pressure to shut down this practice with bipartisan legislation to end the practice being introduced to Congress last month.

Brexit Update

With just five days until the UK is meant to leave the European Union on Friday, April 12 at 11:00 pm BST, it is uncertain if the Labor Party, Conservative Party, and EU will be able to come to a deal that they can all agree to.

Theresa May is currently undergoing talks with Labor to reach a deal as she has said that only a cross-party pact will get the support of a majority of the members of Parliament as the Democratic Unionist Party and some Tories have rejected her deal with the EU.

However, several Conservatives have strongly criticized the move. Additionally, very few details have come out as to what a Conservative-Labor deal would look like.

The Prime Minister is due at an emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday when EU leaders will expect to hear fresh plans.

On Sunday, May tweeted a video message, explaining her decision to negotiate with Labour.

“We absolutely must leave the European Union… that means we need to get a deal over the line and that’s why we’ve been looking for new ways – a new approach – to find an agreement in Parliament,” she said.

“People didn’t vote on party lines when it came to the Brexit referendum. And I think members of the public want to see their politicians working together more often.”

Theresa May has already acted in bad faith by not honoring her agreement to leave the EU on March 29 and instead asking for an extension so that she can negotiate a deal. The pressure to negotiate any deal at all over no deal is mounting for May. It will not be surprising if in the next week Theresa May has a deal passed that essentially keeps the UK as part of the EU or she is granted another extension.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 28 – Feb. 3

Money Laundering and Russians

Court documents were released on Friday, Feb. 1 detailing a money laundering scheme of more than half a million dollars committed by a San Antonio luxury car dealer with Russian connections. Karen Mgerian, 40 — one of two men arrested in raids Thursday in which more than 100 high-end vehicles were seized — is accused of laundering $575,000 in four separate money-laundering sting transactions in 2018 with undercover IRS and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

Before his arrest Thursday, Mgerian was in negotiations to launder another $4.7 million for the undercover agents by selling his business, MGM Auto, to the agents in return for a 12.9 percent money laundering fee. He also admitted to undercover DEA agents that he had recently laundered $780,000 “through a real estate transaction with a California marijuana distribution organization.”

Mgerian, a naturalized US citizen who traces his roots to the countries of Georgia and Armenia, denies the allegations, according to one of his lawyers, Jay Norton. Norton and his law partner, former Bexar County district attorney Nico LaHood, jointly represent Mgerian with former federal prosecutor Mike McCrum.

From what it looks likes with what he admitted to the DEA agents, this appears to be a cut and dry case that should be resolved fairly quickly.

Texas Tax Relief

On Thursday, Jan 31, identical property tax reform bills were introduced into the Texas State House and Senate by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) and State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston). House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 are also part of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen long-anticipated “big bill” on property tax reform.

Highlights from the bills include:

  1. Lower the rollback rate from 8 percent to 2.5 percent for taxing units that collect more than $15 million in tax revenues and establish election notice requirements based on whether a school district will or will not exceed a 2.5% rollback rate for Maintenance and Operation property tax.
  2. Requires an automatic tax ratification election in November if the rollback rate is exceeded in a taxing unit, and;
  3. Creates a property tax administrative advisory board that recommends improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of the property tax system, best practices and complaint resolution procedures.

These bills are a huge step in the right direction for Texas in their effort to slow down property tax increases and provide tax relief to many across the state. Vance Ginn, Ph.D., TPPF’s senior economist and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity, stated:“This is a positive step toward providing taxpayers the support they are looking for and we are eager to work with leadership on securing the greatest relief possible.”

Texas Clergy Identifies Abusers

On Thursday, Jan 31, fourteen Texas dioceses identified 286 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children. This represents one of the largest collections of names to be released since an explosive grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania. The move by Texas Church leaders comes a month after the Illinois attorney general reported that at least 500 Catholic clergymen in that state had sexually abused children.

It is unclear whether any local prosecutors will bring up criminal charges as the majority of those identified have since died. Some investigations dated back to 1950 while other reviews, as in the case of the Diocese of Laredo, only went to 2000 because that’s when that diocese was established. Of the 286 men named in Texas, 172 are no longer alive, a percentage comparable with the national tally.

Marc Rylander, spokesman for the Texas attorney general’s office, went on record to state “Our office stands ready to assist local law enforcement and any district attorney’s office that asks for our help in dismantling this form of evil and removing the threat of those who threaten Texas children.”

With Catholic clergy and Texas law enforcement willing to work together on this issue, everything should hopefully be resolved by the end of the year. And with the Catholic Church taking a harsher stance on abuse committed by its clergy, this issue should hopefully largely disappear within the next few years.

Virginia Can’t Catch a Break

Over the past week, Virginian Democrats, and by extension Gov. Ralph Northam, have come under fire for various reasons that many have found appalling.

The first being a new bill that would allow a pregnant woman to have an abortion throughout the entire 3rd trimester. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert asked bill sponsor Kathy Tran if this bill would allow a woman who was in active labor to request an abortion if a doctor determined that childbirth would impair her mental health. In response, Tran stated, “It would allow that, yes.”

Gov. Northam is especially under fire for what this bill allows after he made comments regarding it on a local radio on Wednesday.

“In this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I could tell you exactly what would happen: the infant would be delivered; the infant would be kept comfortable; the infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Northam said.

These statements earned Northam the ire of conservatives, moderates and liberals across the nation as he described this scenario as one of “infanticide”. But the controversy doesn’t end there.

The governor is also now facing controversy for a supposed picture of him in his medical school yearbook wearing either a KKK hood or blackface in a manner that makes it look like a minstrel show. In the 24 hours it took the news story to circulate on Friday and Saturday, Northam has gone from apologizing for his behavior when he was younger to denying that the is even in the photo.

“When I was confronted with the image, I was appalled that it appeared on my page, but I believed then and I believe now that I am not either of the people in that photograph,” he said at a news conference at the governor’s mansion.

If this photo does indeed include him, then Gov. Northam needs to resign if he wishes to save face (no pun intended) following not one but two controversies within the span of a few days.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with quite a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,063.89 on Friday, increasing by +262.47 points, or +1.06% percent over its Jan 25 close of 24,737.20. The S&P 500 increased by +39.39 points or +1.48% percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had a decreased on Friday by +1.63 percent.

In addition to this, January gave the US an excellent jobs report despite the government shutdown. In January non-farm payrolls increased by 304,000, versus the expected number of 165,000, which analysts are calling the strongest number relative to expectations they’ve seen since June 2009. The labor force participation rate also increased to 63.1%, the highest since 2013, sending unemployment to 4.0%. Wages also continue to outpace inflation with yearly growth of weekly wages reaching 3.48% while inflation continues to stay around 2.0%.

With such a strong showing in January, despite the government shutdown, the US can look forward to continued excellent growth in the economy. All Trump needs to do now is finish trade negotiations with China and the US economy will be looking at growth rivaling that of 2018.