Best of the Observer 2013

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2013coversWe’ve got a year’s worth of Texas Observers sitting on a table in our office, a year’s worth of stories of police brutality, an education system trying to find its way, harrowing healthcare experiences, and more.

We’ve covered a lot of ground this year, but before we head into 2014 we want to share a staff-curated list of the Observer’s 12 best stories published this year. Come back daily for new additions to our 2013 retrospective.

penalty400Texas’ Other Death Penalty
By Rachel Pearson
Published November 13, 2013

A Galveston medical student comes to grips with a healthcare system in which her patients die from treatable conditions. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 

skepticsgonewild400Skeptics Gone Wild: Navigating America’s Conspiracy Theory Culture
By Saul Elbein
Published November 18, 2013

There’s no longer anything especially irrational about believing that shadowy actors are subverting American democracy. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 

disd400Working For Superman: Texas Schools Turn to Hero Superintendents
By Patrick Michels
Published November 11, 2013

Struggling school districts often bring in hotshot superintendents to save the day. But is star power what schools really need? Read the full story.

 
 
 
 

medical400Anatomy of a Tragedy
By Saul Elbein
Published August 28, 2013

By the time the Texas Medical Board revoked his license, Christopher Duntsch had left two patients dead and four paralyzed in a series of botched surgeries. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 

bloodlines400Bloodlines: How the Scion of a Texas Horse Racing Empire Became an Informant on Mexico’s Most Feared Cartel
By Melissa del Bosque
Published August 7, 2013

Unwittingly, Tyler Graham, heir to a Texas horse-racing empire, had become an informant on one of the world’s most lethal crime syndicates. Read the full story.

 
 
 

sexist400The Texas Legislature’s Sexist Little Secret
By Olivia Messer
Published July 31, 2013

Misogyny, as I had come to learn, is rampant in the Texas Capitol. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 
 

hpd2400The Horror Every Day: Police Brutality In Houston Goes Unpunished
By Emily DePrang
Published September 4, 2013

The Houston Police Department rarely punishes its officers for excessive force. Read the full story. This story is the second in a two-part investigation into lack of accountability within the Houston Police Department. Read the first part, “Crimes Unpunished.”

 
 

hpd400Crimes Unpunished
By Emily DePrang
Published July 10, 2013

HPD’s discipline process, having evolved over decades of negotiations between the city and police union, now functions like a modern version of the notorious “code of silence.” Read the full story. This story is the first in a two-part investigation into lack of accountability within the Houston Police Department. Read the next part, “The Horror Everyday.”

 

fastcash400Fast Cash: How Taking Out a Payday Loan Could Land You in Jail
By Forrest Wilder
Published July 16, 2013

Payday loan companies have a new debt-collection tool: Texas courts and prosecutors. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 

NRA400sizedSighting in with the NRA
By Emily DePrang
Published on May 30, 2013

I expected a tea party rally with heavy security. Or at least an information booth on outfitting your bunker for the coming race wars. But no. The NRA exhibits were nerdy good times for people who think guns are interesting. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 

bassmasters2013sized400Postcards: Hook, Line and Sinker
By Ian Dille
Published on June 3, 2013

Officers from the Zapata County Sheriff’s Department, Border Patrol and Texas Parks & Wildlife told anglers, “We can’t help you once you cross into Mexico.” Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 

leftbehindLeft Behind: The Hidden Progressive Christian Community of Texas
By Robyn Ross
Published on March 6, 2013

If progressive Christians could develop a unified voice, they could transform political discourse in Texas. Read the full story.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ironhands2013Iron Hands Behind the Pine Curtain
By Saul Elbein
Published on January 10, 2013

I watched him being loaded into the van. The pepper spray had not been washed off; his face was swollen and contorted, with long ropes of mucus hanging from his nostrils. Read the full story