By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
It was the slap seen 'round the world: A capuchin monkey bopped Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan in the face in April, and almost everyone thought it was super-cute.
Of course, the party poopers at PETA didn't think it was cute, especially given the track record of Brian Staples, the guy who runs the Washington-based Staples Safari Zoo, which exhibits exotic animals at fairs and, apparently, on morning talk shows. The USDA in November accused Staples of keeping animals in shit-stained cages and possessing medication that had expired as many as four years before the most recent inspection. What a hoot!
PETA is asking USDA investigators to determine whether Staples violated Animal Welfare Act "regulations against allowing direct contact between members of the public and animals and exhibiting animals that causes them stress."
In a letter to the USDA's western regional director, a PETA attorney wrote, "As you are investigating Staples, please keep in mind his history of animal neglect and public endangerment, as well as bite, disease transmission, and other risks that are inherent in allowing people to come into direct contact with monkeys, including capuchins."
The bite bit is in reference to a Staples-owned capuchin that escaped from his cage at a fair in Minnesota and bit two people, who subsequently underwent painful rabies shots. Yikes.
According to the Winona Daily News, Staples said the monkey "likely would not have bitten anyone if people had not chased and cornered it." Well, yeah. It also wouldn't have bitten anyone if it had stayed in the freaking cage. But hey, just 'cause you tote monkeys around the country for entertainment doesn't mean you can keep tabs on them 24-7, right? Right?
The USDA's 2013 complaint states that Staples "held nineteen nonhuman primates, including three baboons, and three large felids, in addition to camelids, marsupials, and other exotic, wild, and domestic mammals" and accuses him of "willful violation" of regulations.
These included maintaining "antiseptic and wound dressing spray that had expired nearly four years earlier" and allowing a capuchin to escape from an enclosure in Georgia in 2011 for two days, "during which time temperatures were near freezing."
Maybe dude should invest in a freaking monkey leash. But that's not all. The USDA complaint alleges the following (among others):
A monkey "food and bedding storage area contained trash, debris, and toxic substances (including...bleach, pesticides, and an open bag of lime).
"The primary enclosure housing a capuchin, a bush baby, and a ring-tailed lemur had not been cleaned as required, and contained excreta and accumulated food waste on the floor and walls.
"The enclosure housing three large felids was excessively caked with feces combined with urine.
"The enclosure housing a kangaroo was not maintained in a manner that would not cause injury to the animals, and specifically, there was a rusty, jagged hole in the gate on the interior of the trailer housing the kangaroo."
Staples sent us copies of responses addressed to the USDA, explaining that he would have rebutted the allegations in the complaint earlier, except the attorney who received all Staples's mail had been suspended from practice for two years and neglected to pass along Staples's mail. Wow.
As for that escaped capuchin, Staples wrote: "Visual contact had been made within minutes in a local barn approximately 100 yards away. Once visual contact was made, the capuchin, although not yet recovered, was continuously guarded and his needs were adequately cared for. The handlers were on the scene where the capuchin was located. Blankeys and a heat pad were provided to the site, along with food, water, and a live trap...The total time out was less than 41 hours, but more importantly, the capuchin's whereabouts were known and thus special care was taken to provide for his sustenance and warmth."
Staples also wrote that the hole in the kangaroo pen was repaired at the time of the inspection. He also said that all "sanitation issues were corrected immediately as per standard protocol" and accused inspector Kimberley Duffiney of being overzealous: "...[S]he bragged on how she was the one responsible for the revocation of license to Amazing Exotics in Florida, and how she had been responsible for countless traveling exhibits to also [lose] their licenses. She also said that she wasn't afraid to write up Ringling Brothers.
"In summary, it seems that in every situation where it was possible to investigate more thoroughly and resolve an issue, Ms. Duffiney chose to take the opposite route and book a violation instead, without considering or reviewing exculpatory materials presented to her...This licensee has been working in the field of animal care for many years and has never come upon such an inspector. Each time I would challenge or try to explain a situation, her response was aggressive, and each time she would state that I [didn't] have to like what she wrote, I could write to the main office to challenge her report. Soon I realized to simply stay quiet and allow her to demonstrate her alpha position in front of the other law enforcement. (As a behaviorist, it was an easy observation to identify.)"
Grace Church (obviously) uneasy about giving LGBTQ community some protections.
Oh, the Riggles and their Grace Community Church anti-HERO movement. After sending out a three-page letter this month giving their followers some of the all-caps "truths" about Houston's equal rights ordinance proposal, they hosted a rally of sorts to instill fear of transgender folks using the bathroom with kids.
The event at their church on Gulf Freeway was live-tweeted by Kris Banks of the GLBT Political Caucus under the hashtag #herohaters.
Based on those tweets and the letter sent out May 15 (not to mention Becky Riggle's odd appearance at City Council to take on Councilwoman Ellen Cohen about a business owner's right to discriminate against Jews if he or she wanted to), the event was a pure homophobic hoedown.
In case you're unfamiliar with the level of intellect of the pastors Riggle, here's a paragraph from that letter that nearly swayed us to the anti-HERO side.
"There is no comparison between this ordinance and a true Civil Rights bill. Instead, this bill would be the equivalent of forcing a print shop owned by African Americans to print KKK posters. As for those who say that gay is the new black, there is no behavior or lifestyle associated with being black, but there is a definite behavior and lifestyle associated with being gay."
Obviously, we're kidding about this making any sense to us. But we know that Grace Church's followers are not.
Lusting for Cable TV
How the CSN Houston broadcast map dooms the network.
It was just a little more than 30 days ago that Houston Astros owner Jim Crane said he wanted the CSN Houston matter settled within 30 days. That didn't happen.
The parties still await a ruling from Judge Lynn Hughes on the Astros' appeal of Judge Marvin Isgur's ruling that put the network into bankruptcy. Isgur, the bankruptcy judge assigned this case, still makes the necessary rulings that are keeping the network on the air and the employees and vendors compensated. The Astros and Rockets are still not being paid the dollars due them under their media rights deals with the network. Additionally, at some point Isgur will make a ruling as to whether he has jurisdiction over the fraud suit filed by Crane against Comcast and former Astros owner Drayton McLane. (For those really interested, there is a status conference before Isgur scheduled June 12.)
Spokesmen for DirecTV, AT&T and SuddenLink reiterated recently that while they would like to carry the network, the amount requested by CSN Houston is too much and not in the best interests of the companies' owners and their subscribers. Thus time passes and the network remains unavailable to most of the city, state and country. Jobs and livelihoods remain in jeopardy, and companies worry about whether they'll ever be paid all they're owed by CSN Houston.
The populace is sick of the whole matter and has basically placed a pox on all houses. But while the proceedings drag along, perhaps it's time to revisit what is perhaps the main issue preventing the network from achieving full carriage: the size of the CSN Houston broadcast footprint.
The footprint of CSN Houston encompasses more than the Houston area. It includes the entire state of Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana. It's the same as the footprint established years earlier by Fox Sports Southwest and uses the same boundaries defined by MLB as the home territory for the Astros — those areas in which MLB games are blacked out on the Extra Innings and MLB.TV packages.
It's a huge footprint, and one the Astros — one of the network's owners — want very much to keep. But there's a slight problem: The NBA defines its markets a bit differently. It divides Texas into three markets split among the Rockets, Spurs and Mavericks. The state of Oklahoma gets the Thunder, and to Louisiana go the Pelicans. While Astros games can air over the entire footprint, the Rockets are essentially limited to a sliver of the map along the coast of Texas — even with games airing on a regional sports network different from that of the Mavericks or Spurs, Rockets games may not be broadcast into their territory — unlike with MLB, where the Astros and Rangers share the map and each team can air in the other's market.
Thus the statements from DirecTV saying it's not fair to make the people of San Antonio pay for a product (the Rockets) they can't watch. There has been discussion in the past about CSN Houston adopting tiered pricing that would have the people in the outer regions pay less for the network than those in Houston, and there was supposedly some talk that the Astros were amenable to this. But that aside, why would, why should people in El Paso be required to subsidize a network with a primary focus on sports centered on Houston and the immediate area around Houston?
For its faults — which include a Dallas-centric focus — Fox Sports Southwest is able to offer continuous programming to most of its map that features the pro teams that have been assigned to that market by the leagues. So El Paso gets to watch Phoenix Suns games. Laredo gets the Spurs, Tulsa the Thunder. All markets get the Rangers and the Dallas Stars and a steady diet of Big 12 sports. But CSN Houston can offer only the Astros; the Dynamo; and select C-USA, AAC and Southland Conference college events, while the Rockets are blacked out for most of the footprint.
The Astros essentially need carriage by all providers across the entire network to have a chance at economic success. And the network needs to be on the same basic cable channel tier as the ESPN stable of networks, the Turner Networks, Fox Sports Net, the NFL Network and the MLB Network, but it can't offer the reach and depth of programming those networks do. ESPN was able to get carriage for The Longhorn Network by offering it at a very low cost, and with the costs for carriage of the other ESPN networks subsidizing its losses — FOX had to do much the same thing to get carriage for Fox Sports 1. But there is no other affiliated network that can make up for offering CSN Houston at a highly discounted price or that could be used to leverage a provider into carrying the network on a basic tier.
CSN Houston offers an ill-advised, poorly conceived network footprint that makes absolutely zero sense for its product. Yet the Catch-22 is that for the network to come close to any success, it needs carriage across this entire nonsensically designed footprint at non-highly discounted carriage rates. The result is bankruptcy, lawsuits, fans in the core of the market who are shut out of viewing, and worse, the loss of interest on the part of the casual fan.