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Over Thanksgiving, City Cast Houston producer Dina Kesbeh caught COVID-19. On today’s podcast, she asks Texas A&M coronavirus expert Dr. Ben Neuman, could that be the omicron variant? 

“The unsatisfying answer,” he says, “is that you’ll probably never know.” Virus-genome sequencing labs, including the one he runs at Texas A&M, strip identification from the samples they process.

If your sample comes up positive, he tells her, “there’ll be stories about a virus which happened to come from you.” But she won’t know that the sample was hers.

Neuman also explains what omicron has in common with variants found at Texas A&M; and why it’s actually good news that omicron is 40 times harder for the Pfizer vaccine to knock out than an earlier version of the virus.

🎧 Listen
Nick Anderson / Reform Austin

💰 Property tax and preachers’ mansions: Texas tax law grants 100% tax breaks on property owned by religious organizations – even if it’s a wealthy preacher’s mega-mansion. Consider the 25,000-square-foot mansion in Spring occupied by I.V. Hilliard, pastor of New Light Church – a place with three hot tubs, two fountains, a swimming pool and a tennis court. If it were owned by a regular person, they’d pay $100,000 a year to local schools and government. Instead, New Light pays $0 – and the area’s other taxpayers are left to pick up the slack. (Houston Chronicle)

🗑 Trash talk: Scrap-metal mogul Dennis Laviage – the guy who pays with $2 bills – is suing a former Houston police officer who he says harassed him, having him wrongfully arrested over a minor paperwork glitch. "Believe me, I should have been thrown in jail once or twice in the past 60 years," Laviage told a reporter. "But not for this chicken s--- deal." (, by the Houston Chronicle) 

🦠  More proof that omicron’s loose: Houston Methodist Hospital, which sequences all positive COVID-19 tests taken in the hospital system, said that it has identified nine cases of the COVID-19 variant. "These patients are not clustered in any particular neighborhood,” said Dr. S. Wesley Long. “They're really from all over Houston. So what that means to us is that the omicron variant is here." (Houston Methodist, KTRK-13)

Getty / Riccardo Bianchini / Science Photo Library


Is it “Romanesco broccoli”? “Roman cauliflower”? Or just plain “Romanesco”? Whatever you call the fractal veggie, it’s in Houston-area farmers’ markets now.

“It’s super-fun to cook, beautiful, and everyone seems to go wild over it,” says Tyler Horne of Urban Harvest. Buy it locally grown if you can: Traveling fewer miles means its gorgeous spirals are more likely to be intact.


Our podcasts this week:

Find all these and more here — or wherever you get your podcasts.


Got a favorite locally owned shop? Or know someone in Houston who makes a great thing, perfect for holiday gifts? Don’t keep it to yourself!

We’re working now on a podcast about last-minute holiday gifts – things you can buy locally, from a fellow Houstonian – and we’d love to use your recommendations. If you know of something great, please call (713)489-6972 and leave us a voicemail. Tell us, briefly, who you are, what you’re recommending, and exactly what makes it so excellent. 

Follow us on social! 👇 We're as exciting as a preacher's mega-mansion.
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All chickens--- deals rejected.

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