Axios Houston

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πŸͺ Hump daaay!

🌀️ Today's weather: A foggy start to the day, then mostly sunny with a high of 77.

😈 Sounds like: "Runnin' With The Devil" by Van Halen.

Today's newsletter is 873 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: "Satanic" sculpture coming to UH

Shahzia Sikander's 13-foot-tall "Witness" statue in New York City in 2023. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

A sculpture deemed "satanic" by one of Texas' largest anti-abortion lobbies will soon be on display at the University of Houston.

Why it matters: Outcries from conservatives who say the piece is riddled with "satanic imagery to honor abortion" are following the art from New York to Houston.

Catch up fast: Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander's 13-foot-tall "Witness" statue debuted in New York City's Madison Square Park in 2023.

  • The sculpture depicts a golden woman with spiraling horns and a domed skirt adorned with mosaic tiles.
  • In her official artist statement, Sikander said the piece was in part created to comment on abortion rights being stripped away across the U.S.

Driving the news: Texas Right to Life, a Christian anti-abortion nonprofit, plans to protest the opening reception for the statue "peacefully and prayerfully" and is asking the university to remove the display.

Details: "Witness" was recently moved from Madison Square Park to the University of Houston, where it is undergoing assembly and will be on display at the Cullen Family Plaza from Feb. 28 to Oct. 31.

What they're saying: Texas Right to Life points to the statue's headpiece, citing a document on the Madison Square Park Conservancy website that says, "In the Abrahamic faiths the horned beast is associated with forces of evil, chaos, and destruction β€” the devil himself."

  • "This piece celebrates Satan's deceit," said Kimberlyn Schwartz, spokesperson for the group.

The other side: When asked if the University of Houston had a response to Texas Right to Life, a university spokesperson sent an FAQ about the art piece in which the university acknowledged the statue may be "offensive to some people."

Of note: Sikander declined to comment for this story.

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2. New poll: Harris County DA trails in primary

DA Kim Ogg with challenger Sean Teare. Photo: Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

Longtime Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is lagging behind her challenger Sean Teare by 38 percentage points in the March Democratic primary, per a new University of Houston poll obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Incumbent Ogg is seeking a third term, but she's at odds with her party, the Texas Tribune reported.

What's happening: The county Democratic Party passed a resolution admonishing Ogg in December, accusing her of abusing her power, siding with Republicans, and failing to deliver on the party's criminal justice reform priorities.

  • Several local Democrats have endorsed former prosecutor Teare, Ogg's former employee.

What they found: In the DA race, 59% of likely Democratic primary voters intended to vote for Teare, the poll found, compared with 21% for Ogg and 20% still undecided.

  • UH's Hobby School of Public Affairs surveyed 1,400 Harris County likely Democratic primary voters in February. The margin of error was 2.5%.

The intrigue: Among poll respondents, 42% of likely voters said they would never vote for Ogg, while just 4% indicated they would never vote for her challenger.

  • 61% of likely voters had an unfavorable opinion of Ogg.

Meanwhile, in two other key local Democratic primaries, incumbents are leading, per the poll:

  • 63% of likely voters said they intend to vote for incumbent Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, while 32% are still undecided.
  • For county attorney, 41% of likely voters selected incumbent Christian Menefee, but 52% were undecided.

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3. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🍎 Houston ISD superintendent Mike Miles cited "dysfunction" among several HISD departments in a report detailing the district's financial future. (Houston Landing)

🌊 Houston Public Works crews struck a water main underneath Houston Avenue while removing medians intended to increase pedestrian safety. (Chron)

Eleven-year-old Audrii Cunningham's body was found yesterday in the Trinity River near U.S. 59.

  • The Polk County district attorney is preparing an arrest warrant for the person of interest in Cunningham's disappearance. (KHOU)

4. πŸš€ Volunteers needed for Mars simulation

Mosaic of the Valles Marineris hemisphere of Mars projected into point perspective, a view similar to what you would see from a spacecraft. Photo: NASA

NASA has a new Mars mission: seeking volunteers to spend an entire year living in a simulated version of the red planet, Axios' Rebecca Falconer reports.

Why it matters: The surface mission on a 3D-printed habitat, called the Mars Dune Alpha, will help inform the agency's plans for human exploration of the planet, per a statement from NASA.

The big picture: The second of three planned ground-based missions, known as CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog), is due to start in spring 2025. Those participating will be compensated, with more information provided during the candidate screening process.

  • To qualify, you must be a healthy, nonsmoking U.S. citizen or permanent resident between 30 and 55 years old and proficient in English.
  • Applicants must have the required STEM qualifications and experience in the field, or a minimum of 1,000 hours piloting an aircraft or the requisite military experience.

How it works: "Each CHAPEA mission involves a four-person volunteer crew living and working inside a 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston," per NASA's statement.

  • The habitat simulates the challenges of a mission on Mars. These include "resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors," NASA said.
  • "Crew tasks include simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth."

What's next: Applications close April 2.

5. πŸ’¬ Important margarita questions

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

With National Margarita Day approaching, we have some extremely pressing questions:

  • Do you order your margarita with salt, sugar or TajΓ­n on the rim?
  • Frozen or on the rocks?
  • Where's the best place to get a marg in Houston?

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales and Emma Hurt for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

πŸ“š Shafaq wants to visit this new late-night lounge in San Antonio for readers that is often open until 5am. Know of a place like this in Houston that I should check out?

πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ Jay can't decide how he feels about the four upcoming Beatles biopics.