Austin
4:25 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

How Could Austin Become More Welcoming to People From Other Countries?

An Austin commission is compiling a report trying to gauge how welcoming the city seems to new people.
Jessica Wright/flickr

What does it mean to be a "welcoming" city?

More specifically, what would Austin need to do to become more welcoming toward people from other countries? Perhaps it would need to implement signage in different languages, or perhaps, it'd need to do other things.

In order to find out what those other things are, a team of advisors recently surveyed Austinites and is compiling the answers into a report.

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Energy & Environment
3:24 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Texas Will Use Some of BP Settlement Money to Prepare for Future Disasters

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, and today, state governments and BP announced they'd reached a settlement agreement.
Marc Morrison

Texas will receive more than $750 million of the $20 billion BP oil spill settlement announced this week. The state will use some of that money to prepare for future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Five years ago, oil was still pouring into the Gulf after an offshore rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Florida State University oceanographer Ian McDonald, like a lot of researchers, felt frustrated at the time that civilian experts weren’t being included in the government’s emergency response.

“There’s a terrific brain trust of academics and professionals in the Gulf Coast region, and there are none of them that are not prepared at any time to go and try to fight this thing,” McDonald said.

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Texas Standard
1:54 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Why You Can Expect More Fireworks This July 4

Photo via Flickr/plong (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For the first time in a long time, the Fourth of July in Texas will be red, white, blue – and green. That's thanks to abundant rain so far this year.

The lower risk for wildfires means vendors across the state have the option to sell more types of fireworks. And they say they are also seeing more people interested in lighting up the night sky for this year's fourth.

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Politics
10:30 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Prosecutors Developing Criminal Case Against Paxton

Prosecutors plan to start presenting evidence next month to a grand jury in pursuit of a first-degree felony securities fraud indictment of state Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: The potential criminal case against Attorney General Ken Paxton is apparently growing more serious, with the state's top lawyer hiring heavyweight legal counsel of his own as special prosecutors prepare to take felony charges before a Collin County grand jury.

Late Wednesday, special prosecutor Kent Schaffer said he and co-counsel Brian Wice plan to start presenting evidence to the grand jury in less than a month that Paxton violated the Texas Securities Act. 

"We'll be pursuing an indictment for first-degree felony securities fraud," Schaffer said, confirming a WFAA report.

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Music
9:03 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Petition Suggests Giving Priced-Out Venues Rent Control. But Is That Possible in Austin?

The crowd at an event protesting the Hyatt hotel development adjacent to Cheer Up Charlies.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Last week downtown Austin music venue Holy Mountain announced it will close its doors this fall because of rising rent prices. Advocates say more music venues will begin to fall as Austin rents increase — the club's neighbor Red 7 is also staring down a rent hike. So some Austinites and out of town music-boosters are floating a solution.

A 500-plus signature petition on change.org is proposing a simple solution to the Austin City Council: rent control. 

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Wayback Wednesday
4:33 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin's Referendum That Would've Legalized Sexuality-Based Housing Discrimination

Jim Obergefell (second from left) celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage last week. Still, he said, housing discrimination remains an issue for the LGBTQ community.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Last week’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges represents a monumental step in the movement for LGBTQ equal rights, but it wasn’t the final footfall in Texas. As the case's lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell put it last week in a rally at the State Capitol, issues surrounding employment and fair housing protections aren’t codified in Texas state law.

But, in Austin, the city council passed a sexual preference employment protection in August of 1975, and a “public accommodations ordinance” that banned discrimination based on sexual preference in 1976. So why, despite those progressive policies, did an Austin organization lead an initiative to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference? 

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Energy & Environment
2:12 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin Remains in Stage Two Water Restrictions, Maybe Forever

Austin's Stage 2 water restrictions may become permanent, despite the recent rainfall.
Austin Monitor

Austin will remain in Stage 2 water restrictions despite above average rainfall for the year and the historic amount that fell in May. The city is also examining whether to adopt those restrictions permanently.

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Energy & Environment
12:48 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

What's Next for Local Drilling Bans in Texas?

A new state law bans local bans on hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. Some towns, like Denton, find their local bans have become unenforceable.
Mose Buchele/KUT News

This year state lawmakers severely restricted the ability of Texas towns to regulate local oil and gas drilling.

A law known as House Bill 40 was a reaction to a fracking ban passed by voters in the North Texas city of Denton.

Denton has come to represent local fracking bans and clashes between local governments and the oil and gas industry. But while Denton was the first city in Texas to ban fracking, it wasn't the first city to ban drilling within city limits.

That practice goes back years, according to a survey by the Texas Municipal League.

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Texas Standard
11:01 am
Wed July 1, 2015

Why One Texas Legislator Wants a Special Session On Marriage Equality

Revelers rallied in downtown Austin Friday after SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage. State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) says we should 'divorce marriage from government if we want to protect it.'
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

Recent polls suggest the majority of Americans agree with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but opposition to same-sex marriage remains prevalent in southern states like Texas and Louisiana.

Just this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerks don’t need to issue marriage licenses if doing so goes against their faith. Paxton and other opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the government shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with how someone practices their faith.

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In Black America Podcast
10:39 am
Wed July 1, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone: Remembering The Legendary B.B. King

In this June 20, 2008 photo, musician B.B. King performs at the opening night of the 87th season of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. King died Thursday, May 14, 2015, peacefully in his sleep at his Las Vegas home at age 89, his lawyer said.
Credit AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with legendary blues musician B.B. King. King died on May 14, 2015. He was 89.

The winner of 15 Grammy Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, and more, King leaves a legacy of influence on American music. Coming from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, he remained true to the blues, and won millions of fans including the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and U.S. Presidents.

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Education
10:14 am
Wed July 1, 2015

Not All School Districts Warm to Miller's Food Initiative

Despite the Agriculture Commissioner's lifting a ban on deep fryers in public schools, many say they don't want them back, anyway.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From the Texas Tribune: Students eager to purchase soda and fried foods when they return to school in the fall may be disappointed, despite Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's recent announcement that both will be welcome back on Texas public school campuses after a 10-year ban. 

To the dismay of nutritionists and public health experts, Miller reversed the department's ban on soda machines and deep fat fryers in mid-June as part of a new state nutrition policy calling for more local foods, community engagement and training to help schools serve meals that are "attractive and taste great." 

But many large school districts aren't warming to Miller's initiative.

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Texas
8:22 am
Wed July 1, 2015

State Employees' Same-Sex Spouses and Their Children Are Now Eligible for Benefits

Diane Jones and Bryna Wortham stand with Rev. Richard Bates at their wedding ceremony at the Travis County Courthouse on June 26, 2015
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Today is the first day state employees can apply for benefits on behalf of their same-sex spouses and their children.

Every year, during the summer's open enrollment period, Cathy Terrell's typically pretty busy. Terrell and her team manage the benefits of close to 333,000 state employees and retirees with the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). The ERS oversees the benefits of every state agency excluding the UT and Texas A&M systems.

After last week's Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in every state, Terrell realized this open enrollment season will be busier than ever.

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The Two-Way
4:35 am
Wed July 1, 2015

Border Patrol Urged To Crack Down On Corruption In Its Own Ranks

U.S. agents compare notes as they patrol along the Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. A draft report by outside experts calls for steps to confront any claims of corruption in the Border Patrol.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 8:17 pm

A new government report recommends that the U.S. Border Patrol double its internal affairs investigators to focus on corruption and the alleged mistreatment of migrants along the Mexican border.

The interim report, written at the request of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, focuses on three themes: rooting out corruption within the agency; reining in the unauthorized use of force by Border Patrol agents; and improving departmental transparency.

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The Two-Way
12:21 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

11:59:60 — Look For An Extra Tick Of The Clock Tonight

Clocks around the world, like Big Ben, will have an extra second added tonight.
Oli Scarff Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 6:38 pm

If you're worried about finishing everything on your to-do list, you'll get an extra second today to cram it all in.

The extra second is called a "leap second." At the very end of the day, the clock will read 11:59:60 Universal Time (the official time that international timekeepers use) or 7:59:60 p.m. ET.

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Health
11:37 am
Tue June 30, 2015

Austin Regional Clinic to Stop Taking Unvaccinated Children as Patients

Austin Regional Clinic officials say unvaccinated pediatric patients pose health risks to other hospital patients.
US Army Corps of Engineers/flickr

The Austin Regional Clinic will stop accepting new unvaccinated pediatric patients — that is, children whose parents have opted them out of routine vaccinations. The ARC announced its new policy this morning.

The regional health system, which has locations in Austin plus six surrounding cities, cites patient safety as the reason for the new regulation, set to take effect Wednesday.

“Parents who are unwilling to commit to a vaccination schedule will need to find another physician outside of ARC,” clinic officials said in the release.

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HB 2
9:41 am
Tue June 30, 2015

Supreme Court Reprieve Lets 10 Texas Abortion Clinics Stay Open For Now

The U.S. Supreme Court gave a reprieve to Texas clinics that provide abortion services.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 11:38 pm

Tuesday would have been the last day of operation for 10 clinics in Texas that provide abortion services. But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its final actions of this session, said the clinics can remain open while clinic lawyers ask the court for a full review of a strict abortion law.

Two dozen states have passed regulations similar to the ones being fought over in Texas.

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Law
7:24 am
Tue June 30, 2015

Supreme Court Concludes Term With Death Penalty Ruling, Looks Ahead

The gurney in the the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. On Monday the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in a case from Oklahoma that the sedative midazolam can be used in executions without violating the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Originally published on Tue June 30, 2015 12:52 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued the last of its opinions for this term — on the death penalty, anti-pollution regulations and the power of independent commissions to draw congressional and state legislative districts. In addition, the court issued a set of orders that set up cases to be heard next term on affirmative action and abortion.

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Abortion
3:04 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Texas Abortion Rules

Credit Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked some elements of Texas' House Bill 2, which puts new restrictions on abortion clinics in the state. Abortion providers say the rules in question, which were to go into effect July 1, would have forced as many as 10 abortion clinics to close.

That would have left Texas with as few as eight abortion clinics, mostly in big cities.

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Same-Sex Marriage
2:35 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Jim Obergefell: I'm 'Humbled To Be a Part' of Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Case

Jim Obergefell (second from left) celebrates the outcome of his landmark same-sex marriage case at the Texas Capitol.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The plaintiff at the heart of last week's historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage is trekking the country on a multi-state tour that brought him to Austin today. Jim Obergefell is the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Arts Eclectic
1:39 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Doctuh Mistuh's Summer Double Feature

In recent years, the production company Doctuh Mistuh has staged crowd-pleasing musical versions of Evil Dead, Silence of the Lambs, and Reefer Madness; it's safe to say that pop culture musical theater is in their wheelhouse. So it's not too surprising that they're the company that secured the rights to produce the regional premiere of Heathers, the Musical, based on the 1988 dark comedy cult film. 

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