KUT Weekend
4:27 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

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KUT Weekend brings you our favorite stories from the KUT newsroom. Updated Fridays!

Short Term Rentals
4:08 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Airbnb To Start Charging Hotel Taxes In A Handful Of Cities

Airbnb, the online home-rental service, says it will start collecting hotel taxes in a few American cities.
Chris Weeks Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 4:42 pm

When Regitze Visby, a tourist visiting San Francisco from Denmark, Googled accommodations for her trip and saw she could stay at one of the famed "painted ladies" on Alamo Square through Airbnb, she took it.

At $135 a night, "it was a good deal," she says.

But does she know if she's paying a transient occupancy tax or a hotel tax? "I have no idea," she says.

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Energy & Environment
3:54 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline Review Extended By State Department

A TransCanada Keystone Pipeline pump station operates outside Steele City, Neb. The State Department is extending the review period for the pipeline, given ongoing litigation in Nebraska over the project.
Lane Hickenbottom Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 5:08 pm

  • Tamara Keith's Report For 'All Things Considered'
This post was updated at 6 p.m. ET.

The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL Pipeline project. The additional time was given "based on the uncertainty created" by an ongoing legal battle in Nebraska, according to a State Department statement.

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Governor's Race
1:42 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Anti-Corruption Unit Chief: No Davis Docs Passed to FBI

Texas gubernatorial candidate, Sen. Wendy Davis speaks to press following an education rally in Austin, Texas on April 14th
Marjorie Kamys Cotera via Texas Tribune

The agency charged with prosecuting state public corruption cases wrapped up an investigation into state Sen. Wendy Davis last year without finding any issues worth pursuing, its director said, and did not uncover anything it believed it should refer to the FBI.

The Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorneys Office closed an investigation into a complaint made against Davis’ law firm last year. The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that documents related to Davis’ legal work as a lawyer for the North Texas Tollway Authority are part of an FBI inquiry into the agency's board members, citing a letter from the Public Integrity Unit about its own closed investigation into Davis.

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Health
12:20 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

How Halloween Flood Survivors are Recovering From Post-Traumatic Stress

Onion Creek resident Mike Espinoza put up motivational messages for his neighbors while he rebuilt from the Halloween floods. While repairs are underway in Onion Creek, recovering from psychological trauma is a different issue.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

On the surface of the Onion Creek neighborhood, there’s progress.

The community is slowly recovering from 2013's deadly Halloween floods. Many families are back in their homes, even though most homes have yet to be fully rebuilt. But scratch the surface, and people are still suffering the psychological effects of that night.

Often when we hear about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it's in the context of war. But David Evans, CEO of Austin/Travis County Integral Care, says PTSD can affect those who survive any traumatic experience. 

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SXSW 2014
11:54 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Austin Police File More Charges Against SXSW Crash Suspect

A "ghost bike" is included in a makeshift memorial outside the Mohawk in this photo from March 17.
Credit Andrew Huygen for KUT News

The Austin Police Department has filed four more charges against the suspect accused of killing four people and injuring more than 20 people in downtown Austin on March 13

Roger Wade with the Travis County Sheriff's Office confirms that 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens now has 25 aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges filed against him as of April 17. He's also been charged with capital murder.

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Crime & Justice
11:40 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Report: Central Texas Home to Some of the State's Most Established Gangs

The report shows that Central Texas has a high concentration of gang activity.
DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week.

This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000.

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Austin
10:27 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Council Withdraws Mid-Year Evaluation of City Manager

Austin City Manager Marc Ott gets a message from former Chief Financial Officer Leslie Browder in this 2011 photo.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

This story comes to us from our city hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor.

It seems that some City Council members were planning on giving City Manager Marc Ott – and perhaps others – a piece of their minds in private Thursday, but due to the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, Mayor Lee Leffingwell was able to at least postpone that confrontation.

The executive session agenda for Thursday included four unusual items, each to do a mid-year evaluation of one of the Council’s appointees: Ott, City Auditor Kenneth Mory, Municipal Court Clerk Rebecca Stark and City Clerk Jannette Goodall.

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Two Guys on Your Head
8:14 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Why Being Put On Hold is So Frustrating

flickr.com/billybrown00

Horrible music, incredible wait times and an inscrutable labyrinth of phone prompts: We've all experienced the frustrations of being on hold. Even when we're on hold for a minute or so, blood pressure can spike when an automated voice answers the phone.

Why is being on hold so annoying? Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke will be with you shortly to explain it. 

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Education
6:38 am
Fri April 18, 2014

It's Good Friday – But Some Area School Districts Are Holding Classes

Several area school districts have to make up classes missed due to bad weather this winter.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Most Austin area school districts are closed today for the Good Friday holiday. But some students will be attending class.

That’s because they’re making up days off for bad weather earlier in the school year.

DO have school:

  • Burnet ISD will have regular school hours today.
  • Del Valle ISD is holding classes today.
  • Dripping Springs ISD is holding classes today and on Memorial Day to make up for canceled classes.
  • Eanes ISD is holding classes today. The rest of the school year will continue as planned.
  • Lockhart ISD will hold regular school hours today and on Memorial Day.
  • Manor ISD is holding classes today as a make-up. There will not be classes on Memorial Day.
  • Texas School for the Deaf will have regular school hours today.
  • Wimberley ISD is also holding classes this Good Friday.

DO NOT have school:

  • Austin ISD is off today. AISD has no make-up days scheduled for the rest of the school year.
Read more
West Plant Explosion
5:09 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Year Since West Fertilizer Plant Explosion is One 'Full of Questioning'

Loretta Volcik and her sister, Jeanette Holecek(L) sit at Volcik's home in West, Texas. Holocek and her husband, James, have lived with her sister since she lost her house in the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s been one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas – just north of Waco.
15 people were killed and more than 150 were injured. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the blast.

A year later there are many signs of recovery and rebuilding in the small town.
But, for some, the rebuilding process has been difficult.

West resident Loretta Volcik says overall, the past year has been filled with one thing: Questioning.

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Abortion
4:14 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Abortion Doctors File Lawsuit Against Dallas Hospital For Revoking Privileges

Two Texas doctors have filed a lawsuit against University General Hospital Dallas for revoking their admitting privileges.
Nathan Bernier, KUT

Two Texas doctors that offer abortions are challenging a hospital for revoking their admitting privileges.

Read the petition here.

In a letter, University General Hospital Dallas says granting admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions would be disruptive to the hospital’s reputation.

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Affordable Care Act
3:27 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Obama: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Hits 8 Million

President Obama speaks about health care on Thursday. ACA enrollment has reached 8 million, he said, and it's "well past time" for Republicans to stop trying to repeal it.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 3:22 pm

President Obama says that enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has reached 8 million after the March 31 sign-up deadline was extended by two weeks.

"This thing is working," he told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday.

The president said that 35 percent of those signing up through the federal government's website were under the age of 35. The need for younger, healthier individuals to enroll in the program is considered vital to the success of Obamacare.

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Abortion
1:59 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Federal Judge Expects Texas Abortion Lawsuit to Reach Supreme Court

A lawsuit challenging a requirement that Texas abortion doctors receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is moving forward, but only as it applies to certain doctors in El Paso and McAllen.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Austin turned down a request to temporarily block a requirement of Texas' controversial new abortion law for clinics in El Paso and McAllen. But the judge is allowing the lawsuit to move forward – and predicts it will ultimately travel all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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West Plant Explosion
12:44 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

What's Been Done to Prevent Another West?

Memorials near the site of the explosion in the town of West, Texas
Terrence Henry/StateImpact Texas

WBUR's "Here and Now" aired this story today. See more here.

From StateImpact Texas: 

WEST, TX - Trucks and bulldozers are still working here, the site of an explosion a year ago today. A deadly blast tore through this small community, killing fifteen and injuring hundreds. Homes and schools were destroyed, with the damage estimated to be over a hundred million dollars. 

There's a lone charred tree that still stands at the location of the blast, but other than that, the site is mostly empty. Crosses and memorials that read "West Strong" and "West is the Best" line the road.

The explosion at the West fertilizer plant was one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas history. So what's Texas doing to prevent it from happening again?

"Well, technically, nothing has been done," says state Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), chair of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Pickett says since West happened near the end of the legislative session, he didn't want to rush in any "knee-jerk" rules or regulations.

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