Energy & Environment
12:06 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

What Spain Can Teach Texas About Solar Energy

A tower at Abengoa solar plant at "Solucar" solar park.
Marcelo del Pozo/REUTERS

From StateImpact Texas:

About an hour’s drive outside of Sevilla, Spain’s old city, past grazing black-footed pigs and olive orchards, sits the Abengoa Solucar complex, and it’s truly a sight: Imagine cresting a hill and then all of the sudden seeing several large towers, over 500 feet high, with hundreds of beams of light striking them — solar rays from an army of mirrors arrayed in a circle on the ground below. They’re called heliostats.

“These heliostats are reflecting solar radiation toward the receiver that we have at the top of the tower,” says Valerio Fernandez, manager of the complex. The rays from the heliostats strike the top of the towers, like hundreds of magnifying glasses focused on one point in mid-air. The top of the tower shines so bright, you can’t look at it without sunglasses.

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Austin City Council
11:35 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Get to Know Your Geographically-Elected Austin City Council

Austin finalized its new, geographically-elected city council last night.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The city's first council under the 10-1 plan was finalized last night. Austin voters elected the remaining seven council members and the Mayor of Austin. The new council is, for the first time, majority female, with seven female council members. The only incumbent in the bunch, Council Member Kathie Tovo – who's also a likely shoe-in for the position of Mayor Pro Tem.

The remaining nine council members, and Mayor-elect Steve Adler, may not be so familiar. Below, you can find detailed biographies of each of the newly-elected 10-1 council members – including their previous experience in government, their employment history and (for some) their previous work with other council candidates.

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The Two-Way
11:13 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Obama Unveils 'New Approach' On Cuba As Former Foes Chart New Course

President Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. will work with Cuba to normalize diplomatic ties.
Doug Mills UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:41 pm

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

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In Black America Podcast
8:02 am
Wed December 17, 2014

In Black America Podcast: Remembering Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Rudy Dee and Ossie Davis

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

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Austin
12:10 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Steve Adler's Goal: Turn Austin into Social Innovator for the World

Steve Adler is Austin's new Mayor. Up until now, he's been a political outsider. He is an attorney who believes in social causes.
Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News

  Steve Adler is Austin's new mayor. He easily defeated city councilman Mike Martinez in Tuesday's runoff election. But, even though Adler appeared to be the favorite in recent polls, he wasn't always expected to win this race.

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2014 City Council Runoff Elections
10:56 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Liveblog: The 2014 Austin City Council Runoff Elections

Mayor-elect Steve Adler shakes a young supporters hand at his Election Night party.
Joy Diaz/KUT

After years of build-up and build-out, tonight the Austin City Council will finally transfer from an at-large, seven-member council to a geographically elected council with 10 members. Two of the council seats were decided on Election Day in November – Delia Garza won the District 2 seat and Ann Kitchen won District 5. Council Member Kathie Tovo, after nearly beating fellow Council Member Chris Riley with 49 percent of the vote, won the District 9 seat after Riley’s November concession.

The remaining seven races, and the race for Mayor of Austin, will be decided by today’s runoff elections.

UPDATE: The final numbers are in. Here’s a look at the Austin City Council runoff winners according to the Travis County Clerk's unofficial voting totals:

District 1 – Ora Houston wins with 74.25 percent of the vote over opponent DeWayne Lofton

District 3 – Sabino “Pio” Renteria wins over Susana Almanza 59.76 percent over 40.24 percent

District 4 – Greg Casar wins the seat over opponent Laura Pressley with 64.62 percent of the vote. Pressley garnered 35.38 percent of the vote

District 6 – Don Zimmerman defeats Jimmy Flannigan with 51.21 percent in a close race. Flannigan carried Election Day, but his 48.79 percent in total runoffs wasn’t enough to win the seat.

District 7 – Leslie Pool wins with 66.23 percent over Jeb Boyt’s 33.77 percent.

District 8 – Ellen Troxclair wins the seat by less than 60 votes, earning 50.23 percent of the vote against opponent Ed Scruggs, who got 49.77 percent of the vote.

District 10 – Sheri Gallo defeats Mandy Dealey with 54.76 percent of the vote. Dealey got 45.24 percent of the vote.

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Austin ISD
10:39 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Here are the Austin School Board Election Runoff Results

There are three Austin School Board seats up for grabs in the run off election.
Photo by KUT News

Update (10:37): With 100 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace is officially the winner in the AISD School Board At-large District Nine race. Ted Gordon won in District One with 56 percent of the vote and Paul Saldana won in District Six with 53 percent of the vote.

Update(10:05 p.m.): With 92 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace continues to have a healthy lead over Hillary Procknow in the at-large District Nine race for Austin School Board. 

In District One, Ted Gordon continues to inch ahead of David Thompson. As of the last report, Gordon has 55 percent compared to Thompson's 44 percent. But voter turnout was very low in that district, with fewer than 6,000 people voting. 

In District Six, the race is even closer between Paul Saldana and Kate Mason-Murphy. However, Saldana continues to inch ahead of Mason-Murphy with 53 percent of the vote. That race saw low voter turnout, too. 

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Arts Eclectic
2:39 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

City Theatre Presents a 'Reckless' Holiday

This holiday season, the folks at City Theatre are presenting Reckless, a non-traditional holiday-based dark comedy that the New York Times called "a bittersweet Christmas fable for our time."

On Christmas Eve, Rachel Fitzsimmons learns that her idyllic life is not so idyllic after all when her husband takes out a contract on her life. As things continue to unravel, she encounters killers, game show hosts, insane therapists and more. City Theatre artistic director Andy Berkovsky calls it "the perfect little holiday play."

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Austin
1:25 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

University of Texas Launches Center for Sports Leadership

President Bill Powers and Founding Director Daron Roberts talking to Texas Standard’s David Brown about the new Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation.

The University of Texas at Austin has announced a new sports leadership initiative.

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Austin
12:34 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Here's What Austin Googled in 2014

Sports and celebrities were on the minds (and fingertips) of Austinites this year who couldn't resist taking to search giant Google to expand their knowledge of Ebola, figure out when to mark Easter 2014 on their calendars and relive the filmography of Robin Williams. 

The U.S. may not have won the 2014 World Cup, but the global phenomena dominated the list of the top trends in Google searches in Austin this year, according to the company's 2014 Zeitgeist report. Spikes in more than a trillion Google searches were analyzed, and the annual report is supposed to reflect the "topics and people that defined 2014," the company says.

Take a look below to see what captivated Austinites in 2014, and watch the video announcement of the search survey above.

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Affordable Care Act
9:37 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Finding Health Care for Uninsured Latinas to Reduce ER Visits

Seton Survivorship Nurse Navigator Veronica Serrano, right, helps a purposely unidentified former cancer patient on Nov. 19, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

We've all heard the stories about how a lack of health insurance can force someone to ignore small health issues, until they end up in the emergency room with a more traumatic, and sometimes untreatable, problem. This is happening frequently with the country's uninsured Latina population.

In Austin and across the U.S., nonprofits are helping connect them with health care resources in their communities.

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Life & Arts
8:31 am
Tue December 16, 2014

2015 Rock Hall Of Fame Class Includes Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong (left) and Mike Dirnt of Green Day play the Reading Festival. Green Day and five other acts will join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year.
Yui Mok PA Photos/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 7:49 am

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Texas
7:50 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Update: Missing Denton Boy Believed in Danger

Suspect and missing boy.

Update: Denton Police have discontinued an AMBER Alert for a missing 4-year-old boy. But Ricardo Lara has not been found yet.

Police say the investigation no longer fits requirements to continue the Amber Alert – though they are still pursing all leads to find the child.

Police still believe Lara is with his father – 23-year-old Ricardo Martinez. The two were last seen in Denton on Friday afternoon. Martinez is also a suspect in the murder of Lara’s mother.

Original Story (Dec. 15, 2014, 6:04 a.m.): Law enforcement officers across the state are keeping an eye out for a missing 4-year-old boy.

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Austin ISD
10:42 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Paul Cruz Named Finalist for Austin ISD Superintendent

At a community forum this weekend, Cruz said improving relationships with neighborhoods and education groups is his first priority.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update: The Austin School Board has unanimously named interim Superintendent Paul Cruz as the sole finalist for the position, the last step before offering him a formal contract. The vote was more of a formality—Cruz was the only candidate after two others dropped out.

"I want to say loud and clear, it's not just that Dr. Cruz is the last man standing, but I believe he is absolutely the best person for the job," says School Board Vice President Gina Hinojosa.

Board members publicly said Cruz was the most qualified person for the job. Plus, the community voiced its support for Cruz, too. Everyone from the teacher’s union and minority groups to city lawmakers and the Chamber of Commerce said they supported the decision to consider Cruz for the job.

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Austin
5:51 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Group Unveils the First Nativity Scene On Display at the Capitol

The organizers will set up the nativity scene the ground level of the capitol just below the main rotunda.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Several Austinites gathered today for the unveiling of the first nativity scene at Texas State Capitol. 

Trey Trainor of the privately-funded group Texas Nativity Scene Project says it's the first on display in the state's history.

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Onion Creek
10:45 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Over a Year After Floods, Onion Creek Properties Face Delayed Repairs, Liens

Floods on Halloween in 2013 inundated many homes in the Onion Creek neighborhood. Still, many properties in the area are still uninhabitable.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT

Some Southeast Austin neighbors fear they're in danger of losing their homes. Some Onion Creek homes have been uninhabitable since the 2013 Halloween floods hit the Onion Creek community.

Now, some contractors have placed liens on the once-inundated properties, claiming they need more money to finish the repairs.

“This is my flooded property that still isn't ready after over a year,” says Onion Creek resident Marilyn Barack on a cold morning.

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Same-Sex Marriage
6:25 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Federal Court Holds Off on Decision Against Texas' Same-Sex Marriage Ban

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review same-sex marriage cases from five other states, allowing gay marriage in Utah, Indiana, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Texas' gay marriage ban will remain in effect for now. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declined today to permit immediate same-sex marriages in Texas. 

In February, Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Texas’ same-sex marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal treatment under the law, but placed a hold that prevented same-sex couples from immediately getting married. Today, Judge Garcia declined a request to lift that stay on marriages, citing an impending appeal in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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KUT Weekend
3:06 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Listen to Our Weekly News Podcast!

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

Gender Divide
2:40 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

VIDEO: Meet the Principal of Austin ISD's First All Boys Middle School

This story is part of an occasional series from KUT called Gender Divide, which will tell stories about the communities in Austin ISD's new single-sex middle schools, while also exploring the debate over single-sex education.

When you walk into the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy in East Austin on any given morning, the first thing you hear is the echo of young men's voices bouncing off the walls of the building's large atrium. The atrium is like the heart of the building, connecting arteries of hallways and classrooms in the seven year old campus. 

Walking those hallways, it's hard to avoid shaking hands. Young men will approach you, wearing the Gus Garcia Uniform. They introduce themselves and declare they are, "a Gus Garcia man." It's an approach and attitude Principal Sterlin McGruder has instilled in the more than 400 students since it opened its doors as a single-sex school in August. 

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Texas Standard
2:32 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

The First All-Drone Airport is Opening in Texas

A Grey Shadow drone, the same type of aircraft slated to be housed at a new complex in El Paso's Fort Bliss.
Flickr user Greg Goebel, https://flic.kr/ps/z7irw

In Fort Bliss military base in El Paso, Texas a new airport is being built. But it won't cater to pilots or offer any amenities common to the typical airstrip –because this one is being built exclusively to house the U.S Army aerial drones.

If an aerial drone fleet housed in a state of the art bunker sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, you're not far off. The Texas Standard's David Brown speaks with John Horgan, writer for the Scientific American online and teacher at the Stevens Institute for Technology

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