Middle East
10:38 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Israel Aims Airstrikes at Hamas Targets in Gaza

A car hit by one of today's airstrikes in Gaza City.
Ali Hassan Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Sun November 18, 2012 8:13 am

Update at 3 p.m. ET. At Least 10 Dead; Israel Issues More Warnings:

As we've been reporting, Israel hit targets in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip today with multiple airstrikes. The Associated Press says at least 10 people were killed. Among them was Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas' military wing.

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The Lead
8:31 am
Wed November 14, 2012

The Lead: Austin Homeless Question Police Push Downtown

Good morning. After a chilly start, Austin should warm to highs in the mid-60s, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

"Violent crime in Austin’s downtown area has risen by nearly 17 percent, according to the latest FBI statistics, although Austin police say the city remains one of the safest in the nation.  Police have ramped up their downtown presence. And that’s raising its own set of concerns among advocates for the city’s homeless."

"Texas Governor Rick Perry has given his support to a bill that would have recipients of unemployment benefits submit to drug tests. Those failing a test would be denied benefits for 12 months, or until they completed a drug treatment program."

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Austin
7:54 am
Wed November 14, 2012

With Bag Ban Looming, the City's Taking Local Business to School

The Bag Ban will start in March of 2013, but some items are still up in the air.
www.flickr.com/photos/arselectronica

Confused about Austin’s coming bag ban? You’re not alone.

Austin Resource Recovery, tasked with reaching the city’s zero waste by 2040, is hosting carryout bag training sessions for local businesses at the Austin City Hall this morning.

The training is designed prepare businesses for the plastic bag ban that takes effect in March 2013.

Originally, the ban barred the use of most single use paper and plastic bags, but late last week the City Council approved adding some exemptions. Now, restaurants will largely be exempt.

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Texas
7:12 am
Wed November 14, 2012

New Agency Head Appointed Amid Criminal Investigation

Howard Baldwin (left) stepped down as Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services. John Specia, Jr. (right) will take his place.
Photos: Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Background Image: flickr.com/thomasletholsen

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has appointed a new head of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The previous commissioner resigned last week as an Abilene office of the department is under criminal investigation.

Abilene Police say employees at the Child Protective Services office were not cooperative in the investigation into a toddler’s death in August. Police believe some employees may have tampered with evidence.

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Weather
6:48 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Freeze Warning for Central Texas

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for Central Texas tonight.

Temperatures are expected to keep falling this evening into early Wednesday morning, leading the NWS to issue a freeze warning for Travis County and surrounding counties. It begins at 3 a.m. and currently runs through 9 a.m. Austin is expecting highs in the mid-to-high 60s tomorrow, according to AccuWeather.

You can stay up on current conditions through the NWS website.

Formula 1
4:48 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

EPA Plane Surveying Downtown and F1 Track, On the Lookout for 'Dirty Bombs' and More

An aerial view of the Circuit of the Americas racetrack. The EPA is testing air samples from the track and downtown.
twitter.com/Austin_Police

An airplane will be taking a low-altitude flight over downtown Austin and the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 track tomorrow. But it’s doing more than sightseeing: the plane is monitoring for chemical and radiological levels to ensure safety over F1 weekend.

A plane from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will monitor chemical and radiation levels tomorrow. The idea is collect a baseline for when the EPA flies over those sites again during F1 activities. By comparing the levels, the EPA will have an idea whether air quality is acceptable – and whether radioactive material, like the kind found in a dirty bomb, is present anywhere.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:05 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Should Texas Drug Test for Unemployment Benefits?

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst support a program to drug test people getting unemployment benefits.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Texas Governor Rick Perry has given his support to a bill that would have recipients of unemployment benefits submit to drug tests. Those failing a test would be denied benefits for 12 months, or until they completed a drug treatment program.

Gov. Perry told reporters every dollar the state takes from its people and spends counts, which is why he’s pushing lawmakers to pass legislation creating the drug testing program.

"Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing for childcare or for medicine," Perry said.

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UT Longhorn Football
2:55 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Photos: Memorial for Legendary Longhorn Coach Darrell K Royal

Thousands flashed the "Hook Em" sign at Royal's memorial today.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Thousands of people paid their final respects to legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell K Royal today. A public memorial was held at the Erwin Center and included a performance by Willie Nelson, and eulogies from UT-Austin President Bill Powers and current Longhorn coach Mack Brown.

“I asked him about what the best thing about coaching at Texas was, coaching football,” Brown said of Royal, “and he said, ‘25 million people care everyday about what you do.’ I said, ‘Coach, what’s the worst thing about coaching at Texas?’ and he said, ‘Twenty-five million people care about what you do everyday.’”

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Geographic Representation
1:48 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Now With Prop 3 Passed, Backers Look to Stay Part of the Process

Prop 3 supporters, including Nelson Linder and Jessica Ellison (foreground) , announced formation of an "advisory group" today.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

The group of Austinites that collected signatures to get a single-member district plan on the November ballot wants to remain a part of the process now that Proposition 3 has passed. 

Prop 3 supporters, Austinites for Geographic Representation, gathered at City Hall today to announce the formation of an “advisory committee” to ensure single-member districts by 2014.

Former state Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, one of Prop 3 most active promoters, was on hand. He says many of the original activists are eager to help. 

“There are many people in Austin who participated, who are experts and have decades of experience in the different fields of redistricting, of drawing lines, of fair representation,” Barrientos said. “And we want to facilitate the city efforts – whatever we can help with – we have hundreds of years of experience among all these folks.”

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Courts
1:22 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Cleveland's Convicted Idiot Finishes Punishment; Says She's Learned Lesson

On Wednesday, Shena Hardin  held her sign of shame higher — as the judge said she should.
Marvin Fong The Plain Dealer /Landov

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 9:50 am

Update at 9 a.m. ET, Nov. 14: "It's A Learning Lesson ... I'll Move Forward."

Shena Hardin, the Cleveland woman ordered to stand on a street corner with a sign saying she was in idiot for driving on a sidewalk to get past a stopped school bus, finished that two-day punishment this morning and issued a statement saying she's learned a lesson.

As Cleveland's 19ActionNews reports, Hardin:

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LGBT
11:59 am
Tue November 13, 2012

UPS Ends Boy Scouts Funding Over Scouts' Policy Toward Gays

A former scout leader at at protest in New York.
flickr.com/photos/paul_lowry

The charity arm of shipping company UPS says it will no longer offer grants to the Boy Scouts of America as long as BSA leadership continue to exclude gays and lesbians from being scouts or scout leaders.

UPS made the change after an online petition protesting the foundation's annual grants to the Boy Scouts attracted more than 80,000 signatures.

The UPS Foundation donated $150,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010, but it’s isn’t clear how much they gave in 2011.

UPS and several other corporations have been subject to protest for their donations to the BSA. UPS’ about-face occurred after Iowa-resident Zach Wahls created a petition on Change.org urging the company to reverse course.

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Mexican American Cultural Center
11:28 am
Tue November 13, 2012

What Do You Want to See Next to the MACC? (Updated)

The city wants to find a use for the empty lot that will benefit the cultural center.
flickr.com/mirsasha

Update: The first of two community meetings on what to do with land next to the Mexican American Cultural Center is occurring tonight. Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department “is seeking community input to develop a range of options” for the parcel neighboring the center. The meeting is at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St., at 6:30 p.m.

Original Post (Nov. 2, 11:11 a.m.): The Mexican American Cultural Center is celebrating Dia De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” with a family-friendly event tomorrow.

But sugar skulls aren't the only attraction. The public is also invited to use the event to share input on what should happen to the lot next to the cultural center.

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2012 Presidential Election
10:40 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Online, Texas Secessionists Petition the White House (Updated)

Houston Tea Partiers at a rally in 2009. Petitioning for secession is only a mouse-click away.
flickr.com/luna715

Update: Gov. Rick Perry has weighed in on the online secession petition. The Dallas Morning News has posted a comment from Perry press secretary Catherine Frazier, who says the Governor believes "nothing should be done to change" the union. 

Update (Nov. 12, 3:07 p.m.): This afternoon, Texas' petition broke the 25,000 signature requirement needed for the White House to issue a (certainly perfunctory) statement in response. 

On Twitter, some users are encouraging Texas to take the rest of the South with it. Meanwhile, others are asking whether a bargain can be struck to keep Austin in the union. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let us know. 

Original Post (Nov. 12, 12:08 p.m.): After any presidential election, you hear chatter from folks threatening to the leave the country since their candidate didn’t get elected. Now, an Arlington man is asking to leave the United States – and take the whole State of Texas with him.

The White House website features a Petition page, where citizens can raise issues with the executive branch. Over the weekend, Arlington resident "Micah H” petitioned the newly re-elected Obama administration to “Peacefully grant the State of Texas to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.”

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CIA
9:37 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Petraeus Affair Widens: Who's Who & What's What? Here's A Guide

Then-Gen. David Petraeus in mid-2011, just before he became CIA director.
Barbara Sax AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 12:31 pm

Feb. 19, 2013: See our note below about Gen. John Allen.

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Politics
9:03 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Are Stricter Rules Ahead for Welfare Recipients?

Lawmakers are filing the first bills of the 2013 legislative session.
KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are holding a joint press conference this morning about possible changes to welfare and unemployment insurance.

Monday was the first day Texas lawmakers filed bills for the 2013 Legislative Session.

A Republican State Senator from Flower Mound filed a bill that she says would strengthen work and job training requirements under welfare. State Sen. Jane Nelson says the bill would also institute some drug testing for so-called "high-risk participants" and tighten rules to prevent welfare funds from being used for alcohol and tobacco.

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The Lead
8:33 am
Tue November 13, 2012

The Lead: 2013 Lege Gearing Up, Statesman Names New Publisher

Good morning. The National Weather Service says to expect highs in the 60s and gusty winds today. Here’s a look at stories KUT News has been working on:

"The Texas House has formed a committee to look into how the state would handle “sequestration.” That’s the package of automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases that take effect at the end of the year — the so-called 'fiscal cliff.' That includes about $109 billion in cuts.

The committee was put together by House Speaker Joe Straus, who said in a news release that he hoped Congress would be able to find a way to reduce the deficit without increasing taxes or cutting jobs."

"Today is the first day Texas lawmakers can file bills ahead of the 2013 legislative session. The 200 or so early bills are usually a hodgepodge of political statements, second attempts and high priority legislation. …

Several first-day bills filed by Republicans in 2010 focused on illegal immigration, and efforts to curb it in Texas. Maybe because of Mitt Romney's poor performance among Hispanics (or maybe not), there were no immigration bills filed by mid-afternoon today."

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Education
7:13 am
Tue November 13, 2012

UT System May Construct $100 Million Austin Office

A view towards downtown Austin from the UT Tower.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The University of Texas System Board of Regents will meet in Tyler this week and consider, among many things, whether to approve the construction of a system office building in downtown Austin that is projected to cost $102,417,000.

The UT System's downtown Austin offices are currently spread across five aging buildings — the oldest has been around for more than 130 years — with mounting maintenance costs. Officials determined that a change was in order. They decided that the best option would be to construct a 16-story building comprising 258,500 square feet of office space and garage capacity for more than 650 vehicles in a spot — close to the state Capitol and the University of Texas at Austin — where two of their current buildings sit.

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UT Longhorn Football
6:18 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Public Memorial Today for UT's Darrell K Royal

The DKR statue on the UT-Austin campus.
flickr.com/wallyg

The University of Texas at Austin community is invited to attend a public memorial service for Darrell K Royal today.

The longtime football coach passed away last Wednesday. He was 88 years-old.

The memorial service is being held at the Frank Erwin Center. The doors will open at 10:30 and the event will begin at noon.

University officials expect traffic in the area will be congested.

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Energy
4:51 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Despite ‘Green’ Label, Austin a Growing Oil and Gas Hub

About 175 people attended a happy hour held by the Austin Petroleum Exploration Society on Nov. 1. Austin is increasingly becoming an oil and gas hub.
Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

Subjects like solar panels and smart-grid technologies become a topic of discussion at plenty of Austin happy hours. But when dozens of people gathered at a lakeside bar earlier this month, the talk drifted toward oil prices, shale plays and hydraulic fracturing.

“When you think Austin, you don’t think oil and gas,” said David Tovar, a geoscience technician at Three Rivers, an oil and gas company based in Austin, as he held a pint of Texas brew. The native Texan ended up at Three Rivers after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a geological sciences degree.

Despite its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan and passion for clean energy, Austin is increasingly attracting oil and gas companies like Three Rivers, a small firm founded in 2009 that focuses on oil development in West Texas and New Mexico, aided by the high oil prices of recent years. Austin’s oil industry, about 4,000 workers strong, is still dwarfed by Houston and Dallas. But the city’s entrepreneurial bent and reputation as an attractive place to live, along with the top-tier petroleum engineering program at UT, have trumped the fact that Austin is far from the oilfields.

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Formula 1
4:21 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

There’s Still (Some) Room to Park Your Jet at the Airport for F1

Private plane parking is filling up at area airports in advance of F1 race weekend.
flickr.com/terryblanchard

Private jet parking at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is starting to fill up.

Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook says more than 150 private planes, ranging from corporate jets to small, propeller-driven Cessnas, have booked parking places for Formula 1 race weekend. There are still a few spots left. 

Other area airports expect to be busy, including Pflugerville's Austin Executive Airport, and airfields in Georgetown, San Marcos, and Horseshoe Bay.

For those flying commercially, Halbrook says there will be a warm Austin welcome at the baggage claim area. More than 70 volunteer hosts will be on hand to help guide visitors – many of whom will be visiting Austin for the first time – to their ground transportation and destination choices.

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