2012 Presidential Election
4:05 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

As Race Tightens, Electoral Map Still Favors Obama

A boy examines CSPAN's 2012 presidential race electoral map at the American Presidential Experience exhibit last month in Charlotte, N.C.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:17 pm

Mitt Romney may have seized the advantage in terms of poll numbers and momentum, but there's one area where President Obama enjoys the upper hand.

In the end, it's the only area that counts: the Electoral College. Over the past 20 years, Republicans have had a much lower ceiling when it comes to electoral support, while Democrats have had a significantly higher floor.

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Bond Election
3:14 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Prop 14: Parks and Recreation

A young parks enthusiast enjoys a swing at Zilker Park. Zilker is among the metropolitan parks that would receive funding from Prop 14.
flickr.com/manueb

This fall, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is examining all seven of the spending propositions; today we take a look at Prop 14, which pump $78 million dollars into Austin’s public park and recreational facilities.

Some of the parks that would see improvements are the Emma Long Metropolitan Park, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt and Zilker Metropolitan Park. Facilities like the Barton Springs Bathhouse would be renovated and the Dove Springs Recreation Center would be expanded.

“We have nothing for our seniors out there,” says Dove Springs community leader Ofelia Zapata. She says the recreation center needs the money that Prop 14 would provide.

“Every neighborhood has a senior center, a multipurpose center, except southeast Austin,” Zapata says. “The time is now to deliver a multipurpose center to meet the needs of the families in our neighborhood.”

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Lance Armstrong
2:52 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Details of Armstrong's Alleged Doping Outlined in 202-Page Report

Armstrong's attorneys have asked the USADA to release all its findings against their client, not just excerpts. The USADA's full report is expected today.
Daniel Bayer, flickr.com/aspensnowmass

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has released 202-pages of a report it is sending  to other athletic and cycling governing bodies today, Wednesday, Oct. 10 about Lance Armstrong's alleged doping. The report details what USADA says it's uncovered about the Austin cyclist’s use of performance enhancing drugs.

Armstrong has denied doping but stopped his legal fight against the charges in August. The International Cycling Union (UCI) will make the ultimate decision whether Armstrong will be banned from competition and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

In a statement about the report, USADA CEO Travis Tygart says the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team that Armstrong was a part of ran the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

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Urban Rail
2:26 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Council Member Asks: Are Urban Rail Plans 'Putting the Cart Before the Horse?'

An prototype rail vehicle on display in Austin. City leaders are wrestling with whether to make another rail investment.
Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Austin City Council will consider Thursday whether to authorize an agreement with Capital Metro to spend $5 million for urban rail planning. The bulk of the money ($4 million) will come from a federal grant that requires a local match of 20 percent ($1 million).

So why spend such a large sum when previous money hasn’t produced any visible results? That was a question raised by council member Bill Spelman at council’s work session Tuesday. “A lot of people are concerned that we are putting the cart before of the horse,” he said. “We are spending four million dollars when we really haven’t decided what to do”.            

In May, the city released recommended routes for the first two phases of Urban Rail. Robert Spillar is the director of the city’s Transportation Department, and he sees the release of the money as the next step. At Tuesday’s work session he said getting the city’s stamp of approval would allow the Transportation Department to “restart” the alternatives analysis. 

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Education
12:32 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Georgetown Voters Approve Tax Rate Increase for Schools

The first day of school at McCoy Elementary in Georgetown ISD. Georgetown voters approved a tax increase for their schools, but the new revenue will only maintain existing services.
Georgetown Independent School District

The Georgetown school district says the extra money it will receive from higher tax rates won’t be enough to fill the gap left by state cuts to public education.

Georgetown voters decided yesterday that they would be willing to pay more money to fund their public schools. How much more depends on the value of their property, but the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an extra $80 a year. About 3,500 voters approved the tax ratification election 59 to 41 percent.

GISD has been struggling since the state legislature slashed public education spending by more than $5.4 billion last year. The district eliminated more than 200 employee positions, froze salaries and benefits, and stopped all major capital spending.

The higher tax rate will inject $2.1 million into school district coffers, but GISD spokesperson Brad Domitrovich says it won’t be enough to make up for state cuts.

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Politics
11:42 am
Wed October 10, 2012

DeLay Lawyer: Checks Aren't Funds

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (left) and his defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin at the Travis County Criminal Justice Center on November 1, 2010.
Matt Largey, KUT News

Tom DeLay's legal team was in an Austin appeals court this morning, arguing that the former U.S. House Majority Leader could not be guilty of money laundering because as they said, "checks aren't funds."

DeLay was convicted in 2010, on charges that he conspired to funnel $190,000 in corporate contributions to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature. Candidates for state office are barred from accepting corporate donations. The money was given by corporate donors to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee in 2002, which then sent the money to the Republican National Committee.The RNC then distributed an equal amount to candidates for the Texas House. 

DeLay could spend three years in prison, if his conviction stands.

At issue at today's hearing was how to read state law at the time. Delay's lawyers argue the law does not specify checks as a form of funds that can be used to launder money.

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Education
10:52 am
Wed October 10, 2012

How Advanced Placement Success Could Save Texas Students Millions

Many Texas students are saving money by taking college exams in high schools.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Education Commissioner Michael L. Williams and the Texas Education Agency announced this week  that the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams rose by four percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

The Advanced Placement Program allows high school students to take college-level courses and ultimately exams that they can earn college credit for. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 . A score of 3 or higher is considered satisfactory. Last year, 194,391 Texas students took 350,700 AP exams.

The College Board, which created and oversees the AP program, estimates that if all of the students who scored a 5 on the exams last year enrolled in one of the state’s two flagship universities and received course credit, they would collectively save between $36.2 million and $42.9 million in tuition costs.

This news comes at a time when climbing college tuition rates are a major talking point in Texas, and on the cusp of a legislative session that will likely address these issues. 

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Education
9:34 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Justices Return to Affirmative Action in Higher Ed

Students walk through the University of Texas, Austin, campus near the school's iconic tower on Sept. 27.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:48 am

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

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The Lead
8:54 am
Wed October 10, 2012

The Lead: UT's Affirmative Action Policies Before Supreme Court

Good morning. This misty weather is expected to clear some, with highs warming into the mid-80s according to the Weather Channel. Here’s some of  KUT News’ top stories from this morning and yesterday evening:

The University of Texas is making the case for its affirmative action program before the Supreme Court today. Here’s a round-up of links on what’s at stake, and what to expect.

Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Arguments on UT's Admissions Policy (Texas Tribune)

Abigail Fisher, a white student who graduated outside the top 10 percent of her high school class, was denied admission to UT-Austin in 2008. Claiming that students with lower test scores and less extracurricular involvement were admitted to UT-Austin over her because of their race, Fisher sued the university.

Now the justices will consider Fisher’s argument that UT-Austin’s admissions policy violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and federal civil rights statutes because it considers race when admitting the students who are not automatically admitted in accordance with state law. The court’s decision is expected to come early next year.

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Arts and Culture
8:32 am
Wed October 10, 2012

The End of Trivia App 'Qrank,' One Tweet at a Time

Qrank players could compete against their Twitter and Facebook friends for bragging rights. The game closed shop this week.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News.

The social trivia game Qrank (pronounced "crank") is no more.

Co-founders and Austinites Rodney Gibbs and Michael Baird posted a  message titled “Goodbye” on the game’s website on Monday, and announced that that morning’s edition would be the last of the daily quiz.

Qrank had been voraciously consumed by a legion of loyal players since 2010. As explained on the game’s website, the goal was to “choose 15 of the 20 possible questions and answer them quickly and accurately to beat your friends and earn achievements.” The game was available on Facebook and as a mobile app.

But while Qrank maintained close to 25,000 “likes” on Facebook and more than 8,500 Twitter followers, interaction with all of those fans waned over the last several months.

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Education
6:39 am
Wed October 10, 2012

UT, Affirmative Action, and the 'Achievement Gap'

The U.S. Supreme Court is looking at a case involving race as a factor in admissions at UT.
flickr.com/islespunkfan

Wednesday, Oct. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. The University of Texas. The case asks whether including race as a factor for admission is constitutional. Debate around the issue has been heated.

Minority groups held a conference at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday and said affirmative action is necessary to right historic wrongs. They argued that underprivileged minorities remain underprivileged if they can’t attend flagship universities. And they argued that diversity in the classroom will help students deal with diversity in the real world.

But Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at UT who specializes in race and education (and is no stranger to controversial remarks on the topic), says affirmative action won’t fix this. He says the real problem is that many minority students aren’t ready for college when they graduate high school.

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Texas
4:10 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Court to Hear Tom DeLay's Appeal in Money Laundering Case

Former House Speaker Tom DeLay faces jail time and probation if his conviction is upheld.
U.S. Congress

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin will hear the appeal of former U.S. House Majority Leader cum reality show contestant Tom DeLay, who was convicted of money laundering in 2010.

DeLay was found guilty by an Austin jury of conspiring to circumvent campaign finance laws and channel corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002. His conviction followed a 2005 indictment on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering alongside aides John Colyandro and Jim Ellis. DeLay resigned from his position in the House as a result. In 2009, he appeared as a contestant on the TV series "Dancing With the Stars."

DeLay has been out on bond, working to have his conviction overturned for the past two years. If his conviction is upheld, he faces a sentence of three years in prison and five years probation. As a convicted felon, he would also be ineligible to run for state-level political office in Texas and ineligible to vote until he completes his probation. 

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Education
3:19 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Student Could Face Jail Time For Hacking UT Registration Site

UT police say the student clogged the registrar website with information and requests, temporarily taking it offline.
Caleb Miller for KUT News

A University of Texas at Austin student is facing a felony charge for hacking UT’s computer system.

University police say 19-year-old Garret Phillips flooded the registration site with information in April, shutting it down temporarily when students were trying to sign up for summer and fall classes.

But UTPD Sgt. Charles Bonnet says no personal information was put at risk.

“The type of attack that was launched was just a flood of information into the site which caused it to crash. There was no effort to extract any kind of information or view any kind of information," Bonnet says.

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Business
2:31 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Commissioners Approve Tax Break to Lure Company to Austin

Travis County has joined the city and the state in offering economic incentives to HID Global.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners voted four to one this morning in favor of providing economic incentives to HID Global. The company makes ID cards and key-card readers.

HID Global is looking at building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin. It would create more than 270 jobs over 10 years. In return, the county would give the company at least a 40 percent discount on county taxes over that time.

County Commissioner Ron Davis represents the area including Northeast Austin.

“I just think it’s overall a big deal all across the community and I think it’s a win, win, win, win, win, win-type situation for all of us," said Davis. 

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Bond Election
2:12 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Prop 13: Watershed Protection and Open Space

The city says Prop 13 protects water quality by funding land purchases in the Barton Springs Watershed contributing and recharge zones.
KUT News

This November, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is examining all seven of the spending propositions; today we take a look at Prop 13, which would spend $30 million purchasing land and conservation easements for open space and water quality protection. 

According to the city, the bond would help preserve Austin's water quality by funding land buys in the Barton Springs Watershed, where water filters into the Edwards Aquifer.

“It’s preserving the lands, keeping it from urbanization, which inevitably leads to some degradation of water quality,” says Michael Personett,  assistant director for the city’s Watershed Protection program.

The bond would also add to the city's undeveloped space by funding the purchase of land conservation easements in environmentally sensitive areas. Easements are essentially agreements between the city and landowners that keep land in the hands of its original owner while preventing outside development. The owner gets some extra cash, and the city gets assurances water quality won't deteriorate in that area.

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2012 Presidential Election
1:43 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Sesame Workshop To Obama Campaign: Leave Big Bird Out Of It

Sesame Workshop asked President Obama's campaign to stop running an ad featuring its Big Bird character.
Obama campaign ad

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 1:12 pm

In its attempt to turn the tables on Mitt Romney following the Republican presidential nominee's big win in the first presidential debate, President Obama's campaign has sought to enlist Big Bird.

The president has repeatedly reminded supporters at rallies that Romney, during the debate, specifically cited Big Bird when he promised to defund the Public Broadcasting Service to reduce federal deficits.

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Health
1:15 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

San Antonio's New Vending Machines May Scold Your Soda Choice

Going for a full calorie cola? New vending machines will encourage you to “Check Then Choose,” or “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”
flickr.com/omarriva

Starting in 2013, San Antonio will be one two cities debuting new vending machines aimed at providing healthier beverages to consumers.

According to the American Beverage Association, San Antonio and Chicago will feature the first line of soda vending machines labeled with a prominently labeled calorie count, along with flashing messages asking consumers to think before they drink.

The program is an attempt by the association to get ahead of  upcoming government regulations in the Affordable Care Act requiring calorie counts to become more visible. The idea is to make Americans pay closer attention to the calorie counts in what they consume, thereby improving heath (and lowering health care costs over time). The program comes after hamburger giant McDonald's began posting calorie counts on its menus. 

New machines will also feature electronic displays reminding customers that “Calories Count.” The displays will also stream slogans like “Check then Choose,” and “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”

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Austin
11:55 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Photos: Austin Welcomes the Signs of Fall

J.D. Patton and his family search for the perfect pumpkin at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. The patch has supplied Austinites with pumpkins since 1946.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

With blistering summer temperatures stretching all the way into September, Austin doesn’t need much prompting  to embrace cooler temperatures. This weekend’s cold front was proof of that, having marked the start of sweater weather for many Austinites.

Photojournalist Jillian Schantz Patrick took these pictures for KUT News over the weekend, documenting Austin’s reaction to the changing season.

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Economy
9:47 am
Tue October 9, 2012

Risks Of Global Economic Slowdown Are 'Alarmingly High,' IMF Warns

In China's Anhui province, a worker unloads steel bars at a factory. A slowdown in China and other major nations threatens to pull the global economy into recession, the International Monetary Fund warns.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 8:10 am

Saying that the global economic recovery "has suffered new setbacks, and uncertainty weighs heavily on the outlook," the International Monetary Fund today warned that the probability of "recession in advanced economies and a serious slowdown in emerging market and developing economies" next year have gone up.

The fund said its research indicates the risk of those things occurring in 2013 "has risen to about 17 percent, up from about 4 percent in April 2012."

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The Lead
8:48 am
Tue October 9, 2012

The Lead: Voter Registration Ending, Austin Tech Co. Reaps Funding, Fusion Centers Criticized

Good morning. The cooler weather we’ve been enjoying will gradually warm this afternoon to a high near 80, the National Weather Service says – great weather on this last day of voter registration. Here’s some of KUT’s overnight stories.

Here’s some more Texas stories from around the web:

Austin-based Calxeda Pulls In $55M to ‘Slash Data Center Power’ (Venture Beat)

Calxeda, the Austin, TX-based company with the first ever chip capable of running an entire server at a mere 5 watts, just announced a $55 million fundraise.

“Businesses require a more efficient solution for the Web, Cloud, and Big Data,” Barry Evans, the company’s CEO explained in a statement.

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