Austin
10:53 am
Fri December 28, 2012

Zac Efron Headed To Austin

Hollwood actor and general babe Zac Efron is heading into town in 2013.
facebook.com/ZacEfron

Another Hollywood heartthrob could be heading to town soon. Zac Efron has joined the cast of "Parkland," a drama revolving around the John F. Kennedy assassination which is set to film in Austin.

The historical drama, which also stars UT alum Marcia Gay Harden, Texas Film Hall of Fame honoree Billy Bob Thornton and character actor Paul Giamatti, recounts events at Dallas' Parkland Hospital on the day in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was murdered. The film is co-produced by Tom Hanks.

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Transportation
9:16 am
Fri December 28, 2012

DWI Lawyer's Advice For Drunk Drivers Could Scare You Sober (Update)

DWI lawyers recommend you refuse a field sobriety test if you get pulled over, but even that doesn't mean you'll avoid embarrassment and financial hardship.
flickr.com/jmsmith000

Update: Austin Police have scheduled another “No Refusal” enforcement this holiday weekend, where a judge is on call to approve warrants for suspected drunk drivers' blood. 

KUT News checked back in with Austin DWI attorney Will Mitchell, who says that all of his advice below still stands. While the easiest solution is simply not to drink and drive, Mitchell offers the following advice to anyone pulled over: "Be quiet, don’t do field sobriety tests, don’t do a breath test, and refuse to give a sample of your blood. … Until you see a search warrant, there’s no reason for you to allow them to take your blood.”

And aside from the obvious danger, a DWI bust is still an expensive proposition. “Any number’s really arbitrary, but certainly the potential for it to run you, ten, fifteen thousand dollars is easily there.” 

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Politics
8:06 am
Fri December 28, 2012

White House Hosts Congressional Leaders For 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks toward his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill. McConnell and other congressional leaders will meet with President Obama Friday.
Drew Angerer Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 5:44 am

President Barack Obama will meet with the four leaders of Congress Friday to discuss a possible deal that would avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases in the new year.

The session, to be held at the White House, would come just days before the "fiscal cliff" deadline that arrives on Jan. 1.

News of the meeting came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke on the Senate floor Thursday, when he mentioned that he had spoken with the president about a new proposal.

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Race & Ethnicity
5:49 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Census Bureau Rethinks The Best Way To Measure Race

A crowd crosses the street in midtown Manhattan.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 10:42 am

Possible revisions to how the decennial census asks questions about race and ethnicity have raised concerns among some groups that any changes could reduce their population count and thus weaken their electoral clout.

The Census Bureau is considering numerous changes to the 2020 survey in an effort to improve the responses of minorities and more accurately classify Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern and multiracial populations.

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Education
5:05 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Would Mean Cuts to Local Schools

Lockers at Reagan High School in Austin. AISD could stand to lose more than $2 million in federal grants if sequestration cuts are enacted.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Texas would lose about eight percent of its federal education funding if Washington can’t reach a compromise to avoid the package of spending cuts and tax increases contained in the “fiscal cliff.” Most of that money pays for programs to help children from low income families and to help students with disabilities.

Texas’ share of those so-called Title I and IDEA grants would be cut by $174 million, according to Texas Education Agency estimates. In a school district like Austin’s – where almost two out of three students are economically disadvantaged – federal grants would be cut by more than $2 million. You can see an estimate of your school district's cuts by checking this TEA document

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public safety
4:23 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Austin Police Officer Who Killed UT Sniper Charles Whitman Dies

Houston McCoy (second from right) died at home in West Texas on Thursday.
Austin Police Department

The Austin police officer best known for killing the University of Texas Tower sniper has died.

Officer Houston McCoy shot and killed Charles Whitman on Aug. 1, 1966, after Whitman killed 16 people and wounded 32 from the observation deck atop the UT Tower.

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Austin
4:05 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Austin Wants to See Your New Year's Resolutions - Via Text

Will you resolutions make the city's cut? Text to find out.
KUT News

Please don’t say your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. As full of merit as your resolution is, it may not be tweeted out by city staff.  

Starting today and through Dec. 31, the city of Austin is encouraging Austinites to text their New Year resolutions to 512-518-5879.  But there’s a catch: you need to think about how your resolution will make the city better. City staff will then go through them and pick the most interesting responses.  

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Texas
3:04 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Raising Big Bucks to Raise Big Tex

Fundraisers are looking for approximately $500,000 to rebuild Big Tex.
flickr.com/branditressler

The State Fair of Texas wants your help rebuilding its most recognizable cowboy.

The 52 foot-tall mascot Big Tex was destroyed in October in an electrical fire. He had been a fixture at the fair in Dallas for 60 years.

The State Fair’s Sue Gooding says they’ve launched a website trying to raise about half a million dollars to build a new and improved Big Tex. “This is not just the Big Tex that left us that day,” she says. “We’re working on some re-engineering of Big Tex and of course, this next one will have a fire suppression system built in.”

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Austin Water
2:41 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Austin Water: No Major Pipe Problems Due to Freeze

Austin Water says customers can take steps to avoid pipe problems.
flickr.com/sterlic

Austin Water says it hasn’t seen a major spike in pipe breaks during the recent cold snap. And it’s not clear whether a water main break yesterday in north central Austin was weather related.

While utility spokesman Jason Hill says breaks can happen anytime during freezing weather, he also says it’s a good sign that there haven’t been more problems so far.

“Worst case scenario, we could see a lot of water main breaks because of the cold snap," Hill says. "We're not seeing that right now so we’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to make it through this winter without any major casualties. But, just in case, we are poised to respond to do whatever we need to do to make sure that we don’t have water outages to our customers during these winter months.”

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Arts and Culture
2:18 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

It’s In the Mail: An Austin Student and the Lost Art of Letter Writing

St. Edward's student Gerald Llorence loves the beauty of a handwritten letter.
flickr.com/meredithharris

It’s that time of year when our mailboxes fill up not just with bills and credit card applications, but holiday greetings.

While most of us enjoy getting cards and notes on holidays and birthdays for the most part, the tradition of sending and receiving personal snail mail seems to be fading. Just ask the U.S. Postal Service.

One local man isn’t out to save the post office, but he does want more of us to get back to putting pens to paper.

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Top Stories 2012
2:03 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Top Stories of 2012: The Central Texas Wildfires, One Year Later

Scenes from the fire's aftermath in Bastrop last year.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Among the somber anniversaries of 2012: the one-year anniversary of the Central Texas wildfires.

Thousands of people were forced out of their homes on Labor Day weekend of 2011 by the massive wildfires and clouds of black smoke. Altogether, the wildfires claimed two lives, more than 1,600 homes, many pets and livestock, and thousands of acres of land and forests.

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Texas
12:51 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Fewer State Layoffs in 2012

The state laid off fewer employees this year than in 2011 - in part because so many were laid off last year.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The number of state employees let go this year was down dramatically compared to 2011, according to a report from the State Auditor's Office. But that’s mainly because so many people lost their jobs last year, after lawmakers slashed the two-year state budget by $14 billion. 

Those cuts led to a round of government layoffs: 1,225 people lost their jobs last year as the result of a "reduction in force," the bureaucratic term used to label job cuts caused by budget reductions. This year, that number was 96. A lot of people were fired for other reasons, but the number of state employees "involuntarily" laid off still dropped by more than 15 percent compared to last year.

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Politics
12:01 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Sen. Reid: Looks Like We're Headed Over the 'Fiscal Cliff'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., addresses reporters about ongoing discussions about the so-called fiscal cliff on Dec. 18.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 2:18 pm

Even as Air Force One was about to land in suburban Maryland this morning — bringing President Obama back from his vacation in Hawaii to resume negotiations aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor of the Senate warning that a dive off that cliff seems inevitable.

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Economy
9:33 am
Thu December 27, 2012

Jobless Claims Fell by 12,000 Last Week

The line at a job fair earlier this month in Manhattan.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 7:45 am

There were 350,000 first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week, down 12,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reports. That's the lowest level since early March 2008.

The agency adds that "the 4-week moving average," which tends to smooth out some of the volatility that comes with the weekly figures, "was 356,750, a decrease of 11,250 from the previous week's revised average of 368,000."

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Arts and Culture
8:17 am
Thu December 27, 2012

In Rapid-Fire 2012, Memes' Half-Life Fell To A Quarter

A screengrab from the "Kony 2012" online video about the Central African warlord Joseph Kony, which skyrocketed in popularity after its release in March. It was criticized, then forgotten, just as quickly.
via YouTube

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 3:34 am

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