Austin
1:06 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Cold Enough to Freeze: Some Tips from AWU

It could be cold enough for pipes to freeze tonight. The Austin Water Utility is warning homeowners to take precautions.

The weather forecast says temperatures around Austin will dip into the 20's tonight. Austin Water Utility is reminding homeowners about the importance of protecting water pipes in such conditions. In a release today, the utility wrote:
 

Before Freezing Weather

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Gun Laws
8:50 am
Thu December 20, 2012

Where Texas Gun Laws Stand Now

flickr.com/thomashawk

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, state governments across the nation are re-examaning their gun laws.

No license is required for purchasing and owning a firearm there is no licensing requirement. All that is required is a state-issued ID that says you are at least 18 years to purchase a rifle, or at least 21 years to purchase a handgun. 

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Austin
7:38 am
Thu December 20, 2012

High Winds Complicate Firefighting in Austin

High winds are making for tough firefighting at several blazes around Austin.

High winds quickly escalated three fires in the area overnight. They have kept firefighters in Austin and Williamson County busy. Williamson County firefighters are taking the lead on a fire at the International Apartments near Copper Creek Drive and Pond Wood Road that has destroyed two buildings and forced evacuations of dozens of families. Lieutenant Josh Portie of the Austin Fire Department says the challenge has been the wind.

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Dec. 12, 2012
5:36 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (Supposedly) And This UT Maya Expert Feels (Mostly) Fine

Artist's rendering of the 2012 Maya apocalypse.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

David Stewart Explains the Maya Calendar

Turn on the History Channel, and you’ll find plenty of speculation about the Mayan calendar. The “long count” calendar comes to an end on Dec. 21, 2012 – and chances are you’ve heard what that’s supposed to mean.

David Stuart, a professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin recently deciphered a hieroglyph that included a second reference to the end-date. “This is an important date,” Stuart tells KUT News.  But “the Maya never said anything about the end of the world … they never predicted or prophesied anything about what would happen.”

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Transportation
4:15 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

ABIA and AAA Hope These Travel Tips Make for Happy Holidays

Holiday travelers are told to arrive early for flights at ABIA.
KUT News

If you’re flying out of Austin for the holidays, be ready to arrive at the airport early and expect long lines.  Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is advising travelers to arrive 90 minutes before their departure time from today through Dec. 21.

Checkpoints open at 4 a.m. to give passengers on the earliest flights ample time to get check their bags and get through security. ABIA has also temporarily opened a fourth security checkpoint to handle the high volume of holiday travelers and reduce security wait times.  

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Austin City Council
3:48 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

The Top 10 Austin City Council Stories of 2012

Changes to Austin's form of government, a mayoral race, transportation issues and more dominated the dais in 2012.
Filipa Rodrigues, Andy Uhler for KUT News

One mayor. Six council members. 10 stories.

While the Austin City Council lacked for an overarching theme in 2012 – nothing like the months-long roil of 2011’s open meetings act or Formula 1 controversies – it faced a decidedly full agenda.

But ironically, 2012 may be remembered more for the change it initiated to future councils that the actions of this one.  With the council safely on hiatus until Jan. 17, 2013, KUT News is taking a look back at the year that was.  

1. Switch to Single-Member Districts

Austin has rarely, if ever, had such an important local election.

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Education
1:05 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Dewhurst, Patrick Discuss Plans for School Reform

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick R-Houston, during press conference to discuss education reform in Texas including school choice.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Speaking in a Catholic school classroom in Austin, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick gave the first details of what they promised would be a wide-ranging set of proposals for public education policy during the upcoming legislative session.

Patrick, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said he would carry legislation that would increase the options for public school students through lifting the state's cap on charter schools, fostering open enrollment within and across school districts, and creating a private school scholarship fund through offering a state business tax savings credit to corporations. 

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AISD
10:38 am
Wed December 19, 2012

AISD Releases List of Schools Frozen to Transfers

Locked up: Bowie High School, pictured above, is one of five high schools frozen for transfers.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District has released its list of schools that are frozen to transfers for the 2013-2014 school year.

Over two dozen campuses are  frozen to transfers, while another 17 will be reevaluated after requests for priority transfers are approved.

Beginning Jan. 7, parents will be able to submit their transfer requests by mail or in person at AISD's Office of Student Services.

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The Lead
8:35 am
Wed December 19, 2012

The Lead: On Track to Texas' Hottest Year; Apple Update

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for yet another unseasonably warm day, ahead of a cold front blowing in overnight. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

“Earlier this fall 2012 was projected to be Texas’ fourth hottest year on record when it comes to average temperature. That surprised many of our readers, and it’s no wonder.  After 2011, this year seemed like a welcome relief. But, if you take average temperatures from the entire year, it now turns out 2012 wont likely be the fourth hottest year.

It will likely be the hottest year, on average, in Texas history.”

“IDEA says it will announce the location of its new campus in January or February. Founder and CEO Tom Torkelson would not say whether it will be in East Austin, where the IDEA Allan campus is located, but he did say the location ‘would be very accessible to the students and families who attend’ the Allan campus. 

Relations between IDEA and AISD board members did not appear to be improving, prior to Monday night's vote that end their year-long relationship.”

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Gun Violence
7:55 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Obama Finding Gun Control Voice, Which Had Gone Quiet

President Obama attends a vigil for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims on Sunday in Newtown, Conn.
Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 5:23 pm

If President Obama takes the lead in a movement for more effective gun control now that he's been stirred to action by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, it would mark a significant break from his pattern so far as chief executive.

For while Obama has dutifully served as the nation's consoler in chief in localities where the all-too-frequent mass shootings have occurred, that has seemed the extent of the official response observable to White House outsiders.

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Gun Violence
4:57 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Amid Calls For Gun Control, Some Push For Weapons At School

David Thweatt, the school superintendent in Harrold, Texas, is seen in 2008. Troubled by school shootings around the country, Thweatt decided to arm school staff.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 2:16 pm

A growing number of lawmakers are indicating they are open to considering new gun control measures in the wake of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. But while much of the national debate has focused on limiting access to guns, others are suggesting that schools should arm themselves to defend against attacks.

David Thweatt, school superintendent for the small Texas town of Harrold, northwest of Fort Worth, decided in 2006 that it was time to arm his staff. There's only one school in Harrold, a K-12 with 103 students.

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Top Stories 2012
4:25 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Austin's Top Stories of 2012: Leslie Cochran Passes Away

Leslie Cochran, photographed early in 2012.
Valerie Romness

In life, Leslie Cochran was a symbol of Austin's weirdness. In death, Cochran poses more challenging questions regarding homelessness in Austin.

In late February, reports emerged that Cochran – a homeless, scantily-clad icon of “weird” Austin, known for high heels, tiaras, and the occasional mayoral run – had been hospitalized in poor health.

A friend of Cochran's told KUT News he was found unconscious in a South Austin parking lot, and was moved into a hospital.  Later that week it was reported that Cochran had briefly awoke from a nearly two-week coma, but his condition had not improved.

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Austin
3:12 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Police Respond to Report of Gun at Barton Creek Mall; No Threat Found (Update)

File photo of a police car at Barton Creek Mall. Police say no threat has been found.

Update:  It’s worth noting Eanes ISD briefly locked down all its buildings earlier today, in relation to the call at Barton Creek. A statement on the district’s website reads:

“While law enforcement has informed us that the incident is contained to the mall and our students are in no danger, we have taken the precaution of putting the Adult Transition Services building, Cedar Creek Elementary, Hill Country Middle School and Westlake High School on lockdown.”

The top-ranked comment on a Reddit thread discussing the Barton Creek scare is from a parent at Hill Country Middle School. “They made her scared for her life, even though they were told it was totally isolated to the mall which is like a mile away at least.” (Some language may not be safe for work.)

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Gun Violence
2:31 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Obama Supports New Bid to Ban Assault Weapons, Close Gun Show 'Loophole'

At the Freddie Bear Sports shop in Tinley Park, Ill., Jason Zielinski shows AR-15 style rifles to a customer.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 12:59 pm

President Obama has thrown his support behind a leading Democratic senator's effort to reinstate a ban on assault weapons — another sign that Friday's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut has put gun control back on Washington's political agenda.

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Education
1:51 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

IDEA Vows to Open Its Own Charter School in Austin

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

http://kut.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/121218-AISD-IDEA-Postportem-news-conference-1055.mp3  

IDEA Public Schools says it will continue to operate in Austin, even after the Austin school board voted last night to cancel its contract with the charter school company.   

“This is certainly the most complex and intricate partnership with a district that we or really almost any charter school in the state of Texas has tried," IDEA founder and CEO Tom Torkelson said outside the IDEA Allan campus this morning. "Hopefully, this won’t stop the school district or other charters in the future from continuing to find great ways to partner and work together.”   

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