Food
9:44 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Ranchers Approve Added Charge for Cattle Sales in Texas

Before the beef even hits a butcher's slab, Texas' so-called "beef checkoff" sends $2 towards industry groups for every cow sold, but some say the funds undercut small-scale ranchers.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tarale/6688989961/

From StateImpact Texas: 

Every time a cow is sold in Texas, a dollar of that sale goes to industry groups that use it to promote and research beef. It’s part of a national program called the “beef checkoff,” and that charge will now rise to two dollars in Texas after a statewide vote by cattle owners.

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Transportation
8:01 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

What is a Diverging Diamond Interchange and How Might it Help Traffic in Round Rock?

North Carolina Department of Transportation

State transportation authorities announced this week that they received the green light to build a $6.7 million "diverging diamond interchange" at I-35 and University Blvd. in Round Rock. That's an area that gets a lot of traffic, partly because it's near the only IKEA in Central Texas and the Round Rock Premium Outlets, among many other retail businesses.

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NSA
4:55 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

U.S. Privacy Board Says NSA Internet Spying Is Constitutional

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 4:34 pm

A bipartisan privacy board that was appointed by President Obama following the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has released a report (PDF) that says the security agency's Internet spying is legal and constitutional.

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Energy & Environment
12:30 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Proposals to Prevent Another Fertilizer Explosion Immediately Meet Resistance

A helmet is carried in remembrance of a firefighter from the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year.
PHOTO BY JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON/KUT

From StateImpact Texas: 

The explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas last year took much more than fifteen lives. At least 262 people were injured; twenty percent of those were brain injuries. Homes and schools were destroyed. But judging from the response of some state lawmakers charged with stopping it from happening again, disasters like the one in West are just something Texans are going to have to live with from time to time.

There’s been no new regulations for fertilizer plants since the disaster until this month, but there’s been a consensus for some time about how to prevent another tragedy like the one in West: require fertilizer plants to store ammonium nitrate in non-combustible facilities or to use sprinklers; conduct inspections of facilities; and train first responders so they know how to deal with fires that may break out at sites with ammonium nitrate. 

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Transportation
11:51 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Austin Could Take Hands-On Approach to Distracted Driving by Banning Hands-Free

Austin City Council could expand its definition of distracted driving to include hands-free devices.
via http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

Austin already has a ban on texting behind the wheel, but phones these days are labeled "smart" for a reason — they can text, tweet,  Snapchat and steer drivers toward a plethora other distracting drive-time activities.

But now the city is asking for advice on possible changes to its distracted driving ordinance. And it could adopt an all-encompassing ban on mobile phone use behind the wheel, including a ban on hands-free devices.

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Civil Rights Act
11:06 am
Wed July 2, 2014

How Twitter and Time Have Helped Americans Reassess LBJ's Legacy

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on.
LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton

This post has been updated to include portions of an interview with LBJ Library Director Mark Updegrove.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act fifty years ago today.

"It's hard to realize that 50 years ago, people of color in many parts of this country, particularly in the Deep South, would not be accommodated at restaurants or at hotels or at motels, there were separate educational facilities and separate water fountains – we essentially lived in an apartheid state," LBJ Library Director Mark Updegrove says.

Both the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin and the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall are celebrating the anniversary of the signing.

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World Cup
9:50 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Tim Howard Emerges As Hero In U.S. World Cup Loss

No Score: Belgium's Divock Origi throws himself into the net behind goalkeeper Tim Howard of the U.S. during Tuesday's World Cup Round of 16 game.
Ruben Sprich Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 11:34 am

After a wrenching loss to Belgium ended the U.S. team's World Cup run, fans are still touting the play of goalkeeper Tim Howard, Photoshopping his head onto U.S. currency and even (briefly) dubbing him Secretary of Defense on Wikipedia.

In Tuesday's game, Howard set a new World Cup record by making 16 saves. The mark dates back to at least 1966, when organizers started keeping records of that statistic. He was elected man of the match in the 2-1 loss.

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Immigration
4:09 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Influx Of Children Creates New Strain On Beleaguered Immigration Courts

Boys in a holding area at a Border Protection center in Nogales, Ariz. Generally, minors are put into deportation proceedings and given a "Notice To Appear" in immigration court, but they have permission to stay in the country while the U.S. decides their fate.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 9:55 pm

President Obama said over the weekend that he is seeking to fast-track deportations of unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America who cross into the United States.

More than 52,000 have been caught in South Texas since October, and hundreds more arrive daily, overwhelming Border Patrol stations and overflowing temporary shelters.

But once they get here, what happens? Do they just get to stay, as the president's critics charge?

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Life & Arts
4:20 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Texas Bats Help Deliver New Sweetener

Texas long-nosed bats help cultivate Maguey plants in the Mexican desert.
Lucy Nieto

A new organic sweetener has hit the Texas market. Well, certain Central Markets around Texas for now anyway.

Villa de Patos, a family-run business in Mexico, is hoping to push its sweetness into other stores this side of the border soon. Maguey Sweet Sap is made from the nectar of a Maguey plant – an agave plant that grows chiefly in the Mexican dessert without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

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Texas
3:05 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

For Trailblazing Texan Oveta Culp Hobby, a Long Overdue Biography

Col Oveta Culp Hobby (right) talks with Auxiliary Margaret Peterson and Capt. Elizabeth Gilbert in this 1943 photo at New York's Mitchel Field.
Al Aumuller/ World Telegram & Sun/Library of Congress

From the small Texas town of Killeen, Oveta Culp Hobby grew up into a remarkable woman, serving her country and opening doors for women in the military.  

She helped establish the Women’s Army Corps and received a distinguished service medal – the first woman in the army ever to do so. She also served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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Arts Eclectic
3:01 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Get Inspired at The Tesla Project

By the time of his death in 1943, inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla had accumulated some 300 patents for his works. He's credited for work and ideas that resulted in countless innovations, most notably alternating current, or the electrical system that powers most of the devices in your home.

After his death, Tesla's legacy fell into relative obscurity for a time, but in recent years, he's been embraced by a new generation of scientists and engineers. At this point, he's become a bit of folk hero, seen by many as the epitome of the uncompromising genius.

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World Cup
1:43 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

5 Things To Know For The U.S. Vs. Belgium Game

The return of U.S. striker Jozy Altidore, who had been sidelined by a hamstring injury, could help the Americans as they face off against a talented and young Belgian team Tuesday.
Marcos Brindicci Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 1:24 pm

Today, players and fans of the U.S. and Belgium are building toward a decisive game that will send one team to the World Cup's quarterfinals and send the other packing. Two key questions are whether the U.S. can strike early, as it did against Ghana, and whether Belgium can pull away late, as it has in all its games so far in Brazil.

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World Cup
12:49 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Where Austin Fans Buy Their World Cup Flags

Soccer fans fill the Black Sheep Lodge in south Austin during the USA vs. Germany World Cup match on June 26.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

With World Cup fever peaking, flag stores in Austin have been selling out of the old red, white and blue. The oldest red, white and blue, in fact – the Dutch flag, in use since 1572.

Flag stores always stock up for the Fourth of July, says Michele Kronberg, the self-described “boss-queen” of Austin Flag and Flagpole on South First Street. “It’s our busiest time of the year,” she says. “We don’t really have a Christmas season.” But exploding demand for foreign flags, driven by the World Cup, caught her off guard.

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Austin Animal Center
11:00 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Could a Law Meant to Keep Animals Safe Actually Let More of Them Die?

A visitor to the Austin Animal Center in 2011. Animal advocates worry a law requiring a "veterinarian-client patient relationship" could slow rescue efforts, leading to more animal deaths.
KUT News

It's another busy day at the City of Austin's Animal Center.

This Monday there were 1,149 animals in inventory. About 600 were on site, the rest are in foster homes.

On her desk, Chief Animal Services Officer Abigail Smith has what looks like a police badge. It's there because she's a chief. But beyond that, Smith says it gets her access she couldn't get otherwise. "For example," Smith says, "it came in handy when we were responding to the Bastrop fires … Those were federally protected lines and you needed credentials to get through."

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Transportation
9:44 am
Tue July 1, 2014

The $400 Million in I-35 Fixes That Could Be Bundled With Urban Rail

Callie Hernandez/KUT

Much attention has been placed on Austin City Council’s unanimous vote to endorse an urban rail plan for Austin. But $400 million of a proposed transportation bond that could reach voters in November is for road improvements as well.

Here's a breakdown of spending proposals, culled from the 2014 Austin Strategic Mobility Plan:

The largest chunk of the approved road package is $120 million to improve downtown access from I-35, with new access ramps and separate lanes for local and pass-through traffic. This portion would also cover improvements to an interchange at Riverside  Drive.

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Immigration
4:32 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Obama's No-Win Immigration Predicament

President Obama, accompanied by Vice President Biden in the White House Rose Garden, lashed out at House Republicans for stalling immigration legislation.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 6:41 pm

President Obama's tough predicament on immigration is only getting worse.

He certainly didn't want to be dealing with an influx of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the U.S. across the Southern border, overwhelming the Homeland Security Department's ability to deal with them during a critical midterm election year.

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Texas
7:20 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Two Texans Weighing White House Bids Applaud Supreme Court Ruling

Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz at an April 2014 news conference at Fort Hood addressing a deadly gunfire incident
Sgt. Ken Scar Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

The offices of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Rick Perry were quick to release statements lauding Monday’s Supreme Court decision on contraception. The ruling said family-owned and other closely held companies can opt out of an Affordable Care Act provision requiring they provide insurance coverage of birth control.

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Must-Listen Audio
2:11 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Listen: This Austin Musician's Story of Falling In Love Will Make You Smile

Nakia.net

Where were you when you met the love of your life?

For Austin musician and "The Voice" contestant Nakia, it was at the corner of South Congress and Elizabeth Avenue, outside a South by Southwest day party.

Listen to his story: 

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StateImpact Texas
12:01 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Rising Oil and Gas Boom Does Little for Poor in Texas

From StateImpact Texas: 

When it comes to the oil and gas drilling boom in the country, Texas is king. Actually, make that crown a global one: over a quarter of all the active drilling rigs in the worldare right here in the Lone Star State.

The boom – taking place thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling – has brought jobs, money and more energy security to Texas and the country. It’s also damaged roads, increased traffic and accidents, strained local governments and caused housing prices to skyrocket in parts of the state. How the boom is leaving some communities behind is the subject of an in-depth report today in The New York Times.

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2014 Texas Democratic Convention
11:47 am
Mon June 30, 2014

After Rallying Party Faithful, Texas Democrats Get Back on Campaign Trail

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, wave at Democrats at the Texas Democratic Convention on June 27, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

At their statewide convention in Dallas over the weekend, the top Democratic nominees took the stage and the party set its priorities for the upcoming year. Texas Democratic Party leaders urged the party faithful to knock on doors and make phone calls to change the political color of the state. State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, chair of the convention, was among them.

"I’m crazy enough to believe, and I hope you are too, that we can do big things better if we turn Texas blue," Sen. West said.

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