Crime & Justice
11:04 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Texas Facing 'Judicial Vacancy Crisis,' Report Claims

A new report says Texas' 10 vacant seats judicial seats translate into backlogged cases.
Credit Flickr user Brian Turner, https://flic.kr/ps/VxiMo

Texas is in a judicial vacancy crisis according to a report released today by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington and Austin-based Progress Texas.

The report shows Texas has the most vacant federal judge seats of any state, with 10 spots open as of March 19. The report warns those 10 vacancies could grow to 13 if no action is taken, since three more seats are set to open up next year.

Those 10 vacant seats translate into backlogged cases, with especially high caseloads along the U.S.-Mexico border, the report notes. The majority of current and future vacancies also happen to be concentrated in the southern and western parts of the state.

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Money in Politics
10:32 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Limits On Political Contributions

People wait in line for the beginning of the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term in Washington on Oct. 7. The court heard the first major case on campaign contribution limits since 2010's landmark Citizens United.
Evan Vucci AP

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

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an overall cap on the amount that large campaign donors can give to parties and candidates in a two-year election cycle.

In a 5-4 decision split between conservatives and liberals on the high court, the court said the limits were a violation of the First Amendment.

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NPR News Investigations
8:48 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Can A Television Network Be A Church? The IRS Says Yes

Marcus and Joni Lamb, founders of Daystar, also host their own show, as seen in this screenshot from their network. With $233 million in assets, Daystar is the largest religious television network in America that also calls itself a church.
Daystar Television Network

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 9:06 am

Flip on Daystar television at any hour of the day and you'll likely see the elements of modern televangelism: a stylish set, an emotional spiritual message and a phone number on the screen soliciting donations.

Based in a studio complex between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, and broadcasting to a potential audience of 2 billion people around the globe, Daystar calls itself the fastest growing Christian television network in the world.

The Internal Revenue Service considers Daystar something else: a church.

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Politics
8:13 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Marijuana: A Potential Cash Crop for Texas Farmers?

Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture, Kinky Friedman at the KUT studios.
Mike Lee, KUT

Vanishing salmon and fields trashed by trespassers are the most common agricultural side effects of marijuana growth in California, experts there say. The idea agriculture commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman promotes of a hemp farming utopia brought on by the legalization of marijuana in Texas, they say, might be more pipe dream than reality.

"It is the green thread that weaves its way through all of our lives," Friedman said of marijuana during an interview with The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith. "This is not about long-haired hippies smokin' dope. It is about the future of Texas."

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Arts Eclectic
7:19 am
Wed April 2, 2014

ACC Names Balcones Poetry and Fiction Prize Winners

'We Sinners'

Every year, Austin Community College gives out two national writing prizes, one for poetry and one for fiction. Both prizes are open to any English language book, with a panel of judges awarding a $1500 prize to the winning author. 

This year's award winners were both selected for their first books and will both be in Austin on April 9 to read from their prize-winning works. Hanna Pylainen was awarded the Balcones Fiction Prize for her debut novel We Sinners, which explores the obscure Finnish religious sect in which Paylainen herself was raised in Michigan.

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Crime & Justice
5:34 am
Wed April 2, 2014

15-Year-Old Found Safe After Search (Update)

Sianna Gholson
Photo released by Blanco Police Department

Update: An Amber Alert for a 15-year-old Blanco girl has been canceled. Blanco Police say Sianna Gholson was found safe.

Gholson was believed abducted Tuesday morning from Blanco High School.

But, again, she’s now been found and is safe.

Original Story (April 1, 5:53 p.m.): Authorities issued an Amber Alert Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl believed abducted from Blanco High School in Blanco, Texas at about 7:45 Tuesday morning.

Education
7:17 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

More Than 5 Million Kids Are Attending Public School in Texas

Students at Anderson High learning about the Declaration of Independence. Public school enrollment in Texas has passed 5 million for the first time.
KUT News

For the first time, more than 5 million students are enrolled in Texas public schools. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) published a report Tuesday that the state hit the milestone last school year when 5,075,840 students were enrolled.

The population of Hispanic students had the largest numerical increase, growing by 64,903 in one year.

Rice University demographer Steve Murdoch, who used to run the U.S. Census Bureau, says the future of the Texas economy will be determined largely by how well those students are educated. 

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Toy Joy Closing
4:39 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Why Some Stores Fail and Others Thrive in Austin's Second Street District

Austin's Second Street District, seen in 2010. The nascent neighborhood has seen lots of tenant turnover since it launched.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Update: Toy Joy was bought Monday by Fred Schmidt, owner of Wild About Music on E. Sixth Street. Schmidt told Time Warner Cable News he plans to keep the store downtown. "We're going to continue with this business as it has been — only make it more successful than it has [been] in recent years,” Schmidt said. “We're very committed to Toy Joy, its concept, its premise and what it has been in Austin for several decades now."

Original story (March 31): Toy Joy will be auctioned off today. The iconic Austin store closed its doors on March 16, after struggling for the last few years.

In 2013, the owners thought a new location in a hip part of town would help, so they moved from Guadalupe Street – close to the Drag – and into downtown’s Second Street District. But Toy Joy didn’t make it.

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SXSW 2014
4:31 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Accused Driver in SXSW Crash Faces 20 Aggravated Assault Charges

Rashad Owens faces capital murder and aggravated assault charges for allegedly speeding into and killing SXSW attendees.

The man charged with capital murder in the crash into a crowd at South by Southwest is now also charged with 20 counts of aggravated assault.

21-year-old Rashad Owens has been jailed since the March 13 crash. Police say Owens was speeding away from a traffic stop when he drove through a barricade onto a street crowded with pedestrians.

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Education
4:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Educators Pounce on Abbott, Push for Expanded Pre-K

Educators gathered in North Austin to say expanded pre-k is "not a waste."
Lynn Romero for KUT News

Yesterday, Republican candidate for Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a proposal to improve early childhood education in Texas.

During a press conference, Abbott said expanding state-funded pre-kindergarten programs without addressing the quality of instruction “would be an act of negligence and waste.”

Today, educators from groups endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis gathered in front of north Austin's Lucy Read Pre-kindergarten School to say that expanding pre-k is "not a waste."

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Affordable Care Act
2:47 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Obama: The Affordable Care Act Is Working, 'Helping People... Coast To Coast'

The HealthCare.gov website has been a source of delays and confusion for those trying to sign up for health insurance under the ACA.
Jon Elswick AP

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 4:00 pm

This post was updated at 4:40 p.m. ET. with Obama's comments.

President Obama emerged from the White House on Tuesday to rousing applause. He announced that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health care through the federal exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

"This law is doing what it's supposed to do," Obama said at the Rose Garden. "It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast."

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AISD
12:56 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Austin School Board Begins Long Task to Find New Superintendent

As Supt. Meria Carstarphen prepares to leave for the same position in Atlanta, the Austin School Board is tasked with finding an interim-superintendent as well as her successor.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the AISD School Board met Monday for the first time since Carstarphen was named the sole finalist as superintendent for Atlanta's public schools.

They met late into the evening in executive session to discuss what happens next.

No decisions were made in the meeting, but board president Vincent Torres told reporters the executive session would serve as a primer for the presumed superintendent search.

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Lower Colorado River Authority
10:34 am
Tue April 1, 2014

New LCRA Team: Varied Experience, Highly Paid

Community members attending an LCRA meeting in 2011. Phil Wilson, the water authority's new general manager, could take home over half a million dollars annually.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Editor's note: This report comes from KUT's reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s new general manager Phil Wilson received a hefty pay increase when he moved from the hot seat at the Texas Department of Transportation to another hot seat at the state-created water and power authority two months ago. And his pay increase could get even heftier.

Wilson’s annual base salary has been set at $425,000, according to LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma in an email response to questions from the Austin Monitor. In addition, Wilson could receive a bonus of up to 25 percent of his salary, Tuma indicated.  Wilson’s salary and any bonus are determined by LCRA’s 15 member board of directors, which hired him late last year. He took over the job on Feb. 3.

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Austin
9:08 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Austin Toy Museum Looks to Open Next Year

Over 200,000 toys line Caleb Zammit's home. He's one of a group of collectors looking to open a toy museum in Austin next year.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

A new museum is getting ready to open in Austin, but this one doesn't focus on art or state history. This one is all about toys.

A group of Austin collectors are creating a home to display vintage toys, ranging from the 1900s to the 1980s.

Caleb Zammit is part of the group putting together the museum. He's been collecting toys for years. Right now, his collection of over 200,000 toys is neatly arranged in almost every room of his house.

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Women & Personal Finance
4:38 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Lending Circles Help Latinas Pay Bills And Invest

Alicia Villanueva gives change to a customer at Off the Grid, a weekly street-food market in San Francisco.
Sarah Peet Sarah Peet Photography

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 7:50 am

As part of its Changing Lives of Women series, Morning Edition is exploring women and their relationship with money: saving, purchasing and investing for themselves and their families.

Cuban-American Barb Mayo describes a tanda like this: "It's like a no-interest loan with your friends." Mayo had never heard of tandas growing up, and it wasn't until she started working in sales for a cable company in Southern California that she was introduced to the concept.

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