Education
10:54 am
Fri April 24, 2015

New High School Graduation Plans Means More Work for Texas School Counselors

As a school counselor at East Side Memorial, Jennifer Mullins juggles between catering to the academic and personal needs of students. That responsibility has increased since the state passed HB 5.
Credit Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, Tyler Whitson and Kate McGee take on education.

Jennifer Mullins is sitting in her office at Eastside Memorial High School when a staff member comes in and asks for a stress ball. There’s a student outside that needs help. Mullins walks out the door and immediately takes control. 

"Hey bud, hey! Stress ball! Just breathe," Mullins says.  The student was having a negative reaction to a medication.

Mullins is one of two school counselors at Eastside Memorial High School who handles both emotional and academic support. Every student there is labeled at-risk. Mullins says she spends half her time dealing with students' needs outside the classroom.

Read more
Health
10:04 am
Fri April 24, 2015

State Health Tests Prodded Blue Bell Recall

A sign on an ice cream case in an Austin convenience store warns shoppers of the Blue Bell recall.
John Jordan/Texas Tribune

Via the Texas Tribune:

It’s the phone call no company in Texas wants to receive.

Shortly after lab tests on two Blue Bell ice cream flavors — Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough — came back “presumptive positive” for the deadly bacteria Listeria monocytogenes , Kathy Perkins reached for the phone and contacted the Brenham-based company with the unfavorable news.

Read more
Austin
8:07 am
Fri April 24, 2015

Why Texas Isn’t Paying for What it Wants from Austin’s Classrooms

Public education in Texas faces funding challenges, and the Austin Independent School District may be the perfect poster child for the issue.
Nathan Bernier/KUT News

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, Tyler Whitson and Kate McGee take on education.

It’s no secret that public education in Texas faces funding challenges, and the Austin Independent School District may be the perfect poster child for the issue. While the district sends more tax revenue to the state annually for redistribution than any other, it implemented austerity measures in 2008 and has been dipping into its reserves since 2012.

AISD Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley stressed the issue when she spoke with the Austin Monitor. “We're utilizing our reserves to really maintain funding that we know is important for students,” she said.

Read more
2016 Election
5:14 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

The Ticket: A Presidential Podcast

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the pilot episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root bring back the Tribune's “Stump Interrupted” feature to break down Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement speech at Liberty University last month and talk with former Texas GOP Chairman and current Rand Paul campaigner Steve Munisteri.

The Salt
4:32 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

How Texas Ranchers Try To Clinch The Perfect Rib-Eye

Donnell Brown and another cowboy move a grouping of bulls from one pen to another on rib-eye ultrasound day in March at the R.A Brown Ranch.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 6:03 pm

We're heading into grilling season, which means breaking out the burgers and brats. But if you're a true meat lover, the slab you'll want to be searing is the rib-eye.

The rib-eye is the bestselling cut of beef in America both at the supermarket and the steakhouse, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Beef lovers go crazy for it because of its marbling — the network of fat within muscles that melts on the grill and makes the steak juicy and tender.

Read more
Texas Standard
3:17 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Will Police Harass More Blacks for Open Carry Than Whites?

A Texas lawmaker is worried blacks will be harassed more often for open carry than whites. His amendment may have opened a back door to unlicensed carry statewide.
Lucio Eastman/Wikimedia Commons

From Texas Standard

The open carry of handguns has gotten a thumbs up from the Texas Legislature this session – not too much surprise there.

But one unexpected amendment would prevent police officers from stopping those who carry openly just to check for the proper licensing. 

Read more
Life & Arts
3:13 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Chickens and Chaos: Why Austin Comedy is Sort of Like a Moon Tower

Austin, Texas is the only city in the world known still to have moonlight towers.
Jeremy Fuksa/flickr

Four years ago, non-native Austinite Jim Ritts thought it was time the Live Music Capital of the World had its own comedy festival.

“It’s a phenomenal festival town,” he says, and he figured that Austin could make room for a fest devoted solely to comedy. What with the recent “comedy renaissance” and the strong local comedy scene in Austin, he felt like the timing was perfect to launch the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, which is taking place now through Saturday around town.

Read more
It's All Politics
1:14 pm
Thu April 23, 2015

Senate Confirms Loretta Lynch As Attorney General

Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2015.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 1:23 pm

The Senate voted Thursday, 56-43, to approve the nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as U.S. attorney general, ending a more than five month-long political impasse that had stalled her bid to become the first black woman to lead the Justice Department.

Lynch, 55, grew up in the shadow of the civil rights movement in North Carolina, where her family had preached for generations. Most recently, she prosecuted terrorists, mobsters and white collar criminals as the top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, a district that covers 8 million people.

Read more
Texas Standard
11:21 am
Thu April 23, 2015

Books for Avoiding April Showers

62295661@N07/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

Clay Smith of Kirkus Reviews brings us two hard-hitting books to read during April showers – both of them tackling issues swirling about in popular media and the news.

In fiction, Smith recommends God Help the Child by Toni Morrison. In the book Morrison, the only living Nobel prize winner for literature, tackles race and childhood.

Read more
In Black America Podcast
10:10 am
Thu April 23, 2015

In Black America Podcast: A Talk With Janet Cheatman Bell

Janet Cheatman Bell
Kevin O. Moone

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Janet Cheatham Bell, author, editor and publishing consultant.

After graduating from Indiana University in 1964, Bell began her professional career as a high school librarian in Saginaw, Michigan. In early 1968 she accepted a position at the Ohio University Library in Athens. A few months later, in the wake of student responses to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the university recruited her to teach freshman composition and African American literature.

Read more
The Two-Way
9:30 am
Thu April 23, 2015

U.S. Operations Killed Two Hostages Held By Al-Qaida, Including An American

President Obama expresses his condolences today to the families of the American and Italian aid workers killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 4:31 pm

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

President Obama offered his "grief and condolences" to the families of the American and Italian aid workers killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January. Both men were held hostage by al-Qaida.

"I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qaida," Obama said.

Read more
Transportation
8:30 am
Thu April 23, 2015

More Lanes Are Coming to Austin's Highways, But They Won't Be Free

The MoPac Improvement Project will add one tolled lane in each direction to North MoPac. The lane will be free for transit.
Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, we take on Austin’s highways. You can read Tyler Whitson's companion piece over at the Austin Monitor.

We hear it all the time: Austin’s growing too fast, and we don’t have enough housing or roads for the people already here, not to mention the million more people that will be in the region in a little over a decade. To better accommodate an influx of people and cars, new additions are being planned for several of the region’s major highways. 

But there’s no such thing as a free ride on most of these new lanes, and to understand why, it helps to do a little time traveling.

Read more
Texas Standard
3:28 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Pre-K Funding Widens Rift Between Abbott and Patrick

Proposed legislation surrounding pre-K education becomes more than just parental rights this week.
US Dept of Education/flickr

From Texas Standard:

In a letter presented Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s Grassroots Advisory Board called two pre-kindergarten enhancement bills in the Texas Legislature “a threat to parental rights.”

The letter also called out the bills for being “godless” and “socialistic" — a take that's at striking odds with that of Gov. Greg Abbott, who made pre-K funding a priority during his campaign.

Read more
Wayback Wednesday
2:55 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Why Texas' First Attempt at a Statewide Police Force Was a Crooked, Bloody Mess

A Texas State Police badge that sold for $4,000 last month in New Braunfels.
Credit Burley Auction Group

Today marks the 142nd anniversary of the state’s repeal of the Texas State Police. Like all states, Texas has a statewide law enforcement agency in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s state troopers, but the first iteration of the concept, which lasted only three years, was as unabashedly radical as it was a bloodstained, crooked and altogether haphazardly assembled endeavor.

The group of white, black and Hispanic men who fought on both sides of the Civil War – some were criminals, others were law enforcement who went on to serve in the Texas Rangers – were an incredibly effective force.

In their first month, the police made 978 arrests, according to the governor, of which 239 were for murder or attempted murder – the year prior, the state handily led the nation in deaths. They also enforced Reconstruction-era policies designed to protect African-Americans that were largely derided statewide, like guarding polling locations. However, they were also accused of murdering suspects, were essentially an illegal military extension of the state’s top office and were led by a corrupt, embezzling Adjutant General.

Read more
Texas Standard
2:14 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Port Arthur Wants Filmmakers to Blow Up Its Old Buildings

texasbackroads/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

Tough economic times can stimulate creative ways for cities to save or raise money. Sure, you could trim the workforce, or raise taxes to help fund urban renewal projects, but one Texas town is thinking a bit bigger: They want to take it to the silver screen.

Read more
Austin
10:59 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Why Your Speeding Ticket Doesn’t Pay For What You Think it Does

When Austinites pay traffic tickets and fines, where does that money end up?
Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

Travis County and the City of Austin take part in a regular fiscal dance with the State of Texas over who pays the costs of government. Over the next three days, KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.” Today, we take on Austin’s Municipal Courts. 

When Austin residents are handed traffic tickets or other Municipal Court fees and fines, they likely assume that the city is profiting handsomely from those often colorful sheets of paper. If they could see where those revenues go, however, they might come to a different conclusion.

In fact, the city’s current budget projects that the court will face a roughly $3.7 million shortfall in the fiscal year that started in October by incurring about $19.7 million in general expenses and pulling in about $16 million in general revenue. On top of that, it projects that the court will fall short in three of its special revenue funds and break even on the fourth.

Read more
Texas Standard
10:58 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Texas Walmart Stores Close Suddenly, Lay Off Workers Due to ‘Plumbing Problems’

Some employees and patrons are suspicious about the retailer’s claims. Could the real reason for the closures be union busting?
flickr.com/jeepersmedia

From Texas Standard:

Mega-retailer Walmart has closed five stores across the country – two in Texas – for one reason:

“They came in and announced that they were going to close the store for at least six months due to extensive plumbing issues,” says Jim Wright, City Attorney of Livingston, Texas. 

Read more
Texas
7:26 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Self-Driving Car Bill Stalled by Google, Carmakers

Both the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Google have come out against a bill in the legislature that would create a pilot program to test driverless cars in Texas.
Scott Schrantz

From the Texas Tribune: A bill to update Texas law for the age of driverless cars has stalled due to two serious roadblocks: Google and major car manufacturers. Both the technology giant and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, have come out against a proposal from state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, to create a pilot program aimed at monitoring and encouraging autonomous vehicle testing in Texas.

Google has previously encouraged the development of similar laws in other states including California and Nevada, yet is refusing to publicly explain why it is opposed to such a measure in Texas. At last week’s committee hearing on the bill, a Google representative registered as opposed to the measure — but declined to testify as to why. The Texas Tribune got a similar response from Google after repeated requests: “We have no comment to offer on this.”

Read more
All Tech Considered
7:02 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Google's New Search Algorithm Stokes Fears Of 'Mobilegeddon'

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. This week, Google is changing the way its influential search engine recommends websites on smartphones and tablets in a shift that's expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.
Virginia Mayo AP

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 4:37 pm

Google has a lot of algorithms. And the company updates them on a regular basis. But one update that started rolling out Tuesday has tech writers across the Internet warning of a coming "Mobilegeddon."

The change is only taking place on Google searches made on smartphones. The results will favor websites deemed "mobile friendly," giving them higher rankings than sites that are only optimized for desktops and laptops.

Read more
Life & Arts
4:03 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

On Story: Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Demme, and Ron Howard

Jonathan Demme in conversation with Paul Thomas Anderson.
Austin Film Festival

In this episode of On Story, hosted by Brian Ramos, directors take center stage. In the first half of the show, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson narrates a conversation with director Jonathan Demme, whose credits include Silence of the Lambs.

Then, film and TV icon Ron Howard talks about how all of his works are, at heart, suspense pieces.

Read more

Pages