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West Fertilizer Plant Explosion
5:09 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Year Since West Fertilizer Plant Explosion is One 'Full of Questioning'

Loretta Volcik and her sister, Jeanette Holecek(L) sit at Volcik's home in West, Texas. Holocek and her husband, James, have lived with her sister since she lost her house in the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s been one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas – just north of Waco.
15 people were killed and more than 150 were injured. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the blast.

A year later there are many signs of recovery and rebuilding in the small town.
But, for some, the rebuilding process has been difficult.

West resident Loretta Volcik says overall, the past year has been filled with one thing: Questioning.

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HB2
4:14 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Abortion Doctors File Lawsuit Against Dallas Hospital For Revoking Privileges

Two Texas doctors have filed a lawsuit against University General Hospital Dallas for revoking their admitting privileges.
Nathan Bernier, KUT

Two Texas doctors are challenging a hospital for revoking their admitting privileges. In a letter, the hospital says granting admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions would be disruptive to the hospital’s reputation.

The two physicians are suing University General Hospital Dallas. Both doctors were also part of the first legal challenge to new Texas abortion law.

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Abortion
1:59 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Federal Judge Expects Texas Abortion Lawsuit to Reach Supreme Court

A lawsuit challenging a requirement that Texas abortion doctors receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is moving forward, but only as it applies to certain doctors in El Paso and McAllen.
Spencer Selvidge for KUT News

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Austin turned down a request to temporarily block a requirement of Texas' controversial new abortion law for clinics in El Paso and McAllen. But the judge is allowing the lawsuit to move forward – and predicts it will ultimately travel all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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West Plant Explosion
12:44 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

What's Been Done to Prevent Another West?

Memorials near the site of the explosion in the town of West, Texas
Terrence Henry/StateImpact Texas

WBUR's "Here and Now" aired this story today. See more here.

From StateImpact Texas: 

WEST, TX - Trucks and bulldozers are still working here, the site of an explosion a year ago today. A deadly blast tore through this small community, killing fifteen and injuring hundreds. Homes and schools were destroyed, with the damage estimated to be over a hundred million dollars. 

There's a lone charred tree that still stands at the location of the blast, but other than that, the site is mostly empty. Crosses and memorials that read "West Strong" and "West is the Best" line the road.

The explosion at the West fertilizer plant was one of the worst industrial disasters in Texas history. So what's Texas doing to prevent it from happening again?

"Well, technically, nothing has been done," says state Rep. Joe Pickett (D-El Paso), chair of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Pickett says since West happened near the end of the legislative session, he didn't want to rush in any "knee-jerk" rules or regulations.

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Poetry Month
8:39 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Video: Austin Notables Read Poetry by Kealing Middle School Students

To commemorate National Poetry Month, we've been airing poems by the students of Kealing Middle School's Blank Page writing program every day this April.

We're pretty proud of the lineup of talented Austinites we got to read those poems, including Patty Griffin, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Kathy Valentine, KUT's own John Aielli, and even Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. Check out a video of our distinguished poetry readers below.

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Texas
6:43 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

West Gets $4.8 Million to Fix Water System

A scene from West after the explosion on April 17, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Texas town of West is getting $4.85 million more to help recover from the fertilizer plant explosion that happened one year ago this week. Fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured in the blast on April 17, 2013. 

Governor Perry authorized the funding a day before a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. West Mayor Tommy Muska didn't question the timing of the grant.

"It shows a lot of cooperation between local, state and federal that we can come together and secure these funds within one day of the anniversary and move forward," Muska told KUT. 

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Texas City Blast
3:35 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Before the West Explosion, There Was Texas City

Texas City as viewed from the air, April 16, 1947
Credit AP archival photo

April 17 marks exactly a year since one of the biggest industrial disasters in American history: the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that left 15 people dead, more than 150 injured, and large parts of the town flattened and destroyed.

Shocking as it was, the West explosion is not the worst industrial disaster in American history. That anniversary is today, April 16 – marking 67 years since the Gulf Coast town of Texas City was razed.  

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Mental Health
1:13 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Fighting Stigma of Mental Illness Goal of New Texas Nonprofit

Despite money put towards mental health care in Texas last legislative session, Texas ranks near the bottom in spending per capita on mental health. A new mental health policy nonprofit in Texas will work to identify ways to improve access to services.
Liang Shi for KUT News

Improving mental health practices for Texas and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness is the goal of a new statewide institute. Its focus will be on children, veterans and criminal justice policies.

The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute opened its doors today. Tom Luce, its chief executive officer, says the nonprofit will do research to improve access to mental health care in Texas – and not just after emergencies like the recent Fort Hood shooting.

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Life & Arts
10:49 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Novelist Elizabeth Strout Talks About 'The Burgess Boys'

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout visited KUT Austin to speak about her book "The Burgess Boys"
Credit Samantha Ortega for KUT News

The novel "The Burgess Boys" took the nation by storm last year. This month, the novel is available in paperback.

The follow-up to Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel "Olive Kitteridge" spent weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list and months making the rounds of book-circles.

Elizabeth Strout visited with the Texas Standard's Emily Donahue to talk about her book. Listen to their conversation in the audio player below.

Politics
8:52 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Castro-Patrick Immigration Debate Offers Plenty of Attacks, Few Solutions

Mayor Julian Castro and Sen. Dan Patrick shake cordially after their San Antonio debate on April 15, 2014.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been making headlines for taking what some consider a hard line on immigration in his campaign. Last night, he squared off against San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro over the topic.

The genesis of the debate was a squabble on Twitter between the two –started in large part because of State Sen. Dan Patrick's comments calling undocumented immigrants entry into Texas an "invasion." In the debate, Mayor Castro quickly revisited that topic.

“I want to break news to the Senator, that we’re about to celebrate San Jacinto Day, but Texas is not being invaded by Mexico. I can assure you of that," Castro joked.

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On My Block
6:00 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Austin: What's the One Thing That Would Make Life On Your Block Better?

What one thing would make life on your block better? KUT wants to hear from you.

What's the one thing that would make life on your block better?

As Austin prepares for its first elections with 10 new geographic districts, KUT is diving deeply into District One, which covers large parts of East Austin. But we want to hear from you, regardless of where you live. Tell us: What would make life better on your block? 

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AISD
8:08 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Austin School Board Names Paul Cruz Temporary Superintendent

Paul Cruz will run the largest school district in Central Texas while the school board searches for a long-term replacement for Meria Carstarphen.
AISD http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Austin school trustees unanimously appointed Paul Cruz as interim superintendent Tuesday night. They also accepted Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's resignation, as she heads to Atlanta to lead that city's public school system.

Carstarphen will remain superintendent until April 23, when her resignation goes into effect. The school district can have a superintendent and an interim superintendent at the same time, as Carstarphen helps Cruz assume his temporary position.

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Politics
7:20 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

REWATCH: Dan Patrick and Julian Castro Immigration Debate

State Senator and GOP Lt. Governor candidate Dan Patrick faced off against San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro in a televised debate over immigration tonight at 6pm.

The debate was moderated by the Texas Tribune's Evan Smith.

Education
4:49 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Calculator Directive for 8th-Graders Draws Concerns

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

As the state integrates a directive that requires eighth-graders in Texas public schools to have graphing calculators for STAAR testing, some poorer Texas school districts say that such mandates ignore the financial crunch that many districts are already facing.

In February, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams wrote to Texas superintendents to instruct them that they must ensure that eighth-grade students have graphing calculators for STAAR assessments, starting in the 2014-15 school year. The directive comes after the State Board of Education increased the algebra content on the exam, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a TEA spokeswoman.

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Arts Eclectic
1:52 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Be a Part of the Latest Version of 'The Intergalactic Nemesis'

There have been many incarnations of The Intergalactic Nemesis over the years. The 1930s era science fiction story started life as a live radio serial staged in a coffee shop, then became an actual radio serial that ran right here on KUT many years ago. Then there was a revised version of the stage show, then a comic book series, and finally a live action graphic novel, which combines all the previous elements into a large-scale show that has toured the world.

But it’s never been captured for the screen until now. This Saturday at the old Austin City Limits Studio, The Intergalactic Nemesis will tape its newest incarnation before a live audience. The show will go back to its radio serial roots in a way, as it becomes a series of short web videos produced by KLRU and PBS. It'll also be available as a TV broadcast and a DVD.

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