News

Joy Diaz/KUT News

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice said criminalizing people who are homeless for sleeping in public places is unconstitutional. However, Austin’s had a “no sit/no lie” ordinance since the early ‘90s that bans homeless people from lying down on city sidewalks and sleeping in public.

While sleeping on public benches is legal, in the past few years the city’s cut back on the number of benches.

Guatemalan Activist Granted Stay of Deportation

Aug 18, 2015
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Sulma Franco, an LGBTQ activist from Guatemala, was granted a stay of deportation today by immigration officials in San Antonio. She traveled this morning from Austin to San Antonio with a group of activists and supporters to submit her application for the stay.

Franco had been facing deportation, and since June she'd been living in sanctuary at Austin's First Unitarian Universalist Church. Franco requested asylum in the U.S., but was denied based on a “clerical error,” according to activists working for her cause.

In Guatemala, LGBTQ activists have been targeted and killed, Franco argued. She says that she feared for her life there.

Drafthouse Films, Participant Media

From Texas Standard:

The 2013 film “The Act of Killing” broke the mold for documentary storytelling. It told the events of Indonesia's 1965 genocide — some estimate more than half a million people were purged following a coup —  from the perspective of the killers. The film even had the killers reenacting what they’d done.

Now, “The Look of Silence” tells the same story from another angle: that of those still living under the rule of the men who murdered their loved ones.

change.org

From Texas Standard:

Thursday, the University of Texas at Austin made headlines when it decided to relocate the statue of confederate leader Jefferson Davis from the university’s main mall to the Briscoe Center for American History. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans blocked this action by filing a request for a temporary restraining order.

As a result, the removal of the statue planned for this past Saturday has been delayed to allow a court to review the request.

Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis, says he agrees with the decision.

KUT News

A female inmate in the Travis County Correctional Complex has died after being found unresponsive Monday in the shower. 

Investigators announced the death this morning. Autopsy results are pending, but investigators found no evidence of foul play.

No cause of death was immediately released for 40-year-old Athena Covarrubias. Roger Wade of the Travis County Sheriff’s Department says that officials aren’t ready to speak on what the cause of death might be, but suicide is still being considered among other possibilities. “There’s a list of possibilities, but detectives aren’t ready to pin it down to one thing until the [medical examiner]’s office makes a ruling,” Wade says.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The City of Austin is doing a survey through the first week in September called the Asian-American Quality of Life Initiative. The idea is to find ways to improve the experience of Asian-Americans, the city's fastest growing ethnic group. While the City of Austin is not new to quality of life initiatives, the results and recommendations of the studies traditionally take a long time to come to fruition.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

From our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor:

The city of Austin handles public information requests on the honor system – without oversight to ensure those who are inquiring receive all the information they request.

An investigation into how the honor system works found that public information requests to City Council offices and departments under the city manager are handled differently and that there is no standard training for Council offices.

Currently, when a public information request is entered into the city’s system, the Public Information Request Team sends the request to a designated point of contact in each respective office, according to the law department. The point of contact processes the department’s search and uploads responses back into the tracking system, without oversight.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Starting this week, one of Austin’s most successful transportation programs will be more accessible to low-income Austinites. The B-cycle bike share program started a year and half ago. There’s been more than a quarter of a million bike trips on the system since, traveling more than 700,000 miles. Now, the company’s rolling out three new stations and new membership levels designed to include low-income residents.

There’s several membership options for the bike share system – locals can buy an annual one for $80 that gives them unlimited free trips under thirty minutes every year. And starting this week, any Austin resident making $25,000 or less a year can sign up for a membership that only costs $5 annually. 

facebook screenshot/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Don’t expect Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to apologize over a social media post that appeared to call for the atomic bombing of “the Muslim world” – despite an outcry from critics.

Miller, who is currently on a trade mission to China, did not personally share a controversial photo that appeared on his campaign Facebook account and has since been removed, Todd Smith, the Republican's campaign spokesman, said Monday. The commissioner has no plans to figure out which of his staffers shared the controversial posting, or to apologize, Smith said.

“We’re not going to apologize for the posts that show up on our Facebook page,” said Smith, estimating that 18 people have access to the campaign account. “I don’t know who did it, but I’m not going to start a witch hunt to find out who did.” 

Mose Buchele/KUT News

Even before oil prices plummeted last year, the town of Alice, Texas was feeling the pain caused by a restless oil industry. Some oilfield service companies had moved operations from Alice, located near Corpus Christi, to places deeper in the Eagle Ford Shale. That cost the town jobs and tax revenue. Then, starting around Thanksgiving, the value of Texas crude dropped by more than half. More layoffs came, and the real trouble started.

"A lot of people are in depression right now. And in denial," says Bonnie Whitley, volunteer coordinator at the Alice Food Pantry. "They just can’t come to grips with what’s happened. So there’s depression and we really need some good counselors down here. Which we don’t have…”

sarowen/flickr

Austin, Houston, Brenham and parts of Alabama will be the first to see Blue Bell ice cream back in stores later this month.

The Brenham-based company said today it would start rolling products back out Aug. 31, after listeria contamination at its production facilities forced it to recall all of its products and shut down its factories for cleaning. The contamination was linked to 10 illnesses, three of which resulted in deaths. 

Image via Flickr/Liz West (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Jim Stever could show you an original letter from Sam Houston to someone at the Battle of San Jacinto.

For almost 35 years, the 90-year-old World War II veteran has been collecting letters written during the days of the Republic of Texas. 

Image via Flickr/Paul Townsend (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Tamara Tabo runs The Center for Legal Pedagogy, and she has some concerns over how authorities are handling the cases of more than 170 bikers arrested in the May 17 shootout in Waco, Texas.

This summer, KUT is revisiting episodes of the podcast "Higher Ed." This episode was originally posted on April 5, 2015.

Each week, KUT's Jennifer Stayton talks with Dr. Ed Burger, President of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, about higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. This week, Ed and Jennifer put away their smartphones and tablets for a few minutes to talk about the relationship between technology and learning. It seems like technology has made it easier to access more information more quickly. That's good, right? But can all that hardware, software, and information be more distraction than enrichment? Listen on to find out.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson/Texas Tribune

The University of Texas at Austin is postponing plans to begin the removal of statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and President Woodrow Wilson from the school's Main Mall.

UT confirms the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a request Friday for a temporary restraining order to block the statues' removal, which had been planned for Saturday. 

The request was drafted by Kirk Lyons, an attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

KUT News

It’s been over a year since the ride-on-demand companies Uber and Lyft began operating in Austin. But it hasn’t yet been a full year yet since the companies were legally allowed to operate in Austin by the city under a pilot program. Extending that agreement could make for a bumpy road now that Uber has filed suit against the City of Austin and Texas Attorney General.

Failure is a word that carries a lot of baggage, arousing emotional responses that we’d usually rather avoid. 

What about success? Why does the thought of success conjure images and feelings of comfort and satisfaction. This week, "Two Guys on Your Head" examine how the heights of success and the "training wheels" of failure impact our everyday lives.

flickr.com/jfingas

Starting today, all of Austin's P. Terry's Hamburgers drive-thru only locations will allow walk-up access, according to owner Patrick Terry. 

After Austinite (and transit advocate) Jace Deloney pointed out on Twitter that a friend of his on foot had been turned away from the P. Terry's drive-thru on South Congress and Ben White, the company said Thursday it wouldn't be safe to allow walk-up access at their drive-thru only locations. Deloney pointed out a section of the city's municipal code that says drive-thru only businesses "must provide safe and convenient access for pedestrians to the drive-through facility."

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In football, there are positions, like quarterback, that get you a lot of attention. They get the glory, the endorsements, and the scrutiny when things go wrong. Take, for example, the heap of blame Russell Wilson took for that last-minute interception in the Super Bowl.

However, one of the most anonymous positions in football, if not in all of sport, is the long snapper. But an ex-Longhorn who's battled the odds throughout his career in football — from learning to long snap on YouTube to joining the Special Forces to becoming a walk-on at UT — is raising the profile of the position in his quest to become the NFL's oldest rookie.

From the Texas Standard.

As recently as 1989 there were almost 1,300 metal truss bridges in the state. Now, we’re down to around 130 — just 10 percent of what we had 25 years ago.

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