Chip Skambis


Intern for KUT News.

Justice Department Supports UT’s Admissions Process

The Obama Administration says the University of Texas at Austin's consideration of race in admitting students is constitutional. 

The U.S. Justice Department revealed its support in a brief filed yesterday with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Department says UT does not use race as an absolute deciding factor and that it comes into play in relatively few admission decisions.

Supreme Court justices will hear arguments on the case, known as Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in October. Abigail Fisher is challenging the university’s admission policy, claiming that she was denied admission to UT in 2008 because she is white.

KUT News

Business Can Sue New Braunfels Over Can Ban

The Associated Press reports that a judge has ruled that tourism businesses and others can sue New Braunfels over the city's so-called "can ban." The city says it will appeal the decision and that the ban remains in effect.

Floating on area rivers is a longstanding tradition during hot Texas summers – one often enjoyed with a few adult beverages in tow. But turnout on local rivers has been down over the last several years, attributable to flooding, drought and, according to ban opponents, a recent prohibition on disposable containers.

The ban was approved last summer by the New Braunfels City Council over concerns about the cost of cleaning up after visitors. Voters affirmed the ban last November when it was brought to a ballot referendum by opponents.  The ban went into effect this summer.

National Beep Baseball Association

Imagine a baseball diamond.

Now imagine that first and second base are tall, buzzing, blue-foam pillars, and that third base is gone.

Now imagine six fielders and a couple "spotters," who direct fielders toward a beeping ball — because everyone except the spotters, the pitcher and catcher are blind and/or blindfolded.

That’s what a beep baseball game looks like. 

The 2012 National Beep Baseball Association World Series is underway in Ames, Iowa, where several teams of blind and visually impaired players will compete. Representing Austin, the Blackhawks added another win in their fight for the pennant Thursday.

That’s a lot of Chimichangas: The parent company of Austin restaurant chain Chuy’s made its initial stock offering Monday, raising $75.8 million.

Chuy's Holdings Inc. will begin trading shares today on the NASDAQ exchange, under the trading symbol CHUY. It makes Chuy’s Austin's newest publicly-traded company.

The Austin-American Statesman reports that the company originally filed for an initial public offering in August of last year, amid a market downturn when few companies were making IPOs. But the market has since strengthened, and the IPO window has reopened.

Local West Nile Virus Case Confirmed

The Texas Department of State Health Services confirms there have been 32 cases of West Nile neuroinvasive disease in Texas so far this year. One case has been confirmed in Travis County.  The individual has been hospitalized.

The neuroinvasive form of the disease can affect a person’s brain or spinal cord, and can be fatal. The first deadly case of the disease was confirmed in Texas earlier this month, but there are reports of as many as three deaths in the state. West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes, causes the disease.

West Nile fever, also caused by the virus, is generally considered less serious because it does not invade the nervous system. The CDC reports that roughly half the cases that states have reported so far this year are of the the more serious form of the disease.

Divya Darsi for KUT News

The University of Texas at Austin is joining the Worker Rights Consortium. The WRC will monitor working conditions of factories that make UT apparel.

The move comes after recent protests by student activists who denounced conditions in these factories and called for closer monitoring.

Tara Doolittle is a spokesperson for UT. She says joining the consortium can offer consumers peace of mind about where UT products come from.

"We are certainly concerned about the working conditions of the folks who make the apparel that bears our name — and we now have two agencies helping us make sure those conditions are what they should be," said Doolittle.

Pete Souza

Tickets to President Barack Obama’s Austin fundraising events range from $250 to $25,000. And while his campaign expects to net millions in contributions, that’s only an appetizer compared to overall costs of the 2012 presidential campaign.

Money is the fuel that feeds political campaigns, making these fundraising stops a little like going out to eat – except with speeches and hordes of reporters following you, some of whom recently noted President Obama eats ice cream cones with a spoon.

But in the interest of keeping it weird, we looked at what Austin food this fundraising money could buy.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

President Barack Obama will campaign in San Antonio and Austin today, where he has four fundraisers planned to raise money big money.The visit is expected to cause traffic problems in Austin during this evening’s rush hour.

While Air Force One is scheduled to touch down in Austin around 4:25 p.m., the exact route of the president’s motorcade is classified for security reasons. Consequently, no one’s sure just how bad any resultant traffic tie-ups will be.

Capital Metro service will be detoured within the following perimeters: Fifth Street, Congress, Lamar and Riverside.

Officer William Pieper courtesy of UTPD Facebook page

UT Students and Families Victims of Scam

The University of Texas at Austin is warning students and their families about a kidnapping scam.

Relatives of at least four students have received phone calls in the past six weeks claiming their child or grandchild had been kidnapped or is in need of medical care. The caller then asks for money.

UT Police say the perpetrator has an accent and demands that funds be placed into a foreign bank account.  

UT police is investigating the scam along with the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

At a meeting tonight, the Urban Transportation Commission will hear a presentation on potential changes to Austin’s valet parking ordinance.

Currently, a valet business can lease the use of a public parking spot for $250 a year. And approximately 180 parking spots are used for valet parking downtown. But as the city grows and parking becomes more scarce, calls have emerged to reconsider the fee, which hasn’t been modified since 1999.

Talks between the city and valet operators have been going on since August of last year. Both the city and the valet operators favor a change to an hourly rate. 

Photo courtesy of via Creative Commons

Certain DirecTV channels may go off the air at midnight as the company’s contract with Viacom expires.

The current state of negotiations between the companies indicates those channels — which include Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV — will go black for DirecTV subscribers at that time.

In a blog post, Viacom says that talks "have reached an impasse" and that it deserves higher fees, while DirecTV says the company is looking for an increase of more than 30 percent.

Viacom says that DirecTV is offering to pay less than “any other distributor in the industry.”

U.S. Department of Defense

Overnight Fires Claim At Least 3 Lives

Austin firefighters responded to two deadly fires early this morning. Crews removed two children from a structure at 6226 Wagon Bend Trail in Southeast Austin. The two young boys, ages five and seven, were later pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators believe the fire started in a car and spread to the home. But AFD Spokesperson Lt. Jim Baker says the scene is still under investigation. Baker says investigators have not yet been able to enter the building.

One person was killed in a second overnight fire at 5311 Chico Street in East Austin. Fire crews were able to rescue four other people. Three of the fire victims were transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge for treatment.  A firefighter also suffered minor burns.

KUT News

Twenty-eight percent of high school students have sent naked pictures of themselves through email or text, according to a study led by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The researchers also found that teens who sexted were more likely to have had sex than those who did not send out nude photos of themselves.

City of Yuma, Arizona

The temperature isn’t the only thing rising this July: So is auto theft.

July is one of the more popular months for car thieves in Texas, according to the Austin Police Department.

This month, police are taking part in a “Watch Your Car” campaign, which aims to educate Austinites on ways they can prevent their cars from being stolen.

APD will be at the Barton Creek Mall today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to offer community services designed to curb car thefts.

Governor's Office

No Vote on ‘No Sit, No Lie’

Austin’s Public Safety Commission decided to push back until August a decision on expanding the city’s “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance to the 12th Street and Chicon Street area.

The ordinance bans anyone from sitting or sleeping on streets near businesses, banks, and ATMs. Right now, it’s in effect downtown.

The Blackshear and Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association has been trying to bring the ordinance east of Interstate 35 in hopes of combating drug and prostitution problems.

But the Public Safety Commission isn’t convinced “No Sit, No Lie” is the best option.

Chip Skambis

Austin military veterans and Texas-based entrepreneurs have launched an online portal to connect vets and their spouses to openings in franchise employment and ownership.

The initiative aims to help improve the high unemployment rate among veterans, which has reached 7.2% in Texas.

The Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centerand The Dwyer Groupannounced their support and collaboration with the International Franchise Association in creating The Veterans Franchise (VetFran) Toolkit.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Electricity Demand Hit New June Record Yesterday

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas, reported hitting a new June record for peak electric demand Monday. Electricity use peaked from 4-5 p.m., when 65,047 megawatts were needed.

A previous record occurred last June, when 63,102 megawatts were used. ERCOT’s all-time peak demand, at 68,379 megawatts, occurred last August.

Triple digit temperatures are forecast for the remainder of the week in Austin. 

Chip Skambis

The Dell Children’s Medical Center dealt with five drowning incidents last weekend, including one confirmed fatality. Doctors say the incidents serve as a powerful reminder of the need for water safety, especially for children.

“Having been in the ER now for almost 32 years, watching the parents and feeling and sharing their pain, I can say these events are just tragic—and, for the most part, preventable,” Dell Children’s chief of emergency medicine Dr. Pat Crocker says.

Crocker noted three steps parents could take to prevent drowning incidents. One is simply keeping an eye on their kids in the pool, because most children don’t have a chance to make any noise before going under.

KUT News

Lawmakers to Hear Testimony on STAAR Implementation

State lawmakers will get an update today on how the rollout of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, known as STAAR, went this spring. The exam is the state’s latest school accountability test.

Figures released this month indicated that many Texas ninth graders performed poorly on the test. As the Texas Tribune previously reported, “This year, the scores on the exams don’t count toward high school students’ final grades or toward school districts’ accountability ratings. But a requirement that students retake a test if they do not achieve a minimum score remains in place.” So due to low scores, many students will retake exams this summer.

(clockwise from left) Umlauf Gallery; photo courtesy; photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Cap Metro Preps Layoffs in Labor Transition; Says Most Employees Will Be Offered Jobs

Capital Metro is laying off more than 800 union employees as it prepares to outsource those jobs to two contractors.

The transit agency says the union workers will be offered jobs under the new operators, as long as they can pass driving and drug tests.

More than 50 supervisors are also being laid off. They are not part of the union so they are not guaranteed new jobs, but will be given first consideration, Cap Metro says.