Crystal Chavez, KUT News

Morning Edition Producer

Crystal Chavez has been at KUT since January 2007.  She currently produces the Central Texas content for Morning Edition and starts her day in the newsroom at 4:30 a.m.  Crystal is a 2005 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Communication.  Her hometown is Corpus Christi, Texas.

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Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News.

Horns Move up in College Football Rankings

Texas has moved up in college football rankings after stomping Texas Tech Saturday. The Horns started the weekend unranked, and ended at 21 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Texas is ranked 16th in the latest BCS Standings.

Photo courtesy of Advanced Micro Devices.

Computer chip maker Advanced Micro Devices announced major changes in its product management, to keep up with the way people are using technology. The Sunnyvale, California-headquartered company is cutting 1,400 jobs nationwide, including 320 jobs in Austin.

Photo by KUT News.

Sentencing Set in High Profile Investment Scheme Case

The Associated Press reports sentencing is set for today for the former CEO of an Austin-based investment firm that used former NFL stars to defraud hundreds of investors. People lost more than $50 million in investments they thought were legitimate.

Kurt Branham Barton, founder of Triton Financial, was convicted on 39 counts, including wire fraud and money laundering. The AP reports the charges could carry up to life in prison:

Prosecutors said Barton wanted to hang out with NFL players and used money that investors thought was for real estate deals and short-term business loans to pay for a luxury box at University of Texas football games, a $150,000 car and family trips on private jets. None of the athletes, including some who lost millions, was accused of wrongdoing.


AMD Cutting Global Workforce by About 10 Percent

Liang Shi/KUT News

Texas public school districts have an estimated 32,000 fewer employees than they may have had if the state hadn’t cut more than $5 billion in public education spending during the legislative session. That includes almost 12,000 fewer teachers.

The numbers are from this report released by an Austin-based school finance consulting firm. Moak, Casey & Associates recently surveyed school districts across the state. 60 participated.

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Time is Running Out to Cast an Early Ballot

Tomorrow is the last day of early voting for the November 8th elections. Texans are voting on ten state constitutional amendments. KUT has been reporting on each of these propositions; you can check those stories out here.

Image courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration.

The first of four new body scanners has arrived at Austin’s airport, courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials say the scanner is not yet operational. They did not have specifics of when it would be, but a news release said they would be up and running "over the coming days."

Body scanners are controversial. Some state lawmakers have called them a violation of privacy. But the TSA says Austin is getting new so-called Advanced Imaging Technology machines. They do not use X-rays, and they come equipped with new software which officials say is less invasive.

Photo by Simrat Sharma for KUT News.

Austin Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense has announced the death of a solider from Austin. 38 year-old Sergeant James M. Darrough was one of four U.S. soldiers killed in a suicide car bombing Saturday in Kabul Province, Afghanistan. Sgt. Darrough was with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The Associated Press reports he is survived by his parents, his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Funeral Today for Round Rock Soldier

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

What does the future hold for the Texas drought? Two Texas Senate committees heard testimony today on what has become the worst single-year dry spell in Texas history. The state’s climatologist, John Nielsen- Gammon, told lawmakers not to expect relief anytime soon.

“Going forward this drought is likely to last another year at least because the primary trigger of the drought, La Nina in the Pacific, has returned so it’s extremely unlikely we will come out of drought conditions by the winter,” Nielsen-Gammon said during a hearing at the Capitol Tuesday morning. 

Texas Senators to Discuss Drought

Two Texas Senate committees are meeting this morning to discuss the state's ongoing drought. The Senate's Natural Resources Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee are meeting together to hear invited testimony from experts about the drought and how long it's likely to last. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows most of the state is still in exceptional or extreme drought status.

Officer-Involved Shooting in Georgetown

KUT News

Hasan Court Hearing Today

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled this morning for the accused Fort Hood shooter. A military judge will hear two motions brought forward by Major Nidal Hasan's defense. The defense is asking whether Hasan is entitled to certain expert assistance at the government's expense. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the shootings at Fort Hood in November 2009. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

Former Morton Prosecutor to Testify

Former Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson will have to provide testimony in an investigation into whether alleged misconduct by his office led to the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has denied Anderson's request to void a subpoena requiring him to answer question's from Morton's lawyers.

Image courtesy of Full Throttle Productions.

Austin’s not the only U.S. destination planning a Formula One auto race. A second F1 race, the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, will be run in New Jersey, starting in 2013. The race for the track being built southeast of Austin, the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix, is scheduled for November 2012. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says no public subsidies will be used for their race.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

2nd Drone to Patrol Texas-Mexico Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will soon have second drone to patrol the Texas-Mexico border. The Associated Press reports the Predator drone is scheduled to arrive in Corpus Christi next week. Officials had announced in July that the state would be getting another drone. Here are more details from the AP:

Photo by KUT News.

Several groups gathered at city hall today to speak out against proposed Austin Energy rate increases. The average residential electric bill would go up $10 to $20  a month next year.

The Austin Independent School District says early estimates show they would have to pay an additional $3 million more a year if rates increase. AISD officials say that would be a 25 percent jump in their utility costs.

Photo by KUT News.

Bastrop County: On the Road Back

Bastrop County is holding its second open house to talk about wildfire recovery. Everyone affected by the Labor Day wildfires is invited to the come-and-go event. Local, state and federal officials will be on hand to answer questions about debris removal, utilities, FEMA aid and more. Bastrop County officials say more than 250 families attended the first open house. Tonight’s meeting is from 6-8 p.m. at the Smithville Recreation Center.

AISD Board Discussing Facilities Plan Tonight

The Austin Independent School District’s board has a full agenda tonight. The board will hear some possible scenarios about how facilities could be used during the 2012-2013 school year.

Logo courtesy of Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board is once again considering whether to approve specialty license plates displaying the Confederate battle flag. The proposal has proved to be a hot button issue. Nineteen state representatives have sent a letter to the TxDMV expressing their opposition. Representative Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) says he’s deeply troubled by the proposal.

“It couldn’t be clearer to most people of color that the Confederate flag symbolism is reprehensible and is a reminder of a period in history that while we need to remember it, we don’t need to glorify it and for the State of Texas to lend any credibility to this symbolism is totally inappropriate,” Burnam told KUT News. 

Photo by Flickr user pantagrapher

Mexican Truck to Enter U.S. Today Under Trade Agreement

The first Mexican truck to deliver goods in the U.S. interior in the long-delayed portion of the NAFTA free-trade agreement is scheduled to cross the border at Laredo today. The Associated Press reports the truck, owned by Transportes Olympic, will be making a delivery to Garland, in the Dallas area.

This trucking agreement complies with a provision of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Some lawmakers and the Teamsters union are opposed, saying it will make U.S. highways more dangerous and cost American jobs. Here's KUT's reporting on when the deal was struck this summer. 

Autopsy Report Details Officer Involved Shooting

Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration

Precautionary Recall for Bagged Salads

Taylor Farms Retail Inc., a California company, is voluntarily recalling over 3,000 cases of various bagged salad blends because they could be contaminated with salmonella. The salad products were distributed in several states including Texas.

Logo courtesy of the LCRA

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Board voted unanimously today to pay the San Antonio Water System $30 million dollars to settle a $1.2 billion lawsuit SAWS had filed for breach of contract.

Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

LCRA to Vote on Key Water Policy Changes

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s trying to rework how it manages water in the face of this persistent drought. The LCRA Board is meeting this morning to vote on key changes to its water management plan.

Photo by Emily Donahue for KUT News.

High Fire Danger Today

A wind advisory is in effect for Central Texas until 6 p.m. We could see wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. A red flag warning is in effect from noon until 7 p.m.  A dry cold front has arrived, bringing strong winds and drier air meaning any wildfires would spread fast. Today's also going to be a lot cooler than it's been lately. High temperatures will only be in the mid 70s.