Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Reporter

I started working at KUT November 2007. If you're a weekend NPR listener, you may have caught my reports on KUT during "Weekend Edition" or "All Things Considered". I keep tabs on what happens on Saturdays in Austin and other environment, science and development  news.

I came to KUT after working behind scenes in the newsroom at KEYE-TV in Austin. I'm a proud Texas State Bobacat. I love to write, be creative, clicking away on the internet, reading history books, anything outdoors, and I always love a rich conversation. Drop me line if you've got an interesting story to tell.

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Health
4:20 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Austin Medicare Workshop Helps With Enrollment

People living in Central Texas nursing homes and assisted living centers compete in games annually. President Obama pulled an insurance option out of the new healthcare law that would have given people money to help pay for nursing home costs.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Austin Groups for the Elderly held a Medicare workshop Saturday, the first day of the annual Medicare enrollment period. This year the annual enrollment period is earlier than usual. It also ends earlier, December 7th.

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Texas
5:36 pm
Sat October 8, 2011

Farmers Insurance Plans To Increase Homeowner Premiums

Farmers Insurance Group plans to increase homeowner premiums in Texas by 10 percent next year because the high cost of claims the company has received over the last three years.
flickr.com/59195512@N00

Texas homeowners insured by Farmers Insurance Group could see their premiums increase by almost 10 percent next year. The Houston Chronicle reports the insurance company says the cost of claims in Texas has risen over the last three years.

The state's third-largest insurer needs the increase because of rising claims costs, said John Henle, state executive director of southern Texas for the company.

"Our losses over the past three years in Texas have been over $250 million, not including Hurricane Ike or the wildfires in Bastrop," he said.

The premium change would affect 350,000 people in Texas. The Texas Department of Insurance is reviewing the increase including another one by Farmers announced last month that would increase homeowner insurance rates and change deductibles.

Environment
5:40 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

White Stallion to Purchase Groundwater

The White Stallion plant would burn coal and petroleum coke, known as "pet coke" like this. This is a former RTI Coke Plant Parcel in Ohio.
Photo couresty of Ohio Office of Redevelopment at Flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/63837784@N08/5925932549/

A Gulf Coast landowner may sell groundwater to the builders of the proposed coal-fired power plant White Stallion in Matagorda County. The landowner has submitted an application to drill a well that would provide 1,199 acre feet of water a year to the power plant.

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Environment
12:54 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Inaugural SXSWeco Conference Getting Underway

Logo courtesy of SXSWeco

We all know about the South by Southwest music, film and interactive festivals but SXSW is delving into more civic engagement events.

It was just this past March when SXSW organizers launched their first ever SXSWedu for teachers, education researchers and state leaders. That education conference came at time when Texas lawmakers were laying out big cuts to public education.

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Austin
2:37 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Construction Delays With Formula One Race Track

A map shows where the F1 site will be in relation to the airport. Construction officially began in December.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News.

Construction of the proposed Formula One track complex in Southeast Travis County is slowing down, at least that is what some drivers and neighbors are reporting. Organizers broke ground on the 970-acre tract of land last December. The first race is scheduled for November 2012. It was pushed back from an original June date. Jacob Dirr is a freelance writer who covers Formula One development in Austin. He says the holdup could be stemming from a change-up in management.

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Texas
2:03 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

NRA Lawsuit To Lower Age For Guns Is Dismissed

A federal district judge in Lubbock dismissed a lawsuit brought forth by the NRA challenging the federal laws that bans people younger than 21 years old from purchasing handguns.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

A federal judge in Lubbock has blocked a National Rifle Association suit that claimed an age requirement on gun purchases was unconstitutional. The judge ruled that federal restrictions barring people younger than 21 from buying a gun do not violate the Second Amendment.

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National
11:18 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Leading Al Qaeda Figure, al-Awlaki Is Dead

In this image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites in November, 2010.
Photo courtesy of NPR.

Authorities in the U.S. and Yemen are confirming the death of leading al-Qaeda figure, 40-year old Anwar al-Awlaki.

It’s believed he was killed in a U.S. operation involving a drone and jets. The American born Muslim cleric has been outspoken in leading the al-Qaeda arm in Yemen. The Treasury Department put al-Awlaki on a list of designated terrorists in July of 2010.

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2012 Presidential Election
9:15 am
Tue September 27, 2011

Dewhurst Breaks From Perry's Position on Immigrant In-State Tuition

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is putting distance between himself and Governor Rick Perry over in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants in Texas. He said this in a TV news interview with Dallas’ WFAA.

"If we're not going to give fellow Americans who live in Louisiana or Oklahoma or New Mexico the ability to come into Texas and have in-state tuition and save, then is it fair to give that break to people who are not citizens here?" Dewhurst told WFAA said. "I would not have signed that law."

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Wildfire
6:31 pm
Sat September 24, 2011

Hays Co. wildfire threatens subdivision

A smoke plume from a wildfire north of San Marcos was visible from I-35 late Saturday afternoon.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News

UPDATE: 7:55 p.m.:  Authorities on the wildfire burning north of San Marcos are optimistic that rising humidity and dropping temperatures overnight will halt the fire's progress. The fire is about 50 percent contained, but air crews and firefighers will remain on the scene overnight to make sure the blaze doesn't spread. Sunday's forecast is for temperatures over 100 degrees again, with southwesterly winds between 10 and 20 mph.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m.:  The Hays County Sheriff's Department issued this update on the wildfire on Post Road:

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Sports
3:16 pm
Sat September 3, 2011

Longhorns' Chance To Redeem Themselves After Last Season's Meltdown

Longhorn fans set up tailgate tents and spots early Saturday morning on the UT campus for the football season opener against Rice University.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The Texas Longhorns will begin a new season fresh tonight as they play Rice University. Texas has several new players, six new coaches, new strategies, and an exclusive TV channel zeroed in on the Longhorns alone.

 “I think there’s more unanswered questions going into this game than there were in ‘98 because we at least knew the older players,” Head Coach Mack Brown told reporters Monday at his weekly press conference.  

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Environment
4:52 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Obama Delays Ozone Standards

The Obama Administration has delayed proposed ozone standard that were supposed to be issued today. Austin is on the brink of violation for its ozone leveled.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

Texas cities and counties will have more time to cut down on air pollution before new ozone standards come into effect in two years. President Obama pulled the plug on proposed ozone standards that were supposed to be announced today after multiple delays.

The decision could be considered a win for businesses that have argued that the federal government was going to revisit ozone standards in 2013 anyway. This is part of the statement the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality put out in response to the delay.

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Austin
2:21 pm
Sat August 27, 2011

Mopac Brush Fire Slows Traffic Near Windsor Rd

Austin firefighters are working a small brush fire along the access road of Mopac northbound near Windsor Rd. An Austin fire department spokesperson told KUT News the fire is under control but an electric pole is involved.

The westbound ramp off of Mopac near Windsor Rd. and Hartford Rd. is shut down.  Expect delays and traffic traveling northbound on Mopac near the area. Austin firefighters will remain on scene for an extended period of time.

The fire started at 1:45 p.m.

 

Education
4:46 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

UT Systems Launches "Framework" Plan

The UT Board of Regents approved a $243.6 million framework plan that is supposed to change the way UT universities operate.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa introduced a nine-point plan to increase undergraduate access and graduation rates, emerging research opportunities, teaching awards for faculty and improving efficiency and transparency. The UT Board of Regents voted unanimously to implement Cigarroa’s framework and commit $243.6 million to it. You can watch his address here.

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Environment
3:36 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

Auditorium Shores Gets $1 Million Grant For Improvements

A $1 million grant from the state's park agency will pay for improvements to Auditorium Shores and the city's most popular trailhead.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

Better restrooms, an educational water feature, and maybe a few more parking spaces could come to Auditorium Shores in the future. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has awarded the City of Austin a $1 million urban park grant to make improvements to the Austin’s most popular trailhead.

Austin Parks and Recreation is updating the master plan for Auditorium Shores and Butler Park. The grant will be used to complete projects in this master plan. The City of Austin is matching the TPWD grant.

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Austin
1:06 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

Rain Briefly Greets Austin This Afternoon

Brief showers developed over parts of Austin. NWS meteorologists say Austin could see a little bit more from small storms coming from East Texas.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Did you leave your car windows down today? You’ll probably return to some damp car seats. Parts of Austin finally saw some rain this afternoon. The weather that is usually considered an annoyance for those working and walking outside, was instead a welcome change.

“It wasn’t much, but it’s something,” said one of a group of construction workers who were relieved they finally have some cloud cover.

“It's cooler but it’s more humid,” said UT freshman Cristina Portillo. “I’d rather have the dry heat. ”

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Austin
7:06 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

4,000 Austin Energy Customers Without Power

Image courtesy Austin Energy

***Update: 08/25/11 5 a. m. Austin Energy's storm map shows power has been restored to all customers.

Earlier:

Austin Energy says there are some power outages that are occurring this evening. About 4,000 customers do not have power as of 7 pm. Drivers are encountering street lights that went black.

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Texas
10:36 am
Sat August 6, 2011

Bastrop Fire Still Burning

Firefighters are fighting a large brush fire in Bastrop County that is on the Camp Swift property. It started Friday afternoon. Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The City of Austin is reminding people that an outdoor smoking and fire ban remains in effect. This after a blaze along southbound Mopac near the Barton Skyway exit yesterday. The threat of wildfires remains dangerously high in the drought-parched region.

Health
6:03 pm
Sat July 30, 2011

Children's Mental Health Center Celebrates Anniversary

The Austin Child Guidance Center celebrated its 60th anniversary on Saturday.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The Austin Child Guidance Center celebrated its 60th anniversary this weekend with an open house at its 45th Street location. The Center has help treat 130,000 Austin children with mental health issues. This year may be one of the most challenging for the Center. Executive Director Russell Smith says 84 percent of the children that come to the Center live at 200 percent the federal poverty level or below. Most can qualify for some type of state health program such as CHIP or Medicaid.

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Texas
5:33 pm
Sat July 30, 2011

Travis County's Bond Rating Reviewed By Moody's

Travis County's bond rating will go through a review for possible downgrade by Moody's Investors Service.
Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Travis County’s AAA bond rating could be downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service if the federal government’s rating is lowered as well. Moody’s Investors Service sent a warning Thursday to 177 public finance issuers that each would be “placed under review for possible downgrade the AAA ratings.” Nine Texas governments were included:

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Health
5:09 pm
Sat July 30, 2011

"Biggest Loser" Casting Call In Austin

The line forms at the Long Center where eager Austin residents audition for a contestant spot on the weight-loss reality show.
Photo by Hannah Jones for KUT News.

The reality weight loss TV show “The Biggest Loser” came to Austin Saturday in search of new contestants for its thirteenth season. The casting call drew a good crowd to the Long Center where the try-outs were held. Michael Goana waited in line with hundreds of others.

“Life's a game itself,” he said.

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