Hady Karl Mawajdeh

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Austin
1:38 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

News of Social Gaming Layoffs Spreads Through Social Media

Screen shot of a Twitter post by California-based designer.

Social gaming company Zynga is laying off five percent of the company’s total workforce. That means about 100 layoffs in Austin and others in Boston.

The company says the move is an attempt to streamline operations and focus resources on their "most strategic opportunities.”

The move comes just weeks after the company’s stock plummeted 18 percent.

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Austin
6:51 am
Wed October 24, 2012

The Mueller Development Keeps on Developing...

Future AMLI apartment community at Mueller.
AMLI

AMLI Residential, builder of several high profile apartment communities in Austin, has announced it is going to build a mid-rise project in Mueller town center.

AMLI says it plans to build a $30 million, 279-unit apartment complex on Simond Avenue, across from Lake Park and the new Austin Children’s Museum. The community will contain 20 percent efficiencies, 56 percent one-bedroom apartments and 24 percent two-bedroom apartments.

Prices for the apartments will be set during the pre-leasing process, but 15 percent of the units will be included in the Mueller Affordable Homes Program, which is for residents who earn 60 percent or less of Austin’s median family income.

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UT Longhorn Football
9:39 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Mack Brown: Longhorn Network Leaving UT a 'Little Overexposed'

Longhorns coach Mack Brown vented his frustrations with the Longhorn Network yesterday.
KUT News

If you ask a Longhorn fan their thoughts about the Longhorn Network, you might hear complaints about its cable carrier agreements. Ask a rival team's fans, and you might hear grumblings about the cash cow the network represents for the Forty Acres. 

But if you ask University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown his thoughts about the Longhorn Network, you might just get a piece of his mind.

That's what happened yesterday at Brown’s weekly press conference, where he spoke rather frankly about the effect the network is having on the Horns this football season.

Brown argued that the Longhorns are a “little overexposed” this year. He cited a conversation he had with Baylor Head Coach Art Briles where he was told that “Baylor sees every practice.” He also thinks that opponents north of Waco are watching too.

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City Council
10:02 am
Thu October 18, 2012

City Council Preview: Short-Term Rentals, F1 Briefing and Naming a Waller Creek Winner

It's a full list for members of the Austin City Council today.
Callie Hernandez, KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes this morning. It's tackling a 104-item agenda. Here’s a rundown of the hot topics:

The Return of Short-Term Rentals: After wreaking havoc and sowing division on the council dais mere months ago, short-term rental regulations returns to council today. As KUT News reported earlier this week, council is looking at whether more people would comply with recently-passed regulations if it were easier and less expensive to do so.

Council is looking at two rental-related items – one asking the city manager to look at revamping several areas, and another lowering the cost of neighborly rental notification to a flat $50 – but some council members have concerns. "Responding to the growing pains of getting these registered immediately is just really problematic to me," council member Laura Morrison said earlier this week. "Until we get some feel for how things are working under our belts, otherwise, I can assure you there will be another set that we need to be working on soon."

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Sports
8:17 am
Thu October 18, 2012

With Bowl Bid, Houston Dreams of Being 'Super' Once More

Reliant Stadium is in the running to host the Super Bowl in 2017.
flickr.com/deltamike

The City of Houston has been selected as one of two finalists to host Super Bowl LI in February 2017.

At the NFL’s Fall Meeting, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that San Francisco and South Florida will duke it out for the opportunity to host the NFL’s 50th Super Bowl, Super Bowl L, in 2016. Goodell says the losing city will compete with Houston for the chance to host Super Bowl LI.

NFL owners will vote on the two Super Bowl sites during league meetings in Boston next May.

Houston’s bid is being lead by the Texans, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor Bureau, the Harris County – Sports Authority and Reliant Park.

Texans president Jamey Rootes says Houston should feel good about their chances to host the Super Bowl in 2017.

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Transportation
9:48 am
Tue October 16, 2012

TxDOT Looking at High-Speed Rail from Oklahoma to Texas

A map from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program. A rail line from Texas to Oklahoma is earmarked for study.
Federal Railroad Administration

The Texas Department of Transportation has moved one step closer towards the idea of using rail as an option to address highway congestion on Interstate 35. The news comes as the TxDOT kicks off a $14 million, two-year study to explore the possibility of passenger rail service from Oklahoma City to South Texas.

The study will examine the best possible options for the development of passenger trains that will connect metropolitan areas such as the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Austin, and San Antonio.  The analysis will compare different types of services, including both a new high-speed rail system and existing Amtrak routes.

John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director and chief engineer, says “passenger rail [is] a strategic component for the future of Texas transportation.”

The rail study is partially funded by a $5.6 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program, and a 20 percent match by TxDOT.

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The Lead
9:03 am
Tue October 16, 2012

The Lead: Aerial Surveillance, Cyber Warfare, Cuts Coming at AMD?

Good morning. Austin can expect cloud coverage for most of the day, and the occasional shower. The National Weather Service says we can a 40 percent chance of rain today. Here's some of KUT’s top stories this morning:

Here's  more stories of interest from Central Texas: 

  • Cyber Warfare Here To Stay; Austin Could Play Key Role (KVUE)

"It's a spy versus spy kind of world," said Ken Phillips, business development manager at Overwatch Textron Systems. The Austin-based business is developing the latest line of defense against cyber threats, which focuses on security at the file level in order to overcome internal leaks or systems that have been compromised.

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Austin City Limits
4:30 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Need ACL Info on Bands, Food and Aftershows? We've Got You Covered

Another ACL festival is dawning - and we've got you covered.
flickr.com/kevharb

The 2012 Austin City Limits Festival is less than 24 hours away.

Thousands of ACL attendees are probably compiling lists of bands to see, foods to eat, and places to go. But it's going to be a challenge: There's over 100 different acts performing at the festival, close to 40 different vendors serving all types of food and drink, and tons of events and parties going on all over downtown Austin.

While we can’t put your list together for you, maybe we can help you get started.

Here's some picks compiled by KUT's Austin Music Matters team: 

From Susan Castle, KUT Music Host:

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Business
8:59 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Austin Social Startup Acquired by California Company

A view of Lithium's current look for online communities.
Lithium Technologies

It's no secret that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way companies interact with their consumers.

Corporations and small businesses alike need to have a plan for handling customer interactions via the internet  – at least that's what one Austin startup believes. And a big technology company is buying into the idea.

Lithium Technologies, a California-based company, announced it acquired Austin startup Social Dynamx this week.

Social Dynamx was founded last year by a group of Austin software industry experts as the “industry’s first purpose-built social customer care platform.” That's a fancy way of saying Social Dynamx’s technology assists companies in monitoring conversations via social media sites in order to respond fittingly to customers' comments or complaints.

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Health
1:15 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

San Antonio's New Vending Machines May Scold Your Soda Choice

Going for a full calorie cola? New vending machines will encourage you to “Check Then Choose,” or “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”
flickr.com/omarriva

Starting in 2013, San Antonio will be one two cities debuting new vending machines aimed at providing healthier beverages to consumers.

According to the American Beverage Association, San Antonio and Chicago will feature the first line of soda vending machines labeled with a prominently labeled calorie count, along with flashing messages asking consumers to think before they drink.

The program is an attempt by the association to get ahead of  upcoming government regulations in the Affordable Care Act requiring calorie counts to become more visible. The idea is to make Americans pay closer attention to the calorie counts in what they consume, thereby improving heath (and lowering health care costs over time). The program comes after hamburger giant McDonald's began posting calorie counts on its menus. 

New machines will also feature electronic displays reminding customers that “Calories Count.” The displays will also stream slogans like “Check then Choose,” and “Try a Low-Calorie Beverage.”

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Austin
8:21 am
Tue October 9, 2012

What's in a Name? How Money Could Change Austin Park Names

Could the names of city parks be for sale? Pease Park was named for the family that donated the land.
KUT News

The Austin City Council is considering changing a city code that relates to the naming or renaming of parks and park facilities this week.

Right now, the code states that parks can only be named after a person or a group that has made 'exceptional contributions' to the park system. In fact, the process is pretty simple: a person submits an application asking for a park facility to named or renamed and, after 90 days, the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board and the city council review all of the suggested names.

The proposed amendment would make it more difficult to change a park name based on community significance. It would require signatures from up to 75 percent of residents in the area of a park or park facility.

The amendment would also add a 'financial contribution component' to the process. No signatures would be required, but name changes could be awarded based on money or land donated to the city.

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Business
8:52 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Gaming Studio Bethesda Issues an Austin Battlecry

“Dishonored,” pictured above, is one of Bethesda’s newest titles.
Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks has announced plans to open a second gaming development studio in Austin – Battlecry Studios.

Battlecry will be headed up by long-time producer Rich Vogel, who best known for his work with gaming developer BioWare. Vogel left Bioware in July during BioWare’s second round of layoffs at the company.

During Vogel’s tenure at BioWare he worked on hits like “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” “Ultima Online”and “Star Wars Galaxies,” but it is unclear what he will be working on first with Battlecry.

President of Bethesda  Softworks Vlatko Andonov said in a statement that he is looking “forward to working with [Vogel] on a new exciting project.”

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Austin
11:56 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Austin's One of the Nation's Best Cities. (Okay, the Eighth Best. Wait, What?)

Austin is the only Texas city to rank among Bloomberg Businessweek's Top 10 American cities.
flickr.com/stuseeger

This may come as little surprise to readers of this news blog, but yet again, Austin has ranked in another  list.

This time, Austin has been listed as the eighth “best” American city by Bloomberg Businessweek, which places the Capital City three spots higher than Bloomberg had it last year.

How do the rankings decide which cities are best? Or what exactly “best” means? That’s easy, sort of: Bloomberg Businessweek cross-referenced data from Onboard Informatics and Trust for Public Land to construct a ranking system. The system, in turn, relies on the number of bars and restaurants, employment percentages, crime rates and educational markers.

Boom. There’s your solution for ranking America’s Best Cities.

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Austin
9:36 am
Tue October 2, 2012

It's National Night Out in Austin

National Night Out is nearing its third decade.

Tonight will mark the 29th annual National Night Out.  And all over Texas, citizens will be turning their porch light on and spending the evening meeting with neighbors, police officers and public safety responders.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime prevention and awareness, strengthen neighborhood bonds and, most importantly, send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime.

Austin is marking National Night Out with an event at The Domain this evening. The event will start at 5 p.m. and representatives from the Austin Police Department, Travis County Sheriff’s Department and Austin Energy will be there to help educate people about crime prevention. Along with information, food and games will be available to help build the neighborly spirit.

Interested in learning more about National Night Out? You can visit the site for the National Association of Town Watch or Austin Police's National Night Out page.

Austin
12:47 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

First in Texas: Austin City Council Declares Support for Same Sex Marriage

A same sex couple married in California showed off their wedding rings ahead of this morning's council vote.
Hady Karl Mawajdeh

Today Austin became the first city in Texas to pass a resolution in support of same sex marriage. 

The measure passed the City Council unanimously this morning.

Before the vote, local civil rights groups declared their support for the resolution, which was sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and co-sponsored by Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council member Laura Morrison.

At a press conference, Mayor Pro Tem Cole spoke about the evolution of rights in Texas, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King: “… Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Whatever afflicts once directly also afflicts one indirectly.”

Council member Morrison acknowledged the progress made within the Austin community, when it comes to civil rights, but said there was still a ways to go.  Morrison pointed to practicality when making her point.

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Environment
10:22 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Austin's New Recycling Center Can Process 25 Tons an Hour

Balcones' new recycling center was built with the capacity to expand as the city grows.
Balcones Recycling

Austin is another step closer to its goal of reaching Zero Waste by 2040, with the opening of a new facility to handle over half the city’s recyclables.  

Austin has banned the use of single-use shopping bags, allowed residents to opt out of excessive mailing programs, and tried to educate the youth. And now, starting in October, 60 percent of Austin’s recycling will be funneled through Balcones Resources.

In the spring of 2011, the Austin City Council unanimously agreed to sign a 20-year deal with Balcones Resources to sort, bundle and sell 60 percent of Austin’s recyclables at its newly-built plant in northast Austin.

The new $25 million facility is a single-stream recycling center – which means it sorts and processes all the various recyclables (paper, glass and plastic) commingling in Austin Resource Recovery bins. Balcones says the center will be capable of processing 25 tons of single-stream recyclables.

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Austin
9:04 am
Tue September 25, 2012

East Austin Among America's 'Best Hipster Neighborhoods'

Events like South by Southwest, pictured above, have boosted Austin's street cred.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Earlier this year Forbes magazine ranked Austin the 19th Coolest City in America.

Normally this would be an honor, but the list also points out that we’re the fifth coolest city in the state behind Houston (no. 1), Dallas (no.4), San Antonio (no.11), and even Fort Worth (no.13), which all ranked higher than the Capital City on the coolness scale.

But late last week, Austin got some of its swagger back when Forbes ranked East Austin America’s Seventh Best Hipster Neighborhood

It's tempting to think the Forbes editors walked around the country, counting pairs of skinny jeans, denim vests and distressed flannel shirts. But the list was actually composed through a partnership with Nextdoor.com, which ranked the East Side as Austin's hottest hipster home base over South Congress and Travis Heights, and Walkscore.com, which tallied the number and proximity of coffee shops, food trucks, locally-owned bars and restaurants and more to pinpoint hip activity.

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Business
8:21 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Study: Women Workers Are Still Shortchanged

Women workers in Austin earn a some $7,500 less annually than their male counterparts, according to a new study.
Flickr user Victor1558, bit.ly/ReAJxO

An examination of the latest Census data shows a gender-based wage gap is affecting a majority of women around the United States.

The analysis conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families is the first ever analysis of data separated by U.S. congressional districts.

The study shows that in 97 percent of the nation’s congressional districts, the median pay for women is less than the median pay for men by 23 cents. Women of color seem to experience an even greater disparity: African American women are paid 64 cents and Latinas are paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, Non-Hispanic men.

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Business
2:08 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Austin's Seoul Connection: Javelin Lands Samsung Contract

Samsung selected a small Austin semiconductor company to manufacture a power amplifier for its new Galaxy S Duos.
Samsung

A small Austin-based technology company, Javelin Semiconductor, has landed its largest contract to date – thanks to a burgeoning relationship between Central Texas and South Korea.

Javelin Semiconductor was picked to produce a power amplifier for Samsung’s new Galaxy S Duos. Robert Wagner, a spokesperson for Javelin, partially credits the company’s continued partnership with Samsung to Austin’s connection to Seoul, South Korea.

“There’s a good relationship in general between Austin companies and Samsung in Korea. So we get some good recognition from the Korean side of Samsung, that we’re this Austin company and they’ve had good success with other local Austin companies like Silicon Labs.”

The Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Susan Davenport agrees. Davenport says that in addition to the success of local companies, the University of Texas has been influential in building Austin’s cluster of technology and talent – which companies like Samsung are now enjoying.  

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Arts and Culture
1:04 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Resistance is Futile: Fantastic Fest Invades Austin

Dredd 3D is among the big budgeted genre movies getting a boost from Fantastic Fest.
Lionsgate Entertainment

Today marks the start of the largest genre film festival in the United States – Fantastic Fest.

The festival is known for being a little out there, but Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League says that’s what makes it special.

“In the last five years or so it seems like it’s been the rise of the nerd,” League tells KUT News. In light of the comic book-based blockbusters filling theaters, League says the nerd demographic represents “a pretty significant arm of the spending economy and a lot of the movies coming out from Hollywood are geared towards us."

Many films set to premiere at this year’s festival many are highly anticipated by nerds and non-nerds alike. For example, writer/director Rian Johnson’s time-traveling  Looper is sure to get genre crowds excited. Also making a debut at the festival is a remake of the 1984 ‘the Soviets are invading’ flick Red Dawn

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