Hady Karl Mawajdeh

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.


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.”

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.

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.”


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.  

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

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Did you see the Space Shuttle Endeavor fly over Austin this morning? Send us a picture to news@kut.org. Here's a look at what else is happening in the area:

Central Texas Ozone Watch

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas is predicting “Level Orange” ozone levels for today. The areas affected by this Ozone Watch include Hays, Travis, Williamson, Caldwell and Bastrop Counties.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index, Austin’s air quality is currently “good."

Individuals with chronic lung disease, the elderly and young children are particularly sensitive to ground-level ozone. They should attempt to avoid exposure by minimizing exertion outdoors today.

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas encourages everyone to reduce air pollution by carpooling or riding the bus, tuning up vehicles and waiting to refuel until after 6 p.m.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Resigns

A Texas Supreme Court Justice is resigning and will go into private law practice in Austin.


The Space Shuttle Endeavor will take a low flight over Downtown Austin this morning.

The shuttle is attached to the top of a 747, and the plane is scheduled to fly over the Texas Capitol building between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. From Austin, the shuttle will head to El Paso for refueling.

After refueling in South Texas, the space shuttle will continue on its way towards Los Angeles where it will be placed on permanent display at the California Science Center.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor was the final NASA space shuttle to be built. The shuttle was constructed as a replacement for the space shuttle Challenger.

Endeavor completed its last mission in June of 2011. It and three other shuttles are going to museums across the country after the retirement of the space shuttle program.

The space shuttle may not be the only unusual aircraft in Austin skies today.

HID Global

Traffic is now clearing up around Stassney Lane and Manchaca Road after a gas leak at the intersection this morning. Schools in the area started on time. Here's a roundup of other news this morning:

More HID Global Incentives?

Travis County Commissioners will meet in executive session today to talk about whether the county will offer economic incentives to a company that’s considering relocating to the area.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

In return, HID Global would build a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin, and create 276 jobs over 10 years. HID Global makes products like ID cards and key-card readers.

Problems in Texas County Prisons

Today Texas lawmakers will take a look at problems facing county jails.


Austin is known as a dog friendly city. There’s dog parks, ample off-leash areas – heck, even the City Council passed an ordinance allowing dogs on outdoor restaurant patios.

And along with the local acceptance of dogs has come tolerance of the occasional accident. We’ve all seen them – on our front yards, exercise trails and even along the bottoms of our shoes.

Dogs can’t help it – it’s instinctual for them. Their owners, however, can. It’s their responsibility to tend to their animal's needs, little plastic bag in hand, so that when Fido finishes his business, no one else has to deal with the matter.

Unfortunately, some dog owners at The Pointe at Onion Creek, a small condominium complex in South Austin, haven’t been doing their due diligence. Now the home owners association is considering using DNA testing to find out which pooch is pooping and fleeing the scene.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Should Texas Kids Spend More Time in School?

State lawmakers want to know if having kids spend more time in school will increase performance.

The Texas Senate Committee on Education is meeting this morning to talk about the impact of extended learning time on school success. That could mean longer school days or adding more days to the school year.

Lawmakers will also look at after-school programs and their effect on school performance, attendance and behavior.

The public is invited to comment at the hearing. It starts at 9 a.m. at the capitol.

Hundreds of Austin-Area Doctors Support Medical School

Proposition 1, the proposal for a new medical school and teaching hospital in Austin, now has the support of over 400 Austin-area doctors. The doctors' support means they are behind the five cent increase in property taxes per $100 of taxable value if Prop. 1 is successful in November.

Liang Shi for KUT News

Today marks 11 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Here's information on remembrance events and other stories making news today:

Local 9/11 Memorial Events

There are several events scheduled today across Central Texas to mark the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

At 10 a.m., Austin firefighters will climb the Pleasant Valley Drill Tower. Wearing full gear, they’ll climb up and down the equivalent of the height of the World Trade Center.

At noon, there will be a 9-11 Memorial and pipe and drum performance in the Texas Capitol Rotunda.


High-end retailer Saks Incorporated announced that it plans to close its Saks Fifth Avenue stores located in Austin’s Arboretum Market at the end of the year.

Approximately 64 associates are employed in the Austin store. The retailer says all affected associates either will be offered transfer opportunities or will receive employment separation packages. Saks will also be closing down a location in Highland Park, Illinois.

“Store closing decisions are never easy,” Saks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Sadove says in a statement. “We are very appreciative of our many loyal associates in both the Highland Park and Austin Saks Fifth Avenue stores, and we are committed to providing them with needed assistance during this period.”

Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

Good morning. We're looking at another hot one today, with a high of 102 degrees. Here's some of the region's top overnight stories. 

Rebuilding Grants for Bastrop Fire Victims

It’s been just over one year since wildfires tore across Central Texas. Many fire victims are still rebuilding their lives.

Now, the Texas General Land Office is taking applications for federal aid from people whose homes were lost or damaged in the Bastrop fires.

The money is coming from more than $30 million dollars in Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.