Katherine Jacobsen

Intern for KUT News

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Health
3:34 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Whooping Cough Cases On the Rise

Vaccinations can reduce the risk of whooping cough infection.
Pascal Dolémieux, flickr.com/sanofi-pasteur

The Austin-Travis County health department has released its Critical Health Indicator Report, which examines the community’s major health problems.

The report shows a sharp rise in the cases of whooping cough disease — also known as pertussis — from 2006 to 2010. There were 908 reported whooping cough cases in 2010 in the Austin-area. 

While these statistics might make it look like Austin is on the edge of epidemic, Dr. Philip Huang with the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department says pertussis numbers are likely part of the disease’s natural cycle.

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Police
3:39 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Austin’s 10 Most Serious Police Incidents in 2011

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Office of the Austin Police Monitor 2011 annual report is filled with sobering statistics.  

Minorities, particularly blacks and Hispanics, are more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites, the report found. Traffic stops resulted in a search one out of eight times for black drivers and one out of ten times for Hispanics, but only one out of 28 times for white Austinites. The report also shows that there was an increase in formal complaints against police, from 316 cases in 2010 to 344 in 2011. 

But separate from the statistics is the OPM's Serious Incident Review, highlighting "the more serious cases" the office addressed in 2011. While ethnicity and incident location are omitted in these write-ups, they include a detailed sequence of events, as well as the cases’ outcomes.

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Health
2:49 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

West Nile Virus Found in Central Texas Mosquitoes

West Nile positive mosquitoes have been found in Austin, officials urge common sense precautions to prevent its spread to humans.
flickr.com/prashantmaxsteel

The Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Department recently announced that West Nile virus has been detected in area mosquito samples.

"The last two or three years ago with the drought, we haven't had a big mosquito problem,” says Health and Human Services employee Eda Gowdy. But the West Nile reprieve seems to be at an end. 

“This year, due to the recent rains, we have had mosquito pulls that are coming back West Nile virus positive,” says Gowdy.   

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Politics
4:42 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

How Many Dead People Are On Travis County's Voter Rolls?

Travis County workers say there may be deceased voters on file, but know of no cases of voter fraud.
Cliff Weathers, bit.ly/NncwS3

Closing arguments in the Texas voter ID trial took place in Washington D.C. today.

If implemented, the law would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. The state argues that the new law is needed to decrease incidents of voter fraud. U.S. Attorney General has argued that Texas’ ID requirements (and others like it) are tantamount to “poll taxes.”

During the trial, state attorneys cited Travis County as one of the 18 counties that did not properly maintain voter registration records. They further claimed that over 50,000 deceased voters remain on the registry – an open door to voter fraud. 

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Austin
4:44 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Workers Defense Project Holding Vigil for Construction Worker

A demonstration featuring the Workers Defense Project, earlier this year in Austin.
courtesy flickr.com/carlos

A vigil will be held tomorrow to honor the life of José Lainez, who died helping build bridges between Highways 183 and 290. 

Lainez, who was originally from Honduras, had worked as a construction worker in Austin for the past twelve years. He was 54 at the time of his death, and in reportedly good health. 

The deceased’s family contends that his death was caused by heat exhaustion, brought on by a lack of rest and water breaks. 

An Austin City Council ordinance, passed in July 2010, requires employers to provide construction workers with water and rest breaks. There is no state law that requires such breaks.

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Health
3:32 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

As Elderly Population Increases, So Do Senior Disappearances

'Silver Alerts' for missing elderly are on the rise, and can be especially dangerous in hotter months.
nccrimecontrol.org

Summer is often a time to sit back, relax, and lather on the sunscreen. But those with elderly family members might want to think twice before letting their summer routines go lax. 

Senior Helpers, an in-home care service for the elderly, recently released a “Senior Lost and Found Plan” to combat the increase in senior disappearances. 

“Nationwide, there’s an uptake in senior disappearances,” said Frank Hayes with the Austin-area Senior Helpers. Hayes attributes the increase in senior population at a national level with the rising rate of missing elderly. 

The Capital Area Council of Governments recently released a survey showing that the aging population in Central Texas will nearly double in the next two decades. The survey projects that the number of Austinites over the age of 65 will double to make up nearly 20 percent of the population by 2040. 

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Austin
11:15 am
Wed July 4, 2012

Parade, Career Fair for Iraq Veterans this Saturday

Parade planners tell KUT News they hope to offer veterans more than a symbolic thanks.
Simrat Sharma/KUT News

A parade to honor Iraq War Veterans is scheduled to take place this Saturday, July 7.  The event was inspired by a parade in St. Louis, Missouri.

“We figured that if St. Louis could do it, we could do it,” said Conor Kenny, the event’s head organizer. “This plan was hatched over beers one night, and that’s when we decided to do this whole thing.”

The team of Austinites that organized the event is expecting a wide range of people to participate in the parade, reflecting the diversity and “weirdness” of Austin.

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Texas
4:28 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Austin Vigil for Lesbian Teens Shot in Portland, Texas

Kristene Chapa (left) and Mollie Olgin (right).
getequal.org

Recent high school graduates Mollie Olgin, 19, and Kristene Chapa, 18, were recently shot in the head while walking through a community park in Portland, Texas – a tragedy that has set off a nationwide series of vigils.

The lesbian couple was found Saturday morning by park visitors, with wounds to their heads from a large caliber weapon. Olgin died at the scene of the crime; Chapa is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.

An Austin vigil for Olgin and Chapa, organized by grassroots LGBT advocacy group GetEQUAL, is happening tonight.

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Environment
4:11 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Burn Ban Back in Effect for Travis County

Fireworks over Auditorium Shores on 2009.
KUT News

With the Fourth of July just nine days away, residents of Travis County can rest assured that fireworks will still be part of their holiday celebrations. But Travis County Commissioners are urging people to use caution.

That's after commissioners voted today to put a burn ban back in effect for unincorporated areas on the advice of fire marshal Hershel Lee. 

While fireworks can still be used and sold for the Fourth of July, they are still banned inside city limits, as is outdoor burning without a permit. 

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Transportation
1:11 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Airport Commission Mulls New Customs Capacity

KUT News

The Austin Airport Advisory Commission votes tonight on the construction of a $5 million temporary customs building at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

The proposed add-on would open in November of this year, and is scheduled to close 24 months later. 

An airport spokesman says the extension is necessary to keep traffic flowing smoothly through the airport during this fall’s Formula 1 race and beyond. 

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Austin
4:04 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Calculate The Increase Coming to Your Austin Energy Bill

Austin Energy rates are set to increase this September for the first time in 18 years.  If you're wondering how much your electric bill will go up, Austin Energy wants you to know about a new version of its online “Electric Rate Calculator.”

“It will help customers start to understand the new rates,” Carlos Cordova with Austin Energy said.  With the online calculator, customers can see how prices will change after the new energy rates go into effect this September. 

You can simply select a month, your total energy consumption in kilowatts, and in an instant, the program calculates the electric cost under the current billing system, and the new system, side by side.

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crime
4:50 pm
Fri June 15, 2012

Bye Bye Buddy: AISD's First Police Dog Retires

After a distinguished career with the Austin ISD Police Canine Unit, “Officer Buddy” is retiring.
aisdpolice.wordpress.com

After an 11 year career on the Austin ISD police force, Buddy’s career as a canine detective has concluded.   

The 13 year-old English Springer spaniel, who is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and powder used in firearms, will now spend his days as a house dog.  But he leaves behind some big paw prints. 

“He has quite the resume,” says Detective Travis Pickford, Buddy’s handler. "Over the past 11 years, Buddy has located murder weapons and helped on numerous felony narcotics investigation." 

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Environment
5:07 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Texas Named the Ninth Fastest-Warming State

KUT News

Are those Texas summers feeling increasingly warmer? Don't worry, it's not just you. 

According to a report released today by the Climate Central research group, Texas is ranked as the 9th Fastest Warming State, with average state temperatures increasing at a rate of .575 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The survey was based on temperatures in the continental United States between 1912 and 2011. 

Though the increase might not seem huge, the Southwest, including Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, is the fastest warming region in the country.  

"That'll translate into increased wildfire risk, make droughts more severe because of the increased heat, and have lots of other adverse effects on the region," said Richard Wiles from Climate Central.  

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Transportation
11:21 am
Tue June 12, 2012

Are Extra Permits the Answer to Improving Taxi Service?

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The City of Austin received a survey in September 2011 on the city's taxi issues.  Nearly a year later, the headaches continue. 

At last week’s Austin City Council meeting, members again debated how to get the right amount of taxis to the right places at the right time, while ensuring an even playing field for the city's three taxi companies and their drivers.    

In the end, council approved – on first reading only – the issuance of more permits to the city's two smaller companies: Lone Star Cab and Austin Cab. This week, Lone Star Cab’s franchise renewal returns to council, and Yellow Cab – which dominates the market with 400-plus permits – is also up for renewal, and additional permits.

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