Kelly Connelly

News intern

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Halloween
1:05 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

Photos: House of Torment’s Last Halloween at Highland Mall

One of the many terrors found within the House of Torment. Celebrating its tenth year, this Halloween is House of Torment's last at Highland Mall.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update: The House of Torment has reached an agreement to stay at its Highland Mall location for a ninth year. "We couldn't be more excited to share what we've created this year with Austin fear fans," says House of Torment president and founder Daniel McCullough in a press release. "We really went above and beyond in terms of both production and design, and we hope you'll come scream with us."

Original story (Oct. 24, 2012): To encourage trick-or-treating in his neighborhood, every year Halloween-lover Dan McCullough would build a haunted house in his backyard in South Austin.

His plan worked – and soon the house’s popularity grew until one year it got out of hand. Over a hundred people showed up to the house and police were called to direct traffic. McCullough’s operation had to end – in that form at least.

McCullough decided to turn professional. The haunted house that originated in McCullough’s backyard is now the House of Torment.

Jon Love visited the House of Torment in its inaugural space 10 years ago. Now he’s the vice president of Harbinger Events, the organization that puts on the haunted house.

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Austin City Council
4:58 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Are New Changes to Austin's Bag Ban Too Lenient?

Some retailers thanked council today for exempting restaurants from Austin's bag ban; others felt it created a loophole.
courtesy flickr.com/jonathanyoungblood

Austin’s commitment to becoming a “zero waste” city by 2040 came into question today, as the City Council approved adding exemptions to the plastic bag ban that takes effect in March 2013.

Restaurants will now be exempt from the bag ban. Some citizens expressed that the exemption deviates from the goals of the original ban and provides too big of a loophole. (Whole Foods, Central Market and Wheatsville Co-op all serve hot dishes, for example.) 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell disagrees. "This is addressing in a meaningful way something that's a real problem," Leffingwell said, "and we've done that for other uses of plastic bags where we've seen that there's not a reasonable alternative – newspapers, dry cleaning for example. I think it's pretty obvious once you think about it – obviously we didn't think about it [then], but once you do think about carrying out a bag full of barbeque sauce in a paper bag, it's not a good idea."

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Transportation
3:55 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

The City Hopes These Signs and Kiosks Will Help You Navigate Downtown Austin

Design plans also include signs displaying parking garage capacity.
MERJE, via the City of Austin

The Austin City Council hopes to make downtown Austin easier to get around.

The city's Planning and Development Review Department presented progress on the Downtown Austin Wayfinding System this morning. Under this plan, inconsistent and vague signs downtown would become more uniform and detailed. Gateways into downtown (like the passage under I-35 on Seventh Street) would also get a facelift.

In addition to increased signage, the design firm the city has contracted with – Pennsylvania-based MERJE – has created signs that are in step with international logos for parking, transportation, information and more, with an Austin flair. 

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Education
1:33 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

UT Moves Forward on Med School

UT President Bill Powers speaking at a news conference today about the passage of Proposition 1
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Now that Proposition 1 has passed, the University of Texas is moving ahead with plans for its new medical school.

UT officials held a press conference this morning about a possible timeline for the complex. University President Bill Powers said with an aggressive approach, the first freshman class could start as soon as 2015. “This isn’t off in the 2020s,” Powers said. “We might take a little breather today and start tomorrow on all the processes. We’d like to break ground within a year.”

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2012 Presidential Election
4:37 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

Texas AG Pits State Code Against International Treaty

The terms of a US-signed international treaty require participants to allow observers in on their elections – but that conflicts with Texas Electoral Code.
Credit http://www.flickr.com/snurb/

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been making waves in international waters. Abbott and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an international watchdog group, have been clashing all week.

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Transportation
1:23 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Austin Police Give Thumbs Down to Texting While Driving

Not only is texting while driving dangerous, it may cost you $500. Police encourage drivers to wear thumb bands like this one as a reminder not to text.

With woolly traffic expected this weekend, city officials are reminding Austin drivers that texting while driving is banned under city law.

Texting while driving is a class C misdemeanor, which means offenders could face up to a $500 fine. And smart phone users should know that all "electronic messaging" is banned. That means no email, no Facebook, no ACL Festival iPhone app, and especially no Words With Friends behind the wheel.

Police Chief Art Acevedo asked drivers to be especially aware of pedestrians around Zilker Park this weekend, which, of course, is hosting the Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend. Acevedo says crashes are likely to happen when texters look up from their phones and overcorrect.

To remind drivers not to text, Acevedo sported an orange thumb band, and encouraged others to do the same. 

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Austin
12:26 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

What Draws People to Austin (And What Drives Them Away)

Many Austin transplants attend events like South by Southwest, pictured here in 2012, before deciding to move here.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It’s no surprise that Austin ranks highly on many lists: fastest growing cities, best cities, even “hipster” cities.

But a more personal conversation has been unfolding on the Austin page of popular social website Reddit, simply asking “Why did you choose Austin?”

A native Austinite posed the question, noting many friendships made with people who decided to move to here. “So, my question to you Austin Redittors, why do you love Austin? Why is this where you want to live over other places? I'd love to see from another perspective why you think this city is so awesome.”

The question garnered 70 responses. Several answers dwell upon Austin’s traditional draws, but others are more attached to what makes Austin weird:

  • People come for school – then stick around: “I moved here to finish school at UT about 20 years ago after traveling like a nomad for quite a bit,” writes Redditor MonsterBronson. “Of all the cities I've seen, Austin is the best (for multiple reasons) so I never left.”
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Education
6:39 am
Wed October 10, 2012

UT, Affirmative Action, and the 'Achievement Gap'

The U.S. Supreme Court is looking at a case involving race as a factor in admissions at UT.
flickr.com/islespunkfan

Wednesday, Oct. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. The University of Texas. The case asks whether including race as a factor for admission is constitutional. Debate around the issue has been heated.

Minority groups held a conference at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday and said affirmative action is necessary to right historic wrongs. They argued that underprivileged minorities remain underprivileged if they can’t attend flagship universities. And they argued that diversity in the classroom will help students deal with diversity in the real world.

But Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at UT who specializes in race and education (and is no stranger to controversial remarks on the topic), says affirmative action won’t fix this. He says the real problem is that many minority students aren’t ready for college when they graduate high school.

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Sports
8:07 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Honoring a Texas Pioneer in Women's Athletics: Jody Conradt

Jody Conradt outside the KUT studios, just before accepting the Title IX Legacy Award.
Kelly Connelly for KUT News

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance..."

That's a snippet of Title IX, the national legislation that provided a mandate for creation and funding for women's collegiate sports programs, and changed the face of Texas Longhorn basketball. Jody Conradt fostered a program that didn't just let women play, but encouraged them to flourish.

Tonight Conradt was honored with the first "Title IX Legacy Award." UT Track and Field Coach Bev Kearney presented former Coach Conradt with the award at 6:30 in the Belo Center for New Media.

Conradt's accolades make a long list. She has 900 career wins. She coached the first women’s college basketball team that went undefeated, and she took the Longhorns to three Final Fours and seven Elite Eights. Under Conradt, UT finished in the top ten nationally 11 times – And Conradt did all this while her players boasted a 99 percent graduation rate.

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Health
10:44 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Call to Privatize State Hospital Comes Up Empty

A pilot program from the Texas Legislature to privatize state hospitals didn't return the desired results.
flickr.com/wiseleyb

The Texas Department of State and Health Services (DSHS) has failed to comply with a directive from the state legislature – but not without good reason.

Last session, the legislature asked DSHS to review proposals from companies interested in privatizing a state hospital, with the provision it be run at ten percent savings for four years. The agency was told to bring an approved proposal to the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor’s Office of Budget, Planning and Policy by Sept. 1. Instead, yesterday DSHS submitted a letter to those two agencies explaining why they were empty handed.

There was only one proposal submitted, by GEO Care for the Kerrville State Hospital. DSHS graded the proposal a 64 out of 100.

“Savings in the proposal were achieved primarily through reductions in staffing and benefits,” DSHS Commissioner David Lakely wrote, “to a degree that would put both our patients and the State of Texas at risk.”

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Austin
4:44 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Scarce Housing Options Driving a New Building Boom

www.flickr.com/armchairbuilder/

By all accounts, the housing market is booming in Austin.

Home prices, number of sales, and rental occupancy rates and rents are up. And, according to numbers released yesterday, so is new construction. MetroStudy, a firm that tracks realty numbers, says construction in the third quarter is up 37% from last year.

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Health
2:37 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Humana to Select Local Charity for Grant

http://www.flickr.com/proimos/

Three Austin charities are finalists vying for a $100,000 grant from the Humana Foundation, the philanthropic branch of health insurance company Humana, Inc. Humana will make the award to a nonprofit that serves Central Texans in "dire need of assistance," ranging from seniors to children.

The finalist include Family Eldercare, Foundation Communities, and the Marbridge Foundation.

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Science
2:03 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

UT Asks For Permission To Wreak Mobile Havoc. Then Promises It Won't.

flickr.com/popoever/

Over the weekend, some University of Texas email users that read their mail on certain mobile devices received a puzzling pop-up notification. Users on Google Android tablets, or iPads with an older iOS, were asked to sacrifice some privacy features.

When users opened their email app they were not allowed to read their mail until they gave permission for UT to erase data at will, disable cameras, set storage encryption, lock the screen, and monitor log-in attempts. The message looked like this:

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Austin
12:17 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

ABIA: Prepare for Heavy Traffic, International Flights for F1

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is expecting heavy traffic November 12 through 21 due to events at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
Callie Hernandez, KUT News

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is preparing for an influx of intercontinental traffic for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend. ABIA is requiring reservations from some aircraft operators between November 12 and 21.

Flights that aren’t normally scheduled commercial carriers with ABIA will have to fill out a form to receive a “Prior Permission Required” number.

ABIA warns that international flight operators will still have to clear U.S. Customs. And they'll need to get in touch with Austin U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Authority no later than 30 days prior to desired arrival. (That means the deadline is October 18 for travelers who want to get here the day before the race.) ABIA also warns pilots that they should be prepared for airborne holding and reroutes to the Georgetown or San Marcos airports.

Voting
3:59 pm
Tue October 2, 2012

How to Register and Where to Vote in Austin

Third-party voting apps like Rock the Vote feature more streamlined information on voting and voter registration.
rockthevote.com

KUT News has received a lot of feedback on “Why Bother,” our series on voter engagement. Suggestions that include ideas for making voting and voter registration easier, personal recollections and more. We expect to hear more tonight, at a taping of “Why Bother? Voices of a New Generation,” in KLRU’s Studio 6a.

But one criticism KUT News has received involves the existing process potential voters need to take to vote – and whether local news organizations, including KUT, have done enough to make that process understandable.

A blog post by a local web designer, A. Lista, questions why KUT is probing voter disengagement when the actual process to voting is itself convoluted. The blog shows step by step what happens when one searches “how to vote austin tx” on Google. Seven screens later, the author says she is “exhausted, frustrated, and pretty annoyed with all the extremely unhelpful government websites:”

Both the local news and KUT have suggested many times that voters are apathetic and unengaged, but like the government, neither has aired simple instruction on how to actually go about voting. How do you know you’re registered? Where do you go to vote? These things are confusing.

Registering to vote in Texas isn’t that easy: one suggestion we’ve heard is that online registration would make things a lot easier. But Texas law requires voter registration cards to be sent in by mail or hand delivered in-person.

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