Mark Dewey

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Texas
3:51 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Feral Foodies: Texas Parks and Wildlife Offers Wild Game Recipes on YouTube

Texas Parks and Wildlife is promoting a series of videos promoting cooking with wild game.
flickr.com/craigoneal

What to do with a feral hog?

After dropping that pesky critter – perhaps while leaning out the door of a hard-banking helicopter over western Hays County, hitting it at nighttime with a .458 SOCOM round from your hog-optimized AR-15 while the pilot lights it up from above – you could just let it lie there.

Or you could make feral hog tacos. 

If slow-cooking feral pork butt over hardwood charcoal doesn't come naturally to you, don't worry. Help is here from Texas Parks and Wildlife. A new video series from Parks and Wildlife features four recipes from local chef Jesse Griffith's book Afield : A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish.

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Economy
1:59 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Tax Rates Up, Assessments Down for Travis County Homeowners

Travis County will be mailing out property tax bills at the end of October.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Later this month, Travis County mails out 2012 property tax bills to homeowners. Those bills will be bigger than last year, but not by much. Tax rates have gone up, but those rates are applied to lower property values than in 2011, dampening some of the tax rate increases.

According to Marya Crigler, chief appraiser for the Travis Central Appraisal District, the average home in Travis County is appraised at $213,954, a .47 percent decrease from 2011. In the City of Austin, the average home's assessment declined .76 percent, to $251,458. So, a home that was worth $250,000 in 2011 is worth $248,100 in 2012, for taxing purposes. Appraisals are based roughly on market value.

While assessed values were down, most taxing authorities raised their tax rates for 2012. Here's a look at tax increases across the board, to the five entities Austin residents pay tax to: 

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Business
2:53 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Is Austin a Tech Center or a Tech Colony?

There's gold in them (silicon) hills: Out-of-state companies like Facebook and Apple use Austin as a colony, but we don't seem to mind.

Almost every day we hear about out-of-town tech companies opening branch offices in Austin.  

What does that mean? Could the next Facebook, Google, or Apple start and grow in Austin? Will Austin even be the next Silicon Valley? Or are we a "tech colony," a place where global companies can find a ready supply of highly-trained tech workers who will work for less than workers in California or New York?

Salaries are lower here, even for tech specialist in high demand, and although Austin is often billed as a "lower cost of living" area, it may not seem that way to those facing high (and rising) rent, home prices, and property taxes.

In Silicon Valley, researcher and writer Vivek Wadhwa studies competitiveness as an academic discipline.  He says he’s pessimistic about the tech future of many U.S. cities and regions, but not Austin. He says Austin has done everything right and should continue to grow. More than advantages like Texas' favorable tax climate, the stream of patents spinning out of UT, or ample investment capital, he says it’s the human capital that gives Austin an advantage.  

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Business
1:05 pm
Sat September 29, 2012

What's Behind Dell's Shopping Spree

Dell is primarily known for manufacturing desktop and laptop computers, but recent acquisitions are diversifying its services.
flickr.com/dellphotos

In an widely-circulated blog post titled "Hardware is Dead," investment banker Jay Goldberg shocked the tech world by describing what he discovered in a tiny stall inside a Chinese electronics market. In a room full of vendors hawking computers and parts, Goldberg found an Android tablet computer – essentially a non-Apple iPad – for only $45.

Speaking with KUT News, Goldberg says he was surprised by the device's high quality and low price. "I would consider it a device that anyone in the U.S. would be comfortable using," he says. "It was a seven-inch device. It ran the latest version of Android. It was WiFi only, it had a nice screen, and a very snappy processor, so it responded to your commands, quickly."

That’s what Dell is up against, trying to make money, in a ruthlessly competitive global market, by manufacturing desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and servers. Dell's stock price shows its struggle, dropping from more than $40 per share in 2005 to around $10.

At Dell headquarters, spokesman Jess Blackburn says the nature of Dell’s business has changed, and the company is undergoing a transformation.  "Our strategy, which we have been particularly focused on, is taking Dell from more of a hardware company to a full service, comprehensive solutions provider."

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Lance Armstrong
1:07 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

USADA Says Its Lance Armstrong Files Are Almost Ready

The anti-doping agency that hounded cyclist Lance Armstrong says its case will be soon be submitted to the International Cycling Union.
flickr.com/rubenstein

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) says it needs three more weeks to prepare and send its Lance Armstrong files to the International Cycling Union (UCI), promising to have the documents ready by October 15.

The USADA has accused Armstrong of cheating and recommended that his seven Tour de France titles be stripped. Armstrong has said he won’t fight the decision. The USADA does not have the authority to actually strip the titles. It can only recommend the sanctions to cycling’s international governing bodies.

USADA spokesperson Annie Skinner, in an email to KUT News this afternoon, says "USADA is in the process of finalizing the written reasoned decision in its U.S. Postal Services pro cycling doping case. We will provide the reasoned decision addressing the lifetime bans and disqualifications imposed to the UCI and [World Anti-Doping Agency] as provided for under world rules. "

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Transportation
12:52 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

When Will the Driverless Car Travel to Texas?

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute is traveling to California to learn about Google's driverless car, pictured above.
flickr.com/jurvetson

Robots can perform surgerybuild machinerytrade stocks, and even write news stories. And now they can drive cars.

California legalized so-called self-driving cars yesterday. Nevada has actually issued a drivers license to a robot car. And while Texas isn't exactly stepping on the gas with regards to driverless cars, it isn't stuck in neutral either.

The only traffic-ready self-driving car is currently offered made Google – although it’s not for sale. The system uses sensors and computers to navigate through traffic. Current laws require a human to sit in the driver’s seat, in case something goes haywire with the computer.

Google says its fleet of six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450 hybrid have logged more than 300,000 trouble-free miles. There have been two collisions, but the company says that neither was the robot driver’s fault.

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Business
1:25 pm
Sat September 22, 2012

Is Austin’s Apple Maps Experience an Epic Fail?

KUT News eyes two errors in this Apple map of downtown Austin. But despite some hiccups, Austin errors aren't as ubiquitous as they are in several other cities.
twitter.com/rdmurphy

Computing giant Apple has released the newest iteration of its mind-bogglingly popular iPhone. But Apple continues to grab headlines for a less-PR friendly reason: reaction to its new maps program, which replaces Google Maps on the iPhone 5 and in Apple’s latest operating system update.

A complete failure.” “Epic fail.” “Things can only get better.”

Criticism is pouring in on several fronts. While Apple’s maps are lauded for their graphic beauty, including a breathtaking 3D “Flyover” feature, the app is being criticized for receiving a rollout before being fully cooked. Its satellite graphics appear bubbly and distorted in several instances. Directions and details have been ubiquitously downgraded in some areas. And a big dealbreaker for iPhone users in many major cities is Maps’ lack of built-in public transit schedules and directions, which Google Maps has.

But so far, Austin seems to have been spared the worst of the brunt.

Austin’s Apple Maps experience seems to be relatively smooth compared to those in other cities. For starters, it’s rendered in 3D, while many other cities aren’t. Chris Carter, an Austin-based Apple independent developer, says "the 3D technology that they're using actually generates the 3D models from multiple angles of satellite images."

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Austin
3:09 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

A Green Light for Zilker Park's Trail of Lights

Mark Dewey for KUT News

The man who promised Austin a 2012 Trail of Lights says he will deliver.

Local running shoe store owner Paul Carrozza, through his RunTex Foundation,  tells KUT News that he has put together the pieces of a $1.2 million dollar financing package. "We've raised enough to make it happen," says Carrozza. He says grocery chain H-E-B made the biggest commitment, followed by Dell, Samsung, Seton, and Vista Equity Partners. More sponsors are in the works.

"I felt strongly that we should keep it free to the public, and keep it free to the taxpayer, and that the community would support it through corporate underwriting, business sponsorships, and individual giving."

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Business
3:10 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Will the Tablet’s Rise Mean More or Fewer Layoffs at Dell?

Mobile computing sales are "cannibalizing" the PC market, according to an industry analyst.
flickr.com/jeffk42

The largest corporate employer in Central Texas, Dell, has sent out pink slips to an undisclosed number of workers. 

Despite acquisitions designed to broaden the company’s enterprise services, a slowing global economy, tough competitors, and a shift from desktop to mobile computing have hammered the Round Rock-based company’s sales, says industry analyst Shannon Cross.

“What hurt them most recently is just a dramatic slowdown in PC sales. Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace. China slowed dramatically for both HP and Dell in the most recent quarter. You’ve seen a lot of pricing pressure coming from some of the Asian competitors like Lenovo, Asus, and Acer.”

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Business
10:18 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Dell Confirms Central Texas Job Cuts

Are other technology companies leaving Dell in the dust?
KUT News

One of the biggest employers in Central Texas is cutting jobs.

Dell let affected employees know about the reductions yesterday. The company says the cuts are in an effort to remain competitive and become more efficient.

“We recognize any reduction is significant for impacted team members and their teammates, and we are working to minimize consequences,” Dell Marketing Director David Frink says.

Dell isn’t revealing how many or which positions are being eliminated. Frink says some employees may be able to work elsewhere in the company.

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Formula One
3:00 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Governor Perry Revs Up For Italian Grand Prix

A racer seen at Austin's recent Formula 1 expo.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

As the Austin forecast calls for more 100 degree days, Governor Rick Perry and his wife Anita left this morning for eight days in Italy, where money and motorsports are in the wind.

On the agenda are various economic development meetings, a speaking engagement at Lake Como, and Sunday's Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, in Milan.

With Austin's United States Grand Prix only a few weeks away, the Perrys will be watching a sport that's followed, often obsessively, around the world, but that has had about as much traction in the United States as professional soccer. (see Esquire: "Will America Ever Catch The Formula 1 Bug?") The United States has hosted 41 Formula 1 races in the past, at seven different locations, but the sport has not gained ground on American motorsports like NASCAR and IndyCar racing.

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Texas
6:19 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Whittington Loses (Again), But Says He's Not Done

austinconventioncenter.com; c-span.org

There's tough, and then there's Texas tough.

Dick Cheney shot him, accidently, and he got back up.

He says the City of Austin took some land that belonged to him, and he fought back. And fought. And fought some more.

Harry Whittington lost his Texas Supreme Court case today.  But he says he’s not done, telling KUT News that he’ll likely file a motion for a rehearing of the case.

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Austin
5:35 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Three Things You Need to Know This Labor Day Weekend

You can motorboat all you want this weekend, but leave the jet ski at home.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

While you're remembering the social and economic achievements of American workers this weekend, some things to keep in mind:

There are undoubtedly other rules to follow to ensure personal safety, effective human relationships and good-old-fashioned-holiday-fun, but here are two to keep in mind:

1. No Personal Watercraft on Lake Austin

If your idea of fun is running fast and free on your jetski or "personal watercraft," then stay away from Lake Austin this weekend.  As in previous years, there's a ban in effect.  It's from sunset Friday until sunrise Tuesday.

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Austin
4:55 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Did APD Go Too Far in Occupy Austin Operation?

The Occupy Austin encampment at City Hall last year. New revelations of APD undercover involvement have emerged in one Occupier's trial.
KUT News

Amidst the tarps, sleeping bags, and food wrappers at City Hall during the Occupy Austin protests last fall, three people were not who they appeared to be.  Not occupiers, but infiltrators.

Known as "Butch," "Dirk," and "Rick," all three were undercover officers with the Austin Police Department.

Occupiers say that "Butch," aka APD detective Shannon Dowell, went beyond infiltration and actively encouraged members of the movement to create and deploy a homemade device called a "lockbox."  The device enables protestors to anchor themselves to each other, or an object, in a way that is almost police-proof.  Several protestors used the devices in a protest at the Houston port, and were arrested on felony obstruction charges.

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Business
12:26 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

In the Battle Between Apple and Samsung, Could Austin Be the Loser?

A paradoxical relationship arises from the size and reach of Apple and Samsung. But will Austin get caught in the middle?
flickr.com/matt_gibson

Apple. Samsung.

Friends? Enemies? Frenemies?

The nature of the relationship is an important question in Austin, where Samsung recently announced it will spend at least $3 billion retooling its Austin Semiconductor Plant to produce advanced processor chips.

Industry rumors say that a primary purpose of the Austin retooling is to make electronic innards for Apple's iPhones and iPads, though Samsung does not not confirm that. Worldwide, Samsung is the biggest supplier of iPhone and iPad processing chips. In fact, many analysts say that Apple could not produce the iPhone without Samsung.

But how does that cozy relationship fit with a bitter court battle that has raged around the globe?

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Weather
2:23 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Central Texas Standing By to Help Isaac Evacuees

While Austin isn't expecting hurricane evacuees, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is calling for donations to the Red Cross.
Mark Dewey for KUT News

Central Texas remains ready to help out with potential evacuees, as Hurricane Isaac – which was just downgraded to a tropical storm – moves slowly through southern Louisiana.

It’s not yet clear if the Red Cross will need to provide storm shelter in Austin. "We have shelters identified and teams of volunteers prepared to manage those shelters, though we haven’t seen those evacuees yet,” American Red Cross Central Texas Region Spokesperson Sara Kennedy says.

Kennedy adds that in Dallas, Red Cross shelters are now open.  But she says they haven’t seen very many evacuees so far.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says in a statement that the City of Austin will provide help too, should it be needed.  

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AM Update: 8/29/12
8:52 am
Wed August 29, 2012

AM Update: AISD Budget Approved, Highway Patrol Museum Closed, Dog Park Talk Tonight

A fundraising organization that purported to help Texas state troopers and their families has been shuttered.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

A good — and groggy — morning to the 50,000 UT-Austin students returning to class today. Here’s some of Austin’s top overnight stories.

Austin School Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved a budget for the coming school year last night, including $14 million in raises for district employees.

The Austin American-Statesman has more details on the budget:

The district will keep its tax rate the same, at $1.242 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. The owner of an average taxable value home, $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,037 annually, an increase of $7.

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Politics
1:59 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

State Comptroller Targets Local Taxing Jurisdictions

The cover of the Comptroller's report suggests taxpayers are being crushed by taxes.

In a sneak peek of the pending clash between state and local governments to come during the next legislative session, Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs is urging people to challenge local taxing authorities over levies that she says are rising faster than inflation.  

Combs' office issued a report today titled "Your Money and The Taxing Facts."  Texans are encouraged to "get involved" by "attending hearings and meetings of entities that affect you."

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Austin
4:41 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Renting? Good Luck Finding a Place!

You may have trouble finding a sign like this one around Austin.
flickr.com/yewenyi

Having trouble finding a place to rent? You’re definitely not alone.

A steady stream of people moving to Central Texas has made finding an apartment more difficult. U.S. Census Bureau data released in June ranked Round Rock second and Austin third on a list of the fastest-growing large cities in the country.

Capitol Market Research, which studies the area’s rental market, says there are barely enough apartment units in the Austin-area to keep up with demand. It says the average rent on a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment is now about $1,100 a month.

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Environment
3:15 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Feds Propose Designating Four More Endangered Salamanders

The Jollyville Plateau Salamander lives in the plateau it gets its name from, as well as the Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson County.
City of Austin by Mark Sanders

Four salamander species native to Central Texas have moved closer to being classified as "endangered" by the federal government.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 60-day public comment period today, asking for feedback on its proposal to protect four salamanders that live only in the waters of the Edwards Aquifer.

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