Nathan Bernier

Host, All Things Considered

Nathan Bernier a KUT reporter and the local host during All Things Considered and Marketplace. He grew up in the small mountain town of Nelson, BC, Canada, and worked at commercial news radio stations in Ottawa, Montreal and Boston before starting at KUT in 2008. 

Nathan has won numerous journalism awards including a National Edward R. Murrow Award, Texas Associated Press Awards, Lonestar Awards from the Houston Press Club, and various other awards and recognitions.  Nathan's hobbies outside work include producing music and enjoying Austin's many food and drink establishments.

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Transportation
8:02 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Austin City Council Unanimously Backs Urban Rail Proposal

An artist's rendering of an urban rail line passing Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium
Project Connect

By a unanimous vote – Austin city council endorsed a package of proposed transportation projects Thursday night, including a $1.4 billion dollar urban rail line

The Austin City Council limited public comment on urban rail to 30 minutes for each side, which angered some public transit advocates who support the concept of urban rail but reject the proposed route of the plan. 

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Urban Rail
10:48 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Council Holds Key Vote on Austin Urban Rail: A Look at What's at Stake

A rendering of urban rail on Lakeshore Boulevard, one stop along a proposed E. Riverside Drive route.
Project Connect

A proposal to build a $1.4 billion urban rail line in Austin faces a key vote today in the city council. The 9.5 mile urban rail line would run from Riverside Drive and Grove, through downtown to Highland Mall.

Supporters of the plan say that route is going to see a lot of growth over the next few years. Opponents wonder why it’s not going in where things are already happening. Like, along Lamar or Guadalupe.

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Transportation
7:14 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Advisory Group Gives Urban Rail Green Light

An artist's rendering of an urban rail line intersecting with commuter rail near the Austin Convention Center
Project Connect

A proposed urban rail line is one small step closer to becoming a reality after a panel of local officials, business leaders and citizens voted overwhelmingly to recommend the $1.38 billion proposal. The Central Corridor Advisory Group voted 13-1 in favor of Project Connect's 9.5 mile plan.

"The last time we put this option before voters was 14 years ago," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. "I've been conscious all along that we had to put a good and appealing project before the voters. I think this recommendation will do that."

The lone dissenting vote was from public transit advocate Julie Montgomery of AURA. Among her concerns is that parts of the proposed route are not in areas where urban rail is in high demand. 

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Business
6:57 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Report: Stratfor Hack Orchestrated by FBI Informant

The computer hack of Austin-based Stratfor in 2011 resulted in credit card numbers and damaging emails being leaked online. A new investigative report from the Daily Dot examining still-sealed court records found that the FBI knew about the hack, because one of its informants helped to orchestrate it.

In addition to directly facilitating the breach, the FBI left Stratfor and its customers—which included defense contractors, police chiefs, and National Security Agency employees—vulnerable to future attacks and fraud, and it requested knowledge of the data theft to be withheld from affected customers. This decision would ultimately allow for millions of dollars in damages.

Daily Dot reporter Dell Cameron was a lead reporter on the story. Listen our interview with him here.

Business
7:48 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

National Instruments Cancels Project That Would Have Created 1,000 Jobs

Credit Larry D. Moore http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Nv8200p

National Instruments is cancelling a project that would have created 1,000 jobs in Austin over a decade.

The $80 million expansion project of NI's headquarters on North Mopac Boulevard received millions in economic incentives from the city, county and state. All those agreements have also been canceled.

"We want to continue to leverage our investments and drive for growth," National Instruments spokesperson Stacy Schmidt says. "But in the current economy and the challenges in the test and measurement industry, we're choosing not to move forward at this time."

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X Games Austin
11:52 am
Thu June 5, 2014

The X Games Are Here in Austin

X marks the spot at the Circuit of the Americas for the X Games Austin – the Capital City's first.
Laura Rice/KUT

For the next three days, the streets of downtown Austin will be full of flips – Ninja flips, inward flips and varial kickflips – as dozens of professional skateboarders, BMXers and other athletes descend upon Central Texas for the first ever X Games Austin

Housed in the Austin360 Amphitheater with a large “X” marking the spot, the X Games arena features an ESPN Clubhouse and a video gaming venue along with a full schedule of skateboard and BMX competitions. Musicians including Kanye West and The Flaming Lips will also be in town with the athletes, along with a roster of local acts. (KUT's sister station KUTX is a media sponsor of the X Games, and is hosting its own stage of Austin performers at the fest.)

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Health
8:01 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

More Places For Low Income Texas Children to Get Free Meals During Summer

Credit Laura Taylor https://flic.kr/p/4azUpY

More low-income Texas children have access to free and reduced price lunch over the summer than they did in 2012, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), based in Washington D.C.

FRAC says Texas added 297 "summer meal sites" across the state in 2013. Those are places at schools or non-profit organizations where children whose families make less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level can get reduced-price meals through the federal Summer Food Service Program or the National School Lunch Program. Children from families earning less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level get free meals.

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Transportation
7:12 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

This Urban Rail Supporter Wants You to Reject Austin's Current Proposal

A rendering of Project Connect's vision for urban rail in Austin.
Project Connect

Some die-hard public transit supporters say Austin’s 9.5 mile, $1.38 billion urban rail proposal is misguided, too expensive, and follows a poorly traveled route

"Why would a city our size put in something that is so pricey on a very weak route?" former Capital Metro board vice president Lyndon Henry says. "This is insane."

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Austin
7:43 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

This Downtown Austin Bridge Could Be Named A National Landmark

Ted Lee Eubanks http://www.tedleeeubanksphotography.com

An easy-to-miss bridge on W. Sixth Street could be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The West Sixth Street Bridge sits over Shoal Creek, between West Avenue and Wood Street (near Hut's Hamburgers). It was built by hand in 1887. 

"It doesn't look like much when you go over it, and people use it all the time." says Joanna Wolaver, executive director of the Shoal Creek Conservancy. "But if you take a minute to walk down the dirt path to the Shoal Creek trail, it's just gorgeous." 

Last Saturday, the Texas Historical Commission approved an application to recommend nomination of the bridge to the National Register of Historic Places. The U.S. Parks Service will have the final say and could decide by the fall. 

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Texas
7:24 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Texas Agriculture Group Wants Tighter Controls on Ammonium Nitrate

An apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant was destroyed in an explosion April 2013. State lawmakers are considering ways to increase safety at facilities storing ammonium nitrate.
Credit Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

A Texas agriculture industry group is calling for more stringent reporting by people who possess the fertilizer ammonium nitrate. The Texas Ag Industries Association (TAIA) wants people with fewer than 10,000 pounds of the chemical to disclose to state officials how much they're storing and where.

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Crime & Justice
8:13 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Bastrop Sheriff's Deputy Avoids Charges in High School Taser Case

Noe Nino de Rivera was placed in a medically induced coma for 52 days after he was tased by a Bastrop County Sheriff’s Deputy at Cedar Creek High School on Nov. 20, 2013. He is now recovering at a rehab center in the Hill Country.
Credit Adam Loewy

A Bastrop County Sheriff's deputy who Tased a 17-year-old in the hallway of Cedar Creek High School last year will not face any charges.

The teenager, Noe Niño De Rivera, spent almost two months in a medically induced coma and is now in a residential rehabilitation center in the Hill Country. He is believed to have suffered a permanent brain injury.

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Food
7:21 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

PHOTOS: After 34 Years, Austin's Tamale House Closes

A woman enters the restaurant on the final day at Tamale House #3 on Airport Blvd. Tamale House will close in the wake of owner Robert Vasquez's death.
Jon Shapley for KUT News

Customers lined up today for their last taste of tacos from Tamale House #3 on Airport Boulevard. Owner Robert "Bobby" Vasquez died last week, and the restaurant announced on Facebook it would close the location after 36 years. Tamale House East on East 6th St. will remain open.

"Everybody misses the place," said Connie Salazar, the long-time companion of Vasquez. "I'm going to miss him too."

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Business
7:43 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Oil and Gas Companies Are Now Poaching Employees From Each Other

Oil rigs and tankers off the coast of Galveston
Credit https://flic.kr/p/xzPDU

The global boom in energy production driven by fracking and horizontal drilling is leading to a shortage of skilled workers. A new report by the human resources firm Mercer says two-thirds of oil and gas companies are now poaching employees from their competitors.

"The industry seems inclined when an individual is trained and developed by a competitor to, especially in the first five years of employment, go after that key talent, as opposed to training and developing their own,"  says Philip Tenenbaum, a senior partner at Mercer. 

He says in some cases, the practice has become quite overt.  

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Transportation
4:08 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

This is Project Connect's $1.4 Billion Proposal for Austin Urban Rail

Credit Project Connect

Austin officials unveiled plans today for the city's first urban rail line.

The 9.5 mile long line would run along East Riverside Drive and turn north near the Austin-American Statesman building, cross Lady Bird Lake via bridge, continue through downtown and the University of Texas and end at Highland Mall. The plan also calls for four park & ride areas, two each toward opposite ends of the line.  

The project cost is estimated at $1.38 billion. Officials with Project Connect, the working group of city, Capital Metro, and other regional transportation officials that made today's recommendation, say they believe the federal government would pay for half of that estimated cost.

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Food
11:05 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Austin is Making It Easier For Food Trucks to Recycle and Compost

The Korean Komfort food trailer in West Campus. Trailers and trucks in established courts can possess freestanding recycling and composting services, but under current city code, solo trucks cannot.
flickr.com/sbogdanich

Baton Creole food truck owner Lynzy Moran has been cited twice by the City of Austin for trying to be more environmentally friendly.

Once it was for collecting grease to be recycled into biodiesel. Another time it was for trying to compost food waste. Now she drives the hot oil she uses to clean her fryers from her East Sixth Street location to a commissary for disposal.

"I'm literally having to travel with hot oil in my car every night, which is also very dangerous and pretty scary," Moran says. "[I've] definitely burned myself a few times."


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Crime & Justice
2:57 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Texas 'Has No Plans' to Use Drug From Botched Oklahoma Execution

Update: After Tuesday night's botched execution in Oklahoma, Texas corrections officials say they have no plans to use midazolam in future executions. Midazolam was the first component of a three-drug cocktail administered to death row inmate Clayton Lockett yesterday. Read more about the execution here.

As KUT first reported in February, the state has supplies of midazolam on hand. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice says in a statement that it "has no plans to change our procedures. Texas does not use the same drugs as Oklahoma as we use a single lethal dose of pentobarbital and we have done so since 2012.” 

Attorneys for death row inmates in Texas have unsuccessfully tried to find out who is selling compounded pentobarbital to the state. They're suing in civil court and making a case to the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General that TDCJ should disclose its source. 

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Business
7:21 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Study: Amazon's Sales Tax Sends Shoppers Elsewhere

https://flic.kr/p/h6y7Fr

Requiring Amazon to charge state sales tax has sent many consumers looking for other tax-free options, according to a new study for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

In 2012, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reached an agreement with Amazon to collect sales tax on items sold to Texans. Because Amazon has a "physical presence" in Texas - its distribution center in Irving - Combs said Amazon should have been collecting state sales tax on online sales. She agreed to drop her demands for $269 million in taxes if Amazon promised to create 2,500 jobs and spend $200 million in capital investments.

But after Amazon started charging sales tax in Texas, its sales in this state dropped by 11 percent, according to researchers.

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Texas
6:43 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

West Gets $4.8 Million to Fix Water System

A scene from West after the explosion on April 17, 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Texas town of West is getting $4.85 million more to help recover from the fertilizer plant explosion that happened one year ago this week. Fifteen people were killed and hundreds injured in the blast on April 17, 2013. 

Governor Perry authorized the funding a day before a ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. West Mayor Tommy Muska didn't question the timing of the grant.

"It shows a lot of cooperation between local, state and federal that we can come together and secure these funds within one day of the anniversary and move forward," Muska told KUT. 

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AISD
8:03 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Paul Cruz to Lead Austin Schools As Interim Superintendent

AISD's chief schools officer Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent Tuesday.
Image courtesy AISD: http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Update: KUT has learned from multiple sources that AISD Chief School Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent at Tuesday's school board meeting.

This comes one day after Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was unanimously approved to lead Atlanta Public Schools district Monday.

Cruz receives high marks from Drew Scheberle, the vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

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Education
5:49 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Update on Mexican-American Studies Course in Texas Public Schools

Supporters of a statewide standard for teaching Mexican-American studies in Texas spoke before a hearing of the State Board of Education on April 8, 2014.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Update: High schools in Texas are one step closer to getting state-funded materials to teach courses in Mexican-American studies after a vote today by the Texas State Board of Education. 

Board members voted to ask publishers to develop textbooks for Mexican-American studies, along with three other social studies courses: African-American, Asian-American and Native-American studies. But the board stopped short of developing a statewide course on the topics. A final vote is scheduled for later this week.

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