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.

Ways To Connect

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.

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.

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."

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.  

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.

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."


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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.

Fort Hood Public Affairs

Investigators probing last week's shooting at Fort Hood presented their first clear narrative today of what they think happened.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Chris Gray confirmed the shooting spree started after Spc. Ivan Lopez had a verbal altercation with a colleague over a request for leave.

"Within minutes of the altercation, the subject brandished a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun and fired multiple rounds, killing one soldier and wounding 10 additional soldiers," Gray said.

KUT News

For the first time, more than 5 million students are enrolled in Texas public schools. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) published a report Tuesday that the state hit the milestone last school year when 5,075,840 students were enrolled.

The population of Hispanic students had the largest numerical increase, growing by 64,903 in one year.

Rice University demographer Steve Murdoch, who used to run the U.S. Census Bureau, says the future of the Texas economy will be determined largely by how well those students are educated. 

https://flic.kr/p/4sG5xG

The City of Austin could remove off-street parking space requirements for developers who build some apartments smaller than 500 square feet – dwellings known as "micro-units." Advocates say it could encourage development of the micro-units along public transit corridors.

"We're talking about 300- or 400-square-foot apartments. Is there a market for that? In some cities, it looks like there has been," Council Member Bill Spelman said Tuesday during a council work session. "This is another way of simply reducing the cost. The whole thing is really about affordable housing." 

City code requires most residential developments to have at least one off-street parking space per unit. Council removed most of those requirements for downtown businesses last year. 

Mary Elizabeth Ashton

After an early morning crash on Red River Street claimed two lives and hospitalized almost two dozen people, some are understandably asking, "What can I do to help?" Here are some ideas.

Give Money:  SXSW, the City of Austin and Transmission Events set up a relief fund for the victims and their families. You can make a donation at SXSWCares.com. Other ways to contribute are at sxswrelief.org.  

Albert Smith, who operates the Unofficial SXSW Guide, is also raising money at this GoFundMe page

Twitter user @SocialMatchbox and David Yoakum/Twitter user @davidb00ts

Update: About forty gun activists marched from the Capital and down Sixth Street today, many openly carrying black powder revolvers and rifles strapped across their backs. The rally occurred right in the middle of the South by Southwest festival. 

“We’re trying to get open carry of hand guns passed," says Chris Way from Fort Hood. That’s be a lot easier than carrying an AR-15 over the street. Really all it is, is we don’t want the government in our lives and we don’t want telling me how to protect my family and my little one.” 

flickr.com/jenniferwoodardmaderazo

Buc-ee's, the Texas convenience store known for their clean restrooms and beaver mascot, is now the subject of a boycott.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is encouraging a boycott after owners of the business endorsed Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.

Castro sent a tweet saying he won't gas up there because Patrick is a "fear mongering immigrant basher:" 

Austin Kleon

One of the largest gatherings of creative minds is happening right now in Austin, but how can you become a valuable part of that community without sucking the life out of it or annoying other people with your relentless self-promotion?

Don't be "human spam" or a "vampire." That's the advice of Austin Kleon, a local artist and writer whose book "Steal Like an Artist" spent six months on the New York Times best-seller list.

"There's basically the people who want to take all the inspiration, and then there's people who want to flood you with their own thing that they're shilling," he says.

Flickr user Jason H. Smith, http://flic.kr/ps/2pqMoZ

Update: South by Southwest announced this morning that Lady Gaga will perform at this year's festival. She's set to take the stage Thursday, March 13. The City of Austin had originally denied a request to have Lady Gaga perform, citing concerns that the Doritos venue wasn't big enough.

So, SXSW is moving that venue for one night to the Stubb's Waller Creek Amphitheater at Eighth and Red River streets.

Click here for details on how to get tickets.

Here's @SXSW's announcement on Twitter:

Original Story (Feb. 26, 2014): The city of Austin is denying a request to have Lady Gaga perform in a downtown parking lot during South by Southwest.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video

Edward Snowden will speak at South by Southwest Interactive via videoconference next week. The man who leaked details about the extent of National Security Agency surveillance is currently living in Russia under asylum.

If you don't have a badge, you can still hear Snowden on Monday at 11 a.m. because the Texas Tribune will be offering a free live stream of the session. Snowden will be interviewed by the American Civil Liberties Union's "principal technologist" Christopher Soghoian.

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