Sam J. Ellison

KUT Summer Intern

Jennifer Whitney, Texas Tribune

Texas Republican Senators came to the defense of David Dewhurst yesterday, issuing a letter defending him from what they see as erroneous attacks from opposing candidate Ted Cruz. The letter, crafted by the Texas Senate Republican Caucus says that Cruz’s claims about Dewhurst supporting state income tax and so-called “sanctuary cities” are false. 

Caleb Miller Bryant, Texas Tribune

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is launching a new Medicaid initiative to help prevent premature births.

The program was launched this week and provides a 24-hour help line and other resources to help mothers carry their babies to term.

Medicaid pays for more than half of the births in Texas. HHSC spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman told The Texas Tribune that premature births are especially expensive.

“One of those babies is more than 18 times the cost of a regular newborn,” said Goodman. “If we can reduce that, we can save a lot of money.”

IFAF U-19 World Championship

Beloved Austin Family Doctor Dies

Dr. Mathis Blackstock, a well-known Austin doctor, died Tuesday from melanoma. He was 87.

According to his obituary, Dr. Blackstock remained engaged with former patients and doctors at the Blackstock Family Health Center, named for him, until about two weeks ago. In the 1970s, he helped found a clinic at the San Jose Catholic Church in South Austin in order to serve underprivileged patients.

The funeral for Blackstock will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Ave. Dr. Blackstock is survived by three children and a wife of 63 years.

KUT News

Deadline to Register to Vote in Run-off Elections

Today is the last day to register to vote in the July 31 Primary Run-off election.

You can find a registration form at or at local libraries or post offices. Forms must be post-marked by today.

Wikipedia user Alex Covarrubias,

Mexican citizens will head to the polls Sunday to elect a new president.

They will chose between PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, the left wing Democratic Revolution candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, National Action Party candidate and former Vincente Fox education official Josefina Vázquez Mota, and New Alliance Party Candidate Gabriel Quadri de la Torre.

The new president will take over a country whose northern states have suffered an unprecedented level of violence since the beginning of PAN President Felipe Calderón’s crackdown on the drug cartels. And Texas’ proximity to the border, large immigrant population and strong economic ties to Mexico has many paying attention to the results.

Texas Dominates Population Growth

Round Rock is ranked second and Austin is ranked third on a list of the country’s fastest-growing large cities.

New estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Round Rock’s population increased by 4.8 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011.

Triple Digit Temperatures Descend on Austin

This weekend saw triple digit temperatures arrive in Central Texas.

The National Weather Service predicts temperatures above 100 degrees every day this week. Tuesday should reach a stifling 106 degrees.

Meanwhile, chances of rain are slim and Central Texas remains in a state of moderate drought. Texas farmers and ranchers had hoped for some major rain as a result of Tropical Storm Debby, but the weather pattern has stayed relegated to the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 

KUT News

Supreme Court Health Care Decision Expected

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act possibly as soon as today.

The controversial law is the Obama administration’s most touted accomplishment. President Obama calls it "the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s."

KUT News

Austin School Board Takes Up Budget Tonight

The Austin School Board meets tonight to discuss its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The proposed $838.9 million budget is closely aligned to the board’s “Strategic Plan Priorities,” which include expanding academic, physical, emotional initiatives to enhance the education of the “whole child,” as well as better preparing students for college and improving recruitment of educators.

Photo by KUT News

Austin will commemorate the end of the Iraq War with a parade down Congress Avenue on July 7.  After the parade, there will be a job and resource fair for veterans inside the Capitol Building.

One veteran with multiple tours in Iraq says that’s important.

“I’m really happy that we’re having this job and resource fair because it can really provide a lot to service members. When you get out, a good support group is probably one of the best things you have, because when you’re in the army, you’re a team, and when you get out, you’re an individual again,” said U.S. Army veteran Marco Orrantia.

Photo courtesy

Senator Looks to Speed Rape Kit Testing

State Senator Wendy Davis wants Texas law enforcement agencies to get more proactive about testing rape kits, says the Texas Tribune. The Tribune writes:

Image via

It wouldn’t be a major weekend in Austin without some downtown street closures.

Don’t worry, as KUT News has everything you need to know to navigate Austin this Memorial Day weekend.  

Sunday: As a precursor to Memorial Day’s Capital of Texas Triathlon, organizers are hosting a Doggie Du Dash and Kids K fun run – meaning the following streets will be closed:

Photo by KUT News

Austinites will flock to the city's numerous parks and waterways this weekend. We've put together a guide for what you need to know about rules and safety.

Watercraft Ban: Put Away that Motorized Surfboard!

If you’re planning to celebrate the long Memorial Day weekend on Lady Bird Lake, you'll need to leave your motorized surfboard at home. The Austin Police Department will be enforcing an annual ban on motorized personal watercraft – like jet skis – from sunset on Friday until sunrise on Tuesday.

Voting photo by KUT News; Qatar photo by Emre Rende, via The Texas Tribune; Friedman photo courtesy

Last Day of Early Voting

Today is the last day of early voting for the Texas Primaries. So far 27,539 Travis county voters, 4.6 percent of the eligible voting population have cast their ballots. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir anticipates a busy day at the polls.

“We won’t be surprised to see two to three times the number of votes cast on the final day of Early Voting compared to the first days of the period," says DeBeauvoir.

Voters are reminded that most polls will close by 6 p.m. today. Election day is May 29.

Gavel photo courtesy; cattle photo courtesy Fox News 4 Dallas; Paramount photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Poll Finds Most Texans Support the Death Penalty

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows that a majority of Texans support the death penalty.

The poll found 73 percent of respondents were strongly or somewhat supportive, while 21 percent were somewhat or strongly opposed. Five percent were unsure.

According to the poll, 51 percent of Texans believe the death penalty is fairly applied. Some 28 percent disagree, and 21 percent were unsure.

Photo by By Daniel Reese for KUT News

Today marks the beginning of another "Click it or Ticket" campaign, a two-week undertaking by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to enforce seat belt usage. 

In Texas and across the country, law enforcement will be on the lookout for drivers and passengers shirking seatbelt laws, or whose children are improperly restrained. (Children under eight years must be in a child safety seat, unless they are taller than 4'9".) Citations run up to $250.

The NHTSA writes on its website that in the annual “Click It or Ticket” initiative, over three million tickets have been written over the last five years – a ticket every other second.

Graphic by Todd Wiseman,Texas Tribune

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, the Republican U.S. Senate primary may lead to a runoff election.

The poll of likely voters shows Lt. Governor David Dewhurst leading former Solicitor General Ted Cruz by only nine points, 40 to 31 percent, with neither candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff.

UT government professor Daron Shaw tells the Tribune that "If they're in a runoff, Dewhurst is in trouble,” as the Trib calls 2012 “a year in which insurgent candidates have been scoring big wins against establishment Republicans.” 

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News

Jury selection begins for Fort Hood bomber suspect

Jury selection is set to begin this morning in the trial of a soldier accused of planning to blow up a Killeen restaurant filled with Fort Hood soldiers.

Private First Class Naser Abdo could face up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges.

Photo courtesy Jimmy Wayne,

The United States Postal Service has announced a plan that will keep thousands of small and rural post offices open – cancelling an earlier plan to close up to 3,700 locations. The new plan will keep the current post office locations in place but will modify their hours of operation.

Lobby and post office box services will remain the same, but over 13,000 smaller post offices could reduce their business day to two to six hours, including over a dozen location in Blanco, Martindale, Maxwell and Caldwell counties.

Postmaster General and USPS CEO Patrick R. Donahoe cites demand from customers as the reason for the shift. “We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability,” he says in a press release.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller for the University of Texas

UT Announces New Dean of Law School

Ward Farnsworth, an associate dean at Boston University’s Law School, will replace Interim Dean Stefanie Lindquist as leader of the law school on June 1.

Before joining Boston University, Farnsworth clerked for Richard Posner on the 7th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Anthony Kennedy on the U. S. Supreme Court.

Farnsworth say his first order of business is "learning from the faculty, the alumni and the rest of the community down there about their views and abilities, and how we can use them to advance the mission of the school," reports the Alcade.