Trey Shaar

Producer, All Things Considered

Austin resident, on and off, mostly on, since 1986. Covering news of Central Texas and beyond since 1994. Father since 2010. Maker of sounds, informational and otherwise, since longer ago than any of the above.

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Science
3:11 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

UT Forms Committee to Investigate Missing Brains

The University of Texas at Austin disposed of 100 brains donated from the Texas State Hospital. Now a committee will look into the decision-making process behind the disposal.
Adam Voorhes

The University of Texas at Austin made international news in recent weeks over confusion about what happened to hundreds of donated human brains. Now the university is forming a special three-member committee to look into the case.

Last month, a KUT story highlighted the mystery of 100 missing brain specimens that had been donated from the Austin State Hospital, what they used to call the Texas State Lunatic Asylum.

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Same-Sex Marriage
3:15 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

What Does the Supreme Court Punting on Same-Sex Marriage Mean For Texas?

A challenge to Texas' gay marriage ban is still tied up in a federal appellate court and was largely unaffected by the Supreme Court's inaction.
Tyler Pratt/KUT

It’s a big day for supporters of same-sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take up the issue this year, which means same-sex marriages can continue in five states that currently ban the practice.

But where does that leave Texas? 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision against weighing in on same-sex marriage means it will soon be legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia. 

But, in Texas, the marriages will not be allowed. A federal district judge ruled earlier this year that the Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman relegates same-sex couples to second-class citizenship. But the judge also allowed the ban on same-sex marriages to continue while the case winds through the appeals process.

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Austin
7:32 am
Fri August 29, 2014

City Council Bans Hand-Held Devices While Driving

The Austin City Council banned use of hands-free devices yesterday. The ban starts in January of 2015.
via http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

Holding a phone while rolling on Austin streets is about to become against the law, but not just for Austinites driving cars and trucks.

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Energy & Environment
5:06 am
Thu August 14, 2014

This is an Ozone Action Day

First declaration for the 2014 ozone season
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

For the first time since September, state officials have declared today an Ozone Action Day in the Austin-area. The declaration means weather conditions are expected to be conducive to lower-than-normal air quality.

The Air Quality Index is forecast to bad enough to affect sensitive groups, such as those with asthma or heart disease, elderly people and children. The general public should be okay. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets a minimum standard for ozone of 75 parts per billion. 

“Our standard last year, we ended the 2013 ozone season at 73 parts per billion, so we’re actually okay, for now, but EPA expects to announce a new ozone standard in December of this year,”  Clean Air Force of Central Texas director Sarah Holland says.

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Crime & Justice
7:29 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Austin Toddler Abducted

2-year-old Cheyenne Johnson and 33-year-old Jesse Thomas
APD

Final update on this story (Saturday 10:00 a.m.): The Austin Police Department and  the Texas Department of Public Safety say this Amber Alert has been canceled. They say two-year-old Cheyenne Johnson is now safe and the suspect, Jesse Thomas, is in custody after a standoff with authorities in northwest Harris County.

UPDATE (10:00 p.m.):  An Amber Alert has now been issued for Cheyenne Johnson. Anyone who may have information about this abduction is asked to call the Austin Police Department at (512) 297-0825 or 9-1-1.

Austin police are asking for help from the public in locating a child who was last seen at 1:54 Friday afternoon on the 1800 block of Anita Drive in South Austin.

Two-year-old Cheyenne Johnson is about two-and-a-half feet tall, weighs 25 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.  She was wearing a navy blue shirt with flowers on it and navy blue shorts. She was last seen with 33-year-old Jesse Thomas, 6'01", about 220 pounds. 

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Transportation
7:13 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Urban Rail and Road Improvement Plan Will Go to Austin Voters in November

Supporters of urban rail hope it will relieve traffic congestion, but some transit advocates aren't convinced it will work.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlaugh/6705429685

A major transportation plan took a significant step forward Thursday when the Austin City Council voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot.

It’s a billion-dollar proposition. Voters would agree to a $600 million bond for a 9.5-mile urban rail line, contingent upon two conditions: matching funds from the Federal Transit Administration or another federal or state source, and a future city council securing $400 million dollars for road projects. The ordinance does not specify a source for the additional $400 million.

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Space is the Place
4:54 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

SpaceX Getting Millions in Incentives for Brownsville Launch Site

SpaceX

The state of Texas is offering $2.3 million to SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight company with plans to build a spaceport along the Gulf Coast.

The plan to build a rocket-launch facility in South Texas has been years in the making, and while there are still a few finishing touches to put on the plan, it looks like everyone is on board.

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SH-45
10:10 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Austin Calls on TxDOT to Expand Public Comment, Revise Study on SH-45

A rendering of the State Highway 45 extension. Some say the route of a proposed extension to SH 45 could negatively impact the Edwards Aquifer.
Credit Texas Department of Transportation

Austin City Manager Marc Ott has asked the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to reconsider its environmental impact study on State Highway 45 Southwest.

The proposed extension would connect South MoPac and FM-1626 in northern Hays County.

In a letter to TxDOT, Ott also asked the department to expand the public comment period ahead of tonight's final public input meeting at Bowie High School.

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Border & Immigration
2:35 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Perry Calls for Security & Federal Funds in a Congressional Hearing on Border Crisis

The Texas-Mexico border has become the focal point of a national debate on immigration after a surge in Central American immigrations.
Lorne Matalon Marfa Public Radio

The ongoing surge of Central American immigration into Texas was the focus of a field hearing Thursday of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R - Austin) invited Governor Rick Perry to testify at the hearing in the Rio Grande Valley.

The governor laid out a four-point plan for handling the situation, including increasing National Guard operations, screening immigrants for medical conditions and federal reimbursement of the money Texas has spent on border security.

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Texas
7:20 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Two Texans Weighing White House Bids Applaud Supreme Court Ruling

Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz at an April 2014 news conference at Fort Hood addressing a deadly gunfire incident
Sgt. Ken Scar Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System

The offices of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Governor Rick Perry were quick to release statements lauding Monday’s Supreme Court decision on contraception. The ruling said family-owned and other closely held companies can opt out of an Affordable Care Act provision requiring they provide insurance coverage of birth control.

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Border & Immigration
4:16 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Latest Surge at Texas Border: Politicians Cruz, Abbott, Davis & Perry

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (foreground, L, R) were joined by U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound, (background, R) in touring Joint Base Lackland San Antonio today.
Ben Philpott/KUT

Texas politicians are getting a close-up look at how border authorities are handling an influx of Central American immigrants – many of them children who came here without family members.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott got a tour Monday of one facility housing immigrant children after they’re processed near the border: Joint Base San Antonio, where children wait for judicial hearings or to be placed with relatives.

Both Abbott and Cruz blame the increase in immigrants on the Obama administration’s deferred action for childhood arrivals policy, which offered a delay of immigration proceedings for children brought to the U.S. before 2007.

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Austin
7:16 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Justice Department Announces Settlement With Austin Over Firefighter Discrimination Claims

Credit Callie Hernandez for KUT

The City of Austin and the U.S. Justice Department have agreed to a settlement in a complaint over hiring practices at the Austin Fire Department (AFD).

The settlement follows an investigation finding that the AFD selection process had the effect of unfairly discriminating against African-American and Hispanic applicants.

Under the agreement, which still needs approval by a federal court, the Austin Fire Department would change its hiring process to bring it in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII forbids the use of employment practices such as written tests resulting in disparate impact against any group, based on factors like race or national origin. 

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Medical Marijuana
6:23 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Why a Conservative Christian Group Joined Austin Marijuana Marchers

A conservative Christian organization is calling for legalized medicinal marijuana as a treatment for autism.
flickr.com/eggrole

Marijuana advocates will march on the Texas Capitol Saturday as part of the annual Worldwide Marijuana March. In Austin, the marchers will include members of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), a newly-founded organization which describes itself as a conservative Christian group calling for the legalization of medicinal marijuana use in Texas.

“We are working now with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. They’re a group out of Harris County. They are drafting a bill,"  says MAMMA co-founder and executive director Thalia Michelle. "We believe that Marijuana Policy Project will also be introducing a medicinal cannabis bill."

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UT Board of Regents
4:32 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Travis County Opens Criminal Investigation of UT Regent Wallace Hall

The Travis County District Attorney’s office is opening a criminal investigation of University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office has opened an investigation into Hall after receiving a complaint from a legislative committee considering impeachment proceedings against the regent.

Hall is accused of improper handling of student records as part of extensive open records requests of UT-Austin documents. Critics have accused Hall of conducting a "witch hunt" on behalf of Gov. Rick Perry to oust UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

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Crime & Justice
11:40 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Report: Central Texas Home to Some of the State's Most Established Gangs

The report shows that Central Texas has a high concentration of gang activity.
DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week.

This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000.

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LBJ Civil Rights Summit
7:28 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Bill Clinton Speaks at UT Austin's LBJ Summit

Former President Bill Clinton addresses the audience during the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on the University of Texas campus on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.
Deborah Cannon, American-Statesman

Former President Bill Clinton spoke Wednesday night at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum in Austin. The summit, gathering four U.S Presidents and dozens of other speakers, marks the 50th anniversary of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act.

Clinton lamented last year’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court to weaken another part of the LBJ legacy, the Voting Rights Act. Clinton singled out the Texas law requiring voters to show photo ID.

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Fort Hood
4:08 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Fort Hood Update: Timeline, Overview of Shooting Released by Army

Fort Hood officials released this map showing the route Spc. Ivan Lopez took during a shooting that killed four, including himself.
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.

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Wildflower Season
1:54 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Snakes or No Snakes, Safety Tips for Texas Bluebonnet Pictures

While you probably won’t find a six-foot rattler among the bluebonnets, there's still precautions you can take.
menoutdoors.com via imgur

With spring in full swing, it's time for wildflower pictures – including photos among Texas' iconic state flower, the bluebonnet.

But something's taking the bloom off this wildflower season: images of snakes among the flowers.

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Crime & Justice
5:34 am
Wed April 2, 2014

15-Year-Old Found Safe After Search (Update)

Sianna Gholson
Photo released by Blanco Police Department

Update: An Amber Alert for a 15-year-old Blanco girl has been canceled. Blanco Police say Sianna Gholson was found safe.

Gholson was believed abducted Tuesday morning from Blanco High School.

But, again, she’s now been found and is safe.

Original Story (April 1, 5:53 p.m.): Authorities issued an Amber Alert Tuesday for a 15-year-old girl believed abducted from Blanco High School in Blanco, Texas at about 7:45 Tuesday morning.

SXSW 2014
4:31 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Accused Driver in SXSW Crash Faces 20 Aggravated Assault Charges

Rashad Owens faces capital murder and aggravated assault charges for allegedly speeding into and killing SXSW attendees.

The man charged with capital murder in the crash into a crowd at South by Southwest is now also charged with 20 counts of aggravated assault.

21-year-old Rashad Owens has been jailed since the March 13 crash. Police say Owens was speeding away from a traffic stop when he drove through a barricade onto a street crowded with pedestrians.

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