Texas

The Lead
9:04 am
Thu November 15, 2012

The Lead: F1 Rounds the Corner

Good Thursday morning to all. We’ve got a beautiful day ahead of us as we rev up for the festivities Formula 1 is bringing our way. There will be partly sunny skies, with a high near 65. As for tonight, the skies will be cloudy, with low near 50.

Here are some stories KUT News and our partners have been working on this week:

Some of the 100,000 people expected for Austin’s first Formula One race have already started streaming into town. The international sporting event has a reputation of attracting the super rich, and there may be some truth to that. “We’re flying in our own celebrity DJ,” said Nicholas Frankl, an event promoter who with his sister runs My Yacht Group. “We have Lamborghini sponsoring the event. We have the most expensive Champagne available in America today, called Comte de Mazeray. It’s 24-karat gold-infused Champagne.”

DNA testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner sought for more than a decade further implicates him in the New Year’s Eve 1993 triple murder for which he was sentenced to die, according to an advisory that the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed Wednesday in Gray County state district court. But a lawyer for Skinner, who was convicted in 1995 of the murders of his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons in Pampa, said the DNA testing is incomplete and indicates that another person may have been at the scene of the crimes.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
11:41 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Forget Welfare Recipients: Should State Officials Be Drug Tested Too?

Turnabout is fair play, says one Texas lawmaker proposing drug tests for those seeking political office.
Erik Reyna for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is holding another press conference this afternoon to discuss possible changes to welfare and unemployment insurance – including the possibility that so called "high-risk" recipients be required to take drug tests.

Today Perry will stand alongside State Sen. Tommy Williams in Conroe to once again talk about his support for a bill filed this week. It's an issue Perry has pounced on and appears to be making a priority for the 2013 Legislative Session. Just yesterday, Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst held a rare joint press conference yesterday to praise the bill filed by State Sen. Jane Nelson.

Now, a state representative from Beaumont is throwing the bill's supporters a challenge. State Rep. Joe Deshotel wants Perry, Dewhurst and Nelson to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office.

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Texas
7:12 am
Wed November 14, 2012

New Agency Head Appointed Amid Criminal Investigation

Howard Baldwin (left) stepped down as Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services. John Specia, Jr. (right) will take his place.
Photos: Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Background Image: flickr.com/thomasletholsen

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has appointed a new head of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

The previous commissioner resigned last week as an Abilene office of the department is under criminal investigation.

Abilene Police say employees at the Child Protective Services office were not cooperative in the investigation into a toddler’s death in August. Police believe some employees may have tampered with evidence.

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Politics
9:03 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Are Stricter Rules Ahead for Welfare Recipients?

Lawmakers are filing the first bills of the 2013 legislative session.
KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are holding a joint press conference this morning about possible changes to welfare and unemployment insurance.

Monday was the first day Texas lawmakers filed bills for the 2013 Legislative Session.

A Republican State Senator from Flower Mound filed a bill that she says would strengthen work and job training requirements under welfare. State Sen. Jane Nelson says the bill would also institute some drug testing for so-called "high-risk participants" and tighten rules to prevent welfare funds from being used for alcohol and tobacco.

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The Lead
8:39 am
Mon November 12, 2012

The Lead: Veterans Day News, Armstrong Out at Livestrong

Good morning. This morning's chilly temperatures  aren't going anywhere; the National Weather Service says the season’s first freeze is expected in the Hill Country tonight. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

On Monday, state officials and business leaders will also gather at the Capitol to show gratitude. The event is part of Operation Enduring Opportunity, which encourages businesses nationwide to hire and recruit veterans and their spouses.

On Veterans Day, Americans salute those who have served this country in the armed forces. But service takes many forms: and this year, KUT followed one family dealing with military service. From the soldier whose family has served for generations dating back to World War I, to the family who had to learn how to live without him.

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Women's Health
7:25 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Planned Parenthood to Remain in Women's Health Program

Pete Schaekken, the lawyer representing Planned Parenthood speaks to the press.
Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

Planned Parenthood will continue participating in the Women’s Health Program — for now. Travis County District Judge Stephen Yelenosky on Thursday approved a temporary injunction to delay the state’s implementation of the “Affiliate Ban Rule,” which would bar the nonprofit from participating in the program, until a full trial can be held in December.

Planned Parenthood is "likely to prevail on their claim that the rule is inconsistent with the instructions of the Texas
Legislature," wrote Yelenosky in a letter authorizing the temporary injunction. 

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Criminal Justice
10:51 am
Thu November 8, 2012

Texas Judge Who Beat His Daughter Is Reinstated To Bench

Hillary Adams (left) as her father was striking her with a belt. She set up a video camera to record what she says was one of many such beatings.
YouTube.com (warning, video is graphic)

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 6:36 am

There was outrage across the nation last November when video of a 2004 beating that a local judge in Texas gave to his 16-year-old daughter went viral.

Within days, Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams was suspended by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

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2012 Presidential Election
7:33 am
Tue November 6, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be An Independent Voter In Texas?

Independent voters outnumber those who call themselves Democrats or Republicans. But what, exactly, is an independent voter? And what sort of influence, if any, do independents really have in Texas?
KUHF

A recent Gallup survey found 40 percent of voters nationwide claim to be independent. That's several points higher than those who identify as staunch Democrats or Republicans. Linda Wilson is among those independents.

"I've always considered voting a straight-party ticket to be pretty lazy."

The 52-year-old Houston paralegal describes her independence in terms that may sound familiar.

"I tend to be somewhat fiscally conservative, and somewhat socially liberal."

She says there are good candidates and bad candidates in both major parties. But she admits to leaning more Democratic lately over issues like healthcare, education, and economic assistance.

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Texas
7:07 am
Fri November 2, 2012

La Niña Could Bring More Drought to Texas

Daniel Reese for KUT News

After the brutal drought of 2011, welcome rains this year put minds at ease in many parts of Texas. But any respite may be short-lived.

The best hope Texas had for a full recovery from its long drought was a wet upcoming winter. But recent weather models show that’s growing less and less likely. The reason? The El Niño weather pattern meteorologists expected is not forming in the Atlantic.

State Climatologist John Neilsen-Gammon tell StateImpact Texas the bad news doesn’t end there.

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Health
1:25 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

Texas to 'Immediately' Cut Off Women's Health Program Funds to Planned Parenthood (Updated)

A court ruled that Texas no longer has to include Planned Parenthood in the Texas Women's Health Program.
flickr.com/wenews

Update: 1:25 p.m.:

Planned Parenthood isn't giving up the legal fight over whether the state can ban its clinics from the Women's Health Program.

In a lawsuit filed today in state court, Planned Parenthood claims the “Affiliate Ban Rule” that bars its clinics from the program is "invalid" under state law.

Original Story: 6:43 a.m.:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood.

The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

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Austin
1:05 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

What Draws People to Austin: Readers Respond

An illustration of the most common words left by commenters on KUT News' blog post, "What Draws People to Austin (And What Drives Them Away)."

Reaction to KUT News’ post about what draws new residents to Austin has been great. While the 26 comments readers left on the blog are shy of the 85 now in the original Reddit thread that inspired the post, they’re no less illustrative or provocative in their assesment of the changing face of Austin. (And that doesn't even count the 58 comments left on the Facebook thread NPR started.)

Let’s start with the highest-rated comment, a joke from Jessica Ellison:

My favorite Austin joke: How many Austinites does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but 25 to talk about how great the old light bulb was.

Commenters seem divided on what change means for Austin. Commenter tee vee dee writes:

Austin is certainly suffering the "Best City" curse. Mass waves of people all trying to escape the dregs of their life, yet unwilling to let it go completely and fully embrace what's here. They're drawn to the vibe without ever really experiencing it or adding to it before giving it a white wash of familiar chain stores and restaurants. I'm all for inner city development, but much of the growth of the past few years has been decidedly un-weird.

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Transportation
1:01 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Will 'Left Lane for Passing Only' Signs Make a Difference?

Is there any hope for Mopac? A TXDoT initiative is reminding motorists the left lane is for passing only, but the signs are mainly going up on faster highways.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Here’s a mantra you may repeat to yourself in Austin traffic (likely in-between bouts of profanity): The left lane is for passing only.

Despite the fact that passing on the left is the safest practice (and the fact that Texas has prohibitions against passing on the right), it’s a practice that’s routinely disregarded – just ask any Central Texas motorist.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) is trying to do something about that, by installing a little reminder on Texas highways: some 3,400 signs stating “Left Lane for Passing Only.”

Before you get your hopes up, here’s the rub – they’re only going up on highways with speed limits over 75 mph. That excludes Mopac and Interstate 35 as they cut through most of Central Austin.

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Texas
7:08 am
Thu October 25, 2012

Midsize Companies Power Texas Job Creation

Midsized Texas companies are adding jobs.
Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Midsize companies — firms with annual revenues of $10 million to $1 billion dollars — are now adding jobs at almost double the national average.

Middle market companies account for just 0.5% of all Texas businesses. But they employ 30% of the state’s workforce. Anil Makhija teaches finance at Ohio State University. He says midsized businesses are more reliable job creators than small ones.

“If you think about small firms, they do deserve our attention, because they are frequently the centers of innovation. But they have a very high failure rate.”

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Texas
3:02 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Historic Letter Heads 'Home' to the Alamo

William B. Travis wrote the famous letter at the Alamo in 1836.
flickr.com/gilgamesh

For the first time since it was written more than 170 years ago, the Travis letter will return the Alamo.

The famous letter—known to many as the “victory or death” letter—was written by William B. Travis to request reinforcements at the Alamo.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has controlled access to the letter since the early 1900’s and it has only been loaned out and displayed a few times.

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The Lead
8:29 am
Tue October 23, 2012

The Lead: AISD Super’s Contract Extended, F1 Street Closures Slashed, More Election News

Good morning. Austin’s in for another warm, breezy and partly cloudy afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

The Austin school board voted 7-2 to extend an employment contract with Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent who oversees the education of more than 86,000 Austin children in the largest school district in Central Texas. 

The city of Miami claims to have taken almost half of its homeless population off the streets in the last 10 years. In Austin, where homeless services are stretched to the limit, the City Council is looking for new solutions. Last night, council members met with officials from Miami. The challenges of one local homeless family that is struggling on the streets show how complex the problem can be.

Proposition 5 would amend the city charter to allow council members to directly hire their own staff instead of having the city manager make those appointments. … Prop 6 would allow the City Council, instead of the city manager, to hire the city attorney, which is already standard practice in many large cities.

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Politics
10:31 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Heated Battle in CD-23 Getting Lots of Attention

Pete Gallego and Francisco "Quico" Canseco.
Jennifer Whitney, Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — Texas Republicans are used to playing offense — and winning — but in the sprawling 23rd Congressional District, they have a fight on their hands.

Two years ago, Francisco "Quico" Cansecorode the Tea Party wave to Washington after defeating the Democratic incumbent. Now he faces a challenge from state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, who has served in the Legislature for 22 years.

The district, larger than Mississippi, stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and encompasses 800 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. It has the unusual distinction of being both overwhelmingly Hispanic (66 percent) and almost perfectly balanced between the two parties.

In 2008, Barack Obama got 49.88 percent of the vote here, and John McCain got 49.27 percent.

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The Lead
8:48 am
Mon October 22, 2012

The Lead: Early Voting Begins, Violent Night on Sixth Street, Austin’s F1 Track Opens

Good morning. It’s a muggy start to the week; the National Weather Service says Austin is in store for a partly cloudy, warm and breezy day, with a high in the mid-80s. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on this morning:

And here’s some more Austin and Texas stories from around the web:

Officer Fires on Car in Weekend Sixth Street Incident  

Shortly after 2 a.m. early Sunday morning on Sixth Street, an Austin police officer opened fire on a car that the officer said was driving straight at them, after hitting two bystanders.

The Statesman reports that the driver of the car, an unidentified woman, was uninjured; the two alleged victims of the driver were reported to have non-life threatening injuries. 

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Texas
3:52 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

Photos: State Fair Mascot 'Big Tex' Catches Fire (Updated)

State Fair of Texas mascot Big Tex went up in flames today. The 2012 State Fair was Big Tex's 60th anniversary.
flickr.com/photos/chr

Word broke this morning in Dallas that “Big Tex” – the iconic, 52-foot cowboy that greets visitors to the State Fair of Texas – caught fire and burned this morning.

It’s a bizarre end to the State Fair, which closes this Sunday. Big Tex celebrated his 60th birthday this year.

WFAA quotes Mitchell Glieber, the vice president of marketing for the State Fair, as saying it appears to have been an electrical fire. 

"There's obviously some electronics inside of Big Tex that leads to the ability for his mouth to move when he speaks," Glieber said. "I believe there was an electrical short, but that hasn't been confirmed or investigated."

You can follow Twitter hashtag #BigTexFire for more details. 

Update: YouTube member TexasStormChasers was rolling tape on fire dispatch radio when the Big Tex call came in. "There's a tall cowboy with all his clothes burnt off," says one responder. "Howdy folks – it’s hot,” says another.

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Texas A&M
12:11 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

A&M Evacuated Amid Bomb Threat (Updated)

emergency.tamu.edu

Updated 4:15pm: The A&M campus is now reopened, according to the university's emergency website:

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Pakistan
12:08 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

What the World Can Learn from U.S. Politics: A Pakistani Journalist’s Perspective

Samreen Ghauri meets with Gov. Rick Perry after a press conference earlier this week.
Office of the Governor

Samreen Ghauri is a Pakistani journalist visiting the U.S. on a fellowship under the U.S.-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism. The program is run by the International Center for Journalists in Washington D.C. and is funded by the U.S. State Department. Here’s Samreen’s thoughts on U.S. politics this election season.

Attending a Texas House of Representatives committee meeting and a press conference with Governor Rick Perry in one day – all against the ongoing backdrop of the U.S. presidential debates – I felt the true democratic, liberal force that makes America a prosperous country and role model to countries around the world. 

Democracy aims for social justice, equal opportunity, and people’s rights of liberty. Citizens’ political ideas, values, and beliefs are important components in democracy everywhere, especially in societies undergoing a democratic transition. This is my impression of the American society I have been observing for the last two weeks. Here in America, in a middle of a presidential campaign, I see politics and the democratic process being debated everywhere.

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