12:08 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Committee Moves Signal Dewhurst's Political Tack

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst met voters on July 31, 2012, in a Houston deli on the day of the GOP primary runoff. Dewhurst lost the U.S. Senate primary runoff to Ted Cruz.
Michael Stravato, Texas Tribune

Dull as it sounds, appointing the committees in the state Senate is a big deal. The lieutenant governor is dishing out power, giving more to this senator than to that one, letting the senators know how they rank for the next several months. The idea is to get things done while strengthening friendships and loyalties, to do it without making too many enemies and to be sure the enemies who remain are too weak to fight back.

That’s the inside game. Outside, the public is watching, particularly that narrow slice of the public that votes in primary elections. Now that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has decided to run for re-election in 2014, what he does with his committee assignments for the 2013 legislative session is the first step in his next campaign.

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10:59 am
Fri August 31, 2012

What Explains the Jobs Race Between Texas and California?

Could government jobs help explain why California has recently outpaced Texas in job creation?
Erik Reyna for KUT News

Texas has one of the strongest economies in the nation. But in recent months the Lone Star State seems to have been outshined by the Golden State. The U.S. Labor Department reports that California has added 365,100 new jobs to its economy while Texas added 222,500.

This horse race captured the attention of The Atlantic. In a post to its website called “Why California Is Suddenly Adding Jobs Faster Than Texas,” author Jordan Weissman posits several reasons for the change:. One is growing government jobs in California versus declining government work in Texas. Another is the theory that California’s economy is primarily based on housing – which is making a slow but somewhat steady recovery.

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11:16 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Feds Reject Texas Voter ID Law

A federal court finds SB 14 has a "retrogressive effect" on minority voting.
Jason Brackins, Texas Tribune

A United States District Court has denied Texas’ request to implement its controversial Voter ID law.

In the case of the Texas versus U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the court writes that the law – Senate Bill 14, passed in 2011 – will have a “retrogressive effect” on the voting rights of minority citizens.

Here’s the heart of the court’s opinion:

Pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas seeks a declaratory judgment that Senate Bill 14 (SB 14), a newly-enacted law requiring in-person voters to present a photo ID, “neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race[,] color,” or “member[ship] [in] a language minority group.” ..  To satisfy section 5’s effect requirement, Texas must demonstrate that SB 14 will not “lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.” …  For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we find that Texas has failed to make this showing—in fact, record evidence demonstrates that, if implemented, SB 14 will likely have a retrogressive effect. Given this, we have no need to consider whether Texas has satisfied section 5’s purpose element. Accordingly, we deny the state’s request for a declaratory judgment.

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3:13 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Dewhurst Declares Support for School Choice Legislation

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, speaking with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on the floor of the Texas Senate.
Texas Senate

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, throwing some red meat to conservatives after his bruising defeat at the hands of Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, has put private school vouchers and expanded “parental choice” back on the legislative agenda.

Speaking to delegates at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, Dewhurst said he would work with state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to hammer out the details of the proposal.

Dewhurst made it clear that he supports the voucher concept, though he said that is just one of many options to pursue.

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11:08 am
Wed August 29, 2012

San Antonio Troops Responding to Hurricane Isaac

An emergency response vehicle unloads in San Antonio during a training exercise. Several San Antonio-based soldiers are currently responding to Hurricane Isaac.
U.S. Army

Approximately 80 members of U.S. Army North have been dispatched from San Antonio to four states in the path of Hurricane Isaac.

Army North supports FEMA and local first responders during disasters, providing services ranging from flood rescue to fire control.

Sixty soldiers were deployed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands when then-Tropical Storm Isaac moved through. They have now been redeployed to the Gulf Coast states.

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2:42 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Federal Court Won’t Clear Texas Redistricting Plan

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis was one of several intervenors serving as a defendant along with Attorney General Eric Holder.

A three-judge federal panel has found that Texas' redistricting plans do not merit approval.

The State of Texas sued Attorney General Eric Holder in an effort to get the federal government to sign off on the plans. But in a newly-released opinion, the court states “that Texas has failed to show that any of the redistricting plans” – for seats in the U.S. Congress, the Texas House and the Texas Senate –  “merits preclearance.”

Political blog Talking Points Memo links to the opinion here.

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11:01 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Dewhurst to Seek Another Term in 2014

David Dewhurst speaking at this year's state Republican convention.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Despite a recent defeat in the Republican Senate primary, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has announced he’ll run for re-election.

Dewhurst has served as Lt. Gov. since 2003. The second highest statewide position in Texas, the Lt. Gov. also serves as president of the Texas Senate.

Speculation regarding Dewhurst’s future mounted following his defeat at the hands of Ted Cruz in the runoff for Texas’ Republican U.S. Senate seat. But following a leak of a re-election fundraising letter, and confirmation of Dewhurst’s plans to run for re-election in 2014, the long-serving Lt. Gov. has made it official he seeks to win another term.

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11:05 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Why is West Nile Virus Hitting Texas so Hard?

Health officials are investigating more than 1,100 West Nile Virus cases. About half of those are in Texas.

Texas has seen more than 600 West Nile Virus cases so far this year. That’s more than any other state in the country and almost of half of the total cases in the nation.

The Dallas area has seen by far the largest number of infections and deaths related to the disease. Eleven people have died from West Nile Virus in Dallas County alone.

But there’s no clear reason why the outbreak has been so severe in North Texas.

“The available information indicates that the numbers of reported cases are trending upward in most areas, including Texas,” says Dr. Lyle Peterson with the Centers for Disease Control.

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4:10 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Tax Free Weekend Getting Underway

It's that time of year again: As the summer ends for Texas students, the state's annual sales tax-free weekend gears up again. 

Items receiving tax-free status this weekend include clothes, shoes, backpacks and school supplies.  You can find a complete list of items going untaxed this weekend here.

As KUT News reports, Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis, who sponsored the measure originally in 1999, is cognizant of the impact on the state of foregoing those tax dollars, estimated at $65 million this year. 

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5:45 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

A&M Trying to Distance Itself from Shooting Incident

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A shooting that left three dead in College Station on Monday did not occur on the campus of Texas A&M University or involve members of the A&M community. Yet in headlines around the country, it is being referred to as the "Texas A&M shooting."

With new students scheduled to move into A&M's residence halls on Sunday, this has left the university with a bit of a public relations problem that officials are scrambling to rectify.

"It’s extremely important for us that our new students coming into campus and their families understand that this is a very safe campus," said A&M spokesman Jason Cook. "We truly care about the safety of our students and we have many, many safety measures in place."

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12:30 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Fort Hood Shooting Trial Starts Next Week

Jury panel selection in the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan begins Monday, Aug. 20.
courtesy Bell County Sheriff's Department

The trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan – accused gunman in the 2009 shooting rampage at an Army base in Fort Hood, Texas – should begin next week as scheduled.

The Associated Press reports that military judge Col. Gregory Gross denied a request from Hasan’s attorneys today requesting a delay:

Hasan's attorneys had argued that they needed more time to look through 26 boxes of documents, including some of his medical records and jail logs.

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11:16 am
Tue August 14, 2012

After Six Decades, Slain Texas POW ID'd Through DNA

A passenger aboard SFC Barker's flight captured this photo on the Dallas-Ft. Worth tarmac.
Donna Wasielewski

As American athletes come home from competing against the Chinese in the 2012 Summer Olympics medal count, it’s hard to remember that a few decades ago, American soldiers were fighting the Chinese Army in the Korean War.  

In late 1950, General Douglas MacArthur mobilized American forces for a military campaign that he called "Home by Christmas,” because the objective was to quickly win the war and get the troops home for the holidays. Instead, the Chinese attack at the Ch’ongch’on River led to the retreat of American forces and a protracted war in Korea.

In the midst of that battle on December 1, a 21-year-old medical supervisor from Rockwall County, Texas was taken prisoner.

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1:32 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Shooting Near A&M Campus in College Station

The update from Texas A&M's website.

Update 5 (4:48 p.m.): An afternoon shooting in College Station has left three people dead, including a law officer, the shooter, and an apparent bystander. 

Constable Brian Bachman was killed while serving an eviction notice at a home near the Texas A&M campus. Neighbors heard the gunshots and called College Station police. An ensuing shootout left two more officers wounded.  

The suspect, whose name has not been released, died later of his injuries. Reports of gunfire led University officials to issue a Code Maroon -- alerting students of the shooting and telling them to take cover until the situation was under control.

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4:14 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Reports: Commander Out at Lackland Air Base

Colonel Glenn E. Palmer has been relived of command at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio
U.S. Air Force

In the wake of a sexual assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, the commander of the Air Force’s sole basic military training group has been dismissed.

Colonel Glenn E. Palmer served as commander of Air Force Basic Military Training at the 737th Training Group at Lackland. In his tenure overseeing operations there, the base has been rocked by allegations of sexual assault from female trainees.

The Associated Press reports:

Officials familiar with the decision said Palmer has been relieved from those duties, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public.

The officials said there was no indication Palmer was facing any criminal charges. In all, six instructors have been charged with offenses ranging from rape to adultery.

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10:25 am
Fri August 10, 2012

Life Sentence for Naser Abdo in Ft. Hood Bomb Plot

Army Pfc. Abdo represented himself at his trial.
Matt Largey for KUT News

Update: The Austin American-Statesman notes that Abdo received two life sentences today, plus an additional 60 years in prison. 

The daily reports that Abdo expressed no remorse at sentencing: 

“I don’t ask the court for mercy because Allah is the one who gives me mercy,” Adbo said, referring to God in Arabic. He said he was motivated by what he called crimes committed by the U.S. and the U.S. military against Muslims.

“I have continued to answer the call of jihad and will continue to the day I am called to account for my deeds,” he continued.

Original post: This morning, a  federal judge sentenced the AWOL soldier convicted of plotting to blow up a restaurant popular with Fort Hood troops to life in prison.

Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo was found guilty in May of charges including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Killeen police arrested Abdo last July with bomb-making materials.

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