Texas

Texas
11:34 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Below Average Year for Texas Tornadoes: Only 100

A tornado outside of Amarillo, Texas. The state ranked forth in the nation for tornadoes in 2011.
Photo by Tim Marshall, www.srh.noaa.gov

One hundred tornadoes may sound like a lot. But according to the Insurance Council of Texas (ICOT), that’s actually below average.

ICOT says that Texas’s 2011 tornado count – an even 100 – is less than the state’s yearly average of 135. Still, the 2011 number was high enough to rank Texas as having the fourth most tornadoes in the U.S., trailing Alabama with 146 twisters (accompanied by 242 fatalities), Oklahoma with 118 (32 fatalities), and Tennessee with 102 (14 fatalities). ICOT's statement comes in the midst of Severe Weather Week, as decreed by Gov. Rick Perry. 

The Texas twisters created no fatalities, basically proving the exception to the rule in a year of violent weather. In a press release, ICOT quotes Greg Carbon with the Norman, Oklahoma office of the Storm Prediction Center as saying “More than a dozen states recorded tornado fatalities in 2011, including Massachusetts that had three people killed from a rare tornado.”

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2012 Presidential Election
11:36 am
Tue February 21, 2012

Straus, Speaker of Texas House, Endorses Romney

Straus' endorsement comes as a new poll shows Rick Santorum with a huge lead in Texas.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is picking up a big Texas endorsement Tuesday — from Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

“The people of Texas are looking for a leader that will stand up to President Obama and clearly articulate conservative values. We’ve had enough of the out-of-control spending, government intrusion, and economic decline of the last three years,” Romney said in a release. “I look forward to working with Joe in the months to come as I outline my vision to restore America’s greatness.”

The Straus endorsement comes as a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows rival Rick Santorum with a huge lead in the Lone Star State, crushing both Newt Gingrich and Romney by double digit margins. Gov. Rick Perry, who withdrew from the presidential race late late last month, has endorsed Gingrich.

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Environment
11:50 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Recent Report Adds Fuel to Fracking Debate

This image produced by the Departme nt of Energy explains the hydraulic fracturing process.
Image courtesy fossil.energy.gov

A newly-released report on fracking – the practice of pumping hydraulic fracturing fluid into wells to break up and extract oil shale and natural gas deposits – has caused something of a stir in Texas.

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Texas
11:56 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Keystone Pipeline Sparks Property Rights Backlash

Image by Todd Wiseman/Jay Root, Texas Tribune

As the White House and Congress battle it out over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian company that wants to build it is still using its land-seizure powers to get property easements for the ambitious project.

And it’s ruffling some feathers in a politically conservative patch of Texas.

Several landowners along the proposed pipeline route say TransCanada has bullied them into selling their property by asserting “eminent domain” authority, the same power that governments use to seize land for highways and other public infrastructure projects. A property rights coalition tracking the condemnation proceedings has uncovered at least 89 land condemnation lawsuits involving TransCanada in 17 counties from the Red River to the Gulf Coast — cases that could test the limits of a private company's power to condemn property.

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Austin
11:21 am
Wed February 15, 2012

KUT News Roundup: City Website Reloading, Cattle Ranchers Fight Drought, and Fact Checking Gingrich

If you've missed any of our reporting this week, we've compiled this report.
Photo by KUT News

It's Wednesday, which can only mean one thing: A mid-week round-up of news in Austin and Central Texas from KUT.org, our reporting partner StateImpact Texas, and our friends at KUHF Houston:

New Austin City Website Still Ironing Out Kinks (KUT News)

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austin
9:02 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/13/12: Districts React to STAAR, Texas on Top in Exporting

At their headquarters on West Sixth tonight, AISD will consider the role the STAASR test should play in determining students' grades.
KUT News

STAAR-Crossed Educators Take Second Look at Test

Districts from across Texas are finding ways to curtail a component of the STAAR exam that makes the test  count towards students' grade-point averages and class rank, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The move comes in the wake of a growing unease with the role of standardized testing.

While the exam is required by law to compose 15 percent of a student's grade in each course, no specific guideline for doing so exists. With that leeway, individual districts are taking the reins into their own hands. Georgetown and Pflugerville, for example, have set minimum scores on end-of-course exams at 60 and 69, respectively.

In Austin, AISD has polled parents on several potential courses of action. Currently, all of the proposed options would affect class rank.  But now with the actions of surrounding districts, AISD is poised to change how they'll incorporate the scores.

The Austin school board will meet today to discuss end-of-course exams. The meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Carruth Administration Center Board Auditorium, Room B100, 1111 W. Sixth St.

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Politics
1:37 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Slow Redistricting Lowers Clout of Texas Voters

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In a parallel political universe — one in which redistricting maps were in place and elections were on schedule — Texas would be getting national attention right now.

The four survivors in the Republican presidential primary race would be hitting all the stops on the barbecue circuit, wearing jeans and boots, raising money, posing for pictures and saying remarkable things to be played over and over on TV.

Instead, the earliest possible date for our primary elections will come after 34 states and territories have already spoken, either through primaries or caucuses. It could come later, leaving Texas to join 13 states that hold presidential primaries in May and June.

Just think of it. If the federal courts had approved the maps drawn by the Legislature, or those drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio last year, we’d be less than two weeks away from early voting.

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Austin
10:46 am
Fri February 10, 2012

KUT News Roundup: Rolling Blackouts for Texas, Drought Examples to Follow, a Mortgage Cash Payout

A big week for news around the city and the state. If you've missed anything, we've compiled this online report.
Photo by KUT News

It's Friday, so here’s an end-of-the-week look at what we’ve been following: News from KUT.org, our reporting partner StateImpact Texas, and our friends at the Texas Tribune:

AISD Teachers Weigh Options with In-District Charter (KUT News):

"A charter school operator from South Texas is moving into East Austin’s Allan Elementary School next school year. It’s the first step in a multiyear strategy that Austin ISD hopes will reverse years of academic setbacks. But for some teachers, it’s a cue to leave their campus.

“I do not want to be a part of what they’re bringing to our community, and it’s still not what I think is best for kids,” Allan Elementary bilingual education teacher Constanza Serna said.

Austin ISD’s first ever in-district charter school program starts next year and will be run by IDEA Public Schools from South Texas. Alejandro Delgado – a graduate of Bowie High in Austin – will be the first vice principal of the renamed IDEA Allan campus.

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Politics
8:16 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Buoyant Santorum Takes Campaign To Texas — And Corrals Some Perry People

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas, on Wednesday.
Rex C. Curry Associated Press

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 6:09 pm

Fresh off his hat trick in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum campaigned in Texas on Wednesday, speaking to a group of pastors at Bella Donna Chapel in the town of McKinney.

Forty miles north of Dallas, where black prairie dirt meets the fresh poured concrete of suburbia, this is Rick Santorum country.

This used to be Texas Gov. Rick Perry country.

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Politics
1:49 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Agreement Reached on Redistricting Maps?

An agreement on changes to redrawn Texas congressional districts may come in time to fight off another primary postponement.
Voting images by KUT News; Texas Capitol by Lizzie Chen for KUT News; Gavel photo courtesy flickr.com/fabliaux

Today is the deadline imposed by a San Antonio court for agreement on redrawn Texas districts. Any further delay, the court warned, and Texas’ primaries could be pushed back even further past their tentative April 3 date.

Word comes from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott this hour that an agreement may be forthcoming on “interim” maps for the 2012 elections. His office released the following statement:

“The proposed maps minimize changes to the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature and, as the U. S. Supreme Court required, makes changes only where necessary. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has worked with a wide range of interest groups to incorporate reasonable requests from all parties to the extent possible without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature. Even though these proposed interim maps aren’t fully supported by all interest groups, modifications have been incorporated based on requests made by all parties. Today’s maps should allow the court to finalize the interim redistricting maps in time to have elections in April,” Attorney General Abbott said.

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Health
12:21 pm
Thu February 2, 2012

Texas Planned Parenthood Clinics Bracing for Komen Cuts

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood — which has performed breast cancer screenings and mammograms with Komen grants for the last five years — is hitting home for clinics in Dallas, Austin and Waco.

Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region reports that its six-year partnership with Dallas-based Komen has performed 720 clinical breast exams and risk assessments for poor women under the age of 40. Over the last three years, the North Texas Planned Parenthood chapter in Dallas has used Komen dollars to provide about 580 mammograms to poor women. And in Waco, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas has relied heavily on Komen funds to screen, diagnose and treat women across 10 counties. In 2010, the federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, in conjunction with Komen funding, provided 609 Central Texas women with mammograms, 292 with diagnostic services and 329 with cervical cancer screenings. Twenty-four Medicaid-eligible women with breast or cervical cancer received treatment.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Will Texas Primaries Be Pushed Back Again?

The latest news in the Texas redistricting fracas is that agreement on a map may not come in time for April primaries.
Voting images by KUT News; Texas Capitol by Lizzie Chen for KUT News; Gavel photo courtesy flickr.com/fabliaux

It looks like the April 3 date for Texas primaries – already pushed back from March – may get shoved back again.

The Associated Press reports one of the parties in the redistricting lawsuit that has delayed the primaries, Luis Vera, representing the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) says negotiations have stalled, and doesn’t anticipate talks between the state and the parties that sued to block the state’s redrawn map will be concluded in time.

The parties were given until February 6 to settle on redrawn districts, in time to preserve the April 3 primary. The groups are gathered at a conference in San Antonio in an attempt to hash out differences.

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Health
3:11 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Health & Human Services Tells Texas Insurers to Pay Up

A provision in the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to spend 80% of patient premiums on care. Texas had sought to delay its implementation.
flickr.com/trp0

Under a federal determination released today, insurers in Texas will have to abide by spending rules set forth in President Obama’s signature health care reform package. 

One of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act stipulates that insurers must spend 80% of customers’ premium dollars on medical care, and not overhead costs. Any overhead spending over 20%, and insurance companies would be required to issue rebates to their customers.

That said, states can apply for an adjustment of to increase the amount they spend on overhead. The Texas Department of Insurance applied to do just that, requesting to ramp up medical care spending more slowly: 71% for (current) reporting year 2011, 74% for 2012, and 77% for 2013.

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Texas
11:56 am
Tue January 17, 2012

John Cornyn Predicts Texas Primaries Will Be Delayed Again

Sen. John Cornyn predicts Texas primaries will be pushed past their current April date.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/musicfirstcoalition

Sen. John Cornyn suggested yesterday that Texas many not be ready to hold its primaries on April 3.

While the political prognostication isn’t terribly surprising, considering the twists and turns the primary calendar has taken, it does have people wondering when elections will be held in Texas.

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Texas
5:02 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Waco Veteran Of Pearl Harbor Dies On Anniversary Of Attack

The battleships USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee burn in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese air attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
National Archives

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 6:29 pm

Frank Curre, a Navy veteran who survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, has died at the age of 88. According to family members, he died around noon on Dec. 7, 70 years after the attack.

Curre's story of how he remembers that horrible day was featured in last month's Veteran's Day edition of StoryCorps.

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