News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

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From Texas Standard:

In a time before reality TV competitions like American Ninja Warrior, more than 30,000 Texans would show up on Sundays in October to watch prisoners put on a death-defying rodeo show that would make professional cowboys think twice.

Underlying the spectacle of the Texas Prison Rodeo, which during its 50 years evolved into an entertainment event complete with superstar guests like John Wayne and Johnny Cash, were many of the civil, political and criminal justice issues that propel our conversations today – explored in depth in the new book, "Convict Cowboys: The Untold Story of the Texas Prison Rodeo."


Screenshot from Voyage of Time

From Texas Standard:

Anyone familiar with the work of Austin-based director Terrence Malick knows he’s unafraid to tackle big questions. The example you’re probably most familiar with is “Tree of Life.” The 2011 film is not your typical family drama. It looks at the existence of a higher power and the origins of the world.

Bill Clark/Texas Tribune

A judge has thrown out a federal civil case accusing Attorney General Ken Paxton of securities fraud, giving him his biggest legal victory yet since the allegations surfaced more than a year ago. 

Michael Dawes/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

During the fact-checking and doubting candidates' claims this election season, political writers and Twitterers alike began referring to politicians' denial of facts as gaslighting – a term coined from a 1938 play in which a victim is manipulated into doubting what she otherwise knows to be factual, making her question her sanity.

But when this technique is used for political objectives, there may be a better description: "the big lie." Garth Jowett, professor at the University of Houston, says "the big lie" comes from Adolf Hitler.


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From Texas Standard:

Sheriff Arvin West is the law in Texas’ Hudspeth County. It certainly seems that way to unsuspecting travelers along his county’s stretch of I-10. He’s known for accusing the Mexican army of invading the border, ragging on the federal government on border security policies and busting more than a few entertainers for carrying pot (Willie Nelson, Nelly, Fiona Apple and Snoop Dogg are on the list).

West, now tied to a three-year-long federal investigation, isn’t talking. But a Washington Post report reveals he may be involved in setting up a rogue Navy training based in West Texas.


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From Texas Standard:

Undecided voters are no myth. So who are they?

Blanca Morales, like 84 million others, tuned in last week to watch the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But it didn’t help her decide who she’ll pick on Election Day. If anything, it complicated matters.


TDCJ via Texas Tribune

Six months after the Texas death chamber held its latest execution, Barney Ronald Fuller Jr. is set to die Wednesday for the 2003 shooting deaths of his neighbors in rural East Texas.

RS12240/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Lewisville, Lubbock, Sherman – just a handful of Texas cities where there will be gun shows this weekend. At any given time, nearly a half dozen cities across the state host weekend gun shows where sellers, buyers, and collectors congregate in what amounts to a firearms bazaar of sorts.

Criticism over these events focuses on a lack of universal background checks for purchasers. But law enforcement agents have been tracking some gun show patrons’ license plates.

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From Texas Standard:

Clowns: They're not just for circuses anymore.

Across cities throughout Texas and around the country, police and schools have been on lockdown and high alert over reports of people with a Bozo-like appearance making threats – usually on social media.

But these recent clown sightings aren't the first we’ve seen. In fact, they go back to at least 1981 in Boston and spread across the country. One theory claims that these clown sightings come in waves, mirroring the fears and uncertainties of American society at the time.


Texas Tribune

On any given day in the last six months, nearly a thousand of Texas' "highest-priority" children — considered by the state to be at immediate risk of physical or sexual abuse — were not checked on even once by Child Protective Services investigators.

Another 1,800 of those kids were seen by investigators, but not within the required 24-hour window following an urgent report of possible abuse or mistreatment.

Left: Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Right: Third Way Think (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It used to be that people concerned about the state of political coverage in America worried about the constant obsession with who's ahead.

This year, both sides are fixated with landing the nastiest punch, one blow that will decisively take out the other. It almost happened in 1988, during the Vice Presidential debate when Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, quipped to his Republican rival, Sen. Dan Quayle of Virginia: "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."


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From Texas Standard:

It all started with a battle over information: In one corner was the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. In the other were Texas lawmakers.

The commission holds the details of the state’s Medicaid contracts with large pharmaceutical companies, which show how much the state is spending on medicine. The commission assured lawmakers the state is getting a good deal, but the legislators wanted to see for themselves. In particular, they wanted to know the amount the state was getting back in rebates for name-brand medicine.


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From Texas Standard:

In 2001, Jonas Koffler was working for a tech startup in Austin. He was 26 years old, ambitious, and climbing the company ladder by working over 70 hours a week. He'd work around the clock, taking cat naps rather than logging a full night's sleep.

He was happy to do it, too. His hard work, it seemed, was getting results. And then – suddenly – everything stopped. One moment he was giving a presentation; the next, he was in a hospital. He'd had a stroke. The doctors told him that the stress and overexertion from his work may have helped cause it.


This Texas Dance Hall Needs to Raise a (New) Roof

Oct 3, 2016
Leah Scarpelli/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Driving through a beautiful expanse of Texas Hill Country on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I pull off Highway 281 somewhere between San Antonio and Johnson City. I hear the Twin Sisters Dance Hall before I actually see it.

Twin Sisters Hall Club President Jo Nell Haas loves it here. This day’s all about raising money for a place she’s been going to her whole life.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

UPDATE 12:10 p.m.: Texas has officially withdrawn from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.

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From Texas Standard:

We often talk about our favorite barbecue joints in Texas, but of all the characteristics we use to label our favorites, we're hard pressed to mention one without a closed sign.

But Sonny Bryan’s 24-hour smokehouse in Dallas changed their hours in May.

Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn says the now round-the-clock barbecue joint used to have hours more typical of famed barbecue joints.


Courtesy Simon & Schuster

From Texas Standard:

Wolf Boys” explores how a couple of Texas teenagers went from playing under the Friday night lights to working as assassins for Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels.

The book reads like fiction, but it's a true story written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Slater.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

The $800 million border security operation passed by state lawmakers has helped seal off parts of the state’s southern border. But the surge has also made the rest of the area more of a hotbed for illegal activity, the state’s top law enforcement officer told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Rick Perry did not survive to dance another day.

The former Texas governor was eliminated from the ABC program “Dancing with the Stars” on Tuesday night. 

Courtesy Ballet Austin

From Texas Standard:

Few parents put pen to paper to figure out how much they'll spend if their kids end up loving the activity they started at age three. For example, by the time your adorable toddler girl – who’s in love with ballet – graduates high school you will have spent as much as $100,000 on fees, tutus and training. That's according to an estimate by Dance USA.

If your daughter goes pro – her training could be as expensive as a doctor's. But ballet is not just for girls. Boys spend much less on a lifetime of ballet training.