Texas

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

Senate Bill 510
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The US Senate passed a sweeping overhaul of food safety rules today that would give the Food and Drug Administration substantially more power to issue recalls and oversee food producers.

The New York Times reports that one of the final sticking points was how the legislation would affect small scale farm operations.

A little over a year after the Lubbock Water Rampage was sold to new owners, the water park is now back on the market.  The Lubbock Water Rampage will be auctioned off on Wednesday, December 8.

The water park was closed in May 2008 because the owner at the time couldn't afford to renovate the facility, according to Lubbock NBC affiliate KCBD. Now it appears the new owners are getting out of the business.

web forum
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Fans of the University of Texas football team got a punch in the gut on Thanksgiving Thursday when their hopes to compete in a bowl game were erased by a 24-17 loss to Texas A&M. Now some fans are getting riled up online over the Longhorns' first losing season since 1997.

Greg Coleman
Image courtesy Kate Sheets http://www.flickr.com/photos/katesheets

The first Solicitor General of Texas, Greg Coleman, died in a plane crash yesterday when the Piper PA-46 Malibu he was flying in went down as the pilot tried to land it at an airport in Destin, Fla.

bonfire
Image courtesy cobalt123 http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/

A burn ban stopped Aggies from setting fire to their massive bonfire yesterday evening, and now dry conditions have prompted Williamson County to issue a burn ban of its own.

The ban was issued today at 1:30 and will remain in effect until further notice. It applies to any fire outside of an "enclosure" that contains all the flames and sparks. The ban can be enforced by any police officer.

Defense Attorney Dick DeGuerin
Photo by Matt Largey/KUT News

Judge Pat Priest is warning lawyers they may be working late tonight. As of now, the jury has not come back with a verdict on the third day of deliberations. Priest says alternatives--including the possibility of having the jury deliberate on Thanksgiving--are worse than putting in some overtime today.

The jury earlier requested copies of several interviews DeLay did with news organizations, and with former DA Ronnie Earle.

Longhorns head coach Mack Brown
Photo by KUT News

The Aggies are in town tomorrow for one of the biggest rivalry games in college football.  Longhorn fans are hoping Texas plays with confidence following last weekend’s Florida Atlantic win.  Texas A&M is ranked 17. 

Head Coach Mack Brown praised Texas A&M's defense and acknowledged he’s not happy being the underdog going into the Thanksgiving Day game. 

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb
Photo by Matt Largey/KUT News

Updated at 11:50am: Jurors have asked yet another question, this time about the language of the conspiracy charge against Tom DeLay.  Jurors wanted to know if DeLay had to agree to both parts of the alleged conspiracy -- both sending corporate money to the Republican National Committee and sending an equal amount of money back to Texas legislative candidates -- to be found guilty of conspiracy. 

Updated at 4:45pm: The jury has told Judge Pat Priest they are making headway in their deliberations, but they want to go home for the day.  Lawyers on both sides are not objecting.  Deliberations will resume tomorrow.

Updated at 2:10pm: The jury in the Tom DeLay trial is still deliberating after a break for lunch.  When they came back from the break, they submitted a long list of evidence they want to see in the jury room. 

Soldiers in Afghanistan
Image courtesy the U.S. Army

The Department of Defense released suicide data for October on Friday, reporting 25 potential suicides. That brings the total number of suicides so far this year to 172, meaning we've already surpassed the overall total for 2009, according to the National Journal.

The TABC has told retailers to stop selling Four Loko and the like
Photo Courtesy of Kyle James

The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) has finally weighed in on caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko, the soon-to-be-altered caffeinated alcoholic beverage that refuses to ride into the world of forgotten novelty. From the TABC’s press release on Friday:

The state added 47,900 jobs in October
Photo Courtesy of Bill Jacobus

Texas total nonfarm employment was up by 47,900 jobs in October, according to a Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) press release. This number accounts for an impressive third of the 151,000 jobs the entire U.S. economy added in the same period.

“Every major industry added jobs in October with notable increases in Construction employment” said TWC Chairman Tom Pauken.

TWC also released that the unemployment rate stayed steady at 8.1 percent, a substantial percentage and a half less than the country’s, which is currently at 9.6.

Image courtesy of the Office of Representative Charlie Gonzalez

Hispanic Caucus Elects New Chair

San Antonio Democrat Charlie Gonzalez has been elected chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  My SA news reports the Caucus unanimously picked Gonzalez.  The six-term lawmaker says he plans to reach out to five newly elected Hispanic Republicans and ask them to join the caucus.  Gonzalez starts his new leadership role when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

Fort Hood firefighters are working to put out an approximately 700-acre fire burning in a training range at the army post. It started around 2 p.m. today.  The fire is burning at the Dalton Mountain Training Range, in the north end of the post, and is currently moving south to the Lone Star Range. 

Read the press release from the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, here.

Drinks like Four Loko must eliminate the alcohol or face substantial penalties
Photo Courtesy of Jon Raedle

Four Loko-lovers may need to start looking for the next alcoholic fad as "blackout in a can" is changing its formula.  The move comes in response to the considerable heat brought by the U.S. government following several incidents across the country involving the alcohol and caffeine-infused drink.

The federal government warned four companies that manufacture caffeine-spiked booze products to stop selling the drinks or deal with the threat of litigation and seizure of assets. The companies have 15 days to comply with the Food and Drug Administration-penned (FDA) letter.

Four Loko and Joose
Image courtesy Kyle James http://www.flickr.com/photos/jameskm03/

The national hysteria over the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko is reaching a fever pitch with bans looming or already enacted in Boston, New York, Michigan, Washington state, and Pennsylvania.

Now there's speculation that the controversial drink may have been consumed by the driver of an SUV that crashed and killed a 14-year-old girl in North Texas, reports My Fox Dallas-Fort Worth:

George W. Bush Presidential Center
Image courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Center

George W. Bush and his wife Laura will be wielding the golden shovels tomorrow as they dig symbolic dirt for a groundbreaking ceremony on the country's newest Presidential Library.

Capital Area Food Bank cans
Photo by Katie Hayes for KUT News

A new report today by the United States Department of Agriculture found Texas has the second lowest rate of "household food security" in the United States.  Household food security is defined as a family having "access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members."

Five Mile Dam Park
Image courtesy Flickr urser ret0dd http://www.flickr.com/photos/ret0dd

People who live in the Austin exurb of Kyle have an opportunity to meet their future city manager tonight. Four people are finalists for the job. They'll be shaking hands tonight at 7 p.m. at Kyle City Hall.

Here are the names of the finalists and links to their biographies:

Fort Hood memorial soldier
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News

It took military prosecutors nine days to present their evidence in the pre-trial hearing for Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009.

Today, it was the defense's turn to present evidence in the Article 32 hearing, but Hasan's lawyers rested after just four minutes.

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