Texas

Texas
8:36 am
Fri September 28, 2012

What Gave Gov. Perry Sleepless Nights on the Campaign Trail

Gov. Perry says he's sleeping better now than he was during his presidential campaign, pictured above.
KUT News

According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is downplaying the effects of his previously publicly unknown sleep apnea

Perry’s office released a statement to CNN on Sunday, confirming that the governor indeed had the sleep disorder, but had been diagnosed and treated during the campaign.

But on Thursday, Perry blamed pain resulting from back surgery in 2011 as keeping him awake.

“My issue was one of a hyper-fusion of that nerve in my foot that kept me awake,” Perry told The Houston Chronicle.

Read more
Criminal Justice
11:32 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Texas Executes Cleve Foster, Ninth Inmate to Die This Year

Former Army recruiter Cleve Foster was executed for the 2002 slaying of a Fort Worth woman last night.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The State of Texas executed Cleve Foster last night. He was put to death for the sexual assault and shooting death of Nyaneur Pal (“Pah”) in Fort Worth in 2002.

His attorneys say he was innocent and didn’t have proper legal defense early on. Foster’s co-defendant, Shelton Ward, died of cancer on death row in 2010.

The Austin Chronicle writes Foster was charged under Texas’ “law of parties,” which stipulates those involved in the commission of a murder can be charged with the crime, even if they didn’t directly participate in the act of murder. Foster claimed he was incapacitated at the time of Pal’s death:

In several statements Ward repeatedly claimed that he alone murdered Pal, but prosecutors have said Ward's statements are inconsistent with the evidence. DNA evidence showed both men had sex with her before her death, but Foster insists he was passed out from sleeping pills and wasn't involved in Pal's killing.

Read more
Texas
9:04 am
Wed September 26, 2012

ERCOT Board Examines Summer Power Usage, Makes Predictions for Fall

ERCOT predicts no demand problems for fall, winter.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that though the Texas electric grid saw new monthly peaks in June and July, the overall electric demand fell below last summer’s record-setting numbers. 

At the Board of Directors September meeting yesterday, directors were briefed on the summer’s power grid demand and peaks over the summer and made projections for fall and winter. 

This summer, ERCOT didn’t have to issue any energy emergence alerts (EEA)—which can result in rotating outages in order to prevent a power grid overload and statewide blackout. Last summer, ERCOT issued seven EEAs. Though this summer’s weather was hotter than the state’s 15-year average, it didn’t reach the sweltering levels achieved in 2011, so air conditioner use was somewhat lower.

Read more
Criminal Justice
3:57 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons

The recidivism rate for ex-cons in Texas has fallen 11 percent - meaning less former felons returning behind bars.
flickr.com/hmk

Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to a report released today by the National Reentry Resource Center.

The report tracked individuals released from prison between 2005 and 2007 until 2010, to see whether they returned to prison. It found that the three-year recidivism rate went down 11 percent in Texas.

Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.

The report credits the lowered recidivism rates in many states to increased funding for programs that ease the transition from prison to society, including the 2008 Second Chance Act. The act provides federal grants to state and local governments and community organizations to provide services that ease the transition from prison to society. Funds can be used to provide employment services, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and mentoring to prisoners and ex-cons.

Read more
Texas
2:42 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Appeals Court Upholds Open Meetings Law

A posted notice for an Austin school board meeting, as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A federal appeals court is upholding a Texas law aimed at government transparency.

A group of city officials from across Texas had challenged the Texas Open Meetings Act, saying it violates their free speech rights. The law requires public officials to post notices and agendas for their meetings and restricts how officials can meet with each other to discuss public business.

The ruling today from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that found the law is constitutional and does not improperly limit elected officials speech.

Read more
Travis County
8:44 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Travis County Commissioners Voting On Tax Increase

County commissioners are holding two public hearings this morning.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners will vote today on a property tax increase. The proposed rate would increase from 48.55 cents to 50.01 cents per $100 of taxable value.

The county says the new tax rate will increase total tax revenues from properties on the tax roll in the preceding year by nearly three percent.

Commissioners will also hear public comment on offering economic incentives to HID Global, which is considering building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

Read more
Texas
10:57 am
Mon September 24, 2012

New Training Leader, Another Court Martial at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Base

Col. Deborah Liddick was recently named to head Lackland Air Force Base's 737th Training Group.
U.S. Air Force

Another instructor at San Antonio’s embattled Lackland Air Force Base goes to trial today, as the new head of base training takes command.

The Associated Press reports the court martial of Staff Sgt. Jason Manko begins today. The AP writes Manko “is accused of sexual misconduct and trying to start a relationship with a recruit at the Air Force's headquarters for basic training.”

Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, some 90 miles southwest of Austin, oversees basic training for all new Air Force recruits. The base has been rocked by a string of trials involving sex and sexual assault between instructors and new recruits – scandals that have lead to several changes in command personnel.

On Friday, the San Antonio Express-News profiled the new leader of Lackland’s 737th Training Group: Col. Deborah Liddick.

Read more
Texas
8:59 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Is Private Space Flight Coming to Texas?

SpaceX may begin launching rockets in Texas. This launch, from 2010, was at Cape Canaveral.
Chris Thompson/ SpaceX

A 50-acre section of land near Brownsville is subject to speculation as a potential location of a new rocket launch site, to be built by private space exploration firm SpaceX

Three recent property purchases near the proposed site in Cameron County by SpaceX could mean that the company has, in fact, picked Texas over Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico to be home to its launch site.

The Brownsville Herald reports that public records in Cameron County show that SpaceX bought three pieces of property between June and September near the proposed site, under the name of Dogleg Park, LLC. The address listed for Dogleg Park on the deeds for these properties is the address of SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif. headquarters.

SpaceX has not yet commented on or released any statements about the purchased land.

Read more
Texas
2:06 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

That's A Lot of Cat: North Texas Tabby Weighs In at 41 Pounds

Skinny's size has attracted notice - and a plethora of potential adoptive families.
Richardson Animal Shelter

Cats love attention, but a feline at the Richardson Animal Shelter outside of Dallas is positively gobbling it up.

Skinny the Cat is a five year-old tabby. So far, so normal. But there’s more to this cat – a lot more. Skinny weighs in at 41 pounds.

Skinny’s size attracted the notice of the Associated Press, which reported on the North Texas tabby.  And thankfully, now the animal center is deluged with calls from folk looking to care for the cat.

“We have fielded a lot of calls,” says Dennis Wooten, manager of the Richardson Animal Center.  “The challenge now is sorting throw all those calls to find out what’s best for Skinny.”

Read more
Texas
10:00 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Houston Wants to Follow Austin's Food Truck Lead

Food trucks are a popular stop along South Congress. Houston food truck owners want more lenient rules for operation.
flickr.com/Matt Peoples

While food trucks have been embraced in Austin and can be found clustered throughout the city, Houston food truck owners are struggling to change city ordinances that impose limits on their operations. 

Yesterday, dozens of food truck operators and enthusiasts came before the Houston City Council to petition for changes in mobile food unit ordinance, which bans food trucks that use propane stoves and grills from operating in the busy downtown area.

The Houston Mobile Food Unit Collective has proposed that the mobile food unit ordinances be amended to allow trucks with propane tanks under 40 pounds to operate downtown, eliminate the required 60 feet of space between trucks and permit food trucks to provide up to three tables and six chairs for patrons.

Read more
Texas
1:22 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Experts: Something's Fishy with Texas' Seafood Imports

The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs heard testimony this morning about concerns on imported seafood.
flickr.com/charlenesimmons

Fish is routinely held up as a healthy alternative to other meats. But some experts might urge you to rethink the catch-of-the-day,  because of what else might be lurking on the plate. 

The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs heard testimony this morning about the condition of the state’s seafood industry. The Catfish Institute's Jeff McCord testified that he was concerned about importing fish to Texas.

Most of the catfish found in restaurants is imported from China. McCord says China doesn’t have the same kind of regulations the U.S. does, so banned substances can easily enter the food supply. A group of chemicals called nitrofurans is on this list. Fish farmers use them to rid the water of certain microbes, but they’re mostly banned by the FDA. “It’s been shown to cause cancer,” McCord says, “and it also disrupts human cell reproduction.”

Read more
Texas
10:26 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Texas Pol Bob Gammage, Member of the Famed 'Dirty 30,' Dies

Robert "Bob" Gammage served in all three branches of government.
Texas State Cemetery

Longtime Texas politician Bob Gammage has died. He was 74. A family member told the Associated Press that he died of an apparent heart attack.

Gammage was a Houston native and represented the area in both the Texas House and Senate before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

Gammage fought corruption as part of a group of Texas legislators known as the “Dirty 30,” which led a rebellion against scandal-ensnared Texas House speaker Gus Mutscher in 1971. 

Read more
Texas
4:09 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Attorneys Claim Hasan Offered Guilty Plea in Fort Hood Shooting Trial

Maj. Nidal Hasan stands accused of multiple murders in 2009's Fort Hood shooting.
courtesy Bell County Sheriff's Department

What looked like another increasingly routine hearing of Maj. Nidal Hasan – the accused gunman behind the 2009 shooting spree at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas – now appears to be less so, as Hasan’s lawyers claim he offered to enter a guilty plea.

Hasan’s trial has been slow to start, as legal wrangling over whether or not the Army can shave Hasan’s beard has taken center stage. Hasan claims the beard is an expression of her Muslim faith, but Army codes dictate a soldier must be clean-shaven at his court martial. Today, Judge Col. Gregory Gross ordered that Hasan’s beard by shaved, reports The New York Times.

Overshadowed by the beard aspect was an announcement from Hasan’s attorneys that he had offered to enter a guilty plea, but as the Associated Press reports,  he’s prevented from doing so in the Fort Hood case:

Read more
Texas
3:42 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Cell Phone Blockers Coming to Two Texas Prisons

Two Texas prisons will soon block most cell phone calls.
flickr.com/jonjon_2k8

Some Texas prisons will soon be equipped with technology that blocks most cell phone calls.

Inmates are not supposed to have cell phones. But officials at the Stiles Prison Unit in Beaumont and the McConnell Unit outside of Corpus Christi say it’s been a challenge to keep them out.

Brad Livingston is the Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He explains the technology limits which calls can be made.

“It allows cell phone signals to be sent successfully only to the extent that the number is pre-programmed in," Livingston says. "All other cell phones are defeated and the call is not connected.”

Read more
Texas
11:57 am
Wed September 5, 2012

USDA: One in Five Texas Households At Risk of Hunger

Food benefits are at stake as the U.S. Congress debates the nation's farm bill.
KUT News

Almost one out of five Texas households is at risk of hunger, according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA says 18.5 percent of Texans households experienced “low or very low food security” from 2009 to 2011. The Texas rate exceeds the national average by almost four percent and is the third highest rate of “food insecurity” in the country.

The USDA considers a family “food secure” if it has enough nutritious food to eat without having to rely on emergency food supplies, scavenging or stealing food. The USDA has used food insecurity as a measure since 2006 because it says “hunger is an individual-level physiological condition” which is more difficult to track.

Read more
Texas
10:54 am
Wed September 5, 2012

More Turnover, Turmoil at Lackland Air Base

Col. Eric Axelbank has been transferred from Lackland Air Force Base.
U.S. Air Force

A colonel has stepped down and a sergeant’s court martial begins, all against the backdrop of an ongoing sex and sexual abuse scandal at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base.

Col. Eric Axelbank, who oversaw the 37th Training Wing at Lackland, stepped down yesterday. Col. Mark Camerer now takes his place. The San Antonio Express-News notes that while the Axelbank’s departure was officially described as routine, the transition ceremony was “uncharacteristically closed to the media.”

It’s the second upper-echelon personnel change in as many months, following the August dismissal of Col. Glenn E. Palmer, who served as commander of Air Force Basic Military Training at the 737th Training Group at Lackland, the base that oversees training for all new Air Force recruits. The Express-News describes Palmer as having “led efforts to raise awareness about the problem” of sexual abuse and sex between recruits and instructors on the base.

Read more
Formula One
3:00 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Governor Perry Revs Up For Italian Grand Prix

A racer seen at Austin's recent Formula 1 expo.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

As the Austin forecast calls for more 100 degree days, Governor Rick Perry and his wife Anita left this morning for eight days in Italy, where money and motorsports are in the wind.

On the agenda are various economic development meetings, a speaking engagement at Lake Como, and Sunday's Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix, in Milan.

With Austin's United States Grand Prix only a few weeks away, the Perrys will be watching a sport that's followed, often obsessively, around the world, but that has had about as much traction in the United States as professional soccer. (see Esquire: "Will America Ever Catch The Formula 1 Bug?") The United States has hosted 41 Formula 1 races in the past, at seven different locations, but the sport has not gained ground on American motorsports like NASCAR and IndyCar racing.

Read more
Media
10:16 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Trailblazing Broadcaster Ann Arnold Passes Away

Ann Arnold was the first female press secretary for a Texas governor,
Texas Association of Broadcasters

Texas Association of Broadcasters President Ann Arnold passed away over the weekend following a fight with leukemia. Colleagues refer to Arnold as a groundbreaking journalist and tenacious leader.

The 67-year-old journalist served as TAB president for 25 years. Arnold also served as the first female press secretary to a Texas Governor – Gov. Mark White in the 1980s. And that’s in addition to stints  heading the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's capitol bureau, and serving as a capitol correspondent for United Press International.

"She was an extraordinary woman brimming with passion for the broadcast industry and American democracy. Her advocacy in Austin and Washington made a profound difference for broadcasters and we are all better for it," TAB Vice President Oscar Rodriguez says in a statement about Arnold’s death.

Read more
Texas
6:19 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Whittington Loses (Again), But Says He's Not Done

austinconventioncenter.com; c-span.org

There's tough, and then there's Texas tough.

Dick Cheney shot him, accidently, and he got back up.

He says the City of Austin took some land that belonged to him, and he fought back. And fought. And fought some more.

Harry Whittington lost his Texas Supreme Court case today.  But he says he’s not done, telling KUT News that he’ll likely file a motion for a rehearing of the case.

Read more
Wildfires
3:11 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Forged in Flames: Watch the Trailer for KUT's Wildfire Special

Scenes from the wildfire response in Bastrop.
KUT News

September 4 marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating Central Texas wildfires which claimed over a thousand homes and altered countless lives. 

The KUT News staff has taken the reporting it did at the time and built upon it, compiling hundreds of interviews, photos, videos and more. The results can be heard in “Forged in Flames: An Oral History of the Labor Day Wildfires,” a one-hour special airing Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 3p.m. and  Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. A website featuring an interactive timeline, interviews and much more is also launching on kut.org Sept. 4.

Read more

Pages