Texas

Police
10:07 am
Mon July 23, 2012

13 Dead in South Texas Pickup Truck Crash

A truck carrying 23 passengers crashed in South Texas Sunday night, killing 13.
Courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety

Thirteen people are reported dead and 10 others injured, after a pickup truck carrying 23 passengers crashed into a tree in South Texas Sunday evening.

“This is the most people I've seen in any passenger vehicle, and I've been an officer for 38 years,” Gerald Bryant, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Associated Press.

Officials believe the passengers may be illegal immigrants. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol Agents were called in to assist with the investigation. “It's unknown whether or not (the victims) were illegal, but it's possible,” Bryant told the AP.

Austin police have noted the popularity of similar trucks in the transport of undocumented immigrants before.

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AM Update 7/23/12
7:58 am
Mon July 23, 2012

AM Update: Former Austinite Killed in Aurora, A&M Biodefense Center Dedication, Early Voting Starts

Gordon Cowden, 51, was killed Friday in Aurora, Colorado.
Courtesy Cowden Family

Texans Victims of Colorado Shooting

An Austin native was one of the 12 people killed in Friday’s shooting at a Colorado movie theater.

Gordon Cowden, 51, of Aurora, took his two teenage children to the midnight premiere. They were not injured.

Cowden’s family described him as a “true Texas gentleman.” They say he was a “loving father, outdoorsman and small business owner.”

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Texas
12:40 pm
Fri July 20, 2012

Read the FBI Report on the Fort Hood Shooting

"Nidal Malik Hasan's transformation into a killer underscores the dilemma confronting the FBI," the report states.
U.S. Army

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its report on the incidents surrounding the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood which left 13 dead and dozens wounded.

“The investigation did not probe the shootings, which are the subject of a U.S. Army-led inquiry and military criminal proceeding against Major Nidal Hasan,” a press release states. Rather, the report, drafted by Judge William H. Webster, considers whether the FBI missed warning signs that shooting suspect Hasan would launch an attack against fellow service members.

Discussion of the report has focused on competing assessments of army psychiatrist Hasan from separate FBI field offices – specifically whether correspondence with slain terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was work-related or something more. 

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Texas
10:59 am
Fri July 20, 2012

How the Midwest Drought is Affecting Texas Farmers

Texas corn suffered from drought in 2011, but conditions have eased somewhat in 2012.
Robert Burns for Texas AgriLife Extension Service

While Texas has partially recovered from drought conditions thanks to heavy rain, the Midwest is going through one its worst drought years in decades. And conditions may impact some  – but not all  – Texas farmers’ pocketbooks.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the nation is going through the worst agricultural drought since 1988. For corn and soybean growers it’s been especially harmful, since more than three-quarters of those crops are considered to be in a drought area. But that could actually prove to be beneficial for Texas.

“With the Midwest suffering from drought, that’s driving prices up," says Bob Rose, chief meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. "So that means the market price for the corn, for many of the farmers in Texas and our area, is going to be very good."

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texas
9:42 am
Tue July 17, 2012

At An Air Force Base, Allegations Of Sexual Assault

In this June 22 image made from video, female airmen march during graduation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. A widening sex scandal has rocked Lackland, one of the nation's busiest military training centers. A dozen instructors are being investigated for allegations ranging from abuse to rape.
John L. Mone AP

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 2:05 pm

Opening statements will be made Tuesday in the trial of a former Air Force instructor accused of rape and sexual assault of the young trainees in his care.

Staff Sgt. Luis Walker faces 28 charges and could be sentenced to life in prison. A total of 12 Air Force instructors are under investigation for allegedly abusing recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, the main Air Force training center.

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Texas
3:50 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Last Stand or Last Call? Alcohol on Alamo Grounds Sparks Revolt

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas dispute plans to allow alcohol at a site on the Alamo grounds.
flickr.com/petirrojo

The General Land Office is allowing beer, wine and liquor to be served outside of the Alamo – and for some, that decision isn’t going down easy.

A decision from the GLO allows for alcohol to be served during private events at Alamo Hall, on the grounds of the famous San Antonio mission that serves as a symbol of Texas independence.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas serves as the Alamo’s longtime caretaker. It’s disputing the GLO’s decision. 

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Texas
2:51 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Sen. Cornyn Calls on FBI to Release Ft. Hood Shooting Report

Sen. John Cornyn (right) has asked FBI Director Robert Mueller (left) to make its findings in the Ft. Hood shooting public.
FBI, U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to release its report into the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead. The FBI tells KUT News it will do so as soon as possible.

This morning, Sen. Cornyn issued a statement referring to a story from FOX News stating the report will “include eighteen (18) formal recommendations for corrective and enhancing measures on matters ranging from FBI policies and operations to information systems infrastructure, review protocols and training."

“This report is a matter of tremendous public importance, and I call on you to release an unclassified version of it as soon as possible,” Cornyn writes to FBI Director Robert Mueller. “ … The key findings and recommendations of this report must be made public, so we can glean any and all lessons from this incident.  The American people and specifically the Fort Hood community in Texas have the right to know.”

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Texas
4:18 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Gas Prices Inching Back Up

After a recent lull, gas prices are inching back up locally and statewide.
Erik Reyna for KUT News

For the first time in months, gas prices are up across Texas.

AAA Texas reports that the average price of gas is up seven cents, to $3.23 per gallon. The average in Austin is $3.19.

You can get cheaper gas the further north you go – three gas stations in Round Rock are selling gas at $3.02.

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Texas
9:15 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Military Lawyers to Discuss Jury Issue in Fort Hood Murder Trial Hearing Today

The jury questionnaire will be sent to the military jury pool before Maj. Nidal Hasan's murder trial starts Aug. 20.
flickr.com/fabliaux

Military prosecutors and defense attorneys cannot agree on the pre-trial questions that the jury will be asked for the Fort Hood murder trial. They are discussing the issue today at a hearing for the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 shooting.

Maj. Nidal Hasan’s murder trial begins on Aug. 20. Hasan’s attorneys want the jurors to return the form a month before the trail begins, so they need to have the form sent out soon. The judge will decide on the questionnaire that will be sent to the military jury pool.

Hasan faces the death penalty if he’s convicted of the 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Fort Hood shooting rampage.

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Texas
5:24 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Texas Changing Its Lethal Injection Protocol

via Texas Tribune

Texas will join a handful of states that use a single drug in lethal injections, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Tuesday. 

"Implementing the change in protocol at this time will ensure that the agency is able to fulfill its statutory responsibility for all executions currently scheduled," TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark said in an email.

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Texas
9:50 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Controversial Texas Voter ID Law Begins Federal Trial

The trial for the new Texas Voter ID law begins today.

The controversial Voter ID Law that passed last year in the Texas State Legislature is going before a federal court. The trial begins today to determine if Texas can implement the law, which requires voters to show government-issued photo identification.

The state says the law will prevent voter fraud. The Justice Department worries it will disenfranchise Hispanic voters and claims it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  A disproportionate number of minorities in Texas lack the necessary identification, which would prevent them from voting. Texas will have to persuade a three-judge panel of the law’s legality.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says during the 2008 and 2010 elections there was only one case of voter fraud in over 13 million ballots cast.

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Texas
4:11 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Video: Inside a Fireworks Stand

Sales started somewhat slowly at American Fireworks, but sellers expect them to pick up closer to the Fourth.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Plan on shooting some fireworks off this July 4th?

KUT News recently traveled out to a fireworks stand along Highway 290 to see how sellers were faring. Sales are up from last year, when a ban on fireworks was in effect, but American Fireworks proprietor Keith Coober noted the challenges in a business where you can sales only come on the Fourth and New Year’s.

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Texas
10:54 am
Tue July 3, 2012

AMBER Alert for San Antonio Toddler Canceled

Update 10:50 a.m.: The San Antonio Police Department says the boy has been found and is "safe and sound."

Earlier: The San Antonio Police Department has issued an Amber Alert for a 3-year-old boy. Police say Gabriel Rivera was abducted by two people in a gold Ford Explorer.

The vehicle has Texas plates with the license plate number: 5-7-R-8-4-5-4.

The missing toddler was last seen yesterday. He is Hispanic with brown hair and brown eyes. He’s about 3-feet tall and weighs about 35 pounds.

Police believe he is in danger.

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Texas
4:28 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Austin Vigil for Lesbian Teens Shot in Portland, Texas

Kristene Chapa (left) and Mollie Olgin (right).
getequal.org

Recent high school graduates Mollie Olgin, 19, and Kristene Chapa, 18, were recently shot in the head while walking through a community park in Portland, Texas – a tragedy that has set off a nationwide series of vigils.

The lesbian couple was found Saturday morning by park visitors, with wounds to their heads from a large caliber weapon. Olgin died at the scene of the crime; Chapa is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.

An Austin vigil for Olgin and Chapa, organized by grassroots LGBT advocacy group GetEQUAL, is happening tonight.

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Texas
1:16 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

City, State Energy Conservation Varies by Department

City of Austin employees are notified when demand for energy is high and are encouraged to take steps to reduce use.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Triple-digit heat is putting pressure on the state’s electrical system. Texas set a record yesterday for peak demand during the month of June. Officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are asking everyone to reduce electricity use from 3 to 7 p.m. That means turning up your thermostat by a couple of degrees and avoiding use of large appliances during those hours.

The City of Austin and the State of Texas are some of the largest energy users in the city.

Carlos Cordova is with Austin Energy. He says the city relies on Austin’s Energy’s Load Cooperative program for alerts about peak usage and to track incentives for reducing use.

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Texas
10:12 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Decision on Juvenile Sentences Stirs Questions in Texas

Texas Tribune

Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that murderers under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to mandatory life in prison with no possibility of parole may not change Texas law much, but it could leave some work for state lawmakers.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

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10:09 am
Mon June 25, 2012

ERCOT Girds For High Use, Urges Electric Conservation

Lead in text: 
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates Texas' power grid, has said it hopes to avert blackouts this summer. That statement may soon be tested, however, as ERCOT is urging users to conserve electricity from 3-7 p.m. today, due to "continued extreme heat creating tight capacity." Austin has predicted highs in the triple digits all this week.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. (ERCOT), system operator for the state's bulk transmission grid, is asking consumers and businesses to reduce their electricity use during peak electricity hours from 3 to 7 p.m. today.
Amber Alert
7:40 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Amber Alert for Live Oak Boy

Authorities issued an Amber Alert for 6-year-old Simon Weyman.
Courtesy of Nation Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Update: The suspects, one black male and one white male, are in a red 1990 Toyota Celica GT with Texas license plate# CG5G973, according ot the Selma Police Department.

Original post (7:40 a.m.): The Live Oak Police Department issued an Amber Alert this morning for six year-old Simon Colby Weyman. Simon is a white male, 4’ 0” tall, about 90 pounds with blonde hair and brown eyes.

Simon was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with black cars on it, khaki shorts and no shoes.

The suspects are unknown but police believe they are driving a black 4-door compact Mazda or Toyota with a green and white bumper sticker on the rear.

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Texas
11:36 am
Thu June 21, 2012

Advocates Worry Food Aid Cuts Could Hurt Texas Families

Todd Wiseman / Julie Jordan Scott, Texas Tribune

As Congress debates proposed cuts to programs that help feed needy families and school children, some school officials and advocates for low-income families are concerned about how the changes could affect Texans who rely on food stamps and reduced price school lunches.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, provides food for 3.6 million Texans each year. But some lawmakers argue that the program has grown too large and become too expensive, and they are looking for ways to cut SNAP in the 2012 Farm Bill.

"A lot of Texas families rely on SNAP, especially now," said Jonathan Lewis, food policy specialist for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based liberal think tank. "Families that already are having trouble paying for their electrical bill, rent and the gas in their car could struggle even more." 

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12:08 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Governor's Mansion Restoration Nears Completion

Lead in text: 
Here’s a progress report on the restoration of the Texas Governor’s Mansion: The historic furnishings traditionally filling the building are finally being brought back in. The Office of the Governor notes that the historic collection– including a bed used by Sam Houston, and Stephen F. Austin's writing desk – is being returned to the home. The restoration began in 2007, and was derailed when an arsonist firebombed the vacant mansion in 2008. No suspect has ever been charged. The restoration is said to be completed in late July.
As the massive restoration of the Texas Governor's Mansion nears completion, pieces from the historic Governor's Mansion Collection are being moved back into the home. Owned and curated by the non-profit Friends of the Governor's Mansion, the collection was removed when the deferred maintenance project started in October 2007.

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