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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12:39 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Ft Worth Judge To Lead Ken Anderson Court of Inquiry

Michael Morton hearing on February 10, 2012 at the Williamson Co. Courthouse.
Photo by Spencer Selvidge, Texas Tribune

Tarrant County state district Judge Louis Sturns will lead a court of inquiry to investigate allegations of criminal prosecutorial misconduct against former prosecutor Ken Anderson, who saw to the wrongful murder conviction of Michael Morton in 1987.

Morton was exonerated of his wife's 1986 bludgeoning death in October after DNA tests confirmed his innocence. Defense lawyers have alleged that the wrongful conviction would not have happened and Morton would not have lost 25 years in prison if Anderson, who is now a Williamson County judge, had not deliberately withheld evidence that indicated his innocence at the time of the 1987 trial.

“This is a historic moment for Texas justice," said John Raley, the Houston lawyer who has worked pro bono on Morton's case for seven years. "We are confident that Judge Sturns will handle this important case with the seriousness and probity demonstrated by Judge [Sid] Harle and [Texas Supreme Court] Justice [Wallace] Jefferson.”

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4:01 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Perry Targets "Pro-Abortion Radicals" in CPAC Speech

Gov. Rick Perry with wife Anita at Williamson County Republican dinner in Round Rock, his first public speech since leaving the presidential race.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Texas Gov. Rick Perry targeted what he called “left-wing, pro-abortion radicals” in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, blaming the Obama Administration for the state’s stand-off over the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

“President Obama has invalidated a waiver that provides health care for more than 100,000 women in my state,” he said, simply because Texas doesn’t want to “subsidize abortion.”

The Women’s Health Program is a joint state-federal program that provides well-woman exams, contraception and STD screenings — not abortions — for thousands of poor women in Texas. The majority of them have traditionally occurred at Planned Parenthood clinics.

This year, in an ongoing effort to force Planned Parenthood out of business in Texas, Republican officials asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a waiver — to continue the program but exclude Planned Parenthood from it.

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4:49 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Texas Comptroller's Report Assesses Drought's Impact

A report from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says economic effects of the drought could reach into billions of dollars.
Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A 12-page report released Wednesday by the Texas comptroller's office offers a wide-ranging look at the effects of the record drought that is still gripping Texas.

The report, "The Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond," contains few new figures for drought losses but offers graphics that depict the breadth of the problem, which hurt crops, threatens electricity production and forced 55 communities to ban outdoor watering.

"Texas is prone to cycles of drought which makes it important for residents, businesses, and state and local governments to manage water use," Comptroller Susan Combs said in a prepared statement. "Every Texan has a stake in water issues the state faces.”

Despite recent rains, 95 percent of the state remains in drought.

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2:26 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Should Texans Breed, Then Hunt, Endangered Species?

A herd of African Antelope. The species has thrived in Texas, although the practice of breeders allowing their hunting has been questioned.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/welsnet

That's the question on the mind of the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes.

When you think of Texas hunting, everything from wild hogs to fishing to even burros may come to mind. But what about gazelles, oryx, and zebras?

Those exotic species were the focus of a recent 60 Minutes report on big game hunting in the Lone Star State. Correspondent Lara Logan filed a report on the emergence of hunting these rare animals recently – conversely, as part of a program meant to increase their population.

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1:04 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

What’s Up With This Mysterious FLDS Building in Eldorado?

A still from video shot over the FLDS compound in Eldorado. Several unique fetures of the construction have been noted.
Image courtesy ksl.com

New aerial shots of the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas – home to the controversial sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) formerly lead by imprisoned pastor Warren Jeffs – are causing consternation among locals.

Maybe because the coliseum under construction looks more like something from Stanley Kubrick’s "2001" than anything else.

TM Daily Post highlights a recent report from KSL News in Salt Lake City. KSL reporter John Hollenhorst flew over the YFZ Ranch site with Judge Jimmy Doyle, shooting footage of the new construction.

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8:41 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/6/12: Perry's Public Return, Testing Foes Sharpen Criticism

Rick Perry and supporters in Iowa. Perry's speech tonight will mark his first public appearance since returning to Texas.
Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

Governor to Speak at Reagan Dinner

Gov. Rick Perry will be the keynote speaker tonight at the annual Williamson County Reagan Dinner.

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10:51 am
Sun February 5, 2012

Sunday Headlines for February 5, 2012

This photo was tweeted out by Occupy Austin Saturday evening, during their first meeting back at City Hall since the police cleared the plaza out Friday night.
Photo courtesy twitter.com/OccupyAustin

No Problems, as Occupy Austin Reconvenes

About 120 Occupy Austin protesters came to city hall plaza last night for the group's General Assembly. 

That came just 24 hours after Austin Police were given the order to clear out the plaza, and enforce new city policies governing the use of the plaza. Seven people were arrested Friday night. Essentially, the new rules prohibit camping and storage of personal items in the plaza - and bar overnight use. 

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6:07 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Williamson County Grand Jury Indicts Mark Norwood

Mark Alan Norwood was indicted by a Williamson County grand jury for the murder of Christine Morton in 1986.
Photo by Spencer Selvidge/Texas Tribune

A Williamson County grand jury today returned a capital murder indictment against 57-year-old Bastrop resident Mark Alan Norwood in the 1986 murder of Christine Morton, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced.

“An indictment in a cold case cannot bring back the life that was unnecessarily taken, but this is a big step toward answering long unresolved questions for the crime victim’s family,” Abbott said in a press release.

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3:47 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

How Texans Can Make a 13 Pound Bass Live Forever

Did you know Texas has a program to propagate fish in the state’s lakes and reservoirs?

It’s called the Toyota ShareLunker program, and run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF). (It’s sponsored by the car-maker, hence its inclusion in the name.)

While the program was launched in 1986, TPWF notes that it stretches back much further – coincidentally, to a time of drought much like today's:

The roots of the ShareLunker program can be traced to the drought of the 1950s. That 10-year dry spell brought home to Texans the fact that the state’s burgeoning population had outgrown its water supply. A few reservoirs had been built previously, but the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the completion of many more. Texas had only one natural lake — Caddo — and the native species of Texas bass, the northern, was adapted to live in streams.

Fish adapted to live in large lakes were needed to take advantage of the new reservoirs, and in 1971 TPWD brought the first Florida strain largemouth bass to Texas.

To that end, the ShareLunker program was created to breed bass. It even propagated its own breeding establishment, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, outside of Athens, Texas.

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Top Stories
10:06 am
Sun January 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Headlines for January 29, 2012

Implementing the 'Sonogram Law'

The Texas Tribune has this look at the practicalities of implementing the state's sonogram law - which requires abortion providers to show a sonogram image and play the fetus' heartbeat for the mother within 24 hours of performing an abortion. Clinics say complying with the law has become a "bureaucratic nightmare".

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4:33 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

First Person: Surviving The Bastrop Wildfires

It’s been four months since Bastrop County's devastating wildfires. While residents are trying to rebuild their lives, the destruction and trauma of the fires still lingers. KUT freelancer Jeff Heimsath recently sat down with one Bastrop resident to hear his story.  

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News Brief
8:29 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Top Morning Stories 1/20/2012

KUT News

Gun Rights Shot Down by Lubbock Judge

Yesterday, a Lubbock federal judge dismissed the National Rifle Association's attempt to overturn a Texas law preventing 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying concealed handguns. 

U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings ruled that it's in the public's best interest for state legislation to prevent those under the age of 21 to have a concealed handgun license. According to KCBD-TV in Lubbock:

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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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4:43 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Stream the GOP US Senate Debate Tonight

Photo by Herzogbr/Flickr

Candidates in the Texas Republican primary for the U.S. Senate will debate formally in Austin for the first time tonight at 7pm. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced one year ago that she would not seek a fourth term.

Tonight marks the first appearance in a general debate by front runner, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. ESPN college football analyst Craig James, who announced his bid for the seat last month, will also make his debate debut.

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1:01 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Dublin Dr Pepper's Demise Sends Fans Scrambling

At ten and two and four no more: Sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper will no longer be bottled in Dublin, Texas.
Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/superamit

Imperial Sugar-sweetened Dr Pepper will no longer be bottled in Dublin, Texas.

The news was a shock to Dr Pepper fans in Austin and across the country, as conversations began bubbling up online regarding where to procure the suddenly scarce beverage.

As explained in a report by The Dallas Observer's Unfair Park blog, the shutdown stemmed from a legal dispute between Dr Pepper's parent company (who, as it happens, has their own cane syrup version of the soda) and the Dr Pepper Bottling Co. of Dublin, Texas (henceforth to be known as Dublin Bottling Works).

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4:09 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Time Runs Out for the Texas Prison Rodeo

Detail from a 1964 Texas Prison Rodeo program.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/e06158

The home of the Texas Prison Rodeo is being demolished, according to the Associated Press.

While an event hasn’t been held on the Huntsville prison grounds since 1986, the rodeo has a rich history dating back decades.

The Handbook of Texas Online says once the rodeo was created in 1931, it was a near-instant success: “Within two years public attendance swelled from a handful of outsiders to almost 15,000, prompting prison officials to erect wooden stands and charge admission. The revenue raised covered costs and subsidized an education and recreation fund that provided perquisites from textbooks and dentures to Christmas turkeys.”

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12:38 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

Van De Putte: Doctors, Nurses Can Help Prevent Human Trafficking

Texas Senator Leticia Van De Putte co-hosted a human trafficking health summit today.
KUT News

“Understand that human trafficking is very, very profitable. You can sell drugs or a gun only once. You can sell a human 12 times in one day.”

Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and those words from Texas State Senator Leticia Van De Putte underscore the gravity of the problem. Van De Putte co-hosted a summit on Human Trafficking this morning, focused on how health providers can identify and assist victims. The affected can include anyone from young runaways coerced into sex work and prostitution, to American immigrants promised work but essentially bound into slavery.

Van De Putte spoke to KUT News, addressing the role health providers can play and dispelling some common assumptions about what trafficking actually is and who it affects.

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2:25 pm
Tue January 10, 2012

Abortion Sonogram Law Cleared by Court

Photo courtesy www.flickr.com/meredithfarmer

Texas can enforce a controversial abortion law while it’s being challenged in court. The ruling came this morning from a federal appeals court in New Orleans. The law requires doctors to perform a sonogram on a woman seeking an abortion and to read her the description of it.

The Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw writes:

In an opinion, the judges said the measure's opponents "failed to demonstrate constitutional flaws" in the measure, which they said was "fatal" to their effort to prevent it from taking effect.

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12:47 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Houston Deluged With Rain

Over four inches of rain have fallen in parts of Houston since midnight. Here's the story as told through social media, compiled by Terrence Henry with the KUT-NPR joint reporting project StateImpact Texas

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