12:33 pm
Sun January 8, 2012

Sunday Brief

ABC News hosted a GOP presidential Primary debate over on Saturday.

Carolina in His Mind

The ABC News debate in New Hampshire last night was Texas Governor Rick Perry’s first debate  since a dismal 5th place finish in the Iowa caucuses. KUT's Ben Philpott reports from New Hampshire why the the Governor  used the debate to appeal to voters not in the Granite State, but in South Carolina.

Austin Bag Ban May Come Early

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3:33 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Wildfire Assistance: $36 Million And Counting, For Now

Photo by KUT News.

As the deadline to apply for federal wildfire disaster aid approaches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  is sharing some statistics that underscore the fires’ impact: The disbursement of some $36 million in wildfire aid, including $13.2 million in grants, and $19 million in low-interest “disaster loans.” And the agency is urging anyone who hasn’t yet filed a claim to do so before Friday.

FEMA public information officer Bob Howard says the agency’s grants have gone to different needs: $10.7 million to rental assistance and grants to rebuild homes, and $2.5 million to cover lost personal property, medical care, and even funeral expenses.

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4:52 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Friday Deadline To Apply for FEMA Wildfire Help

A home destroyed by the Labor Day wildfires in Bastrop
Photo by KUT

People who lost property in this year’s Texas wildfires have until Friday to apply for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The deadline for phone registrations is 9 a.m. The deadline for online applications is midnight.

"This is the last call for wildfire survivors," FEMA official Kevin Hannes said in a news release. People who already registered don’t have to worry about the deadline, even if they haven’t received their check.

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12:45 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

State Health Services To Reevaluate Hiring Practices Amid Scandals

Photo by National Register of Historic Places

A state hospital psychiatrist has been fired for violating terms of a settlement he had reached with the Department of State Health Services. Alejandro Munoz was hired at Terrell State Hospital – thirty miles east of Dallas – in 2006. This despite the fact that he had signed an agreement in 1998 stating that he would not again seek employment at a state-run hospital after he was fired from a facility just northwest of Fort Worth. Carrie Williams, spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services, says the recent firing has led to some reevaluation at the department.

"We are going through our processes with a fine-tooth comb, and trying to really scrutinize the way we do things, given the situation. You know, settlement agreements barring someone from seeking employment with us are just not that common, but it's something we should have caught on the way. We should have picked up on the history and that's definitely what we're looking at."

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12:41 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

In Court: Midland Soldier Accused Of Packing C-4 In Luggage

Photo courtesy of Midland County Sheriff's Office

A Green Beret trained in demolitions is scheduled to appear in a federal court in Midland today to face charges that he tried to smuggle more than two pounds of C-4 explosives onto a plane on New Year’s Eve.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Trey Scott Atwater told an FBI agent that his Special Forces Team was required to carry at least two blocks of C-4 on any operation.

Atwater said when he left Afghanistan, he forgot he left the C-4 in his bag. Then when he was packing for the holidays, he just grabbed the bag from his garage to use for his carry-on luggage.

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Central TExas
12:24 pm
Thu December 29, 2011

Where to Get Your Fireworks On

KUT News

It's illegal for Austin residents to set off fireworks inside city limits, but a public event on New Year's Eve may quell your appetite for explosives.

Austin's New Year takes place at Auditorium Shores (South 1st and Riverside) and will showcase art, films, live music and, of course, fireworks. The event starts on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and finishes with the fireworks show at 10:30.

Fans of fireworks were let down over the summer when the city's Fourth of July show was canceled due to the burn ban.

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gulf of mexico
10:01 am
Thu December 29, 2011

Criminal Charges Possible Against BP Engineers For Gulf Oil Spill

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 29, 2011 6:40 am

"U.S. prosecutors are preparing what would be the first criminal charges against BP PLC employees stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history," The Wall Street Journal reports this morning, citing "people familiar with the matter."

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4:10 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Snow Hits Parts of Texas

Kids are playing in the snow in El Paso and other parts of the state, as a storm system pushes eastward into Texas. People are posting video of the snow to YouTube.

Snow in El Paso isn’t expected to stop until midnight, the El Paso Times reports, bringing three to six inches to the area by Saturday morning.

While snow isn’t expected in Austin, it could come as close as western parts of the Hill Country. A mix of light rain, snow and sleet could hit western Gillespie, Val Verde and Edwards counties, the according to the San Antonio Express-News.

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3:07 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Bastrop Firefighters Featured on NBC's Today Show

We’ve been reporting on the tough Christmas facing people who lost their homes in September’s 34,000 acre wildfire, and how some are getting some help from generous Austinites. This morning, millions of people got a glimpse into the life of Bastrop firefighter Patrick Beasley, one of 14 firefighters who lost his home while working to save others.

NBC’s Today Show sent correspondent Kerry Sanders to the Heart of the Pines volunteer fire department for a segment that aired on this morning’s program.

“We lost everything that we owned,” Sanders tells Sanders. “If a firefighter can lose his house, anything’s possible.”

Check out the video above.

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8:08 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Texas Electric Grid Faces Uncertainty in 2012

Grid technicians monitor screens at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas's new state-of-the-art backup control center in Bastrop, Texas.
Photo by Marjorie Kamys Cotera for the Texas Tribune

Will the lights stay on in 2012? Texas electricity experts cannot say for certain.

The state’s electric grid operators are coming off of a tumultuous year, one they are not eager to repeat. In February, a deep freeze knocked numerous power plants out of commission as equipment broke, causing rolling blackouts across the state. Then, the hottest summer on record spurred repeated conservation warnings, as grid managers worked — successfully — to avoid more blackouts.

What happens next year will largely depend on the weather. While a piping-hot summer could spur blackouts, as electricity use spikes because of air-conditioning loads, winter shortfalls are looking less likely.

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12:56 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

Texas Has Largest Population Growth

The Lone Star State is getting bigger. Texas had the largest population growth of any state between April 2010 and July 2011, according to figures released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although the state is still second to California in total population, Texas has gained more people than any other state — at least 529,000 — since the last major Census figures were released.

The five states with the greatest population growth — Texas, California, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — accounted for more than half of national growth during that time period. As a whole, the national population increased by 2.8 million, and is now 311.6 million.

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4:20 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

More Helicopters, Fewer Troops to Patrol Border

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman and Matthew High with the Texas Tribune

Surveillance helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft will take the place of about 900 U.S. National Guard troops on the southern border as early as next year, according to information released today by the federal government.

The White House announced last week that it planned to reduce the number of troops to concentrate instead on an aerial strategy, something the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said today would enhance its relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense. Only 300 active troops will remain on the border.

The decision, however, sparked a party-line split among members of Texas’ delegation in Washington. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, criticized the move as irresponsible and assailed the president on immigration policy.

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1:43 pm
Mon December 19, 2011

Michael Morton Cleared, Seeks Inquiry

Photo by Callie Richmond/Courtesy of The Texas Tribune. Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison.

Michael Morton's attorneys today presented a 138-page report that asked the court to investigate the lead prosecutor, Ken Anderson, who sent Morton to prison for nearly 25 years for the murder of his wife. Morton's attorneys said the State Bar of Texas and the state's judicial ethics commission should consider punishment against Anderson, who was the Williamson County District Attorney at the time, for prosecutorial misconduct during trial.

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5:52 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder to Speak at UT

Photo by USDAgov http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/

US Attorney General Eric Holder is in Austin tonight to deliver a speech on new voting rights passed by states including Texas. As you can see in his prepared remarks below, Holder will signal the federal government will begin challenging “dishonest efforts to prevent certain voters from casting their ballots.” Holder is scheduled to speak at 6 p.m. at the University of Texas LBJ Library. 

KUT’s Matt Largey is covering the speech. You can follow him on Twitter and check out Holder’s prepared remarks below. 

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4:10 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Fort Hood Troops Prepare To Leave Iraq

A day after leaving Iraq last week, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division lined up their armored vehicles near Kuwait City, Kuwait. Armored equipment will not stay behind after troops leave Iraq, but other property may.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 8:34 am

The final American troops are set to leave Iraq in a matter of days. Just a few thousand remain, and they will be heading south toward Kuwait — the starting point for a war that began nearly nine years ago.

The last American military unit out of Iraq will be part of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The division fought in some of the war's toughest battles and suffered nearly 300 killed.

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4:16 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

State Comptroller Says Tax Revenues Are Up

There could be a modest surplus in Texas revenues for the biennium.
Photo by KUT News

According to a Certification Revenue Estimate released today by the Comptroller's office, "revenue collections in fiscal 2011 were stronger than expected, coinciding with the Texas economy moving more fully into recovery and significant job growth in the state."

The report, written for Governor Rick Perry and members of the Texas legislature, says the state will have access to an estimated total of $82.7 billion in general revenue, yielding a surplus of about $1.6 billion over the 2012-2013 biennium.

Top News
8:00 am
Sun December 11, 2011

Top Morning Stories 12/11/11: Baylor QB Wins Heisman; Candidates Debate in Iowa; New Coach at A&M

Texas Governor Rick Perry debated other GOP hopefuls last night in Iowa
Photo by Daniel Reese/KUT News

Baylor Bear Wins the Heisman

In a first for the university, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was awarded the Heisman trophy Saturday, an annual recognition of the most outstanding player in college football.  The closest Baylor has come to being the home of a Heisman winner was 48 years ago, when a player came in fourth, according to the Associated Press.  

"This is unbelievably believable,'' Griffin said after receiving the award. "It's unbelievable because in the moment we're all amazed when great things happen. But it's believable because great things don't happen without hard work."

Here's Griffin's official highlight reel.

Perry Has Strong Debate, But Focus Stays on Gingrich

Texas Governor Rick Perry had one of his strongest debate performances yet Saturday night in Iowa, but all eyes (and most of the questions) were on Newt Gingrich, the current front runner, KUT's Ben Philpott reports

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12:41 pm
Fri December 9, 2011

Specialty Plates Spark Controversy

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board has approved a specialty license plate that reads “One State Under God." It has three Christian crosses on it.

The DMV board voted 4-3 yesterday to approve the plate.

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5:02 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Waco Veteran Of Pearl Harbor Dies On Anniversary Of Attack

The battleships USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee burn in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese air attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
National Archives

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 6:29 pm

Frank Curre, a Navy veteran who survived the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, has died at the age of 88. According to family members, he died around noon on Dec. 7, 70 years after the attack.

Curre's story of how he remembers that horrible day was featured in last month's Veteran's Day edition of StoryCorps.

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5:29 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Burn Bans Lifted Across Central Texas

courtesy flickr.com/morclaud/

As rain gradually rehydrates Central Texas, counties are tentatively lifting their burn bans. Williamson County commissioners decided today to lift a ban for one week.

Travis County Commissioners voted two weeks ago to cancel a ban that had been in effect for virtually a year. Today, they agreed to keep the ban lifted.

Across Central Texas, burn bans have been abolished in Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Comal, Blanco, and Burnet Counties. Even Bastrop, a county ravaged by wildfire in September, voted to lift its burn ban last week.

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