5:43 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Updated: ERCOT Lowers Energy Emergency Level

Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

Update at 5:40 p.m. The worst of today's energy emergency appears to be over. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has canceled the Level 2B Energy Emergency Alert. However, ERCOT is still at 2A, and is urging people to conserve electricity until 7 p.m.

Earlier: The state's energy regulator said in a Tweet moments ago that there is now a "high probability" of rolling blackouts across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas escalated the Energy Emergency Alert to Level 2B, meaning energy reserves are below 1,750 megawatts and continuing to decline.

ERCOT declared Level 2A at around 2:30 p.m., which triggered large factories, mostly along the Gulf Coast, to power down their operations in a bid to preserve energy reserves. It's the first time since rolling blackouts in February that ERCOT had initiated a Level 2A alert.

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4:40 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

AP: FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs Guilty of Child Abuse

Photo by Reagan County Sheriff's Department

Breaking news from San Angelo: The Associated Press reports that Warren Jeffs, the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has been found guilty of child sex abuse.

Here's the report from the AP

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4:03 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Live Blog: ERCOT News Conference On Energy Emergency

The state's grid regulator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, held a teleconference with reporters at 4 p.m. You can replay the live blog if you're interested.

3:30 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Where To Find Outage Information If Blackouts Hit Austin

Austin Energy's Customer Outage Portal showed everything running as usual at 3:30 p.m.

Oppressive heat is helping to push Texas’ power grid to maximum capacity. Now the state’s grid operator has declared an Energy Emergency Level 2, which triggers some factories to power down voluntarily.

But with the peak hour of energy consumption still ahead – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. -- you may be interested to know about Austin Energy’s Customer Outage Portal, should rolling blackouts occur.

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mexico border
11:07 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Business Booms On Border Despite Violence

Mexican federal police man a checkpoint in downtown Juarez, Mexico, on July 13. Despite being hard hit by drug violence, Mexican border cities remain attractive to foreign businesses seeking cheap labor and easy access to the U.S.
Jesus Alcazar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu August 4, 2011 8:01 am

Over the last four years of the Mexican drug war, the country's northern border has become one of the most violent parts of the country. Yet recently that same part of Mexico has been booming economically.

The duty-free maquiladora assembly plants along the border are rapidly adding jobs, and exports to the United States are reaching record levels.

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10:48 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Gun Rights Groups Sue Feds Over Rifle Rule Aimed At Cartels

A new federal rule requires gun shops to report purchases of two or more of some semiautomatic rifles within five days.
Photo by Keary O. http://www.flickr.com/photos/barjack/

Two major gun rights groups filed lawsuits against the United States yesterday to stop a new federal firearms reporting requirement. The new rules affect 8,500 retailers in the four border states.

The lawsuits were not unexpected against the controversial rules. The Obama Administration announced the rulings two weeks ago.

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4:09 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Shuttered Texas Prison Inspired Folk Standard "Midnight Special"

The closure of the Central Unit in Sugarland leaves its mark as the first Texas prison to be shuttered in the history of the state. But it also leaves its mark on musical history. In his story in the Austin American Stateman, Mike Ward reveals how the 102 year old facility is said to be the inspiration for the Leadbelly classic "midnight special."


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3:27 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

ERCOT Announces Another Energy Emergency

ERCOT is asking Texans to conserve electricity during today's energy emergency. Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is asking Texans to conserve electricity from 3 to 7 PM today, as hot weather and higher-than-average energy use strain the state's electric grid.

"[Electric] capacity is expected to be very tight over the peak today, and ERCOT operators are closely monitoring the situation," ERCOT said in a media release.

Forecast for peak demand today is more than 68,684 megawatts. Texas hit an all-time record  yesterday when electric use exceeded 67,929 megawatts. 

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12:38 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Austin Forecasters Predict Job Growth

The Texas Economics Indicator Report announced 3,800 job gains in May and 30,900 in April. Texas unemployment at 8.0% stands lower than the U.S unemployment rate at 9.1% in May.
Photo by oaphoto http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxbell/4009824632/

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas issued its Texas Economic Indicators Report today. Reports show that while the rest of the country struggles, Texas is showing labor market gains.

Here in Austin, that means that we could see a healthier job market than other parts of the county, Texas A&M economist Mark Dotzour told the Austin Real Estate Council at their annual economic forecast.

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4:11 pm
Tue August 2, 2011

Texas Electricity Demand Forecast To Break Another Record

Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The state’s electric grid regulator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), is predicting another record breaking day of energy consumption.  

ERCOT predicts we'll use 67,084 megawatts of power today, blowing past the all-time record of 66,867 megawatts set just yesterday.

The high power demand has ERCOT pleading with people and businesses to reduce energy consumption at least until 7 p.m., and especially between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

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2:18 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Burn Bans in Place in a Record 249 Counties

A record number of burn bans are in place in Texas with 249 counties.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas Forest Service maintains a map of which counties in the state have outdoor burn bans, and notes them in red. As of this morning, the map makes Texas look like it's got a bad sunburn.

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5:33 pm
Sat July 30, 2011

Travis County's Bond Rating Reviewed By Moody's

Travis County's bond rating will go through a review for possible downgrade by Moody's Investors Service.
Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Travis County’s AAA bond rating could be downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service if the federal government’s rating is lowered as well. Moody’s Investors Service sent a warning Thursday to 177 public finance issuers that each would be “placed under review for possible downgrade the AAA ratings.” Nine Texas governments were included:

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3:15 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Open Beach Case Goes On

The Texas Supreme Court is asking the case of Severance v. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to be moved to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Photo by Joe Y Jiang http://www.flickr.com/photos/danniao/

In a case challenging the Texas Open Beaches Act, the Texas Supreme Court ruled today that it cannot decide whether to proceed with the case. Instead, the question must be answered by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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12:14 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

AG Ends Investigation into Willingham Arson Case

The Texas Attorney General has issued a ruling that essentially prohibits the Texas Forensic Science Commission from further investigating the Cameron Todd Willingham case.
Photo by KUT News.

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott today has ended further investigation into the high-profile Cameron Todd Willingham arson case. Willingham was executed in 2004 for a 1991 fire that killed his three daughters. Fire experts have since discredited much of the evidence used to prove Willingham set the fire. 

12:04 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Galveston Votes to Rebuild Public Housing on Island

The coastal city is still working to rebuild from 2008.
Photo by KUT News

While Texans eagerly await any and all rain from tropical storm Don, one gulf city continues the work of rebuilding after Hurricane Ike.

The Galveston City Council narrowly dismissed a resolution Thursday to rebuild 569 public housing units off the island, The Galveston County Daily News reports.

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10:30 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Warren Jeffs: Alone For The Defense

Originally published on Fri July 29, 2011 10:21 am

At the end of court yesterday, Warren Jeffs stood all by himself at the defense table, head bowed, motionless as everyone swirled around him.

The morning began with him firing his defense lawyers and announcing he would represent himself. It was a particularly cruel blow for Deric Walpole, Jeffs' lead defense lawyer, who'd been working 20-hour days to get ready for this moment only to have Jeffs pull the rug out from under him.

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9:48 am
Fri July 29, 2011

H-E-B Recalls Some Dairy Products

H-E-B is asking customers with recall products to return them to the store for a refund.
Photo courtesy of H-E-B


H-E-B is recalling 32 of their products including H-E-B brand cottage cheese, dip, yogurt and sour cream over concern that "foreign material" may have made its way into those products.

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Developing: Fort Hood
2:47 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Soldier Arrested Near Fort Hood

Killeen Police released this photo of Nasser Abdo, the AWOL soldier suspected in a attack plot at Fort Hood.
Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News.


UPDATE 12:45pm:  Fort Hood officials have released information from the Department of the Army’s Public Affairs office about the Soldier arrested near Fort Hood yesterday.

“Private 1st Class Naser J. Abdo, age 21, was arrested on July 27. The Killeen Police Department is handling all information requests. The incident occurred in the Killeen community. U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the KPD, and the FBI are involved in the ongoing investigation.

In June 2010, he submitted a Conscientious Objector packet that was approved in May 2011. The discharge was placed on hold pending disposition of charges of possession of child pornography that were preferred on May 13. His Article 32 hearing was completed June 15, and the investigating officer recommended referral of the charge to trial by General Court-Martial. On July 4, the Soldier’s status changed from present for duty to AWOL.

Since he is in the custody of civilian authorities, jurisdiction over any potential new charges is yet to be determined. If returned to military control, he may face additional charges including AWOL.

The Army lists Abdo as an infantryman who’s been stationed at Fort Campbell since July 2009.

UPDATE 3:32 p.m. US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison released the following statement:

“I know that all Texans -- and Americans – are proud of the Killeen community and the Killeen Police Department for their vigilance and their quick response that led to the arrest of an AWOL soldier.  His arrest is a perfect example of how alert citizens and dedicated law enforcement personnel can work together to prevent a potential terrorist attack in our own backyard.”

EARLIER:  Killeen police arrested a soldier near Fort Hood yesterday afternoon. Fox News reports that the soldier had bomb-making equipment in his car. Authorities at Fort Hood say the soldier wasn't stationed there.

Pvt. Nasser Jason Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was arrested by the Killeen Police Department near Fort Hood and remains in custody there. Authorities, however, will not say if Abdo is the one who raised security concerns.

Abdo was allegedly found with weapons and explosives at the time of his arrest, a senior Army source confirms to Fox News. He was arrested at around 2 p.m. Wednesday after someone called authorities to report a suspicious individual. 

The Killeen Daily Herald says the man was arrested on a warrant related to child pornography.

In a written statement, officials at the world's largest U.S. Army installation say they are keeping their force protection at "appropriate levels."

8:59 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Top Morning Stories Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still No End To Drought, Wildfires and Pipes Busting

The Texas Forest Service says drought conditions and the potential for more wildfires persist across the state. Of the state’s 254 counties, 247 are under a burn ban including all Central Texas counties. Since the fire season started in November wildfires have scorched more than three million acres across across the state.

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4:26 pm
Fri July 22, 2011

New Head of Forensic Science Panel Takes On Arson Case

With a smile and a friendly laugh, Dr. Nizam Peerwani offers coupons for free autopsies to visitors to his office.

Death and the science of it have dominated Peerwani’s 30-year career in the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office. Now, Peerwani is taking on a very live controversy as chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission: the continuing investigation into the arson science that led to the conviction and 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.

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