Texas

News Brief
6:11 am
Mon April 11, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 11, 2011

A wildfire burning near Fort Davis in West Texas on Sunday afternoon.
Photo by Jim Reese for KUT News

West Texas Fire Knocks Out Marfa Public Radio

A fire in the Fort Davis area was responsible for knocking out nearby Marfa Public Radio’s signal this weekend.  The fire burned the power lines that feed the station's mountaintop transmitter.  KUT's digital technology manager, Jim Reese, was flown over to help.  He said Marfa Public Radio went back on the air around 6 p.m. Sunday.  "Marfa Public Radio is the only station [there] that has wide area coverage, so there were no media outlets at all functioning for about 24 hours," said Reese. 

Wildfires Rage Across Texas

Hot, dry and windy conditions kept firefighters across many parts of the state busy this weekend.  26 Central Texas firefighters deployed to West Texas Sunday to help battle the wildfires in that region.  One team was sent to Fort Davis.  The Texas Forest Service told KUT resources were also sent in from 25 states.  

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Texas
10:49 am
Sun April 10, 2011

News Roundup for Sunday April 10, 2011

The Cathedral fire (Brewster County) viewed at night in April 2008.
Photo courtesy the Texas Forest Service.

Wildfire Danger at Historic Highs Today

State officials are warning of extreme wildfire danger across much of the western half of Texas today, as hot, dry, windy conditions couple with low humidity. 

The Texas Forest Service was fighting several wildfires yesterday, but was bracing for more, reported the Associated Press.

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Texas
1:12 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Massive Wildfire in West Texas Burns 50,000 Acres

Extreme fire is seen burning through thick fuel during the Highway 322 fire (Dimmit County) in March 2008.
Photo courtesy the Texas Forest Service

Officials are sending more resources to help battle a massive wildfire in West Texas that's already burned about 50,000 acres.

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Texas
8:24 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 7, 2011

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill easing graduation requirements for high school students.
Photo by KUT News

House May Ease Graduation Requirements

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill that would ease graduation requirements for Texas students. Starting next year, high school students are required to take a total of 12 end-of-course exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and they have to pass the exams in order to graduate.  In the bill the House will vote on today, high school students will have to pass fewer of the new state exams in order to graduate.

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Texas
12:58 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Senate Bill Would Widen Access to DNA Evidence

DNA evidence would be more accessible to prisoners appealing their convictions under a bill passed by the Texas Senate.
Image by Apers0n http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Apers0n

A bill passed in Texas Senate today would give prison inmates more access to DNA evidence, as they appeal their convictions.

The Associated Press reports the bill sponsored by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) would require DNA testing, if the biological evidence hadn't been tested before our would yield more accurate results with newly-developed testing techniques.

As many as 40 inmates have had convictions overturned in the past few years, based on retesting DNA evidence.

Texas
12:23 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Supreme Court Blocks Texas Execution

The Walls Unit at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, where the state conducts executions. A death row inmate's scheduled execution has been stayed by the US Supreme Court.
Image courtesy flickr.com/BizarreRecords

The US Supreme Court has blocked tonight's scheduled execution of Texas inmate Cleve Foster. 

The high court agreed this morning to consider a review the grounds for Foster's appeal of his death sentence.

Foster's execution would have been the first in Texas to use pentobarbital as part of its lethal three-drug mix. 

"This stay does not have to do with the litigation surrounding the lethal injection and the new protocol adopted by the TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]," said Maurie Levin, one of Foster's attorney in the appeals process.

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Texas
7:32 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 4, 2011

The Texas House passed its budget bill for 2012-2013 late last night.
Photo by KUT News

Texas House Approves Budget Bill

The House approved a budget of $164.5 billion last night for the next biennium with a 98-49 vote, largely along party lines. The budget is around $23 billion smaller than the state's current two-year budget. As expected, the House budget makes deep cuts to public education and health and human services spending.  The legislation now heads to the Senate where changes are expected.

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Texas
2:15 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Attorneys Ask Justice Dept. To Investigate Texas Execution Drugs

Attorneys for two condemned inmates say the state has been breaking federal laws for more than 25 years.
Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr

Lawyers for two condemned Texas prisoners are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has obtained drugs used in executions.

Their argument hinges on what sounds like a technicality: the address used to register the state's drug supply.

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Texas
3:33 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

LCRA Launches Drought Update Page

Drought conditions aren't expected to be as bad as 2008-09's dry spell, but 2011 is shaping up to be a dry spring and summer.
Photo by KUT News.

Dry, drier, driest: Drought conditions are returning to Central Texas, and one expert thinks it could be this autumn before the region gets enough rain to reverse the trend. 

That has officials at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) making sure people throughout the region know what condition our water supply is in.  The authority has launched a "Drought Update" page that shows a graphical representation of the drought situation.

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Texas
12:47 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Learn More About The Balcones Fault Line

Mount Bonnell Marker in Austin
Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Japan Continues to deal with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed whole towns, left more than ten thousand dead and crippled a nuclear facility in Fukushima.

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Texas
10:47 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Texas Will Switch Execution Drug Amid Shortage

Photo via Flickr user Andres Rueda.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced today that it will change one of the drugs in the three-drug cocktail used in executions in the state.

The drug sodium thiopental has been in short supply ever since the only U.S. manufacturers of the drug stopped production.

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Texas
3:24 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Perry, House Reach Rainy Day Fund Deal

State leaders agree on tapping some of the Rainy Day fund to get the state's budget through August.
Image by KUT News.

Governor Rick Perry and House leadership have struck a deal that would use $3.2 billion from the so-called "Rainy Day Fund" to help close the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

In a joint statement by the governor, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Comptroller Susan Combs, the remainder of the budget gap would be closed by $800 million in cuts and by using an additional $300 million that's come from increased state sales tax collections over the past few months.

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Texas
4:58 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

$300 Million More in State Coffers

State Comptroller Susan Combs told lawmakers Monday that the Texas wallet is a little greener than first thought.
Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Texas
2:21 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Texas, 37 States Announce Settlement with AstraZeneca

Texas and 36 states led to a $68.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca with its unlawful marketing practices.
Nathan Bernier, KUT

Texas and 37 states’ regulators announced today their $68.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca, a British global pharmaceutical company, over its unlawful marketing practices. Texas is expected to receive $3.8 million.

The states charged AstraZeneca with marketing the antipsychotic drug Seroquel for improper uses unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Generally, pharmaceutical manufacturers are not allowed to promote any products without FDA’s approval.

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Texas
12:34 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Austin Jobless Rate Creeps Up

A bump in Austin unemployment will send more job seekers in search of Texas Workforce Commission help.
Image by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

January unemployment numbers for Texas remained essentially unchanged from December.  But the non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate in Central Texas crept up 0.4%.  That rate stands at 7.3%, much of the rise attributed to the end of extra hiring for the holidays. Lisa Givens is a spokesperson with the Texas Workforce Commission.

"We did see a loss of 10,100 jobs, and that's in line with prior years' seasonal fluctuation we've seen historically," said Lisa Givens, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission.

Texas
4:51 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Texas Peace Officers Memorial Hopes to Get a Facelift

You'll find the Texas Peace Officers Memorial, located on the northeast part of the Capitol.  You'll also find it's in need of repairs. The memorial is dedicated to law enforcement officers and corrections personnel in the state of Texas who've died in the line of duty.

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Texas
4:41 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Top Texas Ranger To Retire

Antonio "Tony" Leal was the first Hispanic to lead the Texas Rangers.
Image courtesy Texas Rangers

The first Hispanic to lead the Texas Rangers is retiring at the end of this month. 47-year-old Antonio “Tony” Leal is leaving to work in the private sector. He was appointed as Chief Texas Ranger in 2008.

Here's the full news release from the Texas Rangers:

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Texas
11:13 am
Mon March 7, 2011

SCOTUS: Texas Death Row Inmate Can Pursue Civil Rights Claim

Henry Watkins Skinner was convicted of the murders of Twila Busby and her two sons in 1995.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Texas death row inmate who is seeking to have DNA evidence in his murder case tested.  The court's decision means Hank Skinner won't be executed any time soon.

At issue in the case was not whether the DNA should be tested, but rather what procedures can be used in asking a court to order the testing.  Skinner's lawyers argued their client has a right to pursue a civil rights claim for the testing.

The decision reverses an appeals court ruling, and sending the case back to district court in Amarillo.

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Texas
9:01 am
Sun March 6, 2011

Your Sunday Cup O' Joe (AKA the Sunday News Brief for March 6,2011)

Coffee, Coffee...Buzz, Buzz
Picture by KUT News

Make sure to get outside today.  Sure it's a little cold this morning.  But yesterday's strong winds are gone and we'll get into the lower 70's today.  But before you head out...here's some info on what's been going on in Texas to start your day:

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Texas
4:43 pm
Sat March 5, 2011

Texans Celebrate State Independence

People with the Texas Nationalist Movement rallied at the State Capitol Saturday for Texas to withdrawl from the United States. Several Texas Independence celebration events took place over the weekend.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Texas flags paraded up Congress Avenue Saturday morning to celebrate the state's independence. The Texian Legacy  Association hosted the parade and 5K run.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico just a few days before the Mexican army under Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna advanced on the Alamo in San Antonio.  On March 5, Col. William Travis leading the Alamo defenders made his famous "line in the sand."

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