Jill Ament

Texas Standard Producer
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas A&M University System will reopen for in-person classes in the fall. That includes classes at its flagship campus in College Station as well as 10 others across Texas. But the campus experience won't be the same as it was before the pandemic.

hospital treatment rooms
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

According to recent reports by the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 1 million Texans are projected to lose their health insurance because of the economic recession in the U.S. caused by the coronavirus. That's in addition to the approximately 5 million people – equivalent to about 18% of the state's population– who are already uninsured.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Read this story in English.

La reapertura gradual del estado de Texas por parte del gobernador Greg Abbott tiene como objetivo que los tejanos vuelvan a trabajar por fases. Pero ese proceso no ha sido ni sencillo ni coherente.

eutrophication hypoxia/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Since the coronavirus outbreak began in Texas, state and local officials have had to make difficult decisions to protect Texans' health and safety. Some of those decisions have had dire economic consequences.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Click here to read this story in English.

Con tantos tejanos sin trabajo debido a las órdenes de quedarse en casa por el COVID-19, los bancos de alimentos se han sumado a los esfuerzos en  la primera línea de respuesta en el estado. El aumento de la demanda está empujando a los bancos de alimentos de Texas al límite, ya que ellos también esperan que les llegue la tan necesitada ayuda estatal y federal.

Gabriel C. Perez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Anyone can become infected with COVID-19. But as the disease spreads across the United States, it's affecting a disproportionate number of African Americans. In Texas, the full picture of that disparity is unclear because the state only has demographic data for about one quarter of all COVID-19 cases.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Just as it was in 2016, health care is an important issue for voters as they prepare to cast ballots in primaries and in November's general election. And health care is an especially relevant topic in Texas, as the state continues to opt out of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and faces rural hospital closures and high maternal mortality rates.

Xstrata Technology/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

Copper workers in Amarillo have been striking for four months and will likely continue. About 150 union members are protesting ASARCO's plan to freeze pensions and increase health insurance costs.

Gabriel Cristover Perez/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

With six major flooding events and disaster declarations in each of the past five years, Houston is facing a new normal when it comes to risk from a changing environment. Now, the city is looking to create what Mayor Sylvester Turner calls a "resilient city" with a new, 186-page master plan.

Andrea Garcia/KUT

From Texas Standard:

As the impeachment trial was getting underway in Washington, KXAN-TV in Austin reported that online searches within Texas for "impeachment" were high in some surprising, and not so surprising, places. They included Austin, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, Corpus Christi and Victoria.

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recently released new internal guidelines that cut the caseloads of foster care workers who have been overwhelmed for years by an unmanageable number of clients. But the department has faced many challenges lately, beyond a struggling workforce.

United Nations Photo/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In the boxing ring he was known as "Big George." But today, most people know George Foreman for his business ventures. Foreman has helped sell millions of George Foreman Grills, which were first introduced in 1994 and are still on the market today.

Michael Minasi/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Like few other Texans in recent years, one former El Paso congressman is known to many by his first name alone. But that extraordinary name recognition, and even an unexpectedly close Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018, wasn't enough to propel Beto O'Rourke to the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, O'Rourke is focused on getting more Democrats elected in Texas.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas General Land Office has proposed a plan to help mitigate damage from Hurricane Harvey – damage that some homeowners are still dealing with over two years later. Over $4 billion in federal community development block grants will go to those affected. But first, local governments have to figure out how, exactly, to spend the money.

torbakhopper/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Many Texas political watchers would agree that the 2019 legislative session was surprisingly tame. Legislation about divisive social issues – especially about bathroom access for transgender people, which dominated the session in 2017 – seemed to be a thing of the past. But recently, a custody case in Texas involving a 7-year-old child whose mother identifies the child as transgender has divided some along political lines.

The Bastrop County Complext Fire in 2011
Mose Buchele / KUT

From Texas Standard:

Randy Jamieson lives in the River Place development in Northwest Austin – what developers call a “master-planned” community. About 4,000 people live there, and the city of Austin recently annexed it. With its location near Lake Travis, real estate agents pitch the area as desirable for homebuyers looking for “Hill Country” and “Lakeside” views. But Jamieson feels nervous about living there.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Most discussions about the high cost of college focus on tuition and fees. But in some places, including the University of Texas at Austin, housing can be an even bigger cost. 

Photo courtesy of Albert Prieto-Márquez, Miquel Crusafont Catalonian Institute of Paleontology

From Texas Standard:

A dinosaur fossil has stumped scientists ever since they found it in Big Bend National Park in the early 1980s. Now, 30 years later, paleontologists report that new data helped them determine that the fossil actually belongs to a whole new dinosaur species.

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University

From Texas Standard

Wimberley Independent School District in Central Texas is moving forward with the construction of a new environmentally friendly school. The project focuses on the conservation of water.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, most of Texas is completely drought-free. That's a stark change from where the state was this time last year, let alone the extreme drought conditions of years past. But even as drought pressure has abated, water remains both a valuable and scarce resource in Texas, making it significant that this Hill Country elementary school is being constructed as the most water-efficient in the state.

Nick Dornak is the director of Watershed Services at Texas State University's Meadows Center. He says the school will be the first “one water” school in the state, incorporating water and wastewater treatment directly into the building.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From Texas Standard:

On Tuesday, a new Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy went into effect, banning any religious adviser from being in the execution chamber with an inmate. The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court, last week, postponed the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the Texas Seven group.

The court said his execution had to wait until Texas decided on its policy about the presence of spiritual advisers during executions. The state had originally denied Murphy’s request to have a Buddhist priest, which Murphy appealed because Texas had allowed advisers from other faiths to be in the execution chamber. In his opinion, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that Texas needed to find a way to accommodate all faiths so as not to discriminate, or allow no advisers at all. TDCJ decided on the latter.

Rap325/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Though he hasn't made an official announcement, Texas Monthly recently reported that Joaquin Castro could soon announce plans to challenge John Cornyn for his Senate seat in 2020. If Castro runs, his own seat in Congress will be open. He represents a district that's been solidly Democratic for years, and now some are speculating about who would run to replace him. 

Gilbert Garcia, metro columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, has been pondering the musical-chairs game of sorts that a Castro Senate bid could set in motion.

Garcia says San Antonio comprises five congressional districts, and that the 20th is the one Democrats covet most.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard:

College has become a prerequisite for most high-paying jobs in the U.S., but college itself is out of reach for millions, and that number is growing. And the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that in the past 10 years, student loan debt has grown by more than 100 percent. People ages 19 to 29 hold more than $1 trillion in student debt, and that's just the Millennial generation. With a wide-open Democratic primary field, it's almost certain that college affordability will be an issue during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Adam Harris writes in The Atlantic that the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates have focused their attention on how to make college affordable in the future,  proposing free college tuition or policies that would allow students to leave school without debt.

Harris says that prior to the 2016 election, momentum had been building nationally for some sort of free college program. But once Donald Trump was elected president, that momentum shifted to the states.

Jill Ament/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

As Texas lawmakers begin tackling one of this session's top legislative priorities – school finance reform – a state Senate measure proposes giving public-school teachers a raise. How much money is on the table and what difference would it make for teachers living paycheck to paycheck? It depends on whom you ask and where you live.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT, and Flickr/House GOP (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Two Texas lawmakers are at the forefront of a renewed battle over President Donald Trump's tax returns.

Lynda Gonzalez/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Ever since two important cases struck down gun restrictions in Washington, D.C. and Chicago – rulings that essentially protected gun ownership in the home – a question has remained as to whether it's legal to carry guns in public. But now, the Supreme Court is planning to review a case dealing with that very question; it's known by the shorthand "New York State Rifle."

Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law who specializes in American constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Winkler says the case challenges a New York City ordinance that limits where people with permitted guns can bring them into public; they can bring them to specified gun ranges, for example.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Monday, about 34,000 teachers will walk off the job in Los Angeles – a move described as "historic." It echoes what happened almost a year ago when a West Virginia teacher walkout triggered similar strikes elsewhere in the US. Teachers all over the country are lobbying for higher pay.

Here in Texas, 10 percent of all first-year teachers leave their jobs before their second year. Better pay may be key to keeping more of them in the classroom, and last week, top state lawmakers pledged that 2019 will be the "Year of the Teacher" in the Texas Legislature, promising to boost salaries. But there's still many details yet to be decided.

Eddie Gaspar/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Texas Standard has been inviting new members of the Texas delegation on Capitol Hill for on-air meet-and-greet sessions. Recent news has made these conversations especially timely: earlier this week we spoke about the shutdown and the situation at the border with a newly minted Democratic representative, Colin Allred. Now it's Lance Gooden's turn; he's the Republican freshman elected in November to take the place of Jeb Hensarling representing District 5, which covers parts of Dallas and East Texas.

Gooden says he supports President Donald Trump's idea to declare a national emergency in order to secure funding for the border wall. He says Trump would need to do that "especially if he wants to get what he wants because I don't think he's gonna get it in Congress."

Julia Reihs/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Our attention turns once again to the Texas side of the Rio Grande where President Donald Trump has doubled down on his plan build a wall along the border with Mexico. Over the weekend, Trump said he may declare a national emergency to secure the funding for the wall after White House officials and top legislative aids failed to reach a compromise about it, and also failed to end the partial government shutdown.

While politicians hash out immigration policy in Washington, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling deals with the day-to-day impact of immigration in the Rio Grande Valley – one of Texas' busiest border-crossing regions. Darling says he sees several hundred asylum seekers per day come to respite centers in the area. And while media have focused on the Central American migrant caravans moving through Mexico, he says they've missed what's actually happening at the border.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From Texas Standard:

Top lawmakers are gathering at the White House again Friday to try to find a way to end the partial government shutdown. This comes one day after Democrats, who now have a majority in the House of Representatives, passed a package to reopen parts of the government until September, and passed a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. The effort also allowed more time for negotiations on border security.

While the measures likely won't pass in the Republican-led Senate, seven Republicans in the House sided with Democrats to pass the bills; Texas Rep. Will Hurd was one of them. His 23rd Congressional District stretches from El Paso to San Antonio, encompassing much of the state's border with Mexico.

Hurd says he voted with Democrats because he feels it's important to keep agencies like the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, open.

Michael Duke/Jewish Herald-Voice

From Texas Standard:

The largest Conservative Jewish synagogue in the U.S. is not on the East Coast – it's in Houston. Congregation Beth Yeshurun is made up of 2,300 families and was founded in 1891. Now, Rice University aims to shine a light on it and the rest of South Texas's Jewish community and history through its new Houston Jewish History Archive.

Director Josh Furman acknowledges that Houston is not the first place that comes to mind when people think of Judaism in the United States. But he wants to change that. 

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