Jill Ament

Texas Standard Producer
Scott Lieberman

From Texas Standard:

Fifteen years ago today, on a clear blue Texas morning, the Space Shuttle Columbia reentered Earth's atmosphere after a successful 16-day science mission.

But after communications were not regained with Columbia when expected, it became apparent something was terribly wrong. The shuttle had disintegrated over East Texas skies, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Here are the voices of several Texans whose memories of Feb. 1, 2003 remain vivid, and whose lives were forever changed by what happened that day.

Stuart Seeger, via Houston Public Media

From Texas Standard.

Despite an economy that is reportedly continuing to grow, the state’s budget chief is looking ahead to the next legislative session and warning lawmakers that some bills with hefty price tags are set to come due – and that revenue will be tight.

Saiberiac/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

All eyes are on Washington as temporary spending measures and DACA hover at the top of our debates and news feeds, but one big task Congress has yet to tackle involves a long-stalled $81 billion disaster relief package that would benefit Texans rebuilding from Harvey, as well as aid victims of hurricanes Maria and Irma. Texas farmers demanding a cotton provision are one group that’s been delaying the bill.

Kevin Diaz, Washington correspondent for Hearst Papers in Texas including the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio-Express News, says the relief package has been in the works since November.

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From Texas Standard:

Several Democratic mayors, in Washington D.C. for the annual Conference of Mayors, chose to boycott a meeting with President Donald Trump, who invited the mayors to visit the White House Wednesday. They objected to letters sent to 23 cities by the Department of Justice, threatening funding cuts if communities acted as so-called "sanctuary cities."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard.

On Monday, the Washington Post broke the story of the now-defunct voter fraud commission purchasing Texas voter records. The story began:

“President Donald Trump’s voting commission asked every state and the District of Columbia for detailed voter registration data, but in Texas’ case it took an additional step: It asked to see Texas records that identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, newly released documents show.”

Officials from both the White House and the state of Texas say the data was never delivered, because of a lawsuit brought by Texas voting rights advocates after the request was made.

Padre Island National Seashore

From Texas Standard.

Scientists, researchers, and volunteers along the Gulf Coast have been working at a fever pitch to save hundreds of sea turtles that have washed up on Texas coastal shores – alive but stunned by the cold. It’s not an unusual phenomenon, but researchers say this year has seen a record-breaking number of turtles.

Dr. Donna Shaver, the Chief of the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Division at Padre Island National Seashore, says they’ve found 2,980 turtles so far.

PROKP Tripathi/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Unless Congress passes a continuing resolution, this week non-essential federal spending will dry up on Friday at midnight, and the U.S. government will shut down. Disagreements over DACA and other immigration priorities continue to divide the Congress, and the potential shutdown is being used as leverage. But how would a government shutdown affect Texas and Texans, and what essential services are exempted?

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News.

From Texas Standard.

As the nation waits for lawmakers to decide what to do, if anything, about DACA, a federal judge in California has decided not to wait for Congress.

Last week the judge, based in San Francisco, used a local case to issue a nationwide injunction – an order to keep the Trump administration from pulling the plug on DACA. The Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Texans don’t care about primary elections – at least if history is any indication. Single-digit turnouts are not uncommon in non-presidential election years. But there’s reason to think conventional wisdom could be turned on its head this March.

An unlikely coalition of business groups and educators are coming together to get out the vote, and they appear to have rattled allies of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Twenty-three percent of the students in Fort Worth ISD are black. But according to a recent report by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 62 percent of all girls suspended in the district last school year were African-American. Fort Worth ISD administrators are looking into why this is happening in their district.

Flickr/Steve Rainwater (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Conflict over Texas’ voter ID law was in the courts for most of last year, and 2018 will probably be no different. The state’s restrictive voter ID law, passed in 2011, has been found by courts to have been crafted with discriminatory intent. Now it’s up to a three-judge panel to decide, among other things, whether Texas’ new law, designed to fix problems with the old law, goes far enough. 

Michael Zanussi/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

While Texans are gearing up to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, there’s another election coming up even sooner that could have huge implications – the Mexican presidential election.

The election will be held on July 1. As Dallas Morning News border correspondent Alfredo Corchado reports, Mexicans living in Texas could play a big role in the outcome. Dallas has the second largest number of Mexicans in the U.S. registered to vote in the election – a record high of 50,000 people.

From Texas Standard:

A lot of Texans will be paying close attention Monday to the words and tone of President Donald Trump as he addresses farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville. At a time when Texas is growing in population,  becoming less rural and more urban than it was 10 years ago, advocates say rural issues are no less important than they once were. And that's the message Trump aims to send during his Farm Bureau speech. But what do Texans want to hear, especially on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA?

Martin Do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard:

After Hurricane Harvey hit the small beach town of Port Aransas more than four months ago, the city's mayor – flanked by a handful of city officials who had stayed on Mustang Island to ride out the storm – held a press conference at City Hall. The town had been pummeled by Harvey; 75 percent of its structures were destroyed.

Martin do Nascimento/KUT

From Texas Standard.

Across the country right now, more than 700,000 people are looking to Congress for an answer about their futures – and about 124,000 of them live in Texas. We’re talking about Dreamers, the name that refers to young people brought to the U.S. without authorization when they were just kids. Now, the Obama-era executive action protecting them from deportation is set to expire and it’s up to lawmakers in Washington to decide what to do next.

Spc. Carlynn Knaak/Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

From Texas Standard.

If you were of news-consuming age 17 years ago, when then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran for president, you also remember the controversy over counting votes in Florida, and how the most contentious element of that election was a tiny piece of paper called a chad. Republican and Democratic election lawyers argued over which paper ballots in Florida should, and should not be counted, based on “hanging chads” and “pregnant chads” that made the voters intention unclear.

Flickr/Roy Luck (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Innocent until proven guilty is a core principle of the U.S. legal system. But what happens when you’re no longer considered guilty, but have not yet proven innocent? That’s just one factor in a complicated case in Houston.

fresh888/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

North Korea and Russia dominated foreign policy headlines in 2017, and a Texas-based geopolitical intelligence firm is indicating international decision makers should continue to keep an eye on those countries in the new year.

That’s part of a handful of predictions that Austin-based Stratfor is making in its Forecast for Geopolitical Risks for 2018.

Courtesy Office of the Attorney General

From Texas Standard.

Israel has long been a focal point in international policy for Texas Republican lawmakers. Several current Texas officials have traveled to the country. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick even got baptized in the Jordan River.

But Peggy Fikac, Austin bureau chief for the San Antonio Express News, reports that some aspects of these trips have come with hefty price tags for the state’s taxpayers.

From Texas Standard.

Texas has been more urban than rural since the 1950s, and though the state’s wide open space has a lot to do with its mystique, rural Texas is often overlooked when it comes to resources.

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece for the Texas Observer, Christopher Collins writes about the seven most pressing issues facing rural Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Thousands of residents living near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs in northwest Houston are still in cleanup mode after their homes were inundated. It was only after the rain stopped falling that many of those homeowners discovered they were living in zones intended to be flooded in order to save downtown Houston from disaster.

Weren’t developers required to tell buyers this information? If officials knew these areas were flood pools, why would they permit construction on these sites in the first place?

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Capitol Hill still hasn’t come up with a way to keep the government funded through the holidays. Up to now, Congress’s work has been centered on the tax bill, just passed by the House and Senate. So what made it into the final version?

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

The last time a Democrat won statewide office in Texas, grunge rock topped the music charts. The state has been solidly red ever since Republican George W. Bush took over from Democrat Ann Richards in the Governor's mansion. That was more than 20 years ago.

Magister Mathematicae/Wikimedia Commons

From Texas Standard.

For decades, if you pulled into any gas station in Mexico, the brand name on the pump would invariably be PEMEX, the name of the state-run oil monopoly. Now oil giant Exxon Mobil has announced it will open 50 gas stations in Mexico in 2018. Eight are opening this week. Most other major energy companies have begun operations in Mexico since the nation opened its energy economy to private companies.

From Texas Standard.

What can we learn from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria? To answer that question, and to facilitate planning for future storms, seven universities in Florida, Louisiana and Texas are pooling their money to put together what could be a first-of-its-kind center for hurricane research.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Something happened last night that hasn’t happened in 25 years: The state with "Heart of Dixie" stamped on its license plate elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. The question is whether Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama is an anomaly or a turning point. His opponent, Roy Moore, was a flawed and controversial candidate, but with a Democratic victory, and the weakness of President Donald Trump among some moderately conservative Republicans, it’s possible to envision Democrats making more gains, even in bright red Texas. 

CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY / KERA NEWS

From Texas Standard.

The deadline for Texas candidates to file to run in the 2018 primaries was Monday. And if you’ve been trying to keep up with the latest rash of Congressional retirements and scandals, plus what’s turned out to be a pretty crowded field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates, you may be wondering how to sort through all of the noise.

The Austin American-Statesman’s Political Editor Bob Gee highlights five Texas races that are worth a closer look.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Earlier this year there were fears that the 32-year-old health care system that covers hundreds of thousands of retired teachers was approaching a death spiral. The Teacher’s Retirement System’s TRS-Care was expected to experience a shortfall in excess of $1 billion.

Lawmakers came to the rescue with an infusion of cash – a temporary patch intended to shrink the system’s deficit to $700 million. But now, the Austin American-Statesman reports on another threat to the program – retired teachers are leaving it in droves.

Nathan Bernier

From Texas Standard.

The content of this story may not be appropriate for younger listeners.

Annie’s List, which works to elect female Democrats in Texas, is calling for the resignations of two powerful Democrats – Sen. Borris Miles of Houston and Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio.

The news comes after the Daily Beast published a story that will likely have major implications for Texas politics.

Mengwen Cao/KUT

From Texas Standard.

The U.S. House has passed a bill allowing gun owners with licenses to carry firearms to carry those firearms weapons across state lines. It’s a bill the National Rifle Association has dubbed a “legislative priority.”

Following the deadly mass shootings in Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas, legislators in Washington are also looking for a consensus on improving the national background check system for gun purchases, as well as banning a device known as “bump stocks.”

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