Texas

News, policy discussions, and major events happening in or related to Texas, told from an Austin perspective

Filipa Rodrigues

President Obama in Austin

President Obama winds up a day-long, two-stop trip to Texas in Austin late this afternoon.  Mr. Obama starts the day in El Paso, discussing border security and trade.  He's schedule to arrive in Austin about 5:00 p.m. for a campaign fundraiser downtown.  The President leaves for Washington about 9:00 p.m.

Busy Night at the Legislature

Photo by Gretch Sanders for KUT News.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered nine dietary supplements be recalled by Georgia-based Multi-Mex Distributor.  Among the supplements is Amoxilina, which was subject of a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Our neighbors to the west have recorded the country's first human case this year of the dreaded bubonic plague. A 58-year-old man in the area of Santa Fe, New Mexico is recovering in hospital, reports Albuquerque CBS affiliate KRQE.

Image courtesy US Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor started using the above map in 2000 to visually represent drought conditions. The newest map, released May 5, shows more land than ever before is in "exceptional drought," the most intense drought category used by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Associated Press talked to National Weather Service Meteorologist Victor Murphy who said the same is true of the amount of land in "extreme drought", the second most severe category.

Photo by B. Rosen http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosengrant/

If your personal data was among the 3.5 million records leaked by the Texas Comptroller, you should have received a letter in the mail by now explaining how to set up free 90-day credit monitoring. What that letter didn't explain, however, was the subsequent decision by the comptroller to use her own campaign funds to pay for you to receive an entire year of credit monitoring and identity restoration services.

Photo by DVIDSHUB http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/

Ten major wildfires are still burning across Texas today, an area that spans 562,004 acres. No new fires were reported on Thursday, but extreme fire conditions are predicted across West Texas today, with red flag warnings in effect. Some two-million acres have already been scorched in Texas since January 1.

One bit of news from the Texas Forest Service. It says the Possum Kingdom wildfire, which burned more than 126,000 acres, has been completely contained.

Image Courtesy of opensource.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4638981545/

After state and federal investigations started over the State Comptroller's office's exposure of personal information for over 3.5 million people, now an outside group is joining in.  Two lawyers of the Texas Civil Rights Project are asking a Travis County court to give them permission to investigate the security lapse.

In response to the legal actions taken by the Texas Civil Rights Project, Combs emailed her response to KUT via her spokesperson.

Photo courtesy by Texas Forest Service

Forecasters say this is the worst drought to hit the state in 45 years. Today, the dangerously dry weather is increasing potential for wildfires as volunteer fire departments battle fatigue to save their communities from the flames.

Photo by US Air Force http://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/

No new large wildfires were reported yesterday, but the weather is worsening for crews combating four major blazes that cover more than 500,000 acres. Here is the latest update from the Texas Forest Service.

Images of the fire taken by YNN's Russell Wilde.

In an area that is currently facing an extreme drought, "wildfire" is one of the last words you want to hear when you wake up on Friday morning. But that's exactly what happened today in Wimberley, a small town with a vibrant artistic community that is less than an hour's drive from Austin.

Photo by Official U.S. Air Force http://www.flickr.com/photos/usairforce/with/5638679968/

Media will receive a tour of wildfire scorched zones in the Possum Kingdom Lake area this afternoon, so we can expect to get a closer glimpse of the devastation this evening. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that damper weather has helped prevent the wildfires from spreading more aggressively.

[O]vernight moisture, higher humidity and cooler temperatures temporarily lowered the danger of the fires further spreading, officials said.

Photo by smokershighlife http://www.flickr.com/photos/smokershighlife/

The Texas Department of State Health Services waited until the day most marijuana users celebrate the drug to announce it is banning products that simulate cannabis. In a news release posted on its website, DSHS said it is banning substances found in products like K2 and Spice, effective this Friday, April 22.

Photo by Texas Military Forces http://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/

More than 600 homes are threatened in an area around Possum Kingdom Lake, about an hour west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, after four wildfires merged into one.

Photo by KUT News

Folks living in San Marcos will have to be careful how they use water, because of persistent dry conditions.

The City of San Marcos says that, because aquifer levels has dropped below average, they're preparing to implement Stage 1 Water Restrictions.

Photo by Jim Reese for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry is asking President Obama for a major disaster declaration, as wildfires continue to scorch sections of Texas.

From a news release issued Sunday by Governor Perry's office:

"A Major Disaster Declaration makes the state eligible for response and recovery assistance from the federal government. Texas' request includes:

Image by Firefighter Daniel Hinckley, courtesy of the San Angelo Standard-Times

A calm, sunny Sunday in Central Texas, except if you're among the last-minute tax filers scrambling to meet tomorrow night's deadline income tax returns. Here are the other items making news this morning:

Wildfires Eat Up More Acreage, Structures

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

Hey, Texplainer: What do high gasoline prices mean for the state budget?

Oil prices have risen recently, as unrest in the Middle East continues. Gasoline prices have gone up in tandem. In Texas, a gallon of gas costs a dollar more than a year ago. For state policymakers, a crucial question is how higher prices at the pump will affect Texas' estimated $15 billion to $27 billion budget gap. The answer, of course, is that it's complicated.

The announcement that the Texas Comptroller's Office accidentally made public the personal information of about 3.5 million people online got us wondering in the KUT newsroom. How is online security different in the US from in other countries? 

Paolo Cunha Martins was happy to show us. 

Photo courtesy Firefighter Jimmy Taylor, Austin Fire Department

After a tour of West Texas ranches and rangeland burned by wildfires, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has set up a public donation fund to help ranchers whose land has been devastated.  He said the State of Texas Agricultural Relief Fund, or STAR Fund, is the best place to donate and give help.

Image courtesy flickr.com/BizarreRecords

The state's Forensic Science Commission begins two days of meetings.  On their agenda will be discussion of a final report on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham.  A 1991 arson ruling convicted Willingham of setting fire to his Corsicana home and killing his three daughters. He was executed in 2004.

Several expert reviews of the evidence have indicated that the fire was an accident. 

Image courtesy Austin Fire Department

Wildfires Threaten More Areas of Texas

The Texas Forest Service says more parts of the state now need to be worried about the threat of wildfires. The agency says the area with significant fire potential will expand today to include parts of Central, North, and South Texas. That includes all areas west of line that curves down from just west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to Fredericksburg, to Del Rio. 

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Texas House has unanimously voted to pass a bill to place stricter limits on government seizure of land through eminent domain.  But it still has one more test before it heads to Governor Rick Perry's desk.

The bill would require governmental bodies to make a "bona fide" offer to land owners and to send a letter to the State Comptroller, detailing what the land would be used for.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Photo by Don Hankins http://www.flickr.com/photos/23905174@N00/1594411528/

Today, the Texas State Comptroller's Office starts mailing out letters to everyone affected by the security breach that left 3.5 million personal information files publicly accessible online. 

The breach means everyone who is a member of the Teachers Retirement System of Texas, the Public Employees Retirement System of Texas,  or the Texas Workforce Commission likely had their information made public,  Comptroller of Public Account's spokesperson Allen Spelce confirmed in an interview with KUT.

To find out if your information was compromised call 1-855-474-2065.

Photo by pobre.ch http://www.flickr.com/photos/npobre/

Social security numbers, names, mailing addresses and other information of 3.5 million Texans were disclosed on a state computer server that was accessible to the public for about a year.  Comptroller Susan Combs' office issued this apology and explanation.

Large wildfires erupted yesterday in Brewster and Angelina counties, adding to the 309,500 acres of wildfires the Texas Forest Service has battled over the last week. A Garland-based company called Sky Helicopters posted the video above to YouTube. 

Photo by TexasEagle http://www.flickr.com/photos/texaseagle/

Here's the latest information from the Texas Forest Service as it struggles to contain wildfires that have already blackened 309,500 acres. This report was circulated to media this morning. We present it to you in its entirety.

TEXAS FOREST SERVICE INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SITUATION REPORT
Monday, April 11, 2011
National Preparedness Level: 1
Southern Area Preparedness Level: 3
TFS Preparedness Level: 5

CURRENT SITUATION

Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 12 fires for 22,432 acres, including new large fires in Brewster and Angelina counties.  In the past seven days TFS has responded to 83 fires for 309,526 acres. 

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.  

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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