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

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf visited a construction site in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on a windswept day last month and repeated a Trump administration pledge.

"We are on track to build 450 to 500 miles of new wall by the end of 2020," he told reporters. Behind him, steel panels atop a concrete levee wall, 30 feet in all, are rising from the sugar cane fields and bird sanctuaries of the valley — which is really a river delta. They are the first section of new border wall built under President Trump where there was no barrier before.

The Lasting Effects Of Moderating YouTube Content

Dec 19, 2019
Rego Korosi/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Tech giants Facebook and Google routinely work with third-party companies to monitor the content users put onto their platforms. Accenture is one of those outside contractors, and it operates Google’s largest so-called moderation site in Austin. There, workers spend hours watching and flagging YouTube videos. The problem is that these workers are constantly exposed to disturbing scenes of graphic violence and sexual crimes.

Michael Barera/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this year, Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray noticed something unusual in her district. A lot of dollar stores were opening their doors in a small area – over a hundred stores in a 15-mile radius. And some of her constituents didn’t like what they were seeing.

Vanessa Wilson
Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

*Correction appended.

Vanessa Wilson’s white Chevy SUV has sat untouched on the patch of land outside her family’s trailer in Austin for months. It’ll be there for a while.

A New Book Traces The History Of Borderland Gangs, And Their Distinctive Style

Dec 18, 2019
Shelly Brisbin/Texas Standard

From Texas Sandard:

Sometime in the 1990s, concerns about rising crime rates in America's urban centers began to focus on Los Angeles. Some saw it as as ground zero for gangs. Stories about the Bloods and the Crips and other gangs often overlooked a more complicated history that preceded events on the West Coast by several decades. At the same time, they touched on many of the underlying issues, like poverty and social isolation.

Shelley D. Kofler/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

Polls show that the country is nearly evenly split about whether President Donald Trump should be impeached. That might put Texas politicians in a precarious position given that Texas isn't the reliably conservative state it once was. Lawmakers who support Trump will please their base of supporters, but they also risk alienating others.

NBA Expands Its G League With Mexico City Capitanes

Dec 17, 2019
Daniel Case/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced last week the Mexico City-based Capitanes will be joining the NBA G League beginning in the 2020-21 season.

Maureen.allen/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

A recent investigation by USA Today finds that student-athletes who have been disciplined for sexual offenses are transferring to other schools and continuing to play college sports. The newspaper is calling it "the predator pipeline," and it's happening at schools in Texas.

Courtesy Alex Wild

From Texas Standard:

In the entomology world, the discovery of a new species means scientists also have the opportunity to name that species. In one recent case, the naming was easy. University of Texas at Austin entomologists discovered two species and named them "rodeo ants" because they ride on the backs of ant queens in other colonies.

Matthew C. Wright/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The recent death of a Houston police officer reignited an aspect of the gun control debate that intersects with domestic violence.

Ryan Poppe/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Department of Agriculture this week released a proposed set of rules for growing hemp, which had been illegal until the federal government's 2018 Farm Bill cleared the way for production.

The new rules will help would-be growers understand how the crop will be regulated. And when the hemp is ready to be harvested, a Dallas company has a plan for processing it.

AgriLife Today/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement was created to better align the economies of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. One small part of it was a special work visa program that allowed American employers to more easily hire skilled foreign workers in certain fields, including in agriculture. But some employers took advantage of the program.

Randall Pugh/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Limited business regulation has led to an influx of large companies and skilled workers in Texas over the past few years. It's contributed to the state's $1.7 trillion economy. But despite massive economic growth, critics say some Texans are left behind.


From Texas Standard:

More money is about to flow into eight surveillance centers located across across the state. The Texas Department of Public Safety helps oversee these intelligence-gathering hubs, known as "fusion centers," but it doesn't talk much about what they do.

Hannah McBride/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard

For decades, jailhouse informants have been presented as credible witnesses at criminal trials. In the movies, you've seen them called “snitches.” They testify about what they say they heard while being held in the same facility, or even the same cell, as the defendant.


From Texas Standard:

Texas isn’t really known for its vast evergreen forests. You could count the piney woods in East Texas, but no one’s cutting those trees down for Christmas. But there is an alternative: For a short time over the holidays, tree farmers across the state open up their properties so Texans can choose and cut their own trees and get the feeling of an alpine experience.  

Craft Distillers Fight To Preserve A Valuable Tax Break

Dec 10, 2019
Gabriel C. Pérez/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Fifteen years ago, there were three distilleries in Texas. Today there are 158. But craft distillers say they are facing a potential setback that could cripple their ability to grow. They want Congress to extend a temporary tax cut that has significantly cut their cost of doing business.

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.

UIL Realignment Spells Big Changes For Small Schools

Dec 6, 2019
KaleenaBurt /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Every two years, the University Interscholastic League – better known as the UIL – realigns the state’s public schools for extracurricular competitions. Big schools play other big schools, little schools play other little schools. Realignment aims to keep that balance as schools lose or gain students.


From Texas Standard:

This week, Texas Health and Human Services reported a record number of people with lung disease linked to vaping. One of those people has died; many of them are young – an average of 22 years old. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently released a report saying that more than 6 million American teens use tobacco products, the majority of those products being e-cigarettes. But health experts are still trying to determine which vaping products are causing illness. In the meantime,  health officials recommend that Texans stop using e-cigarette products altogether.

Keith Allison/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

In this month’s edition of Texan Translation, we’re looking at the unconventional Texas accent of retired professional basketball player Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki immigrated to Dallas from Germany in 1998 to play for the Mavericks. He retired last season.

“I left Germany over 20 years ago and I became a Texan, so thank you guys for having me in. I’ll see you soon,” Nowitzki said in his farewell speech to fans in April. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The last Texan in the presidential race, Julián Castro, lamented Tuesday about the dwindling number of  candidates of color vying for the Democratic nomination. Kamala Harris had just suspended her bid, and Castro chastised the media for contributing to candidates of color leaving the race.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotoblasete/ username:antonioxalonso [CC BY 2.0 ]

From Texas Standard:

A set of symbols known as the International Phonetic Alphabet is commonly used to determine what speech sounds like. The IPA is used for nearly 7,000 languages around the world. If you've encountered pronunciation guides online, you've used the IPA.

But the Braille version of the IPA hadn't been updated for 75 years. That is, until a Houston-area professor made it his mission to change that.

AgriLife Today/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Not every crop could compel farmers to pay $50 to spend a chilly weekday in a drab conference room in Wichita Falls. But hemp is not every crop.


Trump Administration Rolls Back Regulations Enacted After West Explosion

Nov 25, 2019
Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

From Texas Standard:

In 2013, a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the small city of West, Texas, killed 15 people and injured hundreds more. The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, instituted regulations to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Now the Trump administration is reversing those regulations.

A section of the border fence
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

EL PASO — When David Acevedo attended a meeting with officials from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Webb County last month, he thought he would come away with more information about the Trump administration’s border security plans.

Someone in a wheelchair

From Texas Standard:

A new investigative report finds that each day, airlines lose or damage 29 wheelchairs or electric scooters used by people with disabilities. And new data released this week by the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that airlines damaged or lost nearly 8,000 mobility aids during the first nine months of this year.

Brian Reading /Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

From Texas Standard:

Thousands of people are turning their backs on central Houston, seeking a more affordable version of the American dream in the city's most far-flung suburbs. The migration pattern is changing the face of some formerly sleepy counties like Liberty, Brazoria and Montgomery.

Over the past few years, abortion providers in Texas have struggled to reopen clinics that had closed because of restrictive state laws.

There were more than 40 clinics providing abortion in Texas on July 12, 2013 — the day lawmakers approved tough new restrictions and rules for clinics.

Texas Tech University Meat Science

From Texas Standard:

There’s no shortage of worthy choices if you’re debating the best college football, basketball or volleyball team. But when it comes to supremacy in the meat locker, there is only one school you can call the very best: Texas Tech. Over the weekend, the Texas Tech meat judging team claimed their 14th national championship – a record that’s unmatched in the world of amateur meat evaluation.