Texas

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

Juan Figueroa for Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

A global controversy erupted after a Chinese scientist claimed to have used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to manipulate genes in the embryos of twin girls to try to boost their resistance to HIV. The idea of gene editing goes back to at least the 1960s, and it’s the topic of the new documentary “Human Nature,” which will premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Austin this month.

The Sad State Of Military Housing

Mar 8, 2019
Todd Morris/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

More active-duty members of the military live and work in Texas than in any other state besides California. Many live in military housing, which have largely been run by private contractors since the 1990s. A series of explosive reports by Reuters last year found hazards from mold to vermin infestations and lead paint. Yet contractors continued to get rich as military families suffered. Now, Pentagon officials are promising change, including a possible tenant bill of rights for military personnel.

Eslate voting machine
Nathan Bernier/KUT

From Texas Standard:

You probably remember the frustrations during the 2016 and 2018 elections: the long lines at the polls, the questions about whether our votes were being property recorded and whether voting machines were being hacked or not. A new study offers little comfort to those hoping 2020 will be better. It finds that voting technology across the U.S. is outdated and falling apart.

Jill Ament/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Last month, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported that though wildfire season typically begins in March, West Texas is seeing wildfires even earlier in the year. As a result, lots of communities have a plan of action for wildfires. But how many Texas communities perform a dry run before an emergency actually happens? So far, only one, the Comanche Trail neighborhood near Lake Travis, has done such a drill.

Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

From Texas Standard:

Though some parts of Texas hit their coldest temperatures of the season this week, overall, this winter has been fairly mild south of Oklahoma -- and wet. That's led to a pretty productive wildflower season. Folks in the Big Bend area say they've seen the largest bluebonnet bloom in decades. And many parts of the state are seeing that bloom slightly early.

EFFIE YANG/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

As we reported several months ago, Texas has a policy that makes it illegal for state government entities to contract with companies that boycott Israel. A speech pathologist in Pflugerville ran afoul of the law because she refused to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. Now, short-term rental company Airbnb has run into a similar conflict with the state's law.

Mark/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The term "socialism" seems to be an early front-runner for the top buzzword of the 2020 election season. Democrats and Republicans have been using the word a lot lately, but what does it really mean?

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, President Donald Trump told the crowd, "Democrat lawmakers are now embracing socialism. They want to replace individual rights with total government domination."

But Jennifer Mercieca, associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University specializing in political rhetoric, says the way Trump characterizes socialism is different than its technical definition.

Pexels

From Texas Standard:

In the United States, over 10 million children live below the federal poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's the lowest child poverty rate in decades, but researchers and public policy experts are determined to bring down that number even further.

In a recently published report called "A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty" from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, its co-authors suggest policy changes that they claim could cut child poverty in half in just 10 years.

Cynthia Osborne contributed to the report. She's associate dean and director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Osborne says the irony of child poverty is that it's expensive.

Joy Diaz/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Courtney Meeks was 32 years old when she died in February.

Her name may be familiar. Texas Standard’s Joy Diaz followed Meeks' story several years ago when she was a pregnant mom living with addiction and without a home in Austin.

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.

Kristen Cabrera/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Last week, at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, high school students from all over the Lone Star State gathered for the 2019 UIL Mariachi State Festival. They displayed their skills for judges and peers, but for almost all of the attendees, this year’s festival represented something deeper.

Jon Shapley/KUT

From Texas Standard:

The Texas Senate Committee on Finance held a public hearing Monday to discuss a bill that would give a $5,000 pay raise to full-time teachers across the state. But before it passed in the committee, there was pushback from a group of school professionals who testified the bill’s definition of “full-time teacher” wasn’t adequate.

 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Army Spc. Hugh Gary Bryan was buried Wednesday with full military honors at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.

Pexels

From Texas Standard:

The total market value of the video-gaming industry reached almost $135 billion in 2018, and with that growth has come an increased demand for game developers. In hopes some of its graduates stand out in that market, the University of Texas at Austin is launching a new degree program in video game design and development.

Texas Criminal Court of Appeals judges at the state Capitol in January.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

In a major blow to the state’s government transparency laws, Texas’ highest criminal court has struck down a significant provision of the Texas Open Meetings Act, calling it “unconstitutionally vague.”

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Texas Economic Stabilization Fund, often called the rainy day fund, is doing well. Really well, actually. By the end of 2021, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar projects, it will have about $15 billion in it. Lawmakers say the account needs to have a minimum of $7.5 billion to help the state maintain a top credit rating.

Natalie Krebs

From Texas Standard:

Many of President Donald Trump’s comments about the U.S.-Mexico border have been disputed. But not this statement, from his recent campaign rally in El Paso:

“Last year Juarez had 1,200 murders. El Paso, right next door, a few feet away, had 23 murders,” Trump said.

Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — As part of an ongoing flurry of litigation in federal court here over the state’s bungled citizenship review of its voter rolls, a federal judge on Monday told a handful of Texas counties they may not — for now — purge registered voters or send them letters demanding proof of citizenship.

Gabriel C. Pérez/Texas Standard

Vatican officials have just wrapped up an unprecedented four-day gathering, all about the sexual abuse that’s shaken the church to its core.  At the same time, the population of what researchers call “women religious” – people like nuns – in the United States is experiencing “a dramatic decline.” But in the Central Texas city of Georgetown, a new Catholic convent, an outpost of the order of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, just opened its doors.

Di Qiu/Flickr

From Texas Standard:

Ever heard of bartonella henselae? It’s the bacteria behind an illness you’re probably more familiar with – cat scratch fever. What about this one: bovine spongiform encephalopathy? You may know it better as mad cow disease. As you can see, nonscientific names for certain afflictions tend to stick. But sometimes, their meanings may get lost in translation.

Why The STAAR Test May Be Setting Students Up To Fail

Feb 22, 2019
Montinique Monroe/KUT

From Texas Standard:

From botched distribution of exams to concerns about so-called teaching to the test, educators and parents alike have been critical of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standardized tests since their rollout in 2012. And over the past few years, something unusual has been happening: students who are otherwise successful in the classroom are failing the exams.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A new report calls for improved translation services after two Mayan children from Guatemala, 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, died in Border Patrol custody.

Photo courtesy of UT-Austin

From Texas Standard:

Humans create a lot of trash. It's everywhere, from the oceans to the sides of Texas highways to our own backyards. But planet Earth isn't the only place that we've deposited our junk. There's also lots of junk in space, including decommissioned satellites and pieces of rockets. And it's all stuck orbiting around the Earth without much rhyme or reason. That means space junk can collide with and damage working satellites. A UT engineer wants to do something about it.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The opioid epidemic killed more than 1,300 Texans in 2016. The next year, state lawmakers passed legislation to mandate a prescription-monitoring program that requires medical providers to check a patient’s health records before prescribing opioids. The mandate is supposed to take effect in September, but the program may be delayed at the request of doctors.

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.

Texans, it turns out, don't know their U.S. history. A new study from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found 63 percent of respondents in Texas failed a quiz based on questions from the U.S. citizenship examination.

Screenshot from Twitter/@NtfbVoice

From Texas Standard:

Representatives from Texas food banks will gather at the Capitol on Tuesday to talk with legislators about food insecurity and lobby for ways the state can help. Food insecurity is a bigger problem than some may think. The term doesn't just describe people who are going hungry; it also describes people who don’t have the household resources to consistently buy healthy food.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Hampton

On a clear spring day in 2013, two smoke stacks fell in El Paso. They had been a part of the landscape, and the El Paso economy for years. It took a mere 30 seconds for them to come down.

Pexels

The Calhoun Port Authority has spent $360,000 in taxpayer money to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the Victoria Advocate newspaper. The suit alleges the authority violated open-meetings rules during the hiring process of disgraced Congressman Blake Farenthold.

Angela Paxton celebrates victory in her state senate race on March 6, 2018.
Laura Skelding / Texas Tribune

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

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