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Newsclips - September 20, 2019

Lead Stories

KUT - September 20, 2019

Fewer out-of-staters are moving to Texas, and a lot of Texans are moving out

Every year, more people move to Texas from other states than leave. They come for jobs, higher education and a relatively lower cost of living, among other things. But the net population growth from those new arrivals has been shrinking, and researchers are trying to figure out why. A report out this month from the Dallas Federal Reserve highlights the trend, showing how net domestic migration to the state began falling starting in 2015.

The reason, according to the report, is that low unemployment in other states means fewer people need to come to Texas for work. But, other reasons may be at play as well. The report looks at “net” population growth, i.e., the number of arrivals versus the number of departures. It makes the assumption that the decline in growth is due to fewer people arriving. Since 1991, more people have moved to Texas than left, but there's been a lot of variation in how many. Around 2005, domestic migration to the state exploded. It stayed strong through the Great Recession as people arrived, attracted by Texas’ relatively low unemployment rate. But that slowed as employment rates rose nationally.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2019

Ex-Capitol staffer accused of murder found mentally unable to stand trial

A doctor has evaluated a former Texas Capitol staffer accused of killing his neighbor, and tied to a shooting rampage last summer in South Austin, and found him to be incompetent to stand trial. The finding by Dr. Leonard Weiss, made public Wednesday in a court document in Travis County state District court, puts the murder case against Charles Curry on hold for up to 120 days while he heads to a state psychiatric hospital in Vernon to be evaluated.

“He’s to go to a locked facility to be evaluated and possibly treated so he can regain competency and he can come back and start the litigation process,” prosecutor Joe Frederick said Wednesday. The incompetency finding, as defined by the Texas code of criminal procedure, means Curry lacks sufficient ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or lacks an understanding of the proceedings against him.

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Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2019

2 deaths linked to Imelda as hundreds flooded throughout southeast Texas

Heavy rainfall from now-downgraded Imelda wreaked havoc Thursday for much of Southeast Texas, where officials are dealing with impassable roadways, downed trees, power outages, hundreds of high-water rescues and in one small town, a hospital evacuation.

At least two deaths have been linked to the storm. A man pulled from a submerged van in east Harris County died, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a tweet. In Jefferson County, a man was electrocuted and drowned while trying to move his horse, according to authorities there. As of Thursday evening, Houston police recovered more than 200 abandoned vehicles from city roadways, and hundreds more vehicles remain stranded on highways and streets, HPD Chief Art Acevedo said during a news conference. Police will work to clear the roads through the night, he said.

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New York Times - September 19, 2019

Whistleblower’s complaint is said to involve multiple acts by Trump

A potentially explosive complaint by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community said to involve President Trump was related to a series of actions that go beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader, according to interviews on Thursday.

The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members. Separately, a person familiar with the whistle-blower’s complaint said it involves in part a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader. The Washington Post first reported the nature of that discussion. But no single communication was at the root of the complaint, another person familiar with it said.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2019

A viral video fueled Democrat MJ Hegar’s 2018 race. Next: A Netflix biopic.

Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar stepped away from her last movie deal as it became, as she says, "too blockbuster-y." The decorated war veteran now has a deal with Netflix for the movie that has long been in the works, but very well could drop in the middle of her bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn next year.

It’s a potential boon for a candidate who's built a career writing, speaking and now making movies about her story — of getting shot down and wounded in Afghanistan, suing the Pentagon and lobbying Congress to scrap restrictions on women in combat. That story has also fueled her political campaigns. It was told in a three-minute video that went viral as she launched her last campaign, drawing national attention to her race against U.S. Rep. John Carter in a Republican stronghold north of Austin.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2019

Texas leads nine states in battle over new Army Corps reservoir restrictions

In a battle over water, Texas is leading an uprising against an Army Corps of Engineers proposal to give the federal government more authority over supplies at reservoirs across the country. The new federal rule jeopardizes the state-issued water rights of Texas property owners and farmers, the state’s environmental agency has concluded.

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and allies in the Senate this week asked the Trump administration to intervene, arguing that Army engineers have ignored complaints that new regulations intrude on states’ rights. At the center of the latest dispute is a fundamental disagreement over who controls water. The corps contends in documents that the changes do not have “federalism implications.” States disagree.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2019

Texas inmates sue for hepatitis C drug, alleging lack of treatment is 'cruel and unusual'

A federal lawsuit filed Thursday says the Texas prison system is “callously” denying thousands of inmates access to a costly hepatitis C medicine that is widely considered the standard of care, potentially exposing them to liver damage and other health complications.

At least 18,000 inmates in the state’s 104 facilities have been diagnosed with the chronic virus. And up to 30 percent of Texas’ roughly 148,000 inmates may be infected — a similar rate to prisons across the nation. Failure to treat incarcerated patients as well as their peers in the outside world amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment,” and deliberate indifference to a serious medical need and the policy violates the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in Corpus Christi.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2019

Texas leads nine states in battle over new Army Corps reservoir restrictions

In a battle over water, Texas is leading an uprising against an Army Corps of Engineers proposal to give the federal government more authority over supplies at reservoirs across the country. The new federal rule jeopardizes the state-issued water rights of Texas property owners and farmers, the state’s environmental agency has concluded.

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and allies in the Senate this week asked the Trump administration to intervene, arguing that Army engineers have ignored complaints that new regulations intrude on states’ rights. At the center of the latest dispute is a fundamental disagreement over who controls water. The corps contends in documents that the changes do not have “federalism implications.” States disagree.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

Ted Cruz backs 2016 N.H. chairman in Senate race that embattled Trump aide Corey Lewandowski may join

Sen. Ted Cruz conferred an endorsement Thursday on an ally who led his 2016 campaign in New Hampshire -- putting him at odds with President Donald Trump, who is expected to back his own former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, in a GOP scramble for the U.S. Senate seat.

Cruz's pick, Bill O'Brien, is a former speaker of the state House who was part of the "Never Trump" crowd in 2016, saying just before the GOP's convention that summer that "I just can't vote for someone who is so obviously unfit to be president." He has since come around on Trump. But the president is likely to stick by Lewandowski, who told Fox & Friends on Wednesday that he could announce a run within a few weeks. "I wanted to get through yesterday before I made the final decision. I'm very, very close to announcing my decision on the U.S. Senate race," he said.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

Texas’ abstinence-only sex ed isn’t working, according to groups urging kids be taught more about contraception

Texas' approach to sex education isn't working and the State Board of Education needs to revamp health courses to give children more explicit instruction about contraception and sexually transmitted illnesses, two groups said Thursday. The state's abstinence-only textbooks and curriculum standards aren't effective, the groups said in their report.

In 2017, Texas had the seventh-highest teen birth rate, they noted. In 2016, the state had the nation's highest rate of repeat births to teens. "Clearly, it's time for change," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a liberal group that co-authored the study. "It's time to teach the truth." State youth have high rates of HIV and sexually transmitted illness infections, said the report by Miller's group, which monitors textbooks in the state's public schools, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

Ahead of DACA’s date with Supreme Court, beneficiaries of the Obama-era program are on edge

Beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program say they’re worried about what might happen to them if the Obama-era program is terminated and they are deported to their native countries. DACA recipients cite quality of healthcare, food access and physical safety in their home countries as top concerns, according to a survey released this week.

The survey conducted by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California San Diego and advocacy groups, including United We Dream, the Center for American Progress and the National Immigration Law Center, surveyed about 1,100 DACA recipients for about three weeks.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

Texas Democrat in Congress calls GOP colleague a ‘racist Christian pretender’ in wake of funding flap

Rep. Filemon Vila, D-Brownsville, on Thursday called his fellow Texan — Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland — a "racist Christian pretender" in the wake of a dispute over providing financial aid to farmers hit by President Donald Trump's trade wars. Vela didn't mention Conaway by name in the barbed tweet he sent out after a contentious House Agriculture subcommittee hearing attended by both lawmakers.

But the South Texan, known for speaking his mind, confirmed to The Dallas Morning News by text message that the social media missive "without question ... was directed straight at Conaway," whom he also described in the tweet as having "led the effort to starve America's poor." Asked for comment, Conaway spokeswoman Rachel Millard said: "We're not going to dignify that tweet with a response." Even in today's era of extreme political polarization, such open animosity is unusual in Congress, particularly among the Texas congressional delegation.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 19, 2019

Richard J. Gonzales: Texas once banned Spanish in public schools. Fort Worth broke that mold in 1969

Dr. Rudy Rodriguez and bilingual teachers broke the “No Spanish” barrier in 1969 with the inception of the Fort Worth ISD bilingual program in seven elementary schools. Since 1918, Texas laws banned Spanish in public schools — a rule enforced with humiliating punishment.

Legislators reasoned Spanish impeded students learning English and “American culture.” Despite Texas Education Agency 1967 statistics that reflected 89 percent of Spanish-surnamed students dropped out, the forbidden tongue policy ruled. Two former Texas teachers, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Sen. Ralph W. Yarborough, escorted the Bilingual Education Act through Congress in 1968, recognizing Spanish instruction as a pedagogical path to comprehension.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 19, 2019

In the most uninsured state in the U.S., Texans of color hit hardest by medical debt

In the state with the highest uninsured healthcare rate nationwide, Texans of color are hit with medical debt the hardest, a report published Thursday found.

According to a report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a think tank in Austin, Texas households in neighborhoods of color are disproportionately affected by medical debt with 29% saddled by it compared with 23% of households in white neighborhoods. The overall median medical debt in collections owed in Texas is $850, and Texans of color owe a slightly higher median of $875. According to the report, that’s 22% more than the national median share owed by Americans of color at $720.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 19, 2019

Don’t get lost in the weeds. Using legal CBD products in Texas could cost you a job

A truck driver who says he took CBD oil for injuries to his hip and back that he suffered in a vehicle accident is suing the company that produced the product, alleging mislabeling. The lawsuit says that the label stated the product contained no THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in marijuana that produces a high.

But following a random drug screening, Douglas Horn, of New York, was told by his employer that he tested positive for THC, his lawsuit states. Horn was later fired from a job that he had held for 10 years, according to his lawsuit. Attorney Jeffrey Benjamin, who is representing Horn, said a trial date is pending. The company that made the product, Dixie Elixirs, has not returned calls seeking comment. People familiar with CBD oils and other products made from hemp say the same thing could happen to anyone if they are not careful.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2019

Beto O’Rourke’s gun cause has given him the spotlight, but at what cost?

Beto O’Rourke had been campaigning on his newly formed policy on gun limits — developed in the wake of the Aug. 3 mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso — but it hadn’t quite struck a political nerve until he spelled it out at the Democratic presidential debate in Houston this month.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said, answering a question about whether his idea to enact a mandatory buyback program for assault-style rifles is akin to gun confiscation. The declaration appears to have left O’Rourke in no man’s land, with Democrats slow to rush to his side — and some worrying the issue could hurt Democratic prospects in 2020 — and Republicans using the plan as a way to take aim at broader gun proposals by Democrats.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2019

Speaking in Austin, Gorsuch laments loss of public civility

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, in Austin to discuss his recently released book, told a crowd at the LBJ Presidential Library that “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” was inspired by his concern about a growing lack of public and political civility.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Gorsuch recalled playing hide-and-seek with reporters before President Donald Trump announced his nomination to the nation’s highest court in January 2017, touched on his bruising confirmation battle in the U.S. Senate and offered a behind the scenes glimpse of the court’s secret deliberations. But he returned several times to his concerns over the lack of civil discourse, lamenting in particular its impact on young people, most of whom no longer see public service as a viable option.

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The Atlantic - September 20, 2019

The University of Texas’s secret strategy to keep out black students

In the summer of 1955, administrators at the University of Texas at Austin had a problem: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, handed down the previous year, required educational institutions to integrate their classrooms. But the regents overseeing the state university system’s flagship campus, the old alumni who formed the donor base, and the segregationist political forces that pulled the purse strings were all determined to find ways to keep African Americans from stepping foot on campus.

UT had no conspicuous blocking-the-schoolhouse-door moment. A series of documents in the UT archives, many of them marked confidential, suggests that administration officials took a subtler approach: They adopted a selective admissions policy based around standardized testing, which they knew would suppress the number of African American students they were forced to admit. I came across these little-discussed records, all but lost to history, while researching my book about the football player Earl Campbell and desegregation. (Campbell played at Texas in the mid-1970s, not long after the head coach finally allowed African Americans on the varsity squad.)

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Austin Business Journal - September 19, 2019

How safe are Texas workplaces?

Every year more than 500 Texas workers die on the job, on average — an alarming number to be sure, although one that has leveled off slightly in recent years after rising for most of the past decade. A total of 546 deaths at work were recorded in Texas in 2016, the most since 2000, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, which investigates worker deaths. That figure fell slightly to 534 in 2017, the latest year for which data is available.

As grim as that sounds, there are signs of improvement. The fatal injury rate, a measure that accounts for workforce growth, has actually fallen in the past decade or so, from 4.6 per 100,000 full-time workers in 2009 to 4.3 in 2017. The rate of nonfatal injuries dropped too, from 3.5 in 2008 to 2.3 in 2017. Technological advancements are helping to keep workers safe and giving companies more control over what happens in the workplace and on the road. But new threats, like potential mass shootings, are also changing how company leaders plan for workplace safety.

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County Stories

Austin Business Journal - September 19, 2019

Hackers hit Travis Central Appraisal District website

The Travis Central Appraisal District has been malfunctioning for about a week after it was hit by a cyberattack on Sept. 11.

The agency on Sept. 19 confirmed the attack. Chief Appraiser Marya Crigler said in a statement its computer systems were attacked at 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 11. The attack affected “website property search, phone, email, and Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal systems,” Crigler said.

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City Stories

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 19, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial: Fines for homeless camping might seem silly, but Fort Worth can make new approach work

On first glance, the homelessness ordinance that the Fort Worth City Council approved this week looks ill-advised: Anyone who can’t pay rent surely can’t cough up $500 to pay a ticket for camping without a property owner’s permission.

But the fine isn’t the point. The ordinance is a useful tool that will give police leverage in trying to help homeless people access services while protecting private property rights. And City Council members struck the right balance by rejecting, for now, a tougher proposal. Advocates argue that criminalizing homelessness and poverty isn’t the answer. But neither is allowing for campsites that grow into dirty, dangerous blights because the property owner is absent.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 19, 2019

South San ISD fills 2 of 3 vacancies left in wake of resignations

The South San Antonio Independent School District school board appointed two new trustees Wednesday night, two weeks after three trustees quit after the superintendent resigned. Kevin Rasco and Stacey Estrada Alderete were appointed for Districts 2 and 7, respectively, while the board voted to extend the application deadline for District 1 until Oct. 14.

“I promise to give 110 percent of myself to this district,” Alderete said after taking her seat on the dais. “I look forward to working on positive things and keeping the kids first.” Alderete had previously served as a trustee with South San ISD until 2016. Rasco is a coordinator for advanced placement with the San Antonio Independent School District and said he has served on two other credit union boards.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

City wins latest round in Plano Tomorrow lawsuit, but plaintiffs plan to appeal

A judge won’t force the city of Plano to reconsider its long-term growth plans in the latest wrinkle in a multiyear court battle between city officials and angry residents over the future of the Dallas suburb. Five Plano residents had asked the court to compel the city council to either repeal its nonbinding development blueprint or let the voters have the final say.

State District Court Judge Henry Wade Jr. said no on Thursday, ruling in favor of Plano. The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the decision. Known as Plano Tomorrow, the city’s master plan seeks to rethink how the city uses its land as its population changes and modern housing and retail trends favor high-density developments. A group of residents incensed over a perceived increase in apartments throughout the suburb sought to block the plan, which the Plano City Council approved in October 2015.

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National Stories

Associated Press - September 19, 2019

Trump calls new border wall a 'world-class security system'

President Donald Trump signed his name on a newly constructed section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, calling it a "world-class security system" that will be virtually impenetrable.

Trump toured a section of the border wall in San Diego's Otay Mesa area on Wednesday. It was a return trip for the Republican president, who traveled there in March 2018 to see border wall prototypes that authorities later destroyed to make way for 14 miles (22.4 kilometers) of steel, concrete-filled bollards currently under construction.

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Associated Press - September 19, 2019

House OKs measure to prevent possible end-of-month shutdown

The House passed a short-term bill Thursday to prevent a federal shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30, and give lawmakers until the Thanksgiving break to negotiate and approve $1.4 trillion for federal agencies. The Senate is expected to approve the stopgap bill next week. The vote in the Democratic-run House on the bipartisan plan was 301-123.

The agency spending bills would fill in the details of this summer's budget and debt agreement between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. The Republican-controlled Senate is struggling over how to move ahead with its versions of the follow-up spending bills. There is partisan skirmishing over the boundaries of the budget agreement and Trump's moves to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border fence without congressional approval.

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Politico - September 19, 2019

Bolton unloads on Trump’s foreign policy behind closed doors

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s fired national security adviser, harshly criticized Trump’s foreign policy on Wednesday at a private lunch, saying that inviting the Taliban to Camp David sent a “terrible signal” and that it was “disrespectful” to the victims of 9/11 because the Taliban had harbored al Qaeda.

Bolton also said that any negotiations with North Korea and Iran were “doomed to failure,” according to two attendees. All the North Koreans and Iranians want to do is negotiate for relief from sanctions to support their economies, said Bolton, who was speaking before guests invited by the Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

Gunmaker Colt says it'll suspend production of AR-15 rifles for civilian use

Gunmaker Colt says it is suspending its production of rifles for the civilian market, including the popular AR-15.

Colt's chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, says it is not permanently ending production but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market. He said in a statement Thursday the company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing.

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NBC News - September 19, 2019

Amid government mess, Hurricane Maria survivors lack access to philanthropic aid

Exactly two years ago, flood waters from Hurricane Maria submerged entire neighborhoods in the town of Toa Baja in Puerto Rico's northern coast. To survive, some residents fled their homes and broke into a school to seek refuge.

Some of these survivors now run a new community nonprofit spearheading recovery efforts and seeking ways to get the funding and resources they need to rebuild their lives and their towns. “The hurricane made them leaders,” said Carla Alonso, who leads an islandwide community initiative through Espacios Abiertos, a nonprofit that promotes government transparency and civic engagement.

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CNBC - September 20, 2019

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio drops out of race for 2020 Democratic presidential nomination

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has abandoned his long-shot campaign to win the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination.

De Blasio's withdrawal from the race came after months of failing to improve what was persistently ultra-low support in opinion polls tracking voters' preferences for Democratic contenders vying for the nomination. Recent national polls show de Blasio receiving, at best, support from just 1% of the respondents. A Siena College Research Institute poll in early September found that less than 1% of New York state voters supported his candidacy and 0% of voters in his hometown of New York City did so.

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New York Times - September 19, 2019

Iran’s Foreign Minister vows 'all-out war’ if US or Saudis strike

A military strike against Iran by the United States or Saudi Arabia would result in “an all-out war,” the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Thursday, repeating his government’s denial of responsibility for an attack last week that damaged Saudi oil facilities and hampered the global flow of oil.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are supported by Iran in their fight against a Saudi-led coalition, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday, but top American officials blamed Iran, and some within the Trump administration are advocating military retaliation. The administration is still weighing how to react, but President Trump has appeared reluctant to order military action. Asked on Thursday about Mr. Zarif’s comments, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Mr. Trump wanted to find a peaceful path forward.

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Newsclips - September 19, 2019

Lead Stories

CNBC - September 19, 2019

Fed loses control of its own interest rate as it cut rates — ‘This just doesn’t look good’

As the Fed was meeting to consider cutting interest rates, it lost control of the very benchmark rate that it manages. It’s been a rough week in the overnight funding market, where interest rates temporarily spiked to as high as 10% for some transactions Monday and Tuesday. The market is considered the basic plumbing for financial markets, where banks who have a short-term need for cash come to fund themselves.

The odd spike in rates forced the Fed to jump in with money market operations aimed at reining them in, and after the second operation Wednesday morning, it seemed to have calmed the market. The Fed announced a third operation for Thursday morning. In a rare move, the Fed’s own benchmark fed funds target rate rose to 2.3% on Tuesday, above the target range set when it cut rates at its last meeting in July. The target range was since cut by a quarter point Wednesday to 1.75% to 2% from 2 to 2.25%.

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Wall Street Journal - September 19, 2019

US immigration courts’ backlog exceeds one million cases

The backlogged deportation docket pending in U.S. immigration courts surpassed one million cases in August, despite the Trump administration’s varied attempts to cut back on asylum claims.

The backlog this year has grown at a record pace, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which tracks immigration court data. The figure has nearly doubled since President Trump took office in January 2017, when about 542,000 cases were pending.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 18, 2019

Texas Green Party has qualified for 2020 ballot and welcomes Democrats’ climate change focus

The Green Party will be back on the ballot in Texas for the 2020 elections, just as the party’s main topic — climate change — is becoming a major political issue. A new state law that came into effect on September 1 lowered the threshold for retaining ballot access, qualifying the Green Party of Texas for the ballot at least through 2026. The Greens had last appeared on Texas ballots in 2016.

The Texas Greens don’t expect the Democrats to implement their goals, and they don’t trust the Democrats’ green agenda. “We wish that those Democrats would (a) give us credit and (b) retain the portions guaranteeing a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels by 2030,” stressed David Collins, who is serving as a co-chair of the Green Party Houston. He adds: “The Democratic Party continues to take millions of dollars of corporate interests - including the fossil fuel industry.”

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Washington Post - September 18, 2019

How a hard-charging Dallas lawyer helped fuel a civil war inside the NRA

When the National Rifle Association needed more legal firepower in New York state last year, the gun rights group brought aboard an unlikely lawyer: a Democrat who had no experience in Second Amendment litigation. By this spring, William Brewer had emerged as a top counselor to NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and a victor - for now, at least - in a civil war that he helped set in motion and that is ripping apart the powerful gun lobby.

The ugly public fight has led to an exodus of high-level officials and warring accusations of financial impropriety. At the center of the fray is Brewer, a brash lawyer who has drawn ethics complaints and has a reputation for escalating disputes into pricey legal battles. Several NRA veterans accuse Brewer of instigating an almost Shakespearean feud to protect his bottom line and growing influence. According to internal board correspondence, his small law firm billed $24 million in fees in 13 months - leading top NRA board members to demand early this year that the organization stop paying until they could review the bills.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Houston Democrat Chris Bell’s plan to beat Sen. John Cornyn: Target Trump

Houston Democrat Chris Bell is throwing a launch party Wednesday for his challenge of Republican Sen. John Cornyn — a campaign he plans to target squarely at President Donald Trump.

“The pitch is: We need to take out Donald Trump and his water boy, John Cornyn,” Bell told the Houston Chronicle. “I think Donald Trump will be the defining issue of this campaign and I think the fact that John Cornyn has acted as an enabler — even when it’s not in the best interest of the state — will be the second-most defining issue.”

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Crosby plant explosion decimated building, investigators find

The April explosion at a Crosby chemical plant that killed one worker was so powerful that it obliterated the building's entrance and injured more than 30, including two who were severely burned, a government report reveals.

“Shrapnel,” is how one of the emergency responders described the building to investigators after the explosion. “There was nothing left of it. Wires, there was nothing there. There wasn’t a building there anymore.” The details were published in a preliminary report released Tuesday and based on the work of investigators with the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents.

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

UTMB 'extreme medicine' program offers aspiring doctors more than clinical knowledge

Gabe Pecha looked down at the ground as he quickly rappelled down from the highest point on the wall at a rock climbing gym. Pecha and his class partner for the day, Omar Abdelaziz, took turns racing up the walls and hitting the top as the other belayed from below, at Space City Rock Climbing in League City. Far from a typical day for the medical school students at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The two second-year med students are part of an extreme medicine program offered at UTMB in the preventive medicine residency department. The class is aimed at getting new doctors trained in troubleshooting accidents outside of a hospital or clinic setting — able to provide the same level of care without the typical medical equipment on-hand. It’s being offered as a certification program for first- and second-year students, but professors Dr. Brian Pinkston and Dr. Cheryl Lowry are petitioning for a Master of Science in Extreme Medicine to be offered at the school. The class is broken down into a mini-semesters (14 credit hours), and each class is at a different location.

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Weatherford lands five-year equipment deal with Saudi Aramco

Saudi Aramco has awarded a five-year equipment contract to struggling oilfield service company Weatherford International. The two companies announced the deal on Tuesday afternoon. Financial terms were not disclosed but Weatherford described the deal as a five-year corporate procurement agreement to deliver cementation, completions, liners, solid expandables and casing exit technologies to Saudi Aramco.

In a statement, Weatherford Vice President of Saudi Arabia Jim Hollingsworth said deal would boost crude oil production for Saudi Aramco while saving rig time and associated costs. "This agreement sets the stage for future collaboration and will unlock both game-changing technology and tremendous value," Hollingsworth said. "Weatherford is excited to work with Saudi Aramco now and long into the future to lead in technology innovation and development."

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Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2019

Tornado warning issued for Chambers County as tropical depression Imelda continues to impact region

The remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda continue to impact the Houston area with reports of tornadoes and street flooding in the region. Although conditions in Houston appeared to dry up during the day, officials are advising the public to "not let our guard down."

A tornado warning has been issued for southeastern Harris County and portions of Chambers County, including Anahuac and Monroe City, until 7:15 p.m. Severe thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado were located near Mont Belvieu and Cove on Wednesday afternoon, and several media outlets later reported a tornado in that area.

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Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2019

Feds take down alleged health care fraudsters in Dallas and statewide for swindles that cost taxpayers $66 million

Two North Texas doctors who allegedly used their prescription pads to cash in by ordering medically unnecessary compound creams are among 58 people who have been charged across Texas with scamming $66 million from the nation's health care system.

The statewide federal healthcare fraud "takedown" in conjunction with Medicare Strikeforce Teams involved all four federal districts in Texas and targeted opioid pill mills, Medicare fraud, federal workers compensation fraud and illegal schemes that bilked the military's health care program. It was announced Wednesday by three Texas U.S. attorneys and a top Justice Department official. Of those charged, 16 were doctors or other medical professionals, authorities said, including Craig Henry, an Arlington physician, and Brian Carpenter, a Fort Worth podiatrist.

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Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: The courts can't fix asylum law, only Congress can

We understand why immigration leads to a raucous and, too often, heated public policy debate. But what we fear is that this debate, especially the portion of it that centers on those fleeing oppression and seeking asylum in the United States, is losing sight of the people whose lives are at stake in this fight.

In terms of asylum, it's critically important that this country remain a refuge for those fleeing tyranny. By being that refuge, we undercut tyranny abroad. And by offering asylum, over the course of our history we have taken in millions of people who went on to serve this country with distinction. So it is with some disappointment that we watched the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week to stay an injunction on the Trump administration's latest attempt to restrict asylum for those fleeing Central and South America.

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Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2019

Texas mass shooting survivor lobbies Congress for less gun control

Since surviving a 1991 mass shooting at a Luby's in Killeen, Suzanna Gratia Hupp has lobbied for looser gun control laws that she says could have allowed her to save the 23 victims, including both of her parents. Hupp's campaign to ease restrictions on guns has spanned several decades. She won a seat in the Texas House, where she served for 10 years. On Wednesday, she told her story during a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee.

Hupp, a chiropractor, was invited by fellow Republicans, and she focused her testimony on what she called "the high cost of gun control." Few GOP members of the committee attended the hearing, which lasted nearly two hours. Democrats used the opportunity to make their case for strengthening background checks for gun purchases and passing "red flag" laws that let law enforcement seize firearms from people deemed dangerous. The Texans on the panel, both Republicans — Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Kenny Marchant of Coppell — did not attend.

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Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2019

'He can't say he's gone deeper': James Cameron criticizes Dallas businessman Victor Vescovo's deep sea dive

Dallas businessman Victor Vescovo's recently completed expedition to dive to the five deepest points of the world's oceans is drawing criticism from another renowned explorer. This week, in an interview with The New York Times, Hollywood director James Cameron spoke out about the financier's claim to be the deepest diving human in history.

The director of both Titanic and Avatar is also a well-known explorer with a penchant for the deep seas and shipwrecks. In 2012, Cameron dived to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean's Challenger Deep —believed to be the deepest point in Earth's oceans. Vescovo, a Dallas native and Navy Reserve veteran who made his wealth in private equity, dived to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in late April as part of his expedition that was years in the making. Vescovo's expedition was billed by his team as "unprecedented" and covered by news outlets around the world, including The Dallas Morning News.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2019

Greg Fenves: Better housing, more scholarships in UT’s future

In the decade since Gregory L. Fenves joined the University of Texas as a dean, the college has improved its graduation rate, built a medical school and slowly but surely improved its football team.

On Wednesday, now-UT President Fenves touted these accomplishments and more during his annual State of the University address. While the last 10 years have seen the campus grow in academic and extracurricular excellence, there’s more to be done, Fenves said, including facing the challenges that come with being in a rapidly expanding city. UT soon will begin working with a consulting firm to study student housing. Eventually, Fenves said, the goal is to offer university housing to all first-year undergraduate students — about 9,000 spaces.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 18, 2019

Trump says ‘Dummy Beto’ made a deal on guns ‘much harder’

Beto O’Rourke isn’t in Congress anymore. And he’s far from the White House, with a presidential campaign stagnating in the single digits in most polls. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans in D.C. from blaming the presidential hopeful for potentially tanking a deal on gun legislation with his vow to confiscate assault-style weapons if elected.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused O’Rourke — who said during last week’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston that “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47” — of setting back the debate on guns in D.C. “Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal,” Trump tweeted. “Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward!”

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News Channel 6 - September 19, 2019

Kellie Rasberry on why she’s helping Communities in Schools

Starstruck. That is most people’s reaction when they meet Kellie Rasberry. People’s reactions at Tuesday night’s Communities in Schools fundraiser were no different. Even though Rasberry has touched the lives of millions through the airwaves every day for the last 25 years, she still gets stage fright when speaking face-to-face with a smaller audience.

“People are always kind of surprised to hear that public speaking is one of my biggest fears. When it’s just you’re standing up there in front of 350 people it’s a little nerve-wracking,” the popular radio personality said. The stage fright is something she is willing to overcome when asked to speak for causes she is passionate about – causes which usually deal with helping kids. Perhaps, feeling responsible for her neighbor is a duty she has carried over from her childhood. As a mother to a 7th grader, she sees the hardships young kids face these days especially when it pertains to social media.

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County Stories

KUT - September 19, 2019

Nonwhite households are more likely to have medical debt than white households in Travis County

About 4.4 million Texans of color live in households with medical debt, according to a new study from the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. The study found medical debt affects about 26% of all Texas households, but there were massive disparities when researchers compared white households to nonwhite households in the state.

“As we started to dig into the numbers, we started noticing some really extreme discrepancies between racial groups having medical debt, as well as having insurance coverage,” Jonathan Lewis, a policy analyst with the CPPP, said. According to the study, 29% of households in neighborhoods of color in Texas have medical debt that has been sent to collections agencies. “This rate is six percentage points higher than the percent of households with medical debt in White neighborhoods,” the researchers wrote.

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Republicans oppose a Harris County tax hike. A quirk in Texas law may allow them to stop it.

A quirk in Texas law could allow the two Republicans on Harris County Commissioners Court, despite being in the minority, to prevent the three Democrats from enacting a proposed property tax increase. Typically, three court members constitute a quorum, the minimum number needed to conduct business. The Texas Government Code, however, requires four members be present to vote on levying a tax.

That exception affords rare power to Republican commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle, who have been steamrolled on 3-2 votes on enacting bail reform, appointing a judge and a resolution on gun violence. The pair simply would need to skip a tax hike vote to prevent the three Democrats from passing it, First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said. The trio on Sept. 10 proposed raising the overall property tax rate 2.26 cents per $100 of assessed value. The existing rate is 63 cents per $100 of assessed value.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Houston ISD enrollment on pace to hold steady after declines

Houston ISD’s enrollment likely will remain close to its 2018-19 totals after two consecutive years of losses, according to preliminary data and district officials. Preliminary enrollment figures shows about 208,000 students in the state’s largest district as of mid-September, nearly identical to enrollment totals at the same time last year.

The district will still need to add another 1,800 students between now and the end of October, when the Texas Education Agency requires districts to take an official student count, to match its 2018-19 total. While enrollment is projected to hold steady, HISD is expected to have an additional $135 million to spend this fiscal year following a landmark school finance reform package passed by state legislators this spring. The money will go toward raises for teachers, increasing the district’s minimum wage by $2 per hour and state-required spending on various academic programs, among other costs.

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

Houston eliminates daytime juvenile curfew, lowers truancy fines

Houston juveniles no longer will face a daytime curfew and will pay lower fines for truancy under a plan approved by city council Wednesday.

The new rules eliminate the existing curfew between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, and bring potential fines from $500 to $50. However, the mayor now will have the power to impose a temporary curfew for up to 180 days, if requested by the Houston Police chief.

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KUT - September 18, 2019

Council hears hours of testimony on Austin's homelessness ordinances ahead of Friday vote

Austin City Council members heard testimony on revisions to its homelessness rules ahead of an expected vote Friday that could reinstate restrictions on camping and resting in public. The majority of those who testified Wednesday said they supported efforts to walk back previous restrictions on behavior related to homelessness.

Those earlier restrictions led to unpaid tickets, which, in turn, resulted in arrest warrants, creating barriers for people trying to transition out of homelessness. City Council could pass a plan to bring back restrictions on certain streets. Much of the public testimony suggested the city stick with ordinances passed on June 20, however. That decision sparked a larger, divisive discussion on public safety and public health issues associated with homelessness – with opponents arguing the relaxed rules have increased crime.

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KUT - September 19, 2019

Advocates demand San Marcos' new interim police chief work to decrease racial disparities In arrests

Bob Klett, San Marcos’ new interim police chief, said the department “stands behind its citizens," after concerns over how often police arrest people for offenses where they could issue citations instead.

According to a city report detailing more than 330 interactions with police last year, only 20 citations were given to people who could have been cited and released. Most of those arrested were people of color; all the black people who were stopped were arrested.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 18, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Gun buyback program unlikely to produce results

In 1974, the city of Baltimore confronted its growing gun-violence problem with an ambitious program. The city devoted $650,000 to a two-month voluntary gun-buyback effort that collected more than 13,000 firearms. It was one of the first — and remains one of the biggest — municipal gun-swap programs ever attempted in this country.

A strange thing, however, happened. Over the course of the buyback collection, gun killings went up 50 percent in Baltimore, while assaults with firearms doubled. No one could explain the results. That’s the way it generally goes with voluntary gun buybacks. While they serve as comforting placebos for the conscience, there’s always an underlying, nagging feeling that they accomplish little, other than spending taxpayer money to collect dilapidated, borderline-useless weapons from people who had no intention of committing a violent act.

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National Stories

Associated Press - September 18, 2019

AP source: Joe Kennedy to challenge Sen. Markey in primary

Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a scion of one of America's most storied political families, is set to announce he will challenge U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in the state's Democratic primary in 2020.

A person with knowledge of Kennedy's plans told The Associated Press that Kennedy will formally make the announcement Saturday. The person wasn't authorized to preempt Kennedy's announcement and spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity. The 38-year-old grandson of Robert Kennedy has been quietly laying down the foundation of a run, building up his staff and formally announcing his intentions by filing preliminary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission last month.

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Associated Press - September 18, 2019

Number of abortions in US falls to lowest since 1973

The number and rate of abortions across the United States have plunged to their lowest levels since the procedure became legal nationwide in 1973, according to new figures released Wednesday.

The report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, counted 862,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2017. That's down from 926,000 tallied in the group's previous report for 2014, and from just over 1 million counted for 2011. Guttmacher is the only entity that strives to count all abortions in the U.S., making inquiries of individual providers. Federal data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention excludes California, Maryland and New Hampshire.

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Associated Press - September 18, 2019

A divided Fed reduces rates but may not cut again this year

A sharply divided Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate Wednesday for a second time this year but declined to signal that further rate cuts are likely this year. The Fed's move reduced its key short-term rate — which influences many consumer and business loans — by an additional quarter-point to a range of 1.75% to 2%.

The action was approved 7-3, with two officials preferring to keep rates unchanged and one arguing for a bigger half-point cut. The divisions on the policy committee underscored the challenges for Chairman Jerome Powell in guiding the Fed at a time of high economic uncertainty. The Fed did leave the door open to additional rate cuts — if, as Powell suggested at a news conference, the economy weakens. For now, he suggested, the economic expansion appears durable in its 11th year, with a still-solid job market and steady consumer spending.

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Reuters - September 19, 2019

Iran warns against war as U.S. and Saudi weigh response to oil attack

Iran warned U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday against being dragged into all-out war in the Middle East following an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities which Washington and Riyadh blame on Tehran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described the weekend strike that initially halved Saudi oil output as an act of war and has been discussing possible retaliation with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies. Trump on Wednesday struck a cautious note, saying there were many options short of war with Iran, which denies involvement in the Sept. 14 strikes. He ordered more sanctions on Tehran.

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New York Times - September 18, 2019

Justin Trudeau says he is ‘deeply sorry’ after brownface photo surfaces

The re-election campaign of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at a 2001 private school party.

The photograph had been taken when Mr. Trudeau, then a 29-year-old teacher, attended an “Arabian Nights” themed costume gala at the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, British Columbia, according to Time magazine, which published the image. Speaking with reporters aboard his campaign plane, Mr. Trudeau, who has long championed the rights of racial minorities in Canada, confirmed that he was in the photo and that he was dressed as Aladdin.

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Washington Post - September 18, 2019

How Michael Vick's dogfighting case changed animal welfare

Not long before lunchtime, Mya's wagging tail splashes as she waits for the tank to drain. The bowlegged black pit bull just finished a three-minute hydrotherapy session, guided by treats offered from a staffer reaching down into the apparatus. But while Mya walks slowly on the submerged treadmill, she notices Laura Rethoret's car through the window. Once the tank empties, Mya scurries down the ramp as fast as she can with her weakened legs, which have splayed more as she's aged.

Rethoret loads Mya and her runmate, Curly, into her car and drives to the quiet office where the dogs hang out a few times a week. These dogs are reminders that even now, 12 years later, survivors of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting operation live on in pockets throughout the country, including here at Best Friends Animal Society's 3,700-acre sanctuary. Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to running an illegal dogfighting ring in southeastern Virginia, a scandal that cast a spotlight on the problem of dogfighting rings around the nation.

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NPR - September 18, 2019

Trump names Robert O’Brien, top hostage czar, as National Security Adviser

President Trump has named Robert C. O’Brien, who has been his special envoy for hostage affairs, to be his new national security adviser. Trump made the announcement in a Wednesday morning tweet. “I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor. I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!” Trump said.

O’Brien replaces John Bolton, who was forced out by Trump earlier this month. O’Brien will be the president’s fourth national security adviser in less than three years in office. Prior to his appointment, O’Brien had been perhaps best known for his efforts to win the release of American rapper A$AP Rocky, who was held in a Swedish jail after being arrested for his involvement in a Stockholm brawl.

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Newsclips - September 18, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2019

Not so fast: Cornyn alters Donald Trump Jr. donor appeal that called him president’s 'biggest ally’

One day after the president's son called Sen. John Cornyn his dad's "biggest ally" in a fundraising appeal, the Texas Republican reissued Donald Trump Jr.'s email blast. On Tuesday, he was now "one of" the president's biggest allies — a subtle but critical change.

Cornyn shrugged off the change as an "editing matter" between campaign aides and Trump Jr. "I frankly don't think it's a big deal," he said. Democrats tweaked Cornyn on Monday for embracing Trump so forcefully. And they tweaked him again Tuesday for the less-effusive hug. "Both ways John Cornyn shows his weak and self-serving ways again: now refusing to acknowledge that he is Trump's Texas whisperer," Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, said when asked about the alteration.

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Houston Public Media - September 16, 2019

Texas economy may benefit from Saudi oil outage

A drone strike on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities reportedly took out about 5% of the world’s daily oil supply on Saturday. As a result, the price of West Texas Intermediate rose by as much as 14% to more than $62 a barrel as of Monday afternoon.

If the outage continues for some time, gasoline will be more expensive, said Ed Hirs, energy economist at the University of Houston. But he said the Texas and Houston economies will benefit. “We’re up to 4.5 million barrels per day of production,” he said. “And raising the price would create a heck of a lot more economic activity than the impact of the higher price on the consumption side.”

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Houston Public Media - September 18, 2019

Remedy to Texas doctor shortage unlikely anytime soon, state says

Scheduling a medical appointment in Texas isn’t expected to get any easier, as demand for doctors, nurses and dentists continues to outpace supply, according to the latest medical workforce projections from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The projections show demand outpacing supply in nearly every field for the foreseeable future.

Currently, the agency estimates the number of physicians practicing full-time in Texas falls short of demand by 11%. That number is expected to grow to 14% over the next 10 years. Workforce deficits are worst in the psychiatric and obstetrics and gynecology specialties, with unmet demand in 2019 sitting at 32% and 21%, respectively. In both categories, the rate of unmet demand is expected to remain the same through 2030. Pediatric doctors are the only group expected to eventually become more available than demanded in Texas. This year, DSHS estimates a 4% deficit in pediatric physicians, a number expected to overtake demand by 2025.

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New York Times - September 17, 2019

After tight Israeli election, Netanyahu’s tenure appears perilous

Israel’s election was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his chief rival, the former army chief Benny Gantz, a centrist, immediately commanding enough support to form a majority coalition, according to partial results and exit polls.

But Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party appeared to have come out ahead of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud, giving a small third party the power to decide the outcome. And his avowed desire to force a unity coalition including both their parties made it likely that, if the projections held, Mr. Gantz would be given the first chance of forming a government.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2019

Donald Neely drops prominent civil rights attorney after march in Galveston

A Galveston man whose arrest by two mounted police officers attracted national attention has cut ties with a prominent attorney who organized a civil rights march on his behalf last weekend.

Donald Neely, a mentally ill man who was living on the streets of Galveston, was arrested in August for trespassing by two mounted Galveston officers who clipped a rope line to his handcuffs and led him for several blocks in public view — evoking comparisons to the slavery era and drawing national outrage. Neely is black and the officers are white.

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Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2019

With ‘Howdy, Modi!’ Houston’s Indian community says hello to the world

On Sunday, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Houston is expected to attract more than 50,000 people to NRG Stadium — plus roughly a thousand volunteers, 400 singers and dancers, U.S. President Donald Trump and a significant protest outside.

The mammoth event — exuberantly named “Howdy, Modi!” — reflects the growing size, power and complexity of the Indian-American community, both in the Houston area and the U.S. “People I talk to are beyond excited,” said Houston novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. “They are throwing themselves into it heart and soul. I have friends who are volunteering for this event as if it’s a full-time job. “This is going to be a kind of family celebration. We want to say, ‘Look at our community here! We are successful. We are strong. We have done good things for Houston!’ We would like Modi to know all of this.”

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Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2019

Texas Department of Public Safety now tracks hateful rhetoric online

The Texas Department of Public Safety has started monitoring racist and incendiary rhetoric online, such as that used by the suspected El Paso shooter, in the hopes of preventing violent attacks in the future.

The agency’s director Steve McCraw told a select House committee on mass violence prevention Tuesday that the agency had not previously done that work. There’s no personnel that I’m aware of that were monitoring the types of forums that we’ve been talking about,” McCraw said. “That did not exist.”

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath calls for increased teacher support, skips talk of HISD

In his first public comments within Houston ISD boundaries since the district all-but-triggered severe state sanctions last month, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Monday skirted the agency’s looming involvement in HISD while calling for structural changes in classrooms across the state.

Speaking to about 400 people at the Greater Houston Partnership’s first “State of Education” forum, Morath envisioned a statewide system that allocates more resources to early education, changes public perceptions about the teaching profession and closes achievement gaps between the wealthy and the poor. The fourth-year commissioner did not, however, address his impending decision on whether to replace HISD’s school board in the coming months, likely due to chronically low performance at Wheatley High School.

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Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2019

'I have a bomb': Santa Fe student brought inoperable hand grenade to school, SFISD responds

Santa Fe ISD officials said that an elementary student brought a grenade to school on Monday. Fortunately, it was not a live explosive, according to the district.

The grenade in question has been confirmed by officials at Kubacak Elementary to be inoperable, dating back to WWII-era. Kubacak principal Andi Hull sent the following letter to parents:

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San Antonio Express-News - September 17, 2019

Iraq veteran’s case against Texas is testing job protections for homecoming troops

Le Roy Torres returned from war in Iraq with a lung disease that he says cost him his 14-year career as a Texas state trooper. He is now suing the Department of Public Safety — alleging he was forced out after suffering a service-related illness — in a case that is testing the limits of a federal law meant to protect veterans from losing their jobs and benefits when they deploy.

The Texas Supreme Court is expected to decide within months whether the lawsuit can proceed. That ruling could determine if other service men and women can file similar anti-discrimination lawsuits against the state of Texas, where roughly one in 14 residents is a veteran. “It's important because this is an injustice for someone who goes and serves their nation and comes back ill or wounded,” said Torres, a former captain in the U.S. Army Reserves who deployed to Iraq in 2007 and now lives in Robstown. “The department, if they can’t accommodate you, then it’s a serious issue. How do you survive?”

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San Antonio Express-News - September 17, 2019

Cornyn says O’Rourke’s buy-back call set gun debate back for years

Beto O’Rourke isn’t running against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, but that didn’t stop the Republican from going after O’Rourke for his vow to confiscate assault-style weapons if elected. Cornyn, a top-ranking senator, told reporters on Tuesday that O’Rourke "has thrown gasoline" on the gun debate raging in Washington with his call for mandatory buy-backs of AR-15s and AK47s, and a ban on those weapons.

"Unfortunately, I think he set back the debate a lot — maybe not just years, but decades," Cornyn said. “We’re going to try to not be distracted by that.” His comments come amid what Cornyn called “very active discussions” on Capitol Hill about potential legislation on guns as Congress returns from a weekslong summer recess book-ended by mass shootings in Texas that killed 29 people and injured several dozen more.

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Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2019

Gov. Greg Abbott readies state resources as Tropical Storm Imelda nears Texas coast

As Tropical Storm Imelda stirred in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Greg Abbott placed several state resources on standby across the state this week. The storm system was upgraded from a tropical depression by the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday afternoon.

The storm made landfall near Freeport around 1:30 p.m., with winds up to 40 mph. Around 4 p.m., the storm was about 30 miles south of Houston, moving north at 7 mph. Imelda is expected produce heavy rainfall and potentially life-threatening flash flooding along Texas' Gulf coast, according to the National Hurricane Center. A tropical storm warning was issued for portions of the coast, including Galveston.

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Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2019

'You are destroying our party,' Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tells former GOP ally

Conservative power broker Michael Quinn Sullivan may have just lost his most powerful ally in state government -- Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Sullivan, the leader of Empower Texans, on Tuesday attacked Patrick on Twitter for supporting an expansion of background checks for some gun purchases.

Patrick responded sharply by accusing Sullivan of "destroying our party" for continuing to withhold a secretly recorded conversation with Speaker Dennis Bonnen in which he allegedly makes damaging comments about other Republicans. In the wake of the El Paso and Odessa mass shootings, Patrick found himself crossways with the National Rifle Association for saying he'd stand up to the group and support expanding background checks for strangers who sell guns to strangers. On Tuesday morning, Sullivan compared Patrick to Democrat presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke.

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KVUE - September 16, 2019

Texas State Rep. Vikki Goodwin questions red-light camera ban after driver runs red light, T-bones her car

A Texas lawmaker is alive but bruised after a driver ran a red light and T-boned her. The crash happened on Saturday afternoon at the intersection of RM 620 and Kollmeyer Drive, according to Lakeway police.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin told KVUE she was leaving a public safety event nearby when the driver ran the red light and crashed into the rear driver's side door. I saw that he was not braking, and so I tried to speed up to get out of his way," she said. "Fortunately, I did that, because otherwise he could've hit me." The crash left Goodwin with bruises on her arm and a sprain on her neck. Her doctors expect she'll make a full recovery in four to six weeks.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2019

Kyle, Houston company strike $2.7 million truce over pipeline project

The city of Kyle has agreed to stand down in an ongoing fight over an unwanted 430-mile natural gas pipeline slated to cut through the city in exchange for a $2.7 million payout from the operator of the project.

The Kyle City Council voted 7-0 Monday to approve the framework of a settlement that, pending final approval, will end litigation brought against the city by the Houston company Kinder Morgan after council members passed an ordinance in July imposing additional standards on the project, known as the Permian Highway Pipeline.

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Texas Observer - September 16, 2019

Migrants at Laredo tent court tell stories of kidnappings and violence while pleading not to be returned to Mexico

On Monday morning, 52 asylum-seekers were scheduled to appear in court at a complex of tent structures hastily constructed next to one of Laredo’s international bridges. More than 150 miles away in San Antonio, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez sat in her immigration court waiting for the supplicants to appear on a television screen, as I and a few other observers looked on.

Under Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), the asylum-seekers had spent about two months waiting in Mexico, where many migrants have suffered kidnappings and assaults. Only 26 of the asylum-seekers, half the total, made it to their hearing Monday. The rest, presumably, were stuck somewhere in Mexico, or had given up on their asylum cases and returned to their home countries.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 18, 2019

Recycling is such a part of life now, North Texans might assume it’s going well. It’s not

Recycling is so commonplace in Fort Worth, Arlington and other North Texas cities that many residents feel they can place anything they want in the carts, and that someone will take care of it for them. But that’s far from the truth, many experts say.

The recycling industry is being hit with a double whammy of problems. First, residents aren’t doing a good job of ensuring they only put recyclable items in the blue carts. And second, the value of goods that can be recycled — especially paper and plastic — has dropped to historically low levels. If the situation doesn’t improve, officials say, cities could eventually be forced to cut back on the materials they accept in the carts — or perhaps stop curbside recycling altogether. Or, cities could raise fees charged to taxpayers to cover the costs of recycling.

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County Stories

Houston Public Media - September 18, 2019

Harris County’s bail reform takes the national stage

When the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates came to Houston last week for their debate, they hit one issue of major importance to Houston: criminal justice reform. California Senator Kamala Harris defended her record on the issue saying, “my plan has been described by activists as being a bold and comprehensive plan that is about ending mass incarceration, about taking the profit out of the criminal justice system.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden pointed to the work of the Obama administration in releasing tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders. “Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” Biden said. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker challenged his fellow candidates to pledge to release all inmates of U.S. prisons who had been unjustly incarcerated. “So much of this comes down to privilege,” Booker said. “We have a criminal justice system that Brian Stevenson [founder of the Equal Justice Initiative] says treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.”

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Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2019

Dallas County raises minimum wage for its employees to $15 an hour

Dallas County will be among the few local governments in Texas to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for its employees after the Commissioners Court approved its budget Tuesday. The 4-1 budget vote, which included the raises, capped a multi-year undertaking by County Judge Clay Jenkins, who has pushed for the county to raise its minimum wage.

The increase is mostly symbolic. The majority of the county’s employees already make more than $15 an hour. Fewer than 50 employees — mostly clerks and other entry-level administrators — will see the pay bump starting Oct. 1. The change does not cover contracted employees such as janitors. State law forbids local governments from increasing the minimum wage for private-sector employees. The law is less clear when it comes to government contracts, county officials say. Jenkins pledged to find a way to increase pay for contract employees next.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2019

Dallas council member faces ethics complaint over concert tickets given to him by VisitDallas

Dallas City Council member Casey Thomas faces an ethics complaint after he took more than $1,600 worth of event tickets from VisitDallas and left them out of disclosure forms.

The complaint alleged that Thomas violated the city's code of ethics on gifts, which states that city officials shouldn't accept an item that "is intended to influence or reward" decisions and must file financial disclosure forms for any gift that exceeds $250 within a month of accepting it.

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Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2019

Holocaust survivors help Dallas museum open new chapter to put hate in its place

The governor joined Dallas' mayor and local Holocaust survivors Tuesday morning for a ribbon-cutting marking the opening of the new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. The museum opens Wednesday in a much larger home designed to inspire and teach hundreds of thousands of students and others visitors who pass through its doors about human rights efforts throughout history.

Gov. Greg Abbott, one of the speakers at the event, said no one who visits the museum would leave unchanged. "They will be more informed about the Holocaust," he said. "They will be haunted by the boxcar. They will be alarmed by the wickedness of the savagery that can occur in this world. But hopefully they will also be inspired by the stories of perseverance of the few who made it out alive."

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San Antonio Express-News - September 17, 2019

Toyota’s $391 million expansion the first major renovation of San Antonio plant in nine years

Toyota said Tuesday it will spend $391 million to expand its San Antonio factory, the first major renovation of the facility in nine years, though it’s unclear whether the automaker will add more jobs as a result. The expansion is expected to result in a new vehicle-model production line at the sprawling South Side plant, where Toyota produces the Tacoma and Tundra pickups. The facility employs about 3,200 workers.

In an interview, Toyota officials offered only vague details about the planned upgrades at the 2.2 million square foot plant. But in an application for Bexar County tax incentives, they said they would build additional models at the facility. “The last time we had an investment into our facility that was of significant value was back in 2010,” said Kevin Voelkel, president of Toyota Texas Motor Manufacturing. Toyota is “bringing our (auto production) line up to state-of-the-art standards for flexible, multiple vehicle production.”

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San Antonio Express-News - September 17, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: Brockhouse still doesn’t get the issue

Talk about missing the point. After narrowly losing in his bid for mayor, former City Councilman Greg Brockhouse sought an investigation into a leaked 2009 police report in which his wife accused him of domestic violence. And to do this, he enlisted the help of Mike Helle, the head of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

OK, we understand how Brockhouse would be frustrated and disturbed that a report removed from the public record was somehow leaked and became the issue in a bruising mayoral race. But Brockhouse also chose to run for citywide office knowing full well this history could potentially arise into public view. And when confronted with it, he was less than forthright with voters.

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KUT - September 18, 2019

Council members offer revised plan that phases in restrictions on camping or resting in public

City leaders have a new proposal to regulate behavior related to homelessness ahead of a possible City Council vote that could happen as soon as Wednesday. The proposal comes after roughly a week of infighting among council members. Kathie Tovo and Ann Kitchen put out one plan last Tuesday, then Greg Casar and Mayor Steve Adler offered their own takes on how to regulate camping or sitting or lying down in public.

Council members Alison Alter and Leslie Pool supported the Kitchen-Tovo plan, while Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza and Natasha Harper-Madison and Pio Renteria sided with Casar and the mayor. Paige Ellis and Jimmy Flannigan didn't expressly support any of the proposals, but suggested more clarity regarding enforcement and said the city should lean on its newly hired homelessness strategy officer to determine how to restrict where people can camp, sit or lie down. Today's plan – put forth by Adler, Casar, Kitchen and Tovo – offers a framework for council to hash out that (still) includes bans on camping or resting on private property or city land, or in a manner that threatens public health or safety.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 17, 2019

Teacher who made anti-immigrant tweets no longer Fort Worth school district employee

English teacher Georgia Clark, who took to social media to ask President Donald Trump to crack down on immigration at Fort Worth’s Carter-Riverside High School, is no longer employed by the school district.

Clark’s termination came with an 8-0 vote by the Fort Worth school board. The vote followed months of administrative and legal hearings and moves that began in May when Clark’s tweets drew complaints to the district that she was targeting Hispanic students in bigoted tweets. “We made a decision today to uphold the recommendation from the superintendent and administration,” said Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos Jr., president of the school board, told reporters after the vote was taken. “We felt there was good cause to terminate the contract of Ms. Georgia Clark.”

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National Stories

Washington Post - September 17, 2019

Border fence construction could destroy archaeological sites, Park Service finds

The bulldozers and excavators rushing to install President Donald Trump's border fence could damage or destroy up to 22 archaeological sites within Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in coming months, according to an internal National Park Service report obtained by The Washington Post.

The 123-page report, completed in July and obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, indicates that the administration's plan to convert an existing five-foot-high vehicle barrier to a 30-foot steel edifice could pose irreparable harm to unexcavated remnants of ancient Sonoran Desert peoples. Experts identified these risks as U.S. Customs and Border Protection seeks to fast-track the pace of construction to meet Trump's campaign pledge of completing 500 miles of barrier by next year's election.

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Washington Post - September 17, 2019

Cokie Roberts, Emmy-winning journalist and political commentator, dies at 75

Cokie Roberts, a daughter of politicians who went on to become a prominent journalist and political commentator, winning three Emmy Awards during a long career with NPR and ABC News, died Sept. 17 in Washington. She was 75. Her death was announced in a family statement provided by ABC, which did not say precisely where she died.

Roberts was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and named a "living legend" by the Library of Congress in 2008. A rare woman in the newsroom when she began her career in the mid-1960s, she worked at CBS News, NPR and PBS before joining ABC News in 1988. A veteran congressional reporter and consummate Washington insider, she co-anchored the Sunday political show "This Week" with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Route Fifty - September 18, 2019

Advocates push back on Trump administration call for 'humane policing' of homeless people

Homeless advocacy groups on Tuesday rebuked President Trump’s latest proposed strategy to address homelessness, lambasting plans that would require law enforcement intervention and rely on local housing market deregulation.

A White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) report issued Monday blamed local government policies, specifically overregulated housing markets, for concentrations of homeless people living on the streets in some cities and suggested more aggressive intervention by law enforcement could help solve the problem. Pushback over the suggestions made in the report comes the same day Trump is on a fundraising trip to California, a state he has criticized over the extent of its homeless population, which grew last year.

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Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2019

Congress to receive update on NASA's problem-plagued heavy-lift rocket

Kenneth Bowersox, NASA's new human exploration and operations leader, is expected to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill about the rocket being built to take humans to the moon in 2024.

The Space Launch System rocket — the backbone of NASA's five-year moon strategy — has faced continued delays and burgeoning costs since Boeing was awarded the contract in 2012. And in June, a federal report found that the agency has repeatedly masked the true cost and delays of its behemoth rocket.

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CNN - September 17, 2019

EPA set to revoke California's authority to set vehicle standards

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to revoke California's authority to set vehicle emission standards and could make the announcement as early as Wednesday, a source familiar with the plans tells CNN.

The source said the Trump administration will find the EPA previously acted unlawfully by granting the state a waiver from the Clean Air Act and allowing it to develop stricter standards than those of the federal government. About a dozen states have adopted California's standards. California has historically been allowed to have stricter emission standards due to the state's unique geography and history of intense air pollution, highlighted by the thick smog that once blanketed Southern California. Revoking the Golden State's ability to set its own standards could stymie the downward trend in California's air pollution.

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Associated Press - September 17, 2019

Lewandowski, House Democrats spar at impeachment hearing

Democrats' first impeachment hearing quickly turned hostile Tuesday as their sole witness, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, stonewalled many of their questions and said they were "focusing on petty and personal politics." Lewandowski, a devoted friend and supporter of President Donald Trump, was following White House orders not to discuss conversations with the president beyond what was already public in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report. Trump was cheering him along as he testified, tweeting that his opening statement was "beautiful."

The hearing underscores what has been a central dilemma for House Democrats all year as they try to investigate — and potentially impeach — Trump. Many of the Democrats' base supporters want them to move quickly to try to remove Trump from office. But the White House has blocked their oversight requests at most every turn, declining to provide new documents or allow former aides to testify. On Tuesday, Lewandowski made clear he wouldn't make life easy for the Democrats. He demanded that Democrats provide him a copy of the Mueller report, sending Democratic staff scrambling to find one.

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Newsclips - September 17, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - September 17, 2019

In Texas, a surprise fight for control of the state House

A scandal at the heart of the Texas House of Representatives has thrown Republicans in the state into turmoil and led to jitters over whether it could be the straw that breaks the party’s longstanding hold on power here. Democrats, who have been gaining in popularity as demographics in the state shift, need to win nine seats to gain a majority in the Texas House for the first time since 2001.

A pickup of those seats would give them a say in redrawing district lines for the state legislature and U.S. Congress after the 2020 census—potentially realigning the balance of power in the nation’s second most populous state for a decade. Democrats’ hopes of taking back the state House have grown as Republican leadership deals with intraparty fights and fallout over a scandal involving House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. The scandal has some Republicans airing worries that they could lose House seats next year. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a recent radio interview that “2020 is going to be a tough year, politically.”

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Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2019

Trump's son calls John Cornyn the president's 'biggest ally,' and Texas Democrats rejoice

John Cornyn wants to be seen as a Trump loyalist heading into next year's reelection effort. Democrats hoping to unseat him want exactly the same thing. Those agendas met Monday, when the Cornyn campaign sent out a fundraising appeal from Donald Trump Jr. calling the Texas Republican his dad's "biggest ally."

"John Cornyn has been a trusted adviser and a loyal supporter of my father. ... My father told me that this race in Texas is critical. We will do anything and everything we can to guarantee a Cornyn victory," Trump Jr. wrote. Texas Democrats pounced. "For once, Donald Jr. is telling the absolute truth: There hasn't been a bigger ally to Donald Trump than Texas' gutless and weak senator, John Cornyn," said Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. Democrats have set up a "Cornyn War Room" in Austin, with an aim of keeping the senator tied indelibly to the president. Trump is far more polarizing than Cornyn.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 16, 2019

After AR-15 threat, Beto O’Rourke helps Rep. Briscoe Cain’s challenger raise $68,000

Presidential contender Beto O’Rourke is helping a fellow Democrat raise money to unseat the Texas Rep. Briscoe Cain, after the Republican lawmaker tweeted last week that his AR-15 is “ready” for O’Rourke.

An email over the weekend from O’Rourke — still basking in the spotlight from his debate-stage vow that “Hell yes” he’ll confiscate assault-style weapons if elected — led to more than 3,600 donations for the campaign of Cain’s challenger, Josh Markle, of Deer Park. Cain, a Baytown Republican, went viral after last week’s Democratic debate in Houston, when he tweeted at O’Rourke, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” O’Rourke’s campaign reported the tweet to the FBI as a threat, then turned to its followers to raise money for Markle.

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Texas Tribune - September 17, 2019

Ross Ramsey: Redistricting is hard enough when politicians trust mapmakers

The Texas Legislature’s once-every-decade* quest for new political maps will get a twist in 2021: The Texas House will have either a speaker whose trustworthiness is suspect or a brand-new speaker who’ll be riding in the wake of a scandal.

What’s at stake, for lawmakers, is whether they’ll have a chance at staying in office with the new maps. (The process is already underway, as of last week.) That’s how it goes with redistricting and the Texas House: The representatives of 150 political districts decide how to protect themselves and ruin their enemies by moving the lines around. Powerful members do better, on average, than weak ones. Members in the majority do better, on average, than members in the minority. And members who are on management’s good side do better, on average, than members who are not.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Perry says Trump prepared to tap oil reserve after Saudi attack

President Donald Trump has authorized the release of crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should supply shortages develop following the attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday.

"President Trump has authorized the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if that is needed. And my department stands ready to respond," he said, speaking at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "Despite Iran's malign efforts, we are very confident the market is resilient and will respond positively."

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Houston Chronicle - September 13, 2019

Are poker clubs legal in Texas? The answer is unclear.

The raids of two Houston private poker clubs in May — which resulted in charges of money laundering, gambling promotion and engaging in organized crime — left many readers wondering: Are these establishments illegal? State law is unclear on the question, and this ambiguity has allowed dozens of clubs to open around the state.

The Texas Penal Code, Section 47, prohibits individuals or establishments from receiving “any economic benefit other than personal winnings.” This statute prohibits establishments from taking a cut of gambling proceeds, colloquially called a rake. Poker clubs believe they have circumvented this law by charging membership and “seat fees” for a player to spend time at a table. “The Texas gambling statute… does not prohibit the playing of poker as long as the house is not taking a cut, or receiving an economic benefit from the playing of the game. That’s the key” said attorney Chip Lewis, who represented two poker club defendants in the Houston case. “Our guys are not benefiting from the game.”

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

West Texas drug runner leaves behind 1,100 pounds of pot and wallet; cops offer to return ID

It's not unusual for law enforcement officers along the border to come across vehicles packed with illegal cargo.

It is a rare occasion to have the suspected drug runner leave behind some ID. Early Saturday morning, Brewster County Sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol agents recovered approximately 1,127 pounds of marijuana in an abandoned SUV, according to a Facebook post from the BCSO.

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Emily Foxhall: I reported on a mass shooting. Was I helping or hurting?

I found my rental car at the Midland airport and drove 12 miles to Rosie Granados’ house on N. Hancock Ave. in Odessa. Around 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1, I knocked on Rosie’s door. Her twin sister, 29-year-old Mary Granados, had been fatally shot by a killer on a 64-minute shooting spree. Mary had been dead for 25 hours. And as a reporter, I was there to ask about that. But my flight from Houston had been delayed, and already I was too late. Rosie wasn’t home. I found her there first thing the next morning in tears, turning a television reporter away.

She had spoken to CNN, to NBC, to ABC. She didn’t want to do any more interviews. And who could blame her? She still had to bury her twin. I became acutely aware of the dilemma: People were experiencing the worst days of their lives, and there we were — dozens of us reporters from all over — desperate for our piece of the story. That’s our job, after all: getting people to talk, asking the right questions, turning answers into stories that convey what the aftermath of these tragedies looks and feels like.

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Appeals court sends ISIS terrorism case back to controversial Houston judge

A New Orleans appeals court on Monday ordered a controversial Houston federal judge to take another go at sentencing a man given one of the lightest known sentences in the country for supporting ISIS jihadis overseas.

However, an expert in homegrown terrorism cases said the order remanding the case is mostly a formality, a procedural slap on the wrist, which will allow the judge a chance to impose a longer sentence, the same sentence or a shorter sentence as he sees fit.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2019

Honor Texas effort highlights UT standards of conduct after ethics scandals

University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves on Monday announced the creation of the Honor Texas initiative, which aims to engage the campus in a discussion of ethical conduct and expectations. The effort comes on the heels of two major scandals at UT, one involving a $100,000 bribe to a men’s tennis coach and the other surrounding a fraud scheme at the UT School of Law that cost the university nearly $1.6 million.

“The UT community has an extraordinary capacity for accomplishment, creativity and impact,” Fenves said in a statement. “Yet, at times, I’ve seen the university’s collective brilliance undermined by individual ethical lapses.” The program will be housed under University Compliance Services and overseen by Chief Compliance Officer Leo Barnes. It was something UT had been talking about in recent months in light of “lapses in ethical behavior and conduct,” Fenves said, noting the athletics and law school scandals.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 13, 2019

Ruby K. Payne: School safety starts in our homes and neighborhoods

An acquaintance told me that during a school incident last year, her daughter started texting her from school, asking, “What do I do? How do I stay safe?” Ask any parent or teacher right now about their key concerns, and they will tell you about the safety of their children or students.

Texas Senate Bill 11, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June, has identified processes and requirements to make schools safer. Schools are spending millions of dollars to harden campuses against intruders. While it is very important to secure all of the physical aspects of a school — with security officers, locked doors, safety drills, and so on — this will not be enough. Why not? Because the root causes of school shootings are emotional issues. Wisely, the new law requires training in emotional wellness as well. Until we address our children’s emotional realities and reduce home and neighborhood violence, their health, well-being, economic progress and the safety of our schools will remain at risk.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2019

UT Rio Grande Valley offers free tuition for students with household incomes less than $75,000

Beginning Fall 2020, students whose families make less than $75,000 will be eligible for full tuition and fees from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the college announced Monday. The announcement adds to a growing list of efforts from the UT System to make college accessible to low-income students.

“The UT System is committed to increasing access and student success at all of our institutions,” UT System Chancellor James. B. Milliken said in a statement. “We applaud UTRGV for launching this extraordinary program.” The program is open to all in-state undergraduate students, including freshmen and returning and transfer students, given that they meet certain requirements, such as minimum GPA and ACT scores. The university estimates that more than half of its undergraduates will not have to pay tuition or fees during the 2020-2021 school year.

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D Magazine - September 16, 2019

Texas’ legal community SLAPPs back

On a sweltering late June evening in the tony confines of The Adolphus Hotel, a gathering of unlikely compatriots took place. There were representatives from the Texas Trial Lawyers Association shoulder-to-shoulder with attorneys from the Texas Association for Defense Counsel and defense-leaning groups like Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Civil Justice League, as well as both Democratic and Republican trial and appellate judges from all over the state.

They were gathered to honor the architects of one of the signal achievements of the 2019 Legislature, Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano and Sen. Bryan Hughes of Mineola. Leach, chairman of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, and Hughes, chairman of the Senate Administration Committee, had successfully overhauled Texas’ anti-SLAPP statute, the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). Since its passage in 2011, the TCPA has been widely criticized by attorneys on both sides of the docket, as well as by judges and stakeholders, for its expansive scope and what some have called abusive use. Not surprisingly, Leach and a host of observers hail the 2019 Amendments to the statute as “one of the strongest, most important civil justice reforms in Texas in the past 20 years.”

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New York Times - September 16, 2019

Andrea Grimes: Anti-abortion lawmakers are remaking the safety net for reproductive health care in their image of God.

In its quest to “defund” Planned Parenthood and end access to clinical abortion care, the federal government under the Trump-Pence administration is poised to recreate a public health disaster that has blighted the already heavily damaged reproductive health care safety net in Texas, where lawmakers recently replaced seasoned medical providers with Bible-thumping grifters.

In 2016, an organization of crisis pregnancy centers — using deception and coercion in an attempt to dissuade people from seeking abortion care while presenting themselves, through advertising and aesthetics, as medical clinics — applied for a Texas family planning grant. The Heidi Group told the state of Texas that with just $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars, it could transform itself from a small religious nonprofit that had never provided comprehensive reproductive care into Planned Parenthood minus the abortion referrals.

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Rivard Report - September 16, 2019

Joe Straus, Peter J. Holt to lead San Antonio Early Education Steering Committee

Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Spurs Sports & Entertainment Chairman and co-CEO Peter J. Holt will lead a new steering committee focused on improving early childhood education for San Antonio’s youngest students.

Among the tasks for the temporary group is planning for the reauthorization of Pre-K 4 SA, the City of San Antonio’s tax-funded pre-kindergarten program, and potentially recommending ballot language to City Council. It also is charged with studying the gaps in early education for students up to 8 years old and making recommendations on what an early childhood advocacy group would look like for San Antonio.

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Fort Worth Business Press - September 17, 2019

Fort Worth and Dallas mayors say cooperation is the key to success

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson embraced the importance of working together to advance common goals and tackle the shared challenges of the Dallas-Fort Worth region during a joint appearance Monday before the North Texas Commission. Price, now in her 11th year as mayor, and Johnson, who was elected in June to succeed Mike Rawlings, have quickly established a friendly relationship.

The two mayors took turns during their North Texas Commission appearance answering questions about topics such as transportation and mobility, jobs and the workforce, affordable housing and public safety. Although Dallas and Fort Worth have separate identities, they face similar challenges as large Texas cities. “There are certain circumstances when you don’t want to have to go it alone,” Johnson said. “And then there are times when each of us needs to think about our separate communities and what are needs are.”

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San Antonio Express-News - September 16, 2019

Gov. Greg Abbott takes economic development trip to Japan and South Korea this week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday an economic development mission to Japan and South Korea later this week, as part of an effort to bolster economic and cultural ties between Texas and both countries.

“Texas has a strong cultural and economic bond with Japan and South Korea, and this mission will deepen our growing partnership,” Abbott said in a press release. “Leading manufacturing and tech companies have found a home in Texas because of our shared values and commitment to the free enterprise system. I look forward to strengthening these critical relationships and building a brighter future for all those who do business and call Texas home.”

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KUT - September 16, 2019

River authority will not drain Texas lakes along the Guadalupe River

After hundreds of lakeside residents protested the proposed draining of four Texas lakes, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority has agreed to hold off on the plan. Both sides met with a district judge in Seguin on Monday and agreed to an out-of-court deal. It includes a ban keeping people off the lakes for 30 to 60 days while experts create marked "unsafe zones" in the event of floodgate failure.

The GBRA will pay for the cost of creating the zones, and an ordinance with penalties will be implemented for people who enter near the floodgates. Originally, the GBRA argued the 90-year-old floodgates were in danger of failing, and draining the lakes was a necessary safety precaution. The attorney representing the residents said evidence from third-party engineers proved there was no imminent danger. They also argued draining the lakes would economically harm the communities.

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Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2019

Jeffrey Simon: Drug makers made big money on America’s opioid epidemic, and they should pay

This country, Dallas County included, is in the midst of the largest drug epidemic in its history. Approximately 47,000 Americans died in 2017 as a result of opioid-related accidental overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every 18 months, more die as a result of accidental opioid overdoses than the total number of U.S. soldiers lost in the Vietnam War.

In addition to this vast human misery, the economic cost of the opioid epidemic is staggering. The White House has estimated that nationwide the cost is over $500 billion a year. Poppy-based pain serums have been around for thousands of years, with opioid drugs such as morphine available by prescription in the U.S. since before the Civil War. However, the current public health crisis created by opioids is relatively recent and unique in our history, beginning in the mid-1990s when certain drug companies began directly targeting health care providers with promotional messages disguised as new, objective science.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Galveston County eyes mental health court after uproar over mentally ill man’s arrest

Andy Neely remembers the futile efforts to convince his older brother, Donald, to come home and end his yearslong sojourn living homeless on the streets of Galveston. Donald, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, would often respond that he had to first complete his “mission” before returning home.

In July, Andy, who lives in the Houston area, met Donald in Galveston and managed to convince him to get in the car with him. But he couldn’t make it to the Interstate 45 causeway before Donald attempted to jump out of the moving vehicle. Andy pulled the car over and let his brother out. Two weeks later, on a Saturday in August, a cellphone photograph of Donald Neely’s most recent trespassing arrest — in which two mounted Galveston police officers clipped a rope line to his handcuffs and walked him down several blocks in public view — evoked comparisons to the slavery era and drew national outrage. Neely is black, and the officers are white.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2019

TEA arrives to investigate Manor school district

Officials with the Texas Education Agency have arrived in Manor to investigate opposing accusations that have embroiled the school district’s top leaders, leading Manor school board members to postpone a vote scheduled for Monday on whether to order disciplinary action against Superintendent Royce Avery.

Board member Matildy “Sam” Samaripa Jr. said he wasn’t sure when they would take up the vote again but said it would make sense for them to wait until TEA’s investigation is complete. For months, the board has been reviewing a complaint against Avery regarding possible discrimination, harassment or retaliation against an employee. The issue appeared again on Monday’s meeting agenda.

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Texas Public Radio - September 11, 2019

Public failure, internal strife, lawsuits: Blue Duck's short ride through San Antonio

Eric Bell laughed and chatted with a group of tech workers on a sidewalk in downtown San Antonio. He was excited to tell them about his new company, Blue Duck Express. It was March 23, 2018, a cloudy day less than three months before the first wave of thousands of rentable electric scooters would flood San Antonio streets. Bell told anyone who would listen that electric scooters were the future of urban transportation, and Blue Duck – at that moment only two weeks old – was going to be part of that revolution.

Over the next 17 months, Bell would chase that ambition. Blue Duck would eventually raise more than $10 million in debt and capital. His staff would steadily grow, and together they faced competition from larger scooter companies. Blue Duck was new to this market but so was everyone else. However, the ambitious CEO and staff had one quality those other companies lacked: Blue Duck was the only company founded in San Antonio. On that March day, Bell was there to demonstrate his scooters to the group of young men. “We’ll get these guys on a down and back and then we’re gonna cruise,” he said.

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Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2019

Judge rules Amber Guyger's murder trial will remain in Dallas

State District Judge Tammy Kemp ruled Monday afternoon that Amber Guyger's murder trial will remain in Dallas. The jury was chosen Friday. But prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred in court Monday on whether to move the case to another county.

Kemp, who is presiding over the case, had told the attorneys she would rule by the end of the day on whether to move the trial. The trial is expected to begin Sept. 23. Neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors could comment on the judge's ruling because there is a gag order in the case. Jurors must ultimately decide whether it was a crime when Guyger, 31, shot Botham Jean in his own apartment. And if it was a crime, was it murder or a lesser crime like manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide? They also could find Guyger not guilty.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 16, 2019

After back-to-back fake gun incidents, Arlington police chief again calls for stricter laws

A student at Lamar High School in Arlington took a fake gun to school Monday, Arlington police said. Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson tweeted that a student overheard a peer saying they had a weapon in their backpack. Police responded to the school at about 2:30 p.m. and found the student and a replica handgun.

“Replica imitation firearms have no place in our schools... period! We need to bolster our laws on fake guns,” Johnson tweeted. On Saturday night, Arlington police shot and killed a man who pointed a replica BB gun at officers, according to police. Officers thought the BB gun was a real handgun. Johnson has called attention to the problem with fake guns before. In November, Johnson tweeted about the problem after a 21-year-old pointed a replica gun at officers at The Parks Mall at Arlington and was shot by police.

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National Stories

Washington Post - September 16, 2019

Senator told FBI last fall of new information about Kavanaugh

A Democratic senator told the FBI last fall of new information he said was relevant to allegations made against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh — a claim that was not investigated at the time but has since become public in an upcoming book chronicling the bitter confirmation fight.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) wrote to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray on Oct. 2, 2018, requesting an “appropriate follow up” with one individual who had come to Coons with information about Kavanaugh. Although the person’s name was redacted in the one-page letter, a spokesman for Coons confirmed Monday that the individual was Max Stier, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University who now leads a prominent nonpartisan group in Washington. In the letter obtained by The Washington Post, Coons said “several individuals” contacted his office who had wanted to share information with federal authorities but said they had “difficulty reaching anyone who will collect their information.”

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Route Fifty - September 17, 2019

Report: Federal flood program takes years to complete home buyouts

Homeowners in flood-prone areas face a conundrum after a natural disaster: stay in place and rebuild or leave and start over. It can be tempting to rebuild, but doing so can put people at risk of flooding again and again. That’s why some federal buyout programs encourage residents to get out of flood-prone areas by compensating for their damaged property.

But a new analysis of a property buyout program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), shows that some homeowners can get stuck waiting for years to find out if they even qualify for the program, let alone receive monetary compensation that could help them start over. The Natural Defense Resources Council analyzed data from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and found that over the last 30 years, the median wait time to complete a buyout is five years.

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Other Words - September 16, 2019

Chuck Collins: Tax the rich before the rest

Presidential candidates should take a pledge: The middle class should not pay one dollar more in new taxes until the super-rich pay their fair share. Already candidates are outlining ambitious programs to improve health care, combat climate change, and address the opioid crisis — and trying to explain how they’ll pay for it.

President Trump, on the other hand, wants to give corporations and the richest 1 percent more tax breaks to keep goosing a lopsided economic boom — even as deficit hawks moan about the exploding national debt and annual deficits topping $1 trillion. Eventually someone is going to have to pay the bills. If history is a guide, the first to pay will be the broad middle class, thanks to lobbyists pulling the strings for the wealthy and big corporations. Here’s a different idea: Whatever spending plan is put forward, the first $1 trillion in new tax revenue should come exclusively from multi-millionaires and billionaires.

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CNN - September 16, 2019

Manhattan district attorney subpoenas 8 years of Trump tax returns

New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance's office has subpoenaed eight years of President Donald Trump's tax returns from Mazars USA, the longtime accounting firm to Trump and the Trump Organization, as part of its investigation into hush money payments, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The subpoena marks a new escalation in the large-scale effort to obtain the President's tax returns, a battle that has largely played out in courts as the Trump administration has continued to stand its ground against efforts to secure any of Trump's financial information. Trump has claimed that ongoing IRS audits have stopped him from making his tax returns public, even though audits don't prevent individuals from releasing tax returns. Vance's office declined to comment.

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Attack on Saudi fields unlikely to alter U.S. oil companies’ approach

Crude oil prices spiked by 15 percent worldwide Monday in their biggest single-day jump in more than a decade after more than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil supplies were taken offline following an attack that created the biggest disruption ever to global oil supplies.

The Saturday strikes claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen knocked out nearly 60 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production — about 5 percent of the world’s oil supplies — although some production was being restored Monday. If the Saudis can’t get production back online within a couple weeks, and if conflict with Houthi patron Iran escalates, oil prices could rise much higher.

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Tribune News Service - September 16, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein victims’ claims died with him, judge rules

Jeffrey Epstein’s death last month means a lawsuit by his sexual abuse victims is over — along with their hopes to hold Epstein and his co-conspirators in South Florida accountable, a federal judge ruled Monday. By stopping the 11-year-old civil litigation, the court said it will not order any remedies for the government’s violation of a crime victims’ rights law.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra had been considering ways to grant some relief for the women involved in the case. In February, he ruled that federal prosecutors failed to properly consult Epstein’s victims when they approved his 2007 deal to avoid prosecution on federal charges. But everything changed on Aug. 10 when the 66-year-old wealthy financier killed himself while awaiting a New York trial on sex trafficking charges, Marra wrote. The judge said the “lengthy and contentious litigation” had become moot because Epstein is dead.

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New York Times - September 17, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to back first 2020 challenger to sitting Democrat

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans on Tuesday to announce her endorsement of Marie Newman, a progressive candidate seeking to oust Representative Daniel Lipinski, a conservative-leaning Illinois Democrat, marking her first move of the 2020 campaign cycle to back a primary challenger to an incumbent.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s high-profile support amounts to a powerful seal of approval, telegraphed to her legions of ardent liberal fans, on behalf of Ms. Newman, and a reflection of the zeal of the party’s progressive left to leverage its nascent power to continue targeting sitting Democrats. Ms. Newman is backed by Justice Democrats, the group that propelled Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent campaign and upset victory last year over a veteran Democratic congressman who she argued was out of step with his constituents. A businesswoman who has described herself as “a real Democrat,” Ms. Newman also ran in 2018 against Mr. Lipinski and lost by about 2,000 votes.

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Newsclips - September 16, 2019

Lead Stories

Associated Press - September 15, 2019

Rise in health uninsured may be linked to immigrants' fears

When the Census Bureau reported an increase in the number of people without health insurance in America, it sent political partisans reaching for talking points on the Obama-era health law and its travails. But the new numbers suggest that fears of the Trump administration's immigration crackdown may be a more significant factor in the slippage.

Overall, the number of uninsured in the U.S. rose by 1.9 million people in 2018, the agency report this past week. It was the first jump in nearly a decade. An estimated 27.5 million people, or 8.5% of the population, lacked coverage the entire year. Such increases are considered unusual in a strong economy. The report showed that a drop in low-income people enrolled in Medicaid was the most significant factor behind the higher number of uninsured people. Hispanics were the only major racial and ethnic category with a significant increase in their uninsured rate. It rose by 1.6 percentage points in 2018, with nearly 18% lacking coverage. There was no significant change in health insurance for non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians.

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Bloomberg - September 15, 2019

Purdue Pharma seeks bankruptcy to short-circuit opioid suits

Purdue Pharma LP filed for bankruptcy with a more than $10 billion plan to settle claims that it fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic by illegally pushing sales of its addictive OxyContin painkiller. The Chapter 11 filing on Sunday in White Plains, New York, is designed to short-circuit more than 2,000 lawsuits against Purdue and its owners, the billionaire Sackler family.

The settlement calls for the Sacklers to hand over Purdue to a trust controlled by the states, cities and counties that have sued to recoup billions of dollars they spent battling opioid addictions and overdoses. Officials originally envisioned raising as much as $12 billion with the plan, which is backed by more than two dozen U.S. states and territories, along with many cities and counties that sued Purdue. In an emailed statement TKTK, Purdue officials reduced the potential settlement amount to more than $10 billion.

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New York Times - September 15, 2019

'People actively hate us': Inside the Border Patrol's morale crisis

One Border Patrol agent in Tucson, Arizona, said he had been called a “sellout” and a “kid killer.” In El Paso, Texas, an agent said he and his colleagues in uniform had avoided eating lunch together except at certain “BP friendly” restaurants because “there’s always the possibility of them spitting in your food.” An agent in Arizona quit last year out of frustration. “Caging people for a nonviolent activity,” he said, “started to eat away at me.”

For decades, the Border Patrol was a largely invisible security force. Along the southwestern border, its work was dusty and lonely. Between adrenaline-fueled chases, the shells of sunflower seeds piled up outside the windows of their idling pickup trucks. Agents called their slow-motion specialty “laying in” — hiding in the desert and brush for hours, to wait and watch, and watch and wait. Two years ago, when President Donald Trump entered the White House with a pledge to close the door on illegal immigration, all that changed. The nearly 20,000 agents of the Border Patrol became the leading edge of one of the most aggressive immigration crackdowns ever imposed in the United States.

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Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2019

Gromer Jeffers, Jr.: Beto O'Rourke will have hard time taking Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price's AR-15; Cornyn's GOP challenger

If Beto O'Rourke actually gets the chance to confiscate the controversial AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, he'll face significant opposition in Texas. When I asked if she owned an AR-15, Price gave an impassioned answer. "I do, yes, I do," Price told me during a segment Sunday on Lone Star Politics, the political show produced by The Dallas Morning News and KXAS-TV (NBC5). "We use them for hog hunting at our ranch. We are responsible gun owners."

Price is a gun owner who hunts and shoots for sport. Her husband, Tom Price, is a competitive shooter who participants in tournaments. But the longtime mayor does want to see Congress strengthen background checks. She was one of several municipal officials who visited the White House recently to discuss ways to curb gun violence. O'Rourke's position on the AR-15 evolved after the August mass shooting in El Paso that claimed 22 lives. He now supports a buyback program for the popular weapon.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke won't back down on AR-15 buyback, says Democrats should stop playing defense

Beto O'Rourke on Sunday said Democrats should be bolder in their approach to issues related to gun control, immigration, criminal justice and climate change. "I'm a lifelong Democrat," O'Rourke told about 300 people outside of Artcentre of Plano. "For too long Democrats have played defense ... but just like Lucy with the football, every single time that we put our best foot forward and move forward in the spirit of consensus and comprise and start in that middle position, we lose it."

O'Rourke called for a different, less compromising approach, noting that attempts at consensus building have led Democrats to vote on hundreds of miles of border fencing, mass deportations that break up families and a mass incarceration of minorities. He invoked former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower in saying being in the middle doesn't always work. "He said 'the only thing that you're going to find in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos,'" O'Rourke said. "We will commit to having the courage of our convictions, laying out what we believe, and we're going to fight for it."

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Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2019

GM union workers in Arlington, across nation will start the week with first strike since 2007

Roughly 49,000 workers at General Motors plants in the U.S., including more than 4,000 in Arlington, plan to go on strike to start the work week, but talks between the United Auto Workers and the automaker will resume Monday morning.

About 200 plant-level union leaders voted unanimously in favor of a walkout during a meeting Sunday morning in Detroit. Union leaders said the sides were still far apart on several major issues and they apparently weren't swayed by a GM offer to make new products at or near two of the four plants it had been planning to close, according to someone briefed on the matter. UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Sunday evening that contract talks would resume at 10 a.m. Monday, but the strike was still expected to go ahead.

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Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2019

New Texas bill means teachers could be better off saving in a Roth IRA than a 403(b) plan

Tax-deferred retirement saving always seems like a good idea. But maybe it isn't — at least for some people. Skeptics should consider Texas teachers. Today, thanks to the Texas legislature, saving in a Roth IRA is a better choice than most of the products offered in the 403(b) plans available to Texas teachers. The reason is HB 2820. It went into effect Sept. 1. The measure eliminates the need for financial firms to register products with the Teachers Retirement System. It also removes the caps on expense fees that had provided some protection for teachers for nearly two decades.

Note the word "some." The earlier protections provided a complete listing and database of investment products. The list has been managed by the Teachers Retirement System of Texas. Using the list, teachers could see lower-cost alternatives. Product expenses were also capped at a very high 2.75% a year. Sadly, while lower-cost mutual fund firms like American Century, American Funds, Fidelity and Vanguard are on the list, insurance firms with high expenses dominate it. Now even the absurdly high 2.75% expense cap is eliminated. In an email, the head of communications for TRS told me that the database will only be available for another year. So let's consider what the Texas legislature didn't.

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Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke steers donors to Briscoe Cain's rival over Texas rep’s threat that AR-15 is 'ready for you'

First Beto O'Rourke wants to come after his guns, prompting Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain to warn that he has an AR-15 "ready." Now O'Rourke is going after Cain's seat in the Texas Legislature.

Late Saturday, O'Rourke urged his own supporters to pour money into the campaign of a Democrat hoping to oust Cain next year: Josh Markle, an Air Force veteran. His campaign biography says he works at a sign language interpreting agency and lives with his husband and their two dogs in Deer Park, the same Houston suburb that Cain lives in. That marked an escalation in the feud that erupted during Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate, when O'Rourke, a former El Paso congressman, forcefully promoted a plan to enact mandatory buybacks of "weapons of war."

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Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2019

How will Amber Guyger's attorneys defend her in murder trial for killing Botham Jean?

When Amber Guyger’s murder trial begins a week from Monday, the jury won’t be deciding whether she killed Botham Jean. That she pulled the trigger isn't in dispute. Jurors instead must decide whether killing the unarmed 26-year-old accountant in his own apartment was a crime. And if so, what crime?

Guyger's attorneys are expected to argue that she isn’t guilty of a crime because she made a “mistake of fact,” meaning she believed something to be true but it wasn’t. The Dallas officer, who has since been fired, told police that she confused Jean’s apartment at the South Side Flats for her own on the night of Sept. 6, 2018, and she mistook Jean for a burglar. But Guyger can’t just say she made a mistake and be found not guilty, legal experts said. The jury must believe her mistake was reasonable. And that leads to more questions.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 16, 2019

No ‘Big Drain’ yet for the Guadalupe River lakes

Monday will come and go with water still lapping the shorelines of four lakes on the Guadalupe River. If the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority had its way, it would be opening the spill gates on the dam at Lake Gonzales sometime Monday, releasing the pent-up water to gradually flow downstream. In three days, the agency estimates, the almost 90-year-old lake would be gone. Only the old river channel would remain.

Lake Meadow would be drained next, then Placid and finally McQueeney. Instead, Monday marks day two of a courtroom battle between lake property owners and the GBRA. Executives of the agency are expected to defend their decision to drain the lakes for the protection of the public. When it was clear last week that the court hearing would stretch beyond the GBRA’s planned start date, Visiting Judge Stephen Ables issued a temporary restraining order stopping the GBRA for now.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 15, 2019

Harlandale ISD lawyer sees voting rights as defense against TEA

A lawyer for the Harlandale Independent School District is preparing to cite the federal Voting Rights Act to accuse the Texas Education Agency of unlawfully stripping power from elected leaders of predominantly black and Hispanic school districts.

uch state takeovers — by removing elected boards or even forcing school districts to close — have been occurring for decades, after TEA investigations into academic, financial and governance issues. All the takeovers have been in districts where racial minorities are the majority, a pattern that puts the agency in violation of the landmark federal law, said the attorney, Kevin O’Hanlon. It’s a lawsuit scenario that even the Harlandale ISD board president isn’t ready to discuss publicly as he waits for Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to decide on a takeover recommendation by TEA investigators.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 15, 2019

Rep. Crenshaw and former U.N. ambassador Haley encourage conservative youth

Looking out into a crowd of about 1,900 high school and college students on Sunday in a downtown Houston hotel ballroom, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said she saw a roomful of future leaders. Haley was the keynote guest of Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s first Houston Youth Summit, where prominent conservatives gathered to encourage members of Generation Z to become more involved with politics and embrace principles of limited government.

Although Haley worried that too many teens and young adults had lost faith in the country, she told those gathered Sunday that they had a chance to turn the tide. “I have faith in the next generation, you can bring your generation together in a renewed belief in the principles and promise of America,” she said. While Haley was the highest-profile guest, many who attended the event said they were drawn by Crenshaw, who was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2019

Narendra Modi visits draws protesters in Houston

While a sold-out crowd of about 50,000 Indian-Americans is expected to greet India Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visits Houston on Sept. 22, several thousand protesters representing India’s religious minorities plan to decry his alleged violence and discrimination against non-Hindus.

Uniting for the first time minority Sikhs from Punjab and Muslims from Kashmir who now call Houston home, protesters held a “dress-rehearsal” rally on Saturday, driving tractor-trailer trucks decorated with flags and protest signs from the Sikh National Center in northwestern Houston to the NRG Center, where the “Howdy, Modi” event is scheduled to be held in a week. Modi, who is widely popular with India’s Hindu majority, has a reputation as a conservative Hindu nationalist moving India away from secularism. Despite sharp criticism, he contends he represents all people of India equally.

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Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Doctors’ groups want you to defend their surprise bills against regulation

Anyone who thought the medical-industrial complex would not strike back against attempts to control health care costs should now be disabused of the notion. Health care lobby groups are spending millions of dollars to fight government efforts to curb prices that are bankrupting the nation. Unless average Americans speak up, the special interests will win.

My colleague Jenny Deam has written extensively on surprise billing, investigating how most people’s insurance will pay the going rate for services provided by an out-of-network ER or a specialist. But many doctors’ practices charge much more than the standard price, so they bill the patient for the balance, resulting in an unpleasant surprise. The House of Representatives has passed a measure that would ban providers from balance billing patients and require them to accept a payment based on the prevailing in-network rates negotiated with insurance companies. Physicians for Fair Coverage, and a new group called Doctor Patient Unity, are spending millions on television ads to terrify the public and convince U.S. senators to vote against the bill.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2019

UT audit says fraud scheme cost school $1.6 million

An internal audit has found that the former facilities director at the University of Texas School of Law who faces felony charges cost the university nearly $1.6 million in a fraud scheme, according to a memorandum released Friday. The law school launched an investigation into Jason Shoumaker in 2017 after its chief business officer alleged questionable spending and fraud.

The memorandum by the UT office of internal audits said the business officer was concerned about significant payments to one company for moving services in 2014. It said those payments were about $700,000 above estimated amounts. The memo also said a list of vendors suspected of having close relationships with Shoumaker was investigated, as well as his purchasing activities, travel reimbursements and time reporting.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 16, 2019

Tarleton gets $63M for next Fort Worth building. Other outdated buildings lack funds

After lawmakers failed to approve billions for capital projects across Texas’ higher education institutions, Tarleton State University found another way to secure a majority of the funds needed for its second building in Fort Worth. While plans are made for the Fort Worth campus’ growth, other needs — like a renovation for a Stephenville building from the 1950s — continue to go unmet without funds that need lawmakers’ approval.

But in a session focused on school finance and property tax reform, packages that would have authorized $3.8 billion in tuition revenue bonds for capital projects failed to pass. Universities have seen a sporadic flow of funds from such packages, with the most recent one approved in 2015, and before that, 2006. Tarrant County lawmakers have pledged to help secure funds when the legislature reconvenes in 2021. Tarleton State University celebrated the opening of its Fort Worth campus along the Chisholm Trail Parkway last month. And it may start construction on its second building as soon as 2021, thanks to $63 million that will cover about 90% of the building’s costs.

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Politifact Texas - September 16, 2019

How many guns are on the streets in the United States?

The claim: "There are 390 million guns out on the streets of a country of 329 million people.” — Beto O’Rourke, Democratic presidential contender. O’Rourke made the statement in a TV interview as he discussed Walmart’s recent decision to stop the sale of ammunition that can be used in assault rifles and to ask customers to not openly carry firearms in its stores. He called Walmart’s decision a “step in the right direction.”

PolitiFact ruling: True. The latest study of civilian-owned firearms in the United States supports this statement. Discussion: Chris Evans, a spokesman for O’Rourke, pointed to a report published by the Global Small Arms Survey in May 2019 that found there are more civilian-owned firearms in the U.S. than in any other country. The Small Arms Survey, an operation at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, found that there were more than 393 million civilian firearms holdings in the United States, as of June 2018.

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Huntsville Item - September 15, 2019

Huntsville Item Editorial: It’s time to hold Walker County Hospital Corporation accountable

Officials in Texas often misuse open records laws to conceal public records and documents. It's all perfectly legal – and that's the problem. Especially when a “private” incompetent and dysfunctional nonprofit wants to cover up millions in fraud and misuse of funds, while relying on taxpayer funds to stay in business.

After months of investigation, The Item uncovered that the private Walker County Hospital Corporation lost millions of dollars due to inflated salaries, possible insurance fraud and failing attempts to establish a network of clinics. All have been confirmed by officials with the corporation and the district board. The story only progresses from there. Further documentation showed that officials with the Walker County Hospital District — a local entity funded by property tax dollars — spent nearly $3 million in taxpayer funds earlier this year to keep the doors open. Meanwhile, the Walker County Hospital Corporation board sits in secret out of the public eye. So where are we at now?

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Dallas Voice - September 13, 2019

Everything is bigger in Texas, including LGBTQ politics

During the most recent legislative session, a small group of lawmakers in the Texas House killed bills supported by the majority of their colleagues, upended traditions and brought a new attitude to the chamber. Unlike in past sessions, the ones shaping the agenda for 140 days were not in the hardline conservative Republican, 10-member House Freedom Caucus, but instead were members of the newly-formed LGBTQ Caucus.

In total, three out women, including two from Dallas, were elected to serve in the 86th Legislature. Reps. Julie Johnson from Carrollton and Erin Zweiner of Driftwood were among the freshmen lawmakers who flipped Republican-held seats. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez of Dallas defeated longtime incumbent Democrat Roberto Alonzo in the primary. The three of them joined two out incumbents who easily won election: Reps. Mary Gonzalez of Clint and Celia Israel of Austin.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2019

Houston poker club, DA consultant trade accusations as officials seek distance from donor

The collapse of Harris County’s criminal cases against two Houston private poker clubs after prosecutors discovered multiple conflicts of interest — including the district attorney’s own consultant — has left several elected officials straining to justify their relationships with the game room proprietors and former aide.

Revelations of Amir Mireskandari’s ties to poker clubs left several former Democratic candidates to explain why they welcomed him as a fundraiser and adviser, and shed light on a world where a checkbook can spur fast friendships, with few questions asked, between donors and those seeking office. The ambitious Democratic booster donated office space to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s campaign and told the Houston Chronicle he facilitated meetings for Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton, Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia and Texas attorney general candidate Justin Nelson with the poker club proprietors.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2019

Ken Herman: Can new houses in Austin be built under 1954 rules?

Mike Wilson’s company wants to build houses on three lots on Cedar Valley Cove — plenty of trees, scenic slope — he thinks could make nice homes for three families and nice profit for his firm and the current landowner. He envisions homes of about 1,800 square feet at prices somewhere around $250,000. Not bad in the current Austin market. And Wilson says he can do it all in compliance with city of Austin’s rules. The ones from 1954. As in the middle of the previous century. As in 65 years ago.

As in, he’s kidding, right? No, he’s not. We know that because he showed up at the North Austin site with his lawyer, the one representing him in recently filed litigation challenging the city’s decision that, no, he can’t build under the 1954 rules, because, the city said, among other concerns, the houses “may present a threat to health and safety.” Nuh uh, say Wilson and his lawyer and their lawsuit.

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National Stories

Associated Press - September 15, 2019

Kamala Harris, Julian Castro Call for Brett Kavanaugh Impeachment

At least three Democratic presidential candidates are calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the face of a new, uninvestigated allegation of sexual impropriety when he was in college. Kavanaugh was confirmed last October after emotional hearings in the Senate over a sexual assault allegation from his high school years.

The New York Times now reports that Kavanaugh faced a separate allegation from his time at Yale University and that the FBI did not investigate the claim. The latest claim mirrors one offered during his confirmation process by Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate who claimed Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party. When he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Kavanaugh denied all allegations of impropriety. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said after the new report that "Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people." She tweeted: "He must be impeached."

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Associated Press - September 15, 2019

Trump: US locked and loaded for response to attack on Saudis

A weekend drone attack on Saudi Arabia that cut into global energy supplies and halved the kingdom's oil production threatened Sunday to fuel a regional crisis, as the U.S. released new evidence to back up its allegation that Iran was responsible for the assault amid heightened tensions over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump said the U.S. had reason to believe it knew who was behind the attack — his secretary of state had blamed Iran the previous day — and assured his Twitter followers that "we are ... locked and loaded" depending on verification and were waiting to hear from the Saudis as to who they believe was behind the attack and "under what terms we would proceed!" The tweets followed a National Security Council meeting at the White House that included Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 13, 2019

Whole Foods cuts back on benefits for part-time workers

Austin-based Whole Foods Market is cutting health care benefits for some of its part-time workers, a move that could leave about 1,900 of its employees without medical coverage. Starting next year, Whole Foods employees will have to work at least 30 hours a week to qualify for health care benefits, up from the 20 hours a week it currently requires.

The grocer –– which is now owned by online shopping giant Amazon.com –– has about 95,000 workers. Whole Foods said it is making the change “to better meet the needs of” its business. Whole Foods said it is helping worker explore full-time jobs at its stores or find other ways to get health care coverage. Amazon bought Whole Foods two years ago for nearly $14 billion, cutting prices on some items and adding its smile logo in its aisles.

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US News and World Report - September 13, 2019

How to court Hispanics: show up

"Tu cuentas." Or you count. That was the theme of this week's Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute conference in Washington, D.C., and the message could not have been more clear. It was meant to empower the mass of Latino leaders assembled to discuss issues affecting their community. It was a strong statement that Hispanics want to make sure they are all included in the 2020 U.S. Census.

And it was a direct telegram to presidential hopefuls that Latinos are a pivotal political force in the 2020 elections, and they expect candidates to show up, pay attention and earn the votes of a group projected to be the single biggest minority voting block (13%) within the American electorate next year. Just three of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates invited to address the group showed up to make their respective cases to the assembled Latino influencers, a number of whom wondered aloud, with disappointment, why they didn't warrant more attention.

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ProPublica - September 15, 2019

Managed service providers are ransomware hackers' new gold mine

On July 3, employees at Arbor Dental in Longview, Washington, noticed glitches in their computers and couldn’t view X-rays. Arbor was one of dozens of dental clinics in Oregon and Washington stymied by a ransomware attack that disrupted their business and blocked access to patients’ records.

But the hackers didn’t target the clinics directly. Instead, they infiltrated them by exploiting vulnerable cybersecurity at Portland-based PM Consultants Inc., which handled the dentists’ software updates, firewalls and data backups. Arbor’s frantic calls to PM went to voicemail, said Whitney Joy, the clinic’s office coordinator. “The second it happened, they ghosted everybody,” she said. “They didn’t give us a heads up.” A week later, PM sent an email to clients. “Due to the size and scale of the attack, we are not optimistic about the chances for a full or timely recovery,” it wrote. “At this time we must recommend you seek outside technical assistance with the recovery of your data.”

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Bloomberg - September 15, 2019

Trump defends Brett Kavanaugh after new revelations

President Donald Trump defended Brett Kavanaugh on Sunday after the New York Times reported fresh revelations about the Supreme Court justice’s alleged behavior as a student at Yale University in the 1980s. “Such lies about him,” Trump said of the newspaper’s report in two early-morning Twitter messages. “Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for libel, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue.”

The Times wrote Saturday about lewd behavior attributed to Kavanaugh while at Yale, including more details of an alleged incident that had come to light during his 2018 confirmation process and a second alleged incident of sexual assault at a party. The report describes allegations from a fellow Yale student that Kavanaugh had pulled down his pants at a drunken party and “thrust” his penis at her, causing her to “swat it away.” Kavanaugh declined to answer the newspaper’s questions on the latest claims. The two reporters of the article have just released a book on Kavanaugh.

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Washington Post - September 16, 2019

Boris Johnson meets top E.U. officials on ‘neutral ground’ for Brexit talks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Monday with top E.U. officials to try to hammer out a Brexit deal, but European expectations were low after the British leader compared himself to the Incredible Hulk, who gets stronger when he gets angrier.

The comments, made in a weekend interview with the Mail on Sunday newspaper, angered Europeans who said that Johnson was trivializing the uncertain, society-unsettling consequences of Britain’s departing the European Union on Oct. 31 with no deal in place to ease the transition. And it left few E.U. policymakers bracing for a breakthrough when Johnson sat down for Monday lunch in Luxembourg with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other top E.U. Brexit negotiators.

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Reuters - September 15, 2019

Israel's Netanyahu sharpens focus on settlements, two days before ballot

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up a bid for far-right votes two days before a closely-contested election, convening his cabinet in the occupied West Bank and having it approve legal status for an unauthorised outpost.

Netanyahu's caretaker government met on Sunday in the Jordan Valley, a largely agricultural area which he announced on Tuesday that he intends to annex if he wins a fifth term. Israeli cabinets have rarely held sessions in the West Bank. At the meeting, the government announced it had approved Netanyahu's proposal to turn the outpost of Mevo'ot Yericho into a formal settlement - 20 years after it was established as a farming community in the Jordan Valley without state sanction.

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Wall Street Journal - September 16, 2019

OPEC, Russia hold off pumping more oil after Saudi Attack

OPEC and Russia are so far holding off pumping more oil to fill potential gaps in global supplies after an attack in Saudi Arabia over the weekend led to a major crude disruption, officials said. Crude prices surged Monday in the aftermath of a weekend attack on Saudi Arabia’s crude production infrastructure.

Officials said the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Aramco, aimed to restore about a third of the disrupted output by day’s end Monday. Saudi Arabia held a series of calls with cartel members and other oil-producing allies over the weekend and told producers that they wouldn’t need to respond with additional output, Saudi and OPEC officials said. Saudi energy officials fear that other members might begin pumping too much and take away some of the kingdom’s market share, Saudi oil officials and advisers said. Saudi officials told cartel members that the kingdom would mitigate the outage by tapping into its reserves, the Saudi and OPEC officials said.

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Newsclips - September 15, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Business Journal - September 12, 2019

Third Coast and Heritage banks merging to create $1.1B combined bank

Two Houston-area community banks are merging to create a single financial institution with more than $1.1 billion in assets. Houston-based Third Coast Bancshares Inc., parent company of Third Coast Bank SSB, and Pearland-based Heritage Bancorp Inc., parent company of Heritage Bank, agreed to combine, according to a Sept. 12 press release.

Under the terms of the agreement, Heritage Bank will merge into Third Coast Bank, and the combined organization will operate under the Third Coast brand, the company said. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. The value of the deal was not disclosed. Once the deal closes, the combined bank will have over $1.1 billion in pro forma total assets and a presence in most major Texas metro markets. The post-merger bank will operate 12 branches and one loan production office, the company said. “This transaction supplements the organic growth of our Houston footprint and complements our Texas branch network with a high-quality bank operating in attractive Texas markets,” Bart Caraway, chairman and CEO of Third Coast, said in the release.

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Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2019

Company announces $14 billion deal to build Texas Bullet Train, but is still long way from the end of the line

A planned high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas reached another milestone Friday as the sponsoring company announced a $14 billion deal to build it — as soon as it obtains the authority to do so.

Texas Central, the private company developing the Texas Bullet Train, announced it had signed a deal with Salini Impregilo, the Italian construction giant, and its American subsidiary, Lane Construction, to design, construct and install the 240-mile high-speed rail line using Japan’s Shinkansen trains. The deal is valued at $14 billion and is contingent on a number of factors and decisions, ranging from federal approvals to raising billions from private investors. Still, the announcement is the most concrete step toward construction of the train — expected to whisk travelers to and from Houston and Dallas in 90 minutes with a stop in the Brazos Valley.

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Wall Street Journal - September 15, 2019

Saudi oil attack is the big one for energy market

Saturday’s attack on a critical Saudi oil facility will almost certainly rock the world energy market in the short term, but it also carries disturbing long-term implications. Ever since the dual 1970s oil crises, energy security officials have fretted about a deliberate strike on one of the critical choke points of energy production and transport. Sea lanes such as the Strait of Hormuz usually feature in such speculation.

The facility in question at Abqaiq is perhaps more critical and vulnerable. The Wall Street Journal reported that 5.7 million barrels a day of output, or some 5% of world supply, had been taken offline as a result. To illustrate the importance of Abqaiq in the oil market’s consciousness, an unsuccessful terrorist attack in 2006 using explosive-laden vehicles sent oil prices more than $2.00 a barrel higher. Saudi Arabia is known to spend billions of dollars annually protecting ports, pipelines and processing facilities, and it is the only major oil producer to maintain some spare output.

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Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2019

Perry says no plans to leave Energy Dept.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Friday he had no plans to leave the Department of Energy, responding to longstanding rumors he was looking to find another role or leave the administration all together.

"There are rumors and rumors of rumors about my employment," the former Texas governor said at a press conference Friday. "As far as I know, President Donald Trump is very satisfied with my work at the Department of Energy and as far as I know has no intention to offer me another job. I will stay and do my work and continue to go tell the great story of American energy."

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Sky News - September 15, 2019

Iran says it's ready for war with US after Saudi oil attack accusations

Iran has dismissed US accusations it was behind drone attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil plants, and warned it is ready for a "full-fledged" war. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Washington had adopted a "maximum pressure" strategy against Iran, but because of "it's failure [the US] is leaning toward maximum lies".

His remarks came as a senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards said America's military bases and aircraft carriers, which are stationed up to 1,243 miles around Iran, were within range of Iranian missiles. Amirali Hajizadeh was also quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying that Iran has always been ready for a "full-fledged" war, without mentioning Saturday's explosions in Saudi Arabia.

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Politico - September 15, 2019

Texas congressman switches endorsement from Castro to Biden

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro lost one of his congressional endorsements Sunday, with Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez switching his support for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Gonzalez was one of three Texas representatives who endorsed the former HUD secretary, along with Castro's twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, and Rep. Colin Allred. Gonzalez announced his endorsement for Castro in March, saying at the time: "I know firsthand his passion for expanding opportunity for the Latino community, people of color, and historically disenfranchised communities, as well as his unparalleled dedication to building a bench of dynamic Democratic candidates in Texas and nationally."

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - September 15, 2019

After 18 years, Texas veterans wonder how long U.S. can stay in Afghanistan

If there was an unforgettable day for former Lt. Col. Dan Harris in the Afghanistan war, it was the phone call on Oct. 16, 2009 informing him that two of his Texas Army National Guard soldiers had been killed in a roadside blast, and that a third, Sgt. Todd Plybon, was barely alive. The day sticks with everyone connected with the guard’s mission at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, where Texans specializing in agriculture and animal husbandry worked to help Afghan farmers break away from centuries of subsistence life.

If there was an unforgettable day for former Lt. Col. Dan Harris in the Afghanistan war, it was the phone call on Oct. 16, 2009 informing him that two of his Texas Army National Guard soldiers had been killed in a roadside blast, and that a third, Sgt. Todd Plybon, was barely alive. The day sticks with everyone connected with the guard’s mission at Forward Operating Base Ghazni, where Texans specializing in agriculture and animal husbandry worked to help Afghan farmers break away from centuries of subsistence life.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 13, 2019

Former Secretary of State Rolando Pablos enters the world of energy as consultant

Former Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos is a busy guy. Less than a year after leaving state government, Pablos has become an energy entrepreneur and consultant based in San Antonio. He’s developing a solar farm in northern Mexico with a partner from Spain and working for both oil and gas and renewable energy companies in the U.S. and Mexico who want to engage in cross-border business.

The transition to the energy world is not completely surprising for a lawyer who has spent two decades building political and business connections. In fact, Pablos, founding CEO of the Borderplex Alliance — an El Paso-based organization devoted to spurring economic development between West Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico — had left the organization in 2016 to start his own renewable energy firm. But Pablos shelved the plan and he got a call from Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to be secretary of state.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 14, 2019

Terri Burke: Redistricting will shape our next 10 years

I’ve got a secret for you, one that some Lone Star State politicians might not want you to know. An important statewide process is getting started ahead of the 2021 legislative session, a process that happens once every 10 years. It’s called redistricting, or the redrawing of the districts that make up the legislative and congressional maps in Texas, and it matters more than you may know.

Redistricting is simple enough to grasp when you compare it to other things we replace every few years, like, say, an old car. When it just isn’t working like it used to or doesn’t meet your needs anymore, it’s time to think about getting a new model. Similarly, redistricting should lead to new and improved electoral maps that reflect the growth and demographic changes that Texas communities undergo with time.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 14, 2019

Josh Brodsky: Lockdown drills are no solution to gun violence

Our daughter is 5 and our son is 3. They are blissfully unaware of the terrors that struck El Paso or Midland-Odessa. They have no idea about Sutherland Springs or Santa Fe. They don’t know about the police who were killed in Dallas or the mass shootings in other states. Yet for years now, they have trained for mass shootings at school. They hide from a “wolf.” They stay still and quiet in the dark.

I find it deeply troubling that this is the world we have made for ourselves despite our stated convictions and aspirations to the contrary. It’s a reality reflected in Gov. Greg Abbott’s words and actions. After the Midland-Odessa shooting, he said: “I’m tired of the dying of the people of the state of Texas. The status quo is unacceptable.” But he has only offered policies that at best nibble at the edges of this unacceptable status quo. He couldn’t even endorse mandatory universal background checks or red flag laws despite overwhelming public support for these ideas and others.

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Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2019

At Dallas fundraiser, Joe Biden says he'll fight against hate, reverse damage done by Donald Trump

Joe Biden on Saturday completed his Texas campaign swing in Dallas, telling some of the state's most prolific donors that he can beat Donald Trump and restore the nation's reputation at home and abroad. "If we allow him four more years, I really, honestly believe it will change the nature of who we are as a country," he said.

The former vice president said that Trump has stoked hate and division in America, and that the nation should unite to fight against such intolerance. "Hate only hides, it doesn't go away," Biden said at the Preston Hollow home of Drs. Lisa and David Genecov. "If you give it any oxygen, hate comes out from under the rocks." Biden invoked former President Ronald Reagan, a political opponent, when he said America needed to regain its standing as the "shining city upon a hill."

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Dallas Morning News - September 13, 2019

CEO exits continue in Dallas-Fort Worth. This time it's an energy services company.

Another chief executive of a publicly-traded Dallas-Fort Worth company is exiting the corner office. Fort Worth-based Basic Energy Services Inc. announced Friday that T.M. "Roe" Patterson, its president and CEO, will leave the company to "pursue other business opportunities" after a successor is found. The announcement came after trading markets closed.

In addition to Patterson's departure, the company said Julio Quintana, a member of its board of directors since 2016, will become board chairman. He replaces Timothy Day, who'll remain on the board. Basic Energy, which provides well site services to oil and gas companies, has seen its quarterly revenue fall from $253.4 million a year ago to $189.9 million for the three-month period that ended June 30. For the first half of this year, Basic Energy's year-over-year revenue is down more than $100 million.

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Dallas Morning News - September 13, 2019

Pro-Bonnen candidate wins Republican caucus election, signaling confidence in embattled speaker

State Rep. Jim Murphy of Houston, who was considered the favored candidate of embattled House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, was elected vice chair of the House Republican Caucus on Friday night. Murphy defeated Rep. Andy Murr, a third-term legislator from Junction, in an election that was seen as a referendum on Bonnen, who is embroiled in a scandal over whether he and a top lieutenant targeted fellow Republicans in next year's primaries.

The caucus announced the election results Friday night but did not release a tally of the votes. The election results came as a surprise to some. On Wednesday, Murr told the political newsletter Quorum Report he had enough votes to secure his election as vice chair. "We look forward to working with him as the Caucus continues to assist you all in promoting conservative values and addressing the important issues that Texans face," the caucus said of Murphy in an email announcing the election results.

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Houston Chronicle - September 13, 2019

Bankruptcy judge accepts Weatherford reorganization plan

A bankruptcy judge in Houston has issued an order accepting a Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed by the struggling oilfield service company Weatherford International.

Weatherford Chief Financial Officer Christoph Bausch was among the witnesses and experts who testified at a Wednesday afternoon hearing at Houston's federal courthouse. The hearing ended with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Jones issuing an order accepting the company's amended Chapter 11 reorganization plan. The approved plan gives Weatherford access to $600 million in credit and the ability to issue $1.6 billion of notes that will be used to pay down debt.

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Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2019

Erica Grieder: Black women voters are still evaluating 2020 presidential candidates

May Nealey laughed when I asked her why she’s always bothered to vote. “I’m an optimist!” the 66-year-old said. She was aware, she assured me, that her vote had never decided an election. And she may have missed a few primaries over the years. Still, Nealey wishes there were an alternative to the two major parties. “I’m a conservative person,” she said. “But I cannot vote for a Republican, because that’d be like voting against black people.”

African American women such as Nealey are getting a lot of attention from the Democratic presidential campaigns and media because recent elections have confirmed they are one of the party’s most loyal — and important — constituencies. Experts say female black voters played a pivotal role in Democratic victories in midterm elections in 2018, allowing the party to capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives. They also helped Democrats win a U.S. Senate race in Alabama and a gubernatorial race in Virginia the previous year.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 13, 2019

Rodríguez, Democratic senator from El Paso, to retire

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, said Friday that he will not seek reelection to the Senate seat he has held for nine years. Rodríguez, who gave no reason for his decision to retire, promised to continue working until his four-year term ends in January 2021, when his successor will be sworn in at the start of the next regular legislative session.

In a message to constituents, Rodríguez called his Senate tenure the “honor of a lifetime.” “We are in a time of change,” he wrote. “A new generation of young leaders is emerging who will carry on the fight for equality and opportunity for all. I look forward to supporting them in a different capacity.” As a senator, Rodríguez focused on education, health care, military veterans and government transparency.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2019

TxDOT funds I-35 expansion projects, but not through Central Austin

The Texas Department of Transportation has agreed to fully fund the construction of new lanes on two portions of Interstate 35 through Travis County as part of a recently approved 10-year plan. However, it has yet to figure out how to pay for improvements on the most congested portion of the highway through Central Austin.

The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved the 2020 Unified Transportation Program, which allocates $77 billion in state and federal funds to thousands of highway, aviation, rail and public transportation projects across the state. Included in the plan is $700 million to add non-tolled, managed lanes to portions of I-35 north and south of downtown Austin.

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Dallas Observer - September 9, 2019

Many North Texas school districts still working toward full-Day Pre-K

Among dozens of changes included in a school finance reform bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed earlier this year, lawmakers included a provision that sends new money to school districts across the state and requires them to use it to expand their half-day prekindergarten classes to full-day. But weeks into the new school year and months after Abbott signed the bill, the school districts that already had full-day pre-K classes still have it, and the districts that didn't have it before the bill was passed mostly still don't.

With the passage of House Bill 3, school districts across the state, including many in North Texas, are working to expand their pre-K course offerings. That means hiring new early childhood teachers, developing new course curricula and, in some cases, building new classrooms — all things that can't be done overnight. Some districts have told parents they may not see full-day pre-K programs until next year or later. "You just can't turn a luxury liner on a dime," said David Garcia, chief financial officer for Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - September 12, 2019

State law enforcement organization protests a North Texas police chief’s firing

The Texas Municipal Police Association issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the small community of Blue Mound for firing Randy Baker, who was police chief for two years.

Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Austin-based police association, said that it is rare for the organization to speak publicly about matters involving police officers, calling it a “last resort.” Baker, who was hired as police chief in 2017, was fired in June after mayor Alan Hooks accused him of “flipping off” a water department worker and “unprofessional behavior” toward other employees.

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Click2Houston - September 12, 2019

Consumers who get contaminated gas left in lurch by lawmakers

Putting contaminated fuel in your tank can cause hundreds of dollars in damage to your vehicle. Proving where you got the tainted fuel was already tough, but state lawmakers just made it more difficult for consumers to hold gas stations accountable for bad gas.

They passed Senate Bill 2119 in the 86th Legislature, transferring the Motor Fuel program from the Texas Department of Agriculture to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. TDA has been the state regulating agency that inspects and licenses fuel pumps at gas stations. Its inspectors would also respond when consumers suspected they were getting shorted at the pump or they thought pumps were dispensing contaminated gas. This service was valuable to consumers because they could obtain a copy of the state's findings as evidence of contaminated fuel.

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Dallas Voice - September 15, 2019

First term recap: Rep. Jessica Gonzalez on her first term in the Legislature

State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez said she first thought of running for public office after a traffic accident at NorthPark, when a security officer at the mall ran a red light and hit her. He apologized and called the police. But when they arrived, they began treating Gonzalez like she had done something wrong. Her mother, who was with her, asked her in Spanish why they were treating her like this, and the police said if she didn’t stop speaking Spanish, they’d arrest her.

Gonzalez said she was thinking of going to law school at the time but began thinking she’d like to use her degree to do policy and advocacy work or maybe run for office. She took an internship with attorney Domingo Garcia, who encouraged those ambitions. Today her law office and her district office are in the same Oak Cliff office tower where Garcia’s offices are located. Gonzalez said she developed a number of other friendships during her first term, some of them quite surprising. While the U.S. Congress sits Democrats on one side of the aisle and Republicans on the other, Texas House members choose their seats by seniority. So Republicans and Democrats sit mixed together throughout the floor.

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County Stories

D Magazine - September 12, 2019

With DFW-based Securus making headlines, the County prepares to rid inmates of excessive call fees

A week ago, the Los Angeles Times published a deep dive into the background of a business move by Platinum Equity founder Tom Gores, who owns the Detroit Pistons. It’s a fascinating read, with a distinct tie to North Texas. The aforementioned move is Platinum’s acquisition of Carrollton-based Securus Technologies. Gores is getting hammered for it.

Criminal justice reform advocates know the name Securus all too well. It has become rich from charging inordinate amounts of money for telephone calls between inmates and the outside world, sometimes more than a dollar a minute. Even more, it has gotten jail systems across the country to buy into the scheme by offering a slice of the pie. This has been true in Dallas County, where just last year Securus funneled more than $2 million in easy money to the county coffers.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2019

Dallas' LGBTQ community calls for unity at town hall punctuated by 2020 election anxiety

A hint of dread haunted the conversation Thursday at a forum held at Dallas' Cathedral of Hope where members of the LGBTQ community talked about maintaining their rights in a fraught political climate. "I think we need to brace ourselves as a community for what's coming next," the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas, the cathedral's senior pastor, said at Thursday's town hall assembled to discuss issues facing the community in the coming 2020 election. "We need to find a way to have a collaborative influence."

About 70 people attended the forum, including representatives of groups such as the North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Rainbow Roundup, which provides activities and resources for LGBT families. The notion of a forum sprang from the congregation itself, which found wide-ranging opinions about the community's gains and goals as members began to plan the cathedral's 50th anniversary fete next year.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 14, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: South San dysfunction carries hefty price tag

The cost of dysfunction on the South San Antonio Independent School District board continues to add up. In the past two weeks, the district’s board bought out the superintendent’s contract for $187,000 and named an interim replacement at a cost of an additional $100 a day above her salary with the district.

But wait — there’s more. Last week, the district hired a mentor, Buck Gilcrease, for the board and interim superintendent. As of deadline, the cost was undetermined. We’ve long argued the district needs outside help — from the Texas Education Agency, not a mentor. What role does a district mentor serve? It’s anyone’s guess. The position is unique to South San. There is no job description, and no other local school district has a mentor on the payroll.

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Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2019

Houston’s mayoral candidates say crime is getting worse. The numbers say otherwise.

Mayor Sylvester Turner had just wrapped up his annual “State of the City” address in May when, two floors down at the Marriott Marquis hotel, mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee launched into his own speech deriding the mayor’s record on crime. “I know what’s going on in this city,” Buzbee said. “Don’t tell me crime is going down when everybody across the country knows that Houston is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.”

Bill King, another prominent mayoral contender, has decried a “growing randomness and violence to crime that alarms people.” While experts say such arguments aren’t unusual for political challengers, the numbers largely say otherwise. Like the rest of the country, crime in Houston has plummeted over the last 30 years, as has residents’ fear of crime being the city’s most pressing problem. FBI data show that most categories of crime in Houston have fallen or remained stagnant during Turner’s term, which began in January 2016. Criminologists also scoff at the claim that Houston is among the country’s most dangerous cities.

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Texas Public Radio - September 15, 2019

'Miss Emma' saved her brewery and left a legacy for all of San Antonio

One of the most popular hotels in the country is in San Antonio. It's named for a woman most people have never heard of. The woman behind the Hotel Emma ran a prominent brewery in South Texas for nearly two decades through some of the harshest times of the 20th century.

Emma Koehler and her husband, Otto, a German immigrant, came to San Antonio in 1884. Otto became the president of the San Antonio Brewing Association, now known as the Pearl Brewing Company, at a time when the Texas beer industry was booming. But a series of tragic events would change the course of their lives in the Alamo City. Emma was injured in an automobile accident in 1910, and Otto hired a German nurse to help care for her. The nurse was also named Emma — Emma Dumpke — but the Koehlers referred to her as Emmi.

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National Stories

Associated Press - September 15, 2019

Coming for your AR-15? O'Rourke scrambles Dems' gun message

Beto O'Rourke's "hell yes" moment at the Democrats' presidential debate is scrambling his party's message on guns. The Democrats have long contended their support of gun control laws does not mean they want to take away law-abiding citizens' firearms. But on Friday, they struggled to square that message with their presidential contender's full-throated call on national TV for confiscating assault rifles.

"Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we're not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore," the former Texas congressman declared during Thursday night's debate. O'Rourke's hometown of El Paso was the site of a mass shooting last month that killed 22 people, and he has put the issue of gun violence at the center of his campaign effort. On Friday, his campaign hawked T-shirts emblazoned with his debate vow.

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Associated Press - September 15, 2019

Felicity Huffman gets 14 days behind bars in college scam

Actress Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for her role in the sweeping college admissions scandal.

The "Desperate Housewives" star was sentenced in Boston's federal court Friday after pleading guilty in May to a single count of conspiracy and fraud. She was also given a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a year of supervised release. She has admitted paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter's SAT exam answers in 2017.

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Wall Street Journal - September 10, 2019

Smart cities will require smarter cybersecurity

As cities become smarter, officials and security experts say that current defenses are unlikely to keep hackers at bay.

Most major cities have some form of smart-technology program, including sensors that measure air quality, automated traffic-control systems and smart power grids that distribute electricity according to demand. Deploying these technologies comes at a cost, however, in that the number of connections also gives hackers more opportunities to break into city systems. The proliferation of internet-connected devices that process the data they collect, known as the Internet of Things and edge computing, respectively, are of particular concern.

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US News and World Report - September 10, 2019

US cities play catch-up on high-speed rail

For decades, countries such as China, Spain and Turkey have connected distant cities with rail links of 200 mph or faster while American infrastructure has languished. The country’s only moderately high-speed train, Amtrak’s Acela Express, which spans from Boston to Washington, briefly reaches a top speed of 150 mph. But now that several new private sector efforts are underway, will American cities finally catch up?

While other nations continued investing in train travel, including in multibillion-dollar high-speed projects, American passenger rail atrophied. The fall was dictated both by the rise of the interstate system and the free market: While tracks and other infrastructure are typically nationalized elsewhere, American railroads – unlike American freeways or American airports – are privately owned. (The passenger service Amtrak, which began in 1971, is government owned.) The short-term accountability to shareholders, says Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, has often precluded American rail companies from making transformative long-term investments.

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Esquire - September 13, 2019

Joe Biden's incoherence on healthcare proved Julian Castro right at the Democratic debate

I would be willing to bet something quite substantial that Thursday night's hootenanny changed not a single vote. Most of the candidates were solid; Beto O'Rourke and Kamala Harris both had their best debates of the cycle. Senator Professor Warren had her best moment on what is supposed to be the weakest part of her candidacy: foreign policy. David Muir of ABC asked her if she would withdraw American forces from Afghanistan even without having reached an agreement with the Taliban.

The debate's most compelling subtext was its concern over how exactly to handle the legacy of Barack Obama. This was vividly on display in the now-famous interplay between Joe Biden and Julian Castro. Most of the post-debate discussion concerned Castro's pointing out that, over a couple of minutes, Biden contradicted himself on his own healthcare plan: “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying that they don’t have to, I mean you’re forgetting that.”

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New York Times - September 14, 2019

The Senate: Still great at deliberating, but less so at legislating

Senator Mitch McConnell says he is awaiting President Trump’s proposal on new gun safety rules before swinging his chamber into action. Some of his colleagues think he’s got it backward. After all, it is the Senate — in conjunction with the faster-moving House — that by tradition has jealously guarded its role in originating and shaping legislation, only later sending it to the president to be accepted or rejected.

But today’s Senate, devoted almost exclusively to confirming Mr. Trump’s nominations, is hardly a hotbed of legislative activity. Members of both parties say they would like that to change. “I’m very eager to turn from nominations to legislation,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “There are important issues that are pending, and I think we could produce some terrific bills that would be signed into law.” Democrats took a harsher line, particularly when it comes to stricter gun safety legislation they are demanding after an August marked by mass shooting sprees.

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USA Today - September 13, 2019

Tomi Lahren apologizes after Democrat Julián Castro calls out 'anti-immigrant' statement

Conservative commentator and Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren apologized on Twitter for remarks she made after a Democratic presidential candidate called her out. "Disgusting, anti-immigrant rhetoric from @TomiLahren in the wake of El Paso," tweeted Julián Castro, who is a former Obama cabinet official.

Castro, a Texas native, was referring to comments Lahren made on the topic of gun control on Fox Business Network, implying that armed Americans would have to shoot people coming across the border. "And all the things the Democrats want to put in place, my goodness, if they want to open our borders, you better be sure that the people in Texas, the people in South Dakota, the people in the middle of this country, we're going to be armed and ready," Lahren said to Fox's Stuart Varney on Friday.

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Quartz - September 10, 2019

The disabled community is the world’s third-largest economic power

There’s a solid business case for designing for and selling to people with disabilities. First of all, consumers with disabilities make up a massive market. If the room you’re in is representative of the world, one in five of the people you share space with has a disability. According to one study, the total disposable income of the community tops $8 trillion per year. For context, that makes the community third-largest in the world in terms of purchasing power, after the US and China.

Almost all of us are closely linked to someone with a disability. Four out of five Americans have a loved one with a disability. The disability community is likely the only minority all of us will belong to eventually. Based on those numbers alone, “going inclusive” should be a compelling option. But people with disabilities are also not islands, and as such, they don’t function as an economy. In addition, inclusivity has a knock-on effect with ordinary consumers. In 2018, the Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Premium study found that companies perceived as purpose-driven—including those with a commitment to inclusive design—have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 15, 2019

Far-right groups gain mainstream momentum in crusade against anti-fascist movement

When groups from outside the conservative mainstream descended on Boston to mock LGBTQ events with a “Straight Pride Parade” on Aug. 31, San Antonio activist Jennilyn Salinas mingled on stage with its organizers. Her cellphone videos captured provocateur and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, the parade’s grand marshal, riding a Trump-themed float through downtown streets.

Two weeks before that, Salinas, who goes by Jen Loh, recorded videos from the middle of crowd in Portland, Ore., at the “End Domestic Terrorism” rally. A gathering of mostly men shouted “USA! USA!” in the city’s downtown, many of them sporting black and yellow — colors frequently worn by the Proud Boys, a fraternal group of self-described “Western chauvinists” known for inciting street fights.

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Wall Street Journal - September 15, 2019

US blames Iran for attack on Saudi oil facilities

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for coordinated strikes on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, saying they marked an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. The strikes shut down half of the kingdom’s crude production on Saturday, potentially roiling petroleum prices and demonstrating the power of Iran’s proxies.

Iran-allied Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen claimed credit for the attack, saying they sent 10 drones to strike at important facilities in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. But Mr. Pompeo said there was no evidence the strikes had come from Yemen. In a tweet, he said the U.S. will work with allies “to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression.” He added that the strikes showed Iran wasn’t serious about diplomacy.

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Associated Press - September 14, 2019

450 miles of border wall by next year? In Arizona, it starts

On a dirt road past rows of date trees, just feet from a dry section of Colorado River, a small construction crew is putting up a towering border wall that the government hopes will reduce — for good — the flow of immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Cicadas buzz and heavy equipment rumbles and beeps before it lowers 30-foot-tall (9-meters-tall) sections of fence into the dirt. “Ahí está!” — “There it is!” — a Spanish-speaking member of the crew says as the men straighten the sections into the ground. Nearby, workers pull dates from palm trees, not far from the cotton fields that cars pass on the drive to the border. South of Yuma, Arizona, the tall brown bollards rising against a cloudless desert sky will replace much shorter barriers that are meant to keep out cars, but not people.

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Reuters - September 14, 2019

UK's Johnson, likening himself to Incredible Hulk, vows Oct. 31 Brexit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson likened himself to the comic book character The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview where he stressed his determination to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Johnson said he would find a way to circumvent a recent parliament vote ordering him to delay Brexit rather than take Britain out of the EU without a transition deal. “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” Johnson was quoted as saying. “Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be - and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31.”

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Newsclips - September 13, 2019

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 13, 2019

Ken Herman: A solid debate night for the home-state candidates

All in all (and, at three hours, all was a lot), it wasn’t a bad night for the home team, defined here as the two Texans struggling to stay relevant in the Democratic presidential nomination race. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso was aggressive on gun control, a position that plays well among Democrats. And former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was aggressive on front-running Joe Biden, the ex-veep with whom Castro served in the Obama administration.

Did either Texan do anything to move beyond the single-digit netherland in which they’ve been mired? We’ll see. Doubtful. One debate does not a winning campaign make. But one debate can sink a candidacy. To me, neither O’Rourke nor Castro sank themselves at this third debate. In pushing a position that probably does sink any chance he might have of bailing out of the presidential race and coming home to re-run for the U.S. Senate in a state with a strong gun culture, O’Rourke defended his call for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, a position that differentiates him in the crowded Democratic field.

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The Hill - September 13, 2019

O'Rourke responds to Rep. Cain's AR-15 tweet: 'This is a death threat'

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) called out a Texas state legislator Thursday night for a tweet that he likened to a "death threat" following the latest Democratic presidential debate.

O'Rourke responded after state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) quoted the Democrat's response to a question about assault weapons in the debate and tweeted, "My AR is ready for you, Robert Francis," referencing O'Rourke's birth name. Cain had shared an earlier tweet from O’Rourke’s account that quoted the former congressman’s remarks in the debate in Houston in which he drew applause by declaring, "Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15."

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Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2019

Ted Cruz distances himself from GOP ally Dan Patrick on gun background checks

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is distancing himself from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's proposal to require background checks for all stranger to stranger gun sales, painting his fellow Republican's idea as in line with broader proposals offered by Democrats. Asked on Thursday if he supported Patrick's specific measure — which would not affect private sales between friends and families — Cruz compared it to the notion of universal background checks.

"The consistent focus of Democrats in Congress is precisely the proposal that you laid out — it is mandating that all private person-to-person sales have a federal background check," he said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "That's a mistake." Cruz was pressed on the fact that Patrick's idea would focus only on private gun transactions between strangers — and not all private person-to-person sales. He was asked if that distinction would change his feelings. The senator demurred.

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Houston Chronicle - September 12, 2019

Can state’s grid manager be held accountable for its errors?

Panda Power built three power plants earlier in this decade, investing billions of dollars based on projections from the state’s grid manager that Texas desperately needed more generation to meet growing electricity demand. But those projections turned out to be wildly wrong — Texas, in fact, had plenty of power — and Panda ended up losing billions of dollars and putting one of the plants into bankruptcy, unable to sell electricity at prices sufficient to cover debts.

The Dallas company is now in court, alleging that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas intentionally manipulated the projections to encourage new power plant construction and relieve the political pressure that was building on the grid manager to increase generation in the state. The case has implications that reach beyond whether Panda gets its money back to issues as profound as the reliability of power grid, the integrity of the wholesale electricity market and the accountability of an organization whose decisions affect thousands of businesses, millions of people and billions of dollars.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 12, 2019

In 4 years, humans could don magnetic helmets developed at Rice and communicate other using only their minds

A fruit fly bounces against the rounded sides of a petri dish, its wings outstretched. The dance is typically reserved for finding a mate — but this fly isn’t controlling its own movements. Jacob Robinson’s team is. Robinson, an associate professor of engineering at Rice University, is hesitant to call this process mind control. But he’s definitely directing the fly to make certain moves.

“People have identified specific neurons in these creatures that control certain behaviors,” Robinson said. “So, when we activate those neurons we should be able to see those flies immediately perform those behaviors.” This is not science fiction. Robinson’s team has figured out how to use nanoparticles to achieve this result. Nanoparticles, which can be 500 to 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, are microscopic particles often used to deliver drugs directly to an area of the body. First, Robinson’s team genetically modifies the fly so that only the neurons controlling this behavior are sensitive to the nanoparticles. Then, scientists inject the particles into the fly’s brain.

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Houston Chronicle - September 12, 2019

Alta Mesa files for bankruptcy under former Anadarko chief

The Houston oil producer Alta Mesa Resources filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday amid collapsing finances and an SEC investigation into possible fraud. The shale oil startup, led by a former Anadarko Petroleum chief executive, plunged from $3 billion Wall Street value in early 2018 to just $30 million and trading for 8 cents a share.

It was a dramatic fall from grace after significantly overestimating its potential in Oklahoma's STACK shale play and other regions. The company failed to stay afloat after laying off much of its 200 employees and writing down the value of its assets by $3.1 billion as it acknowledged undisclosed internal financial flaws. Although the company hasn't detailed the problems, Alta Mesa has admitted to failures in its financial reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Houston Chronicle - September 12, 2019

Erica Grieder: Dan Patrick’s pivot on gun sale loophole sends message to NRA

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has long been seen by many as a right-wing firebrand, if not an outright ideologue, and consistently further to the right of Gov. Greg Abbott. So his recent decision to pick a fight with the National Rifle Association should remind us all that appearances are not necessarily what they seem. Patrick is willing to pivot when the public mood shifts, especially if it’s in his political interest.

Last week, Patrick said he had concluded the organization was wrong to oppose stronger background checks for gun sales in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and elsewhere — and that for GOP leaders to refuse to consider such proposals would be a potentially costly mistake. “Look, I'm a solid NRA guy, but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me,” Patrick said. He was referring to the loophole in gun laws that allows private sales between individuals without the background checks that are required for retail sales from federally licensed arms dealers.

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Houston Chronicle - September 13, 2019

Jaquelin Dudley: We must vaccinate to protect the herd

I recall a comment by Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunizations, about what it’s like to spend time in a country without vaccines. “The faces of the mothers and fathers say it all,” he said. “Vaccines prevent illness and save lives.” Yet recently, the Trump administration announced that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not provide flu vaccines to migrant children held in detention facilities at the U.S. southern border.

Six migrant children have died from the flu after being detained in U.S. custody. No deaths from flu were recorded during the previous 10 years. Infectious diseases, including potentially deadly flu and now measles and mumps, spread more quickly in places where people congregate. The risk is even greater in the overcrowded conditions that many detained migrants experience, particularly in the winter months when flu transmission is rampant.

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Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2019

Texas A&M researchers quietly bred sick dogs in hopes of finding human muscular dystrophy cure

A colony of golden retrievers and Labrador mixes lives in an unmarked building at Texas A&M. Few Aggies will ever see them, and many of the dogs will never know another home. The building looks like a pristine dog pound, with aisles of bare metal kennels and slatted floors. The healthy dogs jump and bark loudly, pushing their cold, wet noses between the bars of their cages in sterile, white rooms. The sick dogs are quiet.

Their location is a secret. University officials say the strict confidentiality shields the dogs and their caretakers from overzealous activists. But animal welfare groups say the dogs are the ones who need protection from the university. The dogs live on campus because researchers at Texas A&M use them to study Duchenne muscular dystrophy — a degenerative disease that’s terminal for mostly young boys. University scientists are seeking a cure, or at least a meaningful treatment to lengthen lives.

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Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's gun violence recommendations: 'voluntary' background checks, stiffer penalties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued a long list of gun safety recommendations, but stopped short of calling for lawmakers to require background checks for all private gun sales. Abbott's Texas Safety Action Report was put together after the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa last month.

Its recommendations were culled from discussions the governor held with local lawmakers and law enforcement officials, mass shooting survivors and advocates on both sides of the gun control debate. The 13-page report focuses on improving information sharing and reporting among law enforcement, better enforcing current laws and more severely penalizing those who break them. It recommends making straw purchases illegal in Texas, as they already are in federal law, and passing laws "to crack down on criminals who try to illegally buy or possess guns."

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Dallas Morning News - September 10, 2019

Here's how many Texans don't have health insurance, according to new census data

Despite a booming Texas economy, more Texans lost or dropped their insurance coverage from 2017 to 2018, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. That marks the second consecutive year-to-year increase of Texas’ uninsured rate.

And with about 5 million uninsured people — about 17.7% of the total population — Texas remains the state with the highest uninsured rate out of all 50 states, the census data released Tuesday shows. The national uninsured rate also increased to 8.5% from 7.9% during that time, largely due to a drop in enrollment in Medicaid, for the first time since the 2008 to 2009 period. The two groups with the highest increases in their uninsured rates were Hispanics and noncitizens. The Census Bureau report looked at data through 2018.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 10, 2019

Mission descendants seek to stop $450 million Alamo overhaul until they get a say in how any human remains are handled

Native American mission descendants took action Tuesday to stop the $450 million overhaul of Alamo Plaza until they get a say in deciding what happens to any human remains found during the extensive construction project.

The Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation turned up the heat in its escalating battle with authorities governing the Alamo, filing a federal lawsuit seeking recognition of a 300-year-old cemetery where the Shrine of Texas Liberty now stands and asking for a court order to halt work at the site until the indigenous group is heard. It’s a “David and Goliath scenario,” acknowledged Ramón Vásquez, executive member of Tap Pilam. But he said the lawsuit is necessary to protect the final resting place of some of the first baptized Catholics in Texas, including Spaniards, Canary Islanders and Africans, as well as American Indians.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 12, 2019

San Antonio approves funding of first institute to chronicle Mexican-American civil rights

Saying it’s long overdue, the City Council on Thursday approved initial funding for the new National Institute of Mexican American History of Civil Rights. “I think now is an important time for us … to capture the story,” Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran said. “To tell the story and be proud of it. To share it and not let it die.”

San Antonio has been the birthplace of many Mexican-American achievements: the Order of the Sons of America, one of the first statewide Mexican-American civil rights organizations in Texas, founded in 1921 at a local barbershop; the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, started in 1986; the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, founded in 1968; the first Spanish-language television station in the continental U.S., opened in 1955 and still in operation as KWEX, which spurred the creation of Univision, the largest Spanish-language network in the U.S.; and the first full-time Spanish-language radio station owned by a Latino in the nation, KCOR Radio, started in 1946 and still on the air today.

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San Antonio Express-News - September 12, 2019

Judge temporarily halts draining of four Guadalupe River lakes

A state judge on Wednesday put a temporary hold on the draining of four Guadalupe River lakes — scheduled to begin Monday — while the court battle between property owners and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority continues into next week.

Property owners from the four lakes — McQueeney, Placid, Meadow and Gonzales — have asked Judge Stephen B. Ables to prohibit the GBRA from moving ahead with the plan it announced last month to drain the reservoirs because of public safety concerns. The plaintiffs, represented separately by San Antonio litigator Ricardo Cedillo and Doug Sutter, a Houston attorney who owns property on McQueeney, questioned nine witnesses Wednesday, including a former GBRA executive, a civil engineer and a real estate appraiser.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 12, 2019

Central Texas counties roll out new voting machines for November election

Central Texas voters, get prepared for a new experience at the polls come November. Travis, Hays and Williamson counties are all rolling out new voting machines for the upcoming election, which will allow people to vote electronically while also providing a paper backup of their ballot for the first time.

Elections administrators say the change has the convenience of electronic voting while offering assurances to voters who have long demanded a paper trail system. Voters are being encouraged to try out the new machines so they can get a handle on the new equipment before Election Day. In Hays County, the new Hart InterCivic Verity Duo voting system is set up at the Hays County Courthouse, the Hays County Government Center and at the Precinct 2, 3 and 4 offices. On a recent Tuesday, Kathleen Collins and Tom Wendt, both 69, tested out the machines at the elections office when they came to the government center to change their address.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 12, 2019

3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson gets probation in sex assault case

Austin entrepreneur and 3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson was sentenced Thursday to probation for seven years and ordered to register as a sex offender through that period after pleading guilty last month in a sexual assault case in which he was accused of having sex with an underage girl last year.

Wilson, a University of Texas law school dropout who sparked a nationwide legal fight over the constitutionality of firearms made with a 3D printer, struck a plea deal with Travis County prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of injury to a child. State District Judge Brad Urrutia accepted the plea agreement and ordered Wilson, 31, to pay $4,840 in restitution to the victim and a $1,200 fine to the county. Additionally, Wilson must complete 475 hours of community service and undergo sex offender therapy. He is forbidden from contacting the victim, who was 16 when the two had sex in September 2018.

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McAllen Monitor - September 11, 2019

$150M in USDA grants announced for rural communities affected by natural disasters

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide $150 million in grants to rural communities affected by natural disasters, including those in Hidalgo County. In a new release, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, announced that the grants may be used for relief in areas affected by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.

“I thank the Administration and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue for making this aid available for our rural communities who were affected by devastating flooding in the recent past,” Gonzalez said. “I encourage those in Hidalgo County who were affected by these natural disasters to take full advantage of these resources.”

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Trib Talk - September 9, 2019

MJ Hegar: An open letter to John Cornyn

Dear Sen. Cornyn: As I was driving through West Texas talking to local folks recently, I heard the news of the mass shooting nearby in Midland and Odessa. My heart dropped as I pulled out my phone to get more information and saw gut-wrenching video of parents huddling in a field covering their children, who were screaming and crying, telling them that it would be all right while semi-automatic gunfire echoed in the background.

I flashed back to my time in Afghanistan as the sounds of war rang in my ears. This isn’t the first time something reminded me so viscerally of my three tours in combat. But something different happened to me when I heard the terrified cries of children layered over the gunfire. Now I was experiencing war not just as a soldier, but as a mother, and this wasn’t a war zone on foreign soil, but in the streets of west Texas.

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County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 12, 2019

Woman accuses Travis County DA, top assistant of defamation over rape case, suit says

A woman who accused Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore’s first assistant Mindy Montford of discussing details of her sexual assault case with a third party last year has filed a lawsuit accusing Montford of lying about the specifics of the case and conspiring to defame the woman.

The suit, filed Wednesday on behalf of Emily Borchardt, accuses First Assistant DA Mindy Montford of improperly discussing details of her case with another woman, and lying about the content of Austin police records related to her assault. The suit also accuses Moore of conspiring with Montford to discredit Borchardt.

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KERA - September 11, 2019

Cornyn, Cruz back bid for funds to extend Tarrant County's TexRail line

Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are throwing their weight behind Fort Worth's bid for federal funding to help extend the TexRail commuter line.

Cornyn and Cruz sent a letter to the Federal Transit Authority asking for $40 million to help expand the TexRail service. The proposal would extend the rail line by 2 miles into Fort Worth's Medical District. The 27-mile rail line opened in January and serves northeast Tarrant County. It connects Fort Worth to DFW International Airport, with stops in North Richland Hills and Grapevine.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2019

Dallas mayor discusses his job at law firm Locke Lord, affirms commitment to ethics

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on Thursday responded to concerns over his new role as a partner at major law firm Locke Lord, saying he's an elected official who has "never even stubbed their toe ethically" while working both as a public finance attorney and state representative for 10 years.

In an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Thursday, the mayor said he always intended to work as an attorney while he held office. Johnson said he wished his previous experience in public finance had been explained more thoroughly in media reports. "I chose a firm that posed the least conflicts that I could find," Johnson said. "The conflicts-of-interest issue is not a new one. There's a way to work through this."

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KUT - September 12, 2019

Austin City Council voted to fund support for abortions. Now a former councilmember is suing.

Former Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in a Travis County district court Wednesday challenging the city's effort to fund logistical services for low-income women obtaining abortions. In a filing, Zimmerman argued "this expenditure of taxpayer money violates the state’s abortion laws and should be promptly enjoined."

At the urging of advocacy groups, city council members set aside $150,000 in the recently passed city budget for groups that provide transportation, lodging, child care and counseling to women seeking abortions. None of these grants would actually pay for the procedure itself. Advocates say Austin is the first city in the country to fund a program like this. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza told KUT last month this is an effort to find a way to help women seeking abortions at the city level in light of a new state law.

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Austin American-Statesman - September 11, 2019

Dallas Fed: Austin economy continues boom

Underline “resilient” in the list of adjectives that describe Austin’s strong economy, because the local boom has yet to show signs of ebbing despite the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, early indications of a manufacturing slowdown nationally and growing fears of a possible recession.

A key measure of the economy in the Austin metro area, called the Austin business-cycle index, grew at an annualized pace of 8.5% in July, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, a rate that has held largely steady since April but that previously hasn’t been reached since late 2015. The recent growth is well above a rate of 7.2% in July 2018 and the index’s long-term average of 6%.

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National Stories

New York Times - September 12, 2019

For military personnel, Trump’s Turnberry Hotel is ‘better than a tent’

The middle-aged golfers had finished their last single-malt whiskeys late one night this July, and the bartenders were closing up. Then a bus pulled up to the Trump Turnberry hotel on Scotland’s west coast with a load of new guests, several staff members said. The doormen, dressed in kilts with long feathers protruding from their berets, ushered in more than 50 uniformed American military service members.

After gawking at a fountain encircled by stone horses and classical statues, the troops piled their duffel bags around the table of orchids under the crystal chandeliers of the wood-paneled lobby, checked into their rooms and headed to the bar to begin ordering some whiskey of their own. Throughout President Trump’s term, officials said this week, the American military has been paying his money-losing Scottish golf resort to provide five-star accommodations to United States military flight crews and other personnel during refueling stops on trips to and from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and other locations.

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New York Times - September 12, 2019

Trump Administration rolls back clean water protections

The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal of a major Obama-era clean water regulation that had placed limits on polluting chemicals that could be used near streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.

The rollback of the 2015 measure, known as the Waters of the United States rule, adds to a lengthy list of environmental rules that the administration has worked to weaken or undo over the past two and a half years. Those efforts have focused heavily on eliminating restrictions on fossil fuel pollution, including coal-fired power plants, automobile tailpipes and oil and gas leaks, but have also touched on asbestos and chemical hazards like pesticides.

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Washington Post - September 13, 2019

Republican PAC runs debate ad comparing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to genocidal Khmer Rouge

The clip opens with ominous music and a portrait of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) bursting into flames to reveal a pile of skulls. “This is the face of socialism and ignorance,” the narrator intones. “Does Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez know the horror of socialism?”

The jarring ad, which aired on ABC during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston, compares the freshman Democrat’s support of democratic socialism to the communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia that killed nearly 2 million people in the 1970s. The spot, funded by a newly formed Republican PAC and narrated by a recently defeated California GOP candidate, prompted Ocasio-Cortez to accuse its producers of racism and critics to question why ABC approved the ad. (The network didn’t immediately respond to messages on Thursday night.)

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Washington Post - September 13, 2019

Trump’s proposals to tackle California homelessness face local, legal obstacles

President Trump’s emerging plan to address California’s homeless crisis includes ideas that have been tried unsuccessfully before, namely the mass housing of people living on the streets, and proposals that have been ruled illegal by federal courts.

The White House effort has taken state officials by surprise, as the president has shifted from criticizing California’s management of homelessness on social media to proposals that would insert the federal government directly into the crisis, including relocating homeless people living on the street and in tent camps to a federal facility. But the state’s growing homeless problem hasn’t been contained by similar policy initiatives in the past. It is an unusual crisis stemming in part from the state’s economic success and one where the lack of political will, rather than a lack of public resources, is often the primary obstacle to resolving it.

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Reuters - September 13, 2019

While battling opioid crisis, U.S. government weighed using fentanyl for executions

The U.S. Department of Justice examined using fentanyl in lethal injections as it prepared last year to resume executing condemned prisoners, a then untested use of the powerful, addictive opioid that has helped fuel a national crisis of overdose deaths.

The department revealed it had contemplated using the drug in a court filing last month, which has not been previously reported. In the end, it decided against adopting the drug for executions. Attorney General William Barr announced in July his department instead would use pentobarbital, a barbiturate, when it resumes federal executions later this year, ending a de facto moratorium on the punishment put in place by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

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US News and World Report - September 5, 2019

John Burgoyne: The case for electric scooters

The number of accidents and injuries tied to electric scooters has been increasing. According to Consumer Reports, at least 1,500 riders have been injured and eight have died in e-scooter related accidents since the vehicles were introduced in late 2017. E-scooters are part of the class of micromobility vehicles – light, affordable, slow transport options less reliant on gasoline. Other micromobility options include bikes, e-bikes and manual scooters, which by design should be safer than the 3,000-plus pound machines that speed alongside them.

Just as city governments introduced safeguards to protect their residents in the 1900s, modern city governments are stepping up to pave the way for e-scooters to be safer, more affordable, and better for the environment than cars. There are three promising strategies city governments are starting to use: listening to diverse perspectives, setting bold visions, and unlocking the mobility ecosystem. Portland, Oregon, for example, includes residents in every step of its e-scooter pilots and partners with providers equipped to meet its needs.

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Slate - September 12, 2019

Julián Castro is ready to fight (Joe Biden)

This was supposed to be the debate when the other leading candidates got to attack Joe Biden directly. But it was Julián Castro, the man currently running to be your next vice president, who launched the first flurry of blows against the front-runner.

“I want every single American family to have a strong Medicare plan available,” Castro started, in response to the now-traditional opening health care question. “If they choose to hold on to strong, solid private health insurance, I believe they should be able to do that. But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in. And I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. … Because Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered.”

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