Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report - Mobile

Newsclips - March 20, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - March 20, 2018

Package en route to Austin explodes at San Antonio-area FedEx plant, injuring one

One person was injured early Tuesday when a package exploded at a FedEx distribution center in Schertz, a suburb on the Northeast Side of San Antonio. The medium-sized package exploded around 12:25 a.m. while being conducted along a conveyor track, according to police. The package contained metal shrapnel and nails, and one victim was treated and released, according to the Schertz Police Department. Authorities say the package was en route to Austin, where there have been four other similar explosions this month. Two people have been killed in those explosions, including a 17-year-old boy, and several others have been injured.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

Ted Cruz under fire in Cambridge Analytica scandal; firm targeted voters with data from 50M Facebook users

Sen. Ted Cruz is under fire for his connections with a voter targeting firm that used data taken from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge. The Cruz presidential campaign touted its collaboration with Cambridge Analytica as a sign of a cutting edge run for the White House, allowing the Texan to carefully identify likely supporters. The firm shifted allegiance to Donald Trump once the Texan dropped out of the GOP primaries. Both campaigns pumped millions into the company, controlled by billionaire Robert Mercer — a key patron first of Cruz and then Trump in 2016.

Monmouth University - March 19, 2018

Public Troubled by ‘Deep State’

A majority of the American public believe that the U.S. government engages in widespread monitoring of its own citizens and worry that the U.S. government could be invading their own privacy. The Monmouth University Poll also finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a “Deep State” of unelected government officials. Americans of color on the center and left and NRA members on the right are among those most worried about the reach of government prying into average citizens’ lives. Just over half of the public is either very worried (23%) or somewhat worried (30%) about the U.S. government monitoring their activities and invading their privacy. There are no significant partisan differences – 57% of independents, 51% of Republicans, and 50% of Democrats are at least somewhat worried the federal government is monitoring their activities. Another 24% of the American public are not too worried and 22% are not at all worried.

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2018

State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s next criminal trial delayed until October

A federal judge has postponed state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s next criminal trial until Oct. 22. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra on Friday postponed the trial — which was scheduled to start May 7 — by more than five months at the request of lawyers for Lubbock businessman Vernon C. Farthing III, Uresti’s co-defendant. Uresti, 54, and Farthing, 45, are accused in a May indictment of conspiring with others from January 2006 through September 2016 to pay and accept bribes to secure a Reeves County Correctional Center medical services contract for Farthing’s company. They are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. ... A federal jury last month found Uresti guilty of 11 felony charges last month in connection with his involvement in a defunct San Antonio oil field company that defrauded investors.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Survey: Most Texans want the state to boost its school funding share

Most Texans support increasing funding for the state’s public schools, according to results of a survey released by the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium on Monday. The survey was based on the responses of about 500 registered voters that showed that 71 percent favored increasing the state‘s share of education funding to provide property tax relief. “The state’s financial contribution to public education has declined significantly over most of the last six to eight years, leaving local taxpayers to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden. It’s time for the state to step up and increase funding for public education,” said Lewisville school trustee Kristi Hassett in a consortium news release.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

UT Faculty approves resolution protesting removal of Fine Arts books

The University of Texas’ Faculty Council on Monday afternoon adopted a resolution objecting to the further removal of books, journals and other materials from the Fine Arts Library. In an unusually packed Faculty Council meeting, various faculty and students lined up to voice opposition to previous decisions to remove the materials and to describe how their research or ability to complete assignments has been stymied by the move. They repeatedly said UT officials essentially “dismantled” the fine arts library and expressed concern that the remaining collection on the fifth floor of the building is in jeopardy.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Regents raise tuition at UT by 2% in fall and again in ‘19

The governing board of the University of Texas on Monday granted the administration’s request to raise tuition and fees by 2 percent in the fall and another 2 percent in fall 2019. The two-step increase will bring average academic charges for full-time undergraduates from Texas to $10,818 for an academic year, assuming attendance in the fall and spring semesters. That is $420 more than the current average charges of $10,398. The UT System Board of Regents also voted to raise tuition and fees at the system’s 13 other academic and health campuses.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Father of Austin bombing victim is veteran of Texas state government

The father of one of the two men who were injured Sunday evening in an explosion in Southwest Austin is an administrator at the Texas Department of Agriculture and has worked at several state agencies, according to his LinkedIn profile. William A. “Butch” Grote Jr. is the chief information officer for Department of Agriculture. He has previously worked at the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Facilities Commission. His son Will Grote is in “good condition” at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the hospital said, after being injured during the fourth explosion to hit an Austin residential neighborhood this month.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

Texas topped the country in commercial real estate development in 2017

Last year, Texas was the top U.S. state for commercial real estate development contributions to the economy. With more than $24 billion in direct construction spending in Texas, the building sector contributed almost $59 billion to the state's economy, according to a new report by the NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The sector supports almost 380,000 jobs in the state, the new study finds. And Texas leads the country in warehouse and retail development. Only California has more office development than Texas, the NAIOP finds.

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2018

Texas prisons clean up debris after stormy weather

Stormy weather wreaked havoc on Huntsville-area prisons, knocking out the power and scattering debris. "There was some pretty healthy damage," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. "But there were no injuries, no offender movements." Units just north of the city - including Wynne and Estelle - were among the most heavily impacted. Although the storm knocked out power Sunday evening, backup generators kept the emergency lights running and electricity was back in all the units before noon, Desel said. But cleaning up the mess the storm left behind could take a little longer.

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2018

'Kind of over the top': Trump's plan to execute drug dealers sparks pushback, doubt in Texas

When President Donald Trump on Monday announced a controversial new opioid plan featuring the death penalty for drug dealers, the reaction was swift - even in Texas, the nation's most frequent executioner. After weeks of touting the need for more "toughness" in drug policy, Trump formally unveiled a three-pronged proposal in Manchester, N.H., a state particularly hard hit by the ongoing overdose epidemic. ... Some in the Texas legal community promptly panned the idea. "That's kind of over-the-top in my opinion," said former Harris County prosecutor Ted Wilson, who oversaw multiple death cases throughout his career. "I think that long sentences are appropriate for drug dealers, but the death penalty in my opinion just doesn't fit."

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2018

Amid budget crunch, TEA pushes for more special education funds

As the state of Texas wrestles with how to shore up its special education practices in an austere budget environment, the Texas Education Agency has suggested spending $126.8 million more on a corrective action plan than first recommended in January, according to a new draft plan released Monday evening. In a 42-page draft, TEA officials recommended spending $211.3 million over six years on monitoring school districts, identifying previously unidentified students who may be eligible for special education services, professional development for teachers and engaging special education parents. The TEA in January had released a 13-page draft corrective action plan, which officials said would be updated once they received more feedback from school districts, parents and disability advocates. That plan was estimated to cost about $84.5 million over six years.

Texas Tribune - March 19, 2018

Ramsey: For Texas Republicans, winning in November might mean outrunning Trump

Missed in all of the punditry about which Republican incumbents are in trouble because of possible blowback against Donald Trump: How’d those incumbents do when Trump was on the ballot? Several Texas legislators and members of Congress are in office only because they outperformed the president in the 2016 elections — some of them marking a path to political survival should Trump have the sort of midterm terrors that have plagued past presidents. In spite of Trump’s relative weakness on the 2016 ballot in Texas — the average statewide Republican candidate got 54.3 percent of the vote to Trump’s 52.2 percent — the Republicans who won office did so by doing better on Election Day than their top-of-ticket candidate.

Texas Tribune - March 19, 2018

Pulte: Texas needs a proven Mexican American studies curriculum

At January’s Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting, the purpose of agenda item #10 was to discuss statewide academic standards for the teaching of Mexican American Studies (MAS) in Texas public schools. Currently, MAS is taught across the state, but no statewide standards exist. A standardized curriculum would provide guidance for the significant number of MAS courses taught in Texas and for publishers to write textbooks according to these standards. Immediately following the testimony of several professors, teachers and experts, a cadre of SBOE members dismissed the preceding testimony and directed the conversation away from MAS standards to discuss “Latino Studies.” Born out of a history of political activism and a struggle for equity, MAS is a field that examines the historical and cultural contributions of indigenous, Mexican, and Mexican American peoples. In contrast, Latino Studies looks generally at the experiences of Hispanics in the U.S. A shift from MAS to Latino Studies would mean the civic engagement, activism and the transformative aspects of MAS would be lost.

Texas Observer - March 19, 2018

Swan Song

The Salineño Preserve is one of many wildlife sanctuaries — including better-known destinations like the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park — at grave risk if Trump’s wall is built as planned. The preserve’s tiny size and its location sandwiched between the river and the village mean that it could literally be wiped out. If the wall is built, it would at the very least cut off access to the riverside preserve. Potentially, it could be bulldozed entirely as part of a planned 150-foot enforcement zone. “When you start talking about the land that would have to be cleared, it’s all the way from the river to the town,” Ihne said. “This place wouldn’t exist anymore.”

Texas Observer - March 19, 2018

Investigation Finds Culprit in Panhandle ‘Chemical Drift’ Case, State Yet to Take Action

It’s been nearly two years since an errant blast of a dangerous chemical doused the tiny Panhandle town of Quitaque, but the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) hasn’t done a thing to punish the culprit. Last May, investigators with the state ag agency found that a local crop duster pilot was responsible for spraying paraquat, a toxic pesticide, on people, trees and gardens near the town of 387 people about an hour and a half southeast of Amarillo. In the meantime, at least one of the more than three dozen people exposed to what’s called “chemical drift” says the incident has forced her to pack up and move away. Last year, an Observer investigation found that Quitaque and other small towns surrounded by cotton farms are under siege by crop duster pilots who are hired by farmers to spray pesticides on fields to kill weeds and prepare the cotton plants for harvest.

City Stories

Washington Post - March 19, 2018

Scott: A serial bomber appears to be targeting Austin. President Trump has said nothing.

President Trump's lack of comment regarding the Austin bombings has not gone unnoticed. Austin authorities determined Monday that they are dealing with a “serial bomber” terrorizing the city after a Sunday night explosion had “similarities” with the three bombs that detonated in the Texas capital this month. The Washington Post previously reported: The explosive device Sunday adds to the uncertainty and tension in Austin, which has been on edge since previous bombings killed two people and injured two others, one seriously. Authorities have seemed at a loss to explain who could be setting off these devices or why, saying only that the bombs were sophisticated and that the attacks could have been motivated by racial bias, although they acknowledged that this is only a theory.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

Wall Street expert issues most dire warning to date that Dallas home values are 'overheating'

In its most dire warning yet about the rate of North Texas home price gains, Fitch Ratings says that home prices in the D-FW area are as much as 19 percent overstated. "The Dallas housing market has shown the most significant overheating in the last two years and is now 15 percent to 19 percent overvalued," Fitch managing director Grant Bailey said in a new report. "Overvalued markets are more likely to experience a slowdown in price growth, or a price correction." ... James Gaines, chief economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, said warnings by Fitch and other national analysts about the rate of D-FW home price growth are overstated. As long as the economy continues to grow, he doesn't believe North Texas' home values are out of whack.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

4th Austin bomb more sophisticated than others, leaves city on edge

The suspected serial bomber terrorizing Austin is more sophisticated than originally believed, but the motive behind the attacks remains a mystery, officials said Monday after a Sunday night explosion that wounded two men in Southwest Austin. The latest incident, the fourth attack in 17 days, signaled to law enforcement that the bomber or bombers have not relented in an effort to hurt or kill, leaving much of the city with an escalating sense of fear. It also demonstrated a new level of skill by the perpetrator in crafting explosives and marked an unsettling move toward apparently random attacks.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

4th Austin bomb more sophisticated than others, leaves city on edge

The suspected serial bomber terrorizing Austin is more sophisticated than originally believed, but the motive behind the attacks remains a mystery, officials said Monday after a Sunday night explosion that wounded two men in Southwest Austin. The latest incident, the fourth attack in 17 days, signaled to law enforcement that the bomber or bombers have not relented in an effort to hurt or kill, leaving much of the city with an escalating sense of fear. It also demonstrated a new level of skill by the perpetrator in crafting explosives and marked an unsettling move toward apparently random attacks.

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2018

Most of downtown now in federal historic district

Downtown San Antonio and the River Walk now can add another title: Federal Historic District. The new designation brings with it protections and incentives to ensure a future for venerable buildings and gathering spaces throughout downtown, and it may prompt more restoration projects, preservation experts said. The National Park Service added the district to the National Register of Historic Places last month, nearly 18 months after the Texas Historical Commission approved an application prepared by the city’s Office of Historic Preservation. The timing couldn’t be better: The city is celebrating its 300th birthday this year.

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2018

Developers benefit from city initiative that provides not-so-affordable housing

National developer NRP Group plans to build a $57 million apartment complex on the booming Broadway corridor, but it won’t pay one cent in property taxes through a new city initiative to promote affordable housing. Some housing advocates question whether San Antonio’s working class can stomach the complex’s rents of around $1,124 a month — $166 above the local average — and whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. “Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for market-rate units,” said Rod Radle, the former executive director of affordable housing nonprofit San Antonio Alternative Housing Corp.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Herman: Filling in the blanks on the Austin bombings

Confronted and confounded by the unknown, our minds rush to fill in the blanks. And in the sad mystery that shrouds the bombings that have frightened our city, the unknown far outweighs the known. To date, we know what our professional investigators want us to know as they go about the business of protection, prevention and prosecution. That’s as it should be. In these troubling days — as in every day — we depend on them. As they search for facts, the rest of us — because we’re humans — arrive at conclusions and surmises based on what we know, or think we know, about this most unfortunate chapter in Austin’s history and what we know about life on Earth in 2018.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

DMN: Bombs in Austin look a lot like terrorism, and they require us to be Texas Tough

We love you, Austin. Don't panic. That's our message to residents in the state capital, but we understand if that sentiment is less than satisfying for them. They're living with a chilling uncertainty since deadly explosions began rocking the city early this month. If ever there were a need for Texas toughness, it's in situations like this, when even the authorities seem to have little sense of who the enemy is. It's anyone's guess right now as to whether these are race-based hate crimes, twisted political ideology or random evil. But as Austin strives to remain steady, it's imperative that America's best counterterrorism specialists be engaged with, if not in charge of, this confounding investigation.

National Stories

Washington Post - March 19, 2018

Facebook’s rules for accessing user data lured more than just Cambridge Analytica

Facebook last week suspended the Trump campaign’s data consultant, Cambridge Analytica, for scraping the data of potentially millions of users without their consent. But thousands of other developers, including the makers of games such as FarmVille and the dating app Tinder, as well as political consultants from President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, also siphoned huge amounts of data about users and their friends, developing deep understandings of people’s relationships and preferences. Cambridge Analytica — unlike other firms that access Facebook’s user data — broke Facebook’s rules by obtaining the data under the pretense of academic use. But experts familiar with Facebook’s systems and policies say that the greater problem was that the rules for accessing the social network’s information trove were so loose in the first place.

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2018

Everything you need to know about the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook debacle

Late on Friday, Facebook made an unexpected announcement: The data firm Cambridge Analytica, hyped as integral to President Donald Trump's election, was suspended from the social network for using data collected improperly from Facebook users. It is a complicated issue that many people might have missed, given the timing of the announcement. With that in mind, here is an overview of the groups involved, what happened - and what it means. 1. What is Cambridge Analytica? Cambridge Analytica is a data firm that promises its customers insights into consumer or voter behavior. On the commercial side, that means tools like "audience segmentation" - breaking out advertising audiences into smaller groups - and then targeting advertisements to those groups on "multiple platforms."

Washington Post - March 19, 2018

Congressional negotiators work to finalize massive spending bill

Congressional negotiators raced Monday to finalize a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government running, with several thorny issues such as health care and immigration still unresolved ahead of an end-of-week deadline. The “omnibus” spending bill spreading billions across all agencies of government was supposed to be released Monday night to allow time for passage through the House and Senate before a government shutdown deadline at midnight Friday. But as evening arrived, bipartisan congressional leaders remained locked in negotiations on several issues, and the eleventh-hour wrangling carried the potential to delay the bill’s release.

Politico - March 19, 2018

Koch groups urge Trump to accept Democrats’ immigration deal

The Koch network has a rare message for President Donald Trump: Take the Democrats’ immigration deal. A trio of organizations supported by Charles and David Koch is urging Trump to accept congressional Democrats’ weekend offer, which would deliver $25 billion for a border wall and security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, according to officials in the Koch network. The White House was unwilling to accept the deal, instead offering Democrats a two-and-a-half-year extension of protections for so-called Dreamers facing deportation in return for wall money and dropping their demands for cuts to legal immigration.

Politico - March 19, 2018

Border wall Dreamers deal implodes

The White House and congressional Democrats traded immigration offers futilely over the weekend, according to three sources familiar with the talks, leaving little chance of an immediate deal to protect Dreamers. The White House on Sunday made an 11th-hour push to include billions of dollars in border wall funding in a massive congressional spending bill due this week, but it clashed with congressional Democrats over how far to go in protecting young immigrants who face deportation, the sources said.

The Hill - March 19, 2018

Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand

Democratic leaders are backing off of their demand that "Dreamer" protections be a part of the 2018 budget negotiations. While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders had hinged their support for last month’s budget caps deal on a commitment from Republicans to consider legislation salvaging the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, they’ve signaled they won’t hold a similar line heading into next week’s expected vote on an omnibus spending bill. The apparent change in strategy has angered immigrant rights advocates in and out of Congress, who want the minority Democrats to use their rare leverage on the omnibus government funding package — among the last must-pass bills of the year — to secure protections for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

Oppenheimer: How Mexican presidential candidate López Obrador could help Trump fire up his base

A joke making the rounds in Mexico says that President Donald Trump has become the de facto campaign manager of leftist populist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is leading in the polls for the July 1 presidential election. Knowingly or not, Trump gave a big boost to López Obrador on March 13, when the U.S. president visited the Mexican border in Southern California and said "there are some very good people" running for president in Mexico, and "some that aren't that good." Predictably, the banner headline in some of Mexico's leading newspapers the next day was "Trump says some Mexican candidates aren't that good." You didn't need to be a political scientist to guess that the U.S. president was referring to López Obrador, the most vocal Trump critic among Mexico's leading presidential hopefuls.

Associated Press - March 19, 2018

Court rulings boost Democrats' chances of retaking Congress

Boosting the Democrats' chances of retaking control of Congress in this fall's midterm elections, the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal panel on Monday rejected Republican challenges to a newly redrawn congressional map imposed on Pennsylvania by the state's high court. The federal courts dismissed requests to throw out or halt use of the new district map, which the state court drafted after ruling that the preexisting map violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. That earlier map, drawn by the GOP in 2011, is considered among the most gerrymandered in the nation. The pair of rulings Monday makes it highly likely that this year's congressional elections in Pennsylvania will be conducted under district lines widely viewed as more favorable to Democrats than the 2011 map.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Politico - March 19, 2018

The biggest Republican megadonor you’ve never heard of

Democrats and many Republicans in Illinois were horrified by the ad: a 60-second spot released by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s GOP primary challenger, Jeanne Ives, featuring a parade of politically incorrect takes on thorny cultural issues. A deep-voiced man portraying a transgender woman tells Rauner, “Thank you for signing legislation that lets me use the girls bathroom.” Then a young woman thanks Rauner for “making all Illinois families pay for my abortions.” But equally shocking to the content was the person who had made the ad possible: Richard Uihlein, a little-known Republican donor who had until recently been one of Rauner’s biggest supporters. After a fallout with the governor over abortion policy, Uihlein gave $2.5 million to Ives in a single week this past January — essentially bankrolling her campaign to defeat Rauner in a Republican primary on Tuesday.

Washington Post - March 19, 2018

Trump shakes up team of lawyers as legal threats mount

President Trump shook up his legal team Monday by hiring a combative former prosecutor who has publicly argued that Trump is the target of an elaborate FBI conspiracy — marking another confrontational move by the president against the rapidly mounting legal threats facing him and his administration. Joe diGenova, a TV pundit and former U.S. attorney who was a longtime antagonist of Bill and Hillary Clinton, is the latest addition to the sprawling array of lawyers assembled to represent Trump on two main fronts: in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and in the case of an adult film star who claims an adulterous affair. The hiring caught many of his advisers by surprise, prompting fears that Trump is preparing for bigger changes to his legal team — including possible departures — as he goes on the offensive in the primary legal challenges facing him.

Washington Post - March 19, 2018

Marcus: Trump had senior staff sign nondisclosure agreements. They’re supposed to last beyond his presidency.

Back in April 2016, when the notion of Donald Trump in the White House still seemed fanciful, The Post’s Robert Costa and Bob Woodward sat down with Trump, and Costa, at one point, raised the subject of the nondisclosure agreements for employees of which the candidate was so fond. Costa: “One thing I always wondered, are you going to make employees of the federal government sign nondisclosure agreements?” Trump: “I think they should. .?.?. And I don’t know, there could be some kind of a law that you can’t do this. But when people are chosen by a man to go into government at high levels and then they leave government and they write a book about a man and say a lot of things that were really guarded and personal, I don’t like that. I mean, I’ll be honest. And people would say, oh, that’s terrible, you’re taking away his right to free speech. Well, he’s going in.”

New York Times - March 19, 2018

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys

Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children. White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.

New York Times - March 19, 2018

Shrage: How to Talk About Abortion

When moral philosophers and others take up an issue that is at the center of public debate, we tend to frame it as a matter of individual ethics. Is it morally permissible to eat meat? To offer money for sex? To have an abortion? Yet, such questions often fail to focus on the issues that are important and relevant for public policy and, as a result, can derail productive public debate. The problem is that questions like these oversimplify the issues. Consider, for instance, that “abortion” is really an umbrella term for a number of different medical procedures — appropriate for different stages of pregnancy — each with significantly different health risks. Abortion is first and foremost a medical service or procedure, not an individual action, and thus a more important and relevant question for public policy is, Under what circumstances, or for what reasons, should a government prohibit properly trained medical professionals from performing an abortion? This is a question that fellow citizens can productively debate, and that may lead to a consensus.

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2018

Dallas-based Lantern Capital is buying The Weinstein Co.

Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners has agreed to purchase The Weinstein Co. as part of the movie studio's bankruptcy filing late Monday. Lantern Capital co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic are making their first investment in the movie business by agreeing to continue to operate The Weinstein Co. as a going concern. The movie company has estimated assets of $225 million, including a 277-film library and the television show Project Runway. The agreement is pending the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. The Weinstein Co. board selected Lantern in part due to Lantern's commitment to maintain the assets and employees versus selling off the company's assets.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

DMN: Housing bias persists in America, but you wouldn't know it from HUD's proposed mission statement

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has two key missions: promoting housing opportunities and ending discrimination that undermines those opportunities. And these goals have withstood the test of time as core principles through Republican and Democratic administrations alike. With that history, it makes no sense that HUD chief Ben Carson is considering replacing explicit anti-discrimination language in HUD's mission statement with only a vague reference to fairness. It's like a police department promising to serve but not protect. Both are needed. The revised mission statement, still in draft form, would strike the powerful words to "build inclusive communities free from discrimination" in favor of the weaker phrase "to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation." The message many civil rights and housing groups are drawing is that HUD will step away from its role of opposing bias.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Wear: Austin bombings, D.C. area sniper attacks and everyday terror

At first, just as with the initial bombing in Austin, police, the press and the public in the Washington, D.C. area did not grasp what the sniper shooting of a 55-year-old man at a discount store portended. A bullet cut through the window of a Michael’s craft store in Aspen Hill, Md., a couple of miles north of the Beltway, just after 5 p.m. on Oct. 2, 2002, hitting no one. Then, an hour later in nearby Wheaton, James Martin, a federal worker, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse. Interesting, newsworthy and undoubtedly a tragedy for Martin’s family and friends, but not something that immediately gripped the public’s attention in that time before social media.

Bloomberg - March 18, 2018

Trump Approval Ticks Up Yet New Poll Shows No Coattails for GOP

U.S. voters by a growing margin prefer that Democrats control Congress after November’s mid-term elections, even as President Donald Trump’s job approval rating is rising, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Half of registered voters surveyed said they favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a Republican-controlled one. The 10-point edge is up from a six-point lead for Democrats in January. The president’s approval rating rose to 43 percent, also up four points from January, driven by gains among Republicans, white men and independents.

Newsclips - March 19, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - March 18, 2018

Fikac: Abbott ‘needs to make amends’ if he wants his agenda to succeed, fellow Republican says

Gov. Greg Abbott called for peace in the GOP after he was through attacking some of his fellow Republicans, but it’s going to take more than that to smooth things over. “I truly believe the governor needs to make amends with folks in the House if he expects to get his agenda through,” said Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, who was among Republicans targeted by Abbott in the primary election. “Somewhere, a bunch of humility needs to fall. … He has a few admirers in the House, but the lion’s share of the people are not impressed with his leadership style.” If there were any doubts about the hard feelings, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, put them to rest by throwing a one-two punch Abbott’s way over the bathroom bill publicly supported by the governor and a business development fund Abbott oversees.

NBC News - March 18, 2018

Democrats hold double-digit lead for 2018 midterm elections

Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage over Republicans in congressional preference for the 2018 midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump's job approval rating has ticked up, the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one. That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party's 6-point edge in January's NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49 percent to 43 percent, though the change is within the poll's margin of error.

The Hill - March 18, 2018

Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules

The Trump administration is putting pressure on Senate Republicans to crack down on Democratic efforts to delay its agenda, fueling talk about the need for rules reform among Republicans on Capitol Hill. Republicans are in discussions with Democrats about bipartisan changes to Senate rules to speed up consideration of President Trump’s judicial and executive branch nominees, but if that effort flounders — as similar ones have in the past — they’re not ruling out unilateral action. White House patience with the Senate’s backlog of nominees is wearing out, as Vice President Mike Pence made clear during a private meeting with the Senate GOP Conference on Tuesday, according to lawmakers who attended the discussion.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Is AT&T a digital underdog? A judge will weigh the Dallas giant against Netflix, Amazon in merger battle

When Dallas-based AT&T faces off with the Justice Department next week over its planned merger with Time Warner, the fight won’t be about just a business deal. For the company, it will be a fight for its piece of the future. The giant telecom, with roots that stretch back to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1876, finds itself at another pivotal moment in its history. The ground is shifting in its businesses. Growth in the wireless market has slowed, and pricing has been under pressure in a world where smartphones are commonplace. Customers have new ways to watch TV without a cable box or satellite dish. And tech companies born in the digital age are increasingly treading on AT&T’s turf.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Even in reliably red Texas, cannabis entrepreneurs expect some green soon

As state after state loosens laws on the sale of marijuana, a whole industry has sprung up to serve the fast-growing market for cannabis and related products. Even in Texas, which hasn’t legalized marijuana, some entrepreneurs are planting their flags early, wagering that the Lone Star State will one day have its own “green rush.” For legal reasons, they operate mainly on the periphery of the industry. But there’s plenty of business to be had — selling everything from cannabis oil tinctures to the flooring used in greenhouses that grow marijuana. Along with the typical challenges of any business, companies that work in the cannabis industry in Texas must navigate conflicting state and federal laws, risk backlash from banks and state agencies, and overcome the stigma of selling a product that some consider dangerous or taboo.

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2018

Schnurman: Visa shortage means more Texans may be mowing their own lawns this summer

Mark Hoffman has been running a landscaping company for three decades, enduring through booms and busts. Now several of his five trucks sit idle, he’s turning down new business and he may have to drop some of his 300 customers. The problem? Coppell Lawn and Garden can’t hire enough workers — primarily because it got shut out by the federal government. Since 2008, Hoffman’s company has recruited landscape workers through the H-2B visa program, which allows foreigners to work here for seasonal stints. They usually arrive from Mexico in early April and head home at the end of November. For 2018, Hoffman requested 10 visas, the same number he received in the past. But he got none, largely because nationwide demand outstripped supply by 3-to-1.

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2018

Aga Khan arrives to meet with thousands of Ismaili Muslims in Texas

Greeted by an honor guard from Texas A&M University and a brass band from Houston, the Aga Khan arrived in the Houston area Sunday to celebrate his 60th year as the spiritual leader to nearly 20 million Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims worldwide. For Ismaili Muslims in Texas, the visit is a once-in-a-decade event to celebrate and give thanks to the leader they say is personally responsible for their spiritual and material livelihood. He will be in Houston through March 22. "He really cares for all of us," said Farrukh Valliani of Irving. "We're really fortunate that we're going through this experience." Valliani and thousands of other North Texas Ismailis have been working around the clock to prepare for the Aga Khan's visit since it was announced in late February.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Amazon taps health information expert with Texas connection to lead health tech business

Amazon has tapped a former chief of health informatics for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who went to school in Texas to serve in a role focused on health care projects. Dr. Taha Kass-Hout, will work in a business development role, according to a report from CNBC citing a source with knowledge of the hire. Kass-Hout’s online profile says he holds a master of science in biostatistics in epidemiology and a doctor of medicine from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Mex-tech showcase at SXSW turns attention to country's rising startup scene

One company uses drones to root out a fungus affecting a banana crop and alerts farmers about what their fields need. Another one built an app that lets you unlock your front door with your phone. And a third is paying people who put down their phones at school, work or behind the wheel. These companies and 11 others were part of Mexico’s trade show at the annual South by Southwest Festival in Austin this week, all with the same goal: showing the U.S. that Mexico is a budding innovation and technology hub.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Texas newspaper removed same-sex couple from obit for 'religious and ethical reasons'

A same-sex couple in Dallas is accusing a newspaper of discrimination after it removed one of their names from a family member's obituary. Barry Giles and John Gambill said the newspaper in Olton cited "religious and ethical" reasons for removing Gambill's name from Giles' mother's obituary last month, according to a report from KDFW-TV (Channel 4). Brenda Light, who was from Olton, just north of Lubbock, moved to Dallas to be close to Giles and his husband. After she passed away suddenly on Feb. 14, Giles sent her obituary to the Olton Enterprise for it to be published in her hometown.

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2018

HC: Congress should stop Trump’s trade war

Look at what’s sitting on the docks and in the lots around the Port of Houston. We all know that energy and medicine are central to our city’s economy, but most Houstonians don’t realize how much we have riding on steel. Our port handled 3.7 million tons of steel last year, more than any other port on the continent. Steel imports and exports jumped 68 percent from the year before, when low oil prices led to drops in demand. The energy industry relies heavily on foreign steel and aluminum producers; it’s estimated that about 10 percent of what independent oil and gas producers spend on their projects is related to steel. ... U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Houston, led more than 100 House Republicans who signed a letter urging President Trump to reconsider his broad tariffs and focus specifically on “China’s unfair practices” in international trade. That may have influenced the president’s decision to temporarily exempt Canada and Mexico, but that concession doesn’t go far enough.

Houston Chronicle - March 18, 2018

Grieder: Texans Republican can’t coast to victory this year

Many Republicans across the country were relieved by the results of this year’s Texas primary, which was held on March 6. The GOP already had plenty of reasons to be worried about the 2018 midterm elections. And since then, the party’s prospects have only become more bleak. “Crazy day in D.C. apparently,” I said the other day, while chatting with my dad via text. “Are you referring to the subpoena?” he said. I hadn’t even heard about a subpoena. I figured it must have had something to do with Stormy Daniels. The following day, a colleague explained that the subpoena in question came from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and we ended up briefly puzzling over whether it’s possible, hypothetically speaking, to accidentally commit treason. After that I checked my phone, and found a text from a Republican source.

Texas Tribune - March 19, 2018

Here's a look at who's interested in replacing Straus as House speaker

In October, House Speaker Joe Straus announced he wouldn't be running for re-election in 2018 — a move likely to shake up Texas politics for years. "I believe that in a representative democracy, those who serve in public office should do so for a time, not for a lifetime. And so I want you to know that my family and I have decided that I will not run for re-election next year," Straus said in a campaign email at the time. Straus' announcement immediately set off a scramble among members who are considering replacing him at the chamber's dais. Within hours, several members announced an interest in the seat. Since then, the number of potential contenders has continued to rise. And in early March, Flower Mound Republican Tan Parker became the third House member to file with the Texas Ethics Commission as a contender for the dais.

Texas Tribune - March 19, 2018

UT System regents will consider raising tuition Monday

Attending college is set to become slightly more expensive for undergraduates at all eight of the University of Texas System’s academic institutions. The system’s Board of Regents will on Monday consider upping the cost of tuition and fees at each college they oversee by up to 8.5 percent for in-state undergraduates. Most schools have proposed increases in the 1 percent to 7 percent range, which, if approved, would add hundreds of additional dollars to students’ tuition bills. The hikes range from 0.1 percent for in-state undergraduates at the University of Texas at San Antonio to 8.5 percent for students at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. The new rates would be in place for the fall 2018 semester, with another increase set to take effect the following academic year.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - March 16, 2018

Staples: Tariffs affect Texas' role in U.S. energy dominance

American energy dominance isn’t just a catchy slogan. It is here and has distinctly been made possible by Texans. Texas leads the nation in oil and natural gas production, pipeline miles and refining capacity, all of which bolster our nation’s energy security. America’s position as a global energy leader — and Texas’ contribution to maintaining that position — are directly impacted by federal policies like trade agreements and tariffs. Federal initiatives like tax reform and a renewed commitment to science-based regulations encourage expanded oil and natural gas investments and create good jobs for Texans. However, a recent decision to impose federal tariffs on imported steel and aluminum is a step in the wrong direction. Those tariffs will increase costs and threaten jobs across the oil and natural gas sector.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - March 18, 2018

Officials increase reward to $115,000 for info on bombings

Austin police on Sunday announced a $50,000 increase to the reward offered in exchange for any information leading to the arrest of the bomber behind three recent deadly explosions. The increase, on top of $15,000 being offered by Gov. Greg Abbott and the $50,000 reward offered by police last week, brings the total reward amount to $115,000. Police also said that they believe the incidents were intended to send a message and continued pleadings for any information from the community.

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2018

Two injured in Southwest Austin explosion in good condition

The two males injured in an explosion in Southwest Austin on Sunday evening are in good condition, officials from St. David’s South Austin Medical Center reported. In addition, nearby Regents High School is on a two hour delay Monday morning for a security sweep. Mayor Steve Adler said late Sunday that he will ensure law enforcement officials have appropriate resources for the case. “This city will do everything to ensure law enforcement has everything they need,” he said.

Austin American-Statesman - March 18, 2018

Police: Man held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect

Austin police have ruled out a man charged with making a SXSW bomb threat as a suspect in a string of recent deadly bombings in East Austin that began March 2. “We do not believe he is involved in the string of package bombs,” Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said Sunday. “We looked into him and we are not thinking he is involved in this.” Police on Saturday night arrested Trevor Weldon Ingram, 26, and charged him with making a terroristic threat, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Austin American-Statesman - March 16, 2018

School finance commission to seek public input at Monday meeting

Members of the public will have a chance Monday to weigh in on how the Legislature should fix the way the state funds public schools. Scott Brister, head of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, which is tasked with providing recommendations to lawmakers by year’s end, said that no other opportunities have been set to allow people to testify before the panel. He said he hopes for input on how to make the school funding system more efficient. “The finance system is constitutionally tied to efficient school systems, so ideas for making sure every dollar improves student achievement is what we are looking for,” he said.

National Stories

Associated Press - March 18, 2018

AP Exclusive: Kushner Cos. filed false NYC housing paperwork

When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents and turning a tidy profit. But that's exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50 percent more than it paid. Now a clue has emerged as to how President Donald Trump's son-in-law's firm was able to move so fast: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Reuters - March 18, 2018

Exclusive: Sources contradict Sessions' testimony he opposed Russia outreach

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony that he opposed a proposal for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team to meet with Russians has been contradicted by three people who told Reuters they have spoken about the matter to investigators with Special Counsel Robert Mueller or congressional committees. Sessions testified before Congress in November 2017 that he “pushed back” against the proposal made by former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos at a March 31, 2016 campaign meeting. Then a senator from Alabama, Sessions chaired the meeting as head of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. “Yes, I pushed back,” Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 14, when asked whether he shut down Papadopoulos’ proposed outreach to Russia. Sessions has since also been interviewed by Mueller.

Washington Post - March 18, 2018

Phillips: The top 10 House races of 2018

The votes from Tuesday's special congressional election in Pennsylvania are still being counted, but Democrats have already won the psychological battle. At the very least, they came close to winning a district President Trump won by 20 points. Democrats' stunningly strong performance deep in Trump country can't be ignored as we look to November's midterm elections, where all 435 House seats are up for reelection. Voter enthusiasm, polling and high-profile GOP retirements indicate the House majority is up for grabs. If Democrats win back the House for the first time in eight years, they'll do it by winning in districts like the 10 below. Nine of our 10 House races most likely to flip parties this November belong to Republicans, and they span the country.

CNN - March 18, 2018

Mueller's team interviewed McCabe, asked about Comey's firing

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team interviewed former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and asked about the firing of FBI Director James Comey, a source briefed on the matter confirmed to CNN. The source would not say when the interview, first reported by Axios, occurred. Mueller also has memos written by McCabe documenting his conversations with President Donald Trump, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. The memos also detail what Comey told McCabe about his own interactions with Trump while he was FBI director, the source said, and are seen as a way to corroborate Comey's account in Mueller's probe on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Hill - March 17, 2018

Strange: Former FBI agent: If Mueller is to preserve his integrity, he must step aside

It was painful to witness. One of our own — a deputy FBI director no less — was fired barely a day or two away from retirement and a certain pension. And now Andrew McCabe faces possible federal charges for lying to other federal agents, charges that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller knows all too well and is wielding with great effect in the Russian collusion case. Still, I wonder about Mueller. McCabe, Peter Strzok and James Comey all are public servants who former FBI Director Mueller mentored, supervised or knew well. It has got to be hugely disappointing for Mueller to stand by and watch the people who he managed, who worked for and were loyal to him, and who he was fond of become a part of this train wreck. As a former supervisor, Mueller is accountable for those people he supervised — for the good and the bad. How does he feel about it? We don’t know. He remains mute.

Dallas Morning News - March 14, 2018

Leubsdorf: On handling Tillerson, Korea and tariffs, Trump remains true to his style

Anyone who was surprised by the unilateral way President Donald Trump decided to invoke steel tariffs, meet with North Korea's leader or sack his secretary of state hasn't been listening. After all, Trump signaled how he'd operate when he was asked two years ago whom he consults for foreign policy advice. "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things," Trump said in a March 2016 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I know what I'm doing, and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people," he continued. "But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff."

NPR - March 16, 2018

Immigration Advocates Warn ICE Is Retaliating For Activism

Activists across the country say they are being targeted by federal immigration authorities for speaking out at protests and accusing the government of heavy-handed tactics. The Trump administration has warned that anyone in the country illegally could be arrested and deported under tough new enforcement rules. And federal officials deny allegations of retaliation. But the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups say they have documented two dozen cases of immigrant activists and volunteers who say they have been arrested or face fines for their work.

The Hill - March 17, 2018

5 claims McCabe made after being fired

Says Trump asked whom he voted for, called wife a ‘loser’ -- McCabe said the president did ask him whether he voted for Trump in 2016, contradicting Trump's previous denials of past news reports. McCabe, who told ABC he “voted for every Republican candidate for president in every election” previously, said he did not vote in 2016. But he said his decision not to vote was not motivated by Trump's candidacy or by his wife running as a Democrat in Virginia. McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, received political donations from then-Virginia governor and Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe (D) during her bid for state office in 2015, which has been an ongoing source of conflict between McCabe and Trump.

CBS News - March 17, 2018

Democrats tell fired former FBI deputy direcor Andrew McCabe they'll offer him a job

Democrats on Twitter are offering former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe jobs, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the 49-year-old two days before he was set to retire. It's unclear what if McCabe will get his pension, but it's possible the pension could be protected if he is rehired by someone in the federal government. McCabe was fired after FBI officials recommended that he do so, but Mr. Trump's intense criticism of McCabe and the FBI during the special counsel's Russia investigation has concerned Democrats and some Republicans. McCabe called his firing a part of the administration's "war" on the FBI. CBS News' Paula Reid has reported McCabe kept memos documenting his conversations with the president, and those memos are in the possession of special counsel Robert Mueller. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, said he needs a lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee to deal "with threats to the Constitution and the rule of law in America."

Politico - March 18, 2018

Obamacare insurers just had their best year ever — despite Trump

Obamacare is no longer busting the bank for insurers. After three years of financial bloodletting under the law — and despite constant repeal threats and efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle it — many of the remaining insurers made money on individual health plans for the first time last year, according to a POLITICO analysis of financial filings for 29 regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, often the dominant player in their markets. The biggest reason for the improvement is simple: big premium spikes. The Blue plans increased premiums by more than 25 percent on average in 2017, meaning many insurers charged enough to cover their customers’ medical costs for the first time since the Affordable Care Act marketplaces launched in 2014 with robust coverage requirements.

New York Times - March 16, 2018

Schierenbeck: A Billionaire and a Nurse Shouldn’t Pay the Same Fine for Speeding

For people living on the economic margins, even minor offenses can impose crushing financial obligations, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration for nonpayment. In Ferguson, Mo., for example, a single $151 parking violation sent a black woman struggling with homelessness into a seven-year odyssey of court appearances, arrest warrants and jail time connected to her inability to pay. ... Other places have saner methods. Finland and Argentina, for example, have tailored fines to income for almost 100 years. The most common model, the “day fine,” scales sanctions to a person’s daily wage. A small offense like littering might cost a fraction of a day’s pay. A serious crime might swallow a month’s paycheck. Everyone pays the same proportion of their income. For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness.

Dallas Morning News - March 13, 2018

Schnurman: AT&T, Time Warner really need each other to take on Netflix, Google and Amazon

It’s not surprising that AT&T and Time Warner say their merger would benefit consumers and competition, especially with their antitrust trial starting next week. But they also insist the business combination is vital to each of them, even while they generate billions in profit. In a lengthy court filing on Friday, they reeled off a host of shortcomings, from AT&T’s decline in TV subscribers to Time Warner’s lack of customer contacts. And they said the way forward is together. “For AT&T, the future of video lies in its wireless network, and the future of its wireless network lies in video,” the filing said.

Politico - March 18, 2018

Putin claims victory in presidential vote

Vladimir Putin secured a fourth presidential term on Sunday in a landslide election victory, according to state exit polls, amid reports of widespread pressure on voters and a crackdown on the opposition. Exit polls showed Putin winning 74 percent of the vote, while his nearest rival, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, was projected to take just over 11 percent. “We will think of the future of our great motherland, of the future of our children,” Putin told a victory rally near Red Square, before leading a flag-waving crowd in a sustained chant of “Russia! Russia!”

Miami Herald - March 18, 2018

Fearing deportation under Trump, these immigrants prepare to become untraceable

The lack of an immigration solution by Congress has generated uncertainty among those with DACA, also known as “Dreamers,” as well as those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and those without legal status. As a result, many undocumented immigrants or those who could lose their legal protection, have started to move to other neighborhoods or cities, close bank accounts and register their vehicles, houses and even businesses in the names of others. ... Now many living in limbo cling to the hope of comprehensive immigration reform, which would not only protect DACA beneficiaries, but possibly include other immigrant groups, such as those with TPS and those without papers. Meanwhile, around the country, desperate families are taking steps to hide and protect their children in case they are deported.

Newsclips - March 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - March 17, 2018

After McCabe firing, Trump attacks FBI, and his lawyer says Russia probe must end

President Trump escalated his assault on federal law enforcement agencies Saturday while one of his attorneys argued that the controversial firing of a top FBI official was reason to end the Justice Department special counsel’s expansive Russia investigation. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions acted late Friday night on Trump’s publicly stated wishes to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe — just hours before he was set to retire with full benefits — the president celebrated the ouster as a triumph that exposed “tremendous leaking, ­lying and corruption” throughout law enforcement. The move emboldened Mc­Cabe, who said in a public statement that his dismissal was a deliberate effort to slander him and part of an “ongoing war” against the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Politico - March 18, 2018

FEC probes whether NRA got illegal Russian donations

The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the National Rifle Association that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe. The inquiry stems in part from a complaint from a liberal advocacy group, the American Democracy Legal Fund, which asked the FEC to look into media reports about links between the rifle association and Russian entities, including a banker with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. A spokesman for the NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which together contributed $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign, declined to comment on the FEC’s probe.

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2018

Untermeyer: Abbott’s failed purge has a long political history

Gov. Greg Abbott’s failure in last week’s Republican primary to defeat two GOP state representatives who displeased him — Sarah Davis of Houston and Lyle Larson of San Antonio — brings to mind another failed “purge” exactly 80 years ago. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opposed the renomination of three conservative Democratic senators who, among other sins, had fought his plan the previous year to enlarge and thereby “pack” the Supreme Court with liberal justices. Despite FDR’s intervention in their races, the three senators — Walter George of Georgia, “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina and Millard Tydings of Maryland — all won their primaries and subsequent elections. This stinging rebuke came less than two years after Roosevelt won re-election himself by one of the greatest landslides in U.S. history. Even a friendly Roosevelt biographer, James MacGregor Burns, had to admit that “Roosevelt’s political fortunes reached the lowest point of his presidency” after these embarrassing defeats.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - March 16, 2018

North Texas needs a voice on roads

As the traffic in North Texas weaves its way through a forest of traffic cones, or sits in a long line waiting for a backup to unclog, it seems even more crucial for the region to have a strong advocate on the powerful Texas Transportation Commission. Unfortunately, we don’t. It’s been more than a month since Victor Vandergriff, an Arlington businessman and Fort Worth resident, stepped down from the five-member commission after clashing with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over how to pay for highway expansions. Vandergriff has said he wasn’t forced to step down, but he clearly supported having managed lanes mixed into the freeway system because the tolls those roads raised helped pay for, and speed along, projects that were needed to keep the region’s population going down the road.

Austin American-Statesman - March 16, 2018

MeToo movement building pressure for Legislature to act

The #MeToo movement has given victims of sexual violence and harassment a powerful voice, one that is already building pressure for action when the Legislature kicks off its 86th session in January. Spurred by the influential social media movement, lawmakers and advocates are dusting off old ideas that failed to gain passage in previous sessions, such as creating a harsher criminal penalty for groping, making it easier to enforce judge-issued protective orders and clarifying the role of consent in sexual assault laws. New ideas are also being kicked around, such as limiting nondisclosure agreements for out-of-court sexual harassment settlements — a situation that has allowed serial harassers and abusers to remain in leadership positions in government and the private sector, free to target additional victims.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Beto O'Rourke agrees with Bill Maher: Ted Cruz is a 'giant a--hole'

In an HBO appearance Friday, El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke didn’t call Texas Sen. Ted Cruz a “giant a--hole.” He just agreed with late-night host Bill Maher, who described Cruz as one. The exchange occurred during O’Rourke’s roughly 10-minute interview with the host of Real Time with Bill Maher, as the Democrat hoping to defeat the powerhouse Republican in a closely watched Senate race described his decision to refuse money from political action committees. “In this campaign, we have outraised Ted Cruz by well more than $1 million without taking money from PACs. All people, human beings,” O’Rourke said, prompting applause from the audience.

Dallas Morning News - March 17, 2018

Dallas to be site for Koch-funded, Trump-backed study on inmates' re-entry to society

Backed by the White House and boosted by $4 million from the Charles Koch Foundation, a new way to introduce former inmates back into society will soon be tested in Dallas. "Safe Streets and Second Chances," a randomized prison re-entry pilot program, will measure how to reduce recidivism and lower costs by providing former offenders with individually tailored services to help keep them from falling back into a life of crime. The study will roll out April 16 and last 15 months. About 1,100 former inmates exiting 40 prisons across four states, including Florida, Louisiana and Texas, will be enrolled. In Texas, the program will be tested in Hood and Hunt counties in addition to Dallas.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

DMN: Federal Family First Act could help vulnerable Texas kids - but only if the state quits dragging its feet

The fine-print details were all but drowned out amid last month's partisan budget fight, obscured by the drama of a brief government shutdown. But buried in the budget Congress finally passed and the president signed into law, there's a groundbreaking shift in the way our nation treats its most vulnerable children. The Family First Prevention Services Act could have a profound impact on the lives of Texas kids living in abusive or unsafe homes. But for that impact to translate to real improvement, the state must address child welfare with a renewed sense of speed and urgency. Family First passed with bipartisan support and is welcomed by a wide spectrum of respected child advocacy organizations. In technical terms, it's a complicated maze of funding mechanisms and rules under which federal dollars are deployed to support individual states' child-welfare programs.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Federal judge dismisses tea party group Empower Texans' request for protection from prosecution

A federal judge dismissed a civil rights lawsuit Friday by the conservative group Empower Texans, ruling that there wasn't a legitimate threat the group would be prosecuted. The tea party group sued on Feb. 28 to prevent Attorney General Ken Paxton and the district attorneys of Travis, Tarrant and Midland counties from launching a criminal investigation into its use of a fictitious entity, the "Texas Ethics Disclosure Board," during the primary election season. Representatives from Empower Texans said they plan to keep using the name and claimed the fear of prosecution "has had a chilling effect on [their] speech," a violation of the group's First Amendment rights.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Firms tied to Florida bridge collapse have numerous projects in Texas

Two companies involved with the design and construction of the Florida bridge that collapsed Thursday, killing at least six people, have also worked on several projects throughout Texas, including at Dallas Love Field. Florida-based Munilla Construction Management lists seven North Texas projects on its website, mostly roadway work throughout Dallas, Denton and Collin counties. Texas is the only state where the family-owned company has a U.S. regional office, which opened in Irving in 2011 and is managed by Luis Munilla. Munilla Construction's Texas projects include work on the tarmac, a runway and taxiways at Love Field as part of the airport’s modernization program earlier this decade.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Poverty, income gaps hit Hispanic women harder than any other group

Some data points are profoundly disturbing, even if you had long feared that they might be true. That is the case with a report recently released by the Dallas Women's Foundation and the Institute for Women's Policy Research that found that Hispanic women are locked in poverty in our area in stunning ways and at shocking rates. The report found that women in general earn far less than men in Collin, Denton, and Dallas counties but that Hispanic women lag so far behind in these counties that they appeared unable to break free of the bonds of poverty. In fact, the report finds that Hispanic women in these counties are likely to be worse off than other women in all three counties and experience the deepest economic misery in Dallas County.

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2018

Blue Cross, Texas Health contract negotiations leave patients anxious yet again

When Michelle Cook received a call from her primary care physician’s office Wednesday urging her to move an annual physical up two weeks earlier than scheduled, she was taken by surprise. She was told that if she didn’t have her preventive care visit completed before the end of March — before the April 6 date she had originally planned — she might not be able to get it done at all, at least, not at that physician’s office. Or she might have to pay the full cost, out-of-pocket. Cook’s primary care doctor is part of Texas Health Resources, one of North Texas' largest provider groups. But Texas Health is in yet another dispute with the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, over a 15-month contract that is slated to end on March 31.

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2018

Texas open-government advocates look to 2019 to improve transparency

Open government advocates are spending the year ahead of the 2019 legislative session rallying allies to restore access to public information lost after a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling. That year, the court ruled in Boeing v. Paxton that information that could help a business’ competitor cannot be made public, even if that company enters into an agreement with a governmental entity that involves taxpayer money. Local government officials have broadly used the ruling to block from the public access to contracts and information about people seeking publicly funded jobs.

Austin American-Statesman - March 14, 2018

Clayton: Keep politics out of effective teen pregnancy prevention

Despite immense gains made in teen pregnancy prevention across the country in recent years, a baby is still born to a teen mom every 18 minutes in Texas. While young mothers can thrive, we know the odds are stacked against them. Research shows that teen parents are more likely to drop out of high school and live in poverty compared to their peers who delay childbearing by even a few years. The obstacles are multigenerational, as children of teen parents are more likely to enter the child welfare system, struggle in school and become teen parents themselves. Given those facts, we need to be working hard to provide adolescents with the information and tools they need to delay pregnancy. Instead, the federal government is making those resources harder to get.

Austin American-Statesman - March 16, 2018

Ken Paxton: Elgin, Galena Park schools illegally endorsed Scott Milder

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent two more cease and desist letters to school districts — Elgin and Galena Park — on Friday, saying officials at those districts had used school resources illegally to advocate for the election of Scott Milder, who ran against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the March 6 Republican primary. Last month, Paxton sent cease-and-desist letters to Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville districts, also saying that those school districts had illegally used school resources to electioneer. “Spending taxpayer dollars on advocating for or against political candidates is unacceptable,” Paxton said in a news release Friday. “It erodes public trust in our schools and, more importantly, diverts taxpayer funds from their intended purpose—enabling educators to provide the youth of Texas the education and skills they need to succeed in life and fully participate in our democracy.”

Austin American-Statesman - March 18, 2018

Why Cornyn’s modest gun bill has stalled despite bipartisan support

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has managed to thread a needle in the gun debate, authoring a modest bill that has garnered broad bipartisan support in the Senate. But the measure, which would enforce an existing background check system for gun purchases, hasn’t come up for a vote, despite its 72 co-sponsors. After the church shooting in Sutherland Springs last year, Cornyn sought to address a reporting lapse that allowed the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, to purchase an assault-style weapon despite being convicted of assaulting his wife and stepson while on active duty in the Air Force.

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2018

PolitiFact: Cruz’s campaign song misses a beat on facts

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas debuted a song the night of the Texas primaries that set Cruz on course to face Beto O’Rourke on the November ballot. It’s not a love song. The ditty portrays O’Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso in the U.S. House, as a liberal who’s unelectable in Texas. To the tune of Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas,” the singer opens: “If you’re gonna run in Texas, you can’t be a liberal man.” Cruz’s song contains a trio of claims. For starters, the singer says O’Rourke started calling himself Beto rather than his given name of Robert to “fit in.” O’Rourke responded to that sally with a tweet showing a photo of the candidate as a boy wearing a shirt inscribed, “Beto,” tracing to his preschool days. The song’s other claims touched off this fact-check: “Beto wants those open borders/And wants to take our guns.” ... We rate this Cruz claim False.

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2018

Asylum-seeker released from Taylor detention center, group says

A Salvadoran woman seeking asylum who has said that a guard groped her inside a Williamson County immigration detention facility has been released, a group supporting her said Saturday. Laura Monterrosa was released from the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor on Friday night, the group Grassroots Leadership said. It did not say where Monterrosa is now living. “Laura is adjusting to her new environment and recovering from the trauma she has experienced,” Grassroots Leadership said in a statement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2018

Scoggin: Why Texas can’t afford any more cuts to health care

Why are President Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention such a bad idea? One big reason is that they are on the forefront of what Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director, rightly called “one of our most serious health threats” — killer antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A 2013 CDC report found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria — also called “superbugs” — infect millions of Americans per year and kill at least 23,000 of us annually. Four years later, experts say those numbers have likely grown. Losing effective antibiotics as a tool in medicine — a somber reality in some cases already — means common infections will once again kill — and medical advancements such as cancer treatment, routine surgeries, and organ transplants become much more dangerous.

Houston Chronicle - March 17, 2018

McMurray: Why Briscoe Cain should have left Stephen Hawking alone

Briscoe Cain made national news this week. As a rule, when a Texas politician makes national news, it's a time to worry. And when the Texas politician in question bills himself as "The Conservative Outsider" and appears to carry the name of a minor character from "Gunsmoke," you prepare for the worst. Hours after the death of legendary physicist Stephen Hawking was announced to the world, Cain made an announcement of his own. Taking to Twitter, he declared, "Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was made. My condolences to his family." Not content to let his trolling be limited by Twitter's character constraints, Cain elaborated to the Austin American-Statesman: "Stephen Hawking was a vocal atheist, who advocated against and openly mocked God," he explained. "My tweet was to show the gravity of the Gospel and what happens when we die, namely, that we all will one day meet the Creator of the universe face to face."

San Antonio Express-News - March 16, 2018

Valdez, White taking positions, shots in runoff

Lupe Valdez said she had an image as a strong woman when she was Dallas County sheriff but that she privately cried as she wondered if she could change the way people treated the LGBTQ community. “I would go home, and I would fall and cry, and say, ‘God, can I really do this? Can I really change the attitudes and behavior of people toward the community?’ The community was the one that was suffering,” Valdez said at a recent forum on women’s activism. Talking about issues she encountered as the first lesbian elected sheriff in Dallas County, Valdez said, “The end result was, with a lot of pain, and a lot of work, you can do it.”

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

State Sen. Carlos Uresti got 11 felony convictions for a Ponzi scheme. The Texas Ethics Commission added a $500 fine.

On the heels of 11 felony convictions, bipartisan calls for his resignation, an intra-party challenger for his next election campaign and his wife of six years filing for divorce, state Sen. Carlos Uresti on Friday got insult added to injury with a $500 fine from the Texas Ethics Commission. The commission fined the San Antonio Democrat for failing to properly disclose on his personal financial statement income related to FourWinds Logistics, the Ponzi scheme that got him into legal trouble last year. The fine comes less than a month after he was found guilty on all counts of fraud and money laundering. Uresti served as general counsel for FourWinds — a now-bankrupt oilfield services company — and owned 1 percent of the company. He also earned commission for recruiting investors, according to court documents.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - March 16, 2018

Greene: Empower Texans isn't finished with Tarrant County

In addition to what happened with the candidates, an important result from the elections earlier this month was what they revealed about those trying to buy control of our state. At least two outcomes worked to inform and potentially preserve the authority of voters over the forces that would usurp that power from them. First is the emerging role of the Texas news media in showing us all the intentions of the statist organization Empower Texans. They have begun outing the wealthy oil barons behind it and its companion entity, Texas Right to Life, with plans to wrest control of cities and school districts through legislators they have endorsed and lavishly funded.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2018

Astrodome to receive Recorded Texas Historic Landmark marker

The Astrodome will be designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark — the highest honor the state can bestow on a historic structure. The marker will finally and officially tell the story of the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and, officials hope, create a snapshot destination. “The Dome has never had an actual historical marker,” said Mike Vance, a member of the Harris County Historical Commission, which is the local arm of the Texas Historical Commission. The state agency approved the stadium’s designation in January among 172 new historical markers across Texas for 2018. At its opening, the Astrodome embodied the height of innovation. The building was the world’s largest domed structure and the biggest air-conditioned stadium as well as the first ballpark with artificial turf, luxury suites and an animated scoreboard.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - March 16, 2018

AAS: Bombings show why Austin no longer can afford a small-town attitude

Obviously, no one knows whether the response of the Police Department would have been more forceful under Acevedo. That requires a crystal ball that none of us possesses. What we can say is that in the first bombing, which killed House, the department was too quick to embrace parochial theories that crowded out other possibilities. Initially, police were working on the premise that the blast that killed House might have been intended for a suspected drug dealer who lived near him. When that theory evaporated, they shifted to another one that also gave the impression that House’s killing was an isolated incident, focusing on his financial dealings as a possible motive. That unfortunately spurred some negative speculation about House. And it led to police reclassifying his killing from “homicide” to “suspicious.”

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2018

For investigators, a race to decode hidden message in Austin bombings

If the package bombs that have killed two Austin residents and seriously injured a third in recent weeks turn out to be the work of a single person, he or she will join a tiny but grim fraternity — serial killers whose weapon of choice was an explosive device. The group is so small that police and psychologists’ efforts to draw meaningful conclusions about its members has met with uneven success. An FBI profile of the Unabomber identified him as an uneducated man in his 30 or 40s who probably worked menial jobs. But Ted Kaczynski was a 53-year-old hermit who held several advanced college degrees. Even within the minuscule group of deadly serial bombers, there are important distinctions, experts said.

Texas Tribune - March 16, 2018

Exploding packages tap into simmering tensions over Austin’s racial segregation

Interstate 35 runs north through the heart of Austin, an informal but symbolically potent line that divides the thriving city. The wide swath of concrete, six lanes thick at many points, demarcates the separation between affluent and predominantly white neighborhoods on the city’s west side — including its downtown and the University of Texas campus — and the east, which has been home to black and Latino residents historically. The three package bombs that have exploded in the city this month, killing two people and injuring two others in attacks that police say are linked, share at least one other thing in common: They hit black and Latino families east of I-35.

National Stories

Associated Press - March 17, 2018

Mueller now has memos McCabe kept on Trump dealings

Andrew McCabe, the onetime FBI deputy director long scorned by President Donald Trump and just fired by the attorney general, kept personal memos detailing interactions with the president that have been provided to the special counsel's office and are similar to the notes compiled by dismissed FBI chief James Comey, The Associated Press has learned. The memos could factor into special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as his team examines Trump campaign ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice. McCabe's memos include details of his own interactions with the president, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who wasn't authorized to discuss the notes publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. They also recount different conversations he had with Comey, who kept notes on meetings with Trump that unnerved him.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - March 17, 2018

Trump: 'Mueller probe should never have been started'

President Trump asserted on Saturday that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia should never have been opened in the first place. "The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime," Trump wrote on Twitter. "It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!" The tweet came hours after Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, released a statement calling on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's investigation, to shut down the probe.

New York Times - March 17, 2018

Mueller Wants Trump’s Business Records. What’s the Russia Connection?

Perhaps the closest Mr. Trump came to launching a real estate project in Russia was during the presidential campaign, when he signed a letter of intent in late 2015 for a Trump hotel to be built in Moscow. Ultimately, the deal never materialized. In email exchanges with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater, a Russian émigré who had previously helped develop Trump SoHo in New York, talked about securing financing for the Moscow project from VTB, a major state-owned Russian bank under American sanctions. He also mused about how the deal, if supported by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, would “fix relations between the countries by showing everyone that commerce & business are much better and more practical than politics.”

Washington Post - March 17, 2018

Once-safe Republican districts suddenly in play as Democrats expand the map

The campaign for control of Congress is suddenly playing out across a far larger swath of the country than either party had previously expected, with Tuesday’s special House election in the Pittsburgh suburbs showing how President Trump’s unpopularity is turning many once-safe Republican districts into battlegrounds in this year’s midterm elections. GOP incumbents who have rarely, if ever, faced a viable challenger are being forced to build campaign operations, raise money and make more frequent appearances across their districts. And Democrats who have long intended to make their stand in a few dozen evenly divided districts now say the results in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which Trump carried by nearly 20 points two years ago, suggest the battleground may expand to more than 100 districts where the president’s margin was smaller.

New York Times - March 17, 2018

Bruni: Democrats Are Primed for 2018 and Looking Pretty in 2020

Throughout the 2016 election cycle and ever since, I’ve been hearing that the Democratic Party has no bench. This is 100 percent true. When it comes to credible presidential prospects, the Democratic Party has several rows of benches. The Democratic Party has bleachers. Dozens of prominent Democrats are at least flirting with running in 2020, and while it’s easy to look at them and play Goldilocks — too cold, too hot, too bald, too blond, too Wall Street, too wordy — it’s just as easy to believe. The perfect person? The party certainly lacks that. But potentially effective candidates? It’s lousy with them, though we chromosomally dyspeptic pundits prefer to shake our heads and sigh.

San Antonio Express-News - March 17, 2018

Democrats hoping to knock off GOP incumbents with veterans

A TV ad by a political action committee supporting veterans that ran last week before ex-military prosecutor Conor Lamb won a Pennsylvania congressional election told a version of stories many Democrats are presenting this political season. “Veterans know how to fix Washington — send in the Marine,” an announcer in the VoteVets ad proclaimed. Lamb’s victory in a district Donald Trump won by 20 percent 16 months ago was the biggest success yet of a Democratic Party strategy — running veterans, many who served in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in the midterm elections. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s red-to-blue list — a strategy to oust GOP incumbents — features intelligence experts and military veterans, including many women, from every service branch at the top: Bronze Star winners; West Point and Naval Academy graduates; Army Ranger and Navy SEAL representatives; and ex-CIA officers and National Security Council members.

Dallas Morning News - March 17, 2018

Company that aided Trump exploited Facebook data of millions, investigation finds

As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Steve Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of U.S. voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work. So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history.

New York Times - March 17, 2018

Roe: Don’t Run From Trump

I’m here to tell my fellow Republicans, in particular Republican members of Congress and the Republican consulting class: You can run, but you can’t hide. President Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the election will be a referendum on him, as 2010 was on President Barack Obama and 2006 was on President George W. Bush. We will lose seats. The only question is this: Will these losses be catastrophic or manageable? That will be determined by a very specific choice: Will the party retreat from its leader or fix bayonets and storm to the front with him? No one fought Mr. Trump harder and longer than I did, as the campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination. I know the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump.

New York Times - March 17, 2018

Goldberg: Burn it down, Rex

“Rex is never going to be back in a position where he can have any degree of influence or respect from this president,” my Republican source said. Because of that, the source continued, “Rex is under a moral mandate to do his best to burn it down.” That would mean telling the truth “about how concerned he is about the leadership in the Oval Office, and what underpins those concerns and what he’s seen.” In this case, patriotism and self-interest point in the same direction. Before entering this administration, Tillerson was a vastly more respected businessman than Trump; as chief executive of Exxon Mobil, he presided over what The Times described as a “state within a state.” Now the first line of his obituary will be about a year of abject failure as the country’s lead diplomat, culminating in a humiliation fit for reality TV. The only way he will ever change that is by joining those who would bring this despicable presidency down.

Wall St. Journal - March 17, 2018

Is America Running Out of Unemployed People to Fill Jobs?

For every job opening in America, there’s now barely more than one unemployed person available to take it. The number of job openings in the U.S. has touched another record high while the number of Americans readily available to fill those roles trends lower, according to Labor Department data released Friday. It’s a sign the labor market is continuing to tighten–and that employers will need to attract those who aren’t actively looking for work if they intend to keep hiring. And so far this year, they have kept hiring, adding more than half a million people to payrolls. The latest Labor Department data showed job openings rose in January to a seasonally adjusted 6.3 million, the highest level on record back to 2000. But the number of openings has been at or near record levels since July 2015.

Washington Post - March 17, 2018

Does California abortion law protect women or force clinics to deliver message they abhor? Supreme Court to decide.

The 41 words at the center of the latest Supreme Court showdown on abortion are not readily visible at Christine Vatuone’s Informed Choices pregnancy center — not reproduced as a sign on 8½ -by-11-inch paper in at least 22-point type, as California law requires, or distributed to clients in printed or digital form. “Were you looking?” Vatuone asked with a smile, before her lawyer, Kristen K. Waggoner of the conservative legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke up. “We’re in active litigation,” Waggoner said, referring to the law’s requirement that clinics disclose that the state provides contraceptive services and abortion for some women.

Politico - March 17, 2018

Grunwald: Behind the Dodd-Frank Freakout

There are plenty of legitimate questions about why Congress feels the need to provide regulatory relief to banks that are already enjoying record profits, and whether some of the bill’s tweaks to Dodd-Frank will make the financial system less safe. But the doomsday rhetoric about those tweaks—and the political rift they are creating within the Democratic Party—seem extreme compared to their substance. The Senate bill leaves the vast majority of the Dodd-Frank reforms in place, which is why House Republicans who hate Dodd-Frank are already signaling they won’t allow it to become law. The critiques of the bill as a giveaway to Wall Street megabanks seem particularly overblown: Very few of its changes would affect the dozen or so institutions that pose the largest potential dangers to the financial system.

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2018

Williams: Public health demands an end to restrictions on gun violence research

As a trauma surgeon with experience treating devastating firearm injuries, I cannot comprehend why Congress has doubled down on a decades-old law restricting funding for research on gun violence. Lawmakers reaffirmed their dereliction in 2016 when they ignored the collective voice of 141 medical organizations who sent a letter urging repeal of the 1996 Dickey Amendment because of its "dramatic chilling effect" on research into an issue of increasing importance. It is past time to repeal the Dickey Amendment so policymakers can make informed decisions about the effects of gun violence on public health. Would lawmakers act if they understood my experience of working to save a gunshot victim by diving elbows-deep into his open abdomen while his blood cascaded onto the floor?

Houston Chronicle - March 17, 2018

Climate change will squeeze insurance companies, Moody's says

The economic aftermath of climate change has heightened liability risks for insurance companies as weather catastrophes such as Hurricane Harvey become more frequent and severe, Moody's Investors Service said in a new report. The credit ratings agency said problems arising from the earth's warming climate, including larger financial losses, uncertainty in risk-modeling and pricing, lawsuits and the declining value of carbon-emitting energy assets, will overshadow opportunities for property and casualty insurance companies to sell more insurance products. "Although catastrophic events have always been a key risk contributor to P&C insurers and reinsurers, the continued increase of insured property values along the coastlines and the increased frequency of weather-related catastrophic events will magnify the volatility for these firms," Moody's said in a report released on Thursday.