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Newsclips - August 11, 2022

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2022

‘Texans should watch their wallets’: Power grid report approved without public input

A little-known state committee consisting mainly of oil and energy executives approved recommendations Wednesday that lawmakers could rely on in next year’s legislative session to reshape Texas’ shaky power grid. The State Energy Plan Advisory Committee’s 7-5 vote was far from a mandate. It illustrated the concerns of several members about the lack of time and deliberation devoted to creating a dense report, which state lawmakers might take as gospel next year when they take a second whack at redesigning Texas’ grid. The report’s approval also gave wide latitude to the committee’s chairman, Lower Colorado River Authority CEO Phil Wilson, to revise recommendations that haven’t fully been written. Wilson, a former secretary of state under Gov. Rick Perry and a close ally to Gov. Greg Abbott, was the deciding vote to approve the report. The substance of the report is unclear. Committee members have been told that all written work is confidential, and Wilson, through the LCRA, has not made any version public, which has some concerned about the potential impact on consumers’ electricity bills.

The Legislature created the State Energy Plan Advisory Committee in 2021?s omnibus power grid law, Senate Bill 3. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan each appointed four of the board’s 12 members, who are required to submit recommendations on the grid by Sept. 1. Including Wednesday’s two-hour meeting, the committee has met only twice and has taken no public testimony. “Given the short time frame within which this committee is required to develop and finalize its recommendations, the general focus and conversation is on the issues we believe are most impactful on the reliability and stability and affordability of electric service in Texas,” Wilson said after the report’s approval. Austin-based energy consultant Doug Lewin, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, said that the lack of transparency by the committee is concerning and that its action could lead energy providers to “extract billions more from Texas consumers.” “The lack of any consumer representative, the exclusion of public input, and the refusal to stream the meetings on the internet even though the room they met in is equipped to do so, speaks volumes,” Lewin said. “Texans should watch their wallets.” Retired investment banker Mike Ammerman of Houston was one of the five members to vote against the report. He said the group’s work did not go far enough — that it was tasked with creating a plan, not a report. Ammerman said he voted no to show that the work of the committee is not done. “We were asked to do something, and that is not what we did,” Ammerman said.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

How Texas counties are helping voters after new law led to 25,000 rejected mail ballots

As primary voting started early this year, Texas election officials spent much of their time on the phone with voters who were frustrated and confused about new rules for mail voting that led their ballots to be rejected. In San Antonio’s Bexar County, for example, about 20 percent of mail ballot applications were not accepted because they failed to comply with the ID requirements that went into effect ahead of the March 1 primary. “That hurt,” said county elections administrator Jacque Callanen, adding that many calls came from seniors who’d never had a problem with the absentee process until then. “That’s not who we are; that’s not what we do.” In some parts of the state, such as Houston’s Harris County, rejection rates were initially as high as 40 percent, though they later fell to 19 percent with media coverage of the issue and education campaigns by the secretary of state’s office and county election offices.

The statewide rejection rate was more than 12 percent in the primary — six times what it was in the last midterm year in 2018. By the primary runoffs, the rate was down to less than 4 percent rejected, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. Ahead of the November general elections, a number of elections officials say they have found a simple fix — a brightly colored insert that arrives with mail ballots, explaining the new requirements and showing the easily forgotten space under the flap of the return envelope where the voter’s ID number needs to be printed. Callanen said the insert is small enough and positioned in such a way that it will likely fall to the floor when voters open the mail ballot packet, so they can’t miss it. She said her office used the inserts in May primary runoff elections and saw immediate results. “We had under a 1 percent reject rate,” Callanen said. “We were back to where we belonged, which was a dance of joy.”

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KHOU - August 11, 2022

Gov. Greg Abbott wants 1 debate against Beto O'Rourke, who wants 3

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has agreed to a single debate against his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke. But O’Rourke, the former West Texas congressman, is pushing for three debates as negotiations continue among the campaigns. Abbott announced he accepted a debate offer in the Rio Grand Valley against O’Rourke, but the Sept. 30 debate is still in the air. O’Rourke countered saying he wants to do three town hall-style debates across the state -- not just one. KHOU 11 political analyst Bob Stein said that for Abbott’s campaign, one debate is enough. “He feels one debate will be sufficient. The polling data now is pretty consistent. The margin that is between the two candidates has shrunk to single digits,” Stein said.

Nexstar, which proposed the late September debate, said in a statement to KHOU 11 News the debate, “is still in negotiations.” Abbott’s campaign is hoping to capitalize on a made-for-TV debate. “He said we’ll do one debate -- not any more, but we need to do one debate. And his hope is that that will give him a lot of what we call video clips, mistakes,” Stein said. But O’Rourke, who has spent the last few weeks traveling and campaigning throughout the state, wants to answer televised questions from voters. His campaign said, “while Beto has held 80 town hall meetings where he has answered over 500 questions from Texans from any political party in every part of the state, Abbott has not held public town halls where he takes questions in person from those he is supposed to serve.” Stein said Abbott’s campaign sees an opportunity with O’Rourke chipping away at the governor’s voting coalition. “You debate him to draw out your base. You debate him to undermine confidence that his base could help win the day for Beto O’Rourke but not more than one debate,” he said.

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CNBC - August 11, 2022

Trump took Fifth Amendment more than 440 times in refusing to answer New York attorney general’s questions

Former President Donald Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right more than 440 times Wednesday in refusing to answer questions at a deposition by lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating the Trump Organization’s business practices, a source with knowledge of the session told NBC News. Shortly after arriving at that court-ordered interview under oath at James’ offices in lower Manhattan, Trump released an email saying he would not answer any questions given the Fifth Amendment right barring people from being compelled to make self-incriminating statements. Trump answered just one question — his name — and then cited the Fifth on every other question he was asked during the deposition, his lawyer Ronald Fischetti told NBC News.

Trump also read aloud a statement in which he called James’ probe “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” and accused the Democratic attorney general of “openly campaigning on a policy of destroying me,” Fischetti said. James was there for about half of the total four-hour session, according to Fischetti. Trump lawyer said that Kevin Wallace, an attorney in James’ office, asked Trump about the valuations of various real estate assets, including golf clubs, his signing of documents in connection with mortgages and loans, and the size of his apartment. Fischetti described the mood in the room as polite and not tense. Trump’s refusal to answer questions was legal, and had been anticipated in the judicial order mandating his attendance at the deposition. But it could harm his chances of prevailing against James in any civil litigation she files in connection with her probe. James is focused on allegations that the Trump Organization improperly reported the stated valuations of some of its real estate assets for financial gain, in the form of better terms on loans and insurance, and tax benefits.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2022

Joe Straus: Texas schools need the support of elected officials, parents and communities

Texas students are heading back to school this month at a time of momentum for our public schools. State test results released over the summer showed that elementary and middle school scores on reading exams in the spring of 2021 were higher than in 2019 (before the COVID-19 pandemic) in every grade. In math, scores didn’t quite return to pre-COVID-19 levels, but they certainly improved over the past year. Texas public schools, in other words, are heading in the right direction. Educators are eager to build on their progress as the new year begins. However, a number of challenges for students and teachers remain, and it is important that elected officials, parents and communities give schools the support they need to successfully face those challenges and continue improving student performance and school quality. Perhaps the most urgent need facing our schools is the shortage of qualified teachers. For example, this summer Fort Worth ISD saw a 50% increase in resignations over the previous year.

The Houston Chronicle reported at the beginning of August that districts in the Houston area were 3,400 people short of the certified teachers they needed to start school. These types of shortages are surfacing throughout the state. Some explanations for the lack of teachers can be found in a survey released earlier this year by the Charles Butt Foundation. It found that 68% of teachers seriously considered leaving public school teaching in the past year — up 10 percentage points from a year earlier. The survey found teachers were most likely to point to “recurrent issues with the overall work environment, such as feeling stressed, overworked, undervalued and underpaid.” Pay raises for experienced teachers are often incremental, but, like all Texans, these professionals face rising costs for everything from food to housing to gas. School districts are facing the same inflationary pressures; since the Legislature approved significant school finance reform in 2019, inflation has driven costs 12% higher. Schools are paying more for electric bills and significantly more to fuel up their buses. The rise in these operating costs makes it more difficult for schools to invest in the classroom and in their workforces.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Texas Supreme Court reconsiders rule allowing minors to get an abortion without parental consent

The Texas Supreme Court is reconsidering rules that allow Texans under 18 to obtain abortions without parental consent in light of the state’s soon-to-take-effect abortion ban. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht asked an advisory committee to make a recommendation on the matter in an Aug. 1 letter obtained by Hearst Newspapers, asking the committee to “conclude its work” at a meeting next week on Aug. 19.

A spokeswoman for the high court explained that the justices believe the new law, and a landmark June ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court overturning federal protections on abortion, have “raised questions about whether the parental-notification rules are still consistent with Texas law.” “The court asked the advisory committee to study the issues raised in the referral letter and make recommendations, which it does almost any time rule changes are contemplated,” said the spokeswoman, Amy Starnes. Current Texas rules require abortion patients under 18 to notify their parents when they are seeking an abortion and receive their permission. But the rules also allow the teen to seek permission from a judge instead. The number of minors who have been able to access that legal process ground to a near-halt after Texas imposed its six-week abortion ban in September 2021 — in August, 20 minors were able to get their cases before judges, state data shows. By October, once the ban was in place, that number dwindled to just two. Still, attorneys who represent the young “Jane Does,” named as such in court filings for confidentiality purposes, say there will still be a need for the process, known as judicial bypass, even once the trigger ban takes effect on Aug. 25.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 10, 2022

Why Elon Musk just sold $7 billion of his stock in Austin-based Tesla

Elon Musk has sold nearly $7 billion worth of shares in Austin-based Tesla as the billionaire gets his finances in order ahead of his court battle with Twitter. Musk sold about 8 million shares in the electric automaker, according to a series of regulatory filings. “In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close and some equity partners don’t come through, it is important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock," Musk tweeted late Tuesday. Musk is by far the largest individual shareholder in both Tesla and Twitter, owning about 17% of the carmaker's shares, and about 9% of Twitter's stock. Tesla moved its corporate headquarters to Central Texas late last year, to the site of its new $1.1 billion manufacturing facility. The facility in southeastern Travis County, which started producing cars last year and started delivering its first Model Y SUV vehicles this month, has become increasingly important to Tesla and Musk.

Giga Texas, as Tesla has dubbed the factory, is expected to hire 10,000 people through 2022, and will produce Model Y SUVs, the Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3 compact sedan and batteries. Shares of Tesla were up more than 3% on Wednesday. Shares of Twitter, which have climbed about 16% in the past month, were also up about 3%. Musk's sales of the Tesla shares occurred between Aug. 5 and Aug. 9, according securities filings, just after the company held its annual shareholders meeting on Aug. 4. At the meeting Musk said Tesla aims to produce 20 million vehicles annually by 2030. The company's two newest facilities in Austin and Berlin are expected to play a significant role in Tesla's growth, and Musk also hinted that the company may announce yet another factory site this year. Tesla shareholders also approved a three-for-one stock split. The share prices for both Tesla and Twitter had taken a hit in recent months after Musk offered to buy Twitter at $54.20 a share. The company's stock dropped to around $39 a share by the time he tried to call off the deal. Currently Twitter's stock sits around $44.32 a share. At the time, Austin-based Tesla's stock had dropped nearly 30% deal was announced.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 10, 2022

Bridget Grumet: Austin has hired 600 new teachers. It's still not enough.

Over the course of this summer, Austin school officials hired more than 600 new teachers, the largest flock of new hires anyone could remember. And still, it’s far from enough. When I caught up Friday with Norma Castillo, the executive director of talent acquisition for Austin schools, she was working on filling an additional 500 teacher vacancies. “We’ve hired more teachers this summer than ever before,” she told me, “yet we still have more vacancies (remaining) than ever before.” The scope of the teacher shortage — which extends well beyond Austin, indeed well beyond Texas — is daunting. Castillo and her colleagues have been working furiously to fill positions: calling applicants, helping people navigate the teacher certification process, reaching out to substitutes to see if they’re interested in becoming full-time instructors.

By the time classes start Monday, Castillo hopes to whittle down the number of unfilled teacher positions to 350. That would be progress, even if it’s more than twice the number of teacher vacancies (152) that Austin schools had on the first day of classes a year ago. Castillo notes that the vast majority of Austin classrooms — more than 90% — will have teachers. But that’s little comfort for the remaining students. Who will lead their classes? In some cases: a long-term substitute teacher. In others: a rotating cast of daily subs until a new hire is made (hopefully soon). And in some situations, a teacherless class could be merged with another class that has an instructor, Castillo said. In those cases, the district gives a $3,000 annual stipend to the teacher who now has an oversized class (more than 24 students). “We’re working as hard and as fast as we can to get qualified teachers in front of our children,” said Castillo, asking for parents to be patient and understanding. “The reality is we are faced with a major shortage.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

Texas phone bills will soon see an 'unprecedented' rate hike after state commission vote

Texans who use a phone should expect to pay more for that service, thanks to a startling rate increase adopted by the Public Utility Commission of Texas last month. Commissioners in July voted to increase a longstanding surcharge assessed on telecommunications providers’ receipts for voice services to 24 percent from 3.3 percent. The new rate, which took effect Aug. 1, will add couple of dollars a month for a consumer with a typical individual cell phone plan, and potentially several times that for customers with family plans, or those who pay for calls on a per-minute basis. “It’s unprecedented,” said Rusty Moore, COO of BBT Telecom, a provider headquartered in Alpine, and board president of the Texas Telephone Association. The move came after a court ordered the PUC to restore $200 million in overdue money to the Texas Universal Service Fund, which provides support to the state’s rural telecoms, which serve some 4 million customers across Texas.

Federal and state rules invoke a standard of “universal service,” meaning that all Americans should have access to basic communications services, but the low population density of rural areas means that service providers struggle to turn a profit without charging exorbitant rates. The Texas Universal Service Fund’s financing mechanism was established in 1987, by state law, to shore up this system. The PUC stopped meeting those statutory obligations in January 2021 by failing to make sufficient payments from the universal fund to rural telecoms. The Texas Telephone Association, which represents 43 rural telecoms, sued. “It is the lifeblood of rural communications, that’s for sure,” Moore said of the Universal Service Fund.. “If you look at the large land mass and low density, it provides a mechanism to keep the rates in parity with rates in urban areas.” He explained that BBT, for example, has some 7,000 customers scattered across 18,000 square miles of rugged terrain, including nearly 500 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border as well as Big Bend National Park.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

UTMB president Ben Raimer put on administrative leave

Dr. Ben Raimer, a longtime leader at the University of Texas Medical Branch who last year was appointed president, has been placed on administrative leave, according to an email sent Monday to faculty and staff. The email from University of Texas System Chancellor James Milliken provides no explanation for the decision, which caught much of the faculty by surprise, according to three sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Raimer is well known at the school and throughout the Houston medical community. “Dr. Raimer’s administrative leave is not in any way connected to the operations at UTMB or the Galveston National Lab,” according to a statement from UT System spokesperson Paul Corliss, who said he could not elaborate. Dr. Charles Mouton, executive vice president, provost and dean of the John Sealy School of Medicine, will serve as administrator-in-charge. Raimer did not respond to a call requesting comment.

Raimer was appointed president in October 2021 after serving in the role for two years on an interim basis. At the time of his appointment, Milliken said the new title was “a reflection of the exceptional leadership and stability” he provided during the pandemic. Raimer started at the university as a student, obtaining a master’s degree in human genetics from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and a medical degree from the UTMB School of Medicine. A pediatrician by trade, Raimer has taken up multiple leadership positions throughout his 40 years at the school, including senior vice president for health policy and legislative affairs, executive director of the UTMB Community and Global Health Collaborating Center, vice president for community outreach and chief physician executive and CEO for UTMB Correctional Managed Care. He is a tenured professor in multiple departments and is a nationally recognized expert in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Former Gov. Rick Perry in 2013 appointed Raimer to serve a two-year term as chair of the Health and Human Services Commission Council, which makes recommendations regarding the management and operation of the commission.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Houston ISD again to deploy staffers, administrators to fill teacher vacancies

For the second year in a row, Houston ISD plans to use administrative employees who hold teaching certifications to help fill any vacancies that remain when classes resume in less than two weeks, district officials said Wednesday. HISD Chief Talent Officer Jeremy Grant-Skinner said principals are expected to send certified staff — typically performing other duties — to classrooms with teacher vacancies. The district expects to start the school year with at least 95 percent of the roles filled, he said. The district, which raised teacher salaries to be among the highest in the region, also will use long-term substitute teachers who hold certification to work as dedicated fill-ins at the beginning of the year.

HISD, with its first day of school scheduled for Aug. 22, had 779 openings for certified teachers listed on its career portal Wednesday afternoon. Unlike last year, central administration staffers will not be deployed to fill the gaps, although Superintendent Millard House II said the district will take volunteers from central administration. “After all of these things, in any year, in any district, schools open with some number of teacher vacancies and we know on the 22nd that we’ll have some vacancies,” Grant-Skinner said. “Meanwhile, we’ll continue hiring. We’re taking a long-term approach to staffing our classes with excellent teachers and our efforts will not stop when school begins.” Additionally, the district is offering $2,000 signing incentives through August, hosting job fairs and paying stipends to teachers filling critical roles in high-need areas, such as math, science, special education, bilingual education, as well as counselors, nurses and transportation staff. Grant-Skinner said the district also will welcome nearly 100 international candidates who hold certifications in their home countries to teach some of those high-need subjects.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Houston home sales see biggest drop since COVID lockdowns as prices cut buyers out of the market

Home sales last month had their biggest drop since the pandemic lockdowns in the spring as high prices and higher mortgage rates cut buyers out of the market. The sharp decline is another sign that the Houston housing market is undergoing a clear shift. While still a seller’s market, buyers are beginning to regain some negotiating power. Inventories are rising, homes are staying on the market longer, and price increases are moderating. Homes in July sold for less than listing prices after selling for more in the previous three months, the Houston Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. “Now that it’s slowed down, buyers have a lot more choices,” said Shad Bogany, a realty agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. “In the past, they were standing in line to bid higher. Now we’re not seeing it.”

The number of single-family home sales fell by 17 percent to 8,370 sales in July, down from 10,102 in July 2021, according to the Houston Association of Realtors. It was the biggest percentage drop since May 2020 when sales plunged 25 percent due to pandemic lockdowns and the fourth straight month of declines. Inventories of homes, measured by how long it would take to sell everything on the market at the current pace, jumped to 2.5 months, up from 2 months in June and 1.7 months in July 2021, according to HAR. Homes, though, are still in short supply; six months inventory is considered a balanced market where buyers and sellers have equal standing. The tight inventories are still pushing prices higher. The median home price rose 13 percent over the year to $348,740 in July, but is down from the all-time high of $354,613 in June. The average price rose 10 percent in July to $426,494. “It’s still a seller’s market, but people are not overbidding on properties,” Bogany said. “Sellers are now getting a little more realistic with pricing.” Mortgage interest rates, which peaked at an average of 5.8 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage in June, dropped just below 5 percent last week, according to the weekly survey by the government sponsored mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac. Rates started the year around 3 percent.

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Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2022

UT Arlington is partnering with U.S. Navy to improve military aptitude tests

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are partnering with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to improve aptitude tests in the U.S. military. Over three years, the $700,000 collaborative research agreement will test different measures, including those that focus on body function, to home in on specific abilities that make someone more likely to succeed in training programs like flight school and other military occupations. Lead investigator Matthew Robison, UTA assistant professor of psychology, and U.S. Naval researchers hope to find measures that better predict who will succeed in training and also reduce unintended bias in the tests. “It’s been very interesting for me to get a glimpse at how cognitive psychology can have implications for a meaningful societal problem,” said Robison. “Sometimes it can feel like you’re just working on a problem that no one cares about. And then all of a sudden, you meet people who also care about that problem and have a reason to care about it.”

Certain occupations in the military – like those in aviation – are cognitively demanding and require specific skill sets. Before initial efforts to standardize tests in the early 1940s, attrition rates for pilots were as high as 63%, said Lt. Nicholas Armendariz, an aerospace experimental psychologist in the U.S. Navy. Today, he said, the attrition rate is about 6%. And while this is a leap forward, there is still room to improve these tests. People have naturally occurring differences in their abilities, and that includes our cognitive abilities, said Robison. For example, one person might be particularly good at maintaining their attention, while another has excellent emotional intelligence. These differences in cognitive ability arise from a complex combination of a person’s biology, their environment throughout their life and, as researchers like Robison are beginning to understand, their day-to-day conditions like sleep, nutrition and levels of stress. Researchers will explore several individual differences including cognitive abilities like attention control, working memory capacity and fluid intelligence – or someone’s ability to reason with abstract information, develop rules and create solutions quickly, said Robison.

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Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2022

Dallas approves limits on city resources used to investigate abortions

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved changing city policies to limit government resources used to investigate abortions, following several other Texas cities declaring support for reproductive care rights despite the state’s ban on abortion under almost all circumstances. The council voted 13-1 to greenlight a reproductive rights resolution, which bars city workers from keeping records, giving out information or doing surveillance work related to investigations of abortions or miscarriages. The decision came after council member Adam McGough tried to delay the vote and more than half of the 29 people who spoke about the resolution urged council members to either reject it or push the vote back to allow more people to weigh in.

McGough said he believed more time was needed to vet all the possible legal ramifications that could come from the city’s resolution and to flesh out how it would be enforced. McGough cast the lone vote against the proposal. Council member Cara Mendelsohn was absent. “This is a failure in leadership and a failure of policy,” McGough said. “And we’re going to have a lot of negative implications from it.” He told the council that his family’s doctor once advised that he and his wife terminate her pregnancy citing health risks. McGough said they chose not to follow the advice and their son is now thriving. Council member Paula Blackmon told McGough that having options is at the crux of the resolution. “You had the opportunity to have that discussion with your provider and make a choice,” she said. City Manager T.C. Broadnax and Casey Burgess, an executive assistant city attorney, told council members they didn’t have any concerns with the council’s decision to vote on the resolution on Wednesday. Council

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Houston Chronicle - August 11, 2022

Texas Republicans dine with Trump the day after Mar-A-Lago FBI raid

Just a day after FBI agents searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, Texas Republicans were dining with Trump at his golf club in New Jersey on Tuesday night. “With our great President! The FBI Hierarchy & DOJ & the White House should be ashamed!” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber of Friendswood tweeted with a picture of Trump seated at a table topped with bread baskets, beverages and his signature red hats. U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud of Victoria was also seated at the table.

CBS News reported that the dinner was previously planned, but is now seen as “a solidarity moment.” It was organized by U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana and was expected to include about a dozen members of the House Republican Study Committee, which counts 20 Texans among its membership, including Weber and Cloud. It’s unclear which other members were at the dinner. The dinner comes as Texas Republicans have rallied around Trump, accusing the Biden administration of “weaponizing” the Department of Justice. The White House has said President Joe Biden did not know of the search before it happened. Agents were looking for classified documents that the former president is accused of unlawfully removing from the White House, Trump’s son said in a Fox News interview. The former president wrote online that agents broke into his safe.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

Boerne's Michelle Beadle, once the highest-paid woman at ESPN, finds there's no place like home with the Spurs

For a short time in the late 2010s, Boerne alum Michelle Beadle was the highest-paid woman at ESPN, earning $5 million a year as co-host of the morning sports talk show “Get Up.” Not bad for someone who never played sports after middle school, never studied broadcast journalism and never enjoyed being the center of attention. “I wasn’t an extrovert by any stretch,” said Beadle, 46, sitting in the living room of her home in The Canyons at Scenic Loop on the far Northwest Side. “I was more a sit-in-the-back-of-the-room-mumbling-sarcastically-under-my-breath kind of person.” Not anymore.

These days, Beadle is known for her brash, outspoken opinions and tomboy-ish charm that have helped her cut a peripatetic career path that, in addition to numerous sports-related gigs, has included several stops hosting mostly short-lived celebrity and reality shows on cable channels both large and small. That path has brought her back home, happily ensconced as a member of the Spurs broadcasting team. When she’s not throwing in what she calls “color-ish one-liners and observations,” Beadle is sharing inside jokes about surviving the politics of ESPN with her fellow expat, Sean Elliott. “We’ll make snide comments about our time there,” she said. “Nothing mean, but we'll laugh mockingly — and if people know, they know; if they don’t, they don’t.” She's been a Spurs fan since she was about 12. “The Spurs are the only show in town, and they’ve just always been likable,” she said. “There’s been a random guy here and there who isn’t, but for the most part they’ve always been a team that's easy to root for.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

NEISD tops a pair of contentious lists, surpasses all other Texas school districts

North East Independent School District reviewed the most books in Texas, with 431 titles challenged. Following closely behind is Pasadena ISD, where 348 books were reviewed. Half of the districts on this list are located in the Houston region. North East ISD also leads the top school districts with the most book removals, with 119 books removed from the district. No other San Antonio-area school district made the top ten.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

Alex Jones sent 'intimate photo' of his wife to Roger Stone, Sandy Hook lawyer says

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sent conservative political operative and former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone an “intimate photo” of his wife, the attorney representing families of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims revealed, noting that he is unsure whether she gave consent to send the picture. The alleged photo was mistakenly included in a cache of text messages and emails sent to the legal team that successfully sued Jones for defamation earlier this month, attorney Mark Bankston, the recipient of the leak, said on the progressive news commentary show the Young Turks this week. Bankston said he was concerned that Jones’ wife, Erika Wulff Jones, didn’t give her husband permission to send the photograph.

“I don’t know if it was consensual,” said Bankston, who recently won nearly $50 million in damages for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 school shooting, which for years Jones called a hoax. “And if it wasn’t consensual, Mrs. Wulff-Jones should know about that, and there might be something that needs to be done about that,” Bankston said in the interview. Wulff-Jones told Insider on Tuesday that she was “unaware” her husband sent a nude photograph of her to Stone. She appeared uninterested in pursuing charges against her husband, Insider reported. “I am upset that he took (the) privilege to send the image to someone without my knowledge,” Wulff-Jones, who married Jones in 2017, told Insider. She added: “Honestly, I was unaware that this occurred. I’m sure this was some type of brag exchange, ‘look how hot my wife is’ type thing.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

The angry public at Uvalde City Council now includes out-of-towners and out-of-staters

The Uvalde City Council got through routine city business and authorized a committee to work toward a monument to the 21 victims of the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School — but only after a line of speakers stood in line to vent. That’s been the norm for weeks — shouting matches, warnings and threats — but on Tuesday the speakers included a fair number from out of town, including a New Yorker convicted of a misdemeanor charge in the Jan. 6, 2021, ransacking of the U.S. Capitol. Jack Miller, a self-described investigative journalist and civil rights activist from the San Antonio area, made a podium-pounding demand that all Uvalde police officers who were at Robb Elementary on the day of the shooting be fired. Miller, whose business card says, “I expose bad cops,” predicted that police who were on the scene that day would fail to act again.

“They were trained to run in and stop the shooter, and they didn’t,” Miller said. “I’m not anti-cop, I’m just telling you that’s the facts, right? … They didn’t, so what do you do? You disband. You get rid of every single one that was there, that did not run in there when that guy was shooting. “Is it going to cost you money? Absolutely! And I don’t think there’s one citizen in here that will not sign that check. Let them sue! Let them sue!” Some in the crowd applauded. A few cried out, “Yeah!” as he continued to speak. Held in the small confines of the council chamber, meetings have required an overflow room and Tuesday’s was perhaps the most heated since the shooting. Many of those who spoke were regulars — locals who made the same points at the school board meeting the night before. But a handful were argumentative men toting video cameras, interrupting other speakers at times and getting repeatedly warned by Mayor Don McLaughlin Jr. to be quiet. The mayor banged his gavel in anger at one point. One of the men was escorted out. Miller, 50, of Kirby warned council members who defied him that they would face a recall election. “If you guys don’t get rid of your police department — nothing against you, I commend you for everything you’re doing for these residents and children — but I’m going to teach your residents how to recall you,” he said. “You’ve got a smirk,” Miller then told Councilman Earnest “Chip” King.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2022

Dallas Democrats funding effort to turn out Latino voters in November

Democratic leaders and political strategists are testing an initiative they hope leads to more Dallas County Latino voters turning out for the November midterm elections. Dallas-based Democratic consultant Jeff Dalton designed the voter engagement program, which will “test campaign tactics to gain valuable insights and actionable information about how best to campaign and increase Latino voting.” Local Democrats have long tried to increase the number of Hispanic voters who participate in elections. While there has been some success, analysts agree the power of the Hispanic vote remains largely untapped. The get-out-the vote effort for November will use “experimental treatment and control groups,” Dalton said, to evaluate the effectiveness of direct mail, door-to-door canvassing and texting with voters. “There’s not a Democrat in Texas who doesn’t realize the importance of this challenge,” he said. “I hope this project creates institutional knowledge to empower Latino voters in the coming years.”

Dalton said Dallas Democratic leaders will partner with a Washington-based progressive group, the Analyst Institute, to implement the program. The effort, which will cost at least $100,000, is being funded by Rep. Rafael Anchia, Sen. Nathan Johnson, County Commissioner Elba Garcia and District Attorney John Creuzot. “We have tried for years to increase Latino voting, and in many cases, we have had success,” Garcia said. “But this is the first time we are working together to evaluate tactics so we can have a more solid foundation to work from and focus on the best approaches.” Nationally and in Texas, Republicans are also trying to court Latino residents across the state, including in suburban Dallas and South Texas. Democrats see Dallas County, which they have controlled since the 2006 elections, as a way to help statewide candidates. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for governor, hopes to engage with more than 400,000 eligible voters who didn’t participate in the 2020 elections. “Latinos make up 40% of the population in Dallas County,” Anchia said in a prepared statement. “Ensuring our voices are heard is critical for a true Democracy.”

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 10, 2022

Tarrant county’s chief appraiser in the hot seat Friday

The performance of Tarrant County’s chief appraiser will be up for discussion Friday. The Tarrant Appraisal District board of directors revised its Friday meeting agenda on Tuesday to add a discussion of whether to dismiss Chief Appraiser Jeff Law after it received complaints accusing him of misconduct during public comment at its June 30 meeting. The board initially planned to discuss the issue privately in executive session. Law’s performance came into question after appraisal district employee Randy Armstrong launched a series of complaints with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation against Chandler Crouch, a Fort Worth Realtor who has helped tens of thousands of homeowners protest their property tax appraisals. “No one told me I was getting fired on Friday,” Law said, adding that the new agenda item was added in case the board wanted to take action on anything discussed in executive session.

He said the item was boiler plate language from the public meetings act and not an indication that the board was seeking to remove him. Armstrong accused Crouch of misrepresenting evidence before the district’s appraisal review board in order to secure lower property appraisals for his clients. While Law insisted during a June 10 district board meeting he had no involvement in the complaints, Armstrong’s use of his district job title and contact information lead Crouch to question the agency’s involvement. Your subscription allows us to provide our readers with quality, relevant journalism that makes a difference. We believe a platform for sharing local news is critical to our community – and we're glad you think so, too. Have questions about your subscription? We're happy to help. Contact us Crouch also said he reached out to Law about the complaints in November 2021, but it was never discussed publicly by the board until its May 13 meeting. Hundreds showed up to a June 30 district meeting to voice their support for Crouch, overwhelming the district’s 14-person meeting room and forcing several to wait outside the building in 100-degree heat for hours.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Spring ISD school board calls $850M bond election, potentially bringing a high school rebuild

A multipurpose center and new Spring High School may be coming to Spring ISD as part of a proposed $850 million bond package the district will put to voters this November. During the Aug. 9 school board meeting, trustees approved an order calling a bond election to be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. Fifty community members, parents, alumni, employees and other local stakeholders comprising the bond steering committee met for six meetings since late June to create the proposed bond measure.

According to a district press release, the potential bond may result in a tax rate increase of 5 cents per $100 of assessed value. However, the 5-cent increase "is expected to be offset by an anticipated decrease in the 2022 tax rate; therefore, the resulting tax rate will be the same or lower than the current tax rate," the press release states. The potential bond will appear on the ballot as three propositions. Proposition A contains $681 million worth of projects addressing aging facilities, priority maintenance needs, safety and security, and transportation. Among the projects is a rebuild of Spring High School, the district’s oldest high school. Proposition B would allot $141 million to construct a districtwide education and performance multipurpose center. Proposition C would provide nearly $28 million for districtwide technology.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

Two entrepreneurs are looking to turn Roma, a Texas border town, into a mezcal mecca

In April 2019, Eduardo Ocampo and his business partner flew from Mexico City to McAllen, rented a car and drove with Ocampo’s aunt to this small, old border city in search of a home for their new distillery. Ocampo, an investor and board member of a mezcal company in Mexico, had the idea for an “American agave spirit,” liquor distilled from the same plants used to make tequila and its famous cousins, but made in the United States. Ocampo and his partner, Leonardo Sanchez, had looked at sites in California, Austin and San Antonio, but none of them felt right. While visiting Marfa, they learned — from a book they stumbled across in the West Texas town — that angustifolia and Weber agave varieties, which are used to make spirits, can be cultivated in Roma. Ocampo had family history in Roma. His mother’s father was born there. So he, Sanchez and his aunt made the one-hour drive along the border to the city of 11,500 to look for a suitable location for a distillery.

At the time, Roma’s city government was trying to figure out how to preserve its historic plaza, something the municipality has struggled with over the years. First settled in the 18th century, Roma sits on bluffs overlooking the Rio Grande. An unused 1920s suspension bridge, also slated for restoration, and a modern vehicle bridge connect it with the larger city of Miguel Alemán, Mexico. In the 19th century, Roma was a port for steamboats plying the Rio Grande. A handful of buildings near the river were made from sandstone and caliche in the early and mid-1800s. The small historic plaza just a few hundred yards from the river is lined with buildings from later in the 19th century, built by a German brickmaker who’d been pressed into the army of Mexican emperor Maximilian before settling in the U.S. In the 1990s, Roma received grants to shore up nine historic buildings near the Rio Grande. In recent years, the city has bought 14 of the historic buildings scattered around downtown. Despite its historical significance, Roma’s downtown has been underutilized in recent decades. A few structures have been used as city offices and an information center for birders, and the Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church, constructed in 1853, continues to hold mass.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 10, 2022

Petition drive calls for ‘disincorporation’ of Reno, Texas

Some residents who live in the small Parker County community of Reno say it’s time to dissolve the city’s government and assets. Former Mayor Eric Hunter, who led a petition drive to “disincorporate” the city, said he received the necessary number of signatures from registered voters to put the proposal on the ballot where voters will decide if the city should continue to exist. He collected 496 signatures from registered voters, which is more than the number needed to hold an election, he said. Hunter said he delivered the petitions to the Parker County Elections office and to the city of Reno last week. “I wasn’t surprised by the amount of signatures,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons, not just one root cause.” Hunter said he referred to Chapter 62 of the Local Government code on abolishing a municipality to craft the petition.

According to the code, Reno would have to hold an election to dissolve the city on the next uniform election date when the mayor is also on the ballot. That would be May 2023. Reno Mayor Sam White said he doesn’t understand why a former mayor and council member would want to initiate efforts to abolish the city. Your subscription allows us to provide our readers with quality, relevant journalism that makes a difference. We believe a platform for sharing local news is critical to our community – and we're glad you think so, too. Have questions about your subscription? We're happy to help. Contact us “It’s surprising that you have a mayor involved in city politics for 14 years that helped the city. Now, he wants to tear it down,” said White, who added that he doesn’t understand Hunter’s motives. If residents vote to disincorporate the city, it means water rates would go up because the city would no longer own the water system, and it would also affect services such as fire and police, he said.

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Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2022

‘Hell on earth’: Personal stories from UNT’s North Texas Heat Research Project

Courtney Cecale, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of North Texas, has collected over 400 personal stories from North Texans about how the summer heat impacts their lives. Here are some of their experiences. The stories are presented anonymously because they are being used as part of Cecale’s research. One Texan mentioned struggling to fall asleep as a result of the summer temperatures. “I don’t sleep well when it’s hot,” they said. “Texans have been asked to keep their thermostats at higher temps to help the energy grid and we try but it’s miserable. I really can’t sleep when my house is above 75 degrees inside.” Another said that limited access to air conditioning makes it hard to stay cool at home. “We can only afford 1 small ac window unit for my 4 bedroom house,” they said. “We have to close off certain rooms so that our AC cooling gets concentrated in one area. If we don’t, then it barely feels like the AC is working.”

Cecale collected personal stories from Texans with pre-existing health conditions, including long COVID. Many of them said the extreme summer temperatures make their conditions worse. “I am still suffering from long-term symptoms of covid and I have fibromyalgia,” one respondent said. “Extremes of temperature can trigger a flare up, which is very depressing and causes pain and fatigue. some of my symptoms are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, confusion/brain fog, and leg pain.” “I have a minor heart condition that is impacted by heat and stress,” said another respondent. “It’s often the humidity paired with high heat that makes me have episodes.” Some respondents said the heat makes it hard to be outside in the summer for long periods of time. One complained about the lack of shade and greenery that might help North Texans stay cool. “Being in town is intolerable because of all the asphalt and concrete,” they said. “No trees, no pedestrian shades. It’s like they want us to only drive and stay in buildings.”

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National Stories

Politico - August 11, 2022

Republican Herrera Beutler falls in primary after voting to impeach Trump

GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler has lost her bid for reelection in a primary in Washington state, the latest blow for the group of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump early last year. Herrera Beutler conceded Tuesday that she would fail to finish in the top two of the all-party primary in her state’s 3rd Congressional District. Instead, Trump-endorsed Joe Kent and Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez will face off in November. The primary was on Aug. 2, but vote counting has continued over the past week in the all-mail primary. Kent attended the “Justice for J6” rally in Washington, D.C., in support of Jan. 6 rioters. Herrera Beutler also faced competition from conservative Heidi St. John, which threatened to split the anti-incumbent vote in a way that helped Herrera Beutler. But Kent finished narrowly ahead of her anyway.

Herrera Beutler, first elected in 2010, is a well-respected member of the House GOP Conference. She and her allies vastly outspent her opponents on the airwaves. She aired some $1.7 million in TV ads and Winning for Women, a group dedicated to electing Republican women, spent even more. Kent spent $620,000, just a fraction of the pro-incumbent spending. But he did receive a tele-town hall with Trump in the final days of the race. His victory demonstrates the potency of the impeachment vote. In both this race and in Michigan, Trump-backed challengers were able to overcome massive spending deficits to beat well-funded incumbents who supported impeachment. Herrera Beutler is the third GOP impeachment voter to lose in a primary this year, after Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) and Tom Rice (R-S.C.). Another two, Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.), advanced through all-party primaries to their respective general elections. And four members — Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — decided not to run for reelection.

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The Hill - August 11, 2022

Biden approval rating jumps to its highest level in two months in Reuters-Ipsos poll

President Biden’s approval rating rose to its highest level in two months in a Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. Biden’s approval rating rose to 40 percent, up 2 percentage points, while his disapproval rating fell to 55 percent. The increase is partially fueled by more Democrats approving of Biden’s job performance. The poll showed Biden’s approval among Democrats rose 9 points from last month to 78 percent. Only 12 percent of Republicans approved of Biden’s performance. Biden’s approval rating in the poll hit its lowest point in May at 36 percent, and it has remained below 50 percent since August 2021, according to the poll. The president’s improved performance in the poll comes as he has attained a series of legislative and other successes.

Biden successfully pushed for Congress to pass the CHIPS and Science Act to provide billions of dollars to the domestic semiconductor industry and the Honoring Our PACT Act to expand health care for veterans exposed to toxins and burn pits while serving. The Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday after Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reached a deal on the climate, health care and tax package, and the House plans to take up the bill this week. The Biden administration also successfully conducted a drone strike that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda and a key planner in the 9/11 attacks, at the end of last month. Democrats are seeking to avoid or minimize the historical trend that a new president’s party loses seats in Congress in the midterm elections and have expressed hope that the administration and party’s successes could improve their prospects in November. Respondents to the poll listed the economy as the most important issue for the 48th straight week in the Reuters poll, with 32 percent ranking it first. The poll was conducted with 1,005 adults and has a credibility interval of 4 points.

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Axios - August 11, 2022

Trumpworld speculates about "flipped" aide after FBI search

Trumpworld is abuzz with speculation about which close aide or aides has "flipped" and provided additional sensitive information to the FBI about what former President Trump was keeping at Mar-a-Lago, sources tell Axios. Why it matters: Trump's orbit is always an environment rife with mistrust and paranoia. Now, that's intensified.

Catch up quick: Monday's search revolves around the handling of government records — and whether Trump has been honest with federal officials. In a detail that seems too novelistic to be true, a focal point of the search was ... the Mar-a-Lago basement. Christina Bobb, a lawyer for Trump, told The Washington Post his lawyers held discussions with the Justice Department this spring over materials held at Mar-a-Lago. Bobb said Trump's legal team searched through two to three dozen boxes in a basement storage area, hunting for documents that could be considered presidential records, and turned over several items.

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Washington Post - August 11, 2022

Simmering threat of violence comes to fore with search of Trump property

For months, right-wing agitators with millions of followers have peddled the idea that a moment was coming soon when violence would become necessary — a patriotic duty — to save the republic. With the FBI search Monday of Donald Trump’s compound in Florida, that moment is now, according to enraged commentators’ all-caps, exclamation-pointed screeds urging supporters of the former president to take up arms. Within hours of the search at Mar-a-Lago, a chorus of Republican lawmakers, conservative talk-show hosts, anti-government provocateurs and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit or thinly veiled calls for violence. “Today is war. That is all you will get on today’s show,” right-wing podcaster Steven Crowder announced Tuesday to his nearly 2 million followers on Twitter, referring to the program that goes to his YouTube audience of 5.6 million.

Extremist organizers have tried to hold on to the momentum they built in recent years by finding big-tent causes disparate factions could rally around, such as opposition to pandemic restrictions, “Stop the Steal” election denial, or an imagined socialist “indoctrination” of schoolchildren. With each iteration, analysts say, the networks have grown more sophisticated and more violent, as evidenced by the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. The FBI’s search at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents is now presented as a tipping point, an existential threat to the United States that true patriots must thwart. Extremism researcher Caroline Orr Bueno compiled a collage of dozens of screenshots of tweets calling for violence in response to the search, or “raid” in the parlance of Trump supporters. “I already bought my ammo,” one person boasted in the sampling. “Civil war! Pick up arms, people!” ordered another. An immediate concern is the safety of the federal judge in Florida who approved the search warrant. Once his name made its way to right-wing forums, threats and conspiracy theories soon followed. Online pro-Trump groups spread his contact information and, as of Tuesday afternoon, the judge’s official page was no longer accessible on the court’s website.

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Wyoming Public Radio - August 5, 2022

Liz Cheney is appealing to Wyoming Democrats. Will it make a difference?

Cowboy State residents have been inundated with political ads recently. Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s campaign team has been spending a lot on radio and TV spots, and Cheney – a Republican and Wyoming's lone representative in the U.S. House – has been making plenty of appearances on national Sunday talk shows. Some of her messaging is also directly trying to appeal to Independents and Democrats. Mailers and campaign web pages include instructions on how voters can change their party affiliation to cast a vote in the GOP primary on August 16. Cheney’s main challenger is attorney Harriet Hageman, who’s endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Hageman's been trying to appeal to Republicans who have felt alienated by Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump, and her role as vice chair of the House select committee investigating Trump's involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In an emailed statement, Carly Miller, Hageman's campaign manager, slammed the incumbent’s strategies. “When Liz Cheney’s only hope is to appeal to Democrats to raid a Republican primary, you know she has gone all the way over to Nancy Pelosi’s side,” Miller said. “Wyoming is fed up with Cheney and it’s too late for any election shenanigans to save her.” At least one of Hageman's ads compares Cheney to Hillary Clinton. Nonetheless, as the primary nears, left-leaning and moderate voters in Wyoming are responding to Cheney’s messaging. K.O. Strohbehn lives in Jackson, a liberal, wealthy tourism community at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park, and she recently switched her party affiliation to vote for Cheney. “She’s one of the few that is living up to her oath of office,” Shtrohbehn said. Teton County went blue by over 38 percentage points in the 2020 presidential race, but the number of registered Republicans in the county recently overtook registered Democrats for the first time in more than two years. That's because in Wyoming, voters can switch allegiances up to the day of the primary. “I appreciate the fact that we can do that because she needs to know that there are people that appreciate what she’s trying to do,” Strohbehn said.

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Center for Public Integrity - August 10, 2022

Too little, too late for people seeking climate relief

Janice Crews knew time was not on her side after Hurricane Florence’s record-breaking storm devastated her flood-prone neighborhood on Sept. 14, 2018. The retired postal worker acted quickly. She recruited an activist friend, organized neighbors, met with city officials and signed a petition for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy out their homes in the North Hills Drive community. They wanted to move out of the floodplain to higher ground. Weeks and then months passed. Crews became more and more anxious. FEMA and the local agencies it coordinated with did not seem to have the same sense of urgency she had: She was a widow in her mid-70s and the only caregiver of a disabled daughter. FEMA eventually agreed that New Bern needed buyouts. But it took almost three years after Florence had flooded the city before the agency’s approval led to an actual purchase. By then, many homeowners who initially asked for help had either moved on their own or decided in frustration that some other anti-flooding measure would have to suffice.

This is why the country’s largest effort to relocate people from flood zones isn’t working amid climate change. It’s not only denials that lock people out. Often, whatever assistance the government does offer comes too little, too late and doesn’t address the underlying problem: Entire neighborhoods and communities need help moving. For decades, FEMA has funded voluntary buyouts under its “hazard mitigation” programs that support disaster preparedness initiatives. It’s moved people out of 50,000 properties, with states and municipalities doing key legwork and often sharing the cost. They then demolish the structures and return the land to open space in order to stop the cycle of damage and loss. But the federal agency did not design its flood programs with mounting climate disasters in mind. FEMA buyout applications are complicated and the wait times are long — five years or more for the average homeowner, research shows. As millions of Americans discover in the coming decades that they must relocate because of rising sea levels, flooding rivers and intense storms, the mismatch between the buyout process and the need is going to get worse. One potent example of that future: In Lumberton, North Carolina, residents eligible for a FEMA buyout after a 2016 hurricane found themselves slammed by another in 2018 before anyone could be moved out.

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Newsclips - August 10, 2022

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Most efforts to ban books in Texas schools came from 1 politician and GOP pressure, not parents

he wave of book reviews and removals that swept across Texas in the last year was driven more by politicians than parents, a Houston Chronicle analysis found, contradicting claims that recent book bans were the result of a nationwide parental rights movement to have more control over learning materials. The findings, drawn from public information act requests sent to nearly 600 Texas school districts that teach more than 90 percent of the state’s 5.4 million public school students, show there were at least 2,080 book reviews of more than 880 unique titles since the 2018-19 school year. Of those, at least 1,740 reviews occurred during the 2021-22 school year. Nearly two thirds of those reviews — 1,057 — occurred after state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, asked districts last fall to check their shelves for books on a list he circulated. The books on Krause’s list of roughly 850 titles, predominantly feature LGBTQ+ characters and people of color in main character roles, as well as mentions of racism, the Holocaust, sexual violence, sexuality and abortion.

About a dozen districts account for more than 1,500 of the book reviews, the Chronicle found. Most of the reviewed works remained on shelves, with 269 books removed entirely and 174 instances in which access to titles was made available only to older students. In some cases, districts removed books they deemed out of date but replaced them with more recent titles on similar subjects. Most districts in the Houston region largely ignored the Krause list or did not conduct reviews because of it. Krause did not respond to emails requesting an interview, and has refused to reveal whether he and his office created the list or if it came from a third party. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News last November, he called his letter and the list “an inquiry used for fact gathering to see if anything needs to be done,” and said he did not anticipate they would be leaked to the news media. “We could decide there’s nothing here, let’s move on. And nobody even knows about it. Or it could be we’ve got a pervasive problem,” he said. “It certainly raised the consciousness of parents needing to be involved in their schools. We’ve had some school districts thank us and say, ‘We don’t want inappropriate materials for our kids.’ We wanted to give schools an idea of what books they had in their library so they don’t get caught off guard.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 9, 2022

After anger-filled public meeting, Uvalde school superintendent acknowledges, ‘Trust has been crippled’

The Uvalde school district’s board, in a meeting called to brief parents on how it would make campuses safer and “prepare for the social and emotional needs” of staff and students, was blistered for almost two hours by angry denunciations of district leadership. Some slammed the district for its handling of now-suspended police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the incident commander nominally in charge of the disastrous law-enforcement response to the Robb Elementary mass shooting on May 24 that killed 19 children and two teachers.

Some criticized other officers on the scene that day, as well as a former Robb principal who was reinstated three days after her suspension. At the heart of the criticism — some of it sharp and personal — was the belief that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had broken the trust of parents, teachers and students. The superintendent, Hal Harrell, conceded as much. “Absolutely,” he said when asked after Monday’s meeting if the district had lost the public’s faith. “We’re all in a state of shock still, and trust has been crippled. It really has, and we’re going to have to build that back.” During the meeting, he listed a series of measures — 33 new police officers, hundreds of security cameras, “campus monitors” with iPads who’ll constantly walk the grounds and check doors, and the availability of a virtual learning option for parents who don’t want their children back in a classroom when school starts Sept. 6.

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Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2022

Texas GOP defends Trump, condemns FBI raid on Mar-A-Lago over alleged mishandled documents

Top Texas Republican lawmakers harshly criticized the FBI raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago home Monday night while Democrats defended the unprecedented federal action targeting the former president. Many echoed Trump’s official statement, calling the raid a “weaponization” of the Department of Justice by Democrats. The search was tied to allegations that Trump and his administration had mishandled White House records, including some that may contain classified information. The National Archives and Records Administration said in February that it sought to obtain 15 boxes of records that were improperly removed, including some marked as “classified national security information.”

The National Archives also indicated in February it was in contact with both the DOJ and Trump’s representatives regarding the missing documents. The search came just two days after Trump appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, where he again declared he won the 2020 election and said, “I’m always being persecuted.” In a lengthy tweet Sen. Ted. Cruz called the raid “corrupt” and “an abuse of power.” “What Nixon tried to do, Biden has now implemented: The Biden Admin has fully weaponized DOJ & FBI to target their political enemies,” Cruz said in the tweet. Cruz, along with many other GOP lawmakers, deflected by arguing the same officials have not raided the homes of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton or Hunter Biden, the son of current Democrat President Joe Biden. Cruz also wrote Tuesday on Twitter that the government must “RELEASE THE WARRANT NOW. The American people deserve to see it.” The DOJ reviewed business dealings tied to Clinton in 2020, but did not find enough evidence to recommend a formal criminal investigation, according to CNN. Hunter Biden is under investigation for alleged tax violations.

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Associated Press - August 9, 2022

Appeals court says House can obtain Trump's tax returns

A federal appeals court sided Tuesday with a House committee seeking access to former President Donald Trump's tax returns, rejecting Trump's contention that Congress was overstepping. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with a lower court judge’s decision in favor of Congress. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden — a former Justice Department official and Trump appointee — ruled in December that the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has broad authority to request the records, and the Treasury Department should provide the tax returns to the committee. The three appeals court judges agreed.

"The Trump Parties contend that the Chairman’s Request exceeds Congress’s investigative powers. It does not," the judges wrote. Two of the judges, David Sentelle and Karen Henderson, were appointed by President Ronald Reagan and one, Robert Wilkins, was appointed by President Barack Obama. In their ruling, the judges also rejected Trump's argument that the request was problematic in part because it did not include a promise to keep the records confidential. It wasn't immediately clear whether Trump would appeal or whether there'd be a resolution of the case before a new Congress takes office in January. If Republicans recapture control of the House in the fall election, they could drop the request for records next year. The judges' decision came as the former president continues to be embroiled in legal fights. On Monday, the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2022

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott agrees to one debate, while Democrat Beto O’Rourke wants three

Gov. Greg Abbott, a second-term Republican, and Democrat Beto O’Rourke are sparring over how many times they should debate ahead of the midterm election. On Tuesday, Abbott announced he will face off against O’Rourke at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg on Sept. 30, a Friday night when many Texans will be at high school football stadiums. But the details are far from certain. While O’Rourke agreed to participate in the debate at a “mutually agreed upon date and time,” he said one is not enough. “The people of Texas deserve better,” O’Rourke campaign spokesman Chris Evans said in a written statement. “That’s why Beto invites Governor Abbott to participate in three town hall-style debates in every region of the state during weeknights this fall where they can take questions directly from their fellow Texans.”

Nexstar Media Group, which Abbott said would broadcast this fall’s debate, declined to comment. Abbott similarly opted for only one debate in his last re-election bid. He also chose a Friday night to face off against former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the 2018 governor’s race. Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers Jr. is listed in Abbott’s announcement as a panelist for the debate, which would be moderated by Britt Moreno of KXAN-TV, Nexstar’s Austin station. Other panelists would include Sally Hernandez of KXAN and Steve Spriester of KSAT-TV in San Antonio. “Governor Abbott is looking forward to debating Beto O’Rourke and explaining to all Texans about the Governor’s efforts to secure the future of Texas by securing the border, defunding cities that defund the police, lowering property taxes, and protecting our oil & gas industry,” Texans for Greg Abbott campaign chairman Gardner Pate said in a statement. If the debate takes place, it will be televised in English and Spanish in every media market in the state.

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Spectrum News - August 9, 2022

Texans ask lawmakers for more mental health funding

Students in Uvalde will return to school after Labor Day, but state lawmakers are still trying to understand the tragedy that unfolded on May 24 and how it could have been stopped. The Select Committee on Youth Health & Safety met at the Capitol on Monday. Texas lawmakers heard from panelists who explained why the state needs more mental health resources in schools. Lisa Descant is the chief executive officer with Communities In Schools (CIS) of Houston. She said CIS of San Antonio provided trauma and crisis support for more than 750 students, families and district employees in Uvalde after the tragedy. Still, more funding is needed to get CIS into more Texas schools.

“Each year, we find that the demand throughout the state exceeds our financial capacity,” Descant said. Several panelists said Texas could provide more mental health care to places such as Uvalde by expanding Medicaid. Federal reimbursement is available for providing in-school services to all Medicaid-enrolled students, but the state has not opted in. Becca Harkleroad, with the Texas Association of School Nurses Organization, said the state needs to submit a Medicaid plan amendment to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlining what’s needed and who will be responsible. Harkleroad said this does not aim to expand Medicaid or eligibility. Instead, it would allow schools to access federal-matching dollars that they could use to provide care to their Medicaid-enrolled students. “This proposal would heavily benefit our rural and underserved communities, as they are likely to have a higher rate of Medicaid-enrolled students,” Harkleroad said. “This would maximize the effectiveness of our schools’ current investments into the critically important services that they provide to their students.” In her testimony, Harkleroad quoted former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders: “We can’t educate children who are not healthy, and we can’t keep them healthy if they’re not educated.”

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Spectrum News - August 9, 2022

Uvalde schools launch optional virtual academy

The Uvalde school district will offer an all-grades virtual academy for families that are not ready to return to a campus when school starts on Sept. 6. Superintendent Hal Harrell discussed the option at a community dialogue session on Monday night. The virtual academy option will be open to all students who are enrolled in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, have reasonable access to a district campus, and have fewer than 10 absences last year. “The first thing I want to draw your attention to is the interest survey. It came online Friday evening and will be open through Aug. 31,” Harrell said. “So, if that is something that you or your family is interested in, direct them to the website.” Earlier in the summer, Harrell discussed some type of a homebound option for students who weren’t ready to return to a brick-and-mortar campus. This appears to be replaced by the virtual academy, which is being created with the help of Education Service Center 20, located in San Antonio.

Becky Reinhardt, UCISD’s coordinator for assessment and accountability, will spearhead the virtual academy for the school district. According to the website, instruction will be delivered over district-provided iPads. The learning management systems will be See Saw (K-2) and Canvas (3-12). “Our virtual academy will be stood up for as long as we need it,” Harrell said. The interest survey is located on the school district’s dedicated back-to-school page for the 2022-23 school year. UCISD will start the school year later than neighboring school districts, on the Tuesday after Labor Day, to make sure all upgrades security measures are in place by the first day of school. New and returning students also can be enrolled on the back-to-school page. Harrell, in his update on Monday night, said fencing has gone up at a number of campuses and 100 new cameras have been installed on the high school campus. Another 400 cameras will be scattered across the remaining school sites. As to other safety and security measures, the district will have 33 police officers on site the first day of school, as well as hired campus monitors, Harrell said. Four new police officer candidates have been identified. Vestibules to create single campus entry points are being added. And the campuses have been assessed by a vendor who may be providing bullet-proof glass on all the UCISD campuses.

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McAllen Monitor - August 9, 2022

Mercedes names its sixth police chief in three years

Officials here welcomed a new police chief on Friday — the sixth such person to lead the department since 2019. “I can’t change what happened in the past, but I can change what we do from now on. Let’s change our reputation and stay positive,” longtime lawman Pedro Estrada said to a room full of Mercedes police officers, city commissioners and city staff Friday afternoon. Estrada’s remarks — made just prior to being sworn in by Mercedes municipal Judge Juan Alvarez — addressed head-on the department’s recent history of community distrust exacerbated by a revolving door of leadership since the retirement of Chief Olga Maldonado in the summer of 2019.

Maldonado led the Queen City’s police force for three decades. Some of her successors went on to serve as few as seven months before abruptly resigning. First came Dagoberto “Dago” Chavez, under whose leadership four residents were arrested during a public meeting. He served as chief for a year-and-a-half before resigning. Next came Juan Mancias, followed by Roy A. Quintanilha, who retired last December. In January, Mercedes’ first woman assistant chief, Blanca Sanchez, was named interim chief. Estrada aims to put an end to the trend of short-term chiefs. “Hopefully, I am — and will be — the last chief that Mercedes will have. There is gonna be no more. I am very positive of that,” Estrada said shortly after his swearing in ceremony at Mercedes City Hall. The new chief has plans to begin rebuilding community trust by repairing relationships between the police department and the community and school district. “He was very specific about specific things that we need to target. We talked about community outreach. We talked about having improved relations with the schools and the big businesses around the area,” Mercedes City Manager Alberto Perez said.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 9, 2022

How Texas counties are helping voters after new law led to 25,000 rejected mail ballots

As primary voting started early this year, Texas election officials spent much of their time on the phone with voters who were frustrated and confused about new rules for mail voting that led their ballots to be rejected. In San Antonio’s Bexar County, for example, about 20 percent of mail ballot applications were not accepted because they failed to comply with the ID requirements that went into effect ahead of the March 1 primary. “That hurt,” said county elections administrator Jacque Callanen, adding that many calls came from seniors who’d never had a problem with the absentee process until then. “That’s not who we are; that’s not what we do.”

In some parts of the state, such as Houston’s Harris County, rejection rates were initially as high as 40 percent, though they later fell to 19 percent with media coverage of the issue and education campaigns by the secretary of state’s office and county election offices. The statewide rejection rate was more than 12 percent in the primary — six times what it was in the last midterm year in 2018. By the primary runoffs, the rate was down to less than 4 percent rejected, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. Ahead of the November general elections, a number of elections officials say they have found a simple fix — a brightly colored insert that arrives with mail ballots, explaining the new requirements and showing the easily forgotten space under the flap of the return envelope where the voter’s ID number needs to be printed.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 9, 2022

Yaser Said found guilty in Texas ‘honor killings’ of daughters

A 65-year-old father was found guilty on Tuesday of capital murder in the 2008 shooting deaths of his two daughters in his taxi near an Irving hotel in what some family members called “honor killings.” Yaser Said showed no emotion as Judge Chika Anyiam announced the verdict from the Dallas County jury, which took about four hours on Tuesday to reach a decision. The judge ordered Said to prison for life without parole because prosecutors had decided not to seek the death penalty before his trial started last week in Criminal District No. 7 in Dallas. “My client has told me from the start that he didn’t do it,” said Brad Lollar of Dallas, one of Said’s attorneys, after the verdict. Lollar said Said would appeal the verdict. In victim impact statements after the verdict was announced, Patricia Owens, who is Said’s former wife, told Said that she could never forgive him for killing their daughters, Amina Said, 18, and Sarah Said, 17.

“You can keep those evil eyes glaring at me,” Owens said. “I don’t have to worry about you anymore. My kids were my world.” As Owens talked, the judge ordered Said to keep quiet as he talked to his attorneys. “I’m not scared of you,” she said. “You are nothing.” After the fatal shooting in 2008, Said fled the scene and hid for 12 years before he was captured in a Justin home in August 2020, authorities have said. He was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. In closing arguments Tuesday morning, defense attorneys continued their argument that the investigation into the shooting deaths of the girls was botched, noting that authorities lacked evidence such as DNA or fingerprints. “Justice is not convicting an innocent man,” defense attorney Joseph Patton told the jury Tuesday morning. “Yaser Said loved his daughters. He may have made mistakes, but he did not kill them.” Earlier in the trial, Patton told the jury that Said was targeted as the suspect because he is a Muslim. But prosecutor Lauren Black said on Tuesday morning that Yaser Said kept control of his family. “All signs point to Yaser Said, period,” Black said in her closing argument. “Fourteen years later, he still puts himself with (the victims).”

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KHOU - August 9, 2022

Humble ISD superintendent says she's confident police officers are well-equipped to keep schools safe

Tuesday was the first day of school for kids in Humble ISD. KHOU 11 News was there bright and early as school buses rolled out. The bus barn was busy before sunrise. Each bus was heading to Humble ISD neighborhoods to pick up students who woke up early for their first day back. "Oh yeah, it was a little rough, but I had a lot of adrenaline to get me ready," Kingwood High School senior Preston May said. "I'm taking a lot of really exciting classes. There are a lot of upcoming football games, just a lot of school spirit activities," Kingwood senior Riley Weller said. "I love dressing up so I'm really excited to show my KHS school spirit."

While many students and parents are excited for a new school year, we know safety is front of mind for many families. A KHOU 11 survey of parents found safety is their top priority. Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said his office has committed AR-15 rifles and hundreds of deputy constables to have a visible presence at all six school districts within Precinct 4, including Humble ISD. RELATED: Here's what Houston-area school districts are doing to keep students safe this year Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen said the district has a thorough safety strategy in place so students can focus on having a fun and safe school year. "I absolutely am confident that our police department has all the equipment they need to keep our students safe," Fagen said. Fagan said she hopes parents, students and staff feel confident as well.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2022

Faced with a two-decade wait, these families had to leave Texas to receive disability services

Sheletta Brundidge never thought she would be thankful for a 9-year-old daughter who talked back and gave her sass. But sitting in the backyard of her home just outside St. Paul, Sheletta finds herself giddy. Her daughter, Cameron, was making clever arguments to open a package addressed to her brother that had arrived at their front door — even though Sheletta said she couldn’t. Four years ago, Cameron was put in a classroom for deaf children because she couldn’t speak a single word. She wasn’t potty trained. She didn’t understand how to play with toys. Now, she can take visitors on a tour of the family’s five-bedroom home. She can politely order a blue and red popsicle from an ice cream truck and pay with exact change.

Cameron and her brother, Brandon, 10, were diagnosed with autism while the family was living in Houston — and Daniel, 7, was showing the telltale signs of the developmental disability. Sheletta, a native Houstonian, tried to get them services through the state of Texas. She was told it would be, at a minimum, a 10-year wait. So, Sheletta, 50, did the only thing she could think to give her children a chance — she and her now ex-husband, Shawn, moved to Minnesota, leaving behind generations of family members and close friends. The Houston Chronicle interviewed half a dozen families who, like the Brundidges, have made the difficult decision to leave the state in order to get their children help. Most never wanted to leave. They didn’t feel they had a choice. “I was born and raised and ready to die in Houston,” Sheletta said. “But I told Shawn, ‘We have to get out of here.’” Although experts estimate there are 500,000 Texans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a Houston Chronicle investigation found that the state has the capacity to serve barely a fifth of those individuals.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2022

Gov. Greg Abbott, Beto O’Rourke agree to a televised debate, and they’re already sparring

Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic foe, Beto O’Rourke announced Tuesday they have agreed to a televised debate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, marking the first onstage faceoff between the two gubernatorial nominees. It wasn’t immediately clear when the debate would take place. Abbott’s campaign said in a news release it was scheduled for Sept. 30, while O’Rourke campaign spokesman Chris Evans said O’Rourke would attend “at a mutually agreed upon date and time.” In a statement, Evans said O’Rourke is also challenging Abbott to three additional town hall-style debates, as “one debate in one community for the entire state of Texas is not nearly enough.”

“The people of Texas deserve better,” Evans said. O’Rourke wants the debates on weeknights where the candidates can take questions directly from voters. A Sept. 30 debate would fall on a Friday, likely conflicting with high school football games across the state. In 2018, Abbott debated his Democratic opponent that year, Lupe Valdez, in a single debate that also fell on a Friday night. Abbott’s campaign said in a news release that he’d agreed to only one debate that would run for an hour and be moderated by journalists from KXAN-TV in Austin, KSAT-TV in San Antonio and the Dallas Morning News.“Gov. Abbott is looking forward to debating Beto O'Rourke and explaining to all Texans about the governor's efforts to secure the future of Texas by securing the border, defunding cities that defund the police, lowering property taxes, and protecting our oil and gas industry,” said Abbott’s campaign chairman, Gardner Pate. Meanwhile, Evans referenced a statement from Abbott’s top political strategist, Dave Carney, when he was asked earlier this year if the governor would agree to any debates against O’Rourke. “If it’s a competitive race, maybe. If it’s not, probably not,” Carney said in March. Evans said the race has tightened, pointing to recent polls that found Abbott’s approval rating is not as high as it once was. “We look forward to holding him accountable for his indefensible record at these forums this fall,” Evans said.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2022

Jaime Resendez: The new responsible banking ordinance in Dallas is a step towards racial equity

(Jaime Resendez is a Dallas City council member representing District 5.) Prior to serving on the Dallas City Council, I didn’t know as much about housing developments as I do now, but I did know a lot about life south of Interstate 30. I grew up in Pleasant Grove. Our community is an economically disadvantaged, majority-minority area with pockets of significant concentrations of low-income apartments; just take a drive down Bruton Road between St. Augustine Drive and Masters Drive, or along Great Trinity Forest Way between U.S. Highway 175 and Pemberton Hill Road. It’s no surprise that these areas have been designated as “Targeted Action Area Grids.” These TAAG areas are mostly dispersed south of I-30 and get extra police attention because of high crime and violence. Since I’ve been a member of the Dallas City Council, most of the developers that have approached me are interested in utilizing low-income housing tax credits to fund apartments, but I’ve consistently pushed back. Moreover, banks contribute to this problem by investing in many of these subsidized apartments, rather than investing directly in individuals and small businesses in southeast Dallas and other underserved areas.

Allowing low-income tax credit housing to substitute for home loans south of I-30 is modern-day redlining and prevents minorities from gaining wealth through homeownership. I-30, the highway that runs across Dallas from Mesquite to Grand Prairie, is more than a physical barrier separating the northern and southern parts of the city. It’s an arbitrary boundary that divides the city’s mostly white population to the north from the city’s mostly Black and Latino communities to the south. It’s also an economic barrier, fostering economic growth in North Dallas and contributing to economic decline in South Dallas. For decades, the practice of redlining was used by the mortgage industry to deny loans to applicants based on their race. This discriminatory practice disproportionately affected those living south of I-30, resulting in far fewer mortgage and small business loans to Blacks and Latinos. The book The Color of Law provides an in-depth history of the practices American governments used to racially segregate cities. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it unlawful to discriminate against protected classes in housing transactions and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 requires federal regulators to encourage banks to meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income individuals and reinvest in the minority neighborhoods that banks have long ignored. But instead of lending directly to individuals south of I-30, banks have chosen to invest their dollars in low-income apartments (helping them meet CRA standards) while benefiting from low-income housing tax credits, which I believe is another type of redlining.

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Axios - August 9, 2022

Austin out-of-towners are wealthier than locals

The average newbie moving to Austin has a home buying budget that's about 7.6% higher than locals. Why it matters: Central Texas became a destination for those looking to move during the pandemic, which made housing prices and the rental market soar beginning in 2020. The sorta-good news: The budget gap in Austin has drastically narrowed since the beginning of the pandemic, when the average out-of-towner had an $852,500 budget, 32% higher than local residents, Redfin previously found. "Migration into both Nashville and Austin has slowed significantly in 2022, largely because out-of-town buyers pushed up prices," according to the report. "Prices are up 44% in Nashville and 57% in Austin since the beginning of the pandemic."

Now, the average out-of-towner comes to Austin with a $964,811 budget. The median home price in June was $536,000. Yes, but: Residents from more expensive cities — usually New York City and Los Angeles — are eyeing other Texas metros where they can afford to live closer to city centers. Out-of-towners have an average maximum budget of about $815,000 for a house in Dallas compared to the average local's maximum budget of $667,000. Houston newbies have an average budget of $608,902, which is roughly 17.5% higher than local's budget. By the numbers: Philadelphia saw the largest gap between migrants and locals, with newcomers having nearly 40% more in their housing budget than long-time residents. Dallas ranked fourth. "The market looks different for locals, many of whom are priced out or driven to search in the suburbs because both home prices and mortgage payments have risen significantly in the last year," Redfin deputy chief economist Taylor Marr wrote in the analysis. For the record: Immediately driving up the cost of living is not the best way to make friends with your new neighbors.

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Axios - August 9, 2022

Dallas leaders release 2022-2023 budget plan

Dallas' plans for the upcoming fiscal year include more money for policing, environmental sustainability measures and increasing the minimum wage to $18 for city employees. Driving the news: The city released the budget plan during the weekend and plans to formally introduce it to the City Council on Tuesday. The big picture: City leaders estimate having $4.5 billion to spend in 2022-2023. The city's general fund for the new fiscal year is expected to bring in $172 million more than the current year. Details: The proposed 2022-2023 budget includes plans to start the new $2 billion convention center project, which would replace the existing Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center — despite criticism that the move is a "land grab" for local developers.

Public safety accounts for 60% of Dallas' general fund under the proposed budget, and the city's police and fire departments would get millions more in funding compared to the current year. Of note: Dallas plans to add a referendum to the Nov. 8 ballot, asking voters to approve collecting 2% more from the hotel tax for 30 years to help pay for the convention center. If the referendum is approved, the city would start the hiring process for project management and design. Construction would begin in 2024. Reality check: Property values are likely to increase in the upcoming year — as they have been in recent years — and could result in higher property taxes for some people. Zoom in: The minimum wage increase for city employees, from $15.50 to $18 per hour, will kick in next January to help keep up with the rising cost of living in North Texas.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 9, 2022

Revitalization targets Fort Worth’s Northside, Polytechnic

Two historic neighborhoods in Fort Worth are about to get a major economic boost. The city announced Tuesday that it has partnered with Main Street America for a three-year revitalization program in Historic Northside and Polytechnic. Economic development leaders representing the two districts will receive training to help transform these historic commercial corridors. The national program helps major metros across the country revitalize communities with potential for economic growth; Fort Worth is the first city in Texas to partner with Main Street America. The announcement means Northside and Polytechnic will benefit from up to $270,000 in grants and access to Main Street America’s national network. Both corridors will receive funding to hire full-time staff who can implement the economic development strategy.

“It’s going to give us training as economic development people on how to use best practices based on what’s been done in other cities,” said Stacy Marshall, president and CEO of Southeast Fort Worth, Inc. Development of Northside will alleviate pressure and the growing need for revitalization between the Stockyards and future development on Panther Island, just north of downtown. “I think it’s going to further a lot of efforts that have been talked about in the past but at that time didn’t have the necessary support structure of funding,” said City Council member Carlos Flores. “With getting support for this, it opens up possibilities. I think it’s a good time for alignment of this program with what’s going on near the Northside area. We have the Stockyards, and Panther Island is getting funding to continue flood control work. All these are positives. The area in between them is in need of revitalization and investment in both the neighborhood and commercial sense.” Efforts in the corridor will be led by the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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National Stories

Associated Press - August 9, 2022

Biden signs $280B CHIPS Act, boasts of the jolt he foresees for US security and industry

President Joe Biden took the first of several victory laps Tuesday for recent legislative wins, signing a $280 billion bipartisan deal to boost U.S. production of computer chips and provide a buffer against growing Chinese dominance in high-tech. “America invented the semiconductor… and this law brings it back home,” Biden told a crowd of state and federal officials and industry leaders baking in the sun on the South Lawn of the White House. “The future of the chip industry is going to be made in America.” The legislation sets aside $52 billion to bolster domestic production of computer chips, which are critical for smartphones and all sorts of computers. Supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic hobbled automobile production.

The CHIPS and Science Act also invests billions in science and technology innovation. Backers say it will bolster U.S. competitiveness and self-reliance and with that, economic and national security. Democrats eagerly await similar ceremonies on major tax, health care and climate legislation – big wins for Biden that they hope will revive his low public approval ratings. “These bills are what progress looks like,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Senate passed the CHIPS bill 64-33 on July 27. Sen. John Cornyn was one of 17 GOP senator who supported it. His fellow Texas Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, opposed it. Biden and Senate Majority Leader Schumer both expressed thanks to Cornyn and a handful of others, though the only Republican senator on hand for the bill signing was Ohio’s Rob Portman. The House approved the bill 243-187 a day after the Senate with support from two dozen Republicans, including two Texans, Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Michael McCaul of Austin. “This is going to hopefully give him some of the bump that he needs to get the country refocused on what’s really important,” said state Sen. Carol Alvarado, the Democratic leader in the Texas Senate, who expects the bill to boost the Port of Houston in her district.

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Reuters - August 9, 2022

Michigan AG alleges conspiracy by Trump backers to break into voting equipment

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is alleging that her Republican political opponent in the November elections orchestrated a conspiracy with a state lawmaker and a lawyer to break into voting equipment in a hunt for evidence to prove former president Donald Trump’s false voter-fraud claims. The charge that Nessel’s Republican challenger, Matt DePerno, was involved in a potential felony is outlined in a petition filed by Nessel, a Democrat, seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue the investigation. The petition notes that DePerno has emerged as “one of the prime instigators of the conspiracy,” creating a conflict of interest for her office to take the case further.

Reuters exclusively reported on Sunday that DePerno led a team that gained unauthorized access to voting equipment in Richfield Township. The news organization linked the Trump-backed Republican candidate to the incident by matching the serial number on the compromised machine to a photograph in a report submitted by DePerno in a failed lawsuit alleging voter fraud. The Richfield tabulator is among five such machines that the attorney general said were accessed without authorization, including a separate incident in Roscommon County and other breaches in Missaukee County’s Lake Township and Barry County’s Irving Township. The incidents occurred between early March and late June of 2021, the attorney general said. DePerno did not respond to requests for comment, but said on Twitter that Nessel’s investigation was politically motivated. His tweet included a fundraising plea for donations to help him “fight back.”

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The Hill - August 10, 2022

FBI thunderbolt scrambles political predictions on Trump

The FBI’s search of former President Trump’s estate in Florida is a political thunderbolt that on Tuesday had a number of Republicans thinking it could boost his standing in a future presidential race. Trump seized on the raid to rally his supporters, while Republicans across the political spectrum offered support for the former president — including potential rivals for the 2024 nomination. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called it an “escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies,” while former Vice President Mike Pence said it “undermines public confidence in our justice system.” He demanded “a full accounting” of the matter.

Critics of Trump also offered worries that the surprise search could help the former president. One of the most high-profile remarks came from a former Trump and Pence staffer who has emerged as a major critic of Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. “This, I’m hoping, goes beyond simply not complying with some archiving laws, or DOJ [the Department of Justice] just handed Donald Trump the Republican nominee and potentially the presidency,” Alyssa Farah Griffin, the former official, said on CNN. “If it’s seen as some sort of massive overreach and not something incredibly serious, this is a very good day for Donald Trump,” she added. It was far too early on Tuesday to know for sure how much the FBI raid signaled legal jeopardy for Trump, or just how the political reverberations would be felt in the November midterm elections and beyond. But the news scrambled a political scene in which Democrats had dared to feel more optimistic about their chances in the midterms after a series of legislative victories culminating in Sunday’s passage of a massive climate, tax and health care bill.

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Wall Street Journal - August 10, 2022

U.S. to report July inflation as economy cooled

U.S. inflation likely remained close to a four-decade high in July despite cooling energy prices, economists say. The Labor Department on Wednesday is estimated to report that the consumer-price index rose 8.7% in July from the same month a year ago, down from 9.1% in June, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. June marked the fastest pace of inflation since November 1981. Core CPI, which excludes often volatile energy and food prices, is estimated to have accelerated in July by 6.1% from the same month a year ago, a sign that broad price pressures remain in the economy. The CPI measures what consumers pay for goods and services. The figures will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

On a monthly basis, the CPI is estimated to have increased by 0.2% in July after rising 1.3% the prior month, the result of falling energy prices such as gasoline. The core-price index is estimated to have increased 0.6% last month, down slightly from June’s 0.7% gain, but much higher than the average monthly gain of 0.2% in the two years before the pandemic. Rapidly rising prices have become persistent following a surge in inflation from goods, energy and food, said Greg Daco, chief economist for EY-Parthenon, a consulting firm. “That divergent trend shows there’s a breadth of inflation in that housing inflation and service-sector inflation remain elevated,” he said, adding price pressures in those areas could linger. “And those tend to be stickier than goods, which can and will start to reverse.”

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CNN - August 10, 2022

Fox boss Lachlan Murdoch privately levels harsh criticism against Trump, sources say

Fox News largely refrains from criticizing Donald Trump. But, in private, Lachlan Murdoch has denounced some of the former President's behavior in harsh terms. In private this year, the Fox Corp. chief executive has freely criticized Trump, saying that he disagrees with much of the way the former President behaves, sources tell me. Murdoch has gone so far as to tell people that he believes if Trump were to run again, it would be bad for the country, I'm told. But, the sources added, Murdoch has also noted that the Fox News audience continues to support Trump. Which is to say that Murdoch knows that supporting Trump is good for business -- and, more importantly, he knows that pillorying him is bad for business because it would alienate the channel's core audience.

This is notable. Patriarch Rupert Murdoch's low opinion of Trump has been endlessly covered. But, until now, the younger Murdoch's opinion has been somewhat of a mystery. A Fox Corp. spokesperson declined to comment on this reporting. But the dichotomy helps explain why the right-wing channel continues to be supportive of Trump, despite recent reporting that indicates the Murdochs are privately disillusioned with him. Last month, The New York Times and The Washington Post published stories indicating that the Murdochs were quietly giving Trump the cold shoulder by emphasizing him less in coverage on Fox. That reporting prompted some to wonder: Could the Murdochs finally be steering Fox in an anti-Trump direction? The network's programming over the last 24 hours has shattered any such illusion. Fox's coverage of the FBI's search and seizure of documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort has been downright sycophantic. Just like when he was in the White House facing scandal, the network's top personalities have rushed on air to portray Trump as the victim of shadowy, deep-state forces who are corrupt enough to use the levers of governmental power to damage him.

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NBC News - August 9, 2022

Rep. Scott Perry, a top Trump ally, says FBI agents seized his cellphone

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said Tuesday night that the FBI seized his cellphone earlier in the day, less than 24 hours after federal agents searched former President Donald Trump's home in Florida. “This morning, while traveling with my family, 3 FBI agents visited me and seized my cell phone," Perry said in a statement. Perry, a top Trump ally, said the FBI "made no attempt to contact my lawyer, who would have made arrangements for them to have my phone if that was their wish. I’m outraged — though not surprised — that the FBI under the direction of Merrick Garland’s DOJ, would seize the phone of a sitting Member of Congress.”

In his statement, first reported by Fox News, Perry added that his “phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government’s business.” A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Perry then compared the cellphone seizure to the FBI's search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, on Monday. “(A)s with President Trump last night, DOJ chose this unnecessary and aggressive action instead of simply contacting my attorneys. These kinds of banana republic tactics should concern every Citizen," Perry said.

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Newsclips - August 9, 2022

Lead Stories

The Hill - August 9, 2022

GOP tempers expectations for Senate majority

Republicans are looking to manage expectations when it comes to winning back the Senate majority in November as Democrats rack up key legislative wins and some GOP candidates stumble. National Republican Senatorial Campaign (NRSC) Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Sunday acknowledged that it’s “going to be a hard year.” “We have 21 Republicans up, only 14 Democrats,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The Democrats are outraising us, but we have good candidates. And I believe Joe Biden is going to be our key here.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week also sought to manage expectations. “I think it’s going to be very tight. We have a 50-50 nation. And I think when this Senate race smoke clears, we’re likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with us up slightly or the Democrats up slightly,” McConnell said Wednesday evening on Fox’s “Special Report.”

While neither Republican leader is conceding the upper chamber — Scott, in the same interview, said he was “optimistic” — the tone stands in contrast to the confidence Republicans were expressing about the Senate earlier this year, as well as the near certainty felt within the GOP of retaking the House. “There’s been a lot of curtain-measuring on the House sid,e and if Republicans take back the House but it’s by a small margin and they manage to hold onto the Senate even if it’s by one vote, that could cast how we view the election,” said veteran Republican strategist Doug Heye. “We’ve seen the expectations game played a lot in Washington, and I think Scott is mindful of that, and depending on where expectations get set you could have a good night that’s defined as a bad night,” he added. The comments come as Democratic hopes of gaining seats in the upper chamber are growing. Democrats just passed their climate, tax and health care bill, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, a major piece of President Biden’s agenda. That followed bipartisan passage of a measure to increase semiconductor manufacturing and competitiveness with China, as well as a bill to expand health care for veterans.

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Associated Press - August 8, 2022

FBI searching Mar-a-Lago, Trump says

The FBI searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, people familiar with the matter said Monday, a move that represents a dramatic and unprecedented escalation of law enforcement scrutiny of the former president. Trump, disclosing the search in a lengthy statement, asserted that agents had opened up a safe at his home and described their work as an “unannounced raid” that he likened to “prosecutorial misconduct.” The search intensifies the months-long probe into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records located at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year. It occurs amid a separate grand jury investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and adds to the potential legal peril for Trump as he lays the groundwork for another run.

Familiar battle lines, forged during a a four-year presidency shadowed by FBI and congressional investigations, quickly took shape again Monday night. Trump and his allies sought to cast the search as a weaponization of the criminal justice system and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024 — even though the Biden White House said it had no prior knowledge of it, and the current FBI director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump five years ago and served as a high-ranking official in a Republican-led Justice Department. “These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump wrote. “Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.” “After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said in his statement. Justice Department spokesperson Dena Iverson declined to comment on the search, including about whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized it. Trump did not elaborate on the basis for the search, but the Justice Department has been investigating the potential mishandling of classified information after the National Archives and Records Administration said it had received from Mar-a-Lago 15 boxes of White House records, including documents containing classified information, earlier this year. The National Archives said Trump should have turned over that material upon leaving office, and it asked the Justice Department to investigate.

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Dallas Morning News - August 8, 2022

NYC mayor calls Abbott’s actions ‘horrific’ as second bus of migrants arrives from Texas

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is condemning the actions of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after a second bus carrying migrants sent from Texas arrived over the weekend as the governor delivered on his promise to send migrants to the city. “This is horrific, when you think about what the governor is doing,” Adams said at the Port Authority bus terminal as migrants arrived on a bus from Texas, POLITICO reported. While Adams said officials expected 40 people to be on the bus, only 14 were dropped off at the station Sunday, POLITICO reported. The other passengers likely got off at other stops along the three-day route. Adams also said some migrants were forced onto the bus to New York, or were lied to about its destination, POLITICO reported. He added that Texas has not coordinated with the city, so his office is unaware when buses are leaving or the details about passengers.

New York City has long adopted a right-to-shelter mandate, which requires the city to provide shelter for homeless families in a timely manner. Adams has also pushed for federal funds or assistance to house and care for houseless migrants bused from Texas, which has put a strain on the city’s ability to follow the mandate. Adams pointed to an influx in homeless asylum seekers in July, when the city failed to comply with the mandate requiring that families presenting for shelter by 10 p.m. must be placed in conditional shelter by 4 a.m. Four families were placed in shelter hours after the deadline. The head of the mayor’s immigrant affairs office, Manuel Castro, told CNN that because New York is a right-to-shelter city, anyone who needs shelter can get it. However, he said, the city has “exhausted” its availability of regular shelter space, and is leasing additional space at hotels to serve those in need. “These are families, these are people,” Castro told CNN. “They have a right to be here as asylum-seekers and New York is here to welcome them. They frankly need a lot of support. They’ve traveled a long way to get here.” Many of the migrants arrived “hungry and thirsty, with small children,” he said. Abbott announced he was expanding this busing measure to New York City on Friday, when the first bus of migrants arrived from Texas. The state has bused migrants from the border to Washington, D.C., since April.

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KUT - August 8, 2022

Texas has added a lot of jobs lately. But hiring could slow later this year.

Whether on storefront windows or restaurant doors, “help wanted” or “now hiring” signs are still a common sight across many parts of Texas. At the same time, large companies with footprints in Texas have laid off hundreds of employees over recent months, while others contemplate trimming staff. So, are the only jobs available in Texas low-skilled or service jobs? Are larger companies preparing for another quarter of negative growth? Is Texas about to feel the brunt of a recession? The answers aren’t simple, but the consensus from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is that the state’s economy is strong. And hiring trends are likely to continue for some time, said Pia Orrenius, a vice president and senior economist and the bank.

She cited as proof last month's jobs report for Texas, which showed that 82,500 jobs were added in June. The job growth put the state’s unemployment rate at 4.4%. (The unemployment rate in the United States was 3.5%, according to a report issued Friday.) “That's like the labor market on steroids,” she told The Texas Newsroom. “We're seeing jobs added in every industry. So, it's not true that it's just the low-skill industries or the low-wage industries. It's every industry adding.” At first glance, that appears to contradict recent reports about some companies in Texas announcing sizable cuts to their workforces. In July, the Dallas Morning News reported that 20 Texas-based companies had laid off about 3,700 employees during the first six months of 2022. Among them was Plano-based First Guaranty Mortgage Corp., which let go about 430 of its 565 employees. Orrenius said that’s likely due to interest rate hikes the Biden administration has implemented to curb record-high inflation. “There's contraction in the mortgage lending and refinance business and that's makes total sense with the interest rates going up,” she said. “But the rest of the labor market is really still and, in general, just doing extremely well, especially in our region.”

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State Stories

Spectrum News - August 8, 2022

Hearing: Mental health support begins in classroom

School mental health professionals – counselors, nurses and social workers – urged a joint Texas House committee to move mental health services closer to the students following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde. A joint hearing of three committees – Public Safety, Homeland Security and the select committee on Youth Health & Safety – picked up the topic of mental health services available to students.

The focus was on what is being done for mental health and what people in Uvalde missed that led to the mass shooting. “I asked the TEA commissioner, in a previous hearing after Uvalde, if there were essentially any ticking time bombs in any schools right now,” Chair J.M. Lozano told a panel. “Like the kids we talked about earlier, the kids that are dragging a bag of dead cats around town.” In a House report on the Robb massacre, shooter Salvador Ramos was described as someone given the nickname “school shooter;” a dropout who flunked out of school after dozens of absences, was fired from part-time jobs and once carried around a dead cat in a plastic bag. “You know, that’s just immediate,” said Lozano, implying the dead cat should have been a red flag. “And there was no one involved other than the school counselor.” Other members of the panel worried aloud about the sharp increase of students who are suicidal or deeply depressed. Members of the panel – include counselors who drove to Uvalde to assist the school district in opening summer school – insisted the school district had good people who cared for their students.

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Houston Chronicle - August 8, 2022

Chris Tomlinson: Conservative billionaires seek to destroy Texas public schools with more scare tactics

Rightwing activists have found another three-letter acronym to generate rage against teachers, a routine tactic two conservative billionaires have used for years to gut Texas public education. The new bugaboo is Social and Emotional Learning or SEL for short. Unlike CRT or critical race theory, K-12 teachers have employed SEL since the 1990s to encourage children to develop self-esteem, manage emotions, and empathize with others. This new demagoguery is the latest in a decades-long effort to rally parents against public schools, and it’s driving thousands of teachers from the field. Our future workforce and economic prosperity depend on countering the propaganda, demanding better from the State Board of Education, and guaranteeing our teachers professional working conditions.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation thinks SEL promotes child suicide and warned in a recent email blast that SEL is used to teach CRT and other concepts prohibited under Texas state law, like the “1619 Project.” “I fear it is creating mental health problems in children,” TPPF Fellow Carol Swain wrote. “The question for Texas, like other states that have made efforts to remove critical-theory-based concepts from K-12 classrooms, is how to close and lock the door — to prevent social justice warriors and activist teachers from using SEL materials and their own values to evade the intent of ‘prohibited concepts’ legislation.” The State Board of Education is meeting in Austin to develop a new statewide social studies standard. The anti-CRT legislation is so vague, confusing and anti-intellectual that teachers are quitting rather than dealing with the madness, said board member Aicha Davis. “We talk about teachers leaving in droves, and this is one of the reasons we had a lot of teachers leaving,” Davis said. “Because it caused so much fear, teachers were afraid to teach because of this.” Even the anti-CRT law’s author, state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), told the board he might amend the law next year because of the widespread confusion.

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Houston Chronicle - August 8, 2022

More Texas teachers on verge of quitting than at any time in the last 40 years, survey finds

More Texas teachers are considering leaving the profession than at any point in the last 40 years, according to new polling from the Texas State Teachers Association. The survey found that 70 percent of teachers were seriously considering quitting this year, a substantial jump from the 53 percent who said so in 2018, the last time the typically biennial survey was conducted. Teachers attributed their grim outlook to pandemic-related stress, political pressure from state lawmakers, less support from parents and stretched finances. The survey represented all grade levels and regions of the states. It was skipped in 2020 amid of the pandemic.

Like much of the nation, Texas is already grappling with a massive shortage of teachers. Earlier this year, Gov. Greg Abbott convened a task force within the Texas Education Agency to study the problem and craft solutions. But as the school year fast approaches, there remain thousands of unfilled teaching jobs across the state, and the problem could only get worse if more and more teachers leave the profession. In the survey, which was completed by 688 Texas teachers, 94 percent said the pandemic increased their professional stress, and 82 percent said financial stress was exacerbated. Experts have pointed to better pay as a key way to recruit and retain teachers. Respondents taught for about 16 years on average, and their average salary was around $59,000. That’s about $7,000 below the national trend, according to the teachers association. Besides salary, Texas teachers on average also receive some of the worst retirement benefits of those in any state, a separate study from June found. Teachers who have retired since 2004 have not received a cost-of-living adjustment, although the Legislature has passed some “13th check” bills that send extra annuity payments. In addition to pay, 85 percent said they felt state lawmakers held a negative view of teachers, 65 percent said the public held a negative view and 70 percent said support from parents had decreased over the last several years. Abbott and fellow Republicans in the Texas Legislature have recently enacted several high-profile education policies, over opposition from teachers groups and education experts.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 8, 2022

Mayor Ron Nirenberg got 3-day notice that Army would train in San Antonio starting Monday

Soldiers in military helicopters will train this week in various locations around San Antonio, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said, conducting nightly exercises that officials confirmed would continue “for the next several days.” The exercises will go from around 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Friday, said Maj. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the Fort-Bragg, N.C.-based command. It will involve roughly 100 soldiers, including support personnel, using an unspecified number of UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and MH-6M Little Bird helicopters. Residents “may hear low-flying helicopters, simulated gunfire and controlled explosions during periods of darkness,” Police Chief William McManus said Sunday, describing a smaller footprint and timeline, from 7 p.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday in downtown and central San Antonio.

A San Antonio Police Department news release Sunday evening was the city’s first public announcement of the training, about 24 hours before it was to begin. It said the exercise had been planned for months and “was coordinated with the appropriate local officials.” Mayor Ron Nirenberg only learned of it Friday, his spokesman, Bruce Davidson, said. Assistant City Manager Jeff Coyle described the upcoming operation in an email to Nirenberg and members of the City Council at 9:52 p.m. Sunday, couching it in the language of an initial briefing. “This training will consist of air and ground mobility operations and close-quarter combat training to enhance soldiers’ skills by operating in a realistic environment,” it said. Coyle said safety precautions had been put in place “to protect participants and residents, along with planning considerations to minimize impacts to the community and private property. Municipal officials “are not permitted by the military to publicly disclose the exact locations and times of the training,” he noted.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 8, 2022

Trustee in Chris Pettit’s bankruptcy seeks court OK to sell well-known San Antonio-area mansion

The Chapter 11 trustee in Christopher “Chris” Pettit’s bankruptcy is beginning to unwind the disgraced ex-San Antonio lawyer’s empire. Trustee Eric Terry filed a motion late Friday seeking court approval to hire real estate brokers to sell the mansion at 555 Argyle Ave. in Alamo Heights, which overlooks Olmos Dam. It’s one of the area’s most recognizable houses. The property is one of the more valuable assets in the consolidated bankruptcy cases of Pettit and his now-defunct law firm. They sought Chapter 11 protection June 1 after about a dozen lawsuits were filed alleging they had stolen millions of dollars from clients. They reported $40.5 million in assets and $115.2 million in debts. Pettit valued the Argyle property at $3.6 million in his bankruptcy, with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage owed about $2 million.

Pettit doesn’t live there. He has been leasing the mansion to former Spurs player and current team executive Brent Barry for $11,000 a month. Terry wants to hire broker Fred Hutt of Compass RE Texas Inc. and Corie Properties Group to sell the property. Pettit has claimed a house on Champions Run in a gated community in Stone Oak as his primary residence. He has valued that property at $1.8 million. It’s almost certain that creditors will object to a claim that the Champions Run property is exempt from the bankruptcy estate and out of creditors’ reach. Objections would have to be filed within 30 days of the conclusion of the meeting of creditors. The meeting resumes Friday, but it’s not known if it will conclude that day. The bankruptcy code states that if a debtor engaged in “fraud, deceit or manipulation in a fiduciary capacity,” then the debtor’s homestead exemption is limited to about $190,000 — taking into account inflation.

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KSAT - August 8, 2022

Uvalde CISD gives students the option of virtual learning this school year

The Uvalde CISD plans to offer a virtual learning option for students this school year. Many parents and children have expressed concerns about returning to campuses after the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead. The district has pushed back the start of school until Sept. 6 to give more time for security updates at schools and officials are letting parents share questions and concerns during a Special School Board Meeting on Monday. But parents who still aren’t comfortable with in-person learning are being given the option to keep their kids home to learn.

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Border Report - August 8, 2022

Border-barrier crews taking water from South Texas canals despite drought restrictions

Despite water restrictions imposed on Rio Grande Valley residents due to an ongoing drought, water is being taken from irrigation canals for use on nearby border barrier construction, Border Report has learned. At a canal south of the town of Mission on Thursday, trucks were seen pumping water and filling tankers with gallons of water that was driven about a half mile away to a construction area near Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, where crews are working on remediation of the border wall. This is a portion of border wall that was built during the Trump administration but stopped when President Joe Biden took office.

However, after local officials complained that the land and residents were at risk due to gaps in the terrain made during border construction, the Department of Homeland Security last year agreed to fix, or remediate, the affected sections. And that’s where Border Report found crews working on Thursday and trucks hauling water from a nearby canal. Marianna Treviño-Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, says she has been told that her riverfront nonprofit cannot access water from the Rio Grande right now due to emergency procedures put in place by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Rio Grande watermaster. The National Butterfly Center has water rights to the Rio Grande, but the Rio Grande Watermaster has implemented emergency orders that require all water-rights holders to ask for special permission from his office if they want to access water from the river. And requests must be made during business hours when TCEQ can verify that they have a water balance — not deficit, he said. “Folks need to call our office and request for any water during normal business hours. That’s an example of a watermaster emergency procedure that’s been enacted,” Rio Grande Watermaster Anthony Stambaugh told Border Report on Thursday. Emergency watermaster procedures were enacted on July 28 as the water levels in Falcon Reservoir and Amistad Reservoir, upstream, fell below 25%, he said.

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KXAN - August 8, 2022

‘Flee Texas’ service launches to help LGBTQ people leave state

A for sale sign went up recently in front of the house that Lauren Rodriguez called her dream home. Even though she only moved in two years ago, her plan now is to sell it so that she and her family can not only leave the Austin area, but the country entirely. “We’re definitely not staying in Texas,” Rodriguez said. “The goal is to hopefully leave the country, but I have to see if we can get that worked out. If not, we’ll try to go to a safer state, but it makes me nervous because I don’t know how long a state will be safe for.” She credits the political climate in Texas and restrictions pursued by the state legislature related to the transgender community for cementing her decision to seek a life outside the U.S.

She and her 18-year-old transgender son Greyson spent the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions going to the Capitol multiple times to testify against bills like the one that ultimately passed last year requiring Texas public school athletes to play sports based on their biological sex at birth. At least 18 states have now approved legislation banning trans athletes from participating in sports, according to the LGBTQ advocacy organization Athlete Ally. She fears what proposals will come during the next session, pointing to the platform approved this summer by the Republican Party of Texas. The new language included labeling homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice” and opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” Some members opposed the language and worried it would hurt the party moving forward. After the vote, a group representing the state’s LGBTQ Republicans blasted the Texas Republican Convention as a bunch of “crazy people.”

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Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2022

AT&T gives $1 million to send digital ambassadors out to help with internet access

AT&T is donating $1 million to help 10,000 Dallas-Fort Worth residents connect to the internet over the next two years. The effort aims to bridge the gap between those with access to digital technology and those without it, also known as the digital divide. At least 75,000 families across Dallas County lacked reliable internet access in 2020, according to the Internet for All coalition. In total, Dallas-based AT&T previously said it will spend $2 billion between 2021 and 2023 to help bridge the gap. The new initiative is led by the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a coalition founded in 2015 with stakeholders from the City of Dallas and other organizations to help Dallas evolve into a smart global city.

The $1 million will pay for digital ambassadors to help communities connect to the internet and learn how to use it for tasks like paying bills, applying for jobs and helping children do their schoolwork. Based on conversations with 20 of the alliance’s peers across the country, this is the first program of its kind, said Jennifer Sanders, executive director and co-founder of the Dallas Innovation Alliance. “We can have all the infrastructure in the world, but if people don’t know how to access that, or they can’t afford it, we haven’t solved the problem,” Sanders said. “And so we’re so grateful to be able to do a program like this that we think fills one of the most complicated gaps in actually getting connected.” The program will involve four components, including a tech support line, a call center, a website with self-service and community anchor sites. While plans are still in development, Sanders said the program will be marketed via word of mouth and office hours in apartment communities.

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Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2022

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Many Texas hospitals aren’t posting their prices. That’s against the law

It’s often hard for Americans to know what they will pay for the health care they receive. Depending on the hospital they visit or the insurance plan they have, the same treatment can vary wildly in price. New state and federal regulations are trying to make those costs more transparent to patients and insurance providers. But despite these new rules, many Texas hospitals aren’t properly disclosing their prices. That’s a serious problem for Texans seeking cost-effective health care. Hospitals need to be transparent about their prices, and regulators should hold them accountable. Texas 2036, a nonpartisan think tank, tried to find which Texas hospitals provided the highest-value care to patients. Instead, they discovered much of that data was missing, in violation of state and federal law. As of April, only 31% percent of hospitals were mostly compliant with price transparency laws, Texas 2036 found. And only 65% of hospitals made their pricing data accessible at all, the researchers found. So what does this mean for patients who want to keep their hospital bills low? It’s complicated.

This data tells insurance providers how much they’ll be charged for each service. If two hospitals provide the same services at different prices, that’s helpful for a provider to know. And if a hospital is consistently overcharging for its services, insurance providers might ask their patients to seek treatment elsewhere. This data doesn’t tell insured patients what their share of the bill will be. Patients’ bills depend on their insurance deductibles — how much they pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in — and their premiums: how much their insurance plan costs per month. But when this information isn’t available, the high costs can ultimately fall on the individual. The push for transparency has been a decadeslong effort and got a huge lift when then-President Donald Trump required price disclosure through an executive order. When insurance providers can’t access hospital pricing data, “there is no ability to constrain costs,” said Charles Miller, senior policy adviser for health care at Texas 2036. “So it is those higher costs that end up resulting in the higher insurance premiums.” The more information an insurer has about these prices, the better positioned they are to negotiate reasonable rates, Miller said. Of course, this information alone won’t rescue Americans from their exorbitant health care bills. But it’s one tool that could help combat high prices.

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Dallas Morning News - August 8, 2022

Why Texas abortion funds are on pause after the end of Roe v. Wade

Performing an abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Texas – but abortion funds are grappling with another legal question: Is it illegal to help pay for one, even in other states where the procedure remains legal and available? A complicated legal landscape has led these funds, which help women pay for an abortion or the associated costs, to stop providing direct assistance, but these organizations say they’re not going anywhere. Some employers in Texas and other states with stringent abortion laws also have taken steps to expand abortion benefits in wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Before the state banned abortion, Senate Bill 8 restrictions banning almost all abortions after six weeks led many Texans to travel to other states to get abortions, which strained family finances for some.

Many Texas-based abortion funds have paused their funding operations since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, fearing legal risks. Jennifer Ecklund, a lawyer at Thompson Coburn who represents several Texas abortion funds, said there is a lack of clarity around state laws related to abortion. The confusion centers around a 1925 statute that applies penalties to anyone who “furnishes the means” for an abortion. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that the pre-Roe law from 1925 is currently in effect. The Texas Supreme Court ruled on July 1 that the pre-Roe law could be enforced. Ecklund said it’s unclear how Paxton or district attorneys would interpret this statute. “That’s essentially the legal landscape that has created the uncertainty, which has put funds in the position of taking time to rethink their operations in a way that won’t subject them, or their staff, or their volunteers or their donors to any risk,” Ecklund said. A ban under the state’s trigger law that makes it a felony to “perform, induce, or attempt” an abortion will take effect on Aug. 25. But abortion funds are more concerned with the 1925 statute, and the question of if this statute is still enforceable even when the trigger ban takes effect.

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Dallas Morning News - August 8, 2022

New NIL collective to pay SMU football, men’s basketball players $36,000 per year

The Name, Image and Likeness era has had different ways of showing itself over its one year of existence. Donors at SMU have shown a willingness to engage with each of them. The latest engagement might be the biggest. Boulevard Collective, a NIL collective with alumni and donors but not associated directly with SMU, launched over the weekend. The group, operated by longtime compliance expert Chris Schoemann, expects to pay football and men’s basketball players $3,000 per month and $36,000 per year — according to three school representatives with knowledge of the deal — amounting to a total commitment of roughly $3.5 million per year. Schoemann didn’t go into details on the financial agreement, but he did say, “with what we have looked at in terms of a budget for Boulevard, I feel comfortable saying this puts SMU student-athletes on par or exceeding their Power Five contemporaries.”

On3 was first to report the financial details. Schoemann also added that the Boulevard Collective doesn’t plan on stopping with football and men’s basketball. “Our plans here are more expansive than that,” he said. Dallas businessmen and SMU alumni Chris Kleinert and Kyle Miller were credited with leading the efforts to create Boulevard Collective, according to a release. “This is just the beginning,” Kleinert wrote in a statement. “The purpose of the Boulevard Collective is to create opportunities for SMU athletes that enhance their athletic career, while preparing them for wherever their professional aspirations might take them at SMU and beyond. Our goal is to ensure this Collective becomes the gold standard for NIL efforts across the country.” Boulevard Collective will be the second NIL collective working with SMU student-athletes. Pony Sports DTX has already dished out over $1 million in NIL deals since its inception. Boulevard Collective will be operated through Opendorse, a popular NIL marketplace that works with 20 NIL collectives across the country. The Boulevard Collective is set to be one of the “largest” entities in the NIL marketplace, per a release.

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Texas Monthly - August 8, 2022

In Dallas, Donald Trump provided a violent blueprint for seizing power

“Are you going to call Trump a domestic terrorist?” the woman asked. It was Saturday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, and I had just identified myself as a reporter to two attendees eating lunch in the food court. The woman, who looked to be in her fifties, told me she had traveled to the influential political convention from out of state. She declined to give her name or occupation. “We’re just so sick of the media telling lies about us,” she said. The man sitting across from her, an eighty-year-old Vietnam veteran named Frank Dirnbauer, was more forthcoming. Dirnbauer, who works as a retail electricity broker, had driven to the conference from his home in Wylie, a half hour’s drive northeast of Dallas. This was his first CPAC. “I said to my wife that we have to go,” Dirnbauer told me while snacking on pretzels. “We picked today because President Trump is going to be speaking.” He had seen countless Trump speeches on TV but had never attended one. The woman interrupted our conversation to repeat her question. “So are you going to call him a domestic terrorist?”

I handed her my business card and said I would quote Trump accurately and fairly. This did not seem to comfort her. Then, of course, there was Trump himself, who won the CPAC presidential straw poll with 69 percent of the vote. (Florida governor Ron DeSantis, despite having skipped the convention, came in second with 24 percent.) During his nearly two-hour keynote address on Saturday evening, Trump defended the January 6 insurrectionists and continued to insist that he had won the 2020 presidential election. “Look at all the people who are in prison or whose lives have been destroyed on January 6,” he lamented, describing the attack on the Capitol as “a protest over a rigged and stolen election that nobody wants to look at.” Indeed, “election integrity” was the number one issue for most CPAC attendees, according to the straw poll. The main lesson Trump and his allies appear to have taken from January 6, based on their CPAC speeches, is that they need to be less squeamish next time. “We have to seize this opportunity to deal with the radical left socialist lunatic fascists,” Trump declared to rapturous applause. “We have to hit them very, very hard. It has to be a crippling defeat.” Kari Lake, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Arizona, told the crowd that they “need to fight like hell to take this country back.” Ted Cruz—who received just 2 percent of the votes in the CPAC presidential straw poll—described his Senate duties in the following terms: “It’s like the old Roman Colosseum, where you slam on a breastplate, you grab a battle-ax, and you go fight the barbarians.”

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Houston Public Media - August 9, 2022

Police presence will increase in some Houston-area districts as school year begins

Law enforcement officials are preparing to increase on-campus police presence in Houston-area districts as the school year begins for students in Alief ISD, Hull-Daisetta ISD, Humble ISD and New Caney ISD. In addition to specific plans made by the school district’s police departments, Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said his department would dedicate hundreds of additional deputies to schools throughout the year. “My office has already begun authorizing personnel, equipment — different types of equipment — to in and around these ISD’s, depending on the needs of each police chief and their staff,” Herman said.

Herman added that he’s confident that his department will be able to provide the number of deputies requested by each district before the school year begins. Additionally, Herman said that his department has a sufficient amount of rifles and ballistic plate shields in order to adequately respond to an active-shooter situation. The effort will be focused on school districts in Harris County Precinct 4 — Spring, Tomball, Klein, Cy-Fair, Humble and Aldine — as well as daycares and private schools in the area. “We are unified as one to work together as a team to accomplish the safety of the community and more importantly our kids,” said Tomball PD Captain Brandon Patin. This comes after Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II last week said that the HISD Police Department’s “officers would not have been prepared” for a shooting similar to what occurred in Uvalde earlier this year, when an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two adults inside of an elementary school classroom. HISD’s board of trustees is expected to vote on proposed expenditures of more than $100,000 for rifles, ammunition and ballistic plate shields this week.

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County Stories

Fort Worth Business Press - August 8, 2022

Demand for pilots grows as travel increases. TCC aviation program is working to boost the supply.

After COVID restrictions and fears of catching the virus dinged air travel for the past two summers, the summer of 2022 was anticipated to be the industry’s big comeback. But pent-up demand for travel was tripped up by the consequences of too much pressure on beleaguered airlines struggling with staffing shortages, higher fuel costs and other challenges, resulting in long lines and flight delays or cancellations. More than 2 million passengers passed through TSA security checkpoints across the country, with the peak this year on July 1, when about 2.5 million cleared checkpoints to board planes. On the same day in 2020, only 718,988 passed through those checkpoints. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport recorded 6.8 passengers during June, up from 6.35 million in June 2021, according to an airport report.

“There is a desperate need for more pilots, said Chad Weigand, flight department chair of Tarrant County College’s Erma C. Johnson Hadley Center for Aviation, Technology and Logistics at the Northwest Campus. With more people traveling, technology advances and other changes, the demand for additional pilots and other trained staff will be ongoing, Weigand said. Critical pilot shortages were identified as far back as 2008 but the problems worsened during the pandemic as flight instruction was curtailed by shutdowns and airlines offered early retirement packages to pilots and other employees as cost-cutting measures. Meanwhile, the largest group of airline pilots falls within the age range of 50 to 64, rapidly approaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. Congress increased the retirement age from 60 in 2007 in an attempt to stave off a crisis. Congressional Republicans are again looking at proposed legislation to raise the pilot retirement age to 67. The Allied Pilots Association, representing 14,000 pilots of American Airlines, opposes the plan.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 8, 2022

Third Ward tenants say they were put out of their homes because landlord couldn't pay $11K water bill

First, their water was turned off. Then, the electricity. And on Monday morning, tenants gathered with lawyers, activists and City Councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz in front of their homes, saying they had been locked out with their possessions still inside. Tenants said Haff & Company Construction, a custom homebuilder which owns a cluster of four homes on Alabama Street in Third Ward, turned off their water and electricity and then locked them out after the landlord was unable to pay a water bill included in rent. Roxanne Thomas, who manages the property, agreed that she could not pay a $11,000 water bill that came after the February freeze in 2021 caused many pipes across the region to burst. But she said the water had been turned off by the city and that afterward she had paid tenants between $800 and $1,000 apiece to move.

Thomas said she did not know what happened to the electricity and that the locks had not been changed. She accused tenants of now seeking additional payments to move. “They’re trying to get more money, and I’m trying to deal with what I’m going to have to deal with. Because I’m not letting y’all extort money from me.” Tenant lawyers and activists said the situation — in which a landlord tries to get tenants to move without going through the formal eviction process in courts — is part of a larger problem. Many tenants, unaware of the legal process required for an eviction, “self evict” when landlords tell them they must move or lock them out, said Eric Kwartler, managing attorney for the Eviction Right to Counsel unit at the nonprofit Lone Star Legal Aid. How many is hard to track because the actions are taken outside of legal avenues. For that reason, Kwartler praised activists for bringing it to Lone Star Legal Aid’s attention. “Without people that are advocating in these neighborhoods, the tenants just fall through the cracks,” he said. “The only way we can solve these problems is if we know they’re happening.” He said Lone Star Legal Aid intends to file suits to have utilities restored and damages paid to the tenants.

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KUT - August 9, 2022

Austin ISD administration outlines its vision for potential 2022 bond package

The Austin ISD board of trustees is voting this week on what to include in the 2022 bond. The package the board OKs will be on the ballot in November, and voters will decide whether to approve some or all of the proposals. On Monday, Austin ISD’s administration released its recommendations for what should be included in the bond package. The district’s vision is largely aligned with proposals the bond steering committee has spent months developing. But there are some differences, and AISD has suggested moving around tens of millions of dollars. The steering committee is made up of 17 members: Nine members are appointed by trustees, seven are from the long-range planning committee, and one is a student. The group put together two draft proposals using a methodology that prioritizes historically underserved students and communities.

One of the proposals totals $1.75 billion and does not require a tax rate increase. The other totals $2.25 billion and would require a 1 cent hike to Austin ISD’s debt service tax rate. The district’s overall tax rate is slated to decrease, however. Bond dollars are crucial for school districts because they can be used for a host of capital projects that would be hard or nearly impossible to pay for through an annual budget. Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Anthony Mays said these funds are especially important to maintain aging campuses. “As our buildings age and start to kind of fall apart, we have to be able to replace pipes, replace HVAC," he said, "and this allows us to do that." Mays said the district is backing the larger of the two packages because it has more support among community and board members. “The larger bond allows us to be able to address more needs throughout our district without having to select who gets this and who doesn’t get that,” he said. “I think given all of the issues that we have to address within our district, the larger bond goes further in meeting the needs for our community.”

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National Stories

The Hill - August 9, 2022

Lawsuits allege ‘sexually hostile’ culture, underpayment at Project Veritas

Employees of Project Veritas, a conservative media organization known for publishing undercover videos, filed two lawsuits Sunday alleging illegal business practices and accusing leaders of fostering a “sexually hostile work environment.” The class-action lawsuit filed by Antonietta Zappier, Nick Gioia and Dan Schuy in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges Project Veritas failed to pay them a minimum wage for hours they worked overtime, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Zappier additionally says she was fired by Project Veritas after she was sexually assaulted and harassed by Michael Spadone, a field director for the group, according to another lawsuit she filed in the same courthouse.

She alleged in court documents that her termination came after she “rejected Spadone’s entreaties to spend the weekend with him at his home for a sexual liaison.” She also describes a “highly sexualized” workplace and “sexually hostile work environment” at Project Veritas. Zappier, 61, was an administrative assistant at Project Veritas for 2.5 years. The Hill has reached out to Project Veritas for comment. In a statement to The New York Times, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe described Zappier as a “disgruntled” former employee and called her claims “a range of made-up falsehoods.” Project Veritas is known for undercover sting operations and so-called exposés often targeting media organizations such as CNN and The Washington Post in an attempt to paint them as biased, left-wing activists. Project Veritas has been accused of deceptively editing videos and making exaggerated or false claims in its content. The media group is embroiled in a legal battle with the Times over articles the newspaper published about a video accusing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of voter fraud, which The Times wrote was deceptive.

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Associated Press - August 9, 2022

Ilhan Omar faces centrist rival; open House seat in Vermont

Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the biggest stars of the left, is facing a challenge from the center in her congressional primary in Minnesota on Tuesday, while Vermont Democrats will choose a nominee for an open U.S. House seat who will likely make history as the first woman representing the state in Congress. Another key race is unfolding in western Wisconsin, where Democratic Rep. Ron Kind ’s retirement after 26 years in office opens up a House seat in a district that has been trending Republican. Among the candidates running in the Republican primary to replace Kind is a former Navy SEAL who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, which preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Minnesota is also holding a special election to fill the remaining months of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn ’s term after his death earlier this year from cancer. And voters will be picking nominees for a full term representing the largely rural, Republican-leaning district.

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Associated Press - August 8, 2022

U.S. pledges $1 billion more of HIMARS rockets, other arms for Ukraine in war with Russia

The Biden administration said Monday it was shipping its biggest yet direct delivery of weapons to Ukraine as that country prepares for a potentially decisive counteroffensive in the south against Russia, sending $1 billion in rockets, ammunition and other material to Ukraine from Defense Department stockpiles. The package includes an as-yet-unannounced number of additional missiles for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Grand Prairie-based Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, which builds the system in Arkansas. The new U.S. arms shipment would further strengthen Ukraine as it mounts the counteroffensive, which analysts say for the first time could allow Kyiv to shape the course of the rest of the war, now at the half-year mark. Kyiv aims to push Russian troops back out of Kherson and other southern territory near the Dnipro River. Russia in recent days was moving troops and equipment in the direction of the southern port cities to stave off the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“At every stage of this conflict, we have been focused on getting the Ukrainians what they need, depending on the evolving conditions on the battlefield,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said Monday in announcing the new weapons shipment. The new U.S. aid includes additional rockets for the HIMARS system hailed as a “game-changer” in the conflict by Ukraine, as well as thousands of artillery rounds, mortar systems, Javelins and other ammunition and equipment. Ukrainian officials say HIMARS has been crucial in Ukraine’s fight to block Russia from taking more ground. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy credits the weapons for helping to “speed up the liberation” of Ukraine, leaving Russia scrambling to find a way to counter the missile system that a senior Pentagon official says has become “the most hunted things in all of Ukraine” by the invaders. While the U.S. has already provided 16 HIMARS to Ukraine, Kahl said the new package does not include additional ones.

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New York Times - August 8, 2022

Five decades in the making: Why it took Congress so long to act on climate

In 1969, President Richard Nixon’s adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a memo describing a startling future. The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by burning oil, gas and coal, Mr. Moynihan wrote, would dangerously heat the planet, melt the glaciers and cause the seas to rise. “Goodbye New York,” Mr. Moynihan wrote. “Goodbye Washington, for that matter.” Fifty-three years later, Congress is on the cusp of finally responding to what Mr. Moynihan termed “the carbon dioxide problem.” On Sunday, Senate Democrats muscled through a $370 billion bill designed to move the country away from fossil fuels and toward solar, wind and other renewable energy. If the House passes the legislation later this week as expected, it will be the nation’s first major climate law, coming as scientists warn that nations have only a few remaining years to make deep enough cuts in carbon dioxide to avoid planetary catastrophe.

Once enacted, the new law is projected to help cut the nation’s greenhouse pollution by roughly 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. That’s not enough to avert the worst impacts of a warming planet, but it would be a sizable down payment and the largest climate action ever taken by the United States. “Finally, now we have crossed a major threshold,” said former Vice President Al Gore, who as a lawmaker held the first congressional hearings on the subject in 1982 and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with climate scientists for their joint efforts to spread awareness about climate change. “I did not for a moment imagine it would take this long.” In interviews, Mr. Gore and other veterans of the nation’s failed attempts at climate legislation pointed to several reasons that a climate bill is about to become law at last — passing the Senate by a razor-thin majority of 51 to 50, with the tie breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. All said that the incontrovertible evidence that climate change has already arrived— in the form of frighteningly extreme wildfires, drought, storms and floods afflicting every corner of the United States — has helped build political support. Increasingly, the sheer volume of real-time data has overwhelmed the well-financed, multidecade strategy of oil, gas and coal companies to sow doubt about the severity of climate change.

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Houston Chronicle - August 9, 2022

Oil markets in search of a rudder as economy sends mixed signals

Oil markets are struggling to divine the direction of the global economy, how quickly it may slow, and how that will affect petroleum demand, analysts said. Last week was a bad one for oil as economic concerns stayed front and center. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, lost 9.1 percent on the week to settle Friday at $89.01 per barrel, a price seen before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. Vandana Hari, the founder and CEO of Vanda Insights in Singapore, said the price of crude oil seems to lack any clear direction given competing economic signals. After raising its interest rates to the highest level in 27 years in order to combat inflation, the Bank of England became the latest to warn of a possible recession. In the United States, however, employers continued to hire at a blistering pace, adding more than 500,000 jobs in July, the Labor Department reported Friday.

“The market has no clue how much of a demand hit to factor in as a result of the global economic slowdown,” Hari said. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the International Energy Agency could provide some clues when they release their monthly market reports for August later this week. OPEC in its July report left its forecasts for both economic growth and demand unchanged. “With the IEA and OPEC monthly reports, the focus will shift to the lugubrious shadow being cast over the demand outlook, ” said Paul Hickin, a director at S&P Global Commodity Insights. “Demand destruction and macro(economic) concerns appear to be in the driving seat, but wild cards such as U.S. hurricane season and China demand could still shift momentum at any moment.” The National Hurricane Center is showing a disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean that could turn into a tropical depression by the middle of the week. It’s too early to know how the storm might strengthen and whether it could pose a threat to oil and natural gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico. The start of the trading week for crude oil will also likely be influenced by progress on Capitol Hill of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, a 755-page measure that includes everything from expanded health care coverage for the elderly to support for green energy. Lawmakers clocked in long hours during the weekend sending up and shooting down various amendments. It may be a long and noisy week of politicking before Congress breaks for summer recess.

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