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Lead Stories

KMBC - July 25, 2015

Billionaire brothers give Cruz super PAC $15M

Two low-profile Texas brothers have donated $15 million to support Sen. Ted Cruz, a record-setting contribution that amounts to the largest known donation so far in the 2016 presidential campaign. Farris and Dan Wilks, billionaires who made their fortunes in the West Texas fracking boom, have given $15 million of the $38 million that the pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, will disclose in election filings next week, according to sources outside the super PAC with knowledge of the giving. The siblings earned their riches with the sale of their company Frac Tech for $3.5 billion in 2011, and since then have shuffled large contributions to the leading social conservative nonprofit groups that aren't required to reveal their donors.

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

Cervantes: Cruz uses Senate blowup to his advantage

Remember that part in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" when Jimmy Stewart's character arrives at the Capitol and insults the majority leader of his party? Me neither. By now, you may have heard that on Friday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz lit into his party's leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, on the chamber's floor, alleging that the Kentucky senator had colluded with Democrats and lied to Senate conservatives about how he would handle the Export-Import Bank reauthorization. "I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie," Cruz said. "We now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false."

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

Lawmakers intensify offensive against Planned Parenthood

Texas' top policymakers are intensifying their offensive against Planned Parenthood this week. State lawmakers, set to hold a public hearing on Planned Parenthood's Texas affiliates Wednesday, now also are reviewing a video the office of the attorney general has acquired during its probe into the organization's practice of fetal tissue donation. The investigation was launched after the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released two videos showing Planned Parenthood leaders and staff in other states discussing the practice, which the organization says is legal and nets no financial gain for Planned Parenthood.

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Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

Holm: Impartiality in Ken Paxton prosecution is impossible

Imagine yourself appointed to serve on a grand jury, whose members are kept confidential to protect the participants, the witnesses and the potential defendant. Then imagine answering your door to find a stranger who not only knows your home address, but also your name and the fact that you are on the grand jury. This stranger is trying to persuade you to launch your own investigation of a particular individual. How would you feel? Frightened? Violated? This isn’t a scenario from a John Grisham novel. This happened in the investigation of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

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Texas Tribune - July 28, 2015

Texas Facing Major Climate Change Impacts, Study Finds

Texas probably will see a sharp increase in heat-related deaths and coastal storm-related losses in the coming decades if nothing is done to mitigate a changing climate, according to a new study commissioned by a bipartisan group of prominent policymakers and company executives aiming to spawn concern – and action – in the business community over the much-debated warming trend. The study is the third region-specific analysis by the so-called Risky Business Project, an eclectic coalition led by former banker and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire hedge fund manager-turned-environmentalist Tom Steyer.

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Dallas Morning News - July 28, 2015

Jeffers: Paxton team is upping its spin game

The spin game has started. As he prepares for a potential criminal indictment on securities law violations, Attorney General Ken Paxton is trying to craft a narrative that he’s the victim of an unfair legal process. The strategy unfolded over the last few days, as Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm took to the media to question the motives of a Dallas-area lawyer who contacted grand jury members in an effort to get Paxton investigated. He also criticized the two Houston lawyers assigned to the case as special prosecutors, pointing out that they have represented child molesters and members of Mexican drug cartels.

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The Hill - July 27, 2015

Key Republican: House may move immigration bills this year

The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee is predicting the House will vote on several immigration reform measures before the end of 2015. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) says chances are better than “50-50” the House will vote on five different GOP-backed bills. The measures would focus on tightening border security and interior enforcement, getting employers to verify employees have legal status and cracking down on asylum fraud.

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State Stories

Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

Dallas Fed: Drop in Texas factory output eases, orders rebound

Texas factory output dropped in July, the fifth consecutive month of production declines, but a more-moderate contraction and a rebound in new orders this month helped lift optimism across the industry, according to a report Monday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The state production index, a key measure of factory production, rose to a reading of -1.9 in July from -6.5 in June, according to the monthly Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

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Brownsville Herald - July 27, 2015

Vela schedules Aug. 22 summit

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela will host a congressional summit in Harlingen focusing on veterans’ issues, employment, health care, education and financial literacy. This event is free and open to all residents in the 34th District of Texas. “The congressional summit will bring together local, state and federal partners to provide information on issues important to South Texas families,” Vela said.

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Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2015

Olivera: Dallas attorney takes record of advocacy for migrants to ICE

Dallas immigration attorney Liz Cedillo-Pereira’s decision to accept a position as a senior adviser to the nation’s top immigration official has many immigration advocates cheering her. But it is a cautious optimism, based on a wariness of President Barack Obama’s past deportation policies that have torn many Latino immigrant families apart and left a dark stain on his administration in their eyes. The 44-year-old Dallas native, whose parents grew up in Dallas’ Little Mexico, has spent a good chunk of her legal career helping those with no voice — undocumented immigrants who qualify for legal residency, including young “Dreamers.”

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

Dallas exec and mountain climber Dick Bass dies at 85

Dallas oilman Richard “Dick” Bass, a globetrotting adventurer and businessman, died Sunday night at his Dallas home of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 85. His sprawling interests ranged from ranching in Central Texas to coal leases in Alaska and Wyoming, but in business, he was best known as the co-founder and longtime owner of the Snowbird resort in Utah. On April 30, 1985, Bass put his name indelibly in the history books when he reached the summit of Mount Everest. It was the last leg of his Seven Summits challenge and the realization of his dream to be the first man to climb the highest peak on every continent. At 55, he was also the oldest man then to climb Everest.

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Texas Tribune - July 28, 2015

Highway Funding Showdown is Latest Budget Scramble at TxDOT

As Congress barrels toward a Friday deadline to fund the nation’s highway system, transportation experts across the country are responding to ever-tighter budgets with simple but significant cost-saving changes. In Texas, federal funding makes up about a third of the Texas Department of Transportation's $23 billion two-year budget. While TxDOT has shouldered criticism for recent spending decisions, the agency touts a few examples of successful moves to pinch pennies.

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Texas Tribune - July 28, 2015

Despite Ruling, Detained Immigrants Face Uncertainty

More than 2,000 undocumented women and children being held in "deplorable" conditions at federal immigration detention centers are supposed to be released under a recent federal judge's order. But how long that takes and what happens to them next remains unclear, attorneys say. Late Friday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee admonished the Obama administration for detaining thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America in violation of a 1997 legal settlement requiring that undocumented juveniles be held in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and special needs to ensure their protection and wellbeing,” according to an analysis by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

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Texas Tribune - July 28, 2015

Program Aims to Give College Credit Where it's Due

Across Texas, tens of thousands of students have earned enough college credit for an associate degree without knowing it. A new project led by the University of Texas at Austin hopes to track them down. The program to be announced Tuesday, known as Reverse Transfer, will attempt to get those students their degrees — and maybe convince them to continue their schooling. If successful, there could be benefits for the students and the state, its creators say. And officials hope its use will extend beyond Texas. "It's a win-win-win solution all the way around," said UT-Austin Registrar Shelby Stanfield, who led the initiative.

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Houston Chronicle - July 28, 2015

A dire business forecast for Texas is out

Texas is in the bull’s-eye for climate change-related economic and public health losses, according to a new report being issued today that’s backed by national business and government leaders. “Texas will be among the states most severely harmed by temperature increases” stemming from heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, according to an updated and expanded report titled “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change to the United States.” The report predicts billions of dollars lost in crop and livestock reductions through 2059, a severe drop in labor productivity, and loss of life. It also foresees billions of dollars more will be spent every year on electricity, mainly for air-conditioning, and billions in annual real estate damages.

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Dallas Morning News - July 28, 2015

Agencies recognized same-sex marriages too quickly, Dallas-area lawmaker says

A Dallas-area lawmaker wants Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion on whether state pension funds and other agencies acted lawlessly last month when they rushed to comply with the Supreme Court’s declaration of a right to same-sex marriage. Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, has sent Paxton two letters in the last two weeks arguing that granting marriage licenses and spousal benefits to gay and lesbian couples is illegal because the Texas Legislature hasn’t changed state law’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. “Absent action by the Legislature, any state agency or local political subdivision action to award marriage or any other benefit arising under Texas law to same-sex couples is invalid,” Flynn said in his request for an attorney general’s opinion.

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Austin American Statesman - July 28, 2015

Demographers baffled as percent of region’s low-income students shrinks

The percentage of students from low-income families in Austin and many of its surrounding school districts has been shrinking since 2011 and took a steeper dive last school year, a change that the experts tracking rapid growth in Central Texas can’t quite explain. The percentage of poor schoolchildren in the Austin district — based on federal standards that determine who qualifies for free or reduced-cost lunch or receives other public assistance — has dropped from 64 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 59.7 percent in 2014-15. Other districts that had at least two percentage-point drops during that five-year period include Round Rock, Leander, Pflugerville, Georgetown, Bastrop, Manor, Hutto and Dripping Springs. Hays, Lake Travis and Eanes also saw a slight decline in their low-income student populations at some point during that five-year period.

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

Cervantes: Democrats find their issue

In 2017, they may have to fend off more GOP gun bills and maybe more abortion restrictions, but Texas Democrats have found their own issue early. At issue is whether the Department of State Health Services can deny U.S. citizens born in Texas a birth certificate because their parents, who are not citizens, can only show a particular form of ID that the agency does not accept. Civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit in Austin. As the San Antonio Express-News's Nicole Cobler reported: "Under department rules, one must present two forms of identification to receive an official birth certificate. The state accepts two dozen forms of identification, including a foreign passport, a Mexican voter registration card or foreign identification with a photo.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

Floyd: I owe Planned Parenthood an apology

There is nothing in the news right now that I want less to write about than Planned Parenthood. This makes me a coward. Nothing, you see, will attract more ugly hate mail. Nothing will invite more shrill, disingenuous hysteria about secret trafficking in dead baby parts. Besides — this is how I have been rationalizing the matter to myself — nothing I can possibly say will change anybody’s mind on this poisonously divisive issue.

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Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

Lawyers: immigrant mothers coerced to wear ankle monitors

SAN ANTONIO — Lawyers representing immigrant mothers held in a South Texas detention center say the women have been denied counsel and coerced into accepting ankle-monitoring bracelets as a condition of release, even after judges made clear that paying their bonds would suffice. In a letter Monday to Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the leaders of a volunteer lawyers' project said they were "dismayed by the lack of transparency, and the coercion, disorganization, and confusion" surrounding recent releases. Among the irregularities cited were summons to courtrooms scrawled on yellow sticky notes, no counsel or judge present in court, and women being told that the prior word of immigration judges "has no value."

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Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

Lopez: Texas lawmakers should fight for affordable energy

With the Environmental Protection Agency set to finalize its Clean Power Plan regulation next month, a key question looms: How will higher energy prices affect working families? This is especially important in a state like Texas, which is home to 10.8 million Hispanics — one of many underserved communities vulnerable to rising energy costs. A first-of-its-kind study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce provides the answer. The short version: It will leave low-income Texans with disproportionately fewer jobs, lower incomes, and more poverty.

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Texas Tribune - July 27, 2015

Lawmakers Reviewing Video in Planned Parenthood Inquiry

Legislators on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee are being offered the chance to view a video obtained by the Texas Attorney General's Office as part of its inquiry into Planned Parenthood's practices regarding fetal tissue donation. A spokesman for Republican Committee Chairman Charles Schwertner confirmed that lawmakers on the committee and their staffers are "currently reviewing the video and gathering all the relevant facts" ahead of a Wednesday hearing on Planned Parenthood's "business practices" when it comes to fetal tissue.

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Texas Tribune - July 27, 2015

Sandra Bland DA Appoints Team to Review Evidence

The prosecutor in the Sandra Bland death investigation said Monday he has appointed an outside group of lawyers to review the evidence in the case to ensure that Waller County remains "an open book." Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis also released the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences' toxicology report on Bland without commenting on it. The report showed that Bland had marijuana in her bloodstream at the time of her death.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - July 27, 2015

Irregularities abound at Texas migrant detention center

Oliva Lopez thought she’d be working with migrant mothers and children in a group-home setting when hired as a social worker at a Texas family detention center. But when she arrived at the concrete facility and the doors were unlocked to let her in, she was startled by the cacophony of cell doors clanging. “I walked in and thought, ‘Oh my Lord, this is really a prison,’” she said. In an exclusive interview with McClatchy, the parent company of the Star-Telegram, Lopez shared an inside perspective of troubling operations at the Karnes County Residential Center, which has been at the center of controversy over the Obama administration’s family detention policy. She described a facility where guards isolated mothers and children in medical units, nurses falsified medical reports, staff members were told to lie to federal officials and a psychologist acted as an informant for federal agents.

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San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2015

Medina Lake water managers spar with shoreline residents

LAKEHILLS — Locals are relishing the return of boaters and swimmers to Medina Lake, while farmers, smiling over spring rains that soaked their fields and refilled the reservoir, can again buy water for irrigation. Three months after it held less than 4 percent of its capacity, the lake is now 75 percent full. But there’s trouble under its shimmering surface: litigation and mounting discontent with the agency that manages it, the Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control & Improvement District No. 1.

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

Toxicology report released; did Sandra Bland smoke pot in jail?

Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said Monday he was bringing in defense attorneys Lewis M. White and Darrell W. Jordan to lead an independent oversight committee as his office reviews possible criminal conduct in the arrest and death of Sandra Bland. "There are many lingering questions regarding the death of Sandra Bland," Mathis said, explaining why he has asked for help from a review committee. ... A copy of the toxicology report completed as a supplement to Bland's autopsy was released at the Monday news conference. Mathis did not elaborate on the report, but one forensic toxicology expert described the amount present in her blood -- 18 micograms per liter -- as high. Dwaine C. Fuller said most experts estimate that a person's driving begins to be impaired around two to five micrograms per liter. He estimated the marijuana entered her system somewhere around five hours prior to being found dead in her cell. "I would have a very difficult time believing that the last time she used marijuana would be prior to arrest," he said.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

DMN: Supreme Court kills Texas’ segregated housing formula

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Dallas-based Inclusive Communities Project means Texas must change subsidized-housing formulas that have contributed mightily to creating problems such as this city’s north-south gap. No longer can federally subsidized low-income housing projects be placed in poor communities simply because that’s where it’s cheapest to build. This case has been working its way through the court system since 2008, ever since Inclusive Communities challenged the way the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awards tax credits to affordable housing developers. Inclusive Communities argued that the process was discriminatory because it gave too much weight to cheap locations where minorities are already heavily concentrated.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

Doolittle: Sandra Bland is dead because she was ‘uppity’

Uppity. At the end of the day, regardless of how the forensic investigation turns out, Sandra Bland is dead because she was an uppity black woman who did not know her place in East Texas. I’ve seen the commentary that suggests that Bland’s arrest was her fault — that state trooper Brian Encinia was justified in yanking her out of her car in Waller County because she refused to put out her cigarette and used profanity toward a uniformed officer.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

Grigsby: Another outrage in Sandra Bland injustice: She couldn’t find $500 bail

Bond and bail are among those murky jailhouse issues that many of us have the good fortune to not really have ever had need to understand. In the case of Sandra Bland, whom authorities say killed herself after spending three days in a southeast Texas jail after an incident that began with a simple failure to change lanes July 10, here’s how the bond/bail system “worked”: The court set a $5,000 bond, money that — could Bland have provided it — would have been returned to her when she showed up for official proceedings. Her second option was to pay a bail bondsman $500 (or 10 percent) to post the $5,000 for her. The $500 to the bail bondsman is not refundable.

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Dallas Observer - July 27, 2015

USGS maps where fracking sucks up vast amounts of water. Go, Texas.

When Texas isn't suing for the right to dump crap in the water, we're using the water we have to drill for natural gas, a process that may contribute to contaminating the water, in an endless water-crap cycle. The U.S. Geological Survey has a much more polite way of explaining the issue. "The amount of water required to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells varies widely across the country," government researchers write in their new report. The report, the USGS says, provides the first national map of water usage in fracking. Overall, the amount of water used by drillers for fracking wells has increased hugely across the country; the numbers went from about 177,000 gallons per oil well in the 2000 to more than 4 million in 2014.

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NPR - July 27, 2015

As Crude Oil Rides The Rails To Houston, Texas Firefighters Prepare For The Worst

There was a rail disaster northwest of Houston last week but you probably didn’t hear about it. That’s because it was staged as part of a training exercise at a Texas firefighting school where a new risk is changing the curriculum. It’s scene that’s a nightmare for first responders. A train has left the tracks. Tanker cars have piled on top of one another. Two tankers are full of a flammable liquid. One’s on fire, the other’s leaking. A dozen firefighters are spraying the cars with water and foam. “It’s hot. It’s hot. It’s very hot,” says firefighter Adrian Munoz, a volunteer for the Alvin Fire Department. “It was awesome. It was a great experience.”

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

Texas manufacturing shows some positive signs in July, but sector still weak from oil-price shock

Factory activity in Texas slowed again in July after four straight months of declines, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ monthly manufacturing survey released Monday shows. But the slowdown appeared to lessen with oil prices stable for most of June. Fewer than a quarter of the 112 Texas manufacturers surveyed by the Fed said they saw production decline in July. That’s down from more than a third who said production fell in June and the fewest number of negative responses to the survey in eight months. The Fed’s production index for the state, which is based on those survey responses, was still in negative territory this month, though it rose more than four points to -1.9.

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KXAN - July 27, 2015

Texas lawmakers to meet this week on fetal tissue videos

Georgetown Republican Senator Charles Schwertner has called his Health and Human Services Committee to meet Wednesday to consider recommendations to strengthen regulations on abortion providers, including further restrictions on the sale of fetal tissue. He’s invited Planned Parenthood organizations of Texas to attend the meeting as well. This discussion stems from a recently released video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing money and fetal tissue and organs. Planned Parenthood in other parts of the country say they donate tissue and organs for medical research and only get reimbursed for the work and transportation of the material. They say this can cost from $30 to $100. They say they absolutely do not sell tissue and organs for profit and videos released by the Center for Medical Progress are part of a “smear campaign” on one of the largest women’s health organizations in the country.

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Austin American Statesman - July 24, 2015

Study maps the hourly wage needed to rent in Texas

Those looking to rent a decent two-bedroom apartment in Texas must earn $2,880 monthly, according to a recent study. For those working for a minimum wage in Texas, that means a 92-hour work week. These numbers, which are based off the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair market rent estimates and the assumption that renters won’t pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, come from a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The study maps how hourly wages account for rental costs in all 50 states and found that in no state can a minimum wage worker afford a single bedroom rental unit working only 40 hours a week.

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San Antonio Business Journal - July 24, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership would benefit Texas jobs, exports, study found

A new study from Business Roundtable found that U.S. trade with 11 other countries involved in the U.S. Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations supported 1.2 million jobs in Texas in 2013. “As the United States and 11 other countries seek to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, it is critical to understand the TPP’s importance for economic growth and jobs in all 50 states,” said Tom Linebarger,Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cummins Inc., and chair of the Business Roundtable International Engagement Committee. “This agreement holds significant potential to create new opportunities for Texas exporters to sell their goods and services abroad.”

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D Magazine - July 24, 2015

Kaiser Health News: Texas Taxpayers Losing Big When State Balks At Medicaid Expansion, Alternative

Kaiser Health News recently used Dallas County as a model for how taxpayers are overpaying for uncompensated healthcare because of their state’s refusal to expand Medicaid or agree on an alternative. As the nonprofit notes, Texas and the 20 other states that haven’t expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act are forcing residents not only to pay a portion of the taxes for the uninsured, but also the cost of Medicaid expansion in the states that have chosen to do so. Last year, Dallas County property owners paid $467 million in taxes for care provided at Parkland Health & Hospital System.

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San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2015

SAEN: American justice is not all that blind

Mass incarceration policies in the United States must end. Fortunately, there seems to be bipartisan agreement about that, highlighted this monthby President Barack Obama’s call during a visit to a federal prison in Oklahoma. What the president pointed out is part of the sad history of justice in contemporary America. Our system of arrests, convictions and sentencing has become, as one book has noted, the “new Jim Crow.”

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WOAI - July 27, 2015

Texas Best State in the USA to Get a Speeding Ticket

It may not seem like it to you if you have been pulled over for speeding recently, but Texas has by far the most lenient speeding laws in the country, according to a study by WalletHub.com, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzales says they measures a number of factors, from that the posted speed limit is, to how strict the penalties are for people who have been apprehended. One example, Gonzales says, is at what point the minor offense of 'speeding' gets kicked up to the far more series offense of 'reckless driving.'

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El Paso Times - July 25, 2015

$50M in cuts for disabled children opposed by lawmakers

The El Paso legislative delegation is calling on state health officials to scrap a plan that would cut $50 million a year in payments to professionals who help disabled, poor children. To meet a mandate from the Legislature to cut spending, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission proposes cutting certain reimbursements to developmental therapists between 25 percent to 90 percent starting in September. Critics say the proposal is penny-wise and pound- foolish. They say the cuts would mean the state would pass up $100 million a year in federal matching funds and deny critical services to children — thus dooming them to making more demands on the state in the future.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

Lawmaker asks Paxton if state agencies moved too fast to accommodate same-sex couples

A Northeast Texas lawmaker has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton for a nonbinding legal opinion on whether state pension funds and vital-statistics officials jumped the gun late last month in accommodating same-sex couples. Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, says that state entities and local officials such as the Travis County clerk moved too fast after the Supreme Court declared on June 26 that states’ gay marriage bans are unconstitutional. State laws continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman, he noted.

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County Stories

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2015

Rules about outdoor watering return as aquifer falls

New Braunfels residents must again adhere to once-a-week landscape sprinkler limits as of today, and San Antonio and other cities in the area might soon follow suit. The stunning rise in the Edwards Aquifer this spring dissipated almost as soon as the rain stopped this summer, taking a toll on the water supply for most of the region. On Monday, the J-17 index well in Bexar County fell to 659.0 feet above sea level, down 0.8-foot from Sunday and 1.1 feet below the historic July average. The 10-day average was 661.3 feet. When the 10-day average drops below 660 feet, the Edwards Aquifer Authority, which regulates use of the aquifer, requires a 20 percent cut in pumping. But New Braunfels has drought restrictions that take effect immediately after the level dips below 660.

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Rio Grande Guardian - July 27, 2015

CHC welcomes judge’s ruling on detaining immigrant mothers, children

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has welcomed a federal judge’s ruling that immigrant women and children should be released from the “substandard” and “deplorable” family detention centers they are housed in. Two of the facilities are in Texas, one in Dilley and the other Karnes City. Both are run by private companies under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A third, in Berks County, Pa., is run by the county. About 1,700 parents and children, many from Central America, are currently housed at the three centers.

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City Stories

Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

TxDOT planning for MoPac underpasses at Slaughter, La Crosse

Southwest Austin could have two major highway projects underway less than a year from now. The Texas Department of Transportation on Thursday evening will host a public hearing at Bowie High School for what it calls its “MoPac intersection improvements” project: construction of MoPac Boulevard lanes underneath what would be newly built overpasses at Slaughter Lane and La Crosse Avenue.

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Austin American Statesman - July 27, 2015

Groups file 14 lawsuits in Austin alleging lack of access for disabled

A quarter-century after the American Disabilities Act banned the discrimination of disabled Americans, the Texas Civil Rights Project filed 32 lawsuits across Texas — including 14 in Austin — that shared a common theme: Access is a civil right. The lawsuits, which include four businesses in the Rainey Street area of downtown Austin, claim a variety of violations and discriminatory behaviors against those with disabilities, including a lack of wheelchair ramps and a refusal to serve an individual with a speech impediment.

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Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2015

City would pay officers to live in high-crime areas

Just across from the cheerful Greater St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church sign in Sunnyside beckoning residents to "come join us!!" sits a deteriorating, abandoned white-and-red house bearing decidedly less welcoming graffiti. The image is a stark reminder of the persistent problems that dog even the improved pockets of Sunnyside, among the city's most historic and often highest-crime neighborhoods. It's also among the targeted areas the city hopes Houston Police Department officers will soon move into as part of a proposed residency incentive program.

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McAllen Monitor - July 27, 2015

McAllen commissioners to discuss police body cameras

City Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the legal aspects of body-worn police cameras tonight, according to their meeting agenda. Activists across the country have pushed for the cameras, thinking they would provide more officer accountability because they document interactions with citizens. But others have expressed concerns over whether departments have to make the video public, which some argue would limit the accountability aspect.

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Ft. Worth Star Telegram - July 27, 2015

Wichita Falls says goodbye to potty water for now

For Wichita Falls, the use of so-called “potty water” during the drought was a lifesaver. While others may have been a little squeamish at the thought of drinking treated wastewater, Wichita Falls’ residents embraced the option out of necessity. During the worst of the drought, which dried up lakes in the Wichita Falls area, the treated wastewater helped the city of 104,898 survive. “We got letters from residents thanking us for saving the city,” said Daniel Nix, utilities operations director for the city of Wichita Falls, bout 115 miles northwest of Fort Worth. “I think by the time we started using it last summer, most people were on board.”

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National Stories

Ft. Worth Star Telegram - July 27, 2015

Hispanics’ population rises, but their rate of homeownership doesn’t

They make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, yet Hispanics are increasingly locked out of homeownership because of tighter lending standards that rely on outdated measures of creditworthiness. Making up more than 17 percent of the population now and projected to double, Hispanics are a political and economic force to be reckoned with. And they potentially represent an answer to turning around a sagging national homeownership rate that’s approaching levels not seen since before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The national rate of homeownership fell to 63.8 percent over the first three months of 2015. The last time it was lower was the final quarter of 1989, when it stood at 63.7 percent.

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Politico - July 27, 2015

Obama poised to give financial aid to federal, state prisoners

More prisoners may soon have access to federal subsidies to pay for college under a new Obama administration initiative, ending a 20-year ban on Pell grants for state and federal prisoners. The move could come as soon as this week. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch are scheduled to visit Goucher College’s Prison Education Partnership at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup on Friday, to make “an important announcement related to federal aid.” On Monday, Duncan said that restoring Pell eligibility for those potential students is one way his agency hopes to increase college affordability.

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2015

DMN: Hillary Clinton’s classified-email problem isn’t going away

The quote dates to Ronald Reagan, appropriated by political types from both parties: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Doing a lot of explaining these days is The New York Times, which did not distinguish itself with its messy reveal-and-revise of the latest twist in the Hillary Clinton email saga. As secretary of state, you’ll recall, she decided to do all of her email communication via private “homebrew” server operated from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Never mind that government and Obama White House policy dictated otherwise. She determined that it would be too inconvenient to carry two cellphones, as if that were necessary, and simply refused to use a secure government address.

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San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2015

Castro marks one year at HUD

Juli├ín Castro celebrated one year as Housing and Urban Development secretary Monday by trumpeting a reduction in homelessness and the value of giving people opportunity. In a speech at HUD that took on the air of a rally, Castro recalled to employees that the choice to leave San Antonio and his job as mayor wasn’t easy when the Obama administration reached out to him in 2014. “I truly felt compelled to take on this new role because I’m convinced that opportunity shouldn’t be a luxury,” Castro said, noting that he tries to get home to San Antonio as often as he can.

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The Atlantic - July 27, 2015

Ted Cruz Plays the Maverick

On Friday, Ted Cruz called the leader of his party a liar on the Senate floor. On Sunday, Cruz’s fellow Republicans responded by abandoning him in dramatic fashion. Cruz has turned to the tried-and-true method of using his perch in the Senate to draw attention to himself in recent days, as his presidential campaign struggles to gain traction. But unlike colleagues such as Rand Paul or Marco Rubio, the Texas Tea Partier hasn’t limited himself to the typical Senate headline-grabbing moves—a lengthy filibuster-type speech, for example, or a dogged push for legislation. No, the Cruz style is to attack the institution itself, its norms and conventions, and in particular, its precious decorum.

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Associated Press - July 27, 2015

Bush denounces 'crazy message of hate' in campaign

Jeb Bush implored his Republican presidential rivals Monday to reject the "crazy message of hate" that he sees at play in the campaign and cast himself as a "committed conservative," but not an "angry" one, in remarks rooted in Donald Trump's inflammatory rhetoric and the backlash that followed. As conservatives, he said in a speech to pastors, "if we act with our heart, people will rise." Afterward, Bush gave his call for political civility a harder edge in a raucous rally where he urged other GOP contenders to quit scolding each other. "We have to campaign with joy in our hearts - not anger," Bush said. "We shouldn't say outrageous things that turn people off to the conservative message. Our message is the one of hope and opportunity for everyone." "We must reject this crazy message of hate."

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This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle


Associated Press - July 27, 2015

Boy Scouts of America end total ban on gay adults

The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons. The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that has embroiled the Boy Scouts for years, takes effect immediately. It was approved by the BSA's National Executive Board on a 45-12 vote during a closed-to-the-media teleconference. "For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us," said the BSA's president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good."

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This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News


Mother Jones - July 23, 2015

Jeb Bush Wants America to "Phase Out" Medicare

On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told a crowd in New Hampshire that Americans need to consider ways to "phase out" Medicare. The former Florida governor, who was speaking at an event hosted by the Koch-brothers supported group Americans for Prosperity, also suggested "people understand" and agree with him on the issue. "They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits," Bush said. "But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something—because they're not going to have anything."

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Huffington Post - July 24, 2015

These 2 Donors Are Propping Up Rand Paul's Super PAC

A super PAC supporting Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential bid raised $3.1 million in the first half of 2015 with almost all of the money coming from two donors, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday. America’s Liberty PAC is the main super PAC supporting the Kentucky Republican’s bid for the White House. Its $3.1 million haul puts it in the bottom tier among super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates. The total also represents one of the few instances where a super PAC supporting a Republican candidate raised less than the candidate’s actual campaign. So, who is funding Paul’s super PAC? The biggest donor was George Macricostas, CEO of RagingWire, a data center operator that is almost fully owned by the Japanese company NTT Communications. He gave $1.1 million to America’s Liberty PAC, which is run by Paul’s former campaign manager Jesse Benton. In the past, Macricostas has donated to the 2012 presidential campaign of then-Rep. Ron Paul (Rand Paul's father) and to a joint fundraising committee providing money to Rand Paul's presidential campaign, 2016 Senate account and leadership PAC.

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Housing Wire - July 24, 2015

Small Texas bank winning big fight against CFPB

A small Texas bank was handed a large victory this week, when a federal court ruled that the bank is allowed to challenge the constitutionality and authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The repercussion of this battle could also have a huge ripple effect on the entire financial market. The bank, State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, filed suit against the federal government in 2012, claiming that CFPB’s “unprecedented, unchecked power” violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. In August 2013, after 11 states had joined State National Bank’s lawsuit, the case was tossed by a federal judge, who ruled that the bank did not have standing to sue, and also said that the case was no longer ripe – meaning the suit was not filed quickly enough.

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FiveThirtyEight - July 27, 2015

Enten: What’s Wrong With Rand Paul’s Campaign?

Something is awry at the Rand Paul campaign. The main super PAC supporting his presidential bid raised just $3.1 million in the first half of 2015, about $100 million less than Right to Rise, a super PAC backing Jeb Bush. In fact, the pro-Paul group’s fundraising total was lower than that of every other major super PAC that is backing a Republican candidate and has announced its totals. On Sunday, a new NBC News/Marist poll showed support for the Kentucky Republican declining to just 4 percent in New Hampshire (compared with 14 percent in February). Numbers like these have people asking, “Has Rand Paul stalled?” It’s very early. The Iowa caucuses are still six months away, and there’s plenty of time for the Republican nomination race to shift — and shift again. Just look at former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father, who was polling at only around 8 percent in Iowa at a comparable point in the 2012 primary contest.

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Brownsville Herald - July 28, 2015

11 killed in Rio Bravo shootout

Eleven people, including two state police officers, have been killed in northeast Mexico along the Texas border, a state security official said Monday. Tamaulipas state security spokeswoman Ivon Melendez said that nine suspected criminals were killed after attacking state police in the border town of Rio Bravo on Saturday afternoon. Rio Bravo lies in territory controlled by the Gulf drug cartel. Police seized nine long guns and tactical equipment.

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USA Today - July 27, 2015

On four continents, historic droughts wreak havoc

California's historic drought appears to be matched by severe dry spells on three other continents. Brazil, North Korea and South Africa are bearing the brunt of much lower-than-average precipitation, wreaking havoc on millions of peoples' lives and livelihoods. While the causes vary from country to country, the chance of more intense droughts in the future as a result of man-made climate change is only increasing as regional extremes of precipitation — both more and less — remain likely, according to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Every drought is unique, said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank in Oakland. "The same drought in California would have very different impacts in other countries," he said.

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Huffington Post - July 27, 2015

Sinha: Ending Mass Incarceration, But Not for Immigrants -- A Tale of Two Policies

While the critical subject of a runaway U.S. criminal justice system is gaining momentum toward reforms, the Obama Administration is vigorously defending the mass detention of non-U.S. citizens, including the detention of women and children. Recent developments in both arenas demonstrate the stark contrast in the way the government is treating these two American modes of "hyperincarceration." Last week President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a prison when he toured the El Reno Federal Correctional Institute near Oklahoma City. The president remarked on the prison system's overall problems of violent and overcrowded conditions, and is calling for reforms such as lighter sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

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San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2015

Chasnoff: Perry bashed immigrants before Trump

Rick Perry and Donald Trump, both hard on the scent of the Oval Office, each called the other a hypocrite last week. How hypocritical of them. As Trump bravely aimed his private jet toward Laredo, a city he fears is exposed to “rapists” and “killers” leaching across the border with Mexico, Perry blasted out a statement calling the New York businessman “a known employer of illegal-immigrant labor” and “a hypocrite when it comes to border security.”

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Politico - July 27, 2015

Bartlett: The Moderate Republican’s Case for Trump -- Only Trump can make the GOP sane again — by losing in a landslide to Hillary Clinton.

As a moderate Republican who voted for Obama, I should be Donald Trump’s natural enemy. Instead, I’m rooting for him. The Republican establishment foresees a defeat of Barry Goldwater proportions in the unlikely event Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination. As Trump’s lead in the polls grows, so too does their panic. Yet, for moderate Republicans, a Trump nomination is not something to be feared but welcomed. It is only after a landslide loss by Trump that the GOP can win the White House again. Trump’s nomination would give what’s left of the sane wing of the GOP a chance to reassert control in the wake of his inevitable defeat, because it would prove beyond doubt that the existing conservative coalition cannot win the presidency. A historic thrashing of the know-nothings would verify that compromise and reform are essential to recapture the White House and attract new voters, such as Latinos, who are now alienated from the Republican Party.

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Politico - July 28, 2015

Inside Rand Paul's downward spiral

Rand Paul, once seen as a top-tier contender, finds his presidential hopes fading fast as he grapples with deep fundraising and organizational problems that have left his campaign badly hobbled. Interviews with more than a dozen sources close to the Kentucky senator, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, painted a picture of an underfunded and understaffed campaign beaten down by low morale.

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Washington Post - July 28, 2015

Under Jeb Bush, housing prices fueled Florida’s boom. Then it all went bust.

On the campaign trail, Jeb Bush has repeatedly emphasized his record overseeing Florida’s boom economy as the state’s governor. He says it’s an example of an economy that created a huge number of jobs and benefited the middle class — an example of what he could do as president. “I know how to do this,” he said in Maitland, Fla., on Monday. But according to interviews with economists and a review of data, Florida owed a substantial portion of its growth under Bush not to any state policies but to a massive and unsustainable housing bubble — one that ultimately benefited rich investors at the expense of middle-class families. The bubble, one of the biggest in the nation, drove up home prices and had many short-term benefits for the state, spurring construction, spending and jobs. But the collapse of the housing bubble as Bush left office in 2007, after eight years of service, sent Florida into a recession deeper than that in the rest of the country, and hundreds of thousands lost their homes.

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Washington Post - July 27, 2015

Gun control? Americans increasingly see more guns as the solution, not the problem.

Gun control is still going nowhere in Congress. And in fact, with every major mass shooting in America, gun-rights supporters seem to be digging in even further -- and bringing the rest of America along with them. Former Texas governor Rick Perry, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, argued after last week's deadly shooting at a Lafayette, La., movie theater that Americans should be allowed to bring guns into movie theaters -- and everywhere else -- to prevent such crime. It's an echo of a familiar theme from NRA head Wayne LaPierre. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said frequently amid the more recent gun-control debate.

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Washington Post - July 27, 2015

Jeb Bush: It’s not clear if there are more ‘disconcerting’ police incidents — or if we’re just seeing them more

Jeb Bush hasn't seen the video of Sandra Bland's arrest that led to her death in a Texas jail cell. He doesn't know what caused it or why it happened, but he said on Monday that an increasingly digital world is helping expose more controversial incidents between citizens and police officers. Bland, 28, died suddenly in the Waller County, Texas jail this month after she was arrested during a routine traffic stop. Her death, which was ruled a suicide by local authorities, has drawn concern, particularly in the wake of video released last week that shows a Texas police officer threatening Bland with a Taser when he ordered her out of her vehicle on July 10.

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Associated Press - July 28, 2015

US consumer confidence falls to lowest level since September

U.S. consumer confidence fell this month to the lowest level since September. Consumers are worried about the job market and rattled by events in Greece and China. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence fell to 90.9 in July from a revised 99.8 in June. That's the lowest reading since September's 89. Consumers' assessment of current conditions fell slightly to a still-healthy 107.4 from 110.3 in June; but their outlook for next six months dropped sharply to 79.9 this month from 92.8 in June.

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This article appeared in the Austin American Statesman


Reuters - July 28, 2015

U.S. home price growth stalls in May: S&P/Case-Shiller

U.S. single-family home prices in May rose from the previous year at the same pace as April but fell short of forecasts, as housing construction slowed and new home sales lagged existing home sales, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday. The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas in May gained 4.9 percent year over year, matching the pace set in April. Economists polled by Reuters had projected a stronger pace of a 5.6 percent increase. Denver, San Francisco, and Dallas experienced the biggest year-over-year home appreciation among the 20 cities with price increases of 10.0 percent, 9.7 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.

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The Atlantic - July 28, 2015

Robert Gates, America's Unlikely Gay-Rights Hero

Eagle Scout. Young Republican. CIA recruit. Air Force officer. CIA director. Secretary of defense. It’s not the resume of a radical civil-rights campaigner, but Robert Gates has now integrated two of the great bastions of macho American traditional morality—first the U.S. armed forces, and now the Boy Scouts of America. In both cases, Gates pursued a careful, gradual strategy, one that wasn't fast enough for activists. In both cases, he was careful to take the temperature of constituents. And in both cases, once he was ready to act, he did so decisively. In the end what seemed to matter most was not Gates’s personal feelings but his determination to safeguard institutions he cared about and his deft skills as a bureaucratic operator.

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