October 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Associated Press - October 19, 2017

Big question for US cities: Is Amazon's HQ2 worth the price?

Dozens of cities are working frantically to land Amazon's second headquarters, raising a weighty question with no easy answer: Is it worth it? Amazon is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs over the next decade and a half. Yet the winning city would have to provide Amazon with generous tax breaks and other incentives that can erode a city's tax base. Most economists say the answer is a qualified yes — that an Amazon headquarters is a rare case in which a package of at least modest enticements could repay a city over time. That's particularly true compared with other projects that often receive public financial aid, from sports stadiums to the Olympics to manufacturing plants, which generally return lesser, if any, benefits over the long run.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - October 19, 2017

Senate approves budget in crucial step forward for Republican tax cuts

The Senate approved the Republican-backed budget Thursday night, a major step forward for the GOP effort to enact tax cuts. The budget’s passage will allow the GOP to use a procedural maneuver to pass tax legislation through the Senate with 50 or more votes, removing the need for support from Democratic senators. “Tonight, we completed the first step toward replacing our broken tax code … We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to replace a failing tax code that holds Americans back with one that actually works for them,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said following the 51-49 vote.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Trump agrees to new Harvey relief funds for Texas

President Donald Trump agreed Thursday to a new storm relief package with money earmarked specifically for people hit by Hurricane Harvey, according to Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. An unspecified sum, which is expected to come before Congress in November, would be in addition to $36.5 billion in general disaster aid that the Senate was poised to approve late Thursday night or early Friday for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other areas hit by natural disasters. Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas lawmakers in Washington signed a letter earlier this month seeking $18.7 billion in funding specifically for relief and recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

Texas Tribune - October 20, 2017

Perry pursuing policy on coal, nuclear power at odds with Texas record

An unusual coalition of fossil fuel interests, environmentalists and free-market adherents has criticized a proposal from U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would prop up coal and nuclear plants across the country. And some of those familiar with Texas politics are wondering if the Perry that served as state governor for 14 years would have opposed the plan, too. In a 2011 interview, then-Gov. Perry told blogger and radio host Erick Erickson, “Get rid of the tax loopholes, get rid of all of the subsidies. Let the energy industry get out there and find — the market will find the right energy for us to be using in this country.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Early voting starts on 7 changes to Texas Constitution

Early voting begins Monday for the chance to tack seven new amendments onto the Texas Constitution, which has already been amended 491 times since its birth in 1876, making it one of the longest such documents in the nation. The proposed amendment that has gained the most notice is Proposition 6, which would allow tax breaks for the spouses of police, firefighters and emergency workers killed in the line of duty. Inspired largely by the four Dallas police officers transit police officer who were killed by a gunman at a downtown protest in July 2016, the amendment would give surviving spouses a property tax exemption that lasts until they remarry.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson walks back assertion that sexual assault is 'the responsibility ... of the female'

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson walked back comments she made earlier Thursday suggesting that blame for sexual assault falls partly on victims because of how they dress or because they don't report the abuse. "I grew up in a time when it was as much the woman's responsibility as the man's — how you were dressed, what your behavior was,” the Dallas Democrat said in an interview with KXAS-TV (NBC5) on the recent sexual assault allegations brought against film producer Harvey Weinstein. "Many times, men get away with this because they are allowed to get away with it by the women," she added.

Houston Chronicle - October 20, 2017

Texas losses 7,300 jobs last month as Harvey's impact felt

Texas lost 7,300 jobs in September in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of August. The overall job losses, however, mask sectors that were particularly hard hit by the storm that shut down, damaged or destroyed thousands of businesses across the region Restaurants and hotels, for example, eliminated 23,400 jobs last month, the biggest drop of any sectorthe Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday. Retailers shed 6,500 positions.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Lindenberger: If George W. Bush has to tell us we've strayed too far from American values, it's time to listen

There are many Democrats who were convinced they'd go to their graves believing George W. Bush was the worst president of their lifetimes, certain that he and rogue members of his team like Dick Cheney took America to war on false pretenses amid a riot of reckless assumptions. This morning, the former two-term Republican delivered a speech that will have many liberals re-evaluating those convictions. And, I suspect, they may be joined by a kind of heartfelt relief among many Republicans who have viewed the takeover of their party by Donald Trump and his many power-thirsty enablers as equal parts tragedy and tear-drenched farce.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Texas to receive $7.35 million in multi-state GM settlement

Texas will receive $7.35 million of a $120 million multi-state settlement with General Motors over allegations that the company hid safety issues stemming from defective ignition switches in some of its vehicles, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Thursday. The settlement with attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia is the latest fallout for GM from the faulty switches, which resulted in the recall of millions of cars in 2014. The company previously paid out an estimated $2.5 billion in settlements and fines stemming from the issue.

Austin American-Statesman - October 20, 2017

First Reading: The Cain Mutiny: On the shouting down of Briscoe Cain

In the middle of the day on Monday, Oct. 9, Briscoe Cain, a 32-year-old first-term ullivantate representative from Harris County, member of the Freedom Caucus and the most conservative member of the Texas House (according to the index employed by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones) went to speak at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, a part of Texas Southern University, a historically black public institution, at the invitation of the law school’s student chapter of the conservative Federalist Society. Cain never got to deliver his speech, which was, initially, the object of student protests, and subsequently, shut down by the president of the university. What follows are interviews with the two key players in the events that day, both students at the law school.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Jones: Why I changed my mind on bringing guns at Texas colleges

The recent implementation of Texas’ campus carry law allows people with a concealed handgun license to carry their handguns on college campuses. I once supported this law, but now that I am spending every day on a college campus in Texas, I can no longer say the same thing. My change of heart regarding campus carry was accelerated by the gruesome mass shooting in Las Vegas, which made me question whether gun ownership should be strictly regulated in general, and by the recent shooting at Texas Tech University. As I called my friends who attend the university to make sure they were out of harm’s way, I realized that guns on college campuses — carried legally or not — scare me.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Herman: Caution, free speech might offend you

It seems that some of our elected officials du jour (see Trump, Donald J., and Abbott, Gregory W.) sometimes have a problem with the whole free speech thing. So it’s comforting that one of our local appointed officials doesn’t. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, himself sometimes accused of courtroom free speechifying in ways that challenge some people’s sensibilities, did himself proud recently in ruling that Abbott improperly traversed an important line when he ordered a Capitol display removed because it offended him. Back in December 2015, I told you how an incensed Abbott demanded that the State Preservation Board (chaired by the governor) remove a previously approved Capitol display placed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

A&M, UT competing against each other to run Los Alamos weapons lab

Texas A&M University System regents voted unanimously Thursday to authorize the system to compete for a contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and part of the portfolio overseen by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a graduate of A&M. The action by the A&M System Board of Regents came exactly a month after University of Texas System regents authorized their system to spend up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to operate Los Alamos. In a twist with a political dimension, A&M Regent Tony Buzbee, a lawyer from Houston, will serve as the Board of Regents’ point person on Los Alamos. Buzbee was Perry’s lead counsel in successfully fighting the former governor’s indictment on abuse of power charges stemming from his 2013 threat to withhold money for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

Dallas Fed CEO: Technology, not trade or immigration, is main reason for job loss

If policymakers and elected officials keep buying into the misnomer that trade and immigration are the keys to job loss, the state’s and country’s leaders are going to craft policies that hinder growth and prosperity, the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas told business leaders in San Antonio. “A lot of these job dislocations are being publicly blamed on trade and immigration. Our analysis at the Dallas Fed is 15 years ago, maybe. Today, no,” Robert Kaplan told members of the Texas Business Leadership Council. “More likely, if your job is being disrupted it’s because of technology.”

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

Cornyn says Trump assured me more Harvey aid for Texas coming in November

The U.S. Senate will not add more funds earmarked for Texas' recovery to a new disaster spending bill slated for a vote this week, the state's senior senator said on Thursday. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that he spoke with President Donald Trump and his budget director Mick Mulvaney and was assured that a separate spending aid bill would come soon. "It’s coming in November, and it will be for Texans recovering from Harvey," Cornyn said.

Texas Tribune - October 20, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Most Texans happy with government response to Hurricane Harvey

For Hurricane Harvey recovery, Texans want federal, state and local officials to focus on debris cleanup and disposal, housing, public health and environmental contamination, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Texas voters said other problems brought on by the historic storm — transportation, public education, unemployment and damage to local businesses — are extremely or somewhat important to them, but their first priorities are cleaning up and making sure everyone is okay. That showed in their assessments of how others responded to the effects of the storm: 86 percent lauded the response of the people of Texas, and large majorities thought highly of the actions of local and state governments. The federal government’s responses won approval from 57 percent of the respondents.

Texas Tribune - October 20, 2017

Texas A&M Commerce offers $10,000 degree — but discourages freshmen from pursuing

COMMERCE — In 2011, when Gov. Rick Perry urged Texas universities to find a way to offer degrees for less than $10,000, many in the higher education world scoffed. Texas A&M University-Commerce leapt into action. Within two years, the East Texas school had developed a program that allowed students to earn an online bachelor's degree in applied technology at far less than the $40,000 it can take to spend four years at the university. The program has since earned praise from state leaders, who have tried to encourage other schools to replicate the success.

Texas Tribune - October 20, 2017

Harvey's next blow: Home values, tax collections expected to drop

Southeast Texans hammered by Hurricane Harvey are still muddling through insurance company paperwork and federal disaster recovery questionnaires, while scores of local property appraisers are scrambling to assess the full scope of Harvey's damage. Annual property appraisals have started going out, and Harvey's floods have made things a lot more complicated this year. Thousands of property owners along the coast could see their property values — and their taxes — decrease because of wind and flood damage. How much values drop depends on the amount of damage and where owners are in the rebuilding process when their property is assigned a new value.

San Antonio Express-News - October 19, 2017

FEMA extends Texas aid deadline, requests workers

The deadline for Texans from counties hit by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath to register for federal disaster relief has been extended a month. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new deadline for registering for the funds is Nov. 24. The extension also gives more time to take out low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration for losses not compensated by insurance.

San Antonio Express-News - October 19, 2017

Texas Ag Commissioner Miller faces heat over biblical interpretation of ‘BBQ bill’

The County Line Bar-B-Q’s motto is “Eat here, diet at home,” and owner Skeeter Miller says consumers who felt portions failed the full-belly test would promptly skewer the chain on Yelp or Facebook. So when Texas Department of Agriculture inspectors started showing up to inspect the accuracy and customer visibility of the Austin-based chain’s weight scales, Miller wondered what was up. “You know, I’ve been in business for 42 years and I’ve never known about having to register my scale,” he said. It turns out a law that had been on the books since long before Miller started smoking meat at the chain’s first location required certified scales and that meat sold by the pound be weighed within view of customers.

San Antonio Express-News - October 19, 2017

Dallas Fed CEO Kaplan says Texas to see bounce in jobs from Hurricane Harvey

After a brief economic setback from Hurricane Harvey, Texas employment growth will rise to a higher-than-projected rate by the end of the year because of damage recovery, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas CEO Robert Kaplan said Thursday in San Antonio. The Dallas Fed has nudged its full-year 2017 Texas employment growth to 2.6 percent from 2.5 percent due to a snapback in jobs cleaning up and repairing the damage from the hurricane, Kaplan told almost 50 people attending the fall meeting of the Texas Business Leadership Council at the St. Anthony Hotel.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Ruth Simmons named 'sole finalist' for job as Prairie View A&M's next president

The Texas A&M University System named renowned higher education leader Ruth Simmons the sole finalist for Prairie View A&M's presidency on Thursday. She will become the full president at the board's next meeting. Simmons, who is in her 70s, has been interim president since July and previously had said she was "too old" to consider taking the full-time position. She later set out an ambitious agenda for her time as at the institution's helm last week, pledging to raise money, lift morale, boost residential life and improve coordination between different areas of campus in July.

Houston Chronicle - October 20, 2017

HC: State Propositions: Voters should vote for 1 and against 2 and 3

There are few political documents more elegant and refined than the U.S. Constitution. And there are few more convoluted and rambling than the Texas version - only Alabama and Oklahoma have longer state constitutions. Voters are being asked to consider seven amendments to our document on the November ballot, all of which had to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature during the spring session. These amendments offer minor changes and, unlike in past years, there's no major opposition or debate. Nevertheless, we cast a skeptical eye on these offers by the legislative supermajority, and ask voters to do the same.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Jeff Bezos christens Amazon's big Texas wind farm

Standing on top of a massive wind turbine, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos christened the online juggernaut's new Texas wind farm. Bezos broke a bottle of sparkling wine over a turbine at the 253-megawatt Amazon Wind Farm Texas west of Abilene in Scurry County and Seattle-based Amazon posted videos on Twitter and Instagram. The Texas wind farm is Amazon's largest renewable energy project to date, and it's built and operated by Chicago's Lincoln Clean Energy. One megawatt typically powers 200 homes on a hot Texas day.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Huffman: Homeowners deserve 'just compensation'

Almost two months have passed since the historic rains of Hurricane Harvey. And while the water has receded, frustrations are rising among homeowners in and around some areas of Texas. Families whose homes flooded when the Army Corps of Engineers released water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs virtually all say the same thing: They did not think they were at risk of flooding; and few question whether the Army Corps of Engineers did the right thing. But many are questioning whether the government will do right by their sacrifice.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Snyder: Harvey reveals flaws of government by MUD

Amid shattered buildings and ruined lives, a hurricane strips away the veneer of normalcy that conceals uncomfortable truths. Hurricane Harvey showed us, for example, that the two aging reservoirs on Houston's west side are inadequate to protect the heart of the city lying downstream. The storm exposed gaps in the Houston Fire Department's rescue training and equipment. It eliminated any doubt about the need for stricter limits on development in flood-prone areas. Harvey's floods also illustrated a structural problem, often glossed over in ordinary times, that cries out for attention in a crisis. The dominant role of so-called "special districts" in the region's vast unincorporated areas deprives millions of residents of the responsive, transparent local government they deserve.

Business Insider - October 18, 2017

Austin, Texas is most likely to get Amazon's $5 billion headquarters, according to the data

To find a list of possible winners for HQ2, the financial-services division of Moody's Analytics examined Amazon's stipulations against 65 cities with at least one million residents. Amazon is looking for at least one million people in its chosen city, along with 8 million square feet of space, access to an airport, a "stable and business-friendly regulations and tax structure," incentives to offset HQ2's construction and ongoing expenses, a labor force, mass transit, a "cultural fit," and a "high quality of life." Moody's looked at five of these factors: business environment (economic growth, the city's history of corporate tax incentives, and the region's credit ratings), a skilled workforce, costs (pertaining to real estate, taxes, energy prices, and labor), quality of life, and transportation. The analysts excluded Seattle, the home of Amazon's first headquarters. Using data from local governments and community surveys, the report points to Austin-Round Rock, Texas as the top contender.

Austin Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Texas Is About to Get Its First Marijuana Dispensary

Before year’s end, the first marijuana dispensary in Texas is slated to roll out. It’s high time for the industry to take hold within the state: It’s been two years since the enactment of the Texas Com­pas­sionate Use Act, a 2015 state law that allows limited and narrow use of cannabidiol (CBD) with low THC levels for intractable epilepsy patients who have obtained a doctor’s recommendation. The state is home to an estimated 150,000 of these patients. By the end of December, Knox Medical is expected to begin operations in the sparsely populated rural town of Schulenburg, southeast of Austin. A spokesperson with Cansortium Texas (Knox’s parent company) tells the Chronicle that patients can order the oil online and have it delivered to them.

Charlotte Observer (NC) - October 17, 2017

Texas’ O’Rourke wants Texas money in his bid to topple Cruz

Progressive donors fired up about President Donald Trump’s election have been raising big sums of money for red state Democratic congressional candidates this year – but Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke doesn’t want their help. O’Rourke, an El Paso area congressman, faces long odds in his Senate bid against well-funded incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Yet analysts find the race offers Democrats their third best opportunity to pick up a Republican-held seat next year, and a net gain of three seats would flip control to Democrats. But O’Rourke wants to run his race without out-of-state help, which he says could heighten the national party’s influence in a state where national Democrats aren’t popular. He also wants to attack Cruz for spending time out of state when he sought the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Daily Caller - October 13, 2017

Griffing: George P. Bush Is ‘Re-Imagining’ Reality With A ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Alamo

Texas and its most sacred and iconic historical sites — like the Alamo — are under constant attack by patronizing pseudo-intellectuals who only seem to care about history when it involves blind and uncritical acceptance of “alternative facts” about our state’s past. Historians now “know” that the Lone Star State (along with the entire American Southwest) is built on land “stolen” from Mexico, that Jim Bowie was a staggering drunk and that Davy Crockett “may” have surrendered to the Mexican Army instead of being killed in action swinging “Old Betsy.” For some, these “alternative facts” make the Alamo a symbol of racism and imperialism that should be “re-imagined,” at least according to the Texas Land Office. That’s what the “Reimagining the Alamo” project directed and supervised by political neophyte and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is all about.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 20, 2017

Houston-area school districts give property owners tax relief after Hurricane Harvey

Facing enormous home repair bills after Hurricane Harvey flooded their Katy home, Cynthia and Gene Krueger received a pleasant financial break. Earlier this month, the Katy ISD school board voted to reappraise all storm-damaged properties in its district, including the Kruegers' two-story house. With their $311,000 home value certain to be lowered to reflect the damage incurred during Harvey, the Kruegers can expect to pay hundreds of dollars less in property taxes this year - money that can now go toward renovating their gutted first floor.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

EPA approves plan to stabilize San Jacinto Waste Pits

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan to stabilize the riverbed near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site to address the hazards of a 20,000-square-foot area where Hurricane Harvey gouged a pit about 12 feet deep. At the same time, the EPA and companies responsible for the cleanup say further inspection and tests indicate that a temporary concrete cap appeared to have held during the storm and therefore a major leak of cancer-causing dioxins was averted at the site of Interstate 10 near Channelview.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Landowners to McKinney: Forcible annexation plan is a 'pile of crap'

McKINNEY -- A fight to forcibly annex thousands of acres outside the city limits continues to rage as the council tries to beat a new state law that goes into effect Dec. 1. On Monday and Tuesday, landowners lined up and for hours gave council members an earful. They said the plan reeked of corruption, calling it a "bad deal" and a "pile of crap." "Each City Council member who votes to support this annexation is acting in bad faith," said Jason Blake during a special meeting Monday night. He and his wife relocated from a Frisco neighborhood a year ago to live the country life on a wooded lot with two creeks and a pond just north of the Collin County Courthouse.

Austin American-Statesman - October 20, 2017

Jeff Sessions to discuss immigration priorities in Austin

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in Austin on Friday to discuss President Donald Trump’s immigration priorities, according to the Justice Department. Sessions will hold a roundtable discussion with state and local law enforcement officials, receive a federal crime briefing and meet with U.S. attorney’s office staff, a Justice Department official told the American-Statesman. Trump has identified numerous immigration policy proposals both as a candidate and on the job.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Austin Police Contract: Some Travis Democrats question its necessity

Austin police and city officials Thursday were still negotiating a possible multi-year labor contract on what is supposed to the final day of talks. Meanwhile, the Travis County Democratic Party is set to consider a resolution at their meeting Thursday night in which they would call on the city to reject any proposal until the department increases its transparency and accountability. The proposed resolution says that the department has not done enough in those areas.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Payday lenders are losing their financial death grip in southern Dallas

A decade ago, payday lenders were expanding in Dallas faster than weeds on a spring lawn. While their predatory ways were felt all over the city, the operations were particularly devastating in the southern half. Residents in desperate need of quick cash to pay for household emergencies often found themselves trapped in cycles of high-interest rates, unmanageable fees and crushing debt. But in the years since the City Council's passage of groundbreaking ordinances in 2011, many of the lenders have closed up shop. The city counted 220 payday storefronts the year it changed the rules; today just 65 are in business, with about 28 of those in southern Dallas, according to city records.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Dickinson demands Hurricane Harvey victims agree to not boycott Israel

The ACLU is calling the city of Dickinson's hurricane repair grant application unconstitutional because it asks applicants to not boycott Israel, according to a news release from the civil rights non-profit. The city posted on its website that grant applications are being accepted for money donated to the Dickinson Harvey Relief fund. The application allows residents to apply for funds to help in rebuilding a home or business impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Applicants must agree that they "will not boycott Israel during the term of this agreement," according to the form.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Craft: EPA administrator should see Houston's post-Harvey pollution firsthand.

Perhaps when EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is in Houston this week to speak at an oil and gas industry forum, he also will address the trail of disasters left behind by the inaction of his agency during and after Hurricane Harvey. Perhaps he will take a few deep breaths near the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, where 20 emergency responders became ill breathing smoke-filled air after floodwaters cut power and wiped out the backup generators at the facility. Perhaps he will sit down for dinner with a family in Manchester and tell the children why EPA took so long to test the noxious odors that wafted from the Valero refinery after Harvey damaged the roof atop one of its storage tanks - a toxic plume that my organization independently found to contain benzene.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

Howell: A bane by any other name is still a bane

North East ISD school board trustees in San Antonio recently voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School, citing changing times and concerns over safety for students attending a school named in 1958 for the Confederacy’s most prominent military leader. A risk of ongoing distractions stemming from national controversy related to Confederate symbols and fears of violence also played a part as the board voted 5-2 to give the school a new name. Starting with the 2018 academic year, Lee High School will be called Legacy of Educational Excellence — LEE, for short. The new name — and not the fact the decision itself was made to rename the school — deserves to be called out as a keen-eyed heckler might harangue a magician in a ridiculous shell game where all the hidden balls are the same — all marked with the letters LEE. With sleight of hand, a majority of the board has done nothing more than say, “now you see it, now you don’t” when it comes to eliminating the problem of perceived racism or removing anything associated with military heritage south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Sloan: Dallas must do more to guard against natural disaster

People who choose to live in a big city like Dallas give up a lot of control over their lives. For example, while they get to choose a befitting neighborhood, they don't get to choose their neighbors. City dwellers also relinquish control over their general environment, the streets, highways and buildings they need for everyday life. These are the responsibility of others. Moreover, a city dweller lives without the open space that's available to a rural villager or farmer to store a year's worth of grain, keep a full cistern of drinking water, tend a cow and have chickens running around. On any given day, a family living in the country can literally see whether they have enough food.

National Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

Anderson: What the U.S. will lose after its withdrawal from UNESCO

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” So begins the preamble to the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. They were words written in 1945 by the American poet and playwright Archibald MacLeish, who served on the organization’s governing board at its founding at the end of World War II. With the recent announcement by President Donald Trump of the United States’ intention to withdraw from membership in the organization, Americans will lose a voice at an important venue for bettering lives all over the globe and for securing our vital national interests.

Texas Observer - October 18, 2017

del Bosque: The Olive-Green Ceiling: Why Are So Few Women in the Border Patrol?

During his first week in office, one of President Trump’s first moves was to sign an executive order calling for the hiring of 5,000 more Border Patrol agents. But not only has Congress so far declined to fund the new personnel, the agency is struggling to fill more than 1,600 positions that were vacant when Trump signed his mandate. If Border Patrol wants to increase its ranks, it might consider boosting its recruitment of women. Since the agency started allowing women to become Border Patrol agents in 1975, female agents have never made up more than 5 percent of the workforce — dead last among federal law enforcement agencies. Why do so few women wear the green uniform? The agency’s male-dominated culture, as well as its training and recruitment practices, are partially to blame, said Catherine Sanz, executive director of Women in Federal Law Enforcement.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Buckler: Cell phone records and the warrant requirement

Next month, the United States Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in perhaps the most important Fourth Amendment case of the past twenty years. This is the court’s opportunity to protect the privacy of citizens’ cell phone records while still making the allowances needed to keep the public safe. In Carpenter v. United States, the Court will decide whether the law of search and seizure is violated when the government issues a subpoena for cell phone location records under the Stored Communications Act. This law allows phone records to be subpoenaed on the basis of reasonable grounds, a standard of proof considerably lower than that generally needed for a warrant.

Texas Observer - October 18, 2017

Schuman: Federal Prisons Don’t Even Try to Rehabilitate the Undocumented

The federal Bureau of Prisons claims its mission is to “provide work and self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” When it comes to undocumented offenders, that’s a lie. The truth is that the BOP discriminates against undocumented people by denying them access to essential drug counseling and job training in prison. As President Trump threatens to lock up even more undocumented immigrants, it’s time for the BOP to reform these exclusionary policies, which are both ineffective and inhumane. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reports that about one-third of all the people sent to federal prison each year are “illegal aliens.”

The Hill - October 19, 2017

Key Senate Republican warns GOP to change course on ObamaCare

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) on Thursday told GOP colleagues bluntly that their efforts to repeal ObamaCare have failed and urged them to change course. Alexander said Republicans need to come up with a new path on health care after holding dozens of votes over the years to repeal ObamaCare and always ending in failure. “We’ve had about 50 votes, maybe more, and we lost them all. And we made thousands of speeches and we lost them all,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.

Politico - October 20, 2017

Trump highlights budget opposition from Democrats, Rand Paul in early morning tweets

President Donald Trump celebrated the Senate’s party-line approval of a budget Thursday night, declaring on Twitter that the vote “now allows for the passage of large scale tax cuts" while also highlighting opposition from Democrats and libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul. “The Budget passed late last night, 51 to 49. We got ZERO Democrat votes with only Rand Paul (he will vote for Tax Cuts) voting against,” the president wrote online in a two-post thread. “This now allows for the passage of large scale Tax Cuts (and Reform), which will be the biggest in the history of our country!”

Washington Post - October 20, 2017

Megadonor Tom Steyer launches TV ad campaign for Trump impeachment

Political mega-donor Tom Steyer is funding an eight-figure TV ad campaign to “demand that elected officials take a stand” on impeaching President Trump. “A Republican Congress once impeached a president for far less, and today people in Congress and his own administration know that this president is a clear and present danger,” Steyer says in the ad, which directs viewers to a new NeedToImpeach website. The TV spot will be supplemented by a seven-figure social media buy. The campaign, which was previewed last week by the New York Times, is not a project of Steyer’s political organization, NextGen America. It is funded directly by Steyer, a donor who has not ruled out a run for office himself and who has built relationships with think tanks and elected Democrats in California and Washington.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Decades of secrecy end soon if Trump allows release of last JFK assassination records

Generations of professional and amateur sleuths have spent decades steeped in the details of the JFK assassination. In coming days, they’ll be able to pore through thousands more files kept classified for 54 years — unless President Donald Trump steps in. Those who are sure that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone are eager for vindication and new jigsaw pieces to fill the void spots in the puzzle. So are those who blame the mob, Fidel Castro, the Soviets or the military-industrial complex. Lost on neither camp is the fact that the authority to decide which secrets to keep sealed for another decade or more rests with a president known for indulging conspiracy theories.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Cruz, Radcliffe: Health care system for our veterans still isn't good enough

Three years ago, our country awoke to the grim reality that our Veterans Administration health care system had become so deeply flawed that many of our nation's heroes had died while waiting to receive care. With their names buried on secret waiting lists, it became evident that the VA system was more concerned about protecting the bureaucracy than caring for our veterans. In the wake of these horrifying revelations, Congress began the arduous task of enacting reforms aimed at shifting the culture within the VA to no longer tolerate the mismanagement and corruption that imperiled so many veterans' lives. While some progress has been made, ongoing reports of the VA's shortcomings reinforce that much more needs to be done.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

'Robin Hood' and other key takeaways from the Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders tax debate

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders agree that America's tax code needs an overhaul. And that's about it. The political polar opposites, participating Wednesday in a CNN debate, highlighted the yawning policy divide that confronts conservative and liberal lawmakers of all stripes as they prepare to take on a monumental task that's stymied Congress for decades. With these two loquacious senators, however, the split was crystal clear. Cruz, the Texas Republican, pitches the GOP revamp as a way to streamline the code and "lower taxes for each and every person." Sanders, the Vermont Independent, sees instead a "massive tax break for the wealthy" that comes at the expense of low- and middle-income earners.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Bush: Americans must 'recall and recover our own identity'

We are gathered in the cause of liberty; this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats, yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand. Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Murdock: Russian uranium scheme gets scant media attention

The charges are explosive — let's hope not literally. "The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin's atomic energy business inside the United States," The Hill's John Solomon and Alison Spann reported. They added that an eyewitness, with corroborating documents, indicates that "Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow." This October 2010 ruling — from the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, on which Hillary sat — let Rosatom, the Russian government's atomic energy company, capture 20 percent of America's uranium supply, by purchasing a mining company called Uranium One. Before, during and after CFIUS' approval of the Kremlin's transaction, nine Uranium One investors gave the Clinton Foundation some $145 million.

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

Cop-killings rose in 2016, FBI says

Five officers died in Dallas, gunned down while watching over a protest. Another in El Paso, rammed while on motorcycle duty. One in Euless, and one in San Antonio. All told, eight Texas peace officers died at the hands of criminals in 2016, though none was killed in Houston last year in assaults, according to data the FBI released Monday. Last year proved to be the second most deadly of the last decade nationally - following one of the safest the year before, the data shows. "Sadly, 66 law enforcement officers were killed as a result of criminal acts in 2016," FBI Deputy Assistant Director Rainer Drolshagen said, when the department's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report was released earlier this week. "That's a 61 percent increase when compared to the 41 officers who were feloniously killed in 2015."

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Attorneys warn clients of economic consequences in dismantling NAFTA

Businesses are raising concerns about the North American Free Trade Agreement, from what they see as an outdated employee visa program to political wrangling over the deal to potentially breaking down trust with Mexican and Canadian trade partners, immigration and labor attorneys said Thursday. Luis Campos of the Haynes and Boone law firm in Houston addressed these and other concerns raised by business clients during a gathering at Rice University's Baker Institute to discuss NAFTA's future.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

White: Abolish the death penalty and support the survivors

Whether it's the latest mass shooting or a robbery gone awry, whenever I hear about a murder, my heart breaks again. I know what it's like to learn that the person you love and need the most is never coming home again. That pain and despair are real to me, because my pregnant mother was murdered when I was 5 years old. I was raised by my grandmother, a smart woman who shared details with me as I got older. My mom was 26 when she was murdered in Alvin by two teens with car trouble whom she tried to help. Because the killers were juveniles, they were not eligible for the death penalty. I've thought a lot about my mom and what our lives might have been like had she not been murdered.

Washington Times - October 18, 2017

Push is on to disbar James Comey after Clinton scandal

A crusading lawyer filed a bar grievance this week accusing former FBI Director James Comey of lying to Congress and destroying potential evidence in the Clinton email scandal, in a process that could end up costing him his law license. Ty Clevenger filed the grievance in New York, where Mr. Comey was a former U.S. attorney and is licensed to practice law. Mr. Clevenger said Mr. Comey’s testimony to Congress that he did not predetermine the outcome of the FBI’s probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is belied by revelations this week that he in fact started drafting an exoneration months before even speaking with Mrs. Clinton.

Politico - October 19, 2017

Lowry: The Cognitive Dissonance Presidency

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, President Donald Trump has a position on the Lamar Alexander/Patty Murray health care deal, and if you don’t like it, he has another one. Within hours, Trump veered wildly on the bipartisan compromise on Obamacare that the Tennessee Republican and the Washington Democrat forged at his personal urging. At times supportive, noncommittal and opposed, Trump finally came out against, his final answer until further notice. It isn’t unusual for a politician to wobble when confronted with a nettlesome issue or a shifting political environment. “To live is to maneuver,” said the great 20th century conservative Whittaker Chambers. It’s downright weird, though, for a president to rapidly switch sides on something he gave every indication that he wanted.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Ausley: Why Trump’s pick for refugee office deserves more scrutiny

The federal government’s relentless effort to prevent an unaccompanied minor from getting an abortion, even after a Texas state district judge has waived her need for a guardian’s consent, is shameful. Thankfully, on Wednesday, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that federal agencies detaining the 17-year-old unauthorized immigrant cannot prevent her from having the abortion she seeks. Nor can the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or its parent agencies retaliate against the teen, only identified in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” for choosing to end her unwanted pregnancy, said U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

Associated Press - October 19, 2017

Obama tells Democrats to reject politics of division, fear

Former President Barack Obama called on fellow Democrats to reject politics of "division" and "fear" while rallying on Thursday with party's candidates for governors in Virginia and New Jersey. "Why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other, and be cruel to each other and put each other down? That's not who we are," Obama said at the Virginia rally in front of several thousand supporters. Stepping back into the political spotlight for the first time since leaving the White House in January, Obama did not mention President Donald Trump in his speeches at Richmond's convention center or at a Newark hotel. But he did tell crowds at both events that they could send a message to the rest of the country in the upcoming elections.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Associated Press - October 19, 2017

Bipartisan plan to curb health premiums gets strong support

A bipartisan proposal to calm churning health insurance markets gained momentum Thursday when enough lawmakers rallied behind it to give it potentially unstoppable Senate support. But its fate remained unclear as some Republicans sought changes that could threaten Democratic backing. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said their plan had 24 sponsors, divided evenly between both parties, for resuming federal subsidies to insurers. Trump has blocked the money and without it, insurers are already raising premiums for many buying individual coverage and could flee unprofitable markets.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - October 19, 2017

Jury picked in murder case that stoked immigration debate

A jury has been selected for the murder trial of a Mexican man whose case set off a national debate over U.S. sanctuary cities and immigration during last year's presidential campaign after he was accused of shooting and killing a woman on a popular San Francisco pier. Six women and six men were selected Wednesday for the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate after jury candidates answered a 14-page questionnaire that probed their views about Latinos, immigration and guns. Zarate, 54, is charged with murder in the shooting death of office worker Kate Steinle, 32, in July 2015. Opening arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - October 19, 2017

DNC reshuffle has some worrying about a ‘purge’

The Democratic National Committee kicked off its annual meeting with a now-familiar drama — a public spat between the party’s leadership and its frustrated left-wing activists. The latest argument began after DNC Chairman Tom Perez nominated a new slate of members for little-known but influential party committees. That slate, slightly younger and more diverse than the last one, did not include some of the highest-profile supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid and Rep. Keith Ellison’s failed bid to run the DNC, which had been backed by Sanders (I-Vt.). “It’s a lot of really good people who deserved better,” said James Zogby, a longtime DNC member who is being replaced on the executive committee. “I’d say they’re making way for new blood, but it’s not that at all. We were Keith Ellison supporters. The optics of it are bad.”

Washington Post - October 19, 2017

Health insurers’ most pressing concern right now? Consumer confusion.

Health insurers heading into the 2018 Affordable Care Act enrollment season say they’re staying laser focused on maximizing sign-ups, even as Republicans remain in disarray and even denial over the seven-year-old health-care law. A big funding infusion that could help lower Obamacare premiums is in flux just 12 days before enrollment starts. President Trump sent mixed signals this week about whether he’d support legislation funding subsidies for lower-income Americans to get coverage. A compromise measure crafted by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was embraced by two dozen Senate Democrats and Republicans on Thursday afternoon.

Associated Press - October 20, 2017

Survey: US uninsured up 3.5M this year; expected to rise

The number of U.S. adults without health insurance is up nearly 3.5 million this year, as rising premiums and political turmoil over "Obamacare" undermine coverage gains that drove the nation's uninsured rate to a historic low. That finding is based on the latest installment of a major survey, released Friday. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index asks a random sample of 500 people each day whether they have health insurance. The survey found that the uninsured rate among adults was 12.3 percent during the period from July 1-Sept. 30, an increase of 1.4 percentage points since the end of last year. The increase in the number of uninsured is more striking because it comes at a time of economic growth and low unemployment.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

October 19, 2017

Lead Stories

NBC News - October 18, 2017

Shakeup at Democratic National Committee, Longtime Officials Ousted

A shakeup is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez. The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge earlier this year that he would unite the party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary. Complaints began immediately after party officials saw a list of Perez' appointments to DNC committees and his roster of 75 "at-large" members, who are chosen by the chair.

San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2017

Judge postpones Uresti trial until January

A federal judge postponed State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud trial — scheduled to start Monday — after concluding a lawyer for one of his co-defendants wasn’t adequately prepared for trial. The trial will now start on Jan. 4, Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra ruled Wednesday. “I am disappointed,” Uresti said after a court hearing. The San Antonio Democrat opposed a delay on the grounds that it would interfere with his right to a speedy trial. On Wednesday morning, the court-appointed lawyer for Stan Bates, a co-defendant and the former CEO of now-defunct San Antonio oil field services company FourWinds Logistics, filed a court motion seeking to withdraw from the case over a “conflict of interest.”

New York Times - October 18, 2017

Why Democrats Need Wall Street

Many of the most prominent voices in the Democratic Party, led by Bernie Sanders, are advocating wealth redistribution through higher taxes and Medicare for all, and demonizing banks and Wall Street. Memories in politics are short, but those policies are vastly different from the program of the party’s traditional center-left coalition. Under Bill Clinton, that coalition balanced the budget, acknowledged the limits of government and protected the essential programs that make up the social safety net. President Clinton did this, in part, by moving the party away from a reflexive anti-Wall Street posture. It’s not popular to say so today, but there are still compelling reasons Democrats should strengthen ties to Wall Street.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Jeffers: One of Rep. Pete Sessions' Democratic challengers is raking in cash, surging ahead of opponents

If money talks in politics, Ed Meier is quite the chatterbox. Meier, a Democrat running for the 32nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Pete Sessions, is raising campaign cash at a torrid pace. He's pulled in more than $240,000 in the third quarter of this year. According to Federal Elections Commission reports, Meier has scored nearly $600,000 over the last two campaign reporting cycles and has $438,000 in the bank. In contrast, Dallas lawyer and Meier rival Colin Allred hauled in $62,000 for the third quarter, a sharp decline from the $206,000 he raised earlier in the year.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Texas voters familiar with Cruz but not Democratic rival O’Rourke

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is much better known among Texas voters than his best-known political rival, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. The incumbent faces some headwinds: 38 percent of voters said they have favorable opinions of Cruz, while 45 percent have unfavorable opinions of him. In O’Rourke’s case, 16 percent have favorable views and 13 percent have unfavorable views. “Ted Cruz’s greatest asset — his strong support among the Republican base — remains pretty intact,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Austin’s bid is officially in for Amazon’s giant HQ2 project

For the past month, hundreds of cities have scrambled to prepare proposals to win Amazon’s second company headquarters after the online retailer announced plans for the $5 billion project. Austin, considered a contender by industry analysts, has been among those preparing bids. Now, Austin enters the waiting period. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce formally submitted the city’s proposal for Amazon’s HQ2 project on Wednesday, one day ahead of Amazon’s deadline, chamber spokesman Mike Berman confirmed to the American-Statesman.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Marston: Why Hartnett White is dangerous for environmental council

With each new appointee to the Trump administration, it’s like the president is trolling us. Put someone who sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 14 times in charge of the agency? Check. Appoint a man who wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy as its head? Check. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Trump’s newest choice for the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality – Kathleen Hartnett White of the Texas Public Policy Foundation – is beyond insulting to the American people. As a Texan, I’ve had a front row seat to Hartnett White’s dangerous propaganda on climate and other environmental issues for years. If there were an adult version of “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” she’d be the show’s star. And it would be funny — if what she said didn’t mean death and illness for so many.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Court halts ruling allowing immigrant teen to have abortion

An appeals court on Thursday temporarily stayed a judge's ruling that would have allowed a pregnant 17-year-old being held in a Texas facility for unaccompanied immigrant children to obtain an abortion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a short ruling allowing the teenager to be taken to a counseling meeting with the doctor who would perform the abortion. Texas state law requires women to receive counseling 24 hours before an abortion. If the appeals court lifts the stay during a hearing Friday morning, the teen would still potentially be able to have the procedure later Friday or on Saturday.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

With critical election year ahead, Texas Republican women convene in Dallas

Republicans have dominated Texas politics for 22 years, winning every statewide office and shaping the state's conservative policies. It's hard to imagine any of that electoral success without the effort of Republican women, who with their organizations and political clubs provide fuel for the campaigns of GOP candidates across the state. "Republican women win elections," said Dianne Edmondson, former chairwoman of the Denton County Republican Party and a state district director for the Texas Federation of Republican Women. "It's the most powerful political organization in the state."

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

Is North Texas LGBT-friendly? It depends if you live in Dallas or Denton

Dallas and Forth Worth remain two of the friendliest cities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans to live, but the rest of the region continues to lag far behind, according to national rankings released Thursday. For the third year in a row, Dallas scored a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide survey that ranks cities based on how much local laws and policies foster greater acceptance for the LGBT community. Forth Worth and Austin were the only cities in Texas to also get the full 100 points. The average score in Texas was 37 points, a full 20 points below the national average.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Where do immigrants at the center of the DACA debate live?

There’s a fierce national debate going on over whether to allow immigrants who have DACA permits to continue to live and work in the U.S. Where do these immigrants, who call themselves Dreamers, live? An interactive map shows how many people benefit from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in each congressional district. Texas has the second-highest concentration of DACA recipients and the Dallas area has the third-largest DACA population, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. By district, Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has the third-largest concentration of DACA recipients in the state in his 33rd Congressional District. About 6,500 DACA recipients live here, according to mapping by the University of Southern California Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

From Charlottesville to College Station, colleges weigh free speech rights against student safety

Austin -- Just 48 hours after they’d watched a demonstrator get mowed down during a deadly protest near the University of Virginia, Texas A&M officials huddled nervously around a conference room table and stared at a news release they thought implied their campus could be next. "CHARLOTTESVILLE TODAY. TEXAS A&M TOMORROW," blared the email penned by Preston Wiginton, a former student who wanted to bring white nationalist Richard Spencer to College Station. Spencer had been there in Charlottesville, leading scores of torch-bearing, chanting men across UVA's campus. One of his very next stops, on Sept. 11, would be A&M.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

'Alt-right' leader Richard Spencer isn't wild about voting but backed Democrat Kerry, as well as Trump

Dallas native and white supremacist leader Richard Spencer has expressed his disdain for voting, especially by women. But he has voted in Dallas County and in at least two other states besides Texas, according to voting records obtained by The Dallas Morning News. Some of those votes were for Democrats. “What did it say? I’m curious,” Spencer, 39, said when asked by The News about how he cast his votes. “John Kerry in 2004, right?” Spencer, the self-appointed leader of the “alt-right” — a term he coined for a movement that embraces white supremacist views and Nazi symbols — told The News it isn’t hypocritical for him to vote.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Undocumented pregnant teen in Texas can have an abortion 'promptly and without delay'

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that unauthorized teen immigrant "Jane Doe" can have an abortion, directing she be taken “promptly and without delay” to the nearest provider. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the federal agencies responsible for Doe's care in Texas can't prevent her from having an abortion, retaliate against her for doing so or reveal her decision to have one to anyone else. "At last, our client will be able to get the care she needs without federal officials standing in the way," Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a news release.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Dallas Fed: Harvey’s economic damage temporary; recovery boosts demand

It appears Hurricane Harvey will inflict little long-term disruption on the regional economy, which continued to expand at a “moderate pace” over the past six weeks despite the giant storm, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In its chapter of the Beige Book, an anecdotal survey of the economy compiled every six weeks by the Federal Reserve banks, the Dallas Fed said most of the hurricane-related problems in its district were temporary — and that recovery efforts already have spurred demand spikes in several industries.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Garcia, O'Brien: Helping immigrants should not mean denying them care

The immigrant community is deeply committed to the values that this country works to uphold — values that brought many of us to this nation. The idea of the United States as a beacon for those fleeing persecution is deeply held by many communities, including many of those who come to the United States seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The Catholic community is also called upon to take care of the most vulnerable — help the poor, heal the sick and feed the hungry. We applaud the pope and U.S. bishops for calling for greater acceptance and tolerance of migrants.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Court: Examine if Austin crime lab botched death penalty evidence

The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday ordered a closer examination of death row inmate Areli Escobar’s claims that shoddy work by the Austin police crime lab compromised evidence in his case. Escobar is seeking to have his conviction overturned, and a new trial ordered, after a Travis County jury sentenced him to death in the 2009 sexual assault and stabbing of his neighbor, 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado, an LBJ High School student who was attacked at her East Austin apartment with her year-old son, who survived, nearby.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Disaster food program extension draw thousands of Harvey victims in Houston

Thousands of Hurricane Harvey victims gathered in Houston today to apply for food stamps, after the emergency program that grants them was extended for three days, several news organizations reported. People waited for hours in lines or in heavy traffic that formed outside Deussen Park in northeast Houston, the only site designated to receive the applications, which must be submitted in person. State officials decided to reopen the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, between Wednesday and Friday this week. After Harvey, the program had been open for 15 days and served 634,400 people, according to Click2Houston.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Texas court halts execution to review claims that co-defendant lied at trial

The execution of a man who insists he was framed in a 2001 murder was halted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, one week before he was set to die. The court sent the case of Clinton Young back to trial court to look into claims that Young’s co-defendant, a main witness for the state at trial, lied in his testimony. Young’s lawyers claim four jailhouse witnesses have sworn they heard the co-defendant, David Page, brag about killing Samuel Petrey and blaming it on Young. “I'm very grateful to the Criminal Court of Appeals for granting this stay and for giving me a chance to prove my innocence in court,” Young told his attorneys on the phone, according to a statement.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

El Paso Democrat draws influential endorsement in bid to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke

Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar just picked up a consequential endorsement in her bid to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who is making a run for U.S. Senate. Escobar, a Democrat, earned the endorsement of EMILY's List on Thursday. The organization, which backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, can prove pivotal in Democratic primaries. EMILY's List – whose acronym stands for "Early Money Is Like Yeast" – focuses on raising money through a vast network of individual donors for candidates it has endorsed.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

UT/TT Poll: In Texas, vast majority of Republicans still support Trump

Donald Trump remains highly popular with Texas Republicans nearly a year after his election as the 45th president, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. “Trump’s overall job approval numbers continue to look good with Republicans,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “His base is still very secure.” His popularity with Texas Democrats, on the other hand, is remarkably low. While 79 percent of Republicans said they approve of the job the president is doing, 92 percent of Democrats disapprove. Among independent voters, 55 percent handed Trump good marks, while 35 gave him bad ones.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

Parents push for Texas to screen all newborns for spinal muscular atrophy

Kristen Resendez had a normal pregnancy and, two years ago, brought home a healthy baby boy, Jack. Four weeks later, Jack couldn’t move. After a bevy of tests, Jack was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a neuromuscular disease that shuts down muscle use throughout the body. Resendez said her doctor told her that children with Jack’s form of SMA rarely live beyond 6 months. “I took Jack home and let myself cry for 24 hours, but then got back on my feet and told myself, 'What can I do?'” Resendez said.

Texas Monthly - October 18, 2017

How Hurricane Harvey Changed Social Media Disaster Relief

For millions of Texans—and people around the world—Hurricane Harvey was the first natural disaster that they watched unfold almost in real time on social media. Those directly affected by the storm reached out for rescue and updates on Twitter and Facebook. Those far away turned to the platforms to coordinate aid and spread information (and disinformation). The social media use was so prevalent that it even launched a research project at the University of Texas at Austin. “Hurricane Harvey is the first disaster where social media calls for help appear to have supplanted the overloaded 911 call systems,” Keri Stephens, an associate professor in UT’s Department of Communication Studies and the project’s principal investigator, said in a release. “But this form of help-seeking behavior on public social media is relatively new. This project will capture the voices of hurricane victims and emergency response workers to help save lives in the future.”

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

Webb: Life without Planned Parenthood

What would life be like without Planned Parenthood? Because of Senate Bill 4, Texas may soon find out. SB 4 prohibits local and state government agencies from contracting with abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and their affiliates. Because of the bill, women in low-income communities will have a harder time accessing medical care such as cancer screening, education about breast and vaginal cancer, treatment for and education about sexually transmitted diseases and access to contraceptives — all while wasting Texas taxpayers' dollars. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, if Planned Parenthood ceases to exist, contraceptives will no longer be as accessible to women in low-income communities as they once were. Since the Texas Legislature voted to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, women who come from low-income communities have received an astounding 36 percent fewer contraceptives.

San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2017

Challenge to Texas voter ID law should be over, AG argues

The fight over the state’s embattled voter ID laws should be over, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued in a new court document filed late Tuesday. Paxton, as expected, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals calling for the judges to end a challenge to the state’s new voter ID law for good. In his 101-page document, the Republican argued that because the state has already added new exceptions to the law to allow people who have a reasonable impediment to getting an ID to vote, the case should be officially concluded. “This case should be over,” Paxton’s brief states.

San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2017

Garcia: Canseco’s sixth congressional bid a head-scratcher

Much like Justin Timberlake, Quico Canseco can’t stop the feeling. Like Bad Boy Records, he can’t stop — won’t stop. Canseco can’t quit you, congressional politics, no matter how you do him wrong. On Monday, Canseco, a San Antonio-via-Laredo businessman who rode the tea-party wave to Congress in 2010, filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, declaring his intent to run in U.S. District 20 (a story first reported by Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune).

San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2017

Texas to loan Houston $47M to replace bridges after Harvey

The state of Texas will provide a $47 million no-interest loan to Houston to replace eight bridges west of downtown that block the flow of floodwaters during heavy downpours, according to a newspaper report. The city will forward the money from the Texas Water Development Board to the Harris County Flood Control District so that bridge replacements along Brays Bayou can begin in March. The loan is just one piece to the long-delayed flood-relief plan known as Project Brays, according to the Houston Chronicle . Other parts of the plan include widening most of the bayou, adding detention basins that can hold billions of gallons of water, and removing 15,000 homes and businesses from a 100-year flood plain.

San Antonio Express-News - October 18, 2017

The one man in Dallas that helps decide your mortgage, auto, student loan rates

Robert Kaplan, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas CEO and president, may be one of the most powerful people in the U.S. — or at least one of nine. He became one of nine voting members on the Federal Open Market Committee this year, giving him say on the Federal Reserve’s panel that sets U.S. interest rates once a quarter. Run by Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the FOMC directly sets short-term rates, specifically the fed funds rate for overnight loans between banks. That dictates rates on consumer loans, namely mortgages, because the federal funds rate indirectly impacts the yields of 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds. The typical 30-year mortgage gets refinanced, or the home sells, long before 30 years are up — which is why mortgage bonds — and loans — are closely tied to the 10-year Treasury yields.

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

District judge grants 90-day stay of execution for Tourniquet Killer

Notorious Houston serial killer Anthony Shore won a stay Wednesday hours before his scheduled execution, after he agreed to tell prosecutors about other murders he may have committed and divulged plans to falsely confess to one he didn't. The last-minute push for the Tourniquet Killer's reprieve came after the condemned man revealed that fellow death row inmate Larry Swearingen begged him to take responsibility for the 1998 Montgomery County slaying of college student Melissa Trotter, according to prosecutors. Instead, Shore came forward and confessed to the plot.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Texas by early 2018

Medical marijuana dispensaries are moving ahead quickly to begin operations in Texas, with at least three companies now expecting to be open by early 2018. Cansortium Texas, a branch of Miami-based Cansortium holdings, was awarded the state's first medical marijuana license on Sept. 1, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety website. Cansortium Texas will operate the Knox Medical dispensary in Schulenburg. Jose Hidalgo, CEO of Knox, said cannabis is currently being grown at the location in Schulenburg and will be ready for distribution in by the end of the year.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Tomlinson: Texas taxes may be low, but they're poorly imposed

Most economists agree that how a government levies taxes is just as important as how much it collects. And each year, the right-leaning Tax Foundation tries to call attention to this principle by publishing the State Business Tax Climate Index to compare the effectiveness of state tax policies in promoting growth and investment. Texas ranked 13th in the 2017 edition, the same spot it occupied in 2016. Not bad, but certainly disappointing for a state that lacks both personal and corporate income taxes. Texas should get used to the disappointment. It will never break the Top 10 as long as the state maintains an astronomical property tax, a high sales tax and the most stupid business tax in the nation.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 18, 2017

Cartel emerges as most dominant in North Texas

Overall drug cartel activity has increased in North Texas over the last year, federal authorities said Wednesday, and the cartel named by a suspect in an extortion plot last week week has become the dominant force. The Jalisco New Generation cartel possibly involved in the extortion episode also was linked to a drug bust in Dallas in September that included a super lab that manufactured methamphetamine. While instances of cartel violence rarely occur in North Texas, the area has long been a key drug distribution point with access to several major interstates.

Associated Press - October 19, 2017

Texas congresswoman on Weinstein: Sexual assault prevention ‘as much the woman's responsibility’

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, whose district covers part of the Dallas area, has weighed in on the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. According to reports, Johnson puts some of the onus for preventing sexual assault on female assault victims. According to Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS, Johnson said: "I grew up in a time when it was as much the woman's responsibility as it was a man's — how you were dressed, what your behavior was. ... I'm from the old school that you can have behaviors that appear to be inviting. It can be interpreted as such. That's the responsibility, I think, of the female. I think that males have a responsibility to be professional themselves."

Texas Monthly - October 12, 2017

Evangelical TV Network Executive Might Challenge Ted Cruz

After losing the nomination to Donald Trump, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz delivered a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention that was markedly unenthusiastic about the party’s presidential candidate. Cruz congratulated Trump on winning the nomination, but in over twenty-five minutes of speaking about conservative values he failed to endorse Trump for president. It was a gamble for the 2020 election. By the time Cruz reached the end of his speech, however, delegates booed and shouted, “Say his name!” Cruz eventually endorsed Trump via a Facebook post two months later, but only after Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick hinted that he would find a primary opponent for Cruz if he didn’t. After the less-than-prime-time endorsement, Patrick, who was Trump’s Texas chairman, backed off. Now it looks as if the speech might draw Cruz a potentially substantial opponent after all. Bruce K. Jacobson Jr., vice president of media for LIFE Outreach International and an aide to televangelist James Robison and his Life Today television network, told me that the convention speech has motivated him to seriously consider challenging Cruz in next year’s primary.

Southwest Farm Press - October 17, 2017

Changing attitudes about farming and ranching in expanding Texas cities

While 'city-dwellers may have failed to understand the importance of agriculture in the state in recent years, that trend has been changing. For example, more students at the primary grade level are being taught more about the importance of farming and its role in healthy eating. And that trend is leaning toward older, more advanced students in public and private schools as well. More advanced health education is becoming the norm, as is the role of eating healthy. Much of these efforts we owe to educators who have become more aware through farm-to-table programs and other extension outreach-supported projects. Extension officials say it is the growing interest and awareness of parents and teachers who are warming up to the idea of food security and healthy eating. There also seems to be a growing desire to know and understand the people who grow their food.

The Nation - October 13, 2017

After Harvey, Texas Inmates Were Left in Flooded Prisons Without Adequate Water or Food

During and after Hurricane Harvey’s slow and catastrophic crawl over the Gulf states at the end of August, inmates in multiple prisons in Texas were left to suffer in horrifying, inhumane conditions in ravaged facilities across the state, according to nearly 100 inmate accounts obtained by the National Lawyers Guild. The accounts collected by the NLG report power outages and insufficient access to food, water, and medicine. Inmates described cells flooded knee-high with water contaminated by urine and feces, as well as the inability to flush toilets, take showers, or change clothes for two weeks.

Daily Texan - October 17, 2017

UT-Austin remains one of the only top schools in Texas to charge counseling fees

UT-Austin is one of the only large public universities in Texas that charges for counseling and mental health services. Of Texas’ 10 largest public universities, only UT and the University of Houston charge for counseling sessions. The University of Houston charges $5 for individual counseling compared to UT’s $10 per individual counseling session. Other major Texas universities, including Texas A&M University and Texas State University, provide free care included in tuition. The Counseling and Mental Health Center, or CHMC, first started charging for counseling in 2010 when the University was going through heavy budget cuts, said center director Chris Brownson. In the past six years, the center has seen a 53 percent increase in student interest and an 81 percent increase in the number of counseling sessions provided, Brownson said.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

A New America

President Donald Trump has empowered federal authorities to deport immigrants here illegally, promised to punish so-called sanctuary cities and is pushing Congress to start funding a complete wall along our southern border. Fearful of being exposed and sent back to countries that may no longer be familiar or welcoming, immigrants are withdrawing even more into the shadows. The worry extends to their spouses and children, who, in many cases, are American citizens. A deeper look at what's happening in Houston:

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

County's first public recovery high school aims to help students overcome addiction

Harris County has launched plans for the first public school that will focus on helping high school students overcome drug and alcohol addictions. Battling addiction is a difficult task to undertake, but punishing instead of assisting students overcome this problem is not the way to help them, said officials at a groundbreaking for Fortis Academy. The former Highpoint School North in the Greenspoint area will be remodeled to become Fortis Academy. James Colbert Jr., superintendent of the Harris County Department of Education, said that when he was an administrator, the only solution he had as an assistant school principal was to punish students who were addicted to substances. While it made those students go away, it didn't help them.

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

West: Adding lanes doesn't reduce congestion. So what is TxDOT doing?

In 2014, just before a project was undertaken to widen two interstates in the northeast, Tom Maziarz, then the chief of planning at the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said, "You can't build your way out of congestion." Well, this is Texas. And TxDOT appears to believe that you can. Figured to cost $7 billion, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project will rebuild, reconfigure and reengineer about 24 miles of roads from Midtown to Beltway 8 to "manage congestion," project documents say. According to TxDOT, these 24 miles include eight of the most congested roads in Texas. (The most? Loop 610 near the Galleria, which is, of course, being redone in a separate $300 million project.)

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Residents sue Central Health over funding of UT Dell Medical School

After five years of arguing that the Travis County health district’s voter-approved contributions of taxpayer money to the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School are unlawful, activists have finally put the issue into the hands of a Travis County state judge. Travis County voters agreed in 2012 to raise Central Health’s property taxes to contribute $35 million a year to create and support the medical school. The medical school, in annual reports, has said that most of the taxpayer-contributed funds have gone toward salaries.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 19, 2017

Buyout talk concerns many in Houston's Jewish community

A proposal to buy out thousands of flooded Houston homeowners, tear down their houses and restore the property as green space concerns many in the tight-knit Jewish population. "If you saw widespread buyouts in Meyerland, that would have, sadly, a negative impact to the Jewish community," Aaron Swerdlin of commercial real estate brokerage Newmark Knight Frank said Wednesday following a well-attended meeting with the city's flood czar. "We want to try to make sure we don't destroy this community."

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

Council rebuffs mayor, trims tax rate to comply with revenue cap

City Council rejected Mayor Sylvester Turner's proposal to leave Houston's tax rate unchanged from last year Wednesday, instead approving a tiny rate cut to comply with the voter-imposed cap on property tax revenues. Turner had proposed using Hurricane Harvey to invoke a disaster exception clause in the 13-year-old revenue cap and leave the rate at 58.642 cents per $100 in assessed value. That plan would have let the city collect $7.8 million next year for storm recovery costs in addition to what the cap otherwise would allow, or about $7 next year for the typical homeowner.

Austin American-Statesman - October 19, 2017

Economist: Austin area needs more housing supply

The Austin area housing market remains one of the healthiest in the nation, even as it grapples with affordability challenges and an undersupply of housing, a national economist said Wednesday. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, spoke at the annual membership meeting of the Austin Board of Realtors, which represents about 13,000 real estate professionals in Central Texas. “Austin has had one of the fastest job growth rates in the country over the past decade and consequently one of the strongest housing markets with rising sales,” Yun said. But a shortage of housing inventory continues to plague the market, which has resulted in a run-up in home prices that have tripled since 1995, he said.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

SB 4 forum provides answers, stirs anxieties for Austin Latinos

Those who have legal status and proper ID worry they could be racially profiled. And those without documentation fear they could be deported after an officer discovers they’re driving without a license. Their concerns poured out in the form of questions Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting with Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, who explained how their officers will comply with Senate Bill 4, the controversial law that allows police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops.

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Debate continues about controversial Confederate statue in Georgetown

One new idea emerged from the latest in a series of ongoing discussions Wednesday about whether to move a controversial Confederate statue that stands outside the Williamson County Courthouse in Georgetown. Keep it there but put up another monument on the courthouse grounds celebrating Juneteenth, said Robert Ranco, a Round Rock attorney. A Juneteenth monument would convey the idea that “folks were slaves and then stopped being slaves,” he said. Juneteenth commemorates the day — on June 19, 1865 — when the abolition of slavery was announced in Texas.

Dallas Morning News - October 19, 2017

A Tarrant County town is voted the country's hottest housing market for 2017

For the second year in a row, a North Texas city is being honored as the country's hottest housing market. It's not Plano, Frisco or even Highland Park. The Tarrant County city of Watauga is getting the honor again from online home sales site Realtor.com Located north of Fort Worth, Watauga takes up only about four square miles and has a population of more than 25,000.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Garland mayor resigns in frustration after contentious vote to raze National Guard armory for skate park site

Shortly after another contentious council vote involving plans for Garland's new dog and skate park, a frustrated Mayor Douglas Athas announced Tuesday night that he will resign. The City Council voted 6-3 to demolish a former National Guard armory building at Central Park, a necessary step in the city's plan to build a skate park on the site that was approved in a 2004 bond election. Athas, who wanted to save the armory, said the site was selected without opportunity for input from neighbors or the city's parks board.

National Stories

The Hill - October 18, 2017

House Dems outpace GOP by nearly $9M in third quarter

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) outpaced its GOP counterpart in the third fundraising quarter by nearly $9 million. The DCCC raised $8.9 million in September, bringing the committee’s third quarter fundraising total to $21.4 million, according to figures tweeted by the DCCC’s executive director, Dan Sena. That’s compared to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which raised $4.9 million in September and brought in $12.5 million in the third quarter, according to figures previously reported by McClatchy.

New York Times - October 18, 2017

Sessions Refuses to Discuss His Conversations With Trump About Comey or Russia

One after another, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide information. And again and again in nearly five hours of testimony on Wednesday, Mr. Sessions refused. The lawmakers asked for more details about his conversations with President Trump before he fired James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff in Arizona. They wanted to know what the two had discussed about Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible links to Mr. Trump. The senators also asked about topics not involving the president, like whether Mr. Sessions had conversations with the attorney general of Texas about an immigration program the state had threatened to sue over, and whether any evidence supported Mr. Trump’s claim that the Cuban government was behind sonic attacks on American diplomats.

New York Times - October 18, 2017

Trump Pulls Back From Senate Deal to Fund Health Subsidies

President Trump on Wednesday backed away from his endorsement of a bipartisan Senate proposal to stabilize health insurance markets, throwing the legislative effort into doubt even as the chief architect of the deal predicted that it would become law before the end of the year. The latest actions by the White House confused Republicans on Capitol Hill and irked Democrats — but in the end, their effect was not clear. The effort to calm roiled insurance markets appears destined for a showdown in December, when supporters of the compromise, drafted by Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, will have the most leverage.

New York Times - October 18, 2017

NYT: Mr. Trump Outdoes Himself in Picking a Conflicted Regulator

President Trump has made a habit of filling important jobs with people dedicated to undermining the laws they’re supposed to administer while pampering the industries they’re supposed to regulate. His nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency’s top clean air post, William Wehrum, is a retread from the George W. Bush administration with a deep doctrinal dislike of clean air regulations. His choice to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality is borderline comical: Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas official who believes that the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is harmless. Yet no nomination has been as brazen, as dangerous to public health and as deserving of Senate rejection as that of Michael Dourson to run the E.P.A. office in charge of reviewing chemicals used in agriculture, industry and household products.

Bloomberg - October 19, 2017

Fewest Jobless Claims Since 1973 Show Firm U.S. Job Market

Filings for unemployment benefits plunged last week to the lowest level since 1973 as workers affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma continued to return to their jobs, Labor Department figures showed Thursday. The larger-than-projected decrease in claims probably reflected difficulty adjusting for the Columbus Day holiday. At the same time, the report showed further declines in claims in hurricane- affected states. The storms initially led to a spike in applications in Texas and the southeastern U.S. in late August and early September.

Associated Press - October 18, 2017

GOP, Dem senators push health deal as Trump keeps distance

The authors of a bipartisan plan to calm health insurance markets said Wednesday they'll push the proposal forward, even as President Donald Trump's stance ricocheted from supportive to disdainful to arm's-length and the plan's fate teetered. "If something can happen, that's fine," Trump told reporters at the White House. "But I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies because right now the insurance companies are being enriched. They've been enriched by Obamacare like nothing anybody has ever seen before."

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Associated Press - October 18, 2017

Corporations to keep tax break lost by millions of Americans

Millions of Americans would lose a prized tax break under President Donald Trump's sweeping revamp of the tax code, but corporations would get to keep it. The Republican proposal would eliminate the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a widely popular break used by some 44 million Americans, especially in high-tax, Democratic-leaning states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois. But corporations, which pay billions in local property levies and state income taxes, wouldn't be affected. Republicans are determined to overhaul the nation's tax system by year's end, offering a plan that lowers the corporate tax rate from 36 percent to 20 percent and reduces the number of tax brackets. Trump and the GOP cast the plan as a boon to the middle class.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American-Statesman - October 18, 2017

Nebraska senator spills Dr Pepper on Ted Cruz during hearing

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, has been “cut off” after spilling a soft drink on Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a hearing Wednesday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “General, thanks for being here. There was some drama there,” Sasse, Republican senator, said to Sessions. “Sorry to have added to the drama and distracted you for a minute. I was paying enough attention there that I dumped a Dr Pepper on Sen. Cruz. So, that’s what was distracting us on this side of the dais.” Sasse’s apology didn’t stop Cruz and many others on Twitter from trolling his colleague. “MEMO TO OFFICE,” Cruz later tweeted, “Please place a picture of @BenSasse above the @drpepper fridge in our lobby. He is now cut off.”

Texas Observer - October 18, 2017

Sadasivam: After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwide

In late 2005, then-Governor Rick Perry was in the middle of a protracted battle with a coalition of environmentalists, renewable energy advocates, mayors and local leaders. TXU, the state’s largest utility, had announced that it wanted to build 11 new coal plants. At the time, natural gas and coal made up about 46 and 39 percent, respectively, of the energy mix of Texas’ main grid. The fracking boom had not yet hit Texas, and wind power provided a tiny percentage of the state’s energy needs. TXU was betting big on coal having a bright future. John Wilder, the utility’s controversial CEO, claimed the new investments would shield Texans from spikes in natural gas prices, in particular because the volatile commodity’s price had quadrupled and experts projected the low prices of the 1990s would not return. The U.S. also had an abundant coal supply, he noted.

Washington Post - October 19, 2017

This new poll shows that populism doesn’t stem from people’s economic distress

The potency of right-wing populism was visible again last week in the success of right-wing parties in the Austrian election. Conventional wisdom has a ready explanation for populism’s success: the declining economic fortunes of the working class. As the story goes, people who are frustrated with modern economies that require high levels of education — the “losers of globalization”– revolt from politics as usual. Populism is the cry of the financially forgotten. There’s just one problem. It’s not clear at all that populism originates in the pocketbook. Indeed, our new research shows that populist beliefs don’t depend much on how much money you make, whether you think of yourself as “working class,” or whether you have personal financial concerns and struggles. Instead, it depends on how you think broader social groups are doing — in short, whether the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

CNBC - October 18, 2017

State pension funds continue to fall behind. Here's how much you owe

Voters worried that Congress and the White House can't tame federal borrowing may be overlooking another big debt bomb closer to home. States are falling further behind in the money they owe public employee pension funds, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Despite recent stock market gains, state governments are not setting aside enough money to keep up with the rising liability of paying public worker pensions and other retirement benefits, according to the latest data. States that have fallen behind on their pension obligations have been underfunding their pensions for years.

Daily Caller - October 18, 2017

Fusion GPS Partners Plead The Fifth During House Intel Appearance

Two of the co-founders of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the infamous Trump dossier, invoked their Fifth Amendment rights during a meeting with the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, a person familiar with the matter told The Daily Caller. Peter Fritsch and Thomas Catan, the two Fusion GPS partners, plead the Fifth “to every question asked of them,” the source says. The House panel earlier this month subpoenaed Fritsch, Catan and their fellow partner, Glenn Simpson, to discuss their involvement in the dossier, which was compiled last year by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Cruz presses Sessions on Trump administration's "catch-and-release" policy

Amid a heavy backlog in immigration courts in Texas and California, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said the federal government was considering ways to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants who are granted hearings with immigration judges before being deported. While a legislative solution is preferred, he added, his agency was investigating what it could do absent Congressional action. The comments were made during a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Sessions on whether the federal government was still operating under an Obama-era "catch-and-release" policy where undocumented immigrants are not immediately deported.

USA Today - October 17, 2017

Trump plans massive increase in federal immigration jails

The Trump administration is planning an increase in federal immigration jails across the country for the thousands of additional undocumented immigrants its agents are arresting. In recent weeks, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has put out requests to identify privately-run jail sites in Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul, Salt Lake City and southern Texas, according to notices published on a federal contracting website. It did not publicly announce its plans to house 4,000 more detainees at the facilities.

Politico - October 18, 2017

Obamacare fix could end up in year-end package

A bipartisan deal to shore up Obamacare collapsed Wednesday after President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Senate proposal a bailout for insurance companies. But GOP sources on both sides of the Capitol say this is not the end of the debate. GOP lawmakers acknowledged they’ll eventually have to contend with shaky insurance markets and an estimated $1 billion hole Trump carved into the health care law last week when he eliminated remaining payments due this year. The money to fund a key insurance subsidy program could be resurrected as part of a year-end spending agreement.

Politico - October 18, 2017

Latimer: Why Trump Will Regret Passing Tax Reform

Meeting with his Cabinet on Monday, the president of the United States, ever a believer in the axiom “overpromise and underdeliver,” vowed to sign “the largest tax cut in the history of our country.” Just as they told the president that Obamacare repeal was a brilliant, slam-dunk first move for his administration, so too his advisers are telling him that tax reform is another no-brainer. A political masterstroke. They are wrong about that. At least, when it comes to Trump. Since Congress appears unable or unwilling to move on almost anything, any tax cut bill—let alone the biggest and best in the history of the world, as the president envisions—will have to overcome serious challenges. But the real problem for Trump is not another legislative failure, but a victory. To paraphrase the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, the tax cut bill is a trap. If Trump actually does sign it into law, he might as well be signing his political death warrant.

Politico - October 18, 2017

Trump: Comey 'lied and leaked' and protected Clinton

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that former FBI Director James Comey "lied and leaked" information and ultimately protected Hillary Clinton, while also questioning the credibility of the FBI's probe into her email. Trump's early morning tweets come in the wake of news that the bureau’s former director had drafted a statement concluding that Clinton should not be charged before the investigation was over.

Wall St. Journal - October 18, 2017

Trump Signals Opposition to Bipartisan Health-Care Deal

A bipartisan proposal on health care teetered Wednesday after President Donald Trump withdrew his support and conservative GOP lawmakers said it didn’t do enough to roll back the Affordable Care Act. The two senators behind the deal, Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), remained publicly upbeat about the bill’s prospects despite the president’s conflicting statements. Mr. Trump touched off confusion on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, tweeting he “can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made fortune w/O’Care,” echoing criticism from conservatives that the deal is a bailout for insurers, a characterization the sponsors dispute.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

DMN: Here's where we should take the #MeToo movement next

The past 48 hours have witnessed an online phenomenon that brings out the best in social media. Countless women from every walk of life have posted two simple words on their timelines: "Me, too. " To this we hasten to add our own statement: Us, too. Women are posting messages on social media to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment are, using the hashtag #MeToo to express that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct.

Texas Tribune - October 19, 2017

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders face off in tax code debate

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, defended the recently unveiled GOP plan to overhaul the tax code in a Wednesday night debate against U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “This debate is very very simple, Bernie and the Democrats want every one of you to pay more taxes,” Cruz said during the program, which was hosted by CNN. “And the Republicans want to lower the taxes for each and every person watching this debate.” The Republican tax framework would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three at rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, increase the Child Tax Credit and eliminate most itemized deductions as well as the estate tax.

Politico - October 19, 2017

This Is What Really Happens When Amazon Comes to Your Town

SEATTLE—Thursday is the deadline for cities bidding to host “HQ2,” as Amazon calls its planned second headquarters, and the competition has been intense. More than a hundred would-be hosts have assembled generous packages with everything from multibillion-dollar tax breaks to free utilities to an offer to build Amazon its own city (also named Amazon) in the hope of enticing the online retail giant and up to 50,000 of its handsomely paid employees. But as these cities go all-out to win Amazon’s affections, they might take a lesson from the city where those same affections have dimmed: Seattle.

The Hill - October 19, 2017

Trump to meet with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill

President Trump will join GOP senators at their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. “We are pleased to announce that President Trump will join us next Tuesday to press our common agenda and speed a great American recovery,” Barrasso, who extended the invitation to the president, said in a statement. “Leader McConnell and our entire conference look forward to welcoming the president,” he added, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

Cop-killings rose in 2016, FBI says

Five officers died in Dallas, gunned down while watching over a protest. Another in El Paso, rammed while on motorcycle duty. One in Euless, and one in San Antonio. All told, eight Texas peace officers died at the hands of criminals in 2016, though none was killed in Houston last year in assaults, according to data the FBI released Monday. Last year proved to be the second most deadly of the last decade nationally - following one of the safest the year before, the data shows. "Sadly, 66 law enforcement officers were killed as a result of criminal acts in 2016," FBI Deputy Assistant Director Rainer Drolshagen said, when the department's Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted report was released earlier this week. "That's a 61 percent increase when compared to the 41 officers who were feloniously killed in 2015."

October 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - October 18, 2017

Patrick: How the Texas House killed disaster reappraisal

Recently, a Democrat opinion piece was published in the Caller-Times saying that I “refused to consider” disaster reappraisal legislation that would require local governments to reappraise property values after a disaster, like the recent hurricane. That is outrageous and false. Here are the facts: Reappraisal following a big storm like Harvey is critical to ensure that taxpayers are not forced to pay the same taxes on a home badly damaged by the storm as they paid before it was damaged. The home is worth much less and the property taxes should reflect that.

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

Uresti lists 171 potential witnesses for his fraud trial

Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti has submitted a powerful list of Texas judges, politicians and lawyers to testify as potential witnesses in his upcoming criminal fraud trial, which starts Monday and may stretch three weeks. His witness list filed with the court late Monday is a who’s who of the San Antonio political elite, with Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia and state Sen. Jose Menendez heading the list of 38 witnesses expected to be called for the trial. Uresti also supplied a separate list of 133 people who “may be called to testify” on his behalf. They include Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former San Antonio Mayors Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County District Judges Solomon Casseb III and Peter Sakai, Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff and Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

How the felony corruption case against Rep. Dawnna Dukes unraveled

On Sept. 6, as they were preparing for their corruption trial against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, a group of Travis County prosecutors went to the Capitol to meet with witnesses they believed were on their side, an official with knowledge of the case recounted. The first meeting was with Steve Adrian, the director of the House Business Office who previously had told a state investigator and a prosecutor in separate meetings in 2016 that lawmakers are not allowed to collect travel reimbursement pay between legislative sessions unless they go to their offices in the Capitol. That rule is the basis of a 12-count felony indictment against Dukes that alleges the 12-term Austin Democrat tampered with government records by submitting travel reimbursement forms for days that she did not go to the Capitol in 2013 and 2014.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Sen. Cornyn: 'Inadequate' House disaster relief bill 'totally ignored' Texas request

The $36.5 billion disaster relief bill passed by the House last week is “inadequate," Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday. He’s now pushing for the Senate to do more for Texas and other storm-ravaged areas as it takes up the emergency spending bill later this week, he said. Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, didn't elaborate what the changes to the bill could entail, saying that's "a work in progress as I speak." The measure could come up for a vote by Friday, he said. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott slammed the Texas House delegation over the emergency bill, accusing the lawmakers of lacking a "stiff spine" in negotiations over the latest round of relief funding, which omitted his recent $18.7 billion request for Hurricane Harvey-specific aid.

Washington Post - October 17, 2017

McCain endorses budget bill in win for GOP tax-reform effort

The White House’s push for tax cuts made crucial progress on Tuesday as Senate Republicans rallied behind a budget proposal the party needs to pass to keep alive its hopes of enacting sharp reductions in tax rates later this year. Senate Republican leaders earned a series of much-needed victories Tuesday, first with the return of ailing Sen. Thad Cochran (R - Miss.) and later with an announcement from Sen. John McCain (R - Ariz.) that he would back the budget resolution in order to help passage of tax cuts. Senate Republicans are now hopeful they can agree on a final budget resolution later this week, which is a key procedural step to help them pass a tax cut plan later in the year without relying on support from any Democrats.

The Hill - October 16, 2017

Bannon: Kochs ‘would own’ Pence if he became president

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly worried that billionaire donors Charles and David Koch would have too much influence over Vice President Pence should he ever become president. “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own,” Bannon told The New Yorker. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) expressed a similar sentiment to the magazine. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers — period. He’s been their tool for years,” Whitehouse said.

Dallas Morning News - October 18, 2017

Michel: How the Russians pretended to be Texans and Texans believed them

In early 2016, while researching some of the most popular U.S. secession groups online, I stumbled across one of the Russian-controlled Facebook accounts that were then pulling in Americans by the thousands. At the time, I was writing on Russia's relationship with American secessionists from Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. These were people who had hitched flights to Moscow to swap tactics, to offer advice and to find support. They had found succor in the shadow of the Kremlin. That was how I eventually found my way to the "Heart of Texas" Facebook page (and its @itstimetosecede Twitter feed as well).

Politico - October 18, 2017

Poll: 46 percent think media make up stories about Trump

Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided. More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Los Angeles Times - October 16, 2017

Republican lawmakers' troubles deepen as Koch donors and Bannon take aim

Less than a year after Republicans gained control of Washington with President Trump amid heady promises of action, political pressures from multiple directions are bearing down on House and Senate lawmakers whose stalled agenda threatens to exact a toll heavy enough to endanger their majorities. The messy dilemma congressional Republicans face was starkly visible at two venues in recent days, where powerful factions within the party vented their anger. At one — a gathering at an expensive New York hotel of wealthy donors aligned with the conservative Koch brothers — frustrations ran so high over the GOP’s inability to deliver on campaign promises that some warned of a wipeout in the 2018 midterm elections. Donors suggested that their financial backing for Republican campaigns could dry up if lawmakers fail to make progress, particularly on tax cuts.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

In the political money chase, Congressman Smith lags, while Will Hurd takes on serious challenger

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, already the target of national Democratic attacks, is raising money aggressively for next year’s election. Meanwhile, another San Antonio GOP congressman, Lamar Smith, is taking a more leisurely approach despite the potential of a well-financed opponent. In a newly filed financial disclosure at the Federal Election Commission, Hurd reported just over $400,000 in quarterly receipts, thanks in part to support from Google, Facebook and tech industry leaders. Hurd had $1.4 million in the bank on Oct. 1. But political newcomer Jay Hulings of San Antonio announced himself as a candidate who might compete with Hurd financially.

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

South Texas residents air border wall concerns at town hall

ROMA — Leo Dan Peña was raised near the banks of the Rio Grande in this small border town. But if President Donald Trump has his way, the 17-year-old high school student might one day look out his bedroom window and see a “big, beautiful wall” instead. “It’s hard to imagine,” Peña said Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting held here to discuss the proposed wall. “It doesn’t feel right; and it doesn’t feel like we’d be safer, especially considering we have one of the most militarized borders in the world.”

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

Texas has 34 billionaires on Forbes wealthiest 400 list as Trump drops in rankings

President Donald Trump’s wealth fell during the first nine months of his presidency, according to Forbes magazine’s annual wealth ranking’s which also showed that Texas is home to 34 of the 400 richest Americans. Trump tumbled to No. 248 from 156 on the 2017 list with a net worth of $3.1 billion — attributed by Forbes to new information released during his campaign, spending on the race and the weakening retail and real estate markets in New York. That erased $600 million off his net wealth, according to the magazine. ... No one from San Antonio made the list because of a change in methodology by the magazine that eliminated H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt from the ranking. The magazine now counts Butt’s money as part of a family fortune that rivals the Rockefellers at $11 billion.

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

San Antonio Stars moving to Las Vegas, bought by MGM Resorts

Las Vegas is getting a WNBA franchise. The San Antonio Stars are moving to the gambling mecca after being bought by MGM Resorts International, the league said Tuesday. "Las Vegas has been on our radar screen for some time," WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a phone interview. "We've had conversations with the MGM family, executive team. They are bringing live sports to Las Vegas." The Stars will become the second professional team in Las Vegas, joining the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights — with the NFL soon to follow — when they begin play next season with home games at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Bill Laimbeer will be the team's president of basketball operations and coach.

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

Deadline looms for FEMA registration

Almost two months after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, residents still are registering for federal disaster assistance — and they should hurry, Federal Emgergency Management Agency officials warn, because there’s an Oct. 24 deadline. “The road to recovery is going to be long and hard for the state of Texas,” said Pamela Saulsby, a FEMA representative. “The devastation was so widespread.” From Saturday to Sunday alone, the agency received more than 500 new registrations, bringing the total in Texas to 873,977. On some days last week, new registrations numbered more than 1,000.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

Central Texas home sales decline 4.3% in September

Single-family home sales declined across most areas of Central Texas in September, while the median price in the region overall rose more than 5 percent, to $291,464, the latest figures show. In its monthly report released Tuesday, the Austin Board of Realtors said there were 2,433 home sales in the Austin-Round Rock metro last month, down 4.3 percent from September 2016. Half of the homes sold for more than $291,464 and half for less, for a 5.3 percent increase in the median price over the prior September.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

Hernandez: How social media posts can hurt criminal investigations

Posted: 11:50 a.m. Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Law enforcement officials are facing a new set of challenges in the age of social media. One such challenge is becoming more common — and I feel compelled to call attention to it. The act of capturing video or photographs of crime scenes and posting those images to social media is harmful to law enforcement investigative efforts. This year, we’ve experienced two high-profile incidents in which citizens complicated our duties by publicizing crime scenes. On one occasion, our dive team was recorded as they recovered a body from Lake Travis. The footage was posted to Facebook.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

NTSB calls on FAA to require medical checks for hot air balloon pilots

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require medical checks for commercial hot air balloon pilots, setting the stage for a showdown between the agencies. The NTSB found that the FAA’s medical certificate exemption for balloon pilots contributed to the July 30, 2016 balloon crash near Lockhart, which killed the pilot and 15 paying passengers. The FAA has been unable to articulate why balloon pilots were exempted from the medical checks in the 1930s. Helicopter and airplane pilots are required to obtain the medical certificates and countries like England, Australia and Canada require the certificates for their balloon pilots as well.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

Bledsoe, Wiant: Texas risks harm if it hands over our voter data

While our state political leaders take pride in bucking Washington, there is one area where they’re being cooperative to our detriment: They are willing to hand a federal commission a treasure trove of voter data going back a decade. Election officials were thankfully forced to pump the brakes recently after we sought help from the courts. But the fight isn’t over. The order blocking some of the data transfer is temporary. All Texans need to speak out to protect not only our privacy but to prevent bad actors like Russian President Vladimir Putin from gaining access to this sensitive information. Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos quickly announced he’ll hand over voter data in response to a request from President Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission.

Texas Tribune - October 17, 2017

Gulf Coast mayors discuss the impact of Hurricane Harvey

The mayors of four Texas Gulf Coast cities devastated by Hurricane Harvey — Charles Bujan of Port Aransas, Paul Polasek of Victoria, C.J. Wax of Rockport and Jack Whitlow of Port Lavaca — joined the The Texas Tribune on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the storm’s effects on their communities. Here’s what they had to say. ... Recovery won’t be cheap ... All four towns’ economies have suffered a devastating blow, and the communities will require significant state and federal support to recover. With the recent onslaught of natural disasters, some town leaders expressed concern that they won’t get the financial support they need from the government. “I’m not really that confident, to be honest with you, because the pot is only so deep, and we’ve had so many disasters lately, that you can only drain it so far,” Bujan said. ... … And it won’t be done soon, either.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Ramsey: When Texans aren’t engaged, Texans don’t vote

Texas is about to have one of its periodic and deeply disappointing tests of civic engagement — a November election built around constitutional amendments and not around warring political personalities. Conflict and advertising and the tons of news coverage generated by candidates and campaigns drive turnout. It’s easy to chart: More Texans vote in presidential years than in gubernatorial years, partly because of the relative power of those offices but also because of the overwhelming focus on national campaigns. In last year’s presidential election, more than 8.9 million Texans voted. In the 2014 race for governor between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis, 4.7 million voted.

Texas Tribune - October 18, 2017

Hurricane Harvey sparks renewed push for underground water storage projects

For state Rep. Lyle Larson, Hurricane Harvey was not only a tragedy but also a wasted opportunity. The San Antonio Republican, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, estimates that the amount of rain the storm dropped on the state could meet all its water needs — household, agricultural and otherwise — for at least eight years. Instead, he said, those 34 trillion gallons ended up in a place where they didn't do a bit of good: the Gulf of Mexico. "You could capture a good percentage of that water and start storing it," he said in a recent interview.

Texas Tribune - October 17, 2017

UT's first Muslim sorority hopes to inspire leadership

At first glance, Mu Delta Alpha might seem like any Greek organization on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. It has letters, colors – teal, white and peach – and it had rush week last month. While that may be pretty typical for a sorority, Mu Delta Alpha is different. It’s the first Muslim sorority on the University of Texas campus. The chapter held its first meeting this month. “I was personally very, very excited and very, very nervous, about our very first chapter meeting,” President Maria Haseem said at the meeting earlier this month. “This is my first time doing it, but inshallah, I’ll start doing it and I know each semester I’ll get better.”

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

Safety board takes aim at FAA oversight in Lockhart balloon crash

Twenty-three minutes before the ill-fated "Heart of Texas" hot air balloon left the ground on a hazy July morning in 2016, visibility was reported to be about five miles. Just 11 minutes later, as the sun started to rise over Lockhart, fog was forming and visibility was down to two miles. "Clouds may be a problem," a weather forecaster told pilot Alfred "Skip" Nichols, readying 15 passengers for what was to be an hour-long sightseeing flight over central Texas. "Well, we just fly in between them," Nichols said. "We find a hole and we go." Less than an hour later, at 7:42 a.m., Nichols' Czech-made Balony Kubicek BB85Z, one of the biggest hot air balloons in the industry, struck a high-voltage powerline and plunged into a field. No one was spared in the fiery crash.

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Texas business tax climate ranks 13th in nation

Texas continues to have one of the worst corporate tax structures in the nation, preventing it from cracking the top ten in The Tax Foundation's annual list of states with the best business tax climates. Each year The Tax Foundation ranks all states on their business tax climate. This year Texas ranked 13th, behind national leaders like Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska. "The goal of the Index is to start a conversation between taxpayers and legislators about how their tax system compares with other states, and provide a roadmap for improvement," said lead-report author Jared Walczak, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation.

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Cruz-O'Rourke split over Iran nuclear deal decertification

Add the Iran nuclear deal to the long list of issues that will almost certainly become part of Texas U.S. Senate campaign in 2018. Over the weekend, both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and his likely Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke struck out very different positions on the Trump's administration's decision to begin decertifying the agreement. Cruz in an interview on CNBC called it the "right thing" to decertify the deal, which he said was "designed to allow cheating" by the Iranian government. He called for reimposing sanctions on Iran and reminded viewers during the presidential campaign in 2016 he repeatedly called for ending the nuclear deal struck by the Obama administration.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Texas AG Ken Paxton asks Supreme Court to take up redistricting case

Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to take up an appeal of a lower court ruling that invalidated two of Texas' congressional districts. "It's fitting that the Supreme Court hear this case, given that it ordered the district court in San Antonio to draw the congressional maps in 2012 that were adopted by the Legislature in 2013 and used in the last three election cycles in Texas," Paxton said in a news release. "The lower court's decision to invalidate parts of the maps it drew and adopted is inexplicable and indefensible. We're eager for the high court to take up the case."

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Undocumented pregnant teen in Texas again sues to have an abortion

After defeat in one federal court, a pregnant minor unauthorized to be in the country has taken her fight to have an abortion to another one, with a new approach. "Jane Doe," a 17-year-old unaccompanied immigrant, is suing the federal agencies responsible for her care to allow her and other unaccompanied immigrant minors to obtain abortions. Doe’s court-appointed guardian, Rochelle Garza, filed the lawsuit Friday in a Washington, D.C., federal court against the heads of the agencies: the Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration for Children and Families and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A hearing will be held Wednesday.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Texans' unhappiness with electric providers drops to deregulation era low

Choosing an electric provider in Texas still requires consumer initiative and sometimes leads to frustration. Increasingly, however, shoppers are complaining less. This year, customers sent state regulators 4,175 complaints, the fewest since the start of deregulation 16 years ago, according to the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. That was a 14 percent drop compared to 2016. The consumer advocacy group's annual reports have shown a steady decline in the past decade when the number of complaints were nearly 16,000. "These findings suggest the state's electricity market continues to mature, with Texans becoming more comfortable with both prices and service," said coalition executive director Jay Doegey in a written statement.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Banning bump stocks is one thing, prying them from owners' hands is another

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas concert massacre, some lawmakers have called for a ban on bump stocks — and even the National Rifle Association has urged a federal agency to reassess whether the devices should be regulated. But gun owners and others question how to enforce a ban on the accessory that allows a rifle to fire at nearly automatic rates. Many had them before the shooting or snapped them up in the hours and days afterward. "As a private citizen, I am going to resist," said Michael Cargill, owner of the Austin-based Central Texas Gun Works. "We are going to resist, and we are not going to comply."

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

As Trump's border plans take shape, critics call for virtual wall

LAREDO — Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar works in the shadow of the roaring Rio Grande. He stands on the banks, looking out at a park where residents play baseball and basketball or picnic with friends and family. With Nuevo Laredo sitting just across the river, Cuellar has a message for President Donald Trump about one of his campaign promises: “With all due respect, President Trump, but your wall ain’t gonna work here,” said Cuellar, who has worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety tracking down drug smugglers for more than two decades. He's been sheriff for the past nine years.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Central Texas county hopes wide open spaces will be the deal for Amazon

Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. - the list of cities bidding for Amazon's huge new second headquarters stretches across North America. The $5 billion dollar office campus project has prompted a bidding war with the biggest metro areas making proposals for the project. You can add Milam County in central Texas to the crowded field of competitors. They are hoping that Amazon can be wooed by their wide-open spaces. The county between Austin and College Station said its taking "a bold step forward" and submitting a proposal for Amazon's new office.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Cuellar: How drive-by do-gooders enable homelessness

As the winter chill set in last year, my husband gave a blanket to a homeless man sleeping outside our apartment, Eric. For seven years, we've lived downtown. In 2011, I bought my first home in the Cedars between Dallas Life Foundation and The Bridge homeless shelter. I felt called to the neighborhood because, to me, the hostility toward the homeless and their service providers from some of my fellow downtown residents always seemed dispassionate at best and cruel at worst. The advice of Just Mercy author, attorney Bryan Stevenson, also resonates with me; he says justice requires us to get close to issues to understand them before we try to solve them. Since selling our Cedars condo, we've lived in the West End, the epicenter of Dallas' K2 synthetic cannabinoid crisis.

Associated Press - October 17, 2017

NTSB: Balloon crash pilot was as impaired as a drunk driver

The pilot in the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history was probably impaired by Valium, opioids and cold and allergy medicine when he ignored weather warnings and flew the ride into a power line, investigators said Tuesday. Besides Valium and oxycodone, there was enough of the over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl in Alfred "Skip" Nichols' system to mimic "the impairing effect of a blood-alcohol level" of a drunken driver, said Dr. Nicholas Webster, a National Transportation Safety Board medical officer. During a meeting in Washington, NTSB revealed its findings about the July 2016 crash near Austin that killed all 16 people aboard. Investigators scolded the Federal Aviation Administration for lax enforcement of the ballooning industry and recommended that balloon pilots submit to the same medical checks as airplane pilots.

This article appeared in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Associated Press - October 16, 2017

First Waco Biker Trial Could Have Domino Effect on Others

Steel barriers and sheriff's deputies surrounded the courthouse in Waco, Texas, in a show of heightened security as the trial began for an alleged leader of the Bandidos biker gang in connection to the deadliest shootout between biker groups in U.S. history. But experts say the trial — the first stemming from the fatal May 2015 shooting — could reach far beyond the single case, as the government tries to convict other leaders and dozens of members. It has been nearly 2 ½ years since a confrontation between the Bandidos and the Cossacks left nine bikers dead and 20 wounded outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco. Local police arrested 177 bikers after the mayhem, and more than 150 people were eventually charged.

This article appeared on the US News website

Daily Caller - October 13, 2017

George P. Bush Is ‘Re-Imagining’ Reality With A ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Alamo

Texas and its most sacred and iconic historical sites — like the Alamo — are under constant attack by patronizing pseudo-intellectuals who only seem to care about history when it involves blind and uncritical acceptance of “alternative facts” about our state’s past. Historians now “know” that the Lone Star State (along with the entire American Southwest) is built on land “stolen” from Mexico, that Jim Bowie was a staggering drunk and that Davy Crockett “may” have surrendered to the Mexican Army instead of being killed in action swinging “Old Betsy.” For some, these “alternative facts” make the Alamo a symbol of racism and imperialism that should be “re-imagined,” at least according to the Texas Land Office.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - October 15, 2017

Collier: Texas homeowners and small businesses continue to get rotten property tax deal

Hurricane Harvey has wiped away value from many Texans’ homes. To continue to tax them as if the storm never happened is akin to taxing property that doesn’t exist. Since the Texas Constitution states that property subject to taxation shall be appraised at market value, taxing the lost value violates the spirit of the law. Clearly, if our political leaders had even a passing interest in fairness, and if they had any fidelity to the Texas Constitution, they would immediately adjust the post-storm value of all residential properties affected by the storm and reduce homeowners’ tax bills accordingly. Homeowners devastated by Harvey have suffered a lot. We shouldn’t add insult to their injury by taxing properties on value that’s gone.

UT News - October 17, 2017

Track Tremors Across Texas With New Website

The University of Texas at Austin Bureau of Economic Geology has finished installing the state’s earthquake monitoring network, TexNet, and thanks to a new interactive website, the public can follow and sort seismic activity in Texas in real time. TexNet, the most advanced state-run seismic monitoring system in the country, was authorized by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature in June 2015 with $4.47 million in state funding. Like many areas in the south-central United States, Texas has experienced an increase in the number of earthquakes during the past decade, especially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Permian Basin region and south-central Texas.

San Marcos Corridor News - October 12, 2017

San Marcos Corridor News: Texas Lawmakers Must Support The Employee Rights Act

The 2018 election cycle is already underway. By next November, big bucks will be spent on dozens of House and Senate campaigns around the country. Experts estimate more than $3 billion will be spent on political advertisements. If history is any indication, labor unions will be intimately involved. From 2012 to 2016, America’s unions sent nearly $765 million in member dues to the Democratic Party and liberal special interest groups. This is in addition to funds spent directly on candidate support. The Center for Union Facts estimates that, since 2010, unions have contributed more than $1 billion to liberal groups without prior approval from their members. The recipients range from the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to the Clinton Foundation and Planned Parenthood. The DGA received nearly $11 million. Catalist, the Democratic Party’s go-to data firm, made off with roughly $9.5 million.

KUHF (Houston NPR) - October 17, 2017

In Harvey’s Wake, State Lawmakers Build Support For Long-Sought Flood Control Projects

Harvey is forcing Texas’ political leaders to take a fresh look at what it will take to protect the state against future flooding. For years, there have been warnings. Now, measures like a third reservoir in west Harris County have a new urgency. “We can’t afford to wait five to ten years to build this. It’s my goal, it’s my highest priority to get this thing started and get this thing done as expeditiously as possible,” said Congressman Michael McCaul at Katy City Hall earlier this month. McCaul, along with most of the Texas delegation and Governor Abbott, are asking Congress to fund $10 billion in flood protection projects. For Texas to pay for those alone, it would need to spend virtually all of the Rainy Day Fund, which may explain why the Legislature has put off work on these projects for so long. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the state a D for flood control on its 2017 Report Card for Texas’ Infrastructure.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Tritico: Proposal for problem-plagued criminal justice center: Start over

Seventeen years ago, the Harris County Criminal Justice Center opened to a warm welcome from the criminal justice community. The regal 20-story structure, where Harris County's criminal justice system would be under one roof for the first time in decades, was predicted to create huge efficiencies. Unfortunately, that welcome and hopes for the building's potential were short-lived. The justice center has been flooded yet again. It's time to scrap it and start over. The $95 million building opened January 2000. It has been flooded on two occasions: Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and most recently by Hurricane Harvey. The rising storm waters in one of the lowest parts of downtown Houston caused significant damage and extended closures of the building after Allison. The complete criminal justice system was disrupted. The courts, district attorney's office, pretrial services and all the administrative offices serving them in this building had to be relocated.

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

More pre-trial diversion, smarter technology part of Harris County DA's plans

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Tuesday promised more pre-trial diversion programs for suspects in drug possession cases and those with mental health issues. The increased focus on sending drug users to treatment instead of jail is one of the most noticeable and significant policy changes among eight separate action plans advanced by volunteer committees that Ogg created after she took office in January. During a press conference Tuesday, Ogg laid out in broad strokes the policy recommendations written by the committees and emphasized that she is seeking participation from experts and Houston's leaders.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

Travis DA clears officers in 3 shootings, without grand jury review

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Tuesday that she will not pursue possible charges against officers in three police shootings as part of an overhaul in how she handles such cases. Her decision to use “prosecutorial discretion” and end such investigations marks the first time in years that an Austin police officer’s use of lethal force will not get a grand jury review. It is part of Moore’s decision, announced this spring, to break from a practice under former District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to take all such cases to a grand jury, no matter the circumstances.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

State water board OKs $47M loan to speed up Brays Bayou project

The Texas Water Development Board on Tuesday approved a $47 million no-interest loan to the city of Houston that will be used to speed up long-awaited flood control improvements on Brays Bayou. Under a plan announced earlier this year, the city will give the money to Harris County Flood Control District to replace eight bridges that block the flow of stormwater during heavy downpours, a key part of long-delayed Project Brays. Work on the bridge replacements is expected to begin by March. City Council cleared the way for officials to apply for the money in January, citing damage to the Meyerland area during the Memorial Day and Tax Day floods in 2015 and 2016.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 17, 2017

Fort Worth, the only city in Tarrant County that’s not smoke-free, soon will be

Smoking in bars, bingo parlors and private clubs in Fort Worth will soon end. The City Council directed city attorneys on Tuesday to draft an ordinance that clamps down on smoking in public places. The only exception: Smoking will still be allowed at stores whose primary business is to sell cigars and tobacco products. No deadline was placed on when a new ordinance would be completed and brought back to the council. A public hearing will be held when its placed on the City Council agenda for a vote. A majority of the council supports the changes, based on comments from members Tuesday.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

North Texas poker clubs gambling that state law, police won't make them fold

Jody Wheeler is betting on a business model he bills as a legal and safe place to play poker. He opened FTN Poker a month ago in a former shoe store off Lake Forest Drive in McKinney. He hired lawyers to ensure that his private social club operated within the law. And he's been up front with city officials about what he's doing. "I'm trying to bring poker from the shadows to the light," he said. Whether he's successful depends in part on police and their interpretation of the law. Several card clubs in Dallas and Plano have shut down in recent weeks over questions about their legality. Several others looking to capitalize on the popularity of these so-called poker rooms have put their plans on hold.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Wilonsky: Dallas might be ready to bury a downtown highway — and it's about time

Victor Vandergriff, the Texas Transportation commissioner, said something wild Monday, just before we hung up. We were talking about Interstate 345, the unmarked 1.4-mile stretch of concrete connecting North Central Expressway with Interstates 30 and 45 that's far better known as the overpass that cuts off Deep Ellum from downtown. I know — been a while since that divisive overpass was a talking point. But it was back at City Hall this week, in part because the Texas Department of Transportation's about to dig back into it with an expensive, yearlong-at-least traffic and engineering study. And the city now wants in.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Will Dallas ISD turn to charter schools to avoid the state's accountability hammer?

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wants to close down two schools and convert two others to charter schools to avoid harsh punishment from the state for their poor performance. He declined to say which of the four failing campuses would be closed or change under his plan, which will be presented to trustees at a Nov. 2 board meeting. Hinojosa knows the decision to close a campus is difficult and emotional, but he said DISD needs to take action before the state does. There are three Dallas ISD campuses that have failed to meet state academic standards five years in a row: Edward Titche Elementary in Pleasant Grove, Thomas Edison Middle Learning Center and C.F. Carr Elementary School. J.W. Ray Learning Center has failed for four consecutive years.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Now if you're caught with weed in Dallas, you won't go directly to jail

People caught with small amounts of marijuana in Dallas won't be taken straight to jail now, after Dallas County commissioners on Tuesday passed a "cite and release" program aimed at freeing cops to focus on violent crimes. After a heated debate, commissioners voted 4-1 to allow Dallas police to issue a court summons to people found with less than 4 ounces of pot. While laws legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana have swept across the country, they remain a political long shot in Texas. However, some cities — including Austin, San Antonio and Houston — have taken advantage of a 2007 law that allowed law enforcement to cite and release defendants accused of certain misdemeanors including marijuana possession.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Koprowski: Segregation in Dallas is a poverty trap

The scale and depth of Dallas' poverty is obscene, morally and economically unacceptable, and abnormally high compared with other major cities. We are replete with maps, reports, commissions and commentary that identify the problem and rightly express outrage. But here's the harsh reality: Despite the anti-poverty rhetoric, we continue to maintain the very structures and systems that cause and perpetuate poverty in the first place. Over many years, economic and racial housing segregation has remained one of the main organizing features of our city. Dallas is one of the most residentially segregated places in America, according to the Pew Research Center, with low-income families (disproportionately people of color) overwhelmingly clustered in areas of concentrated poverty, and high-income families (disproportionately white) overwhelmingly clustered in areas of opportunity.

San Antonio Express-News - October 17, 2017

Mayor: Much of Rockport will not be rebuilt following Harvey

The mayor of the Gulf Coast community of Rockport says Hurricane Harvey destroyed about a third of the town and that 30 to 35 percent of it will probably never be rebuilt. Mayor Charles "C.J." Wax said during a panel discussion Tuesday in Victoria that only about 300 businesses out of the 1,300 in Rockport have reopened since Harvey came ashore in August. Wax says people know Rockport as the city of trees but most were lost as crews have removed nearly 800,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

San Antonio would’ve been a prime candidate to land Amazon, according to Moody’s

Officials in San Antonio and Bexar County opted last week not to bid on Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters, saying the city wouldn’t have been “competitive” on tax incentives and real estate. But New York research firm Moody’s Analytics thinks otherwise. The San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area ranked 14th out of 65 U.S. metro areas vying for the Seattle e-commerce giant’s second headquarters and its promised 50,000 jobs, according to Moody’s. The Alamo City, in fact, was a better contender than Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. It ranked just below Boston, Seattle, New York, Atlanta and Austin as one of the nation's most attractive potential locations for the campus, according to Moody’s.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Kleinman: Dallas shouldn't borrow money for road maintenance

On Nov. 7, Dallas voters will be asked to decide a simple question: "Should the citizens of Dallas borrow $1,005,000,000?" Yes, a billion dollars. This is a rare opportunity for you to express your desire in the form of a direct referendum. Most decisions at the city are made via representative democracy. Direct democracy is reserved for the most broad-reaching issues: who represents you, changes to the city charter and city borrowing. Bonds must be repaid out of taxes, and the citizens are asked to pledge future taxes to pay principal and interest. In the case of Dallas, we currently pay almost $250 million annually to service debt. Of that, $100 million is in interest alone. Is paying interest the best use of the precious tax dollars you have entrusted us to manage? In many cases, I don't think so.

National Stories

CNBC - October 17, 2017

US judge blocks latest Trump travel restrictions to the US from eight countries

A federal judge in Hawaii blocked President Donald Trump's latest bid to impose restrictions on citizens from eight countries entering the United States, which had been set to take effect this week. The open-ended ban, announced last month, targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. It was the latest version of a policy that had previously targeted six Muslim-majority countries but had been restricted by the Supreme Court. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Tuesday granted Hawaii's request to temporarily block the federal government from enforcing the policy. It was supposed to take effect at midnight Wednesday. Hawaii argues the updated ban is a continuation of Trump's "promise to exclude Muslims from the United States."

Wall St. Journal - October 17, 2017

In the view of most Republicans, Trump can’t fail

When CNN and its polling partner SSRS surveyed Americans in the middle of September, they found good news for President Trump. Nearly two-thirds of Americans approved of how he’d handled the responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma after the storms made landfall in Texas and Florida. A week later, though, Hurricane Maria ripped across Puerto Rico, and Trump’s handling of that disaster soon received a lot of negative reviews. That seems to have had an effect. In a new CNN poll released Monday evening, the percentage of Americans that approved of Trump’s handling of the hurricanes overall had fallen to 44 percent — a 20-point drop. Buried in that drop is another, more significant bit of data. The overall drop was 20 points, driven by significant decreases among independents (minus 22) and Democrats (minus 25). Among Republicans, though, the decline was only 9 points — and more than 80 percent of the members of his own party still approve of how Trump handled the storms.

Washington Post - October 17, 2017

Another last-ditch effort to tackle Obamacare stalls within hours of its release

Yet another last-ditch effort to tackle the nation’s health-care system stalled within hours of its release by a bipartisan pair of senators Tuesday, with President Trump sending mixed signals and Republicans either declining to endorse the proposal or outright opposing it. The week began on Capitol Hill with a renewed sense of urgency to craft legislation following Trump’s decision last week to end key payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage but that the president argued were illegal under the Affordable Care Act. The compromise offered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday proposes authorizing those payments for two years in exchange for granting states greater flexibility to regulate health coverage under the ACA.

Politico - October 17, 2017

Rand Paul opposes Senate GOP budget

Sen. Rand Paul is prepared to vote “no” on the Senate GOP budget if leaders do not agree to cut billions in spending from the plan, he said in an interview Tuesday. The Kentucky Republican said he spoke to President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning about the impasse with GOP leaders, which could lead to a high-profile intraparty defection on the budget this week. With Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) out indefinitely, Republicans may be able to lose only one vote and still pass the budget, which is needed to pave the way for the GOP's tax push. Paul said he wants to get rid of the $43 billion that exceeds federal budget caps Congress agreed to in 2011.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

DMN: Trump errs in naming climate denier and former Texas regulator to environmental post

Kathleen Hartnett White is a bad choice to head the national Council on Environmental Quality. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would lead a White House office that's traditionally known as an environmental watchdog. Her performance as an environmental regulator in Texas, however, suggests that she would walk lock step with the Trump administration and Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency in dismantling vital environmental protections. President Donald Trump named White, a climate change denier, to the position last week. Her record is abominable.

CNN - October 16, 2017

Hill Russia investigators probe GOP operative who sought Clinton emails

House and Senate investigators are turning their attention to a Republican operative's hunt for Hillary Clinton's private emails from Russian hackers -- and his possible connections to senior members of the Trump campaign. The operative, Peter W. Smith, was an Illinois-based Republican activist who during the presidential campaign sought to obtain emails he believed were likely stolen by Russian hackers from Clinton's private email server. He later was found dead in an apparent suicide weeks after telling a reporter about his efforts. In a private interview earlier this month, a cybersecurity analyst Smith recruited for the effort reiterated to House investigators a comment that he had publicly made: He believed that Smith had ties to members of President Donald Trump's inner circle, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former chief strategist Steve Bannon and White House aide Kellyanne Conway — and may have been helping build opposition research for the Trump campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Wall St. Journal - October 17, 2017

Health Troubles Put Pressure on GOP’s Slim Vote Margins

Mississippi GOP Sen. Thad Cochran’s absence from Washington this week highlighted the hurdles Senate Republican leaders face with a razor-thin majority and a group of older lawmakers with recurring health concerns. Mr. Cochran, 79 years old, had been expected to return to Capitol Hill this week after recovering in Mississippi from prostate surgery and ensuing complications. But he extended his leave Monday for an indefinite period. His absence briefly threw into doubt whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would have enough votes to forge ahead with a vote expected later this week on the budget needed to advance a tax overhaul. By midday Monday, Senate GOP aides said they expected the budget vote would continue as planned, indicating the leadership believed for now that at least 50 votes were secure.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

Floyd: Every single day, women around the world face countless men like Harvey Weinstein

The downfall of Hollywood mega-predator Harvey Weinstein might represent progress, but we can hardly call it justice. The Tinseltown elite, ever sensitive to gathering trends, have drummed Weinstein from their ranks as a tide of actresses and models and anonymous female go-fers shared their appallingly similar stories of abuse. It's appropriate, but it's too late to qualify as just. "Justice" would have been served had Weinstein encountered swift and stern punishment the first time he harassed or assaulted an unwilling woman, however many years ago that was.

Harvard Political Review - October 13, 2017

Sparks: Affirmative Action Could Define 2020

In 2008, Texas student Abigail Fisher received a rejection letter from the University of Texas at Austin, her state’s flagship school. Fisher was distraught, given that her father and sister had attended the university. Eventually, she decided to sue, claiming that her rejection—and the school’s race-conscious admissions practice—constituted discrimination against white people. Although the Supreme Court ruled against Fisher in 2016, the fight against affirmative action is far from over. This August, the New York Times revealed that Trump’s Justice Department plans to investigate and sue universities for affirmative action policies the administration views as discriminatory against whites. While the DOJ’s crusade might seem limited to universities, it could capitalize on a lurking resentment across white America. Trump won in 2016 by narrowly focusing on key aspects of American life that white voters resented.

Prescott Daily Courier (AZ) - October 16, 2017

Why Susan G. Komen no longer has a presence in Arizona

Dwindling donations and fundraising event participation caused the Susan G. Komen organization to discontinue its annual Race for the Cure in Phoenix in late June. At one time, 30,000 people participated; in 2016 the event drew 7,500 from an expected 10,000, the Arizona Republic newspaper and AzFamily.com reported in news releases June 21. ... The organization garnered public criticism in the past few years for some of its partnership decisions, according to published reports: In 2008, people objected to the Komen organization working with several water bottle retailers using bottles that may have been made with polycarbonate; BPA has been linked to breast cancer tumor growth. Ford Mustang put out a limited edition pink model; studies indicate women who work in the automotive plastics industry are almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer as those in the control group. KFC sold pink buckets of fried chicken in 2010 as a promotion; unhealthy eating habits are linked to obesity which contributes to breast cancer. Komen’s perfume brand, Promise Me, was found to contain potentially harmful ingredients.

Washington Post - October 13, 2017

Cruz warns GOP could face ‘Watergate-level blowout’ in midterms if it fails on taxes, health-care

Wealthy conservative donors and influential Republican lawmakers say they increasingly fear a historic backlash at the ballot box next year if the GOP effort to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws falls short in the coming months. At a two-day midtown Manhattan summit of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers’ powerful donor network, GOP patrons, senators and strategists spoke in cataclysmic terms about the price they expect to pay in the midterm elections if their tax reform effort does not win passage. They voiced concerns a demoralized Republican base would stay home, financiers would stop writing campaign donation checks to incumbents and the congressional majorities the party has built in the House and Senate could evaporate overnight.

Real Clear Politics - October 12, 2017

Can Republicans De-escalate Intra-Party Warfare?

Republicans are waging a multi-front battle within the party, creating schisms between the president, lawmakers and their base that threaten to upend both the GOP’s legislative agenda and political standing ahead of the 2018 elections. Much of the blame and frustration is aimed directly at the Senate, specifically its leadership. Also, President Trump is engaged in an explosive public feud with retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Meanwhile, House Republicans are growing increasingly vocal in their frustration with the upper chamber; a slew of conservative groups are calling for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step down; and Stephen Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, is threatening primary challenges against nearly every Republican incumbent running for re-election to the Senate next year.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

Whitfield: Our shallow #YOLO philosophy is why nothing changes after a mass shooting

Former Sin City mayor Oscar Goodman offered his take on CNN about the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock. He offered opinions both philosophical and theological -- and they were pure nonsense. "This guy isn't going to change the way I live my life," he said with all the proud gruff of a comfortable retiree. "I'm smiling about this guy," he went on with dogmatic confidence, "because I know he's rotting in hell." Rooming with notorious Nazi Josef Mengele now, he said. Obviously. ... It's that corrupted rugged individualism, which once was part of our genius as Americans, but which now seems simply pathetically self-centered. It's the philosophy of so many, from the Oval Office to Goodman to that guy you know on Facebook -- the decadent ethos of the end of our culture.

Washington Post - October 18, 2017

Second judge rules against latest travel ban, saying Trump’s own words show it was aimed at Muslims

A federal judge in Maryland early Wednesday issued a second halt on the latest version of President Trump’s travel ban, asserting that the president’s own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a somewhat less complete halt on the ban than his counterpart in Hawaii did a day earlier, blocking the administration from enforcing the directive only on those who lacked a “bona fide” relationship with a person or entity in the United States, such as family members or some type of professional or other engagement in the United States.

Washington Post - October 18, 2017

This chart should really worry Republicans about 2018

Buried inside the new CNN poll is a finding that won't make many headlines, but should probably cause a good bit of concern for Republicans. The poll asked the standard “generic ballot” question: Would you prefer a generic Democrat or a generic Republican in the upcoming election? Democrats lead on that question for the 2018 midterms by a whopping 16-point margin, 54 percent to 38 percent. If that were actually to turn out to be the case, of course, we'd be talking about a Democratic landslide — and almost definitely a Democratic takeover of the House that is so difficult given the map. But even if it's just close to reality, it could be a very bad omen for the Republican Party in a historically tough first midterm election under a president of their own party.

Houston Chronicle - October 18, 2017

Trump creates doubt over deal to shore up Obamacare exchanges

President Donald Trump created doubt and confusion Wednesday about a bipartisan deal to prop up Obamacare exchanges, saying on Twitter that he won't support "bailing out" insurance companies that have profited from the health-care legislation. As soon as the deal was announced Tuesday, the Trump administration was sending conflicting signals about the pact reached by Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, which also faces ambivalence from some Republican senators and outright hostility from many House Republicans.

Politico - October 17, 2017

Rand wrecks GOP unity again

President Donald Trump and Senate GOP leaders are desperate for a show of legislative unity on tax reform after the collapse of Obamacare repeal. But they’re unlikely to get it thanks to Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The frequent GOP contrarian is digging in against the budget as written — an ominous start to Republicans’ tax push at a time when leaders would like to soothe jittery donors and voters. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been quietly working to get all Republicans on board with the GOP budget. Unanimity would give the party critical momentum after a brutal few months of intraparty fighting and send a clear message that all 52 members are in play on tax reform.

Politico - October 17, 2017

Judge: DACA legal advice must be made public

A federal judge in California on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to turn over emails, letters, memos and other materials related to its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, based in San Francisco, also appears to cover legal advice about winding down the program, which grants quasi-legal status and work permits to so-called Dreamers. Acting in a series of lawsuits filed over the decision, the judge said the administration had waived its attorney-client privilege by claiming the decision was driven by concerns that the program is unconstitutional.

Bloomberg - October 18, 2017

Nafta Deadlock Forces Ministers to Extend Talks Into 2018

Nafta talks are switching gears and slowing down as key obstacles emerge, with Canada and Mexico rejecting what they see as hard-line U.S. proposals and negotiators exchanging their strongest public barbs yet. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland wrapped up the fourth round of North American Free Trade Agreement talks in Washington on Tuesday and said negotiations will run through the end of March 2018, abandoning a December target. They also extended the time between negotiating rounds, giving themselves more space to consider proposals. The ministers cast the longer timelines as a positive way to dig into tougher disputes, pledging to continue to work out a deal while acknowledging that strong differences remain. They next meet in Mexico Nov. 17-21.

Wall St. Journal - October 18, 2017

George Soros Transfers $18 Billion to His Foundation, Creating an Instant Giant

George Soros, who built one of the world’s largest fortunes through a famous series of trades, has turned over nearly $18 billion to Open Society Foundations, according to foundation officials, a move that transforms both the philanthropy he founded and the investment firm supplying its wealth. Now holding the bulk of Mr. Soros’s fortune, Open Society has vaulted to the top ranks of philanthropic organizations, appearing to become the second largest in the U.S. by assets after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based on 2014 figures from the National Philanthropic Trust. Soros Fund Management LLC’s 87-year-old founder now shares influence over the firm’s strategy with an investment committee of Open Society. Mr. Soros set up the committee and is its chairman, but it is meant to survive him, people familiar with it said.

October 17, 2017

Lead Stories

Vox - October 10, 2017

Does the anti-gerrymandering campaign threaten minority voting rights?

When Pennsylvania Democrats went to the Supreme Court in 2004 to ask that Pennsylvania’s GOP-drawn congressional map be struck down as an unfair partisan gerrymander, they drew opposition from an unexpected source: fellow Democrats. Alabama Democrats told the court in a brief they were concerned that ending partisan gerrymandering would “undermine … the ability of African Americans in Alabama to continue the effective exercise of their newly won ability to participate in the political process.” In 2001, they pointed out, “African-American representatives pulled, hauled, and traded with their white colleagues” to achieve greater representation.

The Hill - October 15, 2017

Poll: Most Americans want Trump to deal with Democrats

A majority of Americans is in favor of President Trump making deals with Democrats, according to a CBS/YouGov poll out Sunday. About 90 percent of Trump's supporters said they are either in favor of or would accept Trump striking a deal with Democrats. A majority of Americans who oppose Trump also said they would like or accept Democrats working with Trump. Trump broke with his party last month to reach a short-term deal with Democrats to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. However, pollsters found that most respondents said they believe that Trump’s relationship with Republicans in Congress isn’t strong.

KERA (NPR Dallas) - October 16, 2017

Even With Trump's Recent Nominees, Texas Has Several Judicial Seats Waiting To Be Filled

When President Donald Trump was sworn in, there were more than a hundred empty seats in the federal judiciary. That left open a rare opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by appointing judges to lifetime terms likely to outlast his administration. With the end of his first year in office coming into focus, some of his supporters are frustrated with the pace of the Senate Judiciary Committee in approving nominees. In Texas, there are 13 federal judicial vacancies in courts overseeing the state — nearly a fifth of the Lone Star State’s federal judges. Most are considered judicial emergencies and some have been empty for years. Six judges on the district court have not yet had a replacement nominated.

Associated Press - October 16, 2017

North Korea says 'a nuclear war may break out any moment'

North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador warned Monday that the situation on the Korean peninsula "has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment." Kim In Ryong told the U.N. General Assembly's disarmament committee that North Korea is the only country in the world that has been subjected to "such an extreme and direct nuclear threat" from the United States since the 1970s — and said the country has the right to possess nuclear weapons in self-defense. He pointed to large-scale military exercises every year using "nuclear assets" and said what is more dangerous is what he called a U.S. plan to stage a "secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership."

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

Some Texas Republicans in Congress again outraised by challengers

After Democratic challengers outraised four Texas Republicans in Congress earlier this year, some Republicans recaptured fundraising momentum in the third quarter – but not all of them. Campaign finance reports for federal candidates covering July through September were due on Saturday. The reports show signs of of Democratic enthusiasm continuing, though U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and Will Hurd of Helotes, both Republicans, posted strong third quarters. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, barely outpaced his challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, and two GOP congressmen saw Democratic challengers raise more money.

Politico - October 17, 2017

Poll: Trump's approval holding steady, but more say country headed in wrong direction

President Donald Trump’s approval rating remains largely unchanged from late last month, a CNN poll released Tuesday shows, but the number of respondents who believe things in the country are going well has dipped, as has the president’s approval rating when it comes to hurricanes. Thirty-seven percent of those polled said they approve of Trump’s handling of his job as president, the same as in a CNN poll conducted late last month, while those who said they did not approve of his job performance climbed 1 percentage point, to 57 percent.

NewsMax - October 12, 2017

Laura Ingraham: I Was Asked to Primary Ted Cruz at GOP Convention

Conservative radio host and author Laura Ingraham writes in her new book that people were so incensed with Sen. Ted Cruz at the GOP convention that she was asked to consider moving to Texas to primary him in 2018. ... Ingraham, who later this month will begin hosting a show on Fox News, writes that she even looked the Texas senator in the eye and told him, "you gotta endorse him tonight." Cruz didn't. "People were so torched by Cruz's failure to endorse Trump that talk of primarying him ignited almost the moment he walked off the stage," Ingraham writes in the book. "In fact, a tanned, good-old-boy type in his late 40s approached me and asked me if I'd consider moving to Texas to run against him."

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Turner seeks to keep current property tax rate despite rev cap

Mayor Sylvester Turner plans to ask city council on Wednesday to sidestep the voter-imposed revenue cap by approving the same property tax rate as last year. According to City Controller Chris Brown, the city would need to cut the property tax rate by about one fifth of one cent to comply with the revenue cap. The difference would mean about $7 next year to the average Houston homeowner, but the potential political damage to Turner could be much more. Council must set the tax rate at its Wednesday meeting, but no specific rate was listed on the council agenda and no explanatory backup material was provided to council members until Monday night. Several council members, informed of Brown's Monday afternoon memo outlining the mayor's plan, responded with an incredulous, "What?"

State Stories

Texas Tribune - October 17, 2017

Meet 80 grassroots organizations advocating for issues that matter to Texans

Hundreds of Texans across the state are organizing around policy issues they care about, whether it’s reducing gun control or legalizing marijuana. These Texans hope to shape politics in our state by acting inside and outside the Capitol, holding rallies, lobbying lawmakers and offering services and resources to the communities they represent. We wanted to learn more about these grassroots groups and the role they play in Texas politics, so we asked readers to tell us about the organizations that matter most to them. Over the past several months, we’ve received over 100 submissions, which accounted for 80 unique Texas grassroots groups. Now, we present this grassroots database as a resource to our readers. By sorting and searching the data, you can find groups organizing around the issues that are important to you.

Texas Tribune - October 17, 2017

How many Texas eighth-graders from 2005 went on to college? Explore our updated data here.

Each year, approximately 300,000 students begin eighth grade in a Texas public school. National employment and earnings statistics suggest that these students will have materially better prospects as adults if they finish high school and enroll in and complete a post-secondary certificate or degree program. With support from the Greater Texas Foundation and the Houston Endowment, two institutional philanthropies, The Texas Tribune has used data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency to document the education outcomes of every student who started eighth grade in a Texas public school during eight academic years (1997 through 2005).

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

Jones: The decline of Democratic influence in the Texas House: 2009-2017

Over the past five legislative sessions, Texas House Democrats have gone from being a full-fledged legislative partner of Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, with near-veto power over most legislation, to a garden-variety opposition party on the losing side of a majority of bills. At the same time, the most conservative Texas House Republicans have gone from losing significantly more than average Democrats to being on the winning side much of the time. As in prior legislative sessions, Speaker Straus used his control over the House agenda this year to block a host of bills championed by the GOP’s movement conservatives. However, unlike in prior sessions (especially prior to 2015), when Team Straus’ blocking of these bills was as much a form of appeasement for its Democratic allies as it was a reflection of its own policy preferences, this year’s demise of bathroom, school choice, property tax reform and related bills near and dear to movement conservative hearts had much more to do with Team Straus’ policy preferences than with Democratic opposition. Over time, Straus’ rising support within the GOP caucus has lessened his need to placate Democrats in order to retain the speakership and effectively run the Texas House.

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

Former Republican congressman challenging U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro in 2018

Former U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, a Republican, is challenging U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, in 2018. Canseco filed paperwork Monday with the Federal Election Commission to run as a Republican for Texas' 20th Congressional District, which Castro has represented since 2013. In an interview, Canseco said he spent the summer traveling the district and heard from people who want "somebody who has their back." "I think that one issue that is very lacking is that person-to-person representation and making sure that the needs of an urban district are being met and not just the people who will ultimately vote for him in very thinly participated elections," Canseco said.

Texas Tribune - October 17, 2017

Houston serial killer faces execution this week

Houston’s “Tourniquet Killer” is on his way to the Texas death chamber. Anthony Shore, the confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders in the 1980s and 1990s went unsolved for more than a decade, is scheduled for execution Wednesday evening. The courts have shot down his latest appeals that argued a traumatic brain injury decreases his culpability, and a plea for relief to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was denied Monday afternoon. Shore, 55, has been on death row since 2004, when he was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1992 rape and murder of 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada.

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

At post-Harvey Senate hearing, a bucket list of pricey solutions

Six weeks after the biggest rain event in U.S. history inundated large swaths of southeast Texas, a group of state senators convened in this small town north of Houston to discuss how best to address flooding related to the Houston area's stressed reservoirs. In the Texas Senate’s first public hearing since Hurricane Harvey, the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs talked for hours on Monday about a host of possibilities: dredging reservoirs and building new ones; better informing residents of flood risks and consolidating rainfall flood gauge data; capturing floodwater and storing it underground; and widening thousands of miles of bayous.

Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2017

Ginn, Rajagopalan: Texans support, prosper from free trade

Criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement is nothing new. In 1992, U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot notoriously implied that if NAFTA passed there would be a "giant sucking sound" as jobs and wealth left the country. Recently, there's discussion of adding sunset clauses and other measures that could weaken the agreement because of similar fears. Examining free trade agreements before and after inception is wise. But, 23 years after inception of NAFTA, critics must consider the vast data noting the benefits to Americans, especially for those in Texas. Instead of trashing the agreement, renegotiation should include encouraging freer trade. While today some applaud changes to NAFTA, a recent Gallup poll shows that 72 percent of Americans believe foreign trade increases economic opportunity.

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Seven Houston Dems scramble in money chase targeting GOP Cong. John Culberson

A scramble among Houston-area Democrats to take on incumbent Republican Congressman John Culberson has produced a flurry of nearly $2 million in campaign fundraising. Culberson, in his ninth term, has faced few tight races in Congress. But the changing demographics of a district that went to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race has rekindled the interest of Democrats, who see a shot at flipping a traditionally Republican seat once represented by President George H.W. Bush. The latest reports, filed Sunday, show Houston non-profit executive Alexander Triantaphyllis leading the Democratic money chase, having raised a total of $668,300 so far for the March 6 primary election.

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Texas Supreme Court examines $48,000 an hour legal fee in H.L. Hunt case

The heir of Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt involved a bitter decade-long dispute with his son over control of a $1 billion trust wants the Texas Supreme Court to declare illegal his lawyers request to be paid $48,000 an hour for his legal services. Attorney Gregory Shamoun says Albert Hill Jr. made an oral agreement to pay him a 50 percent contingency fee if he was able to settle the intense and complicated family fight – a feat he accomplished after only a few weeks working on the case. When Hill Jr. refused to pay claiming the legal fee was ludicrously too high, Shamoun sued and won a $7.25 million award – or an estimated $48,000 an hour – from a jury.

Houston Chronicle - October 10, 2017

Foster: How long will Texas be the most anti-immigrant state in the nation?

With little fanfare but with quiet determination, Texas has acquired the dubious distinction of becoming the No. 1 anti-immigrant state in the nation. Lawmakers need to reverse this trend of alienating the state's Hispanic population before it's too late. They can start with support for permanent legal status of some 800,000 people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as the "Dreamers." Texas has taken a giant step backward from the leadership of men like Gov. George W. Bush. In 1996, Bush warned presidential candidate Pat Buchanan that he was welcome in Texas but not to bash immigrants. And Bush distinguished himself as a presidential candidate who could lead the way in supporting common sense immigration reform.

San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2017

Trial tests South Texas investigations into Mexico corruption

Corpus Christi -- The trial here of a former Mexican official’s wife could be a test case for South Texas prosecutors who have been targeting foreign officials with criminal charges and asset seizures. Over the last five years, federal prosecutors in two Texas judicial districts have alleged in court filings that more than 20 officials, businesspeople and their family members from four Mexican states laundered money embezzled from public funds through U.S. banking transactions and real estate transactions. The U.S. government has seized tens of millions of dollars in real estate and bank accounts and secured at least five convictions as part of the investigations, but until this month had not been forced to go to trial.

San Antonio Express-News - October 12, 2017

Straus doesn’t question decision to drop Amazon bid

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is not questioning Alamo City leaders’ decision to drop out of the contest for Amazon’s second headquarters, even as he launches a new committee aimed at keeping Texas economically competitive. “It’s such a mad scramble that there’s only going to be one winner,” Straus said. “So, if San Antonio is focused on other opportunities where there’s a much better chance of winning, I think that’s a smart decision.” Straus on Thursday announced the new Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness in light of Amazon’s hunt for a new location and recent furor among the business community over the so-called bathroom bill.

San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2017

Fikac: Abbott’s new chief: ‘It has been a wild, wild ride’ already

On day 11 of his job as chief of staff to Gov. Greg Abbott, Luis Saenz had figured out how to take part in a White House conference call the next morning while attending his daughter’s district championship cross-country track meet. On day 12, he could report that all went according to plan. Saenz was up at 5 a.m. and out of the house 45 minutes later for the race, which began at 8 a.m. (he went early to help with setup). He saw his daughter place first in her race, then jumped into his car for the call with White House staff. After the call, he finished cheering for the other runners “and am at my desk now taking care of other business,” Saenz said Friday morning.

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Man who packed sweltering trailer with immigrants pleads guilty to deadly smuggling run

The driver of a semitrailer packed with at least 39 immigrants, 10 of whom died, pleaded guilty Monday to making the deadly smuggling run. James Matthew Bradley Jr., 61, pleaded Monday in federal court in San Antonio to one conspiracy count and a count of transporting the immigrants resulting in death. He faces up to life imprisonment when he's sentenced on Jan. 22. The Clearwater, Florida, man could have faced the death penalty had he gone to trial.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

Some homes that repeatedly flood could lose insurance under proposed federal overhaul

As lawmakers look to rehabilitate the deep-in-debt National Flood Insurance Program, they’re turning their focus to one of its most complicated problems: multiple loss properties. These are the homes and businesses that repeatedly flood, leading the owners to file multiple claims. And while they’re just 2 percent of the program’s 5 million policies, they account for roughly 30 percent of flood claims — about $17 billion — paid over the program’s history, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The program could receive a boost as the House approved a disaster relief bill that would forgive $16 billion of its debt, a decision that now heads to the Senate. But both the White House and Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, say changes are needed to bring the program closer to solvency.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

GOP lawmaker to file free-speech lawsuit against Texas Southern University over canceled speech

What started as a squabble over a canceled speech at Texas Southern University has now turned into a full-blown war, with a free-speech lawsuit in the works and school leaders blaming each other for a public relations snafu. On Monday, Rep. Briscoe Cain told The Dallas Morning News he plans to file a lawsuit against the Houston-based historically black university, alleging his First Amendment rights were violated when he was kept from speaking to students last week. He said the decision to cancel his speech was made because of his political views, a contention the university has denied.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

After Harvey Weinstein assault allegations, Texas lawmaker tries again to ax film incentives

A state lawmaker announced Monday that in light of sexual assault allegations in Hollywood, he would again push to eliminate the Texas Film Commission. Rep. Matt Shaheen posted on Facebook about his determination to file legislation to abolish the taxpayer-funded commission. “Over the past week, our nation has grown increasingly alarmed over allegations of rampant sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and others in the motion picture and TV industry,” Shaheen said in a news release. “What is just as troubling is an apparent culture of acceptance and coverup by many in Hollywood. This is profoundly hypocritical given these are the people who constantly lecture the American people on how we should live our lives.”

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

Texas Republicans push for hearings to bring Robert Mueller's investigation ‘out of the shadows’

Four Texas Republicans joined a call for special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress on his investigation’s expenses as he looks into possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Woodville Rep. Brian Babin wrote the letter, and Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Bill Flores of Bryan and Randy Weber of Friendswood joined 15 other House Republicans in signing it. “We respectfully request that one or both of the judiciary committees immediately convene a public and open hearing or series of hearings to bring Mr. Mueller and his team out of the shadows,” the letter reads.

Dallas Morning News - October 16, 2017

Texas GOPers spending campaign cash at Trump's D.C. hotel not illegal, but 'not ideal,' ethics expert says

Five Texas Republicans have used campaign cash to rack up thousands of dollars in expenses at Trump International Hotel in Washington, giving pause to ethics experts who’ve raised concerns about President Donald Trump’s continued ownership of his business empire. The expenditures by Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Michael McCaul of Austin and Roger Williams of Austin — detailed in campaign finance data reviewed by The Dallas Morning News — are perfectly legal. ... Two more Texas Republicans — Rep. John Culberson of Houston and Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio — disclosed that they have spent campaign cash at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Culberson spent $700.70 at the hotel in June, while Smith spent $479.30 at BLT Prime, the hotel's restaurant, in late July.

Austin American-Statesman - October 14, 2017

Herman: Who’s that man on the Confederate seal in the Capitol rotunda?

Today, we have a topical “What Is That?” that’s really more of a timely “Who Is That?” It comes from a longtime Austinite who finds this newspaper a dependable daily source of information, entertainment, personal enrichment and health insurance: Me. Here’s the deal. Recently, while hanging out in the Capitol rotunda, I asked a random passerby if he could identify the man proudly perched atop a horse on the official seal of the Confederate States of America, which is emblazoned on the rotunda floor as part of the familiar six flags concept Texans know from history class and amusement parks.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

Report: Texas water supplies in farm country pose cancer risks

Researchers with a nonprofit environmental advocacy group warn that high levels of contaminants in drinking water supplies in rural areas of Texas — including Central Texas — and across the country increase risks of cancer and birth defects, according to a report released Tuesday. The Environmental Working Group says drinking water in farm country is threatened by nitrates, chemicals found in manure and commercial fertilizers, and trihalomethanes, a chemical byproduct created when “utilities treat water with chlorine to remove algae, fecal bacteria and other farm pollutants.” Too much nitrate in water can increase chances of “colon, kidney, ovarian and bladder cancers,” and high trihalomethane levels in water have ties to “cancer and reproductive harm,” according to the report.

Austin American-Statesman - October 17, 2017

NTSB rips FAA for ‘abdicating’ oversight of balloon pilots

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt ripped regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration for “abdicating their responsibility to provide oversight” to the hot air balloon industry during a hearing Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. Sumwalt said the FAA’s embrace of industry-led, voluntary safety reforms and rejection of NTSB recommendations was “sad.” “I’m disappointed the FAA appears to be shirking its responsibility,” Sumwalt said. On Friday the FAA repeated its endorsement of a safety plan developed by the Balloon Federation of America, which calls for commercial balloon pilots to obtain an FAA medical certificate, pass drug and alcohol checks and attend safety seminars.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

Texas ranks 9th in U.S. in rate of women killed by men in 2015, report finds

Texas came in ninth among the top 10 states with the highest rate of women killed by men in 2015, according to the Violence Policy Center’s latest “When Men Murder Women” report. The study said 1,686 women nationwide were killed by men in homicides involving a female victim and a male offender in 2015. Of the women who were killed in 2015, 93 percent were killed by men they knew, the study shows. “For victims who knew their offenders, 64 percent (928) of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their attackers,” the report said.

Texas Observer - October 16, 2017

Excited. Delirious. Dead.

When Jennifer Cooper looked down at her phone at 2 a.m., she was surprised to see she had missed texts and calls from two of her sons. The phone had been on silent mode while Jennifer and her husband, Noble, finished up a church retreat in the East Texas woods, a four-hour drive from their home in northeast San Antonio. Why would the boys call so late? Jennifer didn’t really understand the first message, from her middle son, Norman. Before his parents left town that week, Norman, 33, had argued with his wife, Carly — he came home too late one night, they fought, and he agreed to stay somewhere else for a couple of days to let things cool off, according to family. Now Norman was upset, texting his mother to say he’d been “locked out of the houses.”

KUHT - October 12, 2017

Houston State Senator’s Home Burglarized By Armed Suspects

Texas State Senator Borris Miles’ office said his home was burglarized by two armed assailants, on Wednesday. A spokesman for the Houston Police Department has confirmed to News 88.7 that Senator Miles’ 77-year-old grandfather arrived at the residence during the burglary, and was held at gunpoint for a few minutes. The assailants then fired their weapons and fled on foot. No injuries were reported, and no other family members were present at the time. “I am incredibly thankful that my family is safe tonight,” Miles said in a statement. “I want to thank HPD and Precinct 7 Constables for responding quickly to ensure my family and home were safe.

WFAA - October 14, 2017

State Rep. Villalba apologizes for 'inappropriate' twitter rant

Texas State Representative Jason Villalba R-Dallas, apologized Saturday after responding to a tweet from a lobbyist by calling him 'fat' and 'stupid'. The Twitter insults began last month when Aaron Harris (@aaronh125) tweeted at Villalba: ‘If the candy jar watcher @JasonVillalba was gone tomorrow from #TXLege no difference would be felt. He is not a factor.' Villalba waited until Friday to respond including this tweet: ‘It must be awful to be @aaronh125. No wife. No family. Fat. Stupid. Never heard by people that matter. Totally irrelevant. Oh. And a joke.

Cosmopolitan - October 10, 2017

Davis, Johnson: How I Came Back Stronger After Losing a Major Election

Most people know about my gubernatorial loss, but I also lost my first ever race: for my local city council. I was 33. I worked so hard on that race, and I wanted so badly for voters to see that I was a person who really cared about issues that directly impact their lives. When you’re running for office, you have to believe you’re going to win — if you go into a race thinking you’re not going to win, then you really should maybe not be running. On election night, it went into a run-off between me and another woman, and I lost by 90 votes. I just remember feeling kind of shell-shocked by it and confused and hurt. It’s a feeling of personal rejection, especially when you’re running for local office. In Texas, you don’t have a partisan label next to your name [for a city council race]. You can’t chalk things up to people just defaulting to their part of the cabinet. It just seems to be 100 percent about you.

Washington Free Beacon - October 14, 2017

Texas Democrats Hesitant to Embrace Gay Candidate for Governor

A successful Dallas businessman pledging to spend in the seven figures out of his own bank account to run for governor in 2018 should be a great get for Texas Democrats. Yet the party doesn't seem to be getting behind Jeffrey Payne, whose business happens to be a gay bar. Payne, owner of gay leather bar The Dallas Eagle and winner of both the international and Texas Mr. Leather competitions in 2009, officially launched his campaign this week saying, "There's no reason to think that someone who is gay can't do a job, and here it's being governor and representing people."

Politico - October 16, 2017

Undocumented pregnant girl in Texas tests Trump policy to stop abortions

The Trump administration is preventing an undocumented, pregnant teenager detained in a Brownsville refugee shelter from getting an abortion in a policy shift with big implications for hundreds of other pregnant, unaccompanied minors held in such shelters. She is not the first to be stopped, according to advocates who work with undocumented teenagers. For the last seven months, the Health and Human Services Department has intervened to prevent abortions sought by girls at federally funded shelters, even in cases of rape and incest and when the teen had a way to pay for the procedure.

Dallas Voice - October 16, 2017

Gay Houston judge announces run for Texas Supreme Court

Steven Kirkland, who is an openly district court gay judge, announced he will run for state Supreme Court. “GREAT NEWS! I will be candidate for Justice, Place 2 of the Texas Supreme Court,” he announced on his website. He is the first openly gay person to run for Texas Supreme Court. Kirkland became a Houston municipal judge in 2001 and served in that position until 2008 when he was elected to the 215th District Court, where he served until 2012. He currently works on economic development projects in the Houston city attorney’s office.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Harris County trials resume with return of jury service

Court trials kicked off Monday as Harris County summoned hundreds of prospective jurors to temporary facilities downtown, resuming jury service for the first time since Hurricane Harvey's floods devastated Houston's justice system in late August. Five panels of prospective jurors - known in legal terms as veniremen - were shepherded to misdemeanor trials and a family law trial as the county opened a makeshift jury assembly room in the basement of the county administration building at 1001 Preston. "We had far more people appear than we were expecting," said civil judge Dan Hinde, who chairs a jury committee organized by state district judges. "We sent out jury summonses hoping to get 200 people and we had 328 appear."

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Study proposes removing White Oak Bayou's concrete

A study of White Oak Bayou has found three possible alternatives to remove its concrete lining on a portion of the bayou near downtown Houston, Harris County Flood Control District officials announced. The alternatives -- limited to the stretch of White Oak Bayou between Taylor Street and Hogan Street -- range from a simple concrete removal to removing the concrete and connecting trails and natural features to parks both north and south of the bayou, according to the study. If pursued, the improvements could be similar to the natural features of Buffalo Bayou Park, according to the study.

Houston Chronicle - October 17, 2017

Demand for legal help after Harvey spurs bar association to extend free service

When the Houston Bar Association launched a free legal help line shortly after Hurricane Harvey came ashore, it planned to man the phones for just a month. But after logging 1,700 calls, the local bar association decided to extend the daily two-hour window of free legal aid for a second time, to Friday, Oct. 27. The free service is staffed with volunteer lawyers. Landlord/tenant questions are some of the most common, said association spokeswoman Tara Shockley. Tenants call to ask if they have to continue paying rent if they can't live in their flood-damaged apartment —the answer typically depends on what the lease says about habitability —while a frequent question from landlords is about how to make repairs while tenants are still occupying the units.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

UT Health Austin opens first clinics in $99 million project

University of Texas Health Austin will open the Dell Medical School’s Health Transformation Building on Tuesday with four specialty clinics. Patients now will be able to receive care for gynecological disorders in the Women’s Health Institute, arm and leg pain in the Musculoskeletal Institute, multiple sclerosis and back pain in the Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences, and work-related illnesses in the WorkLife clinic. Opening the new building is the second phase of building UT Health Austin, which started with the medical school accepting its first class in June 2016 and will continue with more clinics opening in the Health Transformation Building, followed by building a center for research. All three — the medical school, the clinics and the research facility — work alongside Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, which opened in May.

San Antonio Express-News - October 16, 2017

State plans to hire private entity to manage foster care in Bexar County

The state is planning to contract with a private organization to manage foster care in Bexar County, a move advocates say will better serve kids but that critics warn will outsource decisions Child Protective Services should be making. Bexar County is set to be the third area statewide to get the new “community-based care” model, approved by the Legislature this year as a way to reform the embattled foster care system. In the new approach, state workers will continue investigating claims of abuse and neglect. But once children are removed from dangerous situations and put into foster care, the vendor would eventually take over, coordinating kids’ services, caseworker visits and court-related duties.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Mayor seeks to keep property tax rate flat despite rev cap

Mayor Sylvester Turner again appears to be shifting his plan for the Houston’s property tax rate, according to a Monday memo from City Controller Chris Brown. Turner had proposed a tax hike to cover Hurricane Harvey-related expenses, then cut that proposal in half when the federal government agreed to cover a larger share of expenses, then scrapped it entirely late last month after Gov. Greg Abbott provided $50 million in state disaster funds. The city would “continue to operate under the rev cap,” the mayor said at the time, referring to a 13-year-old, voter-imposed rule that limits what the city can collect in property taxes. Rising property values have forced the City Council to cut the tax rate every year since 2014 to avoid collecting more revenue than the cap allows.

Waco Tribune-Herald - October 14, 2017

5 Waco ISD campuses start year with accountability warning from TEA

Five of Waco Independent School District’s six struggling schools started the school year with a warning from the state’s top education official: Meet state accountability ratings next year or state law will require the campuses to close or the district’s elected school board to be replaced with state appointees. The five schools have been rated as “improvement required” based on standardized test scores for at least five years in a row, and a state law going into effect requires Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to close the schools or replace the district’s board if scores don’t improve, Morath wrote in the letter.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

Former Austin broadcaster, lawmaker remembered for his talents, charm

Marvin “Dan” Love, an Austin broadcasting pioneer and former city lawmaker, died Friday. He was 88. Love became a newscaster for KTBC-TV (also known as Fox 7 Austin) and later ran KHFI-TV (now known as KXAN) as its general manager from 1965 to 1974. He was elected to the Austin City Council in 1971 and re-elected in 1973, serving as mayor pro tem during both terms. He began his media career while he was a college sophomore as the Voice of Austin at KTBC radio. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1952, he worked for KTBC-TV, Austin’s first television station. During his time there, he worked as a sports anchor and hosted a TV show with legendary UT football coach Darrell Royal.

Associated Press - October 16, 2017

Ex-Dallas Superintendent's Vacation Spot Raises Questions

An apartment building in New Orleans links two central characters in the financial demise of a troubled government school bus agency in Dallas, raising ethical questions over rules governing conduct between school district officials and their vendors. An investigation by KXAS-TV and the Dallas Morning News shows former Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells used a luxury vacation apartment in the New Orleans French Quarter since 2014. The neighboring apartment was used by Robert Leonard, the CEO of the company DCS partnered with on a risky business venture. The educational agency partnered with Force Multiplier Solutions on a school bus camera venture that used millions of dollars and put DCS on the brink of financial collapse earlier this year.

This article appeared on the US News website

Dallas Morning News - October 17, 2017

Dallas hopes to soon issue hundreds of millions in debt for street repairs, flood control and other projects

Street re-dos, city facility repairs and parks projects could get underway late this year or in January if voters approve the November bond package. Assistant City Manager Majed Al-Ghafry said the city could kick off the 2017 bond package by issuing in the ballpark of $100 million in debt late this year or early next year. That would come if voters approve the 10 bond propositions -- collectively worth $1.05 billion before interest -- on the Nov. 7 ballot. Before the 2017 bond package projects begin, however, city officials first plan to issue $350 million in bonds to help refinance current debt and complete some of the remaining projects that were in the 2006 and 2012 bond packages.

National Stories

Texas Public Radio - October 13, 2017

Poll: Majorities Of Both Parties Favor Increased Gun Restrictions

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, most Americans — regardless of party — favor tightening restrictions on firearms, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll. But significant partisan divides remain — and perhaps relatedly, they exist alongside divides in knowledge about guns in America. Eight-in-10 Americans told the pollsters they favor bans on assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and "bump stocks," an accessory used by the Las Vegas shooter that allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire like an automatic weapon.

The Hill - October 17, 2017

FBI uncovered Russian bribery plot before Obama administration approved controversial nuclear deal with Moscow

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews. Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

New York Times - October 16, 2017

Badger: Is Uber Helping or Hurting Mass Transit?

For all the tensions that Uber and Lyft have had with taxicabs, the bigger questions about ride-hailing companies have to do with their effects on all the other ways you might get around. Have they siphoned riders from public transit, or have they made transit feasible for more riders? Have they enabled people to ditch their cars, or only encouraged people to use cars (driven by other people) even more? The answers will determine how chaotic our streets become. And they could tell us something about how people will behave in a more far-off future of self-driving cars, when ubiquitous ride-hailing will have no one at the wheel.

The Hill - October 12, 2017

Planned Sanders appearance at women’s convention draws fire

The announcement that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will headline an event at a women’s conference in Detroit later this month has left some Democrats seething and reliving old wounds from the 2016 presidential race. On Thursday, the Women’s Convention — run by the same group that organized the large Women’s March in Washington earlier this year a day after President Trump was sworn into office — announced that Sanders will address 3,000 women activists on the opening day of the conference. The announcement did not receive a warm reception. “What, all the women were busy?” Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said in an email to The Hill. “While Sanders undeniably still has an audience and a following, giving him the keynote at the women’s march feels at best tonally off and to some like rubbing salt in the wounds.”

Associated Press - October 16, 2017

Supreme Court backs push to remove Ten Commandments monument

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a lower court that ordered a New Mexico city to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn outside City Hall. Civil liberties advocates behind the case called the decision involving the city of Bloomfield a victory for the separation of church and state. ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said it sends a "strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community." However, David Cortman, a senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom, said the outcome did nothing to resolve confusion in lower courts involving such monuments.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - October 15, 2017

Talbot-Zorn, Ostrolenk: Congress faces a crucial test on war powers

If there’s been a single, clear, consistent foreign policy message that’s emerged from the last decade of U.S. elections, it’s simple: Voters are exhausted of open-ended, expensive, destructive, and unaccountable foreign wars. From President Bush’s “thumping” in the 2006 midterms to the resonance of retrenchment rhetoric from leaders ranging from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to President Trump, it’s evident that Americans across the political spectrum want the federal government to exercise more prudence and humility when it comes to foreign conflicts. What’s unclear is whether Congress has gotten the message. But In the coming weeks, we should find out.

Government Technology - October 16, 2017

A Harbinger of Fire and Flood, Hydromet Helps Residents, First Responders

When Hurricane Harvey locked its sights on Texas in late August, residents and authorities along the lower Colorado River found the information they might need to make life-or-death decisions online. The Hydromet monitoring system, a network of more than 275 gauges that continuously update an online map, isn’t new. Its parent agency, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), has managed it since the 1980s — decades before the term "Internet of Things" (IoT) had even been coined. It’s also not a flood warning system. Rather, the hydrological data generated by measuring river stages, lake levels and streamflows along with meteorological changes in rainfall, air temperature and humidity, prepares county judges, first responders and residents to make vital decisions.

The New Yorker - October 17, 2017

Mayer: The Danger of President Pence

On September 14th, the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, who last year published a book titled “In Trump We Trust,” expressed what a growing number of Americans, including conservatives, have been feeling since the 2016 election. The previous day, President Trump had dined with Democratic leaders at the White House, and had impetuously agreed to a major policy reversal, granting provisional residency to undocumented immigrants who came to America as children. Republican legislators were blindsided. Within hours, Trump disavowed the deal, then reaffirmed it. Coulter tweeted, “At this point, who doesn’t want Trump impeached?” She soon added, “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.” Trump’s swerve did the unthinkable—uniting Coulter and liberal commentators. After Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, Gail Collins, the Times columnist, praised Vice-President Mike Pence as someone who at least “seems less likely to get the planet blown up.” This summer, an opinion column by Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, appeared under the headline “ ‘president pence’ is sounding better and better.”

Politico - October 17, 2017

Marino out as Trump's drug czar nominee

President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that Rep. Tom Marino has withdrawn as the administration's drug czar nominee, shortly after media reports revealed how the Pennsylvania Republican championed a law that hobbled federal efforts to combat opioid abuse. "Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!" Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. Marino had faced growing resistance to his nomination since this past weekend, when a report by "60 Minutes" and The Washington Post detailed how he championed legislation that makes it essentially impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to freeze suspicious narcotics shipments from drug distribution companies, according to officials at the DEA and Justice Department.

Politico - October 17, 2017

Trump’s judge picks: ‘Not qualified,’ prolific bloggers

President Donald Trump has nominated 50 candidates to lifetime appointments to the federal bench — including a man who asserted transgender children were evidence of “Satan’s plan,” one deemed unqualified by the American Bar Association and a handful of prolific bloggers. ... Chief among their targets is Jeff Mateer, nominated to a federal judgeship in Texas, who in a past speech referred to transgender children as proof of “Satan’s plan.” Mateer, according to comments unearthed by CNN, has also implied that the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage is “disgusting” and could lead to polygamy or bestiality. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has said he still stands by Mateer’s nomination. But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has publicly voiced some concerns, particularly that Mateer didn’t disclose the contents of those speeches before he and Cruz ultimately recommended that he be nominated. “That’s a big problem,” Cornyn told Politico earlier this month. “That may not be the only problem, but that’s a big problem.”

Daily Energy Insider - October 16, 2017

Energy Secretary Perry testifies before House Energy Subcommittee

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry testified before the House Energy Subcommittee last week on DOE’s priorities and how they relate to emerging energy, environmental, technological, and national security challenges. Rick Perry Perry indicated that the department is exploring the issues energy market regulations and may take action related to these policies. “This proposal is just a first step in seeking to ensure that we truly have an energy policy that first and foremost protects the interests of the American people,” Perry said. “Following the recommendations of the Staff Report, the Department is continuing to study these issues and, if, necessary, will be prepared to make a series of additional recommendations to improve the reliability and resiliency of the grid.”

Washington Post - October 17, 2017

A majority of Americans now say that sexual harassment is a ‘serious problem’

A solid majority of Americans now say that sexual harassment in the workplace is a “serious problem” in the U.S., according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll — marking a significant increase that has coincided with a period when several high-profile harassment and assault scandals have unfolded. In a 2011 Post-ABC poll, 47 percent of Americans said they felt that sexual harassment in the workplace was a serious problem. That number has now risen to 64 percent. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say men who sexually harass female coworkers usually get away with it.

Washington Post - October 17, 2017

States scramble for solutions for insurers that were counting on Obamacare payments

States and insurance companies scrambled to raise premiums for insurance plans sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges Monday, after the White House announced it was ending key federal subsidy payments. The subsidies, called cost-sharing reductions — or CSRs — are federal payments to insurers that are used to offset deductibles and other out-of-pocket health costs for lower-income Americans. The White House announced it was ending the payments late last week. But insurers are still obligated to sell the plans, so companies would now like to make up the difference by raising premiums — and the quickly approaching open enrollment period beginning in November added urgency to the situation.

Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2017

'Alt-right' leader Richard Spencer questions whether women should have right to vote

Almost a year ago, Dallas native Richard Spencer told a crowd at Texas A&M University that the United States "belongs to white people." He might have meant only to white men. In an interview with Newsweek, Spencer -- the self-appointed leader of the "alt-right," a loose movement that embraces white supremacist views and Nazi symbols -- said he's not sure whether women should vote in U.S. elections. "I don't necessarily think that that's a great thing," Spencer told the magazine, which quoted him in an article published Saturday. He uttered the line in the context of a conversation about his admiration for 18th-century rules that limited U.S. naturalization to white people of "good moral character."

MRCTV - October 13, 2017

Cue the Fireworks: Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders To Debate Taxes At CNN's Town Hall

Cue the fireworks: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are set to debate President Trump’s tax reform plan at an upcoming town hall event, according to CNN. The debate, taking place on Oct. 18, will be moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, and it's sure to be a crazy one. Cruz, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, firmly endorsed the president’s plan to lower individual and business tax rates and eliminate the estate tax, saying, “We need to embrace unapologetically that we’re doing a tax cut.” On the other hand, Sanders, one the most liberal lawmakers in Washington and a devout socialist, has called the plan “morally repugnant,” adding, “Instead of giving more tax breaks to billionaires who don't need it, we should be doing everything we can to rebuild the disappearing middle class.”

Daily Caller - October 12, 2017

PolitiFact Attempts To Fundraise After Claiming It Was ‘Targeted’ By Conservatives

PolitiFact asked readers for money in an email campaign Wednesday because it was allegedly being targeted by the Sinclair Broadcasting Group. The facts tell a very different story. In his show “Behind The Headlines,” Mark Hyman criticized PolitiFact’s handling of a statement made by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on government spending for Hurricane Sandy. Hyman’s segment is two minutes long and walks through instances of pork spending in the Sandy disaster relief bill. PolitiFact defends its “Mostly False” rating by pointing out Ted Cruz’s claim that “Two-thirds of the (Sandy disaster relief) bill had nothing to do with Sandy” was very broad.

Washington Free Beacon - October 10, 2017

Wendy Davis Tracking ‘Electoral Climate in Texas’ With Eye on Future Run

Failed Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is keeping an eye on the "electoral climate in Texas" as she decides when she should make another political run, she wrote in Cosmopolitan. Davis, in a piece on how she "came back stronger after losing" by over 20 points in her 2014 run for governor, says she still has hopes to run again for office some day. "I'm trying to figure out when I should put myself back out there, and when will the electoral climate in Texas be right for me," Davis wrote.

The Hill - October 16, 2017

Conservative columnist: Bannon ‘used to leak against’ Trump

Bannon: ‘It’s a season of war against the GOP establishment’ 00:0101:26 Autoplay: On | Off Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon reportedly used to leak information against President Trump. During an interview on MSNBC, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens was asked about Bannon's recent comments going after Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Bannon said over the weekend that the Tennessee Republican has "trashed" the commander in chief of the country's armed forces while there are young men and women "in harm's way."

Inside Higher Education - October 10, 2017

Poli-Sci for the Trump Era

President Trump’s rise to power prompted numerous think pieces from political scientists about the virtues (or lack thereof) of political neutrality in the classroom. But beyond questions about teaching and personal opinion, political scientists are also asking how they should study political science today. Namely, they’re asking whether the discipline’s traditional structure -- semi-siloed subfields including American politics, comparative politics (everyone else), political theory and international relations -- works in the age of Trump. “For those of us who have been studying this country, it’s been remarkably stable over time,” said Suzanne Mettler, the Clinton Rossiter Professor of Political Institutions at Cornell University and co-author of a new paper on Trumpism and democracy; the article is an outgrowth of a workshop Mettler, an Americanist, and colleagues held at Cornell in June to promote dialogue across political science subfields -- a central message of the new paper.

October 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Abilene Reporter-News - October 15, 2017

West Texas' rural values 'under assault' lawmaker says

STAMFORD — With the regular and special legislative sessions behind them, area legislators are embarking on the next season — campaign season. Filing for the March 6 Republican and Democratic primaries begins in less than a month, on Nov. 11, just days after the Nov. 7 election to vote on constitutional amendments proposed by legislators earlier this year. Though state lawmakers in the conservative Big Country are seemingly safe in their primaries, and in the 2018 general election for that matter, several attending a West Texas Republican meet-and-greet here last week said this time of year is an opportunity to hold town hall meetings and measure the pulse of constituents in their districts. Abilene's Stan Lambert, whose District 71 is made up of Jones, Nolan and Taylor counties, told the Stamford attendees that legislators were going to "continue to stay connected, to find out what is important and listen to you."

Wall St. Journal - October 15, 2017

Health Care Back on Congress’s Front Burner

The Senate this week will grapple with President Donald Trump’s decision to stop making subsidy payments to health insurers, with lawmakers seeking a deal that would keep the money flowing while Republicans try to fold in conservative-oriented health-care priorities. It remains unclear whether a package could emerge that attracts support from a critical mass of senators and also from House Republicans. That could be put to the test quickly, as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.) are expected to introduce a plan within days and Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) unveils his own, more-conservative-leaning version.

The Hill - October 12, 2017

Freedom Caucus chairman courts Dems on tax reform

Rep. Mark Meadows, the conservative hard-liner and chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is playing an unlikely role in the push for tax reform: liaison to Democrats. In a bid to help shape and build support for the tax package, the North Carolina Republican has been reaching across the aisle to a handful of moderate Democrats, he told The Hill in an interview. The outreach includes Rep. John Delaney (Md.), who has said he’s running for president in 2020, and Rep. John Garamendi, the former California insurance commissioner and lieutenant governor. Meadows’s top ally, former Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has taken part in many of those informal, bipartisan discussions.

Politico - October 15, 2017

Trump campaign operation raises $11.6 million during third quarter

President Donald Trump’s campaign operation raised $11.6 million between the start of July and the end of September this year, new filings show. The $11.6 million total was brought in by Trump’s campaign and two joint fundraising committees set up to raise money in conjunction with the Republican National Committee. The quarterly haul dipped compared to the previous three-month period, when the three entities raised a total of $13.9 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission that were made public on Sunday.

Washington Post - October 16, 2017

The Daily 202: Trump’s attacks on Senate Republicans are paying political dividends

Scapegoating the Senate GOP is proving to be an effective political strategy for President Trump. Activists and donors on the right are primed to blame congressional Republicans, not him, if there is no sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws — just as they did after the failure to repeal Obamacare. -- A CBS News Nation Tracker survey published Sunday showed that majorities want more cooperation between Congress and Trump, especially the president's strongest backers and most Republicans. The most fascinating nugget from the poll: 39 percent of Republicans feel that their party’s congressional representatives “don’t like” the president and are actively trying to undermine him, while another 37 percent think congressional Republicans don’t like Trump “but pretend to” to try passing their own agenda.

Wall St. Journal - October 13, 2017

WSJ: The Antidote to Steve Bannon

One irony of Washington these days is that a press corps that claims to loathe right-wing political operative Steve Bannon can’t get enough of him. The media broadcast his every utterance, cheering on his declaration of “civil war” against Republicans in Congress. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.) captured that reality on CBS ’s “Face the Nation” Sunday when he said, “You’re going to ask me about Bannon, so I’ll just go and ask myself.” And he replied by giving Republicans good advice on how to defeat Mr. Bannon, his Mercer family financiers and Breitbart campaign operation. “Yes, so, what is going on?” Mr. Graham asked. “It’s a symptom of a greater problem. If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace ObamaCare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell as we know it.”

San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2017

Cruz isn’t on Bannon’s hit list — for now

Speaking to a gathering of conservative grass-roots activists in Tyler last month, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas did little to hide his frustration with the Republican-controlled Senate. His speech at a Grassroots America-We the People annual “Champions of Freedom Dinner” came just days after the failure of the GOP’s last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Texans are frustrated by Congress’ inability to deliver on our promises,” Cruz said, warning that failure to repeal Obamacare could make 2018 a “disastrous election” for Republicans.

Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2017

Texas GOP not at risk in 2018, experts say

At the five-top table in the corner at Russell's Bakery, a northwest Austin restaurant and coffee bar, the conversation among the five women, all self-described as "recovering Republicans," veered from the signature cinnamon rolls and traffic to President Donald Trump and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. "I have two questions I'd like to know the answer to: Is there any way for a Democrat to win a state office next year, and what would it take for some Republicans to lose in this state?" Chrys Langer, a 47-year-old tech consultant and mother of three, asked a reporter sitting at a nearby table. "Politics has taken a turn for the worse, in my opinion, in Austin with the bathroom bill and all kinds of other conservative-male nonsense and in the White House with - well, with Trump being Trump."

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - October 16, 2017

Trump voters confront climate change in wake of hurricane

Jefferson County, Texas, is among the low-lying coastal areas that could lose the most as the ice caps melt and the seas warm and rise. At the same time, it is economically dependent on oil refineries that stand like cityscapes across the community. Residents seemed to choose between the two last November, abandoning a pattern of voting Democratic in presidential elections to support Donald Trump. Then came Hurricane Harvey. Now some conservatives here are newly confronting some of the most polarizing questions in American political discourse: What role do humans play in global warming and the worsening of storms like Harvey? And what should they expect their leaders to do about the problem now?

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

First Reading: `Berniecrat with a Panama hat,’ Tom Wakely launches campaign against `neofascist’ Greg Abbott

Last Monday’s First Reading was aneadlined, Democrat Jeffrey Payne launches his `outside the box’ candidacy for governor. Today, I am writing about Tom Wakely, who on Saturday, a week after Payne held a kickoff rally for his campaign in Dallas, kicked off his own candidacy for governor at Mallberg Ranch in Blanco. I wasn’t there, but I recently visited with Wakely at his home in San Antonio about his campaign. It is also outside the box. The filing deadline for candidates for the March primary is Dec. 12, and while the state Democratic Party does not endorse a candidate in the primary, word is that they are looking for someone a little less outside the box to run against Gov. Greg Abbott. “They’re going to find someone like Mike Collier,” Wakely said. “Another ex-Republican, multi-millionaire, owns an oil company.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Herman: Twitter silence from Texas’ Tweeter Laureate

The commander-in-tweet has shut down and shut up the official Tweeter Laureate of Texas. Sad. Thanks for nothing, Trump, you grump. After eight years and just under 26,000 of the more entertaining tweets on the planet, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s Twitter feed ceased and desisted a couple of weeks ago. Specifically, the de facto restraining order was issued Sept. 28 in a White House news release headlined, “President Donald J. Trump Announces Eighth Wave of Judicial Candidates.” Caught up in that wave was Willett, now awaiting Senate action on his nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

Judge: Gov. Abbott wrong to order atheist exhibit removed from Capitol

Gov. Greg Abbott engaged in improper censorship when he ordered an atheist group’s mock Nativity display to be removed from the Capitol in 2015, a federal judge has ruled. At the time, Abbott said the display — which depicted Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the Statue of Liberty gazing upon the Bill of Rights as it lay in a manger — was a spiteful message of “tasteless sarcasm” meant to mock religion and “our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation sued Abbott, arguing that the governor’s order violated its free speech rights and the Constitution’s Establishment Clause prohibition on government support for a particular religion.

Austin American-Statesman - October 15, 2017

PolitiFact: 1 of 10 babies is born in Texas

A Fort Worth pediatrician who supports continued federal backing of health insurance for children of the working poor suggested it’s an important issue in these parts because 10 percent of Americans start as Texans. Joyce Mauk, president of the Texas Pediatric Society, was quoted by the American-Statesman as saying: “One in 10 babies born in this country is born in Texas, and so it affects us disproportionately if access to health care is compromised for children. There is nothing good you can say about taking away access to health care for children.” ... According to government tallies, that’s been so since 2008. We rate this claim True. Joyce Mauk

Austin American-Statesman - October 15, 2017

Smith: Amazon wants its HQ2 in utopia — and tax breaks, too

Forget El Dorado, Brigadoon, the Emerald City, Seven Cities of Gold or Shangri-La. The city of Amazon, USA, is a shimmering on your horizon like a barely visible holograph from the future. Above it is a sign in otherworldly neon: All This Could Be Yours. Amazon is looking to locate a spanking new 50,000-employee headquarters somewhere in North America. To put the promise in perspective, it’d be like moving another San Marcus — population 53,000 — to, say, San Marcos. That’s no random conjecture. San Marcos would appear to meet the handy wish list provided by Amazon to prospective suitors: It’s on a major highway, within 45 minutes of an international airport and within 30 minutes of a population center of 1 million.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Austin Answered: What were Stephen F. Austin’s views on slavery?

Cantrell, the author of “Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas,” said Austin’s views on slavery were split between personal views and economic reasons. “Stephen F. Austin held, what I would say, are sort of Jeffersonian views toward slavery,” Cantrell said. “Those Jeffersonian views were that slavery in the United States is a necessary evil.” Cantrell said Austin believed slavery was a bad moral example for the country and that it could be seen as a security threat. “He once said that he feared that the South and Texas would be ‘Santo Domingonized,’ which was a word he made up,” Cantrell said. “He was referring to the Haitian Revolution, where the black slaves of that country rose up and killed almost every white person on the island at the beginning of the 1800s.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Why Texas leaders erected Confederate monuments at the Capitol

Texas lawmakers in 1895 approved a monument “to the Confederate dead” to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol. Eight years later, more than 5,000 people gathered to see the Confederate Soldiers Monument unveiled — a particularly large crowd considering Austin’s population at the turn of the last century was just 22,000. At the unveiling, John H. Reagan, the former Confederate postmaster general, told the crowd outside the Capitol that the North was to blame for the Civil War. “The people of the New England states, even as far back as 1803, when the Louisiana Purchase was consummated, opposed it, as they declared it would increase the power of the agriculture states and diminish the power of the manufacturing states,” he said, according to an account of the ceremony in the Austin Statesman. Reagan said slavery had “existed in every civilized country in the world, including the Eastern states.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Castillo: Latinos had income gains, but not all the news is rosy

The headlines have been heartening lately for Latinos in Austin and across the country, at least when it comes to narrowing the income and education gaps that have dogged the nation’s largest minority group for years. Recently, we learned that Latinos in the Austin-Round Rock metro area saw a hefty 17 percent increase in median household income from 2015 to 2016 — rising from $48,160 to $56,306, according to new census data. Encouraging, yes, but it’s not time to get carried away just yet. It’s true that household incomes rose for Austin-area Latinos, but they still trail whites by a large margin.

Austin American-Statesman - October 15, 2017

DPS steps up enforcement on drivers who pass school buses illegally

Texas state troopers are stepping up their efforts to catch drivers who pass school buses illegally as a part of National School Bus Safety Week, which runs through Friday. From January 2016 through mid-October of this year, the Department of Public Safety issued 1,100 citations for drivers who illegally passed a stopped school bus. The Austin school district last year launched its own initiative to cite violators, issuing nearly 24,000 tickets from February 2016 to date.

Texas Tribune - October 11, 2017

Cain: Free speech under assault at Texas Southern University

It's a sad day for universities across Texas whenever bullies prevent speech and a variety of views from being presented. It’s even sadder when administrators of these universities silence free speech in order to appease disruptive extremists. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened on the campus of Texas Southern University earlier this week. Months ago, I was approached by the president of the Federalist Society chapter of TSU and asked if I would consider coming to campus to discuss the legislative session, as well as my own personal experience as a young legislator. This is a typical topic and a common request to my office, and I was happy to oblige. I have spoken to many different groups about the legislative process and was particularly excited about this invitation, since I served as the president of a Federalist Society chapter during my own time in law school.

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

To fund bid against Ted Cruz, former mayor puts up building as prize in "essay and rib contest"

Dan McQueen is an unconventional candidate for unconventional times. Months after wrapping up a 37-day stint as Corpus Christi mayor that saw him frequently lash out at critics over social media, McQueen is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican primary. Now, he is rolling out a fundraising strategy that involves concise writing and a 12,000-square-foot commercial building about a block from Corpus Christi City Hall. Also, Texas beef short ribs.

Texas Tribune - October 16, 2017

Ramsey: Bathrooms, business and ballots

Joe Straus wants a committee to look at the state’s economic competitiveness, to make sure the state government doesn’t spoil a high-functioning business environment. That might be a good government idea. It’s a great political idea. The House speaker’s timing is adroit. The new House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness is on a short fuse, with 60 days to “look at issues such as workforce readiness, infrastructure and state and local economic development tools,” according to the speaker’s announcement. “The committee will also study the reasons that employers give for choosing, or not choosing, to do business in a particular state.”

San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2017

Poorer students hurt most by years of education cuts, study finds

Doing more with less has been the new normal for Texas public schools ever since the Legislature made deep cuts to education funding in 2011. Now a joint report by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities describes the effect of the $5.3 billion cut from state education spending from 2011 to 2016 — overall, the resulting “funding hole” disproportionately affected low-income and other disadvantaged students. Some of the most drastic cuts to instruction were felt at programs serving high school students, bilingual students, low-income students and special education students, according to the findings.

Houston Chronicle - October 14, 2017

Moure-Eraso: Chemical accidents can be prevented

Hurricane Harvey has reminded us that much of America's chemical infrastructure is in serious peril. The fires and explosions at the Arkema peroxide plant in Crosby, which sickened first responders and terrified the surrounding community, illustrate what happens when industry is allowed to operate for decades without effective safety oversight. Arkema capitalized on the weakness of the current regulatory system, even as the company lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to keep those rules unchanged. The current rules largely omit coverage for reactive chemicals like Arkema's peroxides - just as those rules still do not cover the fertilizer ammonium nitrate that detonated and leveled much of West, Texas in April 2013, killing 15 people.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 13, 2017

Greene: Ultimate gun control is already in the hands of the people

Yes, there are wide-ranging interpretations of what the authors of the Bill of Rights had in mind when they authorized gun ownership for all Americans. Most historians seem to generally agree that the phrase “a well-regulated militia” is directly connected to the objective of “the securing of a free state.” While declaring in plain words that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” there was no mention of hunting, home defense or recreational shooting.

McAllen Monitor - October 15, 2017

ERCOT, AEP Texas invest heavily in RGV growth

Thousands across the Rio Grande Valley were without power. Voltage concerns caused outages in McAllen, Edinburg, Harlingen and San Benito. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas instructed Valley-area transmission and distribution service providers to reduce demand on their electric system. At the time, in October 2014 when this happened, an AEP Texas spokesman called the situation a “lack of generation capacity.” “There was power in the Valley,” ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said. “But it was not keeping up.” The Valley had become too much for the electric grid. Kip Fox from AEP Texas called the Valley’s growth “unprecedented.” That growth has been indisputable, which is why, three years after those rolling blackouts and more than $1 billion, the system has transformed.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Woodlands MUD inaction caused 100 houses to flood, residents say

Homeowners in The Woodlands' neighborhood called Timarron Lakes believe the flooding of 100 homes during Hurricane Harvey in August was most likely caused by a faulty drainage system that they had asked officials to overhaul after flooding in May 2016. They helped organize a community meeting last week attended by 50 residents and are preparing to gather signatures on a petition stating their grievances. It's addressed to an obscure local government entity called the Harris-Montgomery Counties Municipal Utility District 386, which sends them and thousands of other Woodlands homeowners property tax bills for drainage, water and sewer services.

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Lawyers rush to represent homeowners flooded by Addicks, Barker releases

Scores of lawyers, eager to get a piece of what could be the biggest payday since the multi-billion dollar Volkswagen emissions settlement, are rushing to sign up thousands of property owners whose homes were damaged by the release of water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. The case -- which legal analysts say could be worth as much as $10 billion -- is drawing lawyers from a wide range of specialties, from criminal defense to bankruptcy to class action, as they target the ultimate big pocket: the federal government. They're hosting seminars for flooded homeowners, advertising on social media and retooling websites to tout their expertise in property rights, hydrology and flood claims.

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - October 16, 2017

San Antonio ranks first in U.S. for ‘serious crimes,’ but experts say it’s not that simple

Last month, the FBI released its Uniform Crime Reporting data, which tracks “part I offenses” — the eight violent and property crimes considered the most serious: murder, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft and arson. San Antonio’s per capita part I crime rate was the highest among 15 of the country’s largest cities, a San Antonio Express-News analysis of the data showed. Last year, there were about 5,900 part I crimes in San Antonio per 100,000 people — a higher rate than Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and more than double that of New York. Nationwide, the number was about 2,900 part I crimes per 100,000 people.

Austin American-Statesman - October 16, 2017

PolitiFact: Taxes, but not tax rate, expected to rise with school bond

A handout urging voter support for a proposed $1.05 billion Austin school district bond issue on the November ballot singles out the need to repair and renovate schools averaging 40 years of age and a desire to modernize or build 16 schools. Moreover, the handout from the Committee of Austin’s Children PAC says: “Did you know? AISD Prop. 1 bonds will require no tax rate increase,” a claim the group also makes on its website. ... Missing from this claim: Individual homeowners are expected to pay more in property taxes even if the tax rate remains the same, which looks likely thanks to rising property valuations in a hot real estate market. We rate this statement, which lacks the important clarification that only the tax rate isn’t expected to rise, Mostly True.

Austin American-Statesman - October 15, 2017

Quintero: Stop development deals. Get Amazon with the ‘Texas Model’

Austin is vying for Amazon’s impressive new “HQ2” — a second company headquarters that could supercharge the local economy with $5 billion in capital investment and 50,000 new, good-paying jobs. Landing the state-of-the-art campus would be nothing short of blockbuster. While Austin has much to offer and much to gain, it shouldn’t fall into the trap of proposing a mammoth incentive package like other cities. Though deals laden with tax abatements, grants and other government goodies might generate some interesting headlines, they don’t generally make for good public policy. That’s especially evident in Austin.

KUT - October 12, 2017

Instead Of School-To-Prison Pipeline, Austin Wants Something That Actually Helps Kids

The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to create a study committee on the school-to-prison pipeline. That's a term used to describe practices in schools that expose students to the wrong side of the criminal justice system. One example is when schools turn to law enforcement to address student misbehavior, such as receiving a criminal citation for disorderly conduct. “The definition of disorderly conduct is so broad that it could encompass any sort of behavior that a person observing the behavior, you know, deems disorderly," said Morgan Craven, director of the School-To-Prison Pipeline project at Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that researches inequities in the justice system. "So it includes language, odors, loud noises.”

Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2017

Gov. Abbott makes surprise visit to Dayton

County leaders meeting for the quarterly economic summit were surprised during one of the presentations as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dropped by to greet everyone. "We were here for a pre-planned meeting to talk about recovery from the hurricane and I was told that you were in here," he told the gathering of county leaders, "and I wanted to stop by to say hi." Abbott, on Wednesday, visited five Harvey-affected cities in Southeast Texas. This trip was the third of a three-day, 16-city tour of hurricane-impacted areas of Texas. Also joining the governor on his visits was Commission to Rebuild Texas Commissioner John Sharp.

Palestine Herald - October 12, 2017

Austin could require employers to provide paid sick days

Nearly everybody gets sick but not everybody gets paid sick days. That might change in Austin, where 37 percent of the workforce does not earn paid sick days. The city council recently voted to begin a public-input process that would ultimately lead to a policy allowing all workers in Austin to earn paid sick days. “In Austin, with stagnating wages and the rise in low-wage jobs that lack benefits, it’s becoming increasingly harder for families to make ends meet,” said Laura Rosen, a senior policy analyst at the not-for-profit Center for Public Policy Priorities. “They have a sub-minimum wage when they get sick.” A total of 40 U.S. cities and states have implemented such policies, but not without opposition, as lawmakers in states around the U.S. have banned cities from passing paid sick-leave ordinances; there are those who want Texas to join the preemption list.

National Stories

Washington Post - October 16, 2017

Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump

During the campaign, when President Trump’s advisers wanted him to stop talking about a certain issue — such as when he attacked a Gold Star military family — they sometimes presented him with polls demonstrating how the controversy was harming his candidacy. During the transition, when aides needed Trump to decide on a looming issue or appointment, they often limited him to a shortlist of two or three options and urged him to choose one. And now in the White House, when advisers hope to prevent Trump from making what they think is an unwise decision, they frequently try to delay his final verdict — hoping he may reconsider after having time to calm down.

Mother Jones - October 13, 2017

Trump’s Pick for White House Environmental Post Once Said Coal Helped End Slavery

In April, Politico described [Kathleen] Hartnett White’s impending nomination as “a major win for Steve Bannon,” Trump’s then-chief strategist who was battling more moderate forces in the White House at the time. The White House did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for an interview with Hartnett White. Hartnett White has argued that carbon dioxide levels are good for life on Earth, the shift to renewable energy amounts to “green folly” and “a false hope,” and that “carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant.” She lambasted the Obama administration’s environmental policies as a “deluded and illegitimate battle against climate change,” railed against the Paris climate agreement and attacked Pope Francis’ stance on global warming. But, in 2014, she made the particularly specious claim that fossil fuels are to thank for abolishing slavery. In a blog post criticizing an article in The Nation by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, Hartnett White made the connection between “the abolition of slavery and humanity’s first widespread use of energy from fossil fuels.”

Washington Post - October 16, 2017

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for five years, pleads guilty in connection with disappearance

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who vanished in Afghanistan and spent five years in brutal captivity until the United States recovered him in a controversial prisoner swap, pleaded guilty Monday to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in connection his disappearance. Bergdahl, 29, entered the plea at Fort Bragg, N.C., according to The Associated Press. The desertion charge could yield a sentence of up to five years, while the misbehavior before the enemy charge carries a penalty of up to life confinement. Bergdahl walked away from his patrol base just before midnight June 29, 2009, in what an Army investigation determined was an attempt to cause a crisis and draw attention to concerns that Bergdahl had about his leaders.

Houston Chronicle - October 16, 2017

Did President Obama know bill would strip DEA of power?

In his last year in office, President Barack Obama signed a bill that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most powerful tool for combating drug companies suspected of spilling prescription pain pills outside the legal distribution chain. But did the president know the import of what he was signing? In the spring of 2016, a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation's major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and "60 Minutes." The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

Houston Chronicle - October 15, 2017

Trump may have bolstered legal position of protesting NFL players

The controversy over football players kneeling in protest during the national anthem could have simply remained a labor dispute within the NFL. But then President Donald Trump tweeted that tax breaks should be revoked for a league that disrespects "our Anthem, Flag and Country." Those words threatening government action to financially penalize the league injected a new dimension into a roiling debate over race, police brutality and free speech that has gripped America's most successful sports business for more than a year. The National Football League is expected to decide this week whether to force players to stand for the national anthem. Legal experts say that football players, as employees of a private corporation, do not have First Amendment protections against the NFL and would not ordinarily be able to challenge that decision on free speech grounds.

San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2017

Body cameras, now gun cameras? Some police trying them out

A small number of police departments are showing interest in a new type of video camera that can be mounted directly on officers' guns, saying it may offer a better view of officer-involved shootings than body cameras. Some law enforcement officials and civil rights groups are skeptical. Among the cons, they point out, is that gun cameras start recording only after weapons are removed from holsters and won't capture what led to officers drawing their guns, or other interactions with the public. They also say they should be used only as a complement to body cameras. Besides the better view, supporters say the pros include lower video storage costs because gun cameras record much less often than body cameras, and a feature in some models that instantly alerts dispatchers and nearby police via wifi and Bluetooth when officers draw their weapons and may need help.

San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2017

Ayala: Cornyn says he’s ‘pushing’ for Latino Smithsonian bill to get heard

Legislation authorizing the establishment of a Smithsonian Latino museum here has idled in many sessions since the idea was first considered in the 1990s. Each time, a new bill offers the same hopeful words. Each time, bipartisan sponsors in both houses of Congress fail to advance it. Their bills don’t get heard. They don’t get federal appropriations. The exercise has been a politically expedient way to pander to Latino constituencies. Other bills that birthed museums on the National Mall were better treated. though each faced a lack of expediency.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Lindenberger: After deaths in Orlando, GOP leaders' silence on homophobia at root of attack only deepens wounds

There is nothing special about the burden gays and lesbians carry in this world. A white man, with a good job, a couple of degrees, strong family ties and many friends? I've hit the lottery in terms of built-in, and mostly unearned, advantages in navigating the world as we know it. And yet Sunday's slaughter in Orlando has shaken me profoundly. It's not just because of the obvious sense of vulnerability that an attack so specifically aimed at people like oneself is bound to trigger. What's been unsettling has been the silence of so many of our leaders on the homophobia that helped make that attack what it was.

New York Times - October 12, 2017

What Would Happen if the U.S. Withdrew From Nafta

Under Nafta, the three countries pay nothing on most goods that cross the border. After the United States exits the pact, the tariffs, or taxes, that Canada and Mexico put on its goods would rise. For some goods, tariffs could go as high as 150 percent. That would cause prices to spike and cut into company profits. All three countries are members of the World Trade Organization, so tariffs could revert to those levels. Currently, they are 0 percent for most goods under Nafta. After Nafta, the W.T.O. rules would apply to trade between the United States and Mexico. Tariffs on agricultural exports to Mexico are particularly costly, including a 15 percent tariff on wheat, a 25 percent on beef and a 75 percent tariff on chicken and potatoes. But goods like soap, fireworks, handbags and many articles of clothing face tariffs of 15 to 20 percent. Mexican goods would, in turn, face an average United States tariff of 3.5 percent.

Associated Press - October 14, 2017

Pro-Trump states most affected by his health care decision

President Donald Trump's decision to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was benefiting roughly 6 million Americans helps fulfill a campaign promise, but it also risks harming some of the very people who helped him win the presidency. Nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won last November, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. The number underscores the political risk for Trump and his party, which could end up owning the blame for increased costs and chaos in the insurance marketplace.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

CNN - October 14, 2017

Government lawyers ask judge to reject CNN's efforts to make Comey memos public

Government lawyers have asked a judge to reject CNN's requests to make public the memos of former FBI Director James Comey in which he details his meetings with President Donald Trump. In a late Friday evening filing, the lawyers also have asked for permission to argue in secret why they say the disclosure could compromise the investigation into Russian election-meddling and potential obstruction of justice into that probe. Several news outlets and government watchdogs, including CNN, have requested the documents be released under the Freedom of Information Act. Comey testified in Congress that the documents detail Trump's request that he pledge personal loyalty and what he interpreted as a request to curtail an investigation into Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

San Antonio Express-News - October 15, 2017

Davidson, Webber: To Uber or not? Why car ownership may no longer be a good deal

Every day there’s more news about the inevitable arrival of autonomous vehicles. At the same time, more people are using ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, and the percentage of teens getting their driver’s license continues to decline. Given these technologies and social changes, it’s worth asking: Should Americans stop owning cars? We’ve conducted an analysis of the all-in cost of car ownership, and we found that mobility services such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps – which few people today would consider their main mode of transportation – will likely provide a compelling economic option for a significant portion of Americans. In fact, if the full cost of ownership is accounted for, we found that potentially one-quarter of the entire U.S. driving population might be better off using ride services versus owning a car.

Associated Press - October 15, 2017

Rex Tillerson: NKorea diplomacy continues until 1st 'bomb drops'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops." That statement comes despite President Donald Trump's tweets a couple of weeks ago that his chief envoy was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," a mocking nickname Trump has given the nuclear-armed nation's leader Kim Jong Un. "I think he does want to be clear with Kim Jong Un and that regime in North Korea that he has military preparations ready to go and he has those military options on the table. And we have spent substantial time actually perfecting those," Tillerson told CNN's "State of the Union."

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Washington Post - October 15, 2017

Trump campaign legal bills topped $1 million last quarter

President Trump’s reelection committee spent more than $1 million on legal bills last quarter as investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election pressed on through the summer, according to a disclosure filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission. The filing shows the committee’s “legal consulting” expenditures came to $1.1 million between July and September, including $802,185 paid to the law firm Jones Day, which has represented the campaign. Another $267,000 was paid to attorneys representing the president’s ­eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in the Russia investigations.

Politico - October 15, 2017

The Rule That Broke the Senate

This month, as congressional leaders ready their various budget and tax proposals for fiscal year 2018, Republican hopes hinge on the use of budget reconciliation—a way to expedite the lawmaking process for certain bills by immunizing them from the threat of filibuster and limiting the scope of amendments. In short, if the House and Senate can each pass the same budget resolution, it starts a process in which they can reconcile any differences between the two bills in a final proposal both chambers then vote on. At the moment, the House and Senate proposals for fiscal year 2018 are quite sweeping in scope. The House resolution calls for $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts, while the Senate bill would cut taxes by $1.5 trillion. If Congress can agree on a final budget resolution, House and Senate committees will have no choice but to write legislation meeting whatever “reconciliation directives” they are given by the budget resolution.

The Hill - October 15, 2017

Conservative army bolsters Trump on tax cuts

Conservative groups are going all out to help President Trump and congressional Republicans get a tax-reform bill across the finish line. Unlike with health care, outside right-leaning groups are united in their support of the GOP tax plan. They believe that unity will help reassure Republican lawmakers when they eventually cast votes on a bill. “Buy-in from free-market groups and conservative groups is extremely important,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks.

New York Times - October 13, 2017

Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems

State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

In victory lap with values voters, Trump boasts 'Guess what, we're saying Merry Christmas again'

President Donald Trump returned triumphant on Friday to a key gathering of social conservatives, boasting that he has stocked the courts to their liking, cut funding for abortions and made it safe again to invoke God in the public space. "We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," he said, adding, "Guess what, we're saying Merry Christmas again." Trump last spoke to the Values Voter Summit 13 months ago — two months before Election Day, at a time when he was still viewed as a long shot. Many prayed for his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

October 15, 2017

Lead Stories

The Atlantic - October 12, 2017

What Facebook Did to American Democracy

n the media world, as in so many other realms, there is a sharp discontinuity in the timeline: before the 2016 election, and after. Things we thought we understood—narratives, data, software, news events—have had to be reinterpreted in light of Donald Trump’s surprising win as well as the continuing questions about the role that misinformation and disinformation played in his election. Tech journalists covering Facebook had a duty to cover what was happening before, during, and after the election. Reporters tried to see past their often liberal political orientations and the unprecedented actions of Donald Trump to see how 2016 was playing out on the internet. Every component of the chaotic digital campaign has been reported on, here at The Atlantic, and elsewhere: Facebook’s enormous distribution power for political information, rapacious partisanship reinforced by distinct media information spheres, the increasing scourge of “viral” hoaxes and other kinds of misinformation that could propagate through those networks, and the Russian information ops agency.

The Hill - October 14, 2017

18 states sue over Trump-halted ObamaCare payments

A new multi-state lawsuit has been announced to stop President Trump from halting key ObamaCare payments to insurers. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., signed onto the lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in California, according to Sarah Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D). On Thursday night, Trump announced he would stop making the payments, which led to an outcry from critics saying he was sabotaging the health-care law. The complaint will seek a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction requiring the cost-sharing reduction payments be made.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Hearing halted on blocking Texas data for Trump election panel

A hearing over whether Texas can comply with a Trump administration request for state voter data, set for Monday in Austin, has been canceled by a state appeals court. State District Judge Tim Sulak had issued a temporary restraining order on Oct. 3 to block Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos from providing information on Texas voters — including full names, addresses and voting history — to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed, telling the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals that the judge lacked the authority to issue a ruling because Pablos had immunity from being sued. Paxton also asked the appeals court to halt Monday’s hearing.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - October 13, 2017

Leeson: How Millie the Milk Cow might just change politics in Texas

Brandon Darby is in overalls, sitting on his wooden front porch, pulling a natural blend American Spirit to light up. He’s anxious. “She wasn’t treated very nicely,” the Breitbart Texas chief says through an exhale of smoke, rubbing a scruffy bearded chin with his palm. “She’s hot and cold. Sweet and aggressive. I think she’s still upset from yesterday.” She is Millie the milk cow, the newest addition to Darby’s 10-acre ponderosa, which is co-inhabited by goats, chickens, ducks, dogs and plague of prairie dogs, a ways outside Lubbock. It’s time to feed Millie, but he’s in no a hurry to head to the corral. “I left her in the pen too long and it ticked her off. I looked like a Spanish bull fighter versus a milk cow.”

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

ICE plans new 1,000-bed facility in South Texas ‘detention alley’

As the Trump administration cracks down on illegal immigration, the federal government is making plans for a new privately run detention center along Interstate 35 in South Texas, adding 1,000 beds to what is already the world’s largest immigrant detention system. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this month asked private companies to submit preliminary proposals for a new facility housing adult male and female detainees between San Antonio and Laredo, where there are already seven detention centers. Although arrests of unauthorized immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have declined sharply since President Donald Trump’s election, arrests from interior enforcement efforts are on the rise.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Will regulators shrug off the Lockhart balloon crash that killed 16?

The first step toward change within the administration of commercial ballooning could come Tuesday, when the safety board holds its final hearing into the crash in Washington, D.C. Officials are expected to reveal the probable cause of the crash as well as make recommendations on how to make the balloon industry safer. State Rep. John Cyrier, whose district encompasses the crash site and who has pushed for public hearings, believes safety officials will recommend that the Federal Aviation Administration require balloon pilots who fly paying customers to obtain a medical certificate to ensure their physical fitness. Medical certificates require periodic evaluations from FAA-approved physicians, who can ground pilots if they are taking prohibited medications or suffer from a disqualifying condition such as bipolar disorder, certain types of diabetes or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Pilots must also report any drunken driving arrests and allow the FAA to check their driving records.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Texas among states most affected by lag in Hispanic education

As America’s Hispanic population has expanded, the group has had an increasingly larger role in the country’s workforce. Despite that trend, a new study shows Hispanics are having a more difficult time than other ethnicities in landing better-paying jobs, with the issue being driven by a gap in higher educational attainment. The issue has particular impact in states such as Texas, which has the country’s second-largest Hispanic population and is significantly affected by a high number of foreign-born Hispanics, according to the study. Titled “Latino Education and Economic Progress,” the report published this week by Georgetown University looks at the broader scope of the Hispanic educational journey, showing that, while Hispanics have made progress toward higher education success, notable gaps remain when compared with other ethnicities, leading to lower overall pay for Hispanic individuals.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Alamo Cenotaph rally turns against George P. Bush’s re-election bid

SAN ANTONO — A demonstration Saturday to “Save the Alamo Cenotaph” morphed into a rally to defeat Land Commissioner George P. Bush for re-election in 2018. “They kind of go hand-in-hand,” said Lee Spencer White, founder of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association. White called Saturday’s rally to challenge a master plan for redesigning the Alamo site, which includes restoring the 1836 battlefield that is now a public plaza owned by the city of San Antonio and moving the cenotaph honoring the “defenders” who died there to a different location. “The buck stops with him,” White said of Bush, who is overseeing the Alamo redevelopment project and, along with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, has the final say. “Obviously, he wants to move the cenotaph.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Local members of Congress react to Trump’s Iran policy change

Members of Congress from Texas reacted to President Donald Trump’s announcement Friday that he would not certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. The move reopens the door to Congress to reimpose sanctions against Iran. Here’s what they said: “President Trump has rightly determined that U.S. sanctions relief for Iran is not in the national security interests of America, nor is it appropriate or proportionate to the measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear weapons program. Iran has continued to carry out activities to advance their nuclear ambitions and destabilize the region through terror-finance operations. … Decertification is the right first step. Both the administration and Congress should consider following this measure with the re-imposition of sanctions. We should use every tool at our disposal: economic, diplomatic, and if necessary, military, to ensure that the Ayatollah never obtains a nuclear weapon.” – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

Texas Tribune - October 13, 2017

What does Trump's repeal of environmental rules mean for Texas?

Earlier this week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency will seek to repeal the Clean Power Plan — President Barack Obama’s signature effort to combat climate change. The announcement is the latest of the Trump administration's moves to unravel several nationwide and Texas-specific environmental regulations that would have required the state to slash industrial emissions that are linked to global warming, human illnesses and diminished visibility in Big Bend and other national parks.

Texas Tribune - October 14, 2017

For former state Rep. Dunnam, Baylor is family — and now a legal foe

WACO — On the wall outside Jim Dunnam’s office, there’s a green plaque commemorating one of his proudest achievements. In 2001, his alma mater, Baylor University, named him "Young Lawyer of the Year." The honor was bestowed when Dunnam was a major asset for the private Baptist school — not only as a talented attorney but also as rising star in the Texas House. Sixteen years later, he has become one of the school's biggest threats. Dunnam still has deep personal ties to his hometown university. He counts 26 Baylor degrees among members of his close family, and by his count 10 of the 11 lawyers who work in the firm that bears his family name went to law school at Baylor.

Texas Tribune - October 14, 2017

Federal judge: Abbott was wrong to remove mock Nativity scene

A federal judge ruled against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision two years ago to remove a mock Nativity display from the Texas Capitol that advocated the separation and church state. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled late Friday that Abbott "violated [the Freedom From Religion Foundation's] clearly established First Amendment right to be free from viewpoint discrimination in a limited public forum." It all started in late 2015 when the Freedom From Religion Foundation placed a "winter solstice" display in the Capitol basement.

Texas Tribune - October 13, 2017

State says Harvey's death toll has reached 88

Hurricane Harvey has directly or indirectly taken the lives of as least 88 Texans, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the Department of State Health Services. The majority of deaths – 62 – were caused by wind, rain and floods, which led to drownings or trees falling on people. Meanwhile, 26 deaths were caused by "unsafe or unhealthy conditions" related to the loss or disruption of services such as utilities, transportation and medical care. The state health agency found deaths caused by medical conditions, electrocution, traffic accidents, flood water-related infections, fires and burns.

San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2017

Washington policies drive rural hospitals in Texas out of business

Long-distance travel for medical care is becoming more of a factor for the 60 million Americans who live in rural areas as changes to federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act and other programs force smaller, local hospitals out of business. Since the ACA took effect in 2010, 82 hospitals have closed across the U.S. and others are on the brink of financial collapse, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina. Texas leads the country with 14 closures — leaving families like the Millers with lengthy drives for basic care. The people of Crockett, about halfway between Houston and Dallas, became the latest casualties when the Timberlands Hospital shuttered its doors there at the end of June due to financial difficulties.

San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2017

In redder-than-red Texas, the shade is troubling GOP voters

AUSTIN — At the five-top table in the corner at Russell’s Bakery, the conversation among the five women, all self-described “recovering Republicans,” veered from cinnamon rolls and traffic to Donald Trump and Dan Patrick. “I have two questions I’d like to know the answer to: Is there any way for a Democrat to win a state office next year, and what would it take for some Republicans to lose in this state?” Chrys Langer, a 47-year-old tech consultant and mother of three, asked. “Politics has taken a turn for the worse, in my opinion, in Austin with the bathroom bill and all kinds of other conservative-male nonsense and in the White House with — well, with Trump being Trump,” she said.

San Antonio Express-News - October 13, 2017

Feds: Ex-FourWinds CEO misused investor money for prostitutes, ‘controlled substances’

Federal prosecutors this week provided a further glimpse into the criminal fraud case involving state Sen. Carlos Uresti, including that the head of a now-defunct oil field services company allegedly spent investor money on prostitutes and “controlled substances.” FourWinds Logistics CEO Stan Bates “misused” the money to “further the scheme to defraud the investors,” prosecutors alleged in a court filing Thursday. The “controlled substances” weren’t named. FourWinds, which bought and sold sand used in hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas from shale rock, collapsed into bankruptcy in the summer of 2015 amid allegations by some investors that they were defrauded. Uresti, who recruited two company investors and served as FourWinds’ legal counsel for a brief time, Bates and consultant Gary Cain were charged in a 22-count indictment in May. They have each denied the charges. Trial is set to start Oct. 23.

San Antonio Express-News - October 14, 2017

Trial tests South Texas investigations into Mexico corruption

The trial here of a former Mexican official’s wife could be a test case for South Texas prosecutors who have been targeting foreign officials with criminal charges and asset seizures. Over the last five years, federal prosecutors in two Texas judicial districts have alleged in court filings that more than 20 officials, businesspeople and their family members from four Mexican states laundered money embezzled from public funds through U.S. banking transactions and real estate transactions. The U.S. government has seized tens of millions of dollars in real estate and bank accounts and secured at least five convictions as part of the investigations, but until this month had not been forced to go to trial.

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

Harvey could thwart routine city bonds request

Fire engines bursting into flames at a scene. Roof leaks damaging walls at city health clinics. Bike trails eroding into the bayou. Those are among the reasons Mayor Sylvester Turner is asking voters to approve $495 million in public improvement bonds this fall. Early voting starts Oct. 23. As with the marquee item on the Nov. 7 ballot - Proposition A, the $1 billion bond needed to secure the mayor's landmark pension reform package - Turner acknowledged that his chief opponent for city propositions B through E is Hurricane Harvey.

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

AG slowly going through thousands of Harvey gouging complaints

Within weeks of Hurricane Harvey making landfall, Texans lodged more than 3,000 complaints against hundreds of gas stations, hotels and grocery stores, accusing them of selling such essentials as gasoline or water at exorbitant prices. Despite promises from Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott to hold price gougers accountable, few of those complaints have resulted in prosecution, or even an initial investigation, records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show. When a state of disaster is declared, Texas law prohibits businesses from charging highly inflated prices for necessities. The law is designed to protect consumers who may need to stock up on food, gas or water, or those who need a hotel room to escape a natural disaster.

Dallas Morning News - October 14, 2017

What Trump's plan to stop paying health care insurers means for Texans

After months of speculation and social media threats, President Donald Trump is ending controversial payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act. Critics of the cost-sharing reduction payments — which will total about $7 billion this year — call them an unconstitutional bailout for insurers. Others say they’re necessary to help lower out-of-pocket costs for people with low and moderate incomes. The move is one of two significant steps Trump took Thursday to undermine Obamacare and put pressure on lawmakers who have failed to reach consensus on the fate of the ACA.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Jerry Jones did the right thing, then dug a hole for himself and jumped in

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made an attempt to show solidarity with his employees after President Donald Trump bellowed about players kneeling during the national anthem. Jones stood on the field with his team, kneeling and locking arms before the playing of the national anthem, and many fans cheered his reach for a compromise. But he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Jones, perhaps taking a cue from Trump, came out and said, “we cannot ... in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag." If you could call a penalty on an owner, he’d get 15 yards and the loss of a down. Going that route immediately isolated Jones from his players, who are now anonymously speaking out against him. Sometimes the best approach to diplomacy is to listen rather than speak.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Texas prisoners have giving hearts for hurricane victims, too

Texans’ help for victims of Hurricane Harvey has shown few bounds, and not even prison walls can stop the flow of generosity. More than 6,600 inmates, on their own volition, donated $53,863 from their commissary funds to the American Red Cross. Most contributions are small, but some prisoners gave hundreds of dollars. If you know anything about prison life, you understand these people are giving up money that would buy everyday comforts like pens, paper and food, and that is a very big deal. And, hey, every little bit helps relief efforts. We applaud these men and women for showing that just because they’re locked up for bad deeds, it doesn’t mean they can’t turn a good one.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Texas charter schools impacted by Harvey will get state help, education commissioner says

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath says the state will help charter schools hit hard by Harvey’s wrath just as it is helping traditional school districts recover. Morath told lawmakers this week that it will be months before the state truly has an idea of how much it will cost to help schools recover, though estimates are that it will likely top $1 billion. On Friday at the Texas Charter Schools Association's’ annual conference, Morath said the Texas Education Agency has issued more than two dozen memos trying to help ease regulations where it can to help schools affected by the hurricane and flooding that followed. It has also set up a wish-list registry so schools can identify items they need and be matched with donors.

Dallas Morning News - October 14, 2017

Trump nominates ex-Texas regulator, a climate change skeptic, to head environmental council

President Donald Trump has nominated former Texas environmental lobbyist and regulator Kathleen Hartnett White, a climate change skeptic, to head the Council on Environmental Quality, a federal office that coordinates efforts between agencies. White is a fellow at the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, which receives funding from energy companies including Chevron and Exxon Mobil. White was also an economic adviser to Trump during his campaign and lobbied for the foundation until late last year. “Throughout her career Kathleen has served Texans as a strong leader, in particular by ensuring that Texans have the energy and natural resources they need to prosper,” Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a prepared statement. “We at TPPF congratulate Kathleen on this important opportunity and know she will serve our nation with the same thoughtfulness, determination and common sense that have been her hallmarks in Texas.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 13, 2017

‘We’re here now’: Skeptical of ‘indoctrination,’ conservatives dig in at TCU

Matt VanHyfte, president of the TCU College Republicans Club, went over the day’s order of business at a recent chapter meeting — an upcoming voter drive, a chance to campaign for Gov. Greg Abbott, the annual state convention at SMU — and then opened up the floor. “Has anything pissed you off in the last two weeks?” VanHyfte asked the crowd of about 30 students in a conference room in the TCU student union. The bi-weekly meeting became an opportunity to vent: About the campus rally protesting President Donald Trump’s decision on DACA earlier in the month. About a student’s snarky comment about a 9/11 memorial. About a professor not allowing Fox News as a credible source for a research paper.

Texas Observer - October 12, 2017

Hooks: The Problem with Facts

In September, a couple of Clinton campaign vets launched a new media venture, Verrit, which bills itself as “media for the 65.8 million,” the number of Clinton voters last year. Verrit produces Verrits, little picture memes with a statistic or quote on them, tailored to help liberals win arguments on social media. Each Verrit carries a seven-digit code that users can key into the Verrit search engine to authenticate that the Verrit is real and fact-checked. If the code doesn’t produce a result on the website, well, you’ve got yourself a fraudulent Verrit. The goal is to pump the internet full of “verified” memes, to combat the flood of “fake news.” Verrit is the most sublimely useless website in the history of the internet, in large part because of the misunderstanding that false information spreads because real information is somehow in short supply. But it also lays bare the peculiar emphasis that liberals place on being correct above other values. It’s an understandable reaction in an era in which the president is a pathological liar and people are subjected to a perpetual avalanche of garbage information.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 14, 2017

After Hurricane Harvey, Port Aransas faces long road to recovery

When the din of power saws and hammering had stopped, quiet filled the streets of Port Aransas on a recent warm Friday afternoon. Just blocks from the wrecked shops, restaurants and vacation rentals, the beach, cleared of debris, was empty. Seven weeks after the eye of Hurricane Harvey passed just north of this idyllic beach town of 4,000 residents — whose eccentric and laid-back vibe has made it a favorite vacation spot for Central Texans — there is little, other than the beach itself, to draw visitors. Most businesses are still shuttered, and the hotels that are open are mostly filled with local residents whose homes are uninhabitable.

Houston Chronicle - October 14, 2017

Lake Conroe dam's releases cause flood of lawsuits

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, officials at the Lake Conroe dam began unprecedented releases into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, sending an amount of water rushing downstream that approached the average volume pouring over Niagara Falls. Now hundreds of property owners down river are in court, demanding the San Jacinto River Authority, the overseers of the dam, be held accountable for releasing about 106 billion gallons of water into their communities and flooding thousands of homes in Montgomery and northern Harris County. Among them are Deryl Thompson and her husband, Jack D. Perkins. Three days after the storm made landfall, they thought they had been spared, as barely a trickle of water covered their front yard. But on Monday, Aug. 28, water suddenly came rushing into their property "like a tsunami," slamming their three-acre plot in rural Montgomery County with 6 feet of water in 45 minutes.

City Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 13, 2017

Kennedy: Whataburger worker learned lesson about serving those who serve us

Sometimes, the hard feelings over injustice in America are as far away as a pro football game on TV. Sometimes, they’re as close as the burger stand down the street. Police in Denison, near the Oklahoma border, say a Whataburger worker declined to take their order Saturday. Officers said she told them she hated police, and that officers had beaten and arrested her boyfriend.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

DMN: A L.E.E by any other name is still a Lee

San Antonio's North East Independent School District figured it could skirt the controversy about removing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's name from a high school with a disingenuous vote to "rename" it L.E.E. High School. That’s an acronym for Legacy of Educational Excellence High School. Gee, what could go wrong with that? The decision is being being mocked all over the Internet and one school district trustee rightly called it “trying to put lipstick on a pig.” Board President Shannon Grona had argued that the new name retains the school's history and is cheaper than renaming and rebranding the school completely.

Austin American-Statesman - October 14, 2017

UT students, supporters protest for Rodney Reed’s release

University of Texas students and members of a group campaigning for the release of a Bastrop man on death row met Saturday afternoon to protest outside the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals building. Twenty people dressed in black and held signs spelling “Justice for Rodney Reed.” The protest follows a four-day hearing this week to determine whether Reed, who was convicted of murdering Stacey Stites in 1996, deserves another trial after a friend of her fiancé gave an interview that conflicts with a known timeline surrounding her death.

National Stories

Associated Press - October 13, 2017

Immigrant teen’s advocates: U.S. pushing anti-abortion agenda

HOUSTON — Shortly after taking over the U.S. government office that oversees facilities for unaccompanied immigrant children, Scott Lloyd told a subordinate what to do with a teenager who wanted an abortion. Facilities under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “should not be supporting abortion services pre or post-release,” but rather “life-affirming options counseling,” Lloyd wrote in an email. And the person seeking an abortion “should not be meeting with an attorney regarding her termination” or seeking a waiver exempting her from a state requirement that minors to get a parent’s consent, he wrote in another. The apparent new policy is being put to the test, as lawyers have gone to court to try to force the government to allow a 17-year-old Central American being held at a Texas facility to get an abortion. They accuse the Trump administration of trying to stop any immigrant teens in government custody from terminating a pregnancy.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

Dallas Morning News - October 14, 2017

Allies have no qualms about Trump, NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison says

After nine weeks on the job as NATO ambassador, former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison insisted that European allies have no qualms about President Donald Trump’s leadership. “You might think people say, ‘What’s that about?’ but they don’t, they really don’t,” she said Thursday night during a speaker series hosted by The Washington Post. And she dismissed talk of a rocky relationship between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “He and the president are working very well on the foreign policy issues,” she said. “There is no space between anyone in our administration — the leadership’s national security team, myself and Congress — about our support for NATO.”

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Trump: Iran is violating the nuclear deal, and U.S. will pull out if fixes aren't made

President Donald Trump on Friday angrily accused Iran of violating the spirit of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, blaming it for a litany of malign behavior and hitting its main military wing with anti-terrorism sanctions. But Trump, breaking with a campaign pledge to rip up the agreement, said he was not yet ready to pull the U.S. out or re-impose nuclear sanctions. Instead, he kicked the issue to Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord, telling lawmakers to toughen the law that governs U.S. participation and to fix a series of deficiencies in the agreement. Those include the expiration of several key restrictions under "sunset provisions" that begin to kick in in 2025, he said.

Daily Caller - October 12, 2017

Rand Paul Says Trump’s Obamacare Order ‘Has The Potential To Be Amazing’

President Donald Trump’s executive order to allow individuals and associations to purchase health insurance across state lines has “the potential to be amazing,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday. Paul appeared on “The Sean Hannity Show” where he sold the plan, which he has been working on with the Trump administration for a matter of months, as “legalizing choice.” The senator said that the proposal would likely provide millions of people currently without insurance under Obamacare the opportunity to obtain “low-cost options.” The Kentucky senator believes that the order will make the health insurance business model work for consumers, instead of how it now operates, with insurance providers dictating the marketplace. “Big insurance is going to have to come on bended knee to the consumers,” Paul told Hannity.

New York Times - October 13, 2017

NYT: Some Urgent Questions About Turkey

Turkey has been a vital ally of the United States since World War II. It fields NATO’s second-largest army, after America’s, and anchors the alliance’s eastern flank. It hosts military bases that are central to American operations in the Middle East, including Incirlik, where some 50 tactical nuclear weapons are stationed, and serves as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West. After Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office in 2003 and began reforms, Turkey seemed on course to becoming a model Muslim democracy. In recent years, however, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has deteriorated dramatically. Mr. Erdogan has violated basic civil liberties and other democratic norms, is buying a Russian air defense system and is now holding Americans hostage. Given Mr. Erdogan’s anti-American hostility as well as mounting security concerns, the Trump administration should give serious consideration to removing the United States nuclear weapons in Turkey.

New York Times - October 13, 2017

Suderman: The G.O.P. Is a Mess. It’s Not All Trump’s Fault.

If the modern Republican Party can be said to stand for anything, it is tax relief. Yet as the Republican effort to write and pass tax legislation develops, it looks increasingly possible — and perhaps even likely — that it, like the health care overhaul attempt that preceded it, will end in failure and disappointment. When the year began, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, cited health care and taxes as his top legislative priorities, predicting that both would be completed by August. Yet after nine months of party control of Congress and the White House, the Republicans have accomplished essentially nothing. They have become a party without a consensus. It would be easy to simply blame the president for the party’s disarray. Donald Trump’s aversion to policy detail, his chaotic management style and his combustible personality have all contributed to the party’s failures this year. Yet it would also be a mistake to pin the party’s problems on Mr. Trump alone.

The Hill - October 12, 2017

Trump to force GOP reckoning on Iran

Republicans in Congress will face a wrenching choice if President Trump follows through on decertifying the Iran nuclear deal. Decertification would unlock a fast-track procedure for Congress to reimpose sanctions, leaving Republicans with two unappealing options. Snap back the sanctions, and Iran likely walks, killing an agreement that top administration officials say is in the national interest. Do nothing, and the deal likely stands, preserving a pact that Republicans have lambasted for years.

Politico - October 14, 2017

Why evangelicals love Trump

After bowing his head during a blessing before dinner with evangelical leaders in the Blue Room last month, President Donald Trump cracked a joke. "I'm the only person on Fifth Avenue that would have a prayer like that," the president said, according to two attendees, seeming to separate himself from much of Manhattan's swanky Upper East Side. One evangelical leader present offered that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose palatial cathedral and residence is blocks from Trump Tower, may also suggest a blessing before dining. Trump agreed before commenting on the cardinal's lavish digs.

Washington Post - October 15, 2017

Trump governs by disruption — and overloads all the circuits

Nine months into his first term, President Trump is perfecting a style of leadership commensurate with his campaign promise to disrupt business as usual in Washington. Call it governing by cattle prod. It is a tactic born of frustration and dissatisfaction. Its impact has been to overload the circuits of government — from Capitol Hill to the White House to the Pentagon to the State Department and beyond. In the face of his own unhappiness, the president is trying to raise the pain level wherever he can. The permanent campaign has long been a staple of politics in this country, the idea that running for office never stops and that decisions are shaped by what will help one candidate or another, one party or another, win the next election.

New York Times - October 14, 2017

Kristof: Why I Went to North Korea

Getting a visa to North Korea is always tough, and my latest attempt involved long and delicate negotiations with North Korean diplomats — and with my wife. (That’s not a complaint: If she were eager for me to go to North Korea, I’d be worried.) Four of us from The Times obtained visas (stay tuned for a video we’re making from the trip), and then quickly received U.S. State Department approval, along with special U.S. passports valid for travel to North Korea. The only way into North Korea is on daily flights from Beijing on creaky Russian planes. The in-flight entertainment is a video of a North Korean military orchestra playing classical music, interspersed with scenes of missiles being launched.

New York Times - October 13, 2017

Douthat: The ’70s and Us

“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” Harvey Weinstein wrote in his awful pseudo-apology, just before the fake Jay-Z quote and the promise to go to war with the N.R.A. “That was the culture then.” Everyone has made sport of this line, but give the devil his due: In certain ways sexual predation actually was the culture in the years when Weinstein came of age, in the entertainment industry and the wider society it influenced and mirrored. There is a liberal tendency to regard sexual exploitation as a patriarchal constant that feminism has mitigated, and a conservative tendency to regard it as a problem that’s gotten steadily worse since the sexual revolution. But a corrective to both assumptions (my own declinist ones included) is worth noting.

October 13, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - October 13, 2017

The Daily 202: Throwing a bomb into the insurance markets, Trump now owns the broken health-care system

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump took two giant steps Thursday to disembowel the Affordable Care Act. The administration announced late last night that he will immediately halt cost-sharing reductions. These $7 billion in annual subsidies to health insurers allow around 7 million low-income Americans to afford coverage. Earlier in the day, the president signed a far-reaching executive order that makes it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy alternative types of health insurance with lower prices, fewer benefits and weaker government protections. This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

House passes $36.5B disaster relief bill that Greg Abbott blasted for lack of Harvey aid

The House easily passed a $36.5 billion emergency disaster relief bill on Thursday, but not before a flare-up between Gov. Greg Abbott and members of the Texas delegation that prompted House Speaker Paul Ryan to intervene. Six Texas Republicans voted against the measure, arguing it will add to the debt and fails to include needed changes to a beleaguered federal flood insurance program. On Wednesday, Abbott popped off at Texas lawmakers, accusing them of lacking a "stiff spine" in negotiations over the latest round of relief funding, which omitted his recent $18.7 billion request for Hurricane Harvey-specific aid.

Washington Post - October 12, 2017

Trump to end key ACA subsidies, a move that will threaten the law’s marketplaces

President Trump is throwing a bomb into the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act, choosing to end critical payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. The decision follows an executive order on Thursday to allow alternative health plans that skirt the law’s requirements. The White House confirmed late Thursday that it would halt federal payments for cost-sharing reductions, although a statement did not specify when. According to two people briefed on the decision, the cutoff will be as of November. The subsidies total about $7 billion this year.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 13, 2017

Kennedy: This well-connected Texas Republican might challenge Ted Cruz — ‘to get things done’

EULESS The strongest challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2018 Texas re-election campaign might come from a Christian TV executive with a Republican legacy that goes back to President Ronald Reagan. Bruce Jacobson, a vice president and executive producer for televangelist James Robison’s daily show “Life Today,” said Thursday he is “prayerfully considering” running in the March 6 primary because some lawmakers “are so wrapped up in their own political agenda they’ve lost track of who they were sent to serve.” Cruz has spent 287 days — one-sixth of his term — running for president.

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

Straus calls scuttling of bathroom bill a ‘turning point’ for Texas

Declaring that the scuttling of the bathroom bill this year “can be and needs to be a turning point” in how Texas presents itself to the world, House Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday named a special committee to study and highlight what the state should do to draw jobs, investment and workers. “We can continue to focus on issues like bathrooms that divide Texans and hurt the recruitment of employers and top talent, or we can focus on issues that actually support growth and respond to the demands of the local economy,” Straus told a Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Hilton Austin Hotel downtown.

San Antonio Express-News - October 12, 2017

Congressman seeks probe of Facebook ‘embedding’ in San Antonio office of Trump campaign

In the widening congressional investigation into Russian meddling in American elections, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said he believes the House Intelligence Committee should interview Facebook employees embedded last year in the San Antonio-based digital operation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “There are a lot of unanswered questions. Who paid the salaries of these workers during the campaign?” asked Castro, D-San Antonio, who sits on the Intelligence Committee. He was referring to a CBS “60 Minutes” interview Sunday with Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign digital director, in which Parscale said employees of Facebook, Google and Twitter worked alongside campaign workers in San Antonio.

San Antonio Express-News - October 12, 2017

Uresti asks court to exclude other investigations, comments to press from criminal trial

A flurry of court motions was filed this week in Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud case as lawyers jockey for an edge before the trial starts later this month. Uresti is fighting to keep out certain information from the trial, including mention of other alleged crimes, a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and statements he made to the press regarding the collapse of FourWinds Logistics. Uresti recruited investors and acted as a lawyer for the San Antonio oil field service company, which went bankrupt in 2015. Some investors say they were defrauded, triggering an FBI investigation that led to a 22-count indictment against Uresti, former CEO Stan Bates and consultant Gary Cain. The defendants have each denied the charges. The trial is set to start Oct. 23.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Why a major Texas city isn't interested in Amazon's prized HQ2

San Antonio and Bexar County officials are bowing out of the competition for Amazon's proposed $5 billion second headquarters, reversing course from their initial plans to put together a competitive bid, officials said. "Blindly giving away the farm isn't our style," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote in a joint letter sent Wednesday to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The Seattle e-commerce giant invited cities last month to bid on the location of its second headquarters, HQ2, promising 50,000 new jobs that pay an average of more than $100,000 a year. The solicitation set off a feeding frenzy among cities across the U.S. as economic development directors scrambled to impress Bezos with unique perks and tax incentives.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

Punja: How a 20-year visa backlog sent our daughter back to India

My wife and I came to the United States nearly 20 years ago from India with our daughter, Himani — legally — in hopes of a better life and an aspiration to succeed and contribute positively to American society. Unfortunately, due to immigration laws, she was unable to stay in the United States due to massive backlogs. This is a problem that affects thousands of immigrant children. She has lived in Williamson County following all the legal processes — but last year she aged out of the system, when she had turned 21 while we were still waiting for her permanent status.

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

Trump health order gets mixed Texas review; business group studying it

A top business group in Texas greeted President Donald Trump’s executive order aimed at reshaping U.S. health care policy with a lukewarm statement on Thursday, while local health care advocates raised concerns that the attacks on the Affordable Care Act would dissuade people from signing up for medical insurance for 2018. Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business, said his group was still studying the president’s order. But Wallace noted in written comments that association health plans — which are loosely regulated and would be expanded by Trump’s action — have prompted “a history of concern” because of their potential negative impact on the broad health insurance market, “especially in terms of access and affordability.”

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

Struggling after Harvey, Texas schools plead for relief from state

Officials from more than a dozen school districts devastated by Hurricane Harvey pleaded with state lawmakers on Thursday for some relief as the districts slowly recover. Among the most common requests made to the Texas House Public Education Committee was for more money in anticipation of tax revenue loss; more money to help educate an increasing number of children without permanent homes; and more pressure on the federal government to remove barriers to obtaining federal disaster money and to provide continued funding for free lunches for all students.

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

CIA’s Pompeo calls out WikiLeaks at UT; Assange responds via Twitter

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, speaking at the University of Texas Thursday, called WikiLeaks a hostile non-state intelligence agency bent on the destruction of the United States, and also identified Hezbollah as another “perfect example” of a non-state threat that has to be defeated. As Pompeo was answering questions at the 2017 Texas National Security Forum at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center Ballroom, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, responded to an American-Statesman tweet reporting Pompeo’s comment, with his own tweet mocking Pompeo’s likening his organization to the Shiite militant group and political party based in Lebanon. n“Trump CIA head Pompeo says that publishing details of CIA incompetence and illegality is the same as having 20k troops and 150k missiles pointed at Israel. Yes, our staff are just that good. Go team!” Assange tweeted.

Texas Tribune - October 13, 2017

For former state Rep. Dunnam, Baylor is family — and now a legal foe

On the wall outside Jim Dunnam’s office, there’s a green plaque commemorating one of his proudest achievements. In 2001, his alma mater, Baylor University, named him "Young Lawyer of the Year." The honor was bestowed when Dunnam was a major asset for the private Baptist school — not only as a talented attorney but also as rising star in the Texas House. Sixteen years later, he has become one of the school's biggest threats. Dunnam still has deep personal ties to his hometown university. He counts 26 Baylor degrees among members of his close family, and by his count 10 of the 11 lawyers who work in the firm that bears his family name went to law school at Baylor.

Texas Tribune - October 12, 2017

Texas executes Robert Pruett, who insisted on innocence in prison guard's murder

Robert Pruett was executed in Huntsville Thursday night, completing the death sentence he received more than 15 years ago in the 1999 murder of prison guard Daniel Nagle. Nagle was 37 when he was repeatedly stabbed with a makeshift knife in a Beeville prison. His body was found in a pool of blood next to a torn-up disciplinary report he had written against Pruett. Pruett, 20 at the time, had already been in prison for years, convicted as an accomplice and sentenced to 99 years in a murder his father committed when he was 15.

Texas Tribune - October 13, 2017

Ramsey: It was a "taking," but who got taken?

Thousands of homes that flooded after Hurricane Harvey were built in two huge dry reservoirs — places built to fill up with water during extraordinarily heavy rains to protect downstream areas including much of metropolitan Houston. They were in a spot that had not flooded before, but the maps and the dams and the watershed all point to the inescapable fact that enough water — and Harvey brought enough — would fill the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. It’s all spelled out in an astonishing story from Neena Satija, Kiah Collier and Al Shaw for The Texas Tribune, Reveal and ProPublica.

San Antonio Express-News - October 13, 2017

CIA director talks about North Korea, security issues at UT campus

CIA Director Michael Pompeo said Thursday the U.S. government is aware of Russian attempts to affect the 2016 presidential election and is working to counter them.“Make no mistake, the United States government understands Russian efforts to undermine U.S. democracy,” Pompeo said during an hourlong forum at the University of Texas at Austin. He was responding to a question about the interference asked by a member of the crowd, made up by students, professors and journalists. In front of a packed room, Pompeo spoke and fielded questions for more than an hour on a wide range of topics, including Iran, North Korea and the media. He was the keynote speaker at the Texas National Security Forum.

San Antonio Express-News - October 12, 2017

Harvey impact underscores Texas Angler Recognition program’s importance

If Ron Smith or anyone else harbored doubts of the value many participants in Texas’ Angler Recognition program place in the state-run project recognizing and recording outstanding catches, those doubts were washed away in the wake of the unprecedented damage triggered by Hurricane Harvey. It wasn’t that Smith, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department fisheries biologist who manages the program, didn’t already know how popular it is with the state’s two-million-plus recreational anglers. He averages certifying and mailing out 100 or so certificates a month — 1,200 or so a year — to anglers who have set a fishing-related benchmark in one of the 44 categories of recreational fishing awards and records maintained by the state fisheries agency.

San Antonio Express-News - October 12, 2017

Texas General Land Office holds more than 35.5 million documents and 45,000 maps dating back to 1561

Whether it's records on mission secularization or tracts awarded to veterans of the Texas Revolution, key documents on historic land use in San Antonio are stored in the Austin archives of the Texas General Land Office — the oldest state agency in Texas. The Land Office, created in 1837, maintains more than 35.5 million documents and 45,000 maps, dating to 1561. Because it had the first fireproof building in Austin by the 1850s, it is home to many rare documents tracing the history of Texas' public lands. The agency’s Spanish collection includes a 17-page 1720 document on the founding of Mission San José, including a letter pleading a case for the mission and a decree ordering selection of a site.

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

Janda: CHIP worked. It's not too late for Congress to bring it back.

CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, is one of the best examples of a successful federal- and state-funded program that offers states flexibility and innovation, encourages personal responsibility and delivers significant medical and fiscal outcomes. Yet Congress has missed the deadline to reauthorize CHIP, putting nearly 400,000 Texas children and pregnant women — and 9 million Americans overall — at risk. CHIP has been highly successful in doing what it was created to do: cover children with access to care resulting in better health outcomes at lower costs. CHIP was born out of bipartisan legislation in 1997, when 25 percent of American children did not have health insurance; as of 2015, only 5 percent of American children remain uncovered.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Funding disagreements put Children's Health Insurance Program at risk

Children's health advocates are worried that lawmakers' different ideas about how to fund a federal insurance program will leave nearly 1 million Texas children without coverage. House and Senate committees each approved bills last week to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired Sept. 30, for five years. Most states have leftover CHIP funds, but four expect to run out by December. Last week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission estimated that the state program would run out of funding in January instead of February, in part because of demands following Hurricane Harvey.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Watchdog: Your stories about property tax protests would be funny if they weren’t so costly

I'm not using names because, as one informant says, "Fear of retribution by taxing authorities is real." I respect that. Here goes. 'The lazy gal's protest' Sometimes, it's too easy. On a whim, S.D. says, she joined my protest movement. She submitted iPhone photos of her property online to her appraisal district. When she got an invite to her protest hearing, "I was too lazy and not committed enough to show up, and I just ignored it," she admits. "Today we received a certified letter from the county that our home's taxable value was reduced by more than $13,000. Unbelievable." She calls it "the lazy gal's protest." Compare that to others who work for weeks to build their case — and lose.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

In Harvey's wake, Texas rice farmers had to combat flooding — and the government

Hurricane Harvey’s winds ripped through John Gaulding’s rice farm near the southeast Texas hamlet of Hamshire. Rainwater inundated one field for two days, while flooding kept another wide swath submerged for almost a week. When Mother Nature backed down, a regulatory thicket was waiting. Vague guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration left the impression that Texas’ entire rice crop might be out of commission due to contamination concerns. That meant Gaulding and other rice farmers reeling from Harvey had their livelihood in the balance.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 12, 2017

Rapes increase in 2016 at several Texas universities, latest reports show

Reported on-campus rapes increased in 2016 at several Texas universities, including UNT, UT-Arlington and SMU, according to recently released data. Officials attributed the higher numbers to greater awareness and and more victims willing to come forward. At UNT, reported rapes rose from seven in 2015 to 13 in 2016. SMU saw an uptick from three to five; UT-Arlington rose from one to four; Texas A&M saw a rise from 13 to 30; and UT-Austin saw an increase from 10 to 16.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - October 12, 2017

Harman: Everything’s bigger in Texas, but 85-foot billboards?

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, and you hop in your car for a weekend escape to the H ill C ountry expecting to see natural landscapes and wildflowers. Instead you may encounter billboards nearly as tall as a 10-story building — and not just on Interstate highways, but along any federal road in Texas. Check out this link showing where they are: www.tourtexas.com/texas-maps/texas-road-map Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has proposed a rule change allowing existing billboards to double in height from 42.5 feet to 85 feet — and the outdoor advertising industry is flooding them with letters requesting unlimited height. Only an overwhelming public outcry will prevent this new reality.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

Bennett: 'I don?t matter in all of this,' North Texas woman tells of how Obamacare rollback will affect her future

This is really hard to write. I feel like I?ve been living on the edge of a cliff, looking down and looking down, trying to negotiate how I might get down once I?m pushed off. I have Type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune malfunction causing kind. Often referred to as juvenile diabetes, though many are diagnosed in young adulthood like me. It?s chronic, deadly, and there is no cure. Unlike the much more common Type 2 diabetes, my body lacks the crucial cells (beta cells) that sense and respond to the food you eat with insulin so the body can use it for energy. Seems like a pretty important function, huh? It is. Can?t live without it. It?s only with very advanced, complex treatments that insulin can be accurately administered well enough for someone like me to live, work, and maintain some quality of life. That?s where things get difficult.

Austin American-Statesman - October 13, 2017

Austin Answered: What were Stephen F. Austin’s views on slavery?

Cantrell, the author of “Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas,” said Austin’s views on slavery were split between personal views and economic reasons. “Stephen F. Austin held, what I would say, are sort of Jeffersonian views toward slavery,” Cantrell said. “Those Jeffersonian views were that slavery in the United States is a necessary evil.” Cantrell said Austin believed slavery was a bad moral example for the country and that it could be seen as a security threat. “He once said that he feared that the South and Texas would be ‘Santo Domingonized,’ which was a word he made up,” Cantrell said. “He was referring to the Haitian Revolution, where the black slaves of that country rose up and killed almost every white person on the island at the beginning of the 1800s.”

Christian Science Monitor - October 11, 2017

Is Harvey recovery changing the way Texas defines fiscal responsibility?

In a letter sent to the leaders of the US House and Senate appropriations committees last week, nearly all of the Texas delegation called for $18.7 billion more in federal funding for Harvey relief. More than half of those funds should be to help construct infrastructure to prevent and mitigate damage from future storms, the letter requested. And while those investments may seem less urgent than funds for immediate problems like debris removal, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told a state appropriations committee otherwise last week. “Now people are thinking of the question of: Should they rebuild where they’ve been, or should they go somewhere else? And if people don’t know if we’ll really be moving forward on mitigation projects that could take their home out of the floodplain, then we’re not giving them much hope,” he told the state House Committee on Appropriations at a hearing in Houston last week.

The Guardian - October 11, 2017

Trump’s pro-coal agenda is a blow for clean air efforts at Texas' Big Bend park

Big Bend national park is Texas at its most cinematic, with soaring, jagged forest peaks looming over vast desert lowlands, at once haughty and humble, prickly and pretty. It is also among the most remote places in the state. Even from Alpine, the town of 6,000 that is the main gateway to the park, it is more than an hour’s drive to one of the entrances. So far from anywhere, it might seem an unlikely location to be scarred by air pollution. Yet for decades its stunning vistas have been compromised by poor air quality that Texas, working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is supposed to address.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2017

School districts say they need millions to rebuild schools

It will cost Humble Independent School District up to $40 million to repair Kingwood High School after it was inundated with water from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen is confident the cost to fix the school will be less than building a new facility. The district is faced with millions of dollars in other Harvey-related costs. Just busing students from Kingwood to other schools will cost the district $1.8 million this year. Schools also lost millions in textbooks and instruments.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2017

A surprise for Bellaire homeowners: Damages from old storms count against them after Harvey

After Anna Kronzer's one-story, 1940s-era Bellaire home took on a foot of water during Hurricane Harvey, news from the city permitting office came as a shock: Work done years ago by the previous homeowner would put her over a federal threshold requiring her house to be raised to current standards. The Federal Emergency Management Agency requires that homes with substantial damage, in which repairs cost more than 50 percent of the structure's value, be brought into compliance with current building codes. That usually means elevating the house, which can cost $100,000 or more. In Bellaire, where more than a third of the city's 6,700 homes flooded, the rule comes with a twist: Damage assessments are cumulative, which means even if Harvey exacted only 20 percent damage, a homeowner could be forced to elevate if the house also had flood repairs in 2015 and 2016. People who can't afford it might be forced to tear down and sell, because standard flood insurance doesn't cover mitigation costs.

HuffPost - October 12, 2017

Carlson: Houston Will Get Hit With Another Harvey. Now’s The Time For It To Prepare.

As Houston begins the long rebuilding process after Hurricane Harvey, it has an opportunity to transform itself into a city ready and resilient in the face of climate change and the possibility of more extreme weather events. Known as the “oil and gas capital of the world,” this city has grappled for years with the challenge of adapting to global warming. While it’s difficult to know whether climate change is directly responsible for a particular hurricane, some scientists say it will make storms worse and more frequent, and their aftermaths more deadly. Protecting against this now could mitigate future catastrophes. The devastation that Harvey wreaked underscores the importance of urgent action.

Midland Reporter-Telegram - October 12, 2017

Eric Trump appears at MCRW luncheon

President Trump's son and daughter-in-law, Eric and Lara Trump, surprised attendees at the Midland County Republican Women luncheon on Wednesday. Eric Trump emphasized efforts, including by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, during the 2016 general election. "Your lieutenant governor is incredible," Trump said to those gathered at Midland Country Club. "He helped us tremendously [in] this state." The Trumps entered the luncheon during Patrick's scheduled speech to the group. Eric Trump highlighted low unemployment rates, military investment and a Supreme Court justice appointment since his father took office.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Hundreds still homeless in La Grange, a small Texas town ravaged by Hurricane Harvey

At Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the words Father Matthew Kinney keeps repeating to his congregation every Sunday are “Fe y esperanza.” Faith and hope. When the waters of the Colorado River crested and inundated parts of La Grange after Hurricane Harvey hit in late August, more than 370 of his parishioners — many of them Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited knowledge of English — had their homes damaged by the flooding. They make up a significant portion of the estimated 1,000 people left homeless after the storm deluged the city about 65 miles southeast of Austin, leaving hundreds of homes damaged and dozens of businesses destroyed.

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

'Luxury' loos await as jury service set to resume after Harvey

Two bright, white "luxury" restroom trailers are parked next to the Harris County Administration Building in downtown Houston. Shiny silver handrails line the metal steps up to the men's and women's facilities behind the building at 1001 Preston."These aren't your normal port-a-potties," District Clerk Chris Daniel said. "They are more like the rodeo port-a-potties where they're air-conditioned with full stalls. These are the luxury kind." The temporary amenities herald the return of jury service in Harris County, more than a month after Hurricane Harvey dumped five feet of water on the area, destroying the underground Jury Assembly Building and putting the 20-story criminal courthouse out of commission until next summer.

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

Houston-area libraries struggle to recover from Harvey

Librarians weren't focused on lost books.Or magazines. Or printed materials of any kind. Not even on the drenched furniture that floated away. The biggest loss for libraries deluged by Hurricane Harvey proved to be the community camaraderie they offered job seekers, lifelong learners, curious tots and new immigrants across all sectors of the Houston region. The buildings shut down during the multi-day storm that wrought heavy rain and flooding. And more than a month later, seven branches of the Houston Public Library remain closed and four damaged locations of the Harris County Public Library are shuttered until further notice.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - October 13, 2017

House GOP's tax-cut hopes ride on deciding who is middle class

House Republicans agree with President Donald Trump that they want to cut taxes for the middle class, but who fits that definition is where the consensus stops. For some GOP members of Congress, a middle income household tops out at $100,000 a year. For others, a family making $400,000 still deserves a break. Whatever definition they settle on will be central to determining whether the party's tax plan delivers on Trump's most basic promise: a historic middle-class tax cut.

Associated Press - October 12, 2017

Winds expected to drive next wave of deadly California fires

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Gusting winds and dry air forecast for Thursday could drive the next wave of devastating wildfires that are already well on their way to becoming the deadliest and most destructive in California history. Winds up to 45 mph (72 kph) were expected to pummel areas north of San Francisco where at least 23 people have died and at least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed. The conditions could erase modest gains made by firefighters. "It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better," state fire Chief Ken Pimlott said Wednesday. Entire cities had evacuated in anticipation of the next round of flames, their streets empty, the only motion coming from ashes falling like snowflakes.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

ProPublica - October 10, 2017

How the CIA Staged Sham Academic Conferences to Thwart Iran’s Nuclear Program

In perhaps its most audacious and elaborate incursion into academia, the CIA secretly spent millions of dollars staging scientific conferences around the world. Its purpose was to lure Iranian nuclear scientists out of their homeland and into an accessible setting where its intelligence officers could approach them individually and press them to defect. In other words, the agency sought to delay Iran’s development of nuclear weapons by exploiting academia’s internationalism, and pulling off a mass deception on the institutions that hosted the conferences and the professors who attended and spoke at them. The people attending the conference had no idea they were acting in a drama that simulated reality but was stage-managed from afar. Whether the national security mission justified this manipulation of the professoriate can be debated, but there’s little doubt that most academics would have balked at being dupes in a CIA scheme. More than any other academic venue, conferences lend themselves to espionage. Assisted by globalization, these social and intellectual rituals have become ubiquitous.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Rick Perry against free markets? One Texan says that's a 'pile of Bevo longhorn poo poo'

Enemy of the free market. That simple taunt provided House Democrats all the fodder they needed Thursday to put Energy Secretary Rick Perry on the defensive over his contentious push to create new regulations that would favor the long-beleaguered coal and nuclear industries. The former Texas governor, a Republican, has spent decades touting his free market credentials. And so Rep. Gene Green — a Houston Democrat who's known Perry for years — knew exactly what he was doing when he said the energy chief was "socializing now by this effort that you are trying to do" in the name of shoring up the nation's power grid.

Mother Jones - October 12, 2017

FEMA Will Be Helping Texas for Years. So Why Does Trump Have a Different Standard for Puerto Rico?

Nearly two months after Hurricane Harvey dropped more than four feet of rain in the southeast region of the state, the Federal Emergency Management Authority still has a heavy presence in Texas. The area suffered damage estimated to be up to $190 billion from catastrophic winds and flooding from the Category 5 storm, and since then electricity has been restored, clean up has progressed, and the federal government is working on finding housing for the displaced. “FEMA is going to be there for years,” FEMA administrator Brock Long said two days after the storm hit. Contrast this with the situation for the American citizens in Puerto Rico. On Thursday morning Donald Trump threatened to withdraw FEMA and military officials from the hurricane-ravaged island, citing its longstanding infrastructure and financial issues.

Associated Press - October 13, 2017

Storms surge and US retail sales surge; most in 2 ½ years

Americans increased their spending at retailers last month by the most in two and a half years, driven by strong auto sales as residents of hurricane-ravaged areas replaced destroyed cars. Retail sales rose 1.6 percent in September, after slipping 0.1 percent in August, the Commerce Department said Friday. Auto sales jumped 3.6 percent, the most since March 2015. Gas sales climbed 5.8 percent, the most in four and a half years, reflecting price spikes after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The storms damaged oil refineries and pushed up gas prices 13 percent last month.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Bloomberg - October 12, 2017

Trump Threatens Obamacare Chaos as He Cuts Off Insurer Subsidy

President Donald Trump’s administration took its most drastic step yet to roll back the Affordable Care Act on Thursday evening, cutting off a subsidy to insurers just hours after issuing an executive order designed to draw people away from the health law’s coverage markets. The moves -- which critics call deliberate attempts to sabotage the law -- come just weeks before Americans will be able to start signing up for coverage for 2018. They follow other steps the Trump administration has taken, such as slashing advertising and outreach budgets meant to get people to sign up, as well as planning outages of the website where people can enroll.

Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2017

How America can rebuild trust in business, one company at a time

A majority of people across the world are "distrusters" of the "mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs," according to the 2017 Trust Barometer published by public relations firm Edelman. The relative economic stagnation following the 2008 global financial crisis, combined with the rise in income inequality globally, have created a feeling that the "system is rigged," the report states. Edelman's report found that: "The trust collapse has moved beyond a simple class vs. mass problem to a systemic threat. More than three-quarters of respondents among both informed and general populations agree that the system is biased against regular people and favors the rich and powerful."

Washington Examiner - October 12, 2017

Unemployment claims fall to lowest level in 43 years, despite hurricanes

The total number of laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits fell to 1.89 million at the end of September, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, the lowest such mark in nearly 44 years. And new claims for unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 to 243,000 in the first full week of October, according to the agency, as the job market bounces back from hurricane damage even faster than forecasters expected. Low new jobless claims are a good sign. They indicate that layoffs are rare, and accordingly that job creation is strong.

Politico - October 13, 2017

Democrats demand border wall bill move through ‘regular order’

Democrats are demanding a GOP proposal to authorize a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico move through each committee with jurisdiction before the bill comes to the House floor for a vote. Top Democrats on six committees that have oversight over parts of the legislation are asking that their panels all get to consider the bill before it moves to the House floor, saying that’s the only way to ensure “regular order.” “We respectfully request that each committee mark up this legislation and be given an opportunity to thoroughly examine and discuss provisions within our purview,” they wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and chairmen of the six committees.

Washington Post - October 12, 2017

The Finance 202: McCain could give the same thumbs-down to a tax overhaul as he did to health care

It’s a specter that should stalk the nightmares of Republican leaders: a Senate chamber, packed on Christmas Eve, as lawmakers gather to decide the fate of a tax package that will shape the GOP’s political fortunes. The bill remains one vote shy, and then Sen. John McCain walks in, pauses before the desk, and delivers his second thumbs-down dagger of the year. For that reason, the Arizona Republican, who is fighting a public battle with brain cancer, will be among his party’s most closely watched as the year winds down and the tax debate gears up. Yet over his decades in public life, McCain has traced a zigzagging line on the subject, leaving little clear indication of how he’ll approach a potentially decisive vote. A look at the senator's record on taxes shows that three things seem most important to him: public debate, some help for the middle class, and not exploding the deficit.

Washington Examiner - October 12, 2017

Congress warned North Korean EMP attack would kill '90% of all Americans'

Congress was warned Thursday that North Korea is capable of attacking the U.S. today with a nuclear EMP bomb that could indefinitely shut down the electric power grid and kill 90 percent of "all Americans" within a year. At a House hearing, experts said that North Korea could easily employ the "doomsday scenario" to turn parts of the U.S. to ashes. In calling on the Pentagon and President Trump to move quickly to protect the grid, the experts testified that an explosion of a high-altitude nuclear bomb delivered by a missile or satellite "could be to shut down the U.S. electric power grid for an indefinite period, leading to the death within a year of up to 90 percent of all Americans."

Politico - October 12, 2017

Are Millennials Moving Right on Guns?

Are younger Americans more progressive? One would be hard pressed to disagree. The under-30 crowd has led a fight on transgender rights and new forms of racism. In the culture wars, conservatives have met defeat at the hands of much younger activists for gay marriage, drug legalization and Barack Obama—a politician whose rock-star nimbus was then, improbably, taken up by a senescent Vermonter and card-carrying socialist. According to surveys last year, 43 percent of 18-29-year-olds now hold a favorable view of socialism. These are the millennials. Alex P. Keaton they are not. But gun politics is where the easy caricature of America’s radicalized youth marching toward socialism ends. It remains one of the few arenas in which a younger generation’s views are not emphatically moving leftward in any obvious way. And for those who would expect or hope otherwise, the data can disappoint.

Politico - October 12, 2017

'Katrina brain': The invisible long-term toll of megastorms

NEW ORLEANS — Brandi Wagner thought she had survived Hurricane Katrina. She hung tough while the storm’s 170-mph winds pummeled her home, and powered through two months of sleeping in a sweltering camper outside the city with her boyfriend’s mother. It was later, after the storm waters had receded and Wagner went back to New Orleans to rebuild her home and her life that she fell apart. “I didn’t think it was the storm at first. I didn’t really know what was happening to me,” Wagner, now 48, recalls. “We could see the waterline on houses, and rooftop signs with ‘please help us,’ and that big X where dead bodies were found. I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. I was crying all the time, just really losing it.” Twelve years later, Wagner is disabled and unable to work because of the depression and anxiety she developed in the wake of the 2005 storm. She’s also in treatment for an opioid addiction that developed after she started popping prescription painkillers and drinking heavily to blunt the day-to-day reality of recovering from Katrina.

Houston Chronicle - October 12, 2017

Tomlinson: Brinkmanship with North Korea threatens economy

Americans may be focused on President Donald Trump's tweet war with his critics and NFL protesters, but don't be distracted by the serious threat to global economic stability presented by his confrontation with North Korea. U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers flew up and down both coasts of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, and the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group is conducting drills with the Japanese navy nearby. The British Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, is apparently drafting battle plans for a potential conflict. Meanwhile, South Korean and U.S. officials have been conveniently leaking reports of North Koreans hacking into South Korea's military computer network and attacking U.S. utilities to cause blackouts.

Texas Tribune - October 12, 2017

NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison vouches for fellow Texan Rex Tillerson in interview

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison vouched for her new boss, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in an interview Thursday night. “There is a lot going on that is good, that is positive,” Hutchison told Washington Post columnist David Ignatuis in an interview in the nation's capital. Hutchison is the lead diplomat to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance between the United States and European countries dating back to the post-World War II era. She is now based in Brussels.

Houston Chronicle - October 11, 2017

Cuellar: When renegotiating NAFTA, we must do no harm

Do no harm has been the basic tenet of supporters since the Trump administration announced its intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That means not hurting the relationships we have built with our neighbors who work with us on a daily basis to promote trade and border security and are the first to render aid in our times of need. It also means not hurting the vibrant and essential interconnected trade networks that have flourished in the past 23 years, creating growth in regional economies and helping communities across the country. Naturally, negotiations are points of conflict, but our approach should acknowledge decades of cooperation, as well as the success of free trade in improving all of our economies. Vitriolic rhetoric around negotiations, national security and immigration strain our close friendships and is disrespectful of our shared histories. It is more important than ever that we do no harm in style, as well as in substance.

Austin American-Statesman - October 12, 2017

Lewis: Let’s stop blaming mental illness for mass shootings

In the aftermath of the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, words like “demented,” “insane,” “sick” and “madman” peppered official responses, media coverage and public speculation. How else could we explain the tragedy in Las Vegas? But such loaded language obscures a simple fact: The majority of mass shooters do not have a diagnosed mental illness. More of us need to realize that it is wrong to automatically assume that mass shooting and mental illness go hand in hand. The umbrella category of mental illness is often invoked after a mass shooting, particularly when the perpetrator is white. Possible diagnoses are mulled over by the media, hinted at by those who knew the perpetrators, or simply assumed. The problem is that determining an actual diagnosis is far more complex and cannot be done casually from a television studio or living room sofa.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Appointments speak volumes about Trump's inability to lead and govern

The nasty public war between Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson underscores one of the biggest reasons for the problems besetting this administration: the president's poor personnel choices. From White House chief of staff to secretary of state, Trump has proved far less adept in hiring people than he was at firing them on his reality television show. The result: an array of top aides predictably ill-suited for their positions. It's another example of how Trump's background has contributed to the chaos within his administration. He ran his business as a one-man show in which only his word mattered, and he won the 2016 presidential election without developing the cadre of political and policy advisers who help most successful candidates transition from running to governing.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Trump signs executive order to boost lower-premium health insurance plans

Frustrated by health care failures in Congress, President Donald Trump directed his administration Thursday to rewrite some federal insurance rules as a beginning of renewed efforts to undermine "Obamacare," the program he's promised to kill. "With these actions, we are moving toward lower costs and more options in the health care market," Trump said before signing his directive in the Oval Office. Trump said he will continue to pressure Congress to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Some experts said the White House plan could undermine coverage on the ACA's insurance marketplaces, particularly for people with health problems. That would happen if healthy people flock to lower-cost plans with limited benefits.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Caruso: Donald Trump's latest attack on the media crosses a line; it deserves the push-back it's getting

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he said, "Don't tell me words don't matter." So, during the 2012 election, Republicans rightly criticized the president when he attempted to excuse statements made by Joe Biden saying, "Folks like to get obsessed with how something was phrased even if everybody personally understands that's not how it was meant." Obama was right, and Republicans were right. Words do matter. Yesterday, President Donald Trump's spittle-flecked criticism of the media took a new but ominous turn. Not content to prattle about "fake news," Trump suggested NBC should lose its "license" — and he crossed a line.

Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2017

Energy boss Rick Perry points to WWII-era Manhattan Project to defend $56K in noncommercial air travel

Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday defended $56,000 dollars in taxpayer money used to fund noncommercial air travel for him and his staff, in part by blaming the World War II-era Manhattan Project for building his agency's assets in far-flung locations. The former Texas governor, appearing before a House energy subcommittee, explained that the Energy Department is "kind of unique." He said that when legendary Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves created the atomic mission in the 1940s, "he wanted to go places that were pretty difficult to get to." So to get to places like Hanford, Wash., in a "timely fashion" these days, Perry said it could sometimes require noncommercial travel.

KXAN - October 11, 2017

Homeland Security will soon start tracking social media of immigrant applicants

Some immigration attorneys are worried a small change in how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) monitors social media for immigrants could soon have a big impact. “We’re not sure what it’s going to mean,” Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, an immigration attorney based in Austin, said. In September, DHS posted a notice on the Federal Register, where it states starting Oct. 18, the official record of an individual’s immigration history will be expanded to include a person’s “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results.” This would apply to people attempting to enter the country and those in the country applying for immigration status.