August 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Dallas court voids six-figure payment to Ken Paxton prosecutors

The prosecutors pursuing charges against Attorney General Ken Paxton haven't been paid in more than a year and a half — and they will continue to wait on a payday. On Monday, the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas voided a $205,000 invoice dating back to January 2016, saying state laws and local rules did not allow the three special prosecutors to be paid the $300-an-hour rate they were promised. It is unclear whether the prosecutors will appeal the ruling, and their attorney, David Feldman, did not return questions about whether they would step down from the case due to nonpayment.

Texas Tribune - August 22, 2017

Texas state workers fear fallout from changing math on pensions

Jerry Wald retired early after 21 years of state service and left behind the stresses of his supervisor role at the Department of Aging and Disability Services. But a decade after he stopped punching the clock, the 67-year-old has a different sort of anxiety: watching the buying power of his monthly state pension check shrink. “Every year I’m alive, I’m losing money,” said Wald, who lives in Houston. Though health care, food and most everything else keeps getting more expensive, the monthly pension checks for thousands of retired state workers haven’t increased since 2001.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

City right-of-way fees in past decade: $5.2 billion

In the past decade, Texas' 10 largest cities collected nearly $5.2 billion in fees for utilities and other services lines to use public right-of-way, a new study shows. That's billion with a "b." After a special legislative session where city regulations had a target on their back and questions swirled over whether local rules and taxes were too high, the conservative Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation tallied the revenues from municipal right-of-way fees statewide in the largest Lone Star urban areas. In 2017 alone, cities collected more than $543 million. That's up from $503 million in 2008, according to the study.

San Antonio Express News - August 21, 2017

Accusations continue to fly in wake of special session

The state’s top three officials huddled behind closed doors for well over an hour a week ago, just two days before a special legislative session was to end, trying to overcome a key difference and salvage property tax reform legislation. Would the percentage at which voters would get a say on proposed tax hikes be 4 percent, as Patrick and the Senate wanted? Or would it be 6 percent, as the House demanded? No deal was struck in Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, in a meeting that one attendee said seemed like negotiations “between two people who didn’t want a consensus” — political arch rivals Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus — but top House officials the following afternoon tried again in a meeting in the lieutenant governor’s office. Patrick offered 5 percent. The House said no.

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2017

Schnurman: Can CEOs be a moral compass for the polarized worlds in Austin and Washington?

President Donald Trump said he wasn’t putting anybody on a moral plane after the violence in Charlottesville, but corporate America sure is. Many top CEOs criticized Trump’s response and denounced the hate groups promoting racism. So many executives threatened to quit Trump’s business advisory panels that the president disbanded them. As The New York Times summed it up over the weekend: CEOs have found their moral voice. The Charlottesville tragedy was unique, but a Texas political fight over transgender rights had a strong parallel: When elected leaders failed to do the right thing about the so-called bathroom bill, business helped fill the moral vacuum.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Watchdog: Biggest scam in Texas when elected officials pretend to be anti-tax but actually raise your taxes

The Texas Legislature adjourned the other day without action on half-baked property tax bills that floated in the statehouse air but never got a chance to land. The bills would have given voters approval on big government spending increases, meaning a chance to stop higher taxes in far easier ways than currently available. Now we won't get that. Bottom line: When it comes to our property tax bills, we're on our own. No reform. No relief. No changes. All we've got left is an appraisal protest and, at this time of year, a chance to oppose government budget increases. That's why those boring quarter-page ads that appear every August are critical. If you're on your own, you need to know what they mean. I'll show you.

Austin American-Statesman - August 22, 2017

Williams: Rural hospitals are vanishing; keep Medicaid in Texas

First, there was hope for people in rural communities needing health care. As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was expanded in 31 states and the District of Columbia, offering new coverage to millions and renewed hope for rural hospitals struggling to remain financially viable — many serving a high percentage of Medicaid patients. But now, since Congress’ unsuccessful attempt at “repeal and replace” of the ACA, is business as usual good for the states, regions, local citizens? With steps designed to weaken the effect of the law underway, what’s certain is there is no solution for covering the growing number of counties where no exchange insurance is available for individuals.

Fox News - August 21, 2017

Judge orders IRS to reveal who took part in Tea Party targeting

A federal judge has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to release the names of specific employees involved in targeting Tea Party groups, after years of litigation over what conservatives have long called “chilling” behavior by one of the government’s “most feared” agencies. Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also said the IRS must provide information about which groups were targeted and why, along with a strategy to make sure such targeting doesn't happen again. The IRS is involved in multiple lawsuits with conservative groups related to the Tea Party targeting scandal; this particular case involves True the Vote.

Midland Reporter Telegram - August 18, 2017

Tom Craddick: Let the caucus pick a candidate for speaker

Count state Rep. Tom Craddick among those Republican House members who want to see the caucus pick a nominee for speaker and be united behind that person when the next Texas speaker is selected. Craddick was among the Republicans who met earlier this week to discuss procedures for electing a speaker in 2019, when the next legislative session will take place. There have been conservative members this session disgruntled by the performance of current Speaker Joe Straus. Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick haven’t seen eye to eye on certain legislative matters, including the so-called bathroom bill, school finance and a property tax bill. “There is more turmoil and animosity in the two bodies today than ever,” Craddick said.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

Texas leaders offer mixed responses to UT-Austin's late-night removal of Confederate statues

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized the University of Texas at Austin's decision to remove Confederate statues from its campus late Sunday night as sending a “poor message," while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said the decision was one for individual universities to make. UT-Austin announced around 11 p.m. Sunday night that multiple Confederate statues were in the process of being removed. The surprise decision came about a week after a white nationalist rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and left one person dead.

Texas Tribune - August 22, 2017

Colonias on the border struggle with decades-old water issues

Twenty-three years ago, Olivia Figueroa left her neighborhood in Chihuahua, Mexico, where she didn't have basic services, and immigrated to the U.S. She paid $40 to cross the Rio Grande, only to arrive to another community that also lacked services — often referred to as a colonia — in San Elizario, Texas. As in Mexico, the colonia had no electricity, no paved roads, no sewage and no drinking water. “And that’s when I said, ‘Where’s the American dream?’ ” Figueroa said in Spanish. “I didn’t think that here, in the United States, in the most powerful country in the world, there would be lack of services.”

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller criticizes Six Flags' removal of Confederate flag

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — the cowboy-hat wearing Republican known for wading deep into partisan and cultural divides — is furious with the Six Flags amusement park chain, calling its decision to take down the Confederate flag and four others that had flown over the park part of a “militant, anarchist movement sweeping our country, destroying and attempting to sanitize our nation’s history.” Miller took aim at the iconic amusement park in a lengthy statement he circulated Monday that also criticized nationwide efforts to remove larger monuments to the Confederacy in the wake of a deadly Nazi and white supremacist rally around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

Court halts execution of convicted child killer who claims intellectual disability

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday halted the execution of a convicted child murderer who claims he’s intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the state’s harshest punishment. Steven Long, 46, was set to die next Wednesday for the 2005 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in Dallas County. Courts had previously rejected his appeals claiming intellectual disability, but that was before the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated Texas’ methods for determining intellectual disability for death-sentenced people in March.

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2017

Corruption in state governments? Researchers turn to reporters for answers

What are the most corrupt state governments in the United States? It's a question that public interest groups and journalists grapple with regularly. In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization based in Washington, D.C., tried to measure "government integrity." Texas ranked 39th in the nationwide survey, with an F in legislative accountability, an F in executive accountability, an F in lobbying disclosure and a D-minus for its ethics enforcement agencies. The lone bright spot: An A in state budget processes.

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2017

Texas universities launch name changes, removals of artifacts linked to white supremacists

The University of Houston announced on Monday it will rename its Calhoun Lofts dormitory, joining other Texas colleges and universities in a nationwide recoil against statues and other monuments to slavery and white supremacy. The dorm - named after the nearby street that bears the moniker of former U.S. Vice President John Calhoun, who advocated for slavery and was an avowed white supremacist - will be called University Lofts, a spokesman said on Monday. "While the residence hall was not named in recognition of John C. Calhoun, in the wake of recent events - and out of sensitivity to our diverse student community - the university has decided to change the name to University Lofts," the university said in a statement. "The change will be made as soon as practical."

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2017

As lethal injection lawsuit continues, Texas replenishes execution drug supplies

Even with a lawsuit over lethal injection drugs winding its way through court, Texas has managed to replenish its supply. The last doses of the state's execution drugs, pentobarbital, were set to expire in January, just days before a scheduled execution. A new record indicates that the supply won't expire until July 2018, well past all scheduled executions. It's unclear whether the state purchased more of the drug or just established a new expiration date, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark declined to clarify.

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2017

Tomlinson: Mexico offers opportunity, if we don't mess up NAFTA

Mexico's energy markets offer tens of billions of dollars in opportunities for U.S. energy companies, thanks to a once-in-a-century privatization effort. But the best chance to take advantage will last only as long as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico's oil and natural gas production is down 40 percent from peak levels, forcing the country to import refined petroleum products and natural gas from the U.S., according to a new report from S&P Global Platts, an energy data analysis and consulting firm. Imports of U.S. petroleum products are up 125 percent compared with 2016, and U.S. natural gas imports make up 60 percent of Mexico's consumption this year, compared with just 22 percent in 2010.

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2017

Canaday: Maybe it's time for a legislative gap year

The 85th legislature just completed a tumultuous special session, tasked by Gov. Greg Abbott to tackle 20 subjects not addressed to his liking during the 2017 regular session. The special session was an engineered opportunity for a legislative bonus round, necessitated after critical sunset legislation affecting medical licensure did not pass in May. Media have reported that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick worked with a handful of legislators at the end of the regular session to stonewall or take hostage those bills in order to advance his pet priorities - like private school vouchers and state regulations on bathroom usage - and demand a special session when the ransom wasn't paid. Now we are witnessing a repeat performance, with Patrick and some others pressuring Gov. Abbott to call yet another special session on the taxpayers' dime so that legislators, needlessly and hopelessly, can debate the same ideological battles.

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2017

HC: Good move -- UT's relocation of statues is an action state elected leaders should follow.

A long running controversy came to a quiet culmination at the University of Texas at Austin Sunday night as workers removed three Confederate statues from their pedestals on the campus of our state's flagship university. The move was a surprise. Only a couple of dozen people watched. A few bystanders argued with each other, but the work attracted no organized protests, no fanfare, no violence. The statues were gone by dawn. It's about time. More than a century has passed since a former Confederate officer, Major George W. Littlefield, specified in his will that he wanted life-size likenesses of Confederate war leaders positioned around the campus.

San Antonio Express News - August 21, 2017

S.A. panel denies state’s bid to postpone redistricting ruling

A judicial panel has refused the state's request to stay its ruling that invalidated two of Texas' 36 Congressional districts. The federal panel found the state’s 2013 boundaries for congressional districts violated federal law because it intentionally discriminated against minorities by diluting their vote in District 35, held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin, and District 27, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday appealed last week’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, declined the judges’ offer to fix the violations during a special Legislative session, and asked the panel to stay the ruling.

San Antonio Express News - August 21, 2017

Texas slashes underperforming anti-abortion group's contract

An anti-abortion group awarded nearly $7 million to boost women's health and family planning after the state cut off Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers is falling short and will receive far less money as a result, Texas officials said Monday. The decision comes a year after Texas hired the Heidi Group to help strengthen small clinics that specialize in women's health like Planned Parenthood but don't offer abortions. In March, The Associated Press found the Heidi Group had little to show for its work and had not performed promised outreach.

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2017

Davis: Dan Patrick says UT Austin sends poor message by tearing down statues in the middle of the night

As the University of Texas community awoke Monday to learn of the overnight purge of four confederate statues, I spoke with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick about where he believes this drama leads. I shared with him my view there are principled reasons to oppose the statues, and principled reasons to maintain them, and that if a community or a university chooses to yank them, it should be after measured consideration. UT President Greg Fenves had assembled a task force in 2015 to consider the statues, but he didn't give notice of their decision. A surprise extraction of the type that unfolded in Austin is quite another matter.

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2017

Williams: A Confederate memorial isn't history if it isn't true

In 1971 I graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Midland. I was among the first students to attend grades 10 through 12, following lengthy school desegregation litigation. I was an honor student, a star on the track team, Mr. Valuable, and the elected student body vice president. Years later I joined first lady Laura Bush and Gen. Tommy Franks in the inaugural class of Distinguished Alumni. Attending a high school named after the Confederacy's most prominent army general did not significantly assault my young psyche. It did not negatively affect my life's journey. However, I would have greatly appreciated not going to a school whose name was an anathema to my heritage.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Amid debate over Confederate monuments, Texas A&M will not remove Sul Ross statue

Texas A&M University will not remove a statue of Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross, a former campus president, governor and Confederate general, school officials said Monday. "Anyone who knows the true history of Lawrence Sullivan Ross would never ask his statue to be removed," Chancellor John Sharp said in a statement. "It will not be removed." The announcement came just hours after University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves announced the removal of four statues there, saying Confederate monuments had "become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism."

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

60 unauthorized immigrants rescued from frigid trailer carrying produce in South Texas

Authorities rescued a group of 60 unauthorized immigrants who were in a frigid trailer with produce Saturday in South Texas. Upon a second inspection of the tractor trailer, agents in Falfurrias found people laying on and within pallets of broccoli lined with a thin sheet of ice, a news release said. The internal temperature was 49 degrees.
(U.S. Customs and Border Protection) The Guatemalan driver was arrested and is facing federal charges.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

Judge blocks Dawnna Dukes’ lawyers from exiting corruption case

Attorneys for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes must continue to represent her in her public corruption case after a judge denied their motion to withdraw on Monday afternoon. Dane Ball informed Judge Brad Urrutia that he and Shaun Clarke are unable to effectively communicate with Dukes, a Democratic state representative from Austin. He also indicated Dukes had not been paying them. Curiously, Dukes, who has already found a replacement lawyer, told the judge she opposed her attorneys leaving the case. A third attorney, Matthew Shrum, must also stay on.

Austin American-Statesman - August 22, 2017

AAS: Political stars aligned, Abbott, Patrick forced to take half a loaf

With Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a special session that featured 20 of his top priorities, it appeared that he and his self-described wingman – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – would steamroll over local control with bills aimed at overruling decisions of Austin, Round Rock, Westlake, Georgetown and cities and counties across Texas. After all, Republicans occupy the governor’s mansion, the president’s desk in the Senate and hold the gavel in the House. Though the governor won eight of his 20 priorities outright, scoring big in further restricting abortion and fending off school finance reform that delivers meaningful tax relief to homeowners (Abbott got a bill passed to study reforming the state’s multi-billion financing structure for public schools), he walked away with just one of nine measures he prioritized to pre-empt local governments and voters.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

Democratic race to challenge Will Hurd gets crowded

The majority-Hispanic 23rd Congressional District remains the ripest in the state for a Democratic pickup in 2018, and Democrat Pete Gallego appears likely to make another go at reclaiming it from Will Hurd, the Republican who defeated Gallego by narrow margins in 2014 and 2016. But first, Gallego, who won the seat in 2012, will have to get past at least three other Democratic candidates emboldened by Gallego’s inability to close the deal in the last two outings. “Sequels are bad, trilogies are worse, and this guy is no Rocky IV,” said Rick Treviño, a San Antonio high school teacher who was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and an unsuccessful candidate for City Council.

Weather Channel - August 21, 2017

Harvey Likely to Come Back to Life in Bay of Campeche Later This Week; Potential Threat to Mexico, South Texas

What was once Tropical Storm Harvey is now expected to have a second wind later this week in the Bay of Campeche and southwest Gulf of Mexico, bringing a threat of heavy rain and gusty winds to eastern Mexico and parts of south Texas. Hostile winds aloft shredded Harvey's circulation Saturday over the Caribbean Sea, and the National Hurricane Center issued its final advisory. ... By Wednesday, Harvey's remnants will move into the Bay of Campeche (southwest Gulf of Mexico) where conditions are likely to be more favorable for the system to regain its circulation and become a tropical depression or tropical storm again. The majority of forecast guidance at this time suggests a reborn Harvey could then track northwestward toward the coast of eastern Mexico or Deep South Texas by Friday.

Associated Press - August 21, 2017

DNA lab reduces testing for missing people amid funding woes

For years, law enforcement looking for a breakthrough in a cold case could count on sending samples of unknown bodies to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas. The lab is a world leader in mitochondrial DNA testing from decomposing and partial remains and provided testing for missing and unidentified people at no cost to investigators. But this year the National Institute of Justice decided not to offer millions of dollars in grants for DNA technology to identify missing people and instead reallocated that money to programs that help state and local governments audit and track backlogged rape kits. The U.S. agency also introduced new grants to help medical examiners and coroner's offices meet accreditation standards and recruit forensic pathologists.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

KFOX - August 18, 2017

Tighter border enforcement may push more human smuggling to El Paso

A local immigrant shelter director said tighter border security at other ports of entry, like those in South Texas, may push more smugglers towards El Paso. "We're increasing enforcement to basically push these people out and say it's your problem," Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia said. "The more you invest in enforcement, the riskier the operations will become." South Texas is the closest distance to Central America, where Garcia said many are fleeing from.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - August 17, 2017

El Paso Times: Paxton cherrypicks his constitutional battles for politics, not justice

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lacks credibility in his explanation of why he is asking the Trump administration to end an Obama-era program that protects many young undocumented immigrants from deportation. At issue is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which offers protection for people who came to the country illegally as children, are pursuing an education or served in the military, and have a clean criminal record. President Obama issued the executive order in 2012 after Congress blocked any attempts at immigration reform. About 800,000 productive and promising young people have received protection from deportation under DACA.

Wall St. Journal - August 21, 2017

WSJ: Texas Political Prosecution

Texas has a history of politicized prosecutions that attempt to destroy careers only to be thrown out of court. Think Tom DeLay and Rick Perry. The latest target is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and on inspection the evidence and legal process against him so far look equally dubious. Mr. Paxton was elected in 2014 on a wave of tea-party support after spending several years in the state legislature. As a lawmaker, Mr. Paxton ruffled the Republican establishment and challenged House Speaker Joe Straus. Mr. Paxton has also roiled Texas politics as AG, challenging the federal government on environmental and labor regulations and the state government on issues involving political speech. (We recently criticized his grandstanding threat to sue the Trump Administration to deport adult immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors.)

Waco Tribune-Herald - August 21, 2017

New Title IX lawsuit against Baylor alleges failures after implementation of new policies

The first day of classes in the 2017-2018 academic school year at Baylor University on Monday came with another Title IX lawsuit filed against the school. In the eighth such lawsuit filed against Baylor and the fifth active case, “Jane Doe 11” alleges she was assaulted by a fellow student in April 2017 and says she faced questions from university officials that tilted blame away from the perpetrator. Lawyers representing the plaintiff, Chad Dunn and Jim Dunnam, note their client’s allegations come after Baylor’s “media tour patting itself on the back for ‘complete’ and ‘full’ implementation” of 105 recommendations meant to improve the university’s response to sexual violence in the wake of a scandal that cost the president, head football coach, athletics director their jobs.

County Stories

Valley Morning Star - August 21, 2017

Cameron Co. issues storm alert for South Padre Island

ARLINGEN — Cameron County’s emergency manager late Monday afternoon issued a storm alert for South Padre Island residents, telling them to prepare for impact by the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey. Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Hushen advised residents on the Island to prepare for possible storm impacts ranging from heavy rain to rain and strong winds. Demoted but not vanquished, the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey continue to push toward the Yucatan Peninsula and a possible resurrection in the Bay of Campeche. Now referred to as Invest 09L, the trough of low pressure is producing thunderstorms and showers in the Caribbean and forecasters are watching closely to see how it interacts with the Yucatan Peninsula as it crosses land.

City Stories

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

El Paso City Council votes down city ID program

The El Paso City Council narrowly voted against creating a municipal identification card program amid concerns that the measure would lead to the border city being perceived as the kind of "sanctuary" jurisdiction that has been the target of President Donald Trump and Texas' Republican leaders. In a 5-4 vote, the council voted down funding the program, which immigrant rights groups and advocates for the poor have called for since 2014 as a way for those unable to obtain a driver's license or other state-issued identification sign up for bank accounts and access city services such as libraries. Applicants would have had to prove they reside in the city to obtain the card.

Waco Tribune-Herald - August 21, 2017

West explosion trial postponed as settlement talks continue

Another civil trial resulting from claims following the devastating April 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion has been canceled, as parties continue to work to resolve lawsuits that remain pending. The trial that was set to start Monday is at least the fourth trial date canceled in Waco’s 170th State District Court because confidential settlements were reached before trial. Judge Jim Meyer has set another trial date for Jan. 16, which will include as plaintiffs the city of West and West Rest Haven, a nursing home destroyed in the blast that left 15 dead, scores injured and a large portion of the city devastated.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

State could seize control or close campuses if four Dallas ISD schools don't improve

Despite making big strides with its lowest-performing campuses, Dallas ISD still has a massive task for the upcoming school year: If four campuses don't do better, the state will either shut them down or take over the whole district. "The statute provides no discretion," wrote Texas education commissioner and former DISD trustee Mike Morath, in a letter sent last week to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and school board President Dan Micciche. The four long-struggling schools must perform better on state assessments and shake off the “improvement required” label for the upcoming school year or the state will be required to act.

Houston Chronicle - August 22, 2017

MD Anderson back in the black for the fiscal year

For the first time since January 2016, MD Anderson Cancer Center's operating margins are in the black on a year-to-date basis, according to the Houston research hospital's new financial records. The milepost marks a big turnabout for MD Anderson, given a top official's warning last October that if it didn't gain control of its finances, the institution was on track to lose as much as $450 million in the fiscal year that began Sept. 1 2016 and ends Aug. 31 . It lost $169 million from September through December, then slashed roughly 1,000 jobs in January, 778 of them by layoffs.

Brownsville Herald - August 21, 2017

Sen. Cruz will be back in Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will visit the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, his third trip to the region in 2017. Cruz will meet with various trade industry stakeholders and local officials. This will be Cruz’s second Valley visit in as many months, as the Republican junior senator of Texas most recently participated in McAllen’s Fourth of July parade. When Cruz spoke at McAllen’s parade in July, he was met with conflicting shouts of protest and support.

Newsweek - August 18, 2017

Why is a Texas man who wants to keep Confederate monuments being protected by a militia?

A heavily armed Texas militia dressed in fatigues showed up at a city council meeting in San Antonio on Wednesday to guard a member of the This Is Texas Freedom Force. Their presence is part of an increasing trend of pro-Trump politicians and other public figures using hard-right militias as private armed guards. At the council meeting, Brandon Burkhart, vice president of the This Is Texas Freedom Force (TITFF), spoke in favor of blocking the relocation of a Confederate Army monument that stands in Travis Park, in the city’s center.

Denton Record Chronicle - August 18, 2017

Denton Record Chronicle: Monuments’ fate up to communities

The public debate about Confederate statues and symbols is heated but healthy. Do we leave them alone? Do we adorn them with explanatory plaques to bring more historical context to the viewer? Do we move them to private museums or put them in storage like a family might put an old heirloom in the attic? Essentially, these are political questions. Politics is an art form. It's not a math problem with a right or wrong answer. The answer is in the eye of the beholder. What to do with these monuments -- the Denton County Confederate Soldier Memorial on the Square in Denton, for example -- will ultimately be decided in each American community as city councils, county governments and civic groups weigh the options.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Dallas council members agree Confederate monuments should come down, but clash over process

The Dallas City Council seems to agree that it's high time to take down Confederate statues near City Hall and at Robert E. Lee Park. But the council is a house divided over how to go about removing the longstanding monuments. The battle over timing and process is illustrative of an ongoing power struggle on the council. The competing council members have held dueling news conferences and released conflicting plans over the best way to get to the same goal, possibly around the same time.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Dallas police now have forensic tools to track online child exploitation

A child sex exploitation sting that led to the arrest of 15 men in Collin County in May may not have been possible without federal funding, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said Monday. The same funding helped the Dallas Police Department recently launch in-house forensic testing that helps detectives track down who is posting online ads selling children for sex. These efforts would be nearly impossible without the North Texas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Skinner and Dallas Interim Police Chief David Pughes said at an event with U.S. Senator John Cornyn.

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2017

Houston man charged with trying to plant bomb at Confederate statue in Hermann Park

The park ranger spotted him kneeling in the bushes by the 112-year-old Confederate statue, explosives in hand. Was he trying to harm the statue? she asked. Yes, he said. He didn't like the guy. The late-night confrontation at the statue of Confederate Lt. Dick Dowling — detailed in court records by a federal agent — led to the arrest of 25-year-old Andrew Schneck, setting off a two-day operation by law enforcement that forced the evacuation of the tony Rice University neighborhood where Schneck lives with his parents. Bomb squad experts detonated a cache of high-powered explosives found on the property Monday afternoon as residents waited to return to their homes.

National Stories

McClatchy Newspapers - August 21, 2017

US Navy collisions stoke cyber threat concerns

The Pentagon won’t yet say how the USS John S. McCain was rammed by an oil tanker near Singapore, but red flags are flying as the Navy’s decades-old reliance on electronic guidance systems increasing looks like another target of cyberattack. The incident – the fourth involving a Seventh Fleet warship this year – occurred near the Strait of Malacca, a crowded 1.7-mile-wide waterway that connects the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and accounts for roughly 25 percent of global shipping. “When you are going through the Strait of Malacca, you can’t tell me that a Navy destroyer doesn’t have a full navigation team going with full lookouts on every wing and extra people on radar,” said Jeff Stutzman, chief intelligence officer at Wapack Labs, a New Boston, New Hampshire, cyber intelligence service.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Hispanics lack confidence in nursing homes, poll says

Hispanics in the United States have a longer life expectancy, but a poll finds few older Latinos are confident that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can meet their needs. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey also showed that close to one-half of older Hispanics have faced language or cultural barriers interacting with health care providers. Fewer than 2 in 10 Hispanics age 40 and older say they are very or extremely confident that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can accommodate their cultural needs, according to the poll.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

Trump signs McCaul pediatric cancer research legislation into law

A new law, introduced by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, and a group of bipartisan lawmakers, could make it easier for children with cancer to battle the disease with the help of adult cancer drugs. The Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act – or RACE for Children Act – gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to require that adult cancer drugs be studied for safety and effectiveness in children battling the disease. President Donald Trump signed the legislation Friday. The law is part of a larger effort to spur more cancer research and treatment, McCaul said.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Floyd: If we want an America where bullies don't win, we have to stand up for it

Are you tired? I'm tired. I could sit on the back porch in my pajamas for a week, looking at trees and birds and humming the dear old tunes from yesteryear. (Get it on/bang a gong, get it on ...) The whiplash-jolt events of the last week are nearly enough to make us all yearn for a simpler time, back when we teetered on the brink of rhetorical nuclear war with North Korea: When was that, the first of the month? The circuits in my memory bank that process current events are on overload. Steam is leaking dangerously from the boiler. Because all this is so grueling, so draining, so mind-numbing: Are we really having this argument now, after it has been settled for so long?

The Hill - August 21, 2017

Trump poised for a September fight over border wall

Funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall is poised to be a central issue in this fall’s showdown over government funding. Unless Congress approves a new funding bill, the government will shut down on Oct. 1. Trump is demanding funds for the wall that was the centerpiece of his successful presidential campaign, but Democrats have warned they will vote en masse against any legislation that includes money for the wall. “I don’t see Democrats going along with anything that funds the wall,” said one senior House Democratic aide.

The Hill - August 21, 2017

Dershowitz: Russia investigation 'endangers democracy'

Attorney Alan Dershowitz says special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia "endangers Democracy." "The idea of trying to create crimes just because we disagree with [Trump] politically, and target him, really endangers democracy. [It] reminds me of what the head of the KGB said to Stalin: 'Show me the man, and I will find you the crime,'" Dershowitz told John Catsimatidis on New York's AM 970 in an interview that aired on Sunday. "[This is] where things happen in darkness and secrecy. The American public doesn't learn about it," he said, accusing the investigators of not sharing information with the public. "This exactly the wrong way to approach the problem of Russia’s attempt to influence American election. We do not know what is going on. We get leaks, but the leaks are selective leaks."

Los Angeles Times - August 18, 2017

In January, President Trump vowed to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents. It never happened

Five days after President Trump took office, he signed an executive order that promised a swift, sharp crackdown on illegal immigration — immediate construction of a massive border wall, quick hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and stepped-up deportation of undocumented migrants. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders,” Trump declared at the Jan. 25 ceremony at the Department of Homeland Security, which controls federal immigration agencies. Seven months later, construction of the wall has yet to begin, the number of Border Patrol officers has actually dropped by 220, and immigration agents are on track to deport 10,000 fewer people this year than in President Obama’s last year in office, the latest figures show.

Austin American-Statesman - August 20, 2017

Lloyd Doggett: censure Trump over Charlottesville remarks

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, on Friday joined House Democrats calling for the censure of President Donald Trump after his remarks about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. White supremacists descended on Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue depicting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. During clashes with counterprotesters, a car plowed through a crowd, killing one counterprotester. Trump initially said both sides were to blame, then two days later denounced white supremacists and other groups. On Tuesday, he repeated his assessment that “there is blame on both sides” and that some of the monument protesters were “nice people” and doing so “innocently.”

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Democrats say McCaul's hearing on Charlottesville violence 'inadequate'

On the heels of the white supremacist melee in Charlottesville, Virginia, Texas Republican Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced Wednesday that he will hold a hearing on domestic terrorism next month. McCaul announced the September 12 hearing in response to the request of the committee's ranking Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. Democrats, however, noted that the hearing was previously scheduled to worldwide terrorism threats. Thompson called McCaul's response "completely inadequate...It will not allow us to go into the depth necessary to address the far ranging and multifaceted aspects of the threat posed by domestic terrorist threats from white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups."

CNN - August 19, 2017

These states have introduced bills to protect drivers who run over protesters

The death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, has renewed focus on bills that surfaced this year in a half-dozen state legislatures that proposed limited protections for drivers who cause injury or death to protesters. None of the legislation has been enacted so far. Lawmakers in North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas proposed bills that would make it legal for drivers to hit protesters if the driver did not do so willfully, according to Mick Bullock, a spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Houston Chronicle - August 21, 2017

Solar eclipse saps estimated $694M in employee productivity across U.S.

Productivity slowed more than usual over lunch in San Antonio and across the country as employees ducked out of corporate offices, restaurants and shops to take in the first solar eclipse to cross the entire country in 99 years. More than 87.3 million Americans were supposed to be at work during the celestial Superbowl, but few of them were likely to put in a full day, according to Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The consultancy projected that U.S. companies stood to lose up to $694 million in productivity Monday as employees stole away for 20 minutes or so to catch the peak eclipse at 1:09 p.m. CDT, the company extrapolated from Bureau of Labor Statitics data.

CNBC - August 22, 2017

There is one big silver lining that comes with Trump's troubles: Tax cut odds may be going UP

It seems the more turmoil and dysfunction there is in Washington, the higher odds Wall Street gives tax legislation. Last week may have been one of the worst of the Trump presidency with President Donald Trump coming under a firestorm of criticism for his reaction to the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Corporate CEOs abandoned him, quitting his advisory councils and there was speculation respected aides and Cabinet members would leave him. Out of the chaos has come a view about what might get done in Washington this year — and that's corporate and individual tax legislation, according to notes from multiple Wall Street strategists.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

Garza: NAFTA negotiations, however narrow in scope, still hold great risk

With the new North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations beginning in Washington, D.C., last week, the big question may not just be what a new NAFTA deal includes, but also whether it will ultimately clear the political hurdles. Since the U.S. published its negotiating objectives in July, the anxiety surrounding the upcoming talks appears to have dissipated and markets have responded favorably. But now isn't the time for complacency. Getting the content right for the NAFTA renegotiations will be critically important, and focusing only on the process misses the more fundamental and persistent political risks that still loom large. The most basic risk is that the NAFTA talks are not merely a technocratic exercise, but a political one. Similar to politicians who came before him, President Donald Trump tapped into the latent pool of American anger toward NAFTA and made the agreement part of his larger message that Americans are getting ripped off on trade.

Politico - August 21, 2017

Trump announces change of heart on Afghanistan

America’s longest war is about to get longer. President Donald Trump on Monday pledged a new strategy in Afghanistan, while refusing to divulge troop numbers, as he said the office of the president had changed his instincts to pull out of the nearly 16-year-long war. In a sober yet vague address, Trump laid out his rationale for continuing the foreign entanglement, despite having pledged during the campaign to end America’s engagement in wars without clear exits. “My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts, but all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” Trump said in a prime-time address to the nation from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia.

International Business Times - August 17, 2017

Who Is Lobbying Mike Pence And Why? Health Insurers and Big Oil Seek To Influence Vice President

Mike Pence has been among the Trump administration’s most prominent voices pressing to replace the Affordable Care Act, repeal post-crisis financial regulations, privatize American infrastructure and promote fossil fuels. Those positions would benefit the industries that have been directly lobbying Pence since he was elected vice president, according to federal documents reviewed by International Business Times. Amid speculation that Pence could mount his own presidential bid — or replace Trump if he leaves office early — the former Indiana governor and U.S. congressman has been directly lobbied by major health care and drug companies, Wall Street firms, oil and gas interests and industry groups interested in shaping a federal infrastructure privatization initiative.

Washington Post - August 21, 2017

Poll shows clear disapproval of how Trump responded to Charlottesville violence

Twice as many Americans disapprove than approve of President Trump’s response to the deadly Charlottesville protests led by white supremacists that ignited widespread political backlash against the White House, although a majority of Republicans offer at least tepid support in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Trump’s handling of the racially charged clashes at the Unite the Right rally Aug. 12 erupted into a major flash point in his administration and earned him rebukes from members of Congress, military leaders and major business executives. The president equivocated in denouncing the hate groups and cast blame on “both sides” for the deadly violence, prompting criticism that he was fanning racial tensions. The Post-ABC survey finds overwhelming majorities across party lines saying it is unacceptable to hold white supremacist views, while 9?percent overall say such views are acceptable.

Bloomberg - August 22, 2017

Wadhams: Trump Leans on Afghanistan Tactics That Failed Under Bush, Obama

President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy -- more troops, pressure on Pakistan and diplomatic outreach to the Taliban -- relies on tactics his predecessors tried without success to get out of America’s longest-running war. There’s little reason to think Trump’s approach will produce better results. But with Afghanistan’s government losing control of wide swaths of the country and Islamic State and Taliban forces on the move, Trump and his top advisers are betting the formula will work this time. And they are vowing not to set any deadlines, criticizing President Barack Obama’s public timetables for withdrawal.

Dallas Morning News - August 22, 2017

Trump's border visit will highlight pitch for wall, more agents

President Donald Trump will visit the border city of Yuma, Ariz., this afternoon to highlight demands for a border wall and more agents to secure the border and speed up deportations. Administration officials won't say if he'll clarify how much border barrier he demands. During the campaign, he thrilled crowds with a vow to build a wall and to force Mexico to pay for it. He has since downplayed any effort to wrest payment from Mexico, and a transcript of a conversation with Mexico's president a week after his own swearing-in showed that Trump was willing to dramatically backpedal from that unrealistic demand.

Politico - August 22, 2017

Dems prep for Pence, Kasich, Haley to run in 2020

The Democratic National Committee is conducting full-scale opposition research on multiple Republicans it believes could challenge President Donald Trump for reelection — or are likely to run if he does not. The effort, which began in late spring, covers Vice President Mike Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, among others. “With Trump’s tumultuous presidency in complete chaos, we are prepared for all scenarios,” said DNC research director Lauren Dillon, confirming the campaign to POLITICO.

Washington Post - August 22, 2017

‘It’s a hard problem’: Inside Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan

President Trump was frustrated and fuming. Again and again, in the windowless Situation Room at the White House, he lashed out at his national security team over the Afghanistan war, and the paucity of appealing options gnawed at him. Last month, as Trump mulled over a new strategy in a 16-year conflict that bedeviled his predecessors, he groused that sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan could have a negligible impact. He threatened to fire the current commander there. He flirted with privatizing the military effort. He even considered pulling out. Declaring victory seemed all but impossible. Five weeks later, at a Camp David summit, the commander in chief arrived at his decision. A president obsessed with winning has now settled on simply trying not to lose.

Reuters - August 21, 2017

Trump to visit Arizona town on U.S.-Mexican border

President Donald Trump will visit a border protection facility in a town along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona on Tuesday as he seeks congressional funding for the wall he wants built, administration officials said on Monday. Trump, who has struggled to persuade the Republican-led Congress to approve funding for a project many see as unnecessary, is to visit the facility in Yuma, Arizona. The border area at Yuma is considered a success story for the U.S. Border Patrol because illegal crossings have slowed as a result of the border installation. Trump will not go to the border wall at Yuma as officials had said earlier in the day.

The Guardian - August 21, 2017

'Sanctuary schools' across America defy Trump's immigration crackdown

It’s been an excruciating six months since 14-year-old Fatima Avelica watched, sobbing, as immigration agents picked up her father on their way to school. Fatima’s father, Rómulo Avelica-González, who immigrated illegally from Mexico in the 1990s, had driven Fatima and her 12-year-old sister, Yuleni, to school in Los Angeles every morning for years, despite a deportation order hanging over his head. But a month after Donald Trump took office as president and called for ramped-up immigration arrests, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents pulled over the family’s car.

The Hill - August 21, 2017

Democrats long for Obama's return

He’s been out of office for nearly eight months, but former President Barack Obama remains the Democratic Party’s best weapon for 2018. Democrats are already nostalgic for Obama as they battle against President Trump’s agenda. When he talks, they listen, as evidenced this week by a tweet from Obama about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that became the most popular in the history of the platform. The tricky question now facing the party is how to use the former president on the campaign trail.

August 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

Herman: Cornyn breaks his silence on Trump’s latest flare-up

It was late and lame, tardy and tepid, but at least our senior U.S. senator on Friday broke his silence on what everybody else has been talking about all week — the latest odd behavior of President Donald Trump. The Houston Chronicle characterized its Friday interview with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, as one in which he “added his voice … to a chorus of top party leaders breaking” from Trump “over his handling of the white supremacist violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.” Indeed Cornyn did, but in a low-key way, especially compared with what some other Republicans have been saying this week.

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

UT System oil money is a gusher for its administration — and a trickle for students

WINKLER COUNTY — On a square of dirt surrounded by sun-scorched grassland, hundreds of miles from Austin, a huge iron pumpjack creaks up and down. It runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, generating as much as $7,000 worth of oil per day. It’s surrounded by thousands of others, drawing from billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas under this ground, which is all controlled by the University of Texas System. And thanks to the fracking boom, workers are pulling out far more oil from each square of West Texas dirt — millions of gallons a day. Each barrel pulled from the ground adds a few more dollars to the Permanent University Fund, a $19.5 billion pot that supports an endowment for the UT and Texas A&M University systems.

Washington Post - August 20, 2017

Even in red states, liberal candidates are climbing into power in the nation’s cities

In May, Philadelphia’s progressives helped civil rights attorney Larry Klasner win the Democratic primary for district attorney; if he wins a full term this November, the city’s top legal job will be held by a lawyer who defended members of Black Lives Matter and will refuse to seek the death penalty. In Jackson, Miss., progressive-backed candidate Chokwe Antar Lumumba won the mayor’s office, promising to make Mississippi’s capital “the most radical city on the planet.” The trend is continuing. Birmingham’s August 22 primary is one of dozens of 2017 races where progressive candidates are trying to climb into power, knitting together community organizers, new activists and the remnants of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential bid to form new left-wing majorities.

The Hill - August 20, 2017

Senate Republicans getting fed up with Trump

President Trump’s relationship with Senate Republicans is deteriorating by the day. Senate Republicans are getting fed up with what they see as Trump’s lack of discipline and chaotic leadership style. Several are criticizing him more openly than ever before. The sharpest critique came from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who told constituents in Chattanooga that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful.”

Reuters - August 20, 2017

Sempra snatches Oncor from Buffett with $9.45 billion bid: sources

Bankrupt Texas utility Energy Future Holdings will abandon a deal to sell power transmission company Oncor to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) for $9 billion and will accept a $9.45 billion bid for Oncor by Sempra Energy (SRE.N) instead, people familiar with the matter said. The development represents a rare blow for Buffett, who avoids bidding wars for companies and had swooped in two months ago to buy Oncor after two previous attempts by Energy Future to sell it were blocked by Texas regulators. It is also a defeat for Greg Abel, the 55-year-old chief executive of Berkshire's energy unit who many investors consider a top candidate to eventually succeed Buffett, 86, at the Omaha, Nebraska-based parent company's helm.

Associated Press - August 21, 2017

Trump won places drowning in despair. Can he save them?

Across the country, Trump disproportionately claimed these communities where lifetimes contracted as the working class crumbled. Penn State sociologist Shannon Monnat spent last fall plotting places on a map experiencing a rise in "deaths of despair" — from drugs, alcohol and suicide wrought by the decimation of jobs that used to bring dignity. On Election Day, she glanced up at the television. The map of Trump's victory looked eerily similar to hers documenting death, from New England through the Rust Belt all the way here, to the rural coast of Washington, a county of 71,000 so out-of-the-way some say it feels like the end of the earth.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

San Antonio Express News - August 19, 2017

Castro ally joins Democratic race to unseat Will Hurd

Friday was Jay Hulings’ last day as an assistant U.S. attorney. And his first day as a candidate for Congress. Hulings, 42, is entering the race to unseat Will Hurd in U.S. District 23 and his presence in the Democratic primary will dramatically shake up the dynamics of the campaign. To be sure, Hulings does not fit the central-casting profile for political success in the sprawling, Latino-opportunity swing district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. He has never sought elective office, does not have a Hispanic last name (although he is Latino on the maternal side of his family), and has lived in the district for only seven years (the last four in San Antonio).

Politico - August 20, 2017

Obamacare survives its latest threat — bare counties

President Donald Trump contends the health care law is “dead,” but residents of all but one county in America will be able to get an Obamacare health plan next year. Poised for their fifth enrollment cycle this fall, the Obamacare insurance markets are proving more resilient than many anticipated, with insurers jumping in to cover regions other companies fled, undercutting GOP predictions of widespread market collapses. “I don’t think the individual market is dead or imploding,” said Kathy Hempstead, who heads insurance programs at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

McAllen Monitor - August 20, 2017

McAllen Monitor: Appreciation for Speaker Straus during special session of 'pure political theater'

With the end of the 30-day special session of the Texas Legislature in Austin last week, we thought it was a good time to reflect on the accomplishments of our elected lawmakers and what they did for the greater good of Texas. Basically, lawmakers achieved what was necessary and good for the state early on when they passed two bills that allows for the continuation of critical components of state government: the Texas Boards of Medical Examiners; Examiners of Psychologists; Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists; Examiners of Professional Counselors; and Social Worker Examiners. Beyond that, the special legislative session was pure political theater — and the worst example of leaders capitulating to a small, but active constituency at the cost of Texas taxpayers overall.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2017

Democrats convinced Trump and Texas Legislature giving them winning path

Democrats in Texas see this as a critical moment in history if they are ever going to re-establish Texas as a legitimate two-party state. After decades of watching their influence fade in Texas, top party leaders are convinced that Republicans - in Washington and Austin - have handed Democrats what they need to pick up seats in the Legislature, Congress and eventually win statewide offices once again. "I think you are going to see a dam break in Texas politics," said Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Congressman who is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and a potential future statewide candidate by many.

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2017

PUC staff looks to cut electricity bill help for low-income Texans

The staff of the Public Utility Commission is suggesting changes to Texas law that will cut benefits that help low-income Texas afford their utility bills. In a report filed Wednesday, staff suggested cuts that could include programs that offer reduced electric rates for poor Texans as well as help pay utility deposits. The cuts would follow the lapsing of the so-called System Benefit fund, a pot money designated to help poor Texans pay for electricity. With the collapsing of the fund, legislators also sought to abolish a mandatory list of low-income ratepayers who are eligible for consumer protections on their electricity bill.

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2017

Report: Texas county judge system creates uneven justice, conflicts of interest

Texas needs to dramatically revamp its county court system, according to one criminal justice expert. County judges in remote or smaller counties across the state serve as county administrator and preside over misdemeanor courts, according to Lawrence Karson, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown. Under state law, the county judge does not need to have a law degree or practically any legal training. In an essay in the August issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice and Law, Karson argues that the current system leaves defendants exposed and nurtures conflicts of interest, particularly since county judges who handle a large chunk of judicial matters get a $25,000 bonus from the state.

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2017

In an age of bombast, Cornyn strives for quiet persuasion

John Cornyn stood tall, a head of thinning white hair staring straight ahead in the well of the United States Senate. A few feet away, Arizona Republican John McCain gestured thumbs-down, the decisive vote that signaled the defeat of long-standing GOP promise to repeal Obamacare. Some gasped. Others cheered. Cornyn and a clutch of other Republican senators stood in stony silence. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, arms folded, began to shuffle dejectedly toward his podium. Nearly a minute passed before Cornyn would break his statuesque pose.

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

Tomlinson: What is the Texas brand, and how do we protect it?

When it comes to Texas, some people think of cowboys, and others imagine oil wells. For one generation, it's oilman J.R. Ewing, while maybe for their children, it's Ranger Cordell Walker. For Norwegians, it's slang for chaos. Locals learn that Texas means "friends" in the Native American Caddo language, but the name can conjure so many different things. Which is why promoters have tried to create a positive brand image for Texas ever since Spanish colonialists built a road to San Antonio hoping their compatriots would follow. Today a debate is raging over the Texas brand and what it represents. And the implications for our economy.

Dallas Morning News - August 21, 2017

UT-Austin takes down 4 Confederate statues on campus

The statues of four people with ties to the Confederacy, including Gen. Robert E. Lee, were removed from their pedestals on the UT-Austin campus late Sunday night. University President Greg Fenves announced the removal in a written statement and said he made the decision to take down the statues after talks with student leaders, faculty, staff and alumni in light of the deadly Aug. 12 clash in Charlottesville, Va. The events of Charlottesville "make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," Fenves said.

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

Ramsey: A victory for the locals, at least for a while

The latest battle in the state’s war on local government ended with victory for the little guys. They won’t face state-ordered spending limits. They won’t face automatic elections when they raise property taxes faster than the Legislature wants them to. They won’t be subject to most of the ideas on Gov. Greg Abbott’s list of 20 things he had hoped the Legislature would put into law during the special session that ended last week. He went 9 for 20 — a pretty good average, considering, but far short of what he wanted.

Texas Tribune - August 20, 2017

Primary race to challenge U.S Rep. Will Hurd draws two more Democrats

The race for Texas' most competitive congressional district is drawing two more Democrats. Jay Hulings, a former federal prosecutor from San Antonio, said Sunday he could no wait no longer to launch a challenge to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes. Hulings is an ally of the Castro brothers — U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro. "Washington is so broken and Congress is so broken," Hulings said in an interview with The Texas Tribune. "There are times when you can sit on the sidelines. This not one of them. I decided I have to get in the fight."

Texas Tribune - August 21, 2017

UT-Austin removes Confederate statues in the middle of the night

Late Sunday night, 10 days before classes were scheduled to start, workers at the University of Texas at Austin began removing three Confederate statues from a prominent grass mall on campus. The surprise news came with little notice, and the workers were done by sunrise. University president Greg Fenves announced that the statues of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Reagan were being removed because they depict parts of American history that "run counter to the university's core values." His e-mail to the campus community was sent just before 11 p.m. A statue of former Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg was also marked for removal.

San Antonio Express News - August 20, 2017

Fikac: Abbott benefits from defeat of bathroom bill

Sometimes you win by losing. Gov. Greg Abbott lost on the highest-profile item he put on the special session’s agenda, the nationally noticed proposal to restrict the public restrooms that transgender people can use. It was approved in the Senate but died in the House without a vote, just like Speaker Joe Straus told Abbott it would. Abbott complained about that, but maybe he should have been counting his blessings instead. The Republican governor already had received all the positive political mileage he could get from that issue.

San Antonio Express News - August 20, 2017

Border wall expansion strains relationships between border agents, communities

WESLACO — No cement has been poured nor bollard thrust into the ground, and yet President Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall has driven a wedge between the Border Patrol and communities on the border. During a recent stakeholder meeting intended to strengthen relations with farmers, border agents fielded hard questions about the fate of properties and livelihoods in the path of Trump’s wall. “The average American does not understand that we’d be giving up our sovereign territory,” said Foss Jones, 68, whose family farms would be cleaved, leaving hundreds of acres pinched between the wall and the Rio Grande. “Who will feel safe in that no man’s land behind the wall?”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - August 18, 2017

Wade: A university, white nationalism and the wall between

America’s students are the nation’s brightest beacon of hope and most valuable capital. In a time rife with hyperpartisan politics and civil unrest, it is incumbent upon us to loose our moorings and approach the burgeoning problem of white nationalism respectfully. Our most persuasive instrument is not our freedom to sign a ballot, but our freedom to peacefully protest and to adamantly believe that while we are not morally superior to our opposition, we do have the superior argument: America has not been an ideal stagnant since 1776, but has progressed and will continue to despite the hatred of so many. It is time for our millennial generation to glance above our screens and reach farther than arm’s length.

WFAA - August 20, 2017

Dallas' confederate statues gone by December

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said the 121-year-old Confederate War Memorial will come down by the end of the year. This is not something that you can just solve overnight. It is something we can assure the citizens of this city [that] will take place,” said Caraway in an appearance on WFAA-TV’s Inside Texas Politics this morning. “They’ll be down before Christmas,” he added. But where do they go? “That’s the next problem. Where do they go?,” Caraway explained to WFAA. “What do you do. That is not something that we the city council should make the decision on. We have to hear from the people and have input.”

San Marcos Corridor News - August 18, 2017

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar Announces Highest Ratings for Texas Short-Term Notes

Wall Street credit ratings firms have given their highest ratings to this year’s Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANs), which will allow the state to manage cash-flow needs for fiscal 2018. “Texas received the highest short-term credit ratings on the TRAN,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said. “I am proud that Texas also maintains its historic AAA long-term credit ratings from all four major ratings agencies, primarily because of flexibility in the state’s budgeting process, Texas’ ability to manage a severe economic downturn and our strong economic environment compared to other states. These high ratings cut down borrowing costs, save taxpayer dollars and affirm Texas’ commitment to conservative fiscal management and sound economic policy.”

KIII - August 19, 2017

Gov. Abbott: Texas adds more jobs than any other state

Nearly 300,000 jobs have been added in Texas in the past 12 months, more than any other state. Governor Greg Abbott tweeting the news Saturday, "Texas adding more jobs than any other state in the past 12 months." The labor department says the biggest employment jump came in leisure and hospitality with a Corpus Christi staple making the list too. Officials say more than two-thousand oil industry jobs were added in the state and local trucker Steve Green has witnessed it first hand.

Houston Press - August 16, 2017

As Lege Fails to Restore Disabled Kids' Medicaid Funding, a Child Loses Therapy

When the insurance decided to cut off two-year-old Lillian Hinojosa’s speech therapy, her parents, Carlos and Maggie, were puzzled. Their daughter, who has a developmental disorder called Prader Willi syndrome, was only just learning how to talk, and how to swallow soft, puree-like food without throwing it up. Prader Willi causes acute weakness in babies’ muscles, meaning Lillian, who will be three in September, has still not learned to walk or to stand on her own. She prefers rolling. It causes extreme oral aversions, meaning Lillian, until the past year, would not accept any food or water by mouth.

The New American - August 15, 2017

Holt: Republican Party of Texas in State of Confusion on Article V Convention

A Republican Party of Texas webpage wrongly informed voters that an application for an Article V convention — a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution — will be on the November ballot in Texas, but it won't. The discrepancy came about when the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC — comprised of Republican leaders in each district) created a webinar to update Texans on actions that had been taken in the biennial legislative session, and what actions would be happening in an impending Special Session. As part of the presentation, the webinar included a slide that not only explained that bill SJR2 passed the legislature — which would apply to the "Congress of the United States to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution for the limited purpose of proposing one or more amendments to the constitution to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to limit the terms of office of federal officials and members of Congress" — but also that the bill "Will be on the ballot for Constitutional Amendment Election."

KPRC - August 17, 2017

Channel 2 Investigates breaks down which districts have seat belts on school buses

School bus safety is about to improve for kids after the Texas Legislature voted to require seat belts on all new school buses, but it's going to take years for every bus to be equipped. Channel 2 Investigates is revealing how many buses in the major local school districts already have safety belts. Students thrown from their seats, bloodied and bruised in a school bus crash -- thankfully, the images from this accident scene aren't real. They are part of a drill staged last week by Cleveland ISD.

County Stories

San Angelo Live - August 16, 2017

County Commissioners: Blame County Property Tax Increase on Texas Legislature

SAN ANGELO, TX — “In ten years I won’t be able to afford a home.” Johnson Brown told Tom Green County Commissioners during a public hearing on the County’s proposed three cent property tax rate increase Tuesday. Brown was one of five taxpayers who testified at length before the court opposing the proposed increase. He was referring to the increase in his property tax appraisal which comes from the Appraisal District of Tom Green County and not the Commissioner’s Court. The appraisal district sets the value of property. The court sets a tax rate each year as does each taxing entity including cities, school districts, counties and special districts like water districts and emergency services districts which collect property tax to fund services.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

Bastrop fire burns 25 acres, forces evacuations before being snuffed

A brush fire that was sparked alongside Texas 71 in Bastrop on Saturday evening threatened up to 40 homes before it was contained by firefighters. The fire engulfed 25 acres of forest but was contained before it reached any homes. No one was injured in the fire, and first responders reported that the flames never got within 1,000 yards of a home. “We’ll probably never know what caused it unless someone comes forward,” said Mike Norman, a firefighter with Bastrop County Emergency Service District No. 2.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 18, 2017

That debate over name of Lee High School? It’s back

The first thing students see when they walk into Robert E. Lee High School is an imposing bronze statue of the Confederate general himself. His back is straight, his eyes affixed upward and his profile is elevated by a thick slab of pink granite. To one side, propped in a glass case, a poster dedicated by the Class of 1973 quotes Lee: “The education of a man is never completed until he dies.”

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2017

Shifting state standards increase pressure on HISD

Carla Stevens tracks how Houston ISD schools perform on Texas' complex measuring system, especially schools like Kashmere High that have been labeled as "improvement required" by the state for years. This coming school year, tracking their performance will be even more difficult because the Texas Education Agency tinkers every year with the way it measures academic performance in local schools and districts, she said. "The superintendent keeps wanting me to project if campuses are going to come off" the improvement-required status, said Stevens, the district's assistant superintendent for research and accountability. "Well, I can't. I can use universal screeners to see if they are showing progress, but I can't tell you if a school will come off 'improvement required' because I don't know the rules."

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2017

San Marcos considers supporting challenge to ‘sanctuary cities’ law

The San Marcos City Council will consider writing an amicus brief in opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities, during a special meeting called for Tuesday morning. The meeting, called for 8 a.m. Tuesday in council chambers at 630 E. Hopkins, comes after the council last week voted not to join the cities of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio in their lawsuit against the law. The law will punish jurisdictions that do not mandate full cooperation with federal immigration officials. Instead, the council issued a statement citing concerns about the law’s constitutionality and effect on the community.

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2017

After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look

After a rally by white supremacists fighting removal of a Confederate monument turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, the response in Austin came swiftly. Austin City Council members immediately began paperwork to rename Robert E. Lee Road, near Zilker Park, and Jeff Davis Avenue, near Allandale. At the Capitol, state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, demanded removal of a Confederate plaque near his office. House Speaker Joe Straus suggested the State Preservation Board should review signs and monuments around the Capitol grounds for accuracy.

Austin Monitor - August 18, 2017

Council opts to sue the state over housing discrimination beef

After months of the Texas Legislature seemingly taking shot after shot at the city of Austin, City Council is swinging back. On Thursday, Council gave the go-ahead to Interim City Manager Elaine Hart to sue the state over a 2015 law that preempted city protections against housing discrimination for low-income residents. Senate Bill 267 canceled out a 2014 amendment to the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance that made it illegal to refuse to sell or rent housing to anyone based on their source of income. The amendment was intended to expand opportunities for residents who receive federal Housing Choice Vouchers.

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

McMurray: Houston, we need to talk about those Confederate statues

A clergyman friend says that every family, without exception, is rocked by bad times and offenses and betrayals: no family is spared heartbreak. The difference between happy families and unhappy families is that happy families face the heartbreak, work to heal the heartbreak, and forgive the heartbreak, and unhappy families hold on to every offense, perpetually aggrieved, forgiving nothing. We Americans have faced a lot of heartbreaking moments lately. Whatever this is -- a family, a community, a loose collective of strangers – it feels exhausted, unhappy, everyone holding fast to offenses, everyone aggrieved, no one willing to compromise or forgive. Whitman's "not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations" is fractious and fraying, the fringes madly unraveling, the center straining, ready to buckle.

National Stories

The Hill - August 20, 2017

House Dem introduces measure urging Trump undergo mental exam

A House Democrat introduced a resolution on Friday suggesting that President Trump undergo a physical and mental health exam to help determine whether he is fit for office. Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-Calif.) resolution specifically calls on Vice President Pence and Trump’s Cabinet members to “quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals” to “assist in their deliberations” invoking the 25th Amendment, which outlines presidential removal procedures. It posits that such an examination by doctors would “determine whether the president suffers from mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his Constitutional duties.”

Los Angeles Times - August 8, 2017

Allison: China's ready for war -- against the U.S. if necessary

To mark the 90th birthday of the People’s Liberation Army on Aug. 1, China’s President Xi Jinping went to the Inner Mongolian steppe to the site where Genghis Khan began his conquest of Eurasia. There, at Zhurihe, he was welcomed by an impressive display of China’s martial might: a parade of Chinese troops, tanks, helicopters, aircraft and missiles. But the main course was a massive war game demonstrating the state of China‘s preparation to “fight and win” future military conflicts. For what war is the PLA preparing? Recent events should make the answer abundantly clear. In July, North Korea conducted two ICBM tests that put the American heartland within reach of its nuclear weapons. In response, the U.S. flew two B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula to send the message, in the words of Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, that the U.S. is “ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”

The Hill - August 21, 2017

Democrats long for Obama's return

He’s been out of office for nearly eight months, but former President Barack Obama remains the Democratic Party’s best weapon for 2018. Democrats are already nostalgic for Obama as they battle against President Trump’s agenda. When he talks, they listen, as evidenced this week by a tweet from Obama about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that became the most popular in the history of the platform. The tricky question now facing the party is how to use the former president on the campaign trail.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

First Reading: Was the Battle of Charlottesville the white nationalists’ Gettysburg?

Sunday evening I spoke by phone with Jared Taylor, the influential white nationalist who presides over American Renaissance Taylor said he defends Confederate memorials both because of his Southern pride, and in solidarity with those Confederate heroes’ race consciousness. But, he told me in a phone call last night, not everyone who venerates Confederate memory has a racial motive. I think there are people like my mother, she’s dead now but she was a liberal in every respect – civil rights, gay right, feminism, all that, but she was a loyal daughter of the South and revered Robert E. Lee and all the Confederate generals. She loved those monuments. For her it was not an expression not of a political view but of an ancestral heritage. She grew up in Kentucky.

Wall St. Journal - August 20, 2017

Trump and the CEOs: Behind the Collapse of an Uneasy Alliance

Can this relationship be saved? Few chief executives openly supported candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Yet by the time of his inauguration, many were expressing cautious optimism they could work with a president who presented himself as a leader with business acumen. Many of Mr. Trump’s stated priorities—lighter regulation and a tax overhaul —are supported by corporate leaders. Comforting some executives, Mr. Trump appointed several CEOs to his cabinet, such as Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Rex Tillerson and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. “Everyone wanted to support the president in making the country and its economy better,” said Kathryn Wylde, chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a group that represents major Wall Street firms and U.S. companies, and who led a CEO delegation to the White House earlier this year.

Washington Post - August 21, 2017

The Daily 202: The elites strike back — getting under Trump’s skin

THE BIG IDEA: The 2016 election represented, as much as anything else, a repudiation of America’s elites and everything they believe in. By running on the hollow promises of populism, nativism and isolationism, an angry outsider challenged many of the bipartisan shibboleths that have long united most of the highly educated and affluent leaders of our country and culture. Seven months into President Trump’s reign, the elites are striking back. From Wall Street to West Palm Beach and West Hollywood, the past week has been a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point. Since Trump abdicated his moral leadership after Charlottesville, the well-connected have used their leverage — like checkbooks and celebrity — to send a message about what truly makes America great. The growing number of groups canceling galas, stars boycotting ceremonies and chief execut

Politico - August 21, 2017

Polls: Trump slumping in Midwest

President Donald Trump’s job approval ratings are sagging in three crucial states that helped him secure the presidency last year, according to NBC News/Marist polls released Sunday. Trump’s approval is below 40 percent in Michigan (36 percent), Pennsylvania (35 percent) and Wisconsin (34 percent), according to the surveys, conducted in the four days after a violent white supremacist march last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. That time span includes Trump’s alternating responses to the episode, which drew widespread criticism from elected officials in Washington.

Houston Chronicle - August 20, 2017

Rubio: Memo to white supremacists: Yes, we will replace you

To you who stood in Charlottesville and waved banners of hatred and chanted "You will not replace us," please know one thing: We will replace you. Despite your insistence to the contrary, know that you have sown the seeds of your own irrelevance. This is not to say that white Americans will be marginalized and replaced. But rather that people who believe in superiority based on skin color have no place in our modern society.

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2017

Mark Cuban on Trump presidency: 'Every now and then you hire the wrong CEO'

Mark Cuban shared a stage with political commentator Van Jones on Friday night, and used the opportunity to underscore his not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feelings toward President Donald Trump. "It's easy to call him an idiot because he is," Cuban said of the president. "We've been calling him that for a long time and it hasn't gotten us anywhere." Cuban joined Jones at the House of Blues for the Dallas stop of Jones' "We Rise" tour, billed as an attempt to unite communities against hate and to engage people in addressing issues including racism, inequality and criminal justice reform. Jones, a frequent contributor on CNN, is a former special adviser to President Barack Obama.

Austin American-Statesman - August 21, 2017

Secret Service depletes funds because of Trump's frequent travel, large family

The Secret Service can no longer pay hundreds of agents it needs to carry out an expanded protective mission – in large part due to the sheer size of President Trump's family and efforts necessary to secure their multiple residences up and down the East Coast. Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex'' Alles, in an interview with USA TODAY, said more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2017

After a no good, very bad vacation, what lessons will Trump take away?

President Donald Trump returns to the White House on Sunday after what may be one of the worst vacations in history. He squeezed in some golf, and for two weeks managed to escape the steamy heat of the Washington swamp. But presidents have typically used their summer getaways to recharge with friends and, at least as important, huddle with advisers. The capital's August doldrums are a good time to craft strategy and set in motion military, legislative or election campaigns.

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

Phillips: Think the Klan, Nazis are history? Not with Trump’s blessing

Posted: 1:00 p.m. Friday, August 18, 2017 My mother, who celebrated her 88th birthday last weekend, was shocked and dismayed watching events unfold in Charlottesville, Va. There in her living room on her 55-inch TV screen were the nightmares of her youth: White supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and anti-Semites marching in the streets in the name of white superiority and dominance. Instead of burning crosses, they carried torches. Some were armed to the teeth. Mom had thought that nightmare had been put to rest, buried with the likes of Jim Crow laws that drove her own mother to leave the South, walking the distance from South Carolina to Florida and eventually to New York.

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

Bernstein: Trump could learn from Texas history

As I have watched President Trump's bumbling, angry, irrational and off-track responses to the murder and mayhem in Charlottesville, I thought about a governor who failed Texans in a similar way almost 100 years ago. First, Trump tried to blame "many sides" for the violence. Then, under duress, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and "white supremists"[sic] by name. Then he reverted to the "many sides" argument again, actually trying to defend extremist white nationalists. Gov. Pat M. Neff, who served from 1921 to 1925 during the worst of the heyday of the mass-movement Ku Klux Klan in Texas, exhibited virtually the same moral flaw. Given many opportunities, he failed to adequately condemn the great evil of his day.

Associated Press - August 20, 2017

US, Canada, Mexico pledge quick work to update NAFTA

U.S., Canadian and Mexican negotiators are pledging to work quickly to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 23-year-old pact that President Donald Trump has called the worst trade deal in history. The first round of NAFTA renegotiations talks were wrapped up Sunday. The three countries said they planned to meet again in Mexico Sept. 1-5, in Canada late next month and back in the United States in October. They did not offer details on the five-day talks.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The New Yorker - August 20, 2017

Carl Icahn’s Failed Raid on Washington

One day in August, 2016, the financier Carl Icahn made an urgent phone call to the Environmental Protection Agency. Icahn is one of the richest men on Wall Street, and he has thrived, in no small measure, because of a capacity to intimidate. A Texas-based oil refiner in which he had a major stake was losing money because of an obscure environmental rule that Icahn regarded as unduly onerous. Icahn is a voluble critic of any government regulation that constrains his companies. So he wanted to speak with the person in charge of enforcing the policy: a senior official at the E.P.A. named Janet McCabe. Icahn works from a suite of offices, atop the General Motors Building, in midtown, that are decorated in the oak-and-leather fashion of a tycoon’s lair in a nineteen-eighties film.

New York Times - August 19, 2017

Black: What White Nationalism Gets Right About American History

My dad often gave me the advice that white nationalists are not looking to recruit people on the fringes of American culture, but rather the people who start a sentence by saying, “I’m not racist, but …” The most effective tactics for white nationalists are to associate American history with themselves and to suggest that the collective efforts to turn away from our white supremacist past are the same as abandoning American culture. My father, the founder of the white nationalist website Stormfront, knew this well. It’s a message that erases people of color and their essential role in American life, but one that also appeals to large numbers of white people who would agree with the statement, “I’m not racist, but I don’t want American history dishonored, and this statue of Robert E. Lee shouldn’t be removed.”

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

DMN: Steve Bannon's firing provides some relief, but is no cure for the real White House problem

President Donald Trump's top adviser, Steve Bannon, is out of the White House. The departure is welcome; his corrosive influence and association with white nationalists represents some of the worst elements in politics. That said, it would be unwise to consider this anything more than just a small step in the right direction. Bannon is the latest in a string of staffers leaving the Trump White House, which is still only seven months old. His ouster follows by a couple of weeks that of communications director Anthony Scaramucci, after 10 days on the job.

Politico - August 20, 2017

Amateur sleuths hunt for Trump bombshells

Nearly 3,000 miles from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Washington offices, another investigation into President Donald Trump is underway. This one unfolds in the public libraries and coffee shops of San Francisco, where a self-employed 40-year-old named Geoff Andersen has worked since November for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, burning through nearly $45,000 in personal savings and donations from friends and family in pursuit of hidden truths about Trump’s rise to power. Andersen, a freelance Democratic opposition researcher who worked on President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and is now between jobs, has downloaded thousands of newspaper articles dating from the 1970s, hunted down obscure court and real estate records, and is even reading a textbook on money laundering.

Politico - August 20, 2017

Left warns Democrats in tax reform fight

Liberal activists who hounded the GOP throughout its failed Obamacare repeal bid are gearing up to hit any Democrat who strays from the fold on tax cuts for the wealthy — including some of the party’s most politically vulnerable incumbents. Democrats were spared the sight of their progressive base battling centrists on Obamacare, which proved a uniquely unifying issue for both wings of the party. But there’s no guarantee that taxes will be another kumbaya moment for Democratic leaders, who have long struggled to contain tensions between red-state lawmakers facing tough reelections and a grass roots emboldened by resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Washington Post - August 20, 2017

Labor groups step up pressure on Trump to deliver

Labor leaders, once courted by President Trump, are stepping up their campaign to turn workers against the White House if it does not deliver more on jobs and trade — and if it does not stop undoing Obama-era regulations. The most visible effort, which starts in Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, is a two-week tour organized by the coalition Good Jobs Nation that ropes in labor-friendly politicians. The coalition, launched in 2013 to pressure Barack Obama’s White House on trade and wage issues, is organizing rallies throughout the Midwest through Labor Day. “Trump ran as a working-class hero, so let’s look at the results,” said Joseph Geevarghese, Good Jobs Nation’s executive director.

Politico - August 19, 2017

Tech firms' fight against hate could haunt them

The tech industry’s crackdown on racism could complicate one of its biggest fights in Congress, where Silicon Valley is lobbying hard against legislation aimed at weeding out other harmful online content. In opposing bills that target online sex trafficking, internet companies have argued that they provide platforms for the free exchange of data and should not be forced into serving as societal gatekeepers. But at the same time, numerous tech companies have taken on the gatekeeper role with gusto this past week, using their power over the digital world to shut down neo-Nazi internet forums, kick white supremacists off of fund-raising, ride-sharing, lodging and dating websites, and otherwise limit hate groups’ ability to spread their influence online. Those included some of the industry’s biggest players, such as Google and Facebook.

August 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

With rejection of special session core agenda, is GOP civil war next?

The day before the summer special legislative session began, Gov. Greg Abbott warned lawmakers that he would be keeping an eagle eye on how each of them voted on his 20-item agenda. “I’m going to be establishing a list,” Abbott said. “Who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.” The morning after the Legislature finished its work, having enacted only half of the governor’s agenda and not his top priority of property tax reform, Abbott went on the air and made it clear who sat atop his naughty list — House Speaker Joe Straus — and argued that the future of Texas depends on either changing Straus or changing speakers.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Will policy changes in health care and immigration slash Hispanic spending?

The retail industry and economists are monitoring whether Hispanic shoppers are pulling back spending. Target CEO Brian Cornell mentioned "almost a cocooning factor" at a conference last month. Dallas Federal Reserve Bank president Robert Kaplan said he's closely watching potential negative effects of policies that would reduce affordability of and access of health care, and policies that could negatively influence the spending habits of immigrants. National immigration crackdowns and local legislation such as Texas' new SB4, a sanctuary city or show-me-your-papers law that goes into effect Sept. 1, may have an impact on how tens of millions of Americans shop.

San Antonio Express News - August 19, 2017

Special session affected retired teachers, property owners, cities

For Linda Dreibrodt, a retired New Braunfels teacher, the special session brought a mix of good and bad. She is relieved that lawmakers pumped $212 million into the teacher retirement system, thereby reducing the higher deductible she will be forced to pay next year by $1,500. But Dreibrodt, whose health insurance covers her husband, a farmer, and her college-age son, is still worried about her skyrocketing premium, which is set to more than double in January and reach nearly $1,000 a month.

The Hill - August 19, 2017

RNC raises millions more than DNC in July

The Republican National Committee (RNC) expanded its massive fundraising lead over the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in July as the Democrats posted their worst July haul in a decade. The DNC raised just $3.8 million in July, compared to the $10.2 million raised by the RNC in the same month. While the GOP has no debt, the DNC added slightly to its debt in July, which now sits at $3.4 million. The Democrats haven't raised that little money in a July since 2007; the party raised $3.4 million in that month. The Hill obtained the RNC's fundraising numbers ahead of the party's official filing with the Federal Election Commission, while the DNC posted its figures on Friday.

Washington Post - August 19, 2017

Bannon’s departure is unlikely to calm the turmoil in Trump’s White House

President Trump’s most unconventional senior adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, may have left the White House, but the political turbulence that has characterized the first seven months of Trump’s presidency doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. The tenure and departure of Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and champion of his nationalist impulses, exposed deep fissures in the Trump-era Republican Party, within the White House and beyond. Those differences are still harming Trump’s effectiveness as he tries to kick-start a sputtering legislative agenda at a time when relationships with Republican congressional leaders are seriously frayed — largely because of the president’s behavior, including his response to hate-fueled deadly violence in Charlottesville last weekend.

New York Times - August 19, 2017

A Deal Breaker for Trump’s Supporters? Nope. Not This Time, Either.

For Parson Hicks, a health care finance executive who supports President Trump, this past week has felt a little like déjà vu. Mr. Trump says something. His opponents howl and then predict, with certainty, a point of no return. The last time this happened, she said, was in October with the notorious “Access Hollywood” recording of Mr. Trump talking lewdly about women. His opponents were sure he was finished. His supporters knew better. “Let’s be honest, the people who are currently outraged are the same people who have always been outraged,” said Ms. Hicks, 35, a lifelong Republican who lives in Boston. “The media makes it seem like something has changed, when in reality nothing has.”

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2017

Schnurman: Beating ‘bathroom bill’ should inspire Texas business to be politically engaged in Austin

Business just beat back the so-called bathroom bill in a special session, but there’s little time to celebrate. Not with the lieutenant governor vowing to bring back the issue and the governor on board. Not with primary elections for state office only seven months away. That’s right. Just as one political push ends, another is on the horizon, and business should be gearing up for it. Employers, like everybody else, have to fight for the state they want. That means going beyond the usual lobbying and campaign contributions, and even public positions.

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2017

How Dan Patrick's bathroom bill galvanized transgender Texans

Sen. Judith Zaffirini was prepared to do Dan Patrick a favor. He’s the lieutenant governor after all, the veteran senator thought, and he cared about this so-called bathroom bill. Plus, since he’d assumed his role as head of the Senate two years earlier, Patrick had never personally called to ask her to vote for something. “‘If at the end of the hearing, you’re 50/50 on the issue, will you vote yes?’” Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she remembers him asking. “I said, ‘Yes, that’s fair.’” For more than a year, Patrick pulled out all the stops for the bathroom bills, which would have restricted restroom use based on biological sex and undone local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting the rights of transgender Texans.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Texas plans to challenge invalidated congressional districts to Supreme Court

Texas will appeal a federal district court's ruling that invalidated two of its congressional districts because they intentionally discriminated against minorities to the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said Friday. In a legal filing on the deadline the court had given Texas to give notice on whether its Legislature would take up redistricting in a special session, Paxton's office told the court it would instead challenge the ruling to the highest court in the land. "Judges should get out of the business of drawing maps," Paxton said in a news release. "We firmly believe that the maps Texas used in the last three election cycles are lawful, and we will aggressively defend the maps on all fronts."

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2017

Millions consumed potentially unsafe water in the past 10 years

WOLFFORTH, Texas — As many as 63 million people — nearly a fifth of the country — from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution, and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems. Those found to have problems cleaning their water typically took more than two years to fix these issues, with some only recently resolving decades-old violations of EPA standards and others still delivering tainted water, according to data from the agency’s Safe Drinking Water Information System. ... In addition, much of the country’s aging distribution pipes delivering the water to millions of people are susceptible to lead contamination, leaks, breaks and bacterial growth.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Ted Cruz's barnstorming tour across Texas is a sure sign his campaign is ramping up

Six months before GOP voters decide whether he deserves a second term in the Senate, Ted Cruz is barnstorming Texas this month with appearances planned in more than 20 cities. They're official stops — meetings with executives, along with factory and border outpost tours — and not campaign events, but nonetheless indicate the senator is signaling to voters and rivals that he's serious about keeping his job. After events near Dallas, Houston, Amarillo and Lubbock earlier this month, Cruz heads to West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley next week where he’ll make as many as five appearances — from business tours to employee town halls and round tables — in a single day. He’s then slated to criss-cross the state with stops in places like Abilene, Wichita Falls and Waco before heading to the Gulf Coast by month’s end.

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

Texas appeals ruling requiring new congressional districts

Three days after a federal court ruled that Republican lawmakers drew congressional districts to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision and protect districts in Travis and Bastrop counties from having to be redrawn. In a separate filing Friday, Paxton asked the San Antonio-based federal court to delay enforcement of its Tuesday ruling while the appeal proceeds, arguing that a stay is needed to avoid disrupting the 2018 primaries. State officials have said that new maps would have to be ready by about Oct. 1 to meet deadlines for setting precinct lines and to allow candidate filing for the 2018 primaries to begin, as scheduled, in mid-November.

Texas Tribune - August 18, 2017

With Supreme Court appeal, Texas wants to keep congressional map intact

If Gov. Greg Abbott calls a second special legislative session this summer, it won’t likely be for redistricting. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton revealed Friday that Abbott has no plans to ask lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional map — found by a federal court this week to discriminate against Latino and black voters — in a fresh round of legislative overtime. Instead, Paxton is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and trying to keep the boundaries intact for the 2018 elections, according to his filings to a panel of three judges in San Antonio.

San Antonio Express News - August 19, 2017

Bathroom bill fight over ‘for now,’ with credit, blame going to Speaker Straus

In his Capitol office shortly after his chamber called an early end to Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session, House Speaker Joe Straus gave a broad smile when asked about the death of the bathroom bill. “Oh, gosh,” the San Antonio Republican deadpanned, snapping his fingers. “I knew we forgot something.” Hardly. Straus was the crucial barrier to the bill pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, with the aid of Abbott, that would have restricted transgender people’s ability to use the public restrooms of the gender with which they identify.

San Antonio Express News - August 18, 2017

Rep on Confederate plaque: ‘A history book and a crowbar’

Taking aim at House Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Eric Johnson said Friday that no study committee is needed to remove a Confederate plaque near his Capitol office that denies that slavery led to Texas succession, only a “history book and a crowbar.” So far, Straus is the only member of the board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds who has even indicated a desire to review the “accuracy of signs and monuments” on the complex, amid a push by Johnson to remove all Confederate imagery in the wake of deadly protests in Charlottesville.

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

Private prisons boom in Texas and across America under Trump's immigration crackdown

The Salvadoran woman crossed the U.S. border and sought refuge in Texas a year ago, fleeing from her father's murderers back home. She has spent the months since then locked inside a 1,500-bed federal detention center wreathed in razor wire on a dead-end road in Conroe, north of Houston. Her confinement in the Joe Corley Detention Facility, awaiting a decision on her request for asylum, has cost taxpayers nearly $25,000, paid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to GEO Group, a leading national for-profit prison company, and its business partner, Montgomery County.

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

Falkenberg: Opposing senators - one black, one white - show us how to talk about race

Here we go again. That's what state Sen. Royce West was thinking as he followed the horror in Charlottesville, with scenes reminiscent of what he and other black people saw on TV and experienced first-hand growing up during the struggle for civil rights. It shook the veteran Dallas Democrat to the point that he couldn't even respond when his 17-year-old grandson asked him last week whether the new generation should be more like Martin Luther King or like Malcolm X, who argued that black people, rather than turn a cheek to white aggression, should defend themselves by any means necessary.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - August 18, 2017

Not an issue or ‘terrifying’? Texas towns proud of their Confederate monuments

COMANCHE Ray Williams keeps a Confederate battle flag in his storefront window and has another hanging from a back wall at his boot shop on the Comanche town square, a dusty block of antique stores, a law office and an insurance agency. And he has a clear view across the street, where a stone monument on the county courthouse lawn honors Confederate soldiers in this town of about 4,500 about two hours southwest of Fort Worth. “These brave men” the engraving reads, “suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all and facing death carried the banners of the Confederacy.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - August 17, 2017

Kennedy: A Confederate flag display comes down. But it was a tiny one, and the mayor wonders — why now?

LAKESIDE The tiniest Confederate memorial in Texas came down this week. And even after the Charlottesville, Va., melee over a statue, the mayor of this tiny suburb northwest of Fort Worth is asking why two dollar-store Rebel flags were taken down. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny flags flapped in the stiff hilltop breeze from the ground next to an official state historical marker on what is still called Confederate Park Road.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 19, 2017

Hundreds of protesters face off in Houston over Confederate statue

As 40,000 protesters poured into the streets across the country in Boston, a more sedate rally played out in Houston with several hundred protesters squared off downtown over a controversial Confederate monument in Sam Houston Park. More than 400 socialists, liberals and Black Lives Matter activists showed up to demand the monument's removal, while a few dozen counter-protesters — some carrying Confederate flags — showed up in opposition. In between, scores of baton-wielding police corralled crowds with barricades and officers on horseback. No arrests or altercations were reported, though several protesters became sick from the heat, police said.

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

Austin leaders relieved but still lick wounds from special session

When Gov. Greg Abbott called state lawmakers back to the Capitol last month, he gave them a clear mission to strip municipalities of regulations and ordinances that he thought were too meddlesome. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Abbott had declared a war on cities. Abbott’s proposals would jeopardize funding for police and firefighters and destroy sophisticated land use ordinances shaped by contentious local debates, Adler said. Even laws like the local hands-free ordinance would be upended. Of Abbott’s nine special session priorities that would have undermined local control on a host of issues, bills relating to only two of the issues were sent to the governor’s desk — limiting annexation authority and tree ordinances.

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2017

More than 1,000 rally against white supremacists at Austin City Hall

Hundreds of demonstrators, galvanized by the violence that turned fatal in Virginia one week ago, took to Austin City Hall on Saturday to promote a message of love and unity. “The purpose in getting out here is to start helping heal the nation. That hasn’t been done on a higher, administrative level, yet,” said rally speaker Henry King. “It’s been attempted, but we really need to put humanity and peace even over America. We need to be human first and American second.”

Dallas Morning News - August 19, 2017

'Take them down': Thousands rally for end of Dallas' Confederate statues, white supremacy

Though a contingent of counterprotesters attempted to drown the message out, the loudest voice Saturday at a downtown rally came from thousands calling for the end of Dallas' Confederate memorials and white supremacy. The crowd of 2,500 reflected America's diversity and came in a range of ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds. The vast majority assembled outside City Hall denounced the nearby Confederate War Memorial and others throughout the city. But a few, including some seeking to save the statues, as well as a small anti-police group, had other agendas. Though there were some tense moments, no injuries or arrests were reported.

National Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

AAS: On racism, a president who’s lost the moral authority

Like the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who emerged from under their hoods for all the world to see last week in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump laid bare his character and his soul Tuesday, telling America that the white nationalists and those who protested racism were equals who shared blame in the mayhem. There “were very fine people on both sides,” the president said. Who knew that among the bigots screaming, “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan, “Blood and soil,” there were upstanding citizens, too?

Austin American-Statesman - August 19, 2017

U.S. health care is too big to fail. What Congress can do

Republicans won control of Congress and the White House based largely on a single promise: They’d rid the world of Obamacare, despite that law’s reduction of the number of uninsured people in this country by 20 million. “Obamacare is death,” the president told us. After so closely tracking various iterations of GOP health care proposals, everyone from patient advocates to health care provider groups to policy wonks — and lawmakers themselves — are now scratching their heads. What happens now? Make no mistake: nobody wins by indefinitely preserving the status-quo of Obamacare.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Parker: Trump is right: bigotry, violence ‘on many sides’

If not bigotry of the black left, how do we explain the absence of any mention of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.? Or the absence of any mention of America’s first black secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, from the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham? As the black left moves to whitewash all evidence of the confederacy and the Civil War from our history, they also want to whitewash the present and pretend the only blacks in America are liberals. And while they do it, they claim a monopoly on tolerance.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

Vanston: A new approach for North Korea’s nuclear weapon threat

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have traded increasing bellicose messages strongly suggesting the possible use of force against one another. It is entirely possible that a single misstep by one nation or the other would result in a nuclear engagement that could kill millions of people. In addition to threatening “fire and fury,” President Donald Trump is seeking enhanced sanctions on North Korea, particularly by China. China has shown little interest in bringing down the North Korean government, and apparently, sanctions have had little effect on the North Korean government, except to harden their positions.

New York Times - August 20, 2017

Bruni: The Week When President Trump Resigned

As the worst week in a cursed presidency wound down, I spotted more and more forecasts that Donald Trump would resign, including from Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal” for Trump and presumably understands his tortured psyche. They struck me not as wishful or fantastical. They struck me as late. Trump resigned the presidency already — if we regard the job as one of moral stewardship, if we assume that an iota of civic concern must joust with self-regard, if we expect a president’s interest in legislation to rise above vacuous theatrics, if we consider a certain baseline of diplomatic etiquette to be part of the equation.

Wall St. Journal - August 19, 2017

Right-Wing Rally Overwhelmed by Counterprotesters in Boston

A right-wing rally in Boston was overwhelmed by tens of thousands of protesters who turned out to demonstrate in the wake of last weekend’s violence at a white supremacists’ rally in Virginia. The “Boston Free Speech Rally” broke up quickly, more than an hour ahead of schedule and before the speaking program was completed, as a huge throng of counterprotesters approached Boston Common. As rally-goers left the area, some altercations broke out in the crowd. Police said they arrested 33 people as of late Saturday, most for disorderly conduct and some for assaulting the police. Officers also stopped three people wearing ballistic vests, one of whom had a gun, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said.

Politico - August 19, 2017

Lukianoff, Perrino: Why Even Nazis Deserve Free Speech

The events in Charlottesville last weekend have provoked understandable fear and outrage. Potential sites for future “alt-right” rallies are on edge. Texas A&M University, the University of Florida and Michigan State University have all decided to cancel or deny prospective events by white nationalist Richard Spencer. All cited safety concerns. All raise serious First Amendment issues. Even though we’ve been called “free speech absolutists”—sometimes, but not always, as a compliment—we will not pretend that Spencer’s speaking cancellations make for a slam-dunk First Amendment lawsuit. Yes, hateful, bigoted and racist speech is fundamentally protected under the First Amendment, as it should be. However, if we’re honest about the law, we have to recognize that Spencer faces tough—though not insurmountable—legal challenges.

Dallas Morning News - August 20, 2017

Okun: Ending white supremacy in U.S. starts with identifying troubled males to derail recruitment

Like our first president — not our current one — I cannot tell a lie: We must chop down the poisonous tree of white supremacist masculinity. I teared up when I heard about the alt-right's violence unleashed in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Some of my tears, though, were in frustration. After all the years colleagues and I have been writing and speaking about the gender of the killers — from Columbine to Orlando — how is it possible that coverage of murder suspect James Fields Jr. failed to point out the obvious: He was a disaffected, alienated 20-year-old male. Sound familiar? Recognize the profile?

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Lindenberger: The ACLU needs to keep defending hate groups' rights, armed or not

The American Civil Liberties Union should resist calls to moderate its defense of the free speech rights of hate groups like the ones that organized the despicable rally in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, and the ones who had planned to rally in College Station next month. The Constitution protects these neo-Nazis and white supremacists' right to speak freely just as much as it protects anything you or me or the civil rights group down the street want to say. And in states that have have foolishly passed open-carry laws, like Texas and Virginia, those groups have every legal right to shout their views with rifles slung over their shoulders or pistols at their hips.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Hughes: Is classroom technology good for learning or wasting time?

Can tablets teach children basic math and reading skills? As a professor who studies technology integration in K-12 schools, I can say the answer is yes, but there are some critical caveats. Computers running instructional software have been used to teach basic mathematics and reading since the 1960s. This software shows the student content on a certain topic. The student practices by answering one or more questions, and the computer evaluates the answer and provides feedback. Then the process is repeated with a new topic. Present-day instructional software uses more sophisticated data analytics and algorithms to adapt the instructional content to each student.

Washington Post - August 19, 2017

After Charlottesville, Republicans remain stymied over what to do about Trump

In the aftermath of the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Republican lawmakers and leaders face the most unpalatable set of choices yet in their relationship with President Trump. They are caught between disgust over his failure to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazism, a desire to advance a conservative agenda and fears of rupturing the Trump-GOP coalition ahead of the 2018 elections. Recent condemnations of the president by Republican lawmakers have been harsher, more frequent and sometimes more personal than in previous moments when Trump went beyond what is considered acceptable behavior. Many GOP leaders are now personally wrestling with the trade-offs of making a cleaner separation with the president, while finding no good options. To some in the party, the hesitancy to act more boldly in response to Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville violence — specifically his angry news conference Tuesday — falls short of what they believe this moment demands.

August 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Legislative battles behind, Republican leaders brace for political war ahead

Twenty-nine days and about $1 million later, the Republican-dominated Legislature ended the special legislative session this week just as deeply divided as when the regular legislative session flamed out in a flurry of threats and unfinished business. Only now, both sides have more ammunition as they turn their attention to the coming election battles. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered lawmakers back to Austin for a special session after the regular session ended in May with the failure of two of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's top priorities: a bill that would limit local property tax increases and one that would restrict where transgender Texans can use the bathroom.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Setback for DACA supporters places program's fate squarely in Trump's hands

Supporters of the immigration program to shield immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation suffered a setback Thursday after a ruling by a Brownsville federal judge that puts more pressure on President Donald Trump to decide the program's future. In July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a 10-state coalition in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the federal government to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by Sept. 5 or face a lawsuit. The program, commonly referred to as DACA, was created by a 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama. It provides protection from deportation and work permits for two years to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

DMN: Austin, how about a refund for that $1M in tax dollars you just wasted?

More than $1 million of the tax dollars you send to Austin was just spent on a special legislative session that accomplished little to improve the lives of Texans. Any lawmaker with the backbone to admit the truth would acknowledge that the best that can be said of the 29 taxpayer-supported days is that the Legislature did relatively little harm — despite the powerfully misguided efforts of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Abbott on Wednesday criticized the House — unsurprisingly singling out Speaker Joe Straus — for not fulfilling his wish list. Those players whom Abbott sees as blame-worthy goats, we salute for sound leadership.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Herman: The silence of the senior senator

In these odd times, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is a canary in the conservative coal mine. Our state’s senior senator is a reasonable, level-headed Republican plagued these days in a party that gave us a president whose head often does not seem level. Cornyn, who so far has been unwilling to chirp up about President Donald Trump, is among the Repubs who will go a long way in determining Trump’s fate, including in passing the president’s desired legislation and whether he finishes his term. When Cornyn and his ilk leave this listing ship, Trump’s sunk. I’ve always thought the thoughtful Cornyn thinks Trump is an unqualified amateur at best and an incompetent, dangerous loose cannon at worst.

Texas Tribune - August 18, 2017

State Rep. Matt Shaheen passes on Texas Senate run

State Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, has decided not to run for Texas Senate, passing up what could have been a marquee race in the 2018 primary season. "After much prayer, counsel and reflection on the Special Session, I have decided to seek another term in the Texas House of Representatives serving the citizens of House District 66," Shaheen wrote Friday on Facebook. "It is clear that the battle for the future of a better Texas lies in the House of Representatives and I belong in that fight."

Politico - August 18, 2017

Fears grow that Trump could ignore Congress on spending

Lawmakers and activists are preparing for the possibility that President Donald Trump's administration, in its zeal to slash the federal budget, will take the rare step of deliberately not spending all the money Congress gives it — a move sure to trigger legal and political battles. The concern is mainly focused on the State Department, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has drawn criticism for failing to spend $80 million allocated by Congress to fight Russian and terrorist propaganda and for trying to freeze congressionally authorized fellowships for women and minorities. Activists and congressional officials fear such practices could take hold at other U.S. departments and agencies under Trump.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

HC: Rape insurance -- Health insurance restriction is just the latest scheme to deny women access to abortion.

Our state lawmakers can't figure out how to cut our property taxes or fix our broken method of financing public schools. But when it comes to devising new ways of harassing women who want to end pregnancies, they're as inventive as Thomas Edison. Witness one of the few pieces of legislation they managed to pass in Austin this month, a bill mandating that standard health insurance plans no longer cover abortions performed outside of medical emergencies. So any woman in Texas who wants abortions covered as part of her health insurance would presumably have to pay a premium for a supplemental policy.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

DMN: President Trump pulls no punches, except when it comes to white supremacists and Vladimir Putin

After 18 months of campaigning and seven months of a presidency, it appears that if one wants to avoid criticism from President Donald Trump, the best bet is an association with white supremacists or to be the president of Russia. In Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, torch carrying neo-Nazis marched at the University of Virginia shouting pro-Nazi slogans. They combined with members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. In the mayhem that followed between those groups and counterprotesters, one of the white supremacists, James Alex Fields Jr., mowed down protesters with his car, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Austin Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Looking at the Lege After a Flaccid Special Session

Conundrum one: Texas Governor Greg Abbott has one 140-day regular legislative session, but can't get the House and Senate to agree on every bill he wants passed. He gives himself one 30-day special session to pass 20 bills he likes, but the two chambers each favor different bills. If the House takes away one day by calling sine die early, how many bills will Greg get to sign? The first special session of the Texas Legislature is over and done, with the House and Senate calling sine die on Tuesday, Aug. 15, with a full day still to spare. Nominally called to pass sunset legislation required to keep Texas' doctors licensed, the special soon became a battle over hyperconservative agenda points. Abbott added 19 more items to the call – attacks on local government, unions, teachers, abortion rights, and medical professionals; not to mention the reviled bathroom bill, or seemingly personal vendetta against tree preservation.

Politico - August 17, 2017

White House aides squirm at Trump’s rhetoric but stay put

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell, have been unhappy with Trump’s rhetoric on race over the past week, according to a White House official. But neither of them is considering resigning — they have told people it is too serious and dangerous a moment in the world for them to simply walk away. Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and a former Democrat, told colleagues he was furious at having to stand by like a prop while Trump defended neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. But the former Goldman Sachs CEO has not yet vented that frustration publicly, and friends and colleagues said they assume he is staying on in order to be nominated chairman of the Federal Reserve. “Nothing has changed,” a second White House official said. “Gary is focused on his responsibilities as NEC Director.”

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

5 Texas lawmakers tell Dallas mayor they want Confederate monuments removed

Confederate monuments in Dallas are "offensive, hurtful and repugnant," five state lawmakers wrote Thursday in a letter to Mayor Mike Rawlings. The Dallas Democrats -- State Sen. Royce West and Reps. Rafael Anchia, Helen Giddings, Toni Rose and Roberto Alonzo -- said they support Rawlings' plan to have a task force look at what to do with monuments near City Hall and in Oak Lawn. The future of Confederate monuments have been at the center of national rancor in recent days, especially after white supremacist protesters and counterprotesters clashed violently in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. The demonstrations resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a counterprotester.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

In controversial special session, little attention paid to ethics reform

Fourteen people showed up for a meeting of an investigations and ethics committee meeting just days before the end of the special legislative session. Five of them were lawmakers on the committee. Three were journalists looking for a story. Two others were staff members in charge of the meeting's operation. Two were the parents of the committee's vice chairman, Rep. Joe Moody, the only lawmaker with an item on the agenda. The sole item on the agenda: a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the governor from accepting political contributions during a special legislative session.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Watchdog: With no Texas property tax fix, here's another way to monitor and stop higher taxes

I owned a house in Texas for 17 years before I realized I could protest my property taxes. The tax bill was built into my mortgage payment like pepperoni on pizza, so I ignored it. Finally figured it out in 2011 when I saw that an online tax protest was a new thing. I tried it, and with the click of a computer mouse easily knocked a few thousand bucks off my taxable value. Since then, as The Watchdog, I've spread the word on how to challenge it (especially this year with my "Everybody File a Protest" campaign). Similarly, until last year, I never paid attention to those boring quarter-page newspaper ads that appear every August and are bought by cities, counties and school districts.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Murchison: Why Robert E. Lee is the uniter America has been looking for

A historic human habit of which most are occasionally guilty is that of getting tied in knots over philosophical questions as hard to understand in origin as to disentangle in practice. Assuming they ever get successfully disentangled. The growing brawl over the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park comes to mind. Hardly a passer-by had complained or even taken much notice of the Lee statue or its fitness to go on commanding, as it has since 1936, a verdant slope leading down to Turtle Creek Boulevard. Now in recent days, everybody has an opinion of the statue: monument to heroism and bravery, or hideous moral pollutant.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

DMN: Facing safety concerns, Texas A&M retreats from obligation to permit speech we abhor

Let the neo-Nazis speak. Let them rally, and march, and spew their hateful and harmful nonsense. Let those who oppose those messages march, too. That's precisely what our First Amendment requires. What it doesn't require is for a community to stand by and allow speech to turn into violence. Set against these twinned considerations, Texas A&M University confronted a painful dilemma this week when deciding to withdraw its permission for a white supremacist group to hold a rally on campus next month. Given how violent a similar rally last weekend in Virginia had turned, the university said it could not guarantee the safety of participants or onlookers in College Station.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Sebesta: Confederate heritage is at the root of recent tragedies and troubles

At an Aug. 10 rally at Pioneer Park in Dallas calling for Confederate monuments to be removed, neo-Confederate protesters became enraged when the Rev. Michael Waters referred to Dylann Roof's massacre in Charleston, S.C. One protester interrupted the speech to shout that Roof had nothing to do with the Confederacy. Technically that is true; Roof was born long after the Confederacy was defeated. But the 2015 shootings that left nine dead had everything to do with so-called Confederate heritage. It is a disturbing trend that dates to the 19th century. In Hamburg, S.C., on July 8, 1876, African-Americans were massacred by white militias, the beginning of a campaign of violence and terror by the Red Shirts, who overthrew the multiracial democracy of Reconstruction.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

DMN: You can name a new UNT chancellor, but it's impossible to replace the leadership span of retiring Lee Jackson

The most visible symbol of Lee Jackson’s 15-year tenure as chancellor of the University of North Texas System may be its newest campus. Perched on a bluff in southernmost Dallas, UNT-Dallas’ small cluster of academic buildings reflects Jackson’s goal of making affordable, employable degrees more accessible to all North Texans. UNT-Dallas is the first public university within the city limits, and it serves students, local employers and the surrounding community. It’s one of many examples of how Jackson has quietly, skillfully and respectfully worked the machinery of local and state government to do useful things for the people of North Texas. In his four-decade career in public service, he has been a state representative and a county judge.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Texas goes to Wall Street for a short-term loan of $5.4 billion

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Thursday announced he's selling $5.4 billion in short-term IOUs to help manage the state's cash flow in the next few months. Hegar will be issuing "tax and revenue anticipation notes," known as TRANs, for the first time in three years. The Republican comptroller's announcement of an Aug. 22 auction of the securities contained good and bad news, said one expert on the state's finances.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

North Texas police officers try to ease fear among immigrants over Senate Bill

North Texas police leaders are trying to ease fear among immigrant communities over a tough new immigration law scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. The controversial law is billed as a way to combat “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials. But immigrants and their advocates counter that it will lead to racial profiling. It prohibits local law enforcement agencies from barring officers from asking about a person’s immigration status during a lawful detention, among other things.

Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2017

Floyd: The emotion surrounding the death penalty is a compelling argument against its use

What should happen now to Paul David Storey? Nothing. "Nothing" would mean leaving Storey, a convicted capital murderer, to live out the rest of his days at his current address, which is prison. Late last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Storey's execution, which had been scheduled to take place Wednesday. The court was motivated — indirectly, at least — by the pleas of the victim's parents, who do not want their son's killer put to death. As I said last week in writing about this case, we cannot allow victims or their survivors to assess punishment for the criminals who have wronged them. That would be too arbitrary, too inconsistent, too emotional.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Organizer of white supremacist rally delaying Texas A&M event to give America 'time to heal'

Preston Wiginton, a former Texas A&M University student who had planned a white supremacist rally on campus Sept. 11, said Thursday that he is postponing the event. The announcement is an about-face from his declaration earlier this week that he might still lead a campus gathering on his chosen date, despite the fact that the university had canceled his event in light of the deadly white supremacist demonstration in Virginia. Wiginton said at a news conference at the state Capitol that America needs "time to heal," the Houston Chronicle reported. But he also told reporters he's pursuing legal action and hopes to have his White Lives Matter rally at a later date.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Donald Trump Jr. will speak at UNT event this fall

Donald Trump Jr. is coming to the Dallas area this fall as a guest of the University of North Texas, which will feature him as part of its Kuehne Speaker Series. The president's eldest son, who is executive vice president of the Trump Organization, is scheduled to speak Oct. 24. University spokeswoman Kelley Reese said UNT hasn't finalized a contract for the venue yet. A tweet posted Wednesday by the university's student newspaper had indicated the event would take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Austin American-Statesman - August 18, 2017

Oppel: Move Confederate statues from parks to reliquaries

Every Southern city should have a reliquary to receive Confederate statues. These monuments are a part of history and some are true works of art. But they should no longer dominate downtown squares and parks in cities where 30 percent or more of residents are the descendants of formerly enslaved people. To those who say these relics are an essential part of our history and heritage and should be revered or at least preserved to remind us of our past, bad as well as good, I agree they need preservation in some form – but not the public reverence that comes with placement in our treasured parks and squares.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

After Texas A&M rally canceled, white nationalist says he may hold event near campus

After Texas A&M University canceled a white nationalist rally that was planned for September at the university's plaza, the organizer says he wants to host some sort of event off-campus. However, it would not be on Sept. 11, when the original rally was planned, said Preston Wiginton, the white nationalist who organized the “White Lives Matter” rally.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Texas police chiefs start adapting to ‘sanctuary cities’ law

Even as a new Texas law targeting so-called sanctuary cities remains in legal limbo, police chiefs and sheriffs are making changes to comply, rewriting training manuals and withdrawing policies that prevented officers from asking people whether they are in the United States illegally. The law, known as Senate Bill 4, goes into effect Sept. 1 unless a federal judge in San Antonio blocks it. The law prohibits police from stopping an officer from inquiring into the immigration status of someone during an arrest or a traffic stop, and it requires local jails to honor all “detainer” requests issued by federal immigration authorities to continue holding a person until his or her immigration status is checked.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

West Texas sand rush exposes faults in state’s lizard protection plan

A sudden influx of mining companies scraping the West Texas oil patch for sand to use in fracking operations has disrupted nearly as much highly sensitive habitat of a rare lizard in the last three months as the oil and gas industry had in the previous five years, according to state officials and a conservation group that monitors the area. The development, they say, exposes deep, and potentially fatal flaws in the state’s much-vaunted private-public plan to protect the rare dunes sagebrush lizard. The Texas Conservation Plan was adopted in 2012 as a way to avoid the land-use restrictions that would accompany the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially designating the small brown lizard as endangered.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Central Texas congressional Republicans sidestep questions on Trump

Republican members of Congress representing Central Texas avoided an opportunity to address remarks by President Donald Trump about violence in Charlottesville, Va., and how he’s handled issues of race. White supremacists last weekend protested the city’s decision to remove a statute depicting Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Their presence drew numerous counterprotesters, and clashes ended with one counterprotester dead and dozens more injured. Trump said counterprotesters share in the blame for what happened and that many protesters were “innocently” and “very legally” exercising their rights.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

First Reading: Make America white nationalist again. On Charlottesville and Donald Trump.

For the better part of two years around the turn of the century I traveled on Martin Luther King streets across America with photographer Michael Falco for a series of newspaper articles that became a book: Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America’s Main Street. It was the best experience of my life as a reporter. It was a revelation. (On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Falco did a battlefield-to-battlefield journey with a pinhole camera and produced a beautiful book, published this year, Echoes of The Civil War, from which I have a used a few images here.)

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Thomas: Open carry for swords is a fortnight away — shop local and arm thyself

Summer has slipped away. September is coming. And there you are, still without a sword. Not even a dirk, stiletto or spear. Your Texas friends and neighbors probably armed themselves right after Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1935 allowing open carry of all sorts of edged weapons. The quiet guy across the street? Totally stocking up on ninja throwing stars. I know, keeping Austin weird … (The Legislature, in a moment of weakness, did hold on to some restrictions: You can’t take your scimitar to school. You can’t take your longsword to a Longhorns game. You can’t take your bastard sword to the bar …. which is probably a good limitation.)

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

UT’s McRaven worries that U.S. is losing sight of its common humanity

University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven said Thursday that the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., has heightened his concern that the nation is losing sight of its common humanity. “Some, who are lost in a world of hatred, bigotry and violence, are focusing on our differences and not our commonalities,” McRaven said in a memo to the presidents of the 14 UT System campuses. “Those bent on destruction chose to separate themselves from the well intentioned populous. They separate themselves because they are afraid. They are afraid because they lack the understanding, the empathy and the acceptance that comes from a worldly experience.”

Texas Tribune - August 17, 2017

Texas voting law on language interpreters violates Voting Rights Act, court says

Texas ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act by restricting the interpretation assistance English-limited voters may receive at the ballot box, a federal appeals court found. In an opinion issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an obscure provision of the Texas Election Code that requires interpreters helping someone cast a ballot to also be registered to vote in the same county in which they are providing help clashes with federal voting protections.

Texas Tribune - August 18, 2017

With bathroom bill dead, Pastor Council looks to future fights

A day before the Texas Legislature ended its special session this week, a session that included a high-profile fight over a "bathroom bill" that appeared almost certainly dead, David Welch had a message for Gov. Greg Abbott: call lawmakers back to Austin. Again. For years, Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, has worked to pass a bill that would ban local policies that ensured transgender individuals’ right to use restrooms in public schools and government buildings that match their gender identity. The summer special session, which was quickly coming to a close, had been Welch and other social conservatives’ second chance, an overtime round after the bill — denounced by critics as discriminatory and unnecessary — failed during the regular session that ended in May.

Texas Tribune - August 18, 2017

Moody: Remembering Mark White

I was deeply saddened to learn of Gov. Mark White’s passing. I have many fond memories, both personal and political, of our long friendship. His intelligence, wit, compassion and loyalty not only changed my life, but the face of Texas itself. I first met White when he was secretary of state under Gov. Dolph Briscoe. I worked on campaigns in both college and law school and was actually working for the Democratic Party when he was elected attorney general in 1978. I can still remember when he called me in 1982 and asked me to manage his campaign in El Paso County, which was an honor because of how critical El Paso would be for carrying the November election against Bill Clements, a powerful and wealthy incumbent. White was an underdog whose strongest supporters were teachers, and I worked hard with local educators to maximize the El Paso vote.

Texas Tribune - August 18, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Which recent election cycles have been the closest — and what does that mean in 2018?

Hey, Texplainer: Which recent election cycles have been the closest in Texas — and what does that mean for 2018? It’s no secret that Texas typically votes red. Texas last backed the Democratic candidate for president more than 40 years ago, when Jimmy Carter defeated Republican Gerald Ford by 3.2 percentage points. In the 10 elections since then, the state has been a reliable Republican stronghold.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Rauls: Texas lawmakers did a good job protecting kids

As the special session unfolds, it’s gratifying to know that legislators heeded Gov. Greg Abbott’s guidance and spent the regular session doing the heavy lifting related to protecting vulnerable Texas children. It was no small task: the Texas child welfare system is incredibly complex, meshing public and private resources into a safety net that events of the past few years have shown to be riddled with dangerous holes. The 85th Texas Legislature leveraged a key resource in closing these gaps by further investing in children’s advocacy centers (CACs). In 1995, the Legislature officially adopted the CAC model as the best-practice approach to investigating sexual and physical abuse of children and providing recovery services to the victims.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Settlement reached in dispute over medical evaluations in Dilley detention center

Immigration officials have reached a settlement with pro bono attorneys who had sued the federal government over access to families in the detention center in Dilley. The lawsuit was filed in June after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement barred a legal assistant for a pro bono legal aid program from visiting with detainees. According to the lawsuit, ICE barred the legal assistant after she set up telephonic medical evaluations for detainees without ICE’s permission.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Push to remove Confederate monuments at state Capitol facing roadblock

Three of the six members of the governing board that oversees the Texas Capitol grounds said that while they oppose hate and bigotry, they don’t think Confederate memorials should be removed, even as efforts to do that gain momentum. “The goal is to learn from history, all of our history, including events and times that many would like to forget,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a member of the State Preservation Board, whose duty is to preserve and maintain the Capitol complex. “Our goal should be to have a meaningful dialogue for future generations so those moments in our history are not repeated.”

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Yancy: On NAFTA renegotiations, first do no harm

Today, when the formal NAFTA renegotiation process kicks off, I’ll be joined by government, business and nonprofit leaders in El Paso at the 2017 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit to discuss the merits of this trade agreement and what the future holds for U.S.-Mexico trade relations under NAFTA 2.0. While in some ways our conversation will mirror that happening in Washington, D.C. — what about the original trade agreement worked well, what has changed in our economies since the agreement was signed, how do we create a new trade agreement that benefits all countries involved — our conversation will not revolve around political rhetoric. Instead, we will focus on real data and the stories of those who have seen firsthand the economic benefits of NAFTA and how it can work better.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

New CEO tapped for Alamo

The Texas General Land Office and nonprofit Alamo Endowment have selected a new CEO for the Alamo while backing off plans to keep the controversial vertical glass walls at both ends of the plaza in the master plan for its makeover. Douglass W. McDonald, a Cincinnati museum consultant who served as an adviser on the Alamo master plan for six months, began work Wednesday as CEO of the state-owned shrine, overseeing a 109-member staff and reporting to the Land Office and nonprofit Alamo Endowment.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Election officials win repeal of mail-in ballot law, but not in time for November vote

A law meant to prevent mail-in ballot fraud at nursing homes while expanding residents’ voting opportunities will be in place for only a few months before it dies. Texas legislators voted to repeal the law after hearing concerns from elections administrators over its cost and logistics. But there’s a glitch. The law takes effect Sept. 1, and its repeal was added to a broader bill that isn’t effective until Dec. 1. That gives the nursing home bill a three-month life that will carry it through the November election.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Glitch sparks concerns about fully funding new grant programs for kids with disabilities

State lawmakers agreed to spend $40 million on school district programs for children with dyslexia and autism, but the Legislature botched the fine print in drafting the final version of the bill, and special education advocates worry the result could cut that check in half. After lawmakers spent much of the last year working to address shortcomings in the state's special education system, the governor Wednesday signed a bill to give $20 million in grants to prop up model programs for students with autism and $20 million in grants for students with dyslexia. But the wording in the bill could be construed in such a way that only $10 million would be distributed for programs focusing on each disability, potentially shrinking the program that advocates say is already too small.

Houston Chronicle - August 18, 2017

Agreement first step in bringing a high-speed rail connection between Houston and Dallas

Calling a planned high-speed rail connection to Dallas "an idea whose time has come," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an agreement Thursday with the bullet train's backers that both sides said is the first of many steps to making the trip a reality. "This is the starting point to begin the process of definitive agreements," Turner said, underscoring that the agreement between Houston and Texas Central Partners lacks specifics but commits both to cooperate on a project both want built. Before a formal signing ceremony at City Hall, the city and company said the memorandum of understanding commits both sides to share environmental surveys, utility analysis and engineering related to the project and surrounding area.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - August 12, 2017

Jiminez: It's time to shut down myths about affirmative action

Donald Trump never lets a class or racial resentment go without being poked. If white Americans are out of a job, then the reason are those Mexican illegal immigrants who are taking those jobs. If factories are closing, then it's because the jobs are going to Mexico. If American goods are being left behind on the store shelves, it's because foreigners are cheating at trade. If white college applicants aren't getting into the college of their choice, then it's because of affirmative action. This one allows grievance to be clothed in the robes of victimhood.

Associated Press - August 18, 2017

Texas unemployment rate improves to 4.3 percent, same as US

The Texas unemployment rate improved to 4.3 percent in July to mirror the national jobless figure. The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday announced the third straight month of declining statewide unemployment. The June unemployment rate for Texas was 4.6 percent. A TWC statement says Amarillo had the lowest jobless rate in Texas last month at 3.1 percent.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Abilene Reporter-News - August 17, 2017

Confederate monument controversy not new to Texas

Rodney Ellis was a 36-year-old state senator in 1991 representing many of the same Houston neighborhoods as Barbara Jordan had served a generation earlier when he first called for the removal of statues and artwork at the Texas Capitol glorifying the Civil War. “I was told it would be best to devote energies to something more productive,” recalled Ellis, who left the Senate last year when he was elected to the Harris County Commissioners Court. “So I started pushing for a memorial to honor African-American history in Texas. And 26 years later, I succeeded.”

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Lawmakers provide little extra money for Austin-area school districts

Despite talk of teacher raises and a bill overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House that would have infused $1.8 billion into Texas schools, lawmakers left Austin this week without moving the needle much on education funding. At the end of the 29-day special legislative session this week, the Legislature passed a scaled back version of House Bill 21 that will spend $351 million on schools and $212 million to reduce health care costs for retired teachers. Urban school districts will get little to nothing in additional funding over the next two years under HB 21.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Monument sits in shadows of Richmond's historical divide

The obelisk looms largely unnoticed beside City Hall. Few know the story it commemorates. No plaque explains what is left untold. A notation at the base reads, "OUR HEROES." Its support for three men who died championing white supremacy is all but lost to history. While debate over Confederate statues is sweeping the nation, not all monuments enshrining racist beliefs have yet been caught in its wake. In Richmond, a small but growing city 30 miles southwest of Houston, no one is demanding removal of the obscure obelisk. Some residents believe their fellow townspeople are too scared to take action, or don't believe in capacity for change. Others see it differently.

City Stories

Associated Press - August 18, 2017

TEA is probing another San Antonio school district

Harlandale Independent School District is under a special accreditation investigation because of complaints about governance, contract procurement and alleged nepotism and conflict of interest, according to a letter the Texas Education Agency sent last week to board members and Superintendent Reynaldo Madrigal. The letter cited allegations that Madrigal made four agreements with Terracon Consultants in 2015 for construction materials and testing services and six payments to the company totaling nearly $61,000, all without board approval.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

When the Ku Klux Klan gripped Austin and the nation

Hate groups, historians remind us, have always been with us. The recent deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., might have been the largest and most brazen of such American gatherings in a decade or so. However, one of the constituent groups, the Ku Klux Klan, has emblazoned a long historical scar on Texas. At one point during the 1920s, the group was politically and socially pervasive nationwide, almost a daily fact of life. Its Austin chapter had swelled to 1,500 members by 1922. It took a determined effort by crusaders such as future Texas Gov. Dan Moody to quell the tide.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

As Uber touts changes after return to Austin, some city leaders remain skeptical

On June 15, 2016, a month after Uber and Lyft left Austin, Uber representatives Adam Goldman and Trevor Theunissen walked into Austin City Hall to meet with Mayor Steve Adler. Their purpose for being there, Theunissen said, was to mend a broken relationship with the city. Uber, along with ride-hailing competitor Lyft, had just lost a costly and intense battle with the city over an ordinance requiring ride-hailing companies to fingerprint their drivers -- a rule both companies opposed. In a May 7 special election, Austin voters sided with the city. Both companies ended service a few days later.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Confederate rally in Austin moved to later date

Organizers say a rally and march to promote “true Confederate heritage” has changed dates after discussing the event with Austin police and the Austin Parks Department. A Facebook event page hosted by the Texas Confederate Militia says the Dixie Freedom Rally has been moved from Sept. 2 to Sept. 23. The location – Woolridge Square park, on Guadalupe Street between 9th and 10th streets – is the same. Attendees will hear from guest speakers, then march to the Capitol and nearby Confederate monuments, the event page says.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Britt: 3 more months of conversation on Dallas' Confederate statues isn't good enough

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings missed an opportunity this week to stand up for justice and fairness. Our country is in a moral crisis. We cannot look to the White House for leadership. We cannot look to our statehouse for leadership. We only have our city leaders, and while I've been a steady supporter of Mayor Rawlings, this time, he missed the moment. On Tuesday, Mayor Rawlings called for a process in which — through conversation — recommendations would be made on whether to remove monuments and memorials that extol the valor, courage and sacrifice of Confederate soldiers. Soldiers who lost the most seminal conflict in our nation's history. A conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives.

McAllen Monitor - August 15, 2017

McAllen votes to oppose ‘sanctuary cities’ law

City Commissioners on Monday “condemned” Senate Bill 4, known as the “sanctuary cities” law. McAllen is the fourth city in the Rio Grande Valley to oppose the state law in some capacity. Commissioners voted to pass a resolution that “supports all efforts to thwart the restrictions and unfunded mandates of the law, and opposes and efforts to further the enforcement of this bill.” SB 4 goes into effect on Sept. 1 and requires local authorities to assist federal immigration enforcement without any additional funding. The law also subjects a police chief to prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor for failure to comply with federal immigration enforcement requests as deemed “reasonable and necessary” at the sole discretion of the federal government.

Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2017

Austin doesn’t shine in study of safest cities in America

What is the safest metro city in Texas? No, Austin doesn’t even make the top 5. With all the press about El Paso exceeding expectations, you shouldn’t be surprised that a new study by SafeWise has the border city as the safest in the state. What is surprising, is that they rank El Paso No. 2 in the nation, wedged between New York City and Virginia Beach. SafeWise, a web company promoting home security and safety advice, based their study on FBI crime data from 2015, considering only cities with at least 300,000 residents.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Former mayor sought unemployment benefits from the city

Soon after she lost the June mayoral runoff, Ivy Taylor filed a claim for unemployment benefits from the city of San Antonio through the Texas Workforce Commission, sources said. The city contacted Taylor after she filed the claim, the sources said, and recommended she withdraw it because it otherwise would be rejected. They said Taylor attempted to, but the Texas Workforce Commission wouldn’t allow the claim to be withdrawn.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

HC: Buried history -- Confederate monuments conceal the real story of our nation - and our city.

On Lowes Island, about 100 miles northeast of Charlottesville, Va., rests a monument to a Civil War battle where the casualties were so great that the spot became known as "The River of Blood." The monument - a flagpole and plaque - was installed by Donald Trump during a 2009 renovation of a golf club that he had purchased. In line with the now-president's penchant for self-promotion, Trump even quoted himself on the historic plaque. "It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!" Just one problem: There's no such battle as the "The River of Blood."

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Ryan: Don't remove Houston's Confederate statues. Put them in context.

By their nature, monuments express an aspiration. They suppress the messy and complex motivations of history, aiming to memorialize the past and, in the process, give form to some virtue, and a boost to that virtue in the political and social future. The Lincoln Memorial, for example, expresses the aspiration that a united country, after its devastating civil war, live out its "new birth of freedom" and achieve a more pure government of, by and for the people. Political passions of the moment, any moment, have an even greater tendency to simplify attitudes towards the complex legacies of the past. They easily polarize around already simplified public imagery. We see that tendency in the current conflicts over monuments, the Confederate memorials that dot the South, including here in Houston.

National Stories

Politico - August 17, 2017

Lawmakers raise cash off Trump-Russia probe

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s campaign website features ominous photos of President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. It warns about Russia’s attacks on last year’s presidential election and asks visitors to sign a petition demanding that a bipartisan commission investigate. Those who sign are then asked to contribute $5, $10, $25 or more to the California Democrat. Swalwell is one of the junior members of the House Intelligence Committee, which has long had an unspoken rule against engaging in partisan fundraising related to the panel’s secretive work.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

McCann: Why can't Trump denounce white terrorists as he does ISIS terrorists?

Last weekend, white terrorists stormed Charlottesville, Va., for the Unite the Right rally to defend the town's Robert E. Lee statue, one of many Confederate statues facing backlash around the country. The group of KKK members, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, alt-right members and various other racists marched with tiki torches and flags while chanting Nazi slogans. As if that wasn't disgusting enough, these thugs turned violent. On Saturday, President Donald Trump condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides." On Tuesday, he doubled down: "There are two sides to a story.

Associated Press - August 17, 2017

Confederate monuments not limited to the Old South

Confederate monuments aren't just located in parks and cemeteries in the states of the Old South. Most of the 11 Southern states that seceded prior to and during the Civil War have rebel monuments on or near the grounds of their state Capitol buildings. In Montgomery, Alabama, where the Confederacy was formed in 1861, statues, plaques and monuments dot the Capitol grounds. A statue erected in memory of the mothers, daughters and wives of Confederate soldiers stands outside the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi. A stone column topped by a Confederate statue looms stands outside the Capitol in Austin, Texas.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - August 17, 2017

Trump’s Confederate statue stance grew from success with ‘identity politics’

For two long days, President Trump’s responses to the violent events in Charlottesville has been recorded as a disaster. News shows and editorial boards have condemned him. Chatter of replacing him on the 2020 Republican ticket has picked up again. Two corporate advisory councils shuttered after a steady exodus of their members — all of them citing Trump’s insistence that a murderous Saturday in Charlottesville was the fault of “both sides,” not specifically of white supremacists who organized a “Unite the Right” rally that turned deadly. Trump has been here before. The president’s ability to dive into controversies and come safely out the other end has given pause to critics, right and left, who wonder how the debate over racism will play out. Trump’s Thursday tweets, which attempted to shift the discussion to the wisdom of keeping Confederate monuments in place, appeared to put him on firmer political ground.

Washington Post - August 17, 2017

Van plows into crowd in Barcelona, killing 13; second, related attempt is thwarted

BRUSSELS — Spain came under repeated attack starting Thursday in what authorities called linked terrorist incidents, when a driver swerved a van into crowds in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores of others. Early Friday, an attempted attack unfolded in a town down the coast. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Barcelona violence. The initial attack broke the peace of a warm summer afternoon in a packed, tourist-friendly area of Barcelona at the peak of vacation season, and the victims came from well beyond the city’s borders. Authorities said that 15 people had suffered serious injuries and that the death toll could rise. More than 100 people were hurt, said Joaquim Forn, the interior minister of the Catalan regional government.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Defiant, Trump laments removal of Confederate statues and lashes out at critics

Defiant after six days of controversy over a neo-Nazi rally and his insistence that "both sides" bear blame for violence that ensued, President Trump dug in on Thursday with a lament over the push to remove Confederate symbols from public sites. He also lashed out at fellow Republicans who have scolded him for giving comfort to white supremacists by taking digs at those who oppose them. "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. Many black Americans, in particular, took offense, including some Republicans. They and others pointed out that the Confederacy fought to defend and prolong slavery, making that history anything but beautiful for their ancestors.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Ted Cruz says Americans should not 'sanitize history' by taking down Confederate monuments

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that cities should not get rid of Confederate statues and monuments in order to "sanitize history." "I don't think we should go through and simply try to erase from history prior chapters, even if they were wrong," Cruz said during a news conference. "But I think that's a decision each community has to make. ... I suspect different communities will approach this decision differently." President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was disappointed with the removal of Confederate monuments, saying on Twitter that the nation's cities were losing some of their beauty.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Arkansas has new supply of lethal drug; execution to be set

Arkansas has a new supply of a controversial lethal injection drug months after the state put four men to death over an eight-day period, officials said Thursday, as the state prepared to set an execution date for an inmate. Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office said he planned to schedule an execution for Jack Greene after a request from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Greene was convicted in the 1991 killing of Sidney Jethro Burnett after Burnett and his wife accused Greene of arson. He has exhausted his appeals and there's no stay of execution in place, Rutledge told the governor in her request.

Associated Press - August 17, 2017

Southern anger: Nazis, KKK 'hijacking' Confederate debate

CHULAFINNEE, Ala. (AP) — White Southerners who equate Old South symbols with regional pride rather than hate are even more on the defensive since neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other extremists became the face of the fight over Confederate monuments. With more than two dozen relatives who fought for the Confederacy, Robert Castello literally wears his Southern pride. The visor, suspenders and ring he donned Thursday were all emblazoned with the familiar design of the rebel battle flag. But Castello, whose Dixie General Store sells Confederate-themed hats, shirts, stickers and signs in rural eastern Alabama, said he doesn't have any use for overtly racist groups like the Klan.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

McRaven: Universities are no place for suppressing decency

The following is the bulk of an email Chancellor William H. McRaven sent to the presidents of the 14 University of Texas System institutions in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va. Presidents: In 1977, when I was commissioned as an ensign, the Navy's tagline was, "Join the Navy and see the world." Well, I can tell you that the Navy kept its promise. After 37 years of service, I sailed the seven seas, visited over 90 countries and met with people of every conceivable culture and background. What became clear in my travels was the universality of humanity: not the things that separated us, but things that bound us together.

Washington Post - August 18, 2017

‘I hope Trump is assassinated’: A Missouri lawmaker’s Facebook comment leads to calls for her resignation

A Missouri lawmaker is under mounting pressure to resign after she said on social media she hopes President Trump is assassinated, following his response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal went on her personal Facebook page Thursday morning to vent two days after the president blamed “both sides” for the brutality. “I put up a statement saying, ‘I really hate Trump. He’s causing trauma and nightmares.’ That was my original post,” she told the Kansas City Star. The Facebook post received many responses, Chappelle-Nadal said, and to one she replied, “I hope Trump is assassinated!”

New York Times - August 18, 2017

Southwest Rises as 2018 Senate Battleground

The tweet landed without warning or elaboration, just days before a presidential visit to Arizona: In the early hours of Thursday, President Trump, not for the first time, savaged Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, calling him “toxic” and “WEAK,” hailing Mr. Flake’s primary challenger and drawing fierce pushback from fellow Republicans. By tiptoeing to the edge of endorsing Kelli Ward, a far-right former state senator, over an incumbent Republican, Mr. Trump further roiled a state and region already badly shaken by his campaign and its aftermath.

Washington Post - August 18, 2017

Sen. Corker isn’t the only Republican who’s increasingly questioning Trump’s stability

Once upon a time, there were rumblings in Washington that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was under consideration as a potential secretary of state in the administration of President Trump. That didn’t pan out and, in the months since Trump’s inauguration, it’s become clear that this was for the best, as Corker has repeatedly criticized Trump’s time in office. In May, after The Post reported that Trump had revealed classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, Corker described the White House as being in a “downward spiral.” When Trump repeatedly bashed his own attorney general, former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, Corker criticized the president’s behavior.

Washington Post - August 17, 2017

In conservative media, an amen chorus defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville violence

President Trump’s three-part reaction to the weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville has inspired a few head-turning Fox News segments, with hosts and guests typically friendly toward the president scrambling off the Trump Train. But under less scrutiny, conservative hosts who have been generally supportive of Trump have spent the week endorsing his evolving message. On “Bottom Line,” the commentary segment included with Sinclair Media programming, former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn argued that the president had given a pitch-perfect response and that opposition was coming from the violent left, which did not want to be exposed.

Washington Post - August 17, 2017

Democrats launch #RiseAndOrganize campaign to build on Charlottesville protests

The Democratic National Committee is jumping into the ongoing waves of protests that have followed Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, launching a #RiseAndOrganize campaign to direct activists toward electoral politics. “In addition to calling on Republicans to denounce Trump, the next step is getting people to commit to vote,” explained DNC chief executive Jess O’Connell. “This is a galvanizing moment.” The DNC has spent weeks on a “Resistance Summer” campaign, one of several simultaneous national efforts to galvanize protesters and get them working on achievable political wins. The #RiseAndOrganize campaign, explained O’Connell, would involve Democrats finding the best opportunities to grill their representatives in public, as well as talking to people on the sidelines about the need to get involved.

Politico - August 17, 2017

Charges revised against ex-Wasserman Schultz aide

A federal grand jury has broadened the criminal indictment against Imran Awan, a former House Democratic IT staffer who was charged with bank fraud last month as he tried to leave the United States for Pakistan. Awan's wife, Hina Alvi, has also been indicted, although she and the couple's three children are already in Pakistan, according to FBI officials. The new charges against Awan and Alvi include conspiracy to commit bank fraud; false statements on a loan or credit application; unlawful monetary transactions; and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Whitfield: When does our moral outrage about racism finally lead to change?

It's Dr. Martin Luther King's truth I want to write about, how it's "love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies." It's the truth of the universe, this love underneath the phenomena of violence. It's what will be after we're gone. It's King's call I want to write about, for someone strong enough to "cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil." Someone, as he said, with "religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love." It's the call of God, not just Dr. King. It is the impulse of every living thing.

Barron's - August 17, 2017

The ‘Trump Rally’ May Have Kicked Into Reverse

There’s little doubt that the narrative has shifted when it comes to the relationship between Trump and the stock market. Markets began to rally the morning after Election Day as investors theorized that Trump, working with a new Republican-controlled Congress, would get stuff done that markets like, principally a tax measure that would lower both individual and corporate rates. But the “Trump rally” began hitting speed bumps in recent months, as legislative missteps on health-care reform and Oval Office infighting led to investor concerns that tax reform would be delayed and perhaps watered down. But in the last week, a political debate that started with a statue of Civil War general Robert E. Lee in a park in Charlottesville has morphed into something much bigger, even jeopardizing Trump’s former status as a pro-business president.

Reuters - August 17, 2017

U.S. forces to stay in Syria for decades, say militia allies

Washington's main Syrian ally in the fight against Islamic State says the U.S. military will remain in northern Syria long after the jihadists are defeated, predicting enduring ties with the Kurdish-dominated region. The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, believes the United States has a "strategic interest" in staying on, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters. "They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) ... and the U.S. administration," Silo said.

Reuters - August 17, 2017

Trump's attacks could leave him friendless if impeachment comes

President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on Republican senators, an approach he may regret if he is someday impeached and the Senate has to weigh charges against him stemming from an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. More than half of the 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would be central to any proceeding to remove Trump from office, have tangled with the Republican president, including on Thursday when he fired off early-morning tweets. In one Twitter series, Trump called Senator Lindsey Graham "publicity seeking" and said he "just can't forget his election trouncing" in the 2016 presidential race. Trump also assailed Senator Jeff Flake, another Republican critic, as "a non-factor in the Senate," adding, "He's toxic."

August 17, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2017

Factory workers are quitting in droves

At a time when the Trump administration argues that creating manufacturing jobs is a critical national goal - even coordinating with states on generous subsidy packages to woo blue-collar employers - many factory workers are making a surprising decision: They're quitting. Government data shows workers in the sector are giving up their jobs at the fastest pace in a decade. That's a powerful sign, economists say, that workers think they can find work elsewhere. Part of this confidence stems from the nation's 4.3 percent unemployment rate, a 16-year low. But they say they also fear robots zapping jobs in the future, while many workers have tucked away savings from union-championed raises and retirement benefits.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

After sudden sine die, House GOP has`very civil’ meeting on `process’

The morning after sine die, 80 some members of the House Republican Caucus met for about 90 minutes behind closed doors at the John H. Reagan Office Building near the Capitol Wednesday, and emerged talking positively about the discussion and the prospect for party unity. “It was a good caucus discussion that we had and, you know, being unified going forward, its going to be awesome, it’s going to be really good,” said Rep. Ron Simmons, the Carrolton Republican who sponsored the “privacy” legislation in the House, intended to bar localities from making their own transgender-friendly bathroom policies, that failed to get a hearing or a floor vote during the special session.

Texas Tribune - August 17, 2017

Ramsey: The tyranny of the minority

Is it really a good idea to make a majority of a minority, as some Republicans hope to do in the Texas House of Representatives? A proposal to have the GOP caucus vote as a bloc in the next speaker’s race could do just that, putting a vocal minority of Republicans in charge, and making the Texas House a lot more like the U.S. Congress — where some decisions that used to be made by all the members of the House are made only by the members of the party in power. The Republican Caucus met Wednesday morning to talk about the next vote on a speaker of the House in January 2019 — and whether the members of the caucus should pick a candidate and then stand in unison behind their pick when the speaker vote goes to the full House.

Washington Post - August 17, 2017

Steve Bannon says rivals ‘wetting themselves,’ calls supremacists ‘clowns,’ contradicts Trump on N. Korea

Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist, seemed to take issue with President Trump on North Korea, attacked white supremacists as “clowns” and “losers” and described his efforts against administration rivals in an unusual interview Wednesday with The American Prospect, a progressive magazine. The interview with magazine co-editor and columnist Robert Kuttner was initiated by Bannon, Kuttner said, in an Anthony Scaramucci-style phone call out of the blue in response to a column Kuttner had written on China. “Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize rivals at the Departments of Defense, State and Treasury,” wrote Kuttner.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Texas 'bathroom bill' failure may have just cleared the way for Cowboys to host NFL draft

Cowboys officials believe their chances of landing the 2018 NFL draft have improved now that Texas legislators have failed to implement a bathroom bill. A proposal that would have restricted where transgender individuals could use the bathroom never reached the House floor in the just concluded special session. Privately, club officials feared the passage of that bill would not only squash their bid to host the draft but negatively impact the franchise's ability to book sporting and entertainment events at AT&T Stadium and The Star. Now, those same officials are hopeful the legislature's inaction clears the way for the draft to come to Arlington and Frisco in April.

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2017

Abbott plans to be a player in GOP legislative primaries

Gov. Greg Abbott, upset that the Texas House "dilly-dallied" and let property tax reform die during a special legislative session, made clear Wednesday that he plans to get involved in 2018 campaigns to help elect candidates who will help get the issue passed. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Abbott did not say how he would get involved in those elections but he was clear that he will be looking to support candidates who share his view that rising property taxes must be curbed. "The primaries in Texas will be one of the areas," he said.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Texas Speaker Joe Straus’ future the subtext of House Republicans’ private huddle

The House Republican Caucus privately discussed Wednesday how to heal internal rifts amid a storm of intraparty criticism of Speaker Joe Straus' leadership. Straus, his allies and his leading critics, as they emerged from the 90-minute meeting, declared it a positive and constructive huddle. Moments before, loud applause could be heard inside a committee room in a Capitol complex building as the meeting concluded. Several participants said members all stood and clapped to thank Straus, a San Antonio Republican, for his five sessions of service as the chamber's presiding officer.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Jeffers: Dan Patrick loses in special session, but allies will reload for March primaries

The Texas Legislature's special session was largely a bust. Gov. Greg Abbott tried to make it all mean something, placing 20 items on the agenda. But after 29 days and over $1 million in taxpayer costs, lawmakers have little to show from the legislative overtime that critics say was more about manipulating the Republican voting base than working toward good public policy. The Legislature was able to approve sunset legislation to keep the Texas Medical Board going, something that could have occurred in the regular session. They approved about half of what Abbott wanted, including a bill that would require women to buy separate health insurance plans for abortion and a measure that tightened penalties for mail-in vote fraud targeted at the elderly. That should be appetizing for GOP base voters.

Wall St. Journal - August 16, 2017

The New Right-Wing Extremism: Unified, Tech-Savvy and Emboldened

The white nationalist drove from South Carolina. The self-described patriot trekked from Tennessee. The college student espousing white pride flew in from Nevada. The right-wing extremist movement, which until recently was fragmented by division, starved for members and lacking steady leadership, rarely was capable of uniting its forces as it did last weekend. The mayhem in Charlottesville, Va., was a signal that even if not numerous, these groups are unifying. Patrick LaPorte IV, 35 years old, a white nationalist from South Carolina who attended the rally, said he was drawn to the event even though there wasn’t a single group driving the charge, but rather a loose conglomeration of like-minded people connected on social media.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Special session blows up over property taxes

There’s little disagreement in the state Capitol that property taxes are too high, but stark divisions over what to do about it boiled over in the closing days of the special session, which ended late Tuesday with no immediate relief for taxpayers. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, came closer than ever to his longtime goal of automatic elections to approve property tax increases above a certain percentage, only to walk away on the session’s final day, saying a House proposal fell far short of true reform. The key difference: Senate Republicans wanted a 4 percent trigger for elections, while the House went with 6 percent.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Efforts underway in large Texas cities to remove Confederate monuments

As Austin officials start an effort to change the name of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin, similar efforts are underway to remove symbols of the Confederacy in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in the wake of last weekend’s deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. But “tearing down” those symbols won’t change the past nor will it help the nation’s future, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday. ... In San Antonio, two City Council members requested the removal of a 118-year-old Confederate monument two weeks before the Charlottesville violence. About 500 people demonstrated Saturday for and against the monument’s removal, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

How does Texas rank in health care? The results aren’t looking good

As republicans draw their plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, the state of Texas is lagging behind with its own health care. The state of Texas ranks as the 11th worst state for health care, according to the personal-finance website WalletHub’s study of the year’s best and worst states for health care. Out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Texas ranked No. 41. The study compared each state and the District of Columbia 35 different measures of cost, accessibility and outcome to determine which state offered the best health care to citizens. The best state for health care was Hawaii, followed by Iowa at No. 2 and Minnesota at No. 3. Texas, however, didn’t make the top 20.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Herman: Mars’ role in the future of Texas public education

Mars, people. The solution to what is always the biggest challenge our state faces will come from Mars. Or, says a leading state lawmaker, from people who make believe they’re from Mars. The suggestion came in inspiring and instructive remarks made late Tuesday by state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, as the special legislative session approached its end and he rose to express remorse that lawmakers had done nothing to fix a public school finance system that’s just flat-out out of whack. Lawmakers OK’d some spending changes but left the overall system intact.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

PolitiFact: No backing for Alex Jones’ Charlottesville theory

Alex Jones, the Austin-based conspiracy-minded commentator, said the Charlottesville, Va., protests and counter-protests were staged acts of civil unrest funded by liberal interests to hurt conservatives and President Donald Trump. In a pair of videos posted on his website Infowars, Jones accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of going to “central casting” to hire actors to “dress up as white supremacists.” There is no evidence that is true, and Jones provided no evidence to support his claim in his video. We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

UT’s Fenves: No place for white supremacy in America

University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves said Wednesday that white supremacy has no place in America, adding that he would evaluate how the Austin flagship should move forward in the wake of race-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va. “The display of hatred and violent actions by white supremacists in Charlottesville reaffirms our need to reject racism, bigotry and discrimination in all forms,” Fenves said in a statement emailed to the American-Statesman. “There is no place in American society for ideologies that deny the equality of others.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott signs bill giving Texas maternal mortality task force more time

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill on Wednesday giving a state task force more time to study why an alarming number of Texas mothers are dying less than a year after childbirth — and how to curb the deaths. Under Senate Bill 17, the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity would continue its work until 2023. The task force, launched by the Legislature in 2013, found that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, mostly from heart disease, drug overdoses or high blood pressure.

Texas Tribune - August 17, 2017

Who’s to blame for your rising property taxes? Here’s what Texans think

Rising property tax bills affect virtually everyone in the state, whether they’re homeowners or renters. We asked Texans how they feel and whom they blame for the increases. The state House and Senate twice came to a stalemate on property tax reform during this year’s legislative sessions. The Senate quickly passed its version of a property tax bill during the July-August special session. The House, however, took a far more expansive approach — considering proposals ranging from the narrow (carving out a new exemption for Purple Heart recipients) to the explosive (abolishing school property taxes altogether). In the end, the two chambers still couldn’t agree.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Here’s what happened to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda during the special session

Gov. Greg Abbott called the 85th Texas Legislature back for a special session that began July 18 and concluded Aug. 15. Lawmakers were initially asked to pass legislation needed to keep five state agencies in operation and then to address a longer list of proposals for everything from restroom regulations to local tree ordinances. The governor put forth a total of 20 issues for consideration; here’s our look at what happened with these issues during the special session.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Texas’ congressional delegation weighs in on Trump’s response to Charlottesville protests

Several Texans in Congress said they were troubled by President Donald Trump's response to recent white supremacist-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Texas Tribune surveyed all 38 Texans in Congress Wednesday, asking if they believed Trump's response to Charlottesville has encouraged the white nationalist movement. In a press conference Tuesday, Trump blamed “both sides” — criticizing both the “alt-left” groups that he called “very, very violent” and the white nationalists who led a protest that left several injured and one dead.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott: Removing Confederate monuments "won't erase our nation's past"

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday weighed in on the renewed debate over Confederate monuments in Texas, saying that removing them "won't erase our nation's past, and it doesn't advance our nation's future." Abbott's statement follows deadly violence that broke out Saturday at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where participants were protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The unrest in Charlottesville led elected officials in some of Texas' biggest cities to begin looking into taking down similar monuments in their areas.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

In special session rubble, spotlight shines bright on Straus

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and his chamber emerged from the rubble of a bruising special session Wednesday as a subject of both intense criticism and speculation about his future as head of the lower chamber. There did not appear to be any immediate threats to Straus' speakership, though the post-session finger-pointing signaled the intra-party conflict that consumed most of it is not going away anytime soon. The House abruptly closed out the special session a day early Tuesday, declining to further negotiate on a key property tax bill after it agreed to Senate changes to a school finance package.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill restricting city tree removal policies

Just two months after vetoing a tree removal regulation bill, Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed a very similar measure into law. House Bill 7 allows property owners to offset municipal fees for removing trees on their land by planting new trees in their place, and the measure is near-identical to Senate Bill 744, which Abbott vetoed earlier this summer. Both bills were shepherded through the legislature by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, in the upper chamber and state Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, in the House. When he vetoed SB 744 in June, Abbott said it did not go far enough in combatting local tree rules.

San Antonio Express News - August 17, 2017

Texas businesses, tourism leaders celebrate death of bathroom bill

Texas business leaders are breathing a sigh of relief after state lawmakers left the capitol Tuesday without passing the so-called bathroom bill — averting statewide boycotts and potentially billions of dollars in economic losses over legislation opponents deemed as discriminatory. Efforts to pass legislation restricting transgender bathroom use in Texas was met with widespread condemnation from the state’s business community, which warned top state lawmakers that it would spur conventions to relocate their meetings, take Texas out of the running for major sporting events and dampen the state’s ability to attract young talent.

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

With the special session finally over, Republican infighting heats up and Democrats are hopeful

The battles over issues including property taxes and transgender rights pivoted from the legislative arena to the ballot box Wednesday, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declaring the next election is the place to make changes, and Democrats promising to put up a fight. “Unfortunately, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are happy to be Donald Trump’s boys in Texas,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said at a news conference at the state Capitol. “His agenda is their agenda.” Meanwhile, GOP infighting was on full display, as Abbott said on a radio show that “of course” he blamed House Speaker Joe Straus for killing much of his agenda, including the bathroom bill, during the special session.

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2017

Houston backs bullet train, inks deal to help progress

Backers of a Texas high-speed rail line on Thursday announced for the second time this week what they called significant progress on the controversial line, inking an agreement with Houston officials, detailing the work to come. At City Hall, Houston and Texas Central Partners announced the signing of an memorandum of understanding, which commits both sides to share environmental surveys, utility analysis and engineering related to the project and surrounding area and work together to develop new transit and other travel options to and from the likely terminus of the bullet train line.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott gives special session mixed review, blames Speaker Straus for blocking agenda items

Gov. Greg Abbott said he was both pleased and disappointed with the special legislative session that came to a dramatic early end Tuesday. And he blamed House Speaker Joe Straus for blocking about half the items on his 20-point agenda. "I'm satisfied that 10 items I put on the special session agenda did get passed," Abbott told Lubbock KFYO radio host Chad Hasty on Wednesday morning. "But I'm also disappointed that some very important ones did not get passed." Lawmakers ended the special session Tuesday, a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase.

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2017

Officials fighting wrong-way crashes with research into real-time alerts

Kevin Balke turned his SUV southeastward, checked his instruments and confirmed he was ready. Nearly a mile of concrete stood before him with plenty of room to run, but he wouldn't need all of it to prove his point - he'd be going the wrong way in no time. Accelerating past a pole jutting from an electrical box - just like the ones that line every Texas highway - it took only a few seconds for the tablet mounted to the dash of Balke's Ford Explorer to explode with the flashing warning: Wrong Way, styled just like the signs common on roads, with a red background and bold letters. "It got us," Balke said, confirming the tablet gave him the warning he wanted to see.

Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2017

HC: Sine die -- Texas doesn't need another special session to consume even more state funds.

Feel free to grab your chainsaw. The Texas Legislature has asserted your right to chop down your own trees. That's one of the few legislative victories Gov. Greg Abbott can brag about from the special session that just wrapped up in our state capitol. After a conclave that cost taxpayers a roughly estimated $800,000, the governor's ambitious agenda mostly fizzled. Although he's dropping hints he might call state lawmakers back to Austin, Abbott should quit while he's ahead. The governor packed his 20 point special session agenda with causes dear to fiscal and social conservatives, but he either knew or should have known much of it would go nowhere.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Trump critics vow 'hot Texas welcome' for Dallas fund-raising visit next month

President Donald Trump will headline a high-dollar fundraiser in Dallas on Sept. 27, seeking to replenish his own campaign account and help fill the national GOP's coffers for a potentially challenging 2018 election cycle. Democrats and other critics quickly began to plan a display of disdain. "White supremacist defender Donald Trump will be coming to Dallas Sept. 27, let's give him a hot Texas/Dallas welcome," activist Domingo Garcia posted in an online call to like-minded Trump foes. Garcia, a former state legislator and city councilman, has been a lead organizer of large pro-immigrant demonstrations in recent years. Invitations for the Trump-headlined event went out Wednesday. A number of Republicans in Texas confirmed the details.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Democratic Congress member Castro calls Texas legislative session 'Trump-inspired'

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro heavily criticized Gov. Greg Abbott and the governor's agenda for the special legislative session, but played down any suggestion that he's considering a run for governor. "This was a Trump-inspired legislative session," the San Antonio representative said during a news conference Wednesday at the Capitol organized by several left-leaning advocacy groups. "Gov. Abbott has taken us down that ugly path of divisiveness and fear mongering." Rather than make a bid for governor, Castro's plan is to run for re-election to Congress, he added when asked by a reporter.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Dallas lawmaker wants Confederate plaque outside his office removed 'immediately'

A few months ago, on the cusp of his fourth legislative session, Rep. Eric Johnson got a plumb Capitol perk he'd wanted for nearly seven years. The Dallas Democrat had long had an office in the Capitol extension — a modern, subterranean addition built far underneath the House and Senate chambers where lawmakers meet and make laws. On Jan. 10, 2017, Johnson finally exchanged his underground office for much smaller digs in the main building, just steps from the massive rotunda that supports the Capitol's famous pink granite dome and the Goddess of Liberty statue atop it. He was elated. Well, mostly. Just steps from his door, on the north wall that hugs the rotunda room, hangs a simple plaque. Mounted in 1959, during the height of the civil rights era, the plaque denies the South seceded from the Union over slavery and rejects the idea that the forces known for their "rebel yell" had mounted a rebellion.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

NASA power player will become new University of North Texas boss

This article has been revised to reflect that Lesa Roe has two sons and a daughter. This time, it really is rocket science: Thursday, University of North Texas regents are expected to select a longtime NASA leader to help launch the system into a new era of research and exploration. Lesa Roe will be announced as the sole finalist for the position of chancellor. Roe, who is currently acting as NASA’s second in command, will replace longtime leader Lee Jackson, who is retiring after 15 years.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

DMN: Ding-dong, the 'bathroom bill' is dead

Texans can breathe easier today because the so-called bathroom bill is down and out. It died in the House Tuesday night after lawmakers abruptly ended the special session. Good riddance, we say, in the hope the bill never comes back. The legislation would have restricted transgender people to bathrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificate. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said women and children needed protection and privacy. But hundreds of others, including religious leaders, police chiefs, parents, CEOs and members of the LGBTQ community, had a different take: The bathroom bill was mean, discriminatory and unnecessary.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

North Texas congressional leaders assail white supremacy, call for unity

North Texas congressional leaders on Wednesday said white supremacy had no place in America, and they pledged to help bridge the nation's racial divide. The most passionate remarks during the joint appearance at a Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon came from Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, who talked about playing high school football in Waco with black players, including the brother of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, amid the objections of some of his teammates. "The south lost. Slavery's bad. Bigotry's bad," Barton said during the forum. "I'm never going to defend somebody who says 'because I'm white, I'm better.' That's bull...."

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Trump to attend Dallas fundraiser next month to help GOP get ready midterm elections

President Donald Trump will headline a high-dollar fundraiser in Dallas on Sept. 27, seeking to replenish his own campaign account and help fill the national GOP's coffers for a potentially challenging 2018 election cycle. Invitations went out Wednesday. A number of Republicans in Texas confirmed the details. Tickets prices range from $2,700 to $100,000 and include a $50,000-per-couple option. Most of the proceeds will go the the Republican National Committee, with the first $2,700 going to Trump's 2020 reelection account under more restrictive "hard money" rules.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

At monuments to Jefferson and Washington, Texans question Trump’s comparison to Confederate heroes

Texans visiting national monuments in Washington, D.C., dismissed President Donald Trump's comments that monuments to the Founding Fathers could be in jeopardy after the removal of statues of Confederate generals. “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said at a news conference Tuesday about the clashes between white supremacists and anti-fascist protesters last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” the president added, citing that the former presidents had also been slave owners.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Dallas Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson to seek another term in Congress

Dallas Democratic Eddie Bernice Johnson said Wednesday that she'll seek another term in Congress. "This is a difficult time for a change right now," Johnson told The Dallas Morning News. "I'm going to do it. I'm running again." Last year Johnson said that she wanted to retire from Congress when her term ended. But after 2016 election of Republican Donald Trump as president, Johnson said she was urged by her constituents to stay longer.

Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2017

Will a court uphold Texas A&M's decision to block white supremacists over safety concerns?

Preston Wiginton, a former Aggie who believes all races have a right to preserve their "unique genetics," won't take no for an answer. The man behind a white supremacist rally scheduled for Sept. 11 has said he might still lead a gathering through Texas A&M University, even though the school has canceled his event due to concerns about violence. In a written statement this week, Wiginton said he and other demonstrators are considering walking down a public street that cuts through the university. He has said that he's reaching out to attorneys about pursuing a lawsuit and that another protester has complained to the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a movement dubbed White Lives Matter.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Foreigners bought $18.7 billion worth of houses in Texas in 12 months

Foreign homebuyers are taking a big bite out of Texas' hot housing markets. International buyers purchased 34,135 Texas homes during the year that ended with the first quarter, according to a new report by the Texas Association of Realtors. Offshore home buys in the Lone Star State added up to almost $18.7 billion during the 12-month period, according to a new Realtors report. Texas homes purchased by international buyers rose a stunning 59 percent from the previous year.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Medicaid overpaid Texas $18.9 million for school-based health services, seeks refund

Texas received $18.9 million from Medicaid for school-based health services that were billed improperly, and the federal government is seeking to get the money back. The School Health and Related Services, or SHARS program, allows Texas school districts to request Medicaid reimbursement for providing medically necessary health services to qualified children, age 20 or younger, who have disabilities. Among other things, the services can include counseling, physical and speech therapy, transportation and nursing. However, some of the direct medical services billed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission between 2010 and 2011 were not “reasonable, adequately supported, and otherwise allowable” in accordance with state and federal law, concluded a report released Wednesday.

Wall St. Journal - August 16, 2017

Elliott Moves to Block Berkshire’s Oncor Bid; Buffett Stands Pat

Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. has purchased a slice of debt that would ensure the hedge fund’s ability to block Warren Buffett’s deal to buy power-transmission business Oncor, according to people familiar with the matter. Elliott has been acquiring debt of Energy Future Holdings Corp., which owns Oncor, in recent months. The fund already owned a major position in the biggest block of debt and had argued it could block any deal, but the purchase of a different class from Fidelity Investments closes a potential loophole that Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. could have used to force the deal, the people said. Berkshire, known for making acquisitions quickly and staying out of bidding wars, said Wednesday it was standing pat and would not raise its more than $9 billion offer for Oncor.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Yancy: On NAFTA renegotiations, first do no harm

Today, when the formal NAFTA renegotiation process kicks off, I’ll be joined by government, business and nonprofit leaders in El Paso at the 2017 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit to discuss the merits of this trade agreement and what the future holds for U.S.-Mexico trade relations under NAFTA 2.0. While in some ways our conversation will mirror that happening in Washington, D.C. — what about the original trade agreement worked well, what has changed in our economies since the agreement was signed, how do we create a new trade agreement that benefits all countries involved — our conversation will not revolve around political rhetoric. Instead, we will focus on real data and the stories of those who have seen firsthand the economic benefits of NAFTA and how it can work better.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - August 16, 2017

Railroad commissioner does Port of Corpus Christi a huge favor

Ryan Sitton is a member of the Texas Railroad Commission. But from the way he is pushing the long-delayed Corpus Christi Ship Channel widening-deepening project, he easily could be mistaken for one of the state's two U.S. senators or the region's congressman. We can't thank Sitton enough, and we encourage others in positions of influence to follow his example, including but by no means limited to Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi. Anyone who can add weight to the effort should do so, by writing to the Army Corps of Engineers like Sitton has done, traveling to Washington, D.C., to bend the ears and twist the arms of elected officials and bureaucrats, approving official resolutions in support of the project, and writing well-researched, authoritative guest columns like — again — Railroad Commissioner Sitton has done.

Politico - August 16, 2017

Poll: Republicans' confidence in Russia's Putin on the rise

Russian President Vladimir Putin is enjoying rising popularity among Republicans according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. The poll found that the share of Republicans expressing confidence in Putin doubled to 34 percent from 17 percent in 2015, when Donald Trump launched a campaign for the White House that was seen as friendly toward Moscow. Though most Americans view Russia negatively, Moscow's overall popularity in the United States has risen since 2014, when it plummeted after the country annexed Crimea. Twenty-nine percent of Americans now have a favorable view, compared with 19 percent in 2014, the poll found.

New York Times - August 16, 2017

Texas Bathroom Bill Dies Again, Raising Republican Acrimony

A bill to restrict which bathroom transgender people can use in public buildings and schools died in the Texas Legislature on Tuesday evening, a rare defeat for social conservatives in a state they usually dominate. The failure of the so-called bathroom bill at the end of a special legislative session was the second time in three months that the bill had fallen short, and it deepened the ideological discord within the Texas Republican Party. But it did not kill the issue entirely. The Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who pushed for the bill’s North Carolina-style restrictions on transgender bathroom use, virtually guaranteed that the issue would arise again in future legislative sessions.

Spectrum News - August 13, 2017

Texas sees spike in immigrant deaths

They are found dead on rural properties, others inside tractor trailers, and right now, U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas are seeing a spike in the number of undocumented immigrants dying trying to enter the United States. People from around the world will get into the Rio Grande, hoping to step foot on US soil. Their journey doesn't begin here, and Border Patrol said it doesn't end here either. “You can see the little trail going down towards the river. The river is up a little bit. We came down about two weeks ago and you could see the rocks," said Agent Miguel Contreras, whose time is spent keeping a watchful eye on the Rio Grande.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

Study: $2.4 billion in new building projects underway in downtown San Antonio

The recent boom of development in downtown San Antonio has attracted more than $2.4 billion of investment in office towers, apartment complexes, hotels and public infrastructure, according to a new report. That includes more than $750 million of mixed-use projects, including the $200 million blend of apartments, offices, retail and a boutique hotel that local developer Zachry Corp. and Cleveland-based NRP Group plan to build at the northwest corner of Hemisfair, according to the report published by Centro San Antonio, a nonprofit that promotes downtown development.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Marshall: What do Confederate memorials teach our children?

As a young Texan, I learned to value state's rights and limited government, to be proud of my heritage, and to be wary of "Yankees" (that didn't stick — I married one). I learned that Robert E. Lee and other Confederate Generals were to be revered. I never questioned why. Recent events in this country have changed that. Like many white males of my generation, I've grown up with many advantages. But as a child and young man, I was surrounded by thoughtful adults who reminded me of those advantages as they taught me compassion and respect for others. Today's national political climate requires that parents who want to pass along these values — especially white parents — must speak out against racial intolerance. We cannot sit idly by as racial bigots march through the streets of Charlottesville, Va., and hope that white supremacy doesn't come to Dallas. Sadly, it is already here and has been for a long time. We need to unmask racism, and that means uprooting its symbols.

KXAS - August 15, 2017

Predominantly Black Dallas Group Forms To Protect Confederate Monuments

The debate about Confederate statues in Dallas intensified on Monday as a group made up of predominantly African Americans called for the monuments to remain standing. Several cities across America have now begun to remove or talk about removing Confederate markers shortly after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly. Former city council member Sandra Crenshaw thinks removing the statues won’t help. “I’m not intimidated by Robert E. Lee’s statue. I’m not intimidated by it. It doesn’t scare me,” said Crenshaw. “We don’t want America to think that all African Americans are supportive of this.” Crenshaw, along with some Buffalo Solider historians and Sons of Confederate Veterans are coming together to help protect the Confederate markers from toppling over in Dallas.

KXAS - August 16, 2017

Denton Assistant Principal Reassigned After His Children's Book Causes Controversy

An assistant principal in the Denton Independent School District under fire after authoring a children's book that some say is politically charged was reassigned to a new position Tuesday. Eric Hauser, who worked at Rodriguez Middle School, was reassigned over the controversy his book, "The Adventures of Pepe and Pede," has caused. He issued a statement to staff and the media Tuesday; the district said he'd be assigned to a yet-to-be-determined new role that does not involve being an administrator or educator. "I feel that it is best not to be the Assistant Principal at Rodriguez Middle School," Hauser wrote in his statement. "The students, the community, and the teachers are too important to me to subject them to all the negativity and disapproval resulting from this book."

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Thousands expected to rally against white supremacy in downtown Dallas on Saturday

Activists are planning a rally against white supremacy Saturday evening near the Confederate War Memorial in Dallas. The protest is planned from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Pioneer Park next to City Hall and will feature a number of speakers from various local activist groups, according to a Facebook page for the event. Counter-protesters are expected, but Mayor Mike Rawlings said police will be prepared to take action if any violence breaks out. "We will not have street brawls in our city," he said.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Dallas ISD wants to strip Confederate names from schools, but how?

Trustees say they're ready to once again talk about stripping the names of Confederate generals and politicians from Dallas public schools following the outbreak of white nationalist violence last weekend. Board President Dan Micciche posted on social media late Tuesday night that DISD has seen an outpouring of calls for the district to rename such schools following the violence that left a woman dead in Charlottesville, Va. "There is no place for the violence and hatred we saw on display this weekend," Micciche wrote in a Facebook post. He later added, "I believe the board will strongly support the renaming of schools that honor Confederate generals under either the current process or an expedited process."

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

San Marcos won’t join lawsuit over Senate Bill 4

The city of San Marcos will not join the cities ofAustin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio in their lawsuit against the state’s new immigration law, officials announced Tuesday night. While those cities have waged public battles against Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban, San Marcos has been noticeably quiet on the issue — to the disdain of many of its residents who for months have urged it to take action. The law will punish jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration officials law. At its City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Mayor John Thomaides broke the city’s silence in a statement and explained its reason for withholding comment until now.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Could Austin’s Robert E. Lee Road become Robert Plant Road?

Don’t have a whole lotta love for Robert E. Lee Road? There’s now a movement to give the street’s name to another Robert. A group calling itself “Keep Austin Weird. Not Racist.” released a “peaceful video-proposal” Wednesday to rename the South Austin street for Led Zeppelin frontman and former Austin resident Robert Plant. Following a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, calls to rename the street, named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, gathered steam via an online petition. (The Charlottesville rally reportedly began over the planned removal of a statue of Lee from the city’s Emancipation Park, which also used to be named after the general.) On Tuesday, City Council Member Ann Kitchen said she would spearhead the Austin name-change effort, which also has the backing of Mayor Steve Adler.

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

Inc. magazine ranks 18 San Antonio companies on 5,000 fastest-growing list

Inc. magazine named 18 San Antonio-based businesses to its 2017 list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in the United States. Vighter Medical Group, Silotech Group, Stability Staffing and Consulting and Top Box Solutions were the area’s highest-ranked companies and the only four in Inc. magazine’s top 1,000 as measured by their 3-year revenue growth rate, according to the magazine’s annual listings that were released this week. Fort Worth company EnviroSolar Power is the fast-growing company in the state and No. 2 in the nation with a 36,065 percent 3-year growth rate and $37.4 million in revenues.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

3 takeaways from Texas Rep. Kevin Brady's speech urging Congress to defeat 'monster of a tax code'

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the House's top tax writer, urged Congress on Wednesday to defeat America's "monster of a tax code," saying that lawmakers must face down the "monumental challenge" that's stifling economic growth. Speaking from former President Ronald Reagan's ranch in California, the Houston-area Republican lamented that Washington has dithered for the last three decades by "sitting on the sidelines and reverting back to bad, old habits." "We cannot let the status quo win," the House Ways and Means Committee chairman said.

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Rift Widens Between Trump and Business Leaders

The chief executive of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, criticized President Trump in front of his 1.5 million American employees, widening a rift between the White House and the business community that has been growing since the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va. “As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists,” Douglas McMillon, the Walmart C.E.O., wrote in a letter to employees late Monday.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

McCaul resists pressure for stand-alone hearings on white supremacists

In the wake of a neo-Nazi rally in Virginia on Saturday that turned deadly, congressional Democrats demanded a hearing on white supremacists and the threat of domestic terrorism. They've made similar requests for several years. Each time, Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican, has shrugged them off. He showed no sign of relenting as Democrats ramped up pressure on Tuesday, reiterating requests submitted in June, March and previous years.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Perry recalls Trump's Scouts speech as '50,000 kids chanting that they love Donald Trump'

President Donald Trump's overtly political speech last month at the Boy Scouts of America's national jamboree broke presidential norms, divided members of the venerable youth group and caused Scout leadership to distance itself from the heated rhetoric. But U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout, remembers the rollicking event as his favorite story from his travels since joining the Trump administration in March. "Fifty-thousand kids chanting that they love Donald Trump," the former Texas governor said in a video released Tuesday, recalling his attendance at the gathering in West Virginia. "Which was pretty cool."

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

Chasnoff: An appalling presidency

So it turns out the president of the United States sympathizes with white supremacists. Is anyone surprised? For those of us who are not, President Donald Trump’s conflating on Tuesday of anti-fascist activists with the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, some of whom he called “very fine people,” was merely the apotheosis of a disturbing ascent to the White House fueled by racist feuds and intolerant policy positions. Now, Trump has made it all but impossible to view these accrued controversies — the border wall, the travel ban, the attack on a judge for his Mexican heritage — as anything other than the manifestations of a racist ideology.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Faced with flurry of CEO exits, Trump disbands business councils that featured Texas-based Dell

President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly disbanded two business advisory councils after a growing number of chief executives resigned from the panels over the White House's handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia. Among those on a manufacturing council was Round Rock-based Dell Technologies, which had said earlier this week that CEO Michael Dell would maintain his role in spite of the controversy. Trump framed his decision, announced on Twitter, as a way to stop "putting pressure on the business people" who faced mounting calls to bail. But just the day before, Trump had thrashed the exiting CEOs both online and in a televised news conference.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Former presidents Bush rebuke Trump's neo-Nazi stance

The last two Republican presidents — George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush — issued an implicit rebuke of the current president Wednesday, as party elders scrambled to limit the fallout from Donald Trump's stance on neo-Nazis. "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms," read the statement issued by Bush aides from Kennebunkport, Maine, site of the Bush family compound. The Bushes have largely kept on the sidelines during the Trump presidency.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Tsipursky: The one thing Trump got right about Charlottesville

Clearly, people on both sides were prepared for violence. A large majority of counter-protesters marched peacefully, but some came from the antifa movement. Antifa refers to anti-fascism, and many antifa members endorse violent tactics to oppose extreme conservative ideologies, known as Nazi punching. Indeed, video evidence and firsthand accounts of the events in Charlottesville demonstrate both sides participated in the violence. So while we may vehemently disagree with white nationalism, racism and neo-Nazism — all of which I find reprehensible — we need to acknowledge that both sides were at fault. Trump is right about that much. Where Trump is wrong is in his failure to strongly condemn the act of domestic terrorism, both in his initial remarks and in his backtracking three days later.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

The U.S. justice system has an autism problem

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of 68 — or roughly 1.2 million — people under the age of 21 in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism. While there are no reliable figures of how many autistic people are incarcerated, a 2015 report by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 2 in 10 prisoners and 3 in 10 jail inmates reported having a cognitive disability. With more than 2.3 million people imprisoned in the U.S., it's fair to conclude that thousands of diagnosed and undiagnosed autistic people are behind bars with little to no support. The U.S. justice system is sadly outdated in its handling of autism and cognitive disabilities, in general. Without the proper training, handling people with these disabilities can be extremely taxing on the police, justice and prison systems. And the impact on some of our most vulnerable citizens is chilling.

Associated Press - August 16, 2017

Trump signs bill expanding college assistance for veterans

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law an updated veterans' education bill that marks the largest expansion of college assistance for military veterans in a decade. The Forever GI Act immediately removed a 15-year time limit on the use of GI benefits. The measure also increases financial assistance for thousands serving in the National Guard and Reserve, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Associated Press - August 16, 2017

Federal court: Arkansas can block Planned Parenthood money

A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, two years after the state ended its contract with the group over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group. In a 2-1 ruling, an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel vacated preliminary injunctions a federal judge issued preventing the state from suspending any Medicaid payments for services rendered to patients from Planned Parenthood. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson ended the state's Medicaid contract with the organization in 2015. The court ruled the unnamed patients suing the state did not have the right to challenge the defunding decision. The panel did not directly address Arkansas' reason for terminating the contract.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

ABC News - August 16, 2017

Special counsel's Russia probe loses top FBI investigator

One of the FBI's top investigators, tapped by special counsel Robert Mueller just weeks ago to help lead the probe of Russian meddling in last year's presidential election, has left Mueller’s team, sources tell ABC News. The recent departure of FBI veteran Peter Strzok is the first known hitch in a secretive probe that by all public accounts is charging full-steam ahead. Just last week, news surfaced that Mueller's team had executed a search warrant at the Virginia home of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. And the week before that ABC News confirmed Mueller is now using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., to collect documents and other evidence.

Politico - August 16, 2017

Poll: Most Americans think Trump's response to Charlottesville not enough

Most Americans think President Donald Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend was not strong enough, according to a new Marist poll. Fifty-two percent of people surveyed said Trump’s response to the violence was insufficient, while 27 percent said his reaction was strong enough and 21 percent were unsure. The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday, so at least some respondents were surveyed before Trump made further remarks about the event at a freewheeling news conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon.

Huffington Post (HuffPost) - August 11, 2017

Economic Anxiety, Distrust Of Government Fuel Gold Rush

By the end of the year, Texas plans to open the nation’s first state-supervised gold and silver depository, allowing ordinary Texans, as well as businesses, banks and others, to store their precious metals, and use the holdings in their account to make electronic payments. “The idea of a Texas Ranger on horseback guarding the gold conjures up the sense that whatever happens, Texas will look out for your treasure,” said Chris Bryan, spokesman for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The whole scene may sound like something from an earlier era. But it’s part of a growing, modern movement across the United States, brought on by economic anxiety and distrust of the Federal Reserve, to make gold and silver legal tender.

Business Insider - August 11, 2017

Democrats and Republicans speak different languages — and it helps explain why we're so divided

Given today's political climate, it may seem as if the language of politics has been polarized forever, but the phenomenon is relatively new. Until the 1990s, conservatives and liberals spoke remarkably similarly, a study by a trio of researchers from Stanford, Brown, and Microsoft found in 2016. In the study, participants were shown speeches by members of Congress from 1873 to 2016 and asked to guess whether the speech was given by a Republican or a Democrat. When the speech was given in years before the 1990s, participants correctly guessed the party only slightly more than half the time. But that figure spiked dramatically in 1994, and by 2010 participants' guesses were correct 73% of the time.

New York Times - August 17, 2017

Trump’s Embrace of Racially Charged Past Puts Republicans in Crisis

President Trump’s embrace of the country’s racially charged past has thrown the Republican Party into crisis, dividing his core supporters who have urged him on from the political leaders who fear that he is leading them down a perilous and shortsighted path. The divisions played out in the starkly different responses across the party after Mr. Trump insisted that left-wing counterprotesters were as culpable as neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the bloodshed in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend. Much of the right was ecstatic as they watched their president fume against the “violent” left and declare that “very fine people” were being besmirched for their involvement in the demonstration.

New York Times - August 17, 2017

Stewart: C.E.O.s Long Avoided Politics. Trump Is Changing the Calculus.

The bar for a chief executive of a public corporation to repudiate a United States president is extraordinarily high. Corporate leaders aren’t given their power, prestige, responsibility and nine-figure pay packages to use the corner office as their personal soapbox. With President Trump’s comments on white supremacists and other right-wing extremists ringing in the ears of America’s chief executives, that high bar appears to have been passed. This week, what had been a trickle of defections from the White House business advisory councils over issues like immigration and climate change turned into a torrent. By Wednesday, both of the councils had collapsed; Mr. Trump insisted that he had decided to disband them.

Politico - August 17, 2017

Veteran lobbyists see hard road for tax reform

President Donald Trump wants to sign a tax reform bill in the fall, but lobbyists who were around the last time Congress overhauled the tax code — in 1986 — say plans to pass permanent, wide-reaching legislation with only Republican votes seem all but impossible. So tax lobbyists are trying to predict what Congress will pass instead. Some are pushing for Republicans to embrace a long-shot strategy to tie tax reform to an infrastructure spending package to bring Democrats on board.

New York Times - August 16, 2017

Park: The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech

The American Civil Liberties Union has a long history of defending the First Amendment rights of groups on both the far left and the far right. This commitment led the organization to successfully sue the city of Charlottesville, Va., last week on behalf of a white supremacist rally organizer. The rally ended with a Nazi sympathizer plowing his car into a crowd, killing a counterprotester and injuring many. After the A.C.L.U. was excoriated for its stance, it responded that “preventing the government from controlling speech is absolutely necessary to the promotion of equality.” Of course that’s true. The hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will fortify free-speech rights across the board: A rising tide lifts all boats, as it goes.

Washington Post - August 16, 2017

Trump has a long history of fostering racial divisions

Last summer, when Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans and Muslims led to widespread accusations that he harbored racist attitudes, the candidate pushed back. “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered,” he said. As evidence, Trump cited an endorsement he’d received from a weekly newspaper published in Ohio by Don King, the legendary African-American boxing promoter. “Now, Don King knows racism probably better than anybody,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post. “He’s not endorsing a racist, okay?”

Washington Post - August 16, 2017

Trump administration ends Obama-era protection program for Central American minors

The Trump administration on Wednesday formally terminated an Obama-era program that granted Central American minors temporary legal residence in the United States, shutting the door on 2,714 people who had won conditional approval to enter the country. President Barack Obama’s administration established the “CAM parole” program in 2014 to respond to a massive spike in the number of unaccompanied minors and families entering the country illegally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under the terms, minors who failed to win refu­gee status could enter on a two-year, renewable parole if they had a parent already legally present in the country.

Fox News - August 16, 2017

In New Political Status Quo, Big Business Bucks the Right

In January, conservative legislators in Texas backed by Gov. Greg Abbott introduced a bill to regulate transgender access to public facilities such as bathrooms. That proposal went down to defeat Tuesday thanks in part to vociferous opposition by business leaders who condemned it as discriminatory and bad for the state's economy. In a business-friendly state where Republicans control the entire government, it's a stunning rebuke. It's also not an outlier. On Monday, the chief executives of Merck & Co., Intel Corp. and Under Armour Inc. all quit President Donald Trump's manufacturing council after his failure to immediately blame white supremacists for weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va. These episodes show how big business has become, at least on social policy, a check on Mr. Trump and other Republicans, ordinarily their allies.

August 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott slams House, doesn't rule out second special session

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday put blame on the House — particularly Speaker Joe Straus — for the shortcomings of the special session and left the door open to calling another one. "I’m disappointed that all 20 items that I put on the agenda did not receive the up-or-down vote that I wanted but more importantly that the constituents of these members deserved," Abbott said in a KTRH radio interview. "They had plenty of time to consider all of these items, and the voters of the state of Texas deserved to know where their legislators stood on these issues."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Trump returns to 'blame on both sides' view of neo-Nazi clash

After a scripted attempt at damage control over his tepid approach to the violence at a rally of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, President Donald Trump returned Tuesday to the original formulation that drew rebukes from pastors, civil rights leaders and politicians across the spectrum. While he condemned racists and violence, he also insisted that "troublemakers" on hand to protest the fascists caused much of the trouble Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. "There's blame on both sides," the president told reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, in a raucous free-for-all. "I have no doubt about it."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Federal court orders Texas congressional map redrawn, finding discrimination of minorities

A federal court has ordered Texas to redraw its congressional district map after finding it had twice been intentionally drawn to discriminate against minorities -- a ruling that the state has vowed to challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. In March, the three-judge panel in San Antonio invalidated three of the state's congressional districts because they were drawn to intentionally discriminate during a redistricting process in 2011. But the court did not order those districts redrawn because it still needed to rule on whether they had been fixed after a court-ordered remedial map-drawing process in 2013. In a 107-page order released Tuesday, the court unanimously ruled that two of those districts --District 27 in Corpus Christi, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold, and District 35 in Austin, represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett -- were again drawn with discriminatory intent in 2013. Judges ordered them redrawn.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Texas House OKs slimmed-down school finance bill, citing need to help retired teachers

The Texas House on Tuesday accepted and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott a slimmed-down pair of bills to give more money to public schools. Reluctant House leaders cited a need to reduce the costs for retired teachers in their health care system. More money for schools became too entangled with a separate effort to quickly cushion retired educators who on Jan. 1 will be slammed with higher health insurance costs, House chiefs explained. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate refused entreaties to increase the $351 million funding for school districts in the two bills, House leaders said.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

5 takeaways from the summer special legislative session

WINGMEN: At the start of the session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick promised to be Gov. Greg Abbott’s wingman and he was as good as his word. He may have, along the way, sometime been the hot-headed wingman, blistering fellow Republican House Speaker Straus for being oppositional, but he did nothing to fuel any tension between himself and the governor. STRAUS RULES: Whether he returns for a record-breaking sixth term as speaker in 2019 or not, Straus ended the special session with a flourish, dramatically gaveling out a day early, leaving the Senate to take its grudging version of property tax reform — Abbott’s top priority — or leave it (they left it) and concluding a session in which he had already dashed Patrick’s prized priorities of transgender bathroom legislation and school choice for special needs children.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Early gavel at Texas House forces Senate’s hand on property tax reform

The House adjourned a day ahead of schedule Tuesday evening, leaving it to the Senate to accept the House version of property tax reform or leave the top priority of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick undone and risk a second special session. It was unclear just how scripted the dramatic development was, and whether it was a way out of a House-Senate deadlock over the property tax rollback rate that would trigger an election. The House wants the rate set at 6 percent, the Senate at 4 percent. The Senate was due back Tuesday night for what could be the close of the midsummer special session. Wednesday is the last day lawmakers can meet.

Salon - August 15, 2017

What if the DNC Russian “hack” was really a leak after all? A new report raises questions media and Democrats would rather ignore

Last week the respected left-liberal magazine The Nation published an explosive article that details in great depth the findings of a new report — authored in large part by former U.S. intelligence officers — which claims to present forensic evidence that the Democratic National Committee was not hacked by the Russians in July 2016. Instead, the report alleges, the DNC suffered an insider leak, conducted in the Eastern time zone of the United States by someone with physical access to a DNC computer. This report also claims there is no apparent evidence that the hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 — supposedly based in Romania — hacked the DNC on behalf of the Russian government. There is also no evidence, the report’s authors say, that Guccifer handed documents over to WikiLeaks. Instead, the report says that the evidence and timeline of events suggests that Guccifer may have been conjured up in an attempt to deflect from the embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that was released just before the Democratic National Convention.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

More than half the country says it will never change its opinion on Trump, no matter what

If you are like most Americans, you have a strong opinion on how President Trump is doing his job. The July Post-ABC poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans had a strong view of Trump’s performance — about a quarter strongly felt he was doing well and about half strongly felt that he wasn’t. A new survey from Monmouth University layers another interesting detail on top of those numbers: Most of those opinions of Trump probably won’t change. Overall, Monmouth found that Trump is doing a bit better on his approval rating than did other recent polls (including Gallup’s, where Trump hit a new low this week). About 4-in-10 Americans approve of Trump’s job performance; about half disapprove.

Politico - August 16, 2017

Poll: GOP voters side with Trump over McConnell

Republican voters are taking President Donald Trump’s side in his war with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that also shows a bump in Trump’s approval rating after last week’s all-time low. The poll shows more GOP voters think Trump is looking out for the party’s best interests than think McConnell (R-Ky.) is. By a more than three-to-one margin, they say that Trump is more in touch with Republican voters and that Trump is more honest.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

One of every 10 new homes in U.S. going up in Dallas, Houston or Austin

In the market for a new home? You'll fare better if you're house-hunting in Texas. Dallas, Houston, and Austin are on pace to build a total of nearly 130,000 new homes in 2017, based on a Trulia analysis of building permits. That's more than 10 percent of all new construction expected in the U.S. this year, and enough to put all three metropolitan areas in the top five for permitting activity. New York and Phoenix round out the group. Dallas and Houston are on track to add nearly 50,000 new homes in each market, while Austin is poised to add 30,000. For Austin, that's more than double its yearly average from 1980 to 2016.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Scorecard: How Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda fared

It appeared late Tuesday that Texas' legislative special session would end a day earlier than expected with only nine of Gov. Greg Abbott's priorities having passed both the House and the Senate and made it to the governor's desk. Abbott ordered the special session in part to pass legislation that would keep open several state agencies, including the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors. Abbott named the so-called sunset bill the first order of business during the special session, after which legislators could consider other items chosen but the governor. Abbott's grab-bag list of 20 items included many issues that appealed to social conservatives, such as the so-called "bathroom bill, which would regulate transgender Texan's bathroom usage.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Criticism pours in from lawmakers, Cuban, LeBron over Trump's 'both sides' stance in neo-Nazi violence

In Texas and beyond, reactions to President Donald Trump's tense press conference in which he blamed -- again -- "both sides" for deadly race-fueled violence in Virginia ranged from outrage to disbelief, with at least one Lone Star Republican calling on the president to apologize. Appearing on CNN, San Antonio Republican Rep. Will Hurd called for Trump, who on Tuesday said both white nationalists and so-called "alt-left" are to blame for the clashes that left one woman dead, to walk back his remarks. "Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that," Hurd said.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

The only Texas CEO on Trump's business council isn't following other top execs in leaving it

The only Texas CEO on a key White House business advisory panel is staying in that role despite fallout from President Donald Trump's handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia. A spokeswoman for Round Rock-based Dell Technologies indicated that chief executive Michael Dell would not join other top executives — including Brian Krzanich of Intel, a fellow tech giant — in leaving the council in the wake of the Charlottesville attack. "There's no change in Dell engaging with the Trump administration and governments around the world to share our perspective on policy issues that affect our company, customers and employees," the spokeswoman said in comments first reported by Marketplace and others.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

The Texas 'bathroom bill' is dead -- for now

In an unexpected move late Tuesday, the Texas House wrapped up its business a day ahead of the official end of the 30-day special session, killing any hopes the legislation could be revived in the 11th hour. This marks the second time the so-called "bathroom bill" failed to pass this year; similar proposals to restrict transgender bathroom use died during the regular session that ended in June. "I'm disappointed," bathroom bill author Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said Tuesday evening. "In our most intimate spaces, there should be some lines drawn." Acknowledging that "there has not been a more contentious issue this session," Kolkhorst said she's ready to "take a few breaths and go home." "It's been a long year."

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Hope flagging for Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority of special session as House adjourns to go home

It appeared late Tuesday that lawmakers would end Gov. Greg Abbott's special session a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the Angleton Republican who authored the bill in the House, said negotiations between the House and Senate hadn't gotten anywhere by late Tuesday evening, too late for a final bill to pass before the Wednesday deadline to end the session. The House adjourned "sine die" early Tuesday evening, officially ending the special session in that chamber, a day before the 30-day limit, leaving the Senate with only the option to agree with the House version of the property tax bill, or let the measure die. Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said the property tax bill would be "a good issue for next session," indicating the Senate was unlikely to pass the bill.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Eight Dallas-Fort Worth companies among largest privately owned firms in U.S.

Dallas-Fort Worth is always well-represented on Forbes' annual ranking of largest privately owned companies in the U.S. This year, eight D-FW-based businesses made the cut of 225 private companies with annual revenue of $2 billion or more. And Texas scored 15 firms on the publication's 33rd ranking, putting it third among states. California (29) and New York (25) were the top states. Here are Texas companies on this year's list, along with overall rank, headquarters city and 2016 revenue. Dallas-Fort Worth companies are bolded: No. 12: H-E-B, San Antonio, $23 billion. No. 36: Gulf States Toyota, Houston, $8.8 billion No. 49: Republic National Distributing Co., Grand Prairie, $6.5 billion...

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

DMN: A border wall through this South Texas wildlife refuge would be an environmental tragedy

Just northwest of Texas' southernmost pointy boot tip, nestled tight against against the winding Rio Grande, lies one of our nation's secret treasures. The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge isn't a secret to tens of thousands of wildlife experts and birding enthusiasts who visit every year, but to its first-time guests, it's surely a captivating surprise. Small by federal refuge standards, the 2,088-acre preserve is a tiny ecological jewel box, a noplace-else-on-Earth crossroads for hundreds of migratory bird varieties and 450 plant species.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Fletcher: 4 reasons Texas A&M should allow the white supremacist rally

I understand why Texas A&M University would cancel a white supremacist rally, but I don't like it. A White Lives Matter group had planned an event on Sept. 11 that would have included an appearance by alt-right figure Richard Spencer. The group had brought Spencer to the College Station campus in December. This time, university officials said they canceled because of safety concerns, in light of the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., by white supremacist groups and counterprotesters. Still, I think the university should allow the event to take place. I have four good reasons. Hear me out. 1. Canceling the event looks like you are starving the organizing group of oxygen, but you are really fueling them. They now have a legitimate grievance. Their stated grievances prior to this were sad and not warranted. This one isn't.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority, property tax limits, fails as legislators end special session early

Lawmakers called it quits on Gov. Greg Abbott's special session a day early, without passing his top priority, a bill that would limit how much local property taxes can increase. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, the Angleton Republican who authored the bill in the House, said negotiations between the House and Senate hadn't gotten anywhere by late Tuesday evening, too late for a final bill to pass before the Wednesday deadline to end the session. The House adjourned "sine die" early Tuesday evening, officially ending the special session in that chamber, a day before the 30-day limit, leaving the Senate with only the option to agree with the House version of the property tax bill, or let the measure die.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Legislature sends $563 million education bill to Abbott

After hours of closed-door negotiations, the Texas House reluctantly agreed on Tuesday to a Senate plan to inject $351 million into the public education system over the next two years — a far less than House leaders had wanted to spend. “To say I’m disappointed is an understatement,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the author of House Bill 21. “The biggest disappointment that all of us has is that we were unable to find the middle ground that would make sense. But I know for a fact that the things that are in here have to be fixed.” The original version of HB 21 that passed out of the House would have pumped $1.8 billion into the public education system and given almost all public schools extra money, but the Senate voted to gut the bill early Tuesday.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Gov. Abbott calls out Speaker Straus for failures of special session

Gov. Greg Abbott laid the blame for the failure of the Legislature to pass half of his 20-item special session agenda on the House and its speaker, Joe Straus, laying the groundwork for a challenge to Straus in the next session. In an interview with KTRH radio in Houston Wednesday morning, Abbott said he was gratified by the progress made in the special session, which ended a day early Tuesday, but unhappy with the failure of the House to even vote on nine of his agenda items. “I’m disappointed that all 20 items did not receive the up or down vote that I wanted,” the governor said.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Texas A&M could be on thin ice in cancelling white nationalist rally

When a white nationalist spoke at Texas A&M University in December, school officials said they were duty-bound to tolerate free speech, even speech they considered repugnant. A&M changed its policy later to bar outside people from using on-campus conference rooms without sponsorship of a university-sanctioned group. No such requirement applies to outdoor events at several free-speech zones on the College Station campus, but the university cited safety concerns Monday in cancelling a far-right rally that had been booked through its events staff for next month. Preston Wiginton, who had organized the rally and lined up use of Rudder Plaza in the heart of campus without a university sponsor, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that half of him wants to sue A&M and the other half doesn’t want to bother because “A&M, the Texas Legislature and many white people have proven to me that whites accept their own demise.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Herman: Legislature honors late columnist John Kelso

The Legislature, controlled by a party that gave us a president who believes many journalists are the enemy of the people, honored my late friend and colleague John Kelso on Tuesday. Thank you, Texas Legislature. For you skeptics out there, this is a timely reminder that our lawmakers can do good. Longtime American-Statesman columnist Kelso, 73, died July 28 after an extended bout with cancer and a longer career of pointing out weird stuff about people and institutions, including the sometimes perplexing Texas Capitol.

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Special session ends abruptly, with key issue unresolved

The special session of the Legislature came to an abrupt end Tuesday night, a day earlier than expected, when the Texas Senate adjourned without acting on a House-passed version of a property tax bill. The House began the late-session drama when it unexpectedly closed the special session with one item pending — a conference committee on Senate Bill 1, which would have required larger cities and counties to get voter approval for property tax increases. Senate Republicans wanted automatic elections for increases of 4 percent or more. The House settled on a 6 percent trigger, and by adjourning early, House leaders told the Senate to take the 6 percent rate or leave it. Later Tuesday night, the Senate chose to leave it.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Six arrested inside Texas AG Ken Paxton’s building after DACA protest

Six protesters, including the head of Austin’s education union, were arrested in front of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office Tuesday after refusing to move away from the building doors in a show support for an immigration program that Paxton wants gone. State troopers removed the protesters – three of them from Austin, three from Houston – from the building and brought them inside. They were all charged with criminal trespass for failing to leave the premises and were jailed, a Department of Public Safety spokesman said. The six protesters said they had planned to be arrested. They sat, arms linked, in front of the doors as a crowd of about 140 people rallied in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Will Hurd: Trump should apologize for latest Charlottesville remarks

President Donald Trump should apologize for once again placing “blame on both sides” for the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend, said U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in a TV interview Tuesday. “Racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable, and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that,” Hurd, R-Helotes, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after Trump’s Tuesday remarks. Hurd represents a swing district that takes up a majority of the Texas’ border with Mexico, and he hasn’t been shy about taking political stances at odds with the president in the past.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Abbott signs bills to limit coverage, expand reporting on abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott Tuesday signed bills to limit insurance coverage for abortions and to expand reporting requirements for complications resulting from abortion procedures. Under House Bill 214, Texas women would have to pay a separate insurance premium if they want to be covered for abortions that are not a medical emergency. There would no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest or in the case of fetal abnormalities. The law was intended to ensure that other Texans, who object to abortion, are not subsidizing elective abortions through their insurance plans.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Cruz on canceled rally: ‘Texas doesn’t need to listen to their garbage’

State officials and members of Congress from Texas praised Texas A&M University’s decision to cancel a White Lives Matter rally on the campus that was scheduled for September. Following a similar protest in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly over the weekend, lawmakers and other Texas officials urged the university to cancel the event, before university officials did just that. Activist and rally organizer Preston Wiginton said he planned the event months before Charlottesville, but “linking the tragedy of Charlottesville with the Texas A&M event creates a major security risk on our campus,” the university said in a news release.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

With two days left in special session, comptroller finds extra $196 million

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Tuesday delivered some welcome news to weary state lawmakers: Their coffers should be richer than he previously anticipated. Citing an improving economic outlook, Hegar now projects the Legislature left more than $237 million in general revenue unspent during the legislative session — far more than the $41.5 million he projected in July, according to a letter he sent to state leaders. General revenue is the source of state revenue that lawmakers generally have the most control over.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders heads to governor's desk

The Texas Senate on Tuesday evening voted to adopt a House-amended version of Senate Bill 11, which requires doctors to obtain explicit legal permission from patients before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders. The measure has undergone a whirlwind of changes since the Senate first voted to approve it last month — most notably, the addition of legal protections for medical personnel who work with patients receiving end-of-life care. The Senate voted 21–10 to pass the measure, which now advances to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. It is one of only a handful of special session agenda items that have made it all the way to the governor — even as the special session nears its Wednesday conclusion.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

House Republicans to caucus on speaker rules

Texas House Republicans will meet early Wednesday to discuss procedures for electing a speaker, a move that opponents of current Speaker Joe Straus have heralded as a victory. At issue: whether to require members of the GOP caucus to choose a candidate then stand behind their pick when the speaker vote goes to the full House in January 2019. House Republican Chairman Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, called the meeting after receiving a letter requesting it from the 12 members of the Texas Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers who launched near daily attacks on House leadership during the 2017 regular session. Two other Republicans — Cole Hefner, R- Mount Pleasant, and Scott Sanford, R- McKinney — also signed the letter.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Texas Legislature ends special session without passing property tax measure

The Texas Legislature closed out the special session Tuesday night amid a stalemate on property tax reform, leaving unfinished Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority. Hours earlier, the House abruptly adjourned sine die – the formal designation meaning the end of a session – after advancing a school finance compromise to Abbott's desk but declining to further negotiate on a key property tax proposal. When the Senate returned later in the night, it rejected the only remaining option to get the bill across the finish line, which was to accept the House's version.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Ramsey: It’s never the ending that you expect

The Texas Legislature finished its special session as it ended its regular session earlier this year — in a fundamental disagreement over how to control the property taxes that Texas voters hate so much, and in political knots that consistently pitted a socially conservative Senate against a House controlled by establishment Republicans. “The blame game is just beginning, and why I’d want to get between two groups of elephants, I don’t know,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, on Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick punctuated the end of the session with a fiery attack on the House in general and on House Speaker Joe Straus in particular, saying the Republicans in the lower chamber will have to answer for their votes in next year’s elections.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Texas A&M officials canceled a “White Lives Matter” rally. Are they allowed to do that?

Under the First Amendment, A&M can’t shut down an event based on subject matter. But if the school is challenged, there are a couple of approaches it might take to defend itself in court — including emphasizing the public safety risk the event would have posed and the disruption it would have caused on campus. On Sept. 11, self-described “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer was expected to speak at a rally — hosted by white nationalist Preston Wiginton — on the campus of Texas A&M University.

Texas Tribune - August 16, 2017

Millions consumed potentially unsafe water in the past 10 years

WOLFFORTH, Texas – As many as 63 million people – nearly a fifth of the country – from rural central California to the boroughs of New York City, were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to a News21 investigation of 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution, and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems. Those found to have problems cleaning their water typically took more than two years to fix these issues, with some only recently resolving decades-old violations of EPA standards and others still delivering tainted water, according to data from the agency’s Safe Drinking Water Information System.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Texas Legislature closes out special session without passing tax bill

The Texas Legislature closed out the special session Tuesday night amid a stalemate on property tax reform, leaving unfinished Gov. Greg Abbott's top priority. Hours earlier, the House abruptly adjourned sine die – the formal designation meaning the end of a session – after advancing a school finance compromise to Abbott's desk but declining to further negotiate on a key property tax proposal. When the Senate returned later in the night, it rejected the only remaining option to get the bill across the finish line, which was to accept the House's version.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

White nationalist says he might still march through Texas A&M campus

Less than 24 hours after Texas A&M University officials canceled his plans to hold a rally on a university plaza, white nationalist Preston Wiginton indicated Tuesday that he is planning to sue and remains determined to hold some kind of event on or near the College Station campus. In a statement, Wiginton said he is considering leading a march on a public street through the university instead of his originally scheduled “White Lives Matter” rally. A&M officials said they axed the planned Sept. 11 event out of safety concerns. But Wiginton said he didn’t buy that reasoning. "Their real fear is the fear of words," he said.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

"Disappointed" House accepts Senate's changes to school finance bill

After three hours of private negotiations and almost two hours of public debate Tuesday, the Texas House decided to agree with the Senate's decision to strip funding and reforms from a school finance bill. The House voted 94-46 to accept the Senate's changes to House Bill 21, which would put some immediate funding into public schools. The Senate voted out a bill last night that stripped $1.5 billion of new funding and all reforms to the outdated formulas for allocating that money. It also tasked a commission with studying future reform to the school finance system.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Parents of disabled kids despair of seeing state cuts for therapy services restored

Nine-year-old Aidan Mehta stretches his arm into the air, raising it above the back of his medical stroller, to capture his mom’s attention. “Can we get out of here?” asks Aidan, who has disabilities that affect his immune and cardiac system, energy levels and ability to get around. “It’s just the start, I’m afraid,” Hannah Mehta responds, running her hand through Aidan’s thick, black hair. The pair from Flower Mound have spent countless days during the special session in the basement of the Texas Capitol complex, lobbying lawmakers to restore deep cuts to a Medicaid therapy program that assists about 6,000 medically fragile children, like Aiden, who gets help learning to chew and swallow his food.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

House executes dramatic move, shuts down special session early

The Texas House pulled a dramatic and early final curtain on the special session Tuesday, leaving a number of Gov. Greg Abbott's priority items unfinished and giving senators a take-it-or-leave it choice on a proposal to rein in property tax increases. The House's adjournment came one day ahead of Wednesday's deadline to end the special legislative session called by Abbott to address a slew of issues. The session began July 18, and it could have lasted 30 days. Abbott, if he chooses, can call another special session.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Taylor: Where do Confederate statues belong?

Many of you have likely seen the photo of the tiki-torch-bearing hater who has become the latest face of overt white supremacy and racism. The photo shows the angry face of 20-year-old Peter Cvjetanovic, who defended his actions by explaining that he "cares for all people." He said: "I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E. Lee is a great example of that. He wasn't a perfect man, but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time."

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Abortion bills boost Abbott's record in otherwise spotty special session results

If it were not for abortion rights issues, Gov. Greg Abbott would be looking at a meager list of victories after the Texas Legislature abruptly ended its special session Tuesday night. Texas already has a reputation of being one of the most anti-abortion states in the nation, passing some of the harshest restrictions on abortions in the nation over the last 10 years -- including several more in the special session. It was Abbott's only area of unequivocal victory in the special session. Beyond that, the Republican governor who is up for reelection next year struck out on much of his agenda. Even so, the governor had no plans as of late Tuesday to call lawmakers back for another 30-day special session, as he had warned he might do.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

In Texas, shine of NAFTA dulls

For two decades, if anything was untouchable in Texas politics, it was the North American Free Trade Agreement. Even as bathroom bills, gun rights and abortion divided politicians, Republican and Democrat agreed that NAFTA was a godsend for Texas – with cross-border trade booming and jobs growing nearly 60 percent since the agreement went into effect in 1994. But as President Donald Trump prepares to begin negotiations Wednesday with Mexico and Canada on overhauling NAFTA – much to the trepidation of many within the state's energy, industrial and farming sectors – he is also tapping into a growing skepticism of NAFTA and other free trade deals among the increasingly influential populist wings of both political parties in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

'Dreamers' rally in Austin to defend executive order that shields deportation

AUSTIN -- Wielding banners denouncing deportations, dozens of young immigrants and immigration advocates rallied outside of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office demanding that he stop trying to kill a program intended to protect young people, who entered the country as minors, from deportation. About a hundred people, including at least a dozen from Houston, descended on the capital Tuesday as part of a national effort to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation and allows them to work and study.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Trump to attend Dallas fundraiser next month to help GOP get ready midterm elections

President Donald Trump will headline a high-dollar fundraiser in Dallas on Sept. 27, seeking to replenish his own campaign account and help fill the national GOP's coffers for a potentially challenging 2018 election cycle. Invitations went out Wednesday. A number of Republicans in Texas confirmed the details. Tickets prices range from $2,700 to $100,000 and include a $50,000-per-couple option. Most of the proceeds will go the the Republican National Committee, with the first $2,700 going to Trump's 2020 reelection account under more restrictive "hard money" rules.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

3 takeaways from Texas Rep. Kevin Brady's speech urging Congress to defeat 'monster of a tax code'

Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the House's top tax writer, urged Congress on Wednesday to defeat America's "monster of a tax code," saying that lawmakers must face down the "monumental challenge" that's stifling economic growth. Speaking from former President Ronald Reagan's ranch in California, the Houston-area Republican lamented that Washington has dithered for the last three decades by "sitting on the sidelines and reverting back to bad, old habits." "We cannot let the status quo win," the House Ways and Means Committee chairman said.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 16, 2017

Bexar schools get passing grades; SAISD shows no gains

Bexar County’s 16 traditional public school districts all received passing grades in state accountability ratings released Tuesday. For the second year in a row, though, the San Antonio Independent School District failed in “overall performance,” one of four categories that determine the rating. Out of 93 SAISD schools, the state gave failing grades to 19. The same number failed last year once the district successfully appealed one school’s rating.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

HC: Saving the bay -- A healthy Galveston Bay is needed to sustain all Texans at a time of population growth.

"I dream of Galveston," the late Glen Campbell - who died of Alzheimer's this month at age 81 - first sang in 1969. Thankfully, the waters of Galveston Bay are still worth dreaming about, according to a new report. The Galveston Bay Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, and the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonpartisan research group, issued Galveston Bay an "A" on water quality and an overall grade of "C." The report card provides a handy snapshot of Galveston Bay as a place to live, swim, boat and fish, but it's currently incomplete due to lack of data in key areas. Federal and state environmental agencies need to step up their monitoring efforts to ensure that policymakers along with the public can track the health of the bay.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Dallas trustees to consider renaming schools honoring Confederates

The Dallas school trustees will discuss renaming campuses named after Confederates during a briefing on Sept. 14. Board President Dan Micciche posted on social media late Tuesday night that DISD has seen an outpouring of calls for the district to rename such schools following the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va. "Over the weekend, we witnessed in Charlottesville a terrible tragedy caused by white supremacists. There is no place for the violence and hatred we saw on display this weekend," Micciche wrote in a Facebook post. He later added, "I believe the Board will strongly support the renaming of schools that honor Confederate generals under either the current process or an expedited process."

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Confederate rally set for Austin on heels of Charlottesville outcry

A rally and march are set to take place in downtown Austin at the beginning of September to promote “true Confederate heritage,” according to organizers. A Facebook event page hosted by the Texas Confederate Militia says the Dixie Freedom Rally, scheduled for Sept. 2 at Woolridge Square, on 900 Guadalupe Street, will feature live music, guest speakers and a march to the Capitol and Confederate monuments nearby. “You can bring any Confederate or U.S. Flag. It is open carry and also concealed handguns plus longrifles are permitted. Just go by the State Law,” the page said. “No racism tolerated or will be removed. (Let’s) show everyone true Southern Hospitality.”

KTRK - August 15, 2017

Debate rising over future of Confederate statue at Sam Houston Park

Spurred on by calls from the public, Mayor Sylvester Turner has agreed to begin a full review of Confederacy-related statues on Houston public lands. The announcement came as the future of the "Spirit of Confederacy" statue became the focus of a growing debate. It was 109 years ago when the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated the "Spirit of the Confederacy" statue in downtown Houston.

KXAS - August 15, 2017

Predominantly Black Dallas Group Forms To Protect Confederate Monuments

The debate about Confederate statues in Dallas intensified on Monday as a group made up of predominantly African Americans called for the monuments to remain standing. Several cities across America have now begun to remove or talk about removing Confederate markers shortly after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly. Former city council member Sandra Crenshaw thinks removing the statues won’t help. “I’m not intimidated by Robert E. Lee’s statue. I’m not intimidated by it. It doesn’t scare me,” said Crenshaw. “We don’t want America to think that all African Americans are supportive of this.” Crenshaw, along with some Buffalo Solider historians and Sons of Confederate Veterans are coming together to help protect the Confederate markers from toppling over in Dallas.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Charlottesville attack fuels push to rename Austin’s Robert E. Lee Road

City Council Member Ann Kitchen on Tuesday said she will spearhead an effort to rename Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin as a chorus of residents call for the Confederate general’s name to be stricken from Austin streets in light of the Charlottesville, Va., attack. Calls for the street to be renamed have grown since Saturday, when a suspected white supremacist rammed his car into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, many of them calling for the removal of a statue there of Lee. One woman was killed.

Associated Press - August 15, 2017

Dallas spends millions to settle police misconduct lawsuits

Records show that Dallas has spent almost $11 million in the past five years settling more than 20 lawsuits against police, a huge increase compared to the previous five years. The city had spent less than $400,000 to settle less than 10 cases from 2006 to 2011, KDFW-TV reported. Dallas also currently has almost 40 unresolved liability claims against local police officers. Arlington spent less than $2 million settling lawsuits involving excessive police force claims in the past five years. Fort Worth paid $12,000 in the past five years in law enforcement liability claims.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Austin campuses rebound as state raises stakes

Four Austin district schools failed to meet state academic standards, half as many failing campuses in the district as last year, under the latest accountability ratings released Tuesday. Burnet, Martin and Mendez middle schools, as well as Govalle Elementary, received ratings of Improvement Required, according to data released by the Texas Education Agency on Tuesday. “We’re happy that we’ve gone from eight schools to four schools, and it shows that the teachers and principals continue to work hard for our students and families,” said Edmund Oropez, chief officer of teaching and learning.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings calls Confederate monuments 'problematic' but isn't rushing to tear them down

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Tuesday he doesn't like the Confederate monuments in the city's public spaces and considers them a "symbol of injustice" and divisive and "dangerous totems." But even after a debate over a Gen. Robert E. Lee statue sparked violent protests and counter-protests and a deadly attack on demonstrators by a white nationalist in Charlottesville, Va., Rawlings isn't ready to say the city should tear down its Confederate monuments next to City Hall or in Lee Park. "It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and say 'tear it down' because it's frankly politically correct and in many ways it makes us all feel good. I feel that way," Rawlings said. "But I hesitate because I realize the city of Dallas is better, is stronger when we are united and not divided. My goal as mayor, my job as mayor, is to continue to unite our city."

National Stories

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Elizabeth Warren’s advice for Democrats: Don’t fall back to the center

On Saturday morning, as the nation’s attention turned to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville and its violent aftermath, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) used a speech at the progressive Netroots Nation convention to lay down a marker for the Democratic Party’s future. There was little buzz in the room about the 2020 presidential primaries — shouts of “Run Warren Run” and “Warren 2020? were short and muted. But Warren, one of the party’s most popular figures, told activists that they could safely ignore any advice about how Democrats could win only through moderation.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Garson: U.S. healthcare is too big to fail. Here’s where to go next.

Republicans won control of Congress and the White House based largely on a single promise: they’d rid the world of Obamacare, despite that law’s reduction of the number of uninsured people in this country by 20 million. “Obamacare is death,” the president told us, shortly before Congress voted to maintain it. After so closely tracking various iterations of GOP healthcare proposals, everyone from patient advocates to healthcare provider groups to policy wonks — and lawmakers themselves — are now scratching their heads. What happens now? Make no mistake: nobody wins by indefinitely preserving the status-quo of Obamacare.

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Far Right Plans Its Next Moves With a New Energy

The white supremacists and right-wing extremists who came together over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., are now headed home, many of them ready and energized, they said, to set their sights on bigger prizes. Some were making arrangements to appear at future marches. Some were planning to run for public office. Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event — a protest, nominally, of the removal of a Confederate-era statue — were organizing efforts to preserve what they referred to as “white heritage” symbols in their home regions. Calling it “an opportune time,” Preston Wiginton, a Texas-based white nationalist, declared on Saturday that he planned to hold a “White Lives Matter” march on Sept. 11 on the campus of Texas A&M — with a keynote speaker, Richard B. Spencer, who was featured at the Charlottesville event.

Daily Caller - August 15, 2017

Left-Wing Agitators Call For Escalated Tactics In Response To Charlottesville

Far-left agitators are calling for an escalation in tactics following this weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Many of the same groups that have organized violent demonstrations in Berkeley, California and elsewhere are now calling for an aggressive response to the violence in Charlottesville. Far-left “anti-fascist” (or antifa) figures are advising agitators to do the job that police won’t: shutting down “fascists” and preventing them from organizing. Radical left-wingers have for months justified violence as a way to fight back against “fascism” and “racism” — terms that they have applied not just to white nationalist fringe groups but to prominent figures on the right as well.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Confederate flags and Nazi swastikas together? That’s new. Here’s what it means.

At the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, marchers carried Confederate and Nazi flags side by side, protesting plans to remove Confederate statues from the city’s Emancipation Park. That would have surprised Southerners not that long ago. While both the Confederacy and Nazi Germany waged wars to defend white supremacy, those two symbols were mostly kept apart for decades after World War II. How those two symbols of white supremacy have come to overlap tells us a great deal about how white racist extremism developed – and where it might go. In the 1930s and 1940s, Southern whites opposed the Nazis In the 1930s and 1940s, Southern whites who supported Jim Crow racism fervently opposed the Nazi regime. Some Nazi leaders were intrigued by Southern racial politics. On the eve of Operation Barbarossa, a major German offensive against the Soviet Union, Joseph Goebbels apparently passed the time by watching the German release of “Gone with the Wind.”

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Everything you need to know about NAFTA ahead of Wednesday’s talks

On Wednesday, U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials formally begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact between the three nations credited with quadrupling trade since it took effect in 1994. President Donald Trump originally threatened to abandon NAFTA, calling it “economic undevelopment” and “one of the worst deals ever.” Since then, agricultural and industrial trade groups as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been on a loud defensive, stressing that trade under NAFTA has ballooned to $1.3 trillion annually within the bloc.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Leubsdorf: On race, Trump's actions speak louder than words

The heated debate over President Donald Trump's initial refusal to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose Charlottesville, Va., rally led to violence and bloodshed may mistakenly focus too much on the man, rather than his policies. It took veteran civil rights leader Al Sharpton, no paragon of virtue himself, to make that crucial point, declaring Monday that it "trivializes" the central issue to argue about Trump's personal attitudes. "He is a proponent of racism," Sharpton said on MSNBC's Morning Joe, adding, "I don't want to put him on a couch and deal with his psychological personal problems. I'm dealing with his public policies."

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

DMN: Charlottesville reminds us how far we have yet to go on race, but we can't let it blind us to how far we've come

It hurts to be reminded of how far America still has to go to deal with the racism that remains so much a part of our national experience. This time the reminder came over a weekend full of protests and counter-protests at the University of Virginia, where a series of clashes was touched off by white nationalists and others who rallied there Friday night under a call to "unite the right." It ended in tragedy the next day when a driver, apparently shouting racist slogans, drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many others. The victims had gathered Saturday to stand up to protesters who use Charlottesville's long connection to Robert E. Lee, the general who led the armies of the Confederacy in a war that ended 152 years ago, as a rallying cry for whites.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Davis: Listen to Trump's actual words because he did not defend Nazis

For a few hours, the commanding topic on Donald Trump's Charlottesville remarks was why he couldn't have delivered Monday's thorough, tone-appropriate condemnations of racists on Saturday. Then came Tuesday. In wide-ranging remarks that sent some TV analysts into conniptions, the president took advantage of having checked the box for rebuking the right villains, and explored some substrata of the Charlottesville controversy that raised eyebrows nationwide. "He just equated Robert E. Lee and George Washington!" gasped one talking head. "He just defended the neo-Nazis!" blurted another.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Racial justice group pressures PepsiCo's CEO to exit Trump's business council

PepsiCo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi is being targeted by Color of Change, a nonprofit racial-justice group that has previously gone after Uber Technologies Inc. and Walt Disney Co. The organization is pressuring Nooyi to step down from Donald Trump's business advisory council after the president was slow to condemn white-supremacist violence last weekend in Virginia. Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison, another Trump adviser, will be a target of the campaign as well, said Rashad Robinson, executive director of the group, which claims 1 million online members.

Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2017

Hispanic Texan on Trump's diversity council joins call to boot Steve Bannon

As fallout from President Donald Trump’s response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia continues, a Texan and member of Trump's National Diversity Council is calling for him to boot Steve Bannon from the White House. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in a statement said firing Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, is the "first step, a needed step to begin the process of healing the bad feelings this administration has engendered.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2017

Garces: How legal threats stop colleges from addressing racism

The Supreme Court ruled last summer that colleges and universities can use race as one factor among many in making admissions decisions. The court determined that such policies helped further an institution’s mission to attain the educational benefits of diversity. The Trump administration may be considering a “project” to direct Department of Justice resources to investigate race-conscious admissions, according to The New York Times. While Department of Justice officials said the internal memo did not reflect new department policy, the story has placed colleges and universities “on notice” that their efforts may face renewed scrutiny.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Charlottesville women in rammed car sue white nationalists for inciting violence

Two women injured during the chaos surrounding a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last week have filed a $3 million lawsuit against individuals they say were the organizers and naming more than two-dozen right-wing and neo-Nazi groups in a suit accusing them of inciting violence Saturday. Sisters Tadrint and Micah Washington were headed home in their car Aug. 12 when they turned down an open Charlottesville side street where counterprotesters were marching. Within minutes, a Dodge Challenger slammed into the crowd and rammed into the rear of their car, causing a chain-reaction crash that killed one and injured 19 others. Charlottesville police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, with second-degree murder after Heather Heyer was killed in the collision.

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

Bump: About 1 in 12 Confederate memorials in the U.S. is in a Union state

On June 3, 1907, a new attraction was unveiled in Richmond: a monument to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America during its brief existence before being snuffed out by Union forces in 1865. A dispatch in the Bottineau Courant, a North Dakota newspaper, (and picked up in other publications) described the scene. “The unveiling,” the story read, “was the fruition of 18 years of patient and loving effort, and every man who wore the Southern uniform had in his heart a desire to be present. The thanks of the entire south were offered by the orators of the occasion to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, whose work it was that made the monument association a success.” The monument was unveiled by Davis’s daughter Margaret. Texas observed “Davis Day”; Alabama closed all stores for five minutes.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Moore, Strange advance to GOP runoff in Alabama special election

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange advanced to a Republican primary runoff in Alabama's special Senate race, which will put President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's political clout on the line in September. Moore had 39 percent of the vote and Strange — who was backed by Trump and McConnell — had 32 percent after The Associated Press called the race. Rep. Mo Brooks trailed at 20 percent. Alabama election laws call for the top two primary finishers to compete in a runoff if no candidate gets a majority.

Politico - August 15, 2017

When Aides Worry Their President Is Unhinged

You watch your boss melt down on a national stage, erasing his attempt at damage control just a day earlier. You hear him talk about the "very fine people" at an overtly racist gathering, where anti-Semitic chants filled the night. You watch him once again demonstrate an inability ever to acknowledge any error, much less an understanding of what white supremacism has meant in this country. If you were a significant player in the White House, and you were becoming more and more convinced that something was seriously wrong with your president’s mental and emotional health, what could you do? Who could you talk to? These aren’t questions that President Donald Trump's White House staff have been asking publicly, or even leaking quietly. But if they did, they wouldn’t be the first. During Lyndon Johnson's presidency, some of his closest aides started to talk privately behind his back about whether the president’s mind was buckling under the pressures of an escalating war in Vietnam, and radical and generational upheaval at home.

The Hill - August 16, 2017

Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP

Congress is bracing for several fights this fall over immigration and border security as the Trump administration struggles to make good on its campaign promises. The battle could pit President Trump against moderates and senators up for reelection in 2018, who want a more comprehensive approach to both issues. Lawmakers must pass legislation by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown. The White House appears poised to use that deadline as leverage to secure progress on its immigration agenda — and particularly on funding for a border wall, Trump’s most famous campaign promise.

Los Angeles Times - August 15, 2017

About 1 in 4 Americans would follow Trump to the end -- about the same share that totally rejects him

Asked if they could "think of anything that Trump could do, or fail to do, in his term as president that would make you disapprove of the job he is doing," about 60% of Trump supporters said no, according to a new nationwide poll released by Monmouth University in New Jersey. That's equivalent to about one-quarter of all Americans overall, given Trump's current level of support. At the other end of the scale, most of those who disapprove of Trump said that they could not "think of anything Trump could do, other than resign, in his term as president that would make you approve of the job he is doing." They made up 28% of the total, just slightly larger than the 24% who said they would support Trump no matter what.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Curran: Charlottesville residents wonder what happened to their police on Saturday

"Why the police didn't do anything?" Originally from the south coast of Turkey, Serhat Peker has lived in Charlottesville, Va., for 11 years and has never felt threatened, never experienced racism as a Muslim or as an immigrant. Until Saturday morning. At around 11 am, a crew of heavily armed camo-clad wannabe stormtroopers stood along the bank of windows outside the new location of the Turkish restaurant that he and his partners have run for several years. They were there for the Unite the Right rally scheduled for the nearby Emancipation Park and its controversial Robert E. Lee statue. But they were also there to start a fight. The restaurant, at the fringes of the historic downtown, is within sight of the historically black neighborhood just south of the area.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Grigsby: How did so many of our sons get on the wrong road that led to Charlottesville?

How many of our sons' faces were among the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville? So many heartbreaking themes emerged out of the weekend tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., that it's difficult to know where to start in unraveling them. We are all too aware that the white supremacy on display is not a new phenomenon. No doubt the Trump presidency has motivated this movement to come out of the shadows and display its hate with unabashed pride.

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Glaser: What Russia can teach us about Confederate statues

Could Russia teach us something about how to deal with difficult aspects of our national history? Many places in the South – from New Orleans to Louisville – are in the process of bringing down statues that glorify the Confederacy. That process raises questions about what to do with these remnants of the past. Do we just toss them into the ash bin of history, purging them as if they never existed? As a student of Southern politics who recently traveled to Moscow, I wondered if we can look to the Russians and how they have treated their Soviet past. The situations are not perfectly analogous.

Politico - August 16, 2017

White House aides wrestle with their own futures after Trump’s race comments

White House aides are wrestling with how to respond to President Donald Trump’s defiant newsconference on Tuesday in which he doubled down on his statement that “both sides” are to blame for the Charlottesville violence and offered what some perceived to be overtures to white supremacists. No aides had yet threatened to resign as of Wednesday morning, according to White House officials and advisers, but a number of White House staffers had private conversations on Tuesday night about how terribly the day went.

National Review - August 15, 2017

Shapiro: Antifa and the Alt-Right, Growing in Opposition to One Another

America has cancer. On Saturday, a crowd of alt-right white supremacists, neo-confederates, and Nazi sympathizers marched in Charlottesville, Va.; they were confronted by a large group of protesters including members of the Marxist Antifa — a group that has time and again plunged volatile situations into violence, from Sacramento to Berkeley. There’s still no certain knowledge of who began the violence, but before long, the sides had broken into the sort of brutal scrum that used to characterize Weimer-era Germany. The two sides then carried the red banner and the swastika; so did the combatants on Saturday. Then a Nazi-sympathizing alt-right 20-year-old Ohioan plowed his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19. The president of the United States promptly failed egregiously to condemn alt-right racism; instead, he opted for a milquetoast statement condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”

Wall St. Journal - August 16, 2017

CEOs Rethink Alliances With White House

President Donald Trump’s response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., has sparked a new round of soul-searching in U.S. corporate boardrooms over whether they should keep working closely with the White House. On Tuesday, the number of members who have withdrawn from a White House advisory council grew to five, and executives including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT +0.31% Chief Executive Doug McMillon criticized the president’s initial unwillingness to specifically denounce the racist hate groups that rallied in Charlottesville over the weekend. The fallout is testing already-tense relations between the White House and corporate executives, many of whom face new pressures from employees, consumers and activists to take stands on social and political issues.

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Rift Widens Between Trump and Business Leaders

The chief executive of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, criticized President Trump in front of his 1.5 million American employees, widening a rift between the White House and the business community that has been growing since the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va. “As we watched the events and the response from President Trump over the weekend, we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists,” Douglas McMillon, the Walmart C.E.O., wrote in a letter to employees late Monday.

August 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

Doctors have a change of heart on single payer

A majority of doctors questioned nationwide now support a single-payer health care system - an almost exact reversal of their stance nine years ago. Fifty-six percent of the 1,033 physicians who responded to the Aug. 3 Merritt Hawkins survey said they either strongly supported or somewhat supported a single-payer system. That compares with 58 percent of physicians who, in 2008, said they opposed such a system. Back then, only 42 percent supported the concept. The survey findings were released Monday,

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Texas A&M cancels white supremacist rally set for Sept. 11

Texas A&M University cited safety concerns as it cancelled a white supremacist rally planned for Sept. 11 by an outside organizer. University administrators consulted with law enforcement, system leaders and regents before cancelling the rally, spokeswoman Amy Smith said. Gov. Greg Abbott's office said Monday that it had been working with the university on how to handle the event safely as well. The university could cancel the event, Smith said, because organizer Preston Wiginton directly linked his plans for A&M to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., near the University of Virginia with a press release that read "Today Charlottesville, Tomorrow Texas A&M."

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Top leaders meet, Senate makes key votes late into the night

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus met behind closed doors Monday as lawmakers advanced school finance and property tax measures amid intense negotiations as the special session nears its end. “Let’s keep this process going forward,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said as he presented a school finance measure topping $300 million to his fellow senators. “We’re running out of time.” The Senate voted 25-6 for House Bill 21, which was amended to include a provision addressing health care costs for retired teachers at an additional cost of more than $200 million. The tab would be covered by slightly putting off a payment to Medicaid managed care organizations, pushing that expense into the next fiscal cycle.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Texas lawmaker: Bill to protect drivers who hit protesters would not apply to 'jackass' charged in Charlottesville murder

The author of a Texas bill to protect drivers who injure demonstrators found himself the target of outrage on social media this weekend after the hit-and-run death of a young woman protesting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. Last month, Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, filed legislation to protect motorists who hit demonstrators "blocking traffic in a public right-of-way" if the driver exercises "due care." House Bill 250 would protect drivers against civil liability only but would not lessen criminal penalties for deadly hit-and-runs, a second-degree felony in Texas. Fallon's bill has no chance of passing this summer. Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel out the month-long summer special session on Wednesday without even holding a hearing on the measure.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

After Texas House speaker objects, Senate scales back tree bill

Voting shortly after midnight Tuesday, the Texas Senate removed two key provisions from a bill that restricted the ability of cities to regulate the removal of trees. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, had returned House Bill 7 to the Senate over the weekend, ruling that senators had improperly added provisions that were not germane to a bill that allowed landowners to plant new trees to offset local tree removal fees. In response, senators voted Tuesday to remove a section that banned cities from regulating trees and vegetation in their extraterritorial jurisdiction. Senators also struck an amendment that prohibited cities from regulating the removal of trees that are less than 10 inches in diameter, replacing it with a prohibition on cities charging a fee related to the removal of such trees on residential properties.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Brady says polls are wrong on tax reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady Tuesday dismissed polls showing lukewarm public support for tax reform. “I don’t know what those polls, how they’re determined. But in the town halls, the roundtables I make, boy Americans are starved, they’re hungry for something better than what we have in the tax code today,” the Texas Republican said on CNBC’s SquawkBox. “Look, they’re tired of watching our American companies and jobs and research move overseas. They’re tired of their young people getting out of school with very little prospects for good paying jobs. They know something needs to be fixed.”

Houston Business Journal - August 11, 2017

Houston lost most manufacturing jobs in the nation in 2016

Harris County lost 18,900 manufacturing jobs, largely tied to the energy industry, which ranked the county No. 1 in the U.S. for manufacturing job losses in 2016. Meanwhile, Montgomery County in The Woodlands lost 2,100 jobs in 2016, ranking No. 6 for more jobs lost. The data is from Austin-based Headlight Data's analysis of information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dallas County created 3,191 manufacturing jobs in 2016, according to Headlight Data. That ranked No. 3 in the U.S. for most jobs created.

Associated Press - August 14, 2017

New life for Medicaid after GOP's health care debacle

It may not equal Social Security and Medicare as a "third rail" program that politicians touch at their own risk, yet Medicaid seems to have gotten stronger after the Republican failure to pass health care legislation. Reviled by conservatives, the 1960s Great Society program started out as health insurance for families on welfare and disabled people. But the link to welfare was broken long ago, and the federal-state program has grown to cover about 1 in 5 Americans, ranging from newborns to Alzheimer's patients in nursing homes, and even young adults trying to shake addiction. Although Medicaid still serves low-income people, middle-class workers are more likely to personally know someone who's covered.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

State Stories

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

As chambers negotiate on property taxes, intra-Republican tensions flare

Lawmakers moved closer Monday to giving some — but not all — Texans more say over the property taxes they must pay cities, counties and special-purpose districts each year. But long-brewing tensions within the Republican party ignited after the House passed key property tax legislation in a 105-41 vote. Amid accusations that Senate Bill 1 won’t apply to enough Texans, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said the bill is the best bet for getting property tax legislation through both chambers. The chambers’ differences over property taxes partially led to Gov. Greg Abbott calling lawmakers back to Austin for a summer special session.

Texas Tribune - August 15, 2017

Special session coming down to school finance, property taxes

With two days left in the special session, the finish line is coming into focus for Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda — though high-stakes negotiations remain pending on a pair of big-ticket items. After a weekend that saw stalled progress on property taxes and school finance, both chambers dislodged key proposals on the issues Monday and advanced them toward conference committees. That means House and Senate negotiators will have the next two days to hammer out their differences on the two items, which top the special session wish lists for Abbott, the House and the Senate.

Texas Tribune - August 12, 2017

Ginn, Matthews: More state spending won’t cure school finance system

Texas’ school finance system is on life support. For the last 30 years, the Texas Supreme Court has urged legislators to resolve the hemorrhaging system. Complicating things is whether the cure is more taxpayer money or something else. Legislators have long chosen to spend more money on public education, which has led neither to more dollars going to classrooms or improved education outcomes. While there are only a few beats left in the heart of the current special session, the 85th Legislature can still equitably fund education and direct more dollars to classrooms so quality teachers receive higher merit-based pay. Unfortunately, inefficiencies plague the school finance system.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Texas House breaks school finance stalemate, tentatively approves study

The Texas House took one step toward an agreement with the Senate on how to improve the state's school finance system Monday, by preliminarily passing a bill that would create a commission to study future reforms. The lower chamber voted 142-2 to tentatively pass Senate Bill 16, which tasks a 15-member commission of legislators and educators with figuring out how to relieve financial pressure on public schools and better fund the education of certain disadvantaged student groups.

Texas Tribune - August 11, 2017

Li, Royden: Ranking Texas gerrymanders

In 2003, Texas House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma for four days in order to scuttle Republican plans to replace the state’s court-drawn congressional map with one of their own. A few months later, Senate Democrats followed suit, spending 46 days in Albuquerque to try to circumvent a special session on redistricting. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, the episodes are remembered fondly today by Democrats as a high point of efforts to stymie Republicans hell-bent on gaining complete control of the state. Republicans, not surprisingly, see it differently. In their eyes, the 2001 map was indefensible, locking in much of the Democratic advantage from an aggressive 1991 gerrymander that the Almanac of American Politics called one of the “shrewdest” gerrymanders of the 1990s. Indeed, under the court’s 2001 map, Democrats still enjoyed a 17-15 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation despite the court’s creation of two new Republican seats.

Texas Tribune - August 14, 2017

Oilfield sand miners encroaching on threatened West Texas lizard

A voluntary plan the state of Texas crafted to protect a tiny West Texas reptile — and avoid its listing as an endangered species — is facing a significant threat from companies that mine the fine-grain sand oil producers use for hydraulic fracturing. That’s the central message of a letter Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office sent late last week to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service updating the federal agency on the status of the “Texas Conservation Plan” for the dunes sagebrush lizard.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

White nationalist Richard Spencer claims First Amendment right was violated by Texas A&M

White supremacist Richard Spencer is a man without a college to speak at after one cancelled his visit and a prominent professor at another declined his invitation after the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va. Texas A&M University cancelled a white supremacist rally planned for Sept. 11 by an outside organizer Monday evening. The university said it maintained the right to ax the event because organizer Preston Wiginton linked his plans to the 2017 Unite the Right rally this past weekend. Spencer called the university's excuse a "heckler's veto."

Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2017

A&M students still plan to rally Sept. 11 after White Lives Matter event called off

Student rallies at Texas A&M University next month will proceed even as university administrators cancelled a White Lives Matter event hosted by an outside organizer. Aggies had planned several rallies to protest that White Lives Matter event, which would have been attended by Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader who spoke on campus in December. Student organizers have kept those event pages active online. They now use that platform to promote causes for donations, and they say they still plan to host speakers and cheers on Sept. 11.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

Texas Legislature wrestles with big issues in waning days of special session

Tensions ran high in the Texas Capitol on Monday as the Legislature struggled to break the logjam that has held up key school funding and property tax bills that lawmakers argue Texans are begging for before their scheduled adjournment Wednesday. With time running out, Monday was marked by testy floor debates, back-door meetings and somber denunciations of the violence that had erupted over the weekend in a Virginia college town. After weeks of consternation, the House passed two major Senate bills as an act of good faith as leaders from both chambers attempted to make headway on a public school funding bill that has become the House's flagship issue.

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Senate gives OK to modified annexation bill that protects military bases

Lawmakers are sending a bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that gives landowners power to vote on whether their communities are annexed by big cities such as San Antonio. After that success Sunday evening, however, a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations were unable to produce a compromise on high-profile tax and school funding bills and both chambers put off any action on the measures until Monday, a mere two days before the special session is set to conclude. The Senate approved the annexation bill 21-10, agreeing with changes made by the House to expand a military buffer zone meant to control development around base borders.

San Antonio Express News - August 14, 2017

Texas Power Broker: Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos was 8 years old when his father, a dentist in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, decided to bring the family across the bridge to El Paso, Texas so their children could be educated in U.S. schools. Fast forward four decades, and Pablos now has four degrees that run the gamut — a biology degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, an MBA from the University of Texas-San Antonio, a master’s in hospitality management from the Hilton College at the University of Houston, and another degree, a Juris Doctor, from St. Mary’s. He’s married to Dr. Laura San Martin, an orthodontist, and lives Austin with her and their four children.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Scorecard: Where Gov. Abbott's special session agenda stands

With the clock ticking — only two days to go in the special legislative session — five of the 20 items on Gov. Greg Abbott's ambitious agenda have reached his desk. On Friday, Abbott signed bills keeping alive state agencies and combating mail-in ballot fraud. The other items, a bill increasing abortion complication reporting requirements, a measure banning abortion coverage in primary insurance plans, and a measure requiring large cities to hold elections in areas before they annex them await the governor's signature to become law.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Two Texans join conservative push to force Obamacare repeal vote on House leadership

With President Donald Trump pressuring GOP lawmakers to return to the Affordable Care Act fight, a pair of Texas Republicans are backing a call to force an Obamacare repeal in the House. The discharge petition, filed on Friday by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, requires a simple 218-vote majority to push a floor vote on a two-year Obamacare repeal -- with no replacement -- as early as September. The conservative bloc opted for the rarely used tool in an attempt to force House leadership into legislation they've resisted before. Tyler Rep. Louie Gohmert and Austin Rep. Roger Williams lauded the measure, arguing that House Republicans should heed President Trump’s calls for Congress to stay focused on dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Woods: Mental-health initiatives should be a priority of the legislative special session

Texas has a mental-health crisis. Almost 1 million adults in the state have a serious mental illness, and most do not receive treatment. We rank near the bottom for access to mental-health care and spend only $36 per capita on such services. (The U.S. average is $121; we rank 49th.) This is due in part to the decision by Gov. Greg Abbott not to expand Medicaid, leaving Texas with the highest uninsured rate in the country. As a result, mental health was a priority during the legislative session this spring. Multiple bills were passed: parity, training for law enforcement, veterans' care and improved screening through Medicaid as each relates to mental health. In addition, funding for behavioral health services increased by more than $92 million, and the efforts of lawmakers and advocates who pushed for this legislation should be lauded.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

School bill logjam eases, though extra money for schools, retirees still uncertain

The Legislature partially eased a logjam on education bills Monday, as the House tentatively approved a study of school finance sought by the Senate and Gov. Greg Abbott. Late Monday, the Senate was expected to bless a slimmed-down proposal to immediately increase state funding of public schools for the next two years -- a pet cause of the House GOP leadership. The moves would set up appointment of House-Senate conference committees on the three measures expected to advance later Monday night.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

The economy in Texas and across the country rolls right along with the railway industry

Even with the energy industry in a bit of a slump, Forbes magazine ranked Texas the fourth-best state for business. Texas also ranks first for current economic climate, thanks to having the second-fastest economic growth and the third-fastest job growth in the nation over the past five years. And 109 of the 1,000 largest public and private companies in the U.S. are based in Texas. Other states cite our state as their competition for attracting and maintaining jobs. Freight rail infrastructure is another area in which Texas leads. We boast the highest railway mileage and number of railroad employees in the country. The strength of the rail network and the strength of the economy in Texas are not coincidental.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

DMN: Will latest court ruling finally force the truth-telling that Baylor has shunned for so long?

A federal judge in Waco has gashed the "duck and cover" strategy of Baylor University regents hell-bent on keeping secret the school's handling of sexual assault reports. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ordered the school to produce interview recordings, notes, summaries and other evidence from the hush-hush Pepper Hamilton investigation. The ruling came in a Title IX lawsuit brought by 10 former students who say Baylor mishandled their reports of sexual assault between 2004 and 2016. Pitman's decision comes just two weeks after another substantial ruling in which he ordered the school to produce original documents, not summaries, of sexual violence and harassment reports from all Baylor students since 2003.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

House clears bill on property tax elections, top Abbott priority

The Texas House on Monday gave final approval to a bill that will require voter approval when larger cities and counties raise property taxes above 6 percent, but only after a tense fight over a move to cut off debate without considering amendments that would have included smaller jurisdictions. The advance of Senate Bill 1 brought Gov. Greg Abbott one step closer to his top priority for the special session, but not all of Monday’s news favored the governor. It became apparent that Abbott’s call for a cap on state government spending, a high priority for conservatives in the Legislature, had died a quiet death in the House, where time ran out after a Democratic point of order had derailed the legislation days earlier.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Poole: How Texas makes it hard for itself to build infrastructure

The long range Texas Transportation Plan 2040 says: “TxDOT estimates that $5 billion more per year in highway investment is needed to generally maintain the current level of congestion and condition of our highway infrastructure.” That’s $5 billion per year on top of what Texas is spending now — and that’s just the money needed to maintain today’s status quo, which is plagued by traffic jams. This massive funding discrepancy makes the Texas Legislature’s recent rejection of private infrastructure funding all the more perplexing.

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

Texas Senate OKs $563 million for schools, retired teachers

With two days left in the special legislative session, the Texas Senate early Tuesday morning approved 25-6 a bill to pump an extra $351 million into the public education system over the next two years — a $1.5 billion cut from what the House had proposed. Tuesday morning’s vote sends the watered-down version of House Bill 21 into conference committee where Senate and House members will continue negotiations that began over the weekend. Both chambers have been deeply divided on how much money should be spent on public schools and how to pay for it.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

After tense debate, House OKs bill on property tax election

The Texas House on Monday gave final approval to a bill that will require voter approval when larger cities and counties raise property taxes above 6 percent, but only after a tense fight over a move to cut of debate without considering amendments to include smaller jurisdictions. As debate over Senate Bill 1 began, Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, announced that he had enough signatures to force a vote and “move this bill directly to a conference committee” with the Senate. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of tea party-supported representatives, strongly objected, saying the move was an effort to stifle their voices and avoid voting on amendments that would give more Texans a say over property tax increases.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

As a judge, Abbott blessed SOS ordinance, the epitome of local control

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been on a tear lately against local control. He signed legislation on Memorial Day that pre-empts ride-hailing rules in Austin and other cities. His to-do list for the special session of the Legislature included a crackdown on local rules concerning tree removal, use of a cellphone while driving and access to bathrooms by transgender people. Abbott finds the capital city’s embrace of local control especially galling. “Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different,” he said in June at a Bell County Republican Party dinner. “And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2017

These Central Texas schools fail state academic standards

Four Austin district schools failed to meet state academic standards, cutting the number of failing campuses in half, under the latest accountability ratings released Tuesday. Burnet, Martin and Mendez middle schools, as well as Govalle Elementary, received ratings of Improvement Required, according to data released by the Texas Education Agency Tuesday morning. “We’re happy that we’ve gone from eight schools to four schools and it shows that the teachers and principals continue to work hard for our students and families,” said Edmund Oropez, chief officer of teaching and learning. “We believe in some areas we’re doing better. There are still performance gaps. There are achievement gaps that still exist.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2017

UT regents mapping strategy for political support on tuition

University of Texas System regents sketched out a strategy Friday to ensure that proposals to raise tuition and fees in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years are warranted and to seek support from local officials, lawmakers and statewide elected leaders before adopting them. The effort to bolster the tuition-setting process with an eye toward enlisting political support comes after a legislative session that saw the Texas Senate vote 29-2 to freeze academic charges for two years at the state’s public universities and to sharply restrict future increases. But the measure, Senate Bill 19, didn’t emerge from a House committee.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Texas House tentatively approves Senate bill to study school funding

The Texas House on Monday tentatively approved 142-2 Senate Bill 16, which would create a 15-member commission to study and make recommendations on the state’s beleaguered school finance system. The commission would be comprised of lawmakers, teachers and school officials as well those from the business and civic communities. The commission would be tasked with studying tax rates and policy changes to reflect the geographical and racial diversity of the state, among other issues, and making recommendations to the Legislature on how to fix the finance system by next legislative session.

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

TABC planning ‘minor stings’ as students return to school

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is gearing up for a series of sting operations near major colleges and universities to catch vendors who sell alcohol to minors as students return to classes for the fall semester. TABC officials announced the planned “minor stings” in a release on Wednesday, saying the commission will send minors into bars, restaurants and convenience and liquor stores through August and September. "Our retailers take the lead in preventing alcohol from falling into the hands of minors," said TABC Executive Chief Robert Saenz. "This year, as in years past, we're urging all retailers to make sure their employees have the tools they need to ensure anyone who purchases alcohol is of legal age to do so."

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to neo-Nazis: ‘Not here, not now, not ever.’

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick led the Texas Senate in a moment of silence Monday for the victims of violence fomented by white supremacists and neo-Nazis at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday. “It’s unspeakable, unacceptable and un-American and we are going to stand in a moment of silence but we’re going to stand as one, one body, to say to those in this state who share those thoughts, to those who would come to our state, not here, not now, not ever,” Patrick said. “We stand and condemn this together, the state of Texas and the Texas Senate, let us stand together and let us take a moment to pray for the victims, for those injured.”

Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2017

Bills are all but dead, but transgender bathroom fight lives on

Bills to limit transgender-friendly bathrooms are on the brink of death, if not dead already, but that didn’t stop opposing sides from traveling to the Capitol on Monday to take a final stab at the special legislative session’s most contentious issue. Opponents of the bills began the day by delivering petitions to Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders that represent 50,124 Texans who have shown opposition to legislation that would require Texans to use restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate or other government document.

Texas Monthly - August 14, 2017

DC2DQ: Will Hurd’s Road Trip for Survival

The Twenty-third Congressional District of Texas sweeps across 58,000 square miles of brush country and desert, reaching from San Antonio to El Paso. The district contains 747,000 people, 189 working oil rigs, four endangered species, and one threatened member of Congress: Republican Will Hurd of Helotes. Hurd holds one of the most competitive congressional districts in the nation, one that changed party hands three times between 2006 and his election in 2014. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee earlier this year made Hurd one of its top targets after realizing presidential nominee Hillary Clinton received 4,500 more votes than Hurd as he eked out a re-election victory over Democrat Pete Gallego.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - August 12, 2017

GE locomotive production jobs leaving Pennsylvania for Texas

ERIE, Pa. — It was on a sweltering day in August 2016 that Donald Trump promised to reverse the city’s decline at the hands of other countries. “They think they’re going to take our companies and rip them out … and go to Mexico [to] employ people other than you,” he told several thousand people inside the Erie Insurance Arena. “That stuff isn’t happening any more.” While GE announced plans to end locomotive production and lay off nearly 600 workers last month, the jobs appear bound for Texas instead. Denouncing foreign competition can overlook the way communities cannibalize each other close to home. “At least they stayed in the States,” said Doug Richardson, a retired welder in the plant.

Oil Price - August 14, 2017

Automotive Giants Are Betting Big On Ride Sharing Tech

A new study is showing consumers are starting to prefer shared mobility services over owning a car and stopping off at a gas station. The study by University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and Columbia University, surveyed more than 1,200 people in Austin, Texas. They wanted to find out how their transportation habits changed after ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft left the city. Uber and Lyft had pulled out the Austin, Texas, market last year right after their ballot measure failed in a local election. Voters had blocked them from using their own background-check systems to bring in drivers, avoiding the strict guidelines governing the taxi and livery industry.

New York Times - August 14, 2017

Paulikas: Christianity Does Not Justify Trump’s ‘Fire and Fury’

Following President Trump’s initial threats of “fire and fury” toward North Korea on Aug. 8, Robert Jeffress, the evangelical pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and a presidential adviser, released a statement claiming that God had given the president authority to “take out” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Jeffress was the president’s selected preacher at the traditional pre-inauguration liturgy at St. John’s Episcopal Church and claims to speak with Mr. Trump “on a variety of issues.” Regardless of his political credentials, Jeffress’s theology is shockingly uninformed and dangerous, and it is a sobering reminder of the power of misguided moral statements to influence matters of life and death in policy. President Trump’s language, which he intensified a few days later, evoked apocalyptic nuclear war. Despite what either of the men claim, there is no possible Christian justification for provoking such a conflict.

Waco Tribune - August 12, 2017

Advocates for disabled children hope for last-minute reprieve on therapy cuts

Margaretta Zuniga tries to keep upbeat about her role as a full-time single mother to two daughters who can’t walk, talk or use the restroom by themselves. Espy, 3, and Malana, 4, suffer from DiGeorge syndrome, a genetic disorder that has delayed their development. “When people ask me what’s wrong with them, ‘why are they sick?’ I say, ‘They’re not sick, they’re healthy. They’re just delayed,’ ” Zuniga said. “I want to, just want them to grow up and get an education. … I don’t want them dependent on a wheelchair all their life. I want them to be little girls and be able to run around.”

County Stories

San Antonio Business Journal - August 10, 2017

Former HUD exec joins SAWS leadership

After nearly three years in Washington D.C., former U.S. Housing and Urban Development executive Jaime Castillo returned to the Alamo City where he has taken a leadership role at the San Antonio Water System. Castillo has been named as chief of staff and chief strategy officer at SAWS. He will report directly to the municipally owned utility company's CEO Robert Puente. ... Castillo served as the assistant secretary for public affairs under HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Prior to his stint in Washington, Castillo served as Castro's chief of staff and held public affairs roles for the City of San Antonio.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Frank Dyson, former police chief of Dallas and Austin, dies at 90

Former Dallas Police Chief W. Frank Dyson brought numerous innovations to the city's police force, including moving women into patrol duty and the launching the department's first helicopter unit. After a 23-year career with the Dallas department, he spend nine years as chief of police in Austin. Dyson, 90, died Thursday at his home in Robinson of complications from an inoperable brain tumor. Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Waco Memorial Park and Chapel on Interstate 35 in Robinson.

Texas Tribune - August 11, 2017

Rodriguez: El Paso: A test case for proposals attacking rooftop solar

Homeowners and small businesses increasingly use rooftop solar to generate power and lower electricity costs. Communities win when more solar is installed. It creates local jobs, reduces reliance on polluting traditional generation and reduces the need for electric companies to build new, costly infrastructure that will be paid for through customers' electric bills. Ignoring these benefits, El Paso Electric (EPE) has tried once already to handicap solar development. Now they're at it again — and, if successful, could begin a trend of anti-solar proposals statewide. All El Paso residential customers, solar and non-solar alike, are charged only for electricity they actually use. Through solar net metering, customers earn credit for self-generated power, lowering their monthly bills.

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2017

Gay couples push to preserve Houston city spousal benefits

A trio of city employees and their same sex spouses filed a federal suit Thursday to require the city of Houston to keep offering health insurance and other benefits for gay couples. The legal action bats back at another ongoing suit that would ban the city from offering benefits to same-sex spouses and even required couples to pay back past benefits. "Here we are in 2017 and we're still having this conversation," said Kenneth Upton, the Dallas-based Lambda Legal attorney representing the three married couples.

KUT - August 15, 2017

Austin Council Members Want To Rename Robert E. Lee Road. What Would It Take To Do It?

Following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, Austin City Council Member Greg Casar is calling for the renaming of Robert E. Lee Road in South Austin and Jeff Davis Avenue in North Austin. Over the weekend, someone spray-painted over street signs for Robert E. Lee Road. The city says it will cost $700 to replace the signs. The violence in Charlottesville erupted over the city’s plans to remove a statue of Lee, the top general of the Confederate Army during the Civil War, from a park. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States.

McAllen Monitor - August 14, 2017

Immigrants found inside tractor-trailer in Edinburg

A group of 17 undocumented immigrants were found inside a tractor-trailer Sunday at the Flying J gas station in Edinburg, according to Edinburg police. There were no ambulances observed on the scene, and Edinburg police did not report any injuries or casualties. After receiving a call from a relative of an individual inside the trailer, Edinburg police said they arrived on the scene and began knocking on tractor-trailers. Once officers received knocks back from one trailer, they found 17 immigrants locked inside from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Romania, police said. A male and female of Cuban nationality who were in charge of the tractor-trailer were detained, police said.

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

SA officials condemn Virginia violence, hate speech

Councilmen Roberto Treviño and William “Cruz” Shaw on Monday said they plan to continue pushing for the removal of the Confederate statue in Travis Park days after violence erupted at a Virginia protest over a statue of Robert E. Lee. Meanwhile, Mayor Ron Nirenberg condemned the acts that unfolded over the weekend.

National Stories

San Antonio Express News - August 15, 2017

Poll: Charters less popular, but vouchers less contentious

Support for opening more charter schools has dropped significantly among Americans, but there's less opposition to expanding private school voucher programs, as the Trump administration continues its push for school choice, according to a survey released Tuesday. About 39 percent of respondents want to see more charters — schools that are funded by public money, but usually operated independently of school districts — according to a study by Education Next, a journal published by Harvard's Kennedy School and Stanford University. That's down from 51 percent last year.

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2017

HC: Clean out the White House -- Bannon and Gorka must go.

President Donald Trump's words are not enough. On Saturday in Charlottesville, Va, a white supremacist killed one and injured nineteen, including Natalie Romero, 20, a Bellaire High School graduate and sophomore at the University of Virginia. Trump, a man who exploded with moral certitude when Nordstrom stopped selling his daughter's handbags, first reacted with a statement so limp that many white supremacists took it as a sign of support.

Politico - August 14, 2017

Trump’s ‘John Wayne’ presidency struggles with tragedy

President Donald Trump has mastered the art of the swaggering politician, but when tragedy strikes, he has struggled to find his footing. By projecting the persona of a chin-out American leader eager to punch first and deal with the consequences later, Trump is missing the softer touch that past presidents have effectively used to bring the country together in times of crisis. The same cycle played out again amid a weekend of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump stated Saturday that “many sides” were to blame for the protests that rocked the college town, and he took to the familiar confines of Twitter to offer his condolences to the families of three people killed over the weekend.

Politico - August 14, 2017

California files suit over Trump sanctuary city policy

California has become the first state to sue the Trump administration over its anti-sanctuary cities policy. Speaking at a San Francisco news conference, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state's suit argues that the Justice Department is violating the Constitution by trying to implement a new policy that would deny grants to jurisdictions that fail to give immigration authorities access to local jails or fail to give immigration officials 48 hours’ notice on the release of prisoners being sought on immigration charges.

Politico - August 14, 2017

Obama team was warned in 2014 about Russian interference

The Obama administration received multiple warnings from national security officials between 2014 and 2016 that the Kremlin was ramping up its intelligence operations and building disinformation networks it could use to disrupt the U.S. political system, according to more than half a dozen current and former officials. As early as 2014, the administration received a report that quoted a well-connected Russian source as saying that the Kremlin was building a disinformation arm that could be used to interfere in Western democracies. The report, according to an official familiar with it, included a quote from the Russian source telling U.S. officials in Moscow, "You have no idea how extensive these networks are in Europe ... and in the U.S., Russia has penetrated media organizations, lobbying firms, political parties, governments and militaries in all of these places."

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Kim Jong Un appears to step back from brink as report says he’ll watch ‘stupid conduct’ of U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to take a step back from the brink of nuclear war Tuesday, when state media reported that he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees.” But, as is often the case with North Korea, the message was mixed: Kim was inspecting the missile unit tasked with preparing to strike near Guam, and photos released by state media showed a large satellite image of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam on the screen beside the leader. “The U.S. should stop at once arrogant provocations against the DPRK and unilateral demands and not provoke it any longer,” the North Korean leader told his missile unit, according to a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency published Tuesday.

Jerusalem Post - August 14, 2017

American oil tycoons invested in the film Wonder Woman

The Koch Brothers, the famously conservative business family, invested heavily into the film Wonder Woman starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot. An investment that has been paying off in a big way. According to Hollywood Reporter, Steve Mnuchin, President Trump’s current treasure secretary, brought in David and Charles Koch as early private investors for one of Hollywood’s most underrated financial successes. They would also go on to invest in a few of the summer’s biggest blockbusters including Dunkirk.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Mathis-Lilley: Trump has cultivated the white supremacist alt-right for years

Donald Trump has done more than any political figure in the United States to propagate the beliefs and court the support of the white supremacist "alt-right" movement, whose adherents held a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, where a white supremacist named James Fields Jr. killed a nonviolent protester named Heather Heyer with his car. Here's an attempt at a comprehensive list of the ways Trump has promoted and benefited from the movement. Birtherism. Trump began insisting in 2011 that Barack Obama may not have been born in the U.S. He once said a "very credible source" had informed him that Obama's birth certificate was fraudulent and claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii to research the matter.

Washington Post - August 14, 2017

Why are people still racist? What science says about America's race problem.

What causes people to be racist? "In some ways, it's super simple. People learn to be whatever their society and culture teaches them. We often assume that it takes parents actively teaching their kids, for them to be racist. The truth is that unless parents actively teach kids not to be racists, they will be," said Jennifer Richeson, a Yale University social psychologist. "This is not the product of some deep-seated, evil heart that is cultivated. It comes from the environment, the air all around us." Richeson compares children's instinctive formation of biases to a student at a new school. "When you arrive at a new high school. You are instinctively trying to figure out who's cool, who's not, who's a nerd, who gets beat up? Kids quickly acquire these associations," she said.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Trump may not get the 'win' he seeks in NAFTA talks

As a candidate, Donald Trump constantly called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history and promised “to get a better deal for our workers.” Now that he is president, Trump is about to find out how hard it is to get an agreement that satisfies not only those workers who feel "shafted by NAFTA" but also the powerful business interests currently benefiting from billions of dollars in cross-border sales. Top trade officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico will sit down on Wednesday to begin thrashing over hundreds of issues as distinct as Canadian dairy barriers and digital trade issues affecting both countries.

Politico - August 15, 2017

Cecile Richards to Democrats: Stand Firm on Abortion

Abortion is exactly the kind of debate Democrats don’t want right now: visceral, internally divisive, and more about hypotheticals than any actual candidate or race. And, like on just about every other issue for a party in frantic panic over ever being in power again, it’s about whether the way to win is to proudly and unequivocally take a stand, or to decide they’ve already veered too far toward ideological purity and correct course.

Wall St. Journal - August 10, 2017

Democrats and the Permanent Crisis

What are Democrats going to do if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ever learns how to assemble 51 votes? Without significant legislative accomplishments to show for their congressional majorities and with a beleaguered president hovering near historic levels of unpopularity, Republicans are now in the worst shape of any major U.S. political party—except for one. Michael Whitney, who oversaw digital fundraising for the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign and writes today in Politico, isn’t the first to observe that “the Democratic base is energized.” But he also notes that by at least one key measure, the Republican base is more energized. Mr. Whitney writes that Democrats have “a serious fundraising crisis” and adds: "Over the first six months of 2017, the Republican National Committee pulled in $75 million—nearly twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee, which raised $38 million.

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2017

Davis: Trump's comments on Charlottesville were late but that doesn't make him a racist

I believe the appropriate maxim is, "Better late than never." President Donald Trump applied multiple layers of criticism to precisely the right targets in comments Monday morning, after a weekend of being slammed for not doing it Saturday. "Racism is evil," he said in addressing the bleak events in Charlottesville, "and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

New York Times - August 15, 2017

Outraged in Private, Many C.E.O.s Fear the Wrath of the President

At what point do the C.E.O.s of the largest companies in the United States tell President Trump that enough is enough? Not yet, apparently. On Monday morning, President Trump went on a tirade against Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive of Merck, the pharmaceuticals giant. Mr. Frazier, one of the nation’s most prominent African-American chief executives, had announced through his company’s Twitter account that he was resigning from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in response to Mr. Trump’s refusal over the weekend to immediately and directly condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis carrying swastika flags in Charlottesville, Va. Mr. Trump had pinned the blame for the bigotry and violence — which left one anti-bigotry protester dead — on “many sides.”

Washington Post - August 15, 2017

The Daily 202: Trump acts like the president of the Red States of America

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump often behaves as if he’s first and foremost the president of the states and the people who voted for him. That’s at odds with the American tradition, and it’s problematic as a governing philosophy — especially in a moment of crisis. Trump’s initially tone-deaf response to Charlottesville underscores why. Animated by grievance and congenitally disinclined to extend olive branches, Trump lashes out at his “enemies” — his 2020 reelection campaign even used that word in a commercial released on Sunday — while remaining reticent to explicitly call out his fans — no matter how odious, extreme or violent.

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Specter of corruption looms over Mexico as NAFTA talks get rolling

Roberto Martin Guerrero Valdez browsed through a newsstand recently in the nation’s capital and saw headlines about bullet-riddled bodies, a narco blockade in the city, looming trade talks and candidates jockeying in advance of their presidential campaigns. He barely shrugged. But when he glanced at a headline about the latest national corruption scandal, the deliveryman and recent victim of armed robbery pointed to the story, pushed the paper aside and walked away in disgust. “That right there is why we can’t move forward as a country,” said Guerrero, 45, who toils in the underground economy like more than half of Mexico’s workforce. “That’s what keeps me up late at night, worried about the future of my sons.”

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2017

Floyd: Confederate memorials are part of my heritage, and I want them gone

A couple of my brothers, on a lark, recently underwent those mail-in genetic ancestry tests. The results are unsurprising: We are as white as a sack of marshmallows. It's hardly remarkable, given that many of our antecedents followed a common migratory trail: From the coal mines and bogs of western Europe, across the Atlantic, and thereafter across what would become the southern United States. And, yes, there are Confederate veterans in my family tree. That's neither a source of pride nor shame; it's a plain statement of fact. Since that gives me at least as much interest as anybody in the fate of public Confederate monuments, here's my vote: I want them gone.

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Neugebauer: The deep state is recklessly supporting bad energy policies

Many of the fiercest battles I fought in Washington were to stop government from creating additional financial burdens on the Texans I represented. The 19th Congressional District of Texas, — stretching from Abilene, through Lubbock to the New Mexico border — boasts some of the hardest working Americans I have known. These men and women are the backbone of our country, but few of these households are especially wealthy. Most are solid middle-class people that value family, honesty and hard work. Recently, I’ve seen Washington officials make another effort at advancing a tired argument that we should shift blindly toward renewable energy sources. The impact of this misguided policy on Texas, and the rest of middle-class America, would be unacceptable.

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Trump declares 'racism is evil' after firestorm

President Trump declared Monday that “racism is evil” in public comments at the White House, and for the first time called out the KKK, Nazis and other hate groups specifically for their role in this weekend’s violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to what we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in a surprise statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room. He spoke after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The president pledged to hold accountable “anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence.”

The Hill - August 14, 2017

Trump quietly putting his stamp on the courts

President Trump has been quietly making lifetime appointments to fill more than 100 vacancies on federal courts across the country. With five judges confirmed, another 30 pending and 123 seats left to fill, according to one group tracking the numbers, Trump has the opportunity to revamp the judiciary branch and carve out a legacy for himself that could stand the test of time. “It can’t be overstated the impact the individuals he’s appointing will have on millions of people across the country and their children for a generation or two,” said Dan Goldberg, legal director at the liberal Alliance for Justice (AFJ).

Washington Times - August 14, 2017

Gay rights movement goes corporate, pays big business as ally in bathroom bills fight

The Texas Association of Business has been an outspoken opponent of the state’s proposed transgender bathroom bill, predicting the legislation will lead to a massive economic backlash and cost the state as much as $8.5 billion in lost business. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce was similarly alarmed by the 2015 push for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that it would negatively affect the state’s “ability to attract and retain jobs, talent and investment.” ... These small-business coalitions and others across the country share a common source of funding: the national gay rights movement. Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the debate over gay and transgender rights has increasingly been framed in economic terms. ... Tony McDonald, legal counsel of the conservative nonprofit Empower Texans, said the gay rights movement has relied more on corporate influence to implement its agenda since the legalization of same-sex marriage.