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Newsclips - August 18, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - August 16, 2019

A Texas-size political scandal threatens powerful House Speaker

In Texas, they are calling it the case of “The Speaker and the Creeper.” The political imbroglio started last month, when Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative pit bull who routinely antagonizes establishment politicians, accused the Republican House speaker, Dennis Bonnen, of offering his organization coveted House media credentials if it would work to defeat 10 incumbent House members from Mr. Bonnen’s own party.

Mr. Bonnen denied it, and the bombshell was initially greeted with some skepticism. Why would one of the state’s top politicians court a back-room deal — to undermine his own bench — with a man Texas Monthly recently described as “one of the biggest snakes in Texas politics”? Except there was a tape. Now Mr. Sullivan’s accusations are at the heart of the biggest scandal to hit Texas in years, one that is throwing the state’s Republican-led House of Representatives into turmoil and threatening to bring down the speaker.

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Associated Press - August 17, 2019

Texas Lt. Gov. Patrick receives stent after heart blockage

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has had a stent inserted in his chest after experiencing a heart blockage Thursday evening. A statement released by his staff says Patrick was experiencing significant chest pain Thursday and was taken to a hospital.

The statement says a doctor at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital performed a number of tests that were negative, but a final one showed a "dangerous heart blockage."

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Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2019

Paul Stekler: Is a purple wave coming to Texas in 2020?

Look past the presidential race and there are indications Texas is rapidly moving from red to purple politically. In just the past few weeks, three Republican congressmen in the crosshairs of Democrats have retired rather than face stiff challenges in 2020.

In rapidly diversifying Fort Bend County, a mix of equal parts African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and whites that its former congressman, Tom DeLay, might not recognize, incumbent Rep. Pete Olson announced his retirement. Olson faced another race against former diplomat Sri Kulkarni, who he beat by fewer than 5 points in 2018. Rep. Kenny Marchant hung on in the Dallas/Fort Worth suburbs in 2018, 51% to 48%, against a little-known Democrat who barely raised $100,000. This time, he would have faced Air Force veteran Kim Olson, who ran a strong race for state agriculture commissioner last year.

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Tribune News Service - August 17, 2019

Epstein’s special treatment in jail was far more lenient than anyone knew

Sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein received far more jail work-release privileges about a decade ago than the public previously knew, according to records released Friday.

At one point in 2009, Epstein’s already generous work-release agreement was modified to allow him to leave Palm Beach County Jail seven days a week, for up to 16 hours a day — including two hours per day at the Palm Beach mansion where he previously sexually abused dozens of minor girls, records from the Sheriff’s Office reveal. Epstein’s suicide while facing sex trafficking charges in New York six days ago has not stopped scrutiny about Epstein’s time in Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s custody after Epstein pleaded guilty to two state prostitution counts in 2008.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: House Speaker Dennis Bonnen should receive full scrutiny

No question about it. The Texas Rangers must investigate the scandal swirling around embattled House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. As Bonnen hits bottom (unless, of course, he is still in political free fall) someone has to officially get to the bottom of whether Bonnen offered to trade press credentials for political retaliation. Such a trade would certainly be unethical, and potentially a crime, which is why the Rangers are needed.

On the surface, this is a fairly basic political scandal, but it’s also a head-slapping one because it’s absurd and nonsensical. But let’s take a step back. This entire scandal is a stunning display of political folly. For example, Bonnen was one of Straus’ top lieutenants. And Empower Texans was relentless in its attempts to unseat Straus. Why would Bonnen meet with Sullivan, let alone meet with him and then rip other lawmakers? And why would Bonnen hold that meeting after having such a strong first session as speaker at the exact time Empower Texans has been floundering in the political wilderness? If Bonnen’s stock was up, Empower Texans’ stock was way down. What would be the benefit?

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San Antonio Express-News - August 17, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Why Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen will never be Joe Straus

It’s never been a secret that Joe Straus and Dennis Bonnen have contrasting styles. Straus, the former San Antonio representative and Texas House speaker, is an old-school statesman who carries himself with a quiet assurance that suggests an utter disregard for pettiness. Bonnen, Straus’s successor, is blunt and combative, a “bad news bear,” as San Antonio Democratic Rep. Ina Minjarez semi-affectionately referred to him in a July San Antonio Express-News interview.

When Straus announced in 2017 that he wouldn’t seek another term, tea-party Republicans — who viewed Straus as a fake-conservative RINO (Republican in Name Only) — openly celebrated, while most other Texas political watchers fretted about what would happen without Straus to block bathroom bills, voucher proposals and various other grandstand ploys. That’s why Bonnen’s performance during this year’s Legislative session, on balance, was so gratifying. His first time around as House speaker, he took an old Straus goal — school-funding reform — across the finish line in true bipartisan fashion.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

Gov. Abbott: No special session on guns, red flag laws

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signaled he won’t call a special session to address gun violence and appeared resistant to impose new red flag laws in wake of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart this month that left 22 dead.

Abbott said during a town hall Thursday that he will convene a series of round table discussions to come up with solutions — similar to those he held after the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School. “We are not hesitating whatsoever,” Abbott said during the town hall in Tyler. “It doesn’t require a special session for Texas to act.” Red flag laws, meanwhile, have been gaining momentum in Washington after the El Paso shooting, with President Donald Trump and some Congressional Republicans endorsing an expansion.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 17, 2019

Trump’s rhetoric on race poses dilemma for Texas Republicans after El Paso shooting

The opening question at Gov. Greg Abbott’s televised town hall Thursday in Tyler came remotely from Jose Reza in El Paso. “Gov. Abbott, coming on the heels of what happened in El Paso, even though we may have differing opinions on the Second Amendment, we need to find something that works for both sides so that we don’t have another person driving 600 miles to a very safe place like El Paso, and gunning down 22 people,” Reza said.

Abbott, his voice rising, replied that there was no mystery behind the motive for the Aug. 3 massacre at the El Paso Walmart. “You don’t have to wonder because the person who did it, the killer, wrote it in a manifesto. He said in that manifesto that the reason why he made this attack is because of racism, because of hate, because of his desire to eliminate people from the face of the earth.”

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times - August 16, 2019

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: No, Houston Chronicle, Beto shouldn't quit so he can run for Senate; This is why

The Houston Chronicle editorial board caused a nationwide stir recommending that Beto O'Rourke give up on running for president and run instead for U.S. Senate. It's not a new suggestion, or exclusive to the Chronicle — for O'Rourke or for Texas' other Democratic candidate for president, Julian Castro. On Thursday, O'Rourke said no, absolutely not,he's still running for president, thank you. But what do y'all think?

Would challenging the incumbent senator, Republican John Cornyn, be better for O'Rourke? For Castro? For Democrats? For Texas? For the nation? Republicans' interest in this should be sky high, not just for how it could affect Cornyn's chances. The impact goes beyond the partisan outcome. Whether O'Rourke, or Castro, should bow out of the presidential race and run for Senate is a question that all Texans should find at least a little bit insulting, and here's why:

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2019

Walmart won't be selling liquor in Texas after all, appeals court rules

Walmart won't be opening liquor stores in Texas anytime soon. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week reversed an earlier federal court ruling in favor of Walmart, which challenged the constitutionality of a law that prevented it from selling liquor in Texas.

"On behalf of our customers, we are disappointed by the court's ruling which hurts Texas consumers," said Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield. "We are considering all of our options." Walmart sued the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in 2015. In early 2018, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed with Walmart that the state law was unconstitutional. The law prohibits publicly owned corporations from obtaining liquor store permits in Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - August 17, 2019

Joe Straus: Combating hatred and violence requires moral credibility from all of our political leaders

The terrorism in El Paso, directed at the Latino community, painfully reminded us of the selflessness of many of our fellow Americans. Unsung heroes put themselves in harm's way to help others, labored for hours to save lives and donated blood from hundreds of miles away. None of this was surprising because it is who we strive to be as Texans. It's certainly not surprising to those of us who know El Paso to be a caring community that embraces its unique place in the story of American immigration. But the El Paso attack also reminds us that our stock political responses to these tragedies are not enough.

First, we should not reflexively blame mental illness for mass shootings. In fact, public cynicism is hardened when leaders try to blame mass shootings on everything except guns — from mental health to video games. Would stricter gun laws prevent all mass shootings? No. Should gun safety laws be part of the conversation? Yes. Should we blame mental illness or an easy scapegoat? We should not. Do we need to lead on combating the rise of domestic white supremacy? Absolutely.

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Texas Tribune - August 17, 2019

Donald Trump is spending more money on Facebook ads in Texas than in any other state

Beginning in June, thousands of voters across the country saw a fundraising plea in the form of a Facebook ad from the president’s official social media page. It described how the “fake news media” would bolster Donald Trump’s reelection bid. “The Fake News Media broadcasted the 2020 Crazy Dem Debate and showed the American People just how insane the Democratic candidates really are,” it said. “They’re practically doing our job for us.”

While the rhetoric contained in the ad may not surprise anyone, the people on the receiving end could raise eyebrows. According to Facebook’s ad library, more Texans saw the ad than residents of any other state. The ad isn’t an anomaly. As Trump’s reelection campaign pours far more money into Facebook advertising than any other 2020 candidate, its No. 1 target is Texas residents. According to Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic firm that tracks digital ad spending, Trump’s campaign spent nearly half a million dollars on Facebook ads in Texas alone from Jan. 5 through Aug. 3.

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Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Energy bankruptcies back on the rise in 2019

After a recovery from the last oil bust, energy bankruptcies are back on the rise in 2019. The number of oil and gas bankruptcy filings through mid-August has nearly equaled the total tally from 2018, and the aggregate debt from 2019 bankruptcy filings of almost $20 billion has already surpassed the roughly $17 billion from a year ago, according to the energy bankruptcy monitor maintained by the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.

The biggest filings this year includes the oilfield services giant Weatherford International and a slew of oil and gas producers such as Houston's Sanchez Energy, Halcón Resources, Vanguard Natural Resources and Midland-based Legacy Reserves. The energy sector is currently dealing with subdued oil and gas prices, slowing drilling activity, a wave of layoffs from companies like Halliburton, National Oilwell Varco and Pioneer Natural Resources, and a displeased Wall Street cutting off the access to capital for most companies.

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USA Today - August 16, 2019

Beto O'Rourke: 'I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate'

Beto O'Rourke has once again said he will not drop out of the 2020 presidential race to run for the Senate instead. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell asked the former Texas congressman Thursday evening if he had December 9 marked on his calendar, as it's "the last day you can file in the Senate Democratic primary in Texas."

"Let me make your show the place where I tell you and I tell the country I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate," O'Rourke responded. "I’m running for president. I’m running for this country. I’m taking this fight directly to Donald Trump, and that is what I am exclusively focused on doing right now." Last year, O'Rourke ran for Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz, where he gained national attention by ending up in a tight battle against the Republican incumbent in traditionally conservative Texas.

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SE Texas Record - August 15, 2019

Ethics watchdog calls for probe of Sri Preston Kulkarni, says U.S. House candidate failed to disclose accurate financial report

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a non-partisan ethics watchdog, has filed a complaint with the U.S. House Committee on Ethics requesting an investigation into Sri Preston Kulkarni, a Democrat running for Texas’ 22nd congressional district, for failing to file a “true, complete and correct” Financial Disclosure Report as required by federal law.

On his 2019 financial disclosure report, Kulkarni listed no assets and only $6,000 in income while also listing a large amount of debt, including over $10,000 in credit card debt and between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loan debt. A spokesperson for the Kulkarni campaign previously told The Record that Kulkarni is “relying on savings while he runs this campaign.” FACT’s complaint, filed Aug. 15, states that due to the campaign’s contradictory statements regarding his assets, Kulkarni is in clear violation of federal campaign disclosure laws.

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HuffPost - August 18, 2019

GOP Senator John Cornyn torched over ‘dumbest’ climate change explainer

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) appeared to display a highly questionable understanding of climate change on Twitter, and promptly got dragged over the coals.

The lawmaker on Friday was widely ridiculed for the way he responded to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) call for action on the climate crisis. Schumer had tweeted about July 2019 being “the hottest month ever, of any month, on record” and described climate change as “the greatest threat facing our planet.”

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Marshall News Messenger - August 17, 2019

Former congressman Bell says experience lifts him over growing Democratic field to challenge GOP Sen. Cornyn in 2020

A former congressman from Houston says experience will propel him beyond fellow Democrats in a growing cast of hopefuls vying to take on three-term Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in 2020. “I’m the only one who’s run statewide before, and the only one who’s been in Congress,” Chris Bell said, referring to his term in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2003 to 2005 when he fell victim to then U.S. Rep. Tom Delay’s redrawing of Texas’ political boundaries.

Bell, 59, also was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2006. He joins a field of seven, becoming the eighth Democrat hoping to go head-to-head with Cornyn. The Republican has been in the Senate since 2002. “Like a lot of other people, I’m extremely disappointed with the direction of the country since Donald Trump was elected,” Bell said. “And I feel John Cornyn has become a water boy for the president.” The former congressman took notice of Democratic former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s near-miss campaign against Texas’ other member of the upper chamber in Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz. And he also says Democratic gains in 2018 suggest the minority party is on the upswing in deep red Texas.

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News4SA - August 16, 2019

American Bar Association's support for legalizing marijuana may impact Texas

The powerful American Bar Association - made up of lawyers and judges - is now endorsing ending marijuana prohibition. If Congress follows the ABA's lead and removes pot from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the impact could be felt in Texas.

"The American Bar Association is taking a step toward reality,' says Gerald Goldstein, a prominent San Antonio attorney who co-chairs the legal committee for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws. "I think they are coming to realize that this has been a failed experiment." Known as the oldest practicing attorney in Texas, Goldstein, 75, has been a long-time legalization advocate.

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EastTexasMatters.com - August 18, 2019

Neal Barton: Texas Speaker Bonnen must resign

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen of Angleton needs to resign. Legal or not, the Republican leader, during lunch with another conservative leader and a watchdog representative, asked if the watchdogs would criticize 10 republican state reps Bonnen thought too liberal.

In return, the watchdog group would get more political access. It’s a favor Bonnen doesn’t even have the authority to grant. I heard a report from our Austin station that a famous Texas lawyer says that was not illegal. It’s not, but it’s not right. If you are going to lead, lead. Use your political prowess to get what you want. But don’t bushwhack.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 17, 2019

Questions swirl as fate of HISD board remains uncertain. Here are a few answers.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath came to and left the Greater Houston area Thursday without addressing one of the biggest issues on his agenda: the fate of Houston ISD’s school board.

In the coming weeks, Morath likely will be forced to decide whether to replace all trustees governing Texas’ largest school district or close one of HISD’s most historic campuses, the consequence of historic Wheatley High School failing to meet state academic standards for a seventh consecutive time.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 16, 2019

Austin city staff suggest restrictions to homeless camping

Austin’s city staff might propose restrictions to where homeless people can camp in Austin, according to a memo released Friday. The memo from Assistant City Manager Rodney Gonzales and the city’s homelessness strategic office said the city’s staff likely will recommend disallowing camping in areas with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, as well as in floodways.

It is unclear when the City Council might make more specific recommendations and how those proposed restrictions might affect homeless encampments under overpasses. City rules already prohibit camping in parks and at City Hall. The proposal comes after the City Council has faced significant pushback in connection with a vote in in June that eliminated several local ordinances related to homelessness, including a panhandling ban and a no-sit/no-lie ordinance. But the most controversial ordinance was the camping ordinance, which many fear will create tent cities for those experiencing homelessness in Austin.

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News4SA - August 16, 2019

San Antonio officials to deliver records about decision to ban Chick-fil-A from airport

The City of San Antonio agreed Friday to release documents detailing its decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport based on the restaurant chain’s donations to religious ministries.

City officials will give Attorney General Paxton with documents pertaining to the City’s communications, meetings and records related to the exclusion of Chick-fil-A from the airport under the agreement. The Office of the Attorney General will have three business days to notify the City of San Antonio if additional documents are needed and file an agreed notice to dismiss the ongoing open records lawsuit.

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Dallas Morning News - August 18, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Fort Worth’s economic challenge: How to keep up with Dallas-Plano-Irving?

For decades, the economies of Dallas and Fort Worth moved in tandem, usually rising and falling together and growing at similar rates. But their paths have diverged, primarily because the eastern side of the region, known as Dallas-Plano-Irving, has grown much faster than the western side, Fort Worth-Arlington.

Compounding the effect, Dallas has created many more high-paying jobs in professional and business services. As a result, one side of the metro is lapping the other, at least by some key economic measures. The two metro divisions started on separate paths in mid-2013, and Dallas kept pulling away until late 2017. By late 2018, Dallas-Plano-Irving picked up the pace again and has continued to separate itself. “Even after slowing this year, Fort Worth is still growing at about its average pace — it’s just not going gangbusters like Dallas,” said Laila Assanie, senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “The divergence is happening because job growth in Dallas consistently outperformed Fort Worth by a wide margin.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 16, 2019

San Antonio’s Pioneer Energy struggles as CEO gets pay raises

Times have been tough for San Antonio-based Pioneer Energy Services. They’ve been much better for President and CEO Stacy Locke — at least as far as his compensation.

Pioneer, which leases drilling rigs to oil and gas producers, has posted losses for 19 consecutive quarters, a time period totaling four years and nine months. In late July, the company reported its latest loss, nearly $13 million in the second quarter. On Wednesday, Pioneer lost its place on the New York Stock Exchange after its share price dipped to under 16 cents. Its stock now trades on the over-the-counter QX exchange. Pioneer shares opened Thursday at 6 cents, inching up to 11 cents by day’s end.

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Austin Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Fallout continues over Leander library's Drag Queen Story Hour

On Thursday, Aug. 15, after another lengthy meeting going late into the night, the Leander City Council voted 5-2 to close library meetings rooms to rentals, and stalled on other controversial policy decisions.

Leander’s ongoing controversy over public library use stems back to June when the local library planned to host a Drag Queen Story Hour, which sparked protests and counter-protests that cost the city more than $20,000. In its wake, the library decided to temporarily limit access to its meeting rooms, a policy that, following Thursday’s vote, will continue indefinitely. Thursday’s agenda included newly proposed policies, including a contract that would require visiting instructors to have insurance plans up to $2 million and charge tuition for events. This was rejected in favor of simply closing the meeting rooms to public use altogether.

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National Stories

Washington Post - August 17, 2019

Trump’s speech at Shell plant drew thousands of workers paid extra to be there

Workers at a Royal Dutch Shell plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania., were forced to choose Tuesday between attending a speech by President Donald Trump or forgoing overtime pay that their coworkers would earn.

Attendance was optional, but contract workers who chose not to stand in the crowd would not qualify for time-and-a-half pay when they arrived at work on Friday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Several companies with thousands of unionized workers have contracts with Shell, one the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Workers at the unfinished Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex had to arrive at 7 a.m., scan their ID cards and stand for hours until Trump’s speech began, the Post-Gazette reported.

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Washington Post - August 16, 2019

A toxic rift opens between Democrats and Israel after the nation refuses entry to two members of Congress

A politically explosive fight over Israel's attempt to block two members of Congress from entering the country - at President Donald Trump's urging - has elevated rifts between it and Democrats who have increasingly started to view the Israeli government and its leader as out of line or, in the eyes of at least two presidential candidates, even racist.

The shift in dialogue has been accelerated by the tight embrace between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and after a dizzying 48 hours, some Democrats are more openly discussing the unusual step of reconsidering foreign aid to the longtime ally. The dispute has fractured bipartisan support for Israel and moved debates over it into partisan space more typically home to issues such as abortion, gun control and immigration. The situation also has put many Democratic lawmakers in the awkward position of defending colleagues they find politically toxic while rebuking a country they support.

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Associated Press - August 17, 2019

Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Police seized metal poles, bear spray and other weapons Saturday as hundreds of far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators swarmed downtown Portland, Oregon, in a situation the mayor termed “potentially dangerous and volatile.” Authorities also set up concrete barriers and closed streets and bridges in an effort to contain and separate the rival groups.

Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys and Three Percenters militia group began gathering late in the morning, some wearing body armor and helmets. Meanwhile black clad, helmet and mask-wearing anti-fascist protesters — known as antifa — were also among the several hundred people on the streets. Police said they had seized the weapons, including shields, from multiple groups that were gathering on both sides of the Willamette River, which runs through the city.

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Associated Press - August 18, 2019

Leaked UK memos warn of food, drug shortages in Brexit chaos

Secret British government documents have warned of serious disruptions across the country in the event that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a trade deal on Oct. 31, according to The Sunday Times.

The newspaper published what it said were three pages worth of "planning assumptions" detailing what the British government expects in the case of a sudden, "no-deal" exit from the EU. Among the most serious: "significant" disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, a decrease in the availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water shortages due to possible interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals.

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CNN - August 15, 2019

13 states sue over legal immigration 'public charge' rule

Thirteen states filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday challenging the Trump administration's new rule that seeks to limit access to green cards for immigrants that receive certain government benefits.

This is the latest legal challenge against the so-called "public charge" rule, which was released Monday. Immigrants who use benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers could have their request for legal permanent status in the US rejected because they would be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future. The new lawsuit, led by Washington state, contends that the rule violates federal immigration statutes and unlawfully expands the definition of "public charge."

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ProPublica - August 16, 2019

“Dirtbag,” “savages,” “subhuman”: A Border Agent’s hateful career and the crime that finally ended it

It was late November 2017, and Matthew Bowen, a veteran Border Patrol agent, was seething. A fellow Border Patrol agent in Texas had just been found dead in the field, and Bowen was certain someone who’d been crossing the border illegally was responsible for murdering him. “Snuffed out by some dirtbag,” Bowen, stationed in Nogales, Arizona, said in a text later obtained by federal authorities.

Bowen, if lacking in evidence, wasn’t alone in his anger and suspicion. President Donald Trump, nearing the end of his first year in office and already frustrated in his bid to construct a wall on the southern border, had promised to “seek out and bring to justice those responsible” for the Texas agent’s death. Brandon Judd, the head of the union that represents Border Patrol agents, declared to Fox News and other media outlets that the Texas agent had been “ambushed.”

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Governing - August 14, 2019

A license for a lemonade stand? States rethink business licensing

This June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill blocking local governments from forbidding children to sell lemonade or other non-alcoholic drinks on private property. (Yes, there was a real-life example of cops shutting down a lemonade stand run by two sisters under the age of 10 who lacked a permit.) “This is a commonsense law,” Abbott said. Few people would disagree.

After years of increasing the number of occupations subject to licensing and permit requirements, states are starting to dial back. Where only 1 out of 20 jobs required an occupational license back in the 1950s, now more than 1 out of 4 do. Policymakers are increasingly convinced by the argument that states are stifling economic activity by requiring expensive and unnecessary training and licenses for everyone from cosmetologists to yoga instructors.

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Pew Research Center - August 12, 2019

Public’s priorities for US asylum policy: More judges for cases, safe conditions for migrants

The American public is broadly critical of the way that the federal government is dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. When it comes to what should be done about the situation, large majorities say it is important to increase the number of judges handling asylum cases and to provide safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say the federal government is doing a very bad (38%) or somewhat bad (27%) job dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border; just 33% say the government is doing a good job, according to the new survey by Pew Research Center conducted July 22-Aug. 4 among 4,175 adults.

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Other Words - August 14, 2019

Jim Hightower: Where's the beef in NAFTA 2.0?

MAGA,” blusters Donald Trump — Make America Great Again! America’s ranching families, however, would like Trump to come off his high horse and get serious about a more modest goal, namely: Make America COOL Again.

COOL stands for Country-of-Origin-Labeling, a straightforward law simply requiring that agribusiness giants put labels on packages of steak, pork chops, and other products to tell us whether the meat came from the United States, China, Brazil, or wherever else in the world. This useful information empowers consumers to decide where their families’ food dollars go. But multinational powerhouses like Tyson Foods and Cargill don’t want you and me making such decisions. In 2012, the meat monopolists got the World Trade Organization to decree that our nation’s COOL law violated global trade rules — and our corporate-submissive congress critters meekly repealed the law.

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Newsclips - August 16, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dismisses calls for House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to quit as ‘premature,’ welcomes inquiry

Gov. Greg Abbott says that while Speaker Dennis Bonnen was "a good partner" in this year's legislative session, it's good for both Bonnen and the state that the Texas Rangers are investigating whether anything improper happened in his June huddle with a conservative activist.

"We need to get to the bottom of this, and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly," Abbott said late Thursday in a televised town hall. He referred to a controversy that has engulfed Bonnen's speakership and has gripped Texas politics for the last three weeks. "I don't know any of the facts that happened," Abbott said of Bonnen's meeting with Empower Texans chief Michael Quinn Sullivan, at which the speaker allegedly proposed a swap of House media credentials to Sullivan's website in exchange for his political support in next March's Republican primaries.

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New York Times - August 15, 2019

Economic trouble signs hang over Trump’s trade war

Against the backdrop of mounting evidence that the global economy is weakening, President Trump is caught between his desire to pursue the trade war with China he promised to win and his need to keep the economy humming as the 2020 election approaches.

That conflict explains some of the messaging from Mr. Trump in public and on social media in recent days as market gyrations undermine the confidence of investors. The president has insisted that his tariffs on Chinese imports are hurting only China, telling reporters on Thursday that “the longer the trade war goes on, the weaker China gets and the stronger we get.” The main thing threatening American prosperity, he has said repeatedly on Twitter, is the Federal Reserve and its refusal to act expeditiously to lower interest rates.

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Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

President Trump eyes a new real-estate purchase: Greenland

President Trump made his name on the world’s most famous island. Now he wants to buy the world’s biggest. The idea of the U.S. purchasing Greenland has captured the former real-estate developer’s imagination, according to people familiar with the deliberations, who said Mr. Trump has, with varying degrees of seriousness, repeatedly expressed interest in buying the ice-covered autonomous Danish territory between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

In meetings, at dinners and in passing conversations, Mr. Trump has asked advisers whether the U.S. can acquire Greenland, listened with interest when they discuss its abundant resources and geopolitical importance and, according to two of the people, has asked his White House counsel to look into the idea. Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it was a good economic play, two of the people said, while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition. It is also unclear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland even if the effort were serious.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

O’Rourke returning to presidential race, but not the traditional one

Beto O’Rourke is returning to the campaign trail, but you won’t find him in Iowa with the rest of the Democratic pack. Moved by the shooting at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso to “take the fight directly to the source of this problem,” O’Rourke said Thursday he will instead be heading to the places where he says President Donald Trump has been “terrorizing and terrifying our fellow Americans.”

“Anyone this president puts down, we are going to do our best to lift up,” O’Rourke said during a speech in El Paso on Thursday. The address was meant to jumpstart his campaign after he spent 11 days after the shooting in his hometown, which has redefined the message of his campaign — along with that of Julián Castro, the other Texan in the race, who has also more aggressively gone after Trump after the shooting.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

San Antonio’s Julián Castro aims at the rich with ‘wealth inequality tax’

Julian Castro offered an economic plan Thursday in his pursuit of the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, proposing to end the GOP-drawn income tax system passed in 2017 and restore an inherited wealth tax that strikes at the concentration of economic and political power held by the richest Americans.

Castro’s left-leaning set of policy proposals includes a “wealth inequality tax” on the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. His plan hikes capital gains taxes, reduces taxes on low-income and middle-income families via tax credits and raises the minimum wage to $15 — a plan currently stalled in the Senate. The economic package also calls for federal grants to states and local entities ensuring that families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

San Antonio lawmaker rolls out gun reforms as City Council calls for special session on firearms

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez has released a series of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence in the wake of mass shootings that have killed 58 people in Texas since 2017. Among the proposals: establishing a $10 million gun buyback program, mandatory background checks for private gun sales and a task force to disrupt white supremacist networks.

Separately, San Antonio City Council members unanimously passed a resolution Thursday imploring Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to address gun violence. “San Antonio has consistently shelved politics for the betterment of our community,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “In addressing the rise of gun violence in America, today should be no different for our city.”

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

End of an era: Imminent danger along the Guadalupe forces river authority to drain remaining lakes

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority will drain its four remaining lakes on the Guadalupe next month, citing the imminent public danger posed by the decrepit condition of spillgates in its 90-year-old dams.

The lakes will be dewatered, one by one, beginning Sept. 16. Officials expect each lake to take about three days to empty. The process will start with Gonzales on the east, then move west to Meadow, Placid, and finally McQueeney, the most populated one. The water level will drop by 12 feet on each lake, leaving only the natural channel of the Guadalupe River. Two other lakes in the chain, Dunlap and Wood, already drained after spillgates there failed. The GBRA notified the associations of lakefront residents Thursday about the decision and is sending about 2,000 certified letters to all property owners.

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Southwest Airlines hopes to make Denver its busiest airport with 100 new flights

Southwest Airlines hopes to add as many as 100 flights a day as part of gate expansions at Denver International Airport — a move that would make the Colorado city the busiest in the carrier's network.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines notified officials at Denver International Airport that the company wants 16 new gates being constructed as part of a $1.5 billion expansion at the facility. In all, Denver International is adding 39 gates and should start opening at the end of 2020. Southwest now operates 200 to 225 flights a day out of Denver. The move could give the airline nearly 300 daily flights there and surpass Chicago Midway, which has about 265 flights a day from Southwest.

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Ted Cruz: The El Paso shooting was racist domestic terrorism, and Congress must act

The Dallas Five. First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Santa Fe High School. And now most recently, the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, where 22 more innocent people lost their lives. Repeatedly, over the past three years, our state has been struck by unspeakable evil — this time, in the form of white supremacy, anti-Hispanic bigotry, and domestic terrorism.

But, just as in Dallas and Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, what I saw when I traveled to El Paso to support this grieving community should also serve as an inspiration for every community across Texas and the country. I saw a community respond to despicable hatred with tremendous love. I saw the heroes of that dark day — the men and women from all walks of life, of every color and creed, come together and stand as one. During each of these visits with survivors, I felt their overwhelming strength. A refusal to allow bigotry to win. That strength and determination is the story of El Paso. And that is the story of our state.

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Dallas Morning News - August 16, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Abbott’s powerful message to racist domestic terrorists: Texas won’t stand for you here

There is — or should be — a basic expectation that our leaders provide clear guidance on moral issues that we all can agree are critical to a civil society. To that end, we found it gratifying and essential for Gov. Greg Abbott to unambiguously denounce white nationalism and the violence born from it in this state. The first step to rooting “out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence” is to acknowledge that it’s a major problem in the first place, he said.

But even as we appreciate the statement, we know mere words won’t change things. It will take aggressive plans and action to tamp down the kind of hate that spawned the unconscionable massacre in El Paso. We’re encouraged that Abbott will form a Domestic Violence Task Force aimed at finding real solutions. He’s taken immediate action by ordering the state Department of Public Safety to work with federal and local officials to identify potential terrorist hate groups and racists. More DPS agents will be assigned to conduct criminal probes of racist gangs affiliated with neo-Nazis and white nationalists. These are concrete moves in the right direction.

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Houston Chronicle - August 16, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Texas should stop making it harder to vote

Harris County is taking steps to make voting more convenient — reforms that should be copied throughout Texas to increase notoriously sagging voter turnout. State election officials recently approved Harris County’s application to use centrally located voting centers along with traditional polling places during high-turnout elections.

That’s good news leading up to the 2020 presidential election, which could have a huge turnout if the crowd competing to become the Democratic Party’s nominee is any indication. County Clerk Diane Trautman says the voting centers will allow voters to conveniently cast their ballots near their job or school, which could increase turnout by at least 2 to 5 percent. Turnout in Travis County, which began using voting centers in 2011, has increased turnout more than 10 percent, according to election officials.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Texas Education Agency releases letter grades for Houston-area schools

More Houston area schools earned A grades and fewer D and F grades on the Texas Education Agency's accountability ratings than the state as a whole, but the relatively high grades were not enough to protect Houston ISD from state sanctions.

The ratings, released early Thursday, showed that Houston-area schools earned more A grades and fewer D and F grades than the state average. Of more than 1,500 local schools, about 22.3 percent were given A grades, 34.2 percent received B's, another 26.4 earned C grades, 7.4 percent were rated as D and 3.8 were given F's. Nearly 6 percent of local schools were not rated.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Oxy to sell old ConocoPhillips HQ, hold onto Anadarko campus for now

Occidental Petroleum plans to sell the old ConocoPhillips headquarters it bought several months ago and maintain a major presence in the Anadarko towers in The Woodlands at least for now, Oxy's chief financial officer disclosed at a Denver conference this week.

That means Oxy will at least temporarily keep its Greenway Plaza headquarters in Houston after acquiring Anadarko Petroleum last week in a $38 billion mega deal. Before Oxy became a bidder for Anadarko this spring, Oxy planned to move into the old ConocoPhillips campus in Houston's Energy Corridor. Now those plans are completely nixed because the Conoco campus can't accommodate everyone from Oxy and Anadarko, said CFO Cedric Burgher.

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KXAN - August 15, 2019

Dueling messages in Gov. Greg Abbott's town hall and Rep. Joaquín Castro's Democratic response

As Gov. Greg Abbott addressed a wide range of topics during a town hall broadcast across Texas, it’s clear what is top of mind for both him and his opponents: gun safety.

“As the school year starts, we all have to face the fact that we have to look into our children’s eyes and have a conversation, not about the excitement of the first day of class, but about the people who could harm us and about getting back safe and active shooter drills,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro, who gave a Democratic response Thursday after the town hall. Gov. Abbott also addressed topics such as immigration, school safety, property taxes, mental health issues and others, but what has been resonating for Texans and across the nation is the mass shooting that happened in El Paso on Aug. 3 where 22 people died and many more were injured.

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KTSM - August 14, 2019

The end of an era as Dr. Diana Natalicio retires as UTEP president

Wednesday marks the end of an era — the last day of Dr. Diana Natalicio’s time as UTEP president. Natalicio, who held the position for 31 years, announced her retirement in May 2018. She is UTEP’s first woman president and the longest-serving president in the university’s history.

She was born in St. Louis, Missouri as Diana Siedhoff. “I was a switchboard operator,” Natalicio told KTSM’s Estefania Seyffert. “The Lily Tomlin of Norburg Manufacturing and answered calls and connected them and after a month I realized this is not possible. I cannot live my life with this box.”

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Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

UT’s Austin campus to get $200 million more in funding for fiscal year 2020

The University of Texas’ flagship campus in Austin will see a 6.3% increase, or about $200 million more, in funding from the UT System Board of Regents. Regents on Thursday approved the systemwide $21.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2019. The budget goes into effect Sept. 1.

The regents also sent the Austin campus an additional $27.8 million from the Available University Fund. The campus, which has finished putting together its annual budget, will release its spending plan in a few weeks, a UT spokesperson said. “We are very grateful to the board for increasing the distribution of the AUF,” UT president Gregory Fenves said after the meeting. “It will help us educate our students better and recruit and retain the best faculty and staff in the world.”

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Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Abbott blames racism for El Paso attack, but is mute on Trump

Speaking at a first-of-its-kind gubernatorial televised town hall from the University of Texas at Tyler, Gov. Greg Abbott named racism as the culprit in the Aug. 3 massacre of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart by a suspect who told police he drove all the way from Allen to shoot Mexicans.

But the governor avoided commenting on whether President Donald Trump should tone down his rhetoric, which critics believe may have spurred the gunman to action. “What led someone to drive 600 miles over to El Paso to do this?” Abbott said. “You don’t have to wonder, because the person that did it, the killer wrote it in a manifesto. He said in that manifesto that the reason why he made this attack is because of racism, because of hate, because of his desire to eliminate people from the face of the earth.”

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Tyler Morning Telegraph - August 15, 2019

East Texas inventor concentrating on wind power technology

Some people say a uniquely different invention of George Arthur Spencer on his property in the Cross Roads community near Athens looks like an alien antenna. The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports Spencer jokes that it is a feeder for giraffes.

In a serious vein, Spencer, who has more than 20 patents, said his latest invention is three-dimensional wind power technology designed to harvest wind energy. In less technical terms, it is a new concept in windmills similar to wind turbines in West Texas. Hassan El-Kishky, chair of the electrical engineering department at the University of Texas at Tyler, said Spencer's invention "sounds like a good idea." There will need to be an analysis to see if it will actually be feasible in terms of cost, and whether it will add to present technology and realize improvement in efficiency as well as reliability, El-Kishky said.

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Texas Public Radio - August 14, 2019

If approved, new Texas test will determine marijuana is illegal with 1% THC levels

For the last two months, dozens of county and district attorneys in Texas have not prosecuted low-level marijuana crimes. That’s because they lack a reliable and affordable way to distinguish between marijuana and hemp, which was just legalized.

But the Texas Forensics Science Commission has worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to come up with a new method of testing that could be available to prosecutors by early 2020. Law enforcement — using probable cause to search a person or their vehicle — must first prove that the substance in question has the look and smell of marijuana. That has become complicated by the fact that legal hemp can have the same look and smell. A cop's next step would be to test the product to determine if it is in fact marijuana. That used to be a simple process.

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County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Travis County seeks hard data to judge success of jail diversion program

Travis County gave initial approval this week to continue an effort that diverts mentally ill criminal defendants away from jail and into treatment, despite commissioners’ concerns about a lack of hard data to back up the program’s success.

The collaboration between the county’s pretrial services and Travis County Integral Care was started in 2016, and in three years, the pilot program has gotten 177 inmates with serious mental health issues out of the Travis County Jail on bond and connected them with treatment services, pretrial services division director Stacy Brown said. Often, those defendants linger in the jail because they can’t afford to post bond or don’t have the mental capacity to return to court for hearings once they are released, leading to an ongoing cycle of recidivism.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

Multiple Austin-area schools receive Fs from the state

Multiple Austin-area schools received failing grades under the state accountability system, which doled out letter grades to campuses for the first time this year. The Texas Education Agency started rolling out the A-through-F rating system last year, assigning letter grades to districts and numeric scores to campuses on a scale of 0-100.

Central Texas schools and districts scored about the same as statewide averages, according to the results of 13 districts. All but two districts scored the same or better than they did compared to last year. Twenty campuses received an F, three more than last year. This year, the Austin district earned an overall 89, or B, but eight of its 120 rated campuses received Fs, double the number last year. Andrews and Barrington elementaries, and Burnet, Dobie, Martin, Mendez, Webb middle schools and Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy earned Fs. The last time the district had as many failing campuses was in 2015.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 15, 2019

ALEC in Austin: Conservative conference sparks protest

A banner at the 46th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin featured a photo of Vice President Mike Pence with the quote: “I was for ALEC before it was cool.” If you are not a Republican legislator somewhere in America, chances are you don’t know what ALEC is.

If you are, there is a 1 in 4 chance you are a member of ALEC, a powerful if low-visibility organization that brings together business interests and policymakers from across the country to hammer out model conservative legislation and then seeks to have it enacted in state capitals from coast to coast. For about 100 labor, environmental, consumer, disability, immigrant and Democratic Party activists who gathered outside to rally in the 100-degree heat in what Progress Texas, the organizing group, called an “unwelcome reception,” ALEC is definitely not cool, and no amount of hotel air conditioning could make the Marriott anything other than a hothouse of bad ideas for a gathering that began Wednesday and ends Friday.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 15, 2019

‘The goal is to become an A school district,’ Fort Worth superintendent says

The Fort Worth school district received a C rating Thursday from the state. “The goal is to become an A school district and the goal is to eliminate D and F campuses in Fort Worth,” said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. Scribner said the district’s overall rating doesn’t tell the district’s entire story because it barely missed earning a B rating (by just one-tenth of one percent).

Scribner said the district’s overall score has been improving. This year, Fort Worth schools earned a 79 aggregate score — up 12 points in the last two years. Eleven Fort Worth schools earned A ratings, but 18 campuses received F grades. Nine sixth-grade centers and middle schools received the lowest ratings — a sign that something needs to change at that level, Scribner said.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 15, 2019

Leon Valley council member thrown out of office says he’s not going quietly

Benny Martinez, the five-year Leon Valley City Council member who was voted off the council Wednesday night, said he isn’t going to go quietly. “There will definitely be a lawsuit,” Martinez said. The City Council voted 2-1 to declare Martinez’s seat vacant after finding that he had violated the city charter numerous times in ways that caused him to forfeit the seat.

Martinez said he wasn’t sure whether he would continue with the suit he filed in April, which is pending, or submit a new one. And he’s not sure whether he’s going to be suing to get his seat back. The City Council’s vote came shortly before midnight Wednesday, ending eight days of hearings over two months. Wednesday’s session ran nearly five hours.

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KUT - August 15, 2019

Austin is sued over convention center ballot language

Austin is being sued over wording for a petition-driven referendum on the city's $1.2 billion expansion of the convention center and its use of hotel tax revenue. The head of the local chapter of the NAACP, Nelson Linder, is asking the Texas Supreme Court to force the Austin City Council to rewrite the language that will appear on the November ballot.

The proposition will ask if voters should be required to approve any convention center expansion costing more than $20 million over a four-year period. The city's proposal to expand the center was unanimously passed by the Austin City Council in May. A political action committee drafted a petition challenging that expansion soon after. That petition received more than 20,000 signatures, allowing it to go to a public vote after Council OK'd the ballot language. The ballot language says the city "must" pay for those elections, but Linder’s attorney, Fred Lewis, argues there would be no cost extra if they were held on even-numbered years at the same time as city council elections.

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National Stories

Associated Press - August 15, 2019

US stock indexes end mostly higher after volatile day

Investors rode out another turbulent day on Wall Street Thursday that kept stock indexes flipping between gains and losses until a late-day bounce gave the market a modest gain. Worries about a possible recession collided with hopes that the strongest part of the U.S. economy — shoppers spending at stores and online — can keep going.

The major U.S. stock indexes spent much of the day reacting to big moves in U.S. government bond yields, which fell sharply in the early going, fluctuated for much of the day, and then recovered some of their decline by mid-afternoon. U.S. government bonds have been among the loudest and earliest to cry out warnings about the economy. Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday after a fairly reliable warning signal of recession emerged from the bond market. Even after the slide in yields eased Thursday, the U.S. bond market continued to show concern as yields ended broadly lower.

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Associated Press - August 15, 2019

Israel grants US Rep Tlaib West Bank visit on humanitarian grounds

Israel’s interior minister said Friday he has received and granted a request by Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib to enter the Israeli-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds. The decision marked the latest sharp reversal over what had been a planned visit by Tlaib and fellow Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, to Jerusalem and the West Bank.

On Thursday, Israel had announced it is barring the two from entry — an unprecedented move targeting members of the U.S. Congress. Israel’s decision came after President Donald Trump said in a tweet it would show “weakness” to allow in the two Muslim members of Congress who have been sharply critical of him and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and Trump’s prior prodding — had sparked widespread criticism, including from Israeli and Jewish organization which said it was an affront to U.S. institutions to bar the entry of members of Congress. Critics also argued that it weakened Israel’s traditionally strong ties with the U.S. through heavy-handed partisanship.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2019

Democrats’ uneasy 2020 reality: They need the likes of O’Rourke, Bullock and Hickenlooper to run for Senate — badly

There are lots and lots of high-profile Democrats running for president; there are not many high-profile Democrats running for Senate. And the pressure to change that is becoming more overt, as a party hopeful of winning back the presidency in 2020 confronts difficult math when it comes to also taking the Senate. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of how this shakes out.

The New York Times’s Reid J. Epstein reported Tuesday that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is dropping down into his state’s high-profile Senate race after failing to gain traction in the Democratic presidential primary. In Texas, the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board this weekend urged Beto O’Rourke to make a similar calculated switch. And in Montana, there have been efforts to persuade Gov. Steve Bullock.

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Washington Post - August 15, 2019

CNN increasingly sees itself as subject to threats after incidents involving Cuomo, Lemon, Ryan

In a matter of a few days, CNN host Chris Cuomo and contributor April Ryan were involved in separate altercations, both captured on video. A third network figure, host Don Lemon, was accused in a civil suit of harassing behavior stemming from an encounter last summer.

There is no indication that the episodes are related, but CNN has repeatedly suggested the Cuomo encounter was “orchestrated” to provoke the anchor-host. The network sees itself as subject to threats in the wake of relentless criticism and provocations from President Trump. Some CNN correspondents travel with security when reporting at Trump’s rallies. The network has also reminded its employees about security concerns, but hasn’t said anything specific internally in the wake of the Cuomo, Ryan and Lemon episodes.

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Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

Any economic downturn could scramble Trump’s 2020 strategy

President Trump has made the strong economy the central selling point of his presidency, and his advisers believe it is the key to winning a second term. But this week’s damaging economic developments—resulting in fresh warnings of a possible impending recession—threaten to complicate that message 14 months before the election.

Mr. Trump and his advisers say publicly they aren’t worried. White House officials add that Mr. Trump—even as he continues to heap scorn on the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell—will keep touting the economy, including during a Thursday night rally in Manchester, N.H. While he reacts to economic developments on Twitter, Mr. Trump has been privately assuring advisers that he isn’t bothered by recent drops in the stock market, according to two people who have spoken to him lately. And while more economists are predicting a recession in the next year, the threat isn’t considered a certainty.

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NPR - August 16, 2019

Trump shifts from background checks to mental illness reform at NH rally

At his first campaign rally after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Trump appeared to back away from supporting a possible expansion of background checks in favor of a push for more attention to mental illness. "There is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger — it's the person holding the gun," Trump said to roars and a standing ovation from the Manchester, N.H., crowd.

Trump used a similar line immediately after the dual shootings earlier this month at a Walmart in Texas and outside a bar in Ohio, saying that "mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun." In the weeks since, the president has urged Congress to strengthen background checks, despite opposition from the National Rifle Association. He backed red flag laws, which would permit law enforcement officers to temporarily take weapons away from people determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

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Newsclips - August 15, 2019

Lead Stories

CNBC - August 14, 2019

Dow tanks 800 points in worst day of 2019 after bond market sends recession warning

Stocks plunged Wednesday in the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s worst performance of 2019 after the bond market flashed a troubling signal about the U.S. economy.

The Dow dropped 800.49 points or 3.05% to 2,5479.42, its worst percentage drop of the year and fourth-largest point drop of all time. The S&P 500 fell 85.72 points or 2.93% to 2,840.6, while Nasdaq Composite declined 3.02% to 7,773.94. The Dow gave up the entire rebound from a sell-off earlier in August and fell to a two-month low.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2019

Gov. Greg Abbott makes white nationalism a priority for DPS, names new Texas domestic terror task force

In the wake of El Paso's mass shooting by a gunman alarmed about a "Hispanic invasion of Texas," Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday made white nationalism a priority for state police and named a group to combat domestic terror.

The Domestic Terrorism Task Force, which will have its first meeting Aug. 30, will meet quarterly and provide advice in hopes Texas can "root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence in our state," Abbott said in a written statement. Last week, after he flew to El Paso to meet with local lawmakers, Abbott said he could use his powers as governor to take some immediate actions on domestic terrorism, such as ordering the state Department of Public Safety to "work with our federal and local officials" to identify "potential terrorists," hate groups or menacing racists.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke returns to the campaign trail after El Paso mass shooting

Beto O’Rourke is ready to hit the campaign trail again for the first time since a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso claimed 22 lives on Aug. 3. On Thursday morning, O’Rourke is expected to deliver what his campaign is calling “a major address” from El Paso to mark his return to the presidential campaign circuit.

O’Rourke was on the campaign trail in Nevada when news of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart broke. O’Rourke immediately canceled all of his campaigning events in Nevada and California that weekend and returned to El Paso for the last 11 days. O’Rourke has not been shy about blaming President Donald Trump for inspiring a rise in white supremacy that was reportedly a motivator for the El Paso killer.

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Associated Press - August 14, 2019

ICE raids raise question: What about the employers?

The images of children crying after their parents were arrested in a massive immigration raid in Mississippi revived a longstanding complaint: Unauthorized workers are jailed or deported, while the managers and business owners who profit from their labor often go unprosecuted.

Under President Donald Trump, the number of business owners and managers who face criminal charges for employing unauthorized workers has stayed almost the same, even as almost every other enforcement measure has surged. Last week's raids at seven chicken-processing plants were the largest worksite operation conducted under the Trump administration. The operation led to 680 arrests of people in the U.S. illegally, with expected criminal charges to follow for some. But no plant owners or top managers were immediately charged, following the pattern of other recent sweeps.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Power demand, prices soar with temperatures

The heat wave blanketing Texas drove wholesale power prices to record levels Tuesday as triple-digit temperatures strained electricity supplies, spurred calls for energy conservation and drew the Texas power grid perilously close to rolling power outages.

Wholesale electricity prices in Houston soared to $9,000 per megawatt hour for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon and as high as $9,100 per megawatt hour in other parts of Texas, reflecting transmission congestion costs that allow prices to exceed the $9,000 statewide price cap. In comparison, prices were about $19 per megawatt hour at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The surging wholesale prices are likely to lead to higher prices on retail electric bills for consumers and businesses in the future.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2019

Texas county joins 2nd Amendment Sanctuary movement, citing 'brutal attacks' on gun rights

Bill Applegate, who traps livestock predators in far West Texas, was in the Presidio County courthouse trying to see this Democrat-dominated county, on the border with Mexico, a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” a symbolic designation that riffs on “sanctuary cities,” where local officials don’t cooperate with immigration enforcement. He hoped the vote would send politicians a pointed message: Don’t infringe on our right to bear arms.

Mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio weeks later would horrify the nation. Impassioned calls would follow for tighter gun controls to stop attacks that seem to claim innocent lives more and more frequently. But these tragedies would not change the core of Applegate’s thinking. Applegate and like-minded Americans do not believe more gun regulation will help. They think criminals will always find ways to get firearms, while lawful gun owners jump through the hoops. Some argue that too many restrictions are in place already.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Kinder Morgan ordered to pay Hill Country landowners $2.7M as pipeline dispute widens

A three-member panel of the Blanco County Special Commissioners ordered Kinder Morgan to pay three landowners more than $2.7 million to seize parts of their properties for the company's proposed Permian Highway Pipeline as the dispute over the Houston company’s land-taking widens.

Kinder Morgan is seeking to build the $2 billion pipeline to move 2.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Permian Basin of West Texas to the Katy Hub near Houston. The proposed route takes the pipeline through the picturesque Texas Hill County, where the project faces stiff opposition. Under the state eminent domain law, landowners and pipeline companies that cannot agree on compensation for property to be seized can file a petition before a state district court.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2019

Attorneys for accused Santa Fe shooter request competency evaluation

Attorneys for the teenager charged with capital murder in the Santa Fe High School shootings have indicated in court records that his mental health has deteriorated so much that he may not be competent to stand trial.

Nick Poehl, one of the defense attorneys representing the accused shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, submitted an affidavit Monday stating that Pagourtzis’ “mental state has fluctuated, and more recently deteriorated.” Poehl said Pagourtzis no longer understands his case. “Based on recent observations of Mr. Pagourtzis, and conversations with him, as well as ongoing evaluations by mental health professionals, I believe Mr. Pagourtzis needs to be evaluated regarding his competency to stand trial,” Poehl wrote in the affidavit.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: Here’s the real reason Plano's Turning Point rape crisis center should be in the news

It’s a crying shame that when The Turning Point rape crisis center in Plano finally made local headlines, it was for the wrong reason. But as Collin County residents look at the facts, I believe they will come to the same conclusion I have: We should all proudly wave a banner of thanks that Plano is home to one of only two rape crisis centers in Texas that has an on-site clinic staffed by forensic nurses.

The Turning Point unfairly became swamped in controversy this month after Plano Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli questioned municipal grant dollars going to the center because — as required by law — its new clinic dispenses the Plan B pill, a form of emergency contraception. In response to public speakers who showed up at a council meeting Monday night to support the rape crisis center, Ricciardelli said, “I have a deep conviction of conscience of unborn life. I care deeply about sexual assault survivors and I care deeply about unborn children.”

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Dallas Morning News - August 15, 2019

Royce West touts political experience for Senate primary in appeal to Dallas Democrats

State Sen. Royce West is talking up his longtime experience in the Texas Legislature as he campaigns for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. During a Dallas luncheon speech Wednesday hosted by the Dallas County Democratic Party, West pointed to his efforts to address problems with health care, education and policing throughout his 26-year career in the Texas Senate.

West said that his experience would be an asset in the U.S. Senate if he's elected and that his long record makes him someone who would fight for the ideals Democrats care about. West's appearance comes less than a month after one of his rivals for the nomination, MJ Hegar, spoke to the Dallas Democrats and positioned herself as the political outsider in the race for the nomination. "Texas is tired of voting for politicians. They want one of us," Hegar told the crowd, without naming any of her opponents.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2019

A wind farm that can power 168,000 homes is blowing into Central Texas

When representatives of a renewable energy company first approached Concho County residents about building a wind farm on their sloping terrain in Central Texas, landowners weren't sold.

Wind was still building its reputation as a reliable energy source back in 2007, and West Texas and the Panhandle claimed most projects. The Great Recession hit a few months later, and plans for the project were shelved. But a series of nearby wind developments in recent years helped get locals on board, reviving plans for the site 2 miles northwest of Eden, Texas. Construction of a wind farm called Maverick Creek is set to begin in September, with annual wind energy production in the state on track to surpass coal energy for the first time.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2019

UT renames building for late president Bill Powers

A building on the University of Texas campus is being renamed after former UT president Bill Powers, who served for nine years and died in March at 72.

The UT System Board of Regents approved renaming the Student Activity Center — approved by a student body-wide referendum in 2006 and built during Powers’ time as president — during a meeting Wednesday at its administration building in downtown. It will now be called the William C. Powers Jr. Student Activity Center.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2019

Emboldened DCCC plans to turn up the heat on Texas GOP congressmen

Coming off the recent decision by four Texas Republican congressmen not to seek re-election and headlines suggesting there may be more retirements to come, Kory Kozloski, national political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sent a four-page memo to allies and interested parties Tuesday outlining its strategy for flipping six Texas congressional seats in 2020, including three in Central Texas.

“Since day one of the 2020 election cycle, the DCCC’s strategic investments have recognized the energy and opportunity in Texas and 15 months from Election Day, we’ve already had a clear impact in previously ruby-red Republican strongholds,” Koloski writes. “The DCCC’s field organizing, digital advertising, and research efforts have already contributed to three high-profile Texas retirements, setting up DCCC:Texas to play a major role in turning Texas’s homegrown energy into congressional wins in 2020.”

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The Eagle - August 14, 2019

Admissions paths changing for prospective Texas A&M freshmen

With a change in Texas A&M’s admission options on the horizon, fewer students applying for fall 2021 and beyond will be able to rely solely on academics to get there.

Currently, the university offers three main paths for prospective freshmen to be admitted: Automatic admission for those in the top 10% of their high school class; academic admission for those in the top quarter of their class who also meet certain test score minimums; and a holistic review process for everyone else. But starting with applicants for the fall 2021 semester, A&M is dropping the academic admission option, meaning all applicants outside that top one-tenth will go through the review process.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2019

Organic farmers’ success causes rifts in the industry

Lee Frankel, executive director of the California-based Coalition for Sustainable Organics, thinks organic farming is more about what’s not used in production — conventional fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetic engineering. That also means supporting the use of techniques such as hydroponics, which grows plants without soil.

Hydroponic agriculture’s crops can earn organic certification under federal guidelines, but there are plenty of organic farmers who don’t believe they should. Schambon and Frankel represent two sides in the growing debate over what it means to be organic — in what’s become a $50 billion industry in U.S. alone. As more consumers decide they want cage-free eggs, pesticide-free produce or non-GMO (genetically modified organism) grain, organic producers are embroiled in what some see as a fight to save the integrity of organics.

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KXAN - August 14, 2019

Additional lawsuit filed against Alex Jones by Sandy Hook shooting victim’s parent

Another parent of a victim killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown Connecticut has filed a defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones and Infowars.com. The lawsuit was filed Thursday, Aug. 8, by Neil Heslin whose child was among the 20 children and six adults killed in 2012.

This lawsuit, like a number of others, accuses Jones of intentionally inflicting emotional distress against Heslin through false statements about the circumstances around the Sandy Hook shooting and his child’s death. Jones has called the Sandy Hook shooting a “hoax” or a “false flag operation” in the past. The prosecution points to a video Jones published in 2013 titled “Why People Think Sandy Hook is A Hoax,” and an article in 2014 titled “School Shooting Expert Threatened Over Sandy Hook Investigation.” They said these claims and more from other videos and articles have caused Heslin emotional distress.

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KUT - August 15, 2019

His only relative died in El Paso. Now, her funeral may draw hundreds of strangers

Antonio Basco's wife of 22 years was killed in the mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart this month, and her passing means that Basco has no relatives left. Basco, who runs a mobile car wash business in El Paso, told the funeral home planning the service for his late spouse, Margie Reckard, that he wanted to invite members of the public to attend her visitation.

Since then, the funeral home has been inundated with support from people who never knew Basco or his wife. The funeral home has a capacity of about 250 people. Johnson said he is expecting more than 1,000 mourners to show up to Reckard's service on Friday. Johnson said he is in talks with a larger venue, a nearby church, to host the visitation, given the outpouring of support since the funeral home posted the invitation on Facebook on Tuesday morning. The post has been shared more than 11,000 times.

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Bloomberg - August 14, 2019

Does Texas need to build more power plants? State's electricity use puts focus on record demand

It may be time to start building power plants in Texas again. The state's generators made a killing this week as unrelenting heat sent electricity prices skyrocketing to unprecedented levels, briefly blowing past the $9,000-a-megawatt-hour ceiling.

That put producers more than three-quarters of the way toward profits that the state's power market monitor says could touch off a power plant build-out. And the region is only halfway into the cooling season. An expansion would make for a dramatic turnaround in the Lone Star State and stand in stark contrast to the glut of generation nationwide. The U.S. has become so awash in cheap natural gas and renewable power resources in recent years that electricity prices have, in some places, plunged below zero.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2019

Allen council rejects downtown project that was meant to spark growth after residents say it's a bad fit

In a win for neighborhood activists, the Allen City Council denied a plan to bring a 12-acre retail-residential complex to the town's downtown district after a nearly four-hour public hearing Tuesday night.

The project was set to include 790 residential units and 10,000 square feet of non-residential office or retail space. It was meant to jump-start a downtown development in Allen, which city leaders say suffers in comparison to its Collin County neighbors because it lacks a strong central business district. But people who live near the project site say that such a large development would harm the character of the older neighborhood.

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Dallas Morning News - August 14, 2019

Dallas city attorney responds to paid sick leave lawsuit, wants new judge in case

Interim Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso wants a new federal judge to decide whether the paid sick leave ordinance is legal. Caso on Tuesday filed a motion to move the case from the Eastern District to the Northern District Court of Texas in Dallas — which would replace U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant with another randomly selected judge.

The filing Tuesday marked the city attorney's first public response to the lawsuit over the paid sick leave ordinance since two companies sued the city in federal court late July. After the city passed an ordinance in the spring requiring companies that have employees in Dallas to provide paid sick leave, the two Collin County-based companies filed suit to push to stop the ordinance, which was implemented Aug. 1. The Eastern District includes Collin County.

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Houston Chronicle - August 15, 2019

Houston home sales hit all-time record

Low mortgage rates and a growing supply of homes for sale propelled Houston-area home sales to a record in July. Buyers closed on 8,953 single-family homes throughout the region last month, beating the previous high of more than a year ago by 568 sales, according to a monthly report from the Houston Association of Realtors.

Sales jumped nearly 12 percent from July 2018, one of biggest year-over-year sales increases in years. With the year more than half over, Houston is poised to beat last year's record volume, the association said. On a year-to-date basis, sales are 3 percent ahead of 2018. "July was a strong month for home sales and rentals across the Houston area," Shannon Cobb Evans, the association's chair, said in the report released Wednesday. "We believe that the Houston real estate market is on track for another record year, and that is directly attributed to a healthy local economy, low mortgage interest rates and an improving supply of homes."

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2019

Paid sick leave debate has real-life consequences for San Antonio workers and businesses

As the debate around San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinance continues at City Hall amid court challenges and possible changes to the law, the outcome of the political fight has consequences for hundreds of thousands of residents.

As it’s written, the law would require employers who have between six and 15 employees to provide a minimum of 48 hours sick leave. For larger organizations, it’s 64 hours. The law applies to all employees in the city who work more than 80 hours in one year, but sick leave doesn’t accrue until an employee works 30 hours.

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Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2019

Possible state takeover of HISD board looms as state releases ratings

Months of uncertainty about the future of Houston ISD, including whether the district can retain local control over its elected school board, will come into clearer focus Thursday when the Texas Education Agency releases long-awaited academic accountability ratings for all state schools.

The results for four of HISD’s chronically lowest-rated schools will determine whether TEA officials must enact one of two sanctions — closing campuses or replacing the school board with a state-appointed governance team — required by a state law passed in 2015. To avoid punishment, all four campuses must meet state academic standards for the first time in several years. HISD officials have said one campus, Kashmere High School, is expected to meet standards, but have not commented on the three others.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

Hickenlooper plans to end Democratic presidential campaign

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to drop out of the 2020 presidential race on Thursday, as he considers launching a Senate campaign in his home state, according to a person familiar with his plans. Mr. Hickenlooper, a one-time brewpub owner, governor and Denver mayor, has struggled to gain traction throughout his 2020 campaign and is unlikely to qualify for the September primary debates.

But if he decides to seek the seat of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, Democrats could gain a formidable candidate in a battleground state central to the party’s quest to regain a Senate majority in 2021. Mr. Hickenlooper made appearances in Iowa last weekend but returned home to Denver to confer with family members and advisers this week. He had been expected to hold more campaign events in Iowa next week and address members of the Democratic National Committee in San Francisco.

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Wall Street Journal - August 15, 2019

US arranges secret talks between Israel, UAE over Iran

Israel and the United Arab Emirates held secret meetings arranged by the U.S. in recent months to share information and coordinate efforts to counter what they see as the increasing threat posed by Iran, according to U.S. officials familiar with the clandestine diplomacy.

The meetings were convened by Brian Hook, the State Department’s top official for Iran, and are the latest sign of a steady thaw between Israel and Gulf Arab nations, largely brought about by their shared antipathy toward Tehran and its attempts to spread its regional influence. A first meeting took place this spring and a second was held more recently, a U.S. official said. The exact dates and locations of the unpublicized meetings couldn’t be learned. Their existence was known to only a handful of people within the U.S. government, officials said.

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The Hill - August 14, 2019

Fox News poll: Trump disapproval rises to near record

President Trump's disapproval rating has jumped to 56 percent in a Fox News survey released Wednesday, just one point shy of the record high in Fox News polling. The survey found a 5 percentage point increase in Trump's disapproval from last month. The only time his disapproval rating was higher, according to Fox News, was when it reached 57 percent in October 2017.

Forty-three percent of respondents said they approve of Trump's job performance, down from 46 percent last month. The record low for Trump approval in Fox News's polling is 38 percent, also from October of 2017. Trump has the disapproval of a record number of men, at 53 percent, white men, 46 percent, and independents, 64 percent, according to the survey. Researchers surveyed 1,013 registered voters nationwide from Aug. 11 to 13. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Associated Press - August 15, 2019

Philadelphia gunman in custody after hourslong standoff

A gunman who opened fire on police Wednesday as they were serving a drug warrant in Philadelphia, wounding six officers and triggering a standoff that extended into the night, is in police custody, authorities said. Philadelphia police Sgt. Eric Gripp said early Thursday morning that the man was taken into custody after an hourslong standoff with police.

The shooting began around 4:30 p.m. as officers went to a home in a north Philadelphia neighborhood of brick and stone rowhomes to serve a narcotics warrant in an operation “that went awry almost immediately,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said. Many officers “had to escape through windows and doors to get (away) from a barrage of bullets,” Ross said. The six officers who were struck by gunfire have been released from hospitals, Gripp said.

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NPR - August 14, 2019

Planned Parenthood to withdraw from Title X, unless court intervenes

Planned Parenthood says it will formally withdraw from the nation's family planning program for low-income people within days, unless a federal court intervenes. In a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Planned Parenthood officials ask for a stay against new Trump administration rules that forbid organizations receiving Title X funds to provide or refer patients for abortion.

If the court does not intervene, Planned Parenthood says it will be forced to pull out on Aug. 19 after decades with the program. Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president, said the impact on low-income patients will differ state by state. In some areas, she said, contraception and other services could become more expensive or wait times may be longer. Abortion-rights opponents, who support the rule, have praised President Trump for delivering on his campaign promise to "defund Planned Parenthood."

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Roll Call - August 14, 2019

Sen. Ted Cruz gifted Houston Rockets tickets worth $12K

Sen. Ted Cruz stood courtside, gleefully grinning during pregame on the night the Houston Rockets were bounced from the 2018 NBA playoffs in a devastating Game 7 Western Conference finals home loss to the Golden State Warriors, a marquee matchup the Texas Republican was able to watch for free thanks to a powerful Republican donor.

Cruz attended the May 28, 2018, game with a ticket gifted to him by Robert Marling, the CEO of Woodforest National Bank and a financial supporter who contributed to his Senate and presidential campaigns. Marling has contributed to many other Republicans, including President Donald Trump, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Alabama judge Roy Moore, who lost a 2017 special Senate election that was derailed by allegations of his sexual misconduct with underage girls.

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New York Times - August 14, 2019

Steve King, opposing all abortions, asks if there would be ‘any population’ without rape and incest

Representative Steve King of Iowa, a Republican whose history of making racist and divisive remarks led him to be stripped of his committee assignments earlier this year, questioned Wednesday if there would “be any population of the world left” if it were not for rape and incest. His comment drew swift condemnation from top House Republicans and at least one called for him to resign.

Mr. King, who represents a deeply conservative district in northwest Iowa, made the remarks to the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, as he explained his opposition to exceptions for rape and incest in anti-abortion legislation. “It’s not the baby’s fault,” Mr. King said in video of the comments published by The Des Moines Register, which first reported the story.

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Newsclips - August 14, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 14, 2019

Houston power prices surge to $9,000 per megawatt

The state's grid manager the Electric Reliability Council of Texas alerted power generators at 3 p.m. Tuesday that power reserves are in such short supply an emergency condition already exists or is imminent and called for conservation measures.

Power reserves dipped below 2,500 megawatts Tuesday afternoon, raising concerns whether Texas would have enough power to get through the hot afternoon and whether it would have to resort to extreme measures such as rolling blackouts. Capacity has also sunk low enough to trigger hefty price adders designed by Texas regulators to encourage generators to build new production plants.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2019

Texas ranks near bottom for children vaccinated against HPV

Despite coming on the market 13 years ago, a vaccine to guard against cancer still hasn’t gained traction in Texas. Only 39 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 17 in Texas have received the human papillomavirus, or HPV, shot, according to the American Cancer Society.

The state ranks 44th in the nation for the percentage of children vaccinated against the sexually-transmitted virus, according to Xochy Hurtado, chief operating officer of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, a nonprofit and 50-percent owner of Methodist Healthcare System. Two years ago, the private nonprofit donated $500,000 for the Cancer Society’s HPV-vaccine initiative, funding work at three federally qualified health centers in the region to increase use of the vaccine. On Monday, the organization contributed another $500,000 for the second phase — to expand the program to six clinics.

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Bloomberg - August 13, 2019

FTC Chief says he’s willing to break up big tech companies

The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition. “If you have to, you do it,” Simons said about breaking up tech companies. “It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.”

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Associated Press - August 13, 2019

Police divided on whether Dayton gunman targeted sister

One of the first victims struck by the Dayton shooter during his 32-second rampage that left nine people dead was his younger sister, but whether he intentionally killed her remains unknown more than a week later, the city's police chief said Tuesday.

Investigators have "radically different views" on whether Connor Betts targeted his 22-year-old sister, Megan, two hours after they arrived with a friend at a popular strip of nightclubs, Chief Richard Biehl said at a news conference. Text messages show the 24-year-old gunman knew his sister and their friend were going to a taco stand minutes before he came down an alley and started shooting, Beihl said. "There's a real question whether he could see who was on the other side," the police chief said, adding that its possible investigators may never come up with an answer.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2019

Progressive Tzintzún Ramirez raises $200,000 in first day of U.S. Senate campaign

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez raked in more than $200,000 in the 24 hours after she announced her run for Senate, her campaign said today — giving her a quick start as she tries to catch up to the several other Democratic contenders who have a head start on fundraising.

The Austin-based advocate for the rights of workers and immigrants said in a video posted on Twitter that her campaign “blew through” the $100,000 fundraising goal it set on its first day. Tzintzún Ramirez on Monday joined a crowded Democratic field vying to take on U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in 2020.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2019

Alamo’s oldest wall being studied in ‘unprecedented’ digs

For the first time, the Alamo’s oldest structure, the mission-era west wall of the Long Barrack, is being carefully exposed in an archaeological dig to help determine how it can best be protected. “It’s unprecedented totally. We’ve never dug an excavation in here before,” said Kristi Nichols, who was hired in November as the Alamo’s first on-site archaeologist.

The elongated, rectangular building, used in recent years to house interpretive displays for visitors, had an important role in the 1836 siege and battle. The Texian and Tejano defenders stayed there, with ditches dug in the floors for protection from enemy fire. During the early morning battle of March 6, 1836, many of them retreated into the structure, where some died in hand-to-hand combat after Mexican forces penetrated the fort’s outer walls.

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KUT - August 13, 2019

Early morning shots fired into San Antonio ICE office on Monday

Several shots fired into an office building on San Antonio's Northeast Side are being treated as an assault against federal agents.

The shots hit the top two floors of the Jefferson Bank Building on Loop 410 and Harry Wurzbach. Those floors contain administration offices for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), specifically Immigration Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Christopher Combs, the FBI’s special agent in charge for San Antonio said no one was injured in the 3 a.m. incident but there were federal agents in the offices at the time.

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KUT - August 14, 2019

Greg Abbott said San Antonio could teach Austin how to help homeless people. Experts disagree.

Lying or sitting down in public is no longer prohibited in public in Austin as long as people don’t block access to spaces. Simply asking for money is no longer illegal, though aggressive confrontations are. And sleeping in some public spaces (excluding parks and City Hall) is no longer banned, unless it is deemed to endanger someone’s health or safety — or if it impedes the “reasonable use of a public area.”

In yet another episode of the ongoing fight between cities and the state, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to override the ordinances. Saying that “the horror stories are piling up,” he shared a tweet that wrongly linked a car accident to a group of people experiencing homelessness running into traffic. Later, when asked by The Texas Tribune in a press conference about possible solutions to the issue, he pointed to the approach taken by San Antonio’s largest homeless organization.

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Texas Observer - August 13, 2019

A Texas anti-abortion group dramatically missed its family planning targets. Now its founder is suing the feds for more money.

Anti-abortion activist Carol Everett—whose organization the Heidi Group served a fraction of the women’s health patients it pledged to treat and is under state investigation for questionable spending of more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars—has a new venture. She’s quietly starting a new anti-abortion group and suing the federal government to try to get more funding.

In a move first reported by Politico, Everett and two others affiliated with the Heidi Group formed a new organization, Vita Nuova, or “new life,” on July 2. The very next day, the group filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging rules that it says bars Vita Nuova, a “Christian, pro-life organization,” and others like it from participating in the Title X federal family planning program.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Doctors unaware of where their patients live impacts care, according to new UH College of Medicine professor

Family physicians have little idea where their patients actually live, according to a new study, and that’s a major shortcoming given recent evidence showing the health impact of a person’s environment.

The study, published online Monday in the Annals of Family Medicine, is being touted by the University of Houston College of Medicine, whose planned medical school will emphasize more community-oriented delivery of health care. One of its doctors was an investigator on the study. “The idea of thinking about where patients live is radical because we’re not trained to ask for that information,” Dr. Winston Liaw, chair of the department of health systems and population health at UH’s College of Medicine, said in a statement.

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Rivard Report - August 13, 2019

As Port Aransas oil project moves ahead, a near miss underscores fears

Robert Caughron was one of the last people to drive his vehicle onto the ferry that would shuttle him across a narrow ship channel to Harbor Island. But shortly after a pickup truck had pulled in behind him, he saw a ferry worker come running toward him, shouting to get off the boat. An immense ship more than 100 feet long was headed straight toward the ferry landing.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Caughron recalled the sound of the ship’s pilot blaring the horn repeatedly as the vessel’s massive hull drew closer to the ferry. “It was coming in right at the ferry landing, even to the right of the ferry landing, like it was going to crash into the sea wall,” Caughron said. The man behind him backed his truck out, and Caughron followed. Once on-shore, he pulled out his phone and started recording. He captured video of ferry passengers abandoning their vehicles and running for the shore before the ship passed the ferry, narrowly missing it.

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Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2019

American Airlines demands mechanics' unions pay for 'enormous financial losses' from flight delays, cancellations

Fresh off a federal court victory, American Airlines is demanding that mechanics and their unions pay for hundreds of flight delays and cancellations over the last two months. In a new court filing Tuesday, the Fort Worth-based carrier said it wants sanctions "sufficient to compensate American for losses caused" from violations to a June 14 restraining order telling mechanics to cease work slowdowns to punish the company.

It could result in millions of dollars in fines if a U.S. District Court judge decides to hold in contempt of court the 30,000 members of the Transport Workers Union and International Association of Machinists at American Airlines. American Airlines is asking for unspecified damages to be determined at a future court hearing. On Monday, Judge John McBryde issued a ruling that sided with American Airlines in its ongoing battle with the mechanics. He said union maintenance workers conspired to slow down work by refusing overtime, taking more time on jobs and refusing off-site assignments. The unions have denied they slowed down work.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 13, 2019

Dallas firm wins $1.4 billion contract to operate Austin's transit system

Capital Metro's board approved the largest contract in the transit agency's history Monday, inking a $1.4 billion deal for Dallas-based MV Transportation Inc. to oversee all operations of the Austin area's bus and transit system.

Under the current contract, Cap Metro's operations are split between MV Transportation and France-based RATP Dev. MV Transportation will take over all operations in January 2020 when the five-year contract begins. MV Transportation has been contracted by Capital Metro since 2012. The company operates the transit agency's MetroRapid, UT Shuttle services and several MetroBus routes, the release said.

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Texas Monthly - August 13, 2019

Former Ambassador Tony Garza on Mexico, Trump, and whether Texas is turning blue

Brownsville native Tony Garza, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, former Texas secretary of state, and former Cameron County judge, visited the Rio Grande Valley last week as part of an annual sendoff reception for college freshmen from the Valley headed to the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater. A Republican who cut his teeth in a solidly Democratic part of the state, Garza now finds himself at odds with Trump’s GOP.We caught up with Garza in Edinburg and talked about the presidents of the United States and Mexico, immigration, NAFTA, the domestic terror attack in El Paso, and the next generation of Texas voters.

"How is AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador] doing as president of Mexico?" we asked Garza. "I think he has tapped into something very real in Mexico, and you saw that throughout the campaign—a very real concern about security, about corruption, about inequality, the disparity in wealth. These are very real things that he didn’t just tap into for political purposes. He’d been talking about them for eighteen years. So he is one of the things that people strive for in the political arena: authentic. He came in with this wave of momentum, and I think in one sense it was a very democratic moment. It was a reflection of what people wanted. "

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The Hayride - August 13, 2019

To the City of Austin, asking questions about homeless camp cleanups means you might as well be helping terrorists

A lifelong Austin resident and former City Council candidate had a few questions about the infamous homeless camping ordinance. She filed an open records request to the city, asking for the cost of cleanups for homeless camps and which dates the cleanings are scheduled. The response from the city included an inquiry to the Texas Office of Attorney General, which cited a portion of the state government code:

“Those documents or portions of documents in the possession of governmental entity are confidential if they identify the technical details of particular vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to an act of terrorism.” Mackenzie Kelly, who filed the open records request, said “I don’t think any citizen or resident of Austin should be accused of terrorism when they just want to know where their tax money is going."

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Report: Harris DA's office overburdened, understaffed

Months after Harris County commissioners rebuffed the district attorney’s $21 million plea for a few dozen more lawyers, a new Texas Southern University report released Tuesday found that the county is just over 100 prosecutors short.

The 20-page data analysis by the university’s Center for Justice Research examined caseloads, funding, and available resources to find that, when compared to other large jurisdictions, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is overburdened, underfunded and understaffed. “Following the 10,000 to 1 population-to-prosecutor ratio standard,” the report notes, “Harris County has the greatest prosecutor deficit: 104.” But criminal justice experts and academics called into question the metric used to reach that conclusion, which does not account for differences in crime rates and local justice priorities.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Commissioners vote 3-2 on El Paso solidarity resolution

The members of Harris County Commissioners Court were unable to agree Tuesday on a resolution expressing solidarity for the victims of the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso and calling on policy makers to address gun violence. On a 3-2 vote, the trio of Democrats supported the item by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, which urged the county to examine ways to help prevent violence and hate-motivated crimes.

The party line vote was typical of this often-divided group which has seldom found itself acting in unison since Democrats took control in January. A settlement proposal in the county’s landmark bail lawsuit and a resolution urging federal immigration reform passed by an identical tally. Each court member expressed sadness over the shooting, in which a 21-year-old Dallas-area man is accused of killing 22 people at an El Paso Walmart, later telling police he targeted Mexicans. Yet the Harris County officials could not find common ground on a resolution supporting the West Texas city.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Houston area voters will have $3.5 billion decision about future of transit on November ballot

The future of the Houston area’s transit system now lies in the hands of voters. Metropolitan Transit Authority board members voted Tuesday to ask voters in November for permission to borrow up to $3.5 billion, without raising taxes.

The money would cover the first phase of what local leaders expect to be the start of shifting Houston from a car-focused city to a multimodal metro region — even if it does not put everyone on a bus or train. “Even if you ride in your car, it is more convenient if there are less cars on the road,” Metro chairwoman Carrin Patman said. The item will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, the first vote for new transit projects in 16 years for the Houston region.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Landmark Party Boy property hits the market for $10.5M

This October may be the last year the view south of I-10 across from the Heights is a giant orange pumpkin. The property housing Party Boy at 1515 Studemont, where an inflatable pumpkin is displayed atop the building each Halloween, is up for sale.

The owner of the store, a go-to spot for spooky costumes and all manner of party supplies, is asking $10.5 million for the site, according to listing broker Jeff Trevino. "It's an icon and 300,000 cars drive past it every day," said Trevino of Endurance Properties. "It has stayed high and dry through all of our high-water events." The store's operations are housed in a two-story, 20,000-square-foot warehouse building and an adjacent 7,000-square-foot structure. The site is about 70,000 square feet –– or 1.6 acres. This area just west of downtown has been booming.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2019

Dispute with councilwoman ‘water under the bridge’

Newly elected District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan has agreed to pay an aggrieved former campaign worker nearly half the amount the staffer claimed weeks ago she was owed — but the dispute isn't entirely over. Andrews-Sullivan is still waiting for more paperwork from Sylvia Lopez due to “discrepancies” in invoices that the former staffer sent her last week, the councilwoman said Tuesday.

“Right now, we’ve given her $2,000,” Andrews-Sullivan said. “We have received the majority of the invoices, which are being reconciled by the invoice team. There are just some overlapping of people, some overlapping of time on the same day. It’s being resolved. It hasn’t been fully resolved.” In mid-July, campaign workers told the Express-News that Andrews-Sullivan revoked four checks worth $4,200 made to canvassers for her campaign.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 14, 2019

Bexar County GOP Chair Brehm faces primary challenger

Charlotte Williamson didn’t make up her mind about running for Bexar County Republican Party chair until a couple of weeks ago. Williamson, a graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law who ran last year in the GOP primary for Texas House District 121 (the seat that former House Speaker Joe Straus decided to vacate), had given some thought to competing for the party leadership post, but backed away from the idea when she became pregnant. (She’s expecting her first child, a daughter, in October.)

On July 29, however, Williamson attended a meeting of the party’s County Executive Committee. The meeting felt like it was perpetually on the verge of chaos, with Cynthia Brehm, the party’s divisive chair, struggling to follow parliamentary rules and periodically snapping at her detractors. In addition, some party regulars resent the way Brehm, during her 2018 campaign for party chair, failed to disclose a disturbing family history which included her husband Norman Brehm, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, pleading guilty to indecently exposing himself to Brehm’s then-14-year-old daughter in 1999.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 14, 2019

FBI raided real estate company’s offices in downtown Austin

Federal agents conducted operations Wednesday at the offices of real estate company World Class Holdings, which has purchased numerous high-profile properties in Austin in recent years. FBI and U.S. Treasury Department investigators were spotted going through World Class’ downtown Austin offices at Ninth and Lavaca streets. Multiple agents were carrying folders, bags and other items from and between buildings at the Hirshfeld-Moore property.

Earlier in the day, FBI operations also took place near Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee said. World Class had office space at Frost Bank Tower, which is at Fourth and Congress, but Lee would neither confirm nor deny to the American-Statesman that the company was a target. Lee would not confirm details of the operations but said there was no threat to the public. Special agents with the Treasury Department referred a reporter to the U.S. attorney’s office, but a spokesman with that office also declined to comment.

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Dallas Morning News - August 13, 2019

Dallas-area apartment rents growing slower than national rate

Dallas-area apartment rents are growing at less than the national average. But local renters still have to dig deeper to come up with monthly payments. Nationwide apartment rents were up 3.4% in July from a year earlier, according to a new study by Yardi Systems Inc.

In the Dallas area, rents rose 3% year-over-year. The average Dallas area multifamily rent rose in July to $1,202. "Multifamily rents continued their impressive and consistent performance, increasing by $3 in July to $1,469," Yardi analysts said in the nationwide report. "Metros known for their concentrations of technology industries — Boston, Portland and Seattle — have had the fastest-growing rents in recent months."

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National Stories

Washington Post - August 14, 2019

How a McConnell-backed effort to lift Russian sanctions boosted a Kentucky project

In January, as the Senate debated whether to permit the Trump administration to lift sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, two men with millions of dollars riding on the outcome met for dinner at a restaurant in Zurich. On one side of the table sat the head of sales for Rusal, the Russian aluminum producer that would benefit most immediately from a favorable Senate vote.

The U.S. government had sanctioned Rusal as part of a campaign to punish Russia for “malign activity around the globe,” including attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election. On the other side sat Craig Bouchard, an American entrepreneur who had gained favor with officials in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bouchard was trying to build the first new aluminum-rolling mill in the United States in nearly four decades, in a corner of northeastern Kentucky ravaged by job losses and the opioid epidemic — a project that stood to benefit enormously if Rusal were able to get involved.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2019

Trump finally acknowledges his tariffs could hit consumers

President Trump has repeated the same mantra for months: The Chinese are paying the full price of his tariffs. It’s a line that the overwhelming majority of economists and business owners say is false, but Trump kept saying it — until Aug. 13.

The White House announced Tuesday that the president’s latest tariffs on China would be delayed on many popular items like cellphones, laptops and strollers. The 10 percent tax would not go into effect until Dec. 15, effectively ensuring retailers can import goods for the holidays before the tariffs take effect. Trump himself told reporters the delay is to ensure consumers don’t face higher costs this Christmas. Here are his full remarks:

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Washington Post - August 13, 2019

‘He gets it’: Evangelicals aren’t turned off by Trump’s first term

Three years ago, Rickey Halbert was torn about whether to vote for President Trump. On the one hand, he had read about Trump’s extramarital affairs and the women who alleged he had sexually assaulted them. Halbert, a Defense Department employee, didn’t think the candidate matched his moral compass. Then again, he believed Trump would reduce the number of abortions in the country. In the end, he said, that convinced him to vote for the president, like most of his fellow evangelicals.

In the years since, he’s watched as Trump restricted abortion access, rolled back gay rights and tried to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. He’s listened as Trump has made racist statements and been accused of rape. He has reached the same conclusion as so many evangelicals across the country: In 2020, he’ll support the president. This time, it won’t be a hard choice. Trump enjoyed overwhelming support from white evangelicals in 2016, winning a higher percentage than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. That enthusiasm has scarcely dimmed.

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NPR - August 13, 2019

Viacom and CBS Agree to merge In $30B deal

The corporate boards of Viacom and CBS agreed to merge in an all-stock deal Tuesday, reuniting the Redstone family's entertainment holdings after a series of legal battles and corporate intrigues.

The move is intended to enable the blended company valued at about $30 billion to fight off bulked-up competitors and a new threat from digital rivals with well-financed streaming services. Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish is to oversee the new company, which will be called ViacomCBS. The deal would combine such well-known entertainment brands as CBS and Showtime with Viacom's Paramount television and movie studios, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV.

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NPR - August 13, 2019

Justice Department reassigns warden of prison where Jeffrey Epstein died

The warden of the federal prison in New York City where Jeffrey Epstein was found dead has been reassigned, the Department of Justice says. Two other staffers were placed on leave. The administrative moves took place amid official investigations into Epstein's death and following harsh official criticism of the Bureau of Prisons.

Epstein's death, the result of an apparent suicide, shows "deficiencies in inmate protocol and has allowed the deceased to ultimately evade facing justice," wrote House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., in a letter to BOP.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2019

Trump official: Statue of Liberty poem doesn’t mean just anybody

A top Trump administration official said Tuesday that the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants into the country is about “people coming from Europe” and that America is looking to receive migrants “who can stand on their own two feet.”

The comments from Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, came a day after the Trump administration announced it would seek to deny green cards to migrants who seek Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance. The move — and Cuccinelli’s defense — promoted an outcry from Democrats and immigration advocates who said the policy would favor wealthier immigrants and disadvantage those from poorer countries in Latin America and Africa.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2019

Trump claims credit for Shell plant announced under Obama

President Donald Trump sought to take credit Tuesday for the construction of a major manufacturing facility in western Pennsylvania as he tries to reinvigorate supporters in the Rust Belt towns that sent him to the White House in 2016.

Trump visited Shell's soon-to-be completed Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex, which will turn the area's vast natural gas deposits into plastics. The facility, which critics claim will become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania, is being built in an area hungry for investment. Speaking to a crowd of thousands of workers dressed in fluorescent orange and yellow vests, Trump said "This would have never happened without me and us." In fact, Shell announced its plans to build the complex in 2012, when President Barack Obama was in office. A Shell spokesman said employees were paid for their time attending Trump's remarks.

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Wall Street Journal - August 13, 2019

US mortgage debt hits record, eclipsing 2008 peak

U.S. mortgage debt reached a record in the second quarter, exceeding its 2008 peak as the financial crisis unfolded. Mortgage balances rose by $162 billion in the second quarter to $9.406 trillion, surpassing the high of $9.294 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday.

Mortgages are the largest component of household debt. Mortgage originations, which include refinancings, increased by $130 billion to $474 billion in the second quarter. The figures are nominal, meaning they aren’t adjusted for inflation. The milestone for mortgage debt has been long in the making. Americans’ mortgage debt dropped by about 15% from the 2008 peak to the trough in the second quarter of 2013 and has climbed slowly since then.

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Newsclips - August 13, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - August 12, 2019

Democrats launch Texas offensive with redistricting in mind

Democrats have talked for several election cycles of turning this deep-red state blue, but following 2018 gains and a series of Republican congressional retirements, the party sees 2020 as its best opportunity in a generation to win at the federal and state levels.

Population growth in major metropolitan areas of Texas has made around a half dozen formerly-safe Republican congressional seats vulnerable in 2020. GOP retirements in three districts where the 2018 margin of victory was less than 5 percentage points have further sharpened Democrats’ focus on the state. “Twenty years ago, no one envisioned the population and economic growth that Texas has experienced,” said state Rep. Phil King, the Republican chairman of the Texas House Redistricting Committee. “It’s been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but it has changed voting patterns throughout the state.”

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Trib Talk - August 12, 2019

Ross Fischer: Hardball politics isn’t a crime

Quid pro quo. Sounds scandalous, doesn’t it? Especially when the players include the Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen and historically antagonistic political activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. And while allegations of quid pro quo, and even references to bribery, may make for entertaining political fodder, the public should be cautious when racing to criminalize the bare-knuckled style of politics that has long been a staple of the Texas statehouse.

But even if you assume that everything Mr. Sullivan says is completely true, Speaker Bonnen’s actions don’t constitute bribery. That’s a lot to unpack, and I’m sure everyone, from professional pundits to casual observers, will continue to do so in the next few weeks. We haven’t heard the recording, so we don’t know for sure what exactly was said. But what we do know — if you assume everything Mr. Sullivan says occurred is factually accurate — is that Mr. Bonnen did not commit bribery. Here’s why.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Trump tightens rules on legal immigrants seeking public assistance

A tough new Trump administration rule scrutinizing legal immigrants’ use or “likely” future use of public assistance programs sent shudders through through health and social service providers across Houston and the nation as advocates worry that widespread fear of losing legal status could undermine the well-being of immigrant families, especially children.

Already, said Cathy Moore, executive director of a Houston health and social service ministry, many local immigrants eligible for programs such as Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, and federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, formerly know as food stamps, are skipping enrollment or foregoing short-term help out of fear of reprisal. She predicts such fear will only get worse as the new rule takes hold and fewer will seek needed services.

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Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2019

As Trump spars with China, future of huge market for U.S. energy falls into doubt

Following a meeting in Beijing two years ago, President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping heralded the beginning of a new era in energy trade between the two nations.

Officials announced plans for the Chinese to invest more than $100 billion in U.S. projects, including a pipeline and liquefied natural gas export facility in Alaska and a complex of natural gas and chemical projects in West Virginia. A few months later, Houston-based Cheniere Energy announced it had signed a 25-year deal to sell liquefied natural gas to the China National Petroleum Corporation.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2019

Texas Rangers to investigate House Speaker’s meeting with activist

A public corruption unit within the Texas Rangers will investigate the simmering controversy surrounding House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

On Monday, the Texas House’s General Investigating committee held a closed-door session for about an hour discussing allegations made after a meeting earlier this summer in which Bonnen, a Brazoria County Republican, is accused of offering to give media credentials to a conservative political operative and suggesting his group, Empower Texans, target 10 current House Republicans running for re-election.

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Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Builders battle most basic rule changes following Hurricane Harvey

Replacing every driveway and sidewalk with recycled materials could help prevent flooding and address the plastic pollution crisis if we wanted to make an effort. Rather than use concrete or asphalt to keep from sinking into the mud, property owners could use a product such as Porous Pave, which is made from recycled tires, or Grid Pavers, a recycled plastic grid system.

These building products are made from recycled plastic and old tires, keeping them out of landfills. Nations and cities around the world require builders to use porous surfaces to prevent flooding and improve water quality. The problem, of course, is that either solution costs twice as much as concrete, which is twice as expensive as asphalt. Nevertheless, Australia, the United Kingdom and most European countries require permeable drives and sidewalks because, despite the benefits, builders will not spend a penny more than necessary.

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Houston Chronicle - August 9, 2019

Julián Castro calls for federal gun license, better hate group monitoring

Julián Castro today offered a plan to combat domestic terrorism with a robust federal effort to root out extremism, adding to proposals from 2020 Democratic hopefuls in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend.

Castro, echoing criticisms that the Trump administration has a misplaced focus, proposes shifting emphasis to adherents of white supremacy and retooling programs aimed now at Muslims and other sectors. He is also calling for a federal licensing program for those who own or purchase firearms.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2019

‘A Perfect Storm’ — online hate and political winds whip up white supremacy

Since 2017, more than 230 incidents of hateful propaganda have been reported in communities across Texas — a phenomenon that has dramatically escalated this year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that tracks extremist activity. One group is responsible for more than two-thirds of the hype: Patriot Front, a Texas-based white nationalist group formed after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally two years ago in Charlottesville, Va.

White supremacists soon decided to take their movement offline and into the real world. One of the hate groups that demonstrated in Charlottesville was the neo-Nazi organization Vanguard America. At the rally, James Alex Fields, a white supremacist, plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32. After Heyer’s death, a Dallas-based member of Vanguard America, Thomas Rosseau, rebranded the organization to escape scrutiny. He called the splinter group Patriot Front.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 9, 2019

Giving City: Gun safety nonprofits see progress with presence

Nonprofit advocacy groups that promote anti-gun violence measures report they’re making progress, with legislators increasingly more likely to consider, support and even pass more gun safety bills. While their resources may not compare to those of the gun lobbying groups, anti-gun violence proponents say their strategies to empower more advocates seem to be working.

That presence has been most effective at the state Capitol. At the most recent Texas legislative session, Moms Demand Action worked alongside other anti-gun violence advocacy nonprofits to oppose a “constitutional carry” bill that would have allowed firearms to be carried without a permit. The bill lost traction after a representative from Texas Gun Rights, which advocated for the bill, visited the homes of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and several other Republicans during the session, leading to allegations of improper intimidation tactics. Greene says that kind of threatening presence is a tactic pro-gun advocates often use.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 12, 2019

Ken Herman: Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s very bad summer vacation

When we last left the Texas House, we were happy to have at last left the Texas House and were counting on not seeing it in action again until January 2021. That last meeting was on May 27, the closing ceremonial day of the 2019 legislative session, when the 150-member body congratulated itself and its leader, rookie Speaker Dennis Bonnen, on having lowered taxes while solving every known problem (and some unknown ones) troubling Texas.

On Monday, a small, representative sample of the House met underground in the Capitol extension on an otherwise quiet day in the building. This sample happened to have been the intimidatingly named House General Investigating Committee. It had last gathered on July 18 for an agenda, and I quote in full, that said, “The committee will meet to discuss committee business.” On Monday, Bonnen was this committee’s business, specifically Step 1 in what could be the road to the end of Bonnen’s speakership.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 12, 2019

McCaul touts technology, police response at human trafficking roundtable

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, brought together dozens of nonprofit leaders, community activists, law enforcement and attorneys for a roundtable discussion Monday morning about human trafficking, an issue that he said is “getting worse, not better.”

“We used to think this was limited to countries like Thailand and (other) foreign countries,” McCaul said at the For the City Center in North Austin. “Now it’s in our backyards, and it’s not just an urban problem, it’s a suburban problem.” The congressman said a “very good outcome” of the roundtable was learning about a smartphone app being developed in Austin that uses predictive analytics and artificial intelligence technology to monitor kids’ online activity — with their parents’ permission — and identify warning signs of human trafficking.

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

Atmos Energy CEO steps down to deal with health issue

The chief executive of Atmos Energy Corp. is retiring because of a health issue and is being replaced by a senior executive at the Dallas-based natural gas giant. Atmos named Kevin Akers, 56, its new CEO, starting in October. He's been with the company for almost 29 years, previously serving as senior vice president of the company's safety and enterprise services.

Akers replaces Michael E. Haefner, who's retiring to focus on a health issue that he's described as eluding "a definitive diagnosis," Atmos said in a regulatory filing. Haefner became chief executive in October 2017. He'll retire from Atmos and its board in January 2020. "I am very optimistic this will resolve itself favorably in the long run; however, it is requiring an increasing amount of my time, which necessarily means that I must pull back from devoting my full time and attention to the business of the company," Haefner said in a letter to Atmos' 4,700 employees.

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

American Airlines wins trial over mechanics in work slowdown case

American Airlines won a major courtroom victory over its unionized mechanics Monday when a judge ruled workers intentionally caused flight delays in their ongoing battle for a new contract. U.S. District Court Judge Charles McBryde issued a permanent injunction against workers under the Transport Workers Union and the International Association of Machinists that will give stricter oversight until the 30,000 employees are able to agree to a deal with the Fort Worth-based airline.

McBryde's injunction requires the unions to do everything they can to tell mechanics that a slowdown is illegal, including the possibility of fining its own members. American Airlines sued in May, accusing the unions of telling members to refuse overtime, turn down off-work assignments and otherwise slow down maintenance to penalize the carrier. The airline argued that the slowdown resulted in delayed and canceled flights for passengers.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 12, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Texas lawmakers should close 2013 gun loophole

As an avid sportsman who served four years in the United States Marine Corps, Oscar Kazen has an appreciation for guns. As a probate court judge who helped build a mental health docket frequently cited as a national model, Kazen also is sensitive to the way in which some politicians unfairly equate mental illness with violent behavior.

Nonetheless, in the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people, Kazen is speaking out against a Texas law that automatically enables mentally ill individuals with a demonstrated pattern of dangerous behavior to receive their guns back within weeks of receiving treatment.

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New Republic - August 12, 2019

Bob Moser: Texas is bracing for a blue wave in 2020. Yes, Texas.

When Beto O’Rourke proclaimed, during the second round of Democratic presidential debates, that “there’s a new battleground state, Texas, and it has 38 Electoral College votes,” eyes rolled in unison across America. We’ve all heard that nonsense before! Pundits and progressives have been predicting that minority-white Texas would go blue for so long, it’s practically become a running joke.

But as people in Texas know, O’Rourke wasn’t blowing smoke. Although Republicans have continued to routinely swat away Democrats in statewide races (they haven’t lost one since 1990), while sending legions of unhinged conservatives to gum up the works in Washington, Democrats have taken control of every big city in the state over the past decade—a process that began in Dallas in 2006, when Democrats swept into power.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 12, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial: Texas House speaker scandal is all the worst parts of politics. Now, it may be criminal

The scandal over House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s meeting with a staunchly conservative activist personifies everything in politics that makes people sick. There’s the brazen hypocrisy of Bonnen’s preening in public about unity and threatening to punish any lawmaker who worked to defeat a House incumbent, and then apparently asking an outside agitator to do just that against several members of his own party.

There’s the influence of big-dollar donors and their group allegedly being offered access to lawmakers via press passes reserved for journalists monitoring the public’s business. And on Monday, the House added a ridiculous dollop of closed-door decision making. Its investigative committee convened to consider the Bonnen affair and somehow concluded that the public need not be involved. The panel spent just about its entire meeting in executive session before voting to hand the matter to the Texas Rangers.

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Jacobin - August 12, 2019

The world that made the El Paso mass shooter

After the August 3 mass shooting in El Paso that left twenty-two dead and twenty-four injured, Dan Patrick, the right-wing-radio-host-turned-Texas-lieutenant-governor, offered a glib explanation for what turned Patrick Crusius, the twenty-one-year-old who drove ten hours from his home in the Dallas–Fort Worth area to an El Paso Walmart in hopes of slaughtering the highest number of Mexican immigrants possible, into a mass murderer.

Scapegoating video games shifts the focus not only from the state’s gun culture, but from another part of the mental and cultural landscape Crusius inhabited: the xenophobia and bigotry of Texas politics, particularly in its rich white suburbs. Growing up in Collin County, Crusius wouldn’t have had to search to find a master class in xenophobia and white supremacy. From the history books to political pronouncements, the resident of Allen, Texas, would have heard paranoid denunciations of sharia law, racist condemnations of Mexicans, and panicked warnings about the accelerating replacement of Anglos with foreigners.

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County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 12, 2019

Visiting judge removed from Bexar County rotation amid allegations of using racial slurs in court

A visiting judge will no longer handle Bexar County cases after an officer of the court filed a complaint alleging he used the words “wetback” and a Spanish slur to describe an undocumented immigrant while presiding over a case last week.

Mark R. Luitjen, a former Bexar County district judge and a San Antonio lawyer in private practice, has been “terminated” from serving as a visiting judge unless he is specifically requested by a district judge, said Administrative Judge Sid Harle, who oversees the 4th Administrative Judicial Region. Luitjen, 64, denies that he used any slur to refer to a defendant. Without saying so directly, he indicated the complaint might refer to comments he made during a private conversation with a court staffer about political correctness. He said no defendant was in the courtroom at the time.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Plan to memorialize African-American remains in Fort Bend imperiled as talks hit skids

A historic plan to memorialize 95 African-Americans whose remains were found at a Sugar Land school construction site may be imperiled as negotiations between the county and school district have fallen into disarray.

The county and Fort Bend ISD agreed in July on the broad terms of a deal to create a permanent resting place for the remains on the site where they were discovered last year. But the school district has shifted course, withdrawing an offer to pay the county $1 million, and district officials have announced plans concerning the site without making the county aware.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

Plano councilman raises concerns over funding rape crisis center because it administers Plan B pills

Supporters of The Turning Point rape crisis center in Plano will speak out at Monday’s City Council meeting after a Plano councilman raised concerns earlier this month over city funding for the agency.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Ricciardelli said at an Aug. 1 work session that though he believed 99% of the work The Turning Point does is “tremendously important and excellent,” he couldn’t support funding for an organization that administers the Plan B pill, a form of emergency contraception. In some circumstances, Ricciardelli said, “the Plan B pill destroys a human life.”

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

Judge to delay decision on moving Amber Guyger's murder trial out of Dallas County

The judge in fired Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger's murder case says she is delaying her decision on the defense's request to move the trial out of Dallas.

In a court order filed Monday, state District Judge Tammy Kemp said that the ruling should not come until after voir dire — the questioning of prospective jurors — is finished or it is apparent during the voir dire process "that a fair and impartial jury cannot be selected in Dallas County due the pervasive publicity in this case."

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Houston Chronicle - August 12, 2019

Two years after pension reform, Houston’s liability for retiree health benefits grows

Four years ago, the main source of Houston’s deteriorating financial health — billions of dollars in unfunded pension obligations — loomed over the race for mayor, promising a massive test for the winner.

Now, Mayor Sylvester Turner, having overhauled the city’s troubled pension systems, is running for re-election and touting the reforms as his signature policy accomplishment. He faces several challengers, including Bill King, the businessman he defeated four years ago, millionaire lawyer and self-funder Tony Buzbee, City Councilman Dwight Boykins who has clashed with the mayor over firefighter pay and former Councilwoman Sue Lovell, as well as a handful of lesser known candidates.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 13, 2019

NRA plans Fort Worth expo in wake of mass shootings. Residents are divided.

The National Rifle Association will host its personal protection expo at the Fort Worth Convention Center from Sept. 6-8, offering self-defense workshops, exhibit halls packed with firearms, and even a concealed carry fashion show. Some residents say they welcome of the event, which is expected to draw thousands of gun enthusiasts to Fort Worth for three days. Others say it’s bad timing.

Samantha Blackwell, a 20-year-old Tarleton State University student from Saginaw, said it feels “a little morbid” to host an event promoting guns following the tragedies. Blackwell, though she supports legal concealed carry, said she thinks it’s time to discuss common-sense changes to gun laws, such as banning military-style assault rifles. It’s not a good time, she said, for the NRA to host a gun show.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 13, 2019

San Antonio Councilman Peláez: Nirenberg, most council members agreed to delay paid sick leave

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and all but one City Council member agreed to delay the implementation of the city’s paid sick leave ordinance, Councilman Manny Peláez said Monday — though the mayor and many council members publicly said they opposed the delay.

City attorneys and lawyers representing business groups in a lawsuit challenging the ordinance agreed in court last month to delay its effective date from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1 — a move bashed by progressive groups who worked to enact the new law. Nirenberg and four San Antonio City Council members — Roberto Treviño, Ana Sandoval, Jada Andrews-Sullivan and Melissa Cabello Havrda — each blasted the delay on Twitter. But only Treviño told city attorneys he opposed the deal before they and the plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a joint request July 19 to delay the ordinance, Peláez said in remarks on the Express-News’ podcast “Puro Politics” that will be released Tuesday.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - August 13, 2019

There were ‘serious irregularities’ at federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein died, Barr says

Investigators have found “serious irregularities” at the federal jail in New York where Jeffrey Epstein was being held on sex-trafficking charges, Attorney General William Barr said Monday, deepening the mystery surrounding the disgraced financier’s death.

Mr. Epstein, 66 years old, was found dead Saturday at the Manhattan detention facility administered by the federal Bureau of Prisons. The New York City medical examiner believes Mr. Epstein’s cause of death is suicide by hanging, but is awaiting additional information from law enforcement before releasing her official findings, a city official said.

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Wall Street Journal - August 12, 2019

GM, Volkswagen say goodbye to hybrid vehicles

Auto makers for two decades have leaned on hybrid vehicles to help them comply with regulations on fuel consumption and give customers greener options in the showroom. Now, two of the world’s largest car manufacturers say they see no future for them in their U.S. lineups.

General Motors Co. and Volkswagen are shifting the bulk of their future investment into fully electric cars, seeing hybrids, which save fuel by combining a gasoline engine with an electric motor, as only a stopgap to ultimately meeting tougher tailpipe-emissions requirements, particularly in China and Europe.

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KUT - August 13, 2019

Most Americans support legal access to abortions, new survey finds

Public support for legal access to abortions has been relatively stable across the country in the last five years, according to a national survey released Tuesday.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute said they support legal access, while 40% oppose it. There was a political divide among the more than 40,000 people surveyed, with Democrats saying they've become more supportive and Republicans less so. In Texas, 48% of respondents said they support abortions remaining legal. In the Austin metro area, 71% do. Natalie Jackson, director of research at PRRI, said that was in line with other metro areas around the country.

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NPR - August 13, 2019

Trump administration makes major changes to protections for endangered species

In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation's premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.

Republican lawmakers and industry groups celebrated the revisions, some of the broadest changes in the way the act is applied in its nearly 50-year history. They come at a moment of crisis for many of the world's plant and animal species. As many as 1 million species are at risk of extinction — many within decades — according to a recent U.N. report. Wildlife groups and Democratic lawmakers, pointing to that document, are promising to challenge the new rules in Congress and in court. "Now is the time to strengthen the ESA, not cripple it," said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall on a press call. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says the revisions will help conservation efforts and increase transparency around the law.

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New York Daily News - August 12, 2019

Anthony Scaramucci says Trump is in nuclear meltdown mode — and he couldn’t keep quiet any longer

Take it from the Mooch: Trump is in meltdown mode — and it’s too much for even a friend to take. Onetime Trump-whisperer Anthony Scaramucci said Monday that he kept his lips sealed for years about the president’s erratic behavior but "his increasingly divisive rhetoric...outweighs any short-term economic gain.

Scaramucci was explaining his observation in a Sunday night interview that Trump is imploding in front of the country’s eyes and Republicans will have to think about replacing him on the top of the 2020 ticket. “A couple more weeks like this and ‘country over party’ is going to require the Republicans to replace the top of the ticket in 2020,” Scaramucci told Axios. Ramping up his war of words, the Mooch compared Trump’s damage to the GOP to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He suggested that even former cronies like himself, who once shamelessly curried favor with Trump.

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Washington Post - August 13, 2019

‘Everything that we hold dear’: From race to plastic straws, Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for 2020 votes

George W. Bush had “freedom fries,” Sarah Palin had the “Big Gulp” and Dan Quayle had the Hollywood portrayal of an unwed single mother named Murphy Brown. For President Trump, it’s paper straws — the latest addition to an ever-growing list of cultural flash points his campaign is seeking to highlight as part of a base-focused reelection effort.

As cities and coffee chains across the country have adopted policies aimed at limiting environmental damage, the president’s campaign has targeted what it calls “liberal paper straws.” It’s selling a Trump-branded plastic version as a fundraising tool. Pointing to the “runaway success” of the straws — which have earned the campaign more than $670,000 in a month — communications director Tim Murtaugh said they represent Trump’s ability to make a political point using a cultural issue everyday voters can relate to.

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Houston Chronicle - August 13, 2019

Julián Castro attacks Trump in new ad: 'You stoked the fires of racists.'

In a new ad, Julián Castro is taking it to President Donald Trump in an arena he and other 2020 Democratic hopefuls might call enemy territory - Fox News.

“President Trump, you referred to countries as ****holes. You urged American congresswomen to go back to where they came from. You called immigrants rapists,” Castro says in the ad, scheduled on the Fox channel in Bedminster, N.J., where the president is vacationing at Trump National Golf Club.

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Associated Press - August 13, 2019

Global stocks sink on trade war jitters, economic data

Global stock markets were retreating again Tuesday amid anxiety the U.S.-Chinese trade war will hurt already slowing global economic growth. Market benchmarks in London and Frankfurt fell, while Shanghai and Tokyo closed down. Hong Kong’s main index lost 2.1% as pro-democracy protesters crowded into the territory’s airport for a second day. Wall Street futures pointed to a slightly lower open.

Investor anxiety has also been fed by weak economic data in Germany and economic jitters in Argentina. “The global economy is perched precariously, hoping for a positive inflection, but braced for a stumble,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised 10% tariffs on some $300 billion in Chinese imports that haven’t already been hit with tariffs of 25%. The new tariff would go into effect Sept. 1 and more directly affect U.S. consumers.

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Newsclips - August 12, 2019

Lead Stories

Texas Monthly - August 11, 2019

The scandal swirling around House Speaker Dennis Bonnen is bad. But is it criminal?

As far as speaker scandals go, L’affaire de Dennis Bonnen is missing some of the luster of past episodes. The controversy lacks the lurid appeal of that time in the nineties when Speaker Gib Lewis took a lobby-funded trip to a Mexican resort accompanied by some well-connected attorneys who brought along a stripper named Chrissee.

Also absent is the avarice of Speaker Gus Mutscher who traded favorable legislation for a financial interest in a bank as part of the 1971 Sharpstown stock fraud scandal. And the importance of the Bonnen affair has been diminished on Twitter with the hashtag #Bonnghazi, putting the scandal in the category of a here today/gone tomorrow controversy. Still, this growing scandal is about much more than palace intrigue. Fundamentally, it concerns unethical, possibly criminal, behavior on the part of the speaker, and a long history of state legislators trying to put themselves above the law.

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

Activist Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez joins crowded Democratic race for Senate seat held by Republican John Cornyn

Activist Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is running for the Senate seat held by Republican John Cornyn, joining a crowded Democratic Party field that has yet to gain traction with primary voters. She blasted Cornyn for being in lockstep with President Donald Trump, accusing the longtime elected leader of failing to stand up for Texans and not embodying the character of the diverse state.

Tzintzún Ramirez is the fifth major candidate in the Democratic primary for Senate, joining former Army helicopter pilot MJ Hegar, former Rep. Chris Bell, state Sen. Royce West and outgoing Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards. Tzintzún Ramirez, 37, said she looked forward to a competitive primary. At 24, she co-founded the Workers Defense Project, where, according to her biography, she helped pass a half dozen state and local laws on behalf of hundreds of thousands of workers, guaranteeing them higher pay and safer working conditions.

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NPR - August 12, 2019

'This is not going to be easy': El Paso students start school in wake of tragedy

On Monday, nearly 60,0000 public school students in El Paso, Texas, will start the school year amidst an air of mourning, fear and resilience. The first day of school in El Paso's largest district comes more than a week after a mass shooting at a local Walmart left 22 people dead.

"It's not at all, in any way, a typical start of school," says Juan Cabrera, the superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD). "This is not going to be easy. This is going to be difficult and we are really taking this very seriously." According to Cabrera, the school district has been contacting families affected by the shooting in order to connect them to support services. No EPISD students were killed, but Cabrera says El Paso is a close-knit community and some students have family members who were directly involved, or know people who were at the Walmart during the attack.

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Reuters - August 11, 2019

Fed remains a target as economy falls short of Trump's ambitious goals

It has become a jarring and frequent contradiction. President Donald Trump blames the Federal Reserve for putting the U.S. economy at risk while data shows an economy in “reasonably good” shape, as the head of the central bank recently said.

But behind that confusing dance between a norm-breaking Republican president and a stick-to-its-knitting Fed lies a dilemma for Trump. “Reasonably good” is not what Trump promised to deliver during his 2016 campaign, and at this point he heads into a reelection year short of the key economic goals he set and worried a recession could undermine his bid for a second term.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2019

Grocery store wars: Walmart, Central Market post big gains as Whole Foods drops

Amazon is making many of its grocery competitors in Dallas-Fort Worth smarter and stronger. But in the two years since it acquired Whole Foods Market, it hasn’t gained an advantage over traditional grocers or its biggest competitor everywhere, Walmart.

Amazon’s stepped-up presence — adding Prime Now deliveries from its Dallas-area Whole Foods stores in early 2018 and lowering prices nationally as it tried to shed Whole Foods’ “whole paycheck” image — forced grocery retailers to spend a lot of money building their own online businesses and cutting prices.

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Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2019

What can Texas cops do when a gun and its legal but troubled owner raise alarm?

Law enforcement officers in Texas face a legal minefield whenever they learn someone lawfully has a gun but maybe shouldn’t — and tragedy strikes. The anxious mother of an Allen gun owner called police June 27 but declined to name names. And so there was nothing police could do in the weeks before the Aug. 3 massacre at an El Paso Walmart, which left 22 people dead and about two dozen wounded.

Texas, unlike at least 17 other states, has no "red flag" laws to allow authorities to temporarily seize guns while they investigate whether someone is a danger to themselves or others. There is little support among Texas legislators for changing state law. But North Texas police departments both large and small say the absence of "red flag" laws shouldn't stop residents from calling if they have concerns.

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Dallas Morning News - August 12, 2019

Jeff Moseley and Russell Boening: The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is critical for Texas

It's time for lawmakers to approve the ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). We represent hundreds in the Texas business community, the state Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Farm Bureau, and free trade is at the heart of our state's economy. Ratification of USMCA is critical to provide certainty for the business sectors in Texas that rely on trade with Canada and Mexico and contribute to the U.S. economy.

Texas exports more than any other state to Mexico and is second only behind Michigan for exports to Canada. More than 950,000 Texas jobs are supported by trade with Mexico and Canada. In 2018, Texas exported more than $137 billion worth of products to our North American partners, accounting for 43 percent of Texas' total exports to the world. These are staggering numbers that will only grow with the implementation of USMCA.

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Dallas Morning News - August 8, 2019

Sen. John Cornyn visits Grapevine crisis center to rally support for bill to help eliminate rape kit backlog

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, is calling on Congress to support a bill that would reauthorize funding to help states eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits. Cornyn spoke to law enforcement officials, advocates and sexual assault survivors during a visit to The Gatehouse women's crisis center to gather support for his bill reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act of 2019.

During the event, Cornyn participated in a round table with advocates and experts before taking a tour of the community that houses women and their children who have dealt with family violence and what he called the "scourge" of sexual assault. The Debbie Smith Act, which became law in 2004, provides grants that states can use to eliminate backlogs of untested DNA evidence collected after sexual assault, such as rape kits.

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Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: In Texas we trust? Fluor may pass on business elsewhere, but not in its backyard

As the losses pile up at Fluor Corp., one piece of business is still shining bright: Texas infrastructure — and Dallas-Fort Worth roads, in particular. The Irving engineering and construction company has built some of the most impressive bridges and highways in the region, including the Horseshoe in downtown Dallas, a portion of State Highway 161 and the Southern Gateway, which is now widening Interstate 35E south of downtown.

A few months ago, Fluor and its partner, Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, won a $1.74 billion deal from the Texas Department of Transportation to improve Interstate 635. The LBJ East project, slated to start this year and conclude in 2024, will widen and rebuild 11 miles of highway. “This project is the latest example of our strong relationship with TxDOT,” CEO Carlos Hernandez told analysts Aug. 1.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2019

Federal judge dings Texas prison system for violating terms of settlement in lawsuit over sweltering prisons

A federal judge accused the Texas prison system of violating the terms of a settlement in a contentious class-action lawsuit and ordered prison officials to transfer inmates out of a sweltering Beaumont lock-up after a failed cooling system saw indoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees.

The blistering two-page court order issued on Friday by U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison is the latest twist in a legal case that started five years ago, when men at the Pack Unit in Navasota sued over dangerously high temperatures in the uncooled facility. Last year, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice promised to install air-conditioning at the East Texas lock-up and to make sure that all the men involved in the lawsuit would be housed in facilities kept under 88 degrees.

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Houston Chronicle - August 11, 2019

Electric grid operators asking Texas customers to take it easier amid record-breaking demand

With summer heat expected to top 100 degrees, electric grid operators are asking Texas residents to help ease power demand during peak times on Monday and Tuesday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported that Lone Star State residents set another new record for weekend peak demand late Sunday afternoon.

Statewide electricity demand reached 71,864 megawatts between 5 and 6 p.m. Sunday, surpassing the previous record set on Saturday by 218 megawatts. Houston homes and businesses accounted for more than one-fourth of that electricity demand, ERCOT records show. With temperatures expected to exceed 100 degrees on Monday and Tuesday, Houston utility company Reliant Energy sent out an alert on Sunday evening asking customers to reduce electricity ussage from 2 to 6 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.

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Houston Public Media - August 11, 2019

New details emerge from state’s special investigation into the Houston School Board

The full preliminary report by state investigators into the Houston school board is now publicly available, after attorneys for the Houston Independent School District included it in a federal court filing, as they try to stop the state from taking any action against the district.

Based on the findings, investigators recommend the state’s Education Commissioner, Mike Morath, downgrade HISD’s accreditation; appoint a conservator and install a board of managers to replace the nine elected board members “due to the HISD Board of Trustees’ demonstrated inability to appropriately govern, inability to operate within the scope of their authority, circumventing the authority of the Superintendent, and inability to ensure proper contract procurement laws are following.”

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Houston Public Media - August 9, 2019

Now that Occidental and Anadarko have merged, Are layoffs next?

The two biggest oil producers in the Houston region have merged into one super oil entity. Occidental Petroleum completed a $38 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum Thursday. So, what’s next? Well, the work begins to integrate the two companies. But is the word “integrate” just a fancy corporate word for layoffs?

Energy analyst Loren Steffy says the answer is probably yes. Combined, the two companies employ several thousand people. So, Steffy says corporate executives will examine each one of those jobs and decide if there are unnecessary overlaps. And positions will be cut.

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New York Times - August 11, 2019

After El Paso shooting, will voters revisit Beto O’Rourke?

As Beto O’Rourke waded through a crowd that had gathered Thursday night to honor victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, the struggling presidential candidate was welcomed as a hometown hero. “Beto!” someone shouted, addressing this city’s former congressman. “Thank you for being our voice!”

In recent days, Democrats ranging from a former Houston mayor to rank-and-file Iowa voters have urged Mr. O’Rourke to deepen his focus on Texas and run against Senator John Cornyn in the 2020 election, like he did against Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 — and to shelve his White House ambitions for now. But Mr. O’Rourke’s allies and advisers hope that his impassioned response to the massacre in his hometown, with flashes of raw anger that match the mood of many Democrats, will prompt voters nationally to give him another look.

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Colorado Springs Independent - August 7, 2019

Smooth-talking Texan Joe Basel leaves nonprofit workers, officials scratching their heads

On an unusually mild day in early February, a Texan named Joe Basel met with a group of city leaders and nonprofit workers at Poor Richard’s Restaurant in Colorado Springs. Basel presented a shiny solution to the growing problem of homelessness:

A tiny home village development that could take hundreds of chronically homeless people off the streets — providing wraparound health services, the ability to earn a dignified income, and most of all, a sense of community that supports those struggling with long-term addiction and mental illness. “The whole point is we’re trying to settle their soul and help them orient to the world again, and get clean,” Basel said during that meeting, “and produce value so that they can get a little currency to pay some expenses and get healthy.” Basel was referring to Community First! Village, a widely praised permanent supportive housing development run by nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes in Austin, Texas.

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Texas Public Radio - August 11, 2019

El Pasoans were targeted for being Mexican — historians say that's been happening for 200 years

The gunman who killed 22 people in El Paso specifically targeted Latinos in a city that's nearly 80% Hispanic. A deep fear among some El Pasoans has cast a chilling shadow over their defiant shows of strength and unity. For others, the tragedy offers opportunities to elicit bittersweet smiles, express their love for each other and confront this nation's darkest truths.

It’s a process that’s been nearly 200 years in the making. White Texas settlers in the 1820s viewed Mexicans and Mexican Americans as foreigners — invaders — in their own land. The Texas Rangers and other Anglo vigilantes are thought to have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Mexicans and Mexican Texans between 1914 and 1919. Just because they were brown.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 11, 2019

After backlash, San Antonio-area school district shelves proposal to arm teachers

A San Antonio school district that sparked loud and bitter debate last year over its consideration of arming teachers and staff as a security measure has shelved the idea for now, its superintendent said. Trustees in East Central Independent School District had put off a vote on the Guardian Plan, one of the state’s options for school districts to set rules and training requirements for employees who volunteer to carry guns, until after the legislative session.

Having listened to the community opposition, board members decided not to renew the conversation “at this time,” Superintendent Roland Toscano said. “The board’s position on that is there’s nothing off the table when it comes to considerations for enhancing student safety and staff safety,” Toscano said. “They’re not going to say that we’re never going to do it — we’re open to continuing the discussion — but they’re not interested in talking about it right now.”

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Washington Examiner - August 9, 2019

Trump donor targeted by Castro says he's raised $1 million for president's campaign since 'outing'

Rep. Joaquin Castro's plan to shame a group of donors to President Trump is having the opposite effect. One of the individuals named by the Texas Democrat estimates that the lawmaker's actions have spurred donors to give more than $1 million toward Trump's reelection effort in recent days.

R. H. Bowman told the Washington Examiner his fellow members of "Texas 44," as the San Antonio-based donors refer to themselves, have been on a fundraising frenzy since Castro tweeted about them on Monday, "Their contributions are fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as 'invaders.'"

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2019

Harris County starts new marijuana diversion program for teens

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has quietly launched a marijuana diversion program targeting teens, a move that could help eliminate hundreds of arrests every year. Now, teens caught with marijuana will be referred to juvenile probation and allowed to take a class instead of facing criminal charges.

Officials touted the new program Saturday morning at a public meeting in the Fifth Ward’s DeLuxe Theatre, where District Attorney Kim Ogg and top prosecutors answered community questions and explained a range of diversion efforts intended to keep people out jail. Though Ogg created a similar program geared toward adults just weeks after taking office in 2017, some arrestees — including kids, parolees and those caught in school zones - were barred from participating, as was anyone caught with more than 4 ounces, a felony amount.

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Rivard Report - August 12, 2019

Another death in Bexar County Jail raises questions about jail operations

The family of Janice Dotson-Stephens didn’t know she had been arrested until they received a phone call that she had died. The 61-year-old spent five months in custody after being charged with criminal trespassing. During that time, she was diagnosed with “schizoaffective disorder,” a chronic mental health condition characterized by symptoms of schizophrenia.

She refused to eat or drink at least 102 times and ultimately lost 136 pounds. Despite University Health System physician Brian Skop’s insistence that Dotson-Stephens receive inpatient treatment, her medical chart gave no indication she was treated, though doctors, nurses, and counselors saw her nearly 500 times. She ultimately died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, caused by high blood pressure.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 11, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Get ready to pay a price for San Antonio’s homestead exemption

Back in June, when the San Antonio City Council bowed to political expediency and passed a homestead exemption for local property owners, Mayor Ron Nirenberg downplayed the budgetary hole he and his colleagues were burrowing. “Some might call it belt-tightening,” Nirenberg said. “But it’s more like tightening our shoelaces.”

This week, we got confirmation of what was obvious two months ago: Even before the homestead-exemption vote, this city was grappling with a series of fiscal challenges that demand serious belt-tightening and resourceful scouring of revenue sources. We didn’t need to move things in the wrong direction with cosmetic tax relief that will save each family only $28 a year, but will cost the city more than $5 million in revenue (roughly $3 million of that from the city’s general fund).

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Austin American-Statesman - August 9, 2019

Austin City Council raises hotel tax, cutting off county from millions in tax dollars

In a move that could cut off Travis County from millions of hotel tax dollars, the Austin City Council approved raising the city’s hotel tax rate early Friday and dedicated that future cash to expanding the Austin Convention Center. The vote upped the city’s hotel tax rate to the maximum allowed by the state. It will generate an estimated $20 million annually that likely would be used to finance a $1.2 billion expansion to the convention center.

The unanimous vote came at about 2 a.m. City staff added the hotel tax item to Thursday’s meeting at the last minute after Travis County commissioners voted just days prior to pursue an election in November to begin collecting hotel taxes to redevelop the county-operated Travis County Exposition Center. However, the council likely took that option off the table with its vote Friday.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - August 12, 2019

Deals give drugmakers rights to DNA data

Deals between drugmakers and hospital systems to mine the genetic profiles of hospital patients are triggering concerns over the control of valuable genetic data. Drugmakers have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars for access to patient information because of the data’s potential to help unlock disease insights and discover new drugs.

They are striking deals to sequence patients’ genetic code, including with hospital systems like Geisinger in Pennsylvania, Mount Sinai Health System in New York and Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. For patients, the allure is the promise of free genetic testing that could indicate their risk of diseases and the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of science.

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Wall Street Journal - August 11, 2019

Wall Street Journal Editorial: About that ‘election security’ bill

The media’s latest hot take is that Republicans—in particular the dastardly Senator Mitch McConnell—are blocking bipartisan legislation to protect the nation’s elections. Reality, as usual, is more complicated. Consider the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, or the Safe Act, which the Democratic House passed in June.

The core of the Safe Act is a pile of federal money, $600 million in the first year, to help states upgrade their voting systems. The bill would standardize and tighten election rules. All votes for federal office would have to be cast via paper ballots. A portion of this audit trail would then need to be manually checked for every election. Voting machines—presumably devices that assist in marking paper ballots—could not be manufactured outside the U.S. or connected to the internet. Some of these ideas may have merit, but others have trade-offs. Running elections has been a state responsibility, and there are legitimate questions about further federalizing it.

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NPR - August 9, 2019

Many mass shooters share a common bond: male grievance culture

While the circumstances of every mass shooting are unique, the perpetrators of the recent shootings in Ohio and Texas fit into a consistent storyline: white men with access to guns committing violence in the name of real or perceived grievances. The shooter suspected of killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, is a 21-year-old white man who reportedly uploaded a racist internet post before the attack.

That night, a shooter killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio. The 24-year-old suspect is again young, white, and male. The FBI told reporters that the investigation has “uncovered evidence that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies.” Federal investigators told the New York Times that they are looking at whether the gunman may have been associated with the misogynistic incel movement, short for involuntary celibates. While there is no singular profile, research shows that the majority of mass shooters are young and middle-aged white men who purchased their guns legally.

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NPR - August 12, 2019

Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig goes on trial for Ukraine work

Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig goes on trial Monday for alleged false statements connected to work he did on behalf of powerful interests in Ukraine. Craig, a top attorney in Democratic political circles who worked for two Democratic presidents, was indicted in April on two counts of providing false statements to the Justice Department related to his Ukraine work.

The judge presiding over the case threw out one of those counts last week, but Craig will still go to trial on the single remaining count. The case against Craig, who has pleaded not guilty, was born out of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. During its investigation, Mueller's team uncovered evidence of alleged wrongdoing by Craig, but referred the material to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia for prosecution.

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Associated Press - August 11, 2019

Warren wows in Iowa as candidates’ sprint to caucuses begins

The chant — “2 cents, 2 cents, 2 cents” — started in the back of a crowd that packed sidewalks at the Iowa State Fair. Elizabeth Warren, basking in the spontaneous adulation of her proposed wealth tax, prompted roars with her call for the ultra-wealthy to “pitch in 2 cents so everybody gets a chance to make it.”

A night before, the Massachusetts senator enjoyed similar treatment when Democrats at a party dinner jumped to their feet — some beginning to dance — at the opening bars of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” the song that would usher Warren on stage. For someone whose White House ambitions were dismissed by some Democrats earlier this year, Warren’s reception in Iowa this weekend was a clear warning sign to other candidates that hers is a campaign to be reckoned with in the state that kicks off the race for the party’s nomination.

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Associated Press - August 11, 2019

Epstein’s guards worked extreme OT shifts morning of death

Guards on Jeffrey Epstein’s unit were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, a person familiar with the jail’s operations told The Associated Press.

The person said that the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s Special Housing Unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss jail operations publicly and spoke Sunday on the condition of anonymity.

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Route Fifty - August 12, 2019

The country's most sweeping paid family leave policy just became law

Oregon now has the country’s most generous paid family leave policy, with Gov. Kate Brown on Friday signing a sweeping bill into law. The law guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents (biological, foster or adoptive), people caring for sick relatives or those recovering from illness. Benefits will start being paid in 2023.

The policy includes extended and non-traditional family members, including stepchildren, grandchildren, the child of a spouse or domestic partner, a sibling or step-sibling, and “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship.” That provision was particularly important for Asian and Pacific Islanders, two of Oregon’s fastest-growing ethnic groups which traditionally live in multi-generational households.

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CNBC - August 10, 2019

‘Trump is ruining our markets’: Struggling farmers are losing a huge customer to the trade war — China

U.S. farmers lost one of their biggest customers this week after China officially cancelled all purchases of U.S. agricultural products, a retaliatory move following President Donald Trump’s pledge to slap 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports.

China’s exit piles on to a devastating year for farmers, who have struggled through record flooding and an extreme heat wave that destroyed crop yields, and trade war escalations that have lowered prices and profits this year. “It’s really, really getting bad out here,” said Bob Kuylen, who’s farmed for 35 years in North Dakota.

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Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2019

Bill Weld courts anti-Trump Republicans at Iowa State Fair, and finds few

There are a lot of long shots at the Iowa State Fair. The ring toss. The milk can game. The water balloon dart throw. On Sunday, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld joined the list, pitching himself as the Republican alternative to President Donald Trump. How long are his odds? At the "cast your kernel" straw poll, the scoreboard showed Trump leading 97-3. Iowans filled nearly nine mason jars with corn for the incumbent three days into the fair. Weld's first jar was only about half full.

Weld, 74, is the GOP antithesis of Trump. He's not larger than life or bombastic or especially charismatic. He barely registers in polls. He has raised less than $1 million, compared with $124 million for the incumbent. Trump has 63 million Twitter followers. Weld has 81,000. But he has a message that resonates with a certain segment of the GOP electorate, and it boils down to this: We should reclaim the party from its current leader.

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New York Times - August 11, 2019

How the El Paso killer echoed the incendiary words of conservative media stars

Tucker Carlson went on his prime-time Fox News show in April last year and told his viewers not to be fooled. The thousands of Central Americans on their way to the United States were “border jumpers,” not refugees, he said. “Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time,” he asked, “or will leaders sit passively back as the invasion continues?”

When another group approached the border six months later, Ann Coulter, appearing as a guest on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, offered a dispassionately violent suggestion about what could be done to stem the flow of migrants: “You can shoot invaders.” There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this month. In a 2,300-word screed posted on the website 8chan, the killer wrote that he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

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Newsclips - August 11, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - August 11, 2019

In agreeing to secret huddle, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen veers off state GOP’s script

Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s tumble from a rarely seen level of near-supreme power in the Texas House came almost as fast as his rise. Bonnen, who entered the speaker's race late last fall, swept the field, then won accolades as the MVP of this year's legislative session. But just as quickly, his reputation as a deal-maker, strategist and unifier of Republicans has unraveled. A bizarre secret meeting with an intraparty foe in mid-June has thrown Bonnen and a top lieutenant on the defensive.

Last week, he apologized abjectly to his 149 colleagues, asking forgiveness for even taking the meeting, much less trash-talking House members in ways some said was sexist and homophobic. But even if he rides out the ruckus, political analysts say his gaffe threatens a couple of important Republican missions. Bonnen’s misstep distracted from what his party has to do to hold on to power, they said. And the speaker also has seriously compromised his ability to sway the GOP’s selection next March of the most electable candidates in suburban House districts that are turning purple.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 10, 2019

Bonnen wasn’t asked to appear at hearing on Sullivan allegation

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has not been asked to appear before the Texas House General Investigating Committee when it meets Monday to consider if and how to look into allegations that have placed Bonnen’s speakership in peril. Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, was not invited to come before the committee Monday, a person who has been briefed on the proceedings but was not authorized to comment publicly, told the American-Statesman.

At issue is the charge by Michael Quinn Sullivan, a provocative conservative activist who was very critical of Bonnen’s first session as speaker, that at a post-session June 12 meeting in the speaker’s office with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who chairs the House Republican Caucus, Bonnen offered Sullivan a deal. The deal was that Bonnen would provide House press credentials to writers affiliated with Sullivan in exchange for Sullivan’s PAC spending money against a designated list of ten GOP incumbent members of the House.

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Associated Press - August 9, 2019

Trump says he wants background checks, also reassures NRA

President Donald Trump said Friday he believes he has influence to rally Republicans around stronger federal background check laws as Congress and the White House work on a response to last weekend's mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

At the same time, Trump said he had assured the National Rifle Association that its gun-rights views would be "fully represented and respected." He said he was hopeful the NRA would not be an obstacle to strengthening the nation's gun laws.

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Associated Press - August 10, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein taken off suicide watch before death

Jeffrey Epstein, the well-connected financier accused of orchestrating a sex-trafficking ring, had been taken off suicide watch before he killed himself in a New York jail, a person familiar with the matter said.

Attorney General William Barr said he was "appalled" to learn of Epstein's death while in federal custody. The FBI and the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General will investigate, he said. "Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered," Barr said in a statement.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - August 9, 2019

Texas Sen. Cornyn joins push to strengthen public access to government records

Like the Texas Legislature did earlier this year, Congress is moving to reverse a court ruling clogging the pipeline of public records that open government advocates say should by law flow freely to the public and news media organizations. A bipartisan alliance of senior U.S. senators, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, is sponsoring legislation to counter a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June interpreting the word “confidential” in a way that further blocks the release of government-held information on businesses.

In Washington, Cornyn and three other Judiciary Committee heavyweights - chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, a former chairman, and Dianne Feinstein of California, now the committee’s ranking Democrat — plan to advance legislation after the Senate recess to counter the Supreme Court’s effects on the Freedom of Information Act.

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Houston Chronicle - August 8, 2019

State Rep. Ron Reynolds is disbarred months after jail release

After years of legal troubles for what prosecutors called “ambulance chasing” and a four-month stay in jail at the end of last year, State Rep. Ron Reynolds will no longer be able to practice law. Reynolds, a Missouri City Democrat who won re-election last year from Montgomery County Jail, was found guilty in late 2015 of five counts of misdemeanor barratry, or illegally soliciting clients.

Texas law prohibits lawyers, among others, from soliciting clients for accident or disaster claims until at least 30 days after an incident. The rule is meant to protect victims from fraud and from being bombarded by lawyers. In a disbarment order following a hearing in late July, the State Bar of Texas cited his previous convictions as violations of the board's rules. His license had been suspended since May 2016.

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Houston Chronicle - August 9, 2019

Erica Grieder: Forgiving a political rival is a welcome act in these divided times

State Rep. Jon Rosenthal, a Democrat who represents Texas House District 135 in northwest Houston, isn’t a typical politician, and maybe not the most opportunistic one either. Rosenthal has been dragged into the scandal roiling Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives in recent weeks, since the right-wing extremist Michael Quinn Sullivan alleged that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen attempted to bribe him during a June 12th meeting in the Texas Capitol.

Rosenthal — to be clear — has absolutely nothing to do with the scandal itself. He just responded as graciously as possible to the Republican colleagues who dragged him into it — even though they are also responsible for ensuring he couldn’t ignore the scandal completely, as he was still trying to do. And, unfortunately for Rosenthal, the scandal is still unfolding. Rosenthal’s name has been in the headlines of late because it appears in a blog post that Sullivan published several weeks ago, giving his account of the meeting.

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Houston Chronicle - August 10, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Beto, come home. Texas needs you.

Our thinking this week, amid all the carnage and grief and finger-pointing, has been in part on Beto O’Rourke, the presidential candidate from El Paso, where 22 people were killed last Saturday. Our sympathy is devoted to the dead and their families, of course — but Beto has been on our minds, too. We keep coming back to a moment last Sunday when, for a few seconds, all the pretenses that are part of running for president in our age of constant exposure were peeled back, if only briefly.

There are times, it seems, in most presidential campaigns when the facades get stripped away like so many layers of paint. What’s left is a human moment, usually fleeting, and not always flattering. But real — and often more telling than a season of advertisements. Hillary Clinton tearing up in New Hampshire in the winter of 2008. Ronald Reagan’s humor during a 1984 debate when, asked if he wasn’t too old to serve four more years, he replied that he had no plans to use his opponent’s youth and inexperience against him. Even Walter Mondale laughed with the audience.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 9, 2019

First African-American federal judge in San Antonio takes bench

The Western District of Texas welcomed its newest judge Friday to a San Antonio seat that has been vacant for more than a decade. Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia swore in Jason K. Pulliam in a full courtroom that included Pulliam’s former employers, friends and other supporters.

Pulliam, 48, becomes the first African-American appointed to the Western District, which includes San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Del Rio, Alpine, Pecos, Midland/Odessa and El Paso. With Pulliam, the district now has 13 district judges, who are appointed by the president for life, five senior district judges and 15 magistrate judges, who are chosen by the district judges to serve eight-year terms.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2019

Chip Roy: Political rhetoric only fuels chaos on the border

The willful blindness that American politicians engage in with respect to our southern border is endangering thousands of Americans and migrants daily, and it needs to end.

After touring the Rio Grande Valley sector of the southern border with U.S. Border Patrol and law enforcement last week, I confirmed a few truths: The Reynosa faction of the Gulf Cartel has seized control of our border and is trafficking human beings and drugs for enormous profit; the cartel has more men, more guns and more resources than law enforcement; our broken asylum laws are allowing cartels to abuse Americans and the migrants who seek to come here for profit; and none of it will change until Congress stops the rhetoric and has sober conversations to find a solution.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2019

Houston’s Dan Crenshaw is top fundraiser in Texas among U.S. House candidates

Nobody in Texas is raising more money this year to run for Congress than U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Although he’s been in Congress just seven months, the former Navy SEAL has parlayed his rising political star into an eye-popping $1.4 million fundraising haul during his first six months in office.

The Houston Republican has raised more money this year than any of the 145 candidates running for the U.S. House from Texas. That gives him a dramatic early financial advantage over the only Democrat who has filed to run against him in 2020. Navy veteran Elisa Cardnell has raised just $77,000 in her bid to unseat Crenshaw in the 2nd Congressional District, which runs from West Houston up to Spring and loops over to Atascocita and Humble.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: After congressional recess, USMCA should be first order of business

When Congress returns from recess next month, approving the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, otherwise known as the rewrite to the North American Free Trade Agreement, must be a priority. This is especially so for the Texas congressional delegation as the Lone Star State is the country’s strongest export market. Last year, we exported $315 billion in goods to Mexico and Canada, more than to any other countries.

There will be some political temptation for House Democrats to resist approving this agreement because it represents a “win” for President Donald Trump. But the agreement is good for the country and North America. Although much maligned, NAFTA has been a net benefit to the United States, providing a modest boost to gross domestic product, according to the Congressional Research Service. The agreement governs more than $1.2 trillion in trade between the three countries to the benefit of San Antonio and other Texas cities, including McAllen and Laredo.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 9, 2019

Michael McCaul: ‘Full steam ahead’ in U.S. House district eyed by Democrats

Is Michael McCaul running for reelection, being pushed into retiring or keeping an eye out for the next big job? Depending on whom you talk to, all three possibilities could be true for the eight-term, 57-year-old Republican congressman from Austin.

McCaul represents a seat that sprawls from Lake Travis to the Houston suburbs that is being targeted by national Democratic operatives, one of six GOP-held seats in Texas that the national Democratic Party has labeled as ripe for takeover. Republicans representing three of those six districts announced their retirements over the past three weeks.

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Austin American-Statesman - August 9, 2019

Texas and Ohio: Red states with 2 shootings, 2 responses

The Republican governors of Texas and Ohio — tragically linked by mass shootings that occurred hours apart last weekend — are backed by GOP-led legislatures in states that sent their electoral votes to President Donald Trump in 2016, but each has taken a different path in responding to the attacks.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine laid out his response in a news conference Tuesday, two days after angry shouts of “Do something!” interrupted his remarks during a vigil for the nine people killed in Dayton. DeWine unveiled a 17-point plan featuring tougher penalties for gun-related crimes and an improved mental health response. His plan also included two proposals that were met with skepticism from gun rights advocates in Ohio — proposals that, thus far in Texas, have been shut down by Republican leaders and Second Amendment activists.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 10, 2019

Bud Kennedy: 40-year DFW TV-radio host Jody Dean to leave KLUV weekend shows: ‘I’m not retiring’

Forty-year Dallas-Fort Worth radio-TV host Jody Dean will end his Saturday night radio show Sept. 28 and part ways with KLUV/98.7 FM, he wrote late Friday on Facebook. The move comes a year after Dean, a Fort Worth product and Paschal High School alumnus, left the morning-drive show where he gained fame. He also anchored TV news at KTVT/Channel 11 and hosted radio and TV talk shows.

“No, I’m not retiring. I dislike the idea of retirement immensely.” Since last October, Dean had hosted the “Saturday Night Special With Jody Dean” request show on KLUV, along with “Dusty Attics,” an interview show with a guest bringing his or her favorite oldies. In his Facebook post, Dean lamented not being on morning radio for the start of school the way he was in 1987-1994 on top-ranked KVIL/103.7 FM with Dallas radio legend Ron Chapman and later at KLUV.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - August 10, 2019

Massacre stokes fear, anger in North Texans. ‘El Paso is the home of my heart’

The nine-hour drive from Fort Worth to El Paso can be desolate. The journey moves west from Fort Worth along Interstate 20 and then Interstate 10. The 600 miles include long stretches of open West Texas, with spotty cell service and no news or music for those without satellite radio.

Ceci Mendez knows the journey well. It’s one the longtime Benbrook resident takes to visit family in the border city where she was born and raised. “This is home, but El Paso is still home in a different sense,” Mendez said. “El Paso is the home of my heart and the Fort Worth area is my home where I live, where I raised my daughter.” El Paso is more than 600 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth, but the regions are forever linked by a gunman. The suspect is a 21-year-old from the Dallas suburb of Allen. He is charged in shooting deaths of 22 people inside a Walmart in on Aug. 3.

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Texas Monthly - August 10, 2019

Chris Hooks: The Speaker and the Creeper

Have you ever seen slow-motion footage of an atomic bomb test? There’s a bright flash of light and an explosion that starts small, and you could be forgiven for thinking, Is that it? Then the mushroom cloud starts building to the size of a mountain, and the shockwave starts to radiate out, and it becomes clear that a lot of things in the immediate vicinity are probably not going to be okay. That’s what it’s been like to watch the developments in the widening scandal that centers on accusations made on July 25 by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan who, like most assassins, goes by all three of his names.

None of this makes sense, really. Why would Bonnen meet with Sullivan? Why would it not cross his mind that he was handing MQS a loaded gun? We still don’t have an answer to these questions. Bonnen’s desire, presumably, is to remain speaker. The only threat to his job would be for Democrats to win control of the House, which is why Bonnen and other Republican bigwigs have taken pains to publicly state that they are only interested in the general election, not the GOP primaries.

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Dallas Morning News - August 10, 2019

At gun control forum after El Paso rampage, 2020 Dems join Bloomberg boasting that NRA is on the run

One week after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that renewed a national conversation about gun violence, most of the Democrats angling for the White House lined up Saturday at a hastily arranged forum with gun control advocates.

The massacres propelled the issue to the top of the party's agenda, and it took no arm twisting to fill the roster with candidates already heading to Iowa for the state fair. "This has been a tragically sad week in America, as we all know," said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and founder of Everytown for Gun Safety, which hosted the gathering. The media mogul has bankrolled the counterweight to the National Rifle Association. In next year's elections, he vowed to fund "the most massive effort on gun safety that our nation has ever seen."

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ABC News - August 10, 2019

With or without Beto O’Rourke, Democrats eye Texas as key Senate battleground

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke pulled himself from the presidential campaign trail this week to focus on grieving with his native El Paso, in the days after a mass shooting took the lives of at least 22 people. The move sparked speculation that the 2018 Senate candidate, who raised an astonishing $80 million in his upstart campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz, is mulling another rumble in Texas, this time for the seat held by GOP Sen. John Cornyn in an already crowded Democratic primary.

But amid a raw and emotional week, O’Rourke dismissed questions about a potential Senate bid, telling reporters in El Paso Wednesday, "No part of me right now is thinking about politics, is thinking about any campaign or election. All of me is with and thinking about this community. And so I'm going to be here to be with my hometown, and to do anything I can to be helpful."

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KXAN - August 9, 2019

Texas House LGBTQ Caucus members respond to alleged Bonnen ‘homophobic’ comments

On Friday, members of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus released a statement responding to the recent allegations that Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen made homophobic comments about a colleague.

Bonnen apologized on Tuesday for the alleged comments, which reportedly occurred during a private meeting between Bonnen and Michael Quinn Sullivan, the leader of the political non-profit Empower Texans. While the exact alleged comments have not been released, after the two had an argument, Sullivan said he had audio of the conversation. Members of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus, however, aren’t feeling so forgiving just yet, saying:

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Houston Public Media - August 9, 2019

After shooting, El Paso could lose an estimated $11 million In retail sales

The school year is approaching with the Texas’ sales tax holiday this weekend to help draw in shoppers. In the aftermath of the recent mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it’s likely retail sales will be affected in the border city.

The Fountains at Farah Mall is not far from the Walmart where the shooting took place. There weren’t many shoppers there Friday morning besides Lisa Vasquez, who was with her son. She said she wasn’t concerned about a repeat attack. “I don’t think that would happen again,” said Vasquez. “I don’t think that would happen with people here from El Paso, so I’m not worried about that.”

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Texas Public Radio - August 9, 2019

Texans may be able to register for New Mexico’s medical marijuana program

A ruling by a New Mexico judge this week may enable Texas residents to register for that state’s medical marijuana program. But critics are worried that Texans may end up breaking state and federal laws.

New Mexico’s Department of Health went to court this summer to challenge a law that would issue ID cards to out-of-state residents, including Texans, to buy medical marijuana. It argued the law encourages non-residents to violate state and federal laws and was never meant to include them. But a state district judge in Santa Fe disagreed and ordered the state agency to issue the cards to non-residents. The court will hear arguments against the ruling on Aug. 19.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2019

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg calls for end to bonuses for utility chiefs

Mayor Ron Nirenberg has called for an end to bonuses for executives at the city’s public utility companies, San Antonio Water System and CPS Energy. SAWS CEO Robert Puente and CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams, the city’s two highest-paid employees, each got six-figure performance bonuses earlier this year on top of salary increases.

Those bonuses have been a political lightning rod, Nirenberg said Friday, adding that he has had “deep reservations” about them for several years. Removing bonuses for the city’s utility executives would “remove the political theater from executive compensation and ensure our market competitiveness,” he said at a North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

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San Antonio Express-News - August 10, 2019

Castle Hills councilwoman’s seat in limbo as politics continues to roil San Antonio suburb

A high-profile case involving the botched swearing-in of an embattled Castle Hills councilwoman came to an abrupt halt Friday when it was sent to a judge who lives in the suburb and has herself administered oaths to council members there.

Retired Judge Martha Tanner declined to hear the case of Sylvia Gonzalez, who is seeking a new court order to retain her council seat. Gonzalez was sworn in May 14 by Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar. But because Salazar is not authorized to swear her in under Texas law, city officials have challenged her authority to serve.

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Dallas Morning News - August 9, 2019

Uber's Dallas office could bring 3,000 jobs downtown, be company's biggest hub outside San Francisco

Uber could soon open a major office in Dallas and turn the city into its largest corporate hub outside of its San Francisco headquarters, according to city and county documents. The transportation giant plans to spend about $125 million on its office buildout, create 3,000 full-time jobs and pay employees an average salary of at least $100,000, according to the agenda for the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 20.

Uber has evaluated sites across the country and plans to move into two office buildings at the edge of Deep Ellum and downtown, the agenda says. The office would include engineers, finance executives, salespeople and other roles across Uber's business. Uber looked at sites in Arizona and Dallas for the office, according to the agenda for the Dallas City Council meeting on Aug. 14.

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D Magazine - August 9, 2019

Uber is coming to Dallas. What happens when the company collapses?

Big news! Uber is going to bring 3,000 jobs to an office in the Epic, in Deep Ellum. The Morning News broke the story after getting a look at a briefing for Dallas County commissioners. Pretty cool, right? That’s almost as many jobs as Toyota promised Plano when it relocated. Time to party.

Well, not so fast. Uber is struggling. Last quarter, after its IPO generated some big expenses, the company lost $5.23 billion. You might be thinking, “Yeah, but all those big tech companies burn a bunch of cash to get big quickly, so Uber will turn a profit pretty soon.” Not so much, pal. According to a New York Magazine analysis of Uber’s business model and why it is flawed:

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Dallas Observer - August 7, 2019

DPD has issued about 20 scooter citations

Electric scooters whizzing down the street, haphazardly dropped on street corners, and abandoned in parking lots and parks have become ubiquitous sights in Dallas.

Last week, Dallas police announced that officers will begin enforcing city ordinances regulating scooter use in entertainment districts and downtown. “The overall goal is so nobody gets injured,” said Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Thomas Castro.

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National Stories

The Hill - August 6, 2019

Jeremy Symons: Increased emissions in Texas are canceling out climate progress across the country

For those who understand the scale of the climate emergency, President Trump’s climate denial and scorched-earth rollbacks of climate programs have been appalling. Fortunately, for every ounce of despair, there is a pound of optimism to be had in the enormous momentum we are now seeing: surging grassroots demand for climate action, transformative leaps in clean energy jobs and technologies, and new leadership from states and municipalities.

There is a great danger, however, in confusing momentum and optimism with the cold, hard realities of climate math. We cannot afford to overstate the progress that is being made compared to the scale and speed with which change is needed. With that in mind, I have analyzed emissions data from the Energy Information Administration to examine whether states have successfully picked up the slack on climate action as the federal government slips backward.

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The Hill - August 8, 2019

Graham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said this week that Republicans would push to repeal ObamaCare if they win back the House and President Trump is reelected in 2020.

"We've got to remind people that we're not for ObamaCare." Graham's repeal bill, introduced in 2017, would eliminate major sections of ObamaCare, including subsidies that help people buy insurance and the Medicaid expansion that covers low-income adults in 36 states and Washington, D.C. The bill would essentially shift money from states like California that expanded Medicaid to states that didn't, like South Carolina. Such a move could force some states to cut health care services and reduce eligibility.

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New York Times - August 11, 2019

Trump Administration moves to decertify outspoken immigration judges’ union

The Justice Department has moved to decertify the union of immigration judges, a maneuver that could muffle an organization whose members have sometimes been openly critical of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement agenda.

The department filed a petition on Friday asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority to determine whether the union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, should have its certification revoked because its members are considered “management officials” ineligible to collectively organize, according to a Justice Department spokesman. The move suggested escalating tensions between overwhelmed immigration judges desperate for greater resources and a Justice Department pushing them to quickly address a backlog of immigration cases.

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New York Times - August 10, 2019

The global machine behind the rise of far-right nationalism

Johnny Castillo, a Peruvian-born neighborhood watchman in this district of Stockholm, still puzzles over the strange events that two years ago turned the central square of this predominantly immigrant community into a symbol of multiculturalism run amok. First came a now-infamous comment by President Trump, suggesting that Sweden’s history of welcoming refugees was at the root of a violent attack in Rinkeby the previous evening, even though nothing had actually happened.

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden!” Mr. Trump told supporters at a rally on Feb. 18, 2017. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.” The president’s source: Fox News, which had excerpted a short film promoting a dystopian view of Sweden as a victim of its asylum policies, with immigrant neighborhoods crime-ridden “no-go zones.”

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Austin American-Statesman - August 11, 2019

In Austin, Pete Buttigieg says he’s the one candidate who is not like the others

At a rollicking rally on a sweltering Saturday evening at Buford’s Backyard Beer Garden on West 6th Street, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was asked by a young girl what makes him stand out from the rest of the field of candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I think my greatest strength is that I’m just not like the others.” Buttigieg said. “We have the most diverse field of presidential candidates ever and I’m proud to be part of that. And I think broadly, we have similar values. But I think we have a different style, and I represent a different kind of messaging.” “And I think what people want more than anything, let’s be honest, we just want to beat this person,” he said, of President Donald Trump.

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Associated Press - August 10, 2019

3D printer gun plans seller pleads guilty to sex with minor

The founder of a Texas company that sells plans for making untraceable 3D printed guns pleaded guilty Friday to raping an underage girl.

Travis County Assistant District Attorney Joe Frederick said Cody Wilson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of injury to a child under a plea deal with prosecutors. Wilson initially faced sexual assault charges. Frederick said prosecutors met extensively with the victim and her parents before reaching the plea agreement. The recommended sentence would keep Wilson out of prison while requiring him to register as a sex offender for seven years and serve deferred adjudication probation. Wilson would also have to pay a $1,200 fine, perform community service hours and possibly attend treatment counseling. He would not be able to own a firearm while serving probation.

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CNN - August 9, 2019

Judge rules in favor of student in Virginia transgender bathroom case

A federal judge in Virginia ruled in favor of a transgender former student, telling a county school board it must recognize him as male, in a win for transgender rights. The judge ruled Friday that the board had violated the constitutional rights of former Gloucester High School student Gavin Grimm, who is now 20 and a graduate of the school.

Grimm transitioned about four years ago, and during his sophomore year he was dressing as male and using boys' restrooms at school. He alleged the county school board put in place a policy that banned him from using either girls' or boys' restrooms, after it received complaints from others in the community. The school constructed single-stall, unisex restrooms that he could use, but they weren't available in all parts of the grounds, according to court documents.

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Washington Post - August 7, 2019

‘We have to deal with this’: Gun policy divide hangs over bipartisan gathering of state lawmakers

The state lawmakers had been crammed into a conference room for nearly two hours, listening to fellow legislators talk about bulletproof desks, clipboards that double as shields and special phone apps to alert emergency services — all part of a cottage industry to prepare students for a mass shooting.

But as the talk neared its end, no one had mentioned the word “gun.” A visibly shaken Democratic lawmaker from Connecticut stood up. She said she was disgusted by news reports that said the gunman who had killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday had kept a “hit list” in high school of people he held a grudge against. After a weekend of bloodshed, state lawmakers from around the country gathered at the Music City Center in Nashville for the Legislative Summit, hosted by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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