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Newsclips - May 19, 2019

Lead Stories

KUT - May 17, 2019

Legal experts say Ken Paxton is following Trump's lead by shutting out Congressional investigations.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is refusing to cooperate with two separate congressional investigations, arguing Congress lacks the authority to investigate the state. It’s a move that constitutional law experts say is both unprecedented and is likely inspired by President Trump’s recent refusals to comply with congressional investigations.

"I think that’s a troubling reflection of the time we are in," said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "It’s not surprising that state attorneys general like Ken Paxton are looking at the president and basically following his lead." According to a press release from the attorney general's office Thursday, Paxton characterized calls by two subcommittees of the U.S. House for documents as an attempt to assert "control over core state functions," arguing that it violated "constitutional principles of federalism." The subcommittees are investigating concerns over discrimination against same-sex couples in Texas and child welfare funding.

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Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2019

Santa Fe community strives for normalcy on first anniversary of school shooting

On a humid Saturday one year to the day after a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School changed the town forever, the community strived for normalcy.

At Runge Park, 2 miles from the campus, faculty members organized a kickball tournament. Country and pop music blared from underneath a pavilion as two dozen teams squared off in friendly competition — an event designed to give the community a distraction from 12 months of grieving. A city proclamation marks May 18 as “Resiliency Day” in Santa Fe — an official acknowledgment of the day a 17-year old student opened fire in two art classrooms, killing 10 people and wounding 13.

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NPR - May 19, 2019

Companies that rely on Census data worry citizenship question will hurt

Some critics of the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 census are coming from a group that tends to stay away from politically heated issues — business leaders.

From longtime corporations like Levi Strauss & Co. to upstarts like Warby Parker, some companies say that including the question — "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" — could harm not only next year's national head count, but also their bottom line. How governments use census data is a common refrain in the lead-up to a constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. The new population counts, gathered once a decade, are used to determine how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed among the states.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 17, 2019

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: Your Texas Legislature declared war on your city and county. How do you choose sides?

Most of us live in cities. And all the cities in Texas take up only 4 percent of its surface. If by "cities" you're thinking Houston or Dallas, you're right. But if you're thinking Three Rivers or Monahans, you're still correct. What they all have in common are elected city governments, property taxes, fees for services, and local ordinances.

What you should know about all Texas cities, including yours or the nearest one to you if you live out in the country, is that they are under attack. So is your county government. Your Texas Legislature is in session and part of its agenda during this session is to take away a lot of the power your local governments wield by tradition.This agenda is based on a prevailing attitude that local governments tax you too much, overstep their authority, and basically just don't have your best interests in mind. You may agree with some or all of that.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Bill to ban red light cameras in Texas is one step from becoming law

A bill to outlaw red light cameras in Texas passed its final hurdle Friday. The Texas Senate approved House Bill 1631 by a vote of 23-8. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill would prohibit cities from operating photographic traffic camera systems that catch citizens speeding or running red lights and issue them fines. A handful of Texas cities, including Arlington and Richardson, have quit using the devices, or, like DeSoto, decided against installing them. But several others, including Dallas, Irving, Garland and Plano, continue to champion the cameras, which they say improve public safety.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Don’t just blame hospitals and docs for high health spending. Texas keeps dropping the ball

Health care prices are high in Dallas, and utilization is even higher. But don’t just blame hospitals, doctors and other providers. Many factors contribute to rising health costs, from government policies to obesity rates to the number of physicians per person. Not surprisingly, Texas ranks low on many such measures.

And when lawmakers get a chance to move the needle, they often disappoint. Gov. Greg Abbott recently resisted a 10% tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products, and the bill later died. That frustrated Stephen Love, CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, because he believes it will lead to more young people becoming addicted to nicotine.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

‘A lot of upset Texans’: How much property tax relief should you expect? Not much, experts say

GOP leaders in the Texas Legislature said this is the year they would finally deliver property owners the tax relief they’ve been demanding. First, lawmakers passed legislation that slows how fast property tax bills rise. They called it one of the most transformational tax changes the Legislature has ever passed.

“This not only provides relief, but it reforms the system,” said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, last month. “It’s true change that will be generational.” Then the Legislature passed another bill that lowers school property tax rates. This is the bill where taxpayers would see and feel the tax cut, lawmakers said. “Texas taxpayers will see property tax reductions,” House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said after passing the school funding bill.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

After $367.5 million, Texas gets no new child support computer software – just painful lessons

Budget writers are urging the Legislature to cut off further funding of a massive, 12-year technology overhaul at the state's child support enforcement unit that they say has been a disappointing waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Key legislators dropped the bombshell this week over the so-called "T2" project at the attorney general's office. "Stop the bleeding," said Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who is co-chairwoman of the House-Senate budget conference committee. Added Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a GOP budget writer from Southlake who was instrumental in persuading House colleagues to pull the plug: "This was a $60 million idea — $340 million ago."

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Texas House approves bill to cut off cities’ contracts with abortion providers

Texas House members approved a bill late Friday night that would bar local governments from contracting with abortion providers and could keep Austin from supporting a low-income women’s health clinic.

The bill heads back to the Senate for final approval of an amendment, and then could go to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing. It passed the House 81-65, with Republican Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats. The bill would prohibit local government entities from making “taxpayer resource” transactions with abortion providers or their affiliates. Those transactions, the bill says, would include the sale, purchase, lease or donation of money, goods, services or property.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Beto O'Rourke: Here’s how I'd stop gun violence

In the year since the Santa Fe shooting, far too many more school shootings have occurred — most recently in Highlands Ranch, where a brave young man named Kendrick Castillo died rushing toward the gunmen, saving the lives of others in his classroom. It was not unlike the sacrifice made by Riley Howell at UNC Charlotte the week before. These tragedies followed other shootings in synagogues and churches, malls and movie theaters, nightclubs and newsrooms.

Following the lead of those on the ground in Santa Fe, students walking out of their classrooms and marching for their lives, and all the moms demanding action, here are a few human solutions that I propose. First, universal background checks without exceptions. Close the boyfriend loophole, the Charleston loophole, the gun show loophole, the online loophole — no more loopholes and no more excuses for refusing to close them. States that have adopted universal background checks have already seen a reduction in gun violence. Second, stop selling assault weapons that were designed, engineered, and sold to the United States military for the express purpose of killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number as possible.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Texas lawmakers pass transparency bill to disclose government contract records

A bill that would bring records disclosing how government agencies spend taxpayer money back into public view is likely headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Senate Bill 943, which passed in the Senate and received initial approval from the House on Friday, would re-establish in the law that information about contracts that governments make with businesses must be public, with some exceptions.

State agencies and local governments had been able to withhold much of that information after a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling in Boeing v. Paxton gave them and affected businesses the ability to deny requests if they claimed it could give their competitors an unfair advantage. The ruling was the basis for the city of McAllen’s refusal in 2015 to disclose how much it paid Latin pop singer Enrique Iglesias for performing at a concert that was part of the festivities at a holiday event that lost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Abbott signed a bill Friday that would require such event information to be public.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Erica Grieder: Alabama’s restrictive law gives anti-abortion politicians an opportunity to take a stand

Celebrations over this week’s passage of the Alabama Human Life Protection Act have been muted, and understandably so. Supporters of the new abortion ban see its passage as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Its opponents do, too.

Several states have passed laws severely restricting access to abortion this year; others are attempting to do so. Texas, surprisingly, is not among them. On Friday, the Texas House took up Senate Bill 22, which would prevent the state and local governments from partnering with abortion providers for any services. That bill would appear to target groups such as Planned Parenthood, the century-old organization that provides a range of women’s health services.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Harvey flood victims close case against Army Corps

A two-week trial revisiting the anguish that flood victims experienced during Hurricane Harvey came to a close Friday in a lawsuit brought by property owners upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs seeking compensation from the Army Corps of Engineers for using their land to store floodwater during the historic deluge.

The matter will be decided by a Washington, D.C.-based jurist from the specialized U.S. Court of Federal Claims who borrowed one of the stately upper-floor courtrooms used by district court judges in downtown Houston. An array of witnesses included home and real estate owners, a renter now living in a tiny trailer, an airport owner and a vast array of experts in hydrology, federal flood insurance and mapmaking. U.S. Judge Charles F. Lettow also donned Wellington boots on a soggy afternoon last week to accompany a small busload of lawyers to dams, spillways, businesses and homes — in various states of disrepair — that took on water after Harvey.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

House approves hazing bill after addressing Abbott’s concerns

The Texas House has approved legislation that would add coercing a student to consume an alcoholic beverage, liquor or drug to the definition of hazing, which is a crime under state law and a violation of college and university conduct codes.

The measure, Senate Bill 38, passed Friday night after it was tweaked on the House floor to satisfy Gov. Greg Abbott’s concerns about possible over-criminalization. The bill now returns to the Senate, which is expected to accept the House changes. In advance of the House action, the Republican governor warned through his spokesman that he had serious reservations about the Senate-approved version.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

House backs abortion bill after heated debate bogs down Legislature

Progress at the Capitol came to an abrupt halt Friday as the Texas House got bogged down in a sometimes heated debate over banning cities and counties from doing business with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and their affiliates.

As proposed amendments and time-consuming points of order piled up, the tensions spilled over into the Senate, which was voting out House bills in the closing days of the session. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, halted voting in the afternoon, saying that if the House was going to spend hours on one bill — putting in jeopardy a long list of Senate bills that must receive House approval by Tuesday — then the Senate would halt action on House bills as well.

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Penn Record - May 14, 2019

ALI sends in lobbyists as Texas lawmakers consider denouncing group's insurance Restatement

New records show that the American Law Institute has hired lobby assistance to oppose legislation filed by Texas lawmakers to discourage the Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance from being relied upon by courts.

According to information on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, the ALI hired James W. Dow and Nelson H. Nease of Cross Oak Group in Austin, Texas, last week, in apparent response to bills created in the Texas legislature earlier this year that seek to refute the ALI's controversial liability insurance Restatement. Dow lobbies on behalf of clients in business development and government affairs. He also does private business consulting on behalf of major corporations and private equity in aerospace, financial services, public pensions and healthcare.

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Texas Tribune - May 17, 2019

Texas medical marijuana expansion gains steam in Senate, even after previous stonewalling

Even as the Senate stonewalls a handful of bills aimed at lessening criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, an upper chamber committee advanced legislation Friday that aims to vastly expand who has access to medical cannabis in the state.

As filed, state Rep. Stephanie Klick’s House Bill 3703 would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. The progress on her bill comes four years after Klick authored legislation that narrowly opened up the state to the sale of the medicine. The bill requires approval by the full Senate chamber before it can return to the Texas House, where lawmakers have already approved two bills to drastically expand the Compassionate Use Program, which currently only allows the sale of cannabis oil to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements.

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KUT - May 15, 2019

A change to Texas' voting bill could limit voting centers In minority areas, opponents say

County judges and voting groups say they're concerned an update to a sweeping voting bill could reduce the number of countywide polling places in minority communities – particularly in larger metropolitan areas in Texas.

Senate Bill 9 would change the state's formula for how counties figure out where to put polling places. If passed, counties would look solely at the number of registered voters in a given area, which could favor whiter neighborhoods with historically higher registration numbers. According to the bill, the distribution should be “as equal as mathematically possible to the percentage of registered voters of the county whose registrations are effective on the date of the election residing in each state representative district.”

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Texas Public Radio - May 17, 2019

Texas religious liberty bill, condemned as anti-LGBTQ, moves To House floor

A Texas Senate bill banning any governmental entity from punishing a private business for its past donations to religious organizations was one short step away from becoming law. Critics condemn it as anti-LGBTQ legislation.

A Texas Senate bill banning any governmental entity from punishing a private business for its past donations to religious organizations was one short step away from becoming law. Critics condemn it as anti-LGBTQ legislation. The bill resulted from a controversial decision by the City of San Antonio prohibiting Paradies Lagadère, a concessions operator for the airport, from including Chick-fil-A in its concession plan.

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SE Texas Record - May 14, 2019

Texas Bar launches counterattack in legal fight to stop collection of mandatory dues

The State Bar of Texas has launched an all-out offensive, firing a barrage of filings yesterday in hopes of killing a lawsuit brought by three attorneys who contend paying mandatory dues violates their First Amendment rights.

In March, the plaintiff attorneys sued the State Bar Board of Directors, a lengthy list of individuals that includes Bar President Joe Longley, who, in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, made an opinion request to the AG’s Office earlier this year questioning the constitutionality of collecting mandatory dues from members. In Janus v. AFSCME, the high court returned First Amendment rights to public sector workers, essentially finding that millions of public servants no longer have to pay a government union as a condition of employment. Under Janus, the plaintiff attorneys argue that it violates the First Amendment to compel attorneys to financially support the Bar in order for them to engage in their chosen profession.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 18, 2019

Bud Kennedy: From Fort Worth, they could see the world: Schieffer brothers win Golden Deeds Award

Between them, the Schieffer brothers of Fort Worth have moderated presidential debates, anchored network newscasts for 35 years, built a pro baseball stadium and team, and served America as one of our leading diplomats.

From their upbringing 10 years apart in River Oaks and Benbrook, Bob and Tom Schieffer became Fort Worth’s emissaries to Washington and the world. Last week, both talked about growing up in Fort Worth. For years, people here actually argued about whether they were Democrats or Republicans, and sometimes even about whether they were brothers. Bob Schieffer, now 82, was the calm voice delivering even-handed CBS News reports as an anchor and host from 1975 until as recently as as “Face the Nation” appearance April 21.

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Texas Observer - May 19, 2019

Texans could soon face higher fees for late rent, with little recourse to fight back

In July 2014, Cathi and Tara Cleven signed a one-year lease and moved into an apartment at Colonial Grand at Canyon Creek, a sprawling, shady complex in northwest Austin owned by Mid-America Apartments. Like most leases, their agreement specified penalties for late payment of rent: After the third day of the month, they’d owe an initial late fee of $75, plus a daily late charge of $15 for up to 15 days.

The Clevens are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in 2016 that alleges the late fees they and other Mid-America Apartments tenants were charged and paid were arbitrary and illegal. The case is one of six class action lawsuits that have been filed since 2016 against large apartment operators in Texas for charging “unreasonable” late fees. Now, at least in part because of those lawsuits, the Texas Apartment Association, a trade group for the rental housing industry that donated more than $450,000 to Texas lawmakers in the 2018 campaign cycle, is trying to change the law to allow landlords to charge some of the highest late fees in the country.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Houston housing market takes a turn as demand for higher-end homes sags

The air is starting to come out of Houston’s robust housing market. The number of homes on the market has been rising, and the average time it took to sell a home has been growing longer.

In addition, a large numbers of homes have been selling for less than their list price. These indicators come as mortgage rates have been in decline since November, a factor that should spur homebuyers to enter the market. “Altogether, those are signs that the market is slowing,” said Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com. Now, two independent reports bear that out.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Blistering report details serious safety lapses at St. Luke’s

When government inspectors descended on Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in March, they found a once-renowned hospital system beset with problems threatening the health and safety of patients. It was a place where some people were given medications not ordered by their doctors, where objects had been mistakenly left in patients after surgery, and where sewage backed up into a kitchen stocked with moldy vegetables.

It was also a place where transvaginal ultrasound probes, the type used to examine a fetus during an early pregnancy, were not always disinfected properly before being used in subsequent patients, and where staff members weren’t always following protocols needed to prevent air from seeping into the blood of patients receiving dialysis, a potentially fatal complication. In area after area, from infection control to quality assurance, from the kitchen to the executive suite, inspectors found that hospital administrators didn’t have adequate processes in place to ensure the staff always followed safety standards and learned from serious mistakes.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 17, 2019

Some wonder why domestic violence not a focus of San Antonio’s mayoral campaign

After news broke in March of mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse’s two past alleged instances of domestic violence, some hoped the revelations would spark a public discussion, especially at a time when family violence deaths in San Antonio are on the upswing.

But the reaction — apart from scattered protests by activists and a plea from a handful of City Council members for more domestic violence funding — largely has been silence. Far from becoming a cause célébre as voters choose their next leader, the issue seems to be getting brushed under the rug — a reflection, women’s advocates say, of a widespread discomfort with talking about domestic violence, still viewed by some as a “private matter” between adults.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 19, 2019

Eric Mapes: No vote until city leaders step up

A friend asked if I was going to vote this year in the San Antonio elections for mayor and City Council. I said, “I don’t vote in the midterm elections unless it’s for a school bond.” told her I feel the overall leadership of local public offices is — and has been — the same for years and is not likely to change. I believe the mentality of most elected officials has been that of a second-rate vision of what San Antonio could be.

I believe San Antonio is a perpetual economy — as more people move to San Antonio, there is a need for more schools, restaurants, box stores, gas stations and so on. There hasn’t been a new large corporation move to the area, with exceptional pay, for years. Many city leaders will argue that San Antonio is a great place to live and raise a family. And they are correct. I’m a product of San Antonio — I attended schools in the North East Independent School District and graduated from UTSA, and now I work in the city and my girls attend schools in NEISD.

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Texas Public Radio - May 17, 2019

TEA: Southside School Board ready for return to local control

The Texas Education Agency has set a date for a gradual transition back to independent governance in the Southside school district: May 2020.

TEA deputy commissioner Jeff Cottrill publicly announced the news Thursday shortly before four newly elected trustees took their oaths of office. A state-appointed board of managers has been in charge of the district since 2017, when a TEA investigation found that trustees had procured contracts illegally. None of the candidates elected to the Southside school board earlier this month were on the board at the time of the state takeover.

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National Stories

Associated Press - May 19, 2019

China's ban on scrap imports a boon to US recycling plants

The halt on China's imports of wastepaper and plastic that has disrupted U.S. recycling programs has also spurred investment in American plants that process recyclables. U.S. paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap scrap. Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves.

And in a twist, the investors include Chinese companies that are still interested in having access to wastepaper or flattened bottles as raw material for manufacturing. "It's a very good moment for recycling in the United States," said Neil Seldman, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Washington-based organization that helps cities improve recycling programs. China, which had long been the world's largest destination for paper, plastic and other recyclables, phased in import restrictions in January 2018.

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Associated Press - May 17, 2019

Border Patrol flies migrants from Texas to California

The U.S. Border Patrol said Friday that it would fly hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego for processing and that it was considering flights to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York.

The flights are the latest sign of how the Border Patrol is struggling to keep up with large numbers of Central American families that are reaching the U.S. border with Mexico, especially in Texas. Moving migrants to less crowded places is expected to distribute the workload more evenly. Flights from Texas' Rio Grande Valley to San Diego were to begin Friday and continue indefinitely three times a week, with each flight carrying 120 to 135 people, said Douglas Harrison, the Border Patrol's interim San Diego sector chief.

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Wall Street Journal - May 19, 2019

Big companies tightened spending as trade fears intensified

Spending on factories, equipment and other capital goods slowed in the first quarter among a broad cross-section of large, U.S.-listed firms, highlighting investor concerns that a key driver of economic growth is fading.

Capital spending rose 3% from a year earlier in the first quarter at 356 S&P 500 companies that had disclosed figures in quarterly regulatory filings through midday May 8, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of data supplied by Calcbench, a provider in New York and Cambridge, Mass. That is down from a 20% rise in the year-ago period for the same companies, the analysis shows.

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New York Times - May 19, 2019

Abortion fight or strong economy? For GOP, cultural issues undercut 2020 message

The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, companies are adding jobs and the gross domestic product grew by 3.2 percent in the first quarter, undercutting predictions of a coming recession. Yet for all that political upside, Republicans demonstrated repeatedly last week that they were not positioning themselves to wage the 2020 election over the strength of the economy.

President Trump and his top advisers sent mixed signals about a possible war with Iran. Mr. Trump outlined a hard-line immigration proposal that had little chance of passing, but refocused attention on the most incendiary issue of his presidency. His drumbeat about tariffs on China sent the stock market gyrating. And in Alabama, the Republican governor signed a bill that would effectively ban abortion, the most recent and far-reaching of new state restrictions and a step toward a possible Supreme Court showdown over abortion rights.

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Bloomberg - May 17, 2019

Toyota rebukes Trump for sending message that carmaker ‘not welcomed' in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corp. rebuked President Donald Trump’s declaration that imported cars threaten U.S. national security, signaling contentious talks are ahead for the White House and America’s key trading partners.

In an unusually strong-worded statement, Japan’s largest automaker said Trump’s proclamation Friday that the U.S. needs to defend itself against foreign cars and components “sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued.” The company said it has spent more than $60 billion building operations in the country, including 10 manufacturing plants.

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Washington Post - May 19, 2019

Obama and Trump broke the mold. What does that mean for the future of the presidency?

For more than two centuries, until the election of 2008, American presidents all looked alike. They were white and male and every one of them came to office with experience in the government, military or both. Barack Obama, the first African American president, broke one mold. Donald Trump, who had neither military nor government experience, broke the other.

In their own ways, Obama and Trump were two of the most unlikely people ever elected to the presidency, raising the question of whether voters in America are using a new lens through which to judge the qualities and qualifications of presidential aspirants. Trump’s presidency continues that experiment, as does the competition among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose him in 2020.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Billions at stake as Trump’s diversion of border resources puts the squeeze on business

Luis A. Bazan looks at his port of entry nestled up against the Mexican city of Reynosa and sees a maze of 18-wheelers mostly stuck, waiting and waiting before creeping along the highway that links north and south at a snail’s pace.

Pharr, a small city of about 80,000 people, usually thrives on its border crossing –– fresh Mexican produce –– many kinds of peppers, including jalapenos –– mangos, avocados and more are bound for the north, including Dallas grocery stores. The crossing here handles more produce than anywhere else along the U.S.-Mexico border. But that record trade has come to a slow crawl, hit hard by the loss of at least 60 of its customs officials who have been diverted to other duties by the Trump administration.

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USA Today - May 17, 2019

Rep. Michael McCaul on Iran threat: Directive was to 'kill and kidnap American soldiers'

A top Republican lawmaker said Friday that the threat from Iran picked up by U.S. intelligence – which sparked a U.S. military deployment to the Middle East and heightened tensions across the region – was very specific and involved the possible kidnapping and killing of American soldiers.

"To the extent I can discuss it, it was human intelligence," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told USA TODAY on Friday. He was referring to intelligence information that prompted the Pentagon to deploy an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers and other military forces, to the Middle East. Trump administration officials said the move was made to counter what they described as credible threats from Iran to U.S. forces in the region.

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ProPublica - May 19, 2019

The country that exiled McKinsey

In 2010, amid a historic commodities boom fueled by the explosion of China’s economy, international companies began turning their attention to Mongolia as it opened its vast deposits of coal and copper to commercial exploitation.

To make that happen, Mongolia concluded that it needed to lay thousands of miles of railroad tracks. Such a project would cost billions of dollars and throw off hefty fees for construction companies, banks, law firms and consultants of various stripes. The consulting contracts alone could be worth tens of millions over a decade. And if the railroad expansion worked out, there’d be even more opportunities after that. McKinsey & Co., the global consulting behemoth, was interested.

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Newsclips - May 17, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 16, 2019

Judge orders public release of what Michael Flynn said in call to Russian ambassador

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Donald Trump's attorney left a message for Flynn's attorney reminding him of the president's fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

San Antonio-based Whataburger hires Morgan Stanley to ‘explore our options’

Whataburger — with its yellow-wrapped burgers, fries and Spicy Ketchup — is as familiar to Texans as H-E-B and as beloved as the Dallas Cowboys when they’re having a good season. Now the San Antonio fast-food chain is looking to put its iconic orange-and-white stores on many more street corners, and it’s turned to Wall Street for help.

Whataburger confirmed Thursday it has hired investment banking firm Morgan Stanley to help the company determine how best to fuel its expansion. That will mean considering several potential strategies: selling the company or part of it, re-franchising, finding large private investors or selling Whataburger shares through an initial public offering. For now, company officials are vague about their next steps.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Texas part of national push for laws promoting fledgling chemical recycling industry

The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would support a fledgling industry that aims to reduce waste by returning plastic back to its original chemical components, which can then be reused for fuels and feedstocks of new plastic products.

The bill, supported by chemical makers such as Chevron Phillips Chemical of the Woodlands and the Texas oil major Exxon Mobil, is a response to the growing public outcry over plastic waste that is choking the world’s oceans, contaminating soil and threatening marine and wild life. Chemical recycling is not only viewed by chemical makers as a way to reduce plastic pollution, but also as a new and potentially $10 billion industry.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: Dallas-area lawmaker's powerful sex-abuse bill moves forward in original form

In a huge victory for sexual-abuse survivors — and all of us who care about those women and men — a Senate committee on Thursday unanimously approved the original version of smart and righteous legislation from state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, that expands the time frame for civil action against perpetrators.

Becky Leach, the wife of state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, has driven momentum on HB 3809. In testimony before the state House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee in support of the bill, Becky Leach disclosed publicly for the first time that she was sexually abused as a child. But in the days after her testimony, HB 3809, which would lengthen the period for civil action from 15 to 30 years after a victim's 18th birthday, was quietly and significantly changed.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Opponents line up to testify against Texas voter fraud bill

More than a hundred people on Wednesday filled two rooms in the Texas Capitol, most of them to speak in opposition to a bill that they call a voter suppression tool.

The Texas House election committee heard about six hours of testimony that went past midnight, mostly from people who were against Senate Bill 9, but did not take a vote. The bill is one of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities this session, and has already passed in the GOP-led Senate. The multipronged legislation would raise criminal penalties — making false statements on a voter registration form, for example, would be treated as a state jail felony — as well as create new offenses, such as a misdemeanor charge for blocking people’s pathway to a polling place.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Ted Cruz not laughing about space pirate jabs on MSNBC, Twitter

Ted Cruz has had enough of the media mocking him for his concerns about space pirates. At a hearing this week in Washington, the Republican U.S. Senator from Texas delivered an introductory speech at a subcommittee he chairs in which he endorsed President Donald Trump’s call for a Space Force to defend American interest in space.

“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” Cruz said. “Pirates threatened the open seas and the same is possible in space. In this same way, we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Muslims decry Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar

After Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called on Austin Mayor Steve Adler not to attend a Ramadan event headlined by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, the group hosting this weekend’s dinner fired back.

“Hate has no home here,” Sana Shahid of Emgage, a Muslim American advocacy group, said in a statement Thursday morning, adding that Miller’s “immoral” comments “do not reflect the views of everyday Texans.” Omar, D-Minnesota, is the keynote speaker Saturday night at the Annual Austin Citywide Iftar Dinner, a ceremonial meal to break the fast during Ramadan. Adler, who has attended each of the previous city-wide Iftars, is the guest of honor.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Bill to force Houston to sell water rights heads to governor’s desk

A bill that would force Houston to sell its water rights in a proposed reservoir west of Simonton, a maneuver Mayor Sylvester Turner has blasted as favoring industry over the city’s long-term interests, is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The bill, which sailed through the Texas House last month and passed the Senate 26-5 on Thursday, would require Houston to sell its rights in the proposed Allens Creek Reservoir by the end of this year for up to $23 million. Turner said he was disappointed in the Senate vote and suggested the city may turn to the courts to block the bill, should the governor sign it into law.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Trade war could delay LNG projects on Gulf Coast, analyst says

Escalating trade tensions with China could jeopardize or delay proposed liquefied natural gas projects on the Gulf Coast by raising construction costs in the United States and prices in China, hurting the emerging industry's competitiveness in one of the world's biggest energy markets, analysts and economists say.

China's decision to impose 25 percent tariffs on U.S. LNG comes as developers are poised to make final investment decisions for several Gulf Coast projects, including Driftwood LNG near Lake Charles, La., and Calcasieu Pass LNG in Cameron Parish, La. Cheniere Energy of Houston also is nearing a final investment decision on an expansion of its Sabine Pass complex in Louisiana.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Weatherford delisted from New York Stock Exchange in latest woes

Struggling oilfield service company Weatherford International is now trading as a penny stock after being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. In a Thursday afternoon filling with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Weatherford reported that the company received a letter from NYSE stating that it's stock had been suspended and that it was going to be delisted.

The NYSE decision comes days after the Swiss company with principal offices in Houston announced it had reached a deal with its top creditors and plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by July 15. Traded on NYSE under the stock ticker symbol WFT, shares of Weatherford had been trading below $1 per share since mid-November. Weatherford's stock is now being traded on the "pink sheets" section of the OTC Markets under the stock ticker symbol WFTIF.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Dallas could land major Uber expansion, thousands of jobs

Dallas is a leading contender for a major expansion by ride-hailing giant Uber that would transform the city into one of the tech company’s largest hubs outside of San Francisco, company officials confirmed Thursday.

Uber has zeroed in on a site in Deep Ellum for an office that’d have several thousand employees, from engineers and finance executives to salespeople. The office would span Uber’s businesses, from delivering food to developing a new urban air taxi service.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Tiffany Muller: Rep. Allred is working to reform the campaign finance system, not undermine it with an online app

Last fall, Rep. Colin Allred helped organize a letter with over 100 House challengers demanding congressional leaders make reforming our broken campaign finance system the first priority of the 116th Congress.

Allred was part of the wave of reformers elected last fall who got down to business as soon as they were sworn in to fight corruption in Washington. Allred co-sponsored and voted for H.R. 1, the For the People Act, aimed at ending the dominance of big money in politics, making it easier to vote, and ensuring public officials are working in the public interest. His amendment to require voters be notified of changes in their polling place was included as part of the legislation that passed the U.S. House in March.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Hoping to fix long lines at driver's license centers, Texas House gives initial OK to DPS changes

The Texas House on Thursday gave initial approval to changes meant to alleviate long lines at the Department of Public Safety’s driver’s license centers.

Senate Bill 616 by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would increase the expiration term of driver’s licenses from six to eight years -- the maximum allowed under federal law -- and would commission a third-party study on moving the issuance of driver’s licenses from DPS to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees in the process in many other states.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2019

Ken Herman: You probably won’t see Sid Miller’s gas pump stickers much longer

The Texas House, following the lead of the Texas Senate, voted Wednesday to stop Texas Ag Commish Sid Miller from sticking his stickers on the gas pumps of Texas. The voice-vote preliminary approval was on Senate Bill 2119, which would move the regulation of fuel pumps from Miller’s Texas Department of Agriculture to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

The bill would change the way gas pumps have been regulated in Texas since the 1930s, when it somehow was appropriate for the Texas Department of Agriculture to keep a watchful regulatory eye over such things.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2019

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen blocked gun activists on Facebook, lawsuit says

The ongoing fight between Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and pro-gun rights activists has escalated into federal court with a lawsuit that accuses Bonnen of blocking them from posting on his public Facebook account and of removing comments in support of legislation that would let Texans carry firearms without a state-issued license to carry.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Austin, says Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, violated the First Amendment by silencing those who peacefully support so-called constitutional carry. The activists Bonnen blocked, the lawsuit says, are Lone Star Gun Rights co-founder Justin Delosh and senior editor Derek Wills, along with another man who lives in the district that Bonnen represents. Without full access to the lawmaker’s Facebook account, the men could not post comments or express disapproval of any of Bonnen’s posts, the lawsuit says.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

Group keeps vow to sue UT again over race in admissions

A nonprofit group sued the University of Texas on Thursday in state District Court in Travis County, contending that it is violating the Texas Constitution and state law by considering the race and ethnicity of applicants for admission.

Students for Fair Admissions Inc. filed a virtually identical lawsuit against UT in 2017, but Judge Scott H. Jenkins dismissed it in rulings last December and March. Jenkins found that the case was fatally flawed because the sole person put forward as a “standing member” was seeking to enroll in UT’s Butler School of Music, a category of applicants whose race and ethnicity are not considered.

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Columbus Dispatch - May 16, 2019

Austin political consultant John Weaver registers to lobby for Russians, then backs out

Austin-based political consultant John Weaver, a top adviser to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, long has been a critic of most things Russian. On Twitter, he has denounced what he portrays as President Donald Trump’s chummy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the lack of harsher U.S. sanctions on the country.

For a short period, Weaver intended to work for the Russians — for a reported payment of $350,000 for a six-month assignment to lobby against possible additional sanctions on Russia. Politico reported Wednesday night that Weaver registered as a foreign agent and signed a contract to lobby Congress and the Trump administration on behalf of the Tenam Corporation, a subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

John Cornyn: Preventing another Sutherland Springs

Evil never triumphs. Just ask Mark Collins, associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Unthinkable tragedy shook his church when a deranged shooter opened fire during a Sunday service and killed 26 parishioners on Nov. 5, 2017. But the next Sunday — Collins was witness to something remarkable: One week after the shooting, the congregation overflowed and smashed its 100-year attendance record.

The shooter should not have been able to purchase a weapon. His previous convictions legally disqualified him. But because the Air Force did not upload this information into the federal background check database, he was able to unlawfully bring home four firearms from the store one day. Sadly, this tragedy is not an isolated incident. At that time, it was estimated that some 7 million criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses and records — including at least 25 percent of felony convictions and a large number of convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence — were absent from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Something had to be done.

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Texas Monthly - May 15, 2019

Chris Hooks: Inside the story of how Democrats killed a law that could have saved Sandra Bland

After Sandra Bland was arrested for a traffic infraction and later committed suicide in a Waller County jail in 2015, criminal justice reform advocates proposed reforms inspired by Bland’s case. Among the most important was a proposal to bar cops from arresting people for minor offenses punishable only by a fine.

House Bill 2754 died due to a toxic mixture of incompetence and bad faith in a lawmaking environment that speeds to a blur in the weeks at the end of the session, when it can be difficult for even veteran lawmakers to keep track of what’s going on on the floor. The trouble started just before the bill was passed, when its author, state representative James White, offered up a last-minute amendment. State representative Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, rose to ask White about his change.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

State agency rejects Montgomery County aquifer plan

A state agency has rejected the management plan submitted by new officials in charge of regulating Montgomery County’s aquifers, complicating their efforts to roll back limits on extraction of underground water. Texas Water Development Board officials notified the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District on Wednesday afternoon that, in their opinion, the district’s new plan did not meet legal standards.

This means the board must continue to operate under its old rules for now. It cannot use a draft plan until the state board approves it. The state development board provided a copy of its letter to the Houston Chronicle. An attorney for the conservation district, Stacey Reese, wrote in an email Thursday that the district was still deciding how they would respond to it. Seven board members were elected last fall to oversee the conservation district, an entity charged with protecting the county’s aquifer supply while allowing as much water to be pumped as practical.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Attorneys square off over Harris County’s anti-prostitution lawsuit

Harris County’s attempts to crack down on prostitution came down Thursday to a series of basic questions. What makes a gesture lewd? What clothing is intentionally provocative? When does waving a hand become a proposition?

Those were among the questions lawyers tackled Thursday at a civil court hearing on the county’s unusual nuisance lawsuit aimed at halting open-air sex trafficking in the Bissonnet Track, a section of southwest Houston that has gained international notoriety among johns as a hotspot for pickups. Despite steady arrests by police, rampant in-your-face prostitution has persisted for decades on the Track, impeding the safety and everyday existence of residents and workers in Westwood and Forum Park.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Robert Wilonsky: Dallas plan commission does the right thing with vote to uphold Confederate War Memorial removal

Usually, city security doesn't put up metal detectors outside council chambers for City Plan Commission meetings. Last time I or anyone else can remember it happening was in 2013, when the commission shot down permits that would have allowed fracking in the floodplain in northwest Dallas. A simpler time.

The detectors were in place again Thursday because it was the plan commission's turn to hear The Case of the Confederate War Memorial — specifically, the appeals of Karen Pieroni and Chris Carter. Each paid their $700 to protest the Landmark Commission's determination that the Dallas City Council was correct in February when it said the 122-year-old Frank Teitch sculpture in Pioneer Park Cemetery is a "a non-contributing structure" inside its historic bounds. It was not money well spent. After five hours of waiting and two hours of debating, the plan commission unanimously sided with Landmark and the council.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Did Dallas Catholic Diocese properly report allegations to CPS? Victims' advocates say officials should’ve done more

In their search-warrant affidavit that allowed officers to seize boxes of files from Dallas Catholic Diocese offices Wednesday, Dallas police launched a salvo of accusations against church officials about their handling of sexual abuse allegations. Among them: Diocese’ leaders over the years hadn’t properly reported allegations to Child Protective Services.

State law requires anyone who suspects child abuse and neglect to make a report to the Department of Family Protective Services, which oversees the CPS. But children’s advocates and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — known as SNAP — said Thursday that the diocese's reporting efforts appeared minimal, and that officials should’ve better involved proper law enforcement agencies from the beginning.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

San Antonio group takes aim at domestic violence and Brockhouse’s mayoral bid

A group of San Antonio women leaders, many of them mothers, women of faith and some of them former victims of domestic violence, have been pressed into action to denounce the mayoral candidacy of Councilman Greg Brockhouse.

Within a few days, its members will go before the public to declare that his election would send a terrible message to victims of domestic violence, who are already reluctant to report husbands, boyfriends, co-workers and friends, people who purport to love them but instead hurt them physically, psychologically, professionally and financially.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 16, 2019

Lawsuit: Hackers stole $515,000, Fort Worth employee data compromised in security breach

Hackers stole more than $515,000 from the city of Fort Worth and employees with criminal convictions were allowed access to a confidential FBI criminal database, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a former IT manager against the city.

William Birchett alleges that he was fired in February in retaliation for reporting to officials that the city’s cybersecurity had been severely compromised, including that the city had lied about its compliance with FBI crime database regulations, and had left city employees’ medical and personal information accessible to anyone with internet access. The lawsuit states Birchett reported his findings and a proposal to fix the issues to Kevin Gunn, the city’s acting chief financial officer, and Roger Wright, the city’s acting chief technology officer, but to no avail.

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National Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

A Bush, a Yeltsin and a Blair turn up heat on Kuwait over CEO’s imprisonment

Neil Bush, son of the late former president, is deeply involved in a legal fight playing out in the Middle East over the fate of an imprisoned Russian woman, a battle featuring a cast of global characters and an unusual alliance of American and Russian interests.

Bush, of Houston, made his fourth trip to Kuwait this month on behalf of Marsha Lazareva, a U.S.-educated investment manager who was convicted of embezzlement and faces other charges related to alleged financial crimes. As a consultant to a company run by Lazareva, Bush invokes the Gulf War and George H.W. Bush’s success in freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein-led Iraq, warning that keeping Lazareva locked up threatens Kuwait’s standing in the world.

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Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2019

Erica Grieder: America’s farmers probably aren’t convinced that trade wars are ‘easy to win’

The people of the United States are rejoicing this week, thanks to President Donald Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. The celebrations have been particularly clamorous in Texas, which leads the nation in exports. There’s really nothing better for our state’s economy than a good old-fashioned trade war. I’m kidding, of course.

Trade wars are really bad for Texas; we all know that, even though our state’s Republican leaders have been reluctant to tell Trump as much in public. It would have been nice for someone in a position of high office in Texas to have taken notice last week, when trade talks in Washington failed to yield an agreement between the United States and China.

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Governing - May 16, 2019

Do tax breaks help or hurt a state’s finances? New study digs deep.

The debate over tax incentives usually centers on whether they lead to job creation and other economic benefits. But governments must also pay attention to their own bottom lines. This begs the question: How do all the financial incentives that states offer actually influence fiscal health?

New research seeks to answer that question. Using data from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, researchers at North Carolina State University tallied all incentives offered by 32 states from 1990 to 2015, effectively covering 90 percent of incentives nationally. What they found doesn’t portray incentives in a positive light. Most of the programs they looked at -- investment tax credits, property tax abatements, and tax credits for research and development -- were linked with worse overall fiscal health for the jurisdiction that enacted them.

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Construction Citizen - May 15, 2019

Ridesharing giant Uber moves to settle worker misclassification claims

Prior to what turned out to be a disappointing IPO for investors, ridesharing giant Uber Technologies told the federal government that it was moving to settle thousands of claims by drivers that they should be compensated as employees rather than independent subcontractors.

Worker misclassification spans many industries and has been called a “scourge” in construction. Many workers are paid by the piece when they should, under law, be compensated as employees entitled to benefits like accident insurance and a retirement. In a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Uber said the independent contractor status of its drivers “is currently being challenged in courts and by government agencies in the United States and abroad.”

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Roll Call - May 15, 2019

Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses

The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call. “The Defense Department requested fiscal 2020 funding to support certain reconciliation activities, including logistic support for members of the Taliban and, in March 2019, they sent a notification letter to the Committee on using fiscal year 2019 funds for similar activities,” Spicer said.

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CityLab - May 8, 2019

David Swenson: Most of America’s rural areas are doomed to decline

Since the Great Recession, most of the nation’s rural counties have struggled to recover lost jobs and retain their people. The story is markedly different in the nation’s largest urban communities. I’m writing from Iowa, where every four years presidential hopefuls swoop in to test how voters might respond to their various ideas for fixing the country’s problems.

But what to do about rural economic and persistent population decline is the one area that has always confounded them all. The facts are clear and unarguable. Most of the nation’s smaller urban and rural counties are not growing and will not grow. Let’s start with my analysis of U.S. Commerce Department data. Metropolitan areas consist of those counties with central cities of at least 50,000, along with the surrounding counties that are economically dependent on them. They make up 36 percent of all counties.

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Wall Street Journal - May 16, 2019

Intelligence suggests US, Iran misread each other, stoking tensions

Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran’s leaders believe the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information, people familiar with the matter said.

That view of the intelligence could help explain why Iranian forces and their allies took action that was seen as threatening to U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere, prompting a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and a drawdown of U.S. diplomats in Iraq. Meanwhile, administration officials said President Trump told aides including his acting defense chief that he didn’t want a military conflict with Iran, a development indicating tensions in the U.S.-Iran standoff may be easing.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2019

Why Trump judicial nominees won’t endorse Brown v. Board of Education

Sitting before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Ada Brown, one of only two African American state appellate jurists in Texas, was asked whether she thought the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education was correctly decided. She wouldn’t say.

Brown, nominated to be a federal district judge in Dallas, said she benefited from the decision personally but cited a judicial canon that she and dozens of Trump administration judicial nominees, including six others from Texas, have said in their confirmation hearings prevents them from commenting on court decisions. The Brown ruling, issued 65 years ago Friday, ended state laws establishing a “separate but equal” system of racial segregation in public schools.

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Newsclips - May 16, 2019

Lead Stories

Spectrum News - May 16, 2019

Speaker Bonnen: Merit-based teacher pay won’t be tied to test results

As Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen winds down his first session as head of the lower chamber, he’s confident he’ll get his priorities passed. But he didn’t shy away from predicting the Senate will accept the House’s stance on teacher pay.

“I don’t agree with doing a $5000 across-the-board raise,” Bonnen said. “If we just give every teacher $5000, we don’t have the ability to incentivize a teacher who might be willing to go to a more difficult campus.” For months, teachers and librarians have set their sights on a $5000 pay bump promised by the Senate. But the House’s pay raise is about $1850 per educator and would include all school staff.

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Texas Tribune - May 15, 2019

Texas used money from the Help America Vote Act to help pay for its botched voter citizenship review

Texas’ botched search for noncitizens on the voter rolls, which ended in a legal settlement after state officials jeopardized the voting rights of thousands of legitimate voters, was paid for in part with dollars earmarked for bolstering election security amid concerns of interference in 2016.

The Secretary of State’s Office used roughly $121,000 in funds it received from the federal Help America Vote Act to run its search for supposed noncitizens. The dollar figure was provided to state lawmakers and confirmed Wednesday by a spokesman for the secretary of state who said it was a legitimate use of the money because it was meant to improve the state’s maintenance of its massive voter registration list.

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Washington Post - May 15, 2019

Trump prepares to unveil broad immigration plan but shows no signs of tempering hard-line rhetoric

President Trump on Wednesday warned again about the dangers of undocumented immigrants, signaling no plans to temper his rhetoric even as he prepares to unveil a broad proposal aimed at balancing public perception of his administration’s hard-line agenda.

Trump is scheduled to use a Rose Garden speech on Thursday to throw his support behind a plan developed with his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, to move U.S. immigration toward a “merit-based system” that prioritizes high-skilled workers over those with family already in the country. Several Republican senators are expected to attend, officials said.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2019

Distributor group on board with beer-to-go sales

One of the final hurdles that Texas brewers faced in their quest to get beer-to-go sales legalized in the state has been removed, just days before a crucial vote in the Texas Senate.

The Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas on Wednesday signed an agreement with the Beer Alliance of Texas and the Texas Craft Brewers Guild giving support for beer-to-go sales at the state’s manufacturing breweries, according to a document posted online and confirmed by the guild. Such breweries include Real Ale Brewing, Celis Brewery and Austin Beerworks locally.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Plano Republican says Democrat's amendment ‘gutted’ human trafficking bill giving Texas AG new power

The Texas House gave initial approval to a bill that would expand the power of the attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases in the state, but only after an amendment was tacked on that its author said would “gut the bill.”

As originally filed, Senate Bill 1257 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would allow the attorney general’s office to prosecute human trafficking cases that had occurred in multiple counties in the state and cases contained in one county that a local prosecutor had declined to pursue. Once involved in an investigation, the attorney general’s office could pursue other crimes that were part of the same case.

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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Bill to legalize hemp, CBD products in Texas passes final hurdle

State lawmakers have approved a bill to legalize industrial hemp production and clear up confusion about what CBD products can be sold in Texas.

The Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 1325. Now, House lawmakers must decide whether they agree with the Senate's amendments to the bill. If the House agrees, or the two chambers name negotiators to hash out the differences and sign off on their deal, the bill would head to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature or veto. Rep. Tracy King said he expects Abbott to sign his bill into law.

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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Texas GOP wants stronger penalties for illegal voting tactics, but some worry about chilling effect

Voting rights groups and disability advocates descended on the Capitol on Wednesday to oppose a bill they say would have a chilling effect on voting and voter registration efforts.

Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would increase criminal penalties for providing false information on a voter registration application, increase the investigative powers of law enforcement over elections and require those assisting voters to fill out more detailed forms on how they are helping. The combination of proposals, voting rights advocates say, will scare away volunteers who help at voter registration drives or assist people with disabilities or the elderly cast a ballot because they won’t want to risk having a crime attached to their name.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

DMN Editorial: The state’s investment in cancer research is paying off, but is its funding sustainable?

No one knows when the next dollar spent on medical research will be the one that leads to an amazing breakthrough. It is a certainty, however, that dollars not spent will not change the world.

Texas holds the distinction of being the second largest public funder of cancer research, trailing only the federal government’s National Cancer Institute. It’s a little-known status gained when Texas voters in 2007 approved the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a $3 billion state grant program commonly known as CPRIT, to fight cancer.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2019

Texas Senate revives ‘Save Chick fil-A’ bill that House LGBTQ Caucus killed

Less than a week after the first-ever Texas LGBTQ House Caucus celebrated its defeat of what’s come to be known as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, a new version of the legislation passed in the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill got its nickname after the San Antonio City Council in March voted to bar Chick-fil-A from opening airport concessions due to the fast-food chain owners' record on LGBT issues. Senate Bill 1978, sponsored by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would bar governments from punishing people and companies for affiliating or donating to a religious organization. After about three hours of Q-and-A by lawmakers, it passed on a 19-12 vote and is likely headed to the House, pending a final vote Thursday in the Senate.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

Texas Senate votes to ditch driver responsibility program

The state’s driver responsibility program, which critics have called a debtor’s prison that has left an estimated 1.5 million Texans without drivers licenses, is on its way out in favor of other fees for impaired driving convictions and $2 more on everyone’s insurance premiums.

The Texas Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed HB 2048, which repeals the driver responsibility program but provides money for trauma care in the state that the program originally was intended to fund. The bill, by state Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, increases all traffic fines in the state by $20, adds $2 to motor vehicle insurance bills for all Texans, and adds up to $6,000 to the fines and fees of a drunken-driving conviction.

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KHOU - May 15, 2019

One year after the Santa Fe High School shooting, are students any safer?

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Rhonda Hart. Her daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed in the shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018. Rhonda has since moved from Santa Fe—wanting to get away from the posters and t-shirts that carried her daughter’s name and the hashtag the community has rallied around: #SantaFeStrong.

She quit her job as a bus driver for the district—frustrated by the fact she was trusted to protect students while, she feels, district leaders couldn’t protect her daughter. She’s angry at politicians who flooded the town the day of the shooting and promised changes were coming. Those changes and promises, she said, haven’t been kept, and she believes little has been done to protect students and make schools safer.

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Texas Tribune - May 14, 2019

"People were giving us lip service": Texas cities' legislative efforts have struggled this year

The interest group representing Texas cities used to be one of the most powerful legislative forces at the Capitol. This session, it has become the GOP’s most prominent adversary. Its members have been harangued at hearings. Targeted by a proposed ban on “taxpayer-funded lobbying.” And seen multiple proposals sail ahead over their protests.

When, around March, one mayor inquired about the reasoning for a controversial provision in a property tax bill, he said an adviser to Gov. Greg Abbott suggested, “You reap what you sow.” The message was clear, said McKinney Mayor George Fuller: Local officials had been obstructionists in the past. Although the antagonistic relationship between Texas cities and the state has been building for years, this session has reached the fever pitch of all-out legislative assault, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in April.

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Austin Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Texas Secretary of State gets schooled on voting rights

Texas Secretary of State David Whitley – the frontman of Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton's effort to suppress the vote with cries of fraud – recently participated, with much apparent satisfaction, in a first-ever voting rights history tour in Alabama to "reflect upon the struggles, sacrifices, and successes of voting rights leaders in the early 1960s and beyond."

Whitley, who grabbed national headlines by bungling an attempt to question the citizenship of 95,000 voters and ultimately settling three separate civil rights lawsuits against the state, joined 19 other states' top election officials, who likely scooted away from the Texas SoS during photo-op hour. Might we offer another tour suggestion?

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Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2019

Texas House adds arrest report measure to open records package

An effort to require police departments to release arrest reports in cases in which the suspect died or all subjects agree to a report’s release passed the Texas House on Wednesday, a day after it was revived by an amendment.

House Bill 147, authored by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, was approved by the House State Affairs Committee 9-3 but never received a vote by the full House before last week’s deadline for bills to be approved by the body. To revive the measure, Moody on Tuesday added his original bill’s text to Senate Bill 944, a broad open records bill authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, as it was being considered by the House. SB 944 was drafted to address complaints that the Texas Public Information Act is bureaucratic and inefficient.

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Texas Monthly - May 13, 2019

Chris Hooks: The loudest and least effective legislator has actually passed a bill

After the 2018 election, when state representative Jonathan Stickland won re-election in his not-supposed-to-be-swingy district by just 1.4 percentage points, he told the Texas Tribune that it was time to turn over a new leaf.

“Look, I still have my same principles,” he said. “But a lot of times, it’s the way that you talk about your principles and the way that you pursue your agenda.” This was sort of like hearing Willie Nelson say that he was going to put aside weed for a while and focus on the music. Elected in 2012, Stickland has long been the Legislature’s foremost troll, often the loudest and least effective person there. Had “Sticky”—his nickname at the Capitol—really grown up? The answer is: sorta.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 16, 2019

Richard Greene: Hometown control, freedom under attack in Texas Legislature

It’s going to be real interesting to see how citizens across Texas react when they come to realize that the state has taken over control of their cities. At first it may seem OK since our legislators have mastered the practice of making us think they are saving us from the actions of the men and women we have chosen to manage our public affairs.

Everyone likes the sound of property tax reform and many believe it will lead to the lowering of our annual bill from the county tax assessor. When reality sets in with the result of an arbitrary cap being placed on revenues that cities and school districts need to support our daily lives and educate our children, it will be too late to restore the quality of life we once enjoyed.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2019

Trial chief David Mitcham to step in as top lieutenant after DA Office shake-up

A day after Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg forced out a top lieutenant in the latest office shake-up, officials confirmed Trial Bureau Chief David Mitcham will step in to assume the role as First Assistant District Attorney.

"David has a long and distinguished career as a criminal trial lawyer and prosecutor; he's handled thousands of cases and understands the needs of our staff because he has walked in your shoes," Ogg wrote Wednesday in an office-wide email announcing the change. "While you all have known him over the past two and one half years as the Trial Bureau Chief, I have known David for more than three decades as a colleague, friend and outstanding lawyer."

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Is Harris County’s proposed prostitution ban constitutional? Judge set to hear arguments Thursday

A controversial lawsuit seeking to ban street prostitution on a notorious strip of Bissonnet in southwest Houston will come before a state judge Thursday as lawyers address whether the proposed injunction violates the constitutional rights of the accused prostitutes, pimps and johns it seeks to prohibit from the zone.

Lawyers donating their services to defend some of the suspected prostitutes have argued that the injunction - akin to a gang injunction - is too broad and encroaches on their clients’ right to beckon people, stand on corners, wait at bus stops or talk on a cell phone in the area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas submitted a similar argument in a friend-of-the-court brief.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

No layoffs after Prop B ruled unconstitutional, fire union to appeal

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday said the city would rescind layoff notices issued to more than 300 firefighters and municipal employees after a state district judge ruled Proposition B, the pay parity measure approved by voters last November, unconstitutional.

In her ruling, District Judge Tanya Garrison said Prop B was preempted by a chapter of the Texas Local Government Code, and declared it void because it violates the Texas Constitution. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the Houston Police Officers' Union following the November election that argued the pay parity measure requiring the city to pay firefighters the same as police of corresponding rank and seniority conflicts with a provision of the Local Government Code that says firefighters should receive comparable pay to that of private sector employees.

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Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2019

Survey shows decline in numbers living on streets, in shelters in Houston area

Despite public attention and debate over homeless issues this year, the Houston area experienced a 5 percent reduction in this population after an uptick in 2018, according to an annual count released on Wednesday.

The 2019 Homeless Count & Survey, coordinated by the local Coalition for the Homeless from Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, found a total of 3,938 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Houston, Pasadena, Harris County, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County areas. The survey found that 41 percent of the homeless people were living on the streets; the rest were in shelters.

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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: ‘Same ol’ blind eye’: Thank goodness police ran out of patience with Dallas Catholic Diocese on sex abuse

For the sake of Myrna Dartson and the many others who have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church, it’s a relief to see law enforcement run out of patience with the local diocese and its foot-dragging on sex abuse allegations.

Wednesday’s search warrant affidavit lays out accusations of how the diocese stonewalled the police’s good-faith efforts to investigate allegations of sexual violence. Dartson, who got a run-around from the church in the 1980s about her accusations of inappropriate behavior by a priest, was the first person I thought about after hearing that the police had raided diocese offices Wednesday. The first words out of her mouth when I called her were “None of this is surprising. So much is still being covered up.”

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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

How police felt stonewalled by Dallas Diocese at every turn in sex abuse investigation

An affidavit Dallas police used to obtain a search warrant Wednesday to raid Dallas Catholic Diocese offices laid out allegations against five priests and suggested the church subverted police efforts to obtain more information.

The affidavit, signed by Detective David Clark, who is working full-time on sex abuse allegations within the Diocese, sought to seize Diocese records because the church hadn’t handed over all the records it had about allegations against the priests. All five priests are on the Diocese’s list of 31 “credibly accused” priests, which the church released in January.

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Longview News-Journal - May 16, 2019

Marshall city commissioner denies election fraud claim from challenger

A recently reelected Marshall city commissioner has denied allegations of election fraud presented by her challenger from the May 4 election. District 2 Marshall City Commissioner Gail Beil edged out Leo Morris Sr. in the election by 15 votes, 126 to 111.

Morris last week filed an election fraud complaint against Beil with the Harrison County District Clerk’s office. He charges Beil with committing election fraud by hiring campaign worker Mary Smith, who voted early in April then arrived at the polls on election day — an act he said violated election code. Morris had photographs taken of Smith at Marshall Convention Center, a polling location, on election day. He requested in his complaint that the election be “nullified” and the city of Marshall pay for a new election.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

Progressive group stays on the sidelines in San Antonio mayor’s race

The day after San Antonio’s May 4 municipal election, Mayor Ron Nirenberg called Michelle Tremillo, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project. Nirenberg wanted to meet — again — with members of the progressive group, which does community and election organizing and has gained clout over the last year. The grassroots organization, known as TOP, notably did not endorse a candidate in the first round of the mayoral election.

Now that Nirenberg finds himself in a runoff against challenger Greg Brockhouse, he wants TOP’s support. He hasn’t gotten it — at least not yet. As a result, one of the city’s most prominent political players is staying on the sidelines as the campaign gains steam ahead of the June 8 runoff. After meeting with both mayoral candidates over the last week, TOP hadn’t decided on an endorsement as of Wednesday.

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Rivard Report - May 15, 2019

Runoff outcomes could shift San Antonio City Council’s ‘progressive’ tilt

The outcome of three City Council runoffs could cause San Antonio’s progressive-leaning City Council of the last two years to swing back to a more philosophically divided body, posing to a challenge to whoever becomes mayor.

Voters in districts 2, 4, and 6 will choose their representatives in a June 8 runoff amid a citywide vote for mayor. But how effective that mayor will be depends largely on his ability to gather a majority of votes from council members willing to back his initiatives. Four out of seven incumbents have endorsed Mayor Ron Nirenberg, whose platform is largely viewed as progressive. Likewise, his initiatives largely have been supported by most Council incumbents except Clayton Perry (D10) and, on occasion, John Courage (D9).

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National Stories

Associated Press - May 16, 2019

NYC Mayor de Blasio is seeking Democratic nod for president

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president, adding his name to an already long list of candidates itching for a chance to take on Donald Trump.

The mayor announced his run with a video released by his campaign. "There's plenty of money in this world. There's plenty of money in this country. It's just in the wrong hands," de Blasio says at the beginning of the video. He concludes: "I'm running for president because it's time we put working people first," de Blasio says at the video's conclusion. In announcing his candidacy, de Blasio is seeking to claim a role on the national stage that has eluded him as mayor of the biggest U.S. city.

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Associated Press - May 15, 2019

Alabama law moves abortion to the center of 2020 campaign

Alabama’s new law restricting abortion in nearly every circumstance has moved one of the most polarizing issues in American politics to the center of the 2020 presidential campaign.

The state’s legislation — the toughest of several anti-abortion measures that have passed recently, with the only exception being a serious risk to the woman’s health — prompted an outcry from Democratic presidential candidates, who warned that conservatives were laying the groundwork to undermine the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

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Associated Press - May 16, 2019

White House launches survey looking for tech industry bias

On the heels of President Donald Trump's repeated assertions claiming anti-conservative bias by tech companies, the White House has launched an online form asking people to share their experiences if they think political partisanship has led them to be silenced by social media sites.

The White House's official Twitter account tweeted a link to the form Wednesday, saying that "The Trump Administration is fighting for free speech online." The tweet continues that "no matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored or silenced online, we want to hear about it!"

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Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2019

US petroleum stockpiles surge by nearly 15 million barrels

U.S. petroleum stockpiles surged by nearly 15 million barrels last week even as U.S. oil production dipped slightly and crude exports rose.

The nation's commercial crude stocks jumped by 5.4 million barrels, but supplies of other oils also spiked by 5.6 million barrels and inventory levels of other products like propane and propylene rose by 2.8 million barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

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New York Times - May 15, 2019

‘The time is now’: States are rushing to restrict abortion, or to protect it

In April, Indiana placed a near-total ban on the most common type of second-trimester abortion in the state. Days later, Ohio passed a bill banning abortion in the very early weeks of pregnancy after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Now on Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed a bill effectively banning the procedure altogether.

States across the country are passing some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in decades, deepening the growing divide between liberal and conservative states and setting up momentous court battles that could profoundly reshape abortion access in America. “This has been the most active legislative year in recent memory,” said Steven Aden, general counsel of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group.

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CNBC - May 15, 2019

The Atlanta Fed’s GDP forecast is sliding, and expectations for rate cuts are surging

A Federal Reserve projection on economic growth just weakened substantially, and expectations for a rate cut over the next eight months got a lot stronger.

The Atlanta Fed’s closely watched GDPNow tracker is pointing to a 1.1% gain for the economy in the second quarter, according to a revision posted Wednesday. That comes on the back of a strong first three months that saw a 3.2% gain and is substantially lower than CNBC’s Rapid Update survey, which puts the GDP tracking estimate at 2%.

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Washington Post - May 15, 2019

Trump, frustrated by advisers, is not convinced the time is right to attack Iran

The Trump administration has been on high alert in response to what military and intelligence officials have deemed specific and credible threats from Iran against U.S. personnel in the Middle East.

But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

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Newsclips - May 15, 2019

Lead Stories

NPR - May 15, 2019

Mueller report elicited a lot of conversation but little little election legislation

Sen. James Lankford is worried about election apathy. Not that people will stop caring about politics, but as the weeks and months pass after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report on Russian interference, the Oklahoma Republican said he worries there won't be the same urgency to safeguard American democracy.

The 2018 midterms went by without a major cybersecurity breach, but the issue isn't solved, Lankford warned. "If it continues to go well, people become apathetic about it, and they say this is not a problem," Lankford told NPR. "There will always be a problem. Every single NATO country has had election interference from the Russians. Every single one. If we ignore that, it's to our peril."

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Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Trump's go-it-alone, berserker strategy is failing and endangering the global economy

President Donald Trump's go-it-alone, berserker strategy for global trade and foreign policy is failing and endangering the economy. China's public refusal to compromise and reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods reveal the Communist regime's readiness for a trade war. Trump is preparing even more tariffs in retaliation.

Tariffs are what we call taxes on foreign goods, and taxes depress economic activity. Markets reflected the deterioration in relations, with stock market indexes dropping more than 2% on Monday. Bank of America warned Friday that "a trade war could cause a global recession," and the bank's fund managers have moved $20.5 billion out of stocks.

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New York Times - May 14, 2019

As US warns of Iran threats, skeptics recall claims on Iraq

As the Trump administration draws up war plans against Iran over what it says are threats to U.S. troops and interests, a senior British military official told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that he saw no increased risk from Iran or its proxy forces in Iraq or Syria.

A few hours later, the U.S. Central Command issued an unusual rebuke. The remarks from the British official — Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, who is also the deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State — run “counter to the identified credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region,” a Central Command spokesman said in a statement.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Paxton again rejects document demand from U.S. House Democrats

For the second time in two months, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has rejected a demand from U.S. House Democrats to provide documents related to a now-halted state investigation into the citizenship status of Texas voters. The Democrats requested the documents over concerns that the state investigation had improperly identified naturalized citizens as noncitizens, placing their right to vote in jeopardy.

But state First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer, in a letter sent Monday and made public Tuesday, defended the voter inquiry and said Congress lacks the constitutional authority to force Texas to release the requested documents. “Your (request) fails to acknowledge several incontrovertible facts about the American system of government that prove fatal to the committee’s argument,” the letter said, noting that Texas is not a subdivision of the U.S. government that would give Congress oversight over state actions.

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Put off by provost, UT grad students make case at ‘grade-in’

Graduate students seeking full tuition waivers from the University of Texas didn’t appreciate it when Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost, declined to meet with them. So about 50 of them staged a “grade-in” Monday, sitting on the floor in the waiting area outside her office to mark exams and papers for classes where they work as teaching assistants or assistant instructors.

“We know she sits on the University Budget Council, which sets the tuition reduction benefit, and we want her to visibly see what our work for the university consists of for when she is in those meetings — hence our grade-in,” said Sam Law, who is working on a Ph.D. in anthropology and is a member of the group Underpaid at UT. The protesters also complained that McInnis is not moving swiftly enough to address their concerns, noting that a task force of students, faculty members and staff members will not submit final recommendations until December.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Drug that reverses opioid overdoses now for sale online in Texas

As deaths from opioid overdoses continue to climb across the country, state agencies have focused on getting the life-saving medication naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, into the hands of police and emergency workers.

But addiction experts say the drug should go first to drug users and the people close to them, since they are usually the first to respond to an overdose. On Tuesday, one company made that goal much easier by selling naloxone online in Texas. The Chicago-based company, Fiduscript, is now selling two doses of the medication at a cost between $116 and $178.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Ken Herman: When prayer becomes preaching in the Texas House

I promised myself I was going to get through the current legislative session without publicly renewing my standing concerns about the daily invocations that open House and Senate sessions. And then Monday happened. It’s OK to break a promise to yourself, right?

On the House side, it’s a reminder highlighted in bold on the letter sent to chaplains of the day: “Because of the religious and partisan diversity of the Texas Legislature, as well as the diversity of the guests in the gallery and those who may be watching the process from afar, we urge that your invocation be non-sectarian. We request that your brief invocation promote civility and tolerance.”

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Fact-check: Beto O’Rourke says race is No.1 indicator for location of toxic facilities.

If elected president, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke said he’d launch a $5 trillion plan to combat climate change and invest in communities already dealing with its impact. “Climate change has a distressingly disproportionate impact on poor and minority communities across the United States and around the world,” said O’Rourke in his plan released April 29. “Race is the No. 1 indicator for where toxic and polluting facilities are today.”

O’Rourke’s claim mirrors a statement by an NAACP program that highlights environmental and climate issues affecting communities of color and low-income, and draws from a 2016 editorial in The Nation citing examples of “environmental racism.” We asked about half a dozen experts to weigh in to help us evaluate the claim and O’Rourke’s evidence. They said that while different types of studies can yield varying results, there’s research supporting O’Rourke’s point,

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Sid Miller calls on Mayor Adler to skip event with Rep. Ilhan Omar

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has called on Austin Mayor Steve Adler to cancel his appearance at a dinner this weekend that will include Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota. Omar is scheduled to be the keynote speaker Saturday night at the Annual Austin Citywide Iftar Dinner. Adler is the guest of honor.

Omar, among the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, has faced criticism from some for comments deemed to be anti-Semitic and remarks viewed as dismissive of the 9/11 attacks. “I hope that Mayor Adler will heed my call and be a no-show for this dinner as long as Congresswoman Omar remains on the program,” Miller said Tuesday in a news release. “I pray that he will encourage event organizers to cancel Congresswoman Omar’s participation, and, instead, reach out to leaders of the Jewish Community in Austin and ask them to participate, thus making the event a true showcase for diversity and inclusiveness.”

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Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2019

Samuel Garcia: If we want immigrants to come here 'the right way' we have to provide a path

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the harsh reality of being an undocumented immigrant in Texas. I received a lot of feedback from people who are actually OK with immigrants being in the U.S., but they would like them to immigrate "the right way." What they might not know is just how impossible our current immigration regime has made it to immigrate "the right way."

Currently, 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants are living in the country. According to Pew Research, 7.8 million of those unauthorized immigrants are part of the U.S. workforce. The overwhelming majority of the 7.8 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. workforce would be able to apply for only H2-A and H2-B visas. The administration has capped the number of H2-B visas this year at 96,000. H2-A visas have no cap, but they are limited to people who are working in agriculture.

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Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2019

Lockheed Martin is aiming fighter jet technology at a vexing issue confronting the oil patch

Lockheed Martin Co. is working alongside several small tech firms to deploy the infrared camera sensor technology used in its fighter jets to combat a pressing issue for the energy sector and its regulators — methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.

In an unusual move that followed encouragement from investors, companies like BP, Exxon Mobil and Shell have begun voluntarily supporting solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The support has been noteworthy considering oil and natural gas production accounts for nearly 94% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and one-third of methane emissions that contribute to climate change, according to Environmental Protection Agency data.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Gina Ortiz Jones has cause for optimism in District 23

When San Antonio Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones announced Tuesday that she’ll take a second shot at unseating GOP Congressman Will Hurd, the National Republican Congressional Committee was ready with a dismissive quip. “If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” NRCC spokesman Bob Salera said, “someone should check on Texas Democrats.”

As Texas Republicans should know, however, doing the same thing over and over in Hurd’s U.S. District 23 is not a sign of insanity. It’s practically a prerequisite for success. The last two Republican representatives from this sprawling swing district — which stretches from South San Antonio to eastern El Paso County, includes 29 counties and covers more than 800 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border — lost their first campaigns in District 23.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

Judge weighing fed motion to dismiss lawsuits of survivors of Sutherland Springs massacre

A federal judge said Tuesday that he would rule soon on the government’s motion to dismiss claims in several lawsuits filed against the Air Force by victims of the Sutherland Springs mass shooting. At a hearing in San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez listened to an hour and a half of legal arguments over whether the government can be held accountable for the actions of its employees.

Half his courtroom was filled with people who either were wounded or were relatives and friends of those killed by shooter Devin Patrick Kelley at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017. He added that that he believed the Air Force also knew of Kelley’s mental illness, but did little or nothing to address it. Lawyers for the Justice Department, which is defending the Air Force, claim prior court decisions and laws, including one meant to prevent gun violence, shields federal employees who mess up and the agencies that employ them.

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Texas Public Radio - May 14, 2019

Texas Legislature poised for biggest broadband push in state history but still catching up

Unlike cities, rural areas rarely have public right of ways. So today a rural electric cooperative trying to provide broadband has to go back to each property owner where the co-op already owns poles strung with electrical cabling to ask if they can string broadband fiber-optic cable.

The process is costly and time consuming. In rural Texas, large swaths of the land are ranches. Those ranches become large gaps in deploying fiber, and owners can be hard to find. “They don’t even live here. They live in Washington State or Utah or wherever, said Bill Hetherington, CEO of Bandera Electric Cooperative. But a bill that passed Tuesday and is heading to the governor’s desk would change that. It allows co-ops to announce their intent to deliver broadband and hang fiber cable, giving hard-to-reach property owners 60 days to opt-out.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 14, 2019

Why this California aerospace company is moving its headquarters to Texas

A California company that makes parts and assemblies for military aircraft is moving its headquarters to Fort Worth, in the latest example of North Texas raising its profile as an aviation and aerospace hub. Aeromax Industries Inc. will move into a 12,000-square-foot facility in Aledo Industrial Park in September, company officials said.

Part of what the company does is make parts and assemblies for airplanes and helicopters that are either out of production or in a mature stage of production. Those aircraft include Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Northrop’s F-5 and T-38 and General Electric’s J-85 jet engine.

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Houston Public Media - May 14, 2019

Crews responding to Houston ship channel spill finish removing product from barge

The Unified Command responding to a spill of gasoline blend product that occurred last Friday said on Tuesday afternoon in the Houston Ship Channel that cleanup crews have successfully flushed, decontaminated and transferred all removable product from the damaged barge and they are continuing salvage operations on the capsized barge.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the Texas General Land Office, Port of Houston Fire Department and the company Kirby Inland Marine form the unified command that’s responding to the incident. The spill happened after a 755-foot tanker crashed into a tugboat that was pushing two barges. The tanker struck one of the barges and the other one capsized.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2019

Political takeover upends Montgomery County’s drinking water war

When San Jacinto River Authority officials began to treat water in Lake Conroe four years ago, sending it out to utilities and into Montgomery County homes, they filled Champagne flutes with the product and celebrated.

The region previously relied on water from its underground aquifers, and some had worried they were pumping too much. Now, with a new, $480 million treatment plant, they felt they had a sustainable system using both. But someone had to pay for that plant. Water bills went up, people got angry and, in a political takeover befitting the conservative county, a new group backed by a local utility company and political action committees pushed aside those in charge last fall. They spent more than $100,000 in an election for an obscure regulatory board.

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Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2019

Harris County District Attorney forces out top lieutenant Tom Berg

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg's top lieutenant is out the door after the latest staffing shake-up at an office already plagued by high turnover and ongoing retention problems.

Tom Berg, a former defense attorney who came on board at the start of Ogg's administration, confirmed his departure early Tuesday - and though initially he described it to the Chronicle as a firing, officials later said that he resigned when offered a different job title. "I realize that as the office has evolved its needs have necessarily changed," Berg wrote in a letter to Ogg dated Tuesday. "I could not anticipate or adjust to each aspect of the transformation and acknowledge your need to have a First Assistant who is philosophically more aligned with your course for the future."

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City Stories

D Magazine - May 13, 2019

Zac Crain: Imam Omar Suleiman targeted after prayer before Congress

On May 9, Imam Omar Suleiman served as guest chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives, giving the invocation that opened the day’s proceedings. He was invited by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who had previously bestowed the honor upon the Dr. Rev. Michael Waters. The message of Suleiman’s prayer was one of peace and unity and justice, themes that come up often in his work.

“Let us be for truth, no matter who is for or against it,” he said. “And justice, no matter who is for or against. And hope, no matter what obstacles lie ahead.” And then, seemingly as soon as he was finished, the smears began, using old tweets (which he has discussed at length in the past) and bad-faith reasoning to paint Suleiman as a radical, stopping just short of using the word terrorist, and an anti Semite. This Washington Examiner headline is pretty representative: “KKK, apartheid, ethnic cleansing: The anti-Israel fury of imam chosen by Democrats to give Congress prayer.”

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D Magazine - May 15, 2019

Another day, another punchy debate between mayoral candidates Eric Johnson and Scott Griggs

Tuesday’s hourlong mayoral runoff forum at El Centro was in many ways a continuation of yesterday’s Dallas Bar-sponsored debate at the Belo Mansion. There were plenty of jabs between Councilman Scott Griggs and state Rep. Eric Johnson, but their policy differences are becoming more apparent.

This event—hosted by The Dallas Morning News, NBC 5, and the Dallas Regional Chamber—covered a wide range of topics, from ethics reform to how to grow southern Dallas. But each candidate seemed most focused on establishing how their personalities, ethics, and leadership differ. Johnson posited himself as a candidate who has proven in the Legislature that he can work with people who think differently than him, a crucial quality in a weak-mayor system like what exists in Dallas.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Evidence left behind after botched Pecan Park drug raid raises new questions about shootings

Just inside the front door, two teeth sit in a dried puddle of blood. Embedded in the walls and floor are bullets that were never removed. In the dining room, a shot-up man’s shirt lies in a heap on the floor, the evidence tag still attached. Blood spatter speckles the walls, sofas and stray boxes. Nearly empty drug baggies clutter the floor.

A four-day independent forensics review at 7815 Harding Street found a cache of evidence left behind by the city’s crime scene teams after a botched drug raid at the home left dead a couple suspected of selling drugs. Hired by the relatives of Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle, the new forensics team found no signs the pair fired shots at police — and plenty of signs that previous investigators overlooked dozens of pieces of potential evidence in what one expert called a “sloppy” investigation.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 14, 2019

More than nightlife: How Near Southside could be DFW’s health-care hub

Fort Worth draws nearly 40,000 to work in the hospitals, clinics and treatment centers of the Near Southside — the largest concentration of medical jobs in Dallas-Fort Worth — but the colorful district receives little attention as a regional or national medical innovator.

That could change under a plan from the city to make Fort Worth a medical innovation hub. It is an effort to bring attention to Fort Worth and cultivate thousands of medical, tech and health care jobs. The hub could also be home to the new TCU and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2019

TEA announces plan to remove Southside ISD’s managers

The Texas Education Agency has notified the Southside Independent School District that it will start replacing appointed managers with elected trustees in the next year, with a return to a fully-elected board in May 2022. In a letter sent Friday, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced that the three-year transition process will begin “no later than May 18, 2020.”

The district, which has just under 6,000 students, was taken over by the state in 2017, after an accreditation investigation found that trustees were unable to govern the district and were acting individually on behalf of the board in violation of the state education code. Investigators also said the district had failed to comply with state contract procurement requirements.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 14, 2019

Consultant tells Georgetown to get outside help to manage city’s energy

An engineering company has recommended that the city of Georgetown hire a third party to manage its energy instead of relying on the city’s utility department. The city has come under fire for losing money on its long-term solar and wind contracts due to the depressed prices of natural gas.

An external team with energy experts would be better able to rapidly react to changing market conditions, said Steve Moffitt, a partner with Schneider Engineering. The city paid Schneider Engineering $30,000 to assess Georgetown’s energy practices. Moffit said in a presentation to the Georgetown City Council Tuesday that the city did not have enough people to dedicate themselves solely to the management of the city’s energy contracts. The city’s director of utilities, for example, also is an assistant city manager, Moffitt said.

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National Stories

Associated Press - May 15, 2019

FAA chief faces questioning over Boeing 737 Max airliner

With Congress stepping up its investigation into the troubled Boeing 737 Max airliner and how it passed regulatory safety checks, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration will appear before a House aviation panel.

Acting FAA head Daniel Elwell is scheduled to testify Wednesday while a Senate committee hears from President Donald Trump's pick to lead the agency on a permanent basis. House Aviation subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen says he expects answers about the FAA's certification of the Max, the role of Boeing employees in assessing key features on the plane, and FAA's role in developing pilot training for the plane.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 15, 2019

2020 Democratic candidates appeal to ex-Obama staffers, donors and voters

Joe Biden may have been President Barack Obama’s vice president, but that is not stopping other candidates in the field from brandishing their own connections to the former president as they try to win over Democratic primary voters.

With polls showing Democratic voters longing for a return to Obama’s two terms in the White House, many of the 22 candidates running for president are scrambling to hire his former staffers, talking up their relationships with him and presenting themselves as defenders of his policies. When former Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced a key new hire last week, his campaign stressed that new senior advisor Jeff Berman had been a big part of Obama’s 2008 election. And for good measure, they reminded reporters that his campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon was a former deputy campaign manager for Obama in 2012.

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Wall Street Journal - May 14, 2019

Payday lenders mobilize in support of rule’s repeal

Payday lenders have been mobilizing their customers to push the federal government to ease Obama-era regulations of the industry, according to research by a consumer advocacy group that favors the rules.

Since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began soliciting public comment on a proposed rule governing small-dollar, high-interest consumer loans, the lenders have organized thousands of customers who have sent in duplicated comments in support of the change, said Allied Progress, the consumer group.

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NPR - May 14, 2019

Executive privilege fight inches Democrats closer to impeachment

If House Democrats ultimately begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump, last week will be remembered as one of the pivotal turning points.Trump's decision to invoke executive privilege over the full report by special counsel Robert Mueller is prompting impeachment skeptics like Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) to reconsider.

"I have to be honest with you, I once said I would be the last person standing against impeachment, and now, I'm squatting," Cleaver told NPR. The administration's apparent hard line on this is giving impeachment proceedings a new urgency. "I think you have to look at impeachment as a mechanism to get what we want," said Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

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Food and Power - May 8, 2019

Black Farmers Association opposes BB&T and SunTrust Bank merger

In a recent letter to government regulators, the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) argues that the proposed $66 billion takeover of SunTrust by BB&T will harm “rural and economically disadvantaged areas.”

In the letter, the NBFA said the takeover will result in fewer rural branches, less competition in the regions where many of their members farm, and cuts in staff and services, particularly those dedicated to anti-discrimination compliance oversight. Both public and private lenders have a long history of discriminating against black farmers, preventing black farmers from owning land or receiving the same financial supports as their white counterparts.

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New York Times - May 14, 2019

Beto O’Rourke says Vanity Fair cover reinforced ‘perception of privilege’

Former Representative Beto O’Rourke attempted to revive his flagging presidential campaign on Tuesday, saying his failure to acknowledge the advantages of running for president as a white man who has led a life of relative privilege was a mistake.

Appearing on ABC’s “The View,” Mr. O’Rourke said his decision to begin his bid for the Democratic nomination with a glossy photo shoot in Vanity Fair reinforced “the perception of privilege” that has dogged his campaign during its early weeks.

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Newsclips - May 14, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Fear spreads across Texas, as U.S.-China trade war escalates

Another round of tariffs by the Chinese government Monday sparked fears from Wall Street to the Texas farmland that an escalating trade fight between the United States and China threatened to damage the global economy.

Following from President Donald Trump's announcement last week he was raising tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, China said it was raising tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods. The prospect of a prolonged trade war between the world's two largest economies sent global financial markets reeling. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were both down more than 2 percent by Monday’s close, with Texas companies including Cheniere Energy, Schlumberger and Westlake Chemical recording deeper drops.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2019

Three gymnasts accusing Larry Nassar of sexual abuse testify about Texas #MeToo bill

Tasha and Jordan Schwikert — along with Alyssa Baumann, a former gymnast who says she was also sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar while practicing at Karolyi Ranch outside of Hunstville — were among those urging a Texas Senate committee on Monday to give child sex abuse victims more time to take legal action against organizations that failed to protect them.

States across the country are considering laws to increase the amount of time victims of sexual abuse have to sue their abuser and any organizations involved. In Texas, Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, proposed extending the statute of limitations in Texas to give victims an additional 15 years to sue both their abusers and the organizations. But after introducing the legislation, Goldman quietly amended the bill to exempt organizations from the longer statute of limitations.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Former Houston Rep. Chris Bell considers challenge to Sen. John Cornyn

Former Democratic congressman and Houston mayoral candidate Chris Bell says he's “definitely interested” in running against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas in 2020.

Bell, 59, said he had hoped to see Beto O’Rourke or U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, challenge Cornyn. But when the two Democrats decided to pursue other options, Bell said he started to give it serious consideration, as the Texas Tribune first reported Monday. Bell said he plans to decide by this summer.

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Washington Post - May 13, 2019

Before Trump’s purge at DHS, top officials challenged plan for mass family arrests

In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities.

According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president’s failed “zero tolerance” prosecution push in early 2018. The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2019

Political style, not policy, takes center stage in first Dallas mayoral runoff debate

Political style took precedence over policy in the first of a handful of one-on-one debates and forums between mayoral candidates Scott Griggs and Eric Johnson.

Both appeared relaxed and convivial at Monday’s debate, held in downtown’s Belo Mansion and moderated by Dallas Morning News political writer Gromer Jeffers Jr. The two candidates in the June runoff had previously worked together on policies in the past and expressed few major differences on public safety, infrastructure, affordable housing and VisitDallas, the beleaguered convention and visitors bureau.

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Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2019

Sheryl Jean: Vaccines aren't just for kids — many are recommended for various stages of adult life

When you hear about immunizations, you probably think of children. In fact, some vaccine-preventable illnesses are more prevalent in adults than children, and many vaccines are recommended for various stages of adult life.

Childhood vaccines can wear off over time, new vaccines become available and older adults who travel afar may want protection against diseases uncommon in the United States. Moreover, as seniors age, a decline in immunity makes them more susceptible to illnesses like shingles, medical experts say. With the outbreak in measles, the American Medical Association urges adults to get vaccinated against it as the United States battles the most cases since the disease was declared eradicated nearly 20 years ago.

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Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2019

Jenna Welch, mother of former first lady Laura Bush, dies in Texas at age 99

Jenna Welch, the mother of former first lady Laura Bush, has died in Texas. She was 99. Granddaughter and namesake Jenna Bush Hager said Monday on NBC's Today show that Welch, a longtime Midland resident, died Friday. The Today co-anchor said her grandmother loved nature and "taught us every star in the sky."

In an Instagram post, Laura Bush called her mother "a true daughter of West Texas who loved her family, books, and nature." An obituary in the Midland Reporter-Telegram said the family held a funeral Saturday in Midland.

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Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2019

Ending long TV drought, Beto O'Rourke tells Rachel Maddow he recognizes need to reach national audience

Beto O'Rourke ended a prolonged television drought on Monday night that has coincided with sagging poll numbers, sitting down with liberal host Rachel Maddow to discuss the state of his presidential campaign.

O'Rourke has spent the first two months of his White House bid focused primarily on retail level stump appearances. He quickly blew past nearly all of his rivals in the number of town hall meetings, including some who had been stumping for nearly a year, fielding hundreds of questions from voters. But he has avoided Sunday shows and cable network appearances that can entail much tougher questions, with demands for details and follow-ups forcing him to explain inconsistencies, and differences with opponents.

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Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2019

What Texas lawmakers may sacrifice to get judges a pay raise

Texas lawmakers agree that state district judges need a pay raise, and in the past, that has always meant a bump in legislators' pensions. But a Collin County lawmaker has found a way to raise judges' pay without benefiting legislators.

Under a bill by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, pay increases for judges and prosecutors would be tied to length of service. Still, the $140,000 base pay of district judges –– to which legislators’ pensions are tied –– would remain unchanged, Leach said Monday. “In my bill at least, legislators will not be getting a pension increase –– nor should we,” he said.

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Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2019

Driver's license centers have hours-long waits, but will Texas lawmakers fix the problem?

With two weeks left in the legislative session, lawmakers are still at odds about how to fix the vexing hours-long waits at the state’s driver’s license centers and how quickly they can provide relief.

The House wants to fast-track the relief plan by pushing through a transfer of the state’s driver license division from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Motor Vehicles by Jan. 2021. But senators say rushing the transfer would create chaos and want to study the move before suggesting a remedy in the next legislative session. Stakeholders also question whether wait times would improve under the DMV's oversight. In the meantime, lawmakers plan to add more employees to DPS to provide some short-term relief.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

A&M San Antonio celebrates 10 years

Texas A&M University San Antonio broke ground on a new academic and administration building and announced a $1 million gift Monday at a celebration marking 10 years as a standalone university.

The donation, from Financial Literacy of South Texas, will establish a permanent endowment to fund scholarships for students majoring in accounting and finance and to provide stipends for students participating in a financial literacy project sponsored by the university’s Mays Center for Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. It is one of the largest gifts the still new and growing campus has received, behind a $5 million gift from the Mays Family Foundation in 2017 that established the center itself.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

Trinity University rejects students’ request to remove Chick-fil-A

Trinity University will keep Chick-fil-A in its food court over the objections of the Student Government Association, administrators told students in an email. “We do not make vendor decisions based on their political or religious beliefs,” administrators told students in the email, sent Friday.

In a resolution passed unanimously on May 1, the Student Government Association had asked the administration to remove Chick-fil-A from the twice-monthly rotation of restaurants served at Revolve, a food station in the Commons Food Court. “Trinity’s values of diversity and inclusion and Chick-fil-a’s values regarding the LGBT+ community are mutually exclusive,” the resolution stated.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2019

Julián Castro pitches $1.5 trillion education plan with free Pre-K, free college

Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro on Monday proposed a $1.5 trillion plan that would dramatically expand the federal role in education with national Pre-K, universal free college and programs to lower and forgive debt that burdens many graduates.

Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and U.S. housing secretary in the Obama administration, staked out positions beyond other contestants in the 2020 field with proposals on learning that stretch from early childhood to opportunities in prison. Like his immigration proposal, which would decriminalize most border crossings, Castro’s education plan is an effort to set himself apart from the other Democratic contestants.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

Gina Ortiz Jones will again challenge Rep. Will Hurd in San Antonio-based congressional district

After finishing 926 votes short last year, Gina Ortiz Jones is launching a campaign to again challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in Texas’ 23rd congressional district, setting the stage for a rematch in what was one of the country’s closest races in 2018.

Many had speculated that Jones, a Democrat, was all but certain to run again after her narrow loss in November. The former Air Force intelligence officer and Iraq War veteran continued to appear at political events in San Antonio and criticize the congressman on social media. Jones plans to make her second candidacy official Tuesday, filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

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Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2019

Lawmakers may ditch long-hated driver responsibility program

The bumpy ride for thousands of Texans trapped by excessive fees from the state’s driver responsibility program could come to an end soon under a bill to repeal and replace the long lamented initiative.

House Bill 2048 by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, would raise all traffic fines in the state by $20, tack on $2 to insurance bills for all Texans and increase the cost of a drunken-driving conviction by as much as $6,000. For the hundreds of thousands of Texas residents whose licenses are suspended because of the program, Zerwas’ bill offers immediate relief. If the driver responsibility program fees are all that is holding things up, suspended licensees will be eligible for reinstatement when the bill takes effect, likely Sept. 1.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Neighborhood groups fight to keep people in poverty by blocking affordable housing

A surefire way to turn a bleeding-heart liberal into a raging conservative is to propose an affordable housing development in his or her neighborhood. Most Americans know the best way to end poverty is to move children out of low-income neighborhoods to places where they can attend good schools and meet aspirational role models.

Very few people, though, want to share their neighborhoods with people who do not make as much money as they do, or who don’t look or sound like them. Homeowners worry that affordable housing might hurt their property values, even as they complain about rising taxes from sky-high valuations.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 13, 2019

No-notice hearing gets ‘Save Chick-fil-A’ bill moving

Efforts to revive the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill in the Texas Senate took a rapid step forward Monday with a no-warning public hearing followed by speedy committee approval.

Supporters of the bill are racing against the calendar after House Democrats and members of the House LGBTQ Caucus used a parliamentary maneuver last week to kill a bill that would ban governments from taking “any adverse action” against people or businesses based on their membership in a religious organization or donations and support for faith-based groups. The House bill was in response to the San Antonio City Council’s decision in March to reject Chick-fil-A as a vendor at the city airport, citing the company’s “anti-LGBTQ behavior,” including a history of donating money to faith-based groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 13, 2019

Amid STAAR debate, one critic says: ‘The test is corrupt’

Texas students are taking STAAR tests this week even as the assessments draw critics and lawmakers weigh in on potential changes to the system.

The first round of preliminary results were posted last week by the Texas Education Agency. Early 2019 data shows that Texas fifth- and eighth-grade students performed slightly higher in math over reading — results that mirrored last year’s performance. The state’s passing rate for fifth-grade in math was 83%, while the reading rate was 77%. Among eighth-graders, the passing rate was 81% for math and 77% for reading.

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Texas Tribune - May 13, 2019

Texas lawmakers see a more engaged Gov. Greg Abbott. Will it pay off?

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott made an appearance in the Texas Senate. It wasn’t entirely a surprise, but the timing was impossible to ignore: The previous afternoon, Abbott’s proposal to raise the state sales tax to pay for property tax cuts had collapsed in the Texas House.

The visit was at least Abbott's tenth to one of the chambers this session, a significant increase from the sessions he oversaw in 2015 and 2017, when he drew criticism from some lawmakers for being detached and aloof. This time, Abbott appears intent on turning around that image while making historic changes to the way Texas funds schools and levies property taxes in the process.

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KVUE - May 13, 2019

Ashley Goudeau: Texas Senate passes bill making it harder to take down Confederate monuments

Every day, someone or something reminds me that I am black. Now, don't be confused, I'm not complaining. I celebrate my heritage. But being black in this country, and this state, comes with a painful history and at times a frustrating present.

When I walk around my beautiful state, I am very much aware that there are places I go and things I do that people of my same race were not able to do a short time ago. My parents, like many of yours, were born and raised in a segregated Texas. Almost every day I walk into the most magnificent building in the state: our Texas Capitol, with its majestic dome and ornate detail. A building that was built on the backs of black men, most of them imprisoned by the state on Jim Crow laws.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2019

D-FW tops the US in warehouse construction

Blame it on Amazon - and Wayfair and Walmart and all kinds of consumer products companies. That's who is gobbling up millions of square feet of new North Texas warehouse space to meet growing customer demand.

And in the first quarter of this year, more new warehouse and distribution space was being built in the Dallas-Fort Worth area than in any market in the country, according to report by Avison Young. The commercial real estate firm found that 30.9 million square feet of warehouse space was under construction in the D-FW at the end of March - an all-time high for the area.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Brockhouse’s electability cuts both ways in mayoral runoff

To an unhealthy degree, electoral politics is governed by a simple Catch-22: In order to get voters, you have to convince them that you already have voters. In order to become electable, you first must demonstrate electability.

This Catch-22 should work to Councilman Greg Brockhouse’s advantage in his June 8 mayoral runoff against incumbent Ron Nirenberg. After all, one of the big challenges Brockhouse faced in the first round of this campaign was convincing San Antonio voters that he had a real chance, that his candidacy amounted to something more than a three-month protest statement against Nirenberg. By finishing only 3 percentage points behind Nirenberg, Brockhouse exceeded expectations and answered the viability question.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 14, 2019

Brockhouse promises ‘meaningful cut’ to property taxes if elected San Antonio’s mayor

Mayoral hopeful Greg Brockhouse on Monday released a list of seven measures he said he would pursue in his first 90 days to address property tax reform if he is elected to the city’s top elected post June 8.

Brockhouse promised to include a “meaningful cut” of the property tax rate in the city’s upcoming budget and to pursue a citywide homestead exemption, among other items. While he wants to leave room for staff discretion and colleague input, Brockhouse told the Express-News he would aim for a 1-percent reduction in a portion of the city’s tax rate, which he unsuccessfully proposed last budget cycle. He is also eyeing a flat $5,000 homestead exemption.

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Dallas Morning News - May 14, 2019

DeSoto ISD cuts nearly 100 employees –– mostly teachers. Now will homeowners feel the pinch as trustees consider tax hike?

DeSoto school trustees are cutting about 100 employees –– mostly teachers –– and considering a significant increase to the tax rate as the district wrestles with a financial mess.

Early Tuesday morning the board approved eliminating 72 teachers, 16 administrators and 10 support staffers. But officials hope some of those employees –– as well as some who have already tendered resignations amid the uncertainty –– will be able to find other jobs in the district as other staff decide on retirement or jobs elsewhere.

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National Stories

NPR - May 13, 2019

China puts new tariffs on $60 billion of US goods, and stock prices reel

China is imposing new retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods, days after the Trump administration said it would impose higher tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The latest tit-for-tat exchange comes as trade talks have failed to yield a deal.

U.S. stock prices plunged on the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 617 points Monday, or 2.4%, and the Nasdaq composite fell 3.4%. China's latest tariffs will take effect on June 1, adding up to 25% to the cost of U.S. goods that are covered by the new policy from China's State Council Customs Tariff Commission. The retaliation had been expected. Discussing the likelihood of China hitting back at U.S. imports over the weekend, Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, said: "I reckon they will. We'll see what they come up with."

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NPR - May 14, 2019

Proposed HUD rule could evict 55,000 children from subsidized housing

Tens of thousands of poor children — all of them American citizens or legal residents — could lose their housing under a new rule proposed Friday by the Trump administration. The rule is intended to prevent people who are in the country illegally from receiving federal housing aid, which the administration argues should go to help only legal residents or citizens.

But the proposal targets 25,000 families that now receive such aid because they are of "mixed" status, which means that at least one member of the family is undocumented while the others are citizens or legal residents. These families now pay higher rents to account for their mixed status. Under the new rule, those families would lose all of their housing aid, such as vouchers and public housing. An impact analysis by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which proposed the rule, acknowledges that the change could have a devastating impact.

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Politico - May 13, 2019

‘The epitome of privilege’: Booker supporters seethe over Buttigieg mania

One of the Democrats running for president is a youthful former Rhodes Scholar who speaks more than one language and cut his teeth as a two-term mayor. The other is Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg’s sparkling resume has been the subject of countless profiles, powering the South Bend mayor to the top tier of the 2020 field. Sen. Cory Booker, however, hasn’t received nearly as much attention and remains mired in the middle of the pack in recent polls. The similarities between their credentials — and the disparity between how their campaigns have been covered on the campaign trail — are frustrating Booker allies who question whether the media is giving the New Jersey senator a fair shot.

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Politico - May 7, 2019

Economists flee Agriculture Dept. after feeling punished under Trump

Economists in the Agriculture Department's research branch say the Trump administration is retaliating against them for publishing reports that shed negative light on White House policies, spurring an exodus that included six of them quitting the department on a single day in late April.

The Economic Research Service — a source of closely read reports on farm income and other topics that can shape federal policy, planting decisions and commodity markets — has run afoul of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with its findings on how farmers have been financially harmed by President Donald Trump's trade feuds, the Republican tax code rewrite and other sensitive issues, according to current and former agency employees.

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Jewish Telegraphic Agency - May 6, 2019

Jews more likely than Christians to be critical of Trump’s Israel policy, study shows

American Jews are much more likely than their Christian counterparts to express criticism of President Donald Trump’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new survey.

In a survey published Monday, the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of American Jews said that Trump was favoring the Israelis too much, while a similar share, 47 percent, said he was striking the right balance between the Israelis and Palestinians. Six percent found that Trump favored the Palestinians too much. The survey included interviews with 284 Jewish respondents.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

President Trump to ask for an additional $1.6 billion to fund NASA's moon 2024 plan

President Donald Trump has asked Congress to give NASA an additional $1.6 billion in the coming year to jump start an effort to put humans on the moon by 2024 — but experts say the space agency will need billions more.

The additional money would help NASA develop a commercial lunar lander for humans three years earlier than planned, funnel more money into the Space Launch System rocket being built to take the Orion spacecraft to the moon and enable more robotic exploration of the moon's polar regions before a human mission.

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Washington Post - May 13, 2019

Rosenstein defends handling of Mueller probe; criticizes Comey as 'partisan pundit'

Former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein on Monday defended his role in the firing of James Comey from the FBI and criticized the bureau's former director as a "partisan pundit" - offering one of his most detailed public accounts of the hectic events which led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.

Speaking to the Greater Baltimore Committee just days after stepping down as the Justice Department's No. 2 official, Rosenstein fired back at criticism that he acted inappropriately for President Donald Trump and sought to present his legacy as one of an official who was thrust into a political maelstrom and did what he thought was right.

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Associated Press - May 10, 2019

On campuses, O'Rourke takes rather than gives advice

It's going to be a busy weekend for college commencements in New Hampshire, but Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke said Friday he would rather take advice from graduates than dole it out.

At the first stop, he was questioned by a Colby-Sawyer College senior who worked with refugees in Greece last summer.. O'Rourke told her he would not just reverse the Trump administration's elimination of aid to the "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, but would also double it to $1 billion. The former Texas congressman's visit to Colby-Sawyer College on Friday was his 32nd appearance on a college campus in the last seven weeks, and he planned to hit Dartmouth College later in the day.

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Newsclips - May 13, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - May 13, 2019

Frustration, miscalculation: Inside the US-China trade impasse

The U.S. and Chinese governments both sent signals ahead of their trade talks in Washington last week that a pact was so near they would discuss the logistics of a signing ceremony.

In a matter of days, the dynamic shifted so markedly that the Chinese deliberated whether to even show up after President Trump ordered a last-minute increase in tariffs on Chinese imports because the U.S. viewed China as reneging on previous commitments.

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Dallas Morning News - May 13, 2019

Gromer Jeffers, Jr.: Beto O'Rourke's Texas delegate fight shapes hard-fought Democratic race for president

Last week, Beto O'Rourke made one of the most significant hires of his fledgling candidacy for president. He tapped Jeff Berman, the former campaign strategist for former President Barack Obama, as his delegate guru. Berman's job is to develop a plan that gets O'Rourke enough delegates to seize the Democratic Party nomination.

Berman was the MVP (most valuable politico) in Obama's 2008 campaign, helping the star candidate gobble up delegates and hold off Hillary Clinton, who didn't grasp the math until it was too late. In 2016, Berman worked for Clinton, helping her get past Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

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Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2019

Democrats flex in Texas Legislature, with an eye on 2020

After picking up 14 seats in the midterm elections, Democrats are using their increased numbers this session to derail key Republican priorities in a state where the left has long been out of power.

In flexing their political muscle, Democrats have blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s embattled secretary of state nominee and helped stop a sales tax hike that GOP leaders had championed in order to cut property taxes. "This session more than other sessions, the Democratic caucus has stuck together more. We’ve communicated a lot better,” said Senate Democratic Leader José Rodríguez of El Paso. "I think the midterm elections may have had something to do with the caucus being much more united."

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Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2019

Documents reveal a lizard’s role in the West Texas fracking boom

Bud Brigham, the owner of Austin-based Atlas Sand, had a problem: Four thousand acres of remote West Texas property his company had leased from the state to mine sand for hydraulic fracturing was considered suitable habitat for a rare species of lizard, potentially limiting his ability to drag material off the property.

So, he began meeting and corresponding with top government officials in Texas and Washington, D.C., to persuade them to approve his operations plan. A year earlier, in 2017, Brigham, an Austin geophysicist, had sold his drilling and pipeline firm, Brigham Resources, for $2.55 billion. The lobbying effort, revealed in documents obtained by the American-Statesman through requests under the Texas Public Information Act, shows what’s at stake for oil-and-gas and related companies in the Permian Basin as state and federal officials weigh how to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard while also promoting drilling activity.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 13, 2019

True cost of health care: New data shows routine blood tests in Texas can cost anywhere between $14 to $952

For consumers, it comes as no surprise that the world of health care pricing is unpredictable, but new research released by the Health Care Cost Institute shows just how different the prices for common medical services can be — from city to city, but also from clinic to clinic within the same market.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the research is based on an analysis of employer-sponsored health insurance claims of 34 million Americans in 112 markets. Researchers analyzed the price of 13,517 blood tests within the San Antonio-New Braunfels area and found that prices for the test can cost anywhere from $56 to $492. It’s difficult for patients to know whether the lab they choose is charging more than the lab down the street.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2019

Elaine Aylala: San Antonio voters face real issues in mayoral runoff, a chicken franchise isn’t one of them

The issue of domestic violence has yet to be adequately addressed during an election cycle in which a fast-food chain has managed to get more traction. Incumbent Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Councilman Greg Brockhouse will face off in the June 8 runoff. Early voting begins May 28.

Domestic violence did get some attention this week when two City Council members — Shirley Gonzales in District 5 and Manny Peláez in District 8 — announced their support for more funding and the development of a comprehensive plan to address domestic violence in San Antonio.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2019

THC approves Alamo cemetery designation

The Texas Historical Commission took action on two key issues Friday, supporting separate groups of advocates who want to expand the $450 million Alamo redevelopment project to include history before and after the famed 1836 battle.

The commission declared a large part of the Alamo grounds a historic cemetery, adding weight to Native Americans’ insistence that their early history be recognized in the redevelopment. Commissioners also approved an added layer of protection for the 1921 Woolworth building, naming it a state antiquities landmark.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2019

Texas attorney general proposes fining Valero $1.3 million for Corpus water contamination

The Texas General General’s Office wants to fine Valero Energy Company $1.3 million in connection with a environmental incident that contaminated Corpus Christi’s water supply and left residents without water for drinking, bathing and cooking for nearly four days.

San Antonio-based Valero disclosed the proposed penalty in a May 7 first quarter financial statement stating “We have received a letter and draft Agreed Final Judgment from the Texas AG related to a contaminated water backflow incident that occurred at the Valero Corpus Christi Asphalt Plant. The draft Agreed Final Judgment assesses proposed penalties in the amount of $1,300,000. We are working with the Texas AG to resolve this matter.”

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San Antonio Express-News - May 10, 2019

Migrants rescued from raging Rio Grande

Frantic and shouting, Border Patrol agents rescued a group of migrants whose inflatable rafts tipped them into the rain-swollen Rio Grande on Friday afternoon. “Grab the bag! Grab the bag!” one agent yelled, referring to the rescue device at the end of a rope used to pull the migrants to shore.

Five of the nine migrants were children. They all began to scream. One agent jumped into the river to save a 7-year-old boy, who had separated from his float and was going under in the swift current. The dramatic rescue came days after a raft capsized at night and tossed another group of migrants into this stretch of the river. A 10-year-old boy drowned and three others are missing.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Researchers partner to better understand potential losses of environmental disasters in Galveston Bay

Researchers in Texas and North Carolina have partnered with a New York foundation to better understand the environmental impacts of natural disasters and the losses they might present in the Galveston Bay.

“Hurricanes Ike and Harvey have revealed substantial flooding risks in the Houston metro region, particularly those that occur outside the 100-year FEMA floodplains where the vast majority of properties remain uninsured by the federal government,” Gregory Characklis, a professor of environmental science and engineering at the University of North Carolina, said in a news release.

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Houston Chronicle - May 13, 2019

Lisa Gray: It is a Houstonian's duty to hate bad tacos

On Twitter this morning, I saw this dreadful post: "These tacos are packed with nutrient-dense broccoli and comforting potatoes for a satisfying meal that comes together in just 45 minutes https://nyti.ms/2Vz3Tln."

Really, New York Times? "In this morning's adventure of wading through the stuff in the "Twitter-verse," I've quickly realized "celebrate diversity" apparently doesn't apply to tacos..." I've heard this line of thinking before. Houston celebrates diversity, the argument goes. So shouldn't Houstonians love all tacos? The answer is no. No, no, no, no, no. All people deserve respect. But not all tacos. Not the ones from Taco Bell. Not the school-lunchroom kind with crispy shells soaked in grease. And not New York Times tacos with runny eggs and broccoli.

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Houston Chronicle - May 10, 2019

Texas House passes bill to allow more third-party candidates

With the memory of a heated 2018 election cycle still fresh, Texas House Republicans and Democrats were divided this week over how to treat third-party candidates who have the potential to siphon votes from the major parties.

A bill passed Friday with mostly Republican support would make it easier for third parties like the Green Party, whose voters often overlap with Democrats’, to get their candidates on the ballot in 2020. The Libertarian Party, often seen as Republicans’ competition, already meets current requirements. Texas makes the process for third parties to enter races difficult as it is. First, a party must either hold a convention with total attendance equal to 1 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the last election or gather the signatures of that many people who did not vote in a primary that year.

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Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2019

50,000 Texas children a year lose Medicaid over paperwork. A bill to change that died.

A bill that sought to prevent low-income children from losing Medicaid coverage mid-year over paperwork issues never made it to the House floor. That means the measure, which had bipartisan support, likely is dead.

Each year, about 50,000 Texas children are losing Medicaid coverage because their families fail to quickly send proof to the state they still are poor enough to qualify during regular income checks, state data show. Though other states run income checks during the year, advocates said they don’t know another state that checks as frequently as Texas. Families flagged multiple times by the state and asked to send in pay stubs sometimes get confused by the constant letters and don’t send the documents, advocates said.

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Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2019

Jim Baron: Grass-roots businesses like my restaurants need immigrant labor to thrive

Since 1988, my wife and I have operated more than 20 different restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Recently, we built a new restaurant and event center in Fort Worth. Whether it was the people who laid the brick, cleaned the site, painted the exterior, or did the landscape and electrical work, almost all were immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Most of the people who have worked for us over our 30 years in the Texas restaurant business, including our cooks, servers, bussers and hosts, have also been immigrants. Like our construction employees, they have been the most hardworking, loyal and reliable people we have had the honor of including on our team. Restaurants are true grass-roots businesses that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employ 12.1 million people, supporting a constellation of other businesses and fueling the prosperity of our local and national economy.

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Dallas Morning News - May 10, 2019

American Airlines made $1.2 billion last year by charging travelers for their least favorite thing

Baggage fees are big business for Fort Worth-based American Airlines, bringing in an industry-leading $1.2 billion in revenue last year for the world's largest carrier.

And even the airline that boasts "bags fly free" –– Dallas-based Southwest Airlines –– collected a tidy $50 million from charging passengers for extra luggage. It gives passengers two free checked bags before it tacks on fees. Overall, the airline industry racked up $4.9 billion in 2018 by charging customers baggage fees, according to new data collected by the U. S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It was the most lucrative year since airlines started the practice more than a decade ago.

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The Guardian - May 13, 2019

The astonishing disappearing act of Beto O’Rourke

When Beto O’Rourke travelled to Yosemite in California to unveil his $5tn plan on climate change, a ripple of surprise crossed America. How did the tall white guy with the funny first name known for his punk past, Beatnik road trips and fondness for campaigning atop counters get to be the first Democratic candidate to proclaim on the crisis of our age?

This wasn’t the O’Rourke that the country had grown used to during his battle with Ted Cruz last November for a US Senate seat. Then, the Texas Democrat had propelled himself to within three percentage points of victory, and with it national stardom, by making viral speeches about NFL players taking a knee and by instilling hope through a feel-good but rather wishy-washy call to unity.

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HuffPost - May 12, 2019

Texas AG Paxton talks tough about election fraud cases, but they don't amount to much

In March of 2018, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office blasted out a press release announcing the indictments of three people in southern Texas for serious election and voting-related crimes. It was one of several press releases his office sent that year trumpeting arrests and indictments connected to voting misconduct.

Paxton has emphasized prosecuting election fraud in a political climate in which President Donald Trump has made unsubstantiated claims about noncitizens voting, and as the Hispanic electorate is growing. Despite Paxton’s intense focus on this issue, his office does not appear to have secured convictions proving widespread election fraud since increasing attention to the issue in 2018 — but he has continued to aggressively pursue prosecutions. Paxton’s office had 75 active election fraud investigations and 15 cases pending as of last month.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 13, 2019

Lagging behind, Julián Castro needs a moment

At an East Austin fundraiser Wednesday evening, Julián Castro engaged his audience of about 100 in a fantasy of his first day as president in 2021, arriving at the White House with his family to usher out the Trumps.

For Castro, and the Democratic voters he hopes to appeal to, it is a sweet image, ripe with cosmic comeuppance: the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, becoming America’s first Hispanic president, replacing the man whose candidacy began with the disparagement of Mexican immigrants. For the moment, it appears nothing more than a daydream. Castro is well back in the pack of what are now 21 Democratic presidential aspirants, scoring at less than 1 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2019

Can quinceañeras boost Latino voter turnout in Texas?

When more than a dozen Latina teenagers donning elegant quinceañera dresses showed up on the steps of the Texas Capitol two years ago to protest the so-called sanctuary cities ban, people across the country took notice and their message caught fire.

Now quinceañeras — the coming-of-age celebrations when young women turn 15 — may help boost Texas Latino voter turnout. A campaign launched this week by the nonprofit Jolt Initiative will soon make it possible for quinceañera guests to register to vote at those celebrations. With an estimated 50,000 quinceañeras taking place in Texas annually, according to Jolt, the group aims to register 5,000 people to vote in the first eight months of the campaign. Jolt’s game plan? Attending 15 quinceañeras a week in Austin, Dallas and Houston.

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County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 10, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Helping kids or building empires? Why children’s hospitals are popping up in Dallas suburbs

When it comes to children’s health, can you have too much of a good thing? That’s worth asking after two leading health systems announced they’re building big children’s facilities in Prosper, near the Dallas North Tollway and U.S. Highway 380. The two projects, about 35 miles north of downtown Dallas, are just 3 miles apart.

Cook Children’s, whose flagship hospital is in downtown Fort Worth, unveiled plans for a hospital on April 25, hours after Children’s Health in Dallas announced plans for a new campus on 72 acres. While the additions would greatly increase the offerings in specialized pediatric care, that’s just the half of it. About 8 miles to the south in Frisco, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children opened in October. Not far away, there’s Children’s Medical Center Plano, which opened in 2008.

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City Stories

KUT - May 13, 2019

Some see a plan to expand I-35 as a betrayal of Austin’s environmental values

Last week, the Austin City Council voted to back the Green New Deal, a national plan to tackle climate change that would overhaul the U.S. economy and energy sector. It was a big gesture from a city that prides itself on its environmental leadership. But, critics say, that gesture was undercut by a vote some local leaders took earlier that week –– one that would drastically expand Interstate 35.

The Capital Area Regional Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board, on which some council members also sit, approved meting out $500 million to the Texas Department of Transportation to reduce highway congestion on 35. $400 million would go toward building out three new lanes on I-35 from Round Rock to Buda.

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Rivard Report - May 10, 2019

Downtown San Antonio Express-News building put up for sale

The longtime home of the San Antonio Express-News is on the market. The Express-News reported Friday that owner Hearst Corp. is exploring a possible sale of the downtown building at 301 Avenue E, which has served as the office for San Antonio’s daily newspaper for 90 years.

The eight-story building, which sits on 2.1 acres and has about 172,000 square feet of space, was recently assessed at $10.4 million by the Bexar County Appraisal District. There is no listed price for the property. The newspaper, which moved into the building in 1929, has shrunk its staff following a series of layoffs in recent years, and the building’s top four floors are empty.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 11, 2019

HUD blocks San Antonio’s plan to use $500,000 for air conditioning in public housing

The federal government has rejected the city’s request to spend $500,000 on air conditioners for public housing, jeopardizing the installation of window units in roughly 800 apartments before sweltering summer temperatures arrive.

The denial represents one-third of $1.5 million earmarked to provide air conditioning in 2,400 apartments managed by the San Antonio Housing Authority . Under the agreement, SAHA pitched in $500,000; another $500,000 came from private donors; and the city pledged the remaining $500,000.

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National Stories

Washington Post - May 11, 2019

‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’ As emergencies rise across rural America, hospitals fights for their lives

In the past decade, emergency room visits to America’s more than 2,000 rural hospitals increased by more than 60 percent, even as those hospitals began to collapse under doctor shortages and historically low operating margins.

They treat patients that are on average six years older and 40 percent poorer than those in urban hospitals, which means rural hospitals have suffered disproportionately from government cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.

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Washington Post - May 12, 2019

Florida Republicans warn that Trump’s Venezuela policy is at risk of backfiring

Some Florida Republicans are warning that President Trump’s Venezuela policy risks creating political problems in the must-win state, where the fate of that Latin American nation is hugely important to large Venezuelan and Cuban immigrant communities.

Trump has tied his toughness toward Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, to his domestic political message, citing it as evidence that he is fighting socialism while he accuses Democrats of embracing it. But without Maduro’s ouster, Trump’s policies could look weak and his effort could seem a failure — turning Venezuela into a political liability. That compounds other dangers for Trump among Hispanic voters in Florida. His new restrictions on Cuba win praise from older Cuban Americans, but polls in recent years show a younger generation favors more open relations.

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Associated Press - May 13, 2019

University of Oklahoma president announces resignation

University of Oklahoma President Jim Gallogly, whose short tenure at the state's flagship university included a sexual misconduct probe of its longtime former president and bitter student reaction to a racist incident on campus, announced his resignation on Sunday.

A former energy industry CEO and major OU donor who began his tenure on July 1, Gallogly said he informed the university's regents that he would step down once they have a transition plan in place. Brought in to help tighten the university's finances, Gallogly soon found OU embroiled in an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former President David Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator who led the institution for 24 years.

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Reuters - May 13, 2019

Pompeo to hold talks on Iran in Brussels en route to Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will cancel the Moscow leg of his Russia trip, but will meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as planned on Tuesday, a State Department official said.

Pompeo, who departed from Joint Base Andrews near Washington en route for Brussels, will hold talks with European officials on Iran and other issues on Monday before heading to Russia, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity. On Sunday, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said the U.S. military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represented a target, the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) said.

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Pacific Standard - May 8, 2019

ICE faces legal challenges to arresting immigrants at courthouses and immigration proceedings

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement faces a growing number of legal challenges to its practice of conducting sting operations at courthouses and at appointments immigrants have with U.S. immigration authorities.

Civil rights advocates have long argued such enforcement dissuades immigrants from cooperation with authorities, and, as such, functionally limits their ability to access the full protection of the law. A federal judge in Maryland decided last Thursday that ICE agents acted unlawfully when they detained Wanrong Lin. Lin, a Chinese national, was arrested while meeting with immigration authorities to apply for a deportation waiver that would allow him to remain with his family in the U.S. as he underwent applications for legal residency status.

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NPR - May 10, 2019

Why racial gaps in maternal mortality persist

Medicine continues to advance on many fronts, yet basic health care fails hundreds of women a year who die during or after pregnancy, especially women of color.

Black mothers die at a rate that's 3.3 times greater than whites, and Native American or Alaskan Native women die at a rate 2.5 times greater than whites, according to a report out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, the report concluded, roughly 3 in 5 pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. The racial disparity in maternal death rates is a dramatic argument for prevention efforts that address diverse populations, says Dr. Wanda Barfield, director of the Division of Reproductive Health and assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service.

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Houston Chronicle - May 8, 2019

Uber ends up worth less as a public company than when it was private

Uber did not get five stars from Wall Street. In its hotly anticipated debut on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, the stock stumbled out of the gate and never recovered. It was a stunning setback for the biggest initial public offering in years — and the largest for a Bay Area company since Facebook in 2012.

The ride-hailing giant’s offering price of $45 per share gave it an an initial valuation of $75 billion. The stock — trading under the ticker symbol UBER — plunged, rose, and then dropped again. When the markets closed, Uber’s share price was down 7.6% and it was worth $69.8 billion — a little less than the value that its private investors had assigned it as they fueled the company’s growth with billions of dollars.

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Newsclips - May 12, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2019

‘Starting from ground zero': Texas Senate, House face off on teacher pay raise, tax bill details

Legislation that would deliver on the promises of property tax relief, revamping school funding and teacher pay raises is seemingly inches away from the governor’s desk, but ?the House and the Senate remain miles apart on some important details.

“Nothing is off the table. We’re starting at ground zero,” Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble, said Friday as the 10 members of the House and Senate conference committee met for the first time to negotiate the school bill. ?The chambers have only two weeks to resolve their differences and pass a final version of the bills. Until then, the most critical questions surrounding the legislation remain unanswered.

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Politico - May 10, 2019

Beto’s long history of failing upward

The presidential run of Beto O’Rourke is a profoundly personality-driven exercise, his charisma and Kennedy-esque demeanor the topic of one profile after another, so it’s surprising to listen to his speeches on the stump in which he doesn’t talk a whole lot about himself. When he does offer up bits of his biography, he leaned most heavily on his run last year against Ted Cruz for a spot in the United States Senate.

There’s a reason his biography doesn’t feature much in the campaign. For O’Rourke, the phenomenon on display in that race—failure without negative effects, and with perhaps even some kind of personal boost—is a feature of his life and career. That biography is marked as much by meandering, missteps and moments of melancholic searching as by résumé-boosting victories and honors.

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New York Times - May 10, 2019

She stopped to help migrants on a Texas highway. Moments later, she was arrested.

Teresa L. Todd pulled over one recent night on a dark West Texas highway to help three young Central American migrants who had flagged her down. Ms. Todd — an elected official, government lawyer and single mother in a desert border region near Big Bend National Park — said she went into “total mom mode” when she saw the three siblings, one of whom appeared to be very ill.

Struggling to communicate using her broken Spanish, Ms. Todd told the three young people to get out of the cold and into her car. She was phoning and texting friends for help when a sheriff’s deputy drove up, followed soon by the Border Patrol. “They asked me to step behind my car, and the supervisor came and started Mirandizing me,” said Ms. Todd, referring to being read her Miranda rights. “And then he says that I could be found guilty of transporting illegal aliens, and I’m, like, ‘What are you talking about?”

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Associated Press - May 10, 2019

Pentagon moves $1.5 billion, including from Afghan aid, to border wall construction

The Pentagon is shifting $1.5 billion originally intended for supporting the Afghan security forces and other military projects to help pay for construction of 80 miles of wall at the U.S.-Mexican border, officials said Friday.

Congress was notified of the move Friday. It follows the Pentagon’s decision in March to transfer $1 billion from Army personnel budget accounts to support wall construction. Some lawmakers have been highly critical of the Pentagon shifting money not originally authorized for border security.

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2019

Central Texas school board members taking sides in the school finance debate

As state lawmakers negotiate competing versions of this session’s marquee school finance bill, Central Texas school board members are pushing against the Senate’s plan, which they say would tie the hands of their districts and could leave them in worse financial positions in the future.

Key provisions in the Senate’s version of House Bill 3 dictate how a majority of the $9 billion lawmakers have set aside for schools and property tax relief over the next two years must be spent — primarily on giving teachers and librarians each a $5,000 pay raise. Although formal estimates have not yet been released, an estimated $2.3 billion is expected to be left over for classrooms, much lower than the $6 billion in the House’s version, which would give lower raises to more school employees and allow districts flexibility to use some dollars set aside for other staffing issues.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 10, 2019

Senate’s Confederate debate exposes wounds, spurs soul searching

After almost 4½ hours of debate on a bill designed to make it harder to remove or relocate Confederate and other historic monuments, a subdued state Sen. Royce West explained his opposition by inviting his fellow senators to “look over here, look over my shoulder.”

Looming on the wall behind West, an African American Democrat from Dallas, stood a 9-foot-tall painting of Albert Sidney Johnston, a Confederate general who commanded the western front early in the Civil War. “Every day that I come into this chamber, I’m reminded of the Confederacy,” West said. “That may not mean anything to you, but it means a lot to me. I’m reminded of the tyranny. I’m reminded of the purpose of the Confederacy. I’m reminded that they used God’s name in order to justify slavery,” he said, his voice growing softer as he locked eyes, one at a time, with other senators — at least those who were looking his way.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 10, 2019

$3 billion more for Texas cancer fund? Voters will decide

Texas voters will go to the polls this fall to decide if the state should continue spending billions of taxpayer dollars on cancer research and prevention, after state senators on Friday endorsed a measure that calls for a referendum on the issue.

House Joint Resolution 12 sets a Nov. 5 statewide vote to amend the Texas constitution to authorize another $3 billion in general obligation bonds to pay for grants issued by the state’s cancer-fighting agency. The measure was approved 31-0 by the Senate after previously passing the House 130-15. No action is required by Gov. Greg Abbott on joint resolutions.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 10, 2019

Facebook hiring surge turns Austin into key hub for social media giant

In an Austin metro area where tech is taking over, Facebook is making sure it’s part of the story. The social media giant has been growing rapidly in Central Texas, with more than 30% of its entire Austin workforce having been hired in the past two and a half years.

The uptick in employment is part of global hiring push and has made Austin into Facebook’s third-largest U.S. hub outside of its Silicon Valley headquarters. More than 1,000 employees now work at offices in downtown Austin and at the Domain development north of the city. As Facebook plans even more hiring here, the tech company said the business environment, which includes many small and medium-sized operations that use Facebook’s marketing tools, has enabled the company to flourish locally.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 9, 2019

Facing suspension, Texas Cowboys get more time to respond to hazing charge

The University of Texas has extended to June 7 the deadline for the Texas Cowboys spirit group to respond to the school’s findings in March that extensive hazing at an off-campus retreat warrants a six-year suspension.

UT investigated the September retreat, held at a private ranch in Brown County, after a new member of the group died from injuries he suffered in a wreck on the way back to Austin. A report by the university said hazing included coerced consumption of alcohol, cat food, Spam, milk and Tabasco sauce, as well as so-called Oklahoma drills in which two people run directly at each other in a confined space.

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Houston Chronicle - May 10, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Smart offshore tech moving from oil to wind

The Offshore Technology Conference’s name is vague, but for 50 years the companies exhibiting in Houston have focused primarily on drilling for oil and natural gas. Not anymore. At middle age, the conference is starting a second career in renewable energy with a few tentative first steps. Out of the hundreds of exhibitors, 40 are focused on wind, solar or storage.

I’ve walked the exhibit floor at OTC for five years, and this is the first time that images of offshore wind turbines have taken up entire walls. Steps away from Chinese oil giant Sinopec’s model showing oil wells on land, sea and shale, SGM Offshore demonstrated how tall, white, wind turbines are mounted to the ocean floor.

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Houston Chronicle - May 8, 2019

Josh McGee: Texas’ teacher retirement system is $46 billion short. And getting worse.

As the session nears its end, the Texas Legislature faces the decision either to act responsibly and begin to repair the finances of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) or to let the fund deteriorate further, leaving a bigger mess for future lawmakers.

TRS reports that Texas’ past and present teachers have earned retirement benefits worth approximately $200 billion, but the retirement system has only about $154 billion on hand to pay for those benefits. That means TRS is at least $46 billion short of what should be in the fund today. To put that huge number in context, the value of all other Texas state-level debt totals around $53 billion.

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Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2019

Richard Parker: Are Texas’ big cities headed for a dystopian future? An effort in Dallas aims to prevent that.

The year is 2036. The urban core is long since complete. Omniplan has replaced I.M. Pei with the New Urbanism. Glass and steel beckons in the night. At street-level, a facsimile of Rodeo Drive sprouts glittering shops and restaurants. A 20-foot steel wall surrounds downtown and Uptown. The story is the same in Houston. If you don’t belong here, your life is tenuous, not glamorous.

Luckily, emanating from Dallas is the semblance of what Texas desperately needs: vision. It doesn’t come from a politician but a wealthy, patrician Republican lawyer, Tom Luce, who served in the Education Department of George W. Bush’s presidency. Luce founded a data-driven nonprofit to measure exactly how Texas measures up on everything from education to the environment, named Texas 2036 for the upcoming bicentennial of independence. Last month, a new president was installed — another Bushie — Margaret Spellings, a former education secretary.

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Houston Chronicle - May 12, 2019

For daughters of the oil and gas industry, mothers blazed the trail

Xan Difede’s three daughters grew up listening to her talk about ships, platforms and operations. They watched her work early mornings and long nights, hire a maid to help out and travel for days at a time. Their mom was in the oil and gas industry — all three of them are, too.

With men still accounting for more than 80 percent of workers in oil and gas extraction, daughters following mothers into the industry make up a particularly exclusive club. But these women say having mom in the business has been nothing but an advantage to them for the simple reason that it’s just easier to cope with the pressure of being one of the few women in a room when you have a role model at home.

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Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2019

Beto O'Rourke in a pinch, overshadowed by Joe Biden's experience and Pete Buttigieg's fresher face

Joe Biden’s entry into the 2020 campaign halted the momentum of a number of rivals. Beto O’Rourke was among the casualties. Like 20 other contenders, the Texan can’t touch the former vice president’s experience. But at least he could harness a thirst for youthful energy and an upbeat demeanor –– until small-town mayor Pete Buttigieg boxed him out on that flank, becoming the flavor of the month.

How long can the Texan survive in these twin shadows? “Obama was the underdog by a longshot. It’s still early,” said Ross Mainville, 30, a union carpenter who came to see O’Rourke in Salem, N.H., with his wife Kirsten. She’s 28 and works in insurance and became such a fan last year that she started sending $5 or $10 a month for his Senate race.

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Dallas Morning News - May 12, 2019

Between Donald Trump and the border wall stands Father Roy Snipes

Father Roy Snipes may have saved his small historic chapel, La Lomita, from being walled off from its parishioners along the banks of the Rio Grande. But he's far from declaring victory. Noting the rising number of migrants turning themselves in at the border and approaching 2020 elections, Snipes confesses a deep worry.

At home, he seeks solace from his "guardian angels" — three rescue dogs — and peace by taking his boat on the Rio Grande. At church, the priest urges his parishioners to stand firm and defend their community and church, which receives support and monies from across the country, including the Catholic Diocese in Dallas.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 12, 2019

ACLU, Texas civil rights group to represent local woman convicted of illegal voting

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and the Texas Civil Rights Project joined the legal team representing Crystal Mason, the Rendon woman challenging her conviction for illegal voting, on Friday.

Mason, 43, was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot in the November 2016 election. The ballot was not counted, and Mason said she did not know she was not allowed to vote while was on supervised release from a 2011 fraud conviction. “I am very excited to have the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project joining me in my fight,” Mason said in a press release. “I am very grateful and I hope that justice will prevail here.”

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 12, 2019

FWST Editorial: What’s the hangup? Texas Legislature, Congress must curtail maddening robocalls

It’s not in the Constitution per se, but it certainly is insinuated: The right to be left alone is something of a cherished American birthright. If only our Founders could’ve foreseen our 21st-century ability to hound each other on little devices in our pockets and pocketbooks.

If only the Fourth Amendment’s declaration of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” had included “intrusions by robocallers.” Alas, since the rampant abuse of an otherwise invaluable technology could not possibly have been foreseen, we’ve got to fix the problem ourselves. What happened? As with many laws, the Do Not Call List has been obeyed by law-abiding companies, yet blissfully ignored by the underbelly of telemarketing tricksters.

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KERA - May 12, 2019

More college-educated Mexican immigrants are coming to the US

Recent Mexican immigrants in Texas are more likely to have a college degree than in previous years, according to a new report by the D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute.

The group analyzed Census data to come up with a profile of what it calls highly-skilled Mexican immigrants — adults 25 and older who’ve received a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among the findings: The number of Mexican college graduates in the U.S. increased from 269,000 in 2000 to 678,000 in 2017. More than a quarter live in Texas; nearly one in six Mexican immigrants who came to the U.S. between 2013 and 2017 had a college degree, compared with about one in 20 who arrived in the late 1990s.

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SE Texas Record - May 6, 2019

Beto’s ‘green’ policy could mean more climate change litigation against oil companies, loss of Texas jobs

Presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke grabbed a myriad of headlines last month by proposing to spend $5 trillion in an effort to combat climate change. What garnered little attention from the media, however, was a single sentence in the “guarantee net-zero emissions” part of O’Rourke’s plan: “Enforcing our laws to hold polluters accountable, including for their historical actions or crimes.”

The sentence arguably leaves room for interpretation, and the former congressman’s campaign declined to offer an exact meaning of the statement. But whether it’s civil or criminal action the Texan has planned, if O’Rourke wins and takes the oil and gas industry to court, the Lone Star economy could be drastically impacted.

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City Stories

Houston Public Media - May 10, 2019

Mayor Turner announces first paychecks with raises for Houston firefighters

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced in a statement sent out on Friday that the city has issued the first paychecks to firefighters that reflect the implementation of Proposition B, the voter-approved measure that establishes pay parity between the police and fire departments.

The mayor added the fire department’s biweekly payroll has increased from $10.2 million to $12.2 million, that’s a $31 million increase with respect to the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Turner presented the budget for FY 2020 on Tuesday and said that implementing the firefighter raises increased the city’s existing deficit to $179 million. In his statement, the mayor noted the city is implementing the police-fire pay parity without phasing in the raises, which was his “preferred option.”

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Houston Public Media - May 10, 2019

Houston on its way to becoming a ‘smart city’

City and business leaders are making progress in the quest to make Houston a “smart city.” In May 2018, the city of Houston announced it was partnering with Microsoft to improve the city’s quality of life and economy by connecting digital technology with the physical world.

Called the “Internet of Things,” it’s used to collect data from items such as surveillance cameras, air and quality measures, and transportation systems. “And the big question, I think, is now what do you do with that data and how do you use it to productively enhance either the services being offered, protect our citizens, make things more efficient,” said Amy Chronis, managing partner at consulting firm Deloitte and head of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Sustainability Committee.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 12, 2019

2-VOTE MARGIN: New results switch winner in Cedar Park council race

There’s a new winner in a Cedar Park City Council race — and the candidate won by just two votes, according to the final unofficial vote count completed Friday in Williamson County. Rodney Robinson received 2,876 votes, or 50.02%, to beat his opponent, incumbent Heather Jefts, who got 2,874 votes, or 49.9%, in the Place 5 race.

When the unofficial results came in during election night on May 4, Jefts was leading Robinson by one vote. She had gotten 2,871 votes while Robinson received 2,870. But officials still had to count the provisional and late mail votes. Those votes included nine new votes for the Place 5 race, said Connie Odom, a county spokeswoman.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 9, 2019

Austin throws support behind Green New Deal

The Austin City Council on Thursday formally backed a national “Green New Deal” — a concept from freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

Council Member Leslie Pool, who sponsored the resolution, said the Green New Deal, which generally proposes allocating vast public resources to transitioning completely to renewable energy in the coming decades, is “a win/win for everybody.” The endorsement was included in one of two resolutions addressing environmental issues that council members approved unanimously.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2019

Does business support matter in San Antonio mayoral races?

Twice in the past six months, San Antonio’s business leaders have publicly allied themselves with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and against the city’s public safety unions — and came up short. Some of the city’s wealthiest executives spent nearly $1.7 million on a campaign to defeat a trio of union-backed charter amendments aimed at kneecapping a loyal ally of theirs, then-City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

The result? San Antonio voters approved two of the amendments in the November elections. Sculley announced her resignation soon after. A week ago, District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse — supported by the police and fire unions and social conservatives — forced Nirenberg into a runoff despite heavy business support for the incumbent heading into the municipal elections.

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National Stories

NPR - May 8, 2019

Migrants apprehended at southern border top 100,000 for second consecutive month

The number of migrants apprehended at the Southern border surpassed 100,000 for the second consecutive month, according to new figures released by the Trump administration.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended 109,144 migrants in April. That is more than 5,400 over the total in the month of March, and it is the highest monthly total since 2007. The chief of the Border Patrol, Carla Provost, told a Senate Judiciary panel that "our apprehension numbers are off the charts."

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NPR - May 9, 2019

More guns in cars mean more guns stolen in cars

More guns are being stolen out of cars in America, particularly in states that have made it easier for people to carry firearms on the road. There are no reliable national numbers, but an NPR survey of a sampling of police departments reveals steady increases in reports of guns stolen from vehicles.

Some of the biggest spikes have come just in the last few years in Tennessee. The number of guns reported stolen from vehicles statewide nearly doubled in one year. In 2016, 2,203 were reported; a year later, reports numbered 4,064, according to figures provided to NPR by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

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Fox 26 - May 11, 2019

18 candidates qualify for 1st Democratic debate

The first Democratic presidential debate is set for June 26 and 27 in Miami and 18 candidates have met the qualifications to attend. If they get more than 20 qualifiers before the event, the DNC will then go with whoever has 65,000 online donors and at least 1% support in three polls.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez already had announced that the debates in June and July would take place over two nights to allow for such a large field of candidates to be heard. Each night's debate will have up to 10 candidates who meet certain fundraising and polling thresholds.

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Reuters - May 10, 2019

US warns merchant ships of possible Iranian attacks; cleric threatens US fleet

Iran could target U.S. commercial ships including oil tankers, the U.S. Maritime Administration said on Friday, as a senior Iranian cleric said a U.S. Navy fleet could be "destroyed with one missile."

In the latest tense exchange between Tehran and Washington, Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards separately said Iran would not negotiate with the United States, a stance that seemed partly aimed at discouraging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his moderate allies from taking up a U.S. offer of talks. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran's leaders talk with him about giving up their nuclear program and said he could not rule out a military confrontation.

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Wall Street Journal - May 12, 2019

Leaked letters reveal details of NRA chief’s alleged spending

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre billed the group’s ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. The travel expenses allegedly include more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas by Mr. LaPierre.

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CityLab - May 8, 2019

Instead of a border wall, why not a ‘clean energy corridor’?

The nearly 2,000-mile border that separates the U.S. and Mexico is not an easily navigable environment. It meanders across deserts and canyons, river beds and wetlands. It’s dotted unevenly with fences, walls, and checkpoints built to control immigration between the countries.

President Donald Trump, a year and a half ago, proposed putting solar panels here, on the border wall that had been a rallying cry of his campaign. “Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border—the southern border,” he said at the time. It’s not infeasible, technically. The notion of a solar-paneled border wall might have seemed underdeveloped, but a group of scientists based out of Purdue University and other large research institutions are now proposing a plan that, they say, would unite the Republican Party’s call for more border security with the Democratic Party’s calls for a Green New Deal.

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Washington Post - May 12, 2019

Applying ‘maximum pressure,’ Trump faces burgeoning crises overseas

President Trump ran for office vowing to extricate the United States from entanglements abroad. But his administration now finds itself juggling three national security crises overseas — with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea — while confronting China over a possible trade war.

The situation is partly a function of uncontrollable events but also the result of Trump’s “go big or go home” approach to foreign affairs, which has led his administration to apply “maximum pressure” to multiple nations simultaneously, rather than prioritize one over the other or take incremental steps. The maximalist tactics at times have raised the prospect of big breakthroughs, ones that Trump hopes to take to the campaign trail for his reelection, particularly when it comes to North Korea.

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New York Times - May 9, 2019

Facebook rejects call for its breakup from co-founder Chris Hughes

Facebook pushed back Thursday after Chris Hughes, a billionaire co-founder of the company, argued in a New York Times op-ed essay that the company should be broken up and regulated.

“Facebook accepts that with success comes accountability,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communication, wrote in a statement. “But you don’t enforce accountability by calling for the breakup of a successful American company.” The statement followed a lengthy op-ed by Hughes published online Thursday morning arguing that the social media giant be subjected to extensive government oversight and separated into multiple companies, notably by spinning off the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messenger service WhatsApp.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 12, 2019

Mexican state seeks return of millions of dollars it claims were laundered in Texas

The Mexican state of Tamaulipas has filed suit to reclaim South Texas property it says was purchased with some of the millions of dollars allegedly stolen by one of its former governors.

The lawsuit, filed in April in Cameron County, accuses Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, governor from 1999-2005, and a Mexican contractor, Fernando Cano, of using Texas real estate to hide money that Yarrington obtained from a bribery scheme that defrauded Tamaulipas, which borders the Lone Star State.

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