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Newsclips - November 15, 2019

Lead Stories

Associated Press - November 15, 2019

An ambassador fired: What to watch on Day 2 of impeachment

An ambassador, her firing and a pair of fixers. Those details stand at the center of Marie Yovanovitch’s story, a personal ordeal she’ll describe to Americans and the world Friday as part of the Democrat-driven impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

What led to the career diplomat’s firing, Democrats say, is a key chapter in Trump’s holdup of military aid while he pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son. Republicans dismiss that as not credible. Was Yovanovitch an obstacle to corruption and casualty of a bribery scheme? Or disloyal to a president fully empowered to choose his own ambassadors? And how will Trump and his allies treat what he called “the woman” as she speaks out for the first time? Congress digs into her testimony at 9 a.m. on the second day of public impeachment hearings against the nation’s 45th president. Here’s what to know:

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Politico - November 14, 2019

How Deval Patrick could torpedo Joe Biden

Deval Patrick looks like the ideal candidate to break Joe Biden’s grip on African-American voters. He‘s just the second elected black governor since Reconstruction and has close ties with former President Barack Obama. But even as the former Massachusetts governor’s entry into the race is embraced by many black lawmakers and strategists, they question whether his record, relative lack of name ID and late start in a crowded field will impede his ability to make a mark.

“He’s not a national name. Folks in Louisiana aren’t going to be like, ‘oh wow. Deval Patrick joined the race.’ And even at the activist level, there’s no sense that this is someone we can rally behind,” said Cliff Albright, an activist with the group Black Voters Matter, which is active throughout the South. Albright noted that two other black candidates — California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen Cory Booker — have been running for months and are polling in the single digits. And it’s unclear how Patrick, who works for Boston private equity firm Bain Capital, will play in the South, home to a majority of the Democratic primary’s black voters.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Cut from debate, Castro looks to Iowa, Nevada

Julián Castro will not be among the 10 candidates on stage next Wednesday in Atlanta for the fifth Democratic presidential debate. He didn’t meet the minimum polling threshold. But the former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development will press on with his campaign, concentrating on the early voting states of Iowa and Nevada, along with his home state of Texas.

That, said Rob Barron, a savvy Iowa politico and Castro supporter, is exactly what he should be doing. “You talk to your average Democratic caucusgoer and they’re not committed,” said Barron, 40, special assistant to the president for government and community relations at Grand View University in Des Moines. “You’ll see polling data telling you who’s in the lead, who’s second and who’s third. But that doesn’t really tell a full story.” Rather, said Barron, a longtime top aide to former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, “What typically happens starting about now is folks will start really choosing. Most people are going to wait until December, January.”

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San Antonio Express-News - November 15, 2019

Houston archdiocese, seeking foster care contract, challenges LGBT anti-discrimination protections

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston wants to become a foster care provider in Texas, but only if the Catholic organization is exempt from a federal rule meant to protect LGBT people from discrimination. The archdiocese is teaming up with the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Department of Family and Protective Services to challenge the rule that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identify, and other characteristics.

"The archdiocese may only provide foster care services consistent with its sincerely held beliefs on Catholic doctrine and social teaching,” said the lawsuit filed on Oct. 31. “As such, the archdiocese cannot provide home studies and certifications for unmarried cohabitating or same-sex married couples.” Texas has a chronic shortage of foster care placements that has forced some children to spend the night in state offices. Child welfare advocates warn the lawsuit could further shrink the pool of foster parents. Attorney General Ken Paxton did not respond to questions about the lawsuit. Neither did the DFPS.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Texas lawmaker caught on video dropping envelope of cocaine admits he’s not running due to addiction

An influential state lawmaker admitted Thursday morning he’d recently decided against running for re-election due to addiction, just hours after news broke that he has been accused of dropping an envelope of cocaine at a local airport.

Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, announced last week that he would not seek re-election in 2020, saying it was “time to come home” and put his “family and health” first. The news raised questions about why the four-term lawmaker and committee chairman would step aside from politics just as he was gaining clout and increasingly important leadership roles in the Texas House. Then, on Wednesday night, the conservative website Direct Action Texas published an affidavit that claimed Nevárez dropped an envelope full of cocaine at an Austin airport in September.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Is the federal bureaucracy thwarting the will of Trump and Congress on prison reform?

To be fair, the justice system needs to be based on rules and procedures that ensure people serve time only for the actual offenses they are convicted of. So why is the Department of Justice now, apparently, engaging in a process that will keep people in jail longer depending on the amount of drugs they might have had on them rather than the actual amount they were convicted of possessing?

Here is what’s happening: Last year, Texas Sen. John Cornyn helped push through Congress a prison reform bill that, in a major bipartisan victory, President Donald Trump signed into law. Now, a year on, a Washington Post investigation suggests the federal bureaucracy may be thwarting the will of the two elected branches of government by how it is administering the First Step Act. First Step was designed to correct inequities in federal drug sentencing that date back decades by reducing the sentences of some nonviolent offenders. First Step expanded rehabilitative opportunities, increased “good time”-served credits for most federal prisoners and reduced mandatory minimum sentences for many types of drug-related crimes. It was intended to be an initial step to smartly transition nonviolent offenders back into society.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Texas shouldn’t execute Rodney Reed if it’s not sure it’s got the right man

One of the basic tenets in a civilized society is public trust in a criminal justice system that holds wrongdoers accountable for their actions. We believe that criminals who commit heinous crimes should be punished to keep our communities safe and for the families of victims to find some amount of solace. Horrible acts deserve serious consequences.

But when the sentence is the ultimate punishment – putting a defendant to death - this state has a responsibility to be absolutely sure it has convicted the right person. In the case of Rodney Reed, set to be executed on Nov. 20 in the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, there are enough questions to warrant a deeper look. We join a growing number of celebrities and lawmakers — including those from the bipartisan Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus — urging Gov. Greg Abbott to delay carrying out this sentence for at least a month so that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles can review the case.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, other McClatchy-owned papers to end Saturday delivery

Fort Worth residents will soon have to trade the printed Saturday newspaper for a digital version – if they haven’t already. McClatchy will end Saturday publication of print newspapers at its nearly 30 publications in 14 states across the country, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, according to an announcement from the publisher’s CEO Wednesday.

McClatchy’s publications make it the third-largest newspaper chain by circulation in the country. Other publications owned by McClatchy include the Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer. Craig Forman, the chain’s president and CEO, discussed the decision on a call with investors, saying it planned to end Saturday print editions at its publications by the end of 2020. Forman described the move as the next step since implementing “digital Saturdays” at four select McClatchy publications.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 11, 2019

John Riddle: State firefighters are learning from Bonnen’s political dumpster fire

When fires, vehicle accidents and medical emergencies require Texas firefighters, we respond no matter what. Political preferences don’t matter. Neither do race, gender or other potentially divisive issues. We wish more Texas legislators were similarly motivated. Outgoing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s spectacular political collapse reminded us just how bitterly partisan and politically treacherous the state capital can be.

In hindsight, Texas firefighters worked effectively enough with Bonnen. He gladly took our political contributions with a smile. We knew he was a political friend on some issues and a foe on others. But the secret recordings that brought down Bonnen revealed the ugly political aspirations that, if realized, could risk public safety and would declare war on public employees, including us. Behind his photo-op smiles were commitments to attack and weaken cities and counties and to silence the political voices of firefighters, police officers and teachers.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 14, 2019

Environmental groups allege TCEQ violated Civil Rights Act

A Houston-based environmental justice group and two national environmental organizations filed a complaint this week against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality alleging violations of the federal Civil Rights Act and discrimination on the basis of national origin.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday, claims that the agency’s English-only public meeting notices and lack of interpretation services during meetings, particularly in Spanish, disenfranchises non-English speakers. The commission’s rules don’t require publication of notices of public meetings in languages other than English, even if the permit in question is in a predominately non-English-speaking area. Current rules also don’t require the agency to provide interpretation services at those public meetings.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 14, 2019

Clemency in Texas: Reed’s bid to halt execution has been a long shot

In addition to court challenges seeking to halt Wednesday’s execution, Bastrop’s Rodney Reed has asked Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his sentence to life in prison — or at the very least to delay the lethal injection to allow time to evaluate new evidence in his case.

It’s a long shot plea for mercy that has been granted only three times in Texas death penalty cases since 1982, but defense lawyers argue that the stakes are too high, not only for Reed but for public confidence in the criminal justice system, to continue unchecked toward execution. “If Mr. Reed is executed, it will be a miscarriage of justice,” Reed’s lawyers said in a 61-page clemency petition filed Oct. 30. The petition includes analyses from forensic experts who determined that Reed’s guilt was “medically and scientifically impossible” and sworn affidavits from law officers and others with information supporting defense claims that Reed did not kill Stacey Stites in 1996.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 15, 2019

New master plan foresees 45,000 students at expanded UTSA campuses

The University of Texas at San Antonio’s master plan for growth over the next decade envisions 45,000 students, up from about 32,000 now. The plan, approved Wednesday by the UT System’s Board of Regents, outlines the university’s long-sought Downtown Campus expansion, including pedestrian connections and shared community facilities with the West Side neighborhood across the railroad tracks.

It foresees an open space called the Via Verde added to the center of the university’s Main Campus on the Northwest Side. The southeast gateway to the campus also would get a mixed-use district incorporating the yet-to-be-built Roadrunner Village, which includes housing, and the Tricentennial Innovation Park, a “public-private tech venture.” An improved loop road would ease vehicular traffic. The plan also calls for better use of the Park West campus for sports and recreation.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 14, 2019

Rep. Joaquin Castro calls for resignation of ‘white nationalist’ White House adviser

A prominent Texas Democrat is joining calls from Congress for the resignation of a White House adviser credited with shaping President Donald Trump’s immigration policies after the Southern Poverty Law Center published emails showing the adviser promoting white nationalist viewpoints. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat who leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Thursday called Stephen Miller “a white nationalist” who “has no business serving in the White House.”

“It’s clearer than ever that Stephen Miller is a far-right white nationalist with a racist and xenophobic worldview,” Castro said in a statement issued with the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “His beliefs are appalling, indefensible, and completely at odds with public service.” The statement follows the Southern Poverty Law Centers’ publication of emails Miller sent before joining the White House to a then-editor at conservative news outlet Breitbart, pushing what the legal advocacy group called “white nationalist literature” and “racist immigration stories.” The emails contained links from websites including the conspiracy site InfoWars and VDARE, which regularly publishes white nationalists and is a hub for anti-immigrant messaging.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

District judge in Harris County suspended after federal indictment

A district court judge in Harris County has been suspended after she was indicted on federal wire fraud charges for allegedly misspending campaign donations. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, will be removed from her bench without pay until the State Commission on Judicial Conduct determines otherwise, the oversight board said Tuesday, the same day it was presented with the indictment and ordered her suspension.

“We’re not surprised, but we’re still very disappointed that the state chose to take that action,” Smoots-Thomas’ attorney, Kent Schaffer, said. “It just adds to the fight that we have before us. Smoots-Thomas, who presides over the 164th District Court and has jurisdiction over civil cases within Harris County, turned herself in to a federal magistrate and was released on bond on Friday, the day the indictment was unsealed. Prosecutors said a federal grand jury returned the seven-count indictment on Oct. 24.

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Houston Chronicle - November 14, 2019

Houston suburbs striking it rich culturally, economically with population growth

If you drive through this city about 15 miles southeast of Houston, you’ll pass yoga and Taekwondo studios. A Walmart and an Indian grocery store. Baptist churches and Buddhist temples. And a lot of new homes. Just a few years ago, Pearland looked different. So did many of Houston’s surrounding communities. A massive demographic shift is underway as people who flocked to Houston in search of steady jobs and cheaper living are now migrating to the suburbs, attracted by the chance to own their own homes, send their children to high-quality schools and lower their costs of living.

The exodus is part of a national trend to escape the rapidly rising costs of core urban areas, where housing and developable land are in short supply and prices are soaring, economists said. In 2001, Harris County accounted for about 77 percent of the population of the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area; today, it’s 67 percent, according to analysis by Ray Perryman, a Waco economist. As a result, surrounding counties are exploding. The population of Brazoria County, which stretches from Pearland and south to Freeport, grew more than 2 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly three times the rate of Harris County’s population growth. Populations in other nearby counties have experienced even faster growth of at least 3 percent, including Waller County (includes Prairie View and part of Katy), Montgomery County (includes The Woodlands and Conroe) and Liberty County (northeast of Houston).

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KUT - November 14, 2019

One family's custody battle is fueling a national debate about transgender rights

Many Texas political watchers would agree that the 2019 legislative session was surprisingly tame. Legislation about divisive social issues – especially about bathroom access for transgender people, which dominated the session in 2017 – seemed to be a thing of the past. But recently, a custody case in Texas involving a 7-year-old child whose mother identifies the child as transgender has divided some along political lines.

Katelyn Burns, a freelance journalist who is transgender, reported about the family’s case for Vox. She says the child’s parents disagree about how to identify the child. But their case has sparked a wider debate about transgender rights. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump both weighed in. Cruz wrote a particularly pointed tweet, claiming the child would undergo medical treatment as part of a gender transition and likened it to child abuse. But Burns says Cruz’s claim was inaccurate. She says the soonest the child could use any medical intervention would be after the start of puberty.

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El Paso Times - November 14, 2019

'These people need to go on': Walmart reopens three months after mass shooting

A crowd gathered at daybreak outside the entrance of the Cielo Vista Walmart. “Welcome to Walmart. Thank you for coming,” employees said as they lined the store entrance where a gunman had entered Aug. 3, opening fire on shoppers. On Thursday, employees greeted customers with cheers and high-fives.

It's been three months since customers were allowed inside their neighborhood store. An estimated 1,000 shoppers of all ages, many senior citizens, entered the store by 10:30 a.m. A steady stream of shoppers continued to enter the store through the late morning and early afternoon.The parking lot, once an asphalt desert, was filled with cars by midday. Just before the renovated store opened at 8:45 a.m., Robert Evans, the store manager, raised a U.S. flag that had flown half-staff atop the Walmart since the shooting.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 14, 2019

Harris County DA cites “trend” in judiciary discretion as partial cause for 101% increase in case dismissals

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg this week took aim at local magistrates and judges in a letter to area police chiefs, alleging the judiciaries’ discretion has led to a recent increase in case dismissals from findings of no probable cause.

This year, Harris County judges and magistrates tossed at least 3,217 misdemeanor and felony cases because they determined there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest a crime occurred, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. That increase - projected at 101 percent higher than in 2015 - is not only a monetary waste, Ogg said, but also a public safety concern. “This is not a situation of our making,” the district attorney said in the letter. “Every one of these decisions is being made by our local magistrates and judiciary and should be of critical concern in terms of just how far our limited resources can be stretched as we strive together to keep Harris County safe.”

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Austin Chronicle - November 14, 2019

Austin Firefighters Association takes on Travis County D.A.

Last October, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore offered a plea deal to former Austin Fire Lt. James Baker – five years probation for videotaping his colleague Kelly Gall in the women's locker room. Described as a "slap on the wrist" by Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks, Baker's plea bargain focused the union's attention on the D.A.'s Office and, now, Moore's reelection campaign.

This week, the AFA released several short videos that allege Moore has mishandled and failed to prosecute sexual assault cases – a key point of contention in her March primary face-off against José Garza and Erin Martinson. It "all started with Kelly," AFA Vice Pres­ident Christine Jones told the Chronicle, "but once we started looking into it, we were all just appalled to see what was actually going on. We couldn't leave it." Jones and Nicks met with Moore to discuss Gall's case in Sept. 2018; Nicks insists it was a cordial meeting, but Moore has accused the AFA of making demands of her office.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Two members of the Rockwall County Commissioners Court - wait for it - return their fat pay raises

Let’s all cheer members of the Rockwall County Commissioners Court. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray. No, wait. On second thought, only cheer for two of the five. Those two struck a mighty symbolic blow against self-centered government. The other three did not. The two heroes of this story gave back most of their excessive pay raises, so high that I had called their vote to enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense “a grand heist. Almost as if you pulled up to a bank and robbed it.”

For their leader, County Judge David Sweet, the boys in this band voted a 24% raise from $97,209 to $121,000. Only Commissioner Cliff Sevier voted against the budget in a final vote that included the pay raises. One reason for the big raises: Some commissioners explained they went several years without a raise and fell behind their colleagues in comparable counties. Many taxpayers in Rockwall didn’t buy that argument. The Rockwall Herald Banner covered the pay raise issue extensively. I jumped in at the end after the budget was already approved. It seemed too late. But here we learn it’s never too late. An obscure state law allows elected officials to return all or part of their raises back to the government. Sweet and Sevier did just that. As Rockwell resident Randy Jolly told The Watchdog: “I think public opinion, civic involvement and your messaging played key roles.”

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 14, 2019

Mattress Mack announces plan to open schools, daycare on Houston’s north side

Famed local business man and philanthropist Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale announced Wednesday he would work to open two schools and a day care on Houston's north side.

One would open as a trade school and the other would be a charter school campus for people between the ages of 16 and 30 who did not earn high school diplomas. The third would be a day care facility for the children of students enrolled in the trade school and at the charter school campus, as well as for the kids of Gallery Furniture employees. All three will be located at the flagship store of McIngvale's Gallery Furniture, which is located at 6006 North Freeway.

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Houston Chronicle - November 14, 2019

Firefighters endorse Buzbee in runoff

The Houston firefighters union has voted unanimously to endorse Tony Buzbee in the December mayoral runoff, union officials announced Thursday.

The endorsement is the group's latest attempt to drive Mayor Sylvester Turner out of office over his bitter and long-running pay dispute with the firefighters, centered around Proposition B, a voter-approved ballot measure that granted firefighters the same pay as police of similar rank and seniority. A judge ruled Prop B unconstitutional earlier this year, but Buzbee told firefighters he would implement the measure if elected, as he has promised numerous times throughout the campaign. He also pledged to maintain the department’s current four-shift model and end ongoing litigation between the city and fire union over collective bargaining and Prop B, the union said.

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KUT - November 14, 2019

Austin OKs plan to buy and retrofit a motel to house homeless

The Austin City Council unanimously passed an $8-million plan to buy and repurpose the Rodeway Inn in South Austin to house people transitioning out of homelessness. The motel could house at least 87 people.

Billed as a more proactive approach to provide more immediate housing, the proposal allows the city to buy the land using money initially allocated for an emergency shelter off Bannister Drive and Ben White Boulevard. The deal will be finalized after a 90-day review period. The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition would lease and operate the facility, which aims to house people without preconditions like mandatory case management or substance abuse treatment. It's a strategy ECHO Executive Director Matt Mollica has used previously in his work with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 14, 2019

Police relations, economic development priorities for Fort Worth’s diversity director

Christina Brooks will serve as the city of Fort Worth’s first diversity and inclusion director, a position born from a task force aimed at healing racial disparities in the city. Brooks has held a similar positions in South Bend, Indiana, and at the University of Norte Dame. Fort Worth officials heralded Brooks as a proven leader with a track record in diversity roles. But she is not the candidate a group of community activists recommended following a forum with the six candidates.

City Manager David Cooke, in a statement, said Brooks was hired because she has about 20 years of experience working with underrepresented populations. She will start Dec. 9. In Fort Worth, Brooks will be responsible for overseeing diverse hiring across city offices, including the police department as well as ensuring the city has equitable and fair practices for awarding contracts. A key part of her role will be monitoring city services for equity issues. She’ll head a 14-person department within the city manager’s office. Approved in the 2020 budget, the department has a budget of more than $942,000. Brooks’ role is the only new position. The remaining staff were reassigned from the human relations department. Her salary is $150,000.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

UT regents greenlight $38.5M to realign Red River Street for basketball arena

In the 1970s, the University of Texas worked with the city of Austin to move Red River Street, which runs along the east side of the campus, to make room for the Frank Erwin Center. Now, the school wants to put it back.

On Wednesday, UT System regents gave tentative approval to spend $38.5 million to realign the street to make way for the newly named Moody Center, a multipurpose basketball arena slated to start construction next month. The funds for realignment were approved by the UT System facilities planning and construction committee on Wednesday and will go before the full Board of Regents on Thursday for approval. “We’re really just going back to the original north/south alignment for Red River,” said UT President Gregory L. Fenves.

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National Stories

New York Times - November 14, 2019

Bloomberg’s team calls his crude remarks on women ‘wrong’

It was a cheeky birthday gift for a hard-charging boss, a 32-page book of one-liners compiled by colleagues at his company. “The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,” presented in 1990 to the future mayor of New York City, even featured drawings of its namesake in gladiatorial garb. One remark attributed to Mr. Bloomberg went like this: “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale’s.”

Another line, purportedly Mr. Bloomberg’s sales pitch for his eponymous computer terminal, said the machine will “do everything,” including oral sex, although a cruder term was used. “I guess,” Mr. Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “that puts a lot of you girls out of business.” When the pamphlet resurfaced during Mr. Bloomberg’s 2001 mayoral run, he dismissed the comments as “borscht belt jokes” and said he did not recall saying them. The story line receded after the 9/11 terror attacks, and Mr. Bloomberg went on to win election three times over.

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New York Times - November 14, 2019

Before joining White House, Stephen Miller pushed white nationalist theories

A batch of leaked emails obtained by a civil rights advocacy group show that Stephen Miller, the White House adviser with a direct hand in shaping President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, promoted theories popular with white nationalist groups to an editor at a prominent conservative publication before he joined the administration.

The group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, on Tuesday published a summary of some 900 messages that Mr. Miller sent to Breitbart News from March 2015 to June 2016. The center shared with The New York Times seven pages of the emails included in that summary. The emails, supplied by Katie McHugh, a former editor at Breitbart, show that Mr. Miller tried to shape news coverage with material he found on at least one website that espouses white nationalist viewpoints, including fringe theories that people of color are trying to engage in “white genocide.” The law center’s investigation, which the group says it will turn into a series, seeks to illustrate how Mr. Miller brought anti-immigrant beliefs to the White House and turned them into policy.

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NPR - November 14, 2019

2 dead, several hurt in shooting at Calif. high school; suspect in 'grave condition'

Two students have died after a gunman opened fire Thursday morning at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., according to law enforcement officials. Three other students also were shot. Authorities have not named the suspect but say he is a 16-year-old student at the school. He carried out the attack on his birthday.

In a late afternoon news conference, Capt. Kent Wegener of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau said an Instagram account believed to belong to the suspect said, "Saugus, have fun at school tomorrow." That message was later removed, but Wegener said investigators don't know who deleted it. At a news conference earlier in the day, Wegener said detectives reviewed surveillance video footage from the high school that showed the suspect taking a handgun from his backpack and shooting five other people before shooting himself in the head. The suspect is currently in "grave condition," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

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Vanity Fair - November 14, 2019

"George gets all his power from you": Kellyanne caught in West Wing crosshairs

Last night, to celebrate the opening of impeachment proceedings against Donald J. Trump, Kathy Griffin posted a photo on Instagram of a party the writer Molly Jong-Fast hosted for boldface members of the Resistance at her Manhattan apartment in May. The photograph shows attendees including Griffin, E. Jean Carroll, Paul Krugman, and Philippe Reines. And then, off to the right, partially hiding behind Soledad O'Brien, but with a recognizable mop of dark hair and what seems to be a sheepish grin, is the unlikeliest Resistance hero of all: George Conway. The photograph, among Trump’s fiercest liberal critics, marks a rapid escalation in the long-running war in the House of Conway, a spousal feud Washington hasn’t seen since the days Ma

Yesterday morning, George made a rare on-air appearance on MSNBC, where he launched broadsides at Trump shortly before William Taylor and George Kent testified in the House. “I’m horrified. I’m appalled,” George told hosts Nicolle Wallace and Brian Williams, referring to Trump. “If you had told me three years ago it would come to this, I wouldn’t have believed this. I don’t think I could have imagined a president, any president, engaging in this sort of conduct.” According to three sources close to George, his relationship with Kellyanne has, not surprisingly, become increasingly distant as impeachment has gained steam. “He tells people she’s in a cult,” a Republican who has spoken frequently with George told me. “It’s not going to get better until she’s cast out of the cult,” another person close to George said. Sources say George loves Kellyanne and wants the marriage to survive. He’s told people that if Kellyanne leaves the White House, they can make it work, a friend of George’s told me. “He’s going through a tough time,” a friend said.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 14, 2019

New Media, Gannett shareholders clear way for merger

The two biggest U.S. newspaper chains are on the brink of combining, in a deal with repercussions for news consumers and journalists nationwide. New Media Investment Group, which operates under its GateHouse Media subsidiary, is expected to close Nov. 19 on its acquisition of USA Today parent Gannett Co. after shareholders of both companies approved the transaction in separate meetings Thursday -- clearing the last remaining hurdles.

New York-based New Media owns the Austin American-Statesman and 151 other daily newspapers, including the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and the Palm Beach Post in Florida. Gannett owns USA Today and more than 100 dailies, including the Detroit Free Press and the Arizona Republic. The combination of the chains will create a print and digital giant, with about 260 dailies and hundreds more websites and community and weekly newspapers stretching across 47 states. The new company will be called Gannett, even though New Media is the acquirer, and it will be based in Gannett’s headquarters of McLean, Va.

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Wall Street Journal - November 15, 2019

Trump asks Supreme Court to block New York subpoena for tax records

President Trump asked the Supreme Court Thursday to block a subpoena for his tax records issued by New York prosecutors investigating hush-money payments to two women who allege they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The filing marks a new phase in Mr. Trump’s battles with the judicial branch, thrusting the Supreme Court into the constitutional struggle between a norm-smashing president and law-enforcement authorities and congressional opponents.

Additional disputes over subpoenas and witness testimony involving Mr. Trump’s conduct in and out of office are expected to reach the Supreme Court in short order. And should House hearings under way this week lead to impeachment, the Constitution requires that Chief Justice John Roberts preside over Mr. Trump’s trial before the Senate. Last week in New York, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a state grand-jury subpoena for eight years of financial records from Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, as part of the Manhattan district attorney’s probe into payments Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to two women. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is investigating whether those payments, and how they were recorded, violated state laws against falsifying business documents.

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Deadline - November 14, 2019

Impeachment hearings debut with 13 million viewers; Fox News tops cable & broadcast

It was just by a hair, but the debut of the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump yesterday beat Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress earlier this year …barely. With a grand total of 13,098,000 Americans tuning in to watch the televised opening of the House Select Committee on Intelligence questioning on Wednesday, Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Secretary of State George Kent topped the 12.9 million who saw the former FBI Director’s circumspect stint in the hot seat on July 25.

Having said that with Nielsen numbers from Fox News Channel. MSNBC, ABC, CNN, CBS and NBC now in, the 10 AM – 3:30 PM ET hearing stumbled against another big ticket testimony. The Wednesday event, that the former Celebrity Apprentice host insists he didn’t watch, was down a hard 32% from the audience that eyed pink slipped FBI Director James Comey’s appearance before our elected representatives in June 2017. It should be noted that early Nielsen tally today does not include C-Span and PBS, nor streaming on the likes of Facebook. It also should be noted that those Comey numbers of two years ago included all the Nielsen measured outlets of yesterday plus Telemundo, Univision and Fox Business Network.

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Newsclips - November 14, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - November 14, 2019

Impeachment inquiry: Public hearing surfaces new claim on Trump

President Trump in a summer phone call asked about politically advantageous investigations he wanted the Ukrainian president to announce, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine disclosed Wednesday as the House opened the public phase of its seven-week-old impeachment probe.

The initial hearing in only the fourth such inquiry in U.S. history lasted more than six hours in an ornate room in a House office building. The witnesses—William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official—both had already testified in private but offered some new disclosures Wednesday. The hearing marked the first time any witnesses publicly faced questions from both parties’ staff counsel and lawmakers on the Democrats’ central contention: that Mr. Trump abused his office by withholding security aid to Ukraine just as he was pressing the country to announce investigations that he sought, including one into his potential 2020 election foe, Democrat Joe Biden.

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CNN - November 12, 2019

Dr. Ronny Jackson seriously considering a run for retiring Congressman Thornberry's seat

Dr. Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump's former chief physician and one-time nominee for Veterans Affairs secretary, is seriously considering running for a Texas congressional seat, a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed to CNN. Jackson, a Texas native, is mulling a run for the seat currently held by one-time Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, the source said.

Thornberry, a Republican, announced in September he would leave Congress at the end of his term. In 2018, he won reelection by nearly 65 points. Jackson has not returned several requests for comment. Roll Call first reported Jackson's interest in the seat. The source said Jackson has indicated his interest to some Republicans in Washington who are in charge of helping GOP congressional candidates run for the House.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Washed out of Democratic debates, Julián Castro shows no sign of quitting

Julián Castro is continuing his quest for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, planning campaign trips, raising money and offering new policy proposals even while enduring the crippling setback of exclusion from a candidate debate next week.

Castro is among several in the field failing to meet a polling threshold of 3 percent in four polls by Wednesday, one of the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee to participate in a Nov. 20 debate, in Atlanta. Ten candidates will likely take part; others short of the threshold include Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and author Marianne Williamson. Castro has failed to see his polling number rise — he has yet to register 3 percent in any poll — but he has met a second DNC criteria for the next debate by receiving 165,000 individual donors.

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Axios - November 13, 2019

The GOP's ditch-Rudy strategy on impeachment

Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.

A Republican member of one of the impeachment committees told Axios: "[T]his is not an impeachment of Rudy Giuliani, it's not an impeachment of Ambassador Sondland. It's an impeachment of the president of the United States." "So the point is as long as this is a step removed, he's in good shape. ... If it's a step removed from the president, he doesn't lose any Republicans in the House." A top House GOP leadership aide said: "Substance is focus. [The co-leadoff witness, Bill] Taylor says [he had a] 'full understanding.' But from who? Not POTUS. That’s big."

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

Is Trump planning visit to Apple’s facilities in Austin?

Is President Donald Trump planning a visit to check out Apple Inc.’s operations in Austin? Reuters news service is reporting that Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook are expected to tour facilities in Texas where Apple products are made. The visit could come as soon as next week, and is intended to showcase companies that keep jobs in America, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Apple declined to comment. A White House spokesperson told Reuters that the office has no scheduling announcements at this time. The trip, which has not yet been announced, would highlight Cook’s relationship with Trump as he seeks further relief for Apple from U.S. tariffs on imports from China, according to the Reuters story. The tariffs are part of a prolonged, tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s largest economies. Apple has asked the Trump administration to waive tariffs on Chinese-made Apple Watches, iPhone components and other consumer products, according to filings with trade regulators.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

African American studies course could be coming to Texas high schools

Public high schools in Texas could start offering a course in African American studies as early as next school year. The State Board of Education on Wednesday indicated support for approving the elective course by April. The panel is considering modeling the curriculum after the African American studies course offered in the Dallas school district.

Possible curriculum topics include the histories of Africans who were brought to America as slaves, the institution of slavery and the anti-slavery movement leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights struggles and the contributions of such African Americans as Barbara Jordan, Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama. Board members anticipate tentatively approving the course in January and then adopting it in April, so the course can be offered in the 2020-21 school year. It will be offered as an elective and won’t be required for all high school students.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

Appeals court voids ruling that found Texas in violation of voting law

A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned a lower-court ruling that had found Texas in violation of U.S. voter registration laws. The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals negated the findings of U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, who in May ordered state officials to create a process that lets Texans simultaneously register to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license on the Department of Public Safety website.

The current system — directing online users to a separate page run by the Texas secretary of state, where they must download a voter registration form, print it out and mail it to their county registrar — violates the National Voter Registration Act’s motor-voter provision by adding several hurdles to the registration process that people who obtain or renew a license in person do not face, Garcia ruled. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the ruling, arguing that the Texas system was consistent with federal law and that Garcia sought to impose “costly and unreasonable” solutions.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 12, 2019

Taddy McAllister: Oil terminal threatens Port Aransas

Did you know there is an enormous threat to our beloved Port Aransas that has mostly made the news down on the coast and not here? Yet it is our coast, too, us San Antonians. Here’s the story:

The Port of Corpus Christi wants to industrialize Port Aransas for the sake of exporting oil. It wants to dig the ship channel significantly deeper than it is now so vessels known as very large crude carriers can come onshore. That is the channel the ferries cross — the channel full of dolphins and diving pelicans. Dredging is messy and toxic, making the water uninviting and unlivable for sea creatures because of all the stuff that gets stirred up from the digging. Much bigger ships would be able to use the ship channel, but the animals whose home is the water would suffer.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 13, 2019

Texas pays $150,000 fine in foster care lawsuit

The state paid $150,000 in fines this week and certified to a federal court that foster children in Texas are receiving around-the-clock supervision at large-scale foster care facilities.

U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack levied the $50,000-a-day fine — which began last Friday — after a contentious hearing during which she accused child protective services officials of lying and found the state in contempt of court. Beginning last Friday, the Department of Family and Protective Services “mobilized more than 500 staff to make unannounced visits in Texas and in other states, including Arkansas, Idaho, and Missouri, during overnight hours” to ensure awake adults were supervising foster children, acting Commissioner Trevor Woodruff said in a court filing.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 12, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: Special education woes continue

The Texas Education Agency continues to fall short in its efforts to improve special education. Three years after a Hearst Newspapers investigation uncovered how the state agency had quietly and illegally placed a cap on the number of students allowed into special education programs — depriving thousands of children access to public education — TEA is still struggling to fix the situation.

Last summer, the U.S. Education Department found the state remains in need of assistance in complying with the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Although the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services did not detail the agency’s deficiencies, state education officials told the Express-News the finding was due to low student scores on national standardized testing. Most recently, the education agency was sued in federal court by the parents of a child in the Corpus Christi Independent School District over a troubling policy of not allowing the guardians of students, who have turned 18 years old but are incapable of making their own decisions, to navigate the public education system. This not a unique situation. The case is being closely monitored by special education watchdog groups and has the potential to be become a class-action lawsuit.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

DeBakey biographer defends surgeon’s response to Nazi sterilizations

The author of a soon-to-be-published biography of Michael DeBakey has taken issue with a blogger’s contention about sterilizations the legendary surgeon performed as a trainee under a German doctor in 1936.

In a blog post last week, British journalist-historian Thomas Morris wrote that DeBakey — considered one of the greatest surgeons of the 20th century — performed forced sterilizations for the Nazis. Citing DeBakey’s answers in an ambiguous 1972 interview, Morris concluded that DeBakey “seems to have been up caught up - albeit unwittingly - in the eugenics policies of the Third Reich.” But Dr. Craig Miller, a vascular surgeon and scholar-in-residence at the Ohio State University Medical Heritage Center, this week called Morris’ characterization “unfair” and “a poor piece of history, even for the Internet.”

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Erica Grieder: A real remedy for Dreamers will have to come from Congress, not the Supreme Court

In an ideal world, the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — and, by extension, the roughly 700,000 people enrolled in it —wouldn’t be up to the Supreme Court. The world that we live in isn’t an ideal one, needless to say. On Tuesday morning the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case combining several challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to cancel the program in September 2017.

DACA remains in effect, for the time being, due to a preliminary injunction issued by a lower court. But the program’s supporters aren’t feeling overly confident about its prospects. “There are more ways for this to go badly than for it to go well,” said Garrett Epps, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Many of the advocates who had gathered in the nation’s capital had a similar feeling of foreboding after the questioning. The Trump administration is arguing that the program is illegal, and also that the decision to end it shouldn’t be subject to judicial review. Chief Justice John Roberts, the likely swing vote, had tough questions for the lawyers on both sides.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

TEA faces questions from public on potential HISD board takeover

Residents of Houston ISD peppered state officials with questions Wednesday night about the potential replacement of the district’s elected school board, voicing frustration about the lack of immediate plans for students and staff during the Texas Education Agency’s first community meeting about the looming intervention.

Uncertainty about the state’s intentions with Texas’ largest school district simmered throughout the two-hour meeting at Pershing Middle School, where nearly 100 people gathered one week after Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced his intention to appoint a replacement school board. Morath’s decision is the result of Wheatley High School receiving a seventh consecutive failing grade and state investigators substantiating several allegations of misconduct by HISD trustees.

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Dallas Morning News - November 13, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: Cutting immigration won’t help Texas economy

It’s well known that if Texas were a nation state, it would boast the world’s 10th largest economy. What’s lesser known is that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 Texans exported nearly $316 billion in goods and commodities to foreign trading partners, accounting for 19% of total U.S. exports.

That’s why, as we’ve pointed out time and again — most recently in an editorial highlighting Caterpillar’s decision to lay off 120 workers at its plant in Victoria —“the Trump administration’s continuing trade war is having continuing casualties in Texas.” Yes, the Texas economy is humming along, with positive growth and low unemployment. But, as Dallas Federal Reserve President Rob Kaplan explained last week, continued economic growth is at risk if we turn against immigration and globalization. He didn’t go this far, but we would argue that the growing populist — and misguided — sentiment on both the political left and the right that globalization and immigration are somehow detriments to our economy are pulling us in the wrong direction.

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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Joe Biden gets backing of another North Texas politician, names state campaign director

Former Vice President Joe Biden has selected veteran Dallas consultant Jane Hamilton to lead his campaign’s effort to win the Texas presidential primary. The move comes as Biden scored the endorsement of state Sen. Beverly Powell of Fort Worth, signaling his strength in a region critical for the March primary showdown. He is relying heavily on North Texas to help him win the lion’s share of Texas’ 262 delegates.

Hamilton managed the coordinated campaign that led to the Democratic takeover of Dallas County politics in 2006 that included the election of numerous Democratic Party judicial candidates and Craig Watkins as district attorney. After managing Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ successful 2010 campaign for county judge, Hamilton steered Fort Worth Democrat Marc Veasey to victory in several congressional races. She also served as his chief of staff. “What we know right now is that Biden is the most electable candidate in the field, period,” Hamilton told The Dallas Morning News. “There’s nothing more important than working on this campaign and helping secure the nomination for Joe Biden.”

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 13, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial: Families need more time in tragic cases such as infant Tinslee Lewis’ heart defect

There’s no probable outcome to the Tinslee Lewis case that isn’t unrelentingly sad. Tinslee is the Fort Worth infant who has spent every day of her nine months in the Cook Children’s intensive care unit. She has a rare heart defect, among other problems, and doctors have concluded there is no hope for recovery. Her condition is fatal, they say, and the life-support measures keeping her alive are actually prolonging her suffering.

Texas’ law on life support questions is designed for these intently difficult cases. Life must be fiercely protected, but futile suffering must be minimized, too. In Tinslee’s case, medical professionals at Cook Children’s believe her treatment is causing her pain. They’ve consulted nearly 20 other hospitals, including top pediatric institutions, and none have disagreed. When that many experts concur, it’s time to pay attention. Under Texas law, a hospital, having determined that life-sustaining treatment is what’s keeping a patient with a fatal condition alive, can give a family 10 days’ notice that it will remove treatment. In that period, the family can seek another facility to care for their loved one. It’s a compromise aimed at an otherwise intractable dispute.

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Texas Observer - November 13, 2019

Rick Perry exports his pay-to-play politics to Ukraine

It appears that Rick Perry exported his pay-to-play politics from the Texas governor’s mansion to the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian oil and gas sector, where, as President Donald Trump’s energy secretary, he has played an outsized role in opening up the industry to private investors. As the Associated Press reported on Monday, two of Perry’s longtime political patrons won what could be an immensely profitable drilling contract on a sprawling patch of land owned by the Ukrainian government.

Per the AP, Perry traveled to Ukraine to attend the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky in May. During the trip, Perry urged Zelensky to appoint all new members to the advisory board of the country’s massive state-owned natural gas company, Naftogaz, helpfully giving him a list of recommended energy advisors. At the top was Michael Bleyzer, a silver-maned Ukrainian-American who has made a name for himself in Houston as an eccentric oil and gas investor. He also happens to be a longtime benefactor of Perry’s political career.

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KTRH - November 12, 2019

Poll: Most TX voters ignore political drama

You may be an avid follower and consumer of all things politics, but chances are your neighbor isn't. And maybe you aren't either. A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey of registered voters across the state reveals a lot of apathy when it comes to key candidates or races in next year's election. The poll finds 68 percent of Texas voters know little or nothing about the months-long controversy over a secret meeting with a political activist that led state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to forego re-election. In fact, 55 percent have no opinion about Bonnen.

Another finding in the poll is 57 percent of Texas Democrats still have no opinion about whom they support in next year's U.S. Senate primary to challenge Sen. John Cornyn. Furthermore, of the nine Democratic candidates in that race for the March primary, none had a name recognition higher than 24 percent. Texas political consultant Matt Langston with Big Dog Strategies says these numbers reflect common voter behavior. "This explains why our political system is reliant on generating voter contact and voter activity," he tells KTRH. "Name ID and favorability is all fleeting."

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Associated Press - November 13, 2019

Spotlight on Texas’ ‘10-day rule’ in life support cases

Texas law stipulates if doctors believe life-sustaining treatment should be stopped but the family does not, the disagreement can be taken to the hospital’s ethics committee. If the committee agrees with the doctor, the “10-day rule” can be employed. If the hospital or family can’t find a willing provider in that time, and unless a court grants an extension, treatment can be withdrawn.

Experts say a committee rarely hears such disputes. Typically, the family would first talk to experts including a palliative care specialist and an ethics consultant, according to Dr. Robert L. Fine, clinical director of the Office of Clinical Ethics and Palliative Care at Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas. The 1999 Texas law shields doctors who follow the procedure from lawsuits.

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Washington Post - November 13, 2019

The future of autonomous delivery may be in suburban Houston

On the muggy streets of suburban Houston, amid McMansions, bright green lawns and stately oak trees, a futuristic race is quietly afoot. The contestants are not people but late-model Toyota Priuses outfitted with an array of sophisticated sensors. Despite fierce competition and unending pressure to perform, the nearly silent electric vehicles do not speed. They move cautiously, rigorously following traffic laws and never topping 25 mph.

The vehicles are owned by Nuro, a Silicon Valley robotics company with an ambitious goal - to become the world's preeminent autonomous delivery service, allowing millions of people to have groceries and other goods delivered by robots instead of making trips to the store, potentially reducing traffic and kicking off a new chapter in our relationship with machines. For months now, Nuro's robotically piloted vehicles have been successfully, if quietly, delivering groceries to restaurants and homes around Houston, the vehicles' sensors mapping the city as they go.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Prosecutor fired for asking if victim ‘illegal’ speaks out about ‘hypocritical’ official response

The former Harris County prosecutor fired for asking about a victim’s immigration status defended his actions this week, framing the police union’s description of the alleged sex assault attempt as a “gross exaggeration” and calling the district attorney and police chief “hypocritical” for voicing outrage over a question he said law enforcement routinely asks.

John Denholm sparked widespread condemnation early last week after the Houston Police Officers’ Union accused him of refusing to file a felony charge without knowing if the victim was “illegal.” Politicians, law enforcement unions and the League of United Latin American Citizens all pushed to have Denholm out of a job, and on Friday the district attorney’s office fired him.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 13, 2019

State inspectors say Bexar County Jail is back up to standards

The Bexar County jail is back in compliance with state standards, but still has room to improve to ensure nonviolent inmates with mental health issues or limited finances are not left to languish there, Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters Tuesday. Jail officials are working more actively with lawyers, probation and court officials and others to ensure inmates are expedited through the criminal justice system and not held for unnecessarily long periods, he said.

Salazar added there have been isolated cases in which “court-appointed attorneys flat-out don’t come see their folks.” “If it’s occurring even once, that’s a denial of a basic human right that they have. And it’s quite frankly gumming up the process,” he said. The sheriff discussed the state of the jail while announcing Tuesday that an unannounced inspection Friday by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards resulted in a passing grade, at the end of a months-long process to get the jail back in compliance. Problems reported by the state commission after an annual inspection in February included civilian employees, rather than sworn deputies, booking and releasing inmates. Deputies are now in those roles.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

Cap Metro to transport people to Abbott’s camp for homeless

Capital Metro is providing transportation for people displaced from encampments under Austin’s highways who wish to be taken to the Gov. Greg Abbott’s camp site for homeless individuals.

A spokeswoman for the transit authority told the American-Statesman that Cap Metro has been working with state transportation authorities as they clear various encampments under the overpasses throughout the city. Cap Metro began its assistance to the Texas Department of Transportation on Wednesday as TxDOT cleared camps near the U.S. 290 overpass over West Gate Boulevard.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 13, 2019

Did chief act quickly enough to address racial slur allegations against assistant?

In late September, Austin Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom stepped two doors down into his boss’ office and warned that trouble was brewing. Interviews and emails obtained by the American-Statesman reveal what happened next.

Newsom, a 23-year Austin Police Department veteran who has been deeply involved in the city’s homeless issue, was scheduled to testify at an upcoming hearing for a fired commander trying to get his job back. Newsom told Police Chief Brian Manley he had learned that the commander’s attorneys were planning to confront Newsom about a text message they believed he had sent. Manley, who had promoted Newsom to his executive team in July 2017, instructed him to tell city lawyers handling the arbitration. But Manley did not press Newsom for more information.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 13, 2019

How pretrial publicity could affect case against Fort Worth officer in shooting

National attention surrounding a Fort Worth police officer who shot a woman in her own home, and the flurry of comments from public officials that followed, may impact the potential trial, experts say. Activists and leaders across the country called for justice for Atatiana Jefferson and condemned the actions of officer Aaron Dean, who resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department and has been charged with murder.

In the days after Dean shot Jefferson on Oct. 12, their names trended nationally on Twitter. Locally, Mayor Betsy Price said Jefferson was “taken from her family in circumstances that are truly unthinkable.” Police Chief Ed Kraus said Dean’s actions did not reflect the Fort Worth Police Department and there was “absolutely no excuse for this incident.” U.S. Rep Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, publicly called for Dean’s arrest on Twitter before Dean was taken into custody, saying “he should be behind bars!”

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Apparent snitch sends cocaine to Houston police with list of alleged dealers

Houston police are working to determine who sent an envelope containing cocaine to a police station near downtown Wednesday morning.

The envelope was sent to the Houston Police Department central patrol division station at 33 Artesian Place, according to HPD spokesperson Jodi Silva. The envelope contained a white powdery substance, which was later identified as cocaine, according to spokesperson John Cannon.

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Dallas Morning News - November 14, 2019

Dallas will wait a little longer for tighter scooter regulations

Transportation officials in Dallas will have four more months to iron out regulations that would address safety concerns around the city’s motorized scooters. The Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved an extension for the ordinance’s sunset to March 31, before the scooter ordinance was set to expire by the end of this month.

Michael Rogers, director of the city’s Department of Transportation, initially planned to bring recommendations for ordinance changes this month. Rogers said Wednesday his staffers need more time to develop the proposal. Those recommendations could include time restrictions at night -- when most injuries occur -- stricter enforcement measures for scooter companies and fees that would increase infrastructure revenue. “There are a lot of issues that we’re still working on,” Rogers said. “We want this to be a collaborative approach where we get in front of as many people as possible to try to find the best sustainable solutions.”

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San Antonio Express-News - November 13, 2019

Nirenberg urges shifting of sales tax from aquifer protection to faster bus service

Vowing, “I am not planning to fail,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg was joined by three political heavy hitters Wednesday in urging voters next year to shift a 1/8-cent sales tax from critical Edwards Aquifer protection to bolster VIA Metropolitan Transit and position it for a regional system of more frequent buses on dedicated lanes.

The area’s transportation future depends on it, they told the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. County Judge Nelson Wolff, VIA chairman Rey Saldaña and ConnectSA chairwoman Hope Andrade all backed Nirenberg’s call for voters in 2020 to take about $40 million in annual sales tax funding from the aquifer protection program and use it to beef up VIA’s operations. Doing so could bring the bus service to a level that would qualify it for federal aid for the capital expenditures necessary for advanced rapid transit, Saldaña said.

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National Stories

Associated Press - November 14, 2019

Cruz leads revolt over 5th Circuit Court nominee's conservative chops

President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal appeals court is in jeopardy following a conservative revolt from two Republican senators who have said publicly they won’t support him. Trump nominated federal judge Halil “Sul” Ozerden of Mississippi to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June. The New Orleans-based court handles cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee says it removed Ozerden from a planned vote Thursday at the request of the White House. A White House spokesman declined to comment. Ozerden, a close ally of White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, faces opposition from Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. They have questioned Ozerden’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s health care law and other rulings they say show he is not a true conservative. Senators also questioned whether Ozerden’s rulings as a judge have been overturned more frequently than other nominees.

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Associated Press - November 13, 2019

US proposes tougher rules on work permits for asylum-seekers

The Trump administration has proposed making it tougher for asylum-seekers to obtain permission to work in the United States while their cases are pending, a move that immigrant advocates say would unfairly punish those who need humanitarian protection the most. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Wednesday a proposed rule would double the time asylum-seekers must wait for a work permit to a year and bar those who crossed a border illegally from applying for work permits at all.

The new rule aims to discourage immigrants who don’t qualify for asylum from seeking it to “restore integrity to the asylum system and lessen the incentive to file an asylum application for the primary purpose of obtaining work authorization,” Ken Cuccinelli, the agency’s acting director, said in a statement. The proposal is the latest in a series of measures by the Trump administration aimed at deterring immigrants from seeking asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border and in limiting immigration to the United States. There are hundreds of thousands of asylum applications pending in U.S. government offices and immigration courts. Some were filed by immigrants who were already in the country and others by people arriving in airports, at ports of entry, or stopped on the U.S-Mexico border.

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Bloomberg - November 13, 2019

Citi warns of a ‘War on Wall Street and Wealth’ in the 2020 election

The road to the White House in 2020 may entail a war against Wall Street and wealth itself, as polling results encourage more candidates to cast a jaundiced eye toward the financial world, Citi warned in a note to clients. Some candidates are prioritizing greater accountability for big corporations, while others are concerned that “loosening the reins might foment another financial crisis,” a Citi team led by economist Dana Peterson wrote.

Still others believe “banks and their executives were not sufficiently penalized for the 2008-2009 crisis” and that big companies are anti-competitive and “antagonistic towards consumer protection.” Banks and wealthy individuals are viewed by others as a revenue source for “re-distributional policies, including further tax relief for low- and middle-income persons, and funding priorities from paid leave to jobs programs,” Citi said.

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Bloomberg - November 13, 2019

Justice Ginsburg misses Supreme Court arguments with stomach bug

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg missed Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court argument session, staying home with what a court spokeswoman said was a stomach virus. Chief Justice John Roberts said from the bench that Ginsburg, 86, was “indisposed due to illness” but would participate in the day’s two cases based on the briefs and transcripts.

Ginsburg, a four-time cancer survivor, had actively taken part in the previous day’s arguments, including a clash over President Donald Trump’s bid to end a deferred-deportation program for 660,000 young immigrants. Until this year, Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing, had never missed a Supreme Court argument because of illness. She skipped two weeks in January after having two cancerous growths removed from a lung. She later took part in the court’s decisions in those cases.

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The Hill - November 13, 2019

Jonathan Turley: Are Democrats building a collapsible impeachment?

As impeachment hearings begin, some have raised dubious objections to the process from a constitutional basis. Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker suggested there can be no impeachment since “abuse of power” is not a crime. Northwestern University Law Professor Steven Calabresi argued that President Trump was denied the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in the closed hearings held by House Democrats.

Neither argument is compelling. The fact is that, if proven, a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven. Yet the more immediate problem for House Democrats may not be constitutional but architectural in nature. If they want to move forward primarily or exclusively with the Ukraine controversy, it would be the narrowest impeachment in history. Such a slender foundation is a red flag for architects who operate on the accepted 1:10 ratio between the width and height of a structure.

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CNN - November 14, 2019

Deval Patrick announces presidential campaign

Deval Patrick officially announced a late-entry 2020 presidential campaign on Thursday, thrusting the former Massachusetts governor into an already crowded field of Democratic candidates less than three months before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

"In a spirit of profound gratitude for all the country has given to me, with a determination to build a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American Dream for the next generation, I am today announcing my candidacy for President of the United States," Patrick said in a video on his official website. The announcement is a stark reversal for Patrick, who decided in December 2018 not to run for president, citing in a Facebook post the "cruelty of our elections process" and the impact it would have on those close to him.

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Washington Post - November 13, 2019

Robin Givhan: For dignity’s sake, Jim Jordan, put on a jacket

Of course Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) took his seat Wednesday morning, at the opening of the public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill, wearing nothing but his shirtsleeves. No suit jacket. That’s how Jordan dresses. It’s his power move. His sartorial chest thump. All the other members of the House Intelligence Committee turned up in suits and ties or other business attire. But not Jordan. Everyone else was willing to offer at least a symbolic nod to decorous formality, to that old-fashioned notion of civility. Jordan announced himself as the man who was itching to rumble. He was the guy who came not to do as the Constitution demands with measured deliberation but to brawl.

Jordan has a reputation for rarely wearing a suit jacket. A Twitter account is dedicated to his jacketlessness. He’s the man on the dais who refuses to show witnesses the same respect that they inevitably show to him and to the circumstances. Typically, men who are called to testify before Congress wear a suit. They recognize the seriousness of the situation, and they dignify it. Even Mark Zuckerberg, who almost single-handedly made hoodies and T-shirts the uniform of the modern mogul, wears a suit. When comedian Jon Stewart spoke to Congress in support of 9/11 first responders, he wore a suit jacket and tie. When comedian Hasan Minhaj went to Capitol Hill to discuss student loan debt, he also wore a suit.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Some big names in energy endorse drastic climate action

A climate change think tank working with some of the world’s largest energy companies is pressing Congress to take drastic action to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, including a drastic cut in carbon-emitting vehicles and an end to subsidies for fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas.

Among the companies whose names were listed on the report, which is set to presented to Congress by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions Wednesday, are the British oil major BP, the Australian mining company BHP, the chemical companies Dow and BASF and Exelon Corp., a Chicago power company. “What distinguishes this report is the close engagement of the companies across the key sectors of the economy that are going to have to do the work,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the climate group. “There’s been a fair amount of ground truthing.”

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Newsclips - November 13, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 13, 2019

Competing plots as historic impeachment hearings open: Is Trump a villain or a victim?

Like many fights in Washington, the impeachment hearing that opens Wednesday offers the public the chance to embrace one of two versions of reality. Democrats will spin the tale of a lawless president who prodded a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival, using the levers of foreign policy – military aid and the promise of a White House audience to advance his personal agenda.

Republicans will present an entirely different narrative, a dark narrative of misguided bureaucrats and snarling partisan enemies misusing the Constitution to topple Donald Trump. Democrats control the process, though. For their opening chapter they’ll present two well-respected an apolitical diplomats to set the stage. William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, has already told lawmakers in closed-door session that it was “crazy” for Trump to freeze $391 million in aid Ukraine needed to deter Russian aggression, at the same time Trump and his emissaries were prodding Ukraine’s new president to publicly launch a corruption probe of former vice president Joe Biden, the Democrats’ front-runner for president in 2020.

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Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

Parents call for reforms to prevent mistaken child abuse allegations

Lorina Troy’s voice trembled as she told lawmakers about the moment her baby and 4-year-old son were taken away by Child Protective Services. The mother’s emotional testimony came during a daylong hearing called by Texas lawmakers in response to an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and NBC News that highlighted the plight of parents who’d been accused of child abuse based on mistaken reports by doctors.

The reporting showed that child welfare workers removed some children from homes after receiving reports from state-funded child abuse pediatricians that were later called into question, leading to traumatic family separations and monthslong legal fights. Troy’s ordeal started in 2015 when her infant son suffered a small, unexplained brain bleed. A child abuse pediatrician at an Austin hospital overlooked an underlying medical condition and said the boy was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. That diagnosis led the state to take both of Troy’s children.

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Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

Federal judge reacts to ‘cinder-block cells’ at Texas foster home

The leader of the Texas child protection agency said she was “horrified” by photos that show children in foster care staying in small, cinder-block rooms at a Hill Country facility, with virtually no furniture except for metal sink-toilet combos like those found in state prisons. An image of one room shows a child lying on a green mat on the concrete floor with a mural of an angel cradling a child on the wall above.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack and the court-appointed monitors working for her were shocked by the conditions. “It is hard to envision a less therapeutic environment — aside from jail — for youth with a history of trauma or intense psychiatric needs,” the monitors wrote in a report filed last week. But Hill Country Youth Ranch in Kerr County has undergone 54 state inspections in the past three years that mention nothing about the eight rooms in question, state records show. Founder Gary Priour said the monitors took the photos out of context and didn’t highlight the campus’ many cottage homes, horse program and arts center that have earned praise from the state.

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Boston Globe - November 12, 2019

Renee Graham: Forget the polls. The Democratic field needs Julián Castro

During a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Julián Castro dropped some unexpected knowledge. “Iowa and New Hampshire are wonderful states with wonderful people," he said. "But they’re also not reflective of the diversity of our country, and certainly not reflective of the diversity of the Democratic Party."

Castro, a Democratic presidential contender, was referring to the two states that traditionally kick off the primary season, both of which are overwhelmingly white. Then he chided his own party. “We can’t say to black women ‘oh thank you, thank you, you are the ones empowering our victories,’ and then turn around and start our nominating contests in the two states that have barely any black people in them." This is why if Castro soon ends his presidential bid, this election season will be diminished by his absence.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Trump paints DACA recipients as ‘hardened criminals,’ and Hispanic lawmakers call him a bigot

Hispanic lawmakers from Texas and around the country blasted President Donald Trump as a bigot Tuesday, as he dusted off a provocative claim that many young immigrants protected from deportation under an Obama-era program he ended were “hardened criminals.” Trump made the assertion just before the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on his decision to scrap DACA, or Deferred Adjudication for Childhood Arrivals, in September 2017.

Hardened criminals were explicitly excluded from the program. One felony or significant misdemeanor, or three misdemeanors of any kind, would make an applicant ineligible. “They have lived from the time of their youth in fear — living in the shadows, concerned about their future, yet fighting every day to be the best Americans that they can,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso. “They are hardworking, they are devoted to the values of this country. They are law-abiding, contrary to what the president has said ...

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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Nation’s leading milk producer Dean Foods files for bankruptcy, pursues sale

Dallas-based Dean Foods, the largest dairy producer in America, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it pursues talks to sell the company. The company said it was in “advanced discussions” with Dairy Farmers of America about a potential sale of all of Dean Foods’ assets. The Dairy Farmers of America is a co-op of dairy farmers that markets and sells members’ raw milk and other products and represents roughly one fifth of U.S. milk production.

“Despite our best efforts to make our business more agile and cost-efficient, we continue to be impacted by a challenging operating environment marked by continuing declines in consumer milk consumption," Dean Foods President and CEO Eric Beringause said in a statement. "Importantly, we are continuing to provide customers with an uninterrupted supply of high-quality dairy products, as well as supporting our dairy suppliers and other partners.” The dairy producer’s bankruptcy filing and pursuit of a sale comes after it had stated in September that it would not seek a sale of the company. Dean Foods had been pursuing the possibility since the start of the year.

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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: What does data on poverty tell us about educational outcomes in Texas public schools?

When it comes to educating children, poverty matters.

Texas’ large, urban public school districts often have to grapple with problems that other districts either don’t have to deal with or deal with to a lesser extent. The problems we refer to are the extra challenges that children in poverty have to overcome.

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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Supreme Court weighs fate of DACA recipients; Trump’s authority to end program not in question

The fate of some 680,000 beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the justices weighed the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the Obama-era program that was created in 2012 to shield some unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and grant them work authorization.

But the question before the court wasn’t whether President Donald Trump has the authority to end DACA -- it’s whether Trump has the authority to end it the way he did. And the justices’ lines of questioning seemed to indicate that regardless of how the president ended the program, it leads back to square one: Trump does have have the authority to rescind DACA. Some conservative justices also seemed ready to agree with the Trump administration’s first and most important argument that the decision to wind down DACA wasn’t reviewable by the courts to begin with. Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued before the court -- as the administration has before -- that because DACA was an act of agency discretion, the decision to end DACA was not reviewable.

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Dallas Morning News - November 13, 2019

Dallas’ Mina Chang, a Trump official, used fake magazine cover to tout nonprofit work, NBC News finds

Mina Chang, 35, was appointed the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in April. She stepped down from her Dallas-based nonprofit group, Linking the World, after receiving the appointment, according to a news release on the group’s website.

The NBC investigation said Chang “invented a role” on a United Nations panel and “exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.” The investigation found that Chang brought a Time magazine cover to an interview about her nonprofit group in 2017, using it as an example of her work. A Time spokeswoman told NBC the cover was fake. Last summer, the magazine had asked Trump properties to take down fake magazine covers depicting President Donald Trump.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Rodney Reed says more evidence points to innocence

Petition lists 8 new witnesses who lawyers for death row inmate say point to innocence Lawyers for death row inmate Rodney Reed have once again asked the state’s highest criminal court to void his conviction and death sentence, arguing that “even more new evidence” has been discovered that points to Reed’s innocence.

Filed with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday, the petition lists eight new witnesses who have provided testimony that the court has not yet seen — including four people who provided sworn affidavits just days ago. The new witnesses support Reed’s claim that he was having an affair with murder victim Stacey Stites, explaining the presence of his semen in her body, or support defense claims that Stites was likely killed by her fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, the petition argues. Reed is scheduled to be executed Nov. 20. Defense lawyers say the witnesses came forward or were tracked down during an intense reinvestigation of Reed’s case after the Bastrop man’s execution date was set in July.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Dell says by 2030, it wants half its workforce to be women

Round Rock-based technology giant Dell Technologies is promising bigger steps toward inclusion and a smaller environmental footprint in the next 10 years. The company said Tuesday it plans to have women account for half of its global workforce by 2030. Additionally, the company said its goal is to have black employees, as well as those who identify as either Hispanic or Latino, account for 25% of its U.S. workforce.

Women accounted for 30.4% of Dell’s global workforce in February, according to the company’s most recent diversity and inclusion report, compared to 29.4% in the previous year. The company said 12.1% of Dell’s U.S. workforce identified as black, Hispanic or Latino in 2018, compared to 12.6% this year. “Unlocking the power of data will advance humanity more than any other force over the next decade,” company chairman and CEO Michael Dell said in a written statement. “We are committed to making that power broadly available to communities around the world, so we can all move forward together.”

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Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Shareholders set to vote on media mega-deal involving Statesman’s parent company

A newspaper industry mega deal in which New Media Investment Group, the owner of the Austin American-Statesman, plans to buy USA Today parent Gannett Co. — combining the No. 1 and No. 2 biggest chains in the country — faces its final hurdle Thursday, when shareholders of the two companies vote on the $1.2 billion pact.

The merger of New Media’s operating division, GateHouse Media, with Gannett would create a nation-blanketing print and digital giant, with more than 260 daily newspapers and hundreds more websites and community and weekly newspapers stretching across 47 states. The new company, to be called Gannett even though New Media is the acquirer, would have a daily print circulation of 8.7 million, dwarfing the next largest chain, McClatchy, with daily circulation of 1.7 million.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Judge voids agreement on 3D-printed guns

Ruling that the Trump administration violated U.S. law, a federal judge on Tuesday tossed out an agreement that last year allowed, for a brief time, an Austin company to publish firearm schematics, including how-to files for 3D-printed guns, online.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle had previously blocked publication of the gun plans after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, joined by 19 other states, filed a lawsuit challenging a July 2018 administration agreement that allowed Defense Distributed of Austin to publish gun blueprints online. In voiding that agreement Tuesday, Lasnik said the policy change was not reported to Congress as required by federal law.

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Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

Houston-area Congressional District 22 has nation’s biggest GOP primary field

Already expected to be one of the hottest congressional races in the country, the battle in Congressional District 22 is fast becoming one of the nation’s largest with now 18 candidates vying for it. And there is still almost a month until the filing deadline, meaning more could compete to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land.

The latest candidate in the mix is Marine veteran Jon Camarillo, a Republican who announced his bid on Tuesday to run in the district, which includes most of Fort Bend County and parts of Brazoria and Harris counties. “We need to fight for pro-life policies, lower taxes, less spending, a strong military, secure borders, and pro-growth economic policies,” Camarillo said. Camarillo becomes the 15th Republican to jump into the race — making it the biggest field in the nation so far for a Republican primary for Congress.

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Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Gas storage sees 'near record' increase

With natural gas production continuing to rise, U.S. gas storage facilities saw "near-record" increases this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Monday.

Between March and November, the period when gas storage operators fill up their tanks ahead of the coming winter, more than 2,569 billion cubic feet of gas was placed in storage in the continental United States, the second-highest level on record following a cold snap in 2014 that left domestic storage depleted.

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Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

MD Anderson patient feds reported dead is still alive

A patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center reported by a federal agency to have died is still alive, officials at the Houston hospital said Tuesday. MD Anderson officials noticed the discrepancy some two months after receiving a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report detailing deficiencies uncovered during an August inspection at the hospital. The report, which became public late last month, noted two seemingly preventable deaths.

One of those involved a 54-year-old brain cancer patient described in the CMS report as having “an untoward reaction” to overdoses of anesthetic drugs injected into her scalp prior to scheduled radiation treatment. The report said the patient died in May. MD Anderson officials said the mistake was their fault. “MD Anderson identified an error in documents shared with CMS that outlined that a patient death had occurred,” the cancer center said in a statement. “Following an additional internal review, MD Anderson confirmed that the patient did not die and is still receiving care. MD Anderson is communicating with CMS accordingly.”

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Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

Texas will have ample power supplies for winter, spring

The state grid manager predicts Texas will have enough power to meet peak demand during winter and spring.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported that 82,000 megawatts of capacity will be available between December and February, including 136 megawatts of gas-fired and wind power that became commercially operable over the past few months. An additional 768 megawatts of generation capacity is also expected to come on-line for the winter season, including new gas-fired generation, wind and utility-scale solar. One megawatt powers about 200 homes during a hot summer day in Texas.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 12, 2019

H-E-B wants court to toss lawsuit over 401(k) retirement plan

H-E-B is asking a federal court to toss a lawsuit that accuses the San Antonio-based grocery story chain of failing to administer its 401(k) retirement plan in its participating employees’ best interests. The company called the complaint “Monday-morning quarterbacking” based on “a smattering of hindsight criticisms of the Plan.”

The lawsuit was filed in September in U.S. District Court in San Antonio by Francisco Meza of Houston, a plan participant since 2016, and Marvin Montgomery of Conroe, a plan participant from about 2012 until 2018. “Plaintiffs’ claims are grounded in fiction, considering H-E-B’s robust process for managing the Plan and helping its employee-partners achieve their retirement goals,” H-E-B said Monday in court papers supporting its motion to dismiss the complaint. The lawsuit alleges H-E-B failed to monitor and control plan expenses, “making it one of the most expensive plans in the country with over $1 billion in assets.”

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KUT - November 12, 2019

Activists knock on doors to rally voters around fixing Texas' high uninsured rate

A group of about 20 people gathered in Southeast Austin on a chilly Saturday morning to knock on doors in nearby neighborhoods. The #SickOfItTX event was one of seven across the state aimed at organizing Texans around the state's uninsured rate, which is the highest in the country.

Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas and one of the campaign's organizers, said about 100 people signed up to canvass in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Galveston, McAllen and Fort Worth. She said they plan to collect as many stories as they can in the hopes lawmakers will start to listen to concerns about the state’s health coverage crisis. “Advocacy organizations really feel like enough is enough,” Guerra-Cardus said. “And if the Legislature won’t listen to us, then our new audience is going to be Texans – everyday Texans.”

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 12, 2019

To speed up runoff results, Trautman says poll workers will drive ballots to counting center

Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman on Tuesday said poll workers will drive electronic ballot boxes to the downtown counting center directly in hopes of speeding up vote counting during next month’s runoff elections. The move comes a week after the clerk’s office was unable to fully report unofficial returns from the Nov. 5 elections until after 6 a.m. the next day.

Instead of waiting for constable deputies to pick up electronic ballot boxes from 10 sites around the county, Trautman told Commissioners Court that election judges will drive the boxes from 757 voting centers to a central counting location. That represents a step back in how the county has counted and reported results on election night. In recent elections, the office under former County Clerk Stan Stanart, used four relay sites to transmit results to the central counting center via phone line and modem. Trautman’s plan was to use 10 such relay sites and transmit the results via the county’s intranet system. Trautman had used the same plan in the May elections and the Harris County Attorney’s office had concluded it was permitted by the Texas Election Code.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 12, 2019

Tarrant County approves game room regulations, requiring permits, fees and more

Tarrant County commissioners approved a long list of requirements for game room owners Tuesday in an effort to regulate the businesses that many residents believe attract crime. The commissioners unanimously adopted an ordinance that requires permits for game room owners and sets rules regarding hours and locations. Commissioner J.D. Johnson was not present. The regulations are set to go into effect April 1, 2020.

Among the rules for game rooms: A permit to operate; Hours are limited to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m; Game rooms cannot be within 1,500 feet of a school, church or residential neighborhood, or within 2,000 feet of another game room. An outside sign that reads “game room” must be displayed and at least two windows must provide “a clear and unobstructed view of all machines”; Violating the regulations could result in fines and misdemeanor charges.

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City Stories

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 12, 2019

Mayor wrong to suggest ex-police chief Fitzgerald started pairing rookie officers, he says

Former Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said that Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price should apologize for statements she made attributing the policy of pairing inexperienced police officers to him.

Fitzgerald addressed Price’s October interview with NBC DFW during an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday. He noted that Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said during a deposition that the policy of pairing rookie police officers existed before Fitzgerald assumed the Fort Worth police chief’s position. During the Kraus deposition, which was conducted because of a whistleblower lawsuit Fitzgerald filed contesting the reasons for his firing, the interim chief is asked whether the meet and confer agreement the Fort Worth Police Officers Association has with the city allows officers with the most seniority to select what shifts they work.

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Houston Chronicle - November 13, 2019

Forced into runoff, Turner marshals support of state, national Democrats

Mayor Sylvester Turner is rallying the support of state and national Democrats as he seeks to fend off Tony Buzbee in the December runoff to win a second term at the helm of Houston government.

One week into the runoff, Turner has gathered the endorsements of Harris County’s four Democratic Congress members — Lizzie Fletcher, Sylvia Garcia, Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee — the Texas Democratic Party, 15 Democratic state legislators and the three Democrats on Harris County Commissioners Court. Also backing Turner is the Harris County AFL-CIO, which declined to endorse any mayoral candidate in the first leg of the race. Houston elections officially are nonpartisan, and no affiliation is listed next to candidates on the ballot.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 13, 2019

Elaine Ayala: Re-enactments for the 21st century? San Antonio can lead the way

New York artist Dread Scott ’s documentary project in Louisiana over the weekend, re-enacting the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history, was a gift. Despite faults, the depiction of a relatively unknown event refocused the nation’s historic lens, giving African Americans a sense of pride in the agency of slaves to rise up against their enslavers. It also gave those who romanticize the period, who embrace false stories that slaves were well-treated and happy, a far different reality. The event ended in a victory celebration in New Orleans, which wasn’t how the rebellion ended.

The staging’s greatest success may be that it will stir people in various parts of the country to mount re-enactments challenging the historic status quo. They have the potential to lift up the stories of marginalized people of color, women, LGBTQ Americans and children in U.S. history. Like the removal of Confederate monuments in public squares that glorify them — and into museums where they can be put in context — new re-enactments can amplify the record, right wrongs, and eventually, begin to turn an ugly tide across the nation. San Antonio has potential as a site for what the Los Angeles Times defined as re-enactments for the 21st century. Some people aren’t ready for them, unwillingly to see such accounting, even angered by their retelling. The rest of us are ready.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Delia Garza leaving Austin City Council, likely to enter county attorney’s race

Austin City Council Member Delia Garza on Tuesday announced that she will not run for another term, a move that’s a possible precursor to switching political lanes and entering the county attorney’s race in Travis County next month.

Garza, the mayor pro tem, has been on the council since 2015, representing District 2 in Southeast Austin. Garza’s current term expires in early 2021. “With deeply mixed emotions, I must announce that I will not be seeking reelection to the Austin City Council,” she said. “Those close to me and around City Hall have known for some time that I have been leaning toward this decision for some time now.”

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National Stories

NPR - November 13, 2019

Emails show Trump officials consulted with GOP strategist Hofeller on citizenship question

A prominent GOP redistricting strategist had direct communication with an adviser to the Trump administration concerning the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, newly released emails show. The emails were released Tuesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which has been conducting an investigation into the origins of the citizenship question that the Trump administration failed to add to forms for the upcoming national head count.

Thomas Hofeller, who died last year, had concluded in an unpublished study from 2015 that adding a citizenship question to census forms would produce the detailed data needed to redraw state and local voting districts in a way that would be "advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites." Challengers of the citizenship question proposed by the Trump administration alleged that Hofeller ghostwrote part of an early draft of the administration's formal request to the Census Bureau for the question. A Justice Department spokesperson denied the allegations when they first surfaced in May, saying that Hofeller's study "played no role" and calling the plaintiffs' claims "unfounded."

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NPR - November 12, 2019

FBI reports dip in hate crimes, but rise in violence

While the number of reported hate crimes dipped slightly in 2018, violence against individuals rose to a 16-year high, according to numbers released Tuesday by the FBI. The FBI's annual tally counted 7,120 hate crimes reported last year, 55 fewer than the year before. The main concern for extremism trackers, however, is the rising level of violence — the report showed an increase in the number of "crimes against persons," such as intimidation, assault and homicide.

Hate crimes targeting people accounted for 61% of all hate crimes in 2018, according to Levin, who is co-author of a report released Tuesday that analyzes law enforcement data. The FBI recorded 24 murders classified as hate crimes in 2018, up from 15 in 2017. Levin said the increase in assaults was almost evenly distributed across demographic groups, with African-Americans, Jews, whites, gays and Latinos targeted the most. As in previous years, the majority of hate crimes reported in 2018 were motivated by bias against race and ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Other notable findings include:

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NPR - November 12, 2019

Supreme Court allows Sandy Hook families' case against Remington arms to proceed

The Supreme Court has denied Remington Arms Co.'s bid to block a lawsuit filed by families of victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre. The families say Remington should be held liable, as the maker and promoter of the AR-15-style rifle used in the 2012 killings. The court opted not to hear the gun-maker's appeal, in a decision that was announced Tuesday morning. The justices did not include any comment about the case, Remington Arms Co. v. Soto, as they turned it away.

Remington had appealed to the highest federal court after the Connecticut Supreme Court allowed the Sandy Hook lawsuit to proceed in March. In recent court filings, Remington says the case "presents a nationally important question" about U.S. gun laws — namely, how to interpret the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants broad immunity to gun-makers and dealers from prosecution over crimes committed with their products. Remington manufactured the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle that Adam Lanza used on Dec. 14, 2012, to kill 20 first-graders and six adults at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

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New York Times - November 12, 2019

The man Trump trusts for news on Ukraine

In weeks of closed-door testimony, American officials who worked in Ukraine kept circling back to the work of one journalist, John Solomon, whose articles they said appeared to have considerable currency with President Trump’s inner circle. They had never known Mr. Solomon to be an authority on Ukrainian politics before, and certainly not someone with particular insights into the American ambassador to Ukraine who was a frequent target of his.

So when Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and the president himself started talking about his stories, those officials began closely following what he wrote. Asked how she first learned of Mr. Giuliani’s interest in Ukraine, Fiona Hill, Mr. Trump’s former adviser on Russia and Europe, replied, in part, “John Solomon.” Mr. Solomon has been a surprisingly central figure in the impeachment proceedings so far. But the glare has not been so kind.

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New York Times - November 12, 2019

Supreme Court appears ready to let Trump end DACA program

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared ready on Tuesday to side with the Trump administration in its efforts to shut down a program protecting about 700,000 young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers.

The court’s liberal justices probed the administration’s justifications for ending the program, expressing skepticism about its rationales for doing so. But other justices, including President Trump’s two appointees, indicated that they would not second-guess the administration’s reasoning and, in any event, considered its explanations sufficient. “I assume that was a very considered decision,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said of a second set of justifications offered by the administration in a memorandum last year after its decision to end the program was challenged in court.

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WSBTV - November 12, 2019

Former President Jimmy Carter recovering after brain surgery

Former President Jimmy Carter will remain at Emory University Hospital under observation after having surgery Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain following three falls in recent months. Those close to the former president told Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot that the surgery went off without a hitch.

What we don’t know is how long he will remain at Emory. Shortly following the surgery, the Carter Center released a statement, saying: “Former President Jimmy Carter is recovering at Emory University Hospital following surgery this morning to relieve pressure on his brain from a subdural hematoma. There are no complications from the surgery.” That news went over well in his hometown of Plains.

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Washington Post - November 12, 2019

Democrats’ impeachment lawyer cut his teeth prosecuting mobsters, Wall Street cheats

Daniel S. Goldman spent a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan, a jurisdiction known for its tough, high-profile cases. He left that job in 2017 to become a television legal analyst but now holds a weightier role questioning witnesses called to testify about President Trump’s effort to convince Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

At the public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee due to begin Wednesday, Goldman is slotted to question each witness for 45 minutes, followed by five-minute question sessions for each lawmaker. Stephen R. Castor, general counsel for the House Oversight Committee, will be the Republicans’ point man. The format is a significant departure from routine congressional hearings, where lawmakers have the spotlight and seldom cede the microphone and live television coverage to a staffer. By assigning a big chunk of the questioning to a committee lawyer, and in Goldman’s case, an accomplished former prosecutor, party leaders are tacitly acknowledging just how serious the stakes are.

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Associated Press - November 12, 2019

Democrats' wins could help bring down Confederate statues

An army of Confederate monuments dots Virginia's landscape but some of those statues could soon start coming down after Election Day gave Democrats control of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. Members of the new legislative majority say they plan to revive proposals to make it easier to remove the public displays honoring Civil War soldiers and generals in a state that was home to two Confederate capitals

Previous attempts to do so were quickly dispatched in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, in votes largely along party lines. "This is about what do we remember? What do we honor? It's the right to decide what we celebrate," said Del.-elect Sally Hudson, a Democrat whose district includes Charlottesville. Hudson said she plans to reintroduce legislation her predecessor, David Toscano, sponsored, giving cities and counties the ability to remove Confederate monuments. Local governments are currently hamstrung by a 1904 state law that protects memorials for war veterans.

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Wall Street Journal - November 13, 2019

Trump officials to testify in first public impeachment hearings

The nation will hear public testimony from House impeachment witnesses for the first time Wednesday morning, including from one whose description of President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine gets at the heart of Democrats’ inquiry.

Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official, will address impeachment investigators together at 10 a.m. EST. House committees conducting the inquiry have already released transcripts of their closed-door depositions, in which they described a shadow diplomacy campaign waged in Ukraine by Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney.

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Newsclips - November 12, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Trump’s decision to end DACA faces Supreme Court scrutiny

Diana Platas feels like everything in her life is at stake, riding on a politically charged debate about to play out more than 1,200 miles away. The 22-year-old is studying to get into law school and dreams of becoming an immigration attorney. But she doesn’t know whether a year from now she’ll be able to work or face deportation to Mexico, a country she hasn’t lived in since her parents brought her here illegally when she was 2.

In 2012, an Obama-era initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, gave certain young immigrants like Platas a work permit and temporary protection from deportation. Then President Donald Trump announced he was ending that program in 2017. His order was immediately challenged and two years later, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on whether his administration had the authority to end the program. The case, one of the most important of the justices’ term, will help define the scope of presidential powers over immigration. It also is seen as a test of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has lamented the politicization of the court and appeared reluctant to take on the DACA case, waiting until the last moment to do so.

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Dallas Morning News - November 12, 2019

Could impeachment hearings sway Texas Republicans dismayed by Trump’s Ukraine tactics?

When impeachment hearings start Wednesday, Democrats aiming to expose abuse of power will have a number of audiences in mind — none more closely watched than the handful of Republicans who have questioned President Donald Trump’s actions in Ukraine. While most Republicans in Congress have circled the wagons aggressively, a few have distanced themselves from Trump’s tactics, even as they also reject impeachment.

That includes one of the Texans on the intelligence committee, the forum for the hearings -- former CIA undercover officer Will Hurd. “Trying to get information on a political rival to use in a political campaign is not something a president or any official should be doing,” he said Sunday. Democrats have begun to describe Trump’s actions as “extortion,” sidestepping the “no quid pro quo” defense promoted by Trump and his allies. Whatever the label, they argue, the president sought to leverage U.S. military aid and a coveted White House audience for Ukraine’s new president into an announcement of a corruption probe that would tarnish Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.

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Wall Street Journal - November 11, 2019

Frackers prepare to pull back, exacerbating a slowdown in US oil growth

After pushing U.S. oil and natural-gas production to record levels, some shale companies are doing the unthinkable: They are planning to pump less. The pullback is sharpest among the country’s largest natural-gas drillers. Several producers, including EQT Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp., have said during third-quarter earnings that they may shrink output next year.

But even more oil-focused shale companies are promising to rein in spending and forecasting slower growth. Diamondback Energy Inc., Callon Petroleum Co. and Cimarex Energy Co., all active in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, told investors last week that they were contemplating holding next year’s spending around current levels. Voluntarily restricting growth is a new dynamic for the industry and reflects a calculus that it is better to spend and produce less while hoping for higher commodity prices.

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Washington Post - November 11, 2019

Rex Tillerson denies he tried to undermine Trump, says Nikki Haley was ‘rarely present’ at meetings

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson denied Monday that he sought to undermine or work against President Trump, as former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley claims in a new memoir of her time in the administration. “During my service to our country as the Secretary of State, at no time did I, nor to my direct knowledge did anyone else serving along with me, take any actions to undermine the President,” Tillerson said in a statement to The Washington Post.

“My conversations with the President in the privacy of the Oval Office were always candid, frank, and my recommendations straightforward. Once the President made a decision, we at the State Department undertook our best efforts to implement that decision,” Tillerson said. “Ambassador Haley was rarely a participant in my many meetings and is not in a position to know what I may or may not have said to the President. I continue to be proud of my service as our country’s 69th Secretary of State.”

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Fracking may indeed be causing earthquakes in Texas, according to UT study

Since Texas earthquake rates first picked up in 2008, academic scientists, regulators and oil and gas companies have publicly agreed on one thing: fracking was not to blame. Instead, studies tied the quakes to the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas production. Now, a new study suggests for the first time that some Texas earthquakes — specifically, those in West Texas — may indeed be connected to hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting fluid, sand and chemicals underground at high pressure to release oil and gas.

“However, it’s not the only cause,” said Alexandros Savvaidis, a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology. Savvaidis, who manages TexNet, the state-funded seismic network, identified the connection as he and colleagues worked to better pinpoint earthquake locations in the region, which is home to one of the world’s hottest oil plays. By 2023, oil production from West Texas’s Permian Basin is expected to double, surpassing the production of every OPEC nation except Saudi Arabia, according to at least one estimate.

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Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Should every special-education classroom be recorded? Dallas ISD trustees are debating cameras

Children with severe disabilities often don’t have the ability to speak up when they are hurt at school, so determining what happened can be difficult. That’s why one Dallas ISD trustee wants to require each special education classroom in the district to have video cameras. Texas public schools are already required to place one in a special education setting if a parent requests it.

Installing cameras districtwide would help protect the most vulnerable kids in DISD and even protect teachers if they are falsely accused of wrongdoing, trustee Dustin Marshall said. “Much like cameras on cops’ equipment allow us to hold the cop accountable, it also provides protection for the police officer, much like this would provide protection for the teacher when nothing inappropriate has actually happened,” Marshall said. But DISD administrators are concerned that doing so would be too expensive and could even drive teachers away.

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Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: After 4 students died by suicide at Prosper High School, here’s how the district responded

Fourteen-year-old Jack Rohwer. Fifteen-year-old Christian Tyler. Seventeen-year-old Chandler Fetterolf. Eighteen-year-old Braden Speed. All four were students at Prosper High School. All four died by suicide, the first in 2015. When Braden passed away in October of last year, just days before the annual suicide prevention walk, the school district didn’t just grieve, it got hyper-motivated. Most importantly, it recognized that things would change only if young people led the way.

This year, students are doing just that in this Collin County community, where the neighborly small-town vibe is fading in a culture of high-achieving, affluent adults with big expectations for their children. Members of what is known as the Hope Squad are talking candidly about mental health and suicide, seeking out lonely and troubled students, and making referrals to school counselors. So far, squad members have flagged 25 at-risk teens.

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Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Visiting judge to determine whether judge in Amber Guyger case will be recused from Dallas DA’s contempt hearing

A visiting judge will determine at a hearing Friday whether the judge who held Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot in contempt during Amber Guyger’s murder trial will oversee the case against the DA. Creuzot is asking for state District Judge Tammy Kemp, who held the district attorney in contempt, to be removed from the case.

Creuzot will eventually appear at a hearing to show why he should not be held in contempt for an interview he did about the Guyger case with KDFW-TV (Channel 4). The interview aired Sept. 22, the night before the trial began. A prior hearing set for Halloween was postponed. Kemp said in an order she signed last month that the interview was in “direct violation” of a gag order that prevented prosecutors and the defense from speaking publicly about the Guyger case.

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Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Brewers battle for Shiner Bock’s niche corner of craft beer

A Houston beer brand. The world’s largest brewer. Texas’ best-known craft brewer. Add some fighting words and you have a marketing clash that is taking on overtones of the Texas Revolution. The battlefield is Shiner, the home of Shiner Bock, where signs at a recent music festival blared, rather indiscreetly, “There’s a new Bock in town.” Billboards around the tiny town (pop. 2,171) also showed up to promote Crawford Bock, a beer launched by Karbach Brewing, a once-independent Houston brewer now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, or ABInBev.

To the Spoetzl Brewery, the maker of Shiner Bock, and local craft beer connoisseurs, the advertisements were a direct attack on their home turf — and the Texas craft brewing community at large. Spoetzl last week moved to rally its supporters with a reminder of another fight that pitted Texans against a powerful foe, publishing an open letter in the local newspaper that recalled the Battle of Gonzales, the opening skirmish of the Texas Revolution where a famous flag in the war for independence from Mexico was flown.

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Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Lawsuit: Hurricane Harvey aid discriminates against black and Hispanic residents

A new lawsuit alleges that a plan for $5.6 billion in post-Harvey federal aid favored white homeowners over renters who tend to be minorities. Lone Star Legal Aid filed the lawsuit Friday against the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Texas General Land Office. The GLO administers the federal funds.

“Especially in the Houston area, a majority of the Houston renters are minority households,” said Ashea Jones, a staff attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid. “And under the current regulations there are no programs that give direct assistance to the renter households.” Neither HUD nor the GLO have responded to requests for comment. About three-quarters of the federal funding are for homeowner-only programs, and the rest of the money is for renters. The suit alleges the funding setup will steer money to non-Hispanic white neighborhoods and does not offer enough funding to low-income minority neighborhoods. Lone Star Legal Aid also believes that the government overinflated the needs of white households who had other means, like renter’s insurance, to recover.

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Houston Chronicle - November 8, 2019

With Democrats locked in primary, Trump campaign ramps up Texas outreach

As in any sports bar in Texas when the Dallas Cowboys are playing on Monday night, most of the TVs at a British pub in northwest San Antonio were tuned to the game. But on one side of The Lion and Rose, the sights and sounds were just a little off. None of the fans wore silver or blue. Instead, about 50 people, predominately wearing red, gathered around a bank of big-screen TVs playing C-SPAN as they ate bar food and cheered with each applause line that President Donald Trump delivered on a stage in Kentucky.

Trump’s re-election campaign organized the watch party to connect with more potential volunteers as it seeks an army of campaign workers to help extract more votes, even out of Democratic-leaning areas like San Antonio. The event was part of the Trump campaign’s National Week of Action, essentially a dry run to “activate” thousands of volunteers needed next November to get out the vote. It was the second San Antonio event in just three weeks — on Oct. 15 the president's son Donald Trump Jr headlined a rally downtown aimed at firing up the party faithful as well as collecting names, emails and phone numbers of volunteers who can be deployed next fall. And President Trump himself was in San Antonio seven months earlier meeting with business leaders and holding a fundraiser.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 11, 2019

Fact-check: What does the law say about children and sex reassignment surgery?

During an Oct. 31 press conference, leaders from conservative advocacy organizations in Texas urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to elect a new House speaker. The activists also outlined policy proposals that they want lawmakers to address during a special session, proposals they say Republican leaders failed to pursue during the regular session earlier this year.

Cindi Castilla, president of the Dallas Eagle Forum, said lawmakers need to take steps to limit what gender transition treatments are available to children, in light of an ongoing legal battle in Dallas over the gender identity of a 7-year-old. “During our last session, our legislators decided to pass a law protecting Texans from e-cigarettes until they reach the age of 21,” she said. “They left children able to be sterilized and mutilated at any point in their life. This was a failing, and we need a remedy. “Texas Eagle Forum asked lawmakers to carry a very common-sense bill that would protect young Texans. That bill would have protected (the child), no matter what the verdict was going to be from the courts.”

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San Antonio Current - November 11, 2019

As Julián Castro's presidential hopes dim, he urges the US to switch the order of its primaries

Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro on Sunday told MSNBC the order of primary states should be shaken up to reflect the country's demographic changes.

“I actually believe that we do need to change the order of the states, because I don’t believe that we’re the same country we were in 1972,” the former San Antonio mayor said during the Kasie DC show. “That’s when Iowa first held its caucus first, and by the time we've had the next presidential election in 2024, it will have been more than 50 years since 1972. Our country has changed a lot in those 50 years. The Democratic Party has changed a lot.”

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NPR - November 11, 2019

As SpaceX launches dozens of satellites at a time, some fear an orbital traffic jam

SpaceX successfully launched 60 communications satellites on Monday using a single rocket. It's the second time in less than a year that Elon Musk's company has made such a launch, marking a dramatic increase in the number of satellites in orbit. Over the next year, SpaceX and a rival company, OneWeb, plan to put hundreds of networked satellites in orbit to eventually provide high-speed Internet to any point on Earth.

But critics worry that lax regulations, poor infrastructure and Musk's go-fast ethos could lead to chaos. "If things break in space, it's pretty difficult to solve that problem," says Tim Farrar, president of TMF Associates, a consulting and research firm in satellite communications. "It's not like your car breaking down on the side of the road." In a statement to NPR, SpaceX said it believes the network can operate safely. "Starlink is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards," the company says.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 12, 2019

President Trump visited North Texas. Here’s the security for the visit — and who pays for it

President Trump’s recent North Texas visit required hundreds of law enforcers to team with Secret Service to control crowds, redirect traffic, provide security and more. But unlike in some other communities where officials billed the president’s campaign for security costs, police and sheriff officials in Johnson County, Fort Worth and Dallas say they won’t send Trump a bill.

Albuquerque officials recently sent the president’s campaign an invoice for costs related to his visit. Other cities that have done the same for visits, mainly to cover police-related costs, include El Paso, Albuquerque, Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Erie, Pennsylvania. A dozen cities say the president’s campaign has left unpaid bills for rallies in their communities that now have a combined total of more than $1 million. The president started his North Texas visit by landing at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve base and then heading to a fundraiser at the City Club in downtown Fort Worth. About 100 police officers were involved in escorting the presidential motorcade to the fundraiser, helping secure the area while he was there and escorting the motorcade back to the base.

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Texas Public Radio - November 12, 2019

Texas regulators let coal companies get away with substandard cleanup, contamination

Thousands of acres of former coal mining land in Texas could be contaminated because of the state's lax enforcement of industry requirements. Texas is the seventh largest producer of coal and the nation's leading producer of lignite coal, which is designated by its lower heat value and is primarily used to power coal-fired plants.

The Railroad Commission oversees Texas’ coal mines and is tasked with enforcing industry standards including returning mined lands to their former state through a process called "reclamation." A year-long investigation by Grist and The Texas Tribune found that a lack of oversight in the Commission’s reclamation process led to the potential contamination of thousands of acres of soil and groundwater with mining waste, including coal ash that can be toxic to humans and animals in large quantities. Coal companies are required to restore the land when they're done using it and have to set aside the money to do so before mining can begin. Typically, this money comes from a state-held bond which can be recouped if all reclamation conditions are met.

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Associated Press - November 11, 2019

Boeing says it hopes to resume 737 Max deliveries in December

Boeing says it hopes to resume deliveries of its 737 Max jet to airlines in December and win regulatory approval to restart commercial service with the plane in January. Boeing shares rose in midday trading Monday. The company spelled out several steps that it needs to complete before the grounded plane can carry passengers again.

Pilot training has emerged as a key issue around the plane’s return — and an area where Boeing failed when it introduced the plane in 2017. The timetable that the company laid out Monday would allow it to generate cash by delivering planes even before the Federal Aviation Administration approves new training material for pilots. Boeing said it has demonstrated changes to the plane during sessions with the FAA in a flight simulator. It still must show regulators those changes during one or more certification flights.

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USA Today - November 10, 2019

Texas sub teacher fired, charged with assault after viral video of attack on student

The school district fired her, local police charged her with aggravated assault, and the governor of Texas promised a state investigation after a substitute teacher's violent altercation with a student was caught on video and went viral on social media.

Tiffani Shadell Lankford, 32, was teaching a foreign language class Friday at Lehman High School in Kyle when, in the video, she appears to walk up to the desk of a student and punches her repeatedly, then pulls her from her desk, throws her to the floor and stomps on her as stunned students climb out of their desks. "Conduct like this won't be tolerated in Texas classrooms," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "The substitute teacher who committed this heinous act has been arrested and will face serious legal consequences."

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San Antonio Express-News - November 11, 2019

Tenant leases complicates Alamo makeover project in downtown San Antonio

The owner of amusement attractions in the historic Woolworth and Palace buildings on Alamo Plaza says he doesn’t want to vacate before his leases expire in 2027 and 2028 — unless he’s paid $20 million. Getting attractions owner Davis Phillips to leave the buildings could become a problem because officials want to complete the $450 million Alamo Plaza overhaul project by 2024, the tricentennial of the 1724 founding of the final location of Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became the Alamo.

The high figure proposed by Phillips, president and CEO of Phillips Entertainment, which includes Ripley’s Haunted Adventure and Tomb Rider 3D, is appropriate, he says. “That figure is based on the fact that our company spent close to $9 million between 2001 and 2005 to build these businesses,” Phillips said. “That is 15-18 years ago, and the cost of construction has doubled. This does not even take into account the cost of downtime between moving locations.” The Texas General Land Office purchased the two 1920s buildings that house the tourist attractions, as well as the 1882 Crockett Building, in 2015, for $14.4 million.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Metro board members will set course of $7.5B transit plan, but not all ride

In approving a $3.5 billion bond referendum last week, voters tasked Metro officials with executing the massive regional transit plan they promised. Now, as the agency plans for projects it hopes to build over the next 20 years, riders have said it is critical leaders know what sort of improvements need to be built. The best way to do that, some say, is for board members to experience it.

“Let them go get groceries on the bus and tell me how they’d make it work better,” Mary McQueen, 56, said recently as she waited for a Route 40 bus south of downtown Houston. Some of the people plotting transit’s next steps as members of the Metropolitan Transit Authority board, however, have not routinely used it, according to their agency-issued Q cards. A Houston Chronicle review of their cards shows three Metro board members did not ride a single bus or train between Jan. 1, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2019. Other members were mixed, with some taking a handful of trips while others with different commuting locations and habits hop aboard frequently.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - November 12, 2019

Austin’s bats hanging around longer because of extended heat, experts say

It’s almost always bat season in Austin. Globs of residents and visitors drape themselves on the Congress Avenue Bridge every night between March and early November to watch the roughly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly from beneath their feet. But bat season is getting even longer.

In the past three to five years, thousands of bats in the world’s largest urban bat colony have been extending their stay in town because Austin’s average temperatures have gotten warmer or because the animals are sick, said Sarah Whitson, a wildlife officer for Austin Animal Protection. Temperatures in the 30s and 40s help the bats know it’s time to head south where they can stay warm for the winter, Whitson said.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 11, 2019

Happy 98th: Austin veteran of three wars is still holding steady

Until recently, Joe Joiner had not told his children that he served in World War II. “It didn’t occur to me to talk about it,” said Joiner, who turned 98 on Nov. 7. “Everybody my age served in World War II.”

Fewer and fewer people are now Joiner’s age. On Veteran’s Day, it’s imperative to note that, of the more than 16 million members of the United States Armed Forces who served during World War II, fewer than 400,000 American veterans were estimated to be alive today, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Fewer than 23,000 live in Texas. The Austinite did not merely serve. He shot down four German aircraft in combat. He went on to fly missions during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 11, 2019

Florida, San Antonio whistleblowers lead to $22.5 million settlement in pharmacy fraud case

A supplier of compounding medication will pay $22.5 million to resolve allegations that its subsidiaries in the United States inflated prices for compound drug ingredients and submitted fraudulent claims to federal healthcare programs. And the unnamed whistleblowers in San Antonio and Florida who exposed the alleged fraud will get $3.75 million for their role in resolving the case.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that Freedom Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Belgium-based Fagron Holding USA, knowingly inflated the average wholesale price for its ingredients so it could increase the reimbursements that its pharmacy customers received from federal healthcare programs. For example, Freedom established an average wholesale price for the ingredient fluticasone propionate at $3,500 per gram even though it typically sold the fluticasone propionate for about $160 per gram, the Justice Department said. The medication is commonly used to control asthma.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 11, 2019

Former San Antonio archbishop in line for top Catholic post

Clergy sex abuse is once again on the agenda as U.S. Catholic bishops meet this week — but so is a potentially historic milestone: Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, an immigrant from Mexico and a former San Antonio archbishop, is widely expected to become the first Hispanic president of the bishops’ national conference.

Gomez, 67, is the conference’s vice president — a post that by tradition serves as springboard to the presidency. In terms of doctrine, Gomez is considered a practical-minded conservative, but he is an outspoken advocate of a welcoming immigration policy that would include a path to citizenship for many immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

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Houston Chronicle - November 11, 2019

Pasadena’s mayor sought unity. His meetings show divide.

Mayor Jeff Wagner slammed his gavel repeatedly. Pasadena City Council members were considering hiring employees and creating new positions, and Councilman Sammy Casados had suggested they get rid of the mayor’s chief of staff. Wagner wouldn’t let them vote on the proposal, telling Casados he had to submit an intended agenda-item change in writing first. The mayor made this a rule in September. Casados said he’d put up with the requirement before, but he disagreed with it now vehemently.

Already, the mayor puts items on the agenda. Council members can’t speak on any one for more than two minutes. Suggesting in-the-moment amendments appeared to rankle Wagner, who called the strategy immature, but Casados and others thought it was their best shot at getting their ideas through. To them, Wagner’s attempt to limit that ability was beyond his authority. Arguments erupted, another example of quarreling between the mayor, who promised to lead a united city, and council members who say he’s making it hard for them to represent the older, predominantly Latino north side.

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National Stories

Associated Press - November 12, 2019

US held record number of migrant kids in custody in 2019

The 3-year-old girl traveled for weeks cradled in her father’s arms, as he set out to seek asylum in the United States. Now she won’t even look at him. After being forcibly separated at the border by government officials, sexually abused in U.S. foster care and deported, the once bright and beaming girl arrived back in Honduras withdrawn, anxious and angry, convinced her father abandoned her.

He fears their bond is forever broken. “I think about this trauma staying with her too, because the trauma has remained with me and still hasn’t faded,” he said, days after their reunion. This month new government data shows the little girl is one of an unprecedented 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. government custody over the past year, enough infants, toddlers, kids and teens to overflow the typical NFL stadium. That’s more kids detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers.

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Associated Press - November 12, 2019

Former President Jimmy Carter enters hospital for surgery

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was admitted to a hospital on Monday evening for a surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, caused by bleeding due to his recent falls, his spokeswoman said. The procedure is scheduled for Tuesday morning at Emory University Hospital, Deanna Congileo said in a statement.

Carter has fallen at least three times this year, and the first incident in the spring required hip replacement surgery. He traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, and helped build a Habitat for Humanity home after getting 14 stiches following a fall on Oct. 6. And he was briefly hospitalized after fracturing his pelvis on Oct. 21. He received a dire cancer diagnosis in 2015 but survived and has since said he is cancer-free.

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Associated Press - November 11, 2019

2020 Watch: Bloomberg escalates doubts about front-runners

Whether he does or doesn't run, New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg has escalated doubts about front-runners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren and pushed Democratic anxiety to new heights. There may be more than a dozen candidates still in the race, but several ambitious Democrats who initially opted to bypass a 2020 bid are suddenly being taken seriously as potential candidates. Less than three months before voting begins, the Democratic primary feels increasingly unsettled.

He is one of the richest men on the planet and he's taking steps toward making a late entrance in the Democratic primary. Bloomberg's advisers insist that he's yet to make a final decision, so do not assume he will run — especially given the hostile reception he received from some in his adopted party's base. Still, his extraordinary wealth means he can be a major factor in the race.

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Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Rex Tillerson said he resisted Trump’s decisions or else ‘people would die,’ Nikki Haley claims

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to subvert President Donald Trump’s agenda as part of an effort to “save the country,” according to a new book by Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief executive, worked on that aim with former White House chief of Staff John Kelly and tried unsuccessfully to recruit Haley to the cause, she said.

“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote in “With All Due Respect,” which is set to be released on Tuesday. “It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” she wrote, according to an advanced copy obtained on Sunday by the Washington Post. Tillerson went so far to tell Haley that if he didn’t resist Trump’s decisions “people would die,” Haley wrote.

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Wall Street Journal - November 11, 2019

GOP divided on defense of Trump over Ukraine

Top Republicans on Sunday offered sharply divergent views of President Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, showcasing the party’s challenges to mount a unified defense of the president in advance of public impeachment hearings set to begin this week. One senior GOP House lawmaker condemned Mr. Trump’s decision to press Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as inappropriate, but said it didn’t warrant impeachment.

A Republican senator said the matter would turn on Mr. Trump’s intent: If he sought an investigation of the Bidens for political reasons, that could constitute an impeachable offense. Yet others sought to put the spotlight on the Biden family—urging investigators to probe the substance of Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations that the vice president took actions that may have benefited a Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board.

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Reuters - November 12, 2019

Former U.S. top diplomat Rice concerned by shadow diplomacy on Ukraine

Condoleezza Rice, a secretary of state under Republican President George W. Bush, said on Monday reports of an unofficial U.S. policy being carried out in Ukraine were “deeply troubling.”

Rice was critical of President Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential run but has been more restrained since the Republican took office. State Department officials have testified in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry about an “irregular channel” of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. Public hearings begin this week.

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Washington Post - November 11, 2019

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick laying groundwork for Democratic presidential bid, sources say

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is laying the groundwork to enter the presidential race, with an announcement expected as soon as this week, according to two sources with direct knowledge of his plans.

The decision marks yet another reversal that could throw further volatility into the Democratic presidential primary. Patrick, who served two terms ending in 2015 and has close ties to former president Barack Obama and his network of advisers, has been trying to put a team together with a loose plan to announce his campaign by Thursday. In one complication, he also has been trying to extricate himself from Bain Capital, the private-equity firm where he has been a managing director since leaving office. The firm became a ripe target for Democrats in 2012 when Obama was running against Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee who co-founded the firm.

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New York Times - November 12, 2019

Behind Trump’s dealings with Turkey: Sons-in-law married to power

Behind President Trump’s accommodating attitude toward Turkey is an unusual back channel: a trio of sons-in-law who married into power and now play key roles in connecting Ankara with Washington.

One, Turkey’s finance minister, is the son-in-law of its strongman president and oversees his country’s relationship with the United States. Another is the son-in-law of a Turkish tycoon and became a business partner to the Trump Organization. Now he advocates for Turkey with the Trump administration. And the third is Jared Kushner, who as the son-in-law of and senior adviser to Mr. Trump has a vague if expansive foreign policy portfolio. Operating both individually and in tandem, the three men have developed an informal, next-generation line of communication between Mr. Trump and his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who only weeks after his military incursion into northern Syria is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday.

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Newsclips - November 11, 2019

Lead Stories

Associated Press - November 11, 2019

After push from Perry, Michael Bleyzer and Alex Cranberg got huge gas deal in Ukraine

Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country's new president.

Perry's efforts to influence Ukraine's energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression, and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry's supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy's May inauguration. During that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers, including his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

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Washington Post - November 10, 2019

Nikki Haley claims top aides tried to recruit her to ‘save the country’ by undermining Trump

Two of President Trump’s senior advisers undermined and ignored him in what they claimed was an effort to “save the country,” former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley claims in a new memoir. Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly sought to recruit her to work around and subvert Trump, but she refused, Haley writes in a new book, “With All Due Respect,” which also describes Tillerson as “exhausting” and imperious and Kelly as suspicious of her access to Trump.

“Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley wrote. “It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley wrote of the views the two men held. Tillerson also told her that people would die if Trump was unchecked, Haley wrote. Tillerson did not respond to a request for comment. Kelly declined to comment in detail, but said that if providing the president “with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the [government] so he could make an informed decision is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.”

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San Antonio Express-News - November 10, 2019

Texas GDP growth top among U.S. states

Texas had the fastest-growing economy among U.S. states in the second quarter of this year, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state’s gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced over a period of time — grew by 4.7 percent in the quarter. That’s well above the national growth rate of 2 percent over the same time.

Alaska, New Mexico and Wyoming were the only other states with at least 4 percent GDP growth. “The reality is that we in Texas are living in a parallel universe,” said Nathaniel Karp, BBVA’s chief U.S. economist. “We’re talking about 4 percent real GDP growth rates in an environment where all developed economies pretty much have stagnated. There’s been very meager growth.” The mining sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, had the largest growth among industries in Texas in the quarter. Oil and gas production has risen sharply since the 2015 oil bust, powering Texas’ recent economic growth.

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Wall Street Journal - November 11, 2019

Aramco’s profit slide shows scale of risk for investors

Aramco revealed a steep drop in profit related to attacks on its facilities in September that briefly halved the Saudi company’s oil output, highlighting the risks to investors ahead of what could be the world’s largest initial public offering.

The Saudi Arabian Oil Co., as Aramco is officially known, delayed its highly anticipated initial public offering last month until it had published the earnings, hoping to demonstrate the resilience of its operations. At the launch of the IPO last weekend, Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan said the Sept. 14 attacks didn’t have a material impact on the company’s financials. In a 600-page share-sale prospectus released Saturday, Aramco revealed its quarterly revenue declined in line with oil prices while net profit dropped at a faster rate on higher costs associated with the attacks.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Outgoing GOP Rep. Will Hurd urges Texas suburban Republicans to craft message independent of Trump

President Donald Trump might have short coattails. That’s the concern of Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, who worries that the national climate will cost Texas Republicans in 2020. He offers the local GOP this advice: Create your own message, and develop a brand independent of Trump. He pointed to success that some Texas Democrats had in the 2018 midterm elections as examples on why it’s critical to keep a local message.

“The Democrats that kept this as a local issue and didn’t try to nationalize it, they were the ones who were successful,” Hurd said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News and KXAS (NBC5). “This notion of nationalizing elections is a bad idea.” But Trump, one of the most controversial presidents in history, will dominate the 2020 election cycle. The nation is divided, and the outcome of the presidential contest could be determined by which party — Democrats or Republicans — can mobilize its base voters. Independents will also play a role. We’ll know more about their preferences when the Democrats settle on a presidential nominee.

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Dallas Morning News - November 11, 2019

Marc Veasey: Immigrants who fight for our country deserve every benefit veterans are due

I served on the Armed Services Committee my first three terms in Congress, and I am committed to making sure veteran receive the respect and benefits that they have rightly earned through their service and sacrifice to our country. That is why we must support every veteran, regardless of his or her citizenship status. Non-citizen veterans have bravely fought for a country they were not born in but have put their lives on the line to protect.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 530,000 veterans were born outside of the United States and more than 1.5 million veterans are American born children of immigrants. Recent reports estimate that a few thousand of these non-citizen veterans have been deported, and that number is expected to keep rising with the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. A mental and physical health crisis has hurt veterans of all ethnicities and backgrounds across our country, including many veterans who are immigrants. According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, 30 percent of military service personnel, both active duty and veterans, have a mental health condition requiring treatment. Unfortunately, less than 50 percent of those affected receive treatment.

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Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

Ted Cruz: Hong Kong is the new Berlin

Nov. 9 marked the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. Its ruin would pave the way for the end of the Cold War and mark the abject failure of communism. Throughout history, people of every color and creed have sought to flee the reach of communism. Tyrants know this, which is why the Berlin Wall was built — not to keep people out, but rather to keep people in.

Throughout the Berlin Wall’s existence, the Soviet Union’s communist regime in East Germany imprisoned and killed thousands of people yearning for freedom. Three years later, the Berlin Wall fell to the ground. Speaking the truth caused the tyranny of East Berlin to crumble. American values have immense power in advancing the cause of freedom. Though the physical, graffiti-covered, concrete barrier was toppled in East Germany, modern Berlin Walls still exist today. Tyranny oppresses billions across the world — especially in China.

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Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Let the good times roll: Subprime auto lender Santander ramps up sales, especially in Texas

More Texans are taking on more debt, and by one measure — auto loan balance per capita — they easily have the highest burden in the country. The question is whether it’s too heavy to handle. Delinquency rates are climbing, especially among subprime borrowers, who have to pay higher interest rates. At the end of 2018, almost 5.4% of auto loans in Texas were at least 90 days late, and the numbers in Dallas County were even worse, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Delinquency rates were almost twice as high as before the Great Recession. So are lenders tapping the brakes?

Not Santander Consumer USA, one of the country’s largest auto lenders. The Dallas-based operator originated $8.4 billion in car loans and leases in the quarter ended in September, an increase of 11%. “We probably have 30 Ph.D.s who work here, and we dig through our data at a very granular level,” said Scott Powell, CEO of the company. “We have our radar fully switched on to look for changes in consumer payment patterns — and we don’t see it.” There are plenty of signs of distress among Santander customers, but that apparently comes with the territory. Over 8 in 10 Santander car loans are made to subprime borrowers who don’t qualify for conventional financing. Often they have low incomes and can’t make sufficient down payments.

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KUT - November 9, 2019

Stress over mass shootings, health care access high among Latinos, survey finds

Mass shootings, health care concerns and the upcoming 2020 presidential election top the list of Americans' worries these days. That's according to a new survey out this week from the American Psychological Association. Overall, 71% said mass shootings were a significant source of stress in their lives, up from 62% last year. Hispanic adults were most likely to report stress over mass shootings (84%).

That's not surprising, says psychologist Jamie Diaz-Granados, deputy CEO of the APA. In part, the finding of higher stress could have to do with the timing of the survey, which was done in August around the same time as mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. "In both of those shootings, people of color were targeted," he says. "People are feeling very threatened, singled out and described in terms that are dehumanizing."

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Houston Chronicle - November 10, 2019

The night Trump shook hands with Nixon in Houston

In the photos, they are both in tuxes, the president who resigned rather than be impeached and the president-to-be who would one day fight impeachment. It is March 11, 1989. They are shaking hands at the Westin Galleria, at Houston high society’s party of the year. Mr. Trump leans in to say something to Richard Nixon. Nixon laughs.

In 2019, the photo is electrifying. If Trump’s unconventional presidency has any role model, it is Nixon. And it was in Houston, that weekend, that the two men got to know each other. But in 1989, the photo wasn’t even deemed worthy of newsprint. In the days that followed, though both the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle lavished attention on the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation gala and the societal doings that surrounded it, each ran only one photo of Trump — and their photos were almost identical. In each of them, he stood behind the bare shoulder of his glamorous, glittering then-wife Ivana, in her yellow Bob Mackie strapless gown.

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KUT - November 10, 2019

Experts worry active shooter drills in schools could be traumatic for students

A regular drumbeat of mass shootings in the U.S., both inside schools and out, has ramped up pressure on education and law enforcement officials to do all they can to prevent the next attack. Close to all public schools in the U.S. conducted some kind of lockdown drill in 2015-2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last year, 57% of teens told researchers they worry about a shooting happening at their school. A slightly higher percentage of parents of teenagers, 63%, fear a shooting at their child's school, the Pew Research Center found. But many experts and parents are asking if the drills, some complete with simulated gunfire, are doing more harm than good.

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KUT - November 10, 2019

New UT Arena to be named Moody Center after $130M gift from foundation

The new basketball and events arena at the University of Texas will be named the Moody Center, after a $130 million gift to the school from the Moody Foundation. It will replace the 42-year-old Frank Erwin Center.

"There is no more fitting Texas name for a world-class arena in the heart of our campus than 'Moody,'" UT President Gregory Fenves said in a statement released by the school. "This will be a state-of-the-art events center that will serve Texas' student-athletes and benefit the entire Austin community. I am grateful to the Moodys for their generosity."

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Houston Chronicle - November 10, 2019

DeBakey and the Nazis

Did Dr. Michael DeBakey, the foremost figure on Houston medicine’s Mount Rushmore, perform forced sterilizations for the Nazis? In a new blog post, a British medical historian raises the shocking possibility. Even more extraordinary, notes Thomas Morris, the source material is DeBakey himself.

In U.S. National Library of Medicine transcripts of taped interviews from 1972, DeBakey talks about training under a leading German surgeon a few years after Hitler had risen to power and begun his campaign to “cleanse” Germany of individuals viewed as biological threats to the nation’s “health.” DeBakey was 28 at the time, 1936, and seemingly ignorant of the political situation, Morris notes, or at least not interested. “There was one experience that kind of went against my grain and I didn’t like,” says DeBakey in the transcript. “I noticed that we did a lot of sterilization operations…. And I assisted in… you see, and worked, I did some of them.”

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Houston Chronicle - November 10, 2019

Researchers work to keep millions of monarch butterflies from dying on Texas highways

Already at risk of extinction, the monarch butterflies that flutter through Texas on their way to Central Mexico face yet another formidable predator: deadly traffic.

Millions of monarchs die on the state’s highways as they collide with vehicles while flying low. A grant from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Research and Technology Implementation division hopes to help Texas A&M University researchers identify the location and extent of so-called roadkill hot spots to better understand why it happens and find ways to mitigate it.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 11, 2019

Texas homeowners won’t be surprised by this ranking. Why are property taxes so high?

Officials like to credit the state’s lack of a corporate or personal income tax for making Texas one of the best states for business, but skyrocketing property values have given it a less-desirable ranking: one of the highest effective property tax rates in the nation, according to various studies and a Star-Telegram analysis.

The state’s effective property tax rate — described as the average property tax as a percentage of the average estimated market value — trailed only New Jersey and Illinois in 2018, according to Attom Data Solutions, which tracks property, deed, mortgage and tax data nationwide. In another study, Texas’ metro areas had some of the highest effective tax rates out of the 50 largest cities nationwide. Half of the top 12 cities were in Texas, with Fort Worth ranked sixth, according to a June report by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence comparing 2018 property taxes.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 10, 2019

Judge grants motion to temporarily stop hospital from taking baby off life support

Trinity Lewis said all she wants is for her 9-month-old daughter, who is on life support, to have a chance to get better. But on Sunday, physicians at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth planned to stop all treatment for Tinslee Lewis, she said. On Sunday evening, a judge granted Lewis and her family a temporary restraining order, prohibiting the hospital from ending Tinslee’s treatment. The family now has until Nov. 22 to move her to another facility.

Tinslee was born prematurely with a rare heart defect called an Ebstein anomaly. She also suffers from a chronic lung disease and severe chronic pulmonary hypertension, and has undergone several complex surgeries. She breathes with the assistance of a ventilator and is sedated but conscious, the family says, and responds to touch and stimulation as any baby would. On Sunday evening, Tarrant County District Judge Alex Kim granted Tinslee’s family a temporary restraining order against the hospital, prohibiting physicians from ending Tinslee’s treatment until at least Nov. 22. If Tinslee is not transferred to another hospital, Cook Children’s could potentially move forward with ending treatment when the family’s restraining order expires.

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Associated Press - November 10, 2019

All eyes on Texas governor as calls grow to halt execution

In his five years as Texas' governor, Republican Greg Abbott has overseen the execution of nearly 50 prisoners while only once sparing a condemned man's life. But Abbott — who has proudly referred to the death penalty as "Texas justice" — has never confronted such intense pressure to halt a lethal injection like he is facing in the case of Rodney Reed, who is set to die this month for a 1996 killing despite new evidence that even a growing number of Republican legislators say raises serious questions about his guilt.

On Saturday, supporters of Reed held their biggest protest yet outside the governor's mansion, escalating a public campaign that now counts Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey among the celebrities who have urged Abbott to call off the Nov. 20 execution. So, too, has the European Union's ambassador to the U.S. "Only thing I would tell him is, honestly, just look at the evidence," said Rodrick Reed, Rodney's brother. It's unclear if the public pressure is making any impression on Abbott, who was a law and order state attorney general before he was elected governor. Abbott hasn't spoken publicly about Reed's case.

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Texas Public Radio - November 8, 2019

San Antonio’s sick leave ordinance now rests in the hands of a judge

A San Antonio ordinance allowing workers to earn paid sick leave is now in the hands of a Bexar County District judge. The Sick and Safe Leave ordinance is set to go into effect on Dec. 1 unless the judge grants an injunction.

The plaintiffs include 12 business groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors of South Texas, the American Staffing Association and Hawkins Associates. Their claim says the ordinance circumvents state law, specifically, the Texas Minimum Wage Act. Officials with the city said the ordinance provides a benefit, and not a wage, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. District Court Judge Peter Sakai ended the Thursday hearing without issuing a ruling.

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Midland Reporter-Telegraph - November 11, 2019

Democratic Railroad Commission candidate to focus on flaring

Dallas resident Chrysta Castañeda visited Midland last week as part of her campaign for a seat on the Railroad Commission. The Democrat will be seeking the seat currently held by Ryan Sitton. “The state Democratic Party had been talking to me about my interest,” said Castañeda, who ran for Congress in 2012.

What sealed her interest in the Railroad Commission was an industry presentation on flaring that she attended this summer, she said. “I thought that was something I can do something about,” she said. Reducing flaring will be a key focus of her campaign as she seeks the nomination. “There’s still some question as to whether we actually have energy independence,” she said, citing quickening declines in shale production. “So why are we burning gas” Industry representatives say a lack of pipeline capacity is forcing them to flare gas, and she agreed pipelines are an issue. “But I don’t think we’ve explored alternatives.”

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Texas Observer - November 11, 2019

The movement to free Rodney Reed illustrates the growing unease over Texas’ use of the death penalty

After an hourslong rally outside the governor’s mansion in downtown Austin on Saturday, hundreds of people chanting “Free Rodney Reed” briefly blocked streets around the Texas Capitol in an impromptu march led by the brother of the man the state plans to execute on November 20. The crowd that gathered on Governor Greg Abbott’s doorstep represents just a sliver of the growing outcry over Reed’s pending execution for the 1996 rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop.

Since Reed’s conviction in 1998, a flood of new evidence has called his guilt into question and drawn enormous attention to the case—most recently from syndicated daytime talk show host “Dr. Phil” McGraw, who gave Reed’s innocence claim a major signal boost in a two-part series that aired last month. The widespread calls for officials to stop, or at the very least delay, Reed’s execution now range from mega-celebrities like Beyoncé and Oprah to a bipartisan coalition of more than three dozen Texas lawmakers. Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, who traveled to Austin to speak alongside Reed’s family at Saturday’s rally, started a petition last week imploring that Abbott halt the execution; it’s already gathered more than 2.5 million signatures.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

Big gift to SMU shines a spotlight on publicity-shy couple

How does a guy who went to Southern Methodist University on a basketball scholarship strike it so rich that he can give his alma mater more than $100 million? He parlays the finance education that he earned at its Edwin L. Cox School of Business into co-founding one of the world’s largest private equity firms.

And just how David B. Miller came to do that is one of those under-the-radar success tales that Dallas is so famous for. Last month, Miller and his wife, Carolyn, made headlines when they gave SMU $50 million — the biggest individual donation in the university’s 108-year history. The Millers’ moment in the spotlight was unusual for this Highland Park couple who have quietly given tens of millions of philanthropic dollars since 2006 — including $51 million to SMU in smaller lump sums and $10-plus million to the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 10, 2019

Leukemia sidelines prominent Austin criminal defense lawyer

Following the most exhausting year imaginable for a criminal defense attorney, Ariel Payan had been hoping to decompress in 2019 and step away from the courthouse spotlight. Weary-eyed from four trials involving three of Austin’s most notable killers, Payan, the area’s go-to appointed lawyer for some of the most heinous criminal cases, reflected on those 12 months with the American-Statesman in January and described it as “a perfect storm of bad.”

Yet this year produced an even tougher challenge for the 51-year-old married father of two: an ongoing battle with leukemia. Taking a break from fighting for clients’ lives, Payan now finds himself in a seventh-floor hospital room at Seton Medical Center Austin fighting for his own life. With a thinning goatee and the little hair he had on his head now gone, Payan put his law practice on hold in September to begin chemotherapy. The second six-week round began last week.

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National Stories

New York Times - November 10, 2019

What Joe Biden actually did in Ukraine

When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2014, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. pressed President Barack Obama to take decisive action, and fast, to make Moscow “pay in blood and money” for its aggression. The president, a Biden aide recalled, was having none of it.

Mr. Biden worked Mr. Obama during their weekly private lunches, imploring him to increase lethal aid, backing a push to ship FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev. The president flatly rejected the idea and dispatched him to the region as an emissary, cautioning him “about not overpromising to the Ukrainian government,” Mr. Biden would later write in a memoir. So, Mr. Biden threw himself into what seemed like standard-issue vice-presidential stuff: prodding Ukraine’s leaders to tackle the rampant corruption that made their country a risky bet for international lenders — and pushing reform of Ukraine’s cronyism-ridden energy industry.

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New York Times - November 10, 2019

Bolivia's Evo Morales steps down

President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who came to power more than a decade ago as part of a leftist wave sweeping Latin America, resigned on Sunday after unrelenting protests by an infuriated population that accused him of undermining democracy to extend his rule.

Mr. Morales and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, who also resigned, said in a national address that they were stepping down in an effort to stop the bloodshed that has spread across the country in recent weeks. But they admitted no wrongdoing and instead insisted that they were victims of a coup. “The coup has been consummated,” Mr. García said.

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Washington Post - November 11, 2019

Rep. Peter T. King, a 14-term Republican congressman from New York, announces retirement

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a 14-term congressman and former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said he is retiring, becoming the 20th House Republican to announce that he will not seek reelection next year. In a statement, King, 75, said he made the decision after “much discussion” with his wife and children.

“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford,” King said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision.” King represents a South Shore Long Island district that includes parts of Nassau County and Suffolk County. He won reelection in 2018 with 53 percent of the vote over Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley.

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Politico - November 10, 2019

Will Hurd reiterates call to protect Ukraine whistleblower’s identity

Republican Rep. Will Hurd on Sunday broke with members of his party who have been calling for the release of the Ukraine whistleblower’s identity, though he agreed with his party’s calls to have Hunter Biden testify in the first public impeachment hearings set to begin this week. Hurd, a retiring Texas Republican who spent years in the CIA, told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that outing the whistleblower by compelling their testimony in a public hearing would send a chilling message to potential whistleblowers in the future.

“I think we should be protecting the identity of the whistleblower. I've said that from the very beginning because how we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future,” Hurd argued. “Having this whistleblower law on the books is important; it's important checks and balance are not only in the intelligence committee, but in our government.” Some allies of President Donald Trump have agitated for the whistleblower, whose complaint this summer sparked the series of events leading to the ongoing impeachment inquiry, to come forward publicly, arguing the president deserves the chance to confront his accuser.

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Route Fifty - November 8, 2019

In most states, child marriage is legal. Some legislators are trying to change that

Many people think child marriage is a problem isolated to the developing countries, where the rates of children, especially girls, married before 18 can rise as high as 76%. But while child marriage may be less common in the U.S. it isn’t unheard of—and in most states, isn’t illegal.

Child marriage was legal in all states until 2018, when Delaware and New Jersey became the first two states to ban all marriage for children under 18. In most states, teenagers who are at least 16 can marry with parental consent, and in some states, judges can approve a marriage for children younger than that. In 13 states, there is no minimum age that judges can approve, leading to marriages for girls as young as 12. Six states and the District of Columbia set an age floor for approval at 14 or 15.

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NPR - November 11, 2019

The Harvard Law student And DREAMer whose fate could be decided by Supreme Court

Mitchell Santos Toledo came to the United States when he was 2. His parents had temporary visas when they brought him and his 5-year-old sister to the country. They never left. This spring, Santos Toledo will graduate from Harvard Law School. He is one of the 700,000 DREAMers whose fate in the U.S. may well be determined by a Supreme Court case to be argued Tuesday.

For now, Santos Toledo cannot be deported. In 2012, President Obama put in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which deferred deportation for these young people if they met certain specifications and passed a background check. After that, their temporary status made them eligible for a Social Security number so they could work and pay taxes. Their status had to be renewed every two years. President Trump tried to shut down DACA in 2017, only to be blocked by the lower courts. Now the case is before the Supreme Court, where Santos Toledo's name is listed in the briefs.

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Bloomberg - November 8, 2019

Exxon blasts N.Y. for walking back claims at end of trial

The New York attorney general’s office dropped its claim that Exxon Mobil Corp. intentionally misled investors about how it accounts for the financial risks of climate change, significantly diminishing the state’s case in the last minutes of a high-stakes securities fraud trial.

Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Zweig caused a stir Thursday when he revealed during his closing statement that the state was no longer claiming Exxon’s alleged scheme was carried out knowingly and willfully by company officials. The government also dropped its claim that investors relied on those allegedly false statements when buying stock, he said. The state’s central allegation remains -- that Exxon violated New York’s Martin Act by issuing materially misleading statements about its use of a “proxy cost” for carbon. Under that narrower claim, the state doesn’t need to prove intent or show that investors relied on the allegedly false information.

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Associated Press - November 11, 2019

Offshoot Mormon community hit in deadly attack leaves Mexico

An 18-vehicle caravan carrying about 100 members of an offshoot Mormon community leaving their homes in Mexico after a violent attack arrived in Arizona on Saturday. The families came nearly a week after the attack Monday in which nine women and children were killed by what authorities said were hit men from drug cartels.

On Saturday, families went in and out of a gas station in Douglas near the port of entry as the sun began to set, the Arizona Daily Star reported. They filled up on gas, put air in their tires and got food before getting back on the road on their way to Tucson and Phoenix. Their trucks were loaded with boxes, bicycles, spare tires and bags, all their belongings packed as they left the communities in Mexico that their families have called home since the 1950s, the newspaper reported. The families had lived in two hamlets in Mexico's Sonora state: La Mora and Colonia LeBaron. Other residents of the hamlets planned to depart in the coming days.

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Newsclips - November 10, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - November 10, 2019

US oil’s growth challenges investors

The U.S. has become the world’s leading oil producer. That isn’t making it any easier on the companies doing the producing. The U.S. now pumps out roughly 12.5 million barrels a day, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The country posted a record trade surplus in petroleum products in September and sent oil to a record number of destinations world-wide earlier this year.

It is a shift with nuanced consequences, but one that underscores how the country’s relationship with oil markets has changed. U.S. oil has added to a supply glut that has held down crude prices in recent years. That has reduced fuel costs for manufacturers and motorists and boosted the economy during the long expansion. Yet swings in oil prices also have consequences to jobs and growth across the country.

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Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

‘Get a rope’: Sid Miller blasts Texas city for excluding Confederate group from parade

Sid Miller didn’t take kindly to his hometown’s decision to limit a Confederate group’s presence in a Veterans Day parade. His response didn’t play too well, either. The Texas agriculture commissioner, who isn’t afraid to stir the pot with controversial remarks, responded to a notice on Facebook that the Sons of Confederate Veterans group couldn’t fly their flags at Stephenville’s annual parade honoring veterans.

“Get a rope,” he posted in the comments section. The response was swift, as other commenters accused Miller of being tasteless or trivializing the act of lynching. “Sid Miller so ... hang the people because?” one post read. “Sid Miller a rope for what sir ?” read another. Miller later edited his remark to clarify things but still kept his original statement intact. “Good grief people, it’s a joke, an old saying from a Pace Picante commercial. Lighten up.” Miller was referring to a salsa commercial from 1992, in which a group of Texans become outraged after one of their own brings a salsa from New York City to their cookout.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 8, 2019

Austin council to consider $8 million motel purchase to house homeless

The Austin City Council on Thursday will consider allocating $8 million to purchase an motel in South Austin to provide housing for people who are homeless. The property is a Rodeway Inn at 2711 Interstate 35 South, between Oltorf Drive and Woodward Street, with 82 units.

“The property is an ideal location given the proximity to areas where individuals who are experiencing homelessness live, accessible by public transportation, close to major arterials, and within reasonable distance of health care facilities,” city documents say. City leaders have made identifying permanent supportive housing options for Austin’s homeless the focal point of their strategy to address homelessness. Homeless Strategy Officer Lori Pampilo Harris said officials were seeking out motels that could be purchased and quickly modified into bridge housing units, and later into more long-term dwellings.

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Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: The canary and Caterpillar: What 120 Texas layoffs tell us about China tariffs

Just over a week ago, Caterpillar laid off 120 workers at its plant in Victoria. That concerned us, not just because those are 120 Texans suddenly unemployed, but also because Caterpillar is one of those companies that jumps off the news page. It’s a bellwether. Because the company makes equipment used in construction, its success often forecasts growth. As goes Caterpillar, so goes the economy.

But this news also stands out because of the reason for the layoffs. A company spokesperson blamed “market conditions” and said that trade tensions with China have made customers wary of committing to large capital expenditures. Caterpillar’s Asia-Pacific sales fell 13% in the latest quarter. In other words, the Trump administration’s continuing trade war is having continuing casualties in Texas. We’ve chronicled in previous editorials how trade tariffs have cost Texas farmers. Now, Texas industrial workers are taking their place in that line. The economic science here is simple: a trade war makes it more expensive for American companies to do business.

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Associated Press - November 10, 2019

Justices take up high-profile case over young immigrants

The Supreme Court is taking up the Trump administration’s plan to end legal protections that shield 660,000 immigrants from deportation, a case with strong political overtones amid the 2020 presidential election campaign. All eyes will be on Chief Justice John Roberts when the court hears arguments Tuesday. Roberts is the conservative justice closest to the court’s center who also is keenly aware of public perceptions of an ideologically divided court.

It’s the third time in three years that the administration is asking the justices to rescue a controversial policy that has been blocked by several lower courts. The court sided with President Donald Trump in allowing him to enforce the travel ban on visitors from some majority Muslim countries, but it blocked the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Roberts was the only member of the court in the majority both times, siding with four conservatives on the travel ban and four liberals in the census case. His vote could be decisive a third time, as well.

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New York Times - November 9, 2019

How the State Dept.’s dissenters incited a revolt, then a rallying cry

State Department Foreign Service officers usually express their views in formal diplomatic cables, but these days they are using closed Facebook groups and encrypted apps to convey their pride in Marie L. Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine, whose House testimony opened the floodgates on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. #GoMasha is their rallying cry.

In private conversations, they trade admiring notes about career State Department officials like William B. Taylor Jr. and George P. Kent, who delivered damning testimony about a shadow Ukraine policy infected by partisan politics and presidential conspiracy theories, and William V. Roebuck, a senior diplomat in Syria who wrote a searing memo on how Mr. Trump abandoned the Kurds and upended American influence. And they are opening their wallets to help raise money — including nearly $10,000 last Monday alone — to offset the legal bills of department officials called to testify before Congress. Rarely has the State Department, often seen as a staid pillar of the establishment, been the center of a revolt against a president and his top appointees.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 9, 2019

Texas ignores federal law regarding special education students over 18, lawsuit claims

Jesse Alvarez may be in his late teens, but he functions on a first or second grade level. He has fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a learning disability, requiring his father Alfredo Alvarez to make most of his son’s decisions for him, according to court records. Alvarez was concerned the school district wasn’t meeting Jesse’s needs in May and asked for a hearing, but says he was told by a special education officer that he could no longer advocate for his son because Jesse had turned 18.

Now Alvarez and special education watchdog groups contend Texas is violating federal law by refusing to allow guardians to look out for certain students after they become legal adults. “There’s a lot of kids that go to school and get special education services. They turn 18, they’re more than capable of making their own decisions. But when you have kids that have multiple, physical and mental and cogitative disabilities and they’ll never be capable of making their own decisions… those types of children are the ones that are most in need of our protection,” said Martin Cirkiel, attorney for the Alvarez family.

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Houston Chronicle - November 9, 2019

Texas schools, Amazon team up to prepare students for cloud computing jobs

State officials and education and workforce leaders announced in September a partnership with Amazon’s IT service management company Amazon Web Services that will bring cloud computing education to K-12 schools and colleges across Texas. The program launched in the Dallas, Irving and Houston independent school districts, as well as at three four-year universities and 22 community colleges. The colleges in the Houston region include Prairie View A&M University, Houston Community College and Lone Star College.

The courses, via Amazon Web Services’ “AWS Educate,” will provide universities with the tools to train professors and support cloud computing learning for students by building computer and data related skills through additional curriculum and degree programs. Students, ages 14 and up, will have access to a self-paced, no-cost curriculum as well as training and job boards. Tony Moore, chief information officer at Prairie View A&M, said it’s often difficult for university curriculum to keep up with the pace of technology.

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Houston Chronicle - November 8, 2019

Erica Grieder: Gov. Abbott should grant death row inmate Rodney Reed a reprieve, before it’s too late

Convicted murderer Rodney Reed is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but Gov. Greg Abbott has the power to stop it. As it stands, there’s no indication that Abbott will. He has only stopped one execution since becoming governor five years ago.

Reed was sentenced to death in 1998, after being convicted of the brutal 1996 rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman from central Texas, Stacey Stites. And though the governor has yet to weigh in on this specific case, he supports capital punishment, as do most voters in the state. According to a June 2018 poll from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, fully three-fourths of Texans strongly or somewhat support the death penalty. But the question at hand has nothing to do with the death penalty, per se. Granting a reprieve would simply be the right thing to do — and a necessary precaution against the doubts that would linger, if Reed is executed as scheduled.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 9, 2019

Hundreds rally at Governor’s Mansion to halt Rodney Reed execution

Ray Jackson Jr. stood tall with his arms wrapped tightly around his son at the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Austin on Saturday, softly whispering into the 13-year-old’s ear as hundreds of surrounding protesters shouted “Free Rodney Reed!”

They joined a couple hundred people holding signs, singing and shouting for the release of Reed, who is set to be executed Nov. 20. Jackson said he brought his son to the rally that afternoon to teach him about the importance of fighting for justice. “I was explaining to him that it was Rodney Reed’s brother up there speaking, and that they have fought for this for 20 years,” Jackson said. “He needs to see the system and how it can and how it can’t work for you. There are a lot of lessons in this.” Reed faces execution after being convicted for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Her body was found dumped along a road in Bastrop County and, after Reed’s DNA was found inside her body, he was arrested.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 7, 2019

Data breach costs Texas health agency $1.6 million

The federal government announced Thursday that it has slapped the Texas Health and Human Services Commission with a $1.6 million fine for a data breach that made the personal health information of 6,617 people available online.

The inadvertent release of names, addresses, Social Security numbers and treatment information between 2013 and 2017 violated federal health privacy laws, resulting in the fine, said officials with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “No one should have to worry about their private health information being discoverable through a Google search,” said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights.

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Dallas Morning News - November 9, 2019

Why is Julián Castro, the only Latino candidate for president, struggling to catch on, even with Latinos?

The only Latino in the presidential race is teetering on the edge of oblivion, shut out of the next televised debate, trimming staff and gasping for funds. Running his first campaign outside his hometown of San Antonio, Julián Castro hoped that Latino support would provide a foundation for his White House bid even as he courted Democrats of all ethnicities, striking a tricky balance to avoid being marginalized.

The gambit hasn’t paid off so far. Overwhelmingly, Latino voters have placed their bets on better known and more seasoned candidates, though Castro aides boast that he has the highest ratio of Latino support. Latino activists are disappointed. But they credit the former San Antonio mayor and housing secretary with bravely stepping forward in an era of immigrant-bashing, and providing an inspirational role model that will make it easier for future Latinos to seek high office. They’re also not particularly alarmed at Castro’s struggles, which they view as a natural outcome in a competitive field rather than a sign of rejection or lack of ethnic loyalty in the electorate.

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Dallas Morning News - November 10, 2019

A family struggles with the possible deportation of its father even as Texas hungers for more workers like him

Maximiliano Trejo was still sleeping in his home at dawn this summer when his sons Max and Marcos were startled awake by the sound of fists pounding on the front door. But the following morning, it was a different story. As the 48-year-old Trejo left his home outside Dallas and headed off to his job as a roofer, three vehicles followed. He was soon pulled over and the questions began: “What’s your name?” the officer asked. “Maximiliano Trejo.” One of the men smiled. He told Trejo that he was with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“Do you have documents to be in the United States?” Maximiliano — he goes by Max — recalled that he made sure to tell the truth. But that honesty was no shield. He was shackled on the spot with metal handcuffs. The $18-an-hour roofer had fled poverty in central Mexico more than two decades earlier. After his apprehension, he spent time in federal detention. Today, he’s out on an immigration bond, fighting deportation with the help of an attorney. His wife fears the worst kind of ending to this story: a fractured family if Max is deported. She asked that her name not be published because, like her husband, she is undocumented.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 8, 2019

St. Mary’s celebrates raising record $138 million

With two years left in its largest-ever fundraising campaign, St. Mary’s University announced Friday that it has surpassed its goal of $130 million and is setting its sights on $150 million. Nearly 11,000 alumni and friends contributed to the $138 million raised, University President Thomas Mengler said. The school’s previous record for such a campaign was $22 million.

The bulk of the donations to the latest campaign, titled “The Defining Moment,” came from alumni, unlike many such efforts that are dominated by corporate gifts, Mengler said. Their donations speak to the education they’re grateful to have received and want others to also obtain, he said. “They see St. Mary’s as worthy of significant investment,” Mengler said in an interview. “I am very grateful to the huge generosity of our graduates and friends.”

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San Antonio Express-News - November 8, 2019

Deal with Dollar General revives concerns Texas Lottery is targeting low-income players

State lotteries have long been dogged by accusations their games prey on the poor, who studies show tend to play more often and spend more money than high-income players. This month, the Texas Lottery Commission is poised to make tickets available at every check-out aisle in the state’s nearly 1,500 Dollar General stores. The agency also will plaster each store with Texas Lottery advertisements.

The commission expects the deal, which has yet to be officially announced, will dramatically increase lottery sales. Dollar General’s own description of its customers indicates the state’s biggest major lottery sales push in years will land heavily on poorer Texans. “We generally locate our stores and plan our merchandise selections to best serve the needs of our core customers, the low and fixed income households often underserved by other retailers,” the company stated in its 2018 annual report. In a 2016 presentation to investors, a Dollar General executive called its core customers its BFF - best friends forever — and described them as “living paycheck to paycheck” and relying on government assistance.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 9, 2019

Atatiana Jefferson’s father dies of heart attack at hospital, family spokesman says

The father of Atatiana Jefferson, the woman who was killed last month by a rookie Fort Worth police officer, died Saturday of a heart attack.

Marquis Jefferson died at about 6:30 p.m. at Charlton Methodist Hospital in Dallas, family spokesman Bruce Carter told WFAA-TV. He was 58.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 9, 2019

UNT legal counsel resigns after saying n-word at ‘When Hate Comes to Campus’ event

A University of North Texas system staff attorney resigned Friday morning hours after she said the n-word during an on-campus panel discussion called “When Hate Comes to Campus.” UNT System Assistant General Counsel Caitlin Sewell submitted her resignation Friday morning effective immediately, according to a joint message from the university’s chancellor and president.

Speaking about freedom of speech in front of a crowd Thursday night, she said the n-word while apparently trying to make a point about how the First Amendment can protect offensive language. “We strongly believe in a culture that embraces, and vehemently defends, inclusion,” Chancellor Lesa Roe and President Neal Smatresk said in a statement posted on Twitter Friday afternoon. “While Ms. Sewell was trying to make a point about First Amendment speech, the references used are never condoned in our community, which prides itself on our diversity and caring nature.”

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KBMT - November 9, 2019

Former state representative Mike Tuffy Hamilton dies at 58

Former Texas State Representative Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton has died after complications from a heart attack. He was 58. Texas State Representative Dade Phelan tweeted an update saying Hamilton passed away Friday, November 8, asking for prayers for his family.

In October, Hamilton was in the ICU after suffering a heart attack. Hamilton had triple bypass surgery in 2010, according to our partners at the Beaumont Enterprise. Hamilton, a Republican from Mauriceville, represented Texas’ 19th District in the Texas Legislature from 2003-2012. The district was made up of Hardin, Newton and Orange counties. Hamilton was called a “Lone Star Conservative Leader” by the Texas Conservative Roundtable. He was known for his work to better public education and was the only republican endorsed by local educator groups, according to a 2013 article by the Orange County Record.

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Community Impact Newspapers - November 8, 2019

Legislative Budget Board releases performance audit of Houston ISD

The state's Legislative Budget Board has released a performance audit of Houston ISD, just days after the Texas Education Agency announced it would be installing a board of managers to oversee the district. The 325-page review calls for a wide range of reforms that could save the district $237 million over five years.

"Following almost nine months of diligent work by its School Performance Review team, the Legislative Budget Board released its Houston ISD performance review today. It is the largest school review undertaken by the LBB to date," LBB spokesperson R.J. DeSilva said in a release. "The recommendations serve as a road map a school district can use to make improvements." The LBB, a nonpartisan, permanent joint committee of the Texas Legislature, began the process at the request of HISD's board of trustees, who called for the the review in 2018 under pressure from advocacy groups such as Supporters of HISD Magnets and Budget Accountability. The review itself cost $2 million, with HISD covering a quarter of the cost. The last time the district received this review was in 1996.

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Texas Observer - November 8, 2019

Governor launches camp, backs ‘Mega-Tent’ for Austin’s homeless, surprising advocates

After a months-long campaign of smearing Austin’s homeless as violent and disease-ridden, Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday he was designating 5 acres of state-owned land in southeast Austin as an authorized homeless encampment. The same day, with Abbott’s support, the Austin Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders announced they were fundraising for a 300-bed “mega-tent” shelter to be built at an undetermined location. The decisions, which were made public three days after the state began clearing the homeless from the capital city’s highway underpasses, were made with virtually no coordination with the city’s existing homeless service providers.

“There’s not been collaboration with the local homeless crisis response system, and that’s counterproductive,” said Eric Samuels, president of the Texas Homeless Network. He hopes such unilateral moves won’t become a trend. “It’s not something that we want to see happening around the state in the future,” he said. Advocates aren’t opposed to the camping site or the tent shelter per se, but they’re wary of the governor and chamber’s approach. Austin, like other cities around the country, has been trying to move toward a “housing first” model, which aims to move the homeless into permanent housing as fast as possible.

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El Paso Times - November 8, 2019

Beto to supporters: 'All of us have to commit to get behind the nominee from this party'

Just a week after ending his presidential campaign — encouraged supporters on Thursday to get behind the future Democratic nominee. The former El Paso congressman held a final "huddle with the team" Thursday evening where, true to form, he used a live streamed video to thank supporters and close the chapter on his presidential bid.

"All of us have to commit to get behind the nominee from this party to make sure that she or he is successful against Donald Trump," O'Rourke said on the Thursday call. "And then to make sure that once they become president that they help to heal this very divided country and face with courage every single one of the challenges in front of us right now." O'Rourke said he and his wife Amy are "committed to doing everything we can for the nominee" and "everything we can" to ensure Texas' 38 electoral votes support the Democrat.

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Tyler Morning Telegraph - November 8, 2019

Democrat challengers looking to unseat Cornyn, Gohmert take part in East Texas campus tour

Eight candidates, five colleges and 13 hours on the road. Filing hasn’t even opened yet, but Democratic candidates vying for votes of East Texans in two critical U.S. races are already making their case. The Build East Texas Campus Tour wrapped up at the University of Texas at Tyler on Thursday night.

With candidates limiting their stump speeches to answer questions one on one, the Democrats looking to replace Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert were direct about why they believe East Texas needs new leadership in Washington. Former congressman and gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell launched the opening salvo. “The reason I’m running is because I’m tired of having Donald Trump’s chief water boy as our United States senator,” Bell said. “I was hoping that John Cornyn would grow a backbone and learn to stand up to Donald Trump, instead he’s enabled him every step of the way as he takes our country in the wrong direction on issue after issue.”

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Associated Press - November 8, 2019

Southwest pushes back return of troubled Boeing Max (again)

Southwest Airlines has again pushed back the return of its Boeing 737 Max jets as Boeing tries to fix the aircraft following two deadly crashes.

Southwest said Friday that it will keep its Max out of its schedule until March 6, about a month longer than previously planned , citing continued uncertainty.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 9, 2019

Harris County judge accused of misspending campaign donations on mortgage, Prada purse and private school tuition

A Harris County judge has been indicted on federal corruption charges that accuse her of using campaign donations for personal expenses, including for mortgage payments, private school tuition, a Prada handbag and travel. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas, 44, is charged with wire fraud, according to federal prosecutors. She turned herself in on Friday to U.S. Magistrate Peter Bray, appearing before him with chains wrapped around her waist and ankles.

Smoots-Thomas, who has breast cancer and reportedly underwent a round of chemotherapy Thursday, kept her head down for most of the arraignment. Her attorney Kent Schaffer alleged that the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Ryan Patrick was targeting Smoots-Thomas because she is a black female Democrat in a county where few judges are Republicans. His is confident his client will be able to enter into a pre-trial diversion process, effectively dismissing the charges after completing a series of conditions, including repaying the campaign funds. She has already reimbursed most of the payments from a personal account, he said.

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Houston Chronicle - November 8, 2019

District Attorney fires prosecutor who allegedly asked if Mexican crime victim was ‘illegal’

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday announced her decision to fire a prosecutor who allegedly refused to file charges in a case after questioning whether the Mexican victim was “illegal.” The move comes after days of public criticism from politicians, law enforcement unions and the League of United Latin American Citizens, who all called for the termination or resignation of now-former assistant district attorney John Denholm.

“It is wrong to ask about a victim’s immigration status. It is against our policy, and it won’t be tolerated,” Ogg said, announcing her decision. “We treat everyone equally under the law, no matter how they came to be here.” Denholm, who had previously been reassigned pending an investigation, did not respond to the Houston Chronicle’s request for comment but later told the Washington Post he was “aware of who made the inflammatory allegations.”

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City Stories

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 10, 2019

In wake of police shootings, will outside review of Fort Worth police restore trust?

Not quite a month after a rookie police officer killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home, Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke announced Friday that the city has tasked an outside panel with investigating police procedures and forming recommendations to improve how officers interact with the public.

The panel, which includes national experts on a variety of policing issues including use of force and racial profiling, could begin reviewing the Fort Worth Police Department as soon as Dec. 2, pending approval from the City Council Nov. 19. That review will include multiple public forums where the panelists are expected to hear directly from residents about their experiences with police. “There is a community that doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t trust the police department,” Cooke said. “It’s our job to figure out how we rebuild that trust. We want them to tell us what we should do differently to help build the trust.”

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - November 5, 2019

Bass family teams up with fellowship program to increase Fort Worth’s global influence

Seven people behind some of Fort Worth’s most well-known institutions are heading to Los Angeles for the Summit Fellows program.

Summit Fellows partnered with the Bass family company Fine Line Group to pick the applicants best suited to strengthen Fort Worth’s connection to the global community. They include: Miguel Harth-Bedoya, music director of Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra; Cameron Cushman, Director of Innovation Ecosystems at UNT Health Science Center; Jamey Ice of 6th Ave Homes, BREWED, Green River Ordinance and The 4eleven; Melissa Ice of The Net, Worthy Co., BREWED; Keri Seher, owner of Melt Ice Creams; Tyler Sickels, founder and CEO of Solgro; Mavis Tang, developer of the app Soundre.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 10, 2019

Peter J. Holt: Time for San Antonio to address workforce challenges

San Antonio is a wonderful place to live, raise a family and start or grow a business. Our great quality of life, strong sense of community and rich history and culture are among the reasons our population is expected to grow by more than 1 million residents over the next two decades. However, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau highlights some major challenges to this optimistic vision of San Antonio — challenges the public and private sectors must address candidly, positively and in the spirit of community that distinguishes our city.

San Antonio has the highest big-city poverty rate in the nation, with 20 percent living below the poverty line. We’ve made some progress in educational attainment, but rates are still below state and national averages with less than 25 percent of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher. San Antonio remains one of the most economically segregated cities in the country as well. On top of the census data, we can layer some local research. Because we begin with a lower level of educational attainment than most of our peer cities, San Antonio faces a major obstacle in filling the talent pipeline for desirable jobs.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 9, 2019

Elaine Ayala: Spanish visitors saw San Antonio’s indigenous Mexican roots on display

Amid so much Day of the Dead revelry last weekend, it was easy not to notice that San Antonio was playing host to an international event. At the Pearl Stable, Mission San José and other venues around town, the city hosted a delegation of 75 Spanish officials and corporate leaders who met with 75 U.S. counterparts at the XXIV United States Spain Forum. By some accounts, the experience left an unmistakable impression on the Spanish visitors, altering perceptions of Texas.

San Antonio became one of a dozen U.S. cities to host the high-level gathering, put on every year by two nonprofit entities that take turns hosting. The Fundación Consejo España-Estados Unidos selects the Spanish cities. The United States-Spain Council, founded in 1996 by then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Spanish President José María Aznar, holds the event in the U.S. every other year. The council’s outgoing honorary chair, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, had a lot to do with selecting his successor: U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. The choice probably had a lot to do with the fact that Castro’s star continues to rise, and that smart leaders of the boomer generation are handing off leadership positions to smart millennials.

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National Stories

Politico - November 9, 2019

Trump pokes fun at himself. Why do only some people see it?

There’s a common conception, among foes of Donald Trump, that the 45th president tweets every day in a kind of fevered state: alone by his bedroom TV set, wrapped in a smoking jacket or maybe a satin Snuggie, typing in fits of narcissism, defensiveness and self-aggrandizement. And maybe that is his mood, much of the time.

But if you’re paying as much attention to all of his tweets, not just his angry, appalling and self-serving ones, you'll find some striking moments when Trump isn’t just raging outward, but making fun of himself—even showing a wry acceptance of the caricatures favored by the left. He has challenged his followers to find the secret meaning behind his famed “covfefe” accidental tweet. He’s made light of the notion that he would seek a third term, joking about leaving office “in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding).”

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Capitol Media Services - November 9, 2019

Arizona officials seek protection for residents with preexisting conditions

Two Republican legislators and Attorney General Mark Brnovich are taking the first steps to craft legislation to ensure that Arizonans with preexisting conditions can still buy health insurance if federal courts strike down the Affordable Care Act.

The move comes even as Republican attorneys general — including Brnovich — actually are working to have the law declared unconstitutional, including the provisions about access to coverage. They contend that Congress lacks the power to mandate that people buy health insurance. Last December a federal judge in Texas agreed. That sent the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which could rule any day. But the final word is likely to belong to the U.S. Supreme Court. Depending on how quickly they schedule arguments, a ruling could come as early as this spring.

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CNN - November 9, 2019

Schiff says whistleblower testimony is 'redundant and unnecessary'

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff made clear on Saturday that the Ukraine whistleblower won't be testifying in the impeachment inquiry, arguing that the individual's testimony would be "redundant and unnecessary."

House Republicans earlier Saturday had submitted a list of witnesses to Democrats that they'd like to testify as part of the chamber's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine. The list included the whistleblower and former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden. In a letter obtained by CNN, Schiff goes further than he did earlier in the day when he said in a statement that his committee would evaluate the witness requests and "give due consideration to witnesses within the scope of the impeachment inquiry, as voted on by the House."

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Washington Post - November 9, 2019

House GOP asks for Hunter Biden and whistleblower to testify in impeachment probe

House Republicans asked for their own impeachment witnesses on Saturday, sending Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a list that includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who filed the initial complaint against President Donald Trump. Also Saturday, Trump told reporters he’d release on Tuesday the transcript of an April call he made to congratulate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after he won his election.

The impeachment probe moves from closed-door depositions to open hearings next week, which Democrats hope will present a strong case to the American public that bolsters support for impeaching the president. Republicans and the president have complained that the Democrats’ inquiry is unfairly partisan. Schiff is likely to reject many, if not all, of the witnesses from the Republicans’ wish list. When the Democrats deny them, the Republicans will then present that as evidence of a one-sided process.

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Associated Press - November 10, 2019

Was Trump call with Ukraine ‘perfect’? GOP has many answers

Republicans have no unified argument in the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump , in large part because they can’t agree on how best to defend the president — or for some, if they should. That would require a level of consensus that Trump’s call with the Ukraine president was “perfect,” as he insists. Or it would take a measure of GOP independence from Trump to suggest there may be a need to investigate.

Instead, it’s every Republican for himself or herself. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says the president’s actions toward Ukraine are “troubling.” Other Republicans say the behavior may raise concerns, but it’s not impeachable. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham calls the whole impeachment inquiry “B.S.” The result is a mishmash of GOP commentary spilling from Capitol Hill that may shield lawmakers, for now, from risky political choices, but leaves them with a disjointed defense of Trump as impeachment hearings push into the public realm this coming week.

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Washington Post - November 10, 2019

America’s billionaires take center stage in national politics, colliding with populist Democrats

The political and economic power wielded by the approximately 750 wealthiest people in America has become a sudden flash point in the 2020 presidential election, as the nation’s billionaires push back with increasing ferocity against calls by liberal politicians to vastly reduce their fortunes and clout.

On Thursday, Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire and former mayor of New York City, took steps to enter the presidential race, a move that would make him one of four billionaires who either plan to seek or have expressed interest in seeking the nation’s highest office in 2020. His decision came one week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed vastly expanding her “wealth tax” on the nation’s biggest wealth holders and one month after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said America should not have any billionaires at all.

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New York Times - November 9, 2019

How voters turned Virginia from Deep Red to Solid Blue

Not long ago, this rolling green stretch of Northern Virginia was farmland. Most people who could vote had grown up here. And when they did, they usually chose Republicans. The fields of Loudoun County are disappearing. In their place is row upon row of cookie-cutter townhouses, clipped lawns and cul-de-sacs — a suburban landscape for as far as the eye can see. Unlike three decades ago, the residents are often from other places, like India and Korea. And when they vote, it is often for Democrats.

Once the heart of the confederacy, Virginia is now the land of Indian grocery stores, Korean churches and Diwali festivals. The state population has boomed — up by 38 percent since 1990, with the biggest growth in densely settled suburban areas like South Riding. One in 10 people eligible to vote in the state were born outside the United States, up from one in 28 in 1990. It is also significantly less white. In 1990, the census tracts that make up Mr. Katkuri’s Senate district were home to about 35,000 people — 91 percent of them white. Today, its population of 225,000 is just 64 percent white.

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The Week - November 9, 2019

Beto O'Rourke reportedly considered Pete Buttigieg a 'human weather vane'

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's fellow Democratic presidential candidates find the 37-year-old and his mercurial rise to be, well, kind of annoying, The New York Times reports. That's not unexpected, as former President Barack Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod pointed out. "It is a natural thing when a young candidate comes along and has success for other candidates who feel like they've toiled in the vineyards to resent it," he said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), for example, reportedly became "extremely agitated" at the mere mention of Buttigieg's name during a conversation with fellow candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the Senate chamber over the summer. But it turns out that it was former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) who may have been most rankled by Buttigieg's emergence, per the Times.

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Politico - November 8, 2019

What is Michael Bloomberg thinking?

In God we trust. Everyone else bring data. That’s New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s longtime motto. And it explains how, six months after he was a definite "no" on running for president, he’s apparently changed his mind again.

Bloomberg, who had been running a data-heavy operation focused on electing Democrats, kept seeing the same trends in his research conducted by veteran pollster Douglas Schoen: The once-strong frontrunner Joe Biden was getting weaker by the day in early states. Democratic voters increasingly see President Donald Trump as “dangerous” — and beating him as ever more important. Bloomberg’s data gurus first noticed a sharp uptick in Democrats’ obsession with unseating Trump around Sept. 20. That’s when news broke that the president appeared to improperly threaten to withhold aid to Ukraine if the country didn’t open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter.

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Bloomberg - November 9, 2019

Richest 1% of Americans close to surpassing wealth of middle class

The U.S.’s historic economic expansion has so enriched one-percenters they now hold almost as much wealth as the middle- and upper-middle classes combined.

The top 1% of American households have enjoyed huge returns in the stock market in the past decade, to the point that they now control more than half of the equity in U.S. public and private companies, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Those fat portfolios have America’s elite gobbling up an ever-bigger piece of the pie. The very richest had assets of about $35.4 trillion in the second quarter, or just shy of the $36.9 trillion held by the tens of millions of people who make up the 50th percentile to the 90th percentile of Americans -- much of the middle and upper-middle classes.

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Newsclips - November 8, 2019

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Former UT regent, engineering CEO resigns after admitting to illegal donations

An octogenarian engineering magnate and former University of Texas regent has stepped down from his corporate duties after admitting to the Justice Department that he circumvented federal election law by making excessive donations to three 2017 candidates for the U.S. Congress.

James D. Dannenbaum, his influential Houston firm, Dannenbaum Engineering, and its holding company, have been charged with aiding a former employee in February 2017 to knowingly make conduit contributions aggregating between $10,000 and $25,000 for candidates, meaning they donated more money than federal law permitted and by illegal means. He has not been detained or arrested, according to court documents. The court record does not name the two candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives that Dannenbaum and his companies sought to support.

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CNBC - November 7, 2019

Mike Bloomberg is preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary

Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, is preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary, according to NBC News, which cited a Bloomberg advisor.

The move didn’t necessarily mean Bloomberg, 77, was announcing a campaign, a source close to Bloomberg told NBC News. Rather, this source said, he’s doing this to keep his options open. Bloomberg is “troubled” by what he has seen in the Democratic field, the source added. “He’s still not sure,” a source told CNBC. This source also said these are “unprecedented times” and that Bloomberg is concerned about what he’s seeing both from Democrats and President Donald Trump.

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KUT - November 7, 2019

Gov. Abbott says he'll use 5 acres of state-owned land to temporarily house homeless Austinites

Gov. Greg Abbott's office said the state will use 5 acres of state land at U.S. Highway 183 and Montopolis Drive as a temporary campsite for homeless Austinites. The site would serve as a stopgap until a privately backed effort brings a temporary shelter online in the downtown area. John Wittman, the governor's spokesman, confirmed the effort in a statement to KUT.

Wittman lauded a push to build a temporary shelter in the downtown area, which was announced Thursday morning. The effort, being led by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Austin Alliance, aims to raise $14 million to operate a 300-bed temporary shelter. Until that shelter is ready, the governor's office said, it will make the roughly 5-acre site available for camping. The state's effort took local leaders by surprise. Abbott tweeted Wednesday night that the state would provide acres of campsites for Austin's homeless, but it wasn't immediately clear where the site would be until Wittman's statement. The strategy also runs counter to the city’s tack. Austin City Council members have traditionally been more focused on permanent housing solutions.

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Houston Chronicle and NBC News - November 7, 2019

Their baby's fall was confused for child abuse. Then CPS came for their children.

It was almost dark when the child welfare worker came for the children. Two months had passed since Melissa Bright turned her back for a second, then heard the sickening thump of her baby’s head hitting concrete. It was a short fall, just under 2 feet. The kids had been playing in the sprinkler, trying to cool off in the front yard on that July afternoon. Melissa set 5-month-old Mason on a camping chair before turning to wrangle wet clothes off her 2-year-old daughter.

After Mason fell on the driveway, Melissa scooped him up and ran upstairs, watching his head swell as he wailed. Panicked, she called her husband, Dillon, at work then dialed 911. The Brights stayed the night at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, praying their son would be OK. The next day, a medical team came into the room. They had reviewed some scans of Mason’s head and had questions: Had the baby fallen a second time? If not, why were there two skull fractures? Every day across the country, hundreds of infants are taken to emergency rooms or doctor’s offices after falls. Babies roll off beds or slip out of a caregiver’s arms. Although these moments can be terrifying for parents, research shows that the vast majority of household falls result in only minor injuries.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Texas has not had a death-free day on its roads in 19 years. Houston, state transportation officials seek to end the streak

Standing in a steady rain in front of a field of 3,647 Texas flags outside Houston City Hall Thursday morning,Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan paused, needing a moment to move on. Each flag, staked there by the Texas Department of Transportation, represented a father or daughter, spouse or friend killed on state roadways last year.

“They die silently and violently,” Ryan said, noting the numbness many drivers have to Texas leading the country in fatalities. She stopped, steeled herself and then proceeded a bit choked up through her speech, marking the 19th anniversary of Texas’ last day without a death on its roads. That is 6,939 days of at least one highway death, and a total of nearly 67,000 since Nov 7, 2000. “They are tough stories to hear but they are important for us to internalize,” Ryan said.

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Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Texas progress touted as VA unrolls outsourced care system

The Veterans Health Administration sent more than 50,000 veterans to private care in the San Antonio and Houston regions since June, the latest development in an outsourcing trend that marks the biggest change in veterans’ services in a generation. Based on the Mission Act passed last year by Congress, the VA in June relaxed access requirements for private care, paving the way for shuttling 223,000 Texas veterans into surrounding communities for treatment of many ailments including, for the first time, urgent care needs.

A network of some 35,000 care providers outside the VA has been built in Texas — 6,100 in the Houston area and 5,180 in San Antonio — according to TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Phoenix-based third-party administrator handling the program in Texas. By one measure, the program is working: A Veterans of Foreign Wars survey in September of thousands of veterans nationally found that 8 in 10 were satisfied with community care, and more than half had chosen outside care over the VA when given the choice. Yet some advocates worry about the quality of private care for the complex ailments of veterans, particularly treatment for PTSD and mental health needs. They note that providers aren’t required to collect and report data on wait times, treatment and other details of care.

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Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Anti-abortion group ordered to repay more than $1.5 million

An anti-abortion group that came under fire for failing to provide services to thousands of Texas women must repay $1.5 million in overpayments and prohibited costs, state investigators said Thursday. The findings, announced by the office of the health inspector general, are a new blow to the Heidi Group. The organization had hoped to replace Planned Parenthood as a top family planning provider, but was cut off from millions in funding last year after failing to serve tens of thousands of low-income women.

The office said on Thursday it had uncovered “serious contractual violations” and is expanding its inquiry to the entire span of the Heidi Group’s contracts, going back to 2016. That could mean additional repayments. Forensic accountants found the group had paid medical providers hundreds of thousands in excess fees, had overspent on payroll and fringe benefits, and had expensed thousands in unallowable costs like food, gift cards, clothing and retail membership fees, according to a copy of the internal investigation obtained by the Houston Chronicle. The inquiry covered a seven month period, from September 2017 to March 2018.

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Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Findings on Deer Park fire underscore why penalties for environmental failures must be steep

New information about the Intercontinental Terminals Co. chemical fire that shut down the Houston Ship Channel for three days in March makes it even clearer that Texas must come down harder on companies that consistently break environmental and workplace safety rules.

A preliminary report by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said the petrochemical company’s tank farm in Deer Park didn’t have a remote emergency shutoff valve that could have stopped the release of thousands of gallons of naphtha, a highly flammable chemical used to produce gasoline that spilled for nearly 30 minutes before catching on fire. Nor did the fires set off any alarms to alert workers that there was a problem before the leaking chemical erupted, the report said. Fortunately, no injuries occurred. However, toxic smoke from the blaze spread across much of area just southeast of downtown Houston, causing nearby schools to close and residents to stay inside their homes. When a dike wall at the plant failed, thousands of gallons of contaminated water gushed out into nearby streams, including the Houston Ship Channel.

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Houston Chronicle - November 6, 2019

Abbott accepts resignation of First Court of Appeals justice diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

Gov. Greg Abbott this week accepted the resignation of a Houston-area appeals judge who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Justice Laura Carter Higley didn’t cite her illness in her notice to the governor, however, instead saying that she felt it was time to retire after a long career.

“I have been honored to serve the State of Texas for 17 years as Associate Justice on the First Court of Appeals,” she wrote in the Oct. 31 letter. “I have written more than 70 opinions a year and served with some very fine judges. I am now in my 72nd year and the time has come to retire.” Her resignation was effective Nov. 1, she said. Abbott accepted the resignation on Monday. “On behalf of the citizens of Texas, thank you for your service to the State of Texas,” he said in a letter. “I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Dallas Morning News Editorial: A massacre in Mexico requires an American response. Here is what it should be

Like all Americans, we’re sickened by Monday’s brutal murder of three women and six children—almost certainly by members of a Mexican drug cartel—as they traveled by car along a highway near Bavispe in the state of Sonora, about 300 miles southwest of El Paso. And given the increasing brazenness of drug cartels south of the border, we understand President Donald Trump’s offer via Twitter to send U.S. troops to Mexico to help the federal authorities there “wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.”

We believe the president sincerely wants to end the horrible gang violence and organized crime that has led hundreds of thousands of families from Mexico and Central America over the past several decades to seek asylum in the United States. But we also believe that many of the policies that his administration has pursued have likely fueled the violence and put more people — including lawful residents of Mexico and other Central American countries, like the nine murdered members of the LeBaron family — at greater risk. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it clear that Mexico will not accept Trump’s offer of troops, saying Tuesday that the Mexican authorities “have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.”

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Glenn Beck’s Irving-based The Blaze to end cable TV channel by end of year, according to reports

Irving-based The Blaze, founded by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, will end its run on cable TV at the end of this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Blaze Media, the conservative multimedia firm birthed from a merger between Beck’s The Blaze and Conservative Review TV, will continue to publish content on its digital platforms, including podcasts, video on demand services, its websites and its radio presence.

The Blaze decided that the channel would “cease to exist” due to its cable contracts that prevented the media company from posting content that had aired on TV online, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Blaze Media’s business model has largely centered around its online product in recent years. “Given our record growth this year on our direct-to-consumer SVOD [subscription video on demand] business, podcasts, various web properties and other digital distribution channels, it has become a conflict to continue programming a traditional, legacy cable channel," Blaze Media CEO Tyler Cardon told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Execution of Texas 7 prison escapee delayed again over his rights as Buddhist

One of the surviving Texas 7 prison escapees had his execution delayed Thursday for the second time this year out of concern his religious beliefs aren’t being properly accommodated. Patrick Murphy, 58, was scheduled to be executed next Wednesday for his role in the murder of Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins.

Murphy’s faith is the central issue in his most recent delay. He has practiced Buddhism for the past decade, and initially requested his execution be delayed in March because he couldn’t have access to a Buddhist spiritual adviser in the moments leading up to his death. At the time of Murphy’s first request for a delay, Texas Department of Criminal Justice protocol only allowed for chaplains employed by the prison to be with an inmate in the execution chamber.

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Robert Wilonsky: How vice cops linked Southlake’s popular Dragon House to a Dallas massage parlor and beyond

The brothel on Market Center Boulevard called Jade Spa remains shuttered a week after the police raid; so, too, the Chinese restaurant in Southlake called Dragon House. Because, as you likely know by now, police and prosecutors say the owners and operators of the Design District bordello also own and operate the suburban dumpling house. For the moment, both closings are only temporary. City attorneys will ask a judge next week to keep the massage parlor padlocked indefinitely. And on the restaurant’s website, it says, without further explanation, “We will be closing temporarily. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

How Dallas cops tied one to the other has remained so far a story shared only in broad strokes — a few sentences in a media release, a press conference, newspaper and TV stories. The far more complicated tale is outlined in search warrant affidavits obtained by The Dallas Morning News, some running more than 100 pages, each detailing the searching of property records and the discovery of numerous bank accounts shared between the two operations. Sometimes, too, money was driven directly from the massage parlor to the restaurant, records show.

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Austin American-Statesman - November 7, 2019

Study finds Texas CASA kids less likely to find permanent homes

Texas foster children with court-appointed special advocates are less likely than other foster children in the state to be reunited with their birth parents or placed in the care of relatives, according to a new study funded by Texas CASA.

The stated goal of the state’s child welfare and court systems is to return foster children to their home of removal, if it is safe and in the best interest of the child. The next best option is to place them with a relative, according to state policy. Critics of CASA, who include people who advocate for rights of birth parents, say the study shows the ineffectiveness of the program, but Texas CASA officials say the report does not capture the good work CASA volunteers do for their clients.

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Texas Public Radio - November 8, 2019

Report: Texas home to more rural students than any other state

While Texas is responsible for educating more rural students than any other state in the country — nearly 700,000 — it’s not doing as much for those students as most other states in two key areas. That’s according to a new report from the Rural Schools and Community Trust. The report based on national statistics found that Texas spends an average of $5,386 on instruction per rural student, which is far less than most states.

It also found a greater gap in academic performance based on income in Texas compared to other states. While overall results on the national standardized test were average for rural students in Texas, poor rural students lagged significantly behind their more affluent peers. However, rural Texas schools have one of the highest graduation rates in the country, averaging 94%. Rural Schools and Community Trust board member Alan Richard said state funding is especially important for rural schools because they often have fewer students and less money to spend. “Many rural schools have wonderful things to offer. They give you individual attention and they’re caring places where everybody knows each other,” said Richard. “But too often rural schools are made to struggle across the country.”

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Texas Monthly - November 6, 2019

Chris Hooks: Let’s all hope Tony Buzbee drank a lot of water last night

Did you guys see Tony Buzbee’s “victory” speech last night? Wow, what a humdinger! Buzbee, the extraordinarily eccentric tank-owning, shark-loving trial lawyer vying to become the mayor of Houston with a campaign that has seemed heavily influenced by the example of Donald Trump, came in second to incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner last night—but he narrowly forced Turner into a runoff, which means his hopes remain alive for the time being.

He stormed the stage at his campaign’s watch party to give an address that will go down in the annals of something as a primo example of . . . something. Houston’s ABC-13 TV station described the speech as “uproarious and at times disjointed.” The Texas Tribune wrote that he gave a “rambling speech brimming with confidence.” The Houston Chronicle diplomatically described Buzbee as “taking a while to get to the point.” I have now watched Mr. Buzbee’s eighteen-minute speech in its entirety four times, and I am not sure if I have identified his point. I encourage you to watch it once. If you find a point, feel free to let me know.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 8, 2019

Martyr or scoundrel? The Texas Bar is taking notorious attorney Phil Ross to court

In practicing his own contrarian, combative brand of probate law, attorney Phil Ross has tried to recuse judges and battled court-appointed guardians. He has sued opposing lawyers, a mediator and even the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. At times he has been sanctioned, including a $220,000 penalty imposed this year in Bexar Probate Court No. 1. for “vexatious” conduct in a guardianship case.

In the 1990s, Ross also was a key opposition figure in the dispute over the proposed Applewhite Reservoir. The South Side water project ultimately failed in two public votes, costing the city tens of millions of dollars. All the while, Ross says he's fighting for often powerless elderly people, who, after becoming wards of court guardianships, often lose their basic rights, which can include the right to vote, marry, drive and hire their own lawyer. His critics say he has manipulated the legal system and at times exploited the elderly. But none who forcefully denounce him would be quoted, noting his reputation for being quick to sue. Ross readily acknowledges that routinely butting heads with the powers of the court system can be hazardous.

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Spectrum News - November 7, 2019

CBD shop owner seeing green after USDA hemp rules drop

Texans who want to legally grow hemp are one step closer to making that a reality now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week released its framework for hemp production. Now, the state says it's ready to submit its plan for approval. These moves have local entrepreneurs who sell hemp products ready to cash in on the potential cash crop.

Gene Dietrich owns the Austin American Shaman in North Austin. He sells hemp-derived CBD products. "It's like a maintenance, it's really good for you," said Dietrich. He's hoping to expand his product line when local farmers begin growing and selling industrial hemp from Texas soil. Newly released USDA regulations bring the State Department of Agriculture one step closer to allowing farmers to sew their firsts seeds.

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Roll Call - November 7, 2019

Without Beto O’Rourke, Texas Senate primary is ‘wide open’

It’s not difficult to find a former presidential candidate who swore off running for Senate and then changed his mind. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper did in August. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio did it too, in 2016. Just don’t expect former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke to join them after ending his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

O’Rourke was initially encouraged to follow up on his surprisingly strong challenge to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last year by taking on the state’s senior senator, Republican John Cornyn, next year. He said multiple times during the presidential campaign he wasn’t interested and told his staff on a conference call last week that he would not be running for Senate or any other office, according to a source close to the campaign. Now some Democrats in Texas say it’s time to move on.

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The Facts - November 7, 2019

Abigail Arias succumbs to cancer, honored with procession

Honorary Officer Abigail Arias’ years-long fight against cancer ended with her death early Tuesday morning, Freeport Police Chief Ray Garivey announced. She was 7. “She’s not hurting anymore,” Garivey said, adding the last few days were tough for Abigail and her family. Abigail’s mother, Ilene, father, Ruben, and older brother, Ethan, are obviously very sad, but have unconditional love for her, Garivey said.

“They believe in their God and faith,” he said. “They don’t question God.” Abigail had experienced “severe stomach issues” for days before, Ruben Arias said in a statement Sunday. The pain was caused by the cancer in her left lung which put pressure on her abdomen and stressed her heart, they learned at an emergency visit, and scans showed she had pneumonia, according to the statement. Abigail was given antibiotics via injection and a prescription to fight the pneumonia while at home, where she rested and took medication for pain and to help her sleep, according to the statement.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

Latino group calls for firing of prosecutor who allegedly asked if Mexican crime victim was “illegal”

Two days after police accused an assistant district attorney of refusing to file charges in a case because he suspected the Mexican victim was “illegal,” elected officials, law enforcement unions and the League of United Latin American Citizens are calling for the prosecutor’s termination. Hours after police went public with their allegations on Tuesday, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced that prosecutor John Denholm was transferred from the intake division to the special crime bureau, pending an investigation.

“The assistant district attorney who failed to file charges for this crime shouldn’t be reassigned, he should be fired because he is a racist and menace to the Hispanic community,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said in a statement. Late last week, a Houston police officer spotted a man at the Joint Processing Center calling for help and pointing at 44-year-old Karl Bonner, who was getting booked for drunk driving charges. Bonner was allegedly holding his erect penis as he grabbed the man next to him and pulled him closer, union officials said.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - November 6, 2019

TEA says it will replace Houston ISD’s elected school board

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath notified Houston ISD officials Wednesday that he plans to temporarily strip power from the district’s elected school board and appoint a replacement governance team, a long-anticipated decision resulting from a state investigation into allegations of trustee misconduct and chronically low academic performance at Wheatley High School.

Morath’s decision all-but-finalizes one of the most dramatic state interventions in an American school district to date, putting immense power over HISD in the hands of state-appointed officials. In addition to selecting a new board, Morath also must decide whether to keep HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan or install a new district leader, an authority granted under state law. In a letter to HISD officials, Morath said he is compelled to act “given the inability of the board of trustees to govern the district" and its "inability to address the long-standing academic deficiencies” at Wheatley.

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Houston Chronicle - November 8, 2019

T-Mobile to turn on 5G network in Houston, nationally next month

T-Mobile will turn on its 5G network nationwide on Dec. 6, including in Houston, one of four initiatives the cellular carrier announced Thursday. The three others are contingent on T-Mobile successfully merging with smaller rival Sprint, an outcome in jeopardy because of a lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general, including Texas’ Ken Paxton.

The 5G network will be available in 5,000 cities and towns, and will reach 200 million Americans, including many in rural areas. The company will also sell two smartphones that will work on the new network. T-Mobile is using a lower frequency spectrum for its initial 5G network. Its 600-Mhz band can travel further distances and pass through buildings easier than the higher frequencies used by competitors AT&T and Verizon, said Anshel Sag, an analyst who follows the cellular industry for Moor Insights & Strategy, a market research firm.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 7, 2019

Bert Cecconi loved politics and San Antonio

Bert Cecconi was a newly retired Air Force dentist in 1985 when he first ran for a seat on the City Council. “In that first election, he lost but fluoride won, and it set a terrible precedent,” his son Mark Cecconio recalled. “From then on, he didn’t care about winning elections. He just wanted to make sure the things he cared about were talked about.” Cecconi, 83, who over the next 35 years ran and lost 10 campaigns for city office, died Oct. 27 after a short bout with cancer.

In his final race, for mayor this spring, the brawl between incumbent Ron Nirenberg and then-Councilman Greg Brockhouse got all the attention, and Cecconi got about 500 votes. “The last time he ran, we found out about it in the newspaper,” his son said. “He was totally into it. We tried as hard as we could to stop it, but he hid it from us. He was like an alcoholic,” he joked. Unlike many fringe candidates who repeatedly launch hopeless races for inscrutable reasons, Cecconi ran with a clear-minded intent to improve the city he loved. “He hasn’t been driven by ego, delusions of electoral success or personal vendetta,” wrote San Antonio Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia five years ago, when Cecconi was again running for the council.

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San Antonio Express-News - November 7, 2019

Lime, Lyft and Razor emerge as San Antonio scooter contract favorites

City staff are recommending three California-based e-scooter companies — Lyft, Lime and Razor — as the preferred candidates for the City Council’s plan to tighten regulation of the zippy two-wheeled machines that transformed pedestrian life downtown two summers ago. An 11-member evaluation committee ranked them highest among the nine companies competing for a trio of two-year contracts the city hopes to award in December, a major step toward corralling the downtown clutter and ridership hazards of the dockless vehicles.

Having survived a months-long request for proposals (RFP) process and questions from the committee, the recommended companies now must jockey for the favor of the council, which will discuss their applications at a briefing Wednesday. A final vote could come Dec. 12. The winners each will be permitted to operate up to 1,666 dockless vehicles, 5,000 in all. A city pilot program had allowed up to 16,000, but companies deployed fewer than half that total last spring and have gradually reduced their numbers since then.

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Presence of border officers at a Dallas high school sparks fear in students

Border patrol officers were at W.H. Adamson High School this week to promote careers in the law enforcement agency, not to investigate families, Dallas school officials say. Representatives from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection participated in a campus job fair on Wednesday along with about three dozen other organizations.

But some students were upset by their presence and began texting parents and community members concerned that authorities were at Adamson to investigate immigration status. “It was never our intent to cause anxiety or additional concern among our community,” Adamson Principal Diana Nuñez said in a letter to families. “In hindsight, we realize this may have been insensitive to some and apologize to our students, staff and family for any unnecessary distress their presence may have caused.” Nuñez went on to explain that the job of educators is not to be immigration authorities but to promote a safe space for learning.

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Dallas Morning News - November 7, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: Frisco ISD plan to add 10 minutes to each school day — and start summer break sooner — falls flat with parents

On even the best of days, parents of North Texas school children must perform peas-on-a-knife balancing acts to manage their family’s work, campus and extracurricular commitments. Even what seems like a small schedule change can rock their world -- which is precisely what happened Wednesday night in Frisco. Social media lit up with hundreds of anxious, confused and angry comments after word spread that the school district wants to add 10 minutes to each class day, beginning with the 2020-21 academic calendar.

The district told me Thursday that they will recommend tacking on the extra time at the end of the day, so that arrival times remain unchanged. The slightly longer school day would allow administrators to shave three days off each academic year. According to the district, that change would ensure that Frisco schools can always end the spring term prior to the long Memorial Day weekend. Facebook fast became the virtual meeting spot for frustrated parents after a Community Impact Newspaper article first referenced the proposed calendar changes. Perhaps parents will warm up to the idea once they have all the facts, but the response so far to the extra 10 minutes is overwhelmingly negative.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - November 8, 2019

Alex Jones threatened to name a Roger Stone juror. Experts say that might be jury tampering.

On the first day of political consultant Roger Stone’s trial in federal court in Washington, D.C., on charges of false statements and witness tampering, Judge Amy Berman Jackson cautioned people in the courtroom against releasing jurors’ names.

But Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was undeterred, the Daily Beast first reported. Ignoring her warning, Jones broadcast on his show the name and face of an individual whom he believed had been seated on Stone’s jury, calling the person an anti-Trump “minion” and launching a flurry of witness tampering and obstruction of justice allegations. Although Jones held up a photo of a person who had no connection to the Stone trial, legal experts maintained the effect was the same as if the person had been a juror.

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Wall Street Journal - November 7, 2019

GM sells Lordstown plant that became flashpoint for Trump, UAW

General Motors Co.’s closed Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant—which became a flashpoint for President Trump and unionized workers angry over the company’s factory closures—has a new owner.

The auto maker has sold the factory to a new electric-truck maker, Lordstown Motors Corp., for an undisclosed amount, the startup company said Thursday. Lordstown Motors said it is seeking investment to begin production in late 2020 of electric pickup trucks, aimed at business and government customers. Its first model will be called the Endurance. GM said the sale to Lordstown Motors could help the area become a hub for electric-vehicle manufacturing. GM has said it also will invest in a nearby factory that will make battery cells for electric vehicles.

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Wall Street Journal - November 8, 2019

Ukraine company’s campaign to burnish its image stretched beyond Hunter Biden

Burisma Holdings’ campaign to clean up its image in the West reached beyond the 2014 hiring of Hunter Biden, son of the then-U.S. vice president, to include other well-connected operatives in Washington, according to officials in both countries and government records. The Ukrainian company, owned by tycoon Mykola Zlochevsky, also hired a lobbyist with close ties to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as a consulting group founded by top officials in the Clinton administration that specialized in preparing former Soviet-bloc countries to join NATO.

Soon the efforts bore fruit. With the help of a New York-based lawyer, Mr. Zlochevsky’s U.S. consultants argued to Ukrainian prosecutors that criminal cases against the company should be closed because no laws had been broken. Burisma later became a sponsor of a Washington think tank, the Atlantic Council, whose experts are often cited on energy and security policy in the former Soviet Union. When President Trump was elected, the company brought a former CIA official from the George W. Bush administration onto its board.

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New York Times - November 7, 2019

Top State Dept. official complained of Trump’s politicization of Ukraine policy

The senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine told impeachment investigators last month that he was alarmed at President Trump’s insistence that Ukraine “initiate politically motivated prosecutions,” casting the effort as the kind of tactic the United States typically condemns in the world’s most corrupt countries.

George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, testified that he regarded the push for investigations — spearheaded by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer — as “injurious to the rule of law,” and to decades of American foreign policy. “There is an outstanding issue about people in office in those countries using selectively politically motivated prosecutions to go after their opponents,” Mr. Kent said in his interview with the House Intelligence Committee, according to a transcript released on Thursday. “And that’s wrong for the rule of law regardless of what country that happens.”

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Associated Press - November 7, 2019

Mexico farm town buries 3 of 9 slain Americans

As Mexican soldiers stood guard, a mother and two sons were laid to rest in hand-hewn pine coffins in a single grave dug out of the rocky soil Thursday at the first funeral for the victims of a drug cartel ambush that left nine American women and children dead.

Clad in shirt sleeves, suits or modest dresses, about 500 mourners embraced in grief under white tents erected in La Mora, a hamlet of about 300 people who consider themselves Mormon but are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some wept, and some sang hymns. Members of the extended community — many of whom, like the victims, are dual U.S-Mexican citizens — had built the coffins themselves and used shovels to dig the shared grave in La Mora's small cemetery. Farmers and teenage boys carried the coffins.

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Houston Chronicle - November 7, 2019

More data than oil: Bandwidth poised to become next bottleneck in the Permian Basin

At first, there were not enough pipelines to move oil and natural gas to market. Then, it was a lack of water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. And then it was an insufficient number of disposal sites to handle all the wastewater from the oil fields. Now, bandwidth — the capacity to transmit data over the internet — is poised to become the next big bottleneck in the Permian Basin, the nation’s largest and busiest oil field.

As the oil and gas industry becomes increasingly dependent on digital tools and automation, hundreds of companies are operating in remote areas where cell phone service and internet connectivity can be as sparse as the desert landscape surrounding them. Cell phone carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon provide service along major highways and plan to extend their their reach into the Permian’s expanse across West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, but energy companies say it’s not enough.

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NPR - November 8, 2019

Judge says Trump must pay $2 million over misuse of foundation funds

A New York judge has ruled that President Trump must pay $2 million in damages to settle claims that the Trump Foundation misused funds. The money will go to a group of charities, and the foundation is in the process of dissolving.

The case is tied to a televised fundraiser for veterans held by Trump in Iowa when he was running for president in January 2016. Trump had said the funds raised would be distributed to charities. But according to court documents, the Trump Foundation improperly used $2.82 million it received from that fundraiser. According to the judgment, that money "was used for Mr. Trump's political campaign and disbursed by Mr. Trump's campaign staff, rather than by the Foundation," which is unlawful. However, Justice Saliann Scarpulla says the funds did eventually reach charity organizations supporting veterans.

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Washington Post - November 7, 2019

A new chain of Christian pregnancy centers will provide a controversial service: Contraception

When a low-income woman searches for reproductive care, she often goes to a Planned Parenthood clinic, where she’s treated as a patient with an array of medical options. Or she might go to a Christian pregnancy center, where she is counseled to carry a pregnancy to term. But some Christians now see an opening for a third way to reach women — before they become pregnant — that also enables them to compete for federal money Planned Parenthood has decided to relinquish.

Eight independent Texas-based pregnancy centers merged earlier this year to form a chain called The Source. With Christian women’s health centers in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, the nonprofit organization plans to offer a full array of medical services, to include testing for sexually transmitted diseases, first-trimester prenatal care and contraception choices. That model is similar to that of hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. About half of the organization’s 600 clinics provide abortion directly; the rest offer medical services but refer patients to outside providers for abortion.

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