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Newsclips - February 18, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 17, 2019

White House defends Trump’s emergency declaration as lawsuits and political battles mount

The White House on Sunday defended President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border and sought to clarify his contradictory statements about its necessity, marking the start of what’s expected to be a drawn-out fight over funding the construction of a wall amid mounting legal challenges and objections from Congress.

Trump’s announcement last week — an attempt to circumvent Congress by redirecting taxpayer money to pay for 230 miles of barriers along the border — has led to lawsuits. On Sunday, California’s attorney general said he was working with officials from at least six other states and would be filing suit against the White House “imminently.” The national emergency declaration also triggered protests, with various groups promising to hold more throughout the country Monday.

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NPR - February 18, 2019

Andrew McCabe, ex-FBI deputy, describes 'remarkable' number of Trump-Russia contacts

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe condemned what he called the "relentless attack" that President Trump has waged against the FBI even as it continues scrutinizing whether Americans in Trump's campaign may have conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election.

McCabe left the FBI after 21 years last March, when he was dismissed for an alleged "lack of candor" in a media leak probe unrelated to the special counsel investigation. While he declined to conclude that Trump or his advisers colluded with Russia, McCabe said the evidence special counsel Robert Mueller has made public to date — including new disclosures about an August 2016 meeting between former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the FBI has linked to Russian intelligence — "is incredibly persuasive."

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Wall Street Journal - February 18, 2019

Munich Security Conference highlights a divided US

A divided America was on display this weekend in Munich where Vice President Mike Pence and Democrats including his predecessor Joe Biden offered competing visions of the trans-Atlantic relationship that could shape the world for years to come.

Both Mr. Pence and the Democrats claimed to stand for U.S. leadership on the world stage and accused each other of wrecking a world order that is under threat by rival powers, namely China and Russia. Mr. Pence presented a strong defense of the Trump administration’s “America First” policy to world leaders gathered for the annual Munich Security Conference. The theme this year, “Picking Up the Pieces,” reflected a view widely shared among European nations: that the world order is in danger because of a breakdown in the relationship between the U.S. and its European allies.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

In property tax fight, clout of local officials hangs in balance

A key provision in Texas property tax law that has held firm for nearly four decades appears on the verge of major change as Republican state leaders are determined to ratchet down how much tax money schools, cities, counties and community colleges can raise. That the tax provision is now vulnerable says a lot about the widening political divide between Democratic local officials in the state’s urban areas and the Republicans who run the Capitol.

Ultimately, the outcome is a test of how much power those local officials wield in the halls of the Capitol. Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2 would require taxing districts with $15 million or more in combined property and sales tax revenues to obtain voter approval for property tax increases that lead to collections more than 2.5 percent higher than those in the previous year. Currently, voters can petition to put to a referendum tax increases that lead to revenue collections greater than 8 percent over the previous year’s collections.

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2019

University leaders thankful for state funding, but seek more from lawmakers

In Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” the young orphan, oatmeal bowl in hand, makes this request: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Texas’ higher education leaders, who carry thick binders and are fed much better than Oliver, spent much of last week thanking lawmakers for past and current funding but also asking for more.

The drama, as it were, played out in a series of hearings before Senate and House appropriations committees. The panels took no votes, as it is still early in the 140-day session that concludes May 27. If history is any guide, higher education leaders will see some fraction of their requests fulfilled. The testimony of University of Texas System Chancellor James B. Milliken was perhaps typical.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

Will a big-name Democrat run for John Cornyn’s Senate seat?

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is preparing for re-election in 2020 as if he were running scared — hiring top staff, raising money early and traveling around Texas touting his accomplishments.

After fellow Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz received a scare from Democrat Beto O’Rourke last year, Cornyn isn’t taking anything for granted. But, with O’Rourke eying the presidency, Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama Cabinet official, already in the presidential race, and his brother U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, serving as his campaign manager, the three Texas Democrats seen as most likely to run a strong statewide campaign seem likely to steer clear of Cornyn. That leaves a bench of potential challengers with little name recognition or losing campaigns to their credit, or both.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

GOP state senator wants Texas to be more like Austin (at least when it comes to dogs)

Republicans in the Legislature have long had a fondness for targeting Austin, taking steps over the years to strike down the liberal city’s policies on paid sick leave, grocery bag bans, tree-cutting limits and much more. So when Sen. Kelly Hancock, a conservative Republican in good standing, files a bill that specifically mirrors an Austin regulation — and praises the capital city while he’s at it — it’s time to sit up and take notice.

Hancock’s Senate Bill 476 would let restaurants across the state admit patrons and their well-behaved dogs to patios, sidewalk cafes and other outdoor seating areas. Calling it the Fido-Friendly Outdoor Dining Act, Hancock says the bill closely mirrors Austin’s “relatively permissive” restaurant regulations. Austin has allowed restaurants to offer outdoor seating to patrons and their dogs since 2006, as long as the pets can get there without walking through the restaurant interior, the pup stays on a leash and doesn’t sit in a chair, and no food is prepared on the patio. A conspicuous sign stating that dogs are allowed also is required. Hancock’s legislation includes the same limits.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2019

Austin's Concordia University embraces designation as Hispanic-serving college

Concordia University junior Carlos Torres remembers visiting the Northwest Austin college campus during a middle school field trip and telling himself that one day he’d be a student there. The path was not straightforward. As he grew older, he began doubting whether college was the right path for him. No one in his immediate family had obtained a college degree. He felt unsure about his future and whether college was necessary to enter the workforce.

But in the end Torres enrolled, knowing that his decision wouldn’t only affect his future but also could help set his younger siblings on a similar path. Last month, Concordia received a federal designation as a Hispanic-serving institution, which makes the school eligible for federal grants to support Hispanic students like Torres. The designation makes the university one of just 50 faith-based institutions across the country — and one of 14 private universities in Texas — to earn the recognition.

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Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2019

Fighting for Nicky: Houston parents demand changes to UT-Austin's anti-hazing policies

Shawn Cumberland received a call Sept. 30 that changed his life forever. His son, Nicky, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, had been injured in a car accident on the way home from an initiation retreat hosted by the Texas Cowboys, an all-male honorary organization on campus.

He would discover that Nicky, 20, was presumed brain dead. Four weeks and four hospitals later, he died from his injuries. Now Cumberland and his wife Sylvia, of Houston, believe hazing contributed to Nicky's death, and they have launched an effort to bring stricter hazing rules and repercussions to the university and beyond. In a letter sent to the UT president and dean of students, they are calling for reform of campus hazing rules and the group they hold responsible.

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Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2019

Homebuilders adjust to rising costs, shrinking margins

In the Houston area, year-over-year increases began slowing this summer, S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller data showed, falling to 4 percent growth in November, the most recent month for which data are available, from a 5.1 percent increase in July.

While prices are still increasing year over year, those increases have been diminishing for eight months straight, hitting 5.2 percent in November, a two-year low. Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic, said that after years of expansion, the economic cycle was already poised for a slowdown in price growth. But that slowdown may have been intensified by other factors, such as house prices outpacing incomes.

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Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2019

Joyous ceremony ushers in a new era in Missouri City

Hundreds of people clapped, sang and cheered Sunday afternoon during a three-hour ceremony celebrating the inauguration of Yolanda Ford, Missouri City’s first African American and first female mayor.

Ford narrowly unseated Allen Owen, who had served as Missouri City’s mayor for 24 years, in a runoff election on Dec. 8. She took office as the city’s 11th mayor on Dec. 17. During the nearly quarter century that Owen presided as mayor, Missouri City went through drastic change, doubling in population and shifting in demographics. Missouri City, which was 60 percent white in 1990, had become predominantly African American (42 percent) with sizable Asian and Hispanic populations, at 18 and 15 percent, by the time Owen left office.

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Denton Record-Chronicle - February 17, 2019

Dave Lieber: Electricity shopping could get even more difficult if these Texas leaders get their way

Uh-oh. We have a problem. In the 2019 fight to fix electricity shopping in Texas, now in Round 1 in the Legislature, our campaign was hit with a potent one-two punch combo this week and knocked to the mat. The Watchdog is trying to get back up, but frankly, I'm seeing stars.

First, rookie state Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, in only his sixth week as a lawmaker, introduced a bill that would shut down permanently the state-run PowerToChoose.org website, a neutral shopping site that millions of Texans use to compare electricity prices. Patterson works for a Carrollton company that helps big industrial and commercial clients find the right electricity contracts. He told me in an interview that neither he nor his company works in the residential market, so he sees no conflict of interest.

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Star-Telegram - February 18, 2019

ST Editorial: A Texas lawmaker is out to clean up the CBD drug law mess

State authorities aren’t necessarily out to get you for seeking CBD oils made from the marijuana plant. But neither are officials in much of a position to protect you. Cannabis-related laws are a maddening mess across the country — it’s legal here, illegal there, in this form, in that — and nowhere more so than right here in Texas regarding medicinal “cannabidiol oil.”

Purveyors of the oil are banking on that being an idle threat — and such draconian punishment does seem farfetched, particularly in cases where the sale or use of it is truly medicinal and merciful. But as long as it’s illegal, the risks are real. The only humane answer is clarity, which only the Texas Legislature can provide. We applaud state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, for being on it. One of the forces behind the state’s 2015 Compassionate Use Act that provided for the oil’s current limited legality, Klick is seeking new legislation expanding and further delineating its legal uses.

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Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2019

Gromer Jeffers, Jr: Voters' silent support for Donald Trump makes him a formidable candidate in 2020

The conversation at the bar turned to politics — specifically President Donald Trump. It was my second stop of the night, a venerable Dallas hotel lounge that usually has a good mix of travelers, locals and the rich and somewhat famous. I snagged a seat at the extreme corner of the bar area, allowing me a view of the crowd and the band that would play, local group The British Are Coming.

Some folks started talking about Trump, who on Friday declared a national emergency to shift funding in the budget to pay for his wall along the southern border. The bottom line: They didn't care. Like others I've encountered over the last year, they see the fight over the wall as folly for Trump, the media and Democrats. They grumbled that the border security solution should be a mix of technology, agents and barriers. The consensus was that other issues are more important to America, and that Trump has more support than the media and Democrats realize.

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Austin Business Journal - February 15, 2019

Bipartisan effort in Texas Legislature aims to make life easier for electricians, other workers who need state licenses

Texas lawmakers have filed a handful of bills this session related to occupational licenses, including an effort to stop licensing boards from disqualifying applicants who have a criminal history.

The Texas Right-On-Crime coalition — which includes the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition — supports measures that prohibit licensing agencies from denying a license to applicants with a criminal history as long as it doesn't directly relate to the occupation being considered.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2019

SAEN Editorial: Urban areas are not the enemies of Texas

Texas’ leading lawmakers still don’t get it. After an election that saw Democrats make sizable gains in the Texas House and run surprisingly close statewide races, Texas’ top Republican lawmakers continue to antagonize cities.

This is evident in the proposed 2.5 percent revenue caps for cities, urban counties and school districts as a way to control property taxes. It’s an arbitrary number that would limit core services. And this antagonism was manifest in the aggressive and rude treatment representatives from cities and counties received at a recent Senate committee hearing about these proposed caps.

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Texas Public Radio - February 18, 2019

Texas A&M professor's research highlights significance of Texas freedom colonies

During the years after the Civil War, communities of African Americans worked together throughout southeastern Texas to form what historians call freedom colonies. Research underway at Texas A&M University in Bryan-College Station aims to identify and preserve these historic black settlements.

Andrea Roberts teaches urban planning at Texas A&M University in College Station. She began the Texas Freedom Colonies Project during her doctoral studies at the University of Texas. “So when we’re talking about 'freedom colonies,' we’re talking about any places where clusters of African-American landowners intentionally came together and formed a community, usually with an anchor site,” she said. Roberts explained that “anchor sites” were at the core of life in these settlements. “That’s a building or an institution at the center of the community, which might be a school or a church, and sometimes all that remains of the areas is cemeteries,” she said. She said these settlements were designed to exist apart from a society dominated by people hostile to African Americans.

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Associated Press - February 18, 2019

Border wall could be tricky issue, especially for O'Rourke

When Donald Trump visited Beto O'Rourke's hometown to argue that walling off the southern border makes the U.S. safer, the former Democratic congressman and possible 2020 presidential hopeful was ready.

As the president filled an El Paso arena with supporters, O'Rourke helped lead thousands of his own on a protest march past the barrier of barbed-wire topped fencing and towering metal slats that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. O'Rourke clearly hopes to make his personal experience with the border a strength if he runs for president — and the battle over billions of dollars in new fortifications may well shape the 2020 campaign.

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National Stories

Washington Post - February 18, 2019

Japan’s Abe won’t confirm Trump Nobel Prize nomination, but media reports say he did

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wouldn’t say Monday whether he nominated President Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating with North Korea, even though local media reports suggest that he did.

Trump said Friday that Abe had personally given him “the most beautiful copy” of a five-page nomination letter recommending him for the prize for opening talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and lowering tensions. But Abe wouldn’t confirm that Monday. “The Nobel Committee for the last 50 years has not disclosed who recommended and who was recommended. In line with this policy, I would like to refrain from giving a comment,” Abe said in response to a question from an opposition lawmaker.

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Wall Street Journal - February 17, 2019

Democrats ready to challenge Trump’s emergency declaration

Democrats on Sunday signaled they are gearing up to challenge President Trump’s use of his emergency powers to fund construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border, an expected move that would likely tie up implementation of one of his core campaign promises.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has made a name for himself challenging numerous Trump administration regulatory rollbacks and other actions, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he “definitely and imminently” planned to sue the administration, in concert with several other states, over the president’s emergency declaration Friday. Mr. Becerra said his impending suit is bolstered by Mr. Trump’s statement that “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

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Wall Street Journal - February 17, 2019

Why Amazon’s New York U-Turn is good for America’s tech economy

Amazon.com's abandoned plans for a New York City headquarters may have prompted mixed reactions in the Big Apple, but for the rest of the country, it’s good news.

In its announcement, the company said it would continue to invest in its 17 North American corporate and tech hubs, as well as its forthcoming expansions in Northern Virginia and Nashville. Setting politics and any immediate fallout aside, the decision could significantly benefit America’s tech economy in the long run, say experts in regional economic development.

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New York Times - February 18, 2019

Obama quietly gives advice to 2020 Democrats, but no endorsement

A secret meeting of former President Barack Obama’s financial backers convened in Washington early this month: Organized by David Jacobson and John Phillips, Mr. Obama’s former ambassadors to Canada and Italy, the group interviewed an array of 2020 presidential candidates and debated whether to throw their wealth behind one or two of them.

Mr. Obama had no role in the event, but it unfolded in his political shadow: As presidential hopefuls like Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown auditioned before them, the donors wondered aloud whether Mr. Obama might signal a preference in the race, according to three people briefed on the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s former chief strategist, told the group they should expect no such directive. Mr. Axelrod confirmed in an interview that he briefed the gathering, recalling: “They asked me about Obama endorsing. I said, ‘I don’t imagine he will.’”

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New York Times - February 18, 2019

Chinese and Iranian hackers renew their attacks on US companies

Businesses and government agencies in the United States have been targeted in aggressive attacks by Iranian and Chinese hackers who security experts believe have been energized by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China.

Recent Iranian attacks on American banks, businesses and government agencies have been more extensive than previously reported. Dozens of corporations and multiple United States agencies have been hit, according to seven people briefed on the episodes who were not authorized to discuss them publicly. The attacks, attributed to Iran by analysts at the National Security Agency and the private security firm FireEye, prompted an emergency order by the Department of Homeland Security during the government shutdown last month.

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Reuters - February 18, 2019

Seven lawmakers quit UK Labour Party citing Brexit 'betrayal', anti-Semitism

Seven Labour lawmakers quit Britain’s main opposition party on Monday over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and a row over anti-Semitism, saying Labour had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left.”

The departure of the small group of lawmakers underlines the mounting frustration with Corbyn’s reluctance to change his Brexit strategy and start campaigning for a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

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Reuters - February 17, 2019

US blocks UN-backed North Korean air traffic revival ahead of Trump-Kim summit

The United States has blocked efforts by a U.N. agency to improve civil aviation in North Korea at a time when Pyongyang is trying to reopen part of its airspace to foreign flights, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The U.S. move is part of a negotiating tactic to maintain sanctions pressure on North Korea, one of the sources said, ahead of a second summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in late February. Washington is seeking concrete commitments from Pyongyang at the summit to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), with 192 member countries, has been working with Pyongyang to open a new air route that would pass through North and South Korean airspace.

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McClatchy - February 15, 2019

Cruz pushes for stiffer gold penalties against Venezuela’s Maduro

Sen. Ted Cruz is leading a group of Republican lawmakers that has devised a plan to punish countries, industries or financial institutions caught moving gold for Venezuela or Iran. The aim is to increase economic pressure on Venezuela leader Nicolás Maduro and warn banks in Russia and Turkey to think twice before trying to come to his aid.

“Our enemies work with each other, and too often with some of our problematic allies, to circumvent American sanctions by illicitly trading precious metals and stones,” said Cruz, a Texas Republican. It’s unclear what support Cruz’s legislation will receive in a divided Congress. But President Donald Trump has made the removal of the Maduro government a priority.

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Reuters - February 18, 2019

North Carolina board to hear evidence on election fraud claim

North Carolina election officials on Monday will begin hearing evidence on allegations that absentee ballots unlawfully collected by a Republican operative may have tipped a tight November U.S. congressional election in favor of a Republican candidate.

The U.S. House of Representatives seat has remained vacant since state officials refused to certify the apparent victory by Republican Mark Harris over Democratic rival Dan McCready after voters in the state’s 9th congressional district said the Harris campaign team had collected their incomplete absentee ballots.

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Reuters - February 17, 2019

Army calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families

Deeply troubled by military housing conditions exposed by Reuters reporting, the U.S. Army’s top leadership vowed Friday to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test tens of thousands of homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting Army base residents from dangerous homes.

In an interview, the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said Reuters reports and a chorus of concerns from military families had opened his eyes to the need for urgent overhauls of the Army’s privatized housing system, which accommodates more than 86,000 families. The secretary’s conclusion: Private real estate firms tasked with managing and maintaining the housing stock have been failing the families they serve, and the Army itself neglected its duties.

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CNN - February 15, 2019

Key House chairman: New documents contradict Trump attorneys' statements over hush-money payments

House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings says that his panel has obtained information that calls into question previous statements made by attorneys representing President Donald Trump to federal officials about 2016 hush-money payments to keep an alleged Trump extramarital affair under wraps.

In a Friday letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Cummings says his committee has obtained new documents showing that Trump's personal attorney Sheri Dillon and Stefan Passantino, a former White House official who now represents the Trump Organization, "may have provided false information" when they were questioned by federal ethics officials about hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. CNN has reached out to Passantino and Dillon for comment. Passantino declined to comment and CNN but has not yet heard back from Dillon. CNN has also reached out to Cipollone for comment.

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Vox - February 15, 2019

Matthew Yglesias: We can’t have a Green New Deal if we can’t figure out how to execute on anything.

Congressional progressives’ push for a Green New Deal briefly put the question of a national high-speed passenger rail initiative back into the discourse.

Then this week, we saw reality bite back sharply: Newly inaugurated California Gov. Gavin Newsom all but canceled the state’s ambitious plans for a statewide high-speed rail network, one that would link San Diego and Los Angeles to San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento via the major cities in the state’s Central Valley.

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Politico - February 15, 2019

Liberal activists didn’t kill the Amazon deal. Robert Moses did.

Just like with Amazon’s recent proposal to build a new corporate campus in Queens, local residents opposed Robert Moses’ plans to construct the Cross-Bronx Expressway through the working-class neighborhood of East Tremont in the early 1950s.

Determined to save scores of residential buildings by forcing Moses, then New York’s most powerful public figure, to alter the route, members of the East Tremont Neighborhood Association lined up a raft of political support. As Robert Caro tells the story, led by a local “housewife” named Lillian Edelstein, activists extracted a promise from the soon-to-be-mayor, Robert F. Wagner, that he would “vote against any resolution” allowing Moses to acquire private property for the roadway.

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The Guardian - February 18, 2019

Facebook labelled 'digital gangsters' by report on fake news

Facebook deliberately broke privacy and competition law and should urgently be subject to statutory regulation, according to a devastating parliamentary report denouncing the company and its executives as “digital gangsters."

The final report of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s 18-month investigation into disinformation and fake news accused Facebook of purposefully obstructing its inquiry and failing to tackle attempts by Russia to manipulate elections. “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day,” warned the committee’s chairman, Damian Collins.

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Newsclips - February 17, 2019

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2019

Sen. Angela Paxton files bill that would allow her husband, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to issue exemptions from securities regulations

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment adviser” without registering with the state board. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas — one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.

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Associated Press - February 16, 2019

Vatican defrocks former US cardinal McCarrick for sex abuse

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty by the Vatican of sex abuse and defrocked, as calls rose Saturday for Pope Francis to reveal what he knew about the once-powerful American prelate's apparently decades-long predatory sexual behavior.

The announcement Saturday, delivered in uncharacteristically blunt language for the Vatican, meant that the 88-year-old McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., becomes the highest-ranking churchman and the first cardinal to be punished by dismissal from the clerical state, or laicization. He was notified Friday of the decision, which was upheld upon his appeal and approved by Pope Francis.

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Governing - February 15, 2019

The growing need for opposition research –– on yourself –– in today's political world

The past is never dead. For all the warnings millennials have received about making sure their social media accounts are kept clean so they won't come back to haunt them later in their careers, lately it's been baby boomers and Gen Xers tripped up by analog documents from the past.

The series of recent scandals in Virginia was kicked off by the emergence of a 35-year-old yearbook page from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school days. Back in September, members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee grilled then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about entries in his high school yearbook and the calendar he kept as a student.

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ABC 13 - February 17, 2019

Houston shells out millions in fight to host Democratic National Convention

Millions of your tax dollars are on the line as Houston fights to attract Democrats to town for the party's next national convention. The Democratic National Committee is widely expected to announce the host city for its 2020 Convention next week. Houston is hoping the DNC will do what many tourists won't and spend a week in Houston next July.

Houston First, the city's convention and tourism arm, voted Friday morning to approve millions of dollars in grants and loans to entice the DNC to come here. In a unanimous vote, Houston First's board approved a $1 million grant to the DNC, $1.1 million in local matching funds and a $2.6 million line of credit. Houston Convention & Visitor's Bureau, a separate (but connected) entity has also pledged $1 million towards the effort.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s property tax bill inaccurately depicted

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's property tax bill dropped 14 percent over the last two years largely because of factors that involved no action on his part and a tax break available to all Texas homeowners. Last week, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reported on their websites that Patrick had benefited from an unusually large reduction in the tax bill on his Montgomery County home in 2017 and 2018.

That Feb. 8 article ("Property tax crusader Dan Patrick can't complain about his own bill") incorrectly reported some of the details. New information makes it clear Patrick's taxes dropped because he took advantage of the state's homestead exemption, market values dipped in his neighborhood and county tax officials corrected an over-estimate of the size of his home. The homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of a person's principal residence. It is available to all Texans. Patrick applied for it in 2018, the year after he purchased his home on Lake Conroe. The Chronicle and Express-News relied in part on information about the homestead exemption for Patrick's property that was listed on the website of the Montgomery County Tax Office. The information turned out to be erroneous, and the office has since corrected it.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: San Antonio Democrats determined to break special-election losing streak

If San Antonio Democrats get burned this time, it won’t be because of complacency. The party is riding a three-game losing streak when it comes to special elections involving legislative seats, and the last one — a September 2018 victory by Republican retired game warden Pete Flores in a Senate district that Dems had controlled since Reconstruction — stung the most.

So when Tuesday night’s special election in House District 125 — the seat Justin Rodriguez left to join the Bexar County Commissioners Court — set up yet another Democrat vs. Republican runoff, the Democratic Party’s heavy hitters wasted no time in lining up behind their candidate. That candidate, former Councilman Ray Lopez, launched his runoff campaign Saturday morning in Leon Valley with all eight members of San Antonio’s Democratic legislative caucus in attendance.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2019

Bank regulators take action against USAA Bank

Federal regulators have taken action against USAA Federal Savings Bank for the second time this year. The Office of the Comptroller of Currency, which regulates banks, recently issued a cease-and-desist order against USAA Bank for “engaging in unsafe or unsound banking practices.”

The OCC’s action is unrelated to a $3.5 million civil penalty and $12 million in restitution that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered the bank to pay last month to settle charges that it violated banking laws, USAA Bank spokesman Matt Hartwig said. The OCC found USAA Bank’s internal controls and informations systems do not comply with certain guidelines. The bank also failed to implement and maintain a “Risk Management Program” equivalent with its size and risk profile.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

Beto O’Rourke calls for tearing down existing border barriers in El Paso

Democrat Beto O’Rourke doesn’t just oppose building more border walls and fences in Texas, he wants to tear down existing barriers. In an interview on MSNBC on Thursday night from El Paso, O’Rourke was asked by interviewer Chris Hayes if he would take down the more than 40 miles of walls and fences in El Paso and he said he would “absolutely” do that.

“I’d take the wall down,” O’Rourke told Hayes. O’Rourke said the current barriers have not made El Paso safer and have cost billions of dollars to build and maintain. In addition, he said, it’s pushing asylum seekers away from cities to more dangerous places to cross. Hayes said he asked the question because U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, posed the same question to O’Rourke on Twitter. The talk show host also asked O’Rourke if he thinks El Paso voters would agree with him, if there were a referendum on taking down the wall.

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Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2019

Halliburton at 100: From wagons and mules to 21st century technology

A borrowed wagon. An old pump. A salvaged tank. Clothesline. Wooden plugs. And two mules. That’s what Erle Palmer Halliburton had when he started his oil well cementing business in Burkburnett, Texas in 1919. He also had his wife’s wedding ring, which he pawned for seed money.

Flash forward 100 years and Halliburton is hailed as an American success story. Today, his company uses some of the most advanced technology known to man and has become one of the largest oilfield service companies in the world - employing more 60,000 people in more than 80 nations. It has also developed much of the advanced drilling technology that yielded a shale revolution in U.S. oilfields, advancing a national goal of energy independence.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2019

Texans on both sides find plenty to not like in government shutdown deal

The vote on the budget deal Congress passed Thursday night to avert a second government shutdown reflected the sharp divisions among Texas lawmakers in both parties over President Donald Trump's insistence of money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reluctantly, 87 Republicans voted to approve the bipartisan spending agreement, which does not give the president most of the money he wants for a wall. Eight of them were from Texas. On the other side of the aisle, 19 Democrats broke from the majority of their caucus and voted against the deal. Six of them were Texans, many of them border region lawmakers who opposed virtually any more wall money. Texas' two Republican senators also split: John Cornyn was one of 87 senators who voted yes; Cruz was among the 16 senators - liberals and conservatives alike - who voted no.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

In the battle for the minority vote, Julián Castro woos black voters

When Julián Castro declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last month, he spoke of the Black Lives Matter movement and recalled Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo. and other African Americans who died in confrontations with police.

On his campaign website, Castro paid tribute recently to Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teen who died in Florida seven years ago in a much-publicized case in which the shooter was acquitted. In early competition in the Democrats’ diverse field of presidential hopefuls, Castro, a former San Antonio mayor, is appealing broadly to minority voters and hoping that African Americans can bolster his long-shot candidacy.

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Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2019

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta makes Caesars stock buy, per report

Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire Houstonian whose bid to merge with Caesars Entertainment Corp. was rejected last year, has purchased 4.5 million shares in the Las Vegas casino operator, according to a source familiar with deal. The investment represents less than 1 percent of Caesars' outstanding shares. The stock price closed Friday at $9.40, down from its 52-week high of $13.54.

Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets and CEO of Houston-based Landry's, proposed a merger with Caesars last year that would have put him at the helm of a sprawling global empire. Under the proposed deal, the Las Vegas company would have absorbed Fertitta's restaurants and Golden Nugget casinos — including debt — in an exchange of stock.

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Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2019

UT, A&M, other Texas schools have long history of blackface

For University of Texas students, singing "The Eyes of Texas" at sporting events, commencement and other campus events is a rite of passage. But a glance around the stadium might reveal that some of those students aren't singing along — a nod to the song's shameful origins. In 1903, it was first performed at a minstrel show, where white actors wore blackface to mock African-Americans.

“When some students pick up on that, they stop singing the song,” said Edmund Gordon, UT’s vice provost for diversity and founder of the African and African diaspora studies department. Texas colleges, including UT, Texas A&M, Rice and Southern Methodist University, have had their share of blackface incidents, and its legacy persists nationally today. Blackface on college campuses became an issue after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment came under fire for their connections to blackface or racial slurs while in college.

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Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2019

Early home state primaries favor Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke, but 'you still have to do well in Iowa'

The swarm of Democratic contenders descending on Iowa and New Hampshire is growing so big that last week, the party issued an edict aimed at keeping the debates manageable when they start in a few months. Only the top 20 will get invited.

That’s a lot of would-be presidents. But once voting starts, few will survive. In 2020, candidates will have precious little time to recover from early stumbles, or to capitalize on surprise wins. Because right after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — where retail-level politicking is at a premium — the race explodes into a massive Super Tuesday that includes the two biggest prizes, California and Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke went by 'Robert' to fit in at an elite boarding school. He still 'stuck out so badly'

Beto O’Rourke, 15 and stewing, wanted to make a break. To leave his hometown of El Paso. To have a bit of adventure. To get out of his home. To gain some independence from his father, Pat, a county judge and “larger than life figure” whom he loved but with whom he found himself increasingly at odds.

Finding his escape in 1988 through Woodberry Forest School — an elite, all-male boarding school nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains foothills — he also made a critical choice. O’Rourke decided then and there that he “wanted to fit in,” that he didn’t “want to have a weird name that people don’t know how to pronounce.” He decided, for the first time, that he would no longer go by his childhood nickname but instead introduce himself by his given name, Robert. “I’m now a grown-up,” he recalled thinking, revisiting his three years at Woodberry in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “And I want a grown-up name.”

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WFAA - February 17, 2019

Without his Aggie ring, this 1942 A&M grad was 'pretty empty.' Now he's himself again

Of all the titles 98-year-old Bob Warren has had, “Aggie” might be his favorite. His lost his beloved Aggie ring in December, but thanks to a Facebook post and a generous manufacturer, a replacement has arrived.

Within a few miles of Frisco’s town square is Warren Parkway and Warren Sports Complex. The Warren name is everywhere in that fast-growing suburb, even on a historic clock on Main Street, which notes the founding of the city of Frisco occurred in 1908. It wasn’t long after the city was founded that Bob Warren was born there, on Feb. 1, 1921.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2019

Bracing for the wall in South Texas: what will be lost?

Just after 6:30 a.m., under a cold drizzle and black morning sky, Father Roy Snipes pulls the cord of an old bell and calls the faithful to Mass. Inside the peeling whitewashed La Lomita chapel, the priest puts on his green robes and tells the parishioners about the previous day’s court hearing.

"The judge just didn’t understand the nature of our relationship to this chapel,” he says in the darkened sanctuary, lit by flicker of votive candles. “There is so much meanness right now. This whole chapel stands for the hospitality of the people where we come from.” He proposes an idea: holding another round of nine sunrise Masses, a novena, to register the flock’s opposition to the coming border wall. the chapel sits a few dozen feet south of the Hidalgo County flood control levee, which federal officials designated as the path for an 18-foot-high steel border fence and a surrounding enforcement zone of floodlights and roads for U.S. Border Patrol vehicles.

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Star-Telegram - February 16, 2019

Bud Kennedy: A columnist’s apology to Dan Patrick: The tax records were wrong. So was I

Turns out I owe Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick an apology. He paid his rightful share of property taxes on his home in Montgomery County. Yes, Patrick’s property tax bill went down instead of up the last two years. But that was only because of a mistake by county appraisers and because he added a homestead exemption, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

The newspaper has removed a Feb. 8 report from its website questioning why Patrick paid less. In a correction, the newspaper said the report was based in part on inaccurate data from the county tax office. I wrote a column here last week based on that wrong info. So I was wrong, too. Like the Chronicle, we have removed that column from our website. This is awful. I apologize to Dan, and to you. Agree or disagree with Patrick, he is one of the Texas elected officials working hardest to rein in county, city and school taxes.

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Star-Telegram - February 15, 2019

UT Arlington nears status as a top research institution. Why this is a big deal for DFW.

Like Texas other public institutions, the University of Texas at Arlington has been striving toward becoming a top research school. It has been one of eight schools — along with the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Dallas — on the state’s list of emerging research universities.

And in 2016, UTA reached R-1 status with Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Last week, UTA reached another benchmark when one of its professors in the mechanical and aeropsace engineering department, Dereje Agonafer, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. His election met another criteria required to become a top research university. Currently, Texas Tech, Houston and UT Dallas are on the list.

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Rivard Report - February 17, 2019

Robert Rivard: The race for San Antonio Mayor is a second referendum

As a reader, I came to Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick’s Q&A with the nine candidates who want to be mayor of San Antonio with skepticism. Readers of the interviews published Saturday will recognize only a few of the candidates’ names, at best, so there was little reason to expect coherent responses or actionable ideas.

This is Texas, where anyone with a few bucks and a willingness to tilt at windmills can run for elected office. A name on the ballot is no guarantee the individual will campaign for votes, raise money, or develop an agenda. Here are the nine candidates in the order of their filings: Antonio “Tony” Diaz, John Velasquez, Matt Piña, Ron Nirenberg, Carlos Castanuela, Tim Atwood, Bert Cecconi, Greg Brockhouse, and Michael “Commander” Idrogo.

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Fort Worth Business Press - February 15, 2019

Nonprofit news outlet, The Fort Worth Press, launching soon

You could say we are just trying to keep a 25-year tradition alive. On Sunday, May 31, 1975, The Fort Worth Press, a competitor to the Star-Telegram, closed after 44 years in business. It was owned by the Scripps Howard chain.

Which brings us to a new undertaking that is likewise short of cash, but not faint of heart and hopefully will be able to take a punch: We are bringing The Fort Worth Press back to our city. And in keeping with that proud newspaper’s tradition, this “paper” will be a nonprofit. Will local citizens and foundations and businesses support local, nonprofit journalism? We plan to find out.

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Texas Monthly - February 17, 2019

El Paso Native American tribe suffers major defeat in quarter-century battle with Texas

El Paso’s Tigua Native American tribe suffered another major defeat this week in their quarter-century battle with Texas over casino-style gaming when a federal judge ruled that their bingo and machine games violated state law.

U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez of El Paso issued a summary judgment on Thursday in favor of the state, which has gone to court multiple times over the past two decades in attempts to close the tribe’s popular Speaking Rock Casino. Martinez’s ruling relied heavily on past court decisions, including one by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, that state law prohibits the Tiguas from offering casino-style games.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2019

County officials honor late judge who had ‘Black Girl Magic’

Judge Cassandra Hollemon only served on the bench a month, but her portrait will hang indefinitely in the Harris County Criminal Court of Law 12. Hollemon, 57, died Monday, a week after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was one of the 17 so-called Black Girl Magic Democrat judges newly elected in Harris County in 2018 who sought to reform the county’s cash bail system.

About 200 friends, including dozens of elected officials, celebrated her accomplishments at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church Saturday. They noted her strength in overcoming adversity as a young widowed mother. After being widowed in 1992, she graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1994 and spent two decades practicing criminal law. She defeated Republican candidate John Spjut to win her seat on the bench. Her replacement will be appointed by the Harris County Commissioners Court.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2019

Crowded races for Dallas school board as incumbents bow out

Longtime Dallas schools trustee Lew Blackburn is not seeking reelection after nearly two decades on the board. That means he and another incumbent, Audrey Pinkerton, won't be returning to the board. It's the end of a voting alliance that often pitted Blackburn, Pinkerton and trustee Joyce Foreman against six other board members.

Blackburn is the longest serving member on DISD's board, having represented the District 5 area -- which stretches from parts of Oak Lawn to West Dallas to Wilmer -- since 2001. He is a career educator with stints at the Texas Education Agency and as an administrator with the charter school operator Texas Can Academies. Last year, the district reached a $60,000 lawsuit settlement involving a former DISD employee who made various claims against DISD including sexual harassment allegations against Blackburn, who has denied them.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 16, 2019

Merkel rejects US demands that Europe pull out of Iran nuclear deal

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany delivered a strong rejoinder on Saturday to American demands that European allies pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and gave a spirited defense of multilateral institutions in a world increasingly marked by great-power rivalry.

In an uncharacteristically passionate speech, Ms. Merkel said the nuclear deal was the best way of influencing Iranian behavior on a range of non-nuclear issues, from missile development to terrorism. Without mentioning President Trump or the United States by name in what may be her last speech to this major security conference, Ms. Merkel criticized other unilateral moves, such as Mr. Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria, a suggestion that he would withdraw quickly from Afghanistan and his decision to suspend the Intermediate Range Missile Treaty with Russia, which directly affects European security.

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New York Times - February 17, 2019

Rift between Trump and Europe is now wide open and angry

European leaders have long been alarmed that President Trump’s words and Twitter messages could undo a trans-Atlantic alliance that had grown stronger over seven decades. They had clung to the hope that those ties would bear up under the strain.

But in the last few days of a prestigious annual security conference in Munich, the rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete, diplomats and analysts say. A senior German official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on such matters, shrugged his shoulders and said: “No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies. It’s broken.”

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Washington Post - February 17, 2019

Stocking shelves and clearing brush, guardsmen serve on border amid political heat

Numbering about 2,200 as of early this month, the guardsmen Trump supplied from across the nation answer to the governor of the state in which they are deployed. The active-duty troops the president sent to the border last fall now number about 4,350; they report to U.S. Northern Command.

Whether Sgt. Staff Chris Cazares and his fellow guardsmen are needed here on the border has become the subject of a renewed debate that has cleaved along party lines. It has again put the U.S. border with Mexico at the center of national political rancor that is poised to escalate after Trump declared a national emergency Friday, bucking Congress to secure more funding for a wall.

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Washington Post - February 16, 2019

‘Finish that wall’: Trump seeks to turn his failure to build the wall into campaign rallying cry

President Trump and his political team plan to make his years-long quest for a border wall one of the driving themes of his reelection effort — attempting to turn his failure to build such a project into a combative sales pitch that pits him against the political establishment on immigration.

Trump has declared a national emergency to secure the funds Congress has repeatedly denied him despite his own admission that the move is likely to get tied up in court. This move has galvanized many of his supporters even as others on the right remain dubious and disappointed. His campaign is fundraising off his showdown with congressional Democrats over the border — portraying the opposition party as more interested in political games than the public’s safety. And faced with the fact that he has yet to build an inch of the concrete or steel wall he promised, Trump and his campaign have started relying on a rhetorical sleight of hand: speaking the wall into existence.

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The Guardian - February 16, 2019

Trump's UN ambassador pick, Heather Nauert, withdraws from consideration

The state department says Donald Trump’s nominee for US ambassador to the United Nations, Heather Nauert, has withdrawn. The department released a statement on Saturday evening Washington time saying Nauert had withdrawn and another nominee would be announced “soon”.

Nauert said she was grateful to Trump and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for “the trust they have placed in me for considering me for the position of US ambassador." Trump appointed Nauert to the role in December. She had been working as a spokeswoman in the state department and is a former Fox News anchor.

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The Guardian - February 17, 2019

Mueller questions Cambridge Analytica director Brittany Kaiser

A director of the controversial data company Cambridge Analytica, who appeared with Arron Banks at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign, has been subpoenaed by the US investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A spokesman for Brittany Kaiser, former business development director for Cambridge Analytica – which collapsed after the Observer revealed details of its misuse of Facebook data – confirmed that she had been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller, and was cooperating fully with his investigation. He added that she was assisting other US congressional and legal investigations into the company’s activities and had voluntarily turned over documents and data.

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CNN - February 17, 2019

Ted Cruz has 'a better chance' of paying for the wall than drug lord 'El Chapo,' drug lord's attorney says

An attorney for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has a message for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz: The recently convicted drug kingpin is not paying for the wall.

Guzman was found guilty Tuesday of 10 counts, including engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. Cruz has proposed several times that El Chapo pay for a border wall. In a response, El Chapo's attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said that is unlikely to happen.

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CNN - February 16, 2019

Acting US defense secretary will review programs to cut for wall funding

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, beginning Sunday, he will start studying which projects military money may come from to shift funds toward a border wall following President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to secure federal funds to build a wall on the southern border, bypassing Congress after lawmakers refused to meet his multi-billion dollar request for border wall funds. The administration has said $2.5 billion of military narcotics funding and $3.6 billion in military construction money will be diverted to the wall. But Shanahan will have final say on how much will be taken from which programs. A military official said Shanahan is likely to approve the $3.6 billion figure.

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The Guardian - February 16, 2019

Democrats' coveted 2020 prize? An endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez

Welcome to the AOC primary. At 29 years old, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – already known as “AOC” for short - is too young to be eligible to run for US president. But her phenomenal impact on American politics means that she could play an outsized role in deciding who does.

As her fellow Democrats jostle for position before the 2020 primary elections, an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be a widely coveted prize, a guaranteed shot of adrenaline sure to energise her army of millennial voters. But it could also come with perils in the later presidential contest, especially for so-called “centrist” candidates hoping to draw independents and moderate Republicans away from Donald Trump.

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Barron's - February 15, 2019

What New York’s Amazon HQ2 protestors missed

On Thursday, Amazon.com scrapped plans to build a regional headquarters in Queens, N.Y. In polls, most New Yorkers said they wanted the company and its 25,000 promised jobs, but protesters objected over tax concessions, rising rents, crowded schools, and more, and Amazon decided that local politics were stacked against it.

The day before, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington think tank devoted to “equitable and sustainable tax systems,” had pointed out in a report that Amazon paid no federal income tax in 2018, despite doubling profits to $11.2 billion. The two stories are more closely related than they may appear. Together, they suggest that the Big Apple could miss out on its share of the greatest single-taxpayer growth spurt in history. There’s also a lesson for Amazon shareholders.

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Roll Call - February 17, 2019

Some Democrats on the fence about Green New Deal

A resolution outlining the goals of the Green New Deal capped off its first week of a somewhat messy rollout with mixed reviews, even from typically Democratic strongholds like labor unions.

In the House, the top two Democrats who would oversee any legislation that comes out of the plan have remained reluctant to fully endorse it, stopping at lauding the goals and the enthusiasm behind them. And Republicans quickly branded the Green New Deal as an extreme, socialist plan with unrealistic proposals to eliminate air travel and cows.

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Politico - February 15, 2019

Beto O’Rourke in talks with strategists ahead of likely 2020 bid

Beto O’Rourke is in talks with Democratic strategists about a likely 2020 presidential run, according to two sources. Two Democratic campaign strategists told POLITICO on Friday that they are in discussions with O’Rourke and his team. One of the strategists described those conversations as moving to “an operational level” after weeks of discussing 2020 in more theoretical terms.

A source close to O’Rourke said Friday that the former Texas congressman is still considering a run and has not yet made a final decision. O’Rourke’s advisers had been speaking with Democratic strategists for months about a potential campaign, but only at a relatively abstract level. O’Rourke said last month that any discussions that his former advisers were having with potential operatives were not at his direction.

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Newsclips - February 15, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 15, 2019

Trump plans national emergency to build border wall as Congress passes spending bill

President Trump will declare a national emergency as early as Friday to bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the nation’s southwestern border even as he agreed to sign a spending package that does not finance it, White House officials said Thursday.

The announcement came just minutes before voting began on the spending measure, which then cleared both houses, ending a two-month war of attrition that closed much of the federal government for 35 days and threatened a second shutdown on Friday. The Senate passed it 83 to 16, and the House followed later in the evening, 300 to 128.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

What Sid Miller told Donald Trump in the presidential limousine

When President Donald Trump was en route to his Monday rally in El Paso, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, riding in the official limousine, told the president he was correct to say that crime was far higher in El Paso before new fencing went up a decade ago separating the city from Juárez, Chihuahua.

Miller told the president that law enforcement in El Paso and other border communities typically underreported crime to the FBI in those days, something he said knew from his tenure as chairman of the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in 2011 and 2012. In short order, Trump incorporated his newfound insider wisdom — which official statistics contradict and local officials say is flat wrong — into his 80-minute exhortation in support of a border wall.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

‘Point person’ for Texas secretary of state in controversial voter fraud inquiry quits

The state elections official who coordinated the matching of lists of driver's licensees with Texas voter rolls to see if they contain ineligible non-citizens, has resigned.

Betsy Schonhoff, whom newly disclosed emails depict as the secretary of state’s office’s honcho of a nearly yearlong effort to match voter lists with databases at the Department of Public Safety, quit recently with no explanation, a spokesman for interim Secretary of State David Whitley said late Thursday.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Cornyn faces new threats in 2020 re-election bid

As President Donald Trump embarked for El Paso on Monday to rally support for a border wall, Texas Republican John Cornyn sent out a personal message through his 2020 U.S. Senate re-election campaign: “Texas stands with President Trump.”

For Cornyn, seeking a fourth term in the Senate, the message underscored some of the central challenges of his re-election bid: for better or worse, his fate is inextricably tied to that of a famously polarizing and unpredictable president, with whom he will share a ballot. Cornyn, a former state Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice, knows that 2020 could be the most severe test of his time in the Senate, which began in 2002. He is the first to admit that Texas is not the GOP bastion it once was.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

D-FW is getting the biggest share of Texas' out-of-state moves

The flow of seniors headed to Florida edged out people moving to Texas to take new jobs, according to the latest nationwide relocation report.

Texas ranked second in the U.S. for moves with 524,511 new residents moving here in 2017, according to the latest relocation report by Texas Realtors, an Austin-based real estate trade association. Florida was the top state for moves for the second year in a row with 566,476 migrants. California ranked third for relocations.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Top employees at youth lockup fired in latest shakeup at Texas juvenile justice agency

Five of the top employees at the youth lockup north of Dallas have been terminated amid ongoing efforts to right the state's juvenile justice agency.

Superintendent Mike Studamire, Assistant Superintendent Deidra Reece, Manager of Security Operations and Support Programs Cathryn Hudspeth, Manager of Facility Programs and Services Ron Stewart and Dorm Supervisor Carl Motley have all been let go from their positions at the Gainesville State School since the fall. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the agency that runs Gainesville and the state's four other youth lockups, has also suspended its equine therapy program.

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Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2019

DART officer shot in July 7 ambush in downtown Dallas sues Facebook, Twitter, Google

A DART officer who was wounded in the July 7, 2016, police ambush in downtown Dallas has sued Facebook, Twitter and Google, saying their platforms knowingly support terrorist groups.

Jesus Retana, 34, and his husband, Andrew Moss, filed the lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. Retana, who began working for Dallas Area Rapid Transit police in 2006, was shot in the arm during the ambush. The lawsuit says Micah Johnson, the gunman who killed five police officers in the attack, was radicalized in part by the terrorist group Hamas’ use of Facebook, Twitter and Google. The companies knowingly provided Hamas “with accounts to use its social networks as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits,” Retana and Moss say.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Bond companies sue Harris County judges, sheriff over new bail rules

Three Houston bail bond companies sued Harris County’s misdemeanor judges and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in state district court on Thursday, hoping to block the implementation of the judges’ proposed revisions to local bail rules, which the plaintiffs say violate state law.

The judges’ proposal — a key step in a lengthy legal fight over the pre-trial detention of poor, low-level offenders — automatically would qualify 85 percent of people arrested on misdemeanors for release on no-cash bonds, county officials have estimated. Those arrested for bail violations, repeat drunken driving and family violence would be the only exceptions. Defendants would need to appear before a magistrate or judge within 48 hours, at which time they also could qualify for no-cash bonds.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Texas fines Chevron Phillips Chemical, others for environmental violations

Chevron Phillips Chemical Company was fined for violating Texas air quality regulations, state regulators said Wednesday.

The company, which is jointly owned by Chevron Corp. and Phillips 66, will pay a little under $250,000 to the state for air quality violations stemming from its failure to comply with allowable emissions limits, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental agency, decided at its bi-monthly agenda meeting.

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Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Leading Southern Baptist apologizes for supporting leader, church at center of sex abuse scandal

A leading Southern Baptist figure on Thursday apologized for supporting a religious leader who was accused of helping conceal sexual abuses at his former church, and for making a joke that he said downplayed the severity of the allegations.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Al Mohler said for the first time publicly that he regrets his embrace of C.J. Mahaney, the former leader of the non-Southern Baptist group Sovereign Grace Ministries, now known as Sovereign Grace Churches. Mahaney and his former organization were sued in 2013 by 11 people alleging that their abuses were concealed by leaders, at least one of whom was later convicted.

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Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2019

Memorial High School students advocate for better mental health services

With school shootings and violence in recent years, students from Memorial High School are pushing for better mental health services to help keep their campus safe.

About 25 students from the school’s Mental Health Ambassadors group traveled to Austin on Wednesday, Feb. 6, to meet with state lawmakers and encourage more funding and programs to improve students’ mental health. The group formed earlier this school year as a response to last year’s deadly shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe, Texas.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

Texas man found with 3D-printed gun, list of lawmakers sentenced to prison

A man who was barred from possessing firearms was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after Grand Prairie police found him carrying a weapon with some 3-D printed parts and a list of lawmakers’ addresses, U.S. attorneys said.

In July 2017, officers responding to another call found Eric Gerard McGinnis, then 39, after hearing someone firing shots in a wooded area outside Dallas, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas. McGinnis falsely told officers he was a CIA agent and was arrested, the statement says. Officers searched a backpack McGinnis was carrying and found a partially printed 3-D weapon that was loaded and a list with the office and home addresses of several federal lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties, the statement says.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

HHS watchdog agency struggles with sexual harassment, racism complaints

The state agency charged with ferreting out misconduct at the Health and Human Services Commission has been dealing with misconduct within its own ranks.

There were 12 civil rights complaint investigations at the Office of Inspector General in 2018 compared to one in 2017 and two in 2016. A high-ranking manager resigned in October after sexually harassing a female employee. A male employee was fired the next month after being accused of being hostile to the same female employee.

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Associated Press - February 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke planning stops in 2020 battleground Midwest

Potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is coming to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus Friday for a meet and greet with students and faculty, a closely guarded event that will be the former Texas congressman's first visit to a key state in the battleground, industrial Midwest.

O'Rourke is scheduled to be on campus for a two-hour meeting early Friday evening. UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Thursday the event is not open to the press, public or anyone not affiliated with the university. The campus Political Science Student Association organized the meeting in a room that fits about 150 people. The group's leader, Isaac Johnson, said O'Rourke wanted to keep the event limited to students and those affiliated with the university.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

Bars turn to security cameras to fend off TABC officers

The explosion of video surveillance - from civilian phones, as well as from police dash and body cameras - has revolutionized law enforcement, exposing once-hidden misbehavior and providing conclusive evidence in disputed accounts. Most large police departments have adopted cameras to record many of their public interactions.

Not TABC, whose agents typically rely on their subjective recollections and descriptions to charge bars and restaurants with serving drinks to already drunk patrons. Yet a review of court filings showed a half-dozen recent instances in which patrons the agents had described as obviously drunk appeared decidedly sober in security camera footage. The disconnect has upended cases, raising questions about the agency’s investigative methods.

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Fort Worth Business Press - February 14, 2019

Marc Diamond: Time for a Manhattan Project on Alzheimer’s

Imagine if Alzheimer’s was treated like other common diseases. Instead of worrying about the prospect of slowly losing your memory, you might get a series of shots during middle age to prevent the onset of this neurological nightmare, just as we do to reduce the risk of flu. Or you could take a daily pill as many do to control their cholesterol or blood pressure.

That may sound improbable, given the long string of Alzheimer’s drugs that have failed to work in clinical trials, but I remain optimistic. As a physician-scientist leading research into the causes of neurodegenerative diseases, I believe that we are making significant progress on uncovering the roots of Alzheimer’s.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2019

Democrats bring engagement, marathon meetings to Harris County Commissioners Court

When Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack wondered aloud if anyone still in attendance knew of a good nearby happy hour, Tuesday’s Harris County Commissioners Court meeting already had lasted five hours and 44 minutes. The session concluded at 6:31 p.m., precisely eight and a half hours after it began, though few people in the room witnessed the beginning and end.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo and her Democratic colleagues have made good on their pledge to increase opportunities for public participation in meetings, though the results to date are mixed. The sessions have been well-attended but endure late into the afternoon, leaving residents waiting hours to speak and detaining county department heads for an entire day.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Lovejoy ISD superintendent quits amid allegations of 'inappropriate conduct'

Lovejoy ISD replaced its superintendent Wednesday night after Ted Moore suddenly resigned amid allegations of "inappropriate conduct" with "adult victims," the school board said.

The small school district — which includes the cities of Lucas, Fairview and part of Allen — notified parents and staff members late Wednesday that Assistant Superintendent Dennis Womack would step into the top job after Moore submitted his resignation.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2019

Austin to install ‘parking boxes’ for dockless scooters and bikes

The city of Austin is preparing to install “parking boxes” for dockless scooters and bicycles in and around the downtown area. City officials said crews will install the first one Friday at the 200 block of West Sixth Street.

“City staff hopes parking boxes will encourage people who use dockless bicycles and scooters to park in areas that do not impede accessibility by other road users,” officials said in a news release on Thursday. Other boxes will be installed in the following areas: Third Street between Nueces and San Antonio streets; Fourth Street at San Jacinto Boulevard; San Jacinto Boulevard between Fifth and Sixth streets; Third Street at Trinity Street; Fourth Street at Red River Street; Fifth Street at Pleasant Valley.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2019

Austin ethics commission dismisses complaint against city’s HR director

Austin’s ethics review commission on Wednesday dismissed an ethics complaint filed against the city’s human resources director last year after an internal investigation found she had several city employees look after her child.

The city auditor’s office had concluded in a report that Joya Hayes had employees transport her son to and from daycare and watch him. The report said Hayes had violated city employee conduct rules related to accepting gifts or favors from subordinates, abused a city office and misused city resources. Several commissioners said Wednesday that auditors did not prove that an ethics violation had occurred.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

San Antonio’s venture-capital investments lag, but ‘climate here is changing’

Venture capitalists’ investment in San Antonio startups is still pretty measly compared to the state’s other major metros, according to two reports. But local investors and entrepreneurs say the city’s nascent tech scene is making progress, and point to resources like the Geekdom Fund and Active Capital that have sprung up.

Venture-capital funding in San Antonio-area companies fell to about $19.1 million last year, down from $43.7 million in 2017 and $33 million in 2016, according to the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers/CB Insights MoneyTree report. Venture capitalists are usually wealthy investors or firms that provide seed or early-stage funding for fledgling businesses. Funding also fell in Dallas, though it rose in Houston and statewide. The majority of venture-capital activity in Texas last year took place in Austin, with investments reaching $1.36 billion.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2019

San Antonio City Council tightens reins on e-scooters

A chastened City Council responded Thursday to complaints about the perceived chaos caused by e-scooters by voting 10 to 1 to modify - some would say abandon - its initial “light touch” on regulating the dockless vehicles.

Before they imposed the somewhat tighter restrictions on the roughly 6,500 scooters and bikes now on the streets — they’re not banned from sidewalks, yet — every council member weighed in on the innovation’s frustrations. Nationwide, the vehicles have spawned personal injury lawsuits and some small towns have banned them entirely. “My constituents hate them,” District 8 Councilman Manny Pelaez said. “I have the most conservative district in the city, where people are allergic to all regulation, and they call me and beg for more regulation (of scooters).”

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National Stories

CNBC - February 15, 2019

China's Xi Jinping says trade talks with US to continue next week in Washington

Talks between China and the United States this week made important progress, President Xi Jinping told top U.S. trade negotiators on Friday, adding that efforts would continue in Washington next week to resolve their bruising trade war.

Xi met U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin after a full week of trade negotiations at senior and deputy levels in Beijing, and called for a deal both sides could accept, state media said. U.S. duties on $200 billion worth of imports from China are set to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no deal is reached by March 1 to address U.S. demands that China curb forced technology transfers and better enforce intellectual property rights.

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CNBC - February 14, 2019

Senate confirms Trump's attorney general pick William Barr, who will now oversee Mueller probe

President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee William Barr was confirmed in the Senate on Thursday to take over the Justice Department as attorney general, where he will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Barr, 68, was confirmed in a 54-45 vote that largely fell along party lines. He will be sworn in Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, the White House told NBC News. Barr was widely expected to be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate on Thursday. He had served in the same role more than two decades earlier in President George H.W. Bush's administration, and had passed procedural hurdles in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate in recent votes.

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CNBC - February 14, 2019

Facebook uses its apps to track users it thinks could threaten employees and offices

In early 2018, a Facebook user made a public threat on the social network against one of the company's offices in Europe. Facebook picked up the threat, pulled the user's data and determined he was in the same country as the office he was targeting.

The company informed the authorities about the threat and directed its security officers to be on the lookout for the user. "He made a veiled threat that 'Tomorrow everyone is going to pay' or something to that effect," a former Facebook security employee told CNBC.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

What’s in the 1,169-page border-security bill to avert a government shutdown

The 1,169-page, $333 billion spending bill that President Trump plans to sign into law removes the threat of any further government shutdowns — at least until October. But only a few pages of the legislation deals with the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump has demanded — or “primary pedestrian fencing,” as legislators wrote into the text.

The rest of the bill focuses on other border security measures, as well as funding for scores of federal departments and agencies whose budgets have been held hostage for months due to the border standoff. The $1.375 billion is enough for 55 miles for “pedestrian” fencing in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, but it is also subject to numerous restrictions.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

Trump’s national emergency, and its massive unintended consequences

We can finally see the road map for how we’ll avert the second government shutdown of 2019: President Trump will sign the compromise legislation agreed to by Congress, but he’ll also declare a national emergency to try and get the billions more he needs to build a border wall.

This solution allows Trump to perhaps mollify the conservative critics who are still demanding that wall and criticizing the compromise. It also allows McConnell to turn the page on a showdown and shutdown he never wanted in the first place. But while this allows everyone an escape hatch in the near term, the long-term unintended consequences loom huge.

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Politico - February 14, 2019

Trump shocks GOP with emergency declaration

The surprise announcement Thursday that President Donald Trump will use his emergency powers to try and build his border wall blindsided some Republicans, confused others and sent the Senate GOP into a general state of shock. The news, delivered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, came after weeks of warnings from his own party not to declare a national emergency at the border.

Trump has decided to challenge Republicans’ resolve anyway — but he may not like the outcome. Aides privately predicted Trump will lose a vote on the Senate floor once the Democratic House passes a resolution of disapproval to block the move. Meanwhile, the GOP Senate majority was casting about for answers. Republicans that have previously panned the idea as setting a bad precedent for future presidents were careful in how they answered questions in the immediate aftermath of the president’s decision.

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Politico - February 15, 2019

Schumer slams ‘stunt’ Green New Deal vote as moderates fret

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats would not be intimidated by the “cynical stunt” of voting on the Green New Deal resolution, even as moderate members of his caucus distanced themselves from the sweeping climate change goals.

Schumer said the "amazing irony" of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bringing up a resolution Republicans intend to vote against is a sign of why the American people hate Congress. He demanded the Kentucky Republican acknowledge the scientific consensus around climate change and commit the chamber to tackling the problem.

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NBC News - February 15, 2019

US ally Turkey looks to Russia and Iran to protect its interests

As Trump administration officials presided over the second day of an international conference in Warsaw dominated by calls to ratchet up pressure on Iran, one longtime U.S. ally and NATO member was noticeably absent — Turkey.

Snubbing the gathering in Poland, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday attended a rival conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he planned to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts to work out a final settlement of the war in Syria. The dueling summits illustrate President Donald Trump's struggle to forge a united front against Iran, and reflect Turkey's drift away from Washington as it finds common ground with Moscow and Tehran, experts and former officials said.

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NBC News - February 15, 2019

Trump critics may be disappointed by the Mueller report

Millions of Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to give them the final word on whether the Trump campaign conspired with the 2016 Russian election interference effort — and whether their president is under the influence of a foreign adversary. Millions of Americans may be sorely disappointed.

Unless Mueller files a detailed indictment charging members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia, the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found — including potentially scandalous behavior that doesn't amount to a provable crime. The reason: The special counsel operates under rules that severely constrain how much information can be made public.

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Reuters - February 15, 2019

Pompeo meets EU's top diplomat after Pence's Iran accusations

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the EU’s top diplomat in Brussels on Friday, a day after Vice President Mike Pence accused America’s traditional European allies of trying to undermine U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The meeting with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was scheduled before Pence’s rebuke of European powers during a Middle East peace conference in Warsaw on Thursday, which Mogherini missed, citing a scheduling conflict at NATO. Mogherini, who helped seal the 2005 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, greeted Pompeo in front of a bank of cameras at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels before they headed into a conference room for the breakfast meeting, which was scheduled to last about an hour.

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Reuters - February 14, 2019

As Amazon drops New York City project, progressives claim a major coup

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time on Thursday in calling Amazon’s decision to scrap plans to build a major New York outpost with nearly $3 billion in city and state incentives a big victory for progressive politicians.

The democratic socialist congresswoman has become the face of the Democratic Party’s ascendant left wing, thanks in part to her upset victory last year in a district near the proposed Amazon.com Inc development. “Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

Amazon pulls out of planned New York City headquarters

Amazon on Thursday canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City after facing an unexpectedly fierce backlash from some lawmakers and union leaders, who contended that a tech giant did not deserve nearly $3 billion in government incentives.

The company, as part of its extensive search for a new headquarters, had chosen Long Island City, Queens, as one of two winning sites, saying that it would create more than 25,000 jobs in the city. But the agreement to lure Amazon stirred an intense debate about the use of public subsidies to entice wealthy companies, the rising cost of living in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and the city’s very identity.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

McCabe says Justice Dept. officials had discussions about pushing Trump out

Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.

The dire concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to look into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. also began examining whether Mr. Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. Mr. McCabe’s explosive remarks were made in an interview with “60 Minutes” scheduled to air in full on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, “The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,” which will be released next week.

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ABC News - February 15, 2019

Trump's physical results show he's gained weight but 'in good health overall'

The White House on Thursday released results of President Donald Trump's physical that he underwent last Friday and in one notable measure, it showed he had gained some weight since his checkup last year, weighing in at 243 pounds versus 239 pounds previously.

Someone with a weight of 240 pounds and at Trump's 6-foot-3 height –– a BMI or Body Mass Index of 30.4 –– is considered obese and last year Trump had been advised to change his diet and get more exercise in order to lose a few pounds. The results, summed up by White House physician Sean Conley, who conducted the physical along with 11 different board-certified specialists, concludes "it is my determination that the President remains in very good health overall."

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CNN - February 15, 2019

This is what Denver teachers got after 3 days on strike

Denver educators have been promised pay raises as part of a tentative deal they reached with their school district after three days on strike. Under the tentative agreement between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, educators would see between seven percent and 11 percent increases to their base salaries and a 20-step salary schedule, the union said in a statement Thursday.

Teachers went on strike to demand higher, stable salaries, because the district uses unpredictable bonuses to compensate for low base pay. They also hoped higher salaries would keep more educators from leaving the city, where the cost of living has skyrocketed in recent years, one teacher told CNN. The agreement would also put an end to "exorbitant five-figure bonuses" for senior administrators, the union's statement said. "This agreement is a win, plain and simple: for our students, for our educators, and for our communities," union President Henry Roman said.

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Boston Herald - February 17, 2019

Boston Herald Editorial: Presidential plotters must face punishment

That Justice Department officials were having discussions about ousting a sitting president should concern every American. It is simply astonishing that these actors allegedly held conversations around the notion of seizing power from the elected head of the executive branch.

Obviously, heads should roll, but really such a plot should result in criminal prosecutions with all the high-profile force that was used to arrest Roger Stone. The new revelations come to us care of former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, who has written a book and is shilling it on “60 Minutes.” The interview will air in full on Sunday, but the tidbits that have been released in advance are already damning.

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Newsclips - February 14, 2019

Lead Stories

CNN - February 13, 2019

Trump intends to sign border deal to avoid another shutdown

President Donald Trump intends to sign the border security deal to avoid another partial government shutdown, according to two sources who have spoken directly with the President. Trump said Tuesday that he was "not happy" with the tentative deal reached by congressional negotiators late Monday night that falls far short of his original demands.

On Wednesday, he told reporters he would "take a very serious look" at the legislation, adding that he does not want the government to shut down again. Congress faces a deadline to get a deal passed and signed by Trump before Friday. The agreement, which includes $1.375 billion for a border barrier, falls well short of the $5.7 billion Trump originally demanded for a wall. It even falls short of the $1.6 billion included in a Senate package last year.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

For San Antonio Democrats, Tuesday was the latest in a troubling track record in special elections

Republican Fred Rangel’s strong performance in Tuesday’s special election was the latest in a trend of disappointing outcomes for San Antonio Democrats in off-cycle contests.

Rangel rode consolidated GOP support to a runaway first-place finish Tuesday night, with about 38 percent of the vote in the race to represent District 125 in the Texas House of Representatives, which Democrats have controlled for decades. Democrat Ray Lopez, a former city councilman, received 19.41 percent of the vote to earn a spot in a runoff election, edging third-place finisher and fellow Democrat Coda Rayo-Garza by just 22 votes. Runoffs are called when no candidate garners 50 percent of the vote.

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Bloomberg - February 14, 2019

This major oil CEO says Permian break-even costs are forcing more efficiency

For Mike Wirth, the future of Big Oil lies at home, under the dusty fields of West Texas. As he celebrates his first year as chief executive of Chevron Corp., Wirth sees the Permian Basin as a plentiful source of high-quality crude for years to come, but that's not all.

The low break-even costs to pump in the Permian are forcing Chevron to be more efficient everywhere, Wirth said, from the deepwater platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to its liquefied natural gas plants. In a time of transition, where everyone from politicians to shareholder activists is bashing Big Oil, shale's success is forging a new reality, Wirth said: Lower your costs, or die.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

When it comes to calling out the news media, Ocasio-Cortez has some things in common with Trump

A novice politician hailing from the New York borough of Queens gains enormous media attention and a huge and wildly passionate following in part by lobbing irregular critiques at the news media. Donald Trump in 2015? Yes. But also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, circa 2019.

Their backgrounds, gender and — especially — their politics are different, but the Republican president and the outspoken freshman Democratic congresswoman from New York share at least one similarity: Neither has been shy about using social media to pummel the press. And like Trump, Ocasio-Cortez has been cheered on by millions of followers when she does so.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Health experts want Texas to eliminate opting out of vaccinations for non-medical reasons

As the Houston area learns of its sixth possible case of measles in less than two weeks, doctors and scientists are pushing for the Texas Legislature to eliminate the ability for most parents to opt out of vaccines for their children.

In Texas, children are required to have certain sets of vaccinations before they can be enrolled in public school – including the vaccine for measles. But parents who have "reasons of conscience" for not wanting their children to be vaccinated are allowed to opt out of vaccinations, a practice that experts say is forming a dangerous trend that helped fuel the most recent measles outbreak. Statewide, there was only one confirmed case of measles in each of 2016 and 2017. In 2018, there were nine confirmed cases of measles, authorities say.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Texas districts push to extend the school year

Texas lawmakers are thinking about giving school districts money to lengthen the school year, and superintendents are for it. The Texas Commission on Public School Finance in December recommended that the Legislature help to pay for up to 30 additional instructional days to the 180-day school calendar.

The panel recommended the state pitch in half the cost of each school day, to a maximum of $50 million per day in the first year, according to the commission’s report. Several superintendents testified before the House Public Education Committee that the investment would be worth it because the additional time gives struggling students, including those from low-income backgrounds, more time to study and would help them to learn to read at grade level. In Texas, just four in 10 students read at grade level by third grade.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Legislator seeks to honor Aggies legend John David Crow, wife with highway naming

State representative John Raney remembers his backyard games back home in Huntsville for one famous name in particular. “I tell people when I was growing up and we played football out in the yard, everybody wanted to be John David Crow,” said Raney, 71. “I was 10 years old when he won the Heisman Trophy (in 1957).”

That’s why Raney, who moved to Bryan with his family when he was 13, jumped at the chance when the late Crow’s daughters approached the Republican legislator who represents the Bryan-College Station area about naming a portion of Highway 6 for their parents.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Report takes aim at Texas auto loans, which top the nation

Texans borrow a nation-leading $6,520 per capita for automobile purchases, according to a report released Wednesday by the United States Public Interest Research Group, which partnered with its state affiliates and Frontier Group.

The average is $1,000 more than the next highest state, neighboring Louisiana, and $3,000 more than per-person car debt in New York. Georgia, Arkansas and Wyoming rounded out the top five. Debt for automobiles is at an all-time high, researchers said, sounding an alarm that more debt could lead some to economic hardship.

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Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Drayton McLane Jr: Bullet train takes aim at traffic and dangerous roads

Texas’ high-speed train ended 2018 with remarkable progress, putting Houston and the rest of the state another step closer to a dynamic and much-needed transportation choice. It is estimated that more than 1,100 people are moving to this great state every day, drawn by our economic dynamism and ability to elevate problem-solvers willing to take on the thorniest issues in bold and creative ways.

Houston and North Texas are the dual engines driving this growth, thanks to our encouraging, entrepreneur-friendly cultures. While this unprecedented growth has been a blessing, Texas must tackle emerging transportation and infrastructure issues if we hope to remain an attractive destination in the years to come. Interstate 45 — the massive highway that links our economic and commercial hubs — is a prime example. In addition to being perpetually traffic-clogged, this vital artery is routinely ranked as one of America’s deadliest highways.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Ted Cruz among handful of 'no' votes on landmark land conservation bill

The most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade sailed through the Senate 92-8. Sen. Ted Cruz voted no.

The Texas Republican has remained quiet on the matter, before and after Tuesday’s vote. His office provided an explanation on Wednesday. "The federal government already owns more land than it has the capacity to maintain, and authorizing it to acquire more without making common-sense reforms hurts Texans and Americans across the country," spokeswoman Maria Jeffrey wrote in an email.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Texas breweries and distributors find common ground in battle over beer to-go

The contention over Texas breweries being allowed to sell beer to-go has reached a middle ground.

On Wednesday, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, a trade association representing the interests of small brewers, and the Beer Alliance of Texas, which represents the state's distributors, announced a set of bills that would allow breweries to sell beer to patrons for offsite consumption up to a certain limit (576 ounces or 2 cases per day, per person).

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

North Texas cops help FBI crack violent robbery ring targeting ATM service technicians

North Texas federal officials on Wednesday announced the indictments of 27 Houston residents in connection with an armed robbery ring that targeted ATM service technicians across Texas and in other states.

The defendants committed at least 47 "strong-arm robberies" of ATM technicians as they serviced the machines from August 2017 through January 2019, said Joseph D. Brown, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. More than $2.7 million was stolen during the robberies, he said. Many of the defendants are associated with a Houston gang called the Market Street Money Gang, or MSMG, Brown said. Among the North Texas cities hit were Plano, Allen and McKinney.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Texas schools hone message: Charter deals are about more money, choices

Call it what you want, but a charter school is a charter school, and critics of private partnerships with traditional districts are not happy with plans to enter into such partnerships.

They fear any move by a district to hand over school operations to an outside entity amounts to the "privatization" of children's education and opens the door to risky experimentation. But school officials in Dallas and Fort Worth insist they want to use a new Texas law that encourages in-district charters to funnel more state money to their schools by partnering with universities or nonprofits. This week, the two districts' school boards are discussing whether to undertake different approaches in how to implement the contentious law that provides them with financial incentives to create charter campuses.

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Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

Migrants enter U.S. in large groups near El Paso as tighter asylum controls lead them to new tactics

Migrant families have found the latest area to cross the border en masse and turn themselves in to U.S. authorities, right at the edge of Texas. As President Trump doubled down on his promise to build a wall to keep out drugs, gangs and caravans on Monday, a group of 311 migrants, most of them families, voluntarily turned themselves into Border Patrol agents.

A Border Patrol spokesman on Wednesday said it was the first time this year that a large group crossed into the El Paso area, at the foot of the iconic Mount Cristo Rey, a 29-foot tall limestone statue of Christ that straddles two countries and three states - Chihuahua, Texas and New Mexico. It has long been a welcoming symbol of peace. The incident plays out as another government shutdown looms Friday over border security.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

San Antonio judge weighs legality of Electoral College process in choosing a president

Lawyers for the state on Wednesday asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging Texas’ Electoral College process as plaintiffs dug in to their claims that the winner-take-all method is unconstitutional, discriminatory and leads to the dilution of the minority vote.

A coalition of law firms and the League of United Latin American Citizens filed four federal lawsuits last February in two politically red states, Texas and South Carolina, and two traditionally blue states, California and Massachusetts. All four lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the winner-take-all method that states use to allocate their Electoral College votes.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2019

How Texas lawmakers plan to make schools safer without gun control

State Rep. James Talarico remembers teaching in San Antonio and feeling that some of his sixth-grade students needed more adults watching out for their well-being, but there weren’t enough services.

Talarico — a Democrat from suburban Austin who wants school districts to hire four counselors for every security guard — is one of several lawmakers proposing bills to make schools safer in light of the prevalence of school shootings. After a student opened fire inside Santa Fe High School last May, killing eight students and two teachers and wounding 13 others, lawmakers say they are committed to improving school safety this year.

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Star-Telegram - February 14, 2019

Texans get $59.8 billion in tax breaks. Should we give up some for property tax relief?

Texans shoulder one of the largest property tax burdens in the country, paying around $60 billion a year. At the same time, the state provides a nearly equal amount in tax breaks each year — on products ranging from food to medicine, help for charitable and school groups, even through homestead and business property exemptions.

Now, as state lawmakers are deep into debate about property tax reform, hoping to provide some relief while also paying more into public schools, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley has a suggestion. Why not consider eliminating some of the state’s nearly $60 billion in annual tax exemptions? “If they want to bring down property taxes and generate more sales tax, either broaden the base or do away with some of the exemptions,” Whitley said. “If we all agree more money needs to be spent, the Lord ain’t sending it down from Heaven.

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Star-Telegram - February 14, 2019

Don’t like red light cameras? These Texas lawmakers don’t either — and want to ban them

Some lawmakers say it’s time to turn off red light cameras in Texas. And so far, a handful of proposals have been filed to do just that. “The people of Texas have ... had enough,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who filed one of the bills. “It’s time that we protect the rights of Texans and finally ban red light cameras.”

Critics have long said the cameras violate the U.S. Constitution and lead to rear-end accidents. Supporters say they make streets safer and generate needed money for cities. The difference this time is that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has weighed in on the issue. “Red light cameras ... are expensive, studies indicate that they may increase accidents where deployed, and they pose constitutional issues,” he wrote in his Safeguarding, Security, Serving report released last year. “Texas should ban the use of these devices by preempting local authority to utilize them.”

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Fort Worth Weekly - February 13, 2019

Class dismissed: UTA political science professor Allan Saxe is retiring

Allan Saxe returned home from a night class several weeks ago and received no fewer than three phone calls from the campus police department.

The police department checked, double-checked, and triple-checked to make sure the professor was OK. He was, and he wasn’t, and that’s why Saxe is closing the book on his 54-year teaching career. He will teach two summer classes if they make –– American Contemporary Civil Liberties and Texas State and Local Government –– but after that, he’s “out of here,” he said.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2019

UT Dallas moved to fire instructors because Dallas Morning News prepared story, lawsuit says

Three criminology instructors at the center of an academic integrity scandal are suing the University of Texas at Dallas, saying its leaders stepped up efforts to fire them in recent weeks after The Dallas Morning News prepared to publish an investigation into the problems.

The News’ Feb. 3 story essentially disrupted school officials’ plan to keep the scandal and their own misconduct secret, according to the suit, filed Tuesday in Dallas federal court. It was UTD leaders’ plan to drop termination proceedings against instructors “and hope the controversy never saw the light of day — until their hand was forced when the DMN published its story,’’ the suit said. In an emailed statement late Tuesday, UTD spokesman John Walls declined to comment on the suit, saying disciplinary actions against the faculty members are ongoing.

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Longview News-Journal - February 13, 2019

Appeals court rules in favor of Kilgore ISD taxpayers in homestead exemption suit

Kilgore ISD trustees and district lawyers plan to discuss their options after the 6th Court of Appeals ruled Monday that taxpayers wrongly were denied homestead exemptions in 2015.

Kilgore Superintendent Andy Baker, who joined the district in January, said his familiarity with the 2016 lawsuit by homeowners Sheila Anderson and Darlene and John Axberg is limited. The issues in the case revolved around what used to be an optional homestead exemption allowing taxpayers to take 20 percent off the value of their primary residence before their tax bill is calculated. Kilgore offered the optional exemption for decades before entering budget discussions and voting to rescind the option June 29, 2015, in a 5-2 vote.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2019

San Antonio businessman’s claims of Russian contact were ‘mere puffery’ his attorney says, but judge decides he’s a flight risk and denies bail

The owner of a San Antonio auto lot where the feds hauled off dozens of high-end cars in a money laundering case was denied bail Wednesday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Farrer was presented two differing views of Karen Mgerian: a money launderer willing to kill who could disappear with the help of Russian contacts and a naturalized U.S. citizen who got caught embellishing stories in an undercover federal investigation.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 14, 2019

Trump puts best face on border deal, as aides try to assuage an angry right

In pursuit of a wall, President Trump ran into one. A single-minded drive to force Congress to finance his signature campaign promise has left Mr. Trump right back where he started, this time seeking a way to climb over the political barrier in his way after trying to charge through it did not work.

As he inched closer to reluctantly accepting a bipartisan spending compromise without the money he demanded for his border wall, Mr. Trump offered no acknowledgment on Wednesday that his pressure tactics had failed even as aides sought to minimize the damage by tamping down criticism on the right.

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New York Times - February 14, 2019

House votes to halt aid for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen

The House voted on Wednesday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a defiant and rare move to curtail presidential war powers that underscored anger with President Trump’s unflagging support for Saudi Arabia even after the killing of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The 248-to-177 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, will pressure the Republican-controlled Senate to respond. Eighteen Republicans — almost all of them hard-line conservatives with the Freedom Caucus — voted with the Democratic majority. Congress’s upper chamber in December passed a parallel resolution, 56 to 41, in a striking rebuke to the president and his administration’s defense of the kingdom. But that measure died with the last Congress after the House Republican leadership blocked a vote.

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Wall Street Journal - February 14, 2019

Trump nominee to face questions on future of 30-year mortgages

The Trump administration’s pick to help overhaul the way many Americans finance their home purchases is expected to face questions about the future of the popular 30-year mortgage at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, people familiar with the matter said.

The Senate Banking Committee is considering the nomination of Mark Calabria to head the government’s oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The mortgage-finance companies guarantee roughly half of U.S. home loans and have been under government control since the financial crisis. If confirmed, Mr. Calabria would play a pivotal role as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency in making changes to the companies.

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Wall Street Journal - February 14, 2019

HHS to review Indian Health Service after revelations on pedophile doctor

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called for a review of the Indian Health Service following an investigation that revealed the agency’s mishandling of a pedophile doctor.

The investigation, by The Wall Street Journal and the PBS series Frontline, detailed the career of Stanley Patrick Weber, a pediatrician who in 2018 was convicted of sexually assaulting Native American boys. The IHS transferred him from one agency-run hospital to another after officials concluded he was molesting children in 1995, and he continued working for the federal agency for 21 years.

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

Federal judge finds Paul Manafort lied to Mueller probe about contacts with Russian aide

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about matters close to the heart of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The judge’s finding that Manafort, 69, breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying after his guilty plea could add years to his prison sentence and came after a set of sealed court hearings. Manafort’s lies, the judge found, included “his interactions and communications with [Konstantin] Kilimnik,” a longtime aide whom the FBI assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence.

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The Hill - February 14, 2019

Rule change sharpens Dem investigations into Trump

A change to House rules is putting sharper teeth into Democratic investigations of President Trump and his administration. The change allows staff of House committees to conduct depositions without any lawmakers present, freeing up the panels to move through witnesses in their investigations quickly without the constraints of the previous Congress.

The change will offer Democrats on powerful House committees including Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Judiciary substantial momentum as they open wide-ranging probes into Trump, producing new headaches for the White House as the president readies his reelection bid. “It’s more teeth, faster legs, longer breath, greater strength and just bigger,” said Steven Cash, a former staffer and counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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The Hill - February 14, 2019

O'Rourke, Schumer huddle on possible 2020 bid: report

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke reportedly met with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) as the Texas Democrat considers the possibility of a 2020 White House bid or another run for Senate.

According to Politico, the two men sat down last week and discussed O'Rourke's political ambitions. Both O'Rourke and fellow Texan Joaquin Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Obama, are being eyed as potential challengers against Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), whose seat is up for grabs in 2020, the news outlet noted.

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CNN - February 14, 2019

FEMA Administrator Brock Long resigns

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long announced Wednesday that he is resigning. His resignation comes months after a controversy over his use of government vehicles.

Last fall, Long was the subject of a Department of Homeland Security probe into whether he was misusing government resources when he used government vehicles and personnel for six-hour drives between his home in North Carolina and FEMA headquarters in Washington. An inspector general's investigation, released by House Democrats in September, found that even after Long had been told not to, he continued to use government SUVs and drivers to shuttle between home and work.

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Reuters - February 14, 2019

Talks to end four-day Denver teachers' strike stretch overnight

Negotiations lasted all night and into the pre-dawn hours of Thursday between striking teachers in Denver and the city school district, who are trying to come up with a deal to end a walkout affecting 92,000 students that’s now entering its fourth day.

Both sides must believe that they are close to a settlement or they would have stopped for the night, a union spokesman said about 3 a.m. local time. He asked not to be named. The two sides sounded an optimistic note on Tuesday after resuming talks that had broken off on Saturday. They went late into the night in an effort to resolve differences over a variable pay system, known as ProComp, which has been at the center of the dispute.

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The Guardian - February 14, 2019

Mike Pence chides US allies at Warsaw summit on Iran

The US vice-president Mike Pence has sharply rebuked Washington’s European allies over their efforts to shield their businesses from US sanctions on Iran, as transatlantic tensions over US foreign policy were laid bare at a conference in Warsaw.

A scheme set up by the EU to facilitate trade with Iran was “an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime”, Pence said during a conference on the Middle East organised by the United States in the Polish capital. “It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he said.

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The Week - February 14, 2019

Amazon will pay $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row

Amazon, which doubled its profits and made more than $11 billion in 2018, won't pay any federal income taxes for the second year in a row, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported on Wednesday.

The company will not be required to pay the standard 21 percent income tax rate on its 2018 profits, and is claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which ITEP describes as a "a tax rate of negative 1 percent."

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Washington Post - February 14, 2019

What’s in the 1,169-page border-security bill to avert a government shutdown

The 1,169-page, $333 billion spending bill that President Trump plans to sign into law removes the threat of any further government shutdowns — at least until October. But only a few pages of the legislation deals with the U.S.-Mexico border wall that Trump has demanded — or “primary pedestrian fencing,” as legislators wrote into the text.

The rest of the bill focuses on other border security measures, as well as funding for scores of federal departments and agencies whose budgets have been held hostage for months due to the border standoff. The $1.375 billion is enough for 55 miles for “pedestrian” fencing in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, but it is also subject to numerous restrictions.

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Associated Press - February 14, 2019

Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal

Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint on Wednesday over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.

At a hearing by a House committee, the two executives defended the deal, which would combine the nation's third- and fourth-largest wireless companies and create a behemoth about the size of industry giants Verizon and AT&T.

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CNN - February 14, 2019

Parkland survivors will mark the 1-year anniversary of the shooting with 'a day of service and love'

All of Parkland –– parents, students, staff and surrounding residents touched by the tragedy –– is coming together this week to make sure their fallen Eagles aren't forgotten and that something positive comes from the worst high school shooting in American history.

n an e-mail to parents this week, Principal Ty Thompson, who has presided over the yearlong effort to bring what peace he can to the children in his charge, called for "a day of service and love." "We are encouraging parents to be involved with their child on Feb 14," he wrote. "Whether that is attending an organized service project together off campus, planning your own project that is special to your family, or simply spending some time together that day."

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Newsclips - February 13, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 12, 2019

Trump says he’s still ‘not happy’ with border deal to prevent another government shutdown

President Trump appeared poised on Tuesday to end two months of scorched-earth confrontation without the money he demanded for a border wall as Republicans pressured him to accept a bipartisan spending deal rather than close the government again on Friday.

Mr. Trump pronounced himself unsatisfied with the agreement brokered by House and Senate negotiators, and he refused to commit to signing it. But he all but ruled out another government shutdown and emphasized that he would find “other methods” to finance a border barrier, leading aides and allies to predict he would grudgingly go along with the deal. “Am I happy at first glance?” the president said, speaking with reporters at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. “I just got to see it. The answer is no, I’m not. I’m not happy.”

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San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2019

Republican makes run-off for safe Democratic San Antonio statehouse seat

Republican Fred Rangel and Democrat Ray Lopez emerged Tuesday night from a crowded field of five candidates vying to become San Antonio’s new state representative, with Rangel leveraging consolidated GOP support for a strong first-place finish in a traditionally blue district.

No candidate received a majority of the vote in the special election, meaning business owner Rangel and former city councilman Lopez are headed to a runoff election to determine who gets to represent District 125, which covers a swath of the West and Northwest Sides from Zarzamora Street to the Loop 1604. Lopez narrowly beat out third-place finisher Coda Rayo-Garza, a school coordinator for San Antonio Independent School District, for the second spot in the runoff by 22 votes, 1,186 to 1,164. That election will be called by Gov. Greg Abbott and will take place in late February or March.

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Axios - February 13, 2019

Inside "The Beast" before Trump's El Paso rally, Agriculture Commissioner Miller said El Paso underreports crime stats

In El Paso on Monday night, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller rode with President Trump in "The Beast," the president's heavily armored Cadillac. Miller says Trump was "upset" that the city’s Republican mayor, Dee Margo, publicly contradicted him on the success of El Paso’s border wall. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were also on the ride from Air Force One to the rally.

According to Miller, he told Trump to shake it off, because "they [the city of El Paso] pad the books," suggesting that the city underreports crime rates. (Axios has found no evidence of that.) Trump replied: "You mean like fake news?" Miller said: "Yeah! It was the first fake news." Trump: "Can I say that [at the rally]?" Miller: "Yeah!" The lieutenant governor then chimed in: "No, no. You probably shouldn't." Trump didn't.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Will Senate Democrats end up backing — or send packing — Texas' embattled elections chief?

David Whitley is in damage control mode. Gov. Greg Abbott’s choice for secretary of state, battered from the fallout over his office’s controversial voter fraud inquiry, needs the support of Senate Democrats to be confirmed. But it’s unclear whether they will wield their power to deny him.

The Dallas Morning News reached out to the 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate. Just three publicly opposed Whitley. Most refused to comment. And several others said they need more time, as Whitley sits down this week with key members in an effort to smooth things over. "I would prefer not to make any statement until he is finished with his meetings," Sen. José Rodríguez, head of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, said Tuesday.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2019

Lawmakers push back on higher education funding requests

State lawmakers on Tuesday challenged several proposals offered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and expressed concerns about the rising costs of higher education, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. The committee also heard budget requests from universities throughout the state.

The higher education board requested roughly $118 million for education initiatives, including improving the transferability of college courses throughout the state, the development of an open educational resource repository that could combat rising costs of textbooks and $112.6 million toward the Texas Grant program, the largest grant program in the state. The board’s requests are a part of its goal to equip 60 percent of adults between the ages 25 and 34 with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2030 and to make college education easier to obtain and affordable for all students.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Houston federal judge bars female prosecutor from trial, sparking stand-off with U.S. attorney’s office

A federal judge banished a female prosecutor from his Houston courtroom last month, sparking a rare standoff between the new U.S. Attorney and a jurist with a history of sniping at lawyers, government officials and litigants.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, a 77-year-old appointed by President Ronald Reagan, has been criticized in the past for making comments perceived as racist or sexist in court. U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick argued that in twice ejecting the prosecutor before a trial, the judge exceeded his authority by attempting to rule on who can prosecute a case in his court. Hughes told Patrick that the prosecutor — who was involved in a previous case where the judge made controversial remarks — lacked ability and integrity, records show.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Texas Republicans wary of border deal to avert government shutdown

A tentative deal to avert a government shutdown without most of the money President Donald Trump sought to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border left many Texas Republicans in Congress stone-faced on Tuesday.

The agreement drew fierce opposition from conservative groups and right-wing pundits, as well as a decidedly negative reaction from Trump. "I'm not happy about it," he said flatly. "It's not doing the trick." But Trump appeared to back off talk of another government shutdown, which remains a possibility at midnight Friday unless the White House and Congress bridge their differences over immigration and wall funding in a 2019 funding deal.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Investigation of CPS worker fired for falsification raises questions about agency records integrity

A Child Protective Services supervisor was terminated last month for allegedly falsifying government documents. It's not clear if the ex-employee could face criminal charges, but experts say the incident raises broader concerns about the reliability of an electronic records system that courts rely on to make decisions about whether to remove children from their families.

The fired supervisor was accused of altering case records and signing off on the changes as if they'd been made by a CPS investigator who reported to her. "It seems to me like it's an admission of a huge flaw in their system, that that is even possible," said former Juvenile Judge Mike Schneider. "Can we ever tell how often this has happened in the past?" The agency, which is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services, did not offer comment.

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Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2019

Ted Cruz revives call to build border wall with El Chapo's drug money

With Tuesday's conviction of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in New York City, Sen. Ted Cruz is once again seeking support for a bill that would make the drug kingpin pay for a border wall.

"America's justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts," the Texas Republican wrote in a Twitter post. "It's time to pass my EL CHAPO Act. I urge my Senate colleagues to take swift action on this crucial legislation." Guzman was found guilty on charges including narcotics trafficking and taking part in a money laundering conspiracy, The Hill reported.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Is another voting-rights lawsuit against Texas school district a sign of more to come?

Another Dallas-area school district has been sued in federal court over allegations that it is making it hard for residents of color to get elected, adversely affecting the education of minority and low-income children.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday, alleges that all seven Lewisville board members come from affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods because trustees are elected at-large rather than from single-member districts. As a result, the board fails students of color and those struggling financially because those children are receive a "second-rate" education compared to their peers, particularly in elementary schools, the suit says. The lowest performing schools are those mostly serving poor, Hispanic children, while high performing schools are in the white, more affluent neighborhoods where trustees live.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Dallas to Amazon: We still have an impressive site for you, or another company

Maybe Dallas didn't score one of Amazon's new headquarters, but developers, architects and economic development officials say the city gained a road map for how downtown Dallas can develop. And, with arms wide open, they're closely watching New York City's sometimes unwelcoming reception in case Amazon changes its mind.

"We never hung up the phone with Amazon," said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of the Dallas Regional Chamber, referring to the most recent announcement of an Amazon air hub at Fort Worth Alliance Airport and a fulfillment center in West Dallas, its eighth in Dallas-Fort Worth. Recent reports suggest the technology and retailing giant, which employs more than 11,000 people in D-FW, may be having doubts about New York City following heated political battles over incentives, union requests and displacement of residents.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

AAS Editorial: Whitley is not the right fit for Texas secretary of state

In just two short months on the job, Secretary of State David Whitley has raised serious doubts about his fitness for office with a bungled attempt to identify noncitizens on Texas voter rolls. The effort, which erroneously pulled in the names of at least 20,000 legitimate voters, sparked three legal challenges and recklessly stoked fears about an illegal voting phenomenon that experts say is very rare. All of that was bad enough.

But it was Whitley’s testimony last week before the Senate Nominations Committee — where he failed to recognize his errors in the voter roll debacle or properly acknowledge the state’s troubled history with minority voters — that made it clear Whitley is not equipped to serve as Texas’ chief elections officer. The Senate should not confirm Whitley to the post. The delay in a committee vote this week is a good start.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Abbott backs bill to prevent local governments from regulating sick leave, other benefits

It should be up to Texas employers — and not local politicians — to decide what benefits they offer their workers, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday in a speech to an association of small business owners.

Having a city or county government create local regulations for employee benefits creates “a patchwork quilt of regulations” that drive up the cost of doing business, Abbott told members of the National Federation of Independent Business. The governor said he will back the Consistent Employment Regulations Act — a measure filed Tuesday by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth — that would ban local governments from regulating employee benefits.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Did Trump jump-start a Beto O’Rourke campaign for president?

Ostensibly, President Donald Trump came to the El Paso County Coliseum on Monday night to rally support for building a wall, or fence, like that what separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez along a longer stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. But it was readily apparent throughout Trump’s stemwinder that he also came in hopes of burying former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s potential presidential campaign before it has a chance to get off the ground.

If so, that strategy appears to have backfired. O’Rourke, who has been out of the national political spotlight since his close-call loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, suddenly was sharing a split screen in national coverage with the president. O’Rourke, speaking at an outdoor counterrally a few hundred yards away, was retesting his hopeful message that resonated with Texas voters three months ago, while Trump was belittling O’Rourke.

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Texas Observer - February 13, 2019

Texas butterfly sanctuary files emergency restraining order to stop Trump's border wall construction

Attorneys for the National Butterfly Center have asked a federal judge to block the Trump administration from building a border wall at the refuge or using the center’s property as a pass-through to build elsewhere.

The motion alleges that federal agents and contractors have been driving without permission through the Rio Grande Valley refuge’s property to access nearby federal land for the last week, and that they even replaced one of the butterfly center’s gate locks. The Trump administration plans to break ground on a 6-mile stretch of border wall as soon as this week, starting with a federal wildlife refuge tract just upriver from the privately-owned butterfly center.

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Star-Telegram - February 13, 2019

Kay Granger says border deal fulfills Trump’s wall promise

While President Donald Trump was rallying support for his border wall in El Paso on Monday night, Texas Republican Kay Granger was busy delivering it. Granger told the Star-Telegram that Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement she said will give the president his wall, and keep the government from once again entering a partial shutdown at the end of the week.

“We have agreements on the most important issues,” Granger said after emerging from a meeting with top House and Senate appropriators late Monday evening. “This has been a difficult one because the issue is so important.” Granger and other lawmakers working on the deal to fund the Department of Homeland Security provided no details about how many miles of fencing or how much money for physical barriers would be included in their plan. They’re optimistic, however, that it can garner enough support from lawmakers in both parties to pass a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled House.

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FOX 26 - February 12, 2019

Newly-elected judge dies from cancer weeks after sworn in

One of the 19 judges known for the "Black Girl Magic" campaign has died of pancreatic cancer. Judge Cassandra Hollemon passed away just weeks after being sworn in.

Judge Hollemon took her last breath surrounded by family at around 1 a.m. Monday at Ben Taub Hospital. Her loved ones say one minute, she was absolutely enjoying a dream come true and the next, she is gone. “Once she found it (the cancer), it took her and it just progressed," adds Brandon. "There was no time. It was very aggressive. Cancer sucks.”

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News 4 SA - February 12, 2019

Former State Senator Carlos Uresti speaks about sentencing

Former State Senator Carlos Uresti has been sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to bribery. The sentence will run concurrent with a 12-year sentence for a separate case involving money laundering and fraud. Uresti told Judge David Ezra during his sentencing hearing Tuesday that his heart is of full of regret and he is looking forward to the next chapter on his life.

As part of a plea deal, Uresti got five years for allegedly bribing a judge in Reeves County. He’ll also have to pay back $876,000 in restitution to Reeves County. Uresti has already been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role in the Four Winds Ponzi scheme. For the past year, he’s been out on bond. “I understand that this is been a very difficult chapter in my chapter in my life but I have learned from it and I vowed never to make those same mistakes again,” Uresti said after the hearing.

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County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Judge calls bond releases right-minded, her critics deem them too risky

In a span of about two days in October, Austin police say a man wounded two people in separate downtown shootings, unloaded nine rounds from a .40-caliber handgun at an occupied pickup, and threatened to fatally shoot his ex-girlfriend after he slapped her in the head while he was holding their child.

Shortly after, Dominic Salinas, then 21, walked away from jail on a personal bond granted by a Travis County judge who for years has irked her judicial peers for approving pretrial jail release to defendants charged with serious crimes. Justice of the Peace Yvonne Williams, who signed off on $100,000 bonds for Salinas on each of his two counts of deadly conduct, has long been the go-to jurist for a small number of defense lawyers trying to get their clients out of jail against the recommendation of the county’s risk assessment calculation.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

All four suspects in gay couple’s beating now in custody, police say

Three weeks after the beating of a gay couple in downtown Austin that’s being investigated as a hate crime, authorities have arrested four men they believe were behind the attack.

The first suspect in the Jan. 19 attack, 22-year-old Frank Macias, was booked on two counts of aggravated assault with bodily injury, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. He was in jail Tuesday with bail set at a combined $300,000, online records show. Macias also was being held for an out-of-county felony and three misdemeanors. Authorities also arrested Quinn O’Connor on Tuesday, and took Miguel Macias and Kolby Monell into custody later in the day. All three are facing the same charges as Macias.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Ex-Richardson mayor goes on trial in steamy bribery case

Laura Maczka’s position on new apartments near Richardson neighborhoods was clear during her successful run for mayor - we don’t need them, “period.” Then she met an apartment developer.

Mark Jordan was younger, handsome and rich, federal prosecutors say. They had an affair. He lavished her with gifts and trips, according to prosecutors. In exchange, she voted for zoning changes for his controversial Palisades mixed-use project along Central Expressway, which neighbors fiercely opposed due to its numerous apartments, her indictment says.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Petition challenging city’s deal for MLS stadium validated

A petition that challenges the city of Austin’s finalized deal for a Major League Soccer stadium has been validated. The certification of the petition means that Austinites could head to the polls later this year to decide whether stadium deals that involve city-owned land should face a vote.

The petition ordinance was written in the wake of the city’s deal with Austin FC owner Anthony Precourt, who plans to privately finance the construction of a $225 million, 20,000-seat MLS stadium on the city-owned McKalla Place tract in North Austin. Precourt is set to break ground on the stadium, which would be near the Domain shopping district, later this year.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 12, 2019

The government shutdown made the I.R.S. even more frustrating

The longest government shutdown in United States history resulted in a “shocking” number of taxpayers’ calls to the Internal Revenue Service going unreturned or being left to languish on hold for unusually long periods, according to a government audit released on Tuesday.

The audit, by the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, found that over five million pieces of mail went unanswered and 87,000 amended tax returns were not processed during the shutdown, when thousands of I.R.S. workers were furloughed or working without pay. The issues were especially acute since they followed significant changes to the tax code — ushered in by President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax overhaul — that left many people with questions about filing their returns.

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New York Times - February 12, 2019

The biggest economic divides aren’t regional. They’re local. (Just ask parents.)

Regional inequality is often cited to explain just about every challenge the United States faces: political conflict, joblessness, drug overdoses, even the decline of marriage.

Conventional wisdom holds that regions are diverging economically in drastic fashion, and many are raising alarms that fewer people are moving from small towns to prosperous cities. Research confirms that workers are in fact more productive in densely populated metropolitan areas. But it’s a mistake to think that regional divides are the source of the nation’s core economic problems.

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Wall Street Journal - February 13, 2019

Bank mergers get faster under Trump

Bank mergers are getting speedier under President Trump, with federal regulators changing policies that had deterred deals after the financial crisis. That stance could potentially help fuel more consolidation, though it has also raised concerns that regulators aren’t scrutinizing mergers closely enough.

Last week, BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. announced plans for a $28.2 billion all-stock deal that, if completed, would be the biggest bank merger since the crisis. The number of bank mergers approved hasn’t changed significantly in the past two years. But the process for getting a deal across the finish line has gotten quicker and community groups appear to have less input. Banks say lengthy reviews by agencies including the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency can create hurdles for mergers that involve stock transactions. If a review takes too long, market movements risk making the deal less beneficial for one of the parties.

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Wall Street Journal - February 13, 2019

Iran rift hurts US effort to build consensus on Mideast policy

Divisions over Iran are hindering the Trump administration’s efforts to build consensus with NATO allies on Middle East policy, with European powers balking at joining top U.S. officials in Poland’s capital for an event on regional security.

Washington has made isolating Tehran a focus of its foreign policy. Its major North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, including Britain, Germany and France, seek to preserve ties with Tehran and salvage the 2015 multilateral nuclear accord from which the U.S. withdrew last year, before reimposing sanctions. Now, this divide over Iran is on public display as officials from some 60 countries gather in for Warsaw for the two-day Middle East conference.

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Politico - February 13, 2019

Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million anti-Trump moonshot

Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Trump a second term, according to Democratic operatives briefed on his plans.

Bloomberg has not yet announced whether he will run in the Democratic primary. If he runs, he will use that half-billion-dollar stake — roughly $175 million more than the Trump campaign spent over the course of the entire 2016 election cycle — to fuel his campaign through the 2020 primary season, with the expectation that the sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on his potential spending.

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Politico - February 13, 2019

Schumer recruits famed fighter pilot to challenge McConnell in 2020

Chuck Schumer is actively recruiting a high-profile fighter pilot to take on Mitch McConnell in 2020 — a calculated act of aggression against a leading Republican foe.

Schumer met with Amy McGrath, a Marine veteran-turned 2018 congressional candidate, at Democratic Party headquarters last month to pitch her on running against McConnell. McGrath listened and didn’t rule it out. The Democratic leader first contacted McGrath in December. McConnell, the longest-serving Senate GOP leader, is gearing up for a reelection fight and leaving little to chance. His political team has begun compiling opposition research on McGrath and delving into tracking footage of her. On Wednesday, senior Republican Party officials involved with a pro-McConnell super PAC will meet in Washington to begin mapping out a potential campaign against McGrath.

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Politico - February 12, 2019

El Paso Fire Department denies Trump's crowd claim at rally

The El Paso Fire Department late Monday denied President Donald Trump's claim that officials gave him special permission to pack more people in to his rally than the facility allowed. During his rally at the El Paso County Coliseum, Trump touted his base supporters, saying "there has never been anything like this in the history of our country."

"If you would say, as an example, that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here," he said. "Now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, Fire Department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, Fire Department. Appreciate it." The El Paso Fire Department said Trump's statement was untrue.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

Notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman convicted

Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation after a three-month trial packed with Hollywood-style tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans, jewel-encrusted guns and a naked escape with his mistress through a tunnel.

Guzman listened to a drumbeat of guilty verdicts on drug and conspiracy charges that could put the 61-year-old escape artist behind bars for decades in a maximum-security U.S. prison selected to thwart another one of the breakouts that made him a folk hero in his native country.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

Ex-astronaut Mark Kelly makes Democratic bid for Senate seat

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a failed assassination attempt, announced Tuesday he will run to finish John McCain’s last term in the U.S. Senate.

If he wins the Democratic nomination, Kelly would take on Republican Martha McSally in what is expected to be one of the most closely contested Senate races of the 2020 election. Kelly described himself as an independent-minded centrist who will take a scientist’s data-driven approach to solving problems such as climate change, wage stagnation and health care affordability.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

Ilhan Omar and Steve King reacted to criticism very differently. Why that matters.

Recently, two high-profile lawmakers faced harsh rebuke for discriminatory comments. Their responses to the public, and to party leadership, were radically different — and very revealing.

As Politico Playbook put it: Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn rebuked Omar, and she apologized. When Republicans rebuked Rep. Steve King (R-IA), he railed against them. On Sunday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) responded to criticism of her position on Israel by tweeting, “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” In subsequent comments, Omar said she believes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel.

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Axios - February 13, 2019

Fake news fight pivots to retail

The National Enquirer is sparking a media crossover, with activists pushing to persuade stores to stop carrying tabloids in light of recent scandals around the publication.

So much of the attention on fake and malignant news has been on the platforms — Google, Facebook and Twitter. But a major chunk of the questionable media consumed in America is still seen in print, often in the checkout aisle. "Unlike most magazines, the National Enquirer is heavily dependent on sales of individual copies, not subscriptions. Seventy-five percent of sales come through single-copy sales at chain stores," Popular Information's Judd Legum notes.

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The Hill - February 13, 2019

Hannity not 'as concerned as some other conservatives' if Trump signs border deal

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday night blasted a bipartisan border security agreement as "pathetic," but said he's not that concerned about the prospect of President Trump signing it.

Hannity explained on his eponymous show that he does not share the same level of concern as some other conservatives about the deal because he believes Trump could secure money for a wall along the southern border through other means, including by declaring a national emergency. "It would be perfectly reasonable for President Trump to reject this bill," Hannity said. "Now there's another solution, maybe even a better solution. I’m not as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill. But there's a couple of ifs."

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CNN - February 12, 2019

US commander warns of 'little to no verifiable change' in North Korea's military capabilities

The top US commander on the Korean Peninsula told Senate lawmakers Tuesday that "despite a reduction" in tensions with North Korea, there has been "little to no verifiable change" in the country's military capabilities since President Donald Trump's first summit with Kim Jong Un last summer.

"I remain clear-eyed about the fact that, despite a reduction in tensions along the DMZ and a cessation of strategic provocations coupled with public statements of intent to denuclearize, little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea's military capabilities," Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of US Forces Korea, said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Newsclips - February 12, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 12, 2019

Lawmakers say they have reached an ‘agreement in principle’ to avoid government shutdown

Key lawmakers announced a tentative deal late Monday that would avert another government shutdown at the end of the week while denying President Trump much of the money he’s sought to build new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The agreement came together during intense hours of closed-door negotiations at the Capitol, as lawmakers resurrected talks that had fallen apart over the weekend in a dispute over new Democratic demands to limit immigrant detention. Democrats ultimately dropped some of those demands, which had come under fire from Republicans, clearing the way for a deal. Hurdles remained, and Trump’s ultimate backing was in doubt after quick opposition emerged from conservatives.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Local government would lose, taxpayers keep $900 million as Texas property tax cap bill advances

A bill that would cap property taxes and shrink local government budgets by an estimated $900 million passed its first hurdle Monday and heads to the Senate for a full vote of its members.

That $900 million reduction for local operating budgets in 2021-- which was estimated by the Legislative Budget Board -- is money that property owners would keep in taxes they otherwise would pay if the bill does not pass. The savings won't make property tax bills smaller for individuals, but it would likely slow how rapidly they increase.

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Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2019

Trump defiantly takes his wall message to predominantly Democrat El Paso

President Donald Trump came out swinging Monday evening as he launched his 2020 re-election campaign in the unlikeliest of places — on the border — using his ephemeral wall to hone his message that America cannot be safe until it seals itself off from Mexico.

As lawmakers in Washington reportedly agreed on a deal to avoid another government shutdown by offering up about $1.3 billion in new border security funding, Trump claimed he didn't know enough about the agreement to say much beyond, "We're building the wall anyway." "The wall is being built," Trump insisted to a crowd of thousands who attended his rally. "It's growing at a rapid pace." He added, "We proudly welcome those who come legally," saying that "illegal immigration hurts everybody."

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

No vote this week on David Whitley nomination

In a change of plans, the state Senate Nominations Committee will not vote on the confirmation of Texas Secretary of State David Whitley during Thursday’s meeting, the panel’s chairwoman said Monday. No reason for the delay was given by the committee’s leader, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway.

“It is at the chair’s discretion, but at this time we do not anticipate calling Mr. Whitley for a vote at our next meeting,” Buckingham said in a written statement. At Whitley’s confirmation hearing last week, Democrats on the committee repeatedly challenged his handling of an ongoing investigation into the citizenship status of tens of thousands of registered voters — many of whom have been found to be U.S. citizens. Buckingham had closed the hearing by announcing that she will “be asking for a vote” at the committee’s next hearing Thursday.

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Texas Tribune - February 11, 2019

James Henson and Joshua Blank: Mandate or machinations? Unpacking efforts to set the legislative agenda

The prevailing narrative among legislators and the political class in Austin since November holds that the 2018 elections sent a clear signal to abandon red meat politics and start steaming those vegetables that the people really want, which has been taken to mean doing something to fix the school finance system and reduce Texans’ property taxes.

While that narrative has a surface plausibility, it doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny as an explanation for the projected consensus. This consensus seems much more established among the top political leadership than it does either in public opinion or the legislative bodies who will have to vote on the property tax bills. Set aside the hand-waving and vague muttering that “elections have consequences,” and the evidence for a public mandate is pretty thin.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Texas crude oil production breaks 1970s record

Crude oil production in Texas has beaten a previous record set in the 1970s, a new report from the Texas Independent Producers Royalty Owners Association stated.

Texas oil wells produced more than 1.54 billion barrels of crude in 2018, beating the previous record of 1.28 billion barrels set in 1973, TIPRO reported in its annual "State of Energy Report" early Monday morning. Natural gas production also grew, reaching 8.8 trillion cubic feet in 2018, the report stated.

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

At Rice, a tweet-storm sets off discussion of the university's racist past

Given the blackface scandal in Virginia, Rice student Charlie Paul wondered what he might find if he looked at his own university's yearbooks. On Wednesday, he began tweeting his finds: Racist cartoons; photos of students performing in blackface; an otherwise flattering photo of an actual African-American captioned with the n-word.

And, maybe most shocking to modern eyes, a photo from the 1922 yearbook: "The Klu Klux Klan of Rice Institute" showed about 20 people, faces hidden, in white robes and hoods. Paul's tweet-stream took off, sparking conversations across the internet — and, most particularly, at Rice. On Sunday, Rice President David Leebron emailed a letter to the "Rice community."

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Bills would require photos of food stamp recipients on Texas EBT cards

Texas lawmakers are targeting fraud involving the state’s food stamp program with two bills that would require photographs of the recipients on their government-issued cards.

Both House Bill 1250, filed by Beaumont Republican Rep. Dade Phelan, and Senate Bill 671, filed by Conroe Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton, would add the photo and name of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to their Lone Star Cards and place a greater emphasis on reporting instances of food stamp fraud. Also referred to as EBT cards –– short for electronic benefit transfer — operate much like debit cards at the checkout stand, and are refilled by the state on a monthly basis.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Houston researchers discover immunotherapy can help fight aggressive brain cancer

Patients with the aggressive glioblastoma brain cancer lived longer if they were treated with immunotherapy before surgery, according to researchers.

In a small study posted online Monday, patients lived nearly twice as long as the average expectancy for those with glioblastoma if they were given the drug that unleash a brake on the immune system. Previous research involved giving the drugs after surgery “This is an important first step toward using immunotherapy to benefit patients,” said Robert Prins, the study’s senior author and a tumor immunologist at UCLA, which led the multi-institutional, randomized study.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Newly elected Harris County misdemeanor judge –– one of the Black Girl Magic –– dead at 57

Cassandra Hollemon took the bench in a sweep of Black Girl Magic, becoming part of the historic moment when 17 African-American women in Harris County won spots overseeing some of the busiest courtrooms in Texas.

In the weeks since taking over Harris County Criminal Court of Law 12, Hollemon helped make a mark on local justice reform when she joined her colleagues in efforts to settle the landmark lawsuit over the county's cash bail system. She served on the Community Supervision and Pretrial Services Committee, and offered a keen sense of humor with friends and colleagues. On Monday, she died after weeks of struggling with "health issues," according to fellow misdemeanor Judge Darrell Jordan. She was 57.

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Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2019

Former Houston businessman sentenced for illegally funded congressional trip

Kemal Oksuz, a former Houston-based businessman convicted of lying to Congress about Azerbaijan's role in a funding a trip for 10 lawmakers – including four from Texas – walked out of a federal courthouse Monday a free man.

Oksuz, 49, was credited with three months he spent in an Armenian jail last year, plus another week that he was detained upon his return to the U.S. last November. He also will serve two years of probation and pay a $20,000 fine. The Justice Department, arguing that Oksuz's deception undermined bedrock American political institutions, had sought a one-year prison sentence, the maximum possible under federal sentencing guidelines.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2019

Bill aims to take ‘marihuana’ out of Texas statutes

If one thing is beyond debate about the strict “marihuana” prohibitions in Texas, it’s that the word is misspelled dozens of times in decades-old state statutes. Leave it to a former Spanish teacher to do some retroactive copy-editing.

“I wanted to get a pen and write over it,” freshman state Rep. Terry Meza, D-Irving, said of her reaction when she first noticed the h-instead-of-j spelling of marijuana repeated throughout state law books. Instead, she has introduced House Bill 1196, which would replace all the phonetic “marihuana” references with the plant’s scientific name: “cannabis.”

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Beto O'Rourke leads counter-rally to Trump's El Paso visit, attendees urge him to run for president

Beto O'Rourke on Monday led a march and rally attended by thousands that pushed back against President Donald Trump's contention that El Paso was a dangerous city and a border wall was needed to protect it –– and the nation.

"We know that walls do not save lives, walls end lives," O'Rourke said, alluding to the suffering and death that asylum seekers from other countries have faced. "We stand for the best traditions and the values of this country ... for who we are when we're at our best, and that's El Paso, Texas." O'Rourke, the city's favorite son, was warmly received by a crowd of thousands chanting "Beto, Beto, Beto," urging him to run for president. "I'm so proud of this community at this defining moment of truth," he said.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

'No crisis exists': El Paso officials tell Trump to stop falsehoods about their border city

Officials in El Paso, Texas, rebuked President Donald Trump before his visit to the border city on Monday night, assailing the president for falsely crediting the city's safety to the border fence that was built there 10 years ago.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents the city in Congress; El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego; District Attorney Jaime Esparza; and Commissioner Carlos Leon said Trump's statements threatened to damage the town's reputation.

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Breitbart - February 10, 2019

Texas lawmakers propose state funding for wall on border

Two Texas statehouse members will soon introduce legislation funding President Donald Trump’s planned border wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — specifically the Texas border — Breitbart News has learned.

State Reps. Kyle Biedermann and Briscoe Cain intend to introduce legislation soon that would fund $2.5 billion of wall construction along the Texas border with Mexico, appropriating it from the economic stabilization fund for the state fiscal year ending August 31, 2019. The funds would be used, Biedermann tells Breitbart News, “to design, test, construct, and install physical barriers, roads, and technology along the international land border between the State of Texas and Mexico to prevent illegal crossings in all areas.”

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Texas Standard - February 11, 2019

Report details statewide proposal to help children who survive trauma get services they need

A new report outlines a statewide plan to ensure kids and families who have experienced trauma get the services they need when they interact with the child welfare system. The Texas Supreme Court’s Children’s Commission released its findings last Friday.

Travis County District Judge Darlene Byrne is part of the 100-member group that worked on this report, titled “Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint,” for the last year-and-a-half. She explains that one of the first steps that needs to be taken is a shift in how we understand and talk about trauma.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2019

Former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s sentencing in West Texas bribery case set for today

The nearly two-year saga in the criminal proceedings of state-senator-turned-felon Carlos Uresti reaches its final act today. Uresti, 55, is set to be sentenced for his guilty plea to conspiring with others to pay and accept bribes to secure a West Texas correctional medical-services contract for a company run by a Lubbock businessman.

The longtime Democratic politician is facing a maximum of five years in prison. Uresti’s political and legal career unraveled after a federal jury nearly a year ago convicted him on 11 felony charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for his roles at FourWinds Logistics, an oil field services firm. He served as the company’s outside legal counsel, was a 1 percent owner and recruited investors.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2019

Light rail for San Antonio? Even longtime backers have given up

Just before Christmas last year, the non-profit transportation study group, ConnectSA, unwrapped a glossy 25-page, 4,000-word report that proposed several new transportation options for the nation’s 7th largest city over the next three decades.

It promoted bus rapid transit, or BRT — essentially more frequent buses running in dedicated curbed lanes, often at intervals under 10 minutes. It recommended rubber-wheeled, trackless trams. It mentioned e-scooters, of course. It called for better sidewalks, more bike paths and HOV lanes, and nodded toward the not-quite-defined but sure-to-come world of driverless vehicles.

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Star-Telegram - February 12, 2019

Why Fort Worth (probably) can’t have a TEXRail system as large as Dallas’ DART trains

The popularity of Fort Worth’s new TEXRail commuter train system has prompted many residents to call for a comprehensive commuter rail system that takes people to more corners of Tarrant County.

Some North Texans point to Dallas’s extensive DART light-rail system, and wonder why Fort Worth can’t have something like that. The answer isn’t just about money. True, Fort Worth’s Trinity Metro transit system operates on a much smaller budget because only a half-cent sales taxes is collected for transit in the Fort Worth area, compared to a full 1 penny sales tax in the Dallas area.

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National Stories

Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

GOP launches attacks on Democrats over ‘Green New Deal’

Republicans have seized on the “Green New Deal” in an effort to paint Democrats as extreme and out of touch on energy policy, attacking the proposal and launching advertisements tying swing-district Democrats to the idea.

Unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the Green New Deal aims to slow climate change by ending the reliance of the U.S. economy on fossil fuels within 10 years. It is a statement of goals and doesn’t make specific policy proposals, nor does it specify how it would finance the enormous public investment it would require.

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Wall Street Journal - February 12, 2019

A year after Parkland: Making sure to day, ‘I love you’ at morning drop-off

The horror of the shooting here nearly a year ago that left 17 people dead crosses Ina Berlingeri-Vincenty’s mind every morning when she drops her son Nico off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Before he gets out of the car, she says, “I make sure I say, ‘I love you.’” Nico was in freshman English class when the rampage began. The gunman spared his classroom, but not the one next door, where his older sister, Amanda, then a senior, was studying Holocaust history. She survived, but saw two of her friends die beside her.

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Reuters - February 12, 2019

Virginia political crisis in stalemate after impeachment threat

The chaos that has swirled around the Virginia statehouse for more than a week showed no signs of waning on Tuesday, one day after a lawmaker backed down from his threat to seek the impeachment of one of three top-ranked Democrats engulfed in scandal.

The decision by Patrick Hope, Democratic member of Virginia’s House of Delegates, not to initiate impeachment proceedings against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, 39, over accusations of sexual assault has left the next move unclear. Fairfax, once a rising star in the U.S. state’s Democratic party, has resisted all calls to resign following accusations he raped a fellow student at Duke University and forced himself sexually on another at a Boston hotel 14 years ago.

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Reuters - February 12, 2019

We must 'hold our nerve' on Brexit, May to tell MPs

Prime Minister Theresa May will tell British lawmakers on Tuesday they must hold their nerve over Brexit to force the European Union to accept changes to the divorce deal that would pave the way for an orderly exit.

The United Kingdom is on course to leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal unless May can convince the bloc to amend the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.

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Washington Post - February 12, 2019

A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings

When the building housing the downtown Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper sold last April, the name of the buyer — Twenty Lake Holdings LLC — seemed of little consequence. The paper would be moving from its longtime home amid declining circulation and a shrinking staff under its owner, Gannett. The old newsroom was little more than an afterthought.

But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs. For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

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CNN - February 11, 2019

Democrats forced to confront growing divide over Israel heading into 2020

Democrats are entering the 2020 election cycle with many of their leading presidential contenders increasingly willing to break with a pro-Israel foreign policy orthodoxy that guided the party for a generation.

The new crop of progressive political stars in the House and a base more sympathetic to the Palestinians than ever before helped push a half-dozen White House aspirants to break with the pro-Israel lobby last week on a major bill, even as it passed with support from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other high-ranking Democratic officials.

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BuzzFeed - February 11, 2019

A Trump supporter attacked journalists after the president blasted the media at his Texas rally

A man wearing a Make America Great Again hat barreled into the press pit at Trump's rally in El Paso, Texas, Monday night and started shoving reporters, knocking over their equipment, and yelled "f*** the media," minutes after the president had lashed out at journalists.

About half way through his lengthy, campaign-style speech, Trump ridiculed the media for "refusing to acknowledge" his administration's successes, invoking loud boos and jeers from the crowd. "I was trying to tweet and watch the president and all of the sudden the riser started shaking and two tripods in front of me fell on top of one another and then a guy almost fell on me," Yasmine El-Sabawi, a producer with TRT World, a Turkish news channel, told BuzzFeed News.

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USA Today - February 12, 2019

Robert Mueller has spent two years investigating Trump, and he hasn't said a word. It's possible he never will.

Occasionally, his signature appears on court documents. But on the most consequential days of the nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the man leading it – Robert Mueller – has been conspicuously absent.

When President Donald Trump's senior aides and confidants paraded through federal courtrooms to face criminal charges his office had filed, the former FBI director was nowhere to be seen. When some of them came back to court to be convicted, he said nothing. It's possible he never will.

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McClatchy - February 12, 2019

‘Weaker candidate than Hillary’: Democrats cast deep doubt on Biden’s 2020 value

Joe Biden is everything a Democratic political consultant should love: He’s experienced, well-liked, and his poll numbers look great against Donald Trump. And yet many party strategists have a bleak assessment of his potential 2020 campaign: It’s a bad, bad idea.

“This last election cycle, we’ve seen a whole new level of energy that has emerged through a lot of fresh faces, and the party has moved in that direction and wants to hear new ideas and different messages,” said Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party who now works as a consultant in the state. Added Jim Manley, longtime Democratic operative: “I’m not convinced Biden is the right way to go at this point in time.”

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Gallup Polls - February 11, 2019

Americans' confidence in their finances keeps growing but partisanship plays a role

Americans' optimism about their personal finances has climbed to levels not seen in more than 16 years, with 69 percent now saying they expect to be financially better off "at this time next year."

The 69 percent saying they expect to be better off is only two percentage points below the all-time high of 71%, recorded in March 1998 at a time when the nation's economic boom was producing strong economic growth combined with the lowest inflation and unemployment rates in decades.

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Associated Press - February 12, 2019

California governor rebukes Trump in border troop withdrawal

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he’s withdrawing most of the state’s National Guard troops on the Mexico border because he won’t participate in the Trump administration’s “absurd theatrics” on border security.

Still, he acknowledged some troops were doing good work fighting drug crime and said he plans to allow 100 of the roughly 360 state troops now deployed to keep working with the federal government. “I’m trying to acknowledge there are some legitimate concerns but I’m not going to play into the hype and the politics,” he told reporters before signing an executive order changing the troops’ mission.

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Axios - February 11, 2019

Grading the impact of Trump's China tariffs

New analysis shows that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are chipping away at the trade deficit with China. But there are other questions to answer when it comes to whether the tariffs are having their desired effect.

Are they reducing the U.S.-China trade imbalance? Yes. After accounting for frontloading to get out in front of the tariffs early in the year, the rate of tariffed goods exported from China slowed, a new report from the Institute of International Finance shows, and will likely continue to slow without a resolution. China's reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods are slowing American exporters' sales, too. But because the U.S. imports more from China than it exports there, tariffs should continue to lessen the trade deficit.

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Axios - February 11, 2019

Amid Democratic pressure, Ilhan Omar apologizes for tweets on Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) "unequivocally" apologized Monday for her tweets on Israel, which used stereotypes often perceived as anti-Semitic, saying that she is "grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [her] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leadership condemned Omar's comments earlier in the day and requested an apology, saying her "use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive." In a Sunday night tweet, Omar insinuated political support for Israel is based on campaign donations from pro-Israel lobbying groups — specifically AIPAC.

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NPR - February 11, 2019

Denver teachers strike over base pay

Denver schoolteachers are going on strike over how their base pay is calculated. The teachers union and the school district failed to reach an agreement after more than a year of negotiations.

It is the first teachers strike for the city in a quarter-century, and it affects about 71,000 students across 147 schools, Colorado Public Radio reports. Most public schools will remain open, staffed by hundreds of substitute teachers. Early reports indicated that at least 2,100 of the district's more than 5,000 educators honored the walkout.

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Newsclips - February 11, 2019

Lead Stories

KXAN - February 11, 2019

Gov. Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz to join President Trump at El Paso rally

Gov. Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz will attend President Trump's Make America Great Again rally in El Paso set for Monday.

Plans have not been finalized on whether Gov. Abbott will speak or join him on stage. Cruz will also attend. This marks the seventh rally the president has held in Texas and the first in El Paso.

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Associated Press - February 10, 2019

El Paso bristles at Trump’s claim that wall made city safe

People walking over the Paso del Norte Bridge linking this West Texas border city to Mexico can watch President Donald Trump’s border wall getting bigger in real time.

Workers in fluorescent smocks can be seen digging trenches, pouring concrete and erecting rust-colored slabs of 18-foot-high metal to replace layers of barbed wire-topped fencing along the mud-colored Rio Grande, which is usually little more than a trickle. Most of the more than 70,000 people who legally cross four city bridges daily — to shop, go to school and work — pay the construction in the heart of downtown no mind. But on a recent weekday, one man stopped and pointed, saying simply “Trump.”

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Bloomberg - February 8, 2019

Anti-OPEC bill allowing U.S. to sue oil cartel moves forward

Legislation that would allow the U.S. government to sue OPEC for inflating oil prices cleared a key hurdle in the new session of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee, now led by Democrats, advanced the “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act" Thursday. That sets the bipartisan "NOPEC" bill, which would subject the cartel to possible antitrust action by the Department of Justice, up for a possible House vote. A similar bill targeting OPEC was introduced in the Senate on Thursday.

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The Hill - February 9, 2019

Trump divides Democrats with warning of creeping socialism

President Trump hadn’t had much success dividing Democrats until he found a word that would provoke very different responses from different members of the party during his State of the Union address: socialism.

Trump’s warning of creeping socialism in the United States, deftly mentioned after a section of the speech on the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela, created an immediate public split among Democrats that was caught on live television. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Joe Manchin (WV), Jon Tester (MT) and Sherrod Brown (OH) were among the lawmakers who stood with Republicans to applaud Trump when he pledged that the United States would never slide into socialism.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Nervous Republicans looking toward 2020 hope Donald Trump's El Paso visit helps, not hurts

President Donald Trump is visiting El Paso on Monday to discuss border security, a trip that could energize or traumatize Texas Republicans. For GOP incumbents and other 2020 candidates, Trump's visit is all about timing. At least it's not happening during general election season.

The 2018 midterm elections were a referendum on Trump and his policies, including his controversial call to build a wall along the nation's southern border. In Texas, two powerful congressional incumbents backed by the president — Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Culberson of Houston — lost re-election contests. And despite his October rally in Houston, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz came within 2.6 percentage points of losing to Democrat Beto O'Rourke, a race that polls showed was firmly in hand before Trump's rally.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Guatemala town's residents weigh playing cat-and-mouse game on U.S. border

President Donald Trump plans to make his case for a barrier again in El Paso on Monday at his first campaign rally of the year.

What's needed, say his critics, including U.S. legislators who visited El Paso Saturday, are more judges, lawyers, resources to move the asylum process along, and more economic investments in Central America to generate jobs for locals and help stop the exodus.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

DMN Editorial: From ducky pajamas to port authority, Blake Farenthold is the poster child for toughening state and federal ethics laws

We’re sick and tired of politicians who break the public trust, exploit ethical loopholes and still land on their feet on the taxpayer’s dime. Case in point: former Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, a poster child for tougher state and federal ethics rules. Out-of-office politicians can too easily profit from their time in office without much accountability.

As you might recall, Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican also known for being photographed wearing ducky pajamas next to a lingerie model at a fundraiser several years ago, resigned his House seat last year after using $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit. Farenthold promised to repay the money but has yet to do so. Then, he became a $160,000 legislative aide for the Calhoun Port Authority, a major public port for chemical manufacturing industries in South Texas.

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Dallas Morning News - February 11, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Can’t we all just agree on the data? Tom Luce offers a fresh debate to lift Texas

In the 1980s, Dallas lawyer Tom Luce went to Austin with Ross Perot to help lead the way on groundbreaking education reforms. They included more public school funding and a no-pass, no-play rule that required students to perform in the classroom before performing on the field. Now, as he approaches his 79th birthday, Luce is taking a different tack with an even more ambitious agenda.

He’s formed a public policy group, Texas 2036, to push lawmakers and the public to confront some of the state’s most vexing issues: education, health care, infrastructure, the environment, public safety and government performance. If people understand what the data show –– that Texas’ economic advantages are at risk, that it must create roughly 6 million new jobs by 2036 –– he believes they’ll rally behind a long-term plan to keep the state moving ahead.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

The fastest growing job in Texas is wind turbine technician, data projects

Renewable energy will provide the most job growth for Texans in the next few years, employment projections show. Wind turbine service technicians will be in high demand from now until at least 2026, according to the government-funded Projections Managing Partnership that uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between 2017 and 2019, the number of jobs to service wind turbines will increase 20.1 percent, the data shows. And by 2026, wind turbine service jobs will more than double. Wind and solar energy projects are also expected to be the fastest growing source of new generation over the next two years, according to a previous report by the Energy Department. Wind is projected to grow 12 percent in 2019 and 14 percent in 2020.

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Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2019

Navy veteran challenges fellow Navy veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw in Houston Congressional District

A naval battle just might be on the horizon in one of Houston’s most competitive Congressional districts. On Thursday Navy veteran and science teacher Elisa Cardnell, a Democrat, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to challenge newly-elected U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston Republican who is a former Navy SEAL.

The 32-year-old Cardnell, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rice University, spent 5 years on active duty in the Navy and nearly 6 years in the Navy reserves. While on active duty, she rose to the rank of lieutenant, serving as an anti-submarine warfare officer and an officer in charge of port operations in Yorktown.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2019

SAEN Editorial: State needs to view corrections jobs differently

Money alone will not slow the high turnover among correctional officers in the Texas prison system. While a higher starting wage for these high-stress and dangerous jobs is certainly in order, changes to the work culture within the prison walls, incentives for longevity on the job and extension of the career ladder might bear better results.

Texas, like many other states across the country, has for decades been plagued with a shortage of prison staff. The current attrition rate among the state’s 26,000 guards is 29 percent. Increasing the starting salary of $36,000 would help, but keeping corrections officers in their jobs for any length of time will take different kinds of investment in personnel. Recruitment of prison guards is hard, but retention is even more difficult. It’s the nature of the job. After a short stint on the job, many choose not to stick around, especially when the economy is doing well and the unemployment rate is low.

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San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2019

Low turnout marks early voting in special election for San Antonio’s Texas House District 125

Voters on the West and Northwest sides of San Antonio will head to the polls Tuesday to pick their next state representative in a special election that will likely see dismally low turnout.

Four Democrats — activist Steve Huerta, former City Councilman Ray Lopez, school coordinator Coda Rayo-Garza, former legislator Art Reyna — and Republican business owner Fred Rangel are vying for Texas House District 125, which spans from Zarzamora Street to Loop 1604. Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez vacated the seat when he accepted his new post. He has not endorsed a candidate.

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Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2019

Beto O’Rourke to join rally in El Paso at same time Donald Trump holds his own rally just miles away

Former U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke confirmed that he will be part of a community rally in El Paso on Monday that is aimed at countering President Donald Trump’s visit to the city.

Trump is scheduled to lead a rally at 7 p.m. at the El Paso Coliseum to promote his call for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, O’Rourke, a Democrat who is considered a potential 2020 presidential contender, is expected to take the stage just three miles away at what is being called a “celebration of El Paso” or the “March for Truth.” Trump’s visit to the state’s most western major city comes just days after his State of the Union address when he specifically pointed to El Paso as evidence that walls work.

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Houston Chronicle - February 9, 2019

In Texas, offenders get no jail time for groping people. These bills would change that.

In July 2016, Denali Wilson was on her way home from work in El Paso when a stranger followed her home and grabbed her crotch.

When she reported the incident to police, Wilson was surprised to learn that under Texas law, the officers could not arrest the man who assaulted her — much less launch an investigation to find him. Groping is the lowest-level criminal offense in the state penal code, punishable by a $500 fine at most.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2019

Austin, San Antonio team up to tackle traffic woes

Regional planners aren’t letting a lack of funding stop an ambitious vision for improving travel along the notoriously clogged Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio.

The Austin area’s Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and San Antonio-based Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation, studied for more than a year the best ways to improve commuting within the regions. Ideas include intercity and interregional transit services increasing traffic capacity on U.S. 281 and I-35 and building long distance bikeways. I-35 through Central Austin ranks the third-highest congested roadway in the state, according to data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

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SPIN - February 10, 2019

HBO announces upcoming Beto O’Rourke campaign documentary

Beto O’Rourke's landmark Senate campaign was apparently followed by a team of documentarians, who are set to premiere their upcoming film Running With Beto at South By Southwest later this year. Now, HBO has announced that the network will also pick up the documentary, which is set to premiere on the channel sometime this spring.

Directed by David Modigliani, the documentary follows O’Rourke over the course of his year-long campaign, with the crew gaining “intimate access to Beto, his family and a team of political newcomers who champion a new way of getting to know a candidate—one Texas county at a time,” HBO shared in a statement.

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Austin Business Journal - February 8, 2019

Austin's a millennial magnet. New York and Los Angeles not so much

New data from the Brookings Institution shows how Austin has become a magnet for millennial migration in the years since the Great Recession. Growing companies — especially tech firms — put a premium on the number of millennials an area has or is able to attract when considering whether to relocate or expand in a certain market.

Brookings used recently released migration data from the U.S. Census Bureau to identify major metros that attracted the most 25- to 34-year-olds for the period of 2012 through 2017. The Houston area topped the list, with an average annual net migration of 14,767 young adults, followed by the Denver and Dallas areas, with an average of 12,667 and 12,665 millennials per year respectively.

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McAllen Monitor - February 8, 2019

As sales tax revenues boom, RGV leaders see years of growth ahead

Several South Texas cities saw significant sales tax increases in December, furthering a trend that has been ongoing in the region for months, and leaving leaders in the Rio Grande Valley optimistic for the next decade and beyond.

Sales tax revenues dipped in only a few cities across the three-county region, while most saw substantial gains, which officials attributed to more employment, a healthy state and national economy and marketing efforts in Texas and Mexico. McAllen’s December 2018 sales tax intake increased by more than 12 percent from December 2017, the third largest gain of the 20 largest cities in Texas.

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City Stories

Texas Public Radio - February 8, 2019

Google Fiber says goodbye in Kentucky, but soldiers on in San Antonio

Google Fiber is closing its Louisville, Kentucky network after 18 months of offering its high-speed internet service. The company says it won’t impact other cities like San Antonio.

Google Fiber rolled out its Louisville network in record time in part because it used a process called “micro-trenching” to speed up fiber cable deployment. But the process, which includes shallow trenches cut into asphalt and then covered with a sealant, left some Louisville cables exposed — according to reports— and was disruptive to residents. It will turn off the service in April.

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Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2019

Moody Foundation gives $20 million to Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art

Extending a string of extraordinary gifts, the Moody Family Foundation has given $20 million to the Blanton Museum of Art to transform the grounds of its three-building complex on the south end of the University of Texas campus.

In just the past few years, the foundation has bestowed tens of millions to the Contemporary Austin, Waller Creek Conservancy, Pease Park Conservancy, AIDS Services of Austin, YMCA, UT’s Moody School of Communications and other groups. The Blanton gift is one of the largest grants to any Austin cultural entity and to any project for the city’s outdoor spaces.

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National Stories

New York Times - February 8, 2019

With abortion in spotlight, states seek to pass new laws

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a Louisiana law that its opponents say would leave the state with a single doctor authorized to perform abortions, the latest development in the national legal fight over the fate of abortion law under a conservative-leaning court.

Louisiana’s law, which requires that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was enacted in 2014. But in recent days and weeks, there has been a flurry of new state legislation that could prove important if the nation’s highest court rules on more abortion-related cases.Since the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in July, abortion rights groups have warned of a threat to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide, prompting some states to try to shore up access to the procedure. Anti-abortion groups have been pushing for more restrictions.

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New York Times - February 10, 2019

Amy Klobuchar enters 2020 presidential race

Amy Klobuchar, the third-term Minnesota senator, entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, hopeful that her moderate politics, Midwestern roots and carefully cultivated history of bipartisanship can appeal to a broad swath of voters in contentious times.

On a snow-covered stage in Minneapolis along the banks of the Mississippi River, with the temperature barely above single digits, Ms. Klobuchar said that as president, she would “focus on getting things done” and reverse some of President Trump’s signature policies. On her first day in office, she said, the United States would rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

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New York Times - February 10, 2019

‘Dangerous territory’ for Democrats as Republicans seize Venezuela moment in Miami

For 60 years, the lifeblood of Miami’s idiosyncratic politics has been Cuba, the communist government’s countless sins denounced in street protests, dissected on the spirited Spanish-language airwaves and condemned at campaign rallies under the unifying cry of “Viva Cuba Libre!”

But the focus of this city’s freedom-loving fervor has recently moved further south. Venezuela, not Cuba, now dominates Miami’s political conversation. A television anchor not long ago ended a somber segment with a promise to keep praying for the troubled South American country. Venezuelans in the city have gathered for demonstrations to coincide with protests back home.

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Washington Post - February 10, 2019

Walter Jones, ‘freedom fries’ congressman who became Iraq War critic, dies at 76

Walter B. Jones Jr., a North Carolina congressman who so enthusiastically supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq that he argued for the french fries and French toast served in House cafeterias to be called “freedom fries” and “freedom toast” — a jab at France for its opposition to the war — but who later underwent a dramatic change of heart and emerged as a prominent Republican critic of the war, died Feb. 10, on his 76th birthday.

His office confirmed the death in a statement. It had announced on Jan. 26 that the 13-term lawmaker had entered hospice care, his health having declined after a fall in which he broke his hip. Mr. Jones had been granted a leave of absence in late 2018 for an unspecified illness. Mr. Jones first ran for Congress in 1992, campaigning unsuccessfully as a conservative Democrat for the northeastern North Carolina district that his father had represented for 26 years.

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Washington Post - February 11, 2019

What’s actually in the ‘Green New Deal’ from Democrats?

The Green New Deal is a manifesto calling for sweeping changes to American society. Key goals include cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero over 10 years and guaranteeing jobs for all.

Climate change is a critical issue, but some experts say the Green New Deal is overambitious and unworkable. “I’m afraid I just cannot see how we could possibly go to zero carbon in the 10-year time frame,” Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist and secretary of energy under President Barack Obama, told NPR. “It’s just impractical. And if we start putting out impractical targets, we may lose a lot of key constituencies who we need to bring along to have a real low-carbon solution on the most rapid time frame that we can achieve,” such as labor unions, Moniz said.

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Washington Post - February 11, 2019

Shutdown looms as border talks break down over immigration enforcement

The nation faces the real possibility of another government shutdown at the end of this week after bipartisan talks aimed at averting that outcome broke down in a dispute over immigration enforcement, lawmakers and aides said Sunday.

President Trump’s border wall demands, which precipitated the record-long 35-day shutdown that ended late last month, were a secondary issue in the impasse that developed over the weekend, according to officials in both parties. Instead, after looking promising for days, the delicate negotiations collapsed over Democrats’ insistence on limiting the number of unauthorized immigrants who can be detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

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Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

Impeachment push for Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax slows down

The Virginia lawmaker who had vowed to launch impeachment proceedings Monday against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax over two allegations of sexual assault said he isn’t ready to start that process in the House of Delegates.

“There has been an enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback which has led to additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed,” Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter early Monday morning. Democratic legislators in Virginia circulated Sunday afternoon a draft resolution to start impeachment proceedings against Mr. Fairfax.

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Wall Street Journal - February 11, 2019

After synagogue attack, Pittsburgh’s push for stricter gun laws sparks backlash

A little more than three months after 11 people were shot to death while worshiping at a synagogue here, city leaders and residents are battling over proposed gun restrictions.

The legislation put forward by the city’s mayor and city council members would ban within city limits semiautomatic rifles, bump stocks and certain types of ammunition, as well as expand the ability of courts to seize guns from people determined to be a threat to family members or law enforcement. The measures have drawn a swift backlash in a liberal-leaning city ringed by more conservative suburbs where there is a long tradition of gun ownership. Opponents have called for the mayor’s impeachment or arrest, and the local district attorney has said that instituting the gun restrictions would violate state law.

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Associated Press - February 11, 2019

Trump tries to turn border debate his way with El Paso rally

President Donald Trump is trying to turn the debate over a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border back to his political advantage as his signature pledge to American voters threatens to become a model of unfulfilled promises.

Weakened by the disastrous government shutdown and facing a fresh deadline Friday, Trump is trying to convince people that that he'll continue to push to build his long-promised wall, even though there's no way it would be anywhere near complete by the time voters have to decide whether to give him another term.

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Associated Press - February 10, 2019

Embattled Virginia governor: ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam considered resigning amid a scandal that he once wore blackface, but the pediatric neurologist said Sunday that he’s “not going anywhere” because the state “needs someone that can heal” it.

Northam said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it’s been a difficult week since a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced, showing a person wearing blackface next to a second person wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam initially said he had appeared in the photo — although he didn’t say which costume he was wearing — and apologized. The next day, however, he denied being in the photo, while acknowledging that he had worn blackface to a dance party that same year.

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Associated Press - February 11, 2019

Some workers still unpaid after shutdown, dread what's next

Nearly two weeks after the end of the longest government shutdown in U.S history, many federal workers still have not received their back pay or have only gotten a fraction of what they are owed as government agencies struggle with payroll glitches and other delays.

And even as they scramble to catch up on unpaid bills and to repay unemployment benefits, the prospect of another shutdown looms next week. "President Trump stood in the Rose Garden at the end of the shutdown and said, 'We will make sure that you guys are paid immediately.' ... And here it is, it's almost two weeks later," said Michael Walter, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety inspection service in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and only got his paycheck Wednesday. He said two co-workers told him they still had received nothing.

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Reuters - February 10, 2019

Climate change seen as top threat, but US power a growing worry

Climate change is the top security concern in a poll conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, followed by Islamist terrorism and cyber attacks while respondents in a growing number of countries worried about the power and influence of the United States.

In 13 of 26 countries, people listed climate change as the top global threat, with the Islamic State militant group topping the list in eight and cyber attacks in four, the non-profit, non-partisan Pew Research Center said in its report. Worries about climate change have increased sharply since 2013, with double-digit percentage point increases seen in countries including the United States, Mexico, France, Britain, South Africa and Kenya, according to the poll of 27,612 people conducted between May and August, 2018.

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Inside Higher Ed - February 8, 2019

A win for student Christian group at University of Iowa

A Christian student group at the University of Iowa can’t be stripped of its affiliation with the institution, even if its members follow a “statement of faith” that bans those in LGBTQ relationships from leadership roles, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision by Judge Stephanie M. Rose has alarmed advocates for queer men and women. They are worried it would open the door for a challenge of a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2010 that allows colleges and universities to enforce antidiscrimination policies, even when student religious organizations claim those policies infringe on their beliefs.

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STAT - February 11, 2019

An ambassador to the Vatican. A GOP megadonor. And now, a rare Republican joining Democrats to take on pharma

Rep. Francis Rooney doesn’t sit on any of the congressional committees that deal with health care policy. His last government job was a stint as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. In politics, he is best known as a Republican Party megadonor, the product of a lucrative career as a finance and construction executive.

But suddenly, he’s an unlikely leading man in an increasingly noisy health policy fight over drug prices. The second-term congressman from Florida is the only Republican co-sponsor on a bill to allow Medicare for negotiate prices, traditionally a nonstarter for the GOP. Last Congress, he was one of two Republicans on another aggressive bill to police drug price increases. Rooney even introduced a bill mirroring a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposal that would cap U.S. drug payments based on prices paid overseas.

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HuffPost - February 11, 2019

David Pecker’s attorney claims AMI threat to publish Jeff Bezos pics wasn’t blackmail

An attorney representing David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media Inc., claimed the media company’s threat to publish nude photos of Amazon head Jeff Bezos if he didn’t cooperate with its terms was not blackmail.

“It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail,” Elkan Abramowitz, Pecker’s attorney, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Last month, Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced their divorce shortly before the National Enquirer, owned by AMI, published a story revealing that the billionaire was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, a TV personality. The Enquirer story prompted Bezos to launch an investigation into AMI’s practices, including how it obtained his private text messages with Sanchez and its motive for publishing the story about his affair.

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