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Fri., May 9, 2014

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams enjoys a laugh with Zavala Elementary students at a literacy fair May 2.
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams enjoys a laugh with Zavala Elementary students at a literacy fair May 2.
Photo by Jana Birchum

› No regular City Council meeting this week, so that Council members can begin getting into broad details of the proposed city budget – all day today, May 8 – followed by regular departmental presentations, heading toward a September vote. See "Point Austin."

› On May 2, the Project Connect Study Team presented its "locally preferred alternative" initial urban rail route to the Central Corridor Advisory Group. And surprise: It's the route everyone knew would be selected all along – from Grove Blvd./Riverside on the south, across a bridge to be built over Lady Bird Lake, and north to Highland Mall – at an estimated price tag of $1.38 billion. See "Can Project Connect Connect?."

› People will cue for hours for shows at SXSW, but during the first of a series of city hearings on the festival's impact, held May 5, a grand total of two people turned up before the Public Safety Commission to give formal testimony, and city Corporate Special Event Program Manager William Manno didn't even stay for that. Maybe they should have had free beer.

› Another fatal car crash has yet again put the spotlight on Austin's roads. Two Austin High students, driver Alyssa Hefley (17) and passenger Andrew Newton (18), died during the middle of the school day on May 2 after a collision with a tree broke the car in two. A third student, Cliff Kinkade (18), is at UMC Brackenridge.

› Attorney General Greg Abbott is coming under increasing pressure to explain what he knew about the scandal surrounding the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and when he knew it. Former CPRIT executive director Jerald "Jerry" Cobbs is currently under indictment for funding millions in research dollars to private businesses with no oversight – the same businesses that Democrats say are big donors to Abbott's gubernatorial campaign.

› Democrats did a double-take after former congressman Chris Bell endorsed Kinky Friedman in the primary runoff for agriculture commissioner over insurance agent Jim Hogan. Many Dems blame Friedman's grandstanding run as an independent in 2006 for derailing Bell's attempts to dislodge Rick Perry as governor.

› "Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present," declared the U.S. scientific advisory committee in the National Climate Assessment this week, noting shorter winters, hotter summers, and more catastrophic weather events – which can only get worse without concerted international action.

› The strange case of Bernie Tiede, convicted of the 1996 murder of Carthage, Texas, widow Mar­jor­ie Nugent, took an even stranger turn this week. Attorney Jodi Cole became involved in the case after seeing Richard Linklater's Bernie, eventually convincing Tiede to admit to being sexually abused as a child. The revelation prompted D.A. Danny Buck Davidson to recommend reducing the sentence to time served. The Panola County judge agreed, releasing Tiede on bond to live in an Austin apartment owned by Linklater.

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