Naked City

Friends of the late Molly Ivins celebrated her life at Scholz Garten on Sunday with music, beer, and story-swapping about the nationally syndicated columnist, who died Jan. 31. Ivins was noted for skewering the powerful and championing the underdog, with a special focus on the Texas Legislature. Ivins asked that donations in her memory be made to The Texas Observer, which she edited in the early 1970s, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Friends of the late Molly Ivins celebrated her life at Scholz Garten on Sunday with music, beer, and story-swapping about the nationally syndicated columnist, who died Jan. 31. Ivins was noted for skewering the powerful and championing the underdog, with a special focus on the Texas Legislature. Ivins asked that donations in her memory be made to The Texas Observer, which she edited in the early 1970s, and the American Civil Liberties Union. (Photo By Jana Birchum)


Quote of the Week

"The HPV vaccine does not promote sex; it protects women's health. … Providing the HPV vaccine doesn't promote sexual promiscuity any more than providing the hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?" – Gov. Rick Perry, defending his executive order to provide HPV vaccinations for all Texas girls


Headlines

• The memory and legacy of Texas icon Molly Ivins was celebrated Sunday in a memorial service at the First United Methodist Church, followed by a well-oiled reception at Scholz Garten, hoisted by several hundred friends, family, readers, and hangers-on.

• Gov. Rick Perry ruffled GOP and constitutionalist feathers with an executive order mandating the HPV vaccination of school-age girls. Both legal and medical questions remain; see "On the Lege," p.22.

Yee haw! The U.S. Senate approved a $2.10 minimum-wage raise Feb. 1, the first increase in the federal minimum in more than nine years. Now serious pressure is on the House to approve the Senate's more business-friendly version of the raise legislation.

• The Bush administration proceeded with its plans for a troop escalation in Iraq, and a huge war budget, while the Senate fiddled, failing to debate a resolution against the troop "surge," and instead debating whether to debate it … eventually.

• With the Lege in session, big news will be happening every day for the next few weeks. Stay up to date on important developments at the Capitol, City Hall, and elsewhere with our Breaking News e-mail alerts – sign up at austinchronicle.com/breakingnews.


Naked City

• CBS Corp. is selling its local affiliate, KEYE-TV, to a private investment group as part of a seven-station deal valued at $185 million. The deal, which includes stations in Salt Lake City and Providence, R.I., continues the media giant's strategy of shedding its ownership interest in small- and midlevel TV and radio stations. The buyer is Cerberus Capital Management, which specializes in investing in what it terms "undervalued" companies. It boasts more than $22 billion in assets in everything from Air Canada and National Car Rental to Mervyns and Strategic Restaurant Acquisition Group, a company specializing in Burger King franchises. The deal is still subject to FCC approval. – Kevin Brass

• AISD Superintendent Pat Forgione said Monday he would like to keep Webb Middle School open until May 2008. In January, Forgione proposed closing the school at the end of this year, but that was before hundreds of parents showed up at community forums to protest the plan. The school has been rated "low performing" by the state accountability system for three years, and if the school fails to meet the standards again this spring, the Texas Education Agency could decide to close it. But Forgione said he believed the agency would support the district's plan, which includes moving Webb's sixth-graders to other schools next year, creating intensive summer programs, and separating sixth-graders from the rest of the student body at Dobie, Pearce, and Garcia middle schools, to help them transition from elementary school. – Michael May

• In other education news, AISD is now accepting transfer requests for the 2007-2008 school year, although not all schools are open to transfers. The following schools are frozen to them: Akins, Anderson, Austin, Bowie, and McCallum high schools; Bailey, Kealing, Mendez, Murchison, and Small middle schools; Baranoff, Barrington, Brown, Bryker Woods, Cook, Cowan, Doss, Graham, Harris, Hart, Houston, Langford, Lee, Linder, Metz, Mills Oak Hill, Odom, Pickle, Rodriguez, Walnut Creek, Wooldridge, and Wooten elementaries. Three other elementaries – Casis, Hill, and Mathews – are only accepting transfers for certain grades. And seven other schools may be frozen after priority transfers are approved. – M.M.

Responsible Growth for Northcross (www.responsiblegrowthfornorthcross.com), recently formed in opposition to developer Lincoln Property's plans for a 220,000-square-foot, 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter at Northcross Mall, has organized a protest demonstration, Arms Around Northcross, for Saturday morning, Feb. 10. RG4N is calling for at least 5,000 concerned Austinites – enough to encircle the mall – to show up wearing red, with friends in tow, to "link arms in a human circle of solidarity against the proposed Northcross Development." Participants should arrive by 9:30am; the official group hug will occur from 10 to 10:10am. Also, a Wal-Mart Isn't Weird benefit concert is scheduled for Saturday, 2-7pm, at Brentwood Tavern, 6701 Burnet Rd. That same day, local businesses around Northcross are donating 10% of their sales to RG4N. – Katherine Gregor

• Developer Novare Group/Andrews Urban announced Monday that its new U.S. Post Office facility for Downtown will be on the ground floor of a 35-story condo tower at Sixth and Nueces. Also on the ground floor will be retail and restaurants. The site is across the street from the existing post office, which occupies the full Block 52 at Sixth and Guadalupe. Once the new high tech PO opens in spring 2008, the developer plans to tear down the old PO (thank God) and replace it with yet another mixed-use, high-rise condo tower. Altogether, the two towers would add about 900 homes and 100 hotel rooms Downtown. (Condo prices are anticipated to start at around $200,000 for a one-bedroom.) Both sites have been targeted by the mayor for high-rise redevelopment because they are not limited by the Capitol view corridors that restrict heights on most surrounding Downtown blocks. – K.G.

• After belaboring the pros and cons of six sites last Tuesday night, the Day Labor Community Advisory Committee still could not land on a single recommendation to City Council for a second south-side day-labor site in the city. While sites on East Ben White were best buffered from residential neighborhoods, day laborers prefer American Bingo in Paradise on Riverside Drive, which is closer to informal gathering sites. The advisory committee agreed to present a list of pros and cons of five proposed sites to council, hopefully giving the city enough information to make a decision. – Kimberly Reeves

• A number of neighbors near Mueller aren't eager to give transitional house Encore House another encore, but the Planning Commission did approve amending the current conditional-use permit from 37 to 58 beds for ex-offenders last week. The problem wasn't the concept of transitional housing, said the neighbors – as one put it, it's our civic duty to help people get back on their feet – but neighbors were concerned about the crapshoot over operators, which is to say that some operators at the facility have been good while others have been bad. Increasing the number of beds only exacerbates the problem. The Planning Commission was boxed in by land-use regulations, which is to say you can pick your zoning category, but you can't always pick your neighbor. In the end, with some assurances from the new operator of stricter standards, the conditional-use-permit amendment was recommended on a vote of 8-1, with Chair Dave Sullivan still concerned about potential problems. – K.R.

• The city of Austin unveiled a plan Wednesday to become "the leading city in the nation in the fight to turn back global warming," according to Mayor Will Wynn. The Austin Climate Protection Plan hopes to make all city facilities, fleets, and operations totally carbon-neutral by 2020. Wynn, in a detailed presentation that drew on training from Al Gore, said, "The window for addressing climate change is very brief," and that "the time for Austinites to take action is now." The plan's provisions include: Using all renewable energy at 100% of city facilities by 2012, meeting 30% of citywide energy needs through renewable resources by 2020 (including 100 megawatts of solar power), making all new single-family homes zero-net-energy capable by 2015, increasing energy efficiency in all other new construction by 75% by 2015, mandating energy-efficiency improvements in existing homes and buildings at the point of sale, achieving 700 megawatts of energy savings through efficiency and conservation by 2020, inventorying global-warming emissions from communitywide activities, requiring carbon neutrality on any new generation units, and developing the Go-Neutral program which will feature an online "carbon footprint calculator" and sell carbon offset credits for locally offsetting CO2. – Daniel Mottola

• In other city news, when plans to negotiate for a swath of land in Matagorda County, fit for a coal gasification or clean-coal plant (in partnership with San Antonio), were rushed to City Council for approval last week, local greens spared the city no grief. Since the plan surfaced, Mayor Will Wynn's office has been in super-spin mode, firing off a letter to local enviros affirming the city's commitment to use only the cleanest of coal technology and to only burn coal if carbon emissions can be captured and ensuring that renewable energy and efficiency measures would continue to be the first place Austin Energy looks to sustain its energy surpluses. The beef of the letter was molded into the council resolution. The mayor said he'd host a town hall meeting soon to discuss "options for meeting future energy demand." Council ultimately approved the land negotiations, however. – D.M.

• Landfill opponents have found a new ally in Travis Co. Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who joined Commissioner Ron Davis in voting against a county waste-hauling contract with Waste Management Inc. Longtime landfill opponent Trek English protested the contract at last week's Commissioners Court meeting, saying that being a good neighbor was far more important than being the low bidder under the county hauling contract. Landfill operators WMI and Browning-Ferris Industries have few fans in the neighborhoods near their landfills. Residents continue to complain that rampant odor and pesky buzzards remain problems. Although Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said he is willing to tell his constituents they would need to pay more for another trash hauler, commissioners considered themselves constrained by the terms of the current contract proposal and voted 3-2 in favor of the contract. – K.R.

Austin Police say two men wearing T-shirts that read "POLICE" on the front, in black letters, entered a home in the 9700 block of Oriole Drive just before 1am on Monday, Feb. 5; brandished guns; threatened; and then tied up a male and female resident before robbing the home and fleeing with several items. Police say the two suspects are dark-skinned males with short, cropped black hair and were last seen wearing gray T-shirts over black pants and boots. Anyone with information about the incident should call the APD robbery tip line at 974-5092 or Crime Stoppers at 472-8477. Meanwhile, Travis County Sherrif's Office detectives are looking for two men suspected of two smash-and-grab burglaries of the Speedy Stop at 14735 Bratton. Sheriff's detectives say the store was burglarized first on Dec. 31 and again on Jan. 25; each time suspects took tobacco products – cigarettes and cigars – worth about $950 total. Anyone with information about the heists should call TCSO Detective Robert Ames at 854-7407 or Crime Stoppers. – Jordan Smith

• Guerrilla advertising was mistaken for terrorism in Boston, but Austinites know a Mooninite when they see one. Boston officials mistook electronic ads for the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie spin-off for bombs, causing the city to grind to a halt as teams defused 38 harmless light boxes. However, the same devices had been hanging up in nine other cities – including Austin – for two weeks, with no similar panic. The lunch-box-sized electronic boxes showed a Mooninite – a character from the Cartoon Network's animated show, promoting the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters – flipping the bird. Guerrilla advertisers Interference Inc., whose street teams installed the boxes, and Cartoon Network owners Turner Broadcasting System settled the matter out of court with Boston. TBS agreed to pay $1 million in costs and an additional $1 million as a "goodwill" payment for trouble caused. Locally, the ads were up at several businesses and stores, including Flipnotics and the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. APD reported 20 of the devices were removed, with no injuries – but the "T" on the neon sign at ThunderCloud Subs on Riverside Drive was damaged. Call the SWAT team! – Richard Whittaker

• February is Black History Month; several related events are planned throughout the city over the next several days. For a partial list, see p.76.


Beyond City Limits

• Less than a day after a federal immigration appeals board ordered their asylum request reopened this past Friday, five of the six incarcerated members of the Ibrahim family, who are Palestinian, walked out of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor Saturday morning. Hanan Ibrahim, who is pregnant, and her four children, age 5, 7, 12, and 15, had been held in the immigration detention center since their predawn arrest in their home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in November. Salaheddin Ibrahim, Hanan's husband and the father of her five children, is still being held in Haskell, Texas, for immigration violations. His family has been reunited with the youngest Ibrahim child, who is 3 years old and an American citizen, in Dallas, where she has been living with Ahmad Ibrahim, Salaheddin's brother. See "Immigrant Detention Blues," Feb. 2, for more. – Diana Welch

• Word to the wise: Taunting the police with illegal activity – especially by using the name of an official police agency – isn't the best idea. To wit: Texas Department of Public Safety officials say they've received reports from across the state that "private organizations" have been soliciting residents by phone, claiming affiliation with DPS, to raise funds "to help the families of a Texas State Trooper recently killed in the line of duty," according to a Feb. 1 press release. "Texas residents should know that the [DPS] NEVER solicits financial contributions from private citizens" – because the agency is already taxpayer funded. "The DPS will NEVER call you at your home or business to solicit cash donations." The groups have included the terms "Texas Rangers" or "Texas Highway Patrol," among others, as part of their names, to suggest state affiliation – and thus, legitimacy. DPS is urging people to reject the solicitations and to report any incidences to the Texas Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division (800/621-0508). The solicited funds "are not likely to go to the causes that are claimed," reads the release. – J.S.

• On a related note, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent out a warning letter Feb. 5, advising Texans not to fall for the latest phone solicitation scam, in which the caller, posing as the "president of Jamaica," promises that you – yes, you! – have won big in the Jamaican lottery. Large cash prizes are ready for the taking – that is, after you pay "substantial up-front 'taxes' or 'processing fees,'" Abbott warns in a press release. In other words, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely ain't true. (Seriously: Did you think the Jamaican prez was on the horn, just for you? C'mon, what are the odds of that? Besides, Jamaica doesn't even have a president.) "Don't be fooled. Callers claiming to represent foreign lotteries are con artists who can't be trusted," Abbott said. "These kinds of promises are always fraudulent and aim to bilk consumers out of their hard-earned money. Texans who receive these calls should just hang up." Report any calls to the AG's Consumer Protection Division: 800/621-0508. – J.S.

• Also, Abbott reported Jan. 24 that his office has reached a settlement with Irving-based BioPerformance, which marketed and sold – in an illegal pyramid scheme – the so-called "top secret gas pill" that the company claimed (falsely) would increase automobile fuel efficiency. As part of the settlement, which will end eight months of legal action brought by the state under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, BioPerformance and its owners, Lowell Mims and Gustavo Romero, will be barred from marketing the bogus pill – nothing more than a moth ball, the AG's office has said – and will require them to pay more than $7 million in restitution to deceived customers. – J.S.


Happenings

THURSDAY, FEB. 8: PRIME TIME NETWORKING SESSION Hosted by Capital Metro, tonight's networking event aims to level the playing field for Disadvantaged Business Enterprises competing for federally funded transportation projects. All minority and female business owners are invited to participate. 5:30-7:30pm. 2910 E. Fifth, 389-7434. lamont.ross@capmetro.org.

FRIDAY: GREENHOUSE GASES OR GREEN HOMES? A talk from Austin Energy's Rich MacMath, brought to you by UT's Environmental Science Institute. Fun prelecture activities, 5:45pm; lecture, 7pm. UT Campus, Welch Hall 2.224. Free. www.esi.utexas.edu/outreach/ols/lectures/MacMath.

SATURDAY: HANDS AROUND NORTHCROSS How many people rallying at Northcross do you think it would take to stop Wal-Mart? Five hundred? One thousand? Ten thousand? We don't know either, but we do think there is a number high enough to get the kind of attention that makes a difference. If you agree, then put on some red, fill your car with some friends, and get ready to clasp your hands around Northcross. Also, don't miss tonight's fundraiser for Responsible Growth for Northcross, 2-7pm, at Brentwood Tavern, 6701 Burnet Rd. (See Club Listings, p.102.) 10am. Northcross Mall, 2525 W. Anderson. www.rg4n.org.

SUNDAY: ATTICUS CIRCLE & SOULFORCE ADOPT-A-STATE PARTY invites all you straight people who support gay causes to learn how you can help with the national Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights campaign. (See Gay Place, p.79, for more.) 2pm. Trinity United Methodist Church, 600 E. 50th, 450-5188. www.atticuscircle.org.

MONDAY: GLOBAL WARMING PRESENTATION Environmental Defense Communications Director Colin Rowan is one of 20 Texans trained by Al Gore to give this presentation, which is based on the slideshow that became An Inconvenient Truth. Tonight Rowan combines information you may recognize from the movie with details specific to Texas. E-mail to reserve your spot (with "reserve" in the subject line). 7-9pm. The Hideout Coffeehouse, 617 Congress, 476-0473. Free. crowan@mac.com, www.thehideout.org.

MONDAY: LONESTAR MENSA MONTHLY OPEN MEETING Michael J. Osborne, head of Austin Energy's Patents, Grants, and Research Office, presents Plug-In Austin: Building a Market for Gas-Optional Hybrids. 7-8:45pm. North Village Library, 2139 W. Anderson, 836-5773. Free. www.lsm.us.mensa.org.

TUESDAY: VALENTINE TO THE COMMUNITY: THE ONE TRANSFORMATIONAL IDEA FOR CENTRAL TEXAS Today's roundtable discussion/luncheon asks, "What is the one transformational idea that would change the landscape of Central Texas for years to come?" Participants include, among others, Psychology Without Borders' Deborah Edward, MPower Labs' Roy Sosa … and you, so come ready with your one idea, too. Register online. 11:30am-1pm. St. David's Episcopal Church, 304 E. Seventh, 472-1196. $20 ($15, members). www.leadershipaustin.org.

THURSDAY-SUNDAY: AUSTIN HINDU TEMPLE & COMMUNITY CENTER INAUGURATION This three-day celebration is packed with great music, entertainment, food, cultural programs, and family activities, all culminating with Sunday's official ribbon-cutting by Sen. John Cornyn at 1:30pm. Fri.-Sun., Feb. 9-11. 9801 Decker Lake Rd. www.austinhindutemple.org.

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