Naked City

Amparo Estrada was among the speakers at a rally for universal health care on the steps of the Texas state Capitol Sunday. Health Care for All Texans and Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted the event, in support of a single-payer system. The two groups say that more than 50 million Americans (including one in four Texans) don't have health insurance. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has sponsored the first-ever single-payer universal health-care bill in Texas; Senate Bill 1911 is still sitting in the State Affairs Committee. In Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, D-Ohio, has sponsored House Resolution 676, a single-payer universal-health-care bill, with now 72 legislators, the AFL-CIO, and many others signed on.Amparo Estrada was among the speakers at a rally for universal health care on the steps of the Texas state Capitol Sunday. Health Care for All Texans and Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted the event, in support of a single-payer system. The two groups say that more than 50 million Americans (including one in four Texans) don't have health insurance. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has sponsored the first-ever single-payer universal health-care bill in Texas; Senate Bill 1911 is still sitting in the State Affairs Committee. In Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, D-Ohio, has sponsored House Resolution 676, a single-payer universal-health-care bill, with now 72 legislators, the AFL-CIO, and many others signed on.
Amparo Estrada was among the speakers at a rally for universal health care on the steps of the Texas state Capitol Sunday. Health Care for All Texans and Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted the event, in support of a single-payer system. The two groups say that more than 50 million Americans (including one in four Texans) don't have health insurance. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has sponsored the first-ever single-payer universal health-care bill in Texas; Senate Bill 1911 is still sitting in the State Affairs Committee. In Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, D-Ohio, has sponsored House Resolution 676, a single-payer universal-health-care bill, with now 72 legislators, the AFL-CIO, and many others signed on.Amparo Estrada was among the speakers at a rally for universal health care on the steps of the Texas state Capitol Sunday. Health Care for All Texans and Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted the event, in support of a single-payer system. The two groups say that more than 50 million Americans (including one in four Texans) don't have health insurance. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, has sponsored the first-ever single-payer universal health-care bill in Texas; Senate Bill 1911 is still sitting in the State Affairs Committee. In Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, D-Ohio, has sponsored House Resolution 676, a single-payer universal-health-care bill, with now 72 legislators, the AFL-CIO, and many others signed on. (Photo By Jana Birchum)


Quote of the Week

"The president can veto our attempt to secure a safe, orderly phased redeployment of our troops, but he cannot veto reality. Our troops will return; it is only a matter of how much blood and money will be lost before they do." – Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett, on President Bush's veto of a war-appropriations bill that included a timetable for the troops to exit Iraq


Headlines

• Thousands of immigrants, families, and friends marched from the Capitol to City Hall on May 1, joining nationwide demonstrations in support of naturalization for the millions of undocumented people who are our neighbors, co-workers, compañeros. See "Immigrants Tell Country to 'Listen Up'."

• City Council meets today (Thursday), as the annual budget cycle begins with a five-year forecast: "We're gonna need lots of money." See "Beside the Point."

• You can't tell the animal lovers from the chimps without a program – for the latest on the battle over Primarily Primates animal sanctuary, see "Primarily Primates: AG Folds on Apes."

• At the Capitol, the Lege proudly rejected Gov. Perry's proposal to vaccinate sixth-grade girls against human papillomavirus, moved forward on voter-ID bills designed to restrict voting, and the governor and other Republicans suggested that the best response to the handgun massacre at Virginia Tech is more of the same: Give everybody guns. For more, see "Capitol Briefs."

• On the bloody fourth anniversary of his declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, President Bush vetoed the military appropriations bill because it had the temerity to suggest that enough is enough. Commented Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett: "He cannot veto reality."


Naked City

• Twenty-seven-year-old Paul Ross Evans has been charged with three federal crimes in connection with a pipe bomb found April 25 at a South Austin women's-health clinic that offers abortion services – charges that could net the Lufkin native up to a life sentence in the federal pen. The Austin Police Department, the FBI, and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called to the Austin Women's Health Center on South I-35 just after 2pm last Wednesday, after a clinic employee found a suspicious package in the parking lot. The APD Bomb Squad, working with an FBI bomb technician, used a robot to remove from a blue, soft-sided cooler a bomb – homemade from a footlong, 1-inch-round copper pipe, a Coleman propane cylinder, a mechanical timer, and 2 pounds of nails. Had the device detonated, officials say, the explosion could have caused serious injury or death to anyone within a 100-foot radius. Federal agents tracked the cooler and other items back to their retail sources – the Wal-Mart at 710 E. Ben White and a Lufkin Lowe's store – and to purchases made by Evans on April 23 and 24. Evans, who's been living in Austin and on probation since 2005 on a burglary charge, is charged with using "weapons of mass destruction," manufacturing explosive materials, and obstructing "freedom of access" to a clinic entrance. – Jordan Smith

• The Sustainable Communities Initiative is rolling forward, putting numbers to goals for the future density of urban and suburban neighborhoods. At a presentation this week before a Planning Commission subcommittee, Cid Galindo put up a chart that ranked the city's 48 major neighborhoods for density, along with goals for population growth by 2035. The city's densest neighborhoods are West University, Riverside, North University, and the North Austin Civic Association. The most open spaces are located at Mueller, North Burnet/Gateway, Johnston Terrace, and MLK-183. – Kimberly Reeves

• Austin's Patrice Pike is a rock star in more ways than one. Her very own Grace Foundation will host the second annual Grace Foundation Event on Saturday, May 12, at 7pm at La Zona Rosa, 612 W. Fourth. Singer-songwriter/guitarist Pike will perform, and acclaimed artist Roland Diaz will create an inspirational painting onstage. The event will include food, drink, and silent and live auctions. USI Holdings Corp., Maudie's Tex-Mex, and La Zona Rosa are also sponsors. Pike has been an Austin idol since the early Nineties, when she led the group Sister Seven and, later, Black Box Rebellion. She took numerous honors at the Austin Music Awards this year, including Musician of the Year, Song of the Year for "Beautiful Thing," Best Rock Vocals, Best Female Vocals, and induction into the AMA Hall of Fame. Co-founded by Todd Young, the Grace Foundation (www.thegrace-foundation.org) provides health care, education, career training, and job placement to young adults whose lives have been marred by abuse, poverty, and homelessness. For info on the fundraiser, call 786-2330. – Patricia J. Ruland

• The Austin Fire Department got an $88,000 federal grant last week from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for 2,500 remote-controlled smoke alarms for low-income seniors and 30 strobe-light smoke alarms for the hearing-impaired. AFD will buy 10-year lithium batteries to go with the alarms. "This grant allows us to increase our efforts to provide smoke alarms to the people who need them most," said Mayor Will Wynn in a press release. – J.S.

• Austin's Martin Middle School will begin offering the International Baccalaureate program next school year. The IB program, developed in Switzerland, is offered in 125 countries and aims to help students thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. The students are challenged to think about traditional subjects through broad themes, such as "approaches to learning," "community and service," and "health and social education." Martin has been working for several years to become an IB school; Murchison Middle School and Anderson High also offer the IB program. – Michael May

• Austin seventh-graders Makeda Robertson and Harold Eggers-Soo (son of Chronicle staffer cindy soo) began entering the National Mathematics Pentathlon when they were just kindergartners and have now become the first two Texans to win the Delbert Detwiler Award (received after participating for eight years) for their consistently strong performance in the competition. The students, who attend Small Middle School, were presented with their awards Saturday. – M.M.

• The A+ Federal Credit Union offers grants of up to $1,000 to teachers to use on starting or continuing existing programs, including materials and professional development. The deadline has been extended to Friday, May 11. Applications are available at www.aplusfcu.org, by e-mailing educationfoundation@aplusfcu.org, or by calling 800/252-8148 x4390. – M.M.

Austin Independent School District is holding a job fair to recruit certified teachers for the 2007-2008 school year this Saturday. The district will hire around 800 new teachers in all and is looking in particular for math, science, bilingual, and special-education teachers. Teachers should bring proof of certification or a letter showing they've participated in the Alternative Certification Program. Student teachers should bring a transcript showing enrollment in student teaching. The job fair is Saturday, May 5, 12:30-3:30pm, at the Austin Convention Center. – M.M.

Meet <i>Mimo</i>, green artist George Sabra's newest creation, a 14-foot-tall sculpture made from recycled PVC pipe that debuted at Austin's Earth Day celebration. Sabra's last sculpture, <i>Matrix</i>, a surreal piece adorned with salvaged computer parts meant to address the problem of electronic waste, will be honored as <i>National Geographic</i> magazine's Sculpture of the Year for 2008. <i>Mimo</i> deals with broader waste issues and, according to Sabra, testifies to the fact that exquisite art can be made from recycled materials, a theme he plans to continue exploring. <i>– D.M.</i>
Meet Mimo, green artist George Sabra's newest creation, a 14-foot-tall sculpture made from recycled PVC pipe that debuted at Austin's Earth Day celebration. Sabra's last sculpture, Matrix, a surreal piece adorned with salvaged computer parts meant to address the problem of electronic waste, will be honored as National Geographic magazine's Sculpture of the Year for 2008. Mimo deals with broader waste issues and, according to Sabra, testifies to the fact that exquisite art can be made from recycled materials, a theme he plans to continue exploring. – D.M. (Photo By George Sabra)

• Austin-area Republican Reps. Lamar Smith and Michael McCaul introduced legislation Monday to encourage awareness and production of plug-in hybrid vehicles – which use additional lithium-ion batteries to achieve 100-mile-per-gallon fuel economy range. The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Act of 2007 proposes $250 million in annual funding (between 2008 and 2012) for research and development and calls for $50 million to carry out a pilot program for deployment while offering grants to help state and local authorities acquire plug-ins. Austin's Lloyd Doggett was among four co-sponsors. To urge automakers to build the vehicles, the Plug-in Partners campaign, initiated by the city of Austin, has enlisted more than 500 entities (including several major cities) representing 41 states. At least two companies offer plug-in hybrid conversion kits for existing hybrids. In fact, Austin Energy recently converted two Toyota Prius hybrids in its fleet to plug-ins. David Vieau, CEO of battery-maker A123Systems, a partner of Hymotion – the company that handled AE's conversion – testified to the U.S. Senate that his conversion kit will be publicly available in 2008 at a price of $10,000, which, for an average commuter, will pay for itself in 5 years while cutting about 100 tons of carbon emissions. – Daniel Mottola

• The Community Action Network and the Ready by 21 Coalition for Austin/Travis County are creating a 20-member youth council that will provide guidance to elected officials about policies affecting youth. Mayor Will Wynn offered his endorsement of the council, saying it would "serve as a bridge between my office, other elected officials supporting the council, and the young people we represent." Nineteen-year-old Luis Orozco is working to organize the council, which he hopes will change the perception of young people in the city. "Teenagers have a lot to offer, but often we are seen as 'the problem.' A youth council would provide a very public way for our ideas, actions, and contributions to be considered." The two groups are urging passionate young people, ages 14 to 20, to apply for positions on the council. The deadline is Friday, May 11. The application and more information are at www.readyby21austin.org/youthcouncil.php. – M.M.


Beyond City Limits

Hays County voters are being asked to vote on a $172 million road-bond package for construction and improvement to several Hill Country thoroughfares, including FM 1626, a portion of RR 12, SH 21, and new construction of FM 110 – the first phase of a San Marcos loop, designed to facilitate growth near the gargantuan outlet mall on the edge of town. Opposition group Citizens for Responsible Roads is urging voters to kill the proposal; they say the bonds, which advertise guaranteed Texas Department of Transportation reimbursements of up to $133 million, won't cover overruns and will include millions in interest, while the roads will do little to benefit county needs and more to facilitate additional auto-dependent sprawl, not to mention transforming minor roads like RR 12 and FM 1626 into full-scale highways handling I-35 18-wheeler traffic. Learn more at ww.2007bondprogram.co.hays.tx.us and www.responsibleroads.com. – D.M.

• The Texas Youth Mentoring initiative, announced by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and a slew of local service agencies last week, is a new five-year effort that will match the alumni of the state's African-American Greek and civic associations with groups that provide support systems for children, such as Amachi, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, and Communities in Schools. The number of African-American mentors often lags behind other ethnic groups, according to state statistics. Kenny Taylor, executive director of the Central Texas Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, says the goal is to improve that average. The target will be to get at least one in five members in the state's active alumni chapters to volunteer. Those who might be interested in joining the effort can call West's office at 463-0123. – K.R.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, proposes (Senate Bill 920) that every pregnant woman in Texas seeking an abortion be required to review an ultrasound image of her fetus as part of the state’s “informed consent” for abortion requirement. Although Patrick insisted in an April 24 hearing that the bill wouldn’t require women to view the image – he went toe-to-toe with Laurie Felker Jones from NARAL ProChoice Texas, who pointed out that the bill did, in fact, require just that – he nonetheless toned down the language to provide that a woman could refuse to look, but would still be required to have it “reviewed” (read: described) for her in order to satisfy informed consent. For this and other reasons, it occurred to us that maybe we should take an ultrasound of Sen. Patrick’s head. The bill passed out of committee with only Sen. Eliot Shapleigh voting against it.	 – <i>Jordan Smith</i>
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, proposes (Senate Bill 920) that every pregnant woman in Texas seeking an abortion be required to review an ultrasound image of her fetus as part of the state’s “informed consent” for abortion requirement. Although Patrick insisted in an April 24 hearing that the bill wouldn’t require women to view the image – he went toe-to-toe with Laurie Felker Jones from NARAL ProChoice Texas, who pointed out that the bill did, in fact, require just that – he nonetheless toned down the language to provide that a woman could refuse to look, but would still be required to have it “reviewed” (read: described) for her in order to satisfy informed consent. For this and other reasons, it occurred to us that maybe we should take an ultrasound of Sen. Patrick’s head. The bill passed out of committee with only Sen. Eliot Shapleigh voting against it. – Jordan Smith (Illustration By Doug Potter)

• In his latest efforts to fight student-loan payola, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo settled with two more student lenders Wednesday. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America agreed to adopt a code of conduct in the wake of a nationwide student-loan investigation, which may cost UT financial-aid director Larry Burt his job. The banks joined Sallie Mae and CitiBank in adopting the code, which prohibits companies from offering financial incentives to colleges. For years, banks have offered revenue-sharing for student-loan referrals and routinely courted financial-aid officers with gifts, hoping to maintain a coveted spot on the preferred lenders list. While UT does not participate in revenue sharing, documents obtained by The Daily Texan this week showed lenders regularly offered "treats" to the Office of Student Financial Services. Several lenders including CitiBank, University Federal Credit Union, and Student Loan Xpress – the company whose stock Burt was scrutinized for holding – regularly lavished the financial-aid office with dinners, free booze, and gift baskets. Another document established that the number of gifts was used as one criterion for selecting preferred lenders in a category labeled "OSFS Visibility." Several New York universities have adopted the code of conduct as well, but UT has yet to adopt a similar code, although it is investigating any wrongdoing. – Justin Ward

Mexico City officials passed a measure on April 26 to legalize first-trimester abortions. City Health Secretary Manuel Mondragon said that, except in medical emergencies, women seeking an abortion would have to provide proof of residency in the Mexican capital city, a caveat designed to address the measure's foes who contend the new law will draw to the city women from across the country who are seeking access to safe and legal abortion, reports the Associated Press. Legalizing a woman's right to reproductive choice is historic in heavily Roman Catholic Mexico; the conservative National Action Party, President Felipe Calderon's party, says it will challenge the law in court, which could put implementation of the law on hold, pending a ruling by the country's Supreme Court. Under the new law, abortion services would be provided free at 14 city hospitals; the law requires girls under 18 to obtain parental consent and allows doctors to refuse to perform the procedure based on moral objection. – J.S.

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