Beyond City Limits
Web radio fans, beware: A proposed amendment to the Internet Radio Equality Act could determine the fate of Internet radio. "This amendment sets webcasting royalties at the same level as those paid by satellite radio, which would compensate musicians fairly and allow web radio to survive," wrote Pandora Radio founder Tim Westergren in a recent e-mail encouraging listeners to call their legislators. The amendment will be considered by the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday, May 15. Sen. John Cornyn sits on the committee, so Texas radio fans are calling his office (202/224-2934) to ask him to support the amendment, which has been opposed by the Recording Industry Association of America. "As a young industry, we do not have the lobbying power of the RIAA," wrote Westergren. "You, our listeners, are by far our biggest and most influential allies." For more info, visit www.savenetradio.org. – Katherine Gregor
Texas could generate more than twice the amount of electricity it currently uses through readily available "concentrating solar" technology, according to a new report from Environment Texas, "On the Rise: Solar Thermal Power and the Fight Against Global Warming." Concentrating solar power generates electricity by using mirror configurations to convert the sun's energy into high-temperature heat capable of powering steam engine generators. "Solar thermal power is ready for prime time," said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger recently. "With support from policy-makers, Texas could quickly get much of its energy from this abundant and clean domestic energy source at prices competitive with new nuclear or 'clean coal' power plants." According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar resources in the Southwest alone could potentially generate more than six times current U.S. electricity use, using land roughly equivalent in size to areas set to be strip-mined for coal. The report calls for state and federal policy-making cooperation – including Texas Public Utility Commission approval of new power lines to West Texas – on installing 80 gigawatts of concentrated solar power by 2030, which the report claims would power 25 million homes and create up to 140,000 permanent jobs. For more info, see www.environmenttexas.org. – Dan Mottola
On Mother's Day, Jay Bakker, the preacher son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, brought a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families to worship at the largest megachurch in the U.S., Houston's Lakewood Church, home to the nationally renowned evangelical Joel Osteen. After the service, Bakker met privately with Osteen as part of the American Family Outing, a nationwide fellowship effort aimed at creating open, peaceful dialogue between LGBT families and members of six American megachurches. Afterward, Bakker complimented Osteen for being "kind and courteous," but he said, "Our conversation indicated that they do not share our convictions and that Lakewood Church is not yet ready for an open dialogue with LGBT families." Osteen did speak with Austin's Steven Wright, a real-life gay dad, who said to Osteen, "A man with a strong voice such as yourself could, without endorsing or opposing us and with very few words, make life much safer for GLBT individuals and our children and families in the Christian community in this country." Indeed a man of few words (but many teeth), Osteen succinctly replied, "I will take those words to heart and reflect on them." Time will tell. – Kate Getty
May is National Asthma Awareness Month. So, if you're not already wheezing from the allergies or pollution in the air, take note of how many Texans around you suffer from the illness. An estimated 1.5 million adults and 389,000 children in Texas have asthma, and they spent a whopping $1.3 billion dollars on hospital visits for the condition. The Asthma Coalition of Texas just issued a Texas Asthma Plan to begin to control the problem. The report notes the role that air pollution has in exacerbating asthma but stops short of proposing a way to improve the air in traffic-choked urban areas or industry-heavy Gulf Coast towns. Instead, there's a series of proposals for ways that government can determine the extent of the problem, educate the public, and improve access to health care for Texans. It's not going to stop the wheezing, but it's a start. – M.M.