Headlines / Quote of the Week

Headlines / Quote of the Week
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Cornyn to Lead the Senate? Republicans are set to replace Mitch McConnell as GOP Senate leader in November, and that opens a door for Sen. John Cornyn. Cornyn told reporters Wednesday that he wouldn’t announce a bid for leader that day but said, “I’ve made no secret of my intentions.” Cornyn described McConnell’s leadership in the Senate as “one of a kind.” Sen. Ted Cruz was a vocal backer of Rick Scott’s bid to oust McConnell, and on Tuesday he dodged questions about whether he’d support Cornyn’s bid.

What Even Is Social Media?: The U.S. Supreme Court is considering Texas and Florida cases that raise questions about how the First Amendment applies to social media. How can Facebook, X, and Instagram moderate content? If they’re more like newspapers, they get editorial control. If they’re more like phone companies, they must transmit everyone’s speech freely. Monday, SCOTUS heard from Texas and Florida attorneys who argued the states’ 2021 laws are justified because social media platforms have suppressed conservative views.

A sperm meets an egg in the IVF process
A sperm meets an egg in the IVF process (image via Getty Images)

IVF on the Line: Speaking of Supreme Courts, Alabama’s decided this week that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization count as people, thereby shutting down the state’s IVF programs. The ruling doesn’t apply to Texas, but it rang alarms at home. So far, Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled support for IVF without going so far as to push for legislation protecting it. Read more here.

Life for a Life: While IVF is in limbo, when abortion is and isn’t legal is still unclear in prohibition states. A ProPublica investigation published Monday offered a rare glimpse into how hospitals in states with abortion bans decide on whether to provide abortions to their patients. The piece focuses on a hospital in Nashville, where cases that are not yet life-threatening but could easily become so are the trickiest. “I just watched a woman die from liver failure this weekend after a normal uncomplicated pregnancy,” one doctor said in an email chain about a case. “I’m finding it morally repugnant to force anyone to continue a pregnancy for a potential life when the pregnancy poses a real threat to her life.”

Lake Travis Being Book Banny: Lake Travis ISD officials are looking to update campus library websites and make it easier for parents to browse books online in light of House Bill 900, which bans public schools from having sexually explicit books and requires that vendors rate their books before selling them to school districts. Community members have voiced concerns over and support for removing challenged books from the district’s libraries in recent months, Community Impact reported.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
image via Getty Images

1,000 Pride Flags: Speaking of censure, St. Edward’s saw a large protest Tuesday after taking down a prominently placed Pride flag that had been hanging in a campus coffee shop for years. Students installed 1,000 pride flags in a show of resistance. Read more here.

Protesters Punished: Four UT student protesters charged with disruptive conduct chose this week to accept punishment for their actions during a December demonstration. The students were protesting UT’s decision to fire teaching assistants who sent their class a message about the Israel-Hamas war. They are now prohibited from contacting the School of Social Work dean and staff and must write papers reflecting on their actions. Read more here.

Free Palestine: A Texas U.S. Air Force member, Aaron Bushnell, shouted “Free Palestine!” after setting himself on fire outside of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C, this week. Bushnell died from his injuries, the Statesman reported.

St. Edward’s students protest Tuesday
St. Edward’s students protest Tuesday (photo by Naina Srivastava)

Let Them Have Beds: The University of Texas Board of Regents this week greenlighted negotiation on agreements to build a $145 million, 1,000-bed undergraduate student housing complex on the Austin campus. This would be the first newly built undergrad housing in nearly two decades, the Statesman reported.

A Home for Penfold: After 15 itinerant years and over 50 productions, the strolling plates of Penfold Theater Company finally have a permanent venue, courtesy of Round Rock City Council. At its Feb. 22 meeting, the council approved a $326,330 Arts Grant that will allow the company to convert a 6,400-square-foot space at Rock Creek Plaza into a venue for audiences of up to 150, including front- and back-of-house facilities.

The John Aielli Experience: The late John Aielli, host of KUT and KUTX’s legendary morning radio show Eklektikos, will be celebrated in a new documentary called Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience, KUT reported. The film directed by David Hartstein and Sam Wainwright Douglas premieres at the Paramount Theatre March 10 at 2:30pm.

Fayette Power Project in La Grange
Fayette Power Project in La Grange (courtesy of Al Braden)

Ciao, Coal: Mayor Kirk Watson last week urged the closure of the Fayette coal plant by 2029 as Austin Energy finalizes its 2030 plan update, which it is set to present to City Council this spring. The Fayette Power Project in La Grange makes up three-quarters of AE’s emissions and a quarter of the city’s total emissions. Read more here.

Carbon No More?: Kicking coal is attainable. At one point Sunday, about 83% of the electricity used on the Texas grid came from non-carbon-emitting sources, KUT reported. Doug Lewin, who writes the Texas Energy and Power Newsletter, said there were times Sunday when renewable energy was trading for free on the Texas grid due to federal tax incentives, which will help lower electricity bills eventually.

Cash for the Climate: In a 10-1 vote last week, City Council passed a resolution boosting funding for climate plans, as well as items related to the city’s telework policy, which will be incorporated in the city’s official climate plans, the Austin Monitor reported. It’s unclear if the climate funding will require a bond election this year, but if Council follows the advice of interim City Manager Jesús Garza, there won’t be a climate ballot measure until 2026.

Black-footed wildcat
Black-footed wildcat (image via Getty Images)

Homebuilder Indicted: A major homebuilder in Georgetown, Norman Ashby, was indicted this week on charges of witness tampering, theft of service greater than $300,000, and misapplication of fiduciary property greater than $300,000, KXAN reported. A grand jury believed there was good reason to believe Ashby “comingled” more than $300,000 he received from a customer, using Ashby’s business account.

Ambler Trial Begins: In 2019, two Williamson County sheriff’s deputies used Tasers repeatedly on 40-year-old Javier Ambler II after a chase being filmed for the A&E reality show Live PD. Ambler died. Testimony in the trial over his death began Monday. J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden are accused of manslaughter.

Cat Comeback!: Africa’s smallest and deadliest wildcat is finding footing in Texas, Texas Monthly reported this week. Thirteen of these black-footed cats have been born at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose. They weigh less than most house cats, but they are the best hunter of any wildcat, being able to catch more prey nightly than leopards do in months.

Inflation Nation: The AP turned an eye to inflation this week. The bad news is that product prices are, on average, 19% higher than pre-pandemic. The good news is that consumers are pushing back with more conservative spending, bringing down inflation.

Observer Layoffs: On Monday, the board of directors of the Texas Democracy Foundation – nonprofit owner of the Texas Observer – announced that Editor-in-Chief Gabriel Arana was laid off. He chose not to immediately comment on the board's decision, and it's unclear who will take the helm. The board also eliminated two editorial positions, letting go of Kit O’Connell and Gayle Reaves.

Testimony on Uvalde: Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified Wednesday before a Uvalde grand jury assembled to decide whether law enforcement’s failed response to the 2022 school shooting merits criminal charges, KSAT reported. Roughly 400 law enforcement officers arrived at the school during the shooting but took more than an hour to breach the classroom where a gunman was killing students with an AR-15 rifle.

Biden at the Border: President Joe Biden and non-president Donald Trump are both (separately) heading to the Texas border Thursday. Biden planned to meet with Border Patrol and local law enforcement in Brownsville, while Trump is headed for Eagle Pass. Most Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance and polls show his opponents cite immigration more than any other policy issue, The New York Times reported.

Headlines / Quote of the Week
photo by Gage Skidmore / CC By-SA 2.0

Quote of the Week

“I’ve made no secret of my intentions.”

– Sen. John Cornyn on whether he’ll announce a bid for GOP Senate leader after Mitch McConnell’s departure

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