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Matthew McConaughey Receives Original High School Diploma
LONGVIEW, Texas (AP) — Actor Matthew McConaughey has finally received his high school diploma, more than 30 years after graduating.
McConaughey was given his original diploma Friday night when he returned to his Texas alma mater to address the class of 2019.
A Longview High School spokeswoman told the Longview News-Journal that graduates normally receive diploma holders during commencement ceremonies and that the actual diplomas must be picked up later. She said McConaughey never got his.
The 49-year-old graduated from Longview in 1988. He responded to receiving his diploma with one word: "proof."
McConaughey lives in Austin. He won an Oscar for his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club."
He told the new graduates that he'd succeeded because he followed his heart, and that they should guard and follow theirs.
Bill Would Criminalize Wayward Fertility Docs
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - A bill headed to Governor Abbott's desk would make it a crime for fertility doctors to secretly inseminate patients.
Eve Wiley of Dallas always knew she was conceived via artificial insemination and in time she became close to the man she believed was her biological father. After her son developed an auto immune disorder, something that wasn't in her family, Wiley bought a DNA test and learned her actual father was her mother's fertility doctor.
"Everyone has a right to their identity. It's frustrating not to have access to that medical information or to have all these hurdles thrown up because it is such a central part of your identity, just knowing the placemarkers of your biology. It's the only thing you're born with."
She says she's not alone. "These cases are popping up all over the United States. Some people say they just didn't think they would get caught and they wanted their fertility success rates to be higher. I've heard the excuse they just really wanted to get their patients pregnant."
Wiley, who is originally from a small, East Texas town, says she has met her biological father. She's going to leave it at that. "The illegitimacy of my conception is a reflection on his character. So for us to have a genuine and authentic relationship is essentially non-existent at this point.
This crime would be a state jail felony, punishable between six month and two years in jail, and a fine of up to $10,000.
The bill has been passed by the house and the senate and Governor Abbott has tweeted his support.
1 Year After Santa Fe Shooting, Texas Shuns Tougher Gun Laws
AUSTIN (AP) — A year after a high school mass shooting near Houston that remains one of the deadliest in U.S. history, Texas lawmakers are on the brink of going home without passing any new gun restrictions, or even tougher firearm storage laws that Gov. Greg Abbott backed after the tragedy.
A Republican governor pushing even a small restriction on firearms kept at home in gun-friendly Texas was a landmark shift after two decades of loosening weapons regulations. And it put Texas in line with other states exploring ways to prevent not just mass shootings, but thousands of lethal gun incidents involving minors.
But the state's effort was met with a swift and severe rebuke from gun-rights advocates who have all but killed the issue. The anniversary of the shooting at Santa Fe High School is Saturday.
"I saw my friend and co-worker killed," Flo Rice, a Santa Fe substitute teacher who was shot five times that day, told lawmakers. "Had stricter gun laws been in place, maybe the shooter's father would have had his guns locked up, 10 lives would have been spared ... It is too late for Santa Fe, but maybe this bill will save other children's lives."
Her words had little impact. In the final two weeks of the legislative session, Texas lawmakers are instead moving toward arming more school personnel , boosting campus security measures and mental health services for teenagers. Those also were ideas from Abbott, who has gone silent on the issue of gun storage safety since first proposing it.
"It's really sad," said Ed Scruggs of Texas Gun Sense. "Here we are coming up on the one year anniversary and they're not doing anything but putting more guns in schools and hardening school sites. And this was something that could have applied directly to a situation like Santa Fe."
Police have alleged the Santa Fe shooter, a student at the school, used his father's shotgun and handgun to kill eight students and two substitute teachers. Thirteen others were wounded.
Within days, Abbott held a series of roundtable discussions on school violence with victims and gun rights and gun control advocates. Ideas that emerged included increasing the penalty for gun owners — from a misdemeanor to a felony — when minors take and use their firearms to harm or kill someone. Texas has no requirement that all firearms be locked up.
The blowback was almost immediate.
Members of the Legislature's "Freedom Caucus" vowed to oppose home gun storage regulations as government overreach on the right to bear arms. Gun rights groups insisted firearms must be kept easily available for self-defense.
"I will fight it forever," Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Republican, tweeted hours after Abbott first backed tighter gun storage laws. Within a month, opposition to the plan was part of the 2018 state Republican party platform.
The gun storage penalties, and a plan for a statewide public service campaign on safe storage, still had some GOP support when lawmakers convened in January. One of the primary sponsors of the Senate's gun storage bill is Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, a former prosecutor and judge from Houston.
She's also the chairman of the Senate committee where her bill was assigned. The session ends May 27 and Huffman has yet to give her own bill a hearing.
"That's the clearest signal possible" that Republican leadership wants to make sure the bill will die, said Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University.
Despite their strong majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans want to avoid any votes that could be interpreted as anti-gun in a state with more than 1.3 million handgun license holders, Jones said.
"An overwhelming majority still worry far more about the Republican primary than the general election," Jones said. "They are always worried about being outflanked on the right."
Huffman and Abbott's office did not respond to requests for comment.
The House at least gave the gun storage bill a late-night committee hearing to hear testimony, but didn't take a vote.
Rice, the wounded teacher, was among a handful of witnesses. With the aid of a cane, she limped to the podium to plead with lawmakers to pass the bill. She was immediately followed by Rachel Malone, Texas director of Gun Owners of America, who opposed the measure.
"We should give (gun owners) freedom to protect themselves," Malone said. "Guns are used more often to protect innocent lives than they are used to take it."
The bill for a statewide safe storage campaign fell flat. Representatives of the NRA and the Texas State Rifle Association lobbied against it, arguing that gun rights groups and gun manufacturers have already created similar campaigns that are distributed to gun stores and shooting ranges.
That way, gun owners get "content delivered from a source they trust," NRA lobbyist Tara Mica told lawmakers. A state campaign designed by the Texas state police could easily be corrupted by anti-gun rhetoric, she said.
The ability to stonewall two bills that had the support of Abbott just a year ago proves the muscle of the gun lobby in Texas, said Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat.
"It shows the stranglehold that unreasonable zealots have over this issue," Moody said. "And that's a sad state of affairs given where we were a year ago in Santa Fe."
Whataburger Hires Wall Street Firm To Explore Business Options
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Whataburger may be up for sale, as it confirms it's exploring options by hiring Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley.
After it was founded 70 years ago by two families in Corpus Christi, Texas's favorite fast food chain made its way down the generations of the Harmon Dobson family.
"You finally get down to maybe the 3rd generation, and they don't want to be the hamburger business," says KRLD business analyst David Johnson."And they know they're rich, but how rich? So they go public, maybe sell stock, maybe sell to someone else...but at some point, the family business kind of has to break up."
Analysts predict a number of futures for Whataburger. It could make a move nationwide by issuing an IPO to raise money, or it could simply re-franchise.
Johnson says Whataburger's brand and menu items will likely stay the same, depending on whether it gets sold and to whom.
Whataburger currently has over 800 locations across 10 states. 670 of those are in Texas.
normal heart rate:— Whataburger® (@Whataburger) May 8, 2019
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When I see my Whataburger coming to the table:
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Texas Senate Passes Religious Liberty Legislation Coined The Save Chick-Fil-A Bill
AUSTIN (KRLD) - The Texas Senate approved a bill that would prevent the government from denying contracts to people or companies based on their religious affiliations
State Senator Bryan Hughes authored Senate Bill 1978 (SB 1978) and before the full Senate explained, “If you are an individual or you’re a business and you have an affiliation with a religious organization, this bill says the government can’t discriminate against you. They can’t deny you a contract, a loan, a license…They can’t revoke your tax-exempt status.”
The bill was coined the 'Save Chick-Fil-A' Bill after the fast-food chain was banned from the San Antonio Airport by the City Council for its support of Christian organizations that oppose the LGBTQ community.
State Senator Jose Menendez of San Antonio opposed the bill and defended the City Council’s decision saying “one of the city council members thought that perhaps Chick-Fil-A might be offensive to people. It strikes me from the get-go as a pretty good reason not to have them be at the airport…Welcome to San Antonio, we don’t like certain kinds of people.”
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 19-12. It’s next headed to the State House State Affairs Committee.
The House companion bill to SB 1978 was House Bill 3172. It was killed last week on a point-of-order raised by members of the newly formed House LGBTQ Caucus. They argued the bill would be discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. Supporters of the bill said it protects religious liberties.
New Trump Immigration Plan Would Overhaul Green Card System
WASHINGTON (AP) — Setting aside some of his hard-line rhetoric on illegal immigration, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wanted to recruit "top talent" to the nation as he unveiled his latest efforts to reform residency laws after years of setbacks and stalemates.
"We discriminate against genius," Trump said of current policies, which he contended excessively favor family based immigration. "We discriminate against brilliance. We won't anymore once we get this passed."
The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the nation's green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country. The proposed shift to a more merit-based system prioritizing high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation's largely family based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66% of green cards to those with family ties and 12% based on skills.
The president's plan, unveiled in a Rose Garden ceremony, has yet to be embraced by his own party — let alone Democrats — and faces dubious prospects in a divided Congress. The show of magnanimity comes as Trump seeks to put a softer facade on the signature campaign issue from his first campaign as he eyes his 2020 reelection.
"Our plan is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker," Trump said, adding that it contrasts with what he called Democrats' support of "chaos."
Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades amid deep partisan divisions. Prospects for an agreement seem especially bleak as the 2020 elections near, though the plan could give Trump and the GOP a proposal to rally behind, even as Democrats signaled their opposition.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump's emphasis on merit-based immigration is "condescending" because families have merit, too.
The plan does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young "Dreamers" brought to the U.S. as children — a top priority for Democrats. Nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration, as many conservative Republicans would like to see.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said "Dreamer" immigrants were not included in Trump's new plan because past proposals involving them have failed.
In briefings Wednesday that attracted dozens of journalists and outside allies, administration officials said the plan would create a points-based visa system, similar to those used by Canada and other countries.
Under the new plan, the U.S. would award the same number of green cards as it now does. But far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be considered.
The diversity visa lottery, which offers green cards to citizens of countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S., would be eliminated.
As part of the plan, officials want to shore up ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and to create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to modernize ports of entry.
The plan also calls for building border wall in targeted locations and continues a push for an overhaul to the U.S. asylum system, with the goal of processing fewer applications and removing people who don't qualify faster.
While the officials insisted their effort was not a "political" plan, they nonetheless framed it as one they hoped Republicans would unite behind, making clear to voters what the party is "for."
"I don't think it's designed to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security, a negotiating position," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close ally of the White House.
Indeed, the plan drew immediate criticism from Democrats as well as immigration activists, who remain deeply skeptical of Trump after past negotiation failures.
Democrats and some Republicans tried crafting a compromise with Trump last year that would have helped young Dreamer immigrants and added money for border security. But those talks collapsed over White House demands to curb legal immigration and a dramatic Senate showdown in which lawmakers rejected three rival proposals that aligned with the "four pillars" immigration plan Trump unveiled that year.
Lisa Koop, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, also criticized the various planks of the proposal, including its failure to address those brought to the U.S. illegally as children who are currently protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, which Trump has tried to end.
"A plan that forces families apart, limits access to asylum and other humanitarian relief, and doesn't contemplate a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented community members is clearly a political stunt intended to posture rather than problem-solve," she said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration rates, applauded a "very positive effort" on legal immigration, but said it was "undermined by the embrace of the current very high level of immigration."
Republicans on Capitol Hill, too, voiced skepticism. A PowerPoint presentation shared with reporters Wednesday referred to the plan as "The Republican Proposal," even though many GOP members had yet to see it.
Oklahoma Man Caught With Dead Wife In Car
An Oklahoma man sits in an Arizona jail, after his wife apparently died in an El Paso hotel room.
Police got involved after 70-year-old Rodney Puckett, clad only in boxers, was spotted at an Eloy, Arizona fast food drive through with his dead, naked wife upside down in the passenger seat. Linda Puckett was 74.
Police were called and Eloy police sergeant Kristie Barnett says Puckett claimed the pair was taking a road trip from Oklahoma to California and got a hotel room in El Paso.
Security video shows them checking in May 12th. Barnett says "Then the security video shows in the early morning hours of May 13th, Mr. Puckett leaving the room with a luggage cart and on that luggage cart it appears there is Mrs. Puckett's body with a blanket over it."
Reports say he admitted.
She says the Medical Examiner said there were indications of minor blunt force trauma to the body, but the they are not releasing the cause of death at this time.
She says the crime is shocking. "I've been in law enforcement for 17 years and I've never heard of anything quite like this."
Puckett is jailed and charged with abandonment or concealment of a dead body. He could face more charges.
Some TSA Employees Are Being Sent To The US-Mexico Border
The Trump administration is starting to send hundreds of Transportation Security Administration employees to the U.S.-Mexico border to help handle the flow of migrants.
The TSA said Wednesday it's supporting a Homeland Security Department effort, and the shift will affect less than 1% of its 60,000 employees.
The agency says it's minimizing the impact on travel, but an airline labor group is objecting.
The Association of Flight Attendants says diverting federal air marshals and other TSA workers to the border hurts airport security. The union says, "Aviation security should not be undermined for any reason."
An agency official says about 100 TSA employees are already in the process of shifting to the border.
TSA says it is soliciting volunteers from its entire workforce, which includes about 45,000 airport screeners.
Amendment Would Close Dead Suspect Loophole
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - The amendment in an omnibus Texas bill would increase get rid of the so-called "dead suspect loophole."
As it stands now, police only have to release basic information after a suspect, be it a murder suspect or someone pulled over for a traffic violation, die in police custody. Democratic state representative Joe Moody of El Paso is behind the amendment, and the House passed Senate Bill 944, with the amendment, by a vote of 145-0.
Kathy Mitchell with Just Liberty, an Austin non-profit, says the open records act says as of now, only basic information is required to be released. "Obviously you want a lot more than that. You want witness statements, you want body camera video. You want to see what bystanders said or if there's cell phones that were taking pictures and were picked up by the officer."
Scott Henson with the same group says these are situations where you want accountability, such as police shootings. "For that matter, the Sandra Bland case. This video that just came out, that was withheld under the dead suspect loophole. That was information that they didn't have to release because there was never a criminal conviction."
Mitchell says there are various laws that require little slivers of information to be released under special circumstances. "There is a special law on body camera video that allows but does not require the body camera video to be released. So department have been releasing it, frankly, to some of us it looks like when it makes them look good and not releasing it when it doesn't."
The bill now goes back to the senate.
The amendment is opposed by CLEAT, or the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the state's biggest police union.
Kelly Clarkson To Sing National Anthem At Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kelly Clarkson will sing the national anthem at this year's Indianapolis 500.
It will be the second straight year and the third time the Grammy Award-winning superstar will perform on race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She also sung the anthem before the 2011 race.
The appearance comes just five days after the season finale of NBC show "The Voice," where Clarkson serves as a coach. NBC will televise the 500 for the first time on May 26.
In making the announcement Tuesday, speedway president Doug Boles called Clarkson a "global icon" and an "incredible singer."
Clarkson, a North Texas native, was the inaugural winner of "American Idol" in 2002.