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KRLD 1080 - Texas
Banks, Credit Unions In Texas Offering Help To Furloughed Government Workers
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Financial institutions across Texas are offering low-interest loans or letting members defer payments if they have been furloughed by the federal government.
Across the country, 800,000 federal workers have missed one paycheck so far.
In Fort Worth, EECU Credit Union will let members who provide a copy of their furlough letter borrow up to $5,000 interest-free for up to 60 days. EECU will also let members skip a loan payment with no fee and is waiving early withdrawal fees for members who access certificates of deposit.
"We feel like these three options are pretty helpful in this initial stage," says Chief Executive Lonnie Nicholson. "Hopefully, they'll resolve this, and everybody can go back to their normal course of work."
Nicholson says EECU will also offer financial counseling to members if Congress and the president do not resolve their differences soon.
"It's the right thing to do," he says. "These people didn't ask for this to happen."
First Command Bank in Fort Worth is also offering loan assistance and early withdrawals on CDs.
Justice Federal Credit Union has locations across Dallas and Fort Worth and is offering loans at 2.94% and will let people defer payments for up to 90 days.
Other national chains are also offering help for people who provide a copy of their furlough letter:
Bank of America Personalized assistance is available for workers who call (844) 219-0690.
Chase is waiving overdraft fees for federal employees with direct deposit. Customers can also call (888) 356-0023 to discuss hardship programs.
Navy Federal Credit Union members with direct deposit can apply for interest-free loans by registering at navyfederal.org
US Bank is offering loans of up to $6,000 and mortgage relief for customers who call (877) 760-6046.
Wells Fargo has set up a customer service line specifically for people affected by the shutdown at (800) 219-9739. The bank will refund overdraft fees for customers with direct deposit and waive late fees on credit accounts and loans.
Sen. Cornyn Challenges Some Of President Trump's Border Wall Options
By Chris Fox, 1080 KRLD Austin Bureau Chief
AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Texas Senior Senator John Cornyn continues to push back against the Trump administration’s options for bypassing Congress to get the border wall built.
Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz and Governor Abbott on Tuesday signed a letter to President Trump opposing the use of Harvey disaster relief funds to build the border wall.
On a Wednesday media call Cornyn again weighed in saying, “We need to keep that aid money flowing to Texans still healing from Hurricane Harvey and we need border security, so the idea of taking money from one to pay for the other doesn’t make sense to me.”
Cornyn also opposes President Trump’s alternate plan of using his executive order power to declare a national emergency to get the wall built. Cornyn told reporters, “To give the President authority basically to do that all by himself would, I think stretch constitutional boundaries.”
Cornyn advocates a border security plan comprised of the combination of infrastructure, technology and personnel. He’s calling for the Democrats to get back to the negotiation table with the President to end the partial government shutdown. He told reporters, “We need to have Congress and the President do what we do on a daily basis…that is negotiate our differences, come up with a compromise and get our work done.”
SpaceX To Build Mars Ships In Texas, Not California
HAWTHORNE, Calif. (AP) — SpaceX said Wednesday that it will build test versions of its Mars spaceship in south Texas instead of the Port of Los Angeles in another blow to the local economy that comes days after the company announced massive layoffs.
The decision was made to streamline operations, the Hawthorne, California-based company said in a statement.
SpaceX won approval last year to lease 19 acres at the port's Terminal Island. It planned to erect a new facility to do work on the interplanetary spacecraft, now called Starship, and its launch vehicle, the Super Heavy, which would be the largest rocket ever built.
The port facility would have allowed the giant craft to be barged or shipped to launch sites. It could have added about 700 jobs to the area.
SpaceX now won't proceed with that option.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that development of Starship will continue in Hawthorne but prototypes will be built in south Texas. The company has a launch facility in Boca Chica near Brownsville, where one prototype of the spacecraft already has been assembled.
"We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport," Musk said.
SpaceX will continue using its existing port facilities to recover its reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, which arrive by water.
Southern California officials have talked about luring high-tech operations to boost the waterfront and create a "Silicon Harbor."
"While we are disappointed that SpaceX will not be expanding their operations at the Port of Los Angeles, we are pleased that they will continue their recovery operations here," port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. "Our ongoing work with SpaceX and other advanced technology companies is important to our efforts to advance the port through innovation and new technologies."
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he felt crushed by the decision, but "I feel confident that other innovators will see the huge value they get in San Pedro."
Last Friday, SpaceX announced it would lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 workers, most of them at its Hawthorne headquarters. The company said it needs to become leaner to accomplish ambitious and costly projects such as the Starship and Starlink, which would create a constellation of satellites to provide space-based broadband internet service.
Development costs for those two projects have been estimated at up to $10 billion each.
Bodies Found In Oklahoma Believed To Be Missing Texas Pair
OKEMAH, Okla. (AP) — The bodies of a pair of friends who had been the subject of search parties near their central Texas homes were found in shallow graves in rural Oklahoma, according to law enforcement authorities.
A statement released by the Temple Police Department says a preliminary investigation indicates the bodies are those of Jenna Scott, 28, and Michael Swearingin, 32, who have been missing since Jan. 4. Police said their families have been notified.
“The family is hurting very, very much,” Swearingen’s mother, Deborah Harrison, told Temple television station KCEN.
Scott’s brother, Talon Scott, said the two friends had left together to hang out with some other friends and never returned. Jenna Scott was absent from her daughter’s birthday party Sunday, he said.
“She didn’t show up. She planned the party,” Talon Scott said. The car the two were in was found later in Austin, about 68 miles (109 kilometers) southwest of Temple.
Family members had been searching Bell County, Texas, for Scott and Swearingin.
The bodies were recovered Tuesday from clandestine graves in Okfuskee County, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City. Investigators received information Jan. 9 that led them to property in a remote area where the bodies were discovered.
The Office of the State Medical Examiner in Oklahoma will make positive identification after autopsies, authorities said.
Meanwhile, Scott’s ex-boyfriend, Cedric Marks, 44 is scheduled to be extradited to Texas from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he is being held on a felony burglary warrant issued by authorities in Temple.
Marks is accused of breaking into Scott’s home and threatening her and her family in August, according to an arrest affidavit. Marks has not been named as a suspect in the disappearances of Scott and Swearingen.
Native Texan Killed In Kenya Terrorist Attack Had Survived 9/11 Attacks
DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - A man who grew up in Houston and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin was among the 14 people killed in the attack at a hotel in Kenya.
Jason Spindler, 40, graduated from UT-Austin in 2000. Spindler majored in International Finance and International Development Economics.
"Some of us show up in college, like myself, just kind of following through," says one of his roommates, Kevin Yu. "I just felt like he was a lot more worldly. He had traveled a lot more."
Spindler had moved to New York and was working at the World Trade Center September 11, 2001.
"He was pulling people out of the rubble and assisting those in need," Yu says. "I believe that really had an impact on him. That gave him a channel in which to express himself. He was always a natural born leader, extremely helpful and always on the front lines."
Spindler joined the Peace Corps after the attack and spent time in Peru. Spindler was the chief executive of I-DEV International, seeking to spark investment in emerging markets. That work in emerging markets led him to Kenya.
"For somebody to want to take on this challenge, you really have to have the strength of heart and will," Yu says. "His charitable heart is really something I would like the world to know about him."
Harmony Korine's Latest, Beto O'Rourke Doc To Debut At SXSW
NEW YORK (AP) — Harmony Korine's "The Beach Bum," Olivia Wilde's directorial debut and a documentary on the breakout campaign of Texas politician Beto O'Rourke will premiere at the annual South by Southwest Film Festival.
The Austin, Texas-based festival announced the lineup to its 26th edition Wednesday after previously revealing that Jordan Peele's "Us" will open the festival on March 8. Among the selections are the latest from "Spring Breakers" director Korine, starring Matthew McConaughey, and Wilde's "Booksmart," about graduating high-schoolers determined to cram four years of fun into one night.
Also set to premiere at SXSW: David Modigliani's behind-the-scenes portrait of Rourke's campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz and John Lee Hancock's Bonnie and Clyde manhunt drama "The Highwaymen," with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.
The festival's full lineup is available at: www.sxsw.com/festivals/film .
Texan Killed In Kenya Terrorist Attack
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - The father of the American killed in the attack in Kenya's capital says his son worked in the complex and often ate at a cafe in the luxury hotel targeted by the gunmen.
Jason Spindler's father, Joseph, says his son grew up in Houston, graduated from the University of Texas and was enjoying a successful career on Wall Street when he decided that he wanted to develop a model for helping low-income people.
Jason Spindler entered the Peace Corps and lived in Peru, where he developed sustainable business models for rural residents.
Spindler, who would have turned 41 next Tuesday, later became a founder of I-DEV International and had been living in Kenya for about five years.
His father says he worked with international companies to form business partnerships in Kenya that would boost local economies.
Sears Staves Off Liquidation, Stores To Remain Open
NEW YORK (AP) — Sears has won a reprieve in a desperate attempt to stave off its own demise.
The company's largest shareholder and chairman, Eddie Lampert, won a bankruptcy auction in New York, according to a source familiar with negotiations. The person agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiation publicly.
Lampert had upped his bid to more than $5 billion in recent days.
Lampert, who steered the company into bankruptcy protection may be able to keep the roughly 400 remaining Sears stores open, which would mean tens of thousands of jobs are saved, at least for now.
Whether Sears, founded 132 years ago, can survive in the era of Amazon remains questionable.
Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. At that time, it had 687 stores and 68,000 workers. At its peak in 2012, its stores numbered 4,000.
Lampert says there's still potential for the company even as it struggles to compete not only with Amazon, but Walmart, Target and dollar stores that have carved out their own niche.
Under Lampert, Sears has survived by spinning off stores and selling brands that had grown synonymous with the company, like Craftsman. Lampert has loaned out his own money and cobbled together deals to keep the company afloat, though critics said he has done so with the aim of benefiting his ESL hedge fund.
Four years ago the company created a real estate investment trust to extract revenue from the enormous number of properties owned by Sears. It sold and leased back more than 200 properties to the REIT, in which Lampert is a significant stake holder.
Lampert personally owns 31 percent of the Sears' outstanding shares and his hedge fund has an 18.5 percent stake, according to FactSet. He stands to realize a big tax gain keeping Sears alive, using the company's years of net operating losses to offset future taxable income if one of his other companies takes over the chain, says David Tawil, president and co-founder of Maglan Capital, which follows distressed companies.
Tawil and others believe Lampert wants to be in full control of liquidating Sears' assets, including real estate.
Lampert combined Sears with Kmart in 2005, about two years after he helped bring Kmart out of bankruptcy. He pledged to return Sears to greatness, but that never happened.
The company, hammered during the recession and outmatched in its aftermath by shifting consumer trends and strong rivals, hasn't had a profitable year since 2010 and has suffered 11 straight years of annual sales declines. Lampert has been criticized for not investing in the stores, which remain shabby. .
Dr. Pepper Campaigning For Texas Honor
DALLAS (KRLD) - The company that owns Dr. Pepper has launched a campaign to have it named the official soft drink of the State of Texas.
They're gathering petitions on Change.org and have released specially-labeled bottles to promote the campaign.
Dr. Pepper was started in Waco in 1885 by Charles Alderton. "Dr. Pepper is Texas born and bred, and like any Texan, has only the deepest pride and appreciation for its home state," said Derek Dabrowski, VP of Brand Marketing at Keurig Dr. Pepper.
Texas already has an official state dish (chili), an official state fruit (Texas red grapefruit), a state tree (pecan) and a state flower (bluebonnet), and people signing the online petition seem ready to add an official state soft drink to the list. Comments range from "Dr. Pepper should be the drink of Texas. It is historic" to "Dr. Pepper is the best and deserves to have an official title". It would be up to state lawmakers to make any official designation.
Judge Bars Citizenship Question From 2020 Census
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from asking about citizenship status on the 2020 census, the first major ruling in cases contending officials ramrodded the question through for Republican political purposes to intentionally undercount immigrants.
In a 277-page decision that won't be the final word on the issue, Judge Jesse M. Furman ruled that while such a question would be constitutional, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner and violated the law.
"He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices," Furman wrote in a decision that squarely laid the blame on Ross.
Ross' explanations for his decision were "unsupported by, or even counter to, the evidence before the agency," the judge said.
Among other things, the judge said, Ross didn't follow a law requiring Congress be given three years' notice of plans to add a citizenship question to the census.
"We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling," Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement. Ross has said the move was not politically motivated.
The ruling came in cases in which 18 states, the District of Columbia, 15 big cities or counties, and immigrants' rights groups argued that the Commerce Department, which designs the census, failed to properly analyze the effect that the question would have on households with immigrants.
Furman, citing Census Bureau estimates, concluded the citizenship question would depress responses in households with noncitizens by at least 5.8 percent and likely more.
Thus, he said, several states would lose at least one congressional seat based on 2020 census data. Furman said Texas, Arizona, Florida and plaintiffs New York and Illinois face a substantial risk of a seat loss. He said Colorado will suffer a census undercount of at least 0.7 percent.
Adding the question would cause New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Florida, Nevada, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and the District of Columbia to lose funding too, he said.
Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Rhode Island and Minnesota would also suffer, Furman added.
A trial on a separate suit on the same issue, filed by the state of California, is under way in San Francisco. The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear evidentiary-related legal issues surrounding the New York case on Feb. 19.
In the New York case, the plaintiffs accused the administration of President Donald Trump of adding the question to intentionally discourage immigrants from participating, potentially leading to a population undercount — and possibly fewer seats in Congress — in places that tend to vote Democratic.
Even people in the U.S. legally, they said, might dodge the census questionnaire out of fears they could be targeted by the administration.
The Justice Department argued Ross had no such motive.
Ross' decision to reinstate a citizenship question for the first time since 1950 was reasonable because the government has asked a citizenship question for most of the past 200 years, Laco said.
When Ross announced the plan in March, he said the question was necessary to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law meant to protect political representation of minority groups.
Furman, appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, said Ross' rationale concealed his true reason, which remains unknown.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office was among those litigating the lawsuits, called the decision a win for "Americans who believe in a fair and accurate count of the residents of our nation."
In Massachusetts, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, a Democrat, said "attempting to frighten immigrant communities into not responding was a clear and deliberate effort to depress the count in states like Massachusetts."
Ross said politics played no role in the decision, initially testifying under oath that he hadn't spoken to anyone in the White House on the subject.
Later, however, Justice Department lawyers submitted papers saying Ross remembered speaking in spring 2017 about it with former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Supreme Court blocked Ross from being deposed, but let a trial proceed over the objections of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.
The constitutionally mandated census is supposed to count all people living in the U.S., including noncitizens and immigrants living in the country illegally.
The administration faces an early summer deadline for finalizing questions so questionnaires can be printed.
Associated Press Writers Bob Salsberg in Boston and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that the number of jurisdictions participating in the lawsuit is 18 states and 15 big cities or counties, instead of a dozen states or big cities.