LAS VEGAS (AP) — The U.S. Air Force has warned people against participating in an internet joke suggesting a large crowd of people “storm Area 51,” the top-secret Cold War test site in the Nevada desert.
A prank event on Facebook that’s attracted more than 1 million interested people suggests that a mass of people attempt to run into the mysterious site at 3 a.m. on Sept. 20.
The site is part of the vast Nevada Test and Training Range and has become the center of UFO conspiracy theories.
The Facebook event jokes “they can’t stop all of us” and “Let’s see them aliens.”
Nellis Air Force Base said in a statement that the Air Force is aware of the Facebook posting and says “any attempt to illegally access the area is highly discouraged.”
The Air Force says it does not discuss its security measures and that the test and training range provides “flexible, realistic and multidimensional battlespace” for testing and “advanced training in support of U.S. national interests.”
After decades of government officials refusing to acknowledge Area 51, the CIA released declassified documents in 2013 referring to the 8,000-square mile (20,700-sq. kilometer) installation by name and locating it on a map near the dry Groom Lake bed.
The base has been a testing ground for a host of top-secret aircraft, including the U-2 in the 1950s and later the B-2 stealth bomber.
But secrecy surrounding the site has fueled conspiracy theories among UFO enthusiasts and sprouted a small, alien-themed tourist industry in surrounding desert communities, including alien-themed cafes, an alien-themed motel and an alien-themed brothel.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Complaints tied to Austin’s homeless population are growing.
Two-and-a-half weeks after new city rules were approved to decriminalize homelessness, some business owners said they’re seeing more problems.
They recognize: the real struggle is finding a solution everyone can agree on.
With the buzz of his blades, Oscar Rivera can clean up any mess. But he’ll tell you his customer’s hairline isn’t the area that needs the most help.
“Sometimes you will see people laying right here, right on the ground, and when you come early in the morning you have to tell them to get away,” said Oscar Rivera, the barber and manager of Gallery 44.
Gallery 44 is located right off Highway 290 and Manchaca. Rivera said his business isn’t the only one in the area affected.
“It’s nothing against those people, but when you are trying to build an establishment, it’s hard to go further and grow.”
Just down the street, Strait Music has its own problems. Vice President and third generation owner, Clint Strait, has added locks to the bathrooms and dumpsters and said he regularly finds needles in the parking lot.
“I’ve had to call the police more times in the last four months than I did in the past 15 years,” Strait said. “This is affecting my business and I can’t have some of these things going on.”
“I’m glad that businesses and citizens are dealing with this issue, its probably something that we should have been dealing with years ago,” said Mark Hilbelink, the director of the Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center.
The Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center has made a significant dent in assisting those experiencing homelessness. According to Hilbelink, the center has placed 400 homeless people in permanent housing over the past four years.
Hilbelink said Austin is dealing with an issue of accountability. And the people of Austin need to offer more resources if they want to see change.
“It’s hard to hold people accountable for not throwing away their trash when they don’t have receptacles to put them in. It’s tough to hold people accountable for being allowed to camp for using the bathroom in public places when they don’t have a place to use the bathroom,” Hilbelink said.
In August, city manager Spencer Cronk will make recommendations on how to better address the homeless issue, including potential changes to the sit-and-lie ordinance, adding new tools to help police enforce the law and provide options for temporary shelter for families.
The bottom line: Hilbilenk said this is a complex issue which requires thoughtful solutions. And it’s up to stakeholders, like the businesses near the homeless camps, to provide their input.
“One of the things that we can do is come together to come to a comprehensive solution,” Hilbelink said.
A look at 311 complaints
A look at the numbers from 311 complaints show the issue is apparent to Austinites.
Calls for service requests, with the key word “homeless” or “transient”, show more than 27,000 calls so far this year. That’s already more than last year.
A look at the number of yearly 311 complaints regarding Austin's homeless pop. There have been nearly as many calls through July 2019 as there was in all of 2018.
311 said the spike in calls is likely attributed to increased community discussion about the homeless ordinances. pic.twitter.com/LVdfwgjPoV
But, it’s also important to note, the rate of homeless increasing in Austin. Here’s a look at the “point in time” count from ECHO. While the number of people living on the streets or in shelters has increased, that rate has been much more gradual compared to complaints.
Also important to note: the rate of homelessness is also increasing in #ATX. The ECHO # column is based on data from the yearly "point-in-time" count. You can see the rate of homelessness has been a gradual increase compared to the number of complaints. pic.twitter.com/iMxs9CpylF
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A study about gentrification recently looked at 100 cities across the United States and found that the effect on local neighborhoods isn’t as bad as you might think.
But some longtime east Austin residents say that’s not entirely true.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s study “The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children” asserts that children of families who stayed in their original neighborhoods saw benefits like less exposure to poverty and better opportunities for education and employment.
Coming up at 9 and 10 p..m. on KXAN News, Yoojin Cho talks to several east Austin residents who say the study isn’t the whole story.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin homicide detectives say the majority of cases they work often involve drug deals.
Sergeant Eric De Los Santos says of the city’s 35 murders in 2018, 20 of them happened while someone was selling drugs.
So far in 2019, he says seven of the city’s 18 murders have involved drug deals. He says almost all drug-related murders involve marijuana.
“It is surprising to me, because if you’re going to take steps to rob someone and obviously use deadly force — because of bringing guns to these things — you would think it would be for a high-dollar drug like meth or cocaine,” De Los Santos said. “Instead, it’s marijuana.”
De Los Santos says suspects generally rob dealers of the marijuana they’re carrying with plans to turn around and sell it. He says it’s become common for many people to carry a gun to marijuana deals.
“And unfortunately, in a lot of these cases that we’re talking about, it’s young guys,” he said. “We need to invest more in our youth and give them alternatives to this and not glamorize this lifestyle.”
Dalia Tirado, director of non-profit Youth Advocacy, says marijuana is involved in about 95 percent of the cases she sees when kids are in trouble. Youth Advocacy provides education and mentoring programs for youth throughout Travis County. The group’s case workers also work with young people who have already landed in juvenile court.
“We’ve had kids shot and killed,” Tirado said. “We’ve gotten kids that have been the aggressors where they have a gun and go into a place and try to steal it. We’ve gotten just deals gone wrong where they got shot. They’re not the aggressors, but they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Tirado says the number one way to curb that is for parents to start conversations about marijuana at a young age.
“If you’re not talking to them, someone else is. And so I think having those hard conversations early on is essential, and having those expectations set is essential,” Tirado said.
She says some who come through the Youth Advocacy program began experimenting with marijuana as young as eight or nine-years-old. Usually she says, that’s because of family circumstances, in which the child might feel stressed or neglected.
“I think being proactive as a parent is step one to change the family,” Tirado said. “I think the youth is just a symptom of what is actually happening, and I think a lot of the youth we do get are self-medicating because there’s some other issue, where, with a conversation or more quality time that the parents could probably give the child could do a lot more help than they probably think.”
New unit helps homicide detectives with solving cases
This year, APD added an Aggravated Assault Unit to help homicide detectives.
Prior to that, regular detectives would respond to shootings and stabbings in their sectors of the city if the victim didn’t die at the scene. With high case loads, those detectives didn’t always have the resources to handle the cases.
Now, with specialized detectives responding to shootings from the start, if the victim ends up dying, the Aggravated Assault Unit has already done a lot of work to hand over to detectives in the Homicide Unit. That improves the likelihood of finding a suspect.
“Already, there’s been a couple of cases where the person has gone ahead and passed and we ended up getting it, and I think all of those were solved, and a lot of it was because of the initial work they did,” De Los Santos said.
HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — If you lose a pet in Hays County, know that the Hays County Sheriff’s Office is on the case.
HCSO is partnering with the San Marcos Animal Shelter to try to reunite lost pets with their owners by putting up bright yellow signs to alert neighbors that a pet has been found and that its owner hasn’t been located yet.
The yellow sign lets people know that the animal is now at the San Marcos Animal Shelter and ready to go home.
HCSO says there are eight signs placed around the county already.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says an additional 2,100 troops will be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to help with security.
Acting Defense Secretary Richard Spencer listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Among them are 1,100 active-duty troops who will perform a variety of missions, including aerial surveillance and logistical and administrative support. The Pentagon says the new acting defense secretary, Richard V. Spencer, approved the deployment.
Also deploying are 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard. They will be under state control. Most will assist Customs and Border Protection at the temporary adult migrant holding facilities at Donna and Tornillo in Texas.
The new deployments are in addition to the approximately 2,500 active-duty and 2,000 National Guard troops already deployed to the border.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House easily killed a maverick Democrat’s effort Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his recent racial insults against lawmakers of color , in a vote that provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over trying to oust him in the shadow of the 2020 elections.
Democrats leaned against the resolution by Texas Rep. Al Greenby about a 3-2 margin as the chamber killed the measure 332-95. The vote showed that so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been successful in her effort to prevent a Democratic stampede toward impeachment before additional evidence is developed that could win over a public that has so far been skeptical about ousting Trump.
Even so, the numbers also showed that the number of Democrats open to impeachment remains substantial. About two dozen more conversions would split the party’s caucus in half over an issue that could potentially dominate next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns.
“There’s a lot of grief, from a lot of different quarters,” Green, speaking to reporters after the vote, said of the reaction he’s received from colleagues. “But sometimes you just have to take a stand.”
Every voting Republican favored derailing Green’s measure.
Pelosi and other party leaders considered his resolution a premature exercise that needlessly forced vulnerable swing-district lawmakers to cast a perilous and divisive vote. It also risked deepening Democrats’ already raw rift over impeachment, dozens of the party’s most liberal lawmakers itching to oust Trump.
Recent polling has shown solid majorities oppose impeachment. Even if the Democratic-run House would vote to impeach Trump, the equivalent of filing formal charges, a trial by the Republican-led Senate would all but certainly acquit him, keeping him in office.
Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters earlier that six House committees are investigating Trump.
“That is the serious path we’re on,” she said.
Democrats are also eagerly awaiting next week’s scheduled public testimony to two House committees by special counsel Robert Mueller.
With Democrats preparing to defend their House majority in next year’s elections, Green’s measure put incumbents in closely divided districts in a difficult spot. Democrats owe their House majority to 39 challengers who won in 2018 in what had been GOP-held districts, places where moderate voters largely predominate.
“It’s not ideal for a lot of people to have to take that vote right now,” one of them, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., said Wednesday of impeachment. She said “if and when” the House votes on impeaching Trump, it should happen when “we can make sure our constituents understand and can get behind” the move.
Democrats are also concerned that Republicans could use a failed impeachment vote to try taking the steam out of the continuing probes into Trump’s performance in office by arguing that the House had demonstrated it had no appetite for removing him from office.
“This is all they’ve ever wanted to do from the day of the election” in 2016, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a brief interview.
Green’s measure cites Trump’s recent “racist” comments imploring Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to their native countries. The House voted Tuesday largely along party lines to condemn those statements . His targets were Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
All are American and all but Omar were born in the U.S. They’ve also been among the party’s most outspoken advocates of impeachment.
Trump is “unfit to be President, unfit to represent the American values of decency and morality, respectability and civility, honesty and propriety, reputability and integrity, is unfit to defend the ideals that have made America great, unfit to defend liberty and justice for all,” Green’s resolution said.
Green’s resolution does not mention Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russia to influence that year’s congressional election or whether the president obstructed Mueller’s probe.
Those threads have been why some Democrats have backed impeachment. More than 80 of the 235 House Democrats have said an impeachment inquiry is merited.
Mueller’s 448-page report detailed several episodes in which Trump tried to influence his investigation. Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction and indicated in a May news conference that it was up to Congress to decide what to do.
Those who support an impeachment inquiry have argued that it would accelerate the process and bolster their arguments in court. Some Democrats are frustrated with the slow pace of their party’s investigations of the president. Democrats have had little success so far in their attempts to investigate beyond what Mueller detailed, as the White House has blocked several witnesses from answering questions.
Green’s measure was the third resolution to impeach Trump he has brought to the House floor since 2017. The eight-term veteran has spurned leadership entreaties to hold off in the past.
But while his first two efforts were symbolic because they came with Republicans controlling the House, this time Democrats run the chamber.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Capital Metro is working to figure out why two of its buses caught fire in the span of a week. The latest fire happened Tuesday and closed several lanes of Highway 183 in Cedar Park.
A photograph from a KXAN viewer shows flames and black smoke billowing from the left-rear tires of a Capital Metro bus. The agency thinks the fire was related to the brake system on the bus.
The third Cap Metro bus fire since July 2018 happened July 16, 2019 along Highway 183 in Cedar Park. The transit company thinks this fire is related to the bus’ brake system. (Credit: Erin Hayward/KXAN viewer)
“We have not completed our investigation, but it appears to be a fire that started with the brakes, so we’re looking to see how the brakes became engaged when they should not have been,” Capital Metro’s Vice President of Operations, Dottie Watkins told KXAN. “If brakes are engaged and you’re driving down the highway, you’re going to likely get a fire,” Watkins said.
The latest fire is the third bus fire in the last 12 months. In July 2018 a bus caught fire on Highway 183 in Cedar Park. The fire damaged the rear portion of the passenger cabin, but no one was injured.
Watkins said the transit service has not had more than two fires in a single year and the company averages one to two fires each year. Capital Metro has 423 buses in its fleet.
Each bus has a 16-year life span, according to Watkins. Each bus is inspected and preventative maintenance is performed every 6,000 miles.
The July 10, 2019 fire happened on a 2003 model bus and Tuesday’s fire happened on a 2013 year model.
The cause of the fire in 2018 was never determined, according to Watkins. “We did not have an exact cause. We had forensic investigators involved. We understood the electrical components that likely resulted in that fire,” Watkins said.
“Often times when we have an actual fire, the exact cause of the fire gets consumed by the fire. And you understand the systems that were involved in the fire, but you don’t know exactly what happened to that system to cause the fire, but that does not stop us to from being able to then know this is the system that was involved, so this is the system we need to inspect,” Watkins told KXAN.
Forensic investigators are once again working under contract with Capital Metro to figure out what caused the July 10, 2019 fire.
Watkins said there are no common themes between the three fires and the three buses were all different manufacturers. The fires were also in three different operating systems on the buses, Watkins said.
Despite all three fires happening in the month of July, Watkins said the cause of the fires are not heat-related since none of the systems involved are susceptible to heat.
“I think it’s just been a fluke and a coincidence for us,” Watkins said.
The company will have a new delivery of buses in 2020 to replace buses that have met their 16-year life span.
WASHINGTON (KXAN) — People convicted of human trafficking will no longer be allowed to drive commercial vehicles in the United States.
President Donald Trump signed the initiative called “No Human Trafficking on Our Road Act” — a move aimed at curbing human trafficking in the United States by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“This is an important step in the Department-wide
campaign to keep America’s roadways, railways, airways, and waterways from
being used for human trafficking,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L.
“By enforcing a lifetime ban on any CMV driver convicted of severe human trafficking, we aim to deliver a strong and effective deterrent to this abhorrent behavior,” said Transportation official Raymond P. Martinez.“If a commercial driver is convicted of using their commercial motor vehicle related to human trafficking—that person will never be driving interstate commercial vehicles again.”
This act carries greater weight in Texas as the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that the state had a recorded 455 cases of human trafficking in 2018 – the second-highest of any state in the nation.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking you can call 1-888-373-7888 to get help.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Wednesday, Austin’s famous postcard-style “Greetings From Austin” mural bore an additional message from someone who seems to have a problem with Austin’s growing population.
“Welcome to Austin. Don’t forget to leave,” reads the mural, which is located at Roadhouse Relics on South First Street in east Austin. The site’s recognizable all caps “AUSTIN” was defaced with spray paint and also featured other messages, some which were difficult to read.
Roadhouse Relics’ owner Todd Sanders, who helped paint the mural in the 1990s, says he doesn’t agree with the sentiment.
“People come here because they love the city,” said Sanders. “I think Austin attracts really individual, cool people. Everywhere in the world, there’s more people moving, and Austin seems to attract really great people.”
Sanders says that over the years he’s had to cover the mural with anti-graffiti treatment, but this time he’ll have to repaint some of it.
“You’re all welcome here,” Sanders said toward potential residents. “We love to have you.”