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Statesman In-Depth: Austin Development

Austin planners give thumbs-up to skinny condo towers
Laura Skelding

Austin planners give OK to skinny condo towers

At the bustling intersection of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue is a rare commodity: A small parking lot — it only takes up about half of a city block — is one of the few developable lots left in downtown Austin, as condominium and apartment towers have sprouted up on the more spacious blockwide lots.

Until this month, developers weren’t sure if the city’s high-rise safety regulations made it financially feasible to build on these skinny lots. Building codes require at least two stairwells spaced apart, a requirement touted by safety experts because it provides a second evacuation route if some calamity makes the first stairway unusable.

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Affordable Care Act

Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire
Jon Elswick / Associated Press

Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don't give much thought to each year's renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.

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Mideast Turmoil

Strike hits Gaza park, killing at least 10

Updated 39 mins ago — 

A Gaza park was attacked Monday, killing at least 10 Palestinians, including children, a Palestinian health official said. Israelis and the Palestinians traded blame for the strike.

Children were playing on a swing when the strike hit the park in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, said Ayman Sahabani, head of the emergency room at nearby Shifa Hospital.

Veterans affairs

Deal on veterans' health care costs at least $15B

Updated 26 mins ago — 

A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

Congressional aides say the agreement includes $10 billion to make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with Veterans Affairs doctors to obtain outside care and $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff.

Business

Virgin America files plans for IPO

Updated 54 mins ago — 

Virgin America's next destination is Wall Street.

The California-based airline filed on Monday for an initial public offering of shares.

Virgin America Inc., which operates out of Los Angeles and San Francisco, flies to 22 airports in the United States and Mexico and has a fleet of 53 planes. It is known for offering a variety of perks on its jets, including live TV, movies, leather seats and purple mood lighting.


New Details: Molestation Trial

Greg Kelley case highlights procedures for interviewing young victims
Andy Sharp for Statesman

Greg Kelley case highlights procedures for interviewing young victims

Tainted.

That’s the word one juror used to describe the case built against former Leander football player Greg Kelley involving the second boy who accused him of molestation at a Cedar Park day care.

The jury convicted Kelley, 19, earlier this month of two counts of super aggravated sexual assault involving the first 4-year-old boy. But when jurors shared their thoughts after the trial with the attorneys in the case, one juror explained they tossed out “everything” involving the second boy, who was also 4, because the evidence had been “tainted” by the way investigators handled the case, defense attorney Patricia Cummings said.

Government Fees

Despite judge’s ruling, Austin still charging drainage fee

Austin residents might be surprised by a line on their latest utility bill: The drainage fee that a judge declared invalid a month ago is still there.

The plaintiffs’ attorney who won that ruling says he’s considering filing another lawsuit to force city officials to remove the fee from bills until they restructure the fee to make it fairer to customers.

“The way the statute is written, the city doesn’t have the right to keep charging this fee unless they adopt a valid one that satisfies (legal) requirements,” attorney Robby Alden said.

PolitiFact Texas: Half True

Beck gets details wrong in sexual assault case against migrant
Andrew D. Brosig / Daily Sentinel

Beck gets crime, location, other details wrong in migrant case

When talk show host Glenn Beck said a horrific crime occurred in Austin, we wondered what he was talking about.

Beck made his statement in a July 17 interview of Gov. Rick Perry after Perry said he was looking at deploying National Guard troops to secure the Texas-Mexico border; he later said up to 1,000 troops would be dispatched.

In the interview, Perry expressed concern about crimes committed by people entering the country illegally.


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