We want to see your bluebonnet photos

It’s officially springtime in Texas, and with the changing of seasons comes everyone’s favorite wildflower: the bluebonnet.

» View reader-submitted photos of bluebonnets and other Central Texas wildflowers

The oft-photographed flower starts appearing in southern Texas fields as early as late March, and will be in north Texas by mid-April. According to Blue Bonnet Love, the best hotspots to photograph this epitome of Texan beauty are in DeWitt and Washington counties, the Hill Country and Ennis.

Bluebonnets grow along a county road between Spicewood, Texas and Lake Travis. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Bluebonnets grow along a county road between Spicewood, Texas and Lake Travis. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There are other wildflowers to check out, too, like the Indian blanket, Pink evening primrose and the blackfoot daisy.

Here at the Statesman, we think Austin’s got some pretty great natural wildflower and bluebonnet spots too, and we want to see them from our readers. Snap your photos and send them to us on Twitter @statesman or email them to us at readerphotos@statesman.com and they could be featured in a gallery. (And if you’re looking for some help, we’ve got eight tips for taking better bluebonnet pictures.)

Go out and find some wildflowers!

5 things to know Friday, March 25: Man linked to Paris attacks captured

Police officers block a street in Argenteuil, northwest of Paris, late Thursday March 24, 2016 as security forces locked down the area during a major search, France's interior minister said. Bernard Cazeneuve said there were no links "at this stage" between the plot and the attacks against Brussels this week or Paris in November. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers block a street in Argenteuil, northwest of Paris, late Thursday March 24, 2016 as security forces locked down the area during a major search, France’s interior minister said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend informed:

1. Man linked to Paris attacks captured in raid.

French officials say that have arrested a man, linked to the ringleader of the Paris attacks, in a Paris suburb Friday, the Associated Press reports. 34-year-old Reda Kriket had been wanted since January because of suspicions that he was linked to the terrorist attack. French officials have revealed that Kriket was in the “advanced stages” of planning another attack on a target in France.

2. Austin police officer fired for David Joseph killing files appeal.

Former Austin police officer Geoffrey Freeman has appealed his Monday firing for the shooting death of unarmed teen David Joseph, the American-Statesman’s Philip Jankowski reports. An independent arbitrator will be required to review Freeman’s firing, which came after an internal investigation determined his shooting of the 17-year-old in February was unjustified, and decide whether or not to uphold the decision. Freeman’s lawyers argue that he performed his duties as he was trained to during his encounter with Joseph.

3. Austin City Council changes background check rules.

After an Austin City Council vote Thursday night, companies in the city will now be required to hold off on checking a job applicant’s criminal history until after a conditional offer of employment has been issued, the American-Statesman’s Andra Lim reports. This “fair chance hiring” ordinance means that applicants can no longer be required to check a box revealing whether or not they have a criminal history. Companies, which must have more than 15 workers for the ordinance to apply to them, may be fined for violating the new rule. Those who support the ordinance are hopeful it will help provide more job opportunities for those with a criminal background.

4. Petition asks Obama to replace Church of Scientology on Guadalupe Street with HEB.

UT sophomore Abhishek Deb has started a petition on change.org, which has garnered nearly 1,000 supporters, proposing that the Church of Scientology on Guadalupe Street be replaced with an HEB, the American-Statesman’s Jake Harris reports. Deb said he created the petition for a government class, and it’s meant to be satirical. “It was addressed to President Barack Obama, who obviously has no power over the situation, and it isn’t a viable solution to uproot an institution like the church,” he said. The church has been at that location since 1979. When asked about the petition, someone with the church responded by revealing plans for a “multi-million dollar renovation to the building.”

5. Easter Bunny visits Barton Creek Mall.

Not everyone was excited to come face to face with the Easter Bunny Thursday at Barton Creek Mall. Pictures by the American-Statesman’s Rodolfo Gonzalez show a handful of kids, dressed in their Sunday best, looking less than thrilled to be meeting the rabbit behind the Easter baskets.

UT student: Church of Scientology petition “meant to be satirical”

A change.org petition addressed to President Barack Obama and titled “Replace Church of Scientology with HEB on Guadalupe Street” was started by UT sophomore electrical engineering student Abhishek Deb on Tuesday. Deb said on his Facebook page that he wrote the petition for a government class.

The Texas church of Scientology at 2200 Guadalupe Street downtown. Google Maps Screenshot
The Church of Scientology of Texas at 2200 Guadalupe Street downtown. Google Maps Screenshot

The petition reads, “The Church of Scientology takes up prime real estate on Guadalupe Street that could better service the local community and UT students by replacing it with a HEB.”

The Church of Scientology of Texas has been at Guadalupe and West 22nd streets since 1979, according to Cathy Norman, the church’s director of special affairs. And they have no intentions of moving.

“We actually have plans to do a multi-million dollar renovation to the building because we’re running out of space,” Norman said. “We have students and other people who are members that come from all over Central Texas, and we’re not planning on leaving.”

Deb said the petition was meant to be satirical, and he didn’t think it would go viral.

“It was addressed to President Barack Obama, who obviously has no power over the situation, and it isn’t a viable solution to uproot an institution like the church,” he said. “And the really crudely drawn Photoshop picture on the petition was meant to show that it was being satirical. It’s interesting to see how it took off.”

As of 6 p.m., the petition has 973 supporters, 27 away from its intended reach of 1,000 supporters and well surpassing his government class’s requirement of 20 signatures. Most of the commenters on the petition are in favor of an H-E-B.

“This is the most amazing idea ever, and offers UT students a closer grocery store & healthier options without the hassle of riding the bus,” one comment reads.

Another comment criticized the church and instead praised H-E-B’s hummus selection: “Scientology is a predatory scam. HEB has a huge selection of hummus.”

H-E-B recently announced new stores in in Hutto and in North Texas.

5 things to know Thursday, March 24: 2nd suspect in Brussels subway attack

People gather at a memorial site located at the old stock exchange in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country's deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union's capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after scores were killed or wounded in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
People gather at a memorial site located at the old stock exchange in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities were searching Wednesday for a top suspect in the country’s deadliest attacks in decades, as the European Union’s capital awoke under guard and with limited public transport after scores were killed or wounded in bombings on the Brussels airport and a subway station. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

Here’s what you need to know to stay informed today:

1. Second suspect believed in Brussels subway attack.

A second attacker is believed to have been involved in the subway bombing in Brussels and might still be at large, the Associated Press reports. 20 people died during the attack on the Maelbeek subway station and many more were injured. Belgian prosecutors had previously believed four people were involved in the attacks, including brothers and suicide bombers Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui. Najim Laachraoui, who was a suspected bombmaker involved in the Paris attacks, was identified as another suicide bomber. A man seen in a hat, suspected of involvement in the airport attack that left 11 confirmed dead, is also believed to currently be at large. It is still unclear if the suspect at large in the metro attack was killed during the bombing or not. The same cell of the Islamic State that claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks has done so for the attacks in Brussels.

2. Austin area surpasses 2 million residents.

How does it feel to wake up in a city of more than 2 million residents? According to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday, the Austin metro area is home to more than 2 million people and, for the fifth year in a row, holds the top spot as the fastest-growing city with a population over 1 million, the American-Statesman’s James Barragan reports. From July 2014 to July 2015 the Austin metro area grew by nearly 60,000 residents. Although exciting and definitely a factor in the city’s strong economy, Austin’s rapid growth continues to fuel problems like traffic and affordability.

3. Republicans air more Donald Trump attack ads than they do against Hillary Clinton.

Many Republicans who aim their attacks at their own front-runner, Donald Trump, have said the attacks have the desired effect, even if they wind up weakening the GOP nominee, the Associated Press reports. Many of the ads that attack Trump are sponsored by fellow Republicans (more than are sponsored by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner) who are attempting to keep him from the nomination. These ads, however, also serve to provide Democrats with pre-fabricated attacks, ready for use when and if Trump becomes the GOP nominee.

4. Investment partner wanted for downtown tower.

The tower at 100 Congress is looking for a joint-venture partner for the 22-story building, recently appraised at $160.5 million by the Travis Central Appraisal District, the American-Statesman’s Shonda Novak reports. The building was developed in 1987 and holds a prominent spot in the city’s skyline in the central business district. The building is currently 95 percent leased (tenants include several law firms) and has 411,536 square feet of rentable space.

5. COTA cut $14 million off of Travis tax bill.

After the Travis Central Appraisal District reduced the property values of the Circuit of the Americas track over the past three years, the tax bill for the property has dropped more than $14 million, the American-Statesman’s Claudia Grisales and Shonda Novak report. A settlement that lead to the lowering of the track’s assessed value lead to a property tax bill that was $7.4 million.

In honor of his 60th birthday, watch Austin Mayor Steve Adler dance to Pharrell

On Wednesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler blows out 60 candles on his birthday cake.

According to a news release, Adler has spent his day speaking to Austin Under 40 finalists at the Google Fiber office downtown, participating in the Aldrich 51 apartment groundbreaking in East Austin and delivering Meals on Wheels. Also (jokingly) on his agenda, according to Twitter:

https://twitter.com/MayorAdler/status/712649622137778176

Tonight, according to his office, the mayor plans to go to the rodeo with his wife and friends. Official reason: “Because it’s fun, and it’s his birthday.”

Since Adler has officially gone on the record as enjoying fun, we decided to dig into the archive to make sure he has not flip-flopped from the previous anti-fun positions. According to photo and video evidence of the mayor dancing to Pharrell’s smash hit “Happy,” Adler has indeed had fun in the past.

Left to right, Mayor Steve Adler, council member Sheri Gallo and City Manager Marc Ott dance to the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams at the start of the city council meeting on Thursday January 28, 2016. ( JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Left to right, Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Sheri Gallo and City Manager Marc Ott dance to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams at the start of the city council meeting on Thursday January 28, 2016. ( JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

On Jan. 28, representatives from the City of Austin employee wellness program, Healthy Connections, led the Austin City Council chamber in a dance routine as part of encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Among the participants were Council Member Sherri Gallo, city manager Marc Ott and Adler.

Watch some civic choreography below.

5 things to know Wednesday, March 23: Brussels bombing suspect at large

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 23: A man wears the Belgian flag as people observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays' terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A man wears the Belgian flag as people observe a one minute silence at the Place De La Bourse in honour of the victims of yesterdays’ terror attacks on March 23, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is observing three days of national mourning after 34 people were killed in a twin suicide blast at Zaventem Airport and a further bomb attack at Maelbeek Metro Station. Two brothers are thought to have carried out the airport attack and an international manhunt is underway for a third suspect. The attacks come just days after a key suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, was captured in Brussels. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Here’s what you need to know to stay informed today:

1. Belgian authorities continue to search for third Brussels bombing suspect.

Authorities continue to search Wednesday for a man who was seen with two suicide bombers at the Brussels airport ahead of the bombings there Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. 34 were killed and more than 200 wounded during the attacks, which also targeted a subway. The Islamic State group responsible for the terror attacks on Paris has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Two of the attackers, seen rolling suitcases presumably filled with explosives, have been identified as brothers Khalid and Brahim El Bakraoui. A Belgian newspaper has reported that the third attacker is possibly Najim Laachraoui, who has been linked to Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. The country will remain on the highest threat level until further notice.

2. Video watchdog helped cops catch SXSW shooter.

Student Phillip Turner, who records police footage for the accountability site Photography is Not a Crime, helped Austin police by directing them to a man he saw holding a handgun during a fight on the final night of SXSW Sunday, the American-Statesman’s Philip Jankowski reports. Turner caught the fight on film, including the two gunshots that were heard, and was able to direct police to a suspect wearing a blue jacket after they wrongfully detained another man. “Police officers — not all, but generally — do not like being recorded. In this case, my film helped them get a guy off the streets,” Turner told the American-Statesman.

3. Jeb Bush announces Ted Cruz endorsement.

Ex-GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush took to Twitter Wednesday to announce his endorsement of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president, the Associated Press reports. Bush also posted on Facebook saying Republicans “must overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena.” Cruz suggested Wednesday that he would find a place for rival John Kasich in his administration if he agreed to drop out of the race. Cruz said Kasich’s running is helping front-runner Trump by taking votes that could go to Cruz.

4. Park officials seek pair who tagged Enchanted Rock.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are looking for two people who wrote the words “CA$H TRUCK” on a rock on the south side of Enchanted Rock’s summit Sunday between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Officials believe the two people are from San Marcos and posted a photo of the suspected perpetrators on the park’s Facebook. Officials will most likely use turpentine to remove the graffiti, although the chemicals will damage lichens on the rock.

5. Statesman Skyline Theater to be new outdoor venue at Long Center.

The Long Center’s new outdoor, lawn venue to open this spring will be named the Statesman Skyline Theater, in a partnership with the newspaper. The venue, which will have a capacity of 7,000, will open May 20 with a performance by Justin Moore and will later feature performances by the Steve Miller Band and the Goo Goo Dolls. The theater will be located on the north lawn of the Long Center, and a stage will be erected for each performance.

5 things to know Monday, March 21: Obama lands in Cuba

**EDS.: RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT DATE TO MARCH 20, 2016** President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, waves to well-wishers in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. President Obama touched down in Cuba on Sunday, pledging to talk directly to the Cuban people and accelerate engagement between the United States and Cuba after more than a half-century of hostility. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, waves to well-wishers in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday, March 20, 2016. President Obama touched down in Cuba on Sunday, pledging to talk directly to the Cuban people and accelerate engagement between the United States and Cuba after more than a half-century of hostility. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Here’s what you need to know to start your week off informed:

1. President Obama lands in Cuba.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will hold a historic meeting Monday to discuss the U.S.’s recent shift in policy concerning the communist nation, and Cuba’s response to the shift, the Associated Press reports. Obama became the first president to touchdown in Cuba in about 90 years when he landed in Havana Sunday with wife Michelle and his two daughters. Obama will announce that Google has made plans to upgrade Internet access on the island. Obama’s visit to Havana is expected to spur Castro to match the U.S.’s lift on decades-old sanctions.

2. Killeen man arrested in SXSW shooting incident.

Police arrested 22-year-old Rondarius Spicer for firing his gun into the air in a crowd of people attending the South by Southwest festival near the intersection of Sixth and Trinity streets, the American-Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh reports. Two shots can be heard in video recorded of the incident, which happened early Sunday morning. No one was injured during the incident. Police say Spicer will likely face a felony charge for discharging a deadly weapon.

3. North Korea fires short-range projectiles.

Five short-range projectiles were launched into the sea by North Korea Monday, the Associated Press reports. The recent weapon launches have been in response to the annual South Korea-U.S. military drills that the country sees as a provocation. The projectiles flew about 125 miles before landing in the waters of North Korea’s east coast. South Korea’s military is still trying to determine whether the projectiles are missiles, artillery shells or rockets.

4. Armed man arrested after being shot by officer, bit by police dog.

Austin police captured a 34-year-old man after chasing him for hours and shooting him in the shoulder Sunday, Walsh reports. The chase first began after reports of a man wielding a knife outside of a business. He then went on to dodge traffic and cross the highway and was finally bitten by a police dog and captured. The officer who shot the man was placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

5. Apple to kick off busy week with iPhone launch.

Today Apple will release a new iPhone at its product launch in Silicon Valley, the Associated Press reports. The phone is expected to be an upgrade to the four-inch iPhone 5S, which will be aimed toward buyers who haven’t bought one of the 6 models in the past couple of years. On Tuesday the company’s lawyers will fight an FBI request to unlock one of the San Bernardino killer’s iPhone in federal court.

‘Morning Joe’ tries to get weird with Austin

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 7.50.43 AM

Viewers of MSNBC’s talk show “Morning Joe” know that it’s hard for anything other than politics to break into show’s mix these days. If you’re not named Donald Trump, you need not apply for air time.

Unless, it seems, you’re South by Southwest and you’re celebrating you’re 30th anniversary.

The festival in full swing — Interactive and Film have largely given way to Music — was the subject of an effusive taped piece on Thursday morning’s show. That was followed by this equally effusive crosstalk among the show’s hosts and guests:

Joe Scarborough: “What a town, man. Isn’t it a crazy town?”

Mika Brezinski: “You’re headed there this weekend. You’re going to make Austin even weirder.”

Mark Halperin: “They have great music, great food, great people. pretty much great everything. Even the airport’s good.”

Steve Schmidt: “Hands down, one of the great cities in the country. … It’s an awesome place.”

 

President Obama stops at Torchy’s Tacos in South Austin

Last time, it was Franklin Barbecue. This time, President Barack Obama’s Austin food staple of choice is Torchy’s Tacos.

Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman
Ricardo B. Brazziell photos/American-Statesman

During his visit to town for South by Southwest on Friday, POTUS made a pit stop at the revered taco joint’s South First Street location. Obama ordered a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent at the restaurant. (For the uninitiated: Those are names of tacos on the menu.) The president paid $18.40 for his order, treating his staff and Mayor Steve Adler. Honestly, seems like a cheap receipt for Torchy’s. The American-Statesman’s Matthew Odam reports that the prez paid cash.

On Twitter, Adler chimed in with the answer to the question on everyone’s minds. Did this presidential treat mark a fanning of flames in the Austin-San Antonio taco war? Rest easy: no.

Much like his visit to Franklin in 2014, Obama made small talk with the cashier at Torchy’s, according to social media reports.

For the taco sleuths watching the president’s visit, the meal also held a clue to the motorcade’s next move.

See more photos of Obama’s trip to Austin’s most devilish taco place below.

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Looking back: President Barack Obama’s 2014 Austin visit

Jay Janner
Jay Janner

There’s a presidential buzz in the air. He’s coming. President Barack Obama is set to kick off South by Southwest’s interactive portion with a keynote conversation with the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith later on today, but if you’re thinking the presidential motorcade is new to these streets, think again.

In fact, during a memorable July 2014 visit Obama got quite the Austin experience. He ate at Franklins BBQ and became the first and, to this day, only person to cut the line. Ever. The people behind him weren’t even mad.

President Barack Obama made an unscheduled stop at Franklins BBQ after his speech downtown and proceeded to cut in line but did buy some patrons their food while shaking hands with people on his way out of town. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
President Barack Obama made an unscheduled stop at Franklins BBQ after his speech downtown and proceeded to cut in line but did buy some patrons their food while shaking hands with people on his way out of town. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
President Barack Obama made an unscheduled stop at Franklins BBQ after his speech downtown and proceeded to cut in line but did buy some patrons their food while shaking hands with people on his way out of town. He shares a hearty laugh with worker Daniel Webb as he processes his order of over $400 in barbecue. American-Statesman/Ralph Barrera

He shared a cup of tea with UT student Kinsey Button at Magnolia Cafe before heading to the Paramount Theatre where he spoke on his economic policies and challenged Republicans in Congress to “do something.” Prior his speech he was heckled by a pair of brothers demanding immigration reform to which he replied, “Sit down, guys, we’ll talk about it later, I promise,” and then followed through.

President Barack Obama stopped off for coffee at Magno9lia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. Thursday afternoon July 10, 2014, with University of Texas student Kinsey Button, 20, after she reached out to the President about concerns for her unemployed parents. Button was selected to introduce the president at his speech at the Paramount Theatre later in the day. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
President Barack Obama stopped off for coffee at Magno9lia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. Thursday afternoon July 10, 2014, with University of Texas student Kinsey Button, 20, after she reached out to the President about concerns for her unemployed parents. Button was selected to introduce the president at his speech at the Paramount Theatre later in the day. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Ricardo B. Brazziell
Ricardo B. Brazziell
Jay Janner
Jay Janner

Will there be any surprise stops during today’s visit? What sort of lines will POTUS cut? Follow our live coverage of Obama’s visit here, and keep up with road closures here.

Thanks, Obama.