Austin Animal Center thanks police department for work on bombing investigation

One of Austin’s animal shelters thanked police for their weeks-long serial bombing investigation as part of their weekly photo series partnering officers and adoptable pets.

On Wednesday, the Austin Animal Center posted photos of Police Chief Brian Manley with a dog named Deena and thanked the police department for their work investigating a series of bombs that killed two people and injured five others in Austin and Schertz. Police confirmed the suspect in all the incidents, Mark Conditt, died after a bomb exploded in his car early Wednesday morning.

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COMPLETE COVERAGE: Stories, videos and photos from the Austin bombings

“Their tireless work over the last three weeks put an end to the fear our beautiful city has felt. We appreciate them and their work every day, but are especially thankful for them today,” the Facebook post reads.

In the Facebook post, the center shared that the initial dog the chief posed with named Deena was adopted the night before the “#APDRescueMe” campaign launched. The chief redid the photoshoot with another dog named Chin-Chin.

The Austin Animal Center’s “#APDRescueMe” social media campaign has showcased adoptable pets posing alongside Austin police officers since February.

Ready for the Republic of Texas biker rally? We’ve got the best motorcycle routes in Central Texas

Last year, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, right, greeted bikers at the Republic of Texas Biker Rally parade in downtown Austin Friday June 10, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Republic of Texas Biker Rally is this weekend at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin. If you want to take a ride near the city, here are some of the best routes you can take:

The Three Sisters (aka The Twisted Sisters): 131 miles

This 131-mile ride has some of the best scenery you can get. Riding alongside rivers and past Texas ranches, this route is one of the best the Austin-area has to offer. The ride is known for its scenery and road quality and not so much its amenities, but a few can be found along the way.

Devil’s backbone/Old Spicewood: 33 miles

On this 33-mile stretch of scenic road, you’ll get a great view of Balcones Fault. You won’t be going too fast, but the road quality is good and so are the amenities.

Gruene-Fredericksburg-Bandera Loop: 239 miles

Clocking in at 239 miles, this scenic route takes you through the countryside and farmland of Central Texas. For amenities you can stop at Gruene, Luckenbach, Fredericksburg, Kerrville and Bandera, which all have great things to see and do.

Day trip to Luckenbach: 72 miles

This 72-mile trip goes through the Hill Country back roads. If you get hungry, stop at a mom-and-pop burger restaurant called the Alamo Springs Café.

Bikers park their bikes to register for Rot Rally on Friday, June 10, 2016 at the Travis Country Expo Center. This is Rot Rally’s 11th anniversary. Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

South-Central Texas Route 16: 88 miles

If you just want to ride through different towns in the Hill Country, including Kerrville and Fredericksburg, this 88-mile route is scenic with great roads.

Hutto-Granger-Georgetown Loop: 61 miles

This northeast Austin route has good scenery filled with creeks and rives. There are also plenty of curves to ride on. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, there is Louise Miller BBQ in Taylor.

Spicewood Springs Road: 5 miles

Looking for a short ride? The Spicewood Springs has good scenery and road quality. You’ll see some farms with horses and creeks and rivers. Its not a fast road, but you will be able to soak up some Texas beauty.

FM 487: 11 miles

This ride is on the shorter side but it has some nice scenery and good road quality. You’ll be riding through Texas farmland and woods. However, don’t expect there to be many roadside amenities.

Texas Twister: 61 miles

This 61-mile ride has great scenery as you’ll be in Hill Country near the Texas Highland Lakes. The road quality is good, but the road side amenities are not the best.

Hippie Hollow Horror: 40 miles

The Hippie Hollow Horror is 40 miles of great scenery that will take you to the north end of Lake Travis. There are also great roadside amenities with stops in Austin and Four Corners.

Review this checklist before you hit the road Memorial Day weekend

 

An estimated 2.8 million Texans are expected to be on the roads this Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA Texas. The group anticipates that more than 330,000 drivers will require a roadside rescue – at least 21,500 in Texas alone – AAA Texas spokeswoman Anne O’Ryan said.

So here are some safety steps that O’Ryan says motorists should take if they’re getting on the road this weekend:

  • Have your car battery tested.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Get plenty of sleep — at least seven hours — so you can stay alert. Drowsy driving accounts for about 20 percent of all crashes, O’Ryan said.
  • “Pack your patience,” O’Ryan said, and drive defensively.
  • Build in extra time for travel.
  • The best times to travel will be early morning, as other times will be more crowded.
  • Take breaks every two hours or every 100 miles.
  • Keep your eyes open for other drivers making sudden lane changes because a lot of out-of-towners and tentative drivers will be on the road.
  • Watch out for motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians.
  • Don’t text and drive or hold your cell phone.
  • Put your pets on a leash or a cage, and not in the front seat.
  • Wear your seat belt
  • Never drive impaired.

Austin police said officers will be targeting impaired and distracted drivers during the holiday weekend. Under its no-refusal initiative, Austin police will make it harder for a driver suspected of driving while intoxicated to refuse providing a breath or blood sample. If the officer has evidence of impairment, police said, the officer can get a judge’s approval for a search warrant to obtain a blood sample.

The no-refusal effort will be in effect from Friday through June 12 – to include the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally – between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Police said 107 people were arrested last year during the no-refusal period for Memorial Day and ROT Rally.

Interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley recommends that if you do plan to drink, you should have a plan for a ride home. He said the Austin Transportation Department has provided a website, austintexas.gov/gethomesafe, with resources to help you get home safe, including links to Capital Metro services and designated driving programs.

The Williamson County sheriff’s office will be undertaking its own no-refusal initiative, starting Friday and ending Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. each night.

In Hays County, San Marcos police will run its no-refusal program from Friday through Sunday.

 

Austin’s emergency management office lauded, earns elite accreditation

American-Statesman file photo

A national nonprofit group lauded Austin’s emergency management efforts Friday, certifying its program meets 64 industry standards.

Austin is just one of three Texas cities, along with Dallas and Arlington, to win accreditation from the national Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

“Emergency management accreditation represents a significant achievement,” said EMAP Commission Chairperson Robie Robinson in a statement. “We applaud the City of Austin’s leadership and we recognize the dedication to the safety and security of the residents that it represents.”

The city’s 15-member Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management plans and prepares for emergencies, educates the public about preparedness, and manages grant funding to improve homeland security and public safety. The agency co-manages the Austin-Travis County Emergency Operations Center.

 

With graduation, UT caps a tragic, turbulent 2016-17 academic year

Incoming freshman Maxwell Gaddy, from Midland gets help from his father Chris and sister Jenna, 16, moving into Duren Residence Hall on the UT-Austin campus on Aug. 19, 2016. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As May approaches, so does the end of another academic year at the University of Texas. Over the course of the last several months, a lot has happened on the Forty Acres: Campus carry, protests, demonstrations, a farewell to Charlie Strong, a memorial for Haruka Weiser and, more recently, a drive-by shooting on campus. Here’s a quick recap of some major things that happened during the 2016-2017 academic year:

August

UT honors victims of 1966 tower shooting for 50th anniversary:

On Aug. 1, victims of the 1966 sniper attack were honored at the UT Tower. A memorial was also placed near UT’s turtle pond, with the names of the 15 people who were killed by engineering student Charles Whitman. Survivors, the student body president at the time and the police officers who were involved with the incident attended the commemoration ceremony. This 50th anniversary coincidentally fell on the same day that the campus carry gun law went into effect.

Campus carry law goes into effect:

On August 1, Senate Bill 11, legislation also known as “campus carry” went into effect, permitting the concealed carry of handguns by license holders on campus.

Campus carry is protested with sex toys:

What better way to start off the first day of a new school year than with a protest with dildos. “Cocks Not Glocks” showed their opposition to the new campus carry gun law by brandishing the sex toys on backpacks and holding a rally on campus. In August, the event organizers said they hoped students would continue to carry the items until the law was repealed — the dildo-carrying ended shortly after the protest and the law remains on the books.

September

Bevo XV makes debut:

The young calf made his appearance as the new mascot of UT on Sept. 4 at the football game against Notre Dame— the Longhorns beat the Irish 50-47 after double overtime.

Security officer shot at Sigma Chi party:

On Sept. 11, a security guard was shot in the foot at a fraternity party by a party guest – who was not a student – who had earlier been thrown out of the party for causing trouble. The guard who was shot has sued Sigma Chi, accusing the fraternity of not doing enough to prevent the shooting.

October

Anti-affirmative action bake sale held:

On Oct. 26, the Young Conservatives of Texas held a bake sale that protested the affirmative action policy in college admission. The item prices were listed differently based on gender and race.

November

UT students organize anti-Trump protest:

The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of UT students gathered at the UT Tower for a rally that turned into a daylong march throughout downtown Austin.

UT fires head football coach Charlie Strong:

After three seasons and a record of 16-21, the lowest winning percentage in Longhorn football history, Strong was fired on Nov. 26. Many football players and members of the UT community were upset with this decision— several players reacted on Twitter, thanking Strong and saying bye. It wasn’t long before Strong was hired as the new University of South Florida head football coach and Tom Herman took over the Longhorn football program.

Matthew McConaughey give students a ride:

Alright, alright, alright! If you were lucky enough to call a SURE ride on this night, you may have had Matthew McConaughey as your golf cart driver.

Not to mention, McConaughey also co-taught a film class in the College of Communication, “Advanced Producing: Script to Screen”— Professor McConaughey?

February

The Ellen Show comes to UT:

On Feb. 7, UT students got in formation and put together their best Beyonce costumes in hope of winning two tickets to the Grammys from The Ellen Show. Sophomore Collin Wang won the contest by recreating Beyonce’s underwater pregnancy photo.

March

First Latina, physically disabled student body president is elected:

Fourth-year government and Mexican-American studies major Alejandrina Guzman made UT history when she was elected as the 2017-2018 student body president. Guzman and her running mate Micky Wolf captured 54 percent of the vote after a campus-wide run-off.

Survey released: 15 percent of female undergraduates say they have been raped:

A shocking report was released toward the end of March, detailing sexual assault, stalking, dating violence and harassment. Key findings of the random and voluntary survey also found that 12 percent of undergraduate women said they had experienced attempted rape and 22 percent of students reported having experienced sexist gender harassment from UT faculty or staff.

April

One-year memorial held for slain student Haruka Weiser:

On April 3, UT held a memorial ceremony for Haruka Weiser, the 18-year-old dance student who was found dead on campus in Waller Creek in 2016. Since her killing, the university has made it a priority to enhance safety and security on campus.

UT football gets 43-inch tv screens instead of name plates

Paper name plates are a thing of the past for the Longhorn football program. 43-inch flat screens were installed on every player’s locker, each costing about $10,500. Also, glowing locker doors were implemented!

Gregory Vincent announces he will leave UT for his alma mater:

On April 20 , Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, announced that he would be leaving UT in July to be president of his alma mater, Hobart and William Smith— after 11 years of diversity and inclusion work on the Forty Acres.

UT Recreational Sports celebrates 100 years:

On April 21, the university celebrated a century of RecSports, which has grown to 500,000 square feet of recreational space and 47 club sports. UT was one of the first colleges in the country to organize an intramural sports program.

Gunshots on campus:

On the morning of April 27, gunshots were reported on campus and UT police began investigating what they believe was a drive-by shooting. The suspect and the target were thought to be unaffiliated with the university, officials said. Several UT students took to social media to complain about the lack of timeliness when it came to alerting students about the incident and the vagueness of the emergency alert. UTPD notified the students, faculty and staff about the incident nearly an hour after it had taken place.

May

UT stabbing attack on students leaves 1 dead, 3 others injured

First-year student Harrison Brown was killed and three others were hospitalized after a stabbing attack on the University of Texas campus near Gregory Gym around 1:30 p.m. on May 1.

UT Police Chief David Carter identified the suspect in the attack as 21-year-old UT biology student Kendrex J. White of Killeen.

Carter said his officers saw a man, later identified as White, with a “large, bowie-style hunting knife.” One officer drew his gun and told White to get on the ground, which he did, before taking him into custody.

Within about a block, three more people were found stabbed, Carter said.

UT students and employees have been expressing annoyance on social media that they heard about this from campus media, local media and the UT community before a campus alert went out.

WATCH: Twitter video appears to show man wakeboarding in Texas State floodwater

via Twitter

It seems part of calling yourself a Texas State Bobcat is having a little fun when your campus transforms into a giant puddle.

Flooding has been known to periodically reclaim Texas State as part of the river that surrounds it, and students have been known to respond with an appropriate amount of shenanigans.

READ: Texas State students take to Twitter as San Marcos floods

A video posted to Twitter appears to show a student wakeboarding on the campus, which flooded yesterday and eventually resulted in classes being canceled. The tweet says the fun happened at Texas State.

The video shows a wakeboarder riding the “waves” made by the truck he’s tied to.

When life hands you a flooded campus…

UT students launch the world’s cutest business selling memory foam corgis

Meet Waffles.

He’s a corgi made of memory foam, and he’s the product of a new business venture from two University of Texas students, Sherill Feng and Andy Shaw.

Courtesy Memory Plush / Kickstarter

According to CultureMap Austin, the two students launched a Kickstarter last month to start selling the adorable cuddle buddies, raising more than $24,000 with nearly a month left in the campaign.

According to the Kickstarter, the idea came from their childhood: Kids tend to love their stuffed animals pretty hard, leading to heartbreak when they fall apart.

“We were motivated to solve plush losing shape when washed, used as a pillow, or cuddled with. We created Memory Plush, memory foam plush (the name is literal), to solve this tragic issue that plagued us when we were young and continues to plague millions of children in America every year,” the website reads.

Why a corgi? It’s simple: Feng loves dogs, especially this short-legged breed. But the couple plans to make various dog breeds, from pugs to blue heelers to mixed breeds.

You can get your own Waffles if you pledge $39 to the couple’s Kickstarter, and if you pledge at least $54, you can get a name embroidered on your Waffles. If you don’t have the budget for your own fluffy friend but you still want to help them out, a $5 pledge gets you an adorable Waffles sticker, and $10 gets you a magnet AND a sticker. So you can have Waffles with you always.

Austin for 51st U.S. state? We have the population to back it up

We get it, we get it: Austin isn’t always like the rest of Texas. Certain folks love to call the city “the People’s Republic of Austin,” due to its liberal policy bent and undying embrace of the strange. Though we’re not likely to implement a Maoist political structure at City Hall anytime soon, comrades, the Live Music Capital of the World does actually have enough people to encourage dreams of statehood.

RELATED: BookPeople tweets SXSW clapback to keep Austin weird

Austin’s population is so large that if it were a state, it would be the 45th largest in the U.S., according to a study by LawnStarter, a local lawn care service. Why grass-cutters are concerning themselves with comparative demographics, I’ll never know. Nonetheless, the company used city and U.S. Census data to count Austin’s teeming masses at 943,795 people, higher than those of Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. Poor Wyoming only has 585,501.

MORE: Map shows 24 high rises set to change Austin’s skyline

The study is quick to point out that land-wise, these beautiful states are all massive compared to ATX. If you plopped 326-square-mile Austin in the middle of Alaska (a sprawling, 656,424-square-mile snow beast), it would look like one of those little birds hitching a ride on a hippo. Even delicate, syrup-drenched Vermont is 30 times larger than Austin when it comes to area, at 9,615 square miles.

Now, there are much larger cities in the U.S. Austin is only the 11th largest, and Houston, Dallas and San Antonio all pack more people in than we do. However, the entire Austin metro area is the country’s fastest growing, and it recently hit the 2-million-people mark. Factor in our distinct cultural identity and the fact that even the European Union sees potential for us to stand on our own feet, and we could basically start shopping for our own constitution.

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How Haruka Weiser inspired UT design students to light the way home

During the memorial service honoring UT student Haruka Weiser a year after she was killed on campus while walking to her dorm, the steps of the Tower were scattered with several origami-like lanterns.

Nobo Lanterns, created by interior design architecture students at UT and named for Haruka Weiser’s younger brother, are displayed during a memorial ceremony on the University’s Main Mall honoring Weiser’s life Monday night, April 3, 2017. The lanterns, which can be hung or carried, were designed to provide light for students walking through campus at night. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The Nobo lantern, named for Weiser’s younger brother, does more than commemorate the loss of a beloved student. As UT architecture student and designer Natalie Boverman explains, Nobo lanterns are made to help get students walking at night home safely. Boverman, along with fellow students Samantha Shiminski and Kimberly Gabosch, designed the lanterns as part of a class project.

The designers say the lanterns could hypothetically serve the university’s “Be Safe” initiative, which encourages members of the UT community to “use your creativity” to help make campus safer for those who live and work there. The project proposed the Nobo lanterns be used to “illuminate the space between Goldsmith Hall and West Mall Building as well as provide a light source to students as they travel around UT’s campus at night.”

The lanterns aren’t stationary. They’re made to be carried by students, who could hypothetically check them out from pods using their student IDs, and the lanterns include GPS tracking to monitor their location on campus. Battery powered, the portable lights are also are capable of charging phones on the go.

“Other devices like flashlights only provide light in one direction while the orb-like structure of Nobo allows for light in all directions,” Boverman said of the design. “Students often use their cellphone for light but electronics produce a very harsh glare, which inhibits our eyes from seeing our surroundings.”

Weiser’s death last April sparked a major outcry from UT parents concerned for the safety of their children and a review and overhaul of campus safety protocols.

You can see pictures of the lanterns in action here.

For National Walking Day, 5 things to know about improving your health by walking

Bob and Linda Larimore enjoy their walk along the Hamilton Greenbelt on Nov. 10, 2016, with their dogs, Sam and Calli, both rescue dogs. SUE KNOLLE FOR LAKE TRAVIS VIEW LAKEWAY

Is it National Walking Day already? Yes, it is — and to give you more reasons to appreciate getting off the couch and into your best pair of comfy shoes, the good folks at Seton Healthcare have outlined five things to keep in mind if you want to improve your health through walking:

 

1. It’s great for your heart

Aerobic exercise, such as walking, will increase your heart rate and help lower your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. The advantages of walking, health experts say, is it provides benefits without high-intensity stress on your body.

“For most people, establishing a long-term habit of walking is more feasible compared to running or other more intense exercise,” says Seton Heart Institute cardiologist Raymond Bietry.

A study in the American Heart Association journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found that the more runners and walkers took to the streets and sidewalks, the more their health benefits increased.

2. It’s good for your mind, too

According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking can:

  • Releases endorphins that can help fight depression and improve your mood.
  • Releases serotonin, which can help you relax and get the most amount of deep sleep at night
  • Strengthens your muscles, promotes joint health and can prevent bone loss for people with osteoporosis.
  • Help fight against memory loss and lower the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Make time for 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day

The American Heart Association and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

You’re busy, so how can you pull that off? Try these tips:

  • Have a set walking time
  • Walk with a partner or your dog
  • Bring music with you via your smartphone or an MP3 player.
  • Break it up into multiple small walks, as long as each session lasts about 10 minutes

4. Work walking into regular activities

 

  • Instead of looking for the closest parking spot, park further out and walk.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • If you’re walking the dog already, add hand or ankle weights to amp it up.

“No matter how slow you go, you are lapping anyone on the couch,” Bietry said. “So start with small lifestyle changes and go from there,” he said.

5. Make walking a habit

Try these tips:

  • Set realistic goals. Use a pedometer, smart phone app or journal to track your progress. Raise the bar once they are met, and keep going.
  • Soft, breathable clothing and walking-specific shoes are key to walking in comfort.
  • Be safe. For early morning or night-time walks, wear reflective gear.  Carry a flashlight and walk in familiar areas. Always let someone know where you are and carry a phone for emergencies.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, hat and sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays.  If it gets too hot, or rain interferes, head to the mall for an indoor option.

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