BJ Austin | KERA News

BJ Austin

Reporter

BJ Austin has more than 25 years of broadcast journalism experience, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.

At KERA, BJ was runner-up for Texas Health Journalist of the Year in the 2013 Anson Jones, M.D., Awards from the Texas Medical Association. She earned a 2009 Texas Associated Press Broadcasters honorable mention for best specialty/beat reporting and a 2010 honorable mention for best general-assignment story for "Zoo Poo." She has also shared several awards, including a a 2010 TAPB first-place trophy for KERA’s radio series "Living with the Trinity: Thirsty"; a 2009 TAPB second-place honor for best continuing coverage for "Family Values: What Voters Want"; and a 2010 regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association for "The Economy Project."

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BJ Austin / KERA News

A free downtown Dallas shuttle service starts today. It’ll make stops at downtown attractions, as well as the Bishop Arts district in Oak Cliff.

BJ Austin / KERA News

On Tuesday, Arlington voters could end the city’s 111-year-old patchwork ban on liquor sales in the city.  A proposition on the ballot would make all of Arlington "wet."

BJ Austin / KERA News

Starting Friday, SNAP, or food stamp benefits, will be cut by 5 percent. That’s $36 a month for a family of four. Food bank operators in North Texas are bracing for more people lining up at local pantries. 

BJ Austin / KERA News

Infosys, an international tech company with offices in Plano, is paying a record $34 million to settle claims of visa fraud and abuse.

Federal agents in North Texas led the investigation.

In 2011, a whistleblower brought possible visa fraud complaints to the attention of investigators regarding Infosys' Plano location, which is responsible for handling the company's immigration practices and procedures.

Tarrant County still leads the state in the number of whooping cough cases this year: 562 to date. But Tarrant Public Health director Lou Brewer says there is good news: not as many children and adults are getting sick. 

“We have pretty much finished looking at the cases and reports for September, and there’s a marked decrease in the number of cases, particularly in the Hispanic population,” Brewer told county commissioners during an update on public health issues.  “So, we’re very happy to see that.”

BJ Austin / KERA News

Klyde Warren Park in Dallas is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend. Festivities feature an outdoor simulcast of the Dallas Opera’s production of “Carmen,” which starts at 8 p.m. Friday.

Park president Tara Green suggests you dress up as your favorite Carmen and get there early for a pre-show singalong. Green is hoping for big crowds this weekend to push the park past 1 million visitors.

bluepoint951 / flickr.com

Update, 4:56 p.m. Thursday: The Dallas police officer who shot a mentally ill man in a disputed incident caught on tape has been fired, the department announced this afternoon.

Cardan Spencer faced a disciplinary hearing Thursday morning. He has also been charged with aggravated assault.

“Officers are not above the law,” Chief David Brown said at a press conference. “We as a police department are not going to look the other way. We’re not going to sweep officer misconduct under the rug.  Officers’ actions must be reasonable and necessary.”

BJ Austin / KERA News

Dallas City Council members went behind closed doors Wednesday to hear an independent investigation into how an ordinance cracking down on Uber, the app-based limo service, was rushed to a proposed vote.

The ordinance bypassed the council committee process and was presented for a vote after competitor Yellow Cab complained that the new transportation service was violating city regulations.

Following the closed-door meeting, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he didn’t hear of any legal or ethical violations regarding the independent investigation. Instead, he said a series of bad decisions were made. He's troubled by the way city staff handled the ordinance.

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Parkland Hospital in Dallas and Baylor Medical Center Carrollton are among  Dallas-area hospitals that fell in an annual ranking that measures hospital acquired infections and injuries, as well as medical and medication errors.

The Dallas VA Medical Center is offering new help to the most injured North Texas vets – those with multiple wounds– physical and psychological. Monday, officials cut the ribbon on a new $5 million polytrauma center.

Texas Rangers/Facebook

Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Famer known for his red-hot right arm, fiery personality and management savvy, is retiring as the chief executive officer of the Texas Rangers at the end of October, the team announced Thursday.

He had a few tough months in the front office. Last March, the Rangers stripped Ryan of his team president title, leading many to believe that he would leave the team. Many observers said he was being forced out.

Ryan served as Rangers president in 2008 before becoming chief executive officer in 2011. Ryan, who played for the Rangers from 1989 to 1993, threw a record seven no-hitters during his Major League career.

Virany / flickr.com

Research by Connecticut College students and a neuroscience professor found that Oreo cookies light up more neurons in the brains of lab rates than cocaine or morphine.

Neuroscience major Jamie Honohan says her idea was to shed light on potential addictiveness of high-fat/high-sugar foods.  Students and Professor Joseph Schroeder measured the levels of neuronal activity in the brain’s pleasure center.  They found that Oreos activiated significantly more neurons than the two illegal drugs.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Parkland Hospital in Dallas has struggled over the past two years to correct hundreds of deficiencies found during a critical inspection, and remains under federal monitoring. But board members say the public hospital has made the required corrections and they’re ready to resume the search for a permanent CEO.

BJ Austin / KERA News

A Dallas federal jury found this afternoon that billionaire Mark Cuban did not commit insider trading.

After nearly four hours of deliberations, a jury of seven women and two men cleared Cuban on all counts, saying the government did not prove that the Dallas Mavericks owner had received confidential information from the CEO of mamma.com.

The Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Cuban of using confidential information to dump his shares of mamma.com and avoid losing $750,000.

The U.S. Geological Service is still reporting earthquakes in spite on the government shutdown, and it logged one at about 8:30 Tuesday night in Ovilla, south of Dallas.

USGS reported the minor, 2.4 quake was centered off Ovilla Road, just east of Interstate 35.

Ovilla has about 3,400 residents and straddles the Dallas-Ellis county line.  Three people in neighboring Cedar Hill reported on the USGS website that they felt the teeny quake.

American Airlines

  American Airlines is adding its first-ever non-stop service from D/FW Airport to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

CEO Tom Horton announced the new daily service today, saying it reinforces American’s commitment to strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.  The new flights will start next summer.

BJ Austin / KERA News

For more than 30 years, Dallas County documents on the legal battle over the exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald were tucked away in drawers at the Medical Examiner’s office.

On Tuesday, Dr. Jeffrey Barnard, the county’s medical examiner, presented the papers to the Sixth Floor Museum on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Nov. 22 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The Centers for Disease Control says one of every 20 patients gets an infection during a hospital stay.  In Fort Worth, a hospital is fighting that problem with an ultraviolet light machine that looks like one of Luke Skywalker’s sidekicks.  

Looking a little like R2D2, a portable ultraviolet light disinfecting machine is killing potentially dangerous microbes in hospital operating rooms and elsewhere.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Cars race, horses race, pigs race, and this year at the State Fair ostriches race. The competitors stand 7-feet tall: their heads well above the top frame of the starting gate. They look like miniature bobble-heads with big brown eyes – heads darting up and down, side to side as the jockeys mount. That’s right. There are riders.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The federal government shutdown is hitting home in North Texas. While Congressional Republicans met with President Obama on Thursday, furloughed federal workers took to the street in downtown Dallas.

They’re fed up with Congress, worried about family finances, and they want to get back to work.

The government shutdown has entered its second week -- and across North Texas, it's affecting a variety of groups.

The shutdown has stymied a new local group that places flowers on veterans’ gravesites. Remember Heroes started its service on Oct. 1, the first day of the government shutdown. Remember Heroes needs access to a government site that contains grave data. But that site has been shut down due to the shutdown. And without that site, it makes it difficult for this new group to find gravesites.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

A handful of physics professors at the University of Texas at Arlington celebrated with high-fives at yesterday’s announcement of the Nobel Prize for Physics. It went to the two scientists behind the theory of the Higgs boson particle, sometimes called the God Particle, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Mark Cuban’s insider trading trial continues today, with the Dallas Mavericks owner back on the witness stand.

Cuban told jurors he first learned that the Securities and Exchange Commission was suing him for alleged insider trading when he tuned into the cable channel CNBC one morning in 2008.

Lance McCord / flickr.com

The government shutdown may allow the flu to sneak up on us as the season begins. The Centers for Disease Control’s flu tracking program is on hold because of the shutdown and employee furloughs.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is in federal court in Dallas, telling jurors about calls and emails he sent to the CEO of an Internet firm shortly before he sold all his shares in the company. Cuban’s lawyers say there was no privileged information in the conversation.

Update, 3:15 p.m. Thursday: KERA's BJ Austin has this report on today's testimony:

The Securities and Exchange Commission says Cuban used confidential information from a phone call with the CEO of mamma.com about plans to sell more public shares of the company.

Prosecutors say that Cuban immediately sold his 600,000 shares to avoid losing $750,000. The additional stock sale would have diluted Cuban’s existing stock value and reduced his 6 percent ownership in the company. 

Gage Skidmore / flickr.com

Speaking to an audience in New Jersey yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the opening of the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces a “felony” against young people.

Texas reports more than 2,300 cases of whooping cough so far this year, the highest in 50 years.  A new report on California’s 2010 whooping cough outbreak links clusters of unvaccinated people with areas that had the highest number of whooping cough cases. 

UPDATE:  Dallas School Superintendent Mike Miles survived a vote to fire him Monday night for violating policy and his contract. He’ll get a letter of reprimand and other sanctions instead. 

BJ Austin / KERA News

This year’s State Fair of Texas is all about Big Tex and his triumphant return after last year’s fire. The Hall of State features the exhibit The Life and Times of Big Tex.  And this year’s butter sculpture features the iconic cowboy. 

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