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Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte//  

baylor football bowl

baylor football bowl Coach Matt Rhule celebrates with Terrel Bernard after the Bears’ win over Texas Tech. Baylor earned the right to play in a bowl game, and will play in the Texas Bowl in Houston.


City_of_waco
City council to discuss viability of electric scooters downtown
 Phillip Ericksen  / 
 12.02.18

The Waco City Council will work to determine Tuesday whether electric scooters often found for rent in metropolitan areas would benefit a growing downtown Waco.

Though the vehicles unlocked by smartphone apps and a small fee have been considered solutions to transportation deficiencies in dense urban spaces, they can also create concerns over safety and aesthetics.

City staff is seeking direction from the council on the issue because the three vendors vying for a planned bike-share program suggested other “shared mobility devices” within their bids. The city has yet to sign any agreement with the potential vendors, which include Zagster Inc., Veoride Inc. and Gotcha Bikes LLC.

The discussion at the 3 p.m. council meeting will come almost four months after a scooter company, Bird Rides, suddenly invaded downtown sidewalks and the Baylor University area in violation of a city ordinance forbidding businesses to operate on public property. The scooters were gone two days later at the insistence of City Hall.

Bird scooters are unlocked by a smartphone app. Users pay a base fee of $1 per ride plus 20 cents per minute and are required by the company to supply and wear helmets. They may not be used on sidewalks, and the company picks up the vehicles each night to recharge them before placing them back each morning.

Local governments around the country have debated how best to regulate the trend and prepare adequate infrastructure for it. An average scooter can go as fast as 15 mph.

“In general, bikes and scooters and other types of shared mobility devices can work well in an environment that has connectivity, whether that’s something like bike lanes or bike paths or adequate spaces for parking,” said Chelsea Phlegar, a senior planner with the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization. “I think it works well in more urbanized areas where potential destinations are kind of close together, and in areas where people expect to see a mix of modes.”

Assistant City Manager Bradley Ford said the discussion scheduled for Tuesday does not come in response to the Bird episode.

“We want it done in an organized fashion,” Ford said of any potential downtown transportation initiative.

Tasked with studying the viability of a bike-share program, a working group comprised of city staffers, representatives of the downtown Public Improvement District and members of the local biking community concluded in April that a hybrid model of docked and “dockless” models would be best suited for Waco. Public bike racks, ground-level docks and “geofencing,” which uses GPS for virtual perimeters, would hold the bikes.

Mayor Kyle Deaver has said the city council generally supports a bike-share program. And in July, the council approved an ordinance revision to allow bike-share vendors to operate on city property, but scooters and other “shared mobility devices” are not addressed in city regulations.

“Generally, downtown areas are good places to start, but as you build awareness for these kinds of uses, you can build that kind of culture pretty quickly,” Phlegar said.


Fire
Speegleville VFD selling 1982 fire engine, raising money for brush truck replacement
 Kristin Hoppa  / 
 12.02.18

The Speegleville Volunteer Fire Department is hoping a little community support and the sale of some old equipment will help it buy a new brush truck ahead of the next year’s summer grass fire season.

The volunteer fire department with 15 active members has already sold a 1998 diesel pickup that needed repairs to its cab, and firefighters are now working to sell a 1982 fire engine as they continue to seek donations to support their responses to 250 to 300 calls for service each year.

“We get a lot of our budget through fundraising … but it’s pretty much up to us to keep it running,” Speegleville VFD Assistant Chief Kevin Merritt said. “We are hoping with the sale of these two vehicles, we might get between $7,000 and $10,000 total.”

The new brush truck is expected to cost between $50,000 and $55,000, Merritt said. While the ‘82 engine is memorable, the cost of repairs it would need to stay in service outweigh the benefits, he said.

“This engine was the first Speegleville engine that went for mutual aid during the West explosion in 2013,” Merritt said. “It ran in nearly all of the parades we’ve been to, but it needs some pretty costly repairs to the point where it would have cost more than the value of the truck.”

The brush truck the department hopes to add to its four-vehicle fleet would be smaller than the old engine that is up for sale but it would be better suited to the department’s typical needs.

“We’ve already had a few grass fires this year,” Merritt said. “When you get out into the middle of a grass fire but you are unsure if that firetruck can get you out of that fire, it is time to get rid of that truck.”

Merritt, a full-time Aramark Corp. employee, said the department’s annual budget is $19,000 and is primarily funded by donations.

“Most years we are able to raise our operating budget, but this year, with a new truck, we are running thin,” Merritt said. “We are just a bunch of volunteers who are here to help our community out.”

The department has a GoFundMe page set up to collect donations at bit.ly/SpeeglevilleVFD.


AP
Bush mourned as a great statesman, a man of uncommon decency
 
 12.02.18

WASHINGTON — Former President George H.W. Bush is returning to Washington as a revered political statesman, hailed by leaders across the political spectrum and around the world as a man not only of greatness but also of uncommon decency and kindness.

Bush, who died late Friday at his Houston home at age 94, is to be honored with a state funeral at National Cathedral in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, followed by burial Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M.

Before that, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a public viewing from his arrival in Washington on Monday until Wednesday morning.

President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.

Bush’s crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

“We didn’t agree much on domestic policy, but when it came to the international side of things, he was a very wise and thoughtful man,” former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat who lost the presidency to Bush in 1988, told The Associated Press on Saturday. He credited Bush’s ability to negotiate with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as playing a key role.

“It was a time of great change, demanding great responsibility from everyone,” Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency. “The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race.”

During that time and after, Gorbachev said, he always appreciated the kindness Bush and his family showed him.

In Washington, the former Republican president won praise from leaders of both parties.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan lauded him for leading the nation with “decency and integrity,” while Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said it was a “privilege to work with him.”

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Bush “befriended political foes, reminding Americans that there is always more that unites us than divides us.”

At the G-20 summit in Argentina, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in East Germany, told reporters she likely would never have become her country’s leader had Bush not pressed for the nation’s reunification in 1990.

A humble hero of World War II, Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run over Japan. He had enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday.

Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, a union that lasted until her death earlier this year.

After military service, Bush enrolled in Yale University, where he would become a scholar-athlete, captaining the baseball team to two College World Series before graduating Phi Beta Kappa after just 2 ½ years.

After moving to Texas to work in the oil business, Bush turned his attention to politics in the 1960s, being elected to his first of two terms in Congress in 1967. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan’s vice president.

Soon after he reached the zenith of his political popularity following the liberation of Kuwait, the U.S. economy began to sour and voters began to believe that Bush, never a great orator, was out of touch with ordinary people.

He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

“Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?” he joked in 2005.

Clinton said he would be “forever grateful” for that friendship.


Associated Press — Sean Rayford  

South Carolina guard Tyasha Harris drives to the hoop against Baylor guard Chloe Jackson during the first half Sunday, in Columbia, S.C.


AP
Trump and Xi buy time in trade war. That was the easy part.
 
 12.02.18

WASHINGTON — The dinner-table diplomacy that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China conducted over the weekend produced something as vague as it was valuable: an agreement to keep talking.

Forged over grilled sirloin at the Group of 20 summit Saturday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the ceasefire Trump and Xi agreed to Saturday night illustrated that the leaders of the world’s two largest economies can at least find some common ground, however tentative and ill-defined it might be. The truce pulled the United States and China back from an escalating trade war that was threatening world economic growth and had set global investors on edge.

“The prospects for real progress on substantive issues with China are now better than at any point in the Trump administration,” said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia.

What Trump and Xi achieved was the gift of additional time — 90 days, at least — to try to resolve the thorny and complicated issues that divide them. Most important among them, and perhaps the most intractable, is the U.S. argument that Beijing has deployed predatory tactics in a headlong drive to overtake America’s global supremacy in high technology.

Yet reaching a permanent peace will hardly be easy. The Trump administration asserts, and many experts agree, that China systematically steals trade secrets and forces the U.S. and other foreign countries to hand over sensitive technology as the price of admission to the vast Chinese market.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

This year, Trump imposed an import tax of 25 percent on $50 billion in products, then hit an additional $200 billion worth of goods with 10 percent tariffs. Those 10 percent tariffs were scheduled to ratchet up to 25 percent on Jan. 1 if the United States and China failed to reach an agreement to at least postpone that move.

In Buenos Aires, they did reach such an accord. Trump agreed to delay the scheduled U.S. tariff increase for 90 days while the two sides negotiate over the administration’s technology-related complaints. In return, China agreed to buy what the White House called a “not yet agreed upon, but very substantial” amount of U.S. products to help narrow America’s gaping trade deficit with China. If the Chinese did eventually increase such purchases, it would be warmly welcomed in the U.S. Farm Belt, where producers of soybeans and other crops have been hurt by Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs.

But can China be trusted? Its contentious tech policies lie at the heart of its economic vision, and Beijing could prove reluctant to sacrifice its ambition, no matter what longer-term agreement with the United States it eventually reaches.

“Make no mistake about it: The issues that we have with China are deep structural issues, and you’re not going to resolve all of them in 90 days or even 180 days,” said Dean Pinkert, a former commissioner on the U.S. International Trade Commission and now a partner at the law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed. The Trump administration is “going to have to decide how much progress they need in order to define it as a win.”

Parag Khanna, founder of the FutureMap consultancy and author of the forthcoming book “The Future is Asian,” noted that in speeches to domestic Chinese audiences, Xi is still promoting the economic self-reliance that Made in China 2025 symbolizes.

“What he’s saying to his own people has more long-term validity than what he’s saying to Trump over dinner for the sake of everyone saving face,” Khanna said.

Even so, the Buenos Aires breakthrough may calm investors who worried about financial damage from the trade hostilities. Caterpillar, Ford and other U.S. corporate giants have complained that the higher Trump tariffs, if kept in place, would guarantee higher costs and lower profits. That’s one reason the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled this fall after hitting a record close Oct. 3.

In the meantime, just as Trump dialed back the drama on one trade front over the weekend, he magnified the tension on another. En route from Buenos Aires on Air Force One, the president told reporters that he would soon notify Congress that he’s abandoning the North American Free Trade Agreement. Such a move would force lawmakers to approve the NAFTA replacement he reached Sept. 30 with Canada and Mexico — or have no North American trade bloc at all. The absence of any such bloc would hurt companies that have built supply chains that crisscross the three countries’ borders.

“This trades one trade uncertainty for another,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, tweeted. “Policy uncertainty remains unusually high for an economy that on paper should be feeling fat and happy.”

Prospects in Congress for the new deal — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement — were complicated by the midterm elections, which left opposition Democrats in control of the U.S. House. Democrats favor provisions of the USMCA that encourage automakers to shift production back to the United States. But they say the deal must do more to protect U.S. workers from low-wage Mexican competition.

“The work is not done yet,” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.