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Urban designer Jana McCann has worked on projects around Austin such as Mueller Park, downtown Austin and the Waller Creek District.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Urban designer Jana McCann spoke at a forum in Goldsmith Hall on Friday about the development projects she has worked on in the Austin area.

At the event hosted by the School of Architecture, McCann, CEO of McCann Adams Studio, said her work has predominantly been in Austin, but she has completed projects in the United Kingdom and France as well. 

According to McCann, there is a huge difference between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to participation attitude on urban development. She said her time working on the Paris Metro service helped her realize these differences. 

“During the project, there was no public engagement,” McCann said. “Plans were figured out by engineers, and there was a high trust of government on this project. The only public interaction was informing citizens on the project’s progress.” 

She said, when she was there for the opening of the station, it was strange to see citizens so proud of something in which they had no involvement. 

Since being back in Austin, McCann has been involved with planning the Mueller subdivision. The city decided to develop the former site of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport in 2004 by adding a market center, park and bike trails. 

In 2013, McCann helped design the newest addition to Mueller, a gathering and hangout spot called Paggi Square. The square includes an attraction called pétanque, which is a lawn bowling game created in France. Another development McCann said she was proud of was the Waller Creek project. The first part of the project dealt with addressing the major flood problems that come to downtown and other areas in the district.

Thomas Rowlinson, community and regional planning graduate student, said he appreciated McCann pointing out the difference in cultures.

“I really liked that she showed the European practice versus the way practitioners do it now in the U.S.,” Rowlinson said.  “So much of public participation in other parts of the world is unheard of. Here in America, participation, in ways, feels like a town hall meeting.”

City Forum hosted the event, along with architectural graduate students within the community and regional planning program, to educate students and faculty on public engagement within urban development. 

L'Horloge d'Orsay

A woman calls to a friend at Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.
Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ROME — The United States and some European allies are edging closer to direct involvement in Syria’s civil war with plans to deliver meals, medical kits and other forms of nonlethal assistance to the rebels battling President Bashar Assad.

The U.S., Britain, France and Italy aren’t planning to supply the Free Syrian Army with weapons or ammunition. But moves are afoot to significantly boost the size and scope of their aid to the political and military opposition. Such decisions could be announced as early as Thursday at an international conference on Syria in Rome.

Britain and France are keen to give the rebels the means to protect themselves from attacks by Assad’s forces, officials say.

For now, the Obama administration is advancing more modestly. It is nearing a decision whether to give ready-made meals and medical supplies to the opposition fighters, who have not received direct
U.S. assistance.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to announce the new contributions at the Rome conference, in addition to tens of millions of dollars intended for rule of law and governance programs.

The shifts in strategy are part of a step-by-step process that could lead to direct military aid to carefully screened members of the Free Syrian Army if the nearly two-year conflict continues.

Kerry said Wednesday in Paris that both the U.S. and Europe want a negotiated solution to the crisis and would speak to the leaders of the Syrian National Coalition about that. 

“We want their advice on how we can accelerate the prospects of a political solution because that is what we believe is the best path to peace, the best way to protect the interests of the Syrian people, the best way to end the killing and the violence,” he said.

By now, you probably know that Lance Armstrong confessed to allegations of doping during all seven of his Tour de France victories. He did so in the first part of a 2 1/2-hour-long interview with Oprah Winfrey  this past Thursday and Friday evening at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin. 

Aside from Lance’s palatial Austin residence, Austin bears many signs of his presence: his bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s, the name of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway and the presence of the Livestrong Foundation headquarters, not to mention the significant increase in the number of cyclists in Austin during and after Armstrong’s victories in the Tour de France.

Thanks to that roster, Armstrong became many cyclists’ hero and leader, particularly in Austin. But now that spectators worldwide realize that Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories resulted partially from his reliance on a cocktail of performance enhancing drugs such as testosterone, cortisone, human growth hormone and EPO (erythropoietin, a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the growth of oxygen carrying red blood cells), a backlash has begun with groups of people trying to remove the cancer survivor’s mark on the city of Austin.

Lance Armstrong’s yellow jersey has been removed from Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s office. The mayor publicly commented on his disappointment that “Lance misled [him] and so many others in Austin.” To top it all, many residents have started talking about renaming the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a cycling route that opened in 2009 as a response to the city’s expanding enthusiasm about the sport. This backlash raises an interesting question: How should we perceive our hometown hero, and how will the scandal impact cycling in this city?

Whether you like it or not, cycling’s popularity in Austin is directly related to Armstrong’s influence on the city. Not only do I not condone Armstrong’s actions, but I also understand the deep disappointment with his drug use and believe that his aggressive attacks on those who reported his drug use deserve condemnation. Yet I still believe that Austin, as a city, should try to preserve what Armstrong gave to cycling — an overall positive contribution to Austin’s culture — and keep that in mind when evaluating the Armstrong episode.

In a previous column, I earned a reputation of criticizing local cyclists for not following traffic rules,  but I believe that cycling, both recreational and competitive, should remain an important aspect of Austin. The benefits of cycling are numerous. According to the Discovery Channel, cycling is good for the heart, muscles, waistline, lifespan, coordination, mental health and immune system. Moreover, it is one of the few sports with relatively easy access. Decent used bikes are affordable. Helmet costs are low. Almost everyone in Austin can bike.

So, as for removing from the city all influences of Lance Armstrong, I disagree, and not just because of his influence on cycling. Granted, like many other athletes today, Lance took drugs. He abused his body, and I do not condone his behavior. Unlike most other athletes who faced similar situations, Armstrong not only confessed to cheating and taking drugs during the Tour de France, he also apologized for his actions. And, scandal notwithstanding, he has an impressive resume. After battling cancer, he created the Livestrong Foundation, which provides support for those afflicted with cancer and fights for government propositions that back cancer research. Through Livestrong, he backed Proposition 29  (a California initiative designed to raise funds for cancer research through a $1 tobacco tax increase) and Proposition 15 (a Texas initiative that created the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and allocated a $3 billion fund for cancer research within the state). 

Just because Armstrong’s mistakes have drawn popular attention and media hype away from his successes, his positive influences on Austin should not be overlooked. If they are, an important aspect of Austin’s cycling culture could be lost as well.

Malik is a Plan II and business honors  freshman from Austin.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

LONDON — On the day he went public with an admission of doping after years of denials, Olympic officials disclosed one more embarrassment for Lance Armstrong: He was stripped of a bronze medal won at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The International Olympic Committee sent a letter to Armstrong on Wednesday night asking him to return the medal, just as it said it planned to do last month. The decision was first reported Thursday by The Associated Press.

On Monday, Armstrong taped an interview with Oprah Winfrey for broadcast Thursday and Friday on her network. A person familiar with the situation told the AP that the winner of seven straight Tour de France titles confessed to Winfrey to using performance-enhancing drugs.

The timing of the IOC move, however, was not related to the TV interview.

The IOC executive board discussed revoking the medal in December, but delayed a decision until cycling’s governing body notified Armstrong he had been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and all results since 1998. He then had 21 days to appeal.

Now that the deadline has expired, the IOC decided to take the medal away. The letter to Armstrong was also sent to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which would collect the medal.

“Having had confirmation from UCI that Armstrong has not appealed the decision to disqualify him from Sydney, we have written to him to ask for the return of the bronze medal,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the AP.

Two months after winning his second Tour de France title in 2000, Armstrong took the bronze in Sydney in the road time trial behind winner and U.S. Postal Service teammate Vyacheslav Ekimov of Russia and Jan Ullrich of Germany.

The IOC opened a disciplinary case in November after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report detailed widespread doping by Armstrong and his teammates. The report called it the most sophisticated doping program in sports.

The IOC will not reallocate Armstrong’s bronze medal, just as cycling’s ruling body decided not to declare any winners for the Tour titles once held by the American. Spanish rider Abraham Olano Manzano, who finished fourth in Sydney, will not be upgraded and the bronze medal will be left vacant in Olympic records.


This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N’Djamena overnight Jan. 11-12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy. The battle to retake Mali’s north from the al-Qaida-linked groups controlling it began in earnest Saturday, after hundreds of French forces deployed to the country and began aerial bombardments to drive back the Islamic extremists from a town seized earlier this week. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali — France claimed new successes in its campaign to oust Islamist extremists from northern Mali on Sunday, bombarding the major city of Gao with airstrikes targeting the airport and training camps used by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group controlling the city.

France’s foreign minister also said the 3-day-old intervention is gaining international support, with communications and transport help from the United States and backing from Britain, Denmark and other European countries.

The French-led effort to take back Mali’s north from the extremists occupying it has included airstrikes by jets and combat helicopters on at least four northern towns, of which Gao is the largest. Some 400 French troops have been deployed to the country in the all-out effort to win back the territory from the well-armed rebels, who seized control of an area larger than France itself following a coup in Mali nine months ago.

“French fighter jets have identified and destroyed this Sunday, Jan. 13, numerous targets in northern Mali near Gao, in particular training camps, infrastructure and logistical depots which served as bases for terrorist groups,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Residents of Gao confirmed that the targets included the city’s airport, as well as the building that served as the base for the town’s feared Islamist police, which — in their adherence to a strict version of Muslim law — have carried out numerous punishments including amputating limbs of accused thieves. 

But the intervention has come with a human cost in the city of Konna, the first to be bombed on Friday and Saturday. The town’s mayor said that at least 10 civilians were killed, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid the falling bombs.

French President Francois Hollande authorized the military operation, code-named “Serval” after a sub-Saharan wildcat, after it became clear that the advancing rebels could push past the defenses in the town of Mopti, the first town on the government-controlled side, which has the largest concentration of Malian soldiers.

The decision catapulted the world and Mali’s neighbors into a military operation that diplomats had earlier said would not take place until at least September. France’s defense minister said they had no choice because of the swift rebel advance.

On Saturday, the body representing nations in West Africa announced that the member states would send hundreds of troops of their own, including at least 500 each from Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, as well as from Nigeria.

U.S. officials have said they had offered to send drones to Mali and were considering a broad range of options for assistance, including information-sharing and possibly allowing limited use of refueling tankers. British Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed to send aircraft to help transport troops.

PARIS — France announced Tuesday that it plans to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state at the U.N. General Assembly this week.

With the announcement, France becomes the first major European country to come out in favor, dealing a setback to Israel. The timing of the announcement appears to be aimed at swaying other European nations.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told parliament that France has long supported Palestinian ambitions for statehood and “will respond ‘Yes’” when the issue comes up for a vote “out of a concern for coherency.”

The Palestinians say the assembly is likely to vote Thursday on a resolution raising their status at the U.N. from an observer to a nonmember observer state, a move they believe is an important step toward a two-state solution with Israel. A Palestinian state would still not be a full General Assembly member, however.

Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly and the resolution is virtually certain of approval. But such a vote by France — a permanent council member — could weigh on decisions in other European capitals.
Europe is divided over the issue. Switzerland will likely vote “yes” and Germany is expected to vote “no.” Britain’s position remains unclear.

Palestinians say they are doing this out of frustration over the four-year deadlock in peace efforts. They believe an endorsement of their state will bolster their negotiating position.

Israel strongly opposes the bid, accusing the Palestinians of trying to bypass negotiations. The resolution would endorse a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel opposes a pullback to the 1967 lines.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said France’s decision wouldn’t change the U.S. assessment of the Palestinian action as a “mistake.”

“With regard to France and any other countries, we obviously disagree with our oldest ally on this issue,” she told reporters. “They know that we disagree with them. But it’s their sovereign decision.”

As French lawmakers applauded Tuesday— many of them members or allies of the Socialist-led government — Fabius cautioned against raising Palestinian hopes too high.

“But, but, but, but, but — but at the same time, madame and monsieur lawmakers, we must show in this case a lot of lucidity,” he said.

PARIS — First the French government went after the rich. Now it has it in for Nutella.

Despite an outcry in support of the beloved chocolate and hazelnut spread, the Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would triple the tax on palm and some other vegetable oils in the hope of cutting down on obesity.

The “Nutella tax” would affect any foods made with those oils and bring in about €40 million ($51 million).

The measure is part of a bigger bill on financing the national health care system and aims to push manufacturers to use healthier alternatives.

The lower house of parliament still has to vote on the tax.

PARIS — French President Francois Hollande is considering pushing for a new tax that would see search engines pay each time they use content from French media. Hollande discussed the topic with Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, during a meeting in Paris Monday.

Hollande says the rapid expansion of the digital economy means that tax laws need to be updated to reward French media content.

Google has opposed the plan and threatened to bar French websites from its search results if the tax is imposed.

Germany is considering a similar law, and Italian editors have also indicated they would favor such a plan.

Europeans faced with a crushing economic crisis have gotten a lot of bad news in the past few years. Although I’m no economist, I am a German native studying in the States and I’ve recognized good news amid the bad. Last Friday, the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize. Few people have asked me about that so far, which is a shame, since I’ve written a little acceptance speech for this memorable event:

I’m proud to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The EU has a lot of problems, and we Europeans tend to forget what this Union once was — and I believe still is — all about: The EU  is one of the largest peace projects in history. I hope that today, all people who are part of this Union feel not only German or French or Spanish or Polish — but also European.

The following lines, spoken by Winston Churchill in 1946, have been quoted countless times as part of the foundation of Europe: “If Europe is to be saved from infinite misery, and indeed from final doom, there must be this act of faith in the European family and this act of oblivion against all the crimes and follies of the past ... The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important … Therefore I say to you: Let Europe arise!” In 1951, six countries, including the wartime enemies Germany and France, founded the European Coal and Steel Community, which expanded in 1957 to become the European Economic Community.

The history of the European Union is part of my own history as well. While officials were signing treaties about the future of France and Germany,  my grandfather opened his house for guests from France as part of an exchange between his village and a French village. Neither my grandfather nor my grandmother spoke French. The husband in the exchange couple spoke a little German, but his wife Armelle spoke none.  Somehow, they communicated with my grandparents. And somehow, they all became friends. When I went to France in the summers growing up, my family always visited them. For me, they are like a third set of grandparents. When my grandmother died this spring, the couple sent one of the most touching letters I’ve read in my life. In a Europe without the dream of a Union and a peaceful future, none of this could have happened.

The EU was not the sole savior of Europe. Without the American military presence in Europe and the financial assistance included in the Marshall Plan, things might have turned out quite differently. Without the EU, I am quite sure they would have, and I think it would have been for the worse.

I don’t think the EU is perfect — far from it. Politicians have used the EU to adopt laws that their own parliaments would not have agreed upon. Some countries have  welcomed the economic benefits of the EU without recognizing the responsibilities that come with them.  In spite of that, I hope that today, we all remember the ideals on which the Union was built. The current crises might even give us a chance to re-think Europe and eliminate some of the weaknesses of the EU: its distance from the population, over-complicated structure, inflated administration and a deficit of democracy.

The Nobel Peace Prize gives Europe the chance to look back on the enthusiasm that both politicians and ordinary people once felt toward the project. However, we should not consider the Prize reason to rest on these laurels. Europe is an unfinished project. 

Something I deeply admire about America is its undaunted belief in the American Dream, which glues the country together in spite of all its problems and differences. There is a European Dream, too. Both dreams might be myths. But that does not mean we can’t make them reality. If not now, then when can Europe start to believe in its dream again?

Hardt is an English major from Freiburg, Germany.