The University’s McDonald Observatory, one of the tops centers for research and education, is located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas making for ideal star gazing conditions. The observatory is currently facing threats of light pollution from growing industries in the surrounding community. 

Photo Credit: McDonald Observatory | Daily Texan Staff

The University’s McDonald Observatory rests in a seven-county light ordinance zone, deep in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, protecting it from the light pollution that plagues most cities and making for some of the darkest skies in the country.

Founded in the 1930s, the observatory is one of the leading centers for astronomical research, education and outreach, boasting more than six advanced telescopes.

Bill Wren, a spokesman for the observatory, said on any given night you can see thousands of stars there.

“The places you can go to see a naturally dark sky are vanishing,” Wren said. “We are raising people that have never seen a naturally dark sky.”

Wren said this is because light pollution, created when light is shone upward into the sky, interferes with our ability to see clearly.

Irresponsible lighting wastes energy and costs Americans an estimated $2.2 billion a year, according to the International Dark-Sky Association. The initiative was launched in 2010 to raise awareness about the effects of light pollution.

“This is not an anti-light campaign,” Wren said. “It’s about putting the light where it’s needed.”

Light ordinances encourage shielding light, aiming it downward and using solar-powered, LED lights when possible.

The biggest threat to dark skies at the observatory is the growing oil and natural gas industry in the Permian Basin region, Wren said. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, more than 9,000 drilling permits were issued in the Permian Basin in 2012 alone.

“In the spectrum of environmental concerns, light pollution is probably low on the list for oil and natural gas companies,” said Colt McCarthy, who owns a drilling supply company. “People don’t really pay attention until it affects their pocketbooks.”

Chevron spokeswoman Dolores Vick said McDonald approached the energy company earlier this year to discuss its lighting practices near the observatory.

“We are researching current lighting practices used in our West Texas operations to determine if there are ways to safely reduce light that emanates from our operations,” Vick said.

In Austin, more than 400 miles away from the observatory, the city set aside $15 million in 2012 to replace the bulbs and fixtures on approximately 70,000 street lamps to combat light pollution in Central Texas.

By 2015, Austin Energy anticipates all the city’s street lamps will be automated, with LED bulbs and flat-glass lenses that focus light downward instead of scattering it toward the sky. The “smart street lights” will conserve energy, as well as reduce light pollution.

“We are one of the few cities in the country that are both automating their street lights and making them dark sky compliant,” Austin Energy spokesman Carlos Cordova said.

With the observatory more than a six-hour drive away, Wren said the best place to see a dark sky in the Austin area is at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Wren said pilots are particularly opposed to bright lights and use shielded lighting to safely depart and land planes.

The astronomy department also hosts Wednesday night public viewings with its telescope on the roof of Robert Lee Moore Hall, as well as Friday and Saturday night viewings at Painter Hall.

Sheldon McClellan (1) goes up for a shot.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Texas sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan plans to transfer, a Texas spokesman confirmed to The Daily Texan on Wednesday.

McClellan led the Longhorns with 13.5 points per game last season and becomes the second Texas player to transfer in as many weeks. Sophomore forward Jaylen Bond announced his intentions to transfer last Monday.

McClellan was in and out of head coach Rick Barnes’ doghouse all year long. Three times he was held scoreless while playing fewer than 10 minutes, responding with big games each time. McClellan averaged 20.7 points per game during a three-game winning streak earlier this month but scored just five points in a loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament and six points on 2-for-13 shooting from the floor in a season-ending, 73-72 defeat to Houston in the first round of the CBI last Wednesday.

McClellan has filed the paperwork to request his release from the team and is waiting on Texas to grant it. A Texas spokesman said he doesn’t foresee any issues in processing the paperwork and making the transfer official soon.

The Houston native averaged 11.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman two seasons ago. He was a 44.8 percent shooter that season, connecting on 31 percent of his three-point attempts that year, but McClellan shot just 38.2 percent from the floor this past season and 27.3 percent from beyond the arc. 

“When he’s dialed in, there’s no doubt he’s a guy that can go get points in a lot of different ways,” Barnes said of McClellan last month. “When he’s lazy and floating around, people are there and he’s not set. He’s not ready. That’s when he struggles.”

In the game after being held scoreless in just seven minutes of a 78-65 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater on March 2, McClellan scored 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting while knocking down three three-pointers in a 79-70 win over Baylor on senior night. In three contests after not scoring a single point, McClellan averaged 18.7 points and shot 57.1 percent from the floor.

“I don’t really think about it,” McClellan said of being benched after the victory over the Bears. “I just move on to the next game and try to help my team to get the win. I just try to stay positive. It is not about me. It is about the team.”

Bond and McClellan could be joined by sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo in leaving Texas soon. Kabongo, a projected second-round pick by DraftExpress, averaged 14.6 points in the 11 games he played after serving a 23-game suspension.

Texas finished this past season with a record of 16-18, by far, the worst under Barnes, who led the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament in his first 14 years on the job before missing out this season.

Junior Geography student Ben Stevens pays to park on the corner of San Antonio and 21st St, one of the 385 new meter spots installed by the city in West Campus. A percentage of the meter fees will go towards funding the upkeep of the streets and sidewalks in the area.

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

To increase safety and improve maintenance in West Campus, Austin installed 385 parking meters during the break that run up 25th Street to Rio Grande Street and north and south on Rio Grande, San Antonio and Nueces streets north of 24th Street, upsetting students who live in the area.

Leah Fillion, public information specialist for the Austin Transportation Department, said the meters will help improve the safety of the streets, open up parking spots and decongest the West Campus area.

According to Fillion and the University Area Partners, installing the meters cost $328,509.

The Austin Transportation Department installed the meters, which became active on Jan. 2, spokesman Steve Grassfield said. Although the meters became active during the break, Grassfield said the city made efforts to ensure students knew that when they returned, the parking meters would be up and running.

“We had signs installed by [Dec. 7] so the students were aware of the changes,” Grassfield said. 

Student Government submitted a letter to the City of Austin that approved an initial pilot program for the parking meters in West Campus.

Initial meter fees will go toward paying this installation cost. Grassfield said 51 percent of the meter fees will also help pay for the new projects in the area.

For example, the sidewalks on 23rd street benefited from this program.

Grassfield has high hopes for the program and said that in addition to paying for new projects, the meters already funded bike lanes from 19th to 24th streets.

“There are certainly fewer cars on the streets where the meters have been installed,” said Brian Donovan, spokesman of the University Area Partners.

Donovan was the chair of the parking committee that coordinated the parking meter planning and implementation. He said the group coordinated with the Austin City Council during the process.

Donovan and Grassfield both said since the meters were installed the week of Dec. 18 and activated at the beginning of the month, it is too early to tell how the meters are impacting the city and the students.

However, the meters in the busy West Campus streets have not been a popular change with students.

Those who do not live in the West Campus area are also affected by the meters, mechanical engineering junior Kristen Palughi said.

“The one most affected by [the parking meters] are visitors and friends of people who live in West Campus, because most places come with parking for those who live there,” Palughi said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 as: New meters frustrate students

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this article had several false statements regarding funding from meters, Student Government’s response to the project, the status of 23rd Street and information about construction of bike lanes. Funds from this project will not go to constructing bike lanes from 25th to 29th street and have been used for bike lanes on 19th to 24th streets and will be used for new projects, such as widening the sidewalk. Fifty-one percent of the funds from the meters will go to paying for projects. Student Government submitted a letter of approval to the City of Austin on a pilot of this project. The city has made improvements on 23rd street, and it is in good shape. 

An internally displaced Congolese man listens to the radio Saturday. Regional leaders meeting in Uganda on Saturday called for an end to the advance by M23 rebels toward Congo's capital, and also urged the Congolese government to sit down with rebel leaers as residents fled some towns for fear of more fighting between the rebels and army.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — Congolese officials are in talks Sunday with representatives of M23, the rebel group that last week took control of the eastern Congo city of Goma, according to Ugandan officials.

Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga said that he is mediating discussions to help both sides reach a settlement that would end a violent rebellion that has sucked in Uganda and Rwanda, which both face charges of backing the rebels.

M23 President Jean-Marie Runiga is leading the rebels in the talks, according to Rene Abandi, M23’s head of external relations.

Abandi, who is now based in the Ugandan capital Kampala, said M23 representatives met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila in a tense, two-hour meeting that was also attended by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

“He tried to accuse us and we also tried to accuse him,” Abandi said of the meeting with Kabila on Saturday. “It was a meeting to have a common understanding of the principle of negotiation. (Kabila) said he’s ready to negotiate directly with us.”

But some Congolese officials in the capital Kinshasa have said there will be no talks with the rebels unless they quit Goma. A regional summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in Kampala — attended by both Kabila and Museveni — on Saturday called on the rebels to leave Goma and urged Kabila to listen to the “legitimate grievances” of M23.

Despite the regional leaders’ demands for the rebel forces to withdraw from Goma, M23 soldiers were visibly in control of the city Sunday. M23 also still held Sake, a contested town 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Goma. The Congolese army attacked the town Saturday, but M23 retained control.

M23 President Runiga said that withdrawal from Goma was “under consideration” and, while M23 did not oppose the idea “in principle,” no decision had been taken yet, according to M23 spokesman Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama, speaking to the Associated Press. Runiga is still in Kampala and no official response to the demands from the regional summit is expected before his return to Congo, said Kazarama in Goma.

“We are waiting to hear from Runiga when he will be back from Kampala,” said Kazarama.

“Since May we have asked to meet with President Kabila,” said Amani Kabasha, M23’s deputy spokesman. “At least now there has been contact. The door is open for talks to find the durable peace that eastern Congo needs.”

Government troops remain in Minova, 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Sake, following a failed attack on M23 last Thursday. Unruly Congo army soldiers had looted residents for the third night running, according to a United Nations official in the town who insisted upon anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. U.N. peacekeepers patrolled Minova throughout the night to protect civilians from the rampaging government troops.

In Minova, Congo Gen. Francois Olenga, who was recently named head of the Congolese army, held meetings with area commanders . “The country is in danger. We cannot defend our country with traitors,” said Olenga to The Associated Press.

Pickup trucks packed with Congolese army soldiers armed with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades sped through Minova to regroup at the local soccer stadium. Army soldiers were also walking in the streets, looking for food. Some army soldiers were selling cigarettes on the side of the road.

An M23 communiqué sent Saturday night claimed that government regiments were moving into attack positions around rebel-held territory.

“Let them attack us!” said M23 spokesman Kazarama. “Do they have the strength? Absolutely not, we are in a strong position.”

A 62-year old man died in a motorcycle accident this morning, according to Warren Hassigner, Austin-Travis County EMS spokesman.

Hassigner said the motorcyclist hit the rail of Interstate Highway 35, was thrown over, fell 30 feet and landed on U.S. Highway 290. While Hassigner said EMS did not know if any other vehicles were involved in or caused the accident, he said no one else was hurt.

This accident happened in the middle of the Republic of Texas Biker Rally, the largest motorcycle bike rally in Texas. The rally started yesterday and continues through to June 10.

While Hassinger said EMS did not know if the victim was a participant of the rally, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted this morning that he “was advised of our first motorcycle fatality of this ROT Rally week at 290 and 35.” The tweet was retweeted by Austin Police Department.

BEIJING — The blind Chinese dissident who boldly fled house arrest and placed himself under the wing of U.S. diplomats balked Wednesday at a deal delicately worked out between the two countries to let him live freely in China, saying he now fears for his family’s safety unless they are all spirited abroad.

After six days holed up in the U.S. Embassy, as senior officials in Beijing and Washington tussled over his fate, Chen Guangcheng left the compound’s protective confines Wednesday for a nearby hospital for treatment of a leg injury suffered in his escape. A shaken Chen told The Associated Press from his hospital room that Chinese authorities had warned he would lose his opportunity to be reunited with his family if he stayed longer in the embassy.

U.S. officials verified that account. But they adamantly denied his contention that one American diplomat had warned him of a threat from the Chinese that his wife would be beaten to death if he did not get out of the embassy.

“I think we’d like to rest in a place outside of China,” Chen told the AP, appealing again for help from Washington. “Help my family and me leave safely.”

Only hours earlier, U.S. officials said they had extracted from the Chinese government a promise that Chen would join his family and be allowed to start a new life in a university town in China, safe from the rural authorities who had abusively held him in prison and house arrest for nearly seven years.

That announcement had been timed to clear up the matter before strategic and economic meetings start Thursday between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their Chinese counterparts — and to show the U.S. standing firm in its defense of human rights in China while engaging on
other issues.

Clinton spoke to Chen on the phone when he left the embassy and, in a statement, welcomed the resettlement agreement as one that “reflected his choices and our values.”

But the murky circumstances of Chen’s departure from the embassy, and his sudden appeal to leave China after declaring he wanted to stay, again threatened to overshadow talks that were to focus on the global economic crisis and hotspots such as North Korea, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry signaled its unhappiness with the entire affair, demanding that the U.S. apologize for giving Chen sanctuary at the embassy.

“What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement.

Chen, 40, became an international human rights figure and inspiration to many ordinary Chinese after running afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions carried out as part of China’s one-child policy. He served four years in prison on what supporters said were fabricated charges, then was kept under house arrest with his wife, daughter and mother, with the adults often being roughed by officials and his daughter searched and harassed.

Blinded by childhood fever but intimately familiar with the terrain of his village, Chen slipped from his guarded farmhouse in eastern China’s Shandong province at night on April 22. He made his way through fields and forest, along roads and across a narrow river to meet the first of several supporters who helped bring him to Beijing and the embassy — his guards unaware for three days that he was gone.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner disputed Chen’s claim that he was left alone by the Americans at the hospital.

“There were U.S. officials in the building,” the spokesman told reporters. “I believe some of his medical team was in fact with him at the hospital.” He said U.S. officials would continue visiting Chen while he was there.

Chen's supporters in the U.S. called on Clinton to meet him directly, and one of them, Republican Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, said it appeared the resettlement agreement “seems to have been done under significant duress.”

“If ever there was a test of the U.S. commitment to human rights, it should have been at that moment, potentially sending him back to a very real threat,” he said.

But no one appeared to know precisely what to make of Chen's change of heart. He had welcomed a deal that let him stay in China and work for change, telling his lawyer Li Jinsong on the way to the hospital, “I’m free, I’ve received clear assurances,” according to Li.

Toner said three U.S. officials heard Chen tell Clinton in broken English on the phone that he wanted to kiss her in gratitude. Chen told the AP that he actually told Clinton, “I want to see you now.”

Nor is it clear how the U.S. could be party to an agreement on Chen's safety inside China when it has no power to enforce the conditions of his life there.

Ai Xiaoming, a documentary filmmaker and activist, said the Chinese government fails to ensure people’s rights, so the best solution would be for Chen and his family to go to America.

“In the first place, Chen Guangcheng should not have to ask a foreign country to protect his rights,” Ai said. “His rights should be protected by his own country, through the constitution. But it is obvious that this cannot be done.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said no U.S. official said anything to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did the Chinese relay any such threats to American diplomats, she said. She did confirm that if he did not leave the embassy the Chinese intended to return his family to their home province of Shandong, where they had been detained and beaten by local officials, and that they would lose any chance of being reunited.

“At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country,” Nuland said. “All our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.”

Jerome Cohen, a New York University law professor who is advising Chen at the State Department’s request, said there was never any explicit discussion of a threat against Chen’s wife.

“There was no indication in four or five hours of talks that he knew of any threat to her life,” cohen said.

Senior U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the intense negotiations that led to Chen leaving the embassy, said the U.S. helped Chen get into the embassy because he injured his leg escaping from his village. In the embassy, Chen did not request safe passage out of China or asylum in the U.S., the officials said.

U.S. officials said the deal called for Chen to settle outside his home province of Shandong and have several university options to choose from. They also said the Chinese government had promised to treat Chen “like any other student in China” and to investigate allegations of abuse against him and his family by local authorities.

Clinton said the U.S. would monitor China's assurances. “Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task,” she said.

Printed on Thursday, May 3, 2012 as: Chinese dissident afraid, now wants to leave country

This image, made from amateur video released by Douma City and accessed Thursday, purports to show Syrian military tanks at te Damascus suburb of Dourma, Syria.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BEIRUT — U.N. observers on Thursday inspected the site of an explosion that flattened a block of houses in the central Syrian city of Hama and killed at least 16 people, while the government and the opposition traded blame over the cause of the blast.

Syrian state-run media said rebel bomb-makers accidentally set off the explosives. Anti-regime activists said intense shelling by government forces caused the extensive damage. It was impossible to independently verify the conflicting accounts because President Bashar Assad’s regime, facing a 13-month-old uprising, has restricted access for journalists and other outside witnesses.

The spokesman for U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, said observers visited the site but he had no immediate word on what they saw.

Two U.N. observers are stationed in Hama, part of an advance team of 15 monitors who are visiting hot spots to try to salvage a cease-fire that is part of a peace plan aimed at ending the violence and bringing the two sides to the negotiating table. The observer team is to be expanded in the coming weeks to up to 300.

Amateur videos said to be of Wednesday’s blasts in Hama showed a large cloud of white and yellow smoke rising from a neighborhood surrounded by green fields. In a later video, dozens of people searched through the debris, including huge chunks of cement and broken cinderblocks. Another clip shows the bloodied body of a little girl being carried through a crowd of wailing men.

The state-run Syrian news agency SANA said rebels mishandling explosives triggered a blast that killed at least 16 people and severely damaged at least six houses.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists, denied that and said it was intense shelling from government tanks that caused the damage. The group put the death toll as high as 70, but that estimate was not confirmed by others.

Another opposition group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the cause of the destruction was not immediately clear. The Observatory initially cited reports by local residents that they had come under attack from regime forces.

However, the head of the group, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said he could not confirm those reports and called for an investigation by U.N. observers. He said at least 16 people were killed.

With the violence in Syria continuing despite U.N.-led efforts to implement the truce, the international community has grown increasingly impatient with the Assad regime.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Thursday that the Syrian government immediately comply with its commitment to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns, said U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, condemned the Syrian government’s continuing intense use of heavy weapons in Hama and elsewhere.

Rice also said Wednesday’s Hama explosion appeared to be “the result of intense shelling” though she couldn’t say this with certainty.

Russia, one of the regime’s main allies, said violations of the cease-fire were still being committed by both sides, but blamed the opposition overall.

“Most often this occurs because of provocative actions from the armed opposition, which often force the Syrian security forces to open fire in response,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. Still, he added, the level of violence in the country has declined considerably since the observers arrived.

“All of this allows us to claim that the situation in Syria is starting to improve slightly, although this is a very fragile trend,” he added.

The United Nations has so far negotiated for countries to provide 100 unarmed truce monitors to be on the ground in Syria, in addition to civilian support staff, within 30 days of the April 12 cease-fire, a U.N. official said Thursday. But he said differences between politicians and military officials in potential contributing nations have slowed the negotiations for more troops. He did not elaborate.

The official said the U.N. will announce Friday that Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood is being appointed to lead the team of U.N. observers. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not yet been made.

Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the opposition Syrian National Council, called Thursday for a unified Arab stand against what she said was Damascus’ failure to honor terms of Annan’s peace plan. She urged the Arab League to “open the door” to a U.N. Security Council resolution that would create safe havens in Syria and allow international relief agencies to operate there freely.

The Arab League later said it would ask the U.N. Security Council to “review” its policy on Syria if the regime there fails to fully and immediately honor its commitment to a cease-fire.

A statement by Arab foreign ministers meeting Thursday in Cairo said the Damascus regime was negotiating while simultaneously “killing its own people.” It said Morocco, currently a member of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, to convey the League’s request when the world body meets to discuss Syria on May 5.

Arab countries are divided over how to deal with the Syrian crisis, with Gulf countries led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia in favor of arming the opposition and others like Egypt, Iraq and Sudan preferring a diplomatic solution.

For now, the international community remains united in support of Annan’s plan, which calls for a cease-fire, to be followed by talks between the regime and the opposition on a political solution to the conflict that the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people.

That plan, however, has been troubled from the start. Syria has failed to enact key parts of the plan, like withdrawing its forces from cities, and its troops have attacked opposition areas, killing scores of civilians since the truce was to begin on April 12. Rebel fighters, too, have attacked military checkpoints and convoys.

Syria’s information minister said Thursday that armed terrorist groups have stepped up their attacks since Annan’s peace plan went into effect, adding that they have breached the cease-fire plan more than 1,300 times. Adnan Mahmoud said Annan has been informed of those violations.

Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Frank Jordans in Geneva contributed to this report.

Printed on Friday, April 27. 2012 as: Syrian Rebels, regime trade blame for explosion

A soldier waves to his family as the Montana Army National Guard 484th MP Company departs from Edwards Jet Center in Billings, Mont. on Tuesday. The unit is headed to Afghanistan, where they may be one of the last companies to serve as troops, as opposed to military advisers over the next 10 years.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. and Afghanistan reached a deal Sunday on a long-delayed strategic partnership agreement that ensures Americans will provide military and financial support for at least a decade beyond 2014, the deadline for most foreign forces to withdraw.

The pact is key to the U.S. exit strategy in Afghanistan because it provides guidelines for any American forces who remain after the withdrawal deadline and for financial help to the impoverished country and its security forces.

For the Afghan government, it is a way to show its people that their U.S. allies are not just walking away.

“Our goal is an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity and that contributes to our shared goal of defeating al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall. “We believe this agreement supports that goal.”

After 10 years of U.S.-led war, insurgents linked to the Taliban and al-Qaida remain a threat and as recently as a week ago, launched a large-scale attack on the capital Kabul and three other cities.

The draft agreement was worked out and initialed by Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It must still be reviewed in both countries and signed afterward by the Afghan and American presidents.

U.S. forces have already started pulling out of Afghanistan, and the majority of combat troops are scheduled to depart by the end of 2014. But the U.S. is expected to maintain a large presence in the country for years after, including special forces, military trainers and government-assistance programs.

Neither Afghan nor U.S. officials would comment on the details of the agreement. A Western official said it outlines a strategic partnership for 10 years beyond 2014.

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Barack Obama expects to sign the document before a NATO summit next month. Many had started to worry that Karzai and Obama would miss that goal as talked dragged on and Karzai continued to announce new demands.

The final document is likely to be short on specifics. U.S. officials involved in the negotiations have said previously that the strategic partnership will provide a framework for future relations, but that details of how U.S. forces operate in the country will come in a later agreement.

The initialing ceremony means that the text of the document is now locked in. But the countries will have to go through their own internal review processes, Sundwall said.

“For the United States, that will mean interagency review, consultation with Congress as appropriate and final review by the president,” Sundwall said.

In Afghanistan, the agreement will have to be approved by parliament. The Afghan foreign minister will brief Afghan lawmakers about the document Monday, the Afghan president’s statement said.

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: US, Afghanistan sign pact to end occupation by 2014

The UT System Board of Regents will not set tuition rates for the next two academic years at Thursday’s special called meeting, contrary to the expectations of University administrators.

If the Regents decide on tuition after April, it will be the latest they have set the tuition rates since 2004. The delay will affect registration, University initiatives and preparation of the University budget. UT System spokesman Anthony de Bruyn said the main reason tuition will not be discussed at the special meeting is “just because it wasn’t posted on the April agenda” by the Regents.

Mary Knight, associate vice president and budget director for the University, said the UT System had previously notified University administrators that tuition would be discussed at today’s meeting, but were told otherwise at a budget meeting on Monday.

In 2003, tuition deregulation shifted tuition setting power from the state legislature to the board of regents for each state institution. On Dec. 15, President William Powers Jr. recommended the largest tuition increase the UT System will allow.

The UT System gave directives that any recommendation to increase tuition must be tied to improving four-year graduation rates. Knight said some of the initiatives might be delayed if the budget must take increased funds into account. The main initiatives include hiring more faculty to provide additional course sections, expanding career services and improving academic advising.

Knight said another problem with the delay is that registration for the summer and the fall semesters begins on Monday.

“We need to be able to tell the students something by Monday,” Knight said. “We’re trying to work through that now.”

Former UT System spokesman Matt Flores spoke with the The Daily Texan March 2. Flores said the UT System Regents Office was assessing the tuition recommendations, but said, “We’re certain it has to come soon. Clearly it has to be done with enough time to get course schedules published so they’ll know how much they can expect to pay.”

The University budget proposal is due to the UT System in May, Knight said. She said the University is currently preparing the budget without the recommended tuition increase, which would generate $30.6 million worth of academic funds from 2012-2014. Knight said it generally takes the entire summer for the University and the UT System to finish preparations for the Regents’ August meeting.

“We don’t usually have an opportunity to change it,” Knight said.

De Bruyn gave no specifics on the reason for the delay, but said the Regents could call another special meeting to set tuition or wait for a regularly scheduled meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for May 2 and 3.

“All I know is that the UT System administrators have been diligently reviewing the campus proposals and that review continues,” de Bruyn said. “I would say they will most likely be discussed in May.”

De Bruyn said he did not know how the universities should handle communicating tuition costs as registration begins, distributing financial aid packages and preparing institutional budgets.

“You would have to ask the universities,” de Bruyn said. “We’re clearly mindful of deadlines.”

Printed on Thursday, April 12, 2012 as: UT Regents delay setting tuition rates despite plans

Ten Austin area residents connected with Yassine Enterprises, operator of several Austin night club venues, were arrested yesterday in a federal investigation related to drug and money laundering charges.

The FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Comptroller’s Office, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Austin Police Department were all involved in “official business” at Treasure Island Pirate Bar on Sixth Street near Neches Street, said IRS spokesman Mike Lemoine. FBI agents and other department officials were seen at the bar collecting documents and boxes of potential evidence around 11 a.m. Thursday.

Lemoine said the investigation of Yassine Enterprises involves all venues managed by the company: Treasure Island Pirate Bar, Pure Ultra Lounge, Kiss & Fly, Stack Burger Bar, Malaia World Lounge, Roial, Hyde, Fuel and Spill.

Company owner and president Hussein Ali Yassine, also known as Mike Yassine, 40, was among those arrested.

According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Authorities believe that [Hussein Ali Yassine, Hadi Ali Yassine, 35, Mohammed Ali Yassine, 38, and Marisse Marthe Ruales, 33] used several business establishments located in downtown Austin to launder over $200,000 in cash, which they believed to be the proceeds of narcotics trafficking.”

According to the statement, the Government is filing criminal charges and seeking monetary judgements against the defendants totaling about $300,000, which they claim represents property involved in the alleged offenses.

All defendants are still in federal custody and face maximum prison sentences anywhere from 20 years to life, according to FBI spokesman Erik Vasys and the statement. Federal authorities also believe defendants Mohammed Ali Yassine and Nizar Hakiki, 32, transferred a firearm with the knowledge that the weapon would be used to commit a drug trafficking crime.

Mohammed Ali Yassine and Amar Thabet Araf, 29 are accused of distributing large quantities of cocaine between December 2007 and January 11, 2008, according to their official indictment.

“[Three of the defendants] unlawfully, knowingly and willfully did combine conspire, confederate and agree with others known and unknown to distribute five hundred grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine,” the indictment stated.

The United States Government sought to hold Yassine and Araf liable for the forfeiture of $13,600, “constituting the proceeds of the above-described offenses,” in the indictment.

All defendants appeared in court yesterday afternoon and are scheduled to have a further hearing on Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Green.

Yassine Enterprises is also the subject of a class action lawsuit filed by former employee Jake Webb, who claims that the company regularly refused to pay wages to tipped employees. That case does not appear at this point to be related to the federal investigation.

APD officers have been assisting the FBI with the investigation and were present for the search, said Lisa Cortinas, spokeswoman for APD.

Printed on Friday, March 23, 2012 as: FBI investigates alleged illegal activity at clubs