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American Airlines To Freeze Pensions

American Airlines sent word to its employees today that it will not “terminate” pensions after all, but will freeze them.

Allied Pilots Association spokesman Greg Overman says that’s good news.

Overman: For example, our more senior pilots if the pension plan were terminated would lose a big chunk of benefits.  In a freeze, it simply preserves the benefits at the current level. So, it’s a much better deal for the senior pilots and for our pilot group overall.

But there is a catch for pilots. American Airlines says a lump sum payment allowed in the current pension plan could do more financial damage and must go. Greg Overman predicts pilots will agree.

The lump sum adjustment and the freeze must still be approved by an Allied Pilots Association committee. 

The pension freeze also applies to flight attendants, ground-workers and non-union employees.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas Considers New Way To Fund Big Drainage Projects

Dallas City Council members are studying a new idea to fund big drainage projects “outside” of the regular city bond package. But the plan would double the storm water fee property owners pay.  

Council member Angela Hunt likes the idea. 

Hunt: That would free up 300 million dollars in our bond programs to spend on libraries and alleys and parks and some of the things that we’re hearing folks would like to see in this bond program that we can’t do. 

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings campaigned on a promise of “no new taxes”.

Rawlings:  But it seems to me that a fee is just another political correct term for another tax.

City officials say they eventually want to use aerial photography and other technology to gauge the amount of concrete or impervious surface on a property and calculate the fee on the amount of “runoff”.  

BJ Austin, KERA News

Perry Joins Effort To Keep Planes In Texas

Governor Rick Perry has joined efforts to block an Air Force proposal to permanently move a squadron of Air National Guard transport planes from Fort Worth to Montana to save money.

The Fort worth Star-Telegram reports Perry and governors from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida this week asked the President to step in. They said moving the C-130s would take "away a powerful airlift asset for saving lives along the Gulf Coast during natural disasters".

The entire Texas congressional delegation also opposes the move.

During yesterday's House panel hearing on the Air Force budget, Kay Granger of Fort Worth challenged the Air Force secretary and its chief of staff to produce a cost-benefit analysis on the transfer and a list of all related costs.

Granger estimates 100-million dollars, but she said she hasn't received a number from the Air Force.

Sam Baker, KERA News

Aerial shots of Texas wild fires with C-130 'Modular Airborne Firefighting System' Air National Guard units.

Investors: Stanford verdict won't restore losses

Investors taken in by Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford are expressing relief after a federal jury convicted the ex-financier on charges he bilked them out of more than $7 billion in a 20-year Ponzi scheme.

But they say the verdict won't do much to make up for what they've lost.

British retiree Kate Freeman says she lost $820,000 in Stanford's scheme. She says he sentenced his investors to "a life of hardship and poverty, and they have no chance to ever recover from what has happened to them."

Prosecutors hope to seize about $300 million from more than 30 Stanford-controlled accounts in a civil trial that resumes Wednesday before the same jury that convicted Stanford on 13 of 14 fraud-related charges.

Stanford could face life behind bars at his sentencing.


Texas PTA President Urges More Parental Involvement

Texas PTA president Karen Slay says getting parents more involved in their children’s education is a top state and national priority.

She’s in Washington DC at the organization’s national legislative conference. She is pushing for more parental involvement to be written into the updated public education law. Slay says family engagement is the number one key to student success.

Slay: Typically when we say parent involvement, a lot of people think we’re talking about “volunteer so many hours on campus,” and that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about here. It could just mean having time with that teacher – of how do I help him with this particular subject matter at home?

In Texas, Slay says the PTA has translated materials into Spanish, and installed a bilingual PTA staff member at DISD.  

Slay also urges state lawmakers to release more rainy day money to help pay for the under-funded education system. 

Bill Zeeble, KERA News

Child Services investigator faces abuse charge

An investigator for Texas Child Protective Services has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a child.

Nicholas Santos is being held in Dallas County Jail on $25,000 bond. Authorities say the charge is not related to his work for Child Protective Services, but have declined to go into further detail.

The 34-year-old Santos lives in Cedar Hill south of Dallas and has worked for the agency since March 2006. A CPS spokeswoman says the agency is investigating and will fire Santos if it determines the accusations against Santos are true.

Santos' lawyer did not immediately return a phone message.


$4 million received after Central Texas wildfires

Parts of Central Texas devastated by wildfires last year have benefited from more than $4 million in private donations and the help of volunteers who are rebuilding homes.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that in Bastrop County, agencies and groups are trying to rebuild more than 200 homes for people who did not have insurance or not enough insurance.

The American Red Cross collected $699,000 in the wake of the wildfires. The Austin Community Foundation received $1.3 million.

Meanwhile, Mennonite volunteers have stayed in Bastrop for several months. They and others continue to build homes free of charge.

The Texas Forest Service says last year's wildfire season was the worst in state history, destroying nearly 4 million acres. About 3,000 homes were lost. Ten people died.


At trial, worker recalls bleach injection death

A former employee at the East Texas clinic where a nurse is charged with killing five patients says she remembers one of the patients having an unusual response to dialysis.

Angie Rodriguez testified Tuesday at the trial of Kimberly Saenz. Rodriguez says she came back to work in April 2008 after a break to find one patient, Marva Rhone, saying she "couldn't get right." Rhone typically slept through dialysis. She later died at a hospital.

Another witness has said she saw Saenz fill syringes with bleach from a cleaning pail.

The Lufkin Daily News reports that Saenz's attorney suggested she may have put bleach into a syringe for accuracy as she measured it for cleaning.

The 38-year-old Lufkin nurse could get the death penalty if convicted.


Military plans drill to prep for hurricane season

The military plans a large-scale exercise in Texas to prepare for the 2012 hurricane season.

U.S. Northern Command says the exercise will take place May 2-9 at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.

Northern Command is responsible for the military defense of U.S. soil and assisting civil authorities in emergencies. It's based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The exercise will test the capabilities of Task Force 51, a 75-person unit designed to command military forces supporting civil authorities during a disaster.