San Antonio News

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Lightning to blame for NW Side house fire

Aug 12, 2015 11:23 PM EDT

Soon after the brief summer storm rolled in, a fire ripped through a home on the city’s Northwest Side.

It appears that lightning could have been to blame.

In a video recorded by a local viewer, flames can be seen shooting from the roof of the home in the 6000 block of Gypsy Bell.

A family was inside when the fire started and made it out safe.

“It was just an inferno,” said Fire Chief Al Castillo.

It took firefighters around 30 minutes to put out the fire.

No other homes were damaged.

The Red Cross is helping the homeowners who were displaced by the fire.

Cooling centers open to help people beat heat

Aug 12, 2015 11:19 PM EDT

For those without air conditioning, or who just need some way to beat the heat, the city opened cooling centers for people who need it the most.

The city is reminding people that there are heat advisory cooling locations around town for people to cool off at no cost. These include some community centers and senior centers, but most are libraries.

“We keep the air conditioning at a very comfortable temperature,” said Caitlyn Cower of the SA Central Library. “We invite everyone from the community to come in, and while they are here, of course it's a good time to connect to some of our resources, attend a program, hop on the computer, enjoy Wi-Fi.”

“It's too hot to stay at home, and if you stay home, you run your electricity,” said Yolanda Corothers, a San Antonio resident. “The bills get high, so basically I come to the library all day, get on the computer and read books, check out books.”

Click here for a full list of the local cooling centers.

NW Side Jewish community target of hate crime

Aug 12, 2015 11:09 PM EDT

Members of a Northwest Side community woke up to swastikas and racial slurs.

The graffiticould be seen on gates, walls and monuments near the Rodfei Sholom Synagogue off of Northwest Military Highway and Huebner Road.

"You see that kind of stuff and you have to scratch your head and say who are these people," said community member Howard Feinberg

The small community is suspected of being targeted because of its large Jewish community.

"It's my understanding that its the first time that its happened in a couple of years and its just a horrible situation," said Randy Alwais, who lives nearby.

The messages of hate were washed away by Wednesday afternoon.

Community members hope those responsible are caught and punished -- but most importantly, educated.

"I think part of the sentence ought to be imposing on the perpetrators a learning experience, and a significant learning experience. Not just they have to show up do their time and they walk away, but they have to invest in something like a seminar at something like our Holocaust museum," Feinberg said.

SAPD is investigating the potential hate crime. The FBI is also looking into the case.

"The FBI takes allegations of potential hate crimes very seriously and will not tolerate this type of criminal activity and intimidation directed towards members of our Jewish community," said FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee.

Members of the community refuse to dismiss the crime as a childish act but say they won't get caught up in its message.

"I can't hate somebody who does a hateful act. I have to try and understand that person, because I want to make this community better," said Feinberg.

Lab director explains process of examining specimens for chronic wasting disease

Aug 12, 2015 10:04 PM EDT

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory has been receiving more white-tailed deer lymph nodes and brain tissues than usual. That is because it is the agency responsible for testing the specimens for chronic wasting disease from deer once housed at a facility in Medina County.

"You can imagine with this situation, they're very anxious to get the results very, very quickly," TVMDL Director Bruce Akey said.

The test results from College Station either result in a "positive" or "not detected." Akey said that's because only one or two slices of tissue are examined. Not detected doesn't necessarily mean the deer didn't have the neurological disease, which is most often compared to mad cow disease or scrapie.

TVMDL does 15,000 CWD tests a year. Most of the time the turnaround for results is 5-7 business days. Lately, the results from Medina County have been completed in three business days before being sent to a national lab in Iowa for confirmation. Akey said he makes sure his staff understands the implications of their results.

"Every case has somebody at the other end of it that's worried about their animal, worried about their livelihood, and if we get it wrong … someone loses their animals," Akey said.

Akey said his lab's results are crucial in helping the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Animal Health Commission in deciding how to protect the multibillion-dollar Texas deer industry.

CWD has been confirmed in at least three deer from Robert Patterson's Texas Mountain Ranch.

On Tuesday, the two state agencies tackling the contamination announced a plan for deer breeder movement qualification standards. It allows breeders to move deer to ranches before the hunting season begins. The TWPD wildlife director said for the first time ever, that means deer at release sites are also going to need to be tested.

Opponents challenge zoning of new abortion facilty

Aug 12, 2015 09:08 PM EDT

The zoning of Planned Parenthood’s new ambulatory surgical center was challenged at Wednesday’s meeting of the San Antonio Planning Commission.

The center that’s been fully operational since July in the 2100 block of Babcock Road houses the kind of abortion facility now required by law.

But Tim Barker, who lives close by, said it should not have been allowed to open under its current zoning of C-1 Light Commercial, because of the nearby neighborhood.

“Any ambulatory surgical facility shouldn’t be able to locate in the area because it’s a major commercial business,” Barker said. “It doesn’t allow for the type of buffer zone that residential neighborhoods should have.”

But Ximena Copa-Wiggins, a spokeswoman for the city’s development services department, said the 22,000 square-foot building already was zoned C-1 prior to 2010, when the 5,000 square-foot limit was imposed.

She said Planned Parenthood agreed not to expand the facility, but rather work within the existing space.

Copa-Wiggins also said the building always served a medical purpose.

Instead of changing its zoning designation, the planning commission voted to refer the issue to its technical advisory commission for a definition of ambulatory surgical center to include in the city’s Unified Development Code. The UDC governs everything from historic preservation to new construction.

“When you look at the UDC, there is no definition for that. We believe it is closely aligned with a clinic, and a clinic is allowed under C-1,” said Rod Sanchez, director of development services. “The planning commission agreed with us.”

Copa-Wiggins said the technical advisory committee will return to the planning commission with its recommendation. If approved, she said the City Council could vote by the end of the year.

Public safety a central issue in rideshare vote

Aug 12, 2015 08:17 PM EDT

Less than 24 hours before a major vote on the future of rideshare in San Antonio, both sides in the debate were arguing over public safety Wednesday and whether the Lyft Pilot Program will protect passengers.

The pilot program does not require Lyft drivers to be fingerprinted, a demand the city made earlier this year that drove Lyft and Uber out of town. Instead, the city will encourage drivers to undergo the fingerprint background check by offering it for free.

"It allows the consumer the choice to be able to see on the app whether or not the person has had a fingerprint background check or just the Lyft background check," said Mayor Ivy Taylor.

Read the entire agreement here.

Since the advent of rideshare companies, there have been a host of incidents in which the background check system failed. On Wednesday, an Uber passenger in Dallas filed a lawsuit against the company after a driver allegedly sexually assaulted her. The driver reportedly had a criminal record, including a felony assault conviction, but was mistakenly given approval to drive.

John Bouloubasis, president of Yellow Cab, said the city is playing a dangerous game by not fingerprinting drivers - something cab drivers must submit to.

"The city needs to know who's driving them, who's in these cars," he said. "This is part-time public safety that will allow them to operate. There's an accountability measure here that they don't want to follow."

When asked how the pilot program agreement differed from the demands initially made by Lyft in early 2015, Councilman Robert Trevino - who spearheaded the effort to bring rideshare back to San Antonio - was unable to give a clear answer.

"We're trying to structure something that can involve the public a little bit more and also provide some collaboration between the transportation network companies and the city to get that message out to the public," Trevino said.

Trevino believes the pilot program allows the city to hedge its bet on rideshare. Pending approval Thursday, officials will monitor several metrics during the nine-month program before deciding whether to make pilot program rules permanent.

"By going through this program like this, we can learn to see what is the public wanting, what is the data giving us, has the public safety department felt good about what we've done in the process," he said. "[Mandatory fingerprinting] may or may not become part of the requirement, but we're working toward a long-term solution."


Despite their opposing views, leaders on both sides of the rideshare debate agree that economic competition and consumer choice is good for business.

"This agreement was a very collaborative effort between the City of San Antonio and Lyft, where both sides looked creatively at how we could ensure safe, affordable transportation options for residents and visitors. We commend the city for welcoming ridesharing and we look forward to continuing to work with together," said Chelsea Wilson, a Lyft spokesperson.

District 9 Councilman Joe Krier, who once led the city's chamber of commerce, said the consumer will benefit from the rekindled competition between the cab and limousine companies and TNCs.

"This country is built on competition. It is built on consumer choice. The transportation network companies known as TNCs provide a choice in the marketplace that has never been available before," he said.

Bouloubasis welcomes the competition TNCs provide, but he said there needs to be an even playing field.

"We're going to continue to operate our business in a manner that best serves the community in a cost-effective manner," he said. "However, the issue that [TNCs] present today is transparency and public safety."

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce sent a letter in support of the pilot program Thursday afternoon, saying it ensures continued economic growth in San Antonio and helps attract millennials to the Alamo City.

Meanwhile, the city's police union asked city leaders to vote against the program, imploring them to require fingerprint background checks for drivers.

While Thursday's vote is likely to be close, those council members still on the fence said public safety will be the most important issue in their decision.

"My stance on public safety and fingerprints has not changed and that's something that's extremely important for me as we move forward in any and every agreement that we look at," said District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran.

The San Antonio City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall to vote on the Lyft Pilot Program.

You can see the latest on the KSAT 12 News at Noon.

Click here to read the San Antonio Police Officers Association response to Lyft and TNC.

The following is a statement from Ramiro Cavazos, president & CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

In December 2014 and once again in February 2015, the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) voted overwhelmingly to support rideshare companies remaining as a permanent alternative transportation option in San Antonio.

We strongly believe that rideshare companies offer a safe, reliable, affordable and innovative transportation option that embraces new technologies. Rideshare is essential to the progress of San Antonio as an up and coming world-class city.

With the recent proposal from city council for annexation on the Southside of San Antonio, the City of San Antonio will soon surpass Philadelphia and become the sixth largest city in the United States with future young, innovative and technology-driven entrepreneurs moving here. These types of geographic growing pains demand a diversity of public transportation options for a growing city.

Additionally, as the tech industry rapidly grows, with the creation of TechBloc and the arrival of Google Fiber to San Antonio, more professional millennials will be flocking to this area to settle and grow their careers.

The Hispanic Chamber is San Antonio's leading small business advocate and strongly believes that the City of San Antonio should embrace policies in support of entrepreneurship, ridesharing and welcome these new technological advances.

Bringing Uber back to our city will potentially result in 3,700 new rideshare jobs for San Antonio. Within the time rideshare began operations mid-2014 through March 2015 Uber provided more than 164,000 rides, many of which helped decrease the risk of DWIs, drunk driving accidents and fatalities, and have made a positive impact on the environment.

The Hispanic Chamber is urging the San Antonio community and business leaders to contact Mayor Ivy Taylor and their respective councilperson, asking them to reach a mutually fair agreement with rideshare company Uber, that will allow them to resume operations in San Antonio.

City launches new Parks and Rec website

Aug 12, 2015 07:57 PM EDT

San Antonio launched a new Parks and Recreation Department website Wednesday designed for easier access to information.

The site is built around the theme Start Exploring the Fun and features an improved park directory, park maps and photos.

The site will also display information on programs and classes being offered at each park.

Click here to take a look at the new site.

Body pulled from San Antonio River Walk

Aug 12, 2015 07:14 PM EDT

The body of a 53-year-old man was pulled from the waters in the 100 block of North River Walk around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Investigators said the man had been drinking and jumped in the river to cool off. Police believe when he tried to get to the ledge, he went under.

Another man jumped in to try to get him out, but he couldn't find him, police said.

When authorities got to the scene, the bystander who tried to save the victim was trying to jump in again, but police told him not to get in the water because he was intoxicated and he could hurt himself.

The man jumped in anyway, and when police got him out, they arrested him for public intoxication.

Park police said the stretch of the River Walk is 12 to 15 feet deep and that the incident was an accidental drowning.

They also said earlier reports from witnesses claiming a man held another man underwater to drown him are false.

Water rest­rictions return to New Braunfels

Aug 12, 2015 07:06 PM EDT

Stage 2 water restrictions will begin for New Braunfels Thursday morning. Residents will no longer be able to water yards by using a hose, bucket or drip irrigation system before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

During stage 2 water restrictions, people who live in the area can use a sprinkler or irrigation system one day a week during those times.

In order to find out what day of the week you can use those watering tools, just look at the last digit of your address.

Spurs full season schedule released

Aug 12, 2015 06:56 PM EDT

The San Antonio Spurs announced their full 2015-2016 season schedule Wednesday.

The Silver and Black's season will tipoff Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder forward Kevin Durant is expected to be healthy in time for the start of the season, making this matchup more competitive.

Fans will have their first chance to see the Spurs in person Oct. 30 at the AT&T Center as San Antonio hosts the Brooklyn Nets.

Notable home games include matchups with the defending champion Golden State Warriors on March 19 and April 10. In a rematch of last year's opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs, the Spurs will host the Los Angeles Clippers Dec. 18 and March 15. Kobe Bryant comes to town twice in what could be his final season as the Spurs host the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 11 and Feb. 6.

New Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge will make his return to Portland Nov. 11 against the Trail Blazers. The game will be televised on ESPN.

The Spurs will travel to Houston on Christmas Day to take on James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

The annual Rodeo Roadtrip gets underway Feb. 9 with eight stops, including games at the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. Following the road trip, the Spurs return home March 2 to host the Detroit Pistons.

Fans can purchase season tickets by calling 210-444-5050 or visiting Spurs.com. Less than 100 Spurs season tickets remain for the 2015-16 season.

Click here to view the full 2015-16 schedule.

Hacker gadget unlocks your car, garage

Aug 12, 2015 06:45 PM EDT

Two clicks on your keys is all a thief needs to break into your car or garage.

Samy Kamkar, a Los Angeles-based hacker and security researcher unveiled his device, RollJam, at the hacker convention Def Con over the weekend. Made with $32 worth of parts, Kamkar said RollJam exploits the "rolling codes" used in your car key fob and garage door opener remotes.

"RollJam essentially jams that signal so you have to hit the button twice," he explained in a Skype interview with the Defenders. "When you hit the button twice, you're sending two different codes that can unlock the car."

The device then lets one of the codes go to unlock the vehicle or garage. It keeps the other, which can be used later at will. Since RollJam can be left hidden nearby without someone attending to it, the only hint you'll have that it snagged your code is that your car won't unlock the first time you press the button.

Kamkar said RollJam worked on every car and garage opener on which he tested it. He's not the first one to make note of this weakness, and he believes criminals have been using similar techniques already.

"Yet even when I test different 2015 models of vehicles, I'm still seeing this issue prevalent," Kamkar said.

Kamkar said he's putting out enough of his code for manufacturers and other security researchers to confirm he has found a vulnerability. He said there's not enough for average thieves to just go make their own and start a burglary spree.

That's because Kamkar made RollJam for a different reason than creating mayhem. He wants to get manufacturers to start using more secure chips for car keys and garage openers.

"Because there are more secure chips available that actually expire the code so that the code is only available for a few seconds, for example," Kamkar said. "That would immediately prevent this device from working."

Proffesor Tom Sahin, a cybersecurity expert at St. Philip's College, said publicity does get results.

"Vulnerability is actually there," said Sahin. "Most likely (manufacturers) knew about it. They just didn't take action since nobody complained about it."

Perhaps that's not true for every manufacturer. A spokesperson for Cadillac wrote in an email that RollJam's attack "generally applies to cars that use a type of system that has since been replaced on newer models."

For drivers of other cars, though, how do you protect yourself in the meantime?

Kamkar said swapping out the chips on your own "wouldn't be trivial." So the only way to be sure is to stick to using the physical keys.

Whether they're using RollJam or a crowbar to your window, it's hard to stop a thief from getting into your car when you're not around. So not keeping valuable items in the car is another way to protect yourself.

Lone Star Santas to visit Hays County flood victims

Aug 12, 2015 06:43 PM EDT

There are 134 days until Christmas and Santa is working on an early toy delivery.

This weekend, the Lone Star Santas are giving back to kids who were affected by flooding in Wimberley and San Marcos.

It’s been over two months since Hays County was hit with heavy storms and deadly flooding over Memorial Day weekend.

Since then, efforts have been focused on cleaning up and rebuilding.

The Lone Star Santas have been making their lists and checking them twice as they get ready to make a very special delivery.

Anytime a natural disaster hits in Texas or nearby states, the group of Santas make the trip to put smiles on the faces of many kids.

“We’ve had kids that weren’t really talking much,” said Santa Kevin. “We would get reports later that kids started talking and having fun again.”

The first convoy of toys was made back in 2011 after tornadoes hit in Missouri and Oklahoma. Since then, they have been making stops anytime disaster hits.

The organization collects a variety of toys and gift cards for kids.

On Saturday, the group will be at the Hispanic Cultural Center in San Marcos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as the Wimberley Community Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you want to donate, toys must be new or you can make a monetary donation.

For more information on how to donate, visit lonestarsantas.org.