Affirmative approval. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled again yesterday that the University of Texas may legally use race as part of its admissions criteria. The ruling mirrors the court’s previous decision in the case brought by Abigail Fisher, who claimed the school should not have given African-American applicants precedence over her just because of their race. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court told the 5th Circuit to give the case another look, suggesting the justices didn’t like the original ruling but weren’t ready to strike it down. On Tuesday, the appeals court in a 2-1 decision said promoting diversity was an important part of education: “We are persuaded that to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience.” Fisher’s legal team said the ruling was not unexpected. They likely will appeal, sending the case back to the Supreme Court.
Off the record? House Republicans are taking aim at one of President Barack Obama’s former cabinet secretaries for soliciting donations for her boss while on-the-clock. In an audio recording played during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this morning, Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis urged one of her department’s employees to help encourage government workers to attend a fundraiser for Obama’s re-election campaign. The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity while on-the-job. Solis appears to try to get around the restriction by saying the call is “off the record.” “Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign … ”
Water wars. California water regulators have approved fines of up to $500 for people who waste water as the state suffers through its worst drought since the 1970s. Despite pleading from lawmakers and regulators, California residents continue to water their lawns and wash their cars even as reservoirs run dry and farmers leave fields fallow. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to see the state cut its water use by 20 percent, but consumption actually rose by 1 percent in May. The new fines will start small; the $500-per-day penalty will be reserved for repeat offenders. If that measure doesn’t work, state regulators will consider imposing landscaping restrictions, rate increases, and demands for municipal water systems to fix leaky pipes, which account for as much as 10 percent of water use.
Ready to launch. The Federal Aviation Administration has given SpaceX approval to build a spaceport in Texas. The privately owned facility, to be built somewhere in Cameron County, the southernmost tip of the state, will allow the company to launch rockets on its own schedule without having to coordinate with NASA to use Florida’s Cape Canaveral. SpaceX, owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk, hopes to send 12 of its Falcon rockets into orbit each year. The Falcon has already visited the International Space Station to deliver cargo.
Unsafe? A House subcommittee will grill the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today over two recent incidents involving anthrax and a dangerous strain of bird flu. In both cases, CDC labs mishandled samples, exposing unsuspecting workers to the potentially lethal substances. The incidents have alarmed lawmakers and given one of the world’s most prestigious public health agencies a black eye. “With the recent incidents, we recognize a pattern at CDC where we need to greatly improve the culture of safety,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “What we're seeing is a pattern that we missed, and the pattern is an insufficient culture of safety.”