Select Page

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, one of the premier hospital systems in South Texas, on Thursday, July 10, hosted a delegation of eight state representatives from Houston as part of the hospital leadership’s strategies to build legislative alliances statewide that can benefit Edinburg and the Valley. The delegation of Democrats, which included Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the Dean of the Texas House of Representatives and a candidate for Texas Speaker of the House, reviewed upcoming major legislative issues that will impact the delivery of medical care in Texas.  Prior to a tour of the local hospital system in Edinburg, the delegation also met with Alonso Cantú, a member of the DHR Board of Directors, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen.  Featured in this portrait, taken at the Women’s Hospital at Renaissance, front row, from left: Sue Bajus, Director of Women’s Services at DHR; Rep.-elect Armando Walle; Rep.-elect Carol Alvarado; Thompson; Rep. Ellen Coen; Rep. Dora Olivo; Rep. Alma Allen, Ph.D.; Rep. Hubert Vo; and Rep. Ana Hernández. Back row, from left, are: Dr. Carlos Cárdenas, a gastroenterologist and chairman of the DHR Board of Directors; Patricia Burch, R.N., Director for Neonatology; and Dr. Carlos Mohamed, a gynecologist and oncologist.

••••••

Award-winning reporter/blogger/columnist Ramiro Burr has left the San Antonio Express-News to launch his own company, Ramiro Burr Communications. Burr’s move is the latest in a professional trajectory that includes stints as an entertainment writer, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, book author, and regionally syndicated columnist. Most recently, the alumni of the University of Texas at Austin was recognized as No. 1 blogger at Mysa.com. Burr says he is ready for the next level. “I will continue to write and blog about music. I think the community, especially the Latino community, is still underserved when it comes to news and information,” he said. “I have always emphasized the need for all media to be well-balanced and fully represent their communities, including the Latino community. By being inclusive, we are all enriched.” Burr,  left, is featured here with Nicolás Kanellos, Ph.D., director of Arte Público Press, at the 2004 Edward James Olmos Latino Book Festival in Houston.  See story later in this posting.

••••••

A recent seminar presented at The University of Texas-Pan American offered Rio Grande Valley disability service professionals as well as individuals with disabilities an opportunity to learn more about benefits and services available locally to enable individuals with disabilities to obtain a higher education. The “Disability Benefits and Return to Work” seminar, co-sponsored by the UTPA Department of Rehabilitation Addiction Studies Project, Workforce Solutions and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), covered Social Security Administration’s (SSA) disability benefits and return to work considerations and incentives. It also held a session highlighting individuals with disabilities who had been on SSA disability benefits but have successfully transitioned to higher paying professional jobs by obtaining higher education. Featured participating in the Student Success panel at the seminar are, from left: Ernesto González, Eberto Soto Jr., Jorge Urrutia, Héctor Requenez, Benny Ramírez, Noel Ysasi, and Judith Pérez. See story later in this posting.

••••••

Joshua and Frank Jaramillo of Edinburg show off their movie poster design for an upcoming film, The Álvarez Vietnam Story: Brothers in Arms to Fernando Álvarez, also an Edinburg resident, at South Texas College’s Technology Campus. The Jaramillo brothers, both PSJA High School graduates, are experiencing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood-style movie production first hand. They were chosen to design the movie poster and promotional binder for the film, which tells the true story of three Hispanic brothers, Emeterio III, Gilberto and Fernando Álvarez, originally from San Antonio, who risked their lives serving in Vietnam.  See story later in this posting.

••••••

Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz on Thursday, July 3, joined key International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) leaders to announce the return of the free general admission program every Sunday for the next 12 months. The free general admission program, which will take place every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., began on Sunday, July 6. Complimentary general museum admission is available to all visitors, not just residents of McAllen. Gonzáles, along with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, filed legislation in 2007 that was enacted into law, which allows the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to appropriate county funding to IMAS. Featured at the press conference at IMAS from left: Serena Rosenkrantz, IMAS executive director; Salinas; Gonzáles; Cortéz; and Dr. John Gerling, president of the IMAS Board of Directors. Gonzáles, whose House 41 legislative district includes southwest Edinburg, is facing a reelection challenge in November from fellow McAllen lawyer Javier Villalobos, a Republican. See story on the Gonzáles/Lucio legislation later in this posting.

••••••

Technically preferred alignment approved for Hidalgo County Loop; public hearings set to begin in mid-July for input on selected route

By JIM MOORE

The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) on Tuesday, July 1, approved the Technically Preferred Alignment (TPA) for the proposed Hidalgo County Loop.

The TPA was chosen in a unanimous vote by commissioners after engineering analysis by Hidalgo County Road Builders (HCRB), environmental input from PBS&J, the RMA’s environmental expertson the project, and public input gathered at five information open houses in May.

The Hidalgo County Loop project will cost an estimated $650 million and will be financed partially from tolls.

“The RMA and our contractors are taking every step necessary to make sure the loop project meets the highest of engineering and environmental standards,” said Dennis Burleson, chairman of the RMA.  “We all realize how important the loop is to the future of transportation and commerce in Hidalgo County and beyond so we are determined to make this an exemplary project on engineering, environment, and finance.”

Burleson also announced a series of five more public meetings on the loop, which are designed to provide public feedback on the proposed TPA.

These are scheduled to be held Tuesday, July 22, at Valley View High School in Hidalgo, Wednesday, July 23 at John F. Kennedy Elementary in Penitas, Thursday, July 24 at Donna High School, and Tuesday, July 29th at Edinburg North High School.  The four regional information open houses will be followed by a county-wide session on Wednesday, July 30 at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce offices.  Starting time for each open house is 5:30 p.m.

“Our job is to build the best road possible for the public,” said Gerry Pate, who is leading the HCRB team.  “We can’t do that without public input and HCRB is dedicated to making certain we get the most information possible from the citizens of the county.  We’re looking forward to getting their insights and feedback on the TPA.”

Generally known as the Hidalgo County Loop, the project is needed to help move truck traffic from the international bridges in Hidalgo County to the Free Trade Zone and away from the urban areas to cities in the north.

The HCRMA is paying for the project with a series of financial mechanisms that include tolling and the newly authorized Tax Reinvestment Zone (TRZ), which uses property values from new development prompted by the road to pay for its construction.

••••••

Sen. Hutchison amendment, adopted by key panel, extends Texas toll moratorium through 2009

By MATT MACKOWIAK

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee, on Thursday, July 10, successfully secured her amendment in a transportation spending bill that would continue the current ban on placing toll booths on interstate highways in Texas through September 2009.

In 2007, Hutchison successfully passed legislation that prohibits the tolling of existing federal highways in Texas built with taxpayer dollars. Hutchison’s amendment passed and was signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 THUD Appropriations bill.

“Last year I made certain that Texas taxpayers were protected from paying twice for a federal highway by passing a one year ban, which I am now working to extend for another year,” Hutchison said. “I will continue working with my colleagues to push for a permanent prohibition of tolling existing federal highways when the federal highway authorization bill is considered in 2009.”

Efforts to toll newly constructed lanes or new highways would not be prohibited in Hutchison’s amendment.

Hutchison on July 10 offered the amendment to this year’s THUD Appropriations bill to extend the prohibition. The THUD Appropriations bill was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.

••••••

UT-Pan American athletics joins Great West Conference

By MELISSA VÁSQUEZ

The University of Texas-Pan American celebrated a landmark decision on Friday, July 11, to join the Great West Conference, an all-sports league, which will provide a home for 11 of 14 UTPA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics programs.

“Today is a major milestone in the history of the University and our athletics program. After a decade without an all-sports conference affiliation, the University and especially our UTPA Broncs and Lady Broncs are proud to accept admission into the Great West Conference,” UTPA President Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas said. “This is a significant occasion for our University and our student-athletes and coaches who have represented UTPA athletically over the years with great pride.”

UTPA is one of six NCAA Division I independent schools to accept a membership into the Great West, a football-only conference since 2004, which most recently decided to expand its organization to an all-sports conference to include basketball, volleyball, baseball, and other sports. A press conference was held at the Visitors Center to announce UTPA’s membership.

“What the Great West provides is a home for a majority of the NCAA Division I independent institutions that have struggled to schedule contests each year while at the same time providing opportunity for their student-athletes to call themselves champions,” Great West Commissioner Ed Grom said. “Once institutions in the Great West are able to secure active status within the NCAA, we can begin to look to secure automatic bids into championships.”

With the Great West expanding to an all-sports conference, Grom said the name and brand of the organization will be front-and-center throughout the year, rather than just during the football season.

Grom said he credits former UTPA Director of Athletics Scott Street, who resigned from his post in May, for taking the initiative to start the talks with other independent schools and get the ball rolling on the development of the Great West.

UTPA is one of six NCAA Division I independent schools to accept a membership into the Great West, a football-only conference since 2004, which most recently decided to expand its organization to an all-sports conference to include basketball, volleyball, baseball, and other sports. A press conference was held at the Visitors Center to announce UTPA’s membership.

“What the Great West provides is a home for a majority of the NCAA Division I independent institutions that have struggled to schedule contests each year while at the same time providing opportunity for their student-athletes to call themselves champions,” Great West Commissioner Ed Grom said. “Once institutions in the Great West are able to secure active status within the NCAA, we can begin to look to secure automatic bids into championships.”

With the Great West expanding to an all-sports conference, Grom said the name and brand of the organization will be front-and-center throughout the year, rather than just during the football season.

Grom said he credits former UTPA Director of Athletics Scott Street, who resigned from his post in May, for taking the initiative to start the talks with other independent schools and get the ball rolling on the development of the Great West.

“Without the foresight of Scott Street and the administration at UTPA, the expansion of the Great West would not have taken place. UTPA was a driving force behind bringing all the NCAA Division I institutions together to start a league. The Great West was the vehicle already in place to make it happen,” Grom said. “UTPA has been in the NCAA Division I ranks for many years and the Broncs can serve as a guide to those institutions within the Great West that are making the jump from Division II to Division I. UTPA will also provide a new market for the other institutions to sell their brand too.”

For Street, who currently serves as a special assistant to the vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, the announcement could not have come at a better time as he prepares to leave UTPA Aug. 31.

“This is one of things when I came here three years ago that I wanted to accomplish, and that was to have us in a formal conference. It is certainly something we have accomplished and I’m glad that we can move forward. It is a good thing to leave behind,” Street said.

Joining UTPA in the Great West Conference are Utah Valley University, The University of North Dakota, The University of South Dakota, Houston Baptist University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The UTPA sports programs that will fall under the umbrella of the Great West include baseball, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s tennis, and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field. The remainder of UTPA’s athletics programs – men’s golf, men’s tennis, and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field – already compete in other conferences.

Even though a conference schedule for the Great West will not officially start until 2009-2010, Street said this will be a good opportunity for UTPA to start working as part of conference and also use the resources available to help refine the athletics department.

“Being in a conference will help develop rivalries, community interest and our standings will actually be in USA Today under the Great West Conference,” Street said. “I think this will help us in recruitment quite a bit as it will give student-athletes a better chance to play in post-season competition and a better chance to be recognized at a national level,” Street said.

Dr. John A. Edwards, vice president for the Division of Enrollment and Student Services, said joining an athletic conference will also enhance school spirit and increase support of UTPA Athletics programs.

“Joining a conference will mean that our student-athletes will have additional opportunities for post-season play, particularly for conference championships. It will also mean that our teams will be able to play more home games with potential universities, which should become sports rivals,” Edwards said. “We are excited about the possibilities for our student-athletes, students, alumni, and our University.”

University Interim Director of Athletics Ricky Vaughn said this is a momentous occasion in UTPA Athletics and he is looking forward to the many benefits that will be made available to the student-athletes, coaches, and the community, particularly the opportunity to compete for conference and post-season championships.

“This is something that our student-athletes are very deserving of and we are finally able to offer this to them,” Vaughn said. “The Great West also will allow us to have a consistent home and away schedule, which will give our fans more home games to attend and lessen the travel that our athletic teams make. This is definitely an exciting time for us and we look forward to creating a new chapter in UTPA Athletics history by joining the Great West,” Vaughn said.

For more information on UTPA Athletics, call 956/381-2221 or visit http://utpabroncs.cstv.com/.

To learn more about the Great West Conference, visit http://greatwestconference.cstv.com/.

••••••

Clinical trials critical to successful treatment and research

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

D-Brownsville

Clinical trials are proving to be miracles for many people afflicted with life-threatening diseases like cancer.

Often paid by medical company sponsors, clinical trials are research studies of people that follow a pre-defined plan involving investigational treatment, tests and extra doctor visits.

Besides insufficient clinical trials, particularly in South Texas, another of the problems with these programs that we are addressing at the Legislature is determining who should pay for “routine costs” associated with clinical trials that frequently aren’t covered by either the sponsor company nor the health insurance provider. Routine costs involve doctor visits, tests and treatments that generally are covered by health insurance when associated with standard treatment.

Only three percent of all cancer patients enroll in clinical trials statewide, meaning that 97 percent of cancer patients have no access to novel treatment.

With a goal of lowering the cancer rate and finding a cure, during the 80th Legislature we passed legislation giving voters the opportunity to approve $3 billion in general obligation bonds over ten years (on the ballot as Proposition 15) to fund grants for cancer prevention and research that includes clinical trials.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst recently appointed three members to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute Oversight Committee, (including Mr. Lionel Sosa from San Antonio), created by Proposition 15 to oversee the Institute.

The Institute will begin investing these funds in a number of areas that will decrease the incidence of cancer in South Texas, including education and prevention programs and research grants focused on basic, translational and clinical cancer research.

Basic research is usually performed in a laboratory and is the earliest process scientists use to create new knowledge. Translational research uses animal models to determine if the new knowledge found through the basic science investigative process has a beneficial impact on animals with cancer. If the translational research studies are successful, then the new therapies are tested in human subjects (clinical trials).

Clinical trials occur in four phases and involve different numbers of human subjects depending on the clinical trial phase. Clinical trials at phase one normally enroll 10-50 human subjects, hundreds at phase two, and thousands at phases three and four.

“We certainly expect that the Regional Academic Health Science Center (RAHC) will, through the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio (UTHSCSA), become the recipient of some of this money to conduct clinical trials in South Texas,” says Dr. Brian Herman, Vice President for Research at UTHSCSA.

“The goal,” he continues, “is for the RAHC campus in Harlingen to conduct clinical research, while cancer related basic and translational research supported by funds will occur primarily in the UTHSCSA Edinburg research campus.”

Currently UTHSCSA performs research at the Edinburg campus to determine if certain genes can predispose Hispanic individuals to certain types of mental illness and diabetes, and what if any may be the relationship between obesity and cancer. Clinical trials are also being conducted by Valley Baptist Hospital and some of the private physicians in the South Texas region.

Dr. Gabriel Hortobagyi with the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center reminds us that in the 1950s every child with acute leukemia died, and today thanks to clinical trials, more than 80 percent survive.

And while many medical experts and patients believe that health insurers should cover clinical trial costs, the insurance industry resists any state mandates to do so.

The Texas Association of Health Plans (TAHP) takes a neutral position on this issue, while still expressing concerns regarding efficacy and safety, and questioning whether the financial burden for the costs of clinical trials should fall to trial sponsors who they feel reap the benefits. The organization believes that standards for clinical trials should be set, and that “mandates to cover services that are essentially public good constitute a tax, of sorts, on the insured.”

Furthermore, TAHP notes that since clinical trials are by definition experimental, they are generally not covered by insurers. Yet there are exceptions. Some insurers cover routine costs if determined to be the usual care that the member would have received outside of the trial.

Hortobagyi defends the efficacy of clinical trials, explaining that they represent the final common pathway to validate and to test the progress in laboratory research to assure that they are effective, that they deliver what they are supposed to deliver and are safe for patients.

We in South Texas anxiously await funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute to expand clinical trials. As a member of the State Affairs Committee, my colleagues and I will work with the insurance industry on a compromise for coverage of routine costs.

••••••

Law passed by Rep. Gonzáles/Sen. Lucio allows McAllen International Museum to secure county sponsorship that allows free general admission every Sunday

By RICARDO LÓPEZ-GUERRA

Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz on Thursday, July 3, joined key International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) leaders to announce the return of the free general admission program every Sunday for the next 12 months.

The free general admission program, which will take place every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., began on Sunday, July 6. Complimentary general museum admission is available to all visitors, not just residents of McAllen.

Gonzáles filed legislation in 2007, that was enacted into law, which allows the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to appropriate county funding to IMAS.

Gonzáles is facing fellow McAllen lawyer Javier Villalobos, a Republican, in the November general election for a two-year term to represent House District 41, which includes southwest Edinburg.

“No child in our community, regardless of their economic status, should lack access to visit and learn from the International Museum of Art and Science. I am proud to have passed HB 2796 making it possible for Hidalgo County to appropriate $50,000 to IMAS,” said Gonzáles. “This is a great example of our local community and state government working together in an effort to benefit our residents.”

Gonzáles, Salinas, and Cortéz were joined at the mid-morning announcement by Serena Rosenkrantz, IMAS executive director, and Dr. John Gerling, president of the IMAS Board of Directors.

“IMAS is very grateful for this contribution being made by County Judge Salinas and our Hidalgo County Commissioners, as well as for all of the help we received from Rep. Gonzáles for authoring House Bill 2796 to make this program possible,” said Rosenkrantz.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, was the Senate sponsor of HB 2796.

“Hidalgo County is proud to be a partner with the International Museum of Art and Science, to offer thousands of  economically disadvantaged Hidalgo County residents  the chance to experience snippets of our culture on display. The museum is a wonderful place to learn about our  own backyards, and the backyards of others, too,” said Salinas. “Hidalgo County wholly  supports the arts and sciences, and believes in enhancing our communities’ educational opportunities in general.  We are truly honored to help IMAS make history by bringing back the popular free admission program.”

Cortéz emphasized that IMAS was a resource that strives to serve all Hidalgo County residents, from every walk-of-life.

“IMAS is a regional museum that should  be enjoyed by the entire community. Hidalgo County’s donation will allow hundreds of  families to enjoy the arts and exhibits at IMAS, providing an educational experience for  the entire family,” Cortéz said. “McAllen is proud to support the museum because of its contribution of  art and science to the region.”

According to a bill analysis of the measure, in 2005, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court considered funding the International Museum of Art & Science in the amount of $50,000. However, that law at the time did not grant counties the authority to appropriate funds for the purpose of financing museums.

HB 2796 grants Hidalgo County the authority to operate and finance a museum in the county for specific purposes and to contract with private entities to perform services the county is authorized to perform.

The museum continues to seek support from other local surrounding municipalities toward expanding these hours, year after year. For more information on this and other IMAS programs is available by contacting Rosenkrantz at (956) 682-1564.

••••••

South Texas College students design movie poster about Vietnam war veterans Álvarez brothers, including Fernando Álvarez, who lives in Edinburg

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR

South Texas College Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) Program students are experiencing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood-style movie production first hand. Two highly-skilled students have been chosen to design the movie poster and promotional binder for the film, The Álvarez Vietnam Story: Brothers in Arms.

The film tells the true story of three Hispanic brothers, Emeterio III, Gilberto and Fernando Álvarez, who risked their lives serving in Vietnam.

Fernando, the youngest brother, is a resident of Edinburg and is actively involved in the production of the movie. He invited students in STC’s CADD Program Digital Imaging classes to participate in the project by designing graphic layouts of posters for the film for review and possible selection.

“I am very happy with the work these students have done,” said Álvarez. “They have gone out of their way to design some outstanding pieces. They look so professional; just like in Hollywood.”

Students in all of the college’s Digital Imagining classes submitted work for consideration. Ultimately, brothers Frank and Joshua Jaramillo were selected to continue working on the project.

“The students feel honored to have been chosen for this great opportunity,” said Rey Sánchez, STC CADD Program chair and Digital Imaging instructor. “Frank and Joshua like the fact that they are two brothers helping to tell the story of the very brave Álvarez brothers. There is a real symmetry in that. Also, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for them and something they will never forget.”

The movie poster designed by Frank and Joshua was selected because it captured the essence of what the Álvarez brothers lived through in the Vietnam War.

“It was a very difficult time for all of us,” said Álvarez. “And it was not only a hardship for us, but also for our families. I selected the work of Frank and Joshua because I felt that it truly told our story. I was drawn to it by my feelings and the looks that we all have on our faces. The Jaramillo brothers are very talented.”

The inspiration for the making of the movie came from a letter written by Álvarez describing in detail everything that he and his brothers lived through while fighting in Vietnam. His letter was directed to the Veteran Affairs Administration discussing the impact of post traumatic stress. The movie serves not only as a tribute to the bravery of the brothers Álvarez, but also as a form of therapy for them and other Hispanic veterans.

“The stories and experiences of Hispanic veterans have not been spotlighted in any major film or media and so this film is not only a milestone for our family, but for all Hispanic veterans,” concluded Álvarez. “So I think it is also fitting for students from STC to be involved in this project because most of the college’s students are Hispanic and they understand the culture and the history, the barriers and the challenges of our population. I look forward to seeing the work of the Jaramillo brothers come alive in our promotions of the movie because it really complements our story.”

For more information about The Álvarez Vietnam Story: Brothers in Arms, contact Fernando Álvarez at 956/607-1472. For more information about STC’s CADD Program or Digital Imaging courses contact Rey Sánchez at 956-872-6103.

••••••

Ramiro Burr, renowned expert on Latino music, latest top journalist to focus on the Internet to reach an emerging worldwide Hispanic digital audience

Award-winning reporter/blogger/columnist Ramiro Burr has left the San Antonio Express-News to launch his own company, Ramiro Burr Communications.

Burr’s move is the latest in a professional trajectory that includes stints as an entertainment writer, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, book author, and regionally syndicated columnist. Most recently, he was recognized as No. 1 blogger at Mysa.com. Burr says he is ready for the next level.

“I will continue to write and blog about music. I think the community, especially the Latino community, is still underserved when it comes to news and information,” he said. “I have always emphasized the need for all media to be well-balanced and fully represent their communities, including the Latino community. By being inclusive, we are all enriched.

“These are exciting times, especially for online media,” Burr added. “The field is wide open. Traditional media, like most companies, are struggling to transition to the new digital era, where it is more critical than ever to find, target and develop new, younger audiences and maintain a relevant connection.”

The new digital challenges ahead are detailed in these recent Burr reports:

Internet passes radio, next to TV as ‘most essential media in the U.S.; and

Baby Bash, ‘getting your digital game on right.

Burr moderated two panels on these topics in the Pulso de la Musica Latina 2008: Get Your Digital Game On presented by The Recording Academy®, Texas Chapter in partnership with The Latin Recording Academy® at the St. Anthony Hotel in June.

In March 2008, Ramiro Burr received a Philip True Award from the San Antonio Express-News for Online Impact. Burr’s popular Latin Notes Now blogs received 750,000 hits in 2007, more than any other Express-News/Mysa.com blog including the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys, traffic and weather blogs.In April 2008, the LNN blog scored No.1 again with a record 191,000-plus hits- twice over the next blog. Mysa.com is San Antonio’s largest Web site, today registering over one million hits a month.

Burr is now continuing his daily news stories, blogs, photos and updates at http://www.ramiroburr.com.

In 1999, Burr wrote the groundbreaking Billboard Guide to Tejano and regional Mexican Music book by New York publisher Billboard Books. It is the genre’s first-ever sourcebook. Burr was also a contributor for several books, including World Music: The Rough Guide by the London-based Rough Guides, Hispanic Almanac on Visible Ink Press, and Puro Conjunto by the University of Texas Press.

For almost two decades, Burr’s weekly music columns, syndicated as Ramiro Burr’s Latin Music, have appeared in several Texas newspapers including the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Austin-American Statesman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Laredo Morning Times.

Burr will continue his work as a freelance writer, book author and online reporter published by various publications. Burr is currently working on two book projects. The first is a history of mariachi/rancheras for University of Texas Press. The second is a Spanish-English translation of Mexican singer/actress Judith Chávez’ polemic book, Como carne de cañónLike cannon fodder – (the crude reality of show-biz) to become a major script in the movie industry.

Through his experience, Burr has become a professional speaker whose insight and analysis of music, journalism, culture and the arts has been sought by colleges and civic groups including the Smithsonian Institution, Bowling Green University, University of Texas, Rice University, the University of Houston, and others. In 2000 and 2001, Burr won the Speaker of the Year award from the Hearst/San Antonio Express-News volunteer corp.

To keep up with Burr’s daily news stories, blogs, photos and updates, visit  http://www.ramiroburr.com.

Burr can be reached at 210-831-2688 or Musicreporter@gmail.com

For espanol: Ramiro Burr: ’emprende un nuevo reto’

••••••

Seminar at UT-Pan American focuses on disability services available to students

By GAIL FAGAN

A recent seminar presented at The University of Texas-Pan American offered Rio Grande Valley disability service professionals as well as individuals with disabilities an opportunity to learn more about benefits and services available locally to enable individuals with disabilities to obtain a higher education.

The “Disability Benefits and Return to Work” seminar, co-sponsored by the UTPA Department of Rehabilitation Addiction Studies Project, Workforce Solutions and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), covered Social Security Administration (SSA)’s disability benefits and return to work considerations and incentives. It also held a session highlighting individuals with disabilities who had been on SSA disability benefits but have successfully transitioned to higher paying professional jobs by obtaining higher education.

“Individuals with disabilities have the highest unemployment and poverty level of any minority group in the nation. By having a role model to demonstrate that obtaining an education is possible, more people with disabilities can become educated, employed, and lead more fulfilled lives,” said Maureen McClain, associate director of Disability Services at UTPA, who participated in the seminar.

McClain said UTPA is an accessible campus and provides a wide variety of adaptive equipment for students with hearing, vision, mobility, learning and psychiatric disabilities. This assistive technology includes adjustable computer stations; computers with speech output, screen magnification, and print and Braille output; JAWS software which reads books aloud; closed circuit TV magnification systems; and FM listening devices for the hearing impaired.

Students who qualify can also benefit from the services of readers, scribes and note takers, who provide assistance during test taking or taking class notes, as well as sign language interpreters who can be with eligible students in the classroom. In addition, the UTPA Office of Disability Services provides information on scholarships that are available to those with disabilities.

Becoming paralyzed in her lower extremities from a gunshot wound in 1998 did not stop seminar panelist Judith Pérez from obtaining not only a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitative services in May 2002 but a master’s in rehabilitation counseling in December 2003 – both from UTPA. For the past four years she has worked as a rehabilitation counselor in the DARS Division of Rehabilitative Services. Pérez talked about the significance of the support she received in pursuing her studies and particularly appreciated that accessibility was not a problem on the UTPA campus.

“I was very fortunate that the campus was very accessible as far as ramps and elevators. I also found that the Department of Rehab had automatic door openers which were very useful for me to get into their main office,” said Pérez, who uses a wheelchair.

UTPA is also one of a number of community partners in a three-year project called Project RISE (Regional Initiative for Supported Employment) to increase employment opportunities for high school seniors receiving special education services in area high schools by connecting them to Workforce Centers, DARS, higher education institutions and other adult service agencies.

One of the objectives of Project RISE, an initiative of Workforce Solutions funded by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, is to increase these students’ awareness about courses of study and available support services to help attain self-sufficiency said Jayshree Bhat, Project RISE director, who moderated the success story panel at the seminar.

“During campus visits, they (students) learn how to tap into disability student services available at higher education institutions to help them succeed in college,” she said.

McClain said the seminar provided a great opportunity to reach out to a segment of the population that has great potential.

“Individuals with disabilities were provided with role models at this seminar, to make them aware that a college education is possible,” she said. “All individuals with disabilities need to be made aware that they can enroll in college and change their life.”

For more information, contact McClain at 956/316-7092 or via e-mail at maureen@utpa.edu.

••••••

Texas declared America’s Top State For Business by CNBC study

Texas is America’s Top State for Business according to the results of a CNBC study that scored each state on 40 different measures of competitiveness. Gov. Rick Perry joined CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo” in Washington, D.C. this afternoon for the announcement.

“We live in a world that moves faster than at any time in history,” Perry said. “Knowledge and capital are rapidly being deployed to parts of the world where the right combination of talent, technology, business climate, infrastructure and markets converge. I believe Texas is that place, now more than ever.”

CNBC’s ranking adds to the growing list of accomplishments and accolades for Texas’ business climate. The Lone Star State is now home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state in the nation, and was recently named the “Best State to Do Business” by CEO Magazine for the third year in a row.

In the past five years, Texas has created 1.2 million net new jobs. In the last year alone, more than half of all jobs created in the United States were in Texas.

“There is simply no better place to live, work, grow a business and raise a family than the great State of Texas,” said Perry. “We have the best business climate in the country and remain globally competitive thanks to our reasonable regulations, low taxes, fair legal environment, educated workforce and an unparalleled quality of life.”

CNBC scored each state using publicly available data to determine the rankings. States received points based on ten broad categories including: cost of doing business, workforce, economy, education, quality of life, technology and innovation, transportation, cost of living, business friendliness, and access to capital. Texas’ strongest showings were in economy, technology and innovation, transportation and cost of living.

The complete study is available on http://www.topstatesforbusiness.cnbc.com.

••••••

Senate committee tackles border security

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security committee met in El Paso on Wednesday, July 9, to hear testimony from local and state officials on the security of the border between Texas and Mexico.

Border security and its antecedent issues like drug trafficking and illegal immigration have leapt to the forefront of national policy debate in the past few years. State legislatures across the country have debated more than a thousand bills relating to border issues, according to National Conference of State Legislatures official Anne Morse. Much of this legislation deals with the state’s role in enforcing federal immigration policy.

One Texas community that has developed a successful program to deal with illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S. is found far from the border.

Irving Chief of Police Larry Boyd testified about his city’s program to check the immigration status of all individuals arrested, either for misdemeanors or felonies, and then contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, who have jurisdiction over illegal immigrants. Boyd said his officers in the field do not check immigration status.

Asking patrolling police officers to enforce immigration policy would be a dire mistake, according to El Paso County Attorney José Rodríguez. Successful policing depends on trust between a community and officers, he said, and if immigrants are more concerned about deportation than helping to catch criminals, witnesses become more reluctant to step forward. Victims of domestic abuse, marital, child or elder abuse, are often afraid to contact the police for fear of facing ICE officers, Rodríguez said.

Just across the border from El Paso is Juárez, Mexico, a community that has seen hundreds of murders this year relating to drug trafficking and gang violence. El Paso, however, has one of the lowest crime rates in the country for a city its size. This can be attributed, according to FBI Agent in Charge David Cuthbertson, to the close cooperation between agencies at all levels of government. He says FBI, DEA, Border Patrol, state troopers, local law enforcement and others all work in close concert, sharing information across jurisdictions, to increase border security.

The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee is chaired by Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas.  The other Senate panel members are:  Sen. Kirk Watson, vice-chair; Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; Sen, Kim Brimer, R-Ft. Worth; Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso; and Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website’s audio and video archive pages.

••••••

Consumer alert: Beware of spam E-mails claiming to be from the Office of the Texas Attorney General

A brazen, new spam e-mail featuring Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s photograph and the Office of the Attorney General’s Web page banner has recently hit inboxes statewide.

The fraudulent e-mail message, which may include the subject line, “ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS,” is given the false appearance of legitimacy because it is adorned with the agency’s distinctive online logo and an image of Attorney General Abbott. In the e-mail text addressing the recipient by name, a vague security alert warns about a “transaction with the United Nations.” The entire e-mail reads:

Attn: [Recipient Name],

This is the office of the attorney general of Texas we are using this private email box to contact you for our security reasons because a lot is going on now and so many of our citizen wish to hear from this office daily but we have choose this medium to attend to our good citizen.

[Recipient Name], we wish to inform you that your transaction with the United Nations concerning your package that is on hold now is a legitimate transaction and you must try and see you provide all that is been requested for the security of this great country.

You are at a safe hand and we are giving you % 100 assurances to continue with them and make sure that your package is being released to you.

Thanks.

Savvy e-mail users have increasingly learned to identify and delete fraudulent e-mails that falsely appear to originate from legitimate banks, credit card companies and government agencies. Recipients should not respond to the sender or click on any Web links that may appear within the message. Activating Web links that appear in unexpected e-mails may direct users to fraudulent Web sites or allow identity thieves to capture users’ sensitive personal information.

Texans can protect their e-mail addresses from spammers by working with their Internet service providers to install free filters, blocks and other junk mail management services. All computer users should also familiarize themselves with a Web site’s privacy policy before providing their e-mail addresses. Most legitimate vendors allow users to prevent the company from sharing their information with unauthorized third parties.

••••••

Mission man convicted of defrauding, embezzling International Bank of Commerce in McAllen of $100,000

A federal jury has convicted Erik Alfredo Constante, 21, of Mission, of bank fraud and theft or embezzlement by a bank employee, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced on Friday, July 11. Constante was found guilty on both counts of two-count indictment on Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in McAllen.

Constante was convicted of theft or embezzlement by a bank employee in addition to defrauding International Bank of Commerce out of approximately $100,000 in U.S. currency. United States District Court Judge Randy Crane set a sentencing date of Sept. 23, 2008.

Uncontroverted evidence at trial proved that on March 19, 2008, Constante was employed as a sales associate at International Bank of Commerce and, without authorization, forged the signature of a bank customer on a withdrawal slip and withdrew approximately $100,000 from the customer’s bank account. Constante, who testified at trial, never denied the forgery nor taking the money without the customer’s consent. He claimed, instead, that he had been threatened and coerced into taking the money by persons he believed to be members of the gang known as “Los Zetas” and had handed the money over to one of them.

On cross-examination, Constante admitted he never informed his family or his grandparents of the alleged threat and to having spent some of the money himself. Further, evidence provided by bank employees proved Constante never alerted fellow employees that he was or had been threatened in any manner by anyone. Lastly, a search of Constante’s residence following the withdrawal resulted in the recovery of an International Bank of Commerce bank bag and a strap that was used to bundle some of the cash taken from the bank.

The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by agents of the United States Secret Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Wells and Patricia A. Rigney.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!