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President Barack Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Memorial Day commemorations at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Memorial Day, May 25. After being introduced by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President told an audience gathered inside the Memorial Amphitheater that Arlington’s hallowed grounds contain the remains of, “presidents and privates, Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.” See story later in this posting. 

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South Texas Health System, which was recently awarded a contract by the Veterans Administration to provide medical care and treatment to veterans in South Texas, will be holding an enrollment fair at Edinburg Regional Medical Center on Saturday, June 20, from 8 a.m. to noon. The Hidalgo County Veterans Services Office will be onsite with applications for health care benefits. Veterans will be required to complete an application (form 1010-EZ) and provide a copy of their DD214 (discharge papers) for enrollment.  Edinburg Regional Medical Center, located at  1102 W. Trenton Road,  is part of a network of Hidalgo County hospitals, including McAllen Medical Center, featured here recently, when it announced it was going to provide VA medical services at that location. Valley veterans and their families are invited to attend the June 20 event in Edinburg, where a variety of health screenings for the veterans and their families will be provided. In addition, family entertainment, food, and many door prizes will also be available.  For more information, contact Edinburg hospital officials at 388-2036. 

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Óscar Longoria Jr., featured second from right, was sworn in on Thursday, May 21, as the District 2 trustee for South Texas Community College. He succeeds Irene García, who last November had to resign her post at STC because she had been elected to the Mission school board, and state law prohibited her from holding both positions at the same time. Longoria, 27, is an attorney, and is the youngest person to serve on the STC Board of Trustees. In a special election in April, he defeated Graciela Farias and Connie Garza. Longoria, who is a resident of Mission and native of La Joya, represents the constituents of La Joya, western Mission, Palmview, Sullivan City, Penitas and western Alton. Featured with him are his parents, Óscar, Sr. and Rosa, along with his brother, Jason.  See story later in this posting.

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Ana De Luna, a collection specialist with the Hidalgo County District Clerk’s Office, on Wednesday, May 20, was honored with the Collector of the Year Award by the Government Collectors Association of Texas. This award is presented to the collector selected as having had the greatest impact on collections efforts for their respective city or county in the past year.  The local county’s Collections Department also received the Excellence in Service Award, which is presented to programs selected for unselfishly providing assistance to others embodying the elements of dedication, commitment and service to the association and its membership. The association consists of professionals from across the state of Texas responsible for the collection of funds for the governmental entities for which they are employed and is devoted to the education, strategies, techniques and tools for judicial collections. Ms. De Luna is featured here with her colleagues, during a ceremony celebrating her award. “I feel very honored and privileged for having received such a prestigious award which reflects the collection efforts our county strives for.  I am so thankful for the wonderful supervisory leadership I have and the support of my co-workers.  It is through team work that we can achieve our goals,” said De Luna. She has been employed with the district clerk’s office since August 2007 and will continue serving in her capacity as a Collections Specialist. 

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Lawmakers working on major CHIP expansion to help both low- and middle-income families, says Rep. Flores

By DAVID  A. DÍAZ 

Thousands of middle-income Texas families who currently make too much money to qualify for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or whose employers don’t provide them any medical insurance coverage, soon may be able enroll their children in CHIP for an affordable monthly premium, says Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview. 

For thousands of low-income Texas families whose children already qualify for CHIP but who don’t know about it – or whose parents are stopped from enrolling or keeping their children in CHIP because of government red-tape – those roadblocks should soon be removed as well, he added. 

Those, and other major provisions, are at the heart of a major revamping of CHIP as a result of legislation approved on Friday, May 15, by the House of Representatives, according to Flores, who is a co-author of the measure, House Bill 2962. 

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, is the primary author of HB 2962. 

HB 2962, which is hoped to receive Senate approval and be signed into law by the governor, will represent one the Legislature’s "crowning achievements this session," Flores predicted, noting that Texans from all walks of life "will be blessed" by the proposed CHIP expansion. 

"Not only will this measure provide thousands of additional families with the peace of mind that their children’s health will be protected, it will also save taxes for Texans, and relieve the financial pressures on local economies," he said. 

CHIP is generally described as health insurance, paid for primarily by the federal government, that covers children, from newborns to under 19 years of age, of families which can’t afford to buy private health insurance, but earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.   

Medicaid, which is administered by the states, is one of the federal governments largest programs that provide medical and health care to the poor, regardless of age. 

Since CHIP was first introduced in Texas in the late 1990s, state lawmakers have sought ways to increase the number of children who could be covered, and as of April 2009, more than 465,000 children were enrolled in that program. 

Under the provisions of HB 2962, another 80,000 children could be added to CHIP, either for an annual fee of $50 per family, based on current income level requirements, or as proposed – as an example – for between $88 and $185 per month per child for a family of four which generates between $44,490 and $63,600 a year. 

"The costs of this bill would be very reasonable considering the benefits to the health of Texas children and when balancing the cost savings that would be achieved by reducing the uncompensated care costs paid for  uninsured children," said Flores, citing a legislative analysis of HB 2962. "With no other alternative, parents often take their sick, uninsured children to hospital emergency rooms, which provide the most  costly care. The burden of uncompensated care costs ultimately falls to  taxpayers and other health consumers through increased local taxes or  increased insurance premiums."      

According to the bill analysis: supporters of HB 2962 point out that children with health insurance are more likely to be vaccinated against a host of major illnesses. Lack of insurance can lead to  more illness, which causes poorer educational performance because children miss more days of school. Through the relatively low cost of  providing a child health coverage, the state can achieve high returns on child well-being.    

For a growing number of lower middle-income parents in Texas, access to buying – at a reduced premium – CHIP coverage for their children would represent a significant benefit for their families, Flores observed. 

"Only 49 percent of employers offer health coverage to families. Without an employer‘s contribution to premiums, most uninsured families must turn to coverage on the private, individual market, which often is prohibitively costly for  even the most basic plans," Flores continued. "In addition, middle-income families with  incomes who would qualify under this legislation are the fastest-growing uninsured population, largely because of the increasing cost of  health coverage." 

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Texas state budget nearing completion, could be up for final vote this week

By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES 

Budget writers on Wednesday night, May 20, completed deliberations on the state appropriations bill, and the Senate’s Finance Committee chairman said the budget will move out of committee early this week. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who is Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chair of that committee,  and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Thursday, May 21, met with Capitol reporters to talk about important provisions of 2010-2011 state budget. 

"I’m proud of the budget," said Ogden. "It is balanced, I think we used the stimulus money about as wisely as we possibly could, and I think as we go forward, the state of Texas is going to be in good shape with this budget." 

Ogden highlighted three major shifts in spending policy represented in the budget bill. First, is a substantial increase in money for Texans with intellectual disabilities. The budget has $500 million more for community-based services for these individuals, which Ogden believes will cause a shift from institutionalized treatment to treatment options closer to home. The second shift centers around public education spending.  

Ogden said the conference committee put $1.9 billion more toward public education, contingent on a new school finance bill, one that emphasizes transparency and equity, clearing the Legislature, a prospect about which he is optimistic.  

The final change is a shift in funding for the Texas Department of Transportation. This session’s budget, said Ogden, reduces diversions from the state highway fund by $332 million, and utilizes billions in voter- approved general obligation bonds toward transportation infrastructure.  

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Motor fuel tax break sought by Edinburg and other volunteer fire departments on the way to governor

By ORLANDO SALINAS 

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, has passed legislation that would save volunteer fire departments statewide, including Edinburg, a combined millions of dollars a year in fuel costs.   

The measure, Senate Bill 254, authored by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, exempts volunteer fire departments, such as Edinburg, from pay state fuel taxes. 

Peña is the House sponsor of SB 254, which received final legislative approval in mid-May. The bill was sent on Thursday, May 18, to Gov. Rick Perry for his action. 

SB 254 received final legislative approval in mid-May, and was sent to the governor on Thursday, May 18, for his action. 

The measure was part of Edinburg’s state legislative agenda. Edinburg Fire Chief Shawn Snider was among the witnesses who testified in favor of the measure during a House committee hearing on May 4. No one testified against the measure during the committee hearing. 

“Volunteer fire departments provide emergency and life saving services for many communities in South Texas and all across the state,” said Peña. “As their budgets are typically tight, the cost of fuel for their emergency vehicles constitutes a significant expense for these departments. Volunteer fire departments will now save 20 cents per gallon of fuel purchased.” 

HB 387 will provide a tax exemption for gasoline and diesel fuel sold to a volunteer fire department in this state for its exclusive use. It would allow an eligible volunteer fire department that had paid the motor fuel tax on the purchase of gasoline or diesel fuel, to file a claim with the Comptroller’s Office for a refund of the tax.  The state currently provides an exemption of the state motor fuels and diesel tax to such entities as the federal government and public school districts. 

“Many volunteer fire departments that serve small and rural communities struggle with tight budgets,” said Peña. “The impact of the lost tax revenue to the state will be minimal compared to the financial relief experienced by Texas’ volunteer fire departments.” 

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Óscar Longoria Jr., Mission attorney, returns to alma matter as youngest South Texas College board trustee

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR 

Óscar Longoria Jr., of Mission on Thursday, May 21, was sworn in as the District 2 trustee for South Texas Community College.  

He succeeds Irene García, who last November had to resign her post at STC because she had been elected to the Mission school board, and state law prohibited her from holding both positions at the same time.  

Longoria, 27, is an attorney, and is the youngest person to serve on the STC Board of Trustees.  In a special election in April, he defeated Graciel Farias and Connie Garza. Longoria, who is a resident of Mission and native of La Joya, represents the constituents of La Joya, western Mission, Palmview, Sullivan City, Penitas and western Alton. 

“We are excited to add Oscar to the board because he will provide fresh perspectives and new ideas that will greatly benefit our college community,” said Mike Allen, chair of STC’s Board of Trustees. “We look forward to working closely with him as we continue our focus on economic and workforce development in the Rio Grande Valley.” 

Longoria, a native of La Joya, represents the constituents of La Joya, western Mission, Palmview, Sullivan City, Penitas and western Alton.  

“I am very honored to serve as the people’s choice in this new position,” said Longoria. “The election marks an exciting time in my life, with many new opportunities to improve our community. My youth provides an excellent foundation for exploring and understanding issues impacting our students every day. I know what students face in this new, fast-paced age that is driven by technology, and there is much insight that I can bring to the table. I also look forward to the guidance of my fellow board members and working with them, and the entire faculty and staff, to continue STC’s standard as a world-class institution.” 

Longoria is a graduate of La Joya High School. He attended classes at South Texas College prior to transferring to The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn his law degree from The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He currently practices civil litigation serving clients across the Rio Grande Valley. 

Longoria’s term as STC District 2 Board of Trustees Member expires in May 2012. 

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Congressman Hinojosa supports the Helping Families Save Their Home Act, signed into law by President

By TENO VILLARREAL 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, May 19, voted in support of The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on Wednesday, May 20.  

The legislation builds on the president’s efforts, and provides significant incentives to lenders, servicers, and homeowners to work together to modify loans and to avoid foreclosures, which cost families their homes every 13 seconds in America. 

“I am very proud to support this legislation because it helps so many of those in our community that are in need of relief. This bill allows community banks to continue to provide financing for small businesses, personal loans, and other investments that will benefit the various communities throughout my district and all those across the United States”, said Hinojosa.  

This bipartisan legislation provides key tools and incentives for lenders, servicers, and homeowners to modify loans and to avoid foreclosures by protecting lenders from frivolous lawsuits when they make loan modifications consistent with the Obama Administration’s program or done through the Hope for Homeowners program; reducing the current fees for homeowners and lenders that have discouraged them from participating in the Hope for Homeowners program, offering new incentives for lenders to negotiate loan modifications with borrowers at risk of foreclosure under the Hope for Homeowners program; and expanding the President’s loan modification program to FHA and mortgages in rural areas (RHS). 

To strengthen consumer rights to housing information and the community banks which are crucial to small businesses and families across this nation, the legislation makes other key changes, including:  

• Establishing the right of a homeowner to know who owns their mortgage;

• Providing renters who live in foreclosed properties with at least a 90-day notice for eviction;

• Strengthening federal homeless programs;

• Protecting the bank deposits and savings of consumers with a four-year extension of the increase in deposit insurance to $250,000; and

• Increasing the borrowing authority of the FDIC to reduce the financial burden on small community banks. 

“In light of the current economic crisis, it is increasingly all the more important that we ensure that Americans on the verge of foreclosure or bankruptcy or those who have runaway from home or are victims of domestic abuse, that they have access to housing. Minimizing foreclosures is essential to the effort to stabilize the U.S. economy," Hinojosa said. "Foreclosure is often a very lengthy, costly and destructive process that puts downward pressure on the price of nearby homes and has a devastating impact on families and communities.  The changes to the Hope for Homeowners Program and the servicer safe harbor provision in this legislation will foster more voluntary loan modifications and are a positive step in bringing stability to the mortgage and housing markets."  

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Legislature approves measure to increase penalties for smuggling illegal firearms, targets border violence

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, on Thursday, May 21, marked the passage of a new state law that prohibits firearms smuggling. Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 2225, illegal firearms trafficking was not a state crime. 

SB 2225 creates a third-degree felony offense if the smuggler intentionally or knowingly transports or transfers firearms in violation of the law. The new law creates an enhanced, second-degree felony offense if three or more firearms are involved. Additionally, SB 2225 defines unlawful weapons as contraband. As a result, these arms will be subject to asset forfeiture proceedings. The legislation unanimously passed the Texas House and Senate. 

“With the passage of Senate Bill 2225, illegal firearms smuggling is a state crime, enforceable by state authorities,” Abbott said. “Sen. Carona and Rep. Corte have provided law enforcement officials a new legal tool for the war on border violence. Thanks to this legislation, state and local law enforcement now have increased authority to crack down on illegal weapons smugglers.” 

Carona added: “We the Legislature have a responsibility to protect the citizens of Texas from the growing violence along the Texas-Mexico border. Senate Bill 2225 will provide Texas law enforcement with an important tool to fight the trafficking of illegally obtained firearms. Particularly, this bill will help stem the flow of weapons out of our state and into the hands of the dangerous Mexican drug cartels.” 

Corte added: “Passage of SB 2225 will assist state prosecutors and provide law enforcement with tools to use against those who are trafficking firearms and posing a serious security threat to our state.” 

According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ E-trace database, Texas was the top U.S. source state in 2007 for unlawful gun trafficking into Mexico. Houston was ranked as the top U.S. source city for guns recovered across the border. 

To find out more about the OAG’s Criminal Investigations Division, visit the agency’s Web site at http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011. 

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Sen. Hutchison seeking federal payments to Texans who provide medical care to undocumented residents

By JEFF SADOSKY 

In 2006, public hospitals in Texas alone incurred nearly $600 million in uncompensated care for illegal immigrants. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Wednesday, May 20, introduced legislation to continue Section 1011 funding for hospitals, communities and doctors, allowing them to recoup expenses for emergency services provided to illegal immigrants that they are required to provide under federal law. 

“Prior to this program’s passage, our local hospitals and doctors received no support for expenses they incurred in obeying a law mandated by the government, and compounded by the government’s inability to secure the border,” said Hutchison. “These costs are ultimately borne by taxpayers in the form of higher local taxes, increased health insurance premiums, cuts in healthcare services, and higher fees.” 

As part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, a federal reimbursement program for emergency health services provided to illegal immigrants that previously went unreimbursed was created. Known as Section 1011, the program provided $250 million each year for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, to help hospitals and doctors recoup expenses for emergency services provided to illegal immigrants that they are required to provide under federal law. 

These costs, if unreimbursed, are ultimately borne by taxpayers in the form of higher local taxes, increased health insurance premiums, cuts in healthcare services, and higher fees. The Section 1011 program helped alleviate this burden by providing long overdue reimbursement to emergency care providers. 

More than 1,900 hospitals nationwide have registered with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to receive reimbursement through Section 1011, and unless legislation is enacted this year, claims will cease to be reimbursed. 

Hutchison’s amendment would extend the Section 1011 program for 2009 and help all of those hospitals receive federal support for the costs they bear at federal expense. 

Under the program, Texas received almost $185 million over the four year authorization period, the second largest allocation given to any state. 

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Congressman Hinojosa supports job creation bill, which also helps veterans’ and womens’ business centers

By TENO VILLARREAL 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, May 20, voted to create new jobs and drive economic growth, with the Job Creation through Entrepreneurship Act. This bipartisan legislation gives small businesses and entrepreneurs more of the tools and resources they need to succeed and thrive. 

The measure, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, must still be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy,” said Hinojosa. “I am deeply committed to supporting the spirit of entrepreneurship that propels our small businesses. The legislation we passed today is crucial to getting us out of this financial downturn.” 

The legislation, part of an agenda to create jobs, marks the first major overhaul of the Small Business Administration’s entrepreneurial development programs in a decade. It expands and improves some of the most successful programs, such as Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and the Service Corps of Retired Executives. The bill also creates new online learning programs and establishes grant programs to assist small firms in securing capital and credit. 

“These programs are some of the smartest investments we can make in our economy,” explained Hinojosa. “For every dollar we spend on a successful entrepreneurship program, we see a $2.87 return to the Treasury. Last year alone, these development programs created 73,000 jobs.” 

The legislation also establishes, for the first time, a nationwide network of Veterans Business Centers to provide specialized entrepreneurial training and counseling to our nation’s veterans.  

“We are not only taking care of those who are struggling to get their small businesses through this economic crisis, but we are also providing resources for out-of-work Americans who want to make entrepreneurship their next career move.” said Hinojosa. “This Congress is committed to putting Americans back to work, and with this bill, our small businesses can lead the way.” 

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Senate approves bill by Sen. Lucio to help coordinate services for children with developmental disabilities

By DORIS SÁNCHEZ  

The recent passage unanimous passage by the Texas Senate of a bill by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, will bring the necessary statewide coordination and leadership to much needed services for children and their families when seeking assistance for developmental disabilities and serious mental illness. 

Senate Bill 1824, approved by the Senate on Thursday, May 14, will establish a high-level 18-member task force to develop a statewide plan to coordinate and improve the state’s efforts in providing services for children and young adults under the age of 22 with disabilities and chronic medical problems. 

SB 1824 is being sponsored in the House by Lucio’s son, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito. 

"What is significant about this legislation is that it will create an opportunity to rework and improve our entire system," said Lucio. "In recent years, I have spoken with too many families who have been waiting for years for community-based services that will allow their children to remain at home, and now with SB 1824, eventually we can meet that challenge." 

The bill will require key decision makers to work in tandem with families and service providers to identify barriers to service and find ways to improve the quality and efficiency of services for young people with special needs. The senator continued, "I have heard from too many teachers who do not feel prepared to handle the unique needs of their special needs students, and too many parents who are dreading their children’s twenty-first birthday because they have no options for receiving the supports needed to enable them to live independently. 

"Most programs have been locally focused or have failed to involve higher level-decision makers in the process," Sen. Lucio continued. "SB 1824 is specific about the responsibilities of the task force, requires gubernatorial oversight to assure recommended policies are actually implemented, and provides an opportunity for key agencies to openly discuss their own shortcomings and improvement needs with community leaders, advocates and families." 

After examining their own practices and policies, and listening to testimony from families and advocates, the task force, which will be comprised of heads of 10 state agencies that serve this population, four legislators, three parent or consumer representatives and one representative from a local mental health or retardation authority, will create a five-year strategic plan designed to address all of the issues they collectively identify. 

In their strategic five-year plan, the task force must provide specific recommendations to improve families’ abilities to navigate the service delivery system, measure and evaluate outcomes, maximize the use of federal funds and improve accountability amongst service-providing state agencies. The governor will appoint the interagency coordinator to preside over the task force, and the individual would be a representative from the Health and Human Services Commission 

"Texas has a rapidly growing population, rising autism rates and increased pressures on our public schools to educate children with disabilities," explained Sen. Lucio. "These individuals and their families have waited long enough, hoped long enough and been disappointed long enough. It is time Texas leaders come together and create serious change!" 

SB 1824 will bring the cohesion and effectiveness that Texas currently lacks," added Sen. Lucio, "and better integrate the services these kids receive so their needs are fully addressed and they have an opportunity to thrive."   

Senior Policy Analyst Kate Volti handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 512/463-0127. 

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Víctor H. González of McAllen reappointed by Gov. Perry to Texas Diabetes Council

Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, May 19, appointed four members, including a McAllen ophthalmologist, to the Texas Diabetes Council for terms to expire February 1, 2015. The council assists in the development and implementation of a public awareness strategy focusing on diabetes and its complications. 

Víctor H. González of McAllen is an ophthalmologist in private practice at Valley Retina Institute P.A. He is a member of the clinical faculty of the University of Texas, San Antonio’s Department of Ophthalmology and is an adjunct clinical professor for the Tecnológico de Monterrey School of Medicine in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Texas Medical Association, Texas Ophthalmologic Association and American Diabetes Association Research Foundation Board, and chairman of the Latino Diabetes Action Council of the American Diabetes Association. González received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He is being reappointed and will continue as chair of the council. 

Gene F. Bell of Lubbock is a certified diabetes educator and family nurse practitioner in the practice of Dr. Mike Rice. She is a member of the American Diabetes Association and American Association of Diabetes Educators. Bell graduated from the Methodist Hospital School of Nursing and received family nurse practitioner training at the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Nursing. She is being reappointed and will continue as vice chair of the council. 

Arthur E. Hernández of Corpus Christi is dean of the Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi College of Education. He is a member of the American Public Health Association, American Psychological Association and American Education Research Association. He is also past chairman of the Texas State Board of Psychologists. Hernández received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from St. Mary’s University, a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a doctorate in educational psychology from Texas A&M University. He replaces Avery Rhodes of Diboll. 

Dora Rivas of Dallas is executive director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services. She is president-elect of the School Nutrition Association and past president of the Texas School Food Service Association. She is also a member of the Texas Dietetic Association, North Texas School Nutrition Program Director Association, and Texas School Health Advisory Council. Rivas received a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University at Kingsville and a master’s degree in institutional management from Kansas State University. She is being reappointed. 

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Attorney General Abbott warns consumers to beware of latest scam: text message spam called Smishing"

Texas cell phone users should beware of an emerging, high-tech threat that has been dubbed: “smishing", according to Attorney General Gregg Abbott.  To trick more people into revealing personal information, financial account numbers, and passwords, spammers have begun sending fraudulent cell phone text messages. 

As many computer users know, spam e-mail messages, known as “phishing,” frequently arrive in e-mail inboxes. Many computer users have learned to identify and delete fraudulent e-mails that falsely appear to originate from legitimate banks, credit card companies and government agencies. Internet service providers and spam filters often block these messages so they never reach their intended targets. 

Effective spam filters have not yet been developed for cell phone text messages. Very few text messages are blocked by filters or cell phone providers. While misspelled e-mail messages and broken address links make it simpler to judge a spam e-mail, determining whether a text message is legitimate may be difficult. There are no images – only text – and the message is usually short. 

For example, smishing messages may threaten the recipient about an impending charge that can be cancelled only if the user visits a phony Web site displayed in the message. Another common scam directs the recipient to call a toll-free number to complete or cancel a financial transaction. An “operator” at the number will helpfully take the caller’s credit card or debit account number – and use that information to defraud the caller if they are art of a scam. 

Smishing recipients should not respond to the sender. In fact, they should not call any telephone numbers provided in the text message – nor should they click on any Web links. Activating Web links that appear in unexpected text messages may direct users to fraudulent Web sites or allow identity thieves to capture users’ sensitive personal information. Legitimate financial institutions do not call or e-mail customers seeking this information. Customers who are concerned about a purportedly pending charge should contact the service provider or bank directly and inquire about it. 

Spammers responsible for fraudulent smishing messages, calls and e-mails are attempting to obtain customers’ personal identifying information. Texans should delete the unexpected text message or e-mail and hang up the telephone. 

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Gov. Perry holds conference call with high school newspaper editors, offers encouragement, ideas

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, May 20, joined Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to hold a conference call with high school newspaper editors from across the state as a way to encourage their professional aspirations and provide a unique window on the challenges of state government. 

“Your time spent on the school newspaper is great preparation for life,” Perry said on the call. “It sharpens your senses as you observe life around you, allows you to hone your skills as a writer, and helps you better understand what really matters to the people in your community. 

Perry also offered his insights on the rapidly changing landscape of journalism and encouraged the students to apply their creativity and knowledge of technology to help lead the next wave of multimedia innovation. 

“You have chosen a very interesting time to get involved in the media business, since the Internet is pretty much changing all the rules, but I think your generation is more than ready to navigate this new landscape, and use all the resources available to report the news.” 

In a freewheeling exchange, Perry also took questions from several callers, addressing issues ranging from the top ten percent rule and school bus safety to the Texas economy and environment. 

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President honors veterans’ ultimate sacrifices for freedom during Arlington National Cemetery event

By GERRY J. GILMORE 

President Barack Obama on Monday, May 25, hailed U.S. military members’ unselfish service and willingness to lay down their lives on behalf of their fellow citizens during the annual Memorial Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery. 

White House offiicials said the president returned from Camp David Sunday night so that on Monday morning he could have breakfast with Gold Star Families in the State Dining Room, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and speak at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. 

After being introduced by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama told an audience gathered inside the Memorial Amphitheater that Arlington’s hallowed grounds contain the remains of, “presidents and privates, Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God.” 

The annual Memorial Day observance has been held at Arlington “in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice,” Obama said, and also “in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air.” 

And, “today is one of those moments,” the president continued, “where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray.” 

Moments before he entered the cemetery’s amphitheater, Obama laid a ceremonial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which contains the remains of unidentified soldiers from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. There was also a crypt for a Vietnam War unknown, but genetic forensics later identified him as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie. The crypt is now empty. 

More than 300,000 people are buried at Arlington Cemetery, including veterans from all the nation’s wars – the American Revolution through Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Arlington’s wreath-laying ceremony, Obama said, salutes “the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor; who waged war so that we might know peace; who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity; who paid the ultimate price so we might know freedom.” 

The generations of servicemembers that are buried at Arlington “fought in every American war,” Obama pointed out. 

“They overthrew an empire and gave birth to revolution,” Obama said of Arlington’s dead. “They strained to hold a young union together. They rolled back the creeping tide of tyranny, and stood post through a long twilight struggle. And they took on the terror and extremism that threatens our world’s stability.” 

Next week, Obama will visit Normandy, France, he said, to “address some of the brave men who stormed those beaches 65 years ago” as part of the D-Day landings during World War II. 

Arlington Cemetery, Obama said, is “a testament to the price our nation has paid for freedom.” The thousands of marble headstones that march up and down the cemetery’s hilly grounds and cover its flats, he said, are arrayed “in perfect military order, worthy of the dignity of those who rest here.” 

Section 60 is where the “fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan rest,” Obama said. Servicemembers buried at Arlington who gave their lives during previous wars and the fallen from Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, shared a common dedication to duty and country. 

“What is thing, this sense of duty?” Obama asked. And why, he continued, in today’s self-indulgent times, have “soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of this generation volunteered all that they have on behalf of others” and “bear the heaviest burden?” 

And, just as their predecessors, today’s military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan “felt some tug; they answered a call; they said, ‘I’ll go,’" Obama said. 

That’s why, Obama said, America’s servicemembers “are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform – their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.” 

Obama said his grandfather had served in Army Gen. George S. Patton’s Army in World War II. 

“But I cannot know what it is like to walk into battle,” Obama said. “I’m the father of two young girls – but I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a child. These are things I cannot know.” 

Yet, Obama declared that he “is humbled” to be the commander-in-chief “of the finest fighting force in the history of the world.” 

As U.S. president, Obama pledged “to keep our country safe, even as I face no harder decision than sending our men and women to war – and no moment more difficult than writing a letter to the families of the fallen.” 

Obama also said he’d only send troops into battle “when it is absolutely necessary, and I will always provide them with the equipment and support they need to get the job done.” 

Military families “sacrifice more than we can understand,” Obama said, and those who’ve lost loved ones to war “feel an absence greater than we can comprehend.” 

America owes much “to those who serve under its proud flag,” Obama said. “And, that’s why I promise all our servicemen and women that when the guns fall silent, and you do return home, it will be to an America that is forever here for you, just as you’ve been there for us.” 

The death of a loved one who died in service of their country is a heart-breaking experience for those loved ones left behind, Obama said. 

But, such a tragic event, he added, also “reminds us all the meaning of valor; it reminds us all of our own obligations to one another; it recounts that most precious aspect of our history, and tells us that we will only rise or fall together.” 

During his introduction of the commander-in-chief, Mullen also saluted U.S. servicemembers’ sacrifices on behalf of the nation. 

Memorial Day is a time for Americans to remember and honor its fallen heroes who’ve given the nation the gift of their ultimate sacrifice, Mullen said. 

“What we do understand as it is revealed to us more fully each passing spring,” Mullen said, “is how precious and very rare these gifts truly are, in and above this world.” 

Mullen also praised Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their support of America’s servicemembers and families. 

“In every possible way, he and our First Lady make our troops and their families first; first in their daily lives, first in their thoughts, and first in their hearts,” Mullen said.

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