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What is good for the Texas border region is good for Texas, says Farouk Shami, featured here shaking hands with a young supporter during his early February campaign swing through McAllen. Shami, who is seeking the March 2 Democratic Party primary for governor, has laid out his policies for helping the Texas border region. His plans include promoting industry cluster development along the border, increasing educational opportunities on the border, building new infrastructure along the border, and ensuring all Texans living along the border have access to healthcare and educational resources, according to top campaign leaders. "Industry cluster development is my plan to work with local officials on each side of the border to build high-skill, capital-intensive factories on the U.S. side of the border and have them partner with low-skill, labor-intensive facilities on the Mexican side of the border," said Shami. "This lowers the cost of manufacturing and allows companies to build products at a low price while ensuring the highest quality possible," he added. "Promoting these will eliminate any incentives to outsource to China and India."  See lead story in this posting. 

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Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, on Monday, February 22, provided veterans groups leaders meeting at Weslaco City Hall on his specific plan to secure state funds to help pay for the construction of a Veterans Administration Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley.  He said he will file legislation in 2011 to tap into the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund – which together have several hundred million dollars in reserves – to get the long sought-after hospital for the region. Featured, from left: Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Martínez;  Ana García, representing Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Julian Álvarez, representing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. See story by Treto Garza, veterans affairs columnist for the Rio Grande Guardian, later in this posting. 

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Key Valley legislators, including Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Veronica Gonzales, D-McAllen, met in Weslaco on Monday, February 22, with the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley, which is lobbying for the construction of a Veterans Administration Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley. A few days after that session, Homer Gallegos, the chair of organization, said the group is reactivating a Veterans Alliance strike force to assure that Valley veterans are kept updated on similar events being held in South Texas. "The strike force is a group of veterans from the Veterans Alliance who volunter to be on call in case an important meeting or event is scheduled," said Gallegos. "Many a times there are events, community activities, local governmental meetings and other gatherings that discuss veterans issues and health issues. The Veterans Alliance sometimes get last-minute notice of these events. The strike force will assure that the veterans are represented." In the coming days, the Strike Force will see its first action, including meeting with Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell in the Harlingen Town Hall room and a meeting with the new Catholic bishop for the Valley – the Most Reverend Bishop Manuel Flores, Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. That meeting is sheduled to be held Brownsville. More information is available by contacting Gallegos at 956/878-6144.  

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South Texas College recently hosted a special breakfast at its Mid-Valley Campus to recruit mentors for its Valley Scholars Program. "The most important message I have for all of our students in South Texas is that no one is smarter than they are – period," said Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, who is one of the mentors. "That’s why I work so hard to bring the best higher educational opportunities, such as the medical school, and in the near future, a law school, to the Valley. Our students have what it takes to reach for the stars." Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez; and STC Valley Scholars Ángel Chavero, Elizabeth Becerra, Nora Macareno, Paula Noel, Elizabeth Pat and Diana Ruiz. Back row, from left: Anahid Petrosian, assistant to the STC vice president for academic affairs; Juan Mejia, STC vice president of academic affairs; STC Valley Scholar Joshua Domínguez; Monte Churchill, STC Mid-Valley Campus site coordinator; and STC Valley Scholars Dakotah Fernández and Janet Martínez; and Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa. Mentors for STC’s Valley Scholars Program make a significant difference in the lives of the students they mentor. Mentors serve as role models by sharing personal and work experiences with students. They should expect to attend monthly meetings during each academic semester; attend special events and activities; correspond with mentees via e-mail and phone; and possibly take students to luncheons or other motivational activities and field trips. See related story.   

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South Texas College’s fifth annual summit on college readiness was the stage for more than 250 educators from across the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to decide that they would be the ones to set the national standard for college readiness. How are they going to accomplish it? By creating a unified, college-going culture. “We gather to show the data and how we are doing in preparing students for the challenges of college; it’s not about pointing fingers, rather collaborating on how we can do things better,” said STC President Shirley A. Reed. “A strong college-going culture throughout a child’s school experience is the strongest predictor of going to college. We, as a region, have hit a plateau with only 60 percent of our students going to college. We need to build a culture where college-going is an expectation for all, not just an opportunity for a few.” Featured, from left: President Reed; President Nelson; Katherine Boswell, director of the Center for Community College Policy for the Academy for Education Development; Anna H. Rowan, K to 12 policy analyst for The Education Trust; and Mary Treviño, Region One Education Service Center PEIMS coordinator. See story later in this posting. 

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The David Rodríguez family of Edinburg won the Which Wich FRIENDShip Basket Raffle at the Museum of South Texas History’s Pioneer and Ranching Crafts Day. Which Wich franchise owners Debbie Wilson and Chad Wilson generously donated the basket, filled with delicious Which Wich treats, to MOSTHistory for the FRIENDShip Raffle. All individuals who purchased a FRIEND membership at the event were entered in the drawing. FRIEND Memberships support the mission and operation of the Museum of South Texas History. To purchase or renew your FRIENDShip, call Lynne Beeching at/or visit http://www.mosthistory.org. The Museum of South Texas History is located on the Hidalgo County Courthouse Square in downtown Edinburg. Featured, from left: Family friend Sylvia J. Reash; Patricia Rodríguez; David Rodríguez; Alejandro A.Rodríguez; and Andrea A. Rodríguez.  

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Manic Monday Blues are suffered by many. The McAllen Hispanic Chamber has discovered a sure way to get rid of those blues. They celebrate at a Manic Monday Mixer and guarantee to rid the blues from it’s members and future members. On Monday, March 1,  the Manic Monday Mixer will be hosted at The Patio at Guerra’s, located at 116 S. 17th in the Entertainment District of McAllen.  The Manic Monday Mixer will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The McAllen Hispanic Chamber invites the community to come and meet MHCC members and network. Making business contacts will surely make Monday a productive and enjoyable day. Food and refreshments will be offered at special prices. Featured, from left: Art Guerra, Jr., co-owner; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC president and chief executive officer, and Che Guerra, co-owner. 

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What is good for the Texas border region is good for Texas, says Farouk Shami  

By DAVID A. DÍAZ    

Farouk Shami, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in Laredo on Saturday, February 20, emphasized the importance of the Texas border region to the economic future of the state, pledging to significantly increase private and public investments from El Paso to Brownsville.   

Shami, a Houston businessman and philanthropist who is seeking the March 2 Democratic Party primary nomination, met with hundreds of Laredo residents during his visit to help honor the 113th Washington’s Birthday Celebration.   

"Laredo and every community up and down our border with Mexico are crucial to the prosperity of our entire state, and so that is why I have placed such a high priority on helping this region when I am elected governor," said Shami. "What is good for the Texas border region is good for Texas."    

Shami also praised the hundreds of people involved in putting together the month-long events.    

"As a Texas businessman who has been fortunate to travel throughout America and other nations, I have seen how communities, large and small, present a positive image of themselves to the world," Shami said. "No one does it better than our Texas cities, and Laredo really knows how to showcase their people and contributions. It makes me feel tall as a mountain to be a Texan."   

According to the event’s website, the focus of the annual Washington’s Birthday Celebration –  which has become a Laredo institution – is to foster a greater understanding between the people of the Americas, to promote Laredo as one of Texas’ most patriotic and culturally alive cities, and to facilitate a greater sense of civic and national pride.   

Throughout his campaign – and again during his February 20 visit to Laredo – Shami laid out his policies for helping the Texas border region.   

His plans include promoting industry cluster development along the border, increasing educational opportunities on the border, building new infrastructure along the border, and ensuring all Texans living along the border have access to healthcare and educational resources, according to top campaign leaders.   

"Industry cluster development is my plan to work with local officials on each side of the border to build high-skill, capital-intensive factories on the U.S. side of the border and have them partner with low-skill, labor-intensive facilities on the Mexican side of the border," said Shami.   

"This lowers the cost of manufacturing and allows companies to build products at a low price while ensuring the highest quality possible," he added. "Promoting these will eliminate any incentives to outsource to China and India."    

Mexico "is not a threat," he emphasized, "It is an opportunity. We must continue to foster trade and embrace the jobs it brings to our state.  

In remarks made earlier in February by Manolo Sánchez, President and CEO of BBVA Compass, illustrated the impact of Laredo.   

“Laredo’s strategic location on the U.S./Mexico border designates it as an important economic and cultural port for Texas and northern Mexico," said Sánchez. "As such, the citizens of both nations are inextricably linked and this patriotic celebration in particular draws them together as they enjoy the many events and activities associated with it.   

Pol. Adv. by the Farouk for Governor Campaign | 2500 West Loop South #300 | Houston | TX | 77027    

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IGNITE Community Summit, held in Edinburg, begins public feedback on economic priorities 

By CARRIE LAMBRECHT 

In person and online, Hidalgo County residents on Monday, February 22, made their opinions known about issues affecting economic growth in the region at the IGNITE Community Summit, which was hosted by the Hidalgo County Judge’s Office in conjunction with the University of Texas-Pan American.  

After a welcome by UTPA President Robert Nelsen and an introduction to the project by Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez, audience members sitting in the UTPA Ballroom or joining the event live at http://www.utpa.edu began clicking away on their electronic polling devices or personal computers — agreeing or disagreeing with numerous statements and denoting their priorities about the top transportation priority, the biggest barrier to growth and the issue that most needs regional collaboration, among other things.   

The purpose of the event was to garner public feedback to be included in the county’s five-year Economic Development Strategic Plan. The county is developing the plan with a 2007 grant awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to unify and strengthen economic development efforts of this region.   

The polling questions, which were developed by researchers from the Center for Community Engagement at UTPA, economic development consultants and a team from the Hidalgo County Judge’s Office, were based on the findings from the asset mapping process and various public meetings conducted in the county. Asset mapping takes inventory of human, intellectual, financial, physical, institutional capital assets, provides a comparison to other regions, identifies gaps, provides an understanding of networks and cultural attitudes, gives a baseline to judge future progress, and provides a base for strategic economic planning.  

“This living document will be an essential tool for our economic planners to attract jobs to our communities,” Ramírez said.  

About 80 responses were collected and analyzed live using interactive polling software and handheld devices or from people watching a live webcast on the University’s web site.  Additional polling was also conducted earlier in the day during the health care and business forums. Comment forms were distributed so people could elaborate on what moved them. Responses will continue to be collected until March 12.  

Video of the event, as well as a questionnaire is available on the Hidalgo County web site at: http://www.co.hidalgo.tx.us/ignite.  

Responses should be e-mailed to: Ignite@hidalgocountyjudge.com.        

“The results from our precinct meetings will also be included in this master plan,” said Hidalgo County Commissioner Pct. 2 Héctor “Tito” Palacios. “Each community that makes up our region has a voice in shaping the future of this county.”  

Ramírez expects this living document to be ready by summertime. The plan would then immediately be put to use.  

“End users could be economic development planners, educational institutions, non-profits, local communities, and our federal and state legislators. We’ve done the research and we are armed with facts, in addition to opinions from our community. We extended and will continue to extend an opportunity to everybody to have a voice in our vision," said Ramírez. "When the plan is finalized by our steering committee, which is comprised of members —some public, some private, as mandated by the grantor agency, the U.S. Economic Development Administration — the public will again have the opportunity to comment on it.”  

This initiative’s milestones are recorded on a public web site:  http://hidalgocountyceds.wikispaces.com/  

The plan will include not only goals, but also indicate objectives and strategies, as well as feasibility.

“We believe the end-product will reflect the diversity of our community’s thought and provide a guide for us to improve the quality of life for us and our children,” said Pct. 4 Commissioner Óscar L. Garza, Jr.  

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Push for Valley VA Hospital wins key support from Valley state representatives in Weslaco

By TRETO GARZA 

Recently, the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley met with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, to press claims for the building of a Veterans Administration Hospital in the region. 

On Monday, February 22, the Alliance met with Texas House members on the same issue.  

In attendance at Weslaco City Hall were  Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.  

Rep. Eddie Lucio, D-San Benito, and Rep. Tara Ríos Ybarra, D-South Padre Island, sent representatives to monitor the session. 

Also present at the meeting were representatives from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.  

Ana García, representing Cornyn, recommended that a joint letter from the state legislators and the U.S. Congressional delegation be written requesting that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki visit the Valley to meet with local veterans. Everyone applauded the idea.  

Julian Álvarez, representing Hutchison, said the senator is fully committed to veterans’ issues. He said Hutchison has stated that the veterans should get a VA hospital and she will work toward that goal.  

During the meeting, Martínez exhorted veterans to stay united and continue the fight. He said he understands there might be some division among veterans, but that needs to be resolved in the interest of what is best for all – a VA hospital. 

Martínez said he has been behind the efforts to bring a VA hospital to the Valley for a long time. He reminded those present that he had submitted a House Resolution in 2005 asking for a VA hospital for the Valley. 

Martínez has offered concrete proposals on where the money would come from for a VA hospital for the Valley. He told the Rio Grande Guardian recently that he will file legislation to tap into the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund for a Valley veterans’ hospital. 

Martínez said he is optimistic that his idea would be embraced by Gov. Rick Perry, Dewhurst and House Speaker Jose Straus because it would benefit all regions of the state. 

Farouk Shami, a Houston businessman and philanthropist, and former Houston Mayor Bill White – both Democrats seeking the March 2 gubernatorial party primary nomination – also are on record supporting the state helping build a VA Hospital in the Valley. 

“The time is always right to help veterans and their families, especially when they are fighting for our nation and our freedoms on the other side of the world,” Martínez told the Rio Grande Guardian. “The people of Texas, year after year after year, have made it crystal clear that when it comes to our wounded war veterans, we shall always take care of our own.” 

Oliveira told the veterans that he was going to be candid with them about the present state budget situation. Legislators could be facing a $15 billion deficit next session. Although he wholeheartedly supports the efforts of Valley veterans to get a VA hospital, Oliveira said there is going to be a lot of competition for funds in the upcoming session.  

Oliveira, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, explained to the veterans the economic problems plaguing the state. He said no one running for governor has yet to state how they will deal with the projected deficit and how to pay to get out of the hole. Plus, every organization, governmental body, etc. is going to be asking for monies. Everyone is going to want their cut, he said. 

There will a shortage of funds, Oliveira predicted. He assured the veterans, however, that he would not lay aside their efforts to get a veterans’ hospital. He said veterans would be protected. What is needed is an amount which will cover the construction and maintenance of a VA hospital, he said. He said he also needs to know if land is available. 

Proposition 8, which was approved overwhelmingly by the voters of Texas last November, allows the state of Texas for the first time to provide money, land and other resources to construct VA hospitals in the State.  

Peña told the veterans that he was 100 percent behind the efforts to bring a VA hospital to the Valley, having marched with them on a number of occasions. Veterans need to let the Valley legislative delegation how it can help and what needs to be done, he said. Peña said he is ready to do his part in Austin.  

Gonzáles, chair of the House Committee on Border and Intergovernmental Affairs, told the veterans that they are “preaching to the choir” because all the local legislators present have been in full support of efforts to bring a VA hospital to the Valley. She said the need is so great it over shadows the cost. But, the funds will have to found, she said. She suggested that veterans prepare a package and bring forth the numbers that will help convince legislators and state leaders. She committed to follow up with other Valley legislators to work toward a solution and make sure that their colleagues in other parts of the state are informed on important the issue is. 

Homer Gallegos, chair of the Veterans Alliance, thanked each and everyone on the panel.  He told them that veterans would continue the fight and would be looking to work closely with each of them as the 82nd Legislature approaches. Gallegos said he was glad that each and everyone had agreed to help and make their offices available to the veterans.  

Most of the veterans were glad to have had most of the Valley legislative delegation come together before them to tell them what needs to be done and that they are committed to helping. Many feel positive and think that the Valley will eventually get a VA Hospital. 

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Osiel Cárdenas-Guillen, former head of Gulf Cartel drug empire, sentenced to 25 years in federal prison, forfeits $50 million

By ANGELA DODGE 

The former head of the notorious Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cárdenas-Guillen, 42, of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Wednesday, February 24, was sentenced in Brownsville to serve 25 years in federal prison without parole and will forfeit to the United States $50 million in proceeds from his illegal enterprise, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno has announced.  

United States District Judge Hilda Tagle handed down the sentence that morning.  

Originally indicted in 2000 in the Southern District of Texas, Cárdenas-Guillen was extradited in January 2007 – one of a total of 15 major drug defendants and others extradited to the United States from Mexico – for prosecution. He has remained in federal custody without bond since then.  

“The successful prosecution of Cárdenas-Guillen underscores the joint resolve of the United States and Mexico to pursue and prosecute the leadership of the drug trafficking cartels, dismantle their organizations and end the violence and corruption they have spawned,” said Moreno. 

While head of the Gulf Cartel, Cárdenas-Guillen oversaw a vast drug trafficking empire responsible for the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States from Mexico. The drugs smuggled into the country under Cárdenas-Guillen’s watch were further distributed to other areas of the country, including Houston and Atlanta, Georgia.  

From July 2000 through September 2001, more than 2000 kilograms of cocaine directly attributable to Cárdenas-Guillen was seized by United States law enforcement. The distribution of these vast quantities of cocaine and marijuana generated millions of dollars in drug proceeds which flowed south to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and ultimately into Mexico.  

Drug ledgers seized in Atlanta in June 2001 indicated that the Gulf Cartel generated more than $41 million in drug proceeds over a three-and-a-half month period in the Atlanta area alone. 

Cárdenas-Guillen used violence and intimidation as a means of furthering the goals of his criminal enterprise. 

In May 1999, Cárdenas-Guillen threatened to kill a Cameron County Sheriff’s Deputy who was working in an undercover capacity with ICE after the undercover agent refused to deliver a load of approximately 988 kilograms of marijuana. Later, in November 1999, while traveling in an official vehicle through Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, in performance of their official duties, a DEA agent and an FBI agent were surrounded by Cárdenas-Guillen and his gang and threatened at gunpoint. Although eventually allowed to leave, the agents were threatened by Cárdenas-Guillen  and warned not to return. 

On February 24, the court accepted Cárdenas-Guillen’s previously entered pleas of guilty to a total of five felony offenses including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and threatening to assault and murder federal agents.  

In accordance with the terms of a previously filed plea agreement accepted by the court today, the court sentenced Cardenas-Guillen as to each offense of conviction and ordered all sentences to be served concurrently for a total of 25 years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons without parole in accordance with the terms. Cardenas-Guillen will serve 25 years for the drug trafficking conspiracy conviction (count one), andthe maximum statutory penalty for each of the other four counts of conviction – 20 years imprisonment the money laundering conspiracy conviction (count 17) and five years each as to counts 14, 15 and 16, relating to threats to murder a law enforcement officers. 

In addition to the prison terms, Tagle fined Cárdenas-Guillen $100,000 and further ordered him to serve a supervised release term of five years. Additionally, the court entered a preliminary order of forfeiture imposing a personal money judgment against Cárdenas-Guillen in favor of the United States in the amount of $50 million. 

Cárdenas-Guillen has been in federal custody without bond since his extradition from Mexico to the United States. He will remain in federal custody to serve his sentence.  

The three-year investigation which led to the indictment and subsequent arrest and conviction of Cárdenas-Guillen was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with considerable assistance and cooperation from the United States Marshals Service and the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office. 

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Stonewall Democrats, which promote issues important to gays, lesbians, announce key Valley endorsements for March primary 

By RICARDO CONTRERAS 

The Stonewall Democrat Members of the Rio Grande Valley announced today the organization’s candidate endorsements for the 2010 Primary Election.   

After careful review of candidate qualifications, voting records and other pertinent factors that gauge the candidates’ suitability, the Stonewall Endorsement Committee presented their recommendations to general members who then voted on their selected candidates. The group, which currently consists of 52 members, will immediately begin to mobilize to advocate on their endorsed candidate’s behalf and get out the vote. 

“Our member’s endorsement of the selected Democratic Candidates conveys our commitment to working with our community leaders in fostering social change within the LGBT movement and within our Democratic Party,” said Eli Olivarez, President of the Rio Grande Valley Stonewall Chapter. “Government and policy affects all individuals despite their beliefs, race or sexual preference. Stonewall will always work to elect strong leaders and visionaries who will advocate for equality in all aspects of life.”  

The Stonewall Democrats are the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus of the Democratic Party. The mission of the organization is to educate their community and involve them in the political process; mobilize their community to get out the vote to elect more pro-equality and fair-minded Democrats; and standing up to attacks not only to the LGBT community but all families and their civil rights.    

The following is a list of local, state, and federal candidates endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats of the Rio Grande Valley:  

  • US Representative, District 15 – Rubén Hinojosa;
  • Texas State Governor – Bill White;
  • Texas State Lieutenant Governor – Linda Chávez-Thompson;
  • Texas Land Commissioner –Hector Uribe;
  • Texas State Representative, District 36 – Sandra Rodríguez;
  • Texas State Representative, District 39 – No Endorsement;
  • Hidalgo County Judge – No Endorsement;
  • Hidalgo County Commissioner, Pct 4 – Joseph Palacios; and
  • Hidalgo County District Attorney – Fidencio Guerra, Jr.    

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Bill White help raised campaign money for GOP’s Tom DeLay, who destroyed House Democrats in Texas Legislature, says Farouk Shami 

By DAVID A. DÍAZ   

Former Houston Mayor Bill White helped raise thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for Republican strongman Tom DeLay, who is the man responsible for helping the Republican Party take control of the Texas House of Representatives, says Farouk Shami, a Houston businessman and philanthropist.   

Both White and Shami are seeking the March 2 Democratic Party primary nomination for governor.    

"In 2001, Tom DeLay created Texans for a Republican Majority, a controversial lobby group whose only goal was to defeat Democrats and take over control of the Texas House of Representatives," said Shami. "Tom DeLay succeeded in that goal and the Democrats have never recovered from that defeat. But Mr. White wants Democrats to believe that he is one of us."    

As a result of DeLay’s involvement in ousting the Democrat’s control of the Texas House of Representatives in 2003, billions of dollars in state budget cuts to vital state programs, such as health, education, and transportation, have been rammed through the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature, said Shami.   

"Less than two years after Tom DeLay killed the Democratic Party in the Texas House of Representatives, Mr. White – in late September 2004 – was helping raising political contributions for Tom DeLay," said Shami. "With friends like Bill White, who needs enemies?"   

Shami said White has been deceiving Democrats, claiming that he did not help DeLay raise campaign funds.   

But White was indeed a star attraction at the September 2004 fundraiser for DeLay, according to White’s hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle.   

"David Saperstein, chairman of Mayor Bill White’s Office of Mobility, hosted a fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay at his River Oaks home Monday. The dinner for 20, at $2,000 a head, featured White as a special guest," the Houston Chronicle reported. "White is former state Democratic chair and DeLay is one of the nation’s most powerful Republicans…"   

Shami said White should have known better than to raise campaign money for DeLay.   

"Mr. White expects us to believe that Tom DeLay, who was the House Majority Leader in Congress – which is one of the most powerful political offices in America – needed Bill White to help raise money?" Shami scoffed. "Mr. White wants us to believe that Tom DeLay, who represented Houston, would have punished Houston if Mr. White had refused to attend Tom DeLay’s fundraiser?   

"There’s an old Texas saying that Mr. White should remember when he tells Democrats that he is one of us," Shami added. "Don’t (pour water) on our boots and tell us it’s raining."   

Shami said he is hopeful that Texas Democrats will be able to regain control of the Texas House of Representative when both parties square off in the November general election.   

But electing White as governor would be just like electing a Republican, he added.   

"Bill White showed his true colors when he helped raise money for Tom DeLay, and worse of all, after Tom DeLay took full credit for defeating Democrats in the Texas Legislature and from the Texas congressional delegation," said Shami.   

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia:   

Texans for a Republican Majority or TRMPAC (pronounced "trimpac") is a general-purpose political action committee registered with the Texas Ethics Commision. It was founded in 2001 by the Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay.   

TRMPAC is an acronym for ‘Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee’.   

DeLay represented the Houston region from 1984 until 2006.   

He was Republican Party House Majority Leader from 2003–2005, when his legal problems forced him to step down.   

In 2005, a Texas court charged DeLay with criminal violations of state campaign finance laws and money laundering. DeLay pled not guilty, claiming political motivation for the charges. As of January 2010, the prosecutor has yet to bring the case before a jury.   

Pol. Adv. by the Farouk for Governor Campaign | 2500 West Loop South #300 | Houston | TX | 77027  

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Gov. Perry uses $1 million from Texas Enterprise Fund to land LegalZoom.com and 600 jobs for Austin

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, February 19, announced the state will invest $1 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) in LegalZoom.com for the relocation of certain office functions from Los Angeles to Austin. This investment will create up to 600 jobs and more than $11.7 million in capital investment. 

“Texas is the best state in the nation for business, thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulatory environment, skilled workforce, and incentives such as the TEF, which continues to be an essential deal closing fund for Texas,” Perry said. “This investment in LegalZoom will bring up to 600 jobs and millions of dollars in capital investment to Austin, and strengthen Central Texas’ economy.” 

LegalZoom provides online legal document services including LLCs, incorporations, last wills, living trusts, trademarks, patents and copyrights. The Austin office will include sales positions, order fulfillment, customer service and technical support representatives. LegalZoom plans to begin hiring immediately, and become fully operational in the coming months. 

“We’re thrilled with the City Council’s vote and are very excited to move forward with our Austin expansion plans. Since we started in 2000 we’ve been based solely in Los Angeles. So selecting our first location outside of Los Angeles was a very big decision for us, which we carefully considered for over 6 months,” LegalZoom President and Chief Operating Officer Frank Monestere said. “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of Governor Perry, the Austin City Council and Chamber of Commerce in crafting a very attractive incentive package through both the Texas Enterprise Fund and the City’s Economic Development Program. Their hard work and warm welcome were instrumental in our selecting Austin as our second home.” 

At Perry’s request, the legislature created the TEF in 2003 and re-appropriated funding in 2005, 2007 and 2009 to help ensure the growth of Texas businesses and create more jobs throughout the state.  

TEF projects must be approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.  

The fund has since become one of the state’s most competitive tools to recruit and bolster business.  

To date, the TEF has invested more than $388.6 million and closed the deal on projects generating more than 55,580 new jobs and more than $14.3 billion in capital investment in the state. 

For more information about the TEF, please visit http://www.texaswideopenforbusiness.com/financial-resources/texas-enterprise-fund.html or  

http://www.governor.state.tx.us

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Major protections for U.S. credit card holders go into effect, says Congressman Hinojosa

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, has announced the the second in a series of three rule makings on the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 went into effect on Monday, February 22. These regulations will end unfair industry practices and protect consumers from abusive tactics like retroactive rate increases, misleading late fee charges and over-limit fee traps.  

As a result, credit card companies are now prohibited from using many unfair tactics, including increasing interest rates on existing balances on an arbitrary basis.   

“These new rules ban several harmful practices and require greater transparency in the disclosure of the terms and conditions of credit card accounts”, said Hinojosa. “This will not absolve consumers of their obligation to pay off their debts, but now anyone who uses a credit card will get the information they need to make responsible financial decisions without the worry of hidden fees and deceptive tactics."  

Also taking effect on February 22 were many other provisions of the Credit Card Act of 2009, including the following actions:  

  • Increases notice of any rate hikes going forward on new purchases to 45 days;
  • Protect consumers from unexpected increases in interest rates on the existing credit card balance;
  • Protects young consumers by requiring that before cards can be issued to anyone under 21, a parent must co-sign or an ability to pay must be demonstrated;
  • Bans due-date gimmicks such as setting morning times for payment- before mail is delivered-or charging fees for paying bills by phone or on the Internet; and
  • Requires credit card companies to obtain a consumer’s consent before charging fees for transactions that exceed the credit limit.  

In mid-February, the Federal Reserve launched a website to help consumers understand the new rules. The site can be found at:  

http://www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard  

The Federal Reserve Board will continue to build the site during the coming months to include additional credit card information, features and Spanish translations. The web address for the Federal Reserves’ guide to credit cards will appear on the solicitations consumers receive from credit card issuers.   

The remaining provisions of the Credit Card Act go into effect on August 22, 2010 and will be implemented by the Federal Reserve at a later date. 

Those pending provisions will include the following actions:  

  • Require penalty fees to be reasonable and  proportional to the omission or violation;
  • Require that creditors periodically review all  interest rate increases since January 2009 and reduce rates when a review  indicates that a reduction is warranted; and
  • Amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to limit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees associated with gift cards.  

•••••• 

Congressman Cuellar wants U.S. to deploy unmanned aerial vehicle along Texas-Mexico border region

By ASHLEY PATTERSON 

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Monday, February 22, requested Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to move without delay and place an unmanned aerial vehicle along the Texas-Mexico Border to help gather critical intelligence information to combat drug trafficking, weapons smuggling and potential terrorism threats. 

In general, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft that flies without a human crew on board the aircraft. 

The UAV would be the first of its kind in Texas and would monitor the southern border along the Rio  Grande.  

Cuellar, who is Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, and CBP will be meeting this April to discuss the aerial vehicle among other border security related issues.  

“This aircraft would put eyes in the skies along our Texas border and help the United  States handle the evolving threats associated with drug and weapons trafficking,” said Cuellar. “We need a flexible response to meet the threats of the 21st Century and a UAV in Texas is a common sense approach to further secure our Texas communities.”  

The previous week, Cuellar wrote a letter to David Aguilar, Acting Deputy Commissioner of CBP, to renew his request for CBP to deploy a UAV to the Texas-Mexico border. Three Predator B UAVs have monitored the southwest border since 2005 and Cuellar has called on CBP to deploy an identical aircraft to Texas since serving on the House Homeland Security Committee in Congress.   

“I write to renew my request that U.S. Customs and Border Protection deploy identical aircraft along the Texas-Mexico border as soon as possible, and obtain all necessary certificates of approval without delay,” Cuellar wrote in a letter to CBP on February 16.  

“The southwest border region, specifically from El Paso to Brownsville, would benefit greatly from a remote piloted aircraft,” Cuellar contended. “Our border with Mexico along the Rio Grande faces a unique set of challenges. In an effort to complement the work of our brave border patrol agents, such aircraft will enhance their capabilities and will also improve intelligence gathering to help ensure their safety.”  

UAVs have played a pivotal role in gathering U.S. military intelligence abroad. Domestically, UAVs have been deployed to fill gaps in border surveillance along remote sections of the southwest border for the past five years. Cameras attached to the unmanned surveillance aircrafts can identify an object the size of a milk carton from an altitude of 60,000 feet, according to a 2008 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.  

“These unmanned surveillance crafts would augment, not replace, the on-the-ground efforts already underway and they would give us a window into the remote parts of our border we can’t patrol by land,” said Cuellar. “This is a homeland security solution to a border security challenge.” 

•••••• 

Texas reaches agreements with Western Union to fight money-laundering crimes along border

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday, February 11, entered into two agreements that will help Texas and other border states crack down on illegal money laundering.  

These agreements —  one with Western Union Financial Services, Inc., and the other with the states of Arizona, California and New Mexico—establish new protocols for sharing Western Union’s extensive wire transfer information; provide for the creation of the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance; and will allow Texas law enforcement agencies to apply for grants from a newly established multi-state $50 million border crime prevention fund.  

Under the agreement with Western Union, the company has agreed to provide:  

  • Information regarding certain wire transfers that are sent to or from authorized Western Union locations within the State of Texas;
  • Suspicious Activity Reports about wire transfers to or from Western Union locations within the State of Texas; and
  • Information about transactions that are suspected of having a connection to human trafficking operations. 

The multi-state agreement with the States of Arizona, California and New Mexico creates the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance, which is charged with facilitating increased cooperation, collaboration and information-sharing between the four states’ attorneys general.  

Alliance members will also recommend how to distribute money from a $50 million fund that was created to help local law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region prosecute money laundering, weapons smuggling and related criminal activity.  

Funding for the initiative was provided by Western Union as part of a settlement agreement it entered into with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.  

Further information about applications for local law enforcement funding will be provided when it becomes available. 

•••••• 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa votes for legislation on purchasing health insurance

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Wednesday, February 24, voted to ensure that American consumers "get a real choice and a fair deal" when purchasing health insurance.  

The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act would take away the anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies, requiring them to compete fairly and adhere to the same anti-trust laws as other companies. 

“This is a fair deal for all Americans especially for middle-class families who are facing higher premiums, a lower quality of coverage and limited choices”, said Hinojosa. “In the meantime, insurance companies continued to make record profits. That is going to stop”.  

For 65 years, the health insurance industry has been legally exempt from anti-trust laws, and the federal government was banned from even investigating evidence of possible collusion. In the last 14 years alone, there have been 400 mergers among health insurers and now 94% of all insurance markets are “highly concentrated” – meaning consumers have little or no choice between insurance providers. 

“The exemption from anti-trust laws for insurance industries must be repealed”, said Hinojosa. “It’s time Americans get a fair deal when shopping around for something as crucial as health insurance." 

Health insurers that were previously exempt from anti-trust laws will now bear legal responsibility for price fixing, dividing up territories among themselves and sabotaging their competitors in order to gain a monopoly in the marketplace. Such practices have been outlawed in other industries for decades. 

The legislation is supported by numerous groups including the American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, American  Academy of Pediatrics, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Center for Justice and Democracy, and U.S. PIRG. 

••••• 

McAllen man arrested after two tons of marijuana, hidden in a parked tanker trailer, are seized

By ANGELA DODGE 

A McAllen area man was placed in federal custody without bond following the discovery of more than two tons of marijuana in a tanker trailer parked on the grounds of a McAllen area residence, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno and ICE Special Agent in Charge Jerry Robinette announced on Tuesday, February 23. 

Jaime Fernández Cantú, yob 1976, was taken into federal custody on Thursday, February 18, 2010 and charged with possession with intent to distribute 2,198.5 kilograms of marijuana. He had remained in federal custody without bond since his arrest pending a detention hearing on February 23 before U. S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby. 

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.  

A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law. 

According to the criminal complaint filed on Friday, February 19, 2010, ICE agents and officers of the McAllen Police Department discovered 206 bundles containing more than 4,397 pounds of marijuana inside a tanker trailer parked at a residence on North Ware Rd. in McAllen.    

The offense of possession with intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment up to a life term of imprisonment and a $4 million fine. 

•••••• 

Rep. Martínez and Weslaco Mayor De la Rosa among mentors for STC students 

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco, who helps protect lives as an expert firefighter and paramedic, and helps change lives for the better as a veteran lawmaker, is bringing his real-world experiences to the classroom as one of the newest mentors for the Valley Scholars Program.   

Martínez, one of the main House sponsors of a landmark law that will bring a full-fledged University of Texas medical school to the Valley, is one of numerous South Texas leaders who are serving as role models for many of the best and brightest students of South Texas College.   

South Texas College recently hosted a breakfast for community leaders at its Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco. The goal is to recruit more community members to become mentors for its Valley Scholars Program.   

"The most important message I have for all of our students in South Texas is that no one is smarter than they are – period," said Martínez, himself a proud alumnus of The University of Texas-Pan American. "That’s why I work so hard to bring the best higher educational opportunities, such as the medical school, and in the near future, a law school, to the Valley. Our students have what it takes to reach for the stars."    

Mentors for STC’s Valley Scholars Program make a significant difference in the lives of the students they mentor.   

Mentors serve as role models by sharing personal and work experiences with students. They should expect to attend monthly meetings during each academic semester; attend special events and activities; correspond with mentees via e-mail and phone; and possibly take students to luncheons or other motivational activities and field trips.    

“Students in our Valley Scholars Program ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, so they are highly motivated to succeed in life,” said Marie Olivarez, program coordinator. “But, they come from a variety of economic and social backgrounds and we are looking for community leaders to act as mentors to encourage our students, advise them on their goals and strategies, and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.   

“College is a fun and exciting time for our students, but they can use all the support they can get,” added Olivarez. “And emotional support ranks highly when it’s come to achieving a goal like graduating from college.”   

Like Martínez, Weslaco Mayor Buddy de la Rosa wants to encourage students to learn about the importance of public service.   

“Mentors are friends to students, answering questions and helping them academically,” said De la Rosa. “They are there to help them grow personally and professionally. With my mentees I know I help guide them through important, critical choices in life.   

“We have some great professionals out there who can make a real difference in the lives of the students,” the mayor added. “Our students set the pace for our community, but that’s because, at some point, someone encouraged them. Being a mentor can be a blessing to you and them.”   

More than 15 people signed up to be mentors at the breakfast, including Frank and Deana Saldívar, owners of the Poet’s Corner Bookstore.   

“It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community, said Frank Saldívar. “The world can be tough for a student growing up in difficult circumstances. We want to see what we can do. We both used to be teachers and so education is very important to us.”   

Martínez agreed with those assessments.   

“Education is the measure of success and with a mentor and an education, there are no barriers for our students,” he said.       

For more information about becoming a mentor for STC’s Valley Scholars Program call 956/872-2621.    

 Helen J. Escobar contributed to this article.   

•••••• 

Valley educators leave summit on mission to create unified, regional college-going culture

By HELEN J. ESCOBAR 

South Texas College’s fifth annual summit on college readiness was the stage for more than 250 educators from across the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to decide that they would be the ones to set the national standard for college readiness. How are they going to accomplish it? By creating a unified, college-going culture.  

“We gather to show the data and how we are doing in preparing students for the challenges of college; it’s not about pointing fingers, rather collaborating on how we can do things better,” said STC President Shirley A. Reed. “A strong college-going culture throughout a child’s school experience is the strongest predictor of going to college. We, as a region, have hit a plateau with only 60 percent of our students going to college. We need to build a culture where college-going is an expectation for all, not just an opportunity for a few.”  

Reed’s sentiments were echoed by Robert Nelson, new president of The University of Texas-Pan American.  

“Success by design is what we must achieve, meeting the needs of our children and the Valley,” expressed Nelson. “Together we will shine as the best in the world. This summit is the most important thing happening in Texas today. Together we can make a difference.”  

The pair opened the summit, laying the foundation for a day of enlightening facts and new approaches to viewing students and the world in which they live. Educators heard from national speakers from the Community College Policy Center and The Education Trust. Both highlighting ideas that even low-income, disadvantaged schools can be some of the top performers in the entire nation.  

“We research schools that are the outliers, not the norm and what they are accomplishing is by design; it’s a thoughtful approach,” said Anna Rowan, K to 12 policy analyst for The Education Trust, discussing high-performing schools from across the nation with high levels of disadvantaged students. “Discipline and school environment issues are addressed by stressing collegial relationships, responsibility and instruction.”  

She provided a variety of tools and thought-provoking ideas for implementation at schools across the Valley meant to elevate performance expectations and outcomes for students.  

Perhaps the most poignant moments during the summit was a panel discussion of faculty doing their part to create a college-going climate in the region.  

“Our job as teachers is to make sure that there is no need for remediation once a student goes on to college; that they are ready for success,” said Michael Hernandez, lead teacher and internal coach for the Mercedes Early College High School, where students are expected to earn an associate’s degree upon graduation from high school. “Within the first three months of opening our school, our students started calling themselves a family. That would never have happened before.  

“These students self-selected the program and they are not all ‘high performers’ academically speaking. But they now have a common goal,” he added. “They hold themselves accountable and its motivating for them and us.”  

“I would like to see more opportunities like dual enrollment and early college high schools given to all students,” said Melissa King, an English teacher for PSJA’s T-STEM Early College High School. “I had a lot of dual enrollment credits, which lead to a two and a half year college career and getting into the workforce very early. Many of my classmates were never given the chance to take dual enrollment. And with early college high schools, all students can make the decision to try it, whether high risk or high performing. They have the chance to take the stepping stones and rise to a higher expectation.  

“Providing information on college opportunities and advising students early empowers them to make the decision to get out of their tunnel vision and think about the future, beyond next Friday, about going to college and having a profession. I have students telling me as freshmen in high school that they are going to engineers,” she added.  

Attendees also heard from students about the impact dual enrollment and college-going made in their lives and were given state-wide data about student performance from kindergarten through college graduation.  

“I believe attendees walked away reinvigorated and focused on making our Valley-wide college-going culture a reality,” said Luzelma Canales, who coordinates the annual STC event. “Some of what we heard was a wakeup call for us all that while we are doing really well, as opposed to national and state standards, there is still much work to be done. I am confident that by this time next year, all students will be hearing that college isn’t just an option, its’ the only option.”  

For more information about South Texas College’s annual summit on college access and success contact Canales at 956/872-6760.  

•••••• 

Eligible South Texans should use IRS Free File Tax Program

By SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.  

Despite the onerous task of filing income tax returns, a quick and simple program is available for many that can greatly ease the burden. 

Taxpayers who made less than $57,000 in 2009 can utilize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Free File program, which offers a simple and free method of filing taxes online.  

I urge everyone who meets the income requirement with access to the internet to take advantage of this program, made possible through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance.  

The Alliance is a group of industry-leading tax software providers that began providing this service with IRS in 2003. 

The program is not only completely free and secure, but taxpayers who use Free File with direct deposit can receive their refunds in as little as 10 days. 

Offered in both English and Spanish, Free File tax preparation is designed to ask simple questions and place the responses on the correct forms. Furthermore, the program performs all the math and even checks for accuracy. Taxes can be filed day or night through this system, and the IRS will send the user a confirmation within 48 hours. 

While the IRS may not be able to claim that filing taxes is fun, they can take credit along with the  Alliance for making the process much simpler and quicker for many deserving Americans, including those in South Texas. 

Taxpayers at this income level – particularly those who must pay taxes–can benefit from not having to pay a tax service to prepare their returns. The Free File program provides that opportunity to more than 25 million people nationwide. Just visit http://www.IRS.gov and submit your taxes by the April 15 deadline. 

For those who do not qualify for the program, please share this information with others who may be eligible and are not aware they can file tax returns easily and without a service charge.  

•••••• 

Texas Attorney General Abbott provides tips to avoid becoming a victim of income tax scam 

According to the Internal Revenue Service, as many as 1.2 million individuals earn fees for preparing Americans’ tax returns. Over the years, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has received numerous complaints about tax preparers who fail to file tax returns on time, charge excessive fees, fail to secure anticipated refunds and fail to return personal financial documents to customers.  

Texans have also voiced concerns about tax preparers making errors on their customers’  tax returns or disappearing after returns are filed. 

To avoid becoming a tax return scam victim, the OAG urges Texans to take four quick steps before hiring a tax return preparation professional: 

  • Ask for the tax preparer’s credentials;
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints against the tax preparer;
  • Verify whether the tax preparer is a certified public accountant; and
  • Make sure the business is open year-round in the event clients need to ask follow-up questions about their returns. 

Texans should make sure they know the exact fee for a preparer’s services and insist on a date by which their returns will be filed with the IRS. Clients also should make arrangements to have the tax preparer return personal financial papers used during preparation of the returns. 

More importantly, Texans should confirm the basis for all tax deductions the tax preparer claims on their returns. Taxpayers are ultimately subject to accuracy and fraud penalties, plus accrued interest, for any income tax underpayment caused by filing incorrect tax returns. 

Taxpayers can generally get information from the IRS about their refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of an e-filed return, or three to four weeks after mailing a paper return. 

Finally, Texans should not respond to e-mails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service. Fraudulent e-mails typically direct a taxpayer to a Web link that requests personal and financial information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. Taxpayers should also verify the identification and documentation of anyone claiming to be a IRS agent.  

Texans may forward such bogus e-mails to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov  

or file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or online at: http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov

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