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Jesús G. Montoya, an honor student at Edinburg High School, has received this year’s Texas Armed Services Scholarship. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, made the announcement on Thursday, March 18, honoring Montoya during a presentation at the senator’s office. Montoya’s academic résumé shows an exceptional record of performance in the classroom. Top ten percent in his graduating class at Edinburg High School, Jesus earned 27 hours of credit while concurrently enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College. Montoya earned a flawless 4.0 grade point average while enrolled at the two schools. Featured, from left: Sen. Hinojosa, Jesús G. Montoya, and R. Rick Margo, a recruiter for Texas A&M. See story later in this posting.   

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A “Reading Revolution” awaits the Rio Grande Valley community March 22-27 when they attend this year’s FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) now in it fifth year at The University of Texas-Pan American. A celebration of the arts, humanities and the culture of the Valley, the festival has also become a showcase for activities to promote literacy and a love of reading, particularly by children. A festival highlight will be a special appearance by actress Eva Longoria Parker, who plays the role of Gabrielle Solis on ABC’s popular series, Desperate Housewives. Longoria Parker grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from Texas A&M- Kingsville with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. She will address spectators at 7 p.m. on the main stage in the UTPA Fieldhouse Parking Lot F. “She (Longoria Parker) is going to bring an element to FEBTIBA that we’ve never had. She is an amazing role model for our students, so they can see the sky is the limit,” said Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. Featured participating in March 11 press conference to announce the 2010 FESTIBA schedule of events are, from left: Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, who also serves as president of the South Texas Literacy Coalition; Letty Leija, director, Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library in Edinburg; Dr. Steven Schneider, director of New Programs and Special Projects, UTPA College of Arts and Humanities; Carol Rasco, president and CEO, Reading is Fundamental; Dr. Dahlia Guerra and her brother, Edinburg Mayor Richard García; and Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president. See story later in this posting.   

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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Thursday, March 11, introduced Raúl Yzaguirre, featured left, a native of San Juan, to the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Yzaguirre, a well respected and influential activist for Hispanic causes, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the ambassadorship. Yzaguirre chose Hinojosa to speak on his behalf before the committee. “I am very proud to call Raúl my friend and mentor. Whenever I have turned to him for advice, he has always given me wise counsel," said Hinojosa. "I know he will take his experience, his wisdom, his love for people and his passion for education and opportunity to the people of the Dominican Republic." See story later in this posting.   

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For the first time, the Museum of South Texas History’s Heritage Ranch Gala will be held in Cameron County, courtesy of Virgil and Carolyn Swanberg, who will be opening their Pair-O-Dice Ranch for the major event. The Heritage Ranch Gala will take place on Saturday, March 27, at the ranch, which lies south of the Arroyo Colorado, which is an ancient distributary channel of the Rio Grande River. The Pair-O-Dice Ranch teems with native and exotic wildlife, surrounded by 65,000 acres of federal wildlife refuge land, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts, especially bird watchers. Featured preparing for the major event are, from left: Committee member Melissa Lackey; Gala Co-Chairman Josie Cappadona; Carola Chapa; Carmen Yzaguirre; Gala Chairman Patsy De los Santos; and Alice Keller. See story later in this posting.  

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The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Women’s Issues Committee is busy organizing the 1st Annual “Women’s Empowerment Conference” scheduled for Thursday, June 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The conference will empower women in various ways. Workshops will focus on such things as: The Essence of a True Leader; Career Success; Entrepreneurship; Health; Personal Image; etc. Keynote speakers from throughout the country will sit on the panels.  An international Style Show will also entertain the ladies during their Luncheon. For sponsorship and ticket information on the conference call the MHCC office at 928-0060. Organizers of the conference are featured, seated, from left: Diana González; Connie Hernández, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues; and Edna Posada, Vice Chair of Public Relations. Standing, from left: Illiana Hinojosa; Debbie Coronado; Adelita Muñoz; Vice Chair of Education; Betty Garza; Irene Smith; and Jeanette Noone. 

    

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The Most Reverend Daniel E.Flores, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, on Monday, March 15, met with leaders of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley on the need for a full-fledged Veterans Affairs Hospital for the Valley. Emilio de los Santos, director of the Hidalgo County Veterans Services, explained the need to the bishop and gave reasons why thousands of South Texas veterans desperately need a VA hospital. De los Santos mentioned that the expansion presently being planned at the Harlingen and McAllen VA clinics were a step in the right direction but that it stopped short of providing full hospital services. Even though many veterans are not going to San Antonio, there are still many who must still make the burdensome trip. De los Santos estimated that that the VA was spending from between $1 million and $1.5 million per month on contracted care. The veterans told the Bishop that it would be more cost effective to just open a VA hospital instead. See story later in this posting.   

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The Women’s Bar Section of the Hidalgo County Bar Association in cooperation with the Hidalgo County Bar Association, South Texas College, The University of Texas at Brownsville, and Texas law schools hosted the first ever Rio Grande Valley Legal Job Fair in Edinburg. The Rio Grande Valley Legal Job Fair was held at Edwards Abstract and Title Co. On Friday, March 5, candidates from the nine Texas law schools in Texas were represented during the job fair as Valley law firms interviewed potential attorney and paralegal candidates for their firms. See story later in this posting. Representatives of the University of Houston Law Center teamed up with the Women’s Bar Section of the Hidalgo County Bar Association to sponsor the Rio Grande Valley Legal Job Fair in Edinburg. Featured, from left: Rhonda V. Beassie, University of Houston Law Center; Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President/Marketing Manager for Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; Allison H. Regan, The University of Houston Law Center, and Marissa Sandoval with Cacheaux, Cavazos & Newton, L.L.P. See story later in this posting.   

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Edinburg unemployment rate registers increase to 7.5 percent for January 2010   

By DAVID A. DÍAZ   

Edinburg posted a 7.5 percent unemployment rate in January 2010, an increase from the previous month of 6.8 percent, but still the best among the Valley’s major cities, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.   

For all of 2009, the city’s unemployment rate wound up at 6.9 percent, which was the highest annual level reported for the city since 2005, the state agency reported.   

Edinburg’s annual unemployment rate for 2009 was also the best showing among all Valley cities, but the worst performance for the three-time All-America City since 2005.    

The unemployment rate is a key indicator of the strength of the local economy.   

The unemployment rate is the number of persons unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force;   

The civilian labor force is that portion of the population age 16 and older employed or unemployed.    

To be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working but willing and able to work and actively seeking work.   

The jump in the city’s unemployment rate in January 2010 came after five consecutive monthly showings last fall which represented slow, but ongoing, improvements since July 2009, when the city’s rate hit 7.8 percent — the worst showing in five years.   

The latest figures showed the city’s economy struggled in January after stabilizing last December and November.   

A reported 2,465 Edinburg residents who were willing and able to work in January 2010 had no luck finding a job, according to the state agency.   

The year before, in January 2009, the city’s unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent, and there were 2,019 residents jobless but looking for work, the Texas Workforce Commission reported.   

That data for Edinburg and all other cities only goes back to 2005, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, because of substantial methodology changes between 2004 and 2005 in estimating city unemployment statistics, Texas city data is not available prior to 2005.   

The higher figures come a little more than two years after Edinburg has its best showing in the city’s history.   

In November 2007, only 3.7 percent of Edinburg’s civilian labor force was unable to find work.   

State, national levels worse than Edinburg’s   

For January 2010, Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 8.2 percent, unchanged from a revised 8.2 percent in December 2009, and continued to trend well below the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.     

Both the January 2010 and 2009 annual levels were released on during the first week of March, 

after the March 2 Democratic Party and Republican Party primary elections.   

The unemployment rates in January 2010 among the Valley’s other major cities also saw negative figures.   

Eight of the Valley’s major cities, including Edinburg, saw increases in their unemployment figures for January 2010.   

Only Mission stayed at the same level in January 2010 as it reported in December 2009: 9.6 percent.   

McAllen – the economic leader in the Valley – registered an 8.1 percent unemployment rate in January 2010, compared with 7.4 percent in December 2009.   

Brownsville, the most populated city in the Valley, saw its unemployment rate increase from 11.1 percent in December 2009 to 11.9 percent in January 2010.   

In January 2010, all cities combined increased the unemployment rate in Hidalgo County to 12.3 percent, compared with 11.5 percent in December 2009.   

Also in January 2010, all cities combined increase the unemployment rate in Cameron County to 11.6 percent, compared with 10.8 percent in December 2009.   

Hidalgo County’s annual unemployment rate in 2009 – which represents the average of all cities in the county – was 10.6 percent, compared with 7.3 percent in 2008, 6.6 percent in 2007, 7.4 percent in 2006, and 7.9 percent in 2005.   

Cameron County’s annual unemployment rate in 2009 – which represents the average of all cities in the county – was 9.9 percent, compared with 6.8 percent in 2008, six percent in 2007, 6.6 percent in 2006, and 7.6 percent in 2005.    

Unemployment trends past seven months   

A breakdown of the major cities in the Rio Grande Valley shows that they posted the following unemployment rates in January 2010, along with the figures posted from July through December 2009:   

  • Edinburg – 7.5 percent (6.8 percent in December, 6.8 percent in November, seven percent in October, 7.6 percent in September, 7.7 percent in August, and 7.8 percent in July);  
  • McAllen – 8.1 percent (7.4 percent in December, 7.1 percent in November, 7.4 percent in October, 7.5 percent in September, 7.3 percent in August, and 7.5 percent in July);  
  • Harlingen – 9.2 percent (8.6 percent in December, 8.4 percent in November, 8.7 percent in October, 9.1 percent in September, 8.8 percent in August, and 8.9 percent in July);  
  • Pharr – 10.1 percent, (9.4 percent in December, 9.1 percent in November, 9.3 percent in October, 9.5 percent in September, 9.4 percent in August, and 9.6 percent in July);  
  • Mission – 9.6 percent (9.6 percent in December, 9.4 percent in November, 9.6 percent in October, 9.7 percent in September, 9.7 percent in August, and 9.7 percent in July);  
  • San Benito – 10.3 percent (9.7 percent in December, 9.6 percent in November, 9.6 percent in October, 10.2 percent in September, 9.5 percent in August, and 10.1 percent in July);  
  • Weslaco –11.3 percent (10.8 percent in December, 10.6 percent in November, 10.6 percent in October, 11.3 percent in September, 10.7 percent in August, and 10.6 percent in July);  
  • Brownsville – 11.9 percent (11.1 percent in December, 10.9 percent in November, 10.8 percent in October, 11 percent in September, 10.7 percent in August, 10.8 percent in July); and  
  • San Juan – Thirteen percent (12.3 percent in December, 11.3 percent in November, 11.1 percent in October, 11.8 percent in September, 12 percent in August, and 11.9 percent in July).   

2009 unemployment rates by Valley cities   

Edinburg’s latest unemployment number compared favorably with the other major communities in deep South Texas, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.   

The 2009 unemployment rates are:   

  • Edinburg 6.9 percent 
  • McAllen 7.1 percent 
  • Harlingen 8.1 percent 
  • Pharr: 8.9 percent 
  • Mission 9.1 percent 
  • San Benito: 9.1 percent 
  • Weslaco 9.9 percent 
  • Brownsville 10.2 percent 
  • San Juan: 11 percent    

Highlights of other key figures for Edinburg include:   

Unemployment rate, by month   

  • January 2010: 7.5 percent 
  • January 2009: 6.4 percent 
  • January 2008: 4.8 percent 
  • January 2007: 4.9 percent 
  • January 2006: 4.8 percent 
  • January 2005: 5.3 percent    

Unemployment rate, by year   

  • 2009: 6.9 percent 
  • 2008: 5.0 percent 
  • 2007: 4.8 percent 
  • 2006: 5.3 percent 
  • 2005: 4.9 percent   

People looking for work, by month   

  • January 2010: 2,465 
  • January 2009: 2,019 
  • January 2008: 1,457 
  • January 2007: 1,431 
  • January 2006: 1,353 
  • January 2005: 1,413    

Average of number of people looking for work, by year   

  • 2009: 2,213 
  • 2008: 1,520 
  • 2007: 1,417 
  • 2006: 1,502 
  • 2005: 1,324   

Employed, by month   

  • January 2010: 30,410 
  • January 2009: 29,548 
  • January 2008: 29,048 
  • January 2007: 28,068 
  • January 2006: 26,910 
  • January 2005: 25,189    

Average of number employed, by year   

  • 2008: 28,971 
  • 2007: 28,207 
  • 2006: 26,865 
  • 2005: 25,538   

The Texas Workforce Commission maintains a detailed accounting of employment trends for Edinburg and all other cities in the state on its website, located at:   

http://www.tracer2.com/cgi/dataanalysis/AreaSelection.asp?tableName=Labforce    

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Gov. Perry orders activation of first phase of Texas Spillover Violence Contingency Plan  

Following the recent escalation of murders in northern Mexico and the increasing threat of violence crossing over into neighboring border communities in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, March 16, ordered the activation of the first phase of the state’s spillover violence contingency plan. The state’s plan is law enforcement sensitive and will not be released to the public for operational security purposes.   

“With the growing threat of violence in Mexico spilling over the border, we have taken important measures to increase the law enforcement presence along the Texas border and have placed additional resources on standby to combat any potential situation,” Perry said. “It is imperative that the federal government immediately provide additional resources to prevent spillover violence, but with the safety of Texans on the line, we can’t afford to wait.”    

At the governor’s direction, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), in coordination with local and federal law enforcement along the Texas-Mexico border, has implemented critical elements of the state’s spillover violence contingency plan.     

These steps include increased surveillance of border activity by state and local law enforcement, the Texas Border Security Operations Center, and the Joint Operational and Intelligence Centers to ensure the timely sharing of intelligence information; increased ground, air and maritime patrol presence; and increased intensity of day and night DPS helicopter patrol operations along the Rio Grande River, as well as National Guard helicopters to support aviation missions. Additional resources ready for rapid deployment have been placed on standby, including DPS SWAT Teams and Trooper Strike Teams, as well as Ranger Recon Teams prepared to reposition based on threat.   

“Texas has a unique cultural and economic relationship with Mexico, and we are committed to a common interest of shutting down these criminal enterprises,” Perry said. “We will continue to closely monitor this situation, and take any necessary action to ensure the safety of our citizens and to protect continued legitimate cross-border trade and travel.” 

Since January 2008, a reported 4,700 homicides have been committed across the border from El Paso in Ciudad Juárez, making it one of the most violent cities in the world.    

A porous border places Texas and the nation at risk from international terrorists, organized crime cartels and transnational gangs. Until the federal government fulfills its responsibility of securing our border, Texas will continue filling in the gaps by putting more boots on the ground, providing increased law enforcement resources and leveraging technology along the border.    

Perry has a standing request with the federal government for 1,000 Title 32 National Guardsmen to support civilian law enforcement efforts to enhance border security in Texas, as well as a more recent request for predator drones to be based in and operate over the Texas-Mexico border to provide essential information to law enforcement on the ground.   

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Sens. Hutchison, Cornyn request action from President Obama on escalating violence on Mexican side along Texas border  

In response to the brazen murders of two U.S. citizens affiliated with the American consulate in Ciudad Juárez, U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, on Wednesday, March 17, urged President Barack Obama again to take action on the escalating violence along our southern border.   

“The spillover violence in Texas is real and it is escalating. Our border patrol agents and local law enforcement are more regularly engaged with gunmen associated with drug cartels, but our resources and personnel are limited…We urge you to deliver a concrete plan to address the increasing violence across the border, and share it with Congress,” wrote Hutchison and Cornyn. “A credible plan must include immediate measures, including the temporary deployment of additional resources to help local officials better protect their citizens and communities as well as minimize disruptions to travel and trade.”    

In a letter to President Obama, Hutchison and Cornyn first asked the President to instruct U.S. Northern Command, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency to provide them with a joint intelligence briefing regarding ongoing violence in Mexico and its potential impact on U.S. security.   

Second, the senators asked the President  to develop a concrete plan to address increasing violence in Mexico and share it with Congress.   

Lastly, the senators asked the President to accompany them on a visit to the border region as soon as possible.   

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Texas border congressmen urge Senate to confirm new leader of Customs and Border Protection  

By ASHLEY PATTERSON   

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Wednesday, March 17, released a letter signed by every member of the Congressional Border Caucus urging Senate leaders to swiftly confirm the President’s nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the wake of escalated Southern Border violence and the thwarted terrorist attack on Christmas Day Flight 253. 

Since January 3, an acting commissioner has filled the post following the retirement of Jayson P. Ahern, noted Cuellar, who also serves as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Border, Martime and Global Counterterrorism. 

“Now is not the time for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to be without a permanent leader,” wrote the 10 congressmen. “This agency needs to have a Commissioner with experience in border security and direction to ensure that our nation is in a position to be as safe and secure as possible.” 

In September 2009, President Obama nominated Alan Bersin to be confirmed as Commissioner of CBP. Bersin is currently the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs. During the Clinton Administration, Bersin served as Special Representative for the Southwest Border to coordinate Border law enforcement from South Texas to Southern California.   

“Alan Bersin has nearly two decades of border law enforcement experience with a proven track record of securing our shared border with Mexico,” said Cuellar. “At a time of escalating violence just across the border, it’s time to put permanent leadership in place at CBP to set a direction and course of action for the future.”   

In addition to Cuellar, the other Texas border congressmen signing the letter were Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Congressman Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, and Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso. 

The correspondence was sent to Sen. Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Sen. Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance.   

The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the confirmation of the CBP Commissioner. 

To see a copy of the letter, please visit:   

http://www.cuellar.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Bersin_Letter.•    

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Hidalgo County Judge Ramírez urging area residents to fill out, mail back Census forms  

By CARI LAMBRECHT   

The U.S. Census Bureau has begun to distribute the 2010 Census to more than 130 million addresses across the nation, and Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez is encouraging all residents to complete and mail back these crucial forms. 

“The 2010 Census is vitally important to the future of our county. The data gathered will determine local funding for vital local services, such as education, health care and transportation, and it will also play a key role in redistricting,” said Ramírez. 

I Count, Yo Cuento is the theme that the Hidalgo County Census Complete Count Committee is promoting,” Ramírez said. “The committee has been working diligently on getting the word out that taking 10 minutes to fill out 10 questions will affect the next 10 years."   

Members of the Hidalgo County Complete Count Committee include representatives from all four precincts, as well as the County Judge’s Office. 

“Households served by the United States Postal Service will receive their forms in March 2010. Census workers will hand-deliver forms through April 2010 in all other areas," said Pct. 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios. "One of the shortest census forms in U.S. Census history, the 2010 Census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes to complete.” 

Census data are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and for the subsequent redistricting of state and local governments. Census data also help to determine how more than $400 billion per year in federal funding is distributed to tribal, state and local governments for services that affect local communities. Specifically, census data are critical in determining locations for new hospitals, improving schools, building new roads, expanding public transportation options and creating new maps for emergency responders. 

Census form answers are safe and confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both. 

More information on county census efforts are available on on the Internet at http://www.yocuento.com    

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Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade named Texas Census Ambassador by Gov. Perry  

Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, March 9, named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador to promote participation by Texans in the 2010 Census. Forms for the 2010 Census will be delivered to residents in March.   

“It is in the best interest of our state for every Texan to be counted in the census, in terms of representation and our tax dollars flowing back to Texas,” Perry said. “I am thankful to Secretary Andrade for her dedication to ensuring all Texans understand the importance and value of participating in the 2010 Census.”   

Andrade joined U.S. Census officials and other partners in Austin on Friday, March 12, to encourage all individuals residing in Texas to participate in the census. She will also speak at events across the state in advance of the April 1 deadline.   

“Completing the short census form only takes a few minutes, but those few minutes can have a significant impact on our state for many years to come,” Andrade said. “Our focus is on getting a complete and accurate count of Texas residents by helping to spread the word across the state.”   

As required by the U.S. Constitution, the Census is conducted every 10 years to determine population totals and demographic information. The data collected also helps determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives, and helps states secure federal funding for services, including hospitals, job training centers, public works projects and emergency services.   

For more information on the 2010 Census, please visit:   

http://2010.census.gov/2010census/ or   http://www.sos.state.tx.us    

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UT-Pan American tuition and fees next fall to begin approaching about $3,000 per semester 

for students carrying 15-hour course loads   

By MATT FLORES   

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Wednesday, March 3 approved tuition and fee rates for the next two academic years at University of Texas institutions, including a 5.07 percent hike at UT-Pan American for the fall of 2010 followed by a 4.82 percent hike in the fall of 2011.   

Total academic costs includes tuition, mandatory fees, and average of course fees. Living expenses, such as housing, groceries, and transportation, are not included.   

During the fall of 2009, total academic costs at UT-Pan American, for a student taking a full-time course load of 15 semester hours, was $2,764.   

For the fall of 2010, total academic costs at UT-Pan American, for a student taking a full-time course load of 15 semester hours, will be $2,904.   

For the fall of 2011, total academic costs at UT-Pan American, for a student taking a full-time course load of 15 semester hours, will be $3,044.   

The rates were approved following a review of tuition and fee proposals submitted to the Regents by the campuses earlier this year.    

The highest academic costs are at UT-Dallas, which in the fall of 2009 was $4,915 for a student taking a full-time course load of 15 semester hours. UT-Dallas students will see that figure go up by 3.95 percent to $5,109 in the fall of 2010, and then again go up 3.95 percent to $5,311.   

UT-Austin, the flagship university in the system, will see its academic costs go up by 3.95 percent in the fall of 2010. Currently, students taking a full-time course load of 15 semester hours at UT-Austin pay $4,468, but that figure will go up to $4,709 in the fall of 2010, and then increase by 3.89 percent in the fall of 2011 to $4,892.   

The approved tuition and mandatory academic fee increases for full-time resident undergraduate students at the nine academic institutions amounted to 3.95 percent or $280 per academic year, whichever was greater. Five academic institution proposals also included student-initiated fees – such as fees to fund new student services and recreational facilities – which were proposed by the students themselves and have been approved through student referenda, thus increasing the total costs at those institutions. 

Should available funding change, the board of regents stated it would reassess the approved tuition and fee rates of the UT System academic institutions for the 2011-12 academic year to ensure excellence in the education, research and service missions of the institutions. 

Regents approved tuition and fee rates for the five health institutions for the 2010-11 academic year only. The health institutions were asked to submit new tuition and fee proposals for the 2011-12 academic year. 

The approved rates for the nine approved rates for the nine academic institutions are for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years and may be viewed online. 

“We believe these increases allow us to strike a delicate balance between our efforts to keep student costs affordable and to provide our institutions with the essential resources needed to keep them competitive with their peers while continuing to advance excellence,” said Regents’ Chairman James R. Huffines. “We believe these increases to be appropriate. And, we know that our financial aid programs will ensure that our students from low- and middle-income families will be buffered from these increases.” 

The plans approved by the regents continue to include a variety of incentives to encourage students to graduate on time by taking more semester credit hours in each term they are enrolled. Tuition and fees are used to enhance student services and academic programs, such as hiring additional faculty and advisers, reducing class sizes, and repairing and renovating campus buildings. 

“These increases represent thoughtful, responsible planning on the part of students, faculty and administrators, and the increases will allow our academic and health institutions to continue on an upward trajectory for the benefit of our students,” UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said. "As the UT System and its institutions continue to identify additional cost saving initiatives during a difficult economic climate, we believe that the proposed increases in tuition and fees are necessary to continue to provide the highest quality education needed for our state to strengthen the workforce and the economy.  It is imperative that we enhance excellence so that our graduates and Texas can move forward and we can continue to build an institution of the first class." 

“Education is a responsibility shared among our institutions, our Legislature and our students and their families. An investment in higher education and health care is an investment in the future of Texas because it contributes to an educated and healthy citizenry and stimulates knowledge-based, sustainable economic development. The quality of education and health care determines the quality of life and vibrancy of our great state,” Cigarroa added. 

The UT System Access and Affordability Web site contains information and resource links on financial aid, how tuition is used, and campus cost-saving initiatives. The Web site also includes new profiles of current students at each of the UT System’s nine academic campuses who overcame challenges associated with financing their college educations. 

About The University of Texas System   

Serving the educational and health care needs of Texans for more than 125 years, The University of Texas System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $11.9 billion (FY 2010) including $2.5 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Preliminary student enrollment exceeded 202,000 in the 2009 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state’s health care professionals annually. With more than 84,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.    

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Fred Sandoval, current Pharr city manager, files for South Texas College Board of Trustees  

By BRIAN GODÍNEZ 

Fred Sandoval, city manager for Pharr, has filed to run for the South Texas College Board of Trustees, District 3.   

District 3 represents the area of south McAllen, southwest Pharr, Hidalgo, Sharyland, south east Mission and Granjeno.   

The election is set for Saturday, May 8. 

Sandoval believes that his 20 years of experience in community service and economic development are good qualifications to effectively serve as a STC board trustee. Sandoval said.   

“This position is a natural extension of my career in public service and my commitment to a better quality of life for the Pharr area and the rest of South Texas," said Sandoval. "I intend to help build an even stronger higher education system for STC, specifically formulating public policy on what is best for our district.” 

Sandoval believes that STC has been rapidly growing because it serves a significant role in the education community of South Texas.   

“I firmly believe that South Texas College is one of the key economic engines for our local area workforce. Their commitment to the development of our workforce is extraordinary. These next six years are a critical time for STC and will require sound fiscal and management decisions. We will need more facilities, staff and operational infrastructure to meet the demands of our growing education system. My background and commitment to serving communities and fiscal responsibility will resonate with the voters of my district.” 

Sandoval stated that STC has become a major player for improving the quality of life of many Valley-area communities.   

“STC has played an extremely important role in the growth of our area, especially in Pharr and the south area of Hidalgo County," he continued. "I am committed to improving the quality of jobs in our area. I will work hard to have a stronger STC presence in our district and see that we keep our local area workforce educated and employed.” 

Sandoval is a product of the higher education community in South Texas with a Bachelors Degree in Biology from the University of Texas – Pan American. He is a graduate of the Utility Management Institute at the University of the Incarnate Word. He is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.    

Sandoval is married to Mytla Sandoval and has two young boys, Freddy and Nicolas. 

According the STC website, South Texas College was founded in 1993 and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Baccalaureate and Associate degrees. More than 22,000 students attend STC and a faculty and staff of more than 1,800 serve STC’s five campuses. STC offers more than 100 degree and certificate program options, including associate degrees in a variety of art, science, technology, allied health and advanced manufacturing fields of study. The college also offers eight online associate degrees options.             

For more information, Sandoval may be contacted at (956) 961-9482.   

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New Catholic Bishop Flores endorses area efforts for Valley VA Hospital for veterans 

By TRETO GARZA   

The Most Reverend Daniel E.Flores, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, on Monday, March 15, met with leaders of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley on the need for a full-fledged Veterans Affairs Hospital for the Valley.     

Flores was very grateful for the presentation, and he assured them that the Church is definitely there for the veterans and that they could count continued moral and religious support.    

The Bishop also wanted Valley veterans to let him know ahead of time what is needed from him.     

Flores committed to work for the betterment of the veterans as well as all the parishioners in the Valley.    

Homer Gallegos, chairman of the Veterans Alliance, gave a brief history of the activities of the organization and how far they have come.    

Emilio de los Santos, director of the Hidalgo County Veterans Services, explained the need to the bishop and gave reasons why thousands of South Texas veterans desperately need a VA hospital.    

De los Santos mentioned that the expansion presently being planned at the Harlingen and McAllen VA clinics were a step in the right direction but that it stopped short of providing full hospital services. Even though many veterans are not going to San Antonio, there are still many who must still make the burdensome trip.   

De los Santos estimated that that the VA was spending from between $1 million and $1.5 million per month on contracted care. The veterans told the Bishop that it would be more cost effective to just open a VA hospital instead. 

Flores also was updated of some of the other recent activities by area veterans on this long-sought after hospital.   

Many governmental entities and organizations supported the veterans. National and state legislators were in support, he was told. 

Flores asked where in South Texas that the proposed VA Hospital would be located.   

He was informed that many offers of land had been made, including from Cameron County, the City of Brownsville, La Feria, and other localities. He was informed that some local hospital also were thinking of providing or building a separate wing for the veterans. One entity had already spent between $90,000 to $100,000 on preliminary plans, but the VA still was holding out. 

The bishop was informed that the VA had placed obstacles in front.    

As an example, the Veterans Administration is requiring that a VA hospital be close to a medical school, that it required for the local population to be large enough to sustain a hospital, and that land be provided.    

In Harlingen, there is a VA Outpatient Clinic which is expanding and that all those requirements are being addressed.    

The University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center is also expanding, and beginning in 2015, the UT System has been authorized by the Texas Legislature to begin building a full-fledged medical school in the Valley. The RAHC, which also has components in Edinburg and Brownsville, most likely will be transformed into the medical school.   

In addition, the City of Harlingen has provided land for the VA Outpatient Clinic expansion and for the pending UT medical school. There are still some land available and the veterans will be approaching the city for support in the very near future. 

The Veterans Alliance is scheduled to meet with the entire Harlingen City Commissioners Court in early April.   

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Jesús Montoya of Edinburg receives Texas Armed Services Scholarship, says Sen. Hinojosa  

By ARTURO BALLESTEROS    

Jesús Montoya, an honor student at Edinburg High School, received this year’s Texas Armed Services Scholarship. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, made the announcement on Thursday, March 18, honoring Montoya during a presentation at the senator’s office. 

Montoya’s academic résumé shows an exceptional record of performance in the classroom.  Top ten percent in his graduating class at Edinburg High School, Jesus earned 27 hours of credit while concurrently enrolled at the University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College. Montoya earned a flawless 4.0 grade point average while enrolled at the two schools. 

Montoya was accepted into Texas A&M University’s Dwight Look College of Engineering in November 2009. Hinojosa praised Montoya for setting a standard for others. 

"I believe excellence is best defined as achievement beyond the standard of expectation.  Jesús’ record meets that definition. Jesús met and exceeded the requirements of a high school student, receiving a list of honors and fulfilling his duty to the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps," Hinojosa said. 

This young man has shaped an outstanding launching pad from which he plans to earn a college degree and serve in the U.S. Navy.  This scholarship will allow Montoya to fill in the details in a picture of success that he has already outlined with his dedication to his studies and service to the community. 

"I encourage high school students to consider the preparedness Jesús exhibits as this year’s recipient of the Texas Armed Services Scholarship. More than just an applicant, Jesús is a citizen who participates fully in our Rio Grande Valley community.  am impressed not only by Jesús’ track record, but by the future available to him through the support of his family, his community, and his own hard work," Hinojosa continued. 

"Success can be equal parts preparation and opportunity. Jesús is fully prepared to take the next steps in his personal life and professional career. This scholarship affords him added financial tools with which to take full advantage of the opportunities available to him," Hinojosa concluded. 

••••••   

Rio Grande Valley legal job fair attracts candidates from nine Texas law schools  

By ELVA JACKSON GARZA    

The Women’s Bar Section of the Hidalgo County Bar Association in cooperation with the Hidalgo County Bar Association, South Texas College, The University of Texas at Brownsville, and Texas law schools hosted the first ever Rio Grande Valley Legal Job Fair in Edinburg.   

The Rio Grande Valley Legal Job Fair was hosted at Edwards Abstract and Title Co. 

On Friday, March 5, candidates from the nine Texas law schools in Texas were represented during the job fair as Valley law firms interviewed potential attorney and paralegal candidates for their firms.   

The law schools that participated in the job fair included Baylor University School of Law in Waco; South Texas College of Law in Houston; Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas; St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio; Texas Southern University School of Law in Houston; Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock; Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth; The University of Houston Law Center; and University of Texas School of Law in Austin.  

The facility was set up to accommodate 22 employers who were available throughout the day to interview the candidates.   

Allison H. Regan, Career Counselor for the University of Houston Law Center Career Development Office, and Rhonda V. Beassie, Assistant Dean for Career Development for the University of Houston Law Center coordinated the job fair.   

"We are very pleased with the response from the law firms who set up to accept resumes from paralegals and professional support staff candidates," said Regan. "The law students traveled from various parts of the State of Texas for the opportunity to interview with several law offices in one convenient location," she added.   

The Women’s Bar Section of the Hidalgo County Bar Association was instrumental in coordinating the job fair locally informing the HCBA membership of the opportunity to schedule and conduct interviews on site.   

For more information, contact Marissa Sandoval, attorney with the law firm of Cacheaux, Cavazos & Newton, L.L.P. in McAllen at 686-5883.   

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Letting the sun shine: promoting open government in Texas to protect democracy  

By SEN. JUDITH XAFFIRINI, Ph.D.   

In a 1932 article called What Publicity Can Do, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Brandeis was speaking of the importance of openness and transparency in government, and his words ring as true today as they did in 1932.   

March 14-20 marked Sunshine Week, a celebration promoting transparency at all levels of government and an important opportunity to reflect upon one of the bedrock principles of our democracy. 

The principle is in fact older than the nation itself. In 1765 founding father John Adams wrote, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know." Open government is critical to an informed public, and an informed public is critical to democracy. Sunshine Week, supported by news organizations, universities and public officials, reminds us of the importance of open meetings laws, open records and government accountability. 

In a 2004 speech to a group of journalists, Mexican President Vicente Fox said, “Hoy todos estamos en una caja de cristal, porque hoy todo se ve, todo se lee, y todo se escucha.” (“Today we all find ourselves in a glass case, because now everything is seen, everything is read, and everything is heard.”) 

Fox was extolling journalists’  role in keeping government accountable for its actions and for helping to root out corruption, sometimes at the expense of their lives. 

Members of the media serve this function in the United States, too, and Sunshine Week is an important time to acknowledge their efforts to keep our democracy healthy. In 2009 I was delighted to support the Texas Free Flow of Information Act (House Bill 670), which protects journalists’ ability to gather and report the news without unwarranted interference. 

We should recognize reporters who focus on substantive issues in state government and who expose corruption and injustice when they occur. Media scrutiny, for example, played an important role in bringing abuses at the Texas Youth Commission to light, paving the way for important reforms. 

Indeed, transparent and open government can save lives. Accordingly, I have always prioritized legislation that facilitates the free flow of important information. In 1989 I authored and passed Senate Bill 45, requiring child care facilities to post signs that failure to report child abuse or neglect is a crime. This demonstrates that access to even a small amount of information can go a long away, especially when it comes to protecting the very old, the very young and persons with disabilities. 

Technology, too, has helped to put government on display in a virtual glass case. Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools have made elected officials more accessible to voters. The internet, meanwhile, has expanded greatly the volume, range and quality of government information that can be accessed by the public. A wealth of information regarding every state agency can be found at Texas Online (http://www.TexasOnline.com), our state government’s official portal. Details of the state budget are available via the Legislative Budget Board web site (http://www.lbb.state.tx.us), and bills filed in the Texas Legislature can be read and tracked at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us

Open government works best when communication is multi-directional. Your feedback and suggestions are important. Accordingly, I maintain an open door policy and encourage constituents to contact me or my staff via 800/851-1568, judith.zaffirini@senate.state.tx.us, my Southern District Office in Laredo (956/722-2293) or my Northern District Office in San Antonio (210/657-0095). Helpful information regarding legislation is available via my Senate website,  http://www.zaffirini.senate.state.tx.us

Equally important, I invite you to participate in the Texas Open Government Conference in Austin, next November 22 and 23. The conference is an opportunity for members of the public, businesses, media, government employees and elected officials to come together and discuss the best ways to promote honest, open and transparent government in Texas. 

Zaffirini is the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. She holds B.S., M.A. and PhD degrees from The University of Texas, where she studied journalism and communications.    

••••••    

Del Rio Mayor Efraín Valdéz elected chairman of Texas Border Coalition in Washington, D.C.

By JULIE HILLRICHS   

Del Rio Mayor Efraín Valdéz on Thursday, March 11, was unanimously elected to a two-year term as chairman of the Texas Border Coalition (TBC) at its quarterly meeting in Washington, D.C.   

Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz was elected chairman-elect.   

Valdéz, who has served as mayor of Del Rio since 2006, said he was honored and humbled by the unanimous vote of coalition members.   

“I am excited to be leading the Texas Border Coalition in our continued efforts to help solve the education, health care, border security and transportation challenges facing more than 2.1 million people who reside along the Texas-Mexico border. I look forward to working with TBC members to build on the great work that has been done under Chad Foster’s tireless leadership the past four years,” Valdéz said.   

Since 1998, TBC has been the collective voice of border communities on issues that affect Texas-Mexico border region quality of life – committed to working to develop innovative policies and legislation at the national, state, and local levels that will help border communities grow and prosper.   

Upon assuming the role of TBC chairman, Valdéz appointed Del Rio City Manager Frances Rodríguez vice chairwoman of the coalition.   

Eddie Aldrete of IBC Bank will continue to serve as treasurer.   

TBC executive committee members include: Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada; Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; El Paso Mayor John Cook; Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell; Laredo Mayor Raúl Salinas; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas; Port Isabel Mayor Joe Vega; Roma Mayor Rogelio Ybarra; Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez; Maverick County Judge José Aranda, Jr.; Val Verde County Judge Manuel Fernández; Zapata County Judge Rosalva Guerra; and Pat Townsend, president and CEO of the Mission Economic Development Authority.   

Standing committee chairman are Blas Castañeda of Laredo Community College, education and workforce; former El Paso County Attorney José Rodríguez, health care; McAllen businesswoman Monica Weisberg-Stewart, immigration and border security; and El Paso Mayor Cook, transportation.   

The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) is a collective voice of border mayors, county judges, economic development commissions focused on issues that affect more than 2.1 million people along the Texas-Mexico border region and economically disadvantaged counties from El Paso to Brownsville. TBC is working closely with the state and federal government to educate, advocate, and secure funding for transportation, immigration and ports of entry, workforce and education and health care.   

For more information, visit the coalition Web site at  http://www.texasbordercoalition.org.   

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Texas Supreme Court upholds 2003 medical malpractice reform law approved by voters  

The Texas Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the state’s 10-year statute of repose on medical malpractice lawsuits. In November 2009, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an amicus brief defending the medical malpractice reform law.   

In 2003, the Texas Legislature responded to a lack of physicians and doctors’ rising medical malpractice insurance premiums by prohibiting plaintiffs from filing medical malpractice lawsuits more than a decade after the act that forms the basis of their lawsuit.   

In a decision reached Friday, March 12, Justice Don Willett wrote that House Bill 4’s 10-year statute of repose does not interfere with an individual’s common law right to commence a medical malpractice lawsuit. Rather, the state’s tort reform law “… is a reasonable exercise of the Legislature’s police power to act in the interest of the general welfare.” The opinion stated that the 10-year statute of repose for healthcare-liability claims does not violate the Texas Constitution’s Open Courts provision.   

As the amicus brief authored by Solicitor General James Ho noted, “A decade is a long time to wait for a lawsuit to end – let alone for one to begin.” The brief further explained that “… our legal system does not remedy injuries in perpetuity. Evidence grows stale; eyewitnesses move; records become lost; and parties receive assurances that courts will not reexamine acts from the distant past that have long since faded from memory. The rule of law is served by clear rules – and that includes traditional rules governing the timing of suit.”   

The Supreme Court agreed, noting that the repose statute eliminates medical professionals’  uncertainty about their liability: “One practical upside of curbing open-ended exposure is to prevent defendants from answering claims where evidence may prove elusive due to unavailable witnesses (perhaps deceased), faded memories, lost or destroyed records, and institutions that no longer exist.”   

The state’s amicus brief was filed in a case styled Methodist Healthcare System of San Antonio v. Rankin.   

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Raúl Yzaguirre, native of San Juan, nominated for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic by Congressman Hinojosa  

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO    

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Thursday, March 11, introduced Raúl Yzaguirre, a native of San Juan, to the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the position of U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.   

Yzaguirre, a well respected and influential activist for Hispanic causes, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the ambassadorship. Yzaguirre chose Hinojosa to speak on his behalf before the committee.   

“I am very proud to call Raúl my friend and mentor. Whenever I have turned to him for advice, he has always given me wise counsel," said Hinojosa. "I know he will take his experience, his wisdom, his love for people and his passion for education and opportunity to the people of the Dominican Republic."   

Yzaguirre began his career in community service when he was 15. At that young age, he organized the American G.I. Forum Juniors, an auxiliary of the Hispanic veterans’ organization. Yzaguirre served four years in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps and founded the National Organization for Mexican American Services.    

“Throughout his career Raúl has received many awards and accolades, but I know that he is most proud of his efforts to bring equal opportunity to everyone, particularly Hispanics," Hinojosa added.   

Yzaguirre also worked for the Migrant Division of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity.   

In 1974 Yzaguirre became President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. Under Yzaguirre, the organization grew from a regional advocacy group to an international organization. The National Council of La Raza is now in 41 states, the District of Columbia and includes Hispanics from all parts of the world.    

The Raúl Yzaguirre Policy Institute at the University of Texas-Pan American is named after him. Its mission is to keep civic leaders informed and aware of making decisions that will benefit the United States and the Hispanic community.   

“I can think of no finer ambassador and advocate for the ideals of this great nation than Raúl Yzaguirre. I urge you to support his nomination," Hinojosa concluded his testimonial. 

••••••    

Congressman Cuellar portrayed as a leading "centrist" lawmaker by National Journal 

By ASHLEY PATTERSON   

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, is one of the leading centrist members of Congress according to an in-depth report released on Wednesday, March 10, by National Journal, a leading source of non-partisan reporting on nationwide politics and policy.   

The report analyzed how all 535 members of the House and Senate voted on key economic, social and foreign-policy issues during 2009.   

Based on 92 key votes in the House, National Journal ranked Cuellar the most centrist member of the Texas congressional delegation.    

“My philosophy is simple: put politics aside, and put common sense and the business of the people first,” said Cuellar. “I vote the values of my district. They expect me to represent what is best for every family—not just the Democratic families or Republican families. I’m an independent voice and my voting record reflects that.”    

National Journal characterized Cuellar as one of “The Centrists”, a group of members at the ideological center of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.   

As number 216 of 435 members in the House, National Journal placed Cuellar at center of the House.   

The annual report, released by the non-partisan weekly periodical, evaluates voting records based on a ratings system used since 1981. A panel of National Journal editors and reporters compiled a list of 92 key congressional votes of 2009 and categorized each bill in one of three ways: economic, social and foreign policy.   

Members were then ranked from one to 435, depending on how they voted among liberals and conservatives on each category of votes. According to National Journal, Cuellar votes at the ideological center of the House.   

“I vote from the center, because I have an independent approach,” said Cuellar. “I’m focused on what is good for the taxpayers in the 28th District and if we had more people governing from the center, we could get a lot more done for the country.”     

As a self-proclaimed fiscal-conservative, Cuellar is a member of the 54 member Blue Dog Coalition and the only member of the group from Texas. The coalition introduced in January, a 15 step plan for fiscal reform in Washington. In 2010, Cuellar helped pass Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) spending rules for Congress, as a way to rein in the nation’s deficits by balancing the nation’s budget.   

He also founded the bipartisan Pro Trade Caucus in Congress as a way to promote bipartisan initiatives to level the nation’s trade deficits and create more jobs.   

For more information on the National Journal report, please visit   http://www.nationaljournal.com/njmagazine/nj_20100227_5816.php    

••••••   

Obesity costly problem for Texas 

By REP. VERÓNICA GONZÁLES 

Earlier in March, I traveled to Austin to attend the House Public Health Committee’s interim hearing on obesity. Our former state demographer, Steve Murdock, used to say that Texans are growing fatter, older and sicker. After listening to the hearing’s testimony, Murdock’s comment is not a joke.  

We heard volumes of information from experts in a variety of fields and they all echoed that obesity is growing in Texas at an alarming rate, especially among young people. We were told that in 2007, 19 percent of Texas adolescents were obese and 11 percent of those obese children have high blood pressure. A growing number have developed Type II diabetes, which was once thought of as an adult disease. Witnesses from the health care field told us stories of young children even having heart attacks. 

Studies show that low-income and minority children are more likely to be obese.   

High calorie, nutritionally-dense food is cheaper and more available. Parents who work have less time to monitor their children’s eating habits. High calorie snacks, sugary soft drinks and more hours in front of the television all contribute to the obesity epidemic. Doctors do not have the time to consult obese patients and their parents on healthy practices. And despite reform efforts, public schools still have room to improve their nutritional offerings.  

The problem is a costly one for Texas.   

Obesity and diabetes translate into higher health care costs for our state, and contribute to poor academic performance in school. In 2008, the cost of obesity in Texas was $12 million. Obese and overweight children on Medicaid may cost Texas an additional $250 million. As it relates to adults, when you add in the cost of job absenteeism, decreased productivity at work and disability, the cost of obesity for Texas businesses is an estimated $3.3 billion. 

Texas has realized this growing problem for a number of years and has taken steps to address the epidemic by forming numerous task forces and developing pilot programs. Consolidating some of these efforts may help use our resources more effectively. Experts emphasized the need to focus on public schools, and encouraging programs that are working, like the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), as well as increasing physical activity, improving food choices served at cafeterias and educating children on healthy eating.   

Some of the other ideas presented included incorporating more standing and physical activity into the classroom and developing programs for doctors to use text messages and social media to convey healthy messages to their patients. 

Still, many who testified told us that we must look at obesity as a family condition that requires a level of personal responsibility to change ingrained habits. Changing our personal attitudes and habits is often the first step toward changing our bodies. 

I am committed to working with our state and local officials to tackle the ongoing problem of obesity and I welcome your feedback and ideas on this and any other issue.   

••••••   

Texas Banking Commission seizes prepaid funeral contract records of González Family Funeral Home, González-Rivera Funeral Home  

On March 5, 2010, Texas Banking Commissioner Charles G. Cooper issued an order to seize all prepaid funeral contract records of González Family Funeral Home and González-Rivera Funeral Home, both of Edinburg.    

The order recites that one or both of these funeral homes violated Chapter 154 of the Texas Finance Code by failing to properly deposit money collected from the sale of several prepaid funeral contracts.   

On Monday, March 8, the department seized the funeral homes’ prepaid funeral records.    

The order was effective immediately, but the funeral homes may ask that the department hold a hearing to determine whether the order should be stayed. If either of the funeral homes asks that a hearing be held, it will take place at the Texas Department of Banking office in Austin.   

The department’s goal is to protect the rights and interests of prepaid funeral contract purchasers and will pursue all legal remedies available.    

Inquiries regarding any prepaid funeral contract should be directed to:   

Texas Department of Banking 
Special Audits Division 
2601 N. Lamar Blvd. 
Austin, Texas 78705-4294    

Toll-free (877) 276-5554, at the menu prompt select “3” for Inquiries/Complaints, at the next prompt select “6” for Funeral Contracts/Cemeteries or directly (512) 475-1285.  

••••••   

LifeLock Inc., major provider of identity theft protection, settles allegations of exaggerated consumer protections, pays $11 million 

   

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, 34 other states and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, March 9, resolved their investigation of a leading provider of identity theft protection services.   

Under the terms of the March 9 agreement, Arizona-based LifeLock Inc. agreed to more accurately describe its ID theft protection services and provide $11 million in restitution to eligible customers. The joint investigation by the states and the FTC revealed that LifeLock unlawfully exaggerated its range of services and ability to prevent ID theft.   

LifeLock claimed its services were guaranteed to protect customers’ personal information and prevent criminals from using that sensitive information to open accounts. Thus, customers were given the impression that identity thieves would be absolutely prevented from stealing LifeLock customers’ identifying information.   

State and federal authorities were also concerned about LifeLock marketing materials that improperly claimed that customers faced a heightened risk of ID theft – despite the fact that LifeLock had no basis for its claims. Under the March 9 agreement, LifeLock is prohibited from making false claims about potential customers’ identity theft risk profile.   

In addition, LifeLock must not misrepresent that it:   

  • Protects against all forms of ID theft; 
  • Eliminates the risk of ID theft; 
  • Constantly monitors activity on each of its customers’ consumer reports; and 
  • Always prompts a call from a potential creditor before a new credit account is opened in the customer’s name.   

Texans have a variety of tools at their disposal to protect themselves against ID theft under state and federal laws. Individuals who suspect they could be possible ID theft victims may place free fraud alerts on their credit reports by contacting one of three major credit reporting agencies.   

In addition, Texans may obtain free copies of their credit reports to review their own credit histories and identify errors.   

Under the restitution program, the states and the FTC will send letters to eligible LifeLock customers notifying them of the agreement with instructions on how they can opt-in to participate in the settlement.   

••••••   

Mission man among two suspects charged with conspiracy to receive or possess machine gun  

By ANGELA DODGE   

Two men arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to receive or possess a machine gun not registered to them will remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Wednesday, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno announced on Monday, March 15.   

Joel Santos, 23, of Mission, and Gustavo Chávez-Delamora, 18, of Michiocan, Mexico, were arrested by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on Thursday, March 11 and charged the following day with conspiring to receive or possess a firearm which was not registered to them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.   

On Friday, March 12, both defendants were ordered temporarily held in federal custody pending preliminary examination and detention hearings that were set for March 17 before United States Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos.    

According to allegations in the criminal complaint, earlier this month, Santos allegedly entered into negotiations with an undercover ATF agent to purchase 10 fully automatic machine guns.    

On March 11, 2010, the undercover agent met with Santos in Mission. The complaint alleges Santos delivered approximately $12,000 in United States currency to the undercover agent in exchange for the 10 machine guns. Santos was taken into custody, according to the complaint, after taking delivering of the machine guns and attempting to leave the meet location. Chávez-Delamora, who was allegedly conducting counter surveillance for Santos during the meet, was taken into custody by ATF agents following Santos’ arrest.  The firearms were allegedly destined for Mexico.    

The Mission Police Department assisted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in this investigation. Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Wells is prosecuting the case.   

••••••   

U.S. Customs agents stop attempt to smuggle into the Valley, then sell infant from Mexico   

By ANGELA DODGE   

An attempt by a mother and her daughter-in-law to smuggle an infant boy from Mexico into the United States for financial gain has been thwarted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the Hidalgo/Reynosa International Bridge, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and CBP Port Director Héctor A. Mancha announced on Tuesday, March 16.   

María Yolanda Mendoza De-Solis, 42, and her daughter-in-law, 21 year old, Maira Ruiz, both of Pharr, were arrested by CBP officers on Saturday, March 13, 2010.    

A criminal complaint, filed on Monday, March 15, 2010, alleges that on that date, De-Solis, carrying a baby, and her daughter-in-law arrived at the Hidalgo Port of Entry as pedestrians and sought entry into the United States.   

De-Solis allegedly represented the child as her male grandchild and presented a City of Edinburg, Texas birth certificate for the child to CBP officers. Because the women appeared to match the description given by an anonymous concerned caller, the woman and child were referred to pedestrian secondary.    

At secondary, CBP officers found the child to appeared younger than the stated age on the birth certificate and that the child had pierced ears.    

Through further investigation, CBP officers determined the child was a female born in Mexico and the women were allegedly to be paid to bring the child into the country illegally. Both women were arrested and have been charged with knowingly bringing the foreign national child into the country for financial gain. Coordination between the U.S. and Mexican authorities resulted in the infant girl being returned to her biological parents the same day.   

“I commend our frontline officers for their great enforcement work and for their attention to detail," said Mancha, who is CBP Port Director for the Hidalgo, Pharr and Anzaldúas bridges. “We are happy the child has been reunited with her parents.”      

Both women made an initial appearance before U. S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby in McAllen on Monday, March 15, and were ordered temporarily held in federal custody without bond pending preliminary examination and detention hearings that was scheduled for Wednesday, March 17, at 3 p.m.   

••••••   

Brownsville man sentenced to lengthy term for possessing 26,000 images of child pornography  

By ANGELA DODGE   

David Kocaya, 54, of Brownsville, has been sentenced to prison for possessing more than 26,000 images of child pornography obtained via the Internet, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.   

An FBI investigation furthered by the forensic expertise of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resulted in the indictment of Kocaya in September 2009. On October 27, 2009, he pleaded guilty – admitting he had used a peer-to-peer file sharing website to download more than 26,000 images of child pornography discovered on an external hard drive at his residence by FBI agents in June 2009.   

The images were found by ICE forensic examiners to depict infants (up to two years of age), toddlers (three-five years of age); prepubescents (six-12 years of age) and adolescents (13 to 18 years of age). Bondage and bestiality were depicted in some of the images of the prepubescent children. Some of the photographs in Kocaya’s possession included a series of photographs of an exploited minor female which the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has identified. These photographs are referred to as the “Vicky” series.    

On March 17, after written victim impact statements from “Vicky” and her family were read into the record by the United States, U. S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced Kocaya to 204 months in federal prison to be followed by a life-term of supervised release and further ordered Kocaya to pay $20,000 in restitution to the victim and her family.   

Kocaya has been in federal custody and will remain in custody to serve his sentence.   

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.   

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit   

http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Megan Paulson.   

••••••   

Illinois man sentenced for posting nude videos of ESPN female reporter on Internet  

A Chicago-area man was sentenced in Los Angeles on Monday, March 15, to 30 months in federal prison for taking nude videos of television personality Erin Andrews and posting the videos on the Internet after being rebuffed when he offered the videos for sale to a celebrity website.   

Michael David Barrett, 49, of Westmont, Illinois, was sentenced by United States District Judge Manuel L. Real, who also ordered the defendant to pay $7,366 in restitution to Andrews.   

During the sentencing hearing, Real noted that, as a result of Barrett’s conduct, Andrews will suffer for the rest of her life.   

Barrett pleaded guilty December 15 to a federal charge of interstate stalking with the intent to harass and to cause substantial emotional distress. Barrett admitted that he stalked ESPN reporter Andrews over an 18-month period.   

Barrett’s conduct included tracking Andrews to at least three different hotel rooms in three states in 2008. Barrett made the videos after removing the peephole device from the door in one of the hotel rooms and using his mobile phone to capture video of Andrews while she was naked.   

In January 2009, TMZ.com was offered the opportunity to purchase the nude videos via e-mail messages, an offer that the celebrity website immediately declined. Barrett subsequently posted 10 of the videos on the Internet, identifying Andrews as the victim.   

During the March 15 sentencing hearing, Andrews told the court of the fear, anxiety and public humiliation that she suffers as a result of having been stalked.   

“I’m being victimized every day…and I did nothing to deserve it,” Andrews said, adding the videos will likely always be on the Internet.   

In court papers filed in support of their request for a prison sentence in this case, prosecutors told the court that Barrett posted on the Internet another 32 videos that depicted another 16 as-yet-unidentified victims.   

The case against Barrett was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office, which received assistance from the FBI’s Chicago Field Office.   

••••••   

Gov. Perry Appoints Clancy and Ramsey to Texas Ethics Commission  

Gov. Rick Perry on Friday, March 12, appointed James Clancy of Portland and Thomas Ramsey of Mt. Vernon to the Texas Ethics Commission for terms to expire November 19, 2013. The commission administers and enforces laws concerning political contributions and expenditures, political advertising, lobbyist activities and the conduct of state officers and employees.   

Clancy is an attorney and partner at Branscomb P.C. He is a member of the American, Texas and Corpus Christi Bar associations, and a graduate of Leadership Corpus Christi. He is also past president of Chula Vista Fine Arts Academy Parent Teacher Association, a former mediator at the Nueces County Dispute Resolution Center, and a past member of the State Bar of Texas District 11 Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee. Clancy served as a captain in the U.S. Army. He received a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.   

Ramsay is a licensed real estate broker and owner of Tom Ramsay Real Estate. He is a member of the Texas Association of Realtors, Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, and Independent Cattle Association. He is also a member and past president of the Mt. Vernon Rotary Club and Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, a former Texas state representative and past board member of the Mt. Vernon Independent School District. Ramsay served in the Texas Air National Guard. He received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University. 

••••••    

Museum of South Texas to hold annual major gala at Pair-O-Dice Ranch in Cameron County  

By JAY GARZA   

For the first time, the Museum of South Texas History’s Heritage Ranch Gala will be held in Cameron County, courtesy of Virgil and Carolyn Swanberg, who will be opening their Pair-O-Dice Ranch for the major event.   

The Heritage Ranch Gala will take place on Saturday, March 27, at the ranch, which lies south of the Arroyo Colorado.   

The Heritage Ranch Gala honors the 2010 Heritage Associates and signifies the culmination of the Annual Fund Campaign. These donors represent the highest level of museum FRIENDShip and their contributions lay a strong financial foundation for the annual operation of the museum.   

The Pair-O-Dice Ranch is located south of the Arroyo Colorado, which is an ancient distributary channel of the Rio Grande River. The Pair-O-Dice Ranch teems with native and exotic wildlife, surrounded by 65,000 acres of federal wildlife refuge land, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts, especially bird watchers.   

Once the site of irrigated cotton fields fifty years ago, today the ranch functions as a private retreat and cattle-raising enterprise.   

The Heritage Ranch Gala Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Patsy de los Santos and Co-Chairman Josie Cappadona, plans for South Texas cuisine superbly prepared by Don Strange of Texas, Inc. and boot-scooting music from Scott Randolph and the White Lightning Band.   

The wildlife oasis combined with the bright Texas stars ensure the evening will not be soon forgotten. 

Invitations to the Heritage Ranch Gala will be mailed out to MOSTHistory FRIENDS in March. For pre-paid reservations for FRIENDS or potential FRIENDS, call 956/383.6911 or visit http://www.mosthistory.org

••••••   

Federal Communications Commission sends national Internet broadband plan to Congress  

By JEN HOWARD   

On Tuesday, March 15, the Federal Communications Commission delivered to Congress a National Broadband Plan setting an ambitious agenda for connecting all corners of the nation while transforming the economy and society with the communications network of the future – robust, affordable Internet.   

According to the FCC, the term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access. The FCC defines broadband service as data transmission speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 200,000 bits per second, in at least one direction: downstream (from the Internet to the user’s computer) or upstream (from the user’s computer to the Internet).   

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent United States government agency. The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable. The FCC’s jurisdiction covers the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. possessions.   

“The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy,” said Chairman Julius Genachowski. “It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness, and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.”   

“In every era, America must confront the challenge of connecting the nation anew,” said Blair Levin, Executive Director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative at the FCC. “Above all else, the plan is a call to action to meet that challenge for our era. If we meet it, we will have networks, devices, and applications that create new solutions to seemingly intractable problems.”   

Closing broadband gaps    

Titled Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan, the plan found that while broadband access and use have increased over the past decade, the nation must do much more to connect all individuals and the economy to broadband’s transformative benefits.   

Nearly 100 million Americans lack broadband at home today, and 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband even if they want it. Only 42 percent of people with disabilities use broadband at home, while as few as five percent of people living on Tribal lands have access. Meanwhile, the cost of digital exclusion for the student unable to access the Internet to complete a homework assignment, or for the unemployed worker who can’t search for a job online, continues to grow.   

Other gaps threaten America’s global competitiveness.   

A looming shortage of wireless spectrum could impede U.S. innovation and leadership in popular wireless mobile broadband services. More useful applications, devices, and content are needed to create value for consumers. And the nation has failed to harness broadband’s power to transform delivery of government services, health care, education, public safety, energy conservation, economic development, and other national priorities.   

America’s 2020 broadband vision   

The FCC’s plan calls for action over the next decade includes the following goals and recommendations:    

  • Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service, building the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America;   
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least one gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries;   
  • Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use;   
  • Move the nation’s adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and make sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school;   
  • Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday’s analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure;   
  • Promote competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry, and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability; and   
  • Enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.   

The FCC plan was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 and produced by an FCC task force that set new precedents for government openness, transparency, and rigor.   

Information for the plan was gathered in 36 public workshops, 9 field hearing, and 31 public notices that produced 75,000 pages of public comments. The debate went online with 131 blogposts that triggered 1,489 comments; 181 ideas on IdeaScale garnering 6,100 votes; 69,500 views on YouTube; and 335,000 Twitter followers. The task force augmented this voluminous record with independent research and data-gathering.   

About half of the FCC plan’s recommendations are addressed to the FCC, while the remainder are for Congress, the Executive Branch, state and local government, working closely with the private and nonprofit sectors. The full plan will be released to the public on March 16.   

The executive summary of the plan is available at:   http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-296858A1.pdf    

More information about the National Broadband Plan can be found at:   http://www.broadband.gov    

••••••   

Community invited to celebrate the arts and reading at fifth annual FESTIBA March 22-27  

By GAIL FAGAN   

A “Reading Revolution”  awaits the Rio Grande Valley community March 22-27 when they attend this year’s FESTIBA (Festival of International Books and Arts) now in it fifth year at The University of Texas-Pan American.   

A celebration of the arts, humanities and the culture of the Valley, the festival has also become a showcase for activities to promote literacy and a love of reading, particularly by children.   

The 2010 FESTIBA schedule was announced at a press conference held on Thursday, March 11 at the Dustin Michael Sekula Library in Edinburg.   

Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said this year’s theme not only commemorates the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain, but the important role literacy has in the economic well being of the Valley and nationwide.    

“Through FESTIBA, we are trying to get the message out that it is very important to read. Reading impacts your life in so many different ways and its proven that the literacy level will even impact the economy of a region, so it is very serious issue,” she said.   

Throughout FESTIBA week, six nationally acclaimed children’s authors will visit local elementary schools to distribute books and curriculum guides as part of the Texas Book Festival’s “Reading Rock Stars” program. Also, a new component called “FESTIBA Hot Spots” will encourage teachers to bring their students to UTPA and engage them in hands-on activities that are geared toward fostering students’ love for reading. Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s oldest and most prominent nonprofit literacy organization, will again distribute free books among a number of Valley schools.   

Carol Hampton Rasco, RIF president and CEO, said RIF has been working with the South Texas Literacy Coalition, established last year by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), to put more books into the hands of South Texas students and to make reading a more common and fun-filled family activity.   

“Anytime we do a book distribution, we do what we call motivational fun activities with it because we at RIF are not about the teaching of reading per say, we’re there to get the children motivated to be excited about reading, to want to learn to read and to keep plugging to learn to read,” Rasco said.   

FESTIBA will also incorporate activities to promote literacy made possible by a Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the Big Read grant, UTPA has partnered with local libraries to focus on the reading and discussion of this year’s Big Read book Sun, Stone and Shadows, a collection of short stories from Mexico.   

Another first for 2010 FESTIBA is Educator Day, which will officially kick off FESTIBA on Monday, March 22. The day will include a Congressional Roundtable on Hispanic literacy in which panelists, including several members of Congress, UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen, and authors and representatives of literacy programs will address issues on literacy to more than a 1,000 educators and librarians. Educator Day guests will also participate in breakout sessions where they will hear from authors, illustrators and RIF representatives.   

On Tuesday, March 23, the community will have an opportunity to sit in on presentations by renowned Mexican authors including Sun, Stone and Shadows’ distinguished editor Jorge Hernández of Mexico City. Other sessions sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will focus on the impact of the Mexican Revolution on Mexican and Latin American art and other issues. In the evening, award-winning and critically acclaimed poet and essayist Luis Alberto Urrea, who has 11 published books, will address the public as part of UTPA’s Distinguished Speakers Series.   

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, March 24-26, the community is invited to attend a number of other informative and lively NEH-funded panel discussions as well as faculty and student presentations examining topics as varied as the literary vampire to how better communication can improve your health.    

Mariachi workshops and competitions will also be held on Friday, March 26.   

“FESTIBA is an event that brings authors, scholars and musicians from all over the United States to South Texas, to our campus and to the community. It’s also an opportunity for us to showcase our own faculty and students, and just establish UTPA as the cultural center of all the Valley,” Guerra said.   

FESTIBA will conclude Saturday, March 27, with the Community Festival scheduled from 4-9 p.m. on the UTPA campus. A festival highlight will be a special appearance by actress Eva Longoria Parker, who plays the role of Gabrielle Solis on ABC’s popular series, Desperate Housewives.   

Longoria Parker grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from Texas A&M- Kingsville with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology. She will address spectators at 7 p.m. on the main stage in the UTPA Fieldhouse Parking Lot F.   

“She (Longoria Parker) is going to bring an element to FESTIBA that we’ve never had. She is an amazing role model for our students, so they can see the sky is the limit,” Guerra said.   

The fun-filled, art-infused day will also include performances by local singers and dancers as well as by the world famous Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán and Mexican-American Latin Grammy-nominated group Alacranes Musical.   

Overseeing the main stage will be Valley native, now TV actress and hostess, Arlene Santana, from La Joya, who recently appeared on Grey’s Anatomy.   

Kids will be delighted to visit the Follett Corporation’s Book Fair, where they will be able to meet some of the country’s most popular storybook characters and enjoy storytelling, poetry readings and art and puppet shows designed for the entire family.   

Visitors will also be able to enter the real world of bats at The Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats, a touring exhibition produced by Evergreen Exhibitions, now on display at the UTPA Visitors Center. The free exhibit, which includes many hands-on, interactive displays, is designed for all ages and brings the mystery surrounding bats out of the dark.   

For more information on FESTIBA or a daily schedule of events, visit  http://www.utpa.edu/festiba or call 956/381-3361.   

••••••   

Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities announces 2009 Barbara Jordan Media Award Winners, including Alex Treviño, formerly with KRGV-TV News  

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities has announced the winners of the 2009 Barbara Jordan Media Awards. Winners in eight categories were chosen on Wednesday, March 3, by a statewide panel of judges that included journalists, professionals in the field of disabilities and people with disabilities.   

Award recipients will be honored at the Barbara Jordan Media Awards Ceremony reception and dinner on Saturday, April 17, at 7 p.m., at the University of North Texas’ (UNT) Gateway Building.   

The event will be hosted by the UNT Mayborn School of Journalism, and is open to the public.   

Cragg Hines, former Washington bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, will serve as the keynote speaker.    

The 2009 Barbara Jordan Media Award winners are:   

TV Feature   

The René  Ayala Story
Alex Treviño, KRGV-TV 
Rio Grande Valley (Alex now lives in D.C.)   

René Ayala is an incredible man. He just keeps going. He has no arms, no legs, and no help – but he has children. Those children are his inspiration for life, his inspiration for overcoming all the negatives. In this story, we see how difficult it is for him to get inside his house, which has considerable storm damage. But, once in, he manages it all.   

This video is not available online.   

Individual Special Contribution    

The Horse Boy (Film)
Rupert Isaacson and Michel Orion Scott 
Elgin, Texas   

The Horse Boy does more than chronicle Rowan and his parents’ journey across the vast, wild landscape of Mongolia. It delves into the strange world of autism itself, the relationship between humans and animals and between different cultures and ways of being, and the nature of healing. But above all, The Horse Boy tells the story of a couple that goes to the end of the earth to find a way into their son’s life.   

To view a movie preview:    http://www.horseboymovie.com/Film.php    

Internet   

Mineola Girl Faces Life with a Smile 
Abby Eden, KETK-TV 
Jacksonville/Tyler 

Running is a passion some may not have expected from Ryanne Carr. This six and a half year-old was born in Kazakhstan with no legs and one arm, but almost immediately, she had an abundance of love. Ryanne’s family got involved with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, where they found out she’s quite the runner. Katrina [her mother] says, "She’s won eleven gold medals. She’s been running all over the country."   

To view the video:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9xX2NWONE    

Organization Special Contribution   

Movin’  Mavs
UT Arlington Media Relations 
UT Arlington University Communications 
The Shorthorn: UT Arlington Student Publications   

[Note: This submission is a collection of various videos and print articles on the wheelchair basketball team] The Movin’ Mavs are preparing for the game against their rivals, The Dallas Mavericks, another wheel chair basketball team in the DFW Metroplex. UTA News got a closer look at how they are training and what the coach is using as a motivational tool to prepare them mentally for the game.   

To view one of the videos:    http://utanews.com/2009/11/02/the-uta-movin-mavs/    

Print Feature   

Modern Miracl
Ann Work, Wichita Falls Times Record News 
Wichita Falls 

A mom knows a miracle when she sees one, especially when it concerns her son. Two months ago, Vera Word penetrated the autistic world of her 15-year-old son, Jonathon, using — of all things — a cell phone. The device’s text messaging capabilities have opened up a new method of communication with her son that is working better than anything she’s tried before.   

To read the article:   http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2009/dec/11/modern-miracle-n-teen-with-autism-mom-via-ann/    

Student   

Senior Triumphs Over Cancer 
Ayana Cameron, Cy-Fair High School Reporter 
Houston 

Senior Brent Adams was only 17 months old when he was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis. With little known about the disease, and even less knowledge of its cure, it was clear that from the day he was born, Brent would be fighting for his life. “The doctors already knew it would be hard for me.” What the doctors couldn’t predict, however, was that Brent Adams would vigorously overcome these obstacles and exceed everyone’s expectations.    

This article is not available online. PDF available upon request.   

TV Documentary   

Reaching Higher: Versie Returns to Work   
David Ondich, City of Fort Worth 
John Vacca, CCTV 
Fort Worth 

Versie Taylor, an employee of the City of Fort Worth, had an aneurysm burst that left her without the ability to walk, talk, read or write. This is a story about her journey back to work and how the City of Fort Worth helped her through the Return to Work Program.   

To view the video:   http://vimeo.com/6925805    

TV Feature, Extended    

Brian’s Song
Matt Barrie/Noah Bullard, KXAS-TV 
Fort Worth TX            

Brian Spann is a freshman clarinet player who didn’t let his diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy stand in the way of his dream of being in the marching band.   

To view this video:   http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/sports/Brian_s_Song_Dallas-Fort_Worth.html    

For more information about the Barbara Jordan Media Awards Ceremony, please contact Jo Virgil, Community Outreach and Information Specialist for the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities at  jo.virgil@governor.state.tx.us or 512/463-5740.   

For ticket purchases and sponsorship information, please contact Jo Ann Ballantine at the University of North Texas at joann.ballantine@unt.edu or 940/565-4778.   

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