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Loli Gómez-Peña, featured right, a member of the Red Coat Ambassadors with the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, welcomed state and local leaders on Friday, June 11, to the grand opening of a state agency field office, whose staff will help dozens of local governments in deep South Texas promptly and properly administer more than $47 million in federal funds to recover from infrastructure damages caused almost two years ago by Hurricane Dolly. The field office, which is being run by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, will provide key guidance as Rio Grande Valley communities invest recently-approved federal grants to pay for roads, power generators, and water and sewer systems damaged by Hurricane Dolly, which hit the Valley with winds of up to 100 miles per hour and caused widespread flooding, dumping 10 to 20 inches of rain in late July 2008. However, for residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Dolly, another state agency – the Texas Department of Housing – is helping handle claims for those losses. Featured, from left: Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; Gilbert Sandoval, representing Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; Charles "Charlie" Stone, TDRA’s executive director; Joel Vanderveer, Red Coat Ambassador; Randy Young, TDRA deputy executive director; Michael Thomas, Red Coat Ambassador; Maricela De León, representing Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Braulio Gonzáles, Red Coat Ambassador; and Loli Gómez-Peña, Red Coat Ambassador. See story later in this posting. 

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce is currently accepting applications for Leadership Edinburg Class XXII. Leadership Edinburg is a growing organization that strives to encourage a better Edinburg through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, education, and quality of life. It is a nine-month program which helps local business and civic leaders become involved in the community. More than 500 graduates have taken the challenge and completed each program of work. Graduates of Leadership Edinburg typically continue to apply what they learned and demonstrate it by showing interest in community involvement, including serving on committees and at times in politics. Class XXII will kick off its day-and-a-half retreat in September. Tuition is $400, with the deadline to submit an application in August. For more information on Leadership Edinburg or to register, individuals may call Letty González at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Members of the Leadership Edinburg steering committee are featured, from left: Imelda Rodríguez, Lee Castro, Flo Prater, Cynthia Bocanegra, Letty González, Edna Peña, Roy Peña and Marty Martin.  

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Arjun Sanga, J.D., on Tuesday, June 15, was named executive director of South Texas Technology Management, a regional technology transfer office that serves four University of Texas institutions (the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT San Antonio (UTSA), UT Brownsville and UT-Pan American). “I am extremely excited about coming to this position,” Sanga said. “The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio has experienced exponential growth in research in the last five years and has recruited faculty stars from around the country. UTSA is on an accelerated path toward Tier One status and is doing a great job of hiring outstanding faculty. UT-Pan American and UT Brownsville are making important contributions to the Valley, and we have an opportunity to partner with them to continue to create companies and to spin off products that will be of benefit to the region." See story later in this posting. 

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A Business Matchmaking Event hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and CANACINTRA Reynosa, in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Texas Small Business Development Center has been rescheduled for Thursday, July 1, at the McAllen Chamber Conference Room, 1200 Ash Avenue. The event is expected to provide members of both communities with opportunities that could result in new business relations and lead to sales increases as well as cost savings. Also, as part of this event, a seminar with presentations from the different collaborators will be held covering areas such as How to Start a Business in McAllenImport & Export Requirements and Immigration for Investors, among others. “This matchmaking effort was originally scheduled for June 18, and it has been rescheduled to accommodate the needs of the different types of businesses interested in participating,” said Luis Cantú, featured left, the Vice President of Inter American Relations for the McAllen chamber. “Similar events were conducted with the State of Veracruz in the past with very positive results and we expect it will be as successful this time with our sister city of Reynosa." For more information on how to participate, please contact Cantú at the Chamber at (956) 682-2871 or by e-mail at lcantu@mcallenchamber.com. Featured with Cantú is Consul Erasmo Martínez, head of the Mexican Consulate in McAllen. 

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With his wife, Janie, looking on – and holding the Bible used in the ceremony – Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, left, on Monday, January 1, 2007, took his oath of office from his mentor and friend, former Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts John Sharp. On Wednesday, June 16, Janie Cuellar Salinas was mourned by hundreds of family members and friends during a funeral mass at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco following her unexpected passing in Ft. Worth on Saturday, June 12. Following her funeral Mass, Sharp credited her as being an equal partner with her husband in all aspects of their marriage. "Everybody who met Janie for five minutes knew her well. What you saw was what you got. She was enthusiastic, a wonderful person, a natural politician herself," Sharp remembered. "What a shock. Who would have thought that someone would have been taken at that age?" However, Sharp shared his faith that Janie Salinas is indeed in a better place. "She’s in good shape. We shouldn’t worry about her. We think we have a real good idea where she is at," Sharp said. "But I’m going to miss her, a lot of people are going to miss her, and J.D.’s going to miss her, especially." See lead story in this posting. 

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Janie Cuellar Salinas, wife of former county judge, mourned by hundreds at funeral mass in Weslaco

By DAVID A. DÍAZ  

Janie Cuellar Salinas, 43, the wife of former Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, on Wednesday, June 16, was mourned by hundreds of family members and friends during a funeral mass at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco. 

The Weslaco native, portrayed in her obituary as "a devoted wife, sister and mother and very active in church activities at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg and most recently at Holy Family Catholic Church in Fort Worth," passed away on Saturday, June 12, after collapsing during a workout at the Salinas home in North Texas. 

The couple and their five children had moved from the Valley to Ft. Worth late last year, when J.D. Salinas, III, resigned as county judge after being appointed Regional Administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration effective November 9, 2009. 

Her unexpected passing, along with the couple’s deep roots in the Valley and shared legacy of community and public service, drew a standing-room, overflow gathering to Joan of Arc Catholic Church for the mid-morning Christian service. 

One of her brothers is Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr. of Weslaco, and one of her sisters, Annette C. Muñiz, is Chief Deputy for the Hidalgo County Clerk’s Office.

Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez reflected on the depth of the personal loss to many in county government. 

“As wife to the former Hidalgo County Judge and sister to a Hidalgo County Commissioner, Janie was part of our Hidalgo County family and hearing of this tragic news was devastating,” the county judge said, extending his sympathies and condolences to the many who were grieving. “Janie will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuellar and Salinas families in these difficult times.” 

In addition to Ramírez, dozens of other area political leaders were in attendance for the Mass to pay their respects, including: Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco; longtime and former Texas Comptroller John Sharp; Hidalgo County District Attorney René Guerra; Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño; Hidalgo County 398th District Court Judge Aída Salinas Flores; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; Michael G. Cano and Juan Maldonado, who are members of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority Board of Directors; Mario Jorge, P.E., district engineer for the Pharr District of the Texas Department of Transportation; and Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr. 

The previous evening, mourners had attended a rosary at McCaleb Funeral Home Chapel in Weslaco. 

"A grace that can supercede all our pain" 

Rev. Craig G. Carolan, pastor of San Cristóbal Magallanes Parish in Mission and a close friend of the Salinas and Cuellar families, sought to comfort the bereaved during the Mass, acknowledging the sorrow of her death. 

"Janie was young, healthy, strong and in the prime of her life, and she has left behind a husband and a young family. It seems so unfair. Even Christ himself, during his most excruciating moment on the Cross, said, ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’ So today, words are woefully inadequate to console us," Carolan said. "However, our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will gradually, over time, transform our pain into a profound gratitude for the wonderful memory we have of Janie. Our gratefullness for having known Janie will become a grace that can supercede all our pain." 

But he invoked the Holy Scripture and its sacred promises of eternal life. 

"In the Gospel, Christ has said, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in me. I  am going to prepare a place for you’ (in Heaven)," Carolan assured the somber audience.

He honored Janie Salinas "as a hard-working, dedicated mother. I saw in Janie that family meant everything to her. She was very involved in the formation of her children. She wanted her children to have the best Catholic upbringing." 

A team effort at serving others 

Carolan also praised Janie and J.D. Salinas as a benevolent force who successfully aspired to represent the best ideals of their faith. 

"I know she saw marriage as a team effort, and with J.D., it was a team effort at serving others," he recalled. "J.D. and Janie shared the value of the dignity of human life. Their efforts were always to alleviate suffering where they could see it, and worked to better the lives of people as best they could. 

Following the Mass, Sharp – the longtime state leader who helped J.D. Salinas into a political success – credited Janie Salinas as being an equal partner with her husband in all aspects of their marriage. 

"Everybody who met Janie for five minutes knew her well. What you saw was what you got. She was enthusiastic, a wonderful person, a natural politician herself," Sharp remembered. "What a shock. Who would have thought that someone would have been taken at that age?" 

However, Sharp shared his faith that Janie Salinas is indeed in a better place.  

"She’s in good shape. We shouldn’t worry about her. We think we have a real good idea where she is at," Sharp said. "But I’m going to miss her, a lot of people are going to miss her, and J.D.’s going to miss her, especially."  

Biographical sketch 

Other highlights of Janie Salinas’ life were included in her obituary, which follows: 

Beloved wife, mother and sister, Janie Cuellar Salinas passed away on Saturday, June 12, 2010 at the age of 43. 

She is survived by her husband, former Hidalgo Judge, J.D. Salinas, III; children: Nicholas, 15; Samantha, 8; Victoria, 10; Gianna, 8; and Gabriella, 8. She is also survived by her brothers: Erasmo Cuellar (Sulema), A.C. Cuellar, Jr., (Yolanda), Tommy Cuellar, and her sisters: Sylvia Saldaña (Miguel), Annette Muñiz (Albert), Luana Nieto (Víctor), Angie López (Tony). Other siblings include brothers: Carlos Cuellar (Mónica), Arturo A. Cuellar, and sister, Aiva Cuellar and numerous nephews and nieces. 

Janie was preceded by her parents A.C. Cuellar, Sr. and Juanita Lozano Cuellar. 

Born and raised in Weslaco, Janie graduated from Weslaco High School in 1985 and received her bachelor’s degree from North Texas State University in 1989. A hardworking and dedicated employee in various businesses, she excelled in everything she attempted. Along with her work, she was very involved in politics, campaigning successfully for family members, including her husband, J.D. Salinas, III. 

Janie was a devoted wife, sister and mother and very active in church activities at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg and most recently at Holy Family Catholic Church in Fort Worth. She was instrumental in getting her brothers, sister and friends in the ACTS Retreat Program. 

Her hobbies included cooking and scrapbooking, but most of all she enjoyed being a mom and was involved with her children in all their school, sports and dance activities. She participated in several 10k runs for various organizations, as well as, fundraising for Relay for Life and her children’s schools. 

Janie made friends easily as she was always bright and cheerful and her love of life was infectious.  

In her recent move to Fort Worth, she had already established friendships and a sense of community in her neighborhood. Her attitude was “look for the positive in everything,” and she encouraged others to do the same. 

Janie was well-known and well-loved by many. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Pallbearers were Erasmo Cuellar, Jr., Gilbert Cuellar, Efraín Muñiz, Polo Cuellar, Justin Cuellar, and Andy Padilla, with Aaron López as an honorary pallbearer. 

A rosary was held Tuesday, June 15, at 7 p.m. at McCaleb Funeral Home Chapel in Weslaco. The funeral mass service was held on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 10 a.m. at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco. Interment followed at Highland Memorial Park in Weslaco. 

Those who wish may make a memorial contribution for a scholarship in Janie’s name may send them to Weslaco Pride Foundation, 1700 East 28th Street, Weslaco, Texas 78596. 

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of McCaleb Funeral Home, 900 West Fourth Street, Weslaco.  

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State opens Valley office to help implement $47 million in hurricane recovery projects

By DAVID A. DÍAZ 

State and local officials on Friday, June 11, opened a state agency field office in Weslaco whose staff will help dozens of local governments in deep South Texas promptly and properly administer more than $47 million in federal funds to recover from infrastructure damages caused almost two years ago by Hurricane Dolly, said Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco. 

The field office, which is being run by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, will provide key guidance as Rio Grande Valley communities invest recently-approved federal grants to pay for roads, power generators, and water and sewer systems damaged by Hurricane Dolly, which hit the Valley with winds of up to 100 miles per hour and caused widespread flooding, dumping 10 to 20 inches of rain in late July 2008. 

However, for residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Dolly, another state agency –  the Texas Department of Housing – is helping handle claims for those losses. 

Martínez and Charles "Charlie" Stone, TDRA’s executive director, along with Weslaco Chamber of Commerce representatives, welcomed the gathering, which included area engineers, local government employees, state and congressional staff members, elected officials, and local residents to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Weslaco office, located at 609 S. International Boulevard, Suite B. 

Local governments are also expecting another major round of hurricane recover funds in the coming months – about an additional $63 million – which TDRA officials predict will be used to help develop a major storm drainage system to benefit the entire region. 

When all is said and done, deep South Texas will receive more than $240 million in hurricane recovery funds from the federal government for non-housing and housing damage claims. 

Martínez said that flow of federal cash for the infrastructure projects will have a positive effect for the region on several levels. 

"The immediate impact will be that there will be many jobs that will be created because the construction companies will be hiring, their engineering firms are being put to work, the state is hiring staff down here, and there will be a lot of indirect purchases that will be made such as piping and pumps, and a lot of those materials will be purchased in the Valley," said Martínez. "That money will, as it is spent down here, multiply itself as it goes out into the local communities." 

TDRA has 10 regular field offices, including one in Nacadoces and Kountz which also do recovery support. But only the unites in Weslaco and La Marque are dedicated solely to disaster recovery. 

"By far, this is the absolutely the largest crowd we have ever had for an open house," said Stone. 

Avoiding federal pitfalls 

TDRA is a state agency, created in 2001 as the Office of Rural Community Affairs by the 77th Legislature, to ensure a continuing focus on rural issues, monitor governmental actions affecting rural Texas, research problems and recommend solutions, and coordinate rural programs among state agencies – including disaster recovery. 

When Hurricane Dolly struck, Gov. Rick Perry authorized TDRA to become the lead state agency in helping local governments maneuver through the federal bureaucracy to secure badly-needed money to help cover damages to local infrastructure. 

In that capacity, the Weslaco field office was set up so local governments can avoid potential pitfalls as they begin to use the federal revenue. 

"We are down here in the Valley to make sure these funds are expended correctly,"  said Stone. "We do not want to give a grant to any community or any city out here, and have to come back later and say, ‘We didn’t do it right’, or ‘You didn’t do it right, and we are going to ask you for the money back.’ That is the last thing we want to do." 

By working with local governments, "when we get to the end of this whole process, it will be something of which we will be proud," Stone added. "When the HUD auditors come down – and there are so many eyes on this – we will be proud of what we have done." 

Martínez noted that Congress had appropriated about $6.1 billion to help 13 states, including Texas, and Puerto Rico to help local governments and individuals recover from damages they suffered from hurricanes and major storms which hit the nation in 2008.  

"Texas received $3 billion, almost 50 percent of the entire funding allocated by Congress for the 2008 storms," Martínez reported. "Fifty-five percent of the $3 billion will be for housing recovery – which will be administered by the Texas Department of Housing – from Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Dolly, while 45 percent will be for the infrastructure improvements for our local governments which will be coordinated out of this Weslaco field office by the Texas Department of Rural Affairs." 

Dolly caused damage to city power sources 

Stone said many local governments will be using federal funds for generators needed to power crucial city and county services when a storm knocks out electricity.  

"The generators to run water and sewer plants, for example: what happens when a sewer plant gets underwater, and the electricity gets shut off? You don’t just shut those plants off  and start them right back up again. The most important thing is to keep them operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Stone illustrated. "When the grid power goes off from the electric company, if they (water and sewer plants) have a back-up standby generator, (plant employees) can crank them up, continue to run the motors and equipment, and keep the water and sewer plants operating." 

Without power to run pumps, if a water tower goes dry, "then everybody’s water goes off, and we have health problems," Martínez added.  

"We also have some road repairs, and there are some water and wastewater plants that were inundated during Hurricane Dolly which need to be repaired, refurbished, and brought back," Stone said. "Those are the types of project that the funds, going through our office here in Weslaco, will take care of." 

Although HUD issued many waivers to speed up the distribution of these grants, it still takes time to get the recovery work underway, Stone explained. 

"We’re not trying to cast any dispersions on our federal agencies, but when you deal with federal funds, there are a lot of strings attached," he said. "For these funds, you cannot get by without your environmental reviews, you have to do your engineering, you have to hire the construction companies, you have to go out for bids, you have to honor Davis Bacon (federal minimum wage standards), you have to jump through all those things. These are public moneys. We have to make sure every dollar is expended appropriately." 

Timeline for infrastructure projects 

Stone laid out the timeline he believes it will take for the local governments to wrap up their work. 

"It usually takes about six to eight months before you really get down to the point where you can start kicking dirt," he said. "Our projects are designed to be 24 months in length, from the time we grant the award to the time the local governments do their environmental and engineering work. We expect the project to be wrapped up by 24 months after that." 

He anticipated that the local governments will first "select a grant administrator, select an engineering firm, then they will start the engineering process, where they design the project itself. Then they have to go through the environmental review of that project, then they have to put a bid out to hire a contractor for the public works project.  

"We are right at the beginning phases of the construction of these things," Stone concluded. "They are having to work through the environmental and engineering phases of their projects." 

Regional storm drainage project on the horizon  

While the first phase of the infrastructure recovery projects begin in earnest, Stone said Valley leaders – through the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council – are working on a major plan, which could tap into $63 million in additional federal funds – to help improve storm drainage systems in deep South Texas. 

The LRGVDC is a voluntary association of local governments in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties focused on promoting coordinated regional development.

Stone believes more details on that drainage plan should begin taking form in a several months.  

"The big drainage project, we understand, will actually come in round two, when the second, larger pot of federal money comes down," he said. "Right now, there are some smaller drainage projects, but not the big one I have mentioned. I think they are going to use most of the money from the second round of funding to do the major drainage project, because that is something that has been really looked at by local officials for many years." 

Although Stone said he hasn’t seen the detailed plans, "it will probably involve grating, elevation, levees, enlarging flumes, any way to get the water out of the areas where homes and businesses are located, and channel it down to either the Rio Grande River or out into the Gulf of Mexico." 

He envisioned that South Texas governmental leaders "are going to join together on this project, so it is going to be a massive public works project. 

But we are going to have to leave it up to the engineers to design this so when we do get another major storm down here, it will work, and we won’t have the flooding in the houses, and the streets won’t be underwater, and so on," Stone said. 

Funding allocations for local governments 

As of May 11, the following communities had been authorized to receive amounts of federal funds for non-housing programs: 

  • Alamo: $500,000 awarded on September 9, 2009;
  • Alton: $500,000 (September 30, 2009);
  • Brownsville: $3,815,743 (August 21, 2009);
  • Cameron County: $10,831,683 (November 24, 2009);
  • Combes: $88,362 (October 30, 2009);
  • Donna: $500,000 (December 23, 2009);
  • Edcouch: $450,524 (February 12, 2010);
  • Edinburg: $2,224,325 (March 19, 2010);
  • Elsa: $500,000 (October 30, 2009);
  • Escobares: $83,500 (January 6, 2010);
  • Harlingen: $2,190,385 (August 31, 2009);
  • Hidalgo: $500,000 (September 21, 2009);
  • Hidalgo County: $5,000,000 (August 27, 2009);
  • Indian Lake: $17,369 (November 24, 2009);
  • La Feria: $243,611 (October 13, 2009);
  • La Grulla: $98,952 (February 26, 2010);
  • La Villa: $64,052 (May 7, 2010);
  • Laguna Vista: $121,521 (April 19, 2010);
  • Los Fresnos: $176,408 (October 22, 2009);
  • Los Indios: $42,128 (October 22, 2009);
  • Lyford: $511,086 (October 30, 2009);
  • McAllen: $4,027,591 (August 27, 2009);
  • Mercedes: $500,000 (October 22, 2009);
  • Mission: $1,886,739 (September 30, 2009);
  • Palmhurst: $500,000 (October 22, 2009);
  • Palmview: $408,927 (December 23, 2009);
  • Peñitas: $150,132 (November 6, 2009);
  • Pharr: $2,061,114 (December 17, 2009);
  • Port Isabel: $166,271 (February 26, 2010);
  • Primera: $127,458 (November 13, 2010);
  • Raymondville: $2,003,224 (February 26, 2010);
  • Rio Grande City: $137,728 (January 22, 2010);
  • Rio Hondo: $70,772 (January 29, 2010);
  • Roma: $124,867 (October 30, 2009);
  • San Benito: $819,164 (October 22, 2009);
  • San Juan: $600,000 (March 12, 2010);
  • San Perlita: $300,358 (November 13, 2009);
  • Santa Rosa: $98,594 (October 22, 2009);
  • South Padre Island: $1,095,436 (September 30, 2009);
  • Starr County: $416,322 (October 30, 2009);
  • Sullivan City: $500,000 (October 22, 2009);
  • Weslaco: $600,000 (September 30, 2009); and
  • Willacy County: $2,144,044 (March 29, 2010). 

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Former UTPA professor sentenced for receiving thousands of images of child pornography via the Internet

By ANGELA DODGE 

Brian S. Butler, a former University of Texas-Pan American Professor, has been sentenced to prison for receiving child pornography, United States Attorney José Ángel Moreno announced on Thursday, June 10. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa in McAllen sentenced Brian S. Butler, 51, of McAllen on Wednesday, June 9 to 70 months in federal prison without parole to be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release. Butler, who has been in federal custody since his February 28, 2007, arrest, will remain in federal custody to serve his sentence. Following his release from prison, the court has ordered Butler to register as sex offender as required by state and federal law. 

Butler was convicted of receiving child pornography on May 4, 2007, after admitting he accessed a child pornography website and downloaded images and videos of child pornography onto his home computer. A forensic examination of Butler’s home computers and external storage media, which were seized by FBI agents in February 2007, found more than 6,000 still images and more than 200 video clips of child pornography. The still images and video clips depicted adults engaged in various sexual acts with children ranging in age from seven to 10 years old with several images involving children less than five years of age. 

In deciding upon the applicable guideline range and ultimately the sentence he handed down, Hinojosa considered the size and nature of Butler’s collection of child pornography, which included images of children under the age of 12 and images and videos that portrayed sadistic and masochistic conduct. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children identified numerous known child victims within Butler’s child pornography collection.  

Two of the identified victims in the collection had been abused by relatives, who, in turn, placed images and videos of the sexual abuse of these children on the Internet. Butler’s collection included images of that sexual abuse. Each of the two victims, through their legal respective representatives, provided the court with letters and statements establishing the harm caused by those who download and received child pornography. These letters and statements were instrumental in convincing the court restitution was appropriately ordered in this case. Butler was to pay restitution in the amount of $1,750 to the two child victims depicted in his child pornography collections. 

This case, investigated by the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was brought as a part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims.  

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58 members of Mexican drug organization, including Sullivan City police chief, indicted for smuggling drugs

By ANGELA DODGE 

U.S. Attorney José  Ángel Moreno on Thursday, June 10, announced the indictment of 58 alleged members of Mexican drug organizations responsible for smuggling drugs into the United States and transporting and delivering the contraband to various points within Texas, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina, transporting bulk cash proceeds south to Mexico and laundering the proceeds through the acquisition of Texas real estate.  

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. 

Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.  

The indictments are the result of long term, multi-agency Southern District of Texas (SDTX) Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigations conducted as part of Project Deliverance, a national initiative targeting the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations with emphasis along the Southwest border. 

Moreno made the announcement of the indictments during a press conference in Houston. At that news anouncement, he was joined by other law enforcement officials who were representing the numerous federal, state and local agencies involved in the investigations throughout the district leading to the June 10 charges.  

Moreno lauded their efforts which resulted in the return of seven indictments charging a total of 58 persons and culminating in the arrest of 32 of those charged including the Sullivan City Police Chief  Hernán Guerra, Jr.,  accused of conspiring with members of a Mexican cell smuggling marijuana into the United States from Mexico, and Marín Herrera, president of McAllen-based Herrera Property & Investments and New Millennium Developers, accused of laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds through the acquisition of more than 70 residential lots in Hidalgo County. 

During the course of these OCDETF investigations, almost 600 kilograms of cocaine and 31,000 pounds of marijuana were seized along with almost $5 million in alleged drug proceeds and several real properties. During yesterday’s enforcement action, an additional $1 million plus in alleged drug proceeds, four vehicles and five bank accounts were seized. 

“Every day, federal, state and local law enforcement officers, at our borders and beyond, do battle against the illegal drug trade,” said Moreno. “Project Deliverance is the latest engagement in our ongoing struggle to confront and defeat the Mexican cartels. These arrests, seizures and prospective forfeitures further our goal to dismantle and disrupt their operations and hold them accountable.”    

“This operation underscores DEA’s resolve to apply relentless pressure on Mexican Drug Cartels and dismantle their networks by selective and intentional targeting of their ever changing vulnerabilities,” said Yankovich. “Through indictments and arrests of Cartels leadership, seizure of drugs, weapons, money and assets, DEA will continue to diminish their power and ability to do their illicit business.” 

“The FBI has and will continue to participate with its law enforcement partners in addressing the significant crime problem that drug trafficking continues to pose for the United States. 

We can never lose sight of how this continued threat weakens the well being of our nation and  undermines our national security,” said FBI San Antonio Special Agent in Charge Ralph G. Díaz.  

Other law enforcement officials involved in Project Deliverance included Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), Acting Special Agent in Charge Mike Feinberg of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Houston office, L. C. Wilson, regional commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety, Major Bob Doguim of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Michael Dirden, Assistant Chief of Police – Criminal Investigations Command for the Houston Police Department. 

“The arrest and search warrants executed over the past two days are yet other examples of the US government’s commitment to identify, dismantle and disrupt the Mexican drug and money laundering cartels and gangs. We at the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division remain steadfast in our commitment along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to financially disrupt criminal organizations that are determined to undermines our society,” said Clarke. 

During the course of the SDTX investigations, drugs were seized from flotillas of flat bottomed boats used to across the Rio Grande River in the Sullivan City area, from bogus hay bales and school buses, cloned business vehicles and dummy dump trucks, and from tractor trailers where the drugs were hidden within legitimate loads. The illicit proceeds of the sale of drugs were found in after-market hidden compartments built into vehicles, in shopping bags and sleeper compartments of tractor trailers.  

Several of the indictments include forfeiture notices including a notice to forfeit the interest of charged defendants in the more than 70 lots in residential neighborhoods in Hidalgo County and millions in alleged drug proceeds. 

All defendants arrested were expected to make their initial appearances before a U. S. Magistrate Judge in either Houston, Corpus Christi, Texas, or McAllen. 

Enforcement efforts to locate those as yet not in custody continue

  

The OCDETF investigations leading to these criminal charges were conducted jointly by the DEA, the FBI San Antonio field office, the San Antonio and Houston offices of ICE, IRS-CI, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Houston and Pasadena Police Departments with invaluable assistance and support during the course of these investigations provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U. S. Border Patrol, United States Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection, the Fort Bend Narcotics Task Force, the police departments of Pharr, Mission and Palmview, Texas, the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and law enforcement authorities in Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Arkansas and North Carolina. 

•••••• 

Elder Abuse Awareness Task Force created by Congressman Hinojosa 

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, June 15, announced that he will create an Elder Abuse Awareness Task Force that will include representatives from federal, state and local agencies and groups which will focus on the problems encountered by senior residents and ways to protect them.  

“Senior residents are being exploited and mistreated all over the world,” said Hinojosa. “Here in America we are told that billions of dollars each year are lost to elder financial exploitation. We have heard, too often, of elder residents suffering in silence and in fear because they have been physically abused, scammed or mistreated. They need our help and we want them to know we are here to provide everything we can to protect them”.  

The purpose of the Task Force is to combine many groups and agencies in order to make a comprehensive entity which will address only issues pertaining to elder abuse. Many times Seniors who have been scammed and have lost most or all of their money to unscrupulous persons feel they have no way of fighting back. The Texas Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement representatives will address what type of enforcement is available to help seniors.  

“Seniors are often the victims of scam artists, and suffer physical and emotional abuse and neglect,” said Hinojosa. “We want this issue to be on the front burner when it comes to law enforcement and community awareness. Our state and local law enforcement agencies are committed to helping Elder residents.”  

During the summer, scams on the elderly are usually on the rise. Medicare has just begun sending out checks to seniors who are beneficiaries of $250 for the “donut hole” coverage gap on their prescription medication. Under the recently enacted health reform, seniors who fall in the “donut hole” will receive this one-time tax-free check. Seniors are asked to be careful not to give out any personal information if someone calls them about their Medicare information. No representative from Medicare will inquire about information pertaining to this check. Scammers have already been reported as trying to trick senior residents out of their Medicare checks.   

“These predators prey on our elderly residents day and night,” said Hinojosa. “My office is already sending out public service announcements to local media outlets to make senior residents aware of this latest scam. We are hoping to continue to raise awareness of this very important issue. Remember, a victim of elder abuse could be a member of your family. Let’s make sure our loved ones are protected.”  

•••••• 

$30 billion small business lending plan approved by U.S. House

By ASHLEY PATTERSON 

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, June 17, supported the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act to establish a new community bank fund worth $30 billion to increase lending to small businesses looking to hire and expand their operations. 

“By providing this funding we can get credit flowing again to small businesses,” said Cuellar. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and this will extend to them vital capital through our economic recovery.” 

The $30 billion fund will help banks leverage up to $300 billion in new loans for the nation’s small businesses. The initiative will provide much-needed liquidity in the face of tight credit markets, and will support new and existing state lending programs, in addition to funding a new program in the Small Business Administration (SBA) to finance early stage small businesses. 

Included in the bill is legislation authored by Cuellar to ensure high-unemployment areas are taken into consideration when the new funds are available. Specifically, it designates the Treasury Secretary to consider how regions with unemployment figures exceeding the national average could benefit from the new lending that aims to support small businesses and create new jobs. 

“As a former small business owner, I understand the need for credit to keep your doors open and support your employees’ jobs,” said Cuellar. “This funding will have a positive impact on our nation’s smaller employers and sustain and create jobs that support America’s families.” 

The small business legislation has widespread support from the National Small Business Association, Small Business Majority, and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), representing nearly 8,000 community banks. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, the bill would become law. According to the White House, the President supports the legislation. 

••••• 

Arjun Sanga to lead regional technical transfer office in Edinburg, Brownsville, San Antonio

 

By WILL SANSOM 

Arjun Sanga, J.D., on Tuesday, June 15, was named executive director of South Texas Technology Management, a regional technology transfer office that serves four University of Texas institutions (the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT San Antonio (UTSA), UT Brownsville and UT-Pan American). 

Sanga also was appointed assistant vice president for technology transfer, effective August 2, said Brian Herman, Ph.D., vice president for research at the UT Health Science Center, and Robert Gracy, Ph.D., vice president for research at UTSA.  

Sanga will take over the day-to-day operations of South Texas Technology Management (STTM) from John Cole, Ph.D., who served as interim director while a national search was conducted. Cole will return to his role as special assistant to the vice president for research at the Health Science Center. 

“I am extremely excited about coming to this position,” Sanga said. “The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio has experienced exponential growth in research in the last five years and has recruited faculty stars from around the country. UTSA is on an accelerated path toward Tier One status and is doing a great job of hiring outstanding faculty. UT-Pan American and UT Brownsville are making important contributions to the Valley, and we have an opportunity to partner with them to continue to create companies and to spin off products that will be of benefit to the region. 

“We have outstanding faculty and researchers coming to us from all these institutions who are making great discoveries with the potential to save lives,” he continued. “These discoveries are the raw materials which, through technology transfer, can be turned into real-world benefit to the citizens of Texas.” 

Sanga is associate vice chancellor for research and technology transfer at The University of Texas System. In this capacity he provides leadership, coordination and facilitation of major technology transfer initiatives and policy, including development and implementation of strategies to expand and enhance technology transfer and research funding to UT System institutions. 

Before coming to the UT System, Sanga served as corporate counsel for the University of Kansas Center for Research, a nonprofit corporation charged with managing research administration for the Lawrence campus of the University of Kansas. In that role he provided advice for the full range of university research and technology transfer issues by working with researchers, faculty, administrators and external stakeholders on a wide variety of business, legal and policy matters. 

Sanga is an active participant in several important local and national organizations. He is an executive committee member of the Commission on Competitiveness, Innovation and Economic Prosperity of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. He is also an assistant vice president for metrics and surveys of the Association of University Technology Managers and is an editor of the association’s annual licensing survey. Within Texas, he is an advisory board member of the Austin Technology Council. 

Sanga received his Juris Doctor of law from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and his Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from the University of Washington, with an emphasis in chemistry and computer science. He is a registered patent attorney and a member of the Texas, Kansas and Missouri bars. 

•••••• 

House passes bill by Congressmen Cuellar to make federal agencies and their performances more accountable and accessible on Internet

By ASHLEY PATTERSON 

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, June 16, unanimously passed a landmark government accountability bill authored by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, who championed similar legislation in Texas.  

The landmark legislation requires unparalleled public reporting from federal agencies four times a year and would make these performance reports available to the public and to Congress. The bipartisan legislation aims to reduce government waste by shining light on how government agencies perform.  

“This unprecedented legislation will save taxpayer dollars by shining light on how federal agencies perform,” said Cuellar. “With this bill, Congress can make more informed decisions as we fund federal agencies and their programs. Better information yields better results, and these reports will help us invest in what works and fix what doesn’t.” 

H.R. 2142, the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act of 2010, authored by Cuellar, is results-oriented legislation to reduce government waste. The bill requires federal agencies to set high-value goals that benefit the American people and make public quarterly assessments on how they’ve met those goals. The legislation is built on providing cost-savings for the taxpayer through more effective, efficient government spending. 

The bipartisan legislation is a component of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition’s Blue Dog Blueprint for Fiscal Reform. H.R. 2142 is also supported by the Taxpayers for Common Sense, Center for American Progress Action Fund and Robert Shea, Associate OMB Director under President George W. Bush, in addition to Congressman Todd Platts, R-PA, who has worked on similar legislation in Congress over the past decade. 

Nationally, 25 states, including Texas, have incorporated some form of performance-based budgeting to rein-in state spending and reduce government waste, fraud and abuse. Similar, but less stringent, policies have been instituted at the federal level since the 1990s. Cuellar’s legislation goes beyond those efforts by requiring more aggressive and frequent reporting, in addition to a rigorous government oversight. 

“This will give Congress and the public a new tool to keep tabs on what our federal agencies are doing and how effectively they are spending taxpayer dollars,” said Cuellar. “This is a commonsense concept that will benefit every taxpayer.” 

H.R. 2142, the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act of 2010, does the following: 

   • Requires federal agencies to set clear performance goals and establish a strategy for achieving

those standards; 

• Requires federal agencies to report on a quarterly basis to the public and to Congress how

effectively they are working to meet those goals, including posting reports online; 

   • Holds federal agency heads accountable by instituting stringent new reporting standards aimed

towards a more effective, performance-based government; and 

• Delivers to Congress and the American people comprehensive information, that is unavailable

now, so Congress can make more informed budgeting decisions in the future. 

The June 16 House passage of Cuellar’s legislation follows a recent announcement by the White House that directs non-security federal agencies to trim at least five percent from their budgets by identifying their worst-performing programs.  

The President’s request comes as Congress and the administration seek new ways to reduce the nation’s deficit through more efficient spending. 

“My bill will help reduce the deficit by rooting out government waste,” said Cuellar. “This increases transparency, ensures effectiveness and helps assure the American people that their government is working for them.”  

A fact sheet with additional details on Cuellar’s legislation is available online at: 

http://www.cuellar.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Cuellar_Better_Budget_Bill_Fact_Sheet.pdf 

•••••• 

Attorney General Abbott challenges EPA ruling

against state law the governs release of air pollution by Texas factories and other facilities 

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday, June 14, filed a legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to disapprove the state’s qualified facilities program.  

The state’s petition for reconsideration was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans. 

In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed a law that was intended to streamline a time-consuming regulatory process by allowing certain qualifying facilities to implement physical and operational changes to their sites without having to undergo additional regulatory processes – provided the facilities’ changes neither increase emissions nor result in the release of new contaminants.  

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) complied with the 1995 law by submitting revised qualified facilities rules to the EPA in 1996. Although the TCEQ has been regulating qualified facilities without interference from the federal government since the first term of the Clinton administration, the EPA rejected the rules and disapproved the Texas program on March 31, 2010. 

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA was required to act on these rules within one year. Yet the federal government waited more than a decade – three presidential administrations – to take action on and ultimately reject the TCEQ’s qualified facilities rules. Despite the fact that more than a dozen years passed since the rules were first submitted, the TCEQ attempted to work with the Obama administration and resolve the new EPA administrator’s objections. On March 30, 2010, the commission promulgated draft rules that amended the qualified facilities program in an effort to resolve the federal agency’s concerns. However, just one day after the state’s new proposed rules were published, the EPA summarily disapproved the Texas program. 

By rejecting Texas’  qualified facilities program, the EPA has unilaterally declared that program is not in compliance with federal law. The EPA’s decision not only imposes significant uncertainty on entities that employ thousands of Texans, but it threatens the livelihood of their employees – who depend upon those facilities for their jobs. According to the Texas Governor’s Office, recent decisions by the EPA to extend federal control over the state threaten tens of thousands of Texas jobs. 

The EPA’s decision also threatens a regulatory program that has successfully reduced harmful emissions in the state of Texas. Emissions data cited by the governor’s office indicates that the Texas clean air program achieved a 22 percent reduction in ozone and a 46 percent reduction in NOx, which outpaces the eight percent and 27 percent reductions that were recorded nationally. 

The EPA opted to disapprove the state’s qualified facilities program and impose the federal government’s judgment on the state despite Section 101 of the Clean Air Act, which provides that air pollution prevention “is the primary responsibility of the States and local governments.” Section 110 of the Act provides a similar admonishment to respect the states’ authority, stipulating that “[e]ach State shall have the primary responsibility for assuring air quality within the entire geographic area comprising such State.” The Texas Attorney General’s Office filed the June 14 legal action against the EPA on behalf of TCEQ in an effort to defend the state’s legal rights and challenge improper overreach by the federal government. 

•••••• 

McAllen recognized as 11th best economic performer among America’s top 100 cities 

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO 

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa,D-Mercedes, on Thursday, June 17, announced that McAllen ranked 11th in economic performance of America’s top 100 cities.  

The Brookings Institute released its quarterly report this week that analyzes four economic indicators including employment, unemployment, gross metropolitan product, and housing prices.  

“We continue to make positive gains in our economy by working together with federal, state and local agencies,” said Hinojosa. “McAllen is leading the way in South Texas as a prime example of how to overcome the economic downfall this country experienced during the last administration”.  

Only 10 metropolitan areas, mostly in the South, experienced positive job growth in both the first quarter of 2010 and the fourth quarter of 2009 (Augusta, Jackson, Dallas, Austin, Charleston (SC), Raleigh, Chattanooga, Honolulu, McAllen, and Stockton), but only one — McAllen — has had growth in each of the last four quarters.  

“In Congress we have just passed the Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010,” said Hinojosa. “This Congress and this administration are committed to keeping small businesses in business. Small businesses employ most of the workforce in the Rio Grande Valley and by keeping their doors open for business it keeps McAllen at the forefront of the nation’s economic recovery.”   

Hinojosa cited the American Recovery and Reinvestment (Stimulus) Act as providing more jobs in construction, funding several waste water projects in Hidalgo County and jump starting small businesses in deep South Texas.  

••••••  

UTB/TSC to offer online graduate diploma in Spanish translation beginning July 12

By LETTY FERNÁNDEZ 

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will offer a new online Graduate Diploma in Translation Studies beginning Monday, July 12 the start of Summer Session II. 

The diploma will enable students to master translation and interpreting between English and Spanish in written and spoken forms. Students can take five classes, or 15 semester credit hours, to complete diploma coursework. All class sessions will take place twice a week through live streaming, audio and video recording and other technological means. Each class will be limited to 15 students. 

“The course limit is required to have a very close follow-up of the student’s progression throughout the course,” said Dr. José Davila, an assistant professor and coordinator of Translation and Interpreting Programs in UTB/TSC’s Department of Modern Languages. “Feedback in grading is crucial. Online communication is comfortable because you can do it anywhere at any time of day.” 

Davila will teach the diploma program’s first course, Consecutive Interpreting, during Summer Session II. 

Students in the first group can continue classes in the fall, spring and summer 2011 semesters to complete diploma requirements. Some of the courses to be offered include Audiovisual Translation, Translation Theory, Business and Financial Translation and Medical Terminology. 

Through online technology, professors at the City College of New York, Ithaca College in New York, the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain and Dublin City University in Ireland will also teach courses. 

“The fact that this is online will allow UTB/TSC to offer a state-of-the-art program with the very best scholars, teachers, researchers and professionals practioners in the field without them ever stepping on campus to offer their teachings,” said Davila. “The overall formula is to bring together an extensive knowledge and know-how in the online degree that is scattered all over the world.” 

Students interested in applying for the diploma program must submit a letter of recommendation from their undergraduate faculty advisor, complete an online personal interview, write an essay in Spanish and successfully translate a document using English and Spanish. 

The Translating and Interpreting Office received a $299,566 federal grant last year from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to help get the online program started. 

Davila said he hopes success in the diploma program can eventually lead to a master’s degree in Spanish translation and interpreting being offered at UTB/TSC. 

“From my experience in other programs, online courses and academic programs get their best promotion and advertising based on word of mouth,” he said. “On the Internet, things run very fast.” 

For more information, contact the Translation and Interpreting Office at (956) 882-8215 or online at tio@utb.edu.  

•••••• 

Central Texas lawmaker honored for efforts to try to increase pension, benefits for retired teachers

Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Taylor, on Friday, June 11, received two legislative awards from Texas retired teachers during a luncheon hosted by the Williamson County Retired Teachers Association. The two awards were presented to Maldonado in recognition of her dedication and service to retired teachers during the 81st Legislative Session. 

"I know first-hand the importance of sufficiently paying our teachers while they are in the classroom and once they have retired," said Maldonado. "Teachers are the front lines of providing our students with a quality education and learning experience, and it is truly an honor to receive this recognition from the Williamson County and the District XIII Retired Teachers Associations. It is imperative that Texas show the same commitment and dedication to our retired teachers as they showed in the classroom every day." 

During the 81st Legislative Session, Maldonado strongly supported the inclusion of almost $217 million in the House appropriations bill to be used as a supplemental payment to TRS retirees. In addition, two bills were introduced in the Texas House that would have addressed the cost of living increase and a benefits increase for retired teachers. However, neither of these made it out of committee for consideration before the full House. 

"Rep. Maldonado’s voting record on matters relating to education and Texas retired educators clearly indicated that she would work hard on behalf of retired teachers," said WCRTA President Naomi Pasemann. "Also, Rep. Maldonado went above and beyond on the day that TRTA members visited with legislators in Austin. She took time from her busy schedule to meet with our group of 40 WCRTA members. Most of all we appreciate her dedication, hard work and especially her accessibility."  

The Williamson County Retired Teachers Association is a unit of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). TRTA works full time for the benefits and interests of retired school employees. 

Maldonado sits on the House Committee on State Affairs and the Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs. She is serving her first term in the Texas House of Representatives and represents House District 52 which encompasses a portion of Williamson County, including Round Rock, Taylor, Hutto, Thrall, Coupland and part of Georgetown and Austin. 

•••••• 

South Texas convenience store owner sentenced for state sales tax fraud

Hidalgo County convenience store owner Rogelio Ramírez on Monday, June 14, received a punishment of 10 years deferred adjudication after pleading guilty to two counts of sales tax fraud.  

Ramírez admitted to intentionally failing to remit more than $100,000 of sales tax collected from customers, a second degree felony. Ramírez also admitted to intentionally making false entries in and failing to make entries in sales tax records, a third degree felony. 

In December 2009, Ramírez, the owner of two Pepe’s Drive In stores, was the first person arrested for tax fraud under a new law giving the comptroller a new audit tool for detecting tax fraud. 

“This case should send a strong message that we are serious about prosecuting those who commit tax fraud,” Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said. “By going after the bad guys, we protect the good guys – the honest business owners – against unfair competitors.” 

Ramírez agreed to pay the state more than $116,000 in restitution as part of his plea bargain, paying $60,000 prior to sentencing. He will pay the balance of $56,290 as a condition of his deferred adjudication. Ramírez will also perform 200 hours of community service under the agreement. 

The case was prosecuted by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. 

House Bill 11 passed by the 2007 Legislature requires distributors of alcohol and tobacco products to report sales to retail outlets monthly, giving the comptroller’s auditors the ability to compare the distributors’ reports against taxable sales reported by retailers. 

“Since alcohol and tobacco distributor reporting began in January 2008, our auditors have used this new tool to identify nearly $164 million in sales tax due to the state,” Combs said. “This tax might have gone unreported without the fraud detection capability offered by HB 11 and the deterrent effect of the new law on those who might be tempted to underreport sales tax.” 

To find out more about the Criminals Investigation Division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, visit: http://www.window.state.tx.us/about/cid/

•••••• 

Hispanic journalists to address need for accurate and fair news coverage of Latinos

From fiery rhetoric about Arizona’s controversial new immigration law to the racially-motivated murders of Hispanics in Pennsylvania and Long Island, New York, there are increased attacks on Latinos on all fronts. 

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is bringing together a dynamic group of community leaders and journalists to address the need for accurate and fair news coverage of Latinos during its 28th Annual Multimedia Convention & Career Expo in Denver on Wednesday, June 23. 

The 2010 Opening Plenary/Town Hall, titled: Latinos, the Newest Demons? The Need for Accurate News Coverage to Abate the Hate is open to the public and Latino community leaders throughout Colorado are being invited to attend. 

The panel, comprised of community and news leaders, will examine how misperceptions about Latinos have led to a climate of discrimination and violence; and the need for the community to have an active voice, and for journalists to lead strong, accurate coverage. 

The session will be moderated by Tina Griego, a columnist at The Denver Post.  

Panelists include (more panelists to come): 

  • Polly Baca, the first Latina to be elected to the Colorado State Senate. She was also the executive director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA), which documents trends and issues affecting Hispanics in Colorado; 
  • Richard Lamm, former three-time governor of Colorado. Lamm is now the co-director of the Institute for Public Policy at the University of Denver. Lamm, who was a Democratic governor, has taken a hard line against immigration and raised concerns about diversity, multiculturalism and the country’s rapid demographic changes in past speeches and proposals; and 
  • Amber Tafoya, attorney and Democratic candidate for District 4 of the Colorado State House of Representatives and a former Public Policy Director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. 

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