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Flagship newspaper of Freedom Communications, owner of McAllen Monitor, Valley Morning Star, and Brownsville Herald, agrees to pay as much as $42 million in a settlement with newspaper carriers and carriers’ attorneys over employment lawsuit

Edwards Abstract and Title Company, headquartered in Edinburg, was recently recognized as the 2008 Affiliate of the Year by the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors (GMAR) during its Annual Installation Banquet, held at the McAllen Convention Center. More than 300 of the region’s leading real estate professionals attended the Saturday, November 22 banquet and the installation of the officers who will serve their terms during 2009. Roxanne Rydell-González, the outgoing GMAR president, announced the honor, which is bestowed upon a non-realtor member of the organization in appreciation for outstanding service and commitment to the organization during the past year. “The Greater McAllen Association of Realtors shines year after year because of the incredible volunteers and leadership that give of themselves and their time to face the challenges and tasks necessary to carry this great association forward and service buyers and sellers in the real estate industry,” said Rydell-González. Several members of the Edwards team were on hand at the installation banquet and they were honored to receive the award. Featured, seated, from left: Marilyn De Luna, McAllen branch manager; Mary Arce, Weslaco branch manager; Elva Jackson Garza, vice president/marketing manager and Mary Barrientos, Mission branch manager. Standing, from left: Clarissa Basaldúa, escrow officer; Lydia Gámez, examiner; Dick Henry, 2009 GMAR president; Roxanne Rydell-González, 2008 GMAR president; Vickey Terveen, escrow officer; Clay Sánchez, examiner; Norma Cano, escrow officer; Libby Luis, escrow assistant, and Miriam Lozano, escrow officer.

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Santa Claus is shown passing out one of the 24 bicycles donated to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary during a pre-Christmas event celebrating family literacy. Also present was keynote speaker, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, along with Principal Nelda Gaytán, Eddie Gonzáles, Operations Manager, and Paul Arrendondo, Assistant Manager, of Edinburg’s Academy Sports and Outdoors.

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An American soldier bravely stands at his post during this holiday season, protecting America from the forces of tyranny while bringing closer the dream of freedom to oppressed people throughout the rest of the world. A poem, featured later in this posting, captures the courage and sacrifice of tens of thousands of U.S. military veterans overseas, who have volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way, which ensured a safe Christmas 2008 for millions of Americans here at home.

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Edinburg hoping northern section of planned Hidalgo County Loop goes near city-owned South Texas International Airport

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed in 2008 on May 26). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. Stories relating to Memorial Day are featured later in this posting, including President Bush’s proclamation and prayer for peace, and updates on a major reform to the G.I. Bill that has passed the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured second from left, brought key House legislators for a recent tour of the newly-opened Rapid Response Manufacturing Center at the University of Texas-Pan American. “It’s not every day that representatives from other regions of the state have the opportunity to see the burgeoning economic development of the Rio Grande Valley,” said Gonzáles. “The Rapid Response Manufacturing Center is a perfect example of how the Valley is continually striving to create and sustain jobs and opportunities for local residents.” Featured on the first row,, from left, are: Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr., D-Corpus Christi; Gonzáles; Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, Chair of the Select Committee on Higher and Public Education Finance; Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg; Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College; and Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas, president of UTPA. See story later in this posting.

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A billboard off the U.S. Expressway 281 northbound frontage road near Canton Road heralds the planned construction of a 14-story, $150 million complex that will feature luxury condominiums, a hotel, restaurant, and other amenities known as the Sky View Las Palmas. Work is already underway at the site, which is located near the 1.2 million square-foot Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, where construction there also is moving forward. Sky View Las Palmas, which proposes to create about 200,00-square-feet of retail space, would be the latest major boost to construction activities in the city. It is tentatively scheduled to be built in four phases, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and be wrapped up in about two years.

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Robert Gandy, III, President/CEO of First National Bank, the largest privately held bank in Texas, will be the keynote speaker for the Wednesday, May 28 Leadership Edinburg Banquet at the Echo Hotel honoring the 19th graduating class. Tickets are available at $25 per person. Applications for Leadership Edinburg Class XX are currently available by contacting the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 383-4974. See story later in this posting.

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El Dorado Tejas Kooks of Houston, shown here last summer participating in the annual Texas Cook ‘Em in Edinburg, are expected to be among dozens of teams competing for awards and $15,000 in cash prizes again this July 4, when the major event gets underway again at Edinburg Municipal Park. A new category has been added to the competition – T-Bone Steak. The event is free and open to the public, but there will be a $5 parking fee per family. For more information on the cook-off, including how to enter a team, please log on to http://www.Edinburg.com. See story later in this posting. (More information on photojournalist Kirsten Luce, who took this shot, is available at http://www.KirstenLuce.com).

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Homer Gutiérrez, an engineer with J.E. Sáenz and Associates, points out one of the dozen high-resolution maps to Mayor Joe Ochoa, left, that were part of an open house held Wednesday, May 14, at Edinburg North High School, that depict a possible route for the planned $650 million Hidalgo County Loop that could wind up near the city-owned South Texas International Airport in Edinburg. Ochoa, former Mayor Richard Garcia, and Gerry Pate, the leader of Hidalgo County Road Builders, the private coalition developing the loop system, agree it will have a major economic impact on the three-time All-America City. Also featured in this shot is Robert Fina, also an engineer with J.E. Sáenz and Associates, which is one of numerous area firms which make up the Hidalgo County Road Builders. See story later in this posting.

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In battle over Border Wall, the medium is the message in order to influence national opposition

Key leaders of the Texas Border Coalition, welcomed here by Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, a member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (featured bottom row, second from left), on Tuesday, April 15, in Edinburg spoke against federal government plans to build 2,000-mile border wall designed to stop terrorists from illegally crossing into the United States. Opponents against the wall say border security can be better enhanced with additional Border Patrol agents and high-technology detection systems. The wall, TBC leaders have contended, will hurt the border economies while doing little to stem the threat of terrorism. “It affects us very directly,” contended Martínez. “Many of us have a family members, friends, business relations across the border, and building a fence sends a message that we are breaking ties with them.” The international gathering, which included mayors from Mexican cities, will help spread the right image about border concerns, as well as favorably portray the local university. “It really shines a light on us and allows us to fulfill one of our functions as a major university – to project local knowledge to the world,” Martínez reflected on the event. The TBC forum was hosted by The University of Texas-Pan American. See lead story later in this posting.

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez (center) was escorted by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg (left) and McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz upon his arrival at the University of Texas-Pan American on Thursday, April 11, for the opening of the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center. See story later in this posting.

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The development of a world-class advanced manufacturing industry in the Rio South Texas Region is one step closer following the official opening on Thursday, April 11 of the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center (RRMC) at The University of Texas-Pan American. UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas welcomed more than 200 representatives from education, business and government and presided over a ceremony that included remarks from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutiérrez, U.S. Representatives Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, and South Texas College President Dr. Shirley Reed. Featured, front, from left, are: right Dr. John Lloyd, RRMC director; Reed; Blas Castañeda, chief development officer, Laredo Community College; Cuellar; Gutiérrez; Dr. Blandina “Bambi” Cárdenas; and Hinojosa. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg lawmakers say “border wall” doesn’t tackle real border security needs

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Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D., an associate professor of Spanish linguistics and chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at the University of Texas-Pan American, on Tuesday, July 17, was appointed by the Edinburg City Council to the board of directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. “Over the next few years, I would like to see the EEDC expand its efforts in attracting diverse business and industry to Edinburg and make our city full participants in the knowledge economy of the 21st century,” Martínez said. “UTPA, my alma mater and my current place of employment, gives Edinburg a competitive edge over other cities in the region to attract industries with large research enterprises. As a member of the board, I will work to ensure that UTPA and its vast knowledge resources become critical incentives to attract high-paying jobs to our city.” See story later in this posting.

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While Mother Nature dropped up to six inches of rain in parts of the Upper Valley earlier that morning and tore rooftops from at least three McAllen businesses, Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas III and U.S. International Boundary and Water Commissioner Carlos Marín on Monday, July 16, executed the long-anticipated memorandum of understanding that will allow for the rehabilitation of several miles of federally-owned river levee. Featured, from left, seated, are: Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen; Salinas; and Marin. Standing, from left, are: Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview; Mission Mayor Beto Salinas; and Hidalgo County Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios, See story later in this posting.

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Three South Texas legislators – Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg – say that federal money to build a controversial “border wall” along 153 miles of the international border with Mexico could be better spent on more pressing national security needs, including helping Texas fight illegal drug trafficking that spells heartache, ruin, and death for countless Americans. Their comments came on Thursday, July 19, during a legislative luncheon in Edinburg. Mayor Pro Tem Alma Garza, Gonzáles and Peña are featured, sitting, first, second and third from left, respectively, while Councilmember Noe Garza (no relation to Alma) is shown standing, first from left, while Hinojosa is shown standing, fourth from left. See first story in this posting.

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County Judge Salinas applauds Gov. Richardson’s promise to bring down planned U.S. border wall

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Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas,III, standing, and Pat Townsend Jr., president and CEO of the Mission Economic Development Agency, featured here on Thursday, July 5 in Edinburg, discussed progress on efforts by the Texas Border Coalition to continue rallying opposition against the planned U.S. border wall, set to be built in 2008 and to be located along the U.S.-Mexico border, including in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. On June 30, Democratic presidential candidate and current New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson voiced his strong opposition to the planned wall, a view shared by TBC. Salinas and Townsend are members of TBC, an alliance of elected leaders and economic development officials representing more than two million residents who live in the 11 Texas counties that border Mexico. See story later in this posting.

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Ramiro Garza, Jr., standing, the executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, led a roundtable discussion on Thursday, July 5, during a workforce summit held at the University of Texas-Pan American. The gathering, held in the University Ballroom, served as a preparation for a major conference, to be held August 8 at the McAllen Convention Center. More than 150 area leaders participated in the preliminary summit, entitled “Building Future Talent,” where they developed strategies for helping Hidalgo County residents acquire the education and skills needed to effectively compete in a global economy. See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College and The University of Texas-Pan American are expanding their partnership allowing for seamless transfer opportunities for liberal arts students. Some of the students planning to take advantage of the new agreement include, from left: Marisol Hernández, class of 2007; Michelle Escamilla, class of 2009; and Micah Mullins, class of 2007, study social work at STC, who plan to transfer to UT-Pan American upon graduation. See story later in this posting.

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