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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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Sen. Obama, who has risen against all odds, urges thousands in South Texas to do the same

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Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on Friday, February 22, brought his presidential campaign to the University of Texas-Pan American, where he urged the crowd to believe that the impossible is within their reach, to dare to think big. “Yes, we can! Si se puede,” Obama said. “Texas, this is our moment, this is our time. If you are willing to work for me, I promise you, we will win the nomination in Texas, we will win in the general election, and you and I, together, we will change this country, and we will change the world.” See related story. Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, are the two presidential candidates seeking the Texas Democratic Party primary nomination on March 4. See lead story later in this posting.

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In an apparent attempt to let South Texans know he knows about struggles in life, Obama made sure to highlight his own life story in a 37-minute long speech at the University of Texas-Pan American that also included many of his campaign platform goals. “I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was two. I never knew him. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. They didn’t have money, they didn’t have fame. But what they did have was they gave me love, they gave me an education, they gave me hope.” See lead story later in this posting.

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Edinburg City Councilmember Gus García, Jr., in dark suit, and other area residents reach out to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as the Democratic Party presidential candidate prepares to address thousands of supporters at the University of Texas-Pan American on Friday, February 22. García, along with Mayor Joe Ochoa, Edinburg school board trustee Robert Peña, Jr., Rep. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-San Benito, and Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr., D-Edinburg, were among the elected officials who showed up for the political rally. Obama is facing Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are hugely popular, with a long history, among the Hispanic population in the Valley and Texas. See lead story later in this posting.

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“One of my primary interests and concerns as a presidential candidate and hopefully as president will be to make sure that we are opening access to a college education for everybody,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, told about two dozen students from the University of Texas-Pan American during a meeting before his rally on February 22 at the Edinburg based campus. Obama reported that college costs are up 40 percent and the average Texan leaves school more than $18,000 in debt, One of his proposals includes a $4,000 tuition credit for every student every year. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, shows off a carving board bearing the All-America City symbol of Edinburg given to him during his visit on Wednesday, February 20, to the University of Texas-Pan American. Kennedy, part of an iconic American political family that includes his slain brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert Kennedy, was in the three-time All-America City to rally advance support for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, who along with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, is seeking the March 4 primary nomination for president. Kennedy’s visit was hosted by Mayor Joe Ochoa, featured to Kennedy’s left, and City Councilmember Gus García, Jr. Obama visited Edinburg on Friday, February 22.

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The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is proud to announce that Soledad O’Brien and John Quiñones will headline NAHJ’s 19th Annual Scholarship Banquet on March 13 in New York. That night, NAHJ will pay tribute to Rubén Salazar. In April, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a stamp in his honor. Salazar (1928-1970) was the first Mexican-American journalist to have a major voice in mainstream news media. His writings in the Los Angeles Times and segments at KMEX-TV on the Chicano movement of the 1960s added richly to the historical record. While in Los Angeles covering a Vietnam War protest, Salazar was killed by a tear gas projectile. See story later in this posting.

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The American Heart Association is hosting a 2008 Tailgate Gala to benefit area children on Saturday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the McAllen Country Club. “The purpose of this event is to raise funds to further the AHA’s mission to help people live healthier lives free from cardiovascular disease and stroke,” said AHA Director Rebecca Taylor. The event will feature two very special families that both have children that have survived multiple heart surgeries. They will share their stories with gala guests and provide a better understanding on the effects of heart disease and what we can do to increase awareness. The money that is raised will stay in the community and be used to help educate people on their risk and help save the lives of those that are honored that evening. Sponsorships and tickets are available by calling Rebecca Taylor, director of the American Heart Association, at (956) 984-1213. Featured, from left, are: AHA Chair Michele Sparks, Pickles and Ice Cream; AHA board member JoAnn Wright, Edinburg Regional Medical Center; AHA volunteer Kristi Collier, Super Savings; Taylor; and AHA board member Elizabeth C. Martínez, The Business Times of the Rio Grande Valley.

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Judge Susan Criss raises $317,000 in her Democratic campaign for Texas Supreme Court, Place 8

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The University of Texas Board of Regents, the governing body for The University of Texas System, will hold their next regular meeting at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg on Wednesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 7. The regents, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, wield tremendous influence over how and where the UT System’s $10.7 billion, two-year budget is spent. District Judge Susan Criss, D-Galveston, a candidate for Texas Supreme Court, has called on the UT System to bring a law school to the Rio Grande Valley, which is predominantly Hispanic. “Of the more than 77,000 lawyers in Texas, only 14 percent are from minority populations, according to a report produced last spring by the State Bar of Texas,” said Criss. “Yet more than 59 percent of Texas schoolchildren are considered to be from minority populations, and Mexican Americans make up one-third of our state’s population. We need to encourage more minority students to pursue careers in the law.” Featured in this group portrait taken in November are: standing from left: James D. Dannenbaum; Colleen McHugh; Robert A. Estrada; Paul Foster; John W. Barnhill, Jr.; Printice L. Gary; and student regent Randal Matthew Camarillo. Seated from left: Vice Chairman James R. Huffines; Chairman H. Scott Caven, Jr.; and Vice Chairman Robert B. Rowling. The UT Board of Regents is composed of nine members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Terms for regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on February 1 of odd-numbered years. In addition, the governor appoints a student regent for a one-year term that expires on May 31.

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Eddie Sáenz of Edinburg, featured right with La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, who has endorsed his bid for state representative, House District 40, continues to build momentum – and financial support – in his bid to unseat Rep. Aaron Peña in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz has raised more than $140,000 between July and December 2007, according to his campaign finance report released on Tuesday, January 15. Sáenz’ report for the period ending December 31 shows that he has raised $140,835 since launching his campaign last September, with an average donation of $800 from 45 individual contributors and including a $105,000 loan from the candidate. See story featured later in this posting.

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Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who is facing a challenge from Eddie Sáenz, also of Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary, displays what he hopes is a good omen – a dice that he drew containing the number 1, which placed his name first on the election ballot for the House District 40 legislative district, which includes most of Edinburg. He was among dozens of elected officials, candidates, family members, and Democratic Party activists who showed up at the auditorium in the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Thursday, January 10, to draw for places on the ballot for contested state and local offices in Hidalgo County. “Local political lore maintains that the first poll position is to be desired and can be advantageous,” Peña said after the drawing. “I am not quite sure if this is true but most of the candidates in the room this night seem to share the belief that it does.” Also celebrating what they hope is a lucky pick by the local legislator were his daughter, Adrienne Peña Garza, and his son Aaron. A list of the contested races in Hidalgo County, with the order in which the names will appear on the ballot, is featured later in this posting.

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To help celebrate Fiesta Edinburg’s 40th Anniversary, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and Fiesta Edinburg is going “retro”. On Thursday, February 21, the community is invited to participate in Fiesta Hidalgo’s first Disco Dance Party to help kick off the annual event’s fourth decade. The festivities will be held in the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 Palm Drive. The Fiesta Edinburg Committee, featured in this promotional photograph, are hosting the Disco Dance Party, featuring the popular Deejay, “Johnny Joe”. The dance will take place from 7-11 p.m., and everyone is invited to come out and take part in reliving the 70’s. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in their flashy “retro” attire, as there will be a costume contest with $100 prize money, and $100 also will be awarded to the best dancer. The fee is $5 per person. For more information, contact the local chamber at 956-383-4974.

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Judge Criss, Rep. Peña, Rep. Flores draw top billing on Hidalgo County Democratic Party primary ballots

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Mrs. Dolia González, A Gold Star Mother whose late son, U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo “Freddy” González, is featured in this bronze bust in Edinburg, will be accepting the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – the state’s highest recognition for valor – on his behalf at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 4 from Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, shown with Mrs. González several weeks ago, on Tuesday, January 8, announced the big event during a city council meeting. What is sure to be a major ceremony, probably to take place at Cats Stadium, will speak volumes about Edinburg’s native son and his mother and all of South Texas. “It will again send the message to the entire state and nation that Edinburg is the home to heroes,” said Mayor Pro Tem Alma A. Garza. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg principals of the elementary campuses that made the list of top campuses in the state by Texas Monthly magazine were honored recently by the Edinburg school board. This is the fourth year in a row that Texas Monthly has published a list of top public schools and the second consecutive year that they have ranked schools according to the number of subjects in which they continually excel, including reading, math, science, writing, and social studies. Elementary campuses making the prestigious list were Austin Elementary headed by Principal Homer Cano; Canterbury Elementary under Principal Dahlia Guzmán; De la Viña Elementary under Principal Erika Playle; Jefferson Elementary under Principal Ana Villalobos-Salinas; Lincoln Elementary under Principal Eva Sandoval; and Treviño Elementary under Principal Cynthia Sáenz. See story later in this posting.

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U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, featured in a file photo, pulled off a major victory on Tuesday, January 8, winning the New Hampshire Republican Party primary, received 37 percent of the GOP vote. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts placed second with 31 percent, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had won several days earlier in the Iowa caucuses, came in third with 11 percent of the vote. “I hate to use the word kid, but I think we showed the people of this country what a real comeback looks like,” he told supporters of his long-shot win in a state he won eight years ago against then candidate George W. Bush.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, in this campaign photo, won the New Hampshire Democratic Party primary against former Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, on Tuesday, January 8, less than a week after she placed a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses. She received 39 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Obama in New Hampshire. Clinton’s victory speech is featured later in this posting.

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Election legal paperwork filed by Justice Yañez could result in Republicans kicking her off ballot

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Eddie Sáenz, featured second from right, on Monday, December 31, officially filed for state representative, House District 40, to challenge Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, in the March 4 Democratic Party primary. Sáenz was joined by his family and by Juan Maldonado, Hidalgo County Democratic Party chairman, and Maldonado’s son, Juan, at the county Democratic Party headquarters in Pharr. Sáenz said that under the legislative terms of Peña and Peña’s Austin allies, hundreds of thousands of eligible children have been stripped of their health benefits, college tuition costs have almost doubled at Texas’ flagship university, families and small business are charged an average of 54 percent more in utilities, and homeowners are forced to pay more than twice the national average to insure their homes. Peña, meanwhile, criticized Sáenz for failing to appear at a local Democratic Party event onj Wednesday evening, January 2, hinting of some of the attacks Peña, a local trial lawyer, will launch against Sáenz, a civil engineer: “Based on information that has reached our campaign on his residence and his disregard and failure to appear at tonight’s important Democratic function for a minimal debate he should really consider dropping out of the race,” Peña wrote in his political website. Featured with Sáenz in this portrait are, from left, his wife, Sandra; Juan Maldonado and his father, Juan Maldonado; Eddie Sáenz; and Eddie and Sandra’s daughter, Cassie. See story later in this posting.

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McAllen attorney Javier Villalobos, left, hears from a potential constituent, Fred Zambrano, last summer in McAllen at the onset of Villalobos’ campaign run for state representative, House District 41 – currently held by Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen – which includes southwest Edinburg. Villalobos filed as a Republican candidate on Wednesday, January 2, marking his official first entry as a political candidate. If elected, Villalobos would be the first Republican to win a state representative seat in Hidalgo County. In addition to Villalobos/ Gonzáles race, which won’t be decided until the November 2008 presidential election, there are two other contested battles for the Texas Legislature in Hidalgo County. Eddie Sáenz and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, are involved in the House 40 Democratic Party primary contest, and Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, is being challenged by Sandra Rodríguez for the House 36 legislative post.

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, featured left during a recent event at the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, was one of three Hidalgo County lawmakers who drew no opponents for their respective legislative seats in 2008. In addition to Lucio, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, also will be unopposed for reelection. Lucio and Hinojosa will begin serving new, four-year terms beginning in January 2009; Martínez will begin serving a new, two-year term in January 2009.

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