LISTING TO THE NORTH

May 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                25 May 2015

So you are in the bottom of the eighth inning, or maybe the top of the ninth, in life, and are looking for a dugout to live in during your golden years, if you didn’t invest in Sandals of Syria. You are either self-employed as a pediatric philosopher or retired from your job managing the Twin Peaks in Waco, either way you can live anywhere in the U.S. But where?  San Diego or Miami Beach? Aspen or Prescott? Maybe stay in Texas. The Hill Country is nice, so is South Padre. A beach-front mansion in Kemah so you will be close to your 130-foot yacht. Buy a high-rise condo in Dallas or Houston and sit on your balcony sipping a martini while watching all the wage slaves below trying to fight the traffic in the afternoon rush hour – or the morning rush hour if you’re an early drinker.

Wrong. Senior citizens should try Downtown Crossing in Boston and neighborhoods in San Francisco; La Crosse, Wis.; downtown Sioux Falls, S.D. and certain places in Minnesota, North Dakota, Seattle and Los Alamos. The AARP Bulletin, aka the Geezers’ Gazette, polled 4,500 Americans 50 years and older, asking where are the best places to live in their later years. Best neighborhood was Mifflin West, Wis., followed the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Others in the Top 10 were neighborhoods in La Crosse, Wis., Sioux Falls, S.D. and Bismarck, N.D.

Those surveyed were also asked to name the Most Livable Large City as opposed to Best Neighborhoods. San Francisco was first, followed by Boston, Seattle and Milwaukee. Rounding out the Top 10 was Baltimore, I guess between riots. Most Livable Medium Size City? Madison, Wis., St. Paul and Sioux Falls again. Incidentally, with all this political correctness going on – Washington Redskins, your title is an embarrassment to the entire nation — change it to the Chevy Chase Redskins. Shouldn’t Sioux Falls change its name? How about Scalps, South Dakota? The Best Small Livable City is La Crosse. The Top 10 include Duluth, Minn. and Union City, N.J., which may be a lovely town but sounds like good place to film “On the Waterfront.” The Easiest Cities to Get Around include San Francisco, Buffalo and Hoboken.

Notice that there is not a single Texas city named, not even one in the Deep South. This list is heavily dominated by places in the cold and bitter north. Buffalo? It doesn’t thaw until May. Hoboken? Where are Gov. Chris Christie’s orange cones when we need them? And remember, this list provided by AARP only surveyed the 50 and older. How do walkers and canes perform in Bismarck in January? Maybe the bottoms are fitted out with skis or snowshoes.

Its members are reading these lists and preparing to move to their retirement home. “Pack your bags, Martha. Goodbye, Harlingen. Hello, Duluth.” Or maybe: “Honey, it’s too expensive here in Marfa. Let’s move to Manhattan’s Upper West Side where it’s cheaper.” Or this: “Sun and more sun. Don’t you get tired of this 75 degree weather in San Diego? It’s a lovely minus 30 in Milwaukee.” The Cajun comic Justin Wilson observed, “You ever hear of anybody retiring and moving to the north?” Not until AARP gets the word out. Maybe the organization’s officers own real estate in Hoboken. San Francisco, with all that fog and hills you have to climb? Almost all of the cities listed in all population groups have air, but Texas has a different atmosphere, as our children say, “I shot an arrow into the air. It stuck.” Residents in Port Arthur brag that they don’t breathe anything they can’t see.

It is said that in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. But the AARP surveys find Washington to be the Best Large City for Making New Friends, especially if you’re a lobbyist for the NRA. In their respective categories, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, are first. Is the editor of the Geezers’ Gazette from South Dakota? Wait! Texas finally broke into the lists. Austin ranks eighth in Making New Friends. It just shows our state’s capital has lobbyists, too. We should be glad that the People’s Republic is considered a good place to meet new friends, but most nights on South Main near the Astrodome you can meet lots of new friends, mostly females.

One final category, Best Cities for Date Night. AARP, you are an organization for old folks. (Or as former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson put it, “Fifty million people looking for cheap airline fares.”) What are you doing pandering to dirty old folks? Why are your readers supposed to be looking for a night out from the nursing home to go swinging with new best friends? If so, then Nashville is the place to go, but Austin comes in at ninth place in the large cities category. (An accompanying photo shows a couple in cowboy hat and boots dancing to a C&W band at the White Horse in Austin. I suppose Date Night in Austin couldn’t include something more sophisticated like a barbeque cook-off.)

And get this: among-medium size cities Abilene, Texas, is the eighth best city in the nation for Date Night. Huh? Sleepy old Abilene out there on the Swinging Staked Plaines? It’s 6 p.m., last call for Ensure at the Oatmeal and Jell-O Dance Hall. “Howdy, I’m Billy Rob Beltbuckle. Yew sure do have a purty face. Want to dance? Don’t mind my Lark. It’s got bumpers and brakes, and speak real loud into my left ear. What? No, I don’t want to belt your face. What I said was – I forgot.”

Clearly the folks at AARP asked the wrong questions to the wrong people. Ask me about the Worst Lists in America. If Buffalo beats out any town in the nation in any category except Best Place to Get a Heart Attack While Shoveling Snow, I want a re-count.

 

Ashby is aging at ashby2@comcst.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOO GOOD TO PASS UP

May 18, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

MY COMPUTER – Today there is new email, rather than the usual dunning notices from MassiveCharge, the IRS and/or my payday loan shark. This is from Capitol One: “During our usual security enhancement protocol we observed multiple login attempt error while login in to your online banking account we have believed that someone other than you is trying to access your account for security reasons, we have temporarily suspend your account and your access to online banking and will be restricted if you fail to update.”

Huh? “Multiple login attempt error”? “We have temporarily suspend”? Also, this message has a serious lack of periods. Being smarter than most people, I spot that this is obviously a scam. Also, it occurred to me that I don’t have an account at Capitol One and never have. Here’s another email. “Naval Credit Union. Dear Customer, You Have One Unread Message In Your Online Banking Account. View your message.” I was never a member of the Naval Credit Union, whatever that is. Are the Marines close enough? Never used USAA either, but I need to update.

At the beginning of the Internet, you and I would receive all sorts of email attempts to get our money, mostly through credit card and bank account numbers and the ever faithful Nigerian Prince Ogo. Remember him? “I have $20 milyon US in bank London. Need avoid taxes. You help, we share.” This and most other scams are based on the oldest way to part a fool from his money: greed. The pitch in whatever form is that you and your email partner are going to put one over on a London bank, the IRS or that crooked cousin, because you are smarter than most people. “To show sinserity in this endeevor, wire $5000 US to etc.”

Then months went by without me receiving an offer to share in millions stuck in a forgotten stock portfolio, securities tied up in a lawsuit or silver bars hidden in a sand dune. Now I am starting to get them again. Maybe you are, too. What’s this? “Our record shows your account was accessed from unknown location.” I am told to fill out a form or my account will be suspended. Why not ask for my credit card and Social Security numbers along with my home address, when I will be out of the house and do I have pit bull watchdog?

These con artists are getting cannier. From Comcast: “This e-mail has been sent to you by comcast.net (a “to” should be here, but isn’t) inform you that we were unable to verify your account details. Due to this, to ensure that your email service is not interrupted etc. etc.” Sneaky, but I do use Comcast, so how do I know if this is a scam? Easy. I was not put on Hold.

Have you ever used Amazon? Millions have, including me. “We have noticed irregular activity on your Amazon.com account. Due to this, you need to verify your account for security reasons.” I am supposed to update my account information in order to be re-activated. Click here. I didn’t and am still a customer in good standing. After having difficulty with my iPad, I was told to change my password. When I didn’t, I received a reply – in Russian. Honest.

Another email: Mr. Frank Carradine, an inspection official at Los Angeles International Airport, came across an unclaimed package “left by a diplomat from United Kingdom who was supposed to deliver these packages to you but failed to provide necessary clearances.” A scan revealed the package contained a metal box holding an undisclosed sum of money, probably between $5.5 million to $6 million. I know that I don’t have a few million bucks coming to me from a Brit diplomat, and so does this Mr. Frank Carradine, but I am going to play along and keep the money. First, however I must send a check etc. Again, calling on my greed, which is easy to do. “My Wife Violet and I are donating 2Million Dollars to you. Contact us via my wife email.”

Two points arise: Where did all these people get my name and email address? Is there a sucker’s list bouncing around the Internet? Maybe they took it from my application form to be Dick Chaney’s food taster, or my check to a bankrupt Christian Science bookstore, Borders Without Doctors. A second point: These scams must work to a certain degree or the perpetrators would stop wasting their time and efforts. Wouldn’t you love to see the incoming emails generated by Mr. Frank Carradine, the Naval Credit Union, et. al?

And still they come: “A member of our team reached out to you earlier yesterday with a request for more information about your account.” I need to update. A plea from Wells Fargo, same thing. And this: “As part of our security measures, we have disabled your Chase Online Banking temporarily. To unlock your account, click here.” Actually, I did have dealings with Chase, but don’t go there anymore since my ski mask fell off.

A new, and highly inventive, con has appeared. The phone rings in the middle of the night. A very scratchy voice says, “Uncle (your actual name), this is (mumble mumble). I’m in Paris and was mugged. They took my money, credit cards and passport. I can’t get home and I can’t reach my parents. Would you please wire twenty-fire hundred dollars to Western Union box 1234 in Paris? I’ll pay you back when I get home. God bless you.” Now what semi-literate knuckle-dragger would go for that bunch of bull? A friend of mine, that’s who. He has a doctorate in physics from Rice.

You and I never fall for these obvious scams, especially the old Prince Ogo from Nigeria offer, although I am expecting a big payback from Secret Spanish Bullion, Inc. since they’ve already cashed my check. I’m smarter than most people.

 

Ashby is conned at ashby@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARAVILLOSO! The Water Festival

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Where: Discovery Green
When: June 5 – 6, 2015
Website: http://www.discoverygreen.com/circus

Discovery Green welcomes the return of MARAVILLOSO! A contemporary circus and dance event featuring talent from all over the world and from Houston. The two-day event returns as a Water Festival on June 5-6, 2015 with a graceful performance on Kinder Lake by Belgium’s and Netherlands’ artistic company Chanson d’Eau.

Original music and art works by Chanson d’Eau in their first US appearance, the performance features floating, glowing “flowers” that open to reveal graceful dancers on Kinder Lake. The festival will also include a new commissioned dance performance, in celebration of water, byKaren Stokes Dance.

Karen Stokes Dance is a non-profit dance company that has been producing original dance-theater in Houston since 1999.  During this time, KSD has performed in New York City, Toronto, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas, Kaarlstad (Sweden), and in Houston, Texas.  In 2014, Karen Stokes was named number one choreographer by the Houston Press in their Top Ten Houston Choreographers list. In 2013, Houston Press awarded Karen Stokes with a Masterminds Award, the first contemporary dance company in Houston to receive this recognition for innovation in the arts.

Check back soon for performance times.

26 Most Beautiful Houstonians 2015

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In honor of this column’s 10-year anniversary, we salute 25 past honorees—and one newbie worthy of a spot among the greats—for their outstanding service.

by Warner Roberts

H Texas is pleased to present 25 Beautiful Houstonians who, with the exception of one, have been selected from past honorees for their unwavering community service.

It was a beautiful sunny day in 2005 when I had lunch with Editor-in-Chief Laurette Veres to pitch her my idea for an article on “25 beautiful Houstonians.” Immediately, she liked it, agreeing that it would not only be an interesting article, but a great way to honor those who spend much of their lives serving others and making our community a better place.

To open my first article, I wrote something that I still firmly stand by: “I believe that there is something very beautiful about each and every human being. Therefore, this project has been, without question, one of the most difficult I have ever tackled.” And I must say that, choosing 25 candidates from the former 225 honorees, was nearly impossible.

Throughout history, writers have defined “beauty” through poetry and prose. It was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford who wrote, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and many writers and philosophers have expressed different versions of the same sentiment.

Benjamin Franklin wrote,“Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.” And as we know, opinions differ. In the words of Shakespeare, “Beauty is bought by the judgment of the eye.” Ask 100 people to answer the question, “What is beauty?” and you will get 100 different answers. But our mothers probably described it best when they said, “Beauty is as beauty does.” 

In a most eloquent description of the essence of beauty, John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” Laurette and I both feel that Keats might have meant that, through service to mankind, we shall never pass into oblivion.

We at H Texas define beauty as the ability to spread joy, lift spirits, encourage and inspire, and we measure it through service. The men and women on this list are not only physically captivating, but they make our city a more beautiful place through their generosity of spirit, compassion, creativity and dedication to serving. Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart!” And a quote from Audrey Hepburn, a famous beauty and actress, whose memory lives on, reads, “As you grow older, you will find that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, one for helping others.”

Congratulations and a heartfelt thank you to 2015’s 26 Most Beautiful Houstonians. H

MONICA HARTLAND BLAISDELL

MonicaHartlandBlaisdellMonica Hartland Blaisdell, as the third-oldest child of 14, quickly learned to care for her younger siblings. With an innate willingness to help others, she once committed to donating $83 a month for five years to the homeless women and children at The Mission of Yahweh when she had very little money for herself.

Having experienced her own crisis, her life’s goal is to be a torchbearer for those less fortunate. Monica has chaired The Mission of Yahweh’s most successful gala. For six years, she and her husband, John, have produced “Christmas on a Mission” for The Mission of Yahweh, which provides a snow-covered, fantasy Christmas for homeless women and children. Recently, Monica co-chaired the Houston Ballet Jubilee of Dance, and this year, she co-chairs the Work Faith Connection and the Children’s Assessment Center’s Spirit of Spring luncheons.

ANNE CARL

AnneCarlCelebrating two milestone events this past year—two decades of marriage and a successful family business—Anne Carl has so much to be thankful for. 

While working with her husband, Noble, and raising their two beautiful girls, she still finds time to sit on The Friends Board for the Children’s Assessment Center and will be co-chairing this year’s Clayton Dabney “Sun Kissed by an Angel in St. Barth’s” event on April 15. Proceeds will go directly to supporting families who face the devastating loss of a child to cancer. 

Beginning this year, Anne was chosen as the first official brand ambassador for Valmont skincare. This exclusive French line, sold only at Saks Fifth Avenue stores, features a one-of-a-kind breakthrough technology for skin-care management.

Over the years, Anne has been involved in various charity organizations, including: The American Heart Association, Rienzi, Hermann Park Conservancy, The Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Second Baptist Church and The Children’s Museum of Houston.

DEBORAH DUNCAN

Deborah-DuncanDeborah Duncan has been a media personality for 25 years, anchoring news and hosting talk shows in Austin, Dallas, New York and currently Great Day Houston on KHOU-TV, Channel 11. Her job has called on her to provide calm in the mist of disaster, to give people information to empower their lives, to provide a voice to the business community and to lend a hand to many nonprofit organizations.

Deborah serves on the national board of directors of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers; she is also a board member of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program and Houston Sober Center. She has chaired numerous fund-raising events for such organizations as The Bridge Over Troubled Waters and performed for the past two years at The Mission of Yahweh’s “Unplugged and On a Mission.” Deborah recently won an Emmy for community service with the Star of Hope-For the Holidays album. One of the most popular emcees in the city, Deborah has volunteered her time and talent for countless fund-raisers.

CAROLYN FARB

DrCarolynFarbbyGittingsHouston’s premier volunteer fund-raiser, author, art patron and philanthropist, Dr. Carolyn Farb personifies the essence of a life dedicated to public service. She is a native Texan whose passion shines internationally.

Dr. Farb’s fund-raising style, spirit and successes have set national standards. Her philanthropic service has benefitted more than 100 charitable organizations, raising in excess of $50 million. Once a cause touches her heart, it becomes part of Carolyn’s life forever.

When chairing an event, she is as devoted as any CEO is to their corporation. With each new project, Dr. Farb creates a strategic plan. Her goal is to operate on her “zero budget” philosophy to get expenses underwritten. The key to Dr. Farb’s success is in her dynamic vision, intensity of purpose and total commitment. Her hands-on planning and execution for every project serve as a model for others. Her life is an example of the power of one individual’s commitment to a cause. To quote the heroic Steve Jobs: “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, do it.”

JOANNE KING HERRING

JoanneKingHerringThe Dame, The Knight, The Ambassador, Hostess, Author, Texas Hall of Famer and now Nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal (the civilian equivalent of a Congressional Medal of Honor), Joanne Herring has been named the Queen of Texas by People, Forbes and Fortune magazines, along with the Washington Post, CNN, Fox and others.

Joanne, with Charlie Wilson, played a critical role in ending the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan without the loss of one American life. Their efforts aided President George W. Bush and Secretary James Baker in the collapse of the greatest war machine in history. This action helped to end the Cold War and many say prevented WWIII. The film, Charlie Wilson’s War, made by Robin King and starring Julia Roberts, was shown to Charlie Wilson, Bill Casey, President Bush, Henry Kissinger and Prince Bandar, who convinced Saudi Arabia to fund half of the war and set in motion these extraordinary events.

Joanne’s biography, Diplomacy and Diamonds, was a best-seller on five lists in 2011 and is still in demand. The Joanne King Show, on the air for 15 years, was rated the fifth-most-popular TV show in the United States. She has been lauded by the press in England, France, Germany, Spain, Pakistan and Morocco, and has entertained their presidents and kings on their state visits to the United States. In her long career, Joanne has supported every ethnic group in Houston, and has chaired and been honored by every major charity.

Joanne also founded the Marshall Plan Charities for Afghanistan to aid villagers by providing them with the means to acquire food, water education, medical care and jobs needed for them to succeed.

Joanne’s family includes two sons, Robin and Beau King, daughter-in-law, Stanisse King, and three grandchildren. Her family and her faith are her main interests in life.

SIDNEY FAUST

Sydney-Faustby-GittingsSidney Faust is married to Don Faust, owner of Faust Distributing. Don and Sidney lived in Baytown until their move to Houston in 1992, when Sidney became involved in a number of organizations. In 1999, she co-chaired the Houston Symphony Maestro Luncheon with Cora Sue Mach. Since then, the successful team has run such events as the Winter Ball, Women’s Health Summit, Baylor Partnership, Greater Houston Alliance Gold Brick Dinner and The Chic Boutique.

Presently, Sidney is co-chairing the Celebration of Champions and New Barc Gala. She has been named a 2003 Woman of Distinction and Ambassador for the Winter Ball in 2013. Don and Sidney were honorees of the Harris County Hospital district. Sidney was also an honoree at the Mission of Yahweh, the Hope and Healing Luncheon, the Salvation Ladies Auxiliary Reflection’s on Style luncheon and the Women’s Health Summit. She served as ball advisor for the Centennial Houston Symphony Ball. Don and Sidney have held 65 retreats, called a Healing Tradition, for the children and their families from Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

BILL KING

BillKingbyGittingsBill King is a life-long resident of the Houston area. He was born and raised along Galveston Bay in Kemah, Texas. He earned an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Houston. Bill has enjoyed a varied business and legal career. He is currently president of Southwest Airport Services, Inc. and also an investor or director in several other businesses.

Bill’s community involvement includes numerous public service and volunteer organizations. From 1992 to 2004, he served in various positions with the City of Kemah, including the Kemah Economic Development Corporation, City Council and two terms as Mayor. He has also served in many capacities with charitable and civic organizations, including Interfaith Ministries, the Methodist Debakey Health, Fire Fighter Foundation of Houston, Crime Stoppers and Galveston Bay Foundation. Bill has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Galleria Chamber’s “Texas Legend” award, the American Leadership Foundation’s Jaworski Leadership Award and the National Hurricane Conference’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

Bill regularly writes for the Houston Chronicle and has authored two books. His most recent, Unapologetically Moderate, has recently been released by Bright Sky Press.

SHELBY HODGE

Shelby_HodgebyJulie-SoeferFor two decades, Shelby Hodge, CultureMap editor-at-large, has been transforming the role of society editor into that of sophisticated social scribe, recording and photographing the comings and goings of Houston’s most influential citizens. Shelby’s coverage of charities, both large and small, of cultural and medical entities and of educational nonprofits, has provided a powerful voice for the nonprofit community. Being spotlighted in one of her columns is a badge of honor; her articles often lead to greater support for the organizations featured.

Even after two decades of covering this aspect of the social scene, Shelby maintains a fresh approach to her tasks, always with a pleasant and engaging demeanor. Along the way, she has been honored for her good works by Legacy Community Health Services, Houston Ballet, Houston Children’s Charity and the YWCA, among others. Shelby was society editor at the Houston Chronicle for 18 years before helping launch CultureMap in 2009.

PAMELA LOCKARD

PamLockhardPamela Lockard founded her award-winning marketing agency, DMN3, in 1992. Today, her 30-person firm helps clients build revenue using lead generation and customer growth strategies. Raised in Galena Park, Texas, she learned the importance of leadership, hard work, perseverance and giving back at an early age.

While never achieving her childhood dream of becoming a missionary in Africa, Pam and her husband, Ronald Sterlekar, donate time and resources to the less fortunate in Houston. Pam has served on the board of The Mission of Yahweh for 25 years. She’s also a life-time member of the Kezia DePelchin Society and a past winner of the HBJ Enterprise Award for philanthropy. The University of Houston Alumni Association honored her in 2013 for giving time, resources and energy to the University.

KIM MOODY

KimMoodybyGittingsKim Moody is a native Houstonian and grew up watching her mother, the late Katherine Blissard, open her heart to serve others.

Kim’s volunteering involves working with Children’s Assessment Center; The American Heart Association; Amschwand Sarcoma Foundation; Ronald McDonald House; The Museum of Natural Science; The Children’s Museum; the Nutcracker Market benefitting the Houston Ballet; The Women’s Health Summit for the Huffington Center on Aging; The Citizens for Animal Protection; the Bridge Over Troubled Waters for Women and Children; Houston Sweetheart Luncheon; Habitat for Horses; Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo; and The Joy School. Kim is currently chairing the Mission of Yaweh Gala, to be held May 8.

Kim has served on the board for the Children’s Assessment Center, and as president of the Children’s Assessment Center Friend’s Guild and of the River Oaks Country Club Women’s Association. Kim and Dan Moody have been married for 25 years, and have one daughter, Makell, who is the light of their lives. Kim and Dan, along with Dan’s mother, Mary, were honored in 2009 by the CAC at the Spirit of Spring Luncheon. They were also the 2007 recipients of the Pacesetters Award from the Cancer League of Houston. Most recently, Kim was named an ABC-13 Woman of Distinction by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

JOEL OSTEEN

JoelOsteenJoel Osteen is the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church of Houston. He is the most popular inspirational figure in the U.S. and a New York Times best-selling author. Joel’s appeal is universal, allowing him to cross over to audiences that are diverse racially, politically and socioeconomically. His seven books have all been number-one national best-sellers. Each week, Joel’s broadcast is watched by more than 10 million people in the U.S. and in approximately 100 nations around the world. More than 1.2 million people watch his services online each month, ranking JoelOsteen.com one of the top 10 streaming sites in the world. More than 2 million people have attended his Night of Hope events across the U.S. and around the globe.

In 2014, Joel launched “Joel Osteen Radio”, a new exclusive channel on SiriusXM featuring live weekly call-in shows hosted by both Joel and his wife, Victoria. Through it’s many ministries and partners, Lakewood Church ministers to tens of thousands of individuals throughout the Houston area and the nation.

KIM PADGETT

Kim-PadgettBorn and raised in Houston, Kim Padgett serves as the president of The Padgett Group, a strategic marketing and public relations consulting firm based in Houston, and brings more than 20 years of experience in public relations and marketing communications to her clients.

Kim is an active community volunteer and animal advocate, and serves on several boards of directors and advisory boards focused on the health and welfare of Houstonians. She has chaired, co-chaired and served on host, auction and underwriter committees for many Houston fund-raisers, raising millions for local charities. She received her bachelor’s in journalism and foreign studies and her master’s in international journalism from Baylor University. Kim also attended college in Aix-en-Provence, France, and London. She was awarded by the Public Relations Society of America the inaugural “Media Relations Professional of the Year” award, nominated and voted on by media representatives from the Greater Houston area. She is a frequent speaker at public relations and marketing industry events, as well as a contributing author to multiple professional, business and lifestyle publications.

BRUCE PADILLA

BrucePadillaBruce Padilla, the former director for Baccarat Crystal, is now the Regional Manager MCM Worldwide. He is an avid supporter of animal, children’s and medical charities. He is currently president-elect of the development board of the Huffington Center on Aging at the Baylor College of Medicine. He is also a member of the Friends Guild Board of the Children’s Assessment Center, the Advisory Board of
Houston Achievement Place, a member of the SDMC at Grady Middle School, past Capital Campaign Board member for the new CAP Shelter, and was a Man of the Year candidate for the Leukemia Society in 2014. He has chaired or co-chaired numerous fund-raising events for many different charities; his proudest accomplishment was serving as a co-chair for the 2012 CAP gala, which raised a record $800,000, their highest-grossing gala to date.

RACHEL REGAN

ReganbyGittingsRachel Regan has been involved in the philanthropic efforts in the Houston community since the minute she became a Houstonian 17 years ago. Rachel is currently the president of the Baylor College of Medicine Partnership Board, on the board of the March of Dimes, Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital, executive board of VICTORY in support of the American Cancer Society, and the Children’s Assessment Center Friends Guild board. She has chaired or co-chaired events that have raised millions of dollars, including: the inaugural Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital Gala; The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Gala; and Citizens for Annual Protection Gala. She is extremely proud of her work with The Junior League of Houston, Inc., over the past decade, when she has served as the development vice president last year. She has been honored with the Sarah Houston Lindsey Outstanding Active Award Winner, recognizing her for exemplifying the League’s mission of promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community. Rachel also has given her time to Dress for Success Houston, Houston Zoo Friends and St. Luke’s Friends of Nursing Board, and last year, was recognized as a CCFA 2014 Women of Distinction.

Next up, Rachel is chairing the 1925 – An Epic Era Charity Ball, a three-night celebration of the 90th Anniversary for The Junior League of Houston in February, and in October, will co-chair the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala.

Rachel is most proud of her marriage to her supportive and loving husband, Tom, and their two beautiful children, Wynn Lawrence, age 4, and Eleanor Kathryn (Ella), age 2.

ROSEMARY SCHATZMAN

Rosemary-Schatzman-byGittingsRosemary Schatzman concentrates much of her time on raising money for organizations centered around children, family, and related health and human services groups. Her primary focus is helping further the mission of the March of Dimes to reduce birth defects and infant mortality. Rosemary has volunteered for this organization since 1997 and has served on the board since 1999. She has chaired multiple events for March of Dimes, and will chair the 2015 Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon and Neiman Marcus Fashion Presentation. She has participated in the annual March for Babies for 18 years. In 2014, Rosemary received the Elaine Whitelaw National Volunteer Service award.

Rosemary serves on the board of Dec My Room, and is on the Advisory Boards for Child Advocates and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. She has served on the boards of American Heart Association, JDRF, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and Family Services of Greater Houston.

JEFF SHELL

Jeff-ShellJeff Shell has been a principal at the Neal Hamil Model and Talent Agency of Texas since 1997. Established in 1974, Neal Hamil Agency has several divisions, including fashion, runway, commercial, talent, fitness, plus-size and kids. The agency reps models, actors, hair and makeup artists, stylists and more, and they coordinate and produce fashion shows, special events, TV commercials, advertising and marketing services.

Since 2008, Jeff has served as the founder and executive director of the Little Black Dress Designer Foundation, one of Texas’ largest fashion-based competitions for students in fashion design, giving away more than $100,000 in scholarships to students who participate in the challenge to remake the LBD.

For 15 years, Jeff has been rubbing elbows with international fashion designers, including Carmen Marc Valvo, Naeem Khan, Badgley Mischka, Carolina Herrera, J. Mendel, Monique Lhuillier, Nicole Miller, Narciso Rodriguez and Tory Burch.

In 2005, Jeff Shell founded the Green Valentine. Taking root as a community tree planting at Stude Park in the Heights, the Green Valentine has sprouted up as a series of green-minded events promoting our love of community, living a sustainable lifestyle and supporting all things local.

Jeff regularly contributes to several nonprofits and arts organizations, including the Fashion Group International, Inc. of Houston, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, the Alley Theatre, DiverseWorks, Recipe for Success, Dress for Success and more. Jeff is also an artist, entrepreneur, photographer and gardener, and he raises chickens to boot.

MILLETTE SHERMAN

MilletteShermanbyGittingsMillette Sherman has embraced Houston with her charismatic, passionate spirit that makes the city so great. She is the devoted wife to Haag and mother of Carson, 13, and Julia, 8. Millette serves on the Board of Directors for numerous foundations within the Houston community. Her first involvement was with the March of Dimes. She currently serves on the Board of Family Services of Greater Houston, Children’s Museum of Houston and St Luke’s Hospital Friends of Nursing.

She has chaired many luncheons, events and galas over the years. Millette’s community honors include: Easter Seal’s Hats Off to Mothers Award; she was chosen as one of Houston’s Best Dressed honorees by the Houston Chronicle and she was honored with the ABC channel 13 Women of Distinction, Chron’s and Colitis Foundation award. Her business savvy, energy, attention to detail and focus on the bottom line make her an ideal volunteer.

ALICIA SMITH

AliciaSmithbyGittingsAlicia Smith wears many hats: wife, mother, entrepreneur, volunteer and philanthropist. In 1992, she founded Associated Video Services, the first female-owned legal video enterprise in Houston. Her company, Innovative Legal Solutions, has been in business for more than 22 years.

Alicia serves on the board of directors of WBEA, the GHWCC, The Houston Ballet, March of Dimes and UNICEF Southwest Region; she is a member of Entrepreneurs Organization. Alicia has chaired numerous fund-raising events and most recently co-chaired the 2014 UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Society Ball; she is also chairing the Capital Campaign for Lutheran South Academy. Alicia’s honors include the Team Excellence Award – CAC Direct Service Volunteer – Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas; CCFA Woman of Distinction; Leadership Houston Class XXVI, Crisis Intervention “The A List”; The Huffington Center on Aging Excellence in Bloom Award; Social Book Houston Treasure Award; and 2015 Mission of Yahweh Leaders & Legends Award.

She and her husband, Lance, are the proud parents of three sons, Justin, Cole and Chandler, who can always be found supporting their many activities.

MICHELLE LEYENDECKER SMITH

MichelleLeyendeckerSmithMichelle Leyendecker Smith is an active member of the Houston community. As a tribute to her sister Laura, who has cystic fibrosis, she has chaired numerous Gulf Coast Cystic Fibrosis Foundation events since 1995. She and her mother were honored at the Cystic Fibrosis “Mother’s Day Tea.” She has served as auction chair for March of Dimes Signature Chefs event in 2009 and 2011, and on the auction committee and underwriter committee for several “Stoney Creek Ranch” events, a Christian Camp providing scholarships for urban youth since 2005. She has been on the Texas Children’s Lifetime Ambassador Committee, and host committee for events relating to the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute and the Pavilion for Women. Michelle has served on the host and auction committee for The Center for Hearing and Speech in Houston. She co-chaired the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Brunch and Fashion Show, and chaired The Annual Gala for The Center For Hearing and Speech in 2013.

SUE SMITH

Sue-SmithSue Smith’s joie de vie is present in every part of her life and inspires others to live life to the fullest. Along with her husband, Lester Smith, Sue has been at the helm of some of the city’s most successful fund-raising events, including the largest single fund-raising evening in Houston’s history at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation has provided upwards of $100 million to Texas Medical Center institutions, including Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and Harris Health System. In addition, Sue has made significant contributions of time and talent to many other non-profits, including Legacy Community Health Services; March of Dimes; Houston Children’s Charity; The Women’s Home; Holocaust Museum Houston; Mission of Yahweh; Thin Blue Line; and countless others.

Although Sue enjoys supporting charity events, her favorite pastimes are spending time with Lester, yoga, needlepoint, photography and growing orchids.

CLAIR THIELKE 

Claire-ThielkeA native Houstonian and executive with Hines Interests, Claire Thielke devotes her time to numerous arts, health and environmental causes. She serves on the board of directors of Memorial City Bank and is chairman of the Endowment Board of Legacy Community Health Services. Claire also serves on the MD Anderson Advance Team, a cause that is dear to her heart as a former patient.

An urban planner by training with a master’s degree in sustainable construction and historic preservation, Claire founded and chairs Pier & Beam, an organization for young professionals interested in saving Houston’s historic buildings. She is also a member of the boards of Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Preservation Houston, and serves on the advisory board and finance committee for Hermann Park.

A member of the 2014 Houston’s Best Dressed List, Claire has numerous philanthropic efforts planned for 2015. Next up: a capital campaign for a new Gulfton Clinic for Legacy and the 2015 Tee Up for Counseling fete, benefitting the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center. Clair is married to her high school sweetheart, energy trader, Rick Thielke.

PHOEBE TUDOR

PhoebeTudorPhoebe Tudor is an active community volunteer. She earned her bachelor’s in art history from the University of Virginia and master’s in historic preservation from Columbia University. She is the founding chairman of the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners, which spearheaded the effort to renovate Houston’s oldest library. She is also chair of the Centennial Campaign, raising money for the new Centennial Garden at Hermann Park, as well as president of the board of the Houston Ballet Foundation, the former chairman of the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission, and last year’s Preservationist of the Year, designated by Mayor Parker. Phoebe serves on the board of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, is a Best Dressed Hall of Fame inductee, and will be honored at the 2014 Ballet Ball and at Hermann Park’s Gala.

She and her husband, Bobby, are high school sweethearts from Louisiana, and have three wonderful children.

MARTHA FULLER TURNER

MarthaTurnerbyGittingsMartha Fuller Turner is a leading realtor, creative entrepreneur, humanitarian, teacher and family woman with a unique blend of energy, optimism and humor. She graduated from University of North Texas, where she was a member of the Board of Regents. Martha was president for 34 years of Houston’s outstanding independent real estate firm Martha Turner Properties, which was purchased by Sotheby’s International Realty in January 2014.

Since 2001, Martha has been a member of the Alexis De Tocqueville Society. Martha was president and board chair of Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, a founding member of United Cerebral Palsy Women’s Board and a member of Texas Business Hall of Fame, American Diabetes Foundation—their winning “Kiss-a-Pig” Candidate and Fundraiser. She also served on the advisory board of directors of Texas Commerce Bank. She is presently on the board of trustees of Houston Baptist University. Martha was the honoree at the 12th Annual Legacy Community Health Services Luncheon in September 2014.

Martha lives and moves in the arenas of hope and thankfulness, focusing on the positive—on actions to open up possibilities for a brighter future for all people.

JUSTIN JAMES WATT

JJWattThe only new Most Beautiful Houstonian in this column, superstar Houston Texan JJ Watt works as hard on the football field as anyone ever has. But, luckily for many young people, he also works hard to give back. He is the president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charitable organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. He and the JJ Watt Foundation host a Charity Classic Run/Walk, Golf Outing and Tailgate annually. The Charity Classic is a softball game held at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas, in which Texans players participate in a game and Home Run Derby to raise money for the foundation. Last year, JJ received the Texans Spirit of the Bull Community Award, and was nominated for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award, which honors a coach, player or owner for their efforts in supporting the country’s service men and women.

MARGARET ALKEK WILLIAMS

MargaretAlkekWilliamsbyGittingsMargaret Alkek Williams is chairman of the Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation. Together with her son, Charles Williams, who is president of the foundation, she continues the legacy of giving established by her parents, Albert and Margaret Alkek.

Once described by the Houston Chronicle as “the most powerful, committed female philanthropist in Houston since Ima Hogg,” the impact of Margaret and her family’s generosity to the medical, cultural arts and educational communities has been profound. The majority of the Alkek Foundation’s support has been to the Texas Medical Center with more than $100 million going to Baylor College of Medicine.

Margaret’s support of the cultural arts in Houston has been nothing short of transformational with major gifts directed by Margaret for the Alley Theatre; Houston Grand Opera; Houston Ballet; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Society for the Performing Arts; Houston Symphony; and Theatre Under The Stars.

Margaret has devoted her life to supporting our community through her charitable giving. Her tireless efforts have helped Houston to become the vibrant, world-class city it is today.

LYNN WYATT

LynnWyattsLynn Wyatt is a third-generation Texan and Houston socialite, a legendary philanthropist, a style icon and an international hostess. Truly a renaissance woman, she is just as comfortable as a member of the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame, or when she was appointed by President Reagan to the Board of the U.S. Naval Academy, being interviewed by Vogue or practicing Tae Kwon Do, even earning a Black Belt First Degree.

Lynn has chaired prestigious events in Houston and elsewhere too numerous to mention. She is a Lifetime Trustee of the Star of Hope; vice-chair of the Houston Grand Opera; executive committee member of The Alley Theater; founding trustee of the Film Department of MFA; honorary director for the American Hospital in Paris; executive committee member of The Houston Ballet; a founding trustee for The Princess Grace Foundation USA; Elton John AIDS Foundation member; and the Rothko Chapel’s Cultural Ambassador.

Lynn’s priority has always been her family: Her husband, Oscar, and their four sons, Steven, Douglas, Trey and Bradford, and her wonderful grandchildren, Ford and Catherine, of whom she is so proud!

Quick Escape: Get Out of the House Already

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

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Before camp starts—and before the kids get cooped up—go somewhere special with the family. Take this quiz to choose the right destination for your crowd. 

1. Which scent appeals to you?

a. Sweet salted caramel.

b. Tropical palms and fragrant flowers.

c. Woodsy pine and freshly cut grass.


2. Which animal would your kids be most excited to see?

a. Gorillas. Got bananas?

b. Penguins—they’re the coolest!

c. Deer galloping along.


3. Which of these treats would your kids devour instantly?

a. Funnel cake, nachos and hotdogs.

b. An organic, fresh fruit smoothie.

c. They like trying new things—whatever taco or cupcake truck is the hottest in town.


4. Which of these is a top priority for a family outing?

a. Staying active.

b. Relaxing.

c. Learning new things.


5. What’s your family vacation soundtrack?

a. Upbeat pop and sunny rock.

b. Disney songs.

c. My kids are the soundtrack! Take me to the spa!


6. What’s the kids’ favorite way to have fun at home?

a. Playing with the dog.

b. Going swimming or playing outside.

c. Building a huge blanket-and-pillow fort in the living room.


7. What’s your tolerance for the requisite, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

a. High. I can tune it out as long as the iPod’s blasting.

b. Medium. It grates on my nerves, but it’s par for the course.

c. Low. Get. Me. Outta. Here!


8. What’s the best way to sleep?

a. With the sound of crashing waves outside my window.

b. Camping—nothing’s better than being one with nature.

c. In the comfort of my own bed!


9. Which of these upcoming blockbusters is your family dying to see?

a. Jurassic World, the Jurassic Park sequel.

b. Minions, a story about the origins of the minions in Despicable Me.

c. Pan, a live-action version of Peter Pan by Warner Bros.


10. What’s your favorite thing about living in Houston?

a. Being close to the Gulf.

b. The rich activities and events every weekend.

c. I love Houston, but love traveling even more!


Tally up your score:

1. a – 2; b – 1; c – 3

2. a – 1; b – 2; c – 3

3. a – 2; b – 3; c – 1

4. a – 2; b – 3; c – 1

5. a – 2; b – 1; c – 3

6. a – 1; b – 2; c – 3

7. a – 3; b – 2; c – 1

8. a – 2; b – 3; c – 1

9. a – 1; b – 2; c – 3

10. a – 2; b – 1; c – 3

Here’s Where You Should GO!

If you scored 10–12 points:

Wild Learning Experience:
Houston Zoo and the Museum District

A trip to the Houston Zoo (www.houstonzoo.org) and the surrounding museum district is a quickie way to get away! Make it a “stay-cation” for the family, and take advantage of all the enriching activities that Houston has to offer. Becoming a member of the zoo has it perks: special hours for members to beat the crowds, invites to events and special previews of new exhibits. Keep an eye on the zoo’s daily calendar to know when zookeepers will be giving talks on your children’s favorite animals or when feedings will take place. We’re exhilarated at the thought of the gorilla exhibit—the home for seven new gorillas—coming in May 2015. It will be a part of the African Forests Exhibit that features giraffes, rhinos and zebras.

HMNSNext to the zoo, you’ll find the Houston Museum of Natural Science (www.hmns.org), which will be hosting a magnificent and interactive shark exhibit through September. The museum also has a paleontology hall and a section devoted to Texas wildlife that showcases our great state’s diversity in species. The Cockrell Butterfly Center is a must-see, thanks to the rainforest and 50-foot waterfall housed in a three-story glass structure.

For the young and curious ones, the Children’s Museum of Houston (www.cmhouston.org) offers immersive experiences designed to let creative and scientific juices flow with exhibits that emphasize invention and finding out how things work. Both museums offer free admission on Thursdays; the HMNS is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the CMS is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.


If you scored 13–21 points:

Fun in the Sun:
Galveston

Galveston is only an hour away, and you can make a long weekend of it with your family. While there’s plenty of fun to be had on the shores and in the sand, try Schlitterbahn Galveston (www.schlitterbahn.com/galveston), which has thrilling slides and covered attractions to beat the heat. Lounge in style under cabanas that are available through reservations with wait service, complimentary water bottles and more. There’s also bonus perks for purchasing tickets at Schlitterbahn: savings for the Galveston Pleasure Pier!

Galveston-PierThe discount works both ways; you can visit Pleasure Pier (www.pleasurepier.com) first and save on your visit to Schlitterbahn. The Pleasure Pier, newly renovated in May 2012, hosts restaurants, shops, games and 15 rides, like the thrilling Iron Shark Rollercoaster and the Galaxy Wheel, which allows you to take in a stunning view of the coast. For a more breathtaking experience, try the Texas Star Flyer, the tallest swing ride in Texas at 230 feet above sea level!

Continue the adventure at Moody Gardens (www.moodygardens.com) with its new five-tier, obstacle rope course and zip-lining activity. After the adrenaline rush is complete, wind down with the family at Palm Beach, which is Galveston’s only white-sand beach, complete with a lazy river and wave pool. Moody Gardens also has an aquarium, a rainforest experience, and 3D and 4D special-effects theaters.


If you scored 22–30 points:

The Suite Life:
Resorts Beyond Houston

SWFIMG_150113_17460858_N0Q1WHead north to some outstanding resorts beyond city limits. The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center (www.woodlandsresort.com) has been named one of America’s Most Family Friendly Resorts by Fox News. The rooms make you feel zen with their warm décor, and most of them have balcony or pool walkout access. Explore The Woodlands’ surrounding nature with a family bike ride, or take it easy at the resort’s serene Forest Oasis Waterscape, where you can tube down a lazy river surrounded by trees.

Further up north in Montgomery, enjoy La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa (www.latorrettalakeresort.com) at Lake Conroe. La Torretta has an expansive list of activities for kids that will make them feel like they’re at summer camp: arts and crafts, volleyball, dodgeball and competitions for sandcastle building, dancing and mini-golf. The Aqua Park includes an infinity pool, a heated pool, a lazy river and a poolside grill. For a more private experience, the resort also has cottages for rent with separate living areas, all along the golf course. (Pets are welcome with a deposit fee.)

Head northwest toward Hempstead to discover the Lone Star Jellystone Park (www.lonestarjellystone.com) in Waller. The park offers three ways to stay: cabins that can sleep up to
eight and include a full kitchen; campgrounds for RVs and tents; and the Grand Lodge, a luxurious version of the standard cabins. Lone Star also has picnic areas and waterslides and pools to cool off in. Check the park calendar for events every weekend throughout the year. (Call ahead for pet-friendly cabins.) H

Surprising Health Risks

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

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We all know the usual culprits behind diseases such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes. But some of the biggest hazards may surprise you.

by Stacy Baker Masand

You’ve got this healthy-living stuff nailed, right? You don’t smoke, you eat nutritiously (give or take a few indulgences), you’ve done tens of thousands of planks and rolled over in Pilates class more than a Mafia informer. You try to lead a well-balanced, stress-free lifestyle—just like the doctor ordered. Problem is, you may be sabotaging your health without even knowing it.

There are a host of unexpected risks for five of the most prevalent diseases. Read on to find out the surprising ways that even seemingly innocuous lifestyle factors may be putting your health at risk.

DIABETES

Most of us associate diabetes with inactivity, a bad diet and being overweight, but that’s only part of the story. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 35 percent of us over the age of 20 fall into the category of pre-diabetes. That means your blood sugar levels are higher than they should be but aren’t high enough to qualify you as having type 2 diabetes.

And once you’ve got diabetes, you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease. “Because of the growing trend of increased body weight, lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, we’ve noticed an increase in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a surprising jump in the incidence of diabetes and other heart problems,” says Ravi Dave, MD, director of cardiology at UCLA Santa Monica Cardiology. “A lot of these issues start at a surprisingly young age.” Which makes it all the more imperative to avoid these other unexpected risks:

Sleepless-NightBad sleep habits. Studies show that if you sleep less than six hours a day or more than nine, your risk of heart disease and stroke goes up. “Lack of sleep doesn’t directly increase diabetes, but indirectly, it creates situations that put you at risk,” Dr. Dave says. “It prevents exercise and increases your intake of sugars and starches, because you’re more likely to reach for a doughnut when you’re falling asleep midday.”

Reduce your risk: “You need to fall into that sweet spot of sleep—between six and eight hours a night,” Dr. Dave advises.

Abdominal fat. Metabolic syndrome, a condition Dr. Dave describes as having excess fat in your abdominal area and a pear-shaped body, will increase your risk significantly. For women, this is a belt size over 34 inches and, for men, over 38 inches. “This puts you at risk for both diabetes and heart disease,” he says. Metabolic syndrome also includes a host of other symptoms, like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and abnormal cholesterol levels, which contribute to diabetes and other health issues.

Reduce your risk: “If this is your natural body type, be extra vigilant in getting exercise and watching your diet,” says Dr. Dave. “Control sugar, soda and sodium intake, and avoid rice, pasta and bread, which increase fat in the abdomen.”

Business-Man-ChairSitting. By now you’ve heard the mantra that “sitting
is the new smoking.” It’s true. Studies show that sitting for prolonged periods of time not only contributes to poor posture, but also impedes blood flow to the legs, creates swelling of the ankles and causes overall fatigue because your body gets used to being sedentary, according to Dr. Dave.

Reduce your risk: Get an adjustable desk, so you can stand for part of the day, or find other opportunities to stand, such as when you’re on the phone. Another option is to walk around periodically. Researchers at Indiana University found that taking a five-minute stroll once an hour can counter the effects of sitting.

STROKE

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke, and nearly 130,000 die from one, according to the CDC. It is a leading cause of serious long-term disability, and can cause partial paralysis, impaired thinking, and awareness and speech problems. You probably know that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are major risk factors, but check out these other, surprising risks:

Depression. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with depression were 45 percent more likely to have a stroke and 55 percent more likely to die from it. Another study showed that people with heart disease had more severe and frequent depression symptoms and a greater risk of stroke.

Reduce your risk: If you’re overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, have lost interest in everyday activities, feel tired and unenergetic, or have feelings of anxiety and irritability, see your doctor or a mental-health professional.

OTC pain killers. If you think nothing of regularly popping an ibuprofen for everyday pain relief, think again. Doing so ups your stroke risk three times higher than someone taking a placebo pill, a 2013 study in The Lancet found.

Reduce your risk: Switch to all-natural pain relievers, suggests Dr. Gabrielle Francis, ND, DC, LAc, and author of The Rockstar Remedy (HarperWave, 2014). “Omega-3s are natural anti-inflammatories that you can take in the form of fish oil or organic flax oil,” she explains. Take about a tablespoon per day, she says. A sweet alternative: One ounce of pure dark chocolate, which, Dr. Francis explains, is high in phenylalanine, which helps alleviate pain and increases endorphins.

A nightly Epsom salt bath can also help relieve pain. “Add two cups to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes to reduce pain and relax muscles.”

Bad gums. Many studies have shown that people who have periodontal disease have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Columbia University researchers found that people who have higher levels of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease also tend to have thicker carotid arteries, a strong predictor of stroke and heart attack.

Reduce your risk: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth. Also make sure to visit your dentist every six months or when you notice an issue such as bleeding gums.

LUNG CANCER

More people die of lung cancer than any other type of cancer; it takes more lives than prostate, breast and colon cancers combined.

Though it’s associated mainly with cigarette smoking, 30 percent of lung cancer patients have never smoked a single cigarette. But there are a number of unexpected threats, including:

Radon. Radon causes about 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to Lonny Brett Yarmus, DO, clinical chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He says what’s scary about radon—a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in buildings—is that it cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. While that sounds like something you wouldn’t find in modern homes or environments, the truth is that radon gas can be found anywhere. And high levels of exposure, which usually occur in well-insulated homes or those built on radium-, uranium- or thorium-rich soils, is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Reduce your risk: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General recommend that all homes below the third floor be tested for the presence of radon. Consumer Reports gave highest marks to the AccuStar Alpha Track Test Kit AT 100 Radon test kit ($25; www.accustarlabs.com).

Secondhand smoke. Having a partner who’s a smoker increases your chances of developing lung cancer by 20 percent. “Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals, of which many are known to cause cancer in people or animals,” says Dr. Yarmus. “About 7,300 people who never smoked die from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke every year.”

Reduce your risk: Keep your home and other indoor spaces, like your car, completely smoke-free, he suggests. No exceptions.

Diesel exhaust. Think a little exposure to urban exhaust fumes won’t be too harmful? Diesel pollution from cars and busses doesn’t just smell bad, but high levels can up your risk of lung cancer by 30 percent, according to a study in the Annals of Occupational Hygiene.

Reduce your risk: Help rid your body of toxins by increasing your intake of detoxifying foods. A recent study in Cancer Prevention Research found that vegetables, like broccoli and kale, help rid the body of cancer-causing pollutants like benzene and acrolein.

HEART DISEASE

Someone in the U.S. dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds, making it the number-one cause of death in America, according to the CDC. A recent study showed that if women control specific risk factors, they can lower their risk of heart disease and stroke by 90 percent, says Dr. Dave. The big five: maintaining a BMI of less than 25; exercising two-and-a-half hours a week (half an hour five times a week); eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables that also limits saturated fats and cholesterol; watching less than seven hours of TV a week; and reducing alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day. Also make sure to avoid these other surprising causes of heart disease:

Being skinny fat. Just because you look thin doesn’t mean you’re healthy. If your metabolism rocks, you may get by despite drinking soda, downing processed foods and avoiding exercise without gaining an ounce. But a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that 25 percent of people with normal weight have issues with blood pressure, cholesterol or heart disease. That’s because all those sugars and processed chemicals cause visceral fat storage, and up your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Reduce your risk: Even though you don’t need to eat better and exercise for weight control, you’ll want to incorporate healthier habits to improve your overall well-being.

Calcium supplements. A 2013 University of Aukland study found that women who took one gram of calcium citrate for five years had twice the risk for heart attack. (Though the reasons aren’t clear, researchers suspect that the supplements may cause blood calcium levels to quickly spike, which could contribute to artery disease. Calcium from foods causes levels to rise much more slowly.)

Reduce your risk: Boost your daily intake of calcium-rich foods, like milk, yogurt, cheese, collard greens, broccoli, sardines and edamame.

Relationship problems. When tensions run high at home between you and your partner, your risk of having a heart attack increases by 34 percent, according to a study conducted at University College London. That’s because the stress associated with these problems may increase high blood pressure, as well as your risk of diabetes and stroke.

Reduce your risk: When you hit a rough patch, seek support from friends, get space, and be sure to sleep six-to-eight hours a night.

SKIN CANCER

While skin cancer is highly preventable, it accounts for more than half of all diagnosed cancers combined. Treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006, and one person every hour dies from melanoma, the most aggressive and serious type, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

While there’s not much you can do to mitigate some of the risks (being fair-skinned, living in a sunny climate), staying vigilant and notifying your doctor about changes in your skin can help you prevent serious issues. And you should try to avoid these other unforeseen risks:

Vitamin A creams. “Topical vitamin A creams, also called retinoids, are used to treat acne and fine lines and wrinkling,” explains Dr. Shannon Trotter, a professor of dermatology with the James Cancer Hospital and Ohio State University. “They may help correct photo-damaged skin as well.” Another form of vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, is an ingredient in some sunscreens.  But now, two independent studies have shown that retinoids and other vitamin A–packed lotions may actually be increasing the production of skin lesions and tumors.

Reduce your risk: “We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and reapplying it every two hours,” Dr. Trotter says. But pass up sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate, and only apply lotions containing retinols or vitamin A at night. “We also recommend avoiding the sun during peak hours of 10 and 4 p.m. and using sun-protective clothing, like hats, sunglasses and clothes that have a UPF rating. A diet rich in antioxidants may be protective against several types of cancer, including skin cancer.”

Viagra. A new Harvard study found that men who took the little blue pill were 84 percent more likely to develop melanoma than non-users.

Reduce your risk: A study from the University of the West in the United Kingdom found that pelvic exercises helped 40 percent of men with erectile dysfunction (ED) regain normal erectile function. Hit up a Pilates or yoga class for exercises that can help strengthen the pelvic floor. Other studies have found that aerobic exercise can also help remedy ED.

HPV. HPV may play a role in the development of a certain type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

Reduce your risk: If you’ve ever been diagnosed with HPV, make sure to inform your dermatologist. H

New Heads on the Block

May 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

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What every pilgrim should know

by Lynn Ashby

So you’re new to Houston. Big deal. So was everyone here, at one time or another. Just as we put a historical plaque on any building that gets a second coat of paint, anyone who has been in town since the last smog alert is considered an old-timer. But you want to blend in, so here are a few things to know, to avoid and to take on. This way, others won’t think you just fell off the oil tanker.

That road in west Houston is pronounced “san full-LEAP-eh,” not “san FILL-a-pee” or “san fill-uh-PAY.” We have a ROW-dee-oh, not a row-DAY-oh like that fancy-schmancy street in Beverly Hills. When entering a cantina, do not say, “Draw!” Also avoid using such terms as Cougar High, Dallas Cowboys (unless in a pejorative way) and Bud Adams. As a bit of background on this last item, the late Bud Adams owned the Houston Oilers and pulled off the impossible: He made football unpopular in Texas. Adams had a long-running row with Houston Post sports writer Jack Gallagher. They once got into a fistfight at the Shamrock bar. Later one colleague told Gallagher, “Bud Adams is his own worst enemy.” Gallagher replied, “Not as long as I’m alive.” Just trying to bring you up to speed on what happened here before you arrived. 

Houston has several nicknames and some really dumb slogans which never caught on. The Bayou City is the most often used. Space City was a good handle until NASA gave away several spacecraft. Los Angeles got one. So did that hub of space flight, New York City. Houston didn’t. Later we got a cheap mockup made by Mattel or Lego. Another slogan, in an effort to go with our weaknesses, we coined Houston’s Hot. We got burned. Way back in our history, we used Where 23 Railroads Meet The Sea. That event must have made a huge splash, so to speak. We’ve tried Expect the Unexpected (which everyone expected). If you can think of a good city slogan for us, you can stay. 

You may be wondering who are all these people with funny accents. Well, if you came from, say Boston, you would talk funny, too. Texans break any one-syllable word into two, the second beginning with y: Come over HEAR-yer, CA-yut, MAY-yun. One out every four of us is foreign born. Not just from one of the other 49 states. Foreign born. Houston has been called the most ethnically diverse city in America, if not in the world. Any place that has a lesbian mayor and a black police chief, where both Sheila Jackson Lee and Ted Cruz call home, has got to be diverse. Fortunately, we all get along, if you don’t count Aggies and Longhorns. And still newcomers arrive. From July 1, 2013, to one year later, Houston increased its population—due to both immigrants and sex—by 334,202. For Harris County, the new arrivals totaled 82,890. That’s 227 newcomers a day every single day.

Houston-Katy-Freeway-Fwy-traff-76289126A Bumper Crop

Now a word about Houston traffic. There is not much of it except during rush hour, which lasts from 6 a.m. to noon and noon to 8 p.m. If you are the average motorist, you drive 28.81 miles a day, which can, indeed, take a day. At last count there were 4,746,244 vehicles on our roads in this county, all trying to get a parking place at CityCentre. Most Houston drivers are armed and that includes those driving vehicles with training wheels. The term “riding shotgun” is not just a term. But do not be intimidated. Remember, warning shots are for wimps. Do not challenge those vehicles with notches on their front bumper, have the word “police” on the side, whose hood ornament is crosshairs or any vehicle with a tail-gunner. The city briefly had video cameras at major intersections to take photos of drivers running red lights and slamming into other vehicles, wounding or killing their fellow Houstonians. Fortunately, we voted to take the cameras down (and spend millions of tax dollars getting out of the contract). “T-boning” is not just on the menu. As for our mass-transit system, it hasn’t worked well since the mule died.

Austin has its under-the-bridge bats. Dallas has its Big Tex, and Houston has its buffalo. Gather along—where else?—Buffalo Bayou each dusk, and watch the running of the bison. On Sunday afternoons, you can place your bets on them at Buffalo Speedway. That’s where A.J. Foyt got his start. We have the world’s largest medical center. For a town dubbed the nation’s fattest city and smog capital of America, we need it. Houstonians love sports, but since most fans are from somewhere else, at any college or pro sporting event, it is often hard to determine which is the home team. We like to say: “At Minute Maid Park you are never more than half an inning away from Major League Baseball.”

We have 81 radio stations in the Houston area, some of which are in English. We have a public radio station that is so exclusive no one can hear it. Then there is KTRH, whose listeners have trouble dialing in since they tend to drag their knuckles. We have three daily newspapers in Houston; two of them are in Chinese. The other is the Houston Chronicle, which is based in New York City and cares not a very profitable fig about putting out a quality newspaper in some town down in Texas. It’s the same with TV. Our network stations are owned by out-of-state corporations which won’t spend any money. So all the local TV news programs show only murders, apartment fires, muggings and more murders. If you just arrived here, please unpack. We also have house fires.

downtownHUMILITY ABOUT OUR HUMIDITY

Here are a few items of knowledge for you newcomers:       

Telephone Road is not an unlisted number. River Oaks has no river. Chimney Rock is not a dance. Houston Heights is really not very high. Indeed, it’s hard to get a drink there.

• Fracking is good. Zoning is bad. So backyard fracking is acceptable, if not desirable.

• Matching mud flaps on your pickup truck is considered de rigueur. Saying “de rigueur” in most ice houses on Dowling Street can be harmful to your health.

• Students attend Rice for athletics and UH for academics.

• Yes, you can drive northeast on the Southwest Freeway.

• No, Miss Ima Hogg did not have a sister named Ura.

Visitors to Houston often comment about our weather, especially the humidity. Dermatologists say humidity is good for our skin, so we have nine giant humidifiers around town to keep our air moist. It rains here, but only on alternating days. Our summers can be hot, but not if you turn your AC down to 60 and never leave your house. We have roaches, but their size is often exaggerated by city boosters. I, personally, have never seen a cockroach larger than a shoebox. Okay, a boot box. Geographically, within the city limits of Houston’s 655 square miles, you could put New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and Miami. Might as well. Their inhabitants are already here.

Coming from elsewhere, as thousands of you have done, we welcome your arrival. We understand your bit of nostalgia at leaving Newark and Detroit, and we are patient, up to a point, with your NYU bumper stickers and the USC flags on your lawn poles, but by your own choice, you are in Texas now. Here, we name schools and counties after Lee and Jackson, Crockett, Zavala and Navarro. Your school children recite both the U.S. and the Texas Pledge of Allegiance every day. Deal with it or there is a U-Haul near you.

Despite what your job recruiter told you, Houston did not begin with your arrival. This is a city which can actually chart the very day it was born: August 30, 1836, when the Allen brothers ran an advertisement in the Telegraph and Texas Register for the “Town of Houston.” “There is no place in Texas more healthy, having an abundance of excellent spring water, and enjoying the sea breeze in all its freshness,” thus setting a Houston tradition we hold on to this day: Our developers lie. We have on our doorstep the San Jacinto Battlefield, where the Texians won their independence from Mexico but not from bandits, angry Indians who claim they got here first, drought, floods and the rare hurricane. It is easy to see why our side won at San Jacinto. The Texians had lookouts in that tall monument in the middle of the fight and a huge battleship just off shore.


Downtown-Houston-Texas-43528411ASTRO-COMICAL

Be careful when buying a house here. If the realtor says, “It’s a split-level,” check the foundation. A “fixer-upper” is a down-and-outer. A “teardown” means bring a match. Avoid buying any house that has a line drawn in the den at six feet labeled, “high-water mark,” or has the chalk outline of a body in the kitchen. We have some beautiful neighborhoods here, so avoid any that have a moat, guard towers or such names as Toxic Tundra, Cotton Mouth Meadows or Hurricane Alley. Incidentally, the only zoning we have here is the ozone.

Politically, voters in the City of Houston tend to vote Democrat. The county goes Republican. Either way, we send our least talented to Austin and Washington, basically just to get them out of town. A word of caution: Don’t bring up politics around members of the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, a cocktail party and especially around the Tea Party who are easy to spot: They all wear flak jackets. 

You won’t be here long until you hear about the fate of our Official City Eyesore, the Astrodome. It’s been empty and deteriorating since the Astros and the Oilers had winning seasons. Suggestions on what to do with the structure have included using it for an indoor drive-in movie lot, a shopping mall and hotel, a space museum (we already have one but two are better), or that monstrous structure should be used to hold Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ego. One of the silliest ideas was to turn the Astrodome into a baseball stadium, easily converted for football. We had a vote to decide its fate and the demolish-the-Dome side won handily, but, this being a democracy, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett ruled that we keep it. So, the taxpayers just spent a small fortune to give the outside a clean-and-paint job.

Before the Dome was built, the Astros played in Colt Stadium. What happened to it? The facility became an open-air warehouse for junk from AstroWorld. In 1973, it was broken down and sold to a Minor League team in Torreon, Mexico, for $100,000. The stadium was later moved to Tampico, where it still stands, as part of a public playground. Some Houstonians say the Astros should have followed the field of beams.

So welcome to Houston, newcomer. For all our faults, you could be back in Detroit.

Ashby loves Houston at ashby2@comcast.net.

WHO’S ON FIRST, ABBOTT?

To: Members of the Texas State Guard

From: Gov. Greg Abbott

Subject: Defending Texas!!!

 

My fellow patriots, Washington is once again trying to take over our beloved Lone Star State. It wasn’t enough that those Godless bureaucrats bought us off with bribes like the Houston Ship Channel, NASA, Medicare and Social Security. Now they are overtly invading Texas. There are reliable reports that “President” Obama will declare martial law as a prelude to a federal move to seize our personal weapons. They say 1,200 elite service members from four branches of the U.S. military, including Navy SEALS and Army Green Berets, will be coming here to stage “exercises” and “training.” Only 1,200? We can’t believe this administration. Just remember: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” and, “I am not a Muslim.” I suspect more like a million will come.

That is why I am calling on you, members of the Texas State Guard, to monitor these troops. Defend our land with your walkers, canes and, if necessary, your AARP cards. As I wrote to Maj. Gen. Gerald Betty of the Texas State Guard, “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” Incidentally, some of you are confusing the Texas Guard and the Texas National Guard. The latter is “National,” i.e. “Washington.” Need I say more?

Here are a few suggestions to carry out your monitoring: You must keep an eye out for their positions, command structure, weapons and officers’ clubs. Report back to me on everything you see. Use this code term: Governor’s Office. It has been reported by my agents that the U.S. military already has slipped several units into Texas. Some 45.000 soldiers are already bivouacked at a secret spot code named Fort Hood. More are said to have gathered at a desolate desert oasis they call Fort Bliss. San Antonio may have thousands of members of the Air Force who have surreptitiously slipped in. We are looking into these rumors.

What to investigate and report? Any gathering of more than ten (10) men and women is disguise. They can be spotted by their phony American-flag shoulder patches. (They stole the idea from Russian troops invading the Ukraine pretending to be peasants driving armored tractors.) Listen to these invaders. If they say things like “youse guys,” “fugetaboutit” and “Hillary for President” take pictures.

This invasion has been labeled Operation Jade Helm 15. And who is this Jade Helm 15? Maybe Gen. Jade Helm? My codebreakers are working on it. If captured, remember Nathan Hale’s famous quote; “Redcoats? Are you sure? I’m color blind.” Patriots in Bastrop, where some “training” is scheduled, have questioned a military spokesman in a two-hour sometimes raucous meeting. The Bastropians have every right to be suspicious since the huge Bastrop fires of 2011 were reportedly caused by Agent Orange dropped by black helicopters, or perhaps Agent Black dropped by orange helicopters. We have conflicting reports.

There is information from the federal government that Bastrop is not the only part of Texas to be terrorized by paratroopers, tanks and probably the First Marine Division invading Galveston. Some 16 other areas are scheduled to be “visited” by these invaders. Texas State Guards in Amarillo, guard the Pantex plant that supposedly is dissembling our nuclear bombs. How do we know they are not secretly assembling them? Check to see if any workers speak Arabic, or look Muslim, or even sound swarthy. My fellow patriots in Houston, we are told the Astrodome is empty. Really? A perfect place to hide a battalion of SEALS. We think we have intercepted a radio message from their headquarters: “Osama today – Channelview tomorrow.” Baytownians, is the USS Texas really out of service? Note that its 16-inch guns have been turned on Montrose. Sailors aboard the battleship are receiving information from scouts placed atop the San Jacinto Monument. Look for flashes from mirrors.

Some left-wingers have questioned my authority to call up armed forces. Our state constitution specifically reads: “He shall have power to call forth the militia to execute the laws of the State, to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions.” Note “to repel invasions.” Alas, in 1999 the governor lost a key command that goes with the job: ordering out the militia to suppress Indian raids and Mexican bandits. In light of the Dream Act, I plan to ask the Legislature to

restore that power. If the Texas Rangers can’t handle an invasion, I am empowered to call out the National Guard. If more troops are required, then I use the State Guard. Also, I have at my disposal the Salvation Army and the Sons of Confederate Veterans License Plate Brigade.

It is asked why I would oppose federal troops coming to Texas to train when I have asked for several thousand of them to guard our borders. The difference is simple: too many Oklahomans are sneaking in. Other commie-symps say my call to arms shows deep paranoia. I don’t think so and neither does my shrink, Dr. Shrunk, if that really is his name. He finds it not unusual that I attend his sessions while I lie underneath his couch. You can’t be too careful. There is also the charge that I am simply pandering to the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party. Nonsense. I don’t think so and neither does Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (and we know that’s not his name).

Operation Jade Helm 15 is not the only Washington grab going on here. State Sen. Donna Campbell, Republican of New Braunfels, notes the Alamo has been nominated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. That is obviously a first step towards an outright seizure. Sen. Campbell has introduced a bill to prevent this theft. Good for her. Wherever these invaders go, whatever skullduggery they perform, they will be watched. Remember Washington, the spies of Texas are upon you!

Ashby is hiding at ashby2@comcst.net

 

 

AUSTIN-TATIOUS

May 4, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

The late columnist Molly Ivins often told the story of Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis addressing a group of wheelchair-bound Texans watching from the House gallery. Lewis ended with, “Now stand and take a bow.” I was in the Texas Senate when Sen. Walter “Mad Dog” Mengden of Houston proclaimed, “And that is the problem, if there is a problem, which I deny.” You can’t make up this stuff. One Texas lawmaker introduced a resolution praising Albert DeSalvo for his “efforts with population control.” Only after the resolution passed unanimously did the legislators realize they were praising the Boston Strangler.

Those were the good times. Today’s Texas legislators are mostly angry, mean-spirited demagogues with an agenda which no more reflects the desires and priorities of most Texans than pond scum. The lawmakers simply pander to their voters’ fears and paranoia. (Few voters as there are — Texas has the lowest voter participation of any of the 50 states.) Gideon John Tucker, an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician, wrote in 1866, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” So, while our own legislature is in session, let’s look at their work.

Despite the opposition of police, sheriffs and a whole lot of citizens, our lawmakers passed a new open-carry gun law that allows four guys at the next booth to play Gunfight at the Golden Corral. Although Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, the legislature passed an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs. The amendment to the House budget proposal — offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman) — diverts $3 million over the next biennium to the disproven, if not totally useless, abstinence-only program aimed at preventing teenaged pregnancies. Stand by for thousands of unwanted Texas babies who will end up on our welfare rolls. Millions of our tax dollars are going to other states because of our stand against health care, and we have already discussed a bill that would prevent the UN from taking over the Alamo.

The height of hypocrisy are the lawmakers in Austin who run on the “get Washington out of our business” platform and constantly demand “local control.” Then, at the behest of the oil and gas lobby, the gang stripped cities and counties of the power to prohibit fracking, like the good voters of Denton County did. “We don’t want a patchwork of laws across the state,” said one sponsor. There is also a bill to keep local governments from outlawing plastic bags – the kind you get at the grocery store – and one to keep cities from installing video cameras at major intersections to photograph red-light runners who like to T-bone your kids’ nursery school van. How about a “get Austin out of our business” platform?

In a transparent move to protect themselves, the legislators have defanged our watchdogs. The Travis County Public Integrity Unit (PIU) had been given state-wide authority, and funds, to investigate and if necessary prosecute public officials who broke the law, as if there were any. We all know the (excuse the cliche) back story: the drunken DA, Gov. Perry using that as an excuse to defund the PIU which led to Perry’s own felony indictments. And now we have this law to strip the PIU of its power and give it to the Texas Rangers (who finished at the very bottom last season) and to local DAs. This just might create “a patchwork of law enforcement across the state,” which the legislators apparently want.

This particular sordid story gets better, or worse. We have elected an attorney general, Ken Paxton, who admitted to sleazy financial dealings and paid a $1,000 fine. No question of his guilt, but he was elected anyway, maybe because he had an R beside his name on the ballot. Did the R stand for Reformed or Recidivist? But under this new law, the Public Integrity Unit couldn’t pursue the case anymore, and the job went to the Denton County DA who sat on it for two months, and probably wouldn’t have touched it with a 10-foot subpoena until public do-gooders raised a stink. The DA, who had been in with Paxton on several business deals, finally recused himself, and two outside lawyers were hired. Wonder if Perry could have found funds to pay them?

As for our former governor, Perry got out Dodge just in time, because scandals keep popping up. There is the Texas Enterprise Fund which doled out hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars to attract businesses to Texas – even those which never applied for the funds. Also, there is that $20 million no-bid border security contract that, as former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby would say, doesn’t pass the smell test. Actually it stinks. But the PIU, whose staff now has 17 employees, down from 35 before Perry pulled funding, says it does not have the money or staff to reopen its investigation. Speaking of state funds, while Perry vetoed $7.5 million for the PIU, which – can you imagine? — the new legislature did not restore, the Senate has allocated about $811 million to fund its border security plan, while the House is proposing $565 million.

To be fair, voters elected these officials, and they are doing exactly what they said they would do. Their annual pay is only $7,200 plus expenses, and they meet in regular sessions 140 days every two years. (The standing joke is that they should meet for two days every 140 years.) They have vaulted the Lone Star State into the 18th Century — Texas ranks last in most state comparisons including health care, education, teenaged pregnancies (see above) and state spending per capita. Nevertheless, the hot topic this session is how much both budgets and taxes can be cut. So when people say, “Don’t mess with Texas,” tell them it’s too late.

 

Ashby votes at ashby2@comcast.net