en español: El Innovador de Texas
I have set up a survey on my Web page—www.window.state.tx.us—so parents, caregivers, law enforcement officials, advocacy groups and others can give us first-hand information on what’s happening in our state’s foster care system.
My office is conducting a performance review of our state’s foster care system run by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS). The foster care system is often the last stop for abused and neglected children, many of whom are emotionally troubled.
My action was prompted by reports of problems with the foster care system at residential treatment centers. The problems include improper use of taxpayers’ money.
Reported problems also include the kind of care—or lack thereof—children receive at these treatment centers. These centers provide 24-hour care for foster children with mental or behavioral problems too severe for the children to be placed in individual foster homes. But reports allege the children are not receiving the care they need and deserve—or the care that taxpayers pay for—and that there may be insufficient oversight of the facilities by DPRS.
I will get to the bottom of these allegations. My office will review foster care system operations, and will look into any misuse of taxpayers’ dollars. I will make sure our foster care system does what it is intended to do—protect our children.
I’m going to be “One Tough Grandma” looking out for our most vulnerable children in the foster care system.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Some Texas-based grocers are helping consumers take multi-tasking to a new level by providing in-store health screening services. At grocery stores such as San Antonio-based H-E-B and Houston-based Randalls Food Markets, shoppers can stock the pantry and take stock of their own health.
“The health of our consumer is of great concern to H-E-B,” said Kate Rogers, director of public affairs for the H-E-B Central Texas region. “The grocery store is a very convenient place for people to take advantage of health screening opportunities.”
Randalls offers health screenings and flu shots through Houston-based Interfit, a health screening company, at stores in Austin, Dallas and Houston.
Randalls Health and Screening Centers offer tests for allergies, diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer and osteoporosis.
Employees provide test results online, by mail or by telephone at the customer’s request.
H-E-B’s health screenings often coincide with national initiatives such as Breast Cancer Awareness month in October and American Diabetes Month in November, Rogers said.
“The response from our customers has been great, and the response from the health care community has been great,” Rogers said. “They [the health care community] think this is a wonderful way to reach populations that aren’t being served by other outreach initiatives.”
For more information, call Kate Rogers,
By 2004, students at the University of Washington (UW) won’t have to wonder if they can get along with their dormitory roommate.
They can choose their most compatible roommate using an online program developed by WebRoomz, an Atlanta company that develops roommate matchmaking software.
Students log onto their school’s campus server and access WebRoomz via the Internet, said company spokeswoman Jessica Harrison. Students can post their profiles, personality traits, work habits, schedules, likes and dislikes and music and food preferences.
The computer system matches the closest pairs, and students may end up with 10 or 15 potential roommates to choose from. Students select their roommates before the school year starts, so they have time to contact each other and get acquainted. WebRoomz sells the system to colleges and universities, but there is no additional cost to students, Harrison said. The cost depends on the number of people seeking housing and the services used.
WebRoomz can help match roommates for any type of university or college housing, including residence halls, graduate and faculty housing and off-campus apartments.
UW officials tested the WebRoomz program in October and plan to roll out the system for spring 2004, when 8,000 students will register.
Other colleges using WebRoomz include Emory University in Atlanta, Auburn University in Alabama, the University of Utah and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
For more information, contact Jessica Harrison, WebRoomz,
Sending a package overnight is efficient, but delivering it in an environmentally friendly truck is even better. Eaton Corp., based in Cleveland, Ohio, is developing hybrid electric delivery trucks for FedEx Express, which plans to replace up to 30,000 of its medium-duty trucks with the hybrid technology vehicles.
FedEx Express and Environmental Defense (ED), a New York-based nonprofit organization, approached Eaton with the idea for a delivery vehicle that decreases emissions, improves fuel economy and costs the same as current delivery trucks. ED claims that 10,000 hybrid vehicles—in place of standard vehicles—could reduce smog emissions by as much as 2,000 tons, or the equivalent of removing cars from the roads of New York City for one month. They also could reduce soot emissions by 60,000 pounds, carbon dioxide emissions by 75,000 tons and save more than 6 million gallons of diesel fuel, which takes 930,000 barrels of crude oil to make.
ED and FedEx Express worked on the project for three years before FedEx Express agreed to purchase prototype vehicles from Eaton in May 2003, according to Jessica Mendelowitz of Environmental Defense.
Mendelowitz said the initial rollout is scheduled for late in 2003.
For more information, contact Jessica Mendelowitz,
Environmental Defense, 212-505-2100
It is the stuff of James Bond come to life. The Aquada was unveiled in September 2003 as the world’s first sports car that doubles as a boat.
A six-cylinder engine, with 175 horsepower, drives the Aquada, which boasts speeds of up to 100 mph on land and 30 mph in the water.
According to Gibbs Technologies, the Aquada’s England-based creator, the car can transition into the water off any mild slope in about six seconds and exit the water just as quickly to drive on the road. It carries sensors and locking devices to prevent the wheels from raising while driving or lowering while in the water.
The Aquada has an automatic gearshift on land, and its accelerator acts as a throttle in the water. A jet propulsion system powers the Aquada in the water.
According to Gibbs Technologies, the vehicle has undergone extensive safety testing. The Aquada features an automatic fire extinguisher system and has a manual over-ride power switch to disconnect all electrical current.
The vehicle is legal for both road and water use, but the driver must have both boat and car insurance, said Gibbs Technologies officials.
The Aquada, scheduled to be available for sale by the end of 2003, carries a sticker price of $235,000. Passengers will, however, have to give up the convenience of doors, which do not open for the sake of keeping the Aquada watertight. Passengers hop into the car from openings on the top.
For more information, contact Alan Gibbs,
Researchers at the University of Florida are developing a new way to deliver drugs into the eye. Instead of using eye drops, the system imbeds medicine-filled particles into soft contact lenses. The drugs slowly and steadily release into the eye without spills and without being diluted by tears or draining into the nasal cavity.
Anuj Chauhan, a University of Florida professor of chemical engineering, said a significant portion of medication delivered into the eye by drops gets absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can cause harmful side effects. Glaucoma medications can cause side effects from impotence to heart problems, he said.
Chauhan and doctoral student Derya Gulsen said the lenses do not cloud vision and provide slower and more constant medication delivery than drops. The lenses also could provide an alternative to surgery for conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma. Several obstacles remain, however, before the lenses can be marketed, the researchers said.
One challenge is a patient‘s ability to wear the lenses day and night without damaging the eye. Chauhan has applied for a patent and said clinical trials are necessary. He estimated it will be about 10 years before the lenses are commercially available.
For more information, contact Anuj Chauhan,
An old science fiction dream took a large step toward reality in August 2003, when the U.S. Army announced it had chosen a design concept for its proposed Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser (MTHEL)—a beam weapon designed to knock down short-range missiles and artillery shells.
Developers intend for the MTHEL to be a vehicle-mounted, field-operated air defense system that can accompany troops into combat, shielding them from air attack. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman developed the design concept and has constructed an experimental version of the new technology. In extensive tests at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the demonstrator shot down 28 rockets and five artillery projectiles. MTHEL is the culmination of more than 30 years of Northrop Grumman research into military applications for lasers.
The design concept selection will lead to the development of an operational MTHEL prototype by 2007. The U.S. Army and the Israeli Ministry of Defense are co-funding the project, which is administered by the Army’s Air, Space and Missile Defense Program.
For more information, contact Bob Bishop,
Northrop Grumman Corporation, <Bob.J.Bishop@ngc.com>
Researchers at the University of Texas and Stanford University are developing a new kind of antibiotic based on a protein named RraA. The protein, which kills bacteria cells, is a naturally occurring protein, so it may have fewer side effects than existing antibiotics.
Researchers found that RraA killed bacteria cells by allowing an excessive amount of ribonucleic acid to build up in the cells.
While the research may not result in a commercially viable product in the near future, researchers said the work is significant because some strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to currently available treatments.
For more information, contact Professor George Georgiou,
In Japan, a new type of car can park itself. Toyota Motor Corp. developed an Intelligent Parking Assist system that uses electrically operated power steering and backup monitor technology to guide a driver’s steering in curbside parking and similar situations.
The self-parking feature is available only in Toyota Priuses sold in Japan.
For more information, contact Denise Morrissey,
Since 1998, a San Francisco program has diverted food scraps from area restaurants away from landfills and toward composting facilities. The compost is then sold to the region’s farmers.
The city’s garbage contractor, Norcal Waste Systems, diverts 300 tons a day. The company charges 25 percent less to take the food waste than it does for regular trash, so businesses save money. Other California cities have begun copying the program.
For more information, contact Robert Reed,
Norcal Waste Systems Inc., <email@example.com>
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright