en español: El Innovador de Texas
Stop Underage Smoking, Save CHIP
My office recently launched a new education campaign called “Under18—No Tobacco! I Can’t Sell, You Can’t Buy!” I believe this effort will help stop 57,000 young Texans who start smoking each and every year.
Teenage smoking is a real problem that ultimately can and does destroy lives, and I am committed to doing everything possible as Comptroller to discourage the illegal sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.
Since April, posters and stickers that can be displayed in store windows, pamphlets to educate retailers about tobacco laws and guideline sheets called “How to Check Identification” have been mailed to more than 29,000 stores.
During the last regular legislative session, I advocated increasing the cigarette tax by $1 a pack. Discounting for those who would never start smoking and those who would smoke less—the mama and the grandmamma in me believes we might just save lives—this would have brought in $1.5 billion for the 2004-05 biennium.
Rather than implementing this new economic engine to fund much needed programs, devastating decisions were made that left Texas dead last in the number of children with health insurance in these United States. Where the state is abdicating its responsibilities and ignoring state challenges we are creating local crises.
We continue to say no to children without health insurance. Just since last September 149,000 Texas children have been dropped from the Children’s Health Insurance Program—that’s unconscionable. And right now, the state has nearly $1.2 billion that could be used by budget execution to restore the program.
I care passionately about our children. And it is our obligation to make sure they have the health care they deserve, are immunized against deadly diseases and that those under 18 cannot buy cigarettes. Together we can save the lives of our most precious resource, our children.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
The gift of health
Scott & White Memorial Healthcare System Hospital in Temple, Texas, is putting a new spin on the gift card concept.
Gift cards are pre-paid cards usually sold in retail outlets to buy goods from a particular store. Scott & White became the first health care provider in the United States to offer the cards when it launched the Scott & White Gift Card on May 3, according to Tracy Brown, the system’s director of marketing communications.
Bearers can use the card to pay for such expenses as co-pays, procedures, prescriptions or items in the hospital’s cafeteria and gift shop. People can purchase gift cards at the hospital’s primary location or its regional clinics in Waco, Georgetown, Killeen and Bryan/College Station to pay for goods and medical services at any location in the Scott & White system that accepts credit card payments. The hospital sells the rechargeable cards in various denominations from $25 to $500.
For more information, contact Tracy Brown,
Cops, live in Tyler
Tyler police have a new weapon in their daily fight against crime—digital video recorders in their patrol cars. The system replaces traditional tape-fed recorders with digital imagery that police can download to a central server.
“The nightmare of the videotapes is you have to manage the tapes,” said Gary Swindle, Tyler’s chief of police. “We have 6,000 tapes that are kept for 90 days and then erased, so you’re constantly managing tapes.”
IBM and Houston-based Coban Technologies developed the system, which features a computer hard drive that police can remove from their patrol cars at the end of the day and download the video into the station’s server. Police will be able to more easily retrieve footage from specific traffic stops, said Swindle.
“The officer in the car making the stop can swipe the driver’s license in the computer, and it logs the person’s info right there,” he said.
Police can call up video from specific stops using that information.
Eventually, the system will feed live video via a wireless network, and police will be able to view video at headquarters and from other cars in the field. The Tyler Police Department purchased the system, which cost $500,000 to equip 60 patrol cars, with federal law enforcement grants and city funds.
For more information, contact Gary Swindle,
Sci-fi authors have long written about cyborgs—part human, part computer. One company’s first step toward marrying man and machine is not aimed at creating soldiers, but improving the life of the disabled.
Massachusetts-based Cyberkinetics Inc. is beginning a clinical trial in which its researchers will implant four-millimeter square computer chips under the skulls of five paralyzed people.
Called BrainGate, the device provides an interface with a personal computer. The goal is to enable patients to tell a computer to act with their thoughts. For example, with the help of the implant, patients who cannot speak might be able to tell a computer to spell out words on a screen.
While the wires now extend from the skull, increasing the risk of infection, the company is working on creating a wireless alternative. If successful, Cyberkinetics’ Chief Executive Timothy Surgenor said the company wants to complete the trials by 2012.
For more information, contact Timothy Surgenor,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-549-9981, ext. 100
Clues are often in short supply when police locate mail bombs—officers usually destroy the devices, which eliminates any fingerprints that may have been on them.
After a series of mail bomb attacks on the Calgary chief of police in 1999, the Calgary police worked with University of Calgary students to design a device for taking fingerprints from bombs using a robot.
After testing several designs, the students delivered their best to the Calgary police, said engineering student Kristian Dixon.
The device consisted of an oven, which heated superglue until it boiled, Dixon said. Then the glue’s vapor was blown onto the suspected bomb. The vapors turned any fingerprints on the device white. Then a high-resolution camera snapped a photo of the prints.
Sgt. Dave Wood of the Calgary Police Service said the prototype worked well.
“It worked fantastic, though it was a little time-consuming,” Wood said. “The process takes about an hour.”
Dixon said some of the device’s components cracked during testing. Wood, who is working with a company interested in building a replacement, says other law enforcement agencies also hope to use the technology.
For more information, contact Dave Wood,
Attack of the cones
Placing traffic cones can be a dangerous job for road repair crews, particularly at night. But what if the cones could place themselves? That’s the vision of Shane Farritor, a roboticist with the University of Nebraska and inventor of a self-propelled traffic cone.
Farritor’s robotic cones travel on three-wheeled bases driven by twin electric motors. Once an operator delivers a “herd” of the cones to a traffic trouble spot, he or she can direct their deployment with a laptop computer, according to Farritor. A “shepherd” unit equipped with global positioning technology leads each group of cones. The operator decides where to place the cones and dispatches the shepherd, which takes up its position and radios commands to the other, less complex units. The shepherd unit also can check the cones’ positions using laser-based radar.
In tests, cone herds of six units have positioned themselves to create lane barriers with near-human accuracy. Farritor plans to refine the design, improve the positioning software and bring down the price—now about $700 per unit.
For more information, contact Shane Farritor,
University of Nebraska, 402-472-5805
Did you wash your hands?
A new scanner can tell whether workers or children have washed their hands, and if they’ve done a good job.
Florida-based eMerge Interactive Inc. tweaked scanners initially developed to detect germs in beef plants to find germs on human hands. The machines can be mounted on a wall or placed on a flat surface, and are touch-free.
“After a user or worker would use the restroom, they would walk up to the system and... place their hands underneath the system, and it automatically turns on,” said Rich Stroman, eMerge Interactive’s executive vice president. “It takes an image of your hand. You rotate your hand, and it will tell you if you have any remaining contamination on your hand and where it is.”
Stroman said the machines detect about 70 percent of germs that are invisible to the human eye and can prevent transmission of hepatitis A and E. coli and salmonella bacteria.
The company is targeting sectors of the food processing, food service, day care and health care industries for the scanners, which will be available for sale at the end of 2004 and will cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
For more information, contact Rich Stroman,
Chronic snorers, and the spouses and bed partners they bug, may find relief with a new surgery that places tiny cylindrical inserts in the roof of the mouth.
Some 40 million Americans snore because their palates—the roof of the back of the mouth—flap or vibrate as air passes through, according to Restore Medical Inc., the Minnesota company that makes Pillar System inserts.
During the procedure, surgeons place three implants the size of small nails into the palate to make the tissue more rigid so it’s less likely to produce a snore. The 10-minute procedure can be performed in a physician’s office and requires a local anesthetic.
“Only one treatment is needed—most patients experience a noticeable reduction in their snoring within two to four weeks and have a high probability of experiencing a lasting effect,” said Susan L. Critzer, president and CEO of Restore Medical.
Restore Medical officials have tested their technology in clinical trials for treating sleep apnea, a condition that disrupts sleep.
For more information, contact Susan L. Critzer,
Diabetics normally monitor the amount of sugar in their blood by pricking their finger and testing the sample. Sanford Asher, a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh, developed a less invasive test that uses contact lenses to measure the amount of glucose in patients’ tears.
The contact lenses contain photonic crystals in a gel whose chemical structure changes when it comes in contact with glucose. Asher has worked on the contact lens experiment since 2001 but said it could be 2006 before diabetics will be able to buy glucose-monitoring contact lenses.
For more information, contact Sanford Asher,
Parents, teachers and taxpayers digging for information about public school performance have access to data in a new Web site, <www.SchoolResults.org>. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Broad Foundation, the site posts information on school districts nationwide gathered under the No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 federal education reform bill.
For more information, contact Susan Aspey,
U.S. Department of Education, 202-401-1576
After creating the world’s smallest biomolecular computer in November 2001, Professor Ehud Shapiro and researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute have programmed the computer to detect and treat prostate cancer and a certain type of lung cancer—in a test tube. The computer, so small that a trillion of them could fit in a drop of water, might someday recognize disease within the body and treat it before external symptoms appear, according to the Weizmann Institute.
For more information, contact Ehud Shapiro,
Weizmann Institute of Science, +972-8-934-4506
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright