en español: El Innovador de Texas
Put Texas Children First
On October 14, I sent my foster care reform package to the Legislature and respectfully requested Gov. Rick Perry to declare it emergency legislation to be considered in the first 30 days of the 79th Legislature. Doing so would enable lawmakers to suspend rules and immediately begin passing the reforms that address the crisis at the Department of Family and Protective Services.
I also urged Gov. Perry to immediately create a Family and Protective Services Crisis Management Team by executive order.
When I delivered Forgotten Children, my heartbreaking report on the condition of our state’s foster care system, I vowed to report back to the people of Texas as often as it takes to fix the broken system. In July, I released a progress report that made it clear that the Department of Family and Protective Services had ignored the majority of my recommendations.
This crisis must be taken seriously and immediate action taken. We can no longer wait to turn around the critically wounded Department of Family and Protective Services. The sweeping reform legislation that I turned over to the Legislature is needed for long-term accountability. A crisis management team composed of experts from other agencies would stabilize the agency during the change of management and provide technical assistance on contracting, licensing, technology and investigations.
The crisis grows minute-by-minute, child-by-child. By drawing on assistance and expertise from staff in other agencies immediate action can be taken to protect thousands and thousands of our forgotten children. Fundamental change must begin now. It is time to put our most vulnerable Texans – our children – first.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Personal hand-held electronic devices like cell phones, compact disc players and iPods only last until their batteries run out.
Round Rock, Texas, businessman Randy Gray launched Innovus Designs Inc. and developed a backpack capable of charging electronic devices using solar power.
“I was walking around at the beach and the light went on in my head,” Gray said. “I noticed people everywhere on cell phones with coolers. The first prototype was a cooler I made in 2003.”
Gray later developed a backpack, which hit the market in August 2004. The pack has solar panels that can charge a device through a 12-volt adapter, like one that would plug into an automobile’s cigarette lighter, Gray said.
Plans are in the works to expand the charging capacity of future products, Gray said.
“Right now it just charges one [device],” he said. “Future models will have upgrades like more power, dual sockets and such.”
The pack—called The Reactor—is available through Gray’s Web site at <www.eclispesolargear.com>.
For more information, contact Randy Gray,
Hair from hair
A research team formed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and New York’s Rockefeller University discovered stem cells in hair follicles that may prevent baldness and help burn victims as well.
Researchers discovered “master” stem cells in mouse hair follicles, said Dr. Elaine Fuchs, a professor at Rockefeller University. Stem cells can change their type, becoming various specialized cells that build the body’s tissues and organs.
Led by Fuchs, the researchers found they could grow stem cells in laboratory conditions and, when they grafted them to hairless mice, the process produced a normal fur coat, complete with new skin, hair and hair follicles and oil-producing glands, Fuchs said.
If such cells could be used in human subjects, the treatment would produce a possible solution for balding and could be used to give new hope to burn victims, who now receive grafts of the outer layer of skin, Fuchs said. Such skin does not contain hair follicles or sweat glands. Fuchs said that transplanted stem cells might produce all the structures of normal skin.
For more information, contact Dr. Elaine Fuchs,
Rockefeller University, email@example.com
The future of hospital care may be a new kind of doctor—a robot doctor. InTouch Health, based in Goleta, Calif., created a mobile robot, called RP-6, that is equipped with a camera, screen and microphone that enable doctors to hold a videoconference with patients in remote locations.
With RP-6, a doctor can check on patients from anywhere a workstation is set up by using a joystick to maneuver the robot throughout a hospital. The doctor can communicate with patients, nurses or other doctors as if he or she were present in the hospital.
InTouch Health’s chief executive, Yulun Wang, said the robot won’t replace the personal care provided by nursing staff or doctors on rounds. Rather, it supplements that care by allowing patients to speak directly with their own doctor, rather than with an on-call doctor who may not be familiar with their case.
“It can be a doctor extender,” said Wang.
InTouch is testing the robot in six hospitals around the United States. The company said early results indicate patients like the technology and said it increased access to their physicians.
For more information, contact Courtney Knight,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 805-562-8686, ext. 111
Dieter’s dream oven
A Japanese appliance maker says dieters can cook the fat out of their food. Sharp Corp. began selling a high-end oven in the Japanese market in September 2004 that cooks using superheated steam, which the company said can cut calories and reduce the amount of fat and salt in foods.
The steam in the oven reaches a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius, the company said. The oven sprays superheated steam onto food from jets on both sides of the oven. The company said cooking a steak in the oven, for example, could eliminate eight times more fat than cooking with a frying pan. Salt is removed in the same way.
Sharp said the oven can limit the loss of nutrients such as Vitamin C in vegetables like squash and broccoli during cooking. The new oven retains about 90 percent of the nutrients, the company said, compared with about 50 percent to 64 percent with a conventional oven or boiling pot, respectively.
The company plans to make the oven available throughout Asia, Europe and the United States. Healthy cooking doesn’t come cheap—the ovens cost about $1,100 each (120,000 Japanese Yen).
For more information, contact Sharp Corp.,
Osaka: 81-6-6621-1272, Tokyo: 81-3-3260-1870
Protecting the food chain
A group of Stanford University graduate students are testing a way to remove carcinogenic chemicals from the aquatic food chain.
In the 1970s, the U. S. government prohibited companies from using cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in manufacturing. The banned PCBs don’t break down easily, and they remain in mudflats and marshes, where fish, birds and other wildlife can absorb them into their bodies. Once in animals’ bodies, the PCBs can move up the food chain to human beings.
To break that chain, the Stanford team in August 2004 used a giant, floating rototiller to mix activated carbon into the top 12 inches of San Francisco Bay sediment that had been contaminated with PCBs. They wanted to determine if carbon would bind to the PCBs and reduce the amount of PCBs that would accumulate in organisms that live in the sediment. The first test results are due in 2005.
Research team leader Dr. Dick Luthy said his team wants to demonstrate a new approach to dealing with PCB-contaminated sediments. The group said the technique could be used to combat other contaminants, such as DDT.
For more information, contact Dr. Dick Luthy,
Digital neighborhood watch
San Antonio-based SBC Communications and Houston-based SCANUSA are updating the traditional neighborhood watch program.
SCANUSA created the Secure Cops Alert Network (SCAN) program, which sends safety and security alerts to SBC Internet customers’ computers, cell phones or personal digital assistants when an emergency or security threat is detected in the user’s area, said SBC Spokeswoman Sue McCain.
SCAN allows police, fire and other health and safety departments to broadcast a variety of alerts such as school emergencies, chemical spills and road closures directly to residents, McCain said.
“It’s a great way for folks in neighborhoods to keep up with crime or various activities in the neighborhood,” McCain said.
SCANUSA filters the information and distributes it by ZIP code, and users can select the type of information they want to receive.
SCANUSA plans to launch the program in Texas and California by December 2004, followed by a nationwide debut in 2005, McCain said.
For more information, contact Sue McCain,
Sifting blood for cancer
Counting cancer cells in a person’s blood stream could help in the fight against breast cancer. The CellSearch System, developed by researchers at New Jersey-based Veridex LLC, isolates and counts the number of tumor cells in the blood stream, said Jennifer Robinson, a Veridex spokeswoman.
Counting circulating tumor cells helps doctors determine if patients are responding to initial cancer treatment or if they need more aggressive therapy. Doctors use various methods to determine the most effective treatment, including tumor size, type and the patient’s age.
Using the CellSearch System, doctors could determine within weeks, rather than months, if a patient is responding to treatments, Robinson said. This could spare some patients months of chemotherapy, which can result in hair loss and fatigue, Robinson said.
The CellSearch System machines will be available at comprehensive cancer centers such as Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and at diagnostic laboratories by December 2004.
For more information, contact Veridex,
Custom Collection, a Houston-based custom clothing retailer, and the city of Houston launched “Dress Up Houston,” an initiative that provides underprivileged young men with business clothes for job interviews, internships and for the workplace.
The program sponsors clothing drives and collects men’s business clothes—including suits, shirts, ties, coats, pants, belts and vests. Donations can be made at one of 50 Pilgrim Cleaners locations in Houston.
For more information, contact Jill Ali,
Homeowners with an Internet connection and a sprinkler system can let computers water their lawns by using software from Austin-based Accuwater. Accuwater uses forecasts from the National Weather Service, real-time weather data, historical weather patterns and local water restrictions to customize lawn watering. Users pay a $15 monthly subscription fee.
For more information, contact Accuwater,
A new medical procedure with a two-dollar name—osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, or OOKP—restored partial sight to a blind British woman. Doctors at Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, United Kingdom, used a tooth and a small piece of jawbone to fashion a “lamina” that holds an optical cylinder in place. This replaced the eye’s lens and cornea, giving the patient her first look at the world in nearly 15 years.
For more information, contact Christopher Liu,
Sussex Eye Hospital, email@example.com
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