en español: El Innovador de Texas
We Need to Act
In the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, I was called by school superintendents, mayors, city managers, county judges and citizens pleading for help in the storm-stricken areas of southeast Texas.
At the end of fiscal year 2005 I identified $1.2 billion in surplus revenue that we could draw down to help Texas in this emergency without raising taxes, but these dollars must be appropriated before a penny can be spent. I urged the governor to call an emergency three-day special session so the Legislature could make an appropriation to the Legislative Budget Board, or another appropriate agency so we could draw down money as needed for our storm-damaged communities in southeast Texas and other communities providing generous and gracious help to our citizens. If the federal government eventually fully reimburses us, great; if not, Texas should not wait, nor waiver, in stepping up to the plate to take care of our own.
Immediately after Hurricane Rita ravaged southeast Texas I traveled to Beaumont and witnessed firsthand the devastation in Jefferson County. I personally heard the pleas from city and county officials for generators needed to get area hospitals operating again and to help feed residents who were returning with nothing to homes that had been damaged. Those communities and their residents, like other communities across southeast Texas, needed more generators, fuel, food, water and ice. Many said they have had to wait too long for relief.
I received a call from a mayor who said he had no city hall from which to work, and he could not make his city’s payroll for those who were working overtime. This is just one example of how the $1.2 billion in available funds could be used to help our Texas communities now.
And we will continue to need to provide additional education, health and security in our communities that have welcomed Hurricane Katrina evacuees. More than 395,000 evacuees came to Texas, and we opened more than 200 shelters in 42 counties. More than 41,000 evacuee children are enrolled in our Texas schools – and that will climb to an estimated 60,000 school-age evacuees, which will mean $450 million in additional state funding to educate these children.
While we can count on the federal government to do what it can in Texas, the feds are not going to hire more police and they are not going to hire more teachers to educate the thousands of new children enrolling in our already stretched local schools.
Furthermore, we must prioritize already appropriated and available funds now. There is more than $200 million remaining in the Governor’s Texas Enterprise Fund that could be used immediately to rebuild our local economies.
A three-day emergency special session would cost Texans no more than $168,000. We have the need. We have the cash. We need to act now to provide relief to our Texas communities.
As the state’s chief fiscal officer, I am committed to doing whatever it takes to provide relief for the many Texas communities that were affected by Hurricane Rita and the communities that opened up their hearts, their wallets, their shelters and their homes for the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The outpouring of generosity and support from people all over our state make me proud to be a Texan.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Sweet cavity solution
They may not be the juiciest snack, but dried grapes, better known as raisins, can help keep teeth healthy.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry identified five compounds in raisins that are beneficial for teeth and gums. Identified as phytochemicals, the compounds fight bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease, said Christine Wu, a researcher for the study.
“Raisins are perceived as sweet and sticky, and any food that contains sugar and is sticky is assumed to cause cavities,” Wu said.
But foods that are sticky do not necessarily cause tooth decay, Wu added.
“It is mainly the added sugar (sucrose) that contributes to the problem.”
The compounds also stopped plaque from forming by preventing bacteria from sticking to teeth.
The five phytochemicals, all found in seedless raisins, also are antioxidants or cancer-fighters found in some plants, Wu said.
For more information, contact Christine Wu,
A cancer-fighting virus
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine discovered that a common, harmless virus can destroy cancer cells in less than a week. The virus, adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV-2), has successfully destroyed cells of cervical, breast, prostate and squamous cell cancers in laboratory settings.
AAV-2 generally cannot replicate without a “helper” virus. The Penn State team found that when AAV-2 associates with human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes a form of cervical cancer, the HPV virus is disrupted and killed.
AAV-2 also seems to fight cancer even without a “helper” virus. While researchers do not yet entirely understand the virus’ cancer-fighting properties, it appears to recognize the difference between normal, healthy cells and cancerous ones. It then infects these cells, interfering with their ability to grow and reproduce, ultimately killing them.
One of AAV-2’s most promising properties is that it appears to have no effect on healthy cells, potentially making it an extremely desirable treatment. Most conventional cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, attack healthy and cancerous cells alike, causing extreme stress to the body.
The Penn State team recently submitted a provisional patent application for its work.
For more information, contact Dr. Craig Meyers,
Penn State College of Medicine, email@example.com
Not so sweet
Researchers have found an alternative to conventional chemical insecticides in an unlikely medium—sweet-tasting sugar.
Based on a family of compounds named polyol esters, these “sugar esters” promise relief to agricultural crops, household and garden plants and honey bees embattled by a variety of pests, said entomologist Gary J. Puterka.
Puterka discovered the sugar esters while working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West Virginia.
His work grew from earlier research by scientists who discovered a family of natural sugar esters that repelled insects. They analyzed plant compounds taken from leaf hairs of wild tobacco plants. The hairs secrete polyol ester chemicals that are deadly to certain insects, serving as a protective armor for plants.
Puterka said he identified other forms of sugar esters that are easier to manufacture. When sprayed on a plant in tests, the polyol sugar esters killed insect pests by breaking down their outer waxy coating. The insects died from dehydration.
“After screening different sugar ester chemistries, we identified the most active chemical forms—ones that killed test insects instantly,” said Puterka.
The sugar ester is commercially available as “Sucrocide” for controlling varroa mite, which are parasites that attack honeybees. Puterka said the sugar ester may eventually be available to agriculture and greenhouse industries.
For more information, contact Gary Puterka,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 405-624-4141, ext. 257
TV all akimbo
When TiVo launched its digital video recorder machine and service in 1998, the technology was a leap forward in viewing freedom. Television watchers could record hours of shows, far more than a VCR, to watch at their convenience or even pause and rewind live television broadcasts.
A new company, Calif.-based Akimbo, wants to put a new twist on that technology. Instead of requiring viewers to record broadcasts on a network’s schedule, Akimbo users can tap into a library of shows stored on the Internet, download the shows they choose and store them for later viewing.
Akimbo users must buy the Akimbo box and have a high-speed Internet connection. Once the box is connected to a user’s television, the user purchases Akimbo’s downloading service and has access to the company’s library of shows.
The library is limited, with few network shows outside of cable, and pricing can be complicated. In addition, some reviews have said the downloading process is slow. But the company said it hopes to expand its library and is upgrading its equipment.
For more information, contact email@example.com,
An imaging device that scans the body for clogged arteries is nearly as effective as the traditional method where dye is injected through a catheter, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers at University Hospital in Ulm, Germany, found that the accuracy of scanning slices of the body, called multislice computed tomography (MSCT), was only slightly lower than traditional invasive coronary angiography.
If MSCT had been used initially, 40 percent of the patients in the study could have avoided unnecessary invasive angiography, researchers said.
Angiography can be an uncomfortable procedure, requires follow-up visits and causes complications in nearly two out of 100 cases, according to the journal.
MSCT, however, exposes the patient to two to three times the amount of ionizing radiation of an angiogram, and researchers have yet to determine the cost-effectiveness of the new technology.
For more information, contact Journal of the American Medical Association,
Shoot and throw
Memories of vacations, weddings, ballgames and other events are only a point-and-shoot away, thanks to a one-time use digital video camera that users throw away after developing its video footage.
CVS Pharmacy unveiled the camera in June 2005, just in time for summer. The camera retails for less than $30, according to CVS, and can hold up to 20 minutes of digital video footage. Users also can watch what they have recorded through the camera’s color-playback screen and delete segments they do not want to keep.
Once the camera’s memory is full, users return it to any CVS store, and its contents are permanently transferred to a digital videodisc (DVD), often the same day it’s brought in. Processing the DVD costs $12.99, according to CVS, and the DVD comes equipped with technology that allows the user to e-mail and archive videos onto a home computer.
The cameras have generated interest, said Director of Corporate Communications Erin Cowhig.
“The response has been very positive,” Cowhig said.
For more information, contact Todd Andrews,
A different development
Can you cram 6,000 people onto 56 acres in the middle of the suburbs and keep half of them from ever getting into a car? That’s the plan by city officials and developer Pulte Homes for MetroWest, a Washington D.C. suburb near Fairfax County, Va.
The county hopes to cut commuters’ rush-hour trips by about 50 percent and office trips by 25 percent, according to preliminary findings of an ongoing study by UrbanTrans Consultants. The plan calls for expensive parking spots, transit discounts, bike-lock stations, office shower facilities and other incentives to encourage commuters to use mass transit, walk or ride a bike—anything but get in a car alone.
Critics say there’s no way to predict if people will abandon their cars. And if they don’t, there’s no way to ensure Pulte Homes will stick to the goals. The development is located near the Vienna Metro station, and the developers will target buyers most likely to use alternative modes of transportation, according to the report.
The report indicated the development can meet the required decrease in commuter trips.
For more information, contact Linda Smyth, Providence District Supervisor,
Fairfax County, Va., 703-560-6946
Attempting to eliminate “non goals” or goals awarded when the ball didn’t actually cross the goal line, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will roll out a microchip-carrying soccer ball in fall 2005 at the under-17 World Championships in Peru. The ball will activate a wristwatch beeper worn by the head official when it crosses the goal line.
For information, contact the FIFA Media Department,
Scientists at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute developed a method for generating new brain cells in a laboratory. Researchers said the process could produce an unlimited supply of a person’s own brain cells, which could help heal disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Scientists used rodent cells for their experiments but hope the discovery will work for human applications.
For more information, contact John Pastor,
Editor: Angela Freeman
Contributing to this issue: Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Karen Hudgins, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, and Bruce Wright