Archive for May, 2010

Sen. John Whitmire Learns From Prison Experience
May 28, 2010

 

Whitmire finds moral rehabilitation inside Angola Prison

provides a tough and smart approach to corrections

AUSTIN, Texas Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) responded today about his three-day visit with Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) to what was once the bloodiest prison in America. “Senator Patrick and I got a first-hand look at a moral rehabilitative program that provides a safer prison environment for staff and inmates, protects public safety through fewer victims and is cost effective,” stated Senator Whitmire. “It certainly deserves the attention of our state leaders and prison officials.”

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as the Angola State Prison Farm, is the largest maximum security prison in the United States and is home to 5000 offenders serving sentences for murder, rape and other violent crimes; more than 3600 of the inmates are serving life sentences.

The focus of the visit was the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary located within the fences of Angola, and the moral rehabilitation it provides. The four-year higher education program has produced 150 new ministers, many serving life sentence, who will be disbursed to other units within the Louisiana prison system. The graduates serve as ministers to non-violent offenders who will eventually return to their communities with a new outlook on life helping to reduce recidivism, saves lives and families, and prevent future victims.

During their time at Angola, Senator Whitmire and Senator Patrick, along with Texas Department of Criminal Justice Deputy Executive Director Bryan Collier, other Texas officials, and Texas Bible College professionals held briefings with stakeholders, attended church services, and had direct interaction with inmates. Senator Whitmire stated, “I found this to be a remarkable program that Senator Patrick and I will present to state leadership and the Texas Board of Criminal Justice and will work with Texas prison officials to locate the right unit, the right warden, and the right staff to duplicate the effort in Texas.”

“Our ultimate goal is to make our communities safer by changing the character of prisoners so when released they do not go back to a life of crime,” stated Sen. Dan Patrick. “What we witnessed at Angola was truly amazing. The Bible College has changed the culture of Angola. I look forward to working with Chairman Whitmire to bring this concept to Texas prisons,” said Patrick.

“During one church service I handed Warden Cain a note stating that I had never seen so many men serving life sentences with a smile on their face. The Warden replied that with a moral attitude, even if an inmate will not be set free in this world, he looks forward to being free in the next,” Whitmire recalled.

Muslim Group Files FCC Complaint Against Radio Host Michael Berry
May 27, 2010

UPDATE: Michael Berry posted a statement on his radio blog: http://www.ktrh.com/pages/michaelberry.html
Former Houston City Councilman and Conservative Radio Talk Show Host Michael Berry is the focus of a complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
  
The Washington-based organization, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), claims that Berry advocated bombing a proposed New York City mosque while responding to a caller on his KTRH radio show on May, 26.
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I am working on getting reaction from Berry. In the meantime – you can read some of the NEWS RELEASE BELOW.

In his response to a caller named “Tony” who supported the right to build the planned mosque in New York — an effort that has come under rhetorical attack by anti-Islam extremists — Berry said: “No, no, Tony, you can’t build a mosque at the site of 9/11. No, you can’t. No, you can’t. And I’ll tell you this — if you do build a mosque, I hope somebody blows it up…I hope the mosque isn’t built, and if it is, I hope it’s blown up, and I mean that.”   

Hear Michael Berry’s Call to Violence   

[Berry has in the past been a guest host for nationally-syndicated broadcasters like Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.]   

“Calls for acts of violence against houses of worship must never be tolerated or excused,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We ask the FCC to demonstrate that incitement to violence is never acceptable on our nation’s airwaves.”   

He said Berry’s call to violence against an American mosque is of particular concern, coming as it does after a bombing at a mosque in Jacksonville, Fla., earlier this month.

Sen. Cornyn Wants To Track PrePaid Cell Phones To Stop Terrorists
May 27, 2010

SCHUMER, CORNYN: PREPAID CELL PHONES HELP TERRORISTS LIKE TIMES SQUARE BOMBER EVADE DETECTION

Senators Propose First-Ever Federal Law to Require Phone Companies to Keep Records of Buyers’ Identities

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) announced first-of-its-kind federal legislation Wednesday that would help stop terrorists like the Times Square bomber from keeping their identities hidden from law enforcement by using prepaid cell phones to plot and coordinate their attacks. Under the new proposal, buyers of prepaid cell phones would be required to present identification at the point of sale, and phone companies would have to keep the buyers’ information on file as they already do with users of landline phones and subscription-based cell phones.

“This proposal is overdue because for years, terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones that are hard to trace. We caught a break in catching the Times Square terrorist, but usually a prepaid cell phone is a dead end for law enforcement. There’s no reason why it should still be this easy for terror plotters to cover their tracks,” Schumer said.

“Weeks ago, we came alarmingly close to a devastating terrorist attack in Times Square. A major lesson we’ve learned from the investigation and arrest of Faisal Shahzad is that we must require individuals purchasing a pre-paid cell phone in this country to provide verified indentifying information. While most Americans use pre-paid mobile devices lawfully, the anonymous nature of these devices gives too much cover to individuals looking to use them for deviant, dangerous means. It would be foolish to stand idly by while the risk remains that another terrorist or criminal could purchase a pre-paid phone leaving no paper trail. I was pleased to work with Sen. Schumer on this important legislation, which sends a clear message that those who purchase pre-paid mobile devices will no longer remain anonymous,” Cornyn said.

Background

 

Although there are many legitimate users of prepaid cell phones, they have also become the communication device of choice for terrorists, drug lords and gang members interested in masking their identities. Since they can purchased and activated without signing a contract or undergoing a credit check, prepaid cell phones provide virtual anonymity.

Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old suspect in the Times Square terror plot, used a prepaid cell phone to arrange the purchase of the Nissan Pathfinder that he attempted to turn into a car bomb. He also used the phone to make a series of calls to Pakistan in the days leading up to the attack. Federal authorities were later able to track down Shahzad, but only thanks to a break: a number listed in the phone’s call log matched one provided to U.S. Customs officials when Shahzad reentered the U.S. from Pakistan months earlier. But for that stroke of luck, authorities might never have been able to match the phone number provided by the seller of the Pathfinder to Shahzad.

It is not new for terrorists to rely on prepaid cell phones. The 9/11 hijackers used them to communicate in the months prior to their attack. In a speech in 2002, FBI Director Robert Mueller cited the plotters’ use of the devices to show that they “managed to exploit loopholes and vulnerabilities in our systems, to stay out of sight, and to not let anyone know what they were up to beyond a very closed circle.”

Prepaid cell phones have also been used as detonation devices for bombs, as was the case in the attack on a Madrid train that killed 191 people in Spain in 2004.

In 2006, a wave of suspicious bulk purchases of prepaid cell phones led the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to issue a nationwide bulletin to local police calling attention to the trend and pointing out the potential links to terrorist activity. Stores such as Wal-Mart implemented policies limiting how many prepaid devices customers could purchase in a single visit.

In addition to terrorism cases, prepaid phones have long been used by other types of criminals, like drug sellers, mob figures and gang leaders. In 2009, they were even used by hedge fund managers and Wall Street executives implicated in the largest insider trading bust in U.S. history.

In court papers, federal prosecutors detailed how traders from the Galleon Group hedge fund communicated with other executives through prepaid phones in order to try to evade potential wiretaps. In one instance, one suspect is described as having chewed the Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM card, until it snapped in half in order to destroy possible evidence.

Countries such as Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Thailand already require registration of prepaid cell phone users due mainly to their use by terrorists.

In the U.S., laws requiring registration of prepaid cell phone users have been proposed in states including Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina. But in light of the increased reliance of terrorists on the devices, Schumer and Cornyn said Wednesday it was time for a federal response.

 

Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture and Budget Committees.  He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

Gov. Perry Plans To Write New Anti-Washington Book
May 25, 2010

He’s been ranting and raving against the  “Washington Establishment” for months, and now Governor Perry is going to put his rhetoric on the pages of a new book.

Michael Pietsch, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Little, Brown and Company, announced today that Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, will write FED UP, a new book  that “examines the dangerous and unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government on states’ rights and individual liberties and advocates for the protection of the 10th Amendment principles that put power in the hands of the people.”

  Publication is scheduled for fall 2010 in time for the midterm elections.

According to a news release, in FED UP, Governor Perry argues that expansion of the federal government is occurring exponentially and injuriously. Bailouts, spending increases, and a reengineered health care system are just a few ways Washington politicians have launched a major expansion of the federal government in response to our recent economic turmoil, and Perry shows how an increasing concentration of power in Washington will lead to further unsustainable debt, greater limits on opportunity and success, and a permanent dependency class — adding up to a potentially failed nation, and one of the very sort that the Colonists fought against.

In spelling out the danger of federal intrusion and the ways that states can better approach our future, Perry issues a persuasive rallying cry for Americans to rise up and demand that power be returned to the people and the states. “I am pleased to partner with Little, Brown in writing about a subject that will determine the very future of our nation. Interwoven with America’s founding principles, state sovereignty as enshrined in the Bill of Rights has actively contributed to the vitality of our union. Washington’s ongoing efforts to undermine these rights pose a legitimate threat to America’s continued leadership of the free world. It is no surprise, then, that citizens across the nation are so Fed Up. I’m convinced that the burgeoning grassroots energy and widespread concern can restore balance to our system and invigorate our nation in the decades to come. It’s the Governors from both parties who must lead this fight,” says Perry.

“Governor Rick Perry is one of the clearest thinkers in the nation on the importance of individual rights and state powers.  When he speaks millions listen.  This book will help shape the important discussions leading up to this Fall’s midterm elections and long after,” says Michael Pietsch.

Miss USA Visits Houston and Channel 2
May 24, 2010

Newly crowned Miss USA,  Rima Fakih , made a stop in Houston on Monday to visit Farouk Shami, the Hair Care Businessman and former candidate for Governor of  Texas.

Shami’s company, CHI International, is a major sponsor of the Miss USA pageant, and he was as giddy as a kid in a candy store as he introduced his new sweetheart  to the staff at KPRC Local 2.

The former Miss Michigan beat the tough competition to win the coveted title of Miss USA, becoming the first  Arab American, first immigrant and first Muslim to hold the Miss USA title.

I spoke with her briefly,  but I didn’t have the opportunity to ask her about the controversy surrounding her reign.

Some critics  have taken issue with her religion and ethnic heritage.

And then there’s that sexy picture problem: in 2007, Rima was a contestant  in a stripper pole dance contest sponsored by a Detroit radio station.

That image is making the rounds on the internet.

If she’s feeling burdened by  any of that, she didn’t show it.

Rima never stopped smiling during her brief visit to KPRC, and she was extremely nice to everyone she met.  🙂

Is It Time For Gaming In Texas?
May 24, 2010

Legislative Study Group House Caucus Announces Forum On Gaming

 

AUSTIN – Representative Garnet F. Coleman, Chair of the Legislative Study Group (LSG) House Caucus, announced today that the caucus would host a forum on the issue of gambling to help prepare members on the public policy implications of expanded gaming in Texas.

“This will be a Gaming 101 forum.  Members need to receive information about the public policy of gaming,” said Representative Coleman.  “We have the opportunity to look at what has happened in other states that have passed gaming, and review the long range impact for Texas.”

The LSG will host a forum on the issue, where members can learn about the intricacies of the issue.  All members of the Legislature are invited to attend.

Representative Coleman said, “In the year since session ended, there has been a legislative vacuum when it comes to this specific issue.  Members deserve to have as much information as possible as they prepare for the next legislative session, where various proposals for expanded gambling will certainly be proposed.”

Previously, House Democratic Caucus Leader Jim Dunnam had proposed creating a bipartisan ad hoc committee with LSG and the House Democratic Caucus, the House Republican Caucus and the Conservative Coalition Caucus.  Both the Republican Caucus and the Conservative Coalition declined the invitation.

“Representative Dunnam was correct, this is an important issue that needs to be discussed and studied publicly,” said Representative Coleman.  “With a revenue shortfall upwards of $18 billion in the next biennium there is a legitimate policy discussion that needs to happen.  Members need to know the pros and cons of expanded gambling and the potential impact on our state.”

Job Fair Targets Military Veterans
May 24, 2010

At a time when layoffs and downsizing are still prominent in the headlines, Snap-on Tools is coming to Houston looking to team up with military veterans as part of the RecruitMilitary Opportunity Expo. The RecruitMilitary Expo attempts to match veterans with franchise and employment opportunities. Along with company representatives, two-time Funny Car world champion, Cruz Pedregon, will be available in the Snap-on booth to discuss the franchise opportunity. 

Snap-on Tools

Top Companies Target Military Veterans for Careers

   Snap-on Tools in Houston to Recruit Vets for its Franchise Force

Thursday, May 27, 2010

11a.m. – 3p.m.

Minute Maid Park

501 Crawford Street

Downtown Houston

New Poll Is Positive For Governor Perry
May 18, 2010

With a new poll showing that he has a comfortable lead over Democrat Bill White, Governor Rick Perry is making plans to rally his supporters in Houston this week.

 Message from Governor Rick Perry  Come join Governor Perry & First Lady Anita Perry in Houston    with their special guest
Governor Mitt Romney

The new Rasmussen poll released Monday shows  Perry with a  51% to 38% percent advantage over the former Houston Mayor.http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections2/election_2010/election_2010_governor_elections/texas/election_2010_texas_governor

It’s the first time that Perry has polled at 50% or higher, which is good news for an incumbent governor.  It was only one month ago when the same poll had the race at 45%-41%, advantage Perry.

So how did the longest-serving governor of  Texas blow open this strong lead?

For the past several weeks  the Perry campaign has sharply criticized  White for refusing  to release his income tax returns and the ongoing problems with  METRO and the former CEO Frank Wilson.

Mayor Annise Parker’s frank talk about the financial problems facing the city probably haven’t made White look too sharp in the eyes of  voters across the state. 

It’s still early in the race and polls go up and go down, but  if you want to celebrate the latest news with Perry and see former  Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, you’ll need to register in advance for the free event:
Date: Wednesday May 19th
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: J.W. Marriott, Grand Ballroom 5150 Westheimer Houston, TX 77056
This is a private event and RSVP is required to attend.
Please contact our Houston Field Director to RSVP!
Elyse Derian- Houston Field Director 858-722-8653 elysederian@rickperry.org 
 

 

SHERIFF GARCIA TO ANNOUNCE CREATION OF 287(g) ADVISORY COMMITTEE
May 14, 2010

It’s a sensitive issue, especially in the aftermath of  the new Arizona immigration law.

287 (g) is a tool used by law enforcement, at the time of arrest or during booking at the jail, to determine who is in this country illegally.

On Monday, Sheriff Garcia will announce that he is creating a 287(g) advisory committee.

(HOUSTON, TX) – Sheriff Adrian Garcia will announce the creation of his 287(g) Advisory Committee during a news conference on Monday, May 17. The event will be held at 2 p.m. on the first floor of the jail at 701 San Jacinto.

Under the 287(g) law, sheriff’s deputies trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), working side by side with ICE agents in the Harris County Jail, identify inmates who may be undocumented immigrants. These inmates are referred to ICE after their local criminal case is finished.

Members of the advisory committee will help funnel important feedback about the program to the sheriff from the various communities and business fields they represent. The creation of the committee is in accordance with the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the HCSO and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The sheriff’s 287(g) Advisory Committee will be led by Beto Cardenas, Counsel, Vinson & Elkins LLP and co-chaired by Mustafa Tameez, Founder and Managing Director, Outreach Strategists LLC.

Other committee members include:
Wafa Abdin, Legal Director, Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance at Catholic Charities
Jackson Chang, Owner, Pan Jackson Company
Cecil Fong, President, Houston 80-20 Asian American PAC
Long Le, PhD, Director of International Initiatives for Global Studies, University of Houston
Mace Meeks, VP/Partner, Dean and Draper Insurance; President of “C” Club of Houston
Jeff Moseley, President and CEO, Greater Houston Partnership
Laura Murillo, President and CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Danny Nguyen, Broker/Owner, DN Commercial
Mosis Willett, Vice President, African Correlation PAC
Chris Wilmot, President and CEO, WCW International Inc.
Ali Zakaria, M Ali Zakaria and Associates
WHO:            Sheriff Adrian Garcia
WHAT:           Creation of the 287(g) Advisory Committee
       

Texans Say Goodbye To Tony Wyllie
May 13, 2010

Congratulations to Tony Wyllie, Vice President of  Communications for the Houston Texans.

Well, that’s the position that Tony’s held since the teams inception in 2000, but now he is moving on to become Senior Vice President with the Washington Redskins. He begins his new job on Monday, May 17th.

At a party last night at the House of  Blues Foundation Room, Tony’s friends and colleagues with the Houston Texans had a chance to say goodbye and good luck.

The TSU and Rice University graduate, told 2 on The Beat that he and his family will miss Houston, but he is looking forward to a new opportunity to work in the Nation’s Capital. 

You can read more about Tony’s distinguished career and accomplishments:

http://www.csnwashington.com/05/04/10/Redskins-Hire-Tony-Wyllie-As-Senior-VP/landing_redskins.html?blockID=228790&feedID=272