Archive for July, 2010

METRO Cleared In Allegations of Document Shredding
July 27, 2010

At the request of  Mayor Annise Parker in March, The Harris County District Attorney’s office launched an investigation into allegations that METRO officials illegally destroyed public documents.

The allegations were first raised in a lawsuit filed by Houston attorney Lloyd Kelley. He accused  METRO officials of shredding documents that he asked for in an open records request.  

The controversy surrounding the lawsuit, led to the termination of METRO general counsel Pauline Higgins and eventually the resignation of  METRO President Frank Wilson.  

Today, Tuesday, July 27, the DA’s office has issued a statement saying that it found no evidence of  criminal wrongdoing.   (statement from DA’s office) 

The Public Integrity Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office completed its investigation into allegations that employees of METRO were destroying public documents and failing to comply with open records requests in violation of the Texas Public Information Act. From early March to the end of June, 2010, evidence was examined and witness testimony was developed, some with grand jury assistance. A careful analysis of all of this information led to the determination that there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by employees of METRO concerning the Texas Public Information Act, nor was there any evidence that any METRO employee had knowledge of the destruction of public records. The investigation has been closed.    

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It’s The BIG DAY – Lois Is Blooming and You Can Smell Her!
July 23, 2010

Watch “Lois Live” on:

 http://www.click2houston.com/video/10913036/index.html

Rare and Exotic “Corpse Flower” now blooming at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

 

 

WHEN:           The Corpse Flower “Lois” is blooming and smelling now.

For the latest news on The Corpse Flower’s development, check the Museum’s blog at http://blog.hmns.org/?tag=lois, or to see a live webcam on the Corpse Flower, check http://www.hmnsmedia.org/CorpseFlower.

 

WHAT:          In a rare occurrence that has been previously documented only once in Texas and 28 times in the United States, an Amorphophallus titanum plant, better known as the “Corpse Flower,” has started blooming and smelling this morning at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. VIDEO: Corpse Flower at HMNS.  The smell has started getting stronger and will last for much of the day.

This highly unusual plant is native to Sumatra and is currently endangered in the wild. The spectacular flower can be over 10 feet tall and produces an overpoweringly putrid stench of rotting meat. This strong odor, thought to attract natural pollinators like carrion-eating beetles, typically lasts for less than 24 hours.

The Museum’s flower, affectionately called “Lois,” has grown to be almost six feet. Lois will probably not bloom again for many years, if ever.

The Cockrell Butterfly Center is open 24 hours through the end of the flower’s bloom.

 

WHY:            This is a unique opportunity to photograph or film an extraordinarily rare flower that may only bloom once in its lifetime.

                       “The Corpse Flower is unique because it’s totally unpredictable. No one really knows what triggers a given plant to flower, and a plant may only flower once in its lifetime. We’ve had ours for six years and this is the first time it has bloomed—we’re very lucky,” said Greig. “It may be the largest, smelliest flower in the world, but its beauty is unparalleled.”

  

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most-heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, including the Wortham IMAX® 3D Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Houston Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

Thursday Update On Corpse Flower Lois
July 22, 2010

At midnight – Lois measured 24” around the opening.  At 8am this morning, she measured 28”.  While she is opening more and more, there is no stench yet except for whiffs now and then.  She is taking much longer than we originally thought —- as you all well know!

 

  We will be changing the backdrop to white later today so that people will be better able to see Lois and her colors.

 

Corpse Flower Makes Progress
July 21, 2010

I’ve posted two pictures to help you get an idea of the slow progress that Corpse Flower Lois is making at the Houston Museum of  Natural Science.

The first photo is one I took on July 7.  The second photo was taken by the museum. What do you think? Can you tell the difference?

Museum Photo below taken on July 20.

The latest on “Lois” The Corpse Flower
July 20, 2010

 

(picture from Museum of Natural Science)

While she’s still teasing us, Lois has opened about 3” over the course of the day.  While we are not saying that Lois has started the blooming process, we do want to say that Lois has made significant progress today and has taken one more step in the right direction.  The museum is going to stay open 24 hours to give people an opportunity to see this next stage.  We will also be posting photographs on our blog shortly. 

Please note that this progress cannot be seen on the webcam as she has opened up on the other side.  We can see dark purple and some red on the inside of the spathe – much more than was previously possible.

 Latha Thomas – VP Marketing Houston Museum of  Natural Science

Senator John Cornyn Explains His “No” Vote on Kagan Nomination
July 20, 2010

(The following is a news release from Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas…I am publishing the entire messge because I know people often like to read that instead of  just one quote)

 Senator Details Why Kagan Falls Short of the Judicial Standard of Excellence

 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Republican Leadership, today voted against the nomination of Elena Kagan to be Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Below is the full text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting:

 

            “I am voting ‘no’ on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

“The votes of this Committee on nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court are among the most consequential votes we cast, because these are lifetime appointments. 

“Each Senator must carefully study the nominee’s views and reach a decision as to whether to endorse that nominee for a seat on the High Court.

“In my view, that decision must be based on a standard of excellence.  To be confirmed, a nominee must establish that she would adhere to a proper judicial philosophy.   The nominee must establish through her testimony, through her judicial and non-judicial writing, and through her experience, that she would exercise the judicial power of a Supreme Court justice with a deep understanding of both judicial restraint and the need to enforce our written Constitution.

“Elena Kagan falls short of that standard.

“Solicitor General Kagan’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee did not assure me that she agrees with the traditional understanding of the proper role of a judge.   

“Judges should strictly interpret the written Constitution, which means both enforcing written limitations on the scope of government power, such as the Second Amendment and the Commerce Clause, as well as not inventing new rights or imposing their own policy views on the American people.

“Ms. Kagan’s testimony about her judicial philosophy was vague and open to multiple interpretations.   

“In her written responses following the hearings, for example, Solicitor General Kagan indicated that she would decide cases based on her ‘constitutional values.’   But she acknowledged that her constitutional values can ‘point in different directions,’ and claimed that she would ‘exercise prudence and judgment in resolving the tension between them.’ 

“In voting on a Supreme Court nominee, I think we need more certainty than that that the nominee would exercise ‘prudence and judgment.’

“Solicitor General Kagan also testified that the Constitution is written in ‘general terms’ that enable the courts to change the law in response to “new conditions and new circumstances” – changes that she testified occur “all the time.” 

“But Solicitor General Kagan did not tell us how to know when circumstances have changed to justify a change in the law.  I suppose that is another question that would be a matter of her “prudence and judgment.”

“I was also troubled by her testimony in specific areas of law. 

“For example, Solicitor General Kagan was unable to articulate limits on the federal Commerce Clause power.  She recognized that the Supreme Court used to impose such limits.   But she recalled, with apparent approval, how the Supreme Court had then changed the law and no longer imposed such restrictions because “the old jurisprudence really wasn’t working.” 

“I assume this is another example of how she believes “new conditions and new circumstances” justified a change in the law – in this case, gutting the foundation of the federal government as a government of limited power.

“I was also troubled by Solicitor General Kagan’s testimony on the Second Amendment. 

“She recognized that the Supreme Court’s precedents in Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago were existing law.   She also referred to those cases as ‘settled law.’  But her testimony made clear that ‘settled law’ has no particular meaning.  “Settled law” just means the law until a new majority comes along to ‘unsettle’ these decisions by overruling them.   

“We saw the same trick with Justice Sotomayor’s testimony on the Second Amendment.   Last year, she testified that Heller was “settled law.”  But last month, she joined a dissenting opinion in McDonald urging it to be overturned.  

“The Second Amendment is too important to rest on such an empty promise.

“Finally, I am troubled by Solicitor General Kagan’s testimony on military recruiting during her time as Dean of Harvard Law School.  Her refusal to allow the military to recruit on campus just like any other employer reflects an effort to stigmatize the military.  It suggests a nominee who has values that are out of step with those of the American people.

“Every Supreme Court nominee bears the burden of proof of establishing they deserve the trust of the American people for a life appointment to the high court.  In my view, Elena Kagan has not satisfied that burden of proof. 

“For these reasons, I will oppose her nomination.”

Corpse Flower – It’s Time To Bloom or Bust!
July 19, 2010

The world is still waiting for the Corpse Flower to bloom at the Houston Museum of  Natural Science.  This morning 2 On The Beat received the note below.   It explains what the staff is doing to nudge “Lois”  along to fully blooming.

To nudge Lois along, we are making it even hotter in the Cockrell Butterfly Center.  We are keeping the temperature upwards of 80 degrees in there to ensure it doesn’t stunt her growth.  The temperature is being raised; we have kept the plastic on the doors, added lights and a humidifier.  While this does seem wild – especially since it is pretty hot outside already and we are making it even hotter inside – we want to do everything we can to help Lois.  – Latha Thomas VP, Marketing and Communications

Sen. Hutchison Leads Fight For NASA Jobs And Programs
July 17, 2010

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) held a news conference Thursday to outline the legislation she cosponsored to safeguard America’s human spaceflight capabilities while “balancing commercial space investment with a robust mission for NASA.”

The NASA Reauthorization Bill was passed by the  Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which Hutchison serves as a ranking member. 

Meanwhile, Mayor Annise Parker has issued a statement regarding the legislation which was passed by a Senate committee:

“We have worked for  months to bring people together to craft a compromise on the future of NASA,” said Mayor Parker. “This gives us some breathing room and the opportunity to continue the ongoing work to protect the great work being done Johnson Space Center.  There is still much to do and we can take nothing for granted.”

The Mayor also congratulated Senator Hutchison for her work in crafting the bi-partisan proposal.  “Without the senator’s tireless commitment the committee’s unanimous vote wold not have been possible,” said Mayor Parker.  “This comes as no surprise to Houstonians, as Kay has always fought on behalf   of  Texas.”

According  to the Mayor’s statement,  the committee’s proposal would reauthorize funding for NASA for three years, preserving 80 percent of the jobs that would have been lost at Johnson Space Center (JSC) under the administration’s proposal.  It also extends the International Space Station program, managed at JSC, and funds a shuttle replacement program along with a continued investment in commercial space ventures. More details about the bill are available on the Committee’s website.

She also noted that the  legislation must now be passed by the full Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and would require the President’s signature.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee Clarifies Her Comments On “Two Vietnams”
July 17, 2010

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18) admits she misspoke when she referred to “two Vietnams” during a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of  Representatives on Thursday, July 12, 2010.

The Congresswoman was making a point regarding the war in Afghanistan, when she made the glaring error several times.

She has now issued a statement clarifying her remarks, which you can read below, but she is also urging people to focus on the original intent of  her message instead of  the mistake.

I’ve also posted the video link in case you missed it.

 Having spent the last week in Afghanistan visiting our resilient and dedicated soldiers and civilian reconstruction teams, I have a renewed appreciation for their dedicated and committed service to our nation. I thanked them when I was in Afghanistan, and I thanked them again on the floor of the House yesterday, Thursday, July 15, 2010, in my special order. However, as I recognized their commitment to our country and expressed our pride in the work they have done in helping the people of Afghanistan, I have come to the conclusion that it is important to have a date certain for their departure from Afghanistan by the months of June or July of 2011. I want the war in Afghanistan to end. Additionally, I would like to celebrate, along with our nation, our soldiers as heroes, and I would like them to return home to this great country and their wonderful families ready for new opportunities.

That is simply what my special order on the floor yesterday was about; plain and simple. Nevertheless, some have decided to make an issue of the example that I used, in my special order of five minutes, regarding the Vietnam War. If there was any reason to raise a point of concern, it was probably because I misspoke and did not add the phrase, after my discussion of North and South Vietnam, that “the nation was united as one.” However, my point is still accurate, and that is that the war between North and South Vietnam is similar to Afghanistan, in that those fighting against each other were Vietnamese and now the country lives as one Vietnam. However, it is South Vietnam that was consumed by North Vietnam and governed by the policies of North Vietnam. Allow me to cite for you the Congressional Research Service which has, on its 2010 website, this description of Vietnam: “Vietnam is a one-party, authoritarian state ruled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), which appears to be following a strategy of permitting most forms of personal and religious expression while selectively repressing individuals and organizations that it deems a threat to the party’s monopoly on power. Most observers argue that the government, which already had tightened restrictions on dissent and criticism since 2007, intensified its suppression in 2009 and early 2010.” That definition confirms my statement on the floor.

Although we fought a bloody war, losing 58,000 soldiers, Vietnam remains, today, a communist country. In rushing to finish my statement in five minutes, I may have left out the fact that Vietnam is one nation today, but that does not diminish my point that we have a similar situation in Afghanistan: where American treasure is being spent even after crossing the point when the transition of leadership and military control should be placed in the people and the Government of Afghanistan. America lost 58,000 soldiers because the policies followed by our federal government worked against this nation declaring a victory and encouraging the world to work with Vietnam toward being a democratic state and thereby saving the lives of so many Americans. I do not want to see that delay occur in Afghanistan and see more of our soldiers falling in battle and losing their lives. The cause for which we went to Afghanistan has been achieved, and now this is a war of insurgents. This will ultimately have to be resolved by the people of Afghanistan. The way to solve this problem, as I see it, is to demand that the central government of Afghanistan provide the necessary services of security, electricity, economic opportunity and education to its people. For this to happen, the NATO allies must work to improve the central government, they must work to help eradicate the poppy fields, and they must work to stamp out corruption. Some of the International Security Assistance Forces can provide technical assistance and help build up the Afghanistan National security forces, but it is now time to bring our soldiers home in a timely fashion and no later than June or July 2011.

That was the reasoning of my special order of yesterday, July 15, 2010, and this attack on my words reminds me of what happened to those who were opposed to the Vietnam War. Their words were attacked rather than listening to the substance of their message. As for me, I will not stand silent, but rather I will give voice to the many families in America whose loved ones have lost their lives in Afghanistan. They deserve our respect, gratitude, and the acknowledgment that their loved ones did not die in vain. America must declare victory in Afghanistan and bring our soldiers home. At the same time, we can sustain that victory by continuing to provide technical and civilian humanitarian assistance to strengthen the people of Afghanistan so they can have a better quality of life.

We owe the families of our fighting heroes no less. Now is the time to call upon the Afghan government to take charge and build their nation. America’s national security will be the better for it. I believe my special order yesterday was very clear.

Should You Sleep With Your Cat or Dog?
July 15, 2010

I’m going to answer that question based on personal experience: No

Don’t take my word for it, you can hear the pros and cons of  sleeping with your pet during a seminar at Rover Oaks  Pet Resort this coming Saturday. I’ve posted the information below. The $25 fee for the seminar benefits pet rescue groups. 

Here’s my personal experience – whenever I share the bed or couch with my dog, Fuzzball, (which isn’t every night. really!)  he fights for space on my pillow or starts whining in the middle of the night and won’t stop until I rub his belly or take him outside for a walk.

That’s probably more information than you want to know about me, but I think sleeping with your pet makes it really tough to get  a good night’s rest.

 (Houston, TX) – July 12, 2010 – Pets have become such an important part of our everyday lives. Pets have a prominent place in our homes and even our beds. Sometimes there is nothing more comforting than cozying up with your furry companion in bed at night, but is there an actual benefit to sharing the bed with your pet? Rover Oaks Pet Resort is hosting a Pets and Sleep Seminar to highlight the challenges and benefits of co-sleeping with your pet as well as ways in which assistance animals are helping those suffering from sleep disorders.

Dr. Mary Rose, Clinical Psychologist, Sleep Specialist and Director of Psycho-Oncology at the

Baylor College of Medicine Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, will lead two educational

seminars on “Pets and Sleep” at Rover Oaks Pet Resort’s Houston and Katy locations. The

seminars will focus on how the role of animals in our lives has changed over time; the pros and

cons of sleeping with pets; how companion animals may facilitate human sleep and overall well

being; the role that dogs can play in treating human sleep disorders including sleep walking and

pediatric nightmares; and how humans might negotiate the sleep environment with their pets. 

Dr. Rose has been involved in the sleep field for more than 20 years. She is an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine and also holds affiliations with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Houston VAMC, and American Sleep Medicine. “Our relationship with the family pet has been changing dramatically,” says Dr. Rose. “Co-sleeping with animal companions has become the norm in many households. Though the benefits of bonding, comfort and feelings of safety to both pet and human is great, co-sleeping may also adversely affect sleep for some. Understanding the challenges and benefits of co-sleeping may help negotiate the family bed with one’s pet, and ensure a good night sleep for all,” says Dr. Rose.

Rover Oaks will host the Pets and Sleep Seminar at both their Katy and Houston locations. “We are excited to offer this seminar to our clients and to animal lovers throughout the community,” says Steve Smith, President of Rover Oaks Pet Resort. “We are passionate about pets and strive to offer informative and educational activities to help strengthen and enhance the bond humans share with their companion animals.”

The Pets and Sleep Seminar times and locations are as follows:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Rover Oaks Katy

1011 S. Katy-Ft. Bend Road, Katy, TX 77494

Thursday, July 22, 2010

7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Rover Oaks Houston

2550 West Bellfort, Houston, TX 77054

The fee for each seminar is a $25 donation to Schnauzer Rescue of Houston, the Poodle Rescue of Houston or to Canine Companions for Life. For more information or to sign up for the seminar, call Rover Oaks at 713-662-2119 and select option 6 to speak to a representative.