Page 1






TO 4,000 HOMES





The Zapata County Independent School District’s Board of Trustees on Monday approved the hiring of an interim superintendent as a private firm searches for a permanent replacement. The board approved the hiring of Alberto Gonzales to replace outgoing ZCISD superintendent Norma Garcia, who announced her Dec. 31 retirement at the end of a Nov. 18 board meeting. Gonzales will begin his interim role Jan. 1. “Because of my connections with Texas A&M UniversityKingsville, I met Dr. Don Jones,


who actually recruited me to teach as an adjunct professor, and

also Dr. Albert Ruiz, who is the dean for the education department, and they’re the ones who are doing the search,” Gonzales said. Gonzales has served as superintendent for more than a decade at Freer and Crystal City school districts. He has also been a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels. ZCISD hired Fountainhead Education Services for $6,700 to find within Texas both the interim and a permanent replacement for superintendent. Gonzales said some of the roles he will oversee include finalizing the budget for the next school year, completing teacher evalua-

tions as well as ensuring that curriculum and instruction continue. “My role would be to make sure that those things are on schedule,” he said. Gonzales added that he will begin by listening to the ZCISD staff and Zapata County residents to see what type of leadership they want during his time as superintendent. “I always have had an opendoor policy,” Gonzales said. “I like to go to games and just be around. (The people of Zapata) will see me around town and they’re welcome to approach me if they want to talk about school or what’s going on in school.” Gonzales believes strong

schools are the heart of a growing community, as they draw businesses and residents alike to move to the area. “That’s our goal: Make sure that Zapata County is a good choice because of their schools,” he said. “And I think right now everybody is working towards that, and I’m just there to support that effort.” Gonzales will serve as interim superintendent for approximately four months. ZCISD officials hope to hire a new superintendent by June 1, although Gonzales said he will stay on for as long as it takes. (Matthew Nelson may be reached at 728-2567 or



SECRET SANTA Students from Laredo and United independent school districts greet Santa Claus on Tuesday morning as local firefighters hosted their annual Secret Santa toy giveaway at the Firefighters Union Hall. Besides receiving a Christmas present from Santa, the children were treated to a meal and cake.

Photo by Cuate Santos | The Zapata Times

Gunfire reported Recent bout of violence coincides with report released by Mexican officials THE ZAPATA TIMES

The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, published reports of gunfire between criminal groups in the Madero Subdivision on its Facebook page Sunday night. Residents in Nuevo Laredo also posted warnings on social media sites concerning gunfire in the Madero area at about 9 p.m. The gunfire was reportedly heard over a wide area of the city, and some residents identified the sounds as coming from AK-47 assault weapons, known as “goat horns.” A housewife in the Madero neighborhood, who requested anonymity, said she heard the shooting near Colosio Boulevard. “It was loud. The shooting was heard without interruption. The gunfire sounded like (AK-47s), but continuously. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard this sound,” the housewife said. She said she heard the gunfire for about 15 minutes before it faded, but only because she thought the gunmen were retreating toward neighborhoods closer to the river, such as the Vic-

toria Subdivision. “Later I heard the army’s helicopter,” she said. The events coincided with the recent “Mexico 2013: Crime and Safety Report: Nuevo Laredo.” It was issued by the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council, which stated that “the threat to regional security comes mainly from the drug cartels and the war between the Gulf and Zetas (drug cartels).” The report addresses crime in general and the security situation, mainly in Nuevo Laredo, and was compiled by the U.S. Consul General in Nuevo Laredo. David M. Zimov, U.S. Consul General in Nuevo Laredo, said the report was designed to raise awareness of the significant challenges that remain in this part of Mexico. “My team collected data for the report. We back it fully. It is precise and measured,” Zimov said. Nuevo Laredo and Tamaulipas state authorities could not be reached for comment on Sunday’s reported gunfights. (Translated by Mark Webber of the Times staff.)


Giving can also be taking this holiday season SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Christmas is the time to give, but it can also be a great time to take – a big tax deduction. The Laredo Area Community Foundation is offering some suggestions on how to achieve that as 2013 comes to a close. According to LACF board member Ruben Soto, a certified public accountant, donations made to a community foundation have even greater tax advantages than those made directly to a charity. For example, cash donations to LACF are deductible up to 50 percent compared with only

30 percent for donations made to a private foundation or nonprofit. Gifts of private assets — real estate, private company stock — are deductible at their fair market value up to 30 percent of the donor’s adjusted gross income compared with 20 percent for the same gift to a private foundation. In addition to higher tax benefits, LACF donors are able to apply their deductions immediately for the year given. Because of its large investment pool, the foundation offers a greater rate of return than an individual investment, so more money is generated to benefit the selected charity.

LACF’s rate of return to date for 2013 is 9.5 percent based on a moderately conservative investment policy. Donors are also able to choose which charity or cause their money will benefit. LACF provides all the legal documents necessary to open a fund and remains competitive with management fees of 1 percent per year for endowments and .75 percent for donor advised funds. Finally, LACF takes care of bookkeeping, investing, check disbursements, quarterly and end-of-year statements and preparing annual 990 IRS forms for

the donor. With LACF, the charity still gets the benefit of the donation in the end, while the donor enjoys a higher tax deduction with a lot less work on his part, a news release states. “Giving through LACF is the best way I know to stretch your donation dollar,” Soto adds. A number of Soto’s clients from Laredo and Zapata have opened funds with LACF since he joined the board in 2012. The Homero Flores family opened two funds in 2012: one to benefit Casa de Misericordia and the other to benefit the Rio Grande In-

ternational Study Center. “They are very proud that their donations will not only carry on their legacy, but also directly benefit the community they love,” Soto said. Donations can in the form of any of the following: Outright gifts of cash to LACF (to establish a fund or add to an existing fund) Bequeaths (naming a charity or establishing a fund in one’s will). Gifts received through a donor’s estate are generally 100 percent deductible for estate tax pur-



Zin brief CALENDAR




Wednesday, Dec. 18


Laredo Toastmaster’s evening meeting. Public speaking and leadership are focus. Meetings held on third Wednesday of each month. Contact Humberto Vela at or 740-3633.

Thursday, Dec. 19 Los Amigos Duplicate Bridge Club. 1:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. Laredo Country Club. Call Beverly Cantu at 7270589. “The Nutcracker” ballet, presented by Dance Expressions. 7:30 p.m. Laredo Civic Center Auditorium. For ticket information, call 724-5330. An Evening with SoundTown Ballroom Gala-Dance. 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Laredo Center for the Arts, 500 San Agustin Ave. Ensemble to feature vocalists and instrumentalists playing holiday classics in winter wonderland setting. Tickets $10. Available at VMT office, 820 Main St.; 273-7800; or 725-1715. Also sold at door. Contact Robert M. Lopez at 2737811 or

Photo by Brian Corn/Wichita Eagle | AP

Fae Montgomery, a manager at the Heritage Restaurant in Wichita, Kan., sells a Mega Millions ticket Monday. The Mega Millions jackpot soared on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year.

Jackpot soars to $636M

Friday, Dec. 20


Early release day for Zapata County ISD students. TAMIU Planetarium shows: “Season of Light” at 6 p.m. and “Holiday Music Magic” at 7 p.m. General admission $4 children and $5 adults. Call 326-3663.


Monday, Dec. 23 Zapata County Commissioners Court meeting. 9 a.m. Zapata County Courthouse. Call Roxy Elizondo at 7659920.

Tuesday, Dec. 24 Kiwanis Club of Laredo’s weekly meeting. Noon to 1 p.m. Holiday Inn Civic Center, The Covey Lounge. New members are welcome. Contact Memo Cavazos at 337-2266 or

Monday, Dec. 30 Laredo Parkinson’s disease support group’s monthly meeting. 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Last Monday of each month. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, First Floor Community Center. Provides information and support for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and for their primary caregivers. Contact Richard Renner at 6458649, 724-5619 or

Wednesday, Jan. 8 United ISD Uniform Voucher Assistance Program. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bill Johnson Student Activity Complex, Fine Arts Rooms 1 and 2, 5208 Santa Claudia Lane. Applications to be accepted. Eligible parent/guardian must bring valid picture ID and copy of one of the following documents: most recent TANF or Food Stamp Eligibility Letter, most current paycheck stub verifying monthly income, copy of most recent W-2 form, Income Tax Return, any other documentation verifying monthly or annual income. Call 473-6349 or 473-6480.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Mega Millions jackpot has soared to an estimated $636 million for Tuesday night’s drawing, making it the second largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. The top prize had been estimated at $586 million, but lottery officials increased their prediction Tuesday morning because of strong ticket sales. The jackpot now trails only a $656 million Mega Millions pot that was sold in March 2012. Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. But that hasn’t stopped aspiring multimillionaires from playing the game.

NASA orders urgent spacewalk repairs CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station. Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. It’s a major job that will require three spacewalks — Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday on Christmas Day. “The next week will be busy with space walks so not much tweeting from here,” NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio tweeted from space soon after the decision was announced. The spacewalks are taking priority over the launch of a supply ship from Virginia. The commercial delivery had been scheduled for this week, but is now delayed until at least mid-January. Half of the station’s cooling system shut down last Wednesday, forcing the six-man crew to

“Oh I think there’s absolutely no way I am going to win this lottery,” said Tanya Joosten, 39, an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who bought several tickets. “But it’s hard for such a small amount of money to not take the chance.” Annie Pedersen also said she wanted to be part of the action, so she jumped in and bought two tickets at a Milwaukee grocery. “Everybody is so excited about it so I wanted to get in on some of the excitement, too, by watching,” she said. Tickets are selling at a pace that surpassed even the lottery’s expectations. “We estimate by drawing time we’ll be about $75 million ahead in sales,” said Paula Otto of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions. The drawing was scheduled for 11 p.m. EST.

turn off all nonessential equipment, including some science experiments. Because of the valve failure, one of the two cooling lines became too cold. The space station cooling system, which runs ammonia through the lines, is critical for dispelling heat generated by onboard equipment.

Minn. archbishop denies touching minor MINNEAPOLIS — St. PaulMinneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down from public ministry while police investigate an allegation that he improperly touched a boy during a public photo session four years ago, an accusation he strongly denies. The announcement is the latest blow to an archdiocese that has faced intense scrutiny since a former employee went public with claims that church leaders mishandled sexual abuse allegations. In a letter posted on the archdiocese’s website, Nienstedt

said he is accused of touching the boy on the buttocks during a photo session following a 2009 ceremony.

Financial firm announces Sept. 11 settlement NEW YORK — Financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost nearly two-thirds of its employees in the Sept. 11 attacks, revealed a $135 million settlement with American Airlines and insurance carriers Tuesday to a judge who said the deal will end the final airplane-focused case resulting from claims of wrongful death and personal injuries. The agreement averts a trial scheduled for next month, which means there will be no airing of such questions as how terrorists got through security, the best way to stop terrorists, whether there was really wrongdoing and negligence and how best to preserve liberties amid such threats, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said. — Compiled from AP reports

Thursday, Jan. 9 United ISD Uniform Voucher Assistance Program. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bill Johnson Student Activity Complex, Fine Arts Rooms 1 and 2, 5208 Santa Claudia Lane. Applications to be accepted. Eligible parent/guardian must bring valid picture ID and copy of one of the following documents: most recent TANF or Food Stamp Eligibility Letter, most current paycheck stub verifying monthly income, copy of most recent W-2 form, Income Tax Return, any other documentation verifying monthly or annual income. Call 473-6349 or 473-6480.

Monday, Jan. 13 Zapata County Commissioners Court meeting. 9 a.m. Zapata County Courthouse. Call Roxy Elizondo at 765-9920. Submit calendar items at or by emailing with the event’s name, date and time, location and purpose and contact information for a representative. Items will run as space is available.

AROUND THE WORLD Snowden: NSA’s spying ‘collapsing’ RIO DE JANEIRO — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy “open letter to the people of Brazil” that he’s been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of NSA documents and that the agency’s culture of indiscriminate global espionage “is collapsing.” In the letter, Snowden commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying. He wrote that he’d be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil, but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum.

Casualties overwhelm hospitals in Syria’s Aleppo BEIRUT — Hospitals in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2013. There are 13 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward. On this date: In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. In 1892, Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1912, fossil collector Charles Dawson reported to the Geological Society of London his discovery of supposedly fragmented early human remains at a gravel pit in Piltdown. (More than four decades later, Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax.) In 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.) In 1958, the world’s first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed “Chatterbox,” was launched by the United States aboard an Atlas rocket. In 1971, the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced in Chicago the founding of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.) In 1998, the House debated articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. South Carolina carried out the nation’s 500th execution since capital punishment resumed in 1977. In 2011, the last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war. Ten years ago: A jury in Chesapeake, Va., convicted teenager Lee Boyd Malvo of two counts of capital murder in the Washington-area sniper shootings (he was later sentenced to life in prison without parole). A judge in Seattle sentenced confessed Green River Killer Gary Ridgway to 48 consecutive life terms. Five years ago: W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-incommand who’d revealed himself as “Deep Throat” three decades after the Watergate scandal, died in Santa Rosa, Calif., at age 95. One year ago: Classes resumed in Newtown, Conn., except at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the scene of a massacre four days earlier. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to be voted The Associated Press Player of the Year in college football. Today’s Birthdays: Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 86. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 70. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 67. Actor Ray Liotta is 58. Comedian Ron White is 57. Actor Brad Pitt is 50. Professional wrestler-turned-actor “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is 49. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 45. Rapper DMX is 43. Actress Katie Holmes is 35. Singer Christina Aguilera is 33. Thought for Today: “No one worth possessing can be quite possessed.” — Sara Teasdale, American author and poet (1884-1933).

CONTACT US Publisher, William B. Green........................728-2501 General Manager, Adriana Devally ...............728-2510 Adv. Billing Inquiries ................................. 728-2531 Circulation Director ................................. 728-2559 MIS Director, Michael Castillo.................... 728-2505 Managing Editor, Mary Nell Sanchez........... 728-2543 Copy Editor, Nick Georgiou ....................... 728-2565 Sports Editor, Zach Davis ..........................728-2578 Spanish Editor, Melva Lavin-Castillo............ 728-2569 Photo by Mahmoud Illean | AP

In this file photo, Israeli border police walk past the Dome of the Rock as they clash with Palestinians. The Jerusalem site is ground zero in the territorial and religious conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. are overwhelmed with casualties, an international aid group warned Tuesday, as government warplanes blasted opposition areas of the city as part of a withering three-day air assault that has killed more than 100 people. The intensified air campaign,

which one activist group in the city called “unprecedented,” suggests President Bashar Assad’s government is trying to crush opposition in the contested city, Syria’s largest, ahead of an international peace conference. — Compiled from AP reports

SUBSCRIPTIONS/DELIVERY (956) 728-2555 The Zapata Times is distributed on Saturdays to 4,000 households in Zapata County. For subscribers of the Laredo Morning Times and for those who buy the Laredo Morning Times at newsstands, the Zapata Times is inserted. The Zapata Times is free. The Zapata Times is published by the Laredo Morning Times, a division of The Hearst Corporation, P.O. Box 2129, Laredo, Texas 78044. Phone (956) 728-2500. The Zapata office is at 1309 N. U.S. Hwy. 83 at 14th Avenue, Suite 2, Zapata, TX 78076. Call (956) 765-5113 or e-mail




Grad fights for gay rights Residents get help More than 700k receive insurance rebates


A 2008 graduate of TAMIU is using his communications degree to create a massive gay family rights campaign in México that has garnered international attention in recent months, including a report on CNN. Alex M., who wanted to his full name withheld to protect his identity, and his husband, Pepe, were legally married in México City and are fathers of a 2-year-old daughter. Alex said controversy started when their daughter was expelled from The Hills Institute, a private school in Monterrey, for having two fathers. “It was three days after the school year started when we were ‘invited’ to take our daughter somewhere else, to another daycare,” Alex said, “The school principal alleged that Monterrey’s society is not yet ready for our type of family and it would have been a constant conflict with other parents.” Despite the couple’s attempt to fight for their daughters’ right to attend the school through negotiations with CONAPRED, a government-run organization dedicated to fight discrimination, the girl was expelled from the school. Devastated and angry, Alex, a marketing and sales executive, and Pepe decided they were not going to take the school’s decision lying down. “See, this exact situation had happened to us before in Nuevo Laredo and we did not protest,” he said, “We were told by the owner that the school is very conservative and religious, therefore, they were not able to accept our daughter. I found it amusing that religion was used as a license to discriminate.” The couple took their plight to major TV networks in Mexico, but Alex said they were not interested in the story. A local TV station was interested, but decided to wait for a week, he added. “I went all out in the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and the issue got so popular that it forced the local station to release the story


Courtesy photo

Alex, left, and Pepe are seen with their 2-year-old daughter. Alex, a TAMIU graduate, has been fighting for gay family rights in Mexico. ahead of time,” he said. “After that, it went on national news network and became an issue of social relevance on an international level.” The debate gained momentum on its own and the couple gained overwhelming support including those from other parents, lawyers, psychologists, filmmakers, photographers, publishers and reporters. “I don’t think this is exclusively a gay issue,” Alex said, “This is about a 2 year old fighting grown-ups’ ignorance and bigotry.” Alex and Pepe’s fight has already yielded some results as both México’s Federal Attorney’s Office of Consumer and Secretariat of Public Education have determined that their case was based on discrimination. The couple has vowed to keep the issue alive by working with another activist to fight for the inclusion of gay discrimination and marriage debate on the Nuevo León State Congress’ agenda. “We want to create an awareness for everyone and also a precedent that discrimination is punished and that this cannot be done just because someone with a moral compass thinks the world is not ready for diversity,” Alex said. “We plan to contribute as much as we can to the community and become in some part activists. “Being an activist is a full-

time job and I already have one. Fortunately, I’ve been successful at the international company I work for which respects diversity and promotes inclusion.” Alex, who minored in marketing, said TAMIU prepared him for life. “I was powered by TAMIU with all of the essential tools to function in a corporate lifestyle and professional environments,” Alex said, “It empowered me with knowledge, conviction and most of all, with the sense of being a pro, before living any professional experience.” He said he has advice for TAMIU students wishing to fight for issues they believe in. “It’s our time to defend our cause,” he said, “We were prepared to do so and you must use all your tools, even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone.” He said his TAMIU degree has opened many doors for him and contributed to the prominence his family’s story reached in the public eye. “We are not your ordinary citizens,” he said. “TAMIU alumni were prepared to change the world and it is our duty to do so. Do not be afraid of making waves. Fulfill your life by helping yourselves and other people. Do not subscribe to ordinary lives. Be extraordinary in everything you do.”

Approximately 726,200 consumers in Texas received an average rebate of about $95 per family because of new rules under the Affordable Care Act in 2013, announced U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar on Tuesday. Under the law’s regulations, if insurance companies do not meet new standards established by the health care reform law, insurers must send consumers a rebate. “If insurance companies do not spend


at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care and efforts to improve the quality of care, they must send their customers a rebate to meet this threshold,” Cuellar said in a news release. “Texas families deserve to have affor-

dable, quality health care that is a reflection of their hardearned dollars.” In 2012, nearly 80 million consumers saved $3.4 billion upfront on their premiums because of the rule and other Affordable Care Act programs. Insurers also sent 8.5 million consumers an average rebate of approximately $100 per family this year. The health care law also requires insurance companies to publicly post and justify any proposed rate increase of 10 percent or more.

Holiday safety TxDOT urges sober rides, tours state with sleigh SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As a reminder to keep the holidays happy and safe, the Texas Department of Transportation is urging Texans to give themselves and others the gift of a sober ride as they make the rounds to their seasonal celebrations. To raise awareness, TxDOT’s Sober Ride Sleigh — a donated holiday-decorated limousine with a giant bow on top — has visited select cities, making stops at shopping malls, popular landmarks, parades and other events to encourage safety and sober driving.

“When it comes to the holidays, planning is everything,” said TxDOT executive director Phil Wilson. “The best holiday planners make exhaustive checklists as they prepare for the perfect party or favorite holiday meal. Planning for a sober ride is no different. This year, a sober ride should be on every holiday todo list.” During last year’s holiday season — Dec. 1, 2012 to Jan. 1, 2013 — there were 776 DWI-alcohol-related crashes in Texas, resulting in 239 serious injuries and 78 fatalities. This marked a 21.8-percent increase in fa-

talities compared with the previous holiday season. In an effort to curb holiday crashes and fatalities, TxDOT’s Sober Ride Sleigh gears up as law enforcement officers increase patrols. Officers throughout the state will work thousands of additional hours to crack down on drunk driving, including implementing no-refusal programs in several jurisdictions.

Remaining sleigh tour locations: Dec. 19 in Pharr Dec. 20 in Laredo Dec. 21 in San Antonio







Don’t let lawsuits take over holidays By FEBE ZEPEDA CITIZENS AGAINST LAWSUIT ABUSE

As the holiday song popularized by Andy Williams claims, it should be the most wonderful time of the year. Yet it can turn into the most litigious season with party hosts and guests concerned about liability; unregulated lawsuit lenders making a holiday push for clients; and businesses working to ensure their 2014 doesn’t begin mired in questionable litigation. It’s telling that, even in a state that has done so much to ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed, folks still fear the fact that one lawsuit can drain their bank account or shutter their business. We know that even with reforms, no one is fully immune to lawsuit abuse, but we can and should work to raise awareness of its costs to everyone, curb lawsuits that are more about greed than justice, and help prevent unnecessary suits from ever finding their way to court.

in a lawsuit at this most wonderful time of the year, beware of companies promising to bankroll lawsuits with loans that seem too good to be true. Word of warning: they are. Predatory lawsuit lenders seek to capitalize on people in dire financial straits, strapped for cash when holiday bills may be mounting. Shamelessly, these companies often ramp up their operations during the holiday season, staffing up as Legal Bay LLC recently advertised “to brace for the busy Holiday Funding Season.” Firms such as these operate virtually regulation free in Texas, often preying on legal consumers when they’re at their most vulnerable state. These firms guarantee instant cash – which can be used for presents and festivities – for a lawsuit, and subsequently charge extremely high interest rates. Despite the best efforts of leaders in the Texas Legislature, these companies remain virtually unregulated.

Ridiculous lawsuits

Holiday parties Party hosts this holiday season – from Christmas to New Years to the Superbowl, and everything in between – should take steps to ensure a safe and liability-free celebration. If you’re inviting guests to your home for festivities that include alcohol, take the extra step to plan or provide alternative forms of transportation for your guests, including designated drivers or cabs for safe rides home. Steer clear of self-service bars, opting instead for a party with a bartender well versed in identifying underage and intoxicated drinkers. Halting the flow of alcohol well in advance of the end of the party is also another commonsense tip aimed at party hosts wanting to avoid a lawsuit. Arm yourself with a few simple social host liability tips, and it’s certain to be a far more stress-free, and, hopefully, lawsuit-free holiday.

Lawsuit loans And, if you’re currently involved

And, it may be cold outside, but the coffee is still hot and the lawsuits seem to keep flowing. A Jefferson County woman recently sued a local convenience store after she spilled coffee on herself at a self-service drink area of the southeast Texas store in 2010. The woman claims the store failed to warn her that the hot coffee was … well ... hot. Ring a bell? Ridiculous lawsuits clog up the already overloaded court dockets across the country and delay or dilute justice for the truly injured. Consider how many truly injured citizens saw their day in court pushed back while judges were forced to contend with foolish cases. It can be the most wonderful time of the year, if we protect ourselves against excessive litigation and predatory lawsuit lenders. Let’s resolve this New Year to renew the commitment to common-sense reforms that protect small business owners, families and our communities from lawsuit abuse. ( Febe Zepeda is executive director of the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse)


Mental illness needs attention By LEWIS DIUGUID THE KANSAS CITY STAR

A young woman in a lecture hall of 400 to 500 students at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism approached me after I led a question-and-answer session on diversity to quietly talk away from her classmates. She had heard me say that 17 percent of the 308 million people in our population have a known disability. But I also said the number is actually greater than 50 percent, considering the disabilities no one can see. The young woman wanted to know whether the invisible disabilities included mental illness. The question caught me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. A number of students on college campuses contend with mental health concerns like stress, anxiety and depression as they cope with financing their educations and making good grades. The woman’s question should have been asked when everyone else was in the classroom. Mental illness often isn’t seen as a disability or a diversity concern, but it is and has always been recognized as such by the American with Disabilities Act. It is a much bigger picture than what is frequently portrayed in the media, especially after mass shootings and other catastrophes. Most people with mental illness don’t harm others. They suffer silently and alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers some insight: One in four adults, or 61.5 million people, experiences a mental illness in a given year. About 20 percent of young people ages 13 to

18, and 13 percent ages 8 to 15 experience severe mental disorders in a given year. About 26 percent of the people in homeless shelters have a serious mental illness. About 18.1 percent of American adults live with anxiety disorders. About 20 percent of state prisoners and 21 percent of local jail prisoners have a recent history of a mental health condition. Yet about 60 percent of adults and almost half of youths ages 8 to 15 with mental illness received no mental health services the previous year. It’s why it was important for President Barack Obama this year to call for a national dialogue to increase people’s understanding and awareness of mental health concerns after several mass shootings. However, most of the people suffering mental illness aren’t a danger to others. The most pressing concern is what the illness might do to them. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It is more common than homicides. Suicides are the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. More than 90 percent of the people who commit suicide had one or more mental disorders. The alliance also says serious mental illness costs this country $193.2 billion a year in lost earnings. A lot of times people with mental illness and their families suffer in silence and absorb all the costs alone. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, should help direct more services and resources to people with mental illnesses. But for mental illness to get the attention it deserves, it has to come out of the shadows.



I’m working from home today, and I am in multitasking nirvana. I am checking emails, doing interviews, writing columns, paying bills, organizing photos, shopping for last-minute Christmas presents and writing proposals ? all while walking. I am having a little fling with a treadmill desk. And I wonder what else I can do while walking. Can I do a face mask? Teeth whitening? Can I wrap gifts on this thing? Yes! And log five miles a day in the process, thank you. Unhealthy? Super healthy? Crazy? All, it turns out. A spree of studies making the gab circuit say that sitting at your desk all day is as bad for you as smoking. I sit a lot. So when my neighbors quit their jobs to start a treadmill desk company, I begged them to let me try one. The treadmill isn’t huge and fits neatly under a desk you can raise and lower quickly. The whole set-up costs about $1,000 and is designed to never go faster than 2 mph. (Which was fortunate for the cat, who stupidly experimented with it.) I started with an hour, about 1.5 miles. I had sea legs when I got off, a little wobbly. But it was liberating. To be moving while writing and reading felt so productive. I felt like I had more energy on the days I deskwalked. It was a psychological lift. Plus I heard that the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine uses one. I wondered if the treadmill rig would ever figure into Cosmo’s 10 Tips for Bedroom Bliss. In short, treadmill desks are becoming an office status symbol cooler than a juice bar. And definitely healthier. One study said that a year of using a treadmill desk is the equivalent of running 11 marathons. Take

The funny thing he found in his research was that folks who say they’re really good multitaskers are actually not. (This is the part I won’t tell my husband …) that, all you weekend race freaks! I have hit the multitasking jackpot. But wait, I think I just booked a mammogram for my 6year-old. And sent an email about my son’s birthday party to the attorney general. There is a growing body of research that says multitasking is disastrous. I think I just proved it. That takes us right back to smoking, funny enough. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, did a study that found brain function addles with all that multitasking, and IQ points drop twice as quickly as when someone is smoking pot. So I’m basically high when I think I’m being superwoman? The “multitasking myth” has become a darling of the neuroscience fields, where doctors hook people up to monitors to prove how poorly we perform when we try to play Candy Crush, answer emails, check Facebook and write a draft annual report. University professors are becoming dismayed that their students are acting like working moms in the lecture hall, paying bills, booking dates and

checking airfares on their laptops and smartphones during lectures. Now put everyone on treadmill desks and see how that goes. The folks at the University of Michigan found that the constant switching between tasks can make us 40 percent less productive at each of them, because that switch time takes a good amount of energy and brain power. “That process of switching from task to task is very taxing,” said Brent Reed, an assistant professor in pharmacology at the University of Maryland who has studied multitasking. The funny thing he found in his research was that folks who say they’re really good multitaskers are actually not. (This is the part I won’t tell my husband, who tells me to “Just slow down,” when I’m in one of my multitasking frenzies, but will go an entire work day without a single thought as to where his children are, who they are with, what they are eating and what activity they have scheduled.) Learning when to focus — to close down the email, the Facebook and the phone, and just do one thing for an hour — has become a valuable part of Reed’s academic life. I learned my lesson in that area before I called him. I figured out that I simply cannot walk on the treadmill and conduct an interview. My brain just couldn’t make the switch to do three things — type, talk and walk — at once. During one interview I strayed a little off path, hooked my shoe on the side and stumbled off the treadmill, Lucy Ricardo-style. (I’m still too embarrassed to call that person back.) There is such a thing as too much. I still want to keep the treadmill desk though. But can I have a personal assistant to go along with it?

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR POLICY The Zapata Times does not publish anonymous letters. To be published, letters must include the writer’s first and last names as well as a phone number to verify identity. The phone

number IS NOT published; it is used solely to verify identity and to clarify content, if necessary. Identity of the letter writer must be verified before publication. We want to assure

our readers that a letter is written by the person who signs the letter. The Zapata Times does not allow the use of pseudonyms. Letters are edited for style, grammar, length and civility. No


name-calling or gratuitous abuse is allowed. Via e-mail, send letters to or mail them to Letters to the Editor, 111 Esperanza Drive, Laredo, TX 78041.




Suspect called Student under fire Man gets 911 about 20 years missing girl ASSOCIATED PRESS


WOOSTER, Ohio — The disappearance of a 9-yearold girl later found strangled and dumped in a trash bin was reported in a 911 call by the man now charged with killing her. Authorities say Jerrod Metsker, 24, was the last person seen with Reann Murphy at the trailer park where they lived in Wayne County, southwest of Akron. On Monday, a judge ordered him held in jail on a $1 million bond on an aggravated murder charge. The girl’s body was found in a trash bin early Sunday. There have been no findings on whether she had been sexually assaulted, sheriff ’s Capt. Douglas Hunter said Tuesday. In the 5½-minute 911 call provided by Hunter, a caller identifying himself as Metsker said Reann was missing from their Smithville trailer park and people were searching for her late Saturday. When the dispatcher answered, the caller responded, “Yes, we have a missing person at Akron Road, um, the trailer park in Smithville, Ohio.” “Everybody’s out searching for her and we can’t find her,” the caller said. Asked for details on the child’s address, the caller, breathing heavily, responded, “Could you send a unit out?” “Who’s missing?” the dispatcher asked. “A little girl, Reann,” the caller said. The caller didn’t know Reann’s age and, asked what she was wearing, said he couldn’t take the


wireless phone from his mother’s place. Asked his name, the caller responded: “My name is Jerrod. I had a, um, a knock at my door and basically ... “ “What’s your last name, Jerrod,” the dispatcher prodded. “Metsker.” Investigators with the Wayne County sheriff ’s office described Metsker as a family friend and neighbor. Hunter said Metsker has a “diminished mental capacity,” but he wouldn’t release information about a specific diagnosis. People who live in the trailer park said Metsker would play outside with the neighborhood children and built a playhouse out of blankets alongside his home, where he’d spend time with youngsters less than half his age. The girl’s mother was at work Saturday afternoon while she was at home with her mother’s live-in boyfriend, Hunter said. She went outside to play in the snow and was with several other children in the trailer park’s courtyard, but the others went home, leaving Metsker alone with her, he said.

BOSTON — Federal prosecutors say a Harvard University student trying to get out of taking a final exam made the bomb threats that led to the evacuations of four campus buildings this week. A criminal complaint filed Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office says Eldo Kim sent emails saying bombs had been placed around the Cambridge, Mass., campus to Harvard police, two university officials and the president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper. The messages said shrapnel bombs would go off soon in two of the four buildings, including one where prosecutors say Kim was sup-


Photo by Josh Reynolds | AP

Tactical police assemble outside a building at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Monday. posed to take an exam Monday morning. The buildings were shut down for hours before investigators determined there were no ex-

plosives. Kim is to make an initial court appearance Wednesday. It’s unknown if he has an attorney.

DEL RIO, Texas — An Alabama man who killed two people while fleeing Border Patrol near the Texas-Mexico border has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Alia Moses sentenced 39-year-old David Steiner on Tuesday for felony assault of a Border Patrol agent. The U.S. Attorney’s office said Steiner was driving a stolen vehicle in May 2012, when he drove at agents trying to avoid a traffic stop near Comstock. Agents later came upon an accident where Steiner had hit an oncoming vehicle killing two passengers and seriously injuring the driver. The judge also ordered Steiner to pay $4,390 in restitution for the vehicle he stole and wrecked.



Agenda en Breve LAREDO 12/18— AVISO: El día de hoy a partir de las 10 p.m. y hasta las 5 a.m. estarán cerrados algunos carriles de IH 35, entre ellos: el carril al sur de IH 35 marcado en la milla 8; el carril al sur de IH 35 en Calton Rd.; y el carril al norte de IH 35 en Loop 20. 12/18— Cuellar Elementary School estará celebrando el “JA In A Day” de 8 a.m. a 11 p.m. dentro de la escuela, ubicada en 6431 Casa Del Sol Blvd. 12/18— Zaffirini Elementary reconocerá a los estudiantes que cumplieron con sus metas de Lectura Acelerada, a las 8:30 a.m. dentro de la escuela, ubicada en 5210 Claudia Lane. 12/18— Se realizará una ceremonia para reconocer de los participantes del Cuarto Maratón Anual CPR, a las 9 a.m. dentro del Departamento de Salud de Laredo, ubicado en 2600 de Cedar. 12/18— Se entregará el reconocimiento “Lo mejor de lo Nuestro” a la 1:30 p.m. en la Sala de la Corte de Distrito 406, al Juez Oscar J. Hale Jr., para honrarlo por su labor a favor de la comunidad. 12/18— Elaboración de adornos navideños organizado por el comité de padres de Newman Elementary, dentro de los salones y la cafetería. Para informes llame a Irene G. Leal al 4733899. 12/18— Se celebrará una Ceremonia de Nombramiento por parte de ‘Juan Ramirez Community Park’, a las 4 p.m. en 300 de Santa Cleotilde. 12/18— A través del programa “Movie Outdoors” se estará proyectando la película “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” a las 6 p.m. en el estacionamiento de Cigarroa High School, en 2600 de calle Zacatecas. Evento gratuito. 12/19— AVISO: El día de hoy a partir de las 10 p.m. y hasta las 5 a.m. estarán cerrados algunos carriles de IH 35, entre ellos: el carril al sur de IH 35 marcado en la milla 8; el carril al sur de IH 35 en Calton Rd.; y el carril al norte de IH 35 en Loop 20. 12/19— Se estará realizando un taller de construcción para discutir los proyectos de bonos para los distritos a las 9 a.m. en el salón 1 del Auditorio del Complejo de Actividades para Estudiantes Johnson, ubicado en 5208 de Santa Claudia Lane.

NUEVO LAREDO, MÉXICO 12/18— Se honrará la memoria de Luís González González por su aniversario luctuoso por parte de Alfredo Arcos, y Manuel Ceballos, a las 6 p.m. en el archivo histórico municipal, ubicado en 1106 de avenida César López de Lara. 12/19— Se presentará una exhibición de Jazz por parte del Grupo de Jazz de Laredo, a las 6 p.m. en el museo Reyes Meza, dentro del Centro Cultural, ubicado en el kilómetro 2.5 sobre el bulevar Luís Donaldo Colosio. 12/20— Se presentará el evento “Navidad en Maquila Creativa”, con arte urbano, a las 6 p.m. dentro de Maquila Creativa, ubicada en Eva Sámano, 1501 de la colonia La Fe.

RIO BRAVO 12/18— Se distrubirán chaquetas por parte de Redeemed Christian Church of God-Dominion Chapel en D.D. Hachar Early Childhood Center, la capilla está ubicada en 1600 de Espejo Molina Road, de 10 a.m. a 11 a.m. Chaquetas serán destinadas al Programa de Migrantes de UISD.




VICTORIA, Tamaulipas— Reforma a la Ley Energética beneficiaría a Tamaulipas e impulsara una sinergia entre la extracción petrolera y la generación de energía eléctrica. La reforma de la Ley Energética impulsada por el Gobierno Federal de Enrique Peña Nieto y aprobada por las cámaras de Senadores y la de Diputados, beneficiaría a Tamaulipas e impulsara una sinergia entre la extracción petrolera y la generación de energía eléctrica, renglones en los cuales la entidad mantiene un liderazgo nacional. Humberto René Salinas Treviño, Secretario de Desarrollo Urbano y Medio Ambiente, destacó que el Gobierno del Estado de Tamauli-

pas, mantiene estrictamente alineados sus programas y proyectos para la generación de energía, instrumentando políticas pública acordes a los proyectos de trabajo que en materia de energía renovable, convencional e incluso en fuentes alternativas que está planteando el Gobierno de la República. Tamaulipas ocupa el segundo lugar nacional en la producción de energía eléctrica con poco mas de 32 MW/hora que constituyen el 12.65 por ciento, procesa 117.5 miles de barriles diarios que son un 10.1 por ciento y ocupa el primer lugar en la producción de gas no asociado con 172 millones de pies cada tres días que suman el 37.28 por ciento de la producción nacional, explicó.

El funcionario estatal señaló que aparte de ello, en lo que se refiere a energías renovables, existen trece proyectos para la generación de energía limpia con una capacidad potencial de 2.077 MW, aparte de los proyectos que se tienen en la generación de energía en fuentes alternativas como etanol y el manejo de residuos sólidos urbanos. La permisibilidad de acceso a capitales privados en acciones de exploración y obtención de petróleo en aguas profundas serán en los yacimientos ya localizados frente a las costas de Matamoros, la posibilidad de obtener gas no asociado y gas de lutitas de la Cuenca de Burgos, localizada también en buena parte en el suelo tamaulipeco, los vientos generosos de la planicie costera en el estado

y los buenos valores de radiación solar seguirán impulsando proyectos de generación de electricidad limpia. Esto atraerá sin duda a los inversionistas nacionales y extranjeros y existirá en el futuro cercano un auge energético que también provocara una migración importante de trabajadores hacia nuestro estado para lo cual debemos de prepararnos, indicó. Dijo que todo esto propiciará un crecimiento de las ciudades, por lo que habrá la necesidad de incrementar los servicios públicos y se acrecentará el tránsito en las carreteras. Tamaulipas está llamado a ser un actor fundamental en el desarrollo económico, social y energético del país, agregó.





Foto de cortesía | Gobierno de Tamaulipas

Autoridades de Desarrollo Rural recorrieron instalaciones de Centro de Mejoramiento Genético.

Buscan mejorar centros genéticos ESPECIAL PARA TIEMPO DE LAREDO

CD. VICTORIA, Tamaulipas— Autoridades de Desarrollo Rural recorrieron instalaciones de Centro de Mejoramiento Genético. El Secretario de Desarrollo Rural, Carlos Ernesto Solís Gómez, realizó un recorrido por las instalaciones del Centro de Mejoramiento Genético, donde estuvo acompañado del Presidente de la Unión Ganadera Regional de Tamaulipas, Homero García de la Llata. Al finalizar la décimo quinta subasta ganadera realizada en estas instalaciones, Solís Gómez dijo que una de las funciones del Salón de Subastas para ganado bovino comercial, es ayudar a

desplazar el hato delgado, y que los productores, al hacer uso de esta infraestructura, consiguen venderse a un mejor precio. Con respecto al Centro de Acopio de Melaza, el funcionario estatal detalló que el edificio tiene capacidad para almacenar 2.000 toneladas de este insumo, lo que garantiza que los productores pecuarios de Tamaulipas, tengan acceso a este producto a un precio más económico. Solís Gómez recorrió las instalaciones del laboratorio de semen y embriones bovinos, que atenderá a productores del Sector Social y Pequeños Productores que soliciten estos servicios de manera directa o con la incorporación de Programas de Estímulos Gubernamentales.

Enfatizó que las metas de este Centro de Mejoramiento Genético es lograr una buena producción de embriones y semen por año, dar seguimiento a sementales y donadoras del Centro en base a su descendencia y producción, así como la consolidación de contratos de colaboración con las organizaciones ganaderas de bovinos de carne y doble propósito que operan en el estado y estados vecinos. Para concluir, dijo que como aseguró en su visita a nuestro Estado, el Secretario de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación, Enrique Martínez y Martínez, “en Tamaulipas hay voluntad, liderazgo y apoyo del gobierno para que marchen bien las cosas.

Los residentes del Condado de Zapata se encuentran viendo un nuevo trailer refrigerador del Banco de Alimentos del Sur de Texas (STFB, por sus siglas en inglés) que distribuye productos a las agencias y almacenes. El STFB recibió una vehículo de 115.000 dólares en la junta de consejo de diciembre, cortesía de la South Texas Outreach Foundation (STOF), con sede en Laredo. El Banco de Alimentos utilizará el trailer para entregar y recoger productos que requieran de refrigeración y congelamiento. Esta es la cuarta donación por parte de STOF. Previamente la fundación había donado un trailer de caja y dos subvenciones de productos alimenticios para el programa de alimentación de STFB, Kids Café. “South Texas Outreach Foundation ha sido una bendición para los miles de clientes del banco de alimentos”, dijo el director ejecutivo Alfonso Casso. “Estamos extremadamente agradecidos”. El Banco de Alimentos del Sur de Texas, que celebrará su 25 aniversario en 2014, distribuye alimentos suplementarios a los desempleados, subempleados y los que viven con ingresos fijos. STFB sirve a más de 27.000 familias, 7.000 adultos mayores y 500 veteranos y sus viudas al mes en un área de ocho condados que va de Río Grande a Del Río. Para más información sobre el banco de alimentos puede visitar o llamar al 726-3120. Boys and Girls Club y San Ygnacio sirve comida y merienda, después de la escuela, a más de 500 niños.


Imparten taller sobre seguros médicos ESPECIAL PARA TIEMPO DE LAREDO

Oficina de congresista ofreció un taller comunitario sobre nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos. El jueves 12 de diciembre la oficina del Congresista Henry Cuellar, D-TX28, ofreció un taller comunitario sobre el nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos para el condado de Zapata. La oficina del congresista coordinó este taller en conjunto con organizaciones de la comunidad y agencias. El taller fue gratis y abierto al público. Los participantes tuvieron la oportunidad de inscribirse en el nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos, con la asistencia de algunas organizaciones certificadas y locales. “El nuevo mercado de se-

guros médicos permitirá al pueblo tejano tomar responsabilidad sobre los costos de cuidados médicos y proveer acceso universal a seguro medico de calidad alto y precio razonable,” dijo Cuellar. “El distrito que yo represento incluye condados con los índices más altos de ciudadanos sin seguro médico en el país— 35.3 por ciento de los residentes del condado de Zapata no tiene seguro médico. Por esta razón, en asociación con agencias locales y organizaciones, vamos a presentar este taller comunitario sobre el nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos así poder educar al público sobre este importante tema.” Treinta personas asistieron al evento y 5 individuos se inscribieron en un plan de seguro médico.

Foto de cortesía | Laredo Morning Times

Oficina de congresista Henry Cuellar ofreció un taller comunitario sobre nuevo Mercado de Seguros Médicos.



County GOP sues city over partner benefits ASSOCIATED PRESS

File photo by Brennan Linsley | AP

HOUSTON — Harris County Republicans have sued the city of Houston over its extension of health and life insurance benefits last month to legally married same-sex spouses of city employees. Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County

Republican party, told the Houston Chronicle Tuesday the city acted unilaterally. The lawsuit filed in state District court alleges the mechanism used by Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay, violated the city charter, the state Defense of Marriage Act and Texas Constitution.

City Attorney David Feldman said he expected the lawsuit would be thrown out because the filers did not appear to have legal standing. An opinion issued in April by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said local governments offering such benefits are violating the state constitution.

In this 2012 file photo, Lizzie Solano, center, and her sister Sarah take phone calls from children asking where Santa is and when he will deliver presents to their house at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Critics track NORAD Texas drought lingers By DAN ELLIOTT ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER — The U.S. and Canadian military will entertain millions of kids again this Christmas Eve with second-by-second updates on Santa’s global whereabouts. But there’s something new this year: public criticism. A children’s advocacy group says an animated video on the NORAD Tracks Santa website injects militarism into Christmas by showing fighter jets escorting Santa’s sleigh. It’s a rare swipe at the popular program, which last year attracted a record 22.3 million unique visitors from around the world to its website. The North American Aerospace Defense Command defends the video as nonthreatening and safe for kids. The kerfuffle erupted two weeks ago over a 39-second video on called “NORAD Tracks Santa Trailer Video 2013.” A 5-second segment of the video — which is also available on — shows two fighter jets flanking Santa. The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood said the video brings violence and militarism to a beloved tradition. Others had similar criticism. Blogs and Twitter

lit up with volleys from both sides. Josh Golin, the coalition’s associate director, reiterated his criticism in an interview with The Associated Press — but he called the brouhaha “a media-manufactured controversy.” The coalition hadn’t known about the fighter jet video until reporters called, he said. “Nobody in my organization was out there protesting,” he said. U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a NORAD spokesman, said he understands the critics’ point of view but disagrees. “We really do feel strongly that it’s something that is safe and non-threatening, and not something that would negatively impact children,” he said. “In fact, we think that it’s a lot of fun.” Davis said the fighter escort is nothing new. NORAD began depicting jets accompanying Santa and his reindeer in the 1960s, he said. And he insisted the fighters in the video are unarmed: They’re Canadian Air Force CF-18s, with a large external fuel tank under the belly that might look like a bomb. The wing racks that would carry bombs or missiles are empty, he explained. The flap has driven lots of viewers to the video — near-

ly 265,000 on YouTube by midday Monday. “That’s way off the charts for any other videos we’ve done before,” Davis said. A second video on and on YouTube, “NORAD Tracks Santa Command Video 2013,” has drawn nearly 122,000 views. It’s a longer, fast-paced mix of animation and real-life footage billed as a test flight for Santa, who gets the military tag “Big Red One.” “This is very much a fun and safe and nonviolent site that children of all ages can visit,” Davis said. “Parents can be confident their children will walk away (and) have had fun and potentially have learned something, too.” NORAD is a U.S.-Canadian operation based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. It’s charged with defending the skies over both nations and monitoring sea approaches. The Santa program began in 1955 when a typo in a local newspaper advertisement had children calling the hotline of NORAD’s predecessor, asking to talk to Santa. It’s now a Christmas tradition that thrills millions of kids, and parents. Last year, global monitoring of Santa’s voyage logged 114,000 phone calls to NORAD, 1.2 million Facebook followers and 129,000 Twitter followers.


LUBBOCK, Texas — The ice storm that immobilized the Dallas-Fort Worth area this month slightly improved drought conditions in parts of North Texas, but despite the extra moisture, watersheds that feed the Austin and San Antonio areas are still low. “There hasn’t been much runoff,” Texas’ state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said of water sources west of Interstate 35. The Edwards Aquifer Authority returned to tighter limits Monday as the aquifer’s level dipped again, and most suppliers who rely on water from Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are in some stage of conservation as the lake levels flirt with record lows. The late October rainfall and flooding in the Austin area missed the lakes’ watersheds by about 10 miles, said Lower Colorado River Authority spokeswoman Clara Tuma. “If that rain had fallen just a few miles upstream in the Highland Lakes it

could have made a significant difference,” she said. As of Tuesday, the two lakes combined were 37 percent full. Fortunately, winter brings fewer water demands. “It’s not as hot, so evaporation is not the factor it is in the summer months, and people don’t need to water their lawns as much,” Tuma said. Without good rains this winter, though, most rice farmers in in Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda counties could go a third straight year without irrigation water from the two lakes for their crops. The Lower Colorado authority has asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for emergency drought relief if on March 1 there is not 1.1 million acre-feet in Travis and Buchanan combined. On Tuesday, the two lakes held 754,200 acre-feet. The commission will rule early next year. In San Antonio, the Edwards Aquifer Authority had eased pumping restrictions Nov. 6 after good rainfall in the region. But, as the San Antonio Express-News re-

ported Monday, the authority has now returned to tighter restrictions. The state’s precipitation outlook through February calls for equal chances for precipitation that’s above, below or near normal in most of Texas. In West Texas, though, the prediction is for below-normal rainfall. The ice storm that pounded North Texas the first full weekend in December cancelled hundreds of flights and cut electricity to more than a quarter of a million homes and businesses. The worst areas of drought — in extreme and exceptional categories — in the northern half of the state continue to be northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, near Wichita Falls and Vernon. The moisture that came to Dallas and Fort Worth improved drought conditions that weren’t that dire beforehand. The ice took parts of four counties from severe to moderate drought. Other counties that had been in moderate drought are now abnormally dry, a one-category improvement.





Hawks win one Zapata loses three of four in tournament By CLARA SANDOVAL THE ZAPATA TIMES

The Hawks last tournament of the season picked up just one victory in four games at the La Feria Tournament, however, Zapata is starting to come around as a team. The Hawks opened the 32-team tournament with Edinburg North, in a rematch from a week earlier at the Edinburg tournament. The results were the same as Zapata lost 84-35, but all was not lost as the Hawks welcomed back senior guard Alonzo Gutierrez, who had suffered a knee injury a week ago. Gutierrez missed Tuesday’s game against St. Augustine, but was able to get back on the court on Thursday. He did not skip a beat and had a great tournament averaging 10.75 points per game in four outings. Gutierrez led the scoring against the Cougars with 10 points. In the second game of the day, Zapata took on old district foe Raymondville and was able to pick up its first victory of the tournament. The Hawks squeezed out a 54-51 victory over the Bearkats behind the scoring of Gutierrez, who led the way with 15 points. Meanwhile, Lopez and Ruben Gutierrez had 14 and 13 points, respectively. Zapata took on Pharr-San JuanAlamo Memorial to open the final day of action. The Hawks came out strong and stayed with PSJA but could not sustain that momentum in the final seconds as Zapata fell 57-54. The first half of the game it was tight through the first two quarters as neither team took a commanding lead. The Hawks were only down by one point at halftime, 30-29. Zapata battled through the third quarter but the Wolverines were able to stay one step ahead of the Hawks enjoying a one-point lead

Photo by Tony Gutierrez | AP

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and team owner Jerry Jones still have the Cowboys in position to make the postseason with two more wins.

Cowboys move on Still control destiny after loss By SCHUYLER DIXON ASSOCIATED PRESS

Photo by Clara Sandoval | Laredo Morning Times

Rodrigo Saldivar exploded for a season-high 26 points in the final game of the La Feria Tournament on Saturday. at the end of the third quarter, 4443. Zapata was able to take the lead early in the fourth quarter with a basket by Gutierrez and held it through the quarter, but the team could not hold on in the final seconds and lost. Once again Gutierrez led the way with 18 points while Rodrigo Saldivar added 14. In the final game of the tournament, the Hawks met up with IDEA Quest Academy but came up

short losing 72-60. The game was tight throughout the four quarters, but down the stretch Zapata committed too many turnovers and that proved to be the difference. Rodrigo Saldivar exploded for a season-high 26 points while Ruben Gutierrez added 15. Clara Sandoval can be reached at Follow us at


Tumbling Texans look to Denver By KRISTIE RIEKEN ASSOCIATED PRESS

HOUSTON — Wade Phillips talked about how certain young quarterbacks have to hit rock bottom before they can turn things around and succeed. Case Keenum and the Houston Texans are certainly at that point. Keenum had his worst outing in eight games as a starter and the Texans dropped their 12th straight Sunday in the first game with Phillips in charge after coach Gary Kubiak was fired Dec. 6. Now Phillips is looking for ways to help Keenum improve with Sunday’s game against longtime Houston nemesis Peyton Manning and the Broncos looming. “I’ve seen it happen,” Phillips said Monday of quarterbacks bouncing back after struggling early in their careers. “Some of them don’t bounce back up and aren’t good enough and don’t end up good quarterbacks. But this is a rough time he’s going through and we’ll see what he does.” Keenum is dealing with a sprained right thumb.

Photo by Darron Cummings | AP

Houston quarterback Case Keenum and the Texans have lost a franchise-worst 12 straight as they play Denver this weekend. The Texans aren’t sure how serious the injury is, but Phillips said he is concerned about it. Keenum is in his first season playing in the NFL after spending all of last season on the practice squad. In Sunday’s loss to the Colts, he threw for 168 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. He was sacked four times,

one of which resulted in a fumble and safety, and was hurried and hit numerous other times. “He saw the blitzes when they were coming,” Phillips said. “But seeing blitzes and getting rid of the football is different than just seeing them. That and reading coverages is not an easy process, and especially for a young

quarterback to know exactly where to go with it.” Phillips said the Texans will work this week to identify what was happening early in the Keenum’s tenure as starter when he was playing better. Phillips also said he spoke to the offense about doing more to help Keenum while he develops. Despite his struggles, the Texans remain committed to seeing what Keenum can do this season and Phillips said he will start the final two games. Houston must win one of its last two contests to avoid matching its franchise-worst record of 2-14 from 2005. Houston is also dealing with several other key injuries in addition to Keenum’s thumb. Running back Ben Tate, who broke four ribs in late October, took another blow Sunday and is undergoing tests to see if there is further damage. Also injured were defensive end Antonio Smith, who has a sprained knee, and cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who has a groin injury. Phillips wasn’t sure Monday if the injuries would keep the two out against Denver.

IRVING — Dez Bryant made the rounds Monday trying to explain why he left the field early in Dallas’ crushing loss to Green Bay. The emotional receiver just couldn’t watch the Packers take a knee three times for a 37-36 victory after the Cowboys led 26-3 at halftime. He was afraid he was going to cry in front of the cameras, so he says he took the tears to the locker room. Now it’s time for a twogame test for the Cowboys’ biggest playmaker and the resolve of Tony Romo after his latest failure in key moments. Beat Washington and Philadelphia to finish the season, and Dallas (7-7) ends a three-year playoff drought. Lose to the freefalling Redskins on Sunday, and the Cowboys might be eliminated before they even play their final game. All this after they had a near-certain victory in hand against the Packers that would have pulled them even with the Eagles atop the NFC East and given them a chance to wrap up a playoff berth at Washington. “The trend’s not going to continue because we’re going to do what we need to do,” Bryant said Monday in a mostly empty locker room at the team’s training facility. “This whole group in this locker room, we believe and we’re going to keep working.” Bryant, who made similar headlines earlier in the season with a sideline rant during another deflating defeat at Detroit, was waiting for reporters so he could tell them that leaving with time still on the clock “was absolutely not right.” That was essentially the message in his conversation with coach Jason Garrett, who said his star receiver wasn’t disciplined. “It’s difficult for everybody when things don’t go well and he needs to understand how to handle that,” Garrett said. “I think he’ll handle that better in the future. He

was very apologetic to me and was concerned about the situation.” Bryant’s latest sideline moment didn’t face as much scrutiny Monday as Romo’s decision to check out of a running play before throwing an interception that gave Green Bay another chance down 3631 with less than 3 minutes to go. The Cowboys were in position to force the Packers to go most of the field in less than 2 minutes even if they didn’t get a first down. Instead, Matt Flynn took over for Green Bay at midfield and led a scoring drive. Another interception from Romo completed the collapse. “I think in hindsight you would say that was the wrong decision, and Tony would be the first to tell you that,” Garrett said of the first interception. “Sometimes it’s OK on second-and-6 to hand the ball off, take your lumps, and deal with the third down, force them to use another timeout, and then just work that situation out.” Now Romo has to find a way to lead a team that has given away two games, been blown out of two others and has a personal history of late-game and late-season failures. The latest left tight end Jason Witten with nothing much to say beyond “words can’t really describe it” after the game. “If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you handle the inevitable adversities of the season better than if you don’t,” Garrett said. “If you put emotion into something, passion into something and it doesn’t work out, sometimes that’s hard to swallow. But again, you have to regroup.” The challenge for Bryant might be the biggest. “I know for me it’s very, very, very hard to swallow,” said Bryant, who had 153 yards and a touchdown that put Dallas up 12 midway through the fourth quarter. “That kind of stuff leaves scars. It brings pain. I know that’s what it brought to me.”




NEW YORK — Investors are giving a thumbsup to the idea of Facebook making hundreds of millions in new revenue from video advertisements, but some users argue that the social network is already too cluttered and has become more about commercialism than communing with friends. Facebook said Tuesday that it’s testing video advertisements that show up in its users’ news feeds. As part of the test, Facebook said some of its users on Thursday will see a series of videos teasing Summit Entertainment’s upcoming release of “Divergent,” a film based on a young adult novel with the same name, in their feeds. The Menlo Park, Calif.based company says the idea is still in the testing phase and that it’s not currently selling video ads. The company wouldn’t disclose pricing, but said its goal is for the test feature is to make it a premium advertising product that’s used to reach large audiences at specific times. Facebook’s shares, which have posted substantial gains over the past four months, hit an all-time high of $55.18 on the news, before closing up $1.05, or 2 percent, at $54.86. Citi analyst Mark May backed his “buy” rating for Facebook’s stock on Tuesday, noting that the video advertising effort could add more than half a billion dollars to the company’s revenue next year and up to $1 billion by 2016. Advertising, in general, has already helped Facebook achieve enormous growth in recent years. The company’s revenue grew from $3.71 billion in 2011 to $5.09 billion in 2012. Revenue was $5.29 billion through the first nine months of this year. While an additional revenue boost would be good for Facebook’s bottom line, the company needs to proceed with caution. People have grown accustomed to video ads online, but Facebook is seen as a place where users con-

nect with friends and family and is often perceived as a more personal setting than other websites where video ads may not seem as intrusive. Some users insist Facebook’s intimate feel started disappearing long ago. They point to the combination of targeted advertisements that run along the right side of a user’s news feed and what they see as increasingly inane posts from some of their “friends.” Jon Knott, a 22-yearold Facebook user from

Chicago, says video ads could be the “final straw” for young adults like him, who are growing tired of Facebook’s busy nature. Knott says political rants and “obnoxious oversharing” by friends are already pushing him toward other forms of social media such as Twitter. He adds that advertisements are a lot less annoying when they’re limited to 140 characters. Ben Wachtel, a 23year-old from Indianapolis and a Facebook user since high school, says he feels like he and his friends are using the social network less and less, as ads crowd out posts from real people. He says the main reason he stays is because Facebook provides a home for his years of photos. “I hear people say they don’t get the updates from their friends that they used to, that they just don’t care what’s out there,” Wachtel says. “If they add videos, especially auto play ones, it’s just going to push people away.” Under the current plan, the advertisements automatically start playing without sound when they appear. Users can click on a video to view it with sound, or scroll past it if they’re not interested. Facebook notes that for mobile users the advertisements are pre-

loaded only when a device is connected to wireless Internet and will not consume additional data, removing a big worry for users who face hefty charges if they exceed the limits of their data plans. And no sound will play unless a user clicks or taps on the video. Facebook says it’s been testing the silent auto-playing videos for video content shared between Facebook users since September, and has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of videos users watch, like, share and comment on. Tim Johnson, a 37-yearold Facebook user from St. Cloud, Minn., says that while the videos will probably be annoying he doubts they will prompt many users to leave Facebook for other social media. “What we’ve seen over and over again is Facebook makes a change and then people complain and then more people join anyway,” Johnson says. While Johnson jokingly refers to himself and other Facebook users as “sheep,” he says he thinks the silent nature of the videos will make them significantly less bothersome than they could be. Facebook’s news comes as online advertising spending continues to rise. According to research firm eMarketer, spending on digital video advertising will more than triple from 2012 levels to $9.42 billion in 2017, though that still pales in comparison to the TV advertising market which is expected to reach $75.25 billion by the same year. “Video advertising is going to be huge for not just Facebook, but across the Web,” says Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer’s principal analyst. Williamson notes that the line between TV and Internet advertising is growing blurry, as more people choose to watch their favorite shows online. Autoplay ads have the potential to be very effective, Williamson says, because people are more likely to pay attention to ads if they don’t have to decide whether to click on them.

File photo by Matt Rourke | AP

In this 2011 photo, a nutrition label on a soda can is shown. As people pay closer attention to what they eat, companies are learning that funny-sounding chemicals and other ingredients can be a bullseye for criticism.

Food ingredients vanish As labels get closer look, companies won’t risk bad publicity By CANDICE CHOI ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Take another look at that food label. An ingredient or two may have vanished. As Americans pay closer attention to what they eat, food and beverage companies are learning that unfamiliar ingredients can invite criticism from online petitions and bloggers. The risk of damaging publicity has proven serious enough that some manufacturers have reformulated top-selling products to remove mysterious, unpronounceable components that could draw suspicion. Earlier this year, for example, PepsiCo Inc. said it would stop using brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade and find a another way to evenly distribute color in the sports drink. Last year, Starbucks said it would stop using a red dye made of crushed bugs based on comments it received “through a variety of means,” including an online petition, and switch to a tomato-based extract. Kraft Foods plans to replace artificial dyes with colors derived from natural spices in select varieties of its macaroni and cheese, a nod to the feedback it’s hearing from parents. Ali Dibadj, a Bernstein analyst who covers the packaged food and beverage industry, says the changes reflect a shift from “democratization to activism” by consumers. “It used to be that people would just decide not to buy the product. Now they’re actually agitating for change,” Dibadj said. “There’s a bullhorn — which is the Internet — so you can get a lot of people involved very quickly.” Companies stand by the safety of their old recipes. Although they don’t typically provide details on production decisions, their reasons for using certain ingredients can include cost and manufacturing efficiencies.

Still, food and beverage makers can be sensitive about broadcasting any changes. Chick-fil-A, for instance, has been removing artificial dyes and high-fructose corn syrup from its dressings and sauces. The Atlanta-based chain is also testing a “clean ingredient bun” but has not alerted customers. “The reason companies don’t publicize it is that they don’t want to bring attention to these ingredients. They want to slowly start to remove them until they’re all gone,” said Vani Hari, who runs the site and has pressured companies to remove artificial dyes and other ingredients. There are no numbers tracking how many companies are reformulating products in response to consumer demand. But even if recipe changes aren’t in direct response to petitions or blogs, executives understand that ingredients can become a liability once they fall out of favor with the public. High-fructose corn syrup, for example, has gained a negative image in recent years and has been blamed for fueling bad eating habits. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, says the sweetener is no more harmful than ordinary sugar in large amounts. But Kroger Co. decided to remove it from store-brand cereals following surveys with consumers in 2011. The supermarket chain isn’t alone. Over the past decade, the use of high-fructose corn syrup in packaged foods and drinks has fallen 18 percent to 6.1 million tons last year, according to market researcher Euromonitor International. The latest moves to swap out ingredients underscore the growing sway consumers have through sites such as, which lets people post petitions.

In the past, a customer complaint about an ingredient may have been addressed with a boilerplate letter from corporate headquarters. But now people can go online to share their concerns with thousands of likeminded individuals. John Boeheim, of New York’s Hudson Valley, says he avoids a number of ingredients, including the artificial sweetener aspartame and a red dye, in part because of what he’s read on blogs and social media. “We’ve taught our kids to look at the labels, to look at the ingredients,” Boeheim said. Companies are paying attention too. Chick-fil-A says it will continue to improve ingredients to keep up with changing tastes and even invited Hari to spend the day at its headquarters sharing her concerns. Not all companies are making changes, at least not right away. The Mississippi teenager who called for the removal of brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade, for instance, is now taking aim at Coca-Cola’s Powerade, which also contains the ingredient in select varieties. As of Tuesday, Sarah Kavanagh’s petition had more than 57,000 supporters. In a statement, Coca-Cola noted that all its ingredients comply with regulations. But the company also said it is “always looking for ways to evolve” its formulas. Another petition that asks Mars Inc. to remove artificial colors from M&Ms had more than 141,000 signatures. In an emailed statement, the privately held company stressed the safety of its ingredients. Although it has not announced any changes, the company noted that it continues to explore the use of naturally sourced colors and that it is “constantly evaluating” its ingredients based on a variety of factors, including consumer preference.




WASHINGTON — The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals. It’s hurting the U.S. economy. So says a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed last week by The Associated Press. Their concerns tap into a debate that’s intensified as middle-class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived. A key source of the economists’ concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend

less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising. “What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.” Spending by wealthier Americans, given the weight of their dollars, does help drive the economy. But analysts say the economy would be better able to sustain its growth if the riches were more evenly dispersed. For one thing, a plunge in stock prices typically leads wealthier Americans to cut sharply back on their spending.

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers. A wide gap in pay limits the ability of poorer and middle-income Americans to improve their living standards. About 80 percent of stock market wealth is held by the richest 10 percent of Americans. That means the stock market’s outsize gains this year have mostly benefited the rich. Those trends have fueled an escalating political debate. In a speech this month, President Barack Obama called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time.”

HOLIDAY Continued from Page 1A poses with no limitations. Naming LACF or one of its funds as the sole or shared beneficiary of a life insurance policy Gifts of stock, bonds, mutual funds, etc. Gifts of real estate (for example, a ranch or residence that is no longer used by the family); Gifts of art, silver and gold coins, or other collectibles Transfers from a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, or from funds rolled over from a qualified retirement plan into an IRA. Most private foundations are ineligible donees but private-operating and pass-through foundations like LACF are eligible. A loved one who has passed away can be memorialized through donations made in his name by clubs he belonged to, family members, co-workers, and friends (this can also be mentioned in the loved one’s obituary). A variety of endowment funds are available for donors, depending on their personal goals and gifting needs. Donor advised funds can be distributed to different charities, depending on the donor’s desires. Endow-

ment funds can benefit a specific charity (for ex, a church, school, or non-profit organization), while area of interest funds benefit a broad area of interest for the donor (health, environment, educational, arts, etc.). A group of individuals or members of a club can pool their money to start a fund to benefit a common interest. Individual donors can also make smaller contributions in any amount to existing funds if they don’t wish to or are unable to establish a fund of their own. “Establishing a fund is easier than opening a bank account and done in less time,” said LACF president Elizabeth Sames. The minimum to start an endowment fund is $10,000. An acorn fund can be opened with as little as $2,500, and has five years to build up to the minimum $10,000. Once a fund reaches the $10,000 mark and is allowed to grow for three years, distributions can be made for up to 4 percent of the previous three years’ average fund value. Donor advised funds are required to maintain a minimum $10,000 balance, but may distribute any amount of

funds above that balance at any time of the year. These guidelines ensure that the principal of the fund is forever preserved and the donor’s lasting legacy continues to benefit the community and his chosen charity well into the future. The LACF added 13 new funds in the past year, surpassing $4 million in assets. “Some people think we are here to compete with the nonprofits for donations, but that’s a misconception,” Sames said. “We exist solely to service our donors’ funds and establish new endowment funds so that we can have a perpetual stream of income to benefit the community area charities.” To date, LACF has disbursed $1.2 million in donor funds to benefit local and area nonprofits. Representatives are available to make private or group presentations to anyone interested in learning more about the funding options and tax advantages offered. Visit LACF’s website at; email Elizabeth Sames at, or visit them on Facebook.

The Zapata Times 12/18/2013  

The Zapata Times 12/18/2013

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you