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TO 4,000 HOMES





US, Mexico agree on pact

Weighing in Station needed at lake By JJ VELASQUEZ




Catch and release. That’s what state biologists — part of a catch-and-release program — hope becomes a trend at Falcon Lake once a weigh station is set up to measure any significantly large fish caught by anglers there. But a weigh station hasn’t existed near Falcon since last year. Biologists from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said that hurts both its catchand-release program and the county’s bottom line. “Without a weigh station, I doubt that we’ll get any more lunkers out of Falcon because people can’t normally wait the four or five hours it takes to get a truck out there (to weigh the fish and enter it into the program’s registry),” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Staffers in the Toyota ShareLunker Program attended Zapata County Commissioners Court on Feb. 13 and had been in the county a few weeks prior to that to meet with representatives from the Zapata County Chamber of Commerce and county commissioners. Forshage gave a presentation at Commissioners Court on the merits of the program. The ShareLunker program gives anglers the option of releasing large fish they catch back into the lake so that they remain in the ecosystem. When large fish remain in the waters, there is a higher chance that the population will


Photo by Ulysses S. Romero | The Zapata Times

Tim Reneu shows his catch of the day with Falcon Lake in the background during the FLW Outdoors Fishing tournament in Zapata in 2010. Without a weigh station, lunkers will be missed.

WASHINGTON — The United States and Mexico reached agreement Monday on regulating oil and gas development along their maritime border in the Gulf of Mexico, ending years of negotiations and potentially opening more than a million acres to deepwater drilling. The agreement, if ratified by Mexican and U.S. lawmakers, would for the first time provide for joint inspection of the two countries’ rigs in the gulf. Until now, neither was authorized to oversee the environmental and safety practices of the other, even though oil spills do not respect international borders. “Each of the nations will maintain sovereignty and their own regulatory systems,” Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, said from Los Cabos, Mexico, where the agreement was completed. “But what this signifies, and what may be the most significant part of the agreement, is that we’re moving forward jointly with Mexico to ensure we have a common set of safety protocols. “As the Mexicans move into deepwater development,” Salazar said, “we want to make sure it’s done in a way that protects the environment and is as safe as possible.” The Transboundary Agreement, as it is called, will make up to 1.5 million acres of offshore territory claimed by the United States available for leasing as early as June, though the leases will not become active until a pact is ratified. The Interior Department estimates that the area contains as much as 172 million



Fifth lawsuit filed over school finance system By WILL WEISSERT ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUSTIN — A small group of parents filed the fifth school finance lawsuit against Texas on Friday, this one charging that the state is not getting enough bang for its buck and asking the courts to address inefficiencies in how education funding is spent. Attorneys submitted the suit to the 200th Judicial District Court in Austin on behalf of five families who say the state’s

schools aren’t meeting their children’s needs, as well as Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, a new group formed by three entrepreneurs. Four other lawsuits already have been filed claiming the school finance plan approved by the state Legislature is not equitable in how it distributes funding to school districts. In all, more than 500 school districts representing more than 3 million children are suing the state as part of that process. Chris Diamond, lead attorney

in the latest litigation, said it may eventually be combined with the other cases. But he said it goes further, asking the courts to look at how money is spent — rather than simply if it is distributed fairly. “We’re dumping all of this money into the system and yet kids aren’t ready to go to college,” Diamond said. The Legislature approved $50.8 billion for public education for this year and next, but lawmakers rewrote the school funding formula to cut $4 bil-

lion and cut $1.4 billion in grant programs, even though enrollment has been growing. That caused the amount of money Texas spends per student to fall to $8,908 per pupil, down $538 from last year and well below the current national average of $11,463, according to the National Education Association. Those cuts prompted the first four lawsuits, but Diamond said the latest has nothing to do with the Legislature’s budget. He said it is about parents who

“feel as if their children are trapped in an unproductive system” and that the suit isn’t meant to be political or promote school choice or other conservative causes. Districts and residents have been suing over school funding in Texas for more than 40 years. Diamond said that in past rulings, the state high court has issued opinions that “all-but invited” a legal challenge to the overall way Texas pays for its



Zin brief CALENDAR






The Area Health Education Center will sponsor a workshop on college entrance exams preparation with emphasis on the SAT from 7:45 a.m. to noon today at the UT Health Science Center Laredo campus, 1937 E. Bustamante St., for UISD high school students. For more information, call 7120037 or email The Texas A&M International University Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium will show “The Little Star that Could” at 4 p.m., “Wonders of the Universe” at 5 p.m., “Stars of the Pharaohs” at 6 p.m., and “Black Holes” at 7 p.m. General admission is $4 for children and $5 for adults. Premium shows are $1 more. The matinee, at 4 p.m., is $3. An open 1,600-meter run will be held at 5 p.m. today at Shirley Field during the LISD Invitational track and field meet to benefit the South Texas Food Bank. The donation is $15 per runner. For more information, call Nixon High School track coach Danny Gutierrez at 744-3410 or the food bank at 324-2432.

Today is Saturday, Feb. 25, the 56th day of 2012. There are 310 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Feb. 25, 1862, Nashville, Tennessee was occupied by federal forces during the Civil War; it was the first Confederate capital to fall to the Union. On this date: In 1779, a militia led by George Rogers Clark routed the British from Fort Sackville in the Revolutionary War Battle of Vincennes in present-day Indiana. In 1836, inventor Samuel Colt patented his revolver. In 1901, United States Steel Corp. was incorporated by J.P. Morgan. In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, giving Congress the power to levy and collect income taxes, was declared in effect by Secretary of State Philander Chase Knox. In 1919, Oregon became the first state to tax gasoline, at one cent per gallon. In 1922, French serial killer Henri Landru, convicted of murdering 10 women and the son of one of them, was executed in Versailles (vehr-SY’). In 1948, Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. In 1950, “Your Show of Shows,” starring Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, debuted on NBC-TV. In 1964, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) became world heavyweight boxing champion by defeating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. In 1970, Russian-born American painter Mark Rothko died in New York, a suicide, at age 66. In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines after 20 years of rule in the wake of a tainted election; Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency. In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, 28 Americans were killed when an Iraqi Scud missile hit a U.S. barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Ten years ago: Former NBA star Jayson Williams was charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Costas “Gus” Christofi, a limousine driver at Williams’ estate in Alexandria Township, N.J. (A jury convicted Williams in 2004 of trying to cover up the slaying; it acquitted Williams of aggravated manslaughter but deadlocked on a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.) Today’s Birthdays: newsman Bob Schieffer is 75. Actress Veronica Webb is 47. Actor Alexis Denisof is 46. Actress Tea Leoni is 46. Comedian Carrot Top is 45. Actress Lesley Boone is 44. Actor Sean Astin is 41. Singer Daniel Powter is 41. Latin singer Julio Iglesias Jr. is 39. Rhythm-and-blues singer Justin Jeffre is 39. Rock musician Richard Liles is 39. Actor Anson Mount is 39. Comedian-actress Chelsea Handler is 37. Actress Rashida Jones is 36. Actor Justin Berfield is 26. Actors Oliver and James Phelps (“Harry Potter” movies) are 26. Rock musician Erik Haager (Carolina Liar) is 25. Thought for Today: “Hero-worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom.” — Herbert Spencer, British philosopher (1820-1903).

MONDAY, FEB. 27 A 45-minute video exercise class for people ages 50 or older is at the fellowship hall of La Trinidad United Methodist Church, 1120 E. Fremont St. The classes are held at 10 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

TUESDAY, FEB. 28 The League of United Latin American Citizens Council No. 777 meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every second and fourth Tuesday of the month in American Legion Post 59’s Comnmender Room, 809 Zaragoza St.

SATURDAY, MARCH 3 The parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Greens of Guadalupe, an environmental group, invite everyone to their rummage sale from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 1700 San Francisco Ave. Furniture, jewelry, tools, toys, dishes, desks, sofas, computers, televisions and other items will be for sale. For more details or to volunteer, call the parish office at 723-6954 or Birdie at 286-7866. First United Methodist Church, 1220 McClelland Ave., will hold a used book sale from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. Hardback books are $1, paperback books 50 cents, and magazines and children’s books 25 cents. Give Blood, Play Hockey is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. All presenting donors will receive a pair of tickets to a Laredo Bucks game (on a date to be announced), coupons from Great American Cookies and Chick-fil-A, and a chance to win an autographed Laredo Bucks jersey or a Southern Motion rocker recliner, courtesy of Lacks Furniture. Visit for the complete details or seach Connect for Life on Facebook or Twitter.

TUESDAY, MARCH 6 Les Amies will have their monthly luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn at 800 Garden St. The honoree is Alicia Zuñiga. The American Cancer Society, in collaboration with Lazo Rosa de Nuevo Laredo, A.C., presents “Aprendiendo Sobre El Cancer De La Mujer.” The program, which will be presented in Spanish by Dr. Bertha Estela Perez Romero, offers women information on risk factors, diagnostics, and treatments options regarding cancer of the cervix, uterus and breast. The event is from 6-8 p.m. today in the Texas A&M International University Student Center, Room 120. The program is free. For more information or to reserve a seat, call 956-723-9682.

TUESDAY, MARCH 8 Spring Break begins for Zapata ISD students. The Zapata County Fair begins today. For more information, call 956765-4871,

THURSDAY, MARCH 10 Today is the last day of the Zapata County Fair.

FRIDAY, MARCH 16 This is the last day of Spring Break for Zapata ISD students.

FRIDAY, APRIL 6 Easter holiday begins for Zapata ISD students.

Photo by Gerald Herbert | AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hugs his sister Lynn Keenan after speaking to the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday.

Medicare change asked By DAVID ESPO ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT — Four days before critical primary elections, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney outlined a far-reaching plan Friday to gradually delay Americans’ eligibility for Medicare as well as Social Security. Romney said the shift, as people live longer, is needed to steer the giant benefit programs toward economic sustainability. Speaking to the Detroit Economic Club — in cavernous Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions football team plays — he also made a play for primary election support in Michigan, which votes on Tuesday along with Arizona. Romney said previous steps to toughen government emission standards had “provided a benefit to some of the foreign automak-

ers” at the expense of American companies. He said future changes should be worked out cooperatively between government and industry. Campaigning in the city where he was born, Romney described himself as “a car guy” who has a Ford Mustang and a Chevy pickup and whose wife, Ann, drives “a couple of Cadillacs.” Aides said they were model year 2007 and 2010 SRX vehicles, one each registered in Massachusetts and California. Romney said his proposals for Medicare and Social Security would begin in 2022, meaning no current or near-retirees would be affected. He also said he favors adjustments to curtail the growth of future benefits for the relatively well-to-do, so “lower-income seniors would receive the most generous benefits.” He had described his Social Security proposals previously.

S&P index hits highest point since June 2008

Oil prices rising to near 2011 highs

Woman accused of helping killer of trooper

NEW YORK — A two-point gain was enough to push the S&P 500 index to its highest level since June 2008, three months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the darkest days of the financial crisis. The S&P 500 index closed at 1,365.74, beating its 2011 closing high by two points. The Dow closed at 12,982.95.

NEW YORK — Oil prices are approaching last year’s highs as tensions increase over Iran’s nuclear program. The rise pushed gasoline prices on Friday to a national average of $3.65 per gallon, the highest ever for this time of year.

SEATTLE — A former girlfriend of a man who killed a state trooper has been arrested for trying to help him evade capture, the Kitsap County sheriff ’s office said Friday. Jail and court records show the woman is Jessi Leigh Foster, 32, the mother of one of Joshua Blake’s children. Blake shot and killed Trooper Tony Radulescu early Thursday morning during a traffic stop, then committed suicide with a single shot to the head hours later.

Anonymous vandalizes US prison contractors’ site LONDON — The website of an international prison contractor was defaced by hackers who on Friday replaced the company’s home page with a hip-hop homage devoted to former death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal. Hackers allied to the looseknit Anonymous movement claimed responsibility for vandalizing the site of Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group Inc.

Judge denies bid for bail by Jackson doctor LOS ANGELES — A judge who presided over the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor refused Friday to release him on bail. Conrad Murray’s lawyer asked for his release pending appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction, but Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor said he saw little chance that Murray would prevail in getting his case overturned. Pastor made it clear that his view of Murray had not softened since he gave him the maximum four-year sentence in the death.

Maher pledges $1 million to Obama support group WASHINGTON — Faux news host Stephen Colbert isn’t the only comedian with a super PAC connection. Political satirist Bill Maher got into the act Thursday night, pledging $1 million to a political committee supporting President Barack Obama. — Compiled from AP reports

AROUND TEXAS Perry recovering from surgery on right clavicle


AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry is recovering from successful surgery to repair his right clavicle, which had yet to properly heal following a 2009 bicycle accident. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed says Perry’s “doing fine. Everything went smoothly.”

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Texas to get $6.5 million in Gulf spill damages HOUSTON — An investor in the Deepwater Horizon rig that blew up and caused one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history has agreed to pay Texas $6.5 million for damages caused to the Gulf of Mexico. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement Friday that MOEX Offshore will pay for damages caused to the Gulf and its coastal communities due to the April 2010 spill. MOEX had a 10 percent interest in the

SUBSCRIPTIONS/DELIVERY (956) 728-2555 Photo by Cynthia Esparza/San Angelo Standard-Times | AP

Samantha Lookingbill, 11, of Hereford checks the nails of her Siamese satin rabbit on Friday during the San Angelo Stock Show. Samantha is showing 11 rabbits. rig.

New drug sparks sharp increase in execution cost HOUSTON — The switch to a substitute drug to carry out exe-

cutions is driving up the costs of carrying out capital punishment in Texas. The new drug means it costs nearly $1,300 now for drugs for each execution. That’s up from $83 under the previous mixture. — Compiled from AP reports

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




Guillen request for waiver for STAAR given SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

AUSTIN — On Feb. 17, Rep. Ryan Guillen was pleased to see his call to delay the requirement that STAAR test results count toward 15 percent of students’ final grades until the 2012-2013 school year was answered. That afternoon, Commissioner Robert Scott of the Texas Education Agency, which Guillen previously contacted, announced that he will sign a one-year waiver, postponing until the 2012-2013 school year the 15 percent student accountability provision. “I appreciate Commissioner Scott’s cooperation in working with both the House and Senate to ensure that our students will not have to risk their grad-

REP. RYAN GUILLEN: Asked for delay in counting results for grades. uation and grade point average by taking a new standardized exam that our public schools do not have the adequate resources to administer effectively during this transitional year,” Guillen said. For the 2011-2012 school year, districts were notified that they will not receive accountability ratings as the state transitions into the new STAAR system; students were originally intended to be held accountable for all provisions immediately. A letter sent to Scott formally requested the 15 percent provision be deferred for the 2011-2012 school year.

Regarding the STAAR test, Guillen, a member of the House Committee on Public Education who listened to the concerns of many parents, school superintendents and test development specialists on the new standardized exam during a Capitol hearing in January, noted: “Better, more effective ways to measure the accomplishments of our students, teachers and schools are necessary and should be thoroughly explored to ensure that students of all backgrounds have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. “Rest assured, I will continue to support and find ways to improve educational opportunities for our students and enhance the teaching experience of our educators.”


Courtesy photo

Third grade gifted and talented students at Fidel & Andrea R. Villarreal Elementary hold the packets which they sent to a printer as part of their endeavors to become published authors. The packets hold their stories and illustrations. They are, left to right, Andrea Martiinez, Alan Lamoglia, Heidy Martinez.



The Zapata County Commissioners Court convenes Monday for a special meeting to take action on a couple of time-sensitive items. The court will decide on approving a transfer of $300,000 to the state for its Laredo Medical Center-run and county-funded clinic. The clinic operates on county dollars but is aided by the federal Medicaid program. The county must pay the state every quarter.

The state is reimbursed by the federal government for providing county indigent funds, which is money for uncompensated care. The state then makes a payment back to the county. In the end, the federal government compensates the county at a rate of $1.39 for every dollar it pays to the program. “In my opinion, that’s the way to go,” County Judge Joseph Rathmell said. “(We) try to leverage as much of the local dollars and get federal funds to come in and help us out with our medical needs.”

The clinic operates 24 hours a day and provides basic family health care. The court will also consider approving a ground lease agreement between the county and Teaching and Mentoring Communities. The agreement would allow Teaching and Mentoring Communities to use county-owned property to operate a children’s day care center. Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the Zapata County Courthouse. (JJ Velasquez may be reached at 728-2567 or







All work, workers have dignity By HENRY ALLEN THE WASHINGTON POST

“It’s a glamour issue,” said Michigan factory worker Dave Van Dam. “The kids come in here and see a dirty, loud place.” He was explaining the shortage of skilled factory workers in America, as reported this week in The Post. One of the causes is “the stigma of factory work.” I understand. I did stand-up factory work when I was in college: hand-riveter, degreaser, bucket man on an automatic screw machine. I hated it. It was not only dirty and loud, it was also becoming contemptible then, in the age of Kennedy, who removed the ivory-tower stigma from intellectuals and made them cool, enfranchising them (and me, the college boy) as the rightful rulers of America. “Brains,” he said. “You can’t beat brains.” A new class was born. Leading it were people such as Harvard’s Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defense secretary. We were thrilled when a story went around that he had interrupted a slide show at the Pentagon to point out that Slide 347 was the same as Slide 51, or numbers to that effect. Surely, here was the avatar of intelligence, which would save the world. The new class talked about intelligence as if it were a moral virtue along the lines of courage or patience, even though intelligence is only a tool with no more moral virtue than a crowbar. Acing the SATs became tantamount to sainthood. The country seemed seized by the glamour of brains. Working-class heroes vanished from television sitcoms. By 1971, Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason’s big-hearted bus driver in “The Honeymooners,” would become Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker, the blue-collar bigot. An essay published by the Museum of Broadcast Communications said: “The movement of working-class people to the periphery of television’s dramatic worlds” in favor of the upper classes gave “the impression that those not among these classes are deviant.” The impression remains, as contempt or condescension. Here’s Walter Russell Mead, a noted policy scholar, saying in a recent blog posting that revolutions in information technology create “the potential for unprecedented abundance and a further liberation of humanity from meaningless and repetitive work.” I’d thought these revolutions had liberated stand-ups from this work by throwing them out of it, but what caught my eye was the “meaningless and repetitive.” What an odd thing to say — Mead might just as well be describing what it’s like to be a stockbroker or a bigfirm lawyer. He isn’t, though, because these are knowledge-class jobs, and this rap about “meaningless” is usually reserved for the stand-up class. Not long after Kennedy, grumbling began from the deviant stand-ups about “pointy-headed intellectuals.” Meanwhile, the

pointy heads got phobic about the stand-ups, as if they were zombies lumbering toward their campuses with shotguns. In the 1969 movie “Easy Rider,” a knowledge-class favorite, the hippie motorcyclist heroes are shotgunned by a man in a pickup truck. In 1970’s “Joe,” a stereotype of a factory worker slaughters counterculture types. Ugly stuff. Things could get ugly indeed in civil rights battles, or with the drunk construction workers I saw rampaging through Wall Street one day, beating up war protesters. There was something to fear all right. It didn’t turn out to be their shotguns, though, as much as their votes. They tended to give them to conservatives who turned liberal intellectuals into a dispossessed aristocracy, one that regarded Ronald Reagan as a mere aberration before the restoration of Camelot, which never came. Except they’re not really aristocrats; they’re a caste. The difference is, an aristocracy feels obligated to those beneath it (however ill-observed), whereas a caste protects its own privileges, like McNamara sending stand-ups to Vietnam while confiding to Kennedy staff historian Arthur Schlesinger that he knew we couldn’t win. He thereby demonstrated he was smarter than they were while knowing his secret was safe. It isn’t just Democrats and liberals, I should point out. It took the brilliance of Paul Wolfowitz, Ph.D., to concoct the Iraq war by finding weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. As with McNamara, he would go on to be rewarded with the presidency of the World Bank. For the liberals now, we have Barack Obama, with full knowledge-class creds. Talking about the standups in 2008, he didn’t condescend — he outright pitied them, which is worse: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” In my last factory job, making tile at the Armstrong Cork Co. in Lancaster, Pa., I was loafing one day, sitting on a pile of boxes. Some of the guys from the adhesives ovens came walking past, big guys in filthy coveralls. One of them said: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I made up something like, “I’m waiting for a forklift.” He didn’t care about me loafing. It was something else. He said: “You don’t ever sit down when you work. Ever.” He was proud to work standing up. Until that moment, I hadn’t understood that pride, and the virtue of that pride. I’m glad we have people who do take pride in being able to do “meaningless” jobs, to support families and pay debts by sticking to their work, to discipline themselves into persistence, to endure. These are moral virtues. I wish the knowledge class was smart enough to respect them. It seems we need them.


Safer driving with a Ferrari By KEN HERMAN COX NEWSPAPERS

AUSTIN — In addition to muckraking reporting and money-saving coupons — the twin pillars of American newspapering — here at our paper we take great pride in providing helpful tips for better living. Today: how to get out of a speeding ticket. First, get a Ferrari. Then get caught speeding. Then parlay the car and the ticket into a community service project. It worked for Frank Rodriguez Jr., a retired Army colonel who turned a ticket into high school appearances to hammer home the safe-driving message. Turns out that bringing a shiny, red Ferrari helps you get attention at a high school. Who knew? Rodriguez was driving on U.S. 183 last May in his 2000 Ferrari 360 Modena F1 (and not in his red 1991 Ferrari 358TS) when a “kid in a BMW” was tailgating him. “He was right on my bumper, and I got a little frustrated, and I said, ‘OK,”’ he recalled. In Italian, OK means downshift from sixth to third and unleash the beast that is Ferrari. “Just as I did all that, they picked me up on radar,” Rodriguez said, insisting he merely was trying to safely get away from the tailgater. Both cars were pulled over. Rodriguez was cited for doing 90 mph and

wound up in Austin Municipal Court. “I said, ‘Look, paying the fine is no big deal, but I think I can do something for the community much more valuable than paying a fine,”’ Rodriguez said. That’s how he wound up, with his Ferrari, talking to Round Rock and McNeil high school kids and getting them to sign a safedriving pledge. Bianca Bentzin, Austin’s chief prosecutor, told me it’s part of her “creative sentencing” program aimed at getting offenders into something more meaningful than a traffic safety course. For example, drivers who commit schoolzone offenses can wind up working two mornings with a school crossing guard. “It takes about five minutes for them to see how dangerous it is,” Bentzin said, adding that offenders submit reports about their experience. Rodriguez, though his ticket has been dismissed, is continuing and expanding his program. On Tuesday, he brought his 2000 Ferrari to Crockett High School, where he spoke to two classes after they admired the car.

‘You can drool … ’ “You can drool, but don’t drool on the paint,” Ed Williamsen warned his class. Rodriguez used stats and stories to drive home an

important point: “You are not bulletproof.” And he invited students to participate when Ferrari owners and others bring wounded military personnel to a San Marcos track to experience high-speed driving done the safe way. In a thank you note, the Crockett staff noted its school has had “our share of tragedies over the last few years” and that Rodriguez had hit all the right notes ”about the hazards of driving while dumb.” Rodriguez got the exotic car bug as a kid. Eventually, he had a 1974 De Tomaso Pantera. In 1986, he was “between jobs” and thinking about rejoining the Army. “We had no money, but I did have the Pantera,” he said, recalling a conversation with his wife, Marti. “She said, ‘You can’t sell that car. I know what it means to you.’ I said, ‘No, we’ve got to keep this family together and I’m going to sell that car.’” Rodriguez couldn’t bear to be home when the buyer showed up to get the car. His wife handled the transaction, and Rodriguez returned later. “She met me at the door with my son Justin in her right arm,” he said. “She was crying. I was crying. And she said, ‘Someday I will replace that Pantera for what you’ve done for this family.’” The years and tours of duty (including three in combat zones) passed. Mar-

ti called him in Afghanistan in 2004 and said, “I want you to get a Ferrari as soon as you get home from that deployment.” At this point, another tip for better living: All wives should tell their husbands, “I want you to get a Ferrari.” In this case, the wife did the research, found the Ferrari, and when he returned home, they went to California and bought it. Marti died of a brain tumor in 2007 at age 58. Rodriguez recently told me his story as the local chapter of the Ferrari Club of America gathered for brunch and celebrated the birthday of the late Enzo Ferrari, founder of the legendary Italian car company. I’m not sure Enzo envisioned his cars being used to help teach teens to drive safely, but it’s an important message that must be offered many ways. The club has adopted Rodriguez’s program, and members will be bringing their cars to schools. Sherry Statman, an Austin municipal judge, understands the importance of the message and the challenge in delivering it. “Most teenagers aren’t exactly captivated by this information,” she told me by email. “Apparently, bringing exotic sports cars was a good attention-getting ploy.” Message delivered; case dismissed. Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.

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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-call-


ing 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.



Deputies seize more than 100 pounds of pot THE ZAPATA TIMES

More than 100 pounds of marijuana were seized in San Ygnacio this past week. Deputies were reportedly dispatched to a residence in the 300 block of Juarez Avenue at 11:03 a.m. Feb. 18. A spokesman from the Zapata County

Feral hogs bagged in contest By BETSY BLANEY ASSOCIATED PRESS

LUBBOCK — A competition aimed at curbing the feral hog problem in Texas has resulted in the demise of 12,632 of the animals that damage or destroy hundreds of millions of dollars in crops and ranchland every year, the Texas Department of Agriculture said Thursday. Hardeman County on the Oklahoma border bagged the most — 2,047 hogs — in the Hog Out Challenge to win $20,000 to help with further abatement. Four other counties will share the remainder of the $60,000 in awards. The department’s commissioner and candidate for Texas lieutenant governor, Todd Staples, said he’s put feral hogs on the state’s most-wanted list. “We need to track down these destructive pests and eliminate them. Not only are feral hogs a costly nuisance to agricultural operations and wildlife habitats, but they are a serious threat to the traveling public and are increasingly finding their way into urban areas and destroying residents’ yards, public parks, golf courses and more.” Last year’s contest ran two months longer than the inaugural one-month program and resulted in the elimination of 8,773 more hogs. There were 3,859 kills in 2010. Clay County will receive $15,000, Lavaca County will get $10,000, and Callahan and Goliad counties each will receive $7,500. The formula for the awards was based on the number of animals killed and the number of people who attended educational forums on hog abatement.

Sheriff ’s Office said deputies were able to recover several bundles and miscellaneous items containing marijuana. The seized bundles weighed 118 pounds. According to deputies, the marijuana had an estimated state street value of $7,000. An investigation remains on-going.

THE BLOTTER ASSAULT Brandon Mendoza, 17, was arrested in the 600 block of Laredo Avenue Sunday at 3:01 a.m. on an assault charge. Mendoza was released under agreement to appear before a judge in 10 days. A 38-year-old man reported an assault Sunday at 9 p.m. in the 2500 block of Brazos Street. No arrests have been made. Ely Alaniz Jr., 29, was arrested Feb. 18 at 6:15 p.m. in the 400 block of Lincoln Street for assault causing bodily injury, family violence.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF A juvenile was arrested in the 700 block of Zapata Avenue Feb. 18 on charges of criminal mischief. The victim told police the juvenile smashed the rear windows of a vehicle. Damage was estimated at $500.

INTOXICATION Johnny Ray Scarberry Jr., 26, was arrested Wednesday at 6 p.m. on charges of public intoxication in the 600 block of Texas 16.

DWI Horacio Monsivais Jr., 20, was arrested Sunday 3:43 a.m. on a driving while intoxicated charge following a traffic stop in the 700 block of Juarez Avenue.

RECKLESS DRIVING Pedro Navarro III, 19, and Brandon Navarro, 17, were arrested Feb. 16 in the intersection of 13th Street and Texas 16 at 11:11 p.m. Officers reportedly located marijuana inside the vehicle. Pedro Navarrro, the driver, was arrested for possession of marijuana and reckless driving. Brandon Navarro was arrested for possession of marijuana.

THEFT Theft was reported at Zapata Middle School Thursday. A trumpet, valued at $800, was stolen. The investigation is on-going.




Defense attorney: Client’s claim hard to believe By DANNY ROBBINS ASSOCIATED PRESS

FORT WORTH — The court-appointed attorney for a Texas man sentenced to death six years ago for killing his pregnant exgirlfriend and her 7-yearold son testified Thursday that he was skeptical of the man’s claim of innocence but never pressured him to plead guilty. Fort Worth criminal defense attorney William H. “Bill” Ray said in state court that he told Stephen Barbee his statements to police would make his innocence difficult to prove, but he was free to plead any way he liked. “Mr. Barbee told me unequivocally, in no uncertain terms, that he was innocent,” Ray testified. “The evidence I found in the case tended to say that was not a correct statement.” Ray was the chief witness on the last day of a two-day hearing in which Barbee’s post-conviction attorneys sought testimony to support their claim that the condemned man should get a new trial. They maintain that Ray performed ineffectively because of a “secret deal”

with the trial judge, Bob Gill, to make cases move quickly. Gill retired from the bench in 2007 and is now an assistant district attorney in Tarrant County. State District Judge Louis Sturns, Gill’s successor, presided over the hearing. He will make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on whether a new trial is warranted. Barbee’s lead post-conviction attorney, A. Richard Ellis, said he believes the hearing produced evidence that can help his client in federal court even if he’s unsuccessful at the state level. “These writs and hearings are always an uphill battle,” Ellis said. “But we got some good testimony on the record and we’re hoping for the best for Mr. Barbee.” Barbee was convicted of suffocating bagel shop owner Lisa Underwood and her son, Jayden, in February 2006. A videotape in which Barbee confessed was ruled to be inadmissible, but a Fort Worth police detective was allowed to testify about the statement. The trial, including the

I would never put on a witness who’d been with a client in a road rage incident when that client is charged with capital murder.” FORT WORTH CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM H. “BILL” RAY

punishment phase, was completed in just less than three days. Barbee’s post-conviction attorneys contend that Ray and his co-counsel, Tim Moore, tried to pressure Barbee into pleading guilty, failed to investigate or present a case of actual innocence, and failed to provide the jury with mitigating evidence during the punishment phase. They are trying to link Ray’s alleged ineffectiveness to his longtime role in getting appointed to probation revocation cases in Gill’s court. Ray testified that between 70 and 80 percent of his business comes from court appointments and between 25 and 75 percent of that came from Gill when he was on the bench. But Ray said nothing was unusual about the situation.


HOUSTON — The switch to a substitute drug for executions has driven up the cost of capital punishment in Texas. A year ago, the European supplier of sodium thiopental, bowing to pressure from death penalty opponents, stopped making it. When no other vendor could be found, the drug was replaced by pentobarbital as one of the three used in the lethal injection process. With sodium thiopental, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said the cost of lethal injection cocktail was $83.35. It is now $1286.86, with the higher cost primarily due to pentobarbital, officials said. The other drugs are pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. “Our responsibility is to carry out carry out the executions and when sodium thiopental was no longer available, we had to find another drug with similar properties and this is it,” agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Friday. “And it’s more expensive.” The increase in drug cost first was reported by the Austin AmericanStatesman.

Small amount “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a very small amount when compared with our entire budget,” Lyons said. The department’s budget for 2012 is just over $3 billion. A dozen executions have been conducted with the new lethal cocktail in Texas and at least five are scheduled in the coming months, including one next week. According to the new numbers, Texas has spent more than $15,400 — versus $1,000 — to carry out those 12 executions. Prison officials have declined to identify the state’s drug supplier and the specific amount for each drug and are awaiting an opinion from the Texas attorney general on whether they can keep that information confidential. The entire cost of executing an offender, from arrest through trial, imprisonment, appeals and eventually to the death house, is difficult to ascer-

tain. The Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based group that opposes capital punishment, cites a 20-year-old Dallas Morning News report that put the average cost of a death penalty case in Texas at $2.3 million. In a 2006 book about Texas’ death penalty, Jon Sorensen, a justice studies professor at Prairie View A&M University, described that estimate as “groundless” and said costs associated with the death penalty “are similar to those associated with life sentences.” Prosecutors also point out there isn’t much difference between the cost of a capital murder case and complex felony cases that don’t include a possible death sentence. “There are various estimates floating around and they vary widely,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a California-based organization that supports the death penalty. “And frankly, the point the person is trying to make influences the estimates.” As for the higher Texas lethal drug cost, he said Friday: “How many hours of attorney time can you buy for $1,300?”

and Barbee had been involved in a road rage incident, Ray testified. Although the incident was never reported to police, Ray said he believed the matter would be discovered by prosecutors and used to impeach the testimony of that witness and others. “I would never put on a witness who’d been with a client in a road rage incident when that client is charged with capital murder,” Ray testified. “I think that would be (grounds) for ineffectiveness of counsel.” The victim’s mother, Sheila Underwood, sat impassively during most of the two days of testimony, but she became visibly upset Thursday when Barbee, who was in a wheelchair because of back and hip problems, was allowed to have a conversation


Drug causes increase in execution costs By MICHAEL GRACZYK

“I don’t think we had an arrangement,” he testified. “(Gill) gave me a lot of cases because I work hard.” Ray disclosed that he wrote out two memos of understanding with Barbee as to what the defense would entail, one of which the defendant refused to sign. He said he prepared the memos because he knew he couldn’t present some testimony and because he didn’t trust Barbee or his family. “I thought we’d be sitting here (revisiting the case) someday,” Ray testified. Ray acknowledged that he left certain potential witnesses out during the punishment phase, including positive testimony from one of Barbee’s closest friends. The friend was never called to testify because he

with his mother during a break. The hearing was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of an Associated Press story in 2010 revealing Gill’s practice of circumventing the DA’s office in probation revocations by negotiating pleas himself. The practice allowed Gill’s docket to move quickly, but it also raised ethical questions for legal experts. The AP story reported that Ray handled many of those cases and that he testified about the procedure during a 2009 federal writ preceding that was placed under seal. The judge in the 2009 proceeding found that Ray provided ineffective counsel for an indigent and mentally ill defendant he represented in Gill’s court by failing to disclose that she tried to hang herself in her jail cell. Gill disposed of more than 8,000 probation revocation cases in his 14½ years on the bench — more than any other judge in Fort Worth — and Ray received more than $700,000 from his work in Gill’s court between 2001 and 2007, the AP reported.

Photo by Nellie Doneva/Abilene Reporter-News | AP

Animal Services Manager Aaron Vannoy, right, brings out 20 bales of hay to Tracy Davis, left, who owns four horses, on Friday at the Abilene Animal Shelter. The hay is provided to Taylor County residents who own horses, donkeys or mules through an ASPCA Great Bale Out grant. Over 300 bales of hay have been distributed in the program that lasts until the end of March.


AUSTIN — The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that landowners have an ownership interest in the water underneath their land, a decision that could seriously curtail statewide efforts to manage water resources. The highly anticipated ruling is the court’s most significant decision on who owns water that flows underground. The state and water management districts had asked the court to reconsider a 1904 decision that groundwater was too “occult and mysterious” to understand, and

therefore the state could not regulate how much a property owner could pump from underground. Scientists have since mapped how water flows through aquifers and can predict what happens downstream when someone pumps water upstream. The city of San Antonio relies on the Edwards Aquifer for its water supply, and the authority sought to restrict pumping from it to guarantee water supplies. The authority said it should not have to pay for reasonable restrictions on how much a landowner can pump from the aquifer. But two landown-

ers, Burrell Day and Joel McDaniel, sued the authority, demanding to be compensated for the loss of their right to pump water for their farm. Friday’s decision expanded a property owner’s rights, saying landowners not only had the right to pump the water, but they also actually own it in the same way a landowner may own oil and gas below their property. “Whether groundwater can be owned in place is an issue we have never decided,” the court wrote. “But we held long ago that oil and gas are owned in place, and we find no reason to treat groundwater

differently.” The implication is that if the state wants to restrict the use of water, they must pay the landowner what the water is worth. “The likely result of this opinion will be more, not less, litigation over groundwater management in Texas,” said Ken Kramer, director of the Lone State Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The court has done a huge disservice to everyone who has been working for proper management of the groundwater resources needed for our state’s people and our environment.” The issue is especially important in Central Texas.


Agenda en Breve SÁBADO 25 DE FEBRERO El Centro de Educación en Salud del área patrocina un taller para preparatorianos sobre preparación para examenes de entrada al colegio con énfasis en el SAT, de 7:45 a.m. a las 12 p.m. en el UT Health Science Center -Laredo, 1937 calle E. Bustamante St. Más información en el (956) 7120037. Torneo de Softból Varonil a beneficio de Joe García, III “Little Joe” a partir de las 8 a.m. en el Encinal Park Softball Field. “Strikes Against Cancer” le pide apoyarlos en esta lucha contra el cáncer. Se invita a “The Bazaar” un Proyecto Gratuito Empresarial para crear atención a las Bellas Artes en Laredo. Se venderán: pinturas, joyería, fotografías, arte abstracto, bolsas hechas a mano, entre otras cosas. Evento será de 1 p.m. a 5 p.m. en The French Quarter por Del Mar. La Liga Pequeña PAL estará inscribiendo para su temporada regular de 10:30 a.m. a 1 p.m. en el Parque Santa Fe, Canones y Organo. El área de PAL LL es de Masterson a Rio Bravo y El Cenizo, y de Pita Mangana a Mangana Hein y Las Presas. Más información en el 3339091 y 333-0082. Planetario Lamar Bruni Vergada de TAMIU presenta: “The Little Star that Could” a las 4 p.m., “Wonders of the Universe” a las 5 p.m., “Stars of the Pharaohs” a las 6 p.m., y “Black Holes” a las 7 p.m. Costo: 4 dólares, niños; 5 dólares, adultos. Matinne de las 4 p.m. es a 3 dólares. Una carrera abierta de 1,600 metros se realizará a las 5 p.m. en Shirley Field durante el encuentro Invitacional de LISD para beneficiar al Banco de Alimentos del Sur de Texas. Donación: 15 dólares por corredor. NUEVO LAREDO, México — Estación Palabra presenta “Bazar de Arte” a las 12 p.m.; Cuento “Blanca Nieves” contado por Guillermina Villanueva y “La Escoba y la Viuda” contado por Dulce Karen Capullín a las 2 p.m.; Taller de Creación Literaria con Jacobo Mina a las 3 p.m. Eventos gratuitos. NUEVO LAREDO, México — Lecturas de textos de Julio Cortázar y la crónica de experiencia como lectora de Erika Said en la Sala Gabriel García Márquez en Estación Palabra a la 1 p.m. Evento gratuito. NUEVO LAREDO, México — Presentación del libro “Ritual del Susodicho” de Armando Alanís Pulido a las 3 p.m. en el Auditorio de Estación Palabra. Entrada gratuita. NUEVO LAREDO, México — Museo para niños presenta “Artista amiga del Museo: Blanca Torres con el tema ‘Las tortugas en peligro de extinción’”. A las 4 p.m. en la Sala de Servicios Educativos del Centro Cultural. Entrada gratuita. NUEVO LAREDO, México — “El Show del Perro Guarumo y Pato Vulka” se presenta a las 9 p.m. en Silverado Rodeo. Además estará el espectáculo de Oscar Burgos. Costo: 150, 200 y 300 pesos.

DOMINGO 26 DE FEBRERO NUEVO LAREDO, México — Concierto Pop en vivo con Enituxia, R-20 y Angel Téllez, de 12 p.m. a 4 p.m. en el Centro Cultural Nuevo Laredo. Evento gratuito. NUEVO LAREDO, México — Domingo de Teatro presenta: “El Dilema del Prisionero” a las 7 p.m. en el Teatro Lucio Blanco de la Casa de la Cultura. Entrada gratuita.

Zfrontera Aumentan Corrupción homicidios




Un ex gobernador de Tamaulipas escaló relaciones cercanas con políticos de Texas antes que investigaciones en México y un reciente arresto en San Antonio, ensombrecieran su término. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, quien fue Gobernador de Tamaulipas de 1999 al 2005, es uno de tres ex gobernadores que el Gobierno Mexicano mencionó este mes como objetivo de una investigación por corrupción. Y documentos en un caso criminal en Texas sostienen que Yarrington, quien trabajó mano a mano con sus contrapartes de Texas durante su carrera como tesorero estatal, gobernador, congresista mexicano y alcalde fronterizo, era parte de uno de los cárteles de la droga más notorios de México. Los ex gobernadores de Tamaulipas enfrentan investigaciones en México — Yarrington, Eugenio Hernández Flores y Manuel Cavazos Lerma — regularmente cruzaron el Río Bravo para codearse y posar para fotógrafos con sus colegas en Texas. Yarrington, quien no ha sido acusado con crimen alguno, y quien ha negado públicamente cualquier actividad ilícita, fue alguna vez honrado por el Senado de Texas. El 8 de febrero, agentes

federales realizaron una redada en la casa de Antonio Peña Argüelles, en el área de Stone Oak, arrestando al residente legal de 56 años de edad, originario de México, y acusándolos de lavado de dinero. Una declaración jurada presentada por el agente de la U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration resumiendo las acusaciones contra Peña, realizó acusaciones graves acerca de Yarrington. Un informante “describió a Antonio Peña Argüelles como un conducto entre políticos Mexicanos, en particular Tomás Yarrington, y entre los miembros (del cartel de las drogas) de Los Zetas, Miguel Treviño Morales y Heriberto Lazcano”, escribió el agente. La declaración jurada continuó sosteniendo que Peña canalizó millones de dólares de Los Zetas a Yarrington y otros oficiales electos. Al arrestar Peña, la DEA acusó a Yarrington de tomar dinero de dos de las más notorias figuras del crimen organizado en México. Lazcano, un ex soldado de las fuerzas especiales de México, se cree que es el líder de Los Zetas. Treviño, el No. 2 de la organización, tiene cinco órdenes de aprehensión por homicidio en los EU. En una entrevista publicada el viernes por la publicación digital “Animal Político”, Yarrington, quien dice vive en los EU con su familia, negó las acusaciones.

“Es falso. Absolutamente falso”, dijo él. “Nunca he tenido nada que ver con eso”.

Laredo Las consecuencias están alcanzando a los EU, también. Un vocero para las campañas del Congresista de EU, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, y su hermano, el Alguacil del Condado de Webb, Martin Cuellar, dijeron que ellos han regresado o donado a organizaciones benéficas las donaciones de Peña, el acusado de ser conducto entre los carteles y los políticos mexicanos. En 2007, Peña dio 1.500 dólares a la campaña de elección de Martin Cuellar y en 2006 la entonces esposa de Antonio Peña, Armandina, dio 1.000 dólares a los esfuerzos de reelección de Henry Cuellar. Martin Cuellar pidió a la persona, que solicitó la donación de Peña, regresarla, dijo el vocero Colin Strother, y Henry Cuellar donó el dinero a una organización benéfica. Ellos lo hicieron el año pasar, tras conocer que el hermano de Peña fue asesinado en Nuevo Laredo, México, y que sus presuntos asesinos dejaron una nota acusando a los hermanos de trabajos con Los Zetas. “Cuando estás recaudando millones de dólares… logísticamente es imposible identificar los antecedentes y rumores detrás de cada donador”, dijo Strother.

Fotos de cortesía | SEDENA

Militares asignados en diferentes profesiones atendieron a más de 2,112 ciudadanos en distintas áreas incluyendo consultas odontológicas y limpieza de áreas verdes incluyendo árboles podados y remoción de escombros.



ersonal militar trasladó su equipo médico a la población civil para ejercer acciones de labor social en el municipio de Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas. La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SDN), en un comunicado destacó que los militares asignados en diferentes profesiones atendieron a más de 2,112 ciudadanos. “Reafirmamos el compromiso adquirido con la sociedad para generar un clima de paz, confianza y tranquilidad”, indica el comunicado. “No solo defendiendo la integridad de la patria contra la delincuen-

cia organizada, también deseamos generar confianza y servicio a la sociedad fronteriza”. Médicos, ingenieros, psicólogos militares atendieron a los ciudadanos, además parte de la tropa estuvo desmontando predios, cortando zácate, pintando y realizando una diversidad de labores en beneficio de familias de Ciudad Mier. Desde consultas odontológicas, psicológicas, pediátricas, oftalmológicas, ginecológicas, otorpédicas, de medicina internas derma-

tológicas, así como aplicación de vacunas universal. En otras áreas se atendió en corte de pelo, desparacitación infantil, pinturas de bardas, limpieza en áreas verdes educativas, guarniciones, árboles podados, remoción de escombros, trabajo de electricidad, limpieza de techos, así como de jardines podados. De acuerdo al comunicado los habitantes de Ciudad Mier se mostraron agradecidos con la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional para la serie de actividades para mejorar su bienestar.


MÉXICO — El número de homicidios dolosos en México, incluidos los atribuidos al narcotráfico, aumentó un 7,9% en 2011, aunque el gobierno sostuvo el jueves que el último trimestre mostró una estabilización. El secretario ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SNSP), José Oscar Vega Marín, informó en rueda de prensa que los homicidios dolosos en el cuarto trimestre del 2011 alcanzaron la cifra de 5.162, cuando en el mismo periodo del 2010 fueron 5.168, una diferencia de un 0,1%. “No hay una tendencia, hay tal vez una estabilización de un año al otro”, estimó el funcionario. Añadió que si el cuarto trimestre de 2011 se compara con el periodo inmediato anterior los números muestran una baja de 10%.

Estadísticas Vega no dio a conocer la cifra para todo el 2011, aunque en la página de internet del SNSP están disponibles los números totales. Según las estadísticas del SNSP consultadas por The Associated Press, en todo 2011 se registraron 22.223 homicidios dolosos en México, cuando en 2010 ascendieron a 20.585, lo cual implicó un incremento de 7,9% Los registros, elaborados a partir del número de denuncias proporcionadas por cada uno de los 32 estados del país, no hace un desglose sobre cuántos corresponden a crímenes atribuidos al narcotráfico. Interrogado al respecto, Vega dijo que no tenía

el porcentaje, aunque aseguró que “la mayoría de los homicidios dolosos son derivados de rivalidad delincuencial”, como el gobierno se refiere a los crímenes atribuidos al narcotráfico. La última cifra oficial sobre homicidios del narcotráfico llega hasta septiembre de 2011. Los datos gubernamentales señalan que entre diciembre del 2006 y septiembre de 2011 se habían registrado 47.515 homicidios atribuidos al narcotráfico, y las autoridades han dicho que posteriormente se actualizará el dato para todo el año. En una entrevista reciente con la AP, el secretario de Gobernación, Alejandro Poiré, dijo que los asesinatos atribuidos al narcotráfico y el crimen organizado habrían alcanzado su punto máximo en 2011 para iniciar una disminución hacia la última mitad de ese mismo año. Vega dijo que del total de homicidios registrados entre octubre y diciembre de 2011, el 57% se concentra en siete estados del país: Estado de México, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Jalisco y Tamaulipas, que coinciden con los lugares que se han visto afectados por la violencia del narcotráfico. El funcionario recordó que los estados se habían comprometido a instrumentar acciones para reducir o por lo menos mantener la tendencia de disminución, lo cual ocurrió en 22 entidades. Dijo que 10 estados no cumplieron con las metas que ellas mismas se fijaron, entre los cuales están algunos que concentran el mayor número de homicidios en el último trimestre, como Tamaulipas, Nuevo León y Sinaloa.

Explorarán yacimientos de hidrocarburos ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS CABOS, México — México y Estados Unidos acordaron esta semana trabajar coordinadamente para explorar y explotar los yacimientos de hidrocarburos compartidos en su frontera marítima en el Golfo de México. La secretaria de Estado estadounidense Hillary Clinton y la canciller mexicana Patricia Espinosa firmaron en este balneario el acuerdo con el que se busca que los yacimientos compartidos, conocidos como transfronterizos, sean explotados de manera eficiente y equitativa para que cada nación mantenga la propiedad del gas y el crudo que haya en cada uno de los territorios. El “Acuerdo entre los Estados Unidos Mexicanos y los Estados Unidos de América relativo a los Yacimientos Transfronterizos de Hidrocarburos en el Golfo de México” se logró después de que en 2010 el presidente mexicano Felipe Calderón y su colega estadounidense Barack Obama llegaron a un entendimiento para compartir ganancias y

trabajar juntos para evitar derrames. La firma del acuerdo fue atestiguado por el presidente Calderón y se realizó en los márgenes de la reunión informal de cancilleres del G20, que agrupa a las naciones más desarrolladas y a economías emergentes. Clinton dijo que el acuerdo asegurará una “exploración segura, eficiente y responsable de las reservas de crudo y gas en el Golfo de México”. Los yacimientos “podrían tener considerables reservas que beneficiarían a los Estados Unidos y México por igual”, añadió. Ambos gobiernos esperan que el acuerdo prevenga cualquier disputa posterior. Bajo el arreglo, las compañías de Estados Unidos podrán trabajar junto con la estatal Petróleos Mexicanos. El Departamento del Interior de Estados Unidos señaló que el área fronteriza del Golfo de México podría contener 172 millones de barriles de crudo y 304.000 millones de pies cúbicos de gas natural.




Girl’s life full of turmoil before death By JAY REEVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATTALLA, Ala. — Savannah Hardin’s life was in turmoil long before police say the 9-year-old was run to death by her grandmother and stepmother for allegedly lying about some candy she ate. Divorce and custody documents filed in family court over a period of several years reflect a history of fractured family relationships, with Savannah’s divorced parents fighting over her welfare; claims of mental instability and abuse between her father and his second wife; medical problems that required frequent doctor visits; and counseling for the girl who still somehow managed to remain among the top students in her third-grade class. Authorities say Savannah’s life ended in exhaustion earlier this month when she was forced by her paternal grandmother, Joyce Hardin Gerrard, to run for three hours, while her stepmother, Jessica Mae Hardin, did nothing to stop it. The grandmother prodded her along cruelly, and the stepmother didn’t intervene until Savannah collapsed in an unconscious heap, investigators say. Now, Hardin Garrard is in jail and Savannah’s step-

mother is being held in police custody at a hospital after giving birth to another child. Both have been charged with murder. Jessica Mae Hardin’s attorneys, Morgan Cunningham and Vince Pentecost, said in a statement Friday that Hardin was “incredibly devastated over Savannah’s death” and they would prove her innocence. “Unfortunately, whenever a child passes away, our society wants to place blame, our media wants to sensationalize and our elected officials want to make grandiose statements that are not based in fact,” they said. A defense lawyer representing the grandmother said she will be cleared of any crime. “Even then, Joyce Garrard and her family will continue to grieve over the loss of their beloved Savannah,” Dani Bone said. Neighbors and classmates created a small memorial for Savannah, depositing stuffed animals and flowers and attaching balloons to a wooden fence surrounding the trailer where she lived with her family off a dirt road. Included in the informal memorial was a white wooden cross hung with a blue ribbon and to which a poem had been attached. A neighbor of Savannah’s family, Gail Denny, held back tears as she placed a candle and a stuffed animal at the

Photo by Jay Reeves | AP

Gail Denny places a candle and stuffed animal outside the home of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin near Attalla, Ala., on Wednesday. Authorities say Hardin was forced to run as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars, leading to her death. site Wednesday. She noted that on Valentine’s Day, her grandson had asked Savannah to be his girlfriend, and she said yes. “I just can’t believe it,” she said of Savannah’s death. A few miles away at Carlisle Elementary School, students placed written letters and hand-drawn pictures on Savannah’s desk, which was brought into a main hallway. “Savannah was an excellent student, earning A’s and B’s in her school work,” said a statement released by school Principal Linda Johnson. “Her favorite subject was math; she enjoyed reading books to earn points in the Accelerated Reader program — and was very proud of always meeting her reading goals. ... Sa-

vannah was a happy child at school. She always wore a smile, and often brightened the day of teachers and administrators with her kind comments.” Many who knew Savannah described her as normal and happy. She played and laughed with other kids at the bus stop, and sometimes rode a four-wheeler with her dad when he visited, they said. She loved horses and her favorite colors were lime green, hot pink and ocean blue, Johnson said in her statement. Court documents filed by Savannah’s father, Robert Hardin, last May show she attended counseling sessions every other week but seemed well adjusted. But the records also tell a different story, that of a brief life rocked by tumult.

Robert and Savannah’s biological mother, Heather Hardin, divorced in July 2006 when she was 3, the records show. The former couple shared custody of the girl, but the mother was her primary caregiver. Each one of the parents later moved separately to Florida, according to a sworn statement by Robert Hardin. He claimed that Heather Hardin was unfit to care for Savannah. The Florida Department of Children and Families investigated allegations that Savannah was being mistreated or was living in hazardous conditions at least four times between 2007 and 2009 while living with Heather Hardin in Plant City, Fla., according to documents obtained by The Ledger in Lakeland, Fla.,

through an open records request. But state officials were unable to find evidence to support the allegations. Robert Hardin said Savannah began living with him in October 2009. He said they moved northeast of Birmingham in January 2010. Hardin later married Jessica Mae, with whom he had a son, now 3. Hardin works for the U.S. State Department and lived outside the country, so Jessica Mae and Joyce Hardin Garrard cared for both Savannah and the boy, said a spokeswoman for the Etowah County Sheriff’s office, Natalie Barton. Hardin and Jessica split in July 2010, court documents show, with him claiming she had bipolar disorder and alcoholic tendencies.

Welfare drug New Nike shoe causes frenzy test plan proposed By JESSICA GRESKO ASSOCIATED PRESS


CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Conservatives who say welfare recipients should have to pass a drug test in order to receive government assistance have momentum on their side. The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with frontrunner Mitt Romney saying “it’s an excellent idea.” Nearly two dozen states are considering plans this session that would make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. And Wyoming lawmakers advanced such a proposal this week. Driving the measures is a perception that people on public assistance are misusing the funds and that cutting off their benefits would save money for tight state budgets — even as statistics have largely proved both notions untrue. “The idea, from Joe Taxpayer is, ‘I don’t mind helping you out, but you need to show that you’re looking for work, or better yet that you’re employed, and that you’re drug and alcohol free,’“ said Wyoming Republican House Speaker Ed Buchanan on Friday. Supporters are pushing the measures despite warnings from opponents that courts have struck down similar programs, ruling that the plans amount to an unconstitutional to search of people who have done nothing more than

seek help. “This legislation assumes suspicion on this group of people. It assumes that they’re drug abusers,” said Wyoming Democratic Rep. Patrick Goggles during a heated debate on the measure. The proposals aren’t new, according to the NCSL. About three dozen states have taken up such measures. But as lawmakers seek new ways to fight off the effect of the recession on state budgets and Republican politics dominate the national discussion as the party seeks a presidential nominee, the idea has sparked political debates across the nation. This year lawmakers in 23 states from Wyoming to Mississippi — where lawmakers want random screening to include nicotine tests — are moving forward with proposals. Romney, in an interview this month in Georgia, supported the idea. “People who are receiving welfare benefits, government benefits, we should make sure they’re not using those benefits to pay for drugs,” Romney said to WXIA-TV in Atlanta. Newt Gingrich addressed the topic with Yahoo News in November, saying he considered testing as a way to curb drug use and lower related costs to public programs. “It could be through testing before you get any kind of federal aid — unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it,” he said.

Sneaker fanatics who lined up outside stores overnight got their first crack Friday at a new outer-space themed Nike basketball shoe, getting so unruly in some cities that police were called to restore order. In Orlando, Fla., more than 100 deputies in riot gear quelled a crowd awaiting the release of the $220 Foamposite Galaxy. In at a mall in Hyattsville, Md., one person was arrested for disorderly conduct. And in Greenwood, Ind., police said they canceled a Nike release after 400-600 people showed up Thursday night at a mall and were “panicking to get to the front of the line.” The shoe’s release coincides with this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. The shoes, part of a space-themed collection, are a draw for so-called “sneakerheads” who collect signature sports footgear and can resell it online at a marked-up price, sometimes for hundreds more than retail. Malls in Florida, New York and Maryland reported bringing in police to manage fans clamoring for the purple and blue shoes, which have star-like flecks of white. Some shoppers lucky enough to get their hands on a pair immediately posted them for sale on eBay at skyrocketing prices: $1,000 and up. Authorities did have some warning the shoe could cause mayhem. Earlier this month, police

Photo by Reinhold Matay | AP

Deputies and store security personnel keep crowds under control Friday in Orlando, Fla., one day after a limited number of Nike’s Foamposite Galaxy shoes at the Foot Locker store in the Florida Mall sparked a large scale riot. were called to a mall outside Albany after pushing and shoving broke out during a promotional event for the shoe. Orlando resident Gaby Llanos was in the crowd waiting to buy two pairs of the shoes when the rush started outside Florida Mall. “It was complete havoc,” said Llanos, 23. “People were running and hiding in trees so the police wouldn’t find them.” Nike issued a statement Friday, saying, “As with

R.Y. Livestock Sales, Inc. Rio Grande City, Texas

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the launch of all Nike products, consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner.” Nike spokesman Matthew Kneller said the Nike store in New York City immediately sold out Friday. The shoes were also quickly out of stock in Cambridge, Mass., where people began lining up outside a House of Hoops by Foot Locker at 3 p.m.

Thursday. The store only had 12 pairs of the shoes, however, so it handed out tickets to the first dozen people in line, and only those people waited, store manager Terrio Lakes said. The shoes — which are being sold at Nike stores and select Foot Lockers, House of Hoops and Foot Action stores — are part of the Nike’s Foamposite line which originally debuted in 1998. Their outer space theme is a nod to Florida, the host state for the All-Star game, and the longtime launching pad for the nation’s space program. Nike has relied for years on its limited edition sneakers to generate a lot of buzz with minimal advertising. “They keep them very limited, they keep them very hot that way,” said Sam Poser, an analyst who covers Nike and the shoe industry. During the past holiday season, Poser noted similar fights and incidents broke out across the country over a retro model of Air Jordan sneakers. And he said the most recent violence likely won’t hurt Nike’s image. “Some press is better than no press,” he said. In Hyattsville, Md., Geoffrey Neshkes, 30, said had waited at The Mall at Prince Georges since Wednesday, hoping to get a pair of the Galaxy shoes and other new limited edition sneakers. But the mall ultimately told patrons the shoes would not be released because of the crowd.



BALDOMERO RIVERA Baldomero Rivera, born June 1, 1949, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, at Laredo Medical Hospital in Laredo, Texas. Mr. Rivera is preceded in death by his parents: Fernando and Benilde B. Rivera; grandparents: Roberto and Isabel P. Bustamante and Leocadio and Petrita Jasso; uncles: Adolio Bustamante, Rodolfo Bustamante and Roberto Bustamante; aunts: Elodia Bustamante and Maria S. B. Vela; and cousins: Mario Cesar Valadez and Roel Bustamante. Mr. Rivera is survived by his wife, Dolores; children: Baldomero (Veronica) Rivera Jr., Vianey R. (Jose Omar) Garza, Cynthia “Cindy” R. (Ramon) Martinez, Jesus Fernando Rivera and Raul Fernando (Ethelle) Rivera; grandchildren: Cristina M. Gonzalez, Baldomero Rivera III, Vielka C. Rivera, Freddie Gonzalez Jr., Brando R. Rivera, Ramon Alejandro Martinez and Joselynn M. Garza; siblings: Fernando (Yolanda) Rivera, Elodia R. (Jose Luis) Vazquez, Elva Nelia R. (Jose Luis) Guevara, Miguel Angel (Perla) Rivera and Jose Rolando (Maria de Jesus) Rivera; 17 nieces and nephews; 19 greatgrandnieces and nephews; his Godson, Jose Rolando Rivera Jr.; and numerous family and friends. Honorary pallbearers were: Fernando Rivera, Miguel Angel Rivera, Jose Rolando Rivera, Rolando

Rivera, Dagoberto Rivera and Miguel Rivera. Pallbearers were: Raul Fernando Rivera, Jesus Fernando Rivera, Baldomero Rivera III., Jose Omar Garza, Ramon Martinez, José Luis Vazquez Jr., José Luis Guevara Jr. and Gerardo Vazquez. Visitation hours were Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a rosary at 7 p.m. at Rose Garden Funeral Home. The funeral procession departed Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. funeral Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Committal services followed at Zapata County Cemetery. Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Rose Garden Funeral Home Daniel A. Gonzalez, funeral director, 2102 U.S. 83 Zapata, Texas.

FALCON Continued from Page 1A spawn more large fish. Falcon Lake is one of the most popular fishing spots in the state without a weigh station, Forshage said. The lack of a weigh station causes the Texas Park and Wildlife Program to lose fish that would have been entered into its registry. According to the biologists who work within the program, Zapata County loses out on press, which in turn means losing out on opportunities to funnel in tourism dollars. Forshage said it has software that measures how much advertising revenue the program generates. He said according to the software’s calculations, $54,418 worth of advertising revenue was produced in column inches written about Falcon Lake last year. Robert Amaya, owner of Robert’s Fish N Tackle, used to be the only operator of a weigh station near Falcon Lake. Forshage said running the station was getting to be too much of a hassle for Amaya, who would practically

be on-call at all hours. Amaya couldn’t be reached for comment Friday evening. An idea to set one up at a county park had been tossed around, but that plan was nixed because of space concerns. County Judge Joe Rathmell said he would meet with Amaya sometime soon to see how the county can play a part in the process. It is premature for either side to reveal a timeline as to when the weigh station situation might get resolved, but the prime angling season is now in full swing until April, Forshage said. He estimated that the program has missed out on two or three lunkers already. “We appreciated (the court) listening to us and putting us on the agenda,” he said. “We made our plea. The worst thing that can happen is we won’t get a weigh station and won’t get as many lunkers down there.” (JJ Velasquez may be reached at 728-2567 or

Photo by Ulysses S. Romero | The Zapata Times

Ashley Ibarra fishes during the second annual Whiskers and Tails Children’s Fishing Tournament at the Zapata Public Boat Ramp in 2009.

LAWSUIT Continued from Page 1A schools. “We’ve been challenging this funding issue, but we need to hear about the basic, fundamental issues in the system,” he said. Diamond said the idea would be to have the courts force the Legislature’s hand and rule the system unconstitutional so lawmakers would have to overhaul school finance. One of the new suit’s plaintiffs is Joyce Coleman, a Houston widow and former teacher who has a son in one charter school and a daughter in another. Coleman sent her other daughter, who is 16, to stay with her aunt, where she can attend school in a different district. Coleman said she tried to send her children to public schools in their home district nearly a decade ago, but they didn’t have adequate materials and there were problems on the bus. Things haven’t improved in the years since, she said. “I thought that, by

now, they would have done something in my district and I’m very saddened that have they put it on the backburner,” she said. “But it’s a whole generation of children that’s not getting adequate teaching, dayby-day lessons that they are supposed to get.” James Jones, chairman of Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, said that when his daughter was born, his family sold their house and moved to a new part of town to ensure she would attend a better public school. Jones, who also owns Austin-based American Land and Minerals, said the fact that about 56,000 students were on waitlists last summer to attend open-enrollment charter schools statewide shows how inefficient Texas schools are. But he said the suit isn’t about charter schools or lowering Texans’ tax burden to pay for public ones. “This is about the outcomes of the system,” Jones said.

Photo by Fernando Castillo/Agence France-Presse | AP

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa of Mexico pose for a photo after signing the Transboundary Agreement on Monday.

PACT Continued from Page 1A barrels of oil and 300 billion cubic feet of natural gas, relatively modest amounts by the oil-rich gulf ’s standards. Mexico’s oil production has been a major source for the United States for more than 25 years, and it is the single most important revenue-raiser for the Mexican government. But its output has been in sharp decline in the last decade, as energy demand by its growing middle class has risen. In response, Mexico’s national oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, has started a deepwater drilling program in recent years despite concerns that it is not sufficiently experienced for the task. Under Mexico’s Constitution, Pemex cannot bring in a foreign partner

like Royal Dutch Shell or Exxon Mobil to develop the gulf reserves, even though those companies have much more expertise in drilling in challenging waters. Pemex has drilled more than a dozen exploratory deepwater wells since 2002, but the results have been mixed. It plans to drill six more wells this year, including two at depths of more than 6,000 feet, where well pressure is customarily high and the possibility of a blowout is greater than in shallower wells. The program has been controversial in Mexico, especially after the BP accident two years ago. Juan Carlos Zepeda, Mexico’s chief oil regulator, has warned that Pemex is not prepared to control a possible leak from the two deep-

est wells it is planning this year and that the National Hydrocarbons Commission, the 3-year-old agency Zepeda oversees, may be overmatched when it comes to regulating deepwater drilling. With a staff of 60, little logistical capability and a budget of only $7 million, it has had minimal say in how Pemex operates. In 1979, a blowout at one of Pemex’s shallow-water wells called Ixtoc I in the Bay of Campeche resulted in the largest oil spill ever in the gulf until the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. The issue of sharing oil and gas reserves in gulf border waters dates from the 1970s. The two countries negotiated a treaty that would define their exploratory rights in border zones,

but the United States Senate declined to ratify it in 1980. Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderon agreed to extend a drilling moratorium in the area until they could negotiate a final accord. The zones are near areas being drilled successfully, but they are in water depths reaching 10,000 feet and are considered vulnerable to hurricanes. Gasoline prices are on the rise, and Republicans have blamed the administration for being slow to approve more domestic drilling. With the new agreement, coming at a time when the White House is moving closer to approving drilling in Alaskan Arctic waters, Obama was expected to argue that his policies have led to a surge in domestic production.




UN: Iran rapidly expands nuke work By GEORGE JAHN ASSOCIATED PRESS

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

President Barack Obama, right, during his meeting with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle ThorningSchmidt, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Friday.


WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday declared the U.S. and its allies would consider “every tool available” to stop the slaughter of innocent people in Syria, using his most forceful words to date in response to an increasingly grim crisis that has gripped the world. The president did not give specifics about what the U.S. or other countries would do to help. Lacking international consensus and with Syrian President Bashar Assad unyielding, the United States has only limited options and leverage. “It is absolutely imperative for the international community to rally and send a clear message to President Assad that it is time for a transition,” Obama said after a meeting with the Danish prime minister. “It is time for that regime to move on. And it is time to stop the killing of Syrian citizens by their own government.”

The president added that nations cannot afford to be “bystanders.” Obama spoke shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton used strong language to denounce Russia and China for protecting Syria, and the president’s language about the need for world unity was viewed as a similar condemnation of those two nations. Obama said he was encouraged by developments out of Tunisia on Friday, where more than 60 nations, in a unified bloc, asked the United Nations to begin planning a civilian peacekeeping mission that would deploy after the Assad regime halts its brutal crackdown on the opposition. The Tunisia meeting is the latest international effort to end the crisis, which began when protesters inspired by uprisings sweeping across the Arab world took the streets in some of Syria’s impoverished provinces nearly a year ago to call for political change. Assad’s security forces have responded with a

fierce crackdown. There is no end in sight. The government blames the violence on Islamic extremists and armed gangs. The situation has grown increasingly militarized in recent months, with opposition forces increasingly taken up arms against the regime. The U.N. estimated in January that 5,400 people were killed in the conflict in 2011. Hundreds more have died since. Obama’s language was stronger than in the past, reflecting the worsening humanitarian crisis and the urgent efforts to help civilians in the short run. Among the near-term options to help civilians are Red Cross evacuation missions like one that brought at least seven wounded people out of Homs on Friday, and larger international efforts to get humanitarian supplies into the country. The Obama administration has not called for any specific action but would almost certainly be part of any large-scale humanitarian relief effort that might be organized over the coming days or weeks.

VIENNA — Iran has rapidly ramped up production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last few months, the U.N. nuclear agency said Friday, in a confidential report that feeds concerns about how quickly the Islamic republic could produce an atomic bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency report also said Iran failed to give a convincing explanation about a quantity of missing uranium metal. Diplomats say the amount unaccounted for is large enough to be used for experiments in arming a nuclear missile. Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons and says its activities are meant either to generate energy or to be used for research. But the report contained little assurances the country’s activities are purely peaceful. Instead, it also confirmed that two IAEA missions to Tehran within less than a month had failed to dent Iran’s refusal to assist an IAEA probe of suspicions the country has been secretly working on aspects of a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA team had hoped to speak with key Iranian scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program, break down opposition to their plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits. But the confidential report said that during those two sets of talks “no agreement was reached between Iran and the agency, as major differences existed with respect to approach.”

Photo by Ronald Zak | AP

In this 2011 photo, Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh waits for the start of the IAEA meeting in Vienna, Austria. The U.N. nuclear agency says Iran has rapidly ramped up production of higher-grade enriched uranium over the last four months. The report obtained by The Associated Press said the agency continues to have “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” The issue of suspected weapons-related experiments has been stalled for close to four years, with Iran insisting the allegations are based on doctored intelligence from the U.S., Israel and elsewhere. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, insisted progress was made. “Iran has started real action and cooperation with the agency regarding ... the allegations,” he told the AP. “We are determined to work hard with the agency in a professional manner to resolve the issues.” Senior international officials familiar with the talks painted a different picture. One said that during the last talks, which ended Tuesday, the IAEA team gave the Iranians a 15-page document outlining their concerns, and they “went through item and

item and said they were false and fabricated.” “Sixty-five paragraphs, 65 ‘no’s,” said the official, when asked how the Iranian side responded to each item of concern presented by the agency. He asked for anonymity because his information was privileged. The IAEA team was comprised of senior officials, but the international sources described the Iranian negotiating team as “go-betweens,” with no authority to commit to cooperating with the agency’s probe. In a 13-page summary late last year, the IAEA listed clandestine activities that he said can either be used in civilian or military nuclear programs, or “are specific to nuclear weapons.” Among these were indications that Iran has conducted high-explosives testing to set off a nuclear charge at Parchin — a military site that the IAEA team was refused access to on both recent visits to Iran.




Weather strikes Tournament delayed, hampered by rain By CLARA SANDOVAL THE ZAPATA TIMES


AREDO — The Zapata tennis team competed against a field of 20 South Texas rivals at the 36th annual Border Olympic Tennis Tournament in Laredo last weekend. Five sites hosted the meet: the Student Activity Complex, United High and Alexander High, the United ninth-grade campus and the Market Street Tennis Center. Mother nature had other things in mind than tennis, however, and unleashed her fury when she dropped unpleasant weather on Laredo, to the detriment of the tournament. All the teams valiantly attempted to wait it out as rain and drizzle came down, but at 1:30 p.m., the decision was made to cancel the first day’s play. The next day’s matches were shortened to eightgame pro sets to try to finish the tournament at a quicker pace. The tournament was concluded the next day, but high winds made for tough conditions when the players hit the courts. The draw didn’t favor the Hawks when Trey Alvarez faced No. 1 seed and eventual tournament champion Abe Gunami of Alexander High School in the opening round. Alvarez lost to Gumani and entered the back draw. After receiving a bye, he secured wins over a foe from Edinburg, a rival

Photo by Clara Sandoval | The Zapata Times

The United States Tennis Association moved Zapata sophomore Trey Alvarez up to the championship level of competition Feb. 15 in response to his strong play.

Alvarez reaches Champ level By CLARA SANDOVAL THE ZAPATA TIMES

Photo by Clara Sandoval | The Zapata Times

Zapata’s Manuel Benavides braves the weather to reach the quarterfinals in boys’ doubles alongside partner Alex Reyes at the recent Border Olympics Tennis Tournament. from LBJ LBJ; and Cody Arnold, of Alexander, to win the consolation championship and end the tournament on positive note. The top boys’ doubles team of Alex Reyes and Manuel Benavides ad-

vanced to the quarters, where it lost to eventual tournament champion Salim Abboud and Victor Escamilla, of Laredo United. Also competing in boys’ doubles were Tony Mendoza and Jaime Tejada.

In girls’ singles, Gaby Alvarez defeated a girl from United South, in the first round before losing to an opponent from Alexander, in the next round.



Braun’s name cleared of steroids By TOM WITHERS ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHOENIX — His voice self-assured, Ryan Braun stood a few feet from the batter’s box and hit back at those who he feels tarnished his name and image. The NL MVP insisted Friday that he always believed his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test would be overturned and that he would be able to suit up opening day along with Milwaukee teammates who never doubted him. “We won,” he said with conviction, “because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant, and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed.” Less than 24 hours after Braun’s suspension was overturned by an arbitrator, a decision that irritated Major League Baseball officials, the star outfielder was back with the Brewers. With many of his teammates, all in full uniform, sitting in the stands of Maryvale Baseball Park, Braun confidently professed his innocence while questioning the system that allowed him to be suspended for failing a

Photo by Jae C. Hong | AP

The Milwaukee Brewers’ National League MVP Ryan Braun’s 50game suspension was overturned Thursday by baseball arbitrator Shyam Das, the first time a baseball player successfully challenged a drug-related penalty in a grievance test he took following a playoff game on Oct. 1. Now he is the first major league player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance, ending a four-month personal “nightmare.” “There were a lot of times where I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, attack everybody as I’ve been attacked as my name has been dragged through the mud as every-

thing in my entire life has been called into question. I wanted to come out and tell the entire story, but at the end of the day I recognize what is best for the game of baseball,” Braun said. “I can’t ever get that time in my life back.” Smartly dressed in a blue pullover and jeans, the 28year-old outfielder walked slowly down the right-field line to a podium set up near home plate to address the

lifting of his suspension. With about 30 reporters on hand and the sun beating down, Braun spent 13 minutes recapping an episode he called “the biggest challenge I have faced in my life.” Braun rarely looked at his notes while laying out a detailed timeline of events that led to his suspension. He was poised and prepared as he took the first steps in trying to repair his reputation. Soon after thanking teammates and fans, Braun expressed disappointment that the confidentiality of his urine test was broken and information leaked. ESPN first reported his failed test for a high testosterone level in October. Braun, who batted .332 with 33 homers and 111 RBIs last year while leading the Brewers to the Central Division title, called some reports he did not single out “inaccurate, erroneous and completely fabricated.” Braun learned on Oct. 19 that his sample tested “three times” the level of any previous specimen, a


Zapata sophomore tennis player Trey Alvarez received official word Feb. 15 from the United States Tennis Association that he had earned enough points to move up to the Championship level of the USTA junior tennis circuit. Alvarez, with fellow sophomores Alex Reyes, Manuel Benavides and Chris Davila, competed in the Rio Grande Valley Tennis Association Zonal

Advancement USTA Tournament on Feb. 11. Although the tournament was rained out the second day, Alvarez secured enough points to “Champ up” by reaching the quarterfinals the first day. “I was very happy for Trey. He has worked very hard,” said Zapata tennis coach Robert Alvarez. “He was out for five months from April to September with a back injury, and his ZAT ranking


Parents, let the coaches coach


verybody loves a coach when the team is winning and their child is playing a large number of minutes on the court or field. Well, that is not the case all the time when it comes to high school or even middle school athletics. A coach might be winning, but there is always a parent complaining about something. The way the coach speaks to the athletes, the way the coach approaches parents, “My (son or daughter) is not playing enough,” “The uniforms look old,” and, “Why does so-and-so get more playing time if they were not here the whole summer in open gym?” Sometimes the gender of a coach also plays a part in how parents complain. A male coach can yell his head off to his female athletes and it is perfectly OK with the parents, but if a female coach does the same thing, then that is when it is deemed

wrong or inappropriate. “How can that coach yell at my daughter or son?” the flustered parent demands. I will tell you one thing, parent: Varsity coaches are there to win, and they take the best athletes the school provides in pursuit of that W, period! You do not see a coach go 0-25 and keep their job very long. Everyone wants you to win, but they have restrictions. Some school districts don’t allow any of their coaches to yell at their athletes. If they do, they are gone. Parents who coach their sons or daughters to victory in summer leagues automatically think their children’s success will transpire their school’s team during the regular season. What parents fail to





All-Star game takes light off Lin By BRIAN MAHONEY ASSOCIATED PRESS

ORLANDO, Fla. — Carmelo Anthony saw the wall of reporters and knew immediately who was being surrounded. Back in New York, it would be Jeremy Lin. But with All-Star weekend in Orlando, the focus is shifting back to where it was to start the season, to Dwight Howard’s future. That means Howard gets the same questions Anthony was peppered with last year during the NBA’s midseason break, just before he was traded. “Thank you, Dwight!” Anthony yelled. “It’s your turn!” The center has asked for a trade, but he’s still here and there’s no telling for how much longer. The Magic could deal him before the March 15 trade deadline, or hold onto him all season and risk losing him while getting nothing back in July. Howard didn’t want to discuss any of that Friday. “All the other stuff can wait,” Howard said. “I just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. This is All-Star weekend. This is a time of celebration for guys who’ve had great first halves and guys who have never even seen this.” Howard’s table was between Anthony and LeBron James, two of the league’s best-known stars. Yet neither had anywhere near the attention of Howard, and Anthony was glad to yield the spotlight after his status overshadowed last year’s festivities in Los Angeles. “I’m glad it’s not me anymore,” Anthony said. James went through the free agency circus the season before, and acknowledged that it wore on him. “Yeah, absolutely,” James said. “I know exactly what he’s going through. It’s a tough situation but he’s going to handle it. He’s a man. He’s going to handle it. He’s going to do what’s best for him.” Lin wasn’t forgotten, even after James and the Heat on Thursday forced him into the worst game since he emerged as the NBA’s biggest story earlier this month. Many All-Stars were asked about the Knicks guard, who was playing only in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge featuring rookies and second-year players yet was given his own evening press conference to accommodate the large media interest. Howard said every time he watches TV, he sees something about Lin, the NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or

Taiwanese descent. He was asked if there was anything that could stop the undrafted guard from Harvard. “Uh, he hasn’t gone up against the Great Wall of Orlando yet,” Howard said. This wall may be moveable. The Magic have given Howard’s agent permission to discuss deals with the Nets, Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, and there was plenty of speculation he could be dealt even before the season began, just as Chris Paul was. That would have created an awkward All-Star reunion. Howard literally towers over this city, his face pictured on billboards overlooking the interstate and on a giant Adidas ad high atop the outside of the Amway Center. This region caters to visitors, but didn’t have to consider how it would have welcomed Howard. “I’m here, so it doesn’t matter what would’ve or should’ve happened,” he said. “But you know I’m here and we want to have a great time. I’m looking forward to all the events and showing everybody my city.” With its new arena in just its second season, Orlando is hosting the All-Star game for the first time in 20 years. The 1992 game was one of the NBA’s most memorable, with Magic Johnson winning MVP honors only a few months after he had announced he was retiring after contracting the HIV virus. Even Shaquille O’Neal, who has been critical of Howard in the past, says he hopes the MVP this time goes to Howard. O’Neal started his career with the Magic before bolting as a free agent, and he said recently it would be a “travesty” if Howard leaves. If fans fear Howard following Shaq’s path, he said they never tell him. “Whatever you decide to do, we’re behind you 100 percent,” they say, according to Howard. “They’ve been great,” Howard added. “Despite what people may say or think, the fans here have always been great to me. I really appreciate it. They’ve showed me nothing but love from Day 1 and I’ve done the same thing. This city means a lot to me.” Howard said he was looking forward to playing this weekend with James, Anthony and Wade, who join league MVP Derrick Rose in the powerful Eastern Conference starting lineup. The West is an L.A. story, with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum of the Lakers joining the Clippers’ Paul and Blake Griffin. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant rounds out the first five.

BRAUN Continued from Page 1B fact that both startled and confused him. He said he began “a humanistic” defense by showing documentation he never gained a pound, his running times did not improve and he didn’t get any stronger. “I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point,” he said. Braun cited a possible “chain of custody” problem with his sample. He said the urine test he provided on Oct. 1, when the Brewers opened the playoffs, was not delivered to Federal Express until Oct. 3. Baseball’s drug agreement calls for samples to be delivered to FedEx on the same day they are collected. Braun did not rule out the chance that someone may have tampered with his sample. “I honestly don’t know what happened to it for that 44-hour period,” he said. “There are a lot of different things that could have possibly happened. There are a lot of things that we heard about the collection process, the collector and some other people involved in the process that have been concerning to us. But as I’ve dealt with the situation, I know what it’s like to be wrongly accused of something, so for me to wrongly accuse somebody wouldn’t help.” Braun said he was a “victim” of a “fatally flawed” testing system and that there is an inherent presumed guilt within the process.

“As players, we’re held to a standard of 100 percent perfection regarding the program, and everybody else associated with that program should be held to the same standard,” he said. “We’re a part of a process where you’re 100 percent guilty until proven innocent. It’s the opposite of the American judicial system. “This is my livelihood. This is my integrity. This is my character. This is everything I have ever worked for in my life being called into question. We need to make sure we get it right. If you’re going to be in a position where you’re 100 percent guilty until innocent, you can’t mess up.” Soon after Braun’s news conference, MLB and the players’ association each released statements defending the testing program. And the head of the World AntiDoping Agency, David Howman, said that under his agency’s rules, Braun still would have had to show that the departure from the rules was related to the test result. “Our program is not ‘fatally flawed,”’ MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said. “Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision. Neither Mr. Braun nor the MLBPA contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

Photo by Rod Aydelotte | AP

Baylor’s Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin, left, will compete for the spotlight with Stanford quarterback and Houston native Andrew Luck during the looming NFL draft combine this week.

Texas QBs duel for attention at combine By MICHAEL MAROT ASSOCIATED PRESS

INDIANAPOLIS — A poster hanging outside Lucas Oil Stadium still bears the image of Peyton Manning. Inside the house Manning built, the discussion is all about his successor. On Friday, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III finally got a chance to start making their pitches to be this year’s No. 1 draft pick and supplant Manning as the face of the Colts’ franchise though neither is ready to push him aside yet. “Peyton was my hero growing up, he was my football hero, he’s who I modeled myself after in high school and middle school. You never truly replace a guy like that,” Luck said at the NFL’s scouting combine. “If I had the opportunity to learn from a guy like that, of course you’re going to take advantage of that, absolutely.” One of the top two quarterbacks in this year’s draft may not have a choice about whether he plays or sits in 2012. After going a leagueworst 2-14, the Colts won the lottery ticket for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, and team owner Jim Irsay has already said he intends to use the No. 1 overall pick on Indy’s next big franchise quarterback. Presumably, that quarterback’s portrait will wind up on the wall of the same ven-

ue both are expected to participate in some of Sunday’s workouts. Who will it be? Luck met with Colts quarterback coach Clyde Christensen on Thursday night and will undoubtedly see more of the Colts staff this weekend. Griffin has already met with Philadelphia and has meetings scheduled with Kansas City and Cleveland, a team that may be looking to swap picks with St. Louis to take Griffin. Coaches and general managers believe Luck, like Manning in 1998, is the more polished prospect. “He (Luck) has got a great start,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who was been watching Luck since his high school days. “He’s been coached very well. The system he’s been running is very similar to what most of the people do in pro football. He’s doing a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage. He has a good chance to be a great, great player in this league.” Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, is believed to have more upside, just like Ryan Leaf, who went second in the ’98 draft. And with scouting reports on Griffin steadily improving, the biggest concern heading into the combine was Griffin’s height. Some worried the quarterback who was listed at 6foot-4 in high school and 6-2 at Baylor, was actually shorter. Griffin ended any specu-

TENNIS Continued from Page 1B Competing in doubles were Dominic Wayda and Andie Medina. “I was not pleased with the draw. Trey had advanced to the semifinals at the UISD Winter Classic, so I thought he could have

been seeded (better), but that’s the way it goes,” said Zapata coach Robert Alvarez. “Alex and Manuel played well, as did Gabby. Our JV also did well. We had some players not be able to make it on Saturday,

SANDOVAL Continued from Page 1B understand is they do not deal with grade checks, injuries, problems with the boyfriends or girlfriends, the athlete’s teachers, et cetera. In the summer, the majority of those problems do not exist, yet parents who coach in the summer think all coaching is as easy as it is in the summer leagues. I dare you to spend one season with a high school coach. Deal with the two-hour practices every day — sometimes in the hot sun or the cold of winter — the getting home at 2 a.m. and then turning around to get up at 6 a.m. for work the next day. And don’t forget that coaches are teachers first and foremost,

so they also have to deal with grading papers, teaching class, faculty meetings and so many other factors — especially if they teach a core subject (math, science, history, English, et cetera). Not many would last long with that hectic schedule for even one week, but that is the reality of being a teacher/coach. I will always go to bat for coaches, and I enjoy sitting in the stands watching a game and appreciate the coaches who roam the sidelines. I dislike when a parent walks up to a coach, especially after a bad loss, and says, “Coach, I need to talk to you about my son or daughter not playing enough.”

lation about the incredible shrinking quarterback by measuring in at 6-2 3/8, 223 pounds — a point he made three times during a 15minute question-and-answer session with reporters. “Cam (Newton) is a bigger guy, 6-5, 240 and I’m 6-2 3/8 and 223,” Griffin said, drawing laughter. “I’m not going to let that one go.” This year’s crop of quarterbacks is an intriguing mix of talent. There’s quarterbackturned-receiver-turnedquarterback Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M. There’s Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and 28-year-old Brandon Weeden, who have already been drafted — by Major League Baseball teams. There’s Kirk Cousins from Michigan State, the undersized Kellen Moore from Boise State and little known Patrick Witt from Yale. Then, of course, there’s Luck, considered the most NFL ready quarterback since Manning, and the rapidly-rising Griffin. Most believe that barring any unknown medical issues, Luck will go No. 1 to Indianapolis and Griffin could go No. 2 if the Rams trade the pick. The quarterbacks don’t believe it’s that clear-cut. “I think that’s a little premature,” Luck said when asked whether he’d started house-hunting on his second trip to Indy in less than a month. He was also here during Super Bowl week.

As a coach, your team just lost a game and the last thing you want to do is talk to parents. Emotions are still too high and you are frustrated, still pondering on that loss and how you can fix things before the next game. Most coaches have self-imposed rules against talking to parents after games about such things. If a parent really wants to talk to a coach, they should schedule an appointment for the next day. It doesn’t even have to be after a loss that parents cross the line; a parent can still be upset, even if the team won, because the only thing they were looking for was the play of their child.

as they had commitments for that afternoon.” Zapata traveled to Hebbronville this week for the Longhorn Invitational. (Clara Sandoval can be reached at

ALVAREZ They act as if it would be OK if the team lost by 40 points so long as their child played start to finish — the team is irrelevant next to their child. If your child’s team loses by that many points, it might be because your child is playing — that is why a coach sits them down at the varsity level. At the middle school or subvarsity levels, everyone should play, but the amount of time your child spends in the starting lineup might diminish as they move up to the varsity level. Parents, go and support your children at the games, but leave the coaching to the people who have been hired by the district.

Continued from Page 1B was down to number 1450. “In two tournaments, he had been able to get his ranking to No. 2 and needed just one match to get out of the ZAT level and go to the elite champion level.” Alvarez secured that victory with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Justin McManus of Harlingen. “I was also excited about the play from all the boys,” Alvarez said. “They were really getting after it, and I hope they will also be ‘champing up’ in the near future.”



HINTS | BY HELOISE Dear Readers: It’s winter, and what better way to warm up on a cold day than to have a HOT BOWL OF SOUP? If you’re too busy to make a big pot of homemade soup, I have a few hints for making canned soup more appetizing. Try these: Try adding grated cheese, chopped hardboiled eggs or a few croutons to thick soups for extra flavor. To jazz up cream soups, add a dollop of sour cream, yogurt or chopped herbs. For clear soups, add dumplings, won tons, rice or noodles to give the soup a little more substance. For chili or bean soups, add slices of avocado or some grated cheese, and top with a little sour cream. If you’d like to try new soup recipes, I have several in my Heloise’s Spectacular Soups pamphlet. To receive one, send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (65 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Soup, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. FYI: If your soup is too hot, toss in an ice cube, or better yet, some frozen veggies! — Heloise PILLOW HELPER Dear Heloise: I look forward to reading your column each morning in the San Angelo StandardTimes here in the great state of Texas. Clean used pillows, towels and blankets are welcomed at your local animal shelter. There are so many animals that would welcome a soft pillow to rest on. This is a great way to help an animal and recycle at the same time. Check with your local shelters to find out if they would like your used pil-


lows, etc. — Nancy in San Angelo, Tx. PET PAL Dear Readers: Bill Steele of Manchester, N.H., sent a picture of his long-haired, tricolored cat, Muffy, sitting on a couch specially made for her by Bill’s son. Bill says Muffy is his best friend! To see Muffy and our other Pet Pals, visit and click on “Pets.” — Heloise A WORN-OUT KEY Dear Heloise: My car ignition seemed to be “jammed” and unable to be turned on. A neighbor suggested that it might be due to the ignition, and it would cost several hundred dollars to have it replaced. Fortunately, my honest mechanic suggested that it might simply be because my key was worn out. Sure enough! When I tried the second key (that came with the car), it worked perfectly. It had never dawned on me that car keys could wear out! Stupid me! — Elaine W., via email GROCERY GAL Dear Heloise: My hint is for grocery shoppers. I use an old shower-curtain ring and hook it on the side of the grocery cart. I hang my handbag on it. No more squished bread, crushed chips or bruised fruit, and no broken eggs! Also, I used to be called the bag lady before they sold those fancy recycled or reusable bags; I had about 15 canvas bags that I made myself ! — Marie from Harrisburg, Pa.








Hamilton prays he’s on the wagon By JANIE MCCAULEY ASSOCIATED PRESS

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Slugger Josh Hamilton openly acknowledges he’ll be an addict for life. As far as slip-ups are concerned, he prays they will be few and far between along his path to sobriety. And pray is truly what the Texas star does. Every day. Especially since an alcohol relapse last month. Hamilton hopes he is done for good discussing the incident and there won’t be any more mistakes down the line to derail his progress. “You know what, I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, guys,” Hamilton said Friday. “For me it’s communication. I’m on all the time. A lot of these guys are. When you get home it’s very easy to shut down, therefore your relationship with your wife, your relationship with your kids suffers from that because you want to go to shut-down mode. It’s about me being able to open up all the time and realizing my commitment needs to be to them first rather than everybody else. The priorities there need to be flipped.” Hamilton insists he’s in a much better place emotionally and spiritually just in the past three weeks. He has apologized and shown remorse for his Jan. 30 dinner in Dallas during which he had several drinks and continued drinking later that night. It was the second known relapse with alcohol in the past three years for the recovering drug addict. “I don’t like continuing to make mistakes, it jumps up and bites me,” he said, noting he needs

Photo by Julio Cortez | AP Photo by Ron T. Ennis | AP

The Texas Rangers’ Josh Hamilton speaks to reporters before the Rangers’ practice at their facility in Surprise, Ariz., Friday. to take back control of his choices and actions. The 2010 AL MVP heads into spring training with the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers encouraged since beginning both solo counseling and sessions with his wife. In a nearly 37-minute news conference outside the clubhouse Friday, Hamilton held a stack of notes and a Bible, recited a half-dozen verses that have influenced him recently and said he will no longer throw a “BandAid” over his addiction and communication issues but rather look for a long-term solution. “Don’t get me wrong, this is going to be an ongoing process until the day I die,” Hamilton said. “So it’s never going to stop. The relationships in my house with my kids, my wife, all those things, have gotten 100 times better just in three weeks. I see where I want to be.” He said he also understands why the Rangers have tabled talks about a contract extension. Hamilton described negotiations

as “on hold” and said his unsettled status won’t be addressed during the season. Hamilton, who is eligible for free agency after this season, said it’s up to the front office to decide whether he deserves a long-term contract. “I hate that this happened. They knew the risks from the time they took me in ’08,” Hamilton said. “I’ve done a lot of good here, and they’ve been good to me, too. There’s always ways to work things out. You know what, I’m not stressing over a long-term contract because I know I’ll be playing baseball. ... “Put it this way, I’m not going to jump at the first thing offered. I’m not in a situation, ‘No, I feel like this might happen to me, I better get what I can get when I can get it.’ I don’t feel that way. I feel very confident in my sobriety, I feel very confident in my relationship with Christ and my family supporting me, and the Rangers supporting me. They’ve been there for a while. It’s been good.”

The Houston Astros’ infielder Jose Altuve takes ground balls prior to the start of spring training, Wednesday, in Kissimmee, Fla. The Astros have as low of expectations as anyone in the country as they prepare for the season.


KISSIMMEE, Fla. — When J.D. Martinez goes out on the town, he conveniently stays away from mentioning that he plays for the Astros. Instead, he’ll tell people that he’s from Houston, then feel them out for their opinion of the city’s baseball team. “The Astros? Ohhh, they’re terrible,” is the usual response. Hard to argue with that. Coming off a 106-loss season, the Astros are going through spring training with a roster full of unproven youngsters and aging veterans, looking very much like an expansion team. Manager Brad Mills has made it clear that every spot on the team is up for grabs. “We know that whoever gets the job done during spring training, whoever does things the right way, is probably going to be the one sticking with the

team,” pitcher Fernando Rodriguez Jr. said. “It’s kind of like open tryouts.” The Astros really didn’t have any other options after enduring the worst season in franchise history. They had traded away most of their best players. They knew their farm system was a mess. So, with a change in ownership — and an impending move to the American League — it was the perfect time for the 50-year-old franchise to start over. It may pay off down the road. For now, though, the Astros probably have less reason to be hopeful than any other team in the big leagues — even at a time when just about everyone is basking in the giddy optimism of spring training. Wandy Rodriguez (11-11, 3.49 ERA) is the only pitcher with double-figure wins a year ago. Outside of Carlos Lee (18 homers, 94 RBIs), there’s no one else on the roster who hit more than 10 homers or had even 50 RBIs last season.

“Nobody knows who we are,” pitcher Bud Norris said. “Everybody is writing us off. That’s just the way it’s gonna be.” The Astros will likely have the youngest team in the National League, and perhaps all of baseball, when the season opens. Just eight players on the 40-man roster are in their 30s. This team, which used 21 rookies a year ago, is counting on players such as Martinez and 5-foot-7 second baseman Jose Altuve to lead Houston into a brighter — if still rather fuzzy at the moment — new era. Neither Martinez nor Altuve had played above Double-A when they were called up last year. Neither looked out of place after taking a hurried path to the big leagues. The 24year-old Martinez hit .274 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 53 games. Altuve, who is just 21, batted .276 with two homers and seven stolen bases in 57 games.

The Zapata Times 2/25/2012  

The Zapata Times 2/25/2012