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Posts published in July 2004

METRO refutes change in Light Rail to Northline

After hearing criticism and skepticism from local government officials, and reading reports in local media such as the Northeast News, Houston Chronicle, and broadcast media, the new President of METRO, Frank Wilson, met with local leaders last Tuesday evening, including Erv Baumeyer, Chairman of the North Houston Greenspoint Chamber, to reassure them that the plans had not been changed and that the route to Northline Mall was still the number one priority, and had been submitted to the federal authorities with this schedule.

Last week officials including Councilman Adrian Garcia, and State Senator Mario Gallegos had appeared at the Metro public board meeting, to protest the stories they had heard about a change in the construction schedule that would favor the west side of Houston first.

Two die in Aldine-Bender accident

Deputies report that two men, Pedro Perez Rodriguez, 61, and Marvin Salvador Garcia, 21, died in a car that ran into a utility pole on Aldine Bender at Chrisman Road early last Monday morning, July 19th.

Sheriff’s Deputy Roger Kessner indicated that two cars were involved, and witnesses said that some type of hand gesture or signal was being exchanged between the occupants of the cars, prior to Garcia’s Toyota car losing control and crashing. The cars were weaving and crossing the center line, he said. A third person in the car was hospitalized.

Garcia’s car hit a pole, rolled over and then struck a second pole. The accident occured in the 1400 block of Aldine Bender. Deputies are searching for the other car, which fled the scene.

Freecycle: Finding treasures in other folk’s trash

Everyone has things in their closet, attic, or garage that they don’t need anymore. It may be that a yard sale is not allowed due to deed restrictions or apartment rules. Or perhaps it would be more too much effort to take the items to a charitable organization. Whatever the reason, every day people throw away perfectly usable items that someone else would be happy to have.

That’s where freecycle helps. As the name implies, freecycling is a way of recycling items by giving them away for free. Over 250,000 people in 1,000 communities in both the US and abroad have created freecycle Yahoo! Groups as a way to share information about what they have to give away.

The subject lines in emails begin with the words OFFER or WANTED followed by the item. Interested parties reply to the sender. Once a match is made, the giver sets up a time and place for the receiver to pick up the gift. Follow-up emails with the subject line TAKEN or FOUND let other members know that the item is no longer available. The only catch is that all items must be given away for free.

Aldine resident Mary Reeves is a co-moderator of the Houston freecycle list which boasts over 2,000 members in just over half a year in existence. She said that one misconception about the group is that only needy people respond to offering emails.

“Not all the people who are receiving the gifts are people who are needy or are considered low income. A lot of them are affluent but they want to be kind on the environment and avoid the first use products,” she said.

Reeves figures that in the month of May the Houston freecycle list kept 4.5 tons from entering area landfills. In June that amount grew to over 6 tons. Reeves arrived at those numbers by looking only at items offered and then taken on this list.

“This does not include things people posted wanted ads for and then received or the extra things people get when they go to pick up items,” Reeves explained.

Reeves said the most common items gifted through the list are baby items, women’s clothes, furniture, and working TVs. “People upgrade to a larger screen and have no use for the smaller one even though it works,” she said.

However, the items exchanged through freecycle are as varied as its members. Perhaps the most exciting freecycle transaction occurred on another city’s list when someone gave away a house. Reeves explained that when the givers sold their property the buyer did not want the house. So they offered the building on freecycle.

Someone responded and transported the house away.

While no houses have been given away on the Houston freecycle list, there have been some interesting transactions. “I think someone on our list did receive a vehicle. It was not working, but the person who received it was able to get it fixed,” she said.

The best gift Reeves received through freecycle was a working lawnmower. The items she gave away which gathered the most interest was several collectors edition videotapes of Star Trek and Star Wars.

Members find unexpected benefits from joining freecycle lists beyond giving or receiving free items. Once members give away an item and have a positive experience, many start to declutter their homes. Clearing out a junky garage or closet has been proven to improve people’s mood.

Many members write Reeves to say that freecycling makes them feel good. “The most important thing is building community,” Reeves said.

Fellow Aldine Freecycler Jean Keiser agreed. “It’s mainly meeting the people that I like,” she said. “Meeting a couple of them has been a hoot and a half.”

On the Houston list, several different communities have emerged allowing parents who home school and soap and candle makers to meet and share items related to their interests.

Anyone interested in joining the Houston Freecycle list can do so by going to the main website at www.freecycle.org and clicking on Houston.

Carver architecture students take top prize

Hours of work oustide of class paid off for seven students in the G.W. Carver Technology Student Association (TSA). In their respective categories, these students won at the local, regional, and state level going on to the National TSA Conference in Nashville, Tennesse June 20-24.

All seven left the competition with fond memories, but four students walked away with a first place trophy. Vinh Nguyen, Diana Ngo, Bradley Dyer, and Patricia Estrada placed first in the category of Architectural model (High school).

The students had to create an architectural model of a technology center and back up the model with a notebook of documentation. “They had to document their work with floor plans and dimensions,” explained Ms. Porcia West, chapter advisor of the Carver TSA.

There was a total of over 4,100 student competition entries with students competiting from all over the 50 states in the United states and other countries such as Germany and France.

“The competition was very stiff,” West said. “There were several entries that looked as if they could have bumped us out, but we prevailed and won.”

The students initially placed as a Top Ten finalist. Upon placing in the top ten, they underwent an interview to defend their Architectural model to in order to place 1st in the competition.

This is the first time in the six years since West has been at Carver that Aldine students have won first at the National TSA Conference. There is a possibility that this may be a first in the district’s history.

The students, who want to eventually become architects, showed off their winning model to students in the Houston Prep Program, a summer camp at the Univeristy of Houston Downtown.

They gave a speech about the importance of working hard and being persistent. “They inspired them to continue to work hard,” West said.

Tour de ‘Reinos latinoamericanos sin precedentes del hip hop’ viene a Houston

Los admiradores de hip hop a través del país tendrán la oportunidad de ver los máximos artistas de hip hop latinoamericanos de hoy actuar juntos en ‘Reinos latinoamericanos sin precedentes del hip hop’. El viaje empieza 28 de julio de 2004 y será puesto en los titulares por artista Fat Joe multi-platino al mismo tiempo que su grupo, el equipo de terror, y incluirá artistas J de Frankie, Play-N-Skillz y Tony Sunshine.

El viaje llegará a Texas sobre 14 de August de 2004 donde lega el lugar en Hush en Houston.

‘Reinos latinoamericanos sin precedentes del hip hop’ son una temporada 20-ciudades que tiene como protagonista a algunos de los artistas latinoamericanas ricas en la industria de hip hop. Canciones de Fat Joe y Terror Squad terror incluyen: “Reclínese”, “Lo que es Luv?” Y “Thuggin.” Pueden oír Frankie J con “No quiero llorar”, Tony Sunshine con “Oh my god” y cancion de Play-N-Skillz “Freaks.”

Hip hop fans across the country will have the opportunity to see today’s top Latino hip hop artists perform together in the Latino Kings of Hip Hop Tour. The tour begins July 28, 2004 and will be headlined by multi-platinum artist Fat Joe along with his group, The Terror Squad, and will include artists Frankie J, Play-N-Skillz and Tony Sunshine.

The tour will reach Texas on August 14, 2004 where it will venue at Hush in Houston.

The Latino Kings of Hip Hop Tour 2004 is a 20-city tour featuring some of the hottest Latino artists in the hip hop industry! Fat Joe and the Terror Squad #1 hits include: “Lean Back,” “What’s Luv?” and “We Thuggin.” Frankie hits include: “Don’t Wanna Cry,” Tony Sunshine hit “Oh My God” and Play N Skillz hit: “Freaks.”

Spiderman sequal as impotent as its stars

Running time: 118 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

Don’t let all the hype fool you, “Spider-Man 2” is NOT the best comic-book movie of all time. In fact, it’s pretty darned mediocre.

Tobey Maguire returns as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and he spends the first hour having the Bad Hair Day from Hell. He loses his job, he’s behind on the rent and about to flunk out of college. Spider-Man is Mopey-Man, and his depression results in — I kid you not — Web Impotence. So, Parker tosses his spandex suit into the trash.

To make things worse, his heartthrob, Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst), is getting engaged to an astronaut with all the personality of lumber. This seems fitting, since Ms. Dunst appears to be on Thorazine during all her scenes. Maybe she’s just as bored with the movie as the rest of us in the audience were.

Somewhere near the 17th hour of this interminably long movie, we’re introduced to Dr. Otto Octavius, (Alfred Molina), a scientist who has discovered the key to nuclear fusion and is about to create a “mini-Sun” to power New York City.

Of course, things go horribly wrong in the lab, and Otto becomes Doc Ock, an evil villain with mechanical arms. And since the experiment was a miserable failure the first time around, naturally the Doc deduces that the only solution is to do it AGAIN, only BIGGER. Sure. I think that’s Step 4 of the Scientific Method.

Which means, Spider-Man needs to get motivated, fight the bad guy, save the city, blah blah blah. By the time we get to the action, I hoping Doc Ock’s mini-Sun fries the entire town.

The problem with “Spider-Man 2” is that it’s about 20 minutes too long, the pacing is slooooooow and the first hour is nothing but talk. The three big action sequences don’t appear until the second half of the film. So what you have is two films: The first half, which is more Soap Opera than Superhero, and the second half, which is a lot of CGI characters smashing stuff.

I really wanted to love this movie, but director Sam Raimi just got bogged down rehashing the same character-development ground he covered in the first film. This movie needed a lot more action and a lot less angst.

GRADE: C

(c) 2004 King Features Synd., Inc.

Vacationing poses identity theft dangers

Vacation was great! You arrive home refreshed until you discover that someone charged hundreds of dollars using your credit card number.

You’ve been the victim of identity theft.

“Identity theft and identity fraud,” says Eileen Foster, Vice President for Fraud Prevention and Investigation at First Bank, “refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data to commit fraud or deception typically for economic gain. In this case, someone else may be living it up in a hotel room while you’re looking at a lot of work getting back what was stolen.”

But there are ways to minimize your susceptibility.

Prior to vactioning:

• Contact your bank when you have confirmed your vacation plans. Most banks monitor suspicious activity (including geographic shifts in cardholder usage) and may choose to temporarily restrict the card for your protection until the activity can be validated. By informing your bank up front, you can prevent unnecessary inconveniences while vacationing.

• Make a list of debit card, credit card, and bank account numbers as well as the associated customer service telephone numbers (typically located on the back of the card). Keep this list in a safe place so that you can use it to contact the necessary banks to prevent any potential fraud in case you lose your wallet or purse.

While you are vacationing:

• Never leave your Personal Identification Number (PIN) anywhere but in your memory. Do not write it down where it could be detected. Visit your bank to determine if they will allow you to change your PIN to something easily remembered, but it is a good idea never to use the last four digits of your social security number, date of birth, address, or other numbers that could easily be discovered by identity thieves.

• When vacationing, be aware if a merchant takes your card somewhere out of your sight for an extended period of time. Most merchants will process transactions within your view. You might call your financial institution to warn of possible violations against your account.

• Do not leave keys, debit/credit cards, checks, receipts or other sensitive documents in your hotel room. Many hotels provide a safe or other type of secure location for safekeeping your documents until you need them or check out.

• Always keep those receipts for credit card purchases or withdrawals. Never throw them in a public trash container where someone will eventually find them.

• Never give out your debit or credit card numbers over the telephone unless you have a trusted business relationship with the person or company. When vacationing, be mindful of schemes that ask for your card number (i.e., “To enter this sweepstakes, give us your card number”).

• Carry only cards necessary for the trip. It is often wise to carry two cards in case one is lost on vacation or inactivated. Prior to your trip, cancel any cards that you do not use or secure them in a safe place while you are away.

• Have a trusted neighbor or family member retrieve your mail to prevent identity thieves from obtaining credit card statements, bank statements, or credit card offers that could be used inappropriately.

When you return from vacation:

• Upon returning home, contact your bank and credit card companies to review recent activity on your account. If anything looks suspicious or unfamiliar, tell the bank right away.

• Destroy any unnecessary documents or receipts to prevent someone from finding and stealing any sensitive information.

“Your fingerprints are yours. They cannot be given to anyone else to use,” Foster points out. “But your personal identity data Social Security Number, bank account and credit card numbers, even your telephone calling card number can fall into the wrong hands and the loss can be significant.”

Civic Clubs begin planning for National Night Out

Local civic clubs are planning activities in conjunction with National Night Out to be held Tuesday, August 3 this year.

Green Forest Civic Club, Fairgreen 1,2,3,4 and Freeway Forest 1,2,3,4, will have its party from 6:30 to 9:00pm. There will be live music by D.J. Jerry Rendon, New Beat Production, free food, and bike races for the children.

Mr. Curls and Mr. F. Flores cut and cleaned the esplanade for this event. The fun will take place on Sandydale and Vickery between Aldine Mail Rt and Lauder Rd. For more information, call 281-449-7531 or 281-987-9845.

The Meadowlink Civic Club will host their event at the Jaloma’s property just like last year at the corner of Meadowshire and Meadowlink. The fun will run from 6:30 to 8pm with free hotdogs and many door prizes from area businesses. Doorprize winners names will be drawn by HPD officers at 7:30. Bring the family, meet your neighbors, and stamp out crime. For more information, contact Clare Nonmacher at 281-999-2112.

National Night Out was founded in 1983, by Matt Peskin in Pennsylvania, and sponsored by The National Association of Town Watch (NATW).

It has since grown to become a national event observed in all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canada, and military bases around the world. NATW is a member of the Crime Prevention Coalition and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).

National Night Out is designed to: (1) heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; (2) generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; (3)strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community relations, and (4) send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and are fighting back.

Civic clubs are encouraged to call the Northeast News with their NNO plans so they can be published in the Aug. 3 paper. 281-449-9945.

‘Fun in the Son’ event promises wholesome fun

Chrisitian youth from around the city will converge on Splashtown Friday, July 30 for an incredible Christian lock-in called “Fun in the Son.”

The festivities begin at 10:30 pm and continue all night until 6:30am the next morning.The Wayne Kerr Band will open the ministry entertainment with “By the Tree” rocking the party. Then, Melvin Adams, a former Harlem Globetrotter will tell everyone much fun it is to be a Christian. There will be a Christian Battle of the Bands, rides, a Hoops Fest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and beach volleyball.

Participants are encouraged to bring every friend they have.

This is the 8th annual city-wide event held by Fun in the Son, Christian Organization that desires to bring youth of all backgrounds, denominations, churched, and unchurched together.

Tickets for the eight hour event are $25 and must be purchased at the gate. Credit cards will be accepted. Churches are reminded to bring their tax exempt form. For more information call 832-526-7496 or281-859-8810. Also check out the website www.fun-in-the-son.com.

Northwest Assistance Ministries seeks donations for Back-to-School Drive

Northwest Assistance Ministries has raised less than $25,000 toward the $60,000 needed to fund its Back-to-School Drive to provide needy children with shoes, jeans and school supplies. NAM needs additional cash donations to pay for this successful program.

Supplies and clothing vouchers will be distributed to pre-screened families July 31. NAM helped students from the Spring, Klein, Aldine and Cy-Fair school districts last year with the support of donors like the Junior League of North Harris County.

“The start of school will be here soon and most families will think about their children returning to the classroom and the excitement of getting new school clothes and supplies,” said Carole Little, NAM executive director.

“For some families, though, fall is a time they have to choose between food and buying the things their children need to get an education. Youngsters whose clothes don’t fit and who don’t have pencils or paper have a difficult time learning.”

Educators say they can see the damaging impact low self esteem has on youngsters and their ability to succeed, Little said. For young people to start this school year feeling good about themselves and ready to learn, they need the required school supplies, new jeans and tennis shoes.

NAM is seeking cash donations rather than contributions of clothing or supplies, Little said. Cash donations enable NAM to buy items in bulk and at a discount so the dollars help more children. A $20 gift will provide schools supplies for one student. A $35 gift will provide clothing and shoes for one student and a $55 gift will provide supplies, clothing and shoes for one student.

“Education is a marvelous thing. You can’t really touch it or put your arms around it, but children have little chance of success without it,” Little said. “Education is an essential building block in breaking the cycle of poverty. Help us give these youngsters a shot at a brighter future.”

Donations may be sent to NAM, 15555 Kuykendahl Road, Houston, TX 77090 or call 281-885-4605 to contribute via credit card.

NAM is a nonprofit, community-based, multi-program social service agency consisting of 47 congregations, 16 affiliate civic organizations and numerous business partners. NAM has served north and northwest Harris County for 20 years. NAM is located at 15555 Kuykendahl. For information on NAM and its programs, call 281-885-4555 or visit NAM’s web site at www.namonline.org.