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Posts published in “Day: October 2, 2001”

Mobile Health Unit to visit local sites

The scheduled sites that the Ronald McDonald Mobile Unit will be visiting in the near future are as follows (hours at all sites are 9am to 2pm):

Tuesday, Oct. 2
Burrus Elementary School
701 E. 33rd. St.

Saturday, Oct. 6
St. Leo The Great Parish
2131 Lauder Rd.

Tuesday, Oct 9
A.B. Anderson Elementary
7401 Wheatley St.

The services provided on the unit are:

Immunizations
Vision Screening
Hearing Screening
Well child exams performed by a Registered Nurse
Distribution of Health Education Information
Eligibility Screening for the Harris County Hospital District Gold Card

All services provided on the unit are free. Parents will need to accompany children under the age of 18 in order to provide parental consent for the screenings.

For children that need immunizations, parents should bring a copy of their child’s shot records. Eligibility screening is provided so that children may be referred to the Harris County Hospital District Community Health Program once they are determined to be eligible for HCHD services.

Stephens Elementary begins “BOX TOP$” program

(L-R) Yesenia Campos, Johnny Chavira, Abigail Rodriguez, and Isaac Gonzales along with Stephanie Hernandez and Brick Estrada check out the General Mills/Betty Crocker “BOX TOP$ for Education” project recently initiated by the Stephens Elementary PTO. A collection box is located in the front hallway of Stephens Elementary at 2402 Aldine Mail Route.

Aldine students enjoy performance by Ballet Folklórico de Mexico

Nearly 8000 students from eight school districts and several private schools in Houston attended a free performance by the world-renowned Ballet Folklórico de Mexico de Amalia Hernández at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on September 27. The free performance was part of the dance company’s educational series created 13 years ago by the late founder Amalia Hernández and Columba Bush.

Mrs. Bush, a native of Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, is the wife of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. She has worked to help raise funds for and promote Ballet Folklórico de Mexico’s educational series since its inception. As a direct result of her efforts, the company has performed for free for more than 325,000 school-aged children throughout the United States. During this year’s tour, more than 25,000 children will be treated to a complimentary performance, including students from 10 AISD elementary and intermediate schools.

Ballet Folklórico de Mexico is a celebration of life in movement, music and color Its many dances encompass pre-Hispanic rituals, dramatic events from Mexico’s past, and colorful depictions of Mexico’s diverse culture and folklore.

What manner of Muslims are Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban?

By KATHY GANNON and RICHARD N. OSTLING
Associated Press Writers

What sort of government is harboring suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden?

A religious regime that has demolished grand Buddhist artworks, ended schooling for girls past the age of 8, decreed that Hindus must wear identification patches and imprisoned eight western aid workers for allegedly preaching their Christian faith.

According to the zealous Taliban, who have ruled in Afghanistan since 1996, fidelity to Islam requires unprecedented harshness.

Their practices have been disparaged by many Muslims outside Afghanistan, but the bin Laden case could prove to be one instance in which some Muslim support emerges for Taliban policy based on religious grounds.

Traditionalists may sympathize with Taliban contentions that, under strict religious law, bin Laden’s responsibility for terrorism can only be determined after trial before a court of fellow Muslims. And some may feel Afghanistan is justified in preparing for a holy war of self-defense against the United States.

On other matters, however, many Muslims _ particularly moderates and scholars _ have said the Taliban are mistaken about what Islam requires.
The Muslim world has largely spurned the Taliban up to now. The Organization of the Islamic Conference refused to admit the regime and only three of the 56 member nations (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates) have granted it full diplomatic recognition.

Even neighboring Iran, whose 1979 revolution energized militant Muslims worldwide, rejects the Taliban, although that hostility stems from alleged Taliban persecution of fellow Shiite Muslims. Islam’s larger Sunni branch dominates in Afghanistan.

While bin Laden is suspected of directing a terrorist network aimed at the West from Afghanistan, the nation has also become a haven for thousands of activists believed to be preparing to overthrow more moderate Muslim regimes in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Islamic states of nearby Central Asia that were part of the former Soviet Union.

One notable incident this year caused worldwide outrage. The Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, on Feb. 26 ordered demolition of two monumental mountain carvings of the Buddha on grounds that they violated Islam’s ban on idol worship.

Egypt’s highest Muslim authority, Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel, joined a noted scholar from Qatar, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, and others in a fruitless emergency mission urging the regime not to destroy the Buddhas.

“Such behavior comes to undermine the image of Islam,” former Egyptian diplomat Hussein Ahmed Amin wrote at the time.

An Afghan scholar in the United States, Amin Tarzi, charged that his homeland’s rulers feed off the peoples’ “illiteracy and lack of knowledge of traditional Islamic teachings.”

The Taliban have employed Pashtun tribal traditions along with religion “to legitimize their rule based on a terror system,” said Tarzi, of the Monterey (Calif.) Institute of International Studies. (The Pashtun are Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group.)
Others are baffled by the regime. “I personally don’t have any idea where they get some of their ideas,” said Professor Anis Ahmed of Pakistan’s Islamic University.

Some tenets come from literal interpretation of the Quran, the Muslim scripture, Ahmed explained, but “if you take things literally that will lead to extremism.” He said the Quran must be read in light of its context and application in the Sunnah, the authoritative sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Taliban emerged in 1994, promising peace to the war-ravaged land of 21 million and rebelling against Islamic factions whose conflicts had killed 50,000 people.

They are led by Omar, the self-declared “king of the Muslims,” and a circle of eight to 10 colleagues from Kandahar in the deeply tribal southeast, near the Pakistan border.

Omar described his followers in a movement magazine as “a simple band of dedicated youths… determined to establish the laws of God on earth, and prepared to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of that goal.”

Taliban means “students,” and indeed many followers attended conservative Muslim schools in Pakistan as refugees during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. One important training ground was Dar-ul Uloom Haqqani in Akora Khattak, one of Pakistan’s largest Muslim campuses.

It was the academic source of the Taliban gender policies. “It is biologically, religiously and prophetically proven that men are superior to women,” said a spokesman at the seminary, Maulana Adil Siddiqu.

Yet Tarzi noted that the Quran (7:189; 16:97; 33:35) mandates religious equality and training for men and women alike.

As for the Buddha-smashing, Muhammad cleared Arabia of idols when he inaugurated the religion, and pious artists consequently do not depict the human form. But Muslims did not destroy pre-Islamic statuary in lands they conquered soon after Muhammad’s lifetime.

In January, Omar decreed that anyone who converts from Islam to another religion will be killed, although the Taliban have not said what the penalty could be for the aid workers accused of preaching Christianity.

Other Taliban rules follow fundamentalist Islamic or Pashtun traditions that most believers do not see as faith requirements.

The only allowable music for Muslims is religious song, unaccompanied by instruments. Television, movies and videos are banned. So is kite-flying, seen as a distraction from a life of prayer.
The Taliban rules are meticulously enforced by religious police patrols from the omnipresent Ministry of Virtue and Vice. The “virtue” squads coordinate Islamic education, while “vice” squads stamp out forbidden evils and enforce the movement’s conception of “pure” Islam.

The Hindu identity patches were necessary, the Taliban said, so that the religious police would not force them to follow Islamic rules. But so far, the Taliban are not enforcing the order.

The ministry wields almost unlimited power in the 95 percent of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. Those who know the country say its grip is only strengthened by tensions with the outside world.

Overall, said Tarzi, the Taliban are creating a variant that Islam has never before seen. In his view it extends far beyond the Wahhabi movement, the puritanical Islamic reform imposed in Saudi Arabia beginning in the 19th century that is bin Laden’s inspiration.

“This is absolutely new,” Tarzi said. “No other Islamic country comes close.”

Terrorism and Mental Health

No one in America remains untouched by the recent acts of terrorism upon New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. And the facts are:

There are two types of disaster trauma—individual and community. September 11, 2001 was both.

•“Stress and grief reactions are normal responses to an abnormal situation,” says Betsy Schwartz, executive director of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Greater Houston.

•People generally tend to pull together and function during and after a disaster.
From history we learn that characteristic reactions to such trauma are such things as:
•Depression
•Fears, anxieties, irritability
•Confusion, crying, scream ing
•Fear of crowds and/or reluc tance to leave home
•Problems going to sleep
•Sensitivity to loud noises
•Alcohol and other drug use
•Fear of darkness or animals
•Disobedience, behavioral problems and poor school performance in children

We can help each other deal with the mental health aspects of terrorism by doing several things, she says:

•Provide lots of reassurance to help kids through trauma
•Answer their questions honestly but briefly.
•Try to maintain-or re-establish-a normal household.
•Resume regular social and recreational activities when appropriate
•Acknowledge that you may have reactions to the natural disaster and take appropriate steps to foster your own emotional and physical healing.

When should you refer a person for mental health services?

•If a person is disoriented-dazed, has memory loss, can’t remember events or understand what is happening
•If a person hears voices or sees visions, has delusional thinking or pressured speech
•If a person is unable to care for self such as taking a bath, eating, changing clothes
•If the person has suicidal or homicidal thoughts or plans
•Domestic violence, child or elder abuse
•Alcohol or drug abuse

The Mental Health Association of Greater Houston (MHA Houston), affiliated with the Mental Health Association in Texas and the National Mental Health Association, is a non-profit, united Way agency devoted to promoting mental health, improving mental health services and eliminating the stigma of mental illness. For information and referral call 713-522-5161 or log on to www.mhahouston.org.

See Nature from a different perspective at Jones Park

Many area residents are fortunate enough to be able to view native plants arid animals in their own yard or neighborhood. Similar opportunities to see the natural world are available at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, when the park offers two canoe trips along Spring Creek Saturday, October 6 and a wildflower planting program Sunday, October 7.

For those individuals that enjoy quiet moments in forests or fields watching nature at its best, Jones Park offers a pair of canoe trips that should provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
Participants ages 16 and older can take a tour of Cypress and Spring Creeks Saturday, October 6 at 9 am.

For those with little or no canoeing experience, a shorter excursion from Jones Park to the San Jacinto River bridge – great for beginners -takes place Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m. Reservations are required.

The thought of a yard or open field full of colorful wildflowers is sure to bring out the nature lover in many people. And what better way to bring this idea to fruition than planting your own wildflowers?

With a minimum of advance knowledge anyone can transform a barren expanse of the yard into their own version of something right out of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. Sunday, October 7 at 2 p.m., join staff horticulturist Darlene Conley for a hands-on look at methods used to turn an empty patch of land into a colorful spring wildflower garden.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility, is located at 20634 Kenswick Dive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public.

Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability.

For more information on the park or any of its programs, call (281) 446-8588.

Teal Provide the action on trip to Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge

Although one was not really necessary, it seemed to be a perfectly logical excuse to plan a hunting trip.

My Sigma Chi fraternity alumni members are in the planning stages of their big annual fundraiser and wild game dinner. The group is in need of donated birds and wild game to feed a flock of several hundred members. Also, one of the members, Tim Kelley, recently took over the Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge to headquarter his Waterfowl Outfitters Unlimited, Guide Service (281-461-3460 or 1-888-TX-LODGE).

Eagle Lake is a short drive southwest of Houston and is the self-proclaimed “goose hunting capital of the world.” Tim has over 10,000 acres of rice fields, soybeans, rye grass fields, and flooded wetlands, all prime hunting habitat for ducks and geese. Waterfowl Outfitters also offers hunts for sandhill crane, wild hogs, dove and other upland birds such as ring-necked pheasant and chukar.

It only took a few phone calls to round up a small group of more than willing participants to sacrifice themselves for the cause.

The plan was set. We scheduled the hunt during the brief early teal duck season to coincide with the opening day of the South Zone dove season. Our planned combination teal and dove hunt also included a session of skeet shooting to hone our shotgunning skills.

Kelley welcomed me to the hunting lodge that afternoon and gave me a quick tour. The restored lodge is almost 100 years old and is nestled in a grove of huge, ancient oak trees. Inside, it is roomy with typical high ceilings and has an oversize fireplace. It does have a touch of modern conveniences with a full service kitchen, microwave, and a big screen TV. The lodge has comfortable sleeping quarters for 14 guests and a guest cottage that will sleep 4 additional hunters.

After the rest of our group arrived, we spent some time renewing old friendships and meeting our guides for the next day. With steaks sizzling on the outside grill, we enjoyed the telling of slightly embellished hunting and fishing stories.
The next morning, the irritating alarm clock rang much too early. Early morning conversations were mostly unintelligible. Hunters sipped on emergency doses of black coffee while we tugged on camo and wading gear for the morning hunt.

“Let’s roll, guys,” announced our guide Mike McCutcheon as he walked into the lodge. “It’s a perfect morning out there. Those teal are going to be flying early,”

We followed Guide Mike to a large, flooded grass marsh between Eagle Lake and Columbus. Our group waded the half-mile or so across the flat to a comfortable, 6-man blind in the middle of the pond while Mike set out a formation of decoys. As soon as we settled into the blind, we could see dark shapes zipping over our decoys in the pre-dawn darkness.

Just after shooting time, a small cluster of about six teal came buzzing across our decoy spread at blinding speed. With the signal to “take ‘em!” shotguns blazed. When the shooting was over, two bluewing teal lay floating among the decoys. The morning hunt was off to a good start.

For the next couple of hours, our group got in some hot shooting, not to be confused with hot hitting, on small flocks and single birds decoying into our spread. Near the end of the hunt, one lone teal slipped in on silent wings just above his fake friends. By the time he realized his mistake, he was gaining speed as well as altitude. I got my Model 1100 shouldered and swung out in front of the fast flying little teal. A load of steel cleanly dropped the diminutive duck in the edge of the marsh grass. Mike’s black lab retriever Angel exploded with nervous energy as she bounded across the shallow pond to retrieve my duck.

We did manage to hit enough of the quick little bluewings to slosh out of the marsh only one bird shy of a four-man limit.

After a BBQ lunch in town, we tried our hand at shattering some of the clay targets at the skeet shooting range set up across from the hunting lodge. I must admit that hunting those little straight flying clay birds is easier than hitting those darting, flaring, and dipping little teal.
The only ones that didn’t buy into our hunting scheme were the dove. Dove are a fickle bunch. We hunted a field that afternoon which had been “loaded up” with dove the day before. For reasons known only to the dove, they had moved on to parts unknown to us.

Despite the lack of cooperation from the dove, we all left the Eagle Lake Hunting Lodge with a lot of memories and enough ducks to donate to the Wild Game Dinner.

Fall Fundraiser for Sheriff’s storefront

A fundraiser to support the Harris County Sheriff’s Aldine Storefront will be held on the esplanade of Vickery Street (from Aldine Mail Route to Lauder Road), on October 27th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Activities will include carnival games sponsored by Aldine I.S.D. P.T.A., P.T.O. and school clubs, Halloween costume contests, bicycle races (ages 3-17), most patriotic decorated bike contest and a silent auction.

There will be booths with displays from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Volunteer Fire Department. There will also be a variety of food, music and entertainment. For more information contact the Aldine Storefront at 281-449-6600, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bailey discusses constitutional amendments

State Representative Kevin Bailey has been providing us with a brief overview of constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November In the 2001 regular session, the 77th Texas Legislature passed 19 joint resolutions proposing constitutional amendments.

Read these amendments. With 19 propositions on the ballot, there is something that will affect you, your family, or your business. Each and every Texan has the opportunity to vote on the merits of each proposition.

PROPOSITION NO. 9 states that when a vacancy occurs in either house of the Legislature, the governor or the person exercising the governor’s power must call an election to fill the vacancy. This amendment would authorize the Legislature to cancel a special election for a vacancy in the Legislature if only one person qualified and declared a candidacy in the election.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 9 would spare the state and counties the unnecessary expense and administrative burden of holding special elections to fill vacancies in the Legislature when candidates are unopposed. If a candidate is unopposed, the race essentially is decided already. Under current law, if the ballot contains only a single unopposed candidate, the election becomes an expensive but constitutionally required formality.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Even if voter turnout is low because there is only one candidate on the ballot, those who take the time to become informed and vote are exercising their right to endorse the candidate they want to represent them. It also would deprive candidates of the opportunity to gain visibility by campaigning. The privilege of voting is important and should not be taken lightly, even for the sake of convenience or saving money.

PROPOSITION NO.10 would authorize the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation property that is stored temporarily en route to another location in Texas or outside the state. Exempt property would include the same types of goods and products eligible for the freeport exemption. The property would have to be acquired in or brought into Texas and stored at a location not owned or controlled by the property owner for not more than 270 days after acquisition or importation.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 10 would be an important first step in helping Texas regain its share of lucrative warehousing and distribution markets. Voter approval would allow the legislature to act to stem the loss of customers and jobs to other states. Surrounding states offer much more favorable inventory tax treatment. Many manufacturers began storing their products outside Texas, costing the state an estimated 27,000 jobs.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Any measure that could erode local tax bases further would be imprudent, especially in a time of revenue shortfall and fiscal uncertainty. Since 1994, state and local tax revenues have declined as a percentage of personal income. Creating a new exemption would result in substantial costs to the state as well as local governments. The state should impose a moratorium on new tax exemptions until the efficiency and appropriateness of existing exemptions are determined.

PROPOSITION NO. 11: The Texas Constitution prohibits a person from holding more than one civil office for compensation. State employees and others, such as current or retired public school teachers, who receive all or part of their compensation directly or indirectly from state funds, may serve on the governmental bodies of school districts, cities, towns, or other local government bodies, provided that they receive no salary for such service.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 11 would remove an antiquated prohibition that makes it difficult for teachers to serve as members of’ the governing boards of local government bodies. Those who wish to serve must give up any salary or other compensation normally provided for hours of public service. Many people who have run for these offices have been unaware of this prohibition and later have been forced to repay their salaries.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Good reasons exist for the constitutional prohibition against a person who is paid with taxpayer dollars holding more than one public position. When taxpayers are paying a person’s salary, they expect that person’s total commitment to the job. When a person accepts two offices, at some point those offices will come into conflict as to the amount of time required to do each job well.

PROPOSITION NO. 12: The Texas Constitution originally was adopted in 1876. Since then, the Legislature has proposed 567 amendments, of which Texas voters have approved 390. Various provisions have been rendered obsolete by federal judicial decisions or enactments, repeat the same or similar language or refer to programs and entities no longer in effect.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR THIS AMENDMENT: Proposition 12 would streamline the existing Constitution by deleting obsolete, inconsistent, and moot provisions, by relocating provisions to more logical places. and by renumbering provisions with duplicating numbering. All the proposed changes are relatively minor and non-controversial. None of the revisions warrant separate propositions and no one provision would justify rejecting the entire slate of changes.

REASONS TO CONSIDER VOTING AGAINST THIS AMENDMENT: Rather than amend and repeal sections of an out-of-date constitution, it would make more sense to overhaul the document to make it a leaner, more responsive blueprint for government for the new century. The sheer volume of unnecessary provisions being removed by Proposition 12, following two similar revisions in 1997 and 1999, shows the need for a complete overhaul.

If you would like additional information on these and the other 15 proposed amendments, feel free to call the office of State Representative Kevin Bailey at 281-847-9000.

UT to find out if they are contenders or pretenders against defending national champions this weekend

This is the way it used to be way back when the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma were fighting for national supremacy on a yearly basis 25 years or so ago.

This Saturday, the two Big 12 rivals will meet in their annual battle at the Cotton Bowl and there will be more at stake than which side of the Red River holds bragging rights for the next year, namely control of the Big 12’s North Division and along with that, the winner will remain firmly in the hunt for the national championship.

Before we look at that game, let’s review last week’s record and what the record looks like for the season. An 8-4 mark brought the season record to 16-8 (66 percent). Not too shabby.

Now let’s see what this week’s schedule has to offer.

Stratford vs. Aldine: The Mustangs ended non-district play with a 1-2 record after their 13-12 loss to Spring two weeks ago. Something tells me Aldine head coach Bill Smith will have his team ready for District 21-5A play and you can be sure he won’t let his troops look past Stratford, which was the surprise team of the league a year ago. Playing at Thorne Stadium will be a big advantage for the Mustangs as they begin righting the ship in league play. My pick, Aldine 23, Stratford 10

MacArthur vs. Spring Woods: The Generals also finished non-district play with a 1-2 record and injuries had a lot to do with that. MacArthur needs a confidence booster and they should get one this week. The Generals’ offense has been stymied for two weeks now, and head coach Terry Forga knows his team cannot afford to continue playing as it has the last two weeks if it hopes to contend for a playoff spot in one of the toughest districts in the state. My pick, MacArthur 26, Spring Woods 3

Eisenhower vs. Northbrook: The Eagles saw their chance for a second straight undefeated season come to an end two weeks ago when Lufkin won a 10-9 slugfest at Thorne Stadium, so they’ll be in a nasty mood when they visit undermanned Northbrook this weekend. Look for the Eagles to run at will in this one, while the defense shuts down the Raider offense. My pick, Eisenhower 41, Northbrook 7

Memorial vs. Nimitz: The best game in 21-5A this weekend. Both teams are playoff contenders, and the winner of this one will gain a lot of confidence and momentum. Nimitz rebounded nicely two weeks ago after a 41-0 loss to Westfield with a 28-20 victory over Washington. Memorial was the only 21-5A team to finish 3-0 in non-district play and head coach Gary Koch has another experienced senior-laden team. Nimitz will need to control the clock with its running game to keep Memorial’s Matt Young off the field. My pick, Nimitz 16, Memorial 14

Now let’s take a look at the college scene, where a number of key games are on tap outside of Dallas.

Florida at LSU: This is a huge game for Florida and its national title hopes. The Gators will get their first real test and it comes against a talented LSU team that is tough to beat at home. The LSU fans will be revved up for this one against a team they don’t (along with the rest of the SEC) have a lot of love for, but Florida has played in hostile surroundings before and it knows how to handle itself in big games. LSU will try and rattle sophomore quarterback Rex Grossman into mistakes and if they are successful, it will be crucial for the LSU offense to take advantage of its defense work. Florida head coach Steve Spurner knows he needs this game to remain in the BCS hunt, but something tells me those plans will get sidetracked this Saturday night in Death Valley. My pick, LSU 26, Florida 24

Northwestern at Ohio State: A key Big 10 game as the high-scoring Wildcats visit the defensive-minded Buckeyes this Saturday. Northwestern and super back Ladian Anderson can score from anywhere on the field, but they will be facing a stern defense in Ohio State. The Buckeyes proved that to a high-scoring UCLA team two weeks ago before falling 13-6. Still, the Achilles heel on the Buckeyes is at quarterback and if OSU can’t score, they can’t keep up with the Wildcats. My pick, Northwestern 27, Ohio State 18

Oregon at Arizona: This is a game Oregon had better not look past if it hopes to win the Pack 10 and remain in the hunt for a BCS bid. Arizona has played well under first-year head coach John Macovich and a win over the sixth-ranked Ducks would do much for the team’s confidence. Oregon quarterback Joey Herrington proved his mettle two weeks ago by leading his team on a late drive to pull out a 24-22 victory over USC. He’d better hope he has the magic touch again this weekend in the desert. My pick, Oregon 32, Arizona 30

Oklahoma vs. Texas: The eyes of the nation will be on this game as the defending national champions have their second straight test in as many weeks (OU hosted Kansas State on Sept. 29) in their quest to defend their national crown. Texas wants to make people forget about last year’s 63-14 loss they suffered to the Sooners and to prove to the country that they are indeed on pace to replace OU as national champs this year. This should be a classic meeting. Texas appears to have an offense that can score from any point on the field, while the OU defense looks better than the unit that won it all a year ago. The State Fair grounds and the Cotton Bowl will be rocking before this one, but the real action will take place on the field when these two talent-laden squads hit the field. OU won’t be intimidated by the Horns talent because they have plenty of their own and a head coach who knows how to prepare his team for a big game. While UT head coach Mac Brown has proven he can recruit as well as anybody in the lands, the jury is still out on whether he can coach that talent in a key game. This would be a good week to prove his critics wrong. My pick, Texas 34, OU 33

Now let’s take a look at what the NFL has to offer this weekend.

Tennessee at Baltimore: Who would have thought that the two teams that dominated the AFC a year ago come limping into this early-season showdown. This game is crucial for the Titans, who will enter with a 0-2 record, while the Ravens were shocked two weeks ago at Cincinnati. Both of these teams have offenses that are sputtering, but the return of Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair would be a huge boost for his team. This will be a tight game controlled by the defenses, and the Ravens have the best one going. My pick, Baltimore 13, Tennessee 10

Dallas at Oakland: This game was supposed to be played on Oct. 21, but due to a scheduling conflict with the baseball playoffs, the two teams were asked to move the game up by two weeks. It really doesn’t matter when this game is played, the Raiders will dominate a punch-less Dallas team that has no true quarterback. Look for the Raiders to attack, and attack some more as they look to get their offense untracked. My pick, Oakland 31, Dallas 10

Minnesota at New Orleans: The Vikings are another team that could be out of the playoff picture before it plays a quarter of its schedule. In their first two losses, the once potent Minnesota offense has looked weak and lethargic. Maybe this team misses All-Pro running back Robert Smith more than it thinks. The Saints, on the other hand, have only played twice in four weeks, so they should be rested and ready for their home opener. New Orleans will be jumping to see its Saints play, especially considering that this team is a viable Super Bowl contender. My pick, New Orleans 24, Minnesota 20

St. Louis at Detroit: Why was this game picked for Monday Night Football? I guess ABC wanted the country to see what a “real” offense looks like as opposed to what Detroit believes passes for an NFL offense. The Rams look like they did two years ago when they won the Super Bowl. Quarterback Kurt Warner is using all his weapons at his disposal, which has to keep defensive coordinators up late at night figuring out a way to stop him. When the Rams get through with the Lions, the Detroit coaching staff is going to be in store for one restless night. My pick, St. Louis 38, Detroit 14.