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Northeast News

PSI Homesavers complete fall home repairs

More than 2,500 volunteers from Houston businesses, churches, school and civic groups joined forces recently for the fall segment of PSI HomeSavers’ volunteer home repair program, according to Bob Conklin, executive director of PSI HomeSavers.

Volunteer crews invested some 30,000 hours in sweat equity to complete free exterior repairs for almost 100 elder or disabled homeowners in Houston. The repairs were valued in excess of $500,000.

“The response by volunteers to this service opportunity is remarkable,” Conklin said. “Once again the compassionate spirit of the people of Houston has given back to those in need.”

Volunteer representatives came from many Houston businesses, churches and organizations including ExxonMobil, Conoco, Bank of America, Second Baptist Church, Episcopal High School, Duke Energy and Schlumberger, among others.

HomeSavers organizes volunteer home repairs for elder or disabled homeowners in Houston twice a year. The spring 2002 segment of the home repairs will take place Saturday, April 20 and 27, 2002. The deadline for volunteer crew commitment is March 22, 2002.

PSI HomeSavers, a non-profit organization founded in 1982 by Rob Mosbacher, is located at 1111 Fannin, Suite 1335. HomeSavers initiates and encourages private sector involvement in addressing critical community needs with resources, expertise and compassion. HomeSavers’ primary focus is to deliver home repairs to qualified low-income elderly or disabled homeowners. For more information, call 713-659-2511 or visit www.psihomesavers.org.

TDH checking retail stores for recalled toys

They’re so cute – that soft goldfish rattle with the big eyes and that lifelike stuffed kitten that purrs when you pet it. And what child wouldn’t love a little toy troll that sticks out his tongue when you squeeze him, a flexible-neck lamp with Tweety’s face on its plastic shade or a cool baseball video game that features an electronic home plate, ball and bat?

Unfortunately, the goldfish’s sewn-on eyes and the troll’s balloon tongue can detach, causing a choking hazard. The water inside the stuffed kitten that makes it “lifelike” is contaminated. The bulb in the lamp is a fire and burn risk. And the video game’s electronic bat can separate during a swing, releasing broken pieces that have hit and injured numerous children.

These and several other potentially hazardous items make up a sort of “l0 Most Wanted” list for product safety division inspectors from the Texas Department of Health. Each fall, just before the big holiday shopping season the inspectors visit retail stores around Texas making sure that certain recalled toys are no longer available and giving retailers detailed information about each of the recalled items.

It’s called “Toy Sweep,” and it’s a four-day campaign to educate retailers and remind consumers that certain items have been recalled and are not safe for children. This year’s effort in the Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Lubbock and San Antonio areas was last week.

“We hold the Toy Sweep at this time because the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, and we want safety to be foremost in parents’ minds when they select toys for their children,” said Annabelle Dillard, chief of the field operations and compliance branch for TDH’s product safety division.

This year’s Toy Sweep will focus on a sampling of many different products. Some are choking hazards – toys in which the eyes are not sewn on well or toys that can break, causing small parts to be released. Some are electrical hazards (the lamp). Some are mechanical hazards – bicycles with frames or front-suspension forks that can break during use, resulting in serious injury, and the bat that can come apart. And one item, a soft toy for babies, has wire that can poke through fabric, causing cuts, scratches and other injuries.

Why these 10 out of the hundreds of items that manufacturers, in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, recall each year? Dillard says TDH tries to select different types of toys with different types of hazards that were distributed in Texas and have been recently recalled. Other criteria considered include whether any injuries were reported and whether a significantly large number of the toys were affected by the recall.

Dillard says that manufacturers have gotten better in recent years at getting information about recalled items to retailers. “The problem is that, once a product has been distributed, it’s very difficult to get the word out to all the retail outlets,” she said. “That is why a recalled product may still be on store shelves.”

For their part, retailers are extremely cooperative with inspectors, she adds. “They don’t want to sell an item that’s been recalled. They actually welcome our inspectors into their stores because they very much appreciate the information that we provide to them and because we can help them prevent the sale of these items.”

Educating the public is also an important aspect of the Toy Sweep. Dillard says it’s a good time to remind parents of things to keep in mind when they’re shopping for toys or evaluating toys they have at home.

• Read the label carefully. “It’s very important to look at the age levels that are recommended on the package,” she said. Even if you feel your child is advanced for his or her age, skill level isn’t the only issue; there are safety considerations as well.

•Look for any hazards associated with the toy. “The eyes may not be sewn on very well; they may have points or sharp edges that would not be appropriate for a younger child,” she said. “It’s important for parents to look at the toy as a whole and determine whether or not it’s an appropriate toy for their child.”

•Go ahead and buy the accompanying protective gear when you purchase items such as bicycles, scooters and roller blades. That means helmets for bikes and scooters, kneepads, helmets and shin guards for skates, says Dillard.

•If there is more than one child in the household, remember that there will be toys around that aren’t appropriate for all ages, abilities and skill levels. “It’s important to instruct older children how to take care of their toys, especially toys with small parts. Make sure they keep those out of the reach of their younger brothers and sisters.”

•Periodically examine your children’s toys. “It’s important for parents to look in their child’s toy box regularly, discarding any broken toys and seeing if any of the items there could present a choking hazard or are now dangerous,” she said. “A toy that was perfectly safe before may have received so much wear and tear that it’s no longer safe.”

If you find toys you believe are dangerous, defective or mislabeled, call the TDH product safety division at 512-834-6773. Information is available on the TDH product safety Web site at www.tdh.state.tx.us/beh/ps/ about toy and product hazards.

For more information about all recalled items, consumers can visit the CPSC Web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.

Celebrate an Old-fashioned Christmas at Jones Park

With the Houston area weather often remaining rather warm into the winter months, it is sometimes difficult to get into the spirit of the Christmas holiday season. What better way to kick things off than an Old-fashioned Christmas celebration Saturday, December 1 from 4 to 7 p.m.? This family-oriented event affords participants the opportunity to experience the Christmas traditions of earlier times as well as our international heritage.

The celebration begins on Jones Park’s outdoor stage with the traditional Hispanic music of Mariachi Continental, followed by the Aldine ISD Honor Choir singing a variety of Christmas favorites. Then Die Rathcarnp Deutsche Volkstanzgruppe und Singers, a German dance group, gives participants a festive interpretation of traditional German folk dances, celebrating the area’s German heritage.

To add to the holiday atmosphere, a pot-luck style feast is served during this festive holiday event. Each family brings an old-fashioned dish to add to the feast.

The festivities don’t stop there. Following the feast, everyone walks to Jones Park’s Redbud Hill Homestead for a multi-faceted Christmas celebration in the style of the early Texas settlers. Events take place at the log cabin, barn and open homestead area. Details are being held in strictest confidence and even a few surprises are possible, so this is sure to be an event to remember. Reservations are required for this event.

For those parents who need to do some holiday shopping “child-free,” Jones Park affords you an opportunity Sunday, December 2 from 1 to 4 p.m. during Drop-n-Shop. Children ages five and older are welcome to join park staff for this fun afternoon filled with holiday crafts, videos and snacks while you shop. Reservations are required.
Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility, is located at 20634 Kenswick Drive 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.

Veteran’s reunion group to visit Europe

Normandy,(D-Day) European Theater reunion group (WWII) will return to England & France may 17, 2002
Veterans of D-Day, June 1944 and the European Theater of Operations (ETO) will depart New York, May 17, 2002 for a nostalgic Reunion Tour of London, Portsmouth, Brighton, Normandy including Omaha & Utah Beaches, Military Cemeteries, Cherbourg, Caen, Ste. Mere Eglise, Paris, etc.
American & Canadian Veterans can contact Sy Canton, Executive Director. Normandy- European Theater of Operations (ETO) Reunion Group (WWII) at 5277B Lakefront Blvd., Delray Beach, FL., 33484 or telephone 561-865-8495.

METRO and Crime Stoppers team together to combat copycat terrorist activities

In what is believed to be the first such partnership of Its kind. Metro and Crime Stoppers announced today a joint partnership to proactively deter future terrorist acts against this regions public transit system.

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States and since October 13, Metro has seen close to 30 copycat anthrax-type scares on its buses and property. While all the powdery substances left aboard Metro buses or at Metro facilities have proven harmless, these threats have inconvenienced bus patrons and cost hours of law enforcement and emergency personnel time.

Metro and Crime Stoppers are asking the community to help ensure public transportation remains safe by reporting any suspicious activity to 713-222-TIPS. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards up to $5,000 for felony crimes, and under this new partnership is guaranteeing a reward of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and charging of those committing terrorist acts on Metro property.

Marketing materials in both English and Spanish encouraging patrons to “Stop Crime” are being put on all Metro buses, trolleys and MetroLift vehicles, as well as at all Park & Ride lots and Transit Centers. Fliers are being distributed to bus riders. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office are working with Metro and Crime Stoppers to prosecute offenders.

“Riders need to feel safe when they’re using public transportation – and need to know we don’t tolerate those who make threats against our patrons or our employees,” said Metro President & CEO Shirley A. DeLibero. “All of us, together, must ensure that in these extraordinary times we can go about our ordinary lives in a safe way. What better community partnership than buses full of eyes and ears to help stop crime.”

“This is the first proactive measure taken by a mass transit authority and Crime Stoppers to deter copycat terrorism,” said Crime Stoppers Executive Director Kim Ogg. “Those who ride transit because they want to or because they have to should not suffer because of cowards who threaten bioterrorism – real or fake.”

‘Game,’ set and match

“Spy Game” is an entertaining set piece for the star match up of two of Hollywood’s premiere blond pretty boys, Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

The craggy, but still handsome Redford plays mentor to Pitt who is finally losing some of boyishness. Not that the duo’s looks play a big part in “Spy Game.”

But it obviously was a coup for director Tony Scott (“Crimson Tide,” “Enemy of the State”) to get Pitt and Redford because of their star power, which would appeal to a wide range of people – young and old.

It helps that the two can do more than look good and be charming when given decent material. Thankfully, “Spy Game” is just such material.

It doesn’t help that Scott almost messes up the taut, intelligent script with dizzying quick cuts, superfluous freeze frames and too many types of film stock and unnatural lighting.

Try to ignore those aspects of the film along with the unnecessary times stamped on the screen to tell us the clock is ticking down. That’s a literary devise best handled another way in movies.

Time is a major factor in “Game.” Redford is Nathan Muir, a veteran spook down to his last day on the job. His last 24 hours are spent explaining Tom Bishop, one of his star pupils, to stuffy, very serious suits at CIA headquarters. They care about Bishop, played by Pitt, because he’s being held prisoner in China after trying to free an inmate there.

Bishop’s mission in the prison – the exciting opening scene – was not authorized by the agency and his capture is an embarrassment in light of an upcoming presidential visit. So the agency wants to deny his existence and let the Chinese execute him in 24 hours.

It’s a game of the suits against the grunts. The agents in the field know how to do dirty work. They have to face the people they are about to play as suckers or let loose to the bad guys – or kill. Suits do this while sitting behind soundproof doors in front of television or computer screens.

Muir has spent years being callous, but has mellowed in his last days and does not want the agency to give Bishop up, but he can’t tell them that, so he must play his cards very close to his nose and be ultra cool and calm while doing it. This is not easy because even though they all wear nearly identical black suits, they’ve had some spy training too. Plus they are all, including Muir, very paranoid – not that that’s always a bad thing.

There are numerous tense, exciting scenes as Muir recounts the 16 years he’s known Bishop while in Vietnam, East Germany and Beirut, but the narrative is dialogue driven. The talk never gets boring because of the snappy dialogue and performances that let us know there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.

The times we live in help make the whole espionage genre a bit more interesting. These are not James Bond figures running around with gadgets making quips. These spies are in realistic danger as they play their life and death games.

There’s a lot of good stuff in “Spy Game,” – especially if you like the genre – but it could have been much better. On top of the excesses of the director already mentioned, a little motivation would have been nice.

With all it has going for it, it does not seem like it would have been hard to add some more depth.
Oh well, it’s still entertaining and would make a good companion to the recent “Heist” for those who want more adult fare than “Harry” and “Monster.”
Rated-R for language, some violence and brief sexuality.

Just for Women Conference at Community Center, Dec. 1

The Aldine Youth Community Center will host a Just for Women Conference from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st.

The luncheon speaker will be Dr. San Juanita Garza.
Conference topics will include Relationships with Tameka Susberry; Spirituality with Brandy Thompson; Etiquette and Social skills with Rochelle O. Barrow and Women’s Health Issues with Carrie Robertson.
There will be a Fashion Show presented by the Majestic Ladies of Jones High School.

To make reservations, please call 281-449-4828. Conference attendees are asked to bring a salad and/or an unwrapped toy.

American Cancer Society’s 2002 Texas Golf Pass is on sale now

Trying to find something for that special person who has everything? Want to help out a good cause while you’re sharing the holiday spirit with friends and family? Then why not give the American Cancer Society’s 2002 Texas Golf Pass?

Available now, the new Texas Golf Pass offers free green fees at 289 participating courses throughout Texas. Courses in the Houston area include Green Meadows Golf Club, Hackberry, Melrose, Pinecrest, Clear Lake and Brock Park. There are 52 courses in the Gulf Coast area including: Channelview, Conroe, Crosby, Friendswood, Houston, Kingwood, Pasadena and many more.

The 2002 Texas Golf Pass is only a contribution of $35 and will benefit the cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services programs of the American Cancer Society. So, not only is the Texas Golf Pass a good gift, it’s a good investment in the fight against cancer.

For more information or to order the 2002 Texas Golf Pass, contact your local American Cancer Society office at 713.266.2877 or call l-800-ACS-2345 or order online at www.texasgolfpass.com

GPD’s Crisis Intervention Team recognized

The Houston Police Department and the Mental Health Association of Greater Houston recently recognized the exemplary efforts of the HPD’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). HPD Officer Debbie Cannon of the Northeast Patrol Division was presented an award for her nomination by her peers as the Outstanding CIT Officer for her shift. Officer Cannon receives her award from HPD Chief C.O. Bradford (r) and Brad Raffle, president of the Mental Health Association. The HPD CIT program has trained more than 700 police officers and is recognized as the largest program of its kind in the country. The CIT program is a prime example of what can be achieved when law enforcement and the community work together. The HPD is in the process of training law enforcement officers throughout Harris County and the state.

The Great Escape: Head South to Fish the Padre Island Surf

The Texas coast is hundreds of miles of beaches, passes, inlets, jetties, rock groins, and shoreline grass marshes. Fishing opportunities abound! Because of our mild climate, this expansive paradise can be fished year round.

Long after the winter chills in other parts of the country has forced all but the saltiest coastal fishermen to pull in their lines and retreat, lucky Texas anglers are still pulling gamefish from our coastal waters. Especially, Texas surf fishing holds opportunities that aren’t found in either bay fishing or the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Padre Island shoreline gives the fisherman, willing to make the trip, a solitude on a glistening December surf that is difficult to find any place else on the coast.

Once the surf angler reaches the Padre Island National Seashore just out of Corpus Christi, he has about 60 miles “beyond the blacktop” of sandy beaches, sand dunes, fishing opportunity… and occasionally another angler. Especially this time of year when many Texas outdoorsmen are distracted by shotguns and ducks or bows and whitetail deer, the surf fisherman is apt to find himself alone on long, desolate stretches of beach.

Fish the Texas bays, and it’s a given that speckled trout, redfish, sand trout, flounder, black drum, or gafftop will be on the menu. Fish the Gulf of Mexico, and the quarry grows in the number of species. Surrounded by the open and deeper expanses of Gulf waters, larger species such as king mackerel, dolphin, ling, tuna, and sharks might be included in the catch of the day.

However, the Texas surf is different. One strike may be a one pound whiting, and the next cast may produce a six-foot bull shark. This variety only adds to the excitement and mystery of fishing the Texas surf.

Sharks are a premier prize from the surf, whether they are the small 3 or 4’ blacktip and Atlantic sharpnose that are common surf runners or the bigger hammerhead, larger blacktip, or the bull sharks which can range up to several hundred pounds.

Getting set up to fish the surf is relatively easy. There are at least a half-dozen ways to rig for natural bait and enough artificial lures to fill a tackle box to choose from. But, most anglers found fishing the surf will be using live shrimp, mullet, croaker, piggy perch, or cut chunks of mullet. Peeled shrimp tails or pieces of squid are also popular. In fishing specifically for sharks, popular baits are pieces of whiting or big chunks of bloody jackfish fished along the bottom.

The best salty surf fishermen develop ability for seeing signs along the beachfront, but there are some things that may be apparent even to the beginner or a fisherman new to the area. Much of this depends on a trained eye and knowing what to look for. Usually, you want to look for coves or pockets that the beach currents create.

There are tip-offs to promising fishing spots, but an angler must understand a basic layout of the bottom beneath the breakers. Along the Gulf shoreline, the bottom doesn’t just slope away uninterrupted from the beach. It is broken up by troughs or “guts” that parallel the beach and are separated by natural sandbars between each gut.

The first trough is barely noticeable and is typically knee to thigh deep. The second gut is deeper, perhaps chest to neck deep. The “infamous third bar is generally too deep to wade to without perhaps paddling out to on a calm day.

The beauty of Padre Island shoreline is the number of light tackle fish to be caught in the first and second guts. Swarms of surf running speckled trout, redfish, pompano, skipjack (ladyfish), whiting, and Spanish mackerel are hard fighting options on lightweight tackle during the right tide.

Along the National Seashore, south of Malaquite Beach Visitors Center, there are mile markers posted every five miles. From the end of the pavement about five miles beyond the pavement’s end is a “four wheel drive” warning sign explaining that only 4WD equipped vehicles should venture beyond that point. Past there, you are on your own. Use caution and common sense.

During the late fall, two areas of the National Seashore are worth of mention. The first is between the 9-Mile and 12-Mile markers, an area known as Little Shell Beach. This beach is named for the number of small clams called coquinas found there.
The second area is located between mile marker 16 to mile marker 28 about 22-26 miles farther south known is Big Shell Beach, which draws its name from the numerous larger ark shells found there.

Those adventurous anglers equipped with a 4WD vehicle and fueled with the lure of high drama might do well to work their way down the coast. At a bout 48 miles, there is a desolate area widely known for its big shark fishing. There, you may find several serious anglers armed with serious surf rods and geared to catch some of the numerous species of the heavyweight brutes known to cruise those shorelines. Again, use caution. Don’t let your lust for excitement get you stranded on a most desolate part of the beach.

If the lure of salt air, deserted beaches, and the adventure of a Texas coastal getaway beckons you, head south! It is the perfect time of year to find the promise of fighting fish along miles of the Padre Island surf.