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Northeast News

WANTED FOR ARSON

This week’s Crime Stoppers report involves a case of arson of the Civil Courts building in downtown Houston.

On Saturday, July 28th at approximately 3:00 a.m., a suspect or suspects intentionally started a fire in the Civil Courts building located in the 300 block of Fannin.

Evidence at the scene revealed that the window on the northeast corner of the building had been broken out and a flammable liquid had been poured onto and in the building to intentionally start the fire.

A security guard working in an adjacent parking lot heard an explosion and saw flames coming from the northeast corner of the building.

The security guard also saw a large black sport utility vehicle (possibly a Lincoln Navigator or Ford Expedition) pulling out from the northeast corner of the block onto Congress Street.

The vehicle fled the scene westbound on Congress.
Anyone with information on the identity or location of the suspect or suspects responsible for this Arson is urged to call Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers will pay cash rewards of up to $5,000.00 for information that results in the arrest and charging of a suspect or suspects in any felony crime.

Call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS / 713-222-8477. Your Identity will remain anonymous.

Tipsters may receive as much as $5,000.00 in specific felony cases where the public is deemed to be at a higher risk of being victimized.

Fight scenes help “The Musketeer”

“The Musketeer” is basically a poorly acted, poorly directed film, but some spectacular fight scenes and the presence of the legendary, and still stunning, Catherine Deneuve make it worth a watch – if you care about such things and have little else to do.

If you are going to update a classic — approximately nine movies have been made from the Alexander Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers,” at least a couple of them competently – you need to make it fresh and exciting, not just intermittently exciting.

The sword battles and gravity defying stunts that highlight “The Musketeer” are well executed and awe inspiring, but unfortunately, you also have to sit through drab, stilted dialogue, a tired story and grainy film with too many dark, fast cuts. It takes a while to get a good look at the supposedly handsome young star.

The movie starts with the young D’Artagnan vowing to avenge his parents’ murder by the evil Febre, played well by Tim Roth. His heartless villain shtick is getting old, though – “Rob Roy,” “The Planet of the Apes” and now this. Well. At least he’s good at it.

Justin Chambers, a former model who was recently in “The Wedding Planner,” plays the grown up D’Artagnan. He’s learned his craft well and is ready, willing and able to save women and children as he works to become a musketeer and kill Febre, Cardinal Richelieu’s (Stephen Rea) henchman.
As far as I could tell, Chambers’s biggest talent is having a lovely body.

Following tradition, D’Artagnan meets up with Porthos, Aramis and Athos, musketeers who have been dismissed as the king’s guards because of an incident carried out by Febre. The older musketeers only welcome “D’Artagnan after he’s proven his prowess at fighting.

D’Artagnan’s prowess with women is less evident as he bumbles around the lovely chambermaid, played by the lovely Mena Suvari, who was so much better in “American Beauty” and “American Pie 2.”

The always joy-to-watch Deneuve (who gets top billing) brings much needed class to the production as the Queen of France. Her part is small, but she’s better than the role, actually better than the movie – which begs the question of why she bothered.

The real star of “The Musketeer” is Xin-Xin Xiong, the veteran stunt coordinator from Hong Kong. The scenes he choreographs are a step above the rest of the film – other then the few scenes with Deneuve. The final fight that takes place on numerous ladders, is alone, almost worth the price of admission. And any fans of old westerns will surely enjoy the breakneck antics on a stagecoach.

Director/cinematographer Peter Hyams continues the hack status he earned making “The Presidio,” “The Relic” and “End of Days” and many other forgettable films. Rated-PG-13 for intense action, violence and some sexual material.

Be wary of work-at-home Offers

Q. I answered an ad that promised a great income doing medical billing for doctors’ offices. I had to pay for training and some very expensive computer software. I received a mailing list of potential clients, but I haven’t been able to sign anyone. All of the doctors I contact say they do their own billing. I contacted the company about a refund, but I can’t get an answer. Can you help?

A: The Consumer Protection Division of my office receives a lot of complaints about various work-at-home opportunities that turn out not to be as advertised. Many of the complaints are about medical billing opportunities. In fact, my office recently won a jury verdict against a medical billing company promoter.

My office had filed suit against Ruth Steiber and her businesses—Doctor’s Advantage and R&S Consulting Services for allegedly enticing work-at-home clients into thinking they could earn a substantial income by operating billing services for doctors. A Harris County jury found Steiber guilty of engaging in false, misleading, and deceptive acts under both the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Business Opportunities Act. The jury ordered $170,000 in civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.

My office is also seeking $400,000 in restitution for injured consumers. The court will rule on this within a few weeks.

During the trial, more than 30 victims testified that they had purchased Steiber’s program, which included software and mailing lists. What Steiber didn’t tell customers was that they had received the same mass-mailing list and brochures as many other customers in the Houston area.

The victims also testified that Steiber did not return calls requesting assistance and failed to provide the support and marketing expertise that she promised.

This type of scheme is just one of many we hear about. Some others include:

•Sew-at-home offers: This Oregon-based scheme promised customers high income and guaranteed work and training. The offer required clients to buy an expensive sewing machine.

Some clients never received the machine, while others never received the promised training or weren’t paid for work completed.

•Make-at-home necklaces: A Florida company offered to pay clients $60 each for necklaces assembled at home. Each client paid a $3,000 deposit and received supplies for 30 necklaces.

They were promised $1,800 plus a refund of their deposit and told they would receive a commission for recruiting new clients. The company claimed the profit would come from the sale of necklaces. In fact, the company used the deposits paid by new clients to pay off old clients, making it a pyramid scheme.

•Envelope stuffing: In this Iowa-based scheme, consumers were told they could earn $5,000 per week for a one-time fee of $139.

They were also promised a money-back guarantee and a full refund after their third paycheck. Consumers who mailed in the fee received nothing in return. In a common variation on this scheme, consumers who respond to the offer are told to run an ad in the newspaper offering, for a fee, to tell others how they can make money by stuffing envelopes.

If you believe you have been the victim of a work-at-home scam, you can file a complaint through my office. You can request a complaint form by calling us at (800) 621-0508. Forms are also available through our Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us. Remember, the best way to avoid being scammed is to remember this rule:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Houston retailer never thought it would happen!

Last Friday, the Texas Lottery Commission presented a ceremonial $130,000 retailer bonus check to A&L Postal Services’ owner, Olasupo Otulana. The retailer sold the jackpot-winning Lotto Texas ticket for the Saturday, July 7, 2001, drawing worth an estimated $13 million.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Otulana. “I never thought it would happen here, not in a million years! It was wonderful to have a winner right after all the devastation of the hurricane.”

The sole winner of the $13 million jackpot prize was CSF Partnership of Houston. Fortunately, the winner was not affected by the destruction of Hurricane Allison, and collected the prize on Friday, July 20th. The winner chose the Cash Value Option and collected $7,541,024.40, before taxes.
“Everyone wants to play at the lucky store now,” Otulana said. “It was great that it was one of our customers.”

Otulana told lottery officials he plans on investing the bonus safely and wisely. He has owned A&L Postal Services, at 5170 Aldine Mail Route in Houston, for five years.

On hand for the special ceremony was Texas Lottery Online Product Manager, Robert Tirloni, storeowner Olasupo Otulana, and the Houston District Sales Manager for GTECH, Pauline Medrano.

“The Texas Lottery realizes the driving force behind our success with players is the dedication and effort from our retailers,” said Tirloni. “We have approximately 17,000 retailers statewide working with us every day, and it’s a pleasure when we get to reward one of them for selling a jackpot-winning Lotto Texas ticket.”

Legislative leadership appoints select committee to study public school finance in Texas

AUSTIN—Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff and House Speaker Pete Laney last Wednesday announced they have appointed a joint select committee to studs the public school finance system in Texas.

“Once again, the time has come to examine the way Texas pays for public education and look at alternative methods that will meet constitutional muster,” Ratliff said. “The dynamics of state funding and local property taxes are changing. We must ask ourselves if there is a better way to pay for our schools.”

Ratliff and Laney said they have charged the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance with conducting a comprehensive review of the structure of the Texas public school finance system, including facilities and transportation issues; the method used to fund public schools; and the criteria used to determine state payments to school districts.

The legislative leaders also have instructed the select committee to carefully consider all of the equity issues that govern public school finance and fully examine all of the revenue resources for funding public schools, including the state’s property tax system.

“Texas has been well served by the school finance system in place since 1993, but economic and social changes over the last few years require us to take a new look at how we fund our schools,” Laney said. “The makeup of this committee shows the importance of public education as the top priority of state government. Its members will evaluate what’s good about the current system and what problems it presents, focusing on equality and fairness for both taxpayers and school districts.”

Ratliff has appointed Sen. Ted Bivins of Amarillo, Sen. Steve Ogden of College Station, Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. and Sen. Royce West of Dallas to the committee.

House members appointed by Laney include Rep. Paul Sadler of Henderson, Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston, Rep. Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, Rep. Scott Hochberg of Houston, Rep. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, and Rep. Todd Smith of Bedford.
Public members appointed by Ratliff and Laney include Kent Caperton, former state senator and shareholder in the Austin law firm of Winstead, Sechrest and Minick, P.C.; Will Davis, former member of the State Board of Education; Craig Foster, cofounder, special adviser and former executive director of the Equity Center; Lyndon Olson, former chairman of the State Board of Insurance and former U.S. ambassador to Sweden; Mark Stiles, senior vice president of Trinity Industries of Dallas and former member of the Texas House of Representatives; and David Thompson, partner with the Houston law firm of Bracewell and Patterson, L.L.P. specializing in school law.
Sen. Bivins and Rep. Sadler will serve as co-chairs of the committee.

The Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance will report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature for consideration in the next Regular Session in 2003.

New mobile medical screening unit being launched today

The Ronald McDonald Mobile Unit that will soon begin providing free screening services in the northern portion of Harris County was donated to the Harris County Hospital District Foundation by Ronald McDonald Charities. The goal of the unit is to provide free screening services and health education to Harris County children (ages 0-20) that are not currently accessing services at a health center, school-based clinic, or other established health care location, and to facilitate establishment of a primary care home for them. The services that will be provided on the unit are as follows:

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 into the Harris County Hospital District Community Health Program for a primary care home once they are determined to be eligible for HCHD services.

The unit will begin operations on Tuesdays and Saturdays until full-time staff is hired, after which services will be provided Tuesday through Saturday. The initial schedule is:

Tuesday, Sept. 11, Burrus Elementary School, 701 E. 33rd. St. – unit will be on site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 15, Northwest Health Center Health Fair, 1100 W. 34th – unit will be on site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 18, St. Leo The Great Parish, 2131 Lauder Rd. – unit will be on site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sites for the other Tuesdays and Saturdays in September will soon be confirmed and will be published as soon as possible.

Houston to host stamp show

The Greater Houston Stamp Show (GHSS), one of the largest annual events for stamp collectors in Texas, will take place September 14-15-16 at the Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway in Humble. Hours for the show are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. The show is open to the public, admission and parking are free, and door prizes will be awarded each hour.

This year, the GHSS has planned events that offer something for every stamp collector’s interest. There will be 33 stamp dealers in attendance to buy and sell stamps and covers from “penny box” material to world-class rarities. The show will host a floor auction on Saturday, and the United States Postal Service will set up a special postal station each day featuring a special cancel.

GHSS will feature large beginners’ area and will conduct planned children’s activities. The show is hosting an exhibit of personal stamp collections displayed in competition, including rare and unusual items from the pre-stamp era to modern times.

On Saturday a representative of the Boy Scouts of America will hold clinics to assist in qualifying scouts for the Stamp Collecting Merit Badge. Also on Saturday show attendees are invited to attend seminars on a variety of stamp collecting subjects.

Houston Parks Department hosts free Junior Golf Festival

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department is inviting boys and girls ages 7-18 to take a swing, a drive, and a putt, in the FREE Junior Golf Festival, September 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Youth will have the chance to learn golf fundamentals in special clinics taught by PGA professionals at the new First Tee Junior Golf Facility at F.M. Law Park located at 8400 Mykawa.

This course is pretty awesome with nine holes, a driving range, putting green, an indoor practice and video learning facility and a pro-shop. And the best part is that this course is for kids only!
In addition to festival activities, all festival-goers can sign up on the green to participate in the free Junior Golf Program. Junior golfers receive free lessons from PGA professionals, and at the end of each session, they receive certificates of completion.

So get into the swing! Parents, bring your youngsters to the festival and register them for the best game in town. For more information, call the Houston Parks and Recreation Junior Golf Office at 713-264-2100.

PSI HomeSavers kicks off fall home repair campaign with call for volunteer crews

PSI HomeSavers, a non-profit founded in 1982 by Rob Mosbacher, is asking crew sponsors to commit to participating in the October segment of the HomeSavers Volunteer Program, according to Bob Conklin, executive director of PSI HomeSavers.

Local churches, schools, civic organizations and corporations that sponsor crews work alone or with another group to complete exterior home repairs. Crews usually have 20 or more volunteers, however, crews as small as 10 may be accepted. Volunteer crews will be dispatched to more than 100 homes to perform essential exterior home repairs Saturday, Oct. 20 and 27. Groups interested in participating in the fall segment should contact HomeSavers at 713-659-2511. The deadline for crew commitment is Friday, Sept. 21.

HomeSavers offers opportunities for volunteer crews of all skill levels. Unskilled crews will be placed at homes needing painting or yard cleanup. Skilled crews perform more complex home repairs including siding replacement, window and doorsills, porch decking and structural repairs.

Low-income homeowners with disabilities or at least 62 years of age are eligible for repairs through the program. Homeowners who are interested in being part of the program should call HomeSavers at 713-659-1806 with their name and address. All repairs are free to qualified clients.

HomeSavers, 20 years old, is a leader in affordable housing in Houston, managing up to $4 million in completed home repair projects annually. Exterior repair projects are delivered through the HomeSavers Volunteer Program and funded by the private sector. New roofs and interiors repairs are funded by the public sector and completed by contractors.

Through the HomeSavers Volunteer Program, volunteer crews sponsored by corporations, churches, schools and non-profit organizations repair home exteriors. Since 1985, HomeSavers has been responsible for almost 3,600 restored home exteriors. The volunteer servant base has expanded to more than 5,000 employees and members volunteering in up to 300 crews annually.

Roof and critical interior repairs are completed by contractors through the Roofs Over Houston and Interior Repairs programs. These programs have delivered more than 1,350 new roofs and more than 1,100 interior system repairs since 1996. In addition to restoring roofs, contractors repair plumbing, electrical systems, foundations and weatherization work including doors, windows, walls and ceilings to provide safe, secure living.
PSI HomeSavers is participating in the Allison Recovery Initiative. Homeowners needing “clean-out” should call 713-822-8815. For repairs, call the IDRA hotline at 713-621-2125.

PSI HomeSavers is located at 1111 Fannin, Suite 1335, Houston, Texas 77002. A nonprofit corporation, PSI HomeSavers initiates and encourages private sector involvement in addressing critical community needs with resources, expertise and compassion. PSI HomeSavers’ primary focus is to deliver home repairs to qualified low-income elder or disabled homeowners. For more information, please call PSI at 713-659-2511 or visit its Web site at www.psihomesavers.org.

Biotechnology big draw at HCC-NE College Fest

Sharita Smith wants to be a forensic investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Jacqueline Wells wants to obtain the necessary skills to augment her bachelor’s degree in biology and begin a new career after 20 years of being a stay-at-home Mom.

The two met recently at College Fest, and will be classmates by the end of the month in the new biotechnology program at Houston Community College (HCC)-Northeast.

An annual event at HCC-Northeast, College Fest is held each summer to provide prospective students with an opportunity to explore the many certificate and degree programs offered by the College. In an informal setting complete with refreshments and door prizes, participants can meet with counselors to map out career plans, discuss avenues for financial aid, apply for admissions and even register for classes.

Smith and Wells were two of nearly 100 participants that took advantage of the opportunity this year.
An American Chemical Society Minority Scholar, Smith is a recent graduate of ITT with an Associate’s degree in Chemical Laboratory Technology. She heard about HCC-Northeast’s biotechnology program while at ITT and came to visit with department chair Dr. John Galiotos to determine if it fit into her ultimate career plans.

“My goal is to become a forensic scientist with the FBI,” she said, “and a lot of the skills needed for that position can be obtained here at HCC, so I’ve decided to go through the Biotech program here before pursuing my bachelor’s degree at Georgia Tech.”

Mrs. Wells already has her bachelor’s degree.
“I graduated from Prairie View A & M in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology,” she noted, adding: “With the exception of being a substitute teacher off and on, however, I’ve not used my degree because I chose to be a stay-at-home mom in order to be more involved in my children’s activities.”

“Now it’s mom’s turn to begin a new career,” she said, “so I’m coming back to school to acquire skills that, along with my degree, can open up paths of career opportunities. and we’ll just see where they go.”

For more information about registration or the Biotechnology program at HCC-Northeast, call 713-718-8300.