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Northeast News

Ruth’s House helps kids go back to school

Hundreds of poor children from northeast Houston who couldn’t afford school supplies and uniforms this year found a helping hand from an old friend. Ruth’s House Assistance Ministry, a ministry of Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inc., distributed pencils, paper and other basic supplies to 334 Houston children through its annual Back-to-School program. Ruth’s House also provided 288 school uniforms to needy children.

“This program lessens needy families’ financial strain when readying their children for school,” said Ruth’s House Director Ophelia Webb. Education is important for every child. If we can remove some barriers in children’s learning, then we have done something positive.”

Since 1998, the Back-to-School program has served children in northeast Houston through partnerships with area businesses and donations from individuals, community organizations and church congregations.

Ruth’s House has served individuals and families facing unexpected financial crises in northeast Houston since 1992. Assistance includes the distribution of food and clothing, rent and utility vouchers, back-to-school supplies and special assistance during the holidays. Ruth’s House also hosts innovative programs that empower the needy to successfully support their families.

Lutheran Social Services of the South is the social service arm of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. LSS annually serves nearly 26,000 poor, children and elderly in Texas and Louisiana regardless of religious beliefs, ethnicity, gender or age. Its ministry includes emergency assistance, children’s residential treatment centers, therapeutic foster care, adoption, adult day care, health care and retirement centers and disaster response.

Public Assistance and Child Support

Q: I do not receive any form of public support for my children. I have heard that the Office of the Attorney General puts parents who receive welfare ahead of those who don’t when providing child support services. Is that true?

A: No. The Office of the Attorney General is required by law to provide child support services to all parents equally. Families who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and/or Medicaid benefits and families who apply for our services but do not receive public assistance are entitled to the same services, free of charge.
To receive TANF benefits through the Texas Department of Human Services, recipients must cooperate with the Office of the Attorney General’s efforts to identify their child(ren)’s non-custodial parent and collect child support. The State of Texas wants non-custodial parents to pay child support and provide medical insurance instead of Texas taxpayers.

When a custodial parent applies for TANF benefits, the case is automatically referred to the Office of the Attorney General and a child support file is opened.

A TANF recipient must also assign to the State the right to collect child support. The parent receives a supplemental grant of up to $50 each month that child support is collected. The rest of the support payment is used to reimburse the state and federal governments for benefits received by the family. When the family goes off TANF, all subsequent support payments are sent to the custodial parent.

Custodial or non-custodial parents of children who do not receive public assistance must contact the Office of the Attorney General to open a child support case. Parents can call the nearest child support field office listed in the phone directory or call toll free (1-800-252-8014) to request an application. Applications are also available from the child support section of the Attorney General’s Web site at

Q: Why do you always refer to “dead beat dads” and never mention “dead beat moms”?

A: The Office of the Attorney General does not use the term “dead beat dad.” Such a phrase can mistakenly paint all non-custodial parents as “dead beat” fathers who fail to pay child support and provide emotional involvement in the lives of their child(ren). Thousands of non-custodial fathers across Texas support their children financially and emotionally.

Furthermore, the gender of the non-custodial parent has no bearing on whether he or she is paying child support. It is a sad fact that, many non-custodial mothers and fathers fail to meet their financial and moral obligation to pay child support. In these cases, my office differentiates between “dead broke” parents and “dead beat” parents.
Those who cannot pay child support because they don’t have a job are “dead broke.” If they want to do the right thing and support their children, we will help them get a job so they can pay their child support.

The Office of the Attorney General has established an innovative program in conjunction with the Texas Workforce Commission.

Parents are referred by the courts to participate in job training and employment referral programs provided by the Local Workforce Development Board in many cities across the state.

Parents who refuse to take responsibility for their children, even though they are financially capable of doing so, are “dead beats” and morally bankrupt. The Attorney General’s office uses legal remedies to garnishee wages, suspend licenses and intercept tax refunds.

When all else fails, the Office of the Attorney General works with local authorities to arrest and incarcerate delinquent non-custodial parents. Parents who are arrested face up to six months in jail.

Felony offenders can receive a maximum of two years in jail.

Houston Community College students weigh results of Zero-G experiments

Two Houston Community College student teams, which flew their microgravity experiments in zero gravity aboard a KC-135 through the Johnson Space Center’s Community College Reduced Gravity Student Flight Campaign, have completed their data analysis in post-flight reports to NASA.

Both teams, under the guidance of Dr. Robert Keating, biology instructor and chair of the HCC-NW biological sciences department, along with faculty advisors, Drs. Judith Solti, Richard Merritt and Ed McNack, are now presenting their project results to Houston area middle and high schools to encourage student interest in science and space.

Biology students Pamela McMullen, Claudia Gonzalez, and Philip Pablo studied the effects of 0G and 1.8G conditions on the tonic responses of Elodea plant cells.

“If we’re going to travel and live in outer space,” says Philip Pablo, “we’ll need to know how to grow food in zero gravity conditions. This experiment will help determine which nutrient solutions are best suited to long-term hydroponic plant growth.”

Elodea camidensis is an aquatic perennial whose thin leaf and chloroplast and cytoplasmic streaming are easily observed under a microscope.

The students mounted fresh samples of Elodea leaf on slides prior to the flight.

A microscope attached to a video camera and recorder monitored the morphology of the leaves for later analysis. Control experiments were conducted simultaneously on the ground. Additionally, fresh Elodea plants were flown in three separate containers of isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic solutions that were placed in a flight bag and observed post-flight for structural changes.

The in-flight slide samples revealed that the G forces associated with takeoff alone were sufficient to cause some changes in the cellular morphology of the Elodea leaf.

The team surmised that changes in cell shape during the flights might be attributed to the chemical nature of the cell wall. Plant cell walls are made of cellulose, which shows a considerable amount of resilience that could change in response to varying gravitational environments. Though the effects of normal gravity on the orientation of plants are well established, the results of marked changes in gravity on plants are not as clearly defined
The contained Elodea samples in three solutions yielded similar responses to the slide samples, namely that cellular changes were more pronounced than in the control samples. The results of these experiments provide some initial information on cellular alterations that could impact sustaining plant life over long-term space travel.

Students Kimberley McMahon, Chip Kaiser, Philip Lanham, Angela Mills, and Julie Vaught developed an experiment to compare the effect of reduced gravity on the vital signs of students compared to those obtained in a normal gravitational environment.

Using a computerized Biopak™ student physiology unit, they were able to take multiple measurements – pulse rate, reflex reaction times, and electrocardiography – with one apparatus
Alternating as subjects and observers on the flight, the students performed various actions throughout the 0G to 2G range while tethered to the Biopak. Their initial hypothesis was that the human body would show increased effects of stress during 1.8G to 0G; conversely, 0G will produce decreased effects in the human body as compared to 1G (control).

Control data was obtained from the subjects in a seated, relaxed position several weeks prior to the flights. The flight data was recorded on the test subjects in various positions during 0G and 1.8G. Control and in-flight procedures were the same. The subject was connected to three sensors that monitored the physiological responses and led into a transducer that relayed the information to the computer. The flight observer set up the software, calibrated the computer for data recording, operated the apparatus and monitored the subject.
Flight data was recorded on the test subject in three positions. The first ten parabolas were in the standing position, the second ten were in the sitting position and following five were in the reclining position.

In general, the subject’s ECG was elevated during the entire flight, as compared to normal (1G) control readings. The subject’s pulse rate was elevated during the 1.8G and 0G segments. The 1.0G control data showed lower pulse levels.
The subject’s respiration was depressed to the point of a flat line at times (0-volume exchange) during the 1.8G phase. However, the 0G phases produced a wide and exaggerated respiration spectrum versus the control rate that revealed a rhythmic pattern.

During both the 0G and 1.8G, the galvanic response showed a wider range with the occurrence of peaks.
By comparison, the control data remained at a constant level.

Chip Kaiser noted, “Although the human body does not much like the shock (initially heart rate increases as does galvanic response, and respiration is labored under 2G) eventually the body adjusts.

At least that is our preliminary finding. Overall, 2G is more demanding short term, but long term it all seems to balance out.”

The team determined that variations in the physiological responses of the subject could be due to several factors other than gravitational force fluctuations, such as age, flight experience, level of apprehension, effect of medication, amount of rest, food intake, environmental in-flight variables and hardware sensitivity
Post-flight data analysis revealed the initial hypothesis was not completely substantiated.

During the 1.8G conditions there appeared to be an accentuation of the physiological stresses when compared to 1.0G.

The presumption (that 0G would be less stressful than 1.8G was not correct. Based on these preliminary observations, it appears that different gravitational conditions do alter the physiological responses measured in this experiment, but further experimentation with more subjects is needed to more precisely analyze these responses.

The data collected from these experiments will benefit NASA and others by providing a supplemental reference; the data will be presented at scientific meetings and published in scientific journals.
Donn Sickorez, University Affairs Officer at JSC, points out that the Reduced Gravity Program tends to have a maturing affect on participating students.

“The students’ proposals are evaluated on scientific merit, feasibility of the design, test and fabrication plan, compliance with NASA experiment safety protocols, and the team’s education and outreach plan. They quickly realize this is a real world, adult experience and it changes them.”

In fact, each team is required to develop a program for sharing the results of its experiment with teachers, students and the public after the flights. Teams must analyze their data, prepare education and information materials, and submit post-flight reports.

The Reduced Gravity Student Flight Campaign is sponsored by NASA and administered by the Texas Space Grant Consortium.

Aldine community approves sales tax

The board of directors of the Aldine Community District met Monday evening to canvass the vote from the recent election. Voters in Aldine went to the polls to vote on two propositions for the newly created Aldine Community District.

Proposition One that allows for a one cent sales tax within the boundaries of the district won support from 59% of the voters. All revenue generated by the sales tax will remain in the Aldine Community District for neighborhood improvement and operation of the district. The district would have existed in name only without passage of this proposition.

Proposition Two that would have given additional authority to the board of directors failed by a narrow margin to receive voter support.

Area State Representative Kevin Bailey who authored the legislation calling for the election, said: “This is great news. It’s an exciting day for Aldine. The district will pave the way for a bright future of economic growth and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

After certifying the results of the election the board of directors voted to adopt the sales tax as allowed by the voters. The State Comptrollers Office is being notified of the new sales tax and a request was submitted for the collection of the new tax. The Comptrollers Office will have to prepare an inventory of businesses within the district and send written notification to those businesses before the tax can be collected. It is estimated that area businesses will begin charging the one cent tax on about October 1 of this year.

The board of directors will begin a search for an executive director to run the day to day operation of the district. They will now have an opportunity to improve the area by developing and implementing a service plan to maximize service from such entities as Harris County, Metro, the Texas Department of Transportation and other government agencies.

Storm Debris Pick Up Update

Residents of Commissioner’s Precinct 1 (El Franco Lee) who still have storm debris to be picked up should call 281-820-5151. Operations Supervisor for Lee, Deotis Gay, informed The News last Friday that Precinct 1 will pick up debris twice a week and will honor specific individual requests for pick up.

David Floyd, Senior Assistant to Precinct 2 Commissioner Jim Fonteno, advised The News, also on Friday, that Precinct 2 will make no more storm debris collections. If you live in Precinct 2 and do not have city heavy trash service, you must arrange and pay for a private contractor to pick up any remaining debris.

Most, but not all of the homes that receive the Northeast News are in Precinct 1. If you are not sure which precinct your home is in call El Franco Lee at 713-755-6111 or Jim Fonteno at 713-755-6220. Their staff members will be able to tell you which precinct you are in based on your street address.

My Two Cents Worth

I know a few things, things from books like the population of Zimbabwe and date of the Magna Carta, some useful stuff I picked up along the way (how to change a tire) and a lot of hard lessons, learned the hard way I’d rather not talk about.

I am a walking compendium of trivia of every sort, and, lest you think I lack depth, I point to my near encyclopedic knowledge of Chinese history, the work of e.e. cummings, and the life cycle of the blowfly.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Space. Not space as in NASA Space Center, but the physical space that exists, and apparently must exist, between human beings.

When Paul Simon was cataloging the “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” he didn’t list the one heard most often in the self-absorbed 70s and 80s, the one heard most often last month and last week and probably at the close of a thousand painful partings last night: I need my space.

Do human beings need space?

Everyone has a sense of where his own “personal space” begins and ends. Like an aura it surrounds and insulates us from unwanted familiarity; if someone intrudes upon our space we feel violated and even threatened.

Love and lust and simple chemistry alter the boundaries, at least for a time, but the decision to allow another into our personal space doesn’t negate its existence: the space is always there.

Watching the crowds of beachgoers, and the crowds of wading birds at the shore last week I was struck by the similarity between the two groups.

The birds were lined up along the along the edge of the water, perfectly positioned, each one an equal distance from the next. When a new bird set down in their midst, every one moved as far as necessary to restore the equilibrium.

With mathematical precision, the sunbathers took up their positions on the sand as if each was surrounded by an invisible force field designed to repel marauders.

I watched as a swimmer who had drifted with the tide and come ashore out of place, tip-toed gingerly along the water line until he reached his little piece of the island, where he executed a perfect right turn and returned to his place in the sun.

Why are we so afraid to let others into our space? What are we afraid of?

Until we can figure that out, I can’t see that we have much chance of overcoming the other barriers, no less real, that separate us from one another

Hibiscus show and sale coming Sunday

Hundreds of exotic hibiscus blooms will be displayed by the Lone Star Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 19 at the Bellaire Community Center, 7008 South Rice Avenue. Named variety hibiscus will be for sale. Blooms will be displayed representing varieties of the tropical “Chinese” hibiscus that grow well in Texas. Admission is free. Two free hibiscus plants will be given to those who join the Lone Star Chapter during show hours.

Visitors will receive the free leaflet ‘How to Grow Better Hibiscus Near The Texas Coast.” To raise funds, the chapter will sell landscape and exotic hibiscus plants, the internationally acclaimed Hibiscus Handbook, and the Space City Chapter’s water-soluble fertilizer, 18-10-28, formulated especially for hibiscus.

Experienced hibiscus growers will share growing tips and answer questions. For consultations about growing problems, leaves from problem hibiscus may be brought to the show in sealed plastic bags to the “Help Desk.” Also, bring your “mystery” hibiscus blooms for identification.

The Lone Star Chapter meets every fourth Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., March through October, at the Garden Center in Hermann Park. Visitors are most welcome. You are invited to visit our website to learn more about tropical hibiscus.

Football tickets available

Fans of Aldine ISD’s four varsity football programs can purchase tickets now to see their favorite teams in action during the 2001 season.

Tickets can be purchased through the Aldine ISD Athletic Department located in the M.O. Campbell Educational Center, located at 1865 Aldine Bender Road. Advance tickets (to home games at Thorne Stadium) are $4 in advance and $5 at the gate. Student tickets are $2 in advance and $5 at the gate.

The season begins the weekend of Sept. 7-8. For more information, contact Joe Young, AISD director of athletics, at 281-985-6100.

Free Texas music at Garden in the Heights

With roots in country, folk, blues, and rock, Texas music came out of the Hill Country around Austin and en-joyed a loyal and growing following over the years. A new generation of performers has exploded on the scene, and the Homegrown Texas Jam serves as a showcase for them and the Texas music stars of tomorrow.

Garden in the Heights is the perfect venue for the series with Texas roots going back to the 1880’s, an outdoor concert area under the trees, and large indoor hall in the event of rain.

The Homegrown Texas Jam is a Thursday night free (21 and over only) concert series featuring the new genera-tion of Texas music artists. Each week, the Jam will feature live free performances by hot young artists such as Jack Ingram, Roger Creager and Bill Pekar with Texas Music legends like Guy Clarke. The eight-week series at the his-toric Garden in the Heights kicks off August 16th with Jack Ingram.

Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. Food and drink will be available. Check the website at www, for band updates and times.