Thursday, November 18, 2010

Body of Pearland boy found near landfill




SOURCE: Houston Chronicle

After a fruitless day of searching Pearland at the direction of a person of interest in a local student's disappearance, investigators found the missing 18-year-old's remains miles away Wednesday night in a Fort Bend County field.

The body of Josh Wilkerson was discovered about 6:30 p.m. in an overgrown field where FM 518 in Pearland intersects with at FM 521, just west of the Brazoria County line, according to Lt. Onesimo Lopez, a Pearland Police Department spokesman. The site is near a landfill some 11 miles from the Pearland area where searchers spent Wednesday's daylight hours looking for the teen.

The hunt for Wilkerson had been called off at dusk, but the "person of interest" provided detectives with more information. That man is now considered a suspect in the death, Lopez said. As of late Wednesday, ,charges against him were pending.
"He is still being interviewed to get as much information out of him as we can," Lopez said shortly after the discovery of Wilkerson's remains was announced.

Lopez declined to provide details about the condition of Wilkerson's body, citing respect for the family and the integrity of the investigation. Police said they believed the teen may have been beaten.

Earlier Wednesday, more than 200 volunteers — including some of Wilkerson's friends - had searched through woody, weeded and watery areas near the Pearland Recreation Center and Natatorium, in the 4100 block of Bailey Road. He went missing Tuesday after his half-day at a Pearland ISD school, Lopez said.

Horses, drone called in
Searchers chased down unfruitful leads all day based on directions from the suspect - an 18- or 19-year-old acquaintance of Wilkerson's from the Pearland area, Lopez said.
The young man told about an assault and "Josh being left in a field somewhere," Lopez said.
Searchers focused on a field and on an old sand pit full of water near the natatorium, using a Pearland Fire Department boat and sonar provided by Texas Equu Search. Deployed resources also included horses, four-wheel all-terrain vehicles and an airborne drone.

The teen's usual after-school routine included video games, then a trip to the gym to work out.
"He didn't show up at home to play his video games, so the parents got concerned. After a while they decided they were going to go out and look for him," Lopez said. "He has friends in this immediate area, so they went driving through this area to see if they could locate his truck."

Truck found at strip mall
Wilkerson's parents found his vehicle parked at a strip mall in the 5000 block of West Broadway around 5 p.m. Tuesday, and called police.

"There was really nothing out of the ordinary with the truck, so the officers started the ground search trying to see if we could find him," Lopez said. "From interviewing the family and talking to other people, they figured out there's a pretty good chance that he didn't have a jacket and did not have any shoes on."

Pearland police detectives continued the ground search on foot through the night Tuesday, with a couple of four-wheelers and one 4x4 truck until about 5 a.m. Wednesday, when Texas EquuSearch was called to provide additional resources, Lopez said.

The volunteers and law enforcement, on foot and in four-wheelers, returned to the command center near the natatorium just before 5 p.m. Wednesday after the search was suspended.
Wilkerson's parents were not permitted to participate in the search in case something was found, but were "praying" and "circling the wagons," Lopez said.

The couple could not be reached for comment.
Chronicle reporter Dale Lezon contributed to this report.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's that smell?


TEXAS CITY, Texas — A smell similar to rotten eggs enveloped Texas City about 5 p.m. Monday afternoon after a leak from a subunit at BP’s Texas City refinery.

Workers were doing maintenance work on a sour water compressor on the refinery’s Power 2 unit when workers noticed a smell after a piece of equipment failed, company spokesman Michael Marr said. The odor, which forced some businesses on Palmer Highway about 13 blocks from the refinery to shutter their doors and close windows, lasted more than an hour.

The smell is believed to come from liquid in the subunit that contained hydrogen sulfide, which is a hazardous chemical that has a strong smell of rotten eggs, Texas City Homeland Security Director Bruce Clawson said. The Texas City Fire Department and BP industrial hygienists conducted ground-level air monitoring and did not find any readings of hazardous chemicals in the air, Clawson said.

Between one and two barrels of sour water — which is waste water that contains hydrocarbons and is pumped to an enclosed sewer system for disposal — spilled, causing the offensive odor, officials said.

There was not a shelter in place order for the city, but Clawson issued a phone and e-mail alert to residents notifying them of the situation.

There was a brief shelter in place order within the refinery for areas downwind of the leak, Marr said. BP set up an incident command center and the leak was contained at about 9 p.m.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SWAT stand-off in Pearland


PEARLAND, Texas – A SWAT standoff ended with a suspect in custody Wednesday night in Pearland.

Police said officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at a home near the intersection of Laura and Liberty around 8:45 p.m. and found a man had barricaded himself inside the residence.

Authorities said a female made it out safely, but a child remained inside.

Police said they believed the man had a gun, so they called in SWAT and negotiators to alleviate the situation.

Authorities said the suspect finally gave up around 11:45 p.m. and was not armed.
He was taken into custody without incident. The child was found inside and was not injured.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Houston murders may be work of a serial killer


by Michelle Homer / khou.com
khou.com
Posted on November 1, 2010 at 1:38 PM
Updated today at 1:42 PM


HOUSTON – Police are looking into a possible link between the strangulation murders of at least three women since June.
The most recent cases involved homeless women. The body of Carol Flood, 62, was found on Oct. 10 in a stairwell behind the old YMCA building. She was partially nude. On Sept. 30, Retia LaFaye Long, 52, was found dead behind the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at 1700 San Jacinto.

Now police believe the same killer may have strangled Raquel Mundy last June 17, then dumped her body in a field in the 300 block of St. Charles.
Mundy, 24, was murdered after accepting a ride from a stranger when she was stranded downtown.

She had dropped her mom and two kids off at the Greyhound bus station downtown around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. She then discovered her car had been towed from a McDonald’s parking lot across the street.
Mundy tried to call friends and relatives, but couldn’t find anyone to give her a ride to the tow lot. Witnesses saw her get into a grey car with an unknown man, according to police.

Mundy later sent a text message to her mother saying she thought she was in danger and feared the man was going to hurt her.
Angela Collins was still on the bus to California with her two grandchildren when she got the disturbing message.

She tried frantically to reach Mundy. Collins then called several relatives and asked them to try to find Mundy.
By the time the bus arrived in California, there was still no sign of her daughter.
"Next call we got, they had found the body. It was my baby, Collins said as she choked back tears. "This man took away my baby."
An autopsy revealed Mundy had been strangled.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE AT KHOU

Friday, October 15, 2010

Police release home invasion 911 call


PEARLAND, Texas – Investigators on Thursday released the 911 recording from a deadly home invasion in Brazoria County.

It happened Sunday around 1:30 a.m. in the 3100 block of Springdale near Fallbrook, in the Silverlake community.

Anthony Williams, 36, was found dead in his kitchen. Deputies said he was shot three times.
His wife escaped the gunman and went to a neighbor’s house to call 911.
"The shooter had on all black, he had on a glove, man he pulled my hair I thought I was dead," she told the 911 operator.

According to investigators, the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office was first notified about the scene by Comcast Home Security, who reported a burglary in progress.

While deputies were en route, emergency officials received a second call, this time from Williams’ wife.

By the time deputies arrived, the armed suspect was gone. Williams’ wife was not injured.

Investigators released a composite sketch of the suspect two days after the invasion. They said the suspect is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs around 185 pounds.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office.√\
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

9-11 call - backfires because of open laptop.


by Courtney Zubowski / 11 News
khou.com
Posted on October 12, 2010 at 11:37 PM
Updated today at 9:54 AM

HOUSTON -- A woman who called 911 to anonymously report a crime says she’s in fear for her life after the man she turned in called her just minutes after she placed the call.

According to the woman, who does not want to be identified, on Oct. 1, she was driving near Beltway 8 and Veterans Memorial Drive when she witnessed a man in the car next to her beating his passenger. She did not know either one of them.

“I saw him hitting her and he was taking his fist and he was just hitting her, aside her, just hitting her and I’m like this is crazy,” said the woman.

She placed the 911 call at 1:28 p.m. and thought that would be the end of her involvement, but 30 minutes later she learned it was just the beginning.

“About 1:54 p.m. my phone rang back and it was the suspect,” she said. “He was asking me ‘Who was this, who is this’ and I am like, ‘Who is this, you called my number,’ and then he hung up."

After that call came another, and this time it was a woman’s voice, she said.

“She called me just as he hung up and it was like, ‘Ma’am, are you the concerned lady that called about my welfare,’ and I am like,

‘Excuse me,’ and she said, ‘Well I’m OK,’ and I said, ‘Excuse me,’” said the woman.

She received another call the next morning from the Harris County Jail where the suspect was in custody. He was arrested for outstanding warrants, but never charged with assault.

“My phone rings again and it says, ‘You have a call from Harris County processing jail,’ and I immediately hung up,” she said.
“I will never, ever get involved with anything else again, not when it comes to me being fearful of the surroundings in my life.”

A spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office says as far as she knows, this is the first time something like this has happened in their department.

HCSO spokesperson Christina Garza said the suspect was put in the back of a Harris County patrol car while the deputy talked to the woman he was accused of hitting. It was then he was able to read the woman’s phone number off of a laptop computer the deputy had left open in the front seat.

“It’s a very unique situation,” Garza said. “It’s never happened and we certainly don’t want this to discourage her, or anybody, from reporting crime to authorities.”

Garza said it’s common practice to keep laptops closed, but it’s not policy. In some situations, deputies are forced to rush out of cars quickly.

”If anyone is to blame in this situation, it’s the suspect who violated such important information and took it upon himself to do this,” said Garza.

Garza said the department is sending out e-mails to all deputies to remind them to keep their laptops closed.

The suspect is not facing charges for memorizing the information, or calling the woman. Garza said there is no proof that he ever threatened the woman.


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The 911 caller disagrees.

“I was threatened,” she said. “I was threatened when he received my information. My information should have been protected. I was threatened at that point, so what point of threat do they not understand?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

13 Houston schools receive powder letters


by khou.com staff
Posted on October 8, 2010 at 8:09 PM

HOUSTON – At least 13 HISD schools received envelopes Friday containing a white powdery substance, according to an HISD spokesperson.
A Houston Fire Department Hazmat team was sent to each school to collect the envelopes.
Preliminary testing showed the substance appeared to be non-hazardous. The powder was tested for radiation, explosives and volatile chemicals. Further tests are being conducted.

The schools were Alcott Elementary, Almeda Elementary, Anderson Elementary, Ashford Elementary, Attucks Middle School, Barrick Elementary, Bastian Elementary, Black Middle School, Blackshear Elementary and Browning Elementary.
Fonville Middle School, Briar Meadow Elementary School and Bellaire High School were added to the list Friday evening.
HISD said its top priority is making sure all schools are safe before students return on Monday.

"All of our school administrators are going through their mail and are trying to identify any envelopes that may look suspicious," said HISD Police Chief Jimmie Dotson.
The typewritten envelopes were addressed to the schools, not individuals, and contained no notes. Each contained about a teaspoon of white powder.
The FBI, U.S. Postal Service, HPD and HFD are assisting HISD with the investigation.


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Thursday, October 7, 2010

No waiting: Houston ship channel back in business


UPDATE 1-Coast Guard says no wait to exit Houston Channel

HOUSTON Oct 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard said no ships were waiting Thursday morning to leave the Houston Ship Channel, and 33 ships were lined up to enter the waterway to the busiest U.S petrochemical port after a three-day outage, which ended on Wednesday.

As many as 67 ships were waiting to enter or exit the waterway by the time early on Wednesday that workers had removed a leaning electrical highline tower that threatened to tumble into the waterway after being struck by a barge on Sunday morning.

Four Houston refineries were unable to receive crude oil by ship during the closure, but none said prodcution was cut during the wait that ended Wednesday when the first ships up the channel were crude tankers.

About 44 ships were waiting to enter the channel when it reopened on Wednesday morning and it might appear only 11 have moved up the channel, but the Coast Guard said several ships were added to the line waiting in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

"It's a consant flow," said a Coast Guard spokesman.

There are about 12 ships more than on a average day waiting to move into the channel, the spokesman said. (Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by John Picinich)


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Drug deal goes bad - two shot - one dead.


khou.com
Posted on October 7, 2010 at 7:26 AM
Updated today at 8:45 AM

HOUSTON—A 24-year-old man was killed and his brother injured after the two were shot in what appears to be a drug deal gone bad Wednesday evening, according to HPD Homicide detectives.
Police officers responded to a home on Winter Briar at Winter Seasons in southwest Houston for reports of a drive-by shooting.

They arrived around 9 p.m. to find two brothers had been shot. They said the actual shooting took place at another location about a half-mile away, but the brothers somehow made it back home.
Police believe the brothers drove their Cadillac a few blocks from their home to meet a group of men and purchase drugs. Some sort of altercation occurred and one of the men opened fire on the brothers.

"The exact circumstances are unclear as to what transpired a t the two locations, but we have one dead," said Sgt. Thomas Biggs, HPD Homicide Division. "We believe we have all of the players in custody.

The bullet traveled completely through one of the brothers. Police said he was shot in the chest or the back, but it is unclear which point is the entry and exit.
The other brother was shot in the foot. He was taken to Southwest Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he was treated and released. He returned to the scene to talk to police.
Several suspects were taken in for questioning and police said they definitely know one of them is the shooter.


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Monday, October 4, 2010

Pearland ISD receives grant for health, safety education




Updated: 10.04.10
Pearland Independent School District is helping Texas children avoid a lifetime of health problems thanks to a $6,000 tobacco compliance grant.

The grant from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts helps the district not only educate minors on state tobacco laws but also enforce the law concerning minors’ possession of tobacco.

The state comptroller offers these grants to school districts that have school-based police programs to enforce a health and safety code concerning the sale and distribution of tobacco products to students younger than 18.

Pearland ISD junior high and high school students learn about tobacco laws through periodic announcements and information available in campus libraries and some classrooms.

Thanks to the grant, students also receive educational bookmarks, rulers and T-shirts about tobacco laws and health at district athletic events

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hospital seeks family ...


HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Officials at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center are trying to find the family of a man who was critically injured after an incident in Alvin Wednesday evening.


The man was picked up by Life Flight near the intersection of Highway 35 and Mustang Road, according to a statement from Memorial Hermann. The statement did not provide details about how the man was injured.

The man is described as a Caucasian who is believed to be in his late 30's. He has dark hair, hazel eyes and a mustache. His height is approximately 5 feet 5 inches, and he weighs about 147 pounds. He was wearing denim jeans, a Texans cap, a pair of Brazos boots, a T-shirt and a titanium wedding band.

The patient has a tattoo on each upper arm -- one tattoo reads "Kaleb", the other reads "Jacob."
Anyone who believes they have knowledge of this patient is encouraged to contact Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center at 713-704-4000.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

9/11 contrail explained.


No - it wasn't aliens - or "chemtrails" or fighters on patrol on the anniversary of 9/11 - but rather a NASA high altitude research aircraft that caused the "mysterious" contrails over the Houston area Saturday.

Houston Airport Systems spokeswoman Marlene McClinton told Local 2 that NASA's WB-57 is a high-altitude aircraft, operating out of Ellington Field.
"It is taking air samples between 45,000 and 51,000 feet," said McClinton.

According to McClinton, it was a normal operation, but due to atmospheric conditions, the contrails were extremely visible.

Many callers said the plane looked like a big commercial passenger plane with the NASA oogo on it.
"It was just circling," said Cindy Hamilton who lives in Friendswood.
She saw the plane around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

"It would go north and just circle back to the south. I was just concerned because of what day it is. Seeing the plane brought back memories," Hamilton said.
Karon Wisdom saw the plane in Channelview circling for hours.

"Because its 9/11, everyone's keeping their eye on the sky," she said. "I thought either someone was watching out for us on the Gulf Coast, or something weird was happening."

NASA officials said the aircraft was testing out a new instrument and that "they have made several flights this week. It's unfortunate for the atmospheric conditions that made it very visible on 9/11."
Officials said it was nothing to be alarmed about.


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Breaking: Fire destroys Houston complex


by khou.com staff
khou.com
Posted on September 15, 2010 at 11:20 AM

HOUSTON—Eight units were completely destroyed and several families were displaced after a two-alarm fire damaged part of a southwest Houston apartment complex Wednesday morning.
Fire officials rushed to the burning apartments on Wilcrest at South Drive around 6:45 a.m.
HFD said they had a slight water pressure issue in the beginning, but managed to quickly get the fire under control. No firefighters were injured and all of the families got out safely.
One child standing outside was checked for smoke inhalation at the scene. He was determined to be OK.

Arson investigators do not know how the fire started at this time.


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Friday, September 3, 2010

Pearland Man 1st be be fitted with new heart device


HOUSTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A new method to treat heart failure is being tried with a device implanted to electrically stimulate parts of a patient's spinal cord, Texas doctors say.

A Pearland, Texas, man had the device and wire implanted Monday by surgeons at Houston's Methodist Hospital, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Doctors hope the procedure, commonly used to treat pain, will activate nerves they think will improve the heart's ability to pump effectively, lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of irregular heartbeats, and stop stress hormones from overreacting and causing cardiac damage.

"Despite the development of drugs that treat heart failure, patients continue to deteriorate," Dr. Guillermo Torre-Amione, a Methodist heart failure specialist, said. "This is a new concept that could increase therapeutic efficacy without adding new medications."

Hollis Bardwell, 61, had the pacemaker-like device implanted in the side of his lower back and an attached 35-inch wire threaded up his spine.

He said he hopes the therapy will give him greater mobility while he waits for a heart transplant.

Bardwell hasn't worked since November because an inherited heart condition makes breathing difficult.

He went on a heart transplant waiting list two months ago.

On Monday, doctors adjusted the electrical impulse level to Bardwell's satisfaction.

"It's really mild," Bardwell said. "The most I feel is a tingle like when your hand is going to sleep on you. When it's set low, I don't feel anything at all."

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hawaii beats Pearland for Little League World Series title shot.


South Williamsport, PA (Sports Network) - Noah Shackles went 2-for-2 with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored to back Ezra Heleski's two-hitter, and the Waipahu, Hawaii little league team beat Pearland, Texas, 10-0, in the United States championship game of the Little League World Series.

In the international title game, Ryota Norimatsu tied the game with an RBI single in the sixth, and Ryo Motegi's run-scoring single in the seventh won it, leading Japan to a 3-2 victory over Chinese Taipei.

In addition to striking out six over five shutout innings, Heleski went 2- for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Kahoea Akau added three hits in the resounding win, helping Waipahu win its second U.S. title in three years. In 2008, this same Little League squad beat Matamoros, Mexico to win the championship.

Mason Van Noort had one of the two hits for Pearland, which came back against Georgia to reach this U.S. title game.

With two runners on and one out in the opening inning, Kaimana Bartolome opened the scoring with a two-run double. Shackles homered later in the inning to plate Bartolome for a 4-0 advantage.

Shackles scored in the third on a wild pitch, and Heleski's RBI single later in the same at-bat made it a 6-0 game. Akau's run-scoring double provided a seven-run cushion.

Three more runs from Hawaii ended the game in the fifth due to the 10-run rule. Shackles walked and scored on Cody Maltezo's triple, and Heleski followed with another RBI single. A wild pitch later scored Heleski to end the game.

Japan trailed, 2-1, heading to the bottom of the sixth, but Koutaro Kamikura singled to left to lead off the inning. Following a strikeout, Kamikura advanced to second on an error by the catcher before Norimatsu's hit tied the game.

Kamikura stayed on to pitch a scoreless seventh -- striking out two -- before Masaya Ishii singled with one down in the home half to start the winning rally. A wild pitch sent Ishii to second, and Motegi's two-out single to center won the game.


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pearland gives it a good go in Little League World Series




SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Ikaika Nahaku had an RBI single before scoring on a wild play following a throwing error, and Isaiah Hatch struck out 12 in relief to lead Washington past Pearland, Texas, 7-4 Wednesday night at the Little League World Series.

Auburn, Wash., avoided elimination for the third straight game and handed Texas its first loss of the tournament to set up a rematch Thursday with a berth in the U.S. final Saturday at stake.
Chris Leger tried to make shoestring grab of Nahaku’s blooper to left in the fourth, but the ball bounced off his glove for a hit, allowing a run to score

After the relay to third, the Texas third baseman’s throw to second to try to get Nahaku sailed into the outfield, and Ryan Lacey and Nahaku raced home to give Washington a 5-4 lead.
"I tried to get in a pickle from first to second so Ryan could score," Nahaku said. "I didn’t think he was going to throw it because I was almost at the bag."
Lacey said he wasn’t nervous with Washington avoiding its second loss a third straight game, but manager Kai Nahaku quickly interjected, "Not me."
"Living on the edge," the skipper said.

Texas manager Mike Orlando said it had been a while since his team had almost as many errors (three) as hits (four).

"I don’t think I’ll have to say a word about what is at stake," Orlando said about Thursday’s rematch. "We have been in this position before. We just need to swing at better pitches and play better defense."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Houston man charged in cold case murders.


by khou.com staff
khou.com
Posted on August 25, 2010 at 10:22 AM
Updated today at 10:54 AM
HOUSTON – A man long-suspected of killing a Houston woman and an infant in 1984 was finally arrested and charged this week.

Charles Leon Smith, 56, is charged with capital murder in the slayings of 23-year-old Pamela Clarence and 1-month-old Tashona Clarence.

Twenty-six years have passed since the young mother and her baby were killed in their home in the 4300 block of Rogers, but even after the case went cold, investigators never gave up.

The murders occurred on August 2, 1984. Police said Smith and Clarence were in a relationship at the time and had recently had a child together.
But that night, when Smith went to visit his girlfriend, investigators believe Pamela Clarence confronted Smith about another relationship.
Police said Clarence had discovered Smith had another girlfriend, who’d just given birth to Smith’s son.

When Clarence told Smith they should end their relationship, police believe he snapped.
Investigators said Smith strangled Pamela Clarence with an electrical cord and then smothered Tashona with a pillow.

The bodies were later found by concerned family members.
From the beginning of the investigation, police said they thought Clarence knew her killer, and they originally identified Smith as one of two suspects in the murders.
But investigators were unable to collect enough evidence to charge either suspect, and case went cold, lost among more than 700 other killings in Houston that year.

Then, when HPD cold case investigators reviewed the murders this year and again identified Smith as a suspect, things changed.
Police said Smith was taken into custody on August 23 and confessed to his role in the crimes.
He was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning, and was behind held in the Harris County Jail without bond.


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Houston stripmall destroyed in blaze.


by Lisa Chavarria / 11 News
khou.com
Posted on August 25, 2010 at 8:23 AM
Updated today at 9:21 AM

HOUSTON—A three-alarm fire swept through parts of a southwest Houston strip mall, destroying several businesses in its path early Wednesday.
Houston Fire Department officials said the fire began inside the M. Trading Wholesale Shop on Fondren at Harwin just before 5 a.m.

The business houses wholesale supplies sold to dollar stores. HFD said there may have been hair products or chemicals on the racks that helped fuel the flames.
Two more businesses next door to the wholesale shop, Jessie’s Nail Salon and Sloreria Lee’s flower shop, were also destroyed.

The owner of Star Korean Karaoke Bar said he was inside his business when a man riding a bicycle knocked on his door and alerted him to the fire. He was able to get out safely and call 911. His business was not damaged by the flames, but may have smoke damage.

One firefighter was injured battling the blaze. He was treated at the scene for a laceration on his hand.


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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Houston Area Forecast: 100% Chance of Meteors


After a week-ling lead-up, tonight, August 12/13, 2010, is finally the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Wit this event, meteor season 2010 will kick off in a big way.

Every August, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk shed by comet Swift-Tuttle, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see 60 meteors per hour. The reason the meteors are called Perseids is because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Perseus. The best time to view the shower is in the pre-dawn hours, with 3-5am being best.

Don't want to stay up that late? Don't worry, Perseus rises in the Northeast around midnight and will climb higher as the night progresses. However, unless one lives out in the country, the early post-midnight hours will probably involve Perseus being low in a light pollution dome. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of light-polluted Cleveland and to the suburbs or, even better, the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent.

Two things can ruin the meteor shower: clouds and the Moon. The clouds? Well, that's a regional thing. Check your local Clear Sky Clock to see what the clouds have in store for your location tonight. For us Northeast Ohioans, tonight is looking good. As for the Moon, that's an Earth-wide issue. The good news is that, this year, the Moon is just a few days past new, which means that there will be no Moon up during the time of the meteor shower. There will be a slight lunar glow in the South (opposite Perseus), but this will disappear about midnight, which is about the time Perseus clears the Northeast horizon.

So how about viewing tips?

First, plan to stay out awhile, as it takes the human eye about 15 minutes to get optimal night vision capability. The bad news is that, even one bright flash of white light will wipe out night vision, requiring you to start the process all over again. Next, grab a lawn chair or, even better, a lounge-type chair. Trying to lean back with a straight-back lawn chair can be a pain in the neck, literally! Eyes ready for dark and with something to sit/lay on, settle in for a night of hopeful meteor watching (or at the very least, stargazing), just try not to fall asleep and don't forget the bug spray!

Besides meteors, tonight can be a great time for binocular viewing, owing to your use of a chair. Under suburban (maybe) or rural skies (definitely), a pair of medium power (10x50) binoculars can yield some stunning wide-angle sights. For someone truly dedicated, why not try and keep a tally of how many meteors you see for every complete hour? Really ambitious? Why not try photographing the meteors?

Whatever you plan to do tonight, good luck and clear skies!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Texas' new, state-of-the-art jail unfit for prisoners?


by Rucks Russell / KHOU
Posted on August 5, 2010 at 10:12 AM
Updated Thursday, Aug 5 at 2:01 PM
PEARLAND, Texas—Pearland’s sprawling new public safety building includes new courts, offices for police and administrators, and a state-of-the-art jail that remains unfit for the prisoners it was meant to house.

"We just want to be able to use the new facility," said Lt. Onesimo Lopez, public information officer for the Pearland Police Department.
The new building opened its doors in April, but while hundreds of workers moved in, prisoners have remained locked out.

Officials blame the holdup on construction flaws by the contractor.
"Our holding area for intoxicated suspects needs a drain, and the door for another holding area opens the wrong way," Lopez said.
Pearland’s city manager said a dispute between the city and the contractors set the project back.
"It’s been a back-and-forth in terms of who’s responsible for what," City Manager Bill Eisen said.

He added that the differences were recently ironed out and hoped repairs to the facility could be made within four weeks.

But the work will cost about $15,000 -- that’s in addition to what it costs to keep the old jail running, and the $19 million already shelled out by taxpayers for the new building.
"Ultimately, the buck stops with me," Eisen said.
But for now, it also stops with the taxpayers.



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Monday, August 2, 2010

Pearland soldier receives PETA award.


Pearland, Texas -- For joining with two of his fellow Marines to rescue homeless cats in Afghanistan, sending one of the cats--Kiki--to safety at his Pearland home, and preventing the birth of more unwanted cats by having Kiki neutered, Cpl. Brian Chambers will receive a Compassionate Action Award from PETA.

The group has also offered to reimburse the Marines for the cost of sterilizing Kiki and his buddy KeyKey (who is now living at the home of Marine Lance Cpl. Chris Berry's parents in Davison, Mich.). The three Marines will each receive a framed certificate and a letter of appreciation from PETA for evacuating the kittens from a war-ravaged and unfriendly environment overseas. While stationed in Afghanistan, Chambers, Berry, and Lance Cpl. Aaron Shaw found several homeless cats, and the Marines fed, sheltered, and provided medical care for many of them.

"We salute Brian and his friends, who were deployed in a war zone thousands of miles from home and still made time to save animals who needed their help," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "War zones are a nightmare for animals, too, but thanks to these Marines, Kiki and KeyKey can look forward to a life filled with all the love, care, and security that they deserve."

Spaying one female cat can prevent thousands of births, and an unneutered male cat can create limitless litters of kittens. Approximately 8 million cats and dogs end up in animal shelters every year, and half of them must be euthanized for lack of a good home. Millions more never make it to animal shelters and must fend for themselves on the streets, where they are often subjected to abuse, suffer from starvation or disease, or are struck by cars.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tar balls found on Texas beach


(CNN) -- Texas authorities have traced a small number of tar balls found near Galveston to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Coast Guard and state officials said Monday.
The tar balls collected from beaches in Galveston County over the weekend could fit in a five-gallon bucket, but have been confirmed to have originated from the ruptured BP well off Louisiana, said Jim Suydan of the Texas General Land Office.

Galveston is about 400 miles west of the site of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, which began in late April with the sinking of the offshore drill rig Deepwater Horizon. Coast Guard Capt. Marcus Woodring said authorities weren't sure how the tar balls made it that far, but tests confirmed that at least the first batch collected Saturday came from the Deepwater Horizon spill off Louisiana, he said.
None were found Monday, and the area's beaches and waterways remained open.
"Until we see a greater sum of oil, I can be cautiously optimistic that maybe this is something that will pass," Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski told reporters.


Tar balls occasionally strike the Texas coast, in part because of seepage from undersea oil deposits or from sunken vessels, Woodring said. "Seventeen or 18" cases of tar balls unrelated to the

Deepwater Horizon disaster have been reported to Woodring's Houston-Galveston Coast Guard sector since the spill erupted in April he said.

And though the ones found Saturday and Sunday were confirmed to have come from the ruptured well off Louisiana, they were less weathered than officials would have expected -- leading the Coast

Guard to suspect the oil was either stuck to the side of a ship's hull or mixed in with ballast water from a passing vessel, he said.

Ships passing through the spill are are supposed to be decontaminated before they head into port, he said.


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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Pearland woman is suing hot air balloon business after a rough landing in 2007.


A Pearland woman is suing a Custer hot air balloon business after a rough landing in 2007.

According to court documents filed June 25, Karen Carver of Pearland, Texas, was a passenger in a hot air balloon operated by Black Hills Balloons in July 2007 when the balloon "crash landed" hard against the ground around 7:15 a.m. near Pringle.

Upon landing, the basket allegedly flipped on its side, slid on the ground several feet and caused 11 passengers in the balloon to be jostled around in the basket and collide with one another. Carver is listed in court documents as having suffered serious injuries.

Court documents say the flight was not operating on a flight plan and the company, through its pilot in command, operated the aircraft in a negligent and careless manner.

Carver is seeking damages in an amount to be determined by evidence at trial as well as lawyer fees and costs.


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Monday, June 28, 2010

Regus Opens Business Center in Pearland, Texas' Fastest Growing Suburb




Pearland Town Center Location Offers Ideal Work, Live and Play Environment
PEARLAND, Texas, June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Regus, the world's leading provider of innovative workplace solutions, has opened a new, full service business center in Pearland Town Center, responding to rapid economic growth and new business development in the Pearland area. Pearland is the fastest growing suburb of Houston, offering families and corporations a small town environment with convenient access to the city.

The growing importance of achieving work/life balance, especially for suburban families, is a driving force behind Regus' continued expansion into high-growth suburbs. "Our new business center at Pearland Town Center offers a great working environment within walking distance of major retailers, restaurants, a luxury hotel and upscale residences," said Jeff Doughman, Central Region Vice President of Regus. "It is specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, mobile professionals, and growing businesses that need more scalable, cost effective workplace solutions. Larger corporations can leverage our business center to gain an immediate footprint without significant up-front capital expenditures."

Over the past year, Regus has experienced a significant increase in the number of Houston-area inquiries. Although Pearland's population has tripled since 1990, the town offers a truly hometown experience with a low cost of living and crime rate, good schools, and friendly neighborhoods.

The new business center, Regus' eleventh in the Greater Houston area, is located in the heart of the Pearland Town Center at 11200 Broadway, Suite 2743 in Pearland. It offers flexible terms on fully furnished private offices, meeting rooms and virtual offices. With its Businessworld Membership program, business travelers have affordable access to Regus' global network of more than 400 locations in the U.S. and 1,000 worldwide.

Regus will hold a grand opening event at the new Pearland center on Wednesday, July 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Members of the press are invited to attend.
About Regus

Regus, the world's leading global provider of innovative workplace solutions with 1,000 locations in 450 cities and 80 countries, offers products and services ranging from fully equipped offices to professional meeting rooms, business lounges and the world's largest network of video communication studios.

For more information please visit www.regus.com.

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Recovery Effort in Gulf Expected to Continue Despite Storm



By JOSEPH BERGER

A tropical storm moving across the western Gulf of Mexico that is likely to strengthen into a hurricane is not expected to seriously disrupt efforts to capture oil gushing from the stricken BP well, officials of the Coast Guard and BP said Monday.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the disaster, said at an afternoon press conference that high seas produced by Tropical Storm Alex should not force the evacuation of rigs and other equipment from the blowout site, which is 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. Should an evacuation take place, he said, it could halt the work of collecting oil and drill relief wells for about 14 days.

“As it stands right now, absent the intervention of a hurricane, we’re still looking at mid-August," to have relief wells shut off the gusher entirely, Admiral Allen said.

However, BP officials said that what could be delayed, even by current wave heights, is an effort to prepare what is known as a “floating riser system” that will help raise the daily total of collected oil from, about 25,000 barrels to as much as 50,000 barrels. At a briefing Monday morning, Kent Wells, a senior vice president of BP who is overseeing BP’s efforts, said the storm is expected to follow a track that will take it well west of the blowout site, but it may produce waves of 10 to 12 feet, which Mr. Wells said was too high for the “very precise work” on the surface needed to prepare the floating riser system.

Mr. Wells said the containment cap and a second system that are collecting 25,000 barrels of oil a day would not need to be disconnected and the drilling of two relief wells should continue on schedule. The first relief well is supposed to pump in heavy mud and shut off the gusher sometime in August.

Tropical Storm Alex is on a course heading for northeastern Mexico and a stretch of Texas. Meteorologists at Accuweather.com said they are anticipating a landfall between Tampico, Mexico and Brownsville, Tex. Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Meanwhile Associated Press reported that BP had filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission that indicate the cost of capping and cleaning the spill have reached $2.65 billion. BP has lost more than $100 billion in market value since the drilling platform the company was operating blew up April 20. The costs include spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to gulf states, claims paid, and federal costs, but not a $20 billion fund for damages the company created this month.

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Alex may effect Gulf oil production ..


HOUSTON (Dow Jones)--Tropical Storm Alex, expected to become a hurricane Tuesday, seems to be headed on a path away from the bulk of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico's oil and gas production and refining infrastructure. But some production impact will be felt as one of the largest energy producers in the Gulf said Monday it was shutting down several platforms as a precaution.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) said it had pulled 700 workers from its Gulf operations, and some 835 workers remained offshore. The company is shutting in production from its Western and Central Gulf of Mexico assets to prepare for the potential full evacuation of personnel Tuesday. The company started pulling workers from the Gulf over the weekend. The company didn't specify how much production would be shut or how many platforms were being evacuated.

At 11 a.m. EDT, Alex was located about 85 miles west-northwest of Campeche, Mexico, in the western Gulf of Mexico, and was heading towards southern Texas and northern Mexico. Most U.S. offshore oil and gas platforms are located in the eastern part of the Gulf, far from Alex's forecast path.

Alex "is not likely to have a major impact on production or refining in the U.S.," Doug MacIntyre, senior analyst at the Energy Information Administration, told Dow Jones Newswires Monday. "Alex's current path appears to avoid most of the oil and gas production platforms and any of the major refining centers."

Energy markets Monday seemed to take the storm in stride. Light, sweet crude for August delivery ended 61 cents lower at $78.25 a barrel a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Natural gas for July delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 2.96% lower at $4.717 million British thermal units.

Gulf producers Apache Corp. (APA), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) also said Monday they have started evacuating non-essential workers from the offshore facilities expected to be in the path of the storm but none have so far reported any impact to their production.

BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) said Monday it pulled non-essential personnel from three offshore facilities in the the Gulf, and that production was not affected. The company evacuated workers from Atlantis, Mad Dog and Holstein platforms.

Alex may delay BP PLC's plans to increase the amount of oil collected from a leaking well in the Gulf by a week, a company official said Monday.

While the storm's winds are expected to stay far to the west of the Deepwater Horizon spill, high seas are likely to become an issue this week, said Kent Wells, a senior vice president with BP, in a press briefing. Waves up to between 10 feet and 12 feet would prevent BP from hooking a third rig up to an underwater containment system, a process that needs three days of good weather, Wells said.

Two rigs, the Discoverer Enterprise and Q4000, are already collecting between 20,000 and 25,000 barrels of oil a day from the well, which has gushed ever since a rig working at the site caught fire and sank in April.

Chevron Corp. (CVX) and ConocoPhillips (COP) said that they have not evacuated workers, but that they are closely monitoring the forecast for Alex.

A hurricane watch was issued for parts of the south Texas Gulf coastline area and parts of northern Mexico, the National Hurricane Center reported Monday on its website.

The NHC, in its advisory, also said Alex likely will become a hurricane Tuesday and has increased in strength, now with winds of 60 miles per hour.

The watch area for the U.S. extends from south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande in Texas, with Mexico issuing a hurricane watch from the Rio Grande to La Cruz.


-By Isabel Ordonez, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-547-9207; isabel.ordonez@dowjones.com

(Brian Baskin and Angel Gonzalez contributed to this article

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Cat saves Pearland woman from Pitt Bull


by GABE GUTIERREZ
KHOU

PEARLAND, Texas – A Houston-area woman is recovering after two large pit bulls attacked her outside her home, police said.
Cherry Woods, 39, claims her cat, Lima, saved her from the dogs by scratching and hissing at the animals.

According to the Pearland police report, the attack happened May 21 just before 8 a.m.
Woods claims she was walking back to her home in the 2300 block of Short Springs Court in Pearland when she saw the dogs from a distance. When they started charging towards her, she tried to fight them off, but they knocked her down several times.
Her husband, Harold Woods, said he was inside the home when he heard her screams. He unsuccessfully tried to separate the dogs from his wife, he said.

That’s when the couple’s cat, Lima, jumped into the fray.
According to Woods, the feline clawed and hissed at the dogs and distracted them.
"Our cat came out of the bushes and scratched one of the dogs, and started hissing at it," he said. "They both turned their attention to the cat. I was able to grab my wife and pull her inside the house."
This was out of character for Lima.
"She’s the most reclusive, timid animal I’ve ever seen," Harold Woods said.
But not on that day.

Woods estimated the dogs that attacked his wife were 80-100 pounds each.
Other neighbors in the Shadow Creek Ranch subdivision said they’ve heard the dogs barking for years, but this is the first attack they can remember.
KHOU was not able to reach the dogs’ owners for comment Wednesday. It’s unclear how the dogs managed to escape from their yard, which is on another block near the Woods’ home.

The dogs were put under quarantine at the City of Pearland’s Animal Shelter pending a Thursday hearing that will determine whether they’ll be allowed to return home or be put down.
"We’re taking this very seriously," said Shari Coleman, the animal control supervisor.
Meanwhile, as Cherry Woods recovers, Lima keeps watch.

"It’s still hard but it’s getting better," she said.
"I’m very glad that we had [Lima] and that she was here, because when it came down to my wife getting hurt, she jumped right in. It’s amazing," Harold Woods added.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Texas Gulf Waits & Worries


LAPORTE -- Richard Arnhart spends much of his days monitoring wind trajectories, scientific bulletins and TV newscasts.

Parts of an oily blob three times the size of Rhode Island -- and growing -- are believed by many experts to be lumbering closer to the Texas Gulf, and Arnhart is part of the first line of defense.
As a regional director for the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program in the Texas General Land Office, Arnhart is paid by the state to fight oil spills, and he's heavily involved in state and federal contingency planning for any possible impact on Texas from the massive oil spill lurking in the Gulf of Mexico.

Communities all along the Texas coast are making similar preparations as they join the rest of the world in tracking daily developments in one of the worst oil spill disasters in history.
No one knows for sure if remnants of the spill, which was about 160 miles east of the Lone Star State late last week, will reach Texas waters. The consensus seems to be that if there is an impact it will be in the form of tar balls or a frothy substance resembling chocolate mousse. Experts don't expect any residue to hit this far west for several weeks.

Beyond that, just what threat the spill poses for a region of the state whose economy and culture is tied to the gulf is difficult to gauge. Environmentalists warn of possibly irreversible damage to the state's fragile ecosystems and endangered wildlife. Others worry about potential losses to fishing and tourism, though local officials say they have yet to see any signs of an economic backlash.
"It's going to have an impact one way or another," said state Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg, chairman of the state House Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness, which has scheduled a Monday hearing in McAllen to examine Texas preparations for the spill. "We swim in that ocean. We eat the food that comes out of that ocean. It's part of our [committee's] charge to be prepared for emergencies, and this is certainly an emergency that Texas should be prepared for."
'No news is good news'

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose office would be in charge of fighting residue from the spill and enforcing the cleanup, took steps late last week to calm fears about the oil slick.

"We're watching and waiting, but it's just not time to go to general quarters," said Patterson, who is scheduled to testify at Monday's hearing. "No news is good news."

Patterson sought to dispel TV reports that tar balls from the spill are already showing up on Texas beaches. Although tar balls occasionally wash ashore along the Texas Gulf, they may be decades old and could come from natural seepage or earlier spills, the land office said. An analysis on tar balls collected from Jamaica Beach on Galveston Island last week proved conclusively that the substance did not come from the oil slick in the gulf, said Cmdr. David Berliner of the Coast Guard.
Nevertheless, an out-of-control underwater gusher dumping more than thousands of barrels of oil into the gulf each day is impossible for Texans to ignore. Houston area residents watching TV last week, for example, might have seen ads aired by attorney Jim Adler offering his service to victims of the spill.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A man has pleaded guilty to a capital murder charge in the murder of a Pearland woman.

Nicholas Michael Jean, 21, plead guilty Wednesday morning in open court. He is on trial for the death of Susana DeJesus, 37. Authorities say DeJesus was kidnapped outside her job at a shopping center in the Pearland area in February 2009. Her body was found inside a trailer near Reliant Stadium.
Jean and an alleged accomplice, Wallace Ledet, were also facing kidnapping charges.
Related Photos

Immediately after the plea in open court, the judge called for a break. Attorneys from both sides are meeting right now. The judge told Eyewitness News that the case will be addressed in open court Wednesday afternon. The jury was dismissed and told to come back on Thursday morning.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Oil spill threatens already weakened wetlands


by Brad Woodard / 11 News
khou.com


Crews depart with giant box to help Gulf oil leak
With millions of gallons of oil already in the gulf and massive underwater plumes that could poison and suffocate sea life across the food chain, experts say the damage from the spill could endure for a decade or more. For Galveston, however, the picture isn't quite as bleak.

"There may be some kind of effect coming this way, some little tarballs, but we'd be talking about almost three weeks into the future, which gives it more time to break up. More time to sink," said Peter Davis, chief of the Island's Beach Patrol.

If Davis doesn't seem overly concerned, it's because he's seen it all before.

"I've worked here for almost 30 years, and before that I was on the beach all the time," says Davis. "I remember in the 80s when there was less regulation; there was tar around a lot more."

Long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, in fact, long before offshore drilling, tarballs were washing up on Texas beaches. The state estimates as much as a million barrels of crude oil leaked into the gulf through natural seepage in just the last year.

Although the coast is clear in Galveston, at least for the moment, some business owners along the seawall worry all the news surrounding the spill with scare off tourists.

"They don't know if there is oil or no oil," says Izzy Wolraich, the owner of four businesses on the Island. "And we know there's no oil.

There're afraid about poisoned fish and dirty water, but there's not a panic yet."

And that's what he fears the most.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oil spill threatens Gulf Coast


(CNN) -- A huge oil spill oozing toward the Gulf Coast on Thursday threatens hundreds of species of wildlife, some in their prime breeding season, environmental organizations said.
The Coast Guard said Wednesday that the amount of oil spilling from an underwater well after an oil rig explosion last week has increased to as many as 5,000 barrels of oil a day, or 210,000 gallons, five times more than what was originally believed.

Although efforts to minimize the damage are under way and options under consideration include asking the U.S. military for assistance, wildlife conservation groups say the oil could pose a "growing environmental disaster."

"The terrible loss of 11 workers (unaccounted for after the rig explosion) may be just the beginning of this tragedy as the oil slick spreads toward sensitive coastal areas vital to birds and marine life and to all the communities that depend on them," said Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, in a statement.
Coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida could be at risk, the organization said.

"For birds, the timing could not be worse; they are breeding, nesting and especially vulnerable in many of the places where the oil could come ashore," she said. "The efforts to stop the oil before it reaches shore are heroic, but may not be enough. We have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, including a true catastrophe for birds."

"The best case is, the wind shifts and the oil doesn't hit," said Tom MacKenzie of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "I'm not real confident about that. ... We're doing everything we can to prevent it, but it could be a bad one."

It's not just birds that could be affected, although they are usually the first to feel the effects, said Gregory Bossart, chief veterinary officer for the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The birds are right at the surface, get covered in the oil and swallow it, causing liver and kidney problems.

"They need to be rescued and cleaned," he said.
But the coastline of Louisiana, with its barrier islands and estuaries, "is a very unique ecosystem. It's very complex," Bossart said.
Plankton found in the estuaries nourish organisms all the way up the food chain. Crabs, mussels, oysters and shrimp feed on the plankton, he said. Oil smothers the plankton, meaning they cannot eat.

Also, "the estuaries here are a nursery ground, literally a nursery ground, for the entire fish population in this area," Bossart said.

River otters in the region eat mussels and other animals. And "we know, in this area right now, that there are sperm whales. There are dolphins right in the oil slick," he said.
If an oil spill is small enough, animals can leave the area.
"Some of them can get away," Bossart said. "It's totally dependent on the size of the slick, and this is huge."

Exposure to the oil for a prolonged period of time can result in a toxic effect on the skin, and mammals can suffer lung damage or death after breathing it in, Bossart said.
"When the oil starts to settle, it'll smother the oyster beds. It'll kill the oysters," he said.

The Audubon Society, which is affiliated with the Louisiana Coastal Initiative, is recruiting volunteers in Florida and making its Center for Birds of Prey available for bird cleansing and rehabilitation. Elsewhere, Audubon said it was gearing up to mobilize volunteers and provide assistance as the oil reaches land.

The spill also threatens the Louisiana and Mississippi fishing industry, as crab, oysters and shrimp along the coast could be affected, along with numerous species of fish. Gulf shrimp are in their spawning season.

More than 400 species are threatened by the spill, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Thursday, citing the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"When you stop and begin considering everything that this could impact, it really is stunning," Karen Foote, biologist administrator with the department, told the newspaper.

A handful of "Important Bird Areas" -- designated because of their value to bird species -- face immediate threat from the oil, the initiative said. They include the Chandeleur Islands and Gulf Islands National Seashore areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, along with the Active Delta area in Louisiana, which includes Delta Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area.

Several species of birds are cause for special concern, the Louisiana Coastal Initiative said. They include the brown pelican, the state bird of Louisiana, which nests on barrier islands and feeds near shore. The brown pelican's breeding season just began, according to the Initiative, and "many pairs are already incubating eggs."

The species was taken off the federal endangered species list last year, but "their relatively low reproductive rate means any disruption to their breeding cycle could have serious effects on the population."

More than 800 brown pelicans died when a smaller oil spill hit Louisiana's Breton Island National Wildlife Refuge a few years ago, MacKenzie said.

Species of beach-nesting terns and gulls, beach-nesting shorebirds, large wading birds, marsh birds and ocean-dwelling birds are also at risk, along with migratory shorebirds and songbirds, the Initiative said.

The migratory songbirds move across the Gulf during a two-week period from late April to early May, for instance.

"The journey across 500 miles of open water strains their endurance to its limits," the Initiative said. "They depend on clear skies and healthy habitats on both sides of the Gulf in order to survive the journey."

According to a 1998 study by Louisiana State University, more than 500 million birds fly over the Gulf and enter the United States along coastal areas in Louisiana and Texas each spring.
The barrier islands east of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain have still not recovered from the blow dealt by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Bossart said, and a spill such as this one could seriously threaten their recovery.

"I think at this point it would be wrong to say it's catastrophic, because it really hasn't hit any area except out in the Gulf proper," he said. But "it's certainly a very serious thing" that could pose a long-term environmental challenge.

Plans have been under way to protect wildlife since the spill was discovered, MacKenzie said. "We know what we're doing to try to protect those key assets. ... A lot of people are leaning forward in the foxhole to address this."

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Robot Spaceplane launch set for April 19



LOS ANGELES -- After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.

The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"As long as you're confused, you're in good shape," said defense analyst John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org. "I looked into this a couple of years ago -- the entire sort of hypersonic, suborbital, scramjet nest of programs -- of which there are upwards of a dozen. The more I studied it the less I understood it."

The quietly scheduled launch culminates the project's long and expensive journey from NASA to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the X-37 program, but the current total has not been released.

The launch date, landing sites and a fact sheet were released by Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Angie I. Blair. She said more information would be released soon, but questions on cost and other matters submitted by e-mail weren't answered by Friday.

While the massive space shuttles have been likened to cargo-hauling trucks, the X-37B is more like a sports car, with the equivalent trunk capacity.

Built by Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works, the 11,000-pound craft is 9 1/2 feet tall and just over 29 feet long, with a wingspan of less than 15 feet. It has two angled tail fins rather than a single vertical stabilizer.

Unlike the shuttle, it will be launched like a satellite, housed in a fairing atop an expendable Atlas V rocket, and deploy solar panels to provide electrical power in orbit.

The Air Force released only a general description of the mission objectives: testing of guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection and autonomous operation in orbit, re-entry and landing.

The mission's length was not released but the Air Force said the X-37B can stay in orbit for 270 days. The primary landing site will be northwest of Los Angeles at coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The significance of the X-37B is unclear because the program has been around for so long, said Peter A. Wilson, a senior defense research analyst for the RAND Co

Presidents evicted from Pearland

PEARLAND, Texas - A huge development that was supposed to feature 44 presidential busts has apparently "gone bust."

Many people have probably seen six of those statues of former presidents along State Highway 288 in Pearland.

That was supposed to be the site of the Waterlight District, a mixed-use development featuring restaurants, shops and condominiums.

But the developer says the project has been put under foreclosure. The developer says that the bank is unwilling to extend its loan.

The busts are scheduled to be moved out of the Pearland field on Tuesday morning and stored until a permanent spot can be found.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Man throws puppies off of Port Arthur sea wall.


PORT ARTHUR, Texas (AP) - Three rescued puppies are recovering after being thrown over a seawall and on to some rocks in Port Arthur.

Firefighters rescued the crying pups and placed the creatures with animal control.

KFDM-TV reports the man who tossed the animals on Sunday was heard saying he was "turning them into soldiers." A bystander noticed the abandoned puppies and summoned help.

Pat Lavergne with Port Arthur Animal Control says the puppies, with health problems such as mange, were at the shelter Tuesday and available for adoption. She described them as a retriever mix.

The owner of the dogs, who was not immediately located, could face animal cruelty charges.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Accident claims two in Pearland


Fatal Vehicle Collision in Pearland
Updated: Wednesday, 17 Feb 2010, 3:01 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 17 Feb 2010, 8:37 AM CST

PEARLAND, Texas - A horrific accident in Pearland on Wednesday morning ended with two deaths, but at least three people emerge from the wreck as heroes after saving a man's life.

Pearland police say the accident involving seven vehicles took place at 6:30 a.m. on State Highway 35, also known as South Main Street, near Dixie Farm Road.

Investigators say a pickup truck traveling northbound on South Main Street drifted into oncoming traffic and sideswiped a few vehicles before crashing head-on into another truck. That pickup truck burst into flames killing the driver, but the driver of the other truck in the crash was saved by a man and his two sons. The driver could not get out of his truck on his own.

"He went out and used to fire extinguisher to keep the flames at bay while the two sons went in and rescued the driver," described Pearland Police Department Lt. Onesimo Lopez at the accident site.

Lopez declined to identify the 3 men, but he said it was clear that their actions saved a life. "We're definitely appreciative of everything they did to save that driver. "

Lopez did say that another driver was killed in a collision trying to avoid the wreck, but injuries to the other drivers were minor.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dr. Conrad Murray to surrender today.


Dr. Conrad Murray is expected to surrender to authorities in Los Angeles this week on charges related to Michael Jackson's death, according to The Associated Press and CNN. Murray arrived in Los Angeles recently from Houston in anticipation of a decision from the district attorney's office, spokeswoman Miranda Sevcik told the AP..

"Dr. Murray is in Los Angeles for a dual purpose — on family business and to be available for law enforcement," Sevcik told the AP. "We're trying to be as cooperative as we can."

"Dr. Murray is more than ready to surrender and answer to any charges," Ed Chernoff, one of Murray's lawers, told CNN, adding that prosecutors have not announced any charges, and Murray has not been told how or where he should surrender.

No official comment has been made about when charges might, come; David Walgren, the deputy district attorney handling the case, declined to comment to the AP on Tuesday (February 2).

Law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the AP that Murray is likely to be charged with involuntary manslaughter in Jackson's June 25 death from an anesthetic overdose. Murray has denied criminal wrongdoing.

"We continue to maintain that Dr. Murray neither prescribed nor administered anything that should have killed Michael Jackson," Sevcik said.

Earlier this year, TMZ reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had completed its investigation into Jackson's death and was preparing to send the case to the DA's office within weeks.

Murray has told investigators that he administered the surgical anesthetic propofol, as well as other tranquilizers, to Jackson several times in the hours leading up to his death, and the coroner has ruled the singer died of lethal levels of the drug. Involuntary manslaughter charges would require prosecutors to show that Murray engaged in gross negligence in his actions but did not intend to cause harm or death to Jackson.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cleanup under way in 462,000-gallon oil spill off Port Arthur




CNN) -- Crews removed about 46,000 gallons of oil from waters near Port Arthur, Texas, on Sunday, roughly 10 percent of the oil spilled a day earlier when a tanker collided with two barges, a U.S. Coast Guard officer said.
An estimated 462,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from barrels aboard the tanker, forcing the closure of the port in southern Texas, Petty Officer Larry Chambers told CNN. The Sabine Neches Waterway near Port Arthur also was closed. It was unclear Sunday when the port, about 100 miles east of Houston, Texas, will reopen or when crews will finish the cleanup, he said.
"We certainly want it to be done as soon as possible, but with that said, safety is the main issue," Chambers said. "We're not going to open the port until it's determined that vessels can pass through cleanly, safely and not cause any further damage."
No injuries were reported when the Exxon Mobile-chartered tanker -- the 807-foot Eagle Otome -- collided Saturday with two barges being towed by a tug boat. The tanker was carrying about 570,000 gallons of crude oil to Exxon's Beaumont refinery when it crashed, Exxon Mobile spokesman Kevin Allexon told CNN. The cause of the crash was unknown, but is under investigation, he said.
"We are very concerned about how this could have happened," Allexon said. "We are very concerned about the impact to the environment, to the community. No one wants to see this happen."
The port is primarily for industrial use, but it is not far from wetlands. None of the nearby marshes or sensitive wildlife were adversely affected, Chambers said, but one heron was "oiled." The bird was alive and undergoing treatment, he said.
An evacuation order that was imposed in a 50-block area around the port after the collision was lifted. That area was evacuated Saturday out of caution, as the tanker was carrying a type of oil containing sulfide.
Fifteen skimming vessels sailed the area recovering the oil and workers dropped more than 45,000 feet of boom -- fencing-like material -- to keep the oil from spreading, Chambers said. More than 500 people were involved in containing and cleaning the spill, said Darrell Wilson, spokesman for Malaysia-based AET Tanker Holdings, the owner of the tanker.
The biggest oil spill in U.S. history occurred in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef in the Gulf of Alaska, resulting in the spill of 11 million gallons of crude.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oil Equipment Maker Hit by $14M Embezzlement



BY MICHAEL COHN JANUARY 18, 2010
Davis-Lynch, a Pearland, Texas-based maker of oil field equipment, had $14 million embezzled from the company accounts over a decade’s time, according to a federal lawsuit filed against 18 employees, including the head of the accounting department.

It’s just the latest case of embezzlement by accounting workers. A study released last week by Marquet International found that two-thirds of embezzlement cases last year involved employees who held finance and accounting positions (see Accounting, Finance Workers Most Likely to Embezzle). In the case of Davis-Lynch, accounting department supervisor Nancy Moreno, a 12-year employee who ran accounts payable and receivable, was named in the suit, along with three other employees who worked in the department under her supervision, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Other defendants included several of Moreno’s family members and relatives. The scheme involved dummy companies with names that resembled those that Davis-Lynch already did business with billing the company for services. Davis-Lynch executives would then be tricked into signing checks to them, or their signatures would be forged. Some of the defendants also owned companies that would perform some services for Davis-Lynch but would continue to bill for services they didn’t perform.

According to the Marquet study, the average embezzlement scheme lasted four-and-a-half years. In the Davis-Lynch case, the checks issued under the scheme date back to at least May of 2000. That’s not a surprising amount of time for a scheme to go uncovered, particularly when it allegedly involved at least four members of the accounting department.

The case in some ways is reminiscent of the D.C. Tax Office scandal, in which a group of employees and supervisors, and their family members, were involved in stealing $48.1 million by filing phony property tax refunds (see D.C. Tax Scam Ringleader Sentenced to 17 Years). When employees cover up for other employees, and get extra help from family members, accounting fraud and embezzlement become that much easier to get away with for a time, until ultimately and inevitably it gets uncovered by somebody.

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