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* Governor’s Office News Briefs … Governor Greg Abbott has announced his support for President Donald Trump’s decision, conveyed through Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, to deploy the National Guard on the U.S.-Mexican border, saying that the President’s decision has precedent in the 2006 commitment of President George W. Bush and the 2010 commitment of President Barack Obama to secure our nation’s southern border. The Governor added, “My top priority as Governor is ensuring the safety and security of Texans, and securing our southern border has always been essential to that mission. In my time as Governor, Texas has maintained a continuous presence of National Guard members along the border, and we’ve added hundreds of permanent Department of Public Safety troopers to the region.” Mr. Abbott observed that he welcomes efforts of the Trump Administration to bolster “Texas’ long-standing commitment to secure our southern border and uphold the Rule of Law.” Not only will Texas continue “robust border-security efforts,” but this partnership with the Trump Administration “will help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal immigration.” Reporting on his nine-day, business-development mission to India—his fourth international business-development trip since becoming Governor—Abbott remarked that, going forward, it is important for Texas business leaders, and Texans generally, to understand that, by “being proactive in working with India,” they can capitalize on the “tremendous opportunity” for the existing partnership to expand. In addition to achieving a vital consensus with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met with a U.S. governor for the first time, the Governor met with the Ministers of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Commerce and Industry, and Civil Aviation. For example, the result of his meeting with Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is that Texas has a proverbial green light to meet India’s energy needs through the state’s plans to add oil-export facilities across Texas and that opportunities exist to increase the recently-undertaken shipments from Texas of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Indeed, the trade mission, sponsored and financed by the Texas Economic Development Corporation, did further “open doors for the state of Texas,” for JSW Steel pledged to invest $500 million to enlarge its steel-manufacturing operations in Baytown, Texas, while Wipro Limited committed to establishment of a new job-creating Texas Technology Center in Plano, Texas. In addition, Governor Abbott announces that nominations for the 2018 Star of Texas Awards will open on April 15, 2018, with nomination forms available through the Governor’s Office. Although nominations are for the year 2018, peace officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical first responders who were seriously injured or who died in the line of duty between September 1, 2003 and June 15, 2018 are eligible for nomination, as long as the first responder has not previously received a Star of Texas Award for the same event. Noting that the nomination deadline is June 15, 2018, Governor Abbott allows, “This past year has undoubtedly tested our resilience, but the Texas spirit remains stronger than ever, and that is, in part, due to the incredible work of the men and women in uniform serving their communities. These awards allow us to recognize and celebrate those who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.” In a related development, the Governor appointed Matt Kouri as presiding officer of the Family and Protective Services Council and eight others to terms expiring February 1, 2019, February 1, 2021 or February 1, 2023. Mr. Kouri previously served on the Texas Adoption Review Committee and is a member of Texas’ Choose Life Advisory Committee, and he will head a council that conducts studies and makes recommendations to the Department of Family and Protective Services on management and operational issues. Moreover, Governor Abbott has re-appointed five members of the Texas School Safety Center Board for terms ending February 1, 2020, Board members not only reporting to the Governor, the state legislature, the State Board of Education, and the Texas Education Agency on school-security and -safety matters, but advising the center on such issues as budget and strategic-planning initiatives. The re-appointed members include the Commander of the Nacogdoches Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputies Division, a high-school principal, a member of a campus-improvement team, a Deaf Smith County constable, and a firearms-safety instructor.
* State Legislative News Briefs … Representative Ron Simmons, the son of public-school teachers, has been named to a national compact known as the Education Commission of the States and spearheaded by John Gardner of the Carnegie Corporation and the late Terry Sanford, past Governor of North Carolina. Governor Abbott has also appointed Senator Larry Taylor, Representative Dwayne Bohac, and John Colyandro to represent Texas on the Commission, which was formed in 1967 to improve education coast-to-coast by sharing best practices among education-policy leaders working in the states. The Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency (Mike Morath) and the Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Raymund Paredes) are other members of the Texas delegation to the Education Commission of the States. On Wednesday, over in the Texas Senate, Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson testified at a hearing of the Senate State Affairs Committee examining funding strategies for the Teachers Retirement System and the Employees Retirement System and warned that the state of Texas “can’t keep going down this path” of under-funding state pension funds. The Executive Director of the latter system, Porter Wilson, asserted, “If you’re not going to put in new revenue and you’re convinced the 10 percent [which is the state-government contribution limited by the Texas Constitution] is a hard cap … there’s only one place to go and that’s the benefit-design side and making benefit-design changes.” Dependent on investment income and contributions from either teachers or state employees, investments, supposed to deliver 8 percent of funds, have returned no more than about 7 percent, so a decision by the Employees Retirement System last August to lower the fund’s financial-return assumption to 7.5 percent is still insufficient. Consequently, the Teachers Retirement System board, for one, will meet on April 20 to consider reducing the financial assumption closer to actual investment returns.
* County Government News Briefs ... Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack announces that various Earth Day activities, including a Native Plant Walk, a Nature Talk and do-it-yourself earth-friendly activities, are scheduled between 11 AM and 2 PM on April 21 at the Kleb Woods Nature Center in Tomball, Texas. Precinct 4 and the Mercer Botanic Gardens (22306 Aldine Westfield Road, Humble, TX 77338), in turn, are due to host the Shakespeare Garden Opening & Dedication on April 23 between 10 AM and 12 Noon at the Mercer Botanic Gardens. Meantime, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis indicates that $30 million in street repairs are planned for seven streets in the University of Houston and Texas Southern University corridor, with the purpose of enhancing safety and accessibility, while improving drainage to reduce street flooding and creating attractive infrastructure that can be a source of neighborhood pride. In addition, the County Commissioner’s Court informs that Laurie L. Christensen, recently appointed as County Fire Marshal, is now on the job.
* City Government News Briefs … Mayor Sylvester Turner has expressed satisfaction that Transportation for America—an organization that encourages smart, locally-driven transportation solutions—has selected Houston as one of 22 cities to take part in an April 16-17 Smart Cities Collaborative in Denver to share the outcomes of their innovative transportation-solution projects and collect best-practices ideas from fellow program participants. The Mayor says that the Collaborative promotes the very transportation-technology “paradigm shift” he has advocated. Besides, the Mayor signals approval for the support the City Council gave to his flood-protection reform agenda. Offering the reminder that Hurricane Harvey inundated the metropolitan area with 51 inches of rain, causing the deaths of dozens of Harris County residents and flooding hundreds of thousands of homes, the Mayor points out that current regulations only protected against a 100-year flood, one delivering 13 to 14 inches of rain during a 24-hour period. The new regulations will require that new construction sit two feet above the 500-year-flood mark, or 17 to 19 inches of rain during a 24-hour period. These new regulations, if implemented before Hurricane Harvey, could have protected 90 percent of the homes that flooded last August. In the face of some local business criticism that the proposed reforms would make construction more costly, the Mayor countered that the objective is to assure residents and businesses that Houston takes precautions against future storms and flooding, and Turner added that otherwise “… why would business owners want to make significant investment inside the city of Houston?”
* School District News Briefs … The Houston Independent School District reports that the Audit Committee of the Board of Education held a meeting on April 2, that Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System (TELPAS) testing concludes today, and that the next School Board meeting, where Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan will discuss the Goal Monitoring Report with Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Board colleagues, is planned for April 12. Besides, the District announces that there will be a When I Grow Up Career Expo on April 14 between 10 AM and 1 PM at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center (4400 W. 18th Street).
* Weather … The National Weather Service reports overcast skies at Houston Hobby Airport, as of 2:53 PM, with a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, relative humidity of 85 percent, 15-mile-per-hour wind out of the south, and the dewpoint standing at 72 degrees. The visibility is 10 miles and the barometric pressure reads 29.80 inches. The forecast for this afternoon calls for mostly-cloudy conditions, a high temperature about 81 degrees, a 30-percent chance of showers, and wind gusts up to 20 miles per hour. Tonight, thunderstorms are possible after 7 PM, and new rainfall amounts of between 0.10 inch and 0.25 inch are expected, the chance of precipitation increasing to 50 percent. Saturday, cloudy conditions, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms, are forecast, with the temperature expected to dip to about 57 degrees by 5 PM, and wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour are anticipated.
* Sports … The NBA reports that the Southwest Division-leading Rockets, who have won 9 of their last 10 games and clinched the top Western Conference playoff spot, host Oklahoma City tomorrow in the Toyota Center at 8:30 PM Eastern Time. Meantime, the World Champion, and American League West-leading, Astros (6-1) entertain the San Diego Padres (1-6) tonight at 8:10 PM.
Report on Science: By Greg Anderson
Stanford University Research Team Makes Important Discovery Fighting Cancer [Condensed and Re-printed]
Researchers at Stanford University, supported by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Boaz and Varda Dotan Foundation, the Phil N. Allen Foundation, and a grant from the National Institutes of Health, are now working on what they’re calling a cancer vaccine, and they’re having some remarkable success. It’s still early in the process, however. In fact, the research, led by Oncology Professor and M.D. Ronald Levy—whose laboratory has already developed one of the first antibodies approved for humans’ anti-cancer treatment—is at the mouse stage. Yes, once again mice get the short end of the medical-experimentation stick….
With the alternatives being to remove immune cells from the body and genetically-engineer them to become tumor-attack cells or to “target naturally-occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells,” the theory behind this vaccine is to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. That’s not terribly new. What is new is, instead of activating the entire immune system, the vaccine is injected directly into the tumor. That allows injection of a smaller dose of two key agents, eliminating high costs, cutting down on treatment times, and avoiding nearly-unmanageable negative side effects, while activating only the local immune system.
The results, so far, have been both impressive and surprising: impressive because the cancer has been completely destroyed in a strong majority of the tests, and surprising because, in mice that had two tumors, the vaccine was introduced to one tumor, destroyed it, traveled to the second tumor of the same type, and destroyed it, as well. Scientists weren’t expecting the traveling and aren’t yet sure how it happened, but it seems to be a powerful bonus. The vaccine worked in 87 of 90 mice tested, and there was even regression of cancer in the three lone mice with a second treatment, identical breast, colon and melanoma tumors impacted equally.
As miraculous as this approach seems, researchers are careful to say it’s not a cure on its own. In human patients, surgery to remove tumors in bulk will still be necessary, to prevent recurrence from unidentified or remaining cancer cells—and to block development of new tumors resulting from genetic mutations—but using the vaccine in conjunction with surgery can hopefully ensure every cancer cell is destroyed. Human clinical trials are now being organized for patients with lymphoma.... Note: Editor-in-Chief Gary Salamone also contributed to this report.
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VOLUME IV NUMBER 1 APRIL 6, 2018
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