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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Congressman wants probe of 507th unit's capture

From Staff and Wire Reports
The congressman representing the city of El Paso and Fort Bliss in Washington is calling for an investigation into why a lightly-armed maintenance unit from that base was not given better protection before it ran into an Iraqi unit in the desert of southern Iraq last Saturday.

Two members of the 507th Maintenance Company have been confirmed dead, five are prisoners of war, shown in Iraqi television video on Sunday, and eight others are missing after they were ambushed in Iraq on Sunday when a convoy took a wrong turn near An Nasiriyah in central Iraq.

Among the eight is Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villarreal Mata, 35, a 1986 graduate of Pecos High School. He was confirmed to be among the missing on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Mata's name was one of five added to the list of those missing in action from the 507th Maintenance Company on Wednesday, though family members were first informed on Monday that he was among those involved in the fight with Iraqi troops and had not been accounted for.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes said on Wednesday that the 507th ran into a heavily armed Iraqi combat unit that included two tanks and automatic weapons when it made the wrong turn near An Nasiriyah.

Reyes, D-El Paso, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the El Paso Times for its Thursday editions that he is angry that the company was not protected or escorted by a combat company when it was attacked by Iraqi forces.

Reyes, who said he has spoken to high-ranking Department of Defense officials, said the lightly armed 507th didn't have a chance.

"We know getting answers will take time, but we don't want this to happen to another support unit."

Reyes, a Vietnam War veteran, said he has contacted Pentagon officials and is awaiting answers concerning the deadly, tragic ambush.

"The supply line is a couple hundred miles long," he told the Times. "This is a maintenance (company) that should have been operating in a relatively secure environment. If not, they should have been escorted by a combat unit."

Reports of the company making a wrong turn in the desert had been circulating in Pecos following the first reports of Mata's disappearance, and had made into unofficial press accounts, but Reyes' statements that the 507th met stiff enemy firepower is the first glimpse into the firefight that has resulted in disturbing accusations that some of the American soldiers had been executed following their capture by the Iraqis.

A Department of Defense official said he could not comment on Reyes statements, but that the incident was still under investigation.

Reyes said he has contacted Pentagon officials and is awaiting answers concerning the ambush.

About 4,500 soldiers have deployed from Fort Bliss to the Middle East and about 100 to 150 of those are with the 507th.

Mata's family did not want to make an official comment following Wednesday's announcement by the DoD, but family spokesman Javier Contreras said they are concerned and praying for all the troops out there and the families of those who have someone serving.

PHS students get look at gene therapy process

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., March 27, 2003 -- With the help of a biotechnology company, Pecos High School students in the Advanced Placement Concurrent Biology class are learning how DNA is used to create medication for diabetics by transforming one type of species with a special gene.

"The students are transforming harmless E-coli species by inserting a special gene into the E-coli," Biology Teacher Cary Hannz said.

According to Hannz, BioRad, a company involved with biotechnology, has isolated the gene of a jellyfish, which the students will then place in the E-coli allowing a new form of bacteria that will then glow under ultraviolet light.

"They will then be able to see the effects of the transformation," Hannz said.

Biology Teacher, Barbara Scown, added that five or 10 years ago they were not able to do this kind of lab work because of the lack of materials and equipment.

"The company is working with education. It lets the student take an organism and put a different gene to change the DNA from the first organism," Scown said. "It is technology used everyday for making medicine, such as antibiotics or insulin."

Scown said that this new procedure allows them to take a gene from human insulin and put it into a bacteria cell from which it them makes more human insulin.

Before this she said insulin was made from another source, which then had to be cleaned up so that it could be used by diabetics.

"The students are getting to see how modern technology makes life better," Scown said. "There has been a negative idea about DNA transformation."

Several students in the class stated that the project has been interesting and fun to learn. Two students added that they would either major or minor in biology when in college.

"I think that this project will defiantly enhance our knowledge about DNA transformation," PHS student Phillip Salcido said.

Both Scown and Hannz said that they would like to thank Superintendent Don Love, School Technology Coordinator Jodie Exum and School Finance Director Cookie Cannon because though they both had the knowledge to teach the technology, they did not have the materials or equipment.

"We would like to give special thanks to Mr. Love, Mrs. Exum and Mrs. Cannon," Scown said. "With out their help we would not have been able to do this."

Scown concluded that another project the students will be working on later on this year would be the viewing of their own DNA.

"The students will be taking check cells and then extracting their own DNA. They will then make their own necklace and place their own DNA (on the necklace)," Scown said.

County judge, school district in fight over son's treatment

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., March 27, 2003 -- Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo and his wife Michelle could be facing court costs and possibly further legal action, after an incident that occurred in December led the couple to withhold their child from school for the past three months.

"In mid-December we found out from school staff that they had been abusive towards my son, John," said Galindo. The couple's son is autistic and was attending a self-contained class at Austin Elementary when the December incident occurred.

Galindo said that he and his wife found out about the school staff had been putting ice inside his son's pants and spraying him in the face with a water bottle.

"John is disabled and does not have the ability to speak," said Galindo. "It was very obvious to me that beginning in September, John was very fearful of going to school and would become distraught every morning when taking him to school, but we didn't know why."

"Every morning when we would give him the picture symbol for going to school he would immediately cry and hold his hands over his face," said Galindo.

"In mid-December when we found out of the staff misconduct, I formally requested any and all information pertaining to these acts," said Galindo. "The P-B-T ISD has refused to give us all the information with regards to what happened."

School officials were contacted by the Enterprise this morning about Galindo's allegations, but declined to comment.

The Galindos have withheld their son from school since mid-December, and were served a complaint this week over his absence that was filed with Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley.

Galindo said he and his wife still do not know all of what happened in the classroom. "Until we find out what actually happened, we believe we're justified legally in not taking him to school and subjecting him to further abuse," he said.

"On Dec. 13, I met with the school principal Cindy Duke and Donna Davis (Special Education Director), to discuss the misconduct and necessary appropriate safety measures to make sure this never happened again," said Galindo.

He said that his suggestions to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah school officials included cameras in the classroom to monitor what is going on, on a daily basis and an observation room where the parents can watch classroom activities without interrupting the daily curriculum.

"To this day I have yet to receive a formal response from the school district," said Galindo.

"Yesterday, I called Donna to ask her about the issue of cameras for the classroom for the safety of the kids," said Galindo. "She said Don Love (school superintendent) told her he would take care of it and for her not to respond to me."

Galindo said he called Love, but that he was unavailable.

"And I've still yet to get a call from Don Love," said Galindo. "All of this happened before I was served."

Galindo was served with a complaint Wednesday afternoon for failing to require a child to attend school. The complaint states that Jimmy and Michelle Galindo "violated Section 25.085 and absences are not excused under Section 25.087 of the Texas Education Code." The complaint stated that their son "Is not exempt from the requirements of compulsory school attendance under Section 25.086 of the Texas Education Code. This is a Class "C" Misdemeanor."

The teacher in charge of the self-contained class at Austin Elementary has since left the district, and a teacher's aide who was also in the classroom has been fired. A new teacher for the class was hired by P-B-T ISD board members in a 4-2 vote in February, but Galindo at that same meeting voiced concerns about the teacher's lack of experience in dealing with special education students.

PHA/FLH board members to discuss status reports

PECOS, Thurs., March 27, 2003 -- The Pecos Housing Authority and the Farm Labor Housing Board of Commissioners will hold their regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at the Administration Office at Starley and Meadowbrook Drives.

During the portion of the FLH meeting the Board of Commissioners discuss a letter dated February 10, 2003 from John E. Perkins, Community Development Specialist, USDA Rural Development regarding Routine Notice of Servicing Results/Concerns, while under new business the board will discuss and approve the FLH Management Plan/Management Agreement and Routine Notice of serving results/concerns by Perkins.

They will also discuss the 2002 end of the year report, the 2003 budget draft / form 1930-7 actual expenses of 2002 and the monthly report for the month of February and March 2003 under new business, and will also approve the minutes for the meeting of December 2002 and January 2003 held on February 2003 in the old business section of the meeting.

As the board moves on to the PHA portion of the meeting, the board will approve the minutes of the meeting of December 2002 and January 2003 held on February 7, 2003. The will then discuss the 2002 annual report for the PHA/FLH and review up coming commissioners' training announcement.

Under unfinished business the board will review the 2002 capital funds projects, the paving of the allies at the PHA developments, the fencing project for 10th and 11th Street, the side walks and parking project on the south side and the landscaping.

New business includes the physical structure report for fiscal year 2002 following the REAC inspection held on January 30, 2003 by Ms. Johnnie Bryan, MTB group of Rockwall, Texas. They will also hear the 2002 annual report presented by Nellie Gomez, the 2002 Management Assessment for Public Housing Agencies, the new and updated public housing policies of de-concentration and income targeting policy, Pest Eradication Policy, Pet Ownership Policy Pet Ownership Policy (family), Pet Ownership Policy (elderly and disabled), Public Housing Natural and National Disaster Response Policy and Resident initiatives Policy and Section 3 plan.

Three other items listed under new business will be the implementation of the 2003 Resident Service and satisfaction survey, the Texas NAHRO 27th Annual Conference and Exhibition to be held in Odessa, Texas on April 6-9 and the monthly reports for the month of February and March 2003.


Alicia Lazcano and Ismael Valdez

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