Houston News

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By Keith Randall, Texas A&M University Marketing and Communications 

COLLEGE STATION, March 23, 2017 – CC, the first-ever cloned cat and perhaps the most well-known feline in the world, recently turned 15 years old and she appears to have most of her nine lives ahead of her, according to her owner and the man who helped clone her at Texas A&M University in 2002.

Duane Kraemer, senior professor in the Reproduction Sciences Lab at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says CC – short for Copy Cat – made the record books in several categories.  She became the first cloned cat following 87 attempts 15 years ago, and she also became the first cloned cat to become a mother – she has three offspring that were born 11 years ago, all of them still alive and doing well.

“One of the big concerns that critics of cloning had was that cloned animals would suffer health problems and not live as long as non-cloned animals,” Kraemer explains.

“CC proved that theory was wrong.  She is in good health and her kittens all turned out to be healthy, normal cats.”

CC has lived with Kraemer and his wife Shirley, who adopted CC, for the past 15 years, along with Smokey, CC’s mate.

“She’s been a great cat and a great mother. CC has been a real joy for us the past 15 years,” adds Kraemer, an admitted cat lover.

It’s believed Texas A&M has cloned more animal species than any institution in the world.  Successful cloning of six species have included cats, horses, pigs, goats, cattle and deer.  Kraemer was involved in the cloning of the cat and deer.

Once a headline-making endeavor, animal cloning has slowed considerably in recent years.

Several private companies now own the rights to some key cloning technologies, plus the expense of cloning – it can often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – have limited cloning efforts.

“Pet cloning of dogs and cats is still being done in Canada, and some former Texas A&M students are actively doing this work,” Kraemer notes.

As for CC, Kraemer says she is content with her life in a two-story custom-built house made especially for her and her offspring, and she has mastered the art of cat naps.

After four days of sorting through nearly 4,000 entries, a Grand and Reserve Grand Champion were chosen at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Junior Market Barrow Show, Thursday, March 23.

The stands erupted with cheers as Allie James, 17, a junior representing Stratford FFA, won the Grand Champion title with her Other Crossbred barrow. Allie said this win means so much to her because of all the time she has devoted to showing over the years.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” James said. “I have been working at it every day. I can never get away from it, but it has made me grow as a person.”

Allie said she is thankful for her strong support system of family and friends who drove 12 hours from her hometown of Stratford, Texas, to Houston to cheer for her.

“My family and show family are all here,” she said. “When I win, everybody wins.”

Allie has been showing at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo since she was in third grade. She plans to attend Texas Tech University, and hopes to one day become a veterinarian.

Sadie Hardison was overcome with emotion as her Other Crossbred barrow was named Reserve Grand Champion. The 13-year-old from Fredericksburg, Texas, said she has been showing for six years, and it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve this honor.

“It’s crazy,” Sadie said. “This win means everything to me, and I am excited to celebrate with my show [Fredericksburg FFA] group.”

Both champions, along with top placing junior market barrows, will be sold at the Junior Market Barrow Auction, Friday, March 24, at noon in the NRG Arena Sales Pavilion.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed more than $430 million to the youth of Texas. For more information, visit rodeohouston.com and connect with #RODEOHOUSTON online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for all of the latest news. The 2017 Show runs through March 26.

RODEOHOUSTON Semifinal 2 contestants advance to the Super Series Championship set for Saturday, March 25.


Veteran tie-down roper Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas, took home the Semifinal 2 win. Whitfield, 49, who won the event in 2000 and 2013, said that it feels great to be here at RODEOHOUSTON.

“This is my hometown rodeo,” Whitfield said. “I’m out here competing against guys half my age, so a win in the final would be the icing on the cake for me.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Fred Whitfield: Hockley, Texas — $7,250

Sterling Smith: Stephenville, Texas — $5,375

Stran Smith: Childress, Texas — $3,750

Riley Pruitt: Gering, Nebraska — $4,750


Mason Clements of Santaquin, Utah, won both the Super Series I and Semifinal 2 rounds in Bareback Riding. Clements said that he is ready to take care of business in the Championship Round.

“Winning both of my rides has my confidence sky-high,” Clements said. “I’m so motivated and ready to win in the Championship.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Mason Clements: Santaquin, Utah — $8,500

Tyler Nelson: Victor, Idaho — $6,500

Bobby Mote: Stephenville, Texas — $4,833

JR Vezain: Cowley, Wyoming — $4,250


Erich Rogers and Corey Petska, five-year team roping partners, claimed the Semifinal 2 Team Roping win.  Rogers said that he and Petska are friends in and out of the arena and that he is confident in their ability to work as a team.

“The atmosphere in the arena is intense and there are a lot of good ropers out there,” Rogers said, “but we work together well and don’t plan on changing anything going into the Championship.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Erich Rogers: Round Rock, Arizona; and Cory Petska: Marana, Arizona — $15,000

Riley Minor: Ellensburg, Washington; and Brady Minor: Ellensburg, Washington — $15,000

Chad Masters: Cedar Hill, Tennessee; and Travis Graves: Bluff Dale, Texas — $9,000

Pace Freed: Bluff Dale, Texas; and Trey Yates: Pueblo, Colorado — $9,000


Jacobs Crawley of Boerne, Texas, had the top Saddle Bronc took the win in Semifinal 2 and secured his spot in the Super Series Championship. He is proud to represent Texas at RODEOHOUSTON.

“Being a bronc rider from Texas isn’t that common,” Crawley said. “I’m trying to bring bronc riding back to Texas.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Jacobs Crawley: Boerne, Texas — $11,500

Jake Watson: Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia, Canada — $4,500

Tyrel Larsen: Inglis, Manitoba, Canada — $5,000

Wade Sundell: Boxholm, Iowa — $4,875


Tyler Waguespack of Gonzales, Louisiana, wrestled his steer in 4.2 seconds to win Semifinal 2 in Steer Wrestling. Waguespack is confident in the horse taking him to the Championship.

“I know that Cadillac is going to do his job in the Championship,” Waguespack said. “Now, I’ve just got to do mine.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Tyler Waguespack: Gonzales, Louisiana — $6,500

Clayton Hass: Weatherford, Texas — $6,500

KC Jones: Decatur, Texas — $5,250

Kyle Irwin: Robertsdale, Alabama — $4,250


Kassie Mowry of Dublin, Texas, is headed to the Championship in Barrel Racing.  Mowry’s time of 14.01 put her in the chase for $50,000.

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Kassie Mowry: Dublin, Texas — $10,000

Stevi Hillman: Weatherford, Texas — $8,000

Carley Richardson: Pampa, Texas — $4,750

Brenda Mays: Terrebonne, Oregon — $3,750


Brennon Eldred of Sulphur, Oklahoma, took home the Semifinal 2 Bull Riding win with a 90-point ride. This is Eldred’s third time to compete at RODEOHOUSTON.

“I feed off the atmosphere here at RODEOHOUSTON,” Eldred said. “If you can get on bulls, this is the place to do it.”

Advancing to Championship Round (winnings to date):

Brennon Eldred: Sulphur, Oklahoma — $10,500

Trey Benton III: Rock Island, Texas — $6,000

Cole Melancon: Hull, Texas — $4,500

Garrett Smith: Rexberg, Idaho — $3,375

The top four from each event in the Semifinal rounds advance to the RODEOHOUSTON Super Series Championship on Saturday, March 25. The remaining six from each event in the two semifinals will compete in the Wild Card Round, Friday, March 24, where the top two from each event will advance to the Championship. Each event champion will walk away with a $50,000 payout, in addition to previous winnings.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a Section 501(c)(3) charity that benefits youth, supports education, and facilitates better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Show has committed more than $430 million to the youth of Texas. For more information, visit rodeohouston.com and connect with #RODEOHOUSTON online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for all of the latest news. The 2017 Show runs through March 26.

AUSTIN – The Railroad Commission of Texas assessed $697,568 in fines involving 224 enforcement dockets against operators and businesses at the Commissioners’ conference earlier this week. The Commission has primary oversight and enforcement of the state’s oil and gas industry and intrastate pipeline safety.

Operators were assessed $291,550 after failing to appear at Commission enforcement proceedings. Details on these Master Default Orders can be found here.

Operators were ordered to come into compliance with Commission rules and assessed $119,268 for oil and gas, LP-Gas and pipeline rule violations. Pipeline operators and excavators were assessed $286,750 for violations of the Commission’s Pipeline Damage Prevention rules. Details on all these Master Agreed Orders can be found here.

In the absence of timely motions for rehearing, decisions are final as stated in these final orders.

HOUSTON (March 23, 2017) – The Houston Symphony and Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada announced today the extension of Orozco-Estrada’s contract as music director for another three seasons beyond his current five-year contract that began with the 2014-15 season. In the middle of his third season as music director, Orozco-Estrada will now continue to lead one of America’s most dynamic and forward-thinking orchestras through the 2021-22 season.

Orozco-Estrada is the fourth Houston Symphony music director to hold the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair, a position endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation. Since assuming the post, Orozco-Estrada has elevated the orchestra’s artistry, engaged new and traditional audiences with his spontaneous approach on and off the podium, reimagined the concert-going experience through unique partnerships and the innovative use of technology, and raised the international profile of the Houston Symphony. Orozco-Estrada’s priorities will include dynamic and memorable concerts, a growing catalog of recording projects, the commissioning of new works in collaboration with living composers, and touring activity that is helping to burnish Houston’s reputation as a cultural destination. Orozco-Estrada is the Houston Symphony’s 15th music director and the first Colombian-born conductor to assume this post in the orchestra’s 104-year history.

“I feel extremely honored to continue this journey together with the musicians of this great orchestra,” said Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. “I’m grateful for the support and the vote of confidence given to me from day one and very much look forward to strengthening my relationships with members of the orchestra. We will continue to explore inspiring new works and projects that allow us to embrace new and loyal audiences as well as further our artistic growth.”

“Andrés’ leadership, artistic vision and ability to interpret music so genuinely that it evokes powerful feelings and emotions from both musicians and audiences alike is both a gift and a driving force that reminds us that music is more than just notes,” said Mark C. Hanson, Executive Director and CEO, Margaret Alkek Williams Chair. “Andrés’ depth of musicianship, extraordinary ability to connect with orchestra members on stage and people in the community, along with his dedication to the art form, have earned him the respect and admiration of so many fans throughout Houston and the rest of the world.”

“My fellow Board members and I are so proud of the successful partnership between Andrés and our talented musicians that produces so many inspiring concerts each season,” said Steven P. Mach, President of the Board. “We look forward to continuing to support our organization’s artistic ambition.”

The announcement comes just days before Orozco-Estrada leads two programs marking the conclusion of his three-season cycle of all nine Beethoven symphonies, which began in his inaugural season and will conclude with Symphonies No. 6 & 7 this weekend and a new, semi-staged production of Beethoven’s Fidelio on March 31 and April 2. This much-anticipated announcement also follows the international release of the Houston Symphony’s and Orozco-Estrada’s most recent recording of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, which is part of a 3-disc series featuring Dvořák’s last four symphonies. The series marks Orozco-Estrada’s first commercial recording project with the orchestra.

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Destroying city neighborhoods one step at a time requires too much effort.  So Gov. Gregg Abbott wants one sweeping state law to ban city residents from having a say in protecting the health, safety, and property values in their communities.

While the Legislature is debating dozens of bills to overturn local ordinances and voter approved referendums, Gov. Abbott said last week: “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to preempt local regulations, is a superior approach.”

The Governor said this scorched earth approach was “more elegant.”  Maybe he meant more regal or more tyrannical.

There are nearly 28 million people in Texas now.  Eighty-five percent of the people in Texas, over 23.6 million of us, live in urban areas that cover about four percent of the state’s land area.  That’s a lot of people living very close together.

As cities have grown larger and more crowded, people have insisted upon having community rules that protect their property values, their safety, and their health.  Local zoning rules protect your home value by preventing your neighbor from putting a toxic waste dump next door or putting a strip club next to your child’s day care center.  Local health regulations and inspections enable restaurants to flourish because customers have confidence that the food is safe.

There is nothing new about cities adopting rules that reflect the will of the voters who live there.  And there is nothing new about special interests running to the state legislature when they can’t get a city to conform to their desires.

When Gov. Abbott and special interests complain about “a patchwork quilt of local regulations,” what they are saying is the convenience of big businesses – usually out-of-state corporations – is more important than the desire of Texans to have a voice in shaping the character of their neighborhood and their community.

Last year, the voters in Austin spoke clearly in an election that they wanted tough criminal background checks on ride-sharing drivers.  They wanted assurance of safety when they or family members hailed a ride.  There are a number of ride-sharing companies now flourishing under those rules.  But two others, Uber and Lyft, are spending millions of dollars on Austin lobbyists to get the legislature to run over the voters in Austin and other Texas cities.

In Fort Stockton, ranchers were alarmed about plastic grocery bags, blown by the west Texas wind, threatening their livestock feeders and covering their fences.  They asked their city leaders to ban the plastic bags and the community is happy with the result.  Citizens in other cities from Kermit to Laredo have done the same.

In neighborhoods across the state, people are waking up – in the middle of the night – to discover the home next door has been converted into a party house right out of the movie “Animal House.”  Responding to the concerns of their citizens, city councils are adopting local rules about short-term rentals to protect property values and the character of residential neighborhoods.

Have these cities suddenly gone out of control?  Have Texans suddenly decided to trample on liberty and freedom?  That’s ridiculous.  They simply want some common-sense rules to protect their families, their homes, and their neighborhoods.

Year after year, Texas cities lead the nation in the number of companies and people moving in.  Clearly, the way that Texas cities are operating is friendly and welcoming to businesses.  And countless businesses ranging from Dairy Queen to Walmart have proliferated across Texas adapting to the different local rules and regulations of many different towns and cities.

But there are a handful of companies that say all Texans must conform to the way they want to run their business, and they are intent upon using their money and their lobby power in Austin to legislate us into submission.

Texans don’t want to be told they have to conform to one way of thinking or one way of living – whether it comes from Washington or from the Governor’s office in Austin.

Texans are proud that our state is unlike any of the others.  In the only state that was once an independent nation, Texans have always celebrated the unique character of our people, our culture, and our heritage.  That same spirit is reflected in our more than 1,200 cities.  Every city in Texas is proudly unique.

Texans love being different, love debating our differences.  Whether it’s burnt orange or maroon, sweetened or unsweetened, red salsa or green – there’s not just one way of being Texan.  If Texans feel warm and comfortable under a patchwork quilt, those who seek to do business here – and our Governor – should recognize and respect that.

Bennett Sandlin is Executive Director of the Texas Municipal League, a voluntary, non-profit association of 1,153 Texas cities.

AUSTIN, TX – On Wednesday, the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas hosted a memorial service at the state Capitol to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty. The names of eight volunteer firefighters, who lost their lives while protecting or serving those in their community, were added to the Volunteer Firemen Monument.

“Firefighters are not heroes because they died, they are heroes because they lived to serve,” said Ben Kennedy, Chaplain of the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas. “Never forget their legacy, their dedication and their service.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick attended the memorial service, thanking the firefighters and their families for their service and for keeping our families and communities safe. He emphasized his support for the families of fallen first responders, noting that one of his legislative priorities this session is Senate Bill 15, which would create a homestead tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty, including spouses of previously deceased responders.

“Firefighters across Texas and the United States put their lives on the line each and every time they respond to an emergency,” said Chris Barron, SFFMA executive director. “We honored those responders who have given the ultimate sacrifice with the memorial service, however we also need to remember the responders of today and the sacrifices they make to protect our families and communities.”

Also in attendance were Sen. Brian Birdwell, Sen. Charles Perry, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Rep. Trent Ashby, Rep. Brooks Landgraf, Rep. John Raney, Rep. Ramon Romero.

The following fallen volunteer firefighters were added to Volunteer Firemen Monument:

Firefighter John Sanders, Snyder VFD, August 20, 1966

Firefighter Marcus King, Claude VFD, February 1, 1995

Firefighter Jared Wright, Claude VFD, February 1, 1995

Firefighter Larry O’Neil, Lone Camp VFD, October 25, 2015

Firefighter Richard Cano, Cy-Fair VFD, November 29, 2015

Firefighter Stacy Crawford, Navarro County ESD#1, December 19, 2015

Firefighter John Kendall Reynolds, Buffalo VFD, July 3, 2016

Captain Coby Slaughter, Wink VFD, September 7, 2016

The Volunteer Firemen Monument is one of the four oldest monuments on the capitol grounds. It was erected by the SFFMA in 1896. The original granite statue was replaced by the bronze statue and rededicated in 1905.

Organized in 1876, SFFMA is Texas’ oldest and largest fire and EMS association serving the fire, industrial and emergency medical responders of Texas, as well as international members. SFFMA has the support of over 1,200 fire departments, 21,000 individual members, 80 industrial fire brigades, and also numerous EMS and international departments. The association is extremely active in legislative efforts that affect emergency response services in Texas, and has been successful in getting legislation passed which supports fire and EMS first responders.

For more information about this event, contact Chris Barron, SFFMA executive director, at 512-633-4033 or via email at legislativeday@sffma.org.

Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick

FORT WORTH – Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick today joined industry experts, academics and public officials at the Texas A&M University 2017 Energy Law Symposium to discuss future opportunities and challenges for the United States and global energy industry.

“Today, we could not sustain life as we know it without energy of some kind,” Craddick said. “Over the course of the last few decades, our quality of life and the health of our environment have increased significantly thanks to energy. While there are plenty of uncertainties – OPEC, Russia, the Mexican energy market and changes in federal regulations – we know the U.S. energy industry is not going anywhere. In fact, through the last downturn, the industry only got better, producing more energy at less cost and with less impact to the environment.”

“From the Texas perspective, the future of our state’s energy industry is very bright,” Craddick said. “Texas is leading the new U.S. energy renaissance. And, a few important factors are contributing to our energy success: an all-of-the-above energy strategy including oil, gas, coal and renewables; pro-growth policies that support a business-friendly environment; infrastructure development allowing for industry expansion; and education and training for a technically skilled workforce. It is important that the federal government employs those same concepts nationally in support of the overall U.S. energy industry.”

Christi Craddick was elected statewide by the people of Texas in November 2012 to serve a six-year term as Texas Railroad Commissioner. A native of Midland, Christi is an attorney specializing in oil and gas, water, tax issues, electric deregulation and environmental policy.



By Tom Behrens, tbehrcomm@gmail.com

In the boys Bi-district action…

Morton Ranch vs. Travis, 7:30 p.m., Thursday at Old Kempner Stadium

Strake Jesuit vs. Fort Bend Austin, 7:00 p.m., Friday at Strake Jesuit

Seven Lakes vs. Dulles, 7:00 p.m., Thursday at Rhodes Stadium

Cinco Ranch vs Clements, 7:00 p.m., Friday at Mercer

In the girls Bi-district action…

Taylor vs. Ridge Point, 7:30 p.m., Thursday at Mercer

Cinco Ranch vs. Fort Bend Austin, 7:00 p.m., Friday at Cinco Ranch

Tompkins vs Kempner, 7:30 p.m., Friday at Tompkins

Seven Lakes vs Clements, 5:00 p.m., Friday at Seven Lakes

Strake Jesuit comes into the playoffs as the power in boys District 19-6A, ranked number three in the nation according to topdrawersoccer.com FAB 50 national rankings. The Crusaders come into the playoffs on an 11 game winning streak

The final tally in District 19-6A district records show Strake Jesuit at 12-0-2 with a 11 game winning streak. Seven Lakes is second at 10-3-1, Cinco Ranch at 9-2-3, and Morton Ranch at 6-5-2.

In the final girls District 19-6A standings, Cinco Ranch finished with no losses and an 11-0-1 record. Tompkins finished at 8-2-2, Seven Lakes at 8-3-1, and Taylor at 6-4-2. The Lady Cougars of Cinco Ranch will be going for their fourth state regional title.

By Tom Behrens, tbehrcomm@gmail.com

The Texas High School Coaches Association, (THSCA) has chosen to honor several legendary coaches from the Texas High School Football ranks – Eddy Peach (Arlington Lamar), Don Clayton (Katy Cinco Ranch), Roberto Vela (Edcouch-Elsa, Edinburg) and James Cameron (Rockwall, Kilgore, Sulphur Springs).

Eddy Peach was the head coach of the Lamar Vikings for 39 years, and posted a 310-123-6 record during his time there.

James Cameron took McKinney to the state semifinals and took Rockwall as far as the state semifinals, and he posted a 48-14-1 record with Rockwall.

Robert Vela died in 2007. His overall record was 137-73, and he scored 14 playoff berths during his time coaching. Robert Vela High School in Edinburg is named after him.

Don Clayton is the head coach and athletic director of Katy Cinco Ranch. He’s been at the position since 1999, and has taken the Cougars as far as the semifinals.

The inductees will be honored on the last day of the THSCA Coaching School and Convention, which will be held on July 23rd-26th.