Welcome to my community-building diary series, "Houston, Texas news you can use." As always, opinions are my own. Links, re-posts, comments etc., not necessarily endorsements.

I'm an out loud and proud liberal, card-carrying LGBT community member, nonprofit professional, and DKos Trusted User. I appreciate any/all feedback.

Local BSA council weighs in on gay policy
Houston's Boy Scout leaders are weighing in on a controversy that's been brewing within the organization nationwide. Should a controversial ban against gay Boy Scouts be lifted? The local board said they wouldn't support a proposed resolution to the national Boy Scouts membership policy that would lift the bar on gay scout members. The vote on the national resolution is scheduled for May 23, officials said. Statement from the Sam Houston Area Council of Boy Scouts of America: Today at a meeting of its Board of Directors, the Sam Houston Area Council voted to support the current national membership policy. This policy does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, but does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

Charter Bill Brings New Faces to Education Debate
As lawmakers work on charter school legislation, lobbyists better known for their work in other areas have been showing up regularly at education committee hearings. Most notable among those new faces has been Texans for Lawsuit Reform co-founder Dick Trabulsi.

Why Stress Can Make You Sick And What Houston Has To Do With It
A new study shows stress can put you at higher risk for heart disease. Houston routinely places higher up in "Most Stressful Cities" rankings. Long working hours and long daily commutes can contribute to a heightened stress level. According to a study by a Danish researcher, chronically stressed people are 37 percent more likely to develop heart disease. That can be a problem for us here in the Houston area, where people commute an average of 26 minutes and work more weekly hours than any other metropolitan area. The Bayou City usually ranks high on “stressful city” lists and polls.

TWC unveils online resource for economic development SitesOnTexas 2.0
Texas communities now have a new resource to help attract business and development opportunities to the Lone Star State. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), in partnership with Decision Data Resources has developed SitesOnTexas 2.0, a web-based geographic information system (GIS) software which allows users to create data-oriented reports and maps which support economic decisions and help monitor regional progress.

BHP Billiton Petroleum partners with Texans
The Houston Texans, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and oil and gas industry leader BHP Billiton Petroleum announced today they have reached a five year sponsorship agreement. BHP Billiton Petroleum will become the name holder of the northeast gate at Reliant Stadium. The agreement also includes presenting sponsorship of the Texans’ “Liberty White” home game and the Texans Community Quarterback Program which benefits volunteers from United Way Agencies. BHP Billiton Petroleum will also become the presenting sponsor of the Rodeo’s Armed Forces Day. The Texans and BHP Billiton Petroleum are both significant supporters of the local community. BHP Billiton Petroleum raised more than one million dollars for the United Way of Greater Houston last year. The Texans have awarded more than $146,000 to 71 recipients since 2002 through the Community Quarterback program. The 2012 Community Quarterback was the Avondale House, receiving $10,000.

Workers threaten strike at Exxon Mobil refinery
Workers are threatening to strike over safety concerns at an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Baytown, one of the world's largest sources of gasoline and other petroleum products. A local chapter of the United Steelworkers - a union that represents 850 workers at the Baytown refinery - said Monday it had issued a 60-day notice to Exxon Mobil of its intent to strike. The union had requested that Exxon Mobil update some safety procedures and improve education efforts as it has done at some of its other facilities, including sites in Louisiana and Beaumont, union spokesman Richard Landry said. But Exxon Mobil has not gone along with those demands, he said.

Noble Energy reorganizes company structure
Noble Energy Inc. said Monday it has made a number of changes to its organizational structure to take advantage of synergies and balance responsibilities as the Houston-based exploration and production company grows. The new structure includes three major operating regions — U.S. Onshore; Eastern Mediterranean; and U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Africa and Frontier — and the newly created Global Operations Services organization and Corporate Development group.

BP’s $4.2 Billion Profit Beats Forecasts
BP reported first-quarter profit of $4.2 billion on Tuesday, after adjustment for inventory changes and one-off items, handily beating analysts’ forecasts. Even though profit was 11 percent lower than the same quarter last year, Peter Hutton, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in London, called the report “a very positive set of results.” Shares in BP rose more than 3 percent in London trading after the earnings announcement.

Small Business Survey Finds Optimism for Hiring, Raises
A majority of Texas business owners plan to grow their businesses over the next six months, according to a survey of small businesses. The American Express Small Business Monitor indicates 93 percent of Texas business owners plan to grow over the next six months — up from last fall, when 76 percent said they had growth plans.  Alice Braden is a small business advisor for American Express.

Students' math shows path to success for BARC
To cut the euthanasia rate at Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care, the city has added staff, upgraded facilities, expanded adoption events and formed a foundation to support its work. One thing officials had not tried - until this week - is high-level mathematics. Seeking hard data to guide policy on an emotional subject, staff from the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department, which oversees BARC, approached the students' professors last fall. An academic year's worth of work later, the "Kennel Club," as the four dubbed themselves, produced a model showing what city officials must do to achieve "no-kill' status for the shelter, which, as recently as 2005, was euthanizing four of every five animals it took in.

Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden for Students
Educators are harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time. Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job. Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate.

County OKs courthouse plaza project
The court also on Monday approved the leasing of the county’s facility at 344 Highway 75 North by the Walker County Community Agency. The building used to house the United Way of Walker County, which no longer exists. Kay Cooks, the former director of the county’s United Way, said Monday that the local board voted to leave the national agency and form the Walker County Community Agency. The national United Way agency had wanted Walker County to merge with Montgomery County.

A different kind of philanthropy
Michael Bloomberg, founder of the media company and mayor of New York, has made a name as a businessman and politician. Now he is ratcheting up his philanthropy as he plans how best to give away his fortune: a sum estimated at $27bn by Forbes. There are many wealthy people who donate large sums, and a significant number who lend their business skills to the non-profit sector. Far fewer, however, also bring the experience of public office to their efforts. And perhaps no one has combined all three simultaneously on the scale of the 71-year-old who steps down as mayor at the end of this year.

Art & Culture
The Hunchback of Mexico
Who are these guys? When Hank Schyma of Southern Backtones and Johnny Falstaff arent making movies, they are on the road perfoming their music... Together they are Death Western Entertainment, and with numorous music videos and these flicks under their belt, the boys are now immersing themselves in their biggest endeavor so far ... a beautiful period piece set in Mexico in the 1840's, a western thriller ..."The Hunchback of Mexico"!

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