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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.

Postal Service Elves Could Use Your Help
When letters like this arrive in Santa's mailbox at the North Pole, there are always elves working day jobs at the U.S. Postal Service who see them and feel compelled to answer the requests, said Dionne Montague, spokeswoman for the Postal Service's Houston district office. This year, for the first time in Houston, members of the public can "adopt" letters or respond to children who have expressed needs, rather than the typical wish lists of kids who want everything from Beyblade spinning battle toys to iPhones.

Houston Has Become a Dining and Culture Destination
Houston increasingly is viewed as a regional dining and culture destination, the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau reported Tuesday.

TxDOT Holds Public Meetings On 290 Managed Lanes Project
Plans call for reversable managed toll lanes on U.S. 290 from the 610 Loop to State Highway 99. The lanes are similar to the ones on the Katy Freeway. They would carry vehicles with more than one person. They would also carry single drivers willing to pay a toll. TxDot is holding two public meetings on the project.

ExxonMobil Says: ‘It’s not easy being us’
Exxon Mobil Corp. may have wanted the takeaway message from its briefing today on world energy supply and demand to be about the ways technology is opening up new power options for consumers around the globe. Instead, another message rang loud and clear: It’s hard at the top.

CPRIT Executive Director Submits Resignation
Bill Gimson, executive director of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, has submitted his letter of resignation. Gimson faced criticism in recent weeks after it came to light that an $11 million grant to Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics Inc. did not go through the proper review channels.

City Council Seeks Options for Lowering Pension Obligations
Houston City Council members heard a handful of options for cutting the city's enormous pension costs on Tuesday, and reacted with varying degrees of frustration, confusion and alarm. The informational presentation from the city's chief pension executive Craig Mason was the latest in a yearlong effort by the Parker administration to address the city's spiraling pension obligations, in hopes of lowering City Hall's annual contributions and reducing its unfunded liabilities in the long term.

TransCanada Will Fight Order to Halt Keystone XL Work
A judge in Nacogdoches County has issued a temporary restraining order to halt work on the Keystone XL pipeline, according to court documents. Attorneys for Trans-Canada, which is building the pipeline, said they will fight the order at a hearing set for Thursday and do not expect it to thwart construction of the pipeline, which has drawn opposition from environmentalists and some landowners in its path.

Texas Workforce Commission Cuts 2013 Unemployment Insurance Rates
Texas Workforce Commission officials have set the average unemployment insurance tax rate at 1.82 percent for employers for calendar year 2013.

House Panel hears of Fiscal Cliff Threats to Texas
Texas programs serving students, the needy and the unemployed could lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year if federal officials step off the fiscal cliff, budget experts said Tuesday, and defense spending could be cut by billions.

HSBC to Pay $1.9 Billion to Settle U.S. Money-laundering Case
Although the U.S. Justice Department portrayed HSBC as an effective accomplice to violent drug lords and hostile regimes, authorities chose not to prosecute the bank. HSBC instead will pay $1.9 billion, a financial penalty worth about 11% of the bank's profit last year.

Schlitterbahn Waterpark Seeks to Take Over Galveston Health and Racquet Club’s Lease
The city council will vote on whether to allow the Galveston Health and Racquet Clubto transfer its land lease to the owners of the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, a move that would most likely spell the end for the 38-year-old fitness club.

Women in Corporate Leadership Numbers Barely Budge in 2012, Report Says
In 2012, multiple organizations, including many in Houston, sprung into action with efforts to increase the presence of women in corporate leadership positions. Unfortunately, new reports from Catalyst, a nonprofit women in business organization, found that the percentage of women in leadership in Fortune 500 companies in 2012 has hardly changed since 2011.


United Way CEO Fears Washington Impasse Will Slam Charity
The fiscal dispute in Washington weighs heavily on Brian Gallagher, president and chief executive of United Way Worldwide, the largest U.S. charity. Gallagher, 53, fears that the nonprofit’s 11 million donors and the $5.14 billion United Way raises annually might decline if Congress imposes limits on the amount that can be deducted for charitable donations on tax returns.

Richland Police Employee Takes Zap for United Way
Contributions to the United Way campaign from the Richland Police Department got a jolt when records specialist Amanda Donahoe said she'd take a shock from a Taser gun if the department reached 50 percent participation.

Houston Girl Collecting Coats for Kids on 12/12/12, Her 12th Birthday
Kristiana Alaniz will turn 12 years old on 12/12/12 and she'll celebrate with a party at Discovery Green in downtown Houston. But unlike most 12-year-old kids, Kristiana isn’t all wrapped up in the gifts she’ll receive. That’s because she’s giving them all away. Instead of bringing gifts for her, Kristiana asked guests to bring gently-used coats and jackets for children living at the Star of Hope Shelter.

Houston Symphony League Bay Area Instills Love of Music in Young Students
Members of the Houston Symphony League Bay Area are hard at work today to build performing arts audiences of the future - and it all starts with Maestro the Magnificent.

Originally posted to fab 3 on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 06:39 AM PST.

Also republished by Houston Area Kossacks.

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