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Food Network Chef Revamps Island Eatery

Renowned chef and TV personality Robert Irvine and his crew recently traveled to South Padre Island to film an episode of the very popular series, ‘Restaurant: Impossible.’
Padre Rita Grill, owned by Michael and Kathy Laferty, was the lucky recipient of Irvine’s expertise, receiving a $10,000 makeover and a new menu courtesy of the show. The renovation took place over a two-day period, with scores of local volunteers pitching in to help with the remodel. Last Thursday evening, those with coveted dinner reservations for the grand re-opening waited in line for more than an hour past the scheduled time, and were instructed not to cheer or take pictures when Irvine appeared. Among those in attendance were South Padre Island Mayor Bob Pinkerton, Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega, local chefs, restaurateurs, and City Council members.
With film crews recording, the Lafertys finally opened the doors, beckoning in the excited guests. Diners were anxious to see the new décor and they were not disappointed. Gone were the giant tiki faces, Christmas lights, and palapa tables: in their place were cherry turquoise walls, beachy palm tree and seagull motifs, complemented by contrasting navy and turquoise-striped walls in the rear of the restaurant. The much-improved look is lighter and more contemporary, with bright contrasting colors and modern accents.
Regarding the food and new menu, here are some comments shared about the previous food quality while the crowd waited to be admitted: “Came here once and never came back. They’d been open for several years, it was awful! How do you screw up a chef salad?” and “My husband’s enchiladas were swimming in water!”
Those disappointed diners were rewarded with a stripped down one-page menu, simple and elegant, with fresh ingredients and beautiful presentation highlighted with every dish. Irvine recommended the kitchen do away with the salad bar and buffet: his suggestions included replacing those features with delicious items like shrimp ceviche made with melon, cilantro and jalapenos, sweet corn and chorizo quesadillas, and smoked pork sopes with a peach and black bean salsa.
However, on July 29, the following message was posted on Padre Rita Grill’s Facebook page that announced the buffet will still be offered: “New menu, new décor, old favorites, prime rib-paella-seafood buffet, Friday and Saturday.”
Entrees for the special guests include mole’ glazed chicken with sofrito rice and cilantro lime black beans: grilled skirt steak with smoked tomatillo rice, watercress and grilled tomato salad: barbecued salmon: and a fajita-style burger with fried jalapenos on a brioche bun. The overall response was extremely positive.
Irvine, hair a bit more grey but looking incredibly buff, enjoyed a Corona with lime while diners sampled the new menu. He then got the crowd’s attention by bellowing: “Everybody quiet!” and “quiet the kitchen!” before addressing the diners. He called up active duty members in attendance first, acknowledging them and their service.  “We spend about 150 days a year taking care of our military. They’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country, give them a big hand!” He then gave a shout-out to his crew, offering a champagne toast and marital advice to members of his staff who were marrying in two weeks. He finished by saying, “It took 36 hours to transform something cluttered and messy into something amazing. Thanks for coming, enjoy your evening!”
After a bit more filming the show was a wrap, with Irvine graciously posing for selfies and chatting with guests.
Long-time employee Ivy Easterly, interviewed outside the restaurant prior to the grand opening, was visibly excited about the restaurant’s new beginning. “I’ve never seen Michael so motivated – I knew it was there, but now having listened to him talk from the bottom of his heart, I know we can do it and make it work.”
In an interview filmed during the dinner service, Michael gushed “I’m totally thrilled and in love with it – it’s a new beginning and I can’t wait to tell everybody all about it.  Everybody’s at their station and the ship is running smoothly the way it should be.”
Regarding his wife Kathy’s response to the changes, he said “I’ve never seen her this happy, she’s bubbly and having a good time.”
Be sure to stop in and see the new improved Padre Rita Grill and sample Chef Irvine’s menu. They’re located at 4001 Padre Blvd in South Padre Island. The episode is airing in October, so mark your calendars to check out the show in the fall. The restaurant is also planning a special screening and dinner on the night of the show.

 


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Potential Deals with SpaceX Advance

Cameron County Commissioners Court on Thursday voted to proceed on the terms and conditions discussed behind closed doors regarding incentives and an economic development agreement with SpaceX toward development of a spaceport at Boca Chica Beach.
The court unanimously voted to proceed, following an executive session during Thursday’s regular meeting. Details of the proposed incentives and agreement could not be revealed at this time. Commissioners Court Chief Legal Counsel Bruce Hodge told the Star during a short break that the agreements have not been finalized yet.
This is among developments regarding Elon Musk’s proposal to develop the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex in Cameron County near Brownsville.
Already, SpaceX, through companies called Dogleg Park LLC and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, has purchased approximately 100 acres of land at Boca Chica.
The Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), which also has been assisting SpaceX in the endeavor, has been purchasing properties adjacent to SpaceX properties, too, the Star found.
In mid-March, BEDC purchased five lots from a private land owner. The lots measure 2.321 acres combined, public records reflect.

 


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Gladys Porter Zoo Introduces Newest Addition: Another White Rhino

       

The Gladys Porter Zoo is now home to not one but two white rhinoceroses.

Julie is joining Tilly as the second white rhinoceros at the zoo. “White rhinos are really social, they’re not like other rhinos,” said Walter Dupree, the zoo’s curator of animals.
The white rhinoceros is also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros and is the largest species of rhino that exists. The herbivores are found in grasslands and savannahs.
In a viewing Wednesday at the zoo, the rhinos were scheduled to make their first face-to-face encounters.
The zoo acquired Tilly in 1988 from Tennessee’s Knoxville Zoo. She is 48 years old.
Julie, who is 20 years old from Ohio, was introduced to the exhibit alone last week to familiarize herself with her new home.
Julie and Tilly have been housed in the same barn since Julie’s arrival on June 21, but resided in separate stalls. They have been able to see and smell each other, but have not been able to make actual contact.
Dupree said rhinos in captivity live between 40 and 45 years and in the wild for 30 to 35 years.
“They go through quarantine for 30 days,” Dupree said of an animal’s arrival to the zoo.

Victoria Brito

 


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SpaceX Project Advances

SpaceX’s proposal to develop a launch site at Boca Chica Beach took giant leaps forward with the submission to Cameron County of applications for commercial building permits, the Star found.

On Monday, SpaceX’s Dogleg Park LLC submitted an application for a permit to install small solar panels off-grid in the vicinity of the proposed launch control center at the potential launch site. The contractor is SolarCity. Elon Musk, founder of the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, is chairman of SolarCity.
And on Tuesday, Brownsville Economic Development Council Executive Vice-President Gilbert Salinas also submitted an application for a commercial permit in connection with the BEDC-SpaceX-University of Texas at Brownsville’s STARGATE project for construction of a 12,000 square feet tracking center. The contractor of the project is not noted in the permit application.


The developments are the third critical and telling ones this month regarding the progress of SpaceX’s plans to develop the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site in South Texas.
“Short of there being an official announcement, this is another indication that they are serious about locating in Cameron County,” Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos told the Star. Cascos said that one has to go through the permitting process before construction, and that this could signal the beginning of some building construction. “It’s a very good indication. We are all very excited in anticipating the official announcement so they can move forward,” the judge said.

EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO

 


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Nature Report: 75th TIFT

The largest single event saltwater fishing tournament in the state of Texas begins this week on South Padre Island and Port Isabel with as many as 1500 anglers expected to compete. The 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament or TIFT is set for July 30 thru August 3.

Lots of things have changed since J.A. Doc. Hockaday founded the tournament 75 years ago.Originally billed as The Rio Grande Valley Fishing Rodeo the tournament was designed to promote the areas phenomenal fishing and focused primarily on the abundant tarpon. While styles have changed and boats modernized fishing has continued to be productive in the bay and Gulf thanks in part to conservation measures implemented by the tournament that limit anglers to one fish per species per day.

The 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament or TIFT starts Wednesday, July 30th with registration. A playday for youngsters and continued registration is set for Thursday at the South Padre Island Convention Centre, and the fishing competition is scheduled for Friday and Saturday with the weigh station located in Port Isabel at South Point Marina.

Kristi Collier says, Tournament Director, "And if you come and register on Thursday you can attend Playday.  Bring the kids and have them participate from 9:30 till 1 p.m. It's at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.  It's just all about the kids.  We have kid fish tank.   We have games. We have all sorts of different age groups.  So just come on out and bring the kids for a family friendly day."

And even if you don't sign up to fish the 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament, come on down to the weigh station at South Point Marina in Port Isabel on Friday and Saturday afternoon and you will see plenty of beautiful boats and a variety of fascinating fish.

See you there!

Richard Moore

 


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Operation Bishop Raids Sweepstakes Vendor

Operation Bishop investigators executed three search warrants on South Padre Island last Thursday at an alleged illegal-gambling establishment, a local business and a private residence all in connection with the Laguna Madre Scholarship Foundation.
The sweepstakes establishment, located at 2600 Padre Blvd, Suite MN, is operated by the Laguna Madre Scholarship Foundation (LMSF). It had previously been raided, and its equipment seized, by Operation Bishop. It again reopened. Additionally, a LMSF operated a gambling establishment in Harlingen was raided in June. A search warrant was also executed at an adjacent business, Coastal Security and Investigations International, in connection with the LMSF. A third search warrant was executed at the South Padre Island residence of the Foundations manager, Joanna Quintana.
Documents and equipment were seized in connection with an ongoing investigation of the Foundation’s operation of alleged illegal-gambling establishments. According to state law and the Attorney General, eight-liner and sweepstakes businesses that give more cash prizes of $5 or more, even if some or all proceeds benefit a non-profit/charity, are deemed an illegal-gambling operation. It is estimated that the eight-liner/sweepstakes industry generates at least $300 million annually. Operation Bishop began in April 2013. Agencies that participated in the raid were: Cameron County District Attorney’s Office: Cameron County Office of Emergency

 


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Fourth Endangered Ocelot Killed By Motorists

        

A male ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and Los Fresnos last week, marking the fourth time a member of the endangered species has been killed by motor vehicle impact in the three years since 

the concrete traffic barrier was built.

The cat was discovered by a local citizen, who reported the incident to the U.S> Fish and Wildlife Department (FWD). The ocelot was found along the concrete traffic barrier with injuries that are consistent with a vehicular collision, according to a news release sent last week by the Laguna Madre Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge regularly monitors 12 ocelots, including the one that was killed last week. “The loss of this ocelot is significant in that he (represents) 20 percent of the current breeding male population at the Refuge,” the news release said. “We believe the concrete barrier is contributing to the increase in ocelot deaths by vehicles in this area,” said Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde. “Many animals will not, or cannot, jump them, get trapped on the road and pose a danger to drivers and themselves. We have been working with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on constructing wildlife crossings, but clearly more needs to be done.”
For the wild population to stay healthy and genetically diverse, ocelots from the Refuge need to travel and meet up with ocelots from other populations. Crossing roads and highways can be a deadly hazard for the cats.
The news release explained that scientific studies have shown that a wildlife crossing – an under-the-road passage with fencing to funnel animals to it – can be very effective at keeping wildlife off roads. “Crossings have been successful in south Florida where vehicle collisions with endangered panthers were a huge threat to their existence,” according to the news release. “Locally, an existing wildlife crossing on State Highway 48, near the Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit, has been used by bobcats, raccoons, and coyotes.”
Zone Biologists Mitch Sternberg further emphasized the need for the concrete barrier to be replaced by enhanced wildlife crossings. “Under-road wildlife crossings can play an important role in alleviating unnecessary ocelot deaths,” Sternberg said. “Because so few wild cats remain, losing one animal has a huge impact on the population. The crossings not only keep wildlife safe, but also the public.” Sternberg explained that the issue comes down to how much funding TxDOT budgets for building roads.
“(They) spend less on building less crossings, therefore they can build more roads,” Sternberg said. Sternberg also noted that once TxDOT budgets the funds necessary to redesign Highway 100, the district engineer can “determine, almost independently, where he spends his budget (and) they could start the process at his discretion.”
The local community plays an important role in keeping this endangered wild cat in the Rio Grande Valley. “The public can contribute to our knowledge of ocelots by watching for ocelots throughout the Valley,” Sternberg said. The public is encouraged to report any possible sightings to the Refuge by calling 956-748-3607, or after hours at 956-748-7520.
To learn more about ocelots in south Texas, visit the Refuge’s website or Facebook page.

 


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At the Helm: Just In Case You Didn’t Notice

 

Just in case you didn’t notice, there are several things going on along our Texas coastal waters that you may find interesting.
As most of you know, the main highway leading to Port Isabel, South Padre Island, our bay and the Gulf of Mexico is Highway 100. It’s the primary way for vacationers, boaters, fishermen, birders and those seeking a good time to get to where the action is. It begins at Highway 83/77 between San Benito and Brownsville, goes through Los Fresnos and finally winds its way through Laguna Vista, Laguna Heights, Port Isabel and ends on South Padre Island.
I travel Highway 100 every weekday to my boat shop in San Benito and when the Texas Highway Department put up constructions signs and barriers along a stretch known as “La Curva,” I didn’t give it much thought. After all, that section of the highway that wanders through a wildlife refuge and ranch land was in good condition, well-paved and has a concrete center barrier that has made it much safer.
Once the construction got started was when I got curious and wondered what the heck were they doing? They removed the center concrete barrier in two sections and installed plain old steel guard railings. Then they erected chain link fencing along both sides of the highway, but with large gaps where the new guardrails had been installed.
My questions were answered when I asked one of my staff, who had been with us for many years but now only worked on his days off from his full time job with Texas Parks and Wildlife. While Mike wasn’t 100 percent sure, he said it was to funnel wildlife critters through the gaps in the fencing so that they could safely cross the highway through the open guard rails instead of becoming road kill. Besides the normal raccoons, opossum, deer, coyotes and other critters, Mike believed the primary animal it was intended to benefit was our endangered ocelots. Okay, now that makes good sense.
Another thing you may have noticed on that highway are the billboards by Texas Parks and Wildlife that state that uprooting and/or disturbing seagrass is illegal. For some boaters who don’t understand this new law and disregard it, it could empty their wallets in a heartbeat! The seagrass is to our coastal waters what the declining coral reefs are to the oceans. They both offer habitat for many types of sea life and a place to forage for food and raise their young. Without coral reefs the oceans will die and become toxic, and in a short time all life on this planet would disappear. But seagrass is vitally important for a completely different reason and that is that seagrass produces three times as much oxygen as an equal amount of any other plant, tree or bush. So, the next breath you take may have come from seagrass.To prevent further destruction of our coastal sea grasses, TPW recommends that every boater know the draft of their boat and to learn about the various areas of the waters that they navigate, knowing where it’s shallow and where it’s deeper. When in shallow waters LIFT YOUR MOTOR, and either DRIFT, POLE or TROLL (trolling motor) to deeper waters before taking off. Just in case you think that there aren’t enough wardens to spot your boat doing a donut hole shot in the mud and grass or running through the shallows churning up the fragile seagrass, think again. You see, you can be reported by any other concerned boater that happens to see you doing this, and with a first offense fine of $500.
If you’ve been out on the bay fishing lately you couldn’t help but notice that we’re experiencing extreme low tides. It’s the “MONTHS WITH A ‘J’ EFFECT,” meaning that January, June and July are when we see the lowest of low tides because of the positions of the moon and sun. The months with a J have always been very accurate for predicting low tides, but after the 2008 tsunami and major earthquakes around the world that tilted our planet a couple degrees off its normal tilt, these low tides weren’t always on time, until now. Evidently our planet’s tilt has corrected itself and we’re back to normal except that this year we are experiencing several months in a row that have what is called “Super Moons,” when the moon is closest to our planet. Because of this you can probably expect severe low tides, especially on two tide days, into August and possibly September. To avoid becoming stranded during these low tides or potentially getting fined for disturbing the seagrass you’ll want to check the tide charts and times of high and low tides before heading out. Using a graph type tide chart is best because it can show you how quickly the tide will recede, because sometimes it’s like someone flushed the toilet and the water disappears in minutes. Also, be aware of the winds and their directions as this can cause the waters to go out even faster when the wind and current are going in the same direction.
Finally, if you boat and fish far away from the SPI or Port Mansfield jetties, keep in mind that the tide change takes much longer to effect areas like Arroyo City, Gas Well Flats, Rattlesnake Bay and the drum boats. Since it’s very difficult to predict when these areas will be at low or high tide, you’ll just have to stay alert and use common sense.
AS ALWAYS, STAY SAFE & HAPPY BOATING!!!

W. D. "DOC" Gagan

 


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55 Years of Art on South Padre Island

Beachcombers Art Show An Island Tradition
Every year about this time the South Padre Island Convention Center transforms into a huge art gallery. Now, in its 55th year, the Beachcombers Art Show is the longest running art show in Texas, and one of the largest.
Artists from throughout the Rio Grande Valley and Texas will gather at the South Padre Island Convention Centre on Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27 for the 2014 edition.

As usual, a stroll through the show will provide art lovers with a visual buffet of unique and creative works to satisfy almost any artistic appetite. Hosted by the Harlingen Art Forum, the Beachcombers Art Show will feature more than 100 artists that include longtime favorites and new artists featuring paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, pastels, glass and precious metals.

The art show’s origins date back to the late 1950s when a group of Valley artists held what was called the On The Beach Art Show at Isla Blanca Park. That first summer show was put together by a small group of artist friends
It soon became an annual tradition that grew into a major art event now housed at the convention center.

As in past years, local artists will be featured in the convention center lobby, where members of the Harlingen Art Forum, the Laguna Madre Art League and the Willacy County Art League will present their works.
Once inside the main hall, rows upon rows of booths will feature other Valley artists as well as visiting artists from throughout the state and beyond.

Although the art show is held on the Island, it benefits the whole Valley and enables the organization to continue its gallery at D’Arte Centre at 115 E. Jackson Ave., as well as continue art classes for adults and children, scholarships and other activities.
Saturday the show will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A $3 donation is requested at the door, and proceeds are used to fund college scholarships for high school seniors throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

 


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Texan Among Two Killed in Gaza Fighting

A Texan was one of two Americans who were soldiers for the Israel Defense Force killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said in a statement that Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, was killed in combat in the Gaza Strip. Carmeli was from South Padre Island, Texas, said Deputy Consul General of Israel to the Southwest Maya Kadosh. She said Carmeli moved to Israel four years ago and added that the consulate helped his family get a flight there Sunday.
Rabbi Asher Hecht of Chabad of the Rio Grande Valley, who is a longtime family friend, said Carmeli joined the Israeli army after finishing high school in Israel and was in the Golani Brigade. The IDF statement said Carmeli was from Ra'anana, Israel.
"He had great energy, yet had a kind and gentle soul," Hecht said. "It's been a very tough day for us," he added. "We lost a gem." Carmeli was the youngest of three and has two sisters who currently live in Israel. He was "loved by his parents infinitely," Hecht said.
Stuart Steinberg confirmed the death of his son Max Steinberg, 24, to The Associated Press on Sunday. Steinberg, whose family lives in Southern California's San Fernando Valley, was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade. He was one of 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians killed in fighting Sunday during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas. 
Steinberg was living in Beersheba, Israel. He attended Pierce College and El Camino Real High School in Southern California.
He visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright Israel trip with his younger brother and sister in June 2012, his father said. When he returned, he made an announcement to his parents that he was planning to return and join the IDF, Steinberg said. He made good on that promise less than six months later, making the move in December.
"He went back," Steinberg said. "He was completely dedicated and committed to serving the country of Israel. He was focused, he was clear in what the mission was, and he was dedicated to the work he needed to be doing."
On Sunday morning, the Steinbergs were visited by representatives from the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles. They broke the news of Max Steinberg's death.
Stuart Steinberg last spoke to his son at 4 a.m. Saturday California time, hours before his death. Max Steinberg called his father to tell him that his group had been injured when two of their tanks collided. They had to return to Israel for treatment at the hospital. Some soldiers had broken bones, and Max Steinberg had sprained his back, his father said.
"He called me up at 4 a.m. that morning and said he'd be returning to Gaza, back to combat, to be with his friends," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said the family is leaving on Monday for Israel, where their son will be buried.
Jay Sanderson, who heads The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in an email message to the community that "our thoughts are with his family and our community is committed to support them in any way they need - and to honor Max's memory."
The Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement that its "deepest sympathies" were with the families of 18 Israeli soldiers killed over the last two days. "Along with all of Israel, and the entire Jewish People, we mourn their loss as if they were our own," the statement said.

 


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