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Possible drone found on White House lawn

WASHINGTON (AP) — A device, possibly an unmanned aerial drone, was found on the White House grounds during the middle of the night while President Barack Obama and the first lady were in India, but his spokesman said Monday that it posed no threat.

It was unclear whether their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at home at the time of the incident with their grandmother, Marian Robinson, who also lives at the White House. The White House had said before the president's trip that the daughters would remain in Washington so not to miss school.

The Secret Service had no immediate comment on what it found.

Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, speaking in New Delhi, did not deny that the object found at the White House was an aerial drone. Drones come in various sizes, some quite small, with purposes ranging from surveillance to recreational toys.

"There is a device that has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House," Earnest said when asked if a drone was found. "The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat to anybody at the White House."

Police, fire and other emergency vehicles swarmed around the White House in the predawn hours, with several clustered near the southeast entrance to the mansion. The White House was dark and the entire perimeter was on lockdown until around 5 a.m., when those who work in the complex were allowed inside.

After daylight, more than a dozen Secret Service officers fanned out in a search across the White House lawn as snow began to fall. They peered down in the grass and used flashlights to look through the large bushes that line the mansion's driveway.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, were the featured guests Monday at a parade celebrating India's Republic Day. They planned to stop in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday before returning to Washington.

While the circumstances of this incident were not immediately clear, previous security breaches at the White House have led to questions about the Secret Service's effectiveness.

Four high-ranking executives were reassigned this month, and former director Julia Pierson was forced to resign last year after a Texas man armed with a knife was able to get over a White House fence in September and run deep into the executive mansion before being subdued.

An independent panel that investigated the agency's leadership and practices in the wake of the September incident and the disclosure of a previously unreported security breach that month recommended hiring a new director from outside the agency.

That report was the second critical review of the agency responsible for protecting the president. In November, the Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Secret Service, released an internal investigation about the fence-scaling incident that found poor training, staff and a series of missteps led to the breach.

Homeland Security investigators found, among other things, that uniformed agents patrolling the White House grounds the night of Sept. 19 mistakenly assumed that thick bushes near the mansion's front door would stop the intruder.

___ Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler

DETCOG - region struggling to emerge from "Great Recession"

San Augustine, Texas - "Despite all you hear about how well the Texas economy is doing, the 12 county Deep East Texas Region is struggling to emerge from the recent 'Great Recession,'" Deep East Texas Council of Governments Executive Director Walter Diggles told his board of directors at their January meeting. 


Diggles went on to summarize the slow and steady growth in jobs and population the region had experienced in the first decade of the century. "Between 2000 and 2010 the population of the Deep East Texas region grew by over 6%, but after reaching a peak in 2011 Census estimates are now showing that the regional population has dropped by more than 2,000 people," Diggles reported.


Current job reports are showing a similar trend. "The region reported slow but steady growth in jobs from 2000 to 2010. However the past four years the numbers have been down and then back up in a 2,000 jobs range. According to the methodology used to compile the jobs numbers the 2,000 variance is within the margin of error for the reports," said Diggles, "which indicates there has been no growth in jobs."


The report also covers the region’s local sale tax allocations from the state. After tracking individual city and county allocations for several years, DETCOG has started preparing a Comprehensive Regional Sales Tax Report. Much like population and jobs, the report shows a recent downturn in local sales tax allocations to the cities and counties in the region. Those numbers indicate an over $85 Million drop in taxable sales in the twelve counties from 2013 to 2014.


"The State of the Region 2015" also covers DETCOG Programs and Activities that have brought money and jobs into the region. Hurricane Ike Disaster Recovery funds have been used for a job creating Forgivable Loan Program that has committed $4.75 Million to create over 300 jobs at thirteen businesses across the region. Working with cities and counties in the region, DETCOG has assisted in securing nearly $9 Million in Economic Development Administration grants for Industrial Park Infrastructure, a Commerce Center and Water/Sewer Infrastructure improvements. DETCOG's Regional Housing Authority has paid part of the rent on 1,800 units of housing this past year. Those payments put over $10 Million into the regional economy.

The Hurricane Ike Housing Recovery Program has completed 26 site built, single family, homes in 2014. There are another 53 homes either authorized to be built or being built. The program is projected to build a total of 110 new homes in the region. DETCOG also participated in bringing $5 Million into both Lufkin and Nacogdoches to build or enhance storm shelters. Those funds were used to expand their civic centers.


"We think it is important that everyone recognizes what is happening and that we do not wait until 2020 to start doing something about it," concluded Diggles, "DETCOG plans to expand its Economic Development Efforts in 2015 and encourage the cities and counties in the region to focus on helping their local businesses create jobs."


The Deep East Texas Council of Governments region covers 12 counties. Those counties are Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler.

Houston man shoots son, mistaking him for burglar

HOUSTON (AP) -- A Houston man could face charges after mistaking his son for a burglar and shooting him, sending him to the hospital. 

Police say that when the unidentified man heard what sounded like a burglar in his home at 5:45 a.m. Sunday, he fired at the individual. 

The person the man fired at turned out to be his son.

KHOU-TV reports the son suffered a gunshot wound to an eye. He was transported to a Houston hospital, where he is in serious but stable condition.

Police say they have taken the father into custody while they investigate the shooting

.

Entrepreneur behind ecoATM to be lecturer for IES Lecture Series

Mark Bowles, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, is the founder and co-inventor of the technology behind ecoATM, a company acquired in 2013 by Outerwall for $350 million. He is the holder of nine patents with 30 patents pending.

"An Entrepreneur’s Journey from Innovation to Commercialization" will be the topic of discussion for the Entrepreneurial Lecture Series. The lecture by Bowles is scheduled for February 5 at 11:10 a.m. in Landes Auditorium in the Galloway Building on the Lamar campus. 

The lecture series, sponsored in part by ExxonMobil and hosted by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, features successful entrepreneurs who share their experiences with students in the College of Business and the community.

"We are very excited to host a great Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur like Mark Bowles,"; said Paul Latiolais, director of the Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship and the IES. "Mark has seen his company grow from startup to a world leader. His insight and passion for education will make for a great presentation for Lamar students."

Bowles was born and raised in Beaumont, attended Lamar University for three years before graduating from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in industrial distribution. The Beaumont native also earned the Master of Science degree in technology management from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. 

With more than 25 years of experience in wireless, semiconductor and retail industries, Bowles founded ecoATM, the first and only company to use automated self-service kiosks to evaluate and purchase consumers’ used electronic devices for resale or recycling. He has been involved in the formation and funding of six venture-backed startups raising 18 rounds of venture capital and debt financing totaling $250 million. Broadcom acquired another Bowles-founded companies, BlueSteel Networks, in 2000 for $110 million.

Bowles is a senior fellow of Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business, a board member for the University of San Diego’s Center for Peace and Commerce, chair of San Diego Venture Group and mentor/advisor to a variety of technology companies and incubators including TechStars and evoNexus. He now lives in San Diego with his wife and three sons.

The lecture is open to the public without charge.

Auschwitz survivor recalls Nazi evil, liberation 70 years ago

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The tattoo on her left arm has become unreadable but the habit of reading it aloud in Polish remains strong, seven decades after it first scarred her skin.


Greta Wienfeld Ferusic had to yell A9233, in Polish, for 10 months during the morning lineups at the Nazi-run death camp of Auschwitz, the last time shortly before the Red Army arrived on Jan. 27, 1945, liberating the emaciated inmates. Worldwide events this week are commemorating that agonizing moment in history.


"To physically survive is the easier part," Ferusic, 90, said during an interview in her Sarajevo living room as she recalled her survival in a camp where more than 1.1 million Jews like her were killed. "What's important is that you do not go insane. That's the part you can work on. I kept repeating: I will survive, I will survive."


Ferusic was 19 when she and her parents, two aunts and an uncle were forced from their homes in Novi Sad, Serbia, and loaded on a cargo train in April 1944. 


Dr. Joseph Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, personally separated her from her mother but never performed any medical experiments on her. It was the last time she ever saw her family.


Ferusic credits her survival to the Nazis' desire to cover up their genocide as the Soviets drew near. German troops destroyed the crematoriums in November 1944, providing a lifeline for Ferusic, who in December told camp authorities she was ill.


"Before November, if you would admit you are sick, there was only one place they would send you," she said, referring to the crematoriums. But German authorities then turned a barracks beside the crematoriums into a hospital.


Three days before liberation, hospitalized prisoners were told that whoever could walk should move toward a waiting train for evacuation west. Ferusic refused and convinced others to disobey. Most of those who followed orders ended up at the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.


For an entire day, no guard entered the hospital. Wrapped in a blanket, Ferusic strolled out to look for food. Corpses lay in the snow. In one of the guards' rooms, she found a frozen pot of soup and a Nazi soldier who, surprisingly, ran away from her.


When the Red Army arrived, they fed the survivors slowly because too much food, they explained, would kill them. But Ferusic said she couldn't resist and ate "day and night."


She weighed just 73 pounds when the Russians first weighed her, but reached 95 pounds three weeks later, when she hopped on the roof of a train for the long journey home. She hoped to find a surviving relative waiting for her, but all had perished in the Holocaust.


Visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio to listen and learn more from concentration camp survivors. Check full schedule HERE.

The company that "sells it all" in planes goes bankrupt

All good things must come to an end, and it appears the end is here for SkyMall. 


The company behind the in-flight magazine filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, almost a week after laying off nearly 50 employees and suspending operations of the catalog.


How could a catalog that entices travelers to think outside of the gift box and buy things like a Big Foot garden Yeti statue, during the limited time of their flight mind you, possibly go under? Cell phones, says acting Chief Executive Scott Wiley.


“With the increased use of electronic devices on planes, fewer people browsed the SkyMall in-flight catalog,” Wiley told The Wallstreet Journal


SkyMall developed a cult following through its quirky products, but after 25 years in operation, several airlines are ending their contracts with the seatback pocket staple. 


Both Delta and Southwest Airlines decided in late 2014 that they would stop carrying the catalog. SkyMall owes a combined $1.9 million to those airlines, just some of the debts it owes.


The company hopes SkyMall can be sold and saved, and until the fate of the catalog is sealed during an auction in March, customers can purchase that garden gnome they've always admired online.

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