New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 19, 1995, New Braunfels, Texas
Sunday, Fab. 19,1995 ■ Herald-Zeitung ■ 3 A
State and National News
Texans split on concealed gun bill
AUSTIN (AP) — As the Legislature prepares to begin debate on a bill that would allow Texans to carry concealed weapons, a new poll shows the state is nearly split on the issue.
According to results of the latest Texas Poll released Friday, 51 percent of Texans said they support allowing private citizens to carry concealed guns with a permit. Forty-six percent said they are opposed.
Three percent said they had no opinion.
The poll, based on a telephone survey of 1,011 adults from Feb. 2-
11, was conducted for Harte-Han-ks Communications Inc. by the Office of Survey Research of the University of Texas.
It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, making the survey a near statistical dead heat, said Texas Poll director Candace Windel.
“You generally don’t have public opinion so close; people are really divided,” she said.
The results show little change from a similar Texas Poll conducted in 1993 in which 48 percent surveyed said they would support the right to carry, while 47 percent
opposed it. Five percent said they had no opinion.
The Legislature ultimately passed a bill in 1993 that called for Texans to vote on whether they should have the right to carry concealed guns. But the bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Ann Richards.
The latest Texas Poll also asked Texans whether they believe that restrictions on gun sales should be tightened. Forty-six percent of the respondents said restrictions on gun sales should be increased, while 23 percent said they should be decreased; 28 percent said they should remain the same, and 3 per
cent said they didn’t know.
Currently, the federal Brady law requires criminal background checks for handgun buyers.
Within two weeks, hearings will begin in the Legislature on a bill that would allow Texans to obtain licenses to carry weapons.
Licensees would have to be over age 21, have no criminal record or mental disability, and would be required to undergo a minimum of 15 hours of firearms training and pass a written test and proficiency exam.
Gov. George W. Bush has said he would sign such a bill into law.
LIRR shooter convicted of murder
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — In a courtroom packed with survivors of his attack and families of his victims, the man accused of gunning down six people on a commuter train listened impassively as the jury returned the verdict even he expected:
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
A smattering of applause greeted the first guilty verdict Friday night, and the courtroom erupted in cheers when a handcuffed Colin Ferguson was led out by court officers. Jury foreman Delton Dove sat in the jury box, crying and clasping his arms.
Ferguson, who faces life in prison, will be sentenced March 20.
“I’m sure he’s suffering now and that makes me feel good,” said Robert Giugliano, a passenger who was shot point-blank in the chest but recovered to testify against Ferguson.
“I never want to hear his name again,” said Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and son Kevin crippled in the massacre. “He’s not worth my thoughts. He’s not worth my time.”
Ferguson, armed with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol, walked down die aisle of a crowded Long Island Rail Road train on Dec. 7,1993, firing randomly at commuters. He killed six and wounded 19;
Backers see kenaf as a potential savior of rural Texas towns
LADONIA, Texas (AP) — In a little-known crop called kenaf, Robert E. Bledsoe sees a “miracle plant” that could provide sustenance for withering rural towns.
With stalks and white blooms that look something like overgrown okra, kenaf has been touted for everything from making paper to feeding cattle to sopping up oil spills. And for home insulation, packaging, rope, plastic blend, fiberglass substitute, animal litter and bedding — the list goes on and on.
“This is what it can change: It can bring dead towns back to life,” says Bledsoe, a founder of the International Kenaf Association and devoted kenaf promoter. “Kenaf will be the crop of the future. It will be ”
But like with any new crop, the reality still falls far short of Bledsoe’s vision.
The plant. Hibiscus cannabinus, is a native of Egypt and one of the world’s oldest fiber crops. A member of the .mallow family and cousin of cotton and okra, kenaf can grow where cotton does in the United States. Lightweight fiber from the stalk’s bark and core long has been used to make paper, rope and other fiber goods in Asia, while the leaves laves are high in protein and can be used as livestock feed.
Unlike trees, which take decades to mature, kenaf can grow to its full height of 14 feet or more in about five
months, meaning it’s a quick renewable resource that needs less energy to process than paper. It is also drought-resistant and rarely needs pesticides.
“It’s just really nothing more than a weed,” said Gib Lewis, former Texas House Speaker and president of Lewis Label Products in Fort Worth, which recently printed color seed packet labels on kenaf stock for Bledsoe, who owns a label company in Ladonia, some 70 miles northeast of Dallas.
Kenaf has been the subject of experimentation by U.S. researchers for the past half-century. It gained visibility in the 1980s as newsprint prices soared and some newspaper publishers investigated it as a possible replacement. But then prices dropped and the plans were scuttled.
“It’s just been one thing after another like that,” said Charles Cook, a plant geneticist with the Department of Agriculture in Weslaco.
Pulp prices are back up sharply, making kenaf prices more competitive with paper. But high startup costs and other factors mean newsprint is not considered among the most promising short-term markets.
Researchers estimate there are between 3,000 and 5,000 acres of kenaf in U.S. production. Cook rcckoas about one-third of that is in Texas, with most of the rest in Mississippi, California and Louisiana.
There isn’t any reason for farmers to
grow the plant until marketable products — and willing investors — are found.
“You have to develop a system that’s market-driven. Just because you can grow kenaf doesn’t mean that anybody’s going to buy it,” said Charles Taylor, president of Kenaf International Ltd. in McAllen. “Growing it is not the difficult part. It’s putting in the entire system, and that means investing in the technology and the equipment and the market development.”
The fledgling industry has some fractious divisions among its members, partly spurred by competition for government grants and private investment.
It also endures the minor imtant of those who mistake a short, fork-leafed variety for marijuana. Bledsoe found thousands of cuts in his field, which he assumes were used recrcationally although kenaf doesn’t produce marijuana’s effects.
“I can picture four or five kids sitting and saying, ‘Man, this is some good stuff,”’ Bledsoe laughs.
But little by little, the markets are being developed.
In perhaps the most advanced. Tom Rymsza of Albuquerque, N M., is making premium paper used by some major companies and to pnnt the Earth Island Journal. Rymsza said the first book printed on kenaf paper is even due out next month: “Let the Moun-
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tains Talk, Let the Rivers Run” by David Brower, considered the father of the modem environmental movement.
A Fort Worth company, Alpha & Omega Printing & Graphics, became the first commercial printers in the nation to use kenaf. Kestrel Printing Inc. in Austin also uses kenaf for some of its largest customers.
And in South Texas, Kinney Bonded Warehouse Inc., based in Donna with a plant in Lasara, makes a kenaf-blend potting mix sold mainly to professional growers. Sales have risen to some 15,000 cubic yards a year for the custom-blend mix.
Other kenaf applications are being developed in Mississippi, Louisiana and California.
Taylor is the major kenaf raiser in Texas and one of the growing handful nationwide. His company harvested some 700 acres of kenaf last year for fiber plus another few hundred for seed to sell. Taylor provides and processes the kenaf for Kinney’s potting mix at his Lasara fiber processing operation, which is in its second full year of production.
“We’ve made enough profit to stay in business,” Taylor says of the 15-year-old company, which has 15
As he prepares for the March planting season, Taylor says he believes kenaf will become an everyday crop in the next 10-15 years.
He and others compare kenaf with the saga of soybeans, which are now widespread but weren’t a major crop until the World War II era.
“For kenaf to take a couple of decades to develop, really that’s on a fast track from an agricultural perspective,” Taylor said.
“The biggest difficulty is financing. There’s not a lot of financing out for people who are growing cotton and com, so you can imagine what it’s like to go in with something with market uncertainty,” he said.
In New Mexico, Rymsza’s four-year-old KP Products Inc., through its Vision Paper division, may market 1,200 tons of its premium paper this year — still tiny by conventional standards, but IO times as much it did in the previous two years combined.
Companies and groups promote their environmental awareness by using his paper for high-visibility material, such as brochures or letterheads, Rymsza said.
“Kenaf is the future of paper making.
With the issues over depleting forest supplies, rising paper prices and environmental concern, clearly making paper from a plant instead of a tree makes a lot of sense and has a tremendous future,” he said.
Rymsza’s idea is to build kenaf mills in rural areas where the crop could be grown, like cotton gins.
Similarly, Bledsoe envisions a plant at Ladonia that would process kenaf animal feed and barbecue briquets.
“It’s going to take some time and marketing to do it and it’s going to take some public awareness,” Gib Lewis said.
So Bledsoe keeps preaching the gospel as he prepares for the IKA’s eighth annual kenaf conference. Bled-; soe expects more than 300 people — some from as far away as Bangladesh, China, India and Japan — to attend the meeting, which will be held March-9-11 in Irving and will include a style show of clothing made of kenaf* combed with yam.
“It is fun. I can’t tell you the gratification a person can get from doing something totally new,” Bledsoe said.
“It’s like a fever that you can’t get rid of.”
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