By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
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By Dianna Wray
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By Craig Malisow
Nader has raised about $300,000 in his Bush-helping presidential run; about $20,000 of that has come from the Lone Star State.
A large chunk of the Texas cash -- more than $6,000 -- comes from a single Houston company, Farouk Systems. Obviously, the "systems" must refer to an ingenious method of using soy milk to get 124 miles per gallon in a tiny car, right?
Wrong. Farouk Shami is a "hair artist." He didn't return our calls, but his Web site says he was disgusted by the chemicals in hair products and started his own line, which includes "spray fizz," "casting putty" and aromatherapy.
They're smuggling contraband into the schools of Fort Bend ISD, covering up their illegal stash as they sneak by sharp-eyed spies eager to make a bust.
Pot-smoking kids? No -- parents who brought the wrong brand of soft drink to the PTA meeting. Many aren't even aware they're on the wrong side of the law, and some school staffers even help the reprobates on their crime sprees by hiding the smuggled goods from the ever-watchful Soda Narcs.
Fort Bend has a ten-year, $5 million contract with Coca-Cola as the exclusive beverage distributor for the district. Not only does that mean lots of healthy Coca-Cola products in vending machines, it means the person bringing bottled water to the Honors Club damn well better not try to sneak in Aquafina instead of Dasani.
And Mountain Dew? No way.
Parents have grumbled about the new enforcement of the policy, but FBISD chief financial officer Charles Dupre says the district is contractually obligated to enforce it.
Except for brewed coffee and tea, "any beverage dispensed must be a Coca-Cola product," and that includes drinks given out to kids at practices, in meetings and on field trips.
And it can get brutal out there: Some FBISD teams initially had coolers with "Gatorade" shown on the side, even though they held Powerade. "Some 'spotters' called Coke, and we had to tape over the Gatorade logo until we could get Powerade coolers," says Dupre.
The "spotters," who no doubt take precious time off from counting everyone else's items in the supermarket express lane, are often Coke employees who are aware of the contract, Dupre says.
Houston ISD has a similar contract barring groups from bringing non-Coke products to events, but enforcement is rather lax.
Not so at Fort Bend, although Dupre insists they've not yet instituted parent strip searches: "We try to enforce the contract," he says, "but we're not out there being watchdogs at every little event."