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Blue Bell and Texas Mutual Investigations: Wednesday’s Show (September 16, 2015)

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle ran an investigative report examining long-term safety and sanitation issues at Blue Bell ice cream’s flagship Brehnam plant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tainted Blue Bell products have sickened at least 13 people since 2010. Among them, three died after being hospitalized with other illnesses. Chronicle investigative […]

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle ran an investigative report examining long-term safety and sanitation issues at Blue Bell ice cream’s flagship Brehnam plant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says tainted Blue Bell products have sickened at least 13 people since 2010. Among them, three died after being hospitalized with other illnesses. Chronicle investigative reporter Mark Collette spoke with former plant employees to gain a better understanding of what safety and sanitation issues have cropped up. On this edition of Houston Matters, we talk with Collette about what he’s learned.

Also this hour: For six months the Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman have investigated a relationship Texas Mutual Insurance Company has with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. The insurance company has been paying for a four-person unit at the D.A.’s office to prosecute people accused of defrauding their company. Texas Mutual began as a creation of the Texas Legislature to solve a growing workers comp crisis, but in 2001 it became a stand-alone mutual insurance company owned by policyholders. We’ll learn how and why it can still enter into partnerships like the one with the Travis County DA’s office, as we talk with Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root.

Then: On Tuesday, a settlement was reached in a years-long legal dispute stemming from the 2008 shooting in Bellaire of aspiring minor league ballplayer Robbie Tolan by Bellaire police officer Jeffrey Cotton. Tolan was wounded in the incident, which occurred after a traffic stop in front of Tolan’s home. Cotton was ultimately acquitted in a criminal trial some characterize as an example of institutional racism (Tolan is black; Cotton is white). An ensuing lawsuit claiming civil rights violations even went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. We talk about the case with Austin-based Dr. Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center. She’s also a former police and corrections officer.

Plus: As part of our 2014 summer reading series, we spoke with Judith Widener Muir, who had written a book about how to insulate teenagers from the stresses of what she called “college frenzy, achievement mania, and media explosion.” Muir is a college counselor – so is her daughter Katrin Lau. The two Houstonians have now teamed up on a new book called Finding Your U: Navigating the College Admission Process. Their aim? To help parents and students understand what’s being asked of them in the college application process, by sharing personal experiences, and conversations with college deans and reps. The mother-and-daughter authors talk with Houston Matters’ Edel Howlin.

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