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Suspicious Package Sent to Cruz’s Campaign Office, TEA’s Private Meetings about HISD, Houston Holiday Shopping Forecast, And More

What we’re following this afternoon at Houston Public Media

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Top afternoon stories:

Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz takes part in a debate for the Texas U.S. Senate with Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, in Dallas, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)
Senator Ted Cruz.

Suspicious package sent to Cruz’s campaign office

The FBI is investigating a suspicious package sent to the local office of Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign.

The office is located at 3200 Southwest Freeway and, according to the Houston Fire Department, two people were taken to the hospital after being exposed to a “white powdery substance.”

Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for the Cruz campaign, detailed that the campaign’s staff is all right and that the people who were hospitalized are not members of her team.

TEA’s private meetings when HISD future was uncertain

The Texas Education Agency held private meetings to discuss the future of the Houston school district earlier this year, when the future of several Houston schools and the elected school board was at stake.

News 88.7 checked out the calendar of Texas’ Deputy Education Commissioner AJ Crabill. It shows that over a period of 10 weeks from April to June, Crabill visited Houston nearly every weekend and had over two dozen meetings with community leaders, education advocates and others. They met at places like House of Pies, Hotel Zaza, private homes and community centers.

News 88.7 confirmed with at least two participants that Crabill discussed the state law that triggers a school board takeover, known as House Bill 1842.

Last school year, the Houston school district managed to avoid a state board of managers or closing several schools. However, it must continue to improve to continue to avoid those penalties.

Houstonians plan on spending $682 on holiday shopping this year, according to Accenture.

Houston holiday shopping forecast

With Christmas less than three months away, you may start thinking about your holiday shopping.

Consulting firm Accenture already has some insights on this year’s trends.

The firm’s annual holiday shopping survey shows as usual, Houston is above average when it comes to spending: At $682, Houstonians plan to spend $24 more than the national average this year.

A now-shuttered coal plant near Rockport, Texas. The plant closed in early 2018.
A now-shuttered coal plant near Rockport, Texas. The plant closed in early 2018.

EPA proposal could weaken mercury rule

A new Trump Administration proposal could weaken federal limits on mercury pollution from power plants. The move comes even as Texas power utilities have said the rule is working.

In July, trade groups representing power companies and utilities across the state and the country asked the EPA to keep an Obama-era rule on mercury emissions “in place and effective.”

In a letter to the agency, the groups said nationwide, the federal rule, similar state regulations and other factors have led to an almost 90 percent drop in mercury pollution, and that the industry has spent more than $18 billion installing new mercury controls at plants.

The groups did ask the EPA to consider “potential technical revisions” to the rule, including less-frequent performance tests if power plants aren’t running as often.

The EPA acknowledges the progress, and says it’s not trying to weaken or roll back the rule with the new proposal.

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