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Plan for Storm Barrier on Texas Coast, Florida Man Charged with Mailing Improvised Bombs, And CSI Fired for Using Own Equipment

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering

Friday, October 26, 2018

Top afternoon stories:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Texas General Land Office
A depiction of the plan for the Galveston area from the feasibility study.

Plan for storm barrier on Texas Gulf Coast

A decade after Hurricane Ike devastated Galveston, a plan to build a massive storm barrier system on the Texas Gulf Coast is moving forward.

Since Ike, local researchers and officials have pushed for some kind of physical infrastructure to better protect the coast – and the Houston Ship Channel in particular – against hurricanes and storm surge. Now, federal and state agencies have released their preferred path forward.

The "tentatively selected plan" calls for a network of physical barriers stretching from the west end of Galveston Island to the eastern end of neighboring Bolivar Peninsula. The project would include improvements to the existing Galveston seawall, along with the construction of new levees and/or "floodwalls" along the rest of the coastal area. The "largest feature" would be a system of surge barrier gates built in the water between Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula that would allow ships to pass through.

Details of the plan, one of a handful that have been under consideration, are outlined in a lengthy draft feasibility study and environmental analysis released Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office. The plan is expected to cost between $23 and $32 billion.

Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP
In this undated photo released by the Broward County Sheriff’s office, Cesar Sayoc is seen in a booking photo, in Miami.

Florida man charged with mailing improvised bombs

The Justice Department charged a Florida man on Friday in connection with a wave of improvised explosive devices sent to political critics of President Trump.

Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, is facing five federal charges after he was arrested in Plantation, Fla., following a national investigation. He faces a potential total of 58 years in prison.

The homemade bombs intercepted or discovered this week "are not hoax devices," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. They contained "energetic materials" packed into PVC pipes and could have been dangerous, he said, although none of them exploded and no one was hurt.

The announcement followed the discovery Friday of more packages bound for political foes of President Trump.

One parcel that resembled the earlier envelopes in the case was discovered in Sacramento, Calif., addressed to Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, said a spokesman for the sheriff's office there. One was discovered in Florida addressed to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and one in New York City to former intelligence boss James Clapper.

The recovery of those envelopes brought the known total to 13 parcels addressed to 11 targets, all of whom are critics or opponents of the president.

None of the suspicious devices included in the envelopes has exploded, and so far no one has been hurt.

Houston CSI fired for using own equipment

A Houston crime scene investigator was fired Thursday after an investigation revealed she had violated protocol by using her own equipment, resulting in false negatives that impacted two sexual assault cases.

The Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) fired the employee after a quality control check led to a retest of her evidence, according to a press release.

The CSI had reported negative results for eight evidence items. But after retesting the evidence, HFSC found that three items came back positive for biological fluids.

A follow-up review of 18 of the CSI's cases, of which only three had evidence available for retesting, showed additional instances of false negatives being reported.

The employee was using her own alternate light source, which is used by crime scene investigators to identify biological fluids, like blood, saliva and semen. The employee's equipment didn't meet the standards set by the Houston Forensic Science Center.

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