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Texas A&M Invites Holocaust Survivor, ‘Empire’ Actress To Event Overlapping Spencer Speech

The Aggies United event held at Kyle Field, the university's football stadium, will overlap with white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech at the Memorial Student Center.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Improvements in mental health screenings have lowered the number of suicides in Texas jails; families in Rowlett and Garland are still rebuilding their lives, a year after disaster; vote for your favorite “Think” episode of 2016; and more.

Texas A&M University has put together a diverse lineup of guests for Aggies United, an event being held at the same time as and in opposition to Richard Spencer’s on-campus speech tonight. Spencer, a white nationalist and graduate of St. Mark’s School in Dallas, is the self-proclaimed founder of the so-called “alt-right” movement. According to the Associated Press: “The movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism.” Texas A&M didn’t invite Spencer and doesn’t have the power to cancel the engagement. So, the university arranged Aggies United less than a week after the school president heard from students and alumni upset by Spencer’s upcoming appearance, the Dallas Morning News reports.  

Actor and author Hill Harper and Texas A&M Student Body President Hannah Wimberly will host the event. Special performances will be given by singer-songwriter Ben Rector and Grammy-nominated singer and “Empire” actress, V. Bozeman. Other speakers include Roland Martin, an alumnus of Texas A&M and managing editor of TV One’s NewsOne Now and Max Glauben, a Holocaust survivor and Dallas resident.See the full guest list. [The Texas Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press]

  • The number of suicides in Texas county jails has declinedsince changes were made that include a more comprehensive mental health screening of inmates. Brandon Wood, the head of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, on Monday said 14 jail suicides have been reported since last December, compared to 34 last year, the Associated Press reports. Wood says the number has dropped largely because intake forms are more detailed. If an inmate acknowledges a suicide attempt, for example, the booking officer must tell a supervisor or mental health official. Officers previously used their own discretion. Read more. [AP]


  • How did Mark Cuban become a billionaire based on a hunch about the internet? NPR’s new podcast “How I Built This” with host Guy Raz explores that question in its latest episode. A “serial entrepreneur,” Cuban made millions off tech startups, then billions from stocks, and later, he went on to buy the Dallas Mavericks, co-own Landmark Theatres and invest in innovative products and ideas pitched on the ABC reality TV show, “Shark Tank.” Listen and download the episode from the show’s website, iTunes feed or wherever you get your podcasts. [NPR]


  • Last year, on the day after Christmas, 12 tornadoes ripped through North Texas, killing 13 people and damaging or destroying hundreds of homes. KERA has been following four families pushed to the financial edge by the storms. With the holidays approaching, we return to Rowlett and Garland to see how these families are rebuilding their lives a year after disaster. Explore archives and resources on how to prepare for and cope with a storm in our digital project, Rebuilding A Life: A Year Later. [KERA News]


  • The 2016 election has come and gone, but voting season has just begun. As the year wraps up, it’s time to decide the “best of” well, everything, it seems. You can start with KERA by voting for your favorite episode of “Think” with host Krys Boyd. Your votes will help determine which shows you’ll hear the week of Dec. 26-29. Be sure to cast your ballot by Dec. 16. And our sister station, KXT 91.7, wants to know your favorite tracks of the year by Dec. 12. Hosts will play them all day on Dec. 31 to close out 2016. Vote for your top five here. [KERA, KXT]