UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

News roundup: Jan. 29 – Feb. 5



Karolyi Ranch investigation – On Jan. 30 Texas governor Greg Abbott ordered an investigation into Karolyi Ranch and whether Larry Nassar, the former sports doctor accused of molesting more than 100 young athletes, committed any of his crimes at the gymnastics training center in Huntsville. “Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice,” Abbott said in a letter to the state Department of Public Safety. Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years for sexual abuse and another 60 years for child pornography.

Brenham Oil and Gas – The city council in Brenham, Texas passed a resolution Feb. 1 to convince the U.S. Bureau of Land Management not to issue leases to explore land surrounding Lake Somerville. The leases would be granted to oil and gas companies surveying the land for potential drilling sites. City officials are concerned that exploration on the 1,400 acres of federally owned land could contaminate the only source of drinking water for the city of 15,000. The federal agency has denied previous protests and plans to move forward with issuing leases pending the final decision on an appeal filed by Brenham.

Medical Marijuana – A six-year-old girl became the first person in Texas to legally obtain cannabis for medical purposes Feb. 1. The girl, who remained anonymous, was given medical marijuana to treat her epilepsy. This is the first treatment more than two years after state legislators legalized the use of medical marijuana under the Texas Compassionate Use Act. Medical marijuana is permitted in 29 states, and recreational marijuana is legal in an additional eight.

Air conditioning – The state of Texas will install air conditioning in a prison after reaching a settlement with inmates in a federal class-action lawsuit. Pack Unit prison outside College Station sees temperatures exceed 100 degrees regularly each summer. The inmates argued in court that allowing internal prison temperatures to rise above 88 degrees is cruel and unusual punishment. Texas will install temporary air conditioners by this summer and have a permanent air conditioning system installed by 2020. Of Texas’ 100 plus prisons, almost 75 percent do not have air conditioning.


United States:

Nunes memo – Justice Department officials made one last plea Jan. 29 to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly regarding the risks of publicly releasing the Nunes memo. The memo, penned by Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, alleges surveillance abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. Following the release of the memo Feb. 2, the FBI issued a public warning Feb. 3 stating that the memo omits crucial information that alters and impacts its veracity.

Marijuana convictions in San Francisco – San Francisco’s District Attorney’s (DA) office announced Jan. 31 plans to retroactively dismiss and seal 3,038 marijuana cases dating back to 1975. The DA’s office also stated that it would review and re-sentence nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions to see if the cases are able to be downgraded to misdemeanors. San Francisco’s move comes ahead of a pre-existing, state-wide program in which Californian’s can apply for the program themselves.

Guantanamo Bay – President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Jan. 30 to keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open. During his State of the Union speech, Trump said he signed the executive order directing Secretary of Defense James Mattis to “re-examine our military policy to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.” Trump also suggested his willingness to send new prisoners there.

Fitness maps – An interactive map posted on the internet displayed the paths and whereabouts of people who use fitness tracking devices. The map, created by the company Strava, showed data from 27 million users worldwide, accumulated between 2015 and September 2017. While the map displayed expected routes taken in metropolises around the world, it also contained heat maps and routes from sensitive locations in active war zones, including U.S. military bases and unknown and potentially sensitive sites. The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State said Jan. 29 that it would be reviewing and refining guidelines on all wireless devices on military facilities.



Cuba – Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart committed suicide Feb. 1 after struggling with depression. The oldest son of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Castro Diaz-Balart had been in a state of depression that required hospitalization. Castro Diaz-Balart studied nuclear physics in the former Soviet Union and went on to lead Cuba’s nuclear program. He served as scientific adviser to Cuba’s Council of State and was vice president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

Myanmar – The Associated Press (AP) discovered and confirmed Feb. 1 at least five mass graves containing the bodies of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. AP conducted multiple interviews with more than two dozen survivors in Bangladesh. The Myanmar government has not acknowledged any massacre of the Rohingya and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing ten terrorists. AP’s reporting shows systematic slaughter by the military, with help from Buddhist neighbors. Myanmar has cut off access to the suspect location of the graves.

Yemen – South Yemeni separatists took control of the port city of Aden Jan. 30. The internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was confined to the Presidential Palace. Southern separatists, backed by the United Arab Emirates, spent two days fighting state forces loyal to the Saudi-based President Hadi. The separatists are loyal to the Southern Transitional Council, formed last year to push for the independent state of South Yemen.

North Korea – North Korea canceled a joint cultural performance with artists from South Korea, originally planned for Feb. 4 at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang in lead up to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. North Korea claimed biased media reports from South Korea as the basis for canceling. South Korean media expressed concern that the events could violate the UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. South Korean reports also expressed concern over a planned military parade scheduled for Feb. 8 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.


On the bright side:

At least 950 gold miners in South Africa have been safely evacuated Feb. 2 after being trapped for more than 24 hours following a power outage. The mine, owned by Sibanye-Stillwater, has 23 levels and descends to 3,280 feet below ground. The National Union of Mineworkers rallied miners to refuse to work in “dangerous conditions.”

Also published on Medium.