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Hurricane Harvey on the march.
Hurricane Harvey on the march.
Photo by Margaret Downing

The 10 Most Read News Stories in the Houston Press in 2017

It should come as no surprise to anyone in Houston that a list of most read stories in the year 2017 in Houston would have to include Hurricane Harvey, climate change and whether our dams are going to hold.

But Houston Press readers have eclectic tastes so there were also the stories about crime, racial tensions, after hours clubs and this year's solar eclipse. Along the way we were also intensely interested in a well known local tattoo artist who was only 36 when she died as well as the wide-ranging implications of Venezuelans who had left that troubled country and now live in Houston.

No one writer wrote all these stories, of course, so what you are about to read employs different approaches to writing as well as the story's subject itself. All of it, of course, crafted with accuracy and burnished with care.

Please enjoy this refresher course and click on the headlines to read the full stories.

The arctic's sea ice shrinkage.
The arctic's sea ice shrinkage.
Photo images from NASA

NASA Releases Climate Change Images As Trump Still Claims It Doesn't Exist

DIANNA WRAY | JANUARY 24, 2017

NASA has just released a set of breathtaking photographs showing that — despite the repeated avowals of President Donald Trump that climate change isn't a real thing — serious changes are happening in the world, and NASA has photographic proof.

The series, "Images of Change," has been dropped at a key moment for the federal space agency's climate change work. Under President Barack Obama, NASA was focused on Earth science and climate change studies. The research wasn't as attention-grabbing as the work that was being done over at the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, Texas Representative Lamar Smith's favorite climate-change punching bag, but it was still happening.

However, with the advent of the Trump administration, it's fair to expect that NASA and any other federally funded agencies will not have the backing to do this kind of work going forward. As we've mentioned before, the presidential view of NASA can affect everything at the federal space agency, from its annual budget to the type of scientific research it does to the plans and missions it undertakes. While Trump's space policy is still pretty fuzzy, it's already crystal clear that there's no such uncertainty on the subject of climate change.

Trump claims climate change is a hoax, and his pick to become the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said in his confirmation hearing that he does not accept that the Earth is warming at a catastrophic rate and that humans are to blame. Since Trump was inaugurated on Friday, the White House website has already wiped away all mention of climate change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also abruptly canceled Climate and Health, a planned summit on climate change that was slated to be held in Atlanta next month ...

The 10 Most Read News Stories in the Houston Press in 2017
Image from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

How Are Addicks and Barker Reservoirs Handling Hurricane Harvey?

DIANNA WRAY | AUGUST 27, 2017

Harvey took its time making its presence felt over most of Houston, but now that the tropical storm has arrived, bringing sheets of rain and catastrophic flooding in tow, it's yet another moment to once again consider what's going on with the Barker and Addicks dams.

So far, Addicks and Barker have been taking in a lot of water as Harvey continues to hurl rain down on the area. Considering the history of these two systems of dams and reservoirs built on the northwestern end of Houston, that could be cause for concern ...

Video Shows Deputy's Husband Hold Man, Who Would Later Die, in Chokehold

ZACH DESPART | JUNE 5, 2017

A video shot by a bystander depicts the husband of a Harris County Sheriff's Deputy on top of John Hernandez and holding him in a chokehold as Hernandez groans and wails.

The husband, identified by the Houston Chronicle as Terry Thompson, confronted Hernandez after he saw him urinating outside a Denny's restaurant near Beltway 8 and U.S. 90. That led to a physical altercation between the two. Thompson's wife, Deputy Shauna Thompson, arrived minutes later and helped subdue Hernandez. She was not on duty.

Hernandez died three days later.

"This clearly showed Terry Thompson choking and eventually killing John Hernandez," Randall Kallinen, an attorney for the Hernandez family, said.

In the 52-second clip, Terry Thompson can be seen on top of Hernandez, holding him in a chokehold. Hernandez groans and wiggles his legs. Blood is visible on Hernandez's hands and the sidewalk ...

Lana Gooding, 1980-2017.
Lana Gooding, 1980-2017.

Renowned Houston Tattoo Artist Lana Gooding Dead at 36

CRAIG MALISOW | OCTOBER 13, 2017

Beloved Houston tattoo artist Lana Gooding, named best in her field in the 2016 Houston Press Best of Houston issue, died Wednesday at age 36, leaving behind two young sons and a daughter.

The preliminary findings suggest she died of a heart attack, her brother, Nash Wingo, told the Press Friday morning. The family is waiting for confirmation from the Harris County medical examiner's office.

Gooding collapsed at Shaw's Tattoo Parlor in Montrose shortly after finishing a tattoo for a client, Wingo said.

"She was telling her client that she felt really bad and that she...had shortness of breath and chest pains," Wingo said. "She finished [two tattoos] and she collapsed afterwards, and they called 911. She didn't have a pulse. They came and revived her, got her in the ambulance and then she didn't make it." ...

The 10 Most Read News Stories in the Houston Press in 2017
Photo image from NASA

Houston, the Best Place to See the Solar Eclipse Without the Hassle

DIANNA WRAY | AUGUST 21, 2017

The time has come and the total eclipse is finally upon us.

That's right, the solar eclipse that people have been buzzing about for more than a year is happening as the moon blocks the light of the sun from about 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. CST Monday in a path that will run across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina.

While Houston is not in the path of totality there will still be plenty of people pausing to watch the momentous event (and plenty of places in Houston to do so, as we've noted) since Houstonians should be able to see about two-thirds of the eclipse based on the spherical distance between the sun, the moon and our location ...

The former Club Life at 3704 Fannin.
The former Club Life at 3704 Fannin.
Photo courtesy the Harris County Attorney's Office

Midtown's Club Life, a Scene of Death, Shuttered by Harris County

ZACH DESPART | MARCH 23, 2017

Harris County has temporarily closed an unlicensed Midtown club the authorities say was the scene of many crimes, including a murder.

Vince Ryan, the county attorney, sued Club Life for selling alcohol without a state license and secured a temporary restraining order on Monday. Judge Sylvia Matthews scheduled a hearing on March 30 to determine the long-term fate of the club.

"Club Life is a danger to the patrons, employees, residents living nearby and to law enforcement," Ryan said in a statement Thursday morning. "The frequent assaults and liquor violations result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries that harm the public." ...

Envy Lounge in Houston advertised itself as an after-hours club.
Envy Lounge in Houston advertised itself as an after-hours club.

Harris County Shuts Down Three More After-Hours Clubs

JOSEPH FANELLI | JULY 28, 2017

The Harris County Attorney’s office continued its crackdown against after-hours clubs in Houston, obtaining court orders that have led to the closing of three unlicensed bars in the city.

After undercover police raids, Palacios After-Hours, Envy Lounge and Climax Lounge all received orders from Harris County judges to cease selling alcohol and have since shut down. That makes ten unlicensed bars that have closed in the past two months after lawsuits filed by the county attorney’s office.

After-hours clubs often open as other bars are closing because of the Texas law prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m. These spots typically attract younger crowds, including minors, and can be a nest of criminal activity, according to Rosemarie Donnelly, Harris County assistant attorney ...

Latoika and R.J. King voice their frustration with The Woodlands High School administration's response to violent, racist comments a fellow student made to their daughter.
Latoika and R.J. King voice their frustration with The Woodlands High School administration's response to violent, racist comments a fellow student made to their daughter.
Photo by Meagan Flynn

After Student Gets Racist Snapchat Message, Woodlands School Suggests She Could Transfer

MEAGAN FLYNN | OCTOBER 11, 2017

Their daughter had just been posting on Snapchat about her support for the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem when she came downstairs to tell her dad, R.J. King, that she was afraid for her life.

Caught off guard, King asked her what had happened, and she showed him her cellphone. A message from a fellow classmate at The Woodlands High School was on the screen: "yall always gotta be starting shit [sic]. we should have hung all u n——— while we had the chance and trust me it would make the world better."

"I had to read it three or four times before I could actually believe what I was reading," King said. ...

For years, Roberto Rincon lived quietly in a mansion in The Woodlands while he stole millions from the Venezuelan government.
For years, Roberto Rincon lived quietly in a mansion in The Woodlands while he stole millions from the Venezuelan government.
Illustration by Cameron K. Lewis

Corrupt Businessmen Looted Venezuela, and Now Many Live Quietly in Houston and Miami

ZACH DESPART | APRIL 18, 2017

Valentina Villafane was sitting in her second-grade classroom when the tear gas canister exploded. The principal of her private school outside Barquisimeto, Venezuela, saw it first — an errant volley from a national guardsman that flew between the bars of the school’s gate and rolled to the front door. The principal shouted for the students to run to the back of the building as gas plumed at the entrance.

As Valentina huddled with her classmates, teachers brought jars of vinegar from the cafeteria and showed the children how to apply it to their faces to protect against the gas. They waited for hours, trapped as desperate Barquisimetanos clashed with police outside.

“I was scared and I almost cried,” Valentina recalls in a telephone interview from Venezuela.

The tear gas never reached the students, and the National Guard eventually cleared the streets. The riot erupted because the local markets had run out of food. Some residents had waited in line all day, only to receive nothing.

Now ten, Valentina has not had a brush with danger in the three years since the tear-gas incident. Her school simply closes when the risk of unrest is high. But the food shortages have worsened, and afflict all but the wealthiest Venezuelans. She is used to the sight of bare shelves, of long lines for basic goods, of people scavenging for scraps of food in dumpsters. Even children. Even from middle-class homes like hers.

“I would like to help them, but I can’t,” she says. “I feel sorry for them.”

Valentina has one advantage Venezuelans her age do not. Her father lives in the United States and is frantically trying to secure a visa so she may live with him. He was robbed at gunpoint during his last visit to Barquisimeto, and fears his daughter will be struck by a stray bullet ...

Former Tropical Storm Harvey could pose a threat to Houston next week.
Former Tropical Storm Harvey could pose a threat to Houston next week.

Soon-To-Be Tropical Storm Could Bring 15 Inches of Rain to Parts of Texas Coast

ZACH DESPART | AUGUST 22, 2017

A slow-moving low pressure system is trudging through the Gulf of Mexico to the Texas coast, and could bring more than 15 inches of rain to certain areas.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect the storm will hit between Corpus Christi and Houston on Friday night or Saturday morning.

"We're most likely going to see a tropical storm form late tomorrow night," said Patrick Blood, a meteorologist with the Houston/Galveston branch of the National Weather Service. "The biggest threat for Houston is rainfall."

Tropical Storm Harvey, the ninth named storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, broke up over the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday. But its remnants have entered very warm water in the Gulf of Mexico and will almost certainly return to tropical storm strength ...

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