5 things we learned from KSAT Explains in 2022

From fentanyl to Texas gun laws, there was a lot that needed explaining this year

KSAT Explains (Brittney Daniels/KSAT)

With headlines hitting you from all directions these days, a lot needs a deeper explanation. That’s what the KSAT Explains Stream Team does best.

Our stories air Mondays on the News at 6, and you can catch them on demand on YouTube or the KSAT Explains page.

Here’s what we learned in 2022:

What is fentanyl?

Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be deadly. That’s the equivalent of a few granules from a sugar packet.

Fentanyl overdoses surged in 2022, along with seizures of the powerful opioid.

In a controlled medical setting, fentanyl delivers rapid pain relief, often when a patient is undergoing surgery or in a medically induced coma.

It acts within one to two minutes and is considered 100 to 200 times more powerful than morphine. But that’s not where fentanyl is killing people.

According to the DEA, Mexican drug cartels use chemicals from China to create fentanyl and lace pills. They’re doing it in makeshift settings where there are no controls or medical expertise, then bringing the pills into the U.S.

The drugs are made to look like legitimate prescriptions, such as OxyContin, Adderall or Percocet.

People, often young adults, are buying those pills on social media without a prescription. It’s why the DEA and medical professionals recommend having Narcan on hand, which you can get for free. Find more information here.

What is actually recycled in San Antonio?

In this episode of KSAT Explains, we show you how two local companies combine humans and robots to streamline the recycling process and explain what recycling means.

What actually gets recycled depends on what a mill is willing to pay.

Just because an item has the recycle symbol on it doesn’t mean it will be recycled if you toss it in your green bin.

At the Republic Services Processing plant in San Antonio, the KSAT Explains team learned about the core four -- paper, cardboard, bottles and cans. Those items make up the majority of what’s recycled.

Recyclables are sold to mills that process the unwanted stuff and then sell it for reuse.

If a recycling plant can’t sell it to a mill, they usually don’t recycle it.

For example, there’s no market for plastic cups and plastic bags since they’re considered “low-grade” plastic. So they don’t get recycled.

Plus, plastic bags get caught in the machines that sort the recycling. So not only are they undesirable, but they also cost time and money.

Generally, if an item is no bigger than a business card, it won’t get recycled because it’s too small for machines to process.

How can a gun be removed from someone deemed to be a threat?

Some Texas lawmakers who oppose red flag laws have argued that we already have laws that can force someone to give up their guns, so why do we need more? KSAT Explains.

People considered a threat often get their guns back.

In Texas, if a person has not committed a crime but is considered a threat to themselves or others, they could be forced to give up their weapons under what’s called an emergency apprehension and detention.

It could also happen if guardianship of that person is granted to someone else, but that’s only in cases that involve a person who is incapacitated and unable to care for themselves.

Law enforcement can confiscate guns if someone is detained under that emergency order.

But if a person is not ultimately committed for mental health treatment, they get their guns back.

“Every day, law enforcement officers come marching into this court and shake their heads and hand me a document where I sign off that the person has not been committed, and they have to give them back their weapon,” said Judge Oscar Kazen, who presides over Bexar County Probate Court 1.

“They just took the gun away from an eminently dangerous individual, and they’re giving it back without any mechanism to see if it’s even the right thing to do,” Kazen added.

How does the Edwards Aquifer work & why is it so heavily regulated?

In this episode of KSAT Explains, we're diving into how the Edwards Aquifer works, why it's so heavily regulated and we're learning about the conservative efforts in place that help keep the Edwards Aquifer, and the creatures who call it home, healthy.

The creation of the Edwards Aquifer Authority stems from conflict and controversy, as it is regulated because of blind salamanders.

In the 1990s, a federal judge ruled on a lawsuit filed to protect the aquifer and the species that rely on it.

The judge ruled in favor of the suit and said the state of Texas needed to protect the aquifer, or the federal government would do it.

The state Legislature made some fast moves to comply to keep the federal government out of the equation.

The species at the center of the lawsuit was the Texas Blind Salamander.

If the salamanders are healthy and thriving, the aquifer is considered to have the same qualities.

The animals have highly permeable skin and are incredibly sensitive to environmental changes.

Simply put, if the Texas Blind Salamanders are doing well, so is the aquifer.

There’s even a backup population of salamanders kept at the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center in case something happens to those living in the aquifer.

How did a little-known provision in federal law, Title 42, upend the immigration system?

Title 42 has been on the books in the U.S. for nearly 80 years, but it wasn’t used for immigration until the pandemic.

Title 42 is a little-known provision of the Public Health Service Act signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.

The intent of the policy was to suspend “entries and imports from designated places to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.”

Tuberculosis was a public health concern at the time.

In 2020, Title 42 was invoked to essentially suspend immigration to the U.S.

It allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to turn away migrants without allowing them the opportunity to seek asylum.

Those migrants would instead be automatically expelled from the U.S. at the discretion of CBP, but they were not deported.

Deportation bars a person from re-entering the U.S. for a certain amount of time. Expulsion doesn’t carry that penalty.

Critics who support ending the use of Title 42 argue the policy is no longer needed because the threat of COVID-19 has eased considerably since 2020, and the denial of the right to seek asylum violates our own U.S. laws.

But supporters of keeping Title 42 in place cite overwhelmed border cities and shelters that they believe are not equipped to handle the influx of thousands of migrants that the end of Title 42 is expected to bring.

Find more KSAT Explains content here

About the Authors:

Myra Arthur is passionate about San Antonio and sharing its stories. She graduated high school in the Alamo City and always wanted to anchor and report in her hometown. Myra anchors KSAT News at 6:00 p.m. and hosts and reports for the streaming show, KSAT Explains. She joined KSAT in 2012 after anchoring and reporting in Waco and Corpus Christi.

Valerie Gomez is lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. She began her career in 2014 and has been with KSAT since 2017. She helped create KSAT’s first digital-only newscast in 2018, and her work on KSAT Explains and various specials have earned her a Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media and multiple Emmy nominations.