We’re Hiring a Development Director!

West Texas Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Public media from West Texas serves a critical role in our state and our nation: from border stories to energy stories, West Texas is a part of the country whose stories need to be amplified.

We are looking for a dynamic Development Director who is passionate about facilitating the financial health of our stations. The Development Director is an integral member of our team. S/he will develop and implement our annual fundraising strategy with know-how, wit, and attention to detail. Our Development Director is a passionate advocate for the power of public radio.

We are seeking candidates who can demonstrate success at generating revenue through multiple funding streams: membership, major donor cultivation, underwriting, and grants. Other important attributes include being a team player, having a sense of humor, and a strong belief in the power of storytelling.

This is a full-time, salaried position.
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We’re Hiring a Development Director!

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Public media from West Texas serves a critical role in our state and our nation: from border stories to energy stories, West Texas is a part of the country whose stories need to be amplified. MPR has been one of the most awarded small-market stations in the nation for excellence in journalism.

We are looking for a dynamic Development Director who is passionate about facilitating the financial health of our stations. The Development Director is an integral member of our team. S/he will develop and implement our annual fundraising strategy with know-how, wit, and attention to detail. Our Development Director is a passionate advocate for the power of public radio.

We are seeking candidates who can demonstrate success at generating revenue through multiple funding streams: membership, major donor cultivation, underwriting, and grants. Other important attributes include being a team player, having a sense of humor, and a strong belief in the power of storytelling.

This is a full-time, salaried position.
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Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez suffered injuries to his head and body while on patrol in Van Horn. Officials have yet to comment on the events that led to the officer's death. Photo courtesy of Border Patrol.

Border Patrol Agent Dies While on Patrol in Van Horn

A U.S. Border Patrol Agent has died and another remains hospitalized after sustaining multiple injuries while on patrol in the Van Horn area this weekend.


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Marfa City Council

Marfa PD Discusses Department Report at City Council

The Marfa Police Department presented its first “Police Department” report at the Marfa City Council meeting Tuesday night. The report outlined department activities since the municipal force was launched on October 23rd of this year.


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Jeff Williams in front of an irrigation ditch on his family's alfalfa farm and ranch in Fort Stockton. Photo by Sally Beauvais

New Demand, Same Old Story: West Texans And Their Water

In arid west Texas, where rain is infrequent and rivers and lakes are few, groundwater – water from sources beneath the surface of the earth – is key to survival. And as the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin demands more of this resource from the surrounding area, researchers are scrambling to study the systems of webbed aquifers that feed households, farms, ranches and industry in the region.

But for residents there’s a familiar tension, over who gets to decide the fate of their water.


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Credit: Travis Bubenik

Despite A ‘Downturn,’ West Texas Oil Production Expected To Hit A Record High

Cost-cutting and advances in drilling technology are helping companies withstand persistently low oil prices.


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The growing number of oil rigs pulled in from the oilfield and stored in this lot in Odessa, Texas is a testament to the steep decline in the price of crude oil in the last year. (Lorne Matalon/KXWT)

Report: West Texas Oil Boom Gives Rise to Gas Flares

A new report out this week by the Environmental Defense Fund finds the amount of gas lost to intentional releases and burnings — known as venting and flaring, respectively — ranges widely, suggesting a sizable performance gap between the Permian’s top producers.


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Source: Texas Department of Transportation

Safety Concerns Spur New Study of Traffic on U.S. 67

The Texas Department of Transportation is undertaking a 2-year long project on a major highway in West Texas.  The study will evaluate future needs for the major West Texas artery with input from people in the tri-county area.


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Despite A ‘Downturn,’ West Texas Oil Production Headed For A Record High

It was almost three years ago when the oil industry took a nosedive.

The headlines told stories of lost jobs and struggling towns,but now, despite the continued downturn, things seem better. At least in the Permian Basin of west Texas.


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MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR. / KUT

Children’s Health Program In Texas Is Weeks Away From ‘Chaos,’ Advocates Warn

The families of roughly 400,000 children in Texas could be receiving letters from state officials in a matter of weeks, letting them know their health care is ending.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired at the end of September, and Congress still hasn’t reauthorized the program. Legislation aimed at shoring up the program has bipartisan support, but there’s disagreement in Congress about how to pay for it.


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After Sutherland Springs Shooting: Songs, Prayers, Tears

One week after the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the congregation gathered for its Sunday service to mourn the loss of the 26 lives while also celebrating the faith that brings them together.


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MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR. / KUT

Children’s Health Program In Texas Is Weeks Away From ‘Chaos,’ Advocates Warn

The families of roughly 400,000 children in Texas could be receiving letters from state officials in a matter of weeks, letting them know their health care is ending.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired at the end of September, and Congress still hasn’t reauthorized the program. Legislation aimed at shoring up the program has bipartisan support, but there’s disagreement in Congress about how to pay for it.


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GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

Texans Add Seven Amendments To State Constitution

Voters added seven amendments to the Texas Constitution on Tuesday. The mostly noncontroversial propositions won by wide margins of up to 70 points, via KUT News.


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AP via NPR Blood donations, as well as financial donations, are the main ways in which people can help the victims of the Sutherland Springs massacre and their families.

How To Help Victims Of The Sutherland Springs Massacre

Blood donations, as well as financial donations, are the options at this point.


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LYNDA GONZALEZ / KUT

Multiple Casualties Reported In Church Shooting in South Texas

Multiple people are reported dead after a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, about 30 miles east of San Antonio.


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Marfa resident Emily Hocker in her adobe home. Hocker says her home appraisal increased by $39,000 this year. (Bayla Metzger)

The Cost of Living in a Dirt Home

A new classification system for adobe structures has caused a big jump in property taxes for some Presidio County homeowners.

Adobe is one of the most humble building materials around: it’s essentially mud, water and straw, shaped into brick, and dried in the sun. However, it’s also gained cachet in and around Marfa.

“Adobe is cool,” according to Paul Hunt, who formerly served on the Presidio County Appraisal District (PCAD) board of directors and the Appraisal Review Board. He says home buyers from Austin, Houston and New York have driven up the valuation of adobe properties. On real estate site Zillow, several adobe homes are currently listed for over half a million dollars; that’s in one of the poorest counties in the country.

At the beginning of this year, the PCAD created a new classification for adobe structures to reflect their true market value. According to Hunt, 380 homes were reclassified as adobe, resulting in a markup of approximately 60% for many.


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Presidio County commissioners discuss embattled precinct 3 commissioner Lorenzo Hernandez at their meeting this week.

Months After Federal Bribery Arrest, Presidio County Official Resigns

At a Presidio County Commissioner’s Court meeting Wednesday, embattled Precinct 3 commissioner Lorenzo Hernandez officially resigned from his position. 


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Photograph courtesy of Archives of the Big Bend, “Dolores Garcia Collection”, Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library, Sul Ross State University, Alpine Texas

From Richest Acre in Texas to Ghost Town: the Story of Shafter

On highway 67, some 20 miles before reaching the Mexican border, a green sign reads “Shafter Ghost Town”. A dusty drive takes you past adobe ruins with a glimpse at what’s left of this once-thriving mining town.


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West Texas Representative Reacts to Manafort Charges

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered to federal authorities this morning for 12 charges ranging from Money Laundering to conspiracy against the United States. Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos were also asked to turn themselves in. via Texas Public Radio.

 


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The Gateway International Bridge crosses over the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in Mexico. Photo: GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

What Stood Between An Undocumented Minor And An Abortion? One Trump Appointee

A 17-year-old girl who entered the U.S. without documentation or family told the staff at a Texas shelter in March that she wanted an abortion, reports KUT News.

The shelter is one of many in the U.S. under contract with the federal government to provide services to unaccompanied children (UACs). Those services include food and shelter, as well as health and education services.


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Porkers Into Profit: How Some Are Dealing With Texas’ Problem Pigs

At 2.6 million, there are more feral pigs in Texas than any other state. They do an estimated $52 million worth of damage to the state’s agriculture.

Hovering a few hundred feet above a cotton field outside College Station, Chase Roberts is pointing out just some of that damage.


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For Years Texans Ranched in Lobo. Now it’s Boarded up and Owned by Germans

Driving west out of Marfa, Texas, you’ll pass a foreboding sign. “No service next 74 miles.” You won’t see much on that stretch of highway 90. But past the small town of Valentine, population 134, there’s a place where the mountains stand guard over a row of desert-worn, derelict buildings. There’s a rundown 4-room hotel. A boarded up gas station. All covered in overgrown brush. This is Lobo


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West Texas Public Radio’s Fall Membership Drive

It’s a bit chilly now. Leaves are starting to fall. The sun is beginning to set a little earlier. They’re all the telltale signs of fall officially arriving — including, our big membership drive.

Beginning October 16th we will enter our 2017 fall drive. Below are some of the events we will have throughout our membership drive:

There will be an open house on Thursday, October 19th. You can come and hang out with your fellow public radio aficionados. We will have snacks, refreshments and a space to dance the night away as our wonderful DJs play their favorite tunes.

On Friday, October 20th: We will have a membership drive-thru. Come on down to the station for a grab-n-go breakfast. When you donate to public radio in West Texas you will receive a breakfast burrito from Marfa Burritos.

Lastly, keep an eye on this page as we will update it with membership giveaways and let you know once we reach our fall membership goal.

A frack operation in​​ the Permian Basin of Texas, the nation's highest-producing oilfield. The Permian was once the floor of an ancient seabed that today is laden with hydrocarbons ; Lorne Matalon

New Approach In Texas To Cutting Use Of Fresh Water In Fracking

MIDLAND, Texas—Water in west Texas is both an environmental issue and a major stress on overhead for oil and natural gas producers in the Permian Basin. A private- public partnership in Midland is trying to address both concerns at the same time.

Hydraulic fracturing (known colloquially as fracking) is unlocking once inaccessible oil and gas in the country’s highest producing oilfield. Perfected in Texas, fracking has changed the global dynamics of  oil and gas. Right now, U.S. oil production trails only Saudi Arabia but not by much. But a U.S. Geological Survey study finds that on average, oil and natural gas fracking uses more than 28 times the water it did 15 years ago. A well typically uses between two and eight million gallons of water which the study says puts farming and drinking sources at risk in arid places Texas.
Fracking, now banned in New York state, injects industrial amounts of sand, water and chemicals into the ground—-at high pressure—-to release trapped oil and natural gas. The American Geological Union says fracking takes place in places where water may become scarcer in a warming world, including Texas, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains—regions hit by drought during parts of the last five years. When it comes to fracking and water use, one mitigating tactic may lie within the wastewater treatment plant in Midland, Texas. It’s the site of a new partnership between Midland and Irving, Texas-based Pioneer Natural Resources. The deal simultaneously addresses city finances, environmental responsibility and oil and gas production. Pioneer is paying to upgrade the plant, which will ultimately save Midland 110 million dollars.

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales summed up the deal as a boon to the taxpayer.

“(It is) a savings for the citizens of Midland by not having to go after any debt or affect our budget,” he described it. In return for paying for the upgrade at the water treatment plant in Midland, Pioneer gets to move some of that treated water to its oilfields saving hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water.

“We made a commitment several years ago that we need to move away from fresh water,” explained Pioneer’s Executive Chairman, Scott Sheffield at Energy Week 2017, an annual gathering of energy experts hosted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute and UT’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business.

Sheffield told me Pioneer isn’t just doing this to help the environment. It’s also about saving money on the cost and transport of water to the oilfield. “We’re doing it at a price which is much less than what it costs to truck fresh water in,” he continued. Sheffield said this all began several years ago.

“We put together a geologic team to look for formations below the fresh water sands. And we found several sources of water there. We went to the cities of Midland and Odessa. And we’ve worked out agreements with them to use rated wastewater.”

So now the question is, can this be replicated? Energy consultant Kinnon Goleman in Austin says yes. He cited Concho Resources, another major player in the Permian Basin that has its own, similar deal with Odessa.

“Originally everyone thought we had to do it with freshwater. In the last 15 years we’ve learned  that we don’t  have to use nearly as clean a water, or fresh water” said Goleman.

Goleman said this kind of private-public partnership is a good fit for cities such as Midland and Odessa given their rapid population growth. Upgrading a wastewater treatment plant is expensive and cumbersome. But it has to be done to meet government certifications. Meantime, oil and gas interests save on one of the biggest strains on their overhead.

“Lowering the cost of drilling and completing the well is very, very significant. And it’s been changing rapidly and part of it is the water equation,” Goleman continued.

To get more context on the relationship between energy production and water use, I spoke with Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin. He is Deputy Director of the school’s Energy Institute and the author of “Thirst for Power:Energy, Water, and Human Survival,” a work that considers how both resources, energy and water, can be sustained.

“I think this kind of deal will be replicated,” said Webber, though he explained not quite everywhere. He said the mix of heavy drilling and stress on water supplies found in the Permian Basin isn’t universal. But he does think society will at some point abandon the notion that water is an inexhaustible resource. And that, he said, will spur innovation in the way water is deployed and paid for in energy production.

“When you have the situation with oil and gas companies that have a lot of money and need water and you you have big users like cities or agricultural operations that have a lot of water and need money, then his is the perfect opportunity for a trade. And because that water is worth so much money to oil and gas, it’s worth more money per barrel to oil and gas than it is to a farmer, because the oil and gas operation can take a barrel of water and produce a lot of money with it, they’re willing to invest that money. That’s the right set of ingredients for it.”
Webber believes it will ultimately be the free market and not only environmental concerns that may change the way freshwater is deployed in energy production.

NRC Reviews Andrews Site for High-Level Nuclear Waste Storage

Nuclear Waste — a problem that’s been looming over the country for several decades. Unable to find a permanent geological repository for the toxic stuff produced by nuclear power plants, the federal government began looking for communities that would be receptive to temporarily housing the waste. Andrews was one of the towns that stepped up.

Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists  has been storing low-level nuclear waste in Andrews since 2012. Low-level waste consists of items that have been exposed to radiation. But in 2016, the company filed an application to expand the current operation to to store high-level nuclear waste, the highly radioactive byproduct of nuclear reactors.  The application seeks a license to store 40,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste, initially coming from decommissioned power plants. This site would be an interim storage facility. However in this case, interim could mean a hundred years. The expansion process would take place over twenty years in eights phases and require further review from the NRC.

Some people are not too excited about the potential of housing high-level nuclear waste in Texas. Tom Smith, better known as “Smitty,” is with an advocacy group called “No Nuclear Waste Aqui.” They oppose WCS’ application to serve as the interim site. He says, “This is really serious toxic stuff. What everybody says is, ‘Oh well don’t worry, the federal government will come in here and build that repository and move it.’ Well I’m not bettin’ on it and people out in this part of the world shouldn’t either.”

Like Smitty, some are worried that once the waste gets to Andrews, it won’t ever get moved. James Park is the environmental project manager for WCS’ application.  He explains, “To say that it’s a de facto final solution this, particular license wouldn’t resolve that issue, nor say that it is the final resting place.” The waste is currently being stored near the power plants that produced it. Legally, the federal government is responsible for storing the waste, but without a permanent repository, the plants have been stuck with the storage bill.

The commission is still in the very early stages of the environmental review for Waste Control Specialists’ application. Park, the environmental manager, says he’s heard a range of concerns like transportation of the waste around the country, economic concerns and water contamination.

In mid-February, the NRC held a public meeting in Andrews to hear comments about the potential site expansion. About 300 people showed up, and seemed split evenly between supporters and opponents. Julia Wallace is the executive director of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce.  To her and many of the residents, WCS is a welcome presence. She says, “It’s been really good for our economy, it’s brought it in a lot of good paying jobs and really good people.”

The town receives 5% of the gross revenue from low level nuclear waste storage. That’s amounted to nearly $8.5 million dollars since 2012- a lot for a small town. The state of Texas also receives a percentage –  $40 million so far, according to WCS. Both the town and the state expect to receive similar percentages of profits for storing high level nuclear waste.  

At the meeting, several people came from all over Texas and neighboring New Mexico to express their opinions on the site. Those that opposed the expansion voiced concerns that the largely hispanic community didn’t understand what was being proposed, and concerns about the environment.  Elizabeth Padilla is a lifelong resident, and says, ” I definitely think that our children’s life and health, our health should really not have the cost whatsoever. It’s our health first. I understand that WCS would take all kinds of safety precautions and measures. But there’s always going to be that risk.”

In response to these safety concerns, Rod Baltzer, WCS’ chief executive,  feels confident that the company is capable of protecting the public and the company’s workers. Baltzer says, “We monitor that very closely. We’ve got several safety professionals. In fact, about 1/3 of our staff is radiation and occupational safety environmental and those other items like that to make sure we run a very compliant, safe organization.”

Smitty, from “No Nuclear Waste Aqui,” isn’t convinced. He thinks that once people learn more about risks associated with high-level nuclear waste, they’ll start to change their minds. He brought up the that when a long-term repository was considered for Yucca Mountain in Nevada, citizens of the state were not happy with the idea. He says, “[T’he more they learned, the angrier they got, and the more studies they funded, and the more evidence came out saying, ‘This is a really bad place to put it.’ And I think the same thing will happen here.”

The NRC’s review will determine whether or not Waste Control Specialists will receive a license to expand the site. The commission will be receiving public comments through March 13th of this year, and a final licensing decision is expected to be made in 2019.

Protesters follow hand-painted signs to the Two Rivers camp in Presidio County. (Sally Beauvais)

Protesters Continue Direct Action Planning as Pipeline Nears Completion

As protesters in Standing Rock clean up camp and head home, Sioux Tribes in North and South Dakota are still battling in court to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their fight has inspired protesters who are trying to stop pipeline construction in other parts of the country.  In the Big Bend Region of Texas, construction on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is nearly complete.

Destiny Willcuts is a native Lakota Sioux. She left Standing Rock with her mother when extreme winter weather hit the area. They headed south, to a newly erected pipeline protest camp in Presidio County, Texas.

“I didn’t want to give up the fight so I just decided to head to another front line,” Willcutts says.
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Vandalized Terlingua Ruins ; Voni Glaves

Terlingua Ghost Town Ruins Vandalized

Four 125-year-old, stone landmarks in the Terlingua Ghost Town were vandalized over the weekend.

The ruins, homes of quicksilver miners built in the late 1880’s, are located on private property which has been designated a historic sight near the Starlight Theater, and have become a popular tourist destination for visitors to the far-west Texas town.

Workers of the Starlight Theater said they did not notice anything out of the ordinary when they left for the night after the late shift Saturday, but upon returning the next morning found the structures had been knocked down.

Officials are asking anyone who was in the area and may have witnessed any unusual or suspicious behavior to contact the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office at (432) 837-3488.

A reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and capture of those responsible.

Mexican soldiers work in the mountains of Sinaloa burning this marijuana field, part of an eradication program supported by the United States. (photo: Lorne Matalon)

US-Mexico Intelligence Cooperation Braces For Possible Change

Intelligence cooperation between Mexico and the United States has become closer in the last decade on issues important to both countries such as illegal immigration, border security, drugs and human trafficking. But that critical intelligence relationship may be under examination in Mexico. The country is trying to fashion a response to a suite of economic threats issued by the new U.S. administration. And security is one serious chip to play.


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(Left to right) John McKirgan, John-Chau Nguyen, Cinthya Roman, Brian Smith and James Park of the NRC.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Hosts Public Meeting in Andrews, TX

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in the early stages of an environmental review for Waste Control Specialists’ application to expand its low-level nuclear waste facility in Andrews to include a portion of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste. On Wednesday night, the commission held a public meeting in Andrews, Texas to hear comments about a plan to expand the existing site. 


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Quarterly Board Meeting is Coming Up Soon (Saturday, February 18th)

Marfa Public Radio and West Texas Public Radio will be hosting a quarterly board meeting this Saturday at 12 p.m. until around 2 p.m.

The meeting is open to the public. If you would like to attend, we will be in the board room inside of the Marfa Public Radio building in Marfa,  located at 106 E San Antonio Street.

 

 

WOCINTECH CHAT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

Librarians Are on the Front Lines in the Fight Against Fake News

From Texas Standard:

Fake news is all over the place – you’ve probably got at least a few people in your Facebook feed that share it. Even some of our elected officials Tweet it out.

But across the nation, educators are ramping up efforts to teach students how to discern real the information from what’s fake. Librarians are at the forefront of that fight for media literacy in schools, colleges and beyond.
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VOTE! What Do You Want To Know About Lawmaking in Texas?

For the last few weeks, we’ve been asking what you wanted to know about the Texas Legislature: how it works, why it works the way it does and what you want lawmakers to do. And you didn’t disappoint! We received questions from all corners of Texas. Now it’s your change to vote for your favorite. Which query do you want answered?

It’s all part of a project we’re calling “Texas Decides.” We want to shine some light on the often confusing inner workings of the Texas Capitol.

We’ve teamed up with public radio stations across Texas KUT in Austin, Texas Public Radio in San Antonio, Houston Public Media, and KERA in Dallas – to collect and answer your questions about the Texas Legislature over the next few months.

We want your voice to be heard as we cover the state Capitol, so vote for your favorite question or send in one of your own! What are you wondering? Let us know by filling out the form below. Just use the form below.

Valentine, T Post Office ; Elise Pepple

Valentine’s Day in Valentine, Texas

It’s Valentine’s Day – a holiday marked by cupid’s arrows, those chalky yet traditional candy hearts that seem to only appear around this time of the year, and of course showing the ones you love, well love.

People from all over the world celebrate his holiday of love and appreciation for their partners, and one of the hotspots when it comes to the holiday is…Valentine, Texas, Where thousands of people, from all over the world – every year – send their love letters to be forwarded from the post office there.

Stacks of fresh vegetables from Mexico await loading into north-bound trucks at the McAllen Produce Terminal. (Douglas Young/Texas Tribune)

Texas agriculture experts: Mexico may retaliate if U.S. imposes tariffs

Texas agricultural producers say if the White House slaps a tariff on Mexican products, the state’s farmers and ranchers — as well as Texas consumers — could suffer from a Mexican retaliation against U.S. exports.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump said the border wall he promised to build between Mexico and the United States could be paid for by placing a 20 percent tax on all Mexican imports. Hours later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer clarified that this proposal was just one of many approaches currently under review by the administration.

Mexico’s economy minister, Idelfonso Guajardo, said in an interview with Mexican television that his country would need to be prepared to “immediately neutralize” the impact of any U.S. border tax.

“And it is very clear how – take a fiscal action that clearly neutralizes it,” he said.
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22-year-old Alpine student Zuzu Verk had been missing since October 12, 2016 (Alpine Police Department)

Alpine Remains Identified as Missing Student Zuzu Verk

The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office announced this afternoon that the remains found Friday morning near Alpine have been positively identified to be missing Sul Ross student Zuzu Verk. 

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson said the identification was made this afternoon by the medical examiner’s office of the Dallas Institute of Forensic Science — where the remains were sent over the weekend. Dodson said the identification was made through dental records.

Alpine Police Chief Russell Scown added that Chris Estrada has been arrested in connection with the case.
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A Pemex gas station in front of Pemex headquarters, Mexico City. The state-owned agency is dealing with several challenges as it participates in Mexico's deregulated energy markets. (Lorne Matalon)

Mexico’s Energy Reform And Pemex: Both Challenged As US Energy Sector Watches

MEXICO CITY–President Donald Trump says he’ll renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. That has a lot of businesses that do cross border trade concerned. That includes some U.S. energy executives though energy was excluded from NAFTA. American energy companies such as Exxon Mobil, led until recently by new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, are now pitching once unthinkable exploration and production partnerships with Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned energy agency. It’s all part of Mexico’s attempt to modernize, inject cash and reform its energy sector.  But there’s reform that has to take place at Pemex itself before more U.S. companies invest.

 

The nerve center of Mexican energy is Torre Ejecutiva Pemex. It is unmistakable on Mexico City’s skyline, a monument to oil and gas when both produced massive, steady income. That is no no longer the case. When Mexico ushered in energy reform three years ago, inviting foreign players into the market for the first time since 1938, crude oil sold for a hundred dollars a barrel. Today it’s news when it cracks 50. These days Pemex is slashing its workforce, dumping pension obligations and selling off non energy-related assets.

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Welcome sign outside Presidio, Texas. (The Brit_2/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Trump’s Plans Could Cripple Small Businesses on the Border

Last week when President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer dropped the possibility of a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to pay for Trump’s wall, pubic voices around the country cried out. Big corporations complained tariffs would ruin them. Experts said Trump is just passing the buck to the consumer. Outside of the press storm, a cafe and a grocery story that do business with each other across the US border, voiced their own fears. 
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Carl Buntion, 72, is the oldest inmate on Texas’ death row. (Jorge Sanhuez-Lyon/Texas Standard)

For Elderly Inmates, There’s More Than One Way to Die on Death Row

Death row inmates often spend decades between the day they’re sentenced and the day they’re executed. That can be due to many factors – from lengthy appeals to the state being unable to get the drugs it needs to carry out executions.

In the meantime, inmates age. Some are dying of natural causes. Such was the case last April when two inmates passed away – one right after the other.

Texas faces many challenges treating inmates’ health on a limited budget. To understand, we must look at inmates’ overall living conditions. Conditions differ between the more than 230 men and the six women on death row in Texas.

In a way, the lives of the women on death row are exceptional. They wake up in their cells, head out to a job, and then socialize or exercise until sundown when they’re locked up again.

But the men’s day-to-day is very different.
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State Representative Harold V. Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) (Andrew Schneider, Houston Public Media)

State Rep. Dutton Renews Uphill Fight To Abolish the Death Penalty

Texas is set to carry out its second execution of the year this week, barring a last minute reprieve. There are another seven planned by July. The use of the death penalaty has been on the decline in Texas in recent years. But one state representative from Houston has made it his mission to end it all together.

Harold Dutton’s law office sits two stories above the Main Street rail line in Midtown. One morning in 2002 he was drinking a cup of coffee and reading his daily paper, “and it talked about an execution that had taken place. And it said that it did it in the name of Texas,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s me.’ And so they did it in my name.”

The idea really bothered him. “And I said, ‘I really don’t want them doing it in my name.’”

He had already tried to stop new death sentences in Texas, after seeing states like Illinois take similar steps.
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Worried they may lose access to free and low-cost contraception through places like Planned Parenthood, some women are seeking out longer-term options like intrauterine devices -- also known as IUDs. (Sally Beauvais)

Uncertain Future for Contraceptives Has Some Women Seeking Long-Term Options

President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act has women across the country seeking out long term birth control before they may lose access to free contraception. In rural West Texas, over 300 miles from the closest Planned Parenthood, some women are opting for a specific device.

Chloe Gallagher is a tour guide at an art foundation in Marfa. One November evening, she was scrolling through her Twitter feed when a hashtag caught her eye. Vice President Elect Mike Pence had just attended a performance of Hamilton, the hit Broadway musical. And Twitter users were re-imagining titles to other Broadway classics ad tagging their posts with #NameAPenceMusical. One of them was “Annie get your IUD.”

“And I laughed out loud,” she says, “I was just cracking up. And then I had this moment where the laughter sort of faded out, and I thought about it and I went, I really need to go do that.” 

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Part of the existing border wall sits close to a Brownsville neighborhood. (Michael Seifert)

Residents Concerned Wall Would Affect Cultural, Business and Familial Ties That Transcend the Border

This story was originally broadcast on a special episode of the Texas Standard called “The Wall”, an hour-long look at the prospect for an expanded border wall under the incoming Trump Administration.

It’s just before the holidays in McAllen, a town of 130,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border. Basilisa Valdez sits in the kitchen at her sister’s house, waiting for relatives to arrive. Here, that means some come from across town, and some from Reynosa, just across the river in Mexico. Before 2008, when a concrete and steel border fence went up along the Rio Grande, she says the two cities could seem like one. But after the wall, she says it’s tough for people who’ve spent most of their lives seeing the borderlands as a single entity.

President-elect Donald Trump and border-wall proponents forget that for decades before 9/11, passage between the U.S. and Mexico was easy, especially for the towns separated by just a sliver of the Rio Grande.

Families spread out and set down roots on either side, creating a web of cultural interconnectivity – a unique shared identity.

“When I see the wall, I feel like they’re trying to separate people,” she says. “I feel like we’re not united.”


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We’re Hiring! Morning Edition Host & Reporter Position Now Open

TITLE: Morning Edition Host & Reporter
REPORTS TO: General Manager

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Our aim is to use the power of storytelling to engage our listeners, celebrate our region, and generate dialogue. Our focus is both excellence and relevance. Marfa Public Radio (along with West Texas Public Radio) has been the most awarded small-market station in the nation during the regional Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism for two years. As public media shifts, we are asking ourselves as a sole service station that covers a vast range: what is the special capacity of our station?
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Elise Pepple

West Texas Public Radio Names Maine Producer Elise Pepple as General Manager

Elise Pepple, a producer of community outreach programming for public radio and podcasts will become the general manager of Marfa Public Radio (KRTS) and West Texas Public Radio (KXWT) this fall.

She has produced for the nationally recognized Story Corps radio series as well as for isolated radio stations in Alaska. Pepple has been a TEDx speaker. She is a resident of Portland, Maine.

“This is a dream position for me,” Pepple said. “It’s an opportunity to help sustain and shape remarkable public radio stations. KRTS and KXWT are a platform to celebrate the wide range of Far West Texas.”

She said she has a strong interest in programming that engages residents in remote rural communities and encourages them to tell their life stories.

Jim Byerlotzer of Midland, president of the Marfa Public Radio Corp. board, welcomed Pepple’s experience in remote parts of the country.

“Our stations in the Big Bend and Permian Basin serve truly distinctive communities set in a huge, magnificent but sometimes isolating landscape,” he said. “Their common radio stations can be a vital unifying force.”


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We’re Hiring a Development Director!

West Texas Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Public media from West Texas serves a critical role in our state and our nation: from border stories to energy stories, West Texas is a part of the country whose stories need to be amplified.

We are looking for a dynamic Development Director who is passionate about facilitating the financial health of our stations. The Development Director is an integral member of our team. S/he will develop and implement our annual fundraising strategy with know-how, wit, and attention to detail. Our Development Director is a passionate advocate for the power of public radio.

We are seeking candidates who can demonstrate success at generating revenue through multiple funding streams: membership, major donor cultivation, underwriting, and grants. Other important attributes include being a team player, having a sense of humor, and a strong belief in the power of storytelling.

This is a full-time, salaried position. Continue reading

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We’re Hiring a Development Director!

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Public media from West Texas serves a critical role in our state and our nation: from border stories to energy stories, West Texas is a part of the country whose stories need to be amplified. MPR has been one of the most awarded small-market stations in the nation for excellence in journalism.

We are looking for a dynamic Development Director who is passionate about facilitating the financial health of our stations. The Development Director is an integral member of our team. S/he will develop and implement our annual fundraising strategy with know-how, wit, and attention to detail. Our Development Director is a passionate advocate for the power of public radio.

We are seeking candidates who can demonstrate success at generating revenue through multiple funding streams: membership, major donor cultivation, underwriting, and grants. Other important attributes include being a team player, having a sense of humor, and a strong belief in the power of storytelling.

This is a full-time, salaried position. Continue reading

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Fri. Nov 17 Interview: Hospice Midland’s Jacquie Burklow Discusses the End of Life

In this episode of West Texas Talk, we discuss a taboo topic: death and what matters at the end of life. Jacquie Burklow of Hospice Midland talks about options for end of life care, the importance of grief and some of the incredible moments she’s witnessed over 20 years of working in hospice.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Thu. Nov 16 Interview: Historian John Klingemann on the Mexican Revolution

John Klingemann is a Professor in the History Department at Angelo State university. Dr. Klingemann grew up in the Bend Bend, and became interested in the learning about the Mexican Revolution because of familial ties to its history.

In this episode, Klingemann discusses some of the reasons behind the revolution, and its ultimate impact on Mexico.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Wed. Nov 15 Interview: Geologist Peter Hennings on Texas Earthquakes

Over the last decade, there’s been a sharp increase in earthquakes across Texas. On tonight’s episode of West Texas Talk, we speak with geologist Peter Hennings about why this is happening. Dr. Hennings is a Principal Investigator and Geology Lead at the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research. He helps run the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Project, a statewide earthquake monitoring system. TexNet has added 22 new permanent seismic monitors to the state’s 18 already existing stations, and is in the process of deploying 40 additional portable seismic monitors in key areas where earthquakes have been detected. This research is a collaboration between UT-Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology, Institute for Geophysics, and Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, as well as SMU’s North Texas Seismicity Study Group, and the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. Nearly a dozen petroleum companies are also partnering to conduct research and share data.

For information about seismic monitors and earthquakes near you, check out the TexNet Earthquake Catalog, an interactive map of seismic activity across the state.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Tue. Nov 14 Interview: Professor Rebecca Babcock On Writing Centers and Disabilities

On this edition of West Texas Talk, a conversation with Rebecca Babcock

Babcock is a William and Ordelle Watts Professor of English, Director of Undergraduate Research, Chair of The Department of Literature and Languages at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

In the interview, Babcock speaks about the different types of writing centers available as well as her latest book, Writing Centers and Disabilities. 

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Fri. Nov 10 Interview: Kathleen Shafer – Author of “Marfa: The Transformation of a West Texas Town”

On tonight’s episode of West Texas Talk, a conversation with artist, writer and geographer Kathleen Shafer, who wrote the book, “Marfa: The Transformation of a West Texas Town.” Shafer talks about how the town has changed since artist Donald Judd arrived in the 70s, and what the Marfa brand stands for today. Shafer wrote about the town as an outsider, but she recently transitioned from being a sometime-visitor to a full-time resident.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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