The “West Texas Talk” Listener Survey

West Texas Public Radio wants to know your thoughts on “West Texas Talk.” The station is in the process of evaluating the format of the show, the service it provides to listeners, and wants to better understand the topics you care about. Your input will help us better understand how to serve you – the listener.

“West Texas Talk” is your nightly interview program that broadcasts Tuesday through Friday at 6:30 PM.

The program features interviews with community members discussing issues that affect our region, along with upcoming local programs and events. You’ll also hear from local and visiting, artists, musicians, authors, scientists, and other interesting personalities.

Fill out the survey HERE.

Survey closes January 31st. Thank you for your input!

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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Presidio County Appraisal District office in Marfa. (Bayla Metzger)

Presidio County Appraisal District Takes No Action on Adobe Classifications

Over the last year, Marfa residents who live in adobe homes have seen their property taxes increase by up to 60%. For months, local residents have been voicing their concern to the Presidio County Appraisal District (PCAD). On Wednesday, seven Marfa residents got up in front of the appraisal district’s board of directors to express their concern over rising home appraisals – specifically, the valuations on adobe homes.
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The nonprofit Foundation Communities helps residents of Central Texas enroll in the online marketplace created by Obamacare. MARTIN DO NASCIMENTO / KUT

More Than 1 Million Texans Have Obamacare Plans This Year, Despite Enrollment Hurdles

Almost the same number of Texans who signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the last enrollment period signed up this time, according to the federal government. The figure took experts by surprise because there were federal cuts in funding for outreach and assistance, via KUT News.


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Peregrine Falcons were removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, but remain listed in Texas. | Photo via flickr.com/photos/rebeccakoconnor/ (CC BY 2.0)

Big Bend National Park To Close Sites For Nesting Falcons

Big Bend National Park will close several areas of the park in the coming month in order to protect the nesting habitats of Peregrine Falcons, which are listed as an endangered species in the state.


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The nursery at the shuttered labor and delivery unit of Medical Arts Hospital in Lamesa, Texas. The rocking chair pictured came from the original facility when the staff moved into the current facility in 2009. Photo by Gary Rhodes for The Texas Tribune

A shrinking number of rural Texas hospitals still deliver babies. Here’s what that means for expecting moms.

Across Texas, rural hospitals are facing a difficult decision: Whether to continue delivering babies as the number of births falls and the cost of providing the service rises, via Texas Tribune.


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Photograph courtesy Mary Baxter. Born in Lubbock and raised in San Antonio, Mary Baxter moved to the Big Bend region in 1994. In the years since, she’s become one of the most accomplished painters of the landscapes of Far West Texas.

Painter Mary Baxter Captures Far West Texas’ Haunting, Elusive Essence

Daunting in its vistas, its haggard peaks, Far West Texas strikes some as barren, unwelcoming – certainly no place to linger. Others, however, are entranced by that very starkness. But even for those seized by the beauty of the Trans-Pecos, … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.

John Trischitti

Thursday Interview: Rebroadcast: Midland County’s Library Director John Trischitti on Literacy

Midland County’s Library Director John Trischitti, better known as Mr. T, has put Midland on the map as one of the state’s top libraries. In 2014, he won Texas Librarian of the year, and one of his passions is literacy. In March 2017, Trischitti gave a Ted Talk at Abilene Christian University about the larger implications of illiteracy. Nguyen and John discuss the correlation between illiteracy and lower income, poor health, and greater inequality.

Midland Need to Read summarizes estimates on the literacy gap in Midland County based on reports from Texas literacy organizations:

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

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2017. SHELBY KNOWLES FOR THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Case Over Whether Texas Congressional And House Maps Discriminate

Further extending a drawn-out legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case over whether Texas’ congressional and House district boundaries discriminate against voters of color, via Texas Tribune.


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Photo via flickr.com/photos/jhawk37750/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

How Rural Hospitals Might Suffer Under New Medicaid Waiver

In December the state secured a waiver that would pump funding into hospitals in Texas. But as Chris Collins writes in for the Texas Observer, the deal might end up being bad news for Texas hospitals, especially those in rural parts of the state. He spoke with Carlos Morales about the article.


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NICK AMOSCATO / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

Revised Texas Education Plan Raises Standards

The Texas Education Agency met Monday’s deadline to submit a revised school accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education, as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, via Texas Public Radio.


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GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ / KUT

Texas’ Maternal Mortality Problem Is Also A Data Problem, Study Finds

Texas is over-reporting some of its maternal mortality data, a national study released today found.

The study, from the University of Maryland Population Research Center and published in the journal Birth, is a follow-up to a study released in August 2016 that found the maternal mortality rate in Texas had doubled in a two-year period.


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Testing of the USDA’s sodium nitrite poison begins in February on a 1,500 acre ranch in an undisclosed location, stretching across several counties in northwest Texas. (Photo Courtesy of San Antonio River Authority)

Texas Is Test Market For Federal Feral Hog Poisoning Program

Federal agriculture regulators have chosen Texas as the nation’s first testing site for a new type of poison aimed at culling the state’s feral hog population.


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Godfrey Garza, the former general manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, made more than $3.5 million in commissions on a South Texas border fence project that was largely bankrolled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The county is now suing him, claiming he should not have received a commission on the federal money — and that he should have disclosed that project contractors hired his children's company to work on the project. Photo Courtesy The Monitor

How a South Texas bureaucrat became a multimillionaire amid the rush to build a border fence

A decade ago as the federal government rushed to construct 60 miles of barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, it entrusted the chief of a little-known local agency to execute a compromise project. What it didn’t know was that he — and his family — stood to make millions from it. | via Texas Tribune.


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In 2017, operators produced some 815 million barrels of oil in the Permian Basin. (Image courtesy of IHS Markit)

Permian Basin Production Reaches New Record in 2017

New research says oil production in the Permian Basin reached record-breaking levels in 2017.


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The Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory with industry glow from the Permian Basin. (Courtesy of Ethan Tweedie)

A Radio Documentary: “Dark Skies, Dark Energies” by Ian Lewis

Here in West Texas, there are two major searches ongoing. While companies in the Permian Basin seek more deposits of oil and gas underground, astronomers at McDonald Observatory are searching the sky for an answer to the question: what is dark energy? But while one resource is produced, another is threatened. With the increase in oil and gas activity, the dark nighttime skies are brightening.

Lewis takes us stargazing with Jim and Ana Chandler in their backyard observatory, searching for distant galaxies with Steve Odewahn and Bill Wren at McDonald Observatory, touring the Petroleum Museum in Midland with Kathy Shannon, and drilling for oil in the Alpine High Play. “Dark Skies, Dark Energies gives us a look below, and above, West Texas by exploring two omnipresent entities – oil, and dark energy.

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory with industry glow from the Permian Basin. (Courtesy of Ethan Tweedie)

A Radio Documentary: “Dark Skies, Dark Energies” by Ian Lewis

Here in West Texas, there are two major searches ongoing. While companies in the Permian Basin seek more deposits of oil and gas underground, astronomers at McDonald Observatory are searching the sky for an answer to the question: what is dark energy? But while one resource is produced, another is threatened. With the increase in oil and gas activity, the dark nighttime skies are brightening.

Lewis takes us stargazing with Jim and Ana Chandler in their backyard observatory, searching for distant galaxies with Steve Odewahn and Bill Wren at McDonald Observatory, touring the Petroleum Museum in Midland with Kathy Shannon, and drilling for oil in the Alpine High Play. “Dark Skies, Dark Energies gives us a look below, and above, West Texas by exploring two omnipresent entities – oil, and dark energy.

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory with industry glow from the Permian Basin. (Courtesy of Ethan Tweedie)

A Radio Documentary: “Dark Skies, Dark Energies” by Ian Lewis

Here in West Texas, there are two major searches ongoing. While companies in the Permian Basin seek more deposits of oil and gas underground, astronomers at McDonald Observatory are searching the sky for an answer to the question: what is dark energy? But while one resource is produced, another is threatened. With the increase in oil and gas activity, the dark nighttime skies are brightening.

Lewis takes us stargazing with Jim and Ana Chandler in their backyard observatory, searching for distant galaxies with Steve Odewahn and Bill Wren at McDonald Observatory, touring the Petroleum Museum in Midland with Kathy Shannon, and drilling for oil in the Alpine High Play. “Dark Skies, Dark Energies gives us a look below, and above, West Texas by exploring two omnipresent entities – oil, and dark energy.

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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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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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.

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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Fri. Dec 29 Interview: Rebroadcast: Gracie Lara, Marfa Cashier

Our guest tonight is Gracie Lara, a cashier from Marfa. Travis Lux talked with her about managing stress on the job, working in a town where everyone knows everyone, and the things she thinks Marfa lacks.

This is part of series we did about work, where we spoke with our neighbors about their lives and the the work that they do out here in West Texas. Work is a such a big part of life — for many of us, it’s where we spend much of our day.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Thu. Dec 28 Interview: West Texas Flora and Fauna Coverage

In this episode, we look back at some of the station’s coverage of West Texas flora and fauna. We hear about water and land stewardship from The Dixon Water Foundation’s President and CEO Robert Potts, how ranchers are moving into nature tourism, the Rocky Mountain Ponderosa Pine , and rebounding pronghorn populations.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Wed. Dec 27 Interview: West Texas Water Coverage in 2017

For tonight’s episode, we’re looking back at the station’s coverage of water in West Texas. The oil and gas industry is booming in the region – that means more use of a limited resource in the desert. Brackish water – salty water that isn’t safe for consumption – has become a vital resource for the energy sector. Companies have turned to using brackish water for fracking operations. As more Texas landowners sell groundwater for fracking, many communities are growing increasingly worried about how it will affect the aquifers that many rely on for survival.

In this episode, we delve into the intricacies of groundwater law with St. Mary’s Law School Associate Dean Amy Hardberger, hear about a contentious export permit in Culberson County, discuss the fragmented nature of groundwater conservation districts with The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment’s Andrew Sansom, take a look at the market for frack water, and finally, discuss the balance of fracking and conservation in Balmorhea with University of Texas’ hydrologist Jack Sharp.

Texas Groundwater Conservation Districts

 

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Tue. Dec 26 Interview: Best of Live Storytelling

Here are some of our favorite live stories told at our events throughout 2017.

Thanks to Armando Vasquez, Victoria Rios, Gabriela Garfio Carvhalo, Warner Limelighter, and Beckie Hagerman for sharing. There will be many more live storytelling events in 2018 – more details about that to come in the new year.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Gulf Coast Express Project Moves Forward

Houston-based Kinder Morgan says it’s nearly 500-mile pipeline project is moving forward. The announcement comes as the the company has secured enough transportation agreements for the project.

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