Blackwater Draw National Landmark, near Portales, New Mexico, is a window into the continent’s Ice Age and Paleolithic past. Ancient peoples hunted massive animals here – mammoth, antiquus bison, and the butchered bones have been exposed in excavations.

Blackwater Draw: A Journey into the Paleolithic Plains

A century ago, archeologists believed human beings had occupied the Americas for just 3,000 years. Then, a series of discoveries on the plains of West Texas and eastern New Mexico transformed that view. In 1932, archeologists excavated the remains of … 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.

We Are Public Radio!

For our Fall Membership Drive, we wanted to celebrate some of our renowned DJs who make our station great. Our station producers profiled seven of our beloved personalities — Roseland Klein, David Beebe, JP Schwartz, Primo Carrasco, David Branch, Michael Camacho, and Natalie Melendez. You get to learn a little bit more about the dedicated volunteers who keep listeners tuned in from around the world. Some have been with the station since it’s earliest days — nearly twelve years ago!

These stories were produced by Bayla Metzger, Jackson Wisdorf, Carlos Morales, Elizabeth Trovall, Caroline Halter, Sally Beauvais, and Diana Nguyen.

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.

El Cosmico, which touts itself as a nomadic hotel, is a mainstay in Marfa.

Ranch Town, Artist Refuge, Tourist Destination: What is Marfa?

A new book tracks the modern transformation of the West Texas town, via Texas Standard.


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Dawn Shannon in high school (Courtesy of Dawn Shannon)

Voices of Blackwell: Dawn Shannon

The “Voices of Blackwell” series is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance.  The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in town. The fourth story we hear is not from a Blackwell alumn, but a Marfa Elementary graduate. Dawn Shannon was born in Marfa and grew up in the fifties. Her mother, Mildred Shannon, taught at Blackwell. Diana Nguyen brings us her story.

Dawn Shannon (Diana Nguyen)

Music used in this piece was produced by Podington Bear.

Slide Fire Solutions, Inc., makes bump stocks, which allows semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatic weapons. There are calls to ban bump stocks after a dozen such devices were found with the gunman who killed 58 people in Las Vegas. CHRISTOPHER CONNELLY / KERA NEWS

‘Just A Piece Of Plastic’: Bump Stocks Thrust Tiny Texas Town In Spotlight After Las Vegas

A company in the tiny town of Moran, Texas is facing scrutiny for one of its main products after a gunman opened fire on Las Vegas concert-goers earlier this month.

The shooter had semi-automatic rifles fitted with bump stocks, which allowed him to rain down bullets on the crowd like he had fully automatic weapons.

Now, congressional leaders are considering regulating or banning bump stocks. That would be a hit to Moran, home to Slide Fire Solutions, a leading maker of the devices. Residents of the small town say it’s scapegoating one of its largest employers, which has also been sued after the massacre by one of nation’s leading gun-control groups.

Moran, population 270, is a couple hours west of Fort Worth, 19 miles from the interstate up a winding country highway where bugs the size of hummingbirds thwack against the windshield.


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A drilling rig that began operating near Balmorhea Lake in late 2015. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Apache Forecasts More Drillings Locations in Alpine High Play

It’s been just over a year since Houston-based Apache Corp. announced the discovery of the Alpine High play, a vast oil reservoir in far West Texas. The company now says they predict they will be able to set up more drilling locations that previously thought.


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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Storytelling Event

Sometimes it can be a hard decision to stay, or to continue, living in West Texas. Come hear local folks tell their stories about loving & leaving, Wednesday October 11 at 7 pm in the Crowley Theater in Marfa.

Storytellers include Gil Lujan, Lindsay Hendryx, Kaki Aufdergarten-Scott, Chuy Calderon, Callatana Vargas, and Gabriela Garfio Carvhalo.

Keep on the lookout for more storytelling events in West Texas coming up, including a Halloween ghost story event in Terlingua at the Starlight October 31!

CREDIT DEA

Texas’ First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Set To Open In December

In just two months, Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy will be able to purchase a type of medicinal cannabis approved by the state.  The dispensary itself is located outside a rural Texas town better known for its dancehalls, polka music and kolaches, via Texas Public Radio.


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For one Odessa boxing coach, the sport goes beyond competition

By Caroline Halter

The Permian Basin sustains families across Texas, but working in oil and gas comes at a cost. Amateur boxing coach Augustine Tapia uses his gym to help kids cope with the effects of the economic forces that shape the lives of people in Odessa.


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Maggie Marquez (Diana Nguyen)

Voices of Blackwell: Maggie Marquez

Our newest series is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance called  “Voices of Blackwell.” The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in town. The third story we hear is from Maggie Marquez who attended the school in the fifties. She recounts her experience of “Burying Mr. Spanish.” 

This interview was facilitated by Mia Warren and recorded in partnership with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

Remote West Texas University Tackles Diversity Issues with New Minor

Despite being one of the most remote schools in the lower 48, Sul Ross State University deals with issues you see on campuses across the country. Amidst a tense political climate, a group of professors at Sul Ross State address a diverse student body and on-campus racism with a new minor.

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Photo by Nan Palmero via Flickr, CC-by-2.0

Big City Ridesharing Comes to Far West Texas

In the 6,000-person town of Alpine, Texas, getting a lift has never been easier – neither has selling one.


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Blackwell Portrait of Lionel Salgado; Courtesy of Lionel Salgado

Voices of Blackwell: Lionel Salgado

Our latest series is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance called  “Voices of Blackwell.” The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in Marfa. The second story we hear is from Lionel Salgado who attended the school from 1941-1951. He went on to serve on the school board and worked for Presidio County for over a decade. 

 

Lionel at home; Diana Nguyen, 2017

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Permian Could Yield Up To 70 Billion Barrels of Crude, Research Says

New research out this week, looking at production in the Permian Basin, says the next several decades could keep oil operators busy as estimates show there are billions of barrels of crude waiting to be tapped.

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Photo by Steve Jurvetson

Report: Sand miners disturbing threatened West Texas lizard’s habitat

An advocacy group’s analysis predicts nearly 10 percent of the dunes sagebrush lizard’s habitat could be disturbed or destroyed by sand mining operations, via Texas Tribune.


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Mario, Alice and Rene Rivera (Courtesy of Mario Rivera, 1970s)

Voices of Blackwell: Mario Rivera

The “Voices of Blackwell” series is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance, whose mission is to preserve the history of Hispanic education in Marfa. The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in town. The first story we hear is from Mario Rivera who attended Blackwell in the fifties and went on to become Presidio County’s Treasurer for 32 years.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/westoneyes/16643578957/in/photolist-8dJwAt-8Ze3uV-8dJwLt-p4oQic-oKUvWf-p1nkLd-3nRpec-p3d4uw-oMKgUU-9GCbHf-2D8eX-2D8f1-2D8eY-hHi7u-hHi7z-hHi7x-8dMM9Q-8dJwRr-8dMLVb-58bRFB-58gaJy-58geC5-58gfTW-58bVVp-58g9Vj-58bS3Z-58c1X4-58g1pq-57fSYq-57fBNL-rmJGaT-2D8eW-hHi7y-hHi7A-2D8eZ-hHi7v-hHj9U-57fBzf-e8DWQD-e7Uhjk-5Anz-seznLV-iJR2kU-5ZuBjg-9WuyeZ-5rqZGu-5rmDmx-ebonuu-5wMWf9-5SWVt7

(Durant Weston via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Report: Is Permian Tight Oil Growth Sustainable?

A new study suggests oil production in the Permian Basin could peak as early as 2021 due to geological constraints. This was the downside scenario gamed out by researchers with industry intelligence company Wood Mackenzie.

“We’re going to drill really really hard for the next 3 or 4 years, we’re going to exhaust a lot of parent locations, we’re going to keep drilling but we’re going to be drilling into pressure-depleted areas,” researcher Robert Clarke said in a Wood Mackenzie podcast.

Clarke said in this downside scenario, there will still be a lot of drilling, just of smaller “child” wells.

“Taking that downside scenario case forward, even in 2030 the Permian is still producing just shy of 30 million barrels a day. So this isn’t a story of it peaks and it’s finished,” said Clarke.

Another scenario considered in the report looks at how advances in technology could actually lead to widespread, more efficient fracking. This upside scenario saw production peak at 5.6 million barrels a day in 2025.

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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Voices of Blackwell: Jessi Silva

Our latest series, “Voices of Blackwell,” is a partnership with the Blackwell School Alliance. The segregated institution was open from the late nineteenth century and closed in 1965 with the integration of schools in town. The final story we hear comes from Jessi Silva. She attended the school in the first grade, before moving to California. Silva returned to Marfa in the sixth grade.

The “Voices of Blackwell” series is produced by Diana Nguyen.

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Tue. Oct 17 Interview: Live Storytelling Event: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” (Stories About Loving or Leaving West Texas)

These are personal stories from our live storytelling event that took place on October 11, 2017.  Many thanks to Kaki Aufdengarten-Scott, Chuy Calderon, Gil Lujan, Gabriela Garfio Carvhalo and Calletana Vargas for sharing their experiences with us!

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Tue. Oct 17 Interview: We Are Public Radio!

For our Fall Membership Drive, we wanted to celebrate some of our renowned DJs who make our station great. Our station producers profiled seven of our beloved personalities — Roseland Klein, David Beebe, JP Schwartz, Primo Carrasco, David Branch, Michael Camacho, and Natalie Melendez. You get to learn a little bit more about the dedicated volunteers who keep listeners tuned in from around the world. Some have been with the station since it’s earliest days — nearly twelve years ago!

These stories were produced by Bayla Metzger, Jackson Wisdorf, Carlos Morales, Elizabeth Trovall, Caroline Halter, Sally Beauvais, and Diana Nguyen.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Fri. Oct 13 Interview: Musician Meshell Ndegeocello

On this episode of West Texas Talk, Grammy Award nominated musician Meshell Ndegeocello stops by the studio. Ndegeocello talks about her most misunderstood song, collaborating with artists including John Mellencamp and Chaka Khan, and her recent theater project. We also talk about Ndegeocello’s forthcoming album, Ventriloquism, which is a series of 90s pop covers.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Keeping an Eye on the Winter Hummingbirds of the Trans-Pecos

West Texas boasts among the greatest diversity of hummingbirds of any region in the country. Each year in late summer, birders convene in Fort Davis for the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Celebration, as thousands of hummingbirds pass through on great migrations. … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm
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