News

Department of English Professor emeritus C.W. Smith. writes about a trip across Europe in his latest book

‘Throttled Peacock’ offers wry observations on
European vacation and marriage

New travelogue by SMU Professor emeritus C.W. Smith

DALLAS (SMU) — Two Americans traveling Europe on the cheap with a packet of chili powder in their suitcase – what’s the worst that could go wrong? Turns out, quite a lot. A Throttled Peacock: Observations on the Old World (DeGolyer Library 2015) is a collection of essays inspired by a 1990 trip across Europe and the latest book from SMU professor emeritus C.W. Smith, who taught creative writing in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences from 1985-2012.

“We basically went to 63 different cities and stayed in 63 different beds,” said Smith, who was joined on the trip by his wife, Marcia Smith. “I just kept taking notes about the things that happened to us and when we came back I just started trying to describe some of the experiences we had.

“I didn’t have it in mind to put out a whole collection,” Smith said. “But once I’d written them all, I realized they were very unified because they were based on the same trip with the same personalities having a variety of experiences.” READ MORE

State researchers not ready to blame quake on injection wells

Weatherford Democrat

Originally Posted: June 17, 2015

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AUSTIN – Disposal wells that catch the high-pressure byproducts of natural gas drilling cannot conclusively be blamed for an earthquake near Fort Worth this spring, according to state experts.

The Railroad Commission of Texas tested five disposal wells in Johnson County after a 4.0 magnitude temblor on May 7 to assess the effect of injection operations on underground rock formations.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the commission said in a statement released on Friday, citing an analysis by its seismologist, geologists and petroleum engineers.

Reports of injection wells elsewhere, however, suggest a link between disposal wells and seismic activity.

In April, a Southern Methodist University-led team found wastewater injection – along with extraction of saltwater from natural gas wells – was the most likely cause of earthquakes in 2013 and 2014 near Azle, west of Fort Worth. READ MORE

Heather DeShon, Earth Sciences, Texas regulators find no evidence that disposal wells caused Johnson Co. quake

Texas Tribune

Originally Posted: June 12, 2015

Regulators: No Evidence Wells Caused 4.0 Quake

After wrapping up a round of testing, Texas regulators say they have found no evidence that injecting oilfield waste into five disposal wells triggered the largest recorded earthquake in North Texas’ history.

“At this time, there is no conclusive evidence the disposal wells tested were a causal factor in the May 7 seismic event,” the Texas Railroad Commission said Friday in a news release.

Last month, a 4.0-magnitude earthquake hit Johnson County, leading to a few reports of minor damage. It was the most powerful ever recorded in the Barnett Shale region, including more than 50 quakes that have struck since November 2013 — a surge that has coincided with the proliferation of disposal wells, deep resting places for liquid oil and gas waste injected underground at high pressures.

Under rules adopted last year, the Railroad Commission ordered testing at five disposal wells, which the four companies that operate them voluntarily shut down. On Friday, the commission said its analysis of “fall-off pressure”– tests to determine the effects of injections at the well sites – turned up no fault patterns nearby that could have been related to the earthquakes. READ MORE

Ravi Batra, Economics, 4 Steps That Can Help End Unemployment And Poverty Now

Daily Exchange

Economist Says Monopoly Capitalism Is The Main Cause Of Economic Doldrums

More than seven years after the Great Recession began in 2007, many Americans are still struggling to put their economic lives back together. Factors such as low wages, high interest rates on credit cards and a mediocre job market continue to make a lot of families feel like the recovery passed them by, says Dr. Ravi Batra, an economist and author of the new book “End Unemployment Now: How to Eliminate Joblessness, Debt and Poverty Despite Congress.”

It doesn’t have to be this way, he says.

“The main cause of our troubles is monopoly capitalism, which is a system dominated by giant companies that charge high prices, pay low wages and extract huge productivity from employees,” says Batra, an economics professor at Southern Methodist University.

“As a result, supply rises faster than demand and generates layoffs. So the solution lies in breaking up the behemoths and returning to free markets, where many firms engage in price and quality competition.”

That’s easier said than done, though, because of the political considerations, Batra says. He surmises that any attempt to move legislation through Congress would meet with failure. READ MORE

10-day SMU trip reveals Wild West myths that obscure ‘theft, deception & genocide’ for Native Americans

DALLAS (SMU) — Thirteen SMU students, faculty and staff members are traveling the American West to better understand past and present struggles of our country’s “too often-forgotten indigenous people,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, who is leading the June 2-12 trip.

During the 10-day journey through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, the group will visit Native American sites of what Halperin describes as “brutal military and socio-economic strife as well as cultural resilience,” including the Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded Knee area of South Dakota and the Battle of Little Bighorn site in Montana.

“Native American justice is perhaps the most fundamental – and most overlooked – human rights issue in the United States,” adds Embrey Human Rights Assistant Director Brad Klein. “This trip will raise awareness of how myths about the taming of the ‘Wild West’ obscure a history of theft, deception and genocide.”

Trip participants also will see how Native Americans are still fighting to better their communities and build a better world for the next generation, Klein says. READ MORE

Texas GOP Immigration Crackdown Fizzled … What Gives?

San Antonio Current

Originally Posted: June 10, 2015

AUSTIN — The 2015 session of the Texas Legislature, which ended last week rather unceremoniously, was widely panned as a bust.

Immigrant advocates couldn’t be any happier. They’re claiming victory.

“We were very excited, but it kept us on our toes,” Chloe Sikes, a member of the Coalition to Save In-State Tuition, told the San Antonio Current.

A slew of proposals cracking down on undocumented immigrants — from repealing in-state tuition to targeting disadvantaged children in medical care programs — died on the vine as time expired on their proponents.

Post-battle, those in the political trenches described behind-the-scenes machinations that dealt the fatal blows to the anti-immigrant bills. Scenes of high drama — suffused with broken loyalties, clash of wills, moral indignation — that would’ve made Shakespeare raise an eyebrow.

Sikes’ group primarily focused on SB 1819. The proposed legislation by State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would have repealed a 2001 measure (signed by fellow Republican Rick Perry, former Texas governor now on his second presidential quest) allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.

After spurts surfaced threatening to advance Campbell’s bill, it finally died on May 20 after the deadline for discussion passed.

“It was extra concerning the repeal effort was put forth in this session,” Sikes said. “Texas was the first to pass that type of legislation,” she noted with palpable pride. Indeed, many other states followed in the Lone Star State’s footsteps.

Other anti-immigration measures died a slow death on the rotunda floor, most notably SB 1252, directing the governor to negotiate an interstate border security compact toward federal immigration law enforcement; SB 185 aimed at outlawing so-called sanctuary cities; HB 2835, which would’ve given lower priority to taking undocumented children off medical waiting lists.

The mainstream media attributed the mass death of bills to the GOP focus on gays and guns. But battle-worn lawmakers who fought the latest anti-immigration bills described a wholesale change in dynamics from past sessions, prompted by the upending of the two-thirds rule in the Senate. In January, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ended the 70-year practice of requiring the support of two-thirds of senators to bring up a measure in favor of a three-fifths majority. The old rule was in place to protect minority interests, a less-than-opaque measure by Patrick to push his party’s priorities.

“While it was definitely a loss for the Senate, it has empowered the House,” said State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat.

“The truth of the matter is there was no appetite for that kind of conversation in the state House, which is a more mature body,” Martinez-Fischer added. “Most of those bills originated in the Senate, but died a slow and painful death on the House floor.”

Indeed, SB 1819 and SB 185 never made it out of the Senate, while SB 1252 withered away in committee.

State Sen. José Menéndez, another SA Democrat, described a similar sense of empowerment in killing off bad bills — a rallying cry that even lured some Republicans to discreetly stray from party lines. The same three-fifths rule implanted this year now requires 12 senators to block a bill, prompting recruitment of dissenters across party lines.

“The Republicans who joined us think it’s not in the best interest of the state to be anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant and don’t agree with those politics,” Menéndez told the Current.

The turncoats’ identities are being jealously guarded to shield them from potential backlash from their base in the next election cycle, Menéndez noted.

“We tried to provide them anonymity so they don’t get beat up in the next primary election,” he said.

The rise of the Tea Party and the intractable stance on social issues among its rank and file also increasingly complicates the way business gets done at the Legislature — prompting some Republicans dissenting from party ideology to quietly support Democrats with votes. “It’s caused so many moderate Republicans to be kicked out by these far-right Tea Party members,” Menéndez noted.

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said that anti-immigration bills largely failed — for the second consecutive legislative session — because they ran counter to the powerful businesses lobby.

Jillson invoked the trope of “campaigning in poetry and governing in prose” to further his argument.

“Texas has seen the value of a substantial supply of cheap labor. The anti-immigrant rhetoric and border security rhetoric is standard fare of elections, and that rhetoric is very effective,” he explained. “But when you get into governing, you have the lobbies pushing in a different direction.” READ MORE

Concerns over earthquakes spread to Texas

USA Today

Originally Posted: June 10, 2015

The connection between wastewater injection wells and an alarming increase in the frequency of earthquakes is getting a lot more scrutiny these days.

First was Oklahoma, which has suddenly become the earthquake capital of the United States. The number of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2014 in the state. The culprit? Scientists are becoming more confident that the injection of wastewater into disposal wells causes fault lines to “slip,” contributing to the likelihood of an earthquake. READ MORE

Matthew Hornbach, Earth Sciences, oil firms probed over Texas quakes

Wall Street Journal

Originally Posted: June 9, 2015

Oil Firms Probed Over Texas Quakes

Texas regulators are scrutinizing some of the biggest U.S. energy producers in the wake of several earthquakes that have rocked the Dallas-Fort Worth area this year.

An Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary and EOG Resources Inc., one of the biggest shale-oil and gas pumpers, are facing questions about their use of injection wells to dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. The state’s oil-and-gas regulator on Wednesday begins a series of hearings in Austin to assess some oil companies’ role in causing the temblors.

A growing body of scientific research from federal, state and academic researchers suggests that disposal wells, often used to get rid of the dirty water leftover from fracking and brine from oil-and-gas production, may be linked to increased seismic activity. READ MORE

 

Follow Jewel on SMU Adventures

Jewel is a sophomore majoring in biology and environmental science in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. A member of the University Honors Program, she is the recipient of the SMU Founders Scholarship and Dedman College Scholarship. During summer 2012, she also received a Richter Fellowship to conduct research at SMU-in-Taos, where she will update “A Guide to the Trees of the Navajo Country,” a 1940s bulletin written to teach Navajo students to manage and identify the trees in their area. She is using a variety of resources to update locations, scientific names, Navajo medicinal uses and other characteristics of the trees. READ MORE