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Newsmonger: Symphony woes, Eagle Ford reserves questioned, Money laundering probe

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Symphony woes

As classic music lovers anticipate the October 5 season opener featuring works by Russian masters Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov, a contract offer has finally been tended to the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony.

But all is still not well in the musical trenches. After failing to sign a contract for the 2011-2012 season, symphony musicians and management settled in September, 2011 on a handshake continuance of the previous contract that awarded — according to Craig Sorgi of the symphony musicians negotiating committee — players an annual base salary of $31,350 for a 30-week season. Of last year's intended season, only 26 weeks were initially scheduled, though an extra week was added later.

The musicians claim they were shorted three weeks pay; management disagrees. During the long, hot summer months negotiations for a 2012-2013 season contract remained dead in the water. Then, as the symphony's fiscal year came to a close August 31, musicians were notified that monies to cover the missing three weeks had not been attained.

The musicians' negotiating committee signaled their displeasure September 4 by filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the SA Symphony, claiming management has refused to bargain in good faith. Within hours of the filing, SA Symphony management sent the musicians a contract offer — for a 26-week season. This Friday symphony players huddle to consider the last minute offer, then send their thoughts to management.

The musicians have stated previously they will not accept a season less than 30 weeks. Will mutually agreeable terms be found before rehearsals begin? When the symphony moves to the ambitiously planned Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled to open in 2014, operating costs will increase. How a diminished symphony will encourage much needed increased support by philanthropists is a question all sides should ponder.

Eagle Ford reserves questioned

The loudest backlash against the fracking boom has hinged largely on environmental concerns as activists insist the process – which shoots millions of gallons of chemically-charged water deep underground to break up oil- and gas-rich shale (like South Texas' Eagle Ford) – could contaminate groundwater.

But as shale oil and gas become energy-policy talking points, some in Texas have stepped forward to criticize the long-term economic promises espoused by frack-heavy companies, saying the data suggests the shale revolution beneath our feet is overhyped.

North Texas' Deborah Rogers, a former investment banker who once sat on an advisory committee with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, is one such critic. And she has in turn caught heat from the oil and gas spin machine, derided as "some goat farmer from Fort Worth" (she does, in fact, own a goat farm). Rogers, who tours the country delivering presentations on what she claims are the shaky, boom-and-bust economics of shale gas, pointed us this week to a new Society of Petroleum Engineers report, out just in time for the SPE's annual conference in San Antonio next month.

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