Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sixty Years After the End of the Korean War

On July 27th, military veterans around the world will mark the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire in Korea. The agreement, which took two years and hundreds of negotiating sessions to reach, ended the fighting between United Nations forces and their opponents, the communist forces of North Korea and the People’s Republic of China.

In retrospect, that agreement seems based largely on good fortune, most notably the March 1953 death of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin, whose enthusiasm for the war ignored the horrific casualties endured by his Chinese and North Korean allies. Had the war continued, the possibility of a nuclear exchange and an ensuing third world war loomed large. In that sense, the end of the fighting deserves some celebration, if only to mark the anniversary of a global disaster averted.

The date should prove especially poignant for those Americans who survived internment in communist prisoner of war compounds along the Yalu River. When Chinese officials announced the end of the war, some broke into tears, while others sank to their knees and gave prayers of thanks. Many simply shouted for joy. At Camp One, recalled marine private Nick Flores, “Plenty of men were jumping around telling the world that the war was over and they would be going home.”

Other camps reacted differently. When the Chinese assembled their United Nations prisoners on the soccer field at Camp Four, the noncommissioned officers knew something was up. When a camp official announced the armistice, all 600 prisoners stared back in silence. “We all got up and marched back to our compound,” recalled Jim DeLong. “It really hurt them that we didn’t holler and hoop and hurray that the war was over. When we got back to our compound we celebrated, but we didn’t let them know that we were happy.”

Prisoners at Camp Two responded in similar fashion. Knowing a cease-fire was imminent, the senior prisoners put out the word: “No celebrations whatsoever.” Chinese photographers were at the compound to film the festivities, but they went home disappointed. Like the sergeants at Camp Four, the Camp Two prisoners received the news in silence, saving their celebrations for the privacy of their quarters.

At Camp Three, Private First Class Raymond Mellin responded with quiet gratitude.  The young medic from Hartford, Connecticut had been captured during the first American battle of the war and had survived three years of horrific treatment, including a hundred-mile death march. Upon hearing the news, he opened his Chinese-issue notebook and wrote the following:

On the 27th of July, the Korean War was officially over, to the amazement of many who were pessimistic, and happily accepted by those who were optimistic. As if coming out of a dark room into the sunlight, radiant smiles crept across the many faces upon hearing the wonderful news, and now to wait patiently for repatriation and our loved ones once again, which will be the greatest moment of our lives. R. V. Mellin, July 27, 1953.

A higher percentage of American prisoners died in captivity during the Korean War than in any other war in our history. Of the 7,140 Americans captured, only 4,418 came home after the fighting. For many of those survivors, repatriation remains one of the greatest moments of their lives, and survivors still recall the exact moment they crossed Freedom Bridge back into United Nations control.  At least 2,700 more Americans, however, did not return from captivity. Instead, they died of starvation, exposure, disease and neglect amidst the desolate mountains of North Korea. Another 7,900 Americans are still listed as missing in action, although the Pentagon continues to recover and identify remains.

On July 27th, we will remember the Korean War as a critical moment in the Cold War, and we will reflect on the diverging paths taken by North and South Korea in the six decades since its end.  Amidst these reflections on geopolitical strategy, however, we should take a moment to recall the liberation of American prisoners and the sacrifice of those who didn’t come back.

--William C. Latham, Jr., author of Cold Days in Hell: American POWs in Korea

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is the Blog Tour Dead?

Lissa Warren, Senior Director of Publicity for DaCapo Press, stirred up members of the Association of American University Presses Friday when she declared the blog tour dead.

Speaking as part of the Book Tour 2.0 panel at the 2013 annual meeting of AAUP held last week in Boston, Warren said the Boston commercial publisher tried blog tours 10 years ago but were dissatisfied with the results, when looking at resulting sales.

With a blog tour, authors "travel" from blog to blog, rather than event venue (or city) to event venue. Many publicists consider the blog tour a virtual and more cost-effective alternative to sending authors on a multi-venue tour in order to promote their books.

Sparks flew across the #aaup13 Twitter hashtag, as AAUP members debated whether the blog tour was, in fact, "dead."

Jessica Pellien, Assistant Director of Publicity for Princeton University Press, who, coincidentally, had just wrapped a blog tour for The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, quipped, "Blog tours are dead. We hardly knew ye."

In a later panel, Pellien declared her blog tour for the immensely popular birding guide a success.

In follow up to her remarks on the panel, Warren offered some additional thoughts on blog tours.

"It does seem that the tide has really turned from blogs to social media. I still think blogs have their place in a book's campaign -- that getting people to review books on blogs is important. But guest-posts by our authors on other people's blogs (in other words, blog tours) don't seem to generate much in the way of sales.

I'd much rather our authors post on places like the Huffington Post or the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog or Psychology Today's blog -- in other words, places that get great traffic. Posting to people's BlogSpot or Wordpress blogs doesn't seem to be the best use of an author's time. I'm honestly not sure it ever worked, but it definitely doesn't seem to now."

One point Warren and fellow panelist Rachel Ewen, publicist for Cambridge University Press seemed to agree upon was that the days of sending authors out on expensive book tours through Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and beyond are mostly over.

Below are some of the Tweets:

John P. Hussey (@BookHussey): Warren: the virtual blog tour has been replaced by twitter chats or Facebook chats. #aaup13

U. of Michigan Press (@UofMPress): Blog tour replaced by FB and Twitter chat. #aaup13 Also, Reddit etc.

Mandy Clarke (@booking_it_fast): Audience: Have you had success with blog tours? Da Capo Press: That was 10 years ago... It's all about Facebook and twitter now. #aaup13

Univ Nebraska Press (@UnivNebPress): The Blog tour is dead! long live the Facebook and Twitter Chat! #aaup13

Erin Rolfs (@erinrolfs): Blog tour so 10 years ago. Really? #aaup13

Dennis Lloyd (@dlbookman): @erinrolfs: Is that good or bad? #triedandtrue #outdated

Ivan C. Lett (@icylett): @erinrolfs Yeah, I'm not convinced

Bryan Shaffer (@bryanshaffer): @icylett I think bloggers would disagree

John P. Hussey (@BookHussey): @booking_it_fast @icylett @erinrolfs @jessicapellien seem to be disagreeing with the "Blog Tour is dead" edict.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

For a Limited Time, Chimney Swifts book only $5

Georgean and Paul Kyle, Austin store owners who sell their own exquisitely designed, handmade toys, have also committed to being protectors and preservers of chimney swifts. Chimney Swifts, birds that nest and roost in chimneys, have been historically abundant in North America. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that there was a large decline in the number of the birds.

The Kyles’ eight-acre homestead has become a world-renowned Chimney Swift sanctuary and research station, with more than a dozen Chimney Swift towers of various designs located throughout their property. The swifts return each spring to many of these towers, where they rear their young and where their home life is observed and recorded in previously undocumented detail.

The Kyles have authored two books, Chimney Swifts: America’s Mysterious Birds above the Fireplace (TAMU Press, 2005) and Chimney Swift Towers: New Habitat for America’s Mysterious Birds (TAMU Press, 2005). For a limited time, Chimney Swifts in paperback is only $5.00, while supplies last. Chimney Swift Towers in cloth is only $8.00, while supplies last.

--Madeline Loving

Monday, June 17, 2013

End of Modern Civilization Through…Rising Sea Level?

John Jacob
With a zombie invasion dominating most end-of-the-world theories, destruction by a rise in sea level seems hardly as dramatic. Yet researchers are predicting this may not be so far-fetched. According to Texas A&M University researcher and one of the state’s leading coastal development experts, sea-level rise is not the type of looming coastal natural hazard that announces itself with the roaring bravado of a hurricane, but it is there, in the details of the storm, and will only get worse in the absence of public sentiment to address the issue.
Sea level along the Texas Gulf Coast is rising by a fraction of an inch each year, but this increase is expected to accelerate and possibly inundate one of the state’s most profitable and environmentally diverse regions. As a first step in addressing the problem at the state level, The University of Texas’s Bureau of Economic Geology and Energy Institute recently released a report from a workshop it held last year at the university’s Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas to identify the current status of sea level rise along the Texas Gulf Coast and to assess risks to the region’s ecosystems, communities, and economy.
The report, “The Risk of Rising Sea Level: Texas Universities Ready and Able to Help Coastal Communities Adapt” presents the findings of the workshop’s 28 participating scientists from six of Texas’s leading academic institutions, including Texas Sea Grant, along with representatives from the nonprofit, governmental, and private sectors. The report goes on to cite a recent study by Entergy, a power-generating utility based in Louisiana that serves East Texas, which estimated that the current value of Gulf Coast energy assets is $800 billion.
Sea-level rise is not a “someday” event. It is already a fact of life in Texas. Current data show coastal water levels are rising about one-fifth of an inch per year, which is about five times the rate seen during the previous 4,000 years and one of the highest rates reported globally, according to the report. It goes on to state that the current rate of sea-level rise in Texas is expected to accelerate further, doubling or even tripling by the end of the 21st century as a warming atmosphere fuels further expansion of the oceans and threatens to melt significant portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
In fact by 2100, much of the Texas coast will most likely be under at least a foot of water and as much as six feet of water.
The rising Gulf of Mexico will directly impact Texas’s 18 coastal counties that account for less than six percent of the state’s landmass but are home to almost a quarter of its 2010 population. According to the report, Texas’ coastal population is growing more than twice as fast as the rest of the state.
Many of these issues are also discussed in Richard A. Davis, Jr.’s book, Sea-Level Change in the Gulf of Mexico. The book examines  various causes and effects of rising and falling sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico, beginning with the Gulf’s geological birth over 100 million years ago, and focusing on the last 20,000 years, when global sea levels began rising as the glaciers of the last major ice age melted.
For the full article by TAMUTimes, click here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Praying for Rain?

When Texas Governor Rick Perry asked Texans to pray for rain in 2011, it was not a Texas’ leaders first plea for divine intervention. In 1953, Governor Allen Shivers asked Texan minister’s to pray for rain to help alleviate the 1950s drought. This also spurred officials to draft the first State Water Plan, which would forecast the state’s water needs in the future.

However, not all results from the Plan were positive. In 1961 with the 1950s drought fresh in mind, officials funded binge dam building. Within the next ten years, 2700 dams were built with the hopes of strengthening the state’s water supply, now accounting for about 40 percent of dams in Texas.

In 1968, a different plan was offered proposing that Texas should channel water from Louisiana. That “grandiose” plan seemed destined to fail, says Charles Porter, a Texas water historian and professor at St. Edwards University.

“How in the world do you run water from the Mississippi River, all the way across Texas?” Porter said in an interview with StateImpact Texas. “If we started that project today, I think maybe when my great grandchildren are alive they’ll have the right of way.”

Glancing back at those old water plans, one can see a document that shaped enduring features of the Texas landscape. But back when officials wrote the first plan, Texas was a different state, says Andy Sansom, Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

“In the 1950s everybody lived in a small town,” Sansom told StateImpact Texas. “People lived on farms and ranches. Texas was a rural state. So, people understood what a drought meant because it affected their daily lives.”

In November Texans will vote to decide if the current drought will require a historic solution: whether to use $2 billion dollars from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account, to fund projects in the latest water plan.

For the full article by David Barer from StateImpact, click here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rest in Peace Reveille VII

Posted by Allen Reed on on Friday, May 31, 2013 at 1:15 am

The former First Lady of Aggieland passed away Thursday morning.

Reveille VII, the American Collie who served as Texas A&M's mascot from 2001 to 2008, succumbed to a respiratory complication at about 10 a.m., said Dr. Stacy Eckman, the A&M veterinarian who had served as Reveille VII's primary caregiver. She was 12-and-a-half-years old.

The 70-pound purebred was admitted to the Small Animal Clinic at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on Tuesday morning and had emergency surgery that afternoon. Caregivers said Reveille VII seemed to be recovering well from pneumonia-like symptoms on Wednesday and that the Thursday downturn was sudden and unexpected.

"Up until Tuesday morning, she was very healthy," Eckman said. "There were minor medical problems, but overall she was very healthy and had a good quality of life. It came on very suddenly, and she had a whole team of doctors here working on her, but in the end the best decision was made for her."

Eckman said large dogs like collies typically live about 12 to 15 years.

Reveille VII's immediate family, caregivers Tina and Paul Gardner of College Station, said she was beautiful and at peace when she passed.

"We've been married 46 years, and we've always had at least one dog, if not two," said Tina Gardner. "Each dog, just like each person, has its own personality. She really was a hoot. She was the most loyal, loving dog. She never ever once had it to where she was not the queen, the first lady and had a regal look about her. She always carried herself that way."

To thousands of Aggies, she was a former five-star general and the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets. To the Gardners, who took care of Reveille after her 2008 retirement, she was a loving and caring pet. She wasn't too fond of lawn mowers, golf carts or skateboarders, but was clever and a big fan of food. She even swiped some candy and people-food she shouldn't have a time or two.

"She was a great eater," Gardner reminisced.

Reveille VII loved being a part of the Aggie family, Gardner said, but acknowledged that the public appearances and job duties were sometimes stressful for the former mascot. The retired life, she added, was much more relaxing.

"If you think about it truly, that's not a dog's natural life," Gardner said of the mascot's former duties. "It got too stressful for her, and that's why she got retired at a younger age. She was with us one or two days, and there was a noticeable difference."

Gardner choked up a few times when talking about the beloved pet and said that she appreciated the outpouring of support from the community and the university.

"We loved her so much," Gardner said. "It was a prestigious honor to have her in our home."

Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, commandant of the Corps of Cadets, said the death was a loss felt by the entire Aggie family.

"She represents our school, our tradition and what this university is all about," Ramirez said. "Anytime we lose a Reveille, it's a significant emotional event for all of us ... For those of us who are Aggies and wear the ring, it's like losing a member of our family."

Most details about the memorial service are unknown, but Reveille VII will share a view of the Kyle Field scoreboard for each home football game, along with the former Reveilles buried at the north end zone. Gardner said Reveille VII will likely have a full military funeral at Kyle field, similar to her predecessors, and that the memorial might be held in the fall, when students return from their summer vacations.

University officials said memorial service details will be announced as soon as they are finalized.