Tuesday, July 30, 2013

They Called Him a Traitor

In 2010, Julian Assange became "public enemy number one" in the United States for posting material on the Internet concerning airstrikes in Iraq, U.S. diplomatic communications and other sensitive matters.

A new movie produced by Stephen Spielberg's DreamWorks, The Fifth Estate, will focus on the controversial website and the disintegration of the relationship between founder Assange and former spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

The film will debut at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival in October.

Among the classified information leaked on WikiLeaks were U.S. military videos of 2007 combat actions in Baghdad that had resulted in the deaths of two Reuters news staff -- a release that immediately sparked a storm of controversy.

The WikiLeaks controversy was not unprecented. The addition of digital cameras on cell phones, for example, as well as software apps that allow for photos or video to be uploaded to social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr or distributed via email has been a boon to street reporting.

During 2006 military operations in Lebanon, Israeli conscripts filled the Internet with personal photographs and videos -- some compromising the security of ongoing operations. Others were used by Hezbollah forces fighting them to generate anti-Israeli propaganda.

In his book Wiki at War: Conflict in a Socially Networked World, author James Carafano discusses WikiLeaks, social media and street-reporting tactics enabled by Web 2.0.

"While street journalism and blogging can be powerful weapons in the hands of bad people, both have been enlisted in the fight for freedom," says Carafano. "States such as Iran and China have pioneered efforts to keep the voices of freedom off-line. In some cases citizens have fought back."

Carafano, deputy director of the Heritage Foundation's international studies institute and director of its Center for Foreign Policy Studies, says the war for winning dominance over social networks and using that dominance to advantage is already underway.

For more information on Wiki at War, click here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting Fire with Fire

Before people replaced wilderness with homes and ranches, wildfires were essential to the American West. Plains and prairies burned regularly, and those fires not only determined the flora and fauna that made up the ecosystem, but they regenerated the land.

Now scientists are trying to bring fire back to the land, though they are finding that many humans do not understand the purpose.

"I know that every time we've done burns we get a lot of calls to the fire department, people saying, 'Oh, no, why would you do that?'" Grace Stanley of the Montana Conservation Corps told NPR. "People don't really understand that fire regenerates, and it's a natural process that the earth needs."
In Montana government decided to stop all wildfires a century ago -- a move that upset the balance of the ecosystem. Now, scientists are doing controlled burns to burn off high grass and undergrowth, which are often fuel for out-of-control wildfires that burn everything in their wake.

For more information on controlled fires and Montana's efforts to prevent wildfires and promote regenerative growth, read the story on NPR.

Texas A&M University Press offers a comprehensive guide for controlled burns, aimed directly to landowners and other professionals. For more information on Conducting Prescribed Fire: A Comprehensive Manual, click here.


Friday, July 26, 2013

On the Trail of Tom Lea

Artist, muralist, author, and war correspondent Tom Lea made his mark on Texas history and left a trail of artwork for people to follow. Although the Tom Lea Trail is not officially designated, following it requires a rambling traverse of the entire state. From El Paso to Dallas to Austin and south to Kingsville, Lea’s artwork and murals can be found spread across the state. Using his artist brush and writer’s pen, Tom Lea commanded his bit of Texas history without a bayonet or musket or the title of a military commander.

Beginning in El Paso where Tom Lea was born, you can find the mural that solidified Lea’s reputation as a Texas muralist and draftsman. The mural’s location, a wall 12 feet high and 53 feet long in the El Paso federal courthouse, proved a good canvas for Lea to use. It was there that Lea painted his first true masterwork—Pass of the North. The desert-landscape background includes larger-than-life figures such as a U.S. soldier, a Franciscan priest, a Mexican vaquero, a Spanish explorer, pioneer settlers, Apaches, a Texas rancher, a prospector, and a town sheriff.

Born in 1907, Lea expressed an interest for the arts throughout childhood. When he was 18, Lea left El Paso for the Art Institute of Chicago where he accomplished two years of formal training, as well as a five-year apprenticeship with Chicago muralist John Norton. When Lea returned to El Paso, he was already an accomplished artist.

Moving up north to Dallas is the extravagant Hall of State built to house the exhibits of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. Lea was among several artists commissioned to decorate the interior. Now you can find Lea’s History of Beef Cattle paintings at the Dallas Museum of Art.

(Stampede Mural, 1940, Post Office, Odessa, Texas)
Traveling south you will find examples in Austin, including a full-color oil called The Lead Steer at the Blanton Museum of Art as well as A Little Shade in Waco’s Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. The iconic cowboy continued to dominate Lea’s subject matter.

Further south, the UT Galveston Moody Medical Library houses Lea’s The First Recorded Surgical Operation in North America, Cabeza de Vaca. The skillful hand of Lea brings to life the Spanish explorer removing a flint arrowhead from the wounded chest of a Native American.

Lea was also a published author. His best-selling novel titled The Brave Bulls was published in 1948. In 1951 it was made into a movie starring Mel Ferrer and Anthony Quinn. Another of Lea’s novels is titled The Wonderful Country  and  is published by TCU Press.

A few other books focusing on Tom Lea and his artwork are listed below:

1. Texas Post Office Murals: Art for the People (TAMU Press, 2004) by Philip Parisi is a volume full of 115 photographs that depict the stunning and historic works of art that grace the walls of any of the sixty post offices and federal buildings in the state of Texas.

2. The Two Thousand Yard Stare: Tom Lea’s World War II (TAMU Press, 2008) by Tom Lea and Edited by Brendan M. Greeley Jr., features Lea’s firsthand accounts of his experience during World War II when he was commissioned by Life magazine to paint the war as it was happening.

3. The Art of Tom Lea: A Memorial Edition (TAMU Press, 2003)  by Kathleen G. Hjerter makes available the full range of his vigorous work. Old admirers of Lea’s talents will delight in this presentation, and a whole new generation will be awed by the unique contribution he has made.

4. Literary El Paso (TCU Press, 2009) edited by Marcia Hatfield Daudistel brings attention to the often overlooked extraordinary literary heritage of this city in far West Texas. The works of Tom Lea and many other artists are featured in the book as well.
If you would like to read the original article featuring Tom Lea, click here for a link to Texas Highways.

--Madeline Loving

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bomber Bats?

Believe it or not, that was the directive from the White House as the U.S. tried to develop secret weapons during World War II.

On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lytle S. Adams was visiting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. As the implications of Japan’s act began to sink in, Adams’s thoughts turned to retaliation.

Adams was amazed by the hundreds of thousands of bats that emerged from and returned to the caverns every night and wondered if they couldn't be used as weapons—fitted with incendiary devices and dropped from planes. He realized that if bats could be “weaponized,” they could be released to roost before sun up, when built-in timers would ignite the incendiaries, creating thousands of fires simultaneously.

By January 1942, Adams’s idea made it to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desk, and within days, Roosevelt had dispatched instructions regarding the plan to an Army colonel. Roosevelt wrote, “It sounds like a perfectly wild idea but is worth looking into.”

The “bat bomb” project was soon off the ground, and the effort appeared promising. Bats generally congregated in large numbers, could carry twice their weight in flight, would fly in darkness and roost in secluded places and, perhaps most important, could be manipulated to hibernate and, while dormant, did not require food or maintenance.

By March 1943, the Mexican free-tailed bat had been chosen for the operation, and Louis Fieser was designing miniature incendiary devices for the bombers. The bats were being collected from large caves in Texas.

Two months later, 3,500 bats were tested in California but even after several failed attempts, testing continued with mixed results.

By early June, the bat bombers had burned down the new Carlsbad Airfield’s control tower, a barracks and several other buildings, all while in various stages of construction. They soon realized they had a lot of additional developments to make before a final conclusion could be drawn.

In August 1943, the project was passed on to the Navy and assigned to the Marine Corps thus becoming known as Project X-Ray. An incendiary specialist at Dugway reported that the bat bombers were effective because the small units were capable of creating a reasonable number of destructive fires without being detected. A National Defense Research Committee observer concurred, concluding that Project X-Ray had indeed produced an effective weapon.

After some positive results and optimistic accounts, more advanced and effective incendiary devices were ordered and an expanded Project X-Ray test regimen was scheduled for August 1944. But by then, Project X-Ray was racing against the Manhattan Project, and when Navy Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King was informed that the bat bombers would probably not be combat ready until mid-1945, he canceled the project.

For the original article from Texas Co-op Power magazine, click hereFor more on Texas bats, check out Loren Ammerman’s book Bats of Texas.

-Paige Bukowski

Friday, July 19, 2013

Same Corps, Different Name

Credit: Destry Jaimes
The Texas Conservation Corps was more than welcome at West after the fertilizer plant explosion.
Few know or remember the Civilian Conservation Corps from the 1930s, yet evidence of their contributions surrounds us, especially in Texas’s state parks. Although the CCC may not be officially still in existence, its legacy is living on through the Texas Conservation Corps. They too are leaving behind long-lasting contributions.

Credit: Destry Jaimes
Within 48 hours, the Texas Conservation
Corps disaster response team was on the scene, where Heather
Kouros, in gray, helped manage American YouthWorks efforts
from temporary headquarters.
The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18 to 25.

The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs. Principal benefits of an individual's enrollment in the CCC included improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability. Of their pay of $30 a month, $25 went to their parents. Implicitly, the CCC also led to a greater public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and the nation's natural resources, as well as the continued need for a carefully planned, comprehensive national program for the protection and development of natural resources.

During the time of the CCC, volunteers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

Despite its popular support, the CCC was never a permanent agency. It depended on emergency and temporary Congressional legislation for its existence. By 1942, with World War II and the draft in force, need for work relief declined and Congress voted to close the program.

Credit: Destry Jaimes
Valerie Tamburri, left, and Will Kruckeberg
drop off cases of water in a neighborhood
damaged by the April fertilizer plant
explosion in West.
While the CCC was never officially terminated, Congress provided funding for closing the remaining camps in 1942 with the equipment being reallocated. Eventually, more than 50 years later in 1995, the Environmental Corps, now Texas Conservation Corps (TxCC), was formed from the CCC model. Chris Sheffield, program director, explains that TxCC is a modern-day version of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

The TxCC is an American YouthWorks program which allows youth, ages 17 to 28, to contribute to the restoration and preservation of parks and public lands in Texas. The only conservation corps in Texas, TxCC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas, which serves the entire state. Their work ranges from disaster relief to trail building to habitat restoration. TxCC has done projects in national, state, and city parks.

The TxCC’s skills were put to the test while aiding in disaster relief in West, TX.

Less than 48 hours after the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Will Kruckeberg and Valerie Tamburri were on the scene, helping organize thousands of volunteers who seemingly descended on the town en masse to do whatever needed doing.

Credit: Destry Jaimes
When the West Fertilizer Company plant
outside West, about 20 miles north of Waco,
exploded April 17, the damage extended
across a 37-block area, including this
home on property adjacent to the plant.
As part of the Texas Conservation Corps disaster response team, Kruckeberg, 20, and Tamburri, 32, hit the ground running. The Westfest Fairgrounds, where the predominantly Czech community holds an annual Labor Day weekend polka festival, became the staging area for receiving—literally—tons of clothing, food for people and pets, baby supplies, hygiene products, household items and just about every other immediate need of hundreds of displaced residents, some of them members of Hilco Electric Cooperative.

Out of the chaos of pavilions piled high with overstuffed cardboard boxes, household appliances and bulging black, plastic bags, Kruckeberg had to create order. He directed volunteers as they unpacked, sorted, organized and distributed necessities to long lines of shocked and weary West citizens.

Tamburri took charge of creating a makeshift dining hall with long tables of food—much of it straight from the kitchens of West neighbors and concerned folks in nearby towns—for citizens and volunteers alike. Tamburri was amazed at how the West citizens, even some who’d lost their homes, pitched right in. “I love this town. Everyone’s so nice and willing to help,” she told Texas Co-op Power magazine.

Kruckeberg and Tamburri landed in the middle of a maelstrom, and with skills learned in the Texas Conservation Corps, they played a big role in calming the waters.

By April 23, the crowds of volunteers were mostly gone, the warehouses were clearing out, and the TxCC team could take a breather before the next phase of their work: finding long-term replacement volunteers.

Credit: Destry Jaimes
Will Kruckeberg, 20, helping with donations at West, also volunteered
to join a crew headed to Joplin, Missouri, to provide relief
after a series of deadly tornadoes struck in 2010.
The agency has given him ‘a sense of fulfillment that
makes every aspect of my life better,’ he says.
Before coming to West, Tamburri had participated in disaster-relief efforts in New York City after Hurricane Sandy in February and in Baytown after Hurricane Ike in 2008. She had never fully experienced small-town culture and being embraced by its citizens like she did in West. “This has been such a positive experience. All the people of this town are great. We had people who lost everything or were injured from the blast, and they were in there volunteering, handing out food to other people. Some of them said, ‘We’re used to giving; we’re not used to receiving.’”
“I never lived in a small community, and it was really inspiring,” says Tamburri. “This is a learning experience for me. Everybody is so inviting and warm and helpful. They just jump in and do what needs to be done. You don’t have to ask them.”

For the original article from the Texas Co-op Power magazine, click here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Mexican Revolution, as Told Through Nonfiction and Graphic Novel

No one can underestimate the power of a revolution. The first major political and social revolution of the twentieth century began in Mexico. The Mexican Revolution began in 1910, when the President Porfirio Diaz had his dictatorship challenged by the reformist writer and politician, Francisco I. Madero. Madero’s uprising was supported by Emiliano Zapata from the south and Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa in the north. 

While the dictatorship was overthrown by 1911, an entirely new set of problems arose, resulting in a civil war within Mexico. It was a combination of factors, mainly the concentration of wealth within the hands of the privileged and the widespread poverty within the soiled hands of the nation’s 11 million industrial and rural laborers, which contributed to Mexico’s eventual transformation into the modern era.

In the new book The Mexican Revolution: Conflict and Consolidation, 1910-1940 (TAMU Press, 2013), authors and historians Douglas W. Richmond and Sam W. Haynes delve deeper into Mexico’s civil war and the reforms that followed, providing new insight and attention to the revolution. The Mexican Revolution also studies the effects of the struggle in Mexico on the American Southwest, showing that the region experienced waves of ethnically motivated violence and economic tensions.

If you’re interested in a more creative retelling of the Mexican Revolution, new graphic novels (in Spanish)  featuring rancheros, hacienda owners, and warlords detail the revolution with powerful imagery and iconography. Click here to read the full article.

--Madeline Loving

Monday, July 15, 2013

Happy 50th Texas Parks and Wildlife!

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department marks its 50th anniversary this summer with a special issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine, which tips a figurative Stetson to the various partners who helped further the agency’s conservation mission over the last five decades, and looks ahead to the next half century.

The issue includes articles on the agency’s history, accomplishments and partners. It also features vintage black and white photos along with striking color images of some of the people, places and things that make the Texas outdoors special.

TPWD traces its heritage to 1895, with the creation of the Fish and Oyster Commission. That’s when the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 21, a measure introduced by Weatherford State Representative James M. Cotton. The bill, pushed by Governor John B. Connally as part of his campaign to modernize state government, merged the Game and Fish Commission with the State Parks Board. The final bill passed in the Senate in early April and Connally later signed it into law with an effective date of August 23rd.

The magazine also looks into “The Next 50 Years.”

“We can’t and won’t rest on our laurels,” TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith writes. “The state is growing by leaps and bounds, and TPWD must contend not only with burgeoning pressures on our fish and wildlife populations and their habitats, but also with a citizenry that is more urban, more diverse and more disconnected from the outdoors than any previous generation.”

In coming years, he writes, the department will face a wide variety of issues ranging from loss of wildlife habitat to the availability of water. State parks will have to be maintained and improved, and new park land acquired.

“The essential work of your Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will always be measured in generational terms, not in short-term fiscal cycles,” Smith concludes. “In many ways, it is tantamount to the timeless parable about planting a tree so that someone else can enjoy the shade it ultimately provides.” The 50th anniversary website www.lifesbetteroutside.org features stories and photos already submitted by people across the state. The department is inviting people to submit stories and photos about their best outdoor memories in Texas and sign up to become ambassadors, pledging to do things like visit a state park, take a kid hunting or fishing, and watch and share a video showcasing what’s made life better outside in Texas.

For the original article, click here.
Check out the special issue here.
Sign up to become a Texas Parks and Wildlife ambassador and receive your complimentary copy of the magazine and window decal today!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Borderline Progress

On June 27th, the US Senate passed a major overhaul of the nation’s current immigration policies and structure, especially concerning that of the Mexican-American border. The proposed legislation marked Congress’s first major attempt at immigration reform since 2006.

The measure, introduced by the Gang of Eight – a bipartisan group of senators who wrote and negotiated the bill – will allow undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventual citizenship, boost border security by introducing a new agricultural guest worker program and require all employers to use the E-Verify system in order to determine worker eligibility in the US.

The bill is currently being debated in the House of Representatives amid national concern and controversy.

Miguel Levario, author of Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy, stated his strong opposition to the new bill and what it means for illegal immigrants in a recent op-ed column.

“Everything from legalizing the status of millions of undocumented residents to militarizing the border is not a shift of improvement in American policy,” said Levario. “Immigration suggests openness and movement while border militarization and security suggests closure and resistance to outside influences.”

In his book, Levario focuses on the history of the relationship between the Mexican and American border and its impact on current tensions and controversy. He highlights the antagonism found on both sides of the border in order to help pave the way for a better understanding of current policy and hopeful future change.

“If we are to hold true to our tradition of immigration in this country,” Levario argues, “we must address it apart from border security and lay a path that is welcoming and just and not meant to punish and marginalize.”

To find out more information about Militarizing the Border and Dr. Levario’s stance on the new bill, be sure to visit our website and check out his article here

-Taylor Phillips

Monday, July 8, 2013

Texas, ARTexas

A cow yearns for water, ribcage taut against its dusty, dry skin. It leans over the water trough only to discover nothing but dust as a vulture watches overhead, waiting for its prey to die. Thus Alexandre Hogue’s Drouth Stricken Area forces its audience to empathize with a desperate scene in Texas during the Great Depression. This piece, among many others, is featured at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth showcasing “Texas Regionalism.”

Regionalism is an American realist modern art movement that was prevalent during the 1930s, painting depictions of rural life and landscape scenery. In Texas, regionalist artists such as Alexandre Hogue, Thomas Bywaters, Coreen Mary Spellman, and Charles Bowling created pieces that reflected the once-broken soil and spirit of America’s heartland. These pieces allow us to take a glimpse at not only the popular neo-modern artistic style of the time, but also true-to-life depictions of what Texans suffered during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the Amon Carter exhibit and Texas Regionalism gain national clout. Despite the prevalence and style of the regionalist movement, it never really turned into a single identifiable style. It is often viewed as a bridge between completely abstract art and academic realism, with a distinct American twist. Far away from the city, regionalist paintings center on American horizons and still-life moments in nature. Tom Freudenheim, former art-museum director and Smithsonian assistant secretary, hails Texas regionalists as distinct “transformative experiences” in the modernist canon. He sums up their efforts quite nicely for the Wall Street Journal:
It’s interesting to contemplate how so many of these regional artists were at once committed to their sense of place and their potential role in presenting, perhaps even glorifying, those locales, while also playing at the periphery of the modernist revolutions that had occurred elsewhere. 
Alexandre Hogue was born in 1898 in Memphis, Missouri but moved to Denton, Texas at an early age. After a year at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Hogue came back to Texas to work as an illustrator in 1921. As the Great Depression struck, Hogue decided to plant himself in Texas and paint what he saw. His most familiar series entitled Dust Bowl ensured his identity as a regionalist painter. More on Hogue’s life and works can be found in Susie Kalil’s Alexandre Hogue: An American Visionary. Kalil presents a diverse collection as well as a vision of Hogue’s life and triumphs in art. 

Jerry Bywaters’s career as a regionalist painter reached its prime in the 1930s and 40s, his art marked by a profound interaction between people and the land. His paintings span a wide variety of subjects, from his famous work Sharecropper depicting a poor Dust Bowl farmer to portraits of cowboys as seen in Cowboy Head. A great resource on Bywaters’ works is the collection Jerry Bywaters, Interpreter of the Southwest by Sam DeShong Ratcliffe. 

Bywaters, Hogue, and the rest of the Texas Regionalists helped to define a movement in art that shouldn’t be missed. Be sure to check out Kalil’s and Ratcliffe’s books from the Texas A&M University Press website and view the full Wall Street Journal article here.
-Taylor Phillips