President Obama orders flags to half-staff, honoring Dallas shooting victims

July 8, 2016

U.S. flag flying at half-staff over the North Portico of the White House. (Undated photo)

U.S. flag flying at half-staff over the North Portico of the White House. (Undated photo)

President Barack Obama ordered U.S. flags to be flown half-staff through sundown, July 12, to honor Dallas shooting victims.

Proclamation from President Barack Obama:

Presidential Proclamation — Honoring the Victims of the Attack in Dallas, Texas

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

As a mark of respect for the victims of the attack on police officers perpetrated on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, July 12, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

BARACK OBAMA

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In a separate action, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ordered Texas flags be flown half-staff. Patrick issued the order because Gov. Greg Abbott is traveling out of state.

U.S. and Texas flags at half-staff at the offices of the Longview News-Journal, in Longview, Texas, July 8, 2016

U.S. and Texas flags at half-staff at the offices of the Longview News-Journal, in Longview, Texas, July 8, 2016


New London’s 1937 school disaster, remembered on Twitter today

March 18, 2016

Bridge City resident Richard Schur's mother, Luna Louise Hudson, was a student at the New London School when it exploded on March 18, 1937. Hudson had missed school that day because she couldn't find one of her shoes, but her brother, Elisha, died in the explosion. Photo taken Wednesday 3/9/16 Ryan Pelham/The Enterprise

Bridge City resident Richard Schur’s mother, Luna Louise Hudson, was a student at the New London School when it exploded on March 18, 1937. Hudson had missed school that day because she couldn’t find one of her shoes, but her brother, Elisha, died in the explosion. Photo taken Wednesday 3/9/16 Ryan Pelham/The Enterprise, Beaumont, Texas

Some do work to keep the history alive. Good on them.

Have we learned? How do we explain the explosion in West, Texas? How do we explain the general lack of attention to school facilities nationally?

Did we forget?


Forgotten disasters in U.S. schools: March 18, 1937, New London, Texas, gas explosion

March 18, 2016

Most high school history students don’t know about it.  Most high school history students in Texas don’t know about it.

New London School, New London, Texas, before the 1937 disaster. Photo from the New London Museum

New London School, New London, Texas, before the 1937 disaster. Photo from the New London Museum

I wonder, sometimes, how many Texans remember at all.

I wonder, too, if there are lessons to be learned from the New London tragedy, while the nation debates what to do to prevent recurrences of school shootings.

No one in New London, Texas, bore ill-will towards children, or schools, or other New Londoners. Some good came of the disaster, but as we’ve seen, with animosity towards schools and school safety in Texas today, and a lackadaisical approach to dangerous substance control and accident prevention in West, Texas, and other places, lessons learned were not learned well.

The deadliest disaster ever to hit a public school in the U.S. struck on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas explosion destroyed the new school building at New London, Texas, killing about 300 people — 79 years ago today.

The remains of the London School after the exp...

The remains of the London School after the explosion of March 18, 1937. Mother Frances Hospital archives

Noise from the blast alerted the town, and many people in the oilfields for many miles.  Telephone and telegraph communication got word out.  Oil companies dismissed their employees, with their tools, to assist rescue and recovery efforts.  Notably, 20-year-old Walter Cronkite came to town to report the news for a wire service.

Investigation determined that a leak in a newly-installed tap into the waste gas pipe coming from nearby oil fields probably allowed natural gas to accumulate under the building.  A spark from a sander started a fire in gas-filled air, and that in turn exploded the cavern under the school.  School officials approved the tap to the waste gas line to save money.  (Hello, Flint, Michigan!) Natural gas is odorless.  One result of the disaster was a Texas law requiring all utility natural gas to be odorized with ethyl mercaptan.

Though the Great Depression still gripped the nation, wealth flowed in New London from oil extraction from nearby oil fields.  The  school district completed construction on a new building in 1939, just two years later — with a pink granite memorial cenotaph in front.

Today, disasters produce a wealth of litigation, tort suits trying to get money to make the injured whole, and to sting those at fault to change to prevent later disasters.  In 1937 official work cut off such lawsuits.

Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. The state of Texas and the Bureau of Mines sent experts to the scene. Hearings were conducted. From these investigations, researchers learned that until January 18, 1937, the school had received its gas from the United Gas Company. To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of “green” or “wet” gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable.

These findings brought a hostile reaction from many parents. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages. Few cases came to trial, however, and those that did were dismissed by district judge Robert T. Brown for lack of evidence. Public pressure forced the resignation of the superintendent, who had lost a son in the explosion. The most important result of the disaster was the passage of a state odorization law, which required that distinctive malodorants be mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use so that people could be warned by the smell. The thirty surviving seniors at New London finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was built on nearly the same site. The builders focused primarily on safety and secondarily on their desire to inspire students to a higher education. A cenotaph of Texas pink granite, designed by Donald S. Nelson, architect, and Herring Coe, sculptor, was erected in front of the new school in 1939.  (Texas Handbook of History, Online, from the Texas State Historical Association)

Of about 500 students, more than 50% of them died.  Once the new school and memorial were built, and the law passed requiring utilities to odorize natural gas so leaks could be detected earlier, survivors and rescuers rather shut down telling the history.  A 1977 reunion of survivors was the first in 40 years.

New London School shortly after the March 18, 1937, explosion. Photo from the New London Museum.

New London School shortly after the March 18, 1937, explosion. Photo from the New London Museum.

Because of that scarring silence, the story slipped from the pages of most history books.

Trinity Mother Frances Hospital treated the victims; a 2012 film from the hospital offers one of the best short histories of the events available today.

New London, and the New London Museum, work to remember the dead and honor them.  Work continues on a film about the disaster, perhaps for release in 2013:

Now, more than 75 years later, the London Museum, across the highway from where the original school was destroyed, keeps alive the memory of much of a generation who died on that terrible day.

This video was produced by Michael Brown Productions of Arlington, TX as a prelude to a feature documentary on the explosion and its aftermath which is planned for
the spring of 2013.  . . .

www.newlondonschool.org/museum

What are the lessons of the New London Disaster?  We learned to remember safety, when dealing with natural gas.  A solution was found to alert people to the presence of otherwise-odorless, explosive gases, a solution now required by law throughout the U.S.  Natural gas explosions decreased in number, and in damages and deaths.  Wealthy schools districts, cutting corners, can create unintended, even disastrous and deadly consequences.  Quick rebuilding covers the wounds, but does not heal them.

Remembering history takes work; history not remembered through the work of witnesses, victims and survivors, is quickly forgotten — to the detriment of history, and to the pain of the witnesses, victims and survivors.

New, New London School and granite cenotaph memorial to the victims of the 1937 explosion

New, New London School and granite cenotaph memorial to the victims of the 1937 explosion. Photo from Texas Bob Travels.

More:

Houston’s KHOU-TV produced a short feature on the explosion in 2007:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Please give to Scouting for Food on Saturday, February 13

February 12, 2016

Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in Southwest Dallas County will collect food for our local food pantries on Saturday, February 13, 2016.

Scouting for Food in Dallas, Texas area, February 13, 2016. Image from Yorktown Pack 200

Scouting for Food in Dallas, Texas area, February 13, 2016. Image from Yorktown Pack 200

(Of course, Scouts throughout Circle 10 Council, BSA, will be collecting in the rest of the Council, the counties around Dallas up to the Oklahoma border.)

Food pantries and outreach ministries in the Best Southwest Area some years rely on this February Scout service campaign to carry them through Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, in the past decade donations have not been sufficient to meet with demand. If you’ve given four or five cans of food in the past, please give eight or ten, if you can, this year.

Please give generously when a Scout knocks on your door.

Press release from the Council:

Scouting for Food is the largest single-day food collection event in Dallas and one of the largest in the nation. On one day, approximately 30,000 Scouts go door-to-door collecting non-perishable food items for the less fortunate. The food is then distributed to local food pantries and assistance agencies across Circle Ten Council.

Tom Thumb has sponsored this food drive for 28 years and collects food at their locations throughout the entire month of February.

What is Scouting for Food?
Scouting for Food is the largest door-to-door food collection effort in the Dallas-Fort Worth area benefiting more than 45 assistance agencies across the area.

Who helps with Scouting for Food?
Scouting for Food involves approximately 30,000 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, friends, family and volunteers from the Circle Ten Council, BSA.

2016 Scouting for Food Dates:  February 13, 2016

Food items can also be dropped off at any Tom Thumb Food and Pharmacy throughout the month of February!


Texans! Last day to register to vote in March primary elections, February 1

February 1, 2016

Texas Democrats send me e-mail, trying to make democracy in America stronger, and work better, especially in Texas:

Ed,

Today is the absolute LAST DAY to register to vote for the March 1 Presidential Primary.

If you or someone you know wants to vote for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or Martin O’Malley in the Democratic Primary but they aren’t registered to vote yet, today is the last day to get registered.

Fill out your voter registration application online — then print it, sign it, and make sure to get it in the mail before the post office closes.

http://act.txdemocrats.org/RegisterToVote

If you are already registered to vote, forward this email to any friends and family members that you think haven’t registered to vote. 

Let’s do this,

Crystal Perkins
Executive Director, Texas Democratic Party

Paid for by the Texas Democratic Party (www.txdemocrats.org)
and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

I do not know why Texas Republicans did not send me a similar e-mail. I’m on their lists, too.

Excluding run-off elections where no candidate received 50%+1 in the primary, here is Texas’s election calendar for 2016, from the Texas Secretary of State:

Last Day to Register to Vote Monday, February 1, 2016
First Day of Early Voting Tuesday, February 16, 2016*
*First business day after Presidents’ Day
Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail
(Received, not Postmarked)
Friday, February 19, 2016
(NEW LAW: 11th day before election day; Application for Ballot By Mail (ABBM) and Federal Postcard Application (FPCA))
Last Day of Early Voting Friday, February 26, 2016
Last day to Receive Ballot by Mail Tuesday, March 1, 2016 (election day) at 7:00 p.m. (unless overseas deadline applies)

Happy birthday as a state, Texas! – 170 years old

December 29, 2015

It’s Texas Statehood day, the 170th anniversary of Texas joining the Union — or as some Texans prefer, the anniversary of Texas’s making America great.

According to the U.S. flag code, people should fly their U.S. flags on their state’s statehood day.

Not many Texans are, if any. Can you find someone honoring statehood day?

texas our texas

U.S. and Texas flags at the Texas Capitol – photo: jmtimages

170 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Big Red, Dr. Pepper, or Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, Sir Williams English Brown Ale, or Llano Wine).

U.S. Flag Code rules urge flying the U.S. flag on the anniversary of a state’s joining the Union — even as much as that will frost the tiny band of desperate Texas secessionists.  (Will the secessionists fly the Texas flag at half-staff?)

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polk's authorization to affix Great Seal of the U.S. to Texas Statehood documents

President Polk’s Authorization to affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood documents – Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text of Polk’s message:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Seal of the U.S. affixed to Texas Statehood Proclamation

Great Seal of the United States of America, affixed to the Texas Statehood Proclamation – image from State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Resources:

More:

The Texas Ranger Museum took note of the day (no, not the baseball Rangers):

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. It is an annual event, after all. And, fighting ignorance requires patience and persistence.

 


EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm

Superfund sites in local communities:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:
http://epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.

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Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

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