December 7, 2013

Congressional effort underway to honor ‘Monuments Men’

Former first lady Laura Bush says stray cat Bob is adjusting to life with her family

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, introduced a bill recently to honor the “Monuments Men” of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal for rescuing art from the Nazis.

“I don’t believe it can be overstated how significant the contributions of the Monuments Men are to the preservation of many of the world’s most remarkable pieces of art,” said Granger, who spoke on the House floor about her legislation, which has bipartisan support.

“The story of the Monuments Men is one that has to be told, and should be shared as an instrumental part of US and world history. I believe the veterans who participated are certainly worthy and deserving of the recognition of Congress’ highest expression of appreciation, the Congressional Gold Medal.”

A group of cultural experts was convened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to work with the military to preserve and protect the artwork and other cultural items. They protected almost 5 million cultural works.

The story of the Monuments Men, who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Section of the Western Allied armies, has become more widely known because of the work of Robert Edsel of Dallas.

Edsel, a former oil and gas executive, became fascinated while living in Italy with the story behind art stolen by Nazis and has written several books about it, including The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

Monuments Men, a movie, written, directed, produced by and starring George Clooney, will be released in February, delayed from an announced December opening.

Family ties

Former first lady Laura Bush said there’s nothing quite like being a grandmother.

She’s looking forward to gathering with relatives to celebrate the Christmas holiday, especially the newest member of the clan, granddaughter Mila, daughter of Henry and Jenna Bush Hager.

“The great news about having grandbabies is you can get a video every day,” she said with a smile.

Bush, during a recent media event at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, also sent a shout-out to the family pets.

She said Miss Beazley, a 9-year-old Scottish terrier, is doing just fine. And Bob, the stray cat the family adopted, appears to be enjoying his new Dallas digs.

The former first lady joked that her husband likes to tell people that Bob the cat had a major lifestyle change once he was adopted — eating wild rabbit one day and “lying on our bed smoking cigarettes” the next.

Healthcare benefits

The city of Fort Worth will keep offering healthcare benefits to same-sex partners, despite a May ruling by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott that says local governments offering marriage benefits to same-sex partners violate the Texas Constitution.

After reviewing local policies, the city’s legal department determined that since Fort Worth offers those benefits to all domestic partners regardless of sexual orientation, the ruling does not apply, city spokesman Bill Begley said.

To qualify, partners need to demonstrate they have lived together at least six months and prove two of the following: They have common ownership of a motor vehicle, have a joint deed or mortgage, have joint bank accounts, and have granted power of attorney or proof of designation as the primary beneficiary.

In addition, Abbott's opinion is just that — an opinion, Begley said.

Staff writer Caty Hirst contributed to this report.

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