The Billings Outpost

‘Art saved my life,’ Ben Steele says

Ben Steele
By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

“We weren’t heroes. We lost,” said Ben Steele, via KTVQ, seated in a wheelchair in the center of a group of World War II veterans in front of their memorial in Washington D.C.

Mr. Steele was referring to the Bataan death march and his years of captivity as a Japanese prisoner of war. There was nothing glorious about that experience.

“You either died fighting or were taken prisoner,” he says now. “It was starvation that got us. We starved to death. I had beriberi and malaria. We had a 67 percent casualty rate in our unit, from 363 to 121.

“Art saved my life,” he continued. “It gave me something to think about.” He drew sketches of fellow prisoners and guards using whatever paper and pencil he could find.

None of that material survived, but Mr. Steele has recreated that work in both oils and sketches.

Those reproductions from memory, in pen and ink and well as oils, helped him externalize the horror he had endured. Back then it was called battle fatigue. Now it’s called post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 February 2015 17:20

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Brown finds voice at Legislature

By MICHAEL WRIGHT - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Of all the people on the Montana Senate Agriculture Committee, there’s one who always seems to be having more fun.

“To me,” said Sen. Taylor Brown, R-Huntley, “that’s like recess.”

Brown, in his second Senate term, serves as the committee’s chairman. He knows the issues and the people, and the people know him. For many years his voice reported farm news to every corner of the state for Northern Broadcasting System, which he now owns.

Now, he’s become the go-to guy for agriculture at the Capitol – and one of the so-called “Responsible Republicans” who isn’t afraid to reach across the aisle to get things done.

Brown grew up on a ranch in Sand Springs, between Winnett and Jordan. After high school in Lewistown, he studied animal science at Montana State University and was active in the student government. He served as student body president a year before his current office mate, Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2015 13:05

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Fracking leads to activism

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

A Bozeman-based college student turned filmmaker. A rancher from Palisades, Wyo. A longtime Montana resident who runs a nonprofit organization dedicated to the sustainability of public lands.

On first glance, these three people seem to have nothing in common. But they are just a few of the many people across the country whose lives have been affected by hydraulic fracturing.

“This has changed my life in more ways than I even have time to list,” said John Fenton, the rancher from Wyoming.

Fenton, Deia Schlosberg (the filmmaker) and Gloria Flora (the head of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Obtainable Solutions) were the three panelists at a discussion sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council on Jan. 19. The hour-long discussion took place after a screening of Schlosberg’s documentary “Backyard” at the Babcock Theater.

The filmmaker activist

Deia Schlosberg has loved filmmaking since she was a child. She says that her interest in the art stemmed from its ability to create an emotional impact.

“I think the real strength of filmmaking is emotion,” Schlosberg said. “Relating information to emotion creates an impact. It makes it personal.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2015 13:03

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Medicaid fight back on

By MICHAEL WRIGHT - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Rep. Pat Noonan, D-Ramsay, doesn’t see a good reason why Montana shouldn’t use federal money available under the Affordable Care Act for Medicaid expansion.

“We’ve all paid into this,” Noonan said. “To get no return on our investment does not seem like a smart move.”

Noonan says the money that would be coming back is money Montanans paid in taxes, and he’ll have to say that a lot in the next few months. He’s going to be the sponsor of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Medicaid expansion proposal, which will use the additional federal funding.

The plan would provide health care to as many as 70,000 uninsured Montanans and would cost the state nothing until 2017. That year, the state would pick up 5 percent of the cost and the federal government would pay 95 percent. After that, the state would eventually pay 10 percent.

With the current system, the state pays a third of the cost. In fiscal year 2013, the total cost of Montana Medicaid exceeded $992 million. State projections say the cost will exceed $1 billion this fiscal year and reach $1.2 billion by 2016 under the current system.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 January 2015 15:39

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