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At least three banks nationally have said “thanks, but no thanks” after being approved for federal bailout funds.

Most recently, Minnesota-based TCF Financial Corp. asked permission from federal regulators earlier this week to return $361.2 million received less than four months ago.

TCF now joins at least two other institutions – Chicago-based Northern Trust and Iberiabank Corp. of Lafayette, La. – that have pulled out of the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, in which the government has bought hundreds of billions of dollars in preferred stock in banks across the country, according to McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For some bankers, what began as a cheap source of capital from the federal government has become a source of stigma and aggravation, McClatchy reported. And $16 billion TCF did itself no favors by holding a team-building event for about 180 of its managers at a ski resort near Aspen.

While it is commendable that TCF decided to opt out of the program, albeit partly as a face-saving gesture, it would be nice if there were more institutions like North State Bancorp of Raleigh, which last November said straight out that it would not participate.

North State’s decision came after the company’s board determined that the company could grow soundly and profitably over the next few years and still remain well-capitalized, without any need of government assistance.

It’s nice to see there are still a few financial institutions out there that understand that just because federal funds are available, it doesn’t mean they have to take them.

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One of the most impressive art exhibits in Columbia history officially opens today.

Turner to Cezanne” at the Columbia Museum of Art will run through June 7.

The State newspaper reports that more than 1,000 individuals packed the museum Thursday night for the members’ opening.

The exhibit features paintings by such giants of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet and Paul Cezanne, and is the most expensive in the history of the museum, at $550,000.

“Turner to Cezanne” comes from the Davies Collection at the National Museum Wales, one of Europe’s richest and finest collections of Impressionist art, according to a detailed story in The Columbia Free Times.

“Sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies assembled the collection, which totals some 260 works, between 1908 and 1923,” the publication reported. “While this isn’t the first time certain works from the collection have been seen in the United States, Turner to Cezanne marks the first time that a large collection of the works have been seen together in this country.”

 The Columbia Museum of Art is the first of five museums exhibiting the collection; museums in Oklahoma City, Okla., Syracuse, N.Y., Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque, N.M. will also play host to the exhibition, The Free Times added.

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Of 238,380 prisoners interned by the Nazis at the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II, just eight escaped.

The last of those, Jack van der Geest, died Thursday in Rapid City, S.D., 66 years and two days after he eluded his German captors by hiding among dead prisoners for nearly half a day, then overpowering a guard. He was 85.

In all, 56,545 individuals are believed to have died at Buchenwald, or nearly one in four internees.

For much of his life, van der Geest didn’t discuss his wartime experiences as a member of the Dutch underground, his capture and that of his parents, the murder of his father at Dachau, the horrible conditions and treatment suffered at the hands of the Nazis and his escape from Buchenwald, according to his obituary in The Rapid City Journal.

“That changed in the 1990s, after van der Geest heard someone deny that the Holocaust had occurred. Van der Geest decided to start talking about his life story and wrote a book in 1995, “Was God on Vacation?’” the paper reported.

After World War II, van der Geest became a U.S. citizen in 1953 and joined the U.S. Air Force.

Those who knew him marveled at his depth of character in the face of so many struggles, The Rapid City Journal reported.

“He did not become a victim. He became a victor,” Dan Gammeter told the paper. “And it was his strength of character and belief in God, and the joy of his belief in God just shined through his entire life. Just an amazing light.”