Peace is ideal, but at time war is only option

One does tire of the simplistic rhetoric of self-proclaimed “peace advocates,” the ones who often use the Christmas season as opportunity to point out mankind’s flawed and violent nature, which they contend far too often trends toward war.

Take Barbara Kelly, writing in the Savannah News. She begins a recent column by stating that “we are a young and evolving species, and seem to have much trouble being at, or staying at, peace.”

She then takes aim at the United States when writes: “Many think of our nation as a peaceful one, but this is not the case. Our country is 235 years old, and for 209 of those years we have been at war. Some declared and some not – but the dead don’t care about the distinction.”

Kelly, as many do, make the mistake of assigning equal guilt to all combatants when she writes that most wars are about money.

While she may be correct that most wars today are indeed about money in one form or another – whether it be territory, citizens who can boost industrial output and gross domestic product, or simple wealth acquisition through plunder – the inference that all combatants is both wrong and simplistic.

The most obvious example of this is World War II. Allied forces such as Poland, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany out of self-preservation.

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Jewish WWI hero up for Medal of Honor

William Shemin was just 19 years old when, over the space of three days in August 1918 during the pivotal Second Battle of the Marne, he crossed the battlefield three times to rescue fellow American soldiers.

On the third effort during the battle, in which the Allies stopped the last German offensive of World War I, he was wounded in the head.

But with his commanding officers either hurt or dead, Shemin refused medical attention and led the platoon out of danger before finally collapsing unconscious.

“He distinguished himself by excellent control of his platoon at every stage of the action and by the thoroughness at great personal danger at which he evacuated the wounded,” according to the battle report submitted three months later by the division commander.

The Bayonne, N.J., native’s heroics made him the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest combat award, with his award being signed by Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

Now, nearly a century later, the Army will consider whether Shemin actually deserved the Medal of Honor, but was denied because he was Jewish.

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SCBT to acquire troubled bank company

SCBT Financial Corp., one of the few South Carolina to undertake a strategy of acquisition over the past few years, said Tuesday it would acquire Easley-based Peoples Bancorporation.

The $28.4 million all-stock transaction will be the Columbia-based financial services company’s fourth acquisition in less than two years.

The merger will connect the Upstate and Georgia markets for SCBT, the parent company of South Carolina Bank & Trust, according to The State.

Peoples is a three-bank holding company that operates Peoples National Bank, Seneca National and Bank of Anderson.

The story in The State claimed that Peoples had been profitable in recent years, but information filed by the company with the US Securities and Exchange Commission shows a different picture.

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Why criminalizing genocide denial is bad

Nearly a century after between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in what is considered the one of the first examples of modern genocide, Turkey continues to fight efforts to label the event as such.

Turkey’s prime minister on Saturday sharply criticized France for a bill that would make it a crime to deny the 1915-23 mass killing of Armenians was genocide, The Associated Press reported.

“Saying France should investigate what he claimed was its own ‘dirty and bloody history’ in Algeria and Rwanda, Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted Turkey would respond ‘through all kinds of diplomatic means,’” the wire service reported.

While Turkish officials quibble over labels, there’s little question of the horrors inflicted upon Armenians by Ottoman Turks as their empire collapsed.

However, Turkish leaders reject the term “genocide” for the tragedy, arguing that the toll is inflated, that there were deaths on both sides and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

Later this week, the lower house of French Parliament will debate a proposal that would make denying that the massacre was genocide punishable by up to a year in prison and $58,500 in fines, putting it on par with Holocaust denial, which was banned in the country in 1990.

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Melt a penny, risk time in the slammer

Recently I stumbled across the news that’s it’s illegal to melt down nickels and pennies. In fact, it’s been a crime for half a decade now.

Had this law been in place back when I spent my summers working at the family steel business, I’d have been counted among the nation’s scofflaws.

More than the occasional lunch break was whiled away taking a cutting torch to various metal objects, including many a penny, watching as the heat turned coins first red, then yellow, then white. 

Soon they would bubble and boil, ball up and, if I did it long enough, disappear completely. All that would be left was usually a smudge of yellow where the penny had been.

However, when the US Mint implemented regulations in December 2006 prohibiting the melting of pennies and nickels, it wasn’t to keep bored youth from cheap entertainment. Instead, it was purportedly to prevent individuals from melting the coins en masse in order to realize their copper value.

In addition, the Mint’s rules also prohibited the unlicensed exportation of the coins, with the exception that travelers can take up to $5 in pennies and nickels out of the country.

To show that the Mint meant business, penalties of up to a fine of $10,000, five years’ imprisonment, or both, were mandated.

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Long-dead Americans may be headed home

The bodies of 13 American sailors have rested in Libyan soil for more than 200 years, since they were killed fighting Barbary pirates during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration.

But that may be about to change.

Among measures included in a defense bill passed by Congress Thursday was a provision that would require the Pentagon to report on the feasibility of recovering the remains of the 13, killed in Tripoli in 1804.

The measure has gained momentum with the ouster of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s regime earlier this year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The sailors, fighting Barbary pirates, were killed in the explosion of the USS Intrepid in Tripoli Harbor in September 1804. The action took place during the First Barbary War during a naval blockade of the harbor.

US plans called for the Intrepid, under Master Commandant Richard Somers, to be packed with explosives, sailed into Tripoli harbor and exploded, with a goal of destroying the enemy fleet.

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Haley: Transparent like a tarpaper shack

If nothing else, perhaps the failure of Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration to turn over public documents related to an S.C. Freedom of Information Act request by the Charleston Post and Courier will prompt the state Attorney General’s office to get off its duff and start looking into the myriad examples of open-government abuse taking place across the state.

Thursday, Haley refused during a public appearance to answer a Post and Courier reporter’s questions about public documents her administration failed to provide to the paper earlier this year. 

Reporter Renee Dudley attempted to question Haley about a possible violation of the state open-records law related to her influence over a nonpartisan health care committee.

According to the Charleston publication, Dudley had been told by Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey that the governor would be available Thursday and Dudley attempted to speak with Haley following a Budget and Control Board meeting on the Statehouse grounds.

Haley regularly speaks with the media following Budget and Control Board meetings.

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