Last survivor of ’06 quake dies in California


Herbert Heimie Hamrol, the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, has died, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Hamrol, who was 106, was just 3 when the quake struck on April 18, 1906, but still recalled memories of the event and the ensuring fire, which claimed more than 3,000 lives and laid waste to much of the city.

“I remember my mother carrying me down the stairs,” he said last spring. “He also remembered staying in Golden Gate Park while smoke filled the skies and rubble lay heaped everywhere,” The Chronicle reported.

Hamrol also had some sound everyday advice for getting along in the world, which he passed along to a Chronicle reporter in 2003:

  • “Don’t spend every dime you get.”
  • “Stay away from wild women.”
  • “Wear a tie when you go to work, also a nice shirt.”

Egypt: come for the pyramids, stay for the Nazis


The recent revelation that Nazi war criminal Aribert Heim appears to have died in Cairo in 1992 has brought to light the fact that Egypt was a refuge for many Nazis in the decades following the collapse of the Third Reich.

In the turbulent post-World War II atmosphere, many of Hitler’s followers came to Egypt, where they benefited from “high ranking” friendships within the entourage of British-backed King Farouk, historians say, according to Agence France-Presse.

Arab nationalists trying to break free from the yoke of British colonialism had found a natural backer in Nazi Germany during the war when Germany invested in such men as future Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to fight the British occupiers during the war.

Future Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser — Sadat’s predecessor — deposed Farouk in 1956 and employed several Nazis to generate propaganda against Israel, established in 1948 following a war with several Arab armies, Agence France-Presse reported.

And the Egyptians weren’t just hiding Nazi small fry, either. Take Heim:

He was a member of Hitler’s elite Waffen-SS and a medical doctor at the Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps, according to The New York Times.

At Mauthausen, he committed the atrocities against hundreds of Jews and others that earned him the nickname Dr. Death and his status as the most wanted Nazi war criminal still believed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to be at large, according to The Times.

Dr. Heim was accused of performing operations on prisoners without anesthesia; removing organs from healthy inmates, then leaving them to die on the operating table; injecting poison, including gasoline, into the hearts of others; and taking the skull of at least one victim as a souvenir, The Times reported.

After living below the radar of Nazi hunters for more than a decade after World War II — much of it in the German spa town of Baden-Baden where he had a wife, two sons and a medical practice as a gynecologist — he escaped capture just as investigators closed in on him in 1962, added The Times.

Others who escaped to Egypt include Johann Von Leers, close to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who came to Egypt in the 1950s, converted to Islam and became head of the “anti-Zionist propaganda service” at the foreign ministry.

Also, Egypt’s post-war ministries of information and defence employed former SS and SA officers, such as Louis Heiden, Walter Bollmann and Wilhelm Bocker.

Germany, for all its many faults related to World War II and the years just before it, has made a concerted effort to atone for its sins. That’s a lot more than many other countries can say.

The WSJ is to journalism what Duke is to hoops


One of the many things that sets The Wall Street Journal apart from every other mainstream publication in the US is that everything it cover, it covers well.

Take this story on, of all things, Division I basketball. The Journal analyzes the fact that while there are 343 Division I hoop programs, three of the top seven – Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest – are essentially within spitting distance of one another.

The writing alone makes the article worth the read:

“What has helped the Carolina schools excel this season is a common culture of innovation – in this case, a warp-speed style of play. At a time when most college teams are working the floor at a snail’s pace … Tobacco Road looks more like the autobahn.”

The story also offers genuine scrutiny of the programs’ successes and little of the lingo-ridden prattle that hamstrings so many sports stories. 

The Journal, perhaps, understands that it’s not writing at the usual sixth grade level of most papers, but is instead appealing to a readership interested in something besides simply blind picks and alley-oops, recruiting updates and police-blotter highlights, coaching sound bites and player cliches.

It’s interesting that as newspapers across the country struggle to survive and continue to reduce coverage in an effort to concentrate on “core competencies,” the Journal has actually branched out into areas such as culture and travel.

The fact is, if you’re good at what you do, you’ll always be able to attract customers.

What does McClatchy news mean for Carolinas?


More cuts are possible at already lean-running McClatchy-owned newspapers in the Carolinas.

McClatchy Co. reported a $21.7 million loss for the fourth quarter on Thursday and said it plans deep cuts this year, The Associated Press reports.

McClatchy, which owns The State, The Charlotte Observer, The Raleigh News & Observer, The Myrtle Beach Sun News, The Rock Hill Herald, The Hilton Head Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, wouldn’t say how much of the anticipated $100 million – $110 million in cuts would come from layoffs. It added that the plans were still being formulated.

The company, which already has imposed a company-wide wage freeze through September, said it also would freeze pension plans and suspend matches to its 401(k) retirement plans beginning March 31. A new retirement plan was being developed to tie contributions partly to cash flow performance, according to The Associated Press.

McClatchy stock closed Thursday at 71 cents a share.

It’s not clear how many more rounds of cuts McClatchy’s publications can take in the Carolinas and still be considered “papers of record.”

The State, for example, had to undergo a massive reorganization of its newsroom last summer that essentially moved many of its most-experienced staff into basic entry-level beats. 

Over the years, the paper has had to pull back on much of the in-depth statewide coverage that made it a must-read for citizens in all corners of South Carolina. In addition, some of its longer-tenured reporters have taken buyouts or retired in the past year.

Today, due in part to the perils of public-company journalism, it sometimes struggles just to be a must-read for citizens in all corners of Richland and Lexington counties.

In a bit of good news for The State, the paper said in its Friday editions that it would begin printing the Sumter Item.