Remembering Washington’s Inauguration

George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States on this date in 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City.

Washington, the only man to receive 100 percent of the electoral votes cast, remains one of the history’s most remarkable individuals.

Against almost unfathomable odds, he led a rag-tag collection of volunteers and state militia troops to victory over the greatest military force on the planet, enabling the Thirteen Colonies secure their independence from Great Britain.

He also presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and his support convinced many states to vote for ratification.

As president, Washington avoided the temptation of war and his farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism and involvement in foreign entanglements.

He reluctantly began a second term in office in 1793 but afterward retired to Mount Vernon.

Few men, given the opportunity to hold office for life, would be able to walk away in the manner of Washington. Washington did it twice, first after the American Revolution and then after his second term as president.

That didn’t escape the notice of the British monarch, King George III. Following the end of the American Revolution in 1783, George asked painter Benjamin West what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he’d return to his farm.

The king responded by stating, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

India cotton duty good news for US growers

Cotton prices have jumped after the Indian government announced recently it would enact a $56-per ton duty on raw cotton exports in a bid to check the rising price of the commodity in that country.

After the announcement, which came April 19, July 2010 cotton rose to 84.6 cents per pound, while December 2010 futures rose to 76.85 cents.

The export duty on raw cotton has been levied for six months, an official in the textile ministry said. India’s domestic textile industry has been lobbying for cotton export restrictions in the wake of steep rise in prices of the fiber, according to Nationwide International News

India is the world’s second largest cotton producer.

O.A. Cleveland, professor emeritus, Mississippi State University, told Southeast Farm Press the move wasn’t a complete surprise.

“In-country prices in India had gotten unreasonably high for the textile mills,” he said. “They used their political power to sway the government.”

The announcement had more of a price impact on old crop than new crop cotton futures, but both have been affected, noted Cleveland. “Even over the last few months, we’ve seen old crop prices rise over new crop prices by about 3 to 1, so without a doubt, it’s pulling new crop along with it,” he told the publication.

Cotton prices had already been on the move upward, thanks to the fact that demand for cotton products had weathered the economic recession as well or better than most consumer goods and the reduction in world stocks of cotton over the past two years. 

Nationwide, US cotton producers intend to plant 10.5 million acres in 2010, which is 15 percent higher than last year and the first increase following three straight years of declines.

Stalin signed off on Katyn massacre

polish prisoners

Russia has made public top secret documents which prove that Josef Stalin personally approved one of the Second World War’s most infamous massacres, in which nearly 22,000 Polish officers were murdered.

Although the documents have been available to a handful of researchers since 1992, it is the first time that the general public has been given access to the files which concern the 1940 Katyn massacre, according to The Telegraph.

“The sight of Stalin’s signature on what amounts to a collective death warrant quells decades of debate on the massacre and gives the lie to claims by die-hard Stalinists that their idol did not personally sanction the killings,” the paper wrote.

The massacre was a mass murder of Polish nationals carried out by the Soviet secret police in April-May 1940. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkov prisons and elsewhere.

About 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, the rest being Polish doctors, professors, lawmakers, police officers and other public servants arrested for allegedly being intelligence agents, gendarmes, saboteurs, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, priests and officials.

The Soviets were able to round up much of the Polish intelligentsia, and the Russian, Ukrainian, Protestant, Muslim Tatar, Jewish, Georgian, and Belarusian intelligentsia of Polish citizenship.

Nazi officials announced the discovery of mass graves in 1943.

The Soviet Union continued to deny responsibility for the massacres, blaming the Nazis for the killings until 1990, when it officially acknowledged the massacre, as well as the subsequent cover-up.

The files detail the decision-making process that culminated in Stalin and his associates approving the execution of 21,587 unarmed Polish army reservists.

One of the documents made public is a note from Lavrenty Beria, the head of the Soviet NKVD secret police, to Stalin about the fate of the Poles, which included military officers, priests, writers, professors and aristocrats.

“In the note, Beria proposes that the NKVD ‘quickly examine the use of the highest means of punishment – death by shooting.’ Stalin’s signature and a red stamp reading ‘Top Secret’ are on the first page of the document, which is dated March 1940,” according to The Telegraph.

“Another document, a secret internal Soviet Communist party memo from 1965, refers to ‘what was formerly Bourgeois Poland’ and warns against any public disclosure, arguing that the documents have no historical value,” the publication added.

While opening the files to the public is seen as positive step, Russia has stubbornly refused to fully open its archive on the subject or to prosecute or even reveal the names of surviving secret policemen who took part in the killings, the paper reported.

The files were posted on the web site of the Russian state archive service on Wednesday morning, which swiftly ground to a halt after more than 700,000 people rushed to take a look.

Provident trims losses, sees deposits slip

Provident Community Bancshares posted a loss of $101,000 for the quarter ended March 31, compared to a $1.7 million loss a year earlier, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, not all the news was good: Nonperforming loans totaled $21.9 million as of March 31, or 8.9 percent of total loans, compared to $16.6 million a year earlier; and total assets fell from $467 million a year ago to $438.5 million at the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Deposits for the Rock Hill-based parent of Provident Community Bank also decreased, from $331.6 million to $325.9 million, the result of reductions in municipal deposits, according to company information.

Stock in Provident is trading for around $2.50 a share.

First National sees stock price falter

The uptick in First National Bancshares’ stock price appears to have been short-lived. Shares of the Spartanburg-based bank company, which more than doubled within the past week, have fallen back below $1.

First National dropped 24 cents Tuesday and another 19 cents Wednesday, down more than 37 percent from Monday’s close of $1.43. It finished Wednesday at 90 cents a share.  

It’s  unclear what drove the company’s price up in the first place.

There were no recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, no press releases or news stories about First National and no indication on the company’s Yahoo! message board regarding a change in fortune.

First National lost $43.7 million in 2009 and $44.8 million in 2008.

Subsidiary First National Bank of the South entered into a consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last April which, among other things, contained a requirement that it achieve and maintain minimum capital requirements that exceed the minimum regulatory capital ratios for “well capitalized” banks by Aug. 25, 2009.

As of Nov. 25, 2009, the bank was notified by the OCC that it was significantly undercapitalized.

First National’s independent registered public accounting firm stated in its March 9, 2010, report that the uncertainty raises substantial doubt about the company’s ability to “continue as a going concern.”

You just can’t pretty up Innovista

First Financial reports $19 million loss

The troubled coastal real estate market appears to have caught up with First Financial Holdings.

The Charleston-based parent of First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Charleston lost $19.1 million during the three months ended March 31, compared to a $3.1 million gain in 2009, it announced Tuesday.

Earnings were impacted by an increase in the company’s provision for loan losses as well as credit and collateral value deteriorations, according to chief executive Tom Hood.

First Financial recognized a provision for loan losses of $45.9 million for the quarter, compared to $12.8 million a year earlier. for the quarter ended March 31, 2009.

“We believe loan loss provisions and charge-offs will remain elevated through 2010 because of the continued deterioration in the real estate sector and the weak economy,” Hood said.

Stock in First Financial was down about 60 cents in morning trading to around $14.10 a share.