Braving the elements for America’s heroes

Kudos to Lowcountry blogger Joan Perry for the above photo and for putting up with some lousy weather to show respect to Medal of Honor recipients as they traveled by trolley along the Charleston Battery, part of the Medal of Honor Society Convention taking place this weekend

“Sadly it rained continuously and not many of us stuck it out,” she writes on Charleston Daily Photo. “Those who did energetically waved damp flags as our heroes went by on their white trolleys. Hopefully the rest of their activities will go as planned. It is an honor to have them here.”

Indeed is an honor, and it’s nice that folks like Joan took the time and put up with some inconvenient weather to show respect to a group of men whose contribution to our country can never be overstated.

The (long overdue) banning of Junie B. Jones

In honor of Banned Books Week, I decided to peruse the American Library Association’s list of the Top 100 Banned and Challenged Books from 2000 and 2009.

Beyond books long noted for raising the hackles of literary Neanderthals – including such works as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye – there were some rather odd works on the list.

Not because they are known for being works of unquestionable value to society, as with the three books above, but because they stand out for being rather simplistic, if enjoyable, kids books.

They include: Goosebumps, a series of children’s horror fiction novels; The Stupids, a series of books about a family that draws its humor from the fact that the family is incompetent to the point of confusing the most simple concepts and tasks; Captain Underpants, a series about fourth graders and the aptly named superhero they accidentally create by hypnotizing their principal; The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, a spinoff of Captain Underpants, and the Junie B. Jones series.

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Do texting bans cause more accidents?

Here’s a perfect example of unintended consequences: Laws that ban the texting while driving may actually increase the risk of wrecks, according to a data released Tuesday by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

At first, that seems utterly counterintuitive. Halfwits who text while driving are not only not paying attention to what’s going on around them, they sometimes can’t even keep their car in their own lane. So how is it that in HLDI research showed that crash rates rose in three out of four states after texting bans were implemented?

It seems the increased crash rates were due to drivers responding to the regulations by moving their phones lower down and out of sight when sending a text, the Cleveland Leader reported.

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TSFG shareholders approve TD merger

South Financial Group shareholders Tuesday approved the company’s merger with TD Financial Group.

Out of more than 360,000,000 votes entitled to be cast at the special meeting, held in Greenville, 237,235,372, or 66 percent, were cast in favor of the merger, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Final approval by Canadian authorities is expected soon and the deal should close this week, South Financial officials said. South Financial is the parent company of Carolina First Bank.

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Will 2011 bring a new country for Africa?

Africa is on the verge of adding another country, its first in nearly two decades. But perhaps not surprisingly, the new state will likely experience significant growing pains.

Next January, the people of Southern Sudan should have an opportunity to vote in a referendum on whether to break away from the Republic of Sudan and create their own country. It is expected that the 8 million or so who live in the region will vote overwhelmingly for independence, according to The Economist

For the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the vote will represent the culmination of half a century of often-bloody struggle for recognition against successive Islamist regimes in Khartoum. Northern Sudanese governments have often tried to impose an Arab and Muslim culture on the largely black African, Christian and animist south.

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Notorious World War II sub discovered

It’s believed an infamous Soviet submarine that disappeared during World War II has been discovered off the coast of Romania.

A Romanian and Dutch team first discovered the submarine two years ago but only this month became convinced that it was the SC-213, a Shchuka-class sub best known for torpedoing the Struma, a Holocaust refugee ship carrying nearly 800 Jews fleeing Romania for Palestine on Feb. 24, 1942. All but one refugee drowned.

The SC-213 is believed to have been lost in a Romanian minefield in October 1942. There is also conjecture that the sub was sunk by a German auxiliary submarine chaser.

The Struma was a Bulgarian ship sailing under the Panamanian flag commissioned by Zionist organizations in Romania to carry Romanian Jews to Palestine.

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Fraud, the aged and the Eighth Circle of Hell

Whatever one’s views on the afterworld, one suspects a special hell exists for those who prey on the elderly, such as in this sad story in The State.

Dick and Lillie Long, both in their 80s, have been swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by hucksters promising lottery and sweepstakes riches.

Reading the article, it’s evident that the Longs present a perfect storm of opportunity for scammers: they have no children, nearby relatives visit just occasionally and Dick says he has an onset of dementia that can make him a little confused at times.

The Long’s phone rings practically non-stop from those with deals “too good to pass up,” and their mailbox is full of official-looking offers.

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TSFG to be removed from S&P index

The South Financial Group will be dropped from the S&P SmallCap 600 index in the next week or so, after its acquisition by TD Financial Group is completed.

South Financial shareholders will vote on the proposed merger on Sept. 28 in Greenville.

Liquidity Services Inc. will replace TSFG in the S&P SmallCap 600. Based in Washington, D.C., Liquidity Services operates an online auction marketplace for surplus and salvage assets.

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Paris show seeks to convert locals to Monet

More evidence of the odd nature of the French: While Claude Monet is beloved by Americans, the Impressionist master has long been a victim of a sort of Gallic snobbishness in his native France.

A new exhibition at Paris’ Galleries Nationales looks to remedy this historic wrong by bringing together nearly 200 pieces by the painter — from blockbuster chefs d’oeuvre reproduced in books, magazines and postcards worldwide to little-known, privately held pieces you’d never guess were Monets, according to The Associated Press.

The exhibit, “Claude Monet (1840-1926),” is the most complete Monet exhibit in France since 1980, with paintings on loan from dozens of museums and collections from Ohio to Australia. The showing is an attempt to “repatriate one of the great geniuses of French art,” curator Guy Cogeval said.

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NC bank hit by fraud, loans at risk

The former director of a small North Carolina bank has been accused by a Fayetteville lawyer of defrauding investors through what is alleged to be a Ponzi scheme.

Raymond Mulkey Jr., 63, a founding director of Dunn, N.C.-based New Century Bank and a major creditor, was found dead in his home in North Myrtle Beach on Aug. 16. The Myrtle Beach coroner said a cause of death has not yet been determined, according to the Charlotte Observer.

As a result, the bank may have to write off $11 million in loans. New Century notified regulators of the issue in a Sept. 15 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Wednesday, bank Chief Executive William Hedgepeth II released a statement saying the fraud allegations involved a former director of the bank, but he didn’t name the former director.

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