Last WWI ‘doughboy’ dies at 110

Frank Buckles, America’s last surviving World War I veteran, died Sunday at 110, unable to live long enough to see his dream of a national monument to US veterans of the Great War become a reality.

Buckles, who lied about his age in 1917 when he was 16 so he could enlist, was one of more than 70 million men and women worldwide who served in the “War to End All Wars,” the greatest conflict mankind had witnessed to that point.

He was turned down repeatedly before finally being accepted into military service. The Army sent him to France, where he drove ambulances and motorcycles.

After the armistice, he helped return German prisoners of war to their country.

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Japan digs at site linked to infamous Unit 731

Japan began excavations today at a former army medical school to search for human remains linked to a notorious World War II program that is said to have conducted biological warfare in China and live experiments on foreign prisoners of war.

It is uncertain if the excavation will unearth anything, but the effort is a sign that the government is open to the possibility of facing its long-kept wartime secrets, including the experiments conducted by the military’s shadowy Unit 731, according to the Associated Press.

Unit 731 was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese personnel.

Its activities, which included subjecting prisoners to vivisection without anesthesia, have never been officially acknowledged by the Japanese government even though historians and participants have documented them.

One in eight US banks at risk of failing

The number of banks at risk of failing made up nearly 12 percent of all federally insured banks in the final three months of 2010, the highest level in nearly two decades, according to the Associated Press.

“The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said Wednesday that the number of banks on its confidential “problem” list rose to 884 in the October-December quarter, up from 860 in the previous quarter,” according to the wire service. “Those are banks rated by examiners as having very low capital cushions against risk.”

Twenty-two banks have failed so far this year, including Easley-based CommunitySouth Bank and Trust, and five Palmetto State institutions have failed since 2009.

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Rising cotton futures top $2 mark

Last week, the cotton market reached a milestone when May 2011 cotton futures topped the $2-a-pound level.

This comes just a few months after cotton futures passed the dollar-a-pound mark, which had elicited a collective gasp of surprise and excitement across the Cotton Belt, according to Southeast Farm Press.

By the end of last week, cotton futures for May 2011 had opened at a high of about $2.08 per pound, according to the IntercontinentalExchange.

Market analyst O.A. Cleveland says the news behind the high prices is China’s insatiable appetite for cotton.

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Remembering Comanche chief Quanah Parker

One hundred years ago today, Quanah Parker, touted by the US government as the principal chief of the Comanche nation, died in Cache, Okla., aged approximately 62.

Parker was a remarkable individual who led a remarkable life.

He was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a European American, who had been captured in 1836 at the age of nine and adopted into the tribe. When his father was killed and his mother captured by Texas Rangers in 1860, Quanah was just 12.

The Comanches were never a single unified tribe, but instead traveled in bands. With his father dead and mother gone, Quanah joined the Destanyuka band, where Chief Wild Horse took him under his wing. Though he grew to considerable standing as a warrior, Quanah never felt comfortable with the Destanyuka.

He left and formed the Quahadi band with warriors from another tribe. The Quahadi grew in number, becoming the largest of the Comanche bands, and also the most notorious.

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WIS: Jesus tells local woman to ‘shut up’

According to a local television news station, Jesus – Son of God and Christianity’s central figure – may have recently had an off day.

A story published on WIS-TV’s website Monday featured this headline: “84-year-old beating victim: “I was calling out to Jesus, and he still told me to shut up.”

But upon reading the story, it becomes apparent that the “he” in the headline is LeRoy Robertson, a convicted sex offender, rather than the savior himself.

Robertson attacked Carol Knight inside a Johnston restaurant last week, she told the television station.

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Biomass proving a pile of waste in Japan

For all you alternative energy advocates who can’t throw away taxpayer dollars fast enough in a quest to “do something” about global warming comes this cautionary tale from the Far East.

None of the Japanese government’s 214 biomass promotion projects — with public funding coming to 6.55 trillion yen — over the past six years has produced effective results in the struggle against global warming, according to an official report released last week, the Japan Times reported.

For those of you who don’t happen to have a yen-to-dollar converter handy, that’s the equivalent of a little less than $79 billion dollars.

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SCBT assumes deposits of Georgia bank

South Carolina Bank and Trust of Columbia has assumed all the deposits of Habersham Bank of Clarksville, Ga., which was seized by regulators late Friday.

Habersham, which had nearly $390 million in assets, was closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as receiver. The FDIC then entered into a purchase-and-assumption agreement with SCBT to assume all of the deposits and nearly all of the assets of Habersham Bank.

The eight affected branches will reopen beginning Saturday as branches of Habersham Bank, a division of SCBT, according to information released by the FDIC.

As of Dec. 31, 2010, Habersham Bank, founded in 1904, had approximately $340 million in total deposits.

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SCRA a costly proposition for SC

Retired South Carolina businessman Bill Masters issued a stinging indictment of the S.C. Research Authority, the state agency he chairs, with his resignation letter and accompanying report, sent to Gov. Nikki Haley earlier this month.

Masters delivered a withering assessment of SCRA in his missive, alleging, among other things, that the organization is run mostly for the benefit of top management, it manipulates government contracts and data to pass audits, and board trustees are allowed to have input into issues and decisions from which they benefit without having to disclosure their affiliations.

Details of the letter and report can be found here, in a story that appeared on The Nerve. (Full disclosure: I work for The Nerve.)

One of the key points Masters made in his report was that SCRA uses the unfair advantage of taxpayer subsidies from its state-derived funding to compete with private enterprise in the real estate sector.

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Provident posts $14.3 million loss for 2010

Provident Community Bancshares reported a disastrous final three months of 2010, losing $10.4 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31. That compares to a $4.6 million dollar loss during the same period a year earlier.

For all of 2010, the Rock Hill-based parent of Provident Community Bank registered a deficit of $14.3 million, up from $7.8 million in 2009, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Since the beginning of 2008, Provident has lost more than $22 million.

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