Rare counterfeiting trial gets little notice

Just up Interstate-77 the first trial involving counterfeit coins in more than 50 years took place earlier this month in a brick courthouse in Statesville, N.C.

Few seemed to care, however.

The Statesville Record & Landmark newspaper didn’t send anyone to cover the trial, nor did the Charlotte Observer, the Associated Press, any web news outlets, radio or television stations.

The only media on hand was the magazine Coin World. And just two spectators showed up to watch the federal trial of Bernard Von NotHaus, 67, during the first two weeks of March.

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USC conference ponders Sierra Leone’s future

The rebuilding of the African nation of Sierra Leone will be the subject of an all-day conference Friday at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Located on Africa’s west coast, Sierra Leone has spent the past decade trying to recover from a devastating civil war that left approximately 50,000 dead, almost half its population displaced and most of the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

The conference, free and open to the public, is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States, according to The State newspaper.

It will attempt to examine the issues that have hindered redevelopment of the nation of 5.7 million people and look at ways Sierra Leone can move forward.

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Legislators: new laws make anything possible

Earlier this week, the California Assembly passed a bill that would force utilities in that state to get a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, setting one of the most aggressive standards in the world.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill despite the fact that it give utilities just nine years to meet the standard.

How big a deal is it? asks the San Francisco Chronicle. “Well, according to Peter Miller, a senior scientist at NRDC, ‘As a result of the RPS program, renewable energy generation in California in 2020 will be roughly equal to total current U.S. renewable generation, and supply enough clean energy to power nearly 9 million homes’ or, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, drive 3 million cars.”

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The (very brief) rise and fall of carolinium

There are but 118 known chemical elements, pure chemical substances each consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number. They range from common elements such as hydrogen and helium to synthetic elements such as curium and californium.

For a brief time at the beginning of the last century, the Carolinas appeared to be on the verge of having an element of its own.

Carolinium was the proposed name for a new chemical element that American chemist Charles Baskerville believed he had isolated from the already known element thorium.

Working at the University of North Carolina, Baskerville experimented with thorium and in 1901 reported having separated it into three fractions with slightly different chemical properties: the known thorium and two new elements, carolinium (which was given the symbol Cn) and berzelium, according to Wikipedia.

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Porcelain Nereid returned to Germany

A porcelain sea nymph that went missing during World War II has been returned to the German city of Dresden after being located in an Ohio museum.

The sea nymph, or Nereid, is worth about $1 million. It disappeared from a box in Reichstaedt Castle, about 12 miles from Dresden, where it was held for safekeeping during the Second World War.

The Nereid is a sweetmeat holder and the centerpiece of an elaborate swan table service comprising about 3,000 items made for Heinrich von Bruehl, prime minister of the 18th-century Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus III, according to Bloomberg.

Ulrich Pietsch, director of Dresden’s state porcelain collection, discovered the Nereid by chance during a visit to the Toledo Museum of Art.

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NC drops ball on Reconstruction pardon

Fayetteville Observer editorial writer Gene Smith says the North Carolina Legislature blew it when it recently squandered the opportunity to issue a pardon to Reconstruction-era Governor William Woods Holden.

Earlier this month, efforts to pardon Holden, the first governor removed from office in the United States, were put on hold because Senate Republicans weren’t unified on whether to absolve him for actions stemming from his opposition to the Ku Klux Klan.

The state Senate sent a bipartisan resolution about Holden to the chamber’s Rules Committee, where unpopular or controversial bills have been known to die over the years, according to the Associated Press.

Smith admits Holden was no saint, but contends that during Reconstruction few men were:

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Virginia cotton farmers wary as season nears

Cotton prices have been breaking records for the past couple of months, but that not thrilling some farmers in southeastern Virginia, according to Southeast Farm Press.

“People who haven’t planted cotton in the past are looking to get into it. Some who have been out for a few years are looking to get back in,” said Gary Cross, vice-chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Cotton Advisory Committee. “So everyone’s assessing their operation to see if there’s anywhere that cotton would be the best, most profitable fit.”

However, Virginia farmers aren’t sharing in the current record prices, which have been above $2 a pound for the raw product for several weeks.

The typical Virginia cotton producer locked in a profitable price of 65 to 70 cents a pound last year, and most have already forward-contracted this year’s crop at much lower prices than what’s trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, according to Southeast Farm Press.

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British to excavate War of the Roses graves

The Battle of Towton – fought during England’s War of the Roses – was likely the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, yet it it’s also one of the least known. That’s about to change.

Archaeologists believe they have located burial pits from the 1461 clash, a battle that claimed 28,000 lives, and will begin excavation this summer.

Work is to begin in June, at a site 12 miles south of York between the villages of Saxton and Towton where the battle took place. Experts have identified as many as five different mass burial sites and believe they could yield the remains of several hundred men, according to The Independent.

This week marks the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Towton, an event so bloody that almost 1 percent of the English population was wiped out in a single day. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 soldiers took part in the battle between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne.

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SC retirement system report: lipstick vs. pig

Former Gov. Mark Sanford once described the unfunded liabilities in South Carolina’s state retirement system as a ticking time bomb. The system’s unfunded liabilities total anywhere from $13 billion to as much as $53 billion.

Whatever the number, it would appear there’s a disaster in the making because at some point, SC taxpayers are going to have to cough up the coin to cover the costs.

Earlier this week, state Treasurer Curtis Loftis attempted to delve into the retirement system’s latest actuarial report during a meeting of the state’s Budget and Control Board meeting. He didn’t get very far. 

According to The Nerve (full disclosure: my employer), the report for the last fiscal year recent arrive and the news, evidently, was not good.

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Lost Chopin letters unveiled in Warsaw

Half a dozen letters written by composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, thought to have been lost during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, were unveiled Thursday.

Warsaw’s Chopin Museum said that it spent nearly a decade trying to obtain the letters and dozens of other documents related to the composer after getting wind of them in 2003, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The paper trial remains shrouded in mystery, with the trove acquired from its undisclosed owners by a Mexico-based Pole who donated it to the museum,” according to the wire service. “The letters, due to go on display this week, date from 1845 to 1848, a year before Chopin’s death in France.”

The letters, written in Polish, were penned by Chopin in Paris and Nohant in central France and addressed to family members back in Poland.

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