Dan Cooper slinks off into the sunset

Should the History Channel ever venture to the Palmetto State in search of profiles in courage, rest assured that Dan Cooper will rank well down the list of choices, somewhere between Cole Blease and the Lizard Man.

Cooper, the long-time Republican state representative from Anderson, officially stepped down from the legislature at noon Wednesday, turning over his position as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to Brian White, R-Anderson.

Cooper, who never met a backroom deal or piece of political pork he didn’t like, of course received a standing ovation from his fellow legislators, including special praise from House Speaker Bobby Harrell, according to the Greenville News.

“You’ve done a remarkable job, especially with these last couple of years with the budget as bad as it has been,” Harrell said. “We are indebted to you for your time. The body is a better place because you have been here.”

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WW II Spitfire pulled from Irish bog

An RAF Spitfire has been pulled from an Irish peat bog nearly 70 years after it crash-landed during World War II.

The British fighter plane was piloted by an American, Roland “Bud” Wolf, who parachuted safely from the aircraft before it crashed in the bog in November 1941 in County Donegal, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Wolf was forced to abandon his Spitfire over the Irish Republic when its engine overheated about 13 miles from his base at RAF Eglinton, now Derry International Airport, in Northern Ireland, historian Dan Snow told RTE radio.

Six machine guns and about 1,000 rounds of ammunition were also discovered by archaeologists.

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Unlocking the mystery of bee flight plans

British researchers believe they have unlocked the mystery of how bumblebees plan their route between the most nectar-laden flowers while travelling the shortest distances, a puzzle that has long vexed academics.

New research from University of London’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences explored the movement of bumblebees as they collected nectar from five artificial flowers varying in reward value.

The research into optimizing routes based on distance and the size of potential rewards, led by Dr. Mathieu Lihoreau and published in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology, is reminiscent of Traveling Salesman problem in mathematics, first formulated in 1930 but still one of the most intensively studied problems in optimization, according to Pysorg.com.

“Animals which forage on resources that are fixed in space and replenish over time, such as flowers which refill with nectar, often visit these resources in repeatable sequences called trap-lines,” Lihoreau said. “While trap-lining is a common foraging strategy found in bees, birds and primates we still know very little about how animals attempt to optimize the routes they travel.”

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Americans continue to turn backs on $1 coins

Few Americans realize it, but there’s a stash of more than $1 billion sitting in Federal Reserve vaults that apparently almost no one wants.

Unused dollar coins have been quietly piling up in breathtaking numbers (see above photo), thanks to a government program that has required their production since 2007, according to NPR.

And even though the pile of coins recently passed the $1 billion mark, the US Mint will keep making more and more of the coins under a congressional mandate, it added.

“The pile of idle coins, which so far cost $300 million to manufacture, could double by the time the program ends in 2016, the Federal Reserve told Congress last year,” according to NPR.

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Tsujimoto: the NHL draft pick that never was

The National Hockey League draft still pales in comparison to its NFL and NBA counterparts in terms of popularity, but it gets considerably more attention than it did a generation ago.

Several thousand fans, for example, were on hand for the most recent draft, held this past Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Compare that to 1974, when the NHL draft was held in secrecy, part of the league’s efforts to hold off the upstart World Hockey Association.

How secret was the 1974 draft? As it neared its conclusion, Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach had become so bored with the long process of selecting players that he decided to have some fun and sent public relations director Paul Wieland off to find a relatively common Japanese name, according to the Buffalo News.

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Festival welcomes all who survived riots

Looks like there’s a party going on in Central Asia!

Kyrgyzstan’s southern oblasts are wrapping up the celebration of a goodwill initiative titled “There’s Enough Happiness for Everyone!”

(With a name like that, you just know it’s going to be a success, right?)

The event, which runs through today, began June 21 with a concert in the capital city of Bishkek’s Old Square, according to the press office of the State Directorate for the Restoration of the Cities of Osh and Dzhalal-Abad.

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Recalling Barbarossa, history’s greatest clash

Earlier this week marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the largest military operation in human history, yet not a single US newspaper bothered to so much as note the event with a story or news brief.

Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, began on June 22, 1941, as more than 4.5 million troops invaded along a nearly 2,000 mile front that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history in both manpower and casualties, and its failure was a turning point in the Germany’s fortunes.

That no US paper apparently could be bothered devoting a few inches of copy to this monumental engagement, the results of which in no small part set the stage for Cold War and the remainder of the 20th century, is both mystifying and a testament to the insular nature of American society.

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On living life to the fullest, or dying trying

You can still find moonshining going on in every state in the union if you look hard enough, but popular culture will probably always associate the making of white lightning with the South.

In America’s early years, moonshining was a practical enterprise. Farmers could earn extra money by converting excess crops into corn whiskey or apple and peach brandy, and selling it.

Of course, the federal government’s attempt to impose a tax on liquor manufacturing, beginning in the 1790s, didn’t sit well with farmers and other individuals who lived in rural areas where moonshine was considered a commodity. Consider the Whiskey Rebellion.

By the early 20th century, the advent of the automobile gave illegal distillers an effective means to get their product to market. To outrun police and revenuers, moonshiners became adept at souping up their vehicles.

Writer Jack deJarnette grew up in North Georgia and would occasionally ride with a moonshiner named P.J. Puckett on his runs. According to deJarnette, P.J.’s daddy O.J, and his uncles N.J. and M.J. had a moonshine still back in the woods behind their house in Cleveland, Ga., where they produced moonshine of the highest quality possible.

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FFCH snaps up Hilton Head deposits

First Financial Holdings of Charleston announced Wednesday that subsidiary First Federal Savings and Loan Association has signed an agreement to acquire the deposits and some loans of Liberty Savings Bank’s South Carolina offices.

Liberty, which is headquartered in Ohio, has five branches in Hilton Head with total deposits of nearly $110 million. 

As part of the transaction, First Federal will purchase approximately $27 million in loans, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

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‘Self-portrait’ actually van Gogh’s brother

A noted 1887 work by Vincent van Gogh long thought to have been a self-portrait of the famed Dutch painter is in fact a picture of his younger brother Theo, according to art researchers at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum.

“According to current opinion, Vincent van Gogh never painted his brother Theo, on whom he was dependent,” the Van Gogh Museum said in a statement.

But senior researcher Louis van Tilborgh now believed the painting of a man wearing a light-colored hat and a dark blue jacket (above) was actually Van Gogh’s brother Theo, Vincent’s junior by five years, according to new service Agence France-Presse.

“The conclusion is based on a number of obvious differences between the two brothers,” said the museum, pointing out dissimilar features including the neatness of the subject’s beard and his round-shaped ear, “something Vincent did not have.”

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