Spanish commission: Move Franco’s body

Evidence that Spain continues to grapple with the lingering effects of dictator Francisco Franco’s nearly four decades of authoritarian rule can be found in the ongoing debate over whether his body should be exhumed from its resting place in a mausoleum near Madrid and reburied elsewhere.

An official commission Tuesday endorsed transferring Franco’s remains to a place “designated by the family, or to a place considered worthy and more suitable,” it said in a report.

Franco’s family has said it opposes his body being removed from Valle de los Caídos, or Valley of the Fallen, a sensitive historical site near Madrid, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Valley of the Fallen is a Catholic basilica and a monumental memorial erected at Cuelgamuros Valley in the Sierra de Guadarrama. It was conceived by Franco to honor those who fell during the Spanish Civil War and constructed on his orders between 1940 and 1958.

The commission of lawyers said in their report that the site should be officially designated as a memorial for victims of both sides in the conflict and Franco’s remains should be removed because he did not die in the war, but rather of natural causes in 1975, according to a Huffington Post report.

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Old Brick Church a journey back in time

Enjoying South Carolina’s history often involves crowds, buying tickets or spending time in musty libraries.

However, there are more than a few places well off the beaten path where one can revel both in the beauty of nature and Palmetto State history.

One such place is the Ebenezer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Fairfield County.

Better known to locals as the Old Brick Church, the small, simple structure has a rich history that belies its quiet place in the sloping hills four miles north of Jenkinsville on SC Highway 213.

Built in 1788, the picturesque rectangular building has a gabled roof and bricks that were made by members of the congregation around the time the US Constitution was being written.

Its symmetry and understated, elegant masonry is a throwback to the days when some congregations combined function and form with an understanding that a house of worship didn’t necessarily have to be an ornate colossus or an unimaginative log cabin.

The Old Brick Church’s interior is as spartan as its exterior, featuring straight-back pews, a dais-style pulpit with plain rails around two sides, and a slave gallery, according to the S.C. Department of Archives and History.

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If green is good, why must it be subsidized?

Why is that government bodies unwilling to fork over their own money to buy alternative-energy vehicles suddenly change their minds once they receive someone else’s money to make the purchase?

The Greenville News reported Sunday that Seneca this past week became the first South Carolina city to announce service using Greenville-built Proterra buses, which are touted as being zero-emission vehicles.

Seneca officials said they’d use $4.1 million from the Federal Transit Administration and $2 million from Atlanta utility Southern Co. to buy five Proterra buses and launch all-electric bus service, according to the publication.

Meanwhile, the Greenville Transit Authority is preparing its third application for federal funding to pay for a rapid-bus service using Proterra buses.

The US Department of Transportation is expected to decide on the request in March, said Carl Jackson, GTA’s executive director and transportation director for the city of Greenville, the News reported.

Twice previously, the Greenville Transit Authority has been twice rejected for federal funding it sought to develop a bus rapid transit system using Proterra buses.

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Turkish leader apologizes for ’30s massacre

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized for a bloody military campaign that killed more than 13,000 Kurds in the 1930s.

However, Erdogan made his apology before members of his Justice and Development Party in Ankara and used the occasion to attack the current main opposition Republican People’s Party, which was in power when the campaign, called the 1936-39 Dersim Massacre, took place.

“If it is necessary to apologize on behalf of the state … I will apologize, I am apologizing,” he said.

Citing official documents from the period, Erdogan said 13,800 were killed during the period through Turkish air strikes and ground operations

Attempts were made to portray the strikes targeting Dersim as “quelling an uprising,” Erdogan said, but it “was an operation which was planned step by step.”

Some 11,600 people were exiled to other regions across Turkey, Erdogan added, citing another official document signed by Ismet Inonu, then-leader of the Republican People’s Party.

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Rare da Vinci self portrait goes on display

A rarely seen self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci that is insured for $67 million has gone on display near the Italian city of Turin.

The self-portrait of the Renaissance master as an elderly man is kept in the Royal Library in Turin where it has only gone on public display twice previously, in 1929 and 2006.

It is being displayed through the end of January under special shock-proof glass case lined with sensors, according to Agence France-Presse.

The work, being shown at the Reggia di Venaria, a 17th-century former royal residence near Turin, is part of an exhibition titled “Leonardo: The Genius and the Myth.”

In all, the exhibition includes 30 drawings and writings about the work.

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Dead from Napoleon’s army found in Poland

Archaeologists in Poland say they have uncovered the bodies of soldiers believed to have been part of Napoleon’s doomed invasion of Moscow.

The remains were among those of some 350 individuals discovered in a forgotten graveyard, found after woodlands were cut back to create a new bypass at Olecko, in the far northeastern part of the country, according to the Polish Press Agency.

“Analysis of the bones of several men buried there shows changes characteristic of people who rode on horseback for much of their lives,” archaeologist Hubert Augustyniak told the Polish Press Agency.

Some 400,000 troops serving in Napoleon’s Grande Armée – many of them Poles hoping for the rebirth of their country – are estimated to have died during Napoleon’s Moscow campaign.

In June 1812 Napoleon and an army of 500,000 crossed the river Neman, near the Baltic Sea, with the goal of compelling Tsar Alexander I of Russia to remain in the Continental Blockade of the United Kingdom, and an underlying aim of keeping Russia from invading Poland.

Napoleon moved across Russia, winning a number of battles, including the massive Battle of Borodino in September 1812 near Moscow. Despite the victory, the French failed to finish off the Russian army, which retreated, and Napoleon and his men entered Moscow.

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Haley backers continue to suspend disbelief

Most political scientists agree a few things are necessary for a democratic form of government to thrive, including honest elected officials, an informed and engaged citizenry, and a vigorous, aggressive and scrupulous media.

Lately, the latter has been coming to life in South Carolina, but it’s clear from a reading of that media that the former two are in short supply.

One need go no further for an example than Sunday’s story in The State newspaper that detailed an office policy under Gov. Nikki Haley in which “only emails between the governor and the public are being saved and archived permanently.”

Other emails that Haley sends or receives — including exchanges with her staff members — are deleted.

At least two of South Carolina best-known media law attorneys say the policy violates the state’s open-records law, meant to ensure the public has access to government records. Because emails are being deleted, they are not available for the public to review.

Haley was elected governor in 2010 in part on a platform of conducting an open administration, its workings transparent to the public.

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Ex-Soviet states eyeing Eurasian Union

In a move some might consider unusual given ongoing difficulties in the EU, three ex-Soviet states are prepared to sign an agreement today that would begin the first steps toward creating a Eurasian economic union.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Kazakhstan and Belarus counterparts Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alexander Lukashenko were to sign a declaration on further economic integration at a summit in Moscow, the Kremlin said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The declaration will set out the ultimate aim (of economic integration) as the creation of a Eurasian economic union,” it said.

The project, backed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seeks to bring the former states of the USSR closer.

The three countries already have a customs union but the creation of the Eurasian Union – which would have its own executive body and oversee a single economic space – would mark a huge step further, according to the wire service.

The single economic space is due to come into force in 2012 alongside a Eurasian Economic Commission, a body that would apparently be run on lines similar to its Brussels-based EU equivalent.

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Torah scroll that outlasted British on display

A Torah scroll that survived desecration by British troops during the American Revolution is now on display at the New-York Historical Society, part of an exhibit connected to the society’s three-year, $65 million reopening.

The scroll from the Shearith Israel synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States and New York’s only Judaic house of worship for nearly a century, still has burn marks on it from the British ransacking of the city in 1776.

In August of that year, shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington and his troops retreated to Manhattan Island after being routed by the British on Long Island.

Washington wanted desperately to hold onto whatever small scrap of New York he could, but by November his army had been booted from Manhattan. The British would occupy the area for the remainder of the war, according to The Jewish Week.

During the occupation, thousands of rebel sympathizers fled the city as British troops looted and pillaged, setting fire to homes, bridges and even Congregation Shearith Israel, which was built in 1729.

The synagogue had bought two Torah scrolls when it was built, one Sephardic and one Ashkenazi, since the community was split.

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Lee’s General Order No. 9 sells for $98,500

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia, also known as General Order No. 9, sold for nearly $100,000 at auction Tuesday in New York.

Drafted by an aide on the night of April 9-10, 1865, a few hours after Lee had surrendered, General Order No. 9 is among the best-known documents of the War Between the States.

“No other words, spoken or written, had a more heartening effect on the veterans of the proud but weary Army of Northern Virginia,” according to author Joseph E. Fields.

In the hours following the surrender, Lee and his aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, discussed what the Confederate leader wished to say in his farewell message to his men.

Marshall produced a draft the following morning and Lee edited it, making a few minor changes and striking out a paragraph that he felt was inappropriate.

Marshall then gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general’s office to rewrite in ink. Afterward, Marshall took the copy to Lee, who signed it.

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