A sure sign that confusion lies ahead

Local government is often said to be superior in many respects to state and federal government because it can respond more quickly, is said to be in better tune with the needs of its constituents and usually comes in personal contact with constituents on a far more regular basis. 

However, local government is just as capable as its bigger counterparts of entangling residents in bureaucratic red tape that leaves people confused, irritated and, often, unwittingly in violation of the law.

Take the above sign, near an elementary school in White Lake, Mich., which is in the Detroit metro area.

Instead of simply installing a flashing light when the speed limit drops to 25 miles per hour, or having wording to the effect that the speed limit is 25 miles per hour from, say, 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and again from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., officials have detailed five 30-minute periods and one 26-minute period in which the limit drops to 25 mph.

And, as one can see, they’re all oddball segments, rather than, say, 7:00 a.m.-7:30 a.m., further enhancing befuddlement.

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Tiny songbird makes remarkable migration

The Northern Wheatear weighs no more than 10 US pennies, yet it the first songbird proven to migrate from the New World to the Old World.

The small bird, about six inches in length, flies from the Arctic region of the Western Hemisphere all the way to sub-Saharan Africa and back, according to a new study published in Biology Letters.

The study proves that the Northern Wheatear regularly travels some 18,000 miles roundtrip, venturing over ocean and desert.

“Scaled for body size, this is one of the longest round-trip migratory journeys by any bird in the world,” according to The Royal Society.

“They are incredible migratory journeys, particularly for a bird this size,” said Professor Ryan Norris of the University of Guelph. “Think of something smaller than a robin but a little larger than a finch raising young in the Arctic tundra and then a few months later foraging for food in Africa for the winter.”

Until recently, details about songbird migration remained unknown because geo-locators were too big or heavy to attach to such small birds. New smaller devices now allow scientists to track flights over several months and over long distances, according to The Royal Society.

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Museum lands 1778 James Monroe signature

The oldest-known signature of James Monroe, a Revolutionary War furlough signed by the future president while he was serving at Valley Forge, has been acquired by the museum that honors the Virginia native.

Monroe issued the pass, acquired by the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, Va., to 2nd Lt. John Wallace Jr. of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment on Feb. 23, 1778, as Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army suffered through the traumatic winter at Valley Forge.

Negotiations for the document, which had been in the hands of the same collector for decades, took several weeks, said Scott Harris, director of the James Monroe Museum.

The furlough is believed to be the earliest-known official document bearing Monroe’s signature, according to the museum.

Support from the 180-member Friends of the James Monroe Museum was crucial for the institution, which is administered by the University of Mary Washington, to be able to purchase the furlough from a nationally recognized documents dealer, he told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

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Vast store of ancient English works online

The Parker Library holds a collection of priceless manuscripts, from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the earliest history written in English, to the St. Augustine Gospels, said to have been brought from Rome to England by the Catholic saint in 597.

In a decidedly modern touch, the library’s entire collection, among the most impressive anywhere in the world, is accessible online.

The library was entrusted to Corpus Christi College in 1574 by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury under Elizabeth I.

It contains more than 600 manuscripts, along with such items as letters from King Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn and Protestant firebrand Martin Luther, and the bill for burning Thomas Cranmer in 1556, according to the University of Cambridge.

The Parker Library put its library online in 2010, becoming the first research library to have every page of its collection captured digitally.

One of the key works in the Parker collection is the ninth-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, thought to have been commissioned by Alfred the Great as he pushed for greater use of the language through educational reforms.

The Chronicle is considered the single most important historical source of the period in England between the departure of the Romans and the decades following the Norman Conquest.

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Chance view offers glimpse into past

A tall chimney, virtually alone in a field denuded of pine trees just days before, stood silhouetted against the winter sun.

Fifty trips down this stretch of South Carolina backcountry had never afforded me the above view, or even knowledge of the structure, or rather, what was left of it.

My first thought was that it was one of the increasingly rare but still extant examples of the havoc wrought by Sherman’s troops during their march through South Carolina in the early months of 1865.

Research shows that the structure, built by Thomas Wadlington in 1858, was indeed consumed by fire, but the conflagration took place some 124 years after Sherman’s bummers laid waste to much of the Palmetto State.

Known as the Keitt House, it was located eight miles east of Newberry, S.C., and was rented and used by the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity chapter of Newberry College from the early 1970s until Oct. 8, 1989, when it fell victim to flames.

Afterward, trees and undergrowth grew around what was left of the structure, mostly just the brick foundation and 30-foot-tall chimney, almost certainly built by slaves in the period just before the War Between the States.

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Dead WWI German soldiers found in bunker

It’s been nearly a century since an Allied shell exploded above a bunker in the Alsace region of France, entombing 21 German soldiers.

They lay undisturbed since their deaths in 1918 until excavation work for a road building project uncovered the mass grave recently.

Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii, according to The Telegraph.

“A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the fetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs,” the publication reported.

The men, part of the 6th Company, 94th Reserve Infantry Regiment, were among 34 soldiers killed during the explosion.

Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter shortly afterward, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.

In addition to bodies, such personal effects as weapons, wine bottles and wallets were also found.

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SC gold mine said to be significantly richer

Updated studies indicate there are nearly 1 million more ounces of gold at Lancaster County’s Haile Gold Mine than previously thought.

With gold selling at more than $1,700 an ounce, that would be worth more than $1.7 billion extra to the Canadian company that owns the mine.

New estimates indicate there is 29 percent more gold, or 916,000 more ounces, at the site than previously thought, according to a report in the Columbia Regional Business Report.

The total gold resources at the mine, located near the tiny South Carolina town of Kershaw, stands at 4 million ounces, with another 800,000 ounces of inferred resources, according to owner Romarco Minerals Inc.

“This is a very significant system in South Carolina,” said Romarco Chief Executive Diane Garrett. “This really puts South Carolina on the map as having a world-class ore deposit.”

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