Canada to eliminate the good ol’ penny

After more than 150 years of production, Canada will withdraw the penny from circulation, beginning later this year, the government announced earlier this week.

The one-cent piece, in circulation north of the border since 1858, costs too much to make and is a pecuniary pest, according to Reuters.

“The penny is a currency without any currency in Canada,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

Ottawa said the penny retained only one-twentieth of its original purchasing power. It costs 1.6 Canadian cents to produce each one-cent coin and eliminating the penny will save around $11 million a year.

“Some Canadians consider the penny more of a nuisance than a useful coin. We often store them in jars, throw them away in water fountains or refuse them as change,” the government said in a budget document.

Other nations that have either ceased to produce or have removed low denomination coins include Australia, Brazil, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Great Britain, Reuters reported.

“There are 30 billion pennies in circulation and every year they are minting more. It was just one of those no-brainer slam dunks. It’s a place where we can save money,” said opposition legislator Pat Martin, a longtime advocate of abolishing the penny. “Of the 30 billion pennies, I think half of them are under my bed in a big jar.”

The Royal Canadian Mint will stop distributing penny coins to financial institutions later this year. As the coin slowly disappears, prices for cash transactions will be rounded up or down to the closest five cents, according to the wire service.

Non-cash payments such as checks, credit and debit cards will continue to be settled to the cent, Reuters added.

Lee’s sword being moved to Appomattox

Robert E. Lee’s sword is being returned to Appomattox, perhaps for the first time since he surrendered it to Ulysses S. Grant in April 1865, to be the centerpiece of a new museum examining the struggle to heal the nation following the War Between the States.

The uniform Lee wore the same day will also be on display March 31 when the Museum of the Confederacy opens an 11,700-square-foot museum within a mile of where Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, according to the Associated Press.

The Appomattox museum is the first in a regional system planned by the Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy to make its vast collection of Confederate artifacts and manuscripts more accessible, the wire service added.

The other museums are planned for the Fredericksburg area and Hampton Roads, perhaps Fort Monroe.

All told, more than 450 uniforms, muskets, swords, documents, flags and other artifacts will be displayed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox.

“Appomattox is one of those words you can say anywhere in the world and people know what you’re talking about, like Waterloo,” said Waite Rawls, chief executive of the Museum of the Confederacy. “Appomattox is the very metaphor for the end of the Civil War and the reunification of the nation.”

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All modern cows descended from single herd

All modern domesticated cows – the same cud-chewing, lumbering bovines that stare blankly while your kids gawk at them – are descended from a single herd of wild ox which lived 10,500 years ago.

That’s the conclusion derived from a genetic study of cattle conducted by a team of geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany and University College London.

The team excavated the bones of domestic cattle on archaeological sites in Iran, and then compared those to modern cows. They looked at how differences in DNA sequences could have arisen under different population history scenarios, modeled in computer simulations, according to Wired magazine.

“The team found that the differences that show up between the two populations could only have arisen if a relatively small number of animals – approximately 80 – had been domesticated from a now-extinct species of wild ox, known as aurochs, which roamed across Europe and Asia,” the publication reported.

From that herd there are today an estimated 1.4 billion cattle worldwide,

It wasn’t easy retrieving DNA from the bones excavated in Iran, according to Ruth Bollongino, the lead author of the study.

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Long-lost Cezanne turns up in Texas

A watercolor by Post-impressionist master Paul Cezanne, missing for nearly six decades, has been relocated and will be auctioned this spring in New York.

The work depicts Paulin Paulet, a gardener on the Cezanne family estate near Aix-en-Provence in France. It was known to scholars only as a black-and-white photograph.

The late 19th-century work on paper is one of Cezanne’s preparatory studies for his seminal Card Players series of five paintings, “Joueurs des cartes,” according to Agence France-Presse.

It was unknown if the actual work still existed and, if it did, who owned it, according to the New York Times.

But the watercolor recently surfaced in the home of a Dallas collector and will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York on May 1, officials at the company said Monday.

It is expected to fetch up to $20 million.

“Cézanne’s images of workers on his family farm – pipe-smoking men sitting around a table, their expressions dour, their dress drab, absorbed in a game of cards – are among his most recognizable works,” according to the Times. “Some are pictured alone; others are shown in groups of two or more. Paulet is the only one of the figures to appear in all five paintings in the ‘Card Players’ series.”

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The short, unhappy life of a young royal

Today marks the birthday of Louis-Charles, a French royal born into opulence and privilege but who had the misfortune to be the son of two wildly unpopular monarchs.

Life didn’t look so bad for the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette when he was born in 1785, who went by the name of Louis, but that changed a couple of years later with the French Revolution, which led to the execution of his parents and his own imprisonment from the age of 7 onward. 

After his father’s death,, Royalists designated him as Louis XVII, though he was never officially crowed, nor did he rule.

But after the execution of his father on in January 1793, 8-year-old Louis became a rallying point for Monarchists, a fact not lost on adherents of the Revolution. Schemes were devised to try to free the young monarch, but to no avail. 

The young royal was kept in essential isolation for much of 1794 and nearly half of 1795, in filthy conditions. 

Louis received almost no medical care during his imprisonment and on June 8, 1795, at the age of 10, he died of tuberculosis-related complications. 

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Next up: Why Prohibition worked so well

Someone may want to let the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in on a little concept called “market forces.”

According to a Sunday article in the Upstate publication, copper theft is down in Spartanburg County due to a new law requiring those selling scrap metal to obtain permits.

“Between Aug. 16, when the law went into effect, and March 19, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office issued 13,569 scrap metal permits,” the paper wrote. “As a result, copper theft is down about 15 percent in the county, Sheriff Chuck Wright said.”

Nowhere in the article does it say that the price of copper has dropped about 15 percent over the past year, which may have stymied potential scofflaws’ willingness to steal non-ferrous metals.  

The Nerve reported last month that SC lawmakers are attempting to pass even more legislation in a bid  to thwart the theft and illegal sale of copper.

Meanwhile, over the past year the price of the malleable metal has fallen to around $3.80 a pound on the London Metal Exchange, from approximately $4.50 a year ago.

But the way the Herald-Journal sees it, more laws equals less malfeasance.

However, if reducing crime was simply a matter of legislation, murder, rape and armed robbery would have been wiped from the earth long ago.

(Reblogged from The Nerve.)

Carmaker: India merits special horns

Confirming what many who have been stuck in the legendary traffic jams of India have long suspected, at least one German carmaker revealed recently that it makes special horns for cars destined for the Asian subcontinent.

“Obviously for India, the horn is a category in itself,” Michael Perschke, director at Audi India, told Monday’s Mint newspaper.

“You take a European horn and it will be gone in a week or two,” he added. “With the amount of honking in Mumbai, we do on a daily basis what an average German does on an annual basis.”

Perschke said the horns are specially adapted for driving conditions in India, a booming market where Audi is one of many foreign car brands competing for increasingly wealthy customers, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The horn is tested differently – with two continuous weeks only of honking, the setting of the horn is different, with different suppliers,” he said.

Roads in India are often in poor repair, ranging from pot-holed major highways to dirt tracks in cities, while bullock carts, cows, rickshaws and bicycles often compete with cars and trucks for space.

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Scientists studying remains from 1545 wreck

One of England best-known naval disasters is yielding clues about what life was like for troops on land nearly 500 years ago.

Skeletal remains recovered from the wreck of a King Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose are being studied to discover more about what sort of impact being an archer had on the human body. Archers, of course, pulled heavy bows.

The Mary Rose sank while leading an attack on a French invasion fleet in 1545, with the loss of more than 360 men.

It is known that there were archers aboard the ship when she foundered in the straits north of the Isle of Wight.

“These archers had specialist techniques for making and using very powerful longbows,” said Nick Owen, a sport and exercise bio-mechanist from the College of Engineering at Swansea University. “Some bows required a lifetime of training and immense strength as the archers had to pull weights up to 200 pounds.”

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India cotton-export ban may benefit US

Poor prognostication skills by Indian agriculture experts could be good news for American cotton farmers.

Earlier this month, cotton prices jumped after India announced plans to ban all cotton exports.

India is believed to have opted for a cotton-export ban because the Asian nation is concerned about a possible supply crunch. According to government officials, India’s cotton exports may have overshot government targets last year, according to Southeast Farm Press.

A few days later, officials with the country’s commerce industry said they would allow cotton cleared by customs before March 4 to be exported, easing the situation somewhat, according to an Indian agriculture blog.

It’s unclear if the price surge will be long-lasting, according to Southeast Farm Press.

“We’ll probably continue to see higher prices in the short-term,” Max Runge, Auburn University Extension economist told the publication. “But I don’t think we can count on any long-term effects.

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Does SC even need a lieutenant governor?

The following is a reprint from a blog post that appeared on The Nerve, the online news publication of my employer, the South Carolina Policy Council.

I’m posting it here for two reasons: One, I wrote it; and two, I found it intriguing that the salary of state officials in South Carolina has actually far outpaced that of inflation.

I’d say “enjoy,’ but perhaps ‘do your best to struggle through’ would be more appropriate.

The recent upheaval in the S.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Office has many asking if the position is necessary.

For much of South Carolina’s history, short of assuming the role of the state’s chief executive upon the death of the governor or a vacancy in the office – which hasn’t happened in nearly half a century – about the only way for the lieutenant governor to make the news is to gun down a newspaper editor, be one the nation’s largest slaveholders, treat the state’s roadways as though they were Darlington Raceway or act in an unethical manner.

Today, the lieutenant governor is the lowest paid of South Carolina’s nine statewide elected constitutional officers, earning $46,545 annually for what is supposedly a part-time position. That’s barely half of what Secretary of State Mark Hammond earns.

The lieutenant governor’s only constitutional duties are to preside over the Senate and to act as governor-in-waiting.

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