Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Mobile visitors to our website are in for a treat the next time they stop by! GCF has launched a mini-version of our website with the pages you visit most formatted to fit your device. There's a link to the full site for those looking for more. This is not a mobile banking platform. There are still a few kinks to work out of that product before we're comfortable offering it to our customers. In the meantime, view locations, hours, rates and more from the palm of your hand.
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July 4th is traditionally recognized as the birthday of our country. The date commemorates the 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence, legally separating the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain.
And at the same time, another clamor for independence was heard throughout the Philadelphia area. But this one would take close to 100 years to bring to fruition.
While our forefathers declared war on England to claim their freedom, they themselves relegated others to the very role they fought so hard to relinquish. They were slave owners.
As the Revolutionary War drew to an end, the Abolitionist movement gained steam. By 1804, all Northern states had passed laws to abolish slavery. Congress banned the African slave trade in 1808.
Yet it thrived in the Southern states where slavery remained legal.
This year marks 150 years since our Civil War began in 1861. Any school kid could tell you it was a war about slavery.
Yet, for most everyone reading this column, those school years are long past. While we can remember the key issue presented in classroom lectures, it was only one factor leading to the secession of states south of the Mason Dixon Line.
Despite its importance, we won't rehash the slavery saga here. The subject would take a series of articles to cover properly. And we can all agree that slavery was wrong.
For the Southern states that ultimately became the Confederate States of America, the slavery debate was only part of a much larger issue that was also rooted in our Constitution. An issue that remains vague even today.
Are we a country of 50 individual states with the resources of a federal government at our disposal? Or does our federal government reign supreme over individual states' rights? Was our federal government a contract between the states or the ultimate authority commanding them?
The debate has caused a rift in every generation, beginning when Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton broke away from the Washington administration to form our first two-party political system. One side sought to implement the "implied powers" of the Constitution, the other demanded strict adherence to the document's construction.
It's still hotly debated today, typically brought to light by whichever political party is not in power.
And the Constitution itself included no clear delineation. It did not directly assign the authority for its interpretation to the Supreme Court, nor to any other entity.
Perhaps it was their intention to leave its interpretation to the culture of each generation, maintaining flexibility as need and customs evolve. Perhaps it was to ensure critical debate before any significant ruling. We'll never know.
But we do know that it led to divisive conflict in our fledgling nation. Conflict that led to a four-year war - the bloodiest in our history.
The preamble to the Confederate Constitution included the phrase "...each State acting in its sovereign and independent character." They deemed it so important that it was made the focal point of their foundation.
Everyone agreed that individual states had their rights. But what if you had something in your possession that was legal where you lived and traveled somewhere it wasn't?
NRA members reading this can relate even today as their 2nd Amendment rights are trapped in an ongoing gun control battle.
At its core in the early 19th century was the issue of slavery. Northern states became industrialized when slavery was abolished in 1804. Southern states still relied on working plantations as the cornerstone of their economy.
Industry in the north was struggling. Lower-priced goods were being imported from foreign countries. So Congress passed the Tariff of 1828 to balance cost by taxing the imports.
That crippled the economy of the South. Not only were they paying higher prices for goods they couldn't produce in their region, but the British could no longer afford the cotton that was their main cash crop.
The tariff was eventually modified in 1832, but not enough to reverse the damage done.
A series of further tariff rates reductions continued until it reached its lowest in 1857. This angered the northern constituents who viewed the low rates as harmful to the growth of industry.
Northern and southern states continued to negotiate their differences, but to no avail. Lincoln's presidential election in 1860 was the last straw. The southern states were already a minority in the House of Representatives. They feared the same would become true in the Senate and Electoral College as the North became increasingly more powerful.
Before Lincoln took office in March 1861, seven southern states had seceded from the Union to form the Confederacy. Within two months, four more states and two territories had joined them.
The American Civil War set the course for the future of our great nation. While it did put an end to slavery, many of the factors leading to the war remain with us today in one form or another. By learning through the lessons of history, hopefully we can find a different way to resolve them.
When I was growing up, one of the fun summer activities we did as a family was go camping. Helping my dad set up the tent, arguing with my sister over the best place to lay our sleeping bags, searching for just the right stick to roast marshmallows, and singing around the campfire... Just thinking about it brings back a host of good memories.
The fire was a big part of our whole camping experience. We used it for keeping warm on cool summer nights, chasing away the mosquitoes, and as a gathering area for telling stories and talking. As a child, I knew a little about fire safety. I knew that if I got too close my dad would yell at me and I knew that Smokey the Bear had warned that, "Only you can prevent forest fires." As an adult, I am much more conscious of the risks associated with building a campfire. Since people cause most wildfires, we have to take responsibility for preventing them. Listed below are a few guidelines for building a safe campfire.
First, select your site carefully. You want to build your campfire in a flat, open area, away from overhanging branches and tree stumps. Avoid steep slopes that could allow burning logs to roll away. In addition, clear away any surrounding debris such as fallen leaves, sticks, dry grass, and logs. Pile the extra wood far away from the fire. Clearing a 10-foot diameter around your campfire site will help prevent the fire from spreading. In most campgrounds and parks today, you can only build fires in designated areas. Fire rings are usually provided for your use. If a fire ring is not provided, build a ring with small rocks. The rocks will help contain runaway logs and retain heat.
Start your fire with a pile of dry twigs and small sticks in the center of your fire ring. Use a match to light the pile. Never use gasoline or kerosene to start a fire. Once the pile is lit, throw the match you used into the fire, not into the grass. Add larger sticks to the fire in a teepee shape once the smaller sticks ignite. Then, as the fire builds, add the largest pieces last continuing the teepee shape. Keep your campfire small. Even a small campfire will give off plenty of heat.
Once you have a fire going... never, never, never leave it unattended! It only takes a second for even a small breeze to blow a hot ember far away. You should have plenty of water on hand and a shovel nearby for throwing dirt on the fire in the event things get out of control.
The way you put out your campfire is just as important as how you build your campfire. If it is not completely out, the wind can rekindle the embers and start a wildfire while you sleep. Basically, you want to drown the fire out. Pour enough water on the fire to thoroughly wet all the embers, coals, sticks, and logs. Move any rocks, as there could be burning embers underneath that need to be soaked with water. Stir the remains a couple times, adding water each time. Larger pieces of wood may be difficult to put out. Keep adding water and stirring until all materials are thoroughly saturated and cool to the touch. If you do not have water, you can use dirt to douse the fire. Use the same method of stirring and adding dirt until all materials are cool.
Following just these few, simple safety tips can keep you, your family, and the surrounding area safe this summer. For more information, check out the Camp & Trail Safety section of the USDA Forest Service Daniel Boone National Forest website.
Commodities made the news as the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index increased by 1.7 percent. This index, which measures 19 commodities, had the biggest increase in six weeks. The increase was helped as the euro gained strength from news that Greece will not default on debt. This benchmark, around since 1957, showed prices on oil and corn leading the jump.
Commodities are traded in the futures markets. They generally trade futures contracts where a price is agreed upon in the future. Futures contracts are a type of derivative which is designed to hedge risk. Wikipedia says that derivatives are so named "because the value of these instruments is derived from another asset class." This locks in the price for the buyer and seller, taking the guess work out of the price. Futures contracts are actively traded on several open market exchanges and regulated as other securities are.
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