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Tramp explores deep themes

Today we mark the 125th anniversary of silent film star Charlie Chaplin’s birth. While best remembered for his character, the Little Tramp, his career was much broader than that one famous visage. He was a director, a screen writer and a composer. Along with other film luminaries, D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Chaplin founded the United Artists production company. Long recognized as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, it’s fitting that we take stock of his legacy.

Harmless drones get federal flak

In March 2012, volunteers spent four days looking for a 2-year-old boy who wandered away from his home outside Houston, Texas. They found him only after volunteers reviewing images captured by a drone-mounted aerial camera saw a flash of red in a pond that had already been searched. It turned out to be a shirt worn by the child, who had drowned.

Chasing the jumping flea

In a December 2013 column I confessed to the ownership and operation of a ukulele. Since then a number of other furtive uke players have emailed to share their tales of four-stringed folly. Even so, I know deep-down that the ukulele is largely regarded as a novelty… something 1920s Ivy League guys played while hanging out of a Stutz Bearcat or heaven forbid, Tiny Tim’s instrument of choice.

Wall Street’s flash point

In “The Financier,” his great novel of American capitalism, Theodore Dreiser describes the thinking of his hero, Frank Cowperwood, who exploited banks, the state and investors. It isn’t wise to steal outright, Cowperwood concludes; that would be wrong. But “there were so many situations wherein what one might do in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt. Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not climates.”

Danger of doing business in cyberspace

Bankers in Arkansas, state chartered or national, aren’t going to like this column. Nor will utility companies, retailers — any business that conducts business in cyberspace, which includes pretty much the state and nation and much of the world. A huge majority of their presidents, managers and clerks will dismiss me as an old fogey, behind-the-times, a crank; they will sniff, or force a smile, and gently insist that I just don’t understand computer commerce, don’t comprehend how safe and secure are their systems.

Greening St. Patrick’s legend

As Monday marks the annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s fitting that we revisit some of the largely forgotten details of the man and his myth. While most people probably associate Saint Patrick with the legend of driving the snakes out of Ireland, the facts of his life would be equally compelling without the slithering egress.

Pi by the numbers

Today is the occasion of two venerated observances in math and science. In the first instance, it is a celebration of Albert Einstein’s birthday. He was born March 14, 1879 — 135 years ago today.

Pragmatists, purists and power

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. — On one side are the pragmatists: Republicans who want to be part of the governing process and accept compromise as the price of participation. On the other are the purists, who prefer playing gadfly to governing and equate compromise with betrayal.

The CIA reminds us who’s boss

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a stalwart ally of the nation’s intelligence agencies, says she is appalled to learn they have been spying on her committee, ignoring federal law and possibly trampling on the Constitution in a heavy-handed targeting of innocent people. Hey! Maybe now she knows how the rest of us feel.