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Sic transit bellum

SOMETIMES treaties that end wars are signed before the fighting stops: The climactic Battle of New Orleans actually was fought after the official end of the War of 1812. Most often, treaties are inked soon after hostilities end. Now a new approach has cropped up: Delaying by centuries a war's official ending. The one in question is the Third Punic War.

You may not have heard much about it lately: Fighting largely ended when the Romans sacked Carthage in 146 BC.

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But somehow the two sides never quite got around to officially calling off hostilities. While they mulled it over, Christianity arose, Western civilization first was plunged into the Dark Ages then rescued in the Renaissance, the New World was settled, and eventually a new country came into being which gave us the Procrastinators Society of America.

But even that august group, which a few years ago impishly sought a refund from the British foundry that poured the cracked Liberty Bell, never took this long to tidy up loose ends.

This week, while people's attention was diverted by the US budget battle and problems with the ANZUS alliance, the mayors of Rome and Carthage sneaked off and signed their long-delayed treaty.

Sic transit bellum! ----30{et

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