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Pink Protestors Arrive in Washington

Large crowds of women, many wearing bright pink knit hats, poured into downtown Washington by bus, train and car on Saturday for a march in opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump only a day after the Republican took office.

The Washington event was expected to be the largest of a series of marches across the world in cities including Sydney, London, Tokyo and New York to criticize the new president's often angry, populist rhetoric.

The flood of people stressed the city's Metro subway system, with riders reporting enormous crowds and some end-of-line stations temporarily turning away riders when parking lots filled and platforms became too crowded. 

Trump has angered many liberal Americans with comments seen as demeaning to women, Mexicans and Muslims, and worried some abroad with his inaugural vow on Friday to put "America First" in his decision making. 

On Friday, the nation's capital was rocked by violent protests against the businessman-turned-politician, with black-clad anti-establishment activists smashing windows, setting vehicles on fire and fighting with riot police who responded with stun grenades. [L1N1FA0LA]

One of the groups that organized Friday's protests sent a call to members to return to the streets after the women's march ended. 

The protests illustrated the depth of the anger in a deeply divided country that is still recovering from the scarring 2016 campaign season. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. party. 

"It's important that our rights be respected. People have fought hard for our rights and President Trump has made it clear that he does not respect of them," said Lexi Milani, a 41-year-old restaurant owner from Baltimore, who had ridden down in a bus with 28 friends. 


Washington subway trains and platforms were packed with people. The Metro sent a service alert warning of "system-wide delays due to extremely large crowds." At least one station was temporarily closed to new passengers because of the crowds backed up on the platform.

Elizabeth Newton, 59, traveled from Lafayette, California, to attend the march and stayed overnight in Baltimore. When she and her friends arrived at a rail station in that city to try to board a train to Washington, they were overwhelmed by the crowds.

"It was all the way around the block and partway around again. It was extraordinary," Newton said. She and her friends instead opted to spend $106 on a Uber ride in to the city.

"There is no question it is a very busy day. We are seeing heavy crowding on the system, particularly at the end of line stations where people have driven into the Washington D.C., area," said Dan Stessel, a spokesman for the city's Metro system.

The system was changing traffic flow at some stations, including rerouting some escalators downtown to carry all passengers out to accommodate the crowds, he said.

The Metro reported 275,000 rides as of 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) Saturday, 82,000 more than the 193,000 reported at the same time on Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration and eight times normal Saturday volume.

The crowd filled six city blocks of Independence Avenue, with more people spilling into side streets and additional marchers pouring into the area as of 11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT).

The Women's March on Washington, featuring speakers, celebrity appearances and a protest walk along the National Mall, is the brainchild of Hawaiian grandmother Teresa Shook and is intended as an outlet for women and their male supporters to vent their frustration and anxiety over Trump's victory.

Organizers said they expected several hundred thousand people to attend.

A disparate lineup of organizations including reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood, gun-control group Moms Demand Action and Emily's List, which promotes female candidates for office, sent large contingents to the event.


Many participants wore knitted pink cat-eared "pussyhats," a reference to Trump's claim in the 2005 video that was made public weeks before the election that he grabbed women by the genitals.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found Trump had the lowest favorability rating of any incoming president since the 1970s.

Women gave a host of reasons for marching, ranging from inspiring other women to run for office to protesting Trump's plans to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which among other things requires health insurers to cover birth control.

Jesse Carlock, 68, a psychologist from Dayton, Ohio was attending her first protest in decades.

"Once Mr. Trump was elected, I decided I needed to get active again, and I hadn't been since the 60s and 70s," Carlock said. "I've got to stand up and be counted as against a lot of what President Trump is saying...about healthcare, immigration, reproductive rights, you name it."

Women said they hoped to send a unity message to Trump after a campaign in which he said Mexican immigrants were "rapists," discussed banning Muslims from entering the United States, and was revealed to have once bragged about grabbing women by the genitals and kissing them without permission.

Trump's team did not respond to a request for comment about the march.

Celebrities such as the musicians Janelle Monae and Katy Perry - both of whom supported Clinton in the election - are expected to take part in Saturday's march.

The march organizers said they had extensive security plans in place, and would have both visible and hard-to-spot security workers along the route.


President Trump Marks First Day with Celebrations, Orders

Donald Trump has attended three inaugural balls in Washington, marking an end to his first day in office.

He told the many supporters gathered at the balls that his first day as commander-in-chief was great: “People that weren’t so nice to me were saying that we did a really good job today.

“It’s like God was looking down on us,” he said.

With his wife, Melania, the first couple danced to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” before being joined on stage by deputy president, Mike Pence, and his wife and Trump family members.

The newly installed president asked the crowd whether he should keep his Twitter account going, to roars of apparent approval. He said his all-hours tweeting to his more than 20 million followers was “a way of bypassing dishonest media”.

The balls followed Trump issuing his first executive orders from the Oval Office where he directed government agencies to “ease the burden” of the Affordable Care Act on Friday night. The new president campaigned on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with “something terrific”.

In addition, new White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued a memo on Friday night directing an immediate “regulatory freeze” to prevent federal agencies from issuing any new regulations. This echoed Trump’s pledge to repeal two existing regulations for new government regulation imposed by his administration.

However, these actions fell far short of the big promises Trump made for his first day in office on the campaign trail.

Trump took pleasure in boasting about the feats he would accomplish in his first 24 hours in the Oval Office, ranging from building a wall on the US-Mexico border to promises to announce a renegotiation of Nafta and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

There was also a broad statement that he would “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama”.

On Friday, however, the reality seemed far more restrained. Many of the first steps for the new administration had been postponed until Monday morning, three days after he assumed office. With a slow transition process that did not lead to the announcement of a full cabinet until the day before the inauguration, members of the new administration tamped down on expectations.

The vice-president, Mike Pence, said as much on Wednesday, telling CNN the administration’s first day really wouldn’t be Friday or even Saturday. “I think you can expect that President Donald Trump will hit the ground running on day one come Monday morning,” he said.

A source familiar with the transition indicated to the Guardian that many administration staffers would not even begin their orientation until Monday, although it was noted that appointees in many key positions were poised to be sworn in at 12.01pm Friday.

Some administration priorities are likely to wait for months. Although Trump has long insisted he will move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a source familiar with administration foreign policy indicated that no such step was likely for months and would in any case wait for Trump’s pick for US ambassador, David Friedman, to be confirmed.

Friedman is not scheduled to receive a hearing until February and is unlikely to be confirmed until March at the earliest.

Surprisingly, for all of Trump’s promises for executive action on his first day, he signed his first bill hours before his first executive order. Shortly after taking the oath of office Trump, signed a law that would give Gen James Mattis, his nominee for defense secretary, the needed waiver to serve in a ceremony in the Capitol. US law requires any potential defense secretary to have been retired from the military for seven years. Mattis retired from the marines in 2014.

At the inauguration celebrations, supporters did not to focus on specifics. Many touted their belief in the new president’s ability to bring back jobs and, of course, “make America great again”.Trump has long pledged to “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur”, adding: “All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.”

He has shown no indication that he might relent, or indeed delay any such action. In an interview with the Sunday Times of London, he indicated one of his first orders as president would involve enhanced border security, one of the mainstays of his staunchly conservative policy agenda on immigration.

“One of the first orders I’m gonna sign – day one … is gonna be strong borders,” Trump said. “We don’t want people coming in from Syria who we don’t know who they are. You know there’s no way of vetting these people. I don’t want to do what Germany did.”

In October 2015, Trump said such refugees “could be Isis”. Among refugee advocates, concern is widespread.

“One of our biggest concerns is not only the damage Trump can do at home, but what he means for other countries,” said Grace Meng, a senior immigration researcher at Human Rights Watch’s US program.

“We know that there are politicians in western European countries as well as other countries around the world who see him as a model for really anti-rights, anti-refugee policy.” 

The US has admitted only a small number of Syrian refugees who have fled the country since 2011. In the 2016 fiscal year, Obama admitted 12,587 refugees from Syria, slightly above the 10,000 admittances targeted. In the 2017 fiscal year, starting in October 2016, 3,566 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the US.

A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in Washington said there were more than 60,000 Syrian refugees awaiting resettlement in the US whose fate remains entirely unclear under the incoming administration.

UNHCR is responsible for selecting individuals for resettlement following application interviews. Such individuals are then screened by agencies including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), subjected to biometric security checks and interviewed by DHS agents. The process can take up to two years.

Immigration hawks hope Trump will move towards a lengthy or even permanent moratorium on such arrivals.

“For most Americans, if we did not admit refugees for five years while we explored the problem of vetting in this unique circumstance, most people would not shed a tear,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a conservative immigration thinktank to which Trump transition adviser Kris Kobach serves as a legal counsel.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative migrant research organization, said he hoped a moratorium would also be placed on refugees from Somalia and Iraq.

“If it were me, I would reassess the whole idea of refugee resettlement, which I think is mistaken because the vast majority of people we resettle are not in some kind of emergency need of a new place to stay,” Krikorian said.

Trump has provided scant details regarding the “extreme vetting” he would seek to implement. In a campaign speech in Arizona, he advocated new screening tests that might provide an “ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people”.

Krikorian acknowledged that the national security benefits of such a scheme were likely to “be on the margins” but said he supported the proposal nonetheless.

“It’s just a return to a cold war approach to excluding ideological enemies of the United States,” he said.


S.C. Transportation Chief Has Plan for Safer Rural Roads

South Carolina's Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall says she's working to reduce the high death toll on South Carolina's roads, especially in rural areas. Hall presented plans for the Rural Road Safety Program at the monthly South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) Commission meeting recently, outlining the plan.

"South Carolina has the deadliest roads in the nation. Nearly 30% of our rural fatal and serious injury crashes take place on just 5% of our highway system outside of our urban areas," Hall said. "Our Interstate highways and U.S. primary routes in our rural areas are the deadliest roads in the state.”

Hall suggests that $50 million in annual funding would be a healthy start to reduce highway deaths on rural South Carolina roads. She proposes that targeting 1,957 of these roads with solutions such as rumble strips, raised pavement markings, high reflective signs, wider pavement markings, guardrail, specialized pavement treatments, wider shoulders, paved shoulders, wider clear zones adjacent to the roadways and relocating drainage ditches further away from roadways.

Hall believes that real changes can be implemented with the collaborative effort of everyone, including drivers and state and local law enforcement.

“If all of us work together and do our part," said Hall, "We can make South Carolina’s roads safer."

An outline of the Rural Road Safety Program presentation is here.


Inauguration Events Start Today for New President

Donald Trump is due to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Thousands of people have travelled to Washington DC to watch the events in person – or to participate in protests against them.

6am: Security screening gates open to the public. Ticket holders will enter one of six areas, depending on the colour of their ticket, according to the joint congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies (JCCIC). 

Trump will begin the day by going to a service at St John’s church and then having coffee with Barack Obama (along with Melania and the First Lady).

7am: The Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition is planning a protest at Freedom Plaza.

11.30am: The swearing-in ceremony begins. The United States Marine Band will play first, according to the inauguration programme. There will be readings by faith leaders and remarks from the Missouri senator Roy Blunt, chair of the JCCIC. The Missouri State University Chorale will play, before the vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, takes the oath of office. Next comes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Midday: Trump will be sworn in around this time. The oath of office will be administered by the chief justice, John Roberts. Trump then gives his inaugural address and additional readings. Jackie Evancho, 16, who rose to fame on the TV show America’s Got Talent, will sing the national anthem.

A few notable anticipated attendees at the ceremony include Rosalynn Carter, Jimmy Carter, Laura Bush, George W Bush, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton.

Afternoon: The JCCIC has planned the traditional inaugural luncheon, to take place in National Statuary Hall at the Capitol. Four years ago Obama and guests dined on steamed lobster and hickory grilled bison. The menu for this year’s luncheon includes Maine lobster and Gulf shrimp, Seven Hills Angus beef, and chocolate soufflé and cherry vanilla ice cream for dessert.

3pm: The inaugural parade. There has been some controversy over a few of the groups slated to perform, including the marching band from Talladega College, a historically black college in Alabama, and the Marist College Band, from Poughkeepsie, New York. Additional college and high school bands and other groups from around the country will participate, as well as national groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, Wounded Warrior Project, and representatives from each military branch, to name a few.

Evening: The Trumps and Pences will attend three official inaugural balls, according to the presidential inaugural committee. Two, titled “Liberty and Freedom: The Official Presidential Inaugural Balls”, will be held at the Walter E Washington Convention Centre, with Sam Moore, the Piano Guys and the Rockettes listed among the performers. The Salute To Our Armed Services Ball will take place at the National Building Museum.

Unofficial events are also planned. The Creative Coalition has hosted a bipartisan inauguration night gala fundraiser for the past 20 years, and this year is no different. It lists a number of celebrity hosts, including the actors Tim Daly, John Leguizamo and Christina Hendricks. The Great Gatsby Presidential Inaugural Ball, hosted by Dardanella, a party company, will take place at the National Portrait Gallery. Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington will host its Pink Ball at the Carol Whitehill Moses Centre, and the Anti-Inauguration will take place at the Lincoln theatre, according to the Washington Post.

Protests #DisruptJ20 says it will hold a few events on the day, including a Festival of Resistance, which will march from Union station to McPherson Square; other protests are also planned.


10am: An interfaith prayer service will be held at Washington’s National Cathedral.

At the same time, the Women’s March on Washington sets off from the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street SW, near the US Capitol. More than 200,000 people are expected to participate. March organisers announced a lengthy list of speakers for the event including: Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; television host Janet Mock; Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council; activist Angela Davis; actors America Ferrera and Scarlett Johansson and many, many more. There will also be performances by Janelle Monae and Maxwell, among others.

Numerous “sister marches” are planned across the country and around the world.

Evening The Anti-Ball, a benefit concert for Planned Parenthood, takes place at the Black Cat.


Online Program Could Ease Ringing in Ears Problems

An online program that "trains" the brain may help people cope with the constant ringing in the ears called tinnitus, a small study suggests.

People with tinnitus can have poorer working memory, deficiencies in attention, and slower mental processing speeds and reaction times. However, an internet-based program to improve mental acuity appeared to help them deal with the bothersome ear noise, researchers said.

"Fifty percent of the patients in the study reported improvements in memory, attention and ability to deal with tinnitus," said study co-author Dr. Jay Piccirillo. He's a professor of otolaryngology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present, according to the American Tinnitus Association.

While it's referred to as "ringing in the ears," tinnitus can cause many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing and clicking. In some cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music.

Tinnitus can be temporary or ongoing. Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country, according to the association.

For the study, Piccirillo and his colleagues randomly assigned 40 adults who had bothersome tinnitus for more than six months to the online Brain Fitness Program-Tinnitus program, or a non-tinnitus program.

The Brain Fitness Program-Tinnitus is a mental training program designed to use the brain's ability to improve thinking and memory skills, the researchers said.

In addition, 20 healthy patients took part in the study for comparison purposes.

Those using the online program spent an hour a day on it, five days a week for eight weeks.

The program is made up of 11 interactive training exercises, including simple sound stimuli, continuous speech and visual stimuli. The goal is to get people to stop paying attention to their tinnitus and let it fade into the background.

Half of those who completed the online program said they felt there were improvements in their tinnitus as well as improvements in memory, attention and concentration, compared with patients who didn't use the program, Piccirillo said.

The program exercises the brain, he said.

"We think it works by the ability of the brain to change itself based on input," Piccirillo said. "It doesn't take the tinnitus away. We believe it strengthens the parts of the brain that are used in attention. It trains the ability to stop paying attention to tinnitus."

The report was published online Jan. 19 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

More information 

For more on tinnitus, visit the American Tinnitus Association.


Study: Teens Who Get Mental Health Services Have Less Drepression

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, have found that teenagers who have access to mental health services are less likely to become clinically depressed.

The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge's Department of Psychiatry, followed 1,238 14-year-old teens and their primary caregivers through age 17, assessing their mental state and behavior.

The teens who had access to mental health services had a greater decrease in depressive symptoms than those without access.

Roughly 11 percent or 126 teens had a diagnosed mental illness at the beginning of the study and 38 percent or 48 teens had contact with mental health services in the year prior to the study.

Results from the study showed that levels of depressive symptoms in teens who had access to mental health services after three years were the same as the 996 teens in the study without diagnosed mental health disorders.

By the age of 17, researchers found a seven times higher rate of teens reporting having clinical depression among those who had no access to mental health services than those who did.

"Mental illness can be a terrible burden on individuals, but our study shows clearly that if we intervene at an early stage, we can see potentially dramatic improvements in adolescents' symptoms of depression and reduce the risk that they go on to develop severe depressive illness," Sharon Neufeld, a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and first author of the study, said in a press release.

The study differed from previous research into how mental health services play a role in improving mental health in teens by accounting for the diagnosis of a mental health disorder.

"The emphasis going forward should be on early detection and intervention to help mentally-ill teens in schools, where there is now an evidence base for psychosocial intervention," Professor Ian Goodyer, lead author of the study, said in a press release. "We need to ensure, however, that there is a clear pathway for training and supervision of school-based psychological workers and strong connections to NHS child and adolescent mental health services for those teens who will need additional help."

The study was published in Lancet Psychiatry.


Corporate Leaders Ask S.C. to Fix Roads, Improve Workforce

Business leaders from across South Carolina huddled with lawmakers Wednesday to push their agenda for the coming legislative session.

The Business Speaks event was sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Officials from companies like Boeing, Michelin, Sonoco, SCE&G, Spirit Communications and the South Carolina Ports Authority received a State House tour and met with the leadership of the General Assembly, including powerful Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, R-Darlington. They later enjoyed a private reception at The Palmetto Club.

Among the issues discussed were:

▪  Taking steps to improve the state’s workforce, such as eliminating state income tax rate for military retirees and initiating ex-offender workforce integration programs.

▪  Identifying sustainable, long-term funding to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges. The options include removing the sales tax exemption on motor fuel and raising the sales tax exemption cap on vehicles.

▪  Simplifying the state’s business licensing process by initiating one form, one expiration date and the ability to file online through the Secretary of State.

“We have to take steps to make our state's climate more business-friendly and competitive,” Chamber chief executive Ted Pitts said.


Haley Says in Hearings Russia Cannot Be Trusted

South Carolina Gov. Nikki HaleyDonald Trump's pick to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed a view of Russia at her confirmation hearing Wednesday that differs somewhat from her president-elect boss's.

Haley, who would become the United States' top diplomat to the international body, made it clear during questioning that she would tell her Russian counterpart in no uncertain terms that some of the things the Kremlin has pulled is not acceptable.

Moscow has butted international heads for the last couple years over issues, like the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its purported attempt to sway the U.S. presidential election to get Trump in the White House.

"I don't think that we can trust them," she said.

That line of thinking is at least somewhat different than Trump's. Since last month, the president-elect has been non-committal about punishing Russia and has stated a belief that Moscow and President Vladimir Putin can be strong U.S. allies.

Another issue that Haley has disagreed with Trump about is his controversial remark about keeping all Muslims from entering the United States. Haley said she does disagree with such a prohibition, but clarified that Trump is not looking for a blanket ban.

"He does believe that we should be conscious as we are looking at the refugee crisis, and that we do not take any people from areas of threat" she said.

During the hearing, Haley also expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama's administration allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution last month to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council voted 14-0 to pass Resolution 2334, a condemnation of ongoing construction of Israeli settlements in disputed Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The United States abstained from voting -- which critics have likened to supporting the resolution.

"Nowhere has the U.N.'s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel," Haley said. "I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel. I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States."

Trump has repeatedly been critical of the United Nations, particularly the amount of funding the United States provides. Haley also criticized the "disproportionate" funding.

"We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.'s budget, far more than any other country," Haley said. "We are a generous nation. But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution."

Haley, 44, the daughter of Indian immigrants who was born in Bamberg, S.C., has little foreign policy experience but has worked on domestic trade and labor issues. Her foreign policy work centers on negotiating with international companies seeking development deals in South Carolina and leading seven overseas trade missions during her two terms as governor.


S.C. High Court Rules McMaster Can't Pick Successor

The state Supreme Court has made it clear that Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster can't pick his successor if Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed as U.N. ambassador.

Justices ruled Wednesday a constitutional amendment changing the lines of succession won't take effect until the 2018 election. That means the state constitution still calls on the Senate's leader to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office, requiring Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman to do some maneuvering to keep his powerful leadership post.

He refuses to become lieutenant governor.

Sen. Tom Davis had asked the justices to settle a discrepancy on when the voter-approved change took effect. Leatherman initially asked the justices to decide nothing unless McMaster is actually sworn in.

Republican Sen. Kevin Bryant is expected to move into the role.


Holiday Ice Skating Closes Another Strong Season

Holiday Ice wrapped up its second year in Carolina Wren Park with skaters from approximately 30 states and more than 70 cities and towns strapping on skates between November and January.

“We were very pleased with our operation this year,” Bobby Beville, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Anderson said. “Some weather challenges did cause a slight dip in our overall attendance, but our revenues remained steady thanks to the addition of First Citizens Bank as a major sponsor. And from the delighted looks on the faces of skaters and the crowds, we can say that it was a huge success.” 

Of the nearly 4,300 skaters tracked by the parks and recreation staff, about two-thirds of them were under 17.

“You can tell from those numbers that the overall impact of visitors to our downtown was great,” Beville said. “Since so many skaters were young, that means at least an equal number of adult observers came to the park, bringing families and neighbors out to enjoy downtown.”  

One addition to the venue this year was a smaller “kiddie rink” which allowed two and three year-olds to skate. 

Plans are already underway to attract skaters from the entire region next year.

“We’ve had good participation from our bordering counties in Georgia the past two years and we see it as an opportunity to promote the venue even more in those areas,” Beville said. “If they come to skate, chances are they come to eat and shop also, so it is good all around.”

Carolina Wren Park is home to other special events during the year including “The Block Party,” “Shakespeare in the Park,” “Movie Night” and “Sounds in the Park.”


House Plan Would Raise $600 Million for S.C. Roads

South Carolina's House leaders say their latest road-funding plan would eventually add more than $600 million yearly into roadwork.

The proposal introduced Wednesday would raise the gas tax by 10 cents, to 26 cents per gallon, over five years. It would also increase the sales tax cap on vehicles, impose fees on hybrid and electric vehicles, and create a fee on out-of-state truckers, based on the miles they drive while passing through South Carolina.

House Speaker Jay Lucas says the legislation ensures every driver who uses South Carolina's roadways helps pay for them.

Other co-sponsors include House Majority Leader Gary Simrill and Ways and Means Chairman Brian White.

The House previously passed a road-funding plan that included a gas tax increase in 2015, but it was blocked in the Senate.


Clemson Research Could Help Dialysis Patients

One of the biggest risks that patients face when they undergo dialysis is coming into focus with the start of a five-year project aimed at building and testing a simulator that could revolutionize how nurses and technicians are trained.

The $717,000 project is led by Joseph Singapogu, a Clemson University research assistant professor of bioengineering who learned of the need for a simulator while shadowing David Cull of Greenville Health System. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health.

The simulator will be designed to teach students to find the fistulas that serve as lifelines for patients whose kidneys have failed and need dialysis to survive. It’s a critical skill because missing the mark with the needle can cause serious complications.

Just as important as developing the simulator, researchers will be studying how effective it is in teaching nurses and technicians the skills they need to serve patients, Singapogu said.

Patients typically need dialysis three times per week. Most patients are connected to the dialysis machine through a fistula, which is a vein and artery that have been surgically connected.

Finding a fistula can be a challenge when it’s buried deep in the flesh. The needle that goes into the fistula is large, which enhances the risk for complications. Going all the way through the vein or off to the side can cause a lot of bleeding.

The arm might swell. If the fistula clots, the patient might have to be connected to the dialysis machine through a catheter that is inserted into the jugular, raising the risk of blood infection.

The idea behind the study is to help find new ways of avoiding complications by better training nurses and technicians. When they use the simulator, nurses and technicians will learn to feel for vibrations in the fistula and then map out its direction, all with their sense of touch.

The prototype simulator that the team has developed is round and about the width of a car tire.

A sheet of cured silicone that simulates the flesh is laid over several tubes that are spaced out on a platform and simulate fistulas. The same kind of motor that makes cell phones buzz creates the vibration.

Later versions of the simulator will measure the needle’s motion, force, angle and location. The simulator will be connected to a virtual mentoring system that will give trainees feedback on how they are doing.


Lawmaker Wants Clemson Championship License Plate

Clemson fans will get to celebrate the Tigers' national championship year-round if a bill put forth by an Upstate senator passes. Sen. Harvey Peeler submitted a bill to commemorate the 2016 College Football Playoff National Champions on a license plate. 

If passes, Peeler's bill would press Clemson University to design the plate and submit it to the state Department of Motor Vehicles for final approval. 

"I am a Clemson graduate, proud of what Coach Dabo Swinney and his team accomplished this season and want to provide the opportunity for all South Carolinians to show their pride," Peeler said in a statement.