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Monday
Dec222014

Downtown Belton Still Cleaning Up from Tanker Spill

Belton police said several blocks along Main and Thompson Streets remained closed Monday morning as hazmat crews  clean up a fuel spill after a fuel tanker overturned. The incident happened around 8:45 a.m. Sunday at the intersection of Main and Thompson Streets. Dispatchers said no injuries were reported.

Police chief Tommy Clamp said officers closed Main Street between Blake and River Street. The entrance to Thompson street was also closed. As of 11 a.m. Clamp said fire and hazmat crews had managed to stop the fuel leak but still had a "substantial" cleanup process to complete. Clamp said the truck was carrying approximately 8,200 gallons of fuel. Crews suspect around half that amount spilled from the tanker. Clamp said crews would have to safely drain the tanker before the truck could be towed from the scene.

Sunday
Dec212014

Sony: "The Interview" Release Delayed, not Cancelled

Sony says it will release the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy 'The Interview' mere days after it announced the film would not in theaters for its scheduled Christmas release date.

Sony cancelled the film's release last week after the hackers threatened real-world attacks on cinemas screening it.

'Sony only delayed this,' said company attorney David Boies on today's NBC's Meet the Press.

President Obama later said Sony had made a mistake in cancelling the movie, and that he would have intervened to make sure it went ahead.

The hackers leaked embarrassing emails between Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin joking in a racially insensitive manner about Obama's film tastes.

'Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed,' he said, according to The Daily Beast. 'It will be distributed.' 

Sunday
Dec212014

Doctors Hope Christmas Break Slows Spread of Flu

School systems across South Carolina say they are happy for the Christmas break for a different reason this year - it provides a good chance to stop a flu outbreak.

Several school districts warned parents of a high number of absences before the break started because of the flu.

The peak of flu season is usually in January or February, but the state Department of Health and Environmental Control said the flu is currently widespread across South Carolina.

Some health officials say the flu is worse this season because doctors chose the wrong strain to put into the flu vaccine.

DHEC also says this year's flu strain is affecting younger people.

Doctors hope the break for Christmas allows the flu's spread to slow down.

Sunday
Dec212014

Saying Goodbye to Late Night's Brightest Mind

From Where I Sit

By Greg Wilson

I said goodbye to an old friend, Friday night. Makes little difference I never met the man.

Craig Ferguson signed off his final “Late, Late, Show” on CBS Friday night with the same tv-is-not-to-be-taken-seriously attitude that marked his 10-year run. You can catch it on cbs.com if you haven’t already heard the payoff.

But while Ferguson was the master of silly, his approach to deconstructing the format to which he was attached was unmatched.

“I do a show,” Ferguson once said. “It comes on late at night on TV. And if that means I'm a late-night talk show host, then I guess I am, but in every other regard I resign my commission, I don't care for it.”

As someone who started watching late night televison when Jack Parr was a year away from handing over the reigns to Johnny Carson, who (even though his wishes were ignored) passed the torch (if not the tonight show) to David Letterman 30 years later, there is no one I will miss more than Craig Ferguson.

It was Letterman’s brilliant, snarky, mocking of the talk show format that built the platform from which Ferguson launched the neutron bomb which blew up completely up.

From tearing up the screener’s questions on air before every interview, to his never-ending stream of consciousness monologues which generally reached the desk afterward, he was never a part the joke machine fraternity that even the best of the others who populate the format have not overcome.

During the last weeks he got a haircut (he called it “more mohawk, less anchorman”) which he asked the audience if it made him look more Samuel Beckett or Adolf Hitler. Actually, his resemblance to Beckett was striking. All the while he engaged in conversation with Geoff Peterson, his gay robot skeleton sidekick (and his dozens of spot-on celebrity voice impersonations) who shared the spotlight with Ferguson across the stage from two guys in a horse suit for the last half of the shows run.

Don’t get me wrong, Ferguson is wickedly funny. I have seen most of the top-tier stand ups, from acts at the Comedy Cellar in New York City and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the high dollar tours of legends like Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart. None of them can match the raw energy and diamond precision madness of one of Ferguson’s live shows. At one 90-minute set, I was astounded that he managed to get funnier and funnier as the night went on. Think Robin Williams channeling Steven Wright and Sam Kinnison with Dick Cavett as a writer and you might pick up some of the energy Ferguson generates on stage.

And he brought a lot of that to his CBS show. But what always set him apart from the others with a monologue, a desk and guests, was how he was never shy about injecting thoughtful quotes, ideas and sometimes even serious guests into the madness.

Just last week, after being censored for cursing about some news story, he tossed out “the more humanity advances, the more it is degraded,” a quote from Gustave Flaubert and maybe the most acute analysis of our age.

In 2013, after asking Stephen King to autograph a book live on the air, Ferguson proceeded to discuss the Jungian nature of King’s work and ask him about Jung’s “Red Book.”

My personal favorite quote, though was after a beautiful dissecting of why this generation is the first society that worships youth, or in his words, why everything sucks:

“I’ve figured it out. I’ve figured it out What? Everything. Why everything sucks.
Here’s why. In the 1950s, late ’50s, early ’60s, a bunch of advertising guys got together on Madison Avenue and decided to try to sell products to younger people. We should try to sell to younger people because then they will buy things their whole lives. We’ll try to sell them soft drinks, or bread, or cigars — or whatever the hell they were trying to sell them. It was just an advertising thing, they didn’t mean any harm by it, just a bit of market research.

So they told the television companies, and the movie companies, and the record companies — and everybody started targeting the youth. Because the youth was the place where you were going to be able to sell things.

What happened was, in a strange kind of quirk of fate, youth began to be celebrated by society. This was in a way that it had never been at any time in human history. What used to be celebrated was experience, and cleverness. But what became valuable was youth — and the quality of youth was being a consumer.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying “but wait a minute, Craig, in Ancient Greece they deified youth.” No they didn’t. They deified beauty. Different.

What happened is youth became more important and became more important. Society started to turn on its head. Because youth has a byproduct — inexperience. By the nature of youth you don’t have any experience. It’s not your fault. You’re just kind of stupid.

So the deification of youth evolved, and turned into the deification of imbecility. It became fashionable to be young and to be stupid. And that grew, and that grew, and that grew, and now that’s what all the kids want to be. “I just want to be young and stupid!” But you know what? That’s not what you want to be. You do not want to be young and stupid.

Then what happened is that people were frightened to not be young. They started dyeing their hair, they started mutilating their faces and their bodies in order to look young. But you can’t be young forever, that’s against the laws of the universe. To try to make yourself younger is to buy into the idea that young people are somehow better, and they’re not.”

Amen. When I heard this rant, I wondered where were the other voices that should be shouting this (until I remembered they are all getting facelifts and dyeing their hair to look good for the next campaign cycle.)

But Ferguson himself trended mostly toward modesty. He once said: “I'm a terrible interviewer. “I'm not a journalist - although I have a Peabody Award - and I'm not really a late-night host. What I am is honest.”

He was only partially right. His Peabody was for a stunningly strong interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu, one which he introduced with the the most amazing summary of what had happened in South Africa over the past 500 years. And he did it in five clever minutes. No monolog that night, no cue cards, telepromters, just passionate conversations with one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

He also managed to put any guest willing to be honest at ease. And so many were. Those who were not, he forced to think on their feet. He talked about what interested him, and pulled them into conversations.

And Ferguson was never afraid to talk about his own battle with addiction and his 25 great years of sobriety, his divorces and career struggles. He also was never one to pile on to those in trouble for some of the same things.

In 2007, while the rest of the late night world tore Britney Spears apart for her breakdown, Ferguson dedicated his monologue to defending her, opening up about his alcoholism, drug abuse and near suicide. He spent a whole episode each to eulogize his parents after their individual deaths. A man so enthusiastic in his patriotism that he reminded us every day that it was, in fact, a great day for America, he dedicated his first show back after being granted United States citizenship to his new status, including a taped segment on the ceremony and a pipe and drums performance by The Wicked Tinkers, which Ferguson joined in on to prove he was still just as Scottish as he was American.

And yet, after 2,058 episodes, Ferguson and what he did still defies an easy definition. It’s not something that makes talking point conversation around the water cooler. And that is exactly the point. Those of us who discovered Ferguson and his brand of brainy, compassionate insanity and have made it a part of our late night (or dvr) lives, are left with great memories and a nagging hope that he will return again soon, reinventing the talk show format yet again. Until that time, Beannachd Dia dhuit, Craig.

Sunday
Dec212014

Tanker Overturns, Closing Main Street in Belton

Belton police said several blocks along Main Street would likely be closed for several hours Sunday as hazmat crews work to clean up a fuel spill after a fuel tanker overturned. The incident happened around 8:45 a.m. at the intersection of Main and Thompson Streets. Dispatchers said no injuries were reported.

Police chief Tommy Clamp said officers closed Main Street between Blake and River Street. As of 11 a.m. Clamp said fire and hazmat crews had managed to stop the fuel leak but still had a "substantial" cleanup process to complete. Clamp said the truck was carrying approximately 8,200 gallons of fuel. Crews suspect around half that amount spilled from the tanker.

Clamp said crews would have to safely drain the tanker before the truck could be towed from the scene. He expected the cleanup process to take several hours.
Anderson County Emergency Services said there was no immediate threat to the public but responders evacuated one residence and a small assisted living facility nearby as a precaution.

DHEC, police, several fire departments, the Anderson County Hazmat team, the Anderson County Sheriff's Office and Anderson County Emergency Management were all working to clean the spill and keep people in the area safe, Clamp said.

FOX Carolina's crew at the scene said businesses and restaurants were closed along that area of Main Street. Entrances to the Belton Church of God and city park were also blocked.

Saturday
Dec202014

Independent-Mail Poll: Most Want to Stop Preston Suit

From Anderson Independent-Mail

Votes in the poll were tallied from last Sunday until Friday at noon. All told, 1,967 people voted in that period. Of those, 1,423 people said the county should not continue the appeal. Another 506 people said the county should continue the appeal, while 38 people said they were unsure. The numbers show that 72 percent of respondents in the poll do not support continuing the appeal, and 26 percent believe the county should go forward with it. Two percent of voters said they were unsure what should happen.

Full Story Here at Independent-Mail

Friday
Dec192014

Salvation Army Robbed of Christmas Toys

Someone broke in and stole gifts from the Salvation Army on Pearman Dairy Road sometime after 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office.

At least five bikes and a bag of toys were stolen, according to John Crosby with the Salvation Army.

These gifts were supposed to be distributed to children in need this Christmas, Crosby said. The Salvation Army Angel Tree program helps around 1,200 children each year.

An incident report from the Sheriff's Office says it appeared that a rock was used to break a window, and that's likely how the person entered the building.

The Salvation Army is still in the process of conducting a full inventory to see if anything else was taken.

Friday
Dec192014

Bill Would Decriminalize Possession of Pot in S.C.

A bill prefiled in the South Carolina House would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Instead of being arrested and facing possible jail time, someone caught with one ounce or less of marijuana would be given a ticket to appear in civil court. The fine for a first offense would be at least $100 but no more than $200. The fine for a second offense would be at least $200 but no more than $1,000.

Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, is the sponsor of the bill and a retired Greenville Police officer. He says it may surprise people that he would introduce a bill like this. "As a law enforcement officer, the biggest thing that I see is a person can be arrested for a small amount, a half-a-joint, for instance; criminal record stays there forever unless they have it expunged," he says.

"I never once had to fight a pothead. I never once had to chase a pothead. They just did not create problems. The only problems they created were for themselves,” he says.

But State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel says, "As a law enforcement officer, I'm not going to be in favor of any legislation that encourages the possession of narcotics by our young people."

Rep. Pitts says it's important to remember that his bill would not legalize marijuana. It would still be against the law to have it. "It's not something I would recommend doing, but it's not something that should be a criminal offense that hangs over a person's head for a lifetime," he says.

He says an ounce of marijuana takes up about one-third of a typical sandwich-sized plastic bag.

State lawmakers go into session January 12.

Friday
Dec192014

Bill Would Remove Cap on Whistleblowers in S.C. 

Nearly a quarter of the 82 bills pre-filed Thursday in the S.C. House of Representatives centered on ethics, including a proposal to strengthen the state’s whistleblower law.

The proposal would remove the $2,000 cap on a reward that whistleblowers could receive and eliminate the $15,000 cap on legal fees.

“It recognizes that state employees who step forward ... reporting wrongdoing or abuse in state government should be protected,” said state Rep. Laurie Funderburk, D-Kershaw, who filed the bill.

The bill was one of 19 that emerged from the the ethics study committee created by Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, after former Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, was charged with misusing campaign money for personal expenses. Subsequently, Harrell entered a guilty plea and resigned.

Funderburk said the changes to the whistleblower law would create incentives for public-sector employees to report abuse and wrongdoing in government.

The existing reward, capped at $2,000, may not be enough for a worker to come forward and jeopardize their job, Funderburk said.

Full Story Here


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/12/19/3882410_sc-house-bill-aims-to-protect.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
Thursday
Dec182014

Senate: Forgiving Loans = Keeping Good Teachers

South Carolina could recruit and keep more good teachers by forgiving student loans, paying teacher mentors a stipend and boosting some teachers' salaries, a Senate study panel says.

Its leader, Sen. Wes Hayes, said Wednesday the state should focus such initiatives in rural districts where's it's particularly hard to fill classrooms with high-quality teachers. Rural districts pay less than their urban and suburban counterparts while also offering less in the community, senators said.

They discussed expanding loan-forgiveness programs, saying high debt may dissuade some students from a teaching career. Hayes, R-Rock Hill, called it a back-door way to pay more.

Current programs are limited and require education majors to apply upfront for loans that are forgiven over time as they teach. Sen. Brad Hutto said more would-be teachers should also be able to benefit from loan forgiveness or better rates on existing loans.

"People shouldn't be penalized just because they decide later to be a teacher," said Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

South Carolina ranks 10th highest nationwide in college debt, with students graduating from a four-year school with an average debt of nearly $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. South Carolina's minimum pay for first-year teachers is just $29,500 a year, though many districts pay several thousand more.

The director of South Carolina's Center for Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, known as CERRA, said the state should put more into mentoring new teachers and "homegrown" initiatives such as Teacher Cadet, which encourages high-achieving high school students to pursue teaching.

"The more we can recruit students to become teachers from a community, the more likely they are to go back to that community to teach," said Jane Turner, director of CERRA, based at Winthrop University.

Mentoring programs can provide young teachers the support they need to be successful and prevent them from leaving the profession, Turner said. Senators discussed offering teachers deemed highly effective a stipend to be a mentor.

They also discussed boosting salaries for teachers in their first through 10th year of teaching, or paying teachers more in their final years of teaching. Under the state's minimum salary schedule, step increases end at 22 years in the classroom. A teacher who holds a bachelor's degree tops out at $45,400, and a master's degree teacher tops out at $51,400. More prosperous districts, however, use local property taxes to continue to pay for additional years of experience.

Full Story Here


Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2014/12/18/3494815_senators-erasing-debt-could-recruit.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
Thursday
Dec182014

Spearman Adds Two Ex-Democratic Staffers

South Carolina’s new schools chief, Republican Molly Spearman, will take office in January with a new team of deputies, including two former state officials who worked in Democratic administrations.

Spearman has tapped Betsy Carpentier to be her chief of staff at the S.C. Department of Education, her transition team said Wednesday.

Carpentier directed the S.C. Department of Revenue under Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges from 1999 to 2003. She then worked in the Education Department from 2003-11, mostly as a deputy superintendent for school innovation for Democrats Inez Tenenbaum and Jim Rex and, briefly, for outgoing Republican superintendent Mick Zais. 

Spearman was a deputy superintendent under Tenenbaum when Carpentier came to the agency. The pair worked at the agency for about a year before Spearman left for a job at the S.C. Association of School Administrators, where she is the outgoing executive director.

Also joining Spearman’s team is Julie Gore Fowler, an assistant superintendent in the Greenwood 51 school district, and Angela Bain, a human resources officer for Lexington-Richland 5 school district, education consultant, and former Education Department official under Tenenbaum.

Fowler and Bain are expected to be two of Spearman’s deputies.

The agency’s third deputy superintendent position currently is vacant. Spearman hopes to announce an appointment soon, said Ryan Brown, a spokesman with Spearman’s transition team. 


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2014/12/17/3880008_sc-poltics-new-schools-chief-adds.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
Thursday
Dec182014

Duke to Move 3.2 Million Tons of Ash from Saluda River Pits

The Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday announced an agreement in principle with Duke Energy for the utility to remove all of the coal ash at its W.S. Lee facility from the banks of the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson, South Carolina, to safer dry, lined storage away from the river.

“With this announcement, our advocacy and litigation have obtained commitments from all public utilities in South Carolina to clean up leaking coal ash lagoons on South Carolina’s rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “This is a historic accomplishment for South Carolina’s rivers and clean water.”

Based on the agreement Duke Energy has committed to moving  3.2 million tons of ash in pits along the Saluda River to dry, lined storage away from waterway, including the ash in two leaking lagoons and in an ash storage area near the lagoons.

The W.S. Lee Steam Station, which was retired in November, was Duke Energy’s last remaining coal-fired plant in South Carolina.

In North Carolina, Duke is required (under the Coal Ash Management Act) to clean-up  just four of the 14 coal ash storage sites in the state.  The state’s Coal Ash Management Commission will assess the other ten sites and set timetables for their clean-up.

The Coal Ash Management Commission is scheduled to meet again on January 14th in Raleigh.
- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/12/18/duke-energy-agrees-to-clean-up-coal-ash-sites-in-south-carolina/#sthash.bcUS7x5z.dpuf

The Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday announced an agreement in principle with Duke Energy for the utility to remove all of the coal ash at its W.S. Lee facility from the banks of the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson, South Carolina, to safer dry, lined storage away from the river.

“With this announcement, our advocacy and litigation have obtained commitments from all public utilities in South Carolina to clean up leaking coal ash lagoons on South Carolina’s rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “This is a historic accomplishment for South Carolina’s rivers and clean water.”

Based on the agreement Duke Energy has committed to moving  3.2 million tons of ash in pits along the Saluda River to dry, lined storage away from waterway, including the ash in two leaking lagoons and in an ash storage area near the lagoons.

The W.S. Lee Steam Station, which was retired in November, was Duke Energy’s last remaining coal-fired plant in South Carolina.

In North Carolina, Duke is required (under the Coal Ash Management Act) to clean-up  just four of the 14 coal ash storage sites in the state.  The state’s Coal Ash Management Commission will assess the other ten sites and set timetables for their clean-up.

The Coal Ash Management Commission is scheduled to meet again on January 14th in Raleigh.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/12/18/duke-energy-agrees-to-clean-up-coal-ash-sites-in-south-carolina/#sthash.bcUS7x5z.dpuf

The Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday announced an agreement in principle with Duke Energy for the utility to remove all of the coal ash at its W.S. Lee facility from the banks of the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson, South Carolina, to safer dry, lined storage away from the river.

“With this announcement, our advocacy and litigation have obtained commitments from all public utilities in South Carolina to clean up leaking coal ash lagoons on South Carolina’s rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “This is a historic accomplishment for South Carolina’s rivers and clean water.”

Based on the agreement Duke Energy has committed to moving  3.2 million tons of ash in pits along the Saluda River to dry, lined storage away from waterway, including the ash in two leaking lagoons and in an ash storage area near the lagoons.

The W.S. Lee Steam Station, which was retired in November, was Duke Energy’s last remaining coal-fired plant in South Carolina.

In North Carolina, Duke is required (under the Coal Ash Management Act) to clean-up  just four of the 14 coal ash storage sites in the state.  The state’s Coal Ash Management Commission will assess the other ten sites and set timetables for their clean-up.

The Coal Ash Management Commission is scheduled to meet again on January 14th in Raleigh.

- See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/12/18/duke-energy-agrees-to-clean-up-coal-ash-sites-in-south-carolina/#sthash.bcUS7x5z.dpuf
Thursday
Dec182014

Green Pond Dedication Tomorrow at 2 p.m.

On Friday at 2 p.m., Anderson County will conduct a ribbon cutting & launch christening ceremony for the Green Pond Landing & Event Center, located at 470 Green Pond Road in Anderson. The facility will be open to the public immediately following the ceremony.

“Recreation is a vital part of Anderson County’s future growth,” said Anderson County Vice Chairman Tommy Dunn. “Projects such as Green Pond Landing & Event Center build upon Anderson County’s many assets and natural resources, especially Lake Hartwell. This beautiful facility is a reality today because of the overwhelming support from my fellow Council members, Don Bowen and the Anderson County Legislative Delegation, Anderson County Transportation Committee, US Army Corp of Engineers, SC Department of Natural Resources, Lake Hartwell Natural Resource Trustees, the Heritage Corridor, VisitAnderson and Anderson County staff. Green Pond Landing & Event Center puts on the map for international fishing tournaments and water sports competitions. It is a world class facility and with a world class facility, comes world class events.”
 
Designed by Seamon Whiteside & Associates and constructed by Matrix Construction, Green Pond Landing & Event Center presently includes 3 deep water launch lanes, 175 additional combination vehicle parking spaces, 114-single vehicle parking spaces and exemplifies ADA accessibility.  Upon full completion, on-site amenities will include 3 additional launch lanes, a staging area for tournament weigh-in, drive-thru weigh-in lane, courtesy and weigh-in docks, pavilions, bathroom facilities, terraced amphitheatre, kayak / canoe launch, and fish habitat enhancements through SC DNR.
 
“Today is truly a great day for Anderson County,” said Anderson County Parks Department Manager Matt Schell. We have long desired to establish a premier lakeside event center in the County on the Hartwell Fishery with a close proximity to Interstate 85. As we stand here today preparing to unveil the facility to the public, I am speechless… Well almost! There aren’t powerful enough words to thank our partners for seeing this vision through to the realization of the Green Pond Landing & Event Center.”
 
Green Pond is conveniently located 4 miles from Interstate 85, less than 2 miles from SC 24 and SC 187, within 8 miles of more than 30 hotels, motels, and campgrounds including countless restaurant opportunities, and retains a viewshed from SC Hwy 24.  
 
Green Pond Landing and Event Center clears the way for international fishing tournaments and water sports competitions, including the Bassmaster Classic, which will take place February 20-22, 2015. Set up for the tournament will begin on February 16. The launch will be closed to boat traffic February 17-23. However, spectators will be welcome during the tournament, February 20-22. The launch will reopen for public access on February 24.

The ABA Ray Scott Championship, a high profile, top tier tournament is scheduled in Spring 2016. The ABA Championship will be the first tournament hosted entirely in Anderson County, with the weigh-in and expo taking place at the Civic Center of Anderson and the launch at Green Pond Landing and Event Center.

“The facility will close briefly before the Bassmaster Classic to prepare for future tournaments and events, said Schell.  We will post information in advance of the closing to alert the media, residents and fishermen of specific dates and details.”