S.C. Unemployment Up Again; County Rate Drops Slightly

In October, South Carolina's unemployment rate increased for the sixth straight month to 6.7 percent. Meanwhile, Anderson County's dipped to 5.6% in October from 5.9% in September. Compared to October of last year, the labor force has increased by more than 800 and the number of employed residents has increased by almost 1,300.

Anderson County is tied with Dorchester County for the sixth lowest unemployment rate among all 46 South Carolina counties. 

The October unemployment rate ticked up from 6.6 percent in September as the estimated number of unemployed was 146,713, an increase of 2,291 people over the month.

Nationally, the unemployment rate decreased to 5.8 percent in October from 5.9 percent in September.


Anderson TD Club Holds Final 2014 Meeting Today

The final meeting of the Anderson Area Touchdown Club will meet today at the Anderson County Library to honor our local high school players and coaches. The guest speaker is Newberry CollegeHead Football Coach, Todd Knight. The meal will be provided by Mama Penn's Restaurant. The food line opens at 11:30 am and the program begins at noon. 

The public is invited.


S.C. GOP Criticizes Obama on Immigration

South Carolina Republicans cried foul Thursday about President Barack Obama’s decision to act on immigration, calling it an overreaching act that misreads this year’s midterm election results.

After years of delays and partisan debate, Obama announced sweeping changes Thursday to U.S. immigration policy, bypassing Congress altogether by signing an executive order.

South Carolina’s congressional Republicans, waiting to hear of the specifics of the action, were not happy. They echoed comments from other members of their party – a party emboldened by its considerable midterm wins.

“Agree or disagree with the content of whatever the president does tonight, you should be against him acting in this fashion,” Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney said Thursday morning, adding, “It’s a wrong way to govern a country and a wrong way to deal with very important issues.”

Mulvaney, of Indian Land, said a call for more executive orders was not “the message” delivered by the Nov. 4 election, which saw the GOP take control of the U.S. Senate and expand its majority in the House of Representatives.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham also said he opposes Obama’s approach.

“I will try to defund the effort for him to go it alone,” said the Seneca Republican. “We will challenge him in court.”


IRS Posing as Clergy to Get Privileged Information

Church leaders are upset after a recent article in The New York Times revealed that the Internal Revenue Service can use undercover agents disguised as members of the clergy as a means to gather privileged information.

Following the Times' report last weekend that over 40 federal agencies use undercover agents disguised as attorneys, doctors, news media and other positions to gain access to privileged information, church leaders are appalled to find out that IRS agents are also allowed to pose as clergy, even though the agency doesn't have a crime-fighting function that warrants such a use of undercover tactics.

In a Tuesday interview with The Christian Post, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, said he thinks it's an "absolute disgrace" that the IRS is allowed use undercover agents disguised as clergy. He added that he couldn't think of any justifiable reasons as to why the agency should be allowed to disguise agents as clergy.

"It is an absolute disgrace that IRS undercover agents can pose as members of the clergy. It is the role of government to protect religious freedom and the first amendment, and not to use it to gather information and spy on American citizens," Mahoney said. "One has to ask why is the IRS using undercover agents to gather information posing as clergy. Why is this even part of their mandate? What does the IRS have to do with this?"

Mahoney and fellow church leaders that he's spoken with in the days since the Times' article was published have expressed concern that the IRS could possibly use undercover investigators disguised as clergy to help enforce the HHS' mandate that requires group and employer health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, thus forcing churches and other faith-based organizations to act against their beliefs.


Poll: S.C. Residents Optimistic on Economy

Heading into the holidays, South Carolina residents are more optimistic about the economy than they were in April or a year ago, according to a new Winthrop Poll released Wednesday.

Nearly 57 percent of the 852 S.C. adults surveyed between Nov. 9-16 said they would spend about the same as they did last year. One in 6 said they would spend more while only 1 in 4 said they would spend less.

Nearly 68 percent of respondents said the state’s economy is getting better, up 10 percentage points from April and up about 20 percentage points from an October 2013 poll.

Asked to rate their own financial situations, 10 percent said their situations were excellent, while 45 percent said they were in good shape financially. That is up from a year ago, when 6 percent saw their financial situations as excellent, and 40 percent said their outlook was good.

Sixty percent of S.C. residents are optimistic their financial situations are improving, holding steady from last April. That is about 10 percentage points higher than a year ago, and 20 points higher than in late 2011.


Supreme Court Declines to Block Gay Marriage in S.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for South Carolina to become the 35th U.S. state where gay marriage is legal, denying a request to block same-same weddings from proceeding.

The order was another victory for gay marriage advocates after a federal judge in Montana on Wednesday struck down that state's ban on same-sex marriage.

"We're really thrilled," said Jeff Ayers, board chairman of South Carolina Equality. "This proves that all the way to the highest court, these were our rights from the beginning."

South Carolina's attorney general had asked the high court to temporarily block a lower court's ruling that overturned the state's ban.

After the Supreme Court's order, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said he hoped the high court, which has so far declined to take up cases that would lead to a definitive ruling on gay marriage, would ultimately uphold the ban.

Gay marriage advocates in Louisiana said on Thursday they had joined those asking the high court to rule on the issue.

There are already cases involving bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee pending at the court, which will likely decide by the end of the year whether to hear one or more of them.


State Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

South Carolina's public benefits agency is extending health coverage to the spouses of gay employees.

The announcement Thursday from the state Public Employee Benefit Authority comes one day after a Charleston judge issued the state's first gay marriage licenses.

Even as Attorney General Alan Wilson continues to fight federal court rulings that declare the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, the agency that oversees the benefits of South Carolina's public workers and retirees says the rulings mean same-sex spouses and their children are eligible for benefits. That includes health, dental, vision and life insurance.

For couples married out of state before Nov. 18, enrollment begins immediately and extends through Dec. 19. Couples newly able to marry in South Carolina have 31 days from the marriage date to add coverage.


Obama Order to OK 5M Work Permits to Illegals

President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order on Friday authorizing work permits to 5 million illegal immigrants and top Republicans have slammed the decision as unconstitutional.

While details of the immigration plan have not yet been released, it is understood that the order will ultimately shield 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The announcement will be made Thursday evening at 8 p.m. EST during a prime-time television address and four major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS) confirmed they will not air it.

Obama will follow the immigration announcement with a pro-immigration rally in Las Vegas on Friday at Del Sol High School, which has a large population of non-English speaking students.

"Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long," Obama said in a Facebook video message. "And so what I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president, to make the system better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem."

There's an estimated 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. The state of Nevada reportedly has the highest proportion of any U.S. state as 7.6 percent of its population are undocumented immigrants.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner previously warned Obama against using executive action to bypass Congress on immigration, saying "he's going to burn himself."


Congress May Revive Restraints on NSA

Legislation to divest the National Security Agency of its mass collection of US phone records has died. But when the next Congress convenes, the White House intends to revive it.

In its first comment since the USA Freedom Act failed by two votes to overcome a Senate filibuster, the White House signaled Wednesday it will pursue a new bill early next year that looks something like the defeated legislation.

“Going forward, we will work with Congress to formulate and pass legislation that strikes a similar balance” between security and privacy, said Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman.

Price indicated the White House wanted to pass such a bill “urgently but carefully” ahead of “the impending June expiration of important national security tools”.

That expiration concerns Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act. The NSA claims that provision justifies its bulk US phone records collection, a legal assertion that is hotly contested, but its application is far broader. Section 215’s authorities for collecting business records has become a routine investigative tool for the FBI, and civil libertarians are united with NSA defenders in doubting that the GOP-led Congress will reauthorize it absent prior surveillance reforms.

A debate exists within civil libertarian circles about the value of holding out for an outright expiration of Section 215. Some favor expiration as a measure to both get rid of a bulk collection pretext and roll back an expansion of FBI powers. Others consider the expiration as leverage to re-up a bill that can constrain bulk collection while also winning other desired reforms, such as an adversarial process before the secret Fisa surveillance court and greater relaxations of the gag orders surrounding tech companies and telcos that receive surveillance demands.

Full Story Here


New Piedmont Michelin Plant to Open Today

Michelin is set to open its 10th plant in South Carolina on Thursday.

The plant will produce the company's innovative Tweel radial tire and develop the concept's future generations. The company describes the Tweel as an airless radial tire for commercial use that never goes flat. Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America, says commercial production of the Tweel comes nearly 10 years after Michelin introduced the combined tire and wheel concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The entire development process occurred in Greenville, home to the company's second-largest research center worldwide.

The Piedmont facility will build the airless tires specifically for construction vehicles and John Deere commercial mowers. The plant's 100 research and manufacturing employees bring Michelin's total workforce to nearly 9,000 in South Carolina, further boosting the state's status as the nation's tire-producing capital. Selleck says the company is investing $50 million in its latest plant.

Thursday dedication starts at 10:30 a.m.


2014 Scrooges and Angels Charities List Released

It's the time of year when people give to charities, and South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond released his annual list of Angels and Scrooges.

Hammond announced the 2014 list Wednesday at the State House in Columbia. Click here to read the list.

Only one of the organizations on the Scrooge list is based in South Carolina. All the others have headquarters outside South Carolina. 

Each year, Hammond's office releases a list of Angels, charities that spend the least on overhead and devote most of the money they raise to those in need, and Scrooges, charities that spend most of the money that comes in on program costs.


Emergency Services Holds Mass Casualty Excercise

This week, Anderson County EMS & Special Operations Division hosted a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) Exercise at the Anderson County Fire Training Facility, 845 Hillhouse Road. The two 4-hour exercises, one day evolution and one night evolution, simulated multiple IED explosions at a small community college campus.

Screams and moans of victims, portrayed by Anderson University Nursing Students, MedShore Explorers, off-duty 911 dispatchers and local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members, amidst blaring sirens and flashing red lights gave the scenario a frighteningly real feel. Victims also looked the part, thanks to realistic wounds via liquid latex, makeup and fake blood provided by ACEMS and the CERT team. 

"I am incredibly proud of leadership shown by Chief Stoller and Chief Jones as well as their staffs," said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn.  "The fact that they are continually able to bring together various public safety agencies from all of the disciplines, and that they were able to host an exercise of this magnitude, shows the best of Anderson County, where collaborative relationships effectively serve the County's residents." 

Anderson County EMS & Special Operations Division Director Scott Stoller said, "this functional exercise was designed to measure the County's ability to respond to an MCI event, determine gaps, and determine how to establish the incident command structure in the field, communications with first responders, field ICS triage (use of red, yellow, green and black zones), transport of the injured to health care facilities, and much more. I'm proud to say, our public safety system did very well. We owe a debt of gratitude to all our public safety professionals and volunteer victims. It is imperative that we train together to prepare for actual disasters. This was a very successful exercise. It speaks volumes when more than 200 participants care enough to give of their time so they are prepared when we need them most. Our readiness ensures that we will be capable of responding swiftly and effectively in a time of need." 

"Every disaster scenario has complications and these exercises were no different," said Anderson County Emergency Services Director Taylor Jones. "It is one thing to run toward danger in order to save lives and property, but these professionals completed simulated mission objectives even when faced with chilly temperatures, pouring rain and biting winds. Anderson County is fortunate to have dedicated professionals that are willing to come out to train for the worse case scenarios in order to be ready for the unexpected. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but our team has worked well together and this exercise has prepared us to better respond to any type of MCI." 

Stoller selected Joshua Taylor, Anderson County EMS and a senior in the Anderson University Emergency Services Management – Whole Community Program to lead the exercise development team. "We designed this MCI exercise to test specific functions within the Anderson County emergency response system, while promoting the importance of building relationships between agencies to better our operational response to an actual event," said Taylor. "Strengthened bonds and relations between agencies are the key to successful emergency operations." 

Participating Anderson County Emergency Service Providers: Belton EMS, Honea Path EMS, Williamston EMS, Pelzer Rescue Squad, Iva Rescue Squad, Pendleton Rescue Squad, Fork Rescue Squad, MedShore Ambulance, Anderson County EMS, Center Rock FD, Anderson City FD, Williford FD, Anderson County FD, Upstate Incident Management Team, Piedmont FD, Anderson County Sheriff's Office, Anderson County Emergency Services Division, Townville FD, Michelin FD, Three & Twenty FD, Anderson County Public Works/Roads & Bridges.


Holly Jolly Fair This Weekend

The Holly Jolly Holiday Fair is set for Anderson Civic Center Friday through Sunday. Local artisans and merchants will have something for almost everyone geting ready for the holidays. 

Kids of all ages are invited, but kids under 12 will get in free and get a chance to enjoy making crafts at the Lowe’s table, participating in elf training, watching demonstrations on the stage and taking silly pictures in the photo booth.  For a small fee, the children can play in the inflatable area and enjoy a pony ride. The Step of Faith Outreach group will offer a chance to eat lunch and/or supper with such treats as cajun roast beef sandwiches, jumbo turkey legs, teriyaki chicken and homemade Rueben sandwiches. Don’t forget to stop in and see Santa before you leave.  Bring your camera, because there is never a charge for pictures you snap with Santa at the Holly Jolly Holiday Fair.

One new thing this year is the partnership with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas. All of the donations received at the elf training booth and the Ronald Raffle will go directly to this awesome charity.

Find more information at www.hollyjollyholidayfair.com