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Federal Judge Stops Deportation of Iraqi Christians

A federal judge in Michigan has ruled that more than 100 Iraqi Christian migrants facing deportation can stay in the United States for at least two more weeks to give the court some more time to determine its jurisdiction.

"The stay shall expire 14 days from today, unless otherwise ordered by the Court," U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith said in a written opinion, according to USA Today. "The Court is unsure whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction," the judge added.

"The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq," said the ACLU, which filed for a restraining order to block deportation of 114 Christians, most of whom are from the Chaldean sect.

"They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return," the New York-based group said in a statement. "We are thankful and relieved that our clients will not be immediately be sent to Iraq, where they face grave danger of persecution, torture or death."The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the Christians on June 11, alleging they had criminal backgrounds.

It would be "unconstitutional and unconscionable" to deport the migrants without giving them an opportunity to demonstrate the harm that awaits them in Iraq," the ACLU said.

"My dad is Christian and Donald Trump is sending him back to a place that is not safe whatsoever," said 18-year-old Cynthia Barash after the arrests, speaking of the ongoing slaughter of Christians at the hands of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq.

Her father, 47-year-old Moayad Barash, was one of those seized by ICE agents in Detroit as part of deportation efforts.

"He did something wrong 30 years ago. He didn't do anything today, yesterday, a year ago," she said, noting that her father had been caught with marijuana two or three decades ago.

Detroit-area educational and community leader Nathan Kalasho noted that Iraqi Christians have been designated victims of genocide. "Who could think that this deal could possibly be good?" he asked. "Iraq assumes a few hundred former nationals — some of these people have spent nearly their entire lives here and some have committed minor offenses. They've paid their debt to society."

Watchdog groups and reports have indicated that over 80 percent of Christians have fled Iraq in the last 13 years due to sectarian violence and the rise of the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Iraq was home to about 1.5 million Christians in 2003 but now fewer than 300,000 remain


University of South Carolina Raises Tuition Again

The University of South Carolina is raising tuition again, with its president saying the system needs more money from lawmakers to stop driving up the cost of college on families.

Trustees on Friday approved the increase of 3 percent or more across all of the university's campuses.

University President Harris Pastides said in a statement he feels legislators are more willing to consider more money for higher education. But that listening hasn't translated into additional funding for the schools.

South Carolina changed governors this year. Gov. Nikki Haley said for much of her six years in office that colleges and universities needed to spend less and more wisely instead of reflexively raising tuition.

The university says tuition increases over the past seven years have all been below the inflation rate.


Dog Park Needs Volunteers Saturday to Prepare for July Opening

There will be a volunteer cleanup day Saturday at Anderson Downtown Dog Park, which is scheduled to open in July, from 9 a.m.-noon.

Volunteers are needed to clear debris and asked to bring work gloves.

Anderson County’s first off-leash dog park downtown in on county-owned land bordered by North Manning Street, East Society Street, East Orr Street and North Fant Street. The property is located on land near the Anderson County Library.


U.S. Suspends Beef Imports from Brazil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has suspended all imports of fresh beef from Brazil over safety concerns.

Since March -- when several other countries issued a ban on Brazilian meat -- the United States has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving from Brazil. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service rejected 11 percent of fresh beef products, or 1.9 million pounds.

"That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of 1 percent of shipments from the rest of the world," the USDA said Thursday.

The meat was rejected out of health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Thursday announced the products intended for the U.S. market would be suspended until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action. Brazil's government said it intends to fix the problem by suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the United States.


Myrtle Beach Adding Barricades for Sidewalks

Employees in a South Carolina beach town are putting barricades up to keep people on the sidewalks after six shootings in three days last weekend.

Local media reported Myrtle Beach began putting barricades along Ocean Boulevard on Thursday to reduce the number of cases where people wander off the sidewalks and into traffic.

City manager John Pedersen said people mingling with traffic were responsible for the most serious shooting early Sunday. Six people were taken to a hospital. No one died.

Some business owners don't like the barricades. The owner of one pizza restaurant said the barricades could hurt business and said the barricades don't look "beachy" or relaxing.

City spokesman Mark Kruea says if the barricades work, the city will look for what he called a "more elegant solution."


Obama: GOP Bill "Massive Transfer of Wealth" to the Rich

Barack Obama sharply condemned the healthcare plan unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday as a “massive transfer of wealth” to the rich, at the expense of poor and middle-class Americans.

In a Facebook post hours after the Republican bill was made public, the former president made some of his most pointed comments since leaving office in defense of what remains the most signature accomplishment of his two terms.

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a healthcare bill,” Obama wrote. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.” 

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm,” he added, while highlighting some of the more contentious provisions within the legislation, such as tax breaks to top earners and drug and insurance companies, and the potential gutting of coverage for pre-existing conditions, pregnancy and mental health.

“Small tweaks over the course of the next couple of weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

Obama has largely kept out of the political fray since his departure from the White House – weighing in on just a handful of Donald Trump’s actions through written statements, such as his successor’s travel ban on refugees and several Muslim-majority countries, and the decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

But Obama’s personal stake in the healthcare debate, and his concern that Trump and Republicans will dismantle the Affordable Care Act, has transcended the other matters that have dominated Washington under the new administration.

While accepting a “Profile in Courage” award at the John F Kennedy presidential library in May, Obama similarly urged members of Congress to be guided by courage while approaching the issue of healthcare, saying it required “some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm”.


Upstate Likely to Have Best View of Eclipse

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts Clemson is one of the U.S. cities most likely to enjoy clear weather during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. It also should have the best viewing conditions in South Carolina, NOAA says.

The NOAA forecasts Clemson has a 75 percent chance of having viewable conditions on the day of the eclipse, which ranks in the top 10 cities in the eclipse path based on “viewability percentage.”

Clemson is ranked highest among South Carolina cities in the forecast: Charleston was given a 53 percent chance of viewable conditions while Columbia is at 44 percent.

The upcoming total solar eclipse has been dubbed “The Great American Eclipse” for a reason. It is the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to span the United States since 1918. Even more remarkably, it is the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse to cross only American soil — or at least what would become American soil — in more than 750 years. (The 1918 eclipse hit the Bahamas, as well.)

The next coast-to-coast total solar eclipse that will touch only American soil won’t happen for another 300 years.

In other words, the Aug. 21, 2017, event is astoundingly rare. So being in a place where you’ll actually be able to see the moon completely cover the sun is a big deal.

The path of totality, which ranges about 60 to 71 miles in width, will pass through 14 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina; and small portions of Montana and Iowa. Some estimates suggest that more than 100 million people will enter this narrow path to view the eclipse. At the very least, eclipse viewers will number in the tens of millions.

Clemson University is busy planning an event where thousands are expected to gather and view the spectacle together, complete with plenty of parking, open space, scientific experiments, expert demonstrations and vendors. Clemson will also be providing solar glasses to protect viewers’ eyes from the damaging rays of the sun.

The eclipse will begin here at 1:07 p.m. and end about three hours later at 4:02 p.m. The totality of the eclipse during which the moon will entirely cover the sun will begin around 2:37 p.m. and last less than three minutes. During this brief period, viewers will be able to remove their solar glasses and look directly at the eclipse without risk of physical harm. When the totality ends, viewers must put their glasses back on whenever staring directly at the sun.

For updates on Clemson’s eclipse viewing party, refer frequently to


Four GOP Senators Instantly Denounce New Health Plan

Four Republican senators are preparing to announce their opposition to the new Senate healthcare bill, putting the GOP’s attempt to overhaul Barack Obama’s signature legislation in jeopardy.

Rand Paul of Kentucky told the Associated Press that the draft bill released on Thursday resembled Obamacare too closely and did not go far enough in repealing the former president’s Affordable Care Act.

Paul, a conservative Republican, said he and the other senators were “definitely open to negotiation” but that they needed to make their opposition clear in order to ensure negotiations happened. The other three senators are Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

“The current bill does not repeal Obamacare,” Paul said in a statement. “It does not keep our promises to the American people. I will oppose it coming to the floor in its current form, but I remain open to negotiations.”

Cruz echoed those concerns in his own statement. “This bill draft does not do nearly enough to lower premiums,” said the Texas Republican. “That should be the central issue for Republicans – repealing Obamacare and making healthcare more affordable. Because of this, I cannot support it as currently drafted, and I do not believe it has the votes to pass the Senate.”

The draft bill unveiled by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell met a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill from his own party and severe criticism from Democrats.

The bill, which was the Senate response to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House of Representatives in May, made several changes to the controversial House legislation.

Like their counterparts in the House, Republican senators want to give middle-class Americans tax credits to buy insurance, but those subsidies would still be worth less than those currently provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, and people would also need to earn less money to quality for them.

Additionally, the Senate’s bill, like the one passed by the House, would allow states to decide which benefits insurance must cover. This could herald a return to pre-ACA days, when Americans who bought their own insurance faced expensive riders for coverage such as mental health care, maternity care and addiction treatment.

The bill would also slash Medicaid, which provides health insurance to one in five Americans.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy press secretary at the White House, declined to comment on Trump’s reaction to proposed cuts to Planned Parenthood and Medicaid.


Tonight's Downtown Block Party Rained Out

Tonight's Main Street Block Party in Carolina Wren Park has been cancelled due to rain.

The event will continue next Thursday at 6 p.m. with Anderson's own international blues singer Wanda Johnson performing.


Report: World Population to Pass 9 Billion by 2050

A United Nations report says the world population will increase to 9.8 billion people by 2050 despite a nearly global decrease in fertility rates.

The global population increased from 7.4 billion in 2015 to where it stands currently at 7.6 billion, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

"With roughly 83 million people being added to the world's population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline," the World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision report by the U.N.'s Department of Economic and Social Affairs said.

At the current rate, the world population will increase to 8.6 billion by 2030, 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100.

India, with a current population of 1.3 billion will surpass China, with a current population of 1.4 billion, as the most populous country in the world by 2024. By 2050, Nigeria, currently ranked seventh, will surpass the United States as the third most-populous country.

Part of the growth is expected to come from the 47 least developed countries, where the fertility rate is about 4.3 births per woman. The population of those countries is expected to increase from the current 1 billion to 1.9 billion by 2050.

The population of 26 African countries will likely at least double by 2050, the report indicates.

Nearly all regions of the world have experienced decreased fertility rates, including in Africa where fertility rates decreased from 5.1 births per woman in 2000-05 to 4.7 births in 2010-15. Europe did not follow the same trend; the birth rate there increased from 1.4 births per woman up to 1.6 births during the same periods.


GOP to Unveil Plan to Dismantle ACA Today

A seven-year push by U.S. Republicans to dismantle Obamacare and kill the taxes it imposed on the wealthy will reach a critical phase on Thursday when Senate Republican leaders unveil a draft bill they aim to put to a vote, possibly as early as next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants have worked in secret for weeks on the bill, which is expected to curb Obamacare's expanded Medicaid help for the poor and reshape subsidies to low-income people for private insurance.

Those subsidies are expected to be linked to recipients' income in the Senate bill, a "major improvement" from a measure approved last month by the U.S. House of Representatives that tied them solely to age, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said.

Some of the Senate bill's provisions could be political land mines, with individual senators' reactions to it crucial to determining whether or not the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, survives a Republican attack that has been under way since its passage in 2010.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the bill would seek to repeal most of the taxes that pay for Obamacare, give states more latitude to opt out of its regulations and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a healthcare provider that offers abortion services.

Former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement has been a target of Republican wrath for years. But even with control of both chambers of Congress and the White House since January, the party has struggled to make good on its bold campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The law is credited with expanding health insurance to millions of Americans. Republicans say it costs too much and involves the federal government too much in healthcare. President Donald Trump made Obamacare repeal a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign and celebrated the House-passed bill.

Democrats accuse Republicans of sabotaging Obamacare, and say the Republican bill will make healthcare unaffordable for poorer Americans while cutting taxes for the wealthy. 


But McConnell may have a tough job convincing enough Republican senators that the Senate bill improves on the House version. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found nearly 60 percent of adults believed the House bill would make insurance costlier for low-income Americans and people with pre-existing conditions. Only 13 percent said it would improve healthcare quality.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill would kick 23 million people off their healthcare plans. Healthcare is a top priority for voters and many Republicans fear a legislative misstep could hurt them.

Collins said she would weigh the CBO's upcoming assessment of the Senate bill's impact on costs and coverage.

Conservative Republican Senator Rand Paul, who wants a full repeal of Obamacare, said he feared that with the legislation being developed, "we're actually going to be replacing Obamacare with Obamacare," referring to the continuing role of government.

If legislation is to prevail in the Senate, McConnell can lose the support of only two of his 52 Republicans, assuming all 48 Democrats and independents oppose the bill, as expected.


Cooperative Baptists Join Call for Criminal Justice Reform

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter joined 96 other Christian leaders supporting a campaign for criminal justice reform announced June 20.

Spearheaded by Prison Fellowship, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, National Association of Evangelicals and the Colson Center for Worldview, the Justice Declaration seeks to rally evangelicals and other Christians against mass incarceration and for alternative sentencing for criminals who don’t pose a significant threat to society.

“We have a criminal justice system that does not stop crime but in many cases actually furthers crime,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in comments at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington quoted by the Washington Times, “making criminals out of those who are not yet criminals [and] ignoring those who have been victims of crime.”

“I think most of us in American life can agree our criminal justice system doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to,” Moore said. “We should fix it. And, as evangelical Christians, we should be among the first to say so.”

The 10-point declaration urges Christians to:

  • Affirm that the God of the Bible is a just God: justice flows from God’s very character, and the works of God’s hands are faithful and just;
  • Treat every human being as a person made in God’s own image, with a life worthy of respect, protection, and care;
  • Foster just relationships between God, fellow human beings, and property, which will lead to human flourishing;
  • Redouble our efforts to prevent crime by cultivating the “seedbeds of virtue,” including families, churches, neighborhoods, schools, and other sources of moral formation;
  • Care for the physical and emotional wounds of survivors of crime, ensure their safety, and support their meaningful participation in the justice system;
  • Take up the cause of the poor and vulnerable, ensuring fair access to education, economic opportunity, the social safety net, and, for those accused of crimes, the instruments of justice;
  • Advocate for proportional punishment, including alternatives to incarceration, that protects public safety, fosters accountability and provides opportunities to make amends;
  • Preach the good news of the gospel and proclaim that true freedom in Christ is available to all, including prisoners, recognizing that His atoning sacrifice covers all sin;
  • Invest in the discipleship of incarcerated men, women, and youth, protect their safety and human dignity, and minister to the needs of families and children with incarcerated loved ones;
  • Celebrate redemption in our congregations and communities by welcoming back those who have paid their debt to society, and by providing opportunities for all persons to reach their God-given potential.

“Because the good news of Jesus Christ calls the Church to advocate (or ‘be a witness’) for biblical truth and to care for the vulnerable, we, His followers, call for a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all,” says a white paper accompanying the declaration drafted by Union University professor Ben Mitchell. “The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime.”

According to the paper, nearly 2.2 million people are behind bars in the United States, 3.7 million are on probation, another 870,000 on parole and an estimated 65 million Americans have a criminal record. The rate of violent and property crimes, meanwhile, has decreased by half since the early 1990s, mostly attributable to reasons other than incarceration.

Over-incarceration disproportionally affects minorities and youth, the paper says. African Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a drug crime, even though rates of drug use and trafficking are roughly equal across all races, and if convicted face tougher sentences. Juvenile court caseloads have nearly tripled since 1960, even though the number of crimes committed by youth is about the same.

“As a society, we have turned to prisons as the one-size-fits-all response to public safety concerns,” Moore and Prison Fellowship CEO James Ackerman said in a blog announcing the initiative on Politico.

“Meanwhile we have allowed our centers of moral formation to erode, we have enacted draconian sentencing policies based more on fear than on evidence, and we have failed to imagine or enact effective alternatives to prison time. In an effort to secure law and order, we have lost sight of justice based on the God-given value of each human life.”

The two leaders said some churches and denominations have long sought prison reform, but the broader Christian community, and particularly evangelicals, is just now waking up to the problem. A recent Barna poll reported 87 percent of practicing Christians agreed to some degree that caring for prisoners is important based on their values.

“The time has come for Christians and churches to apply those same values to advance a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all,” Moore and Ackerman said.

Signers of the declaration include Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; David Allen, dean of the school of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Nathan Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University; and John Mark Yeats, dean and associate professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College.

The presidents of Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College and Union University and executive directors of the Missouri Baptist Convention and Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas are among signatories. Pastors include David Crosby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, and James Merritt, lead pastor at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

While most of the names supporting the declaration identify as conservatives, the list also includes social progressives such as David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Ron Sider, founder and president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action.


Podcast June 17, 2017: County Passes Budget, New Tech Chief for Schools and the County's Hog Slayer