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Tuesday
Mar192019

Anderson County Council Recap, March 19, 2019

Tuesday
Mar192019

County Oks Law Enforcement Agreement with Pelzer

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

Anderson County Council on Tuesday approved a intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Pelzer to boost the law enforcement presence in the area.

“This allows  off-duty county deputies to patrol Pelzer in uniform, the Town of Pelzer will pay for the patrols,” said Anderson County Council Vice Chairman Ray Graham “This is an opportunity for them to get extra coverage without having to come up with the money up front. Comment them and the sheriff for working this plan out.”  

Graham said this kind of partnership is a fairly common practice throughout the state,

"On behalf of our citizens, This is something we need and are looking forward to it.,” said Eddie Waits, a Councilman for the Town of Pelzer.

Approved a plan to allow county to transition sewer operations in northwestern Anderson to ReWa. “It is cost effective and will allow the county to step back from some of the infrastructure costs,” said Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten. Wooten said the memorandum of understanding is the precursor to an actual contract with ReWa. Council also approved a plan to phase in an equitable plan for summer adjustments on water costs for some citizens.  

Also on Tuesday night:

  • Council approved a plan to allow county to transition sewer operations in northwestern Anderson to ReWa. “It is cost effective and will allow the county to step back from some of the infrastructure costs,” said Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten. Wooten said the memorandum of understanding is the precursor to an actual contract with ReWa. Council also approved a plan to phase in an equitable plan for summer adjustments on water costs for some citizens.  
  • Council approved a plan to allow county to transition sewer operations in northwestern Anderson to ReWa. “It is cost effective and will allow the county to step back from some of the infrastructure costs,” said Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten. Wooten said the memorandum of understanding is the precursor to an actual contract with ReWa. Council also approved a plan to phase in an equitable plan for summer adjustments on water costs for some citizens.  
  • Council approved a resolution to approve the participation of Anderson County, South Carolina, in development of an Amicus Brief to the United States Supreme Court related to Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. vs. Upstate Forever. The case pertains to the 2014 spill of at least 369,600 gallons of gasoline by the Plantation Pipe Line Company in Belton. Participation in the case will not cost the county any money, according to Anderson County Attorney Leon Harmon. “This is a very important case for or county,” said Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. Wilson said the migration of the leaked fuel has spread pollution and effected many communities. Kinder Morgan seeks to be released of liability of leaked material which migrates to other water sources away from the actual leak site. The Kinder Morgan case is being held until another case is ruled upon, so the county is adding its name to the other case.
  • Council approved, on first reading, tax incentives to bring a research and development that works closely with Clemson University to develop intellectual property pertaining to advanced materials, and medical and aerospace research. The company has guaranteed to create 12 jobs, with the potential of 18 total jobs, with an average salary of $30 per hour.  
  • Council approved, on second reading, additional solar project in Anderson County. Three parcels of land, approximately 25-30 acres at locations across the county, would be used for solar energy collection, raising the annual county taxes on the property from $668 in 2018, to $29,043 in 2021. “Over 30 years, these projects would generate $800,000 in property taxes,” said Anderson County Economic Development Director Burriss Nelson. “This improved tax income on agricultural land will have not impact on the community (in the form of increased traffic, pollution, burden on schools, odors). 
  • Council also moved forward, on second reading, to approve tax incentives for a development company to create a new, 200,000 sq. ft. industrial park. The incentives will offset sewer and water costs. Nelson said the property of the proposed park paid $111 property taxes in 2018, but would generate $21,000 by 2021 for just the building and land. 
  • Council also moved forward on the development of a county traffic study plan.

Bids were also approved for a new firetruck for the Anderson Regional Airport (funding largely paid for by grants), roofing for the Historic McCants Gym ($251,000). Capital was also approved for a new sign for the Mill Town Players in Pelzer ($33,275, $27,794 of which is being paid for by grants and donations and the towns of Pelzer, West Pelzer and Williamston.)

Tuesday
Mar192019

Feds Want to Continue Offshore Drilling Prep During Suit

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The federal government says preparatory work for offshore drilling shouldn't be halted while a lawsuit challenging the practice moves through the courts.

Attorneys for the Trump administration say in court papers filed Monday that a judge should deny a preliminary injunction request filed by coastal municipalities suing the government.

Last year, coastal cities and towns, along with environmental groups, sued to oppose the administration's plans to conduct offshore drilling tests using seismic air guns. The suit challenges permits for the testing that precedes the drilling itself. It claims the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits.

South Carolina has also joined the lawsuit.

Tuesday
Mar192019

One-Third of Uninsured Americans Ration Medications

One-third of uninsured Americans did not take their medicine as prescribed to try to lower their costs, a new government report found.

The high price of prescription drugs is among the nation's top concerns. Drug makers are facing increased scrutiny from the Trump administration and lawmakers, especially amid reports of people dying because they can't afford their medicine.
 
In 2017, nearly 60% of adults aged 18 to 64 reported being prescribed drugs over the past 12 months, according to the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Tuesday. The report looked at strategies people used to lower their costs, including asking their doctors for cheaper medicine, not taking the medicine as prescribed or using alternative therapies.
Those with private insurance were better able to afford their drugs, with only 8.4% not taking the medication as prescribed. Some 12.5% of Medicaid enrollees resorted to this step. 
Overall, 11.4% of non-elderly adults did not follow doctor's orders on drugs in order to lower their costs.
 
Even more people -- nearly one in five -- asked their physicians for less expensive options, the report found. This was especially true among the uninsured, 40% of whom made this request.
Just over 5% of folks overall used alternative therapies, including nearly 14% of those who lacked insurance.
 
Women were more likely than men to try to reduce drug costs.
The CDC study adds to the growing mountain of evidence showing that Americans are struggling with high pharmaceutical prices.
 
Nearly 80% of Americans feel the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's February tracking poll

Among those currently taking medicine, about one-quarter of adults, and nearly the same share of seniors, said it was difficult to afford their drugs, Kaiser found.
Monday
Mar182019

Local Leaders Join Meals on Wheels for Champions Week

This week, Meals on Wheels of Anderson will welcome Community Champions, S.C. Rep. Jonathon Hill, R-Anderson, Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten, Anderson County Councilwoman Grace Floyd, and Anderson County Councilman Chairman Tommy Dunn, as they prepare or deliver meals in honor of the 2019 March for Meals Community Champions Week.

Across the country this week, Meals on Wheels programs have enlisted elected officials, local celebrities and other prominent figures to deliver meals, speak out for seniors and raise awareness for the power of Meals on Wheels.

“It is our pleasure to welcome local elected officials to Meals on Wheels this week," said Laurie Ashley, Meals on Wheels of Anderson's executive director. "Every elderly and disabled homebound resident of Anderson County deserves the opportunity to be cared for through the delivery of a hot meal and the attention of a caring volunteer. We appreciate each of the Community Champions who will lend their voices and hands to raising awareness of senior hunger and isolation.” 

The annual March for Meals commemorates the historic day in March 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 and established a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older. Since 2002, Meals on Wheels programs from across the country have joined forces for the annual awareness campaign to celebrate this successful public-private partnership and garner the support needed to fill the gap between the seniors served and those still in need. 

“We commend all of our 2019 Community Champions for stepping up in support of Meals on Wheels,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “With 12,000 Americans turning 60 each day, now is the time to invest in these vital programs so that we can provide every senior in need with the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that will enable them to live healthier and independent in their own homes.” 

For more information on how you can volunteer, contribute or speak out for the seniors in Anderson County this March, visit www.acmow.org

Monday
Mar182019

DHEC Wants Public Help to Track West Nile Virus

COLUMBIA, S.C.  Residents can help the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) track West Nile virus this spring and summer by submitting certain species of dead birds for lab testing.  

DHEC’s dead bird surveillance program allows the Agency to better understand where and when there is an increase in West Nile virus (WNV) activity, as a high rate of birds infected with the disease indicates an overall increase of the virus within a certain area. This heightened activity is reported to local mosquito control programs so they can take appropriate actions to help protect the health of residents.

"The public's involvement with dead bird surveillance helps identify West Nile virus before it shows up in people,” said Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC's Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “This is a unique opportunity for the public to proactively assist their public health agency in staying ahead of a potential health risk.”

Mosquitoes become infected with WNV when they feed on infected birds that carry the virus in their blood. After one to two weeks, infected mosquitoes can transmit WNV to humans and other animals. 

In 2018, a total of 87 birds submitted from 18 counties tested positive for WNV.

DHEC is asking residents to report or submit recently deceased crows, blue jays, house finches and house sparrows that appear not to have been injured and are not decayed. These species of birds are more susceptible to WNV than other species, making them good candidates for testing.

If residents submit birds other than crows, blue jays, house finches and house sparrows, DHEC will determine whether to test those birds on a case-by-case basis. 

Deceased birds can be reported or submitted to local DHEC offices now through the end of November. To safely collect a dead bird, residents should follow these instructions:

  • Don’t touch a bird, dead or alive, with bare hands. Use gloves or pick up the bird with doubled, plastic bags.
  • Keep the bagged bird cool until it can be placed on ice. If the bird carcass can’t be delivered to DHEC within 36 hours of collection, place it on ice in a cooler but do not allow water into the bags. Please do not refrigerate or freeze the carcass where food is stored.
  • Download and complete the Dead Bird Submission and Reporting Sheet for West Nile Virus and submit it, along with the dead bird, to a local DHEC office. 

For more information, including locating a local DHEC office for submitting deceased birds, visit scdhec.gov/birdtesting or call the Medical Entomology Laboratory at 803-896-3802. 

Monday
Mar182019

Report: Americans to Bet $8.5 Billion on March Madness

NEW YORK (Reuters) - About 47 million people - one in five American adults - are expected to bet a combined $8.5 billion on “March Madness,” the annual men’s college basketball tournament, a new report said on Monday. 

Mar 17, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; General view of pyrotechnics in the arena prior to the championship game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Auburn Tigers in the SEC conference tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

A plurality of bettors - 29 percent - favor Duke University’s Blue Devils to win, according to a report from the American Gaming Association (AGA), a casino industry group. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s tournament to determine the Division I men’s basketball champions begins on Tuesday and ends April 8 in Minneapolis. 

This year is the first time the tournament will be held since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 allowed states to legalize, regulate and tax sports betting. 

Eight states now offer legal sports wagers, including Nevada, which was never subject to a ban. 

More than $5.9 billion has been bet on sports in those eight states since the court decision, the AGA said in its report. 

As the nascent legal U.S. sports betting industry expands, major events like the NCAA’s March Madness are providing first glimpses of how many betters may want to move from illegal to legal wagering, and how much money casinos, racetracks and bookmakers stand to make in the years to come. 

Forecasts had suggested Americans would wager $325 million this year on another traditionally huge betting event, the Super Bowl. 

But the two biggest state markets so far - Nevada and New Jersey - fell short. Nevada handled just $146 million of legal bets, an 8 percent drop from the previous year’s record $159 million. 

A report from Eilers & Krejcik gaming analysts on Friday estimated that if all 50 U.S. states had legal online sports betting, sportsbooks would handle $15.2 billion of total wagers just for March Madness alone, grossing about $1.2 billion of revenue. 

By March of 2023, as many as 39 states could have legal sports betting, Eilers & Krejcik found.

Monday
Mar182019

California Laws Help Protect S.C. Forests

BY CHLOE JOHNSON, THE Post and Courier of Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina and California have little in common politically, but the Golden State's laws are protecting the Palmetto State's trees.

California's cap and trade program, which took effect in 2013, is the nation's most expansive regulatory scheme aimed at fighting climate change in part by preserving forests.

It requires that state's biggest carbon emitters, such as power companies, to buy credits to offset the pollution they send into the atmosphere. The atmospheric release of carbon and other insulating greenhouse gases is regarded by the vast majority of the scientific community as the main driver of global air and ocean warming.

While the program was predated by other voluntary carbon markets, the California framework "really did jump start the potential for that type of conservation program," said Hunter Parks, president of Wilmington, N.C.-based Green Assets.

Crucial to the program's success are forests like those found in South Carolina and around the Southeast: forests full of fast-growing, long-living hardwood trees capable of sequestering hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Parks' firm helps set up carbon credit banks like the one established at Charleston Woodlands, a property next to Middleton Place and part of that plantation's historical holdings. That protected 3,700 acres of forest and helped Woodlands' owners to hold onto the land, said part-owner and property manager Holland Duell.

"We have always now, for generations, looked at ways that basically we can stay alive financially and take care of the wildlife integrity," Duell said.

Private land conservation is nothing new in the Palmetto State, particularly in the Lowcountry. It's a practice that gets bipartisan support and is favored by environmentalists seeking to stem urban growth.

A traditional conservation easement offers property owners a one-time tax break. Carbon markets, however, offer an initial payout from credits sold when a forest is first protected, then the option to sell some credits each year as the forest's trees send out new growth.

By creating a revenue stream, carbon sequestration easements assign a value to the many services that forests already provide, said Marizeh Motallebi, a conservation economist in Clemson University's forestry department.

While the California market only considers trees' carbon-capturing capacities, forests also serve to clean water and shelter wildlife, among other benefits.

The burgeoning carbon sequestration movement "feels very similar to when South Carolina started getting active in conservation easements," said Sharon Richardson, executive director of Audubon South Carolina. "There's a lot of curiosity, but there's also a lot of fear, and nobody wants to do something where you're the first one that does it."

Audubon was among the first organizations in South Carolina to make a play for California's carbon market, protecting more than 5,000 acres in the Francis Beidler Forest in 2014.

The forest sold its initial 474,000 credits within the first year, at a minimum $8 a credit — a multimillion-dollar sale. Motallebi said that the current price, which is based on keeping 1 metric ton of carbon out of the atmosphere, is roughly $14 per credit.

While all forests sequester carbon to some degree, the Southeast's hardwood swamps are some of the most capable of sucking greenhouse gasses out of the air, said Patricia Layton, a forest geneticist at Clemson who studies how to capture carbon in wood building materials.

All plants absorb sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and they all release oxygen. But the more leaves on a tree and the faster its growth, the more quickly the plant can trap carbon.

"Bottomland forests are great growers because the soils are nutritious, and there's plenty of water and sunlight," Layton said.

To be eligible to sell credits under California's rules, the forest has to be under threat of cutting and conversion into a different type of landscape. Forest owners also may qualify by pledging to plant more trees or by managing their forest to encourage more carbon capture, often by lengthening the life of the trees there.

Still, the certification process is costly and complicated, and a monitor has to be able to assess the property at least once every six years. As a result, carbon banks usually aren't viable if the property is smaller than 3,000 acres, Motallebi said.

Credit revenues also don't last forever. Charleston Woodlands is looking to new ways to monetize its property, Duell said, including eco-tours and a new Bluegrass Festival at the end of March.

The property will still be under protection for years to come. Every time a credit is sold, it starts a century-long clock during which the plants holding that carbon can't be disturbed.

"We looked at it on a couple properties. They were not successful," said Roy Belser, chairman of consulting firm American Forest Management. "Landowners are a little bit concerned because it is a 100-year deal. You're locking those trees up for 100 years."

One of the biggest impediments to expanding carbon protections for forests across South Carolina may be that large land owners don't know about the option or even that there are a limited number of parcels left large enough for the endeavor to work, Motallebi said.

Another option is multiple landowners banding together to combine their properties into one carbon bank. Motallebi said she is working on a study of public attitudes towards that idea.

Still, without carbon sequestration credits, "there is no market for protecting forests," said Scot Quaranda, of the nonprofit forest advocacy group Dogwood Alliance.

Forest landowners looking for revenue will find few other options, he said. One of them is logging trees for conversion into wood pellets, which are burned as biomass fuel mostly in Europe. Wood-burning has been billed by some countries as a way to reduce emissions, because it often replaces coal.

But Quaranda said the essential math behind that idea is skewed: Removing a mature tree from the ground has a far bigger impact on the total carbon equation, because it will take years for another tree to take up as much greenhouse gas.

World markets have largely turned to the Southeast to provide that biomass, though legacy industries in South Carolina such as paper production have stemmed its growth in the Palmetto State.

"Those forests are so vital for protecting our coastal communities, our coastal plain communities," Quaranda said. "We should be investing in their protection, because they're really the best defense we have right now."

Sunday
Mar172019

Senate Studying S.C. Education Bill; Statewide Meetings Planned

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Senators studying a bill that would overhaul public education in South Carolina plan two more meetings on either side of the state.

The Senate Education Committee will meet 6 p.m. Monday at the auditorium at Gaffney High School. They will meet against Thursday at the auditorium at Georgetown High School.

The group is studying a massive bill changing education. A similar proposal was passed earlier this month by the House.

The committee has already held meetings in Hartsville and McCormick.

Republican Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River says they heard concerns over state-mandated testing, pay raises and allowing teachers more of a voice in how to control their classroom.

Hembree says hearing the same concerns in several places gives him an idea what the problems really are.

Sunday
Mar172019

What is St. Patrick's Day?

 

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, a feast day (March 17) of St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain in the late 4th century, he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave. He escaped but returned about 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches, and schools. Many legends grew up around him—for example, that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Ireland came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts.

It was emigrants, particularly to the United States, who transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a largely secular holiday of revelry and celebration of things Irish. Cities with large numbers of Irish immigrants, who often wielded political power, staged the most extensive celebrations, which included elaborate parades. Boston held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1737, followed by New York City in 1762. Since 1962 Chicago has coloured its river green to mark the holiday. (Although blue was the colour traditionally associated with St. Patrick, green is now commonly connected with the day.) Irish and non-Irish alike commonly participate in the “wearing of the green”—sporting an item of green clothing or a shamrock, the Irish national plant, in the lapel. Corned beef and cabbage are associated with the holiday, and even beer is sometimes dyed green to celebrate the day. Although some of these practices eventually were adopted by the Irish themselves, they did so largely for the benefit of tourists.

 

Saturday
Mar162019

10 Prisoners Mistakenly Released from S.C. Prisons

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina prison system confirmed that 10 inmates were mistakenly released early from prison over the last two years.

South Carolina Department of Corrections spokeswoman Chrysti Shain told The State newspaper that the inmates were mistakenly released because of a miscalculation of their sentences. Inmates are supposed to be eligible for release only after serving 85 percent of their sentences.

She told the newspaper that the error was discovered in February while the department was reviewing records for parole. Prison officials then contacted the court system to obtain arrest warrants for the wrongly freed inmates, Shain said.

Four of the 10 inmates remain free.

Shain said most of the inmates were serving time for drug sentences. State Sen. Katrina Shealy, who spoke with corrections officials, said other crimes included burglary and domestic violence.

"SCDC has done a systematic review of its practices and has enhanced the system to make sure these types of errors will not happen again," Shain wrote in an email to the newspaper.

The prison system did not notify the general public, but did contact the victims and notify them when the offenders had been let out of prison, Shain said

The newspaper reported that the mistaken releases occurred over a two-year period. The last of the inmates were released in error in 2018.

A spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said the governor's office is, "aware of the issue and is confident that SCDC has done everything possible to resolve the situation."

Friday
Mar152019

Senate Considers Removing Dams for S.C. Safety Rules

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Nearly four years after a massive flood overtopped and broke dozens of dams across South Carolina, state lawmakers are considering changes that would remove about two-thirds of the state's dams from many safety requirements.

Supporters of the bill said South Carolina has done plenty since those 2015 floods by hiring new dam inspectors and increasing their budget from $200,000 to $1 million a year. So instead of spreading attention to all 2,400 state-regulated dams across South Carolina, inspectors can instead concentrate on the 800 dams that are the highest threat to lives.

But opponents of the proposal said the floods, which killed 19 people — 10 of them driving in cars on roads where creeks swollen by dam breaks swept over — showed how vulnerable and poorly written South Carolina's dam regulations are and that relaxing them would be a mistake.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted Thursday to send the proposal to the Senate floor, where several senators promised to push for significant changes.

The bill doesn't deal with large dams, like the ones that create Lake Murray or Lake Wateree. They are federally regulated. Instead, it deals with dams under the authority of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Many of them were built decades ago by farmers who wanted a pond for irrigation or to fish in or by neighborhoods for aesthetic value.

But South Carolina has grown up around them, and dams that if they broke decades ago would have just flooded a field of crops can now flood a recently built subdivision.

More dams have broken from flooding in Hurricanes Matthew and Florence since the October 2015 floods, when as much as 2 feet (61 centimeters) of rain fell in areas from Columbia to Charleston in barely over a day.

Four of the dams the broke in Hurricane Florence were classified as low hazard and wouldn't need inspections under the proposal, But they sent water over public roads, where people could have been driving and their lives threatened, said Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, whose Columbia district saw some of the worst flooding in 2015.

"Just because it is classified as low hazard doesn't mean it is not going to have impacts downstream," Harpootlian said.

Supporters of the bill worry farmers and others will have to pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair dams that aren't a threat.

For the dams that do need repairs and are a danger to lives, the proposal also offers a $50,000 tax break to owners to fix the structures. Several senators questioned whether the state should pay the entire bill or require the owners to shoulder some costs.

There were also discussions about whether developers who build subdivisions downstream from dams that were built decades before should have some responsibility for repairs.

Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Paul Campbell urged senators on the committee to approve the bill, even if they had reservations. The Charleston Republican said time is running out with the session ending in May and the full Senate could debate it and make changes.

"What we are doing here doesn't have to be the final dam bill," Campbell said.

"Was that an adjective or a noun?" Republican Sen. Chip Campsen of the Isle of Palms asked.

Thursday
Mar142019

Belton Museum Needs "Country" Items for New Exhibit

The Belton Area Museum wants your vintage custom/antique items for a new exhibit, "A Little Bit Country."

For the upcoming exhibit, needed artifacts include: a wagon, buggy, mule collars, saddles, chicken coop, rabbit hutch, bee hive, small farm equipment and implements, hit-or-miss engine, water pump, quilts, baskets, wooden ladder, old carpentry tools,  outhouse (clean, of course), blacksmithing items, photographs of country scenes, and musical instruments used by country music players.

Those interested in sharing vintage or antique items for the exhibit can bring them to the museum March 21-22, 9 a.m.–2 p.m., March 23, 10 a.m.-noon., or March 27, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. To arrange a pick up of items, call 338-7400.

The opening celebration for the exhibit is set for March 31, from 3–5 p.m. 

Country also means "Grandma's kitchen," so vintage pyrex dishes and bowls, a pie safe, rolling pin, biscuit cutter, aprons, recipes and cookbooks, and kitchen decor are needed.  John Deere toys and vintage toy tractors, rodeo ribbons and connected artifacts, FFA or 4H ribbons, badges and photos are also sought for the exhibit. 

“Maybe we haven't thought about something that comes to your mind when you think ‘country,’ so please bring those items you think