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Sunday
Aug232015

Greenville to Host FBI Seminar on Church Violence

Federal Bureau of Investigation officials will talk about violence in churches and other houses of worship during a presentation that follows the shootings at a church in Charleston.

The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg reported (http://bit.ly/1fzH1HX) the free event will be held Tuesday evening at Grace Church in Greenville.

The seminar titled "A Realistic Presentation for the Unthinkable" will provide information and awareness about violence. Church members and leaders will gain insight into what steps should be taken when facing violence, such as an active shooter situation.

The FBI agents from the Columbia field office also will provide information about emergency plans.

Church security has been an issue since nine people were shot and killed June 17 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Sunday
Aug232015

Brilliant Fall Colors Expected This Year

Due to a drier than usual spring and summer, the fall leaf color in the mountains of Western North Carolina should be putting on a more spectacular show than it has in many years, according to Western Carolina University’s autumnal season prognosticator Kathy Mathews.

Mathews, an associate professor of biology at WCU, gives her annual prediction of how foliage around the region will perform as the sunlight of summer wanes and days become frosty.

She specializes in plant systematics and bases her color forecast on both past and predicted weather conditions. She believes the formation of higher levels of pigments in the leaves correlates with dry weather throughout the year, but especially as fall comes around the bend.

“This fall could be one of the best leaf color seasons in Western North Carolina in recent memory,” Mathews said. “Three words explain it — unusually dry weather.”

U.S. Geological Survey records indicate the region had been drier than normal for most of the year, but with enough rain, particularly in April and June, to avoid drought and keep the trees healthy, she said.

Rainfall so far this year at Asheville Regional Airport is 25.73 inches, said Doug Outlaw, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, South Carolina. Normal rainfall through August is typically 30.04 inches, he said, so the region is running a rainfall deficit of 4.31 inches.

In August, Asheville has had 2.4 inches so far, which is only .43 inches below normal of 2.83 inches for the month.

Outlaw said the three-month forecast for precipitation should be just a little above normal, mainly for far southeastern mountains around Franklin, Robbinsville, and Murphy, but for most of the WNC mountains, it’s equal chances for above or below normal.

Through August 2014, the region had 29.99 inches of rain, which was very close to being normal. The total rainfall for 2014 was 46.91 inches. A normal average rainfall is 45.57.

Sugar concentrations in the leaves increase during dry weather because the trees are not taking up as much water through their roots, Mathews said. The abundance of sugars leads to the production of more anthocyanins, the red pigments that appear when green chlorophyll begins receding.

“That’s what causes the leaf colors to really pop, along with the simultaneous appearance of orange and yellow pigments on the same or different tree species,” she said.

Meteorologists are predicting a light hurricane season in the Atlantic this year, partly because of dry air over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean caused by El Niño, and that reduces the chances of heavy rain and big wind storms in the mountains in August and September — good news for the leaf display, Mathews said.

Leaf-peepers always want to know when the “peak color” will happen, but the timing of the color change is highly dependent on the decreasing amount of sunlight that comes with the passing days, plus the elevation of a particular location, she said.

“The peak of fall color often arrives during the first and second week of October in the highest elevations, above 4,000 feet, and during the third week of October in the mid-elevations, 2,500 to 3,500 feet,” Mathews said. Visitors can look for leaves to be peaking in color intensity a few days after the first reported frost in any particular area, she said.

Regardless of all factors that affect leaf color, visitors to Western North Carolina always will find a pleasing leaf display somewhere in the mountains from September into November, with a wide range of color made possible by the region’s elevations ranging from 1,500 feet to over 6,000 feet and the more than 100 tree species, Mathews said.

Sunday
Aug232015

Bernie Sanders Courts Black Voters in S.C.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought his progressive populism to deeply Republican South Carolina, and made a pitch to connect with the black voters that provide most of the Democratic support in the early primary state.

It was the Vermont senator's first visit to the state since announcing his candidacy in late April, in a challenge to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders had canceled a planned appearance in Charleston in June in the wake of the massacre at the city's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine dead.

In North Charleston, the last of five stops in the state, he invoked the names of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Walter Scott, all unarmed black men who died in the hands of police officers in a little over a year.

"We are going to end institutional racism and we are going to transform and make changes in the criminal justice system that isn't working," he said to loud cheering from a crowd of about 3,100. "When a police officer breaks the law, that police officer must be held accountable. We need new rules on the use of force."

He also mentioned the Charleston slayings, which authorities have called racially motivated.

"I'm not just talking about somebody who walked into a Bible study class, prayed with the people in that group and then took out a gun and killed nine people. I'm talking about the hundreds of hate groups that exist in this country today whose only function is fomenting of hatred of African Americans, gays, immigrants, Jews."

Sanders is trying to beat Clinton by building grassroots support in the states that hold the first nominating contests ahead of the general election in November 2016.

A recent CNN poll showed Sanders is supported by 29 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, a gain of 10 points since July, compared with 47 percent for Clinton.

Sanders' campaign staff met with the Charleston chapter of activist group Black Lives Matter on Friday night, said local activist Muhiyidin D'Baha who attended Saturday night's speech. "They've been really good in receiving critique. We're really hoping that we have impacted his message."

"Black Lives Matter" has become a rallying cry for demonstrators protesting grand jury decisions not to charge white police officers in the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

Sanders drew crowds of more than 2,000 in Greenville, a conservative enclave in the northwest corner of the state, and Columbia, the state capital, where he met with black pastors, said campaign spokesman Michael Briggs.

A mostly white crowd of supporters began lining up hours ahead of Sanders' speech

"He's for getting the money out of politics," said Matt Thomas, 24, a college student.

Sanders has no Super-PAC and has raised $15 million and counts 400,000 individual donors, Briggs said. Clinton, in contrast, has raised more than $45 million.

"Other candidates just want to benefit the super wealthy and corporations," said Greg Zills, who drove from Jacksonville, Florida.

"He's my favorite politician, and he hasn't been to Florida."

Saturday
Aug222015

Upstate Still in Need of Rainfall

Partly cloudy skies last into the evening as temperatures fall to near 70 degrees in the Upstate while western North Carolina falls into the mid-60. Sunday will be warm up nicely under partly cloudy skies. Look to see temperatures climb into the upper 80s across the Upstate while western North Carolina peaks in the low 80s.

Winds will be light out of the north between one and three miles per hour in the morning before shifting out of the southwest between five and ten miles per hour.

Isolated showers and storms will have the potential to develop during the peak heating hours of the day. Some spots can see a brief downpour but showers should mainly be short lived throughout the day.

Rain will likely taper off Sunday evening as temperatures dip into the mid to upper 60s. Skies open up Monday with temperatures peaking in the low 80s to near 90 and a slight chance of showers late in the day.

Saturday
Aug222015

Three Americans Subdue Gunman on Train in France

Authorities identified three Americans, two who are U.S. military members, as the men who subdued a gunman on a commuter train to Paris Friday, foiling what officials believe would have been a bloody massacre.

The two plainclothes servicemen were sitting with a friend on the train on a vacation through Europe when they heard gunshots and breaking glass. Crouching behind their seats, the men, friends since middle school, decided to act.

Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone ran toward the gunman, tackled him and took away his AK-47 assault rifle. He was stabbed in the process and remains hospitalized.

"I told him to go, and he went," said Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had been deployed in Afghanistan. A third friend, Anthony Sadler, helped detain the man and tie him up.

Several passengers on the train were injured in the gunfire. Among them was Chris Norman, a British man living in France.

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade was also reportedly injured in the assault, suffering a minor hand injury.

The train stopped in the town of Arras, about 115 miles north of Paris, and the gunman was taken into custody. All passengers were evacuated from the train there.

Calling it an "attack of barbaric violence," France Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French authorities are investigating the attack. Cazeneuve said the men were "particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances.''

The suspect, a 26-year-old with Moroccan origins, is believed to have lived in Spain until 2014 and in Belgium this year. France's anti-terror police is leading the investigation. Belgium also opened a terror investigation.

President Obama was briefed about the incident, the White House said.

"The President expressed his profound gratitude for the courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker. While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy," the White House said.

Saturday, French President Francois Hollande thanked the men by phone and will meet them in the coming days.

France has been on edge since the January attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Jewish supermarket in Paris, which left 17 dead.

Saturday
Aug222015

Clemson Researchers: Bully Bosses Bad for Business

Beware, bully bosses.

Employees fed up with abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t hesitant about getting even, which usually comes in the form of subtle, covert retaliation where they are more likely to avoid punishment, according to Clemson University researchers.

Kristin Scott and Tom Zagenczyk, associate professors in the management department, said organizations that harbor hostile or ultra-competitive environments are breeding grounds for managers who mistreat employees. Relationship-oriented professions such as sales, customer service and public relations are workplaces where bullying is reported most frequently.

“At some point in their careers, about 50 percent of employees can expect to have an abusive supervisor. The bad behavior can be rooted in any number of issues, from the manager being bullied as a child, a need for control, stress or family problems,” Scott said.

Whatever the reasons, some employees won’t put up with their abusive boss and attempt to get back at the supervisor, usually in subtle ways that are harder to detect. “This retaliation comes in many forms, from withholding important information, refusing to put in extra time and ignoring their bosses, to gossip or theft of minor company property.”

Other factors that affect employee responses to abusive bosses include culture and the degree to which employees perceive that the supervisor is representative of and share the values of the organization.

“Employees who work in cultures that generally believe power should be distributed equally – such as the U.S. and Australia – tend to respond more negatively to abusive bosses than do employees who work in cultures where power differentials are more readily accepted, such as China and Singapore,” said Zagenczyk.

“In addition, employees who believe the supervisor embodies the organization will retaliate not just against the supervisor, but also the organization through counterproductive behaviors, whereas employees who do not believe their supervisor embodies the organization retaliate against the supervisor only.”

Workplace bullying doesn’t only take its toll on the targeted employee, it can reverberate into that individual’s personal life. Some workers not willing to vent their frustration at work lash out at family members instead.

“Abusive supervisors not only can make life miserable for their direct reports, they can contribute to an unhappy home life,” Scott said. “Spouses of these employees have reported that their bullied worker often times was moody, hostile or demeaning at home.”

Zagenczyk added: “This sort of displaced aggression is particularly problematic because employees who report they were undermined by their parents during childhood are more likely to be perceived as abusive by their subordinates when they become bosses themselves. This means aggressive organizational cultures could potentially lead to another generation of abusive supervisors.”

On the flip side, studies have shown if an employee has an unhappy personal life, a supervisor can lift the spirits by offering encouragement and support. Recent Clemson research indicates supervisors can especially uplift the spirits of female workers who experienced domestic abuse at home.

Scott said, “in these circumstances, a supportive boss has been shown to have a positive effect on a subordinate’s work and personal lives by being supportive of the employee’s plight. They can become a buffer to the many negatives in an employee’s home life, enabling them to be productive in the workplace at a time when the employee might not otherwise be able to do so.”

So how are despotic supervisors allowed to reach positions of authority and what can an organization do to minimize their repugnant behavior?

Scott said often these supervisors get promoted as a result of their technical skill and if they are known to be insensitive, cruel and cold-hearted, it’s overlooked.

“Too frequently, we hear of this behavior and it should be the antithesis of getting one promoted. Like harassment, organizations should start to take a zero-tolerance policy on emotionally abusive/bullying behaviors, particularly in the leadership ranks. Then they need to hold them accountable for their behavior.”

Training and coaching is vital in helping people managers to understand the key roles they play in employees’ productivity, job satisfaction and well-being, Scott said.

Zagenczyk said abusive supervision is a particularly difficult problem because, “sometimes the problem is not the supervisor alone, but the organization’s culture itself: aggressive cultures teach employees that abuse of subordinates is an acceptable – and sometimes expected – practice. Thus, organizations may need to look to the examples set by top-level managers to curb abusive supervision.”

“Managerial abuse can be costly in the form of absenteeism, turnover, productivity loss, and litigation. Organizations have to be committed to reinforcing and sustaining positive managerial actions through performance reviews and incentive practices,” Scott said.

Saturday
Aug222015

Study: Losing Weight Easier with Doctor's Support

People who are working to lose weight are more successful when they have the support of their healthcare provider, according to a new two-year study.

Researchers said physician-guided weight loss programs are almost never reimbursed by either Medicare or private insurance, despite the health benefits to obese people losing weight.

"This trial supports other evidence that providers are very important in their patients' weight loss efforts," said Dr. Wendy Bennett, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a press release. "Incorporating physicians into future programs might lead patients to more successful weight loss."

Researchers reviewed data and surveys from 347 people who participated in the Practice-based Opportunities for Weight Reduction, or POWER, two-year trial to measure the benefits of working with a coach or being guided by a physician while maintaining a weight loss program.

Of the participants, 63 percent were female, about 40 percent were black, and as a group had an average BMI of 36.3 and mean age of 54.8 years old.

Researchers reported that participants who gave their physicians the highest ratings for the helpfulness lost an average of 111 pounds. Those who rated their doctors the lowest lost an average of 5 pounds during the two years.

The researchers said that, based on the results of the study, they would hope to see new ideas for team-based planning of weight loss and programs to reimburse patients for physician interventions that help them treat their obesity.

Friday
Aug212015

S.C. Lawmakers Boast $87 Million Budget Surplus

S.C. lawmakers will have an extra $87 million to spend next year in surplus money that was added after the state closed its fiscal books on June 30.

That amount is more than double the almost $32 million surplus last year – indicating the state’s economy is strong, said Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, the state’s chief accountant.

The surplus also means the state is building back its reserve accounts, which South Carolina burned through during the Great Recession, Eckstrom said.

The state currently has nearly $1.2 billion in its savings accounts, according to Eckstrom’s office. While that seems like a lot of money, Eckstrom noted that, during the recession, the state used up its then-existing reserves and, additionally, was forced to cut its spending by more than $1.3 billion.

“It really hurts an agency when that has to be done,” said Eckstrom, adding the recession, positively, forced state agencies to do some belt tightening.

State Sen. John Courson, the Richland Republican who sits on the Senate Finance Committee that recommends how to spend roughly $7.2 billion a year in state general fund money, said the surplus is “indicative of the fiscal conservatism that we’ve exhibited in South Carolina.”

He added the extra surplus likely will be spent on the state’s top priorities – education and roads.

In May, the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors certified the state would have a $415 million surplus. A legislative battle over how to spend the money followed. Eventually, the GOP-controlled Legislature decided to send $216 million of that money to counties to pay for road repairs.

Friday
Aug212015

Anderson Unemployment Rate Dropped in July

Anderson County's unemployment rate dropped in July, falling to 5.9 percent from 6.2 percent in June. The county's rate is still lower than the statewide figures, and is the eigth lowest rate in the state.

“We generally see employment numbers dip slightly from June to July, so the fact that we saw an increase tells me that the majority of the jobs we’ve been adding are not tied to seasonal trends.”, said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn.  “Our continuing commitment to the recruitment of quality economic development projects is yielding consistent, long-term benefits for our residents and our community.”

Of Anderson County's workforce of 89,022, 83,782 were employed in July.

Statewide, South Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased for the second consecutive month from 6.6 percent in June to 6.4 percent in July, which matches the unemployment rate from July 2014. Employment levels from June to July declined by a modest 655 to 2,110,719. The number of unemployed individuals decreased in the last month by 5,284 to 143,447 and the labor force declined by 5,939 to 2,254,166. From July 2014 to July 2015, the state’s employment level has increased by 59,672 and the number of unemployed has increased by 3,806. Over the year, the labor force has grown by 63,478 people.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.3 percent. 

Friday
Aug212015

S.C. Cracking Down on DUIs as Summer Ends

With the summer travel season winding down and with traffic deaths up across the state, South Carolina law enforcement agencies are gearing up their efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road.

The Department of Public Safety says stepped-up enforcement by the Highway Patrol and local law agencies began Thursday and continues through the Labor Day weekend.

The annual campaign is called Sober or Slammer!

In addition to increased enforcement, it includes public service efforts to educate drivers and reduce accidents.

Since Memorial Day, 218 people have died on South Carolina highways. That's 37 more than during the same period last summer. The 581 people who have died on South Carolina highways so far this year is 105 more than the same period last year.

Friday
Aug212015

Podcast: Old-School Family Doctor, Aly Haley and PAWS Leaders

Friday
Aug212015

Bernie Sanders to Speak in Greenville Today

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will make a stop in the Upstate today. 

Sanders will speak at the TD Convention Center at 11 a.m.  The doors open at 10 a.m. Admission is first-come, first-served. Sanders will then speak in Columbia at 7 p.m. He will travel to Sumter on Saturday and then to Charleston on Saturday night. 

Bernie Sanders is taking his upstart candidacy to South Carolina, an important stop on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination -- and the first early primary state with a large number of African American voters, the most loyal bloc in the party’s base.

This will be the first visit to the state for the Vermont senator, who canceled plans to campaign in South Carolina in June after the slayings of nine black worshipers during bible study in a historic church in Charleston.

Sanders’ campaign, which has attracted buzz for drawing huge crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire and other states in the Midwest and West, has scheduled town halls and rallies in four cities across the state. Citing swelling interest, it has twice moved a Saturday rally in Charleston to larger venues, but no one expects crowds as large as those that turned out in support of the Vermont senator earlier this month in Seattle, which drew 15,000, and Portland, which recorded 28,000.

“A crowd of 10,000 elsewhere might translate to a crowd of three or four thousand here in South Carolina,” said Todd Shaw, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina. “You could consider that almost equivalent, particularly for a candidate as left of center as Bernie.”

The test for Sanders in South Carolina will be not only the size of the crowds he’s able to attract but the racial diversity of those crowds. The big turnouts that have buoyed Sanders’ candidacy in other states have been overwhelmingly white and he has twice while campaigning he has been confronted by young activists from the Black Lives Matter movement.

If Sanders is to continue to gain ground on frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton, he will have to be more competitive with black voters. No one was prepared to predict whether Sanders will draw a sizable number of black voters to his events in South Carolina, but he is scheduled to meet privately with a group of African American leaders between events in Greenville and Columbia on Friday. Black Lives Matter activists in Charleston have planned a Friday night forum to talk with Sanders supporters about their common interests in reforming the criminal justice system. An activist with the group declined to say whether they would try to disrupt Sanders’ Saturday rally.

It was the 2008 primary in South Carolina that Clinton saw her lead among black voters all but vanish as they began to rally behind then-Sen. Barack Obama’s bid to become the first African American president. Clinton is again the favorite of black voters, who are the foundation of the coalition that sent Obama to the White House twice, a coalition that Clinton hopes to reassemble for her bid to become the first female president.

Clinton has visited South Carolina at least three times this summer. Earlier this week she picked up the endorsements of two former governors of the state and some of the top Democratic organizers and strategists are running her campaign, including Clay Middleton, a former aide to Rep. James Clyburn, the state only Democratic in Congress. But during a campaign event Wednesday in Columbia, S.C., her campaign chairman John Podesta heard from supporters worried that the ongoing inquiries and investigation of her State Department e-mails were overtaking her campaign.

Sanders has a small staff in the state, but an enthusiastic network of grassroots supporters have been working social media to drum up interest in his visit.

Cass Tyson is one such volunteer in Greenville, S.C., where Sanders’ first event, a town hall, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday. He said that as of Thursday afternoon, 2,100 people had signed up to attend.

Tyson said many of Sanders’s supporters in South Carolina are a collection of anti-establishment activists, including “green Democrats … and former Ron Paul supporters.” He acknowledged that the support is not racially diverse.

“It is a predominantly white crowd, but his crowds everywhere are predominantly white,” Tyson said. “There is a large primarily Democrat African American community and from what we can determine, they all know about Hillary. Very few of them know about Bernie.”

The campaign has tried to bolster its outreach to the black community. In recent weeks, Sanders has hired African American staff members, including Symone Sanders (no relation), as a national spokeswoman. Last month he spoke to a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Sanders, a self-described socialist democrat, has spoken most forcefully about economic inequality, railing against Wall Street and calling for a $15 minimum wage. Although he touts his participation in the 1960s civil rights movement, he has clashed with some young black activists who thought he had not spoken out more forcefully against the recent string of African Americans who have died during interactions with police officers.

Full Story Here

Friday
Aug212015

Study: Working Longer Hours Boosts Stroke Risk

Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a one third greater risk of stroke compared to a 35-40 hour work week, according to research published Thursday.

Based on a review of 17 studies covering 528,908 men and women followed for an average of 7.2 years, the increased stroke risk remained once smoking, alcohol consumption and level of physical activity were taken into account.

The study, published in The Lancet, found that compared with people who logged a standard week, those working between 41 and 48 hours had a 10 per cent higher risk, while for those working 49 to 54 hours, the risk jumped by 27 per cent.

Working 55 hours or more a week increased the risk of having a stroke by 33 per cent, the study showed.

The long work week also increased the risk of developing coronary heart disease by 13 per cent, even after taking into account risk factors including age, sex, and socioeconomic status, the study showed.

In looking at the link between long hours in the work place and heart disease, Mika Kivimaki, a professor of epidemiology at University College London, and colleagues analysed data from 25 studies involving 603,838 men and women from Europe, the United States, and Australia who were followed for an average of 8.5 years.

The underlying causes of stroke and heart disease are complex, involving a mix of genetic and environmental factors.

But the researchers suggest that physical inactivity, high alcohol consumption, and repetitive stress all enhance risk.

"The pooling of all available studies on this topic allowed us to investigate the association between working hours and cardiovascular disease risk with greater precision than has previously been possible," Kivimaki said in a statement.

"Health professionals should be aware that working long hours is associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke, and perhaps also coronary heart disease."

Experts not involved in the study said the findings are important, and pointed to differences across nations in the average length of the work week.

"Long working hours are not a negligible occurrence," Urban Janlert from Umea University in Sweden wrote in a commentary, also in The Lancet. "Although some countries have legislation for working hours, it is not always implemented."