Sweet Forecast for S.C. Peaches 

A new study out of North Carolina State University shows that almost one in five dollars of the state gross product are directly related to the food, fiber and forest industries, with food contributing the lion's share of that total. Of the $440 billion gross state product, $77 billion came from some form of agriculture with food production accounting for $67.4 billion of that.

According to the study's author, Mike Walden, William Neal Reynolds professor and North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, almost one in five North Carolinians earns their living from agriculture, which represents 642,000 of the state's 3.8 million workers.

South Carolina is traditionally the nation's second-largest producer of peaches, trailing only California and ironically ranked just ahead of Georgia, the Peach State. The fresh fruit and vegetable industry provides an annual economic boost to state revenues of more than $150 million.

Peach production began in mid- to late May across South Carolina, but cooler weather this spring means early supplies are light and peak season will arrive just in time for Fourth of July promotions.

"Chill hours were adequate and the rain has been very good," said Michael Blume, peach commodity manager for Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc. in Greencastle, PA, which partners with South Carolina grower Watson & Sons.

That cool spring weather and adequate rainfall should make this year's crop especially sweet, with excellent sizing and heavy volume through mid-August.


S.C.-N.C. Could Merge Credit Unions

The boards of the credit union leagues in North and South Carolina are recommending merging the two trade associations and will ask their members to approve the union.

The North Carolina Credit Union League(NCCUL) represents 90 credit unions charted in the state. Meanwhile, the South Carolina group represents 69 Palmetto State organizations.

Bringing the two leagues together, it’s believed, will give the combined entity a broader base of financial support from which to draw. The staffs of the two groups – which handle advocacy and compliance matters and professional development in the industry – would be fused.

“Our board sees great promise in bringing together these two leagues,” says NCCUL Chairman Maurice Smith. “Consolidation provides clear value and sets us on a path to successfully meet the changing needs of credit unions in the Carolinas. During May and June, each league will share details of the merger proposal with its members.

Final membership votes in each state are expected by September with a proposed effective date of Jan. 1, 2014 for the new league.


State May Overhaul Sex Education Cirriculum

Major changes could be coming to the sex education curriculum in South Carolina schools, if a bill currently in the House passes in the State Legislature.

Currently, the Comprehensive Health Education Act (CHEA) of 1988 provides the basis for sex education in school districts throughout South Carolina. Some of the requirements include each district providing 750 minutes of sex education to each student throughout 9th-12th grade, creating a 13-member Health Education Advisory Committee, and providing staff development for health teachers.

According to a study by the New Morning Foundation released earlier this year, 75 percent of school districts in South Carolina are not in compliance with at least one portion of CHEA's sex education requirements.

The new bill, titled the Comprehensive Health Education Act (S.C. House Bill 3435), aims to update the 1988 law.

The changes proposed include combining boys and girls into one health education class, providing pregnancy prevention education, certifying teachers to teach health education, and requiring school districts to choose from an approved list of comprehensive health education programs.

The programs are subsidiaries of Planned Parenthood, and some include more information on how to practice safe sex rather than abstinence.

Under the new bill, school districts would also be required to provide yearly reports to the State Department of Education that demonstrate compliance with the law, and health teachers would be required to attend development classes every two years.

According to statistics from the New Morning Foundation, South Carolina ranks 12th in the U.S. for teen births.


Opinion: Three Cheers to T.L. Hanna's Safe, Alcohol-Free Prom

Three cheers for Anderson School District Five and the organizers of this year's T. L. Hanna High School Junior/Senior Prom. In the weeks leading up to the event, the school put out the word that drinking would not be acceptable at the annual fest. The message was repeated over and over in the days leading up to Saturday.

At the event, held this year at Clemson University's Madren Center (no one seems to know exaclty why), students entering and leaving the prom were checked with breathalyzers, something all in attendance knew well in advance to expect, and of the 500 students attending exactly zero tested positive for alcohol. Some argue the testing was a bit intrusive, but I will put that aside for the moment and just confirm that it was effective. 

No one arrived at the prom, nor left the prom under the influence of alcohol. No alcohol-related accidents were reported after the prom, despite the large number of couples driving from Anderson to Clemson and back. And no one lost a son or daughter Saturday night.

So cheers to the district and the school for not conceeding to the notion that there is no way to stem the use of alcohol at high school student events. Cheers to planning in advance and making it clear the prom would be a time for memories and not alcohol. And cheers to the kids who took their fun seriously enough to stay sober to remember in the years to come.


AnMed to Host Community Shred Day Saturday

AnMed Health has partnered with Shred A Way to provide a free Shred Day for the community Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at AnMed Health North Campus, Pediatric Therapy Works, and Anderson Mall. 

This event gives residents a secure and environmentally-friendly way to dispose of old documents, hard drives and computers. Confidential papers will be shredded and recycled. Computers and hard drives will be recycled as well. 

Shred A Way will set up at the Oglesby Center at the North Campus, in the parking lot of Pediatric Therapy Works, and in the open lot in front of Anderson Mall. For more information, please call (864) 512-1155.


WSJ: IRS Targeting of Conservate Groups Widespread

The Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to "make America a better place to live," according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted—nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn't targeting conservative groups.

Tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code are allowed to engage in some political activity, but the primary focus of their efforts must remain promoting social welfare.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don't make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

Full Story Here


Hartwell Lake Just Shy of Full Summer Pool

Heavy Spring rains have brought Hartwell Lake is at its highest levels in May since 2010. The lake is currently at 659.1 feet, which is .9 feet from full Summer Pool.

For more information or to monitor the lake's daily level, visit: http://www.mylakehartwell.com/Level.asp




City Council to Meet Tonight

Anderson City Council will meet tonight at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers downtown. The agenda includes commputers for the Anderson Fire Department, amendments to the downtown park contract and consideration fo a contract for a West Benson Street streetscape.



S.C. House Courts Gun Manufacturers

South Carolina lawmakers are considering a resolution that would invite gun manufacturers to relocate to their state, as other states begin to pass new gun restrictions in the wake of December's Newtown shootings.

The invitation would highlight the state's commitment to liberal gun laws, antipathy to unions, tax breaks for businesses that relocate, and low taxes on businesses overall.

Over 50 House members are currently backing the invitation. “We just want to get the word out that we’re here in South Carolina and we’d love to see good businesses,” said Ralph Kennedy (R-Lexington County). “We just want the gun manufacturers to know because they’re up in other states they don’t know us and we want them to get to know us.”

Bristol, Connecticut-based PTR Industries is considering taking South Carolina up on its offer, after Hartford lawmakers passed a law last month banning the manufacture of certain weapons and the purchase of high-capacity magazines.

“We have been forced to decide that our business can no longer survive in Connecticut,” the firm said on its web site. If PTR moves, 150 jobs will be affected.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, companies in the US that manufacture, distribute and sell firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment employ 100,000 people, with an additional 120,000 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. The industry has a total economic impact of $33 billion.


County Finance Committee Meets Monday

The Anderson County Finance Committee will meet Monday at 1:30 p.m. in the historic courthouses downtown. The Agenda includes disussions on the FY 2014 budget and bids on the East-West Parkway Benches. The public is invited.


Official: S.C. Immigration Enforcement Effective

In its first year, a special South Carolina law enforcement unit that investigates criminal cases against illegal immigrants has been successful, according to its commander.

The statewide team — the only one of its kind, according to its commander, Lt. Eddie Johnson — still faces challenges when it comes to ensuring the public understands exactly what it is and what it does.

"This is a learning process for all of us," Johnson, an officer with the state's Department of Public Safety, recently told The Associated Press. "There's no lack of work that needs to be done out there, so the officers stay busy."

Johnson, a veteran Highway Patrol trooper and former Sumter policeman, is commander of the Immigration Enforcement Unit, which was created as a result South Carolina's tough new immigration law. Signed into law in 2011 and modeled after a similar measure in Arizona, the law requires businesses to check the legal status of new employees through a federal system and allows officers to check someone's immigration status if they're pulled over for another reason.

Johnson said his six-member team fields tips from the public and is called in to investigate when someone thought to be in the U.S. illegally is accused of breaking state law in South Carolina — not just people whose sole alleged crime is being in U.S. illegally.

"If you are not involved in any criminal activity here in South Carolina, then you have no fear of the Immigration Enforcement Unit, because we're never going to meet," Johnson said.

It took time to train up the special unit's officers, who work directly with federal agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, when necessary, refer cases directly to them for deportation. Other cases are referred to local solicitors for prosecution. Any civil, workplace issues related to immigration are handled by state labor officials.

Since July, the team has opened 43 cases, 17 of which have resulted in arrests. A handful of others were dismissed — and sent to ICE for deportation. A few have been cleared entirely.

Johnson was hired to start assembling his team in December 2011, as a lawsuit over the new measure wound its way through federal courts. Earlier that year, the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to challenge the new law, arguing that it was unconstitutional.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SC-immigration-unit-measures-successes-challenges-4509078.php#ixzz2T7XlgH3j


New Yorker: Something to Benghazi Coverup

It’s a cliché, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.

On Friday, ABC News’s Jonathan Karl revealed the details of the editing process for the C.I.A.’s talking points about the attack, including the edits themselves and some of the reasons a State Department spokeswoman gave for requesting those edits. It’s striking to see the twelve different iterations that the talking points went through before they were released to Congress and to United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who used them in Sunday show appearances that became a central focus of Republicans’ criticism of the Administration’s public response to the attacks. Over the course of about twenty-four hours, the remarks evolved from something specific and fairly detailed into a bland, vague mush.

From the very beginning of the editing process, the talking points contained the erroneous assertion that the attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved.” That’s an important fact, because the right has always criticized the Administration based on the suggestion that the C.I.A. and the State Department, contrary to what they said, knew that the attack was not spontaneous and not an outgrowth of a demonstration. But everything else about the changes that were made is problematic. The initial draft revealed by Karl mentions “at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi” before the one in which four Americans were killed. That’s not in the final version. Nor is this: “[W]e do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.” That was replaced by the more tepid “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” (Even if we accept the argument that State wanted to be sure that extremists were involved, and that they could be linked to Al Qaeda, before saying so with any level of certainty—which is reasonable and supported by evidence from Karl’s reporting—that doesn’t fully explain these changes away.)

Democrats will argue that the editing process wasn’t motivated by a desire to protect Obama’s record on fighting Al Qaeda in the run-up to the 2012 election. They have a point; based on what we’ve seen from Karl’s report, the process that went into creating and then changing the talking points seems to have been driven in large measure by two parts of the government—C.I.A. and State—trying to make sure the blame for the attacks and the failure to protect American personnel in Benghazi fell on the other guy.

But the mere existence of the edits—whatever the motivation for them—seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue. This past November (after Election Day), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”

Remarkably, Carney is sticking with that line even now. In his regular press briefing on Friday afternoon (a briefing that was delayed several times, presumably in part so the White House could get its spin in order, but also so that it could hold a secretive pre-briefing briefing with select members of the White House press corps), he said:

The only edit made by the White House or the State Department to those talking points generated by the C.I.A. was a change from referring to the facility that was attacked in Benghazi from “consulate,” because it was not a consulate, to “diplomatic post”… it was a matter of non-substantive factual correction. But there was a process leading up to that that involved inputs from a lot of agencies, as is always the case in a situation like this and is always appropriate.

This is an incredible thing for Carney to be saying. He’s playing semantic games, telling a roomful of journalists that the definition of editing we’ve all been using is wrong, that the only thing that matters is who’s actually working the keyboard. It’s not quite re-defining the word “is,” or the phrase “sexual relations,” but it’s not all that far off, either.


AnMed's Annual Teddy Bear Checkup Tomorrow

Teddy bears and other stuffed animals are invited to receive a free check-up tomorrow at the 7th annual AnMed Health Teddy Bear Clinic. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon outside AnMed Health Women’s and Children’s Hospital at 2000 E. Greenville St. in Anderson.  

The Teddy Bear Clinic familiarizes children with hospital personnel and medical equipment by treating stuffed animals for common injuries and ailments. Upon arrival, each stuffed animal is receives a hospital identification band. Kids then take their stuffed animals through a series of screenings and procedures. This includes measuring their weight, height and blood pressure as well as getting an x-ray.

During the event, children can also meet MedShore’s Andy the Ambulance and visit with police and firemen.

The Teddy Bear Clinic is a free event designed for children from 4 to 10 years old. All children must be accompanied by an adult and should bring their own teddy bear or stuffed animal. 

The event will be held rain or shine. In the case of rain, the Teddy Bear Clinic will be moved inside. For more information, parents can call 864.512.4670.