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Report: 2015 Good Year for Tourism in S.C. 

As the summer tourist season begins to wind down, the numbers show it's been another good year for South Carolina's $18 billion tourism industry.

Figures posted by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism show that through the first half of 2015, room occupancy and average room rates were both up in the state. Meanwhile, revenue per available room, a key indicator of industry health, was up more than 8 percent over last year.

The figures were compiled by STR, Inc., a company that tracks tourism trends. The average room rate in South Carolina in June was $122, about a dollar more than the national average. STR is forecasting modest growth in room occupancy in South Carolina through the end of the summer.


Could Nuclear Plants Help S.C. Meet New EPA Rules?

Two nuclear plants being built in Fairfield County are expected to help South Carolina comply with new rules that require the state cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

The sweeping federal rules, the nation’s first regulation of carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants, also will force South Carolina to look more carefully at increasing its use of solar, wind and natural gas power, as well as tightening energy-efficiency programs.

The rules, which became final Monday, require states to develop plans within the next three years to reduce carbon dioxide pollution below 2005 levels. Those reductions, which amount to a 32 percent cut nationally, must be effective by 2030, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

State plans likely will examine an array of options on how to cut carbon dioxide pollution. In South Carolina, that means cutting emissions from the state’s remaining coal-fired power plants.

A key question is what form of energy South Carolina would rely on to replace some of the energy now produced by coal-fired power plants, which are leading sources of carbon dioxide pollution.

Carbon dioxide is a major reason the climate is changing, with higher temperatures, more weather extremes and rising seas, an overwhelming majority of scientists say. That’s significant in South Carolina, where sea-level rise is expected to erode beaches and flood properties along the coast.

Part of the answer could be more reliance on nuclear power.

Like renewable energy, nuclear power plants do not release carbon dioxide when generating electricity. SCE&G and Santee Cooper have partnered to build the $10 billion nuclear plants northwest of Columbia.

But nuclear power is controversial because atomic energy plants create dangerous waste and the United States does not have a permanent disposal site for the material. The EPA’s new rules give credit to South Carolina for the construction underway of the atomic energy plants.

Utilities were reluctant to fully endorse the plan, but officials said Monday they’re encouraged. A previous version of the EPA’s carbon reduction plan gave less flexibility for using nuclear power, utilities said.

“The final rule appears to address our chief concern, in that it gives South Carolina credit for work by Santee Cooper and SCE&G to reduce (carbon dioxide) emissions through building new nuclear units,’’ Santee Cooper said in a statement.

The power company said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., helped convey that message.

“Today’s final rule makes important improvements over the proposed rule with respect to nuclear power, treating it the same as other clean energy sources like wind and solar,’’ Clyburn said in a statement. “It is appropriate to treat these energy sources the same because, for purposes of combating climate change, they are the same — all emit zero greenhouse gases.’’

Environmental groups are more interested in ramping up the state’s use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable power — and they will push for those components in the plan South Carolina submits to the federal government in the next three years.

But they cheered the regulations as an important step in curbing greenhouse gas pollution. South Carolina’s coal-fired power plants released some 29 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2013, according to the EPA.

“The release of the (EPA) plan today is a milestone event for the country,’’ said Frank Rambo, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has offices in South Carolina.

Not everyone is happy with the EPA regulations.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., blasted the regulations Monday as too expensive and unrealistic for the nation to comply with. He noted South Carolina is among 15 states that have challenged the rules in federal court.

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Clemson Ranked 3 Top Spots in Princeton Review

Clemson University offers the best career services, has great community relations and football-loving students, according to The Princeton Review’s “Best 380 Colleges” 2016 edition.

Clemson is rated No. 1 in the categories of Student Career Services, Town-Gown Relations and Students Pack the Stadium in the rankings that were released Monday.

Clemson also ranked:

  • No. 2 in Their Students Love These Colleges
  • No. 5 in Everyone Plays Intramural Sports
  • No. 7 Happiest Students
  • No. 13 in Most Conservative Students
  • No. 15 in Students Most Engaged in Community Service
  • No. 15 in Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution

It was the first time Clemson was ranked first in Career Services.

“I believe there are three reasons The Princeton Review ranked career services at Clemson as the best in the country,” said Neil Burton, executive director of Clemson’s Center for Career and Professional Development.

“First, we really like students, and students recognize that when they come see us. Second, we honor students as individuals and tailor our services to meet their specific goals. Third, we have terrific faculty and staff partners who embrace career development as a campus-wide priority.”

A recent survey of graduates showed that 71 percent of them left Clemson with some form of internship or co-op experience. Graduates who completed an internship or co–op assignment were 20 percent more likely to have a job at graduation.

Also contributing to students’ career success is Clemson’s alumni network, which The Princeton Review ranked the best in the nation earlier this year.

The rankings are based on surveys of 136,000 students at the 380 colleges in the book in 2014-15 and/or the previous two school years. The survey asks students 80 questions about their school’s academics, administration, student body and themselves.

“Our 62 ranking lists provide students with a way to see the types of colleges that could help them achieve their future goals and dreams,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s senior vice president-publisher.

The new lists appear in The Princeton Review’s 2016 edition, “The Best 380 Colleges” (Penguin Random House / Princeton Review Books, $23.99), that goes on sale Tuesday.


7-Foot Alligator Comes Ashore on Pawleys Island

Authorities in South Carolina said a 7-foot alligator that came ashore on a beach was captured by experts and will be released back into the wild.

Pawleys Island police confirmed the alligator was reported by beachgoers Sunday and Rainer Hengst, who was photographing his family surfing, took photos and a video of the alligator being captured by police and wildlife removal experts.

Hengst said the alligator tried to evade capture.

"The alligator would come in to about knee-deep water and then go back out," Hengst told ABC News.

"It's unusual to see alligators in the ocean, but not unheard of. I've lived here for 10 years and this was my first time seeing one out there," he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says alligators are "primarily freshwater animals" but they "can tolerate salt water for a few hours or even days."

Police Chief Michael Fanning said the alligator will be released away from the beach. He said the gator was the second to be captured after getting caught in the ocean's current this summer.


Report: State Dept. Diluted Human Trafficking Report

In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.

In all, analysts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons - or J/TIP, as it’s known within the U.S. government — disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on ratings for 17 countries, the sources said.

The analysts, who are specialists in assessing efforts to combat modern slavery - such as the illegal trade in humans for forced labor or prostitution - won only three of those disputes, the worst ratio in the 15-year history of the unit, according to the sources.

As a result, not only Malaysia, Cuba and China, but countries such as India, Uzbekistan and Mexico, wound up with better grades than the State Department’s human-rights experts wanted to give them, the sources said. (Graphic looking at some of the key decisions here:

Of the three disputes J/TIP won, the most prominent was Thailand, which has faced scrutiny over forced labor at sea and the trafficking of Rohingya Muslims through its southern jungles. Diplomats had sought to upgrade it to so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” status. It remains on “Tier 3” - the rating for countries with the worst human-trafficking records.

The number of rejected recommendations suggests a degree of intervention not previously known by diplomats in a report that can lead to sanctions and is the basis for many countries’ anti-trafficking policies. This year, local embassies and other constituencies within the department were able to block some of the toughest grades.

State Department officials say the ratings are not politicized. “As is always the case, final decisions are reached only after rigorous analysis and discussion between the TIP office, relevant regional bureaus and senior State Department leaders,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in response to queries by Reuters.

Still, by the time the report was released on July 27, Malaysia and Cuba were both removed from the "Tier 3" blacklist, even though the State Department’s own trafficking experts believed neither had made notable improvements, according to the sources. 

The Malaysian upgrade, which was highly criticized by human rights groups, could smooth the way for an ambitious proposed U.S.-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries.

Ending Communist-ruled Cuba’s 12 years on the report’s blacklist came as the two nations reopened embassies on each other’s soil following their historic détente over the past eight months.

And for China, the experts’ recommendation to downgrade it to the worst ranking, Tier 3, was overruled despite the report’s conclusion that Beijing did not undertake increased anti-trafficking efforts.

That would have put China alongside the likes of Syria and North Korea, regarded by the United Nations as among the world’s worst human right abusers. 

Typically, J/TIP wins more than half of what officials call “disputes” with diplomatic sections of the State Department, according to people familiar with the process. 

“Certainly we have never seen that kind of an outcome,” said one U.S. official with direct knowledge of the department.

Full Story Here


County to Begin Demolition of Substandard Housing

Anderson County Council has announced properties for the Phase I of the 2015-16 Demolition Plan for Substandard Housing Properties. During the coming weeks, a total of 10properties will be razed. Targeted properties include:

  •       7 River Street
  •       15 River Street
  •       10 Q Street
  •       11 R Street
  •       115 S.Smythe Street
  •       1157 W. Franklin Street
  •        200 Glenn Street
  •        2104 Whitehall Road
  •        4024 Whitehall Road
  •        1008 Kings Road

A substandard structure is defined as one that is dilapidated, dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy. Eliminating substandard housing increases neighborhood safety and long-term stability, improved property standards, and encourages revitalization and economic development.

“Council's goal is to support Building & Codes efforts and thereby, foster home ownership, improve housing opportunities for residents and promote an environment that encourages redevelopment of these areas,” said County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn. “Leveling these abandoned/substandard structures that are often hot spots for criminal activity, such as theft, drug use, prostitution or arson, gives rise to positive change and results in the revitalization of neighborhoods. These properties are an eyesore, and cause depreciation to neighboring properties.”

Anderson County has a Substandard Housing Program to address dilapidated, vacated homes. Due to the legal steps that are required, it may take six months to a year to have a property approved for demolition. Mobile homes can be even more difficult since the mobile home owner is not always the land owner. In these cases, there is a law in place that specifically deals with derelict mobile homes and the Building and Codes Department is prepared to guide the land owner through this process.


Carson, Cruz, Walker Confirmed for Anderson Faith & Freedom BBQ

Republican Presidential Candidates Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Scott Walker will be in Anderson Aug. 24 for the U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., annual Faith and Freedom BBQ at the civic center.

Other candidates have also been invited to the event, billed as the "South Carolina’s Largest Annual Gathering of Conservatives." Tickets for the event range from $35 for an individual to $1,000 for an eight-tickets with VIP pass. Tickets are available at


Council to Vote on Paving Ordinance, Recreation Fund Reporting

Anderson County Council will vote on zoning issues, an ordinance pertaining to accountability of groups receiving county recreation funds and better defining paving local roads as part of Tuesday's 6:30 p.m. meeting in the historic courthouse downtown.

The public is invited.

Full agenda here.


School Resource Officers Certified for Emergencies

Thanks to the Anderson County EMS & Special Operations Division and Anderson County Emergency Services, Sheriff’s deputies assigned as School Resource Officers will now be ready for any emergency, including a medical one.

Last week, 14 School Resource Officers completed a 48-hour Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) course Front Row – Macy Gaines, Shanika Simpson, Juvan Chau, Rachel Skipper, and Kirstie Erskine Back Row – Lt. Tyrone Williams, Randy Alexander, Mark Coyle, Sheriff John Skipper, Andrew Cochrane, and Shawn Davisoffered by the county.  The 6-day program consisted of classroom instruction followed by both a written and practical exam.  The officers are now certified Emergency Medical Responders.  

“This is a new program but with the next school year rapidly approaching, we thought it wise to provide this type of advanced training to our School Resource Officers first," said Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper. "They now have the necessary skills to assist students, teachers, fellow officers and even their own family members in the case of a medical emergency.  They are trained to provide life-saving techniques until emergency medical technicians or paramedics arrive on the scene.”

“They are trained similar to many of our firefighters who provide medical first response,” added EMS Director Scott Stoller, “and their response during a medical emergency can save valuable minutes and potentially save lives. I applaud Sheriff Skipper in allowing us to train these deputies to provide a higher level of emergency medical care beyond what most law enforcement officers possess. This speaks volumes of his concern for our children and our County.”

The course was taught by Anderson County EMS Training Coordinator, Sheila Kaiser, and Emergency Services Coordinator, Todd Tillirson, who is also a paramedic for ACEMS.  Both Kaiser and Tillirson have been Nationally Registered Paramedics for over 10 years. They are certified to train ACLS, CPR, PALS and EMR.*
This was the first of many EMR classes that the EMS & Special Operations Division plans to deliver in partnership with the Sheriff’s Emergency Services Division.  Both divisions hope to cooperatively deliver this, and many other classes, to county employees over the next several months.

“Incidents in Boston and Louisiana have shown us that law enforcement officers trained in medical response techniques are instrumental in saving lives, and it’s gratifying to know that our School Resource Officers have been trained to help ensure our children’s safety," said Sheila Kaiser. “It’s also important to note that once an employee receives their certification, in order to keep their skills up-to-date, they will be required to recertify every two years; but, the Sheriff’s Office has committed to having a refresher every year.”

That’s okay with the resource officers and their lieutenant Tyrone Williams who commended his team.  “The course was very intense and we learned a lot of important skills in a short amount of time.  I’m proud of them,” said Williams.  “I have a few more officers who took the course and still need to take the practical exam, but they’ll do just fine."

The EMR program is taught to national standards and certification is through the American Safety & Health Institute, for which the EMS & Special Operations Division is an advanced training center.  For further information concerning the program, please contact EMS Training Coordinator Sheila Kaiser at (864) 932-3102.


Planned Parenthood Funding Fight Hits Sentate Today

Women's health group Planned Parenthood, under attack by anti-abortionists posting hidden-camera videos online, will be the focus of a partisan showdown on Monday in the U.S. Senate, with any wider influence on voters from the charge still unclear.

Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding. The effort followed the release of videos by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, that have reinvigorated America's abortion debate as the 2016 presidential campaign shifts into high gear.

The Senate plans to hold a procedural vote on Monday on a Republican proposal to cut off the funds. Democrats are expected to block it, extending the confrontation.

Planned Parenthood has hundreds of family planning and reproductive health centers nationwide. It gets up to $500 million per year in Medicaid contributions, and up to $60 million in federal funds for family planning services. U.S. law tightly restricts applying federal funds to abortions.

Millions of women, many young and single, rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare beyond abortions and family planning, including breast and cervical cancer screenings.

The group contributed nearly $1.6 million to candidates in the 2014 elections who backed abortion rights, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog.

Young, single women are a key demographic for Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

So far, Clinton has called the online videos "disturbing," while also saying it was "regrettable" that Republicans, allied with anti-abortionists, were trying to cut off funding.

Full Story Here


Study: Picky Eaters More Likely to Suffer from Depression

For many in the toddler-rearing parent population, dinner-time can be a battle: their children are picky eaters, and have divined what seems like a both arbitrary and immovable set of guidelines for their foods.

The foods they can’t touch, the crusts that have to be cut off or the ketchup that has to be a certain brand.

Researchers in a study published on Monday now believe those tendencies, which pediatricians have long advised children will “grow out of”, are associated with a greater likelihood of symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADHD. They also found the symptoms worsen as the picky eating does, with the most extreme picky eaters almost twice as likely to have a diagnosis of depression.

“If you give these kids a new food often times they’ll gag,” said Nancy Zucker about the most severe cases.

Zucker is a professor in Duke University’s psychology and neuroscience department who designed part of the new study, Psychological and Psychosocial Impairment in Preschoolers with Selective Eating (as picky eating is called among academics), which is published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s so repulsive to them that their reflexive gag response will kick in,” she said.

Among the worst cases – such as kids who only eat foods of certain colors, textures and brands – the phenomenon was beginning to impair the children’s social functions, Zucker said.

“They couldn’t go to birthday parties, to the cafeteria – or forget overnight camps,” Zucker said.

Zucker and seven other doctors and researchers surveyed more than 3,400 children who visited Duke’s clinics between 2007 and 2010. From that large pool, researchers whittled down the picky eaters to 917 two- to five-year-olds, (excluding those on the autism spectrum where selective eating is highly prevalent).

Researchers found more than one in five (20.3%) showed either moderate to severe selective eating, known as “avoidance/restrictive food intake disorder”, or Arfid. Those landing in the severe range were more than twice as likely to have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, such as depression or anxiety, and twice as likely to have behavior problems outside of home.

Those in the moderate range were more likely to show symptoms of ADHD and separation anxiety. Both groups were 1.7 times as likely to have symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

Full Story Here


Farm & Food Clean Hands Gardening Workshop Tuesday

The Anderson Farm & Food Associattion will host a home gardening workshop for those who don't want to get their hands dirty Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Anderson County Farmers Market.

The "Clean Hands Gardening with Aquaponics / Hydroponics" will be presented by Dr. Steven Presgraves and Katie Tilman of Friends Farm. The workshop is free and no registration is required.
If you love fresh food, but you don't want to get your hands dirty, then Aquaponics and Hydroponics are just what you need. Learn how to raise tilapia in a small space, how to grow plants without dirt, and how to get started for very little money. If you feel the urge to give it all up and buy a farm, try this in your backyard instead - there's less weeding!


S.C. Lottery Tickets Post Record Year for Sales

The South Carolina Education Lottery says the 2015 fiscal year was the best on record for the lottery.

The lottery brought in $1.4 billion in ticket sales, permit fees and other revenue during the fiscal year which ran July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

Lottery officials say $349 million of that money was placed into the Education Lottery Account that is appropriated by the General Assembly to fund higher education, K-12 education and community education efforts such as county libraries.

Lottery players cashed in on the games with $924 million going to prizes. The SC Education Lottery says that's an increase of $113 million from the previous year.

Retailers also saw record commissions from lottery sales in FY15. The lottery reports giving businesses $98.8 million in commissions and incentives.

To learn more about how the SC Education Lottery appropriates funds from the game visit their website.