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Seatbelt Crackdown Under Way in S.C.

The State Department of Public Safety Department launched a seatbelt campaign, "Buckle Up South Carolina: It's the Law. And It's enforced."

The program includes both enforcement and education on safety belt use. Officials say this campaign will help prevent the horror stories of family members not returning home. Wednesday also began what law enforcement dubs the "100 deadly days of summer," a time from now through the Labor Day holiday when the number of fatal accidents usually rises.


Senate Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion in S.C.

South Carolina state senators have approved a $7 billion spending plan for state taxes after again rejecting Democrats' push to expand Medicaid.

The Senate voted 38-6 on Wednesday to send their budget proposal back to the House. A conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences in the two chambers' plans.

The Senate version expands full-day 4-year-old kindergarten for at-risk students to 14 additional districts.

Democrats fought unsuccessfully to expand Medicaid eligibility to more poor adults as called for in the federal health care overhaul. Republicans did not budge from their repeated refusal last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the law made it an option rather than a mandate.

Gov. Nikki Haley has repeatedly said as long as she's governor, that won't happen.


Electrolux Announces $30 Million Expansion in Anderson

Electrolux announced today it is investing $30 million in its Anderson manufacturing facility, which produces top-mount refrigerators as well as under-the-counter models. The investment will add advanced manufacturing capability and enhance capacity.

This investment is in addition to a prior $30 million investment the company made recently in the facility, which added a Refrigeration Research and Development Center as well as other improvements.

"Our primary focus at Electrolux is on the development of new innovation, based on consumer insight, that delivers high-quality products our consumers depend on," said Jack Truong, president and CEO of Electrolux Major Appliances North America. "We make award-winning products at this plant and our investment will drive future growth while also positively impacting our local base of employees and the South Carolina communities in which we live and work."

The Electrolux plant in Anderson is 810,000 square feet and is situated on 225 acres.  It employs 1,900 full-time and contract employees and produces one out of every two top-freezer refrigerators shipped in North America.

"Electrolux is a great employer and corporate citizen in South Carolina," said Gov. Nikki Haley. "We congratulate them on their additional $30 million investment in Anderson - a sure sign of their continuing commitment to our state."

"Anderson County is proud that Electrolux has been part of our community for the past 25 years," added Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn.  "This new investment reflects the company's commitment to making the highest quality products and to providing jobs in our community."

"Continued investment by Electrolux in their Anderson facility is testimony to the company's confidence in our labor force and the county's pro-business mindset," said Councilman Eddie Moore. " We offer congratulations, thanks and well wishes for many years of success in Anderson County."


AP Reporters Told to File Shorter Stories

The leading US news agency, the Associated Press, wants its reporters to file shorter stories. One of its executives, Brian Carovillano sent a memo to staff asking reporters and editors to ensure articles are "more comprehensive" and "tightly written."

Most stories should be between 300 and 500 words while the more important ones should be between 500 and 700 words.

Carovillano wrote: "We are failing to exercise important news judgment when our stories are overlong and not tightly edited. We will be closely monitoring story lengths across state and national lines to make sure we are all living up to this commitment."

He believes readers lack the attention span for long stories and that too much valuable time is being wasted by editors needing to cut lengthy copy.

Evidently, AP journalists can expect training sessions to help them write more tightly. (Sounds like a perfect job for an unemployed British newspaper sub).

And well done to Carovillano for ensuring that his memo obeyed his new rules. It came in at just 476 words.


Slowdown Expected this Morning to Repair I-85 Gas Leak

There will be a brief slowdown on Interstate 85 Wednesday morning, due to the continuing effort to manage a chemical leak from a truck on the interstate. 

Preparations to off-load the leaking hydrogen chloride onto a special truck that arrived Tuesday from Texas will begin about 7 a.m., according to Highway Patrol Cpl. Bill Rhyne The chemical transfer is expected to happen about 10 a.m., Rhyne said.

As a precaution while the chemical is moved to another truck, troopers will be slowing down traffic on I-85 between the SC/Georgia state line and Exit 14, according to Rhyne. The transfer was rescheduled a couple of times on Tuesday due to heat and crew fatigue, said Rhyne.

Emergency Manager Capt. Matthew Littleton said, “Once the transfer of the product from the affected tanker to the new tanker begins, we may issue a slowdown to add a level of safety.”

Lanes won't be closed, but they will be slowing down traffic significantly, Rhyne said.  Drivers should expect delays in both the north and south bond lanes. The slowdown is expected to last at least 10 minutes.


S.C. to Consider Revising 1802 Gambling Rules

he South Carolina House has advanced a measure to overturn an 1802 antigambling bill by allowing card games and dice in social clubs and homes.

A committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the bill already passed by the Senate and spurred by state police warning Sun City Hilton Head last year that bridge and canasta social clubs advertised by the retirement community violates state law.

Under strict reading of state law, any playing of social games could be considered as gambling and could result in liquor licenses being revoked.

Previous efforts to legalize games such as bridge and kitchen-table poker have been blocked over fears of the re-emergence of video poker and gambling.

Sponsoring Republican Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort has threatened to challenge the law if the bill isn't passed.


County Council Budget Workshop Tonight at 6

The Anderson County Council will hold a budget workshop on today at 6 p.m. – at the Anderson Sports and Entertainment Center. The purpose of the workshop is to provide information on the county's 2014-15 budget.


Children Working in U.S. Tobacco Fields at Risk

U.S. tobacco fields employ hundreds of children, some as young as 13, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Wednesday that says the children are being exposed to health dangers posed by nicotine.

Nearly three quarters of the children interviewed for the report said they had experienced the sudden onset of symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning, also known as Green Tobacco Sickness: vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, rashes and other irritations.

“As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette,” said Margaret Wurth, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) and co-author of the report. “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.”

From May to October 2013, HRW conducted interviews with 141 child tobacco workers between the ages of seven and 17 in the four states where 90% of tobacco is cultivated in the US: North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

“I would barely eat anything because I wouldn’t get hungry,” a 13-year-old named Elena told Human Rights Watch in May 2013. “Sometimes I felt like I needed to throw up. I felt like I was going to faint. I would stop and just hold myself up with the tobacco plant.”

The child workers perform tasks like planting, weeding and harvesting, which put them in direct contact with the leaves. Nicotine can then be absorbed through the skin – just as it is with nicotine patches – exposing kids to high levels of nicotine.

Workers can absorb up to 54 milligrams of dissolved nicotine in one day of work, the equivalent of 50 cigarettes, according to a 2005 study by Dr Robert McKnight, of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Full Story Here


NSA Wants to Weaken Use of Encryption

U.S. legislators concerned about weaknesses in a major surveillance reform bill intend to insert an amendment barring the National Security Agency from weakening the encryption that many people rely on to keep their information secure online, or exploiting any internet security vulnerabilities it discovers.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, told the Guardian that she and a group of colleagues want to prevent the NSA from “utilizing discovered zero-day flaws,” or unfixed software security vulnerabilities, and entrench “the duty of the NSA and the government generally not to create them, nor to prolong the threat to the internet” by failing to warn about those vulnerabilities.

Since the discovery of the Heartbleed bug afflicting web and email servers, the NSA has faced suspicions that it has exploited the vulnerability, which the agency has strenuously denied. Beyond Heartbleed, documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA has weakened online encryption, causing consternation among technology companies as well as privacy advocates.

Lofgren intends to attach the provision to the USA Freedom Act, increasingly the consensus bill to reform surveillance in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures. The bill, mostly favored by civil libertarians and expected to go for a vote on the House floor as early as next week, does not include language stopping the NSA from undermining encryption.

Full Story Here


Official: Gas Leak on I-85 No Threat to Public

Anderson County has issued a release stating that the incident at the north bound I-85 weigh station at the 9 Mile Marker is still on going and there is NO THREAT to the public at this time.  All responders are still working to prepare for transferring the product from the affected tanker to the new tanker that has arrived on scene.

Anderson County is the recipient of mutual-aid from Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville Counties, the American Red Cross, along with SCHP, SC State Transport Police, SCDOT, SCDHEC, and the EPA.  We are expecting a successful transfer of product later today and have the resources on hand to bring this incident to a successful conclusion.

There have been no reported injuries to either the public or the first responders throughout the event.  As a precaution only, three homes remain under a voluntary evacuation request and the Red Cross continues to operate a temporary shelter at Double Springs Baptist Church.  Homes beyond the 300 feet hazard zone are not affected nor are they expected to be affected.

The interstate is open, but we are expecting a short window of delayed traffic along the interstate while the tanker transition is being connected for transfer.  It is important to note that there are numerous agencies that are working together to resolve this incident successfully.  Anderson County would not be successful were it not for the relationships and mutual aid partners from across the region.  We will continue to update you as the day goes on.


Judge Dismisses Case Against Bobby Harrell

A judge has dismissed a case involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Circuit Judge Casey Manning said in a ruling issued Monday the court system is not the appropriate venue for the case.
The state grand jury has been considering whether Harrell should be indicted on allegations he used his influence for his own personal benefit.
Manning's decision is similar to one he previously made regarding ethics allegations against Gov. Nikki Haley, a former House member. The House Ethics Committee ultimately cleared her of all charges.
Harrell's lawyers argued their client's case should be dealt with identically to Haley's. Attorney General Alan Wilson had said the Harrell matter is criminal and therefore must be dealt with in court.
Wilson said in a statement he would appeal and seek to continue the investigation.


S.C. Extends Private School Tax Breaks

A one-year extension of South Carolina’s first private-school tuition program appears to be coasting through the budget process.

The program limited to children with disabilities didn’t take effect until January and faced extinction after a single semester without legislative action. But legislators in both chambers extended it as part of their spending plans for 2014-15. Senators continue debate this week.

Both the House plan and Senate Finance proposal maintain an $8 million cap on the total tax credits that donors can claim. Student scholarships are capped at $10,000. As of Monday, $6.8 million in dollar-for-dollar credits still are available for 2014.

Unlike in previous years, the idea of using tax credits to help parents pay private tuition hasn’t been hotly debated. The pilot approved last year represented advocates’ first victory.



S.C. Only State Voters Choose Top Military Post

Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston has commanded the 9,000 members of South Carolina's Army and Air National Guard for nearly four years. In 2007, he led the state's largest combat force since World War II on a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan.

Yet the two-star Army National Guard general has to swap his uniform for a civilian's coat and tie to campaign for a second term as the state's adjutant general.

South Carolina is the only state in the nation where voters choose their top military officer in a general election.

In past years, the race in this military-friendly state has amounted to a mundane exercise. In 2010, Livingston made his first run for the post with no opponent and garnered 99 percent of about 900,000 votes cast.

"It is kind of awkward to switch from being a soldier that doesn't attract — and doesn't want — public attention, because my job is to serve beside and behind our commander in chief," Livingston told the AP shortly after announcing his re-election bid last month. "But when I become a politician, I have to seek attention."

This time, the race for the Republican nomination in the June 10 primary is spicier because it is contested.

At his campaign stops, Livingston points to his 35 years in uniform, his experience leading a brigade in combat, and work under Army Gen. David Petraeus at the U.S. Central Command.

His opponent, 45-year-old James Breazeale of Florence, is an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and commercial airline pilot who touts his three deployments to Iraq and Kuwait as well as two years with the South Carolina Guard.

However, Peter O'Boyle, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, said Breazeale is on probation in Florence County until September of 2015 for a conviction of "entering premises after warning" while living in Florida in 2013.

Full Story Here