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Study: Virtual Reality May Help Treat Alcoholism

A small study in South Korea has shown that virtual reality representations where alcoholics would be tempted to drink was effective in helping them cope with their addiction.

Based on differences in brain metabolism after the treatment, researchers believe that putting alcoholics in situations similar to real life dampened their craving for alcohol.

"This technology is already popular in the fields of psychology and psychiatry," Dr. Doug Hyun Han, a senior researcher at Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul, said in a press release, adding that the technology has been used to treat phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the study, 12 patients at the hospital went through a weeklong detox program and then 10 sessions of virtual reality treatment, which placed them in three scenarios: one in a relaxing environment; one in a "high-risk" situation with people in a restaurant who were drinking; and, finally, one where patients were surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of people getting sick from too much alcohol.

PET and CT scans of the patients taken before treatment showed the brain metabolism in their limbic circuit - which indicates a heightened sensitivity to stimuli, such as alcohol - to be higher than nonalcoholics. In scans after treatment, brain metabolism had slowed, which Han said suggests the craving for alcohol in the patients had been effected.

Virtual reality has had some success with soldiers returning from Iraq who have PTSD.

Researchers in the alcoholism study said that larger, long-term studies will need to be done to determine if the treatment is actually effective at preventing relapses.


Opinion: Why It's Time to Take Down the Confederate Flag 

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 year ago. The second best time is now."
-  Chinese Proverb

This proverb is at least 1,000 years old, but could easily be paraphrased as a perfect prescription for the situation the state of South Carolina is currently facing.

The best time to take the Confederate Battle Flag off the State House grounds in Columbia was 50 years ago. The second best time is now.

With only a single House member of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation even willing to open debate on the subject, which represents five of the 10 votes against discussion, Anderson County is being painted nationally as the area with most backward, ill-informed and reactionary elected state officials in the Palmetto State.

Exactly 103 other members in the General Assembly agreed with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to get the Confederate flag off from the State House Grounds in the wake of the recent murders at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. The alleged killer is an avowed racist who has stated he wanted to start a race war in the state. Boy, did he pick the wrong state for that twisted goal.

Much has already been said of the amazing Christian grace and racial unity and support in a city already reeling from the killing on an unarmed African American man with no violent history or record, by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. The kindling was already lit when the church slayings shocked Charleston, the rest of the state and the world. But unlike Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York where other incidents involving the deaths in African American communities erupted into riots, looting and other violence, what happened in Charleston was something few expected.

At the arraignment of the suspect who gunned down nine people in the church after spending an hour in bible study with them, the families of those nine victims offered Christian forgiveness. In the week since, unity marches, not riots, have marked the event. Prayer meetings, not looting, have been the rule of the day. And even outside groups which traveled to Charleston seeking to fan the flames of hate, were drowned out by singing.

It reflects what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said was a part of his dream:

“We are coming to see now, the psychiatrists are saying to us, that many of the strange things that happen in the sub-conscience, many of the inner conflicts, are rooted in hate. And so they are saying, "Love or perish." But Jesus told us this a long time ago. And I can still hear that voice crying through the vista of time, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." And there is still a voice saying to every potential Peter, "Put up your sword." History is replete with the bleached bones of nations, history is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command. And isn’t it marvelous to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against an unjust system, fight it with all of your might, never accept it, and yet not stoop to violence and hatred in the process? This is what we have.”

Haley understands the core teaching of this call, and does not want South Carolina to be “cluttered with the wreckage of communities” that failed to follow Jesus’ command. The leadership in the African American community in this state, the families who lost loved ones in the church shooting, and countless others across the state recognize the clear hand of love, the olive branch of peace being extended as a demonstration of how to properly stand up to a unjust system to bring lasting change.

Most seem to clearly recognize these gestures and are responding in kind, with the type of love Jesus talked about when he said the only command greater than loving God is to love your neighbor.

If you lived in a community where you understood your neighbor worked swing shifts, you might remember to tone down your noise in the daylight hours when you knew they were sleeping. Or if you knew your neighbor was a widow, whose husband died serving this country during World War II in the Pacific, is is unlikely you would fly the flag of the Japanese Imperial Navy in your front yard, out of respect.

The Confederate Battle Flag is both offensive and threatening to many in the African American community, and with good reason. While the flag is nothing more than a dyed piece of cloth on a stick, what it represents is determined by how it is used. Some argue that is not fair, but fairness is not at issue in this debate. The truth is the Ku Klux Klan, and according to one report, 500 other extremist groups use the flag as at least one of their symbols. While certainly most who fly that flag do not agree with what these groups stand for, it does not change the fact that there is an association with hatred and bigotry connected to that particular emblem.

Some have tried to argue the flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate, and for a few people that could be true. But few of those are among the groups targeted by those who have chosen the symbol as a weapon of warning and ignorance. As a Southerner whose family roots in South Carolina go back at least seven generations, it is clear many of my people fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. But that war ended 150 years ago, and when it did the Confederate flags in Columbia came down. It was only during the centennial celebration it was added to the capitol dome, which conveniently coincided with the state’s fierce opposition to the legal requirements of Brown vs. the Board of Education which said that “separate but equal” schools were not to be allowed in America.

The flag was clearly intended, not just in South Carolina but across the South and in many other parts of the country, as a signal of opposition to the racial integration of schools and a general opposition to the civil rights movement calling for an end to excluding minorities from voting and being allowed in “whites only” businesses and transportation interests.

Many today have never forgotten than between the turn of the last century and 1968, more than 3,400 African Americas were lynched in this country and most of those were in the South. South Carolina had 156, Georgia 492, Mississippi 539, Tennessee 204, Lousiana 335, Alabama 299, Texas 352, Arkansas 226, Florida 257 and Kentucky 142. Those numbers represent a lot of families who have not forgotten the terror of those times, the KKK was already using the Confederate battle flag as their flag before 1900.

So as those have been wronged offer forgiveness, why is it that these members of the Anderson County Delegation House members - Craig A. Gagnon, District 11, Michael W. "Mike" Gambrell, District 7, Jonathan D. Hill, District 8, Anne J. Thayer, District 9 and W. Brian White, District 6 - voted against the idea of of even debating the issue.
It is a wildly overused phrase, but one which still holds meaning on this issue: these representatives are on the wrong side of history.

South Carolina today is the U.S. headquarters of BMW, Michelin (and soon Volvo) and is home to hundreds of other international businesses. It is foolhardy to think the current controversy is lost on the leaders of these industries. We are a state which had a long way to come, but one where we have made great progress, and now is the time to demonstrate our commitment to moving ahead.

In a state where nearly a third of our citizens are African American - only four states have a slightly higher percentage - and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is one of one three African Americans in the U.S. Senate, clearly we are ready to move forward.

The flying of the Confederate flag in South Carolina is one controversy we finally have the vision to put to rest.

Let’s hope the General Assembly demonstrates the leadership and wisdom to make it happen.

Contact the Anderson County Delegation here to tell them you expect them to be a part of this historic move, and remind them the primary season for 2016 elections is closer than they might think.


S.C. Passes Budget with $216 M for Roads

The South Carolina Legislature has approved a budget that distributes more than $216 million to counties for road repair and provides $70 million toward infrastructure promised to Volvo.

The budget package approved Tuesday also sets aside $50 million to be used later to borrow for large highway projects. But that money cannot be used until legislators pass a long-term plan for fixing South Carolina's deteriorating roads.

The House passed a road-funding proposal in April that would have raised $400 million annually for roadwork. The Senate Finance Committee came up with another plan expected to generate nearly $800 million. But the full Senate never voted on it before the regular session ended earlier this month.

That bill will be high on the Senate agenda when legislators return in January.


After More than 2 Months, Sullivan’s at Brookstone a Tasty Success

Anderson’s Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill, one of the most celebrated restaurants in the South, new endeavor at Brookstone Meadows is going well more than two months after opening.Lunch Menu

With very similar color schemes and high ceilings, Sullivan’s at Brookstone, could easily be called Sullivan’s Jr. The new Sullivan’s differs from the downtown institution in a several ways, according to Bill Nikas, who started the business in Anderson nearly 17 years ago.

The menu features many of the best-known items from the downtown location, including the Trigger Fish, stuffed pork chops and desserts, but will also include some new lunch items such as a deluxe hot dog and bird dogs. Prices are also a bit lower at the Brookstone location.

“We wanted to add to the lunch menu for this location,” Nikas said. “I think people will enjoy what we have put together.” (see Photos)

Nikas said since opening the new location in the Brookstone Clubhouse on April 1, business has been good.

Sullivan’s at Brookstone also offers something the downtown location does not: Sunday lunch.

The new location is open Sundays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m for lunch and Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-9 p.m. for dinner.

The new location has seating for nearly 100, and Nikas expects it will be a popular spot for private parties.
Dinner Menu
Since opening Sullivan’s Metropolitan Grill in downtown Anderson in December of 1999, Nikas and his wife Sabra (the person responsible for the extensive homemade desserts at the restaurant) have been engaged members of the community regularly supporting the efforts of local charitable agencies including AIM, the Haven of Rest, Meals on Wheels and other groups reaching out to meet the needs of others in this community.


Most of Anderson Delegation Stands Alone in Support of Confederate Flag

While the rest of the South Carolina General Assembly moved to debate removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, five legislators from Anderson refused to do so. They were among only 10 statewide on the short end of the 103-10 vote.

That's half of the no votes. Only Rep. Joshua Putnam, who represents the Dist. 10 Piedmont area, said his Christian convictions compelled him to vote with the overwhelming majority of his colleagues to at least debate the issue.

The rest of the delegation's House members, Craig A. Gagnon, District 11, Michael W. "Mike" Gambrell, District 7, Jonathan D. Hill, District 8, Anne J. Thayer, District 9 and W. Brian White, District 6 voted against the idea of debate.

On Monday, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds saying it was time for the state to move forward. The Confederate Battle Flag was placed on the grounds in 1961 to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War and to express S.C.'s opposition to racially integrating schools.

Sources told the Anderson Observer Haley had received calls from the home offices of some of the international companies with headquarters in the state, asking her to consider the flag's removal.


Study: Half of All Doctors Don't Understand Opioid Abuse

Many doctors over-prescribe opioid painkillers because they don't understand how the drugs are abused or how addictive different formulations may be, which is contributing to the epidemic abuse of them.

Researchers found in a survey that one-third of doctors did not know the most popular method of abusing opioids was swallowing whole pills. Almost half thought that abuse-deterrent versions of the pills that can't be crushed and snorted or injected were less addictive that the regular pills.

"Physicians and patients may mistakenly view these medicines as safe in one form and dangerous in another, but these products are addictive no matter how you take them," said G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., M.S., an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology and co-director of the school's Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, in a press release. "If doctors and patients fail to understand this, they may believe opioids are safer than is actually the case and prescribe them more readily than they should."

The survey of 1,000 practicing internists, family physicians, and general practitioners in the United States was done between February and May 2014. Of those who participated, roughly one-third were not aware that the most popular way to abuse opioids was to take whole pills. Other surveys have found that, depending on the drug and population surveyed, between 64 and 97 percent of people swallowed whole pills, and it generally is the most popular method ahead of snorting or injecting the drugs.

Just under half of all doctors, 46 percent, thought that versions of pills that can't be crushed, preventing them from being snorted or injected, were less addictive.

"Our findings highlight the importance of patient and provider education regarding what abuse-deterrent products can and cannot do," Alexander said. "When it comes to the opioid epidemic, we must be cautious about overreliance on technological fixes for what is first and foremost a problem of overprescribing."

The survey is published in The Clinical Journal of Pain.


Undocumented Immigrants Fund Medicare Surplus

Undocumented immigrants paid $35.1 billion more into Medicare than they withdrew, extending the program's viability a year longer than predicted had they not paid into it at all.

Researchers discovered that between 2000 and 2011, undocumented immigrants contributed between $2.2 billion and $3.8 billion more than they withdrew from the Medicare Trust Fund each year. That created a total surplus of $35.1 billion over the 11-year span.

Had this surplus not been added to the trust fund, it would become insolvent by 2029, one year earlier than analysts currently predict.

"For years I have seen my unauthorized immigrant patients be blamed for driving up health care costs," lead author Dr. Leah Zallman, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, researcher at the Institute for Community Health and primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, told Physicians for a National Health Program. "Yet few acknowledge their contributions. Our study demonstrates that in one large sector of the U.S. health care economy, unauthorized immigrants actually subsidize the care of other Americans."

The study also found that if 10 percent of undocumented immigrants were authorized each year for the next seven years, the surplus created by undocumented immigrants would total $45.7 billion.

It's likely the age of most undocumented immigrants factor into why there is a projected surplus. A demographics report released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012 found that 5 percent of undocumented workers are 55 years or older. The age at which a person becomes eligible for Medicare is 65.

In comparison, the 2010 U.S. Census found that 15.1 percent of the total U.S. population is 65 years or older. Even should all of the undocumented immigrants in the United States be legalized, there's a smaller percentage of them eligible to receive Medicare based solely on age than the overall population.

The study concluded that should policies be put in place to halt the influx of undocumented immigrants to the United States, the Medicare Trust Fund's depletion rate would increase.


Hot Weather, Flag Flap, Mental Health, Meals on Wheels and Amos!

In Case You Missed It. (subscribers to iTunes and RSS should have this already)


South Revisiting Confederate Imagery

Calls to remove Confederate imagery from public places multiplied rapidly across the South and beyond Tuesday, with opponents eyeing state flags, license plates and statues of Civil War politicians and generals.

The startling movement, driven by the killing of nine black churchgoers at the hands of a white gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, has made converts of politicians who have long supported or stood silent on such symbols. Many of the efforts appear to have the muscle to succeed.

Statehouse displays such as the Confederate battle flag flying in South Carolina are coming under the heaviest fire. But the familiar banner, with its star-studded blue ‘X’ overlaying a field of red, is just one of scores, if not hundreds, of state-sanctioned displays that honor the vanquished Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow segregation that lasted for more than a century after the end of the Civil War.

The homages — from veterans’ memorials and statues of politicians to counties, streets, government buildings and public schools named for Confederate figures and subsequent white supremacists — haven’t always generated the same political and social tensions as the battle flag, and Confederate heritage groups say the outcry is misplaced, despite widely seen images of the church shooting suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, holding the rebel flag.

At the least, however, the flag and other tributes remain a constant reminder of the nation’s perpetual struggle with race, and of some Southerners’ defiance of the federal government’s efforts on civil rights.

“Statues and monuments aren’t history,” said Stan Deaton, a historian for the Georgia Historical Society. “They are what we choose to tell future generations about the past. ... It’s a very delicate subject, and let’s not kid ourselves: So much of it has to do with race.”

In Kentucky, the Republican candidate for governor, Matt Bevin, and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis should be removed from the Capitol rotunda, where it sits just feet from a statue of Abraham Lincoln, whose election spurred the South’s secession. Both men were born in Kentucky, a border state during the Civil War.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said he wanted the state to stop issuing a vanity license plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that includes the battle flag. “Even its display on state-issued license tags, in my view, is unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people,” McAuliffe said, speaking in Richmond, the second and final capital of the Confederacy.

In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers of both parties called for removing a Capitol grounds bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader. The longest-serving black legislator in Alabama said he plans to introduce a resolution that would remove the banners from an 88-foot-tall Confederate veterans’ monument outside the Capitol.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office said the city should consider changes to several monuments, including a prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee near downtown, as the city prepares to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding.

Top Mississippi Republicans appear divided over the state’s flag, the last of the 50 state banners to include a specific image of the battle flag. House Speaker Phillip Gunn said Monday that the image, which appears in the top left corner of the Mississippi flag, is offensive and should be removed. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves responded Tuesday that the flag should be up to Mississippians, who voted 2-to-1 in 2001 to keep the flag. Gov. Phil Bryant, also a Republican, said he supports that referendum result.

Chris McDaniel, a state senator and tea party hero who nearly unseated U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran last year, decried Gunn’s call. “A cultural or historical cleansing of all things potentially offensive will do nothing to alleviate the problems caused by racism,” he said.

Deaton, the Georgia historian, said McDaniel misses the point. “Symbols do matter and naming practices do matter,” he said, arguing that the Confederate monuments across the region, placed mostly by Confederate veterans and womens’ groups in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offer “a very narrow interpretation of the past.”

There were signs that the tension was spilling beyond the political realm. Vandals have tagged several monuments in recent days, including a Charleston statue of John C. Calhoun, a strong defender of slavery and secession before the war. It and other targets in Maryland and Texas were spray-painted with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan rooted in recent police shootings of black men.

The leader of a national Confederate heritage organization argues that Roof’s actions should not reflect on American citizens who identify with the Confederacy.

“First it’s the flags, then the monuments, then the streets names, then the holidays. I feel like it’s open season on anything Confederate,” said Kelly Barrow, commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, adding that the vandalism scares him.

“Is someone going to be attacked because they have an S.C.V. sticker on their car? We’re open targets, battle flag or not,” he said.

Barrow, based south of Atlanta, said the discussion over the monuments should at least wait until after the church victims’ funerals.

“Bury the dead, then we can sit down and talk about all this,” he said.

Najee Washington, whose grandmother Ethel Lance was among the nine slain last week during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, said it would be meaningful to her family to remove the flag: “It’s just a part of the past that we don’t need to be reminded of every day.”


General Assembly Agrees to Debate Flag

State legislators across the South are now taking up the debate over the prominence of the Confederate flag in their states after conservative leaders displayed a sudden swell of support on Monday for removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds in South Carolina.

Hours later, Mississippi GOP House Speaker Philip Gunn said it was time for his state to change its flag, which includes the Confederate insignia — a sign of the slave-holding South.

“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn said Monday night in a Facebook post. “As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.”

South Carolina’s House of Representatives passed an amendment Tuesday afternoon that would allow debate on whether to remove the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds. Representatives passed the resolution by 103-10 votes. The state’s Senate still must vote on the issue.

As national Republican leaders — from the chairman of the Republican National Committee to most 2016 GOP contenders — backed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s calls to remove the flag, the debate has now fully busted out of the Palmetto State and broached party lines.

South Carolina legislators will meet Tuesday to debate removing the flag, just hours after rallies were planned for the Statehouse grounds.

“This is a circumstance where the people let the politicians,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on CNN’s “At this Hour” on Tuesday. “I came to conclude after going to Charleston that we had to act and sooner rather than later, and God help South Carolina if we fail to achieve the goal of removing the flag.”


Heat Wave Will Impact Summer Tomato Crop

Too hot for you?

Even if you are among those who enjoy the soaring temperatures brought by the current heat wave, your tomato plants do not.

Retired Clemson University Extension Agent Amos Wells said the recent heat wave is not good news for those waiting for the season's first crop of summer tomatoes.

"When the temperatures get in the 90s, the plants produce less fruit," Wells said. "It's too hot for the tomatoes to be pollenated, and part of that is becase the bees are less active when it gets this hot."

The extreme heat, daytime temperatures above 90 degrees and nighttime temperatures in the mid-70 degree range, creates stress on the tomato plants.

Heat stress forces a plant to increase transpiration (pumping water through its system) to survive, especially when the heat continues for prolonged periods. Heat stress not only slows down your plant’s progress in producing, but it also makes your plant more vulnerable to diseases and pests, Wells said.

Until the heat breaks, the blossoms won't open, pollen is destroyed, and new fruit will not set as plants use all their energy just to survive.


Slabtown to Reopen Upgraded Recycling Center Thursday

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly refurbished Slabtown Recycling Convenience Center is schedule for Thursday at 9 a.m., according to Anderson County Councilman Ken Waters.

The new center is larger and have upgraded recycling facilities.


Mississippi Plan Would Remove Confederate Emblem from Flag

Lawmakers in Mississippi plan to propose legislation to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag, as momentum grows across the south for symbols that evoke slavery to be removed from public view.

Kenny Jones, a Mississippi state senator, said he and others would consider pre-filing a bill to change the flag in order to gauge support ahead of the next legislative session, which starts in January.

Mississippi is the only state that has the Confederate battle saltire in its flag, though six others have designs that allude to the group of secessionist states.

Mississippi has used the design since 1894 and held a referendum in 2001 in which two-thirds voted in favour of keeping it. But the flag is under fresh scrutiny in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

Photographs of the suspect, Dylann Roof, show him holding a Confederate flag. Many African Americans consider it to be a symbol of racial hatred. The South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, on Monday called for the flag to be removed from the grounds of the capitol.

“I think it’s time for the whole south, with all the progressive individuals that we have, to start having a dialogue where we put out the right message that goes out to the rest of the nation,” Jones, a Democrat who is chairman of the state’s legislative black caucus, said.

“It goes back to everything stereotypical that people have seen over the years when it comes to the south. I just think it’s time to change it … It’s an insult, it’s very offensive to all AfricanAmericans everywhere,” he said.

“We are definitely going to be looking at legislation, to put it back on the table just so we can get the dialogue started in a respectful manner so we can talk about what’s best, especially for Mississippi.

“We can pre-file a bill to see what kind of support we get. The caucus will be jumping on this relatively quickly, because I’m quite sure this will be one of our main objectives when we get back in 2016.”

Philip Gunn, the Republican speaker of the house, also called for the flag to be redesigned. “We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offence that needs to be removed.

“We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag,” he said.

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