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Wednesday
Mar112015

President Seeks OK on Ground Troops Against ISIS

Obama administration officials told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday a revised authorization would be a mandate to defeat the Islamic State.

They testified in support of an updated "authorized use of military force" and urged approval of the three-page document designed to replace the 2002 authorization for the United States' military involvement in Iraq.

"Your unity would also send an unmistakable message to the leaders of [the Islamic State]. They have to understand they cannot divide us ... and they have no hope of defeating us," said Secretary of State John Kerry. His comments were followed by similar urges to approve the authorization by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

The authorization calls for use of U.S. forces for "enduring offensive ground operations" and would expire in three years, in time for a new president and new Congress to re-examine its feasibility and something of a concession that the mission against IS will be long-lasting. It also places no geographic limits on where the battle against IS can be taken; Carter noted in his testimony that IS units have already formed outside of Iraq and Syria.

Full Story Here

Wednesday
Mar112015

House Approves Study of State Employees Salaries

The South Carolina House has approved studying state employees' salaries, with legislators of both parties saying some are paid far too little.

The House voted 89-12 Wednesday on a budget amendment spending up to $300,000 for the first such study in 20 years.

Republican Rep. Mike Pitts of Laurens says state law enforcement agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to fill positions, particularly since officers can often make more money going to local agencies. For example, highway troopers start out making $31,000 yearly, while probation officers who are required to hold a college degree start at $26,000.

The study would include what employees are paid across the Southeast in similar public and private-sector jobs.

The amendment requires a report by January, to include costs and recommended steps for increasing pay.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Meals on Wheels in Urgent Need of Drivers

Meals on Wheels-Anderson needs drivers immediately to help deliver hot, nutritious meals to our elderly neighbors. Due to a shortage of drivers, there are elderly, homebound and disabled seniors that the organization is unable to serve because there is simply no one available to deliver a meal to them.

There are now waiting lists in some outlying areas where the organization provides service. Specifically, the Powdersville area faces the greatest challenge at this time. However, the city of Anderson also has delivery routes that also need regular drivers.

Meals on Wheels-Anderson typically serves more than 600 people each weekday. Meals are prepared and packaged at the Meals on Wheels center at 105 S. Fant Street, and volunteer drivers pick up the meals from either the center or a specified location closer to the delivery area. The drivers are given a route to follow which guides them to each home in a certain area. Delivery of meals usually takes one to two hours of time.

Volunteer drivers not only provide one-third of the daily nutrition required for the program’s recipients, but they are also a source of human contact and compassion that many of them may not otherwise receive each day. 

Please consider helping the hungry senior citizens of Anderson County. To volunteer, please call 864-225-6800 or email jcampbell@acmow.org.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Statewide Tornado Drill Set for 9 a.m.

There is a statewide tornado drill in South Carolina on Wednesday at 9 a.m. The National Weather Service will put out the test alert through the emergency alert system and NOAA weather radios. This is only a test, and a good opportunity for you, your coworkers and your family to get prepared for severe weather season.

During the drill, people are encouraged to gather together in schools, workplaces and at home to seek shelter, as if a tornado warning had been issued. The safety place to go would be a room without any windows. You want to be on the lowest level of your home, and most internal room. Basically you should put as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Good examples would be closets, bathrooms and hallways.

Wednesday
Mar112015

NYT: N.C. Fines Duke Energy $25 M for Coal Ash Leak

North Carolina officials say they have hit Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, with the largest environmental fine in state history.

The $25.1 million penalty, announced Tuesday by the State Department of Environment and Natural Resources, addresses the contamination of groundwater by coal ash from a single facility — the company’s Sutton Plant near Wilmington, N.C.

Federal prosecutors are pursuing a separate, much larger action against the company stemming from its spill of millions of gallons of toxic coal ash from a plant on the Dan River, near the Virginia border. The company said in an earnings statement that it expected to pay about $100 million in that action, which was expanded to concern Duke Energy plants across the state.

In that episode, prosecutors have filed criminal charges accusing the company of violating the federal Clean Water Act because of the illegal dumping. They also accused the company of failing to maintain equipment around at least two plants.

Coal ash is a waste product from generating electricity. It contains heavy metals including lead, arsenic, selenium and mercury, and is toxic to humans and wildlife.

Many of the plants found to be improperly handling the waste were near poor and black communities in the state.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or D.E.N.R., emphasized the size of the fine in a news release, saying the previous record was a $5.6 million air-quality penalty against a Texas-based company in 1986. Environmental advocates have accused the agency of not aggressively pursuing claims against Duke Energy, where the state’s governor, Pat McCrory, worked for nearly three decades.

“We’re obviously just digesting this and plan to respond to the state,” said Paige Sheehan, a Duke Energy spokeswoman. “We hope D.E.N.R. will move soon to provide the necessary approvals so we can begin moving ash at Sutton and other sites.”

Tuesday
Mar102015

Obama Signs Student Loans "Bill of Rights"

President Barack Obama told students at Georgia Tech on Tuesday he wants to make the process of repaying student loans easier to understand and manage.

Obama signed a “student aid bill of rights” and spelled out an assortment of policy tweaks and projects to try to make it easier for people with student loans to pay back their debt.

“We're going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you're falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama told a raucous crowd of more than 9,500 students.

“We're going to take a hard look at whether we need new laws to strengthen protections for all borrowers, wherever you get your loans from,” Obama said.

Obama has asked the Treasury and Education departments and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to report by Oct. 1 on whether bankruptcy laws or other laws or regulations should be changed for student loans.

The lending industry has resisted loosening bankruptcy standards for student loans, but advocates have argued students burdened by heavy debt should be able to more easily use that as a way to discharge their obligations.

Full Story Here

Tuesday
Mar102015

Anderson, Military Join Forces for Preparedness Drill

If you thought you saw Blackhawk helicopters buzzing over Anderson today, you were right. The choppers were part of Vigilant Guard, an emergency management exercise being held this month in eight counties across the state.

More than 5,000 civilians - including count emergency management agencies and officials - and another 2,000 soldiers, airmen and members of the South Carolina National Guard took part in today's drill today. The purpose of the March 5-12 excercises is to cement the teamwork between local agencies and the military support needed in times of widespread crisis or emergency.

The National Guard, along with local, state and federal partners will take part in the exercise at several venues in Greenville and Anderson, as well as other locations across the state over the next few days.

"Exercises like Vigilant Guard give our soldiers and airmen a chance to hone their skills and work with our community partners to respond to any crisis our state may face," said Maj. Gen. Gregory W. Batts, Assistant Adjutant General for the South Carolina National Guard.

Batts will work in the role as the dual-status commander during Vigilant Guard. "Our state has the potential for many threats, including earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes."

Batts alerted residents to an increase in military equipment moving along roads and interstates, as well as rotary aircraft flying during the exercise. 

The last time South Carolina held a Vigilant Guard exercise was in 2008, when participants responded to a simulated earthquake event in the Beaufort area.  

Tuesday
Mar102015

House Debates $6.9 B Spending Bill

The South Carolina House could debate a proposal to borrow $500 million for building projects statewide.

The House continued section-by-section voting Tuesday on the budget committee's $6.9 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. There's been little debate so far, with most sections receiving unanimous support.

That will likely change when the borrowing proposal comes up.

Gov. Nikki Haley opposes that idea, saying it runs up the state's credit card.

But Ways and Means Chairman Brian White says it takes care of state infrastructure needs now - at current construction prices - while the cost of borrowing remains near historic lows. It would not increase what the state spends on interest because old debt is being paid off.

 

Tuesday
Mar102015

Lawmakers Worried about Islamic Law in S.C. Courts

South Carolina lawmakers are worried Islamic law could rule their state’s courtrooms. 

It’s not clear whether the Sharia Law ever affected Muslim girls in South Carolina, but a bill moving through the Legislature could send a statement to the court system and potentially the U.S. Congress, according to the sponsor of bill aimed at neutering foreign law in the American justice system.

Charleston Republican Rep. Chip Limehouse has introduced H. 3521, which says a court can’t use Sharia Law or any other foreign law to violate someone’s constitutional rights - whether the United States Constitution or the South Carolina Constitution.

Limehouse cited figures from the Washington-based Center for Security Policy that counted 146 cases from 32 states in which Sharia Law was brought up in proceedings. In an interview Monday, he was uncertain as to whether South Carolina was among them or whether Sharia Law was applied in a way that weakened the sentence of an offender in an “honor-killing” by a family member.

“I think more than likely the lawyer said, ‘your honor, my client comes from fill-in-the-blank, Iran, or whatever, and by the law of his land, what he did to his daughter is an accepted practice, therefore we’re asking for leniency from the court,’” offered Limehouse.

He said Congress should be taking up such measures, but in the meantime: “It should be done as a federal law. But hopefully South Carolina will send a message.”

Critics of the movement to ban Sharia Law in American courtrooms, a trend that has gathered in recent years, argue that it stokes fear of Muslim culture and props up a non-existent domestic menace.

Full Story Here

Monday
Mar092015

The State: S.C. House Votes to Defund Higher Ed Commission

Angered by higher college costs and the implosion of S.C. State University, the S.C. House voted Monday to defund the agency that oversees S.C. colleges.

State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, pushed to take the Commission on Higher Education’s proposed $3 million budget and move the money to the state Treasurer’s Office.

Merrill said he is frustrated the commission has acted as an advocate for S.C. public colleges, instead of regulating them. Merrill wants the state to establish a more powerful state board of regents to regulate universities, a proposal he has pushed unsuccessfully for years.

Merrill said the budgets of state colleges have exploded while the schools ask for more state money. To rein in costs, the commission should be eliminating the expensive duplication of programs at state colleges, he said.

He also pointed to S.C. State University, which is struggling to pay its bills. Merrill said the commission should have brought the school’s $17 million deficit to the attention of lawmakers. (Both the House and Senate have proposals to replace S.C. State’s trustees, most of whom legislators appoint.)

Other legislators said Merrill’s move, which passed on a voice vote, was the wrong way to change the way South Carolina oversees its public colleges.

 

Monday
Mar092015

S.C. Backs Away from Replacing Common Core

South Carolina could be one step away from replacing Common Core education standards with state-developed guidelines, as the Legislature required last year.

The Education Oversight Committee voted 11-1 Monday to approve new math and reading standards, clearing the way for the Board of Education to give the final OK on Wednesday.

A law passed last spring required Common Core's replacement in the upcoming school year.

One of the Legislature's chief critics of Common Core called the new standards superior and more rigorous.

"We eventually have to trust somebody," said Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, a committee member. "People I know and trust tell me this draft is good. It's good for the kids. ... Teachers are not unanimous in this, but boy, oh boy, are they close."

The standards outline what students should know after completing each grade.

South Carolina was among more than 40 other states that adopted Common Core standards, replacing those that varied state-to-state. The Obama administration had encouraged states to sign on through incentives, and opponents across the country criticized it as a nationalization of education.

All of South Carolina's public colleges have certified the new standards, saying they adequately prepare students for college and careers after high school. That's essential for the state to maintain its waiver from the all-or-nothing provisions of No Child Left Behind, which otherwise requires every student to score proficiently on end-of-year tests.

According to a review by the oversight agency, the new standards exceed Common Core's demands while the content is similar. Across all grade levels, roughly 90 percent of the new standards align with Common Core's. Differences include adding instruction on coins and money in grades one and four, requiring fluency in multiplication tables in grade four, and adding cursive writing instruction in grades two and three.

The only no vote was cast by Deb Marks, vice president of the nonprofit that led South Carolina's anti-Common Core fight. The group, Parents Involved in Education, lobbied lawmakers last year to immediately repeal the standards. The one-year delay was a compromise.

Marks suggested keeping Common Core for another year as work on the new standards continued.

 

Sunday
Mar082015

Museum to Discuss Films Made in Anderson

Join Vic Aviles and Kevin Woods on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Anderson County Museum to learn about the four major Hollywood movies and many documentaries that were filmed in Anderson County. Both Vick and Kevin are award winning independent film makers based in Anderson. Remember when George Clooney was in Anderson filming "Leatherheads?" "Radio," starring Cuba Gooding Jr., also   filmed scenes in Anderson. Vic and Kevin have many "behind the scenes" stories to share.

Sunday
Mar082015

United Way Youth Summit/College Fair Set for March 14

The African American Leadership Council will present its 8th Annual College Fair and Youth Summit to be held at the Anderson Recreation Center, on March 14, from 10 am-12 pm. The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Civic Center of Anderson.

The Summit is geared toward youth from grades 8-12 looking to further their education and career opportunities through college and trade school programs.  

“We want to let youth know that there are avenues out there for them to be success in life through education”, stated Chaka Smith, chair of the African American Leadership Council. “Everyone is not designed to attend a 4-year institution that is why we will have representation from 2-year colleges, technical schools and trade schools.” There will be financial aid representatives from 4-year, 2-year, technical schools, and trade schools to discuss the process of obtaining financial aid; and several financial institutions to help guide students through the process of managing finances through their college years.

For more information on the College Fair / Youth Summit, contact Lynn Dingle at (864) 226-3438 or lynn.dingle@uwandersoncty.com.