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Sunday
Jan062019

Sullivan's Closed Jan. 6-14 to Renovate Kitchen

Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill in downtown Anderson is closed until Jan. 14 to renovate the kitchen. The new kitchen will be larger and allow more space for the restaurant and for Sullivan's Catering.

Sunday
Jan062019

S.C. Lawmakers Promise to Revamp Education

BY JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The 2019 legislative session in South Carolina will start with a promise to overhaul the education system in South Carolina and about an extra $1 billion to spend.

It will also start with new faces leading key committees in the House and new rules in the Senate that leaders think will help maintain the uniqueness of the body whose roots go back 300 years to the South Carolina Royal Council while making the modern chamber run more efficiently.

The 123rd session of the South Carolina General Assembly begins at noon Tuesday and is scheduled for 18 weeks. Already, about 450 bills have been filed in the House and 300 in the Senate as the two-year session begins.

Here are the big issues and the big changes as the 105 Republicans and 63 Democrats (with two vacancies) return to Columbia.

MORE MONEY

Hovering over all the Legislature's actions this year is an extra $1 billion in the state's accounts that lawmakers can spend.

That extra money will drive many decisions, from whether to give teachers and other state employees raises to improving neglected items like equipment for law enforcement or how to restructure the state's income, property, and sales tax systems.

Gov. Henry McMaster wants to cut income taxes and stop taxing military retirement payments, his spokesman Brian Symmes said.

He will likely find allies in the Legislature's most conservative members.

"Just because you collect it doesn't mean you have to spend it," said Republican Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort who has championed tax cuts and reform during his decade in Columbia.

EDUCATION

House Speaker Jay Lucas surprised many last month when he said education would be his top legislative priority this year.

Lucas' efforts, combined with an ambitious project by The Post and Courier newspaper has lawmakers promising to do something to improve South Carolina schools. Teachers are loosely organizing too and promise more pressure if lawmakers don't act.

Lucas has yet to provide specifics. Other Republican House leaders say bills will be introduced next week with details. McMaster's spokesman said the governor also thinks education needs to be a top priority.

If the debate that finally led to an increased gas tax to improved roads is any indication, it may take years to build consensus, especially if spending additional money is involved.

Republicans have started to suggest the problems are more in how money is spent. Democrats said if lawmakers take a wholesale look at education, they need to include increasing poverty in rural areas and how school systems with poorer and minority students have always lagged behind.

"If we can't agree on the facts, how are we going to solve the problem?" said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat from Orangeburg who at 27 years is now the House's longest serving member.

The easiest, quickest education bill might be a pay raise for teachers, although a Republican from Horry County wants to take it a step further. Sen. Greg Hembree wants to pass a bill giving a 10 percent raise over three years to all state employees who make less than $100,000 a year.

SANTEE COOPER

Dealing with the fallout of the multibillion-dollar failure of the construction of two nuclear reactors dominated the 2018 legislative session. And lawmakers only dealt with what will likely be the simpler half of the problem.

After cutting private utility South Carolina Electric & Gas rates, clearing the way for its parent company Scana Corp. to be bought out and passing changes to regulatory structure, lawmakers can turn toward state-owned Santee Cooper, which owned 45 percent of the doomed project and is now around $9 billion in debt.

The governor wants to sell Santee Cooper — for a fair price. But some lawmakers likely feel a nostalgic tie to the Great Depression era utility and its role in 85 years of economic development. Power rates for Santee Cooper customers are likely going up significantly, and there is no guarantee there will be a buyer or an acceptable offer.

"Scana is the most difficult thing I've dealt with," Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey of Edgefield said of his 12 years in the Legislature. "Santee Cooper is more difficult."

NEW COMMITTEE LEADERS

Two of the most influential House committees have new faces.

The surprise new leader is Rep. Murrell Smith taking over the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. Speaker Lucas knocked Rep. Brian White off the committee after eight years as its leader. White said Lucas told him Republican leaders wanted a chairman who would better promote the party's agenda.

"My cellphone's voice mail is full for the first time," Smith said of his new popularity.

The House Judiciary Committee also has a new chairman. Republican Rep. Peter McCoy of Charleston, in just his eighth year in the House, takes over.

NEW RULES

A change in the state constitution means a big change in Senate rules. The lieutenant governor no longer presides over the state Senate.

Senators will pass new rules Tuesday. Massey said they will likely approve a senator to be president of the body, and that senator cannot be chairman of a committee in a bid to keep one lawmaker from having too much power.

NEW-ISH GOVERNOR

Lawmakers expect a better relationship with Gov. McMaster, who was elected to a full term last November after finishing the final two years of Gov. Nikki Haley's term after she became U.N. ambassador.

Last year, McMaster worried about a Republican primary challenge. This year, he is free to fashion his agenda without that kind of political pressure.

Both Democrats and Republicans praised him as someone who puts South Carolina before his own ambitions and listens — traits they have said weren't as evident in the last 16 years under the past two Republican governors.

"He loves South Carolina more than he loves himself," said Republican House Majority Leader Gary Simrill of Rock Hill.

McMaster can separate his own feelings from what is best for South Carolina, his spokesman Symmes said.

"The governor doesn't take any disagreements personally," Symmes said.

Saturday
Jan052019

Seniors With Hearing Loss Higher Risk for Depression

Older people who suffer from hearing loss have a high risk for depression, and the greater the hearing loss, the greater the risk, researchers have found.

"Most people over age 70 have at least mild hearing loss, yet relatively few are diagnosed, much less treated, for this condition," said researcher Dr. Justin Golub. He is an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Columbia University in New York City.

"Hearing loss is easy to diagnose and treat, and treatment may be even more important if it can help ease or prevent depression," Golub said in a university news release.

For the study, Golub's team collected data on more than 5,200 adults over 50 who took part in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos. Each participant had a hearing test and was screened for depression.

The researchers found that people with mild hearing loss were about two times more likely to have clinically significant depression than those with normal hearing.

Moreover, people with severe hearing loss had more than four times the odds of having depression, the findings showed.

The study can't prove that hearing loss caused depression. "But it's understandable how hearing loss could contribute to depressive symptoms," Golub said.

Hearing loss tends to make people more socially isolated, and social isolation can lead to depression, he explained.

Although the study was done among Hispanics, the results could be applied to anyone with age-related hearing loss, Golub said.

"In general, older individuals should get their hearing tested and consider treatment, if warranted," he advised.

The report was published online Jan. 2 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

 

Saturday
Jan052019

Shutdown Could Cause Food Stamps Disruption

The partial government shutdown glided into its third week Saturday with no end in sight. If the government is not reopened before February, millions of Americans who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- the nation's food stamp program -- could have their assistance disrupted.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP at the federal level, is one of the agencies unfunded during the partial government shutdown. Although SNAP is automatically renewed, it has not been allocated funding from Congress beyond January. Congress has appropriated $3 billion in emergency funds for SNAP distribution, but that would not cover all of February's obligations. 

In September 2018, the last month for which data is available, $4.7 billion in SNAP benefits were disbursed throughout every state. If the shutdown continues through March, there will be no remaining funding for SNAP, endangering food security for millions of Americans.

According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2017. More than 68 percent of participants were in families with children, and more than 44 percent were in working families.

Other programs are in even more immediate danger than SNAP. The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are not receiving federal funds at all during the shutdown, but "can continue to operate at the State and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available," according to the USDA.

In the first five months of 2018, around 7 million Americans received WIC benefits each month. WIC is provided for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who fall within the poverty index and are at "nutritional risk." The WIC program granted nearly $5 billion to every U.S. state and territory in 2018, as of September.

Americans who benefit from both SNAP and WIC would be particularly affected in February.

Child Nutrition Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations through February, according to the USDA.

Staffing for Food and Nutrition Services, which oversees the Child Nutrition Programs, SNAP, and WIC, has been cut by 95 percent since the shutdown began.

Friday
Jan042019

Clemson Researchers Seek Safer Football Facemask

CLEMSON – Football helmets have evolved since first introduced about 100 years ago. So when the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide battle it out in the College Football National Championship game Monday night, both team’s helmets will be much safer than earlier versions.

But could football helmets be made even safer? A Clemson research team believes so.

The team, comprised of Gregory Batt, John DesJardins, Alex Bina, Davis Ferriel and Jay Elmore, is studying how future designs of facemasks can help improve the overall safety of football helmets. They are combining the fields of packaging science and bioengineering to study the impact performance of helmet systems.

“Previous research has determined the impact severity of helmets is both increased and decreased when facemasks are used, depending on the helmet used,” Bina said. “Our research involves establishing a testing system that differentiates between facemask performance and helmet performance.”

Stiffness of facemasks has been found to be a major contributor to the overall safety of football helmets. The research team has developed a system to test facemask stiffness and are working on computational models to assist in future facemask designs. By measuring the stiffness of a facemask during impact, the team is able to understand how the system will perform on the field and protect the player. This system can differentiate between individual facemask designs, materials and impact location. Perhaps most importantly, the research team has been able to measure decreases in impact performance of the facemask after prolonged use.

The number of vertical bars used in facemask design may play a part in the overall stiffness of a mask.

“These vertical bars have been shown to be optimal for reducing brain injury risk,” Bina said.

The number of bars on a facemask depends on a player’s position because they are designed to balance protection and visibility. Most facemasks are reinforced with an extra horizontal bar at the top of the face mask for better support and stability. Linemen usually wear closed-cage face masks that better protect the nose and eyes. Open-cage facemasks have more visibility than closed cage masks. These facemasks have a few horizontal and vertical bars below the nose and are most used among skill-position players, such as quarterbacks and receivers, who need more visibility on the field. Skill-position players also may have facemasks that sit farther away from their faces and leave their chins exposed, giving their heads more mobility.

Future research by the Clemson team will involve materials facemasks are made from. The team plans to evaluate the structural stiffness of titanium masks in addition to the steel masks already evaluated in this study.

The tests were conducted to comply with the National Operating Committee Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) standards regarding the use of facemasks.

More Here

History of the research

Friday
Jan042019

GOP Senators Push Constitutional Amendment for Term Limits

(CNN) -- Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican Rep. Francis Rooney proposed a constitutional amendment on Thursday that would impose term limits on members of both houses of Congress.

The amendment, co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and David Perdue (R-Ga.), would restrict senators to two six-year terms and House members to three two-year terms. A similar amendment was proposed by Cruz in January of 2017.

"For too long, members of Congress have abused their power and ignored the will of the American people," Cruz said. "Term limits on members of Congress offer a solution to the brokenness we see in Washington, D.C. It is long past time for Congress to hold itself accountable. I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification."

The concept of term limits has gained traction in both parties -- notably, former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a potential 2020 hopeful who ran against Cruz for the Senate, has called for term limits for Congress earlier this year.

President Donald Trump has voiced his support for term-limits for members of Congress, tweeting in April of last year that he met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and he endorsed their efforts.

Friday
Jan042019

IRS Will Take Funds, But Delay Refunds if Shutdown Continues

Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—A prolonged government shutdown would likely delay billions of dollars in income-tax refunds.

The Internal Revenue Service is one of the agencies that now lacks funding, and the U.S. tax collector has been operating with about 1 in 8 employees under the shutdown plan it uses outside the tax-filing season.

During a shutdown, the IRS can continue activities that protect government property, and the agency may bring in more workers soon to prepare for the income-tax filing season. Even during a shutdown, the agency still processes some tax returns that include payments, keeps computer systems running and continues criminal investigations. But the IRS generally doesn’t conduct audits, respond to taxpayer questions outside the filing season or—brace yourself—pay refunds.

A shutdown that gets resolved within a few weeks would have little ultimate effect on taxpayers, but lawmakers have made little or no movement toward a deal. That stalemate raises the prospect of an unprecedented extended closure during the individual income-tax filing season, which typically starts in mid-to-late January. The IRS hasn’t announced a start date yet for the 2019 filing season, the first under the tax law that Congress passed in 2017.

“We’re in uncharted territory as each day gets longer,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc.

If the shutdown drags on, early filers won’t receive the refunds they’re expecting, a gap that could put pressure on congressional negotiators and President Trump to reach a deal.

By Feb. 2, 2018, the IRS had paid $12.6 billion in refunds to more than six million households. By Feb. 16, the IRS had paid $101.2 billion to nearly 32 million households. And by March 30, the IRS had paid $212 billion to 73 million households.

For many Americans, the tax refund is the single largest financial event of the year, and the people who tend to file early in the season are taxpayers who count on large refunds to pay down debt, catch up on bills or make major purchases. Those are disproportionately low-income households that benefit from the earned-income tax credit and other provisions that give them no income-tax liability or a net benefit from the income-tax system.

In turn, retailers count on those households spending their refunds in February. People who tend to owe additional taxes typically wait until near the mid-April deadline.

Thursday
Jan032019

S.C. Fish Hatchery 123 Inches Sets Annual Rainfall Record

GREER, S.C. (AP) — THE northwestern corner of South Carolina appears to be a record for rainfall in the state.

Preliminary information from the National Weather Service in Greer report that the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery near Lake Jocassee had 123 inches (312 centimeters) of rain in 2018.

Employees at the weather service said they could not talk about the possible record because of the federal government shutdown.

The state climatologist office says the previous record was 119 inches (302 centimeters) of rain at Hogback Mountain near Landrum.

Assistant state climatologist Melissa Griffin said a federal committee will review the information on the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery and could declare it a record.

The mountains are usually the rainiest part of South Carolina, with an average of about 75 inches (190 centimeters) per year.

Thursday
Jan032019

Study: Artificial Sweeteners Don't Promote Weight Loss

THURSDAY, Jan. 3, 2019 -- If you think a switch from sugar to a calorie-free sweetener might help you get healthier and shed pounds, think again.

After years of research, there's still only very weak evidence that no-cal sweeteners might be beneficial, according to German researchers who looked over data from 56 studies involving either adults or kids. 

The investigators looked at a variety of health outcomes including weight, blood sugar, oral health, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, mood and behavior.

"Most health outcomes did not seem to have differences between the non-sugar sweetener exposed and unexposed groups," concluded the team led by Joerg Meerpohl of the University of Freiburg.

The quantity of non-sugar sweetener used didn't seem to matter, either, the team added.

In children, no evidence was found in weight gain between those who used non-sugar sweeteners or sugar, the research showed.

There was also no evidence of any effect of non-sugar sweeteners on overweight or obese adults or children who were actively trying to lose weight.

In the few studies that did show a mild health benefit for no-cal sweetener use, population sizes were either very small or the duration of the trial was too short to make any firm conclusions, the study authors noted.

One nutritionist in the United States wasn't surprised by the findings.

"No matter how they are marketed, [non-sugar sweeteners] are still chemicals or a sugar modified from its natural form to serve a functional purpose for flavor," said registered dietitian Sharon Zarabi. 

"There is no health benefit to flavor. Flavor merely enhances a food or beverage to increase consumption," said Zarabi, who directs the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The report was funded by the World Health Organization and was published online Jan. 2 in the BMJ.

 

Wednesday
Jan022019

United Way MLK Day of Service Set for Jan. 19

The African American Leadership Society of United Way of Anderson County will host its 12thAnnual MLK Day of Service Jan. 19. Donations are needed to be distributed to individuals and families in need. The organization is asking for donations of new blankets and socks.

The blankets and socks, along with hot soup, will be given out to anyone who needs the items at The Salvation Army of Anderson, located at 112 Tolly St, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

“There are so many in need in our community and the simple things that we sometimes take for granted mean so much to those who don’t have them”, stated Amika Thomas, Chair of the African American Leadership Society. “Dr. Martin Luther King stated ‘Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'. This is a chance for all of us to do something for others”, she stated.

Donations can be dropped off at the United Way office, 604 N. Murray Ave. (at the corner of Murray Ave and E. Greenville St.). Donations need to be received no later than Jan. 16.

 

If you have questions or need additional information, contact Lynn Dingle at (864) 226-3438.

Wednesday
Jan022019

Striped Bass Challenge to Benefit Golden Harvest Food Bank

A Striped Bass Challenge Friday at Green Pond Landing will help raise funds for Golden Harvest Food Bank, which serves 30 countis across Georgia and South Carolina, including Anderson County.

Fishing teams will bring their catch to the Anderson Civic Center for weigh-in from 3:30-5 p.m.

The food and funds drive is the traditional kick-off event for the winter class fishing tournament, in which about 500 fishermen compete annually. Teams often arrive with truck beds full of canned goods and nonperishable food items or towing trailers with entire pallets of food.

There is a $1,000 prize for the team that donates the most food.

Wednesday
Jan022019

Drug Makers Kick Off 2019 with Price Increases

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Dozens of drug makers plan to start the New Year by increasing prices on hundreds of drugs, researchers report this week.

While the overall average increase was 6.3 percent, the hike could push drug prices up 20 percent higher than in 2018 when its all done, according to an analysis published on Tuesday. 

The analysis, by Rx Savings Solutions, shows nearly 40 drugmakers are expected to raise the prices of hundreds of medications this week, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Drug companies promised they wouldn't raise their prices in 2018, which was pretty disingenuous," Jim Yocum, senior vice president at Connecture, who manages price transparency tools for Medicare.gov, told Bloomberg in December. "When the promises were made, it was a, 'wink wink, nudge, nudge,' situation to give the administration the response it wanted knowing full well that their next scheduled increase was in January."

This increase is a make-up for companies like Pfizer, who held off on raising prices last year after receiving criticism from President Trump, analysts say.

"Now it's time to play catch up," Brian Rye, a senior health-care analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, told Bloomberg. "They're free to raise prices and the president is free to respond to them."

And Allergan leads the pack, with drug prices raised by nearly 10 percent on 27 of its products and nearly 5 percent on 24 products. The drugs receiving increases include Alzheimer's drug Namenda and dry-eye treatment Restasis.

The move could draw congressional pushback from Democrats who are scheduled to take control of the House this week.

In response to complaints that his administration wasn't fighting price increases, Trump released in May a plan to drive drug costs down

"While individually companies may do well, the price increases taken together would suggest Pharma is 'tone deaf' to public concerns," Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal told Bloomberg. "This is just around the time where the agenda for the upcoming Congress is being defined and action on drug costs is one option."

 

Tuesday
Jan012019

S.C.Ends Monitoring of Victims Credit Records after Hack

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Six years after hackers stole millions of South Carolina tax records, the state has ended a program to monitor victims' credit records, and is still working to improve cybersecurity.

The state adopted industry standards about centralizing security rules for the state's 100-plus agencies, but state authorities are just now coming up with a system to check whether those agencies meet the standards, The Post and Courier reported .

Such a lag isn't surprising, one cybersecurity analyst said.

"This is typical for state and local governments because they don't have the resources," said Avivah Litan, a senior analyst with Connecticut-based Gartner Research. "They shouldn't be doing this anyway. We need a federal cybersecurity strategy."

No arrests have been made in the 2012 theft of more than 6 million personal and business tax records.

It is still being investigated, so the State Law Enforcement Division cannot release any information -- including whether identity thieves used any of the stolen information, officials said.

The state offered free credit monitoring to protect victims from identity theft. About 1.5 million enrolled the first year, and about 200,000 renewed annually until the program ended in October, according to the Revenue Department. It said it paid two companies $18 million over the past six years.

Gov. Henry McMaster's office said it is satisfied with the tax agency's finding that the program did what it was meant to.

Since the 2012 theft, state government agencies have reported 10 data breaches affecting nearly 29,000 people, according to the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs. A spokeswoman said a public records request would be needed to learn which agencies were hacked.

All state employees now take annual computer privacy and security training and all agencies must submit security plans. The Department of Administration offers assistance and feedback on plans, reviews spending requests and hosts an annual cybersecurity summit.