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Saturday
Aug042018

Almond Milk Recall Includes Product Sold in S.C.

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- A national dairy distributor is voluntarily recalling more than 145,000 half-gallon cartons of almond milk because they may contain milk from a cow, an allergen not listed on the label.

The recall, by HP Hood LLC, concerns cartons of refrigerated Vanilla Almond Breeze almond milk with a Sept. 2 use-by date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday. 

Those allergic or sensitive to dairy milk can risk a serious or life-threatening reaction if they consume these products. To date, one person has reported an allergic reaction, which did not require hospitalization, the statement said.

For those without allergies or sensitivities to milk, the product is safe.

The recall affects cartons shipped to retailers and wholesalers in 28 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The affected product has identifying codes stamped on the containers: H5 L1 51-4109; H5 L2 51-4109; H6 L1 51-4109; and H6 L2 51-4109. Consumers should look for a Universal Product Code, or UPC barcode, of 41570 05621 on the side panel of the carton.

Those who purchased the product can return it where purchased for a full refund or exchange. More information can be found on the company's website.

Saturday
Aug042018

Meteor Showers Should Peak Aug.11-13

The Perseid meteor shower, which occurs every August due to debris left behind from Comet Swift-Tuttle, is almost here.

According to experts at Space.com, the shower will peak during overnight hours as Aug. 11 turns into Aug. 12 and again overnight Aug. 12 to 13. While both shows will be magical, the latter may be just a little better, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. 

At its peak, meteors will race at rates of about 60-70 meteors per hour, up from last year’s rate (40 to 50 per hour), but not as glamorous as it was in 2016, when 150-200 meteors per hour streaked across the nighttime skies. 

“This year the moon will be near new moon, it will be a crescent, which means it will set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight,” Cooke said. “The moon is very favorable for the Perseids this year, and that'll make the Perseids probably the best shower of 2018 for people who want to go out and view it.”

When to see the Perseid meteor shower

You’ll be able to catch the popular meteor shower as Earth passes through the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle (July 17 to Aug. 24), but if you want to best views, it’s all about catching it at peak time. And according to Astronomy magazine and NASA’s Bill Cooke: the predawn hours of April 13 will be ideal.

Where to see the Perseid meteor shower 

The Northern Hemisphere down to the mid-southern latitudes is prime real estate for this year’s show, Space.com reported.

Friday
Aug032018

New Season Aims to Revive Foothills Playhouse’s Fortunes 

By Paul Hyde/Anderson Observer

Will Ragland, who created a hugely successful community theater company in Pelzer in mere a few years, has taken the reins at Easley's Foothills Playhouse.

On Friday night, Ragland unveiled the first season of the playhouse's new era.

The series includes two big musicals to open and close the season, a classic comedy, and three shows that will appeal especially to children and their parents: 

-- "Godspell" (Oct. 5-21). Stephen Schwartz' 1971 musical, with a spirited score, is a retelling of parables from the Gospels with references also to the Passion of Christ. Directed by the Market Theatre’s Noah Taylor, this “Godspell” production will be set in an abandoned cotton mill. 

-- "Elf Jr.: The Musical" (Nov. 30-Dec. 16). Based on the beloved holiday film, the musical follows Buddy the Elf in his quest to find his true identity.

-- "Steel Magnolias" (Feb. 8-24). The 1987 comedy-drama, a staple of regional theaters, follows a group of small-town southern women who come together in a beauty salon to find friendship, humor and the strength to endure through personal tribulations.   

-- "Charlotte's Web" (March 29-April 14). The play is based on the classic children's novel by E.B. White about a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte, who protects Wilbur.

-- "Willy Wonka" (May 31-June 16).Roald Dahl's timeless story of the world-famous candy man and his quest to find an heir comes to chocolate-covered life on the Foothills stage. 

-- "9 to 5" (July 26-Aug. 18). Dolly Parton’s high-energy musical centers on three hard-working women who take revenge on their tyrannical boss. 

Ragland, the playhouse’s new executive artistic director, scrapped the Foothills’ earlier planned season when he came on board in July. 

The series of shows he announced Friday was based on surveys Ragland sent out by email and through social media.

“I was really interested in input from the community,” Ragland said. “I wanted to regain the trust of the community. I asked people, ‘What would you like to see?’ 

“I got over 500 responses.”

Ragland also is reducing individual ticket prices from $15 to $12.  

Emphasizing quality and affordability, Ragland has devised a motto for this season: “Expect great things.” 

Expectations certainly are running high. Ticket sales at the playhouse, now in its 37th year, have plummeted in the recent past, with some performances seeing only 20 percent attendance, Ragland said. 

The playhouse’s finances have been shaky at best, with debt piling up and some concerns that the theater would have to close its doors. 

“My two goals are to increase attendance and to boost tickets sales,” Ragland said, adding with a laugh: “butts in the seats and money in the bank.” 

SUCCESS AT MILL TOWN

Ragland hopes to replicate the success of Pelzer’s Mill Town Players, which he created only four years ago.

Mill Town has thrived not only through support from the Pelzer community but also by attracting audiences from Greenville, Anderson and Simpsonville. Ragland hopes to tap into wider audiences at Foothills as well. 

In Mill Town, ticket sales numbered 13,000 in the theater’s first year, and grew to 23,000 in the second year and 33,000 in the third year. 

“We’re on track to beat that again this year,” Ragland said. 

About 5,000 people saw the theater’s recent production of “Dearly Departed” and the current production of “Beehive” is packing the house as well. 

Mill Town and Foothills are about 30 minutes apart by car. It might be efficient for the two theaters to share productions, but Ragland has no intention of doing that. 

“I don’t want to be predictable and overdue things,” Ragland said. 

None of the shows scheduled for Foothills has been performed at Mill Town, Ragland said. 

“I’m excited about all of them because we’ve never done any of them,” he said. “I really like that. I don’t like repeating shows.” 

Foothills and Mill Town have officially merged, with Ragland serving as volunteer executive artistic director at Foothills while retaining the leadership of the Mill Town Players. 

FOCUSED ON COMMUNITY

Foothills, like Mill Town, should have a close connection with the community, Ragland said. 

He’s particularly aware of the Upstate’s cotton-mill past. That’s why he named the Pelzer theater Mill Town. 

That’s also why he decided to set the first show of Foothills’ season, “Godspell,” in an abandoned cotton mill.

That setting, and perhaps the current financial state of the playhouse, dovetails with the theme of “Godspell”: hope in a place of desperation, Ragland said 

There was another reason to choose “Godspell”: Easley is home to more than 60 churches, Ragland said. 

“We’re really trying to connect with the community,” Ragland said. 

Three of the six shows planned for Foothills – “Elf Jr.,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “Willy Wonka” –should appeal to young people and their parents. 

“Foothills Playhouse has active youth participation,” Ragland said. “In the past few years, youth plays have been the most popular.” 

With the season set and stage directors already identified, Ragland believes he has the makings of a successful year. 

“I began this process,” Ragland said, “with the question, ‘What can I do that will be great for the whole family and would appeal to the majority of the community?’” 

He added, “We want to give Easley exactly what it wants.” 

For information or to purchase tickets, see the website foothillsplayhouse.org or call 864-855-1817. 

Paul Hyde, a veteran Upstate journalist, writes about everything under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7. Write to him at paulhydeus@yahoo.com.

Friday
Aug032018

"Love" Top Word in Bible Gateway Search Since 1993

Christian Post - On its 25th anniversary, the online scripture resource Bible Gateway declares it has been viewed more than 14 billion times and reveals what its top 10 keyword searches and top five Bible verses searched and shared by its users are.

Users have viewed the online Bible search engine and Bible reading website over 14 billion times on more than 1 billion devices, says Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Bible Gateway, which was created in 1993.

Bible Gateway, which is home to more than 200 Bible versions in more than 70 languages, reveals that "love" is the top keyword search.

The other top nine keyword searches are "faith," "peace," "hope," "joy," "prayer," "Holy Spirit," "grace," "healing" and "forgiveness."

The No. 1 Bible verse searched and shared by its users is John 3:16, which reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

No. 2 is Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

No. 3 is Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength," followed by Psalm 23:4, which reads, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

No. 5 is Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Bible Gateway also shared the top 10 countries using the online Bible resource.

The United States is No. 1, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Columbia, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and India, respectively.

Bible Gateway has found that Sudan is the country that statistically spends the least time on its website.

The Christian website remarks that "it appears tropical vacationers and resort tourists enjoy browsing Bible Gateway." Out of more than 200 countries and territories, it found that the geographic location that spends the most time, on average, on Bible Gateway is Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten, which is part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, comprising two separate countries.

Stating Bible Gateway's mission statement, which is "to honor Christ by equipping people to read and understand the Bible, wherever they are," Barach says, "What an honor and privilege to be able to serve so many people around the world during the last quarter-century, doing just that."

Thursday
Aug022018

S.C. Sales Tax Holiday This Weekend

South Carolina's annual Sales Tax Holiday – the state’s popular three-day sales and use tax break on traditional back-to-school purchases - is set for Aug. 3-5 this year.
 
The annual sales tax Holiday, which was implemented in 2000, provides taxpayers with an exemption on the 6% statewide sales tax as well as any applicable local taxes, the tax-free weekend also benefits in-state businesses by urging taxpayers to do their back-to-school shopping in South Carolina.
 
During this time, taxes will not be imposed on clothing, shoes, school supplies, book bags, computers, printers, bedspreads and linens, and more. Nonexempt items during the weekend include the sales of jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear, furniture, or items placed on layaway. Portable devices whose function is primarily used for telephone calls, listening or downloading music, watching videos, or reading books, are not exempt during the tax-free weekend. However, with the growing popularity of computer tablets, portable devices that have computing functions and allow users to access multiple software applications are considered computers and are therefore tax-exempt, provided they do not allow users to make telephone calls.

The popularity of the tax-free weekend has made it the third busiest shopping period of the year, surpassed only by the weekends after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, as South Carolina shoppers save an average $3 million on taxes during the tax-free weekend.
 
For more information about this year’s Sales Tax Holiday, including an example list of exempt and nonexempt items as well as a listing of frequently asked questions, visit the S.C. Department of Revenue website, www.sctax.org, under the “What’s New” section.

Thursday
Aug022018

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to Meet Monday

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) of Anderson County will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Monday at 4 p.m. at the Anderson County Main Library.

During this meeting, CJCC staff will present an overview of criminal justice system metrics collected over the course of the past four months. This data will inform the development of the framework through which CJCC leadership will establish countywide, multi-agency goals for improving the local criminal justice system’s efficiency and effectiveness.

This meeting is open to the public.

Thursday
Aug022018

Clemson Study Finds Most People Happy After Retirement

Most people look forward to retirement, and for good reason, according to a pair of researchers in Clemson University’s College of Business.

Research by Devon and Aspen Gorry, assistant professors of economics in the John E. Walker Department of Economics, found strong evidence that retirees experience immediate and long-lasting happiness when their working years come to an end. Retirement also has a positive impact on health, according to the husband and wife research team, but the effects aren’t immediate and may not be experienced for four or more years after retirement.

“The research looked at the short and long term and found that even years later, people report being happier in retirement than they were before,” Devon Gorry said. “Yes, individuals may vary, but overall we found strong evidence that retirees, on average, find immediate happiness that is lasting.”

Research data was tapped from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. HRS is a large data set compiled by surveys every other year from Americans over the age of 50 on a variety of topics related to their lives. Data used in the retirement research, conducted by the Gorrys and Sita Slavov, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, sampled more than 10,000 people who had retired and reported working for the last 20 years.

Devon Gorry said the study’s findings, soon to be published in Health Economics and currently a working paper with the National Bureau of Economic Research, should be of interest to anyone making a retirement decision, and to Washington policymakers considering raising the age for Social Security eligibility.

“Knowing that overall, most people report being happier and healthier in retirement is one piece of information someone can use in making the decision,” she said. “And for lawmakers looking at increasing the age for Social Security eligibility, they need to look at the unanticipated effects it might have.”

Thursday
Aug022018

Airport to Close for Runway Work Aug. 12-20

The runways at Anderson Regional Airport are scheduled for temporary closure starting at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 12.  Runways are expected to reopen no later than 8 a.m. on Aug. 20.  All air traffic operations, including takeoffs and landings, will be suspended at the airport during the closure period.

The temporary closure is due to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Runway 5-23.  During the closure, work will be performed in and around the intersection on Runways 5-23 and 17-35.

“The closure is absolutely necessary as our contractors require enough time to repair degradation found at the intersection of runway 5-23 and runway 17-35, which has proven to be much more extensive than originally thought,” said Anderson Regional Airport Manager Justin Julian. 

The closure dates and times could be modified due to weather conditions or other factors.  Contact the Anderson Regional Airport administration office at (864) 260-4163 or the airport’s Fixed Base Operations staff at (864) 964-5656 for more information.

Wednesday
Aug012018

Wells Fargo to Pay $2 Billion in Mortgage Loans Case

 Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $2.09 billion penalty for issuing mortgage loans it was aware contained incorrect income information, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

The bank agreed to pay the civil penalty under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 for the actions, which the government said contributed to last decade's financial crisis.

"Abuses in the mortgage-backed securities industry led to a financial crisis that devastated millions of Americans," acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, Alex G. Tse, said. "Today's agreement holds Wells Fargo responsible for originating and selling tens of thousands of loans that were packaged into securities and subsequently defaulted. Our office is steadfast in pursuing those who engage in wrongful conduct that hurts the public."

Under the deal Wells Fargo agreed to pay the penalty without admitting liability to resolve all civil claims under FIRREA. The government agreed to release Wells Fargo from any potential claims arising under the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act, the Injunctions against Fraud Act and on certain other grounds, the company said in a statement.

Wednesday
Aug012018

Health Alert Over Lettuce Spreads to More Products

Federal health officials have issued a public health alert after finding a parasite in some food products with lettuce sold at Walgreens and Trader Joe's.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service issued the alert over concern certain beef, pork and poultry salad and wrap products may be contaminated with the microscopic parasite Cyclospora.

The alert applies to dozens of products with "best by" or "sell by" dates from July 18 through July 23. The products were sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's and Walgreens locations nationwide and distributed by Caito Foods and Gordon Food Service.

Cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness caused from Cyclospora, causes diarrhea in most infected people. The incubation period for the illness ranges from two to 14 days, and officials said anyone concerned should see their doctor.

Caito Foods discovered the problem when it found the romaine lettuce used in some salads and wraps had been recalled.

The illness has also been linked to McDonald's salads in 15 states, mostly in the Midwest where it's sickened 286 people, the FDA said. The agency said 11 people have been hospitalized for the parasite.

Wednesday
Aug012018

Little Pigs BBQ in Anderson Sold; Changes not Expected

Little Pigs BBQ, a tradition in Anderson since 1968, has been sold.

Current owners Matt and Amy Leonard have decided to sell the establishment which they bought five years ago due to family illness. The new owner Melvin Bright has no plans to make "serious" changes to the restaurant.

Here is the Facebook post of the announcement:

"It is with a heavy heart that I am posting this, those who know me personally know that I never post personal business, ever! So with that i must let you all know that with much prayer and consideration Matt and I have sold the restuarant to allow us the time we need to take care of his precious mother. Dementia is horrible and robs families of memories and time together. You see i lost my dad 2 years ago to dementia and i worked 12 hrs a day, then would go help feed, bathe and spend every second i could in Hope's he would not forget me. It almost killed me and now facing it again we have made the decision that family always comes first! We sold the Pig to a man named Melvin Bright in Hope's that he will continue the tradition that my family fought to maintain for the last 5 years and we did it very well. It is up to them now. My heart aches to leave so many people in this great town that have supported us on this journey, and you will be missed! To my friends and family..your love, support and encouragement mean more than anything to us. So as i told my staff, it's not goodbye..its see you later...much love to you all."

Tuesday
Jul312018

Voters to Consider Hospitality Tax, Sunday Alcohol Sales in November

Anderson County’s November ballot just got a little bit longer, as Anderson County Council approved one measure on Sunday alcohol sales and a second on a two percent hospitality tax for unincorporated areas of the county. 

Council approved a non-binding advisory referendum on the November ballot to allow the hospitality tax to provide funding for parks and recreation.

The two percent hospitality tax would generate approximately $3.4 million annually for such projects. Nearly all of the county’s municipalities already have the two percent hospitality tax, and the City of Anderson generated $2.7 million from their hospitality tax last year.“All this will do is give us a mandate for the conversation,” said Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten who proposed the referendum. “Can we not have a conversation about economic development and quality of life?”

“There is a way we can bring down property taxes if the referendum passes,” Wooten said. “We’re not seeking a way to avoid accountability.”

Pam Christopher, president of the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber’s 800 businesses asked her to attend Tuesday’s meeting to express their support for a hospitality tax. 

The chamber has established a committee made up of four citizens from each council district, including the school superintendents and mayors, to help explain the benefits of the hospitality tax to citizens. 

“We’re leaving dollars on the table right now,” Christopher said. “Right now we are missing out on that money. Look at our neighboring counties and what they have done with hospitality tax.” 

Christopher said 65 percent of the funds from the hospitality tax would come from tourists or those visiting those areas of Anderson County. 

“I run a restaurant in Iva (which already has a hospitality tax in place), and I’ve never had a customer complain about the hospitality tax,” said Anderson County Councilman Ray Graham, adding that a new hospitality tax in unincorporated areas of the county is important for economic development.

“Growth in the county is enormous, and we have to start focusing on recreation. Every industry that comes to Anderson County asks us about schools, public safety and our recreation opportunities.”  

“I have asked the administrator to put together a list of which projects can, and which projects cannot be funded, by funds from a hospitality tax,” said Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. 

Wilson said council will prioritize such projects if the referendum suggests broad support of the new tax. 

One citizen offered outright opposition to even having a referendum on the subject. 

“I find that (the hospitality tax) totally unnecessary,” said Bob Martin, a resident of Anderson for nearly three decades. “Unless you can describe to me what you are going to spend that money on, this is a pig in a poke.” 

Chris Sullivan of Anderson disagreed, saying his family was forced to travel to find opportunities for his daughters to participate in sports.

“We travel all of the state state and we’re so far behind other counties,” Sullivan said. “Something needs to be done.” 

Graham said the other proposal, a two-question referendum on Sunday alcohol sales which will also be included on the ballot, is the result of local businesses expressing concern that they are at a disadvantage because of the current laws. The City of Anderson already allows the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, and may of these are next door or across the road from other businesses just outside the city limits.  

Voters will be asked to answer two questions considering the new : 

  1. “Shall the South Carolina Department of Revenue be authorized to issue temporary permits in this county for a period not to exceed twenty-four hours to allow the possession, sale, and consumption of alcoholic liquors by the drink to bona fide nonprofit organizations and business establishments otherwise authorized to be licensed for consumption-on-premises sales?”
  2. “Shall the Department of Revenue be authorized to issue temporary permits in this county for a period not to exceed twenty-four hours to allow the sale of beer and wine at permitted off-premises locations without regard to the days or hours of sales?” 

The chamber also voiced support for this as well. 

“We absolutely are behind this, it is impacting on businesses that cannot sell on Sunday,” Christopher said. “Currently people can go into a restaurant and by a beverage, but they cannot sell beverages to take home. This hurts our local businesses.”

“If our citizens can’t buy here, there are going to neighboring counties.”

“The City of Anderson already allows this, and being a business owner, I understand the those who are running these businesses wanting to make a living,” Graham said. 

“We want to have the citizens the opportunity to decide whether we want to do this.”

Tuesday
Jul312018

Facebook Disables Fake Accounts Aimed at Election Meddling

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc has identified a new coordinated political influence campaign to mislead users and organize rallies ahead of November’s U.S. congressional elections, taking down dozens of fake accounts on its site, the company said on Tuesday. 

A Russian propaganda arm tried to tamper in the 2016 U.S. election by posting and buying ads on Facebook, according to the company and U.S. intelligence agencies. Moscow has denied involvement. 

Facebook on Tuesday said here had it removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram, part of an effort to combat foreign meddling in U.S. elections, attempts that lawmakers have called dangerous for democracy. 

The company said it was still in the early stages of its investigation and did not yet know who may be behind the influence campaign for 2018 elections that will determine whether or not the Republican Party keeps control of Congress. 

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on a call with reporters that the attempts to manipulate public opinion would likely become more sophisticated to evade Facebook’s scrutiny, calling it an “arms race.” 

“This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing,” the company said in a blogpost. 

More than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages and that about $11,000 had been spent on about 150 ads, Facebook said. The pages had created about 30 events since May 2017.

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