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Graham Unknowingly Talks Turkey with Russian Prank Callers

Politico - Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has in the last year become something of a congressional point man for President Donald Trump’s negotiations with Turkey, leading discussions on everything from Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system over the summer to their more recent incursion into northern Syria.

So when he received a call from a man he thought was Turkey’s minister of defense earlier in August, it didn’t strike him as unusual. “Thank you so much for calling me, Mr. Minister,” Graham said. “I want to make this a win-win, if we can.”

But it wasn’t the Turkish defense minister at all. Instead, it was Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, Russian pranksters with suspected ties to the country’s intelligence services who go by “Lexus and Vovan.” The duo have become notorious in recent years for their cold calls to unwitting, high-profile Western politicians, including Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, leading some to suspect that they’ve had help from the Kremlin, according to The Guardian. (A Schiff spokesman said at the time that the House Intelligence Committee “informed appropriate law enforcement and security personnel of the conversation.”)

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, confirmed the call’s authenticity to POLITICO. “We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks,” he said. “They got him.”

The substance of Graham’s conversation with Stolyarov, who was posing as Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, is newly relevant in light of the South Carolina senator’s push for sanctions on Turkey as punishment for their offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria. Graham labeled the Kurds a “threat” to Turkey in the call, seemingly contradicting what he has said publicly in recent days. 

Graham also mentions Trump’s personal interest in a “Turkish bank case” in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Trump had asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the Zarrab case.

The pranksters’ conversation with Graham, a Trump ally who has the president’s ear on national security issues, also raises obvious questions about potential security breaches. While the pranks appear on their face to have been relatively harmless, the incident suggests it’s getting easier for bad actors to elicit sensitive information from policymakers. Stolyarov provided POLITICO with a recording of their call.

In the call, Graham was primarily concerned with getting Turkey back into the F-35 program and urging the “defense minister” to refrain from using Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system, which was fully delivered to Turkey last month in defiance of requests from the U.S. and NATO.

But Graham also expressed sympathy for Turkey’s “Kurdish problem” and described the Kurds as a “threat.” Those private comments appear to contradict his public statements this week, in which he criticized Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria because it’s “wrong to abandon the Kurds, who have been strong allies against” the Islamic State.“Your YPG Kurdish problem is a big problem,” Graham told the pranksters. He was referring to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, a group that began fighting ISIS as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015—with support from the U.S.—but is considered a terrorist group by Turkey because of its push to establish an autonomous state for the Kurds on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,” Graham continued. “Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I’m sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president, quite frankly.”

More here


Anderson County Football Scores

T.L. Hanna 37, Easley 10

Pendleton 32, Powdersville 0

Westside 49, J.L. Mann 10

BHP 56, Palmetto 28

Powdersvile 12. Crescent 7

Daniel 34, Wren 28


Clemson Program Connects Veterans & Shelter Dogs

CLEMSON - Every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. Every 8 seconds, one dog is euthanized.

Madison Huber, a freshman studying animal and veterinary sciences at Clemson University, thinks these statistics are devastating –– but not entirely hopeless.

For the past three years, Huber has fundraised for a program called K9s for Warriors, which adopts dogs from kill shelters, trains them as service dogs, and donates them to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. These efforts save the dogs from being euthanized and even have the potential to save veterans’ lives, as well.

“No, we may not have completely solved PTSD, but every dog we rescue, every penny we raise, makes a tremendous difference to the veteran, and their families,” said Huber. “One more dog means one less animal left abandoned in the shelter, one less soldier turned away from receiving treatment as if their sacrifice meant nothing, and one less family left with heartbreak.”

This initiative is just one of the many programs organized by the Zilinski Foundation, which seeks to improve the morale and welfare of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families. The foundation was created in honor of Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II, who was killed in active duty in Iraq in 2005. Dennis’ family and their Middletown, N.J. community, of which Huber is a part, hold many fundraisers and initiatives throughout the year in Dennis’ honor.

Huber was recently recognized at the Zilinski Foundation’s “A Toast to Dennis” annual gala for the impact of her fundraising. Over her three years of involvement, Huber raised a total of $69,000 for the cause. She was awarded the special honor of choosing the name of the first dog that she sponsored.

“I named the dog Phoenix, because in ancient mythology, the Phoenix is a bird that, when it dies, rises from the ashes. With the gift of this dog, I hope and pray that this veteran will be able to leave his or her pain behind, and rise from the ashes of the battlefield,” said Huber.

Each donation of a dog requires approximately $15,000 of funding to cover the cost of training and vet expenses. Huber raised money to sponsor three different dogs by contacting local businesses, reaching out to her church and school, conducting a bootcamp event, and organizing bake sales and lemonade stands. Veterans have expressed intense gratitude for the impact these dogs have had on their lives.

“The program gave me great tools to use in battling my PTSD in the form of Andy, my awesome new furry buddy. I also gained a new group of brothers that I went through the training with, and we support each other,” said William Cooks, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. “I plan on continuing to push myself with the help of Andy to go out into public and spread the word about K9s For Warriors. I didn’t leave anyone on the battlefield in Iraq, and I will not leave anyone behind now that I am back home.”


Most of County in Extreme or Severe Drought Status

Anderson Observer

You've probably notices the Hartwell Lake is more than four feet below full pool, and noticably down from this time last year.

A large part of Anderson County is experience extreme drought conditions, according the United States drought monitor posted today. Most of the rest of the county is in the severe drought status, just below the extreme status.

The drought has already created issues in the area. Some owners of cattle and horses are selling animals due the scarcity and expense of hay and feed. 

Farmers are also worried that if soil moisture remains low, winter crops will be slow to germinate.

A ban on burning is likely, and water restrictions are also possible as the drought continues.

Some small aquatic species are also threated as lake levels decline.

Rain is in the forecast beginning Sunday, and Anderson could see more than an inch of precipitation before the systems passes late Wednesday.



S.C. Ranks 10th in "Booziest Driver" Report

Brunch DUIs are a growing problem, and South Carolina ranks in the top 10 nationally for midday drunk driving crashes in a new report by QuoteWizard.

One of millennials’ favorite pastimes is the roll-out-of-bed-and-shake-off-a-hangover brunch. Can it even be called brunch if you didn’t have a bloody mary or mimosa? Every town in America has it’s top spots for brunch. Whether the place is known for its chicken fried steak or bottomless mimosas deal, brunch spots are always packed.

What’s drawing millennials into the brunch scene aren’t the classic breakfast foods but the breakfast cocktails. According to a Huffington Post article, 20 years ago, brunch food and alcohol would have been seen as “bizarre.” But nowadays cocktails and breakfast food are ‘“commonplace,” and restaurants are profiting greatly from it.

With the popularity of boozy brunching, inevitably, folks are getting behind the wheel after reaching the bottom of their bottomless mimosas. QuoteWizard research discovered states are the booziest brunchers by analyzing drunk driving car crash data during the brunch hours. Looking at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data, we compared drunk driving car crashes from 2013 to 2017 during brunch hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We ranked all 50 states to see which states had the highest rate of drunk driving car crashes during the brunch hours. States with the highest ranking were found to be the booziest brunching states.

Full List Here


Meals on Wheels Needs Donations for Emergency Meals

Observer Reports

Meals on Wheels of Anderson is planning ahead for the icy weather of winter by beginning to put together meals that can be stored for use when drivers can't deliver. Each year the organizations seeks donations of NICE (Nutrition in Case of Emergency) Meals that can provide our neighbors in need shelf-stable, ready-to-eat food that can be used in case of an emergency. 
Meals on Wheels is asking for donations to assemble these “bagged meals” which contain ready-to-eat soup (no water needed), a granola/nutrition bar, a single-serving pack of raisins or can of fruit and a single-serving can or box of juice packaged in a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag. 
The goal is to provide each recipient at least three of these “care packages” during the winter months. With more than 400 recipients, the organization needs to receive at least 1,300 meals. 
Church groups, schools, clubs or service organizations are invited to collect and package these items for distribution this winter. Donations of packaged meals can be received at the Meals on Wheels office at 105 S. Fant Street in Anderson. 
Meals on Wheels of Anderson relies solely on donations received from the community for its day-to-day operations and receives no federal or state funding. In response to this need, each year we call for donations of NICE (Nutrition in Case of Emergency) Meals that can provide for our recipients if we are unable to deliver. The meals are made up of shelf-stable, ready-to-eat items that can be used in case of an emergency. 

For more information on NICE Meals or Meals on Wheels, please call 864-225-6800, visit or email Josh at


News Notes Roundup

Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

News Notes

Paving the Way to Fund Roads

County Council is now shifting gears to eduate constituents on a potential one-cent sales tax instead of a $25 annual vehicle fee to fund road maintenance/repair of the 1,534 miles of county owned roads. Currenty to simply maintain the aging roads (still in good enough shape to maintain) - which have never had appropriate levels of funding (always kicked down the road to avoid tax hikes) - would require $8-10 million annually. This does not include total replacement of roads/bridges which need more than resurfacing. The one-cent tax would generate $20 million each year to rescue the aging transportation infrastructure and maintain/repair the other roads in a more systematic fashion. The $25 road fee would generate an estimated $3-4 million per year for the same purposes. Anderson County has dodged catastrophic road issues due to the mild winters of recent years. A prolonged hard freeze would do irreparable damage to hundreds of miles of county roads which would have to be replaced. The cost for those projects would start at more than $500,000 per mile to dig up and rebuild.

The options remaining fall to three revenue sources to provide constant funding: one-cent sales tax (with 30-35 percent of the funds coming from visitors to the county), a $25 road fee, or an undermined increase in property taxes. Stay tuned.

New DT Grill?

A sign on the former DT Taco, the downtown upscale Mexican restaurant, which closed last week, says DT Grill is coming soon. 

Fresh Burger Opens

Fresh Burger has opened in the old Bogangles/Texas Steakhouse location next to Master's Wok on North Main street. The menu includes burgers, chicken sandwiches and wings, wraps, and salads. Most of the food is fresh, not frozen, and the chicken is hand battered every day. Plans are also in place to offer a breakfast menu within the next three weeks. See menu here. Fresh Burger has one other location, in Greenville, and their company website is here. They are currently open Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Sunday 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m.

Bintime in Anderson

As has been reported, Bintime, a retailer that specializes in offering overstock items at deep expected to open next week in Anderson near the Mega Dollar Store on at 935 Sayre Street. The store is open Sunday-Tuesday. Pricing is as follows: Saturday and Sunday all items are $5, Monday items are $2 and Tuesday everything is $1. The store is restocked every Saturday and Sunday. Find out more at their Facebook page.

Schlotzsky's to Return Nov. 4

Schlotzsky's is returning to Anderson in it's old location across from the hospital on Greenville Street Nov. 4. For more than a decade, it was one of Anderson's best sandwich shops until the local owner retired a a series of owners/managers from out of state reduced it to a ghost town. A big welcome back to local ownership of the franchise and best wishes for a return to deli glory. 

Help Wanted

Meanwhile, Anderson's 2.8 unemployment rate is straining staffs at many restaurants, who are constantly looking for reliable employees. "Help Wanted" signs are up all over. Mellow Mushroom downtown currently has openings for bartenders, servers and hosts. 

Grace Church Settles in Downtown

In case you missed it, Grace Church is now holding regular services downtown Anderson location at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. each Sunday. The church is located in the old Anderson Community Theater (former home of The State Theater). For more information about the church and all of its locations, visit here.

Hotel Construction Under Way Downtown

Also you have probably noticed construction is under way for the new hotel downtown. The hotel is expected to have at least 90 rooms, conference space, a four (or five) deck parking garage with 247 parking spot, and a possible rooftop event deck on the garage. The project could be finished by early 2021.

More Notes on Thursday


New Area Code Coming for S.C. Midlands

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina is adding a new area code.

The latest set of digits will augment the Palmetto State's oldest area code — 803. In the region stretching from Aiken to Rock Hill with Columbia at its center, new numbers beginning with 839 will be available in the Midlands starting May 26, 2020.

The Post and Courier reports historically, the 803 area code was the only one in the state after World War II ended. In 1995, 864 came to the Upstate. The coastal 843 area code was created in the late 1990s.

Ahead of the new number's availability, millions of landline callers are asked to practice dialing the area code before every local number. Calls dialed without area codes will stop going through April 25, 2020.

The advent of cellphones and years of heavy population growth have contributed to the need for a new area code in the Midlands.

As of December 2017, there were 4.75 million mobile numbers in service statewide and 1.6 million wired lines, said Doug Pratt, public utility analyst with the South Carolina Public Service Commission.

Population in the state recently topped 5 million, according to the latest Census data.

"The thing that determines when you have to split, or overlay, an area code is when you run out of central office codes," the first three digits following the area code, Pratt said.

Regulators considered merging the 854 area with the Midlands but ultimately decided adding 839 numbers to serve central South Carolina would last longer and cause less confusion.

When the last new area code was introduced, there was a rush to snag tens of thousands of prime, easy-to-remember phone prefixes.

But for the most part, Pratt said the new numbers are given out when a customer's needs are too big to be accommodated under the previous area code — usually new large employers and hospitals with direct dialing systems that want a common number.

The Public Service Commission approved the plan to add the new area code in July 2018.

Despite population gains in the Upstate, it is the only new area code currently planned, Pratt said.

Through mid-2018, the Spartanburg metropolitan area was the 19th fastest-growing in the nation. And Greenville County's population growth rate was higher than the state's as a whole, according to the latest Census figures.

"The 864 area code will not exhaust for quite some time," Pratt said, some 10 to 15 years into the future.


Meteor Showers Should Be Active Tonight

October’s Draconid meteor shower – sometimes called the Giacobinids – will likely peak at nightfall or early evening tonight, under a moon-drenched sky.

There's a full moon on Oct. 13, and in the days up to then, the moon may obscure some of the light from the meteor showers.

Debris from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is responsible for the Draconid meteor shower, which gets its name because the meteors appear to be coming from the direction of the constellation Draco the Dragon.

The South Taurid meteor shower will last through November, averaging about five meteors per hour. The full moon will also affect seeing this shower, but a new moon later in the month should provide more views. The South Taurid meteor shower is caused by debris from Comet 2P/Encke.


Gowdy Tapped as Trump Outside Counsel

(AP) - Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has been picked to serve as President Trump’s outside counsel in the House impeachment inquiry, the AP reports, citing an administration official.

Gowdy announced last year that he would not seek re-election after serving as a South Carolina representative for eight years. He also chaired the House Oversight Committee and led the congressional investigation of former presidential candidate Hilary Clinton and the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

Earlier today, the White House sent a letter to the House of Representatives, writing that the Trump administration will not participate in what it calls an “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in the letter that the inquiry has been processed in a “manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process” and “lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation.”


Salvation Army Expects Record Christmas Assistance Demand

Anderson Observer

Christmas is 78 days away and the Salvation Army of Anderson needs your help to help your neighbors.

This week the group is signing up families experience financial hardship, whose children will not receive Christmas gifts if the community is not generous, for the organization's annual Angel Tree Program

The Salvation Army wants children (12 & under and special needs of any age) of these families to have "a magical Christmas no matter what the hardship." 

The group is expecting a record number of more than 2,000 applications for holiday assistance from across Anderson County as the need continues to grow in our community.

How to Help

It's easy to sign up to help a child. Beginning in November, take an "Angel" off one the Angel Trees in various locations around the county. That "Angel" will include information and a child's Christmas wish list. After purchasing the gifts, simply drop them off at the The Salvation Army at 112 Tolly Street, the Boys & Girls Club at 1030 Salem Church Rd., the Anderson Mall Toy house, or at Walmart drop off boxes.

The Angel Tree distribution of gifts will be Dec. 18-19.

If You Need Help

Sign up this week betwee 9 a.m.-noon or 1-3 p.m. at the Salvation Army Center for Worship & Services,112 Tolly Street, in Anderson. 

Please bring the following documents to apply for Christmas Assistance for children:

  • Current photo ID for the person applying
  • Proof of residency
  • Birth certificate for all children aged 12 and younger
  • Income verification within the last 30 days
  • Proof of expenses
  • If you receive government assistance/ DSS Household Summary

AU AD to Speak at TD Club Friday

Anderson University Athletic Director Bert Epting is the scheduled speaker for the Anderson Touchdown Club on Friday.  Epting was named VP for Athletics in May 2018.  He is a former NCAA Division 1 basketball player and was Senior Director of Development at Clemson University.

Weekly players and coaches from area high schools will be honored as part of the meeting.

The TC Club meets at the Anderson County Library.  The cost of your meal, catered by Mama Penn's, is $11.  The meal line opens at 11:30 a.m. The program begins at 12:10 p.m. and concludes at 1 p.m.  

Membership fees are $50 for a single membership or $200 for a corporate membership, which includes five (5) memberships to use for employees or guests.

For more information call 864-934-2423 or 864-616-6417.

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