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Monday
Apr242017

Wednesday Events to Promote Access & Independence in S.C.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has declared Wednesday, 2017 Advocacy Day for Access & Independence in the state.

"I want to encourage all South Carolinians to work together to destroy the barriers that hinder individuals with disabilities from becoming fully independent participants in our communities,”  McMaster said.

Advocacy Day for Access & Independence was first created as an initiative in the State Plan for Independent Living in 2014, and its inaugural gathering attracted over 300 South Carolina residents. Since then, support has grown to 25 organizations statewide, all unified in an effort to ensure people with disabilities have equal access and opportunity. People with disabilities face unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to transportation, employment, public access, and housing. Advocacy Day for Access and Independence will shine a light on these barriers in hopes of improving the lives of all South Carolinians with disabilities. For more information about Advocacy Day for Access and Independence 2017, visit the following website: http://unlockingbarriers-sc.org/

Monday
Apr242017

S.C. House to Study Painkiller Abuse

South Carolina's House leader has created a legislative committee to study how the state can fight the rising problem of abuse of painkillers.

Speaker Jay Lucas said in a news release Monday he is asking the committee to meet for the rest of the year to figure out what kind of laws South Carolina can pass to stop the abuse and trafficking of opioids.

Lucas appointed Rep. Eric Bedingfield to lead the new committee. The Republican from Greenville County lost his oldest son a year ago to an opioid overdose after fighting addiction for six years.

Bedingfield thanked Lucas for the appointment, saying maybe his son can save lives even after his death.

Sunday
Apr232017

Centrist, Far-Right Leader Headed for Runoff in France

Centrist Emmanuel Macron took a big step towards the French presidency on Sunday by winning the first round of voting and qualifying for a May 7 runoff alongside far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Though Macron, 39, is a comparative political novice who has never held elected office, new opinion polls on Sunday had him easily winning the final clash against the 48-year-old Le Pen.

Sunday's outcome is a huge defeat for the two center-right and center-left groupings that have dominated French politics for 60 years, and also reduces the prospect of an anti-establishment shock on the scale of Britain's vote last June to quit the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

In a victory speech, Macron told supporters of his fledgling En Marche! (Onwards!) movement: "In one year, we have changed the face of French politics." He went on to say he would bring in new faces and talent to transform a stale political system if elected.

Conceding defeat even before figures from the count came in, rival conservative and Socialist candidates urged their supporters now to put their energies into backing Macron and stopping any chance of a second-round victory by Le Pen, whose anti-immigration and anti-Europe policies they said spelled disaster for France.

A Harris survey taken on Sunday saw Macron winning the runoff by 64 percent to 36, and an Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll gave a similar result.

Sunday
Apr232017

Trump Threatens to Defund ACA if Democrats Won't Support Wall

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on congressional efforts to avoid a government shutdown, telling Democrats on Sunday that Obamacare will die without a cash infusion the White House has offered in exchange for their agreement to fund his border wall.

"Obamacare is in serious trouble. The Dems need big money to keep it going - otherwise it dies far sooner than anyone would have thought," Trump said in a Twitter posting.

In a second tweet, he added: "The Democrats don't want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members." 

MS-13 is a criminal gang with members of Central American origin. 

The president's tweets appeared after White House budget director Mick Mulvaney accused Democrats of "holding hostage national security" by opposing $1.5 billion to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, one of Trump's top campaign pledges. 

But Trump's online salvo was met by Democratic calls for him to stop making "poison pill" demands. 

"The only fly in the ointment is that the president is being a little heavy handed, and mixing in and asking for things such as the wall," Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said.

"We'd ask him to let us do our work, not throw in some last-minute poison pills that could undo it, and we could get this done," Schumer told reporters. 

Trump wants the money included in spending legislation that Congress must pass by Friday to keep the federal government operating through Sept. 30, when the 2017 fiscal year expires.

Mulvaney and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus played down the danger of a shutdown. Mulvaney said talks between Republicans and Democrats could produce an agreement as early as Sunday.

If talks fail, the government would shut down on Saturday, Trump's 100th day in office.

Sunday
Apr232017

Study: Diet Sodas Could Lead to Increased Stroke Risk

Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests.

Artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, were tied to a higher risk of stroke and dementia in the study, which published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke on Thursday.

The study sheds light only on an association, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Therefore, some experts caution that the findings should be interpreted carefully.

No connection was found between those health risks and other sugary beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks.

“We have little data on the health effects of diet drinks and this is problematic because diet drinks are popular amongst the general population,” said Matthew Pase, a senior research fellow in the department of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and lead author of the new study.

The new study involved data on 2,888 adults older than 45 and 1,484 adults older than 60 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The data came from the Framingham Heart Study, a project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Boston University.

In the older-than-45 group, the researchers measured for stroke and in the older-than-60 group, they measured for dementia.

“The sample sizes are different because we studied people of different ages,” Pase said. “Dementia is rare in people under the age of 60 and so we focused only on those aged over 60 years for dementia. Similarly, stroke is rare in people aged under 45 and so we focused on people older than age 45 for stroke.”

The researchers analyzed how many sugary beverages and artificially sweetened soft drinks each person in the two different age groups drank, at different time points, between 1991 and 2001. Then, they compared that with how many people suffered stroke or dementia over the next 10 years.

Compared to never drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks, those who drank one a day were almost three times as likely to have an ischemic stroke, caused by blocked blood vessels, the researchers found.

They also found that those who drank one a day were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Those who drank one to six artificially sweetened beverages a week were 2.6 times as likely to experience an ischemic stroke but were no more likely to develop dementia, Pase said.

Separate previous studies have shown an association between the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and adverse health effects, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and possibly even heart failure.

“This article provides further evidence though on artificially sweetened beverages and their possible effects on vascular health, including stroke and dementia,” said Dr. Ralph Sacco, professor and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, about the new study.

Sunday
Apr232017

World Closely Watching Election in France

France is voting for a new President Sunday following a divisive and unpredictable campaign that included corruption accusations against leading candidates and a terror attack in Paris while the final television debate was on air. 

The last polling stations close at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET) with usually reliable exit estimates due almost immediately afterwards.
The country is sharply divided -- with the latest polls suggesting the results are too close to call. 
By 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) 69.42% of France's 47 million registered voters had cast their ballots, according to the Interior Ministry. That turnout is marginally lower than at the same point in 2012 and 2007, but considerably higher than 2002.
Security is tight at election venues across the country, still jittery just two days after the attack on a police bus in the heart of Paris, which left one officer dead.
Saturday
Apr222017

Frito-Lay Recalls Some Jalapeno Chips

Frito-Lay today announced it is voluntarily recalling select Jalapeño Flavored Lay’s Kettle Cooked potato chips and Jalapeño Flavored Miss Vickie’s Kettle Cooked potato chips due to the potential presence of Salmonella in the seasoning. 

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

This action is the direct result of a supplier’s recent recall of a seasoning blend which includes jalapeño powder that could contain Salmonella. Although no Salmonella was found in the seasoning supplied to Frito-Lay, the company has decided to recall these products out of an abundance of caution.

No illness related to this matter has been confirmed to date.

Friday
Apr212017

Clemson Kicks Off Campus Bike Sharing Service

Alternative transportation is coming to Clemson, and it’s coming by bike, with BikeShare, a new bike rental program on campus, leading the movement.

Organizers say they hope the program will make a significant impact on quality of life at the University: They see it as a way to bring a cheap, efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly form of transportation to a large portion of the campus population. Beyond that, BikeShare is part of a growing trend, moving away from relying on motorized transit as the only way to get from here to there.

“I would love to see it be a starting point toward an overall movement toward bikes on Clemson’s campus,” said Jacob McMeekin, who is the current transportation and facilities chairman for Undergraduate Student Government. “We want to encourage people to find other ways to get to campus, other than just taking their cars. Biking, with how close our housing is, is a great alternative.”

Quick and easy

BikeShare is a simple concept: It allows students, faculty and staff to rent and ride bikes from five stations around campus for an annual fee of $5. The membership includes a free bike helmet, and utilizes the my.Clemson app to provide a map with the location of each station, bike lane and shared road in the area.

Biking has long been an effective way to travel in Clemson, but if you take a look around you might think the activity is experiencing a renaissance. Bike stations are popping up all over campus, and new bike trails may follow.

Tanya DeOliveria, assistant master planner at University Planning and Design, and Jacob McMeekin, undergraduate student senator, show off one of the bikes in Clemson’s BikeShare program. Image Credit: Clemson University

“BikeShare provides a quick and convenient way to get around campus,” said Tanya DeOliveira, assistant master planner at University Planning and Design. But BikeShare is not an isolated effort; rather it’s the product of years of alternative transportation planning, she said. University Planning and Design put forth a bikeways master plan in 2012 that outlined the school’s first attempt to bring more bike facilities and a more bike-friendly culture to campus. That sparked a conversation between the Planning and Design office and Parking and Transportation Services about addressing alternative mobility needs.

Undergraduate Student Government jumped into the conversation in 2014 under the leadership of then transportation and facilities chair, Will Richter. Undergraduate Student Government provided the initial funding to get BikeShare off the ground. The chosen vendor is Bcycle, an organization that operates in cities all over the country, including Greenville, which is only a short drive away.

“Students have the opportunity to also use BikeShare if they visit Greenville,” said McMeekin, of the student government association. “The membership will apply to both Clemson and Greenville.”

Town and gown

BikeShare is not the only alternative transportation effort developing in the Clemson area. A group called Friends of the Green Crescent Trail, comprising government officials, University faculty and staff, and residents of Clemson, Central and Pendleton has proposed an alternative transportation network that ties campus to surrounding communities. The trail could, upon completion, connect campus with more than 40 miles of bikeways and pathways.

“The Green Crescent Trail ensures that safe options are available for bikers,” McMeekin said. “It ensures that you have the right size bike lanes and the right size sidewalks to make sure that students and members of the community feel more comfortable when they’re out there.”

“The Green Crescent would be a really amazing piece of trail to help people get around the larger community by bike,” DeOliveira said. “If both BikeShare and that were to be realized, the Clemson area could become a national model in 20 years or so.”

Membership in Clemson’s new BikeShare program provides access to bike stations across campus. Image Credit: Clemson University

McMeekin shares DeOliveira’s optimism about the future of alternative transportation on Clemson’s campus and its surrounding area.

“BikeShare is just one step out of many we’re using to improve alternative transportation,” he said. “We’re also working with CATbus. We’ll have electric buses coming to campus in the next few years, so we’re excited about that. It’s really just one piece of a much larger puzzle.”

Completing that puzzle will take time and considerable planning. Numerous groups — students, faculty, staff and community members — will be involved. The collaboration, however, should come naturally.

“At Clemson we come together and we do what’s best for the entire community,” DeOliveira said.

Friday
Apr212017

County Jobless Rate Drops to 3.8 Percent for March

Anderson County saw the jobless rate fall to 3.8 percent in March, while South Carolina's unemployment rate has remained unchanged as the number of people working in the state has risen.

“Anderson County added around 550 jobs in the last month more than 1,300 over the past 12 months, which I’m very happy to see," said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn. "But no matter how good things may be now, we will continue to seek and recruit economic development opportunities to ensure we remain in good shape regardless of what economic conditions may arise in the future.”

The Department of Employment and Workforce said Friday that South Carolina's unemployment rate in February was 4.4 percent, the same as Februay. Employment went up more than 10,000, to more than 2.2. million people.

In Anderson County, the rate fell to 3.8 percent, down from 4.2 percent in February. With a workforce of 89,980, 86,582 were employed in Feburary, leaving 3,398 unemployed. 

The number of people working went up by more than 9,500 in March, to a high of more than 2.2 million people. The biggest month-to-month job gains happened in trade, transportation and utilities and education and health services.

South Carolina's labor force also went up by nearly 10,000, to more than 2.3 million.

The 3.8% unemployment rate puts Anderson County tied with Spartanburg and Saluda counties for 9th lowest among counties in South Carolina.


The March 2017 Employment Situation report for all South Carolina counties can be accessed at the following link--https://dew.sc.gov/news-details-page/2017/04/21/south-carolina's-employment-situation-for-march-2017

Nationally, unemployment continued to fall, sliding from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent last month.

Friday
Apr212017

Portion of Ballard Road Closed for Repairs

The Anderson County Roads and Bridges Department has closed Ballard Road (C-6-41) for repairs to x-line.  The closure is between Highway 29 North and Stoneybrook Road, and will remain closed until repairs are complete. The completion date has not been determined, and will be provided when that date is known.

Thursday
Apr202017

Director Says S.C. Prisons Need More Officers

South Carolina's prisons "clearly need more officers," but keeping jobs filled is a struggle, the state's Corrections director told senators Thursday after the deaths of four inmates at one prison and three officers injured at another.

Director Bryan Stirling said a single officer sometimes must monitor more than 200 inmates, depending on the prison and shift. State prisons are nowhere close to the national standard of four officers for every 30 inmates, he said.

Stirling said his agency is hiring more officers and making changes to comply with last year's agreement to improve treatment of mentally ill inmates. But he cautions that decades-long problems in the historically underfunded agency won't be "fixed overnight." That settlement resolved a 2005 lawsuit of allegations dating to the 1990s.

"We're doing what we can with what we have," Stirling told the Senate Corrections Committee.

Across all prisons, he said, the vacancy rate for officers is nearly 31 percent.

The 12.5 percent vacancy rate at the Columbia prison where the four were killed is comparatively low. At the time of the deaths, two officers were assigned to the dorm housing 139 inmates, according to the Department of Corrections.

Hiring for the low-pay job is difficult, though an advertising campaign that includes TV ads and billboards has helped, Stirling said.

South Carolina's salaries for prison guards have ranked among the nation's lowest. Increases approved by the Legislature last year — following the settlement — have helped, but officers could still make more working in jails in the state's larger counties, he said.

"Last year, when Wal-Mart increased their salaries, Wal-Mart employees were getting paid more than correctional officers," Stirling said.

Additional pay increases for prison guards could be approved for the fiscal year starting July 1. Legislators are still finalizing their budget plan.

Currently, officers in maximum-security prisons start out at $33,600 and get a $1,100 boost if they're still there in six months. But keeping officers is another problem, he said.

Thursday
Apr202017

Trump Approval Ratings at Historic Low

Despite remaining overwhelmingly popular among his base, President Donald Trump's average approval rating after three months in office is the lowest of any new president since the end of World War II.

According to Gallup, Trump's average approval rating since taking office Jan. 20 is 41 percent. The next lowest during the early days of a presidency was Bill Clinton, whose average was 55 percent, a 14-point gap.

The polling data show Trump did not enjoy the so-called "honeymoon" phase of goodwill from Americans eager to support a president in his first term, though data also show there is not a particular correlation between the level of initial approval and the ultimate success or failure of a presidency.

John F. Kennedy enjoyed the highest average approval after three months at 74 percent, but would go on to suffer the Bay of Pigs disaster at the three-month mark, generally regarded as his biggest misstep while president. Jimmy Carter enjoyed the third-highest initial approval rating at 69 percent, a figure that was slowly dragged down by surging inflation, high gas prices and the Iran hostage crisis, factors that ultimately led to his defeat seeking re-election.

Trump's standing in the Gallup average is consistent with Thursday's average of all approval rating polls compiled by the statistics site FiveThirtyEight.com, which lists Trump's approval rating at 42 percent.

Wednesday
Apr192017

S.C. Senate Rejects Adding Tax Cuts to Roads Bill

Senators have rejected a proposal inserting tax cuts into a bill raising revenue to fix South Carolina's crumbling roadways.

The Senate voted 22-20 on Wednesday against an amendment that would have cut income taxes and manufacturers' property taxes, and increased tuition tax credits for students and tax deductions for officers.

The proposal by Republican Sen. Sean Bennett was expected to eventually reduce state revenues by more than $400 million annually.

Democrats argued the Legislature already doesn't adequately fund core government functions.

The debate on other amendments continues. Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen says inserting tax cuts would likely kill the road-funding effort for another year.

Bennett contends a bill that only raises gas taxes and fees for roadwork won't get the supermajority approval needed to override Gov. Henry McMaster's threatened veto.