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S.C. Senate Discusses Loophole in Gun Law

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A group of senators wants more time to discuss a bill lengthening the amount of time authorities can take to finish a background check on someone trying to buy a gun in South Carolina.

The Senate Judiciary Committee decided not to vote Tuesday on a bill dealing with the so-called "Charleston Loophole."

The bill would extend from three to five days the amount of time federal officials have to check on incomplete information on gun buyers.

Authorities say when Dylann Roof bought the gun used to kill nine people at a Charleston church in 2015, his background check was incomplete after three days and he was allowed to buy the weapon.

The bill's sponsors also want a requirement for court clerks to report convictions and restraining orders within five days.


Congress Wants to Pass $1.3 Trillion Budget Bill By Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers sought to reach agreement on Tuesday on a massive government spending bill that Congress hopes to pass by Friday, with immigration issues such as President Donald Trump’s border wall a stumbling block in the negotiations.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said he expected lawmakers to finish writing the $1.3 trillion bill later on Tuesday but that they were still finalizing some provisions. 

Lawmakers and congressional aides were skeptical that Senate and House of Representatives leaders would succeed in including protections for young undocumented immigrants, who are known as ‘Dreamers,’ in the spending bill. 

Congress must pass the spending bill before midnight on Friday to prevent federal agencies from shutting down when their funding runs out. But thorny issues linger, including whether to include more money for the border wall, and a rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. 

Republicans want $1.6 billion to begin construction on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Trump campaigned on in 2016. Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have questioned the wisdom of the edifice and instead want to use a mix of high-tech devices and fencing to discourage illegal entries into the United States. 

But in recent days, congressional leaders and the White House have engaged in negotiations, which appear to have failed, that could have given Trump the full $25 billion to build the wall. In return, Democrats could have won permanent protections for the Dreamers, who were brought illegally into the United States by their parents. 

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the talks broke down on Sunday after the White House insisted on the $25 billion but would only give the “Dreamer” youths 2-1/2 years of protections from deportation. 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met with Democratic senators, while several Republicans planned to attend a meeting at the White House, to discuss issues around immigration. 

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks following the weekly policy luncheons at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin left the meeting with Nielsen telling reporters DHS gave assurances that the immigrant youths would not be targeted for deportation while their situation is in flux. But he said DHS officials said there could be gaps in their work permits that were provided under an Obama-era protection program that Trump ended. 

“You will have doctors, teachers, maybe members of the military in a very difficult position,” Durbin said. 


Clemson Ranked Top S.C. Graduate School of Education

U.S.News & World Report has ranked the Clemson University College of Education’s graduate programs as the best in South Carolina in its 2019 Best Graduate Schools rankings. The graduate school moved up four spots to rank 70th nationally among 385 private and public universities surveyed and No. 54 among public institutions only.

George J. Petersen, founding dean of the College of Education, said this jump in rankings is due to the hard work and dedication of faculty and staff in the college. He credits their commitment to excellence as the primary reason the college leads the way in graduate education in South Carolina.

“This recognition indicates our focused and intentional efforts to deliver a ‘best in class’ professional and educational experience for our students,” Petersen said. “The rankings also indicate that our efforts aren’t going unnoticed at the national level.”

Earlier this year, U.S. News also ranked the college’s Master of Education in Teaching and Learning program the top online graduate education program in the nation.

For the graduate school ranking, U.S. News used detailed statistical data collected in fall 2017 and early 2018 that included assessments from school superintendents and education school deans, as well as student acceptance rates and mean GRE scores. It also considered student-faculty ratio, faculty award percentage, number of doctoral degrees granted, total research expenditures and average expenditures per faculty member.

“We are thrilled to be held in high esteem by our peers and schools across the state who see our graduate programs defined by dedicated faculty, student engagement and affordability,” Petersen said. “These priorities will never go by the wayside for us in our continuing mission to play a vital role in shaping educational and economic futures in South Carolina.”

The College of Education offers master’s and educational specialist degrees that prepare professionals for such fields as teaching, school administration, counseling, human resources and leadership in both higher education and athletics. The college also offers five doctoral degrees in curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; learning sciences; literacy, language and culture; and special education.


Happy Vernal Equinox!

From Nadia Drake/National Geographic

Twice each year, as the sun marches across the sky, its center crosses Earth’s Equator.

This celestial alignment results in the equinox—a day with light and dark of (nearly) equal length, with the sun rising precisely in the east and setting precisely in the west. This year, the vernal, or spring, equinox will occur Today.

For most people, the equinox simply heralds a changing of the seasons. In March, the vernal equinox signals the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the south, and the reverse happens during the September equinox.

What are equinoxes? What causes these astronomical events? Find out how they influence the seasons and hours of daylight on each planet. But for many ancient cultures across the Americas, equinoxes were something more: a time for celebration, sacrifice, and migration.

For millennia, observing the sun’s shifting path was both essential for survival and hard to ignore. Our star’s celestial wanderings foretold the onset of the growth and harvest seasons and warned of impending winter, so it’s not unusual to find a variety of solar calendars among the artifacts of vanished civilizations. Other cultures are keeping their traditions alive, and still performing ceremonies timed to the equinox.


Many people have heard of the Maya calendar, but others are lesser known. In the Peruvian desert north of Lima, at a site called Chankillo, an enormous astronomical observatory sits atop a ridge. Dating back to at least 500 B.C., the installation is a complex array of 13 towers, fashioned in a north-south line resembling a spine.

As the sun moves through its yearly paces, it rises and sets between the towers at predictable times, appearing to the left of the first tower at the summer solstice, in the center at equinox, and to the right of the last tower at winter solstice.

“The extreme end towers are very clearly marking the solstices, though the argument for the equinox is more indirect,” notes archaeologist Iván Ghezzi of the Catholic University of Peru, who described the site’s solar connection in 2007.

The identity of the observatory’s builders is still unknown, but like many ancient cultures in the Americas, they appeared to worship the sun. “Chankillo is much more than merely an astronomical observatory,” Ghezzi says. “It’s a site that was a large ceremonial center.”

Chankillo, though still fundamentally enigmatic, is one of many examples of structures built to align with the equinox, such as a Stonehenge-like circle of wooden poles, or Woodhenge, at a prehistoric site called Cahokiain Southern Illinois, and the earthen lodges oriented toward astronomical features built by the Skidi Pawnee.


But sometimes, simply marking astronomical alignments isn’t enough; another ancient method of tracing the sun’s meanderings through the sky involves using light and shadow to paint particular images. Here, the sunlight itself does the work, inscribing illuminated shapes or casting shadows. One example of this is at Chichén Itzá, where the Maya crafted a sculpture that transforms itself into a blazing serpent at equinox, representing their deity Kukulcan.

Another image in light was discovered in 1977, when rock artist Anna Sofaer was exploring the petroglyphs of the American southwest. There, at the top of New Mexico’s Fajada Butte, Sofaer found what’s known as the Sun Dagger, a calendrical marking created from two spirals etched into the rock. During summer solstice and equinox, the spirals are sliced by a dagger of light as the sun shines through slabs of rock; at winter solstice, two daggers appear on either side of the spiral—or did. The rock slabs have shifted and the images no longer appear.

The site is in Chaco Canyon, where an ancient civilization thrived for millennia before mysteriously abandoning their city.

Further evidence, in the form of interred bird bones, suggests that the Chaco Canyon inhabitants marked the equinox by sacrificing scarlet macaws. They’re not alone: The practice was apparently quite common among the Puebloans of the Southwest and Northern Mexico.

“In many of areas of the ancient New World, scarlet macaws were symbolically associated with the sun and with fire, probably because of their red and yellow feathers,” says anthropologist Andrew Somerville, currently at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who has worked extensively at a site called Paquime in northern Mexico. “By sacrificing a symbol of the sun on this solar holiday, one was perhaps ritually ending the dry season and hastening the arrival of the spring and summer rains.”


Some Native American equinox traditions are still alive. For the Lakota of the U.S. Midwest, the vernal equinox not only kicked off a seasonal migration in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but also a series of ceremonies meant to welcome life on Earth and send the souls of the deceased to briefly rest in the core of the Milky Way.

“Our people, for all these years, have done that,” says Victor Douville, who teaches the ethnoastronomy course at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Millennia ago, Douville says, the Lakota noticed that every spring, the sun rises in the constellation known as the Dried Willow.“Those stars look like nubs on the branch, and the branch represents the red willow,” Douville says.

The inner bark of that red willow is the main ingredient used to make tobacco for the equinoctial Sacred Pipe ceremony, which is meant to rekindle the sacred fire of life on Earth. The ceremony is the first in a series of four that culminates with the Sun Dance on the summer solstice.

For a long time, scholars thought only settled, agricultural societies marked the movements of the heavens. Yet the Lakota, who followed great herds of buffalo across the U.S. Midwest, also timed their movements to the motions of the sun and stars. The ancient traditions that accompanied their migrations are still alive, and in some cases thriving, on the Rosebud reservation today.

“We still have the elders that know about this,” Douville says. “And when they die out, we still have the language.”

Nadia Drake is a science journalist who writes the National Geographic blog No Place Like Home


S.C. Joins States Seeking to Stop Coastal Drilling Plans

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Some coastal states opposed to President Donald Trump's plan to allow oil and gas drilling off most of the nation's coastline are fighting back with state laws designed to thwart the proposal.

They've come up with what amounts to a back-door ban on drilling by making it difficult, if not impossible, to bring oil and gas ashore.

Although the drilling would take place in federal waters, states control the 3 miles of ocean extending from the shore.

States including New Jersey, New York, California, South Carolina and Rhode Island have introduced bills prohibiting any infrastructure related to offshore oil or gas production from being built in or crossing their state waters.

The petroleum industry says offshore drilling provides revenue that can help states fund essential needs, including schools and hospitals.


2018 Bassmaster Sets Attendance Record

The 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods over the weekend attracted record attendance from bass fishing fans, B.A.S.S. officials announced today.
Starting with Fan Appreciation Day Thursday through bass tournament competition on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a total attendance of 143,323 was recorded at one or more of the activities, according to law enforcement counts, host facilities officials and other independent sources.

“Our Anderson County Team worked tirelessly to provide the most complete experience to B.A.S.S. and the thousands of people who came out each day to cheer on their favorite anglers,” said Neil Paul, executive director of Visit Anderson, who also noted that the attendance reports did not include nearly 500 people who turned out at Green Pond Landing in the afternoons just to watch the anglers load their bass boats and begin driving toward the weigh-ins in Greenville.

“And once again, Green Pond Landing proved to be an invaluable resource on Lake Hartwell, a Top 100 Bass Lake in America," Paul said. "After three Bassmaster Classics since 2008, the bar has been set. We are honored to have been a part of the greatest Bassmaster Classic in history.”
The previous record was 137,700, set in 2009 at the Bassmaster Classic in Shreveport, La. The 2017 Classic in Houston last March drew 115,000 fans to Lake Conroe and downtown Houston venues.
“This record-breaking attendance would not have been possible without the loyalty of our fans and the partnerships between B.A.S.S. and our sponsors, exhibitors, the media and our host communities — Visit Greenville and Visit Anderson,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “We’re thankful for the hard work of the entire B.A.S.S. family and our great volunteers in Greenville and Anderson who made this Classic such a success, and we are grateful to the devoted B.A.S.S. members and fans of the Classic anglers who came to Greenville and Anderson in record numbers.”
“The Upstate’s beautiful outdoors shines even brighter when we welcome B.A.S.S. to the community,” said Chris Stone, president, VisitGreenvilleSC. “We have been able to create a first-rate partnership with B.A.S.S. that we hope to continue for years to come. Something very special happens when we host these anglers, sponsors and enthusiastic followers to Upstate South Carolina. We can’t wait to serve as host again soon.”
Fans in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena stayed through the entire weigh-in to watch one of the most exciting finishes in the 48-year history of the Bassmaster Classic. Jordan Lee, a 26-year-old former college bass fishing champion from Alabama, performed final-day heroics for the second consecutive year to claim bass fishing’s most prestigious title. Lee is the youngest of three anglers to win the Classic back-to-back. The others are Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam, who each have four Classic victories in their careers.
In addition to the daily weigh-ins, huge crowds attended the takeoffs each morning at Green Pond Landing and Event Center on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C. The Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in Greenville’s 250,000-square-foot TD Convention Center drew numerous fishing fans and their families as well. A new event this year, the Fan Appreciation Day, enabled fans to mingle with the professional anglers for two hours Thursday afternoon.

“We are very appreciative of all the fans who came to Greenville and Anderson to help us celebrate 50 years of B.A.S.S.,” said Eric Lopez, director of Event Operations at B.A.S.S. “It wasn’t long ago that we were hoping to reach the 100,000 milestone for the Classic, and now we are consistently surpassing that mark.”
The previous Classic on Lake Hartwell, in 2015, drew an attendance of 103,091, Lopez noted. Classics in Tulsa, Okla., in 2013 and 2016 drew 106,850 and 107,605, respectively.


S.C. Could Consider Consolidating Some Small School Districts

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's schools chief is hopeful the Senate will go along with plans to consolidate some of the state's small school districts.

State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman told The Post and Courier of Charleston she thinks lawmakers should focus on nine small school districts that have financial problems, poor test schools and small populations.

Lawmakers have long avoided the subject, fearing voters who don't want to lose the identity of local school systems.

The South Carolina Supreme Court several has suggested that consolidating smaller school districts would help students in poor, rural areas get a better education.

Spearman says consolidating small districts would cut administrative costs and expand academic offerings. She says smaller schools often cannot afford to offer as many different classes, especially the more challenging Advanced Placement courses.


Filing Season for S.C. Elections Under Way

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Candidate filing is now open for this year's elections in South Carolina.

Filing opened at noon on Friday. Candidates have until noon on March 30 to file their paperwork and pay required fees.

The governor and other statewide elected officials face voters this year, as do all of South Carolina's seven U.S. House members. Neither U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham nor Tim Scott is on the ballot.

This year's elections mark the first time South Carolina's governor and lieutenant governor have run together on a ticket. Incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster faces several opponents in the June GOP primary, and several Democrats are vying for their party's nomination.


Supreme Court Rejects Case Defining State Death Penalty

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to consider whether Arizona's death penalty law is so broad that it's unconstitutional.

The court also passed up an invitation to examine whether capital punishment should be banned nationwide.

Lawyers for an Arizona man, Abel Hidalgo, told the court that the state has loaded up so many factors on the list of death-eligible crimes that virtually everyone convicted of first-degree murder is eligible for the death penalty.

As for the nation as a whole, "states simply cannot provide the guidance necessary to ensure that the penalty is imposed only on the worst offenders. " said Neal Katyal, a Washington lawyer representing Hidalgo. "Nor can states administer the penalty without ensnaring and putting to death the innocent,

Hidalgo was convicted of killing the owner of an auto repair shop in exchange for $1,000 from a gang member. He also killed a bystander. The Arizona courts rejected his claim that the state's death penalty procedures were unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court stopped executions in 1972, ruling that the death sentence was being imposed in a haphazard and unpredictable manner. States responded by requiring juries to evaluate whether certain specific factors were involved in the offense that would justify the death penalty.

The Supreme Court approved the new system, saying it would "minimize the risk of wholly arbitrary and capricious action" and restrict capital punishment to the worst crimes.

Two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer, have recently said the court should re-examine the death penalty, but the other seven members of the court have shown no similar concerns.

States executed 23 prisoners in 2017, the second lowest total since 1991. Only 2016's figure was lower.


S.C. House to Consider New Dept. of Children's Advocacy

The South Carolina House of Representatives will consider a measure this year this week create the Department of Children’s Advocacy, to be lead by a State Child Advocate, to ensure that children receive adequate protection and care from services or programs of State agencies. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report on several bills last week that will now be on the calendar for the full Senate.  Among those was H.4729, which would amend the Code of Laws of S. C. to prohibit the Department of Revenue from issuing more than three retail liquor dealer licenses to one licensee, among other regulations. This bill is aimed at protecting the small business owner, the “mom and pop” operations, by preventing any unfair advantage by the larger liquor wholesalers, including their ability to buy in bulk for multiple locations, which is not allowed in the smaller, independent stores. The bill will be debated on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Another bill, H. 4977 was given third reading last week in the Senate, and will be ratified and is expected to get the governor’s signature this week. This legislation provides allows the governor to appoint a Lt. Governor if that office should become vacant by resignation or removal, and to establish the procedure by which a person nominated for the Office of Governor shall select a Lt. Governor as a joint ticket running mate.  This would also provide that candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor must be considered a single candidate for contributions and for establishing a committee.


24 Largest Retailers Ask Trump to Avoid China Import Tariffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several large U.S. retail companies, including Wal-Mart Inc, Target Corp, Best Buy Co Inc and Macy’s Inc, on Monday sent President Donald Trump a letter urging him not to impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. The Trump administration is said to be preparing tariffs against Chinese information technology, telecommunications and consumer products in an attempt to force changes in Beijing’s intellectual property and investment practices. Washington could impose more than $60 billion in tariffs on goods ranging from electronics to apparel, footwear and toys. 

“At the same time, we are concerned about the negative impact as you consider remedial actions under Section 301 of the Trade Act could have on America’s working families,” the letter stated. “Applying any additional broad-based tariff as part of a Section 301 action would worsen this inequity and punish American working families with higher prices on household basics like clothing, shoes, electronics, and home goods.” 

The Section 301 would allow Trump to impose unilateral tariffs on China in response to a conclusion by the U.S. government that the Chinese had violated intellectual property rules. The tariffs would not need approval from Congress. 

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about the letter. 

The letter is the latest example of the growing division between the Trump administration and many in the business community over trade policy. On Sunday, a group of trade associations that represent most of the United States’ large businesses sent a letter echoing concerns about the economic ramifications of tariffs. Trade associations publicly pushing back include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the Information Technology Industry Council. 

Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which organized Monday’s letter, argued that tariffs would eliminate any benefit the recent tax overhaul provided the economy. 

“This is not American industries crying wolf,” she said in a statement. 

The letter was signed by 24 companies, which also included Abercrombie & Fitch Co, American Eagle Outfitters Inc, Big Lots Inc, Chico’s FAS Inc, Columbia Sportswear Co, Costco Wholesale Corp, Dollar Tree Inc, Gap Inc, Havertys Furniture Cos Inc, J.C. Penney Co Inc, Jo-Ann Stores Llc, Kohl’s Corp, Ikea North America Services Llc, Levi Strauss & Co, Qurate Retail Group, Sears Holdings Corp, The Michaels Companies Inc, VF Corp, and Wolverine World Wide Inc. 

The letter asked the administration to work with companies to find a solution.


Lee Repeats at Bassmaster Champion

After three magical days on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, Jordan Lee now belongs to one of the most exclusive fraternities in professional bass fishing. 

Lee, who began Sunday’s championship round in sixth place, caught five bass that weighed 16 pounds, 5 ounces and won the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods with a three-day total of 47-1.

Local favorite Casey Ashley of Due West finished eighth.
Lee, who won last year’s Classic on Lake Conroe, Texas, joins fishing legends Rick Clunn and Kevin VanDam as the only anglers in history to win the Super Bowl of professional bass fishing two years in a row.
“That part of it hasn’t set in for me,” said Lee, who pushed his career earnings with B.A.S.S. past $1 million with the $300,000 Classic win. “I’m still just freaking out.
“It was just a perfect week for me. I caught fish on five different baits and a lot of different techniques.”
Unlike last year, when Lee struggled during the first round of the Classic before rebounding to win, he got off to a good start during this year’s first round with a catch of 18-10.
Since he didn’t have a good practice, he said he decided to stay within his comfort zone and fish boat docks — much like he does on Smith Lake in his home state of Alabama.
“I just wanted to cover as much water as I could to give myself the best chance of putting a bait in front of a fish,” he said. “On this lake, I knew boat docks were going to play because they always do — and that’s what I like to do.”
With no solid pattern identified, Lee alternated between a Strike King Rage Swimmer and two Strike King stickbaits — an Ocho and a Shimmy Stick. He stuck with green pumpkin and green pumpkin/blue as his primary colors.
He also caught fish throughout the week on an unspecified jerkbait and a homemade bladed jig.
“I really didn’t have a game plan,” he said. “I knew I could catch a lot of 2-pound spotted bass, and I knew those fish weren’t going to win me the tournament. But that’s what I wanted to do, and everything just kind of fell into place.”
Lee weighed in all spotted bass on Day 2 and saw his weight drop to 12-2. But he still easily made the Top 25 cut in sixth place to fish on Championship Sunday.
But being behind on the final day is nothing new for Lee, considering he started last year’s championship round in 15th place and came back to win.

Once again, he hit the jackpot on the final day.
“Today, I went in the back of this one little pocket and the water was 57 degrees,” he said. “I caught a fish — probably my biggest one of the day — and then it turned out there were bass under every dock in there.
“They were swimming around by my boat. It was just loaded.”
There was one tense moment for Lee in that pocket when he thought he might have let the historic victory slip through his fingers.
“I really thought I had lost the tournament on my last cast,” he said. “There was one bass about 4 or 5 pounds under a dock, and I pitched my worm right on it and it swirled and ate it. I set the hook and the worm popped off.
“If that one had cost me, it was going to be tough to sleep at night.”


NHTSA Investigating Air Bag Problems in 425,000 Kia, Hyundai

DETROIT — Air bags in some Hyundai and Kia cars failed to inflate in crashes and four people are dead. Now the U.S. government's road safety agency wants to know why. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it's investigating problems that affect an estimated 425,000 cars made by the Korean automakers. The agency also is looking into whether the same problem could happen in vehicles made by other companies. 

In documents posted on its website Saturday, the safety agency says the probe covers 2011 Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and 2012 and 2013 Kia Forte compacts. The agency says it has reports of six front-end crashes with significant damage to the cars. Four people died and six were injured. 

The problem has been traced to electrical circuit shorts in air bag control computers made by parts supplier ZF-TRW. NHTSA now wants to know if other automakers used the same computer. 

On Feb. 27, Hyundai recalled nearly 155,000 Sonatas due to air bag failures, which the company blamed on the short circuits. Hyundai's sister automaker Kia, which sells similar vehicles, has yet to issue a recall. 

In a statement Saturday, Kia said that it has not confirmed any air bag non-deployments in its 2002-2013 Kia Forte models arising from "the potential chip issue." The company said it will work with NHTSA investigators. 

"Kia will act promptly to conduct a safety recall, if it determines that a recall would be appropriate," the company said. 

But a consumer complaint cited in NHTSA's investigation documents said Kia was informed of a crash near Oakland in which air bags failed to deploy and a passenger was killed.

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