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Tuesday
Apr182017

Speaker Says Failure to Pass Roads Bill Cost S.C. $1 Billion

House Speaker Jay Lucas said Tuesday the Senate's inability to pass a long-term road-funding plan has already put South Carolinians "on the hook" for an additional $1 billion, and the tab continues to climb.

Surrounded by most of the chambers' members, Lucas and other House leaders called on the Senate to act.

"Each year the cost of doing nothing continues to rise," said Lucas, R-Hartsville. "Our system is continuing to decline. It won't be long before we're going to lose the system. We have to act, and we have to act now."

The added cost is due to the rate of decay across the system's 41,400 miles of roadway.

Department of Transportation Director Christy Hall has said the lack of a solution adds roughly $350 million annually to costs, as roads need to be completely reconstructed, rather than repaired.

The House has twice in the last three years passed what Lucas called a sustainable plan requiring everyone who drives on the roads — including out-of-state tourists and truckers — to help pay for their maintenance. Last month, the chamber overwhelmingly approved its latest plan that includes raising the gas tax by 10 cents over five years.

But the bill — amended by a Senate committee to increase the tax by 12 cents — again faces a filibuster in the Senate, with just 11 days remaining on the legislative calendar.

Business groups are urging legislators to find a reliable revenue stream that addresses what Hall says will take $28 billion over the next 25 years to fix. A banner flown over the Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island on Saturday — which many legislators attend — summed up the frustration: "Fix the damn roads," it read. It was paid for by the Alliance to Fix Our Roads.

Senate Democrats made clear they're not the holdup.

"We couldn't agree more," Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, said at an impromptu news conference in response to the House's. "We're ready to vote."

They blamed Senate Republicans and Gov. Henry McMaster, who vowed earlier this month to veto any gas tax increase, as his predecessor, Nikki Haley, did for years.

McMaster repeated his opposition Tuesday.

"Raising taxes is not the answer. Raising taxes pushes some people under water — some on fixed income, young people trying to come up, small businesses barely hanging on," he said. "They spend a lot of money on gas. We don't need to be increasing taxes on those people."

The nation's 16-cents-per-gallon gas tax — the nation's second lowest — hasn't changed since 1987.

According to AAA, the average cost of regular gas Tuesday in South Carolina varied from $2.09 per gallon in the Greenville area to $2.18 in Charleston.

The Senate's chief blocker, Republican Tom Davis of Beaufort, insists no additional money should go to the DOT until legislators eliminate the DOT commission, which they pick, and the governor's office has full oversight.

Other Senate Republicans insist on swapping a gas tax increase with an income tax cut. Sheheen said Senate Democrats oppose that effort.

"It's not about yet again restructuring some state government agency. It's not about cutting income taxes in a state that already has low taxes. It's a question of whether we're going to fix our roads are not," he said.

According to the DOT, just 17 percent of the state's roadways are in good condition.

"The rest are basically crap," Sheheen said.

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said some combination of reform and tax cuts will be necessary. A "straight-up tax increase" won't get a supermajority vote in the Senate needed to override a veto, he said.

"There is no deal," said Massey, R-Edgefield. But "I'm still optimistic."

Tuesday
Apr182017

S.C. Lawmakers Consider Open Carry Gun Law Today

Open, permitless carry of firearms will take the next step to becoming reality in South Carolina on Tuesday.

A Senate judiciary subcommittee is taking up a measure that would loosen the state’s firearm regulations to allow gun owners to carry their weapons, openly or concealed, in most public places without applying to the state for a permit. Supporters call the measure the “constitutional carry” bill.

S.449 is similar to a measure that passed the House after Republican lawmakers voted to limit debate on the measure. Gov. Henry McMaster has said he would sign the bill should it reach his desk.

The same subcommittee will also discuss S.430 today. That bill would tighten the punishment for sale of a firearm that violates state or federal laws.

 

Tuesday
Apr182017

States Looking for Ways to Evaluate Schools

How often do students miss school? Are they ready for college? Are they physically fit? Is their school a welcoming place?

States are beginning to outline new ways to evaluate their schools, rather than relying just on traditional measures such as test scores.

The plans are required under a federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed by former President Barack Obama in 2015 and takes effect in the coming school year.

Under the new law, states are focusing more on academic growth, meaning not just whether students have achieved a certain academic level in reading and math, but whether they have improved over time.

Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said that's a big change from the No Child Left Behind Act, the previous version of the education law. "Schools and educators should feel good about that; that will be a fairer way to measure school quality," he said.

But while most experts praised the flexibility and innovation offered by the new law, some think that in the absence of federal guidelines some states may overlook groups of students who need additional support, such as minorities, students with disabilities and English-language learners. The Republican-controlled Congress moved swiftly this year to rescind key federal accountability guidelines passed by the Obama administration to help states implement the new law.

So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have submitted their accountability plans to the Education Department for review, and seven states are completing their blueprints. The remaining states will submit their plans in September. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will decide whether to accept or reject them. She has said her goal is state and local flexibility in education and indicated that she might use the process to advance school choice.

When evaluating school quality, states are experimenting with new indicators. Almost all of the first-round states have adopted chronic absenteeism, or how many students miss more than 10 percent of the school year, as a key metric.

Connecticut and Delaware, among others, also will be tracking college readiness, or whether high school students are taking advanced classes and how successful they are on college admission tests like the SAT.

Tennessee wants to give every public school in the state a grade from A to F, which state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen says would give parents better information about schools. The grade will take into account such things as how well English language learners are doing and whether disabled students are being served. The schools will also be graded on chronic absenteeism rates, and if students are ready for college or the military and whether traditionally underserved students are performing well. Graduation rates also will count.

Nevada outlined a system that focuses on student growth measures, including test scores, English language proficiency, and graduation rates. Massachusetts will be paying attention to academic results in ninth grade.

In New Mexico, the state will begin tracking the need for additional tutoring in college and linking those back to high schools where the students studied. The state also will look at how students do in science in ranking schools.

Some states are getting creative. Vermont and Connecticut want to make physical fitness another sign of school quality, while Connecticut also believes access to arts education should be another measure. Illinois wants to conduct "climate surveys" asking whether children feel they are in a safe and welcoming environment.

Another common thread that has emerged from the first round: States are doing a better job of involving parents, teachers and community activists in the process. "They've been very proactive to engage anybody who has an interest in the plans," said Kirsten Carr with the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But Marc Magee, CEO of 50Can, an education nonprofit, expressed concern that "if everybody doesn't hold up their end of the bargain, we could go back to that era where certain populations of students become invisible inside schools even if they are struggling mightily and not getting the opportunity that they deserve."

And Lindsey Tepe, senior education policy analyst at New America, said there is so much variation in how states want to evaluate their schools that national comparisons could be difficult. "Without the guidance, there isn't really a recipe to follow," said Tepe.

Monday
Apr172017

S.C. Lawmakers Polled on Gerrymandered Districts

S.C. lawmakers soon will be put on the spot about gerrymandered districts.

A former Democratic political operative on Monday launched an effort to ask every S.C. legislator whether he or she supports creating an independent commission to draw the state’s political districts.

Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature currently control that district-drawing process, which allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than voters to elect their elected representatives. As a result, races in most districts are so one-sided that party primaries typically decide elections.

The poll’s responses will be posted publicly on a website as they roll in.

“A significant number of legislators in both parties ... support independent redistricting,” said Tyler Jones, a former spokesman for the S.C. House Democratic Caucus who organized the Fair Lines for South Carolina Project. “Our project will simply try to determine who supports the idea, who doesn’t, and who remains undecided. 

“After the results are in, we’ll know how all legislators currently stand and how many votes are needed in both chambers to pass an independent redistricting bill.”

Earlier this year, S.C. Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, filed a bill calling an independent commission to draw new districts, based on once-a-decade census findings, saying it would take “politics out of the process.”

That proposal has gone nowhere.

Critics say letting lawmakers control the redistricting process leads to fewer competitive races as legislators strike deals to protect incumbents by drawing districts that favor one political party over another.

Last November, for example, voters in just 28 percent of the state’s legislative districts had a choice of more than one candidate on the ballot. Critics say the current redistricting system discourages would-be candidates from running for office and weakens the democratic process.

Jones said the polling idea stemmed from Twitter interactions with GOP legislators who, “to his surprise, pledged their support for independent redistricting.”

Jones and a team of three S.C. college students were set Monday to begin polling legislators by phone, email and social media.

Monday
Apr172017

Senate Looks at Raising Gas Tax for Roads Tuesday

A bill that includes a plan to raise the gas tax for the first time in 30 years is headed to the South Carolina Senate Tuesday. 

"A lot of the roads need repairs and you have to have money coming in from somewhere," said Joann Heath

Whether that money should come from a gas tax is up for debate in Columbia this week.

"You can't get a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Right now, we're collecting a sow's ear at the pump and we're getting a sow's ear in return and that's very unfortunate for the residents of South Carolina and those that travel our roadways," said Rep. Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill)

Rep. Simrill has championed for an increase in the gas tax to provide a stable revenue source for road repairs. The latest bill passed the House with a 97-18 vote last month. The measure received bipartisan support but the legislature has been down this road before.

"This has been a three-year process," Simrill admitted.

Past attempts to raise the gas tax failed or ended with compromises that provided short-term funding through bond measures. Simrill says he believes the momentum has shifted in support of a gas tax increase.

"It's just a matter of getting this bill across the finish line and the senate to do their work," he said.

Sen Wes Climer (R-York) says the bill doesn't go far enough to reform the state's Department of Transportation, which he says has a track record of rerouting funds to areas other than road repair.

"The bill that is before the Senate tomorrow is just a straight-up gas tax increase with no reform," Climer said. "I can't vote for that. It's time to get serious about reform and making this a better bill for low-income South Carolinians that will get penalized by a higher gas tax."

Harry, a driver from Sumter that was passing through Rock Hill, is suspicious of a gas tax increase.  

"If they use it for fixing the roads and set it aside for that particular purpose, that would be good because the words are pretty bad," he said.

The bill calls for a $.02 increase on the gas tax each year for the next five years. Only oil-producing Alaska has a lower gas tax than the Palmetto State, where the rate has remained unchanged for three decades.  

Governor McMaster has promised to veto any bill that would raise the gas tax. There is currently enough support in the House to override his veto, but 30 Senators would have to give the green light for the bill to move forward.

Monday
Apr172017

Study: Toddlers Who Use Tablets Sleep Less

Toddlers really need their sleep. It's crucial when our brains our first developing, so early problems can ripple across your lifetime. That makes a report by Birbeck University of London researchers somewhat disturbing -- they found that toddlers between six and 11 months who play with smartphones or tablets get slightly less sleep than those who don't. According to the study of 715 parents, every hour of touchscreen use results in 15.6 minutes less of sleep, or 26.4 minutes less total per night and 10.8 minutes more during the day, on average.

"It isn't a massive amount when you're sleeping 10-12 hours a day in total, but every minute matters in young development because of the benefits of sleep," study co-author Dr. Tim Smith told the BBC. That's because the brain's "neuroplasticity," or ability to form new connections in response to new situations or environmental changes, at its highest during infancy.

While the study does associate smartphones and tablets with potential sleep problems, researchers don't yet think it's necessary to ban them outright. For one thing, the science behind infant sleep and how it relates to touchscreens is brand new, so "it's too early to make clear proclamations," says Smith.

The overall usage observed in the study wouldn't have a great impact on your baby's sleep, either. "The children in this study used a touchscreen for about 25 minutes a day, a child who used a touchscreen for this average length of time would sleep for about 6 minutes less," Smith adds.

Furthermore, touchscreen devices have some positive benefits to balance the sleep problem. In a previous study, the same researchers found they help accelerate a toddler's motor development compared to infants who don't use them. "Thus, total restriction of touchscreen use may limit young children in terms of the potential benefits of these devices," the study concludes.

Pending further studies, the best course of action for parents is common sense. A good course of action is to limit screen time in favor of physical toys and activities. The American Pediatricians Association, for one, recently recommended that parents limit screen time for kids between 2 and 5 to an hour per today. In addition, "it may be worth parents limited touchscreens [with blue light] in the hours before bedtime," cognitive development researcher Dr. Anna Joyce told the BBC. That's good advice for parents, too.

Monday
Apr172017

Bringing Manufacturing Back to U.S. Could Take Long Time

Mini motorcycle and go-kart maker Monster Moto made a big bet on U.S. manufacturing by moving assembly to this Louisiana town in 2016 from China.

But it will be a long ride before it can stamp its products "Made in USA."

The loss of nearly one out four U.S. factories in the last two decades means parts for its bike frames and engines must be purchased in China, where the manufacturing supply chain moved years ago.

"There's just no way to source parts in America right now," said Monster Moto Chief Executive Alex Keechle during a tour of the company's assembly plant. "But by planting the flag here, we believe suppliers will follow."

Monster Moto's experience is an example of the obstacles American companies face as they, along with President Donald Trump, try to rebuild American manufacturing. U.S. automakers and their suppliers, for example, have already invested billions in plants abroad and would face an expensive and time-consuming transition to buy thousands of American-made parts if President Trump’s proposed “border tax” on imported goods were to become law.

When companies reshore assembly to U.S. soil – in Monster Moto’s case that took two years to find a location and negotiate support from local and state officials – they are betting their demand will create a local supply chain that currently does not exist.

For now, finding U.S.-based suppliers "remains one of the top challenges across our supplier base," said Cindi Marsiglio, Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s (WMT.N) vice president for U.S. manufacturing and sourcing. Wal-Mart partnered with Monster Moto and several other U.S. companies in a drive to increase spending on American-made goods by $250 billion by 2023 in response to consumer demand for American-made goods.

Their experience has shown Americans’ patriotic shopping habits have limits, namely when it comes to price.

Take Monster Moto's bikes, which sell for between $249 to $749. Keechle, the CEO, says he can’t raise those prices for fear his price sensitive prospective customers will turn to less expensive rivals made in China.

"Consumers won't give you a free pass just because you put 'Made in USA' on the box," Keechle says. "You have to remain price competitive."

Keeping a sharp eye on labor costs in their factory is one thing these U.S. manufactures can control. They see replacing primarily lower-skilled workers on the assembly line with robots on American factory floors as the only way to produce here in a financially viable, cost-competitive way. It’s a trend that runs against the narrative candidate Donald Trump used to win the U.S. Presidency.

Since taking office, Trump has continued promises to resurrect U.S. manufacturing's bygone glory days and bring back millions of jobs. On March 31, Trump directed his administration to clamp down on countries that abuse trade rules in a bid to end to the "theft of American prosperity."

But it's more complicated on the ground for companies like Monster Moto.

"It's almost as if people think you can just unplug manufacturing in one part of the world and plug it in to the U.S. and everything’s going to be fine," said David Abney, Chief Executive Officer of package delivery company United Parcel Service Inc (UPS), which helped Monster Moto reconfigure its supply chain to bring its Chinese-made parts to Ruston.

"It's not something that happens overnight," he said. A White House official said that the Trump administration’s efforts to encourage manufacturers to reshore production will be focused on cutting regulations and programs to provide new skills to manufacturing workers.

“We recognize that the manufacturing jobs that come back to America might not all look like the ones that left,” a White House official said, “and we are taking steps to ensure that the American workforce is ready for that.” 

MAKING ROBOTS GREAT AGAIN 

In Monster Moto's cavernous warehouse in Ruston, boxes of imported parts that are delivered at one end then become bikes on a short but industrious assembly line of a few dozen workers.

A solitary, long-bearded worker by the name of Billy Mahaffey fires up the bikes to test their engine and brakes before a small group of workers puts them in boxes declaring: "Assembled in the USA."

Helped by that label, Monster Moto has experienced a recent boom in demand from major customers that include Wal-Mart. The company expects to double production to 80,000 units and increase its assembly workers - who make $13 to $15 an hour - to 100 from around 40 in 2017.

The most likely components Monster Moto could produce in America first are black, welded-metal frames for bikes and go-karts, but they would have to automate production because human welders would be too expensive.

"We can't just blow up our cost structure," said Monster Moto President Rick Sukkar. "The only way to make it work in America is with robotics."

The same principle applies for much larger manufacturers, such as automotive supplier Delphi Automotive PLC’s (DLPH.N). Chief Financial Officer Joe Massaro told analysts in February that 90 percent of the company’s hourly workforce is in “best-cost countries.”

When asked about shifting production to the United States from Mexico, Massaro said depending on what happens to trade rules “it would have to be much more of the sort of the automated type manufacturing operations just given… the labor differential there.”

That trend is already showing up in data compiled by Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think-tank. According to senior economist Rob Scott, not only did America lose 85,000 factories, or 23.5 percent of the total, from 1997 to 2014, but the average number of workers in a U.S. factory declined 14 percent to 44 in 2014 from 1997. According to Scott, much of the decline in workers was due to automation. 

"We're going to see more automation in this country because it makes good sense economically for every company," said Hal Sirkin, a managing director at the Boston Consulting Group. "You can spend a lot of time bemoaning it, but that's not going to change."

Manufacturers say automated production requires fewer, but more skilled workers such as robot programmers and operators. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates because of the "skills gap" there are 350,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs today in a sector that employs over 12 million people.

In Ruston, Mayor Ronny Walker bet on Monster Moto by guaranteeing the company's lease because he wants to diversify the city's economy, and envisions suppliers setting up alongside Monster Moto's assembly plant.

"Could it take a long time to bring manufacturing back here? Sure," he says. "But you have to start somewhere."

Sunday
Apr162017

Council to Consider New Industry Incentives Tuesday

Anderson County Council will look at tax incentives for a new business, code named "Project Villa," and rerouting a portion of Francis Canon Drive in Anderson, as part of Tuesday night's meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the historic courthouse downtown.

Sunday
Apr162017

"Walk a Mile in Their Shoes" to Benefit Foothills Alliance

Foothills Alliance’s Annuall "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Carolina Wren Park in downtown Anderson. Men from across the county will walk a few blocks in women’s shoes as a way to raise awareness about sexual violence and show support for survivors.

Men, women, and children of all ages are invited to participate, individually or in teams. 

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please contact Tracy Bowie at 231-7273 or tracy.bowie@foothillsalliance.org for more details or questions.

Sunday
Apr162017

Pope Urges Restraint While Denouncing "Oppressive Regimes"

Pope Francis denounced "oppressive regimes" in his Easter message on Sunday but in an apparent call for restraint urged world leaders to prevent the spread of conflicts, as tensions rose in North Korea and Syria.

Francis, marking the fifth Easter season of his pontificate, said Mass before tens of thousands of people under exceptional security measures in St. Peter's Square following recent vehicle attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm.

More police vans and army vehicles than usual were positioned at the entrances to the Vatican area and the faithful were stopped at several check points leading into the square, which was decorated with 35,000 flowers and trees.

In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message, delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, Francis spoke of a world lacerated by conflicts and laced with tensions.

From the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election in 2013, Francis spoke of God walking "beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes".

He did not name any specific governments.

"In the complex and often dramatic situations of today's world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade," he said.

Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its "military hysteria" or face retaliation as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region and the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father.

Sunday
Apr162017

Happy Easter!

Today, Christians around the world will be celebrating Easter, the day on which the resurrection of Jesus took place, according to scripture.

The date of celebration changes from year to year. The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. So, in 2018, Easter will be celebrated on April 1, and on April 21 in 2019.

Brent Landau of the University of Texas in Austin is a religious studies scholar specializing in early Christianity, and his research shows that this dating of Easter goes back to the complicated origins of this holiday and how it has evolved over the centuries.

Easter is quite similar to other major holidays like Christmas and Halloween, which have evolved over the last 200 years or so. In all of these holidays, Christian and non-Christian (pagan) elements have continued to blend together.

Easter as a rite of spring

Most major holidays have some connection to the changing of seasons. This is especially obvious in the case of Christmas. The New Testament gives no information about what time of year Jesus was born. Many scholars believe, however, that the main reason Jesus’ birth came to be celebrated on December 25 is because that was the date of the winter solstice according to the Roman calendar.

Since the days following the winter solstice gradually become longer and less dark, it was ideal symbolism for the birth of  “the light of the world” as stated in the New Testament’s Gospel of John.

Similar was the case with Easter, which falls in close proximity to another key point in the solar year: the vernal equinox (around March 20), when there are equal periods of light and darkness. For those in northern latitudes, the coming of spring is often met with excitement, as it means an end to the cold days of winter.

Spring also means the coming back to life of plants and trees that have been dormant for winter, as well as the birth of new life in the animal world. Given the symbolism of new life and rebirth, it was only natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time of the year.

The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes:

“Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”

Bede was so influential for later Christians that the name stuck, and hence Easter remains the name by which the English, Germans and Americans refer to the festival of Jesus’ resurrection.

The connection with Jewish Passover

It is important to point out that while the name “Easter” is used in the English-speaking world, many more cultures refer to it by terms best translated as “Passover” (for instance, “Pascha” in Greek) – a reference, indeed, to the Jewish festival of Passover.

In the Hebrew Bible, Passover is a festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, as narrated in the Book of Exodus. It was and continues to be the most important Jewish seasonal festival, celebrated on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

At the time of Jesus, Passover had special significance, as the Jewish people were again under the dominance of foreign powers (namely, the Romans). Jewish pilgrims streamed into Jerusalem every year in the hope that God’s chosen people (as they believed themselves to be) would soon be liberated once more.

On one Passover, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem with his disciples to celebrate the festival. He entered Jerusalem in a triumphal procession and created a disturbance in the Jerusalem Temple. It seems that both of these actions attracted the attention of the Romans, and that as a result Jesus was executed around the year A.D. 30.

Some of Jesus’ followers, however, believed that they saw him alive after his death, experiences that gave birth to the Christian religion. As Jesus died during the Passover festival and his followers believed he was resurrected from the dead three days later, it was logical to commemorate these events in close proximity.

Some early Christians chose to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the same date as the Jewish Passover, which fell around day 14 of the month of Nisan, in March or April. These Christians were known as Quartodecimans (the name means “Fourteeners”).

By choosing this date, they put the focus on when Jesus died and also emphasized continuity with the Judaism out of which Christianity emerged. Some others instead preferred to hold the festival on a Sunday, since that was when Jesus’ tomb was believed to have been found.

In A.D. 325, the Emperor Constantine, who favored Christianity, convened a meeting of Christian leaders to resolve important disputes at the Council of Nicaea. The most fateful of its decisions was about the status of Christ, whom the council recognized as  “fully human and fully divine.” This council also resolved that Easter should be fixed on a Sunday, not on day 14 of Nisan. As a result, Easter is now celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox.

The Easter bunny and Easter eggs

In early America, the Easter festival was far more popular among Catholics than Protestants. For instance, the New England Puritans regarded both Easter and Christmas as too tainted by non-Christian influences to be appropriate to celebrate. Such festivals also tended to be opportunities for heavy drinking and merrymaking.

The fortunes of both holidays changed in the 19th century, when they became occasions to be spent with one’s family. This was done partly out of a desire to make the celebration of these holidays less rowdy.

But Easter and Christmas also became reshaped as domestic holidays because understandings of children were changing. Prior to the 17th century, children were rarely the center of attention. As historian Stephen Nissenbaum writes,

“…children were lumped together with other members of the lower orders in general, especially servants and apprentices – who, not coincidentally, were generally young people themselves.”

From the 17th century onward, there was an increasing recognition of childhood as as time of life that should be joyous, not simply as preparatory for adulthood. This “discovery of childhood” and the doting upon children had profound effects on how Easter was celebrated.

It is at this point in the holiday’s development that Easter eggs and the Easter bunny become especially important. Decorated eggs had been part of the Easter festival at least since medieval times, given the obvious symbolism of new life. A vast amount of folklore surrounds Easter eggs, and in a number of Eastern European countries, the process of decorating them is extremely elaborate. Several Eastern European legends describe eggs turning red (a favorite color for Easter eggs) in connection with the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Yet it was only in the 17th century that a German tradition of an “Easter hare” bringing eggs to good children came to be known. Hares and rabbits had a long association with spring seasonal rituals because of their amazing powers of fertility.

When German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, they brought this tradition with them. The wild hare also became supplanted by the more docile and domestic rabbit, in another indication of how the focus moved toward children.

As Christians celebrate the festival this spring in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection, the familiar sights of the Easter bunny and Easter eggs serve as a reminder of the holiday’s very ancient origins outside of the Christian tradition.

Saturday
Apr152017

New S.C. License to Meet Federal ID Requirements

Gov. Henry McMaster has signed a law allowing South Carolinians to obtain a driver's license that meets federal identification requirements for boarding a plane or getting onto a military base.

The law, passed 100-3 in the House and 40-0 in the Senate, reverses a decade-old law forbidding the state from complying with the federal REAL ID Act, which Congress passed in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Lawmakers decided looming deadlines that affect residents' ability to work and travel mattered more than old arguments about federal overreach and privacy.

But the new ID remains an option — not a mandate. It won't be needed to drive, vote or access benefits such as Social Security.

"If you do not think you'll be boarding a plane or visiting a federal facility, you may decide you don't want one," said Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Lauren Phillips.

Regardless, she stresses there's no need for the state's 3.5 million drivers to rush to a DMV office. The new licenses won't even be available for at least six months. An exact date depends on how quickly the agency completes technology changes and printing tests.

Saturday
Apr152017

Carolinas See Increase in Pedestrians Hit by Cars

Distracting cell phones and too much alcohol are being blamed for an increase in pedestrians being mowed down by moving vehicles across North Carolina and South Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer reports (http://bit.ly/2oCmY3K ) that U.S. pedestrian deaths grew at a faster rate last year than at any other time in the past 40 years. A new study by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that the number of pedestrians killed last year increased by 11 percent over 2015.

The nonprofit association for state highway safety offices says North Carolina had a nearly 25 percent increase in the first half of last year. South Carolina had a 16 percent increase.

The report says alcohol use by the driver or pedestrian was reported in about half of all pedestrian deaths in 2015.