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Wednesday
Mar222017

WallHub: S.C. Cities Among Fattest in U.S. (Anderson Area 12th)

Ammericans are the fattest people in the world and the Anderson-Greenville-Simpsonville area is not helping trim that number.

By one measure, more than 70 percent of the U.S. population aged 15 and older is overweight or obese. But such a finding should come as no surprise, considering the proliferation of fast-food establishments and increasingly cheaper grocery items that have negatively altered our diets. Unfortunately, the extra pounds have inflated the costs of obesity-related medical treatment to nearly $316 billion a year and annual productivity losses due to work absenteeism to more than $8.6 billion.

But certain places are more responsible than others for tipping the scale in favor of bad health. To identify them, WalletHub’s analysts compared 100 of the most populated U.S. metro areas across 17 key indicators of weight-related problems. Our data set ranges from share of physically inactive adults to projected obesity rates by 2030 to healthy-food access. Read on for our findings, expert advice on tackling America’s growing obesity problem and a full description of our methodology.

Complete story and more facts and figures here.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Supreme Court Raises Bar for Teaching Disabled Students

The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously raised the bar for the educational benefits owed to millions of children with disabilities in one of the most significant special-education cases­ to reach the high court in dec­ades.

The opinion rejected a lower standard set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and used in a subsequent case by President Trump’s nominee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, during his tenure on the appeals court. The high court’s ruling quickly became the focus of questions Wednesday at Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing.

In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said that a child’s “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances” and that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives” even if the child is not fully integrated into regular classrooms.

The court stopped short of setting a bright-line rule, deferring to the expertise and judgment of school officials and acknowledging the unique set of circumstances of each child with a disability.

But the justices sent a strong, clear message with their unanimous decision that the 10th Circuit standard was too low.

Any standard, the court said, that is not centered on “student progress would do little to remedy the pervasive and tragic academic stagnation that prompted Congress to act” when it passed the 1975 law that provides federal funds to help states cover the cost of educating students with disabilities.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Lawmakers Stunned When Investigator in Trump-Russia Probe Briefs White House

Investigators don’t normally brief the people they’re investigating. But on Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the Republican who’s leading a congressional investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s team colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, went to the White House to talk to the president.

The names of Trump associates — and perhaps even Trump’s own name — appeared in surveillance reports compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies in the final months of the Obama administration, Nunes said he told Trump.

Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a close Trump ally, said the intercepted communications didn’t mention Russia and were therefore unrelated to his investigation.

But Nunes’ briefing with Trump broached the theme of an ongoing FBI investigation โ€• the president’s and his associate’s connections to foreign powers. And Nunes’ objective appeared political: Deflect attention from Trump and his associates’ ties to Russia, and back up Trump’s claim that he is a victim of “deep state” loyal to former President Barack Obama.

Nunes’ gambit failed. In attempting to put out the Trump-Russia fire, he made much of it worse: In two press conferences on Wednesday, he claimed that Trump’s surrogates โ€• and maybe the president himself โ€• were mentioned in reports compiled through legal surveillance, implied that they may have had suspicious contact with agents from a country other than Russia, and potentially disclosed classified information.

And by choosing to brief the president, who’s so closely tied to the investigation, before sharing his new information with his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Nunes also raised doubts about his own ability to lead his committee’s probe.

Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Nunes “will need to decide if he is the chairman of an independent investigation or if he’s a surrogate for the White House.”

“If a Democrat had done this, Republicans would have been asking for him to be investigated both for disclosing classified information and for obstructing justice,” said Matthew Miller, a Department of Justice spokesman during the Obama administration. “It is so far beyond the pale for the person who is conducting an investigation to both brief the subject of that investigation and potentially jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI.”

Nunes deflected accusations that he had compromised his impartiality or revealed classified information. “What I saw has nothing to do with Russia and nothing to do with the Russian investigation,” he said. “It has everything to do with possible surveillance activities ... and I have the duty to tell [Trump] that.”

But Nunes’ multiple appearances on Wednesday raise more questions than they answer. And most of the information he revealed doesn’t provide Trump and his associates with the vindication they claim it does. 

Wednesday
Mar222017

CNN: FBI Info Ties Trump Associates to Russian Operatives

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."
The White House did not comment and the FBI declined to comment.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer maintained Monday after Comey's testimony that there was no evidence to suggest any collusion took place.
"Investigating it and having proof of it are two different things," Spicer said.
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
Wednesday
Mar222017

Open Carry Gun Bill Headed to House Floor

A bill allowing adults to openly carry a gun in South Carolina without a permit is heading to the House floor.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-7 Tuesday to advance the bill that lets anyone who can legally buy a gun carry it around in public. Businesses could still post signs keeping weapons out. And state law barring guns from schools and other places would remain.

Supporters say the government shouldn't require a permit for a constitutional right. House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney noted the bill applies only to handguns.

Similar bills have died repeatedly since 2001. Law enforcement officials have consistently opposed allowing people to carry guns in public without training.

Democratic Rep. James Smith of Columbia says it's foolish to think the bill would make citizens safer.

Tuesday
Mar212017

County Joins Opposition Groups Fighting Dismissal of Suit Against Kinder Morgan

Early Tests Suggest Spill May Not Have Reached Broadway Lake

Anderson County Council has joined Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeeper in opposition to Kinder Morgan and the Plantation Pipeline Company's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed on Dec. 28 which alleges the unlawful discharges of gasoline and petroleum substances, and other contaminants by defendants near Lewis Drive in Belton, South Carolina into the Savannah River Basin. The suit states that Kinder Morgan is in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The spill of more than half a million gallons of gas in 2014 is one of the largest pipeline spills in South Carolina’s history.

In February, Anderson County, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and Kinder Morgan took water samples. Detailed results were unavailable Tuesday night, but preliminary county results did not find any evidence the spill had reached Broadway Lake.

"This is extraordinarily preliminary, but our samples seem to indicate it was confined to the area around the spill and has not reached Broadway Lake," said Anderson County Adminstrator Rusty Burns. "There was one anomaly a little further downstream, but we are waiting on complete results and the results of the testing from DHEC and Plantation."

Nearly two years after the spill, the Savannah Riverkeeper said they did some tests. They showed the gasoline is breaking down into hazardous chemicals, including benzene and toluene. The contaminated area is part of the Savannah River watershed, according to a release from the Savannah Riverkeeper in October 2016 when the group gave Kinder Morgan 60-day notice of the suit.

According to the lawsuit, in the month after the spill, the subsurface petroleum product was reportedly over fourteen feet thick. Although a reported 209,000 gallons of gasoline were removed from the site by
the end of 2015, no significant amount of additional material has been removed in 2016, the lawsuit alleges.

Upstate Forever and the Savannah Riverkeeper are nonprofit membership public interest organizations that work to protect the waters of Anderson County and the Savannah River Basin.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, which is headquartered in Houston, Texas, owns an interest in and/or operates 84 thousand miles of pipelines in North America making it the largest petroleum pipeline and energy infrastructure company in the United States.

“We still don’t have an adequate answer, we still don’t believe Kinder Morgan has been as engaged as they should be," said Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. "There is still contamination over there, and Kinder Morgan has only got part of it out.There are hundreds of thousands of gallons that still needs to be taken out and that area restored to what it was before the spill.”

Meanwhile, council approved a resolution Tuesday night consolidating the $1 million in paving funds which are dived among and designated to individual districts, into the Anderson County Roads and Bridges budget to be used for the most critical paving and repair needs countywide. 

The money, which over the years has been used for a variety of decidedly non-paving projects in individual districts (plus parking lots and some paving as well), will shift to countywide priority list as detailed by the Overall Condition Index, which lists the roads according to repair needs. 

“This will help us assist transparency through roads and bridges for paving,” said Anderson County Councilman Ray Graham, who put forth the proposal. “ 

“I will support this because it is for one year to give us and opportunity to try this,” said Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson. Wilson said the county needs to find a way to provide funding for roads in the municipalities in the county.

The proposal will go into effect for one-year in the next budget year. Graham also said the county is also going to have to look at opportunities to take care of roads. 

Anderson County Councilman Tom Allen said the Roads and Bridges already comes to individual council members for a priority roads list.

“The consultant suggested we get roads money from a transient tax, which would bring in out-of-county money,” said Anderson County Councilman Craig Wooten, who voted against the resolution. “I would like to see us approach that first before we look at this.”  

Wooten asked council to consider just working the proposal into the current budgeting process.

The resolution passed 5-2, with Wooten and Anderson County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd opposing the move. 

Also on Tuesday night council: 

Approved proposal to allow Rooker Properties, LLC to begin negotiations with the county to construct a Class "A" speculative industrial building at the Anderson County Technology and Manufacturing Center in Sandy Springs. The county will subordinate the property until the building is sold.  

Received an update on the new Timmerman, Jr., ADA Kayak Launch on the Salad River in Pelzer,” said Matt Schell, Parks and Recreation Manager for Anderson County. “

“Huge accomplishment for the county, ADA, as well as the towns of Pelzer and West Pelzer,” said Matt Schell, Parks and Recreation Manager for Anderson County. “Recreation is important in Anderson County. There has been a commitment from the county council to support these efforts, and that is why we have been successful. 

Approved on second reading, an ordinance establishing the Development Corporation of Anderson County. Graham said the organization allows businesses in Anderson County “to invest our growth.”

Approved funds to stream Anderson County TV network.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Library to Host How-To Fair Saturday

Dog training, chain maille jewelry, rug hooking, meal preparation tips and backpacking are just a few of the topics visitors can learn about at the Anderson County Library’s third annual How-To Fair, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Anderson County Library. Community members will offer brief demonstrations of their hobbies, crafts and skills at booths all over the library.

“Our goal in everything we do at the library is to allow the public to come in and learn something new,” said Faith Line, director of the Anderosn County Library. “This event also allows local businesses and organizations to promote themselves while providing useful information to the community.” 

The fair will offer a morning and an afternoon session featuring activities for all ages - with some demonstrators appearing at both sessions - so visitors will have plenty of opportunities to view them. New this year will be a "Play Time" offered between the two sessions, from 12:30-1 p.m., with games, crafts and mini-programs especially for kids and teens. Food trucks will also be available.

“People really enjoyed the shorter demonstrations in past years, because they could attend more of them than the longer classroom-style presentations,” said Annie Sutton, the How-To Fair coordinator. “So this year, we have shifted the format to focus on short, interactive demonstrations, so visitors can drop in to learn many different skills during each session.”

The event is free, family-friendly and open to the public. For more information and a complete list of planned demonstrations, visit the library’s web site at www.andersonlibrary.org, or email howtofair@andersonlibrary.org.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Graham to Suggest Merging Paving Funds Tonight

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

Anderson County Councilman Ray Graham tonight will will recommend moving $1 million currently divided among the seven council members to county’s roads and bridges fund.

Graham’s plan calls for the money will be designated based on the prioritized list of roads and bridges needing repairs or maintenance countywide, and not as political capital within each district. 

“We are going to have to find a way to pay for the repairs and maintenance of our roads,” Graham said. “In the past, the money has been used in individual districts to do such things as paving parking lots and things like that. The current council wants to take the politics out of this fund and put all of our roads money into one basket.” 

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said the $1 million has been divided among the seven districts in multiple ways over the years, and some council members have even used the funds for non-roads and bridges projects in individual districts.

“Ray Graham’s proposal is a great idea and a good plan,” said Burns. 

Graham said the issue of funding and prioritizing the care of the county’s 1,540 miles of roads is critical to the future. 

“They have been neglected for too long,” Graham said. “This is an issue that effects everything from quality of life to economic development in Anderson County. We absolutely have to find ways to take care of our roads.”

Graham said his proposal, which he has found good support for from other members of council, will be put to a vote at the next county council meeting March 21.  

The move follows the presentation of a study presented to county council at the last council meeting by the Matrix Consulting Group. The study found the Anderson County needs to find new ways to generate revenue to pave and repair roads. 

The study on the efficiency of roads, bridges and fleet services found the county in desperate need of new sources of funding for roads, suggesting the county consider a vehicle tax, or Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel, lodging tax) to fund least a portion of the deficit in the paving program. 

According to the study, the county is currently paving 20 miles of the county’s 1,540 miles of roads annually, with the focus on well-traveled roads. The current funding for roads in the county is approximately $3 million, which the study says fall far short of the estimated $8 million annual funding needed to properly maintain county roads. A vehicle tax, such as the one proposed last year would more than cover the deficit.

The study also found that the county was doing a good job with the current road funds. 

“That’s another reason I want to move the $1 million into the overall fund for county roads,” Graham said. “The will work on the top priorities with approved guidelines and without any politics being a part of decisions on that money. We are here first to serve all the citizens of Anderson County, to do what’s best for everybody long term.”

Graham added that some kind of tax of fee is inevitable to properly maintain and repair roads in Anderson County. 

“I hate new taxes as much as anybody,” Graham said. “But we have to look at every option available. I hope the public will bring their good ideas to council. There are a lot of smart people in this county, I hope some of them will step up with good ideas.”

“Stop complaining and give us a solution, and we’ll listen,” Graham said. 

John Haley, one of the authors of the Matrix study, also said some counties across the country had found allow some roads to go to maintained gravel roads had helped save money. 

Complete study here

Graham said he is willing to consider any options to help the county’s roads recover from years of neglect. 

“As long as whatever we decide to do generates funds that are used 100 percent for roads and bridges, I am good with it. We need to come together to find a solution or its going to be bad for all of us.”

Monday
Mar202017

Cold Weather Damages Apple, Peach, Blueberry Crops

Last week's deep freeze in the Southeast appears to have nearly wiped out Georgia's blueberries and South Carolina's peaches.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture said 85 percent of the state's peaches were damaged by two days of temperatures dipping into the 20s Wednesday and Thursday.

South Carolina is the second biggest producer of peaches in the U.S.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black says up to 80 percent of the blueberry crop in the southern part of the state was destroyed.

Georgia grows early season blueberries and the crop is worth more than peaches.

Apples also suffered freeze damage in North Carolina.

While mid-March freezes aren't unusual in much of the Southeast, many crops were blooming up to three weeks early because of the unusually mild winter.

Monday
Mar202017

Cold Weather Damages Apple, Peach, Blueberry Crops

Last week's deep freeze in the Southeast appears to have nearly wiped out Georgia's blueberries and South Carolina's peaches.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture said 85 percent of the state's peaches were damaged by two days of temperatures dipping into the 20s Wednesday and Thursday.

South Carolina is the second biggest producer of peaches in the U.S.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black says up to 80 percent of the blueberry crop in the southern part of the state was destroyed.

Georgia grows early season blueberries and the crop is worth more than peaches.

Apples also suffered freeze damage in North Carolina.

While mid-March freezes aren't unusual in much of the Southeast, many crops were blooming up to three weeks early because of the unusually mild winter.

Monday
Mar202017

Three Schools on Lockdown After Man Flees Traffic Stop

The schools announced the lockdown has been lifted at the 3 Anderson Co. Schools after an incident Monday afternoon.

The lockdown was issued at Concrete Primary, Powdersville Elementary and Powdersville High as a precaution after a nearby search for a suspect.

Troopers said a man fled a vehicle during a routine traffic stop.

Monday
Mar202017

FBI to Investigate Trump Campaign Ties to Russia

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that his agency is investigating whether Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Comey also testified to the House Intelligence Committee that he had not information to support Trump's assertion he was under surveillance before he became president.

"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election," Comey said in his opening statement. "And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

Comey said he wouldn't be able to give many details of the investigation. In fact, the FBI doesn't normally confirm the existence of an ongoing investigation.

"But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so," Comey said.

He said the investigation could lead to charges.

"As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed," he said.

During questioning, Comey said he had no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower in New York, as the president asserted in a series of tweets earlier in the month.

"With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets," Comey told a U.S. congressional intelligence panel.

Monday
Mar202017

Pulitzer-Prize Winner Slated for Clemson Literary Festival

For the sixth consecutive year, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author will visit Clemson to participate in the Clemson Literary Festival.

Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

This year, 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of “The Sympathizer” and “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War,” will headline the 10th annual Literary Festival March 29-April 1.

Nguyen has also won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, a Gold Medal in First Fiction from the California Book Awards and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. He is the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

Nationally recognized authors of fiction and poetry Camille Rankine, Brando Skyhorse, Paul Guest, Wendy Xu and Shobha Rao also will read their works and serve on panels and in roundtable discussions during the festival.

Other events include a reading and discussion with renowned scholar and poet Haki Madhubuti and other authors, a “poetry slam,” a literary trivia competition, a book fair, open mic night and a Family Day with children’s activities.

Since its inception in 2008, the student-organized  Clemson Literary Festival, sponsored jointly by Clemson University and the city of Clemson, has brought more than 100 prominent writers to the campus community.

Festival events are free and open to the public. For more information about the authors and a complete schedule, visit www.clemson.edu/litfest.