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GOP Divided After Obamacare Replacement Bill Collapses

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. Congress were in chaos over healthcare legislation after a second attempt to pass a bill in the Senate collapsed late on Monday, with President Donald Trump calling for an outright repeal of Obamacare and others seeking a change in direction toward bipartisanship. 

"Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. 

Two of McConnell's Senate conservatives announced just hours earlier that they would not support the Republican leader's latest version of legislation to repeal portions of President Barack Obama's landmark 2010 healthcare law and replace them with new, less costly healthcare provisions. 

With Republican Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran joining Senators Susan Collins and Rand Paul in opposition - and amid a solid wall of opposition from Democrats - McConnell no longer had enough votes to pass a Republican healthcare bill in the 100-member Senate. 

It was the latest in a series of healthcare setbacks for Republicans, despite their control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. 

It also came after seven straight years of promising voters that they would repeal Obamacare if they were to control Congress and the White House, only to find that the public liked Obamacare more than their proposed substitutes, according to public opinion polls. 

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has determined that the various versions of Republican healthcare legislation would result in anywhere from 18 million to 23 million people losing their health insurance. 

However, Republicans argue that Obamacare is a government over-reach and costs too much money. 


S.C. Hit by 150,000 Election Day Hacking Events

More information about the scale of attempted election hacks has been released and it involves a rather surprising target -- South Carolina. Donald Trump took the state by 54.9 percent and there was never any doubt that he had the advantage in the historically republican-swinging South Carolina. However, even with almost certain projected results, the state's voter-registration system was hit with nearly 150,000 hack attempts.

After the FBI sent out warnings to state election officials about the potential for cyberattacks, South Carolina officials met with the agency and later hired a private cybersecurity firm to fix a number of vulnerabilities in the State Election Commission's systems discovered by the DHS. All but one was resolved by Election Day and while the state didn't release any data on how many hacking attempts occurred prior to Election Day, its report did show a drop off in hacking attempts after November.

South Carolina was obviously not the only target during the election, but it does speak to how widespread the attacks may have been. Some of the successful election hacks included those of the Democratic National Committee's emails and Illinois' registration records, of which 90,000 were stolen. In a report, the Illinois State Board of Elections noted that its IP addresses were hit five times per second, 24 hours per day prior to the election. In all, there's evidence that hackers attacked voting systems in 39 states.

In regards to many of the other known election hacking attempts, US intelligence agencies have pointed the finger at Russia. But it's unknown as of now who was behind the South Carolina attacks.


S.C. Ethics Chief Oks Bryant's Fundraising for Nonexistent Race

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — There's nothing wrong with Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant raising money for a nonexistent race, said the director of South Carolina's ethics agency.

The Republican lieutenant governor has collected more than $100,000 since January toward a 2018 bid for a full term. But voters won't separately elect the next lieutenant governor. Starting next year, gubernatorial candidates will pick their running mates.

Bryant can legally raise money for the job despite the change, state Ethics Commission director Steve Hamm told The State newspaper .

Voters passed a constitutional amendment in November 2012 to have the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket. But the ballot question specified the changes wouldn't start until the 2018 election.

State law's definition of a candidate also covers Bryant's unique situation, as it includes someone who's seeking an appointment. That could apply to someone hoping to be selected for a gubernatorial ticket, Hamm said.

Bryant's fundraising includes about $60,000 transferred from his state Senate campaign account.

The Anderson Republican, first elected to the Senate in 2004, stepped into the lieutenant governor's role after Nikki Haley was confirmed as United Nations ambassador and Henry McMaster became governor.

While voters approved changing the state constitution nearly five years ago, legislators have yet to sort out in state law how a gubernatorial candidate can pick a running mate.

Until they do, candidates should follow current law, Hamm said. That requires candidates seeking office in 2018 to file with the state Election Commission beginning in March.

Proposed legislation would remove lieutenant governor hopefuls from the required filing and set an Aug. 1 deadline for a party's gubernatorial candidate to name his or her running mate. Both chambers have unanimously approved similar versions of the bill. A House-Senate panel will attempt to reach a compromise when the Legislature returns in January.

If the bill doesn't become law early next year, there will be legal uncertainty over how to proceed, said state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

Information from: The State,


Council to Look at ATAX Agreement Tuesday

Anderson County Council will consider a five-year extension on ATAX agreements as part of Tuesday's meeting at 6 p.m. in the historic courthouse downtown.

Full Agenda Here


Secret Service Denies Vetting Trump Jr. Meeting with Russians

The U.S. Secret Service on Sunday denied a suggestion from President Donald Trump's personal lawyer that it had vetted a meeting between the president's son and Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign. 

Donald Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he met in New York with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after he was told she might have damaging information about his father's rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

"Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me," Jay Sekulow, a member of the president's legal team, said on Sunday on the ABC news program "This Week." 

In an emailed response to questions about Sekulow's comments, Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said the younger Trump was not under Secret Service protection at the time of the meeting, which included Trump's son and two senior campaign officials. 

"Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time," the statement said. 

According to emails released by Trump Jr. last week, he eagerly agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, who he was told was a Russian government lawyer. Veselnitskaya has said she is a private lawyer and denies having Kremlin ties.


S.C., 4 Other States, Start Crack Down on Traffic Violations

(AP) — Police in five Southeastern states are launching a weeklong program to reduce summertime wrecks and traffic deaths.

"Operation Southern Shield" starts Monday in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The campaign aims to reduce the number of drivers who are speeding, impaired, distracted and not wearing seat belts, according to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, which oversees grants used for the program.

In South Carolina, Highway Patrol Capt. Bob Beres said drivers can expect to see additional troopers on both interstate highways and back roads through Sunday.

But issuing additional traffic citations isn't the goal, said Harris Blackwood of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety in Georgia.

"They're not trying to write tickets," he told WSAV-TV. "They're trying to get you to slow down."

Extra patrols are being funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Statistics from the agency show wrecks killed about 35,000 people in the United States in 2015, an increase of 7 percent from 2014.

Traffic fatalities increased in 2015 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Deaths were down slightly in Tennessee.

Operation Southern Shield is being held in July between other major highway safety campaigns to coincide with the larger-than-normal numbers of drivers on roads because of summer travel, Alabama officials said.


S.C. Among Most Dangerous for Motorcyclists

(AP) - South Carolina is one of the country's most dangerous states for motorcyclists, but bikers put the blame on a range of problems from bad roads, inattentive motorists and inexperienced riders.

The Post and Courier reports the 135 motorcyclists who died on South Carolina roads last year were the most this century.

Statistics show South Carolina's average fatality rate in the five years ending in 2015 was second among Southeast states only to Mississippi, which has the least number of registered motorcycles in the region.

But motorcyclists disagree on requiring helmets, which motorcyclists are required to wear only if they're 20 and younger. Nearly three-quarters of motorcyclists who died on South Carolina roads in the past decade were not wearing a helmet.


Study: African Americans Read, Study Bible Most

African-Americans are more engaged with the Bible than any other group, according to the American Bible Society's State of the Bible survey, which found that this group overwhelmingly cites positive beliefs and hope found in the Scriptures.

The study showed that 71 percent of African-Americans are Bible engaged or Bible friendly, compared to 58 percent of all Americans. Only 6 percent of African-Americans have hostile feelings toward the Bible and just 4 percent are skeptical while 19 percent are neutral, the research found.

"African-Americans are much more inclined to recognize the value of reading the Bible," Roy Peterson, president of American Bible Society, said in a statement. "Anyone who devotes time to the Word of God can discover its unique ability to help make sense of life."

For the purpose of the annual study, the researchers defined "Bible-engagement" as having the belief that the Bible is the actual Word of God or inspired word with no errors, coupled with the practise of reading the Bible at least four times each week. Even those who believe that the Bible is "inspired word" with some possible factual errors but read it daily were also considered Bible-engaged.

And "Bible-friendly" are those who believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God or inspired word with no errors but do not read Bible at least four times a week.

The study revealed that when African-Americans sit down to read the Bible, 29 percent read it for an hour or more, which was the leading timeframe for this category. Fifty-one percent cited feeling encouraged and 53 percent said they felt hopeful as a result of reading the Bible.

African-Americans ranked higher than all Americans in six other things. Ninety-five percent own at least one Bible in their homes, 74 percent wish they read the Bible more, 46 percent downloaded or used a Bible app on a smart phone, 33 percent increased Bible reading in the last year, 40 percent listened to audio versions of the Bible, and 27 percent read or listened to the Bible or prayed every day.

Twenty percent of the American population is Bible engaged, and 38 percent are Bible friendly, the study found.

"More often than not, Bible engaged adults are married females from the Baby Boomer generation, are 53 years of age on average, have not been to college, are weekly church attenders, attend Protestant churches, and reside in the South or Midwest," the report said. "Three-quarters of Bible Engaged adults read the Bible every day. More African-Americans can be found in this category than the four other Bible engagement segments."

Recently, Barna Group explored the faith profile of 131 cities to identify the top 10 most Bible-minded cities as well as the least Bible-minded cities in 2017.

Barna's annual Bible-Minded Cities report, in partnership with American Bible Society, found that Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the most Bible-minded city in the U.S. for the second year in a row. The study found that 50 percent of the population of Chattanooga is Bible-minded.

Birmingham, Anniston and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took the second spot, with 49 percent of the population being Bible-minded.

Albany, Schenectady and Troy, New York, with only about 10 percent of their populations being Bible-minded, were at the top of the least Bible-minded list for the second year in a row. The New England area took the second and third positions, with Boston, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire, at 11 percent.


7.1 Million Pounds of Hot Dogs Recalled

Sabrett has voluntarily recalled more than 7.1 million pounds of hot dogs and sausages after bone and cartilage found was found in some products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said Saturday.

New York based Marathon Enterprises Inc., the brand's parent company, reported 7,196,084 pounds of beef and pork hot dogs, sausages and salami are affected, the USDA said in a release.

The USDA confirmed one minor oral injury associated with a Sabrett product.

Sabrett posted on its website "customers reported small pieces of bone and cartilage being found in these products."

"At that time, staff immediately investigated and identified an issue that could have allowed this to occur, and an equipment installation issue was quickly addressed," Sabrett said.

Consumers are urged to throw away the products or return them where they were purchased. Customers can also apply online for a refund.

The recalled products were produced between March 17 and July 4. The affected items are in various sizes and marketed under different brands names, including Western Beef, Stew Leonard, Papaya, 1906 Premium. Also sold institutionally: Katz's Delicatessen salami and Nathan's Private Label.

The products bear establishment number "EST. 8854" inside the USDA mark of inspection with a sell-by date ranging from June 19, 2017 to Oct. 6, 2017.

Customers can call 800-722-7388 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., for information.


Study: Generosity Leads to Happiness

A new study out of Switzerland shows that people who are generous and focus on helping others report feelings of happiness more than those who act on their own self-interests. 

Philippe Tobler and Ernst Fehr from the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich, along with a team of international researchers, conducted an experiment with 50 people in a lab who described their levels of happiness after doing acts of generosity, EurekAlert reported on Tuesday. The team sought to investigate how areas of the brain communicate to produce feelings of happiness.

The study's participants were promised 25 Swiss francs a week for four weeks. Twenty-five of them were asked to spend the money on others; the other 25 were told they could spend it on themselves.

"Doing something nice for another person gives many people a pleasant feeling that behavioral economists call a warm glow," a news release from the University of Zurich states.

The participants consistently reported that giving made them feel good. MRI scans of their brains were done simultaneously and showed that one area of the brain triggers a response in another area that is related to happiness.

"Our study provides behavioral and neural evidence that supports the link between generosity and happiness," the research team explained in the journal Nature Communications.

The researchers looked at three areas of the brain, "one linked to altruism and social behaviour, a second to happiness, and a third area involved in decision-making."

Those who said they would give the money away said they were happier than the "self-spenders" even without having moved forward on their commitments to give.

While their brains were being scanned they were asked questions which "evoked scenarios pitting the participants' own interests against those of the beneficiaries of their experimental largesse."

The degree of happiness they had was reportedly not related of the amounts they committed.

The research team also said their findings have all kinds of implications for other realms of culture like public health, education, economics, and politics.

"Generosity and happiness improve individual well-being and can facilitate societal success," they said.

"However, in everyday life, people underestimate the link between generosity and happiness and therefore overlook the benefits of ... spending" on others, they continued.

The brain science behind generosity will not surprise some.

Christian Smith, a University of Notre Dame sociologist and Hilary Davidson, note in the book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, that an accumulating body of research has shown the positive effects of generosity on the brain.

Citing experts in neurobiology, Smith wrote: "Experimental studies have shown that the increasing amounts of oxytocin in people's neurological systems significantly increases their generosity, empathy, and love."

"But the relationship may work both ways: increased feelings of empathy for others and generous practices appear to be capable of increasing the oxytocin released into people's brain systems."

Furthermore, a lack of generosity can have the opposite effect, stimulating negative neurochemical processes. Smith cited a study showing that stingy people have been shown to secrete more cortisol in the brain, a stress hormone that is known for creating "wear and tear" on the body.


Judge Exempts Grandparents from Trump Travel Ban

A federal judge in Hawaii ruled more family members, like grandparents and grandchildren, should be exempt from President Donald Trump's temporary ban on refugees traveling to the United States.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson on Thursday said the government's interpretation of a Supreme Court ruling -- that those with a "credible claim of bona fide relationship" to someone in the United States should be allowed entry -- is too narrow. On June 26, the high court said it would review states' lawsuits against Trump's ban on refugees from six Muslim-majority countries, but that in the meantime, a limited version of the executive order would go into effect.

The U.S. State Department initially defined a "bona fide relationship" as one in which applicants could demonstrate a relationship with a parent, spouse, fiancee, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States. Earlier this month, Watson declined to expandthe list of family relationships exempted from the ban.


Clemson Raises Tuition 2.75 Percent for In-State Undergrads

Clemson University’s board of trustees on Thursday approved a 2.75 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students, or $197 per semester for a full time-student for the academic year that begins in August. The increase is the lowest bump since 1999.

Out-of-state undergraduate tuition will increase by 4.25 percent, or $727 per semester. Starting in the fall of 2017, posted tuition and fees for full-time South Carolina residents will be $7,356 per semester and $17,827 for non-resident students.

Students will also see increases in the cost of housing and dining services in the upcoming year. The university offers a range of housing and dining options with flexibility to suit student needs, but on average, the price of on-campus housing will increase by $158 a semester, while meal plans will increase by, on average $90 a semester. Revenue from these increases will cover inflation, increased dining hours and nutrition options, ongoing maintenance and stewardship, replacement of outdated equipment, utilities and infrastructure.


Anderson Welcomes Leash-Free Dog Park

With tails wagging and lots of smiles, Anderson finally dedicated the long-awaited leash-free dog park on Wednesday. 

The community project officialy opened its gates, with a ribbon cutting, a few comments by community leaders and lots of barking.

The site, located behind the Anderson County Library, features more than three acres, and it a partnership of Anderson County, the City of Anderson, Foothills Foundation and tba (Towards a Better Anderson), the group which made the project happen.

“I can’t wait to see the dogs run and play and interact especially the expressions on the dogs and people’s faces when they come here," said Marshall Meadors, the committee chair for the tba Dog Park.

The park offers separate areas for large and small dogs, and feaures handicap accessiblity to allow all dog owners a chance to lett their dogs run free in a controlled ennvironment.

Security cameras, adequate lighting and a water station for the dogs, are a testament to the efforts which went into making the dog park a reality.

The Anderson Dog Park will be open daily, year around, from daylight to dusk.