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McMaster Calls Student Walkout Day "Shameful"

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster spoke frankly against the actions of students across the country who participated in National Walkout Day just one month after 17 people were killed in a shooting at a Florida high school. 

Addressing members of the media at the State House, McMaster called the demonstration shameful, and that the protests are a tactic implemented by a left-wing group and use teens to disseminate their political agenda. 

"I understand that there is a left-wing group that is coordinating this around the country," McMaster said. "I think the children, it appears that these school children - these innocent school children - are being used as a tool by these left-wing group to further their own agenda. It is not about the tragedy, it's not about the school children or what we should all do and what these students should do."

The governor went further to express his point. 

"I imagine a lot of them intend to do is pray and to hope for the families of those who were slain," McMaster continued. "But this is a tricky move, I believe, by a left-wing group from the information I've seen, to use these children as a tool to further their own means. It sounds like a protest to me, it's not a memorial, it's certainly not a prayer service, it's a political statement by a left-wing group and it's shameful." 

Thousands of high school students across the country, including in South Carolina, participated in various demonstrations. Several schools opted for demonstrating inside their school and others did alternative protests such as prayer vigils, kindness acts, and more. 

National Walkout Day was held one month after 17 people - including 14 students - were killed at the hands of a single gunman on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. 


S.C. House Sends Budget to Senate

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina House lawmakers have approved a budget to fund state government for the coming year.

Legislators late Tuesday voted 116-2 to approve the state's more than $8 billion budget plan. The chamber reconvened early Wednesday for another required vote on the measure before sending it to the state Senate.

The only dissenters to the overall budget bill were Reps. Jonathon Hill of Townville and Josiah Magnuson of Campobello.

Those Republicans many times were the only two to oppose individual sections of the funding proposal. Hill proposed multiple amendments to reallocate money to fund local governments, but they were not successful.

Lawmakers deliberated two days and into the early morning hours of Wednesday. Senators will take up the budget for debate later this year.


Bellwether Pennsylvania Election Too Close to Call

CANONSBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - The Democrat candidate claimed a congressional election in a Republican heartland in Pennsylvania, as a vote seen as a referendum on Donald Trump’s performance as president remained officially too close to call early on Wednesday. 

In an ominous sign for Republicans eight months before national midterm elections, official results with all ballots from voting booths counted showed moderate Democrat Conor Lamb leading conservative Republican Rick Saccone by a fraction of a percentage point. 

Trump won the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District that they are contesting by almost 20 points in the 2016 presidential election. 

With TV networks, which often call U.S. elections, yet to predict a winner, officials were continuing to count several hundred absentee ballots to try to determine the result. 

Democratic sources said that, once those ballots were included, they expected Lamb to have won the election by more than 400 votes. 

“It took a little longer than we thought but we did it. You did it,” Lamb, a U.S. Marines veteran, told cheering supporters late on Tuesday. 

Speaking before Lamb claimed victory, Saccone - who has described himself as “Trump before Trump was Trump” - said the contest was not yet over. 

“We’re going to fight all the way to the end. You know I never give up,” the 60-year-old state told supporters. 


The strong showing by Lamb, 33, seems certain to buoy Democrats nationally as they seek to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republicans in the November elections. 

Republican dominance had been so strong in the district, a patchwork of small towns, farms and Pittsburgh suburbs, that Democrats ran no candidates in the previous two U.S. House elections here. Lamb’s image as a moderate seemed to have worked in his favor. 

Saccone led the race by more than 10 percentage points in January.


P.A.W.S. Offering Free Big Dog Adoptions Through Saturday

P.A.W.S. is offering free adoption of large-breed dogs through March 17 as part of their “Larger then Leprechans” event. Good time to adopt a big dog if you have been looking.

Visit here for more information. You can also find the pets of the week and more information on the county animal shelter here.


McDuffie Accepting Nominations for Athletic Hall of Fame

The McDuffie High School Athletic Hall of Fame selection committee is accepting nominations for new inductees. Nominations will be accepted until April 30, 2018.

Please note that the following individuals have previously been inducted into the McDuffie High School Athletic Hall of Fame: Steve Couch, Steve “Reno” Allen, Wentford “Mumbo” Gaines, Larry Nance, H. Wallace Reid, John Tribble, Jimmy Brown, Mike Albertson, Walter Logan, Bobby McGowens, Barney Brown, Coach Mike Austin, Coach Carl Stegall, Stewart Uldrick, Stephanie Finley, Carl Morris, Chris (Fuji) Lindsey, Alesia Tate, Marcus Austin, Jerry Norris, Don Saxon, Jacky Stamps, Patrick White, Ricky Evans, Johnny Corn, Chris McGowens, Donnie Adams, and 1992-93 Boys Basketball State Championship Team

To receive a nomination form to nominate someone for this honor, and for additional information, please contact members of the review and selection committee: Reno Allen –; Jimmy Brown –; Bobby McGowens – 


Bassmaster at Green Pond Set for ESPN, Live Streaming

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The 2018 programming schedule for the Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Elite Series released by ESPN this week includes 30 hours of television and 222 hours of streamed content during tournament competition.
Television airing on ESPN2 begins at 7 a.m. March 31, with the first of 10 hours of coverage of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic at Green Pond Landing, which is being held this week on Lake Hartwell. The Classic championship episode begins at 10 a.m. April 1.
Classic LIVE, the live-stream, on-the-water coverage, kicks off at 8 a.m. Thursday, just after the first-round takeoff of the Classic. LIVE will be streamed for six hours per competition day on ESPN3 and the ESPN App, as well as
As many as five high-definition cameras — the same ones that record "The Bassmasters" TV show for ESPN2 — are able to stream fishing action real-time through cellphone transmissions.
Cell coverage will be even stronger on Lake Hartwell this year than during the two previous Classics in 2008 and 2015, thanks to a 110-foot live-stream tower erected last week at Green Pond Landing and Event Center, site of the daily takeoffs for the Classic.
In addition to video from competitors’ boats, LIVE will feature commentary from hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona and Davy Hite, along with reports from Robbie Floyd and Dave Mercer, Classic and Elite Series emcee as well as veteran Elite anglers and guest anglers from the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.


S.C. Order Declares Bitcoin Mining Contracts Securities

The Attorney General of South Carolina has slapped Genesis Mining, one of the world’s largest cloud-based cryptocurrency mining firms, with a cease-and-desist order.

The order mentions the names of two firms – Genesis Mining and Swiss Gold Global Inc. It asks both of them to cease all operations within the borders of the state.

According to the order, South Carolina considers mining contracts to be securities, which makes it illegal to sell them to state residents without proper authorization.

The Securities Commission of South Carolina alleged that Swiss Gold Global was acting as a broker and selling mining contracts for Genesis, without registering in the state to offer securities.

An excerpt from order noted: “At all times relevant to this order, Respondent Genesis Mining continuously offered investment opportunities in Mining Contracts to South Carolina residents through its website. At no time relevant to the events stated herein was Respondent Swiss Gold Global registered with the Division as a broker-dealer, and no exemption from registration has been claimed by Respondent Swiss Gold Global.”

Genesis Mining currently offers cloud mining service of six cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, and Zcash – to its clients. Through the mining contracts, customers lease a certain amount of computing power for a specific period to mine the cryptocurrency of their choice from the list in a cloud-based platform. This gives customers a hassle-free way to mine cryptocurrencies without maintaining any hardware.

However, in the commission’s view, the agreements between Genesis and its clients “constitute investment contracts and are thus securities” under South Carolina law.

Moreover, the authority barred both firms from doing business in South Carolina at any time in the future. The companies can now appeal for a hearing against the order.

Meanwhile, a few days ago, the New Jersey state authority issued cease-and-desist order against a blockchain firm endorsed by the famous actor Steven Seagal, also accusing the firm of selling unregistered securities to state residents.


Criminal Justice Group Sets Course for Future Work

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council of Anderson County released results today from the survey distributed to the more than 75 representatives from local, county, and state agencies who attended its inaugural informational meeting.

“Encouraged” was the general consensus concerning the focused collaboration and enhanced communication that the design of this Council will foster across the county. Stakeholders “strongly agreed” that the entire criminal justice system could benefit from system-wide data collection and analysis, as well as collaborative planning and decision-making.  Additionally, survey results demonstrated participant interest and focus in addressing the following aspects of the criminal justice system:

  •       Faster system processing/case resolution
  •       Detention Center overcrowding
  •       Mental health and substance abuse issues

These results, which are representative of the 56 individual surveys completed, will guide initial data collection efforts over the next four months. Following the initial data collection phase, CJCC staff will analyze the data sets and present preliminary recommendations to the CJCC. The CJCC, aiming to improve quality of service and minimize inefficiencies in the local criminal justice system, will then establish County-specific goals and implement collaborative strategies. 

The CJCC, only the second of its kind in South Carolina, was created at the recommendation of the National Institute of Corrections following its recent Jail and Justice System Assessment in Anderson County. The purpose of the organization is to make sustainable, data-driven improvements to the County’s criminal justice system.


S.C. Enters Second Day in Debate Over $8.2 Billion Budget

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina lawmakers are entering their second day of deliberations over the state's $8.2 billion budget plan.

The House resumed floor debate Tuesday morning.

Lawmakers on Monday approved dozens of sections of the budget by large margins and without debate. Other sections to which amendments had been made were skipped over.

Legislators voted 47-38 to freeze future spending by the Public Service Commission, the entity tasked with regulating the state's utilities. The vote was symbolic, since the commission doesn't get state funds.

Lawmakers are currently debating plans to reconfigure the agency as part of proposed fixes following the failure of new reactor construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. Nine times, the commission approved the utility rate increases that helped fund the $9 billion debacle.


Trump Fires Tillerson, Names CIA Director to Post

March 13 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump announced a major shakeup in his Cabinet Tuesday, replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

"Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" Trump tweeted

Tillerson just finished a diplomatic trip to Africa. On Monday, he told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the U.S. government was "outraged" about the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump asked Tillerson to step aside.

Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, has been Trump's only secretary of state. His departure comes amid international trade talks and ahead of Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In a statement, Trump said Pompeo has a "proven record of working across the aisle."


USDA Kills Animal Welfare Rules for Organic Meat Producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday decided not to impose a rule that would have required meat producers to meet certain animal welfare standards to be certified as organic.

The rule, which was scheduled to go into effect in May after a decision by the Obama administration, would have required that poultry animals be in cages large enough for the animals to move freely and stretch their wings and livestock be given access to outdoor spaces year round.

In a statement, USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach said there are enough rules current "organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective" and further regulation is unnecessary.

"The organic industry's continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers," Ibach said.

But the Organic Trade Association, a business association of about 9,500 organic product businesses in the United States, blasted the USDA's decision, saying it "irresponsibly thwarted a fully vetted regulation overwhelmingly supported by the organic industry and the public."

The OTA had already filed a lawsuit against the USDA for previous withdrawal of rules pertaining to the organic industry and said it will add Monday's decision to its list of grievances.

"This most recent egregious attempt by the Department to ignore the will of the organic industry and consumers does not halt our judicial review, but, in fact, furthers our resolve," Laura Batcha, CEO of the OTA said in a statement. "USDA's unconscionable action does not deter us. USDA is hoping this issue will go away, but this latest action by USDA will only invigorate and solidify more support for this regulation."


Palmetto Scholars Personal Information Online for 10 Months

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A state agency is telling 3,000 college scholarship recipients in South Carolina that their personal information was posted online for 10 months.

The Commission on Higher Education sent a letter to students who earned Palmetto Fellows scholarships, saying their names, addresses and Social Security numbers were posted in May 2017 when the agency switched programs.

The letter says a student found the information during a web search. It is only supposed to be available to colleges.

The commission says fewer than five people tried to access the page. The agency apologized in the letter sent Sunday.


County Unemployment Jumps to 4.7 Percent in January

South Carolina's jobless rate inched up slightly to 4.3 percent in January, up from 4.2 percent in Decemeber, even as the state's employment continued to rise. Anderson County, meanwhile posted and unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, up sharply from 3.9 percent in December. Anderson remains tied for nineth lowest overall jobless rate in the state.

Note: the statewide rate is seasonally adusted while county rates are not, which does not make for easy comparison.

"The first thing I notice in looking at the numbers is that Anderson County's number of employed people in January 2018 was 1,000 more than in January 2017," said Anderson County Government Affairs Liaison Steve Newton.

Newton said the the activity is actually an improvement over past shifts from December to January, and that most counties in the state posted jumps similar to Anderson's.

"For whatever reason, we typically see significant numbers entering the workforce in January."

In Anderson's workforce of 90,323,  86,075 were employed, while 4,248 were without work for the month.

Statewide, the number of individuals working increased by 463 to 2,221,308 people, while the number of unemployed individuals increased by 2,299 to 100,178. The state’s labor force increased by 2,762 to 2,321,486 people.

Nationally, unemployment was unchanged at 4.1.

Manufacturing jobs were up by more than 3,100 in January.

Fairfield County continued to have the highest unemployment rate at 10.1 percent. Charleston County had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.0 percent.