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Corn Farmers Stockpile Crop as Prices Drop

Reuters - Iowa farmer Karl Fox is drowning in corn.

Reluctant to sell his harvest at today's rock-bottom prices, he has stuffed storage bins at his property full and left more corn piled on the ground, covered with a tarp. 

He would rather risk potential crop damage from the elements than pay the exorbitant cost of storage elsewhere.

"That's how poor people do it," said Fox, who has been farming for 28 years. "You do what you have to do."

Farmers face similar problems across the globe. World stockpiles of corn and wheat are at record highs. From Iowa to China, years of bumper crops and low prices have overwhelmed storage capacity for basic foodstuffs.

Global stocks of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans combined will hit a record 671.1 million tonnes going into the next harvest - the third straight year of historically high surplus, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That's enough to cover demand from China for about a year.

In the United States, farmers facing a fourth straight year of declining incomes and rising debts are hanging on to grain in the hope of higher prices later. They may be waiting a long time: Market fundamentals appear to be weakening as the world's top grain producers ponder what to do with so much food.

The persistent glut is a striking contrast from the panic a decade ago, when severe droughts in Russia and the United States sent prices soaring. The shrinking supply forced big importers such as China to enact policies to encourage more domestic production and increase the volume of storage to improve food security.

China abandoned that policy last year and is now selling off hundreds of millions of tonnes of old stocks.

Russia, too, is looking at exporting from state-held stockpiles, with storage stuffed after a record harvest in 2016.

A surge of Chinese and Russian exports would put even more downward pressure on prices in an oversupplied global market.

That means U.S. farmers will likely be producing more grain for less money. The USDA forecasts net farm income will fall 8.7 percent this year to $62.3 billion - the lowest level since 2009.


In farms across Iowa, corn bulges in plastic tubes that snake across the fields. 

The grain-stuffed silo bags are taller than a man, often longer than a soccer field and look like monstrous white caterpillars.

On the other side of the globe in Australia, demand for the storage bags has exploded after farmers produced record crops of wheat and barley.

They are laying across fields in Argentina, too. There, wheat production spiked 41.6 percent this year over the 2015/16 season, according to the most recent USDA data.

There are risks to using the bags, however, as wild animals ranging from rodents to armadillos and even donkeys can be tempted to break in for the grain, said Mariano Bosch, the head of Adecoagro SA (AGRO.K), which farms more than 225,000 hectares of row crops in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

When the company expanded its grain plantings in northern Argentina, he said, they started building electrified fences around their silo bags to keep out cougars and pumas.

"They won't eat the grain. They're just curious," said Bosch, who added that about 40 percent of the company's grain this year is stored in silo bags.

In neighboring Brazil, the world's largest soybean shipper and the second-largest exporter of corn, towering grain silos have sprung up all across the country.


Storing grain gives farmers more control over when and how they sell, to avoid low harvest-time prices and to best take advantage of spikes in futures or currency swings.

But with storage running short - and a mountain of grain to move ahead of summer or early autumn harvests - that control is slipping away. Farmers with mounting bills, tight cash-flow and nowhere to store crops may have to sell them - even if it means taking a loss.

In Goodland, Kansas, where the next wheat harvest begins in late June, farmers holding grain in silos are facing cash wheat prices of about $3.15 a bushel and cash corn prices of $2.90 a bushel - both well below production costs of at least $4 a bushel. CORNSCUGDL-C1 WHRWFAGGDL-C1

Permanent storage in the United States can handle about 24.3 billion bushels - well short of the 25.9 billion bushels of wheat, soybeans and feed grains the USDA said was piled up by the end of last autumn's harvest.

The overflow in the United States has prompted a rush for temporary storage. The USDA has approved permits for more than 1.2 billion bushels of temporary and emergency grain storage - such as tarp-covered piles and open-air mounds. That's a record amount, according to the USDA.

In Kansas, some grain owners are renting airport tarmacs from decommissioned military bases, empty farm fields and parking lots to stash their corn as the situation becomes acute, according to farmers and local, state and federal officials.

Meanwhile, there are no signs of a slowdown in grain production.

The USDA already expects 2016/17 global harvests to be the highest since its records started in 1960/61 at 340.79 million tonnes of soybeans, 1.049 billion tonnes of corn and 751.07 million tonnes of wheat.

"Nobody is going to cut back," said Fox, the Iowa farmer.

With spring planting coming up, he is scouting for more storage space for this year's harvest.

"I have a note at the bank to pay off," he said. "I can't do less."


Clemson to Host Drug Symposium April 19

Faculty and students in Clemson’s public health sciences department will host a symposium on deadly drugs in South Carolina April 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hendrix Center’s McKissick Theater. The symposium, “Deadly Drugs in the Palmetto State: Opiates—an Epidemic?,” will explore opiate drugs, their effects on a variety of audiences and what campuses and communities can do to respond.

The symposium is the culmination of a semester’s worth of work that students have put into a special topics course, Drug Epidemiology and the Opioid Epidemic, taught by Professor Lee Crandall. He said the topic has been a long-time interest for numerous faculty members in the department, and he is looking forward to seeing faculty, students and health care professionals come together to explore the topic to benefit multiple audiences.

“This is an epidemic that is no longer contained to impoverished, inner city areas,” Crandall said. “It’s spreading and it’s in affluent areas; many deaths in South Carolina occur along the I-85 corridor, so we want to get this information out to the campus and community.”

The symposium will focus on illicit opiates such as heroin and oft prescribed medications, such as oxycodone/Oxycontin and hydrocodone (brand names like Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, etc.). According to Allison Carley, a junior public health sciences major in the class, the symposium will also explore the situations in which these drugs overlap, such as when a person recovering from surgery becomes dependent on prescription medication only to be forced to resort to an illicit drug once that prescription runs out. Students also want peers to be aware of the heightened dangers of mixing opiate drugs with tranquilizers (benzodiazepines).

Carley’s classmate, Chandler Bell, said much of the material that has surprised the class about these issues will be tackled during the symposium. Bell said she was shocked to hear how easy it can be to walk into a doctor’s office, recite symptoms easily retrieved online and walk away with a large prescription. Carley said the first-hand accounts from students in the class were enough to make her consider just how serious this issue has become.

Crandall has acted as advisor to the students in the course as they planned the entirety of the symposium. Students from the class will deliver presentations, which will cover gateways to opiates, special issues for women and infants, and campus and community response.

Clemson faculty member Rachel Mayo will deliver a talk on innovative treatments for addicted newborns. Dr. James Fulcher, a forensic pathologist affiliated with Greenville Health System, will deliver a talk on the medical impact of opiate misuse and abuse. Rich Jones, a certified trauma therapist with FAVOR Greenville, an organization dedicated to providing intervention and recovery support services to those seeking recovery, will speak on treatment options for opiate addiction.

Carley said she hopes the symposium will help illustrate the problem, but more than that she hopes the event will make people realize what they can realistically do to help those struggling with addiction or what they can do in an emergency situation. A section of the “response” portion of the symposium will focus on practical interventions like naloxone (Narcan) a nasal spray that blocks opiates and can reverse an overdose if administered in time.

“There’s no reason a tool like that shouldn’t be in every emergency supply unit in case it’s needed,” Carley said. “We want everyone in the Clemson community and beyond to recognize the problem and learn what they can possibly do to help.”


Haley, Sec. of State, at Odds on Syria Strategy

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to differ with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley Sunday on the U.S. position on the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

"Our priority is first the defeat of [the Islamic State group]... Once we can eliminate the battle against [the Islamic State group], conclude that, and it is going quite well, then we hope to turn our attention to cease-fire agreements between the regime and opposition forces," the secretary emphasized to ABC.

"In that regard, we are hopeful that we can work with Russia and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilization throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process," he continued. "Through that political process that we believe the Syrian people will lawfully be able to decide the fate of [Assad]."

Leading Republicans, and Democrats in favor of intervention, have been pressed in recent days to explain why the United States should involve itself against both leading factions in the Syrian civil war -- Assad and the Islamic State group.

Tillerson heads to a meeting of the G7 in Italy this week, followed by meetings in Moscow

But Haley, who has become an increasingly public face for the administration while Tillerson has kept a lower profile, weighed in less equivocally. 

"We don't see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there," Haley told CNN.

Haley's statement lined up more closely with comments by H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

"Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria… There is no political solution that any of us can see with Assad at the lead," McMaster told Fox News on Sunday. 

But he emphasized, vaguely, that it would not be the United States who would "effect that change." 

Critics pounced on the discrepancies and the lack of clarity on the path forward following last week's U.S. strikes on a Syrian air base.

But McMaster's language mirrored rhetoric by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading proponent of American military intervention in the region. 

"Regime change comes when we train up Syrians. The Syrians will take care of Assad," Graham told Fox News on Friday. "[The Islamic State group] is a direct threat to the homeland, Assad is not."

Haley, Graham and other conservatives have begun highlighting a side-benefit of ousting Assad: containing the regional influence of Iran, who backs the Syrian president. 

"It's also to get out the Iranian influence, which we think is causing so much friction and worse issues in the area," Haley said. President Donald Trump, as a candidate, and Republicans on Capitol Hill strongly opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.


NY First State to Offer Free College Tuition for Middle Class

New York became the first state to waive college tuition for middle-class students with the passage of a bill in its Senate.

Under a plan first introduced in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, undergraduate students at State University of New York or City University of New York schools will be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship if their families earn less than $100,000 a year. By 2019, the income cap will be raised to $125,000. The law will be phased in beginning in September.

The legislation is part of the state's annual budget bill, and was passed Saturday by the state Assembly and Sunday by the Senate, and will go to Cuomo, a Democrat, for his signature. His office estimated 200,000 students will be affected by the law once it is fully operational.

The bill comes with some provisions: It excludes part-time students, room and board, and other fees. The legislation provides $8 million to promote online educational resources. Students benefiting from the bill are expected to live and work in the state for a number of years equal to their time spent in college. If students leave the state, the scholarships become student loans.

State four-year schools in New York cost $6,470 per year to attend, with community colleges costing $4,350 per year. The bill offers students at private colleges $3,000 per year in tuition relief if the grants are matched by the schools, as well as a $19 million fund to create a new financial assistance program for state residents attending private schools within the state. Some Republican legislators were critical of the bill for excluding private college students.

"Today, college is what high school was -- it should always be an option even if you can't afford it," Cuomo said in a statement.


I-85 North Shut Down in Anderson County After Accident

Firefighters said I-85 North may be shut down for up to eight hours after a tractor trailer tanker overturned near mile marker 12 early Monday morning.

The crash happened just after 4 a.m. according to the SC Highway Patrol.

One lane briefly reopened around 5:45 a.m. to clear traffic back to Exit 11, where troopers said a detour was setup.

At the detour, first responders were directing northbound traffic off the interstate at Exit 11 and back on at Exit 14. Drivers could then take a right on SC 24 and then a left on SC 187 to return to I-85.

Firefighters said two cars initially crashed and the tanker came through just seconds later. The truck driver lost control of the truck while trying to avoid the wrecked vehicles in the roadway and overturned about a thousand feet from the initial crash site.

The truck driver was entrapped and had to be extricated from the vehicle. He was taken to the hospital with injuries.

The drivers of both cars were also taken to the hospital.

The tanker was carrying a flammable resin. Firefighters said a small amount of the material was leaking from the tank and must be pumped out and into another tanker before the wrecked truck can be moved.  Hazmat crews were called in to oversee the process.

Firefighters said just before 7 a.m. that it may take 6 to 8 hours to clear the wreckage and ensure the interstate is safe to reopen. All Northbound lanes will be closed between Exits 11 and 14 until that time.


Podcast: Vote Tuesday, or Keep Your Mouth Shut (S.C. Senate Dist.3 Candidate Interviews)


Veteran Educator to Head Anderson Institute of Technology

Anderson County School District’s Three, Four and Five have chosen Dr. Bob Couch as the executive director of the Anderson Institute of Technology, which is scheduled to open in August 2019.

Couch currently serves in District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties as the District Director of Career and Technical Education and as Director of the Center for Advanced Technical Studies. He also has extensive experience in the private sector, as well as leadership experience at the state level in K-12 education. 

“I am extremely excited to return to the Upstate in such an impactful role, and to have the ability to lead a world-class education facility,” said Couch, who also serves on the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. “The Anderson Institute of Technology will be a critical piece in the economic development of Anderson County and the Upstate, and will provide thousands of students amazing opportunities post-graduation.”

“Dr. Couch not only has experience in managing career and technical programs, but also has been in charge of building and opening a successful school, which is critical for our success here in Anderson County,” said Anderson School District Four Superitendent Joanne Avery.

"The importance of getting Dr. Couch here now, is that he can begin building the necessary relationships with business and industry to ensure that our students will have multiple post-secondary opportunities,” said Anderson School Distric Five Superintendent Tom Wilson.

A chief architect of the landmark Education and Economic Development Act of 2005, Couch oversaw the implementation of the legislation that created a seamless career pathway for students. For 14 years, he worked as the State Director for Career Technical Education.

In addition to his career in education which spans the two-year and four-year postsecondary levels, Couch’s professional career includes business experience in marketing, sales, human resources in manufacturing and health care, workforce development, and training. He served as Chief Human Resources Officer in the manufacturing sector at Beaunit Corporation and in the healthcare sector at the Spartanburg Regional Hospital System, which employed 4,000 employees.

Couch has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including receiving the Educator of the Year award from both the SC Hospitality Association and the SC Association of Family and Consumer Science Educators. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.

Active in his community, Couch is a volunteer with several non-profit and faith-based organizations, supporting projects to help the homeless as well as children in need.

The SC Education Oversight Committee is an independent, non-partisan group made up of 18 educators, business persons, and elected leaders. Created in 1998, the committee is dedicated to reporting facts, measuring change, and promoting progress within South Carolina’s education system.

“Dr. Couch has led some of the premier career and technical education facilities in the state, and we are looking forward to him bringing his leadership to Anderson County," said Kathy Hipp, Superintendent of Anderson School District Three, stated 


State: Critics Say S.C. New Ethics Reform Falls Short


"Night Owls" Could Be Result Genetic Mutation

Do you get your best work done late at night and then struggle to wake up in the morning? New research suggests your night owl tendencies could be hard-wired in your genes.

In the new study, researchers looked at 70 people from six families and found that a mutation in a gene called CRY1 was common among those who have a condition known as delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD). In people with this condition, the circadian clock runs behind, so they wake up later than normal, and go to bed later than normal.

The mutation was absent in the members of these same families who did not have DSPD, the researchers said. In addition, the researchers showed in lab experiments that this gene may play a key role in driving the circadian clock. [Top 10 Spooky Sleep Disorders]

This is the first genetic mutation found to be associated with DSPD, the researchers said.

“Carriers of the mutation have longer days than the planet gives them, so they are essentially playing catch-up for their entire lives,” Alina Patke, the lead author of the study and a research associate in the Laboratory of Genetics at The Rockefeller University, said in a statement from Cell Press. The findings are published today (April 6) in the journal Cell.

The circadian clock is an internal rhythm that guides nearly all life on Earth. In people, it dictates when one feels tired, hungry or awake. It even regulates body temperature. Most people are hard-wired to a 24-hour clock, but up to 10 percent of peoplewith DSPD follow an internal clock that runs on a longer loop.

“A person like a bartender, for example, might not experience any problem with the delayed sleep cycle,” Patke told Live Science. “But someone like a surgeon who has to be in the OR in the early morning – that’s not compatible.”

Patke and her colleagues first identified the DSPD-linked mutation seven years ago, in a 46-year-old U.S. woman who had come to a sleep clinic after a long struggle with her late sleep cycle.

Patke’s team andother researchers analyzed the woman’s natural sleep patterns. She was placed in an apartment for two weeks that was isolated from all time cues. [5 Surprising Sleep Discoveries]

“It didn’t have windows, TV or internet,” Patke said. “Then we told her to live on her own timeline and to eat and sleep according to what her body told her to do.”

In this isolation, the woman settled into a rhythm that stretched about 1 hour longer than the typical 24-hour circadian cycle, and her sleep was fragmented, Patke said.

In sequencing her genes, the researchers identified the CRY1 mutation. The mutation is a single-point mutation in the CRY1 gene, meaning just one “letter” in its genetic instructions is off.

In the new study, Patke’s team confirmed CRY1 genetic mutation’s link to delayed sleep phase disorder by looking for the mutation among the woman’s extended family, and in other population samples.

Using a database of genomic information for people in Turkey, the researchers identified people who carried the mutation in CRY1. In collaboration with researchers at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, the researchers reached out to these people, and were able to conduct interviews and perform further DNA sequencing with the members of six families.

Among the Turkish family members, 39 carried the CRY1 mutation, and 31 did not. Data revealed that the sleep cycles of those carrying the gene were clearly late-shifted. Their midpoint of sleep naturally fell between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., while the midpoint of sleep for those who did not carry the mutation fell around 4 a.m. [5 Things You Must Know About Sleep]

Clinical studies estimate that up to 10 percent of people experience delayed sleep phase disorder, and not all the cases may be linked to this single mutation, the researchers said.

In fact, Patke said that she is a night owl and often works late into the night. But she does not carry the CRY1 mutation.

“I checked,” she said. “Not everybody who had this behavior necessarily has this mutation, but it does seem to have an effect on a large part of the population.”

There are likely other underlying genetic causes for the condition, Patke said.

Still, identifying at least one genetic mutation behind the sleep disorder represents an important step.

“Understanding how the rhythms are controlled opens the door to eventually manipulating them with drugs,” Patke said.

Also, she said that if a drug is eventually found to help night owls align their sleep schedules to normal patterns, a similar pathway could tapped to help travelers deal with jet lag.

In the meantime, the researchers emphasized there are strategies that people with delayed sleep phase disorder can use to try to reset their clocks.

Patke advised practicing “good sleep hygiene,” which involves going to bed at a set time every night, even on weekends, and waking up at a set time each morning. Avoiding bright lights (including laptops and smartphones) at night also helps, as does exposing yourself to the sunlight first thing in the morning.

“Even if you have this mutation, it’s not unchangeable destiny,” Patke said. “There are steps you can take to try and match your internal rhythms to the outside world.”


S.C. GOP Powerbroker in Crosshairs of Corruption Probe

A Republican powerbroker who boasts that his client roster is a "who's who of politics" that included Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan has come within the crosshairs of a growing probe of possible Statehouse corruption in South Carolina.

Richard Quinn hasn't been charged with any crime. But the millions of dollars he's collected and spent on behalf of his clients have become central to an investigation that began with the 2014 prosecution of a longtime state House speaker, who pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor campaign spending violations.

The state Senate's former top leader, John Courson, is the latest lawmaker indicted. A 33-year Senate veteran, Courson was accused last month of pocketing more than $130,000 over six years by essentially funneling campaign donations through Quinn's firm. The indictment of a senator once honored for ethics reform stunned lawmakers from both parties — and signified the probe is far-reaching.

Both Courson and Quinn say the allegations are false. Quinn has repeatedly declined comment on the investigation.

Now the probe of South Carolina's conservative power elites is drawing attention beyond the state. Scrutiny of Quinn comes arguably at the height of his success, four decades after he founded the consulting firm that has gone on to serve many of the state's top politicians.

When Quinn set out in 1978, South Carolina was dominated by Democrats. He helped flip control to Republicans as he amassed clients for Richard Quinn & Associates, boasting the state's late GOP Sen. Thurmond among early clients. He was influential in presidential primaries, helping to give the key first-in-the-South win to John McCain in 2008 and Newt Gingrich in 2012.

One of his biggest clients is U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose campaigns have paid Quinn's firms $2.7 million since his first U.S. Senate election in 2002, according to campaign filings. Graham said he doesn't know where the investigation will lead, "but I'm very proud of my campaign and the people running it."

"Richard Quinn has been a friend for a very long time," Graham said recently. "I don't know what this is all about, but we'll soon find out."

According to its website, Quinn's firm has helped hundreds of clients win local, state and federal offices. And when Nikki Haley became U.N. ambassador, the ascension of Henry McMaster to her seat put the first Quinn client in the governor's chair.

Quinn's importance is in his "collection of so many important politicians. We've never seen anyone in the past coming out of a consulting firm really have such a collection — a glittering array of people," said Neal Thigpen, a Republican activist and political scientist.

Solicitor David Pascoe is leading the investigation. The Democrat, first elected in 2004 as chief prosecutor for three counties, is apparently digging deep. A 2004 review of state GOP finances is among documents he's subpoenaed.

Courson's attorney, Rose Mary Parham, accuses Pascoe of a "political, partisan witch hunt." But Pascoe has remained silent, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.

Ironically, a Quinn client handed Pascoe the case that's ensnared Quinn.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose campaigns have paid Quinn's firm more than $515,000 since 2009, originally pursued charges against former House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

But Wilson transferred the case to Pascoe in 2014, citing an unspecified conflict. After Harrell pleaded guilty, Wilson tried to fire the Democratic solicitor, saying he lacked the authority to open a state grand jury to investigate further. The state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in Pascoe's favor last July.

Months later, former House Majority Leader Jim Merrill was charged with illegally profiting from his position. The Charleston Republican, who has his own political consulting firm, said he's done nothing illegal.

Merrill's 30-count indictment marked the first charges since Harrell resigned. And any speculation the investigation had fizzled was dashed as questions turned to how many others might be ensnared.

"Pascoe has no limits on what he can do," said John Crangle, the longtime director of Common Cause South Carolina. "He can keep this thing going as long as he thinks he can find bad guys."

It's unclear how many political clients the probe may cost Quinn.

McMaster, who's paid Quinn more than $300,000 since 2002, said he's sticking with Quinn for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. McMaster has been a Quinn client since 1993, when he became state GOP chairman.

While a review of the party's finances under McMaster is among the documents Pascoe has collected, there's no indication McMaster himself is a target of the probe — and he's not been interviewed or subpoenaed.

"They do excellent work. I see no reason to stop working with them at this time," McMaster said recently.


hhgregg to Close All 220 Stores

Electronics and home goods retailer hhgregg announced it will close all 220 retail outlets and will go out of business after the Indiana-based chain failed to find a buyer.

The 62-year-old company sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, saying it was "the best path forward to ensure hhgregg's long-term success."

CEO Bob Riesbeck said there were discussions with more than 50 private equity firms, strategic buyers and other possible investors but nothing came to fruition.

"Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our plan to secure a viable buyer of the business on a going-concern basis within the expedited timeline set by our creditors," Riesbeck said.

Liquidation sales began Saturday. The company said it does not expect to have money left after paying creditors to give to shareholders. Hhgregg has already began the process of closing 88 stores. Liquidation firms Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group have entered into an agreement to sell merchandise at the remaining 132 stores.


Sheriff Looking for Armed and Dangerous Suspect

The Anderson County Sheriff's Office is asking for public assistance in locating a a man with several active warrants in the Upstate.

Deputies said 27-year-old Brandon Earl Gosnell has outstanding warrants for criminal sexual conduct 1st degree and armed robbery in Anderson County. Gosnell is also wanted on several active warrants in Greenville County.

Deputies said he's considered armed and dangerous, and warn that under no circumstances should individuals attempt to engage, confront or apprehend him.

Gosnell may be traveling in a gold, 4-door, 2000's model GMC Jimmy with damage to the left rear driver's side bumper. He was last known to have resided in the Pelzer area.

Gosnell is described as 6'1" tall, weighing about 230 pounds.

Anyone with information regarding Gosnell's whereabouts is asked to immediately contact the Anderson County Sheriff's Office at (864) 260-4400 or call 911.


Kia/Hundai Recalls 1.4 Million Vehicles

Korean automakers Kia and Hyundai recalled 1.4 million vehicles for a potentially dangerous engine defect, a move that could undermine consumer confidence in the brands amid already-sagging U.S. sales.

A defect could cause engines to seize, causing safety hazards if the car is in motion. The automaker told the Financial Times most engines will not need to be replaced and most of the affected vehicles will be returned to owners with no repairs or replacements necessary, once a visual check of engine wear is completed.

The recall comes as Kia and Hyundai, which combined represent the world's fifth-largest auto company by sales, are struggling in two of its most important markets: the United States and China. The brands, which have long focused on compacts and light crossover SUVs, are struggling to win over U.S. consumers who are gravitating toward SUVs thanks to improved gas mileage and low gas prices.

In China, the Korean brands have taken a hit for political reasons -- the Chinese government opposes a THAAD missile defense shield being built in South Korea by the U.S. military.

The 1.4 million vehicles involved in the recall are roughly equivalent to the combined yearly sales by Kia and Hyundai in the United States. The affected vehicles include:

-- 2011-14 Kia Optima

-- 2012-14 Kia Sorento

-- 2012-13 Kia Sportage

-- 2013-14 Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe

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