South Carolina Focus

SC Focus is a regular feature of South Carolina Public Radio.  As its name suggests, the segment focuses on the Palmetto State and its people.  It covers a wide variety of subjects, from South Carolina's war veterans to scientists, musicians and other topics, both serious and whimsical.  SC Focus can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

Ways to Connect

Can Chatbots Connect You to City Government?

Dec 8, 2017
Bratton Riley CEO of Citibot
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Bratton Riley has a true appreciation of city workers, whether they're picking up our trash or keeping us safe.  The 44 year-old has had a bird's eye view as the son of former Charleston City Mayor Joe Riley.  But he knows not everyone shares that appreciation.  Dealing with government can be difficult.  So he's created a chatbot called Citibot  in hopes of making it more accessible.

Newly planted seedlings grow near fully grown trees of various sizes at Mike McCartha's Christmas tree farm in Gilbert, S. C'
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Mike McCartha and Bryan Price are tow two men who essentially make their entire year's livings in one month.  They're Christmas tree farmers.  It takes year-round to grow Christmas trees and successfully market them. Growers like McCartha and Price say they like seeing smiling faces returning year after year. 

Chris Pracht (right) during his 2017 induction into the National Auctioneers Association Hall  of Fame.
Courtesy of the National Auctioneers Association

Nationally-known auctioneer Chris Pracht of Anderson has run auctions in more than 30 states and three countries over his four-decade career.  His reputation among his peers is such that he was elected to the National Auctioneer’s Association Hall of Fame, one of only four South Carolinians to achieve the honor in the Association’s long history.

More than 75 organizations from across country attend Fort Jackson career fair.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Before a service member transitions out of the military, the Department of Defense requires they complete a pre-separation counseling session. Fort Jackson's Solider For Life Transition Assistance program manager says its the beginning of 12-month period that prepares service members and their family for life outside the military.

Federal Highway Administration

The five major interstate highways that crisscross South Carolina are part of its social and economic lifeblood.  Since 1982, when Ronald Reagan was President, there have been plans for a sixth interstate, I-73 which would run from the North Carolina-South Carolina state line near Bennettsville through the Pee Dee to the tourist Mecca of Myrtle Beach. Over the years there have been a number of proposed routes for the new federal highway, questions about how best to pay for it, and concerns raised by environmental groups.

Flooding from Hurricane Irma near Charleston Harbor
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season comes to a close this week, officially ending November 30.  It was one of the most active and costliest to hit the United States, with 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, six of which were major with winds of 110 milers per hour or more.  With such monster storms as Harvey, Irma and Maria, many are still struggling physically and mentally in the  aftermath.  The Medical University  of South Carolina in Charleston is now researching the impact of those hurricanes on mental health as it develops a new smart phone app.

illustration of a male figure in a Santa who is holding a battery that is "low" on power
3dman_eu [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

Cries of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year” can ring hollow for those afflicted with the phenomenon known as holiday depression.  Psychologist Fred Medway says holidays are so charged with memories that if one experiences, for example, a loss or other unhappy event during the holiday season, it can trigger sad memories in future seasons.   According to University of South Carolina nursing professor Sue Heiney, symptoms of holiday depression can include sleeplessness, change in appetite, sadness and not being able to enjoy anything, even things a person once took pleasur

Tattoos are a growing trend among people from many walks of life in South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Since tattoo parlors became legal in South Carolina in 2006, they have ridden a growing wave of popularity.  No longer the province of sailors or convicts, tattoos are being worn by doctors, ministers, even grandmothers.  Tattoo artist Scot “Spyder” Kudo says the range of tattoo designs is as endless as the imaginations of his clients. 

These Narragansett turkeys are raised by University of South Carolina professor Joe Jones.  Though he keeps his flock small, the quality of the meat is far superior to mass produced turkeys.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

From 9 to 5, Joe Jones of Blythewood is a professor of marine science and environmental science at the University of South Carolina.  After 5, he becomes a farmer, raising sheep, pigs, chickens, and especially Narragansett turkeys, which makes him popular around Thanksgiving.   He and his wife keep their flock small, preferring quality over quantity.  Jones and his wife Amanda talk in this story about the difference between homegrown birds and the corporate, mass-produced turkeys most people consume (hint: price and flavor have a lot to do with the difference).  There are challenges to rais

Poster for "Eight Days a Week."
Apple Corps

The 2017 Ron Howard documentary film “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years” highlights the cultural phenomenon of Beatlemania in the 1960s.  The movie captures America’s excitement as John, Paul, George and Ringo stormed the country at the forefront of the most popular musical revolution of the century, the British Invasion.   

'Gator on Durham Creek, Berkeley County
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Ron Russell has been catching alligators in the Lowcountry for nearly 30 years.  Each fall, people hire him as a guide for the state's public hunt.  But this year, he says gators, especially the big ones, were harder to find.

"We've harvested the heck out of them with all three programs the last 12 years," said Russell.  "I think it's going to start showing up we can't maintain this every year without it actually hurting the population dramatically.  I've already seen the decrease in population just in this area."

Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia commemorated his city's commitment to the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign in May.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since President Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Agreement back in June, redoubled support for the agreement has come from the local level, with mayors from around the nation pledging their cities' support for the Agreement.

This is the way the new Real I.D.s will look when they are available to South Carolinians between the end of the first quarter of 2018 and Oct. 1, 2020.  The gold star in the upper right corner denotes the card as a Real I.D.
Photo courtesy S.C. Dept. of Motor Vehicles

The Real I.D. Act of 2005 was passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to standardize government-issued identifications, like drivers' licenses, for security purposes.  Beginning in 2018, South Carolinians will be able to get a Real I.D., which they must have by Oct. 1, 2020, in order to do activities such as board a commercial airplane, visit a secure federal building or a military post. 

Coral polyps on Molasses Reef, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Brent Deuel [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

People picture coral reefs as bursting with color and teeming with a variety of undersea life, which many are. But their number is shrinking, says College of Charleston biologist Phil Dustan, because they are hyper-sensitive to temperature changes, and climate change is warming the ocean to intolerable levels for many reefs. In his 40-plus years of studying reefs, Dustan said, the Florida Keys, for example, have probably lost 90 to 95 percent of their living coral reefs.

Steve Bannon poses fo rpictures at Citadel Republican Society fundraiser
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Streets were blocked for hours and police appeared ready, high atop Johnson Hagood Stadium as former presidential advisor Steve Bannon arrived in Charleston Friday  to speak at a student fundraiser just off the Citadel campus.  People with several civil rights groups peacefully gathered across the street from the Holliday Alumni Center where inside there was a party and the guest of honor relived the glory days of helping get Donald Trump elected president.

Poet Ray McManus conducts a poetry workshop at a high school in Blythewood.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

University of South Carolina – Sumter English Professor Ray Mcmanus is a poet who can’t sit still. He travels the state conducting workshops in poetry much as a missionary would: But the message he brings to the people – that is, students from elementary to high schools – is that poetry isn’t the exclusive realm of artsy, smart people; it’s accessible to everyone, and it’s already in their lives if they take notice.

Dean Kilpatrick, Ph. D. - Director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, MUSC.
MUSC

Dean Kilpatrick marks a milestone not by looking back, but by building for the future.  He's the director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.  As the center celebrates 40 years, it is also opening the nation's first and only Mass Violence and Victimization Resource Center.

"We will definitely have our hands full as far as coordinating this," said Kilpatrick.  "But we're just very happy to have the opportunity to serve.

SC Attorney General Alan Wilson announced new program to help veterans, active duty military, and members of the reserves.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Attorney General Alan Wilson announced a new program that will help Veterans, active duty military, and members of the reserve get free legal help. The program is called V.A.L.O.R., which stands for Veterans, Active/ Reserve Legal OutReach. Wilson said the program will better connect veterans and members of the military with legal help they need and may not know where to get or may not be able to afford.

50 years ago, Columbia resident Jack Van Loan was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Recently, Van Loan spoke with South Carolina Public Radio about the six years he spent in captivity. Today, the retired Col. of the U.S. Air Force is preparing to serve once again, this time as Grand Marshal in the City of Columbia’s 39th annual Veterans Day Parade.

WATCH: Sights and sounds from the 2016 City of Columbia Veterans Day Parade 

Christina Miles cools chocolate in a mold from her vat of liquid chocolate.  The Columbia chocolatier uses chocolate from Belgium and France to make her own unique candies, and hand-paints them with icing.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Chocolate is one of life's great treats for most folks.  Traditional, mass-produced chocolate candies have been enjoyed for generations, but lately, specialists have been making chocolates in South Carolina.  Columbia chocolatiers Christina Miles and Joseph Vernon have developed their own unique varieties of chocolates. 

Richland County meteorologist Ken Aucoin checks the weather several times daily to give accurate reports to county emergency managers.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Ken Aucoin is up before the sun each morning, preparing a weather forecast for Richland County emergency managers, looking for potential weather threats.  As the county’s meteorologist, he’s the only one in the state in his job, which also includes emergency management and public relations duties.  Aucoin has established a network of weather stations across the county, enabling him to pinpoint storm cells and wind problems to within three to four miles of any location in the county. 

Children and families in South Carolina will have a chance to exchange Halloween candy for toys and send deployed U.S. troops a "sweet" reminder of home this holiday season
Kool Smiles

Children and families in South Carolina will have a chance to exchange Halloween candy for toys and send deployed U.S. troops a "sweet" reminder of home this holiday season during Operation Troop Treats, an annual candy exchange hosted by the local Kool Smiles dental offices in partnership with Operation Gratitude.

Dr. Diane Earle is Managing Dental Director for Kool Smiles, she said Operation Troop Treat was created six years ago to promote healthy dental habits during Halloween.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Richard Rothwell, via Wikimedia Commons

Frankenstein is a classic of fiction, movies, and other media, and also a Halloween staple. The novel has not been out of print in the two centuries since it was published in 1818. USC English Professor Paula Feldman, an authority on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, talks about the real- life tragedies in Shelley's life that caused her to wish she could bring the dead to life again, and the dreams that inspired the writing of the classic book that is regarded as the first science fiction novel.

A nurse instructs students on the use of IV medications.
Photo courtesy University of South Carolina

Nursing has been described as a virtually recession-proof occupation, one that will always be in demand.  Even so, the heads of nursing departments at both the University of South Carolina and Midlands Technical College decry the critical need for bedside nurses, in spite of the fact that their nursing programs are full.   They cite bedside nursing is physically demanding, and added to 12-hour shifts, night and weekend work and new positions in other areas of nursing as reasons for the shortage.

Edgar Allan Poe mural above the fireplace, Poe's Tavern Sullivan's Island, SC.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Whether you're walking down Raven Avenue or biting into a Gold Bug Burger at Poe's Tavern, you are certain to find plenty of Edgar Allan Poe treasure on Sullivan's Island.  The elusive 19th Century writer has direct ties to the island.  But they weren't discovered until decades after his death, even though there are clues in his writings.

"In his own time, Poe essentially covered up the fact that he had been an enlisted man in the Army," said College of Charleston American literature professor Scott Peeples.  "That of course including his being stationed at Fort Moultrie."

South Carolina Focus
SC Public Radio

The curtain surrounding the ongoing probe into alleged Statehouse corruption was raised some this week as special prosecutor David Pascoe alleged for the first time in open court that the powerful Republican political consultant, Richard Quinn, Sr. is at the center of what he called a “sphere of unlawful influence over elected officials." Quinn and four current and former legislators were indicted last week on criminal conspiracy charges.

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Cain sign their wedding certificate before friends at the Columbia Fireflies ball park.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A recent wedding at the home of the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team would seem unusual to most people, but to a group of University of South Carolina students, it’s just part of a class.  The wedding planning class is included in the curriculum of the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management program, and for at least a decade has had the dual advantage of giving students experience in all the details that go into planning a wedding and providing the bride and groom with a free wedding and honeymoon.  The catch?  They must give the students total control over everything.  But s

World War II Veterans A Vanishing Generation

Oct 25, 2017
Families say goodbye to USS Yorktown veterans.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

95 year old Bill Watkinson and 97 year-old Arthur Leach have been coming to the USS Yorktown Reunions just outside of Charleston for decades.  Both were fighter pilots aboard the ship during World War II. But each year, they find fewer of their own.

"It's interesting to see those of us who are still standing and those of us missing," said Watkinson.  "The missing list is getting pretty long.

Lou Alice James is the 200th homeowner to receive assistance from the Midlands Flood Recovery Group. Here, she clings to the one family heirloom that survived the mold, a crystal candlestick.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Early this month, South Carolina reached the 2-year anniversary of the devastating October 2015 rain event, offering a natural opportunity to pause and observe the many tragedies that the widespread flooding wrought, and the many triumphs of recovery that have followed. The Midlands Flood Recovery Group, for its part, celebrated a significant milestone in its flood recovery narrative this month: the 200th home repaired by the group and the gift of a restored home for one resilient flood survivor.

Retired Army Major Miguel Santana stands in front of his home in Columbia. Santana says he is a victim of contractor fraud and it's stalling his flood recovery.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio.

Since 2005, the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) has received over 70,000 complaints from 50 states, 6 territories, and 4 countries involving over 50 natural and man-made disasters. Retired Army Major Miguel Santana says after the October 2015 flood, he became a victim of contractor fraud. His costly mistake is stalling recovery for what was to be his retirement home.

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