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 is can be heard at various times throughout the week during our news program on all South Carolina Public Radio stations.

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Imperial storm troopers have become instantly recognizable "bad guys" in the wake of the phenomenal success of the Star Wars films.
Pixabay/gromit15

With indelible characters such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo and R2D2, George Lucas’s “Star Wars” hit theaters on May 25, 1977, and the world of pop culture would never be the same.  The phenomenal success of the film has created an industry that includes books, toys, clothing and much more, in addition to a series of monster hit movies.  Looking back on the movie’s beginnings in this report, “Star Wars” aficionado Aaron Nicewonger relates how initial doubt about the film’s chances for success allowed Lucas to retain a large percent of the merchandising for the film, making him

The mandolin is a central of many Bluegrass groups. (Mandolin player with the Jeff Austin Band, on stage at the 80/35 music festival in Des Moines, July, 2016.)
Max Goldberg via Flickr [CC BY 2.0}

Bluegrass music has always been popular in South Carolina, but Willie Wells thinks it’s about to break out to a new, mass popularity.  Every Friday night, Wells holds a bluegrass jam at his store, Bill’s Music Shop and Pickin’ Parlor.  Fans and musicians enjoy a performance before getting out their guitars, banjos and fiddles to play country, gospel and bluegrass tunes with each other. 

This full-scale replica of Christopher Columbus ship the Nina serves, with its partner, the Pinta, as a floating museum and classroom, as it proved to students and tourists on a recent weeklong stop in Charleston.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Christopher Columbus's historic voyages have come alive through full-size replicas of two of his famous ships, the Nina and the Pinta, which sail the east coast and internal river systems of the United States as floating museums.  On a  recent visit to Charleston, school classes and tourists got a feel for what life would be like on such a ship, called a caravel, on a trans-oceanic voyage.  Romantic, yes.

Parking Outside Richland County Administration Building May 15.
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Day two of intakes for Richland County’s homeowner flood recovery program brought in almost half the number of registrations that county will accept. Around Midday Tuesday, the county had accepted ‘just shy of 300” registrations, that’s according to Public Information Coordinator Natasha Lemon.

The county was expecting a large influx of residents on day one of intakes. South Carolina Public Radio spoke with the County’s long-term disaster recovery director Mike King at Noon; he said there was more of a steady stream.

photo of an old college campus in spring
David Mark, via Pixabay [CC0 1.0]

High schools all over the state graduate students at this time of year. But this time next year, Charleston County will begin graduating some students with a high school diploma and a college associate’s degree at the same time. Following a national trend already begun in other counties, Charleston has approved an “early college” program beginning this fall. According to Charleston County School District official Kim Wilson, the program will start with a class of 100 this fall and add 100 more each fall for the next three years.

Josh Floyd

On May 8th and 9th, the Columbia Metropolitan Airport housed a two day training exercise to test emergency preparedness and response. The event was organized by the South Carolina Forestry Commission with the National Disaster Medical System. The exercise involved a mock disaster which would require people to be flown in for distribution to area medical facilities for further treatment. After facing two consecutive years of natural disasters, the 1,000-year flood in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, it’s important for South Carolina to be prepared for whatever event might come next.

Sumter Fire Department Reopens Flooded Training Facility
Sumter Fire Dept. Facebook Page

It's been 19 Months since the October 2015 flood. During this time, the Sumter Fire Department has held classroom training exercises in a portable acquired from the local school district. The classrooms in the department's training facility took on over 20 inches of water and sustained $500,000 in damages. The department recently celebrated the reopening of the facility. Battalion Chief Joey Duggan said it's a mixture of old and new that will better serve the area.

"O" is for Opportunity Schools. Dr. Wil Lou Gray, the state supervisor in adult education, created a boarding school for young people who could not attend public school or who had not gone further than the fifth grade. The school opened in August 1921 at the Tamassee DAR School in Oconee County to offer educational opportunities for undereducated young white women. For a decade the school operated during August on the campuses of Anderson, Erskine, Clemson, and Lander colleges. By 1931 it was co-educational and in 1936 the Opportunity School for Negroes opened at Vorhees.

The horn section of the band at Lee Correctional Institution.  Musicians work on original songs to perform with members of DeCoda, a New York-based chamber music group.   The annual week of collaboration is something new for everyone involved.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville counts numerous musicians among its inmates.  Such is their talent that they have attracted the attention of DeCoda, a New York-based chamber music group.  For four years now, the prison has sponsored a program with the group in which DeCoda comes to work with the prisoners at Lee for a week to write and play music for an annual performance.

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be seen along a roughly 70-mile wide path through South Carolina from the Upstate through Greenville and Columbia to Charleston.
NASA/Hinode/XRT, via Wikimedia Commons

This summer’s total solar eclipse is a rare event for the Palmetto State.  Normally a total eclipse doesn’t return to the same spot for close to 400 years, but this will be the second in only 47 years for the folks in Sumter and the surrounding area.  Hap Griffin remembers seeing the last eclipse as an 11-year-old on March 7, 1970.  He said he still recalls how "blown away" he was in the backyard of a friend.   Nearby, the Rev. Joel Osborne climbed a forest tower to take in the awesome celestial  event, and it was a push along his spiritual journey, he said.

Residents affected by the historic October 2015 floods are encouraged to attend one of six public meetings Richland County will hold May 1 - May 11. Residents will receive information about housing rehabilitation and mobile home replacement assistance during this series of community meetings, which are being held in advance of the registration intake process scheduled to begin May 15. Click here for more information and a list of meetings.

Elder law attorneys try to meet with their senior clients regarding services such as wills and powers of attorney before they are needed, so the clients' wishes are carried out without confusion when the need arises.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

May is Elder Law Month, which seeks to increase awareness of a relatively new area of legal practice.   Elder law came into being in the last 20 to 30 years to help senior citizens, and more recently, people with special needs, regardless of age.  Elder law attorney Lauren Wasson says the specialty often helps older people navigate the hurdles to qualify for Medicaid or VA benefits, but it also frequently involves services to seniors and their families such as wills, powers of attorney and guardianship/conservatorship.  Her colleague, Andy Atkins, also warns of the biggest legal problem fac

White-hat hackers keep up with the latest tricks of cyber criminals to help them fight these "black hats" and protect the information of businesses.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Hacking, whether it’s into a bank, insurance company or an individual’s records, is a serious, and growing crime in the 21st century.  The damages inflicted by hackers in the United States alone can reach into the billions of dollars annually.

Two portable buildings, previously used as office space, are being used as classrooms for Harmony School's preschool and kindergarten program.
Laura Hunsberger

As the end of the 2016-17 school year approaches, South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger visited Harmony School in Forest Acres to find out how they are doing, now more than a year and a half after damage from the historic floods closed their preschool building.

Chef Kristian Niemi and other top chefs will prepare a four-course meal to help support Veteran farmers
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

A national organization working to mobilize veterans to become successful farmers is getting support from some of South Carolina’s top veteran chefs.  Chef and army veteran, Kristian Niemi talks with South Carolina Public Radio about the first annual Operation Harvest and how it will help veterans transition from protecting America, while in service, to feeding America from the farm.

Officials with the state’s Forestry Commission, Forestry Association, Commerce Dept. and other agencies planted a Loblolly pine tree on the eastern grounds of the state house.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

The South Carolina Forestry Commission announced the industry has $21 Billion dollar impact on the state’s economy. Speaking during a press conference on the State House grounds, agency director Gene Kodama said the figure exceeds the "20-by-15 Project" goals set by the Commission, the Forestry Association of SC and other partners of the project.

"It was designed to help the forestry industry recover as quickly as possible from a recession that was just getting started," Kodama said.

Solar eclipse - November 13, 2012.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will cover a 70- mile-wide strip of South Carolina from Greenville through Columbia to Charleston. University of South Carolina Astronomy Professor Steve Rodney is already making plans for the event. The last few days have seen the sun in the same place in the sky it will be on Aug. 21, so Rodney and his students can prepare well for the once-in-a lifetime event in the Midlands. They’ve located where the sun will be to make sure there will be no obstructions, and he’s got students scouting the best locations on campus for eclipse watching.

Robert Zander's West Columbia home was heavily damaged by the historic rains that produced the flood of October 2015.  With help from a nonprofit disaster relief agency.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

The flood of October 2015 damaged homes it didn’t even enter, as West Columbia resident Robert Zander discovered the hard way. The historically heavy rains soaked the ground in his yard, causing a large tree to fall through his roof. Rain waters soaked the interior and rotted sheetrock all over the house. After a frustrating six months dealing with FEMA, Zander was about to give up when Hearts and Hands, a non-profit disaster recovery agency, showed up. Together with its partners in Brethren Disaster Ministries, repairs were made, even exceeding Zander’s expectations.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of the USS Hornet (CV-8) chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, leader of the Army Air Forces attack group. This group of fliers carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire.
U.S. Navy

75 years ago, on April 18 1942, 80 brave men did what had never been attempted: they flew army bombers off a U.S. aircraft carrier on their way to bomb Tokyo.  The attack, which has become known to history as the Doolittle Raid, was America’s first strike back at Japan after the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II.  In this report, Mount Pleasant author James Scott talks about the significance of the raid to the war, and its great psychological effect both on the American and Japanese publics. 

(April 21, 1972) Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., Lunar Module pilot of the Apollo 16 mission, is photographed collecting lunar samples at Station no. 1 during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity at the Descartes landing site.
NASA

On April 16, 1972, with the deafening blast of a Saturn V rocket, the Apollo 16 mission carried three Americans to the moon.   Five days later, Charles M. Duke Jr. of Lancaster, South Carolina became the 10th man of only 12 in history to walk on the surface of the moon.   In this report Duke, a retired Air Force general, talks about his historic mission, including the difficulties of landing and the advances in science made because of the space program, as well as his role as communications liason on the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first men on the moon.  

Golf club next to golf ball.
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Golf is an economic juggernaut for the South Carolina, accounting for a $3 billion economic impact on the state.  A large part of that will be felt in one week; the week between the Master’s and the Heritage golf tournaments.  Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Dept.

Tim Tebow at a Columbia Fireflies press conference.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has taken on a new challenge: breaking into baseball at age 29.  Signed to the New York Mets organization, Tebow has begun working his way through the minor league ranks beginning in South Carolina’s capital city.  Tebow has been assigned to the single A Columbia Fireflies, and the fans have turned out in large numbers.  Hopes are not only that Tebow will be an asset on the field, but the Fireflies’ president and a University of South Carolina sports management professor predict he will have a positive economic impact on the team a

During a 2016 town hall meeting, Williamsburg County residents learn about the state's flood recovery program. Officials report the program is on track to help 1500 households.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

When the state’s 2015 flood recovery program was created, Program Director, retired Army Col. J.R. Sanderson knew $96 million dollars was not going to be enough money to recovery every resident who would have remaining unmet needs. SC Public Radio spoke with Col. Sanderson about how the new program is helping residents in 22 counties and what options will be left to those who the program cannot help.

“We’re at a point now in the program where I think we can show some substantial growth,” Col. Sanderson said. “I would say that right now, we feel good about where we’re at.”

From left to right: Suzanne Snyder, Stacy Massard, Carmen Bowie
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

Eighteen months after the devastating flood in October of 2015, three women from Columbia and Lexington are still not home. Stacy Massard, Carmen Bowie, and Suzanne Snyder continue struggling in the aftermath of the storm. They agree friends and family just don't get it; they're grateful for the bond between fellow flood victims.

Residents in Nichols, SC being rescued after Hurricane Matthew.
Courtesy of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) will hold four town hall meetings this week to present the Hurricane Matthew action plan and obtain public feedback.

Much like the office's 2015 Storm recovery program, the Hurricane Matthew recovery program is designed to serve as many citizens as possible while concentrating on meeting the needs of the least resilient citizens. Based on public response, SCDRO may add or revise portions of the action plan before submitting it to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Charleston School of Law student Tyler Gilliam rehearses his tax argument with Prof. Kristin Gutting as his partner Anna Boning looks on.  Gutting coached the students to the school's sixth consecutive tax moot court national championship.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

For a law student, winning a national moot court championship is like winning the Super Bowl.  And Charleston School of Law students recently did it an astounding six times in a row.  Teams of students argue cases in front of judges to simulate situations in a real courtroom – in this case,  it was tax law, though other disciplines of law have their own moot courts.  This year’s winners, Anna Boning and Tyler Gilliam,  have the distinction of being the first team to repeat the feat, and win the competition for the second time. 

This drone is ready to fly.  Drones have many applications ,but the law hasn't caught up with some of them yet.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Drones are becoming more and more common, with possibly a million or more sold in 2015.  As recreation, they’ve been used as an extension of the traditional model airplane.  Newer uses in business, government and other enterprises have seen them used for traffic monitoring, inspecting farm crops and even collecting information from whale spray.  In this report, law professor Bryant Smith talks about legal concerns brought about by the use of drones, and oceanographer George Voulgaris and graduate student Doug Cahl discuss the drone’s role in various areas of research.

Mug shot of Roof taken by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, June 18, 2015
WP:NFCC#4

22-year old Dylann Roof will plead guilty to state murder charges during an April 10th hearing. This comes several months after a federal court sentenced the self-proclaimed white supremacist to death. A guilty plea means Roof has agreed to a mandatory life sentence without parole. The sentence would only take effect if the federal sentence fell through which is highly unlikely. 

Roof was convicted in January on thirty-three federal charges including hate crimes and the use of a gun to commit a violent crime.  

Aiken County cotton farmer Carl Brown overlooks one of his fields.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

American consumers buy nearly 20 billion new items of clothing a year, many of them made of Southern cotton, but 98 percent made overseas.  A University of South Carolina professor wondered about the journey of cotton from South Carolina to China and back. Laura Kissel says she learned a lot about the cotton-to-cloth-to-clothing process while making a documentary film about the people who grow the cotton and make the garments.  

Aiken County farmer Carl Brown discusses the changes in cotton farming over the course of his career. 

USC Law School's Pro Bono program provides student volunteers for legal services throughout South Carolina.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

It’s tax season, and many people are working with tax preparers.  But some preparers are giving away their services for free to elderly or low income clients.  They’re tax law students in the Pro Bono program at the University of South Carolina School of Law.  The Pro Bono program provides volunteer services to many causes year round: clerks for pro bono lawyers, research, wills and other areas of the law. 

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