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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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, it is estimated that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer-related deaths. As part of Radon Action Month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) is providing free kits for residents to test their homes for the invisible, odorless, tasteless gas.

Faces of past U. S. Presidents carved into Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.
Aline Dassel/Pixabay

Comedian Jay Leno and others have long pointed out many Americans’ inability to identify people they should know, whether they be politicians, celebrities or historical icons. According to University of South Carolina historians Lauren Sklaroff and Kent Germany, attitudes are changing about whether there should be a certain set of people or information that all Americans should know.

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.

BMX Supercross is a rapidly expanding sport that few have facilities for.  Rock Hill is one of those few, and reaps economic benefits because of it.
Wendy Waddle

Rock Hill was a big textile town in the 1970s.  But when that industry started to go away, the city began to look for ways to diversify and to revitalize its economy.  It found the answer in amateur sports.  Beginning with baseball and softball, the city has built facilities that have attracted teams from across the country and around the world for sports such as lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling and more. 

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

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

Hurricane Matthew brought considerable damage and devastation across the east coast, but it’s hard to find a town affected more than Nichols, South Carolina. A month after the storm, debris was piled up so high along the roads that it was like driving through a tunnel. Today, nearly three months after the storm hit, most of that debris is gone, but the damage can still be seen. Every house has damage and there’s not a single citizen in sight. The town feels empty, but it’s not abandoned. If you find someone to talk to, there’s a smile on their face.

An information packet from USC's 2016 Economic Outlook Conference.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Construction means progress for South Carolina’s economy.  Experts speaking at the University of South Carolina’s annual Economic Outlook Conference in December made their forecasts for how the state’s economy should shape up in the new year.  According to research economist Joseph Von Nessen, the trends will include a leveling off of economic growth (after several years of steady increase, so it’s not a bad thing), a tighter labor market (which is good for job seekers), and a strong housing demand.   

A member of the Greatest Generation Columbia's Moffatt Burriss recalls his World War II experiences.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  Moffatt Burris of Columbia is one of the heroes who helped save the world from tyranny during World War II. He fought to liberate Sicily and at Anzio to free Italy. But perhaps his most memorable exploits came as a paratrooper who participated in Operation Market Garden, a failed attempt to hasten the end of the war with a massive jump into Holland.

  Shooting incidents around the country have not left South Carolina untouched.  The Emanuel AME Church shooting demonstrated that the Palmetto State is not immune to such violence.  To help citizens become more aware of what to do  and how to protect themselves in such a situation, law enforcement agencies are offering active shooter training to groups across the state.  We talk today to representatives of the Richland and Lexington County Sheriff’s Departments, who offer advice that could save lives in the event of an active shooter attack.

As recruits train at Fort Jackson, their weapons stand at the ready.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

As the army’s largest basic training post, Fort Jackson is a vital part of the nation’s defense. Today’s story looks at the approaching centennial of the fort, begun in 1917 in response to the need to train soldiers for World War I. Historians Henry Howe and Fritz Hamer comment on the fort’s beginnings as Camp Jackson, how it was built and its impact on the Midlands economy, as well as its prospects for the future.

  Local theater is found both in quantity and quality throughout South Carolina. Today we hear from representatives of two of them: Columbia’s Town Theater is the oldest continually operating community theater in America, and will turn 100 in 2019. It specializes in musicals, but presents other known plays as well. Across town, Trustus Theater employs professionals to bring audiences new productions that sometimes “push the envelope.” These and many other theaters across the state help their cities both economically, drawing tourism, and, of course, enrich them culturally as well.

Scam detector Frank Abagnale with the medallions he has received from organizations he has coached or helped to prevent or detect fraud.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

     Charleston resident Frank Abagnale has helped the FBI and numerous government agencies and corporations detect and stop fraud for more than 40 years. His expertise in the field comes largely from the fact that between the ages of 16 to 21, Abagnale was himself a scam artist and check forger, whose international exploits are recounted in his book “Catch Me if you Can,” and a major motion picture of the same name.

Josh Floyd / SC Public Radio

It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew devastated cities across the east coast. In Lumberton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town hit especially hard by the storm, people are still seeking relief aid. Many families are still displaced from their homes, but many more are starting the steps to rebuild. That’s where the Robeson Church and Community Center comes in. Outside the building, a line of people await any help they can get. Inside, the center and the Red Cross have joined forces to offer any help they can give.

Illumineer worker installs Christmas lights on home of Columbia flood victim
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Nonprofits working in the Midlands of South Carolina are hoping Christmas lights will shine focus on flood recovery. They also hope charitable giving will boost donations during the gift-giving season. 14 months after the flood, South Carolina Public Radio talks with two homeowners, celebrating the holidays on opposite sides of recovery.

A Lot to Celebrate This Christmas

A committee of The South Carolina House of Representatives has been at work attempting to revamp the state’s outdated tax code,  the collection of laws and regulations that prescribe how the state collects tax revenues.  This year that's expected to be over $7 Billion.

Arthur Erskine of West Columbia and friend.
Lauren Rivers

Most men don’t frequent beauty parlors, but Arthur “Cotton” Erskine of West Columbia visits his every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas to prepare his hair and long beard for a role he’s portrayed for years: Santa Claus.  “Santa Cotton,” as he is known, becomes the Jolly Old Elf for events such as Christmas parades, private photo sessions and store appearances, sometimes with as many as six appointments a day.  He is “Ho Ho” to his grandchildren, and here he discusses the fun of  dealing with children, and the unusual requests they sometimes have of Santa.  Erskine’s hairdresser and the co

Holiday depression is a real phenomenon for some South Carolinians.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

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 pleasu

Cherryvale Community Center
Josh Floyd/SC Public Radio

On an overcast day in Sumter County, there’s a community center with a huge RV parked outside.  FEMA is stenciled across the front of the vehicle and wires hanging out the back are snaking their way inside.  The RV provides internet and phone service to the Cherryvale Community Center ,where FEMA has set up their short term Mobile Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). It’s one of the last recovery center’s open in the state before Hurricane Matthew flood victims can no longer apply for FEMA grants or low-interest loans.

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (right) with Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, S.C. Adjutant General.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

It’s expected to be early 2017 when Gov. Nikki Haley becomes the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster becomes Governor.  However the developments are already impacting the 2018 elections.

Soldiers from Fort Jackson lead City of Columbia’s Veterans Day Parade. Over the past two years, the area has seen a 14% decline in homelessness. According to the United Way, Veterans typically make up 15-17% of that population.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

The October 2015 flood created new cases of homelessness in the Midlands of South Carolina. But despite that increase, the United Way of the Midlands has been able to shrink the number of homeless cases. This accomplishment, in part, is because of a national program called Built For Zero.

Built for Zero is coordinated by Community Solutions, the national effort supports participants in developing real time data on homelessness, optimizing local housing resources, tracking progress against monthly goals, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800 ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. Smoke rolling out amidships shows where the most extensive damage occurred. Note the two men in the superstructure.
Library of Congress/U.S. Navy, Office of Public Relations, Washington.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 brought the United States into World War II.  The Commander in Chief of the U.S. Fleet, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, was blamed for the defeat, demoted for dereliction of duty and forced into retirement, along with his army counterpart, Gen. Walter Short.  In 1944, the first of 10 investigations and hearings into the Pearl Harbor defeat effectively exonerated Kimmel, but his rank was not restored because the war was on.   

The world's hottest pepper- the Carolina Reaper, grown in Fort Mill.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Many people distinguish themselves in the worlds of sports, entertainment, writing and other endeavors.  Ed Currie of Fort Mill has distinguished himself in a much hotter manner:  he holds the Guinness world record for the hottest pepper on earth, his self-developed Carolina Reaper.  He grows many varieties of peppers for the food industry, but it’s the Reaper that makes some hot-sauce aficionados rethink how tough they are.  In addition to setting people’s insides on fire, however, Currie says the pepper has other uses in the paint, medical and defense industries.

Grace Beahm/Post and Courier via Pool

Jurors in Charleston, South Carolina will continue deliberating Wednesday morning in the trial of former police officer Michael Slager. He is charged with murder for shooting Walter Scott last year. Bystander cell-phone video of the officer repeatedly shooting him in the back as he ran away shocked a country still trying to come to terms with other instances of police using deadly force against black men. This tape was a key piece of evidence used by both the prosecution and defense.  

A roller derby match pits the Columbia Quade Squad All Stars against a team visiting from Tampa.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

  Half party, half combat. That’s roller derby, a growing sport in South Carolina. Though most teams are women, there are some men’s teams and even juniors teams. In this report we talk to Dell Corley, coach of the Richland County Regulators, as well as two married players. Kelly Wuest of the Columbia Quad Squad All Stars, inspired her husband Mike to join the Carolina Wreckingballs when he saw how much fun she was having. All three, however, say a more important part of the sport than winning is the family-like relationship that links the players.

Each of these silver spoons has a story to tell, and Dawn Corley knows them all.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Dawn Corley of Charleston began collecting silver as a child under the tutelage of her great aunt.  As her collection grew, so did her expertise, until SCETV’s Beryl Dakers dubbed her the “Charleston Silver Lady,” a nickname which has stuck over the years.  Corley has presented programs on silver for U.S.

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

  Many people are fearful of a Zika virus epidemic because of the publicity the virus has received.  But South Carolina law enforcement officers are fighting a much-less-publicized epidemic – the growth of heroin addiction.  This problem, however, is largely rampant among middle class users, according to Frank Shaheen, director of the Recovering Professional Program.  

Living area inside new manufactured home
South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office

In less than one month, almost 800 individual cases for South Carolina’s  October 2015 Storm Recovery Program have been started.  The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) manages the program and is very close to placing some storm victims in new homes.

StoryCorps: White House Correspondents

Nov 23, 2016
StoryCorps

At StoryCorps recording booths across the country, friends and loved ones interview each other about their lives. Here Susanne Schafer and her husband Charles Bierbauer speak about their careers as journalists and their time as White House correspondents during the Reagan administration. A pioneer in her field, in 1989 Susanne Schafer became the first female Associated Press correspondent covering the Pentagon.

StoryCorps will be recording in Columbia from November 17 to December 19.

SCETV President and CEO Linda O'Bryon talks with two of StoryCorps facilitators outside the MobileBooth in Columbia.
Tabitha Safdi/SCETV

StoryCorps' mobile recording booth opened to story tellers in Columbia, SC, on October 18th, beginning its one-month stay. Columbia Mayor Stephen BenjaminSCETV's President and CEO Linda O'Bryon, and StoryCorps MobileBooth Manager Stacey Todd spoke to a crowd near Edventure near the SC State Museum.

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