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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Judge closes Roof competency hearing to the public

Nov 16, 2016

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel ordered the competency hearing for Dylann Roof will be closed to the public. The 22-year-old white man is facing 33 federal counts, including hate crime charges, for the murders of nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. 

Philip Habermehl of the U.S Geological Survey measures streamflow in the Reedy River south of Greenville, SC.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

For the Piedmont section of South Carolina, the hot, dry summer has become the warm and even drier fall.  Much of the Upstate is in a prolonged drought.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, counties in the northwestern area of the state are actually in a severe or extreme drought brought on by almost no appreciable rain, and above average temperature for months.

Counselors from Carolina United have worked  with thousands of flood victims in the past year, including this one in Eastover, S.C.
Courtesy Carolina United, SC Dept. of Mental Health

More than a year after South Carolina’s historic flood, crisis counselors from the state Department of Mental Health’s Carolina United program continue to find and help flood victims.  But hearing the woes of thousands of victims over a long period can have detrimental effects on the counselors as well, sometimes producing stress or depression. 

Poster for "Eight Days a Week."
Apple Corps

The recent 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.   

Inside the Marion County Administrative Office.
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

At the end of a busy strip mall, a line is weaving out the door. The Marion County Administrative Office is home to "Team South Carolina" -- a one-day event striving to connect local flood victims with recovery services. More than ten agencies, government and non-profit are organized at the back offering forms, brochures, and advice. Many here are from Nichols, one of the hardest hit towns by the flood that followed Hurricane Matthew. For most, it's the first step towards long-term recovery.  Cooper McKim has the story.

Slager Trial Day 1: Opening Statments and Testimony

Nov 8, 2016
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and Defense Attorney Andy Savage face the jury during opening statements.
Grace Beahm/Post and Courier

In opening statements at the murder trail of former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager today, attorneys described the shooting death of a 50-year-old black man last year in South Carolina two different ways in opening statements. A former North Charleston police officer is on trial for that man’s murder after he was filmed on cell phone video shooting the motorist as he ran from a traffic stop. 

As society becomes more dependent on technology, from smart phones to driver-less cars, the need for security has grown, and not just for financial institutions. The University of South Carolina and Gov. Nikki Haley recently announced the formation of SC Cyber, a coalition of educators, industry and government designed to protect information and anticipate the problems posed by new uses of technology.

Watchmaker Todd Waites works with tiny parts to get big results in repairing watches at Wristwatch Doc in  Cayce, SC, near Columbia.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

With competition from cell phones and an attitude of replace-not-repair toward many items, watch repair has become a rarer trade.  There are now fewer watchmakers (or repairers, to us general public types) in the United States than ever before.  Cayce watchmaker John Gawronski says that makes for a greater demand, and his staff is always busy.  He is sought out because not only does he have the skill, but also millions of rare watch parts gathered by buying out retiring watchmakers or jewelers.  There are opportunities for younger watchmakers if they’re willing to work, says Gawronski, and

Jury Chosen in Slager Murder Trial

Nov 7, 2016
Circuit Judge Clifton Newman has been appointed from his regular post in Williamsburg County to preside over the trial.
Grace Beahm/Post and Courier

A jury has been chosen in the case of a former South Carolina cop charged with murder.  

The jury panel has one black man, six white males and five white females. Those 12 will decide whether ex-cop Michael Slager, who is white, murdered 50-year-old Walter Scott, who is black. Slager fired repeatedly at Scott as he ran away following a traffic stop. The April 2015 shooting was captured on cell phone video. Slager was fired from the North Charleston Police Department.

It took attorneys three days to choose the final jury.

Peanuts fill tractor trailer containers at PeeDee Peanut buying station in Marion County
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

In September of this year, farmers across the state, who suffered losses during the October 2015 flood and who were approved for the Farm Aid Grant, started receiving checks in the mail. But less than a month later, some of those same farmers were once again assessing damage to their farms, this time from Hurricane Matthew.  South Carolina Public Radio’s Thelisha Eaddy reports on how back-to-back natural disasters are impacting local farmers.

Despite the good economy, South Carolina state lawmakers are already bracing for difficult budget debates when the legislature convenes in January.  While damage estimates from Hurricane Matthew are still being developed, the storm will definitely impact next year’s state budget.  Last year’s (2015) historic flooding cost the state around $200 Million.

Mobile Intake Center Schedule For January 2017

Nov 2, 2016

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office (SCDRO) mobile intake centers accept individual applications for housing recovery related to the October 2015 storm. The mobile offices serve three counties a day for one week. Intake Centers alternate locations each week to reach citizens around the state more effectively.

RELATED CONTENT: Intake Deadline Nears for 2015 Flood Recovery

File Photo
warrenksi/Flickr

South Carolina’s voting machines were purchased in 2004.  For electronics, that’s old.  Computer technology advances quickly and needs replacing frequently.  Nevertheless, S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire and USC Computer Science Professor Duncan Buell believe that with caution, the state’s machines may get through this fall’s election with few problems. 

Not leaving a will is considered the biggest "sin" of estate planning.  Even an online form, not the best of ideas, is better than no will at all.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Perhaps as much as 50 to 60 percent of South Carolinians do not have will.  According to attorney Bert Brannon, a will is a person’s last chance to say what he or she wants to happen to his/her possessions, so it should be taken seriously.  Brannon and Richland County Probate Judge Amy McCullough name some reasons why people put off making a will, and why not leaving a will is a really bad idea.  While It has no effect on the deceased at all, it can cause untold distress and trouble for those left behind.

The dam (foreground) of Lexington's Old Mill Pond gave way during the flood of October 2015, leaving an empty pond behind it and destruction in front.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Broken dams across the state made last year’s historic floods in South Carolina even worse.  In Lexington, three dams burst, washing debris through the city and flooding U.S. Highway 1.  The city is now seeking to reconstruct the old dams to be more resilient. Tut Underwood has the story.

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.

Seven-Foot translucent fabric woven by Susan Lenz
Cooper McKim/SC Public Radio

When the flood hit South Carolina in October of last year, Cindi Boiter felt helpless to the devastation around her. Talking with her artist friends, she realized they had an itch to respond to the storm somehow. An idea came to her: an art exhibition on the anniversary of the flood. "You can record data, say how much water we had, but there are sensations of experiencing this that there are almost not words for," says Boiter. Cooper McKim reports.

"Islands of Light," Maxwell Hills, Duncan Park Lake, 293 West Park Drive. Lights On – 6:30 p.m.
Stephen Stinson

The city of Spartanburg has unveiled a public art project with the help of a $1 million grant from the Bloomberg philanthropies public art challenge.

Nine light art projects by award-winning light and digital media artist Erwin Redl serve as the catalyst to bring the Spartanburg Police Department and community groups together to use art projects to promote community safety.

Spartanburg is one of just four cities out of some 240 that competed to be awarded the $1 Million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015. 

Greenville County Lets The Floodplains Flood

Oct 20, 2016
Cooper McKim

The light brown wooden wall cabinets, drawers, stove and oven in the kitchen at the Greenville County building are hand-me-downs. The kitchen supplies came from homes the county bought and then demolished.

“If we bought a house and there is something in there that we paid for that can be used and recycled then let's do it.” Assistant County Administrator Paula Gucker said. “Because then I don't have to go out and buy cabinets or countertops.”

South Carolina state agencies, local governments and non-profit organizations in 18 counties are now eligible through FEMA to recoup costs associated with infrastructure damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.

These ladies have the responsibility of judging baked goods at the South Carolina State Fair, and they take their work seriously.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Eating cupcakes, pies, cakes, and cookies is a pleasure for most folks, but for judges at the South Carolina State Fair, it’s also a responsibility.  Judges Laurie Aker and Mae Wells say because baking contestants work hard to prepare their entries, they should also be diligent in evaluating each entry to get the fairest (no pun intended) and most accurate result in determining winners.  Here they give their criteria for judging food, and for a judge’s qualifications.      Aker lists some common mistakes made by some cooks, and judge supervisor Brenda Turner tells what impresses her in a ba

Author Pat Conroy in 2013, talking with students about their entries in USC’s annual high school writing contest.
Courtesy Aida Rogers, USC Honors College.

The University of South Carolina’s honors college sponsors a writing contest each year to encourage students to write, and to get readers for these talented young people, according to college Dean Steve Lynn, who originated the program.  The incentives to enter are several.  Not only does it award cash prizes, but the best writings are gathered together each year in a book published by USC Press to give permanent exposure to young writers.   In addition, the judges are high-profile, nationally known writers. 

Residents in Marion and Orangeburg counties who were impacted by Hurricane Matthew are now eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual Assistance program. 

Survivors who sustained losses in these two designated counties can apply for federal assistance by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362

Members of the Forest Acres Community gather at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Columbia for an Interfaith Service of Remembrance.
Laura Hunsberger

On the anniversary of last October's historic floods, the sanctuary of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church was full of people gathered for an interfaith service of remembrance. Leaders from 10 churches and synagogues took part, offering prayers, songs, and words of encouragement. The event honored First Responders from Forest Acres, Richland County, and the City of Columbia, along with community members touched by the disaster. South Carolina Public Radio’s Laura Hunsberger has the story.

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Pee Dee area residents, particularly those in hard-hit counties such as Marion, Marlboro, Dillon and Florence, should not wade or play in floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Haley Thursday afternoon press conference
Russ McKinney / SC Public Radio

In her fourth press conference since Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley said more counties could be included in the Emergency Declaration recently declared by President Obama. The Governor and her team also gave updates on fatalities; road and bridge conditions; shelters; power outages and more.

Residents of Nichols being evacuated by boat
Courtesy of Courtney Wilds (Nichols Resident)

Many South Carolinians may not have heard of the town of Nichols prior to Gov. Nikki Haley's October 10th press conference. The small town is in Marion County and has a population of about 400.  Those watching that update, learned that more than half of the town's residents were rescued from the third floor of the town hall. Nichols was flooded from rising waters from the neighboring Lumber River. South Carolina Public Radio's Thelisha Eaddy talks with a resident about how he and his family were taken to higher ground.

One SC Fund Expands to Help Hurricane Matthew Victims

Oct 13, 2016
Thelisha Eaddy / SC Public Radio

The One SC Fund was created after the October 2015 rain event and flood and has distributed $2 million dollars to nonprofits to help residents rebuild and recovery from that historic event. Governor Haley said the fund will now expand to help victims of Hurricane Matthew.

“What we’ve found very, very helpful was we started the One SC Fund last year, and what that did was allowed neighbors to help neighbors, businesses who wanted to contribute to the state to help those in need,” Haley said.

The South Carolina Emergency Division advises residents who are continuing to recover from Hurricane Matthew to call 2-1-1 for any assistance, if their needs for food, clothing and shelter are not being met. Callers will be connected to local relief supplies where available.

As recovery efforts begin, local governments and state agencies continue assessment of damages caused by Hurricane Matthew.

In response to Governor Nikki Haley’s request, President Barack Obama declared a major disaster exists in the State of South Carolina and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in 13 counties most severely affected by Hurricane Matthew.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Program helps reimburse local governments, state agencies, eligible private non-profit organizations and electric co-operatives for certain expenses they have incurred. Federal disaster aid is not available for individual residents at this time.

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