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.

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Focus Group in Columbia Brings Partners in Flood Recovery Together

Jul 7, 2017
Participants in the focus group held at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Columbia brainstorm how to reach volunteers for the ongoing flood recovery efforts.
Laura Hunsberger / South Carolina Public Radio

At St. Mark United Methodist Church in Columbia, organizations and state agencies met for a focus group last month to share their systems for finding volunteers to work in the ongoing disaster recovery. Bryant Archie was one of the participants in the focus group. As an AmeriCorps Volunteer, he serves as a Client Services Coordinator for SBP, one of the disaster relief organizations at work in the state. Archie says he wanted to get involved with disaster recovery because for him, the 2015 floods hit very close to home.

From space, a hurricane can appear as a beautiful cloud pattern. (Photo of Hurricane Isabel)
Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center, via Wikimedia Commons

The National Hurricane Center has predicted between 11 and 17 named tropical storms for this year, with 5 to 9 becoming hurricanes and 2 to 4 becoming major hurricanes of category 3 or above.  Meteorologist Mark Malsick of the State Climatology Office says the main thing storms need to get bigger and stronger is warm, shallow water.  

Tens of thousands of purple martins return to Bomb Island at dusk.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Purple martins have roosted on Bomb Island in Lake Murray every summer for decades to prepare for their annual migration to South America. Numbering at least in the tens of thousands, if not more, the birds gather at dusk in great clouds around the island as they return from a day’s hunting for beetles, dragonflies and other high-flying insects.  To naturalist Rudy Mancke, the birds are a wonder of nature. More than that, people have gathered around the island in boats each summer for years, and the phenomenon of this huge mass of birds has become a tourist attraction.

Close-up of gas nozzle refueling car.
Andreas [CC0 1.0] via Pixabay

As drivers in the state gas-up for the Fourth of July holiday, they’ll find the lowest gas prices in the nation.  Six cents lower than at this time last year according to AAA motor club.

That’s good news for South Carolina motorists because the state tax on gas goes up two cents a gallon on July 1st.  It’s the first of two cent per gallon tax hikes we’ll see for the next six years to pay for millions of dollars to improve state roads which were again this week described as the deadliest in the nation.

Hundreds of Williamsburg County seniors during Senior Market Day in Kingstree to receive vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables from certified farmers.
Haley Kellner & Makayla Gay/ SC Public Radio

The deadline is fast- approaching for a health center in Williamsburg County to collect information from survivors of the October 2015 flood. Hope Health and the American Red Cross are looking for people in the area who are experiencing specific complications from mold. The information they collect will help residents get the medical care they need and potentially lead to more resources to help them fully recover the historic event.

When the deadline for the survey passes, many flood victims would have been living with mold for more than one year and eight months.

Industrial robots on an automobile assembly line.
ISAPUT [CC BY-SA 4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 Automation has been increasing in the Palmetto State’s factories for a long time, bringing with it fears of job losses for people whose jobs are vulnerable to being replaced by machines.  But Roger Varin of Staubli Robotics, which makes robots for industry, says jobs are changing, but not necessarily vanishing.  In fact, he asserts, automation creates jobs in some areas.  Peter Brews, dean of USC’s Moore School of Business, agreed.  He said what must happen to assure employment in the future is that workers must have better education and training to fill the more technically-oriented jobs

Troubles caused by the historic flood of October 2015 were accompanied by one tiny bright spot: the flood temporarily refilled the state's groundwater supplies, which had been in decline through years of drought since the 1990s.
Courtesy of Nichols resident Courtney Wilds

For many who experienced the destruction of South Carolina’s October 2015 flood, it’s perhaps difficult to imagine that the state was plagued by a drought prior to the historic rain event. Despite the monumental devastation wrought by the flood, hydrologists who study the state’s aquifers, or the state’s usable groundwater resources, have observed a faint silver lining.

SC Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer stand on stage speaking into a microphone, welcoming the crowd.
Haley Kellner/SC Public Radio

On Saturday, June 10, a bustling crowd of Beaufort County homeowners and their families assembled under a tent outside the Home Depot in Bluffton for the city’s second annual Storm Ready Expo. Hosted by the South Carolina Department of Insurance, the Expo was intended to encourage inclement weather preparedness at the beginning of hurricane season, which began June 1 and continues through the end of November.

Evacuation Route image
DHEC

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal hurricane season with 11 to 17 named storms. Five to nine of those STORMS could potentially become hurricanes. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, less than 200 people used the state’s special medial-needs shelters. Officials with the state’s department of health and environmental control, (DHEC) are now working to learn more about the medical needs of coastal residents to better help them prepare for the next major storm.

Dr. Hossein Haj-Hariri, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina.
USC College of Engineering and Computing

Technology Giant Siemens Corporation announced recently a technology grant worth nearly $630 million to the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing. Officials say the grant provides computers, robotics, and software licensing as well as hardware to develop a “digital factory innovation lab” where students will model and test systems they may work on in the future. USC President Harris Pastides says students will graduate prepared for the high-tech jobs in the worldwide economy.

Artist Peter Lenzo with a collection of his sculpture at his home in Columbia, SC.
Makayla Gay / South Carolina Public Radio

South Carolina artist Peter Lenzo creates masterful sculpture that has gained the attention of collectors from across the country. His work draws inspiration from the traditionally African American art of face jugs and is currently on display at Columbia's If Art Gallery.

Charleston Forum Commemorates the Emanuel 9

Jun 20, 2017
A panel discussion at the Charleston Forum on Race on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Tara Spurling Photography

On the night before the second Anniversary of the June 15, 2015 mass shooting that took the lives of nine worshippers at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, Reverend Eric Manning led the opening prayer at the Charleston Forum on Race. The forum is part of a series of events this month to commemorate the Emanuel 9 and to honor those who survived. In addition to remembering those who died, panel members discussed issues brought to greater attention because of the tragedy. South Carolina Public Radio's Laura Hunsberger has more on the story.

Laura Wright of Saluda (right), just turned 111 years old.  Her "baby sister," Annie Belle Chappelle, is 96.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Laura Wright of Saluda recently celebrated her 111th birthday.  Friends and relatives, including her 96-year-old "baby sister," gathered to pay tribute to her long and well-lived life.  A teacher for decades, Wright said her parents prepared and encouraged her and her siblings to get an education and contribute to society.   Her friend Costena Kelly cited "Miss Laura" as a role model, saying "She always said 'be a lady.

Joseph Rackers and Marina Lomazov
Courtesy of the Artists

This week an internationally-acclaimed music event takes place in Columbia: The Southeastern Piano Festival, created and produced by University of South Carolina music professors Joseph Rackers and Marina Lomazov.  Though its name sounds regional, in reality it draws high school applicants and world-class judge/performers from all across the United States and beyond.  The producers tell us how they conceived the festival 15 years ago, and what attracts the finest applicants to vie for the 20 spots that the competition accepts.

Jesse Colin Young still tours and records music, but a half-century after the Summer of Love, he's still proud of the Youngbloods anthem of peace, "Get Together."
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

June 1967 heralded the Summer of Love, when tens of thousands of America’s young people headed to San Francisco with flowers in their hair. The Monterrey Pop Festival was the first major rock event of its kind, and brought wider attention to emerging artists such as The Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with its electrifying singer, Janis Joplin. USC historian Lauren Sklaroff says San Francisco had long been a place where people who felt like outsiders could gather with others like themselves.

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 a 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.

Aerial view of the Charleston, S.C. area, Oct. 5, 2015.
U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will conduct a survey in June and July to assess the medical needs and emergency preparedness plans of coastal county residents. 

"The goal of this survey is to determine just how well-prepared people are for emergencies and to provide information to develop or enhance their individual emergency plans," said Jamie Blair, Deputy Director of the DHEC Office of Public Health Preparedness. "By knowing on the front end if residents in an area may require special attention we are more aptly prepared to serve."

Last month, Richland County began accepting applications for the Returning Home program, which will use funds from the CDBGR-DR (Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery) to assist residents who lost their homes in the 2015 Floods. The county is accepting applications through June 15 (or until they receive 600 applications). To assist residents in completing the application, four community meetings are scheduled in June.

Fire Ants
Marufish via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

    Fire ants are a perennial problem in the South, and in South Carolina, but science is working to control them.  Aiken County Clemson Extension Agent Vicki Bertagnalli and former Richland County Clemson Extension Agent Tim Davis both have tested ant baits before they were marketed, and say they can be 85-90 percent effective in controlling fire ants when used in the spring and fall. 

Drummer Paul Riddle
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

  

  Paul Riddle helped put Spartanburg on the musical map as the drummer for the original Marshall Tucker Band. Today he teaches drums in Greenville and can’t believe his good fortune that he’s able to work with young people while playing the drums all day. In this segment, the nationally esteemed musician recounts stories of the Tucker Band, and a longtime (20 years!) student and a fellow teacher comment on his remarkable skills and his commitment to music.

Columbia Moves Closer to 100% Renewable Energy

May 31, 2017
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is one of 26 mayors to particpiate in the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is one of over 60 mayors across the U.S. who has joined with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign. The goal is to get 100 cities to switch from fossil fuel to clean energy. During a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Benjamin said decisions made by President Trump highlights the need for local governments to work together on environmental policy making.

"It only underscores the importance of the true leadership at every level of government, pushing to make sure that we hand over to our children the country and the world that they deserve."

Megan Scharett, a new high school graduate from the Lowcountry, looks forward to a career in the food industry.  She has apprenticed with a prestigious restaurant in Charleston and taken many college courses at Trident Technical College through the Youth
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

Today's job market is changing rapidly, and whether the field is health care, advanced manufacturing or information technology, there are high paying jobs for trained workers with a two-year associate’s degree from one of South Carolina's technical colleges. The Youth Apprenticeship Program at the state’s tech colleges acts as a "middleman" between businesses needing trained workers and students looking for meaningful careers. But not just college students.

Jovial Joe Pinner has been a familiar face, and voice, in South Carolina broadcasting for more than a half century.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Joe Pinner has been a fixture on South Carolina television since 1963. He's known from one end of South Carolina to the other - and beyond, not only as a weatherman and familiar children’s show host "Mr. Knozit" for 37 years, but as a commercial spokesman and emcee at scores of parades and festivals statewide. Today Pinner, who still pitches in at WIS-TV on Fridays at age 80-something, talks about his beginnings in radio, how he developed his familiar, booming voice, and the origins of the Knozit show.

Dancer Bill T. Jones, one of the performers in David Michalek's moving-image installation Slow Dancing, which will be shown May 27 through June 8 nightly from 9:00pm to 11:00pm in Marion Square, Downtown Charleston.
Spoleto Fesitval USA

Nigel Redden, General Director of the Spoleto Festival USA, talks with Jeanette Guinn about the extraordinary range of offerings for 2017. 

Anita Singleton-Prather at SC Public Radio Studio
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

 Several sites in Beaufort County are now a part of the National Park Service. These sites include Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church (within the Penn School National Historic Landmark District); the Camp Saxton Site, on U.S. Navy property in Port Royal; and The Old Beaufort Firehouse  located in the midst of downtown Beaufort.

Memorial Day weekend, visitors to the Annual Original Gullah Festival in Beaufort, will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of these places.

The first historic home to be given city approval to elevate to meet flood requirements sits near Colonial Lake in downtown Charleston.
Alexandra Olgin/SC Public Radio

Jack Margolies is somewhat of a pioneer in Charleston historic preservation circles. He is the first to get approval to elevate his 1859 two-story yellow home to meet flood requirements.

“Basically they’re going to jack it up," he said. "They’ll put rods underneath house and all the rods will be synchronized to go up certain height at same time.”

Margolies got the go ahead by the Board of Architectural Review– a body that ok’s any changes to historic homes. This is the second time he has tried to get approval to elevate his home. Margolies believes this year he had the right circumstances because much of his home was destroyed during a fire and the place required major construction. 

Under the approved elevation proposal he will be raising his home about two more feet which includes altering the red brick steps and iron banister that lead to his Charleston style southern facing piazza. But he’s is careful to explain that the entrance will look straight out of the 19th century.

“An expert could come by and could possibly notice the difference. But the average tourist walking by the average Charlestonian wouldn’t notice any difference.”

Lexington Rep. Rick Quinn, (R) talking with news reporters at the Richland County Courthouse in Columbia
Jim Covington/SC Public Radio

For the past three years a special state prosecutor has been methodically conducting a corruption probe involving members of the S.C. General Assembly. To date, four sitting legislators have been indicted. The indictments so far involve violations of state ethics laws, and the reporting of income and campaign contributions. Some say these laws are so weak that they allow lawmakers to skirt them and use their offices for personal financial gain.

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.

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