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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The new Four Paws Animal Clinic recently opened a few blocks from its former location after more than two years of operations in a temporary building while it recovered from the 2015 flood and sought the right place for its new home.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

For some, the so-called “thousand-year rain” and the floods that followed it in October 2015 may seem an event long past, but many are still recovering from the storm’s devastation.  For some businesses in Richland County, the after effects of the floods continue to pose particular difficulties. Take the Four Paws Animal Clinic, which was forced to operate out of a temporary location for more than two years after the flood, when the business' original building bordering Gills Creek was ruined.

Beth Drake, United States Attorney, with officials from SLED, SC Departent of Corrections, and the FBI.
Laura Hunsberger

The United States Attorney's Office announced the arrest of fourteen employees of South Carolina correctional facilities who are now facing Federal charges to bribery and bringing contraband in the state’s prisons. U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, Beth Drake, says the charges resulted from an investigation that has been ongoing for years.

The Williamsburg Regional Hospital's building in Kingstree was irreparably damaged during the 2015 floods.
Laura Hunsberger

For more than a year, the Williamsburg Regional Hospital has been serving patients from a temporary facility located right next to their old building. The hospital was damaged beyond repair during the thousand-year floods. Eventually, the hospital determined that they had to move out of the old building.

North Inlet - Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Aerial view of meandering tidal creeks and extensive pristine marshes in North Inlet Estuary. Vicinity of Georgetown, South Carolina.
NOAA Photo Library/Flickr

Earth Day is held each April to remind people of the importance of caring for our world, according to USC Environmental Health Sciences Professor Joe Jones.  He practices what he preaches, as he regularly takes his students outdoors to pick up trash that has washed into a campus creek from Columbia’s Five Points area, where many students eat and drink.  He tells them that if trash could wash from one part of town to another, it could also get into the Congaree River and thus to the coast, and, ultimately, wash up on the shores of other countries. 

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.

Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

You know it’s spring in Charleston when the cars are thick with yellow pollen, as well as  a colorful array of out of state license plates.  Porta- Potties line the streets, novice runners sport bright, new shoes and college kids seeking sun and warmth stretch out behind the beach dunes.  Typically, the signs appear in April, alongside two annual events; the Cooper River Bridge Run and the Volvo Car Open.

At State Education Department in Columbia, Superintendent Molly Spearman announces state of emergency in Williamsburg County School District.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman declared a state of emergency in the Williamsburg County School District and will now take over day-to-day operations. During a press conference in Columbia, Spearman cited financial mismanagement, systemic programmatic issues, and poor student academic performance for her decision.

Raised house at 42 Rutledge Avenue back on a new foundation.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

How do you raise a large, historic home?  Better yet, how do you put it back down?  Should such an old  home be raised at all?  All are tough questions in a city that until recently had never lifted one before.

“There’s a lot of head scratching going on,” said long-time contractor Gary Walters.  He’s been working on a massive home at 42 Rutledge Avenue in Charleston, S.C. since last fall.  That’s when  its owner, Jack Margolies, finally got approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review to raise the 1859 structure.

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

76 years ago (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. 

 The cost of raising a child to the age of 17 has been estimated to be about $234,000.  But that figure can easily quadruple for children with special needs.  Donald Bailey knows.  He is a special needs advocate and author whose grown son has autism.   He urges families with special needs members to make a plan for caring for that individual because, as it did with him, the question will eventually come around: what will happen when mom and dad (or other family) are no longer around to care for him/her? 

James and Tammy Blackwell take a picture of a box containing the names of all South Carolinians who died during the Vietnam War.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

The last American troops withdrew from South Vietnam in 1975. On March 29, the 50th anniversary of this historic event coincided with the first National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Vietnam War Veterans Day is a new holiday, established when President Trump signed the Vietnam War Recognition Act of 2017. Veterans and supporters across the country gathered to remember their sacrifices and also to finally hear the words "thank you for your service."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Kingstree, SC, May 8, 1966.
Moving Image Research Collections, University of South Carolina

On July 30, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in South Carolina. He had tea at Septima Clark’s house in Charleston and later that day spoke at a meeting at the old county hall building on King Street. It would be his last visit to the Palmetto state. Nine months later, King was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. 

Jnn 13 [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

"The Star Spangled Banner" is one of the most familiar songs in the United States, and rightly so, since our national anthem is sung or played at so many events, particularly sporting events.  And with so many ball games and other events, there are many opportunities for people to sing or play the anthem.  Each spring, the Columbia Fireflies minor league baseball team holds auditions for people to have a chance to share their musical talents with the public at a Fireflies game during the season.  This week we talk with  - and listen to – a few of the musicians who tried out for the 60-some

Thousands of cells phones are smuggled into South Carolina prisons every year.   Many are confiscated, but the ones which aren't are being used to plan crimes from inside prison walls.
SC Dept of Corrections

Thousands of cell phones are smuggled into South Carolina’s prisons, and those of other states, each year.  This is probably the worst kind of contraband to be smuggled in, say officials, because they are being used to continue some convicts’ careers of crime from behind prison walls.  Murders, drug deals and all kinds of scams are planned and executed from within prisons with these phones, says state Dept. of Corrections Director Brian Stirling.  

Charleston Book Club Gives Veterans a Voice

Mar 29, 2018
Members of Charleston book club for veterans meet at downtown Charleston County Library
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

It’s a Saturday morning and a small group meets at the downtown Charleston County Library, their thick books cracked open to the same page of “The Illiad”, an epic poem recounting the final weeks of the Trojan War.  It’s intense reading for 10 a.m.  But the ancient story resonates with the young soldiers at the long table.  It’s part of their book club for veterans.

“He was going to leave town without going to hunt her down and say goodbye,” said the group’s facilitator Kate Hudson.  “Why would he do that?”  There’s silence.   Then, former Marine Lee Gonzalez weighs in.

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office provides home repairs and replacements to victims of the 2015 floods and Hurricane Matthew.
SCDRO

For the past few years, we've brought you a lot of stories about recovery from the 2015 floods and Hurricane Matthew. Many people across the state might be wondering "isn't this recovery taking a long time?" As JR Sanderson, Program Director for the South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office, explains, the answer is yes—and no. 

This house on Hassel Street in Charleston got a makeover for the popular PBS program "This Old House."
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

The popular series "This Old House" has been a fixture on PBS  since 1980.  It has filmed in many locations across the country, and now it has come to South Carolina.  The show recently shot the renovation of a classic single-wide home in Charleston for broadcast beginning this week.  (The series also features the renovation of a second house.)

A law making its way through the state legislature would require the method of executing death row criminals to default to the electric chair in cases where lethal drugs are unavailable to the state.
Photo courtesy S.C. Department of Corrections.

South Carolina has two methods of executing condemned criminals:  lethal injection and electrocution.  But because convicted prisoners are allowed to choose between them, almost all will choose lethal injection (the last electrocution in the state was in 2008).  This presents a problem, according to Brian Stirling, director of the state Department of Corrections.  The state has run out of the drugs used for lethal injections, and the manufacturers refuse to sell the state more for fear of backlash, because the state has no law to shield the companies’ names from public disclosure.  Thus, i

The landscape of Sesquicentennial State Park was permanently altered by the floods of 2015. Pictured here is standing water that remains from the event.
Olivia Aldridge/SC Public Radio

Between the autumns of 2015 and 2017, 47 of South Carolina’s state parks experienced temporary closures due to damages sustained during severe weather events, including the Floods of 2015, Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma and the Pinnacle Mountain Wildfire at Table Rock State Park. February marked an important milestone: for the first time since the fall of 2015, every affected park was reopened.

According to Clemson University biologist Peter Adler, two thirds of the approximately 60 mosquito species in South Carolina don't bite humans.  This Aisian Tiger mosquito, however, does.
James Gathany, US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Mosquitos are among nature’s biggest pests.  Their bites itch, they’re annoying and they can carry diseases.  But surprisingly, says Clemson professor Peter Adler, of the approximately 60 mosquito species that inhabit South Carolina, two-thirds of them DON’T bite humans.  Some are adapted to reptiles, others to birds, and some don’t feed on blood at all.  Of those that do, different things about people attract them:  size, the amount of carbon dioxide they produce, even blood type!  (Type A, you’re lucky.  You’re their least favorite.  Type O, sorry about that.  They love you.)

Emily Hughes cuddles with one of the  two-to-three dozen friendly felines to be found at the cat cafe in West Columbia.  She finds hanging out with the animals a stress reliever when she can't get home to Eastover to see her own pets.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Cats are beloved pets by millions, but many people can’t have them because they live where pets aren’t allowed or are subject to other restrictions. However, over the last decade,  a national phenomenon has sprung up to help cat-less cat lovers get their feline fixes: the cat café.  Andres Ortega has opened a cat café in West Columbia, and there are similar cafes in Greenville and Charleston. 

Poison Center operator Kelly Funderburg, a former emergency room nurse, answers a call and looks up information to advise the caller about a potential toxin.
Tut Underwood/ SC Public Radio

A child has drunk sweet-smelling shampoo.  A senior has taken his wife’s prescription by mistake.   A person comes to the emergency room after taking multiple medications at 3 in the morning.  What to do?  The Palmetto Poison Center is on-call 24/7 to help with cases from parents’ worries to questions from doctors unfamiliar with the effects of varying drugs taken together. 

Charleston Chief Resilience Officer Mark Wilbert at the Battery.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

Mark Wilbert has been the man the city of Charleston has turned to in case of emergencies.  He helped people prepare for Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.   He was there after 9 parishioners at Mother Emanuel were killed.   Last August, he planned for a crowd of thousands in town for the solar eclipse.  Now the former city Emergency Management Director has a new job.  He's Charleston's first ever Chief Resilience officer.

A three-left cluster is an easy way to spot poison ivy.  Naturalist Rudy Mancke said other plants have three-leaf clusters as well, but if you encounter such a plant, the wisest course is to leave it alone.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

Poison ivy is a common plant in South Carolina that can make people miserable for weeks.  Naturalist Rudy Mancke said the vine can both grow on the ground and can climb trees, which it likes to do.  The itch and rash poison ivy (and its cousins, poison oak and the rarer poison sumac) produces can last for two to four weeks, according to University of South Carolina allergist Dr. David Amrol.  He says it sometimes can be tricky to detect the rash’s source, because it doesn’t show up for at least 12 hours, and sometimes four or five days. 

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.  

USC's Maxcy College is home to students of many nations.  The International House builds lifelong bridges of friendship and understanding, and prepares many American and foreign students for international careers.
Photo courtesy International House, University of S.C.

The halls of the University of South Carolina’s Maxcy College reflect the voices not only of many students, but of many languages.  Maxcy houses the University’s International House, a living-learning experience for approximately 200 American and international students.  The students derive many benefits from life in International House, from culinary and cultural events to speakers and grant and research opportunities.  Faculty principle Dr.

The inside of David Jones' practice balls are ribbed to give them strength.  The two halves are fused together by friction.
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

David Jones and his son Brantley are baseball fans.  Brantley played as a youngster, and was so enthusiastic about batting practice that his older brother, who didn’t like the game, was forced by circumstance to invent a pitching machine so he wouldn’t have to pitch to his brother for hours every day.  That machine, created as a school science project when he was only 11, and Brantley just 9, became the foundation for a business. 

Former Slave Honored at James Island's Pinckney Park

Feb 27, 2018
Friends and family unveil marker honoring Simeon Pinckney on James Island.
Victoria Hansen/SC Public Radio

James Island's Pinckney Park, with its colorful playground, iconic oak tree  and tire swing, is less than a  year old.  But its history goes back 150 years.  That's when a former slave bought the property just outside of Charleston.   It's still  thick with palms and pines that back up to a tributary of Parrot Creek.  His  name was Simeon Pinckney. 

"Most of the stories  that my mother told of him was him straightening someone out for not doing the right thing," said Jerome Harris.  He is the great- great grandson of Simeon Pinckney. 

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. 

Hurricane Katrina, August 28, 2005.
NOAA

Back in January, a diverse group of Midlands community members congregated at the United Way of the Midlands. Among the 20 or so assembled guests were lawyers, businesspeople, nonprofit staffers, and a vet. What they held in common was their shared action after a terrible natural disaster 12 years ago, when Hurricane Katrina battered the gulf coast.

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