Category Archives: news

WILL E-VERIFY CONTINUE TO EXIST?

SOME LEFT WONDERING WHY E-VERIFY STRIPPED FROM STIMULUS BILL

By Vince Jackson

The final version of the federal Economic Stimulus Bill does not contain a provision requiring the use of the E-Verify system in the hiring of employees on federal stimulus projects. The current requirement to verify federal contract employees is due to expire on March 6.

The provision was originally included in the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill, but was deleted from the final reconciliation package before being signed by President Obama this week.

Locally, Pickens County, SC has used E-Verify to screen all new employees, the State of South Carolina uses it for certifying workers of companies that employ over 500 people and participate in state contacts. Last fall, then President Bush extended the requirement that contractors doing business in the federal workplace certify that their employees are legally able to work in this country.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration have partnered to, quickly and without charge, verify the legal status of any worker in the United States, according to the Homeland Security webpage.

Margaret Thompson, an outspoken advocate of the E-Verify system, said “Our leaders are spineless when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws and the protection of the jobs of American workers.”

Thompson said that a group of concerned citizens plans to speak-out at Anderson city and county council meetings in the future about the hiring of illegal workers on public projects, that are paid for with local tax dollars.

“We want our local officials to understand that jobs are being lost because contractors are skirting the law and hiring illegal workers,” Thompson said.

Stuart Sprague, chairman of the Anderson County Democratic Party, said that he was not up to speed on some provisions of the stimulus package and could not comment at this time.

Lee Rogers, chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party, said “I do not understand why E-Verify would be dropped from the stimulus bill. I can only hope that it will continue to be a part of the state and federal job verification process.”

Joe Guzzardi, a consultant for NumbersUSA and former California Democratic gubernatorial candidate,  “It is a very sad realization that our leaders do not have America’s best interests at heart. I work with E-Verify every day and I know that it works. Why would we want illegal workers on our state and federal payrolls being paid with stimulus money?”

John Painter, Pickens County Democratic chairman, said “My hope is that Gov. Sanford will take advantage of the Stimulus Package, because the taxpayers of SC will pay it back no matter what the outcomes.”

It is unclear what the status of Homeland Security’s e-verification process will be or what the effect of not re-authorizing the federal requirement will have on state and local programs.

E-VERIFY IT WORKS

E-VERIFY SYSTEM WORKS, SAY PICKENS COUNTY OFFICIALS

By Vince Jackson

From the Anderson Independent-Mail

Illegal workers face added restrictions to working in South Carolina since a new law went into effect requiring employers to use E-Verify or other federal work authorization programs on January 1.

The law requires all public employers and public contractors employing over 500 people electronically check and verify the employment eligibility of new employees by accessing a federal database.

Last year the Pickens County Council voted to require that all new county employees be documented as legal workers. The county also required all vendors doing business with Pickens County certify that they are not knowingly using illegal workers on any county projects.

Margaret Thompson, a Pickens County resident who supported the law, said information she has received from county officials is that it works.

“Pickens County decided last summer to go beyond the state requirements and immediately require anyone working for and doing business with this county refrain from using illegal workers,” she said.

Jennifer Woods, human resources director for Pickens County, said “E-Verify is phenomenal. I don’t know why anyone would not want to use it. It is free and you can get results in 30 seconds,” she said.

Woods said the verification system only required about 30 minutes of training before she could use the program successfully.

E-Verify can detect document fraud by matching photos of employees to the employee’s picture ID. Social security numbers are matched to employee records to ensure compliance with the law, say state officials.

Currently, only three states, Arizona, South Carolina and Mississippi have laws on the books that require E-Verification.

Newly confirmed Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, has watched the E-Verify system at work in her state for the past year. At her Senate confirmation hearing she said she would work to bring pressure on employers to stop hiring illegal workers, at the federal level, much as has been done in Arizona.

The South Carolina law states that on July 1 of this year all private employers with 100 or more employees must use E-Verify when hiring new employees. By July 1, 2010 all employers, regardless of size, must us the system to verify the legal status of new employees.

Violation of the law can result in a $1,000 fine per violation and revocation of business license.

LIBERTY IDOL RETURNS FOR 2009 SEASON « VINCE JACKSON As I See It

LIBERTY IDOL’S POPULARITY DEMANDS NEW EVENT VENUE

By Vince Jackson

The popular and ever changing Liberty Idol talent contest marks a return to Liberty’s town square beginning in April, along with some important additions.

The Liberty City Council recently approved construction of a new stage and landscape design that will compliment Idol and free-up shopping space on Commerce St, say town officials. Merchants say their businesses have been negatively impacted due to the large crowds attending the yearly event and blocking the street.

The City will spend about $25,000 for a new stage, a circular runway that will allow contestants to interact with the audience and landscaping that will beautify the downtown area, said Liberty Mayor Brian Deese.

Deese said that hospitality funds will be used to pay for the additions and will not generate any expense for taxpayers.

“We are very fortunate to have funds available to make these improvements. This addition is not just for Idol either, it will be used for festivals and other events that are scheduled in Liberty,” he said.

Sue Woods, city clerk, said other changes are in the works. “We plan a lineup of really great judges and some surprise out-of-town guests and performers that will make this an exciting year for Liberty Idol,” she said.

Liberty Idol uses a similar format to the TV show “American Idol.” The audience votes for the best performers each week, winners advance, losers go home. Returning talent must continually improve their act in order to compete for cash awards and the title of Liberty Idol.

“During these economic times it is important for families to have access to quality entertainment that is free of charge and close to home. We feel that Liberty Idol provides that kind of value,” Deese said.

Liberty Idol will run from April 25 to July 18, according to event organizers. For more information about how to enter the Liberty Idol contest go to their website. Proceeds benefit charity. Last year Idol presented a check to the Ronald McDonald House of the Carolinas for $5,000.

Roy Costner will return to MC the contest and that is always good news. He does a terrific job.

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PSYCHICS AND THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD

PSYCHIC READINGS BECOMING POPULAR WITH BUSINESS COMMUNITY

By Vince Jackson

Anymore using tarot cards, crystal balls and palm readings is not out of the realm of the ordinary for white-collar professionals searching for answers to their pressing business questions.

Increasingly, business people are consulting psychics to help in making employment decisions, handling a pending financial crisis or just to confirm their feelings about changing jobs, say many psychics.

National press reports say more and more professional people feel they need an extra edge in making crucial business and personal decisions. Many are using the wisdom of the ages to help them resolve issues and solve problems.

The New York Times reports that psychics are popular with stock traders on the New York Stock Exchange. “When the Treasury Secretary changes his mind weekly…a good set of tarot cards might come in handy,” says The Times.

Jason Profit, a Greenville, SC psychic and paranormalist, says that since the economic downturn occurred many of his advice seekers are “not the folks you would usually think would consult a psychic.”

A recent Gallop Poll found that one out of every two Americans believes in extrasensory perception and that 54% believe in psychic or spiritual healing.

“You would be surprised at the types of people seeking a psychic reading from me. I am talking about doctors, students and other professionals who are looking for an answer,” Profit said.

“If people are looking for stock tips I refer them to a stock broker. If they have mental problems I suggest a therapist. Those areas are not ones where I can help,” he said.

“I offer readings about what I feel is going on with people. I can sense their fears and concerns. My psychic readings offer confirmation of what they may be feeling, although many times I reveal things that people may not want to hear. I try to provide clarity concerning paths that they may choose to follow,” Profit says.

While Profit says that tarot cards, crystal balls and palm readings are ways a psychic has of focusing on the metaphysical realm, they should not automatically be associated with the occult.

“Many people falsely assume that I am in touch with satanic forces or use witchcraft. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I am a born again Christian,” he says.

Profit says it can be hard for the average person to spot a charlatan when it comes to psychic readings.

“Many con artists are attracted to this profession, but so are many good sincere people. I would say, in general, beware of free reading offers when selecting a psychic. If you leave a psychic reading with more questions than answers, that could be a red flag that something is not right. You should receive direct answers to your questions and not need to continually return to a reader for more information,” Profit said.

HARTWELL LAKE IN TROUBLE

SOME SAY INCREASING WATER WOES NOW IN GOD’S HANDS

By Vince Jackson reporting from Anderson

Anyone who drives over Hartwell Lake knows that the water level is going down, not coming back up. If meaningful rainfall does not occur soon, the lake level could fall below the only functioning intake for the Anderson water district early next fall, experts say.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers the current lake level is 639.58 above mean sea level. This is lower than the previous record low of 642.4 feet set in the drought of 1981. By comparison historic winter lake levels average about 657 feet, according to Corps records.

If sufficient rainfall does not occur soon Corps projections indicate that Hartwell Lake could drop to 634 feet by January 1, 2009.

Steve Wilson, manager of the West Anderson Water System says that water cannot be taken from Hartwell through the only remaining submerged intake pipe if water levels recede to 620 feet. At the current rate of water usage that low level would occur late next summer or early fall, Wilson said.

“I would estimate that we have maybe 300 days of available water left in the lake. No one knows for sure. Conservation methods have been successful and have increased the life of the existing water supply, but more needs to be done to insure the continued supply of clean, useable water from the lake,” says Wilson.

City officials in the towns of Central, Clemson and Pendleton say that their citizens are conserving and meeting the 20% reduction levels required by drought management regulations. The question becomes is this sufficient conservation?

Currently, the Corps releases 3600 cubic feet of water per second to supply electrical generation needs and keep federally mandated flows moving downstream, according to the Corps website. Reductions in this amount have been discussed and suggested by SCDHEC and the Georgia Environmental Protection Department along with various water resource and conservation groups in the area.

Virgil Hobbs, Hartwell Project Operations Manager says that the Corps is working on an environmental assessment that could cut releases to 3100 cfs by November 22, 2008. This could mean that approximately 323 million more gallons per day would be retained in the lake through the release reduction, Hobbs said.

“Both Georgia and South Carolina state environmental protection departments have recommended reduction in flow releases to the 3100 cfs rate for the winter of 2009. They are both fully aware of the water crisis situation at Hartwell Lake,” said Hobbs.

“When people notice the generators running at the dam they think that we are only releasing water to provide saleable electricity. Actually, we are currently purchasing power from other generating sources for use in the area we serve. Over the past several years that amounts to about $60 million in off-system power purchases. We continue to generate some power during water releases, but that is because it is the most efficient manner to discharge the water,” said Hobbs.

Lakes Hartwell and Thurmond currently are providing most of what is known as conservation storage for the Upper Savannah River Basin. This is water that is specifically earmarked for use in maintaining downstream flow rates. Hartwell at present has approximately nineteen feet of conservation storage and Thurmond less than three feet. As greater demands are made on Hartwell this storage margin will decrease rapidly, according to Corps projections.

If drought conditions and current Corps water releases continue at present rates areas supplied by the Anderson Regional Joint Water System could possibly run short of water next year, said Wilson. The areas are:

Belton-Honea Path Water Authority

Big Creek Water and Sewage District

Broadway Water and Sewage District

City of Anderson

City of Clemson

Clemson University

Hammond Water District

Homeland Park Water District

Powdersville Water District

Sandy Springs Water District

Starr-Iva Water and Sewer District

Town of Central

Town of Pendleton

Town of Williamston

W. Anderson Water District

Other problems could occur if water shortages persist, says Mac Martin, mayor of the Town of Central.

“I fear we will have budget problems in Central and in other small towns if water usage is compromised. Currently we bring in about $5,000 per month based on projected water and sewer fees in Central. If water is further restricted or unavailable we will see decreases in revenues to the town that cannot easily be made-up during these austere times. Our budget is cut to the bone already,” Martin said.

“Other cities have similar water and sewer fees that account for an incremental amount of total revenues for that city. Most towns are also responsible for capital service charges that they pay to the water district. These costs do not go away just because a town uses less water. Losing revenue shares from water and sewer fees would cause hardships beyond the potential loss of the water itself,” he said.

Wilson says that the only intake from Hartwell Lake that is currently useable is the 36” pipe near Old Pearman Dairy Rd in Anderson. If water levels recede below that intake then auxiliary pumps and pipes would have to be run to deep water areas of the lake to supply the area’s needs. Wilson says this would be an emergency measure that could not sustain the district’s water needs indefinitely.

“We usually draw about 2 inches of water off the lake per month and evaporation can take more than that. During the summer water usage goes up 50% on average. Rain is the only thing that will solve this problem,” he said.

If it does not rain and the lake continues to drop Hobbs says that there is still what is known as the inactive storage. This is that deep water portion of the lake’s resources that could be tapped for water needs in a worst case scenario.

“If we reach that point next year then the states of Georgia and South Carolina would have to agree to access the inactive storage, since this is a shared water resource. Water would become more expensive and we could lose the lake, but water needs could continue to be met for some time with pumps and pipes,” Hobbs said. If we reach this point all releases will have stopped and flow in the Upper Savannah River Basin would be adversely affected. Power generation at the dam would most likely not be possible and economic impacts would occur,” Hobbs said.

“This is uncharted waters, so to speak. We can only hope that God will be looking out for us and provide some much needed rain,” said Hobbs.

ANDERSON,SC MUSEUM LOANED CIVIL WAR RELICS

OVERCAST SKIES GIVE WAY TO BLUE FOR MUSEUM ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Saturday the Anderson County Museum celebrated its 25th anniversary with special Civil War displays, the sound and fury of battle re-enactments and plates of BBQ served to enthusiastic crowds gathered to enjoy the event.

Historic letters from the family of Anderson native Manse Jolly, a regimental flag from the famous Orr Rifles and a ceremonial sword that was presented to Civil War general Gen Barnard E Bee were on display.

The Manse Jolly letters collection was of particular interest to many who were on hand.

Manson Jolly, of Anderson said his great, great grandfather was Manse Jolly’s brother. He said he had seen the letters several times during his life before they were donated to the SC State Museum in Columbia

“I do not think Manse was a bad man. I have gone back and read newspaper accounts of the period and they do not portray him as someone who was a brutal killer. I do not think it can be substantiated that him killed as many people as they think he did,” Jolly said.

“My family’s history indicates that Manse came home from war to a home and crops that had been burned and learned that all five of his brothers had been killed in that war. Northerners were in charge of everything. That sort of thing is bound to work on you and make you a certain way,” he said.

The ceremonial sword that once belonged to Bee is one that was awarded for his valor in the Mexican-American War, where he was wounded in battle. On loan from the SC State Museum, it looked a bit like Excalibur, to some museum goers, the piece being heavily engraved and covered with inlays of silver and brass.

Bee fought in the Civil War and was killed shortly after exclaiming the line that gave General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson his well-known nickname. Bee reportedly said, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall” to rally his troops during fierce fighting during the battle of Bull Run in 1861, according to historians. He is buried at St Paul’s cemetery in Pendleton.

Margaret Herndon and Mildred Thackson were on hand to enjoy the displays and the BBQ. Their friend Dorothy Buice said, “I recommend that everyone come and see the Anderson Museum. It is very much worth the visit.

Reporting from Anderson, Vince Jackson

GUN AT SCHOOL INCIDENT RESULTS IN EXPULSION

ELEMENTARY STUDENT BRINGS PLAY GUN TO SCHOOL

An eight year old third grader brought an unloaded revolver to the Hagood Elementary School in Pickens on Friday morning, according Anna Esuary, director of communication services for the School District of Pickens County.

The child was in the school building unpacking his book bag when he reportedly told a teaching assistant that he had a “play gun” in the bag.

Teachers believing the gun to be real advised Karen Jackson, principal of the school, who subsequently alerted the town of Pickens police.

Police investigation revealed that the gun looked real, but was in fact a collectable replica that is designed to look-like the real thing. The gun was not loaded and no ammunition was found and it was not capable of being fired, according to police. No one was injured and no threats were made, according to Esuary.

Town of Pickens police officer Brad Smith investigated the incident and transported the child to the police department, where he made contact with the child’s grandfather and made arrangements for the grandfather to pick the child up. An official incident report was filed.

The SDPC policy states that they have a “zero tolerance” for guns or weapons of any type being brought to county schools. Esuary said that the unnamed student would be recommended for expulsion. Officials at the Hagood Elementary School said they had been told not to comment on the incident.

A bi-partisan congressional committee for the 106th Congress working on the problems of youth violence has stated that “public policy towards children has moved towards treating them more like adults and in ways that increasingly mimic the adult criminal justice system. The most recent version of this movement is the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ in schools, where theories of punishment that were once directed to adult criminals are now applied to first graders.”

Many school districts in South Carolina and across the nation have adopted zero tolerance as their way to deal with any “weapon” issues that occur in public schools regardless of the circumstances or the age of the child.

Ethan Gray 6, a student at the Ed Babe Gomez Heritage Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska was suspended last month for bringing a family butter knife to school in a book bag. Ethan said he did not know how the knife got in the book bag.

His parents think that Ethan’s younger brother may have put the butter knife there. The school district has a zero tolerance policy and Ethan was suspended. The parents are appealing the ruling, but in the meantime their son is unable to attend school.

Vince Jackson reporting from Pickens, South Carolina

CLEMSON CLASS RING MYSTERY

CLEMSON CLASS RING MAY HOLD SECRET OF BODY’S IDENTITY

During the weekend of September 20th of this year a man and his son were searching the dry lake bed of Smith Mountain Lake in Giles County, VA looking for anything of interest when they found human remains.

The lake, which is featured in the movie “Dirty Dancing,” had not been completely dry in more than 100 years. Timmy and Chris Dalton were enjoying a fall day scavenging for old bottles when they came upon a pair of shoes imbedded in the mud. Closer investigation revealed some old coins, a silver cigarette case, silver belt buckle and a gold signet ring.

They called the local sheriff soon after they found what looked like a piece of a human skull.

From the investigation conducted so far, Giles County sheriff Morgan Millirons said, that the remains could have been in the lake since the 1930’s.

“We want to determine who this person was and how they died,” said the Sheriff.

Forensic experts determined the ring was most likely a South Carolina class ring because of a palm tree that appeared on one side. They contacted the Citadel and Clemson University to verify the information.

Nancy James, research analyst at Clemson University was contacted by Lt. Ron Hamlin of the sheriff’s office and asked to compare university records and photos of the ring to ones on display in the Clemson Alumni Center. The found ring matched rings from the year 1904.

The cigarette case has the monogram “SCF” or “SGF” on the lid in the scrawling script of the period. The shoes were made by a shoe company in New York City.

A check of the graduating class roster for 1904 revealed that Samuel James Farris, Samuel Ira Felder and Strother T Ford were in the 1904 graduating class of the Clemson Agricultural and Mechanical College.

On the sides of the recovered ring are the letters “CA” and “MC” indicating the college. The inside of the ring is engraved with the letters “CDCO”. James has found other Clemson class rings of the era with this engraving. She speculates that it could be a reference to “Company D, Corporal” indicating the cadet corps and rank of the individual.

A university investigation determined that Farris and Ford were alive in 1940 appearing in the alumni record of that year, while Felder was listed as deceased. Felder had been living in New York City. He is also listed in a 1921 alumni magazine as Samuel “J” Felder.

The investigation is ongoing and may take months to complete. How the apparent former Clemson student got in the lake and the cause of his death may never be known and could remain a mystery, according to investigators.

Vince Jackson reporting from Clemson University

EXTENDED WARRANTY SCAMS IN SOUTH CAROLINA

EXTENDED WARRANTY SCAMMERS TARGET SENIOR CITIZENS

Consumers in the Upstate have recently been inundated with requests by telephone and mail to buy un-needed extended automobile warranties, say some car dealers.

Jennifer Duncan, business manager of Leader Ford in Seneca, SC said, “Our customers have brought to my attention that they have been harassed and annoyed by auto warranty phone calls from people who did not adequately identify themselves, exerted heavy pressure to buy warranty contracts and used scare tactics to entice customers into extended warranties that they did not need.”

Duncan is in the process of notifying her customers of the practice and warning them to beware of con artists. She said there is a big difference between original manufacturer’s warranties, dealership extended warranties and the fly-by-night extended warranties offered by some sellers.

“One older gentleman had been frightened to the extent that he gave out his personal information to the scammers, who then set-up a pre-authorized debit from his checking account to bill him monthly for an extended warranty. He had been told that his warranty was about to expire and he would be responsible for all repairs himself. This was not true. His vehicle was fairly new and was still under the manufacture’s warranty at the time.”

Vin Ridgeway, business manager at Clinkscale’s Chevrolet in Belton, SC said, “When times get tough it seems to bring out the scam artists. The presentation some of these individuals can give is very convincing. Some even misrepresent themselves as the manufacturer or the dealership. My advice to consumers is to verify everything. Ask who is the underwriter of these extended warranty programs? With our dealership it is the manufacturer or our authorized agent. With some of the independent warranties there is not really anyone backing up the warranty. It is all paper. If there is ever any doubt who you are dealing with, call the dealership you bought the car from and ask if it is their extended warranty program.”

Individuals selling questionable extended warranties find it easy to get the names, addresses and phone numbers from state transaction and tax records.

“It is public information and they can tap into it without any difficulty,” said Ridgeway.

An internet search of “auto extended warranty scams” reveals that the problem is rampant and seems to be centered around St Louis, MO. Missouri attorney general Jay Nixon announced earlier this year that he filed lawsuits against numerous companies that he says mislead or pressured car owners across the country into buying extended warranties that they did not need.

The St Louis based companies sent out official looking postcards with captions such as “Final Notice of Interruption” and “Important Dated Material Concerning Your Warranty” that appear to be from the dealership or the manufacturer. These are sometimes followed-up with phone calls or emails advising that warranties will expire unless high-cost extensions are purchased immediately. Caveat emptor, buyer beware, is the best policy when faced with any high pressure sales tactics, say the experts.

South Carolina attorney general Henry McMaster’s office has set-up a toll free number especially for reporting fraud aimed at seniors. Call Fraud Protection For Seniors at 888-878-3256 to report suspicious phone calls and mailings.

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-922-1594 is another agency that can help with consumer fraud and offer advice to anyone who has been scammed.

Vince Jackson, reporting from Anderson, SC

If you have been victimized by an extended warranty scam please post a comment. vj