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on a line in rural Allendale, S.C., evoke childhood memories of stiff, sweet-smelling laundry typical in days gone by. But with most people having drying machines in their homes these days, having clothes dry on lines may be a representation of something else -- poverty. Andy Brack writes below how South Carolina is now considered the third poorest state. Photo by Michael Kaynard, Kaynard Photography.

Issue 5.31 | Monday, June 3, 2013
Help folks again in Oklahoma
American Red Cross
| Salvation Army

FOCUS Testing needed for DUI machines
BRACK Ford left his mark on state
SENIORS On VA pensions
GOOD NEWS Summer reading, Juneteenth
FEEDBACK Good article on Drum Island
BROADUS Passionate
THE LIST Cool summer projects
QUOTE A present every day
CALENDAR This week ... and next

Independent testing needed for S.C.'s DUI breathalyzers
Special to Charleston Currents

EDITOR'S NOTE: Charleston criminal defense lawyer Tim Kulp is a former FBI agent, Charleston prosecutor and assistant solicitor. In private practice since 1986, he is one of four nationally board-certified specialists in criminal trial advocacy in S.C.

JUNE 3, 2013 -- As the nation grapples with a proposal by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration to lower the "inference level" (not legal limit), of driving under the influence (DUI) alcohol impairment from 0.08 of 1 percent to 0.05 percent, consider the increased need for independent scrutiny of South Carolina's breath testing machine, the National Patent DMT Datamaster.


Whether the inference level is 0.05, 0.08, 0.10 as it used to be or 0.15 as it once was, the critical consideration is how that hundredth of a percent measurement is obtained. In support of this position, please consider the following, which you may not know.

  • There is no independent testing of this machine.

  • The software producing a breath alcohol result has never been independently tested.

  • The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) will not allow the manufacturer to sell a "South Carolina" machine to anyone outside law enforcement for independent testing with results of that testing being subject to peer review.

  • These machines no longer produce "error codes." Rather, SLED opted for the description of "status codes." What sounds better? Anyway, note that there is no analysis to determine how tests proximate to these failures are effected. Want to see a sample of the error codes that SLED asserts "that a machine is working properly?" Click here.

Surely when these machines fail, and need repair, they are sent back to the manufacturer? Nope. All repairs are made either in the field or at SLED headquarters in Columbia.

Surely detailed records of the maintenance and repair of these machines are kept by SLED? Nope. Field notes are destroyed when an "Inspection Report" is prepared. Usually, those reports are one-liners. "This was a routine inspection." Sometimes, the reports are more detailed. With an apparent appreciation of Orwellian "newspeak," a more detailed inspection report reflects, frequently: "Voltages were checked and/or adjusted." Which? I get more detail from a car shop oil change the results of which are not used as evidence in criminal trials as are breath test results. Want to see an inspection report? This is the extent of the records folks. Click here. (Please scroll down to the voltages checked or not message.)

Surely, there is an explanation for these phenomena. Analysis of more than 500,000 South Carolina breath tests since 1991 by Maryland law professor Thomas Workman reveals a mystery. While breath values are reported frequently to three decimal places, from 0.000 to 0.400, no one has ever blown the following numbers over half a million tests: 0.149, 0.129 or 0.109. Why not? Also, how can a man come in and blow a 0.177 and shortly thereafter, another person come in and blow exactly the same reading?

Surely, no one testifies in court that these machines "never fail" and that if they do, shut "themselves down?" Sorry, but it happens. (Of course, we all know that computers never fail.)

"Now and certainly before any inference level is lowered to five-hundredths of 1 percent, it is well past time to shine light on how these numbers are derived-through independent examination and testing somewhere besides Broad River Road in Columbia.

"Why in the world not?"

How about calibration? The breath test machine doesn't know a 0.08 from a pound of sugar. It has to be "told" what an "0.08" is. This is called calibration. Problem is, SLED sets its own "policies." SLED's policy regarding calibration again makes me think of George Orwell. One of the machines at the Charleston County Jail hasn't been calibrated in more than 21 months. Click here to see for yourself.

"A failed calibration check does not necessarily require recalibration, but repeated failed calibration checks may require an inspection, repair, and/or recalibration." Are you beginning to think some oversight is warranted?

Nope. Not in court. The simulator test is the test run just before you blow. The simulator solution is a jar filled with grain alcohol and distilled water, but not all the way. A paddle keeps it stirred up. A heater keeps it at 34 degrees C. +/- 0.2 (The 0.2 is the limit the solution manufacturer sets. SLED "policy" extends this parameter to +/- 0.5). A 0.08 doesn't have to be a .08 for the machine. A simulator test result between 0.076 and 0.084 is a 0.08.

But what kind of breath level margin of error is a human allowed? If a person blows a 0.08, is it ok to consider that a 0.076 or a 0.084? Nope. That doesn't apply to a person tested.

What a minute. If the breath machine is a computer, that means it must use software to operate. And if the machine never fails, surely SLED and the manufacturer would let that software be independently tested, so long as no trade secrets were revealed? Nope. Numerous requests have been made for the software source code and documentation that testing software engineers require for testing and analysis.

SLED says ask the manufacturer. Click here. The manufacturer says SLED doesn't want us to release it, even if our trade secrets are protected.

Folks, humans aren't machines. Even NHTSA recognizes the variability of human breath and has openly admitted that humans make "poor test subjects" to use to approve machines to be used on humans.

Now and certainly before any inference level is lowered to five-hundredths of 1 percent, it is well past time to shine light on how these numbers are derived-through independent examination and testing somewhere besides Broad River Road in Columbia.

Why in the world not?

You can reach Kulp at KulpLaw.com.


S.C. Senate won't be same without Robert Ford
By ANDY BRACK, editor and publisher

JUNE 3, 2013 -- South Carolina won't be the same without Robert Ford in the state Senate.

In an age of tea party clones and liberal drones, Ford cut a different kind of swath through the Statehouse before he abruptly resigned Friday morning as his Senate colleagues mulled eight ethics charges for using campaign money for personal expenses.

As a state senator sometimes dressed in bright blue or ochre suits, Ford was flamboyant, mercurial and insistent. A longtime Democrat, he occasionally bucked the party -- endorsing school vouchers, for example -- but bucked the whole system just as often, if not more.

First elected to Charleston City Council in 1974 and then to the state Senate in 1992, Ford was a key player in the late 1990s, along with his Republican friend Glenn McConnell, in working on a compromise to remove the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse dome, although critics have complained the banner is more prominent today in front of the Statehouse. He backed a long-overdue African-American monument that's now on the grounds of the capitol.


Ford advocated for casino-style gambling. He supported Confederate-themed license plates, saying that denying heritage to whites would divide races more. Ford opposed a tourism boycott of the Palmetto State over the Confederate flag still flying on Statehouse grounds, noting that there were more important issues at hand.

He pushed, cajoled, wheedled, voiced opinions and made his case on scores of issues to reporters who often were tired of listening. In Columbia, he was taken more seriously -- and became something of a statesman -- than in Charleston, where people whispered and wondered whether he was a clown.

Ford came to the Holy City as a civil rights organizer. As he noted in his resignation letter last week, "As a brash young man from Grambling University, I stepped out into a world of conflict and chaos during a most tumultuous time in American history. I joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1964 ... Though many highs and lows, this work has shown me the wonders of the world and the many faces of mankind."

So we'll miss Robert Ford for his uniqueness, energy and perseverance. He was right to resign for what appeared to be more than mere sloppy bookkeeping. But that doesn't mean he hasn't made a difference through the years. Let's remember that.

* * *

ON POVERTY. The news on poverty in South Carolina isn't good: We've overtaken Mississippi.

The Great Recession has taken its toll here. South Carolina now ranks third highest in poverty in the country, according to the detailed Current Population Survey (CPS) of the U.S. Census Bureau. It shows some 19 percent of South Carolinians -- about 874,000 people -- live at or below federal poverty levels. At the top of the list: New Mexico (22.2 percent) and Louisiana (21.1 percent). Mississippi tied with Texas as 7th highest in poverty with a 17.4 percent rate.

South Carolina surged to third highest in poverty in the most recent report after the Census Bureau apparently revised how it collected data for its in-depth CPS study. In 2010, South Carolina ranked 10th on the report with 773,000 people living at or below the poverty level. That's the same rank the state had in 1980 when 534,000 people lived in poverty.

But rankings aside, the important number is that another 100,000 people were considered to be living in poverty in 2011, compared to a year earlier. And over three decades as South Carolina's population grew, so did the number of poor -- by 340,000 individuals.

These numbers are among a series of statistics that highlight the struggles that many people living in South Carolina continue have. As we highlight every couple of years, many South Carolinians still have significant challenges related to health care, economics, education and safety.

Andy Brack is publisher of StatehouseReport.com and CharlestonCurrents.com. He can be reached at: publisher@charlestoncurrents.com.


Enjoyed Drum Island column

To the editor:

I was recently up there in Charleston and I read your article about Drum Island.

You can write a very informative article so long as you don't include your political slant. Way to go!

-- Harry Waddington, Beaufort, S.C.

Send us your thoughts. If you have an opinion you'd like to share (150 words or less, please), send your letters to: editor@charlestoncurrents.com. Please include your name, address and phone number for verification purposes. We look forward to hearing from you!



The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Charleston Currents to you at no cost. In today's issue, we shine the spotlight on SCIWAY, South Carolina’s Information Highway. Pronounced “sky-way,” SCIWAY is the largest and most comprehensive directory of South Carolina information on the Internet. It includes thousands of links to other South Carolina Web sites, including Charleston Currents, as well as an amazing collection of maps, charts, articles, photos and other resources. To learn more about this extraordinary information hub that 7 million people visit a year, go to: http://www.SCIWAY.net.


Wartime vets, spouses can get tax-free pensions
By CATHERINE LAFOND, contributing editor
Special to Statehouse Report

JUNE 3, 2013 -- Did you know that there is a tax-free pension available from the Veterans Administration (VA) for wartime veterans and their surviving spouses? The veteran didn't have to be injured in the war, didn't have to retire from the military or even had to have served in actual combat.

The improved pension (with housebound, or aid and attendance allowances) is one of the most underutilized public benefits in the U.S. In fact, it is estimated that less than 10 percent of people eligible for this pension actually receive it. There are some basic requirements and, also, income and asset thresholds which can not be exceeded in order to qualify. In the latter, an attorney (accredited with the VA as required by federal law) can assist with the reallocation of income/assets to get a claimant qualified and, at the same time, preserve tax benefits, provide creditor protection and help avoid probate.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS: There are three basic requirements needed to get the pension. First, the veteran had to serve 90 consecutive days (changes to 24 months for service after Sept. 7, 1980) in active duty, only one day of which needs to be during a wartime (actual boots on ground not required) and not be dishonorably discharged. Second, the veteran needs to be at least 65 years old or rated permanently and totally disabled by the VA. Third, the veteran or their current or surviving spouse must have recurring medical needs (i.e., be in need of a protective environment due to physical or mental disabilities, be blind, be housebound, and/or be in need of assistance with two or more activities of daily living).

FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS: Income, medical expenses and assets of both spouses are considered when determining the eligibility and amount of this pension. Regarding income, the point of the pension is to bring your income for VA purposes up to the maximum amounts shown on chart below. Income for VA purposes is your gross income less your recurring monthly unreimbursed medical expenses. The maximum pension that one would be entitled to is based on who the medical needs of the claimant (which will always be the veteran if s/he is still alive). Regarding assets, there is, in fact, no bright line asset limit; regardless, when planning, it is not wise to let the claimant retain an amount even close to $80,000 in countable assets. When making its determination as to eligibility, the VA does an age-asset analysis and if they determine the claimant has excessive net worth (i.e. if the claimant's assets are sufficiently large that the claimant could live off of these assets for a reasonable period of time), the pension will be denied.

If income or assets are too high, planning may be necessary to qualify. This is a highly regulated and ever-changing facet of the law. Potential claimants should verify that the attorney they are working with has committed his or her practice to being proficient in this type of planning. Further, anyone assisting veterans and their surviving spouses are required by federal law to be accredited with the VA.

Please refer to this link to verify accreditation before working with someone to obtain these benefits.

Catherine LaFond, J.D., LL.M., of catherine e. lafond, p.a., is an elder law attorney accredited with the VA to assist veterans and their surviving spouses with the presentment of claims for Improved Pension and can be reached at info@lafondlaw.com or 843.762.3554. She is VA Accredited Attorney #19668.


Dig into reading this summer

Charleston County Public Library's annual summer reading program can yield tasty, fun rewards to children, teens and adults -- just for reading.

The annual program, which runs through August 1, is part of the library's continuing efforts to promote literacy and reading for the whole family. This summer, the library is offering hundreds of free programs and thousands of free incentive rewards as a way to encourage everyone in the family to read and be a winner.

  • View all of the library's summer programs, by branch.

Studies show children who read during the summer are better prepared for the next school year and are less likely to regress in their reading comprehension skills.

Last year, nearly 20,000 area residents participated in the summer reading program, library officials said. That was a 33 percent jump in participation in just five years. This summer, the number is expected rise again.

Although most people think of summer reading as a program for kids, the library offers active programs with lots of prizes for teens and adults, too. And, to encourage parents or caregivers to read to small children, both adults and children can get credit for the time they spend reading together. The library also offers a special program just for babies and toddlers that promotes skills needed for reading.

Special Summer Reading events and programs are offered at all 16 CCPL branches. Some highlights include magic shows, plays, puppetry, storytellers, clowns, concerts and even activities with live animals. Prizes are awarded in weekly or bi-weekly drawings plus as incentive rewards when readers hit certain milestones, such as the number of books or number of pages read.

Prizes are donated by several local businesses who support literacy and the library.

Guess what the Hat Ladies are going to give away?

Charleston's Hat Ladies will be distributing free, umm, hats to men and women on June 21 -- the longest day of the year -- to promote National Hat Day in the Sun and the importance of wearing hats to protect your skin.

They'll be giving away about 350 hats of all shapes and sizes starting at noon at Marion Square near the corner of King and Calhoun streets in downtown Charleston.

"They are much more than baseball hats," says Hat Lady Archie Burkel. "In fact, I doubt there's a baseball hat among 'em."

The author of "The Joy of Hats," Burkel noted that there was a hat for every head that wants one.

"Ultimately, everyone finds one right for them."

16th annual Juneteenth Festival coming June 22

Juneteenth, also known as "Freedom Day" or "Emancipation Day" is an annual holiday recognized in the middle of June to commemorate June 19, 1865, the day celebrated in 42 states to commemorate the end of slavery.

This year, the Lowcountry Juneteenth Association will hold the 16th annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival honoring the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation starting at 3 p.m. June 22 at Jenkins Orphanage, 3923 Azalea Drive, North Charleston.

Admission is free for people to enjoy music, fashions, art, food, storytellers, face-painting, dance, poetry and much more. On Facebook.

Also this month, the John L. Dart branch of the Charleston County Public Library will hold Juneteenth celebrations on African mask-making (11 a.m., June 17), drumming (11:30 a.m., June 18), the Middle Passage (6:30 a.m., June 18), and why history and culture matters (6:30 p.m., June 19). The branch is at 1067 King Street, Charleston.


ACE Basin

The ACE Basin consists of around 350,000 acres in the watershed of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers in the South Carolina Lowcountry, which drains one-fifth of the state. The ACE Basin encompasses a range of ecosystem types from forested uplands to tidal marsh (salt, brackish, and fresh water). The basin is home for more than 260 permanent and seasonal bird species and seventeen rare or endangered species, including the wood stork and the loggerhead turtle.

History, as much as geography, unites the three rivers. By the 1750s the rivers were lined with plantations dedicated to rice production and using African slaves for the arduous labor required. Most plantations controlled tidal flows by a series of floodgates (rice trunks), dikes, and canals to grow vast amounts of rice. The Civil War and emancipation, along with an increase in both foreign and domestic competition, led to the eventual collapse of rice culture. Through the 20th century, the ACE Basin experienced almost no industrial development, which kept the landscape largely intact as forest and estuary.

In 1988 Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources joined forces to create the ACE Basin Project to preserve the landscape and wildlife habitat. The combined federal, state and private conservation groups used purchases of public land, conservation easements, and other methods to preserve 135,980 acres of land by 2000.

EDITOR'S NOTE: By 2013, more than 200,000 acres of lands are protected by private organizations or public ownership, according to the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. The Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990 to protect 11,815 acres as part of the ACE Basin Project.

-- Excerpted from the entry by James H. Tuten. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)



Flowers are blooming all over the place. Contributing photographer Michael Kaynard snapped this passion flower last week when plodding through the streets of downtown. Look around and you'll see all sorts of colors, from the black-eyed susans that seemed to wait until the first day of June to pop to the bright red of the hibiscus in local gardens everywhere.

Last week's mystery picture (at right) was of grand, sparkly eyelashes from a majorette in the Feed and Seed Marching Abominable from Atlanta. It appeared on the second day of Spoleto in Marion Square during the Piccolo Spoleto Children's Festival. Congratulations to Susan Burkhardt of Charleston for being the third person to guess and thereby win RiverDogs tickets. Thanks also to others who guessed, including Sara Dwyer and Leigh Ann Garrett.


We encourage you to check out our sister publications:

Statehouse Report -- a weekly legislative forecast that keeps you a step ahead of what happens at the Statehouse. It's free.

SC Clips -- a daily news compilation of South Carolina news from media sources across the state. Delivered by email about the time you get to work every business day. Saves you a lot of money and time. Sign up for a free trial subscription today.

TravelOrMove.com -- a fun, interactive site where you can input your travel or retirement preferences and find places you might not have considered.

Georgia Clips offers a similar daily news compilation for the scores of newspapers in Georgia's 159 counties.

GwinnettForum -- an online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.


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Five cool summer projects

Students and professors at the College of Charleston are involved in lots of special summer projects. Here are five neat ones:

  • Film. History Professor Scott Poole, author of "Monsters in America," is an adviser and will be featured in, "Satan: The Documentary."

  • Sets. Undergrad theatre students will work with Professor Charlie Calvert to design sets for Charleston Stage and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. The experience will help them get professional experience.

  • Cruise. Geology major Montgomery Taylor and Professor Leslie Sautter will sail for two weeks off the Oregon coast as part of a $250 million National Science Foundation-funded project to build a deep sea observatory on an active volcano.

  • Kayaking. Professor Mike Flynn will teach the college's first coastal kayaking starting this week and lasting through July.

  • Health. Grad student Kristin Young will be in Morocco conducting research on access to health education, opportunities, leadership and empowerment. Her trip is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Charleston.


A present every day

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."

-- Bil Keane



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Conversation with West Fraser: 6 p.m., June 3, Preservation Society of Charleston Book and Gift Shop, 147 King Street, Charleston. Lowcountry traditionalist painter West Fraser will offer his thoughts on Charleston, his style and more. Reception starts 30 minutes before the lecture. $15 for members/$20 others. More: PreservationSociety.org

(NEW) Party in the Park: 6:30 p.m., each Tuesday in June. WEZL, the Town of Mount Pleasant, Hardees and other sponsors will offer this summer concert series to showcase live and local music at the town's Memorial Waterfront Park. Learn more.

Nighttime at the Museum: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., June 7, Charleston Museum, Meeting Street, Charleston. Bring your flashlight to the annual event as living historians represent many time periods. The event will help history come to life for your children. Tickets are $10 for member adults, $20 for non-members; rate is half of that for kids. More: CharlestonMuseum.org

Spivey Hall Children's Choir: June 7-11, around town. The internationally recognized chorale group from Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga., will perform as part of its summer tour in local retirement homes and at Piccolo Spoleto at 3 p.m. June 9 at Grace Episcopal Church. More online.

Photo contest: Images due by June 6. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is holding its annual photo contest for photos taken at the attraction between March 1 and May 31. Entry is $25. To enter and look at rules, visit the Lowcountry Photographic Club.

JAC Jazz Series: Through June 7, 493 King Street, Charleston. Check out the Jazz Artists of Charleston's sixth annual jazz series here for times and prices: http://www.CharlestonJazz.com

Home is Where the Art Is: Through June 9, 70 Warren Street, Charleston. Curators have outfitted their home for a show of the art of Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth. More info.


(NEW) Patriots Day Camp: 9 a.m. to noon, June 14 and June 28, Charleston Museum. Kids aged 7 to 12 can become a patriot for a day at this special camp. Cost: $25. Reservations required. More.

(NEW) That Summer Book Sale: June 14 through June 16, main branch, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston. The Charleston Friends of the Library will hold its big sale of bargains on everything from books to DVDs to help fund library services. Admission is free. Check here for times.

Charleston Carifest Caribbean Carnival: June 20-23 with events including a June 22 parade led by diplomats from Trinidad and Tobago. Learn more online about the festival's broad cultural events.

Great watercolors: Through Sept 15, Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston. In conjunction with Spoleto Festival USA, the Gibbes will present watercolors created in Charleston in the early 1990s by celebrated contemporary artists Stephen Mueller and Carl Palazzolo, who will give an opening day gallery talk at 2:30 p.m. at the museum. Art is from the collection David and Carol Rawle. More: GibbesMuseum.org

Bird walks: 8:30 a.m. to noon, every Wednesday and Saturday. This is the time of year that a great variety of migrating birds fly through the Lowcountry so what better time to take part in one of the regular early morning bird walks at Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel. Pre-registration is suggested. Cost is $5. Walks also are conducted on James Island and Folly Beach.Learn more online.


7/29: Sheahen: Poverty grows
Ferguson: Plate at the table
Kaynard: Mepkin Abbey
McCandless: At-risk youths
McGee: Monroe's new book

Williams: Avoiding foreclosure
Dewey: Preventing suicide
Hoover: Clean kitchens
Kulp: On breathalyzers


7/8: Assault on Battery Wagner
"A furious barbarian"
Recovery of Keokuk guns
"Turrets are coming!"
Preparing to attack
Blockade is broken
Stono Rebellion


7/29: New poverty study
Engage in trade war
Give brand to government
S.C. keeps treading water
Brad Taylor's new thriller

Brookgreen Gardens
New fee bring us closer?
Great new library service
On Robert Ford


5/6: Revocable Living Trusts
Resources to help seniors cope
On life estates
Next step in health care


7/29: B Corps
GoodBiz Summit
Getting ready to evacuate
Tax policies
On good policy
Heirs' property
1/28: Two conferences


5/20: Birds, bees, butterflies
Signs of spring abound
Great local parks
What's new in Charleston is old
1/21: Blaze a trail in 2013
12/10: Great holiday adventure


7/29: Beer shakes
Tall buildings
Keep pets safe
List recalibration
Mosquito facts

Curbing mosquitoes
Twitter tips
Help for job applicants
Summer projects

5/27: Hurricane tips
Cleaning up rooms
Traveling with friends
5 on melanoma

4/29: 5 on Cinco de Mayo
Best in Charleston
Generous cities
Spring cleaning tips
Vacation ID tips

3/25: Park and play
On the menu
Still no response
No response

2/25: Five on storytelling
Earth Day duties
For the heart
Home energy tips

Cold water boating
On Ted Stern
SMART goals
Dealing with email



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