testing needed for S.C.'s DUI breathalyzers
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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?
Senate won't be same without Robert Ford
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."
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
* * *
The news on poverty in South Carolina isn't good: We've overtaken
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Carolinas 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.
vets, spouses can get tax-free pensions
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.
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.
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.
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.
is free for people to enjoy music, fashions, art, food, storytellers,
face-painting, dance, poetry and much more. On
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.
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.
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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:
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."
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IN THE WEEK AHEAD
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.
CONTINUING AND IN THE WEEKS AHEAD
(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.
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.