- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Feb. 25

Beaufort (S.C.) Gazette on state should prepare for future earthquakes:

It’s good news that South Carolinians and the state’s roads, bridges, nuclear power plants and other infrastructure fared well in the recent 4.1 magnitude earthquake felt in both South Carolina and Georgia.

But it also serves as an important reminder that South Carolina experiences earthquakes regularly - and residents should be prepared. Ten to 20 quakes are recorded annually in the state, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division, but only two to five of them are felt.

Seismologists warn that any place that has experienced an earthquake once could experience another. And while the coast is the most likely place for earthquakes to occur, the entire state is considered a moderate to high risk.

The most recent quake was centered 7 miles west of Edgefield, a small town outside of Augusta, Ga., known as the birthplace of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond and nine other S.C. governors - not as a quake hot spot. It was felt as far west as Atlanta and as far north as Hickory, N.C., each about 150 miles away.

Some seismologists theorize that the 7.3 temblor that struck Charleston in 1886 could one day hit the area again. The massive earthquake killed 60 people, caused structural damage across several hundred miles and was felt from Cuba to New York and from Bermuda to the Mississippi River, according to EMD.

If a similar earthquake were to hit today, it would cause about 900 casualties and more than $20 billion in economic losses because of destruction to buildings, damage to infrastructure and interruption to business, according to a study commissioned by the division.

Some hospitals would go offline because of structural damage, fire stations would struggle to keep up with the number of fires burning and water could be scarce because of damage to water lines. Many of the state’s bridges and roads would be unusable for days.

It’s impossible for a state or individual to prepare for the inevitable destruction that a major earthquake would bring, but there are a few common-sense things we can all do to increase safety.

Namely, know what to do if an earthquake hits. If you are indoors, drop to the ground immediately, take cover under a sturdy desk, table or other piece of furniture and hold on until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with the furniture and avoid danger spots near windows or where objects such as pictures and mirrors hang overhead.

And if outside, move to a clear area away from trees, buildings, power lines or anything else that may fall. The same goes for being inside a store - move away from display shelves and other items that may fall and cause injury, then take cover. And drivers should pull to the side of the road, avoiding overpasses and power lines.

The division also recommends that residents have emergency kits ready to go, stocked with non-perishable food, water, flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit and more. (For a complete list, go to www.scemd.org and click on the S.C. Earthquake Guide.)

There’s no reason to fret over the prospect of earthquakes. A few precautions can set our minds at ease.




Feb. 25

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on triumph and peril in the Ukraine:

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich abruptly abandoned his post last weekend, leaving Ukraine’s protest movement momentarily victorious. It was an ignominious defeat for a corrupt leader who has sought to counter at every turn the popular forces opposed to his misrule.

But virtually at the moment of victory, the Ukraine faces the strong possibility that the nation’s eastern Russian-speaking provinces will secede and call in Russian troops to defend them, opening up a new chapter in Ukrainian turmoil.

Avoiding this potentially chaotic split and turning the victory for the Ukraine’s pro-democracy movement into a peaceful and stable government will call for wise decisions by Ukraine’s new leaders, firm support for a peaceful outcome by Europe and the United States, and a Russian decision to stop meddling in Ukraine. Good luck on that last condition. Time Magazine reported that Russian diplomats have already signed a declaration with pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians calling for resistance to the new government and the formation of militias “in cooperation with regional security structures,” an apparent reference to Russian forces.

The threat of a Russian military move into Ukraine led U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and British Foreign Minister William Hague to issue warnings Sunday. Rice said such a move would be a “grave mistake.”

Secession sentiment apparently is strongest in the Russian-speaking Crimea, an isolated peninsula that already considers itself an “autonomous republic” within the Ukraine. A major Russian naval base at Sevastapol has nearly 30 years to run on a lease from the Ukrainian government, so there are already 25,000 Russian military personnel in the Crimea, giving Russia strong leverage.

Russian President Putin would like to undo the breakup of the Soviet empire that led to Ukrainian independence and create a “Eurasian Customs Union” trading bloc to compete with the European Union. He used a combination of trade sanction sticks and economic support carrots last year to persuade Ukraine’s Yanukovich to turn down an association with the European Union and create closer economic ties to Russia. It was that decision that triggered the student protests in November that culminated in the collapse of Mr. Yanukovich’s authority on Saturday.

The Ukraine also has another problem to deal with - a plummeting economy. Russia is contributing to the problem by putting on hold the economic support it offered former president Mr. Yanukovich.

The interim Ukraine government must take steps to shore up national support in the eastern provinces that lean to Russia. Meanwhile, Europe and the United States should move swiftly to prop up the Ukrainian economy, and counter Mr. Putin’s effort to undermine it.

EU and U.S. support is essential to bolster the Ukraine’s democratic forces and possibly avoid a civil war in Eastern Europe. Mr. Putin shouldn’t be allowed to seize this moment to realize his imperial dreams.




Feb. 23

Aiken (S.C.) Standard on keeping lawmakers out of college classrooms:

Funding the state’s universities shouldn’t be based on a personal agenda. But that sensibility was apparently lost on S.C. Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, is pushing for funding cuts to two colleges based on their book selections for the freshmen reading experience.

Members of the S.C. House’s Ways and Mean Committee, the budget-writing committee for the House, approved $52,000 in cuts to the College of Charleston and $17,000 to USC Upstate that were proposed by Smith - essentially because the books acknowledge the existence of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Lawmakers really shouldn’t be in the position to set the reading requirements for colleges. That kind of micromanaging sets an unsettling precedent for future decisions regarding higher education.

Smith, who is the son of Aiken representative Roland Smith, said the colleges are “promoting one side with no academic debate involved” by selecting those books.

He added that he contacted both schools in Fall 2013 and indicated to them that they could “work” with students and parents to adjust the program or it would then be up for debate in the legislative budget process. Both schools “refused” to do so, he explained.

“What that tells me is that the universities aren’t interested in someone else’s sensibilities, in someone else’s opinions,” Smith said. “What it tells me is that the universities are more interested in pushing an agenda that someone or some people there at the universities are interested in pushing.”

Merely by urging students to read certain books don’t mean those schools are pushing a particular agenda or “promoting a lifestyle,” as Smith has stated.

As Alison Peipmeirer explained in a column for the Charleston City Paper, just by reading about DNA, doesn’t necessarily make someone want to be a molecular biologist, and just by reading the works of Shakespeare, it doesn’t make someone want to be a cross-dresser.

Academic freedom - not the kind Smith is promoting - should be a key mission of our state’s universities. That’s why a college education, especially a liberal arts education, truly matters. Students are given assignments aimed at broadening their minds, and legislators don’t need to be the ones making moral judgments about those assignments. That should be left up to the school’s administration and staff.

At USC Aiken, for instance, each book selection is made after a reasoned debate, according to Tom Mack, chair of the English Department at the university. The books at Charleston and USC Upstate were likely chosen with the same kind of attention and examination. College of Charleston Provost George Hynd explained on the school’s website that the school’s selection - “Fun Home” by Alison Bechel - will open important conversations about “identity, diversity, sexuality, and finding one’s place in the world.”

That’s a needed discussion in classrooms full of young adults on the verge of entering the “real world” that exists away from the campus.

Critics have also charged that the book’s sexual themes are too explicit and that taxpayers’ dollars shouldn’t be used in such a matter.

Literary classics written decades ago by acclaimed authors such as Henry Miller - “Tropic of Cancer” and James Joyce - “Ulysses” - certainly contain mature material, but are still considered landmark pieces and are still read in college classes. Those books shouldn’t be pulled from the shelves merely because of the knee-jerk reactions of state legislators.

Our universities should be able to champion academic freedom, and not face punitive measures from the Statehouse because of a particular reading assignment. We should have trust in those institutions to nurture originality, creativity and an understanding of our diverse world.





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