- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Oct. 18

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on the risk of earthquakes:

South Carolina has had enough of natural disasters. An ice storm in 2014. Flooding in 2015. Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Hurricane Irma’s coastal surge and flooding in 2017. But there is good reason to take serious note of another potential threat.

Gov. Henry McMaster proclaimed Earthquake Awareness Week for Oct. 15-21. The S.C. Emergency Management Division encourages everyone to take the opportunity to learn about the state’s seismic fault system and how best to prepare for earthquakes.

A key component of the week of preparedness is the Great Southeast ShakeOut on Thursday at 10:19 a.m. Similar to other emergency preparedness drills sponsored by SCEMD, it will begin at 10:19 a.m. with a broadcast on NOAA tone-alert weather radio and broadcast media. Schools, businesses, organizations, government agencies, communities and households are encouraged to observe the drill.

More than 2 million people across eight states and Washington, D.C., are to take part in the Great Southeast ShakeOut, which is an international effort in which participants simultaneously practice how to stay safe during an earthquake. Worldwide, 25 million people are expected to participate.

South Carolina has good reason to take note of the risk of earthquakes:

- 10 low-magnitude earthquakes have been recorded in the state since October 2016.

- Approximately 10 to 20 earthquakes occur in the state every year, according to geologists with the College of Charleston.

- The epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded along the Eastern Seaboard was just outside of Charleston on Aug. 31, 1886. The 7.3 magnitude quake devastated the region and was felt from Chicago to Cuba.

According to a study commissioned by SCEMD, an earthquake of similar magnitude would result in tremendous loss of life, severe property damage and extreme economic loss. Results of the study are detailed in the South Carolina Earthquake Guide, a publication that details South Carolina-specific information on what citizens should do before, during and after a major earthquake. It is available at no cost statewide via the Senior P.R.E.P. section at every Walgreens store.

The Bowman area is considered a central point for potential earthquake activity. The town is situated on the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone which, along with the Ravenel-Adams Run-Hollywood area near Charleston, experiences about 70 percent of the earthquake activity in the state, according to the SCEMD.

And The T&D; Region is no stranger to quakes.

People from Cope to Cameron felt an earthquake that hit 3.4 on the Richter scale on May 19, 1971. The only damage reported was broken windows.

On Feb. 3, 1972, an earthquake hit the area again. Residents of Bowman confirmed the quake felt stronger than previous ones they remembered.

Three earthquakes were reported in the Neeses area in 1992, the largest hitting 2.4 on the Richter scale. And a 2.3-magnitude quake occurred in Bowman in 1997.

In March 2009, another 2.6-magnitude earthquake occurred halfway between Orangeburg and Aiken counties. No damage or injuries were reported.

In 2011, as South Carolina was hearing early predictions of Hurricane Irene scoring a direct hit on the state, Aug. 26 produced the strongest earthquake felt on the East Coast in years. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake ranks as the second strongest ever measured in Virginia. Near the epicenter, brick house walls cracked, and chimneys were thrown down or badly damaged, according to the USGS. Minor damage was observed from about Bristol, Tennessee, to Roanoke, Virginia.

Officials say they are as prepared as they can be for a quake, with rescue teams and emergency responders being trained regularly on structural collapse and emergency response. Thursday is your individual opportunity at preparedness.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Oct. 15

The Post and Courier of Charleston on secure voting systems:

Faced with increasingly convincing evidence that electronic voting systems can be hacked to alter election results, a majority of states are wisely moving to adopt voting methods that enhance security, in part by producing a paper ballot record that can be used to audit results. South Carolina should do the same.

In fact, that’s the goal of the state Election Commission, if the Legislature will come up with $40 million to purchase the 13,000 new machines needed to serve every precinct in the state. The commission has attempted to get the Legislature’s attention for five years about the need to build up a fund to replace the existing machines. So far, legislators have demurred, awaiting the completion of new state standards for voting machine security.

Those standards are expected to be completed in time for legislative review next year. Timely action will be needed if there is to be any chance to replace the 13-year-old touch-screen machines before the next general election in 2020.

The latest state to make that decision is Virginia, which last month decertified the remaining touch-screen voting machines that do not create a paper trail after computer experts demonstrated how easily those particular machines could be hacked from afar.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia now require a paper trail for their elections, using a variety of methods, including paper ballots, punch cards, and touch-screen machines that also produce a printed ballot. Virginia recently joined this group.

Just five states, including South Carolina, still exclusively use voting machines that do not produce a paper trail. In all, according to Reuters, some 44 million voters, one fourth of all eligible voters in the United States, were registered in jurisdictions without a paper audit trail in 2016.

The current interest in securing voting systems is partly due to concerns aroused by evidence of alleged Russian attempts to tamper with U.S. election machinery in 2016. The evidence for that is mixed. For instance, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last month called election officials in 21 states to tell them that their systems had come under attack during the 2016 election, it had to issue partial retractions after its conclusions were disputed by Wisconsin, Texas and California. A suspected attempt to intrude into South Carolina’s voting databases could not be definitively attributed to hostile action.

DHS has offered no evidence that Russian hackers succeeded in gaining access to the most sensitive elections data, much less in altering outcomes. But one alarming report leaked from the National Security Agency in June says that Russian intelligence “executed cyber espionage operations” against a voting machine company in August 2016, “evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions.” That information presumably was used to “launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.” The report does not tell whether the attacks succeeded, but the threat is clear.

However, Virginia’s decision to replace its remaining Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems was triggered by the information from a cybersecurity conference where computer hackers showed that those voting machines could be compromised without much difficulty.

South Carolina uses machines from a different manufacturer than Virginia, and S.C. officials insist that the voting machines now in use have not been compromised. In addition, state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire says recent software upgrades have improved the system’s security.

Nevertheless, the experience of hacking elsewhere and the general sense of cyber insecurity with voting systems say that the time is fast approaching for the state to upgrade its aging system.

Let’s hope legislators can do a better job replacing voting machines than they have aging school buses. A secure voting system is essential.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Oct. 14

The Aiken Standard on job awareness:

The Aiken County Public School District recently premiered the first set of commercials for its Aiken Works initiative. Aiken Works was launched in January of 2017 and aims to build awareness about Aiken County’s workforce opportunities.

It connects high school students with options to explore future employment interests, and emphasizes careers in health, energy, cyber technology and industrial manufacturing. Aiken Works also seeks to broaden the traditional definition of post-secondary success to include opportunities such as military service and technical school.

We think this is a great program and commend the School District for taking a proactive approach to training students for future careers. According to the Aiken Works website, 50 percent of Aiken County’s workers are eligible to retire in the next five years.

Those workers will need to be replaced, and by training Aiken’s youth in skilled trades and professions essential to our community, those jobs can be filled by current residents. Not only will this program better prepare students to enter the workforce, it will help keep young people in the Aiken area.

According to Dr. Sean Alford, superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools, more than 37,000 new career opportunities will be available locally in the near future.

“They will require the skill and expertise of individuals who have been properly trained, and that’s not someone who has to come from the top 10 percent of every graduating class,” Alford said. “There are opportunities as long as you have a desire to do well, contribute to the community and get the training, which is readily available.”

We also think promoting education paths other than college is an important component of the Aiken Works initiative. Most people still see a four-year degree as the only path to success, but this is not always the case. Plumbers, welders and electricians are all needed professions and don’t necessarily require a four-year degree.

And Aiken Works aims to show students and, especially, parents that multiple avenues - some post-secondary education but not always a four-year college degree - exist to achieve success after high school graduation.

If we want to continue to have running water, lights and many of the other things provided by skilled tradesmen, we need to promote these career paths and inspire the next generation to pursue them.

“We have vocational opportunities in our region that are not only noble professions but also pay really well,” Alford said. “We don’t want parents to think in a mindset or see the school district as being as being product-driven - earning a diploma. We want parents and the community to see us as solution-driven.

The first of the Aiken Works commercials aims to do just that. They will air on local and cable TV stations, and will highlight manufacturing, health care and employable skills.

“The messaging is simple and clear, and that’s what we want,” Alford said. “We want parents and students to understand that there are myths. We don’t want them to be caught up in incorrect information. We want to tell them the truth in an entertaining way. I think we accomplished that.”

We think they did, too. Hopefully, by increasing awareness about available jobs and alternatives to a four-year college, Aiken Works will succeed in providing skilled workers to area industries.

Online: https://www.aikenstandard.com/

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