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The bad haircut behind the Benghazi investigation has had it with Trump and partisan politics

You may know Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) as a man with the most notorious haircut in Congress, but he also has wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor.

It’s something U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), knows quite well. The two frequently rib each other, with most of the jokes centering around the mangled mop on top of Gowdy’s head.

It’s a bond that’s so strong and genuine the two have even penned a inspirational book together, “Unified: How Our Unlikely Friendship Gives Us Hope for a Divided Country.” It’ll hit stands April 3.

And then there’s Gowdy’s 2016 barber shop-set, campaign ad which trumpeted his conservative credentials, while also poking fun at his series of bad hair days. The tagline: “Trey Gowdy: Consistent Conservative, Inconsistent Haircuts.”

All of this is in stark contrast to the role Gowdy played during the Benghazi hearings.

Gowdy attacked the investigation with the ruthless tenacity that made him a champion prosecutor. But his critics said his task was less about uncovering the truth of what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, than it was to paint a case that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to protect U.S. citizens — and then tried to hide the facts about the attack.

Unbeknownst to the public, the Congressman had grown disillusioned with Washington. And on

Jan. 31, 2018, Trey Gowdy announced he wouldn’t be running for re-election. Instead, he hoped to return to law, where, he said, there are jobs that “both seek and reward fairness.” It was a clear jab at Congress.

Not long after, a different image of Gowdy began to emerge, one that frequently supported Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russian investigation.

Although Gowdy tsk-tsked Mueller for not cracking down on leaks, the Congressman praised the former FBI director’s apolitical, blemish-free career.

Gowdy was also one of the few Republicans to counter the House Intelligence Committee declaration that it had found no evidence that Russia had attempted to get Trump elected, saying, “It is clear, based on the evidence, Russia had disdain for Secretary Clinton and was motivated in whole or in part by a desire to harm her candidacy.”

Prior to that, Gowdy took issue with the common assertion that the Devin Nunes’ memo offered proof that the Russian investigation was a Democratic-led witch hunt against Trump, a witch hunt solely supported by the partially discredited Steele dossier.

According to Gowdy, there were plenty of other reasons for the investigation, like the meeting at Trump Tower, the email sent by Cambridge Analytica, and George Papadopoulos’ meeting with an Australian official. And there are few more authoritative voices on the memo than Gowdy: He co-wrote it.

Flash forward to this week. Gowdy may have defended Trump’s firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the Congressman condemned any move to fire Mueller.

On Sunday, Gowdy spoke very pointedly, telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “When you are innocent, if the allegations are collusion with the Russians and there is no evidence of that, and you are innocent of that, act like it.”

Gowdy even issued Trump a very clear warning if he tries to stop Mueller: “I would just counsel the president, it’s going to be very, very long bad 2018.”

Clearly, Trey Gowdy is no longer bound by partisan obligations. You might even say he is well on his way back to a world where fairness matters and those who seek it are rewarded.

Chris Haire is a political columnist for the Charleston City Paper who sheepishly admits that brisket is better than pulled-pork barbecue.

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Trump’s tariffs will make the housing industry slowdown even worse

According to some misguided narratives, Donald Trump thrives in a chaotic environment, purposely sowing confusion and discord with each heavy-handed pronouncement.

Those wishing to craft some reason for Trump’s behavior are every bit as hungry to assign a strategy to his actions where there is little more than erratic doodles on the page, the kind you might find in the notebook of a pre-teen girl where loopy love notes to “Tiger Beat”-boy of the year Johnny Orlando are written alongside hurried sketches of Hello Kitty, rainbow riding unicorns, and a flood of hearts capable of drowning the pharaoh’s army.

When it comes to public policy, Trump isn’t so much a bull in the china shop as an attention-deficit toro who isn’t even aware he’s in a china shop, despite the sound of crashing plates, the sharp shards cutting into his shanks, and the display cabinets filled with rows of porcelain finery. It’s all right there before his eyes and yet he simply doesn’t see it.

This is not a plan. It’s a problem.

And few industries are beginning to be impacted by Trump’s room-wrecking taurus then the housing industry.

Although the industry has bounced back from the disastrous days of the Great Recession, it still hasn’t reach the highs of the reckless Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac era, when loans were thrown out as wantonly as condoms at the Olympic village — the chief difference between the two: in one case the customer was protected, in the other … not so much.

While 2017 was a reasonably good year — new home starts jumped from 1.17 million to 1.2 million — 2018 isn’t off to a good start.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, single-family home sales were down 7.8 in January 2018, followed by an additional drop of 0.6 in February. The price of homes has also gone up 0.6 from January and 9.7 percent from February 2017.

One significant factor at play here: the lack of skilled laborers. As a result, houses are taking longer to be finished and costing more to build.

These aren’t bad jobs, of course. They’re well-paying, and although physically demanding, good honest work, the kind that the American dream is built on, the kind that sent scores of kids to college, the kind that built the suburbs where so many of us live.

Today, many of those jobs are increasingly held by foreign-born workers, many who are targets of the Trump administration.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, immigrants made up 24.4 percent of laborers in the construction industry in 2016, a number that has risen steady from 19.9 in 2004. Even at the construction peak before the Great Recession, the percentage of the immigrant workforce topped out at 22.8.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15.1 of male foreign-born workers are involved in the construction business, compared to 8.1 of native-born male citizens.

All of this is why the NAHB has called for measures that are more in line with the look-the-other-way, laissez faire attitudes of the pre-Great Recession era and less like the nationalistic, build-a-wall and deport-them-all policies of the Trump administration. Simply put, the association wants more immigrant workers and they want to make it easier for them to work in the U.S.

Even though the NAHB repeatedly claims they want to protect the nation’s borders — they never actually say how — if you read between the lines, you’ll see the builders association really doesn’t want much reform at all. In fact, they want to make sure that employers remain only responsible for the immigration status of their direct employees, not their subcontractors. This, of course, allows big contractors to ignore the vast of number of unauthorized workers on their sites while they put on a Make America Great Again cap to block out the hot summer sun.

With Trump in office, and his rhetoric remaining fiercely antagonistic toward the immigrant labor force, you can bet that current worker shortage is only going to get worse. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that fewer and fewer skilled hands are willing to risk traveling to a nation which has branded them murderers, drug dealers, and rapists and where white nationalism is dangerously on the rise.

But that’s that only part of how Trump policies are harming the home building biz. Trump’s recent softwood tariff has made lumber prices skyrocket, while the new tariffs on steel and aluminum are sure to take off as well.

According to the Associated Builders and Contractors, the price of softwood lumber has increased 15.6 percent since February 2017 while iron and steel are up 7.1 percent for the same period — and the tariffs have only recently gone into effect.

As a developer, you’d think that Trump understands just how important a system favorable to immigrants and lower tariffs are to the continued vitality of the construction business. And you know what, he probably does.

But he’d rather appeal to his base than help a vital American industry and the men and women who desperately want to move into a new home without breaking the bank.

Chris Haire is a political columnist for the Charleston City Paper who sheepishly admits that brisket is better than pulled-pork barbecue.

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Feared elsewhere, tariffs might find a home in Georgetown

By Mike Woodel
Carolina News and Reporter

GEORGETOWN – As a union man, James Sanderson represents a faith in organized labor unshakeable as steel.

Sanderson has held the presidency of United Steelworkers of America Local 7898 in Georgetown, South Carolina, since 1988, supervising union members as they rode out three closures of the local steel mill. All of these closures, he said, have been forced by imports of cheap foreign steel.

United Steelworkers of America Local 7898 was founded in Georgetown in 1971 following a six-month strike by workers at the local steel mill. Cheap steel imports are largely to blame for the mill’s three closings since 2003, says Local 7898 president James Sanderson.

But the mill’s purchase in December by London-based Liberty House Group and impending re-opening take on a different optimism with President Trump’s plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports from all countries excepting Canada and Mexico.

“It will definitely be beneficial to our plant, Liberty, and it would be beneficial to all of the people who work for a living in the United States of America,” Sanderson said. “There’s no doubt in my mind, 100 percent, that the tariffs that Donald Trump announced and, hopefully…  are implemented will be a shot in the arm for all the industries in this country.”

Despite Sanderson’s enthusiasm, the tariffs and South Carolina’s role as a manufacturer of cars for foreign companies could still put the state in a precarious position. BMW employs 9,000 workers at its factory in Greer, and construction is underway on a Mercedes-Benz van factory in North Charleston and a Volvo factory in Berkeley County.

At the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland earlier this month, BMW CEO Harald Krüger said tariffs would affect his company’s hiring of American workers.

James Sanderson was elected president of Georgetown’s USWA Local 7898 three decades ago. He is hopeful that federal tariffs on foreign steel will protect American steel manufacturers.

Speaking before the state Senate on March 13, S.C. Commerce Department Secretary Bobby Hitt warned lawmakers of the impact obstacles to a free market might have.

“Uncertainty always brings concern in business,” Hitt was quoted in The State.

Steel is a crucial byproduct of Georgetown doing business. Perched on the near northern half of South Carolina’s Atlantic coast, the city holds a population of 9,000 and a spot in the census-designated Myrtle Beach metropolitan area. Its economy makes it an outlier on the Grand Strand, a seaside, industrial city in a region built on tourism. There are no cloudless days, as the stacks rising from the International Paper plant just off downtown belch white clouds into the sky even on clear spring afternoons.

Standing at the intersection of Hazard and Butts streets in Georgetown, USWA Local 7898 is decorated as a shrine to past union successes. On a wall behind a raised stage, a plaque presented to Sanderson holds gavels used by USWA presidents to open three national conventions – next to it, framed photos of Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Under new ownership and only a year separated from its 50th birthday, the Georgetown steel mill is expected to resume production this summer according to Sanderson.

Outside Sanderson’s office hangs a framed copy of the October 13, 1967, Georgetown Times – a special edition announcing Korf Industrie und Handel’s intent to build the mill that now sits, vacant but waiting, along South Fraser Street with its back to Winyah Bay.

As an ardent support of the Trump tariffs, Sanderson has seen the effect an influx of cheap steel can have on American manufacturing. Following a previous closure, the U.S. Department of Labor found that mill workers qualified for Trade Adjustment Assistance. The TAA is a program established by the Trade Act of 1974 to provide aid to workers whose employment status is directly affected by imports.

This in mind, Sanderson has much to say on the topic of American companies with foreign interests.

“Look at the businesses in this country that have business interests overseas,” Sanderson said. “If the media was to try to do an analysis of all the companies in this country that have… all kind of interests in these other countries, then they will be able to connect the dots and realize why they are so against these tariffs. Because they are over there making money on the backs of the American people. They’re not investing in America.”

Sanderson also railed against American companies’ use of cheap labor overseas while steelworkers in his own union approach the end of their third mill closing since 2003.

“They’ve been over there in these other countries exploiting children, labor laws; they don’t have no OSHA standards over there, they don’t have no environmental laws, they don’t have no wage laws over there,” Sanderson said. “How can you compete with that?”

The stepson of an International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers member, Sanderson came to the Georgetown mill in 1974 to work as an electrician. Though his USWA position is full-time, he also spent 13 years as a training coordinator with the mill’s Institute for Career Development until his layoff by previous mill owner ArcelorMittal in December 2017.

Local 7898 also has members organized at the International Paper plant, two local nursing homes and Georgetown Memorial Hospital. Sanderson forecasts a growth of 250 workers when the mill begins rolling steel again, which could be as early as this summer. If correct, this would double the local’s current membership.

Of Liberty House Group, Sanderson said there is no sign the tariffs affect the deal finalized in December. He also adds that LHG’s intent is not to use the mill as an exporter to the UK, but to keep the mill’s products domestic.

“They’re here for the long haul,” Sanderson said. “They want to use this as a stepping stone for building a much bigger footprint in this country.”

Before the mill shut down in August 2015, Sanderson said, the steel rolled by the mill was shipped to companies in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana.

In addition to the tariffs, Sanderson is always open to talk about 7898. He and his financial secretary, Latonia Green, both find members of their local to be faithful, staying on even through three closings of the mill in the past 15 years. But the union hall still can seem almost lost in deep-red, right-to-work South Carolina.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78,000 of South Carolina’s nearly 2 million workers were represented by a union in 2017. Of those 78,000, only two-thirds were union members. As a percentage of total workers, the state ranks dead last in the nation in both categories.

Georgetown resident Melvin Cohen has worked at the local steel mill since 1973. He plans to return to work to train new workers when the mill is re-opened by British company Liberty House Group.

The push for a union began when Georgetown steelworkers struck in August 1970, at the same time as a satellite wire company in nearby Andrews. Six months into the strike, Local 7898 was born. A May 1971 story on the strike published in USWA periodical Steel Labor hangs under glass by the door.

A lifelong Georgetown resident, Melvin Cohen remembers the picket lines. Still two years from taking a job with the mill himself, he marched with his father.

“They went through some things to get that union here,” Cohen said. “People got locked up, workers got locked up, beat up by the law and different things and I seen it when I was younger what they went through to get the union here. So I take pride in having it here.”

A guard for 7898, Cohen has been with the mill since his hiring in the fall of 1973 as a furnace operator and operations technician. He worked as a truck driver during a previous closure.

After the 2015 closure, Cohen removed slag on the mill grounds until being laid off last February. The union contract allowed him to receive 85 percent of his previous wage for a year, then 65 percent the year after.

“When you look back at that, what the union represents is a whole lot for fairness in mills,” Cohen said.

At 63, Cohen plans to return to the mill when it re-opens to help train new workers. But he still worries about the effect a fourth mill closing would have on his hometown.

“It’s not only going to affect the steel, it’s gonna be a trinkle-down thing,” Cohen said. “When they first shut the mill down we had some people in Georgetown, they said, ‘well, what y’all gonna do when the mill shuts down?’ I said, ‘No, not what are we gonna do, what’s the town gonna do?’”

In December, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce estimated Georgetown County’s unemployment rate at 5.7%, just above the state rate of 4.3% and nearly half again the national rate of 3.9%. And in 2016, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimated the city of Georgetown’s poverty rate at a staggering 38.4%.

“For the future, I think if they don’t do something about the imports, that, yeah,” Green said. “It could lead us back to another closure.”

Sanderson believes the tariffs to be a sign of things to come as far as trade policy is concerned.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Sanderson said. “Time will prove that [Trump] was right.”

Thirty years later, Greenwood still grieves over a school shooting

By Kristen Schneider
Carolina News and Reporter

GREENWOOD — Ellie Hodge smiled at the shooter as he walked in.

The first-grade teacher sat across from one of her students, keeping a watchful eye on the bustling cafeteria. A hundred students sat at their tables, eating their lunches that September afternoon in 1988.

“I thought he was a parent,” Hodge said, still incredulous years later at her naivete.”A young parent, but I was new.”

It was her sixth week at Oakland Elementary School. She didn’t know all the parents yet. So, she smiled.

That’s when 19-year-old James William Wilson Jr. opened fire.

Hodge doesn’t remember the gun; she only remembers being shot. The bullet entered the side of her hand. The student across the table looked at her, wide-eyed. Hodge, confused, thought the little boy had thrown a ketchup packet at her.

Back then, the term “school shooting” didn’t exist. It was unimaginable, which is why it took Hodge a moment to realize the situation.

Editors at Greenwood’s paper, The Index-Journal, compare the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida to their community’s tragedy 30 years ago. The paper’s front page op-ed calls for action regarding gun laws.

Then she started to scream for students to run.

Lashonda Burt sat on the other side of the room when the chaos began. The 7-year-old was shot and immediately blacked out. When she came to, she searched for her teacher.

“I remember Miss Hodge waving at me to come to her,” Burt-Reeder, now married and still living in Greenwood, said. “She was actually shot again in that moment.”

The second bullet entered Hodge’s right shoulder and lodged in her left, bypassing her spine by millimeters.

A cafeteria employee pulled Hodge, Lashonda, and another student into a cafeteria freezer. Hodge told the children to run. Lashonda fled out a side door with other kids, not realizing she had been shot until someone saw the blood on her clothing.

“When I looked down at my arm and my shirt, I saw all the blood,” she said, recalling the moments before she passed out again.

Inside the building, Wilson reloaded the handgun – a nine-shot .22 caliber revolver he stole from his grandparents – in a bathroom down the hall from the cafeteria.

He soon moved to a third-grade classroom and began shooting, killing eight-year old Shequila Bradley and injuring six others, including Tequila Thomas.

Tequila would never regain consciousness.

Shots, then panic

Across town, Chief Jim Coursey sat in his office at the Greenwood Police Department. The scanner crackled as he spoke with a SLED agent. The chief’s ears perked up.

“I remember telling him, ‘I got to go, there’s been a shooting at one of my schools,” Coursey said.

Maj. Urban Mitchell heard the same call in his car as he drove around town. He arrived within seconds on the school grounds, which had filled with dozens of cars and frantic parents.

Three decades later, Maj. Mitchell marvels at how quickly ordinary people arrived at the scene.

“Believe it or not, word had still gotten out, and there were parents arriving just immediately after I got there,” he said.

Mitchell rushed around the back of the school where he found another investigator holding Wilson at gunpoint. The officer had captured the shooter after he climbed out a bathroom window. The police chief drove up as the two took Wilson into custody.

Both describe the scene as chaotic; sheriff’s deputies and SLED agents rushing in, teachers and children bleeding, parents screaming for answers.

Telephone calls heightened the madness; parents who didn’t make it to the scene frantically called the school. A secretary from SLED, along with Coursey’s personal assistant, came to Oakland Elementary and helped answer the calls.

“To hear that panic,” Mitchell said, trailing off in thought. He then summed it up in one word: “Unbelievable.”

A close-knit community that still remembers

The names of Shequila Bradley and Tequila Thomas are etched into granite markers in a small memorial garden behind the school, which now bears the name Eleanor S. Rice Elementary in honor of the principal who guided the school out of the tragedy.

The town renamed the school in her honor after she died in 2010. A plaque outside the school’s front office describes Rice’s leadership in the shooting’s aftermath as “heroic.” Coursey doesn’t know what the town would have done without her guidance.

September 26, 2018, will mark 30 years since Wilson opened fire and took Shequila and Tequila from this world. Wilson had no ties to Oakland Elementary. He lived with his grandparents, and relatives described him as a “hyper-recluse” to The State newspaper. He is incarcerated on death row at Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia.

In those three decades, not much has changed about the city of Greenwood. It currently has 23,222 residents and counting, with major chains and stores in its center, up from its 21,613 population in 1980. Tiny shops line Main Street in an renovated arts and culture district now known as Uptown Greenwood. Their owners remember customers’ names, their food orders and family ties.

Residents of Greenwood, South Carolina, will never forget the shooting that changed their town–even if the rest of the world has moved on.

“It’s a close-knit community,” Mitchell said.

It’s a community that still remembers the two youngsters who lost their lives and those who still carry psychic wounds from that day.

One Greenwood business owner teared up as he talked about Kat Finkbeiner, the physical education teacher who confronted Wilson as he reloaded in the bathroom. When she tried to stop him, he shot her in the mouth and hand.

Finkbeiner survived and was hailed as a hero.

Even three decades later, those who witnessed the aftermath of the shooting continue to live with the effects.

“This was a bad day,” Coursey said. He took a moment to collect himself before he admitted, “I still dream about it.”

Coursey, now retired after six years on the force, calls himself “a big Second Amendment person,” but he isn’t blind to the issue of guns in American society.

“What’s happening now…we’ve got to make some changes,” he said.

Hodge said she struggles to listen to news about the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed the lives of 17 students. She has physical reminders: her left hand that fails to make a closed fist, and her PTSD that overrides her senses from time to time.

For the most part, however, Hodge can remember the tragedy without issue.

“It helps to talk about it,” she said.

Burt-Reeder flinches every time there is a call from her children’s school in the middle of the day. Her shoulder aches from time to time, but she views it as a reminder; if she hadn’t been eating at the time of the shot, the bullet would have gone through her neck.

Emotions run high whenever another school shooting leads the national news. There is a sense of being forgotten, the name of Oakland Elementary School lost in the modern wave of school shooting tragedies.

Even if the rest of the world forgets, Greenwood can’t.

“I forgive him for it, but I will never forget that he did that to me,” Burt-Reeder said.

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“Confidential” from The Times and Democrat

“Confidential” from The Times and Democrat

“News Watch” from The Times and Democrat

“News Watch” from The Times and Democrat

“Hollywood Speak” from The Times and Democrat

“Hollywood Speak” from The Times and Democrat

“Mueller Subpoena” by Stuart Neiman

“Mueller Subpoena” by Stuart Neiman

Living on Purpose: Prayer is the least and the most we can do

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Recently, my wife Cheryl was talking about the need to increase her prayer time and I was definitely agreeing that praying is very important in our spiritual life. In the middle of our conversation, she said, “we should turn our cares into prayers” and that instantly caught my attention. I love catchy phrases and told her that I just might borrow that slogan! We all have worries and cares but for some strange reason, many times we do not consider praying as our highest priority. In fact, for most of us, it’s usually a last resort. Similar to prayer, I’m reminded of the fire axes that are mounted in glass cases and reserved for emergency use only. Sadly, we often forget what a great price God has paid in order that we might have the privilege and opportunity to communicate with Him. It’s been said that prayer is the least we can do and yet the most we can do.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the bridge of intimacy was severed between God and mankind and forgiveness became a temporary covering instead of a permanent removal. This infection of sin not only prevented our Creator from indwelling the heart of the individual but the restoration of our relationship was also not possible until Jesus went to the cross. The crucifixion and resurrection allow us to see that God loved us and wanted to be with us so much that He sent His Son as a ransom for our soul. The blood of Christ was the only payment that could redeem us. So today, instead of going to a priest and having them to intercede and slaughter an animal for our forgiveness, we can approach Jesus Christ directly and invite Him into our life as our personal Savior and Lord.  Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Truex Jr. Outperforms Kyle Busch At Auto Club Speedway To Win Auto Club 400

By: Hunter Thomas/

FONTANA, Calif. – In the closing laps of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. battled and outperformed Kyle Busch to capture his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season.

With just 39 laps to go, Truex passed Busch for the race lead, and two laps later, both drivers hit pit road nose-to-tail for the final stops of the afternoon. Busch’s pit crew got him off pit road just ahead of Truex. With just 31 laps remaining, Truex chased down and pulled off the race-winning pass on Busch. Truex, defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, finished out the afternoon leading a race high of 125 of the 200 laps.

“It’s good to be here,” Truex said in Victory Lane. “I am really proud of my team and everybody here. We’ve started the season out strong. Everyone kept asking when we were going to win and we hadn’t won any stages yet. And I said don’t worry, we are close. We just need to figure it out a little bit. And today, what a damn hotrod. This thing was unbelievable. Just thanks to all the guys and everybody at Toyota, TRD, Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Auto Owners and all of our sponsors and helps supports this deal. It’s a dream come true and this team is unbelievable.”

Read the rest of this entry »

“What could possibly go wrong” by Stuart Neiman

“What could possibly go wrong” by Stuart Neiman

“School Corner” from The Times and Democrat

“School Corner” from The Times and Democrat

“No Hold Ups” from The Times and Democrat

“No Hold Ups” from The Times and Democrat

“Loud Voices” from The Times and Democrat

“Loud Voices” from The Times and Democrat

My Atlanta Angel

Tom Poland

By Tom Poland

Writing amounts to solitary confinement. The hours alone reward you though when a book comes out: meeting folks who love books. When book events conclude, people linger to talk. More than one will say, “I’ve got this idea for a book ….” Nearly everyone has a story to tell, but some people are a story waiting to be told. That is the case with a lady I met not once, but twice, courtesy of the writing life.

Over the last three years I’ve presented my work at more than 200 events in Georgia and South Carolina. The places range from restaurants to churches, libraries, museums, civic clubs, schools, colleges, and centers where silver-haired folks gather. Remembering all who cross my path isn’t possible but now and then a Reader’s Digest “most unforgettable character” comes along. Among the unforgettable walks Miss Jean Rinehardt Bridges.

Miss Jean and I met at a book event. She tarried a bit until most folks had wandered off and then she came up and gave me her card. On the back she had jotted down her website where I could read her stories. On the back in parentheses, she had written (novice). Time went by and I lost touch with Miss Jean.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living on Purpose: God is more than enough

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

We’ve all heard the song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” but did you know this is actually from scripture? We read in Isaiah chapter 40 and verse 12, “Who has calculated the waters in the hollow of His hand, and who has measured the heavens and determined the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” Today, if you feel that your crisis is too much for God to take care of, if you believe your problem is too big for God to handle, and if you are convinced your enemy is just too powerful, God wants you to know that you are not seeing life in a correct perspective. God is for you and this means that nothing or no one is greater than His power. You and God are a majority no matter how bleak your situation. He is saying to stop confessing how huge your problems are and start declaring how awesome your God is! Doubt see’s God through the eyes of our emotions but faith see’s our circumstances through the eyes of God. Pray and believe that He is in total control and that He always wants the best for your life. Just for a moment, let’s stop and consider how powerful God is and how we can know that nothing is too difficult for Him.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bitcoin owners: Get ready to pay taxes this April

By Bill Rizzo
Carolina News and Reporter

Bitcoin owners will no longer be able to avoid paying capital gains tax on cryptocurrency gains for their 2017 tax returns due to the new rules in the 2018 tax law. The new tax code closed a loophole that allowed tax write offs by exchanging bitcoin for another cryptocurrency.

Prior to the latest tax bill, that process called like-kind exchanges allowed bitcoin owners to avoid paying a capital gains tax. Under the new tax code, like-kind exchanges only apply to real estate.

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency with a limited supply, similar to gold – where the market sets the value. It started as an idea by someone using the name Shatoshi Nakamoto, who’s true identity is unknown. Nakamoto wrote a paper about Bitcoin and sent it out to cryptographers in 2008. This was during the housing crisis when more people began to distrust the U.S. dollar’s value and the Federal Reserve’s banking policies – which allow the Federal Reserve to reduce the value of the dollar by printing money. Bitcoin was first coined in January 2009.

“I think when people got more skeptical about government and financial institutions, they get worried about inflation and the government being basically in charge of the money,” said Colin Jones, a USC finance professor who has been researching cryptocurrencies for over 5 years.

Before 2017, the price of bitcoin had risen at a slow and steady rate. On Jan.  1, 2017, one bitcoin was valued at $983.61. By December 2017, it reached $19,165.42 and took the world by storm.

“I think it was originally popular because it has a very interesting value proposition as a stateless currency that is incredibly liquid and transferable,” said Jones. “Then once the price went up, people started paying more attention.”

He says the steep rise in price caught the eye of investors. “Buying a little bit of bitcoin has a place in a lot of people’s long-term portfolios because it’s uncorrelated to the stock market,” said Jones. He called it an alternative to gold.

The blockchain

This idea of Bitcoin at its root was a distributed ledger called a blockchain where all users record every transaction publicly. The blockchain creates security for the investor because the government and others cannot modify the blockchain.  The only way the blockchain can be updated is through the process of data mining.

There are hundreds of thousands of mining computers all over the world owned by companies and individuals. The breadth of these mining networks makes it virtually impossible to hack, since you need 51 percent of the network to gain control.

Andrew Wright, a USC student who has attended blockchain conferences and works with the technology daily, says the blockchains are the most secure form of transactional record keeping and data exchange, which is the reason they have become so sought after.

“Blockchain is the pinnacle of military grade encryption software that is being used in a commercialized market,” said Wright.

Andrew Wright, a USC student majoring in advertising, works with blockchain technology daily. The image on the computer screen is his self-created visual representation of blockchain.

There will never be more than 21 million bitcoin in circulation. Each year half of the remaining bitcoin will be released from new blocks to prevent all of the supply being used up. The algorithm will not allow more than the year’s supply to be released. At the end of 2017 there were 16.78 million bitcoin in circulation. The total will not reach 21 million in over 100 years.

“At its root, cryptocurrencies are a hedge against fiat currencies,” said Wright.

2018 decline in price

Following the 2017 surge, a big crash scared a lot of investors. By Feb. 2, 2018, the price of bitcoin dropped to $7016.39. Jones says this drop is due to government regulation.

Jones says South Korea and China have banned cryptocurrencies, causing drops in prices. Both countries are major players in the market.

Now, America has even threatened regulations on bitcoin.

“America was kind of waffling on it,” said Jones. “Although recently the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has softened on it saying there might be a little bit of regulation, but they are not going to stop it,” said Jones. He points to regulation as the main cause of the price drop.

With the like-kind exchange tax loophole closing, the crytptocurrency market might be even less attractive to American investors, who until now have been able to get around paying taxes on their gains.

Cryptocurrencies and taxes

Before 2014, the IRS did not specifically require cryptocurrency owners to declare their gains and pay taxes. Then, as the market became more popular, the IRS decided it was time to clarify the issue. In 2014, the IRS asked Coinbase – the most popular website to store, buy or sell digital currencies – for all of its users’ records.

“I don’t think anything changed, but I think bitcoin just got on the radar,” said Donna Schmitt, a USC accounting professor.

This new policy treated cryptocurrencies as a property, similar to stocks or gold. This meant owners would be required to declare their gains and pay a capital gains tax on their digital currency.

Schmitt says the U.S. dollar is the only currency that does not require a capital gains tax. “Any other currency is property that can change in value and you can have a gain or loss in selling it, which means you have to pay a capital gains tax,” she said. “Capital gains tax rate is dependent on your income.”

But this new 2014 rule set by the IRS did not stop cryptocurrency owners from finding loopholes. Due to the like-kind exchanges rule, bitcoin and other owners of digital currencies were able to get tax write offs by exchanging one digital currency for another.

To declare digital currency gains or losses, owners will now have to report them on a Schedule D form. This is where taxpayers report all of their capital transactions.

Colin Jones is a professor in the finance department at the University of South Carolina. He first learned about bitcoin from his students and continued to research and study blockchain technology.

Donna Schmitt is an accounting professor at the University of South Carolina and a certified public accountant in Florida.

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