In Brief: February 12, 2013

Harrison runs for state Democratic Party chair

South Carolina’s Democratic Party may have its first African-American state chairman in May, given voters’ support.
Jaime Harrison, a Washington lobbyist and former executive director of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, announced Monday his intentions to run for the position, The State reported.
“I think I can take the party to the next level,” Harrison told The State. “This is a watershed year for Democrats.”
Harrison represents USC, South Carolina Ports Authority, Boeing and Michelin for the Podesta Group lobbying firm, according to The State. The 37-year-old previously worked for U.S. Rep. James Clyburn for six years, including as his floor director.
An Orangeburg, S.C., native, Harrison graduated from Yale University and Georgetown University’s law school.
Outgoing Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, who said Monday that he will not seek re-election after spending seven years leading the state Democratic party during two stints, voiced his support for Harrison.
“He is the right man at the right time,” Harpootlian told The State.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor

 

Pope Benedict shocks world with historic resignation

In an announcement that surprised the world Monday, Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign in some six centuries.
Multiple media outlets reported Benedict’s unexpected decision, which he announced to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican Monday morning, citing his advanced age and infirm health.
“Before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise,” said Benedict, speaking in Latin, according to The New York Times.
The 85-year-old German was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II.
CNN said Benedict’s resignation will take effect Feb. 28, according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi. Lombardi also said a new pope will be chosen before Easter.
Many expect the new pope to follow Benedict’s conservative vision for the billion-member Roman Catholic Church; Benedict appointed 67 of the 117 cardinals who will select the new pope, according to CNN.
High-level Vatican officials will conduct the church’s business in the period between Benedict’s resignation and the election of the new pope, USA Today reported. Cardinals younger than 80 will cast ballots for the new pope, who must receive two-thirds of the votes to be selected.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor

 

State tax returns to go through tighter security

In light of last fall’s embarrassing computer security breach, the South Carolina Department of Revenue said Monday that this year’s state tax returns will undergo new security measures to prevent any potential fraudulent activity.
Tax returns will pass through a new security safeguard, and if a questionable return appears in the system, SCDOR will mail the taxpayer a letter requesting additional information in order to complete the processing of the return, WIS reported.
The goals of the new security system are to protect taxpayers from becoming victims of fraud, to decrease the number fraudulent tax returns filed and to decrease the number of fraudulent tax refunds issued, according to WIS.
Using similar security methods last year, Georgia was able to recoup $21 million in fraudulent tax returns, WIS said.
Since last year’s computer hacking scandal, which leaked financial information belonging to 6.4 million people, the state has spent more than $20 million on breach-related solutions, according to The State.
As paper filers were not affected by the security breach, the state expects an increase in taxpayers filing paper returns and will hire more people than usual to process those returns, The State said.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor

 

Mountain Dew reveals new breakfast beverage

Instead of starting off their days with a regular Mountain Dew, soda junkies will soon have a new option.
PepsiCo announced Monday the launch of its new Kickstart breakfast beverage, a combination of fruit juice and Mountain Dew that will be available starting Feb. 25, USA Today reported.
“Our consumers told us they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages — one that tastes great, includes real fruit juice and has just the right amount of kick to help them start their days,” said Greg Lyons, Mountain Dew’s vice president of marketing, in a statement.
The drink, which will come in citrus orange and fruit punch flavors, contains 92 milligrams of caffeine and 80 calories per 16-ounce can. Comparably, a regular Mountain Dew has 72 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce can, a 16-ounce Amp energy drink has 142 milligrams of caffeine and a 16-ounce Starbucks coffee has 330 milligrams of caffeine, according to USA Today.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor

 

Report shows SC literacy rates not improving

South Carolina is showing no progress on improving reading proficiency in its schools, according to a new report by the state’s Education Oversight Committee.
Released Monday, the report shows that 80 percent of the state’s third-grade students and 70 percent of eighth-grader students tested as reading on grade level, according to The State.
The committee’s goal had been to have 95 percent of students reading on grade level by 2020, but the percentage of students meeting grade-level proficiency has stagnated for the past four years, The State said.
Committee chairman Neil Robinson told The State that “students are struggling,” and he expressed concern for their readiness to enter a job market where “the demand for low-skilled labor is weakening.”
Students’ reading levels are based on their performance on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor

 

Police seek information about exposure incident

Columbia police are seeking information regarding a reported incidence of indecent exposure Sunday afternoon.
Investigators say a man told them his 10-year-old daughter was approached by a male suspect at the 1500 block of Main Street shortly before 2 p.m. Sunday. The suspect is accused of exposing and fondling himself in front of the girl. The girl was not physically harmed.
The girl’s father said he followed the suspect to the 1100 block of Taylor Street but lost sight of him soon afterward.
The girl described the suspect as a black male, possibly wearing brown pants, a tan “fishing coat” with a yellow shirt underneath and a brown baseball cap.
Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact Crimestoppers.

—Sarah Ellis, Assistant News Editor


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