You can keep your money

February 12, 2009

MARK SANFORD, South Carolina’s penny-pinching governor, has been called a rising star by Michael Steele, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee. But the star may well be about to crash to earth, in his home state at least. The recession has hit his state particularly hard; but he has been staunchly opposed to the federal government’s stimulus package, which would bring South Carolina an estimated $2 billion-$3 billion.

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Drought: The Parched Country

October 25, 2007

After 18 months of sunny skies and scorching heat, crops are shrivelling, lawns are crisping and lakes are drying up. This is not scorched California or America’s arid south-west, but its normally lush south-east. The Department of Agriculture’s “drought monitor” says that 32% of the region is in “exceptional drought,” the most severe designation and one expected on this scale only once or twice a century. The problem is exacerbated by the south-east’s inexperience with lack of rain, and by the area’s booming population.

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Defence fraud: Creative billing

August 23, 2007

Everyone knows about the $400 hammer and the $600 lavatory-seat, but these days defrauding the Pentagon is a seriously big business. Twin sisters from the town of Lexington, South Carolina, a few miles from the state capitol in Columbia, managed to swindle America’s Defence Department out of no less than $20.5m over the past nine years by using an automated payment system intended to cut red tape and speed up shipments to troops.

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The Democrats: The Politics of Fish

May 3, 2007

April 26 marked the first of many showdowns between the rivals vying for the Democratic nomination for the presidency next year. For 90 minutes, the candidates patiently answered predictable questions, and at the end of the debate, held at South Carolina State University, most people reckoned that Hillary Clinton had had the best of it. But the debate was just a precursor to an even more important ritual – Representative James Clyburn’s famous annual “fish fry” the following night.

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June 8, 2006

ONE day this spring, a group of youngsters travelled in battered yellow school buses to the South Carolina legislature in Columbia. They went there to show photographs they had taken of their shockingly dilapidated school buildings in rural parts of the state. The pictures showed dripping ceilings, creeping mould, filthy drinking fountains, smashed toilets, makeshift heating and air-conditioning units, rat droppings, and rat poison left lying around. By displaying these, the children hoped to persuade legislators to spend more money on the state’s schools.

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Laying Ghosts: Hate, Reconciliation and Secession

July 30, 2005

For years, South Carolina has floated near the bottom of national rankings for education, income, growth and so on. It has got rather used to it by now. But in one thing, the Palmetto State excels: it has more hate groups than anywhere else. A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a watchdog group that battles discrimination through the courts, says South Carolina boasted 47 hate groups last year, more than Florida (43), California (42), Georgia (41) or Texas (40).

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Your woman or your rooster?

April 28, 2005

South Carolina is a rather traditional, male-minded place, with a particularly ornery legislature, but even some conservatives are a mite embarrassed by the odd double chalked up by the state’s House Judiciary Committee last week. First, its members stopped a bill that would have increased the penalties for wife-battering; then they took the time to approve one protecting gamecocks, by making cock-fighting a felony.

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A voucher scheme brings back unwelcome memories

March 31, 2005

In 1984, Mark White, then governor of Texas, gave South Carolina’s Governor Richard Riley a pair of cowboy boots. Mr. Riley promptly vowed that the boots would stay on his feet until the South Carolina legislature passed his package to reform the public schools. Several weeks later, he prised them off. After an election-style campaign, his cherished Education Improvement Act had got through. It ushered in one of the country’s most successful programmes—so successful that, on the strength of it, Mr. Riley became Bill Clinton’s secretary of education.

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Yes, he did: Strom Thurmond’s Daughter

December 20, 2003

It often happened in the segregated South a century or two ago: a powerful white man fathered mixed-race children with a black slave or servant. Until this week, Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings was the most famous of these once-secret liaisons. Now comes a rival: the late Senator Strom Thurmond, whose 24-hour filibuster against a 1957 civil rights bill is still the longest-ever speech on the Senate floor.

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