July 28, 2014

Ruling on Virginia gay marriage ban has implications for SC

The case will almost certainly end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court (Courtesy: U.S. Courts)

The case will almost certainly end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court (Courtesy: U.S. Courts)

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, a decision which could have implications for South Carolina.

The three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Virginia’s ban on homosexual marriage and refusal to recognize such marriages from other states violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” Judge Henry Floyd, a former South Carolina district judge, wrote in the court’s opinion. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”

The ruling has implications in South Carolina, which is also located in the Fourth Circuit and is covered by the ruling’s precedent. Any legal challenge to South Carolina’s ban would almost certainly also go through the Fourth Circuit upon appeal. All parties in the case agree the final decision on state bans of gay marriage will likely be up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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USC’S McNair Center lands home for research

Harris Pastides USC president

Harris Pastides
USC president

The University of South Carolina’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research announced Monday it has secured a 13,500-square-foot office and research home near downtown Columbia.

The school announced a new five-year lease agreement with SC Research Authority on Monday. The building has housed the offices for the center for the past two years, but will now expand to include a new $4.5 million research center.

The new Advanced Composite Materials Research Center will include an automated fiber placement machine for use in developing new lightweight composite structures and advanced robotic technology used to build aircraft composites. At the official facility announcement Monday, USC President Dr. Harris Pastides said this will be the first time such a state-of-the-art industrial machine will be owned outside a corporate entity.

“That’s the kind of equipment and facility that will allow companies, large and small, to come to South Carolina and play their role as best they can in developing the great aircraft and parts of the future,” Pastides said.

Pastides said for some time now the university has had the students and the faculty, but not have the right physical space to conduct the kind of research that Boeing and other aeronautic companies want. But he said the massive center allows the university to conduct the type of research that will attract other companies to the state.

“We hope to attract, maybe even lure, other companies that can’t afford that machine where they are, but would move to South Carolina so that they can have an opportunity to work with it and work with us,” he said.

The McNair Center has more than two dozen contributing researchers working in a wide range of aerospace-related fields. Pastides said the center cannot be more aptly named because Lake City native Ron McNair worked long and hard to transform himself from small town dreamer to physicist/astronaut. Pastides said the story of Ron McNair’s life continues to serve as an inspiration.

“When it came to attending college, they told him he couldn’t go to MIT. They told him he couldn’t become an Air Force pilot or an astronaut. So that’s the kind of role modeling that will continue to inspire us. When people tell us ‘no you can’t,’ we’ll say ‘Ron McNair did; we can, too.’”

Construction on the Advanced Composite Materials Research Center is expected to begin in August.


Heat advisory for coast, as heat index reaches 110

Image: NWS

This National Weather Service image shows the heat index for different areas of the Lowcountry Monday

The National Weather Service is urging residents in eastern South Carolina to be careful. The agency issued a heat advisory Monday for 12 counties located near the coast, warning that the heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity) could be around 110 Monday afternoon.

The advisory warns the excessive heat will be in effect from midday until early evening. Forecasters say “oppressive” heat and humidity are creating a potentially dangerous situation.

The advisory is in effect in Allendale, Berkeley, Colleton, Charleston, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Marion and Williamsburg counties.

The National Weather Service recommends wearing lightweight, light colored clothing to better reflect the sun’s energy than darker outfits.  The weather service also cautions anyone spending much time outdoors to continuously drink water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine which can dehydrate the body.

Other recommendations include avoiding strenuous activity. If you must do strenuous work, do it during the coolest part of the day such as the morning or early evening.

Iva police chief suspended after domestic violence arrest

The police chief of a small Anderson County town has been suspended from duty after his arrest on criminal domestic violence charges this weekend.

Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies said Saturday they had arrested and charged Iva Police Chief Tommy Miller with criminal domestic violence and third-degree assault earlier in the afternoon.

Arrest warrants accuse the 39-year-old police chief of repeatedly striking his 14-year-old son “multiple times” with a piece of wood and attempting to harm his wife. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office incident reports states Miller did “grab the victim and throw her in an aggressive manner.” The incident report says deputies reviewed video footage and spoke with Miller’s wife and son before arresting Miller.

Town officials have suspended Miller while they look into the charges. The town council is expected to take up the matter in its meeting Monday night.

Miller was released on his own recognizance Saturday night. He declined to comment when FOX Carolina approached him shortly after his release, according to the network.

Energy Secretary tours SRS as agency considers shelving experimental nuke program

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at Savannah River Site (Image: High Flyer)

Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at Savannah River Site (Image: High Flyer)

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will join Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and others in a tour of several nuclear facilities Monday that could be affected by budget cuts during this upcoming year.

The Energy Secretary will be making his first official visit to the Savannah River Site in Aiken County since taking the Cabinet post last year. The tour will include a visit to the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) at the site. The MOX project is supposed to eventually convert weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel, but the project is over-budget and years behind schedule.

The White House, acting on concerns by both budget watchdogs and anti-nuclear groups, moved to place the project on cold-standby for a year. The move would halt construction as the Energy Department considers alternative ways to dispose of the plutonium.

South Carolina officials sued, worried about the loss of roughly 1,800 jobs at the site. The lawsuit argued the Energy Department lacked the authority to shift the project’s status without congressional approval. Graham said the lawsuit was dropped in May after Moniz promised construction would continue through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Haley’s spokesman Doug Mayer told the Aiken Standard that the governor looks forward to welcoming Moniz to South Carolina so they can resume the conversations they have had concerning the federal government’s “failure to remove nuclear waste from our state.”