Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 22

The Post and Courier on a bill that will help strengthen partnerships between historically black colleges and universities and federal agencies:

Among the notable bills awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature during his last weeks in office is a welcome bipartisan measure to help strengthen partnerships between historically black colleges and universities and federal agencies.

The HBCU PARTNERS Act writes into law a Trump executive order raising the profile of HBCUs within the federal government and establishing an advisory body at the White House, ensuring a dedicated pathway for their concerns. The measure, introduced by U.S. Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Chris Coons D-Del., also should help minimize the shocks to the highly dependent HBCUs of changes in federal policies that inadvertently hurt their finances and their students’ welfare.

About 70% of the more than 225,000 students enrolled in the nation’s 107 HBCUs require financial assistance that largely comes from federal sources.

The lack of an active pipeline to the White House for HBCU concerns and priorities led to a sometimes bumpy road for these critical institutions during President Barack Obama’s time in office. Mr. Obama’s first budget slashed funding for these schools by more than $70 million, and his later decision to federalize student loans and tighten credit requirements for education loans to parents had a devastating impact on a number of HBCUs. Many parents found they could no longer qualify for an education loan, leaving their children already enrolled in college with few options other than to drop out.

The advisory body, which will include a number of HBCU presidents, will enable the community to bring its concerns to the attention of the White House before they are hurt by potential policy changes.

The HBCU PARTNERS Act also codifies requirements in the Trump executive order for all concerned federal agencies to prepare an annual action plan for how they will engage with HBCUs, inform Congress of their plans and track their progress, all of which are essential to improved transparency and accountability.

HBCUs, which exist in 20 of our 50 states, have been the main path to higher education for many black people since before the Civil War, and these institutions gained particular influence in creating a large cadre of black professionals in law, medicine and education during the past century.

The federal government has been a main source of support, but this month Claflin University and Voorhees College were among several HBCUs around the country that got major financial boosts from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Claflin, in Orangeburg, received a $20 million gift, the largest in its 151-year history. That promising interest and financial help from the private sector could help universities establish or build on endowments that can sustain scholarships, research programs and other needs.

That support is critical for HBCUs, whose endowments traditionally lag non-HBCU schools by about 70%, according to the American Council on Education. Even many of the 57 private HBCUs have lacked the depth of alumni support available to other well-established private colleges and universities and are sensitive to changes in federal funding.

It also is important that HBCUs are heard when their interests are at stake in federal decisions and that they get the support they need from federal agencies. The HBCU PARTNERS Act is a step in the right direction.

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

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Dec. 18

The Times and Democrat on an increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic:

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, people are drinking more.

TOP Data analyzed consumer tracking data of visits to liquor stores, online beer shopping data and a 1,000-person survey.

Online sales of alcohol are 262% higher than last year and alcohol consumption among Americans ages 30-59 has gone up by 19% since the pandemic reached the U.S. There also is a 41% increase in instances of women drinking four drinks or more a day.

The health impacts are certain to be real but are likely won’t be as quickly known as some other measures of problems caused by more drinking. One is the stability of relationships.

American Addiction Centers, a leading substance addiction resource provider, carried out a poll (3,400) that found almost one in five (16%) of South Carolina relationships that broke down since the start of the pandemic cited alcohol as the significant factor.

In addition:

— 1 in 5 admit to keeping drinking a secret from their partner during the lockdown.

— 25% of couples admit they argue when they have been drinking.

Enter the holiday season, a traditionally festive time when more alcohol is consumed. Tack on coronavirus issues to the normal December stress levels and there is potential for even more drinking this season.

South Carolina law enforcement doesn’t want the drinking to carry over to the roadways.

This week, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and law enforcement partners statewide announced the kickoff for Sober or Slammer! – a campaign beginning through Jan. 1 in coordination with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign that began Dec. 16.

Although the holidays may look different this year, troopers are encouraging motorists to make a plan for a safe ride home prior to any holiday celebrations. The South Carolina Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will also conduct a series of public safety checkpoints throughout the state during the New Year’s holiday period.

SCHP urges motorists to take the following steps to ensure a safe ride home, even in these pandemic times:

— Designate a sober driver.

— Use public transportation, such as buses and shuttles.

— Call a local cab or taxi service, or plan ahead for a taxi. (Some local towing services also offer safe rides home and will tow the driver’s car home for a fee).

— Download and use ride-share apps such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc.

NHTSA is also doing its part to encourage safe rides and has developed the NHSTA SaferRide app, available for Android and Apple mobile devices. Users can create a profile in the SaferRide app and may use it to call a friend or a local cab service for a ride home.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that drunk drivers play a role in a full 40% of traffic deaths over Christmas and New Year’s. That’s an increase of 12% over even the rest of December.

The year has been deadly enough, from the pandemic to the roadways. Do your part to make the season a safe one.

Online: https://thetandd.com

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Dec. 19

The Post and Courier on reducing plastic consumption and pollution:

Those most concerned about the health of our oceans and their inhabitants have grown increasingly alarmed about the accumulation of plastic pollutants, and a new report provides further evidence that they’re right. Last month, the conservation nonprofit Oceana released a troubling analysis of marine mammals and turtles found dead or stranded between 2009 and 2020: Almost 1,800 of them either had eaten or were ensnared in plastic trash.

The analysis looked at about 40 species, including manatees, turtles, whales, sea lions, seals and dolphins, and was prompted by both the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Loggerhead turtles, South Carolina’s official reptile, which lay a vast number of nests along our coastline, were particularly distressed, suffering from plastic bags, fishing lines, deflated balloons, packing straps and food wrappers. The report did not examine the effects of microplastic particles, also abundant in the water and known to be ingested by animals across the food web — and eventually humans.

Oceana’s findings added a grim, authoritative perspective to what many already have seen. Kelly Thorvalson, who manages the S.C. Aquarium’s conservation programs, told reporter Chloe Johnson that 39 turtles treated by the aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center had ingested plastic. Of those, 34 were brought in during the past five years. “This plastic pollution issue is at a crisis level, and the convenience of these single-use plastics is simply not worth the environmental impact,” Ms. Thorvalson told Ms. Johnson.

So we were encouraged last week to see Sen. Lindsey Graham join fellow Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, to introduce the Unify Nations in Trash Elimination for our Oceans Act. If it passes, the U.S. government would work with international partners to “finance promising projects that promote the sustainable management of materials and reduce the amount of plastic and other waste polluting the world’s oceans.”

Mr. Graham said the bill is “an effort by America to put our money where our mouth is and will be used to leverage other nations to contribute so we have an all-hands-on-deck approach to dealing with the overwhelming problem presented by plastics in the ocean.” This bipartisan approach to tackling ocean plastics has won praise from such environmental heavyweights as the World Wildlife Fund, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation Group and the Ocean Conservancy.

If passed, the so-called UNITE Act would direct the secretary of state to work with federal agencies, other countries and international groups to establish a trust fund to prevent and reduce marine debris and plastic pollution. The fund would give grants to national and local governments, nonprofits and others. The United States would contribute $150 million in each of its first two years. It’s a start, and if the trust fund can show success, more money from these and other sources is sure to follow.

Oceana notes that half of all the world’s plastic was made in the past 15 years and about a dump truck load’s worth makes its way into the oceans every minute, creating a global crisis in a relatively short period. Plastics float on the sea’s surface, wash up on our most remote coastlines, emerge from melting Arctic ice and rest on our deepest ocean floors.

While federal action is welcome, more is needed, beginning with a more deliberate effort by all of us to limit single-use plastics in our daily lives and to recycle those plastics we do use when possible. Business leaders, from the smallest to largest companies, can and should focus on alternatives to single-use plastics and not simply wait for government to regulate them.

Local and state governments also have a role to play, as we have seen along the coast, with many cities, towns and counties banning certain plastic packaging because of its potential environmental harm. As voters and consumers, we also can reward elected leaders and business owners who take action on this problem.

Public pressure and private-sector innovation successfully addressed the scourge of chlorofluorocarbons a generation ago, after scientists discovered their popular use was creating a dangerous hole in the Earth’s ozone layer. Single-use plastics present a different and more ubiquitous type of problem than CFCs, but we retain our faith in our collective will to find a solution.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com