Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Former Miss South Carolina pageant official convicted for lewd act

AIKEN


Police: Ousted DSS official disrupted area Waffle House


A former director for the S.C. Dept. of Social Services, who is awaiting the start of a federal prison term for embezzling over $5 million, had a run-in with local authorities after becoming belligerent in an Aiken area Waffle House.

Aiken County Sheriff’s Office deputies said Paul Moore, 61, was grossly intoxicated when they responded to a 3 a.m. incident call at the late night diner.

Moore pleaded guilty in October to converting millions in public money to checks for personal use, which he admitted to using on gambling, strippers and booze. Part of his bond agreement was to refrain from abusing alcohol. It is unclear what effect his most recent arrest will have on his upcoming federal sentence.

Moore was released from the Aiken County detention center on a personal recognizance bond.


CHARLESTON


Time share operation masking as “Welcome Center” raises eyebrows


A business situated across the street from the official Charleston Visitor Center has been criticized by the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau amid fears that its advertising scheme may confuse visitors.

The Ann Street business advertises itself as a “Welcome Center” full of free maps and brochures for nearby attractions. The center is actually owned by Festiva Hospitality Group, a time-share sales group, based in Asheville, N.C. Time-share industry advocates say they provide a service to visitors and bring thousands to the area for presentations. Around eight privately run information centers, run by various sales groups, currently operate in Charleston, according to a report by the Charleston Post and Courier.

The city is considering passing ordinances that would require the businesses to display their actual names more prominently. The city has already tightened restrictions on sidewalk salesmen after visitors complained of being hounded by salesmen hawking time-shares and other services.


CHARLOTTE


Atheist organization places billboard on Billy Graham Parkway


To commemorate Independence Day, a group called Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics has placed an American flag-themed billboard stating “One Nation Indivisible” –with “Under God” left out—on a parkway named after famed televangelist Billy Graham.

A spokesperson for the group told the Rock Hill Herald that the placement of the billboard was due to cost-effectiveness and not because the parkway was named in honor of Graham.

The billboard highlights the phrase from the original Pledge of Allegiance before the “Under God” was inserted in 1954, at the height of the Cold War, to distinguish the U.S. from the U.S.S.R., which officially embraced atheism.

The group, part of a coalition called the N.C. Secular Association, says their message is simple: the non-religious citizens of North Carolina are patriots, too.


CHERAW


Town workers busted for selling crack


Two employees of the Cheraw Water Department have been arrested after police said they were caught selling crack cocaine out of their town-issued vehicles.

Both men, who were maintenance workers for the department, face multiple counts of distribution of crack cocaine and distribution of crack cocaine within the proximity of a school. Bond has been set for $25,000 each.


PICKENS


Former Miss South Carolina pageant official convicted for lewd act on minor


Joseph Saunders IV, a former official for the Miss South Carolina pageant, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for allegedly committing a lewd act on a young girl.

Prosecutor, Doug Richardson, said Sanders fondled a 9-year-old girl at an Easley motel in 2005 and had intercourse with her in 2008, according to media reports.

Co-defendant, Anita Gearhart, was convicted of illegal conduct toward a child after prosecutors said she failed to report the abuse. Gearhart was sentenced to seven years in prison.


ROCK HILL


Sleeping father charged after toddler found wandering


A Rock Hill man is facing a child abuse charge after his son was found wandering in the parking lot of their apartment complex in pajamas one morning last week.

Police, alerted by a neighbor, took the child into protective custody after they and the property manager were unable to find the child’s parents. According to the Rock Hill Herald, Robert Stroud, 33, said he works the third shift, returned home from work around 8 a.m., put his son down for a nap, and then took a nap himself. He said his alarm failed to wake him as it normally does. When he awoke around 3 p.m. he found that his son was missing and was in the custody of the Dept. of Social Services.

Police arrested Stroud and DSS will investigate the incident.

Letters to the Reader

Dear Text Message Breakup,

I’m not ur M8 b/c u been standing me ^ for D8’s 4 like 3wks.  I had a XLNT DNR planned.   CU L8R, Y would I WAN2 talk 2 u? :- ||  FYI, ur lips were chapped from u :-* ur X.

Columbia City Paper

Dear Caucasian Donning-Wife-Beater-Ts on a Moped:

Kindly take your inane ass to Roma and trade in your Kymco and DUI rap sheet for a used Vespa.  I’m tired of getting stuck behind you on every residential back road in this town while you make your twice-daily Natty Light run to the corner Paki Mart.  Why is it that every septuagenarian on a 10-speed Schwinn can pass you?

I wish someone would convince you that the hand signal for a left turn was taking both your hands and holding them behind your back.  Don’t you have any respect for our gas-guzzling society?!

But in all seriousness, do the planet a favor:  go kype a Humvee from Shandon, down a case of Zima and kindly run the vehicle and your sorry existence off the I-126 Congaree Bridge.

Columbia City Paper

Dear God of Thunder and Lightning:

Thank you so much for sparing our lives this week as we foolhardily imbibed bottle after bottle of beer and bourbon in the backyard pool of my next-door neighbor who took off on vacation for two weeks and idiotically thought to ask me, of all people, to feed his goldfish every other day.

You sure know how to brew up a late-afternoon thunderstorm!  By the way, how was i supposed to know that freshwater fish can’t survive in a saltwater pool?

I will say, there’s nothing worse than trying to clean goldfish flakes out of all those hard to reach places.

Columbia City Paper

Dear Golf Cart in Residential Neighborhood:

Golf carts belong on the links, not on Rosewood Avenue at 6 p.m. during rush hour.  While you may think it’s quaint to tool about town at half the speed of the average Amish buggy with your USC frat buddies drinking from brown paper bags, I don’t find much humor in your pulling in front of me with an 18-wheeler tailgating my ass.  Just how many DUIs do you have to get before they revoke your moped privileges?  Someone ought to roll you in Crisco and pig feed and drop you and your little green buggy in the middle of the Congaree Swamp.

I’m sure you’ll have fun trying to out-drive the feral hogs.

Columbia City Paper

Make drugs legal in S.C.

By Will Moredock



[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="By Will Moredock"][/caption]

Thinking about this poor, troubled, violent little state, I see no silver bullet to cure all its ills. But if there was one stoke of fiat law which I could perform to heal open wounds, right social wrongs, balance the state budget, and bring peace to our homes and streets, it would be the decriminalization of drugs – all drugs.

If drugs were as easy and inexpensive to obtain as beer or bourbon, few people would have to steal to support their habits. They would not have to meet strange and dangerous people in strange and dangerous places to get their fixes. They would not have to pack guns and occasionally kill each other in the process buying their drugs of choice. We would not have police kicking down doors, terrorizing neighborhoods, breaking laws and trampling civil liberties in the name of fighting the War on Drugs.

Our streets would be safer, the prison population would shrink, resources we now spend on arresting, trying and incarcerating drug users and dealers could be used on a host of more beneficial programs – including drug rehabilitation.

Yet, as you listen to the candidates – national and statewide – talk about their solutions to America's problems, when was the last time you heard one of them address our corrupt and ineffective drug laws? Drug policy is the proverbial third rail which no politician dare touch except to call for tougher laws and longer sentences.

What we need in this state and in this country is an informed discussion of drugs and drug laws, a discussion without politics and passion. That is what the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area (LWVCA) offers with a new study: “Mapping the Elephant – Illegal Drugs in South Carolina.”

The footnoted, 111-page study reaches no conclusions. It does not advocate or editorialize. It is a straightforward (and rather dry) statement of where America stands in this endless war on itself.

“The purpose of this study was to take a snapshot of where we are now,” said Sharon Fratepietro, who spent six months researching and writing the study (available at www.lwvcharleston.org) “We sought neutrality on all issues.“

“It is for people who have really not thought about drug policy before, except to say, 'If we put them in jail, we've solved the problem,” said Mary Horres, president of the LWVCA.

Putting them in jail has cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars in recent decades; has ruined lives, and it has not made us safer. America leads the world in the number of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons, according to “Mapping the Elephant.” With five percent of the world's population, the U.S. has about 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Percentages in South Carolina are comparable.

Yet, despite such high incarceration rate, most S.C. jails are not compliant with state law requiring them to compile and report jail statistics to a central state agency. And drug use is so pervasive that every year more than 1,000 state prison inmates test positive for illegal drugs. The true rate of drug use in state prisons is even higher, since not all inmates are tested.

“Prisons are the most controlled places in the state,” Fratepietro said. “If we cannot control drugs even in prison, how do we expect to control them outside prison?”

A surprising finding, Fratepietro said, was that the leading thing that keeps people from seeking medical help for their drug problem is fear of the law. As long as drug use is treated as a criminal justice problem, rather than a health problem, people will avoid seeking medical help for fear of being arrested.

“Mapping the Elephant” is full of useful facts and figures, including a history of attempts to control drugs in the U.S., dating back to 1860. There are abundant charts, maps, and statistical breakouts on demographics, types of drugs, sources of drugs, arrests, prison populations and much more. It would be impossible to understand S.C.'s drug problem without reading this report and it would be impossible to deal with our myriad other problems without understanding this state's drug problem.

Fratepietro admits that the study is already somewhat dated, based on new sentencing laws just passed by the General Assembly. She is working on a revised edition to accommodate the new statute. But the study stands as a stinging indictment of this state's traditionally narrow focus on punishment, rather than rehabilitation.

Facts are something South Carolinians don't deal with very well. “Mapping the Elephant” offers 111 pages of facts that we must face if we hope to come to grips with the social and economic costs of our War on Drugs. Downloading and reading this report would be a good place to start.


See Will Moredock's blog at www.charlestoncitypaper.com/blogs/thegoodfight.

Playing God


Better medicines, carbon neutral fuels, cheaper food, and a cleaner environment—who could be against that? Well, quite a few people, as it turns out.

A research team led by private human genome sequencer J. Craig Venter just announced that they had created the world’s first synthetic self-replicating bacteria. Among other things, synthetic biologists are aiming to create a set of standardized biological parts that can be mixed and matched the way off-the-shelf microchips, hard drives, and screens can be combined to create a computer. The goal is to produce novel organisms that excrete biofuels, clean up toxic spills, strip clogged arteries of cholesterol, rapidly produce vaccines, grow more photosynthetically efficient crops, and manufacture eco-friendly plastics. In an early success, UC Berkeley biologist Jay Keasling used synthetic biology techniques to engineer micro-organisms to produce at much lower cost the anti-malaria drug artemisinin in 2004.

Eventually, bioengineers will no longer be limited to just moving around and tweaking genes discovered in nature, but instead would develop never-before-seen genes. “With the tools of synthetic biology, we don’t have to just accept what Nature has given us,” Keasling often says.

But nowadays, every technological breakthrough is accompanied with ethical handwringing and dire warnings about unintended consequences, and synthetic biology is no exception. A Canadian anti-technology outfit, the ETC Group, is calling for a global moratorium on synthetic biology. “This is the quintessential Pandora’s box moment—like the splitting of the atom or the cloning of Dolly the sheep,” ETC Group’s Jim Thomas warns. “We will all have to deal with the fall-out from this alarming experiment.” The Daily Telegraph quotes an even more hyperbolic response from David King, head of the Human Genetics Alert group in the United Kingdom, who said, “What is really dangerous is these scientists’ ambitions for total and unrestrained control over nature, which many people describe as ‘playing God.’”

In addition, a subcommittee of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has forwarded language to the next conference of the parties meeting in October urging that the world’s governments apply “the precautionary approach on field releases of synthetic life, cells or genomes into the environment.” (Happily, the United States has never ratified the convention.) The precautionary approach basically means no new activity can go forward until it’s proven to be safe. The problem is that determining whether something is safe usually involves a process of trial and error, and there are no trials without errors.

So what fears motivate the call for a global moratorium? There are basically three: bioterrorism, lab accidents, and environmental release of synthetic organisms.

Bioterrorists might create and release pathogenic organisms to cause diseases in humans, animals, or crops. While the creation of some kind of super-pathogen using synthetic biology might be possible in the future, there are plenty of frightening pathogens available right now without going to the trouble of building new ones. And researchers have already proven their facility at resurrecting scourges from the past, such as smallpox, polio, and the Spanish flu. In fact, legitimate researchers have already reconstructed polio and flu viruses in a lab setting.

Leaving aside bioterror, there’s still the threat posed by biohacking. Do-it-yourself researchers working out of their garages might create—either intentionally or inadvertently—the biological equivalent of malign computer viruses. Or what about governments eager to manufacture new biological weapons? After all, the Venter team used digitized genome sequence information and off-the-shelf chemicals to design, synthesize, and assemble a genome from one bacterial species stretching more than 1 million DNA base-pairs encoding about 850 genes. They inserted this man-made genome into the hollowed out cell of another species whose original genome had been completely removed. The synthesized genome jumpstarted the cored-out cell, turning it into a different species of bacteria. Anyone could do it, right? Keeping governments out of the business of building new biological weapons will be difficult, but strengthening the verification provisions of the Biological Weapons Convention would greatly reduce this anxiety.

Lab accidents do occur. Last year, a researcher at a German lab pricked herself with a needle contaminated with the deadly Ebola virus and an Austrian lab mixed up samples of bird flu virus with seasonal flu samples. Picking the appropriate level of lab containment and rigorously training lab personnel is essential, but if preventing all accidents were mandatory, all research would come to a halt.

No one is talking about releasing synthetic organisms into the environment at this stage. The Venter team “watermarked” the synthetic cells with unique genetic sequences to distinguish them from natural cells so that they could keep track of them. And before getting too worked up over the potential dangers of escaped synthetic microbes, keep in mind that humans have been moving thousands of exotic microbial species across continents and oceans for centuries. Surely, some have had deleterious effects, but the world has not come to an end.

In any case, many lab-crafted creatures would likely be obliterated by competing organisms honed by billions of years of evolution in the wild. In the future, synthetic organisms could be equipped with suicide genes where their survival is dependent on some chemical that is only available in the lab. For example, if synthetic microbes are created to treat some kind of pollution, they would be supplied with the chemical onsite and once their work was done, they would be starved of it. In addition, future synthetic lifeforms should be “watermarked” like Venter’s new microbe so that their creators can be held accountable for them.

The good news is that a robust and expansive commercial and nonprofit biotech research establishment will enable the growth of a resilient and responsive public health infrastructure. It will give us the capability to quickly detect and contain outbreaks by rapidly devising and deploying new diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, and other treatments. Thus will a dynamic biotech industry protect us against bioterrorism, biohacking, accidents, and the unintended consequences of deliberate releases of both natural and synthetic microbes.

The German Ebola virus incident gives us a glimpse of this rapid response future. The researcher who pricked her finger with the contaminated needle was likely saved by being injected with an experimental vaccine 40 hours after she was exposed to the virus. Contrary to the claims of the anti-technology alarmists, the surest way to greater safety in the dawning era of synthetic biology is not prohibition, but proliferation.

talkback@columbiacitypaper.com

Jesus Christ on South Carolina


Political commentary by Jaroslav Dampfstain

Turns out Jesus and I both love club sandwiches and don’t mind washing them down with bottles of Amstel Light.  So, what better place to conduct a lunchtime interview than a strip club buffet? But the Messiah of Millwood arrived with a set of demands.  He agreed to the interview on the condition that I ask him just one question.  Thus, the first thirty minutes of our encounter was a stalemate of silence as I mentally compressed into one solitary question all the things City Paper readers could ever hope to know from the Lord of the Universe.

As I suspected, Jesus was more interested in the quality of his toothpick-bound turkey and bacon—Jew that he was in his first human incarnation—than in the sensuality of the Tuesday lunch crowd strippers.  That’s another thing the Christ child and I have in common.  There’s a reason some exotic dancers are assigned to weekday daylight crowds; their bodies barely vie with lunchmeat.  It’s much easier to stare at one’s sandwich plate than at an erotically benign single mother who really ought to be serving breakfast customers Monday through Friday at Lizard’s Thicket.

I finished my final bite of crust and lifted a cocktail napkin to my mayo-stained mouth.  Jesus took this as a sign.  He lifted his hirsute chin and I realized I was now on the Christological clock.


JAROSLAV DAMPFSTAIN: So… considering everything about this godforsaken dump of a state, starting with Aaron “The Duelist” Burr and the Civil War-era James “The Cane” Buchanan and fast-forwarding to the Orangeburg Massacre, then leap-frogging to the past several years with the likes of Thomas “Coke is it!” Ravenel and Mark ”The Hiker” Sanford and Jake “Muckraker” Knotts and Joe “You Lie!” Wilson and Rodell “Philip” Vereen and Roland “Tombstone” Corning and Edwin “Like a Jew” Merwin and James “Shylock” Ulmer and Nikki “Sanford in a Skirt” Haley and Phil “Closet” Graham and Jim “TSA Delay” DeMint and Hugh “Mumble-Mumble” Leatherman and Mitch “In the Other Closet” McConnell and Dick “Love Letters” Eckstrom and Steve “Lights Out” Benjamin and Kristin “Penthouse Letters” Maguire and Andre “Stray Animals” Bauer and Candidate Alvin “Saved my Ten Grand” Greene, what is your advice to the good citizens of South Carolina, whose political leaders are on the verge of completely decimating funding to public television, public education, public libraries and core public services in general?


JESUS CHRIST: [for the first time really looking toward the stage, then producing a ten-dollar bill from a thin, unworn wallet]:  Mr. Dampfstain, do you happen to have change for a ten?  Do you see that young lady up there?  Now, she’s not much to look at, with a fairly flat bust and hips which obviously have birthed several children.  But you seriously have to admire any woman who is willing to get naked on a stage and suck the material marrow out of her body for the sake of her family.  That takes balls, Mr. Dampfstain.  Balls.  And surely that is worth three or four one-dollar bills.  Don’t you think?

Just like Jesus to answer my question with a question and an erotic parable, I thought to myself.  I reached into my wallet and showered the table with two-dollar bills.  Christ can have it all as far as I was concerned.  Despite the terms of the interview, I risked one more question than I was permitted.


JD: Concerning that long list of names I mentioned, don’t you at least think South Carolinians are entitled to royalties for all of the advertising dollars our scandalous state has earned so many major news outlets and comedians, especially Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart?

Jesus reached into his violet velour smoking jacket and produced a fortune cookie.  Without so much as glancing at me, Christ placed the cabal cookie on my plate, took a handful of two-dollar bills up to the stage, handed them to the wide-hipped dancer, then exited the club into the famously hot Columbia afternoon heat.  I did what anyone would do.  I cracked open the fortune cookie and considered the message so clearly intended for me and perhaps all South Carolina residents.


Fortune Cookie: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  And don’t trust the lottery numbers on the back of this fortune; they’re a load of crap.


talkback@columbiacitypaper.com

Pirates



By Judit Trunkos

The South Carolina State Museum is famous for educational and entertaining exhibits. This summer the museum surprises visitors with a sneak peek into the real life of pirates in the South. Exhibiting real artifacts as well as reproductions from the 17th and 18th Centuries, the engaging show illustrates the lives and times of buccaneers during the golden ages of piracy.

Notorious pirates and their stories were mostly known to be originated in the Caribbean; however, colonial South Carolina could not escape the stealing and blockades of the pirates either. Blackbeard was possibly the most famous who operated in the colonial South, attacking ships. Blackbeard and his crew even successfully blockaded Charleston, demanding medicine and supplies for his crew.

American colonies were home to many of these famous pirates and their crews. South Carolina with its great harbors, many rivers, and well-established trade, especially drew pirates from all areas.  Preying on merchant, private, and sometimes military vessels, the South Carolina pirates built fierce reputations and made fortunes on stolen treasure. The biggest port targeted by pirates was Charleston. Charles Town (today Charleston) was a major port city in a state that only rarely had a governor who welcomed pirates or their trade, although it was known that men of that sort mingled with the locals during or after their career.

To better relive the frightening and romantic times of piracy, the exhibit displays pirate weapons such as swords, pistols and muskets, a pirate ship’s bell, rigging hook, cannon balls, pewter plates, buckles, ballast stones, cannon aprons and small vials of gold dust. A concretion tank features mineralized artifacts as they would have appeared when found on the ocean’s floor.  See three hundred year old money plundered by pirates, including silver “pieces of eight,” gold doubloons, and Spanish reals (pronounced ray-ahls). Reproduction cannons from pirate ships give guests the feel of being on the deck of a pirate ship.

“Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers” can be seen though September 19th.

talkback@columbiacitypaper.com

Beat Street Beat Battle coming July 24



INTRO

Greetings to all of you, hope you having a crazy good time this summer.  Make sure you grab a nice tall, cool, refreshing drink daily to keep you on chill throughout these next few months.  Vocal Booth will be here keeping your car, IPOD, and head filled with the latest greatest so be sure to keep reading.  Summer 2010 is upon us and promises to be one of the hottest summers on record.  By the way, it should be filled with more jokes and definitely more joy; keep your ears open.  Let’s get to it.

CURRENT LISTENS

Currently I’m listening to new music everyday.  Since officially starting June 21st, summer is deemed the ‘money making’ season for many in American Society.  This concept also happens to be true in the music making business most dub the ‘Industry’.  As the 2nd Quarter of the Year, the amount of new and re-mastered releases that see the light of day is tremendous.  To ensure you don’t get lost in this sauce, I’m going to give you a list of some of the releases should already have in your collection and some on the horizon that seem real promising.

Here’s your Vocal Booth Summer Music Long Player…

Nas & Damian Marley- Distant Relatives

Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek)- Revolutions Per Minute

Eminem- Recovery

Janelle Monae- Arch Android

The Roots- How I Got Over

Erykah Badu- New Amerykah Part 2

Little Brother- Left Back

Drake- Thank Me Later

Big Boi- Sir Lucious Leftfoot (The Son Of Chico Dusty)

P. Diddy Dirty Money- Last Train To Paris

Dwele- W.O.W.

The Dream- Love King

Robin Thicke- Sex Therapy

Kelis- Naked

Capone & Noreaga- The War Report 2

Snoop Dogg- Malice In Wonderland

Ice Cube- I Am The West

Stat Quo- Statlanta

Duck Down Records – The Best of….

Rick Ross- Teflon Don

Slum Village- The Chronicle

Madlib-  Yesterday’s New Quintet

Fat Joe- Jealous One’s Still Envy 2

Bun B- Trill O.G. (Trilogy)

Dondria- Self Titled

Fantasia- Even Angels

Redman- Where Is Reggie Noble?

Krs One & Mathematics

Game- The Red Album

Young Jeezy- Thug Motivation 103

Bilal (FINALLY!!!!)- Airtight Willy (Sept. 14th)

Smif & Wessun/Pete Rock- Legends

Kelly Rowland- N/A

WORDS OF WISDOM

Much love to all of you out there.  Thanks to everyone who came out to The Streets Won’t Leave Me Alone Concert @ The New Brookland Tavern.  Be on the lookout for The Beat Street Beat Battle coming July 24th.  Get your tickets early, this event will sell out.  Ever need a DJ, Sound, Mixtapes, Host, Drop, whatever, make sure you hit me up at kingpinvillianofvinyl@gmail.com

KEEP GOD FIRST!!!  DJ KINGPIN-VILLAIN of VINYL

Live Music



Thursday 7/1/10

New Brookland Tavern

Vindictive Sovereign

Invoking The Abstract

Barriers

The Terrigen Mists

Eyes Cast Down

White Mule

Sam Baker

Natalie Zukerman

John Fullbright

Macs on Main

Open Blues

Jam Session

Utopia

Open Mic with John English

Friday 7/2/10

New Brookland Tavern

(5:30 p.m.)

From The Heart

We Sail At Dawn

Labyrinths

Hylia

(9:30)

Minimum Wage

Dylan Lee

Ted Gwara

Chemical Peel

Hard Knox Grill

Modern Disruption

White Mule

The Restoration w/ Elonzo

The Redbirds

Macs on Main

Natural Desire

Utopia

Sounds of Suburbia

Saturday 7/3/10

Art Bar

Obraskai, Fallen Kings, Fury Road Band

Cafe Strudel

TBA

New Brookland Tavern

NBT's 4th Of July Weekend Celebration

11pm - Team America

9pm - Wet Hot America Summer

Macs on Main

Fatback and the Groove Band

Sunday 7/4/10

Cafe Strudel

TBA

New Brookland Tavern

Calculator

Wylie

The Fine Grain

Sequoyah Talent Show (featuring memebers of Sequoyah Prep School)

Tuesday 7/6/10

New Brookland Tavern

Acoustic Open Mic Night w/ Brightford

Sign up in advance or at the club that evening.

White Mule

Jess Klein

Wednesday 7/7/10

New Brookland Tavern

Mascot

Shaniqua Brown

Sleepy Eye Giant

Pan

Hard Knox Grill

Jazz Fusion and Funk w Jeremy Roberson

Utopia

Bluegrass Wednesday w/ 5 Star

Thursday 7/8/10

New Brookland Tavern

Slaughtahouse w/ Surviva Clik

Righchus

DJ Peoples

TBA

White Mule

Whiskey Tango Review

Macs on Main

Open Blues Jam Session

Utopia

Open Mic with The Dubber

Regional shows this weekend

ROADTRIP

06/04/10 : Friday

The Matt Kurz One Farm 255 Athens, GA

efren Flicker Bar and Theater Athens, GA

Col. Bruce & The Quark Alliance

Col. Bruce Hampton Last Call Athens, GA

Chris Young Lake Olmstead Stadium Augusta, GA

Sean Patrick Mcgraw The Country Club Dance Hall & Saloon Augusta, GA

Lingo Live Wire Music Hall Savannah, GA

Loretta Lynn Asheville Civic Center Asheville, NC

Tennessee Hollow French Broad Brewing Co. Asheville, NC

Free Electric State New French Bar Asheville, NC Zoso Orange Peel Asheville, NC

Floating Action

Holly Golightly Stella Blue Asheville, NC

Greg Humphreys Transylvania County Library Amphitheater Brevard, NC

Michael Burks Double Door Inn Charlotte, NC

illicitizen Snug Harbor Charlotte, NC

Grown Up Avenger Stuff The Evening Muse Charlotte, NC

How I Became the Bomb The Milestone Charlotte, NC

Brooks & Dunn

Jason Aldean Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Charlotte, NC

Tift Merritt

Megafaun Visulite Theatre Charlotte, NC

Near Gravity

The New Familiars

Duk Tan

Sticky Rhythm

Chasing Edison

Incognito Mosquito

Matter of Fact

The Walrus and The Carpenter

From A Seed

Yesterday’s Gravy

Actual Proof Groverfest Davidson, NC

The Influence

Dreamkiller The Rock Shop Fayetteville, NC

MeTalkPretty Via 216 Fayetteville, NC

Renato Epstein College of Charleston Charleston, SC

The Mason Jars The Thirsty Fish Edisto Beach, SC

The Woodgrains Fresh Brewed Coffee Myrtle Beach, SC

Ariah Firefly Band

John Neff House of Blues N. Myrtle Beach, SC

Zac Brown Band Heritage Park Amphitheater Simpsonvi lle, SC

06/05/10 :Saturday

The Veer Union Sky City Augusta, GA

Quintron and Miss Pussycat The Jinx Savannah, GA

The New Familiars Emerald Lounge Asheville, NC

East Coast Dirt Hannah Flanagan’s Asheville, NC

Toubab Krewe Orange Peel Asheville, NC

How I Became the Bomb Rocket Club Asheville, NC

Dirtbag Love Affair Amos’ Southend Charlotte, NC

Yonrico Scott

Laura Reed

Kofi Burbridge Neighborhood Theatre Charlotte, NC

Three Legged Fox

Nora Jane Struthers The Evening Muse Charlotte, NC

The Mantras Groverfest Davidson, NC

The Remedy LLC Forty-Rod Roadhouse Mint Hill, NC

Nicole C. Mullen Wilkes Community College Wilkesboro, NC

Renato Epstein College of Charleston Charleston, SC

Zac Brown Band Family Circle Magazine Stadium Charleston, SC

Barenaked Ladies

Serena Ryder North Charleston Performing Arts Center Charleston, SC

Chronicles of the Landsquid

PERICLES Snapper Jack’s Folly Beach, SC

Sol Driven Train

Matt Duke The Windjammer Isle of Palms, SC

Damion Suomi

Austin Lucas The Village Tavern Mount Pleasant, SC

The Influence Drink Myrtle Beach, SC

The Sundogs

Betsy Franck and Friends Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ Sullivan’s Island, SC

Grown Up Avenger Stuff Sylvia Theater York, SC

Jess Klein

Singer-songwriter, Jess Klein, will make a stop in Columbia this week in support of her new album, Bound To Love. A folk troubadour whose talents have been lauded both nationally and internationally, Klein emerged from the Boston music scene in 1998 with her independent release, Wishes Well Disguised. She has since toured the U.S., U.K. and Japan with 10,000 Maniacs, Jill Sobule and Luka Bloom, and is well-known for her work with the Voices on the Verge songwriter collective along with Erin McKeown, Rose Polenzani, and Beth Amsel.

Her last studio album, City Garden, received 5 five stars from Mojo Magazine. Bound To Love, takes a decidedly more Americana turn after her move to Austin, TX.

“I felt I leapt off a big cliff, moving to Austin and leaving the northeast where I’d lived my whole life,” Klein says.  “Austin is just brimming with musical inspiration, for anyone looking for it.  I didn’t have to try very hard to write.”

Bound To Love evokes the dusty roots of Texas songwriters and melds them into Klein’s blend of speak-to-the-heart lyrics, percussive guitar and soulful voice.

In August Klein will return to Ireland to tour opening for folk legend Arlo Guthrie.

-Norbet Sykes

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mis-Education of Alvin Greene



By Baynard Woods

Alvin Greene answered his home phone when I called and we casually set up a time to meet. A few days later, the 32-year-old candidate regarded me from a puffy chair in the corner of his father’s home, which served as headquarters for his Zen-like campaign for the U.S. Senate. On the table by the chair sat toenail clippers, a disposable razor and a Sonic fast food bag.

“Lately it’s been very busy,” Greene said of his life as he took a bite from his sandwich. “I didn’t expect so much so soon.”

Greene is unemployed. He said that before the election he spent much of his time watching television. The news was on the whole time we talked.

Greene managed to pay the $10,000 filing fee to the State Democratic party, but no one noticed him until he inexplicably beat his opponent, Vic Rawl, by a large margin in the Democratic primary. Now, everybody wants to figure out what happened and who the heck Alvin Greene actually is. As was widely reported, Rawl challenged the results, claiming that the voting machines were faulty. South Carolina bought them used from Louisiana when that state outlawed them. Rawl collected anecdotal evidence but eventually acknowledged there was no good way to prove the errors he claimed had skewed the results.

Jim Clyburn, the majority Whip and Greene’s own representative, called Greene a “plant.” Lindsey Graham echoed Clyburn’s calls for an FBI investigation.

But, on the day before my visit, the state party had decided not to overturn the results of the election, making Greene, Sen. Jim DeMint’s official opponent this fall. The state party still hopes Greene will step down. When asked if Greene had a chance against DeMint, Kiana Page, the party spokesperson said, “This race proves that anything can happen in politics. Especially in South Carolina.”

Greene knows that as well as anyone and has a simple answer to the question of who he is. “I’m the best candidate in the United States Senate race in South Carolina,” he says.

I asked him if his non-campaign campaign was an intentional strategy to attack the anti-government senator. He just smiled and took a bite of his sandwich and looked at the TV. I asked what he was going to say to DeMint.

“Well, I’m planning for a September debate. One hour long on a major television channel.”

“If he refuses to debate, what would that say about him?” I asked.

“It says that he doesn’t care about the people of South Carolina or their concerns,” Greene answered. “He and other representatives are responsible and accountable for the dire situations we face here in South Carolina and across the country.”

Greene grew up in Manning and served in the air force and the army. He claims that he was involuntarily, but honorably, discharged from the military and refuses to say more about the issue. He earned a Political Science degree from USC. I was asking him about classes he remembered when a knock sounded at the door.

Greene laid down his Sonic wrapper and got up. “Here’s the umm,” he fumbled a moment and nodded toward the door. “...Manning Times Reporter. Here’s someone from the Manning Times.”

“So you were just telling me about your own education and about studying political science when he knocked on the door,” I said.

As if on cue, there was another knock. “Who is it?” Greene hollered.

“It’s WIS.”

“I told them not to come,” he said, as if to himself. “OK! All right. Just open the door.”

The Manning Times reporter got up to open the door.

“Seems like your life’s gone crazy,” I said to Greene.

“It has.”

It was clear at that moment that Greene had absolutely no control over what was happening to him. It was almost like a sci-fi movie where an ordinary guy was sucked through the screen into the hyper-reality of the televised universe. He seemed to be struggling to find his bearings.

The TV man did not introduce himself and spoke in a gruff tone.

“I was just wondering you know –I see you’re eating lunch,” he said. “I know you said that you didn’t really want to do TV interviews, but, uh, I was just down here trying to get a feel of who you were. And so many people have a preconceived notion of who you are just because of the charges and everything.”

The charges are, of course, the felony charges pending against Greene for allegedly showing pornography to a college freshman and asking her if she wanted to go back to her room. It is something else Greene refuses to talk about. But it is clearly one of the main reasons why no prominent Democrats have reached out to help him.

“I’m really not interested in that now,” Greene said to the TV man. “Maybe in a week or two you can check back.”

The phone rang.

“Well you know it’s just kind of hard for me to get to Manning from Columbia every day,” the TV man said, obviously annoyed.

Greene ignored him and picked up the phone. “Hello? ...OK.” He hung up.

“So I was just hoping we could go ahead and knock it out today if that’s possible,” the TV man said, seemingly oblivious to we print reporters who were in the middle of an interview. “You just step right outside. It’ll be real quick.”

“OK. Let me finish these and then I’ll think about it,” he said.

“All right. I’ll just be right outside in the Channel Ten Jeep.”

The TV man walked out, shaking his head. WIS subsequently wrote on their website on June 19 that Greene had agreed to do an interview and backed out, even though, at least to me, it seemed like he had repeatedly told the reporter he did not want to talk.

Greene said it was like this every day now. He did not have a computer, a cell phone or even Caller ID. He answered every call blindly. He said that he was in the process of organizing a campaign and building a website, but at the moment, he needed a press secretary more than anything else.



“So you were talking about your political science classes,” I continued. “Way back then were you thinking of running?”

“Yes. I took a course in black politics. And the professor was Kenneth Whitby,” he said. “But I’ve followed politics since I was a child, so I always knew that running for office was always in the back of my mind.”

He took the last bite of lunch, crumbled the wrapper and put it in the bag.

“As a soldier serving in Korea two years ago I knew that this country was declining and I knew if I got a chance I would make things better,” he said. “That’s my campaign: Bringing America Back.”

The phone rang again.

“Hello? ....Who’s calling?” He listened for a little while. “OK. Can you get back with me in a week or two? I’m busy.”

He hung up and turned back to me.

“What is your campaign strategy other than the debate?” I asked.

“The issues, my message. Jobs. See I have a plan for jobs. Even picking back up with the Department of Transportation projects put on hold after 9/11. Such as Interstate 74 from Michigan to Myrtle Beach. Widening of other major highways across the state, especially the evacuation routes from the coast. And those will create jobs in the short term and the long term.”

The phone rang.

“Hello? ...Where you at? ...Hello?” He hung up. “Yes. And better PTAs, better facilities for better education. Fixing dilapidated schools and building new ones.”

“Your opponent, I guess, would ask where that money is going to come from?”

“Well, we spend two times more of our taxpayer dollars on inmates than on students,” he said. “Non-violent offenders should be offered pretrial intervention. Justice in the justice system is important. It takes so much money a day to keep someone incarcerated. Fairness saves money. It’s another example of how our incumbent Republican— ”

The phone rang.

“Hello?” I could tell from Greene’s side of the conversation that it was a Sunday talk show wanting him to go on. To the person on the other end of the line, he said, “That’s church time mainly right there in the middle of the day.” Then he hung up.

He turned back to me.

“When I say my opponent is reversing forward progress, I’m not being sarcastic. It’s green jobs and it’s better for the economy and the environment. That’s advancing society that I’m for and our two current United States senators are against that. They’re trying to repeal Health Care.”

As the Manning reporter got up to leave, the WIS crew burst in without knocking.

“All right,” the TV man said, “you want to do it inside or outside? We have a light on the camera if you want to do it inside. Like I said, it will just take two quick minutes.”

“What are you going to ask again?”

“Now that all of the late night comedians have made their jokes and protests have been done, how do you plan to get your campaign rolling?” the TV man asked. “A lot of people there still don’t seem to be taking you seriously. How do you plan to get people to take you seriously?”

“I told you over the phone that I wasn’t doing this,” Greene said.

“Two questions, that’s it.”

“No.”

“Ok. So why not?”

“I just… I just don’t like the questions and I don’t like— ”

The phone rang. Greene answered it. WIS kept talking.

“You’re going to have to get used to it,” the TV man said. “I mean I’ve been covering politics for years.”

“Yes,” Greene said into the receiver. “All right I’m busy now. I have folks over here. All right.” He hung up.

“So you don’t want to do the interview?” the TV man asked.

“No.”

The TV man seemed angry. His voice got louder and he said Greene would look bad. “That’s not a threat,” he said. “It’s just the way it is.”

Finally, they left. Greene had just fought another battle in the attempt to maintain control of his life and be a candidate. He insisted that he campaigned in the primary—he just didn’t use the media to do it. He’s trying to maintain that unlikely model.

As a result, everyone wonders if Alvin Greene is crazy. Perhaps, the only really crazy thing about him is that he believed an ordinary citizen with no organization could run for Senate and win without getting sucked into the media machine. He seems to believe he can control what he wants to talk about and leave major questions unanswered. He is living in another century.

But, so far, Alvin Greene’s crazy idea has not been so crazy.  At least he won in the primary. “I wasn’t that surprised,” he said. “I expected to win. I worked hard. It wasn’t a big deal.”

But now it is a big deal and the media are trying to suck Greene into their orbit. In the television world, he seems like a lost alien, inhabiting a universe whose laws he doesn’t comprehend. Maybe he could start to get a handle on it, if only he could get someone to answer the phone.

“Hello,” he said as I said goodbye.

The Circus Has Left Town

After the primaries, it's time to assess






By Will Moredock




In the week after Jon Stewart declared the Palmetto State to be America's whoopee cushion, South Carolina returned to the polls to complete what it had started two weeks before in the Democratic and Republican primaries. All things considered, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well. Nobody made fools of themselves; no phantom candidates appeared to steal a nomination. Now let's sort out what it all means.

Nikki Haley surprised no one (except maybe Gresham Barrett) in walking away with the GOP gubernatorial nomination last Tuesday night. She took 49 percent of the vote two weeks earlier, to Barrett's 22 percent. Still, Barrett insisted on a runoff and he got what he deserved – thrashed by a 2-to-1 margin.

The ugliness of the four-way GOP gubernatorial race – including two unsubstantiated charges of adultery and a racial slur against Haley, all by fellow Republicans – has sickened many observers, giving Democrat Vincent Sheheen a serious chance in November.

Haley is a teabagger (endorsed by Sarah Palin, no less) and calls herself a reformer. But like Mark Sanford, another “reformer,” she is a belligerent, self-righteous loner who does not  work well with her colleagues in the General Assembly. In his online column, Statehouse Report, Andy Brack calls her “Mark Sanford in drag.” If Haley wins in November, we can probably look forward to eight more years of acrimony and deadlock between the General Assembly and the governor.

The big surprise of the evening was Tim Scott's taking 74 percent of the vote against Paul Thurmond, son of the late and legendary Strom Thurmond, for the District One congressional seat. I honestly did not know which way this one was going to fall. Scott, of course, is black and stands a breath away from becoming the only black GOPer in Congress. (His token opponent is the shy and mysterious Democrat, Ben Frasier.)

After the first round of voting, several of Scott's white opponents lined up to endorse Thurmond and I thought the fix was in. But the National Republican Party clearly wanted Scott to win the nomination. GOP stars Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee endorsed him; the Club for Growth invested $54,000 in him. Apparently, the voters of District One liked the plan and got on board.

It seems that Scott was everybody's second choice. Thurmond received only a slightly larger percentage of the vote in round two than he received two weeks earlier. Supporters of the seven candidates eliminated in round one fell in behind Scott and will send him to Washington. (Not all white folks were happy with the result. See my blog for one ugly comment posted on the Post and Courier online edition.)

Television ads in the two weeks before the runoff were just plain surreal. Several candidates were running against President Obama and barely mentioned their actual opponents. Others insisted on running with their wives and children as proof of their family-values purity. I would have thought, after the Mark Sanford debacle, that such a charade would be discredited forever. And how many times did you hear some candidate declare himself (and herself) to be the “true conservative,” the “real conservative,” the “most conservative?” After generations of this rhetoric, you would think South Carolinians would be ready to try something new. Conservatism has clearly failed. This state has two wheels in the ditch and, yes, we are America'swhoopee cushion. But we keep falling for the same rhetoric and the same politicians. South Carolina is incapable of learning from history. And therein lies the pathology of Palmetto State politics.

Perhaps the greatest benefit we will see from this election cycle will be the end of the political blog FitsNews and its creator, Will “Sic Willie” Folks. For the past five years this egomaniac has boasted of the veracity of his blog, while many of us in the media were openly skeptical. He has passed along salacious rumors and gossip, with the justification that if someone else said it, he was justified in repeating it.

Combining frat boy humor and braggadocio with a priggish obsession with other people's sex lives and sexual orientation, he describes his blog as “unfair and imbalanced... opining from a decidedly libertarian perspective.”

Folks is the former spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford, who left the governor's employ shortly after he was charged with domestic abuse, to which he later pleaded guilty.

A couple of weeks before the first round of primaries, Folks came forward to say that he had had an affair with Nikki Haley. He was a cad for doing it. The fact that very few voters actually believed him suggests that he is also a fool. With his credentials so tarnished, maybe Folks will do us all a favor and move on. South Carolina would be a better place without him.

See Will Moredock's blog at www.charlestoncitypaper.com/blog/thegoodfight.

Election Results

Runoffs: The Russian roulette of politics

By Wes Wolfe

You can’t usually accurately predict the outcome of a primary runoff, you can only hope to. In 2008, Sheri Few – the school choice advocate and evangelical fundamentalist – was clobbered in the Republican primary runoff for State House District 79 by David Herndon. This is despite the fact she had a lot more money than Herndon and bested him by a significant amount on Primary Day. You never know.


There were some favorites going into the primary runoffs this year. Rep. Nikki Haley was expected to win the GOP nomination for governor, which she did with 61 percent of the vote with 97 percent of the precincts reporting. Solicitor Trey Gowdy laid the hurt on U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis in the Fourth Congressional District, beating him 71-29. As was pointed out by a tweet from former S.C. politico Wyeth Ruthven, even Gary Condit got 36 percent after the Chandra Levy scandal broke. Rep. Tim Scott took the First Congressional District GOP nomination over Paul Thurmond, 68-32.


But as this paper went to press, there were some upsets. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Henry Brown decided to run for Berkeley County supervisor, finding himself in a runoff against incumbent Supervisor Dan Davis. That was a mistake, and Brown came out on the short end, losing as Davis took 56 percent of the vote. Rep. Joey Millwood, often criticized by this writer as one of two of the most brain-dead members of the General Assembly, saw his time in the House limited to one term as he was bested by former Landrum mayor Doug Brannon for the Republican nomination in State House District 38. There was much rejoicing.


Here in Richland County, the Democratic establishment got behind John Meadors for the solicitor runoff against Dan Johnson. The media has investigated stories about alleged scandalous activity involving Johnson, but he beat that back and the establishment politicos to take the job, 57-43 with 97 percent reporting.


But looking back over the runoff results, a trope that was building finally crested. A lot of Palmetto State Republicans are crowing that they nominated minorities for two major offices (Haley, Scott) and a woman for governor (Haley). Here’s the problem with that: if your skin is darker than the average Caucasian, you’re probably going to vote for Democrats. If you’re a woman, you’re probably going to vote for Democrats. Dems are more likely to nominate both women and minorities to higher office. It’s true that Republicans are more likely to be both white and male.


So, if you’re a member of a party that’s had diversity issues since the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, it might be a good idea to push minority and female candidates and just let it be. As is said when a player scores a touchdown, act like you’ve been there before. By overly celebrating, it just brings more attention to the fact the opposition party has been dominating among traditionally disenfranchised voters for the past 50 years.


Wolfe is the proprietor of WolfeReports.com and has written for 11 publications in five states.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear Jake Knotts,

LETTERS TO THE READER:

Dear SC Democratic Party,

Now that Alvin Greene has been confirmed, we’re asking you to forego any other roadblocks and let the rest of us enjoy him while we have him. No Democrat would beat DeMint anyway, so who cares who runs against him? At least this way it’ll be entertaining to watch. DeMint is morbidly fascinating and cringe-worthy enough during live debates; imagine him paired with Alvin Greene! Put Glenn Beck and Ed Begley Jr. on a panel to moderate it and the whole country will tune in.

Thank you, journalism gods!

Columbia City Paper

Dear sports fans,

Remember two weeks ago when the word “vuvuzela” was virtually unknown to the Western world? It was a simpler time, an innocent time to which we may never return. For those of you who haven’t heard the tragic news, the Florida Marlins hosted a vuvuzela promo night in the precious sanctity of a major league baseball park last weekend. It was a game –for those unfortunate enough to attend it—devoid of the sounds of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt or the peanut vendor’s distant call; a place where the hallowed crack of a homerun shot was drowned out by the droning of 15,000 plastic novelty horns. Let’s not open Pandora’s box, America, we beg you. An occasional cowbell at football games, clappers, whatever. But, please not the vuvuzela. Let’s nip this in the bud before “free vuvuzela” night rears its ugly head at Turner Field, or God forbid, Williams Brice.

Columbia City Paper

Dear Jake Knotts,

We don’t want to harp on your recent slip of the tongue. But, the whole mess has kinda gone into phase two after you took your time at the State House podium during a crucial budget vote to call yourself a proud redneck instead of focusing that time on your actual job as a legislator. (What type of political handler, professional or otherwise, could have possibly allowed you to pour that can of kerosene on the fire?) Sure, you were correct in asserting that the GOP has no shortage of politicians who make depraved, awe-inspiring comments on a fairly regular basis. If they were all asked to resign along with you, American government would collapse. We get that.

Here’s the problem: In your sense of the word, “redneck” means a working class Joe, whose neck gets red from working in the sun. Many white Americans, however, consider it a pejorative term, similar to “hayseed” or “cracker,” used to imply poverty, ignorance, uncouthness and sometimes even bigotry. Some historians argue that the term was more officially co-opted in the West Virginia coal wars in the early part of the century, during which pro-union miners wore red bandanas to signify their solidarity. In an anti-union state like ours, some folks might think you just proudly aligned yourself with pro-union commies. Thus, we urge you to call a televised press conference to clarify if you are using the term in a “white trash” or “pro-union man” sense of the word and then either apologize to your Caucasian constituents or our state’s anti-union corporate overlords, whichever the case may be.

Columbia City Paper

Disposable Army



By T. Christian Miller, ProPublica


REDDING, Calif. — Wade Dill does not figure into the toll of war dead. An exterminator, Dill took a job in Iraq for a company contracted to do pest control on military bases. There, he found himself killing disease-carrying flies and rabid dogs, dodging mortars and huddling in bomb shelters.

Dill, a Marine Corps veteran, was a different man when he came back for visits here, his family said: moody, isolated, morose. He screamed at his wife and daughter. His weight dropped. Dark circles haunted his dark brown eyes.

Three weeks after he returned home for good, Dill booked a room in an anonymous three-story motel alongside Interstate 5. There, on July 16, 2006, he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm handgun. He left a suicide note for his wife and a picture for his daughter, then 16. The caption read: “I did exist and I loved you.’’

More than three years later, Dill’s loved ones are still reeling, their pain compounded by a drawn-out battle with an insurance company over death benefits from the suicide. Barb Dill, 47, nearly lost the family’s home to foreclosure. “We’re circling the drain,” she said.

While suicide among soldiers has been a focus of Congress and the public, relatively little attention has been paid to the mental health of tens of thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. When they make the news at all, contractors are usually in the middle of scandal, depicted as cowboys, wastrels or worse.

No agency tracks how many civilian workers have killed themselves after returning from the war zones. A small study in 2007 found that 24 percent of contract employees from DynCorp, a defense contractor, showed signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after returning home. The figure is roughly equivalent to those found in studies of returning soldiers.

If the pattern holds true on a broad scale, thousands of such workers may be suffering from mental trauma, said Paul Brand, the CEO of Mission Critical Psychological Services, a firm that provides counseling to war zone civilians. More than 200,000 civilians work in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the most recent figures.

“There are many people falling through the cracks, and there are few mechanisms in place to support these individuals,’’ said Brand, who conducted the study while working at DynCorp.”There’s a moral obligation that’s being overlooked. Can the government really send people to a war zone and neglect their responsibility to attend to their emotional needs after the fact?”

The survivors of civilians who have committed suicide have found themselves confused, frustrated and alone in their grief.

“If I was in the military, I’d at least have someone to talk to,” said Melissa Finkenbinder, 42, whose husband, Kert, a mechanic, killed himself after returning from Iraq. “Contractors don’t have anything. Their families don’t have anything.”

Some families of civilian contractors who have committed suicide have tried to battle for help through an outdated government system designed to provide health insurance and death benefits to civilian contractors injured or killed on the job.

Under the system, required by a law known as the Defense Base Act, defense firms must purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their employees in war zones. It is highly specialized and expensive insurance, dominated by the troubled giant AIG and a handful of other companies. The cost of it is paid by taxpayers as part of the contract price.

But the law, which is designed to provide coverage for accidental death and injury, blocks payment of death benefits in the case of almost all suicides. Cases linked to mental incapacity are the lone exception, judges have ruled.

A joint investigation last year by ProPublica, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that contract workers must frequently battle carriers for basic medical coverage. While Congress has promised reforms, there has been no discussion of changing the law when it comes to suicides involving civilian defense workers.

The military, by contrast, allows survivors to receive benefits in cases in which a soldier’s suicide can be linked to depression caused by battlefield stress.

Hundreds of soldiers have committed suicide since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, according to studies by the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In response, the Defense Department has become more active in trying to prevent suicide than its hired contractors, military experts said.

The military is “aggressively trying to reach people and do intervention beforehand and set up suicide awareness programs,” said Ian de Planque, a benefits expert at the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group. “Awareness of it has increased. I don’t know that it’s transferred over to the civilian sector at this point.”

Birgitt Eysselinck has spent years trying to prove that her husband’s death in Iraq was related to stress from his job with a company specializing in the removal of land mines and explosive ordnance. So far, courts have sided with the insurance firm, Chicago-based CNA, in denying Eysselinck’s claim. (CNA declined to comment, citing privacy reasons.)

Eysselinck, 44, said that neither federal judges nor insurance adjusters understand that civilian contractors face many of the same risks in Iraq and Afghanistan that soldiers do. Her husband, Tim Eysselinck, endured mortar attacks and frequently traveled across Iraq’s dangerous highways, she said.

“There is a huge percentage of contractors who are silently suffering,” Eysselinck said. “That obviously puts them and their families at risk. Communities are bearing the brunt of this, especially the families.”

Wade Dill was working at a local pest control company when he decided to take a job with KBR in Iraq in late 2004. The money was good – almost $11,000 a month for handling extermination and hazardous material disposal, more than double his normal salary.

“He said this was our opportunity,” Barb Dill said. “He could start a college fund for our daughter, pay off the mortgage and have a nice retirement. He told me at his age, 41, he didn’t know if he had enough years left in him to give us what he wanted.”

Wade started that December, working on bases in central and northern Iraq. Violence was ever present. A base near Mosul was shelled frequently. He told Barb that a mortar landed close enough to temporarily deafen him. Once, he called her sobbing.

“My husband never cried, ever,” she said. “Marines don’t cry. A young man, a soldier, had put a pistol to his head and blown his brains out. And Wade had to go in and clean up after they removed the body – he had to clean up brain matter and blood. It really upset him.”

Barb Dill noticed a change in her husband when he returned home for a visit in December 2005. The couple had been high school sweethearts, married for 15 years. They had troubles, but had always worked them out. Now, he seemed moody and often angry, lashing out at her and their daughter, Sara.

“He would say hateful things to me and our daughter – things he had never said before.” Dill said. “This was a man that loved his little girl and his wife. He always called us his girls.”

When Wade returned for another visit in June 2006, he abruptly quit his job and began acting erratically, Dill said. He ripped the wiring out of appliances, smashed mirrors and poured lighter fluid on their furniture.

After a few weeks, Wade took a room at a local motel. On July 15, he asked Barb to come see him. Their conversation spiraled into a confrontation. Frightened and angry, Barb sped off in her car. The next day, the Shasta County coroner’s office called to tell her that Wade’s body had been found in the room.

“He told me that he was sick and needed help,” Dill said. “I told him to get help and then we would talk. The last time I saw him was in my rearview mirror.”

Dill soon found herself in financial difficulty. Her husband had always taken care of the bills. He had spent lavishly with his higher salary, buying two BMWs during trips home. Now, Dill discovered the couple was $300,000 in debt on their mortgage and car loans.

She plunged into depression, struggling to cope with her daughter’s grief and the sense that she had failed her husband in his time of need. She sold the cars and nearly lost her home after falling behind on mortgage payments.

She suffered mostly by herself. Except for a handful of Web sites, no support groups exist for widows of civilian contractors. The federal government offers no counseling for civilians returning from work in war zones.

Dill said that she felt abandoned by everyone: her husband’s employer, the insurance company and especially the federal government, which oversees the Defense Base Act system through the Labor Department.

“Shouldn’t our government be responsible for the companies they hire?” Dill said. “Shouldn’t our government take care of its own people, who are doing jobs our government, ultimately, wanted them to do?”

[caption id="attachment_1906" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Barb Dill lays on her living room floor as she talks about her husband’s suicide. She said, “It leaves you with the most empty feeling. And there’s no band aid, there’s no drugs, there’s no operation, there’s nothing to make it better. They say time, but I’m waiting. And some days it was really rough.” (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)"][/caption]


Survivors of civilian contractors whose death is related to their work in Iraq have the right to apply for compensation benefits that pay up to $63,000 a year for life.

Dill applied, asserting that her husband’s PTSD made him an exception to the rule against payments in suicide cases. Her claim was denied by AIG, KBR’s insurance provider.

She protested, sending her claim into a dispute resolution system run by the Labor Department. Her case is still grinding its way through the system, which can take years to produce a final result.

Experts hired by the family and the insurance company differed on what led to Wade Dill’s suicide.

A psychiatrist hired by her attorney found that job stress in Iraq was one of the factors that drove Wade to suicide: “The bottom line is that the combination of physical separation and work-related stress resulted in increasingly emotional distance, greater distortion of the relationship, increasing emotional intensity, and a pattern of increasing erratic behaviors that culminated in suicide,” wrote Charles Seaman, an expert in PTSD.

A Labor Department examiner recommended that AIG pay the claim, but the company refused. AIG and KBR declined comment about the case. In court filings, AIG has argued that the Defense Base Act does not cover suicides.

AIG attorneys also have said that Wade Dill’s actions were related to marital and family problems. A psychiatrist hired by AIG testified at a hearing in San Francisco in January that he had performed a “psychological autopsy” on Wade Dill based on interviews with his family and court documents.

The psychiatrist, Andrew D. Whyman, said his evaluation led him to conclude that Dill suffered from depression and that his suicide was unrelated to the violence he witnessed in Iraq.

“Take out the Iraq experience, (the suicide) would have happened,” Whyman testified. “He had a choice. … He could have chosen not to do that.”

Barb Dill insists her husband came back from Iraq a changed man.

“No matter how strained our relationship could get at times, we always pulled out of it with no problem,” Dill said. “Iraq changed all that.”

Now, she said, she is trying to hold her life together. A final decision in her case is not expected for months.

“We’re just slowly sinking,” she said. “It’s hard to be strong.

Soundboard: Local music



Thursday 6/24/10

Cafe Strudel

TBA

New Brookland Tavern

mewithoutYou

David Bazan

Rubik

The White Mule

Joe Firstman w/ Trey Lockerbie, Matt Corbin

Utopia

Open Mic w The Dubber

Friday 6/25/10

Art Bar

Columbia Alternacirque

Cafe Strudel

Chris Compton

Hard Knox Grill

The reason Your Listening,

Sounds of Surburbia and

Nashville Tenn's

Mellow Down Easy

Macs on Main

Soul Patrol

New Brookland Tavern

Avon Walk For Breast Cancer Benefit Show w/: Dance Commander

Patchwork Medic

Fight The Quiet

I Am Carpenter

From Columbia With Love

Utopia

The Overtones

The White Mule

Lauren Lucas w/ Mike Willis & tba

Saturday 6/26/10

Art Bar

Capital City Playboys CD Release, West Bank, Flat Out Strangers, SC Broadcasters

Cafe Strudel

"Now You See Them"

Hard Knox Grill

The DB Bryant Band

Macs on Main

Daddy Blue

New Brookland Tavern

The Cover Of Afternoon

Charlie McIver

Non Stop Hip Hop Live Presents:

The Streets Won't Leave Me Alone Concert

Featuring Fat Rat Da Czar w/:Ali-Rah, Bornaturals, Dan Johns, Mentality

Utopia

Jellyroll & Delicious Dish

The White Mule

Amy Speace w/ Fran Sanderson (early show)

James Ervin & Friends

Sunday 6/27/10

New Brookland Tavern

Lovecraft

Pity Rally

TBA

Monday 6/28/10

New Brookland Tavern

Invader

Give Em Hell Kid

They Say We Burn So Bright

The White Mule

Davin McCoy w Andrew Hoover

Tuesday 6/29/10

New Brookland Tavern

Acoustic Open Mic Night w/ Brightford

Wednesday 6/30/10

New Brookland Tavern

Off With Their Heads

The Fake Boys

Lewis Turn Out

Hawaiian Shirt Day

The White Mule

Drew Dixon

Thursday 7/1/10

New Brookland Tavern

Vindictive Soverign

Invoking The Abstract

Barriers

The Terrigen Mists

Eyes Cast Down

The White Mule

Sam Baker, w/ Natilie Zukerman, and John Fullbright »in the round»

Friday 7/2/10

Regional Music Listings



ROAD TRIP 06/25/10  :: Friday

Gabriel Kelley

The Packway Handle Band

Athfest Athens

Ken Will Morton Athfest Athens

efren Flicker Theater and Bar Athens

Hightide Blues Melting Point

Athens

Nora Jane Struthers Stillwater Taproom Augusta,

Noise Org The Wormhole Savannah

Shortwave Society Hookah Joe’s Asheville, NC Josh Roberts and the Hinges Mo Daddy’s Asheville, NC American Bang

Will Hoge Orange Peel Asheville, NC

The Mantras Neighborhood Theatre Charlotte, NC The Hypsys Salvador Deli Charlotte, NC

Matthew Ryan The Evening Muse Charlotte, NC Crosstown Amici’s Sports Bar and Grill Concord, NC Simplified Forty-Rod Roadhouse Mint Hill, NC   Andy Friedman & The Other Failures SMOKE Southern Barbecue Revival Blythwood, SC

L Shape Lot Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ Charleston, SC

Mama’s Love The Pour House Charleston, SC

Jacob Johnson Aroma Underground Florence, SC

Marcy Playground Spin Entertainment Complex Florence, SC

The Papa String Band Gottrocks Greenville, SC Henry’s Attic The Mill North Charleston, SC

Gordon Lightfoot Alabama Theater North Myrtle Beach, SC

Milhouse Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ Sullivan’s Island, SC

06/26/10 :Saturday

Dead Confederate 40 Watt Club Athens,

Futurebirds Athfest Athens,

The Woodgrains

The Bearfoot Hookers Last Call Athens, Ponderosa Little Kings Athens

Strawberry Flats Melting Point Athens

Turbine Tasty World Athens,

jazzchronic

The Suex Effect The Rye Bar Athens,

Mad Tea Party Biltmore Park Town Square Asheville, NC

The Discordian Society Emerald Lounge Asheville, NC Griff Martin Mo Daddy’s Asheville, NC

Dar Williams

Sara Watkins Orange Peel Asheville, NC

Ro Parrish Blue Restaurant Charlotte, NC

Leslie

Damsel Down

Breaking Laces Dudefest 2010 Charlotte, NC Truckstop Preachers Neighborhood Theatre Charlotte, NC

The Rippingtons

Farnell Newton Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre (formerly Uptown Amphitheatre) Charlotte, NC Roadside Graves Snug Harbor Charlotte, NC

Chris Young

Kellie Pickler

Rascal Flatts Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Charlotte, NCSteven Curtis Chapman Lowe’s Motor Speedway Concord, NC Simplified Kylie’s Cornelius, NC Alter Eagles The Doghouse Fayetteville,NC    Tommy Emmanuel Charleston Music Hall Charleston, SC

Noise Org

Bitch Please Daily Dose Charleston, SC Bloodkin

Firework Show The Pour House Charleston, SC

The Bloodsurs Tin Roof Charleston, SC Elmwood Wild Wing Cafe Hilton Head Island, SC

Cracker The Windjammer Isle of Palms, SC

Blues Traveler Broadway At the Beach Myrtle Beach, SC

Ted Nugent

Valhalla House of Blues N. Myrtle Beach, SC

Lauren Lucas

Good news for fans of modern country with a touch of R&B: Nashville recording artist and Columbia native, Lauren Lucas, is playing a summer show in her hometown.

Lucas is a solid songwriter with a sound just begging for massive airplay on CMT. Catching her in an intimate setting like The White Mule will definitely be a treat. In fact, you’d probably already be singing along to her music videos if a shakeup at Warner Bros. Records in 2006 hadn’t put her recording project on hold.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Lucas says of the ordeal. “I had to reinvent myself. But, I know who I want to be much more now than I did when I got off the label.”

“If I’m out there singing every night,” she says, “I want to do something I love. I want to share a little piece of me with people and I don’t want that to be false.”

The result of that ethos is a really (really) strong EP titled If I Was Your Girl that Lucas recorded independently. If Lauren and Nashville counterpart Mike Willis decide to just go acoustic on Friday, prepare for some soulful magic; if they bring backing bands they’re going to rock. Whatever they break out, it’s going to be good. Again, if you’re a fan of modern country, don’t miss this one.

Adam Glover opens. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 8.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hidden Profits, Student Debt


Huffington Post Investigative Fund

Some of the nation’s largest and most elite universities stand to gain millions of dollars from selling the names and addresses of students and alumni to credit card companies while granting the companies special access to school events, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund has found.

The schools and their alumni associations are entitled to receive payments that multiply as students use their cards. Some colleges can receive bonuses when students incur debt.

The little-known agreements have enriched schools and some banks at a time when young women and men already are borrowing at record levels, raising questions about whether such collegiate and corporate alliances are in the best interests of students.

“The fact that schools are getting paid for students to rack up debt is a disgrace,” said congressman Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He said that banks’ payments to schools amount to “kickbacks.”

Landmark credit card legislation signed by President Obama one year ago curbed some marketing tactics on campuses but didn’t prohibit the arrangements between colleges and banks, known as “affinity” agreements.

The substance of these deals had been secret. A provision in the law, authored by Murphy, requires their disclosure. But even now, few schools post the contracts online or publicize their existence. Obtaining a copy can take two weeks or more.

Thus it’s unclear how many of the nation’s 2,700 four-year colleges have such agreements, or how many allow credit card companies to target students in addition to graduates. Bank of America, which dominates the market, said it has affinity contracts with some 700 schools and alumni associations, where marketing practices vary. At least 100 schools are believed to have affinity agreements with other financial institutions.

Seventeen contracts obtained by the Investigative Fund from schools and their alumni associations detail the special access granted to banks, such as allowing them to set up booths at football games. All of the agreements call for colleges to provide students’ names, phone numbers and addresses.

For granting such access and information, schools can receive royalty payments based on the number of students opening accounts and the amount they spend, the contracts show.

Most of the schools are entitled to earn more whenever a student carries a balance from year to year.

Some consumer advocates question whether colleges participating in affinity agreements are failing to safeguard the young people in their care.

“Universities should place the welfare of their students as their highest priority and shouldn’t sell them off for profit,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, or PIRG.

Three schools, after being contacted by the Investigative Fund, stopped allowing banks to market to students.  Seven other schools and alumni associations, including alumni organizations at Brown University and the University of Michigan, said they have abandoned the practice, even though their contracts appear to require it.

The contracts call for a range of minimum payments by banks.  At Brown, Bank of America agreed in 2006 to pay $2.3 million over seven years. At Michigan, the bank in 2003 agreed to pay $25.5 million over 11 years.

The bank says it’s not taking advantage of students; it’s amassing new customers whose loyalties can span a decade or more.

“Our objective in serving the student market is to create the foundation for a long-term banking relationship,” Bank of America spokeswoman Betty Riess said in an e-mail, adding that the bank offers reasonable rates and low credit limits on student cards, and that it primarily solicits graduates and sports fans.

Many schools have renegotiated contracts with the bank to limit marketing to students, she said.

Schools still engaging in the practice defend selling access to students and their contact information. Colleges say the money helps them plug holes in budget shortfalls and shrinking endowments. Some say they use the money to grant more scholarships to students.

Some colleges and alumni organizations also argue that students need to learn fiscal responsibility—and how better to do that than by having a credit card?

The University of Michigan alumni association, facing growing scrutiny from consumer groups, says it reached an agreement with Bank of America to stop marketing to students in early 2008. Jerry Sigler, chief financial officer of the alumni association, said he made the decision begrudgingly.

“Managing credit is as much a part of education and maturation as anything else going on campus,” he said. “Credit isn’t bad, it’s a reality.”

The benefits are not always so obvious for students whose families already face soaring tuition costs and hefty loan payments. College seniors graduated in 2008 with average credit card debt of more than $4,100, up from $2,900 four years earlier, according to data compiled by student lending company Sallie Mae.

On their own for the first time, young credit card users can quickly fall behind on payments.

Despite not having a full-time job or much in savings, Lisa Smith easily found her first credit card on campus—from bank marketers stationed outside her freshman dormitory. Once she racked up charges, new card applications poured in from other companies.

By the time she graduated in 2005, she had the average number of credit cards for a college student – four – as well as $15,000 in credit card debt. Now 28, Smith is still paying $500 monthly in credit card bills, some dating back to purchases from her college days.

“I know that I brought it on myself,” said Smith, who attended High Point University in North Carolina, which says it now prohibits on-campus marketing. “But I really felt like I was preyed on. I didn’t understand how long it was really going to take to pay them back.”

Students ‘Hugely Important’

On May 22, 2009, President Obama signed sweeping new consumer credit card protections into law. All too often, Obama noted at the time, Americans used credit cards as an anchor rather than a lifeline. Students were no exception.

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act prohibited banks from using some of their most aggressive marketing practices on students. For instance, banks can no longer require students to apply for a card to receive promotional gifts such as pizza or sweatshirts.

Nor can banks supply credit cards to anyone under age 21—most college underclassmen—unless the customer has a cosigner. The law requires only that the co-signer be over 21. The co-signer needn’t be a parent or guardian.

The law does not prevent credit card companies from paying schools for special access to students.

Chase Card Services, a division of JPMorgan Chase & Co., has a handful of such agreements, but Bank of America dominates. It became the market leader in 2006 when it acquired credit card giant MBNA, a pioneer in affinity agreements that often involved pro sports teams and professional associations.

Soon after the acquisition, Bank of America set its sights on colleges. At a March 2006 conference hosted by Goldman Sachs, Bank of America executive John Cochran described students as “an emerging market that we could really capitalize on,” according to a transcript.

From a bank’s perspective, students represent an important demographic: Not only do many first-time cardholders hunger for credit; they are likely to stay customers for quite some time – up to 15 years, according to a 2005 study by Ohio State University researchers.

“Student credit cards are hugely important to a bank,” said Kerry Policy Groth, who negotiated collegiate affinity agreements as an MBNA account executive from 1998 to 2005. “Your first credit card is usually the one you keep.”

Although Bank of America does not disclose how many student accounts it has or what it earns from student credit cards, Cochran, at the 2006 conference, characterized the collegiate affinity market – students, faculty, alumni and sports fans – as “an over $6 billion portfolio.” The portfolio may have declined in recent months as the bank’s entire credit card business has suffered from rising default rates.

Bank of America spokeswoman Riess emphasized that the bank primarily targets alumni and fans as prospective customers, with students accounting for about 2 percent of all open collegiate accounts – likely representing thousands of young consumers.

‘Students as Commodities’

Affinity agreements vary from school to school.

The University of Pennsylvania’s agreement with Bank of America required the school to compile an initial list of 233,000 potential customers, including students, alumni, faculty and staff, to offer the bank. If requested, the school removes potential customers from the contact list.

When Princeton University signed its affinity agreement with Bank of America in 2004, it agreed to provide the names of at least 4,000 students and 75,000 graduates.

After a bank obtains the information, it can send an agreed-upon number of solicitation letters and e-mails. A 2008 PIRG survey of more than 1,500 undergraduate students found that about 80 percent received mailings from credit card companies.

Some affinity agreements also permit banks to advertise at school sporting events. Banks often have booths at football and basketball games where students 21 or older, alumni and fans can sign up for a card.

Colleges and alumni associations are entitled to rewards for providing special access and information. Bank of America typically pays schools $1 for each student who opens a credit card account and keeps it open for 90 days, according to contracts reviewed by the Investigative Fund.

Some schools also can earn more as students rack up charges—and debt.  The University of Oklahoma, among other schools, is entitled to receive 0.4 percent of all retail purchases made with student cards. Most of the 17 contracts obtained by the Investigative Fund entitle schools to extra compensation—up to $3 a card--when students carry a balance from year to year.

“Essentially, contracts with credit card companies are using students as commodities to earn revenue for the universities from companies who don’t necessarily have the students’ best interest in mind,” said PIRG’s Mierzwinski.

As part of many agreements, banks also pay for rights to use school trademarks –mascots, logos and emblems – on their advertisements.

Banks often brand their cards with the familiar images.  This marketing tool, known as co-branding, has its critics. Irene Leech, associate professor of consumer studies at Virginia Tech, said the practice leads some to believe that universities have negotiated favorable credit card rates for their students.

“Alumni and students both think that it’s the best deal out there that [the school] could get for me,” an assumption that is not always correct, she said.

Nor do students necessarily get the lowest rates. At Princeton, alumni cards carry an annual percentage rate of 11.9 percent, compared to 14.9 percent for student cards, according to the school’s seven-year affinity agreement, signed in 2004. Rates may have changed since then.

Bank of America currently charges a 14.24 annual percentage rate on its Student Visa Platinum Card, the primary product it markets to students. Students are not locked in; the rate varies depending on the market’s prime rate. The bank said it doesn’t increase rates on students for reasons such as falling behind on their payments. Nor does it impose an annual fee.

“We take a conservative approach to lending to young adults,” Bank of America’s Riess said, noting that the bank limits a student’s exposure to debt. The bank offers credit lines for students that “typically” start at $500 and are capped at $2,500, she said.

The bank, Riess said, also seeks to educate students. “We also provide a number of tools to help young adults better manage their finances,” she added, including free identity theft protection, a student financial handbook and an online educational brochure about building good credit, called  â€œThe Essentials.”

“Building a future customer—that was really the goal” of affinity agreements, said former MBNA executive Groth. “You’re not out to gouge them; you want a positive experience.”

Shifting Practices

This spring, Columbia University, the Iowa State University alumni association and Michigan State University all amended their affinity agreements to prohibit any marketing to students. They did so within a week of receiving phone and e-mail inquires from the Investigative Fund. School officials said they had been working on the amendments for months.

The Investigative Fund requested Columbia’s contract on March 22. Columbia officials signed the school’s amended agreement two days later. The timing was “mostly coincidental,” according to Michael Griffin, executive director of Columbia’s alumni association. He said that the school had never allowed marketing directly to students.

Seven other schools contacted by the Investigative Fund said they no longer allow marketing to students, even though their affinity contracts would appear to obligate them to. School officials said they had no documentation backing up their assertions.

“A lot of schools have student access in their agreements” – but don’t necessarily allow it anymore, said Peter Osborne, who managed the collegiate credit card business at Bank of America through 2008. Schools sometimes informally “just request that marketing stop rather than reopening their entire contract.”

For instance, according to an affinity agreement between the University of Texas alumni association and Bank of America, the association is expected to provide the bank with students’ names and addresses. But the alumni association says it has abandoned that practice.

“We are not marketing to students at this time and we haven’t for some time,” said Bill McCausland, chief operating officer for Texas Exes, the ex-students’ association. “Whether the contract allows us to or not, we are not doing so.”

He acknowledged that students could still sign up for credit cards without the school’s involvement. Bank of America, he said, is “still marketing our card and they are doing a very good job of it.”

At Harvard, the alumni association is supposed to provide a subsidiary of Barclays PLC with “as complete a list as possible of all Harvard alumni and students,” according to the association’s affinity contract. But Harvard spokesman Kevin Galvin said the card was never marketed to students. “We view this card as a service to alumni,” he said.

Other schools acknowledged to the Investigative Fund that they release students’ contact information. These schools staunchly defend their affinity agreements as important sources of revenue. And some royalties benefit students, according to school and bank officials.

“The revenues from this go to vital services that otherwise might not be free and otherwise might not be offered,” said Osborne, the former bank official who now advises universities as they negotiate affinity agreements.  Osborne said the revenues “support alumni programs, student scholarships and preserve jobs within alumni associations.”

Some of the royalties from Penn’s contract go to scholarships and helped pay for the development of Campus Express, an online system where students can order textbooks and manage their dining plans, according to university spokesman Ron Ozio.

Princeton uses its profits “to support alumni activities,” school spokeswoman Emily Aronson wrote in an e-mail.

Catherine Bishop, vice president of public affairs at the University of Oklahoma, said affinity agreements are beneficial because they limit the amount of marketing that goes on. “The contract that we have in place,” she said, “is designed to keep multiple companies from soliciting on campus.”


This story was reported in partnership with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University. Protess is a staff reporter with the Investigative Fund. Neumann graduated from the Stabile program in May. Amanda Zamora, Lauryn Smith, Joseph Frye and Michael Ono also contributed to this story.


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