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Say What? for Sept. 27, 2012

September 26, 2012 

  • Don’t Let Election Scammers Count on Your Support This Election Season Scammers are already gearing up for this year’s Presidential election, from robo-calls offering a “free cruise” for taking a political survey, to promises that President Obama will pay your utility bill. Better Business Bureau is advising voters to be on the lookout for the growing number of scams that are likely to continue leading up to the Presidential election. Here are just a few of the election-related scams BBB is hearing about. There will not be a “free cruise” at the end of the voting survey. Thes public opinion poll scam typically involves a recorded announcement offering a “free cruise” in exchange for participating in a telephone survey. At the end of the call consumers are asked for a debit or credit card number to cover “port fees” and taxes. Consumers who hesitate or ask if they can call back in order to verify the caller’s identity are subject to high-pressure tactics, such as being told that the offer “is only good right now,” and that if they hang up they will be disqualified. President Obama is not going to pay your utility bill. As nice as that would be, it’s not going to happen. Consumers have been contacted through fliers, social media, text messages,and even door-to-door with claims that President Obama is providing credits or applying payments to utility bills. Scammers claim they need the consumers’ Social Security and bank routing numbers to arrange the payments. In return, customers are given a phony bank routing number that will supposedly pay their utility bills. In reality, there is no money, and customers believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not. Worse, they’ve just given away everything needed for identity fraud. Fundraising calls for political donations may not be real. Consumers have reported calls from organizations that sound legitimate, but may not really be related to either the Obama or Romney campaigns. If you aren’t sure, don’t donate over the phone. If you’d like to contribute to a political campaign or party, locate contact information yourself rather than giving out financial information to a caller. Requesting a callback number is no guarantee you will be connected with a legitimate campaign fundraising committee. Call or visit candidates’ Web sites to obtain contact information to make donation. No one will check your eligibility to vote. Your voter registration record is with your state and no one is going to call or e-mail you to verify your eligibility. What do these callers claim they need to check? Just your credit card or Social Security number. No way! Kathy Graham, President/CEO of Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina, Inc.

Rice, rice baby...

Back in June, my family and I roamed the immense grounds of Brookgreen Gardens for my birthday.

As we ambled under the live oaks draped with Spanish moss we checked out what is called the Lumpkin Rice Field Overlook - exactly what it sounds like, a place where you can look out at where rice fields used to be. And near this, there is a statue of a rice field worker - I can’t recall now, probably a slave.

I had been thinking about an idea for awhile, and after reading the accompanying historical info placards near the rice field and statue and farming implements, I turned to my wife and bounced the idea off her.

“Why can’t rice production be a major industry here now?” I asked.

We theorized a little bit and I told her I’d been thinking about exploring this idea as a cover story for Weekly Surge.

I jotted down some notes, and filed it away for later.

Then, I came across what I was needing to make this type of story relevant - I found out that September is National Rice Month.

Why does that matter?

Because South Carolina, and specifically our coastal area, used to rule the rice world.

If you look on the packaging of your minute rice, it might say the rice contained within was grown in Asia or Africa, yet plenty of rice is produced domestically. In 1694, rice arrived in South Carolina, probably originating from Madagascar, and a strain known as Carolina Gold was Coastal Carolina’s cash cow - amassing great wealth for our area, of course, on the backs of slave labor. By the 20th Century and the abolition of slavery, the trade finally died out but reminders of this past are still around, especially on the Waccamaw Neck and Georgetown County with the iconic Rice Museum clock tower, and several former rice plantations that have been preserved as historic sites.

What do modern day rice-producing states Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, California and Missouri - representing $34 billion annually in economic activity have that we don’t? (Well, they are all closer to Mexico and its pipeline of undocumented migrant workers).

With our struggling economy dependent upon the whims of tourism, don’t we want a slice of that $34 billion pie?

With advancements in agriculture technology, could Carolina Gold be the golden ticket for our region that struggles to bolster non-tourism derived industry?

A group out of Charleston, the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, is working to “advance the sustainable restoration and preservation of Carolina Gold Rice and other heirloom grains.”

Does that include the former rice fields of Horry and Georgetown counties?

We dispatched correspondent Roger Yale to get to the bottom of this potential economic windfall and find out if a rice resurgence is on its way to the Grand Strand and you can read his excellent report starting on page 12.

What’s stopping rice from becoming a vibrant industry again along the Grand Strand?

Is the land now too overdeveloped? Is it too expensive to start up?

Has the natural habitat changed too much? Is it not cost-effective?

Why can’t we have a Carolina Gold revolution and jump-start the economy?

Is it too painful a reminder of the past and slavery?

Turn to page 12 and find out the answers to these questions and more.

Kent Kimes, Editor

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