Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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July 22

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on shortchanging small states:

Early presidential primaries in small states level the playing ground between heavily and lightly funded campaigns. Thus, they serve as revealing proving grounds where voters can fully and fairly assess the candidates.

But now big money — and big names — appear primed to gain an even bigger edge in the White House nomination competition.

A recent letter from 130 South Carolina GOP members to Fox News and the Republican National Committee warned: "Excluding candidates based on national polling at this point in the race rewards name recognition for those candidates who are celebrities, candidates who have run previously or candidates who have lots of money to purchase early national advertising."

In other words, it threatens to nationalize the presidential primary process.

The 2016 Republican field is crowded, to put it mildly. Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined the fray Tuesday, raising the number of candidates to 16. Yet the RNC and Fox News plan to allow only 10 of them on the stage for the first official debate of the 2016 presidential campaign season on Aug. 6 in Cleveland. And at this very early stage of the game, the "name recognition" cited in that letter from S.C. Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, is a powerful polling advantage.

For instance, billionaire blowhard Donald Trump, despite (or due to?) his series of offensive statements, ranks near or even at the top of some GOP polls.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who traded insults with "The Donald" Tuesday, ranks near the bottom of those polls. But as Sen. Graham fairly quipped last week, on NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers," by using "national polling at this point ... Brad Pitt would be in the debate."

At least all of the GOP candidates have been invited to an Aug. 3 forum, co-sponsored by The Post and Courier, in Manchester, N.H.

Basing debate eligibility on national polls this soon undermines the ability of underfunded candidates to compete while focusing their efforts on the small, early primary states. And that undermines the ability of those states, including South Carolina, to maintain their influential — and positive — roles in how our nation chooses its presidential nominees.

Of course, Republicans — and Democrats — from South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa aren't impartial observers in the debate over debate formats and their impact on primary-state significance.

However, removing the informative challenge of small-state campaigning while further elevating the already excessive importance of massive fundraising would not enhance the nominee-selection task.

An obvious solution for the problem of an overcrowded presidential-candidate field is to split it into multiple debate lineups.

For instance, the GOP's Sweet Sixteen could match up in two debates of eight candidates each, or better yet, four debates of four candidates each.

Also obvious: Using a premature poll to exclude White House aspirants from a debate more than 15 months before the 2016 general election shortchanges not just some of the candidates but all of the voters.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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July 20

Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on warning about mercury in fish:

"Whether you have a passion for deep sea sports fishing or enjoy casting your lure into freshwater lakes brimming with trophy catches, South Carolina offers world-class salt water and clear water fishing," according to the S.C. Department of Parks and Tourism.

Most any South Carolinian will agree. And summer is a time when natives and thousands of tourists find "wetting a line" something they just have to do. That makes the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's issuance this past week of fish-consumption advisories particularly timely.

The DHEC report has been what is in effect an annual warning for more than two decades since 1994: Limit the amount of fish being eaten from many bodies of water in South Carolina. The leading risk is mercury poisoning.

The cause of elevated mercury levels in certain fish remains an official mystery. Some mercury occurs naturally, but coal-burning industries, chlorine manufacturers and waste incinerators also contribute to high mercury levels in the air and water.

The fact that mercury has been found should be enough to prompt public compliance. Consumed in large enough amounts, methylmercury can cause nervous system damage, particularly in infants. The consumption advisories suggest safe amounts of fish meals, with a meal being a half-pound (or 8-ounce) serving.

The types of fish affected include primarily bowfin (mudfish) and largemouth bass, but species such as catfish, bluegill sunfish and redear sunfish have elevated mercury levels in some rivers.

In The T&D Region, the following advisories are in effect:

Advisories for waters in The T&D Region include:

. North Fork of the Edisto River — Eat no bowfin (mudfish); no more than one meal per month of chain pickerel, warmouth and largemouth bass; no more than one meal per week of redbreast sunfish and striped bass.

. Four Holes Swamp — Eat no mudfish, largemouth bass or chain pickerel; no more than one meal per week of bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish and warmouth.

. Lake Marion — No more than one meal per week of bowfin (mudfish) and largemouth bass. No restrictions on black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, redbreast sunfish, warmouth, blue catfish, chain pickerel, redear sunfish, yellow perch.

. South Fork Edisto River — Eat no bowfin (mudfish), chain pickerel, largemouth bass or flathead catfish. No more than one meal per week of redear sunfish and redbreast sunfish.

. Edisto River — Eat no bowfin (mudfish), largemouth bass, channel catfish, chain pickerel or flathead catfish. No more than one meal per week of black crappie, bluegill, redbreast sunfish and redear sunfish. No more than one meal per month of blue catfish.

. Little Salkehatchie River — Eat no bowfin (mudfish) or largemouth bass. No more than one meal per month of chain pickerel and warmouth. No more than one meal per week of all other fish.

. Salkehatchie River - Eat no bowfin (mudfish). No more than one meal per month of chain pickerel or largemouth bass. No more than one meal per week of warmouth and redbreast sunfish.

DHEC warns that pregnant women, women planning to become pregnant, infants and children should not eat any fish containing mercury. The agency also advises that just because these fish may contain mercury, other fish from the same water are not affected. And using the water for recreational purposes is no hazard.

It is even arguable that many fish affected by the advisories could be eaten without adverse health effects. The standards may amount to excessive caution.

Considering the potential health impact on the downside, however, individuals are wise to follow the advice. It's far better to be safe than sorry.

Online:

http://www.heraldonline.com

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July 20

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on rethinking arming troops at bases:

Congressional leaders said on Friday they will direct the Pentagon to allow troops to carry guns on base for personal protection. That's an appropriate measure following a deadly shooting rampage that killed four Marines and seriously wounded a sailor at a recruiting center in Tennessee.

This isn't a knee-jerk reaction. This is a warranted response, especially given the increasing likelihood that military bases and recruiting centers will be targeted through these kinds of attacks.

Military officials have said the Pentagon shouldn't rush to change the ban because arming troops in those facilities could cause more problems than it might solve.

However, the Defense Department's current policy of only allowing security and law enforcement to carry loaded guns on military facilities outside of war zones simply leaves too many people vulnerable.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter wisely asked late Friday for military services to determine if additional steps could be taken to ensure people are safe at military installations, and said he wants a report back by the end of this week.

Also, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and his House counterpart, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, have already released a statement saying they've been working even before the shooting to "clarify a post commander's authority to allow carrying of personal firearms" and will direct the Pentagon to change policies.

It's clear that our country needs to make sure that our men and women in uniform not only have the resources to protect us and keep our country safe, but they need to have the resources to keep themselves safe. In the aftermath of the Chattanooga shooting, taking the necessary steps to change this policy should be expedited.

Senior leadership at these bases, officers and enlisted men, in particular, should be able to, at least, carry weapons as a way to prevent future shootings. This ability would first, be a deterrent and second, be a way to have a quick response to an active shooter situation.

The Chattanooga shooting also isn't the first time that recruiting offices were targeted. In June 2009, one soldier was killed and another injured when self-proclaimed jihadist Abdulhakim Muhammad shot them outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the aftermath of such tragedies, it's difficult to understand why we don't trust soldiers with guns on an Army base when we trust these very same men and women with the same responsibilities overseas.

The goal should be putting these additional - and responsible - resources in the hands of those that are capable of using them. Rather than making these places more secure for those usually there - the men and women who serve our country - this ban has unintentionally made them less safe.

In light of increasing threats at home and abroad, now is the time to strongly consider dropping this misguided ban.

These facilities - military bases and recruitment centers - should have increased protection, particularly as these attacks carry a greater threat than seemingly ever before.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com