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Liberal group takes on Social Security plan

COLUMBIA --- A Washington-based liberal advocacy group said Friday that it is launching a television commercial taking U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to task over comments about changing the Social Security retirement age.

"I love my job. But I'm in pain every day at work," Agnes Pomata, a Charleston librarian, says in the TV spot from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Pomata, 59, says she is trying to work through the pain until she can retire at age 62, when she will qualify to retire with Social Security benefits.

"Now, Sen. Lindsey Graham says he wants to raise the Social Security retirement age," the woman says. "Sen. Graham, people like me just won't make it."

On Jan. 2 on NBC's Meet the Press , Graham mentioned adjusting the Social Security age as being among possible reforms to manage long-term debt.

The 30-second spot, which begins airing today on cable and broadcast stations in Charleston and on cable stations in Washington, D.C., will air through President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday.

Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said the Republican is committed both to modernizing entitlement programs and organizing the nation's finances.

"Progressive Washington liberal groups like this will never like it, because a challenge to the status quo threatens their self-interest," Bishop said.

Snowstorm costs rise to nearly $7 million

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina transportation officials say costs related to the recent snow and ice storm have risen to nearly $7 million.

Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Poore said Friday that the storm cost the agency $6.8 million in labor, salt, sand, fuel, parts and equipment. Poore said some overtime hasn't been paid, meaning the total cost could be more than $7 million.

Poore said the DOT was able to replenish its salt supply and is ready for any additional winter weather. Forecasters say a wintery mix is possible in the Upstate early next week.

Swine flu sickens 140 at Columbia prison

COLUMBIA --- A minimum security prison in Columbia will be closed to visitors this weekend after a swine flu outbreak that has sickened 140 inmates.

South Carolina Corrections Department spokesman Josh Gelinas said inmates at Manning Correctional Institution began complaining of flu symptoms Monday. About half of those who were diagnosed with the H1N1 flu were still sick Friday. None required hospitalization.

The prison's 730 inmates are housed in three units. The outbreak occurred in the largest unit, one that has about 500 inmates.

Gelinas says prison officials will review the outbreak Monday before deciding about visitation next weekend.

Prisoners are not routinely given flu shots but are receiving them now.

Police look for source of pesticide poisoning

SUMTER --- Authorities investigating the pesticide poisoning that killed four dogs and sickened several hunters last month say it was no accident.

Department of Pesticide Regulations spokesman Cam Lay told The Item of Sumter that the agency is trying to figure out who put the pesticide down in woods in Lee County and promises to prosecute anyone involved.

Lay said that the pesticide, Temik, has limited legal use in South Carolina and that anyone who buys it must have a pesticide applicators license.

Lay said investigators haven't figured out why the pesticide was used this way. He said previous cases have included attempts to kill coyotes.

In other news

FIRST LADY MICHELLE Obama will be in Columbia next week. The White House said Friday that the first lady will spend Thursday at Fort Jackson and participate in a briefing about the lack of exercise and the consequences of obesity and poor nutrition during childhood.

A CAREGIVER AT A Hilton Head Island assisted living center has been charged with elder abuse involving several women. Investigators accuse Sonia King, 41, of Estill, of slapping two women and threatening to choke a third during her morning rounds Dec. 31.


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