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Bomb squad destroys Civil War cannonball

CHARLESTON - A Civil War-era cannonball has been destroyed by the bomb squad after workers found the live ammunition at a paper mill in North Charleston.

Workers at the MeadWestvaco plant found the 20-pound, 8-inch cannonball Friday while doing underground repair work and contacted authorities, mill communications manager Larry Cobb said.

No employees were injured.

The Charleston County bomb squad is typically called in to handle about 20 unexploded Civil War rounds each year in the Charleston area.

Natural gas rates to drop in February

COLUMBIA - South Carolina Electric and Gas is lowering its natural gas rates nearly 6 percent next month because of decreasing wholesale prices.

The decrease means the bill for an average household using 100 therms of natural gas will be about $163, down $10 from January, SCE&G says.

Rates dropped slightly in January, a month after the company raised its natural gas rates nearly 8 percent because of an increase in wholesale price and demand.

No cause found so far for officers' sickness

ORANGEBURG - Authorities still don't know what caused four Orangeburg County deputies to get sick after drinking coffee at a restaurant earlier this month.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control found nothing unusual in the coffee samples taken from the IHOP restaurant where the officers became ill.

A couple of the officers were nauseated, and one felt faint and was developing a rash after drinking coffee at the restaurant Jan. 10, Sheriff Larry Williams said. The sick deputies were treated at the hospital and released.

The State Law Enforcement Division will continue the investigation.

Chief justice wants more court funding

CHARLESTON - Funding for South Carolina's courts is becoming more unstable as the system depends more on money from fees, Chief Justice Jean Toal said Friday at the state Bar's annual convention.

The state's courts received $41 million in funding in 1999-2000, the fiscal year she took over as chief justice - and all but 1 percent of that money came from state appropriations, Chief Justice Toal said.

In comparison, more than $15 million, or about 26 percent, of this year's projected $57 million budget will come from court fines, surcharges and fees instituted in previous years because of state budget cuts.

Chief Justice Toal said she plans to ask the General Assembly for more money, in part to hire more judges to help alleviate a backlog.

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