“No pain, no gain, America.”

Alleged Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui last week in court after hearing testimony from family members who lost mothers, children, fathers, and siblings in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two words, Zac: Dead man.

Big, Big Mac ·
Despite his fondness for tortured chickens, marred landscapes, and clogged arteries, it appears Ronald McDonald’s heart is expanding. Charleston’s Ronald McDonald House at 81 Gadsden St. is undergoing a $3-million expansion, enabling it to better serve families with seriously ill or injured children, many undergoing open heart surgery and transplants. Currently, the house can accommodate 12 families, providing them a “home away from home” where parents and children can “share each other’s worries and joys” during their surgery and healing process. The expanded house, scheduled to open in September, will have room for 25 families. Local McDonald’s restaurants and vendors have donated $400,000 to the project, and a half-million more is needed to complete construction. To contribute or volunteer, contact Barbara Bond, the house’s executive director, at 723-7957. Good work, Ron, now lose the creepy clown suit. —Stratton Lawrence


Getting six more months in juvie prison might feel like a death sentence to some kids, but to convicted double-murderer Christopher Pittman, 17, it may seem like a godsend. That’s because he will get to stay in juvy prison until he is 17-and-a-half, thanks to an extension Judge Bill Byars, the director of the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, agreed to last week. Pittman, who turned 17 last Sunday, was scheduled to be transferred to adult prison this week. Byars says the extension had nothing to do with any pending appeals, is conditional on Pittman’s continued good behavior, and is far from the first extension ever granted by DJJ.


That’s the lawyers’ take in the $1.6 million settlement of cases brought after police locked down a hall, pointed guns in some students’ faces, and had students lie face down on the floor at Stratford High in a 2003 drug raid that turned up no drugs or weapons. Students could receive as much as $11,000 each. Some of the lawyers involved have announced they will donate their share to charity.

Columbia Week in Review ·
The state House advanced two bills last week that would increase the state cigarette tax and ban smoking in bars and restaurants. The state’s 7-cents-a-pack tax is the lowest in the nation, and this is the first time a standalone bill proposing a tax increase has been advanced in the legislative process. One bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Agnew (D-Abbeville), proposes a 32-cent increase, which would help pay for health-care costs of impoverished children. The other, sponsored by Rep. Rex Rice (R-Easley), would increase the tax by 40 cents to cover state health-care costs. Lawmakers in the House filed a bill last Thursday to attract moviemakers to film in the Lowcountry. The incentives include increased rebates on film wages, and in-state production expenses would be raised from 15 percent to 30 percent. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Shirley Hinson (R-Goose Creek), and 10 others. “There are states that are beating us at every level and stealing the film industry away from us, so to speak,” says Hinson, reached at her Goose Creek business. “We’ve got to up the ante a little bit.” Also in Columbia, a bill prohibiting counties from passing zoning laws on farms that are stricter than the rules set by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control won approval in the Senate and will move to the House next week. At-risk 4-year-olds might receive free early childhood education in some poor and rural school districts, thanks to a bill moving to the Education and Public Works Committee. Although all districts statewide are required to provide a 4-year-old program, limited state funding doesn’t allow for everyone who signs up to participate. Speaking of the failure of public education, minimum security prisons might allow inmates to attend a relative’s funeral if a Senate committee approves a bill. The funerals would be limited to those of a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or grandchild. Transportation would be provided by the Department of Corrections and inmates could be charged for the service. —Anna Claire Hodge


Rich alumni better break out the big wallet if they want to force out College of Charleston’s varsity men’s basketball coach Tom Herrion, because that’s how much it would cost the college to buy out his contract. The program has slipped from the days when John Kresse coached the team to victories over nationally-ranked powers; the Cougars win-loss record this year was 17-11. Source: The Post and Courier

¡Libertad! ·
Hundreds, if not over a full thousand, of Hispanics and their supporters gathered Monday afternoon on the lawn of Marion Square to protest the possible revamping of federal immigration laws in the United States, in the same manner protests were held in city centers across the nation over the past month. Exhorted by a stage full of speakers, attendees cheered back, waved American and other Central and South American nation’s flags, and peacefully circled the former parade grounds of a military school founded to protect the city from invasion and attack of nonwhites. Dressed mostly in white shirts — from Van Dutch and drywall company tees to golf shirts and button-downs — some wore big belt buckles and others in hats of every description to keep the sun at bay. There were as many protesters with paint on their pants as there were with designer labels on their jeans. Earnest young College of Charleston alums carried signs saying, “We are not criminals; we are students.” A group sitting around the base of Calhoun’s statue, waving a Mexican flag, chanted louder than the beleaguered P.A. the organizers were desperately trying to make work. Ironically, one protester wore a Green Bay Packers hat, apparently unaware that a Congressman from that state is trying to remove the “guest worker” provision in the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill filed last year in the U.S. Senate. —Bill Davis

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