NEWS SHORTS 

"My basic question is this: Is there no better way to interact with the rest of the world?"

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in an 18-page letter he sent to President Bush last week.

As the Presidency Revolves ·
Last week, the College of Charleston announced that it was naming Conrad Festa, the executive director of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, as its interim president. Festa, who served as the academic vice president and provost at the college from 1987-2002, agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him more than $178,000 in base salary and supplements. The naming probably signals a slowing-down of the selection process to replace Lee Higdon, the college's current president, who will step down at the end of this academic year to take over the top job at Connecticut College. The college appeared to be rushing to name Fred Carter, the current president of Francis Marion University, as Higdon's replacement, especially after its trustees were caught having closed-door discussions in Columbia and certain intrastaff e-mails surfaced. But then, two weeks ago, Carter, a former professor and administrator at CofC, withdrew his name from consideration. The new search could take up to a year, though some at the college are itching for a quicker timetable. It's yet to be seen if the school will go with another politically well-connected president, a la Alex Sanders, or one that will better define the school's academic mission, as Higdon did, steering the college toward a more business-friendly curriculum. In related news, David AvRutick announced his resignation as the president of the American College of Building Arts on James Island, citing his having accomplished what he set out to do: shepherd the former nonprofit School of Building Arts into a fully-functioning four-year college. The school's provost, William Christie, was named as AvRutick's replacement. —Bill Davis

Columbia Week in Review ·
Last week was a hot one in the Statehouse, as the Senate passed its own "version" of property tax relief. The senators want citizens to vote on a referendum in the November general election as to whether individual counties should be allowed to drop their property taxes by raising their own sales tax. The legislation is a far cry from what the House had been hemming and hawing about since the beginning of this session: the near eradication of local property tax in exchange for a jump in the statewide sales tax from 5 percent to 7 percent. Next, representatives from both bodies will meet in conference to hammer out a compromise, and "hammer" might be the key word. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell (R-Chas.) snarked that the Senate "didn't pass anything — they just wanted killing property tax relief on their hands." The differences between the two bills are so extreme that Harrell promises the House will slow down the budget process so it can give citizens (read: voters in a year when the entire House is up for reelection) real relief if the Senate doesn't bend. "We're not talking about shutting down the government; we're just not in any hurry and are willing to do a continuing resolution to keep government operating," he says, a day after removing a "Tommy Moore for Governor" bumper sticker from his car. Some wag had affixed the sticker on his bumper when it was parked at the Statehouse Thursday. "If they want any of that additional spending they put into the budget, and there is a ton of it, they're going to have to deal with property tax relief." Harrell says the House will have debated the Senate's bill by Tuesday and will be in conference with Senate representatives later this week. In other, lighter, news, Gov. Mark Sanford signed into law a bill that protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed their children in public spaces. Who knew Mark was a tit-man? —Bill Davis

$6.8 million

That's how much County Council agreed last week to fund CARTA for the coming year. While nearly $7 million could be considered a handsome sum, it's $2.4 million less than what the transportation authority had asked for.

"Nobody told us anything, so we are doing what we always have."

Denver Merrill, South Carolinians for Responsible Government spokesperson, defending the nonprofit political group's decision not to turn over financial disclosure forms to the State Ethics Committee. Merrill holds that the thousands of dollars his group has spent on radio ads for specific state House campaigns falls under the group's mission to educate voters; the Ethics Committee claims it is trying to sway elections, and is thus required to open its books. Source: The Post and Courier

1.4 cents

That's how much the U.S. Mint says it costs to make a penny these days. Figures.

13, 25, 39, 31

Respectively, the percentages of Americans approving of President Bush's handling of rising gasoline prices, immigration, going to war in Iraq, and the job he's doing overall. Source: New York Times/CBS poll

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