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"Had she been a little black girl, a graduate of say Burke High School or S.C. State, it would not have been allowed. The thought police — the race police would have been all over it."

That's former state legislator John Graham Altman III, admonishing the media for not making fun of a hypothetical black beauty queen, during a call in to the Morning Buzz on WTMA. Altman says he felt for Miss Teen South Carolina after she flubbed her finalist question. The notorious big mouth noted in apparent self-deprecation that "when somebody gets the mic stuck in front of them, there's no telling what (they're) going to say."

Help Water Missions respond to Hurricane Felix

Charleston-based Water Missions International is accepting donations and volunteers who wish to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Felix, the second Category 5 storm to make landfall in Latin America this season. The organization provides clean water filtration systems to poverty-stricken villages throughout the world and has been instrumental in disaster relief. After responding to both the recent earthquake in Peru and Hurricane Dean in Mexico, their volunteer staff is stretched thin.

They need help at their West Ashley headquarters setting up water treatment systems and providing logistical support. In a Third World disaster zone, water access can mean the difference between life and death. Contact Danya at djordan@watermissions.org to give a donation for supplies, or Christie at volunteers@watermissions.org and 769-7395, ext. 207 to volunteer. — Stratton Lawrence

"Thomas was always mixing people together."

That's Pasquale Pellicoro, from his bunker somewhere in Europe. The wine expert fled the country after being attached to Thomas Ravenel's cocaine indictment. Pellicoro says late-night parties at Ravenel's included people speaking a variety of foreign languages and discussing art, apparently putting the scene somewhere between Bohemia and the "It's a Small World" ride. Ravenel pled guilty last week to charges he distributed less than 100 grams of cocaine. Source: The Post and Courier

Moonshiner Grows His Own

Gary and Lisa Dow, proprietors of The Tavern Wine and Spirits at East Bay and Exchange streets, got a welcome surprise this summer when a stalk of corn sprouted in the small dirt area underneath the street sign in front of their shop. Although it's not totally random (Gary regularly feeds the birds outside their front door), a leaky water/sewer cover has been watering the area, apparently providing enough nutrients to grow the corn into a nearly 4 foot plant since May.

"This is really a sign of the times," says Gary Dow. "A recession is coming, our infrastructure is collapsing, and Mother Nature is taking over. I fully expect to see sugar cane coming out of the sidewalk any day now. Thank goodness we've got all these mourning doves here if there's a beef shortage, and at least I'll have something to make grits out of."

The cornstalk has apparently become popular with neighbors and passersby who are surprised by the slightly-south-of-Broad area's ongoing agricultural flavor. When the plant grows a few ears, Dow plans to hang it on the Tavern's door as a sign of good luck, a bellwether for another harvest next year. "Or maybe we'll just eat it." — Stratton Lawrence

30 years

That's the maximum prison time that Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, of South Florida by way of Egypt, could face if convicted of building explosive devices and teaching others how to build the devices in "an activity that constitutes a federal crime of violence." Mohamed was pulled over in Berkeley County in July with what he claimed were "fireworks" in his trunk. Fellow traveler Youssef Samir Megahed was indicted along with Mohamed on charges the two transported an explosive devise across state lines. Megahed would face up to 10 years if convicted.

"Michael Vick is a dick."

That's one of four anti-Vick doggy T-shirts offered at DoggyStyleDesigns.com.

Freed of Fred

In the presidential campaign season, the field of candidates is represented by two separate groups: candidates silly enough to start campaigning with everyone else and the one candidate who hears the sound of a much slower drummer.

Fred Thompson, Mr. Never Too Late To Enter The Race, announced his candidacy with a multi-state tour that wrapped up Monday, but he has backed out of a Charleston visit after catching criticism for not visiting Greenville, the home planet of conservatives (or the nutty compound, depending on your politics).

Thompson had announced he'd be visiting Charleston and Columbia on the last two stops of his first official campaign tour, sending Republican bloggers in a tizzy.

"Rule No. 1 when trying to win the South Carolina primary as a Republican presidential candidate: If you do nothing else, you MUST campaign in Greenville and Spartanburg Counties," wrote The Palmetto Scoop. The schedule was quickly changed. We can always hope for a visit if a guest spot on Army Wives opens up. — Greg Hambrick

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