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Updated: 17 min ago

Area wrestling: seven wrestlers to watch

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 20:59
As the wrestling season has reached its turning point and the playoffs are in sight, the picture is getting clearer.
The top wrestlers in the area have separated themselves, and a playoff run is within a stone's throw. There are plenty of talented wrestlers in the area who will be fighting to position themselves in a run at the state finals.
Last season, the area was represented well in the state finals. The top three were North Henderson's Mitchel Langford, Hendersonville's Rhett Hoy and Rosman's Breyer Owen.
The only one of those three to win the state crown is Langford, and he's back to challenge for history. Langford will be wrestling to win his fourth state championship in his high school career.
Langford leads the way in this season's seven wrestlers to watch.
North Henderson
Wrestler to watch: Mitchel Langford (120)
Outlook: Langford has won a state championship every year he has been a varsity wrestler. The senior is looking to exit high school as a four-time champion, a feat that has only been accomplished by eight other wrestlers in the history of North Carolina wrestling.
"He is preparing as hard as possible to defend his state title," North coach Heang Uy said. "He's moved up to 120 pounds this year from 113 last year. There's a lot of good competition, but we're prepared to compete with them."
Langford is 175-2, just two wins away from the all-time wins record at North, and the two losses were at the hands of health, not opponents on the mat.
The senior is dominant and that dominance is rooted in physicality and intelligence, Uy said.
"He is strong, physical and moves well," the coach said. "He's rarely out of position. And he's one of the hardest workers in the practice room and that translates to success on the mat."
Other contenders: While Langford snags the headlines, the Knights have some other strong wrestlers. Will Baldwin, a sophomore, has continued to get better and win matches, Uy said. Paul Searcy is a freshman who Uy thinks will have a strong career. Celedonio Cardenas is one the team's strongest wrestlers, Uy said, and the junior has become a team leader.
East Henderson
Wrestler to watch: Aaron Owensby (145)
Outlook: The Eagle wrestler has quietly been building a resume that stacks up to most area wrestlers. Currently, the junior is undefeated at 25-0 this season.
So far the 145-pounder has won the Knight Invitational and won his weight division at the Falcon Frenzy for the second consecutive year.
"Aaron's natural ability and his work in the Strong & Courageous Wrestling Club are the things that make him though on the mat," East coach Doug Lanning said. "I think that he has the potential to obtain his first state title this year. However, he will have to work hard to obtain this goal."
Other contenders: Lanning has a few wrestlers on his roster that have a shot at making a deep run in the playoffs. Garrett Ammerman (152) has a shot to place at regionals after facing some stiff competition this season, Lanning said. Chas Blanken (182) is 22-3 so far this season and could earn a spot at regionals. Ethan Willis (160) is at 20-5 and has that same shot, Lanning said.
West Henderson
Wrestler to watch: Colby Sousa (120)
Outlook: Sousa might be in the hardest weight class in the state with North's Langford wrestling in the 120-pound class.
With Sousa, however, the "sky is the limit," first-year coach Jon Hardman said.
"Colby has been improving over the course of the year already and works hard to get better every day," Hardman said. "He has had some close losses to some really good kids so far, but they were winnable matches."
Sousa made the state tournament as a freshman and it's his goal to return to that level of wrestling, Hardman said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he made the podium this year at the state tournament, but he will have to limit mistakes and wrestle well down the stretch."
Other contenders: Michael Chavous (113) and Sam Cocking (160) are two other Falcons to watch this season.
"Both of these kids have stepped up and won against some good wrestlers," Hardman said. "They are a big part of why we have had early season success so far. Either one of them could surprise some people come February."
Hendersonville
Wrestler to watch: Charlie Bosshard (220)
Outlook: For Bosshard, any success deep into the postseason will be all about how hard he works in the weeks leading up to it, Hendersonville coach Michael Jones said.
The horizon is filled with tough obstacles so that work will be necessary, Jones said.
"It would be nice to see Charlie make it to the state finals, but he is going to have to work hard in the room this season to make sure he has the physical and mental endurance to make it through the tough opening rounds of the 2-A state tournament," Jones said. "Not to mention as well, the 2-A West region is one of the toughest regions in the state pound-for-pound."
Bosshard has the skill to do that though, Jones said.
"Charlie is quick and agile for his weight class," the coach said. "Last year he was a 2-A state placer and we look forward to him improving on that mark this year at the state tournament."
Other contenders: Levi Metcalf (182) is undefeated so far this season. His weight class, however, is one of the tougher ones in the West region, Jones said.
"He is going to have to put together solid, consistent, back-to-back matches if he wishes to become a 2-A state qualifier."
Polk County
Wrestler to watch: Chase Emory (138)
Outlook: Emory is 20-3 so far this season. The sophomore wrestles with Strong and Courageous year round and is evidence of his work ethic, Polk County coach Phillip Miller said.
"He is such a hard worker and no one ever outworks him," Miller said. "I believe he will place in state this year."
Other contenders: Miller believes he has a couple of more wrestlers that can make a run at the state tournament this year. Anthony Marino (152), and Dustin Calvert (145) could make the tournament for the first time in their careers this season, Miller said.
Brevard
Wrestler to watch: Nick Siniard (182)
Outlook: Siniard has the most postseason wrestling experience for the Blue Devils this season. The senior is currently 17-0 and was a state qualifier last season.
"He's strong, fast, has great mat awareness and is my wrestler with the most postseason experience," Brevard coach Vernon Bryson said. "He's very driven and can't stand to lose."
Other contenders: Logan Roth (132) is putting together a dominant season so far. The sophomore sits at 23-1 currently.
"(He's) very good on his feet, is a great scrambler and has mat awareness," Bryson said.
Blake Stephens (170) is also a contender. Stephens is a great scrambler and has a funky wrestling style, the coach said.
Rosman
Wrestler to watch: Andres Villagomez (heavyweight)
Outlook: Villagomez has been flat-out dominant on the mat this season. The junior is 20-2 on the season and of those 20 victories, 12 have been by a pin.
Other contenders: Matt Cole (152) and Tanner Whitman (132) are leaders on the team and are expected to qualify for the state tournament. Damon Messer, Tristan Praytor, Landon Shipmen, and Ethan Orr all have a shot at qualifying for state for the first time, coach Wesley Whitman said.
Categories: News

Sports & Bacon: winner, winner, bacon dinner

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 20:37
Let me tell you about this guy named Doug Campbell. He's a math teacher at Polk County High School. He's a blogger. He's an author. He's a former basketball coach.
Above all that, however, the dude is a master at fantasy football and baseball. OK … I'm kidding … it's not above all that, but it might as well be.
The guy knows what he's doing. I should've never asked him to be in the Times-News Bacon Invitational, which was our first-ever fantasy football league. I could've predicted at that moment he was going to win.
I remember saying in one of my columns that he was the best fantasy player I've ever went up against. He delivered this year. He won the championship under the team name "The Mingle Master," which is his blog about dating and social skills. He blogs daily at www.theminglemaster.com.
He didn't have the best record overall, but alas, in fantasy football that's not needed. What you need is a fair amount of luck to go along with your skill. Doug, more often than not, had both.
Nonetheless, I delivered a package of precooked bacon and a winner's certificate to him on Monday. That picture is attached to this column. He should look happier, right? He probably would've smiled more had he remembered to bring the bacon to the photo shoot with him, but I digress.
I can tell you now that it's a lot more difficult having to deliver the winner's prize in person. It'd been a lot harder if I had to do that after a long, hard-fought fantasy baseball season.
I did what I always do in fantasy football this year. I checked out after about week three of four. I made a big trade, watched it for a week, and then began forgetting to change my lineup around. There's just something about fantasy football that has begun to bore me. I don't like the luck element.
You have to have so much luck to win a football league. Baseball takes much more skill. I may try and set up a baseball league this season. I can think of a few coaches that would like to join up. Doug, however, will not be invited. I'd rather give everyone else a shot at the title.
All kidding aside, Doug is literally the man at fantasy sports and he earned this one fair and square. Congrats, dude.
u u u
BACON BITS
*The college playoffs were awesome, right? I mean…it made the season so much more interesting. There was more debate on the playoff committee's ranking than ever before, and the one team that everyone criticized them for the most won the national championship. Ohio State beat the cream of the SEC crop and then manhandled the high-powered offense of Oregon to silence the critics.
*Speaking of Ohio State … the Buckeyes won the national championship with their third-string quarterback. That's crazy. That's what you call bringing home the bacon. I mean, this Cardale Jones guy made three starts. He won the Big Ten title, a first-round playoff game and then the national championship. There was talk of him going pro, but he shut that down on Thursday. Either way, it's crazy that the first-ever football champion in the playoff era won with its third-string quarterback.
*I can't lie … I chuckled a little bit when I read former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis making fun of the rules that the NFL (aka the No Fun League) has. I laughed even harder when he used Tom Brady and the "tuck rule." I agree wholeheartedly that the NFL rules are ludicrous. The details that these rules go into are insane. The review booth should have a lawyer in it. Heck, maybe it does.
Categories: News

Oviedo steps down at HHS

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 19:41
Longtime Hendersonville High soccer coach Freddy Oviedo has decided it’s finally time to begin another chapter of his life, and it’s a chapter that doesn’t involve coaching — at least in the near future.
At the end of the boys soccer season, he announced he was stepping down as coach, for both the boys and girls soccer teams at HHS.
“I just felt like it was time to step away from high school soccer for a little bit and spend a lot more time with my family,” Oviedo, who led the boys soccer team to back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010, said.
In the past nine years at Hendersonville, he’s led the boys and girls teams to four conference titles each, and he has earned nine conference Coach of the Year awards (five for boys and four for girls).
“In the nine years at Hendersonville, me and my coaching staff had incredible experiences we’ll never forget. We had players that come along once in a lifetime, like Brayan Aguirre, and we had some great teams. We had two state titles and one state runner-up,” Oviedo, who still teaches at Balfour Education Center, said.
During his tenure, he helped nine boys players and five girls players receive soccer college scholarships. Oviedo, who was named the North Carolina Coach of the Year three straight years (2009-2011) was also coach at the North Carolina State Games in the Gold Medal Championships from 2012-2014.
He co-owns and operates the soccer club Golden Gol, based in Mills River, and his teams have placed in regional competition. In 2013, his U-15 boys squad won the Eastern Regional title, and the team was runner-up in both 2011 and 2012.
“I’m actually taking the spring off from Golden Gol to see how it goes and probably get back to it in the summer,” he said.
He’s also keeping his options open for high school coaching.
“I’ve been contacted by a couple of schools already, and that’s something I might look into down the road. For now, I want to spend time with my family, but it’s nice to know those doors will be open,” Oviedo said.
Amber McCullough is Oviedo’s replacement as the girls coach, and the first day of practice for her team is Feb. 16. The search is ongoing for a new HHS boys soccer coach, according to Athletic Director B.J. Laughter.
Categories: News

HHS alum to address Unity Breakfast

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 16:23
Andre Briggs, a 1984 Hendersonville High graduate who has served 27 years with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, will be the keynote speaker during the 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at Blue Ridge Community College Monday.
Sponsored by BRCC and the Human Relations Council of Henderson County, the annual Unity Breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. in the community college’s Technology Education & Development Center conference hall. A program focused on the theme “Peace & Hope” will start at 9:30 a.m.
Tickets will be available at the door and are $10 for adults or $5 for children under 10. Proceeds will benefit scholarships for students of color. BRCC has awarded roughly $46,000 to about 50 recipients over the last decade, said Director of Minority Services Gary Rivers.
Born in Washington, D.C., Briggs is the son of Loretta Briggs of Hendersonville and the late Donald Briggs. After graduating with a degree in communications from Gaston College, he joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in 1987.
He has worked in homicide, vice and narcotics units and currently serves as an instructor in the department’s Police Training Academy. When not training officers, Briggs mentors young people in the Charlotte area.
His keynote speech will honor Dr. King’s legacy, while addressing timely issues of police-community relations.
For more information, contact Rivers at 828-694-1808.
Categories: News

Fountainhead Bookstore expands to meet demand

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 15:48
Valerie Welbourn had no trepidations about opening the Fountainhead Bookstore at 408 N. Main St. back in 2010. She knew the print world had been suffering for a while, but she also saw another shift happening, at least in Hendersonville.
“The pendulum's been swinging the other way,” Welbourn said. “I think people are realizing either they can do both print and digital books, or they just want the paper version.”
Welbourn said she trusted that others in the community loved books and wanted that personal connection with other book lovers.
Turns out, the Polk County native's instincts were correct. As the bookstore enters its fifth year, Welbourn is expanding her shop to include 700 square feet upstairs to accommodate growth.
The reason for the expansion is two-fold. Welbourn has to accommodate the growing stock of books, journals, games and writing supplies needed to meet the demand. Fountainhead also hosts multiple events, including six book clubs, and will soon add a seventh.
“We've been squished and packed too much just using downstairs, and the events are only getting bigger,” Welbourn said.
Expanding upstairs is both a significant step forward for the bookstore and also a metaphorical step back into owners Spence and Marianne Ewbank Cambell's family history.
The building has been in Marianne's family since it was built in 1923 for Ewbank & Ewbank insurance and real estate, which was founded in 1897. Her family's history in Western North Carolina goes back to the 1850s, when her ancestor, Henry Ewbank, brought his family over from England by way of Charleston, S.C.
The Fountainhead expansion will include a room solely devoted to the book clubs. The club room smells of old books, and the light brown carpet and midcentury printed wallpaper evoke the sense of having somehow walked inside a book.
A second room will serve as a history exhibit for the Ewbank family. A shot of the building in its early days rests on the wall. Black-and-whites of family members from different generations also hang next to a turn-of-the-century picture of Main Street with trees lining the road where buildings now exist. The photos create a timeline for both the Ewbank family and the town where most of its members grew up.
The last room in the back opens up with light pouring in through big windows facing Main Street. Though empty now, the room has the potential to fill burgeoning bookstore needs. Welbourn plans to use this room for bigger events and items such as games that currently take up a lot of space downstairs.
Like the photos on the wall, the upstairs is a mishmash of different eras and generations. Welbourn plans to keep it that way.
“When the owner and his wife had asked what needed to be done to the upstairs, I said not much,” Welbourn said. “I liked the old feel of the place.”
Many of her customers agree with that approach.
“It's like walking back in time,” said Hendersonville resident Cathy Jones. Her partner, Ray Cooper, is an artist whose works currently displayed in the extended downstairs hallways are Fountainhead's first wall art exhibit.
“The upstairs tells the story of when the building was built,” Jones said. “I love that. I hope it will stay there.”
Welbourn hopes to complete the renovation by end of February, just in time for her semi-annual Bookapalooza, where book lovers and readers to get together and socialize.
Reach Kerns at charli.kerns@blueridgenow.com or 828-694-7881.
Categories: News

Fletcher Library re-opens after repairs

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 15:21
The Fletcher Branch of the Henderson County Public Library re-opened Thursday at 10 a.m. Repair work to the water pipe and cleanup has been completed.

For more information, contact the Henderson County Public Library main branch in Hendersonville at 828-697-4725.
Categories: News

Former NC school custodian faces sex charge with teen

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 15:15
FLETCHER (AP) — A former custodian at a Buncombe County middle school has been charged with soliciting sex from a teen.
Multiple media outlets reported that 60-year-old Donald Earl Birchfield of Fletcher has been charged with felony solicitation of a child by computer.
School officials say Birchfield was a custodian at Cane Creek Middle School. He was suspended Dec. 4 after officials were told of a criminal investigation. Spokesman Donald Porter said Birchfield was fired Tuesday.
It was not clear if Birchfield has a lawyer.
Birchfield is accused of sending a text message to a 15-year-old child soliciting sex last month. Porter would not say whether the teen was a student at the school.
Birchfield had worked for Buncombe schools since 2011.
Categories: News

81-year-old woman killed after driving wrong way on I-40

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 14:38
MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) — The N.C. Highway Patrol says an 81-year-old woman is dead after driving the wrong way on Interstate 40 near Morganton and hitting another car.
State troopers say Ruth Whisnant was killed Thursday morning when she headed west on eastbound I-40 and crashed head-on into another car around 4 a.m. The accident occurred between exits 101 and 103.
Emergency personnel say Whisnant died before she reached a Charlotte hospital.
The patrol says driver of the other vehicle was taken to Grace Hospital in Morganton for treatment of injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.
Troopers say there was thick fog in the area at the time of the accident.
Categories: News

Oscar nominations announced for best picture

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 08:44
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: "American Sniper," ''Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)," ''Boyhood," ''The Grand Budapest Hotel," ''The Imitation Game," ''Selma," "The Theory of Everything," and "Whiplash."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: "CitizenFour," ''Finding Vivian Maier," ''Last Days in Vietnam," ''The Salt of the Earth" and "Virunga."
The Oscars will be presented Feb. 22 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and broadcast live on ABC.
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: "Big Hero 6," ''The Boxtrolls," ''How To Train Your Dragon 2," ''The Tale of Princess Kaguya," and "Song of the Sea."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: "Everything is Awesome," ''The Lego Movie"; "Glory," ''Selma"; "Grateful," ''Beyond the Lights"; "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," ''Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me"; "Lost Stars," ''Begin Again."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: Robert Duvall, "The Judge"; Edward Norton, "Birdman"; Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"; Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"; and J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"; Laura Dern, "Wild"; Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"; Emma Stone, "Birdman"; and Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"; (asterisk)Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"; (asterisk)Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"; (asterisk)Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"; (asterisk)Reese Witherspoon, "Wild."
The nominees announced Thursday morning are: Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"; Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"; Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"; Michael Keaton, "Birdman"; and Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything."
Categories: News

Couple return to Thailand to fight human trafficking

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 02:01
Bob and Fran German of Hendersonville returned to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand Dec. 1 to continue their efforts to end child trafficking.
The Germans said this form of modern-day slavery is something they could not ignore once they saw the effects of human trafficking while visiting Mae Sai, a border town in Northern Thailand, seven years ago.
The couple have raised $25,000 in donations locally, which allows them to provide families with alternatives to human trafficking.
The donations include sponsorship of 14 exploited and at-risk girls at Children's Organization of Southeast Asia's shelter. Also, a portion of the funds are being used for COSA's community outreach programs that provide medical supplies, healthier school meals and school transportation.
"Along with our partners at the COSA, we try to get at the root of the trafficking by positively impacting these extremely poor communities," the couple said in an email to the Times-News. "On this journey, we were distributing needed medical supplies. Trips to these villages are made on an ongoing basis, about every two weeks. The whole idea is to prevent human trafficking and child exploitation through education and community empowerment."
The Germans said they have read recent reports indicating that 40 percent of the world's underage prostitutes come from ethnic minority hill tribe villages of Northern Thailand near the border of Burma.
"There are large numbers of drug traffickers and human traffickers who operate there," the Germans said. "It can be very unsafe, and we travel with armed body guards. COSA offers vulnerable families options to avoid selling their daughters into slavery. These include protection, education, health services, statehood and more."
During their latest visit, the Germans, along with COSA founder and director Mickey Choothesa and his staff, delivered medical supplies to remote hill tribe villages in Northern Thailand along the Burmese border.
"This area is rife with drug traffickers and human traffickers who operate actively every day," the Germans said. "It was necessary for us to travel with an armed bodyguard. It was a chilling experience, but a rewarding one."
The Germans said their journey took several hours by car, boat and foot, but was worth every minute.
"Included in our travels were visits to two different school-safe houses that Mickey helped set up with local officials and police," the Germans said. "While there, we got to meet several girls who will be joining the COSA shelter in the near future."
Many of the children sleep at the schools, as their parents, who are farmers, are often away from home for long periods of time working in the rice fields, according to the Germans. The children's dorms were unscreened and children slept on thin mats on the floor.
"After seeing this, we told the school principal that COSA would pay for new mattresses and screening," the Germans said. "The money for this will come from our community in North Carolina, who contributed to our ACT Project to Abolish Child Trafficking."
While the Germans say this is just one example of how COSA and its supporters halfway around the world in America are helping to change the lives of children through education and empowerment of communities through social change, they feel there is still more to be done.
"As Mickey says, 'for every girl we rescue, 12 others fall through my fingers,'" the Germans said. "It is our hope for 2015 that we all remember the 'forgotten people' throughout the world... especially those who are exploited and enslaved."
For more information on the couple's efforts, email bobnfran@gmail.com, call 828-393-0805, view a video at www.dropbox.com/s/7mup6h0ciqcrs9z/Bob%20and%20Fran%20MOSAIC%20Outreach.mov?dl=0 or find them on Facebook by searching for Bob & Fran's ACT Project-Abolish Child Trafficking.
Reach Bindewald at 694-7890 or renee.bindewald@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

'Paw-paparazzi' take note: World Dog Awards honor star pets

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 02:01
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Awards season is underway in Hollywood, but one show will roll out green turf instead of red carpet and celebrate achievements like best mutt instead of best actor.
At the inaugural World Dog Awards hosted by comedian George Lopez, dogs will walk in on artificial grass and wag out with golden fire hydrant statuettes honoring the best in entertainment and social media.
There are no long speeches or fashion critics at the show airing Thursday on the CW Network. At this event, the podium is packed with dog treats, patches of grass allow pets to do their business and signs call for barking instead of applause. Plus, pooches lounge on couches and sniff out swag bags boasting pet food, collars and toys.
The World Dog Awards are the latest in a series of canine kudos weaving their way into Hollywood's human awards landscape.
The Pawscars gives accolades to animals in film roles, including a tarantula that won best supporting arachnid a few years ago for appearing in "Salt" with Angelina Jolie. Voting is open for the show, scheduled to air March 4.
The Golden Collar Awards made their online debut in 2012, giving the top nod to a Jack Russell terrier named Uggie for his star turn in "The Artist." After a two-year hiatus, the show returns Oct. 4 and is open only to adopted shelter dogs that have appeared online or in TV, movies or commercials.
The World Dog Awards are different than other shows, executive producer Robert Horowitz said.
"You have seen Westminster, you have seen dogs honored for their service and to promote adoption, but not a show that focuses on how important they are in everyday life," he said.
Fans voted online for the winners of most categories before the show's filming on Jan. 10. They chose Most Pawpular Dog, for the most influential pooch on social media; Happiest Reunion, for the most inspiring videotaped reunion between a returning military member and a dog; and even Most Dog-Like Cat.
In one of the most heated contests, five colleges competed for favorite costumed dog mascot. The contenders are: the University of Tennessee, University of Connecticut, University of Georgia, Pace University and Mississippi State.
Lopez said hosting the show gave him a chance to "create an awareness of our most loyal companions, who love unconditionally and never take their eyes off of you."
Scooby-Doo, the titular animated Great Dane who's been investigating mysteries for decades, is receiving a lifetime achievement award, given to an iconic dog character in popular culture. Warner Bros. created a custom animated segment, allowing Scooby-Doo to "accept" his award from "NCIS" actress Pauley Perrette.
Dogs receiving star treatment at the show got to bring a plus-one — a person to handle the other end of the leash, Horowitz said. Organizers expected about 100 dogs and 1,000 people to attend.
"America loves our four-legged creatures. They are a big part in the life of humans. They make us laugh, cry and tug at our heartstrings," Horowitz said. "This is a way to say thanks."
___
Online:
— www.cwtv.com .
Categories: News

Need help filing out your tax return? Don't call the IRS

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 02:01
WASHINGTON (AP) — Filing a federal tax return is about to get more complicated for millions of families because of President Barack Obama's health law. But they shouldn't expect much help from the Internal Revenue Service.
Got a question for the IRS? Good luck reaching someone by phone. The tax agency says only half of the 100 million people expected to call this year will be able to reach a person.
Callers who do get through may have to wait on hold for 30 minutes or more to talk to someone who will answer only the simplest questions.
"Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed," said a report Wednesday by agency watchdog Nina E. Olson.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts are forcing the agency to reduce taxpayer services and other functions. The number of audits will decline, technology upgrades will be delayed and the agency might be forced to shut down and furlough workers for two days later this year, Koskinen said.
The IRS will no longer help low-income taxpayers fill out their returns, and tax refunds could be delayed for people who file paper returns.
"It couldn't be worse timing," Koskinen said of the budget cuts.
Congress cut the IRS by $346 million for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. Koskinen says the agency's $10.9 billion budget is its lowest since 2008. When adjusted for inflation, the budget hasn't been this low since 1998, he said.
Republicans in Congress adamantly oppose Obama's health law, so some have been working to starve the IRS of funds just as its role in implementing the law ramps up.
It won't work, Koskinen said in an interview. The agency, he said, is required by law to help implement the health program. "The only places we have discretion are in information technology, tax enforcement, customer service."
The spending cuts could actually cost the government money, Koskinen said. Having fewer enforcement agents will cost at least $2 billion in lost tax revenue this year, he estimated.
Service problems at the IRS will also make it harder for well-intentioned taxpayers to comply with the law, said Olson, who is the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent office within the IRS.
"Without adequate support, many taxpayers will be frustrated, some will make potentially costly mistakes, others will incur higher compliance costs when forced to seek information and assistance from tax professionals," she said.
"Still others," Olson said, "will simply give up and not file."
Olson released her annual report to Congress Wednesday, less than a week before the start of tax filing season on Tuesday. In it she raises concerns about the IRS' ability to help implement the health law.
She said the agency was unable to adequately test the accuracy of some information received from health insurance exchanges. Also, delays affected the training of IRS employees.
Olson noted that some of the issues involve other agencies. But, she added, "The IRS will certainly bear much of the public blame because many of the problems will arise in the context of return filing."
Koskinen said the IRS has increased efforts to educate tax preparers and the public about the tax implications of the health law, devoting a section of the agency's website to answering questions. Koskinen's advice to taxpayers with questions: Don't call the IRS unless you absolutely have to.
For the first time, tax filers will have to report information about their health insurance during the previous year. For most people who get health coverage through work or through government programs like Medicaid, it will mean simply checking a box.
Others who got insurance through state and federal marketplaces will have to file a new form, while people who received subsidies will have to provide more detailed information.
People who didn't have health insurance last year face fines unless they qualify for a waiver, which requires more paperwork.
The subsidies were based on projected incomes, so families will need to report if actual incomes were higher or lower. If higher, they might have to pay back some of the subsidy, either through a smaller tax refund or a payment.
If their incomes were lower, they might qualify for a larger tax refund.
Taxpayers who get subsidies are supposed to notify the health exchanges during the year if their incomes change or if they have some other life event that changes their eligibility, said Kathy Pickering, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.
"If somebody got married or divorced, had a baby, got a job, lost a job, anything that changes their income, those consumers needed to go back to the marketplace and update their information," Pickering said. "Most people didn't know to do that or didn't think to do it."
Koskinen said he is "reasonably confident — very confident" the IRS has successfully upgraded its computer systems to handle additional taxpayer information required by the health law, even though Congress refused to pay for it, rejecting the agency's $600 million request.
"In some ways the Congress appeared to be trying to do its best to keep us from being able to get operational this time," Koskinen said.
___
Categories: News

Community Briefs: Jan. 15

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 02:01
FRP teams up with students to produce plays
Theater students from four high schools in Hendersonville will burn the midnight oil Friday, as they work with mentors at Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown to write, edit, cast and rehearse 10-minute plays – in time for a 7 p.m. performance Saturday.
As part of the Playhouse’s third annual 24 Hour Play Festival, students from Hendersonville, West Henderson, North Henderson and East Henderson high schools will meet Friday after school at the downtown stage, where they’ll be mixed into groups and tasked with writing plays.
The teams will have five hours to craft their plays, and must email finished copies to their school directors at 11 p.m. Friday. The high school theater directors have the evening to review the plays, and will meet students at Hendersonville High at 9 a.m. Saturday to begin rehearsals.
Following rehearsals, costuming, technical rehearsals and full dress rehearsals at the Playhouse Downtown, the students will present their plays to the public at 7 p.m. Saturday. Donations will be collected at the door.
For more information, call the playhouse at 693-0731.
Bunn featured at Republican Women’s Club luncheon
The Henderson County Republican Women’s Club luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 27 at Cedars, 227 Seventh Ave. W., Hendersonville. Guest speaker is Zan Bunn, state president of the N.C. Federation of Republican Women. She became involved in politics in college, inspired by President Ronald Reagan’s love of country. She also currently serves as chair of the 13th Congressional District for the N.C. Republican Party and has been a member and has served on many other committees and clubs. Bunn received the highest statewide award bestowed upon an individual for lifetime grassroots activism. She graduated from Meredith College where she earned a BA in history/political science.
Send checks by Monday to HCRWC Luncheon, P.O. Box 2734, Hendersonville, NC 28793 in the amount of $14 for members and $20 for nonmembers.
Meetings
The Mills River Finance Committee will meet at 7 p.m. today in the conference room of Town Hall.
The Laurel Park Board of Adjustment will meet at 4 p.m. today in town hall.
Events
Carolina Mountain Woodturners and the Southern Highlands Craft Guild will sponsor a woodturning demonstration by Mark Gardner from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. Free. Info: 712-6644 or www.carolinamountainwoodturners.org.
CMLC will host a hike to the summit of Rich Mountain on Saturday at Camp High Rocks. Hiking distance is 2.7 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 700 feet. The difficulty of this hike is rated as strenuous. This hike is open to both members and non-members. Space is limited; sign up at carolinamountain.org.
Emanuel's Corner, at 719 First Ave. W., Hendersonville, will hold a spelling bee hosted by Kenya Hill for fifth- through eighth-grade students at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. For more information, email e-robinson@hotmail.com.
Southern Lights Square and Round Dance Club will hold a “Winter Luau-Halfway Dance” Saturday at Whitmire Activity Building, Lily Pond Road, Hendersonville. All new dancers are invited to attend the dance at 7:30 p.m. Advance dance starts at 6 p.m., with early rounds at 7 p.m. Squares and rounds start at 7:30 p.m. Come in Hawaiian attire. Caller is Stan Russell and cuers are Lou and Al Krech. Info: www.southernlights.org.
Categories: News

Group helps breast cancer survivors get tattoos

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 22:48
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — For women who have survived breast cancer, breast or nipple reconstruction can be a first step toward looking like their old selves. A Colorado organization is helping some of those women, and others who don't choose reconstruction, in their emotional healing — through tattoos to help conceal their scars.
P.ink is a Boulder-based group that helps connect survivors with tattoo artists. Its first annual P.ink Day was in 2013, when it raised money and funded tattoos for 10 women in a single day in Brooklyn, New York. In 2014, the event expanded and featured all-volunteer artists in 12 cities in the U.S. and Canada who helped 38 women.
"I think a lot of survivors see this as their opportunity to define what breast cancer looks like on them, and that is the ultimate in personal empowerment we are shooting for here," said Noel Franus, who launched P.ink with the help of others at the CP+B advertising agency, where he works.
Franus got the idea after his sister-in-law, Molly Ortwein, underwent a double mastectomy and wanted something more than reconstruction or tattooed nipples. She went to the family for ideas on a tattoo and got a pernambuco tree blossom one in 2013.
The organization also has a charitable arm, the P.ink fund, which raises money to pay experienced tattoo artists to work with survivors.
P.ink has created a smartphone app where women can look at designs and try one on via photo. And the group is considering creating a tattoo parlor dedicated to breast cancer-related tattoos and developing a training program for tattoo artists.
Diane de Jesus was among the women tattooed in Brooklyn at the first P.ink event. The 34-year-old dietitian said she requested a dove on her reconstructed left breast because she dreamed about the birds while going through treatment. She said getting her tattoo gave her a feeling of taking back control.
"I didn't see my scar anymore, and it was the biggest surprise and biggest gift in going through this process," she said.
Mari Jankowski, 44, worked through P.ink to get her purple lily tattoo in December. After the bartender and house cleaner was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy in 2011 — an aggressive response in part because she had the breast and ovarian cancer gene and had lost her great-grandmother, two grandmothers and mother all to cancer that began with breast cancer.
Jankowski wanted to cover her chemotherapy port scar on her upper left chest because she said people often mistook it for a hickey. She was paired with Ashley Neumann, an artist at Rockstar Tattoo & Co. in West Allis.
Jankowski asked Neumann to come up with a design that incorporated the pink breast cancer ribbon with a lily — her mother and grandmother's favorite flower.
"The design that Ashley did is just fabulous. I have been looking for 2 ½ years, and she did it in one try," Jankowski said, as she prepared to undergo a session at Neumann's studio.
Neumann, 24, had worked with cancer scars before.
"It's definitely something you want to nail for them because you know that means so much to them," she said.
Two hours later, Jankowski choked up as she looked in the mirror at her new lily.
"Oh, is that awesome. Wow," she said. "Now I'm going to cry."
Categories: News

Emergency vehicle crashes in Carriage Park

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 22:48
A Mountain Home Fire Department vehicle responding to a wreck in Carriage Park this morning skidded off the road and down an embankment, sending two emergency responders to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
A third firefighter was injured when he fell on ice at the scene of the accident.
The fire crew was responding to a wreck around 8 a.m. in which a woman driving a black Kia went off the road and down a steep embankment, said Trooper S.A. Davis with the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The fire engine went off the road after it skidded on black ice in a sharp turn, Davis said. The fire engine also slid down a steep incline and stopped 50 to 70 yards from Bowen Lake, Davis said.
The woman motorist was uninjured, Davis said.
According to a news release from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, the injured firefighters were Lt. Matt Brackett, Engineer Rick Hodge and volunteer Matthew Tweed.
Brackett, 31, was transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville, where he is in stable condition with a broken collarbone and internal injuries, the release states.
Hodge, 51, was taken to Pardee Hospital, where he was treated and released. Engineer David Jones, 39, was also in the fire truck but was not injured.
Tweed, 25, a five-year volunteer with the Mountain Home Fire Department, was treated and released from Pardee Hospital.
The amount of damage to the $450,000 fire engine is currently unknown, stated Chief Hudgins with the Mountain Home Fire & Rescue Department.
Carriage Park developer Dale Hamlin said he saw the fire engine go past the intersection of Carriage Park Way and Narrows Run Loop around 8 a.m. Hamlin said the fog was so thick at that time that he couldn't see 200 yards across the lake.
Categories: News

Bearcats, Lady Knights earn hard-fought wins at North

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 22:03
Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the death of legendary high school basketball coach Tom Pryor, and the the night before on the court that bears his name, his great grandson made him proud.
Hendersonville junior Jordan Strickland didn't lead the Bearcats in scoring Wednesday, but he had a couple key rebounds and put in six big points in the fourth quarter, as HHS rallied to win 57-53 over North Henderson at Tom Pryor Gymnasium.
“He had a solid night on his great grandfather's court. He was playing inspired,” HHS coach Marvin Featherstone said.
Michael Schmidt was the only double-digit scorer for the Bearcats (10-6) with 16 points and six rebounds, and Tykel Landrum led the defense with five steals.
There were nine lead changes in a game that was close throughout. North took its final lead at 46-45 on a 3-pointer by Drew Williams, who had a game-high 22 points, with 4:45 left. The Bearcats then went on a quick 11-2 run, capped by Strickland's layup in the lane off a pass from Alex Williford.
North tried to battle back and got as close as three points after Ryan Decker's 3 with 45.3 seconds left. But the Bearcats held on from there, despite having several turnovers.
“We let them dictate the pace the entire game,” Featherstone said. “We've got to do a better job of controlling the tempo. My hat's off to Coach (Justin) Parris, though. To lose your best player and play that well says a lot.”
North (10-5) was without leading scorer Austin Nelson, who is out after suffering a torn meniscus last week. He's having surgery today and is expected to to miss two weeks.
“It is a lot different for us playing without Austin. Our guys played hard tonight... we just seemed to lose our legs in the fourth quarter,” Parris said.
In the opener, Hannah Brackett had 12 points and eight rebounds, leading the Lady Knights (11-4) to a 37-28 win. Ellie Caldwell had seven rebounds and six assists, and Caroline Marsh had 11 rebounds.
“Hendersonville's girls are very much improved, and they're a good team. It's hard beating a good team three times in a season, but our girls came through,” North coach Sue Moon said.
Raven Thompson led HHS (5-11) with 10 points.
In JV action, North's boys and the HHS girls won.
Both North and HHS return to action Friday, as the Knights host Smoky Mountain and the Bearcats host Polk County.
Categories: News

Polk County basketball sweeps WHC foe Owen

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 21:31
COLUMBUS — Before his team stepped out onto the court with Owen on Wednesday night, Polk County boys’ basketball coach Josh McEntire showed his kids the Western Highlands Conference rankings.
Basically, it’s an undefeated Avery County team at the top with everyone else in the thick of it behind the Vikings, McEntire said. Despite having just one win — a conference win — heading into the game, the Wolverines were in the thick of the conference race.
His team responded with its second conference win after besting the Warhorses in a physical contest 58-54.
“We needed that win,” McEntire said. “That win tonight puts us right back where we need to be.”
The Wolverines (2-12, 2-3) were in command for much of the night. They led for much of the first half, but the Warhorses clung to a 25-24 lead at the half.
Polk responded and by the end of the third, had a 45-41 and didn’t relinquish in the final quarter.
Jamal Wheeler led the way for the Wolverines with 18 points. Arnie Twitty chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds. Jason Chupp had 11 points and nine rebounds.
In the earlier game, the Polk County girls’ team started getting a déjà-vu feeling, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Lady Wolverines (8-6, 2-3) dominated for much of the game. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Warlassies began to make a push.
The Lady Wolverines had been there before this week. After holding the lead heading into the fourth quarter on Monday, North Henderson ended up beating the Lady Wolverines at the buzzer, 45-42. Polk wouldn’t suffer that same fate on Wednesday night as the Lady Wolverines put the pedal to the medal en route to a dominant 52-37 victory.
Since the loss against North, Polk coach Brandy Alm had been talking to her girls about good shots, taking care of the ball and playing their game.
“They were listening,” she said after the victory. “They did what we asked them to do.”
Hayley Kropp led the way for Polk with 17 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists. Kara Overholt chipped in 17 points. Sarah Phipps had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Polk County will travel to rival Hendersonville on Friday night for a WHC matchup.
Categories: News

NRA suing Pennsylvania cities on gun laws; mayors vow fight

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 19:01
Armed with a new state law that opponents denounce as a gift to the gun lobby, pro-gun groups are rapidly scaling up their attack on municipal firearms ordinances throughout Pennsylvania, with the National Rifle Association filing suit over gun-control measures in three cities.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster have "openly defied" a 40-year-old state law that forbids municipalities from regulating firearms, said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
The cities said they will fight the NRA, contending the local regulations are a sensible way to address deadly gun violence.
"This should be a wake-up call for citizens across Pennsylvania," Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. "We're not taking away anyone's right to own a gun — or 10 or 20 guns. What we're saying is when a gun is lost or stolen, you've got to report it. Too many people are being killed in the streets of Pittsburgh and other cities with stolen guns."
Pennsylvania has long barred its municipalities from approving ordinances that regulate the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of guns or ammunition. But scores of cities and towns ignored the prohibition, and gun-rights groups complained the local measures were difficult to challenge because judges have ruled that plaintiffs could not prove harm.
Under a state law that took effect last week, gun owners no longer have to show they have been harmed by an ordinance to win in court. The new law also allows organizations like the NRA to sue, and successful challengers can seek legal fees and other costs.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster are fighting the new law in court, arguing lawmakers didn't follow constitutional procedure for passing legislation.
"It is unconstitutional, it never should have been passed, and it breaks with more than 200 years of history in Pennsylvania, by allowing organizations without standing the ability to sue," Peduto said.
Under threat of litigation from several smaller gun-rights groups, more than 20 Pennsylvania municipalities already have moved to repeal their firearms ordinances instead of defending them in court. Another group, Houston-based U.S. Law Shield, sued the capital of Harrisburg on Tuesday over its gun laws.
The NRA suit filed Wednesday against Philadelphia targets seven ordinances, including ones that require owners to report lost or stolen firearms; prohibit guns from city-owned facilities; and ban weapons possession by people subject to protection-from-abuse orders or who are found to pose a risk of "imminent harm" to themselves or others.
Philadelphia officials have long said its measures are needed to combat gun violence that claims hundreds of lives each year. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed city ordinances that limited people to buying one gun a month and banned assault weapons, but the NRA — deemed to lack standing — lost its bid to get other city gun laws thrown out.
If the city's bid to overturn the new state law is successful, "then the NRA would not have standing to file the suits that it has filed today," said Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter.
In the small city of Lancaster, meanwhile, the NRA is challenging an ordinance that requires gun owners to tell police when a firearm is lost or stolen.
Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, one of the named defendants, denounced the NRA lawsuit as "pathetic" and said the city's attorney had determined its ordinance could withstand legal scrutiny.
"The NRA is a New York-organized corporation that is based in Virginia and they are suing us in Lancaster because we are asking people to report stolen firearms," he said. "I have a difficult time getting my arms around that."
Cox, the NRA official, said local laws "do not make people safer" and, in a statement, accused officials of "politically grandstanding at taxpayers' expense."
The NRA plans to go after other municipalities whose gun ordinances are barred by state law, said the group's attorney, Jonathan Goldstein.
"We expect every municipality to repeal ordinances that are pre-empted. If other folks don't get on board with what the law requires, they can expect to hear from us in due course," he said.
Categories: News

Apodaca named to 12 Senate committees

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 17:23
N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Hendersonville, will retain his post Wednesday as the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee for the 2015-16 biennium. He also was named chair of the Ways & Means Committee and co-chair of three other committees.
In all, Apodaca will sit on 12 committees in the N.C. Senate in the next two years. Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, announced committee appointments on Wednesday, considered an “organizational day” by senators and the kickoff of the legislature’s long session.
In addition to his chairmanship of Ways & Means and Rules & Operations, Apodaca will co-chair the Insurance, Appropriations on Education/Higher Education and Pensions, Retirement and Aging committees. He was also named vice chairman of Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety.
Apodaca will sit on several other committees as a standing member: Judiciary I, Redistricting, Finance, Education, Commerce and Appropriations/Base Budget.
Categories: News

NRA suing Pennsylvania cities on gun laws; mayors vow fight

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 17:13
Armed with a new state law that opponents denounce as a gift to the gun lobby, pro-gun groups are rapidly scaling up their attack on municipal firearms ordinances throughout Pennsylvania, with the National Rifle Association filing suit over gun-control measures in three cities.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster have "openly defied" a 40-year-old state law that forbids municipalities from regulating firearms, said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action.
The cities said they will fight the NRA, contending the local regulations are a sensible way to address deadly gun violence.
"This should be a wake-up call for citizens across Pennsylvania," Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. "We're not taking away anyone's right to own a gun — or 10 or 20 guns. What we're saying is when a gun is lost or stolen, you've got to report it. Too many people are being killed in the streets of Pittsburgh and other cities with stolen guns."
Pennsylvania has long barred its municipalities from approving ordinances that regulate the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of guns or ammunition. But scores of cities and towns ignored the prohibition, and gun-rights groups complained the local measures were difficult to challenge because judges have ruled that plaintiffs could not prove harm.
Under a state law that took effect last week, gun owners no longer have to show they have been harmed by an ordinance to win in court. The new law also allows organizations like the NRA to sue, and successful challengers can seek legal fees and other costs.
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster are fighting the new law in court, arguing lawmakers didn't follow constitutional procedure for passing legislation.
"It is unconstitutional, it never should have been passed, and it breaks with more than 200 years of history in Pennsylvania, by allowing organizations without standing the ability to sue," Peduto said.
Under threat of litigation from several smaller gun-rights groups, more than 20 Pennsylvania municipalities already have moved to repeal their firearms ordinances instead of defending them in court. Another group, Houston-based U.S. Law Shield, sued the capital of Harrisburg on Tuesday over its gun laws.
The NRA suit filed Wednesday against Philadelphia targets seven ordinances, including ones that require owners to report lost or stolen firearms; prohibit guns from city-owned facilities; and ban weapons possession by people subject to protection-from-abuse orders or who are found to pose a risk of "imminent harm" to themselves or others.
Philadelphia officials have long said its measures are needed to combat gun violence that claims hundreds of lives each year. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed city ordinances that limited people to buying one gun a month and banned assault weapons, but the NRA — deemed to lack standing — lost its bid to get other city gun laws thrown out.
If the city's bid to overturn the new state law is successful, "then the NRA would not have standing to file the suits that it has filed today," said Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter.
In the small city of Lancaster, meanwhile, the NRA is challenging an ordinance that requires gun owners to tell police when a firearm is lost or stolen.
Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, one of the named defendants, denounced the NRA lawsuit as "pathetic" and said the city's attorney had determined its ordinance could withstand legal scrutiny.
"The NRA is a New York-organized corporation that is based in Virginia and they are suing us in Lancaster because we are asking people to report stolen firearms," he said. "I have a difficult time getting my arms around that."
Cox, the NRA official, said local laws "do not make people safer" and, in a statement, accused officials of "politically grandstanding at taxpayers' expense."
The NRA plans to go after other municipalities whose gun ordinances are barred by state law, said the group's attorney, Jonathan Goldstein.
"We expect every municipality to repeal ordinances that are pre-empted. If other folks don't get on board with what the law requires, they can expect to hear from us in due course," he said.
Categories: News