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Updated: 6 min 28 sec ago

Students use 'hands-on learning' to improve school

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:47
Two carpentry classes at West Henderson High harnessed hands-on learning to fulfill a staff member's wish for a new storage space.
Tom Teague, a bus driver for West Henderson, said he requested a new storage shed at the school last year, and carpentry teacher Scott Orr figured it would make a good project for his first- and second-semester carpentry classes this year.
Teague said Orr's students have built structures for others in the past, including about three playhouses.
“It's just amazing what they did,” said Teague, who figures a 10-foot-by-12-foot shed of the students' caliber sold in retail hardware stores would be worth $2,000 to $3,000.
Besides building it to Orr's specifications, the carpentry classes also installed and mounted an existing work bench in the storage shed.
Teague said Orr didn't stand just idly by while the students worked, though. Orr was very strict about each building process, and whenever he saw something that needed fixing, Orr instructed his students to start over — while lending a helping hand.
On Wednesday, Orr's class installed the shed's shingles, and Teague said he plans to stain the structure's wood over the summer.
“I was just so impressed by what they did,” said Teague. “If it had a bathroom and a kitchen sink, you could probably move into it.”
Reach McGowan at 828-694-7871 ormolly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Most wild kittens taken to shelters will be killed

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:37
LOS ANGELES — Wild kittens that will number in the tens of millions this year are starting to be born, but half of them won't survive, an especially acute problem at overtaxed shelters forced to euthanize the millions they receive. It is a grim reality a leading advocate calls "one of the last major problems" plaguing the animal welfare movement.
Scads of good-intentioned people who discover wild litters of baby cats will take them to shelters, which are overrun with the animals from now through September. The facilities turn to euthanasia when their limited resources are stretched even thinner by the massive influx of kittens and the babies' required round-the-clock care. But groups that trap, neuter and release feral cats and shelters that are able to open 24-hour kitten nurseries are doing their part to stem the deaths.
"The problem of community cats dying in shelters is one of the last major problems we in the animal welfare movement are tackling," said Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, a leader in the no-kill movement that runs the largest animal sanctuary in the country.
He says "there's a ways to go" but has seen a dramatic drop in deaths whenever his group connects a shelter with a local organization that traps, neuters and releases free-roaming cats. Wild kittens socialized early enough can be great pets, his group says.
A staggering 40 million feral kittens will be born throughout the country this year, but 20 million of them will die, said Becky Robinson, president of Bethesda, Md.-based Alley Cat Allies, which promotes trap, neuter and release and is the country's only cat advocacy group. The explosive reproduction isn't tied to domestic cats because studies show 80 percent are sterilized, she said.
Kittens, which can't see, hear or do much else on their own for the first week, are difficult to care for because they need to be bottle-fed every two hours, are susceptible to disease until they can be vaccinated and need a place to stay until they're old enough to be spayed or neutered and put up for adoption.
That's why some shelters have opened volunteer- and donation-run nurseries. Thousands of feral kittens are saved at 24-hour facilities in California, Indiana, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois and other states. But the trend, started just a few years ago, needs time to expand to make a dent.
Nurseries need to work with neuter-and-release groups, animal control workers and shelters with aggressive adoption programs to reverse the massive numbers of feral cats, said Robinson and Janice Dankert, community cat program supervisor at Best Friends' headquarters in Kanab, Utah.
It's rare that a wild adult cat can be socialized enough to be adopted, but feral kittens trained before 3 months old make great pets, Dankert said.
Best Friends opened a 100-kitten nursery at the no-kill shelter it runs for Los Angeles Animal Services, and the nursery is full, said Marc Peralta, executive director of the group's Los Angeles chapter. People can't take kittens directly to the nursery — Peralta's staff picks them up from the city's six shelters.
Best Friends and 69 other groups joined forces two years ago to help the Los Angeles shelters end euthanasia. Over that time frame, the number of healthy, adoptable pets being euthanized has dropped from 17,400 to 9,075.
Feral kittens are the biggest obstacles left. Of 9,075 healthy dogs and cats killed in 2013 in Los Angeles, 5,200, or 57 percent, were unweaned kittens. The same is true in varying numbers at shelters that euthanize across the country.
About 72 percent of all cats — neonatal, feral or pets — are killed in shelters, Robinson said.
Last year, the LA nursery was able to take in 1,800 feral kittens, but it had to leave 6,200 behind at the city's shelters, Peralta said.
At the nursery, kittens range from a day old to 4 weeks old. Shelter staff and volunteers try to find foster homes quickly for the youngest because they aren't old enough to vaccinate, so are more susceptible to diseases, Peralta said.
Once a kitten weighs 2 pounds — around 2 months of age — it can be spayed or neutered. That's the most adoptable time for a kitten and when many of the shelter's partners will launch aggressive adoption campaigns.
The LA nursery is always accepting volunteers, Peralta said, because it has 100 mouths to feed every two hours.
Sarita Carden, 59, of Los Angeles, volunteers two days a week, feeding kittens and socializing shy adult cats.
"It's a great feeling, making a difference and knowing the kittens would have had zero chance if it weren't for the nursery," Carden said. "It takes time, it's hard work, it can be really messy, and it can be heartbreaking."
But the joy is overwhelming, she said.
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Online:
www.bestfriends.org
www.alleycat.org
bfla.bestfriends.org/kittens-rule.html
www.laanimalservices.org
Categories: News

Community Briefs: April 10

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 03:01
LLCA to hold open house
Lake Lure Classical Academy will hold a schoolwide open house, as well as offer school tours and class observations, from 1–7 p.m. Tuesday. Lake Lure Classical Academy, a k-11 tuition-free public charter school, is located at 2520 Memorial Highway, Lake Lure.
Prospective families are invited to take walking tours of the campus and observe classes in session. Special presentations will be offered at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for the following grade levels: kindergarten, grades 1-2, grades 3-6, grades 7-8, and high school. Each presentation will provide pertinent information about the school's mission, curriculum, extracurricular activities and plans for expansion. Light refreshments will be provided.
To learn more or to schedule a tour, call 828-625-9292 or visit www.LLCA.TeamCFA.org.
WTZQ to air Thursday commissioner candidates' forum
Radio station WTZQ AM-1600 will air live Thursday night's debate for Henderson County commissioner primary candidates. The forum/debate is hosted by the Henderson County Republican Party in conjunction with the Henderson County Men's and Women's Clubs and will take place at the Opportunity House beginning at 7 p.m.
The forum/debate will feature District 1 incumbent Michael Edney, challengers Adndrew Riddle and Albert Corn. District 3 will feature incumbent Larry Young and challenger William Lapsley. District 4 will feature incumbent Tommy Thompson and challenger Tim Griffin.
The forum/debate can be heard live over the air at AM-1600, on the Internet at the station's website, www.wtzq.com, or on a smart device by using the TuneIn Radio app.
Meetings
The Board of Trustees of the Henderson County Public Library will meet at 9 a.m. today at the Green River branch of the Henderson County Public Library, 50 Green River Road, Zirconia.
A Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting will be held at noon today at Binion’s Roadhouse in Hendersonville.
The Mills River Town Council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today has been canceled.
Laurel Park Town Council will hold an agenda work session at 9:30 a.m. today.
Western Carolina Community Action Inc. will hold its Board of Directors monthly meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Etowah Lions Club.
Events
The American Association of University Women’s general meeting will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 900 Blythe St., Hendersonville. Speaker will be Allen Ezell, former FBI agent, who will speak on “Remember to Protect Yourself.”
Blue Ridge Community College will present an eight-hour continuing education class for North Carolina electrical contractors from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock. Registration fee is $70. Pre-registration is required as seats are limited. Info: 828-694-1779.
Categories: News

ACLU suit cites urgency to overturn NC gay marriage ban

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:50
RALEIGH, N.C. — The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday launched a new legal assault on North Carolina's constitutional ban on recognizing same-sex marriage, urging a federal judge to quickly negate it to help children and gay couples suffering from urgent health problems.
The civil rights group said it was seeking to speed up a decision in lawsuit filed in 2012 by citing the urgent health needs of a child who suffers from cerebral palsy who was adopted by one of the lesbian couples involved in the case. The ACLU also filed a new lawsuit on behalf of three other lesbian couples struggling with health conditions made more difficult because they lack legal recognition of their marriages performed in other states, said ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill.
The ACLU and the same-sex couples they represent argue a judge should act quickly to suspend North Carolina's marriage ban because they are suffering immediate and irreparable harm.
"The plaintiffs that we're representing and talking about today really have urgent harms," Gill said.
Wednesday's action is patterned in part on an Ohio case that sought to force the state's recognition on death certificates of out-of-state gay marriages, Gill said. That case involved a couple married in Maryland after one man was diagnosed as terminally ill with Lou Gehrig's disease. The judge ruled in December that Ohio should recognize gay spouses on death certificates. The same judge then said earlier this month he will rule that Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages
Seventeen states allow gay marriage and federal judges have struck down bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. The Virginia ruling declaring that state's voter-approved prohibition on same-sex marriage unconstitutional is scheduled for argument next month before a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va. That court's decision also could extend to North Carolina's ban.
The ACLU's request in both North Carolina lawsuits for a preliminary injunction suspending the state's marriage ban appears designed to speed up an initial court ruling from a judge who has seemed to delay a decision, University of North Carolina law professor Maxine Eichner said.
NC Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald, who helped lead a coalition of Christian and conservative groups supporting the state's 2012 constitutional amendment, said the ACLU's moves attempt to void the will of voters who backed traditional marriage. Six in 10 voters backed changing North Carolina's constitution.
"While we sympathize with these individuals about their poor health, that is not a reason to re-define marriage," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "When courts mandate marriage redefinition in conflict with the will of a majority of the people, they disenfranchise millions of voters, shatter the foundations of American government, and threaten liberties of speech, religion, and even thought."
The day after North Carolina became the 30th and latest state to write a gay-marriage ban into its constitution, President Barack Obama said he supported gay marriage. Since then, its acceptance has become more prevalent.
The main post chapel at Fort Bragg, home of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and the Green Berets, in December celebrated a same-sex marriage ceremony made possible by the 2011 repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In January, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina reversed an earlier decision to cancel family coverage sold to same-sex couples.
Attorney General Roy Cooper's office had no immediate response to the ACLU's filings Wednesday. Though other Democratic attorneys general have opted to defend similar bans after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law, Cooper's office continues to represent the state in the case, said spokeswoman Noelle Talley.
The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit include retired lawyer Ellen Gerber, 78, of High Point, and her partner of 47 years, retired professor Pearl Berlin. They were legally married in Maine last September and celebrated a traditional Jewish ceremony with family and friends three months earlier in Greensboro, the lawsuit said.
Berlin, 89, suffers from partial seizures which require medication that makes her weak and prone to falls. The women fear being denied access and decision-making ability for their spouse during a health crisis, the lawsuit said. But their greatest dread is a death certificate or obituary that ignores their long and loving lives together, Gerber said.
"At the worst time in my life there would be that big slap in the face," she said. "These are the kind of things that are very, very scary. More so than anything else."
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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio
Categories: News

County unemployment rates decrease for February

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:46
The unemployment rate in Henderson, Polk, Transylvania and 92 other North Carolina counties decreased in February, following a statewide trend, according to figures released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Unemployment rates increased in Camden, Jones, Perquimans and Rockingham counties, while the rate in Currituck County remained unchanged.
Statewide, February’s unemployment rate was 6.6 percent, down from 7 percent in January. Henderson County’s rate remains below the state’s, at 5.1 percent — a decrease from January’s rate of 5.3 percent, and down from 7.3 in February 2013.
Polk’s rate decreased from 4.9 percent to 4.6 percent in February. Last February, the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent.
Of the three counties, Transylvania saw the greatest decrease. In January, the rate was 7.7 percent, and dropped to 7.3 percent in February. Last February, Transylvania County had the highest unemployment rate of the three, at 10.7 percent.
Overall, Polk County had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the state in February, Henderson County was the sixth-lowest, and Transylvania County was right in the middle, at 50th.
The highest February unemployment rate was in Graham County, at 13.8 percent, and Orange County’s rate of 4.4 percent was the lowest. In the metro areas, Rocky Mount experienced the highest rate at 9.6 percent and the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area had the lowest with 5 percent. The Asheville area was just slightly higher, with a rate of 5.2 percent.
Categories: News

Students tour local manufacturing facilities

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:46
Forty Flat Rock Middle School students painstakingly removed earrings, bracelets and necklaces and traded them for blue hairnets and ear plugs Wednesday morning, just before entering the Clement Pappas & Co. manufacturing facility in Hendersonville.
The eighth-graders were one of 10 groups of middle and high school students touring various manufacturing locations throughout Henderson County on Wednesday, as part of the “Made in Henderson County Initiative.”
Established by the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, the “Made in Henderson County” initiative works with Henderson County Public Schools to introduce local manufacturing industries as viable career opportunities to eighth- and ninth-graders, while aiming to dispel the misconception that the industry is archaic.
In addition to visiting the juice manufacturing and packaging company, another group of Flat Rock students checked out Kimberly-Clark Corp., while groups from Apple Valley Middle visited Elkamet Inc. in East Flat Rock and Legacy Paddlesports in Fletcher, and Rugby Middle kids visited SELEE Corporation in Hendersonville and SMARTRAC in Fletcher.
Ninth-grade students at Hendersonville High toured GE Lighting in East Flat Rock and Wilsonart in Fletcher, while North Henderson High students checked out BorgWarner Thermal Systems in Fletcher.
“Manufacturing is growing again. For the first time in 13 years,” Pete Szelwach, plant manager at Clement Pappas and HCPED board member, told his group of Flat Rock students.
Henderson County has 135 manufacturing companies operating within its limits, employing 5,250 people — or 15 percent of the county's workforce, Szelwach said.
And, he told the students, “The pay is good. We're the second-biggest-paying industry group in the county.”
“People have underestimated what it takes to be a great employee in manufacturing,” he said, explaining that each job within a manufacturing facility requires different skills, abilities and even education levels.
“We've got jobs out here that require a high school diploma. We've also got jobs that require a four-year degree,” said Szelwach.
After learning a bit about the scope of manufacturing in Henderson County, the Flat Rock students got to see firsthand how Clement Pappas' various plastic juice bottles were made, the automated machines that lift and stack the bottles, and where the 218 types of drink recipes are mixed.
They saw that while a large portion of manufacturing operations are automated, the processes still require employees to program or control the automation, test for quality and perform other tasks, said Andrew Tate, president and CEO of the HCPED.
He said the student tours of the local manufacturing facilities are only one component of the “Made in Henderson County” initiative.
Between the tours, which began in October on a much smaller level, local companies host Henderson County Public Schools guidance counselors at their facilities to talk about the available jobs, compensation and what sort of positions they'll be looking to fill in the future.
Tate said that at the request of area teachers, HCPED will also develop a list of speakers from various local companies to speak to students at their schools throughout the year.
“Our goal will be to sustain this,” he said.
Reach McGowan at 828-694-7871 or molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Stabbing spree at Pennsylvania school leaves 20 injured

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:46
MURRYSVILLE, Pa. — Flailing away with two knives, a 16-year-old boy with a "blank expression" stabbed and slashed 19 students and a police officer in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.
At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy who was on a ventilator after a knife pierced his liver, missing his heart and aorta by only millimeters, doctors said.
The rampage — which came after years in which U.S. schools have geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings — set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.
The motive was under investigation.
Police didn't immediately release the name of the suspect, who was taken into custody and treated for a minor hand wound.
The attack unfolded just minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. Police said it was over in just minutes.
Witnesses said the boy with the knives at first tackled a freshman and stabbed him in the belly, then got up and ran wildly down the hall, slashing other students.
Nate Moore, 15, said he saw the first attack and was going to try to break it up when the boy got up and slashed his face, requiring 11 stitches.
"It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead," he said.
The attacker "had the same expression on his face that he has every day, which was the freakiest part," Moore said. "He wasn't saying anything. He didn't have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression."
Doctors said they expected all the victims to survive, despite large and deep puncture wounds to the abdomen in some cases. The wounded campus police officer was released.
Authorities credited an assistant principal with subduing the assailant, though they did not describe the end of the attack in detail. Students identified the assistant principal as Sam King.
A student, Ian Griffith, said he saw the school police officer confront the student, who then stabbed the officer. King then tackled the boy, Griffith told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
King's son told The Associated Press that his father was treated at a hospital, though authorities have said he was not wounded by the knife.
"He says he's OK. He's a tough cookie and sometimes hides things, but I believe he's OK," Zack King said. The boy added: "I'm proud of him."
As for what set off the attack, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were looking into reports of a threatening phone call between the suspect and another student the night before. Seefeld didn't specify whether the suspect received or made the call.
Mia Meixner, 16, said the initial assault touched off a "stampede of kids" yelling, "Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!"
Michael Float, 18, said he had just gotten to school when he saw "blood all over the floor" and smeared on the wall near the main entrance. Then he saw a wounded student.
"He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, 'Help! Help!'" Float said. "He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down."
Float said he saw a teacher applying pressure to the wound of another student.
Someone, possibly a student, pulled a fire alarm after seeing some of the stabbings, the police chief said. Although that created chaos, Seefeld said, it emptied out the school more quickly, and "that was a good thing that that was done."
Also, a girl with "an amazing amount of composure" applied pressure to a schoolmate's wounds and probably kept the victim from bleeding to death, said Dr. Mark Rubino at Forbes Regional Medical Center.
Public safety and school officials said an emergency plan worked as well as could be expected. The district conducted an emergency exercise three months ago and a full-scale drill about a year ago.
"We haven't lost a life and I think that's what we have to keep in mind," said county public safety spokesman Dan Stevens.
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Associated Press writer Mike Rubinkam in Allentown contributed to this report.
Categories: News

Churchwomen bake edible symbols of Resurrection

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:46
Sweet, gooey hot cross buns and hearty Easter pies are on the menu for the Easter season at First United Methodist Church in Hendersonville.
Volunteers will be meeting in the church's commercial kitchen to prepare a holy day brunch, and the chef who heads the food ministry has reduced her institutional-sized recipes to share with home bakers.
Senior Minister Dan Martin said he enjoys the long-held tradition of eating the special, seasonal treats.
“These are not sacred foods, but they serve to remind us of the place of church in our culture,” Martin said. “In a world where we can eat strawberries and asparagus year-round, we forget that our lives are seasonal. The Christian year is seasonal also; these special treats are a taste of the season of resurrection.”
The sweetness of the hot cross buns, Martin said, is symbolic of the sweetness that is the rising of Christ on Easter Sunday and is derived from Monrovian tradition.
“Imagine the day that Christ is killed being called Good Friday. Well, in order to sweeten that day, the hot cross buns are sweet, they're spicy, they have bits of dried fruit in them, and they have that wonderful glaze on top in the shape of a cross, just to remind people the sweetness of the death of Christ because we know what's going to happen on Easter Sunday,” Martin said. “It is a strange thing, but calling that day Good Friday is a strange thing anyway.”
The Italian tradition of the meat- and cheese-filled pies full of the rich foods that have been avoided during the Lenten season, Martin said, is perfect for Easter Sunday brunch.
“It was to break the Easter fast in a celebratory way,” Martin said. “We have sunrise service at 7 o'clock and then followed immediately by Easter pies with beverages and fruit.”
The Food Ministry of FUMC is led by chef Lou Reeves, who coordinates the preparation of meals served at the church and the volunteers helping with cooking, serving and cleaning.
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill alumnus began her professional career in marketing, but as her children began to prepare for college themselves, she decided to go back to school at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College for her degree in the culinary arts.
When she was approached by the church to work in its food ministry, she said she would try it for a year and is now into her eighth year.
“I get to work in a commercial kitchen and not have to worry about hiring or firing anybody,” Reeves said. “Instead, I am greeted by eager volunteers. It is just great.”
Reeves has prepared the following recipes along with some helpful tips and tricks to make these dishes in your own kitchen.
Serves: 16
Start to finish: 3 hours
1 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
2 (¼ ounce) packages active dry yeast (4½ teaspoons)
½ cup sugar + (1 teaspoon sugar reserved for yeast)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Finely grated zest from 1 orange
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup dried cranberries
Chef's tip: When measuring flour, use “scoop and level” method. First, loosen the flour with a whisk, then with 1 cup dry measuring cup, scoop flour, without shaking or tapping. Sweep off or level the excess with a knife or spatula.
In a small bowl, stir together warm milk, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar until yeast is dissolved and foamy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt and remaining sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a course meal.
Lightly beat egg with egg yolk in small bowl.
Make a well in flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixture and add orange zest. Stir until dough forms. If using an electric mixer, use dough hook and mix on slow speed until dough forms, scraping down sides if needed.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead with lightly floured hands until smooth and elastic for about 8 minutes.
Reeves says to make sure the surface is only lightly covered in flour or else you will run the risk of drying out your bread.
Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, then roll the dough over in the bowl slightly coating the top of the dough in butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, which should take roughly one hour.
Once dough has risen, turn dough out onto a minimally floured surface and add currants, raisins and cranberries. Gently knead the dried fruits into the dough so they are dispersed evenly.
Form dough into a log and slice into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange balls about 1.5 inches apart on buttered baking sheet. Let rise, loosely covered in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Once doubled, bake buns until golden, about 14-16 minutes. Cool slightly.
To make the cross on top, make a sugar icing from three-quarters cup of confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoon of milk and one-third teaspoon of vanilla. Beat with wire whip until smooth. Pour into sandwich bag. Make a small cut across the corner of the bag, and you will be able to pipe a cross on top of each bun, completing your Hot Cross Buns.
Serves: 6
Start to finish: 1.5 hours
2 unbaked, refrigerated or homemade pie crusts
6 eggs
1 scant cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cream
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup diced cooked ham
¾ cup shredded mozzarella
1½ ounces prosciutto sliced into pieces (optional)
Dash nutmeg (optional)
1 cup cooked spinach with water drained and pressed out
Begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, blend eggs, ricotta, parmesan, cream, pepper, nutmeg and spinach.
In the pie shell, create a layer of ham, then add mozzarella on top, followed by prosciutto.
If you prefer salami, it can be substituted for the ham or prosciutto. Cottage cheese could be substituted for ricotta. Spinach could be omitted.
Take your large bowl with egg mixture and pour it into the pie shell. Cover with second pie crust and press the edges together to form a seal along the circumference of the pie.
Then make a “vent” on top of the pie in the center in the shape of a cross.
If using your favorite dough recipe, reserve some dough and cut out crosses either by hand or with cutter. Brush the tops of the pies with an egg wash and place crosses on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden and eggs are set.
Chef's tip: Pies can be made in advance and frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator the day before using.
Categories: News

Poll: Most Americans say filing taxes easy

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:45
WASHINGTON — Struggling to figure out your federal tax return? You're not alone, but you're in the minority.
With the tax filing deadline looming next week, a majority of Americans say completing a federal tax return is easy, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
The findings defy conventional wisdom in Washington, where politicians have made careers out of promising a simpler tax system. In another blow to advocates of tax reform, almost no one is willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for a simpler code.
"If you've got the equivalent of a high school degree and you know how to do math, it's very simple," said Sara Thornton, a small business owner from East Granby, Conn.
Only 7 percent of those surveyed say they would be willing to pay more in federal taxes if the process of filling out a tax return were easier. Some 90 percent say "no, thanks."
"No, because I don't know that it is that difficult," said Alicia Brown of suburban Des Moines, Iowa. "We already pay outlandish taxes because we live in Iowa. We have very high real estate taxes."
The tax-writing committees in Congress have spent the past several years trying to build momentum for the herculean task of simplifying the tax code. One reason it's so difficult is there are bound to be winners and losers. Sweeping changes to precious tax breaks will undoubtedly leave some people paying more, while others pay less.
One selling point for tax reform has been a simpler tax form. Ever hear a politician say you should be able to fill out your taxes on the back of a postcard? You'll probably hear it again during this fall's elections.
The National Taxpayer Advocate says filers spend a total of 6.1 billion hours a year preparing tax returns, at a cost of $168 billion. According to the IRS, 90 percent of filers either pay a tax preparer or use computer software to help them fill out their returns.
But 58 percent in the AP-GfK poll say completing a federal tax return is easy. Thirty-eight percent call it hard.
Fully 86 percent who have completed their tax forms say they are extremely confident or very confident that they filled them out correctly.
Not surprisingly, higher income taxpayers are more likely to say that filling out tax forms is difficult. Wealthy people tend to have more complicated taxes because they often have multiple sources of income and they are more likely to itemize their deductions, making them eligible for more tax breaks.
Forty-five percent of those with incomes above $100,000 said it is hard, compared with 33 percent among those making less than $50,000.
Through March 28, the IRS has processed 89 million returns. About 82 percent have qualified for refunds, averaging $2,831. That's about $207 billion in tax refunds. Almost 91 percent of returns have been filed electronically.
Americans think most of their fellow taxpayers are honest, but not all of them. On average, poll-takers estimate that about one-third of Americans intentionally cheat when filling out their tax returns.
Erma Pierce of Poplar Bluff in southeast Missouri said she thinks about half of people cheat on their taxes, and she takes a dim view of it.
"You're not supposed to cheat, lie or steal," Pierce said. "It's against the Bible."
Thornton, the small business owner in Connecticut, said her estimate depends on the definition of cheating.
"People think of cheating as a case of, I reported I have nine children and I only have two. Or I reported I only made $20,000 this year and I actually made $50,000," Thornton said. "They think of those forms of cheating, the absolute blatant, extravagant forms."
Thornton's definition of cheating is broader, which is why she thinks 80 percent to 90 percent of people cheat on their taxes.
"The minor forms of cheating are things like, well, I can increase my charitable deduction by $200," Thornton said. "Most people consider, quote, unquote padding their income tax reporting or shaving it off a little bit, they don't necessarily view that as cheating."
"I define that as cheating only because it really is."
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted March 20-24, 2014 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,012 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
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AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
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Categories: News

N.C. State's Warren to play in Crossfire game

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:12
The ACC team has added a ringer for Saturday's annual Crossfire vs. ACC All-Star basketball game at UNC Asheville's Kimmel Arena, and what a ringer it is.
A day after announcing he was leaving North Carolina State early to head to the NBA, sophomore sensation T.J. Warren, who was this year's ACC Player of the Year, said he'd play for the ACC All-Star team in Saturday's game.
Tipoff is at 4 p.m., and there will be an autograph session beginning at 3 p.m.
Warren, a 6-foot-8 forward, led the ACC in scoring, averaging 24.9 points per game and shooting a league-best 52.5 percent. He also set two school single-season records with the most points (871) and 31 20-point games.
While the game added a big ACC name, it also ended up dropping a couple.
“Virginia's Akil Mitchell will not be coming because of a tryout in California. Wake Forest's Travis McKee will also not be participating,” Crossfire's Randy Shepherd said.
That gave the ACC team two roster spots to fill, and those will be filled by two UNC Asheville players, D.J. Cunningham and Jaron Lane. The other AC C players are North Carolina's Leslie McDonald, Wade Moody, James Manor and Denzel Robinson, Duke's Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston and Todd Zafirovski, Wake Forest's Coron Williams and N.C. State's Jordan Vandenberg.
Filling up the last roster spot for Crossfire is another big player, Dante Williams, a 6-foot-9 center for the Georgia Bulldogs.
Other Crossfire team members are Crossfire co-founders Shepherd and Jamie Johnson, former UNC Asheville standout Matt Dickey, former Montreat standouts Tim Lewis and Jazz Cathcart, former Western Carolina products Sam Smithson (also a former West Henderson High standout) and Willie Battle and former Brevard College standout Jonathan Whitson.
Tickets are $10 and are available at these locations: Kimmel Arena box office (258-7900), Leicester Carpet Sales in Asheville (254-8937), Leicester Carpet Sales in Hendersonville (233-0500), Arsenal at the Asheville Mall (298-3303), Showtime Sports and Trophies (298-4808) and All Star Trophy and Sports (665-7070).
For information about Crossfire Ministries and their summer basketball camps call 255-9111 or go to crossfireministry.com.
Categories: News

East girls edge West for WNCAC title

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:09
Categories: News

HHS girls, Polk boys win WHC titles

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 21:59
Categories: News

Students line LA street with desks in protest

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 20:19
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles students protesting neglect of poorer schools took to the streets, and they brought their desks with them.
Some 375 empty desks blocked a downtown street, stopping traffic for several hours Tuesday outside the Los Angeles Unified School District's offices.
Organizers say the number represents how many students drop out of the district's schools each week.
Protesters want a student voice on the school board, and more funding for English language learners, foster children and low-income students.
District officials declined to comment on the protest.
Categories: News

Local teen top journalist in the state

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 17:20
When Lauren Stepp, a senior at West Henderson High, shouldered the task of completely redesigning the school’s award-winning newspaper this year, she knew it would take a lot of effort.
Now, Stepp feels the initiative she showed in revamping Wingspan helped her win the North Carolina High School Journalist of the Year award, which is co-sponsored by the N.C. Scholastic Media Association, N.C. Press Foundation and the Journalism Education Association.
Representing North Carolina, Stepp is in the running for the National High School Journalist of the Year award, which will be announced April 13 at a Journalism Education Association convention in San Diego, Calif.
Stepp has written for Wingspan since her freshman year at West, and began freelancing with the Hendersonville Lightning in August 2013.
This year, as editor in chief of Wingspan, Stepp led the charge in overhauling the student newspaper, transitioning from a broadsheet newspaper to a glossy-print, news tabloid.
“I found that students weren’t responding to it,” she said.
“We had been a broadsheet newspaper for 18 years,” added Brenda Gorsuch, a journalism and English literature teacher at West and the school’s newspaper and yearbook adviser.
“I loved broadsheet newspaper, but the kids weren’t reading it,” she said. “(Stepp) did the research on what young adults like reading. And then she went and found the advertising dollars to fund it.”
Gorsuch explained that Wingspan’s new format — while more appealing to its young target audience — is twice the cost of the broadsheet version. But it seems the change was worth it.
“Readership’s gone up,” Gorsuch said.
The school newspaper’s transformation was evident in the writing and design samples Stepp included in the portfolio she submitted for the state award. She also included her freelance writing work.
Monica Hill, director of the N.C. Scholastic Media Association, said the judges carefully consider contestant portfolios, and take into account the various forms of media each student submits.
“They’re looking holistically at the portfolio... at the breadth and the depth of the student as a high school journalist,” said Hill.
Stepp figures it improved her portfolio to include examples from both Wingspan and The Lightning and demonstrated “my commitment to journalism in the past four years, within the realm of West Henderson and outside of it.”
It also didn’t hurt that Stepp was chosen to attend last summer’s Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“Competing against other North Carolina candidates really set me apart,” said Stepp.
“She represented North Carolina,” said Gorsuch.
Stepp plans to attend the University of North Carolina in Charlotte on a full scholarship through the Levine Scholars Program.
Reach McGowan at 828-694-7871 or molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Review: 'Close Ties' explores family dynamics

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 17:19
Hendersonville Little Theatre’s production of “Close Ties” grapples with a question that many families ultimately face — what to do with Grandma when her mind begins to go.
The play explores three generations of built-up resentment, stress and love. There is at least one member of the family with whom each member of the audience can identify — Thayer, a spunky teenage boy; Evelyn, the existential academic daughter; the youngest daughter Connie is ambitiously studying to be a nurse; and Anna, the oldest sister, is a somewhat bored housewife.
The elderly grandma Josephine is a stubborn, controlling woman. She is full of love her family but is not short of opinions about them.
Caught in between the generations are Josephine’s daughter, Bess, and her husband, Watson. Bess is a people pleaser.
The first act perhaps spends a little too much time fleshing out the complex emotions of its characters, but it does set up the second act.
The set is a living home. Director Sy Berg’s choice to have a fully stocked kitchen is brilliant. So much of family life centers around cooking and eating, and the kitchen gives the play a sense of genuineness. It is a nice backdrop for the drama’s late-night philosophical discussions.
Overall, the play (viewed during a dress rehearsal) feels like it has some depth to iron out. All of the performances were solid, but needed just a little more time to polish. That polish was certainly in reach by opening night.
There is nothing extraordinary about the script; the heart of it is the relationships between the actors. They make a believable family — in some ways, too believable.
Playwright Elizabeth Diggs seems to be going for a sentimental, heartfelt story about a wealthy family that suppresses its issues. Instead of glimpsing this family on a pivotal point, the audience seems to be tuning into an average weekend get together, where their bickering feels redundant and their arguments are left mostly unresolved. Perhaps this is what she is going for, an ultra realist setting, but the result feels a little like a family obligation.
There were some excellent performances. Christina Velderman lets her character Anna organically take in the events. She responds not just to lines and silences but mishaps, just as her Anna would. She tosses her sister a muffin that hits her in the face, and instead of being fazed, Velderman looks at her fellow actor and has a genuine sibling moment of laughter.
Ashley Wellman plays the complex Evelyn, embittered but just at the tip of finding some new hope with a physics nerd played by Arden Avery (and, yes, he does rock socks with those ’80s-style shorts).
Veronica Brown is a sweet Connie who ultimately pushes the family members to examine their thoughts closely. Her relationship with her younger brother Thayer, played by Luke Johnson, is touching. Johnson was perfectly cast as a goofy 16-year-old boy faced with the realities of aging relatives.
Cheryl Anders is Bess, every person’s mother. The loveable Scott Lothrop plays her practical, mild-mannered husband.
Martha Hogenboom steals the show with her performance as Grandma Josephine. She bustles about tending to the home that she has long since given to her daughter. Giving out advice to her family (sometimes cherished advice and sometimes unwanted), she will have her say in matters.
Hogenboom shows the agony of living in a reality that is slipping away from Josephine day by day. Her violent outbursts stem from confusion and anger that everyone else seems to understand what is going on around her. Her character is not always likable, but one can completely empathize with her.
“You know, I had a friend named Doris who died 10 years ago, and I couldn’t remember that. … But I can tell you the exact dinner we had on your homecoming,” she tells her granddaughter Evelyn.
Though the show runs nearly three hours, it feels cut off, but perhaps that allows those in the audience to reach their own conclusions and find their own families in the drama.
The show certainly takes on real-life issues and explores tensions that can underlie family ties, obligations and love.
Categories: News

Man arrested for hauling stolen excavator from town hall site

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 16:26
A Fletcher police officer, suspicious of a truck hauling an excavator away from the otherwise quiet construction site of Fletcher's new town hall, cracked the case of a trailer theft Wednesday morning.
An officer with the Fletcher Police Department observed a pickup truck hauling a trailer that was loaded with an excavator at 5:30 a.m., according to a release from the department Wednesday.
“The vehicle was leaving the new Fletcher Town Hall construction site, located on Old Fanning Bridge Road in Fletcher. Due to the time of day and the absence of construction workers, the officer followed the vehicle and conducted a vehicle stop on Old Cane Creek Road," the release says.
According to the release, “The driver's story did not match up with what had occurred.”
Michael Grant Gordon, 28, of 612 Old Sunset Hill Road, owned the truck, but not the excavator, according to the release. “It was determined the excavator, which had been rented by the town of Fletcher for work at the construction site, had just been stolen.”
Gordon was charged with one count of felonious larceny and one count of felonious conspiracy. He was being held at the Henderson County Detention Center in lieu of a $14,000 secured bond.
The excavator, valued at $72,000, was not damaged in the incident, according to the release. Additional charges may occur as the investigation continues. The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office and Henderson County Sheriff's Office are assisting in the investigation.
Categories: News

Sierra Nevada brewery's first public event set for Aug. 3

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 14:41
DENVER - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. revealed plans Tuesday for a seven-city, cross-country series of beer festivals this summer that will culminate in a grand opening celebration of the brewery's new facility in Mills River.
The 15-day Beer Camp Across America tour will kick off in Sierra Nevada's original home of Chico, Calif., and finish in Mills River on Sunday, Aug. 3, when the new East Coast brewery will be unveiled to the public.
Other stops include San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Portland, Maine and Philadelphia, and Sierra Nevada is inviting each of the roughly 2,700 craft breweries in the U.S. to register and participate by serving their beers at any one of the regional events along the 4,800-mile rolling tour.
Sierra Nevada launched a festival website Tuesday, www.sierranevada.com/beercamp, with details about the festival, purchasing tickets and brewery sign-ups.
The announcement was made during a special event at Denver's Falling Rock Tap House, highlighting the first day of the annual Craft Brewers Conference. Sierra Nevada owner and founder Ken Grossman kicked off the event by telling the large crowd that the one-of-kind traveling beer festival is a celebration of the growth and collaborative nature of the industry.
"Our success has really been because of you guys, because of the consumer, driving what's happening with brewing in America," Grossman said. "When we started out, we had to educate people, but today the consumers are educating the brewers about what they're looking for and pushing the boundaries. So it's a fantastic time, and we're so happy to be able to share this with everybody."
Each of the festivals will feature beer samplings from potentially hundreds of breweries, food vendors and live music from the MarchFourth Marching Band spectacle, a blend of burlesque, vaudeville and "horn-driven funk and marching band madness."
While the Aug. 3 event is the official grand opening of the Mills River brewery, Sierra Nevada spokesman Ryan Arnold said some aspects of the facility's Customer Experience, such as tours, may open to the general public before the big ticketed event.
The company also is adding a new twist to Beer Camp Across America -- a variety 12-pack of beers produced in collaboration with a dozen of the most respected and accomplished breweries from coast to coast, hand-picked by Sierra Nevada. The Beer Camp Across America 12-pack will be released in conjunction with the tour in July throughout Sierra Nevada's existing distribution network nationwide. The 12-packs will cost about $25 and feature diverse and unique beers, test batches of which have been produced by Sierra Nevada and the participating breweries the past few months on Sierra Nevada's pilot brewing system in Chico.
"We wanted to do something that's never been done before," said Brian Grossman, co-manager of the Mills River plant. "I mean, the logistics of packing a 12-pack like this ... it's not an easy thing to pull off. It's not a normal 12-pack -- it'll blow your mind when you see what we're doing."
The variety pack's caveat is that it will feature 10 bottles and two cans, one of which is from Oskar Blues, which is producing a rye bock beer called CANfusion.
The other local representative is a Scotch ale called Tater Ridge from the Asheville Brewers Alliance member breweries that pays homage to Western North Carolina's agricultural roots and Scots-Irish heritage. The beer will be made with 1,000 pounds of sweet potatoes -- a staple crop in North Carolina -- for the eventual 1,000-barrel main production run. The member breweries will be responsible for picking up their allotment of sweet potatoes and baking them to prepare them for the mash.
"Being Scottish descent myself, I understand about our region," said John Stuart, head brewer at Green Man Brewing in Asheville, who traveled to Chico and devised the ABA beer with Wicked Weed Brewing's Luke Dickinson. "I also wanted (the beer) to be a nod toward Highland (Brewing), and that's actually a big part of it because without (Highland founder) Oscar (Wong), we wouldn't have the brewing community that we have. Western North Carolina would never have been on Sierra Nevada's radar for a place to be if Oscar had not done what he did back in '94, which was to start our craft beer industry."
The crowd at Falling Rock got to try test batches of all 12 beers in the variety pack for the first time Tuesday. Recipes are still being refined before the main production runs on each of them.
Some beers will be produced in Chico and others in Mills River, including the ABA brew and a Belgian-style blonde ale from Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Categories: News

First set of quadruplets born at Sandburg Home

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 14:32
FLAT ROCK — The four newest hooved residents of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site pranced about in the breeze Tuesday afternoon, pausing only when snuggled by one of the goat farm's volunteers.
The three bucks and single doe, born to Nellie the Nubian goat on Saturday, are the first set of quadruplets to be born at the Carl Sandburg Home since it's been a National Park, said Janene Donovan, a National Park Service park ranger in charge of barn operations.
"Nubians are the ones who tend to have more (kids)," and at age 5, Nellie is at the "right age" to have triplets or quadruplets, Donovan said.
Still, she said, "It's quite rare."
Only 2 to 3 percent of all goats have quadruplets, Donovan said.
That's not to say a multiple birth of kids hasn't happened at the site decades ago, when the famed American writer's wife, Lilian "Paula" Sandburg, was still operating the dairy goat farm.
"The reason she got into goats was because she couldn't drink cow's milk," Donovan said.
In the mid-1930s, Lilian Sandburg purchased and began breeding Nubian, Saanen and Toggenburg goats with a focus on preserving blood lines and quality milk production, according to the National Park Service.
"They are from the original bloodline that Mrs. Sandburg had," Donovan said of the quadruplets.
As the three brown-and-white bucks and single black-and-white doe frolicked near the barn Tuesday, John Marsh, a barn volunteer, explained that Nubian goats can be any color.
In recent history, though, the Sandburg Nubians have been largely brown with white and black spots, so the newest black doe will stand out, he said.
The doe is also special because she's the only kid from this litter that will one day produce milk.
During the birth Saturday, "She came third, and by that time we were starting to panic a little bit," Donovan said. "They're dairy goats so you would normally keep only a few boys to breed with."
She said the farm usually maintains three or four bucks and 12 does.
Only three days old, the kids don't yet have names. But when they do, they'll all begin with "N."
"Mrs. Sandburg would name the offspring starting with the first letter of the mother," Donovan said. "Someone said, '(Name) the littlest one Napoleon.' "
Though they may not have earned names yet, the newborns have each gained about a pound since their birth Saturday, Donovan said.
"They're up within an hour of birth to nurse," she said. "Sunday they were hopping around a little bit."
On Tuesday, they were still a bit clumsy but remained on all fours, nosing around in the grass, nuzzling visitors with velvet soft noses, and ringing in spring at the Carl Sandburg Home.
Reach McGowan at 828-694-7871 or molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

GOP derails gender pay gap bill in Senate

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 14:02
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans derailed a Democratic bill Wednesday curbing paycheck discrimination against women, an effort that even in defeat Democrats hoped would pay political dividends in this fall's congressional elections.
Wednesday's vote was 53-44 to halt GOP tactics aimed at derailing the legislation, but that fell seven short of the 60 votes Democrats needed to prevail.
The outcome on the Senate floor was not a surprise, but Democrats were playing to a wider audience.
With public opinion polls showing Democratic voters less enthusiastic than Republicans this year, Democrats aimed the measure at women, who historically lean more toward their party than men. They were also casting the issue as a crucial one for the middle class because so many families rely on female wage-earners — and promised to revisit it before Election Day.
"I want everyone to know, everyone in the Senate and everyone in the United States of America, though we lost the vote, we refuse to lose the battle. We are going to continue the fight," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the measure's sponsor.
Wednesday's bill was the latest in a campaign-year parade of measures Democrats hope will drive sympathetic voters to the polls this November. Others include proposals to extend expired unemployment benefits, raise the minimum wage and make student loans more affordable.
This is the third consecutive election year in which Senate Democrats have pushed the bill making it harder for employers to pay women less than men in comparable jobs — and easier for aggrieved workers to sue. Republicans have shot it down each time.
"For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don't seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Every voting Republican voted to block the bill, joined by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who normally sides with Democrats. After the vote, King said the measure didn't address the real causes of pay inequity, such as making workplaces more family friendly and called his decision "very difficult."
Reid switched his vote to "no" to give himself the procedural ability to quickly call up the measure for a future vote, which Democrats have pledged to do.
Reid's GOP counterpart faulted him for blocking Republican proposals that would cut taxes, allow more flexibility for workers' hours and take other steps they said would protect jobs and help employees. The Democratic bill would open the door for frivolous, expensive workers' lawsuits against companies, Republicans say.
"It's time for Washington Democrats to stop protecting trial lawyers and start focusing on actually helping the people we were sent here to represent," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The battle was suffused with the politics of an election year in which Republicans could capture Senate control and are expected to retain their hold on the House.
Republicans, with strong backing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, said the measure would tie the hands of employers.
Joined by Democratic lawmakers and Lilly Ledbetter at the White House, President Barack Obama took a swipe at the GOP on Tuesday. Ledbetter's claims of pay inequity by her employer led to the 2009 anti-discrimination statute bearing her name, the first bill Obama signed as president.
"Republicans in Congress have been gumming up the works," said Obama, adding later: "America, you don't have to sit still. You can make sure that you're putting some pressure on members of Congress about this issue."
Republicans said the bill would make it hard for companies to award merit pay or offer flexible work hours in exchange for lower pay and expose employers to costly, frivolous lawsuits.
McConnell cited statistics showing how women's income has fallen and their poverty rate increased under Obama.
"It's important to kind of put in place the record of the current administration with regard to women," McConnell said. Obama took office during the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
As if to underscore the political sensitivity of the debate, McConnell held his usual Tuesday session with reporters accompanied only by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., who was pushing a narrower version of the legislation. Typically, McConnell faces the cameras joined by the top members of the Senate GOP leadership, who are all men.
At almost the same time, a parade of Democratic female senators trooped to the Senate floor to defend the bill.
The bill would narrow the factors businesses can cite for paying women less than men in the same jobs, and bar employers from retaliating against workers who share salary information. It also would make it easier to bring class-action lawsuits against companies and let victors in such lawsuits win punitive and compensatory damages.
Paycheck discrimination based on gender has been illegal since the 1960s. The Ledbetter law extended the time people have to file lawsuits claiming violations of that law.
Women averaged 77 percent of men's earnings in 2012, according to Census Bureau figures. That is better than the 61 percent differential of 1960, but little changed since 2001.
While few deny workplace discrimination exists, politicians and analysts debate its impact on women's earnings.
Data shows that men tend to out-earn women at every level of education and in comparable jobs.
Yet women generally work shorter hours and are likelier to take lower-paying jobs. Sixty-two percent of the 3.3 million workers earning at or below the minimum wage last year were women, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even if the Democratic bill emerges from the Senate, it appears to have little chance in the GOP-run House.
Categories: News

Gas prices jump 15 cents in North Carolina

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 09:16
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Motorists across North Carolina are hoping the oil industry will soon put the brakes on rising gasoline prices.
AAA Carolinas says the average price of gas in the state has jumped 15 cents in the last month from $3,38 on March 8 to $3.53 on Tuesday.
The auto club says North Carolinians are paying the highest price for gas since last July 27, when the state average was $3.54. After starting 2014 at $3.31, gas prices fell to a year-low of $3.28 on Feb. 8 before starting to rise.
Club president and CEO David E. Parsons says the spring is tough for drivers because that's the time when gas prices rise because of refinery maintenance. Parsons says the tightened supply across the country had led to the higher prices.
In spite of the increase, the March average of $3.40 is the lowest monthly average for March since 2010, when the average was $2.75.
Gas prices are expected to continue to rise until refinery maintenance is complete, likely by the end of April. Although demand continues to rise with warmer weather, increased production will allow supply levels to keep up with demand.
Overall, AAA Carolinas expects gas prices for 2014 to be slightly cheaper than 2013. However, unexpected developments such as major refinery problems or geopolitical concerns could result in higher prices.
Categories: News