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Charlotte City Council to select new mayor

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:53
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte City Council will choose a new mayor to replace Patrick Cannon, who resigned last month in a public corruption scandal.
The council will vote Monday evening on a new mayor. They can choose someone who's already on council or an outsider, as long as the person is a Democrat, to replace Cannon.
The 47-year-old Democrat was arrested March 26 and resigned hours later, less than six months after taking office. Federal prosecutors say Cannon accepted more than $48,000 in bribes from FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to work with North Carolina's largest city.
Council members had been scheduled to select a new mayor last week but delayed the vote so they could talk with possible candidates and constituents.
Categories: News

Oil prices slip below $101 after Libyan deal

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:48
Oil prices fell below $101 a barrel Monday following reports that four Libyan oil terminals under militia control could soon open and possibly boost global supplies.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 50 cents to $100.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The Nymex contract gained 85 cents to close at $101.14 on Friday. The price has vacillated around $100 a barrel for most of the past month.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of oil, was down $1.08 to $105.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
The official Libyan news agency said the country's main militia in the east agreed to hand back control of four oil terminals it captured and shut down last summer to demand a share in oil revenues. The shutdown has cost Libya billions of dollars.
Under the deal reached late Sunday, the militia would immediately hand over two terminals to the national government and return two others in a few weeks.
"This means that Libyan crude exports could increase by around 200,000 barrels a day in the next few days and a further 550,000 barrels a day early May if all goes according to plan," analysts at JBC Energy in Vienna said in a report
However, they cautioned that the timing of the renewed oil shipments "may be much later than announced" given Libya's track record.
In other energy futures trading in New York:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.79 cents to $2.9134 a gallon.
— Natural gas rose 5.5 cents to $4.494 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil shed 1.97 cents to $2.8882 a gallon.
Categories: News

Dana students celebrate rich local history

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:28
Dana Elementary students traveled back in time Friday, observing through songs and a skit how children in the 1890s and early 1900s attended classes in one-room schoolhouses — several of which eventually combined to form Dana School.
The children gathered in the school's gym — which they learned was built in 1950 — were encouraged to notice differences between school then and now, as the “school teacher” in the skit stoked the fire in a wood-burning stove, taught lessons to grades one through five in a single classroom, and “students” complained of walking long distances to the schoolhouse without shoes.
“One difference was how we had to use fire in order to warm up the school,” said Noe Ortiz, a fourth-grader in the skit.
“The bathrooms were far away from the school, and children had to walk to school,” said second-grader Adam Hill.
“There wasn't (a) water fountain in the school,” added Leiann Marshall, also a second-grader. “You had to go outside.”
Friday's special assembly preceded the Henderson County Education History Initiative's presentation of a historic marker to the Dana School today, recognizing it as one of Henderson County's historical schools.
Rita Stepp and Brenda Harvey, former teachers at Dana School, wrote the skit using information they'd compiled as part of their research on the Dana School for HCEHI.
“I wanted to do something the students were involved in,” said Dana Elementary Principal Kelly Schofield. “We have a lot of school spirit.”
Some of that school spirit shone as young students sang the original Dana School alma mater, which children in the early 1930s may have sung shortly after the school's establishment.
In 1928, about a dozen one-room schoolhouses in the area joined to form the first Dana School, according to research compiled by Stepp and Harvey. The school grew in stages, with the addition of a gym in 1950 and the cafeteria in 1957.
In 1971, a fire destroyed the main building.
“It was an arsonist that burned it down. And there were some copycats that attempted to burn other schools,” said Stepp.
But the books were in another room, and today Dana School has an even larger library selection, more students, and a new appreciation for its history.
“We're very proud,” Schofield said.
___
Reach McGowan at 828-694-7871 or molly.mcgowan@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Schencks win Lela McBride award for conservation work

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:21
It's been a heady couple of months for Sandy and Missy Schenck, co-owners of the Green River Preserve summer camp in Cedar Mountain.
Last month, the couple attended a White House conference on engaging the next generation of conservation leaders. On Sunday, the environmental educators were honored by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy as winners of the 2014 Lela McBride Award.
The award, presented at CMLC's annual meeting at Camp Tekoa, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to land conservation and stewardship in the region. Previous winners have included N.C. Rep. Chuck McGrady, Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler and Congressman Charles Taylor.
The Schencks founded Green River Preserve, a co-ed summer camp that focuses on connecting children and nature, in 1987. Emphasizing programming that uses "nature's classroom," they wanted to nurture young campers by fostering skills such as curiosity, creativity, optimism and perseverance.
Their belief that learning is enhanced by the natural world also led the Schencks to help form Muddy Sneakers in 2007. Now in its seventh year, the nonprofit uses experiential outdoor learning to teach science to fifth-graders from 18 schools in four counties.
"Our feeling is why not teach the children what the land is all about?" said Missy Schenck, who added many kids don't have that opportunity in today's technology-driven world. "When we were growing up, playing outside was all we did."
Attending summer camps was largely responsible for forming their strong conservation ethic, the couple said. Sandy went to the now-defunct Camp Flintlock in Zirconia, while Missy attended Camp Kanuga starting when she was 8 and began working there five years later.
"I worked in the kitchen, I worked in the canteen, I'd work anywhere Mr. Hartley (the camp director then) told me to go each day and never turned back," said Missy Schenck. "I've been at camp every single summer since."
"I was the same story," said her husband. "I cut fence posts and strung barbed wire and cleaned out the barn. And then a counselor, thank God, broke his ankle and I got to take over."
Sandy's parents, Alex and Laurie Schenck, purchased the 3,400 acres that now constitute Green River Preserve in the early 1950s as a place to spend weekends and summers fishing, hiking and exploring. An avid fly fisherman, Alex Schenck instilled a love of the land and water in his son.
"My father fought in World War II on the front lines for 39 months and had a brutal experience in the war," Sandy Schenck said. "And he wanted to come back where it was peaceful and quiet and no one would shoot at him. So he had the good sense to buy two big tracts of land," one in Green River and one in the headwaters of the Linville River.
"One of the things he was trying to do was protect watersheds," Missy Schenck said. "Right in our backyard on the Green River is the headwaters and that was his main focus up at Linville, too."
In 2006, the Schencks entered 2,600 acres of the Green River Preserve into a conservation easement with CMLC, permanently protecting the land from development. It remains the group's single-largest easement, making up nearly 10 percent of the 27,000 acres CMLC has protected to date.
Besides preserving wildlife corridors, mountain scenery and habitat for rare species, the Schenck's easement also created a protected buffer bordering DuPont State Forest, forming a contiguous area of more than 13,000 acres of conserved natural lands.
CMLC's annual meeting featured a talk on the geology of the Blue Ridge by Michael Follo, a Harvard-educated geologist who is the director of education for the North Carolina Outward Bound School and teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Follo described how the collision of North America and Africa 250 million years ago caused the uplifting of the Appalachian Mountains into a chain of 20,000-foot-plus peaks that once rivaled the Himalayans, before eroding to their present state.
The land trust also honored 17 volunteers for their contributions in 2013. Altogether, volunteers donated nearly 5,500 hours of time in a year that marked the group's 20th anniversary and its conservation highpoint, with 4,000 acres protected at 21 locations.
For their dedication and donation of at least 70 hours of service, CMLC recognized John Humphrey, Jim Neal, Genien Carlson, Diana Richards, Arnold "Skip" Sheldon, Amos Dawson, David Humphrey, Bill Imhof, Bob Lindsey, Lewis Blodgett, Fred Weed, Mark Tooley, Mark Robson, John Busse, Ann Hendrickson, Patrick Horan and Claire Dillman.
Reach Axtell at 828-694-7860 or than.axtell@blueridgenow.com.
Categories: News

Rhythm of the Knights: Teen coach is heart of North baseball

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 07:57
Alex Suder doesn't just like to dance. He loves to dance.
That love shines in his face at every North Henderson High baseball game. Suder, who has Down syndrome, hits the ball and rounds the bases at every Knight home game. After a dramatic slide into home plate, Suder's theme music, PSY's Gangnam Style, comes on and he dances his heart out in front of cheering fans.
Last season, in his final year of high school, he did it as a player. This year, Suder is an assistant coach for the Knights and is still entertaining the fans.
Suder, who also danced during the halftime of North Henderson boys' basketball games, has become quite the star, said his mom, Tracy Suder.
A routine trip to Ingles that should take 30 minutes often turns into a two-hour trip, she said, because her 19-year-old son knows someone on every aisle and they all want to talk to him.
And that's Ok, she said, because it shows how much the community loves her son.
'Meant to be'
Tracy Suder and her husband, Peter, experienced a nightmare in the early 1990s. The couple were living in New Jersey and had been trying to get pregnant for years. They even went through infertility treatments.
When those didn't work and the funds for them ran out, the Suders decided to adopt. Alex was the third baby the Suders adopted, and the second Down child.
In 1993, the Suders adopted Max as an infant. They nurtured him and ended up at St. John of God, where they were enrolled in an early intervention school. Max lived through two heart surgeries before he died at the age of 6 months.
They adopted another son, Joey, in 1994 and then Alex in 1995.
The workers at St. John of God remembered Tracy Suder from her time there with Max. A couple who fostered children in New Jersey had asked if they knew anyone that would be willing to adopt a child with Down Syndrome.
The two families were connected and the process began.
The Suders met Alex when he was 9 months old and adopted him six weeks later. A process that normally took months went quickly for the Suders.
That didn't mean it wasn't torture. They visited Alex for the six weeks and desperately wanted to take him home as they waited for the adoption to become official. Everything snowballed, and they took him home in September of 1995.
“It must have been meant to be,” Peter Suder said.
It wasn't without complications. In southern New Jersey, there were racial tensions and the Suders stuck out in a community that found it strange to see a white family with a “brown” child.
None of that mattered to the Suders. They loved their new baby and there were no reservations about having another baby with Down syndrome or with his color.
“Tracy didn't hesitate at all,” Peter Suder said.
The strange looks, however, led the Suders to move to Florida in 1997 when Alex was 2. They lived outside of West Palm Beach until 2006, when they moved to Henderson County. They were looking for a place halfway between Florida and New Jersey. Western North Carolina fit the bill.
They were also looking at schools where Alex would be taken care of the best on a daily basis. That led the family to North Henderson High, where Alex Suder found a second family.
'He shines'
Alex blossomed at Apple Valley Middle and North Henderson, throwing himself into music and art.
Growing up, his love for dance was evident, Tracy Suder said. To stimulate his mind, his parents requested that people buy him gifts that made noise, especially ones that played music. He was dancing before he could walk.
That background led Alex to the arts in school. He took part in plays and anything music-related. In high school, however, the connection with sports was made. It was a world that Tracy Suder wanted to introduce her son to.
His first experience was with the football team, and the first coach he met was Justin King. The two clicked immediately.
Alex became a football manager and dressed out for practices. He'd walk the sidelines on Friday night with a walkie-talkie to his ear and his mom talking to him. That lasted just his sophomore year, however.
The following year, the walkie-talkies were gone and Tracy Suder was on the sideline with him.
The more Alex was around the players at North, the more he was accepted, Tracy Suder said. Alex is the kind of kid who likes to tell people he loves them, and often doles out hugs. Initially, the football players didn't know how to respond to the affection, she said.
By the end of the season, however, it was a different story. Alex became an advocate and an educator. Kids were learning about Down syndrome and supporting the cause at events such as the local Buddy Walk,held every October during National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The entire football team showed up to local Buddy Walk in football jerseys to support Alex.
“It was just as good for those guys as it was for him,” Tracy Suder said.
King agreed with that sentiment.
“I think more than anything, it helped our kids,” he said.
And that's who Alex is, the coach added. Alex isn't happy unless those around him are happy.
“Alex,” King said, “He shines. His heart is so much bigger than everyone else's. His No. 1 goal every day is to make sure that everyone around him is happy.”
Coach Alex
When it came time to graduate high school, it finally hit Alex that he wasn't going to be part of the baseball team anymore. “It made me sad,” he remembers.
He and coach King had become friends — family, even. When Alex expressed that sadness to King, it was the coach's turn to make Alex happy. There are days that King will seek out Alex because he's having a bad day. Alex often tells the coach, “King, I love you.”
This time it was King's turn. The coach didn't hesitate to tell Alex not to worry, because he was making him an assistant coach. That brought a smile to the teen's face. Coaching is one of his favorite things now.
“Everybody stays my friend,” he said. “It makes me part of the team.”
The decision blew away Tracy Suder.
“That was huge,” she said. “There are no words for that. Coach King is amazing.”
And most importantly, it allowed Alex to keep dancing for the fans who all know him and treat him as a friend.
With Alex, life is moments of dance. Whether it's turning the music up in his mom's car and the pair dancing without a care, or dancing in front of cheering fans behind home plate at North Henderson's baseball field.
Life's a dance for Alex Suder.
“It makes me feel happy,” he said.
Categories: News

Community Briefs: April 7

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 03:01
Essay contest deadline is April 15
April 15 is the entry date deadline for the Young Patriot Essay Contest, open to all high school students living in Henderson County — public, private, religious and home school — grades 9-12.
The Sentinel Patriot Club is sponsoring the contest, with a $5,000 cash prize to the first place winner and over $10,000 in total cash prizes being awarded to top winners in all grades.
To enter the contest, email your name, age, grade and the name of your high school to patriot@sentinelpatriot.com by April 15. For the complete contest rules, visit www.sentinelpatriot.com and click on the “Essay Contest” and “FAQ” tabs.
Winners will be announced the last week of June, and cash awards presented to winners at that time. For more information, contact Ron Kauffman at 828-696-9799.
Events
Blue Ridge Community College presents the ninth annual Kehr Lecture Series featuring pioneering permaculture teacher, designer, and consultant Chuck Marsh at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Thomas Auditorium, 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock. The event is free and open to the public. Info: 828-694-1743.
The Brevard-Hendersonville Parkinson's Support Group will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the fellowship hall at Brevard-Davidson River Presbyterian Church, 249 E. Main St., Brevard. Contact The Brengels at 685-7673 or the Edens at 862-8820 for information.
Drivers age 50 and older are encouraged to sharpen their driving skills at the AARP Smart Driver course hosted by Carolina Village Retirement Center from 8:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday at 600 Carolina Village Road, Hendersonville. The course does not involve any behind-the-wheel time, and there are no tests.
Cost is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members. Those completing the class will receive a certificate of attendance, which can be used to apply for a discount on automobile insurance. To register for the class, call 828-231-4863.
Hands On! will hold “Lego Ramp Revamp!” all day Tuesday at 318 N. Main St., Hendersonville. All ages. Thanks to Hendersonville Pediatrics, the Lego ramp has some new additions. Free with $5 admission/free for members. Info: 828-697-8333
The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority invites nonprofit organizations to apply for advertising funding through a grant program. All applicants must attend the grant workshop at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Henderson County Public Library's Kaplan Auditorium, 301 N. Washington St., Hendersonville. Organizations that do not attend will not be eligible for a grant.
For more information, contact the Visitor Information Center at 828-693-9708.
Henderson County Women Democrats will meet from 4:30-6 p.m. Tuesday at Three Chopt Restaurant, 103 3rd Ave. East, Hendersonville. Guest speaker: Eric Bush, Henderson County director of Social Services. Info: 828-692-6424.
Categories: News

Hendersonville's Hoy signs with Bluefield College

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 17:41
Categories: News

20 Bearfootin' Bears prepare for May 9 reveal

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 13:31
Twenty bears hid out in the planning department of Hendersonville City Hall Monday, waiting to invade downtown through their big Bearfootin' Reveal May 9.
They crowded the conference room and lingered in the lobby, naked in their whiteness and ready for the masterful touches of local artists who would give them beauty and fame.
The artists came to pick up the bears this week with ideas in mind or on paper that they would soon put to paint. Sandee Setliff, a first-time bear painter, brainstormed her ideas with her sponsor, the Henderson County Council on Aging, to come up with “Elderbeary.” The elder bear and bear cub combo will be adorned to show the journey of life and art and young caring for the old.
“We have the morphing of a caterpillar going into a butterfly,” she said, pointing to her sketches that noted, “Art like life is a work in progress.”
Money raised from the bear's eventual auction in the fall will benefit the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels program.
Setliff has been blogging about her journey through the creative process online, posting updates and pictures of “Elderbeary” on Facebook.
“Well, today I finally felt like I had really accomplished something with the bears getting their first coat of paint,” she posted Thursday. “It will definitely take at least two coats to get a rich look, possibly three. I really want them to look good so I will have to see how many layers of paint I will need.
“I have discovered that it is extremely difficult to erase pencil marks off the latex primer, thank goodness I only have to worry about that on the flowers petals and the sun since the black paint covers them easily enough,” she blogged. “My hands really cramped up scrubbing off the marks today but it (is) a necessary evil I am afraid. Tomorrow, grass and the sun!”
On Friday, she brought the sun to light in a studio at Art MOB Studios on Fourth Avenue. In a room next door, two other artists worked on Art MOB's very first bear, soon to be named.
Deep hues colored the sketch of a standing bear on paper. The final result will be a friendly compilation of six artists' work for Art MOB's sponsor the Friends of Downtown. Its design, for now, is secret.
A locally-crafted Bearfootin' necklace hung from Gerri Schwake's neck as she painted the bear's foot brown on Friday. Marcy Jackson painted the other foot. This was their first bear and by the time they finish, artists Mariam Hughes, James Davis, Catherine Langsdorf and Elizabeth McAfee will all have played a part in bringing it to life.
A few shops down on Main Street, Mast General Store's Patty Henry said she will start on their bear Saturday.
“I've got a plan,” she said, afraid to spoil the surprises of the big reveal. “I can tell you that this year the bear is going to look a lot like a bear.”
The store has sponsored a bear every year since the Bearfootin' Auction began and Henry has been their painter.
“It is hard to work on something that is absolutely vertical,” she said. “It will tip over if you push on them too hard... It's different than just doing something on a flat surface.”
It's also a lot of fun, she added, “if it's going well. I'm not a professional artist, so I'm slow.”
But by the time she reaches the last brush stroke, she's happy with the results.
Downtown Economic Development Director Lew Holloway said the bears are due for their final clear coat at L&L's Body Shop on April 25.
He's pleased to have 20 bears this year, a great jump from last year's 13. When the Bearfootin' Auction began 12 years ago, 30 bears or more filled the streets in the first couple of years. Then apples and goats filled the scene, but over the past several years the bears have been making a comeback, raising more and more money in auctions that benefit local nonprofits.
The Downtown Advisory Committee decided to cap the number of bears at 20.
“We've not had that number of bears for a number of years,” Holloway said. “We're thrilled to have that many.”
The great interest in the bears, he suspected, was due to a host of great returning sponsors, like Mast General Store and Hannah Flanagan's, which have participated every year since the beginning, and a fresh influx of new sponsors, such as Art MOB, which was eager to participate.
Holloway said they plan to have brochures with a map and walking routes to each of the bears available at the Visitor Center, City Hall and other places downtown by mid-May.
They will also be collecting reserve bids this year leading up to the auction, a new feature that will allow admirers the chance to place a bid before the auction this October. To place a bid or for more information, visit www.downtownhendersonville.org or call Holloway at 828-233-3216.
Reach Weaver at Emily.weaver@blueridgenow.com or 828-674-7867.
Categories: News

Prom dress shopping perilous for plus-size girls

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 13:01
NEW YORK (AP) — Maria Giorno has nothing against long gowns with high waists and flowing fabric — dresses that are designed to camouflage curves on plus-size women.
But the New Jersey high school senior had no interest in buying a loose-fitting style for her senior prom, even though it was all she could find in a size 16 or so at nearby stores. So many stores, Giorno said, "never have anything that's a little more sexy or a little form-fitting, or anything like that for my age."
Clothes shopping for plus-size teens can be frustrating in general, but shopping for a dream prom dress can be a tear-inducing, hair-pulling morass of bad design and few options — especially for girls who want a dress that hugs the body instead of tenting it.
"It's like people kind of assume that's what I want and that's what I like. I'm 18. I really like the way the tight dresses look," said Giorno, who plays roller derby and hopes to study music education in college.
She finally found one that didn't make her look like a bridesmaid — or worse, mother of the bride — at a boutique: a V-neck black lace "fit and flare" style with an open back and pleats above the knee for dancing ease on her big night.
Consignment shops and organizations that collect donated prom dresses for girls in need also say they can't get enough plus-size gowns. Shop owner Kristen Harris went on a mission to collect them after a teen left her store empty-handed and in tears. Harris was tagging stock at her just-opened Designer Diva Consignment Boutique in Abington, Mass., when a plus-size teen shyly approached the ball gowns.
"I said, 'Hey hon, what size are you looking for,' and she said 22, and that's when I felt like someone had just kicked me in the stomach, because I knew I didn't have anything that size," recalled Harris, who desperately pulled some smaller sizes in stretch fabrics for the girl. Moments later, the teen was crying in the dressing room.
So Harris began begging on social media for plus-size consignment and hunted down her young customer through Facebook, offering a private appointment and free dress from about 40 she'd collected. "She was so sweet," Harris said. "I just couldn't get her out of my head."
Operation Prom, which offers free donated dresses to girls in need in eight states, has also had to hunt for plus-size dresses. Noel D'Allacco, founder of the decade-old project, took in about 7,000 gently used dresses and new ones from corporate partners last year, but only about 700 were size 18 and up, she said. The shortage of donated plus-size garments forced her to purchase some.
"We are going crazy trying to get plus-size dresses," said D'Allacco, in Bronxville, N.Y. "We have this problem, unfortunately, every year. A lot of times we get plus-size donations and they're not appropriate for a 17-year-old. They're for your grandmother to wear. It's difficult."
Online options for plus-size prom dresses have proliferated in the past decade. But shopping that way for an already difficult fit, along with restrictive return policies, can feel risky. Giorno was not comfortable searching for her dress online, yet many retailers carry few to none in stores and on trend for teens. Many designers don't bother making them in larger sizes, prospective customers say.
Sixteen percent of women's clothing sold in the U.S. is size 14 and up, according to the market research group NPD. But the plus-size women's business has "pretty much been ignored by the big stores," said Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief retail analyst.
The shop in Pine Beach, N.J., where Giorno found her dress, called New York City Glitz, makes it a priority to stock trendy plus sizes. "There's not that much made," owner Cat Hutton said. "I have companies that I deal with that only carry up to a size 16."
David's Bridal, with about 300 stores around the country, estimates half of the company's prom-worthy choices come in sizes 16 to 22, with interest in those sizes growing every year, said Marissa Rubinetti, a senior buyer.
"They do struggle. They may fall in love with something they see online and they don't have the opportunity to try it on and buy it," she said.
A decade ago, the company carried a fraction of prom dresses up to size 22, Rubinetti said. Southern stores, particularly Texas, have a higher demand, she said. Stephanie Mekhjian, manager of David's Bridal in Fort Worth, Texas, estimated 20 to 25 percent of her prom customers wear sizes 18 to 22, including some who travel 100 miles or more to shop there.
J.C. Penney sells plus-size prom dresses online only and offers just three styles. Target does not sell, in its brick-and-mortar stores, dressier styles appropriate for prom in any size, but the company does sell them online. Other retailers restrict all plus-size clothing to websites.
"Manufacturers are starting to create more plus-size prom dresses but they are just not as readily available as traditional size prom dresses," said a Penney spokeswoman, Sarah Holland.
Phyllis Librach in St. Louis, Mo., knows the heartache of the dress search as both a mother and a dress designer who specializes in plus sizes for special occasions. She started her business 10 years ago after her daughter, now 29, was that curvy girl in tears in search of the perfect prom dress. They finally had one custom-made after the teen refused to buy a white wedding gown and dye it for prom.
Librach now designs and manufactures her own styles, including prom dresses sizes 14 to 40, which she sells on her site, Sydneyscloset.com, and through about 125 boutiques. She started out in the business buying inventory from others, but switched to producing her own after contacting a company that planned to knock off a gown worn by Queen Latifah at an awards show.
"I wanted to place an order, a very nice order, and they said, 'We're not making the dress in any size larger than 14,'" Librach recalled. "I said, 'Let me understand this, you're going to knock off an evening gown worn by a plus-size celebrity and you're not going to make it for plus-size women?' So I got angry, I got frustrated and I said, 'Damn it, I'll make it myself.' That dress sold out."
___
Categories: News

East student to visit Europe as student ambassador

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:01
Tony Thompson hopes one day to land a job with the CIA. He’s impressed by the clandestine organization’s ability to have people all over the world gathering bits and pieces of intelligence, and then make sense of it all.
“I think that’s pretty cool,” the 14-year-old East Henderson High freshman said.
In February, Thompson got a peek at the intelligence world when he traveled to Washington, D.C. for the National Youth Leadership Forum: Careers in National Security — Diplomacy, Intelligence & Defense.
“I found out how much work is put into protecting the country and finding out about our enemies, foreign and domestic,” Thompson said. He also learned how other branches cooperate with one another.
“It was real eye-opening,” he added. “It’s a lot harder than it seems.”
His travels won’t end in Washington. On June 21, Thompson leaves for a 19-day tour of Italy, Sicily and Greece sponsored by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. He is one of 16 student ambassadors from North Carolina.
Thompson will meet with U.S. and foreign diplomats during his trip, though he’s more fascinated by Greek gods and is looking forward to visiting ancient ruins, Pompeii specifically. He also wants to experience other cultures, an interest he shares with his mother, Kathy.
“I would really have liked to been able to do the kind of things he’s going to get to do,” she said.
Along with gaining more understanding of different types of culture, Kathy Thompson hopes her son comes back with a bit more humility.
“He’s an extremely intelligent young man and so he gets a little cocky sometimes, so I think this will help ground him in reality,” she said. “My biggest thing is, ‘Boy I wish I had that chance,’ so I want him to have every chance he can.”
Her son believes the trip will have an effect.
“I think it will open my horizons and affect the way I look at things and feel about things,” Thompson said. “I won’t take things a granted as much.”
He will be doing a home stay with an Italian family in Sicily, which he’s a little nervous about, though he’s excited to see how they live and interact with one another.
CThompson is studying Italian and has homework to complete before he leaves — essays that compare the cultural differences between the students’ European destinations and those at home.
“Here it’s not as strict,” Thompson said. “And our culture’s more of a mixture here. Theirs is more of a set way at all time.”
Thompson raised $2,000 for his February trip to Washington, and for Europe he needs to raise an additional $7,000, which he’s very close to completing thanks to the community.
“My family, we make salsas, jams, jellies, syrups and pickle and chow-chow stuff,” Thompson said. “We’ve set up at Hotdog World here and sold, and my uncle owns a store — Dana Food Center — it’s a gas station, and we’ve sold stuff there.”
Thompson also organized a yard sale, and friends and family donated items they no longer wanted.
Recently, the family held a barbecue dinner at Dana Community Building and raised $2,000. Community members have also donated scrap metal, which Thompson picked up and sold at the scrap yard.
He’s even created a website, tonytrippin.com, to solicit donations.
Just $500 short of his goal now, Thompson is hoping to raise the remainder before the final payment deadline of May 1.
Categories: News

'We're all paying:' Heroin spreads misery in US

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:01
On a beautiful Sunday last October, Detective Dan Douglas stood in a suburban Minnesota home and looked down at a lifeless 20-year-old — a needle mark in his arm, a syringe in his pocket. It didn't take long for Douglas to realize that the man, fresh out of treatment, was his second heroin overdose that day.
"You just drive away and go, 'Well, here we go again,'" says the veteran cop.
In Butler County, Ohio, heroin overdose calls are so common that the longtime EMS coordinator likens the situation to "coming in and eating breakfast — you just kind of expect it to occur." A local rehab facility has a six-month wait. One school recently referred an 11-year-old boy who was shooting up intravenously.
Sheriff Richard Jones has seen crack, methamphetamine and pills plague his southwestern Ohio community but says heroin is a bigger scourge. Children have been forced into foster care because of addicted parents; shoplifting rings have formed to raise money to buy fixes.
"There are so many residual effects," he says. "And we're all paying for it."
Heroin is spreading its misery across America. And communities everywhere are indeed paying.
The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman spotlighted the reality that heroin is no longer limited to the back alleys of American life. Once mainly a city phenomenon, the drug has spread — gripping postcard villages in Vermont, middle-class enclaves outside Chicago, the sleek urban core of Portland, Ore., and places in between and beyond.
It remains a small part of America's drug problem; cocaine, Ecstasy, painkillers and tranquilizers are all used more, and the latest federal overdose statistics show that in 2010 the vast majority of drug overdose deaths involved pharmaceuticals, with heroin accounting for less than 10 percent.
But heroin's escalation is troubling. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the 45 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths between 2006 and 2010 an "urgent and growing public health crisis."
In 2007, there were an estimated 373,000 heroin users in the U.S. By 2012, the number was 669,000, with the greatest increases among those 18 to 25. First-time users nearly doubled in a six-year period ending in 2012, from 90,000 to 156,000.
The surge is easily explained. Experts note that many users turned to heroin after a crackdown on prescription drug "pill mills" made painkillers such as OxyContin harder to find and more costly. Whereas a gram of prescription opiates may go for $1,000 on the street, that same gram of heroin will sell for $100, authorities say.
It's killing because it can be extremely pure or laced with other powerful narcotics. That, coupled with a low tolerance once people start using again after treatment, is catching addicts off guard.
In hard-hit places, police, doctors, parents and former users are struggling to find solutions and save lives.
"I thought my suburban, middle-class family was immune to drugs such as this," says Valerie Pap, who lost her son, Tanner, to heroin in 2012 in Anoka County, Minn., and speaks out to try and help others. "I've come to realize that we are not immune. ... Heroin will welcome anyone into its grasp."
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IN MINNESOTA: TAKING THE MESSAGE TO THE MASSES
The night before Valentine's Day, some 250 people filed into a Baptist church in Spring Lake Park, Minn., a bedroom community north of Minneapolis that brags of its "small-town charm and friendly folks." There were moms and dads of addicts, as well as children whose parents brought them in hopes of scaring them away from smack.
From the stage, Dan Douglas gripped a microphone as a photograph appeared overhead on a screen: A woman in the fetal position on a bathroom floor. Then another: A woman "on the nod" — passed out with drug paraphernalia and a shoe near her face.
Douglas didn't mince words. "You just don't win with heroin," he declared. "You die or you go to jail."
It was the third such forum held over two weeks in Anoka County, which encompasses 440 square miles of urban neighborhoods, rural homesteads and suburban centers that are home to nearly 340,000 souls. Since 1999, 55 Anoka County residents have died from heroin-related causes. Only one other Minnesota county reported more heroin-related deaths — 58 — and it has a population three-and-a-half times greater than Anoka's.
In 2009, when Douglas began supervising a drug task force, authorities were focused on stamping out meth labs. Heroin, with its dark and dirty image, just wasn't a concern. Then investigators noticed a climb in pharmacy robberies and started finding Percocet and OxyContin during routine marijuana busts.
As prescription drug abuse rose, so, too, did federal and state crackdowns aimed at shutting down pill mills and increasing tracking of prescriptions and pharmacy-hopping pill seekers. Users turned to heroin.
"It hit us in the face in the form of dead bodies," says Douglas. "We didn't know how bad it was until it was too late here in our community."
Douglas says authorities are doing what they can: educating doctors about the dangers of overprescribing painkillers, holding events where residents can dispose of prescription opiates, and aggressively trying to get drugs off the street. But, he says, "law enforcement cannot do this alone."
The idea for the forums came not from police but rather from Pap, a third-grade teacher whose youngest son died of a heroin overdose.
Tanner was an athlete who graduated from high school with honors. In the fall of 2012, he was pursuing a psychology degree at the University of Minnesota, and dreamed of becoming a drug counselor. He had not, to his mother's knowledge, ever used drugs, and certainly not heroin.
Then one day Tanner's roommates found the 21-year-old unconscious in his bedroom.
Amid her grief, Pap realized something needed to be done to educate others. She met with county officials, and the community forums began soon after. At each, Pap shared her family's story.
"Our lives have been forever changed. Heroin took it all away," she told the crowd in Spring Lake Park.
Douglas says most heroin-related deaths he has seen involve victims who struggled with the drug for years. The detective usually tries to shield his own boys, ages 7 and 11, from what he sees on the job. But after meeting parents like Pap, Douglas shared his heroin presentation with his oldest son — complete with the sobering pictures.
"Could I still be blindsided? Absolutely," he says. "But it's not going to be for lack of information on my part. ... I don't want to scare my kid. I don't want to scar my kid. But I sure as hell don't want to bury him."
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IN OHIO: OD ANTIDOTE HELPS SAVE SOME
Brakes screech. The hospital door flies open. A panicked voice shouts: "Help my friend!" Medical technicians race outside with a gurney. An unconscious young man is lifted aboard, and the race is on to stop another heroin user from dying.
It's known as a "drive-up, drop-off," and it's happened repeatedly at Ohio's Fort Hamilton Hospital. The staff's quick response and a dose of naloxone, an opiate-reversing drug, bring most patients back. But not all. Some are put on ventilators. A few never revive.
"We've certainly had our share of deaths," says Dr. Marcus Romanello, head of the ER. "At least five died that I am acutely aware of ... because I personally cared for them."
Romanello joined the hospital about two years ago, just as the rise of heroin was becoming noticeable in Hamilton, a blue-collar city of 60,000 people. Now it seems to be reaching into nearly every part of daily life.
"If you stood next to somebody and just started a conversation about heroin, you'd hear: 'Oh yeah, my nephew's on heroin. My next-door neighbor's on heroin. My daughter's on heroin,'" says Candy Murray Abbott, who helped her own 27-year-old son through withdrawal.
Abbott and childhood friend Tammie Norris, whose daughter was also a heroin user, decided last year to bring attention to the problem in their hometown, using Facebook to organize poster-waving demonstrations by everyone from recovering addicts to parents and grandparents of children who died of overdoses.
Norris could only shake her head at the surge in attention to heroin after Hoffman's death. "Well, duh," she says, "it's been happening to our kids every day — and nobody sees it."
A couple decades ago, the big problem in Hamilton was cocaine. That shifted to prescription drug abuse, which morphed into heroin as pharmaceuticals grew harder to come by. Now heroin-related deaths have more than tripled in Butler County, where Hamilton is the county seat. There were 55 deaths last year, and within one two-week period, the city's emergency paramedic units responded to 18 heroin overdoses. Once, they had five overdose runs in a single day.
Users run the gamut, says EMS veteran Jennifer Mason — from streetwalkers to business executives. They die in cars, public parks, restaurant bathrooms, a university building. Mason has found people turning blue with needles still in their arms.
Sojourner Recovery Services, an addiction treatment organization in Hamilton, has a six-month waiting list for beds for male addicts.
Romanello's hospital saw 200 heroin overdose cases last year, and countless related problems: abscesses from using unsterile needles, heart-damaging endocarditis and potentially fatal sepsis infections.
Overdose patients usually bounce back quickly after given naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan. It works by blocking the brain receptors that opiates latch onto and helping the body "remember" to take in air.
At least 17 states and the District of Columbia allow Narcan to be distributed to the public, and bills are pending in some states to increase access to it. Attorney General Holder has called for more first responders to carry it. Last month, Ohio's Republican governor signed into law a measure allowing a user's friends or relatives to administer Narcan, on condition that they call 911.
Romanello says his patients are usually relieved and grateful by the time they leave his hospital. "They say, 'Thank you for saving my life,' and walk out the door. But then, the withdrawal symptoms start to kick in."
"You would think that stopping breathing is hitting rock bottom," adds Mason. "They don't have that fear of dying. You've blocked the heroin, and they have to have it. They go back out to get more. You haven't fixed their addiction."
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IN OREGON: A FORMER ADDICT FIGHTS BACK
Before 9 o'clock every weekday morning, the secret to one of the most successful drug rehabilitation clinics in Portland, Ore., waits behind a locked door. Meet David Fitzgerald, leader of the mentor program at Central City Concern, which claims a 60 percent success rate for treating heroin addiction.
The lock, Fitzgerald says, is a necessity because his addicts will take every opportunity offered, including early access to the "mentor room."
Inside, the walls are covered in photos, including a collage from last year's group picnic. Recovering addicts smile and hold plates of food. Seven months later, Fitzgerald looks over the faces. Are they all still sober? Are they all still alive?
"Most of them," he says. "Not all."
Heroin cut a gash through the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s. Then prescription pills took over until prices rose. Now the percentage of those in treatment for heroin in Oregon is back up to levels not seen since the '90s — nearly 8,000 people last year — and the addicts are getting younger.
Central City's clients reflect that. In 2008, 25 percent of them were younger than 35. Last year that went to 40 percent.
"A lot of them aren't ready at a younger age," Fitzgerald says. "The drug scene, it's fast ... it's different. It's harder than it was."
Fitzgerald, 63, speaks with a laconic prison patois, a reflection of 20-plus years incarcerated, all the while addicted to various drugs. The worst was heroin. In 1997 he got sober, and in 1999 he joined Central City Concern, then a burgeoning outfit.
Fitzgerald saw that the usual path for treating addiction wasn't working. Addicts were processed through detox for seven or eight days, then handed a list of tasks that included finding work, meeting with a probation officer, and locating the drop site for their daily food box.
"Like they're going to do any of that," Fitzgerald scoffs. "First thing they do is see somebody they know, get that fix."
Central City Concern instead accompanies clients to housing appointments, keeps their daylight hours filled with to-dos and requires they spend idle hours at the facility, where they also sleep.
It's a bare-bones staff operating on a razor-thin budget, and the crop of younger addicts presents a new problem: finding appropriately aged mentors to match them with. But Fitzgerald has hope in 26-year-old Felecia Padgett, who remembers clearly the first time she fired heroin into her veins.
"I heard one time somebody say it's like kissing God," says Padgett. "It is. It's like getting to touch heaven."
Padgett's six-year tumble involved, in order: heroin smoked, heroin shot intravenously, homelessness, one overdose, two close calls, a suicide attempt, arrest, jail, arrest, jail, arrest, jail and, finally, a one-shot, last-chance stop at Central City.
Before sobriety, she found herself selling to people younger than herself, suburban kids rolling up in their parents' cars.
Fitzgerald doesn't yet have money to pay her, and Padgett herself is still in recovery. But she, and others like her, may play a crucial role in confronting the problem as the face of Portland's heroin addiction gets younger.
Fitzgerald knows that many of the clients he sees at 25 may be back in rehab at 35, but he tries to remain optimistic that some of what they learn at Central City will, ultimately, make a difference.
"That's about all you can do," he says, "hope some of it sticks."
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Categories: News

Heroin Use in North Carolina

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:01
RALEIGH (AP) — Some states, including North Carolina, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what's happening in North Carolina:
THE PROBLEM:
"There's a certain segment of the population that misuses and abuses prescription drug medications and that ends up being a gateway to other things," said Scott K. Proescholdbell, who heads a public health surveillance unit at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
"What we understand is that the cost of heroin has gone down, and so the street value, for those individuals who are willing to switch, it seems like it's probably economically in their advantage to do so."
But there have also been reports in the state of heroin users consuming painkilling pills, he said, so addicts are not moving only in one direction.
THE NUMBERS:
In the decade beginning in 1999, North Carolina averaged 53 deaths a year from drug overdoses, with the final year of that decade the outlier with 81 fatalities, according to data from death certificates compiled by the State Center for Health Statistics. The drug's deadly effects have expanded since then. Deaths then rose to 81 in 2009; 85 in 2011; and 160 in 2012. The total fell to 106 last year, though not all post-mortem drug tests are finalized for 2013. None have been recorded yet in 2014.
Ninety percent of the recorded victims of heroin overdoses last year were white; white victims have made up eight out of 10 victims or more for the past 15 years.
The counties where heroin deaths concentrated in 2013 were Mecklenburg with 14; New Hanover, 12; Guilford, 10; Durham, 9; Wake, 7; and Gaston, 6.
RAMIFICATIONS/SOLUTIONS:
North Carolina is among 18 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted a law or developed a pilot program allowing medical professionals or average people to administer medication that reverses the effects of an opiate-related overdose. The law provides legal immunity to someone who provides a drug such as naloxone that counteracts the effects of heroin, OxyContin and other powerful painkillers.
Categories: News

Community Briefs: April 6

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 03:01
Alumni luncheon set for Thursday
The Vision Alumni Spring Luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at Burntshirt Vineyards, 2695 Sugarloaf Road, Hendersonville. Lunch is $20 per person and includes a donation to the John L. Boyd Scholarship Fund. Registration and prepayment required. Call the Chamber at 692-1413 to register.
City offering bank draft
The city of Hendersonville Water & Sewer Department is now offering automatic bank draft free to all customers. There are several ways to enroll:
u Call 828-697-3052 to be mailed the Automatic Bank Draft form.
u Enroll online by visiting the online form on the city website, www.cityofhendersonville.org, under the Departments & Services tab, Water & Sewer Department.
u Download the Automatic Bank Draft form from the city website, print and complete it and mail it to Water and Sewer, P.O. Box 1760, Hendersonville, NC 28793.
u Drop off the paper form at the payment window on the first floor of City Hall at 145 5th Ave. E. anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Deadline for murder mystery registration extended
The deadline to purchase tickets for First Citizen Bank’s and Hood Hargett Insurance’s Boogie Down Murder Mystery Dinner has been extended through April 10. Tickets are $50. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. May 2 at the Hendersonville Country Club, 1860 Hebron Road, Hendersonville. For more information, call 693-1712 or visit www.wcca.net/events.
Students to hold 5k in honor of student
The students of West Henderson High are hosting the annual Hayley Hustle 5k, pulled pork dinner and silent auction, held to benefit those with muscular dystrophy, on May 9 and 10 at the school, 3600 Haywood Road, Hendersonville. This year’s event will be a color run. The goal is to raise $20,000. Register by Friday to receive a race shirt. To register, visit www.hayleyhustle5k.org.
Meetings
The Atkinson Elementary School Improvement Team will meet at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the media center of the school.
Brevard City Council will hold a work session at 5:30 p.m. Monday in City Council chambers.
The Henderson County Board of Equalization and Review will meet at 9 a.m. Monday in the Real Property Appraisal Office, Suite 121 of the Henderson County Courthouse.
The Henderson County Early College High School Improvement Team will meet at 3 p.m. Monday in the Industrial Skills Building, room 121 of the high school at Blue Ridge Community College.
The town of Laurel Park's Parks and Greenways Board will hold its regular meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The town of Laurel Park's Planning Board will hold its regular meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Agendas
Brevard City Council will hold a work session at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Agenda: Comprehensive Plan-natural resources, stormwater management, land use map and recreation (time permitting).
The Hendersonville Board of Adjustment will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the city Operations Center. Agenda: Decision-conditional use permit; variance and conditional use permit.
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Agenda: Routine monthly reports; public records disposal request; resolution authorizing the disposition of personal property by private sale, USDA grant contract consultant agreement; resolution-Child Abuse Prevention Month; notification of vacancies; nominations; city of Hendersonville Business Advisory Committee; Discussion items: Continued discussion on Land Development Code and Minimum Housing Code text amendments and Strategic Plan update; county manager's report; closed session.
Events
The Henderson County Library is hosting a Peeps Diorama Contest in celebration of National Library Week and the library centennial. Grades k-12 are invited to celebrate books, reading and/or libraries by creating a diorama using marshmallow Peeps. Entries will be received Wednesday through April 14 and judging will take place on April 15. Visit www.henderson.lib.nc.us for details.
AARP Chapter 8 will meet at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday in Room 17 of Opportunity House, 1411 Asheville Highway, Hendersonville. A social period, with refreshments, will be followed by a brief business meeting with guest speaker, Brenda Williams, on “Music Therapy.” Visitors welcome. Info: 687-3930.
The second Conversations with Remarkable Women event will be held from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at Dandelion Eatery, 127 5th Ave. W., Hendersonville. Come for dinner and conversation. Cost is $20, which pays for you and a “secret guest.” There is limited seating, so RSVP required. Call Mainstay at 693-3840 to make reservations.
The second candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Henderson County will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Operations Center, 305 Williams St., Hendersonville. The League will host candidates for Henderson County Board of Commissioners for Districts 1, 3 and 4. For more information, visit www.lwvhcnc.org.
An orientation for potential volunteers for the Blue Ridge Literacy Council will be held from 10–11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the BRLC offices on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College. For more information or to register, call 828-696-3811.
The Western North Carolina chapter of USA Dance will host the April in Paris ball starting at 6 p.m. April 12 at the Hendersonville Country Club, 1860 Hebron Road, Hendersonville. Registration is due by Monday. Dancing will begin at 8 p.m. following heavy Hors d'oeuvrres and French-themed three course dinner. Tickets are $40. Black tie optional. To register, email wncusadance@gmail.com.
Categories: News

Hagel: US strongly committed to protecting Japan

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 18:01
YOKOTA AIR FORCE BASE, Japan (AP) — Against the backdrop of Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean region, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday he will convey to Japanese leaders that the U.S. is strongly committed to protecting their country's security.
Hagel said it is understandable that countries are concerned by the unfolding events in Ukraine, where Russian troops remain massed along the border. The issue reverberates in Asia where China, Japan and others are in bitter territorial disputes, including over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
"It's a pretty predictable, I think, reaction, not just of nations of this area and this region but all over the world," Hagel told reporters traveling with him to Tokyo.
"I think anytime you have a nation — Russia in this case — try to impose its will to refine and define international boundaries and violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a nation by force, all of the world takes note of that."
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Russel also said this past week that Russia's annexation of Crimea heightened concern, particularly among some Southeast Asian nations, about the possibility of China "threatening force or other forms of coercion to advance their territorial interests."
The U.S. has said it takes no side on the question of the disputed islands' sovereignty, but it recognizes Japan's administration of them and has responsibilities to protect Japanese territory under a mutual defense treaty.
Hagel said the U.S. wants the countries in the region to resolve the disputes peacefully. But he added that the United States would honor its treaty commitments.
There is no "weakness on the part of the United States as to our complete and absolute commitment to the security of Japan," Hagel said. "So I don't think there is any indication or any evidence that we're doing anything but strengthening our commitment to the security of Japan."
Asked whether the inability of the U.S. and its international partners to stop Russia might give Asian nations reason for worry, he said the allied response for Ukraine has been significant. He said there is no military solution to the problem, but diplomatic and economic penalties against Russia have isolated Moscow and "there will be consequences for that."
Speaking to more than 150 U.S. and Japanese troops in a hangar at the base, Hagel noted that this is his fourth trip to the region. The visits are part of an effort to make clear that America is a friend and partner, and reinforce "our continued commitment to our partnerships, our friendships and our treaty obligations."
Hagel's trip to Japan comes at the close of a three-day meeting in Hawaii with defense ministers from Southeast Asian nations. He will later travel to China, where he said he looks forward to talks about expanding military cooperation as well as the chance to air differences on the disputes.
Hagel said he would encourage Chinese leaders to abide by the international code of conduct.
China has expressed displeasure about recent moves by the U.S. to provide additional military assets and support to Japan.
Last October, the U.S. and Japan agreed to broad plans to expand their defense alliance, including plans to position a second early warning radar there by the end of this year. There is one in northern Japan and the second one would be designed to provide better missile defense coverage in the event of a North Korean attack.
The U.S. will begin sending long-range Global Hawk surveillance drones to Japan this month for rotational deployments, and they are intended to help step up surveillance around the Senkaku islands, a source of heated debate between Japan and China which both claim the remote territories.
In its latest symbolic gesture of support for Japan, the U.S. decided not to send a warship to participate in a Chinese naval parade as part of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium because the Japanese were not invited. U.S. military leaders, including the Navy's top officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, will attend the symposium and view the ship review.
Categories: News

China ship hears 'signal'; unclear if jet-related

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 13:41
PERTH, Australia (AP) — A Chinese ship involved in the hunt for the missing Malaysian jetliner reported hearing a "pulse signal" Saturday in Indian Ocean waters with the same frequency emitted by the plane's data recorders, as Malaysia vowed not to give up the search for the jet.
Military and civilian planes, ships with deep-sea searching equipment and a British nuclear submarine scoured a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean off Australia's west coast, in an increasingly urgent hunt for debris and the "black box" recorders that hold vital information about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's last hours.
After weeks of fruitless looking, officials face the daunting prospect that sound-emitting beacons in the flight and voice recorders will soon fall silent as their batteries die after sounding electronic "pings" for a month.
A Chinese ship that is part of the search effort detected a "pulse signal" in southern Indian Ocean waters, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. Xinhua, however, said it had not yet been determined whether the signal was related to the missing plane, citing the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.
Xinhua said a black box detector deployed by the ship, Haixun 01, picked up a signal at 37.5 kilohertz (cycles per second), the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, confirmed that the frequency emitted by Flight 370's black boxes were 37.5 kilohertz and said authorities were verifying the report. The Australian government agency coordinating the search would not immediately comment on it.
There are many clicks, buzzes and other sounds in the ocean from animals, but the 37.5 kilohertz pulse was selected for underwater locator beacons on black boxes because there is nothing else in the sea that would naturally make that sound, said William Waldock, an expert on search and rescue who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
"They picked that (frequency) so there wouldn't be false alarms from other things in the ocean," he said.
Waldock cautioned that "it's possible it could be an aberrant signal" from a nuclear submarine if there was one in the vicinity.
If the sounds can be verified, it would reduce the search area to about 10 square kilometers (4 square miles), Waldock said. Unmanned robot subs with sidescan sonar would then be sent into the water to try to locate the wreckage, he said.
John Goglia, a former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board member, called the report "exciting," but cautioned that "there is an awful lot of noise in the ocean."
"One ship, one ping doesn't make a success story," he said. "It will have to be explored. I guarantee you there are other resources being moved into the area to see if it can be verified."
The Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people aboard. So far, no trace of the jet has been found.
Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's defense minister and acting transport minister, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the cost of mounting the search was immaterial compared to providing solace for the families of those on board by establishing what happened.
"I can only speak for Malaysia, and Malaysia will not stop looking for MH370," Hishammuddin said.
He said an independent investigator would be appointed to lead a team that will try to determine what happened to Flight 370. The team will include three groups: One will look at airworthiness, including maintenance, structures and systems; another will examine operations, such as flight recorders and meteorology; and a third will consider medical and human factors.
The investigation team will include officials and experts from several nations, including Australia — which as the nearest country to the search zone is currently heading the hunt — China, the United States, Britain and France, Hishammuddin said.
A multinational search team is desperately trying to find debris floating in the water or faint sound signals from the data recorders that could lead them to the missing plane and unravel the mystery of its fate.
Finding floating wreckage is key to narrowing the search area, as officials can then use data on currents to backtrack to where the plane hit the water, and where the flight recorders may be.
Beacons in the black boxes emit "pings" so they can be more easily found, but the batteries last for only about a month.
Officials have said the hunt for the wreckage is among the hardest ever undertaken, and will get much harder still if the beacons fall silent before they are found.
"Where we're at right now, four weeks since this plane disappeared, we're much, much closer," said aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com. "But frustratingly, we're still miles away from finding it. We need to find some piece of debris on the water; we need to pick up the ping."
If it doesn't happen, the only hope for finding the plane may be a full survey of the Indian Ocean floor, an operation that would take years and an enormous international operation.
Hishammuddin said there were no new satellite images or data that can provide new leads for searchers. The focus now is fully on the ocean search, he said.
Two ships — the Australian navy's Ocean Shield and the British HMS Echo — carrying sophisticated equipment that can hear the recorders' pings returned Saturday to an area investigators hope is close to where the plane went down. They concede the area they have identified is a best guess.
Up to 13 military and civilian planes and nine other ships took part in the search Saturday, the Australian agency coordinating the search said.
Because the U.S. Navy's pinger locator can pick up signals to a depth of 6,100 meters (20,000 feet), it should be able to hear the plane's data recorders even if they are in the deepest part of the search zone — about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet). But that's only if the locator gets within range of the black boxes — a tough task, given the size of the search area and the fact that the pinger locator must be dragged slowly through the water at just 1 to 5 knots (1 to 6 mph).
Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the joint agency coordinating the operation, acknowledged the search area was essentially a best guess, and noted the time when the plane's locator beacons would shut down was "getting pretty close."
The overall search area is a 217,000-square-kilometer (84,000-square-mile) zone in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,700 kilometers (1,100 miles) northwest of the western Australian city of Perth.
Categories: News

Roll Call: Votes in Congress

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 11:01
Here’s how North Carolina members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending April 4.
GOP CHANGES TO HEALTH LAW: By a vote of 248 for and 179 against, the House on April 3 passed a Republican bill (HR 2575) to raise from 30 to 40 the number of hours worked each week, on average, to meet the Affordable Care Act’s definition of “full-time employee.” The definition is important because under the ACA, companies with at least 50 employees become subject next year to financial penalties based on the number of full-time workers (or “full-time equivalents”) they fail to insure with health policies that meet ACA standards for breadth of coverage, affordability and other criteria. By contrast, companies face no health-insurance obligations under the ACA for part-time employees. By redefining “full-time” to exclude individuals working 30-to-39 hours per week, the bill reduces the number of employees entitled to company-provided coverage. And this, in turn, would reduce the sum total of financial penalties paid by companies for violating the ACA’s employer mandate.
Supporters said the bill would protect paychecks by removing an incentive for employers to reduce hours in order to avoid ACA penalties. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would cause about one million people to lose employer-provided health coverage each year while increasing budget deficits by $73.7 billion over 10 years as a result, in part, of employers paying fewer penalties for violating the employer mandate.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to die.
Voting yes: Republicans Renee Ellmers, Walter Jones, Virginia Foxx, Howard Coble, Richard Hudson, Robert Pittenger, Patrick McHenry, Mark Meadows and George Holding and Democrat Mike McIntyre
Voting no: Democrats G.K. Butterfield and David Price
GENDER BIAS, PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: Voting 191 for and 232 against, the House on April 3 defeated a Democratic bid to bar HR 2575 (above) from taking effect if it would repeal popular Affordable Care Act features such as the law’s bans on gender discrimination and coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions.
A yes vote was to keep the Affordable Care Act intact.
Voting yes: Butterfield, Price
Voting no: Ellmers, Jones, Foxx, Coble, McIntyre, Hudson, Pittenger, McHenry, Meadows, Holding
U.S. SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE: Voting 378 for and 34 against, the House on April 1 sent the White House a bill (HR 4152) authorizing at least $50 million in direct U.S. aid to Ukraine for purposes such as strengthening its governmental and civic institutions and helping it prepare for elections this year. The bill also approves $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for Ukraine; provides $100 million to promote political and economic reforms in eastern and central Europe; expands and codifies U.S. economic sanctions on Russian leaders and financial institutions and empowers the U.S. departments of State and Justice to help Ukraine recover assets allegedly stolen by Viktor Yanukovych, its recently ousted president. The bill cuts U.S. aid to Pakistan to pay for itself.
A yes vote was to send the bill to President Obama.
Voting yes: Butterfield, Ellmers, Price (NC), Foxx, Coble, McIntyre, Hudson, Pittenger, McHenry, Meadows
Voting no: Jones, Holding
“DYNAMIC SCORING” BUDGET DOCTRINE: Voting 224 for and 182 against, the House on April 4 passed a GOP bill (HR 1874) requiring the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to add “dynamic scoring” to its tools for forecasting the impact of proposed legislation on U.S. economic growth. A tenet of supply-side economics, dynamic scoring holds that tax and spending cuts always pay for themselves by stimulating economic activity. But the CBO, reflecting the views of mainstream economists, does not recognize dynamic scoring as empirically valid, and instead uses what is known as “static scoring” to forecast economic impacts.
A yes vote was to send the bill to the Senate, where it is likely to die.
Voting yes: Ellmers, Jones, Foxx, McIntyre, Hudson, Pittenger, McHenry, Meadows, Holding
Voting no: Butterfield, Price
Not voting: Coble
EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Voting 61 for and 35 against, the Senate on April 3 advanced a bipartisan bill (HR 3979) to restore jobless benefits that expired in late December for millions of the long-term unemployed. The bill would be retroactive to Dec. 28 and last through May 31. A final vote on the bill was to be held the following week.
A yes vote was to advance the bill toward a final vote the following week.
Voting yes: Democrat Kay Hagan
Voting no: Republican Richard Burr
In the week of April 7, the House will take up a budget resolution authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., while the Senate will conduct a final vote on a bill to provide extended jobless benefits.
Categories: News

Buddy's Home Furnishings open in Hendersonville

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 03:01
Buddy's Home Furnishings has opened a ninth North Carolina store in Hendersonville, offering top brands in furniture, electronics and appliances, as part of a continued global expansion.
Located near Bi-Lo in Henderson Crossing Plaza off Four Seasons Boulevard, Buddy's opened its doors last month with popular brands such as Ashley Furniture, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Dell, Acer, Whirlpool, Amana and Maytag. A grand opening is scheduled for May 3, during which the store is giving away a 42-inch LG flat-screen television.
According to the Tampa, Fla.-based company, Buddy's plans to continue its growth trajectory, through a combination of corporate expansion, franchising and acquisitions. Future stores and territories are being developed in the U.S. and internationally, including 14 scheduled store openings in six states over the next 90 days, the company said.
Alex Melvin is the franchise owner/operator overseeing the Hendersonville location.
“My wife and I lived in Asheville about 10 years ago — we got married at the Biltmore Estate — and we always wanted to move back to the Western North Carolina area,” Melvin said. “We found Buddy's, and then we needed to find a spot and we ended up in Hendersonville and we just love the area, so we're lucky enough to find a good location here, and we're real happy to bring Buddy's to the area.”
The third-largest rental purchase company in the industry behind Rent-A-Center and Aaron's, according to the company, Buddy's was founded in Tampa in 1961 by Norman “Slat” Slatton Sr. Buddy's served the demands of the growing Tampa Bay area before expanding throughout Florida and southern Georgia. Currently, Buddy's has 173 stores operating in 19 states from coast to coast, as well as in Guam and Panama.
For consumers, the Buddy's Advantage program includes two-, four- or up to six-month same-as-cash purchasing plans and convenient and flexible lease ownership programs. The company said it offers instant approval and no credit needed, and everyone is pre-approved to receive up to $2,500 in-store credit to use toward the purchase of any products that Buddy's carries.
The store also offers free delivery and set-up.
Buddy's (828-697-8955, www.buddyrents.com) is located at 116 Henderson Crossing Plaza. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Categories: News

Community Briefs: April 5

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 03:01
BRCLL to hold presentation on area ‘treasures’
Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning at Blue Ridge Community College will hold a presentation on some of the area’s local treasures — the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and the North Carolina Arboretum. The presentation will be held from 1-3 p.m. Wednesday in Patton Building Room 150, 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock.
In the first part of the presentation, presenter Ron Partin will explore the legacy of Carl Sandburg’s life from his roots in Illinois through his “retirement” years in Flat Rock. Partin, a long-time volunteer at Connemara, will answer the 50 questions visitors most frequently ask during his popular tours.
North Carolina Arboretum Volunteer Coordinator Lynne Garrison will showcase the arboretum’s history and organization, mission, gardens, education programs and volunteer opportunities.
The cost is $20 per person. Interested participants should preregister at www.brcll.com or call the Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning at 828-694-1740.
Turkey season opens</b.
The statewide spring season for wild turkeys — male and bearded turkeys only — opens Saturday with a one-week youth season that lasts through Friday. The season for all hunters opens Saturday and continues through May 10.
During youth season, only turkey hunting by youths younger than 16 is allowed. Each youth must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old. The adult may accompany more than one youth during a particular hunt and the adult cannot harvest a turkey.
Each youth must have a Big Game Harvest Report Card and report harvest. License-exempt youth should report their harvest using a Big Game Harvest Report Card for License-Exempt hunters. The daily limit is one and the possession and season limit is two per hunter.
For more information on turkey hunting regulations and public places to hunt, visit the Commission’s Hunting page. To learn more, visitwww.ncwildlife.org.
Events
Blue Ridge Community College presents the ninth annual Kehr Lecture Series featuring pioneering permaculture teacher, designer, and consultant Chuck Marsh at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Thomas Auditorium, 180 W. Campus Drive, Flat Rock. The event is free and open to the public. Info: 828-694-1743.
The Brevard-Hendersonville Parkinson's Support Group will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the fellowship hall at Brevard-Davidson River Presbyterian Church, 249 E. Main St., Brevard. Contact The Brengels at 685-7673 or the Edens at 862-8820 for information.
Hands On! will hold “Lego Ramp Revamp!” all day Tuesday at 318 N. Main St., Hendersonville. All ages. Thanks to Hendersonville Pediatrics, the Lego ramp has some new additions. Free with $5 admission/free for members. Info: 828-697-8333
The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority invites nonprofit organizations to apply for advertising funding through the grant program. All applicants must attend the grant workshop at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Henderson County Public Library's Kaplan Auditorium, 301 N. Washington St., Hendersonville. Organizations that do not attend will not be eligible for a grant.
For more information, contact the Visitor Information Center at 828-693-9708.
Categories: News

The 47th Times-News meet boasts field of nearly 700

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 21:08
Categories: News