Hate at home

One of the scariest things the U.S. faces in the coming millennium is the prospect of domestic terrorism. Apart from a few high-profile cases, such as the Oklahoma bombing, most of this century’s terrorist activity has taken place beyond our borders. In late March, however, the Asheville Police Department and Western Carolina University will co-host a day-long conference on domestic terrorism.

As the first major activity of WCU’s proposed Public Policy Institute, the conference will focus on environmental terrorism, chemical and biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction, with national and state experts sharing preparedness strategies, response technologies and related information. The conference is designed for both first-line emergency responders — police, fire and medical personnel — and the general public.

The scheduled keynote speaker is Neil Gallagher, assistant director of the FBI, who will be introduced by U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor. Other scheduled speakers include Bill Nettles, deputy director of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Center in the Southeast; Mike Delorenzo, Federal Emergency Management Administration terrorism coordinator; David Martinez, FBI domestic terrorism coordinator for North Carolina; and Frank Malter, national team leader for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The conference will be held on Wednesday, March 31. Registration is $12, including lunch.

For more info, call Gordon Mercer at 277-7475.

Poisoned love

Perhaps more likely than a mad Carolina bomber — and every bit as scary — is the prospect of your child’s being poisoned by a common household substance. In the U.S. last year, more than a million children under age 5 were exposed to potentially hazardous substances — household cleaners, pesticides, medicines, cosmetics and even certain houseplants.

With that in mind, March 21 to 27 has been declared National Poison Prevention Week; this year’s theme is “Poisons Should be Under Lock and Key.” The none-too-subtle message is that learning about poison prevention — and applying that knowledge — is the best way to keep your child safe. Medicines, cleaners, solvents, pet products and other hazardous materials should be stored in high, locked cabinets and should never be left unattended while in use; and child-resistant containers are always preferable.

The Carolina Poison Center recommends keeping their number by the phone at all times, and being prepared for the unexpected — kids can act amazingly fast. The Center also asks that parents keep a bottle of syrup of ipecac handy, as well as some activated-charcoal powder. Ipecac is used to induce vomiting, and the specially treated charcoal binds poisons, so the body passes them without harm. (This is a special charcoal product — not the usual charcoal briquets or capsules.)

Children are naturally curious and eager to explore their environment: Don’t let that wonderful trait work against them.

To learn more, call Brenda Street, Carolina Poison Center Educator, at (704) 395-3795.

For more information, call …

N.C. residents have long been able to call the state Department of Transportation to find out about current road conditions and get other questions answered. But now, that service has been extended to your Aunt Gladys in Wichita: The DOT’s toll-free, customer-service phone number is up and running, nationwide.

“Many visitors to our state have told me they don’t know where to find answers to their questions,” said N.C. Transportation Secretary Norris Tolson in a recent media release. “This service now provides … visitors from around the country the opportunity to learn about adverse road conditions, how to obtain a N.C. driver’s license or state highway map.”

The customer-service office operates Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; DOT customer-service representatives will try to respond to all questions immediately. If additional information is needed, callers will be directed to the appropriate area, and a response will be forthcoming within 36 hours.

The number to call is 1-877-DOT-4YOU.

For more information, call, er, 1-877-DOT-4YOU.

Grants are for the birds

Thanks to local birders and other nature enthusiasts, the Beaver Lake area is a bird shelter par excellence. Now, there’s even more reason to rejoice: The N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund recently announced a grant of up to $139,700 to the Audubon Society’s Elisha Mitchell chapter, to finance the creation and restoration of wetlands to control the stormwater runoff adjacent to Beaver Lake.

The water-quality problems are originally associated with urban “stormwater,” according to Tom L. Massie, the trust fund’s western field representative. “These problems didn’t occur overnight and will not be solved with this one grant,” he warned in a recent news release, “but [this] represents the initial phase of a long-term effort to begin tackling the stormwater problems of urban communities.”

In response to public concerns about water-quality problems statewide, the General Assembly established the trust fund in 1996, to help finance projects to protect or restore water quality in our fair state’s rivers, creeks, lakes and estuaries. To date, the fund has approved 130 grants, totaling approximately $109 million.

To find out more, call Leonard Pardue at 254-7618.

The U.S. Congress has designated March as Women’s History Month, making this a perfect time to celebrate women’s rich contributions to this country. A good place to start would be the upcoming program and reception sponsored by the Western Carolina Women’s Coalition. The Buncombe County Medical Auxiliary will give a short presentation on the life of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, an Asheville native who was the nation’s first female doctor. State Rep. Martin Nesbitt will be on hand to deliver a special legislative salute to WNC women, and Mayor Leni Sitnick will introduce Nesbitt. Other prominent women holding elective office in the region will also be recognized.

The program — scheduled for Monday, March 15 in Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium, at 11 a.m. — will be free; but contributions are encouraged, and commemorative items will be on sale. The public is invited, and women in rural counties are particularly encouraged to attend.

To learn more, contact Coalition President Vera Holland Guise, at 687-0192.

Singing and sightseeing

There’s something thrilling about the Scandinavian countries: Whether it’s their long, sunlit winters, the culture of such ancient/modern metropolises as Helsinki and Stockholm, or just those incredibly cool windmills, Norway, Sweden and Finland are surely among the more memorable places on Earth. And anyone who’s interested in Scandinavia may want to consider tagging along with the Asheville Choral Society when they travel there early this summer.

Directed by Dr. Robert Keener and hosted by Terri Godfrey, the 15-day “Scandinavian Cultural Arts Tour” will include Bergen’s International Music Festival, fjord cruises, a visit to Edvard Grieg’s summer home, an overnight cruise to Helsinki, and — for singers — five choral performances. While you don’t need to be a singer, vocalists are especially encouraged to join the members of the Asheville Choral Society in forming Scanda ’99. (If you’ve never sung with the group before, be prepared to send a tape showcasing your vocal talents.)

The tone of the tour will be relaxed and congenial, staying several days in the same place. The trip will be particularly flexible, making it ideal for active people — there will be multiple hiking opportunities, for example — as well as those who may prefer a more leisurely pace. The group’s concerts will be given free of charge.

The trip is scheduled for May 27 to June 10.

For more information and prices, contact Robert Keener at 298-5202 (e-mail

— calumniously compiled by Paul Schattel

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