Buzzworm news briefs

Power to the people

If the World War III turns out to be an amorphous battle with a tactic labeled “terrorism,” then what might be the fourth? Award-winning filmmakers Richard Rowley and Jacqueline Soohen (Zapatista, Black and Gold, This Is What Democracy Looks Like) have been to the front lines in Argentina, Korea, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine and South Africa — as well as the streets of Genoa, Quebec City, Seattle and New York — and filed a report.

The Fourth World War is their documentary film about the human struggle against the forces of globalization, corporate power and the military muscle being used to impose a new economic order on the planet. This is the story of peasants forced off land into Latin American maquiladoras, trade unionists losing work in Seoul, corporate downsizing in the United States, post-apartheid racial repression in South Africa, Palestinian disenfranchisement and ubiquitous environmental destruction. In each case, the scenario is the same: workers forced into lower-paying jobs by transnational companies in tandem with neoliberal governments backed by police power. This film hopscotches around the world, making the similarity between people, issues, ruling elites and enforcement tactics crystal clear. The war is global. The stakes are critical.

Mountain Eye Media and The Fine Arts Theatre will present the Asheville premiere of The Fourth World War at 7 and 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, as a benefit for the Asheville Global Report and the filmmakers. Advance tickets ($5-$20) are available through the Fine Arts Theatre, Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe and Mountain Eye Media.

For info, phone 254-5580.

— Cecil Bothwell

Help is available to go green

If you’re a farmer or the owner of a small business in a rural area and would like to develop a renewable energy project — or make energy-efficiency improvements — you might be eligible for a government grant that would cover up to 25 percent of the costs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that $22.8 million in grants will be available this year for these types of projects through the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Grant Program.

The five-year program, which began last year, awarded more than $21 million to 114 applicants. The following types of projects received funds in 2003: 35 incorporating wind power; 30 involving anaerobic digesters; six incorporating solar power; and 16 using ethanol plants/anaerobic digesters, direct combustion and fuel-pellet systems.

Eligible renewable energy projects include those that derive energy from a wind, solar, biomass or geothermal source, as well as hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar, or geothermal energy sources. Energy-efficiency projects include installing or upgrading equipment that results in a significant energy reduction.

This year, the minimum grant size has been lowered to $2,500 (from $10,000 last year) so that smaller projects can be eligible. The application deadline is Monday, July 19 and applicants must demonstrate financial need.

For more information, call your local USDA Rural Development office or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/farmbill/.

— Lisa Watters

New police chief says door will be open

Asheville has a new police chief: William Hogan, former chief of Rocky Mount, N.C. Asheville City Manager Jim Westbrook announced that Hogan would start work here on June 14. Westbrook, who is charged by the city’s charter with hiring the police chief, chose Hogan after a nine-member panel and feedback from the public helped him winnow some 90 applicants for the job down to two.

Hogan, a 28-year law-enforcement veteran, served as Rocky Mount’s chief for five years; before that, he spent 11 years heading up the Newark, Del., Police Department. He’ll be taking over the APD’s helm from interim Chief Ross Robinson, who’s been filling in since Will Annarino retired at the beginning of this year after a decadelong tenure.

Hogan will inherit a nationally accredited, 231-member police force that has won widespread praise for its community-policing programs. In the last several years, however, the APD’s reputation has been tarnished by allegations of excessive use of force against demonstrators, racial profiling, internal favoritism and corruption, and improper handling of both media relations and citizen complaints.

At an April 19 public Q&A session with the finalists, Hogan stressed his commitment to finding out everything he can about Asheville’s law-enforcement concerns by meeting and talking with all segments of the community.

“I have an open-door policy,” said Hogan. “It’s important to me that citizens have access to me as police chief. I go to quite a few community meetings. … Every time I talk to a group, I leave my phone number.”

Asked how he would treat minorities and protesters, Hogan noted that Rocky Mount’s population is about 50 percent black, and its police force is now about 17 percent black. He expressed support for affirmative action and hiring bilingual officers, and he condemned racial profiling. Hogan also strongly encouraged organizers of protests to meet with him ahead of time.

“It is critically important to talk about parameters” before a demonstration takes place, he emphasized.

— Steve Rasmussen

The flowering of spiritual activism

There’s more to activism than marching permits and signs — especially when it comes to matters of the spirit.

An upcoming workshop (Sunday, June 6, 1-6 p.m.) presented by Asheville-based nonprofit organization Holy Ground aims to delve into those more ethereal dimensions.

“Our hope for the workshop is that … participants will find ways to ground themselves in their inner landscape and their beliefs, their values, their spiritual posture, and from that place of grounding and compassion, be in the world as activists … working for the communal good,” suggests Holy Ground Director Sandra Smith.

Claudia Horwitz will lead the workshop, titled “Spiritual Activism: How We Live Liberation.” Horwitz is the founding director of a Durham-based nonprofit (stone circles) that works to sustain political activists and strengthen their work for justice by promoting spiritual practices and principles. She’s also the author of the 2002 book, The Spiritual Activist: Practices to Transform Your Life, Your Work, and Your World.

Horwitz plans to focus on such questions as “How do we find our way through suffering to a place of liberation, both individually and collectively?” and “What is required to strengthen the relationship between inner and outer work in ourselves, our community work, and the world around us?”

Women and men of all faith perspectives are welcome to attend the workshop, to be held at the Common Light Meeting Place in Black Mountain.

The workshop costs $45/person. For details (including directions), call Holy Ground at 236-0222. For more info on Holy Ground, check out www.holygroundretreats.org.

— Tracy Rose

Bizworm

Have bike, will deliver

Sometimes small is better.

“I’m half the price of FedEx, 10 times as fast. My response time is nothing; call me and I’m at your door,” promises Chris King of his one-man bicycle-courier service, Light Speed Delivery.

This new Asheville business delivers anywhere within the city limits, explains King — going as far north as Woodfin, as far east as Oteen, as far south as Biltmore Forest, and as far west as the Haywood Road/Patton Avenue intersection.

While most of his work so far has been delivering time-sensitive documents for lawyers and financial institutions, King says his service can also take on more everyday errands: picking up dry cleaning, returning library books, delivering lunch, dropping off payments and more — anything that can save his clients time.

For King, riding a bike is more than a job: It’s pure joy. “I love to ride my bike; I love to warp time,” he enthuses. “When something has to be across town in three minutes and it’s a six-minute ride, I love that!”

A bike messenger in Boston for a number of years, King looked for similar work when he hit Asheville. It was when he was unable to find a courier service in town with a bicycle element that he decided to start his own business.

King says he moved here with his wife, Amy, to raise their 5-year old son, Cadence. “We have a lot of friends here raising their families, eating healthy food, trying to live a good life,” explains King. “There seemed like a lot of opportunities … to make a life here.”

Speed and cost-efficiency aren’t the only benefits of bicycle delivery, notes King, pointing out the yellow haze that often hovers above Asheville. It’s also ecologically and environmentally friendly.

“Even if only a fraction of in-town deliveries were done by bicycle, we would all enjoy a dramatic improvement in the air quality of Asheville,” King declares.

For more information, call Light Speed Deliveries at 275-0269.

— Lisa Watters

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