Celebrate equality

For more than 200 years, American women shared half the load of building a nation, without having the right to vote (or, for that matter, any direct voice in running the nation). But that changed with the passage of the Suffrage Act for Women in 1920 — a milestone in the fight for women’s rights. Aug. 26 marks the 79th anniversary of that event, and the Western North Carolina Women’s Coalition — whose members include women leaders from government, business and local nonprofits — is hosting a celebration.

An Equality Day ’99 luncheon will be held on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at the Radisson Hotel in Asheville; the keynote speaker will be attorney Leslie T. Thornton, who is chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. Besides advising the secretary of education on policy, management and political matters, Thornton is the department’s chief legal adviser on administrative appeals. The author of many articles on educational issues, she will speak on “Education — The Ultimate Equalizer.”

Attendance is $20; pre-registration is required.

For more information, call the Women’s Coalition at 687-0192 or 254-7732.

Rail renaissance

Besides being an atmospheric, relatively efficient mode of travel, trains have figured significantly in the history of Western North Carolina. In recent decades, rail service has been slowly dying out, displaced by a reliance on cars, trucks and air travel. But now the tide is turning: The state Department of Transportation has just approved more than $2 million to expand passenger rail service to such WNC destinations as Statesville, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Black Mountain, Old Fort and Asheville.

The funds, part of a $515 million initiative to improve rail service and rail safety across the state, come from the DOT’s ongoing Transportation Improvement Program, which targets rail service as ‘pivotal to our state’s continued economic vitality.’ In a prepared statement, Transportation Secretary David McCoy said, “These funds will not only improve safety for rail passengers, but will enhance existing service and decrease travel time — making the state’s rail system a viable and competitive transportation choice for everyone, from commuters to tourists.”

Most of the money will fund projects linking Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh — such as extending double-track sections, straightening curves, and even installing tilt-trains. But WNC will receive operating funds to begin passenger rail service. Among other things, that means building a [new train] station in Asheville, to be completed in fiscal year 2002.

George Vanderbilt arrived in Asheville by train — pretty soon, you can, too.

Waste not, want not

As we grapple with increasingly difficult environmental issues, it’s also important to recognize a job well done. That happened recently when the North Carolina Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America gave the Buncombe County General Services Department the 1999 Gold Award for best integrated solid-waste program.

“The county has instituted one of the most comprehensive recycling and waste-reduction programs in North Carolina,” proclaims SWANA’s announcement. “It was the first county in the state to mandate the recycling of commercially generated cardboard, and provides separate facilities for the collection and recycling of used motor oil, car batteries, appliances, wood waste and common household recyclables.” In addition, “the county routinely conducts public outreach and education programs, and networks with the communities’ environmental groups.”

General Services Director Bob Hunter accepted the award in Wilmington late last month, saying, “The citizens of Buncombe County have tremendous respect for the environment, and the county has worked hard over the past 10 years to build a solid-waste program that puts environmental protection as the first priority while maintaining competitive program costs. We believe that we’ve built a model solid-waste program that our citizens demand, deserve — and can be proud of.”

For more information, call Joe Wiseman of SWANA at (919) 787-5620.

Beware these scams

Scam artists have always been with us, but the specifics of the ruses they use to get your money keep changing. The July 1999 issue of the American Association of Retired Persons newsletter details two new scams being used to take money from the pockets of Western North Carolinians (especially senior citizens). In the first, one or more individuals appear at a homeowner’s door, claiming to be inspectors. They often tell the homeowner that there’s a problem with their water, gas or electrical service and that they are there to fix it. No work is done, but they collect payment anyway, and sometimes even show up several days later to “fix” another problem.

The second is a credit-card scam that plays on Y2K fears. Someone telephones, asking whether your credit card has a special red dot and claiming that only credit cards with the special dot are Y2K-compliant. After you discover that your card doesn’t have a dot, the caller asks for your credit-card number, so that computer programmers can “fix” your account. The next thing you know, your card number has been used to make unauthorized purchases.

To head off these scams, AARP advises phoning the agency the caller claims to represent, to verify the claims, and not letting anyone inside your home until their claims have been confirmed.

To learn more, contact the American Association of Retired Persons, North Carolina Chapter, at 4419 Cobb Ave., Morganton, NC 28655.

Downsizing Greenland

Which is larger: Africa or Greenland? For centuries, it’s been hard to tell, due to the distorted picture given by the maps used in schools, libraries and boardrooms everywhere. According to the Mercator projection — the view most of us have used since it was created to help ships navigate in 1569 — Africa and Greenland are roughly equal in size. But in fact, Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland.

Historian/cartographer Dr. Arno Peters, dissatisfied with the Mercator map’s inaccuracies, decided to create a map that more correctly reflected the relative size of the Earth’s land masses. The Peters Projection Map, created in 1983, is now used in classrooms and corporate training programs to expand people’s understanding of how the world really is. “When folks first see the map, they’re shocked by the limiting assumptions of their old world view,” observes management consultant Dr. Bob Abramms, adding, “If all I thought to be true about the Earth is distorted in shape and size, what other mistaken assumptions am I carrying?”

The Peters Projection Map will be on display in downtown Asheville’s World Market Place, a nonprofit shop dedicated to enhancing global awareness while ensuring fair payment for Third World artisans. Through Aug. 26, free postcards of the map will be given to all customers; larger maps and informational packets are available for purchase.

To learn more, or to get a copy of the map, call 254-8374, or visit the World Market Place at 10 College St.

— Cresylically compiled by Paul Schattel

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