Buzzworm news briefs

Amy, what you gonna do?

Award-winning broadcast journalist Amy Goodman is headed for Asheville. The host of Pacifica Radio’s highly acclaimed news show Democracy Now, Goodman has seen her reputation steadily rise over the past two years.

“Amy Goodman is one of the most important journalists working in the United States today,” proclaims Wally Bowen, executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, which is sponsoring Goodman’s appearance here. “Through her daily news show, Democracy Now, she is able to ask the hard questions that our nation and democracy require from true ‘watchdog’ journalism,” added Bowen.

Goodman is touring in support of her new book, The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them. And on Friday, Sept. 3, the journalist will headline an 8 p.m. benefit for MAIN and its nonprofit, low-power radio station, WPVM 103.5, which regularly airs Goodman’s show.

Goodman believes there’s a growing need for independent media because corporate journalism has increasingly abdicated its investigative, watchdog role: holding government and corporate power accountable to the people. The benefit will also include an excerpt from the documentary film Independent Media in a Time of War.

The acclaimed broadcaster has received the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Silver Baton, the Radio/Television News Directors Award and the George Polk Award, plus awards from the Associated Press, United Press International and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Seating is limited. Advance tickets to the event are available at the MAIN office (34 Wall St., Suite 407) in downtown Asheville. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door. Admission is $10 ($5 for students and MAIN subscribers who buy their tickets in advance).

For more information, call MAIN at 255-0182, or visit www.wpvm.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

Scholarships reward volunteerism

Some scholarships reward athleticism; others favor academic performance. The local Sherrill/Forney Scholarship, however, focuses on a student’s history of community service and volunteerism.

Two $500 scholarships — to be awarded by the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council — are available to Buncombe County residents who are graduating high-school seniors (or previous graduates) interested in continuing their education. The scholarships can be put toward the cost of post-high-school education, including trade school, community college or university study.

An essay and two letters of recommendation are required. The information must be received in the Community Relations Council office by Thursday, Sept. 16.

The scholarships are in memory of the late Phyllis Sherrill and the late Gladys Forney, who devoted themselves both to the community and the Community Relations Council.

Last year, Kenneth Allen of North Buncombe High School and Serena Love of Asheville High School were the first students to be awarded the scholarships.

This year’s scholarships will be presented at the Sherrill/Forney Scholarship Gala, to be held Friday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

For scholarship applications, gala tickets or more info, call Carolyn Stanberry at the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council (252-4713).

— Tracy Rose

Voting from prison

Contrary to popular opinion, inmates of North Carolina prisons can vote — as long as they were convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony. Here’s how:

Like all voters, prisoners must first register. This can be done by mail, using a form that’s available at the local board of elections office, a public library or online (at www.sboe.state.nc.us).

The voter-registration form asks “where you now live.” Voters who’ll be incarcerated on Election Day should use their prison address; others should list the address where they’ll be living after completing their sentence.

Applicants should mail the completed form to the board of elections in the county where they’ll be voting, along with a copy of a valid N.C. driver’s license or the last four digits of their Social Security number. Prisoners who don’t have either of those documents should include a copy of an alternative valid photo ID or a copy of one of the following documents that shows their name and address: a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document.

The registration form must be received at least 25 days before the election. (To vote this Nov. 2, the form must be postmarked by Oct. 8.) The board of elections will then send a card to the address given, showing the name of the registrant’s precinct and where to go to vote — the “polling place.”

Prisoners who know they’ll be unable to vote in person should include a signed, written request for an absentee ballot at the same time they send in their voter-registration form.

It’s also important to note that while felons in North Carolina temporarily lose their citizenship rights, including the right to vote, after they complete all terms of their sentence (including parole, probation and restitution), those rights are automatically restored. New registration, however, is then required.

For more information, call toll-free (888) OUR-VOTE, visit www.sboe.state.nc.us, or write to: State Board of Elections, P.O. Box 27255, Raleigh, NC 27611-7255.

— Lisa Watters

WCU and A-B Tech in hot water

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $420,000 grant to a local project that aims to create a prototype for a new kind of multifunction, energy-efficient water heater.

Faculty and students at both Western Carolina University and A-B Tech will team up with American Carolina Stamping, an Etowah manufacturing company, to develop a control system combining elements of a home dehumidifier and a water heater. Preliminary tests conducted by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (which initiated the project) have shown energy savings of about 50 percent when the system is used with heat-pump water heaters. (These little-known devices are expected to move into the mainstream since they consume one-half to one-third as much electricity as a typical electric water heater).

If the project determines that the product is marketable, American Carolina will begin manufacturing the systems, which would be shipped to a major water-heater manufacturer. Spokespersons for both schools touted the collaboration as an example of how education and government funding can boost employment and business opportunities in the region.

— Cecil Bothwell

Keever collects blog bucks

Across the country, pundits and politicos are suddenly debating the true impact of America’s newest form of electoral broadside: the Web log, or blog. Every day, thousands of politically minded bloggers are posting their questions, comments, findings and rants on their personal Web pages, bringing a whole new set of voices into local and national policy debates. The buzz about blogs reached a fever pitch during the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where top bloggers were given press credentials and hailed as a boon for grassroots democracy. But to what extent are blogs actually helping shape the political landscape?

For Asheville resident Patsy Keever, the question is far from academic. As the Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, she’s seeking to unseat seven-term incumbent Rep. Charles Taylor. And Keever has recently become the beneficiary of what might be called “blog bucks” — campaign donations collected via cyberspace.

This summer, “Atrios” — a pioneer blogger from Philadelphia, whose popular site averages 90,000 hits per day — began endorsing a few hand-picked candidates for Congress and posting links to a Web site called ActBlue, where his readers can make donations directly to the candidates.

On Aug. 5, Atrios announced his second endorsement: Patsy Keever. After referring readers to a profile of Keever from EMILY’s List, the Democratic women’s network that’s also backing the candidate, Atrios urged his readers to donate to her campaign. And putting his money where his mouth was, he pledged, “I’m in for 50.”

At press time, 139 Atrios readers had taken his advice, donating a total of $5,497.58 to Keever’s campaign. (A quick check online did not uncover any bloggers funneling donations to the Taylor campaign, which did not return this reporter’s call.)

The day after Atrios posted his rallying cry for Keever, the candidate got some more good news from the blogosphere. Several times this summer, Democracy for America, former presidential candidate Howard Dean’s new political action committee, has issued a sort of high-priority endorsement called “Dean’s Dozen.” On Aug. 6, Keever made Dean’s list, and his organization’s Blog for America published a guest column by Betsy Keever, the candidate’s daughter and campaign manager. Betsy used the opportunity to introduce Dean’s millions of supporters to “My Mother, the Candidate.”

Keever the candidate, meanwhile, says she was something near shocked when one of her staffers informed her that blog money was flowing into the campaign’s coffers. “I’m not very blog-savvy,” she admitted with a chuckle. “I didn’t know what a blog was until a few months ago.”

But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t happy about the news. “We’re delighted when anybody wants to get involved in this campaign and bring about change,” she said about the Web donations. The Internet is very important to her campaign, acknowledged Keever, adding, “We’ve learned this from Howard Dean, who energized the voters and the people like me who are running for office.”

Still, Keever says the core work of her campaign is happening on the ground, not in cyberspace. “I’m just staying focused on trying to get out and meet the voters and talk to people. I don’t spend a whole lot of time on the Web myself.”

Atrios’ Web address is www.atrios.blogspot.com. Democracy for America’s blog can be found at www.blogforamerica.com.

— Jon Elliston

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