Locked up, but not forgotten

Twelve years ago, Israeli Mordechai Vanunu blew the whistle on his country’s secret nuclear-weapons program. Since then, he’s been in solitary confinement in a 6-by-9 windowless cell. But a published letter from his adoptive parents here in the U.S. reports that he was recently allowed to “see the blue sky, green grass in the prison courtyard, and mingle with other prisoners.”

Vanunu’s parents, however, are worried that Mordechai has been forgotten by the very people he was trying to help — namely, the rest of the world — and are asking that any concerned citizens write to him. “He is a gentle human being totally committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons throughout the world,” the letter states, adding, “He is consumed by the righteousness of his actions, which he has said he would do … again.”

They caution, however, that Vanunu may not be able to answer letters promptly — or at all.

Vanunu’s address is: Mordechai Vanunu, P.O. Box 17, Shikma Prison, Askelon, Israel. An air-mail letter to Israel costs 60 cents.

Elementary, my dear Asheville

Sample the masterly mystique of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ace detective, Sherlock Holmes, in three films to be shown in Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium, on successive Tuesdays. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death will be shown Dec. 1; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes a week later, on Dec. 8; and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” on Dec. 15.

Presented by film critic, author and gardener extraordinaire Peter Loewer, the films not only give us some of the finest versions of Holmes ever put on film, but are also interesting — some would say essential — for their early-20th century “B” movie qualities, back when a “B” movie merely meant a second feature, rather than a poorly made film. Atmosphere, character and cleverly twisting plots are the important factors here, rather than action and special effects.

Loewer began his involvement with movies as a child — when, on a train trip to Niagara Falls, his parents took him to see The Gracie Allen Murder Case. Three years later, seeing Bette Davis plant daffodils in Now, Voyager sparked a fascination with plants in the movies that eventually led him to become a leading gardener and garden writer.

For more information, contact Rob Neufeld at 250-4715, or Peter Loewer at 252-9143.

WCU on the move

Western Carolina University in Cullowhee recently received two grants supporting the university’s programs in chemistry, physics and the arts.

The N.C. General Assembly approved a $2.5 million appropriation for the planned Fine and Performing Arts Center, allowing the university to begin site preparation by extending electrical service, water, steam lines, sewer and storm drainage, and the campus fiber-optic data network to the area. “Getting this center completed remains extremely important,” said WCU Chancellor John W. Pardo. “The center will be a major educational resource for this region and for the state, and … a public resource for economic, cultural and community development.”

The planned 122,000 square-foot facility will include a 1,000 seat theater able to accommodate national- and international-caliber productions. The center will serve as a training ground for students seeking careers in music, theater, art and creative writing.

Meanwhile, the departments of chemistry and physics received $90,000 from the National Science Foundation, to help undergraduate students conduct research using the environmentally friendly techniques of “green” chemistry. The grant, matched by funds from the university, will allow the purchase of a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (similar to the MRI equipment used in hospitals). The $180,000 instrument is expected to be operational by the end of the spring semester, enabling the chemistry department to augment its focus on “green” chemistry. This will help graduates seeking employment in a field that is increasingly emphasizing environmentally sound ways of doing business.

For more information, contact Jim Rowell or Bill Studenc at 227-7327.

World AIDS Day

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 191 countries around the world will observe the 11th annual World AIDS Day. Local events will include:

• Saturday, Nov. 28, 6-8 p.m., an educational forum at the Pisgah View Center;

• Sunday, Nov. 29, prayer services at various area churches;

• Tuesday, Dec. 1, 7-8:30 p.m., the Sixth Annual Interfaith Healing Services, at Kenilworth Presbyterian Church;

• Tuesday, Dec. 1, 9 p.m., a candlelight vigil at City/County Plaza in Asheville;

• additional activities will include ribbon campaigns in area schools and colleges, the creation of luminarias, a paper quilt, and educational presentations by HIV-positive speakers, as well as proclamations by the Buncombe County Commissioners and the Asheville City Council.

For information on how to get involved, how to schedule a program or speaker, or for any other information you might need, contact Lori Thornton at 252-7489.

Retail, the old-fashioned way

The Mast General Store has a pedigree few retail chains can claim: It’s been in business since 1883, and it still showcases the best of the old ways.

At Preservation North Carolina’s annual conference, held recently in Flat Rock, the store received the L.Vincent Lowe Jr. Business Award, which recognizes businesses making special efforts to promote historic preservation in North Carolina.

What’s so great about Mast? It’s helped preserve the living tradition of the old general store, serving the needs of both the local population and the tourists traveling in the mountains. The store’s several locations are all housed in buildings dating from the first third of the century, now restored to near-original condition.

“Part of our mission is to preserve a way of doing business that has fallen by the wayside,” said a store representative. “It could be said that we’re not only preserving the architecture of a bygone era, but also propagating the customer service from that same time.”

For more information, call Sheri Jayne Moretz or Duane Woolbright at 963-6511.

— ceaselessly compiled by Paul Schattel

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