American Red Cross in need

The Greater Carolinas chapter of the American Red Cross put out a call Monday for financial help, saying donations have dropped considerably in recent months.

Red Cross officials say the struggling economy has put a damper on donations, which left a shortfall of almost $500,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

“In spite of the shortfall in donations, our chapter has been able to continue providing these services by tapping into reserves,” said Pam Jefsen, chief executive of the Greater Carolinas chapter. “However, those reserves are very limited, and additional funds are needed this month in order for the Red Cross to be able to continue providing these critical services in our community.”

Jefsen said the Charlotte-based chapter must come up with an extra $400,000 by the end of this month, or the chapter will have to cut services in areas such as disaster preparedness and response.

Those services include providing assistance for families affected by fire or other unusual events.

Donations can be made online at www.redcrosshelps.org, or by calling 704-347-8271.

Donations are tax-deductible. Steve Lyttle

Meck briefs


The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will revisit the question of whether false reporting of family income skews the way the district spends millions of dollars.

Today's meeting will be the second time this month board members have raised questions about how families qualify for lunch subsidies. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, like districts across the country, uses the percent who qualify as a measure of school poverty. That, in turn, shapes everything from teacher assignments to federal aid to penalties for low test scores imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Board member Trent Merchant says the report at the Aug. 12 meeting didn't fully assure him that those spending decisions are based on solid data.

“I don't want to guess, and that's what we're doing now,” said Merchant, who requested a follow-up discussion for today. “Every major funding decision we make is based on free and reduced lunch. If those numbers aren't accurate, we're not being prudent in the way we allocate hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.; it will be broadcast live on CMS-TV Cable 3. Ann Doss Helms

Regional briefs

N.C. government


A new report says N.C. lobbyists who represented real estate agents in a fight against a land transfer tax are among the most influential at the Legislature.

The nonpartisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research released its Top 50 list Monday. The list includes several real estate lobbyists, including the second most influential, John McMillan. The top spot went to contract lobbyist Roger Bone, who works with several groups.

The real estate lobbyists led an unsuccessful fight against a plan approved by lawmakers that allows counties to ask local voters to approve a special real estate tax. Groups representing counties that supported the measure also ranked high on the list.

Rankings are based on surveys from lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters. Associated Press

South Carolina


South Carolina's prisons expect to save $1 million a year in energy and water costs by installing better equipment, drilling new wells and using other conservation tools.

The work is being funded through a $14 million state loan approved Monday by the state Infrastructure Bank.

Prison systems in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are using similar savings programs.

In South Carolina, the plan calls for installing new boilers, drilling wells and using water-saving toilets, sinks and shower fixtures. The contractor has promised the changes will save $1 million a year.

State prison Director Jon Ozmint said the only change inmates should notice is fewer breakdowns in outdated equipment. Associated Press

Officials at the University of South Carolina say the school has received a record $206 million for research for the 2008 fiscal year.

School officials said Monday the 11.3percent increase from last year is an indication that the university's researchers are earning recognition.

One grant included $10.7 million from the National Institutes of Health for studies on the cause, prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer. The university was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support research on levee breach and dam failure.

The university says more than half of the funding came from federal research agencies. Associated Press

Police digest

South Carolina


Authorities say a woman found dead inside her car on an Interstate 26 exit near downtown Columbia was shot in the chest.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says 24-year-old Natasha Warren got a flat tire on Interstate 26 near the Interstate 126 exit as she drove to work Friday night and called a relative for help from a nearby store.

Lott says investigators are trying to figure out what happened between then and Sunday morning, when troopers found Warren's body inside her car.

Deputies say some of Warren's personal belongings were missing.

Lott says investigators are looking for a motive and suspect. Associated Press