06wilkie robertRobert Wilkie, who grew up in Fayetteville the son of an injured Vietnam War combat veteran, is the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate confirmed 55-year-old Wilkie by a vote of 86-9.

“Robert Wilkie is the right man for the job,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Wilkie, who worked as an aide to North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillies and others and at the Department of Defense under two Republican Party presidents, is the most prominent North Carolinian in President Donald Trump’s administration. Wilkie is a reserve officer in the Air Force and previously served in the Navy reserve.

Wilkie replaces David Shulkin, who was fired in late March. Wilkie, who had been appointed as interim director, was then picked for the permanent post in May.

Reducing suicide is a major objective of the Veterans Affairs

Suicide prevention is now the VA’s highest priority for the nation’s 20 million veterans, 2 million of them women, according to a VA National Suicide Data Report released last month.

An estimated 20 veterans and as many as four active-duty service members killed themselves each day in 2015, the last year for which detailed information was available. Male veterans were 1.3 times more likely than non-veteran adult men to commit suicide, the report said. Female veterans were twice as likely as non-veteran adult women to kill themselves.

Fayetteville is a little smarter

Durham and Chapel Hill won’t mind sharing this title: Together they rank among the top five most educated cities in the nation. Durham-Chapel Hill was considered a single metropolitan area and ranked the fourth-most-educated of the 150 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas included in a recent WalletHub study.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, easily retained its position from last year as the smartest U.S. city.

The ranking process considered educational attainment and quality and racial and gender education gaps.

Other North Carolina cities deemed more educated this year included Fayetteville (from 102nd to 89th) and Greensboro-High Point (106th to 100th). Raleigh improved from 15th last year to 13th in this year’s report. Asheville surpassed Charlotte as it made the biggest leap forward out of North Carolina cities in the ranking, from 62nd in 2017 to 30th in 2018. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia showed considerable improvement, jumping from No. 71 in 2017 to No. 54 this year.

Winston-Salem slipped in the ranking, from 101st to 116th, as did Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, from 143rd to 145th.

Hot Car Safety

As people are enjoying summertime activities and vacation, it’s a good time to remember some important safety tips while out in the heat. July is typically the deadliest month for children being left in hot cars. But August weather is equally hot and humid. In North Carolina from 1990 to 2017, 33 infants and children died after being left unattended in hot vehicles.

To help reduce the chances of this happening, the North Carolina Department of Transportation advised motorists to “look before locking.” Get into the habit of checking the back seats before locking the vehicle and walking away. Women can place their purses in the back seats when they put children in their car seats. Keep keys out of children’s reach. The DMV says nearly three in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle.

These safety tips also apply when traveling with pets. A dog can die of heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

Arts grant awarded to film festival

GroundSwell Pictures, a Fayetteville 501(c) (3) nonprofit, has received a grant in the amount of $6,400 from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County in support of the Indigo Moon Film Festival 2018. Indigo Moon is an annual festival bringing in films and filmmakers from around the world for a three-day event in October. This year, the festival will take place Oct. 12-14.

Four venues in downtown Fayetteville show films to audiences. The festival includes an opening night film and reception as well as an awards banquet and encore showings of the winning films.

“GroundSwell Pictures is honored to have received these funds which will help support this exciting cultural arts festival,” according to Board President Pat Wright.

“The Arts Council is proud to partner with GroundSwell Pictures in support of Indigo Moon Film Festival,” said Deborah Martin Mintz, Arts Council executive director.

The Arts Council’s Project Support Grants for 2018-19 will help fund 23 projects facilitated by 20 nonprofit organizations.

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