The U.S. soldier who died earlier this month in Afghanistan from wounds in a bomb blast was a compassionate leader whose troops say he always encouraged people who are struggling to ask for help. Now those soldiers are grappling with the loss of Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto, 34, from Morovis, Puerto Rico. He was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, the Pentagon said in a statement Friday. He left behind a wife, two sons and a daughter. His family resides in nearby Cameron.
 
Barreto, described as a “mainstay” in his unit by his leadership, died in a Taliban suicide bomb explosion and became the 16th U.S. combat fatality this year in Afghanistan as the Pentagon prepares to draw down its forces there after nearly 18 years of war. “This guy touched so many people’s lives,” a soldier in his company, Sgt. Tylar Sieck, 24, told Stars and Stripes.
 
Barreto taught soldiers it was OK to say when they needed help, Sieck said. “Everyone is trying to act like we’re fine because that’s what we do as paratroopers, but at the end of the day, we know we’re struggling. We’re hurting, I’m hurting.”
This was Barreto’s second deployment to Afghanistan. The U.S. military currently has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, alongside international troops, to advise and assist Afghan defense forces and to fight extremist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida.
 
Local blood products are in short supply
 
The Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center has been short on blood supplies for three months now. The center is open daily at 3357 Village Dr. in the Bordeaux Shopping Center. The local blood bank has been suffering from a critical shortage since June 18, according to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Conway.
The center needs an adequate supply of blood for local patients at Cape Fear Valley. Type O positive and type O negative blood types are especially needed, as they’re currently in short supply. The Cape Fear Valley Blood Donor Center is a community blood program that serves the needs of patients in Cumberland, Hoke and Bladen counties through donations from individual donors, community organizations and businesses. It is open for donations Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Dealing with gerrymandering
 
A three-judge panel recently ruled that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered two North Carolina congressional districts by race. But redrawing districts to benefit the political party in power is nothing new and has been going on for years.
 
How voting district lines are drawn has been a perennial issue since our country’s founding. Political partisans have declared that what is starkly clear is that our current process — rife with partisan gerrymandering — is dangerously broken. In North Carolina, honest brokers on both sides of the aisle have known for years that we must reform our redistricting process. Republican stalwarts like John Hood and former Rep. Skip Stam called for reform when Democrats were in power, and Democrat stalwarts like Tom Ross and former state Sen. Margaret Dickson are calling for it now as Republicans hold power. “I am thrilled about the three-judge panel ruling,” said Dickson. “The ruling is the first step toward returning elections to the people of North Carolina — to allowing voters to select their legislators instead of legislators selecting the voters.”
Dickson is on the board of North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform.
 
2020 College rankings
 
Choosing one of the thousands of colleges and universities across the nation can be overwhelming for students and parents. Families consider academic quality, price, size, location and several other things when making one of the most important decisions in their lives. Each year, U.S. News & World Report publishes rankings to help students and their families narrow the search for the right school. Duke University was North Carolina’s highest-ranked national university at No. 10 in the country. UNC-Chapel Hill ranks 29th overall. Here’s how some of the private and public schools around North Carolina stack up in the U.S. News 2020 Best Colleges Rankings.
There were ties in several categories. Among regional universities in the south, Fayetteville State ranked 87th overall and 23rd among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities. UNC Pembroke ranked 87th overall and 19th most innovative. NC Central ranked 54th overall, 44th best value and 24th for undergraduate teaching. It also ranked 21st among public schools. Appalachian State University was ranked sixth overall, second-most innovative, second for undergraduate teaching, second for veterans and 17th best value. Western Carolina ranked 23rd overall, 12th for veterans, 14th best value and 24th for undergraduate teaching. Its undergraduate engineering program ranked 97th among nondoctorate schools. Winston-Salem State University: Winston-Salem State ranked 61st overall and 17th among all historically black colleges and universities. Methodist University was not listed.
 

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