Local News

How puzzles promote health and wellness

12 CWPuzzles are fun and entertaining, but their benefits go beyond simple recreation. In fact, playing and solving puzzles on a regular basis can benefit adults and children in various ways.  Puzzles often stimulate problem-solving centers in the brain and can improve brain health. Researchers have found that, by completing crossword puzzles, playing challenging games or doing other puzzle-related activities, individuals may be less likely to develop brain plaques that have been tied to Alzheimer's disease. Data published in the Archives of Neurology found a distinct connection between people who exercised their minds with stimulating activities in their early and middle years and brain health. This group had less Beta-amyloid protein uptake in their brains, which is linked to the onset of Alzheimer's, than those who didn't engage in puzzles during the same time frame.  Beyond their health benefits, puzzles offer some additional perks.

 Puzzles boost vocabulary. Puzzles such as crosswords or codewords/cryptograms introduce people to new words. This helps people expand their vocabulary and can help them improve their spelling.

Puzzles teach patience. Puzzles can be challenging, and such challenges can promote patience in regard to approaching and realizing goals.

 Puzzles can reinforce lessons. Teaching through puzzle play is an effective way to tap into memory retention while making lessons fun.

Puzzles may improve intelligence. Engaging in puzzles can force players to think and reason using general knowledge, memory, spatial imagery and logic. These skills help to sharpen intellect over time. Researchers at the University of Michigan even found that adults could boost their IQs by four points after spending 25 minutes a day doing puzzles.

 Puzzles reinforce concentration. Concentration is required to find words hidden in a word search puzzle or to solve a brainteaser. According to data on
SelfGrowth.com, puzzles naturally induce a state of creative, focused meditation. 

Puzzles improve visual-spatial reasoning. When solving a jigsaw puzzle or working one's way through a maze, players have to look at different shapes and figure out where they fit within the larger picture. Better visual-spacial skills can help with packing, driving and using a map and can be valuable career tools in fields such as architecture. Puzzles are a fun recreational activity that also can boost brain health.

Check out our puzzles on page 22 of our issue and see the benefits for yourself.

Kidsville News! provides a local resource while schools are out

11 Truman for pageWith schools being closed, parents and caregivers are looking for educational resources for children. Kidsville News!, a publication that is produced locally, offers a variety of free and fun articles, games and more that will inspire growth in young learners.

Kidsville News! promotes education, reading and good character traits in children in grades K-6. It was created in 1998 by newspaper publisher Bill Bowman as a local and self-sustaining “Newspaper in Education” program in his community of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Kidsville News! has a proven track record as a profitable and valuable reading and educational resource serving children, teachers, parents and guardians.

Kidsville News! is currently used by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for reading assessments and end-of-grade testing. It is recognized nationally as a quality children’s publication by the Parents’ Choice Foundation and received the National Parents’ Choice Award in 2008 and 2012. (http://www.parents-choice.org/aboutus.cfm)

Each Kidsville News! publication has teacher/parent worksheets and an online electronic version, which is adaptable for use on classroom smart boards, white boards, computers and tablets. Visit kidsvillenews.com to view the flagship edition, or pick up one in a newsstand near you.

Special Operations ranking officer scrutinized

08 Col Bradley Moses copyThe U.S. Senate has temporarily blocked the promotion of an Army colonel who formerly commanded Fort Bragg’s 3rd Special Forces Group, The New York Times reported. Col. Bradley Moses was in line for promotion to brigadier general. He was the commanding officer in charge when an ambush claimed the lives of four U.S. soldiers outside of Tongo Tongo, Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

He did not receive any punishment and is eventually expected to receive his promotion. But for now, Senate members are delaying the matter.

Investigations following the Niger ambush were criticized for placing much of the blame on lower-ranking officers. Family members of the fallen soldiers criticized the Pentagon’s handling of the investigation. The leader of the ambushed Operational Detachment Alpha, also known as an A-Team, was Capt. Michael Perozeni. He took much of the blame until it was revealed that he asked to not continue the mission before the attack, according to a redacted investigation. The probe revealed the ambush highlighted problems with the U.S. mission in West Africa, including poor medical evacuation capabilities and a lack of air support for troops on the ground.

Moses’ No. 2, Lt. Col. David Painter, told the A-team to continue the mission, a decision Moses also approved, according to The Times. Painter was subsequently punished following the ambush and not promoted to full colonel. Moses was not punished. 

Maj. Alan Van Saun, an Operational Detachment Alpha team commander who was home on paternity leave at the time of the ambush, received a formal reprimand when the investigation was concluded, effectively ending his Army career. Investigators determined he failed to prepare his soldiers for the deployment.

“Following a complicated tragedy with no clear proximate cause, First Special Forces Command issued reprimands with inaccuracies and inconsistencies, focusing on pre-deployment training and personnel issues, instead of operational decisions made leading up to the ambush,” Van Saun wrote. “Senior leaders within Africa Command ... presented their findings to the families of the fallen based on circumstantial evidence, which left them with more questions than answers.

“Africa Command held a press briefing, that, for the most part, admonished one of my Green Beret teams for their premission planning and preparation but barely mentioned the decisions made above their level,” he added.

Family members of those killed and even some green berets with the Third Special Forces Group expressed anger at the numerous investigations, spread out over almost two years, and lack of reprimands for high-ranking military officials, including Colonel Moses, for ordering the 11-member Special Forces ODA on the mission without knowing the enemy’s strength. Islamic State fighters had been tracking the team and were preparing to attack. Five Nigeriens accompanying the Americans were also killed in the hourslong gun battle. The four Americans killed — Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David T. Johnson — all received posthumous valor awards.

Community prepares for COVID-19

07 Mar 16 News ConfLocal government officials have declared a state of emergency in Cumberland County. County Commission Chairman Marshall Faircloth and Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin announced their decisions at a joint news conference on March 16. The community’s first case of positive coronavirus was confirmed the next day at Fort Bragg. A civilian employee who lives in Harnett County was diagnosed and is now in isolation. “This is a proactive measure to ensure we have the flexibility and resources needed,” Faircloth said.

The declaration activated the county’s emergency operations center and authorized the county to take appropriate action to protect the public welfare.
Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all restaurants and bars closed for dining in to dampen the spread of COVID-19. County Manager Amy Cannon suspended all county employee travel and all events — unless they are mandatory — through the end of the month. The county postponed its six-week citizens’ academy as well as all programming at the Cumberland County Public Library system. The headquarters library downtown and seven countywide branches are closed. Meetings by organizations scheduled at the department of social services and the health department have been canceled. “We will keep the public updated on any changes through the COVID-19 webpage on our website at co.cumberland.nc.us and our social media platforms,” Faircloth said.

Mike Nagowski, CEO of Cape Fear Valley Health System, was direct in his prediction about the pandemic reaching Cumberland County. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said at the news briefing. “This virus is serious, especially among the elderly.”

Nagowski told media representatives the health system has enough respirators for now but that more will likely be needed.

Dr. Jennifer Green, the county’s public health director, said a limited number of available test kits are being reserved for those with symptoms and have had negative flu tests. “We know the state has a limited capacity for testing,” she said. “We want to make sure that those who are symptomatic ... have testing available to them.”

Court cases scheduled through April 17 will be rescheduled for at least 30 days, with limited exceptions. North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley entered an order implementing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the risk of exposure caused by crowded sessions of court. Information on the court schedule is also posted on the county website at co.cumberland.nc.us.

PWC said that through March 30, it will not disconnect utility services for nonpayment. Bills are not being waived, but customers will have additional time to pay. Customers must call to arrange payment plans. PWC’s Customer Service Payment Center is closed to walk-in traffic through the end of the month. The drive-thru will be open during normal business hours. All other customer service transactions can be conducted by phone, at 910-483-1382, Monday through Friday. FAST Bus Service to the PWC Payment Center has been suspended.

Residents with questions about coronavirus can call Cape Fear Valley Health System at 910-615-LINK (5460). Also, the county has opened a general information line about county services at 910-678-7657. The public is encouraged to seek information from credible sources, Green said, including the Cumberland County COVID-19 webpage at co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19 and the North Carolina DHHS website at ncdhhs.gov.

Deadly fire claims three lives

06 01 Portsmouth Dr fire 2Two children and an adult died early March 19 in a house fire on Portsmouth Drive in West Fayetteville. Firefighters were dispatched to the home in the 6400 block of Portsmouth off Bunce Road just after 2 a.m., according to a fire department statement.

The first unit on the scene reported heavy fire visible from the one-story house. Dispatchers had indicated residents were trapped inside. When a fire crew searched the home, they found two young brothers, ages 5 and 9, and their 30-year-old mother had died. Three other family members — including cousins of the deceased — escaped the blaze, a family member said.

Fayetteville Fire Chief Mike Hill said scenes like this are difficult for firefighters. “We have our own ways to cope, but it’s something that never goes away,” Hill said.
Fire and police department investigators continue to probe the blaze. Bunce Road connects Raeford Road and Cliffdale Road in 71st Township. The event was the first fatal fire in Fayetteville since 2018.

COVID-19 brings changes

North Carolina has been facing limits on coronavirus tests since the outbreak began, but officials are saying the testing capacity is expanding. Dr. Mandy K. Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services explained earlier this month that work is being done to increase testing. More than 500 people in the state have been tested, she said. The numbers are incomplete and include only tests done by the state lab and LabCorp that have revealed positive results. Other private companies are testing, but they are required to notify the state only of positive results, not total tests performed.

Gov. Roy Cooper said testing is a priority for his administration, and he wants the state to get complete totals from private contractors.

Cohen said she hoped to announce community testing sites in the coming days, including drive-thru sites.

Fayetteville cancellations and closures

The 38th annual Fayetteville Dogwood Festival scheduled for the weekend of Apr 23–26 has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Cape Fear Regional Theatre has canceled remaining performances of “Murder for Two” plus the show scheduled for April.

The Fayetteville Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County in downtown Fayetteville and the Airborne & Special Operations Museum have been closed to the public until further notice.

Interested residents are encouraged to check the Arts Council website at theartscouncil.com for the latest information about its events and scheduled programming.
At the ASOM, all scheduled events, including Vietnam Veterans Day, Ed Stever Day and the Easter egg Hunt, are canceled. Tickets for the Easter egg Hunt have been refunded. Both facilities will continue to keep the public informed through social media and their websites.

Fayetteville Tech expands online classes

Fayetteville Technical Community College has shifted classes to online instruction. FTCC athletics and other college events are suspended at this time. FTCC already has about 7,000 students enrolled in courses that are entirely online and has provided all-online instruction to other students over the past two years.

“We’re experts at this,” FTCC President Larry Keen said. “We’re still going to expect higher-education activities to take place.” The college has suspended all official travel outside of Cumberland County.

PWC rates change

The Fayetteville Public Works Commission has approved a 4.7% decrease in time-of-use electricity rates for residential customers beginning May 1, 2020. The board action reduced the off-peak electric rate per kilowatt-hour from 9.1 cents to 8.4 cents.  Off-peak rates apply most of the time during an average week. The decrease applies to electric usage outside of the 6-10 a.m. peak hours during the winter, and 3-7 p.m. period during the summer.

A typical PWC residential customer, using 1000 kilowatt-hours per month, should see bills drop $5.20 after May 1. PWC’s electric time-of-use rates began in 2019 as an effort to reduce peak demand when the cost of electricity from PWC’s wholesale power provider, Duke Energy, is the highest. The rate reduction comes after a renegotiation of PWC’s contract with Duke Energy, which provided $33 million in savings beginning January 2021.

“PWC is not-for-profit and we are able to take the savings of the new contract and give it back to rate payers, instead of shareholders,” said Evelyn Shaw, PWC chairwoman.

FAST goes green with hoped-for new buses

Fayetteville Area System of Transit Director Randy Hume hopes to acquire four new electric buses using grant money specifically allocated for them. Hume describes it as a means of updating public transit service that will help move the city in a positive direction. He says he will submit an application to the Federal Transit Administration for the grant and should receive notification by the end of summer. Hume noted it is a competitive, process as most FTA grants are, but that based on the established criteria, he believes the city has a good chance of winning approval.

Mayor Mitch Colvin said the city could save nearly $160,000 annually in fuel costs and more than $81,000 annually on bus maintenance. “This is just one of many examples of what city staff and your council are doing to make our city ... move in a more environmentally-friendly direction,” Colvin said.

Proterra electric buses come with a price tag of nearly $600,000 each. Proterra has an east coast manufacturing facility in Greenville, South Carolina.
 

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