A Minotaur by any other name would smell as sweet

05Minotaur Louvre CA3837By now, you may be sick of the all the genetic testing ads promising to let you know your family history in return for paying them for the right to sell your genetic code to some third party. Like Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage, go ahead and sell your genetic history to a corporation. Watching these ads got me to thinking about what a delight it would have been if the Minotaur had sent in his genes to be sorted out by a gene company.

Take a ride back to ancient Greece, where men were men and Minotaurs were something else. To refresh your Greek mythology, the Minotaur had the head of a bull, the body of a man, lived in a labyrinth and liked to eat people. His genetic background was fairly wild. Since you obviously have nothing better to do than to waste a bit of your time reading this column, let us look at how the Minotaur came to be.

Back in the golden days of yesteryear, on the island of Crete, there was a king named Minos. Minos and his brothers all wanted to be king of Crete. There was more than the usual sibling rivalry going on. Minos figured if he could get Poseidon, the god of the sea, to send him a snow-white bull, it would show his brothers that Minos ought to be the king. Minos told Poseidon that if Poseidon sent him the white bull, Minos would kill the bull in Poseidon’s honor. Not much of an honor for the bull, but this was before PETA had arrived on the scene.

Poseidon sent the white bull to Minos. Turned out Minos thought the bull was so pretty that he didn’t want to kill it; he sacrificed one of his regular bulls instead. This treachery did not sit well with Poseidon. In fact, Poseidon was cranky about it. You would not like Poseidon when he is angry.

Being a god, Poseidon can do about anything. He decided to get even with Minos by making Minos’ wife Pasiphae fall in love with the white bull. The story gets a little R-rated here. If you are sensitive, stop reading now. Pasiphae had her master builder, Daedalus, make a hollow wooden cow into which she climbed. She made sweet, sweet love to the white bull and became pregnant. Pasiphae then gave birth to the Minotaur.

The Minotaur was ugly, even by Greek standards, and only ate humans. His eating habits would soon wipe out the population of Crete, leaving no one for Minos to be king over. After consulting the Oracle, Minos had Daedalus build the labyrinth to keep the Minotaur from eating everyone. For reasons too complicated to go into today, Minos kept the Minotaur in his labyrinth by sending seven boys and seven girls into the labyrinth to be eaten by the Minotaur every seven years.

Along comes a hero, Theseus, who promises to kill the Minotaur to stop the eating of the boys and girls. This seems certain death for Theseus because even if he killed the Minotaur, he would be lost in the labyrinth forever. Naturally, Minos’ beautiful daughter Ariadne falls in love with Theseus. She comes up with a plan to help him get out of the maze by giving him a ball of string to unroll as he goes into the labyrinth. Pretty clever lady.

Theseus goes into the maze and kills the Minotaur despite not having a Minotaur hunting license. He finds his way back out by following the string Ariadne gave him. Theseus shows his gratitude to Ariadne by taking her away on a cruise on the Love Boat where everything is exciting and new. For a while, anyway, as the great Meatloaf once sang: “Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night/ I can see paradise by the dashboard light.”

Ariadne tells Theseus, “Stop right there!/ I gotta know right now/ Before we go any further/ Will you love me forever?/ Will you never leave me?/ Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?/ Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

Theseus, being worked up, promises to love Ariadne until the end of time. Then in the afterglow of the moment, Theseus starts praying for the end of time. When the end of time doesn’t appear, Theseus dumps Ariadne on the island of Naxos and goes his merry way back home without her. Men are no damn good.

So, what have we learned today? If you promise a sea god something, keep your promise or your spouse may take up animal husbandry and not in a good way. Promises made in the heat of passion sometimes cool off in the first cold blue light of morning. Beware of Greeks bearing string. Minotaurs should always floss after every meal. Stay out of labyrinths unless you have a ball of string.


PHOTO: Theseus and the Minotaur. Detail from an Orientalizing polychrome stamnos made in Mégara Hyblæa, 660–650 BC. From Selinunte, Sicily.

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Proud to be an American

04ProudLike you, I am proud to be an American – extremely proud. As my family and I celebrated Independence Day, we reflected on the many blessings of living in the United States of America, and we thanked God for guiding our nation. We prayed for our service members, our veterans and their families – the very people who continue to make our Fourth of July celebrations possible. I saw so much patriotism and love for this great country. It was incredible.

There are infinite reasons we should all be extremely proud to be an American, and number one is our service members. One of the greatest honors of my life is representing Fort Bragg, the epicenter of the universe and home of the Airborne and of the Army Special Operations Command.

As part of my job being Fort Bragg’s congressman and providing oversight to the Department of Defense to ensure our soldiers have what they need, I spent time this past week in Germany visiting the U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, and Special Operations Command Forward-North and West Africa, which is led by the fearless Green Berets of 3rd Special Forces Group who also call Fort Bragg home. I was able to gain a greater knowledge of our military operations in Africa and the trials and opportunities our troops are facing. I also engaged with senior commanders to take a deep dive into our role in the region and U.S. interests.

Additionally, I was able to talk to soldiers from the command level all the way down to the individual operational detachment alphas and gain insight into the issues our soldiers are facing throughout the chain of command. This information will allow me to make sure our Special Forces have all the support and resources they need. I especially enjoyed my time getting to know many of these brave men and women and showing them my gratitude.

Words simply don’t do it justice. These patriots are away from their families, and they represent the best of us. We are so thankful for their service and sacrifice and that of their families back home. I ask for your continued prayer over them as they serve to protect our nation.

As a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, I attended an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin, Germany, along with parliamentarians from Europe, Russia and Central Asia, plus the United States and Canada. While there, I offered an amendment urging the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson of North Carolina, who has been held in custody in Turkey for nearly 650 days. I will continue to use my position as a commissioner to ensure Pastor Brunson comes home and to advocate for human rights, free speech, democracy and freedom of religion. These are the very values that we uphold, that make America so great and that make me extremely proud to be an American.

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What makes Best of Fayetteville unique?

02BestofFayburst2018For more than two decades, Up & Coming Weekly has told this community’s stories. We champion successes, support causes and initiatives and celebrate everything good about Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Once a year, though, we reach out to our readers through our Best of Fayetteville readership survey to ask what you love most about this area.

Do you have a favorite car wash/stylist/restaurant? Do you just love a particular nonprofit organization/entertainment venue/veterinarian? Now is your chance to tell us about it.

Voting lasts through the month of July. Visit our website,, and fill out a ballot online. Or, find a paper edition of Up & Coming Weekly and fill out the ballot and mail it in.

Once all the votes are counted, we throw a big party congratulating the winners, and we publish an entire issue celebrating them that resides on our website and in businesses all year long.

The Fayetteville Observer is currently running an entirely different program called the Reader’s Choice awards. This is NOT the same as Best of Fayetteville.

We launched the Best of Fayetteville readership survey during the month of July to avoid conflicting with The Fayetteville Observer’s Reader’s Choice Awards, which is its advertising/sales promotion. This annual sales program has been in existence for 24 years, and until last year, the Observer ran it during September and announced its winners in October.

Even though our two programs are completely different in nature and purpose, to avoid reader confusion, we voluntarily agreed in 1997 to launch our Best of Fayetteville readership survey during the month of July and announce the winners in September. We haven’t changed.

The ballots are out now, and in September, we hope to see you at our complimentary Best of Fayetteville party as we congratulate the people, organizations and businesses that YOU name the “Best of the Best.”

Up & Coming Weekly does not pre-sell advertising to promote or nominate specific businesses and organizations for Best of Fayetteville. However, we do encourage them to promote themselves and encourage their friends, family and customers to vote in Best of Fayetteville. Up & Coming Weekly does not sell or require businesses or organizations to participate with advertising purchases in pre-contest special sections to get their business officially printed on the ballot.

Up & Coming Weekly does no preballot advertising sales. After the survey is complete and the ballots are tallied, there is only ONE winner in each category. The winners are given the opportunity to purchase advertising/marketing programs to thank their customers and supporters and to market and brand their companies, capitalizing on and taking advantage of their Best of Fayetteville achievement. These Best of Fayetteville advertising programs are unique and significantly discounted so winners can take full marketing advantage of the honor. Winners have only one opportunity to participate in these advertising programs – and it’s after they’ve won.

In addition to the beautiful wall plaque awarded to each Best of Fayetteville winner, they can use the official Best of Fayetteville logo in all print advertising, radio, billboard, TV or social media advertising.

Best of Fayetteville is an exclusive designation. The way we manage it is what makes this program credible. Is it perfect? No. However, it has developed into one of this community’s most respectable and prestigious awards. It is the only readership survey that is partnered with the Greater Fayetteville Chamber and the Better Business Bureau.

If you have any questions about whether you’re participating in the Best of Fayetteville readership survey or someone else’s advertising program, take a good, long look at the ballot. If the ballot has names already printed on it, it is NOT the Best of Fayetteville.

So, what are you waiting for? Cast your vote and let your voice be heard!

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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‘Still can’t believe it worked’

03caveOutdoor adventurer and writer Jon Krakauer’s account of the 1996 rogue storm disaster that was Mount Everest mountainclimbing that year literally kept me up at night. Eight people, including the leader of Krakauer’s own expedition team, died on the world’s highest mountain, where bodies remain frozen to this day. I have never forgotten his description of a man, thought lost, stumbling into camp with one arm frozen perpendicular to his body.

I had the same reaction to what could have been the tragedy of the Wild Boar soccer team in a cave in northern Thailand, until it wasn’t. Once the rescues began, I woke up several times a night to check online for the latest update. I suspect I am among millions – maybe billions – who were doing the same thing.

Hearts around the world leapt when the first four boys got out, sang with the extraction of the next four a day later and soared when the remaining four boys and the coach reached daylight and fresh air one day later.

The Wild Boar story had heartwrenching dramatic elements. Missing children and frantic parents. Found children in profound danger in one of the most challenging caves in the world. Brave rescuers working against the clock and steep odds – children who could not swim; cold, murky and rising waters with rushing currents strong enough to rip off divers’ face masks; tight spaces;  diseases caused by cold, damp conditions, rodents and bats; decreasing oxygen levels in the cave where the Wild Boars were trapped; and perhaps most daunting of all, the pressing reality that such a rescue had never been attempted before and was more likely to fail than to succeed.

In truth, the rescue was a miracle, given what we now know.

In a world racked with division and distrust, the mission worked in part because of cooperation of people from many nations, including the United States, and many agencies, organizations and individuals doing all sorts of jobs. According to The Wall Street Journal, 10,000 people were involved in the rescue effort, including volunteer cooks serving 5,000 meals a day. Seven hundred oxygen tanks were rounded up, with 500 of them being placed inside the cave every 25 meters. The tanks had to be retrieved, refilled with compressed air and replaced time and time again. Medical personnel rallied, including a doctor who stayed inside the cave monitoring the boys’ conditions until they were taken to safety.

With monsoon rains underway and more coming, rescuers began pumping water from the cave and ultimately pumped 1 billion – yes, with a “b” – liters of water out of the cave.

Because the boys are young, the adult, full-face masks to be used in the evacuation were tested on local volunteer children in a swimming pool. By pulling the five straps as tight as possible, rescuers decided to give the masks a go.

As the drama unfolded, speculation abounded about which boys would be rescued first and who would remain in the cave until rescue divers could rest, eat and return with replenished air supplies. Would the weakest go first or the strongest? In the end, the Wild Boars decided themselves. The Wall Street Journal reported the boys in the cave gave the Thai SEAL divers a list of their names in the order to be evacuated.

Most chilling of all is this. The pumps that extracted a billion liters of water from the flooded cave failed hours after the last boys and their coach were pulled to safety, sending torrents of water back into the cave.

The New York Times put it this way. “Many of the divers and residents of the nearby northern Thai town of Mae Sai saw the last-minute flood as a sign that divine protection had ceased only after all were safe.”

“I still can’t believe it worked.” Thai General Chalongchai Chaiyakham’s reaction resonated in ears around the world.

Now that it is all over, readers are paging Jon Krakauer with this message: “Please, please write this book!”


PHOTO CREDIT: Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait

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Police shooting update

05Police apartmentsFayetteville police interrupted what might otherwise have been a deadly assault last week. Police Sgt. Charles Cochran shot Lemuel Bunn, 40, of Roanoke Rapids, after Bunn repeatedly stabbed a woman in her home at Treetop Garden Apartments off Raeford Road.

Police said the assailant had Stephanie Williams, 34, in a headlock when officers forced their way into the apartment. Police Chief Gina Hawkins said Bunn held a knife in his other hand and refused to drop it when told repeatedly to do so by officers. That’s when he was shot. Bunn died later at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

Williams, who is pregnant, had called 911 to say she was being held hostage. She is listed in good condition at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, where she and her unborn child are recovering.

The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting. Hawkins said FPD internal affairs is also investigating to verify that policies and procedures were followed. Cochran is on paid administrative duty during the investigation, which is standard policy.



Death row killer loses appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again declined to hear the case of convicted serial killer and rapist Ronald Gray, a former Fort Bragg soldier sentenced to death 30 years ago.

Gray was convicted in one of this community’s most sensational crimes – a series of murders and rapes in Fayetteville and on Fort Bragg.

The high court first declined to review Gray’s case in 2001. Two years ago, a federal judge removed a stay of execution that had been in place since 2008, potentially clearing the way for the Army to schedule Gray’s execution, which former President George W. Bush authorized.

Gray filed numerous appeals in recent years claiming errors during his military trial and subsequent appeals. Many of those appeals have been dismissed or delayed by a U.S. District Court in Kansas, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Gray is the longest-serving inmate on death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

A former resident of Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park in Bonnie Doone, Gray was convicted of rapes and murders that were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and in Fayetteville. He murdered taxi driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident Tammy Wilson. A Fort Bragg court-martial sentenced him to death in 1988. A year earlier, a civilian court sentenced him to eight life sentences. His execution would likely take place at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Fall police academy

The Fayetteville Police Department is doing a different kind of recruiting. Residents who are interested in attending the next Citizens Police Academy can sign up on the FPD’s website,, or using the FayPD mobile app. Applications should be submitted no later than Aug. 28, to allow time for processing.

The weekly series of classes will begin Tuesday, Sept. 11. The Academy will meet every Tuesday, from 6-8 p.m., at the police training center off N. Eastern Boulevared with the last meeting being held Nov. 6. Residents of Fayetteville who want to know more about police department operations are encouraged to attend.

“Information provided should foster community relationships intended to make for a safer city,” said Community Affairs Sgt. Shawn Strepay. “The Fayetteville Police Department is looking forward to another successful, informational and exciting Citizens Police Academy.”

Lawn watering schedule

July is Smart Irrigation Month, and Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission urges residents to give their irrigation systems the day off by following PWC’s year-round odd-even schedule for outdoor watering. If your street address ends in an even number, water your lawn on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. If your street address ends in an odd number, water your lawn on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Rain sensors are devices that can be attached to an automatic irrigation system to monitor rainfall levels. PWC is offering a bill credit of up to $50 for installing rain sensors. When the weather is wet, the sensor temporarily overrides the controller to prevent unnecessary watering to save money on water bills.

Duke Energy wins major award

If you’re a reservist looking for an employer that will accommodate your military duties, you need not look any further than the latest list of recipients of a prestigious Pentagon award. Fifteen organizations were recognized with the 2018 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. One of them is a North Carolina utility.

“Our National Guard and Reserve members are a vital part of our national defense and deserve as much support as our country can provide,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a news release.

The honorees include Duke Energy. Each year, guard and reservist employees and their families nominate employers for DoD Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve awards. The 15 companies getting the highest honor were chosen from more than 2,350 nominations. They will be recognized in a ceremony at the Pentagon on Aug. 24.

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