‘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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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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Incompetence + hypocrisy = disaster

04KarlThe explosive situation that has developed in this country regarding the separation of parents and their children who illegally enter America is showing the sad condition of our nation. It is revealing the wholesale incompetence and hypocrisy that dominate our human affairs, in general and, for this discussion, Congress. These are just two of the negative descriptors of our troubling situation that demands concern and action on the part of every American.

The situation at hand is that, as has been the case for many years, individuals are illegally crossing the southern border and entering our country. Consider the following from an article titled “Illegal Immigration is a Crime” ( “Each year the Border Patrol apprehends hundreds of thousands of aliens who flagrantly violate our nation’s laws by unlawfully crossing U.S. borders. Such illegal entry is a misdemeanor, and, if repeated after being deported, becomes punishable as a felony.

“Illegal immigration causes an enormous drain on public funds. The seminal study of the costs of immigration by the National Academy of Sciences found that the taxes paid by immigrants do not begin to cover the cost of services received by them. The quality of education, health care and other services for Americans are undermined by the needs of endless numbers of poor, unskilled illegal entrants.

“Additionally, job competition by waves of illegal immigrants desperate for any job unfairly depresses the wages and working conditions offered to American workers, hitting hardest at minority workers and those without high school degrees.”

Being apprehended when illegally entering the country is a misdemeanor crime. The parents whose children were separated from them were being held under the misdemeanor condition. Some of these parents illegally entered the country, but then claimed they were seeking asylum because of conditions in their home country. American law requires that persons seeking asylum must be physically present in the U.S. or seeking admission into the country at a port of entry – not illegally breaking in.

Given that it is a crime to enter the country without permission, how we got to the point of investing so much financially, and otherwise adversely impacting bona fide Americans, in caring for people who break into America requires examination.

A segment on NBC’s “Today Show” provides tremendous insight regarding how we got here. It can be viewed at By way of summary, the Trump administration instituted a “zero tolerance” policy. That policy means any person apprehended entering the U.S. without required approval will be prosecuted. Those persons apprehended will be held in custody until a judge decides whether they will go to prison. There is an appearance before a judge within a few days of apprehension, but it is months until the accused faces a judge for a decision regarding imprisonment.

The separation happens because children are not allowed to stay in prison with a parent. Children must be transferred from the Border Patrol to Health and Human Services within three days of apprehension. A child not being allowed to be held with parents is one obstacle to the president’s efforts to enforce immigration laws. At this writing, separations have been halted based on an executive order signed by Trump.

What happened when President Barack Obama tried to address the problem of families illegally entering the country explains the other component of the difficulty Trump is facing as he tries to stop the assault on our southern border. The following is from an article by Dara Linddara on titled “The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained.” The article says, “When the Obama administration attempted to respond to the ‘crisis’ of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border in summer 2014, it put hundreds of families in immigration detention – a practice that had basically ended several years before. But federal courts stopped the administration from holding families for months without justifying the decision to keep them in detention. So, most families ended up getting released while their cases were pending – which immigration hawks have derided as ‘catch and release.’ In some cases, they disappeared into the U.S. rather than showing up for their court dates.”

The quote above says, “In some cases, they disappeared into the U.S. rather than showing up for their court dates.” Consider the following from an article, March 19, 2017, by Mark Metcalf titled “Courting Disaster.”

“U.S. immigration enforcement and adjudication are failing. American immigration courts have the highest failure to appear rates of any courts in the country. Over the last 20 years, 37 percent of all aliens free pending trial failed to appear for their hearings.”

Being apprehended entering America without permission is a crime. When these offenders are released into the country while awaiting trial, many of them do not appear for their court date. To enforce the law and protect this nation, the Trump Justice Department implemented a “zero tolerance” policy. That means offenders will not be released into America to await trial. Given that children cannot be held in detention with parents, separations result. Since there is a high no-show rate by those illegal aliens who have been allowed to be free while awaiting a court appearance, Trump recognizes the need to keep, in custody, those who illegally enter the country.

Despite this clear and present danger, in response to the outcry regarding children and law-breaking parents being separated, the physical security and economic and fiscal stability of legal American citizens is thrown to the wind.

That “throwing to the wind” is happening all around us. As of this writing, Republicans in Congress are flailing all over the place trying to pass legislation that will address this parent/child separation crisis along with the larger issue of illegal immigration. If something of substance and fairness for American citizens is passed, I will sincerely apologize to Republican members of Congress.

In my estimation, Democrats are even worse – much worse. It shows in this quote attributed to Sen. Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader, in an article by Susan Jones titled “Schumer: ‘There’s No Need’ for Immigration Legislation; Republicans Are ‘Feeling the Heat.’”

“Another reporter asked Schumer if the time might come when ‘Democrats would be willing to work with the Republicans’ on a ‘narrow’ immigration bill.

“‘Let’s hope we never get to that,’” Schumer responded. ‘Let’s hope the president does the right thing and solves the problem, which he can do. That’s the simple, easiest and most likely way this will happen. How many times has immigration legislation passed in this Congress? How many times? Zero.’”

Schumer is saying Democrats will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to address the outrage over the separation issue and celebrates that Republicans are “feeling the heat.” This response is consistent with Democratic conduct from day one of the Trump presidency – obstruct and produce nothing, other than stalemate and confusion. All of this is about political posturing, not about serving the best interest of American citizens.

The flailing of Congressional Republicans on this, and other issues, coupled with the obstructionism and do-nothing conduct of Congressional Democrats, show Congress to be incompetent.

Beyond being incompetent, hypocrisy reigns. A prime example shows through in a video of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) at In 1993 and 1994, she made exactly the same case for dealing with illegal immigration as Trump is making. Now, in 2018, Feinstein introduces legislation (the Keep Families Together Act) as reported by Eliza Collins in an article titled “No Republicans support Senate bill that would stop child separations at border.”

Collins writes, “Every Senate Democrat is now a cosponsor of the legislation, which would prohibit children from being separated from their parents within 100 miles of the U.S. border except for instances of abuse, neglect or other specific circumstances.”

If children cannot be separated from parents, those parents cannot be held for prosecution, and we are back to releasing them in “catch and release” mode. This legislation is from the same Feinstein whose views of illegal immigration in the 1990s agreed with Trump’s position of today. Feinstein is just one example, among many, of the hypocrisy raging in Congress.

This combination of congressional incompetence and hypocrisy threatens the very survival of America as a place of liberty, freedom, security, opportunity and prosperity. If those of us who are adults are not willing to save America for ourselves, do it for coming generations, even those yet unborn.

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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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Not-so-booming millennials

03BoomParenthood has been and remains both an ongoing reality and the most pivotal experience of my life. Other people have told me the same, both mothers and fathers. Parenthood changes people from the moment a little one arrives, and the job never ends until the parent draws that final breath. Even then, the parent’s mark remains on the offspring, however old they may be.

Demographic trends are facts, neither good nor bad, but indications of what is going on in a society. Demographers have told us that in the United States, millennials, mostly children of baby boomers, have surpassed boomers in sheer numbers, but that millennials are not having as many children as their parents did. What we have not known as clearly is why.

The New York Times recently commissioned a survey to explore that why, with interesting results. Demographers had posited that economic worries were keeping our national birthrate down, but it remains at a record low for the second straight year, despite economic gains. It turns out that economic uncertainty is a big part of the picture, but not the whole picture.

People who are having fewer children than they might have wanted cited the high cost of child care, but they also want more leisure time and more time with the children they do have. They also worry about domestic politics, climate change and issues with their partners. Thirteen percent are honest enough to say do not think they would be good parents.

People who say they want no children at all say leisure time is the most important factor to them, along with economic, political and global concerns. They also cite career importance and concern about being good parents. Some say simply they have no desire to be parents.

What is so striking about the survey is that it would not have been given to prior generations of Americans because, for most of human history, people – specifically women – have had little or no choice about becoming parents. It is easy to forget that baby boomers are the first generation ever to have had reliable choices about parenthood with government approval of “The Pill” in 1960. It was not perfect and there were negative side effects, but it worked, and women flocked to it. That was fewer than 70 years ago, a long time for an individual life, but a mere blip in demographic history.

Parenthood, and specifically motherhood, is now a choice, and women are treating it that way for all sorts of reasons. The burdens of childcare and home responsibility continue to rest more heavily on mothers than on fathers. In addition, childrearing can interrupt a woman’s career or professional life, resulting in an earnings penalty on motherhood.

As women have pushed for gender equality in the workplace and throughout our culture, fertility rates have declined, a fact not unnoticed by social scientists. The Times quotes Philip Cohen at the University of Maryland, who studies and writes about family issues. Cohen noted succinctly, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are not high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”

The U.S. is now easing into the club of industrialized nations, many in Europe, with fertility rates below replacement levels with only 60.2 children born to every 1,000 American women. Millennial preferences and uncertainties are not the only reason. We also have declining unintended pregnancy rates and higher rates of long-acting contraception methods, such as IUDs.

At the same time, it remains true that most American women will have children. As economist Oliver Thevenon said in the Times, “Whether the young generation will catch up later is not certain, but will depend on their capacity to combine work and family.”

So far, millennials seem to be having trouble with that.


PHOTO: Photo by Brittany Simuangco on Unsplash.

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