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Life after the pandemic

03 andrew neel ute2XAFQU2I unsplashLike every other life experience, we are all going through our quarantines differently.  Some of us are alone and feeling isolated, while others are reading, live-streaming, doing yard work or keeping quarantine journals. Still, others are with our families in varying degrees of harmony. Some are dealing with young children with pent-up energy and school work, and others have responsibilities for elderly relatives.  Some are quarantined with friends, and some are on the front lines in medical arenas fighting the virus. And, for some of us deemed essential workers, life is much the same in service industries — except there are fewer clients and customers, and people are now wearing masks.

I am old enough to know that almost everything has an end, and I believe that quarantine will end at some point, though it is far from clear when that might be. Researchers will eventually develop a vaccine against COVID-19, and most of us will take it.  National and international politicians and policymakers will reinstate actions to anticipate and combat future pandemics.  Those of us who suffered the virus will try to rebuild our health, and those of us who lost dear ones will mourn as we move forward.

Post quarantine, life will be different. As much as we may yearn for life as we knew it before the pandemic, we are experiencing massive change not only in public health but in our global economy. Some of it may be long-lasting, even permanent.

We are going to be much more careful about physical contact, including shaking hands. We will keep more distance than we have done in the past, and hand sanitizer will be on our shopping lists for the foreseeable future. Some of us will have lost our livelihoods, through job loss or the demise of our industries. The future of smaller, local restaurants is worrisome as they are less likely to have long-term resources to tide them over than larger regional and national chain operations. Daily newspapers are gasping for breath as well. Television and various other media are excellent at covering breaking news and keeping us up to date on pandemic coverage. Newspapers give us backstories, deeper and fuller explanations of what is happening, and differing perspectives on why. It is something that is increasingly difficult to find in our current world of niche media, most of which are busily preaching to their own choirs. During this difficult time, a number of daily papers that routinely have firewalls against nonsubscribers have made pandemic coverage available to everyone along with pleas for more subscribers or even simple contributions to support their efforts. The internet and emerging media have ended the days when daily newspapers were licenses to print money and may yet kill them.

It is possible as well that we will see a renewed appreciation and revival of our communities and our relationships with the people who live around us. In the same way we know where and with whom we were on 9/11, we will know where we endured the pandemic and who was with us and whom we missed. As frustrated as we might be in quarantine, most of us will emerge at some point, grateful to those who helped us that we survived this bizarre and frightening time in world history.

The New York Times, a newspaper with a storied history and one that remains a force in national life, is hopeful about what post-pandemic America will look like. COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on inequities in our society — income, educational and health disparities in particular, and The Times is initiating a project aimed at building a nation that is “stronger, fairer, and more free.” Wrote the editorial page editor, James Bennett, “This pandemic offers the same opportunity that Americans have seized in past crises: to set aside petty differences, recognize national priorities and set to work again on creating a more perfect union.”

Hear! Hear!

Change brings opportunities

02 jon tyson XmMsdtiGSfo unsplashWhile we must grudgingly accept the new normal here in our community for at least the next few weeks, we are determined to make the best of it. So, please be aware that everyone here at Up & Coming Weekly, Kidsville News! and Women’s View Magazine maintains our commitment to providing our readers in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Cumberland County with local news, views, arts and helpful, uplifting information that celebrates and defines the community while informing and entertaining our readers. Attitude is everything, and we want to provide local content that gets you joyfully through the week.

We plan to continue our normal publishing and distribution schedule for all publications. We even added a new dimension by partnering with and supporting local restaurants and eateries. See page 22. These businesses are providing U&CW newspapers with their takeout orders and including it with their delivery orders. It is the perfect solution for those who want the publication but are not out and about. We are advertising and promoting the participating businesses free of charge and allowing them to insert their menus into the publications. It’s a win-win for both the businesses and the community. So, if you have interesting news or stories about what’s going on in your neighborhood, keep us posted. We want to know what is happening in your world. Send your information to editor@upandcomingweekly.com or HopeMills@upandcomingweekly.com. 

Truth, honesty and knowledge are power for us all, and as we spend less time in face-to-face dialogue and interaction with each other, free weekly newspapers like Up & Coming Weekly help maintain that sense of community we all seek.

No doubt about it, we need to share the good news with each other so that while we are honestly aware of the challenges everyone is facing, we can still uplift each other and share our joys, successes and accomplishments.

Accuracy matters more than ever.

Because the COVID-19 phenomenon is the biggest crisis — and the most talked-about event of our time — it is also the least accurately talked-about event of our time. We encourage you to vet all your news sources and go to and trust only firsthand primary sources of information like these:

For Cumberland County information, visit co.cumberland.nc.us/COVID-19 and https://coronavirus-response-cumberlandgis.hub.arcgis.com/.

For details about COVID-19 — symptoms, preventative measures and recommendations — go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at CDC.gov.

For worldwide and national statistics on the numbers of cases and fatalities, visit www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, which aggregates data and links directly to its primary sources in each country.

A final word — tomorrow will belong to those who make the best use of their time today. Change, even unwelcome change, brings new and exciting opportunities. New ways of doing things will always present themselves. Those who use this stress-laden and uncomfortable time to observe the changes, resist panicking and prepare for their future will be far more likely to survive and find prosperity when this crisis is over.

On behalf of everyone here at Up & Coming Weekly, stay healthy, stay vigilant, and never allow yourself to become complacent. Continue to market and promote your products, services and organizations, for they will be desperately needed very soon. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t believe everything you see online. Stick with sources you know and trust.

We wish good health to all our readers and advertisers, and we look forward to the day we can shake hands again and begin to seize the new opportunities that await us on the other side of this crazy crisis.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly!

 

Shelter-in-place isn’t sustainable

05 Over the past two weeks, Gov. Roy Cooper and local officials have imposed a regulatory regime of increasing severity on North Carolinians. Their stated goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 so the number of cases requiring hospitalization won’t shoot far above the maximum capacity of hospitals and other health providers.

Their goal is not to contain the spread of the virus in the long run. Most officials grant that a large swath of the population already has been or eventually will be infected. In the vast majority of cases, the infected will experience either mild symptoms or none at all. But some will be hospitalized, and a small share — disproportionately older and suffering from serious preexisting conditions — will not survive their bout with the virus.

Did Cooper and local officials make the right call? I don’t know for certain. Neither do you, to be blunt. They are acting on limited, incomplete and problematic data. I recognize they are under extreme stress, likely sleep-deprived, and facing a set of unattractive policy choices.

 I don’t envy the position they’re in. I respect their public service and pray for them. You should, too. But that doesn’t mean we should simply accept their decisions without scrutiny or complaint.

Our government hasn’t just shut down businesses (some potentially for good), thrown hundreds of thousands out of work and disrupted the daily lives of millions of North Carolinians with no clearly articulated standard for when the dictates will be lifted. Our government has also suspended our basic liberties as citizens of a free society.
 I have been ordered, under threat of arrest and imprisonment, to minimize my contact with friends and family who live across town or in another city. I have been ordered, under threat of arrest and imprisonment, not to assemble with others to express our jointly held opinions or practice our jointly held faith.

 If you think I am arguing the government should never have the power to do these things, you are jumping to the wrong conclusion. As an advocate of limited, constitutional government, I grant that infectious disease is one of the few cases in which highly coercive action may be required to protect public health and safety. It is one of the rare exceptions to the rule that private property should be inviolate and that informed consent, not government dictate, is the proper way for people to manage the risks and rewards of life in a civilized society.

 The threshold for government to resort to such measures should be extremely high, however. And I get very suspicious when I see public officials justify actions such as shelter-in-place orders with the claim that “if even a single person’s life is saved, it will be worth it.”

Let me be crystal clear: anyone who says that should be kept far, far away from wielding governmental authority at any level. They lack the knowledge and judgment to make reasonable public policy. They exhibit a basic ignorance of how free societies work.

If North Carolina set a maximum speed limit of 25 miles per hour on every road and street, we would see fewer traffic fatalities. If North Carolina prohibited swimming pools, we would see fewer drownings. And if North Carolina issued a shelter-in-place order every year from December to March, we would see fewer deaths from influenza and other familiar but deadly diseases.

 For progressives who don’t yet get the point, try this one: every year, a small but tragic number of murders are committed by people who are living illegally in the United States. If we strictly enforce immigration laws and deport as many unauthorized aliens as we can, many of those murders will not occur.

The draconian response to COVID-19 has imposed grave economic and social consequences on North Carolinians and other Americans. They won’t shelter in place for months. They can’t. And they’ll become increasingly impatient with leaders who offer them platitudes instead of a practical plan for moving forward.
 

Avoid touching retirement savings early

06 N2004P32005CYou contribute to an IRA and 401(k) to help build the financial resources you’ll need to enjoy a comfortable retirement. But despite these funds being set aside for retirement, many investors use them before they retire. More than half of Americans tap into their retirement savings early, according to a survey from Magnify Money, a website focusing on financial topics. How can you avoid this problem?

It’s obviously important to leave your retirement savings untouched, as much as possible, until retirement. You could spend two or three decades as a retiree, so you’ll need a lot of financial resources. Of course, it’s understandable why some people touch their retirement accounts early: According to the Magnify Money survey, about 23% did so to pay off debts, 17% to make down payments on a home, 11% to pay for college and the rest for other reasons.

While you also might consider these needs for taking an early withdrawal or loan from your retirement account, you’ve got good reasons for not touching your IRA or 401(k) before you retire. First, you may face tax penalties if you withdraw money from your IRA and 401(k) before 59 ½, though there are exceptions. Also, if your withdrawals from your retirement accounts are large enough, they could push you into a higher tax bracket. Plus, the longer you leave your money intact, the more you’ll probably have when you need it in retirement.

Let’s use the survey results to look at some additional points you might evaluate before using funds from your retirement accounts for other purposes:

Paying off debts — You could consider using a 401(k) loan to pay down some high-interest rate debt, but this move assumes two things — one, you don’t plan on taking on additional high interest rate debt, and two, you plan on repaying the loan from your 401(k) within five years. If you don’t, you could face penalties.

Making a down payment on a home — The IRS allows first-time home buyers to make a penalty-free withdrawal of $10,000 from an IRA to make a down payment on a home; however, taxes could still be owed. You might be better off by delaying the purchase of a home, giving you time to build up additional savings, held outside your retirement accounts, that could be used for the down payment.

Paying for college — If you haven’t saved enough for a child approaching college, you might consider withdrawing from your retirement accounts to do so. If the funds are used for qualified education expenses, you may be able to withdraw from you IRA without paying a penalty, but again, taxes could be owed on the withdrawn funds. Alternatively, if you have more time, you could consider opening tax-advantaged 529 accounts for younger children to help pay for their education.

As the name suggests, a retirement account is designed for retirement, so do whatever you can to protect it. You may want to consult with a financial professional for guidance on meeting the other needs people cite in tapping into their retirement accounts early. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to make the best decisions you can for your situation.

Today’s good news

04 IMG 0912Call me Ishmael. Nope, call me Pollyanna. Or maybe call me a taxi. OK, you’re a taxi. Thanks, I needed that. But I digress. The lesson for today is going to focus on good things that are happening. As you may have noticed, there has been a certain C-word that has dominated the news and your ability to go to the grocery store without feeling you are risking your life to buy milk. If you need more mind-numbing statistics or spooky news of the day, kindly go somewhere else. Today we will look at the good stuff that is happening despite the existence of the C-word cooties.

You have to look around a bit, but there are reasons for optimism. If you are truly bored, you can follow me on Facebook wherein I have undertaken to posting a daily notice of Today’s Good News. Accordingly, I am going to plagiarize myself and steal some of my earlier pieces of fluff, in case you missed them.

For example, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is immune to Coronavirus. This is good news for fans of 1950s black-and-white horror movies. The Creature is alive and well in the Amazon. The Gill Man continues to lurk, waiting for beauteous maidens to venture near his lagoon, which is much less murky now since oil demand dropped.

While everyone was hunkered down sheltering in place, a significant political event occurred that passed unnoticed among the clutter of C-word news. An actual very extremely stable genius announced his dark horse candidacy for president of the United States. Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse announced from his stall that he is running for president. He named Wilbur Post as his vice-presidential choice. For those readers who are not chronologically gifted, I recommend a visit to YouTube, which will acquaint you with Mr. Ed. For older readers, please recall that “A horse is horse/ Of course, of course/ And no one can talk to his horse of course/ That is of course unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed/ Go right to the source and ask the horse/ He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse/ He’s always on a steady course/ Talk to Mr. Ed.” See if you can get that song out of your head before the quarantine ends. I bet you can’t.

Another double plus good thing to be grateful for is that Boy Wonder Jared Kushner is not twins. As Jared seems to be in charge of everything and nothing in the White House, the fact that he is not twins cuts his ability in half to screw things up. Imagine the damage Jared could do if he were twins. It would be a soap opera miracle in that both Jared twins would be the evil twin. Consider the impact of the Winklevoss twins, increase that level exponentially and you would have Jared as twins. The mind boggles.

On a celestial level of good news, two major events stand out. As a result of the C-word Cooties, Mars has called off its attack on Earth. It’s one thing for Martians to brave the music of Slim Whitman, but no self-respecting Martian is willing to subject itself to the C-word, despite their spacesuits and other personal protective equipment.

President Trump is safe from having to tell the Martians: “Why be enemies? Think of how strong we could be — Earth and Mars together. There is nothing we could not accomplish. Think about it. Little people, why can’t we all just get along?” That talk didn’t work out so well for President Jack Nicholson and might not work for our current Dear Leader.

The other cosmic good news comes from 2.37 billion light-years away from our old nemesis, the Andromeda Galaxy. According to Earth’s madcap astrophysicists, the Andromeda Galaxy is scheduled to collide with our very own Milky Way Galaxy a short 4.5 billion years from now. This collision would leave a path of death and destruction on Earth, resulting in the permanent cancellation of all NBA seasons. Fortunately, the Dark Matter in charge of cosmic galactic migration wants no part of the C virus. The Andromeda Galaxy has changed course and is moving away from us. Herein give a big shoutout to Dark Matter.

Finally, last but not least, to keep up the morale of America despite the endless series of talking heads telling us nightmare scenarios as a result of the C-word, the Federal Communications Commission has stepped into the breach. If you watch too much cable news, you will plunge into John Bunyon’s slough of despond in his cheery book “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” For America to stay out of the slough and avoid a Great Psychological Depression, the FCC is going to require all cable systems to carry the Test Pattern Channel. This channel will show the Indian Test Pattern 24hours a day, seven days a week. If you need comfort, switch off the news and watch the Test Pattern channel. You can then party like it’s after midnight in 1958.

Now, don’t you feel better already? Can you say Test Pattern? I knew you could.

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