Hot and hungry
Hot weather continues to hammer Asheville. If it keeps up, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the “Heat Wave Could Break WNC Record” for the most consecutive days the temperature has climbed to 84 degrees or higher. According to the article, WNC residents have suffered through the longest stretch of June days topping the mark since 1952, when Harry Truman was president.
It’s ironic then, that AOL Travel recently declared Asheville one of the “Coolest Cities in the States.”
“Cooling breezes sweep down over bohemian Asheville from the Blue Ridge Mountains, keeping the days balmy and summer nights deliciously warm rather than uncomfortably hot,” writes Aefa Mulholland. “Perched at an altitude of 2,134 feet, things keep pretty cool around here, and mean summer temperatures hover in the 70s.”
Of course, it’s true that WNC has had it much better than the rest of state. In “Forecasters Warn of Dangerous Heat Indexes in NC,” BlueRidgeNow reports that the National Weather Service recently issued heat advisories for the eastern half of North Carolina, which has seen temperatures hovering in the upper 90s. The advisory means that the combination of very hot temperatures and high humidity could lead to the possibility of heat illness.
For many low-income children in the area, however, malnutrition is a bigger worry than the heat, reports the Smoky Mountain News. According to the cover story “Summer Poses Challenge for Feeding Low-Income Kids,” thousands of low-income children across Western North Carolina rely on schools to get at least one square meal a day. But with classes now out for summer, there’s no easy solution for keeping kids fed.
Throughout North Carolina, about 700,000 children qualify for free or reduced meals during the school year, but only 53,000 (or about 8 percent) get free meals during the summer, says Cynthia Ervin, North Carolina summer food service programs coordinator.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Ervin tells the paper. “I believe we can do better than 8 percent.”
“It’s scary to know they don’t have nutrition on a regular basis,” adds Beth Stahl, MANNA Food Bank youth programs coordinator. “We’re trying to fill in the gaps, but it’s a slow process.”
Leave God out of it
Ahead of the July 4 holiday, a statewide coalition of North Carolina atheists and agnostics has been making waves with a controversial billboard campaign to show that the nonreligious can be patriotic.
According to “NC Atheists put Billboard on Billy Graham Parkway” — a story by the Associated Press that’s been picked up by outlets across the country — the signs contain imagery of the American flag with the words “One Nation Indivisible.” The N.C. Secular Association intentionally left out the words “Under God,” which were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
The Asheville billboard is located on Interstate 26, less than half a mile from Pond Road. The signs were also placed in five other cities across the state, including one in Charlotte along the Billy Graham Parkway.
In the AP article, Rev. Mark Harris, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte, calls the decision to put one on Billy Graham Parkway “at best, in poor taste and, at worst, a disgrace.”
“We’re doing this to raise the consciousness of the people of North Carolina,” counters William Warren of Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics. “We want to let them know that not everybody here is religious. There are atheists in North Carolina, and we expect to be recognized and treated like everybody else.”
Bridging the racial divide
The recent death of Anthony Ray Gilmore, who was killed while running across Interstate 240 in an attempt to reach the Hillcrest Apartments, continues to generate discussion on more than just whether the city should reopen a pedestrian bridge to the housing project. The incident has also helped spur a larger debate on race issues in Asheville.
In an online post, Xpress’ David Forbes asks, “Is Asheville a Segregated City?”
In the blog, he writes that responses to the question—first raised on Twitter—have “ranged from agreement to assertions that while Asheville has vibrant minority communities, the city could stand to be better integrated.”
The conversation is sure to continue as city officials debate what to do with the bridge, with several, including Council member Gordon Smith, calling for making Hillcrest less isolated.
“I’m going to listen to neighborhood residents and the police department in order to make an informed decision, but my initial reaction is that we’ve got to give Hillcrest residents a direct route downtown,” writes Smith in a Scrutiny Hooligans blog post. “Isolating neighborhoods doesn’t make things better.”