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The All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory has hit a new milestone in its quest to document the incredible biodiversity of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this year passing the 21,000 mark in species identified within the park.

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Masks must be worn inside gyms and other fitness facilities following Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest executive order. 

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By Laura Lauffer • Contributing writer | During the holiday season, we often recognize and appreciate the farmers in our community for the abundance of food on our tables. Three women farmers in the region shared their farming experience during this challenging year, what it means to them to farm as women and how they continued to grow and distribute their goods to the community in the challenging times of COVID. 

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An Alabama man is dead following a fall from an overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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The U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region received the 2019 National Rise to the Future — Fish Your National Forest Award during a virtual ceremony in Washington, D.C., Oct. 20.

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Ornithology Season is underway for the N.C. Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, which encourages kids to connect with the outdoors and engage in citizen science. 

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In response to concerns about the surge of COVID-19 cases across North Carolina and the U.S. and in consultation with the Jackson County Department of Public Heath, Western Carolina University is canceling the modified in-person commencement ceremonies scheduled for Dec. 10-13 and shifting to a series of virtual ceremonies.

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Dear anyone thinking about the holidays and wondering what to get… for themselves,

Question: What’s the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2021, showing that Haywood moved to a more economically stressed tier and Macon County moved to a less economically stressed tier. 

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COVID-19 is surging in Western North Carolina counties, and eight nursing homes in Haywood, Jackson and Macon counties are currently battling ongoing outbreaks. 

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UPDATE: The N.C. Board of Transportation unanimously approved the renaming during its Dec. 2 meeting. 

The 4.2-mile stretch of U.S. 441 between U.S. 19 and the Smoky Mountain Expressway in Whittier will soon be known as the Beloved Man Dr. Jerry Wolfe Highway if the N.C. Board of Transportation approves the naming request at its Dec. 2 meeting. 

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The Jackson County Branch of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation. This is one of 40 such grants to local nonprofit programs throughout the state that are focused on achieving social justice and racial equity in their communities.

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The Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency has identified COVID-19 outbreaks at Autumn Care of Waynesville, Maggie Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation, and Haywood Nursing & Rehabilitation.

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Like many of you I bought some extra cans of whole berry cranberry sauce at my Ingles Market. So then I started thinking—what can I do with it besides making cranberry sauce?

A Macon County resident diagnosed with COVID-19 passed away Sunday. The person was over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions. 

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Haywood County Health and Human Services has reported three more COVID-19 related deaths as of Nov. 24, bringing the county’s total to 40 people. 

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Alarka Institute in Cowee is now selling seeds and young plants of the Franklinia, one of the most rare shrubs in the world.

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Despite the pandemic, the recently formed WNC Climate Action Coalition is still hard at work.

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Blue Cross NC has contributed $275,000 to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project this year to help combat food insecurity caused by the pandemic while also helping farmers. 

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A trio of conservation groups is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act, charging that new and illegal agency policies bar use of proven management measures to save the red wolves. 

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More than 50 volunteers showed up for MountainTrue’s 10th annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup on Nov. 7, removing 1.8 tons of trash. 

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The beloved discount outdoor gear store The Frugal Backpacker has announced that it will close its stores in Asheville and Greenville, South Carolina, as a result of the ongoing pandemic. 

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To the Editor:

This is my first letter to the editor, ever.  So you know that I feel strongly enough to write it. 

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To the Editor:

I read with understanding and sadness the article about people leaving the cities and moving to Western North Carolina because of the fresh air and space. Before long they will turn Western North Carolina into exactly what they are trying to get away from. It won’t take long. It’s already happening.

Janice Workman

Bryson City

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To the Editor:

Like government and business leaders across the country, I am continually looking for ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our county. So when I discovered new research that could detect traces of COVID in wastewater, I felt compelled to try and replicate it in Jackson County. 

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To the Editor:

To counter the recent assertions from some suggesting that this past election was fraudulent and illegitimate, I would like to put out the following arguments:

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Let me wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Each year at the Passover celebration, there is a saying: “Next year in Jerusalem.” It’s a way of saying: “next year may we be in a better place.’’ Right now, I bet we can all get behind that.

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By Steve Wall • Guest Columnist | On Sept. 10, 2020, Donald Trump greeted a cheering crowd in Freeland, Michigan, with these exact words: “We brought you a lot of car plants, Michigan! We brought you a LOT of car plants. You know that, right!”

This was greeted with excited cheers. So I have to wonder — did many of the people in the crowd realize there were no new car plants built in Michigan during the Trump administration? Were any aware that over 3,000 workers in the Michigan auto industry had lost their jobs since 2017?

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By Boyd Allsbrook • Contributing writer | This year’s post-Thanksgiving weekend of shopping holidays will be unlike any other. This should come as no surprise when one considers a market made unpredictable in the wake of a global pandemic, large swaths of the consuming public now reticent to venture outside and their consequent move to the safety of purely online vendors. 

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The National Park Service announced it is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service on a project that includes a proposal for additional access to the Graveyard Fields trail system from John Rock Overlook at Milepost 419.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

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District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch announced that she has breast cancer and is undergoing medical treatment.

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A Ghost of Christmas Past, femme-forward adaptation of Charles Dickens' ‘A Christmas Carol’ adapted by Ashlee Wasmund will premiere virtually this Thanksgiving. 

Eliada works hard to make the holidays a special time for the children in our care. This year, due to the pandemic, children and youth need support more than ever.

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Allegiant recently announced a new nonstop route to McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas from Asheville Regional Airport beginning March 4, 2021. To celebrate, the company is offering one-way fares on the new route as low as $79.

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Western Carolina University assistant professor Amy Stringer has been named North Carolina College/University Physical Education Teacher of the Year by NC SHAPE, the state’s professional organization for health and physical education educators.

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Haywood County Health and Human Services is reporting its 38th and 39th COVID-19 deaths. 

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The Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency has identified a COVID-19 cluster among Haywood County Detention Center staff. The cluster of cases was connected to a detention officer certification training event, held at Haywood Community College from Oct. 5 - Nov. 12.

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Western Carolina University students will be allowed to request grades of satisfactory or unsatisfactory for 2020 fall semester classes following a split-vote approval of a resolution of the Faculty Senate Wednesday, Nov. 18.

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Macon County Public Health has identified a COVID-19 outbreak at Drake Cottage, a congregate living facility. Three individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. All are well and isolated from others. 

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Question: My friend thinks that brown eggs are better for her. Is that true?

By Laura Lauffer

During the Thanksgiving season, we often recognize and appreciate the farmers in our community for the abundance of food on our tables. Three women farmers in the region shared their farming experience during this challenging year, what it means to them to farm as women and how they continued to grow and distribute their goods to the community in the challenging times of COVID.  

To the Editor:

Joe Biden won, period. Biden won by the same “landslide” of 306 electoral votes as Trump declared in 2016. The difference is that the margins of victory by state tend to be larger than Trump’s but, unlike Trump, Biden also won the overall popular vote.

There was no widespread voter fraud other than the Republican attempts at voter suppression by limiting voting places and other tactics to suppress votes. The so-called “Stop the Steal” is just another one of Roger Stone’s dirty tricks warmed over for another pass at sowing discord.

What is most distressing are the elected Republicans who are placating Trump’s ego by denying Biden’s clear victory. Trump’s mental illness makes him unable to face reality, but senators and representatives don’t have that excuse. Their failure to accept reality and deal with the COVID-19 pandemic is costing thousands of lives.

The Trump administration long ago gave up trying to do anything constructive about the pandemic. That “do nothing” strategy and adherence to the fantasy that it will “just go away” are now costing thousands of Americans to die each day. The Republicans in Congress also are doing absolutely nothing. The only thing Mitch McConnell cares about is getting another ideologue appointed to a lifetime judicial appointment. They don’t seem to understand that we need to address the pandemic to get economic recovery. The apparent ignorance is staggering.

With newly elected Republicans it does not look like things will get better from their end. Our local congressman seems to think he is going to Washington to fight the “libs” instead of working for the overall interests of the district, such as broadband and economic development. The new Republican senator in Alabama could not correctly identify the three branches of the federal government and claimed we fought World War II to defeat socialists instead of the white-supremacist Nazis. When someone brings up socialists or socialism, it typically means the person doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.

Norm Hoffman

Waynesville

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To the Editor:

It sickens me — a 72-year-old, seven-year U.S. Air Force and Vietnam veteran — the depths to which this GOP administration and GOP members of Congress are descending. It has always been clear that their interests lie solely in personal power and personal gain. To believe in this GOP administration, and to support their actions and goals, requires massive ignorance or nefarious calculation of personal benefit. This GOP administration and GOP members of Congress constantly display lack of character and amorality. This GOP administration has no interest in the progress of America and the world, and seeks simply and nakedly to ignore reality in favor of their twisted mindset, that only they are to be believed, that every fact illustrating their malfeasance must be fake news.

The most difficult part of governance is actual good management. America desperately needs our elected representatives to spend our money to good effect by employing personnel with provable expertise. This GOP administration has made no pretense, since the 2016 election, of having such a goal, similar to GOP administrations since the election of Reagan, who in his initial inaugural address of January 20, 1981, said, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” In fact, bad government is the problem, and the GOP excels in bad government.

This GOP administration and Congress are now engaged in tremendous lies about the American election with no apparent goal except diversion and distraction, as well as fund-raising to help pay the President’s massive debt, and firing up their base at whatever cost to America. Attorney General William Barr has unleashed his Justice Department minions in support of this farce, and Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee and former Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, now the General Services Administrator, refuses the obligations of her office to the incoming President. Meanwhile, they continue, under the radar to most people, their destruction of protections of the American commons, so their overloads are free to extract and abuse as they see fit.

We are better than this. I’m probably misquoting someone, but we all do better when we all do better. That can only happen when the GOP drastically changes its mindset, and begins to work for their boss, the American people, who hired them.

Bil Aylor

Bryson City 

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To the Editor:

I hope all the idiots who voted for Biden are happy. Our country is going down the tubes.

Welcome to socialism: all our taxes will be higher, unions will take over, small businesses will close, we will have open borders, and all of our jobs will be shipped to China.

Then they will declare Biden unfit to be president and then Kamala Harris will be president and she will pick Hillary Clinton as vice president. The country will be in a shambles and it won’t take four years for the Democrats to do it.

Greg Brom

Waynesville

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The fourth annual Cades Cove Loop Lope has raised $70,000 for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park despite having to take place virtually this year to prevent spread of COVID-19. 

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Friends of the Smokies and its supporters have raised $89,000 this year to fund search and rescue efforts in the Smokies.

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This year Junaluska Woman’s Club members have crafted plans for wonderful, supportive projects and fundraising events that, during the pandemic, have had to be canceled again and again. 

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By Todd Vinyard • Contributing writer | Each athletic season has its challenges, but the 2020-2021 season has more obstacles than usual as teams try to play on safely during a pandemic.

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