Exponent Editorial, Tuesday, March 16, 1999
Price tag for 911 system truly a bargain

Peace of mind, sadly, sometimes comes with a price tag.
    Randolph County commissioners and the county emergency services director have been debating implementing a 911 system in the county. They've been going at this at a pretty cautious pace, because the idea has been shot down in the past.
In the early 1990s, residents opposed such action because they didn't want to pay $2 per month for two years until the county could save enough money to pay for installing the system.
    After a few meetings about 911 in the last few months, residents seemed to be in support of having a centralized dispatching unit in the county. Only about 11 counties in the state have yet to implement a system. About eight of those counties have ordinances to enact a system, but haven't yet.
    It would cost Randolph County, one of the largest and most rural in the state, about $200,000 to $500,000 just to implement the system. It would take anywhere from 12 to 16 months to get the system operational. The system commissioners have examined would offer call back numbers and a location for each call and would be top-of-the-line.
    "I don't think we will go with anything else," said Marvin Hill, deputy director for Randolph County Emergency Services. "When we do put it in, we want to go with a good system."
    County residents would have to pay anywhere from 50 cents to $2.65 a month extra on their phone bills to get this system.
We urge residents of the county to think about what $2.65 a month can get them. It's a couple of candy bars or a sandwich from a fast food restaurant. Or, it's the peace of mind of knowing that if they have an emergency, that a rescue squad could be easily reached. You only have to remember three little numbers, and children everywhere are taught them now.
    We encourage residents to pack a lunch once a month instead of eating out and let that $2.65 at the most go to peace of mind.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Coffee Talk, Tuesday, 3-16-99

When it comes to  tobacco use, I'm neither proponent nor opponent
by Troy Graham

    Tobacco has taken an awful lot of heat in the media in the last year or two. In all that time, no one has even bothered to argue in its defense.
Well, guess what I'm not going to defend it either.
    Besides, why would I defend tobacco when I hate smoking? Sometimes. Actually, I love smoking, even though I hate it. (As you can see, I have a classical love-hate relationship with the ole coffin nails.)
    Common sense dictates that I must hate it. How can I not? Every time I run up a flight of stairs and have to catch my breath, I hate it. Every time one of my little sisters says I "stink like smoke," I hate it.
Smoking is unmistakably bad for you. They even tell you right on the side of the package: Hey, dummy, this stuff will kill you. In England they sell a discount cigarette brand called "Death" that comes in a black box with a skull and crossbones on it. That's truth in advertising.
    But there must be something inherently self-destructive, or just plain ignorant, about smokers. Seinfeld did a skit where he wondered how people can read a label on a shirt that says "Dry Clean Only" and swear to never put it in the washing machine. Yet, when it comes to the label on cigarettes, we ignore that big surgeon general's warning.
    How can we believe a label that says it will be detrimental to wash a shirt but not believe a label that says "this product will kill you?" Truth is, we believe both labels. Smokers know how bad their habit is. I often say I'm suicidal, but I'm not in a big hurry.
    All smokers try to quit, too. Any smoker who has never tried to quit is either too young to have felt the negative effects or, like my grandmother, too old to care. My grandmother, God bless her, had heart surgery 10 years ago but still smokes. She insists that at 70 years old there's no sense in quitting anyway.
    But here comes the love part of the relationship. No matter what our common sense tells us, there are still times when nothing is as satisfying as a smoke. A meal isn't just a meal without a cigarette afterward. I can't tell you how many times I've suffered from writer's block only to have my brain jarred by walking around outside and smoking a butt. And, of course, the reason I started smoking in the first place, cigarettes go so well with a beer.
It is because of all these situations that I have been foiled in my attempts to get rid of the smokes forever.
    Both the way in which people try to quit, and the rationales for continuing to smoke, are completely asinine. My personal favorite excuse for smoking is "Hey, I could get run over by a bus tomorrow, so I might as well be enjoying a smoke at the time." I also like my other, hardly original theory: "They say every cigarette takes five minutes off your life, but at least it's the last five minutes."
    When I did try to quit (I succeeded in being smoke-free for more than a month twice) I came up with the most ridiculous ways of weaning myself off cigs. I'll only smoke eight a day on even-numbered days and 10 a day on odd-numbered days.
    Or, I'll only bum smokes when the urge hits me, which is cheaper for me but quickly puts me in disfavor with my smoking friends.
    In the end, though, there is only one way to quit. Cold turkey. It can be done, as my dad showed when he quit a three-pack-a-day habit.
    I know I too will have to quit again, this time permanently, if not for my health, at least for the fact that smokers are increasingly ostracized in today's society.
    I got an e-mail once that had a list of humorous things stewardesses have said on planes. One speaks directly to my point: "For those of you wishing to smoke, feel free to use our smoking area out on the wing."
    So, love 'em or hate 'em or both, the writing is on the wall. Pass the turkey and don't bother heating it up.

Telegram Editorial, March 16, 1999
Better regulation of sweepstakes industry needed

    If the sweepstakes industry earns its money honestly, as it claims, why do dozens of elderly residents show up at the Tampa, Fla., office of American Family Publishers to claim million-dollar prizes they believe they've won? Why do thousands of other senior citizens say they've waited at home (in vain) for the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol to arrive? Why did a Texas man buy 32 subscriptions to U.S. News and World Report- one paid up through 2018?
    The answer, of course, is that the sweepstakes industry does not earn its money honestly. It tries to deceive consumers, especially elderly consumers, into believing (a) they have already won a million-dollar prize or (b) they can increase their chances of winning by making more purchases from the sweepstakes company.
    Sweepstakes spokesmen deny this, of course. American Family Enterprises" vice president of marketing says: "The point of our mailings is not to convince people they've already won a sweepstakes, but rather to be excited about the possibility of wining and to consider our products."
    Two days of public testimony before the U.S. Senate proved otherwise. The testimony showed that consumers  (many consumers) are being deceived by the sweepstakes industry. Florida residents would not show up at American Family Publishers' Tampa office to claim non-existent prizes if they had not been misled. One man in Texas would not buy 32 subscriptions to the same magazine if he had not been misled.
    That's why we support better regulation of the sweepstakes industry. Two bills proposed in the U.S. Senate are a good starting point. One, proposed by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, would establish the first federal regulations aimed at the sweepstakes industry; deceptive sales practices could bring a federal fine of up to $2 million. Another bill, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, would require a toll-free number that consumers could call to have their names removed from sweepstakes mailing lists.
    The Senate testimony showed that many of the sweepstakes' victims are elderly. Sen. Collins suggested that is because older Americans "come from a generation that is trusting." Whatever the reason, older Americans living on fixed incomes can least afford to lose their money in the sweepstakes con game.
    Let's protect older Americans. Let's protect all Americans. It's time to put a stop to the sweepstakes swindle.
 Tim Langer
Telegram Editorial Board member


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