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The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, Dec. 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Winner/loser: If you're reading this, it must mean all the fuss about the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world yesterday was a bunch of baloney. That didn't stop people from apparently trying to strike fear into the hearts of whoever they could, however. Those who know about such things say the Mayans never predicted the end of the world. In Michigan, however, schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties north of Detroit decided to cancel classes because of threats of violence related to all the fuss. The decision was influenced by the tragic killings at a Connecticut school a week earlier. As should be abundantly clear by now, the world has much more to fear from human beings currently on earth than it has from predictions on an ancient calendar.

Winner: The Census Bureau released its annual population estimates this week, and Utah came in fifth on the list of fastest growing states. The figures calculated growth only since 2011. They found a 1.45 percent increase in Utah's population. The West and South led the way in terms of percentage of growth, with a couple of exceptions. North Dakota, the beneficiary of a major energy boom, led the nation with a 2.17 percent increase. The District of Columbia, no-doubt the beneficiary of an ever-expanding federal government, grew by 2.15 percent.

Loser: Armored backpacks. They may soon be all the rage among students, including the youngest kids trudging to school each day. An armor insert can be had for up to $400. It is designed to stop a bullet, but not from the type of assault weapon used in Connecticut recently. And while the insert may deflect a bullet from a handgun, the impact could still send a small child flying. But the armored backpacks themselves aren't the losers here, it's the fear caused by such a tragic and rare event. While schools everywhere are right to be alert and to prepare for the worst, mass shootings on campuses remain extremely rare. Those that have been carried out in recent years suggest there are few fool-proof strategies short of identifying criminals before they strike or finding a way to escape.

Loser: Americans may soon be barred from adopting children from Russia, thanks to a law that has the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The law is not an attempt to protect Russian orphans. It was written in anger over a new American law that bars entry into the United States by Russians identified as being involved in human rights abuses. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who died in prison after trying to expose a government tax fraud. The U.S. law was directed at those involved in the case, who have homes and bank accounts in the United States. Not only is this back-and-forth bad news for Russian orphans, it signals a new and disturbing turn for U.S.-Russian relations.

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