The winners and the losers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Loser: Now we learn that the NSA secretly taps into the internal networks of Yahoo and Google. The Washington Post says more than 180 million records were processed over the last month, including the text, audio and video contents of emails. Google officials say the practice may violate wiretap laws. Ed Snowden may be wanted in this country, and he may be friends with that shady character Julian Assange, but he continues to reveal information that does less to compromise national security than it does to raise serious concerns about civil liberties.

Loser: Almost two years ago, the Iraqi government wasn’t willing to compromise over the issue of immunity in order to keep a U.S. presence there to help keep the peace. Now Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, facing a violent resurgence of al-Qaida forces, has come to Washington asking for help. This presents a problem. Americans were generally glad to get out of Iraq (only a few hundred troops remain), but the U.S. can’t afford to let Iraq come under the control of radical forces.

Winner: Teenage births have been steadily declining for decades, and that trend continues. Since 1970, the rate has fallen by about 20 percent, according to a U.N. report issued this week. However, 7.3 million babies a year still are born to teenagers, and that results in enormous costs to society, as well as a lack of opportunities for both the mothers and their children. Most of these births take place in undeveloped nations.

Winner: As one Canyons School District official told the Deseret News, it does little good to provide healthy lunches if students don’t like them. With that in mind, a number of Utah districts are finding ways to make nutrition fun, using games, themes and chef stations. The idea is to meet new federal guidelines for nutrition without having children reject what is prepared. Stir fry from a chef station sounds better than mystery meat any day.

Loser: Utahns are used to bad air days, especially in the northern valleys where winter inversions are common. Now the World Health Organization says air pollution is a cause of lung cancer. Add that to the list of respiratory and heart problems already attributed to bad air. For Utahns, this is especially troubling information. While pollution levels generally are not a problem along the Wasatch Front, prolonged inversions, such as were experienced at the beginning of this year, could be a source of major health problems. The state needs to find effective and realistic solutions and strategies for dealing with this.

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