Loser: It's hard to imagine how an NBA team can have a winning record, be solidly in contention for a playoff spot and yet not have one player in the All-Star game. That's what happened to the Utah Jazz last week when this year's coaches' selections were announced. Al Jefferson's 17.1 points per game and 9.8 rebounds were not considered good enough even for substitute's role. We're not accusing the NBA of deliberately snubbing the Jazz. Perhaps more than any other sport, the NBA's marquis players develop a celebrity status, and that doesn't often apply to the stars of teams from more obscure markets. The silver lining in this, however, is that the Jazz have compiled a 23-19 record without a dominant star player. A winning team that is greater than the sum of its parts sounds like a good formula going into the season's second half.

Winner: The sooner someone quits smoking, the more of their life expectancy they regain. That's the conclusion of a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Longtime smokers who quit between 25 and 34 regain nearly all the years they might have lost through smoking-related health problems. From there on the gains from quitting are diminished, but still impressive. Someone between 54 and 65 can expect to regain four more, and should be thankful for not already having a debilitating health problem. The study gives hope to lots of people who acquired the habit early in life. The best strategy, however, remains to never start in the first place.

Winner: The idea of charter schools took awhile to catch on in Utah, and it still isn't popular among some public-school advocates. But the Center for Education Reform this week had many nice things to say about the state and its embrace of this education alternative, and it's clear Utah students have benefited. The center ranked Utah 11th in the nation for its charter policy, which allows for flexibility and experimentation with new models. The state also gives charter schools funding that is equitable with other public schools, and it has established a charter board to oversee the schools. More than anything, the popular charter program has demonstrated that Utah parents value choices when it comes to educating their children.

Winner: While we're on the subject of education, a new poll by the University of Utah's Center for Public Policy and Administration shows 55 percent of Utah voters either somewhat or strongly support a tax increase to fund education. Our experiences suggests a dose of skepticism. What people tell a pollster may be different than how they react when a concrete proposal is on the table. But the poll is an indication that Utahns value education and want to sacrifice for its success. Fully 88 percent said education should be a top priority. Finding innovative ways to reorganize the system and maximize resources should be a priority, as well.