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THURSDAY, OCT. 14, 2004

White House thriving on denial

BOSTON – Now that her 15 minutes of fame are over, may I tip my hat to Linda Grabel? It isn't easy to give the president of the United States a pop quiz. But at the second debate, the 63-year-old legal secretary asked: "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it."

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And another thing . . .

Trimming health-care costs. Just when it looks as if America's health-care system will perpetually ignore preventive strategies, here comes news that the largest health insurance company in North Carolina will offer comprehensive coverage to prevent and treat weight problems. Obesity prevention and early treatment can stave off more expensive problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina notes that two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight, so it will pay for four visits annually to prevent and treat that problem.

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WEDNESDAY, OCT. 13, 2004

Killer should stay behind our bars

Living on the Canadian border, Washington residents recognize better than most Americans the subtle differences that separate the two cultures. Spelling, pronunciation and the value of a dollar. We're accustomed to those distinctions. We live with them. They're quaint.

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Heed the words, not the TV images

Try listening on the radio to the final presidential debate for a different perspective. Then read the transcript. Only after that, watch a rerun on television. That's what I did for the second debate between Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush. My impression was starkly different from what it would have been had I only watched TV. Listening and reading summon different senses. These focus more on the content of the answers than on appearance and debating styles, neither of which has anything to do with policy.

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We need more from candidates

WASHINGTON – Two of the three presidential debates are now behind us. So what have we learned about the men seeking our support? The good news is that both George Bush and John Kerry have once again demonstrated the resilience and toughness that brought them to the fore of their respective parties. The senator from Massachusetts had been battered so badly in August and early September that many of his own supporters had all but abandoned hope that he might win. But he gathered himself for the first debate in Coral Gables, Fla., launched a serious counterattack on the president's international policies and put himself back into the race.

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TUESDAY, OCT. 12, 2004

Crapo, Otter have earned vote

When the main attention-getter for top-of-the-ticket races is a singer who was at her prime in the 1970s, and she's not running for anything, you know your party's in trouble. That's the situation Idaho Democrats find themselves in this year in congressional races. Singer Carole King, who has touted presidential candidate John Kerry, has outshined the Republican-turned-Democrat write-in candidate opposing U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo and the little-known Democrat who at one point dropped out of the race against U.S. Rep. Butch Otter.

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Teach kids how to handle vulgarities

We used to look forward to the sports highlights on television. Now we have to look out for the sports lowlights. Just when we thought it was safe to watch TV again after Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl, a popular stock-car driver goes potty mouth before a national audience. On Sunday Oct. 3, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked by an NBC reporter how he felt after winning his fifth race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Noting that his late father had won 10 races at the speedway, Earnhardt said, "It don't mean (a four-letter vulgarism) right now."

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Victories for the right of privacy

You might have missed it amid other headlines, but the Supreme Court came down on your side last week. Granted, it's not your side if you're one of those folks who spend the day on the phone pestering people to change their long distance service or buy vacation timeshares. If you are in fact one of those people (hereinafter referred to as "them"), let me offer a few words on behalf of the people you pester (hereinafter referred to as "us"):

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A rumored encounter last spring between a cougar and some children near an elementary school in Colville was never confirmed, according to Madonna Luers, public information officer for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Spokane. An editorial published Monday alluded to such an incident. The last confirmed close encounter between a cougar and a human in Washington was in November 2003 and involved an elk hunter in the Blue Mountains, Luers said.

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MONDAY, OCT. 11, 2004

Cougar-hunt plan provides balance

The frontier is a memory, but the Western affinity for nature endures. Even when nature is a four-legged package of fur, sinew, claws and teeth that kills pets and livestock and occasionally threatens people. In other words, a cougar. In 1996, Washington voters showed their fondness for nature and its creatures by passing Initiative 655, which banned the use of hounds in hunting cougars. In a campaign marked by references to fair play and sportsmanship, the measure also prohibited hunters from setting out bait to attract bears within killing range.

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SUNDAY, OCT. 10, 2004

Voters should chip in for streets

Like the magma surging inexorably to the top of Mount St. Helens, the pressure to repair Spokane's streets keeps building. Will this be the year voters burp up the requisite cash? The city of Spokane has placed a $117 million bond issue on the Nov. 2 ballot to relieve the estimated $200 million street maintenance backlog over the next 10 years. The bonds would be paid off by a property tax increase costing $68 on a $100,000 home.

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False rape reports affect whole city

A strange sight greeted Coeur d'Alene motorists driving east on Best Avenue Wednesday night. A Coeur d'Alene police officer was in the middle of the street, with the lights on his patrol car flashing, directing traffic to turn around. Further down the block, other officers were using their cars to block traffic westbound from 15th Street. And if a motorist tried to find a way around the road block north of Best Avenue? More patrol officers and cars were waiting.

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Science should guide court's decision

When I started medical school, over 20 years ago, the dean met with us on the first day and told us, "Half of what we're going to teach you is wrong … the problem is, we don't know which half." It turns out that the nature of brain development was one of those areas where our existing assumptions and knowledge were less than fully accurate.

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Victims of violence remembered

Theirs are the stories that don't make sense. A 2-year-old, Margaret Ann Passaro, strapped into a car seat inside a burning van because her father wanted to hurt her mother.

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