Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 27, 2007

Laurels to the life of NASCAR great Benny Parsons, who died this week in Charlotte of lung cancer at age 65. The North Carolina native who grew up in Wilkes County left his mark on racing as a driver and, later, as a popular broadcaster. In a stock-car career that spanned nearly a quarter of a century, the unassuming Parsons won 21 major races, including the 1975 Daytona 500. His professional accolades include induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and being named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers. After retiring from racing in 1988, he had a highly successful run as a racing analyst and broadcaster. While paying tribute to his accomplishments as a driver, his fellow racers said they would especially miss his gentle spirit and warmth, feelings summed up by driver Darrell Waltrip who called him “the kindest, sweetest, most considerate person I have ever known.”

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Dart to the latest chapter in the controversies involving outgoing House Speaker Jim Black. He’s now refusing to release the work done by a woman hired to document the history of the House, even though she was on the public payroll to the tune of $50,627 a year. Ann Lassiter, a former coordinator of the House’s page program, was hired by Black when he created the temporary historian position in May 2005. She left the position last month. A legislative staff attorney determined that state law allows the documents to be withheld, but that begs an obvious question: What could be the justification for keeping House history a secret, or is the real secret that this supposed job didn’t involve much real work, historical or otherwise? Rep. Hugh Holliman and an attorney for the North Carolina Press Association are contesting Black’s decision to withhold the material.

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Laurels to a new Web site that will make it easier for consumers to access information about health care. The Web site launched by the North Carolina Hospital Association (www.nchospitalquality.org) lets people compare the quality of care that hospitals provide for patients being treated for conditions that have been widely researched and can be evaluated according to recognized standards of care. These include surgical procedures, heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. North Carolina is apparently the first state to launch this kind of site, but look for it to be replicated elsewhere if it proves successful.