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Laurels to at least a partial remedy for long, unpredictable security lines at U.S. airports. It’s called the registered traveler program, and its use so far at six airports has yielded positive results. Different vendors are involved, but the concept is the same: If you’ll pay a one-time $100 fee, go through a background check and biometric iris scan, you’ll be OK’d to whisk through a registered passenger security line, speeding up security checks for everyone. The system is not foolproof. Some people are concerned that “sleeper cell” terrorists could get themselves into the program. But all registered travelers go through a background check ó the same one used for airline employees ó and they still have to go through screening before boarding a plane. Airport security causes lots of grumbling and even some missed flights, but no one questions its necessity any longer. The image of two hijacked airliners intentionally crashing into the World Trade Center on 9/11 is burned on our collective memory. The United States cannot afford to treat air travel lackadaisically. But if technology can help speed up lines and ó imagine ó allow some travelers to keep their shoes on, it could ease anxiety all the way around.
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Dart to the hiring binge the federal government is about to embark upon. Federal agencies expect to hire nearly 193,000 new workers in almost every occupational field in the next two years, according to the Washington Post. Citing a report from the the nonprofit Partnership for Public America, the Post says more than 83,000 of the jobs are in Defense and Homeland Security, but tightening security is not the only impetus, and many of these positions are not new. Nearly a third of the federal government’s 1.6 million fulltime employees are expected to retire or resign in the next five years ó a harbinger of things to come as baby boomers head for retirement. Government jobs could offer security for a lot of people suffering through job instability right now. (They can find more details in the July 10 Washington Post story at www.washingtonpost.com.) That could be good for them. Still, though, the thought of the feds increasing the payroll on such a large scale sends shivers through our wallets.
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Laurels to one of North Carolina’s historic gems, Carl Sandburg’s Flat Rock farm, and efforts to ensure its preservation. A bill written by Sen. Elizabeth Dole and supported by Sen. Richard Burr would protect the site from encroaching development by adding 110 acres to the park on Big Glassy Mountain. Sandburg, a Pulitzer Prize winner for both his biography of Abraham Lincoln and his poetry, died at the farm in 1976. The town of Flat Rock and the National Park Service support the $7 million expansion project, Dole said, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee should, too. Sandburg’s North Carolina farm isn’t just an irreplaceable part of the state’s history; it’s a national treasure as well.

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