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Darts and laurels

Laurels to what should turn out to be a feisty race this year between U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic challenger Kay Hagan. They both made news this week on the subject of illegal immigration, with sheriffs serving as props. Dole touted her efforts to have sheriffs check jail inmates’ immigration status and begin deportation proceedings. Hagan said she supports deportation but called the program involving sheriffs only a Band-Aid solution. As has been pointed out in this space before, the program uses local money to solve a federal problem ó one that Congress (including Dole) has failed to fix. Expect Dole to hammer away at this issue, a favorite among her conservative constituency. While she’s at it, she can tell voters what the federal government is doing to solve the problem besides shift responsibility to county sheriffs.
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Dart to overcrowded state prisons. N.C. lawmakers learned recently that the state could need an additional 6,100 beds by 2017 at the rate the prison population is growing. The N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission predicts the state prison population will hit 40,000 next year. That’s not a proud statement about North Carolina. Legislators are getting creative with their proposed solutions to the overcrowding. Sen. Tony Rand has suggested releasing seriously disabled, nonviolent inmate andturning over to U.S. immigration officials any inmates who are nonviolent illegal immigrants. Together, the two measures might save the state from having to build and run one prison. But that still leaves thousands more incoming inmates for whom there may not be enough beds. Building is in order; letting the state prisons become a revolving door again is too dangerous to public safety. But prevention and alternative programs must be considered, too.
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Laurels to a new report which suggests that childhood obesity rates are leveling off. Data analyzed by the National Center for Health Statistics showed no significant change in the obesity levels of young people aged 2-19 in 2003-04 and 2005-05. Still, as the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association makes clear, reaching a plateau is not the same as an actual improvement in obesity rates, and that’swhat’s sorely needed. The waistlines of American children have ballooned in recent years, and the health impact has been significant, with increases in diabetes, high blood pressure, compromised cardio-pulmonary fitness and even heart disease. It’s good news that obesity rates show signs of stabilizing. But until the rates are reduced, young Americans will continue to suffer from the prospects of obesity-related health problems and possibly even shorter life spans.

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