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Darts and laurels

Dart to the increase in summer drownings among young children in recent years. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says the average number of drowning deaths among children under 5 in pools and spas has increased from 267 for 2002-04 to 283 for 2003-05. Of particular interest ó and hazard ó are relatively cheap inflatable pools that are widely available. Local safety codes don’t apply to them, and adults tend to regard them as harmless. In the vast majority of cases, the pools bring only fun and relief from the heat, but children can slip out of sight in a fraction of a second and find their way to water without adults knowing it. That’s especially true at large family gatherings where a lot is going on. Quiet times when the supervising adult is absorbed in a task are also risky. On the flip side ó the industry’s side ó the increase in pool purchases suggests number of drownings per pool has gone down, but that’s no comfort. There is still more tragedy and loss. Remember, keep an eye on children around bodies of water and pools of all sizes. They are precious.
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Laurels to the United States flag, which you’ll see more than usual this year with a presidential election on the calendar. Today is Flag Day, an observance whose roots go back to the Second Continental Congress, which adopted the U.S. flag on this day in 1777. President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 as Flag Day in 1916. For good measure, Congress made it even more official with an act of its own in 1949. The stars and stripes stir proud feelings every day of the year. That’s why candidates gravitate toward it as a backdrop. Still, it’s fitting to set aside one day to focus on and celebrate this important national symbol.
The U.S. Postal Service is flying its colors by releasing 10 new postage stamps today featuring the U.S. flag and nine state flags. North Carolina’s is not one of them, but eventually it will be, as the Postal Service eventually issues 60 flag-theme stamps in the coming years, going in alphabetical order. (Today’s release covers Alabama through Colorado.)
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Dart to the wildfire that continues to burn in northeastern North Carolina in the area of the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge and is spurring air warnings hundreds of miles away. Areas in the vicinity of the fire are getting the worst of the smoke and ash, which triggered a Code Purple air alert Friday east of Interstate 95 and north of U.S. 70. But the fire has affected air quality as far away as Winston-Salem and High Point, which were under a Code Orange warning earlier in the week. Meanwhile, firefighters say it will take a major rainfall to help dampen the blaze, which apparently was ignited a couple of weeks ago by lightning and has burned almost 60 square miles. Seeing the devastastation from this fire should remind everyone to be careful when using fire in any outdoor activities. When it comes to wildfire, one careless moment can unleash billowing clouds of trouble.

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