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Darts and laurels

Laurels to the loo, the porcelain throne, the W.C., the john, the potty or any of the other names weíve bestowed on the humble household fixture more commonly known as the toilet. Today is World Toilet Day, and while it invites a lot of bad puns we wonít repeat here, it has a serious purpose: Raising awareness of the importance of sanitation in helping people live healthier longer lives. Itís estimated that about 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities, primarily in Asia and Africa. Diarrheal diseases linked to inadequate sanitation kill 4,000 children a day, according to WaterAid, an international aid group that advocates for safe water and sanitation. The indoor bathroom we take for granted is a luxury unknown to 40 percent of the worldís population. You can learn more and find ways to support the cause at www.wateraidamerica.org or www.watermissions.org.

Dart to the vandals whoíve recently defaced churches and businesses here and in adjoining counties. Itís bad enough when hooligans target schools, homes and other buildings, but itís especially deplorable when they damage houses of worship. Fortunately, members of Organ Lutheran Church were able to clean up the graffiti sprayed on the historic structure. In Anson County, members of the Cedar Hill AME Zion Church faced a costlier recovery from broken windows, defiled graves and thousands of dollars in destruction. At least seven churches in Stanly County also sustained damage. If the vandals intend to damage the churches, theyíre on a mission of dark futility. They may mar the structures, but the incidents have proved object lessons in faith and forgiveness.

Laurels to this weekís announcement that teen birth rates in the United States have reached the lowest level since agencies began tracking them. Health officials credit a decline in teenagers who are sexually active, as well as much higher rates of contraception use. Although individual numbers for states havenít been released, N.C. experts have expressed confidence that the stateís teen birth rate will track the national trend. Letís hope thatís the case. Declining teen pregnancy rates can have a positive impact in other areas, including fewer dropouts, improved infant mortality rates and reduced demand on social service resources.

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