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Darts and laurels (1-31-15)

Sheriff Kevin Auten has lost a man. No, an inmate has not escaped from the county jail. Auten has simply lost enough weight to account for another man, albeit a fairly small one at 120 pounds. But given that just over a year ago, Auten weighed 366 pounds and suffered from a variety of ailments, that’s a lot more than a good start. And it sets a great example. Seeing the boss work out, eat a more sensible diet and generally become a healthier person has got to inspire the sheriff’s deputies and other employees. And that’s a good thing, since the county counts on them. So Auten, who says he still has more weight to lose, deserves laurels for himself and for the precedent he’s setting for his department.

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Dart to insurance companies that are telling North Carolina homeowners they can either agree to pay higher premiums than the state has approved or risk losing their coverage altogether. And dart to the law that allows the practice. The Associated Press reported this week that the companies are sending homeowners “consent to rate” letters giving them 10 days to decide whether they’ll pay the higher rates. The AP story highlighted a Wilmington homeowner being told he had to accept a 120-percent rate increase. Rowan residents may not be facing rate hikes as big as those at the coast, but they are getting the letters. While this seemingly makes no sense after the state insurance commissioner last month rejected insurers’ request for a average 25.6 percent increase statewide, North Carolina law allows insurance companies to increase premiums by up to 250 percent if a customer agrees. One state representative told the AP she recommends that people who receive a consent to rate letter contact the Insurance Department and “look into more customer-friendly insurers.” How about looking into a more consumer-friendly law?

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Dart to anyone who would steal from a person’s gravesite. Emily Stirewalt recently told the Post how it has happened twice to her family. On Dec. 22, her late husband Willie Stirewalt’s birthday, she placed a small, living Christmas tree next to his marker at the Salisbury National Cemetery. She anchored the tree, planning to retrieve it later and plant it in her front yard, in her husband’s memory. But when she returned in mid-January, the tree had been stolen. In 1998, she and a cousin placed an iron cross at the grave of great-grandfather John Robeson Wallace, who served in the Confederate Army. The cross was later stolen. Stirewalt is upset, as anyone would be. If anything is sacred, shouldn’t it be a person’s final resting place?

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