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Potpourri: Jan. 13, 2014

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 focus on ways to protect public water systems from poisons that might be sneaked into the water supply by terrorists. It's too bad that officials didn't install some type of safeguard that would have prevented the Elk River chemical spill from entering the West Virginia American Water intake and spreading through the firm's eight-county network of pipes. People need protection from accidental pollution as well as from murderous sabotage.

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Mountain State native Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, a Harvard black studies scholar who was this paper's 1994 West Virginian of the Year, says most Americans misunderstand the number of African slaves who were shipped into the United States. From 1525 to 1866, he wrote, 12.5 million were shipped to the Western Hemisphere - but only 10.7 million survived the dreadful "Middle Passage." Nearly 5 million went to Brazil, and most of the rest went to Caribbean islands and Latin America. Just 388,000 landed in North America. Dr. Gates says it's amazing that today's 42 million black Americans came from so few ancestors.

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Former Clarksburg banker John Aman is charged with 11 counts of bank fraud. At the time of his federal indictment, he had left banking and was manager of Clarksburg's Centra bus system. A Clarksburg political insider wants to know why the bus system recently granted a half-million-dollar change order in a former demolition contract.

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In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Tomblin avoided pending legislative issues and spoke instead about "tending the garden" of state government. Maybe he was inspired by Voltaire's Candide, in which the hero suffers a multitude of calamities and finally concludes that, for a meaningful life, "let us cultivate our garden."

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The Bush-Cheney White House started the tragic Iraq War on untrue claims that the little Mideast nation possessed horror weapons. The unnecessary war cost 4,400 American lives and $1 trillion in taxpayer loss. And now that U.S. forces have been withdrawn, Sunni fanatics have recaptured Fallujah and other sectors. Was the entire war a waste?

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Bearing arms in West Virginia: Charleston police say a silly argument caused a shooting. Apparently, Michael Dale Underwood II's wife handed Charlie Scott a slip of paper containing the phone number of a pizzeria, and Scott's girlfriend mistakenly thought she was giving him her personal number. Anger erupted, and Underwood is charged with shooting Scott in the shoulder and thigh. A Fayetteville lawyer is charged with helping the gunman flee.

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We quoted an e-mail saying that August will have five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays - a occurrence supposedly happening only once in 823 years.  But John Taylor of Grafton pointed out that any 31-day month that begins on Friday is similar, so the phenomenon recurs about every seven years.

*** The U.S. Census Bureau says North Dakota's population is rising rapidly, thanks to an oil-and-gas drilling boom. Well, West Virginia is enjoying an upsurge in Marcellus Shale horizontal wells - but this state was among just two that lost people during the past year. Go figure.


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