Darts and Laurels
Published: Saturday, January 8, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 11:01 p.m.
LAUREL: To Delta Airlines, for its new "SimpliFares" initiative to drastically cut ticket prices. Delta wants to be more competitive with upstarts like Southwest and Jet Blue, and its reductions may force other major airlines to follow suit. It may also make local passengers more apt to fly out of Gainesville's airport rather than drive to Jacksonville or Orlando. "When you calculate the value of your time, the wear and tear on your car, gas and parking, you can blow $50 or $60" flying from other airports, Gainesville Regional CEO Rick Crider told the Sun this week.
DART: To Attorney General nominee Alberto R. Gonzales, for a fine exhibition of hypocrisy during his confirmation hearings this week. While skating around questions about memos he wrote as White House counsel _ which seemed to lay the legal groundwork for permitting physical and mental abuse of prisoners of war _ Gonzales insisted: "This administration does not engage in torture and does not condone torture." Unfortunately for Gonzales' credibility, numerous investigations into abusive practices at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons have already put the lie to his glib assurances.
LAUREL: To the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for its recent announcement that it will begin launching a new generation of satellites in about four years to improve hurricane forecasts. John Kelly, NOAA's deputy undersecretary for atmosphere and environment, said the new ones will be launched as old ones wear out and could produce a 10-to 100-fold increase in data. The new satellites will provide more detailed data and provide it faster, thus helping forecasters and emergency managers, he said.
DART: To Medicare's telephone help line -- 800-MEDICARE (800-6334227) -- for giving incorrect or no answers four out of 10 times. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the question most often answered incorrectly was whether a person could qualify for a $600 prescription-drug credit for low-income seniors. Medicare guidelines and programs are confusing enough without a helpline compounding the situation with incorrect information.
LAUREL: To Gainesville Regional Utilities, for its new offer of rebates to residents who make certain home improvements or buy more efficient air conditioners to reduce their energy consumption. The rebates are part of a larger GRU energy conservation initiative.
DART: To the Florida Legislature and the Jeb Bush Administration for gutting what was once one of the best and most effective youth anti-smoking campaigns in America. For the second year in a row, the American Lung Association has given Florida an "F" grade for its now anemic anti-smoking efforts and for having among the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation. Unfortunately, the politicians in Tallahassee are more protective of Big Tobacco than of Florida's children.
LAUREL: To the University of Florida becoming a partner with the universities of South and Central Florida in the Florida High Tech Corridor Council. UF will invest $2 million a year in that effort to promote the growth of high-tech industries and workforce development in a 24-county area that will now extend all the way from Sarasota to Alachua counties.
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