THE deaths this week of a woman and her four young children should prompt homeowners to immediately check the batteries in their smoke detectors.
They are such simple devices and require little to no maintenance — other than replacing the battery every six months or so. And yet all too often we read or hear about people who died in fires where no working smoke detectors were found.
This was the case with Jeanine Bonnet, 28, and her children, ages 3 to 8. They were killed the morning after Christmas in a fire in northwest Oklahoma City. They had been living in the house only a few months. Fire officials said the house hadn't had working gas service for some time; space heaters were used instead, and one that was too close to a flammable material is what started the blaze.
Smoke detectors are vital because often it is smoke inhalation, and not the flames from a fire, that prove fatal. Would working smoke detectors have saved these five victims? It's impossible to know for sure — firefighters said the blaze was particularly intense. But the fact the detectors didn't work certainly stacked the deck against Bonnet and her children.
It's worth remembering the Oklahoma City Fire Department provides free smoke alarms to city residents who can't afford them, individuals living in homes with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The department will even install the alarms and new batteries for people who need a hand.
For assistance, stop by a local fire station or call 297-3318.
A rare victory
The state won a rare legal victory in the area of reproductive services when a federal judge nixed Planned Parenthood's attempt to keep its northeastern Oklahoma WIC contract in place. The state Health Department had pulled the contract, citing legitimate concerns over cost and efficiency. Planned Parenthood said the whole thing was political — aimed at punishing an organization for its association with abortion. Planned Parenthood doesn't have an automatic right to contract for services under the Women, Infants and Children program. The state has an obligation to scrutinize groups with which it enters contracts. If anything, political correctness would dictate that the state not target Planned Parenthood because of national repercussions. Case after case of the state defending laws restricting abortion has been lost. In this case, the state prevailed in preventing Planned Parenthood's request to block the contract termination. If politics were involved in this case, it was more on the side of Planned Parenthood's highly politicized agenda.
Where the money is
Reports of the demise of oil exploration and production in Oklahoma are greatly exaggerated. Note that we said “oil” not “oil and gas.” Exploration companies are hot on the trail of oil because that's where the money is. Natural gas prices are so depressed that it's no longer the hot commodity it was just three years ago. Oklahoma-based energy firms explore for oil and gas throughout the continent, but they aren't ignoring their own backyard. The Oklahoman's Jay Marks reports that 2012 intent-to-drill applications hit 3,912 through November, more than the entire 2011 total. To put things in perspective, the figure was 22,685 in 1981. Not long after, a boom became a bust from which the industry slowly recovered. One industry executive described current activity as “measured but steady.” That's not a term normally associated with a heritage industry known for spectacular booms and devastating busts. Measured but steady is a good thing.
The petition drive to send Piers Morgan back to England brings to mind the one to get Jerome Ersland out of prison or of calls to impeach certain politicians for their political views (as opposed to impeachable offenses) and demands for recall elections for state officials and legislators (they can't be recalled). Morgan unleashed a firestorm of criticism when the CNN host followed the Connecticut school shootings with a knee-jerk insistence that U.S. gun laws more closely resemble those in his native England. More than 30,000 people had “signed” the electronic petition by Christmas Eve. Such efforts are not only meaningless but may actually empower the target by calling attention to his views and making him a martyr. Morgan replaced Larry King on CNN. The drop-off in quality was precipitous, but that's no reason to deport him. What gets people out of television here and in England is low ratings. The petition drive probably helped boost ratings.
Of twits and tweets
Any kid using the excuse that the Mayan calendar “ate my homework” has lost his leverage. The world didn't end on 12/21/12, but things are getting curiouser as what was supposed to be mankind's last year on all calendars trickles to an end. The pope is now tweeting. The archbishops of Canterbury and York tweeted their Yuletide sermons. And the queen of England gave her Christmas message in 3D. Pope Benedict XVI's first use of Twitter (he's @Pontifex in the tweet world) went out on Dec. 12. Since Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, full sermons can't go in one tweet. At least the subject is serious, unlike many tweets. A 2009 analysis by a market research firm showed that more than 40 percent of tweets can be described as “pointless babble.” Another 10 percent were either self-promotion or spam. Hard to say in what category to place the millions of tweets about the Last Day on Earth that turned out to be just another Friday.
A solemn reminder
The recent death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, was a reminder that a dwindling number of World War II veterans remain with us, and even fewer are still involved in public service. Inouye volunteered for the military after witnessing Japanese planes attack Peal Harbor. He was a member of the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and lost his right arm in a battle with Germans in Italy. With Inouye's passing, there are now only three members of Congress who served in World War II: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas. And the clock is swiftly winding down for the last of the World War II vets in Congress. Lautenberg turns 89 in January. Dingell is 86. Hall recently became the oldest person to ever serve in the U.S. House and will turn 90 in May.
Bad news for “brights”
Research by the Pew Research Center finds that the number of Americans who definitely believe in miracles has increased from 45 percent to 55 percent over the last two decades. The number who probably or definitely believe in miracles now stands at 79 percent. Pew found that those who regularly attend church are more likely to believe in miracles, but also found belief in miracles was growing fastest among those who do not regularly attend church. In fact, belief in miracles is increasing even as church affiliation has declined. That will likely frustrate certain atheists, particularly those who tout themselves as “brights” for rejecting religious belief, a not-too-subtle way of portraying those of religious faith as dullards. Pew's research shows that traditional religious institutions may face challenges, but Americans retain an abiding belief in evidence of a higher power.