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Charleston Daily Mail: Short takes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- WEST Virginia lost a lifelong civic servant this week when former Charleston Mayor Joe F. Smith passed away at the age of 94. He was emblematic of a generation that relentlessly gave of itself to make life better for others.

Born in Bristol, Va., Smith graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He joined the U.S. Army and encrypted military intelligence during World War II, then spent a career at C&P Telephone Co.

He went on to serve the city of Charleston for eight years as a city councilman, five years as city treasurer, and three years as mayor between 1980 and 1983. It was a critical time that saw completion of Charleston Town Center and revitalization of the capital city as a retail destination.

Smith subsequently served as executive director of the Public Employees Retirement System, which he improved as well. He also served two terms in the House of Delegates.

"For him, politics wasn't some sort of ugly game," his son, Tom Smith, told the Gazette. "He was simply interested in public service and making sure that citizens were treated properly. That's how he operated."

How true. How fortunate we all were to have him.

 •••

THE success of the Democrats' comprehensive health care law rests on getting young healthy people to buy health insurance. It's essential to funding the costs of an expanded publicly funded health care entitlement.

Thus, the old military recruiting poster, "Uncle Sam wants you," is taking on new meaning.

Mike Dorning of Bloomberg News reports that data miners who worked to recruit potential voters in battleground states are roaming cyberspace to identify 2.7 million uninsured healthy 18- to-24-year-olds to sign up for insurance on health exchanges starting Oct. 1.

These hunters of young uninsured people use 32 data points to predict who is unlikely to have insurance and approach them to sign up.

"The law offers subsidies to lower the insurance cost for people making up to four times the federal poverty level," Dorning wrote. "Based on 2013 data, that means a discount on ordinary insurance rates for individuals with incomes up to $45,960.

"A single, 25-year-old nonsmoker who makes $20,000 a year can enroll in a basic insurance plan for less than $42 per month because of a $2,009 annual subsidy."

That's affordable health insurance for the subsidees. The subsidizers will have to wait and see.

•••

COAL generates 40 percent of the world's electric power, and use of the fuel has grown more than 50 percent in 10 years, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But the effort to end its use is serious.

The current administration has imposed rules that virtually bar construction of new coal-fired plants in the United States, and the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing rules that will force the closure of more existing plants.

Furthermore, President Obama said in June that the U.S. government will no longer finance coal-fired plants in developing countries through the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank have followed suit.

These institutions have put more than $10 billion into coal plants in developing nations in the past five years.

Noted Mark Drajem of Bloomberg News: "Supporters of the fuel source say it's a low-cost way for poor nations to provide light, refrigeration and air conditioning to their people."

But today's prohibitionists forget that it was just that access to an abundant, low-cost fuel source that allowed the West to develop and obtain the standard of living it enjoys today.

•••

WIRT County is not a big place, but it knows how to have a good time. The most recent Wirt County Fair featured, among other attractions, live performers, the annual Wirt County Fair Talent Show, and furthermore:

A concert by the Wirt County High School Band, a rabbit show, a hog show, a garden tractor pull, a beef and sheep livestock show, truck pulls, a flower show, an ATV drag race, a pretty-baby contest, the West Virginia State Arm Wrestling Championship, a 100-foot banana split, a horseshoe-pitching contest, a haybale-throwing contest, a skillet-throwing contest and a nail-driving contest.

Good, clean, silly fun.

Those who missed the Wirt County event may want to go to the 89th State Fair of West Virginia. It opened Friday in Fairlea, Greenbrier County.

As many as 190,000 people are expected to attend over the next week. There's not much the State Fair doesn't offer.

It's a wonderful, family-friendly way to celebrate summer -- a tonic for the soul of a cynical world.


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