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Anti-sand but pro-stump 

It was an interesting sight. Last weekend, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt joined Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Congressman Scott McInnis and Attorney General Ken Salazar (a Democrat who's been playing footsy with his new best pals the Republicans as of late) for a stroll through the Great Sand Dunes.

They, and a lot of other lawmakers, want to reclassify the national monument at the foot of the San Luis Valley as a national park, which would guarantee additional protections.

But when it comes to the show of bipartisan solidarity, count our own Congressman Joel Hefley out. This week, the Republican lawmaker issued a statement saying he opposes the proposal.

"While the Great Sand Dunes National Monument is a wonderful attraction for Coloradans and visitors alike, I do not believe the monument rises to the level of a national park," Hefley said in a prepared statement. "The national park designation is a special significance that should not be assigned to every natural resource."

We are disappointed in Hef's position. After all, it comes just weeks after he secured a million bucks to build little shelters to protect petrified tree stumps at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

What makes that so special, of course, is the fact that the Republican lawmaker likes to hand out so-called "porker of the week" awards to his colleagues. Indeed, Hefley's maneuver to protect old tree stumps was so liberal-minded that, in today's small-government environment, even ultra-liberal lawmakers would have shrunk with embarrassment introducing the proposal.

This holiday season, Philip Morris has opened its heart in the strangest of ways, telling smokers of the world that they should consider... quitting smoking.

In a bizarre four-color glossy mass mailing to smokers and non, the proud manufacturer of such brands as Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Merit, Virginia Slims, Basic, Parliament and other "quality" cigarettes brags about its corporate values -- including a commitment to prevent kids from lighting up.

Their new campaign comes on the eve of the tobacco industry's first payment of $78 million to the state of Colorado, our first-year's share of a $206 billion deal that settled a lawsuit brought by 46 states against the tobacco industry. The lawsuit claimed that cigarette companies knew their products were unsafe, but misled people as to their dangers.

Most people or companies, when faced with this kind of fine for lying, learn their lesson. A recent University of Michigan study showed that, over the past five years, the number of smoking high school seniors has increased. Philip Morris wants us to believe that they earnestly want to get those kids to stop, for good.

Which begs the question: If they do, then how are they going to come up with their share of the massive cash settlement for the next 25 years?

How rich is Bill Gates? What with pulling in $170,282 a minute, 24 hours a day, we'd have to say pretty rich. In fact, Bill Gates became the first centibillionaire this year when his Microsoft stock briefly topped $100 billion. He is currently hovering at the $89.5 billion mark.

That makes the Microsoft founder worth more than the gross national products of Ireland and Portugal. It makes him worth more than Chase Manhattan Bank, McDonald's, Philip Morris and the Ford Motor Company.

Since May, Microsoft's stock has jumped tenfold. If the stock continues to soar at that rate, Gates' fortune will surpass the U.S. gross national product by 2010.

Manitou Springs does some pretty wacky things. Like officially sponsoring a fruitcake toss every year. (This year's will be held on Jan. 8.) Categories in the toss include: ugliest fruitcake, most beautiful fruitcake and "the fruitcake that traveled the greatest distance to the event."

City officials should be congratulated. They have finally found something useful for the fruitcake. And now, thanks to Saveur magazine, which featured the fruitcake toss in its December issue listings of food events across the country, the Manitou Springs event will penetrate the national consciousness.

The latest thing making the way around the Internet is a sobering reminder of just how old we're getting. Entitled "Just how old are you?", the piece lists a few dozen factoids of life about this year's class of college freshmen, who were mostly born in 1982. Here are a few:

They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era.

They were 11 years old when the Soviet Union broke apart and do not remember the Cold War.

They are too young to remember the Challenger blowing up.

The expression "you sound like a broken record" means nothing to them.

Their lifetime has always included AIDS.

They think Jay Leno has always been the host of the Tonight Show.

Most have never seen a black and white TV and have never watched a television with just 13 television channels.

The Compact Disc was introduced when they were 1 year old.

They have never heard: "Where's the beef?"

They don't know who Mork was or where he was from.

They do not care who shot J.R. and have no idea who J.R. is.

  • It was an interesting sight.

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