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Willie Sawyers

The current recession has forced the nation to come to grips with things never thought possible. Like the outright failure of two of our largest financial institutions, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.

Or the looming bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler. Or the collapse of the housing market. Or the fact that people, even those with good credit, can't borrow money. Or the increasing long lines of the unemployed.

We may be shaking our heads at even more severe economic surprises before this recession subsides.

Locally, we’re still coming to grips with the halt of the new Saint Joseph-London Hospital. Construction was proceeding at a steady pace. The steel skeleton has been erected and we could envision the scale of the magnificent facility. Now, everything’s on hold.

It's hard to understand how construction could begin on a $147 million facility without all the financing in place. But that’s apparently how many non-profit entities such as Saint Joseph undertake major capital projects. The company took a step back in the face of tough credit markets and escalating construction costs.

Let's hope the halt is only temporary. A new hospital in this area is justifiable, because the current Saint Joseph Hospital is profitable and the demand for medical services is bound to increase as the baby boom generation ages.

The business of treating the sick and dying is fairly recession proof.

• • •

Tara Kaprowy’s three-issue series on the smoking ban issue was comprehensive and enlightening. She talked to a lot of people in a lot of cities and presented both pros and cons of the debate.

What was evident from the series is that most communities that have enacted smoking bans are happy they did so. Most report cleaner and healthier air in restaurants and other public places. Restaurant owners can serve their customers more efficiently without separate smoking sections. Employees of those establishments no longer are subjected to unsafe levels of second-hand smoke.

It was heartening to learn from the series that London City Council members are getting closer to addressing a smoking ban in the city. Some council members have changed their opinions about the ban and want to bring it up. Others have open minds while others realize the community is ready to support a smoking ban.

The evidence is clear. Tara’s series in conjunction with Saint Joseph Hospital going smoke free and the Great American Smokeout provided all the justification any community needs to support a smoking ban.

It’s time for London to enjoy the benefits as well.

• • •

It’s a tragedy we hear about far too often when cold weathers sets in: Another person is killed in a house fire.

This time, a woman was killed and four other people burned seriously when fire consumed a home on Highmore Road in Laurel County.

It’s a shame that people have to suffer horrible tragedies when all they are doing is trying to stay warm.

• • •

Just like it did almost two years old today, the transmission on my Ford Explorer has gone out again. I was driving home last night and the transmission slipped out of second gear and wouldn’t go into third. The OD light also started blinking.

A search on Dr. Google informed me that the transmission probably will need to be rebuilt for the second time. It’s a shame that I’ve experienced two transmission failures with less than 80,000 miles on the Explorer.

Dr. Google also informed me that there is a design flaw on the 2002 Explorer transmissions and unfortunate owners are formulating a class-action lawsuit. I'm currently investigating where to sign up.

It’s incidents like these that make you realize why American automotive companies are having financial problems.

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