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IN the belief that plastic bags are a menace to society and reusable bags are good, San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags for groceries in 2007.

More than five years later, a research paper for the Wharton Institute for Law and Economics contends that this may have led to a 46 percent rise in food-borne illnesses. (There may be more factors.)

The Learning Channel cautions people to specify bags for meats and fish and to scrub or launder these bags regularly.

Regardless of what caused the rise in food-borne illness, the report raises questions about other unintended consequences. Won't the soap used to clean the bags use water, in short supply in San Francisco?

"California politicians didn't even bother studying the possible health effects of their anti-bag laws," wrote Debra J. Saunders in her column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

"They were in such a hurry to tell their constituents what's best for them, they forgot to check how their busybody scheme might go wrong."

Physicians are scolded: "First do no harm."

Good advice for politicians, too.

***

AT a ceremony in 1986, she told the West

Virginia Society of Washington: "I can remember when I paid all the bills and had nine cents left in my pocket until next payday. I never complained. It is good to be pinched for money."

Through hard work, she and her first husband, who went from farm boy to the owner of Sterling Faucet in Morgantown, amassed a fortune in businesses that included coal mines, grocery stores and  thoroughbred racehorses.

That alone was reason enough for the society to name Hazel Ruby McQuain its West Virginia Daughter of the Year in 1986.

But what she did with that wealth is equally remarkable.

In 1984, she put up $8 million to launch Ruby Memorial Hospital, named for her first husband, John Wesley Ruby, in Morgantown. Now, a decade after she died at 93, she continues to support the community and the school she loved so dearly.

This week, the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust gave $7.5 million to WVU's law school. It will help finance a $25 million building and renovation project that will add 20,000 square feet of classrooms to the law school.

So much for the values of the reviled 1 percent.***

NOT many people can organize a fundraiser that attracts more than 700 participants and raises $140,000 for a worthy cause. Jay Haapala of Elkview is one who can.  

He's 15.

In May, the Capital High School freshman served as chairman of the state's annual fundraising walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. That's Type 1 diabetes; he was diagnosed with it at age 6.

Haapala created a logo, a website, planned media coverage and tapped his Boy Scout troop for assistance. He expanded the event with a balloon release, activities for kids, a helicopter landing and a military airplane on display.

Now Haapala has received national recognition, a Prudential Spirit of Community Award. He will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip to the nation's capital to pick up the award in early May.

He should be back in time for this year's walk for juvenile diabetes, set for 11:30 a.m. May 19 at the state Capitol.

That really is the right spirit.

***

FOR years, state newspapers and forward-thinking people have urged state officials to stop using public funds for self-promotional items.

Politicians defended this trinketry as being for informational - not political - purposes.

Therefore, it is refreshing to see new Attorney General Patrick Morrisey make good on his campaign promise to stop the trinkets.

"You will not see my name on the pill box, the gun lock, on the pen, the pencil, the magnet, etc.," he told reporters.

What a refreshing change from his predecessor, who used every trick in the book to promote the name "Darrell McGraw" on the public's dime.

Morrisey deserves praise for doing what good government people urged state officeholders to do for years.

Other officeholders should follow suit.

 


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