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AHEAD of Monday's celebration of the 520th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World, the Nina and the Pinta arrived in Wheeling this week.

Not the original ships, of course, but replicas built in 1988 and 1992, respectively.

The ships were small — the Nina was 50 feet long and the Pinta 56 feet in length. Yet with the 72-foot-long Santa Maria, they carried 39 men to the Western Hemisphere.

But the voyage to islands near America was not the final adventure of the Nina, which made all three of the explorer's voyages to the New World.

"Between the second and third voyages, the Nina had been taken on an unauthorized trip to Rome and captured by pirates. The crew then stole the ship back from the pirates and returned it to Spain," wrote Daniel Dorsch of the Wheeling Intelligencer.

Columbus and the men who crossed the Atlantic in tiny wooden boats changed the world. They still deserve remembrance more than five centuries later.

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THE outrage of the week has to be the report by the Congressional Research that 2,362 people in millionaire homes received federal unemployment checks in 2009.

This included millionaires and their family members.

While the argument could be made that on the state level, the millionaires or their employers paid into unemployment insurance and should collect what is due, money for being out of work for weeks 27 to 99 came from the federal coffers. It is not insurance.

Obviously, such payments must be needs-based, because this is unemployment welfare. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced legislation last year to block such payments to millionaires and their families.

While "only" about $20 million would be saved over a 10-year period, the idea of welfare for millionaires is repugnant.

Welfare should go to the truly needy. Millionaires don't qualify.

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WHEN the Soviet Union swept itself into the dustbin of history 21 years ago, Russians were so depressed that the birth rate dropped like a rock.

The United States has experienced the same thing, although on a smaller scale, over the last four years.

After reaching a peak of 4.3 million live births in 2007, the number of births gradually declined, hitting just 4 million live births in 2011.

The birth rate for women in their 20s hit a 70-year-old low. The only time it was lower was when Americans were still reeling from the Depression. The connection between the economy and the birth rate

But births declined by only 1 percent last year, so there is some hope. Underpopulation would be a problem when so many retirees depend on younger workers to provide Social Security, Medicare and

other benefits.

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IN late 2003, law firms filed a class acton suit against Schering-Plough, which made Coppertone. Merck bought that corporation in 2009.

Plaintiffs objected to the use of "sunblock," "waterproof," "sweatproof," "all day," and "all day protection" in advertisements.

The Wall Street Journal reported that although the product met all U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for broad-spectrum sun protection, Merck agreed to pay $3 million to $10 million "to avoid the burden, expense, risk and uncertainty" of continuing litigation.

While companies should be honest and straightforward with advertising, such suits are basically legalized extortion. Corporations now pay handsomely just to untangle themselves.

Don't think society is harmed by nuisance suits?

Think again.

It's a pity nobody can file suit against the political class for misleading and deceptive advertising.


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