It's time to follow up on some items in recent columns. And because confession is good for the soul, this also presents an opportunity to offer corrections for some stuff that didn't really hit the mark.
A correction is a good place to start. A recent column discussed warnings and ideas that never seem to die even when research shows them to be outdated or even irrational. The examples include the warning to pacemaker wearers to stay away from microwaves, the value of the so-called "Mozart effect," and the danger of cellular phone usage around the site of a bomb threat.
The first two are still valid. Theres no reason for people with implanted pacemakers to stay away from microwaves, unless theyre afraid of frozen burritos. And the idea that listening to Mozart music will make children smarter has been proven erroneous, though I theorize that listening to rap automatically lowers IQ by half.
(Actually, that could be a chicken-and-egg proposition: Your IQ may already be lower if you voluntarily listen to rap in the first place. And if it's loud enough for me to hear in my car next to yours in traffic, well, you probably cant read this anyway.)
The cell phone warnings, though, deserve more study. Chief Doug Cooper of the Martinez Fire Department passes along some information from terrorism expert Paul Copher, whom he contacted to get answers about just how valid these warnings are.
My take on these warnings is that they're based on a misunderstanding: Some terrorists, including a recent one in Israel, use a cellular phone as a trigger for a bomb. They call the wired-in phone from a remote location, and boom. This reality, I commented, has been warped into a general warning about the use of cell phones at possible bomb sites.
Actually, Copher tells Cooper, improperly shielded electronic detonators can indeed be set off by stray radio frequencies broadcast nearby - whether from cell phones or police radios.
"In New York City a suspected terrorist (group) was known to be in a certain building and a virtual parade of police cars began to circle the structure and all broadcast at the same time," Copher writes. "The resulting detonation took out several floors plus the terrorists."
So, the warning to keep cell phones and radios away from a bomb scene have some validity - unlike those ubiquitous "microwave in use" signs.
Another correction: A recent column about James Mitchell's fight with tax officials over a homestead ex-emption for his Wymberly property listed him as a service-connected disabled veteran. Well just have to say there was a misunderstanding, because Mitchell says that isn't the case.
And a follow-up: Adding to the tragic recent loss of 8-year-old Andrew Hawkinberry in a Sept. 13 car crash was the discovery that a human vulture at the Warren County crash site had stolen the purse of his mother, Kelly Hawkinberry.
The good people at Harlem Baptist Church came to the rescue, donating money to more than replace the funds that were taken. There isn't enough money in the world to replace little Andrew, but at least those caring neighbors helped demonstrate the good of a faithful community outweighs the bad elements.
Also in our community, several efforts are underway to help Tina Spivey, the surviving daughter of Harry and Linda Spivey, who died in the Martinez fire last week along with Tinas sister, 16-year-old Holly, a devoted member of the Evans High School Band.
We're good enough people to make a real difference in cases like this - and we should.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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