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THE WINNERS AND THE LOSERS

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* WINNER: The U.S. economy. New government figures show the gross national product grew 3.9 percent from July through September, the strongest performance in four years. Though that much growth does not amount to an economic boom, it is more vigorous than President Bush and his economists estimated. What's more, the figure indicates that a recovery did indeed begin late last summer and the economy is back on track.

LOSER: President Bush. If this good news had been known a few weeks earlier, he just might have been re-elected.POTENTIAL LOSERS: President-elect Clinton and Congress. A recovery deprives them of an excuse for tinkering with the economy - and of an excuse for not whittling down and eventually eliminating the federal deficit.

* WINNER: June Lavelle of Chicago. This week she won a prestigious national award for starting and running the Fulton-Carroll Center, which has helped start 177 companies in the past 12 years. Though only 71 of the firms survived, they have created 1,500 new jobs.

LOSER: June Lavelle. Just a month before she received the award, the board in charge of the center fired her in a dispute over how much money should be used to maintain the century-old building that houses the Fulton-Carroll Center.

* WINNER: Seventy-three-year-old Anne Stern of New York. When carjackers tried to ram her auto and steal it while she was en route to a Thanksgiving dinner, Stern dragged one culprit down the street after he reached in her car's window, then rammed the auto of another carjacker.

- GOOD ADVICE: The suggestion this week from Bob Gulaskey to high school and college athletes. His advice: forget about trying to become a professional athlete - or at least forget about it until after graduation.

Consider the odds against making the grade in the pros. Only 70 of every 1 million high school athletes will get to play a pro sport for even a brief time. Yet 25 to 30 percent of the nation's high school basketball and football players are functionally illiterate, and 70 percent of NCAA Division I basketball programs graduate less than 40 percent of their athletes.

Too bad Gulaskey didn't take his own advice earlier. He rejected college offers to sign with a minor league baseball team. All he ended up with was $222.22 a month, a broken jaw, a broken sinus, and a broken heart.

- BEST ADVICE OF THE WEEK: Install a smoke detector - and check its batteries regularly. Of the 855 fires reported to the Utah fire marshal's office this year, 293 occurred in homes with no smoke detector. Twenty-seven people, including eight children under the age of 5, died in those fires. Fifteen of those deaths occurred in homes without smoke detectors. None of the deaths occurred where there was a working smoke detector. Get the message?