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THE WINNERS AND THE LOSERS

* WINNERS: Newspaper readers. They're a lot more knowledgable about public issues, much more likely to vote, and feel better about the United States than people who rely on TV or ignore current events. That's the conclusion of a new survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

* WINNERS: The 20 million Americans who regularly use the Internet computer network. Despite charges that the Net is a refuge for pedophiles, pornographers and people who want to dynamite federal buildings, the same nationwide poll found Internet users show very little frustration with life. One reason may be that Internet users tend to be affluent, well-educated, young or middle-age and employed.* WINNER: Utah's prison system - because it is the least crowded in the country, with only one of every 645 Utahns incarcerated at the end of last year. That's nearly 31/2 times less than the national average. Question: Does the low rate result because Utahns are so law-abiding - or because this state is less effective at catching lawbreakers and putting them behind bars?

* WINNERS: Neighborhoods with a lot of residents who have cellular phones. That's because the phones can be used to reduce the crime rate by quickly telling police about suspicious activities. A new study in Miami found that in areas with programs that arm citizens with cellular phones as a crime-fighting measure, burglaries declined 33 per cent in a year along with a 24 per cent drop in robberies and a 9 per cent decrease in thefts. The moral: Forget about getting a gun permit and start packing a cellular phone.

* WINNERS: Delta, American, United, America West, Northwest, TWA, USAir, Southwest and Continental. They're the best airlines according to a new survey by J.D. Power & Associates.

No, wait a minute. The best airlines are really Midwest Express, Alaska and Kiwi International. That's the word from Consumer Reports.

Still another survey lists the best airlines as Singapore, Swissair and Cathay Pacific.

What, if anything, does all this mean to the traveler? Perhaps the conclusion is simply that now somebody should start rating the raters.