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The winners and the losers

Loser: Some things are worth risking a life for, but Beanie Babies? This may come as a shock to those who collect them and, particularly, to those who dangerously tried to pick them up off I-285 in Atlanta Thursday -- while still driving their cars! -- but they're not real. They're stuffed toys.

Trying to explain their hold on people is a confounding exercise in logic, but there is no doubt as to their popularity -- it's frightening, as was clearly borne out in Atlanta. Beanie Babies spilled onto the freeway from a vehicle apparently headed for a McDonald's restaurant where they were to be part of kids' meals. Supposedly normal people heading home from work entered the Twilight Zone at the sight of the freeway booty.A spokesman for the state's motorist assistance agency said he saw at least six or seven motorists leaning from their cars to scoop up the Beanie Babies with one hand while they kept rolling with the other hand on the steering wheel. These probably are the same people who say our children are out of control.

*Winner: Utah will join states across the nation in promoting "Safe Night" tonight. The laudable program provides teenagers with wholesome alternatives to detrimental conduct at the end of the school year. No weapons, alcohol or drugs are permitted. At Salt Lake City's Army National Guard Armory, for example, youths 14 to 18 are invited at no charge to play games, dance and scale a climbing wall. Conflict resolution and violence workshops also will be held.

In addition to Salt Lake, Dugway, Richfield, Randolph and St. George also are participating in the program.

This is a program that not only benefits the youth but also adults. May there be many more safe nights, with or without the safe night program.

Loser: As if Utah needed more gravel rubbed in its wounds, the state has achieved the rather dubious distinction of being ranked No. 1 in the nation for having the worst road construction zone, courtesy of the I-15 project. That's according to USA Today and the AAA. USA Today suggests vacationing motorists stay away from the "severe congestion . . . 15- to 20-minute delays during rush hours" and "30-45 minutes" of additional driving time associated with with freeway detours.

What the article doesn't state is that there are alternatives to the I-15 morass such as the I-215 belt route. And are we really to believe that, regardless of construction, traveling in parts of Utah is more congested than trying to negotiate the freeways of Los Angeles? Of course not, which is why so many people from L.A. are moving here.

Loser: If you want your property assessed, don't hire someone from the Utah Department of Transportation to do it. UDOT is developing a rather disturbing habit of undervaluing other people's land. While this is all done in the name of progress -- specifically transportation progress -- it's not being done very well.

In the latest example, a jury agreed with a Draper couple that their land was worth $2 million, double what UDOT wanted to pay. UDOT condemned Brent and June Palmer's six-acre horse farm in 1997 to make way for highway construction. Rather than accept UDOT's $1 million offer, the Palmers sued. Maybe the Palmers could put a value on how much UDOT officials should be paid.