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The winners and the losers

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San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh argues a call with referee David White.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh argues a call with referee David White.

Associated Press

Winner: Community courts are growing and gaining favor in Utah and elsewhere in the United States. A feature story this week by the Associated Press found many judges and others associated with the court heaping praise on the idea. Rather than clogging the system with relatively minor cases, community courts will hear those cases quickly and informally, then find treatments, shelters or punishments that fit the crime, often in a manner that is more personal and caring than traditional courts would offer. Taggers are sentenced to paint over graffiti, and shoplifters are told to perform community service to the poor, etc. Time will tell how effective the courts are at reducing crime or rehabilitating people, but the experiment is noble.

Loser: It doesn't matter much how great your thoughts and ideas are if you are unable to communicate them to others. That's why it was so disturbing to read this week that the National Assessment of Educational Progress has found only about one-fourth of middle school and high school students in the United States can write proficiently, meaning they can accomplish the purpose of their writing, which is to communicate a thought or idea. Only 3 percent could write at an advanced level. Girls performed much better than boys, which also raises questions about gender equality in education. Whatever the causes, the inability to teach writing stands as one of the most troubling failures of the nation's school system.

Winner: Our guess is most referees enter their profession knowing they aren't likely to be cheered. So Thursday night's return of the official NFL referees to the field, only days after replacement refs muddled the end of a game, was an anomaly. As they came on the field, the refs were cheered by 50,000 people, and they hadn't even blown a whistle. Our guess is this condition will not last long.

Loser: More than two weeks after protestors stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, investigators still can't get anywhere near the place. The FBI fears security in the area is inadequate to protect any sort of investigation into the crime, which is making it difficult to determine exactly who carried it out and who killed four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens. One senior official acknowledged the crime scene has been so degraded by now that it's unlikely to reveal many clues. Meanwhile, authorities are having trouble interviewing Libyans about the incident because of fears for their safety. It's getting hard to remember that Libya is a nation the United States helped to liberate.