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The winners and the losers

With the Capitol and downtown buildings in the foreground, haze shows in the Salt Lake Valley, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
With the Capitol and downtown buildings in the foreground, haze shows in the Salt Lake Valley, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
Ravell Call, Deseret News

Winner: USA Today looked at data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to compile a list of the 10 major U.S. airports people are most likely to breeze through, and the first one to make the list was Salt Lake International. The paper said despite often getting slammed with snowstorms, the airport has won awards for snow and ice removal and ranks first in the nation for on-time arrivals and departures. Given the airport's importance to the local economy, this is good news, indeed. We hope the airport can continue its good record as it embarks on a massive rebuilding project.

Winner: While we're on the subject of air travel, Salt Lake also had the distinction of being one of the few U.S. cities that maintained a decent on-time arrival record despite the recent furlough of air traffic controllers nationwide. April was a bad month for delays nationwide, but 85.3 percent of flights to Salt Lake City arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which is the government's definition of on time.

Loser: Perhaps no other major metropolitan area of the country has as big of a clean-air challenge as the Wasatch Front, given its geographic characteristics, which are ideal for trapping air beneath high pressure systems. The state has until December to submit a plan to the EPA, detailing how it expects to reduce pollution from fine particulates. This week, the bench manager for the Division of Air Quality said, "We are so far past desperate," as to how to accomplish this. The trick will be to reduce air pollution without at the same time driving business and industry out of the state. Given the health problems that arise during times when the air is bad, a lot of people are hoping the state finds a way to strike that balance.

Loser: The more the nation learns about the surveillance of U.S. citizens, the more uneasy people ought to become. This week FBI Director Robert Mueller raised the awareness level a notch when he disclosed the agency already was using drones to spy on people. The director said the privacy concerns this raises are "worthy of debate." Indeed, they are. We just wish the debate had begun before the implementation, even if, as Mueller said, the FBI seldom uses the drones right now. Privacy isn't the only concern. The drones could interfere with helicopters or other small aircraft.

Loser: It certainly would be better not to pass a farm bill than to pass a poor one, but the House's inability this week to reach a compromise on a 2013 version was frustrating. The proposed bill would have brought an end to most direct payments to farmers, expanding crop insurance programs, instead. It would have changed the rules regarding food stamps and saved taxpayers considerable money. Leaving the nation with the previous programs in place does little to help move the nation in the right direction.