Watercooler stories

By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  Feb. 19, 2002 at 12:04 AM
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One of the most familiar, soothing, authoritative voices in broadcasting has died. The family of long-time broadcaster Howard K. Smith confirms that the journalist died of congestive heart failure at his home in the Washington suburbs.

Smith may be best remembered as the man who was chosen above all his peers to moderate the Kennedy-Nixon debates, those ground-breaking encounters in 1960 that set the stage for all future debates. He had been off the air for two decades, but to baby boomers he was an omnipresent force in television journalism since nearly its first days.

In the early 1960s he resigned from CBS when the network refused to air one of his reports. During a broadcast on the civil rights movement called "Who Speaks for Birmingham?" Smith, a southerner, quoted the words of Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He was charged with "editorializing" rather than reporting. He would spend the rest of his career at ABC.

One of the original group that surrounded Edward R. Murrow, Smith carried his interesting delivery, laced with a smooth Louisiana accent to infant television. (He was born in Ferriday, La., a sleepy river town on a wide bend in the Mississippi, recently chosen as the home for the Delta Music Hall of Fame.)

Smith eventually became so well known along the way that he was chosen to portray himself in "Nashville" in 1975. Howard K. Smith was 87.


The federal government has gone to court to try to crackdown on the growing use of "spam" (electronic junk mail) that is flooding America's home and business computers. The Federal Trade Commission says that it's brought charges against seven people accused of participating in an on-line scam that promised up to a $46,000 return on an initial $5 payment. The process, of course, was actually a cyberspace chain letter.

More than 2,000 people from all points of the compass were apparently suckered in before the feds took action.

A new study shows that the average American received more than half a thousand pieces of unsolicited e-mail in home and business computers during 2001. Much of it is either related to pornographic Web sites or on-line gambling ventures.


A group of Texas regulators says it thinks that a plan to allow insurance companies to "charge by the mile" for car insurance makes more sense than the current formula for setting rates. The office of Texas Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor says that insurance companies in the Lone Star State are being urged to allow some customers to save money by employing a "usage" system, rather than the one-size-fits-all system for calculating car insurance rates.

Last year a state representative from San Antonio sponsored a bill that would have put such a plan into action. The concept did not become law. Several consumer advocacy groups endorsed the action taken this week by Montemayor and the originating state representative.


While much of the airline industry suffered heavily in the wake of 9/11 and United just averted a strike, Southwest has being going from strength to strength. Now the Dallas-based maverick carrier says it's doing so well it's about to add some 4,000 workers.

The company, according to industry statistics, is the only U.S. carrier not drowning in a flood of red ink. Southwest -- already with a work staff of some 33,000 employees -- says it will add about 250 pilots, 1,200 flight attendants and some 2,600 support personnel.

Meanwhile, the Air Transport Association says that while Southwest has signaled new hiring and is buying more planes, the other U.S.-based carriers have laid off more than 80,000 people in the past five months.

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