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Gazette Editorial Staff

Ups and Downs gives a quick take on news of the past week.

Epidemic gap. U.S. hospitals are largely unprepared to handle a massive influx of patients suffering severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or another disease requiring the isolation of many patients, according to a General Accounting Office report. Some hospital leaders disputed the finding, but now's the time to shore up weaknesses in the system.

Revolutionary visit. One of only four surviving original copies of the Declaration of Independence will be exhibited Aug. 10-13 at the Western Heritage Center, offering Billings area residents as well as visitors the opportunity to see a centerpiece of national history in downtown Billings.

Stamping out hunger. Thanks to letter carriers and all who placed a bag of food donations by their mailboxes Saturday. You helped with one of the biggest food drives of the year for the Billings Food Bank and charitable food banks in other communities across the country.

Refreshing spring. For the first time in five years, the countryside is moist and green in spring. Martinsdale Reservoir is half full, allowing irrigation for agriculture. There's snow in the Big Snowies and Billings has been blessed with nearly normal rainfall.

Castle Rock pit. The water retention pond under construction in Castle Rock Park is supposed to provide an affordable source of water for park trees. But it will also create a water hazard up to 15 feet deep next to an elementary school. In winter, the pond will put an end to sledding on the best and formerly safest hill in the Heights.

Alcohol label. The Montana Legislature's recent refusal to ban open containers made the Los Angeles Times last week in a news story that quoted Rep. Jim Shockley of Victor saying of drinking while driving: "People say it's part of the culture, and I think it is. As long as you're sober, I don't see the problem. It's not the government's role to tell us what our culture is." As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Shockley was able to ensure that his view prevailed.

Juvenile justice. Youthful offenders will get some additional guidance in straightening out their lives after leaving Montana detention centers, thanks to a federal grant that will total $2 million over three years. The federal money will establish foster homes, mentors and other community services to help juvenile offenders take responsibility for becoming law-abiding citizens.

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