A bit of good news (for some Tar Heels)

These days we're plagued with bad news: drought is continuing, the price of gas is soaring, and the political campaigns are getting annoying. But here's one bright spot: The three UNC basketball players who considered leaving for the NBA – Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green – will stay in school another year. That makes the Heels the favorite for next year's NCAA championship. Heck, they'll probably even be favored to edge Davidson again.

OK, so that may not brighten the days of Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest fans, but it will do a lot for the quality of the sport in this basketball-blessed region.

CMPD cops protecting drug dealer? Say it isn't so!

There they were: Two police officers handcuffed and in orange jail jumpsuits, caught in a FBI sting and arrested for helping a drug dealer.

An episode of ``Law and Order''? Sadly, no. Two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers have been arrested for protecting a drug dealer and aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise. It wasn't a pretty sight. And because a confidential source told the FBI at least two officers were involved, there's a possibility other officers could be charged. A vigorous investigation is needed to ensure that the scandal doesn't go beyond these two.

Still, no one should view the reported transgressions of these officers as an indication of wholesale corruption within the department. Other CMPD officers don't deserve to be tarnished just because they wear the same badge. Many have outstanding records of public service. This is a dangerous profession, and many temptations arise. Those who do the tough job lawfully and respectfully earn our gratitude and admiration.

The charges against these officers, if true, are a damning breach of public trust. If convicted, they deserve stiff punishment for their crimes.

Are U.S. teachers well-paid?

Not by international standards

Nobody questions that top-notch teachers are essential in improving student achievement, or that good salaries help attract good people to the profession.

A September 2007 report by McKinsey & Co. found, however, that the United States trails several other nations in teacher compensation as a percentage of per capita Gross Domestic Product.

In South Korea, for example, teachers are paid 141 percent of the nation's per capita GDP and in Germany 141 percent. The Netherlands (99 percent), Hong Kong (97 percent), England, Australia, Finland and Singapore (all 95 percent) pay better than the United States (91 percent).

Other recent surveys have found that U.S. teacher pay is losing ground to other professions.

Teachers get many rewards in addition to salary, but when it comes to buying gas and groceries and educating your own children, money does matter. A nation that pays second-rate salaries can't count on a steady supply of first-rate teachers.

What if they held a big rally

and only a dozen came?

Anyone wondering why the N.C. General Assembly isn't more attentive to immigration issues might take note of a rally immigration reform supporters held Wednesday in Raleigh. They no doubt had hoped for a huge crowd – hundreds, maybe more – to help press their view that the General Assembly should adopt more restrictive legislature to force illegal immigrants to leave North Carolina.

But the size of the rally may have underwhelmed legislators. Perhaps a dozen rally supporters turned out to hear a series of speakers, including several Republican lawmakers, call for emergency legislation and express their views on undocumented residents. So far, at least, it does not appear that illegal immigration holds the same ability to drive legislative action in North Carolina as it does in South Carolina and Georgia.

On the other hand, six traffic tickets will move the House

But in the state House, it doesn't take a big rally to move lawmakers to action. Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Washington, is among several legislators pushing to allow wider boat/trailer rigs on N.C. highways.

There's a problem, he said, because the State Highway Patrol has begun issuing a lot of tickets to boat haulers for violating the statutory restrictions on hauling boat loads wider than 8.5 feet on weekends, holidays and at night. Those boaters are complaining on the Internet that our state is inhospitable to boaters from out of state. That, some lawmakers say, is why the law should allow boat rigs of 10 feet wide, even on highways where lanes are narrower than that.

Just how many tickets have been issued for oversized loads at the wrong times? Representatives of the highway patrol told the committee they had researched the issue and found only six tickets had been issued in the previous year. Hearing that information, the House Transportation Committee promptly approved the bill.

Maybe immigration reform advocates should consult with recreational boating interests about how to get things done.