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Feb 12, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Benedict's benediction

For the first time in nearly eight years, the Catholic Church will have a new pope. Perhaps more interestingly, for the first time in nearly 600 years, there will be an ex-pope as well.

Pope Benedict the 16th seized the attention of the globe Monday when he announced he would do something no pope has done since 1415 -- retire. It's effective at the end of this month. Now there will be a pope emeritus, so to speak.

There is no indication whatsoever that Benedict will, or wants to, continue to play a role in the administration of the Roman Catholic Church, whose members number 1.2 billion worldwide. But the simple fact that there will be a former pope who has even the potential of looking over his replacement's shoulder creates a dynamic that is unprecedented in modern times.

White Valentine's Day

Coming as it did at the same time as the megablizzard in New England, our snowstorm over the weekend in Fremont County can't compete statistically.

Still, with about 8 inches in Riverton and more than a foot in Lander, this not only ranks as the biggest snowstorm of the season but, we'd venture, the biggest snowstorm in several years.

It's rare to see a winter storm heavy enough to alter the appearance of the forests of the Wind River Mountains, but on Monday the wide swaths of trees, normally dark even when the peaks are white, were themselves noticeably whiter. Snow? Frost? Whatever it was, the sight was dramatic.

Be glad you're here

Speaking of snow, our occasional correspondent from Yale University reiterates the difference between the New England storms and the Wyoming one. The photograph we published on page A-2 of Sunday's edition showed snowfall accumulation as of 1 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday -- that is, very late "Friday" night. It measured 20 inches at the time.

But snow continued to fall for hours after that, and the 300-year-old Connecticut university topped out officially at 34 inches. At some places in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, the depths were even greater.

Just think of the snow we got in Riverton, then multiply it by four. Or, think of the snow in downtown Lander, and triple it. Lander hasn't seen a storm of that magnitude since the 1990s, Riverton the 1970s.

Why so much attention paid to a blizzard in the Northeast? Because 20 million people are affected adversely by it, that's why.

Sequester

It's State of the Union night in Washington, D.C., marking the first "SOTU" address in President Obama's second term. Just a hunch: the word "sequester" will come up a time or two.

That's the buzz word for the latest economic crisis manufactured entirely by Congress and the president. It's not as catchy a term as "fiscal cliff," but the sequester -- referring to mandated budget cuts set to kick in soon -- unless a longer-term spending plan can be agreed to, is just about as important. If you haven't heard much of the word before now, get ready. You will.

FFA Week

February accompanies the annual observance of National FFA Week. In our part of the country, where agriculture is both a cornerstone economic activity and strong cultural influence as well, FFA is an important institution that deserves attention.

This Sunday, Feb. 17, we'll present our annual FFA salute, with the editorial content supplied primarily by the students, sponsors and school faculty of Fremont County's FFA chapters.

Advertisers have been generous with their backing of these special pages, and the FFA chapters are helping out as well. Please take note of FFA, its activities, and the kids who make it go. And please support and do business with the advertisers who support the local newspaper.

Five in the 500

The Standard & Poors 500 index is a broad-based collection of stock reflecting companies of all sizes, industries and technologies. Many market pros say something to the effect of "As the S&P 500 goes, so goes the country."

So, starting on President Obama's inauguration day last month, we invited readers to imagine investing $500 in the S&P 500 and following what happens­ for a full year.

So far it's gone pretty well. As of Tuesday morning, the "five in the 500" investment would have grown to $507.13.

18-2

When's the last time a Riverton High School boys basketball team went through the first 20 games of a season with a record of 18-2? Never, so far as we can ascertain. Our boys are big, strong, fast, talented, experienced and confident. They unquestionably are one of the two or three top contenders for a Class 4-A state championship, something no RHS boys hoops team has ever done.

There aren't many home games left this year. One of them comes up this Thursday night against Natrona County High School. If you haven't seen the Wolverines yet this year, Thursday is a good opportunity.

Fat Tuesday

Tuesday is Mardis Gras, which means Easter isn't far behind. Be careful on slick streets and sidewalks, keep your coat zipped up, and think spring.

Here's to a good week.

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