Tired of piles of credit-card offers in the mail? Wondering who is checking on your credit and why? Four of the national credit-information bureaus - Experian, Innovus, Equifax, and Trans Union - have joined to offer a toll-free service allowing consumers to have their names blocked from unwanted credit inquires for two years. It's as simple as a dialing (888)567-8688. Your credit records won't be available to anyone without your consent. This includes credit-card companies fishing for new clients, because credit-card issuers first do a credit check before mailing an application. A more permanent ban on inquiries into your credit merely requires a letter. And rescinding the block only requires another call to the above-listed number.

The recent struggle in Florida over 25 Electoral College votes has brought into focus once again the whole process of the Electoral College, and if and why it should be kept. The origins of the College lie with the Founding Fathers, who believed the government was created to protect citizen's liberty and to be limited in scope. The Founding Fathers designed the electoral system on the idea that a government designed to respond directly to the will of the people would be extremely unstable and that a system awarding power to any group representing the majority of the people could not represent the good of the whole. It was also designed to make sure that any president has to attend to the whole country, not just the populous states. The United States is not a democracy, but a representative republic. Your vote didn't directly choose the president, but did tell your representatives in the Electoral College whom they should choose as president. You can find out a little history of the origins of the Electoral College at (http://www.mises.org/fullstory.asp? control=545&FS=Origins+of+the+Electoral +College).

In January 2001, expect to pay more to mail a letter. The Postal Rate Commission has approved the U.S. Postal Service's request for a stamp-price hike, the first since January 1999. After the mail-cost increases, one-ounce, first-class postage will cost 34 cents, one-pound Priority Mail will jump to $3.50, magazines and newspapers will rise 9.9 percent, and two-pound Priority Mail will jump to $3.95. The rate hikes are expected to generate $1 billion for the Postal Service. The agency had requested an increase of 6 percent, but had to settle for 4.6 percent. The Postal Rate Commission has information on its Web site at (http://www.prc.gov/) concerning the increase, but you'll need Acrobat Reader to see it. Strangely enough, the U.S. Postal Service Web site at (http://www.usps.gov) is so far silent on the matter.

The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau has recently opened a new visitor information center at the Quad City International Airport. Nearly 50 volunteers will staff the center and are members of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Metropolitan Airport Authority, or the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce. The bureau has also announced a new Local Partnership Grant award to assist members in attracting visitors to the Quad Cities. The grants can provide up to 50 percent of the cost of tourism projects. Initial budgeting is $5,000, with awards between $500 and $2,500. Brochures and advertising are the major projects expected to be funded by the program. Applicants must be members in good standing with the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau and must turn in applications by December 15. By the way, the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau has a pretty informative Web site at (http://www.visitquadcities.com/).

One of the first policies implemented by Davenport Police Chief Mike Bladel, the former Scott County sheriff, restricts when officers can engage in high-speed chases. The new police chief says an officer can chase a fleeing suspect if that person is wanted for forcible felonies and "if there is imminent danger to human life if the person is not immediately apprehended." Forcible felonies include armed robbery, attempted murder, and murder. The old department policy allowed officers broad discretion about whether to chase suspects.

The Rock Island Parks Department is looking for a variety of evergreen trees and bushes for its holiday displays. Large trees will be used for decorating at the Rock Island Fitness and Activity Center and at Sunset Park. Boughs will be used for wreaths and garlands. Parks-department staff will remove the trees, clean up the area, and cut off the stump at ground level. Stumps will not be removed. People interested in donating trees or bushes should call the Rock Island Park Board office at (309)732-7275 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The only county in the United States to have a tie in the Presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush was Cedar County, Iowa - until the absentee ballots were counted. When election officials totaled the votes cast, each candidate received exactly 4,025 votes. Ralph Nader picked up 211 votes and Patrick Buchanan got 32. A count of special and absentee ballots showed Gore won the county by a mere two votes. And who says your vote doesn't count?

On November 7, the Bettendorf City Council voted to waive a third reading of an ordinance making it illegal to ride in the back of a pickup truck and then unanimously voted to adopt the new ordinance. All passengers must now ride in designated passenger areas, with a $50 fine for violators.

November is one of the peak months for gun suicide in Iowa. Quad Citians for Responsible Gun Laws and Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence will launch a billboard campaign designed to raise awareness of the role o fguns in suicides. Billboards will go up in the Quad Cities, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines.

Premium Content: